Sinn Fein wants to lead the next government in the Republic that will be elected in the centenary year of the 1916 Easter Rising.
With the current coalition of Fine Gael and Labor almost certain to run to its full term to spring 2016, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams was in fighting campaign mood at his party’s ard fheis (annual national conference) in Derry.
He drew loud applause from an overflow attendance of around 2,000 when he pledged that his party would not “prop up” either a Fine Gael-led or Fianna Fail-led government.
With a few delegates wearing T-shirts carrying the face of a smiling Adams and the slogan “Taoiseach (prime minister) in Waiting,” Adams said Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste (deputy prime minister) Joan Burton feared the Sinn Fein challenge.
He said there had been a “tsunami of untruths and smears” against Sinn Fein and members and supporters must “brace” themselves for continued attacks.
“Sinn Fein wants a mandate for government. I believe we can win that mandate,” Adams said.
He added that Sinn Fein would continue to oppose austerity in the north and south. “Austerity is not the solution. It is part of the problem. Sinn Fein is not the problem. We are part of the solution,” he said.
Calling for a “national conversation” about Ireland’s future, Adams extended a special céad míle fáilte (100,000 welcomes) to Jim Cullen and Alan McConnell of Friends of Sinn Fein in the U.S. and Canada and to other visitors from across the world.
He also sent best wishes to “son of Derry” and former SDLP leader John Hume, 78, who was central to the peace process, and to Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness for his continued courageous and visionary leadership.
Adams called for a “resounding yes” in the same-sex marriage referendum in the Republic on May 22. He said all citizens were entitled to equality before the law, regardless of background, sexual orientation or gender.
“That is why Sinn Fein supports marriage equality for LGBT citizens. Most people know a family member, work colleague or a neighbor who is gay and we love them for what they are,” he said.
A motion to allow pregnancy termination in cases of Fatal Fetal Abnormality (FFA) was endorsed by a comfortable majority of delegates as Adams and Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald voted from the stage in favor of it.
“For me, the decent thing, the right thing, the republican thing to do is to support this and afford those women, their partners and their families the dignity and small measure of comfort that choice represents for them,” McDonald said.
Kenny, addressing the Young Fine Gael national conference in Limerick, scotched claims by Sinn Fein that it will sweep into power in the next general election.
Kenny insisted he was confident that Fine Gael and Labor will be returned to power.