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Martin McGuinness will not seek reelection to Stormont Assembly

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Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness has announced he is quitting frontline politics for health reasons and will not seek reelection to the Stormont Assembly.

Mr McGuinness said it was initially his intention to stand down in May, on the 10th anniversary of the power-sharing Executive, but that his health and the current political crisis had "overtaken the timeframe".

He added that he was not "physically able" to continue in his current role.

"I have to be honest with myself," the former deputy first minister said about his health. "This has taken a toll on me in the course of recent times and the reality is that I’m not physically able to put the energy and the effort that is needed into this election."

He resigned as deputy first minister last week over the DUP's handing of the Renewable Heating Incentive scandal, triggering a snap election in March.

Read Martin McGuinness' statement in full

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Statement in full

Mr McGuinness said on Thursday: "Last year, Gerry Adams and I confirmed that we had a plan in place for transition to a new leadership. For my part, it was my intention to step aside in May this year which would have marked 10 years since I entered government with Ian Paisley as joint leader of the northern Executive.

"Unfortunately, my health and the current crisis have overtaken this timeframe and I am stepping down from my role to make way for a new leader of Sinn Féin in the North.

"Over the last ten years I have worked tirelessly to make power-sharing work.

"The institutions are now in a deep crisis as a result of recent events and we are facing into an election when the people will have their say.

"After long and careful consideration, I have decided that it is time for a new generation of republicans to lead us into this election and the negotiations that will follow.

"Sinn Féin is a party in constant development, renewal and evolution.

"Our struggle for freedom and equality stretches back to the United Ireland movement of the 1790s. I am deeply proud of the democratic influences that Ulster Presbyterianism contributed to the Irish republican tradition.

"It remains my own personal and political ambition to break the link with Britain and to unite all who share this island under the common banner of Irish men and women.

"I am deeply proud of the generation of Irish republicans that came before us. A generation that kept the vision of freedom alive through the difficult post-partition era when they faced unrelenting repression and persecution from the Ulster Unionist Party in an apartheid Orange state.

"I have been privileged to be part of the generation that broke that apartheid state apart and to have been part of a Sinn Féin leadership that delivered peace and radical change. There are more republicans today than at any time in my generation.

"I look across the party north and south and see energy, determination, talent and potential new leaders emerging who, I am confident, will deliver equality, respect and Irish unity.

"My obvious heath issues are being addressed by a superb team of national health service doctors and nurses.

"But I want to be open and honest with my friends and colleagues in Sinn Féin, with the electorate of Foyle and with the wider community beyond my own constituency. I also want to be fair to my family and to the teams of carers who are doing their best to provide me with the treatment I now require to deal with this very serious medical condition which I am very determined to overcome.

"Unfortunately, I am not physically able to continue in my current role and have therefore decided to make way for a new leader.

"This election is the right time for me to move aside so I will not seek re-election to the Assembly.

'I have full confidence in the strong team that we have built in the Assembly to carry forward the work of building institutions that deliver for all our people on the basis of equality, respect and integrity.

"A new leader will lead us into this Assembly election and into the negotiations that will inevitably follow on from that election.

"We need the strongest Sinn Féin team if we are to ensure the progressive change which is now an essential next step forward and our new leader will have my full and undivided support in the weeks and months ahead.

"We are on a journey to unite our people and unite our island.

"As a Sinn Féin activist I will continue to play a full and enthusiastic part in that essential process of building bridges, of dialogue and of reconciliation between our still divided people.

"Despite the current difficulties and challenges, I am confident and optimistic about the future. We have faced more difficult times and found a way forward.

"As a society we have made enormous progress. We must continue to move forward. Dialogue is the only option."

Sinn Fein figures who could be nominated for deputy first minister post

Sinn Fein could be in a position to nominate a new deputy first minister if talks on resurrecting power-sharing are successful. Here are some of the candidates.

Conor Murphy

The married father of two is a key member of the Sinn Fein negotiating team with particular responsibility for institutional issues and has represented the party at the Hillsborough, Leeds Castle and St Andrew's negotiations as well as playing a key role in the Fresh Start agreement negotiated at Stormont House.

In 2005 the south Armagh man was the first from his party to be elected as MP for Newry and Armagh. He retained the seat in 2010 but returned to the Assembly in 2015.

Since then he has been a member of the Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committee and the Public Accounts Committee. Mr Murphy chaired the Economy Committee which had been investigating the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal.

Michelle O'Neill

The Stormont health minister has been involved in republican politics from her teens, has held various senior positions within Sinn Fein and has a background in social welfare issues.

The former agriculture minister from Mid Ulster has been a prominent face articulating the party's position in recent weeks since Martin McGuinness became ill.

She has worked in the Assembly since 1998, initially as political adviser to Francie Molloy before being elected to the devolved legislature in 2007 following the restoration of power sharing.

Mairtin O Muilleoir

 

The relative newcomer to the Assembly is a media publisher who represents south Belfast.

He is a former Lord Mayor who was an advocate for greater inclusiveness in Northern Ireland's main city.

The keen marathon runner and graduate of Queen's University Belfast has been finance minister during the short-lived current Assembly which is about to be dissolved.

He has heavily criticised the DUP over its handling of the Renewable Heat Incentive which threatens to land taxpayers with a £490 million bill.

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