Future of Sinn Fein: How party will look to exploit Brexit post-Gerry Adams

Posted on Nov 26 2017 - 3:32am by admin

Gerry AdamsGETTY

Gerry Adams is stepping aside after more than 30 years at the helm

Bringing the party’s ard fhéis (annual conference) to a dramatic close, Mr Adams also announced he would not stand again in his Dáil (Irish parliament) constituency, bringing his front-line involvement in politics to a close.

The controversial figures retirement has prompted many to wonder what this means for the future of the party, but a Peace and conflict expert thinks that nothing will change.

Roger MacGinty, Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute, and the Department of Politics, University of Manchester, says a new leader does not mean a new party.

However, he added Brexit has made Sinn Fein more relevant.

Mary Lou is expected to replace the infamous leaderGETTY

Mary Lou is expected to replace the infamous leader

The UK’s vote to leave the EU has helped Sinn Fein retain its relevance

Roger MacGinty

He said: “Sinn Fein work according to long-term strategies. Their strategy is to hold power on both sides of the border and effectively declare a united Ireland. That strategy will not change. 

“In terms of tactics, the uncertainty over Brexit is a real concern to people and businesses on both sides of the border. Sinn Fein will seek to exploit this uncertainty. 

“In a weird way, the UK’s vote to leave the EU has helped Sinn Fein retain its relevance. They are able to say to their supporters ‘Yet again, the British are making things difficult for people in Ireland’.”

Professor MacGinty thinks that it is important for the party to leave their association with the Troubles behind if they wish to grow further.

Gerry Adams may be going, but the party isn't likely to changeGETTY

Gerry Adams may be going, but the party isn’t likely to change

He added: “Adams and his generation of Sinn Fein politicians all had ‘war records’ through their association with the IRA campaign. That made them Marmite politicians – revered by some and loathed by others. 

“A new generation of Sinn Fein leaders can help leave that past behind and focus on issues that really matter to people.”

But he noted that a new leader isn’t going to change relations with Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland, adding: “it is worth noting that Sinn Fein and the DUP loathe each other with a passion. That is not going to change in a post-Gerry Adams period.

“The power-sharing arrangement of the Good Friday Agreement means that Sinn Fein and the DUP are trapped in a loveless marriage”.

Commentators seem unanimously agreed that party Vice President Mary Lou McDonald is the only realistic candidate to succeed him.

She is the only Sinn Féin politician whose profile even comes close to Gerry Adams’s, especially now fellow high profile Irish politician Pearse Doherty has ruled himself out of contention.

Professor MacGinty joked that Ms McDonald is the “ordained one”.

Although he is stepping back from front-line politics, don’t expect Mr Adams to disappear completely.

He pledged that for as long as his health allows, he will play whatever role he can.

Mr Adams told BBC he did not mind “how history judges me”.

He said: ”I won’t be around to appreciate it, so I don’t really care.”He added: “Adams and his generation of Sinn Fein politicians all had ‘war records’ through their association with the IRA campaign. That made them Marmite politicians – revered by some and loathed by others. 

“A new generation of Sinn Fein leaders can help leave that past behind and focus on issues that really matter to people.”

But he noted that a new leader isn’t going to change relations with Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland, adding: “it is worth noting that Sinn Fein and the DUP loathe each other with a passion. That is not going to change in a post-Gerry Adams period.

“The power-sharing arrangement of the Good Friday Agreement means that Sinn Fein and the DUP are trapped in a loveless marriage”.

Gerry Adams, pictured with Martin McGuinness, wants a united IrelandGETTY

Gerry Adams, pictured with Martin McGuinness, wants a united Ireland

Commentators seem unanimously agreed that party Vice President Mary Lou McDonald is the only realistic candidate to succeed him.

She is the only Sinn Féin politician whose profile even comes close to Gerry Adams’s, especially now fellow high profile Irish politician Pearse Doherty has ruled himself out of contention.

Professor MacGinty joked that Ms McDonald is the “ordained one”.

Although he is stepping back from front-line politics, don’t expect Mr Adams to disappear completely.

He pledged that for as long as his health allows, he will play whatever role he can.

Mr Adams told BBC he did not mind “how history judges me”.

He said: ”I won’t be around to appreciate it, so I don’t really care.”

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