Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill said her party is out to “maximise the Sinn Fein vote and return two good candidates” from East Derry in the Assembly election.
Mrs O’Neill declared the party’s intention at Sinn Fein’s East Derry election campaign launch in Ballykelly on Saturday.
Speaking to the ‘Journal’ she said they had “a good team” with candidates Caoimhe Archibald and Cathal Ó hOisín.
“We are going out to maximise the Sinn Fein vote and return two good candidates,” said Mrs O’Neill. “I’ve watched Caoimhe in the assembly in the last number of months and she has really grown in terms of her role and she’s very effective on the agriculture committee. She’s a great girl and Cathal, again someone who has been around for a long time and I think you have a really good team standing up for people in this area. I have known and worked with our two candidates here for a number of years now and I can’t think of two better people to represent the constituents of East Derry.”
When asked if she believed recent problems in the SDLP could benefit Sinn Fein in East Derry, Mrs O’Neill said: “All those factors come into play when you’re trying to return candidates. We are out to return the two candidates, that’s the job of work here. They’re two hard workers who are embedded in their community and people know when they vote for Sinn Fein that’s what they are going to get.
“It’s a matter for the SDLP what they do and who they stand. It’s not really for me to comment and, I suppose, among them be it.
“I’m only interested in making sure our two candidates get elected, that they’re relevant and engaging with the community and looking after the people of East Derry.”
When asked for her thoughts on a social media post by the SDLP’s Daniel Wray McCrossan claiming Strabane had been “shafted” by the ‘new leader of Sinn Fein in the north’ over civil service jobs he claimed had been “earmarked” for Strabane but were going to Ballykelly, she said it was electioneering.
Mrs O’Neill said the decentralisation of government jobs out of Belfast to the north-west was one of her key achievements when she was agriculture minister.
“I think to see the progress is fantastic. It’s about bringing jobs into a rural area and it’s something I am very proud of. This is just the SDLP and blatant electioneering in the run-up to the election and I don’t expect them to do anything else. Ballykelly is a good news story for the north-west,” said Mrs O’Neill.
Caoimhe Archibald said: “For Sinn Féin equality, respect and integrity are not just words. It isn’t just a slogan, it’s in what we do, in how we treat each other and everyone else, it’s in our policies and its what our representatives do through whatever governing structures they are involved in.”
Cathal Ó hOisín said: “It is a great privilege to contest this election for Sinn Féin. This election is about respect, fairness and parity of esteem and returning two Sinn Féin MLAs for East Derry will put these at the centre of the institutions.”