Official Sinn Féin


Official Sinn Féin

IrishR

Official Sinn Féin (later renamed "Sinn Féin the Workers Party") was a Marxist Irish republican political party which evolved from the split in Sinn Féin and the IRA that took place in 1970.

inn Féin split of 1970

The leadership of both Sinn Féin and the IRA had developed a Marxist outlook that became unpopular with many more traditionalist republicans, and the party/army leadership was criticized for failing to defend northern Catholic enclaves from loyalist attacks. A troika consisting of Seán Mac Stiofáin,Dáithí Ó Conaill and Seamus Twomey together with others established themselves as a "Provisional Army Council" in 1969 in anticipation of the contentious 1970 Sinn Féin Árd Fheis, whereby the then Marxist-led leadership of Sinn Féin failed to attain the prerequisate two thirds majority necessary to overturn Sinn Féin's constitutional opposition to partitionist assemblies. This was despite the Marxist-led leaderships' disbandment of traditionalist branches and district committees, such as the 1966 disbandment of the entire North Kerry Comhairle Ceantair of Sinn Féin, embracing 13 Cumainn and 250 members and including three local councillors and expulsion of leading figures such as Miss May Daly (sister of Charlie Daly, executed at Drumboe, Donegal, in 1923), John Joe Rice, Sinn Féin TD, 1957-61 and John Joe Sheehy, veteran Republican and Kerry footballer. Many others were simlilarly ousted from the organisation. The underlying issue was the uncompromising stand of North Kerry in refusing recognition to Westminster, Leinster House and Stormont. South Kerry overwhelmingly supported the leadership, strongly influenced by individuals like Paddy O'Callaghan who remained loyal to the Goulding leadership. The "Provisional Army Council" in the coming months would command the loyalty of the IRA national organisation save for a few isolated instances (that of the IRA Company of the Lower Falls road, Belfast under the command of Billy McMillen and other small units in Derry, Newry Dublin and Wicklow). The notion therefore, that the Provisional IRA, as Mac Stiofáin's men came to be known, were a split from the "Officials", rather than the reverse case is mistaken.

There was a similar ideological split in Sinn Féin whereby a majority of the party under the leadership of Tomás Mac Giolla aligned itself to Cathal Goulding's Official IRA. They became known as Official Sinn Féin although the name of the party remained Sinn Féin until changed to Sinn Féin the Workers Party in 1977. The minority, those supportive of Seán Mac Stiofáin's "Provisional Army Council" adopted the name Provisional IRA and
Provisional Sinn Féin.

Official Sinn Féin - from republican militancy to Marxist politics

The official republican movement gradually stepped down its military campaign against the United Kingdom's armed presence in Northern Ireland, declaring a ceasefire in 1972, and focused on political activity and campaigning. It suffered a further split in 1974, when members dissatisfied with the ceasefire established the Irish National Liberation Army and its associated political party the Irish Republican Socialist Party.

Politically, Official Sinn Féin evolved towards Marxism-Leninism and became fiercely critical of the physical force republican tradition still espoused by Provisional Sinn Féin. Its new approach to the Northern conflict was typified by the slogan it was to adopt: "Peace, Democracy, Class Politics". It aimed to replace sectarian politics with a class struggle which would unite Catholic and Protestant workers. The slogan's echo of Lenin's "Peace, Bread, Land" was indicative of the party's new source of inspiration. Official Sinn Féin also built up fraternal relations with communist parties worldwide.

The party was believed to exercise major influence within RTE. It was stated in Magill (November 1997) that Eoghan Harris set up a party branch known as the "Ned Stapleton cumann". People working in RTÉ could join this branch. Other influential members of the Party working in RTÉ were John Caden and Gerry Gregg. In 1977 it changed its name to "Sinn Féin The Workers Party" and then in 1982 to "The Workers Party". From 1982 on it had some electoral success in the Republic of Ireland but little in the North.

In 1992, in the wake of media claims that the Official IRA was still operating and in an atmosphere of ideological disagreement after the collapse of Soviet-style socialism, six of the Workers Party's seven Teachtaí Dála (members of Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Oireachtas or Irish Parliament) left to form a new party, Democratic Left, which in 1997 merged with the Irish Labour Party. Since the split with Democratic Left, the Workers Party has re-emphasised its Marxist-Leninist outlook, while also placing more emphasis than before on its republican tradition and origins. Since the 1992 general election, the Workers Party has had no representation in Dáil Éireann, although it has contested most recent national and local elections in both the Republic and in Northern Ireland.

"Provisional Sinn Féin", the other party to emerge from the 1970 split, is the party that is now commonly referred to simply as Sinn Féin. They have had much greater electoral success than Official Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland. However, the provisional's electoral performance in the Republic was poor until the IRA ceasefires of 1994 and 1997 and they have as yet failed to reach the seven seats won in Dáil Éireann by the Workers' Party in 1989.

The official republican movement was nicknamed the "Stickies" for wearing stick-on Easter lily badges on their lapels in remembrance of the 1916 Easter Rising. The competing badges produced by the Provisionals were pinned on, but the nickname "pinhead" did not gain much currency.

Further reading

*"The Politics of Illusion: A Political History of the IRA", Henry Patterson, ISBN 1-897959-31-1
*"Official Irish Republicanism, 1962 to 1972" , Sean Swan , ISBN-10: 1430319348

ee also

*Sinn Féin

External links

* [http://workerspartyireland.net/ The Workers Party]
* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/war/troubles/factfiles/ira.shtml BBC: Paramilitaries - Official IRA]


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