Political news

Michelle O'Neill replaces Martin McGuinness as Sinn Féin leader in the north

Health Minister Michelle O'Neill is the new leader of Sinn Féin at Stormont. Picture by Kelvin Boyes, Press Eye

HEALTH minister Michelle O'Neill has been selected by Sinn Féin to lead the party in Northern Irelanad.

The 40-year-old Mid Ulster assembly member had been among the frontrunners for the position.

She replaces Martin McGuinness who announced his resignation from electoral politics last week.

He is fighting what party leader Gerry Adams has described as a life threatening illness.

In her first speech as leader Ms O'Neill described Mr McGuinness as "a legend" who she had learned from and been inspired by.

"I have no doubt that I am following in the footsteps of a political giant... No-one can replace Martin but what I can do is to continue his good work to unite our people and to unite our country." 

Ms O'Neill said being a republican was her "way of life" and assured Sinn Féin supporters: "I won't let you down."

She described the appointment as "the biggest honour and privilege of my life" and said she would continue Mr McGuinness's "good work".

Party president Gerry Adams said Ms O'Neill represened "a new generation" for Sinn Féin.

"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 added.

Martin McGuinness also addressed the audience at Stormont and his use of the republican slogan: "I haven't gone away you know" was met with cheers and laughter.

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