Sinn Fein have denied growing speculation that Gerry Adams is preparing to step down as party leader.
Sources in the Irish media say Mr Adams, 67, was considering stepping aside as he continues to be associated with IRA atrocities.
And according to reports there has been growing speculation among Belfast republicans that Mr Adams is preparing to step down to allow the ‘softer’ face of Sinn Fein to emerge.
The continued existence of the IRA became a significant issue after the murder of IRA leader Gerard ‘Jock’ Davison in Belfast last May and the murder of another former IRA man Kevin McGuigan in August.
The PSNI blamed the IRA and in August Detective Superintendent Kevin Geddes said a major line of inquiry was that members of PIRA were involved.
Meanwhile, the continued existence of the IRA and its Army Council was confirmed by an independent security review team set up by the Government.
It has also been speculated that Mr Adams was preparing to step aside to allow an ‘interim’ leader – probably Mary Lou McDonald – to lead the party into the irish general election.
However, a Sinn Fein spokesman denied speculation that Mr Adams is preparing to step down in a statement to the Sunday Independent.
He said: “Gerry Adams will be contesting the next election as leader of Sinn Fein to represent the people of Louth and to lead a progressive government to deliver a fair recovery.”
A spokesman for Sinn Fein also told the News Letter: “Gerry Adams has been elected at successive Ard Fheis since 1983 and there is no reason why that will not continue.
“The Ard Fheis will be later in the spring. There is no date confirmed for it yet with the election going on and centenary celebrations. But he will stand for leadership at that Ard Fheis.”
Mr Adams was elected MP for west Belfast in 1983.