Sinn Fein

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Posted by bender 03/09/2009 @ 00:14

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News headlines
McGuinness pays tribute to Stormont's former IRA prisoners - Belfast Telegraph
The Sinn Fein politician addressed an event in Park, Co Londonderry, commemorating the 1981 republican hunger strike in the Maze prison where 10 men starved themselves to death in a controversial protest for political status. He told the supporters who...
Sinn Féin and Fine Gael in tight race for top spot - Irish Times
COUNTY COUNCIL PROFILE: MONAGHAN: MONAGHAN WAS unique among counties in returning Sinn Féin as the biggest party at the local elections in 2004. The party garnered 31 per cent of the vote, just ahead of Fine Gael with 30 per cent, leaving Fianna Fáil...
Belfast tourism podcast 'biased' - BBC News
Sinn Fein accused her of risking wasting £100000 in taxpayers' money. However, the minister said the commentary provided for west Belfast was neither accurate nor balanced, but was biased towards one community. Mrs Foster said one section referred to...
More Armani than Armalite as Ferris turns on the charm - Irish Times
Sinn Féin European election candidate for Ireland South Toireasa Ferris canvassing in Cork city centre yesterday. Photograph: Daragh macsweeney/Provision EARLIER THIS year, Toireasa Ferris told a party conference that Sinn Féin needed to reinvent...
De Brún victory would mark demoralising blow for DUP - Irish Times
Allister abandoned Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson because of the DUP/Sinn Féin powersharing deal to set up his own party, the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV). “No powersharing with terrorists” is his bottom line. There is also interest in how Jim...
Bairbre plays it cool as battle to top EU poll hots up - Belfast Telegraph
Sinn Fein's Bairbre de Brun is focusing on regaining her seat in the European Parliament. David Gordon looks at her past politics and her future goals If Bairbre de Brun is excited at the possibility of topping the European Election poll she's hiding...
Sinn Fein politician's house petrol-bombed - Reuters
DUBLIN (Reuters) - Supporters of suspected dissident nationalists petrol-bombed the home of a senior Sinn Fein politician in Northern Ireland in the early hours of Monday. It is the third time the home of Mitchell McLaughlin, a member of Northern...
Fury at plan for special polling station monitors - Belfast Telegraph
Last month his office axed a controversial checking method, a move that both Sinn Fein and the SDLP warned threatened the votes of predominantly nationalist families. But now it has emerged special polling clerks are to be employed at voting stations...
Loyalists blamed for murder of Coleraine man - Belfast Telegraph
Sinn Fein says loyalists were behind the murder of a 49-year-old man in Co Derry last night. The man was killed during violence that broke out in Coleraine following football matches yesterday involving Celtic and Rangers. A 46-year-old man was also...
Sinn Fein 'to fight for every vote' - The Press Association
Sinn Fein will fight for every vote in every county throughout the island, party president Gerry Adams has vowed. Launching the party's EU campaign in Dublin, Mr Adams said the elections would not just be about Europe but also a verdict on the...

Sinn Féin

Sinn Féin poster in Dublin (Republic of Ireland)

Sinn Féin (IPA: /ˌʃɪnˈfeɪn/, Irish pronunciation: ) is a political party in Ireland. The current party, led by Gerry Adams, was formed following a split in January 1970 and traces its origins back to the original Sinn Féin party formed in 1905. It is a major party of Irish republicanism and its political ideology is left wing. The party has historically been associated with the Provisional IRA. The name is Irish for "ourselves" or "we ourselves", although it is frequently mistranslated as "ourselves alone".

Sinn Féin is currently the second-largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly, where it has four ministerial posts (including Deputy First Minister) in the power-sharing Northern Ireland Executive, and the fifth-largest party in Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Oireachtas, the parliament of the Republic of Ireland.

The origins of the term "Sinn Féin", according to the Party's publication, Sinn Féin: A Century of Struggle, published to coincide with its centenary celebrations, can be traced to the Conradh na Gaeilge journal An Claidheamh Soluis. A leading article titled "Sinn Féin, Sinn Féin" appeared on 27 April 1901, and afterwards as "Sinn Féin agus ár gCairde" over the advertising section to encourage readers to buy Irish made goods.

The early Sinn Féin movement was far from being the organised political party it would later become. It was initially a community of like-minded individuals that crystallised around the propaganda campaign of Arthur Griffith, a nationalist printer and typesetter, and William Rooney, a republican office clerk, both of whom were extremely active in Dublin's nationalist clubs at the beginning of the 20th century.

In his account of the movement's early years, the propagandist Aodh de Blácam says that Sinn Féin "was not a party: it was the amorphous propaganda of the Gaelicised young men and women".

