Sinn Féin’s president-elect, Mary Lou McDonald, has said the party will try to convince unionists that a united Ireland is best for everyone.
At a party meeting in Belfast on Saturday, Ms McDonald was confirmed as the only nominee to replace Gerry Adams as Sinn Féin leader. At the meeting, Ms McDonald said her leadership would be a defining chapter in the achievement of a united Ireland.
“I believe Irish unity is the best solution for all of our people, including our unionist brothers and sisters. I know we have a job to do to convince them of that, but I know we are more than fit for that task,” she said.
Ms McDonald added: “Some of you have said to me ‘you have very big shoes to fill’. Well, the truth is that no one will ever fill Gerry Adams’s shoes. The truth is, my friends, I won’t fill Gerry’s shoes. But the news is that I brought my own. So I will fill my shoes.
“I will walk in my shoes and we, together, over the coming years, will walk a journey that is full of opportunities, full of challenges, but I believe which marks a defining chapter in our achievement of a United Ireland and the ending of partition. As Gerry has said, that’s not a pipe dream, that is the road we are on.”
Ms McDonald said she grew up watching Gerry Adams on television and had never expected that she would replace him as leader.
“Little was I to know, at that time, that I would come to know and work so closely with Gerry, and the entire leadership, and to have him as such a close friend,” she said.
“But I certainly never would have guessed that, come February 10, 2018, that I would be the boss of him.”
Earlier, Mr Adams told members that the party must devise strategies and win support for a referendum on Irish unity.
“And we need to campaign for this,” he said. “We also need to win that referendum. Don’t believe the naysayers and begrudgers who claim that a United Ireland is a pipe dream. It isn’t. It’s very real. It’s very achievable.”
Mr Adams announced in November that he was stepping down as Sinn Féin president, after 34 years.
A party conference to ratify Ms McDonald as leader will be held on February 10.
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