Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein set to bid for presidency

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams will ask his party to enter the race for the Irish Presidency, he has told his annual conference.

The party held its Ard Fheis in Belfast for the first time and Mr Adams said voters wanted to see an end to what he branded establishment politics.

His speech was dominated by attacks on the Dublin government's handling of the economic crisis, while he also challenged the British government to fulfil commitments to the peace process.

But amid fevered speculation that Sinn Fein may put forward a candidate to succeed outgoing President of Ireland Mary McAleese, Mr Adams confirmed he will ask his party executive to meet next week to select a candidate.

"I want to commend the work of outgoing President Mary McAleese and her husband Martin - both citizens of this city," he told the 2,000 delegates packed into the Waterfront Hall.

"Next month the people will elect a new President of Ireland. The Presidency is not a trophy for the political establishment. Across this island more and more people are looking to Sinn Fein for leadership. In my view Sinn Fein should support the nomination of a candidate to be President of Ireland.

"A candidate who is capable of winning the support of progressive and nationalist opinion. And who will reflect the broad republican spirit of the Irish people at this time. The incoming Ard Chomhairle will consider this matter."

He criticised the failure to extend voting rights to citizens north of the Irish border or living overseas.

There are growing claims that Sinn Fein's former Stormont Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew could be the party's candidate - underlining again its status as the only all-Ireland party.

But Sinn Fein has refused to confirm or deny the speculation, while Ms Gildernew would only say she would be flattered, if asked.

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