Adams at Stormont talks on eve of Sinn Féin presidency handover
‘Significant gaps’ remain between DUP and Sinn Féin, party sources say
Senior DUP and Sinn Féin sources said intensive talks were continuing at Stormont but that “significant gaps” remained between the two parties. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images
Gerry Adams was at Stormont on Thursday as efforts continued to try to reinstate the Northern Executive and Assembly, as he prepared to pass on the presidency of Sinn Féin after more than 34 years in the post.
While Mr Adams and other senior Sinn Féin politicians negotiated with the DUP on how to end the political deadlock senior Sinn Féin officials were busy preparing Saturday’s handing on of the baton from Mr Adams to Mary Lou McDonald.
Sinn Féin is expecting some 2,000 delegates to gather at the RDS in Ballsbridge in Dublin for the ratification of the Dublin Central TD as the next president of Sinn Féin.
The special ardfheis is scheduled to begin at 1pm and last about two hours. Ms McDonald will be proposed and seconded for the presidency.
Sinn Féin’s Northern leader Michelle O’Neill also will be proposed and seconded for the vice-president position. They have no challengers.
After the formal election Ms McDonald and Ms O’Neill will deliver what Sinn Féin has described as keynote speeches. A Sinn Féin spokesman said on Thursday that it was not yet decided whether Mr Adams, who took over as Sinn Féin president in 1983, will deliver a valedictory presidential speech.
In the meantime Mr Adams was among senior Sinn Féin and DUP politicians seeking to determine if a deal to restore the power-sharing administration could be struck before the presidential handover takes place.
Northern Ireland has been without a devolved Executive since the late Martin McGuinness stood down as deputy first minister in January last year. Four series of talks last year failed to resolve differences over issues such as an Irish language act, same-sex marriage and how to deal with the past.
Senior DUP and Sinn Féin sources said intensive talks were continuing at Stormont but that “significant gaps” remained between the two parties. Two of the big obstacles, it is understood, are over Irish language legislation and achieving a mechanism that would bring a strong degree of sustainability to the power-sharing institutions.
Mr Adams told the Press Association on Thursday that whether a deal would happen was in the balance and that the talks remained “work in progress”.
“It would be wrong to call it either way. There are still gaps. I would like to see it up and running again for the sake of the people,” he said.
Mr Adams insisted Sinn Féin wanted to see devolution return. “Any power-sharing arrangement here has to be truly power-sharing,” he said.
The outgoing Sinn Féin president added: “It would face big challenges because of Brexit and Tory austerity, but it is still better having local, accountable politicians who you can sack and who you can hold accountable for any decisions that they make. But this is the fifth round of talks. There are obviously challenges here for all of us.”