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General Election 2017

Rift in SDLP continues as party chair steps down

Rosemary Flanagan, ( right) with SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell.

Rosemary Flanagan, ( right) with SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell.

THE ongoing rift in the SDLP in West Tyrone took another turn last week after the chair of the party’s executive resigned from her post.

Rosemary Flanagan stood down in the wake of a meeting of the party’s ruling executive on Saturday October 17.

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It’s understood Ms Flanagan had been tasked with conducting a report into allegations surrounding discipline within the SDLP in West Tyrone. The Enniskillen-based former chair would only confirm to the Tyrone Herald that she had resigned from her position.

But in an interview with the BBC on Thursday, SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell revealed that Ms Flanagan “has concerns about discipline at times in the party”.

A letter from a member of the SDLP in West Tyrone to the party executive seen by the Tyrone Herald has claimed that “allegations of serious misconduct” have been levied against Daniel McCrossan, who sits on the SDLP executive.

On October 15, the Strabane man was selected as the party’s sole candidate to stand in West Tyrone at the next Assembly election.

A large body of West Tyrone SDLP members boycotted the meeting, including Omagh Town Councillor Jo Deehan and Sperrin Councillor Patsy Kelly, who had been set to seek the nomination.

Their absence saw Mr McCrossan take the candidacy, vacated by the impending retirement of sitting MLA Joe Byrne.

GRIEVANCE

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The names of the two councillors, along with those of Cllr Rosemary Shields, Cllr Joanne Donnelly and 36 other people linked to the SDLP in West Tyrone appeared below a letter opposing the staging of the selection convention.

The letter purportedly signed by the 40, called for the party to run two candidates in the constituency and complete “a full and thorough investigation” into what has been described as “grievances, allegations and violations of the party constitution”.

The incidents include what some SDLP members have termed “a pub brawl” in Strabane on Easter Sunday past. The incident prompted a formal complaint to the SDLP from Sinn Féin.

It’s understood that on October 17, Rosemary Flanagan had presented the findings of her investigation into some of the allegations.

The reception she received during that meeting is believed to have prompted her resignation.

‘PROPERLY INVESTIGATED’

Speaking last week, retired SDLP councillor Pat McDonnell called for events to be slowed down and properly investigated.

“The elections are not until May so there is no need to rush things while there are these serious, unresolved issues in the background,” he said.

However Daniel McCrossan has described his selection as “a democratic decision”, stating that those who stayed away from the convention, did so by choice.

Party leader Alasdair McDonnell has also lent his support to Mr McCrossan.

On November 14, Dr McDonnell will face a challenge to his leadership in the guise of Foyle MLA Colum Eastwood.

Mr Eastwood is understood to enjoy the support of the local SDLP members opposed to Daniel McCrossan’s nomination.

However on Friday, Mr Eastwood stated that he did not wish to comment on “internal party matters in West Tyrone.”

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