Gerry Adams has rejected claims that he is set to step down as party leader this autumn.
The moment “is not now”, the Sinn Féin leader said, insisting that he will remain in charge for the next general election.
He also poured cold water on the suggestion of him being nominated for the 2019 presidential election.
Mr Adams dismissed continuing suggestions that he will vacate the office of party leader this October when Sinn Féin discusses a 10-year “transition” plan amid concerns his role is limiting Sinn Féin’s ability to win new voters. He did concede Sinn Féin is facing a “generational change” which will soon see him depart.
In an interview with the Irish Examiner, Mr Adams gave the clearest indication yet of when he will step down from the role he has occupied for four decades.
However, despite confirming a deal was struck with the late Martin McGuinness on when the two individuals would leave and not rejecting claims this will be his last general election in charge, the 68-year-old said the leadership change moment “is not now”.
“That’s my intention at this time,” Mr Adams said when asked if he will remain as party leader for the next general election.
“Within the next upcoming period you will see a change in the leadership, but it is not now. It is my intention to go forward in the next ard fheis [for party president again], it is my intention.”
While providing clarity on the issue, which has been the subject of intensifying rumours both external and internal to Sinn Féin in recent months, his comments will be welcomed by some supporters but also likely to be viewed with concern by others.
While Mr Adams’ high-profile is a key weapon in Sinn Féin’s arsenal, his past and direct links to the Troubles’ era is severely limiting the party’s prospects of winning over middle-class or traditional Fianna Fáil and Labour voters.
The latest Millward Brown opinion poll yesterday said Sinn Féin remains on 20%, far behind the 30% and 29% rates for Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil respectively.
Ruling out joining the race for Áras an Uachtaráin, Mr Adams said such reports had “no foundation whatsoever”.
During the same interview, he also repeated his party’s demand for a border referendum within five years.
He warned that the Brexit fallout is being exacerbated due to the Conservatives having “no clear plan” for the future.
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