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Sinn Féin ( , ) is a political party in Irelandmarker, founded in 1905 by Arthur Griffith, and while there are a number of Parties with origins in Sinn Féin the current party is led by Gerry Adams. 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".

In the 2009 European Parliamentary elections Bairbre de Brun was elected with 126,184 first preference votes, the only candidate to reach the quota on the first count. The result broke a record held by the Democratic Unionist Party since 1979 and was the first occasion Sinn Féin topped a poll in Northern Ireland. 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 Irelandmarker.


Early days (pre-1916)

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.

On St. Patrick’s Day, 17 March 1902, in Oldcastle, County Meath, members of Conradh na Gaeilge founded Sinn Féin: the Oldcastle Monthly Review. In a later edition of the Review the paper commented "While Sinn Féin is in existence it will always champion the cause of the oppressed against the oppressor and will be the stern champion of the labouring class."

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 writings of Arthur Griffith and William Rooney who 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 writer, 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 Theatremarker, 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, Jennie 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.

It was Conradh na Gaeilge activist, Máire de Buitléir, who suggested to Arthur Griffith the name Sinn Féin for the new movement.{}}

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. Two hundred eleven were in Dublin. 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 Dublinmarker.

The Easter Rising

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, who proclaimed a Republic, were certainly looking for more than Dual Monarchy. 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, even though the Irish Independent newspaper before the executions, actually called 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.

First elections

Sinn Féin won 73 of Irelandmarker's 105 seats, with 47% of the vote, in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Irelandmarker parliamentary 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 (where they were not opposeed by Sinn Fein). 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 (35 others were imprisoned and 4 involuntarily exiled and unable to attend) of the Sinn Féin MPs assembled in Dublin's Mansion House and proclaimed themselves as the parliament of Ireland, forming 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 Belfastmarker and Derrymarker 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.

The split over the Anglo-Irish Treaty

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 Irelandmarker, 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 reasons 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 represented a majority of Sinn Féin TDs, set up the Irish Free State. They then 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.

1930s to 1968 – Decline to fringe movement

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.

1969–1970 Resurgence and "Provisional" / "Official" split

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 came in December 1969 over the downplaying 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, where 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.

Official Sinn Féin, became Sinn Féin The Workers Party and later The Workers Party.

1970s and 1980s

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 itself “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” for the Officials was coined.

Within ten years Sinn Fein would expand into a national movement with branches in every town in Ireland, and command support unparalleled since 1921. According to Danny Morrison, in the 1970s, “most people wanted to join the IRA so people who went into Sinn Fein were over military age or women.” A leading Sinn Fein organiser in Belfast Patricia Davidson when asked what was Sinn Fein’s role at the time she replied “Agitation and publicity.”

As the relations between the British Army and nationalists began to break down, their behaviour in Nationalist areas, adopting attitudes “appropriate to colonial disputes” Gerry Adams said “We continued to prevent collaboration with the British forces…We continued this low intensity agitation through the spring of 1970.”

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.

During this period Sinn Fein had no interest in electoral politics, opposed to involvement in “partitionist elections” nevertheless according to Feeney in working class areas there was politics with a small ‘p.’ The British Army he said began to talk directly to IRA commanders by-passing local politicians such as John Hume and Gerry Fitt who carried no weight behind the barricades. Sinn Fein members would then relay the information to the people door to door. These same Sinn Fein members having built up reputations in the area would ten years later be elected with massive votes by people according to Feeney who they “helped and worked among in the difficult times.”

Political activity began in 1973 when Sinn Fein opened the Republican Press Centre which was run by Tom Hartley in 170 Falls Road. This was “the first expression of a republican point of view anywhere in Ireland outside Dublin…” according to Jim Gibney. It was from 1973 that the British and Irish governments began to move towards the negotiations leading to the Sunningdale Agreement. Sinn Fein however was still illegal, and it was not till May 1974 that Merlyn Rees secretary of state under a Labour government legalised the Party. According to Feeney on 16 August 1975 Gerry Adams wrote his first article for Republican News, and from 1976 Adams then used the paper to advocate greater political involvement. This coincided with developments in the prisons from 1976 to 1978, supporting this view. In Long Kesh the prisoners discussed “communication with the base of our support, the role of newspapers, bulletins, co-ops, tenants associations and women’s organisations as a means of empowering people.”

