Sinn Fein Fears Electoral Challenge

Today’s Irish News front page: “Former Sinn Fein assembly member John Kelly, and west Belfast republican Brendan Hughes, allege that the party has tried to silence people “who seek a wider debate on the policing matter”.
“We are concerned that in a bid to stifle wider discussion within the republican community, Sinn Fein leaders are pursuing a strategy of threat against dissenting voices.
“They are disguising their own menace by attributing violent intent to these voices.
“Such voices are healthy in a re-publicanism un-afraid of critical self-examination.”
Mr Kelly, a former Mid-Ulster as-sembly member, and Mr Hughes, who led IRA prisoners during the first Maze hunger strike and was once closely connected with Gerry Adams, claim the party is frightened that disillusioned republicans will challenge them at the next election.
Although they claim to have “no position on electoral intervention one way or the other”, the men say: “Those who wish to discuss all matters relevant to republicanism including an alternative electoral strategy to Sinn Fein’s must be both free and safe to do so.”
A Sinn Fein spokesman said: “This is total nonsense. It has no basis in fact or reality.” ”

Full texts follow the jump.FULL TEXT OF LETTER:
Sinn Fein trying to smear ‘dissenters’
letters
By Brendan Hughes and John Kelly, No More Lies

A number of years ago a body of republicans came together in support of open debate and an end to a range of sordid practices that had brought republicanism into disrepute. The group, while loosely referring to itself as a congress, came to be known as No More Lies.

It aspired to offer some form of moral protection to those republicans who felt they wanted to push back the party censors and thought police.

Today it seems that the need to refute lies and offer moral protection is as great as it was then.

Of particular concern are certain allegations being peddled by the Sinn Fein leadership.

Supported by the PSNI, it claims to be under physical threat from some people opposed to its partitionist policies and its eagerness to embrace the PSNI.

In our view there are threats being made. But they are coming from Sinn Fein and are directed against republicans who seek a wider debate on the policing matter.

A number of people have been warned by Sinn Fein that they must not attend independent meetings organised by republicans around the policing issue.

It is not the threat of physical attack that Sinn Fein leaders fear.

This is evident from the way they continue to go about their daily lives. It is the possibility of republicans fed up with Sinn Fein lies and deceit deciding to mount an electoral challenge that sends shudders of anxiety through the leadership circles. We have no position on electoral intervention one way or the other. We do not know if any electoral challenge has been discussed. But those who wish to discuss all matters relevant to republicanism – including an alternative electoral strategy to Sinn Fein’s, must be both free and safe to do so. We are concerned that in a bid to stifle wider discussion within the republican community, Sinn Fein is pursuing a strategy of threat against dissenting voices. They are disguising their own menace by attributing violent intent to those voices. Such voices are healthy in a republicanism unafraid of critical self-examination. They must be protected against Sinn Fein leadership threats and smears used to undermine their credibility.

Let the debate take place and the most honest participants win.

Under no circumstances should it be prevented from happening.

FRONT PAGE ARTICLE:
Sinn Fein ‘threatens’ objectors to policing
By Claire Simpson

A founding member of the Provisional IRA and a former hunger strike leader have claimed Sinn Fein is threatening republicans who oppose moves to support policing.

Former Sinn Fein assembly member John Kelly, and west Belfast republican Brendan Hughes, allege that the party has tried to silence people “who seek a wider debate on the policing matter”.

In a letter to The Irish News they say: “A number of people have been warned by Sinn Fein that they must not attend independent meetings organised by republicans around the policing issue.”

Sinn Fein last night described the claims as “total nonsense.”

The party is preparing for a special ard fheis later this month at which it is expected to give formal support to the PSNI and Garda.

Kelly and Hughes reject Sinn Fein claims that senior party members are under threat from dissident republicans.

“It is not the threat of physical attack that Sinn Fein leaders fear,” the letter reads.

“This is evident from the way they continue to go about their daily lives.

“We are concerned that in a bid to stifle wider discussion within the republican community, Sinn Fein leaders are pursuing a strategy of threat against dissenting voices.

“They are disguising their own menace by attributing violent intent to these voices.

“Such voices are healthy in a re-publicanism un-afraid of critical self-examination.”

Mr Kelly, a former Mid-Ulster as-sembly member, and Mr Hughes, who led IRA prisoners during the first Maze hunger strike and was once closely connected with Gerry Adams, claim the party is frightened that disillusioned republicans will challenge them at the next election.

Although they claim to have “no position on electoral intervention one way or the other”, the men say: “Those who wish to discuss all matters relevant to republicanism including an alternative electoral strategy to Sinn Fein’s must be both free and safe to do so.”

A Sinn Fein spokesman said: “This is total nonsense. It has no basis in fact or reality.

“A number of Sinn Fein members have attended these meetings.”

Mr Kelly, who supports the Good Friday Agreement, left Sinn Fein in 2003 amid claims that it was a “control dictatorship”.

He claimed the party was un-happy at his decision to speak to dissident republicans in Magha-berry jail and his attendance at two rallies organised by Marion Price of the dissident-aligned 32 County Sovereignty Movement.