Sinn Féin representative and community worker in the Markets, Sean Hayes, has
blasted what he described as the "disenfranchising" of local voters
following his suspension and that of several other South Belfast
members by the party.
Also among those suspended was local council candidate,
Deirdre Hargey, who had planned to run alongside current Sinn Féin
councillor, Alex Maskey, in the forthcoming elections for Laganbank but
has now been forced to step down.
It is believed that a further seven members also resigned in protest at the suspensions.
Mr Hayes said: "Thanks to this, the party in south east Belfast and the Ormeau Road has been effectively shut down.
"We are really annoyed. People in the Markets were expecting
big things from Deirdre, who is young, dynamic and has no baggage
"She would have been a real force for good for the Markets and given badly needed representation for the community in council.
"What the party have done here is wrong. We have now been
removed from the scene of these elections and it is this community
which will suffer," he added.
The decision by Sinn Féin to suspend members follows
revelations that they were present in Magennis's Bar on the night of
the murder of Short Strand man, Robert McCartney.
Both Mr Hayes and Ms Hargey deny witnessing the murder on the evening and say that they were not present when it happened.
"We have to stop punishing people for something they didn't do.
It will get to the stage where as soon as a republican walks into a
bar, they will be attacked or accused of something."
Mr Hayes added that residents in the Markets were "angry"
about the party leadership's decision but stressed the importance of
people still voting for Sinn Féin.
"Of course it's natural for people to get angry about this. I
have had many people who supported Deirdre approaching me and saying
that they are not going to vote for Sinn Féin now.
"But whatever has happened, Sinn Féin are still the only party who can deliver services and resources to the community.
"We must now work on rebuilding local membership and strengthening our grass roots base."