West Tyrone Sinn Fein official resigns over Covid grant

West Tyrone Sinn Fein official resigns over Covid grant
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Three Sinn Fein officials - including one in West Tyrone - have resigned over a failure to return money given out by a Stormont emergency Covid fund.

Leader Mary Lou McDonald issued a statement on Thursday afternoon confirming she had received resignations of the three individuals responsible for these accounts and for not returning the money.

They have been named as Senator Elisha McCallion, the Chair of Upper Bann Comhairle Ceantair and a party official in West Tyrone.

It had emerged that three Sinn Féin offices received £10,000 payments from the fund, which have since been repaid.

In her statement, the TD said on Monday and Tuesday, the Sinn Féin leadership established that three party offices incorrectly received money under the Small Business Grant scheme.

"Last night I accepted the resignations of the three individuals responsible for these accounts and for not returning the money - Senator Elisha McCallion, the Chair of Upper Bann Comhairle Ceantair and a party official in West Tyrone," she said.

"The failure to immediately return grants erroneously paid into Sinn Féin accounts is a most serious situation. As party leader I wish to acknowledge and apologise for these failures."

MARY LOU MCDONALD'S STATEMENT IN FULL

“Over the course of Monday and Tuesday of this week, the Sinn Féin leadership established that three party offices incorrectly received lodgements of £10,000 under the Small Business Grant scheme established by the Department of Economy in March 2020.

“The payments were not applied for and were automatically received as part of the round of grant payments in late March/early April from the Land and Property Service.

“Payments were paid into constituency accounts in West Tyrone and Lurgan, and into Elisha McCallion’s account in respect of her former Westminster office.

“In each case the grant money has been returned in full, with repayments made on Monday and Tuesday of this week.

“These monies should have been returned immediately as no political offices qualified for this grant. The fact that this did not happen is unacceptable.

“The party has established in each case where responsibility lay for the administration of the accounts in question and for the reimbursement of these monies.

“The Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle met last night and censured all those involved.

“Last night I accepted the resignation of Senator Elisha McCallion. She accepts full responsibility for the failure to return the grant immediately.

“The party also accepted the resignation of the party official in West Tyrone who had responsibility for the administration of the account and failed to promptly return the grant money despite being requested to do so by Maolíosa McHugh MLA.

“The Cathaoirleach (Chairperson) of the Upper Bann Comhairle Ceantair (Constituency Organisation) has also tendered his resignation in recognition of their failure to return the grant payment in a timely fashion.

“The Small Business Grant scheme was established to support struggling businesses in times of extraordinary hardship.

“The failure to immediately return grants erroneously paid into Sinn Féin accounts is a most serious situation.

“As party leader I wish to acknowledge and apologise for these failures.”

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