'Disillusioned' Sinn Fein MLA quits party

ANOTHER MLA has quit Sinn Fein claiming that "unionists have majority control" at Stormont and republicans have been trapped into working to a pro-British agenda.

Gerry McHugh, a Fermanagh and South Tyrone Assembly member, announced his decision yesterday.

He did so amid rumoured tensions in the constituency between hardliners and those more loyal to the Adams-McGuinness political strategy.

He also accused the leadership of dictating to members and grassroots in "an undemocratic nature" – a view also expressed by others who

have left the party in recent times.

He said: "I have become increasingly disillusioned with... the party and the wholly top-down dictation within it.

"I feel the direction Sinn Fein is taking is more about appeasement of the British Government and administrating British rule in Ireland rather than working towards the end of British occupation.

"Assembly structures support this – at both committee and plenary level, unionists are in majority control."

Sinn Fein Assembly group leader John O'Dowd questioned why Mr McHugh failed to raise issues of concern within the party and

made a sudden announcement.

He said: "Obviously it is disappointing that Gerry did not raise any of the issues he is claiming led to his resignation within the Assembly team prior to going public with his decision," he said.

"Gerry has been a member of the party for a number of years and is well aware of our policies in relation to issues such as policing.

"Our special ard fheis was held months before he allowed his name to go forward as a Sinn Fein candidate in the Assembly elections.

"It was on this basis that Gerry McHugh was elected."

He added: "It is believed that many of the real reasons behind this decision relate to personal issues."

Strangford DUP MLA Simon Hamilton made a passing reference to the McHugh situation yesterday when hitting back at accusations from

MEP Jim Allister that the DUP has damaged the Union through sharing power with Sinn Fein.

Mr Hamilton argued the Union was stronger now than it had been in a long time.

After the MEP branded the mandatory coalition at Stormont "an absurd way" to run a country, Mr Hamilton said that Jim Allister's comments to the BBC were "totally inconsistent with his 2004 election manifesto in which he advocated a mandatory coalition as one potential option for governing Northern Ireland".

"In his ever increasing desperation to level attacks upon the DUP, Jim Allister seems to have conveniently forgotten his own election

commitments," said Mr Hamilton. "It is strange for Jim to brand the idea of a mandatory coalition as anti-democratic and absurd whenever a mandatory coalition was one of three forms of government for Northern

Ireland that were considered within his 2004 European election manifesto.

"Clearly, the real absurdity is Jim Allister's inconsistency."

Mr Allister could call the DUP inconsistent – as a year later, in 2005, its manifesto said mandatory coalition was "out of the question", only to

endorse it in 2007.

But Mr Hamilton said the DUP did not view mandatory coalition to be the perfect form of government and that is why it had secured a review of the devolved institutions with the aim of overhauling the system.

He said: "While the DUP has strengthened the Union, forced Sinn Fein to sign up to policing and the rule of law and set about making Northern Ireland work through the implementation of the Programme for Government, Investment Strategy and Budget, where does

Jim Allister want to take Northern Ireland?

"Jim should wake up and smell the coffee. The DUP has put republicans on the back foot and is delivering for unionists. "It is absolutely amazing that at a time when republicans are resigning from Sinn Fein because of unionist dominance in the Assembly, the Allister camp is still trying to spin that the DUP is destroying unionism."