Sinn Féin’s twin aims: Winning friends in the north and finding some southern comfort

A rejection of the European Union treaty in the upcoming Irish referendum would be seen as a success for Sinn Féin and inject hope into the party.

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A rejection of the EU treaty in the upcoming referendum would be a success for Sinn Féin as well as giving hope to the party who are holding their largest number of seats in Dáil Éireann since 1986.

Sinn-FeinLast weekend’s Sinn Féin annual conference – its Ard Fheis – was another important step in copper-fastening mainstream Irish republicanism’s commitment to exclusively democratic means and underscoring the pivotal role the party now plays in both Irish jurisdictions.

That very sentence would have been sneered at by the party’s political detractors even a handful of years ago, but now serves as some indication of the momentum that the party currently enjoys.

The past year has unquestionably seen a breakthrough for Sinn Fein, consolidating its position in ‘northern’ politics while breaking through in the ‘southern’ Irish state. This was reflected in the speeches at the ard fheis.

Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister Martin McGuinness focused on the theme of “national reconciliation”. Holding out an olive branch to unionists, he said:

“People who think that a new Ireland, a united Ireland can be built without unionist participation, involvement and leadership are deluded.”

There are signs this call is being reciprocated. Talks between Sinn Fein and leading figures in the unionist community continue.


See also:

Sinn Féin plans next moves towards Irish unity 10 Feb 2012


The former Methodist moderator, Reverend Harold Good, who witnessed the decommissioning of IRA weapons, said the talks were aimed at building trust between divided communities, adding:

“We’ve come a long way in our peace-building but we must now begin to talk about the healing of the hurt. From there, who knows what we can build.”

In a hard-hitting message to “deluded” dissident republicans, McGuinness called on them to end their campaign of violence and enter talks, adding:

“The war is over and we are in the process of building a new Republic and you can still be part of that.”

Meanwhile Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams concentrated on the parlous state of the Irish economy, lambasting the “political and banking elite and the developers – the golden circle – that enriched itself through corruption, greed and bad policies”.

Lambasting Dublin’s political establishment, Adams said people who had thought they were voting for change in last year’s general election had simply seen that “ Tweedledum dum has been replaced by Tweedledee and Tweedle dumber”.

Turning to the Irish Labour party – the junior coalition partner – he pointedly asked what the party’s founder, the legendary James Connolly, would think of their support for the “implementation of right wing austerity policies?”

Instead, Sinn Féin would implement a €13 billion, three-year stimulus to support SMEs, get the economy moving and create 130,000 job, although details were sketchy.

But it hardly matters; the Shinners recognise they are on a roll. Last year’s general election saw the party treble its number of seats in Dáil Éireann, giving the party its biggest haul since the party first recognised the southern Irish state in 1986. The feat was repeated in the Irish presidential election, with Sinn Fein’s candidate, Martin McGuinness, finding a comparable level of electoral support.

Since then the party has consistently climbed in the opinion polls – usually at the expense of the Fine Gael/Labour coalition – as austerity measures begin to eat into the government’s popularity.

A poll in today’s Irish Times has Sinn Fein on 24 per cent – putting the party in second place behind the coalition’s senior partner, Fine Gael. Moreover, Gerry Adams is now the most popular political leader in the Irish Republic, with Sinn Féin building support steadily, particularly among D and E group voters as the Irish Labour party – junior coalition partner – slumps to ten per cent.

This highlights the other prong of the Sinn Féin offer – the party’s democratic socialist tradition. The party’s socialism used to put off small ‘c’ conservative southern Irish voters, but the continuing economic gloom means Sinn Féin’s more radical message on rejecting austerity economics might, at last, be striking the right chord. In particular the party’s emphasis on the numbers forced to emigrate to find work has powerful emotional resonance among the Irish, long used to “exporting” their young people.

This Thursday sees a referendum on the EU fiscal treaty (or “austerity treaty” as Sinn Finn refers to it). Latest polls in Ireland predict a victory for the Yes campaign backed by the ruling coalition, big business and former party of government, Fianna Fail. But Irish public opinion is fickle.

Sinn Féin is heading the No campaign, with Gerry Adams calling it “a good and patriotic and positive action” to vote No to further austerity.

A rejection of the treaty will be chalked up as a political victory for Sinn Féin. But if voters choose to back it, probably through gritted teeth, that too will provide a fillip, allowing the party space to exploit the government’s growing unpopularity over spending cuts and rising unemployment. In terms of its brand and political positioning, Sinn Féin is now in a stronger place than ever before, with a coherent two-state strategy which appears to be working on both fronts.

But the party’s historic goal – Irish unity – remains their real prize. Calling for a “cordial union” between North and South, Gerry Adams said a new “agreed united Ireland” would emerge through a process of reconciliation.

He concluded:

“It does not make sense on an island this size and with a population of six million, to have two states, two bureaucracies, two sets of government departments, and two sets of agencies competing for inward investment.”


