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It's a sad day Michelle O'Neill's father cannot be here, says proud mum

By Noel McAdam

The mother of Sinn Fein's new Stormont leader has described her daughter's succession as "bittersweet".

Michelle O'Neill's mum said the circumstances of the handover from Martin McGuinness as he battles serious illness was "a pity".

She sat proudly with her grandchildren, Saoirse (23) and Ryan (19), to watch the start of Sinn Fein's 'next generation' taking up the reigns of power.

Kathleen Doris said: "It is just a pity that Martin is so sick. I have him in my thoughts and prayers and wish him a speedy recovery. It makes today bittersweet."

But the Co Tyrone woman whose husband - Michelle's father, Brendan, who died just over 10 years ago after serving as a Sinn Fein councillor in east Tyrone - said it was a very proud day for her.

Her mother said: "She followed the best.

"Martin McGuinness was a fantastic man.

"Her father would have been so proud. It is a sad day that he cannot be here."

Gerry Adams said Brendan would have been "as proud as punch" and pledged to give Ms O'Neill the "support and space to find her own voice".

Republicans turned the official announcement - at which journalists were not allowed to ask questions - into a family affair with Ms O'Neill's brother, Brian, and his wife Caroline in the front row. Senior party figures from across Ireland attended the coronation of Ms O'Neill in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings, where the new Sinn Fein Stormont leader said Mr McGuinness' decision to stand down as Deputy First Minister had not been the "first choice" but the "last resort".

Describing her role as "the biggest honour and privilege of my life", she added: "I have never been afraid of a challenge and I have never been afraid to act."

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