The family of former Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson have accused the party of “publicly humiliating” her.
Ms Anderson and fellow Foyle Assembly member Karen Mullan announced last week they would not be standing for re-election next year after the party asked them not to.
While she admitted it had been a “body blow”, Ms Anderson said she had accepted the decision.
But in an unprecedented attack on the Sinn Féin leadership, the former republican prisoner’s family have appealed for help to “correct what we believe is a massive miscarriage of justice”.
“The British could not do to our Martina what her comrades and friends have done,” they said.
Issued through Ms Anderson’s sister Sharon Burke and titled ‘Breaking The Silence’, the family said she had asked them “not to comment on the events that have crushed her”, but they could not remain quiet.
They said that after giving her life to republicanism, she was being forced to stand aside over “problems that were not of her making”.
With the party facing a potentially damaging fracture, Sinn Féin has denied it is marginalising Ms Anderson.
The party’s leader in the North, Michelle O’Neill, said Sinn Féin “needed to restore confidence” in the party in the Foyle constituency “and both ladies will be part of that process”.
The following is the statement in full from Sharon Burke:
“We the Anderson Family in Derry have not commented on the brutal way that our loving sister Martina Anderson MLA has been publicly humiliated and asked to stand down by Sinn Féin, a party she loves and has helped to build.
Martina asked all of us to stay away from social media and not to comment on the events that have crushed her.
As a family we have done as she has asked and we have maintained our silence and our dignity.
I do not believe that speaking out like I am here on behalf of our wider family is undermining our republican integrity.
We have been and remain a very proud, staunch republican family, despite feeling very hurt.
We are proud of all that has been achieved to take us closer to our goal of Irish reunification.
We come from a city that has stood up against injustice and a place that has tried hard to right the wrongs that were done to it and its people.
As a family, despite our sister not wanting us to go public, we as sisters decided to call out this wrong that is being done to our Martina. We do not want to cause further stress to our sister and we are sorry but we cannot keep quiet any longer and we have to be allowed to speak our minds.
For the Sinn Féin’s national leadership to carry out a review in Derry and to listen to the views of some people, and then to conclude that a lifelong republican who has, we believed, made a difference in Derry based on the amount of people who have commented to us about the difference her return to Derry has made, not to forget the fact that she’s someone who has given everything that is possible to give to the struggle other than her life, should stand down for problems that were not of her making, is a far cry from the ethos of republicanism.
We believe Martina and Karen are being sacrificed by the party, used by this SF leadership because Martina and Karen are the public face and are being castigated in an attempt to win back support.
Those who thought up that strategy could well see it backfire as the people of Derry do not like to see injustices being inflicted on anyone and as a family we do not believe that using a life long Republican as a sacrificial lamb will win back the hearts and minds of republicans in Derry.
We Anderson’s believe if Martin McGuinness had been alive he would never have allowed this disgraceful tactic to be deployed. Martina had the privilege of being his junior minister. He knew her well and valued her worth.
As Sinn Féin MLAs Karen Mullan and our Martina, two Republican women have worked their hearts out to build up the support that SF lost over the last two elections. A loss of SF support that happened when our Martina was knocking her pan out in Europe to stop partition being reinforced by BREXIT.
Our sister Martina has been held in 4 jails, Armagh, Brixton, Durham and Maghaberry.
She spent almost 14 years in prison most of those years in English jails subjected to appalling prison conditions, jailed in a cockroach infested prison and stripped searched six times a day.
Martina was OTR for almost 6 years; upon release she worked in Stormont with Martin & Bairbre and then spent 7.5 years going about Ireland for SF driving from Derry to Kerry and everywhere in between to advance the All Ireland Agenda.
Martina as Sinn Féin MEP spent 7.5 years in Europe protecting Ireland against the worst impact of Brexit.
Martina is a workhorse for this struggle and we as a family have watched her put it in front of everyone and everything.
Indeed, our Martina gave everything to the Irish Republican struggle, including her biological clock. She is married to an ex prisoner who served over 18 years in prison, mainly in English jails. Both of them are not allowed to foster or adopt children.
Our Martina gave all of that with a heart and a half, wearing with pride who she is and what she represents.
This SF National leadership Review that was done in Derry resulted in a massive miscarriage of justice: they came into Derry to fix problems and left creating more.
We believe that Derry people’s rightful outrage at what has happened has backfired on SF and has the potential of damaging our struggle in Derry and beyond, as people are rightly disgusted at seeing a life long dedicated republican being thrown under a bus for problems that she had neither art nor part in.
The Anderson Family is calling on our wider republican family in Derry and indeed beyond to reject the way this SF leadership has publicly humiliating our sister Martina and Karen.
The British could not do to our Martina what her comrades and friends have done.
We the Anderson family are crying out for help; we are asking people not to use our appeal as an opportunity to bash SF but to help us correct what we believe is a massive miscarriage of justice.
We are SF members and as republicans we must demonstrate that we live by our values of equality, respect and integrity – qualities that it pains us to say have been lacking in the treatment of our sister Martina and Karen Mullan.”