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 whether they 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.

The new strategy - famously described by Danny Morrison as "a ballot paper in one hand and the Armalite in the other."

A split occured in 1986 over to end its policy of abstentionism and to allow elected Sinn Féin Teachtaí Dála take their seats in Dáil Éireann, This led to the formation of Republican Sinn Féin

Links with the IRA

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".

Sinn Féin organiser Danny Morrison at the party's Ard Fheis (Annual Conference) in 1981, said:"Who here really believes we can win the war through the ballot box? But will anyone here object if, with a ballot paper in this hand and an Armalite in the other, we take power in Ireland?"

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. The IRA were blamed for the robbery though Sinn Féin denied this and stated that party officials had not known of the robbery nor sanctioned it. 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 RTÉmarker'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, Equality and Law Reform 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 which they later denied.

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 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 Commonsmarker in Londonmarker 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.

In March 2005, Mitchell Reiss, the United Statesmarker 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".

Organisational structure

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.

Electoral performances 1982–1992

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 bombingmarker 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.

The Peace Process

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.

Good Friday Agreement

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 Donegalmarker on 4 April 2006, and a murder inquiry was launched. In April 2009, the "Real IRA" released a statement taking responsibility for the killing.

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.

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 Election against Sinn Féin in the assembly constituency of Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

Electoral performances 2000s

Northern Ireland

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.

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.

Northern Ireland Executive Ministers

Portfolio Name
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MP MLA
Junior Minister

at Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister
Gerry Kelly MLA
Agriculture and Rural Development Michelle Gildernew MP MLA
Educationmarker Caitriona Ruane MLA
Regional Development Conor Murphy MP MLA

Republic of Ireland

Dáil Éireann

The party had five TDs elected in the 2002 Republic general election, an increase of four. At the next general election in 2007 the party had expectations of substantial gains, with poll predictions that they would gain five to ten seats. In the event, the party lost one of its seats to Fine Gael: Sean Crowe, who had topped the poll in Dublin South West fell to fifth place, with his first preference vote reduced from 20.28% to 12.16%.

General Election, May 2007
Region 1st Preference votes 2007 Share of vote 2007
(increase or decrease on 2002 vote)
TDs elected 2007
Connacht-Ulster 43,943 10.65% (+2.64%) 1: Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan)
Dublin 35,256 6.97% (-1.94%) 1: Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central)
Rest of Leinster 32,301 5.92% (+0.26%) 1: Arthur Morgan (Louth)
Munster 31,910 5.30% (+1.11%) 1: Martin Ferris (Kerry North)

Local government

Sinn Féin is represented on most county and city councils. They made large gains in the local elections of 2004, increasing the number of councillors from 21 to 54, and replacing the Progressive Democrats as the fourth largest party in local government. At the most recent local elections held in June 2009, the party's vote fell by 0.95% to 7.34%, with a net loss of one seat.

