SF grassroots call for Adams to 'get off the stage' and step down
Gerry Adams is facing his biggest challenge to date as leader of Sinn Fein in the Republic, sources close to the party say.
A growing number of party workers want Mr Adams to step aside and assume a position such as 'honorary vice president' so the party can expand in the Republic.
A call by the chairman of a Cavan Sinn Fein cumann for Mr Adams to step down was described by sources yesterday as "very significant". It is the first time that a long-time member of the party has called on Mr Adams to resign.
It is believed among party members that the call by the Virginia-Mullagh cumann chairman, Tommy McNulty, who is originally from Co Tyrone, is being seen as the start of a move to get Mr Adams to retire.
Mr McNulty's call for Mr Adams to step aside, the first from a serving party member in the Republic, was contained in a letter he wrote to the Irish News in Belfast after Mr Adams gave an interview in which he said he had no intention of retiring as leader. Mr Adams has been president of Sinn Fein since 1983.
In his letter, Mr McNulty said he had been present at the 1986 Sinn Fein Ard Fheis when Mr Adams and other figures from the North assumed control over the party. He wrote: "I supported that transition of leadership because I knew that the years ahead needed the leadership of the Northern men and women under Mr Adams to steer the republican movement from conflict to peace.
"This has now been successfully achieved, due in no small measure to Mr Adams and his team and the top of the party.
"But just as there was a time for change in 1986, there is a time for change again in 2016. Sammy Davis Jnr once famously said that one of the great secrets of life was 'knowing when to get on the stage and knowing when to get off it'. I believe the time has come for Mr Adams to get off it."
Sources close to the party said it is the first time such a direct call has been made from a long-serving member in the Republic.
It signals that the party in the Republic is 'fed-up' with the domination by Mr Adams's Northern-based leadership, who are out of touch with events south of the border. One source said there is "exasperation" over Mr Adams's insistence on "hogging" media time to speak for the party on almost any subject.
Mr McNulty said there was a view within the party that it was time for Mr Adams to assume a role of "honorary vice president" or take on an "ambassadorial role" for the party.
Speaking in Dublin yesterday, Mr Adams rejected the call and said he was launching a "party consultation process".