Nominations to open as Sinn Fein searches for new deputy leader

Nominations will begin on Monday to select a new deputy leader of Sinn Fein.

The move comes after Mary Lou McDonald was named as leader-elect at a meeting of Sinn Fein's ard comhairle (high council) in Belfast on Saturday.

The party's national chairman Declan Kearney MLA said the nomination process for deputy leader will close on Monday January 29.

The new leader and deputy leader will be officially elected at a special Sinn Fein Ard Fheis on February 10.

"This is an exciting time for Irish republicans with the nomination of Mary Lou McDonald the clearest signal to date that the process of renewal and regeneration of the party is now well under way," said Mr Kearney.

He added that 2018 "will be a challenging year for the Irish people".

Mr Kearney said the party is committed to achieving a positive outcome to the fresh round of talks aimed at restoring the powersharing government at Stormont.

He said this will "ensure the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement will represent a new positive point in the history of our island".

Mr Kearney also said with a new leader and deputy leader Sinn Fein will face into the next general election in the Republic of Ireland "offering the electorate an opportunity to elect a new government committed to tackling" the crises in health and housing.

He added: "We will also continue to deal with the challenges posed by Brexit and build support for designated special status for the North within the EU, as the only realistic alternative to the British Tory plan to deliver a hard Brexit border."

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