Local Elections
County or City Total Seats Seats won 1999 Seats won 2004 Seats won 2009 Percentage of 1st preference vote 2009
(increase or decrease on 2004)
Carlow County Councilmarker 21 0 0 0 1.94% (+0.40%)
Cavan County Councilmarker 25 2 3 3 10.85% (-0.77%)
Clare County Councilmarker 32 0 0 0 0.29% (-1.56%)
Cork City Councilmarker 31 1 2 4 10.80% (+2.51%)
Cork County Councilmarker 48 0 1 1 6.37% (+0.31%)
Donegal County Councilmarker 29 0 4 4 12.94% (-0.57%)
Dublin City Councilmarker 52 4 10 7 11.97% (-7.40%)
Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council 28 0 0 0 2.58% (-1.10%)
Fingal County Council 24 0 1 0 4.91% (-0.30%)
Galway City Councilmarker 15 0 1 0 3.03% (-5.36%)
Galway County Councilmarker 30 0 1 1 4.97% (+0.93%)
Kerry County Councilmarker 27 1 2 2 10.41% (+2.55%)
Kildare County Councilmarker 25 0 0 0 0.97% (+0.24%)
Kilkenny County Councilmarker 26 0 0 0 3.54% (+0.86%)
Laois County Councilmarker 25 0 0 1 8.17% (+4.41%)
Leitrim County Councilmarker 22 2 2 2 12.53% (+1.37%)
Limerick City Councilmarker 17 0 0 1 7.16% (+6.02%)
Limerick County Councilmarker 28 0 0 0 1.40% (-0.08%)
Longford County Councilmarker 21 0 0 0 2.25% (-1.45%)
Louth County Councilmarker 26 1 5 6 17.45% (+0.57%)
Mayo County Councilmarker 31 0 1 2 7.21% (+2.98%)
Meath County Councilmarker 29 1 2 1 7.93% (-1.52%)
Monaghan County Councilmarker 20 6 7 7 27.63% (-3.42%)
Offaly County Councilmarker 21 0 0 0 3.02% (+1.75%)
Roscommon County Councilmarker 26 0 1 1 4.23% (+1.38%)
Sligo County Councilmarker 25 1 1 1 7.7.95% (+0.22%)
South Dublin County Council 26 2 3 3 11.06% (-2.39%)
North Tipperary County Council 21 0 0 1 2.43% (-0.45%)
South Tipperary County Council 26 0 0 0 1.63% (-2.46%)
Waterford City Councilmarker 15 0 2 1 9.17% (-4.37%)
Waterford County Councilmarker 23 0 1 2 5.50% (+2.55%)
Westmeath County Councilmarker 23 0 0 0 3.91% (-1.15%)
Wexford County Councilmarker 21 0 3 0 7.56% (-1.36%)
Wicklow County Councilmarker 24 0 0 2 8.21% (+1.56%)
Total 883 21 54 53 7.34% (-0.95%)

European Parliament

At the elections to the European Parliament in June 2004, Sinn Féin made a breakthrough in the Dublin constituency. The party's candidate, Mary Lou McDonald, was third in terms of first preference vote. She polled 14.32% or 60,395 votes, close behind the leading Fianna Fáil contender, Eoin Ryan with 61,681 (14.62%). McDonald was elected on the sixth count as one of four MEPs for Dublin, effectively taking the seat of Patricia McKenna of the Green Party.

At the next European election in 2009, Dublin's representation was reduced to three MEPs. The contest was further complicated by the candidature of Joe Higgins of the Socialist Party and of the former Green MEP, McKenna. A collapse in the vote of the government parties (Fianna Fáil and the Greens) was thought to be enough to re-elect McDonald, who would benefit from the transfers of Higgins and McKenna on their elimination. In the event Sinn Féin's first preferences fell to 47,928, (11.79%) and McDonald slipped to fifth place behind Higgins, who was elected at the expense of both the sitting Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil MEPs.

European Parliament elections 2004 and 2009
Constituency 1st preference votes 2004 Share of vote 2004 1st preference votes 2009 Share of Vote 2009
Dublin 60,395 14.32% 47,928 11.79%
East 39,356 8.68% 47,499 (2 candidates) 11.07%
North West 65,321 15.50% 45,515 9.19%
South 32,643 6.74% 64,671 12.98%
Total 197,715 11.10% 205,613 11.24%


In 1923 the party split, with a majority of Sinn Féin TDs changing the name of the party to Cumann na nGaedhael
In 1926, de Valera resigned from Sinn Féin and launched Fianna Fáil
In 1970, there was another split, with one faction calling itself "Official Sinn Féin", and later Sinn Féin, the Workers Party (1982), before settling on the Workers Party (1982). The other faction was dubbed by media sources as "Provisionals" or "Provo's". Within two years the “Provos” secured control of the Republican Movement.
In 1986, Ó Brádaigh left and set up Republican Sinn Féin.

