Northern Ireland news

Video: Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald criticised for use of term 'Londonderry'

 Standing with Ms McDonald was Rev David Latimer as well as Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O'Neill, MP for Foyle Elisha McCallion and Sinn Féin's national chairman Declan Kearney.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has been criticised for using the name 'Londonderry' during a bridge building visit to Derry and Donegal.

While the name of the city remains hotly debated, it is not a term typically used by Republicans and thought to be one of the first times in recent history that a Sinn Féin leader has used it in a public statement.

Ms McDonald was speaking after meeting Presbyterian minister the Rev David Latimer and members of his congregation on Monday. Rev Latimer was a friend of the late Martin McGuinness. 

Ms McDonald and team also visited the Ulster-Scots Heritage Centre in Carrigans, Co Donegal.

During a recorded video following the visit, Ms McDonald said: "...we have had an engagement with young people with interests across Derry, or Londonderry, and it has been a really, really wonderful conversation and one that we need to build on because we know this for sure, that we have to live here together and we have to live comfortably and respectfully together and know we can do that."

Standing with Ms McDonald was Rev Latimer, who is seen nodding enthusiastically as she uses the name Londonderry, as well as Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O'Neill, MP for Foyle Elisha McCallion and Sinn Féin's national chairman Declan Kearney. 

Rev Latimer said: "The diverse audience that we had in First Derry this afternoon is most heartening, people from the Protestant tradition and the Catholic tradition and we all recognised I think that by being together that we are only as strong as we are united and as weak as we are divided. 

The video was posted on social media. Replying to Facebook criticism of her reference, Ms McDonald said: "I'm well aware of the history of Derry and Donegal. I used the term to reflect the fact that we had a dialogue - a really good one- with people who see things differently to us."

Irish Republican Pádraic Mac Coitir tweeted that it was a "disgusting word". 

Londonderry Chamber of Commerce is one of the few official bodies that retains the longer name, with Londonderry City Council renaming itself Derry City Council in 1984, at the same time the municipally-owned Londonderry Eglinton Airport becoming City of Derry Airport.

It has since been subsumed into Derry and Strabane District Council.

The BBC usually alternates between Derry and Londonderry when referring to the city itself and use the official name of any bodies in the county that contain either of the monikers.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin has announced that it will back unionist Ian Marshall in this week's Seanad by-election.

Mr Marshall, who owns a farm near Markethill in Co Armagh, is an anti-Brexit campaigner and former president of the Ulster Farmers' Union.

Last year he was appointed business development manager at the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen's University in Belfast.

In February, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar nominated him for the seat left vacant by the resignation of Labour Senator Denis Landy.

In a statement issued last night, Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald announced her party will support Mr Marshall's candidacy.

"I have met with Ian on a number of occasions in recent weeks and I have been impressed by his views on Brexit and the potential impact Brexit will have on the island, north and south," she said.

"I believe Ian will be a strong independent voice in the Seanad; providing an anti-Brexit unionist perspective, which is a welcome addition to the political discourse surrounding the issue in the Oireachtas. Brexit affects people from all backgrounds and ways of life; nationalist, unionists and everyone in between.

"From his time as a farmer, as president of the Ulster Farmers' Union, and his current position at Queen's University, Ian is particularly qualified and experienced to advocate on behalf of farmers and the agri-sector; which faces massive challenges in the time ahead.

"Ian is a unionist. I am an Irish republican. As I have stated repeatedly, the Ireland I want to see is one where one can comfortably be Irish or British, both or neither. I believe Ian can bring a new and interesting voice to the discussion surrounding a new Ireland."

Votes in the election will be counted on Friday.

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