Gerry Adams successor as Sinn Féin leader to be known next month
SINN Féin has announced the date of its special ard fheis to elect a new party leader.
It will take place on February 10 at the RDS in Dublin and the nomination process opens this morning.
Gerry Adams announced in November his plans to stand down as Sinn Féin president after 34 years in the post.
It is widely expected that current deputy leader and Dublin TD Mary Lou McDonald will become the party's next president – and may even run for the position unchallenged.
Other key figures such as Sinn Féin's northern leader Michelle O'Neill and Donegal TD Pearse Doherty have already ruled themselves out of contention.
The party's national chairperson Declan Kearney said the nomination process opens today and closes on January 19.
He said regional debates will also be organised for candidates to address party members.
"This is an exciting time for Irish republicans and part of the process of renewal and regeneration in the party," the South Antrim MLA said.
Mr Kearney said 2018 would be a "challenging year for the Irish people", citing the deadlock at Stormont, the prospect of a southern general election and the "challenges posed by Brexit".
On the north, he said: "Meaningful talks to restore the political institutions are urgently required to ensure the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement will be a positive point in the history of our island."
He added: "We look forward to another historic ard fheis and a healthy and democratic campaign to elect the next Uachtarán Shinn Féin."