A SENIOR Sinn Féin TD has named a series of potential successors to Martin McGuinness as party leader in the North following his resignation as deputy first minister.
And while David Cullinane listed four senior MLAs as possible replacements for Mr McGuinness, he also failed to rule out the prospect of Gerry Adams stepping into the breach.
He said that while he didn't view such a move as a possibility, it's a matter for the Sinn Féin president himself.
Mr McGuinness – who is suffering from poor health – announced his shock decision to resign over the 'cash for ash' controversy on Monday.
The move effectively collapsed the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Mr McGuinness denied he resigned over health concerns and refused to say if he would contend the Assembly election that now seems certain to take place.
Mr Cullinane said that the former deputy first minister’s health is “obviously a concern” for Sinn Féin but that it would be “unfair” to speculate on it.
“He’s getting treatment for his illness and we just want to wish him well,” he said.
He was asked if Sinn Féin has a politician in the North that could fill Mr McGuinness’s shoes if necessary.
Mr Cullinane suggested some senior MLAs (Member of the Legislative Assembly).
He said: “Conor Murphy for example is being mentioned. We have Michelle O’Neill, Gerry Kelly, there’s a whole range of people. We have Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, our finance minister.”
But he restated that Mr McGuinness is the leader of the party in the North and wished him a “speedy recovery”.
He said that the party is asked questions about its leadership “all the time”, that it has a “collective leadership” and an Ard Comhairle, when asked if Mr Adams would be required to return to Northern politics.
“We have a range of talent North or South and people with ability that can step up into these positions if needs be,” he said.
Put to him that he wasn’t ruling out a return of Mr Adams to politics in Northern Ireland, Mr Cullinane replied: “I don’t see that as a possibility. But that’s a matter that is, in the first instance for Gerry.
“But at this point in time there are no vacancies.”
He said the party’s energy is on dealing with the current crisis which he claimed has been “engineered by the DUP.”
Mr McGuinness’s resignation came after First Minister Arlene Foster refused to step aside while the RHI scheme - which she established in 2012 as enterprise minister - is investigated.
It has been claimed that flaws in the scheme leave it open to abuse and the loss to the taxpayer in the North could be almost £500m (€575m).
Ms Foster respond to Mr McGuinness’s decision accusing him of depriving Northern Ireland of a government.
“It is clear that Sinn Fein’s actions are not principled, they are political,” she said on Monday.