Given the range of opinions being expressed on the current predicament facing Sinn Fein, I thought it useful to post a thread linking many of the pieces which have appeared in the media in recent weeks (though a number of articles of a slightly older vintage have been included due to their relevance to the discussion.) Some of those penned are, in my very humble opinion, not worthy of further comment, owing more to political hang-ups with the Sinn Fein leadership and or party as a whole, though Ill leave that up to readers discretion.
But there have been many other articles which point to the desirability of the party leadership taking time to consider the pros and cons of the partys current status and modus operandi in an open and self-critical manner.
To my mind, it is infinitely preferable to engage in an honest process of self-scrutiny, and be seen to deal with apparent deficiencies, from a position of relative strength than to await the type of electoral/ political meltdown that has all too often faced political parties which did not grasp the nettle and face legitimate criticism.
There will always be detractors seeking to seize an opportunity to strike a blow against Sinn Fein, and in this part of the world, they will usually find a compliant media ready to provide the platform for such an assault.
But republicans should not be deflected from listening with an open mind to the opinions of others, for there are plenty of friendly voices raising challenging questions. Ultimately, far from doing harm, such a process- if handled correctly- could leave the party in a much better position to build towards its political objective.
Regarding my own thoughts, I am delighted that voices are being raised at this time. There isnt any question of the party seeking a new leadership at this time- and for very good reasons, some of which were alluded to by Niall ODowd in his linked piece below.
But an honest debate does need to take place within Sinn Fein to steady the partys nerve in the South and to provide clarity as to the direction the party needs to take at this juncture.
Crucially, however, it has long been my opinion that the debate must not address the Southern wing of the party alone, and I have long been convinced that resolving many of the problems currently facing the party will entail a deeper scrutiny of the internal party culture and structure in the North.
There is clearly an appetite for debate within the party, and this is borne out publicly by articles and letters attributed to sitting councillors which are clearly critical of the partys direction- apart from Toireasa Ferris, Killian Forde in An Phoblacht and Matt Carthy on his blog have expressed thoughts publicly which many, many republicans have for long been expressing in private, perhaps best summed up by Cllr Killian Fordes comments published in An Phoblacht this week:
Sinn Féin needs to become a meritocratic organisation that relishes discussion, political tension and a constant battle of ideas.
Fionnuala OConnor: 14/7/09 Irish News
Toireasa Ferris: 9/7/09 An Phoblacht
Liam Clarke: 26/7/09: Sunday Times
Matt Carthy blog comments
Mick Fealty: 23/7/09 Guardian
Declan Kearney: 23/7/09: An Phoblacht
Chris Gaskin: June – Balrog
G Adams : 27/7/09 Leargas
Conor McMorrow- 26/70/09 Sunday Tribune
Ed Moloney 21/7/09 The Village
Eoin OBroin: 28/7/09 Irish News
Tom McGurk: 26/7/07 S Business Post
Dennis Bradley: 3/7/09 Irish News
Douglas Hamilton 4/3/09 carried in Slugger article
Tom Griffin: 15/7 Our Kingdom
Brendan OLeary Views related in Ray OHanlons article
Killian Forde- An Phoblacht 30/7