Whose centenary is it anyway?

Yesterday’s Sunday Times stirs the centenary stew by claiming that No less than five political parties are to mark the centenary of the Sinn Fein movement this year with rival commemorations – all of them claiming direct descendancy from Arthur Griffith’s version. They even woke Brian Feeney from his post-Christmas slumber, and he, unsurprisingly, throws his weight behind Gerry Adams’ Sinn Féin claim to the celebrations (if not the bill) – but will they wince at him pointing out that Griffith’s original Sinn Féin was not republican. “[the original]Sinn Fein maintained the concept of a dual monarchy for Ireland under the British crown until 1917″?

  • Davros

    This bit I found confusing.

    “Brian Feeney, a historian who has written the definitive book on Sinn Fein, believes Adams and his party has the best claim to direct lineage. “It’s totally preposterous for Fianna Fail to claim any continuity with Sinn Fein in 1905, because they broke with the party when de Valera went into the Dail,” he said.”

    SF itself was in the Dáil. Griffith after all died in office as Dáil president.

  • AndrewD

    Griffith founded a new party with others from the pro-treaty group called Cumann na nGael which is now in modern times Fine Gael.

    Sinn Fein at this point was under de Valera (being anti-Treaty) until 1927 / 29 – I think, when he founded Fianna Fail. De Valera and the rest of that Sinn Fein where refusing to take their seats in the Dail as they had to swear an oath to the King as required under the treaty. The Dublin Government introduced a law whereby all Dail members had to take their seats or lose them. De Valera didn’t want to be put in the position of losing his seat with other members and the Party (Sinn Fein) took a vote on the issue – to which De Valera lost. He then went and founded a new party – Fianna Fail and opposed the treaty from within the Dail/Free State Parliament. Then of course in the 1930s a Republic was declared.

    The link is therefore unclear from the old Sinn Fein of the 1920s to the ‘new’ Sinn Fein that exists today. Personally I think they have just adopted the name from History.

  • Davros

    Is there a definitive history of SF 1905-1922 ?
    According to Wikipedia, whose reliability is variable, Griffith formed CnG before SF – it was a one of constituent parts which formed SF , so it is damnably complicated.

  • Young Irelander

    Davros,yes Cng was around before Sinn Fein.
    I think it was in 1902 in Dublin that the party adopted Griffith’s policy of “Sinn Fein” which involved passive resistance to the British.

    I believe both Fine Gael and FF can trace their roots back to the SF of 1905 as well as SF(to an extent).

  • Davros

    While I think of it, will SF wince if it is pointed out that their flag in the 1918 election carried the Stars and Stripes ? That’ll go down well in the Middle East and S.America gigs 😉

  • James

    Everybody’s right, everybody wins. Here’s what Foster said about it.

    Griffith was influenced not only by his interpretation of how Hungary had won dual-nationality status but also by the ideas of economic autarky pioneered by List. On October 1900 the declared objectives of Cumann na anGaedheal were
    to advance the cause of Ireland’s national independence by (1) cultivating a fraternal spirit among Irishmen; (2) diffusing knowledge of Ireland’s resources and supporting Irish industries; (3) the study of teaching of Irish history, literature, language, music and art; (4) the assiduous cultivation and encouragement of Irish games, pastimes and characteristics; (5) the discountenancing of anything tending towards the anglicization of Ireland; (6) the physical and intellectual training o the young; (7) the development of an Irish foreign policy; (8) extending to each other friendly advice and aid, socially and politically; (9) the nationalization of publics boards (Foster cites Henry, The Evolution of Sinn Fein (Dublin, 1920), p. 64 as the source)
    None of this was very specific or very new; nor was the restriction of membership to ‘all persons of Irish birth or descent undertaking to obey its rules, carry out its constitution and pledging themselves to aid to the best of their ability in restoring Ireland to her former position of sovereign independence’. That last phrase meant nothing more than Griffith’s idea of Grattan’s parliament.

    What was important was Griffith’s advocacy of abstentionist tactics. The Irish Ausgleich would come about through the withdrawal of support for British institutions, from Parliament down. The corollary, that such a policy would have to be backed up by violence and intimidation, was ignored; meanwhile Cumann na nGaedheal, reconstructed in 1905-8 as Sinn Fein (Ourselves or Our Own Thing), provided a broad front that could incorporate Inghinidhe na hEireann, the tiny Dungannon Clubs of extreme nationalists in Ulster (numbering forth to fifty members in Belfast by 1905), adherents of the Gaelic League and many others.

  • willowfield

    Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Provisional SF, the Workers’ Party, Republican SF, 32-County Sovereignty Committee – all are descendants of SF.

    Fine Gael perhaps have the best claim since they are descended from the majority side in the first SF split in 1921/2.

    Provisional SF is descended from the minority side of the minority side, i.e. from what became known as Official SF which was a split from what became known as Fianna Fáil.

    The Provos’ claims today are really just based on the fact that they retain the name.

