Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein name Michelle O'Neill as new ‘leader of the North’ to succeed Martin McGuinness

O'Neill: 'The negotiations after the elections are absolutely vital'

Michelle O'Neill is announced as Sinn Fein's e new leader in the north by Senior Members Martin McGuinness , Gerry Adams and Mary McDonald at Stormont on Monday.
Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Michelle O'Neill is announced as Sinn Fein's e new leader in the north by Senior Members Martin McGuinness , Gerry Adams and Mary McDonald at Stormont on Monday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Michelle O'Neill is announced as Sinn Fein's new leader in the north by Senior Members Martin McGuinness , Gerry Adams and Mary McDonald at Stormont on Monday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Michelle O'Neill is announced as Sinn Fein's new leader in the north by Senior Members Martin McGuinness , Gerry Adams and Mary McDonald at Stormont on Monday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Michelle O'Neill is announced as Sinn Fein's e new leader in the north by Senior Members Martin McGuinness , Gerry Adams and Mary McDonald at Stormont on Monday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Michelle O'Neill is announced as Sinn Fein's e new leader in the north by Senior Members Martin McGuinness , Gerry Adams and Mary McDonald at Stormont on Monday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Michelle O'Neill is announced as Sinn Fein's e new leader in the north by Senior Members Martin McGuinness , Gerry Adams and Mary McDonald at Stormont on Monday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Sinn Féin MLA Michelle ONeill pictured at Stormont as she is announced as the new leader of the party in the north. Outgoing leader in the North Martin McGuinness Photograph by Presseye/Cameron Hamilton
Sinn Féin MLA Michelle ONeill pictured at Stormont as she is announced as the new leader of the party in the north.Photograph by Presseye/Cameron Hamilton
Sinn Féin MLA Michelle ONeill pictured at Stormont as she is announced as the new leader of the party in the north. Photograph by Presseye/ Stephen Hamilton
Sinn Féin MLA Michelle ONeill pictured at Stormont as she is announced as the new leader of the party in the north. Outgoing leader in the North Martin McGuinness Photograph by Presseye/Cameron Hamilton
Sinn Féin MLA Michelle ONeill pictured at Stormont as she is announced as the new leader of the party in the north. Michelle pictured with Martin McGuinness, and Gerry Adams Photograph by Presseye/Cameron Hamilton
Sinn Féin MLA Michelle ONeill pictured at Stormont as she is announced as the new leader of the party in the north. Photograph by Presseye/Cameron Hamilton
FILE PICTURE Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th May 2016 - New Sinn Fein minister Michelle O'Neill Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Martin McGuinness and Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams
G8 Summit ...Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - Sunday 16th June 2013 - Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye. Executive Ministers Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill greet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Belfast International Airport this evening as G8 leaders from around the world begin to arrive in Northern Ireland for the G8 Summit. Also pictured are Minister of State Mike Penning, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato and Ambassador of Japan to the United Kingdom.
Michelle O'Neill and Gerry Adams at a SF conference on Irish Unity at Dublin's Mansion House. Sinn Fein/PA Wire
Video grab taken from the Northern Ireland Assembly of Michelle O'Neill speaking during an Assembly Plenary Session at Stormont in Belfast. : PA Wire
Michelle O'Neill talking to patients in her role as Health Minister
FILE PICTURE Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 24th May 2016 - Michelle O'NeilL is pictured at Parliament Buildings, Stormont Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
FILE PICTURE 4rd September 2015 Fatmers and producers from all sections of the food producing industry hold protest at Stormont regarding the ongoing crisis concerning the price of food. Northern Ireland's Department of Rural Development Michelle O'Neill addresses the protest. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
FILE PICTURE Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 24th May 2016 - Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness is pictured at Parliament Buildings, Stormont with his new Minister Michelle O'Neill. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
FILE PICTURE Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 23rd December 2014 - Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye. Michelle O'Neill with other Sinn Fein leaders during a press conference at Parliament Buildings, Stormont after todays Northern Ireland talks concluded.
FILE PICTURE Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - Monday 17th June 2013 - Picture by Darren Kidd / Press Eye. Northern Ireland Executive Ministers Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill greet President Barack Obama as he arrives in Northern Ireland for the G8 Summit in Enniskillen. Also pictured are Lord Lieutenant Joan Christie; Minister of State Mike Penning and Michelle Obama
FILE PICTURE Press Eye 30-07-2015 The Stormont agriculture and rural development committee is holding a special meeting at Stormont to discuss the dairy farming crisis in Northern Ireland. Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill has called for intervention at European level to tackle the problem. Dairy farmers have warned they will go out of business if they do not receive higher prices for their milk. Picture Colm O'Reilly 30-07-2015 Press Eye
Then-Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill visits Enniskillen after the flood
FILE PICTURE Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - Monday 17th June 2013 - Picture by Darren Kidd / Press Eye. Northern Ireland Executive Ministers Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill greet President Barack Obama as he arrives in Northern Ireland for the G8 Summit in Enniskillen. Also pictured are Lord Lieutenant Joan Christie; Minister of State Mike Penning and Michelle Obama.
FILE PICTURE Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th May 2011 - Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye. Northern Ireland's main parties have announced the names of the ministers in the new NI Assembly. Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill
FILE PICTURE PRESS EYE LTD - BELFAST - NORTHERN IRELAND - 1 DECEMBER 2007 - Picture By Kelvin Boyes / Press Sinn Fein MLA for Mid Ulster Michelle O'Neill.
FILE PICTURE ©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland - June 14 2014 Mandatory Credit - Darren Kidd /Presseye.com Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill, right, at Armagh Show
FILE PICTURE Presseye.com -6th July 2013 Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill takes at Saturday's Omagh Show. Photograph by Stephen Hamilton/Presseye
FILE PICTURE Presseye.com -6th July 2013 Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill takes Simmental "Gurteen Emperior" for a stroll at Saturday's Omagh Show. Photograph by Stephen Hamilton/Presseye
FILE PICTURE Presseye.com -6th July 2013 Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill takes at Saturday's Omagh Show. Photograph by Stephen Hamilton/Presseye
File Photo Last night Martin McGuinness retired from politics for health reasons. End. 16/9/2016. Day 2 Sinn Fein Think-In. Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, Martin McGuinness, with Michelle O'Neill MLA and chair of the Stormond Health Committee on his left, leads the partys TD's, Senators, MLA's, MEP's and MP's into mornings Sinn Fein Think-In, in the City North Hotel, Gormanstown, County Meath. Photo: RollingNews.ie

