Op-Ed: Why I decided to resign from Sinn Féin

People who are meant to be “comrades” need to treat each other better

My name is Christine O’Mahony. I am a 22-year-old Human Rights Law student at University College Dublin (UCD). I was a member of Sinn Féin and chair of my college’s Ógra branch. I resigned from the party after my neighbour, who works for Sinn Féin, was sent a screenshot of my public criticism of Brian Stanley’s tweet (which had a homophobic undertone to it) by Sinn Féin head office, who asked him to contact me and request that I delete my own tweet.

Many believe my resignation is just over a tweet or a knock on my door. However, there were a variety of factors that led to my leaving. When I joined Sinn Féin in January, I was so excited to be part of a political party. I canvassed for Darren O’Rourke in Meath East and promoted him all over my social media. On Twitter I was soon followed by many Sinn Féin-supporting accounts who would like all my posts promoting the party. I’m no fan of Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael and when debating with others, I could mention so many horrible policies attached to FF and FG to prove to people that Sinn Féin was the party of change. 

About a month after the general election, a well known Sinn Féin member announced that she had resigned from the party. She gave an account of all that she went through that caused her to leave. Her complaints were not dealt with. Like me, she could be quite critical of Sinn Féin sometimes, as some of the policies don’t appeal to young members like us. As soon as she publicly criticised the party on her Twitter, she was treated differently by other Ógra Shinn Féin members. When she was made aware of another female ex-Sinn Féin member who was bullied, she asked for more information. Male Ógra members told her to “ignore her, she is a psycho”. As she was being so critical on her social media, lies started being spread about her to new members, who were advised to block her. She was told that she was a “careerist” despite the fact she left the party because of her principles, while others stayed and were even co-opted as Councillors. 

“She was told by members in Ógra that she deserved that abuse, which included rape threats.”

While Ógra Shinn Féin prefer to keep quiet about their anti-fascist activity, this female member was really active in that sphere. An event happened between her and a fascist and she faced horrendous online abuse from Far-Right accounts. She was told by members in Ógra that she deserved that abuse, which included rape threats. Even though she has left, she is still being talked about and slandered in non-political group chats. She also received abuse from Ógra members on her Curious Cat. When she went public about her abuse and the lack of action from the Senior Party, I started to get worried. I felt guilty that I stayed in the party after seeing all this, but I thought I could change the party. 

I was in contact with two ex-Sinn Féin councillors who prefer to be kept anonymous, in fear that they would start getting abuse again from members. One councillor said there was so much misogyny and nepotism in the party. She fears this will put women off getting into politics. The online abuse she received was on another level and she could barely cope with it. She says that there was also a smear campaign against her. She has since left and joined another party. Another councillor was actually physically assaulted and when she complained, nothing was done about it. The party protected her assailants and distanced themselves from her. Sinn Féin claims to be against homophobia, racism and sexism, but that didn’t stop her from being labelled with horrendous names like “whore”. The TD that she worked for, she claims, has said extremely homophobic and racist stuff behind closed doors. She complains that the party fears they would lose votes from conspiracy theorists and that is why they do nothing about their association with Yellow Vests, the racists, the Trumpism, anti-vaxxers, and anti-lockdown protestors. She told me that she doesn’t believe that the bullying in Sinn Féin is fixable and that Mary Lou McDonald is “no great defender of women’s rights”. Many councillors have resigned from the Sinn Féin party over the years, with a significant proportion of them over bullying. 

“I cannot ignore the abuse coming from our own members and the rumours being spread about me.”

Being told to delete tweets critical of the party, my “comrades” reporting me to Ógra leadership over tweets on my private account, homophobia, racism and death threats coming from our own supporters and members, the failure of the party to deal with bullying complaints, and seeing councillors and members who have given their blood, sweat and tears for the party resign after being bullied – all of these influenced my decision to resign. I have received a lot of online abuse, but also support from my friends in Sinn Féin since my decision. My TD, Darren O’Rourke, apologised to me on behalf of the party, and other Sinn Féin councillors told me to be proud of myself for sticking to my beliefs. However, I cannot ignore the abuse coming from our own members and the rumours being spread about me. Some think I am a “Fine Gael plant” and some think I was putting my name forward to become a TD but was not selected and now I’m just trying to sabotage the party out of jealousy. None of this is true. As I said in my public statement, “my principles before party”. 

Since my story has been in the media, I have received a lot of support from my family and friends, but also called an “attention seeker”. I didn’t like the way politicians used my story to complain about IRA culture, but I believe FF and FG will always do that. 

I think Sinn Féin need to deal with complaints of bullying. They are losing lots of members and councillors over these issues. If we are “comrades”, then why are we treating each other so awfully? Sinn Féin needs to discipline and suspend members who engage in these behaviours. Bullies should have no place in the party. Most of all, no political party should be more important than friendship.