Martin McGuinness was like a father figure to his successor Michelle O’Neill, a long-standing friend and party colleague has said.
The former deputy first minister’s death was a “big loss” and placed what could be seen as a “heavy load” on the recently-installed Sinn Fein leader at Stormont, MP Francie Molloy said.
Mr Molloy, who replaced Mr McGuinness as the MP for Mid Ulster in 2013, said Mrs O’Neill had appreciated the supportive and guiding role of her predecessor.
Becoming tearful, Mr Molloy told the Press Association: “I was speaking to Michelle this morning and it was a difficult conversation.
“I suppose she sees it as a heavy load on her, because Martin had been so supportive.
“She now really feels that loss which is a big thing, but she is well fit for that job.
“Martin was like a father figure (in her political life). She probably now feels very isolated and will take a wee bit of time, but she is a very capable person.”
Mr Molloy, speaking at a St Patrick’s Day reception in the Irish embassy in London on Tuesday, said he was still in shock at the news.
Paying tribute in the hours after he died, Mrs O’Neill said: “His leadership, grace and warm personality have transformed Irish politics for the better and his impact will be felt for many years to come.”
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