Political news

Sinn Féin to decide presidency move this weekend

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald has hinted the party may put forward a candidate to contest the Irish presidency
Cate McCurry, Press Association

Sinn Féin will this weekend decide on whether it will nominate a candidate to contest the Irish presidential election.

It comes after President Michael D Higgins confirmed today he will seek a second term in office.

Party president Mary Lou McDonald said that the time is right to have a "national conversation" in terms of women and young people in society.

The party will decide whether to nominate a candidate at Saturday's Ard Comhairle.

Ms McDonald would not reveal who she has in mind and would await Saturday's result before making a comment.

"I want to wish President Higgins well, he is a person who has served with distinction and has done the entire country proud," she said.

"It is my view that now is a time where we need a large national conversation about Ireland, not just over the coming seven years, but beyond that.

"The last election was seven years ago, a lot has changed in that time. We were faced with the trauma of the scars of austerity and the hardship that people in communities and the entire economy had been through.

"There is a big debate around the position of women in our society, of the aspirations and opportunities for young people in Irish society - and Brexit looms large."

She said that work remains to re-establish the power institutions in Northern Ireland, adding that there has been a "shift" in the demographics.

The TD added: "There's been a shift in election results in terms of what was always deemed as the in-built unionist majority, there is now talk of Irish unity.

"I think Irish society needs to talk about that."

Ms McDonald went on to describe the "civil war" within Theresa May's government following the resignation of two of her most senior cabinet ministers, and called for the Irish government to be "resolute in standing firm" over the country's interests.

She added: "We need an answer on the Irish question, we don't need rhetoric around no hardening of the border or protection of the Good Friday Agreement. We need absolute legal assurances in legal text (in providing) a seamless north to south movement in services and people.

"We still don't have that and we await the white paper."

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