Northern Ireland news

Martina Anderson and Karen Mullan to step down as Sinn Féin MLAs next month

Foyle MLAs Martina Anderson (left) and Karen Mullan with former councillor Peter Anderson taking part in the Chieftan's Walk. Picture by Twitter
Rebecca Black, PA

Sinn Féin MLAs Martina Anderson and Karen Mullan will step down from the Assembly next month.

It was previously announced they would not contest the next Assembly elections, due to take place next May.

However, on Tuesday, Sinn Féin said the pair would step down in September and will take on “new roles for the party at a national and regional level”.

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald said the two women “will continue to play a leading role in the development of the party nationally and at regional level in the north west”.

“Martina Anderson will be taking on a new international role for the party in Europe promoting the case for Irish unity,” she said.

“Martina will draw off her vast experience as a former Executive minister, and MEP, where she helped lead the fight against Brexit to ensure that the all-island economy and Good Friday Agreement would be protected, and there would be no hardening of the border.

“Karen Mullan, who has a long track record in community development, in education and health as well as years of experience as an elected representative, will be taking on a new regional role in the north west strengthening cross-border co-ordination between the party’s TDs, MLAs, MPs and council groups.

“I thank them, and their families who have supported them as public representatives, for their hard work and commitment to the people of Derry and the north west as we all work collectively to rebuild the party and advance the cause of Irish unity in the city.”

Nominations for the next Sinn Fein MLAs in Foyle will be open until September 5 ahead of a selection convention will be held on September 8, with those selected to take their Assembly seats by September 13.

In April, Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy said it was “attempting to fix” internal party issues in Londonderry following recent election disappointments.

Elisha McCallion lost the Foyle Westminster seat to SDLP leader Colum Eastwood in 2019 by more than 17,000 votes and in the same year the party lost its majority on Derry City Council to the SDLP.

In May, members of Ms Anderson’s family spoke out, claiming she had been “sacrificed” by the party.

In a post on Facebook, her sister Sharon Burke said that Sinn Fein had “come into Derry to fix problems and left creating more”.

On Tuesday, Ms Anderson said she had taken the decision to step aside as Foyle MLA earlier than planned to give the newly-selected candidates an “opportunity to establish themselves as public representatives in advance of the next Assembly election”.

“This is a period of huge change and opportunity for the party, for our Irish unity platform and I’m looking forward to taking on my new role and a fresh challenge,” she added.

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