Martin McGuinness has spoken passionately about his pride in his roots as he addressed crowds in his native Bogside following his retirement from frontline politics.
Mr McGuinness was joined by his wife Bernie, wider family and Sinn Fein colleagues as he told those gathered how he could not fight another the election because of illness.
To a round of applause, Mr McGuinness reaffirmed his belief that resigning as Deputy First Minister in the wake of the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal and a range of other issues was the right thing to do.
“As I said to Arlene Foster and as I said to both the British and Irish governments, on the other side of this election there will be no going back to the status quo; there needs to be fundamental change,” he told those gathered in the Westland Street area on Thursday night.
“And so as a result of that we found ourselves in an election which is due to take place and of course the media focus turned into whether or not I would lead Sinn Fein into this election in the north, and would I be a candidate.
“And I had a lot of thinking to do over the course of the last couple of weeks.
“I had to think of Bernie, I had to think of my family, I had to think of the fantastic, wonderful doctors and nurses in our health service who have been treating me over the course of the last six weeks, and I had to think of the people of Derry, the people of Ireland, the people in this constituency.
“I had to think of my colleagues within Sinn Fein and I had to be honest and fair with all of them, but at the end of the day I had to make a decision and I had to be honest with myself.”
To cheers and further applause, and calls of ‘we love you Martin; an emotional Mr McGuinness, said:
“The question I had to ask myself: was I physically able or capable of fighting an intensive five/ six week election in the current state that I’m in? And the answer to that was ‘no’, so the only fair thing to do, which I have done today, is to make it clear that I won’t unfortunately, even though it breaks my heart, have an opportunity to again ask the people of Foyle to support me in what will be a critical election, to strengthen the Sinn Fein mandate.”
He added that those gathered could be “absolutely certain” that Sinn Fein would select a candidate and that he would be “100% wholeheartedly behind them”.
He added: “In this election, we are confronting arrogance, we are confronting a lack of humility, we are confronting incompetence, we are confronting those who are anti-Irish, we are confronting the allegations of corruption which are rife about the place, and I think we have a very strong case to put forward to the electorate.”
Mr McGuinness vowed however that he was not retiring completely from politics.
“I will be a Republican to the day I die; I will work for Sinn Fein until the day I die,” he said.
Speaking about his pride in his roots and in his native city, he added: “I will always be very proud to be from the Bogside. I have ended up in many places throughout the world, the White House on countless occasions, the Oval Office on three occasions with three American presidents and with Prime Ministers and Presidents all over the place, but my heart lies in the Bogside and with the people of Derry.”
(Video by Charlie McMenamin)