Door left open for Adams' return to Northern politics
Mary Lou McDonald has left the door open to the possibility of Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams returning to Northern Ireland politics to replace Martin McGuinness as deputy first minister.
Ms McDonald failed to rule out the possibility of Mr Adams replacing Mr McGuinness, who is suffering from poor health, ahead of an election in the North due to take place in the coming weeks.
On Monday, Mr McGuinness made the shock decision to step down as deputy first minister and collapse the Northern Ireland Assembly over the 'cash-for-ash' scandal.
Mr McGuinness denied he resigned over health concerns and refused to say if he would contend the election.
Asked if Mr Adams would return to Northern Ireland in the likely event that Mr McGuinness would not run in the upcoming election, Ms McDonald said "that issue doesn't arise".
"Martin hasn't taken any decision so leave that decision for him to make in the first instance," she said. Ms McDonald also denied Mr Adams was influential in Mr McGuinness's decision to collapse the power-sharing Executive.
"Martin arrived at his decision in his own time and by himself but of course he brought that position and decision to the Sinn Féin officer board," she said.
Mr Adams said he was "very concerned" about his colleague's health but insisted he was getting the "very best" treatment. The Sinn Féin leader said he hoped he would run in the election but it was Mr McGuinness's decision to make.
Ms McDonald confirmed the North is heading into an election and insisted Sinn Féin would be seeking a new deal after the vote, which will mean a decision will have to be taken on Mr McGuinness soon.
Mr McGuinness has led the Northern Assembly for the last 10 years and there is no clear successor to the long-serving Sinn Féin politician.
Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir and Health Minister Michelle O'Neill were mentioned as possible contenders to replace Mr McGuinness.
Meanwhile, Ms McDonald turned down an offer from Arlene Foster to begin talks aimed at establishing an inquiry into the 'cash-for-ash' scandal.
She said Sinn Féin would still be open to forming a new power-sharing Executive with the DUP if Mrs Foster remained as leader after the election.
Mrs Foster wanted to begin an investigation into the flawed renewable heat incentive (RHI) scheme by the end of the week.
However, Ms McDonald said Mrs Foster and her party were "living in a state of denial" and need to realise "the game is up".