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article imageGerry Adams to outline Sinn Fein succession plans

By AFP     Nov 17, 2017 in Politics

Gerry Adams is expected to announce at his Sinn Fein party's annual conference in Dublin on Saturday his plans to step down after 34 years as the dominant figurehead of Irish republicanism.

At 69, Adams is standing for a new term as party president but is widely reported to be planning to use his congress speech to outline a timetable for his succession.

"I will be setting out the process of generational change, including my own future intentions," he said earlier this year.

No figure has put themselves forward as a clear candidate to replace Adams, who has been in charge since 1983.

However, Sinn Fein's vice-president Mary Lou McDonald, 48, a Dublin member of parliament, is a likely favourite.

She would present a fresh face and has no historic links to the Irish Republican Army, the now-defunct paramilitary wing of Sinn Fein responsible for more than 1,700 deaths during the three decades known as the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

While Adams played a major role in convincing the IRA to disarm as part of the Northern Ireland peace process and masterminded Sinn Fein's rise to become the second-biggest political force north of the border and the third in the south, many consider his past a millstone.

"If we go into the next election with Gerry as leader, it caps our potential growth," a party source told The Irish Times newspaper.

Sinn Fein vice-president Mary Lou McDonald is a likely favourite replace Adams
Sinn Fein vice-president Mary Lou McDonald is a likely favourite replace Adams
PAUL FAITH, AFP/File

The conference in Dublin is set to vote on more than 170 motions, including some which would have a major impact on the political orientation of the socialist party.

On Friday, the party voted for a proposal that will allow it to participate as the junior member of a governing coalition in Dublin, breaking their traditional line of saying they would only do so as the major party.

"Sinn Fein wants to be in government, north and south", MP Pearse Doherty said on Tuesday, adding that any government would have to be in line with the party's republican principles, notably on the question of Irish reunification.

The conference is also expected to endorse liberalising abortion laws, which are restricted to pregnancies that pose a life-threatening risk to the mother.

But the party is not united on the issue and several opposing motions will also be put to the vote.

Figures from the Spanish region of Catalonia are among the guest speakers. Sinn Fein has backed its separatist movement.

Sinn Fein said more than 3,000 people were expected at the conference.

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