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SF out of touch with grassroots — ex-prisoner

(Seamus McKinney, Irish News)

A former republican prisoner has accused the Sinn Féin leadership of moving the party away from its roots.

Brian McFadden (53), a son of veteran Derry republican Barney, said the party was even closing its last remaining office in the city's Bogside.

He claimed a growing number of former prisoners are becoming increasingly unhappy at the direction in which Sinn Féin is moving.

A member of a well-known republican family, Mr McFadden and three of his brothers are all former prisoners.

His father Barney McFadden was for decades the face of Sinn Féin in Derry and was frequently interned.

Mr McFadden said he felt compelled to speak out after Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams called on four republicans who failed to turn up at court to be sentenced for the abduction of Belfast man Bobby Tohill to give themselves up.

"I am worried Sinn Féin is determined to join the Policing Board and they have not realised that 25 years after the Hunger Strikes they still have not got the British government to admit we were prisoners of war," Mr McFadden said.

"And those who are on the run still cannot come home.

"My four brothers were all in jail; my father was interned. Did we go through all that to make Sinn Féin a good political party? Where is the united Ireland?"

Mr McFadden claimed there was growing evidence that the leadership was moving further from its grassroots, with activists recently told of plans to close the party's Cable Street centre and move operations to the Rath Mor Centre in Creggan and its Glen office.

This, he said, would leave the Bogside without a Sinn Féin office.

"In my eyes they have forgotten about the people. A lot of former prisoners are questioning what is going on," Mr McFadden said.

But Sinn Féin general secretary Mitchel McLaughlin insisted there was no question of the party moving away from its roots.

"Brian is entitled to his opinion, the same as anyone else. If he has questions he can ask them of the party. A number of the leadership live in Derry and if there are concerns they are available to deal with them," he said.

The Foyle assembly member said that while Sinn Féin was closing its Cable Street office, this was to ensure a better use of resources.

He said it was in need of major refurbishment and it made more sense to move services to the Rath Mor centre, which was close by.

May 24, 2006

This article appeared first in the May 23, 2006 edition of the Irish News.

This article appears thanks to the Irish News. Subscribe to the Irish News