Martin McGuinness quits politics due to serious illness

Martin McGuinness, the former IRA commander who served for near a decade as deputy first minister in Northern Ireland, said Thursday he was quitting frontline politics to focus on recovering from a serious illness.

Conor Murphy had always been thought the most likely successor as senior Sinn Fein figure in Northern Ireland but there are strong suggestions that Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Michelle O'Neill could be announced as Mr McGuinness' successor in the coming days.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin wished the former Stormont deputy first minister well on his retirement.

"Unfortunately, I am not physically able to continue in my current role and have therefore decided to make way for a new leader". That decision prompted a snap Northern Ireland Assembly election that is due to be held March 2. "As a result of those tests I have been diagnosed with a very serious illness which has taken a toll on me", he said, according to a Guardian report.

He added: "My record of reaching out, whether it be to Queen Elizabeth - and her record of reaching out to me on several occasions - my visits to the Somme, to Flanders field, have not been reciprocated by the DUP and that is a particular disappointment to me".

"Unfortunately, my health and the current crisis have overtaken this timeframe".

"I hopefully will overcome this illness through time".

Mr Flanagan worked with Mr McGuinness over two and a half years.

"I hope that Martin's political legacy - of a resilient and generous commitment to the interlocking institutions of the Good Friday Agreement - will encourage all of Northern Ireland's political parties to emulate his efforts to consolidate partnership government".

"And the honest answer is that I am not physically capable or able to fight this election, so I will not be a candidate".

"I feel really sad for the people of Northern Ireland. So, the message is: I'm not going away, you know". "For my part, it was my intention to step aside in May this year", McGuinness, 66, said in a statement on Thursday.

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