A Sinn Fein councillor who dramatically resigned from the party on Monday has said that one of her reasons for leaving was a “culture of bullying” in the party.
At the end of Moyle District Council’s meeting on Monday night, council chief executive Richard Lewis said he had earlier been handed a letter from councillor Margaret Anne McKillop saying she was no longer a member of Sinn Fein and she wished to now sit as an independent.
Up to that point there had been no formal discussion at the meeting about the developments, although at one stage Cllr McKillop came into the meeting and moved her nameplate from the Sinn Fein benches and repositioned it between independents Seamus Blaney and Padraig McShane.
Cllr McKillop did not comment at the main council meeting and left before Mr Lewis announced that she was becoming an independent.
The only Sinn Fein councillor present at that stage, the council chairperson Cara McShane, did not wish to comment on the matter when asked by the Ballymoney and Moyle Times.
Cllr McKillop – the latest of several Sinn Fein councillors to quit the party in disillusionment over recent years – did not respond to messages from the News Letter yesterday.
But she was reported by the Irish News to have said that she was “tormented” by recent Sinn Fein decisions, including its stance on abortion.
Cllr McKillop was a member of Sinn Fein for 11 years and represented the Glens electoral area since 2011.
She told the paper she had taken “careful consideration” before making her decision and claimed Sinn Fein had taken “decisions that serve a narrow party interest ahead of the common good”.
She said: “I have been tormented by the decisions the party has made on behalf of the people I represent.
“I have expressed my unease with senior party figures both locally and regionally and my concerns have been met with indifference.
“Instead a culture of bullying and innuendo accompanied any desire to engage in reasoned political debate.”
She added: “Instructions are delivered from the leadership in a series of meetings and are to be carried out without examination or query.”
Cllr McKillop also said Sinn Fein’s position on abortion was a key factor in her decision to resign.
“The disciplining of Peadar Toibin, a Sinn Fein TD, after his refusal to back pro-abortion legislation in the south, coupled with the party’s support for private abortions at the Marie Stopes clinic in Belfast, has challenged my perception on rights, particularly of the unborn.”