Friday 23 March 2018

SF to postpone Árd Fheis over election campaign clash

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams

Niall O'Connor and Philip Ryan

Sinn Féin has been forced to postpone its final Árd Fheis before the General Election amid fears the party was set to lose out on valuable airtime because of the event coinciding with the campaign itself.

In a surprise move, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams yesterday confirmed that the party's annual conference will now not take place until later next year.

According to a senior Sinn Féin source, the party had originally intended to stage the Árd Fheis in Dublin's RDS arena on February 6 and 7. Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party have all booked their respective final conferences for mid to late January.

But with speculation growing in political circles that the election date itself will be announced prior to the Sinn Féin Árd Fheis taking place, the party postponed the event amid concerns it would lose out on RTÉ airtime.

In recent years, the national broadcaster has set aside a prime time slot on Saturday evenings in order to air the party leader's speech .

But in correspondence with political parties earlier this year, RTÉ said such a tradition would not be maintained if the dates of the Árd Fheiseanna fell during the General Election campaign.

In relation to the election date, Mr Kenny has repeatedly said it will take place in early spring. Confidantes of the Taoiseach believe he is potentially eyeing up either February 25 or 26 - meaning the election would be called in late January or early February.

If such a scenario unfolded, the Sinn Féin Árd Fheis would not be given the usual 30 minute slot by RTÉ.

Speaking yesterday, Mr Adams confirmed that the party's Árd Fheis will take place after the election.

"We met with RTÉ and the date that was being offered up to us, because there are a series of Árd Fheiseanna happening, wasn't suitable so our Árd Fheis will happen after the election," the Louth TD said.

"And remember we are facing into another election in May in the North so that also will have its effect. We will have a 1916/2016 conference early in January here in Dublin to look at the year that was in it and look at the year that will be in it," he added.

Mr Adams confirmed that the prospect of the event coinciding with the election campaign prompted the decision.

Irish Independent

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