SINN FÉIN TD for Cork North Central Jonathan O’Brien has insisted that there is no bullying culture in the party following the departure of another councillor.
Dublin City Councillor Noeleen Reilly quit the party on Monday after being suspended for six months.
She had reported an “orchestrated bullying campaign” against herself to the party, including an alleged physical assault by another party member.
TD Dessie Ellis was censured and forced to apologise by the party, but Ms Reilly was suspended for a separate allegation of bullying made against her.
Sinn Féin has demanded that she quit her seat and return it to the party to co-opt a new Sinn Féin councillor but she is refusing.
She is one of more than a dozen councillors to leave the party in recent years, including three in Cork. Councillors Ger Keohane and June Murphy both quit the party while councillor Kieran McCarthy was expelled. Former TD Sandra McLellan also opted not to defend her seat in 2016.
Mr O’Brien said that the Sinn Féin would not comment on the reasons she left, but denied that the party has a bullying problem, specifically one aimed at women.
“It’s not constantly women — we have a number of men who have left the party as well. They have left, they have given the reasons they have left. I don’t agree that there is a bullying culture in the party.
“We are a growing party and our membership is increasing all the time, and our share of the vote is increasing all the time. We stand and fall on our activism in local communities, and, obviously, as a growing party there will be competition in terms of people wanting to progress politically, and that can cause issues. But all of those issues are dealt with internally in an open and transparent manner,” he said.
He said that other parties had similar issues, but did not get the same attention.
“We’ve seen councillors from other parties resign too, but they just don’t get the media focus we get. We’re open to that criticism. We are a political party and we stand before the people and they judge us on our policies and how we behave and act in the community. I think, to back that up, our vote is increasing. Are there issues in the party that need to be addressed? Of course, there are, but there are issues in every party that need to be addressed,” he said.