Thousands expected for Sinn Fein Ard Fheis

Sinn Fein party president Gerry Adams.
Sinn Fein party president Gerry Adams.

Up to 2,000 visitors are expected in Derry this weekend for Sinn Fein’s first-ever Ard Fheis in the city.

The annual event takes place at the Millennium Forum both today (Friday) and tomorrow.

The highlight of the event is Gerry Adams’ presidential address on Saturday evening (8.30 p.m.) which will be broadcast live on both BBC and RTE television.

Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald says the party is delighted to be holding its Ard Fheis in Derry for the first time.

She added: “Over the last few years, as the party has grown from strength to strength, we have held Ard Fheiseanna in Wexford, Kerry, Mayo and Belfast. We will be returning to Dublin next year for the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising.

“Over the weekend we expect up to 2,000 visitors to come to Derry for the Ard Fheis. On Friday and Saturday, we will be discussing 218 motions on a number of key themes including standing with communities against austerity, delivering a fair recovery and 2016 and building a United Ireland.”

Over the weekend we expect up to 2,000 visitors to come to Derry for the Ard Fheis. On Friday and Saturday, we will be discussing 218 motions on a number of key themes including standing with communities against austerity, delivering a fair recovery and 2016 and building a United Ireland.

Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald

The party will also hold eight fringe meetings over the weekend with a range of invited speakers on a number of issues including the future of the Irish language, Palestine, women for independence and unity, collusion, and the all-Ireland economy.

Fifty-two exhibitors and more than 30 campaign groups will be in attendance at the weekend event, as well as a wide range of international guests and members of the diplomatic corps.

Among the invited guests who will addressing the Ard Fheis are Euclid Tsakalotos (Syriza Foreign Minister for International Economic Relations), Ahmad Abdelrakez (Palestinian Ambassador), Gorka Elejabarrieta (Basque Country) and Sue van der Merwe (ANC).

Sinn Fein’s Gearóid Ó hEára says an Ard Fheis in Derry underscores the party’s increasing political strength in the city.

“It also reinforces the reality that Derry is now a republican city,” he said.

“Derry has contributed greatly to the growth of Sinn Féin in recent years and party activists from the city are involved at every level of the party, providing leadership and shaping the decisions taken nationally.

“As someone who has attended ard fheiseanna across Ireland for many years, it is a great honour to welcome the 2015 ard fheis to Derry.”

It’s estimated the Ard Fheis will bring more than £1 million to the city with hotels, restaurants, bars and others in the hospitality sector benefiting from the number of additional visitors.