Belfast Telegraph

Call for 'radical' Sinn Fein president as Gerry Adams set to quit

By Rebecca Black

A leading Sinn Fein strategist has called for the party’s next president to be “radical” and described this year as a “significant turning point” for the party.

Veteran Sinn Fein chief and Louth TD Gerry Adams confirmed at the party’s 2017 Ard Fheis that he will not stand for re-election in the Republic of Ireland this year, and that he will also stand down as leader.

“Leadership means knowing when it’s time for change and that time is now,” the 69-year-old, who has been party president since 1983, said at the November conference.

Former Belfast city councillor and now Dublin Mid-West TD Eoin O Broin said Mr Adams had inspired a generation of radical republicans, and his successor must do the same and “implement our radical republican programme for change”.

Dubliner Mary-Lou McDonald is widely expected to be elected by Sinn Fein members to replace Mr Adams.

Writing in Dublin’s Sunday Business Post, Mr O Broin insisted the west Belfast man will be difficult to follow.

“2018 will mark a significant turning point in the history of Sinn Fein,” he wrote.

“It will bring about not just a new party leader, but a generational change within Sinn Fein and the broader Irish republicanism. It will reinforce the post-conflict politics that now dominates Ireland, north and south. The incoming party president will have to steer a course through all of this with great adroitness.”

In a move that will further fuel speculation that Ms McDonald will have an unopposed election as leader this year, Mr O’Broin referred to the new leader as “she” throughout his piece in the newspaper.

“She will have to set out her own vision and chart her own direction in the days and weeks ahead,” he wrote.

“She will have to spearhead our organisational and electoral growth. She will have to lead us into government north and south in order to implement our radical republican programme for change. Crucially, she will have to do this while maintaining the cohesion of the broad republican family.

“Replacing Adams will be a much more difficult task than some anticipate. His strategic skill and collective style of leadership have been honed over decades of struggle. He commands a loyalty and respect that are rare among modern political leaders. He will be a very hard act to follow, I believe.”

Mr O Broin continued: “Contrary to the claims of some, 2018 will not mark a break with the recent past of radical Irish republicanism, but rather the next phase in our struggle for a united and equal Ireland. The task of those who follow in Adams’s footsteps is to remain true to his vision while adapting our tactics and strategies to suit an ever-changing present and future.”

The departure of Mr Adams as Sinn Fein President this year will mark a complete shift at the top of the party following the death of Martin McGuinness in 2017, and changing of the guard from older republican veterans to younger female leaders, with Mid Ulster MLA Michelle O’Neill having already succeeded the late Mr McGuinness.

One of Mr McGuinness’s last acts was to resign as deputy First Minister last January, in effect  collapsing the power-sharing arrangements at Stormont with the DUP.

Political talks aimed at restoring Stormont are expected to restart between Sinn Fein and the DUP, along with the UUP, SDLP and Alliance later this month, with speculation they will take place either at the Slieve Donard Hotel in Co Down or Rockliffe Hall in the north of England.

Belfast Telegraph

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