Mary Lou McDonald backs Gerry Adams to remain at summit of Sinn Féin

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald has backed Gerry Adams to remain in charge of the party until after the next general election, claiming he has brought the party “right into the middle” of Irish politics.

Mr Adams told the Irish Examiner he is not planning to step down this autumn, despite persistent rumours from within the party in recent months the historic move was about to occur.

In an extensive interview published yesterday, he said that while he is preparing to step aside, “now is not the time” and he will both seek re-election as party president at this October’s ard fheis and remain at the head of Sinn Féin into the next general election.

While acknowledging a leadership change will happen soon as part of a wider 10-year “transition” plan for the party, Mr Adams — who has also ruled out running as a candidate in next year’s Irish presidential election — said “it is not now”.

Speaking to this newspaper before the Adams interview was published, Ms McDonald — who has been widely tipped to replace the 68-year-old — said she supports her colleague’s comments.

“Gerry’s ratings on a personal level in any of the polls are on a par [with] and often better than the other political leaders,” she said.

“So, whoever is the leader of Sinn Féin will lead the party into the election, and that person is Gerry Adams.

“I am a close associate of Gerry’s. I have worked with him for a long time. He is the leader, he has my full confidence and support, and there has never been a doubt around that.”

The political future of Mr Adams — who is in Washington DC — has come into sharp focus in recent months. Reports have cited several Sinn Féin sources and a number of TDs privately indicating he was likely to step down this autumn to make way for a new leader before the next election.

However, while the party is due to discuss its 10-year “transition” strategy, including the leadership issue, it is believed the recent passing of Martin McGuinness and the UK and Stormont elections have delayed any handover.

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