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Here are 10 things we learned at the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis

As its popularity continues to rise, members of the party gathered in Derry this weekend.

AS SINN FÉIN’S Ard Fheis kicked off on Friday night, Martin McGuinness said it was fitting that his home town of Derry was buzzing as “the party is buzzing”.

Sinn Féin’s slogan of ‘Déan an tAthrú’ – ‘Make the change’ – was repeated over the two days as many delegates spoke of the sea change taking place in Irish politics, and how the party looks set to become even bigger following the next general election.

Screenshot 2015-03-07 at 19.03.57 Mary Lou McDonald and Gerry Adams

Here’s what we learned over the course of the weekend:

1. Sinn Féin wants to be the biggest party north and south by 2016

McGuinness, Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister, said Sinn Féin plans on becoming the largest political party on both sides of the border.

Sinn Fein launched their National Program Martin McGuinness Source: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

He said if the party achieves this goal by next year, the centenary of the 1916 Rising, it would be “massive”.

Time will tell.

2. The party wants Mary Lou to be the first woman Taoiseach

One of the first delegates who spoke on Friday night made some Rip Van Winkle-inspired predictions for 2018.

He said Gerry Adams will be President of Ireland and Martin McGuinness will be First Minister in Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile, a ”finance rock star” in the form of Pearse Doherty will be Minister for Finance.

rockstar What a rockstar minister might look like. Source: Giphy.com

His most popular prediction, however, was that Mary Lou McDonald will become the first woman Taoiseach.

There was a LOT of cheering, with every pair of hands in the house – bar McDonald’s – clapping.

3. The party has a position on abortion, sort of

Delegates voted in favour of allowing abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities, and repealing the 8th amendment.

McDonald spoke in favour of both motions.

Sinn Fein Sit Ins at Dail Mary Lou McDonald Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

As motion 122 passed, two others fell automatically.

Motion 123 called for terminations to not be allowed in the circumstance of fatal foetal abnormalities, while motion 125 states:

This Ard Fheis believes that women’s reproductive rights, and control over a woman’s body and sexuality are entirely a matter for the woman concerned in each particular circumstance.

One speaker expressed dissatisfaction that members would not get a chance to vote on the latter, saying she viewed it as a separate issue.

4. Sinn Féin will be a senior government partner or none

The party passed a motion that ruled out entering a Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil-led government after the next general election.

Screenshot 2015-03-07 at 21.24.19 Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness Source: PA Images

In his presidential speech last night, Gerry Adams addressed the issue:

Sinn Féin will not prop up either a Fine Gael or a Fianna Fáil government. Sinn Féin wants to lead the next government. I am confident that when it comes to making a choice, the people will make the change.

5. Royals are not welcome in 2016

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy got plenty of cheers when he said he couldn’t see any circumstances under which Sinn Féin would support a British monarch attending 1916 centenary events.

Screenshot 2015-03-07 at 19.24.19 Martin McGuinness and Queen Elizabeth in 2012 Source: PA Images

Limerick councillor Séighin Ó Ceallaigh bluntly said that royals “are not welcome at any event”.

Delegates later voted that no member of the British royal family or British government should be invited to any state commemorations in 2016.

6. People should respect the Irish flag 

Screenshot 2015-03-07 at 18.53.20 Source: Anna & Michal/CC

It took three attempts to count the vote on a motion calling for the Irish flag to not be “thrown around” or disrespected by party members.

Eventually it passed by 94 votes to 60.

7. Alan Kelly doesn’t scare Mary Lou

After telling Tánaiste Joan Burton she would debate her “anywhere, any time”, McDonald had this sarcastic message for the Environment Minister:

Joan’s number two, Alan Kelly, has vowed to rip us apart. We are quaking in our stilettos, I’m sure.

28/02/2015. Labour - 68th National Conference. Pic Alan Kelly and Joan Burton Source: /Photocall Ireland

8. Not everyone is mad about Sinn Féin

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton sent out a press release as the Ard Fheis was in full swing yesterday, warning that Sinn Féin’s policies would “screw up” Ireland’s recovery.

Screenshot 2015-03-08 at 10.29.16 Richard Bruton and Enda Kenny Source: Photocall Ireland

The Fine Gael TD stated:

As assuredly as the IRA’s semtex helped to destroy the Irish economy in the 1970s and ‘80s, Sinn Féin’s tax policies would do the same today.

9. Standing ovations are where it’s at

Adams got one, so did McGuinness, McDonald and Lynn Boylan, among others. Syrizan deputy foreign minister Euclid Tsakalotos got TWO.

https://vine.co/v/OEOMeYZwtJh

10. Aloe vera sales are set to increase

A shipment of the cream is expected to be sent to Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil imminently.

After being in the firing line at the recent Fine Gael and Labour conferences, Sinn Féin dished out a few deep burns of its own.

Anti Water Charges Campaigns Pearse Doherty Source: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

The party’s finance minister Pearse Doherty dropped several zingers. On Friday night he told the audience Sinn Féin had “no interest in propping up failed parties for ministerial positions”, saying this is what the Labour party is for.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh, social protection spokesperson, called the government’s Action Plan for Jobs an ‘Inaction Plan for Jobs’. Yeah, he went there.

It wasn’t just TDs who took aim at their political rivals, with one delegate giving this suggestion for where Labour should hold its next conference:

Follow @orlaryan and @TJ_Politics for updates  from the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in Derry this weekend.

Related: Gerry Adams: Sinn Féin is ready for power

Read: Sinn Féin wants Mary Lou to be Taoiseach and people to not ‘throw around’ the Irish flag

Related: Sinn Féin votes for abortion to be allowed in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities

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About the author:

Órla Ryan

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