Gerry Adams to step down as Sinn Fein leader after 34 years

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams is surrounded by party colleagues after announcing his plans to stand down as leader in Dublin on Saturday. (AFP)
Updated 19 November 2017
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Gerry Adams to step down as Sinn Fein leader after 34 years

DUBLIN: Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams, a pivotal figure in the political life of Ireland for almost 50 years, said on Saturday he will step down as party leader and complete a generational shift in the former political wing of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
Reviled by many as the face of the IRA during its campaign against British rule in Northern Ireland, Adams reinvented himself as a peacemaker in the troubled region and then as a populist opposition parliamentarian in the Irish Republic.
Adams said he would be replaced as party president, a position he has held since 1983, at a party conference next year. He would also not stand for reelection to the Irish parliament.
“Republicanism has never been stronger... But leadership means knowing when it is time for change. That time is now,” Adams said in an emotional speech to a packed party conference.
Adams stayed on stage as the 2,500-strong crowd, some in tears, gave him a standing ovation and sang a traditional Irish song about the road home, followed by the national anthem.
Adams will almost certainly hand over to a successor with no direct involvement in the decades of conflict in Northern Ireland, a prospect that would make Sinn Fein a more palatable coalition partner in the Irish Republic where it has never been in power.
Deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald, an English literature graduate from Trinity College Dublin who has been at the forefront of a new breed of Sinn Fein politicians transforming the party’s image, is the clear favorite to take over.
That would mean the left-wing party being led on both sides of the Irish border by women in their 40s after Michelle O’Neill succeeded Martin McGuinness as leader in Northern Ireland shortly before the former IRA commander’s death in March.
Adams, who will turn 70 next October, has always denied membership of the IRA but accusations from former IRA fighters that he was involved in its campaign of killings have dogged him throughout his career.
Adams was a key figure in the nationalist movement throughout the three decades of violence between Catholic militants seeking a united Ireland, mainly Protestant militants who wanted to maintain Northern Ireland’s position as a part of Britain, and the British army.
3,600 died in the conflict, many at the hands of the IRA.
As head of the political wing of the IRA during its bombing campaigns in 1980s Britain, Adams was a pariah and banned from speaking on British airwaves, forcing television stations to dub his voice with that of an actor.
He and his party emerged from the political cold in October 1997 when he shook hands with Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair at their first meeting. A year later, he helped win skeptical elements in the IRA to the Good Friday peace deal, which largely ended the violence.
Since the peace deal Adams and McGuinness turned Sinn Fein from a fringe party into the dominant Irish nationalist party in Northern Ireland and the third largest party in south of the border.
While its anti-austerity platform led to a six-fold increase in its number of seats in the Republic — 23 out of 158 — suspicion of Sinn Fein’s role in the Northern Ireland troubles still runs deep and the far larger ruling Fine Gael and or main opposition Fianna Fail have ruled out governing alongside them.
Analysts say a change of leader could help open the way to Sinn Fein entering government in Dublin for the first time.
“Under a new Sinn Fein leader I think anything is possible,” said David Farrell, politics professor at University College Dublin.
A new Sinn Fein leader will also take over responsibility for rescuing power-sharing devolved government in Northern Ireland and avoid a return to full direct rule from London for the first time in decade.
Power-sharing collapsed after Sinn Fein withdrew in January saying the Democratic Unionist Party was not treating it as an equal partner and a series of talks have failed to break the impasse.


Philippine police: Gunmen kill 9 people who occupied farm

Updated 3 min 15 sec ago
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Philippine police: Gunmen kill 9 people who occupied farm

  • At least two of the victims may have fired back at the attackers because spent pistol and shotgun casings were found in the area
  • The National Federation of Sugar Workers condemned the killings of its members

BACOLOD, Philippines: Gunmen killed nine members of a farmers’ group who occupied part of a privately owned sugarcane plantation in a central Philippine province, police said Sunday.
The victims were resting in a hut Saturday night when about 10 gunmen opened fire, police said. At least four farmers survived the attack at the plantation in Sagay city in Negros Occidental province, which has a history of bloody land feuds.
“There are groups fighting over that land,” Sagay police Chief Inspector Roberto Mansueto said.
At least two of the victims may have fired back at the attackers because spent pistol and shotgun casings were found in the area, Mansueto said.
“Witnesses say they heard only a few initial shots. Apparently the victims were just being threatened,” Mansueto told reporters. “But later there seemed to have been an exchange of fire.”
The National Federation of Sugar Workers condemned the killings of its members, who included four women and two minors. The group said the victims were forced to plant vegetables and root crops to feed their families on idle land that’s covered by the government’s land reform program but remained undistributed to poor farmers.
Two other peasant leaders belonging to the federation were killed in Sagay city last December and in February this year by suspected pro-government forces, the group said. It said that about 45 farmers asserting their land rights have been killed on Negros island under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.
Instead of offering an effective land reform program, Duterte’s government “red baits those who assert their rights to the land,” the group said, referring to pronouncements by civilian and military officials linking protesting farmers to communist guerrillas.
There was no immediate government reaction. Regional police chief Superintendent John Bulalacao condemned Saturday’s attack and said everything was being done to ensure the rapid arrest of the killers.
In September 1985, government forces opened fire on protesters, many of them farmers, in Negros Occidental province as they were commemorating the 1972 declaration of martial law by then-President Ferdinand Marcos. Several died in an event that left-wing activists still mark each year.