    In terms of ideological purity, Republican SF have the best claim.

  • Davros

    Page 7, Irish News today has this letter from Ruairi O Bradaigh.

    Contrary to the report headed “1974 talks for peace ‘scuppered’” in the Irish News of December 30, I did not “leave Sinn Fein in 1986”.

    When the Sinn Fein constitution was broken at the Ard-Fheis of 1986, those of us who opposed the breach withdrew from the venue and continued the ard-fheis elsewhere. We took the constitution with us and reorganised under the title Republican Sinn Fein which has been the description of the organisation since 1917.

    We have operated since 1986 under the self-same unbroken constitution of Sinn Fein and in 2005 we celebrate our centenary.

    Ruairi O Bradaigh
    President
    Republican Sinn Fein
    Parnell Street
    Dublin 1

    I have a wonderful picture of O Bradaigh glaring daggers at Adams when the vote wents against him.

  • willowfield

    Didn’t know that “Republican Sinn Fein” was the “description” since 1917.

  • Davros

    There’s a sense in that WF as it was in 1917 that they abandoned the ideal of dual monarchy and became a republican party.

  • willowfield

    Yes, but to my knowledge, they were never described as “Republican Sinn Fein”.

  • Keith M

    Willowfield : There term “Republic Sinn Féin” only came into existance in 1986, after yet another split (that one as I recall was abount taking seats in the Dail).

    Davros “In terms of ideological purity, Republican SF have the best claim.” Actually as the original SF of 100 years ago supported a dual monarchy, and local government for Ireland, I think the UK Labour Party (which only just predates SF) is probably the closest match today, although some south Unionists (not me) would be even closer!

    It’s hard to believe that people are fighting over the legacy of such an avowed antiemite as Griffith. I think everyone should party!

  • Jimmy Sands

    “Our Own Thing”

    There’s no doubt as to which party has most right to use the “Cosa Nostra” brand.

  • D’Oracle

    ..and then there’s an undersubscribed one with 13 posts ..still about Shinners ..but no statues

  • James

    “There’s no doubt as to which party has most right to use the “Cosa Nostra” brand.”

    I was wondering when one of the wise guys would pick up on that. Foster wrote the book nearly fifteen years after Joe Valachi sang for the Senate. As a revisionist historian, either Foster’s Irish sucked or it was an offer he just couldn’t refuse.

    Boogie on, Sunny Jim.

  • willowfield

    Keith M

    Willowfield : There term “Republic Sinn Féin” only came into existance in 1986, after yet another split (that one as I recall was abount taking seats in the Dail).

    That’s what I thought. So Rory O’Brady was attempting to mislead the readers of the Irish News.

    Yes, you are right about the cause of the split. In 1970, Provisional SF split from what became known as Official SF on this very issue. Only 16 years later they voted to do a volte-face on the issue, thus moving back to the pre-1970 position!

  • davidbrew

    let’s not forget the other -less happy-centenary in March of the Ulster Unionist Council.Their plans are a tad more modest. They’re having a (funeral?) service in St Anne’s Cathedral. Every UUC member gets a free copy of Tootsie Millar’s book, and they are having a black tie dinner in City Hall at £48 a skull, much to the consternation of many of the ordinary members who don’t have a black tie or would dream of spending that amount on a meal.
    And don’t forget the topselling souvenir calendar ( price £16.90, one hopes) with pictures of Walter Long, John Miller Andrews, and Harry West. Look on their works, ye mighty, and despair!

    Finally in May all of its westminster candidates will ceremonially commit political suicide by endorsing the Trimble leadership.He is then ceremonailly elevated to the peerage as Lord Vader of Drumcree and- in a moving pageant- his Nixonesque helicopter leaving the roof of Cunningham House will see MI5 spooks fight off the councillors and Assembly men scrabbling to get on board to claim the knighthoods and OBEs they were expecting to pay them for their dereliction of their political duty.

    Yup it’s certainly going back to its roots as the structure coordinating a mass movement of the people there.

  • Davros

    Tootsie Millar ?

  • davidbrew

    Frank has been thought by some to bear an unfortunate resemblance to Dustin Hoffman in a frock

  • willowfield

    I thought Tootsie Millar was Frank Millar Sr, not his son.

  • willowfield

    And it was Pootsie Millar, not Tootsie.

  • unionist_observer

    the calender was only a tenner David

  • davidbrew

    dad may have been pootsie, but Junior’s tootsie Willow- for the reason stated

    Rebecca- Too much info, thank you all the same- I can’t see myself forking out for a picture of Terence O’Neill or even Colonel Saunderson (fingerlicking good)
    BTW Are you stumping up £48 to slurp broth in the company of Jack Allen and drink warm champagne with Billy Armstrong? Why not bring along some of your republican friends. I hear they’re hoping to get a sponsor to offset costs- how about the Bourbon ball- or perhaps the Titanic tuck in?

    And don’t forget ” David Trimble’s first mistake was…”