FORMER Sinn Féin TD Violet-Anne Wynne took out two loans totalling €30,626 – one to repay Sinn Féin and another one to repay Dáil allowances due to her reduced attendance as a result of Covid-19 restrictions.
The Independent Deputy, who resigned from Sinn Féin last February, confirmed her former political party approved a €12,126 loan as it wanted the issue concerning rent arrears due to Rural Resettlement Ireland to be resolved after details about these difficulties emerged on the eve of the 2020 General Election.
In an interview with the Clare Champion, Deputy Wynne outlined she took out a loan for €18,500 from another source with no connections to Sinn Féin, to repay Dáil allowances, which are now fully repaid.
The Kilrush-based mother-of-six created a political sensation by becoming the first Sinn Féin candidate to win a Dáil seat in almost 100 years after securing 8,987 first preferences in the 2020 General Election.
Dáil deputies are paid a series of expenses and allowances that are based on meeting a certain number of attendances in the national chamber.
However, if a deputy doesn’t meet this criteria, they have to make agreed repayments.
She recalled that during the height of Covid-19 restrictions deputies were advised only to attend the Dáil if they had secured speaking time and noted she didn’t receive a parliamentary assistant until late July.
“If parliamentary staff were put in place, I would have had more opportunity to avail of speaking time in the Dáil,” she said.
Rural Resettlement Ireland (RRI) previously took a case against Ms Wynne over the failure to pay rent but the housing charity no longer existed when the Clare Champion revealed details of the TD’s debt before her election in February 2020.
At the time, RRI founder, Jim Connolly suggested Ms Wynne should make a donation to charity, which she said she would be willing to do.
Plans that to donate this money to the West Clare Cancer Centre never materialised and RRI could only transfer money to another housing body due to a clause in its constitution.
Asked how much of the Sinn Féin loan was repaid, Deputy Wynne replied she didn’t actually know how much was outstanding as she needs to check her accounts.
She recalled an arrangement was put in place to pay €1,000 on a monthly basis and noted she hasn’t received any correspondence from Sinn Féin in relation to this matter.
Speaking to Shane Ross for his book Mary Lou McDonald – A Republic Riddle, Ms Wynne revealed the party lent her money for unpaid rent.
“Mary Lou had phoned me three months after the election and said Sinn Féin would lend me the €12,126 debt which I owed elsewhere. We reached an agreement, but the other problems persisted,” she said.
Seven months later, in December 2020, Ms Wynne sought another meeting to discuss her debt. This went badly, according to Mr Ross’s book.
“I had a pre-Christmas 2020 meeting with Mary Lou. I explained all the difficulties which I faced. Mary Lou heard everything including my personal circumstances,” Ms Wynne said.
The first-time TD outlined her insecure housing situation and told the party leader about her sick partner and five children. At the time of the meeting, Ms Wynne was making repayments of €1,000 a month on the debt.
The West Clare Deputy recalled Mary Lou took notes in a notebook about what areas she could take action to assist her in dealing with a number of problems with the local organisation, which were raised at this meeting.
However, Ms Wynne claimed that none of the discussed actions were put in place and recalled she had previously raised a number of issues with party officers, Zoom meetings and phone calls before requesting a meeting with Mary Lou.
Ms Wynne resigned from the Sinn Féin party, claiming she has been “isolated” and subjected to “psychological warfare”.
A spokesperson for Sinn Féin said, “In this exceptional case a loan was provided to Violet-Anne Wynne in line with the Standards in Public Office criteria. In line with that criteria the loan was made on a commercial basis and must be paid back in full. SIPO must be informed if a loan is defaulted on.”