Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Sinn Fein lining up Mary Lou McDonald to follow Gerry Adams as president

Leader in waiting? Mary Lou McDonald and current Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams

Sinn Fein is positioning Mary Lou McDonald as the party's future leader amid growing unrest over Gerry Adams' IRA connections.

In her strongest remarks yet about her political ambitions, Ms McDonald confirmed her desire to lead Sinn Fein.

"If at some stage there was a vacancy, I would certainly consider it," she said.

Her hopes of succeeding Mr Adams have been boosted after the party's finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty ruled himself out of any leadership contest.

The spotlight on the Sinn Fein leadership is set to intensify this week with a new TV3 documentary about the party's IRA associations.

The two-part documentary, 'Sinn Fein: Who are they?', shows Ms McDonald talking about her political future while shopping in Superquinn.

Asked how a 'girl from Rathgar' ended up in the party, the mother of two responds: "Because she did. I was looking for something real, somewhere you could make a difference and Sinn Fein provided that space."

In the documentary, Mr Adams defends the IRA's campaign of terror – despite denying he was ever a member of the criminal organisation.

"I'm very, very clear about my denial of IRA membership but I don't disassociate myself from the IRA," he told the station's political editor Ursula Halligan.

Asked whether he believes the IRA's 'campaign of violence' was justified, Mr Adams replied: "I believe so. I don't believe all of its actions were justified."

In what is thought to be his last ever TV interview, Father Alec Reid, the priest who helped broker the IRA's historic ceasefire, described Gerry Adams as a "man sent by God".

Speaking on the programme, Fr Reid, who died on Friday, paid tribute to Mr Adams for the role he played in securing peace in Northern Ireland.

"I'd say he's the most capable politician we have and the other politicians mightn't like that, but I'd say he's one of the most capable politicians in Europe," Fr Reid said.

"I would say that Gerry Adams was a man sent by God, in other words he was part of God's providence for peace in Ireland."

But others are scathing. When Anthony McIntyre, who served 18 years in prison, was asked about Mr Adams association with the IRA, he said: "Charlie Haughey could say he was never in Fianna Fail ... Ian Paisley could say he was never in the Free Presbyterian Church, that securocrats made it up to discredit him. No serious historian or journalist believes it. Can you name me one historian or journalist who has corroborated it? I know of none."

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