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Sinn Fein policy shift could allow it to enter Republic's government

By Suzanne Breen

Sinn Fein is preparing for a major policy shift which would allow it to become a junior partner in an Irish Government.

The party's current position is that it will enter a coalition only as the largest party.

However, a motion at this weekend's ard fheis proposes changing that.

The resolution from the party's ard chomhairle says a future decision about entering a coalition government with a "progressive republican programme" will be made by a special post-election ard fheis.

In what will be a momentous gathering of the party in Dublin, Gerry Adams is also set to announce when he will step down as president.

Details of the "timeline for generational change" will be disclosed in his address in the RDS on Saturday night.

Sinn Fein said 170 motions would be debated by around 3,000 members and visitors at "the biggest ard fheis the party has ever had", which will feature a guest speaker from Catalonia.

The party is expected to liberalise its policy on abortion, which will put substantial pressure on the SDLP to follow suit.

Donegal TD Pearse Doherty, who was seen as a potential candidate for the party leadership, yesterday ruled himself out of the race.

"At this point in time, if there were a vacancy I would not be running for that position," he said.

Deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald is the clear favourite to succeed Mr Adams.

Mr Doherty said the ard chomhairle's motion opened up the possibility of Sinn Fein becoming a junior coalition partner or entering a confidence and supply arrangement after the next Dail elections.

"Sinn Féin wants to be in government north and south," he said. "We're willing to talk to any individual or any party who are willing to build the houses, to reopen the hospital beds, to end the waiting lists and deliver on Irish unity. They are the major issues we want to see tackled in Irish society."

Abortion will be hotly debated with eight motions on the issue. The ard chomhairle resolution calls for abortion to be permitted when a woman's "life, health or mental health" is at serious risk or in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and rape.

However, around 20 cumann are asking for members to be able to vote according to their conscience and not be bound by party policy on the issue.

And any change of policy will cause conflict between Sinn Fein and its leading pro-life TD Peadar Toibin.

An ard chomhairle motion also calls for the party to draw up a policy on "end of life issues including proposals to allow a person who is terminally ill to be assisted to die where that is their declared intention and they have clearly and freely given their consent".

And a Derry motion calls for the release of dissident republican prisoner Tony Taylor, who has been in Maghaberry Prison since his licence was revoked 20 months ago.

While an ard chomhairle resolution supports the PSNI, it expresses concern at "current trends in the North towards an over-emphasis on the hard end of policing at the expense of the concerns and priorities of local communities".

A motion from the national youth committee opposes the lowering of corporation tax in Northern Ireland.

Another resolution, meanwhile, calls on the party to "have no more meetings or dealings with the right-wing party Likud" or any Israeli group supporting "the increased expansion of illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands".

How the campaign trail spend added up

Parties and individuals campaigning in Northern Ireland for the 2017 snap General Election spent almost £500,000 on the campaign trail, it has been revealed.

Combined, the parties reported a spend of almost £120,000 with Sinn Fein spending the most.

The republican party spent £28,196, just over £6,000 more than rivals the DUP, which spent £21,802.

The second biggest spenders were the Conservative Party which spent £27,488. Alliance were fourth on £17,105; the UUP next on £13,580; the SDLP spent £9,274, and the Greens, £501.

Eleven parties campaigned here during the 2017 UK general election with 109 candidates on the ballot papers for the 18 seats.

The DUP came out on top in the election with 10 MPs, followed by Sinn Fein with seven.

Belfast Telegraph

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