Parties with origins in Sinn Féin

*Irish Republican Socialist Party (split from Official Sinn Féin in 1975)
*Democratic Left - formed from a split from the Workers' Party in 1992; merged into the Labour Party in 1999)

Political views

Apart from the obvious support of a united Ireland, Sinn Féin outlined several other key policies from their most recent election manifesto. Several are listed below:

  • The 18 Northern Ireland MPs that sit in the Parliament of the United Kingdommarker to be allowed to sit in the Dáil Éireann as full Deputies as well,
  • Ending academic selection within the education system
  • Support for a 'Minister for Children'
  • An 'All-Ireland-Health-Service' akin to the National Health Service in the United Kingdommarker,
  • Diplomatic pressure to close Sellafieldmarker nuclear reprocessing plant (in Britainmarker)
  • 'Plastic bag levy' to be extended to Northern Ireland,
  • Free breast screening (to check for breast cancer) of all women over forty - presumably in both Northern Ireland and the Republic,
  • Aiding the case for equal pay,
  • An end to 'mass-deportation' of asylum seekers across the whole of Ireland,
  • To further Irish language teaching in Northern Irelandmarker,
  • Oppose all water charges,
  • An 'all-Ireland' economy with a common currency and one tax policy,
  • Support for a 'Minister for Europe' - likely to be used in the Dáil, and,
  • Greater investment for those who are disabled.
  • Sinn Féin proposes a draft Irish Language Bill for the North (Northern Ireland), a Bill that would give the Irish Language the same status that the Welsh language has in Wales.
  • Support for the Basque people's right to self determination, and opposition to the US blockade of Cuba

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.

Sinn Féin are opposed to what they term "the illegal occupation of Palestine by Israel."

