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SOCIAL BOOKMARKS

SF leader McDonald insists 'the war is over' and the past must never again be repeated

Mary Lou McDonald has been officially confirmed as Sinn Féin president.

Mary Lou McDonald acknowledges the applause of delegates as she is elected as Sinn Fein's president at the party's special conference at the RDS in Dublin.

Update 5.43pm:Mary Lou McDonald was officially confirmed as the new Sinn Féin leader at a special Ard Fheis earlier today, stating the party's goals of achieving a United Ireland.

The new party leader insisted that the war is over and that the past must never again be repeated.

"We cannot allow those who want to use the past to maintain division and inequality to have their way. There is no value in re-fighting the battles of the past. The war is over. There is no value in engaging in the blame game," she said.

"We do not have to agree on the past. There is no single historical narrative. We must only agree that the past is never again repeated. On other things we can agree to disagree."

Her comments came as she praised the work of Martin McGuinness and vowed to build on the work of the former Deputy First Minister.

"I want to build on the work of Martin McGuinness," she said.

"For us to reach out the hand of friendship, to find common ground. But we cannot do this on our own. We need partners for reconciliation.

"The governments and the other parties must demonstrate leadership. Community leaders and civic society must be empowered to play their part.

Update 3.53pm: Mary Lou McDonald was officially ratified as the new Sinn Féin leader at a special Ard Fheis in the RDS in Dublin this afternoon.

Around 2,000 delegates gathered at the conference for the historic handing over of the presidency.

In her first speech as the new party leader Mrs McDonald said she wanted to secure and win a referendum on Irish unity.

"I want us to achieve this with respect, graciousness and generosity.

"Irish unity cannot be a crude exercise of simply stitching north to south and returning to business as usual.

"We do not want a 32-county free state. We want a new Ireland, in which rights are guaranteed, cultures respected and the diversity of our identities embraced," she added.

She said that as a new generation takes the reins of Sinn Féin leadership it was now time to bring "innovative and modern ways of advancing our politics."

"Now is the time for fresh thinking and bold ideas to take us forward," she said.

"Our focus must be on building Sinn Fein into an organisation that is fit for purpose, and our purpose is to win, to win elections, to increase our political strength, to realise our ambition of being in government north and south, to win progressive political victories every single day. And ultimately to win Irish unity."

Mrs McDonald warned that Brexit represents a real threat to the prosperity, economic, social and political life of Ireland.

"It fundamentally challenges 20 years of hard-won progress.

"There can be no imposition of a border on the island of Ireland.

"Ireland will not be the collateral damage in the political games and antics of Tories in London," she added.

Referring to the political crisis at Stormont she insisted that Sinn Féin is "up for a deal".

She said: "We are committed to real powersharing, to working for agreement with our unionist partners.

"We want the Assembly and Executive up and running. This can only happen on the basis of equality, respect and integrity for all.

"The talks are ongoing. The Sinn Fein team is committed to positive outcome," she said.

Paying tribute to Mr Adams, who announced in November that he would be stepping aside after 34 years in the role, Mrs McDonald said: "There would be no Good Friday Agreement, no peace process without Gerry Adams. My political mentor. An inspirational leader. A great friend.

"When others said it was impossible, Gerry Adams, along with Martin McGuinness, John Hume and indeed others, bravely walked the path to peace."

Update 3.33pm: Taking to the stage to address her fellow delegates for the first time as Uachtarán Shinn Féin at the special Ard Fheis this afternoon, Mary Lou McDonald said: "I firmly believe ‘that it takes the village to raise the child. I believe in fair play, in compassion and that, despite our differences, we are all equal.

"I believe in the unity of our nation in all its colours and the unity of our people."

The newly elected party leader said that she also wants to build on the work of Martin McGuinness and find common ground.

"We cannot allow those who want to use the past to maintain division and inequality to have their way."

She said that Sinn Fin must be reflective of the society we live in and focus on building the party into an organisation that is fit for purpose.

"Our purpose is to win. To win elections, to increase our political strength, to realise our ambition of being in government, north and south," she said.

"There can be no imposition of a border on the island of Ireland, that message must go loud and clear from our Ard Fheis today.

"Ireland will not be the collateral damage in the political games and antics of Tories in London."

Earlier: Deputy McDonald was elected without opposition at a special Ard Fheis in Dublin this afternoon.

Michelle O’Neill has been officially elected Vice President of Sinn Féin at the party's Ard Fhéis.

In the next few minutes the party is expected to confirm Mary Lou McDonald as President.

It comes as Gerry Adams today steps down as leader after more than 34 years in the post.

Ms O'Neill has been involved in republican politics from her teens, has held various senior positions within Sinn Féin and has a background in social welfare issues.

She was elected to the devolved Assembly in 2007 following the restoration of powersharing after years of back-room work for former assembly member Francie Molloy.

The mother-of-two was the first woman to hold the position of mayor of Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council and also one of the youngest.

Dublin Central TD Mary Lou McDonald will officially replace Mr Adams at the party conference in the RDS in Dublin this afternoon.

Mrs McDonald was the sole nominee to take over the reigns of the republican party.