Mary Lou McDonald poised to be appointed Sinn Féin president

Pearse Doherty and Michelle O’Neill out of race to replace Gerry Adams

Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams said on Saturday (November 18) he will step down as party leader in 2018.

Mary Lou McDonald is poised to be appointed Sinn Féin president after two of the main contenders confirmed they would not take part in a contest. Finance spokesman Pearse Doherty and Michelle O'Neill, the party's leader in the North, both said they would not seek to replace Gerry Adams, who will step down next year after 34 years.

Mr Doherty told The Irish Times he would not be putting his name forward for the position. "There will be a vacancy in 2018, but I will not be seeking to contest the position of party president. I am humbled people consider me for the role, but, no, I will not be putting my name forward."

Ms O’Neill said she had “enough to do” in her current position and her focus remained on re-establishing the Northern Ireland Executive.

Mr Adams announced on Saturday night he would not seek re-election as a TD or as Sinn Féin president. The 69-year-old said a special ardfheis would be required to appoint his successor. The date will be decided by the party's ardchomhairle in the next two weeks. A number of Sinn Féin sources confirmed the party will seek to have Mr Adams's replacement in place by April 2018.


TDs declare support

A number of TDs have declared their support for Ms McDonald, who has long been viewed as Mr Adams's favoured successor. Louise O'Reilly, who represents Dublin Fingal, and David Cullinane, who represents Waterford, confirmed they would be backing the Dublin Central deputy.

Ms O’Reilly said Ms McDonald was one of the main reasons she joined Sinn Féin and she would support her “morning, noon and night”. Mr Cullinane said: “She would be my preference; she has proved, beyond doubt, that she is a leader and has acted as a leader for a long time. I would be delighted to support her.”

Another TD, who chose to speak privately, said Ms McDonald was the only credible competitor for the position.

The Wicklow TD John Brady, the Dublin Mid-West TD Eoin Ó Broin, the Cork South-Central TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire and the Dublin South Central TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh declined to be drawn on their preferences.

Mr Ó Broin confirmed he would not be putting his own name forward for the position and would wait to see who did before confirming whom he would be supporting.

The Cork North-Central TD Jonathan O’Brien said more names may emerge in the aftermath of Mr Adams’s announcement. “If there is more than one I will listen to what every prospective leader has to say.”

Contest for vice-presidency

The decision of Mr Doherty and Ms O'Neill to stand aside from the contest leaves the MLA Conor Murphy as the only other potential candidate. He could not be reached for comment. A Northern candidate with Mr Murphy's limited profile would be unlikely to have broad appeal.

Any of the party’s cumainn can nominate a person for the position, and 2,500 delegates will choose his replacement.

A number of the TDs pointed to the race for the Sinn Féin vice-presidency, which Ms McDonald currently holds, as more competitive. One source said: “There will probably be a number of people who will seek that position, while there will probably only be one who will go for president. The role of vice-president will give you a clear indication as to the ambitions within the party.”

Senior figures in Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have insisted they would never enter coalition with Sinn Féin, whoever the party leader was.