Political news

Sinn Féin to be led by women on both sides of the border

Sinn Féin northen leader Michelle O'Neill applauds president elect Mary Lou McDonald. Picture by Niall Carson /PA Wire
Connla Young

SINN Féin will be led by women on both sides of the border when Mary Lou McDonald replaces Gerry Adams as the next president.

Ms McDonald is expected to be ratified as party’s new leader at a special meeting next month.

She was the only nominee for the position and will become the first woman to hold the job since Mary Buckley, who held the post from 1937-1950.

Michelle O'Neill, meanwhile, is to run for the position of vice-president.

The appointment comes after Mr Adams announced last year that he is stepping down from the role he has held since 1983.

Sinn Féin is now led by women, north and south, after Michelle O’Neill was appointed as northern leader following the death of Martin McGuinness last year.

Ms McDonald’s sole nomination for the job was confirmed at a meeting of the party in west Belfast at the weekend.

A former member of Fianna Fail, she later joined Sinn Féin and was the party's first elected representative to the European parliament in 2004.

Speaking to party members at the weekend Ms McDonald said unionists need to be convinced about the merits a united Ireland.

"I believe Irish unity is the best solution for all of our people, including our unionist brothers and sisters,” she said.

“I know we have a job to do to convince them of that, but I know we are more than fit for that task.”

The 48-year-old said she “grew up watching Gerry Adams on the telly”.

"Some of you have said to me 'you have very big shoes to fill',” she said.

"Well, the truth is that no one will ever fill Gerry Adams's shoes. The truth is, my friends, I won't fill Gerry's shoes. But the news is that I brought my own. So I will fill my shoes.”

Ms McDonald added that Sinn Féin is "probably the most exemplary party when it comes to girl power at this stage in Irish politics".

Mr Adams told members that the party must devise strategies and win support for a referendum on Irish unity.

"And we need to campaign for this,” he said.

“We also need to win that referendum... Don't believe the naysayers and begrudgers... who claim that a United Ireland is a pipe dream.

"It isn't. It's very real. It's very achievable. We can do it.”

Ms McDonald has been deputy president of Sinn Féin since 2009 and is currently a TD for the Dublin Central constituency, where she topped the poll in 2016 after first winning a seat there in 2011.

She was raised in the affluent Rathgar area of Dublin and was educated at Notre Dame, a private fee-paying school in the city.

She is a graduate of Trinity College, University of Limerick and DCU.

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