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Suspended SF politician a veteran republican

(Bimpe Fatogun, Irish News)

Sinn Féin's suspension of Francie Molloy will come as a surprise to many observers.

A veteran republican, the Dungannon-born councillor has recently had a lower profile than he once enjoyed but has remained a senior party member.

On its official website Sinn Féin describes how he was "one of the first people in his area to join the civil-rights movement and has been involved in local and national political life ever since".

Mr Molloy was director of elections for Bobby Sands and Owen Carron during the 1981 Hunger Strike, contributing to the gain of a Westminster seat in Fermanagh/South Tyrone.

He won his seat on Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council in a 1985 by-election after colleague Martin McCaughey was shot dead by the SAS at Loughgall.

Mr Molloy is currently chairman of the council.

He also represents the party at assembly level, elected for the Mid Ulster constituency in 1998 and again in 2003.

Within the party he is a member of Sinn Féin's ard chomhairle and its negotiations team, and took part in the Castle Buildings talks ahead of the Good Friday Agreement in 1997-1998.

His career has not been without controversy.

Amid speculation of a split in the republican movement, he and three other Sinn Féin council members announced in 1989 they would not be standing for re-election "for personal reasons".

He later returned to serve on the council for the party.

Two years later he received a four-figure sum in an out-of-court settlement from the Ministry of Defence for injuries suffered in an assault by a British soldier.

In November 1997 – during the Stormont talks – he provoked a storm of criticism following remarks that republicans could "simply go back to what we know best" if the peace process failed.

He had been speaking at the commemoration of an IRA man in south Armagh.

Unionists accused him of having "let the mask slip" and questioned the validity of the IRA ceasefire.

Mr Molloy insisted his words had been taken out of context and he was referring to Sinn Féin's strategy for peace and negotiations.

November 24, 2005

This article appeared first in the November 23, 2005 edition of the Irish News.

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