Martin McGuinness is to resign as MP to concentrate on being deputy First Minister

At lunchtime, Sinn Fein announced their timetable to end double jobbing at Westminster and the Assembly. The BBC explain:

The Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness is to resign as MP for Mid Ulster to concentrate on his job at Stormont.

Sinn Fein’s four other MPs are to resign from their assembly seats as the party seeks to end ‘double-jobbing’. Party president Gerry Adams said this would avoid triggering a string of Westminster by-elections.

So a Mid Ulster by-election expected in the Autumn, and the party will co-opt Assembly replacements for:

  • Pat Doherty (West Tyrone, since 2001)
  • Conor Murphy (Newry & Armagh, since 2005)
  • Michelle Gildernew (Fermanagh & South Tyrone, since 2001)
  • Paul Maskey (West Belfast, since 2011)

The financial benefit to the party – an extra £13k for each member who stops double jobbing – might be offset by having to pay some new people an “average industrial wage”, unless existing party workers are chosen.

Over time it will be interesting to see how the party uses its extra bandwidth. Better constituency services? A lot more lobbying in London? Or even a gradual move to taking their seats and representing their constituents within the House of Commons chamber as well as in the corridors around it? [Ed – steady ….]

That’ll leave the SDLP and the DUP double jobbing at Westminster and the Assembly.

Adds … And as London Irish notes below, while we’re noting those heading towards the revolving door, Martina Anderson is also in the process of shifting from from Stormont to Brussels/Strasbourg.

Alan Meban. Normally to be found blogging over at Alan in Belfast where you’ll find an irregular set of postings, weaving an intricate pattern around a diverse set of subjects. Comment on cinema, books, technology and the occasional rant about life. On Slugger, the posts will mainly be about political events and processes. Tweets as @alaninbelfast.

  • Carsons Cat

    Suppose it needed an announcement as large as this to bury the horlicks SF have made over the Queen’s visit….

  • Drumlins Rock

    Ok geek hat on, will Marty’s replacement be eyeing up the new Glenshane or Mid-Tyrone? Surely Pat won’t run again. Does this also rule out Marty taking on either Durkan or Gregory head to head?

    Its a strange one for Michelle & Conor, side-lining them for a new crop to come through? Her personal vote in FST certainly helped squeeze the SDLP out, and remember seats have to be found for the other Michelle & Molloy who are squeezed in the new proposals. Coming from South Tyrone I will be interested in who replaces her.

  • London_Irish

    Was a tad surprised by this announcement coming when it did. I thought Marty would have loved the chance to take on Gregory Campbell in the new Glenshane constituency.

    Newry-Armagh, West Belfast and West Tyrone are safe enough that the incumbents wouldn’t suffer from a lack of exposure come election time (although I suspect Pat Doherty might retire at the next election), and whilst Michelle will be off the radar a bit, I can’t imagine Mike Nesbitt going down the compromise candidate route on his first electoral outing so that should be safe too.

    This could end up being a short-lived gesture – Sinn Féin clearly aren’t ruling out the possibility of any of these people returning to the Assembly. Can’t imagine Conor and Michelle being too pleased being stuck out on the subs bench having been round the ministerial table a year ago.

  • OneNI

    Running scared of Owen Paterson’s threat to legislate?
    Great to see double jobbing gradually disappearing.
    Alisdair McDonell? Is he going to leave the job to the boundary commission and the electorate?

    The question is will SF MPs -old and new – continue to be paid allowances when failing to turn up and do the job of work?

  • Mac

    Looking forward to few dozen Baron posts from pete now 🙂

  • quality

    In a party (in the north at least) and an Assembly with a lack of talent, making Murphy and Gildernew less visible is strange. The latter is certainly very impressive.

    Would be interested to see who replaces them, whether they go with one for the die-hards (Pat Sheehan’s co-option) or try to bring in a new face (say a Phil Flanagan, though obviously he wasn’t co-opted).

    Puts the pressure on Alasdair McDonnell certainly.

