Northern Ireland news

O'Neill praises Anderson after family criticises leadership

Sinn Féin vice president, Michelle O'Neill has described Martina Anderson as a "first class republican activist". Picture by Hugh Russell.
Seamus McKinney

MICHELLE O'Neill has said out-going Sinn Féin assembly members Martina Anderson and Karen Mullan will be part of changes drawn up in an effort to reverse recent poor electoral results for the party in Derry.

Ms O'Neill was speaking in the wake of a stinging attack by Ms Anderson's family on the party leadership after the Derry politician confirmed she would not seek re-election to Stormont.

One of Sinn Fein's best known public representatives, Ms Anderson and her party colleague were invited to “consider their positions” following an internal party review. The review also proposed that Sinn Féin's leadership stand aside in Derry.

Ms O'Neill described Ms Anderson as a “first class republican activist” and said she would be involved in rebuilding Sinn Féin in Derry.

The Sinn Féin northern leader and deputy first minister said the party believed something had to be done after Elisha McCallion lost her Westminster seat to SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood.

Sinn Féin also lost five seats on Derry and Strabane council.

The Sinn Féin vice president said: “We believe that the change we are going to bring forward will hopefully command the confidence of the people of Foyle. Both Martina and Karen Mullan will be part of that change but both have indicated they will not seek re-election.”

Ms O'Neill said Ms Anderson has worked with the Sinn Féin review group and helped to shape recommendations for the way forward.

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

Earlier this week, Ms Anderson's family issued a strongly-worded criticism of the Sinn Féin leadership, accusing it of “publicly humiliating” and “crushing” their sister.

In a statement issued through her sister Sharon Burke's social media sites, the Anderson family said: “The British could not do to our Martina what her comrades and friends have done.”

Ms Burke said her sister had dedicated her entire life to the republican campaign, including serving 14 years in prison. She accused the leadership of sacrificing Ms Anderson and Ms Mullan for “problems that were not of her making”.

She added: “We Andersons believe if Martin McGuinness had been alive, he would never have allowed this disgraceful tactic to be deployed. Martina had the privilege of being his junior minister. He knew her well and valued her worth.”

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news