Elisha McCallion has resigned as a Sinn Féin representative of Seanad Éireann today after it emerged that she received a £10,000 Coronavirus grant.
In a statement issued a brief time ago, the Derry woman said: "Earlier this year a Small Business Grant was lodged into a joint account of which I am a named signature with my husband. I did not apply for nor solicit this money, nor did I receive any correspondence from the department in relation to it.
"I fully accept that as a named signature on the account that I should have taken extra steps to verify this situation, before it was brought to my attention on Tuesday.
"The money was repaid in full on Tuesday.
"I apologise unreservedly for the poor judgement I showed in relation to this and therefore, last night I spoke to the party leader and tendered my resignation as a member of Seanad Éireann with immediate effect."
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has this afternoon said that 'on Monday and Tuesday, the Sinn Féin leadership established that three party offices incorrectly received money under the Small Business Grant scheme in the north.'
She continued: "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.
"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.
“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."
She continued: “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.”
If you have a story or want to send a photo or video to us please contact the Derry Now editorial team on 028 7129 6600 for Derry City stories Or 028 7774 3970 for County Derry stories. Or you can email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org at any time.
Subscribe or register today to discover more from Derrynow.com
Buy the e-paper of the Derry News and the County Derry Post here for instant access to Derry's premier news titles.
Keep up with the latest news from Derry with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.