  • Charlie Sheens PR guru

    Agree with the comments above, very surprised McGuinness didn’t look at the Glenshane constituency as a chance to relegate Gregory Campbell to fringe status once and for all.

    Of course maybe Sinn Fein are confident of beating him regardless of who stands.

    As for Alan’s remark about double-jobbing by the SDLP, unless the new boundaries are scrapped by the liberal democrats Alastair will be forcefully relieved of double-jobbing duties anyway barring something remarkable.

    Leaves the SDLP double-jobbing free.

    Also surprised about N&A. I wonder if part of that was down to fear of an “anyone but SF” vote coalescing around the SDLP by unionists in a one-off bye-election in one of SF’s slightly less dominant constituencies. Don’t know how organised unionists would be around such an idea. Never happen I suppose.

  • Dec

    ‘The question is will SF MPs -old and new – continue to be paid allowances when failing to turn up and do the job of work?’

    What, like the SDLP?

  • Shades of 1986 and the mass resignation of unionists….which worked out rather well with SDLP taking Newry-Armagh.
    SF goes into this election with five seats and their best prospect is five. So nothing to gain except raising the profiles of several reserve team players.
    The tactic might be to promote (although I dont see SF thinking that Westminster is promotion) Barry McElduff, Phil Flanagan, Michelle O’Neill, Jenny McCann and Cathal Boylan and co-opt councillors such as Ian Milne in Mid Ulster to the Assembly.
    West Belfast…..this is second time in this Parliament that voters have had a by-election due to a SF resignation. Not that the voters will care.
    A good opportunity though for Conall McDevitt to test the waters in South West Belfast with a view to the Euro Elections.
    SF have 50% of vote in Mid Ulster and West Tyrone….but certainly there will be opportunity to vote tactically.
    Fermanagh-South Tyrone…well simply put unionists are not credible when they talk about unity or running a DUP or UUP candidate. Nesbitt and Robinson will as always be influenced by listening to”the people from both sections of the community (sic) of the special circumstances(sic) of securing a voice in Westminster (sic)”.
    But there is a curiousity in Newry-Armagh. SF 41% and SDLP 24% and 32% unionist vote. And neither Mickey Brady or Cathal Boylan is a Conor Murphy.

    Seems high risk for Sinn Féin. Nothing to gain and maybe one seat vulnerable.
    Interesting times. And a chance to put a degree of urgency into fund raising activities.
    Im actually looking forward to it.

  • Mick Fealty

    It won’t make too much difference to Pat Doherty whose role in the party structure has always been more important than any role of his at Stormont.

    In any other party it would be simple to read such a move in its own terms, but in Sinn Fein, since the epithet MP brings no public duties, their roles will be determined by the party leadership.

    Famously (or infamously) Gerry Adams was known in these here parts as ‘the international representative for West Belfast’.

    My guess is that Michelle and Conor will be showing up more and more frequently south of the border particularly in the bits where the party currently has few or no assets.

  • London_Irish


    There will only be one by-election (in Mid-Ulster), the other 4 will be co-opted…

  • London_Irish


    Could you shed some light on what Pat Doherty actually does within Sinn Féin? I’m surprised it took them so long to move Mary Lou into the VP’s role, made no sense to have two northern representatives in the top jobs at once (before Gerry went south).

  • Mister Joe

    There must be more to this than the statement implies. I don’t think his “duties” as a Westminster MP took up much of his time. Any requests for assistance would presumably be dealt with by his constituency office.
    So, what is the real story?

  • Charlie Sheens PR guru


    We certainly need more SF representatives when their leader extoles talent like this

  • Charlie Sheens PR guru


    Think you’ve missed something here. It’s just one by-election (mid-ulster) as all the rest are keeping their Westminster seat and co-opting a new face to replace them.

  • London_Irish

    I’m torn here a little bit.

    I think co-option is a good idea in the sense that it saves a lot of time and money.


    this is supposed to be democracy, and I think there needs to be some rules put it place to limit the number of co-options by a party, and whom they can co-opt on to a council/Assembly.

