Sinn Féin to agree to enter a future coalition as junior partner

Party to vote on motion calling for repeal of 8th Amendment at Ard Fheis

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams will outline plans for his future at the weekend.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams will outline plans for his future at the weekend.

 

Sinn Féin looks set to change its election strategy in the Republic at its Ard Fheis at the weekend by agreeing to go into a future Coalition government as a junior partner.

Party policy on abortion is also likely to undergo a significant change. A motion from its governing Ard Chomhairle calls for repealing of the 8th Amendment of the Constitution and for the availability of abortion where a woman’s life, health or mental health is at serious risk or in grave danger, and in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and in the case of rape or sexual abuse.

The other major event at the national conference will be the much-anticipated announcement by party leader Gerry Adams about his future. He himself has indicated he will seek reelection as party president but will set out his plans for the future (and when he will step down) to members during his leadership address. The party said no indication will be given in advance of his speech on Saturday evening.

At the launch of its “Clár” (programme) for the Ard Fheis in the RDS, the party’s finance spokesman Pearse Doherty confirmed an Ard Chomhairle motion could pave the way for Sinn Féin entering coalition government with a bigger party. Until now, the party rule was that Sinn Féin could only enter coalition if it were the senior partner.

Progressive government

The Ard Chomhairle still includes the aspiration that Sinn Féin lead a progressive government. However in the next paragraph opens the door by saying that any decision on coalition will be need to be taken by a special Ard Fheis, and the decision will be “based on the party’s ability to secure a progressive, Republican programme for government.”

Asked to clarify it, Mr Doherty said if the party were in a situation where it agreed a “progressive” programme with another party – which would include among other things bringing an end to the housing crisis; reopening hospital beds; and a referendum on Irish unity – then that programme would be brought to a special Ard Fheis convened to discuss Sinn Féin going into government.

He agreed that did not preclude Sinn Féin from being either the senior or the junior member of that government.

The motion on abortion, also agreed by the Ard Chomhairle, is one of eight on this. Some call for widening the availability of abortion and accepting all the recommendations of the Citizens Assembly, including a right of termination up to 12 weeks. One motion from Creeslough in Donegal, calls for retention of the 8th amendment.

Conscience

There are two motions calling for elected representatives to vote according to their own conscience. This has been called for by Meath West TD Peadar Tóibín who has anti-abortion views. Mr Doherty echoed the criticism of other Sinn Féin TDs on Mr Tóibín comments claiming the all-party Oireachtas committee on abortion was one-sided. He said Mr Tóibín should have reflected the party position.

A similar motion calling for a free vote in 2014 was heavily defeated by the conference.

The Ard Fheis will also include a tribute to the late Martin McGuinness who died earlier this year.

There are also lengthy motions on Brexit, calling for either special status for Northern Ireland or for reunification of the island. In addition, the party membership is likely to reject a motion from the party’s youth committee calling for corporation tax to increase in the south.