Griffith was first and foremost a newspaperman with an impressive network of friends in the Dublin printing industry. His newspapers, the United Irishman and Sinn Féin, and his Sinn Féin Printing & Publishing Company channeled the enormous energy of the self-help generation into an unorthodox political project based on the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy of 1867 and the theories of the German nationalist economist Friedrich List.

Tapping into the growing self-awareness of an Irish identity which was reflected in movements like the Gaelic Athletic Association, the Gaelic League (Conradh na Gaeilge) and in the founding of the Abbey Theatre, he created a loose federation of nationalist clubs and associations which competed with John Redmond's Irish Parliamentary Party to embody the aspirations of 20th-century nationalists.

The Sinn Féin Party was founded on 28 November 1905, when in the Rotunda, Dublin the first annual Convention of the National Council was held. The meeting began at 11am and among delegates were Arthur Griffith, Edward Martyn, Thomas Martin, John Sweetman, Jenny Wyse-Power, Patrick Pearse, Máire de Buitléir, Patrick McCartan, Oliver St. John Gogarty, Peadar Kearney, Seán T. O'Kelly, Michael O'Hanrahan and William Cosgrave.

In his writings, Griffith declared that the Act of Union of Great Britain and Ireland in 1800 was illegal and that, consequently, the Anglo-Irish dual monarchy which existed under Grattan's Parliament and the so-called Constitution of 1782 was still in effect.

Though Sinn Féin had a high name recognition factor among some voters it attracted minimal support. In August 1909, it had only 581 paid-up members throughout all of Ireland. 211 were in Dublin, while Sligo had only two members, a student and a shopkeeper. By 1915, it was, in the words of one of Griffith's colleagues, "on the rocks", so insolvent financially that it could not pay the rent on its party headquarters in Harcourt Street in Dublin.

Sinn Féin was wrongly blamed by the British for the Easter Rising, with which it had no association apart from a desire of separation stronger than Home Rule — the leaders of the Rising were certainly looking for more than Dual Monarchy. Any group that disagreed with mainstream constitutional politics was branded 'Sinn Féin' by British commentators. The term 'Sinn Féin Rebellion' was also used by the Irish media, the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) and even by a few of those involved in the Rising.

Eamon de Valera replaced Griffith as president. On 25 October 1917 the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis for the first time committed the party to the establishment of an Irish Republic. de Valera devised the formula of words in the Constitution, as a concession to Arthur Griffith who argued that, as he saw it, demands should be kept within achievable limits, and therefore favoured a monarchy along Scandinavian lines.

Sinn Féin was boosted by the anger over Maxwell's execution of Rising leaders, the Irish Independent newspaper even before the executions, actually calling for them. The public sympathy did not give Sinn Féin decisive electoral advantage. It fought with the Irish Parliamentary Party under John Redmond, with each side winning by-elections. It was only after the World War I German Spring Offensive, when Britain threatened to impose conscription on Ireland to bring its decimated divisions up to strength, that the ensuing Conscription Crisis swung support decisively behind Sinn Féin. Efforts were made to agree an amicable form of home rule and to negotiate a deal between the Irish Unionist Party (IUP) and the Irish Parliamentary Party, in the 'Irish Convention' arranged by former IUP leader Walter Long in 1917. These were undermined by his cabinet colleague David Lloyd George and were not attended by Sinn Féin.

Sinn Féin won 73 of Ireland's 105 seats, with 47% of the vote, in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland parliament at the general election in December 1918, twenty-five of the seats it won were uncontested.

In Ulster Unionists won twenty-two seats, Sinn Féin, twenty-six and the Irish Parliamentary Party, six. In Leinster Sinn Féin won twenty-six and Unionists won one. In Connacht Sinn Féin won all thirteen seats. In Munster Sinn Féin won twenty-three seats with the Irish Parliamentary Party winning one. In the Universities the Unionists won three seats to Sinn Féin's one. In the thirty-two counties of Ireland, twenty-four returned only Sinn Féin candidates. In the nine counties of Ulster the Unionists polled a majority in only four.

On 21 January 1919, 27 of the Sinn Féin MPs assembled in Dublin's Mansion House and proclaimed themselves the parliament of Ireland, the First Dáil Éireann. They elected an Aireacht (ministry) headed by a Príomh Aire (prime minister). Though the state was declared to be a republic, no provision was made for a head of state. This was rectified in August 1921 when the Príomh Aire (also known as President of Dáil Éireann was upgraded to President of the Republic, a full head of state.

In the 1920 city council elections, Sinn Féin gained control of ten of the twelve city councils in Ireland. Only Belfast and Derry remained under Unionist and IPP (respectively) control. In the local elections of the same year, they won control of all the county councils except Antrim, Down, Londonderry and Armagh.

