Party Profile: Sinn Féin

A longstanding Republican and Nationalist party, which has rather recently converted to the Left. Certain central figures such as Gerry Adams, Mary Lou McDonald and Lynn Boylan are certainly left wing, although this brought Boylan into conflict with the Sinn Féin establishment in Kerry (centred around the Ferris family almost like a cult) in the 2000s, which resulted in the Martin Ferris and his daughter Toireasa sabotaging her local election campaign.

Other figures in the party are either non-ideological other than being nationalist republicans, such as Martin McGuinness, while others, like Martin Ferris, are conservative. This is typical of broad nationalist movements. The Scottish National Party for example includes many who would otherwise be in the Conservative Party, alongside others who would be more at home in the Greens or Labour. The Easter Rising too brought different political wings together, with religious conservatives like de Valera alongside hardcore socialists like James Connolly.

Sinn Féin has proved a strong force in campaigning against austerity both in the Dáil and in the European Parliament, and has been a powerful liberal campaigner on issues such as same sex marriage and abortion, coming out in force in Kerry, Dublin and elsewhere during the Marriage Referendum. However, they occasionally end up following a tactic of engaging in all campaigns, which has resulted in protests relating to things like road construction turning into a sea of Sinn Féin flags.

The party is advocating a socially liberal platform and a social democratic platform economically, pushing for progressive taxation spreading out the tax burden, a reform of healthcare to create a high quality national health service, and large infrastructure projects, as well as also being a strong advocate for rural Ireland, particularly Irish speaking areas such as Donegal and Kerry.

Sinn Fein has been accused of supporting austerity in the north, a criticism levelled at them both from the right (FF, FG, Lab) and from the left (AAA-PBP), however this isn’t true. Yes, Sinn Fein has implemented austerity policies in the north, but this isn’t something they have any power in. Stormont relies on funds from the Westminster government, which can be cut, and when they are cut, those cuts have to be passed on in the form of cuts to spending by the Stormont government. There is absolutely no way around it. Making this even more difficult is the fact that Sinn Fein isn’t actually in power in the North, they are the smaller member of a power sharing arrangement, and a very fragile one at that, one that would quite possibly fall apart if Sinn Fein attempted a stand off on the issue of austerity, and that isn’t something most people are willing to risk the peace for.

At times however, Sinn Féin’s nationalism and terrorist links reemerge, as is to be expected with former IRA figures like Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness at the helm. One incident that displays this was when Toireasa Ferris threatened to push for a monument commemorating her father Martin’s failed gun smuggling expedition in the 1980s for which he spent 10 years in prison, if Kerry County Council went ahead with adding to an existing monument the names of all the Munster Fusiliers from Tralee who lost their lives in the First World War. This continuing link to the IRA and the cult-like nature of a number of Sinn Féin’s local organisations has been a cause for concern in recent years, particularly in the lead up to this election with hugely hypocritical criticism from Fianna Fail and Labour, somehow missing the fact that a number of sitting Sinn Fein representatives and general election candidates have either served time for terrorist offences or have family members who have done so, however there are very promising signs that this is changing, with a new generation of members with little or no connection to horrors past rising through the ranks.

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