Sinn Féin Leas Uachtarán Michelle O’Neill has paid tribute to Alex Maskey after the announcement he will not be standing in the next Assembly election.
Michelle O’Neill said:
“I want to thank Alex for his years of dedicated service as a Republican activist, he has been a ferocious champion of the rights of communities within the Assembly, in Belfast City Council and on the ground.
“A former docker from North Belfast, Alex has been a courageous activist in Republican politics over the course of many decades always leading by example.
“He was the first Sinn Féin Councillor elected to Belfast City Council in 1983 and led the way for real transformative change within the city.
“He was imprisoned without trial, faced down sustained threats and attacks by British state forces and their loyalist surrogates and was almost killed in an attack at his home which left him with permanent injuries. A close friend and party colleague Alan Lundy was also killed in an attack on Alex’s family home. None of this deterred or intimidated Alex.
“During the Good Friday Agreement negotiations to achieve lasting peace on our island, Alex Maskey was central to the Sinn Féin team and he has served the people of South and West Belfast with absolute dedication and distinction since the establishment of the institutions.
“His level-headed approach and strong leadership have been exemplary in his position as the Speaker of the Assembly and has won respect from across the chamber.
“Republican activists of the calibre of Alex Maskey don’t retire; Alex will remain a dedicated activist to deliver for the people of Belfast and to achieve a new and united Ireland for all.
“I want to wish Alex and his family the very best of luck for the future.”