I see that certain blogs and many commentators have been cock-a-hoop this week at the news that Sinn Féin have suspended the Mayor of Dungannon Francie Malloy from the party due to remarks he made during the week expressing his displeasure with Sinn Féin’s support for the seven council model announced earlier this week. Francie has even been getting support from Unionist councillors. Many people are trying to manipulate this situation in order to attack Sinn Féin. I’m certain that Francie will know better than to pay too much attention to these fair-weather friends.
My own view is that Francie made an error in judgement this week. I disagree with him on the council situation as I think seven councils will be more efficient. The changes will not result in a “sectarian headcount” any more than the current councils do. They will hopefully produce more effective governance. Talk of repartition strikes me as exaggerated in the extreme.
People have been quick to condemn Sinn Féin as not tolerating dissent. This is not the case I know myself that debate in encouraged within the confines of the party. I have taken part in debates on policy with other party emembers and we often disagree on certain issues. But, as Francie himself knows, there is a tradition that debate and dissent should be welcomed but left behind closed doors. Unfortunately Francie neglected to respect this tradition this time. We all make mistakes – Francie is a good man and has done more for Republicanism than the likes of myself are ever likely to achieve. Although currently suspended, I am hopeful that the matter will soon be resolved and Francie will be back doing what he does best- representing his electorate as a Sinn Féin councillor in Tyrone