Michelle O’Neill rules herself out as new Sinn Féin leader

Michelle O'NeillImage copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Michelle O’Neill said it was an “emotional but exciting time” for republicanism

Sinn Féin’s Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill has ruled herself from replacing Gerry Adams as party leader.

Mrs O’Neill told BBC’s Sunday Politics programme that she had “enough to do” in her current role.

Mr Adams announced on Saturday at the Sinn Féin ard fhéis (party conference) that he would stand down as leader of the party next year.

“Leadership means knowing when it’s time for change and that time is now,” the 69-year-old said.

Mr Adams has been party president since 1983 but told the conference it would be his last as leader.

Image copyright Getty/AFP
Image caption Gerry Adams at Sinn Féin’s party conference, with Michelle O’Neill (right)

It is expected that a special party conference will be held next year to elect a new president.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald is the front-runner to replace Mr Adams.

Mrs O’Neill was appointed Sinn Féin’s Stormont leader in January after former deputy first minister Martin McGuinness retired.

She said she would not be entering the Sinn Féin leadership race and would be concentrating on dealing “with the problems in the north”.

But, she added that it was an “emotional but also an exciting time for republican politics”.

“We will see who puts their name forward and then I will obviously make my decision on who I’d support that time.”

She added that the election of a new president will be a “very health process”.

‘Hamster wheel’ talks

Meanwhile, Mrs O’Neill has called on both government to take a bigger role in breaking the ongoing political deadlock in Northern Ireland.

The power-sharing government at Stormont collapsed in January and several rounds of talks to restore the institutions between Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) have failed.

Mrs O’Neill said that she was sure the parties would return to a “talks process of some description but it has to be meaningful – we can’t keep going around the hamster wheel”.

She added that she will tell Prime Minister Theresa May when they meet on Tuesday that the Conservative Party have not sufficiently encouraged the DUP to strike a deal because of their Westminster pact.

On Saturday, she called on the Irish government to appoint a minister with responsibility for advancing Irish unity.

At Sinn Féin’s party conference, she said that a parliamentary committee in the Republic of Ireland should also be formed to look at a united Ireland.

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