Gerry Adams To Run For Dail
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams will seek election to the Dail in Co. Louth (Photocall)
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has surprised political observers by announcing that he is making a bid for election in the Republic of Ireland.
Mr Adams will quit his seat in the Northern Ireland Assembly in a bid to seek election to the Dail, and if he wins, he will give up his seat in the UK parliament at Westminster.
It's a major political gamble for the 62-year-old, who has taken a back seat to party colleague and deputy first minister Martin McGuinness in Northern politics in recent years.
The West Belfast politician wants to run in the constituency of Louth in the next general election, due in 2012, but widely expected early next year.
Sinn Fein's Arthur Morgan currently holds a seat in the Louth constituency, but he announced last week that he was stepping down to concentrate on "family business".
Mr Adams, 62, said he felt it was his duty to step forward at a time of economic crisis for the country.
"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," he said.
He said that if he won a seat, he would move from his current west Belfast home to live and work in Louth.
At the last election in 2007, Arthur Morgan won 15% of the vote in the constituency, which is also the home of Justice Minister Dermot Ahern (FF), Ceann Comhairle Seamus Kirk (FF) and Fergus O'Dowd (FG).
Seamus Kirk is automatically re-elected because of he is the sitting Ceann Comhairle.
Sinn Fein currently has four TDs in the Dail.
Their candidate in Dublin North East, Pierce Doherty is favourite to pick up that seat in a by-election later this month.
The decision by Adams to run in Louth is a major political gamble, as there is no guarantee of success despite a strong support base for his party in the constituency.
Mr Adams performed terribly when questioned on economic issues during a TV leaders' debate before the last general election in 2007.
And while his personal approval ratings are high in opinion polls, many in the Republic view "Sinn Fein" as a northern party, and Mr Adams as a politician from another jurisdiction.
Questions are also likely to be raised during the election about his alleged involvement in the disappearance of Jean McConville, a widow who was abducted, murdered and secretly buried by the IRA in 1972.
Her body was found three decades later at beach in the Co. Louth constituency, and a late IRA veteran claimed on tape before he died that Mr Adams gave the order for her killing.
Gerry Adams has always denied any involvement in her death, and even denies ever having been a member of the IRA.
Mr Adams played a crucial role in the Northern Irish peace process, and was key to helping Sinn Fein become the largest nationalist party.
He now hopes to capitalise on a swing to left-wing politics expected in the next election.
Polls show Labour making huge gains, and potentially becoming the largest party.
Mr Adams' presence in the campaign could provide a boost to Sinn Fein candidates around the country.