Sinn Féin and DUP closer to agreement

Lawrence Cooper
February 11, 2018

Mary Lou McDonald took over as leader of the Sinn Fein party Saturday, ending Gerry Adams' three decades at the helm with a sweeping speech that touched on everything from abortion to Brexit and promised a united Ireland "in our time".

The party's leader in Northern Ireland, Michelle O'Neill, will also be elected as Sinn Féin vice president.

She was appointed Sinn Fein's deputy leader in 2009 and has represented central Dublin in the Irish parliament since 2011.

"The war is over", McDonald told party members in a speech in which she quoted American poet and civil rights champion Maya Angelou and praised Adams as a "political giant". Born in a middle-class Dublin neighborhood, McDonald joined Sinn Fein after the 1998 peace agreement, having previously belonged to Fianna Fail, a conservative establishment party.

As leader of Sinn Fein from 1983, Adams, 69, had been the political voice of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), which is blamed for more than 1,700 deaths during what is known as "The Troubles" from 1969-1997.

Sinn Féin is among the top political parties in Ireland as well as Northern Ireland.

One thing that has not changed, McDonald said, is a core principle of the party: a united Ireland.

"Martin, there will be no return to the status quo", she said. There is no value in engaging in the blame game. We must only agree that the past is never again repeated.

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Ms. McDonald hopes to make her mark quickly. I want to see ministerial-led government restored to Northern Ireland.

At her nomination, McDonald had said, however, that "uniting this island is the best outcome for all our citizens, and it is now our task to convince our unionist friends and neighbors of that".

Earlier this week, a senior talks source said that the proposed deal would involve "heavy lifting" by both the DUP and Sinn Fein in terms of convincing their respective bases.

Ms McDonald also spoke about the upcoming referendum to repeal the eight amendment and said her party will be campaigning for a yes vote.

Victims of the mainly Roman Catholic IRA included British soldiers, Northern Ireland police officers and Loyalist terrorist opponents, but also many civilian members of the mainly pro-British Protestant majority in Northern Ireland and numerous Catholic civilians who opposed the IRA or were accused of being informers or collaborators.

She takes over for Adams, a divisive politician who was the face of the Irish republican movement as it shifted from violence to peace.

According to, she said: "We can not allow those who want to use the past to maintain division and inequality to have their way.There is no value in re-fighting the battles of the past".

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