Adams u-turns on promise to lead SF into next election
Micheal Martin says 'no new faces' in Sinn Fein as party begins process of electing a new leader
Gerry Adams will step down as Sinn Fein president next year after more than three decades at the helm of the party.
Mr Adams's decision to stand aside as party leader next year is a significant u-turn on his previous commitment to lead Sinn Fein into the next election.
The move throws Sinn Fein into uncertainty at a time when the party is struggling in the opinion polls.
Last night, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has dismissed the significance of Mr Adams's intention to step down, stating that the Sinn Fein party has "always been about putting the Provisional movement first".
Speaking in Dublin, Mr Martin said Mr Adams's announcement will be followed by "overblown commentary" about how important this was as a political moment and speculation about how this might mark a major turning point. "This is simply not true," he said.
Mr Martin also rounded on potential successors, saying there were "no new faces" in Sinn Fein. He added: "The party is much more than the person, and the party remains as unreformed and as unsuitable for government as ever."
He said: "They will change their leader but the core of the Provisional movement's approach to politics remains and has been constantly reaffirmed by all of their prospective leaders."
Mr Martin said potential successors, including Sinn Fein vice-president Mary Lou McDonald, have remained loyal to the republican movement in spite of revelations of criminality, sex abuse and bullying allegations.
"Please, spare us the idea that we are getting a new departure or a new generation from Sinn Fein. Instead of wasting time about their future political strategies, they need to be held to account for their actions today," he said.
Mr Martin also reaffirmed that Fianna Fail would not go into Government with Sinn Fein after the next election.
Meanwhile, in Dublin's RDS, Mr Adams said he would ask the Sinn Fein ard comhairle to agree a date in 2018 for a special Ard Fheis to elect a new party president.
He also said he would not stand for the party in Louth at the next election.
Mr Adams also revealed Kerry TD Martin Ferris will not run in the next election. In August, Mr Adams said he would lead Sinn Fein into the next election.
Earlier in the day, the party passed a motion stating that a special Ard Fheis must be held no less than three months after a vacancy arises for the presidency. However, Mr Adams has not officially stepped aside.
The Sinn Fein ard comhairle will meet in two weeks to discuss a date to hold the special Ard Fheis where Mr Adams's successor will be announced.
Ms McDonald is the favourite to succeed Mr Adams but there will also be keen political interest over who is elected as the party's deputy party leader.
During his Ard Fheis speech, Mr Adams also told party members former Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness had planned to step down from his position in May.
"Then life punched us in the face," he said.
"Martin's illness and the 'cash for ash' scandal brought that date forward," he added.