Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has no intention of standing down as Ireland's longest-serving political leader, he has declared.
The 60-year-old West Belfast MP, who has headed the party for more than a quarter of a century, insisted there was no issue over his top role.
Disappointing electoral results in the Republic as well as a public pronouncement by Sinn Fein rising star Toireasa Ferris that the party isn't seen as relevant in the South and had lost touch with its grassroots, sparked speculation about Mr Adams' future.
The veteran republican yesterday insisted he welcomed debate and suggestions on the direction of the party but said there was no question of him not being leader.
“It isn't an issue at this time. I'm the party president and sin é (that's it),” he said.
Asked if he would still be leader in five years’ time, he responded: “I have no intention of not being the party president.”
Kerry councillor Ms Ferris, who is tipped to eventually take the Dail seat currently held by her father Martin Ferris, claimed in republican newspaper An Phoblacht that Sinn Fein “means nothing to the bulk of people in the South”.
She also said there was an identity crisis within the party which was looked upon by voters in the Republic as “a Northern-based party, irrelevant to the everyday concerns of people in the 26 counties”.
Mr Adams refused to be drawn on his own opinions on her claims but said there was a debate going on within the republican movement which was different to any debate in the Dublin-based media, which he said was biased against the party.
“It isn't for me to adjudicate publicly on what is said by any of the people who are bringing these suggestions forward.
“Toireasa clearly is one of that raft of younger activists who are very passionate about their views, who are very genuine and sincere about their republicanism and are part of what is going to be the future for the party right across the island.”
Mr Adams, who is charged with boosting the party's performance in the Republic, said they were working towards a coalition that would be wider than a simple left alternative.
On remarks by Fine Gael's Frank Flannery that the Opposition party could potentially do a coalition deal with Sinn Fein, Mr Adams said that was unlikely.
“I think it would be quite difficult to come to an agreement with a party like Fine Gael which is conservative and which is not about the type of social changes we want to see or is not about a united Ireland, except in a rhetorical sense,” he said.