Mary ‘humbled and honoured’

Mary Nelis, seated third from left, pictured with other Le Cheile award winners at last weekend's party Ard Fheis in Killarney. Included, at back, are Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams TD and Mary Lou McDonald TD.

Mary Nelis, seated third from left, pictured with other Le Cheile award winners at last weekend's party Ard Fheis in Killarney. Included, at back, are Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams TD and Mary Lou McDonald TD.

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Former Sinn Féin MLA Mary Nelis has received a prestigious award in recognition of her commitment to republicanism.

Mrs. Nelis received the Le Cheile 2012 award at last weekend’s party Ard Fheis in Killarney.

The Bogside woman was Ulster’s nine-county nominee for the annual award.

Mrs. Nelis, a member of Sinn Féin since the early 1980s, said she was “humbled and a little embarrassed” by the award.

“I was very honoured but, at the same time, felt a little unworthy to be nominated for the award,” she said this week.

“So many people, particularly here in Derry, have made very valuable contributions to the cause of republicanism over the years and to be singled out for praise was, to say the least, very humbling indeed.

“As most people in Derry know, I’m not one for award ceremonies - you’ll usually find me on protest marches or pickets - but, on this occasion, I was happy to be there.

“I could think of scores of people who I think are far more deserving of this award but, then, someone decided to nominate me and, for that, I’m very grateful.”

Mrs. Nelis - who was elected to Derry City Council in 1993 and served two terms - said she would like to dedicate the award to “all those republicans in Derry and across the nine counties of Ulster who took part in the struggle over the years.”

She added: “It’s for those men and women who gave their lives, those who went to prison and those who remain at the forefront of the struggle for a new and peaceful Ireland.”

Mrs. Nelis, who remains very active in community circles in Derry, was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1998 - one of only fourteen women of 108 members.

She was re-elected in 2003 but resigned a year later to be succeeded by Raymond McCartney.