Power play opens up SF pol­icy shift on abor­tion and coali­tion

Belfast Telegraph - - NEWS - BY SUZANNE BREEN PO­LIT­I­CAL EDI­TOR

SINN Fein is pre­par­ing for a ma­jor pol­icy shift which would al­low it to be­come a ju­nior part­ner in an Ir­ish Gov­ern­ment.

The party’s cur­rent po­si­tion is that it will en­ter a coali­tion only as the largest party.

How­ever, a mo­tion at this week­end’s ard fheis pro­poses chang­ing that.

The res­o­lu­tion from the party’s ard chomhairle says a fu­ture de­ci­sion about en­ter­ing a coali­tion gov­ern­ment with a “progressive repub­li­can pro­gramme” will be made by a special post-elec­tion ard fheis.

In what will be a mo­men­tous gath­er­ing of the party in Dublin, Gerry Adams is also set to an­nounce when he will step down as pres­i­dent.

De­tails of the “time­line for gen­er­a­tional change” will be dis­closed in his ad­dress in the RDS on Satur­day night.

Sinn Fein said 170 mo­tions would be de­bated by around 3,000 mem­bers and vis­i­tors at “the big­gest ard fheis the party has ever had”, which will fea­ture a guest speaker from Cat­alo­nia.

The party is ex­pected to lib­er­alise its pol­icy on abor­tion, which will put sub­stan­tial pres­sure on the SDLP to fol­low suit.

Done­gal TD Pearse Do­herty, who was seen as a po­ten­tial can­di­date for the party lead­er­ship,

yes­ter­day ruled him­self out of the race.

“At this point in time, if there were a va­cancy I would not be run­ning for that po­si­tion,” he said.

Deputy leader Mary Lou McDon­ald is the clear favourite to suc­ceed Mr Adams.

Mr Do­herty said the ard chomhairle’s mo­tion opened up the pos­si­bil­ity of Sinn Fein be­com­ing a ju­nior coali­tion part­ner or en­ter­ing a con­fi­dence and sup­ply ar­range­ment af­ter the next Dail elec­tions.

“Sinn Féin wants to be in gov­ern­ment north and south,” he said. “We’re will­ing to talk to any in­di­vid­ual or any party who are will­ing to build the houses, to re­open the hos­pi­tal beds, to end the wait­ing lists and de­liver on Ir­ish unity. They are the ma­jor

is­sues we want to see tack­led in Ir­ish so­ci­ety.”

Abor­tion will be hotly de­bated with eight mo­tions on the is­sue. The ard chomhairle res­o­lu­tion calls for abor­tion to be per­mit­ted when a woman’s “life, health or men­tal health” is at se­ri­ous risk or in cases of fa­tal foetal ab­nor­mal­ity and rape.

How­ever, around 20 cumann are ask­ing for mem­bers to be able to vote ac­cord­ing to their con­science and not be bound by party pol­icy on the is­sue.

And any change of pol­icy will cause con­flict be­tween Sinn Fein and its lead­ing pro-life TD Peadar Toibin.

An ard chomhairle mo­tion also calls for the party to draw up a pol­icy on “end of life is­sues in­clud­ing pro­pos­als to al­low a per­son who is ter­mi­nally ill to be as­sisted to die where that is their de­clared in­ten­tion and they have clearly and freely given their con­sent”.

And a Derry mo­tion calls for the re­lease of dis­si­dent repub­li­can pris­oner Tony Tay­lor, who has been in Maghaberry Prison since his li­cence was re­voked 20 months ago.

While an ard chomhairle res­o­lu­tion sup­ports the PSNI, it ex­presses con­cern at “cur­rent trends in the North to­wards an over-em­pha­sis on the hard end of polic­ing at the ex­pense of the con­cerns and pri­or­i­ties of lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties”.

A mo­tion from the na­tional youth com­mit­tee op­poses the low­er­ing of cor­po­ra­tion tax in North­ern Ire­land.

An­other res­o­lu­tion, mean­while, calls on the party to “have no more meet­ings or deal­ings with the right-wing party Likud” or any Is­raeli group supporting “the in­creased ex­pan­sion of il­le­gal Is­raeli set­tle­ments on Pales­tinian lands”.

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