GERRY Adams is considering a shock run at a Dail seat in the next election.
The Sinn Fein leader is being tipped to run against Justice Minister Dermot Ahern in Louth, the Herald can reveal.
Sources say that Adams (62) is "making all sorts of noises" locally but does not want his intentions known until closer to an election.
The move could spark a split in Sinn Fein after sitting TD Arthur Morgan (56) announced on Tuesday that he did not intend to stand for re-election.
According to a well-placed source, Cllr Tomas Sharkey is the "natural successor" to Mr Morgan but may now be overlooked.
When contacted by the Herald, Cllr Sharkey (34) refused to rule out the possibility that he would be playing second fiddle to the party president.
"There's going to be a selection process and we can talk about all that in the coming weeks," he said.
The republican leader is a member of the Westminster Parliament for Belfast West but does not attend sittings as he will not take an oath of allegiance to Queen Elizabeth.
Sinn Fein's vice-president Mary Lou McDonald is also thought to be lined up for another attempt at winning a seat in Dublin Central, but private polls in the area suggest she has only an outside chance.
If Adams decided to push ahead with plans to run for Leinster House, it would be likely to cause huge controversy -- especially as he would be polling against the Justice Minister. The other sitting TD is Fine Gael's Fergus O'Dowd.
The Herald understands that Mr Adams' preferred constituency for the Dail is Louth as Sinn Fein has a strong base in the county and three seats will be vacant at election time.
Ceann Comhairle Seamus Kirk will not contest the election as he is automatically re-elected and the constituency is to gain an extra seat due to boundary changes that see it take in part of Meath.
Adams has repeatedly denied being a member of the IRA but was a central player in negotiations between the British and Irish governments and the organisation.
He has appeared in Leinster House several times in recent months as his party upped its opposition to the EU's intervention in the economic crisis.