  • Mister Joe


    There’s a bit more to it than time and money. In a multi-seat constituency, significant numbers of voters who support a smaller party can have a representative elected. If a subsequent by election had to be held because of the resignation of that representative, the seat would then likely go to the largest party. Is that democracy in action?

  • London_Irish

    Mister Joe,

    I agree with you wholeheartedly on that point, and that is why I agree with co-options in certain situations – although it has been show in the south that independents and smaller parties/independents can win by-elections conducted under AV (Catherine Murphy and Maureen O’Sullivan to name a couple).

    However, with Willie Clarke having left Stormont, Martina Anderson jetting off to Brussels and 4 Sinn Féin double-jobbers about to leave the Assembly, Sinn Féin will have replaced/substitued/call-it-what-you-will just over a sixth of their MLAs just over a year in to the mandate. The same went with the DUP when a lot of their MPs resigned from Stormont.

    I agree that should something happen to the likes of Allister or Agnew (or an Alliance MLA most likely), it would be highly unlikely that their party would be able to win a FPTP/AV by-election. But for a party to be able to ‘shuffle’ their representatives in and out of an elected Assembly seems to me to be a step too far.

    Of course I am always open to be persuaded otherwise…

  • Charlie Sheens PR guru


    It’s a fair enough concern but how do you begin to calculate how many co-options are acceptable. For me its all or nothing.

    Re : Saving money, how is that? Do you mean that it prevents a bye-election.

    Everyone talks about Double-jobbing badly and I too see it as pretty grubby and intrepret it as they can’t be working particularly hard to begin with if they can do this but does it save money for extra people to be drawing down a salary rather than one person drawing down one/two reduced salaries for the same position.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Marty can still go for Glenshane, as the new Mid candidate could replace Doherty (surely he won’t stand again?) But such a move would essentially amount to a “retirement” in light of the new policy.

  • Drumlins Rock

    London-Irish, It is an abuse of the system, but I would tend to say let the voters decide next time round, a co-option will always have a stigma attached to it, up to now it hasn’t made a big difference espically to SF voters who are better “managed” than any others, look at the West Belfast votes, but on the other hand Michelle seemed to get an enormous personal vote, almost double her colleagues, I don’t know of any other big hitters in South Tyrone atm who could top that. Remember Phil Flannigan only got in by 62 votes.

  • London_Irish

    PR guru,

    I did indeed mean money saving in relation to holding bye-elections. I think the true costs of having one person doing to two jobs needs to be analysed a bit better, particularly in relation to allowances, pensions etc.

    I think there is an argument for double jobbing in that when you have power-sharing, the duties of an MP from here at Westminster are watered down, as many of the day-to-day issues are discussed at Stormont rather than Westminster. By double jobbing in Northern Ireland, you are largely doing the same amount of work as an English MP, just doing it in two different places. That said, I’m still not a fan of it, largely for the reasons you suggest.

    Back to co-option, I agree there is a difficulty in drawing the line between what is a right co-option and what is a wrong co-option. Putting aside the issue of party size for a second, the co-optees from the last Assembly raise a few questions about how acceptable co-options are:

    Alastair Ross – replaced George Dawson who passed away. Acceptable.

    Danny Kinaham – replaced David Burnside who left the Assembly to return to his business interests. Unacceptable – quite frankly I’m sceptical about MLAs/MPs still having ‘business interests’.

    Billy Leonard (remember him?) – Replaced Francie Brolly who retired (afaik). Unacceptable. Unless there are underlying health issues, why start a job if you don’t intend to see it through.

    The DUP MLAs who were returned to Westminster in 2010 – Acceptable I think – but only as a compromise for ending dual mandates.

    Pat Sheehan – Gerry wanted to fight an election in the south. Unacceptable, same as retiring, don’t start a job if you aren’t going to finish it.

    I think this is an issue that will need looked at in the future, and I hope it is raised by someone soon. Although its a bit like MPs expenses, they’re all it at the end of the day so I can’t see anyone rushing to change it. However, in the last mandate we had 14 co-options, and soon we will be up to seven (six Sinn Féin + Seán Rogers for the SDLP) already.

