Sinn Fein ard fheis: going through the motions…

THE Sinn Fein ard fheis is under way, and you can keep up to date with the latest news here at the party’s snazzy event website. You can read the list of motions here, and I’ve blogged a few thoughts on them below the fold. The Bearded One’s speech can be viewed here live tomorrow (Saturday March 1st) from 5-6pm. You can read Martin McGuinness’ keynote speech here, largely a tribute to ‘DUP Nua’. Intriguingly, on the subject of devolving policing and justice, he adds: “During the talks which led to the first meeting of the Sinn Fein and DUP leaderships on March 26th a senior member of the DUP delegation said that his party would stand by the St. Andrews Agreement. People are now demanding that they do just that.”It looks as though, if motion 42 is adopted (the vote is probably over by now), there will be no co-operation with the Eames-Bradley group. The list of republican principles to underpin any future ‘truth process’ indicates another political conflict has started – a battle of narratives, in which both republicans and the British will want history to reflect their own particular version of events.

Setting the terms of reference for this is an important starting point for both sides, and mainstream republicanism clearly feels that the State has taken too much control of the process. And a process that doesn’t allow republicanism to justify its armed campaign is not one it will subscribe to. But while Sinn Fein doesn’t want a process that allows the State to cover up its illegal activities, creating one in which the IRA remains silent is equally valueless.

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Several motions refer to An Photlacht (Republican News), the Sinn Fein newspaper. It’s obviously proving as successful as Daily Ireland and Lá Nua, with several desperate proposals to rescue it, although the Piaras McCann Cumann thinks it should be discontinued “due to lack of interest”. But if republicans aren’t reading AP/RN, they aren’t keen on the mainstream media either, with motion 120 condemning the “constant lies carried in the media regarding Sinn Féin” and complaining of “anti-republican bias”, while motion 85 calls on the ard fheis to recognise that “the media are hostile to our party”.

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If motion 61 is passed, future motions need not be submitted in Irish.

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If motion 62 is passed, Sinn Fein will ban use of “the language of ‘Brits Out’ in any publications or campaigns”. Could this be the end for Ogra Shinn Fein?

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As a means of “finally ending partition”, motion 65 calls for the party constitution to be amended to replace the position of party president with a ‘joint-presidency’ – one from the north and the other from the south . While this is obviously a response to Gerry Adams’ pitiful leadership in the last southern election, it would have the neat effect of partitioning Sinn Fein.

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On a related subject, one Dublin Cumann also calls for the national officer board to be censured “for its actions during the 2007 general election in purporting to change taxation policy as democratically decided at previous Ard Fheiseanna”. And motion 209 is a call to clarify SF policy on corporation tax, “policy endorsed by previous Ard Fheiseanna, following on from comments made during the last 26 County general election by members of the party leadership”. Another motion calls for a variable rate of corporation tax, starting at 22% and decreasing if certain conditions are met.

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Motion 81 reads: “This Ard Fheis reaffirms Sinn Féin’s commitment to the achievement of a democratic socialist republic. It also asserts that this is a core value and not an optional extra.”

Obviously the writer of motion 112 was not aware of this, as the word ‘socialist’ appears to have been deliberately dropped. If passed, the SF constitutional aim would not be to “Establish a Democratic Socialist Republic”, but to “Establish a 32 County Democratic Republic to be governed according to the wishes of the citizens of a 32 County Republic”. And it would no longer be “based on Irish republican and socialist principles”, just “republican principles”. Clearly some Sinn Fein members are keen to drop the party’s socialist baggage and move to the right.

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It’s proposed in motion 102 that the pledge for election candidates contains an additional line: “That should I resign as a member of Sinn Féin or should I be expelled from the party for any reason whatsoever that I shall immediately resign my seat.”

While this could not be enforced, presumably this is to try and counter the effect of resignations since last year, when disaffected members kept their seat and continued to criticise the party.

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Motion 213 calls for all SF politicians to oppose the imposition of water charges. That’s ‘oppose’, Conor, not ‘introduce’.

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Motion 216 calls for opposition to paying for public facilities by flogging off public assets, urging SF to “lead local people in defending public assets”. That’s ‘defending’, Michelle, not ‘selling’.

  • Garibaldy

    Fascinating stuff Gonzo. I’d be interested to see the North-South breakdown on those motions. I suspect the more left ones are from the south.

  • postman


    You have email

  • perci

    still waiting for the motion:

    This Ard Fheis reaffirms Sinn Féin’s commitment to call on all PIRA volunteers to stop murdering people with crowbars and nailed clubs!

  • CS Parnell

    Marty’s speech is sheer comedy. All that stuff about implementing the GFA in full – he means dumping the arms boys.

    And I am sure I am not the only one who realises that the wheels are coming off the DUP bandwagon – all the “sure aren’t we great” bollicks is going to come back and haunt SF sooner or later.

  • Garibaldy

    Cheers Postman,

    Response sent. The clár is an interesting document.

  • Why is Raymond McCord hanging out with the ‘war’ mongers?

  • Is Comical Marty just a mug (jpg image)? 😉

  • David Irving

    It looks like there will be one less drug pusher sending solidarity greetings this year. Do ETA and the Islamic Liberation fighters still send greetings or is it all strictly business only now?

  • Greenflag

    Lets keep the SF Ard Fheis in perspective . The SF party represents abou 8% of the voters in the Republic and 28% ? of voters in Northern Ireland – overall about 10 to 12% across the island.