Martin McGuinness announces he will not seek re-election to Assembly

Ex-deputy first minister of Northern Ireland says health and political crisis behind decision

 

Former Sinn Féin deputy first minister Martin McGuinness has announced that he is not standing in the forthcoming Assembly elections for Foyle.

The 66-year-old former IRA leader, who is being treated for a rare heart condition, said on Thursday evening that “after long and careful consideration” he had decided it was “time for a new generation of republicans to lead us into this election and the negotiations that will follow”.

Mr McGuinness said he had planned to step down in May this year, which would have marked the 10th anniversary since he and the late Ian Paisley took over the respective posts of deputy first minister and first minister.

“Unfortunately, my health and the current crisis have overtaken this timeframe and I am stepping down from my role to make way for a new leader of Sinn Féin in the North,” said Mr McGuinness.

Mr McGuinness’s resignation as deputy first minister last Monday week in protest at DUP leader Arlene Foster’s refusal to stand aside over the cash-for-ash crisis prompted this week’s crash of Stormont and the calling of elections for March 2nd.

“Over the last 10 years I have worked tirelessly to make powersharing work,” said Mr McGuinness on Thursday.

“The institutions are now in a deep crisis as a result of recent events and we are facing into an election when the people will have their say,” he added.

Mr McGuinness said Sinn Féin was a party in constant development, renewal and evolution.

“Our struggle for freedom and equality stretches back to the United Ireland movement of the 1790s. I am deeply proud of the democratic influences that Ulster Presbyterianism contributed to the Irish republican tradition,” he said.

“It remains my own personal and political ambition to break the link with Britain and to unite all who share this island under the common banner of Irish men and women,” he added.

He continued, “I am deeply proud of the generation of Irish republicans that came before us. A generation that kept the vision of freedom alive through the difficult post-partition era when they faced unrelenting repression and persecution from the Ulster Unionist Party in an apartheid Orange state.

‘Delivered peace and radical change’

“I have been privileged to be part of the generation that broke that apartheid state apart and to have been part of a Sinn Féin leadership that delivered peace and radical change. There are more republicans today than at any time in my generation.”

Mr McGuinness said his “obvious health issues” were being addressed by a superb team of national health service doctors and nurses.

“But I want to be open and honest with my friends and colleagues in Sinn Féin, with the electorate of Foyle and with the wider community beyond my own constituency. I also want to be fair to my family and to the teams of carers who are doing their best to provide me with the treatment I now require to deal with this very serious medical condition, which I am very determined to overcome,” he said.

“Unfortunately, I am not physically able to continue in my current role and have therefore decided to make way for a new leader.”

Mr McGuinness said that as a Sinn Féin activist he would continue to “play a full and enthusiastic part in that essential process of building bridges, of dialogue and of reconciliation between our still divided people”.

“Despite the current difficulties and challenges, I am confident and optimistic about the future. We have faced more difficult times and found a way forward. As a society we have made enormous progress. We must continue to move forward. Dialogue is the only option.”