Sinn Féin subsequently underwent successive splits (1922, 1926, 1970 and 1986), from which emerged a range of parties, Cumann na nGaedhael, now known as Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Official Sinn Féin, later Sinn Féin The Workers Party, later The Workers Party and then Democratic Left, which finally joined the Labour Party after serving in government with them, and Republican Sinn Féin.

Following the conclusion in December 1921 of the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations between representatives of the British Government and de Valera's republican government and the narrow approval of the Treaty by Dáil Éireann, a state called the Irish Free State was established. Northern Ireland, set up as part of the Government of Ireland Act 1920 along with Southern Ireland, opted out as the Treaty allowed.

The reasons for the split were various, though the IRA did not split in the North and pro- and anti-treaty republicans looked to pro-treaty Michael Collins for leadership and weapons. One of the principal reason for the split is usually described as the question of the Oath of Allegiance to the Irish Free State, which members of the new Dáil would be required to take. It explicitly recognised that the Irish Free State would be part of the British Commonwealth and many republicans found that unacceptable. The pro-treaty forces argued that the treaty gave "freedom to achieve freedom". In the elections of June 1922 in the southern twenty-six counties de Valera and the anti-treaty Sinn Féin secured 35% of the popular vote. The anti-treaty element of the IRA had formed an Executive that did not consider itself subordinate to the new parliament.

A bitter Irish Civil War (June 1922 – April 1923) erupted between the supporters of the Treaty and its opponents. De Valera resigned as President of the Republic and sided with the anti-treatyites. The pro-treaty "Free Staters", who amounted to a majority of Sinn Féin TDs, set up the Irish Free State. The pro-treaty Sinn Féin TDs changed the name of the party to Cumann na nGaedhael, subsequently merging with the National Centre Party and the Army Comrades Association or The Blueshirts in 1933 to form Fine Gael.

Having temporarily suspended armed action in the Free State, the movement split again with the departure (March 1926) of its leader Éamon de Valera, after having lost a motion to abandon abstention if the statement of "Fidelity to the King" were abolished. He subsequently founded Fianna Fáil with fellow advocates of participation in constitutional politics, and entered the Irish parliament (Dáil Éireann) the following year, forming a government in 1932.

In the 1960s the party moved to the left, adopting a 'stagist' approach similar to orthodox Communist analysis. The party came under the influence of a generation of intellectuals who were associated with the Communist Party of Great Britain's Connolly Association and sought a decisive break from the confessional politics of the past. The new generation of leaders sought to engage Ulster's Protestant workers in an anti-imperialist popular front.

There were two splits in the Republican Movement in the period 1969 to 1970. One in December 1969 in the IRA, and the other in Sinn Fein in January 1970.

The stated reason for the split in the IRA was ‘partition parliaments’ however the division was the product of discussions in the 1960s over the merits of political involvement as opposed to a purely military strategy. The split when it finally did come in the December 1969, arose over the playing down of the role of the IRA and its inability in defending the Nationalist population in Northern Ireland. One section of the Army Council wanted to go down a purely political (Marxist) road, and abandon armed struggle. IRA had been dabbed on the walls over the north and was used to disparage the IRA, by writing beside it, “I Ran Away.” Those in favour of a purely military strategy accused the leadership of rigging the Army convention, held in December and the vote on abandoning the policy of abstentionism and abandoning the Nationalists.

In January 1970 at a reconvening of the Army council, the two motions in December were overturned. It was then decided to set up a provisional Army Council because it was intended to reconvene in six months in order to regularise the IRA, when the term provisional would be abandoned. The split in the Republican Movement was completed on 11 January 1970, when at the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis the proposal to drop abstention was put before the members. The policy of abandoning abstentionism had to be passed by a two-thirds majority to change the Party’s constitution. Supporters of the Provisional Army Council made allegations of malpractice, including voting by pro-Goulding supporters who were not entitled to vote. When the vote was taken the result was 153 to 104 in favour. The leadership had failed to achieve the two thirds majority. The Leadership then attempted to propose a motion in support of the (Goulding) IRA Army Council. This motion would only have required a simple majority. As the (Goulding) IRA Army Council had already agreed to drop abstentionism, this was seen by members as an attempt to subvert the Parties Constitution, and refused to vote and withdrew from the meeting. Pre-empting this move they had booked a hall in 44 Parnell square, were they established a “caretaker executive” of Sinn Fein. One section of the Party was referred to as Sinn Fein (Gardiner Place) and the other as Sinn Fein (Kevin Street), this came from the location of the opposing offices.

