Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has today announced his decision to put his name forward for the Sinn Fein nomination for the Louth constituency at the next 26-County General Election.
In a significant political move by Sinn Fein, he will also immediately resign from the Six County Assembly and abdicate his West Belfast seat at Westminster at the next election to the Dublin parliament, widely expected to be called by next Spring.
Mr Adams is seeking to succeed Sinn Fein TD Arthur Morgan, who announced last week he would not be seeking re-election.
Speaking to reporters, Mr Adams said his decision was prompted by the economic crisis facing the 26 Counties.
Mr Adams was also speaking today at the Edentubber commemoration in County Louth.
“Ireland is at a crossroads. This state is in the midst of a deep economic and social crisis. This Government is probably the most unpopular in the history of the state. It is now implementing bad, deeply damaging policies. It has no mandate whatsoever for this.
There is a better way. Together we can rebuild Ireland.
People need to make a stand against what is happening. We need a better way forward for our country and its people.
All this imposes a huge responsibility on those of us in positions of political leadership. In the past I have asked people to step forward and to show leadership.
I have asked people to make a stand. I believe that it is my duty at this critical time to step forward and do what I have asked of others.
As Leader of Sinn Fein, I want to be part of the necessary fight-back against bad economic policies in both parts of this island and for a fair, decent and united society for all the people of Ireland.
As a representative of west Belfast I should be able to do this in the Dail, but the Irish government refuses to allow this, despite a commitment during the Good Friday Agreement negotiations and subsequently, by the then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern that he would introduce measures to allow speaking rights for MPs from the north.
So, as Leader of the only all Ireland party with an all-island mandate I have a choice to make whether to stay in west Belfast, a place that I love, or to seek a mandate in another constituency in the south. West Belfast is my home. It is where Colette and our family are and where I live.
But after thoughtful consideration, and with the support of colleagues, I have decided to put my name forward for the Louth. If elected for this constituency I will work and stay here and travel home when possible.
This means that I will be stepping down as an MLA for west Belfast. My replacement will be chosen this week. I am proud and honoured to have represented the people of west Belfast in the Assembly. I will remain as MP until the next Leinster House election.
This is a significant initiative by the Sinn Fein leadership. It is a measure of our determination to provide a real alternative to the consensus for cuts being pushed by the other parties.
Ireland needs political change. We need change in the Dail. We need more voices that will stand up against the consensus for cuts - more voices that will stand up for ordinary people. We need new politics. We need a political realignment.
A change of government without a change in policies will be worthless.
A Fine Gael led government, propped up by the Labour Party is not a real alternative.
Fine Gael and Labour offer nothing that is substantially different from the current government. They are part of the consensus for cuts.
Sinn Fein is the only effective opposition in the Dail. We forced this government to hold the Donegal South West by-election.We have shifted the debate on the economy by rejecting the consensus for cuts, and producing a costed, viable economic programme that can protect the vulnerable and low and middle income earners, while stimulating the economy and creating jobs.
This is a small island. The problems faced by citizens throughout the country are the same.
We have a republic only in name.
Sinn Fein is a republican party. We believe that a republic must first and foremost be about the welfare of the community. This includes access to a decent public health service and the protection of vulnerable people such as the old, the sick and those with disabilities.
It also includes at this time of crisis those who are economically vulnerable -- including low and middle income earners - a group that is growing in number by the day because of the bad policies pursued by this Government.
As the leader of Sinn Fein, in this time of crisis in our country, I am making a stand with this initiative -- a stand for a better, fairer, united Ireland. I believe that things can be turned around. That there is a better way.
Look at the progress that has been made in the north. The peace process has shown what is possible. The North has been transformed for the better. Sinn Fein has led that transformation. We have demonstrated what is possible when people work together in the common good, in the national interest, and for the benefit of all.
Our focus at this time is on tackling the mistakes of this government and providing a real alternative to the Fianna Fail lite policies of Fine Gael and Labour.
Whether it is charting a way out of conflict or striving to rebuild the economy, Sinn Fein is about improving the quality of people’s lives.
This must be the guide for the reconstruction of Ireland in the years ahead.
I intend to lead from the front.
The people of Ireland face enormous challenges at this time. But we are no mean people and I am confident that with clear headed leadership and sound economic policies we can rebuild the economy and return prosperity.
I want to pay tribute to Arthur Morgan who, for the past 8 years has been a first class representative for the people of Louth and an outstanding member of Sinn Fein’s Dail team.
I first met Arthur in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh where he was incarcerated for his republican beliefs.
I want to pay tribute to Marian. Without her Arthur could not have played the role that he has done over the years.
He will continue to play an important role in Sinn Fein. His experience and talent will be available to this party in Louth and nationally in the time ahead.”