Northern Ireland news

Michelle O'Neill: We needed to restore confidence in the Sinn Féin team in the Foyle constituency

Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O’Neill has said Foyle MLA Martina Anderson is a “first-class republican activist”.

Ms Anderson’s family had criticised Sinn Féin after the long-term republican agreed to not seek re-election to the Stormont Assembly as part of a party review of its performance in the Foyle constituency.

While she admitted it had been a “body blow”, Ms Anderson accepted the decision.

Speaking during a joint visit with First Minister Arlene Foster to Clandeboye Golf Club in Bangor, Ms O’Neill said Sinn Féin “needed to do something to fix” how it performs in Foyle after some disappointing results in recent elections.

“We needed to restore confidence in the Sinn Féin team in the Foyle constituency, we believe that the change we are going to bring forward will hopefully command the confidence of the people of Foyle.

Read More: 'The British could not do to our Martina what her comrades have done,' say family of Martina Anderson

Both Martina and Karen Mullan will be part of that change but both have indicated they will not seek re-election,” she said.

“We have work to do in terms of trying to build our profile in the Foyle constituency and both ladies will be part of that process.

“Martina has worked with the whole of the review group, has actually helped to shape the recommendations and where we are today.

“Martina is an absolutely first-class republican activist, always has been and always will be, including rebuilding the party in Foyle.”

The family of Ms Anderson accused Sinn Féin of "publicly humiliating" her.

In an unprecedented attack on the Sinn Féin leadership, the former IRA prisoner's family appealed for help to "correct what we believe is a massive miscarriage of justice".

"The British could not do to our Martina what her comrades and friends have done," they said.

Issued through Ms Anderson’s sister Sharon Burke’s social media accounts, the family said she had asked them "not to comment on the events that have crushed her” but they could not remain quiet.

 Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster (right) and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill at the launch of the PGA Europro Tour event at Clandeboye Golf Club

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