Sinn Fein have named Michelle O'Neill as its new leader in Northern Ireland.

The 40-year-old Mid Ulster MLA had been widely tipped to take over Martin McGuinness following his retirement announcement last week.

The head of Sinn Fein's Stormont team will probably become deputy first minister if March's election follows the recent pattern and power-sharing is restored.

Ms O'Neill said: "It's a huge honour. A really big, big privilege for me to be chosen to be the new leader in the North

"It gives me immense pride to say I'm going to lead our party in the future.

"To follow in the footsteps of Martin McGuinness, who is a political giant is no mean feat, but it's a challenge that I'm certainly up for."

Sinn Fein Michelle O'Neill's full statement  

Announcing the appointment, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said Mrs O'Neill represented a "new generation" for the party.

"As a united all-Ireland team, we will give her the space and support to find her own voice and continue the good work Martin pioneered," he said.

Mr McGuinness invoked a familiar republican phrase, which Mr Adams once used in reference to the IRA, to insist he would still be involved in political activism.

"I haven't gone away, you know," he said.

He hailed Michelle O'Neill as a "leader of incredible ability".

He said: "I am proud that Michelle O'Neill is my leader, is our leader.

"I am overjoyed that Michelle is my leader and she will have my wholehearted support."

Ms O'Neill will have to hit the ground running, leading her party into an election in less than six weeks' times.

She said: "The negotiations after the elections are absolutely vital. We are only interested in being in the assembly and the executive with partners who actually are absolutely genuinely wedded to equality and without that we can’t be there and we can’t govern in the absence of that.

"So the negotiations are going to be really critical. There’s an opportunity for an absolute step change. There’s an opportunity to fix something that’s wrong and obviously the DUP approach has been wrong."

Secretary of state James Brokenshire congratulated Ms O'Neill on her appointment.

He said: "I congratulate Michelle O'Neill and look forward to working with her to build a stable NI for all."

If a new Executive can be set up after the Assembly election, Ms O'Neill will have to work closely with Arlene Foster.

The official DUP Twitter account responded to the announcement with a meme of a picture of Michelle O'Neill in Gerry Adams' pocket.

The two women have served as ministers in the Executive together for six years.

They jointly greeted former US President Barack Obama as he arrived for the G8 Summit in Enniskillen in 2013.

Mrs Foster also appeared alongside Health Minister Ms O'Neill when she launched details last October of her planned reforms to the NHS following the Bengoa report.

However, if the DUP and Sinn Fein again emerge as Northern Ireland's two largest parties, the two women will have to form an even more intimate working relationship.

A mother of two grown-up children aged 23 and 18, she has been involved with Sinn Fein for almost two decades.

In 2005, she won her father's seat on Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council following his retirement, and became the area's first female mayor. She was elected an MLA for Mid Ulster in 2007. Four years later, she became Agriculture Minister.

She was reappointed to the Executive for a second time last May - as Health Minister.

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