Elisha McCallion invoked the late Martin McGuinness and declared ‘republicans never retire’ after tasting electoral defeat for the first time in Thursday’s general election.
She recalled the words a terminally-ill Mr. McGuinness delivered outside his Westland Terrace home in January 2017 when he announced he was stepping back from front-line politics.
“A wise man once said, a man who is very, very close to my own heart, that republicans never retire,” said the outgoing Sinn Féin MP after the results of the poll were declared in the Meadowbank Sports Arena in Magherafelt.
Despite polling only 9,711 votes (20.7 per cent), down 19 per cent on her 2017 total, and trailing her rival Colum Eastwood by 17,170, Mrs. McCallion struck a defiant note and vowed to continue to work for the people of Derry as a Sinn Féin activist.
“I want to take the opportunity to congratulate Colum Eastwood on what has to be said is a mighty impressive victory so well done Colum and your team,” she said.
She said she was grateful to the people of Derry for having given her the responsibility of representing them over the last parliamentary term.
“I want to take the opportunity to thank everyone in the Foyle constituency who did come out... and vote for myself. It’s been an absolute honour and privilege to have served the people of Foyle for the past two-and-a-half years as your MP and prior to that as a public representative.
“But just to make a pledge to those people that I will continue to work on their behalf day and daily and I look forward to working with Colum and everybody else... as we do go into talks and we do try to find a resolution which will bring about credible and sustainable government,” she said.
Thursday was the first electoral setback for Mrs. McCallion who has won three Council elections, one Assembly election and one Westminster election for Sinn Féin since entering politics in 2005.
The most likely avenue for her back into political representation in future will be as a candidate in an Assembly election sometime between now and 2022 or, potentially, as a co-opted MLA.