Sunday 19 August 2018

Mary Lou McDonald uses term 'Londonderry' and backs unionist election candidate

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Suzanne Breen

Mary Lou McDonald has broken new ground for a Sinn Fein leader by using the name 'Londonderry'.

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

She also visited the Ulster-Scots Heritage Centre in Carrigans, Co Donegal.

In a second bridge-building gesture towards unionists yesterday, she said Sinn Fein would be supporting former Ulster Farmers' Union president Ian Marshall in the upcoming Irish Senate by-election. She described him as a "strong, anti-Brexit unionist voice".

Some republicans condemned the Sinn Fein president's use of the term for the city.

Ms McDonald recorded a video with Mr Latimer for social media after meeting him and members of his congregation at First Derry Presbyterian Church.

She said: "We have had an engagement with young people with interests across Derry, or Londonderry, and it has been a really wonderful conversation and one that we need to build on because... we have to live respectfully together and we know we can do that."

Former internee Mickey Donnelly, one of the 'Hooded Men' and from the city, said: "I've never heard any republican use 'Londonderry'.

"Indeed, no one in the nationalist community, including SDLP people, uses it. The ex-prisoners I've spoken to are shocked and outraged. Mary Lou's lack of republican credentials is showing."

Former republican prisoner Padraic Mac Coitir, from west Belfast, tweeted: "During the blanket protest some men from Doire were refused letters and visits coz they wouldn't use that word. Shame on anyone claiming to be republican using it."

Replying to Facebook criticism of her reference, Ms McDonald said: "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."

Supporting Mr Marshall in the Senate by-election, the Sinn Fein president said he would hugely contribute to the Brexit debate.

Mr Marshall owns a farm near Markethill in Co Armagh and works at Queen's University in Belfast as a business development manager.

He was nominated by Taosieach Leo Varadkar. Votes will be counted on Friday.

Ms McDonald said: "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."

Belfast Telegraph

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