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BRIT Review

Quick Guide to the Resignation of Martin McGuinness

Sunday, January 22, 2017


This week Martin McGuinness announced that he would not be standing for Sinn Fein in the next Northern Ireland Assembly Elections.

He said that it had been a ‘big decision’ knowing that he would never again be standing as an ‘elected representative.’

He had been Deputy First Minister since 2007 and resigned on 2 March triggering fresh elections.

Why did he resign?

Arlene Foster, First Minister of Northern Ireland refused to resign after her alleged part in the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, set up in 2012, when she was then Minister for the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment.

The scheme was about helping to increase the consumption of heat from renewable sources and financial incentives were offered to mainly businesses to install renewable heat systems on their premises.

In 2017 there was a major spike in applications and a whistleblower said that the scheme was being abused. The main contentions were:

  • There was no upper limit applied for successful applicants.
  • A generous subsidy was paid at a flat rate, which was guaranteed for 20 years a tiered rate would have reacted better to the demand and amount of heat generated.

The scheme, although now closed, will cost £1bn over the next twenty years as they honour existing contracts.

Under the constitution of the Assembly the resignation of Mr McGuinness also means the fall of the First Minister and fresh elections to be called.

Why is he not standing again? 

Mr McGuinness has been ill, and visible so, for a number of weeks and said that this and his family was a factor in his decision.

He said, "the question I ask myself is: Are you capable, are you physically capable, of fighting this election with the intensity that elections need to be fought?

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

Political Reaction 

  • Prime Minister Theresa May

Mr McGuinness "played a key role in moving the republican movement towards a position of using peaceful and democratic means",

"I want to send him best wishes for his retirement."

 "We will all continue to work to make sure that the people of Northern Ireland are able to live freely and in peace."

  • Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster

"While never forgetting the past, I believe the work at Stormont provided the foundations for our relative peace today.”

"Despite all that has happened, I wish Martin McGuinness a speedy recovery and that he and his wife are able to enjoy time with their family away from the relentless focus of public life."

  • Gerry Adams

"On behalf of Sinn Féin and republicans everywhere I want to send him our best wishes.

"Give him the space to get better and (we'll) increase our efforts so that when he returns the process of change has advanced."

  • Former First Minister Peter Robinson

"We came from polar opposite backgrounds but built up a relationship based on doing the best we could for all our people."

  • Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Enda Kenny

"I readily acknowledge the remarkable political journey that he has undertaken."






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