The historic ard fheis, planned for Sunday, Jan. 28, will be asked to endorse a resolution agreed by the party ard comhairle which, the Sinn Fein leadership hopes, will pave the way towards restoring power-sharing by the end of March this year.
Despite negative and hostile DUP reactions to the original plans for the ard fheis, Adams has personally concluded that it should go ahead anyhow – and managed to persuade two-thirds of a reconvened ard comhairle to press ahead.
A vote of 50 per cent plus one would carry the ard fheis, which will be attended by an estimated 2,000 delegates. To achieve a convincing endorsement, and to avoid a potential split, however, Adams needs to carry by two-thirds support.
The motion that will be put to the ard fheis includes support for the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the criminal justice system as well as joining the Policing Board and the district policing partnerships.
But the response from the DUP was, at best, half-hearted. DUP leader, Ian Paisley, said the party should stop “codding” people and get on with it, adding that he would judge its commitment by actions on the ground.
“I have repeatedly indicated that there must be delivery from Sinn Fein on supporting the police,” Paisley said. He also denied Adams’ contention that the DUP had been involved in amending the proposal to the first ard comhairle meeting.
Adams said that three amendments had been made at the DUP’s behest in December and that negotiations had been carried on between the two parties via the British government and an unnamed “independent channel.”
Paisley said, however, that there had “been no commitment in private from me that goes beyond my recent numerous public statements and comments. I am not in the business of saying one thing in private and another in public.
“It is time for Sinn Fein to get down to business and deliver support for the police, the courts and the rule of law. Delivery from them, instead of delay and diversion, can help to start building confidence” he said.
Other DUP voices were even more hostile to Sinn Fein’s move, including that of the party’s member of the European Parliament, Jim Allister. “True to form,” he said, “Sinn Fein is bowling short.”
The ard fheis resolution, he said “makes all its trumpeted support for policing conditional on its demands on power-sharing and devolution of policing and justice first being met.”
The key sentence, said Allister, is: “That the ard comhairle is mandated to implement this motion only when the power-sharing institutions are established and when the ard chomhairle is satisfied that the policing and justice powers will be transferred.
“What this amounts to is that the DUP jumps first by permitting Sinn Fein into government before they will deign to support the police. This is not acceptable.”
The ard chomhairle decision, however, has already caused disquiet in some republican heartlands with 12 people coming forward to say they will run as alternative candidates to Sinn Fein in the March Assembly elections.
One of these is Paul McGlinchey, a former Sinn F