Four potential successors to Martin McGuinness named by Sinn Féin TD
A senior Sinn Féin TD has named a series of potential successors to Martin McGuinness following his resignation as deputy first minister.
While David Cullinane listed four senior MLAs as possible replacements for Mr McGuinness, he also failed to rule out the prospect of Gerry Adams stepping into the breach.
He said that while he didn't view such a move as a possibility, it's a matter for the Sinn Féin president himself.
Mr McGuinness announced his shock decision to resign over the 'cash for ash' controversy on Monday.
The move effectively collapsed the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Mr McGuinness denied he resigned over health concerns and refused to say if he would contend the Assembly election that now seems certain to take place.
Mr Cullinane said that the former deputy first minister’s health is “obviously a concern” for Sinn Féin but that it would be “unfair” to speculate on it.
He was asked if Sinn Féin has a politician that could fill Mr McGuinness’s shoes if necessary.
Mr Cullinane suggested some senior MLAs. He said: “Conor Murphy for example is being mentioned. We have Michelle O’Neill, Gerry Kelly, there’s a whole range of people. We have Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, our finance minister.”
He said that the party is asked questions about its leadership “all the time”, that it has a “collective leadership” and an Ard Comhairle, when asked if Mr Adams would be required to return to Northern politics.
“We have a range of talent North or South and people with ability that can step up into these positions if needs be,” he said.
Put to him that he wasn’t ruling out a return of Mr Adams to politics in Northern Ireland, Mr Cullinane replied: “I don’t see that as a possibility. But that’s a matter that is, in the first instance for Gerry.
“But at this point in time there are no vacancies.”
He said the party’s energy is focused on dealing with the current crisis which he claimed has been “engineered by the DUP.”
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 was originally envisaged that the Treasury would foot the bill for the Renewable Heat Incentive, but the costs spiralled well beyond London's financial commitment.
The total RHI spend in Northern Ireland is estimated at over £1 billion over the next 20 years.
The Treasury is set to cover £660 million of that, with Stormont landed with the remaining £490 million.
Northern Ireland now faces the prospect of direct rule from Westminster being reintroduced if the fallout between the DUP and Sinn Fein cannot be resolved on the other side of an election.