Gerry Adams' three decades at the helm of the Sinn Fein party have come to an end with Mary Lou McDonald taking over as leader.

McDonald, the first woman to lead the party, is also the first Sinn Fein leader with no direct connection to Ireland's period of violence known as the Troubles. Her confirmation came at a conference Saturday in Dublin attended by 2,000 delegates.

The end of Adams' tenure marks a new era for the political party, which wants to unite the United Kingdom's Northern Ireland with the republic to the south.

Adams, who announced in November he was stepping down after 34 years, was the key figure in the peace process that saw the signing of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and the formation of a power-sharing government in Northern Ireland.