The 69-year old Gerry Adams announced on Saturday that he will not seek to be re-elected President of Sinn Féin.
Adams has held the post for 34 years, since 1983. He was the face of Republicanism in the North and the face of left-wing opposition in the Republic. In Belfast, Adams was the political representative of IRA terrorism, who would later play a key role in sealing the Good Friday Agreement in 1997. Adams never admitted to being a member of the IRA.
His announcement on Saturday received a prolonged standing ovation, followed by the national anthem. Adams leaves behind Sinn Fein as the leading party in the North and the third largest in the Republic.
Addressing his party’s conference, the historical leader of the party that used to be the political wing of the Irish Republican Army expressed optimism for the future of Republicanism. However, he said that he would be stepping down after the end of his term and he would also not seek his re-election as a member of parliament.
Speaking to the Irish public broadcaster RTE on Sunday, Adams offered assurances that he would guarantee an open and transparent contest for his succession. The favourite for his succession is Mary Lou McDonald, according to the Irish Times.
Mary Lou McDonald is an English literature graduate in her 40s that is not a veteran of the days of military militancy. In this respect, she is like her counterpart in the north, Michelle O’Neil, who succeeded Martin McGuinness.