Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald breaks silence as Derry politicians confirm they will step down

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has thanked Martina Anderson MLA and Karen Mullan MLA for their “tireless dedication and commitment” after both Derry politicians consented to a party recommendation not to seek re-election.

Wednesday, 5th May 2021, 8:53 am

Mary Lou McDonald said that both Foyle MLAs for Sinn Fein - who announced yesterday that they will stand aside ahead of the Assembly election in 2022 - have been dedicated ‘to the party and to the people of Derry’.

Ms Mullan and Ms Anderson yesterday pledged to remain within Sinn Féin despite being asked not to contest the forthcoming election, and will continue as party activists.

Both Ms Mullan and Ms Anderson were co-opted into the Assembly, with Ms Mullan replacing Elisha McCallion in 2017, after she became MP for Derry, and Ms Anderson in 2020 replacing Raymond McCartney, who had retired.

Press Eye - Sinn Feinn Manifesto launch - Galgorm Hotel - Ballymena - 5th April 2019 Photograph by Declan Roughan Sinn Fein launches party Manifesto for Local Government Elections 2019 (L-R) Mary Lou McDonald, Martina Anderson and Michelle O'Neill

Last week however Sinn Féin said that an electoral strategy group is to be set up in the city to prepare for next year’s Assembly election following disappointment with recent election results in the city. However the party had refused to comment on reports a number of its activists in Derry and the two MLAs had been asked to vacate their positions, with some stating that the shake up was an internal matter.

Breaking her silence after a week of speculation on the future of the two Derry politicians and the future of the party in the city, Ms. McDonald said:

“I want to thank Martina and Karen for their tireless dedication to Sinn Féin and to the people of Derry and to welcome their commitment to help in the work of rebuilding the party in the city.

“We owe a special thanks to their families who have supported them in their work as public representatives.

MLAs Karen Mullan and Martina Anderson.

“As a long-time member of our national leadership Martina has always led from the front, as an activist, a Minister, an MEP and MLA and she will continue to lead as the prospect of a referendum on Irish Unity comes ever closer.

“I acknowledge that the process of reorganisation and change is challenging but it is my belief that our best days lie ahead in Derry and nationally as a new generation of republicans come forward.

“Sinn Féin is on the cusp of leading government, north and south and of achieving a referendum of Irish Unity. A strong, vibrant party in Derry will drive change in Foyle and across Ireland.”

Ms Anderson yesterday said the recommendation from her own party came as a “body blow”.

In a statement issued via social media, Ms Anderson said: “At the end of last year the Sinn Fein leadership initiated a party review of Sinn Féin in Derry. One of the recommendations of that review was that the two Sinn Féin MLAs in Derry should be asked to stand down. As a Republican activist for over 45 years I admit that recommendation came as a body blow.

“Since then I have been contacted by comrades, friends and supporters from across Derry and beyond offering their solidarity and support.

“The majority have urged me to stay on. It has been a difficult time for Karen Mullan and I, but we have approached this with Republican integrity and Derry pride. This struggle is bigger than any one of us.

“The national leadership correctly wants to re-energise SF in Derry and reconnect it to our base. Since coming back from Europe I have sought to do just that despite only being an MLA for a number of weeks when the global pandemic impacted on my activism, It did not deter it as the hundred of people I helped can attest.”

Ms. Anderson said she would continue to be a Republican activist within Sinn Féin and support whoever has the ticket at the next Assembly election.

Karen Mullan meanwhile Tweeted: “I confirm that I will not be seeking a nomination to stand for @sinnfeinireland at the next Assembly Election.

“It has been a great privilege to represent and work for the people of Derry.

!I will continue to be a Sinn Féin activist and I look forward to a new chapter in my life.”

Mayor of Derry & Strabane, SDLP Colr. Brian Tierney was among those to pay tribute to the two Derry politicians tonight.

He said: “Best of luck to Karen Mullan and Martina Anderson as they announce they will not stand at the next assembly election. Both worked hard for our city. Both very committed to Derry and it’s people.”