Sinn Fein set to run for Irish presidency

Gerry Adams: "Across this island, more and more people are looking to Sinn Fein for leadership"

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has indicated his party will put forward a candidate for the Irish presidency for the first time.

Speaking at his party's annual conference in Belfast, Mr Adams said the office should not be a "trophy" for the political establishment.

Voters go to the polls next month to choose a successor to two-term president Mary McAleese.

Sinn Fein currently are the fourth largest party in the Irish Republic.

Analysis

The prospect of a Sinn Fein candidate in the Irish presidential race shows they are now part of the political establishment.

The days when the voices of their leaders were banned from TV and radio seem a long time ago.

As the fourth largest party in Ireland, they would only have an outside chance of winning the presidential election. However, the party will be hoping to build on the 10% of the vote it won in the recent Irish general election.

Much will depend on the candidate they pick. Fermanagh-South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has been mentioned, but the party may prefer someone better known south of the border.

Mr Adams added: "Across this island more and more people are looking to Sinn Fein for leadership. In my view Sinn Fein should support the nomination of a candidate to be President of Ireland.

"A candidate who is capable of winning the support of progressive and nationalist opinion.

"And who will reflect the broad republican spirit of the Irish people at this time."

BBC Ireland correspondent Mark Simpson said that although Sinn Fein's chances of winning the presidency were low, they dramatically increased their support at the last election, trebling their seat tally in the Irish parliament.

Among those thought to be in the running for the Sinn Fein candidacy is the Westminster MP for Fermanagh-South Tyrone, Michelle Gildernew.

Mr Adams also used his speech to criticise the Irish government's handling of the country's economic crisis and to call on the British government to fulfill commitments to the peace process in Northern Ireland.

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