13 January 2018
Mitchel McLaughlin honoured at Derry Sinn Féin AGM
"Nobody could deny that while Mitchel is a dedicated, selfless and determined republican, his guiding principles of respect and parity of esteem are always applied equally to his political opponents." - Michelle O'Neill
Sinn Féin leader in the north Michelle O'Neill has paid a special tribute to veteran republican Mitchel McLaughlin at the AGM of Derry Sinn Féin, hailing his decades of activism and commitment to equality.
Michelle O'Neill was the guest speaker at the Derry Sinn Féin AGM held in the city this morning and made a presentation to a clearly surprised Mr McLaughlin at the end of the meeting.
Mitchel McLaughlin has been a stalwart of republicanism in Derry and across the north for more than 50 years, first joining Sinn Féin ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising in 1966.
He has served in a range of senior positions in Sinn Féin over the decades, including on the Ard Comhairle and periods as both National Chairperson and General Secretary.
First elected to Derry City Council in 1985, he was later elected to the Assembly for Foyle before switching to contest the South Antrim seat, becoming the first Sinn Féin representative to be elected there, topping the poll.
He was also the first republican to be appointed as Speaker of the Assembly and was widely respected by all political parties for his fairness in the role.
Paying tribute to the veteran republican at today's AGM, Michelle O'Neill said his activism continues to be an example to all.
"He has dedicated over 50 years of his life to the republican struggle," she said.
"He epitomises the sacrifices, the activism, the commitment, the dedication to struggle that is displayed by all great republicans down through the generations.
"After more than 50 years of republicans activism, Mitchel has earned the admiration, the respect of republicans all across the island.
"He has displayed his leadership capabilities in every campaign he has been involved in from civil rights right through to the present day."
In particular, the Sinn Féin leader in the north commended his commitment to equality and parity of esteem.
"Nobody could deny that while Mitchel is a dedicated, selfless and determined republican, his guiding principles of respect and parity of esteem are always applied equally to his political opponents.
"As Speaker in the Assembly, he was a man that was regarded by all as a man of integrity. No matter what background people are from, Mitchel was recognised as one of the most fair, reasonable and respectful Speakers the Assembly ever had.
"I want to thank Mitchel for his outstanding and invaluable contribution to the republican struggle," she said.
Speaking afterward, Mitchel McLaughlin said he was honoured and confident about the current state of republicanism.
"For me the decision to retire from politics was made easier because of the talent that is in the party leadership and wider party.
We now have so many young people with an immense array of skills, imagination and energy, and that energy is focused and they know where they are going. They are not simply passing on a flame; they are finishing the job.
"That to me is the reward for the commitment that I and those around me who gave a lot more over the years.
"We now have a generation that knows exactly what they are doing and where they are going to finish the job," he said.
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An initiative for dialogue
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Contributions from key figures in the churches, academia and wider civic society as well as senior republican figures