The New Politics of Sinn Féin

The New Politics of Sinn Féin

The New Politics of Sinn Féin

The New Politics of Sinn Féin

Synopsis

Sinn Féin ("ourselves" or "we ourselves") began innocuously enough, at least in etymology, when founder Arthur Griffith asked the publishers of an Oldcastle paper if he might use their name for a new political party that he was setting up. Since that 1905 founding, however, and through its journey from revolutionary movement to potential political partner in the state it was pledged to destroy, the modern political meaning of Sinn Féin reflects a contradictory and tension-heavy history of Irish republicanism. The New Politics of Sinn Féin is a powerful and revealing assessment of the ideological and organizational development of provisional republicanism since 1985.
The first half of the volume chronicles the processes of change that transformed the republican movement from its revolutionary origins to its current role as a civic and legislative power, while the second half explores the ideological implications of this transition. Arguing that the political movement remains a site of contestation between elements of the universal and the particular, Kevin Bean looks especially to the tensions between civic and ethnic conceptions of identity and the nation as a way to define Sinn Féin in its current incarnation- making this an essential volume for anyone concerned with the contemporary state of Irish politics.

Excerpt

They moved through Washington as smoothly as sharks in warm water…
Whatever they were, or had been, they were politicians to their fngertips,
wholly at ease in their surroundings.

Where British cultural symbols are involved in public life, equivalent
Irish cultural symbols should be given equal prominence. Statues of Irish
Republican icons placed at Stormont will make it more welcoming for nation
alists.

From Loughgall to Stormont

On 10 May 2007, the Sinn Féin weekly newspaper An Phoblacht carried a front page photograph of a smiling Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness at the swearing-in of Northern Ireland’s new devolved executive. Tucked away at the top of the same page was the strapline: ‘Huge Crowds Pay Tribute to Loughgall Martyrs’, referring to a Republican commemoration for eight IRA volunteers killed by the SAS in May 1987. The juxtaposition of the two events was commented on by supporters and critics of the Provisionals as symbolizing the distance that the Provisional movement had travelled in the last twenty years. To the Provisionals’ unrepentant Republican opponents, the new devolved executive ‘solidified English rule’ and was a betrayal of the cause for which the Loughgall volunteers had died. For Martin McGuinness, the distance between Loughgall and the assembly at Stormont was not just a question of time. Speaking at the commemoration, he argued that the journey undertaken ‘by the Republican struggle … [had opened] up … a democratic and peaceful path towards Irish unity and independence’.

1 Former British Ambassador to the USA Sir Christopher Meyer describing Provisional leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness in Washington, DC. See Meyer, 2005, 113.

2 Sinn Féin Assemblyman Paul Butler, quoted in ‘SF calls for equality at Stormont’,10 May 2007.

3 ‘Paisley and Adams join to solidify English rule’, Saoirse, April 2007.

4 Martin McGuinness quoted in P. Whelan, ‘Huge crowds pay tribute to Loughgall Martyrs’, An Phoblacht, 10 May 2007.

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