Despite the dropping of the word 'Provisional' at an Army convention in September 1970, and becoming the dominant group, they are still known 'to the mild irritation of senior members' as Provisionals, Provos or Provies. According to Feeney, the Provisionals were initially regarded by some both inside and outside the Republican movement as "a dangerous, backward-looking offshoot from a republican movement that had spent the best part of ten years trying to jettison irredentist violence and rhetoric", however within two years, these roles were reversed. People began to flock to join the “Provos” and in an effort to reassert its authority the Goulding section began to call its self “Official IRA” and “Official Sinn Fein,” but to no avail. Within two years the “Provos” had secured control of the Republican Movement. By 1972 the Officials both North and South, had become “a discredited rump, themselves regarded as a faction by what was now the main body of the movement.” It was from 1970 that the derisory term “Stickie” or “Stick” for the Officials was coined.

A number of publications began to appear such as the “Barricade Bulletin” in Derry, Sinn Fein members distributed bulletins with titles such as “Phoenix” and “Vindicator” and the new republican paper “Republican News” which was sold door to door.

Sinn Fein began to organise housing associations, community associations and tenant associations across both the North and the South, building a stronger developing network. It was at this time that the plight of the prisoners began to become an issue. The deteriorating conditions in the prison was an issue which people could support regardless of weather the supported Sinn Fein or the armed struggle of the IRA. This lead to the establishment of the National H-Block / Armagh Committee making it as broad an appeal as possible.

Events however would move control from Sinn Fein to the prisoners. By 1980 some of the prisoners had been “on the blanket” protest for four years and the “dirty protest” for two. In the autumn of 1980 the prisoners took the decision to go on hunger strike which was greeted by some within the Republican Movement with consternation. The IRA Army Council was no longer in complete control, and would never fully recover control as the plight of the prisoners would now drive the whole movement.

The first hunger strike would end by December 1980 with recriminations between both the British government and the IRA. The prisoners felt that they had been tricked, and resolved to go on hunger strike again. The Officer Commanding of IRA prisoners, Bobby Sands stood down as OC having decided he would lead the hunger strike. He began his hunger strike on 1 March 1981, which was the fifth anniversary of the removal of Special Category Status.

On the 6 March the Member of Parliament for Fermanagh-South Tyrone, Frank Maguire died. It was decided to put Bobby Sands forward as a candidate. Sands was elected with 30, 492 votes, 51%. This result would change everything according to Feeney, the election result he said made it impossible for the British government to convincingly argue that Sands and his fellow hunger strikers were mere criminals. Sands died on 5 May 1981, with over 100,000 people walking behind his coffin, which included dignitaries from Europe and further afield, the Iranian ambassador along with representatives of the Catholic church and the SDLP. Sands death caused another by-election and Sands election agent Owen Carron went forward, both hold the seat and increasing the vote achieved by Sands. According to Feeney, many republicans suddenly wanted to fight every election.

Sinn Féin is the largest group in the Republican wing of Irish nationalism and is closely associated with the IRA, with the Irish Government alleging that senior members of Sinn Féin have held posts on the IRA Army Council. However the SF leadership has denied these claims.

A republican document of the early 1980s states, "Both Sinn Féin and the IRA play different but converging roles in the war of national liberation. The Irish Republican Army wages an armed campaign... Sinn Féin maintains the propaganda war and is the public and political voice of the movement".

The current British Government stated in 2005 that "we had always said all the way through we believed that Sinn Féin and the IRA were inextricably linked and that had obvious implications at leadership level".

The robbery of £26.5 million from the Northern Bank in Belfast in December 2004 further scuppered chances of a deal. Because of the timing of the robbery it is considered that the plans for the robbery must have been laid whilst Sinn Féin was engaged in talks about a possible peace settlement. This undermined confidence within the unionist community about the sincerity of republicans towards reaching agreement. In the aftermath of the row over the robbery, a further controversy erupted when, on RTÉ's Questions and Answers programme, the chairman of Sinn Féin, Mitchel McLaughlin, insisted that the IRA's controversial killing of a mother of ten young children, Jean McConville, in the early 1970s though "wrong", was not a crime, as it had taken place in the context of the political conflict. Politicians from the Republic, along with the Irish media strongly attacked McLaughlin's comments.

On 10 February 2005, the government-appointed Independent Monitoring Commission reported that it firmly supported the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and Garda assessments that the IRA was responsible for the Northern Bank robbery and that certain senior members of Sinn Féin were also senior members of the IRA and would have had knowledge of and given approval to the carrying out of the robbery. Sinn Féin have argued that the IMC is not independent and the inclusion of former Alliance Party Leader John Alderdice and a British security head was proof of this. It recommended further financial sanctions against Sinn Féin members of the Northern Ireland Assembly. The British government responded by saying it would ask MPs to vote to withdraw the parliamentary allowances of the four Sinn Féin MPs elected in 2001.

