Belfast Telegraph

Speculation that Gerry Adams will replace McGuinness at Stormont played down

By Cormac McQuinn

Sinn Fein has moved to quash speculation that Gerry Adams will replace Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister following his shock resignation on Monday.

It comes as David Cullinane, a Sinn Fein TD, tipped a series of MLAs as potential successors if Mr McGuinness decides not to contest the election that now seems certain to take place.

Mr McGuinness resigned over the 'cash for ash' controversy that broke late last year.

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 Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald failing to rule that prospect out earlier this week.

However, a party spokesman said that Mr Adams will 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 Secretary of State James Brokenshire last night.

Speaking at Leinster House, Mr Cullinane insisted that 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 Fein but that it would be "unfair" to speculate on it.

"He's getting treatment for his illness at the moment," he added.

"We just want to wish him well."

He was asked if Sinn Fein had politicians in Northern Ireland that could fill Mr McGuinness's shoes.

Mr Culliane said: "Conor Murphy, for example, is being mentioned.

"We have Michelle O'Neill, Gerry Kelly, there's a whole range of people. We have Mairtin O Muilleoir, the Finance Minister."

Mr Murphy, and Ms O'Neill, the Health Minister, accompanied Mr McGuinness to his meeting with Mr Flanagan and Mr Brokenshire yesterday.

Waterford TD Mr Cullinane said the party's focus was 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 Incentive 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 - is investigated.

It has been claimed that flaws in the scheme could lose the taxpayer in Northern Ireland almost £500m.

Mrs Foster has denied any wrongdoing.

She accused Sinn Fein of depriving Northern Ireland of a Government after Mr McGuinness's resignation.

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