Northern Ireland

Nama scandal: Sinn Féin members resign from party

Jamie Bryson watching inquiry on screen Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Daithi McKay resigned earlier this month over claims he "coached" a blogger to give evidence to a Stormont inquiry

A Sinn Féin councillor and 17 party activists have quit the party.

In a statement to the Ballymena Guardian, the members, who are all from the north Antrim area, said the move was in reaction to the treatment received by former MLA Daithí McKay.

Sinn Féin said it was "disappointed" at the resignations.

Mr McKay resigned earlier this month over claims he "coached" a blogger to give evidence to a Stormont inquiry.

He accepted his actions were "inappropriate, ill-advised and wrong".

Image caption Philip McGuigan was a councillor for Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council

One of the 18 to resign, Monica Digney, told the BBC that it was "not a decision we took lightly".

"I have been a republican all my life," the former councillor said. "I will die a republican. But, I don't have to be a Sinn Féin republican.

"Because, what has happened recently is there seems to be some people who get protected and other people are left hung out to dry and Daithí McKay, unfortunately, is one of those that was left hung out to dry."

Ms Digney was the first Sinn Féin member to be elected to Ballymena Council.

Last week, the party announced it would replace Daithí McKay with Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Councillor Philip McGuigan.

Image caption Monica Digney, who was one of those to resign, told the BBC that it was "not a decision we took lightly".

Those who have resigned told the Ballymena Guardian it was "inconceivable" that they could remain in light of the way they believe Mr McKay was treated.

They also criticised what they called the "anointing" of his successor without, they claim, any meaningful consultation.

Paul Maguire, a member of Mid and East Antrim council, said he intended to sit as an independent.

He claimed others in the party were considering their positions and more resignations may follow.

In a statement, Sinn Féin said it was "disappointed at the decision of individuals in North Antrim to resign from the party following Daithí McKay's resignation as MLA".

The statement added: "Daithi McKay acknowledged that his contact with loyalist Jamie Bryson was inappropriate and wrong".

It said it had "consulted with party activists in the North Antrim area and, following approval by the party's Ard Chomhairle, Philip McGuigan was co-opted as an MLA for the constituency.

"Sinn Féin will continue to provide first-class representation for the people of North Antrim."

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