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26 Responses to “Sinn Féin’s twin aims: Winning friends in the north and finding some southern comfort”

  1. Kevin Meagher

    Sinn Féin’s twin aims: Winning friends in the North and finding some Southern comfort: by @KevinPMeagher

  2. Annie ♫

    Sinn Féin’s twin aims: Winning friends in the North and finding some Southern comfort: by @KevinPMeagher

  3. Ben Folley

    Sinn Féin’s twin aims: Winning friends in the north and finding some southern comfort via @leftfootfwd

  4. Ben Folley

    'Sinn Féin would implement a €13 billion, three-year stimulus … and create 130,000 jobs'

  5. s cullen

    Sinn Féin’s twin aims: Winning friends in the North and finding some Southern comfort: by @KevinPMeagher

  6. Kevin Meagher

    Sinn Féin’s twin aims: Winning friends in the North and finding some Southern comfort: @leftfootfwd #sfaf12 #ireland

  7. leftlinks

    Left Foot Forward – Sinn Féin’s twin aims: Winning friends in the north and finding some…

  8. Anonymous

    If the Union collapses, with Scotland leaving…well.

  9. michael burke

    MT @leftfootfwd: Sinn Féin’s twin aims: Fighting 'austerity' and uniting Ireland

  10. Qwerty

    LOL! Rather supportive of Sinn Fein are we?

    In what ways is the “strategy” working on the “northern front”, when support for a united Ireland is at a record low in spite of a record high Catholic population? And SF support has been flatlining for years?

    And if the Free State votes for fiscal union with Germany, I suspect that even the nationalist minority still supportive of the concept will be wondering what it would be for. Why stop being a province of one country to become one of another?

  11. Selohesra

    Funny how the EU unites so many diverse political views in their opposition to it. Unions, the Tory right and terrorist sympathisers – all against it. The only ones who seem to support it are the political elite who think they know what’s best for us (or at least their own EU funded pensions)

  12. Anonymous

    Ah yes, you’re practicing your lying again I see.

  13. Selohesra

    Come on Botty – do try and respond to the comment rather than just posting random hate filled cliches

  14. Anonymous

    Again, you’re accusing others of your own sins.

    You post a bunch of lies about “groups” opposing the EU, and then you accuse OTHERS of hate.

  15. Selohesra

    What are you on about? – all I was suggesting that Bob Crowe, Gerry Adams & John Redwood make strange bedfellows.

  16. Anonymous

    Except you didn’t say that. You said that terrorists backed the EU (hence smearing anyone who isn’t your kind of xenophobe). That all unions and all the Tories and most of the LibDems were against the EU, none of which is true.

    I’m taking you literally, as you take me. And you’re calling John Redwood a terrorist now? Ha. Vulcan, yes…

    (What? People can change, I supported dealing with Arafat so I’m hardly going to be a hypocrite now!)

  17. Selohesra

    Try re-reading what I posted – I said ” …. and Terrorist sympathisers – all against” As usual so eager to disagree that you dont take the time to see what you are disagreeing with. Duh

  18. Anonymous

    I am reading what you typed. Rather than what you expect me to read.

  19. Selohesra

    Clearly not – try a simple apology for once

  20. Anonymous

    Yes, I’m sorry I didn’t make sure your name was listed as a Tory Troll on a website dedicated to tracking them. Done.

    There we go!

  21. Selohesra

    You just can’t help yourself – – you lie about what I wrote even though it is there for all to see in black and white above. And you wonder why I have on occaisions questioned your sanity.

  22. Anonymous

    Again, you’re lying. You have repeatedly said I’m insane and have called several times for involuntarily “treatment” (i.e. beating
    until I shut up) for me, typically Social Darwinist.

    That you can’t even remember what you said…

    You don’t get the fact I’ll ALLWAYS mock whatever idiotic crap you come up with, regardless of the aim is /funny/.

    “ooh, if you’re Anti-EU you’re sharing a platform with Tories/Terrorists”.

    It’s all about suppressing free speech by throwing random terrorists in there, in trolling unrelated to the article. As usual.

    You’ve taken Stalin to heart.


    Sinn Féin’s twin aims: Winning friends in the North and finding some Southern comfort: by @KevinPMeagher

  24. Selohesra

    You really are weird with your accusations and fantasies about beatings – you should stop listening to those whispering voices inside your head and return to reality – its duller but better for you in the long term

  25. Anonymous

    Fantasies? I can read what you post elsewhere, again.

    And of course you have to silence the voices of opposition. Typical Ingsoc / Stalinist approach to that.

    As usual, you can’t stop with the party line that anyone who disagrees with punishing the 99% for existing is mentally ill. Of course I’m “wierd” to you, I disagree with you…

    (Extremists of /any/ stripe typically seek that, as you do. It’s not just your far right. See, even handed.)

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