Gerry Adams responded to the IMC report by challenging the Irish Government to have him arrested for IRA membership, a "crime" in both jurisdictions, and conspiracy.

On 20 February 2005, Irish Minister for Justice Michael McDowell publicly accused three of the Sinn Féin leadership, Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Martin Ferris (TD for Kerry North) of being on the seven-man IRA Army Council. Gerry Adams denied this at an address in Strabane and Martin McGuinness denied the allegations in a TV interview on RTÉ.

On 27 February 2005, a demonstration against the murder of Robert McCartney on 30 January 2005 was held in East Belfast. Alex Maskey, a former Sinn Féin Mayor of Belfast, was told by relatives of McCartney to "stop making stupid comments" to the press following Gerry McKay's demand that Maskey "hand over the 12" IRA members involved. The McCartney family, though formerly Sinn Féin voters themselves, urged witnesses to the crime to contact the PSNI. Three IRA men were expelled from the organisation, and a man was charged with McCartney's murder.

Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern subsequently called Sinn Féin and the IRA "both sides of the same coin". The ostracism of Sinn Féin was shown in February 2005 when Dáil Éireann passed a motion condemning the party's alleged involvement in illegal activity. US President George W. Bush and Senator Edward Kennedy refused to meet Gerry Adams while meeting the family of Robert McCartney.

On 10 March 2005, the British House of Commons in London passed without significant opposition a motion placed by the British Government to withdraw the allowances of the four Sinn Féin MPs for one year in response to the Northern Bank Robbery. This measure cost the party approximately £400,000. However, the debate prior to the vote mainly surrounded the more recent events connected with the murder of Robert McCartney. Conservatives and Unionists put down amendments to have the Sinn Féin MPs evicted from their offices at the House of Commons but these were defeated by 358-170 and 357-171 votes respectively.

In March 2005, Mitchell Reiss, the United States special envoy to Northern Ireland, condemned the party's links to the IRA, saying "it is hard to understand how a European country in the year 2005 can have a private army associated with a political party".

Sinn Féin is organised throughout Ireland, and membership is open to all Irish residents over the age of 16. The party is organised hierarchically into cumainn (branches), comhairle ceantair (district executives), cúigí (regional executives). At national level, the Coiste Seasta (Standing Committee) oversees the day-to-day running of Sinn Féin. It is an eight-member body nominated by the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle and also includes the chairperson of each cúige. The Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle (National Executive) meets at least once a month. It directs the overall implementation of Sinn Féin policy and activities of the party.

The Ard Chomhairle also oversees the operation of various departments of Sinn Féin, viz Administration, Finance, National Organiser, Campaigns, Ógra Shinn Féin, Women's Forum, Culture, Publicity and International Affairs. It is made up of the following: Officer Board and nine other members, all of whom are elected by delegates to the Ard Fheis, fifteen representing the five Cúige regions (three delegates each). The Ard Chomhairle can co-opt eight members for specific posts and additional members can be co-opted, if necessary, to ensure that at least thirty per cent of Ard Chomhairle members are women.

The ard fheis (national delegate conference) is the ultimate policy-making body of the party where delegates - directly elected by members of cumainn - can decide on and implement policy. It is held at least once a year but a special Ard Fheis can be called by the Ard Chomhairle or the membership under special circumstances.

In the 1982 Assembly elections, Sinn Féin won five seats with 64,191 votes (10.1%). The party narrowly missed winning additional seats in Belfast North and Fermanagh and South Tyrone. In the 1983 Westminster elections eight months later saw an increase in Sinn Féin support with the party breaking the hundred thousand vote barrier for the first time by polling 102,701 votes (13.4%). Gerry Adams won the Belfast West constituency with Danny Morrison only 78 votes short of victory in Mid Ulster.

The 1984 European elections proved to be a disappointment with Sinn Féin's candidate Danny Morrison polling 91,476 (13.3%) and falling well behind the SDLP candidate John Hume.

By the beginning of 1985 Sinn Féin had won their first representation on local councils due to three by-election wins in Omagh (Seamus Kerr, May 1983) and Belfast (Alex Maskey in June 1983 and Sean McKnight in early 1984). Three sitting councillors also defected to Sinn Féin in Dungannon, Fermanagh and Derry (the last defecting from the SDLP). Sinn Féin succeeded in winning 59 seats in the 1985 local government elections, however the results continued to show a decline from the peak of 1983 as the party won 75,686 votes (11.8%). The party failed to gain any seats in the 1986 by-elections caused by the resignation of Unionist MPs in protest at the Anglo-Irish Agreement, partly this was due to an electoral pact between Unionist candidates, however the SF vote fell in the four constituencies they contested.

