A former IRA hunger striker is to replace Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams in the Assembly, the party confirmed last night.
Pat Sheehan (52) will succeed Mr Adams who announced on Sunday that he is resigning his West Belfast seat in a bid to be elected in the Republic's Louth constituency.
Mr Sheehan spent 55 days on hunger strike in the 1981 Maze prison protest that claimed the lives of 10 republicans including Bobby Sands.
Serving a sentence for his part in an IRA bomb attack at the time, Mr Sheehan was said to have been close to death when the protest was ended.
Sinn Fein members meeting in west Belfast last night selected Mr Sheehan to immediately fill Mr Adams' place at the Assembly.
The party president will step down as MP for the constituency as soon as a General Election is called in the Republic.
Sinn Fein's Louth representative in the Dail, Arthur Morgan, last week announced he will not contest the next election.
Mr Adams said his decision to stand for the seat was sparked by concerns over the economic crisis gripping the Republic, but the tactic is also seen as an attempt to boost his party's profile there.
Sinn Fein has five MPs in Northern Ireland and four representatives in the Dail.
Mr Sheehan served two jail terms for IRA activity before being released under the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement peace deal.
The party last night said that he later filled a number of roles for Sinn Fein.
He has represented Sinn Fein in the Middle East at events aimed at passing on the lessons of the peace process here.