Gerry Adams, the president of the Irish republican party Sinn Fein, announced Saturday, November 18, 2017 in Dublin that he will step down from the post in 2018. The 69-year-old veteran of his party’s struggle to end the partition of Ireland told party members that a special meeting would be called next year to elect a successor.
“Leadership means knowing when it is time for change and that time is now,” Adams said as he made the announcement, which was received by a standing ovation by party members.
“I have always seen myself as a team player, as a team builder. I have complete confidence in the leaders we have elected this weekend and in the next generation of leaders.
“I want to thank everyone who has welcomed me into their homes and communities and have made me part of countless campaigns, countless elections and countless negotiations.”
Adams also said he will not seek re-election to the Irish parliament, the Dail, in the next general election.
Adams said the move was part of an ongoing leadership transition within the party formulated with former Sinn Fein politician Martin McGuinness before his death in March this year. The plan has already seen 40-year-old Michelle O’Neill take the role of Sinn Fein’s leader at Stormont.
The announcement comes as Northern Ireland tries to form a new devolved government after inconclusive elections earlier this year failed to break a power-sharing impasse.
Sinn Fein has worked with its rival Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) since 2007, but the arrangement collapsed in January after DUP leader Arlene Foster refused to cede to Sinn Fein’s demands to step aside.
Adams, who has led Northern Ireland’s second biggest political party for more than 30 years, has often been a controversial figure.
A native of Belfast, he played an important role in making the Irish Republican Army (IRA) agree to a permanent ceasefire in the 1990s. He has consistently denied he was ever a member of the group, but has justified murders carried out by them in the past.