SF silent on McGuinness’ illness

Martin McGuinness.  Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Martin McGuinness. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

Sinn Féin is remaining tight-lipped about the nature of the illness afflicting Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

Mr McGuinness is undergoing treatment for some form of illness but Sinn Féin declined to give any further details as to the nature or severity of the condition.

For his part, the deputy first minister was asked directly about his health in an interview with the BBC’s Mark Devenport and declined to provide any details, other than to say he was being treated by a “wonderful group of doctors”.

On Saturday, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams suggested in a speech to party members in Londonderry that his colleague’s poor health was affecting his work. Mr Adams said Mr McGuinness’ health condition was making efforts “to ensure the stability of the political institutions” in Northern Ireland “even more problematical at this time”.

The News Letter asked both Sinn Féin and Stormont’s Executive Office, who speak on behalf of the first and deputy first ministers, about Mr McGuinness’ condition but were told no further information would be given at this time.

Both the Executive Office and Sinn Féin said Mr McGuinness’s work as deputy first minister was not being affected by his condition. Both emphasised that there has been no change since a statement was issued a fortnight ago, when it first became apparent that Mr McGuinness was absent from a trade mission to China on “medical advice”.

The statement read: “Martin McGuinness is fulfilling his responsibilities as deputy First Minister working with his departmental political advisers. There has been no disruption to the work of The Executive Office during this period.”

In addition to missing the trip to China, Mr McGuinness has also missed a meeting with Chief Constable George Hamilton about suspected paramilitary links with community organisation Charter NI – a body that was awarded £1.7 million in public funding by Mr McGuinness’ department through the Social Investment Fund. Health Minister Michelle O’Neill attended the meeting in his place.

He has, however, spoken in public since his illness became apparent. He attended a Sinn Féin leadership meeting in Londonderry on Saturday and appeared at Stormont on Monday morning.