    Of course, co-option remains a better option than the bizarre scenario prior to 2007:

  • ThomasMourne

    Martin’s constituents must be very disappointed that he will not carry on with all the hard work he did for them at Westminster.

    Abstentionism is abusing democracy and defrauding the taxpayer.

    Those who refuse to take their seats should be disqualified and not be allowed to stand as an election candidate unless prepared to promise to take their seat like every other MP.

    Co-option should not happen. A vacancy should be filled by the unelected person who had most votes at the end of the count. This avoids the unnecessary expense of a by-election.

    Double-jobbing should not be permitted. Until it ends only one salary should be paid.

  • Big Boss

    Im just wondering, Is Mid-ulster a case closed in terms of electing another SF MP?

    I assume that they will not run either Molly or O’Neill to replace McGuinness, which leaves them running with either a local councillor or an unknown.

    I know the SDLP didnt run with McGlone in 2010, but if they do choose to have a go at the WM seat, it would be very interesting to see how they would perform if McGlone stands, he has a very good reputation across the consitutuency and I wouldn’t count out Unionists electing to go for him.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Boss, if I was in that situation I might well go for McGlone, but Marty got 52%, SF got 49%, even in the councils it was 45%, with the SDLP & the rest in low teens at best, the only long shot would be an extremely good independant. The choice of candidate might indicate if they are lining them up for Gleenshane (magherafelt based) or Mid Tyrone (Cookstown/Coalisland based) the fact the boundaries are not confirmed yet muddies the waters however.

  • Charlie Sheens PR guru


    Some good points. I’ve always taken the view that co-option is a small undesirable by-product of an immeasurably better voting system and have always tolerated it to avoid endorsing the undemocratic First Past The Post.

    (incidentally, you said “Here at Westminster”. Do you work there or you just reside in London like myself)


    Abstentionism is abusing democracy and defrauding the taxpayer

    Not sure I can go along with that. It is anstentionism that has produced an irish and Hungarian parliament. Indeed Aung Sang Suu Kyi maintained an abstentionist boycott until she was content that the reforms she demanded would take effect before taking her seat.

    There is little I agree with SF on, and abstaining from Parliament isn’t one of them, but they never hid their abstentionism from the electorate. They say, we won’t attend if you vote for us, and get supported with that mandate. If they stood on that platform, and then took their seats then they would have some explaining to do to the electorate.

    Big Boss,

    Wouldn’t happen sadly, while I’d like to see him have ago, to win it would almost require unanimous backing from all the local unionists which would never happen and if it did it would probably scare off the odd SDLP voter concerned at what it is they’re voting for. I can’t imagine hardline unionists in Tobemore queueing up to vote SDLP somehow.

  • Big Boss

    Hmm, im still not convinced the new boundaries will come into effect by next election… Council Yes, but all it takes is a legal challenge from someone to delay it for another election or so.

    It will be interesting to see how the SDLP play this though, will they go all out and try and win, or use it to boost someones profile for the upcoming local elections?

    Not really sure who they have round the Coalisland end for that, there local councillor is close to 80 i think…. perhaps we will be looking at someone from the cookstown end?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Carson’s Cat :

    I am not sure SF made a “horlicks” of the Queen visit thing. Public speculation was rife that McGuinness would meet her, and crucially SF did not act to scupper that speculation which implies that they were at the very least thinking seriously about it. Today’s statement from SF suggests that the NIO acted without consulting the Executive and they did add a comment defending the DUP; they clearly want to try to portray the scenario that the British government were forcing the issue.


    Martin’s constituents must be very disappointed that he will not carry on with all the hard work he did for them at Westminster.

    Since Martin is elected on a mandate of specifically not going to Westminster I don’t really think it’s a problem.

    To the point ..

    Regarding the ending of double jobbing, I’m terribly cynical. Double jobbing has been out of the public narrative for some time now, not at all surprising given that the public in 2011 overwhelmingly re-elected double-jobbing MLAs, often propelling them to the top of the polls. This is not a signal that the electorate see this as an important issue which needs to be solved, indeed it rather underpins the argument that this whole narrative was substantially invented by the media and seized upon by less popular parties who in many cases don’t have to contend with the problem that actually being elected to two jobs brings.

