Martin McGuinness has no equal, says Gerry Adams

Posted By: January 23, 2017

Irish Examiner. Elaine Loughlin. Monday, January 23, 2017

No-one will be able to match Martin McGuinness as deputy First Minister Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams, has said.

Sinn Féin is due to announce the successor to Mr. McGuinness as head of the party in Northern Ireland today.

Tyrone MLA Michelle O’Neill, who was minister for health before the power-sharing administration collapsed, is tipped to be given the position.

Newry and Armagh MLA Conor Murphy and Máirtín Ó Muilleoir of south Belfast have also been named as contenders.

 However, Mr. Adams has said that “there isn’t an equivalent person” to Mr. McGuinness, who stepped down for health reasons.

“We will replace the post, but we won’t replace the person,” he said. “The new person into the post will have to have the space to make his or her own mistakes.

“But our resolve is to continue the work that Martin was doing, and he did that in a very decent and tolerant and patient way, and whoever comes into the post will continue with that.”

Mr. Adams said that he had discussed his own leaving date with Mr. McGuinness, but would not be drawn on the details.

“Yesterday, I texted him, and I asked him ‘what should I tell the media about this?’ and he said ‘keep them in suspense,’” said Mr. Adams.

He said Mr. McGuinness’s plan to step down in May, on the 10th anniversary of entering a power-sharing executive with then DUP leader Ian Paisley had been brought forward, but the rest of the plan “remains intact.” He said he intends to be part of power-sharing negotiations, but said that Mary Lou McDonald and Pearse Doherty would also be involved in talks after the election.

Mr. Adams said that Mr. McGuinness may have a role in the future of Northern Ireland politics and that this “should not be ruled out.” Even while in the hospital, Mr. McGuinness has been in constant contact with the party.

Mr. Adams caused controversy over the weekend when he called Brexit — and the North’s exit from the EU — a “hostile act,” given that the majority in Northern Ireland had voted remain.

He reiterated this point yesterday and said that Sinn Féin were seeking a “special, designated status” for Northern Ireland.

“To take the North out of the European Union, against the wishes of the people there, is a hostile act,” Mr. Adams told RTE’s This Week. “I do think it will destroy the Good Friday Agreement if we don’t put a stop to it.”

However, the UK denied this was the case. Separately, a former head of the European Commission’s customs procedures unit has said Brexit will mean a return to controls at the border.

“In principle, there will be Irish and UK customs officials on either side of the border,” Michael Lux said.

“But they could agree to create only one stop, and officials from both sides deal with the matter, or one country allows the other to act on their behalf.”

Although Mr. Lux said much of the process could be carried out electronically, with an export declaration “from time to time, there must be controls.”