BELFAST - Martin McGuinness will not lead Sinn Fein into elections in Northern Ireland in March that were triggered by his resignation as deputy first minister, saying on Thursday he was bringing forward plans to stand down following a recent illness.
McGuinness, the former Irish Republican Army commander who had been deputy first minister for a decade before the regional assembly collapsed, quit earlier this month over First Minister Arlene Foster's handling of a controversial green-energy scheme.
McGuinness had taken a break from some of his duties in the weeks prior due to an undisclosed illness. He said he would not seek re-election in the March 2 poll.
"Last year, (Sinn Fein President) Gerry Adams and I confirmed that we had a plan in place for transition to a new leadership. For my part, it was my intention to step aside in May this year," McGuinness, 66, said in a statement on Thursday.
"Unfortunately, my health and the current crisis have overtaken this timeframe. I am not physically able to continue in my current role and have therefore decided to make way for a new leader."