Sinn Féin MEP Anderson to visit Bilbao for key conference for Basque national liberation movement

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Three months after leading figures, Arnaldo Otegi and Urko Aiartza, helped bear Martin McGuinness’ coffin through the Bogside, Sinn Féin MEP Martin Andersona will be in Bilbao for the first ever EH Bildu conference, the latest iteration of the Basque national liberation movement.

Speaking before her visit the senior Derry republican said: “Sinn Féin has long been a supporter of efforts to secure independence in the Basque county.

“This weekend I will attend the first conference of EH Bildu in Bilbao which will formally bring together the four constituent parties into a cohesive new movement.”

EH Bildu, originally founded in 2011, is an alliance of the left wing and Basque nationalist groups, Aralar, Eusko Alkartasuna, Alternatiba and Sortu.

Mr. Ortegi, the Sortu Secretary General and party colleague, Mr. Aiartza, both travelled to Derry in March to attend Mr. McGuinness’ funeral in solidarity with their long-standing allies Sinn Féin.

The trip occurred at a pivotal moment in the Basque peace process after the militant ETA organisation announced its intention of disarming just days before Mr. McGuinness’ death.

Sortu was formed in response to the proscription of Batasuna, ETA’s political wing, however, in 2011, shortly after its foundation, the Spanish Supreme Court banned it from standing in elections, due to its perceived links with the latter party.

The ban was later lifted but by this time EH Bildu had already been formed as an electoral coalition of the Basque patriotic left.

This weekend’s summit will be the first annual meeting to have been held by the alliance.

Ms. Anderson said: “This conference will give people the opportunity to shape what EH Bildu will look like in the future and its role.

“The international community, and the EU in particular, have a role to play in supporting the Basque peace process.”

Paying tribute to Mr. McGuinness at the time of his death a Sortu spokesperson said: “Martin had internalized that phrase of Mandela - ‘If you want to make peace with enemy, you have to work with your enemy, then he becomes your partner’ - very well.

“The left-wing has powerful reasons to be grateful to the republican movement and Martin McGuinness.

“We are deeply moved by the loss of this Irish leader who has stood out worldwide for the struggle of the liberation of the people, since he was a great revolutionary and a great friend. “Agur eta ohore [Farewell and honour] Martin McGuinness.

“The political legacy that you have also left in Euskal Herria is the seed that will bring peace and freedom, without a doubt. Eskerrik asko, lagun! [Thank you, my friend!]”