The first public act of Donegal’s two new Sinn Féin TDs was to speak to a victory rally at Free Derry Corner.
Inishowen man Padráig MacLochlainn was elected to the 31st Dáil for the Donegal North East constituency while his party colleague, Pearse Doherty, was returned in the Donegal South West constituency. Both men topped the polls in their respective counts.
The pair arrived in Derry on Sunday evening at the head of a cavalcade of more than 150 cars, many with Tricolours and posters of the two men displayed in their windows. A crowd of around 200 republicans from Derry waited at Killea as the cavalcade made its way from Letterkenny and joined in for the journey to Free Derry Corner where a rally was held.
Both men said the they felt it was important to come to Derry for their first public rally, adding that they have taken “inspiration” from Derry republicans.
Speaking from a platform at Free Derry Corner, Padráig McLochalinn said; “There are people here tonight from Derry who had to go to Buncrana and Letterkenny on the run and build their lives there, they and the honourable minority of republicans in Donegal did not abandon their brothers and sisters in the Six Counties when the majority of people in the 26 Counties abandoned the people of Derry again and again.
“Here we are beside this iconic wall where the people of Derry stood against an empire while the Irish government stood idly by. Here we are where our people were gunned down by the British army.
“Almost 20 years after the murder of Eddie Fullerton, we were determined to build on his legacy and build genuine republican politics in Donegal by turning the people from nationalists to republicans. Now, with the help of our comrades in Derry, Donegal has been republicanised.”
Pearse Doherty said he was honoured to speak at Free Derry Corner and said coming to marches in Derry in his youth made him want to get into politics. “For many years I came here for marches and saw the murals and I wanted to play my part. I’m honoured to be here alongside Padráig at Free Derry Corner.
“We are here in Derry because it was the people of this city who did the heavy lifting of the struggle for many years.
“Padráig and I are part of a new generation of younger republicans who took their inspiration from those who fought and died on the streets of Derry.
“That unbroken chain of republicanism will continue when we march through the gates of Leinster House,” he said.
Mr Doherty also thanked the people of Derry for supporting his election campaign.
“A decade ago when Mitchel McLaughlin came down for a meeting on how to build the party in Donegal only three people showed up,” he said.
“He told me not to be disheartened and now we are the largest party in Donegal. But we will not stop there.
“ We want to see Martin McGuinness and Martina Anderson take seats in Dáil Eireann in a united country.”