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Former Sinn Fein Education Minister Caitriona Ruane to step down from Stormont

Former Sinn Fein Education Minister Caitriona Ruane will not seek re-election to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The South Down representative has announced she will not be putting her name forward for selection for the next Assembly election.

A fresh Assembly election - less than a year after the last election - is expected to be called on Monday when Sinn Fein refuse to nominate a deputy First Minister, effectively collapsing Stormont.

Outgoing deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness resigned last week after First Minister Arlene Foster ignored his advice to her to step aside while an independent investigation into the cash for ash scandal takes place.

 

Sinn Fein selected four candidates to run in West Belfast yesterday while South Down MLA Caitriona Ruane announced she does not plan to stand in the expected elections.

Ms Ruane has served as South Down MLA for 14 years, and has described the experience as an "honour and privilege".

"Over the years I have been involved in assisting the growth and development of the peace process to create a better society for all our citizens," she said.

Ms Ruane is perhaps best known for her move as Education Minister in 2008 to abolish the Eleven Plus transfer test for P7 children hoping to attend grammar schools.

"During that time I have had the pleasure of serving as Education Minister, abolishing the eleven plus exam, tackling under achievement, improving educational attainment and excellence for all, investing in the Irish medium sector and delivering the largest school building programme in decades," she said.

"I was also proud to promote equality issues in the Assembly at every opportunity; equality for the LGB&T community, for Irish language speakers and for women. As a lifelong feminist I was honoured to have been selected twice by all parties to chair the Assembly's women's caucus."

Most recently Ms Ruane served as Principal Deputy Speaker of the Assembly.

She has announced her retirement from the Assembly, but not explicitly explained why she is standing down.

"I have now decided not to put my name forward for selection for the next Assembly election.

Ms Ruane will act as election agent in South Down over the coming months.

"Sinn Féin has continued to grow in the South Down constituency, as it has across the island, and I have no doubt that local activists will choose a strong team to go before the electorate and they will have my full and enthusiastic support in any upcoming election, in which I will acting as an election agent," she said.

"I want to thank all of the people of South Down and the party in the area for the support and trust they have shown me over the years and I look forward to the continued growth of Sinn Féin in the area.

"I also want to thank my family; my husband Brian, children Eimear and Deirdre and my grandchild, Sé, for the love and support they have given me over the years."

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