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Mary Lou McDonald set to succeed Gerry Adams as Sinn Fein leader

Ms McDonald was confirmed as the sole candidate in the race Credit: PA

Mary Lou McDonald is set to succeed Gerry Adams as Sinn Fein's party president.

The Dublin Central TD was announced as the sole candidate nominated for the role following a party meeting on Saturday.

Nominations for the position closed at 5pm on Friday.

Her position will be ratified at a special party conference to be held on February 10.

It comes after Mr Adams announced in November he would step down in 2018, after 34 years at the helm.

Mrs McDonald, once described by her party colleague, Caral Ni Chuilin, as "one of the most formidable women in politics", had been a clear favourite to replace Mr Adams.

She is now set to be the party's first female leader.

Mrs McDonald had been a clear favourite to replace Mr Adams Credit: PA

Speaking at the Belfast meeting, Mrs McDonald told party members she had grown up "watching Gerry Adams on the telly" and "never would have guessed that come February 10 2018 that I would be the boss of him".

"I won't fill Gerry's shoes, but the news is that I brought my own," she said to applause.

Born in 1969, Mrs McDonald grew up in the affluent Rathgar area of Dublin and was educated at Notre Dame, a private fee-paying school in the city.

She is a graduate of Trinity College, University of Limerick and DCU.

She joined Fianna Fail in Dublin West in the late 1990s, but soon defected to Sinn Fein.

Mr Adams announced last year that he would step down as party leader Credit: PA

In 2002, Ms McDonald was Sinn Fein's candidate in Dublin West. She failed to win a seat in the Dail, the Irish parliament, but two years later made history by becoming the party's first MEP.

By 2009, she was deputy leader of Sinn Fein and in 2011 became a member of the Dail for Dublin Central.

Announcing Mrs McDonald as president elect of the party, Mr Adams told party members in Belfast that a united Ireland was not a "pipe dream".

He said: "It isn't. It's very real. It's very achievable. We can do it.

"It is for Sinn Fein - it is for this Cuige and others to keep a United Ireland on the political agenda south and north."