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Caitríona Ruane selected as Sinn Féin South Down Westminster candidate

12 January, 2005

Sinn Féin South Down MLA Caitríona Ruane has been selected as Sinn Féin South Down candidate for the for the coming Westminster election. At the party's Westminster selection convention in Downpatrick Caitríona Ruane was selected unopposed to stand as Sinn Féin's candidate in the Westminster election.

Speaking at the convention Cllr Willie Clarke MLA congratulated Caitriona on her nomination believing it marks another historic landmark for Sinn Féin in County Down. Cllr Clarke said:

"We have put forward a candidate who I believe will give us a genuine opportunity to win this seat. South Down is clearly a key area of growth for Sinn Féin and we are fighting an election in what was once considered an SDLP stronghold. This is no longer the case and we are steadily building upon the foundation laid by people like Cllr Mick Murphy and Cllr Frank McDowell who have helped paved the way for our current success. Make no mistake, with hard work and dedication this seat is within our grasp ˇ a seat that until quite recently would have been considered untouchable.

Ms Ruane said:

"It is a privilege and with a sense of humility that I accept this nomination. This is a county with a proud Republican tradition dating back to the 1798 rebellion when men and women fought and died for Irish freedom. It is a history that links County Down with my home county of Mayo where the vision and beliefs of Wolfe Tone have influenced successive generations.

"Here in South Down we have achieved a number of significant breakthroughs with the election last November of myself and my party colleague Willie Clarke to the Assembly. We have put together a committed team of Council candidates in the hope of at least doubling are representation on Down District and Newry and Mourne Councils and we are also attempting to make an unprecedented electoral breakthrough in Banbridge. Our candidates are a blend of youth and experience with a gender balance which shows Sinn Fein is the one political party in Ireland trying to actively increase the representation of women in politics.

"My work as an MLA has taken me to many towns, villages and country hamlets where I have met students and first-time voters; pensioners terrified in their own homes; workers and the unemployed; small shopkeepers; farmers worried about the implications of a national park; people working in the fishing industry who are unsure about their future in the face of more EU reforms and restrictions and business people anxious to develop South Down, particularly the areas tourist potential.

"South Down has many social and economic problems. Not surprisingly, like anywhere else in the North, there are political divisions and competing aspirations but none that cannot be mutually accommodated within the Good Friday Agreement. Sinn Féin has fought long and hard to reverse the injustices of partition. We were able to do so because the electorate has empowered us to do so. It is only now that the British and the unionists have started to take our community seriously.

"The events of the past three months prove the DUP have still some way to go before they are prepared to share power with Republicans. Yet massive progress has been made and Ian Paisley now leads a party that has accepted the fundamentals of the Good Friday Agreement and its all-Ireland architecture.

"For the past 17 years Eddie McGrady has held this seat in what has often been described as the SDLP's 'jewel in the crown'. That jewel has lost much of its sparkle and with the continued dedication, hard work and commitment we can, in the centenary year of Sinn Féin's formation, win next year's Westminster election and significantly increase our representation at Council level.

Notes for editors

Caitriona was born and raised in Mayo and lives in County Louth. She is married to Brian and has two daughters. A keen athlete, she played professional tennis from she was 17-21, was in the Junior Competition at Wimbledon and represented Ireland at many international events. She has played a wide range of sports including basketball, volleyball table tennis and GAA.

A fluent Spanish speaker, she worked for a US-based aid foundation from 1983-87 in Central America, living in dangerous war zones with indigenous people, documenting human rights abuses. Upon her return to Ireland she worked full-time for Trocaire before co-founding the Centre for Research and Documentation.

She was a member of the Committee on the Administration of Justice and organised the Belfast Forum on Policing conference in 1994 after the ceasefires. She has lobbied the UN and the EU on human rights in the North and was involved in organising inquiries and compiling reports into the deaths of Fergal Caraher (shot dead by a British soldier) and Patrick Shanaghan (a victim of collusion between loyalists and state forces).

From 1997-2001 Caitríona was the Director of Féile an Phobail and a founder of the St Patrick's Day Parade, during which time she took unionists in the city hall to court on grounds of funding discrimination. In 2000 President Mary McAleese presented Caitríona with the Aisling Person of the Year Award.

More recently, Caitríona has been chairperson of the 'Bring Them Home' campaign.

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