Sinn Féin leadership: party fixes date for special ardfheis
Mary Lou McDonald expected to succeed Gerry Adams on February 10th
Mary Lou McDonald: Sinn Féin’s deputy leader is the only person so far to have confirmed an interest in succeeding Gerry Adams. Photograph: Dave Meehan
Sinn Féin has fixed a date for its special ardfheis to replace Gerry Adams as leader, with Mary Lou McDonald expected to take over in early February. Nominations open today and will close on Friday, January 19th, leaving candidates two working weeks to put their names forward. Ms McDonald, the current deputy leader and TD for Dublin Central, is the only person so far to have confirmed an interest in succeeding Mr Adams.
Sinn Féin’s chairman, Declan Kearney, said the convention will take place on Saturday, February 10th, at the RDS in Dublin. Regional events will be organised in advance of the ardfheis.
Party sources have said that if there is only one candidate for the leadership, then a contest may be held for the position of deputy leader. The change in leadership is expected to be the only item on the ardfheis agenda, however.
A number of TDs believe Ms McDonald, if elected leader, will move to liberalise the party policy on abortion, from one that allows for terminations in cases of rape, incest, fatal foetal abnormalities and where the health or mental health of the mother is at risk to one in line with the findings of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which recommended abortion without restrictions up to the 12th week of pregnancy.
The policy can be changed only at an ardfheis, and party sources have not ruled out holding an additional ardfheis before the promised referendum on the Eighth Amendment, due in May or June, if Sinn Féin needs to change its policy.
In order to be nominated for the leadership, candidates must have been party members for at least a year, have renewed their membership for 2018 and have the support of 10 registered cumainn or two comhairlí ceantair, or area councils, which each encompass at least three cumainn.
Before the vote, every cumann in the country – there are about 360 – will debate which leadership candidate to support. Each cumann will then send three voting delegates to the ardfheis. Each of the 50 or so comhairlí ceantair will send two voting delegates. Four cúigí, representing the four European Parliament constituencies in Ireland, will also have two votes each at the ardfheis.
The 12 directly elected members of the Sinn Féin ardchomhairle, or executive council, will have one vote each. The party’s officer board, its most senior members, would have five votes: one each for the party president, deputy leader, two treasurers and secretary.