Northern Ireland news

Former adviser to Martin McGuinness leaves Sinn Féin job to be a firefighter

Mark Mullan with Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness
Brendan Hughes

A FORMER Sinn Féin special adviser to Martin McGuinness has left his job with the party to become a firefighter.

Mark Mullan was a key adviser to the Deputy First Minister before moving to Sinn Féin's communications team following the collapse of power-sharing at Stormont.

The long-time Sinn Féin activist joked that "after Stormont, running into burning buildings will be a less stressful way to earn a living".

He is the latest senior political figure to seek a career change amid the north's continued absence of devolved government.

Political analysts believe the series of departures could be a sign that Stormont is expected to remain in a "deep freeze" for some considerable time.

Mr Mullan was a special adviser (Spad) to Mr McGuinness, and was also previously a Spad to Sinn Féin MLA John O'Dowd when he was education minister.

He was at the Deputy First Minister's side at significant moments, and was among those who helped carry his coffin at his funeral in 2017.

He is also a keen runner and a journalist who has worked for Derry News and An Phoblacht.

Mr Mullan yesterday confirmed to The Irish News he is due to begin training to become a firefighter.

He said he has handed in his notice with Sinn Féin and is due to start his fire service training in the coming weeks.

Mr Mullan had earlier announced on Facebook his departure from his Sinn Féin role working in the party press office.

Posting an image of Stormont's Parliament Buildings, he wrote: "Last day in this place for the foreseeable as I'll soon start training for my new job as a firefighter.

"It's been a genuine honour to work with so many brilliant, dedicated people over more years than I care to remember here. Leaders and legends."

"Thinking of Martin and Dale in particular but a sincere thanks to everyone I've worked with," he added, an apparent reference to Mr McGuinness and the late Dale Moore, a former Sinn Féin press officer.

"But now for something completely different and I've no doubt that after Stormont, running into burning buildings will be a less stressful way to earn a living."

The north has not had a functioning devolved government since the DUP and Sinn Féin-led executive collapsed in early 2017 in the wake of the RHI scandal.

Both parties insist they want devolution restored, but the rift has widened to include disagreement over issues including same-sex marriage and an Irish language act.

Some MLAs have moved to other roles in recent months. Ex-DUP minister Simon Hamilton left politics to become chief executive of the Belfast Chamber of Commerce, while former Green Party leader Steven Agnew is standing down to head a renewables industry organisation.

Nationalist commentator Chris Donnelly said the departure of Mr Mullan and others could suggest "that we won't be back to shared governance at Stormont any time soon".

"It's another indication that there is no sign of urgency to get devolution back up and running, and as time goes on a number of individuals in Sinn Féin and the DUP are making life choices of moving on from front-line politics," he said.

"If people are leaving from across the board, it shows that enough individuals on their own are making the calculation that politics here is going to remain in a deep freeze for a while, and they are deciding to make life choices that take them in different directions."

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