SEVEN office-holders in SDLP branches throughout West Tyrone have resigned from the party as the row over Daniel McCrossan’s nomination for the Assembly elections rumbles on.
A total of around 25 high profile councillors, officials and party workers, have now stepped down during in the past week.
They include the chairman of the West Tyrone Constituency Association, Frank Sweeney, and former Strabane District Council chairman, Eugene Mullan.
Also on the list is Barney McDermott, chair of the Derg/Glenelly branch of the party, its secretary, Geraldine Mullan and Michael Deehan, treasurer of the West Tyrone Constituency Association and Bernard McGrath, vice-chair of the Mid-Tyrone and Omagh branch who had stood for election in the 2014 Local Government poll. Margaret O’Connor, a member of the executive for the Fermanagh and Omagh Council has also stepped down.
Speaking to the Ulster Herald, Mr Sweeney, said they had resigned in protest at the problems in the SDLP locally and in support of Dr Josephine Deehan and Patsy Kelly.
He said that the failure of the party to select a second candidate in West Tyrone for the May 5 Assembly election had been a key factor in their decisions.
“The West Tyrone constituency council at its meeting in September voted by a majority that there should be two candidates for this election representing geographic spread and gender balance,” he said.
“The ‘Elections and Organisations’ committee within the party had also recommended two candidates in West Tyrone. But before that recommendation by them was considered by the party Executive, a selection convention took place at which only one candidate was to be selected.
“There did not seem to be anyone taking control of the situation and following through on decisions. That was on the back of a whole series of incidents going back years.
“During the past decade, there has been a complete and total disrespect for the constitution of the party and the work of the various committees and branches.”
Mr Sweeney also said that councillors had been undermined when issues affecting constituents were not passed on to them, but dealt with instead by volunteers or party employees.
“Two or three people have been running the SDLP in West Tyrone simply for their own advancement,” he claimed.
“There has been a total breakdown of trust in colleagues. Two colleagues wrote a letter to a third party, claiming that a councillor had misrepresented the position of the party by issuing a statement which had, ironically, been written by the party’s central press office.
“When you can’t trust people as colleagues, how can you go out and ask the public to trust them.”