Adams pledges to remain Sinn Féin leader until next general election

Gerry Adams has said he intends staying on as the leader of Sinn Féin until the next general election.

The party opened its ard fheis in Killarney yesterday on a crucial weekend where many voters are still undecided about which way to vote in next week’s referendum.

Mr Adams said “all was to play for” in the final few days before the vote.

Speaking ahead of the opening of the conference, he said his leadership was “not an issue at all”.

“The party and I will know when it’s the right time to leave,” said Mr Adams. “I’m quite comfortable in doing the job I’m doing because there’s such a strong team.”

The next general election must be held by the early spring of 2016.

Sinn Féin elects or reappoints senior party members on its officer board and its ard chomhairle at the conference. Mr Adams has been party leader since 1983 and his leadership has never been challenged.

He said: “We’ve a great team, a collective leadership. I’ve never seen myself as anything other than part of that collective team.”

Martin McGuinness, the party’s deputy first minister in the North, told delegates last night that senior party members were in discussions with unionists about a “process of reconciliation”.

He added: “Irish unity is not simply a republican objective. It is, I believe, necessary for our people, Catholic, Protestant, dissenter, and others to achieve our full potential.”

One motion last night called on the British government to agree to a “border poll” on a united Ireland, as agreed under the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr McGuinness said his presidential campaign in the Republic last year had been an “important building block” for Sinn Féin.

In what seemed like a reference to The Frontline debate that derailed the campaign for Sean Gallagher, Mr McGuinness said Sinn Féin should be proud after “changing the course of the election”.

Another motion for debate calls on the party’s leadership to advise members of the public not to pay the household charge.

Until now, party TDs have not advised people to break the law and said it was up to citizens to decide.

Another motion calls for support for the view that a woman should have the legal right to elective abortion whatever the circumstances.

Mr Adams will deliver his televised address this evening, where he is expected to focus on next week’s EU treaty vote.

RTÉ has said the exact length of time he spends on the treaty will be allocated to Taoiseach Enda Kenny for a separate televised address tomorrow evening, in line with broadcasting rules.

Conference motions

A sample of motions presented last night at the Sinn Féin ard fheis:

* Stricter sentencing for knife crimes and those arrested with intention to use such a weapon.

* Opposition to the merger of city and county councils in Limerick and Tipperary.

* An apology from the State and the Church to victims and survivors of the Magdalene institutions.

* Reduce the voting age to 16.

* Trade unions should review their links with and funding of Labour.

* 80% of the proceeds of oil exploration projects should go to the taxpayer.

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