Mary Lou McDonald Takes Over As Sinn Fein Leader Today

Theresa May will intervene in crunch Northern Ireland talks

Gerry Adams has been replaced as the president of Sinn Fein after 34 years in charge of the party.

A special Ard Fheis at the RDS in Ballsbridge is also due ratify Michelle O'Neill as Deputy Leader of Sinn Fein.

While the 2,000 delegates at Saturday's conference gave Mr. Adams a warm sendoff, many are hoping that Ms. McDonald, 48, can set a new course for the party and move away from Mr. Adams' ties to the IRA.

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

She was the only person nominated to take over the top job in the all-Ireland 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.

For Sinn Féin supporters, Mr Adams is an iconic figure who has transformed the party's electoral fortunes to the extent that it has nearly reached parity with the DUP and could find itself as a coalition partner in the Republic.

Sinn Fein has shared power in the British province of Northern Ireland since 2007 and is in talks to restore devolved government there, but it has never governed in the Republic where it has established itself as the third largest party.

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He was speaking from Stormont in Northern Ireland on Friday, his last evening as party leader. "Nobody should be asked to forgive if they can not do so", she said. "On other things, we can agree to disagree".

At that time he had also said Sinn Fein would be working towards a unity referendum to be held within the next five years.

Today marks the high point of Ms Lou McDonald's political career. "I would like to see it [the Northern Ireland government] up and running again for the sake of the people".

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.

Regarding social issues, she said that Sinn Fein will campaign enthusiastically for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland, which virtually bans abortions in the country.

Ms. McDonald said the Derry man who died after a short illness last March as a true "peacemaker" and promised to follow his example of reaching out to unionist citizens in a spirit of reconciliation. That could be a tricky position given that Sinn Fein draws much of its support from Catholic communities.

McDonald said: 'I want us to achieve this with respect, graciousness and generosity.

"There is now a peaceful and democratic path to Irish unity".

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