Tuesday 19 September 2017

Sinn Fein declines to nominate replacement for McGuinness, effectively triggering a snap election

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams. Photo: Tom Burke
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams. Photo: Tom Burke

Cormac McQuinn Political Correspondent

Sinn Féin has declined to re-nominate a Stormont deputy first minister in a move set to collapse the powersharing executive in Belfast and trigger a snap election.

Barring a highly unlikely u-turn by the republican party, the institutions will now fall at 5pm on Monday and Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire will be legally obliged to call the election.

Sinn Féin declined to replace Mr McGuinness at the start of Assembly business at Parliament Buildings on Monday.

The Sinn Féin veteran quit over the Democratic Unionists' handling of a botched green energy scheme.

Asked if he would rule out any Sinn Féin politician from the south running in the Assembly elections Sinn Féin President Mr Adams replied:

"I'm not going to rule anything in or out. I'm making the case that Martin hasn't made his intentions publicly clear.

"He's made it clear to me but that is another matter and when he makes his public statement then the party will deal with that."

Mr Adams said he expected Mr McGuinness to make an announcement on the matter "soon".

Dublin Central TD and deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said what she won't be running in the Assembly elections, while Donegal TD Pearse Doherty said he is "content" to represent that constituency.

Meanwhile, Arlene Foster has agreed to be re-nominated for the position of deputy first minister.

Ahead of the key Assembly session at Parliament Buildings in Belfast, Mrs Foster said the electorate did not want or need an election.

She accused Sinn Fein of triggering a poll because they did not like the outcome of last May's vote.

"They have forced an election that risks Northern Ireland's future and stability and which suits nobody but themselves," she said.

Read more: Turbulent 10-years-of power sharing between Sinn Fein and the DUP

Earlier, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has ruled out running for election in the North.

There had been speculation that he would run as a candidate to replace outgoing deputy first minister Martin McGuinness who is suffering from poor health.

But speaking on his local LMFM radio station this morning, Mr Adams ruled out the prospect, and said Mr McGuinness will make his own intentions known in the near future

Mr Adams' remarks came as an election is all but certain to be called in Northern Ireland this evening after Mr McGuinness's resignation last week over the 'cash for ash' controversy.

Mr McGuinness is suffering from a rare illness but has denied his resignation is related to his poor health.

Mr Adams also appeared on RTÉ Radio where presenter Seán O'Rourke put it to him that in collapsing the Assembly, Sinn Féin have decided it's better for British Northern Secretary James Brokenshire to be conducting Brexit negotiations on behalf of the North, than the Executive.

Mr Adams claimed Mr O'Rourke was being "provocative" and said that British Prime Minister Theresa May has already dismissed the possibility that any of the devolved governments will have a "real say" in negotiations.

He said that submissions on Brexit put forward by outgoing DUP first minister Arlene Foster and Mr McGuinness have been dismissed by Ms May.

Sinn Féin is arguing for an all-island conversation on Brexit Mr Adams added. "We showed how the North could be given a special designated status within the European Union," he said.

Mr O'Rourke accused Sinn Féin of walking off the pitch, "just as the game was about to get underway in earnest".

"No we haven't. We haven't walked off the pitch at all," Mr Adams said.

He added: "Martin McGuinness is travelling from his sickbed to Stromont this morning to be part of whatever emerges in the course of the day's business there.

"I'm making my way to Dublin now. Our Oireachtas team is meeting before the Dáil resumes tomorrow morning.

"So far from walking off the pitch, Sinn Féin is playing right across the pitch and we're playing on behalf of the people on our opponent's side of the field," he said.

Separately Mr Adams said there is a "role" for incoming US president Donald Trump in the Peace Process.

He said that while Sinn Féin are "at odds" with Mr Trump "on many of his utterances", the party has a "very good record" with a series of US administrations.

He said: "yes there is a role for the new administration".

Asked if he believes the Trump administration's input would be positive, Mr Adams said: "I would see no reason why it would default from what is probably the most successful foreign policy issue of any US administration of recent times."

 

Additional reporting by Reuters and PA

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