Chairperson Christine O’Mahony and LGBT Officer Seán Pender have resigned from Ógra Sinn Féin UCD.
The resignations come amid controversy over an old Tweet from Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley, posted in June 2017, which read “Yippie 4 d tory. it’s Leo. U can do what you like in bed but don’t look 4 a pay rise in the morning”. The reference to Varadkar’s bed has led some to call for Brian Stanley to apologise to the LGBTQ+ community. The former Sinn Féin members have resigned over what
O’Mahony told ?The University Observer?: “It first happened with the Paddy Holohan situation in the party, I was very much against Paddy Holohan and I wanted him to resign. When he was in the media I wanted to say ‘I’m against Paddy Holohan’s homophobic comments, his racist comments, and his racist comments are not welcome here. I retweeted him and I said ‘resign’. Then I was told in the group chat ‘Please don’t write about Paddy Holohan online, I know his comments are indefensible but he’s a good comrade and he’s a good working-class man. All his constituents love him. We shouldn’t be airing our problems on social media’. I didn’t like that at all, and I didn’t want people thinking that because I’m silent I’m supporting Paddy Holohan.
“...Then there was the [Brian Stanley TD] situation...First, it was his IRA comments...I don’t really like following the party line of defending, It’s not really the party line but we’re expected to defend Brian and say that Kilmichael and Narrow Nater are part of our history. I felt really uncomfortable because I don’t endorse what the provisional IRA did. I joined Sinn Féin because I thought they’d moved on, that there’s a peace treaty, that we weren’t going to be bringing up the IRA stuff. [In relation to the 2017 tweet] I and many members thought it had a homophobic bias, I know people over at Sinn Féin Baile Átha Cliath were saying it’s not about homophobia, it’s about Leo’s comments about waking up in the morning, but he never mentioned anything about waking up in the morning, he mentioned something about bed”.
O’Mahony described how she was informed “As a party, we are supposed to show comradeship and we're not supposed to criticize online” after airing criticisms of the party. O’Mahony also says a private Twitter account with fewer than 60 followers that she used to talk about “personal issues like problems at home” as well as to criticize “stuff I was against in Sinn Féin” was “screenshotted, and those screenshots were sent to head office...I was told that ‘this isn’t a personal attack, Christine’, but it is. Somebody is screenshotting tweets from my private account and sending them to Sinn Féin. I can’t have my privacy and my own views”. She says she was told that as Sinn Féin is a collectivist party, it goes against Democratic Centralism to put her feelings before the party. She says “I’m not trying to betray the party, I’m just trying to criticise things that need to be criticised”.
”I want to say that my neighbour came to my house to tell me to delete my tweet on Brian Stanley. He is a county organiser for Meath Sinn Féin. [On the third of December] I had an online lecture so I wasn’t able to answer the door, and he was talking to my parents. I didn't want to get my parent involved in this, and now that my neighbour has told them they are involved. It’s ridiculous...If there was a problem I thought he might phone me or text me, but he came to my house to tell me that he got a phone call from head office and he wanted me to delete the tweet”.
Speaking to ?The University Observer, ?Pender also described his decision, saying: “Recently there have been a few worrying polls produced, and we saw with the Trump poll where Sinn Féin supporters, a lot of them would support Trump, and then with the vaccine poll we were the lowest. It was quite worrying stuff and in my head, I was like ...I can do more in the party to make changes in the party.
”Obviously, with this tweet that’s surfaced and [Brian Stanley TD]’s comments made about Covid back in March was all brought back to the public eye, I once again had the idea of right, I want to make this change. Being the LGBT officer and seeing him being accused of homophobia I couldn’t just sit there and watch it happen, and not say anything, so I made public tweets criticising him and his decision to not apologise...I was going to stay within Ógra, and within the party, but when our chairperson Christine O’Mahony stepped down and a message was sent into our group chat saying that ’We respect her decision to step down, she stepped down because when you are in an organisation you have to follow that organisation’s policies’.
“That sentence threw me off because when I reached out to Christine saying ’hope you’re okay, I just saw you stepped down’, I just asked her what was the reasoning, and she said that she just got a call that was like ’Take down your tweet against the TDs, take down your tweet against the greyhound racing, the government funding, and take down your tweets criticising Ógra members’. That was kind of the nail in the coffin, I can’t make any change if I can’t be vocal about it. So, that was my reasoning.
“I really thought the party had done a shift in taking accountability when we saw in the North where public money was misplaced in Sinn Féin accounts they had to resign, the money was given back, that’s really a positive change that I thought the party was taking, but unfortunately we see [Brian Stanley TD] is refusing to apologise and is just deleting his [social media]. It’s disappointing to see”.
In a statement to ?The University Observer, ?Ógra Sinn Féin UCD stated “Christine's resignation wasn't to do with alleged homophobia, which Sinn Féin has a storied history against and strong policies in support of the LGBT+ community.
“As a party, we have a policy of bringing up issues internally through the established structures and following the party's practices to move forward policy and consensus. The member in question was informed of her options previously (e.g. motion at Cumann or Coiste level, writing a public blog, letter of complaint to the Cúige, Ard Chomhairle, or Ard Fhéis motion) and opted not to follow the established internal routes to raise issues. It is important that issues be brought up through internal avenues as the only way to effect change and support party cohesion. Social media isn't a productive location for change to come about.
“She no longer wished to be bound by the party's rules on internal debate, and so she resigned, as is her prerogative. We are saddened to by her decision but we respect her choice”
The University Observer contacted the Sinn Féin Press Office for comment on the in-person visit to O’Mahony’s home, but an answer had not been received at time of publication.