Belfast Telegraph

Sheehan says he can 'replace Adams'

A former IRA hunger striker insists he is up for the challenge of replacing Gerry Adams as Assembly member for west Belfast.

Pat Sheehan, 52, also rejected claims that Sinn Fein's powerbase in west Belfast would be weakened by the party president's decision to stand down in the constituency and seek election in the Irish Republic.

Twice jailed during the Troubles for IRA activity, Mr Sheehan spent 55 days on hunger strike in the 1981 Maze prison protest that claimed the lives of ten republicans including Bobby Sands.

He was selected to replace Mr Adams in the Northern Ireland Assembly at a meeting in west Belfast.

"I feel very humbled by the fact the party has chosen me," he said in Parliament Buildings.

"I am well aware of the challenges that face us all in the future and I am up for the challenge and ready for it, and I look forward to my next few months in the Assembly, and then standing for election next May."

A cricket fan whose mother was once a member of rival nationalist party the SDLP, Mr Sheehan was subject to a loyalist murder bid at the age of 15.

He said an overwhelming sense that the British presence in Ireland was unjust led to him joining the IRA.

Upon announcing on Sunday his decision to stand in Co Louth in the Irish Republic's next general election, Mr Adams resigned his Assembly seat almost immediately.

He will step down as MP for west Belfast as soon as the national poll is called in the Republic.

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