Orchestrated ‘isolation’ by party elite prompted resignation: Curran

November 18, 2013

By Christine Keighery

Former Newry Sinn Fein Councillor Brendan Curran has spoken to The Examiner about his surprise resignation from the party, whose Newry branch he helped found over thirty years ago.

The high profile political representative, who has been a Sinn Fein Councillor since 1985, announced his decision to split from the party last week, citing “serious fractures” within the local branch.

In a statement released in the wake of his resignation, Mr Curran described a recent press release issued by the local branch on behalf of its new council candidate, Liz Kimmons, as a “covert attack.” Ms Kimmins had referred to her Sinn Féin colleagues, Councillors Valerie Harte and Charlie Casey, but failed to include Mr Curran.  The Councillor perceived this as a deliberate and orchestrated snub which he said had set the tone for the future of the local organisation.

During a frank and revealing interview with The Examiner, Councillor Curran criticised the statement issued by Newry Sinn Fein in response to his resignation, describing it as “extremely patronising.” He questioned how the party could refute his allegations in their statement when he claims no-one from Newry Sinn Fein has been in contact with him or his family to find out what the issues are.

“How can you refute something when you don’t even know what’s being refuted?” he asked.

“This is the fundamental flaw in their extremely patronising statement. I would have expected that someone from the local branch would have come to speak to me to find out what the allegations and issues are but this hasn’t happened. ”

Councillor Curran also claimed that he and a leading figure in Newry Sinn Fein had requested that Councillor Kimmons’ offending statement should not be released.  He further maintained that his exclusion from a recent photo- call picturing Sinn Fein elected representatives served as another catalyst in his decision to resign.

He was keen to reiterate however that his exit came after several years of sustained “isolation” by certain factions of the local party and described a “general unease” within the organization since the last local election which had prevailed despite the efforts of the leadership to remove what he called “a select elitist clique” within the Newry branch of Sinn Fein.

According to Mr Curran, the problems, which he says have been festering within the local party over numerous years, are allegedly so well-known to the party leadership that it sanctioned the appointment of a representative from the Belfast office to the Newry branch to deal with the issues affecting relationships between party members there.  The removal of the normal Ceann Comhairle has been replaced by a so-called Newry Executive which he says is still tasked with managing the Newry party.

Councillor Curran, one of the longest serving councilors in Northern Ireland, also spoke to The Examiner about an emergency Sinn Fein meeting which was convened on the night of his resignation announcement (last Monday night) to relay the news of his resignation to Sinn Fein members. He claims that two members of his family who were entitled to be present at that meeting were excluded from being there.

Mr. Curran reiterated that although he has become disenfranchised with the Newry branch of the party, he remains fully supportive of the Sinn Fein Leadership and its ethos.

“I am very happy with the Sinn Fein leadership but the Newry organisation is fractured, that fact is well known.  The action the Belfast Headquarters have taken to change how the party in Newry is managed is proof of that.

“My record speaks for itself and thankfully people who have seen my side of things, have in large numbers contacted me and have shown their support for my family and I.

“I am delighted with the response I’ve had from the people of Newry and I will continue to provide a service for and carry out the mandate of the people who elected me.”

Despite his resignation from Sinn Fein, Brendan will continue as an Independent Republican Councillor.  Asked whether the loss of a Sinn Fein seat may be a bone of contention among his former party who may prefer to co-opt another party member into his role, Councillor Curran remained adamant that he will not be moving from his seat in the council chamber.

“It may well be Sinn Fein’s preference to co-opt me but I’ll certainly not be sitting at the back of the bus!” he said,

“I am holding on to my council seat and will continue to represent the people who elected me in a non-party affiliated designation.”

The Examiner contacted Newry Sinn Fein with regard to some of the issues raised by Councillor Curran but had not received a response at the time of going to press.