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Gerry Adams not ruled out as McGuinness' replacement as Deputy First Minister

By Philip Ryan

Mary Lou McDonald has left the door open to the possibility of Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams returning to Northern Ireland politics to replace Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister.

Ms McDonald failed to rule out the possibility of Mr Adams replacing Mr McGuinness, who is suffering from poor health, ahead of an election due to take place in the coming weeks.

Asked if Mr Adams would return to Northern Ireland in the likely event that Mr McGuinness would not run in the upcoming election, Ms McDonald said: "That issue doesn't arise."

"Martin hasn't taken any decision so leave that decision for him to make in the first instance," she added.

Ms McDonald also denied Mr Adams was influential in Mr McGuinness's decision to collapse the power-sharing Executive.

"Martin arrived at his decision in his own time and by himself but of course he brought that position and decision to firstly the Sinn Fein officer board and then to the Sinn Fein ard comhairle," she said.

Mr Adams said he was "very concerned" about his colleague's health but insisted he was getting the "very best" treatment. The Sinn Fein leader said he hoped Mr McGuinness would run in the election but it was his decision to make.

Ms McDonald insisted Sinn Fein would be seeking a new deal after the vote, which will mean a decision will have to be taken on Mr McGuinness soon.

Mr McGuinness has jointly led the Assembly for the last 10 years and there is no clear successor to the long-serving politician.

Finance Minister Mairtin O Muilleoir and Health Minister Michelle O'Neill have been mentioned as possible contenders to replace Mr McGuinness should he decide to step away from public life.

Meanwhile, Ms McDonald turned down an offer from Mrs Foster to begin talks aimed at establishing an inquiry into the 'cash for ash' scandal.

However, she said Sinn Fein would still be open to forming a new power-sharing Executive with the DUP if Mrs Foster remained as leader following the election.

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