Gerry Adams plans 32nd run for Sinn Fein leadership
GERRY Adams has signalled that he has no plans to step down as the leader of Sinn Fein and insisted he will be re-running for president at the party's Ard Fheis next spring.
It will be the 32nd time the 66-year-old has put his name on the ballot card since he was first elected leader in 1983.
Speaking after the party's Ard Chomhairle at Cassidys Hotel in Dublin yesterday, Mr Adams said that while Sinn Fein will benefit from welcoming younger members on board, leading the party through its "multiplicity of challenges" requires someone with experience.
"We have an Ard Fheis coming up in the spring of next year. I intend to stand again for party president, and anyone to wants to stand against me is very, very welcome to do that," he told the Irish Independent.
"We have work to do, given the multiplicity of challenges facing the party north and south; trying to oppose austerity in both states while pursuing a united Ireland project, and trying to make friends with our unionist neighbours.
"It needs a lot of young people but it also needs some experienced people as well."
Mr Adams believes that he is still best-suited as the face of the party.
While each of the other major political parties has shifted through five leaders since 1983, Mr Adams has maintained his control over Sinn Fein. This has been despite Mr Adams being at the centre of a number of scandals. However, Sinn Fein has been able to capitalise on the disillusionment of the electorate with all the big political parties.
In the February 2011 general election, the party scored 10pc of the vote, returning 14 TDs. Last month, a Sunday Independent/Millward Brown poll pegged Sinn Fein as the country's most popular party, with 26pc of the vote.
At the Ard Fheis at Wexford Opera House last February, members shrugged off the myriad of scandals which had hit the party in recent months.
They weren't concerned that Mr Adams had done nothing about his brother's sex abuse of his own daughter despite becoming privy to it in 1987.
They dismissed recurring allegations surrounding their leader's involvement with the disappearance of mother-of-10 Jean McConville in 1972.
They were also not bothered by Mr Adams' claims that two RUC officers murdered in 1989 by the IRA showed disregard for their own safety.
But Mr Adams' refusal to step aside has created a dichotomy amongst supporters north and south of the border.
There is a belief held by many of those in the Republic that his ongoing leadership will snooker Sinn Fein's ability to truly succeed at the next general election.
Meanwhile, those in Northern Ireland consider Mr Adams as essential to maintaining what is still a fragile peace process.
But Mr Adams' handling of the latest sex-abuse scandal, in which Mairia Cahill claimed he was dismissive when she told him of the abuse she suffered at the hands of an IRA member, is understood to have knocked off a substantial five points in the latest opinion poll revealed on December 20.