Sinn Féin is aiming to increase its number of seats in the Dublin parliament by at least three in the next general election as the party brushed off suggestions of internal unrest following a meeting in Navan, County Meath, this week.
Some 100 members of the Sinn Féin archomhairle (high council) and selected activists from all over Ireland joined leaders Mr Adams, Martin McGuinness, party vice-president Ms McDonald and Dail leader Caoimhghin O Caolain primarily for a moral-building meeting following unease over election setbacks and recent defections.
European election candidate Toireasa Ferris, identified both inside and outside the party as a potential ‘trouble maker’, denied she had any intention to criticise the Northern leadership recently.
“We are no way partitionist when we come to leadership,” she declared.
“The perception is there that we are a Northern-based party. But look at the leadership we have in the South - Mary Lou McDonald and Pearse Doherty, for example,” she said.
Cavan-Monaghan TD Mr O Caolain said the aim was to try to increase representation in the Dail from four to at least seven in the next general election.
Seats that Sinn Féin is targeting include Donegal South West and Donegal North East and Dublin Central. The party is also hoping to regain the seat that Sean Crowe lost in Dublin South West at the last election.
Mr O Caolain said it was important to have at least seven Dail seats as this gave Sinn Féin “technical group” status where it would have extra powers in the Dublin parliament.
Martin McGuinness also lashed out at high-profile members such as Christy Burke and Louise Minihan who had recently resigned. He said “the resignations came from people who put themselves before the party”.
Mr Adams denied the party is in trouble in the 26 Counties.
“Clearly as a political party we encourage creative, honest direct debate,” he claimed.
“The party is united about what we want and where we want to go. Obviously there are different opinions on how we should get there and that’s a very, very healthy thing for a political party,” he added.
Speaking to journalists before the meeting, Mr Adams admited that regaining lost ground in Dublin is crucial. Following the local elections and subsequent defections, the party is down to three seats on Dublin city council, a level not seen for decades.
“Dublin is ultra-important because if you can get a critical active campaigning organisation there you are more likely to get publicity, to get the media exposure and so on.”
He accused rival republican groups of engaging “old-fashioned physical forcism” and claimed the ‘Real IRA’ and Continuity IRA recently killed two British soldiers and a member of the PSNI “almost because it could be done”.
He said the IRA groups may have been motivated by “vanity” and claimed that there had been no attempt by the republican groups to justify the actions.
“You get these two soldiers killed, but for what reason? You get the police officer killed, for what reason? Almost because it could be done. Did anybody come forward? Did anyone stand up and make themselves available to rationalise or argue about what they did? I think that’s wrong,” he said.
“Say what you want about Sinn Féin but we stood toe-to-toe with anyone when we thought it was the right thing to do, for those who wanted to, to engage in armed actions. When we thought there was another way of doing it we also went in and argued and debated it out,” he added.
Mr Adams said he would have no difficulty with republicans who would organise politically. “But I have no time at all for those who are just going to put young guys in prison for no good reason, or put people in graves for no good reason.”
NO TO LISBON
The party also confirmed its intention to campaign against the re-run of the Lisbon treaty. Mr Adams said the treaty had not changed in substance.
The party’s Vice President Mary Lou McDonald said that following the defeat of the Lisbon Treaty in 2008, Sinn Féin had urged the 26-County Taoiseach Brian Cowen to use the “strong mandate” given to him by the electorate to go to his European counterparts and secure a better deal.
“However, as with their mismanagement of the economy, the government spent the following twelve months dithering and delaying, ultimately wasting the opportunity given to it by the voters.
“Instead of a better deal, the Irish government has returned with exactly the same Treaty as before. Not a single word has been changed. The so-called legally binding guarantees tell us nothing new and change nothing.
“What has changed, however, is the economic crisis that has engulfed Ireland, the EU and the wider world.
“Twenty years of right wing market fundamentalism has come to an end and with it the politicians and policies that caused the crisis are now being challenged. These same politicians were responsible for the Lisbon Treaty and the right wing economic policies they promoted are contained within its pages.
“Sinn Féin believes that a better deal is still possible, and that now, more than ever, a new Treaty is required. The Lisbon Treaty is part of the failed economic consensus of the past. We need a new Treaty for the new times in which we find ourselves.”
* Sinn Féin also said this week it will not be renewing leases on London flats after the party’s abstentionist MPs hit the headlines for claiming accommodation expenses.
“The leases on the two London properties used by Sinn Féin MPs have now expired,” said Newry and Armagh MP Conor Murphy.
“The party has taken a decision not to renew these leases and instead our MPs will use hotel accommodation when in London on constituency business.
“We have recently reviewed the issue of accommodation for Sinn Féin MPs in London in the context of best value for public money, security and the reduction in MPs’ accommodation allowance as of May this year.”