Adams in favour of running candidate for presidency

Mon, Sep 12, 2011, 01:00

SINN FÉIN should support the nomination of a candidate to be president, Gerry Adams told his party’s ardfheis in the Waterfront Hall in Belfast – the first Sinn Féin annual conference to be held north of the Border.

Mr Adams, however, in his keynote address on Saturday night did not disclose whether Sinn Féin would stand a candidate or who that candidate might be.

There was speculation about several names at the weekend including Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, former northern minister of agriculture Michelle Gildernew and Cavan-Monaghan TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, but no official confirmation about who the party might run or support.

Mr Adams said the incoming Sinn Féin ruling ardchomhairle would consider the matter. The ardchomhairle is due to meet next Saturday and party sources said a decision may be taken then on whether to run a candidate from within the party, or to support some other candidate.

“Citizens from all parts of Ireland must be able to vote in presidential elections. Irish citizens living abroad – as is the case with many other states – should have the right to vote also. The presidency is not a trophy for the political establishment,” Mr Adams said.

There was now an “entirely peaceful way” to achieve unity, Mr Adams said and this must involve republicans reaching out to unionists. “This requires us and them to recognise each other’s integrity and to live in peace. We have to understand how we have hurt one another and we must listen to each other,” he said.

“We need to be patient and to seek to find common ground on which we can celebrate our differences and diversity. And as equals. This is a personal priority for me and a political priority for Sinn Féin.”

He added: “Our duty is to develop democratic ways and means to achieve Irish reunification and to unite behind the leadership and the campaigns which will bring this about.”

Mr Adams said the “Orange state” assisted and supported by the British government had ruled supreme.

“Those days are gone. Done with, over. Unionism, as it comes to terms with this new reality, will be liberated by it. The Orange state is no more. This ardfheis, your presence here, is proof of that.”

On policing in the North he said: “Let me give clear warning that the checks and balances and the accountability mechanisms for policing and justice must be fully implemented. And the malign influence of the Northern Ireland Office and the securocrat old guard must be ended.”

Mr Adams accused the Government of betraying the trust of the people who elected it. “Fine Gael and Labour tore up their election commitments. Instead they are implementing Fianna Fáil policy. Labour spends its time defending the privatisation of public assets and the imposition of unfair taxes on the lowest paid.”

Mr Adams said Sinn Féin was “now the leading voice of opposition” in Leinster House and that its “recovery plan” would use the remaining reserves in the national pension reserve fund to “introduce a multi-billion euro jobs package”.

“Our plan invests in school and hospital buildings, in broadband roll-out, in developing our agri-food sector so that we can grow our way to recovery and reduce the deficit. Tens of thousands of families are in serious mortgage distress. This cannot be left to the banks. The Government must act now. The priority must be to protect family homes. An independent distressed mortgage resolution body is needed with strong powers and a menu of options to help those in greatest need. Anything less is unacceptable.”

He said Sinn Féin would tackle public spending where it was wasteful but would protect social welfare, education and public health budgets.

“Sinn Féin will go after hospital consultants who are among the highest paid in the world. We will go after politicians and top civil servants’ wages and their pension lump-sums. We will protect State assets and get a better deal on our natural resources. Sinn Féin will tell private bondholders they must take the pain of their losses – that the Irish taxpayer will carry them no more. And we will tell the EU-IMF it’s time for a new deal.”