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Sinn Fein - The Shark's Party

For Sinn Fein's future, they must continually move forward or die

Mick Hall • 5 October 2005

Now that the brouhaha over the Provisional IRA's decommissioning of the majority of its arsenal is beginning to subside, and those nay sayers who doubted the aforementioned would ever occur are acclimatizing their minds to this inevitable, yet unprecedented, event, perhaps it is time to assess where the Provisional Republican Movement goes from here.

Clearly the snail-like pace at which they have been gaining political ground in the ROI since the second ceasefire cannot continue if the party is to become a major player in the ROI in the foreseeable future. At the next general election in the south, Sinn Fein need to move well into double figures as far as the number of TDs they manage to get elected to Dail Eireann. A tall order, some pundits may feel, but if SF cannot increase considerably the number of seats they hold when the decommissioning of arms will still be fresh in the electorates mind, they may well find themselves in a similar position to the Workers Party back in the 1980s.

The WP back then held six seats in Dail Eireann, one more than SF have today. Yet the WP was unable to break through this barrier and like a fair number of Republican/left parties before them, once they started to stall, political and personal differences within the leadership and discontent amongst the rank and file led to the disintegration of the party.

Below the surface within SF there is a fair amount of disquiet, which is hardly surprising if one considers the concessions and compromises the Adams leadership have squeezed out of the membership of Sinn Fein in recent years. While Mr Adams and his closest comrades can be seen to be moving the process forward and gaining ever more political ground for the party, in the main SF's membership have been prepared to keep their doubts and discontent to themselves. However if the expansion and forward movement of the party fails to continue, it is doubtful if the leadership can keep the lid on what may eventually become a volcano of outrage at the manner in which Mr Adams has conducted the party's internal affairs, and demands of the membership that they turn their backs on much they previously held dear. Thus for Mr Adams it is imperative the SF train does not hit the buffers but continues moving at high speed towards his chosen destination.

The outcome of all this will depend on what type of party Mr Adams has decided Sinn Fein is to become. Will it evolve from a revolutionary party into a left reformist progressive party similar to those European left parties who belong to the same bloc as SF within the EU Parliament? A party which will aim for the support of the dispossessed, the working classes, the less well off economically within the countryside and the more progressive section of the middle classes?

Or will Mr Adams reposition the party in the centre and by so doing tout for the votes of the two thirds of the electorate who have benefited from the Celtic Tiger? It should not be overlooked that unlike in the north, in the ROI Sinn Fein has never had a substantial, solid working class core base. Whilst it is true in recent years workers have increasingly voted for SF, their support is neither traditional nor inevitable and unlike the core support SF receives from the northern nationalist working classes.

There is not enough time for Mr Adams and his closest supporters within SF to move the party to the centre before the next general election, and if one suggests this may be his intentions to rank and file Shinners, they will scoff and call one a mischief maker. But there are signs that this may well be his long term aim. Whilst this would necessitate a realignment within Irish politics as this right of centre ground is already over crowded, one should not rule it out.

It looks like FF intend organizing in some sort of way in the north; all eyes have been on the SDLP as their co-partner, however, a centre-right SF shorn of both its radical philosophy and those who propagated it within SF would fit far more snugly together with FF than the SDLP. Could Mr Adams' strategy be to gain enough seats at the next election to enter a coalition government with Fianna Fail, and by so doing during the course of that Government, gradually bring the two Parties ever closer together to the extent they eventually become one?

Ridiculous? Perhaps, but how long ago was it when the Adams leadership proclaimed not an ounce, not a single bullet and we will never recognize the northern state-let?

Having said this there is little doubt the preferred option for the vast majority of the SF membership and sections of the leadership would be for the Party to become the political representatives of Ireland's dispossessed, working classes and the small progressive section of the island's middle classes. If they were to do this, and they have already made inroads within all of these communities, then they could achieve something truly historic, they could transfer James Connolly's core beliefs to the modern age. By so doing they could move Irish politics institutionally to the left and in the process help build a state the Unionist working classes in the north may wish to join.

The nature of southern politics where coalition is more often than not the outcome of general elections gives the left the opportunity to influence governmental policy far beyond its electoral weight. And it would not only be the political field SF could influence, but the whole culture of the nation, which despite the strides made in recent years still lags behind as far as women's rights, race, etc is concerned.

The latter option depends on either Gerry Adams controlling his ambition and ego — and I mention this not as a criticism because ego and ambition are necessary attributes for a successful politician— or if he is unable to do so, the membership of Sinn Fein need to do it for him. Perhaps they should start with the company Mr Adams is keeping of late, hardly the type most progressive politicians would wish to be seen with, but it is just the type of company a leader of a centre right party would be happy to be seen with on the international stage.



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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

6 October 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

A Bleak Future
Anthony McIntyre

Provos Censor de Chastelain in Bid to Lie About Guns
Tom Luby

Taking Politics Out of the Gun
Brendan O'Neill

Sinn Fein - The Shark's Party
Mick Hall

Live From Hollywood: The IRA Disarms
Harry Browne

Show Us the Money
Dr John Coulter

Doris Dead
Anthony McIntyre

Whatever Happened to... 'er, You Know... Whatshisname?
Tom Luby

The Dirty War Goes On
George Young

Reject All British Institutions
Kevin Murphy

Capitalism Vs Socialism
Liam O Ruairc

Apology to Dr Dion Dennis and CTheory website
Carrie Twomey

27 September 2005

Analysis: Seconds Out — Round 2005
Anthony McIntyre

Reflections: British Victory at Culloden
Anthony McIntyre

Decommissioning Will Reveal Real Problem
Fr. Sean Mc Manus

Inclusive Republicanism
Maire Cullen

Wish List for Unionist Leadership
Dr John Coulter

Sunday World vs. Thugs
Mick Hall

Real and Relative Poverty
David Adams

How the Poor Live and Die
Fred A Wilcox

Poverty — Do You Get It?
Jan Lightfoottlane

Defending Multiculturalism
Anthony McIntyre



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