Elisha McCallion front-runner to replace Raymond McCartney in Foyle
FORMER Foyle MP Elisha McCallion is among the front-runners to replace Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney.
Mr McCartney (65), a former IRA hunger striker, announced yesterday he is standing down next week after more than 15 years as an assembly member.
A selection convention to find Mr McCartney's replacement will be held in Derry this weekend.
Ms McCallion, who won Foyle in the 2017 general election by just 169 votes, lost the Westminster seat to SDLP leader Colum Eastwood in last month's election.
However, there is speculation that some Sinn Féin activists would like the late Martin McGuinness's son Fiachra to be considered.
Mr McGuinness is a strong party supporter but not a political representative.
Former MEP Martina Anderson, who will lose her seat in the European Parliament when the UK leaves the European Union tonight, is also a possible contender. Although it is thought she may favour Ms McCallion, who is her niece.
Mr McCartney said it had been "an honour and a privilege to represent the people of Foyle as an MLA for Sinn Féin".
"The time has come for me to step down from the Assembly now after 15 years as an MLA.
"Derry is a city in transition and huge progress has been made in recent years and I have no doubt that will continue in the time ahead in order to reach its full potential.
"I want to thank everyone who has supported me and who I have worked with over the years and want to wish my successor well for the future."
Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O'Neill thanked Mr McCartney for his "years of dedicated service to the people of Foyle and to Sinn Féin".
"Raymond’s commitment and courage shine through in everything he did and his professionalism, wisdom and good humour earned him respect from across the political spectrum," she said.
"I want to wish Raymond, his wife, Rose, and his family all the best for the future and I have no doubt he will continue to be on hand with wise counsel when required."