Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 April 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Sinn Fein focused on gains in the South

Gerry Adams
Gerry Adams

It's not because it is in Wexford that the ard fheis emphasis is on the South.

The whole Sinn Fein machine is focused on forthcoming local elections and the General Election in the Republic with the aim of gaining a foothold in government.

As the slogan emblazoned across the platform at this year's gathering says: 'Putting Ireland first'.

The party intends to use its TV slot this morning to push potential candidates and raise profiles. And a coalition with other parties to form a mixed Dail administration can't be ruled out.

Not that 'the North' is entirely forgotten, taking up a sizable chunk of last night's business and certain to feature in Gerry Adams' closing address tonight.

But part of the background buzz at the gathering is that Sinn Fein intends shedding staff numbers in the North to bolster its operation in the South.

Employees have reportedly received letters suggesting they may be required to follow Mr Adams and head down.

And despite his recent personal and political difficulties, the party does not appear to regard him as a liability.

Declan Kearney, its national chairman, made a point of attacking the "relentless campaign of vilification" against Mr Adams as "a disgrace".

And he gave another message to the Republic's media and political establishment: "You better start getting used to us. We ain't going away, you know."