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Sinn Féin denies Adams will move North to replace sick McGuinness


A man walks past graffiti in Belfast calling for an Irish-language act in the North. Photo: PA

A man walks past graffiti in Belfast calling for an Irish-language act in the North. Photo: PA


A man walks past graffiti in Belfast calling for an Irish-language act in the North. Photo: PA

Sinn Féin has moved to quash speculation that Gerry Adams will replace Martin McGuinness as the party's leader in the North following the deputy first minister's shock resignation.

But it comes as senior TD David Cullinane tipped a series of Northern Ireland Assembly members as potential successors if Mr McGuinness decides not to contest the election that now seems certain to take place.

Mr McGuinness - who is suffering from a rare heart disorder - resigned on Monday over the 'cash for ash' controversy.

He denied his resignation was linked to his poor health but has yet to confirm that he will contest the election.

Speculation that Mr Adams would replace him in the Assembly had been fuelled by Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald failing to rule that prospect out earlier this week.

Read more: Four potential successors to Martin McGuinness named by Sinn Féin TD


David Cullinane. Photo: Tom Burke

David Cullinane. Photo: Tom Burke

David Cullinane. Photo: Tom Burke

However, a party spokesman said that Mr Adams would not be seeking to return to Belfast politics to oversee the party in the Assembly should Mr McGuinness decide not to run in the election.

Mr McGuinness took part in talks with Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan and British Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire last night.

Speaking at Leinster House, Mr Cullinane insisted there were "no vacancies" in the party leadership team at the moment but said: "We have a range of talent, north or south, and people with ability that can step up into these positions if needs be."

He listed senior Assembly members who may be in the frame to replace Mr McGuinness should he decide not to contest the election. Mr Cullinane said Mr McGuinness's health was "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 added.

He was asked if Sinn Féin had politicians in the North that could fill Mr McGuinness's shoes.

Mr Cullinane 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." Mr Murphy and Ms O'Neill, the North's health minister, accompanied Mr McGuinness to his meeting with Mr Flanagan and Mr Brokenshire yesterday.

Waterford TD Mr Cullinane said the party's focus is on dealing with the current crisis which he claimed has been "engineered by the DUP".

He accused the DUP of "bad faith" over the Renewable Heat Initiative (RHI) and the withdrawal of £50,000 in funding for an Irish-language scheme.

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 - was investigated. It has been claimed that flaws in the scheme could lose the taxpayer in the North almost £500m (€575m).

Read more: Comment: How Mary Lou will give Sinn Féin a fresh start if Adams leaves

Mrs Foster has denied any wrongdoing. She accused Sinn Féin of depriving Northern Ireland of a government after Mr McGuinness's resignation.

Separately, the family of murdered prison guard Brian Stack, including his widow Sheila and sons Austin and Oliver, are to meet Taoiseach Enda Kenny today. Gerry Adams has come under increasing pressure to give gardaí the name of an IRA figure who may have information on Mr Stack's murder more than 30 years ago. Mr Adams brought Mr Stack's sons to meet the man - who confirmed that IRA members killed their father - in 2013. He has refused to hand over the man's name to gardaí. Mr Adams previously said it's his view that people involved in the IRA should not be named, saying that progress in the peace process was "only possible on the basis of confidentially and trust".

Austin Stack last night said he hoped to discuss the investigation into his father's murder with Mr Kenny. He reiterated his call for Mr Adams to hand over the IRA man's name to gardaí saying: "We would continue to hope that Deputy Adams does the right thing."

Irish Independent

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