Martin McGuinness to step down as Mid-Ulster MP

Sinn Fein MP for Mid Ulster Martin McGuinness is to resign his seat, forcing a Westminster by-election, as part of an overhaul by Sinn Fein’s of its elected representatives.

Sinn Fein’s four other MPs will stand down from the Stormont Assembly and focus on their Westminster duties.

The representatives - Michelle Gildernew (Fermanagh/South Tyrone) Pat Doherty (West Tyrone), Conor Murphy (Newry/South Armagh) and Paul Maskey (West Belfast) -- will be replaced by the party without further elections.

A Westminster by-election will be caused by Mr McGuinness’s decision to resign his seat.

Many Stormont politicians hold two posts in local councils, the devolved Stormont Assembly or at Westminster at the same time. The controversial practice is known as having a dual mandate or ‘double jobbing’.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said: “The key thing to be said about this issue is that other parties are talking about ending dual mandate, Sinn Fein has ended dual mandate.”

Mr Adams said the party had been addressing the issue over the past number of years.

“Our party policy has been to phase out this practice entirely. We have recently completed the this with MLAs who also held positions at local council level and are now moving on to address the issue of MPs who also sit in the Assembly in a decisive way.

“Martin will resign as MP for Mid-Ulster to concentrate on his work in the Assembly and as deputy First Minister. This will obviously necessitate a by-election for Westminster,” he said.

“Michelle, Pat, Conor and Paul will resign their seats in the Assembly. It will be then up to Sinn Fein to hold conventions to fill these positions by co-option. We aim to have this task completed by July 2nd.

He paid tribute to the MPs for their work in the Assembly and left the door open for their possible return to Stormont at the next Six-County elections, due by 2016.

Mr Adams said today’s announcement would mean that each of the five constituencies will have increased and stronger elected representation.

“All of the MPs are significant political figures both within their constituency and nationally. We expect them to remain so.

“They won’t be taking their seats in the British House of Commons. However they will be freed up for an increased lobbying activity in both Britain and elsewhere with respect to policy areas that are particularly relevant to their constituents and also, of course with respect to the promotion of the case for Irish unity.”

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