Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said difficult decisions and hard work had ensured Sinn Fein will likely emerge the dominant political force in the new Derry Strabane supercouncil.
Mr McGuinness arrived at the count yesterday evening to cheers and applause from Sinn Fein candidates and supporters gathered at Templemore Sports Complex.
He said that a political shift was emerging in the North West and elsewhere.
Speaking to the Journal, Mr McGuinness said: “This is another bit of history being made in this election with Sinn Fein for the first time emerging as the largest political party in Derry City.
“That hasn’t happened before, and we are by far the largest party in the Derry and Strabane Council.
“That is down to a commitment of our activists, the intelligence of our activists, and the input of our activists who work hard on the ground to improve the lives of people.”
He said it was very important that election candidates were able to improve the life-style of the people that were voting for them, and said that “inclusiveness and not arrogance” were necessary attributes for any elected representative.
Mr McGuinness added that reconciliation continued to be key to achieving progress going into the future.
He said that the way the City of Culture programme last year had brought people together, regardless of their affiliations or beliefs, showed how this was possible.
“That was heart-warming for me that the people of this city reached out their hands to each other,” he said.
“There is a level of support in this city to see elected representatives building a better future.”
Mr McGuinness said that he himself has been “at the heart of taking some of the most difficult decisions any politician has had to make over the course of the last 20 years”, but said that the people had recognised that this was necessary for progression.
The detention of Gerry Adams for questioning in connection with the Jean McConville murder had not dented that support, he added.
“If you look at the challenges we faced going into this election, Gerry Adams being taken into custody, it is testament to the intelligence of the electorate that they recognise the important role Sinn Fein plays. I think we are going to see the outworkings of that not just in Derry but also across Ireland.”
Mr McGuinness said the party were “very confident” that Martina Anderson will be returned as MEP and said that history could be made with three other Sinn Fein European candidates in with a shout south of the border.