In the 1987 election Gerry Adams held his Belfast West seat but the party elsewhere failed to make breakthroughs and overall polled 83,389 votes (11.4%). The same year saw the party contest the Dáil election in the Republic of Ireland, however they failed to win any seats and polled less than 2%.

The 1989 local government elections came in the aftermath of a number of IRA attacks most notably the Remembrance Day bombing and saw a drop in support for SF. Defending 58 seats (the 59 won in 1985 plus two 1987 by-election gains in West Belfast minus three councillors who had defected to Republican Sinn Féin in 1986) the party lost 15 seats. In the aftermath of the election Mitchell McLaughlin admitted that recent IRA activity had affected the Sinn Féin vote.

The nadir for SF in this period came in 1992, with Gerry Adams losing his Belfast West seat to the SDLP and the SF vote falling in the other constituencies that they had contested relative to 1987.

Multi-party negotiations began in 1994, without Sinn Féin. The Provisional IRA declared a ceasefire in the autumn of 1994. The Conservative government had asked that the IRA decommission all of their weapons before Sinn Féin be admitted to the talks, but the Labour government of Tony Blair let them in on the basis of the ceasefire.

When Sinn Féin and the DUP became the largest parties, it was clear that no deal could be made without the support of both parties. They nearly reached a deal in November 2004, but the DUP had a requirement for visible evidence that decommissioning had been carried out.

The talks led to the Good Friday Agreement of 10 April 1998 (officially known as the Belfast Agreement), which set up an inclusive devolved government in the North, and altered the Southern government's constitutional claim to the whole island in Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution of Ireland. The party has been fully committed to constitutional politics since the Good Friday Agreement, although the unionist demand that the IRA decommission all of its arms led to repeated suspensions of the Assembly.

The party expelled Denis Donaldson, a party official, in December 2005, with him stating publicly that he had been in the employ of the British government as an agent since the 1980s. Mr Donaldson told reporters that the British security agencies who employed him were behind the collapse of the Assembly and set up Sinn Féin to take the blame for it, a claim disputed by the British Government. Donaldson was found fatally shot in his home in County Donegal on 4 April 2006, and a murder inquiry was launched. As of June 2008, nobody has been charged with his murder.

On 2 September 2006, Martin McGuinness publicly stated that Sinn Féin would refuse to participate in a shadow assembly at Stormont, asserting that his party would only take part in negotiations that were aimed at restoring a power-sharing government within Northern Ireland. This development follows a decision on the part of members of Sinn Féin to refrain from participating in debates since the Assembly's recall this past May. The relevant parties to these talks have been given a deadline of 24 November 2006 in order to decide upon whether or not they will ultimately form the executive.

On 28 January 2007, a Sinn Féin Ard Fheis was held and its delegates voted overwhelmingly to support the PSNI. This ended an 86 year boycott of policing in Northern Ireland. This decision means that Sinn Féin members will sit on Policing Boards and District Policing Partnerships. The decision has received welcome although, some opposition has been evident from people such as former IRA prisoner Gerry McGeough, who stood in the 2007 Assembly Elections against Sinn Féin in the assembly constituency of Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

The party overtook its nationalist rival, the Social Democratic and Labour Party as the largest nationalist party in the 2001 Westminster General Election and Local Election, winning four Westminster seats to the SDLP's three. The party however continues to subscribe to an abstentionist policy towards seats in the Westminster British parliament, as taking the seats they won would require them to swear allegiance to the British monarchy and recognise British jurisdiction over Northern Ireland. The party won five TDs in the 2002 Republic general election, an increase of four.

It went on to increase its share of the nationalist vote in the 2003 and 2007 Assembly elections, with Martin McGuinness, previously Minister for Education, taking the post of Deputy First Minister in the Northern Ireland Power-Sharing Executive Committee in which the party also received three ministries.

A vast majority of their policies are intended to be implemented on an 'all-Ireland' basis which further emphasises their central aim of creating a united Ireland.

Sinn Féin usually refers to itself as a democratic socialist or left-wing party and aligns itself with the European United Left–Nordic Green Left. The party pledges support for minority rights, migrants' rights, and eradicating poverty, although it is not in favour of the extension of legalized abortion (British 1967 Act) to Northern Ireland. Though Sinn Féin state they are also opposed to the attitudes in society, which "pressurise women" to have abortions, and "criminalise" women who make this decision. Sinn Féin do recognize however that in cases of incest, rape, sexual abuse, or when a woman's life and health are at risk or in danger, that the final decision must rest with the woman.

