First call by a Sinn Fein official for Adams to resign as leader
Gerry Adams' leadership of Sinn Fein may appear unassailable, but if his ambition is preventing the party taking the reins of power in Dublin then it could cause ructions, a former IRA prisoner has said.
Sinn Fein critic and journalist Anthony McIntyre was speaking after Thomas McNulty, chair of the party's Cavan cumann, said Mr Adams should stand down.
Mr Adams (67) has been president of the party since 1983, but criticism from within its ranks over his leadership is rarely aired in public.
Mr McIntyre, who is from Belfast but now lives in the Republic, said: "It is symptomatic of the iron rule of Adams that such an act of dissent has taken so long to materialise. No party with a democratic culture can maintain the same leader for 33 years and that leader never once face a leadership challenge.
"The comments by the Cavan cumann chair reflect a tension between Adams' narrow political career ambitions and the wider needs of the party on the ground in the 26 counties.
"Whether such sentiment can spread or Adams can staunch it remains to be seen.
"In the past he has put down every challenge, but in a situation where his career ambitions are a hindrance to the party making a serious challenge to the status quo, matters may be more fluid and therefore turbulent."
Sources have suggested a growing number of party workers want Mr Adams to step aside and assume a position such as 'honorary vice president' so the party can grow in the Republic.
The call by Mr McNulty for Mr Adams to step down was described by the sources as "very significant".
It is the first time that a long-time member of the party has called on Mr Adams to resign.
Mr McNulty is originally from the Dungannon area and is now living in Cavan.
His call for Mr Adams to step aside - the first from a serving party member in the Republic - was contained in a letter he wrote to the Irish News after Mr Adams gave an interview in which he said he had no intention of retiring.
However, Sinn Fein veteran and fellow Tyrone man Francie Molloy last night defended Mr Adams.
The Mid-Ulster MP said he didn't know the "justification or the reasoning" for Mr McNulty's letter.
He told the Belfast Telegraph he was entitled to his opinion, but there were procedures in the party if he had concerns, and he said he was unaware of him ever raising those issues.
"I don't understand the logic because there is no one that can say that Adams has not held the party together and progressed the party and there is nothing to indicate to me that he is any 'damage' in relation to elections," the MP said.
"In fact, everything points to the opposite, that his transfer from West Belfast to Louth just gave the voice of the party in the South a new beginning and regenerated it and gave it leadership that was missing before and he was able to lead from the front."
Mr Molloy backed Mr Adams "100%" to stay in place and said he was one of the people involved in the old Ulster executive of the party who proposed that Mr Adams should be president.