Gerry Adams says a united Ireland "has to be worked for"

He was speaking on his last night as Sinn Féin leader

Gerry Adams says a united Ireland "has to be worked for"

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams at Parliament Buildings in Stormont | Image: Brian Lawless/PA Wire/PA Images

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has given one of his final speeches as leader of the party.

Mr Adams thanked everyone who helped him during his 35 years as leader.

He was speaking from Stormont in Northern Ireland on Friday, his last evening as party leader.

He said: "I have been very fortunate to have known many very good people during that time and I am confident that the new leadership of the party - Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill - will help make Sinn Féin even bigger and stronger in the time ahead.

"There are many challenges facing the people of this island. Sinn Féin is the only major party committed to ending the crisis in our health services, in housing and homelessness and in rural communities.

"A united Ireland has to be worked for.

"Sinn Féin is about bringing the people of this island together in a new Republic, a new Ireland in which the rights of citizens are protected, where poverty is eradicated and where we can all live in peace and unity and equality."

Gerry Adams at the Irish Club in London at the launch of his autobiography in 1996 | Image: Tony Harris/PA Archive/PA Images

Looking back on his time in the party, he said: "50 years ago when I joined Sinn Féin it was a banned party."

"The nationalist people of the North had been abandoned and were subject to discrimination and inequality. We were on our knees. We are now off our knees. We have a Good Friday Agreement.

"It is in some difficulty at this time. But it offers the way forward.

"There is now a peaceful and democratic path to Irish unity. A way to unite orange and green and end division.

"Everyone who wants a new and agreed Ireland should embrace that.

"I believe the future is bright. I believe that we will find a way forward."

Gerry Adams is seen with Mary Lou McDonald (right) and Michelle O'Neill at the 2017 Sinn Fein Ard Fheis | Image: Photo

Commenting on the ongoing stalemate on an executive at Stormont, he said: "It isn't sorted out as we speak.

"We have made some progress but there are still considerable obstacles but as I said to our unionist friends this is the last chance agreement.

"They need to embrace the need for rights for everybody and agree a space where we can all moderate our differences."

Mr Adams announced last November that he would not be standing for the Dáil in the next election and that that would be his final Ard Fheis as leader.

Ms McDonald will be confirmed as the new leader of Sinn Féin on Saturday, as she was the only person nominated to succeed Mr Adams.