Sinn Féin urged a "No" vote in the referendum held in Ireland on 12 June 2008 on the Lisbon Treaty.

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Republican Sinn Féin

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Republican Sinn Féin (RSF; Irish: Sinn Féin Poblachtach) is a political party operating in Ireland. It emerged in 1986 as a result of a split in Sinn Féin. The party views itself as representing "true" or "traditional" Irish republicanism, while in the mainstream media the party is portrayed as a political expression of "dissident republicanism".

Although it was passed by a two-thirds majority, those who went on to form RSF claimed that the decision to end abstention was invalid under the Sinn Féin constitution, Section 1b of which stated: "No person ... who approves of or supports the candidature of persons who sign any form or give any kind of written or verbal undertaking of intention to take their seats in these institutions, shall be admitted to membership or allowed to retain membership." They pointed out that in their opinion the correct procedure was to drop or amend Section 1b of the constitution in one year, then come back the next year and propose entering Leinster House, when Section 1b was no longer in operation. In protest, they staged a walkout from the ardfheis and reconvened the ardfheis at another venue. RSF subsequently claimed that the delegates who had voted to drop abstentionism had in effect expelled themselves from the party. It is on this basis that RSF views itself as the only party entitled to the name of Sinn Féin and the sole legitimate successor to the original Sinn Féin established in 1905. Supporters of abstentionism also claimed that the vote at the ardfheis was gerrymandered. Journalist Ed Moloney, for example, points out that in 1986 the number of votes at the ardfheis, which reflects the size of Sinn Féin, almost doubled from 1985 to 1986, and then reverted to the 1985 level in 1987.

This claim is rejected by most people who see themselves as Irish republicans. Sinn Féin points out that a previous party ardfheis in 1983 amended the constitution so that "no aspect of the constitution and rules be closed to discussion". This was done to enable the ardfheis to debate a motion to allow Sinn Féin candidates to stand in elections to the European Parliament and to take their seats if successful. Some argue that this argument is weakened, by the fact that candidature to the European Parliament had already been debated at the 1978 ardfheis, when a motion to stand candidates in the 1979 European elections was defeated at the Sinn Féin ardfheis. A vote to change abstentionism from a principle to a tactic failed to achieve a two-thirds majority vote in 1985. The results were 181 opposed and 161 in favour.

There is disagreement on the number of people who walked out. Brian Feeney claims that after the vote was passed about 20 members, led by Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, walked out. J. Bowyer Bell, in The Irish Troubles, states that Ó Brádaigh and Dáithí Ó Conaill "and about one hundred others walked out to form Republican Sinn Féin (RSF) at a previously hired hall in a hotel outside Dublin.". Whatever the number, that evening, approximately 130 people, including some of the delegates who voted against the motion, reconvened at Dublin's West County Hotel and established RSF. By itself, the RSF Officer Board formed that evening had 6 members, also formed was an organising committee of 15 members. Bell also notes that in response to the split, there was a "flurry of military operations in and around Belfast" by the Provisional IRA during the remainder of the year to show "country militants that the city was not a centre of politics".

At the centre of those who formed Republican Sinn Féin were key people who formed the Provisional IRA and Sinn Féin, including Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, Des Long, Joe O'Neill, Frank Glynn, and Dáithí Ó Conaill. Among those in attendance at the first Bodenstown commemoration, staged by the version of the Continuity Republican Movement which RSF sees itself as forming part of, were four members of the first Provisional IRA Army Council: Ruairí Ó Brádaigh (Longford), Dáithí Ó Conaill (Cork/Dublin), Leo Martin (Belfast), and Paddy Mulcahy (Limerick). Among those present at the West County Hotel when RSF was formed was Billy McKee, an early member of the Provisional IRA Army Council, and the former O/C Belfast Brigade of the Provisional IRA. Another early supporter of RSF was Sean Tracey, a member of the first Provisional IRA Army Council, who later "drifted away" from RSF. The influence of those who founded Provisional Sinn Féin should not be understated. Of the 20 people on the Sinn Féin Caretaker Executive formed in January 1970, ten were still involved in PSF in 1986. Nine of the ten joined Republican Sinn Féin.

At their formation, the Chairman of Republican Sinn Féin was Dáithí Ó Conaill. At the party's first ardfheis, they elected their first President,Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, who was President of Sinn Féin from 1970 to 1983. He remains the party's President. He was joined by Dáithí Ó Conaill, another prominent figure in Sinn Féin and the IRA in the 1970s. The current Vice Presidents are Des Dalton and Cathleen Knowles McGuirk. Joe O'Neill and John O'Connor are the joint treasurers and Líta Ní Chathmhaoil and Josephine Hayden are the General Secretaries. Richard Walsh is the Publicity Officer.

