Belfast Telegraph

Gerry Adams bids farewell as leader of Sinn Fein after 34 years

About 2,000 delegates gathered for the handing over of the presidency.

Gerry Adams’ tenure as leader of Sinn Fein has come to an end after more than three decades, with Mary Lou McDonald officially taking over as party president.

The Dublin Central TD was officially ratified as the new Sinn Fein leader at a special party conference in the RDS in Dublin on Saturday afternoon.

Around 2,000 delegates gathered at the conference for the historic handing over of the presidency.

Mr Adams announced in November that he would be stepping aside after 34 years in the role.

In her first speech as the new party president Mrs McDonald said she wanted to secure and win a referendum on Irish unity.

“I want us to achieve this with respect, graciousness and generosity.

“Irish unity cannot be a crude exercise of simply stitching north to south and returning to business as usual.

Gerry Adams at Sinn Fein's special conference at the RDS in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

“We do not want a 32 county free state. We want a new Ireland, in which rights are guaranteed, cultures respected and the diversity of our identities embraced,” she added.

She said that as a new generation takes the reins of Sinn Fein leadership it was now time to bring “innovative and modern ways of advancing our politics.”

“Now is the time for fresh thinking and bold ideas to take us forward,” she said.

“Our focus must be on building Sinn Fein into an organisation that is fit for purpose, and our purpose is to win, to win elections, to increase our political strength, to realise our ambition of being in government north and south, to win progressive political victories every single day. And ultimately to win Irish unity.”

Gerry Adams votes for Michelle O’Neill to become the Sinn Fein vice president (Niall Carson/PA)

Mrs McDonald warned that Brexit represents a real threat to the prosperity, economic, social and political life of Ireland.

“It fundamentally challenges 20 years of hard won progress.

“There can be no imposition of a border on the island of Ireland.

“Ireland will not be the collateral damage in the political games and antics of Tories in London,” she added.

Mary Lou McDonald acknowledges the applause of delegates as she is elected as Sinn Fein’s president at the party’s special conference at the RDS in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

Referring to the political crisis at Stormont she insisted that Sinn Fein is “up for a deal”.

She said: “We are committed to real powersharing, to working for agreement with our unionist partners.

“We want the Assembly and Executive up and running. This can only happen on the basis of equality, respect and integrity for all.

“The talks are ongoing. The Sinn Fein team is committed to positive outcome,” she said.

Paying tribute to Mr Adams, Mrs McDonald said: “There would be no Good Friday Agreement, no peace process without Gerry Adams. My political mentor. An inspirational leader. A great friend.

“When others said it was impossible, Gerry Adams, along with Martin McGuinness, John Hume and indeed others, bravely walked the path to peace.”

Sinn Fein’s Northern Ireland leader Michelle O’Neill was also officially ratified as Mrs McDonald’s deputy.

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