See also


  1. There has been a number of books to mark the 100 anniversary of the Party in addition to the Parties own publication Sinn Féin: A Century of Struggle, (2005), ISBN 0 9542946 1 0 ,published by Parnell Publications and edited by Micheal MacDonncha (former editor on An Phoblacht). They included Sinn Féin, 1905-2005: in the shadow of gunmen, by Kevin Rafter and published by Gill & Macmillan, (2005), ISBN 9780717139927 and Sinn Féin: a hundred turbulent years, by Brian Feeney, published by University of Wisconsin Press, (2003), ISBN 9780299186746
  2. "The political counterpart of PIRA": entry under Provisional Sinn Féin, W.D. Flackes & Sydney Elliott (1994) Northern Ireland: A Political Directory 1968-1993. Belfast: Blackstaff Press
  3. MacDonncha (2005), p.12
  4. The first Sinn Fein party
  5. Thomas Stanislaus Cleary, in 1882 wrote a play entitled Shin Fain; or Ourselves Alone. T.M. Healy a decade later referred to 'the good old watch-word of old Ireland-Shin Fain-ourselves alone.' cite: Míchael Laffan, The Resurrection of Ireland: The Sinn Féin Party 1916-1923, Cambridge University Press (2005), ISBN 0 521 67267 8, pg.20
  6. Thomas Davis was the author of a ballad titled "Ourselves Alone" which appeared in Spirit of the Nation in 1843. Máire de Buitléir in 1904 coined the term Sinn Féin "Ourselves" in English, echoing Davis's refain. cite:Robert Welch, The Oxford Companion to Irish Literature, Clarendon Press (2001), ISBN 0198661584 9780198661580, pg.526
  7. "Sinn Fein tops poll in Euro count ", BBC News
  8. "History made - Sinn Féin is now the largest party in the Six Counties",
  9. MacDonncha (2005), p.12
  10. Patrick Pearse attended the first meeting as a guest speaker
  11. MacDonncha (2005), p.12
  12. What Sinn Féin Stands For, Aodh de Blácam, Dublin, Mellifont Press, 1921.
  13. MacDonncha (2005), p.13.
  14. Laffan (1999), p.30.
  15. National Library of Ireland
  16. The wording was "having achieved that status the Irish people may by referendum freely choose their own form of Government".
  17. MacDonncha (2005), p.59.
  18. Google book search
  19. MacDonncha (2005), p.63
  20. Bell (1997), p.366; Feeny (2002), pp.250-1; MacDonncha (2005), pp.131-2; Coogan (2000), pp.337-8; Bew & Gillespie (1993), pp.24-5
  21. Coogan (2000), pp.337-8
  22. Ferriter (2005), p.624
  23. Bew & Gillespie (1993), pp.24-5; Feeny (2002), pp.249-50; MacDonncha (2005), pp.131-2; Bell (1997), p.366; Kee (2005), p.237; Ellis (2004), p.281
  24. Kee (2005), p.237; Ellis (2004), p.281; Coogan (2000), pp.337-8
  25. Kee (2005), p.237; Ellis (2004), p.2811
  26. Bell (1997), p.363; Feeney (2002), pp.250-1; Anderson (2002), p.186
  27. Anderson (2002), p.184
  28. Anderson (2002), p.186
  29. Feeney (2002), pp.250-1; MacDonncha (2005), pp.131-2; Anderson (2002), p.186
  30. Anderson (2002), pp.187
  31. Feeney (2002), pp.250-1; MacDonncha (2005), pp.131-2; Anderson (2002), p.186
  32. Bell (1997), p.366; MacDonncha (2005), pp.131-2; Anderson (2002), p.186
  33. Bell (1997), p.367; MacDonncha (2005), pp.131-2; Anderson (2002), p.186; Coogan (2000), pp.337-8
  34. Anderson (2002), p.186
  35. Bew & Gillespie (1993), pp.24-5: Two leading commentators on the Provisionals noted: ‘The nomenclature, with its echoes of the 1916 rebels’ provisional government of the Irish Republic, reflected the delegates’ belief that the irregularities surrounding the extraordinary convention rendered it null and void. Any decisions it took were revokable. They proposed to call another convention within twelve months to ‘resolve the leadership of the movement. Until this happened they regarded themselves as a provisional organisation. Ten months later, after the September 1970 Army Council meeting, a statement was issued declaring that the “provisional” period was now officially over, but by then the, name had stuck fast.’ (Bishop and Mallie, p.137)
  36. Ellis (2004), p.281
  37. Feeney (2002), p.252; Ferriter (2005), p.624
  38. The name came about when the Officials decided to wear an adhesive backed paper badge of the Easter Lily, a commemorative symbol for the 1916 Easter Rising instead of the traditional pinning it on coat lapels
  39. Feeney (2002), p.252
  40. Feeney (2002), p.252
  41. Feeney (2002), p.260
  42. Feeney (2002), p.262
  43. Feeney (2002), p.261
  44. Feeney (2002), pp.270-1
  45. Feeney (2002), pp.272-3
  46. Feeney (2002), pp.274-5
  47. Feeney (2002), pp.279
  48. Feeney (2002), pp.283-85
  49. Feeney (2002), pp.287
  50. Feeney (2002), pp.287
  51. Feeney (2002), pp.291
  52. Irish government allegations about IRA army council
  53. SF leadership denies army council membership.
  54. Brendan O'Brien, the Long War, the IRA and Sinn Fein (1995) ISBN 0-86278-359-3 p128
  55. Taylor (1997), pp.281-2
  56. Press Briefing: 3.45 pm Monday 21 February 2005 10 Downing Street website.
  57. Guardian 7 January 2007
  58. Guardian 9 October 2008
  59. 1983 Westminster election result
  60. The three were S. Cassidy (Dungannon), J. J. McCusker (Fermanagh) and W. McCartney (Derry)
  61. 1981 local election results
  62. 1985 local election results
  63. 1985 local election results
  64. 1986 by-election results
  65. 1987 Westminster election results
  66. quoted in Gordon Lucy, The Northern Ireland Local Government Elections of 1993, Ulster Society Press
  67. 1992 Westminster election results
  68. Sinn Fein 29 April 2007 accessed 27 July 2009
  69. AnPhoblacht 29 March 2007
  70. Sinn Fein 17 May 2007
  71. Daily Telegraph 21 May 2007
  72. Guardian 27 May 2007
  73. Feeney (2002), p.252; Ferriter (2005), p.624
  74. Sinn Féin lobbies for Northern Ireland MPs to sit in Dáil Éireann
  75. Belfast Telegraph, 16 April 2008
  77. Sinn Féin website, International Department
  78. Irish Times, 26 May 2008
  80. SF press release, 16 March 2006


