Martin McGuinness has announced that he is to retire from frontline electoral politics.
Mr. McGuinness (66) said the decision to depart the political stage had been a “very difficult” one but, given his ailing health, it was the “honest and fair” one.
He revealed that he has been “battling a very serious illness” for the past number of months and simply wasn’t physically capable of contesting an election.
“This illness has taken its toll on me,” he said, “but I am very determined to overcome it. I’m at the beginning of my treatment which, hopefully, will assist in the recovery process.”
He added: “I’ve had a lot of thinking to do in recent weeks. I’ve had to think of my wife, Bernie, my family, the doctors and nurses caring for me, my party, the people of Derry, people across Ireland who consider me one of the leaders of the peace process and, in doing that, I’ve come to realise that I would have to be very honest and fair to all of them.
“I also had to be honest with myself. I had to ask myself, ‘Are you in a fit state to fight an election?’ and the answer was a simple one: no, I’m not physically able to fight an election.”
“On balance, I feel the decision that was most in the interests of the people at this time is that they don’t need someone fighting an election who they know is very clearly seriously ill and dealing with an illness that is taking it toll.”
Mr. McGuinness said that, while his decision, signalled the end of his life in electoral politics, it wasn’t the end of his political life.
“I hope I can still be an ongoing ambassador for the reunification of Ireland, for peace and for reconciliation. So, the message is: I’m not going away, you know.”