Sinn Fein president has ‘huge optimism’ ahead of UK General Election

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald has said she has “huge optimism” ahead of the UK General Election.

She indicated the party is hoping to consolidate its strength at Westminster, where at the last General Election in 2019 it returned seven MPs, and to build further.

The July 4 vote comes after a challenging election for Sinn Fein in the Republic of Ireland where it had hoped to significantly increase its number of councillors, but came back with just 21 extra seats.

It increased its number of MEPs from one to two, but lost its sitting MEP Chris MacManus.

Speaking at the party’s manifesto launch in west Belfast, Ms McDonald said she feels sure they will “perform very strongly”.

Ms McDonald and Stormont Economy Minister Conor Murphy, along with Sinn Fein’s General Election candidates, were among those in attendance at the manifesto launch at the Eileen Howell Centre, formerly St Comgall’s School on Divis Street.

Titled Strong Leadership Positive Change, the manifesto asks voters to “endorse strong leadership and positive change”.

It includes a pledge to fight for a fair funding model for Northern Ireland at a time of challenging finances in the Stormont Assembly, and also called for the British and Irish governments to set a date for a referendum on Irish unity.

Sinn Fein is standing in 14 of Northern Ireland’s 18 constituencies.

Sinn Fein’s President Mary Lou McDonald speaking during a pro-unity group Ireland’s Future event at the SSE Arena, Belfast
Sinn Fein’s President Mary Lou McDonald speaking during a pro-unity group Ireland’s Future event at the SSE Arena, Belfast (Brian Lawless/PA)

Ms McDonald said the party is aiming to consolidate its position, and hoping to build their vote further.

“Every election I come to with huge optimism and an abundance of hope, the party has grown exponentially over the next decade or so,” she said.

“This is now a very large national organisation and I am very sure that we are going to perform very strongly in this election.

“The last election south of the border, we didn’t serve our meaty ambitions as we would have wished but we did win more council seats, we did win an additional seat in the European Parliament.

“We’re always going to be ambitious, we’re always going to push ourselves to achieve that bit more because we have a national project.

“When you’re that ambitious there is no simply no room for being despondent.

While Sinn Fein MPs do not take their seats in the House of Commons in keeping with a longstanding abstentionist policy, Ms McDonald said those returned on July 4 will be “working hard as part of a strong all-Ireland Sinn Fein team, made up of MLAs, TDs, MEPs and hundreds of local councillors the length and breadth of the country intent to deliver for all of our people”.

Ms McDonald also said she expects a change of government in London, adding with that change “has to come a step change in how the north is funded”.

“We will work with everybody and we will stand absolutely resolutely to make sure that health, that education are funded properly, that our young people have the chance that they deserve here, that childcare is available to people, that infrastructure is filled out, and that we hold the British government and indeed the government in Dublin to account in terms of delivering of key infrastructure, I’m thinking in particular of Casement Park but also of the A5,” she said.