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Philip McGuigan is Sinn Fein's new North Antrim MLA after Daithi McKay resignation

Sinn Fein's Carál Ní Chuilín has announced that Philip McGuigan will replace Daithi McKay as the party's MLA for North Antrim.

Mr McGuigan was elected to the Assembly to represent North Antrim in 2003 but stood aside to let McKay contest the election in 2007.

He has been a Sinn Fein councillor since 2001, first serving on Ballymoney Borough Council and currently on the Causeway Coast & Glens Council.

Ms Ní Chuilín said: "Following consultation with Sinn Fein activists in North Antrim, the Sinn Fein Ard Chomhairle has approved the selection of Philip McGuigan for co-option as the new MLA for the constituency.

"Philip is an excellent public representative and has served as a councillor in the area since 2001 and was an MLA for North Antrim from 2003 to 2007.

"I have no doubt that with Philip's return to the Assembly will continue to provide first class representation to the people of North Antrim.

"I wish him well and look forward to working alongside him in the Assembly."

Mr McKay apologised and quit as an Assembly member last week after private Twitter messages published in the press showed him communicating with loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson ahead of his appearance before the committee's inquiry into the Nama loans deal.

The former North Antrim MLA has been suspended by Sinn Fein.

Sinn Fein worker Thomas O'Hara has also been suspended by the party.

He was also accused of communicating with Mr Bryson about his evidence before he made explosive claims to the finance committee about the efforts of Ireland's bank for bad loans to dispose of its Northern Ireland portfolio to US investors.

Mr Bryson went before the committee to name former Democratic Unionist leader Peter Robinson in connection with the case.

The then first minister has strongly denied seeking to benefit from the agreement involving US investors and the National Asset Management Agency (Nama).

Mr McKay's fall from grace was precipitated by claims in a Belfast newspaper about his contact with Mr Bryson.

The Sinn Fein leadership has denied knowing anything of the back channel contacts.

The deal two years ago between Nama and US investment giant Cerberus, involving the £1.2 billion sale of a Northern Ireland property loan portfolio, has been dogged by controversy after £7 million linked to it was found in an Isle of Man bank account.

Critics have claimed the arrangement included multimillion-pound fixer fees.

Nama was established in Ireland at the height of the financial crisis to take property-linked loans off the books of bailed-out banks.

It sold 800 property loans to Cerberus, a multibillion-pound fund.

All parties involved in the 2014 transaction have denied wrongdoing.

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