There’s not much reason for the average person outside of Cavan and Monaghan to know the name of Shane P. O’Reilly, or to raise much of an eyebrow about his abrupt resignation of the Fianna Fáil whip yesterday, but that doesn’t mean it’s not exceedingly noteworthy.

Cllr. O’Reilly is a well known and popular figure in the Fianna Fáil party nationally – one of those people who rarely makes the national news, but is very well known, influential, and respected inside his own party.

The two-term former Mayor of Cavan didn’t give a specific reason for his resignation, but his colleague (and good friend) John-Paul Feely was in no doubt as to the reasons behind it:

Reaction to Cllr Shane P O’Reilly’s resignation from the Fianna Fail party has been swift and supportive.

Now former party colleague John Paul Feeley said his Cavan County Council counterpart’s departure was a “great loss”.

“Shane P. was a respected and valued member of our Council Group who contributed in every way. He will be very much missed. I want to emphasise that there were no issues with him amongst his colleague on the Council. He is and will remain a valued colleague and friend despite the fact that he is no longer a party member.”

As Whip of the Fianna Fáil Group, Cllr Feeley moved thanked Cllr O’Reilly, who twice served as Cathaoirleach- 2014 and 2019- for his “massive contribution” over his 16 years an elected representative.

He further praised Cllr O’Reilly’s “positive approach and his commitment to his colleagues and his constituents. On a personal basis, I thank him for his friendship and which him Eilisha and their family well.”

Cllr Feeley continued by saying that he understood the current proposed coalition had been a “significant factor” in Cllr O’Reilly’s decision to quit Fianna Fail, but that it was only the “final straw in a series of issues” that had bothered the Mullagh-based elected representative.

In his own brief statement, O’Reilly didn’t specifically mention coalition as the issue, but cited “irreconcilable differences” with Micheál Martin’s leadership:

Mullagh Councillor Shane P O’Reilly has resigned from Fianna Fáil.

In a statement to Northern Sound News this evening he cited “irreconcilable differences with national party leadership”.

He says the party’s direction “is not representative of” his aims, beliefs and ideals.

He says he will continue to sit on Cavan County Council as an independent member.

That suggests it’s more than just the prospect of coalition government that’s troubling O’Reilly, and conversations with party colleagues across the country seem to confirm that. A Fianna Fáil councillor from the South East told Gript this morning, on condition of anonymity, that the resignation was a “kick in the balls”:

“Someone like Shane isn’t just your normal councillor. He’s one of those people that kind of personifies the soul of Fianna Fáil. Salt of the earth, knows his own area inside out, no bullshit, but totally devoted to the party. It’ll have killed him to walk away, and it kills the rest of us to watch him go”.

A well-connected party member in Dublin, backing that account up, said that O’Reilly’s resignation reflected much more widespread dissent in the party, saying that the proposed coalition had “unleashed war” in private Fianna Fáil forums:

“The party’s split down the middle on this and we’re losing good people who just can’t support the leadership any more. I’d always have thought that if ever Fianna Fáil was reduced to just two members, it would probably be me and someone like Shane P. O’Reilly, the two last men standing. If FF isn’t the party for Shane anymore, then I wonder how many others feel the same way”.

Exit quotation, from the man himself. FF isn’t a happy camp, these days: