“Not allowing people to speak or vote according to their conscience goes totally against republicanism, because without freedom of conscience there isn’t any freedom”

Sinn Féin’s continued adherence to the practice of democratic centralism, even on an issue that most political parties regard as a matter of individual conscience, has seen the party’s vice-president on the attack [best form of defence – Ed], and the resignation of Sinn Féin TD Carol Nolan [“disappointing but not surprising” – Ed].  Now the former Sinn Féin MLA Francie Brolly, who resigned from the party in February this year over its increasingly pro-choice position, and his wife, Anne Brolly who resigned in 2016, have made some interesting comments about the practice in the News Letter

“They’re not interested in morals. Political parties generally aren’t,” [Francie Brolly] said. “They’re striking against republican values… “Not allowing people to speak or vote according to their conscience goes totally against republicanism, because without freedom of conscience there isn’t any freedom – a person is not free if his conscience isn’t free. “And if there’s no freedom, there’s no point in Sinn Fein talking about a republic.”

A retired teacher, he said he joined the party after being pressed by local republican activists. “That’s all history, and it’s one of those unfortunate choices you make in life,” he said. He said the Assembly was “a horrible experience; six years of absolute nonsense, listening to all sorts of rubbish”. Asked if he regretted his Sinn Fein career, he said: “Absolutely. I don’t like party politics. “I’ve expressed my opinion in recent years that political parties should be banned; that if a man wants to stand for election in his own community, he should do so on his own merit… rather than have to follow say – like this in Sinn Fein now – a dictation from an ard chomhairle [high council] which includes people like Gerry Adams, Mary Lou McDonald.

“Who should be subjected to that? “I’ve likened political parties now to gangs. They’ve their gang leaders, and the ordinary member of a gang toes the line.” He said “this latest instance with Sinn Fein, the abortion issue and the lack of respect for peoples’ conscience” just serve to “absolutely” reinforce this, he said. “The British House of Commons, they’re a lot better on the idea of freedom of conscience,” he said.

This was echoed by Anne Brolly who said the rejection of a conscience clause “is anathema to republicanism, because republicanism is built on individual rights, the cornerstone of which is freedom of conscience”. She said “only in dictatorship regimes” are party members not permitted conscience votes on the subject.