The party's membership has been and comes primarily from the Republic of Ireland based membership of the republican movement who disagreed with Gerry Adams and his largely Northern Ireland based backers.

RSF sees itself as forming part of a wider Republican Movement with a number of organisations which share a similar or identical ideological and political perspective. These include (but are not limited to) the Continuity IRA, Cumann na mBan, Fianna Éireann, Cabhair and the National Commemmoration Committee and the Republican Prisoners Action Group. Across these organisations there is believed to be some level of dual membership with RSF. RSF strenuously rejects the allegation that it is the "political wing" of the Continuity IRA, as it denies any assertion that the latter is its "military wing".

RSF is a fringe party and continues to uphold policy of abstentionism, which means that it would not take seats in Dáil Éireann, the Northern Ireland Assembly or the British House of Commons if elected. In any case, the party has never contested elections to Dáil Éireann or British House of Commons, although it has contested local elections and did field candidates in the Northern Ireland Assembly election, 2007.

It refuses to recognise the validity of the Good Friday Agreement as it argues that the referendum on the agreement did not offer the people of Ireland the choice of living in a united Ireland, and that the referendum was invalid since separate polls were held in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

It opposes the Northern Ireland Assembly as it feels it this further entrenches British presence in Ireland, adding that "those nationalists who took their seats in the new Stormont" were "guilty of treachery to the Irish Republic".

RSF refused to do so on the grounds that such an oath "calls for the public disowning of the Irish Republican Army, Cumann na mBan, Fianna Éireann and a repudiation of the right of the Irish people to use force of arms to end British occupation". Consequently its candidates became ineligible. It is not registered with the Electoral Commission as a political party in Northern Ireland meaning that in elections in Northern Ireland, the party name cannot appear on the ballot paper, the party cannot make party political broadcasts or incur expenditure of more than £5,000 in an election.

It stands on a platform of the establishment of social justice based on what it describes as the principles of Irish Republican Socialism, based on the 1916 proclamation of an Irish Republic. It also has a policy named Éire Nua ("New Ireland"), which would see the establishment of a 32 county Ireland completely independent of the United Kingdom and set up as a federation of the four Irish provinces.

Republican Sinn Féin ran six abstentionist candidates in the 2007 Assembly Election. As the party did not register with the Electoral Commission in Belfast, the candidates had no party affiliation recorded on the ballot paper, apart from Geraldine Taylor who appeared as an Independent.

The RSF aligned candidates netted a total of 2,522 first preference votes. The candidates share of the total valid poll (661,191) was 0.38 per cent. Their share of the total valid poll in the six constituencies in which it fielded candidates (242,860) was 1.03 per cent.

Republican Sinn Féin ran seven candidates in the last local elections in the Republic of Ireland. The party's only elected representative lost his seat in the elections. Netting a total of 2,403 first preference votes, the RSF share of the total valid poll (1,819,761) was 0.13 per cent.

In the 1999 local elections in the Republic of Ireland, RSF candidates received 1,390 votes in county/city council elections, and 149 votes urban district council level.

The results for 1991 are only partially available. A number of other people stood for RSF, including Joe O'Neill for Bundoran UDC, Sean Lynch for Longford County Council, Tomás Ó Curraoin, David Joyce and Frank Glynn in Galway, and Jimmy Kavanagh in Wexford. Two sitting councillors, Joe O'Neill (Bundoran UDC) and Seán Lynch (Longford County Council) were re-elected. Sitting county councillor Frank Glynn lost his seat on Galway County Council which he had held for 24 years.

In September 2005, a number of cumainn (or branches) and individual members of RSF left the party in protest over the party's treatment of Continuity IRA prisoners held in Portlaoise Prison. As a consequence of this dispute, a number of people resigned from RSF and formed the Concerned Group for Republican Prisoners to raise funds and provide moral support for the former Continuity IRA-aligned prisoners they support.

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Mick Murphy (Sinn Féin politician)

Michael Murphy (born 6 February 1942) is a nationalist politician in Northern Ireland. Active in republican politics since the civil rights campaigns of the 1960s, he worked as a publican. In 1996 he was elected as a member of the Northern Ireland Forum for Sinn Féin in South Down. Murphy was the Sinn Féin candidate for South Down in the 1997 election to the United Kingdom Parliament; a few months later he was elected to Newry and Mourne District Council.

He was then elected from the same constituency to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1998. He was Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing. He was again elected as a Sinn Féin Councillor for Newry and Mourne District Council from Crotlieve electoral area in 2005.

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Source : Wikipedia