Sinn Féin's new leader, Mary Lou McDonald, paid tribute to the late Martin McGuinness after being formally elected as Gerry Adams' successor at the RDS in Dublin this afternoon.
Ms. McDonald said the Derry man who died after a short illness last March as a true 'peacemaker' and promised to follow his example of reaching out to unionist citizens in a spirit of reconciliation.
She hailed Mr. McGuinness for, alongside Gerry Adams and John Hume, “bravely walking the path to peace” in the 1980s and 1990s in spite of fierce opposition at the time.
The Sinn Féin leader said the former Deputy First Minister had led the Northern Ireland Executive with “courage and with patience” but had been forced to resign because the Stormont institutions were “undermined by disrespect and tainted by scandal”.
Referencing the ongoing talks at Stormont, Ms. McDonald said she would keep faith with the late Mr. McGuinness’ insistence that power-sharing could only be restored on the basis of respect and equality.
“Martin, there will be no return to the status quo,” she told the assembled delegates at the RDS convention.
Nonetheless, the Sinn Féin president said she was up for a deal with the DUP.
“I want to build on the work of Martin McGuinness. For us to reach out the hand of friendship, to find common ground. But we cannot do this on our own. We need partners for reconciliation,” she said.
Ms. McDonald ended her acceptance speech by promising to work towards the establishment of a United Ireland and a “real republic of which Tone and Markievicz, Connolly and Skinnider, Sands and McGuinness would be proud”.
Michelle O’Neill, accepting the party vice-presidency, said Mr. McGuinness was a political giant.
“I want to put on record my personal thanks and our collective thanks to our outgoing President Gerry Adams, who alongside my friend, my comrade Martin McGuiness, two political giants – true Irish patriots –helped shape and win the peace.”
She added: “It has been a difficult and testing year since Martin’s tragic loss. Martin resigned last January to force an end to the abuse of our political process by the DUP and British Government.
Donegal TD Pearse Doherty echoed these sentiment in paying tribute to Mr. Adams.
“With his long time comrade and friend Martin McGuinness - who so sadly and tragically was lost to us last year - Gerry has for four decades led from the front of the republican struggle.
“Like Martin, Gerry is respected across Ireland and the world as a patriot, a statesman and a peacemaker,” said the Gweedore man.