Mary Lou McDonald is facing a clear run to become the next leader of Sinn Féin as her potential rivals said they would not be contesting the race to replace Gerry Adams.
Pearse Doherty, Michelle O’Neill, Eoin Ó Broin, and Padraig MacLochlainn all said they have no interest in taking part in the contest, leaving Stormont MLA Conor Murphy as the only potential contender.
At Sinn Féin’s ard fheis on Saturday, Mr Adams confirmed he was stepping down as party leader after 35 years.
Mr Adams said a special ard chomhairle meeting would be held in the coming weeks to outline plans for any leadership race, with a motion passed saying the next leader must be named within three months of this date.
While Ms McDonald, currently the party’s deputy leader, has long been seen as the leader in waiting, a number of other contenders have been suggested in recent months as speculation mounted over Mr Adams ’ future.
In separate statements yesterday, four of the leading contenders all ruled themselves out of any potential race, with only Mr Murphy yet to clarify whether he intends to seek to replace Mr Adams.
On RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland programme, Mr Doherty, Sinn Féin’s finance spokesman, said “no, not at this particular time” when asked if he wanted to become the next Sinn Féin leader.
“I’ve made it clear that if there was a vacancy I would not be letting my name go forward. I’ve a young family, I live quite a distance away from Dublin, and I have to weigh up all the roles I have, as a father, a husband, a political leader.
“It’s not the right time for me to let my name go forward,” said Mr Doherty, adding that it is “ridiculous” to claim the party’s hierarchy told him not to run and saying it does not matter if “the next leader” has any connections with the Provisional IRA.
Responding to the Irish Examiner, party housing spokesman Mr Ó Broin similarly ruled himself out of the contest, saying “I am not putting my name forward”.
Mr MacLochlainn, a senator, and Sinn Féin’s Stormont leader, Michelle O’Neill, also said they will not take part in any race.
A spokesperson for Sinn Féin in the North last night declined to say whether Mr Murphy will run, saying he had been in meetings all day and will not be available until after today’s meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May alongside other Stormont officials in Downing Street.
Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has specifically ruled out entering government with Sinn Féin in any form after the next general election, saying the shift in leadership changes nothing.
Asked if there is a possibility of a deal, Mr Martin gave an insistent “no”, before adding: “I have articulated that on numerous occasions.”
He said all of the potential replacements for Mr Adams “have been very strong apologists for an appalling series of crimes” and that Sinn Féin is “an organisation where the public representative is subservient” to an “undemocratic impulse” within the party.
Despite suggestions from his backbenchers that a deal with Sinn Féin may be Mr Martin’s only way of becoming taoiseach, he said: “We will not be entering into a coalition government with Sinn Féin. There is no prospect.”
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