Election ‘is a big opportunity’ says Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill

Elisha McCallion, Michelle ONeill and Raymond McCartney
Elisha McCallion, Michelle ONeill and Raymond McCartney
  • Michelle O’Neill says Arlene Foster hasn’t reached out to her since she took over from Martin MCGuinness
  • New Sinn Fein leader in the north speaking after official launch of the Foyle election campaign
  • Mrs O’Neill says Sinn Fein are confident they’ll retain two seats in Foyle

Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill has revealed DUP leader Arlene Foster has not reached out to her since she took over from Martin McGuinness.

The new leader of Sinn Fein in the north made the revelation after the official launch of the Foyle election campaign with candidates Raymond McCartney and Elisha McCallion in the Gasyard Centre in Derry on Saturday afternoon.

The only basis on which we can countenance a return to the institutions is on the basis of genuine partnership

Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Fein

When asked if the former First Minister had reached out to welcome her in her new role, formally or informally, Michelle O’Neill said: “She hasn’t, no, and I’m not annoyed by it. It is what it is.”

Mrs O’Neill said Arlene Foster should not put herself forward for any position in any potential Executive until after the Renewable Heat Incentive inquiry and report are complete.

“You would presume that anybody with common sense would not put themselvews forward for a position whilst that’s hanging over them so, we want the inquiry and I think it would be the right thing for her (Arlene Foster) to do - to take a step aside from any position in any potential Executive until such times as that inquiry reports,” said Ms O’Neill.

Asked about the party’s chances of retaining two seats in Foyle, Mrs O’Neill said: “We have a great team in Raymond and Elisha; Raymond with his years of experience and Elisha who also has significant experience. They are two great candidates. They’re out engaging with people, they’re getting really great positive feedback so, yeah, I think we can be confident about that.”

On Martin McGuinness, Mrs O’Neill said he had been a “tremendous mentor” for her.

“I mean, no one has worked harder than Martin to make the institutions work so I will obviously be calling on him because he’s a significant part of my life and someone I would definitely always turn to,” she said. “He’s standing down from the leadership role, but he’s very much part of the collective leadership which Sinn Fein has and he will obviously have a role to play in that.”

Mrs O’Neill said the snap election is “about Sinn Féin standing up against scandal, disrespect and bigotry. That is why Martin took the stand he did”.

“The only basis on which we can countenance a return to the institutions is on the basis of genuine partnership, equality, respect and integrity in government. In this election, we now have an opportunity to realise what Martin worked so hard to build. We can fix the political institutions. We can end the waste of public money. We can end the racism, sectarianism, homophobia and sexism. But we all need to do it together. This is a big challenge. But it is also a big opportunity to move our society and our struggle forward,” said Mrs O’Neill.