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Home » Breaking News » Violet-Anne Wynne opens up on why she resigned from Sinn Fein
Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne felt the party in Clare was working against her. Photograph by John Kelly

Violet-Anne Wynne opens up on why she resigned from Sinn Fein

Champion Chatter

It was draining to be in such a messy situation the Kilrush TD tells Owen Ryan

LESS than three weeks after the birth of her sixth child, Violet Anne Wynne’s resignation from Sinn Féin has focused negative attention on the country’s most rapidly growing party.

In an interview with the Clare Champion Ms Wynne said that the party in this county is divided, that she wasn’t supported around her pregnancy, that the internal problems were preventing her delivering for the constituency and that Mary Lou McDonald never contacted her after the birth of her daughter or after she quit the party.

She is going to continue representing Clare as an independent TD, and says it is very likely she will contest the next general election.

Ms Wynne caused a stunning upset when she took a seat in the 2020 general election, but just before the poll it came to light that she owed some €12,000 in rent arrears.

She says she had been upfront with the party, but that relations with the organisation in Clare were poor from then on.

Also, at an early stage, she went against the wishes of some party members in terms of appointing her staff.

“They didn’t like autonomy to be shown and there was a significant reaction to me not going along with the very first staff member they were hoping I would hire. That was something I felt wasn’t a workable relationship and wouldn’t bring about anything positive.”

Sinn Féin doesn’t have anything like as strong a grassroots organisation in Clare as Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, but she said even in the areas where it does have a presence, there was often a reluctance to pass on information about local issues to her.

“Even the areas that have active Cumainn, it was still very tricky and difficult to get that information as well. It’s something I was finding very difficult and something I was raising on a consistent basis.

“I’d have been told that was being looked into, it would have been communicated to the Cumann, for that information to start coming into my office, for us to collaborate on those issues for the people affected.

“But it was worrying that after two years you still weren’t getting that kind of relationship, you were depending on constituents coming forward to highlight issues to me.”

In the immediate aftermath of her departure she complained of gaslighting, and again on Monday she reiterated that she was led to believe that it was only herself who saw issues.

“If I raised it with individuals or the organisation in a lot of cases I was told there was no issue whatsoever, that it was something I was seeing that no one else was seeing.”

Ms Wynne has alleged that a fellow female party figure in Clare had called her a “f**king eejit” after being told about her most recent pregnancy, and it is something that still upsets her.

“The reaction I got to my unplanned pregnancy, when I informed one of the female members wasn’t something that I expected to hear from anyone. I have had a number of pregnancies and that was the first time I received such a negative response. 

“It was completely unplanned, we thought we were done after the five and our family was complete. I was already anxious, mentally unprepared, I was already finding it difficult personally, maybe they weren’t aware of that or didn’t take that into consideration, but I had explained it was unplanned. I had expected a bit more compassion, especially from another female.”

Ms Wynne says that people in the party frequently told her they would do things they subsequently failed to do, and it caused her an amount of stress.

“I didn’t expect to be told that things would be done, things you could see, and then realise after a few weeks that they weren’t done or weren’t stuck to.

“I did feel that the organisation in some ways were wanting me to stand down, maybe to get fed up of the situation to some degree. It just wasn’t consistent in any way, shape or form. With everything that you’d be trying to juggle, it was a major distraction for me.”

Was there a sense that they wanted to be rid of her?

“In some ways I felt they definitely wanted me distracted or focused on other aspects of the role as a TD. When you’re not getting the information from these local areas that added to my thought process.

“It was already difficult at a local level anyway, and I felt I was getting very distracted by things going on at Cumann level, things that were being said and you’d hear them through the grapevine rather than being directly said to me.”

She said that when she tried to establish what the problems were, there was no clarity, with more sniping than straight talking.

“It was more like people weren’t happy or the line would be that there were issues there, but when you tried to delve a bit further you wouldn’t get clear answers as to what the issues were.

“You want resolution, especially when you’re in such an intense role and you’re supposed to be representing the people. Anything that’s going to slow that down or block, you’re going to try and eliminate as quickly as possible so you can continue your work.

“You want to be having direct conversations and getting things resolved as quickly as possible, but that wasn’t something I was experiencing.