  • Michael Laffan, The Resurrection of Ireland: The Sinn Féin Party 1916—1923 (Cambridge, 1999)

  • The Secret Army: The IRA, J Bowyer Bell, Poolbeg Press Ltd. Ireland 1997 (revised Third Edition), ISBN 1853718130

  • Sinn Féin: A Hundred Turbulent Years, Brian Feeney, O'Brien Press, Dublin 2002, ISBN 0862786959

  • The I.R.A., Tim Pat Coogan, HarperCollins Publishers London 2000, ISBN 0006531555

  • Northern Ireland: A Chronology of the Troubles 1968-1993, Paul Bew & Gordon Gillespie, Gill & Macmillan, Dublin 1993, ISBN 0717120813

  • The Transformation of Ireland 1900-2000, Diarmaid Ferriter, Profile Books, London 2005, ISBN 9781861974433

  • Ireland: A History, Robert Kee, Abacus, London (Revised Edition 2005), ISBN 0349116768

  • Eyewitness to Irish History, Peter Berresford Ellis, John Wiley & Sons, Inc, Canada 2004, ISBN 0471266337

  • Joe Cahill: A Life in the IRA, Brendan Anderson, O'Brien Press, Dublin 2002, ISBN 0862786746

  • The Transformation of Ireland 1900-2000, Diarmaid Ferriter, Profile Books, London 2005, ISBN 9781861974433

Further reading

  • Gerry Adams, Before The Dawn (Brandon Book, 1996)
  • Tim Pat Coogan, The Troubles (Arrow, 1995, 1996) ISBN 009946571X
  • Tim Pat Coogan, Michael Collins (Hutchinson, 1990) ISBN 0091741068
  • Brian Feeney, Sinn Féin: A Hundred Turbulent Years (2003) HB: ISBN 0299186709 PB ISBN 0299186741
  • Roy Foster, Ireland 1660-1972
  • Geraldine Kennedy (ed.) Nealon's Guide to the 29th Dáil and Seanad (Gill and Macmillan, 2002) ISBN 0717132889
  • F.S.L. Lyons, Ireland Since the Famine
  • Brian Maye, Arthur Griffith (Griffith College Publications)
  • Dorothy Macardle, The Irish Republic (Corgi edition, 1968) ISBN 55207862X
  • Sean O'Callaghan, The Informer (Corgi 1999) ISBN 0-552-14607-2
  • Patrick Sarsfield, S. O'Hegarty & Tom Garvin, The Victory of Sinn Féin: How It Won It & how It Used It (1999) ISBN 1900621177
  • Peter Taylor, Behind the Mask: The IRA & Sinn Féin ISBN 1575000776
  • Robert Kee, The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism (Penguin, 1972–2000), ISBN 0140291652
  • Robert W. White, Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, the Life and Politics of an Irish Revolutionary (Indiana University Press, 2006, ISBN 0253347084

External links

Official websites

Other links

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