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Dublin: 9 °C Wednesday 24 October, 2018
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Mary Lou McDonald to lay out her vision to 'modernise' the Sinn Féin party

Mary Lou McDonald will take over from Gerry Adams today, who has led the party for 34 years.

Updated 1pm

mary lou Mary Lou McDonald Source: Niall Carson/PA Wire/PA Images

MARY LOU MCDONALD will officially become the President of Sinn Féin today.

The Dublin Central TD will take over from Gerry Adams, who has led the party for 34 years.

In her first speech as Sinn Féin President,  Mary Lou McDonald TD is expected to lay out her vision for the party.

It’s understood she will set out ambitious targets for modernising and growing the party and will layout a vision for a united and prosperous Ireland.

The topic of reconciliation is expected to be an important topic with McDonald keen to continue the work of the late Martin McGuinness in advancing healing and the work of equality.

The repeal of the Eighth Amendment will also be addressed. McDonald will emphasise that Sinn Féin will campaign enthusiastically for repeal.

She will also update the Ard Fheis on the Sinn Féin approach to the talks in the North, which are still ongoing.

Today’s special Ard Fheis will also see Michelle O’Neill MLA, the party’s leader in Northern Ireland, take over McDonald’s former role as Deputy President.

McDonald and O’Neill were the only two names put forward for the positions before the 29 January deadline. About 2,000 people are expected to attend today’s meeting.

Crowds gathered this morning for what attendees have described as a “historic day” for the party, with many people seen snapping up Gerry Adams’ recent publications.

Adams, 69, has been a significant political figure for decades.

He was interned without trial in 1972 and 1973, and was charged with IRA membership in 1978 but the case was subsequently dropped due to insufficient evidence. He has always publicly denied he was in the IRA.

unnamed Gerry Adams arriving in the RDS afternoon Source: Sam Boal

Adams took over the leadership of Sinn Féin in November 1983, 11 years before the IRA ended its campaign of violence and 15 years before the Good Friday Agreement.

He was first elected to Westminster – where Sinn Féin retains a policy of abstentionism – in 1983, and was elected to the Dáil as a TD for Louth in 2011.

A short time ago, he gave his last briefing as party leader to Sinn Féin reps.

Changing times 

There has been much change in Sinn Féin in the last year.

Martin McGuinness stepped down as Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister in January 2017 over the ‘cash for ash’ scandal. He died two months later, after a period of ill health.

gerry Gerry Adams, pictured in 1994 Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Announcing his intention to step down as Uachtarán Shinn Féin last November, Adams said: “I’m very proud to have served as Uachtarán. Last year, myself and Martin said there was a plan for change…

I have complete confidence in the leaders we elected this weekend and in the next generation of leaders.

At the time, Adams said one of his greatest achievements was helping to secure peace in Northern Ireland. More than 3,500 people were killed during the Troubles.

McDonald will be hoping today’s Ard Fheis will provide a fresh start for the party, which has been dogged by bullying accusations and a political impasse in the North. Talks aimed at restoring power-sharing at Stormont are ongoing.

With reporting by Christina Finn at the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in the RDS 

Read: Sinn Féin councillor suspended, TD ‘censured’, following meeting of party board

Read: Vincent Browne returns to our screens with documentary on life of Gerry Adams

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Órla Ryan

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