“At times I was told there weren’t issues there, or at other times it’d be said it isn’t us who has it, it must be someone else. You’d be in a confused place a lot of the time.”

She feels that the internal dynamics of Sinn Féin in Clare were getting in the way of it helping tackle the county’s real problems.

“It was affecting my personal wellbeing but more importantly it was affecting my work at times. I just felt it was a big distraction and it was unnecessary.

“When you’re a part of a party and for the people, it’s very upsetting when personal opinions and thoughts are prioritised ahead of standing up for the people.”

When she raised the issues in Clare with the wider party structure she says she was given excuses relating to an increase in membership or the impact of Covid-19, but her patience ran out. “I felt two years was long enough to address whatever issues had been expressed to them about County Clare specifically.”

Ms Wynne said that for a long time she hoped things could be improved rather than her leaving the party.

“It’s not something I wanted. I wholeheartedly believed in the party and a lot of their policies and what they stand for and that camaraderie that I believed was there, but I wasn’t feeling that in any way at a local level.

“It’s very difficult and you’re left wondering what is the issue, and when you start internalising it, it’s hard to cope with.”

Asked of specific instances of problems that arose, she says. “I suppose I don’t want to be joking, but if I were to start I’d be afraid I wouldn’t stop! Two years is such a long time, there’s been a lot said and done in that space.

“Sometimes when I start to remember some of the situations it brings up others I’d forgotten about. But consistently I’d have stuff delayed, even print jobs, you’d be told they were being looked after and you’d forget about it for a while but two weeks later you’d ask how is it going or is it done and they’d say they had forgotten about it completely and it hadn’t even been organised. You’d say okay, I’ll give it a week or two and call back, and again you’d hear I forgot, all this delaying response. Sometimes things wouldn’t get done at all.”

It is perhaps not surprising that Mary Lou McDonald didn’t contact her after she quit the party, but quite baffling that the party leader also failed to get in touch after the birth of her daughter in early February.

“At first I didn’t really cop it. When you have a new baby that takes your focus and concentration. As the days went on my kids were asking me had I heard from Mary Lou.

“They love Mary Lou, Travis in particular took a shine to Mary Lou McDonald and whenever we were at events he insisted on getting a picture taken with her. I went through the messages to be able to show them, in the past if she wished them a happy birthday I’d show it to them and let them read it for themselves.

“But that’s when I realised I hadn’t received any kind of congratulations from Mary Lou, not through a text or WhatsApp or anything. That’s when it hit home that I hadn’t received anything.”

Funnily enough the Fine Gael leader wrote to congratulate her, even though it’s no secret that Mr Varadkar has little regard for Sinn Féin. 

The day after Ms Wynne spoke to the Champion she said on social media that she had just received a gift from Ms McDonald. However her post made it clear she was not happy.

Part of the post, which tagged Ms McDonald, said, “To say I’m heartbroken is an understatement. Just kept letting me down until I snapped. Well you succeeded, congratulations, you thought (sic) me a lesson anyway, never meet your hero!! Again thank you for the gift.”

She says she is disappointed that some of her former party colleagues in Leinster House have been briefing against her.

“I am surprised that one or two TDs have commented, they’ve only given snippets of information and in my opinion it was done in bad taste to discredit me in some way. 

“To say they know anything of what way it went for me or that they’d know anything is a little bit surprising to me. Especially considering I said I couldn’t fault the (Sinn Féin) TDs. I was a bit surprised with that and with the fact they didn’t put their names to their comments either.”

She says it is very likely that she will be a candidate in the next general election.

“I can’t see why I wouldn’t. I haven’t put a huge amount of thought into anything that far ahead. As long as I can continue to do the work for the people and stand up for them, I’m sure they’ll be able to make their own judgment on this situation and also on my credibility as an effective TD for County Clare.”

There is no prospect of her returning to the party.

“No, I don’t believe so and I don’t believe they’d want me either. I had reached out to Leinster House on the Monday and told them I wasn’t happy and I was considering my future in the party and I didn’t receive a response.

“So then I didn’t notify them of my statement (of resignation) being issued or anything like that.”

At this stage she is very pleased to have exited Sinn Féin and to have left the internal conflict behind. “It was draining to be in such a messy situation,” she says.

Owen Ryan
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Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.