Friday, January 12, 2018

Looking for a job?

If you are a member of Sinn Féin, and are interested in an unwaged job, you now have until Friday January 19th to submit your nomination papers for the position of Uachtarán Shinn Féin. As most readers will know two months ago at the November Ard Fheis I told the party membership that it was my intention to step down as Uachtaráin Shinn Féin in the New Year. I asked the incoming Ard Chomhairle to organise a special Ard Fheis to elect a new leader.
There was intense media speculation about when this would happen. The media especially love to speculate – frequently dressing up their guessing with words like ‘it is believed’ or ‘it is understood’ and ‘sources close to the leadership’ or ‘well-placed sources.’ Not infrequently, especially by those renowned for their anti-Sinn Féin bias, it is all just invented.
Some suggested that my departure could take up to a year or that I wouldn’t stand down until the negotiations in the North had concluded, for good or ill. I have to say that none of that played any part in my decision. My one consideration was to provide the new leader with sufficient time to prepare him or herself for the next general election in the South.
I was and am entirely confident and comfortable in the ability of Michelle O’Neill and her team in the North to negotiate with the DUP, the British and Irish governments and manage the challenge of finding a resolution to the crisis here.
Just before Christmas the new Ard Chomhairle of the party met and decided on the timetable for the leadership election. Earlier this week our National Chairperson Declan Kearney announced that the Special Ard Fheis will be on February 10th in the RDS in Dublin. The nomination process for the vacancy for Uachtaráin Shinn Féin opened on Monday morning.
There are two weeks for anyone thinking of running for the job to secure the necessary support for nomination. For a candidate to be nominated they must be a member of the party for a minimum of one year and have renewed their membership for 2018. The prospective candidates also require the support of at least ten of the 300 plus registered cumainn across the island (cumann are essentially local branches) or the support of two registered comhairle ceantair (the next tier of middle leadership that co-ordinates the work of Cumainn in its district). 
There will then be a three week period for the candidates to speak to the party membership at specially convened regional meetings where candidates can debate their respective vision for the party and for the future. On Saturday February 10th each cumann will send three voting delegates to the Ard Fheis. Each of the 50 or so Comhairlí Ceantair will send two voting delegates. And the four Cúigí, representing the four European Parliament constituencies on the island of Ireland, also have two votes each at the special Ard Fheis.
In addition, the 12 directly elected members of the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle will have one vote each, as will the Uachtarán and Leas Uachtarán, and the two treasurers and secretary. That means up to 1200 Sinn Féin members will participate in the democratic process of electing the next leader of the party.
The new leader of Sinn Féin will face many challenges, some of these internal to the party as we seek to continue to grow in political strength and improve the skills of our activists. It is a fact that Sinn Féin is electorally and organisationally stronger than at any time since partition. This is as a result of the great team of political activists that we have consciously developed over recent years. We have to build on this and make Sinn Féin, as a national movement, fit for purpose.
There are also external challenges facing the new leader. These include the need to agree a positive outcome to the negotiations to restore the power sharing, partnership institutions in the North; the all-island bodies established by the Good Friday Agreement; preparing the party for a general election in the 26 counties and potential elections in the North; and charting a course through the madness that is Brexit.
As the only all-island republican party committed to a United Ireland the Good Friday Agreement provides the means by which an end to the Union can be achieved. Political and demographic changes in the North and the outworking of Brexit mean that there is a greater interest in, and willingness to be open to, the possibility of a United Ireland. This is our primary political and strategic national objective and nothing will change that until we achieve that.
So, this is an exciting time to be an Irish republican and to be part of the process of renewal and regeneration in the party. On February 10th we will have a new party leader who will bring their own unique style and vision to the party.
With a new leader at the helm I am confident that Sinn Féin will grow even bigger and stronger in the time ahead. So, if you want a new future, a better future, a future determined by citizens, and not by elites in Dublin or London, then join me and twelve thousand others in Sinn Féin as we write a new and defining chapter in the history of our nation.

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