    Which brings us to the point – if SF’s true motivation here was not double jobbing, what was it ? Hard to say. Talk of the MPs being “banished” out of NI or their careers ending seems a bit silly given that they don’t take their seats in Westminster and it seems unlikely that they have to spend significant amounts of time there (although there are undoubted benefits to running an office there). So ..

    I think there is a deeper agenda going on within SF, some sort of internal division. The word “split” would be too strong but the fact that today’s statement had Gerry Adams’ name all over it suggests the party President re-asserting his authority, especially after the blow of the southern referendum which SF may have calculated could have produced a “no” vote. Gerry Adams is well known for sitting up on a hill, and occasionally coming down to interfere/throw his weight about and this looks like one of those occasions. Perhaps Gerry felt it necessary to demonstrate that despite being away from everything in Louth he was still in charge. Perhaps, in addition, Gerry feels the need to promote and reward new cadrés, allocating jobs to carefully-selected party liners in exchange for being kept brief on what is going on within the assembly. Am I being too conspiratorial ?

  • Charlie Sheens PR guru

    Inclined to say the opposite. Its the council which seems to have the hold up.

    While people will clearly not be happy with new constituency boundaries (16 into 18 doesn’t go) isn’t it the job of the secretary of state in the end? How do legal challenges work here?

    Has a delay occurred for any of the previous 5 periodic boundary reviews? I’m not sure there has.

    I submitted a response to the submissions received and having studied most of the responses, I can say that the DUP had the most vitriolic, frothing response to the commission accusing them of anti-unionist gerrymandering (although conveniently forgetting to thank them for the great 2009 boundaries that gift wrapped three more unionists.)

    As for the SDLP, not sure what their priority is. I noticed their submission had a really unwieldy seat designed to ensure that their was still a south Belfast for Alasdair. While I think he has been a bit shafted, the reality is that they won’t recover their previous position unless they learn that no amount of tactical votes or favourable boundaries will solve what is a political problem with finding a clear purpose for themselves.

    I have no idea who would run though.

  • Drumlins Rock

    CS, its the most sensible theory I’ve heard so far, Doherty may be happy enough with a lesser role, the other three are bound to be seething, were all three the targets or has someone got caught in the cross-fire? Could Michelle really be that much of a threat? Is Maskey tramping on some toes in Gerry’s old turf? Has Conor upset some of the South Armagh Oldboys? or is he making room for some hardliners?

  • Drumlins Rock

    CS was mr Stalin not Sheen btw!

    Mr Sheen, the risk to the Westminister proposals is at the UK level, possibly from lib dems, the Councils is different, and a dogs dinner too, if it crashes this time surely its dead?

  • Comrade Stalin

    DR, yeah Doherty almost seems to be treated as a father figure within SF; he was SF’s nominating officer within the Assembly (I wonder who will be taking that role ?).

    In terms of Murphy, Gildernew and even McGuinness it almost seems like a purge/breakup of the senior SF Assembly figures. It’s the sort of thing I’d have done myself back in the old days in the Politburo to make sure there weren’t any little blocs or cliques forming themselves up; best strangle such a thing at birth, perhaps even before it knows its own potential. Maybe people were beginning to whisper about the party appointing a new leader ?

    I don’t think this is anything to do with the Provos/”Armagh old boys”. For once, it’s probably just politics.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I’m also wondering if Marty wanted to meet the Queen, and Gerry decided it was a bridge too far, and ordered that it would not happen, sending Caral out to prepare the ground. There seems to be some confusion over who first said that it was, quote, “not do-able” – if it was Gerry then it lends credence to this theory.

    Either way the timing is just a bit too coincidental.

  • Drumlins Rock

    CS, the quality of the replacements might tell the tale, should know them within a few days it seems, if they are to be in place by end of the month.

  • Charlie Sheens PR guru


    Yeah I agree about the UK level, I think I said just that at 3:11pm.

