Political news

Hundreds of people attend Sinn Féin rally in Newry

Hundreds of people packed into the Canal Court Hotel in Newry. Picture by Declan Roughan
Suzanne McGonagle and PA

SINN Féin president Mary Lou McDonald last night declared that "people have voted for something new" as she addressed a packed rally in Newry.

Hundreds of people attended the event at the city's Canal Court Hotel organised by the party to rally public support for Sinn Fein's efforts to get into government in the Republic.

It is the third post-election public meeting to be held by the party this week and the first rally to move north of the border.

Events in Dublin and Cork earlier this week saw up to 1,000 people in attendance at each rally with further meetings due to take place in Galway and Cavan over the next fortnight.

Newry and Armagh assembly member Liz Kimmins welcomed the "phenomenal" crowd to the rally with huge applause and a standing ovation for Ms McDonald as she took to the stage alongside Stormont deputy first minister leader Michelle O'Neill and finance minister Conor Murphy.

Fresh from her party's success in the Republic's general election earlier this month, she told the large crowds that "the people have voted for something new".

"They have voted for change," she said.

"People are now looking to us to deliver and lead."

Sinn Féin TDs Eoin Ó Broin and Pearse Doherty also attended the event after being delayed on their journey to Newry.

Mr Ó Broin had written on Twitter that they were "stuck on the N1 for over an hour just 15 mins outside Newry".

"Looks like a very serious crash. Hope no-one is badly hurt," he said.

Last night's rally came just hours after Sinn Féin members met with the Rural Independents group of TDs for government formation discussions.

Mr Doherty, leader of Sinn Féin's negotiating team, said the party wants to avoid a second general election in the Republic.

"That would be a major failure in relation to politics and it would not be of our doing," he said.

"As I said, we are willing to talk to all other political parties.

"We have a mandate as do other political parties and we respect and recognise that mandate."

Mr Doherty added: "We need to be saying we have had the initial conversations and had the discussions about the mood for change, now we need to see what common ground is there on these key issues.

"Obviously a minority government is one possibility but there are other possibilities.

"We have said over and over again since the general election campaign that we are open to discussing this with other parties.

"Some parties say they still won't talk to us; that may change so we will have to see. We have to explore every option to see if a government for change."

The Rural Independents group have said they will be calling for "fair play for rural Ireland" if they are a part of any coalition government.

Mattie McGrath, convenor of the Rural Independent Group, said: "The priority has to be about bringing an end to the political posturing so that major public concerns around health and housing can be addressed".

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