That Sinn Féin Fermanagh Councillor Bernice Swift was unhappy with the direction her party was going, particularly with regard to policing, was well known. She was already suspended from the party. However, her decision to resign as a councilor is a blow to Sinn Féin.
The loss of a councillor in any other part of Northern Ireland would be inconvenient for the party but Swift’s resignation in Fermanagh will be especially worrying for Sinn Féin. It has already lost one of its Assembly Members with the resignation of Gerry McHugh resigned and party will be increasingly concerned at the probability of an electoral challenge to their sitting MP Michelle Gildernew.
Sinn Féin has withstood electoral challenges from Republican dissenters before. However, with Arlene Foster, the DUP Minister, continuing to develop a higher and higher profile, Sinn Féin will be worried that a spilt Republican vote will hand this ultra marginal seat to the Democratic Unionists.
Losing this seat in a possible 2010 General Election, having probably lost their Dublin MEP, Mary Lou McDonald, to boundary changes in 2009, would be very bad PR.