    As for councils, they probably are dead if they crash again, although what constitutes crashing : missing the next set of local elections I suppose?

  • Drumlins Rock

    had heard if it isn’t passed before the end of the month then the date has been missed. Not sure if thats true or not. Wonder what the gossip is from England on the new bundaries, when are they due to go through? You know the crazy thing if both pass? there will be be two sets of ward boundaries, the new ones used first for the council, reverting to the old one again for Westminster, surely that cant work?

  • john

    Charlie Sheens PR guru – Im amazed someone else on Slugger seems interested in the boundary changes and you even posted a response yourself!! The funny thing is when the boundary change propoposals initially came out the interest was high with many getting hot and bothered claiming gerrymandering and the greening of the west – There was almost a save Gregory campaign getting itself ready. So when I posted links to the responses which to be honest where a quality read with the DUP proposal being especially fun not to mention the few proposals that looked as if they had been written on the back of a pack of cigarrettes and a few others from some local comediennes and eccentrics. I even posted a link so that other sluggerites could submit their own proposals and guess what I got zero replies, zero interest, so its all talk and no action as usual lol.

  • cynic2

    I am sure that the Queen is deeply upset that she doesn’t get a chance to shake hands with Marty.

    It would have been the highlight of her trip – witnessing the final humiliation of the Republican Movement and their buy into British Sovereignty.

  • cynic2

    “how the party uses its extra bandwidth”

    Is this why Kearney has recently appeared blinking in the sunlight?

    The Party’s problem isn’t so much bandwidth as the lack of depth and ability. Just look at the track record of those exiled to Westminster.

    And whither the replacements? After all there are only so many second cousins and sons in law to promote and with smaller families these days it must be getting harder and harder to staff the party from with the families. That’s the problem with a family business and must be made all the harder when anyone bright enough to be useful can earn a lot more than the Average Industrial Wage.

  • Charlie Sheens PR guru


    That’s interesting, did you submit a submission or response yourself?

    They didn’t publish the responses but mine
    consisted of a broad summary of the main concerns of local boundaries and ties and highlighting the blatent party gerrymandering attempts. I also gave a table of new ward distributions. (If you are John Auld I also referred to you a couple of times 😉 )

    My only concern is a couple of unwieldy looking wards which they may not go for, but if they accept it and make appropriate changes it’ll be
    just about the fairest, most sensible, and most respectful to the submitters that there is.

  • On the boundaries, I think that all the second round submissions will be published along with the revised recommendations in the autumn. We then get a final chance to comment.

    For what it’s worth I published both my submissions:

  • Charlie Sheens PR guru


    I did avail myself of your publishing your second submission online and referred to a fee times. I think I mentioned on your website, was in an agreement ( albeit from an entirely different starting point) on your idea for Glenshane.

    Disagreed with a few other smaller transfers but there we are.

  • MonkDeWallyDeHonk


    “Those who refuse to take their seats should be disqualified and not be allowed to stand as an election candidate unless prepared to promise to take their seat like every other MP”

    As Comrade Stalin has noted – this is a straw man argument.

    SF candidates have always been up front about their policy – if their constituents don’t agree with it then they won’t vote for SF. The fact is that they were all elected fairly and squarely.

    We live in a democracy and that’s democracy in action.

  • Lionel Hutz

    I don’t quite understand this. So many of Sinn Fein reps are getting a bit old.Retirement beckons for Doherty (66) McGuinness(62), Molloy (62), Maskey (60), Brady(61), McMullen (60) and McLaughlin (66) whilst McCann (59), Kelly (59),McCartney (58) are not far behind.

    So I get replacing Doherty and McGuinness but shipping off Gildernew and Murphy doesn’t make any sense to me. Surely they will be relying on them when the time comes.

    Mind you, some of the potential candidates to replace Robinson are also being hidden away. Is there an impression that you store them up out of trouble until they are needed?

  • London_Irish

    Lionel Hutz,

    They’re all spring chickens, what age was Ian Paisley by the time he retired?!