Process of electing Sinn Féin president could take months
More than 1,000 delegates would cast votes at ardfheis to choose next party leader
TDs Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Mary Lou McDonald and Pearse Doherty at the Sinn Féin ardfheis at the RDS in Dublin. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
Sinn Féin delegates on Saturday voted to hold a special ardfheis to ratify a successor to Gerry Adams within three months of the party leader’s resignation.
That gathering, however, would be the last stage in a process that would unfold for weeks and months before anyone was finally confirmed as the next party president.
Where parties such as Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour have systems that give all members direct votes, although their voting weight differs in each party, Sinn Féin adheres a system whereby nominated delegates cast ballots.
To elect a new leader of the party, every Sinn Féin cumann in the country – there are around 360 cumainn – would first have to hold their own debate about which leadership candidate they wanted to support. For example, a cumann would hold a meeting to debate, discuss and vote on leadership candidates. Arising from this debate, the cumann would send three voting delegates to the ardfheis to vote for the candidate the cumann decided to support. So, there would be about 1,080 voting delegates at a special ardfheis representing local cumainn.
The next layer of voting delegates would represent the comhairle ceantair, a group encompassing a geographical area and a number of cumainn.
Each comhairle ceantair is comprised of three or more cumainn and would send two voting delegates to an ardfheis. There are about 50 comhairle ceantair. Then there are four cúige representing the four European Parliament constituencies in Ireland. Each cúige would have two votes each at an ardfheis.
There are 12 directly elected members of the Sinn Féin ard chomhairle, the executive council, and they would have one vote each.
The party’s officer board, its most senior members, would have five votes: one each for the party president, the deputy leader, the two treasurers and the secretary.