At Sunday’s Sinn Féin Selection Convention in Hilltown, two candidates were elected to stand in the Assembly election in Thursday 2 March 2017. Caitríona Ruane will be stepping down as South Down MLA.
The outgoing standing MLA, Chris Hazzard (the Infrastructure Minister) will again be running along with Nwry Mourne and Down District Council councillor Sinéad Ennis. He said: “I look forward to continuing my work with Cllr Sinéad Ennis in the Assembly. Sinéad is a bright and articulate local councillor and I have no doubt she has a big future as a South Down MLA.
“Chris Hazzard added: “I would like to wish Caitríona and her family well for the future. Caitríona has given her all in these past 14 years for the people of South Down and I’ve no doubt they are very much appreciative of her huge efforts.”
Sinéad Ennis said: “It is a great honour and a privilege to be nominated by the membership here tonight.
“It is a special privilege to be chosen by your peers and the hardworking activists in the constituency of South Down, the constituency that was the birthplace of Irish republicanism.
Having worked with Caitríona Ruane MLA for the last two and a half years, I understand more than most that I have big shoes to fill. So I would like to pay tribute to her. Go raibh míle maith agat Caitríona.
“I believe this is the most significant election since 1981, when Bobby Sands was elected while on hunger strike.The days of inequality and Irish nationalists being treated by Unionism as 2nd class citizens are over! Irrespective of the outcome of this election, there will be no return to the status quo.
“I have been a Republican all my life. Through my work as a councillor I have learned a lot about politics and also the importance of representing the needs of ordinary citizens. With the help of the voters of South Down, I hope to be able to able to continue this at an Assembly that has equality and respect at its core.
“Whether wearing the jersey representing Down on the football pitch or sitting alongside Mickey Ruane as a Crotlieve Councillor, the red and black of this county has and always will flow through my veins. If elected to the Assembly, following Mick Murphy, Willie Clarke Caitríona and Chris Hazzard, I pledge my total commitment to help create a fairer, inclusive and progressive society , representing all citizens of this great constituency of South Down.
“We all know that the next few weeks will be a very busy period for the Sinn Féin membership. This will be no ordinary campaign. This election will offer us a unique opportunity to get the Sinn Féin message of equality and anti-corruption across, like never before. We are indeed involved in what will be recognised as historical times. I would ask our supporters to play to play your part and stand up for equality.”
Ruane Steps Back From Front Line
Outgoing Sinn Féin MLA Caitríona Ruane has said she will not be putting her name forward for selection for the next Assembly election.
Ms Ruane said: “It has been an honour and privilege to represent the people of South Down in the Assembly for the last 14 years. Over the years I have been involved in assisting the growth and development of the peace process to create a better society for all our citizens.
“During that time I have had the pleasure of serving as Education Minister, abolishing the eleven plus exam, tackling underachievement, improving educational attainment and excellence for all, investing in the Irish medium sector and delivering the largest school building programme in decades.
“I was also proud to promote equality issues in the Assembly at every opportunity; equality for the LGB&T community, for Irish language speakers and for women. As a lifelong feminist I was honoured to have been selected twice by all parties to chair the Assembly’s women’s caucus.
“I was also privileged to serve as Principal Deputy Speaker of the Assembly.
“I have now decided not to put my name forward for selection for the next Assembly election.
“Sinn Féin has continued to grow in the South Down constituency, as it has across the island, and I have no doubt that local activists will choose a strong team to go before the electorate and they will have my full and enthusiastic support in any upcoming election, in which I will acting as an election agent.
“This will be a hugely important election and it is vital that people have the opportunity to call time on the DUP’s arrogance and put respect and equality at the heart of the political institutions.
“I want to thank all of the people of South Down and the party in the area for the support and trust they have shown me over the years and I look forward to the continued growth of Sinn Féin in the area.
“I also want to thank my family; my husband Brian, children Eimear and Deirdre and my grandchild, Sé, for the love and support they have given me over the years.”
Former MLA and Councillor Mick Murphy said: “I would like to thank Caitríona for her many years of solid work. Caitríona has fought for human rights on three continents as well representing the electorate South Down for well over a decade. As Minister of Education, she introduced measures which have dramatically improved education performance across society.The statistics bear this out. That is a legacy to be very proud of. Obair íonatach maith Caitríona.”
Ryan Morgan, who convened the meeting, added: “Caitríona has been to the forefront in defending and advancing LGB&T and Women’s rights, and contributed hugely to the development of Sinn Féin policies in these areas. It has been an honour to have worked with you.”