Pat Doherty is to stand down as Sinn Féin Vice President after over twenty years in that office.
“I am very proud to have held the position of Vice President of Sinn Féin since 1988 and to have been part of a republican leadership which has been responsible for so much positive change on the island,” he said.
“Ireland has been transformed over these years for the better.
“The peace process has delivered substantial change, north and south and it is the duty of political leaders across the island to ensure that the potential which now exists is delivered upon.
“I will of course continue to represent the people of West Tyrone as MP and MLA along with my colleagues Barry McElduff and Claire McGill and our many councillors across the constituency.
“There is also a duty on Republicans to complete the task of bringing about Irish reunification.
“Sinn Féin has established a Taskforce to bring focus and urgency to this task. The importance of this work cannot be underestimated and I intend to play as full a role as possible on this Task force.
“I want to thank all of those who supported me in my role as Vice President over the years and to wish the incoming National Officer Board well.”
The post of Vice-President is to be taken over by Sinn Féin’s MEP, Mary Lou McDonald. Gerry Adams paid tribute to Mr Doherty.
Mr Adams said: “Pat has served Sinn Féin in this office for over twenty years. He has been a consistent part of our leadership in good times and bad since the 1970s. I have no doubt he will continue to play a leadership role, in particular on our United Ireland Taskforce. I thank him for his hard work on the National Officer Board over the last two decades. I wish him and Mary Doc’ well.
Mr Adams said the Taskforce on Irish Unity was established to drive forward the United Ireland agenda.
“There is now a peaceful and democratic path to a United Ireland and republicans have a strategy in place to bring this about. It is the job of the taskforce to carry forward this work.”
He said the big challenge for Sinn Féin in the next decade was “to be nation builders” and to encourage a national conversation about the type of society that best suits the Irish people, both at home in Ireland and throughout the Diaspora.
“For the last number of years there has been a consistent, ongoing project to make Sinn Féin fit for purpose everywhere on the island and to make republicanism relevant to people in their daily lives; in my view, this has seen considerable progress.”
As part of the reorganisation, a reshuffle of the party’s officer board is to be confirmed by the party membership at next month’s Ard Fheis. Both Mr Adams and Martin McGuinness are to remain in their positions as Sinn Féin President and Deputy First Minister, respectively, and Caoimhghin O Caolain is also to remain as the party’s leader in the Dublin parliament.
Mr Adams said he would to serve as party leader “for as long at they’ll have me”, but said Sinn Féin was moving towards a younger and more Southern-based leadership.
He said he had taken no future decisions and the party had not yet decided whether it wished to contest the 2011 Presidential election in the South. The period will coincide with the centenary of the Easter Rising.
Mr Adams said: “It’s my intention to remain the party leader for as long as the party feels I have something to contribute. I take succour from the fact we have been part of important happenings on the island in recent years.”