Councillors and delegates at Sinn Féin’s ard fheis in Wexford were defiant and buoyant, and came out in defence of their leader Gerry Adams, who they claim has faced a campaign of vilification by the media.
On the horizon for the party’s grassroots are the local and European elections in May. With the party expected to add to its 50 sitting city and county councillors and possibly claim at least one MEP seat in the south, it is all down to planning now, as delegate and councillor Brendan Killeavy, from Tullamore, Co Offaly, explained.
“Sinn Féin is trying to contest every area in the 32 counties, which would be a first for any party,” said Mr Killeavy. “Recent polls show our support has doubled since the last election. We’d be hoping for 100 plus seats in the South.”
Wind turbines and issues around internships under the JobBridge scheme are also on voters minds in the midlands, he said. However, he thinks the recent focus on Mr Adams is nothing more than “a witch hunt by the D4 media”.
“We wouldn’t be getting that at the doors or from communities that it’s Gerry’s time to go. Having said that we will have to change the leadership and that time is coming and I believe that after 2016, we will.”
Ward colleague Cllr Terry Galvin remembers voting for Mr Adams as party leader some 31 years ago in Dublin’s Mansion House.
“Look at that time what we had,” said Mr Galvin. “A couple of councillors, no TDs, the North was in mayhem and if you look at where we are now, it’s very hard to push someone aside and say ‘your day is up’ after what he’s done.”
For Danny O’Brien, May will be his first time ever running for election, when he hopes to get a council seat in Lucan, Dublin.
So exactly why did the 45-year-old builder decide Sinn Féin was for him?
“This is my first ard fheis,” said Mr O’Brien. “I’m only in the party since 2011. I’m part of the new blood. I didn’t want to be sitting on the sidelines. There’s no point in people giving out about the country and about the Government if they’re not going to get involved.”
It will be the likes of Mr O’Brien Sinn Féin will be pinning their hopes on come polling day in May.
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