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Republican Sinn Féin

Republican Sinn Féin (RSF; Irish: Sinn Féin Poblachtach ) is a political party operating in Ireland. It emerged in 1986 as a result of a split in Sinn Féin. The party views itself as representing "true" or "traditional" Irish republicanism, while in the mainstream media the party is portrayed as a political expression of "dissident republicanism".

Formation of party

The decision to form, or to reorganise or reconstitute as its supporters see it, the party was taken in response to Sinn Féin's decision at its 1986 ardfheis to end its policy of abstentionism and to allow elected Sinn Féin Teachtaí Dála take their seats in Dáil Éireann. Those who went on to form RSF opposed this move as it signalled a departure from the traditional republican analysis which viewed the parliament of the Republic of Ireland as an illegal assembly, set up by an act of the British parliament. They argued that republicans owed their allegiance to the All-Ireland (32 County) Irish Republic, maintaining that this state existed de jure and that its authority rested with the IRA Army Council. (See: Irish republican legitimatism)

Although it was passed by a two-thirds majority, those who went on to form RSF claimed that the decision to end abstention was invalid under the Sinn Féin constitution, Section 1b of which stated: "No person ... who approves of or supports the candidature of persons who sign any form or give any kind of written or verbal undertaking of intention to take their seats in these institutions, shall be admitted to membership or allowed to retain membership." They pointed out that in their opinion the correct procedure was to drop or amend Section 1b of the constitution in one year, then come back the next year and propose entering Leinster House, when Section 1b was no longer in operation. In protest, they staged a walkout from the ardfheis and reconvened the ardfheis at another venue. RSF subsequently claimed that the delegates who had voted to drop abstentionism had in effect expelled themselves from the party. It is on this basis that RSF views itself as the only party entitled to the name of Sinn Féin and the sole legitimate successor to the original Sinn Féin established in 1905. Supporters of abstentionism also claimed that the vote at the ardfheis was gerrymandered. Journalist Ed Moloney, for example, points out that in 1986 the number of votes at the ardfheis, which reflects the size of Sinn Féin, almost doubled from 1985 to 1986, and then reverted to the 1985 level in 1987.

This claim is rejected by most people who see themselves as Irish republicans. Sinn Féin points out that a previous party ardfheis in 1983 amended the constitution so that "no aspect of the constitution and rules be closed to discussion". This was done to enable the ardfheis to debate a motion to allow Sinn Féin candidates to stand in elections to the European Parliament and to take their seats if successful. Some argue that this argument is weakened, by the fact that candidature to the European Parliament had already been debated at the 1978 ardfheis, when a motion to stand candidates in the 1979 European elections was defeated at the Sinn Féin ardfheis.. A vote to change abstentionism from a principle to a tactic failed to achieve a two-thirds majority vote in 1985. The results were 181 opposed and 161 in favour.

There is disagreement on the number of people who walked out. Brian Feeney claims that after the vote was passed about 20 members, led by Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, walked out.. J. Bowyer Bell, in The Irish Troubles, states that Ó Brádaigh and Dáithí Ó Conaill "and about one hundred others walked out to form Republican Sinn Féin (RSF) at a previously hired hall in a hotel outside Dublin.". Whatever the number, that evening, approximately 130 people, including some of the delegates who voted against the motion, reconvened at Dublin's West County Hotel and established RSF. By itself, the RSF Officer Board formed that evening had 6 members, also formed was an organising committee of 15 members. Bell also notes that in response to the split, there was a "flurry of military operations in and around Belfast" by the Provisional IRA during the remainder of the year to show "country militants that the city was not a centre of politics" .

At the centre of those who formed Republican Sinn Féin were key people who formed the Provisional IRA and Sinn Féin, including Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, Des Long, Joe O'Neill, Frank Glynn, and Dáithí Ó Conaill. Among those in attendance at the first Bodenstown commemoration, staged by the version of the Continuity Republican Movement which RSF sees itself as forming part of, were four members of the first Provisional IRA Army Council: Ruairí Ó Brádaigh (Longford), Dáithí Ó Conaill (Cork/Dublin), Leo Martin (Belfast), and Paddy Mulcahy (Limerick). Among those present at the West County Hotel when RSF was formed was Billy McKee, an early member of the Provisional IRA Army Council, and the former O/C Belfast Brigade of the Provisional IRA. Another early supporter of RSF was Sean Tracey, a member of the first Provisional IRA Army Council, who later "drifted away" from RSF. The influence of those who founded Provisional Sinn Féin should not be understated. Of the 20 people on the Sinn Féin Caretaker Executive formed in January 1970, ten were still involved in PSF in 1986. Nine of the ten joined Republican Sinn Féin.

Leadership

At their formation, the Chairman of Republican Sinn Féin was Dáithí Ó Conaill. At the party's first ardfheis, they elected their first President,Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, who was President of Sinn Féin from 1970 to 1983. He remains the party's President. He was joined by Dáithí Ó Conaill, another prominent figure in Sinn Féin and the IRA in the 1970s. The current Vice Presidents are Des Dalton and Cathleen Knowles McGuirk. Joe O'Neill and John O'Connor are the joint treasurers and Líta Ní Chathmhaoil and Josephine Hayden are the General Secretaries. Richard Walsh is the Publicity Officer.

Membership

The party's membership has been and comes primarily from the Republic of Ireland based membership of the republican movement who disagreed with Gerry Adams and his largely Northern Ireland based backers.

Relationship to other republican organisations

RSF sees itself as forming part of a wider Republican Movement with a number of organisations which share a similar or identical ideological and political perspective. These include (but are not limited to) the Continuity IRA, Cumann na mBan, Fianna Éireann, Cabhair and the National Commemmoration Committee. Across these organisations there is believed to be some level of dual membership with RSF. RSF strenuously rejects the allegation that it is the "political wing" of the Continuity IRA, as it denies any assertion that the latter is its "military wing". Despite these protestations, RSF has been proscribed by the United States State Department as terrorist organisation along with the Continuity IRA. The State Department states on its website that the "CIRA is a terrorist splinter group formed in 1994 as the clandestine armed wing of Republican Sinn Féin, which split from Sinn Féin in 1986. 'Continuity' refers to the group’s belief that it is carrying on the original Irish Republican Army’s (IRA) goal of forcing the British out of Northern Ireland. CIRA's alleged aliases, Continuity Army Council and Republican Sinn Féin, were also included in its FTO designation." .

Electoral participation

RSF is a fringe party and continues to uphold policy of abstentionism, which means that it would not take seats in Dáil Éireann, the Northern Ireland Assembly or the British House of Commons if elected. In any case, the party has never contested elections to Dáil Éireann or British House of Commons, although it has contested local elections and did field candidates in the Northern Ireland Assembly election, 2007.

It refuses to recognise the validity of the Good Friday Agreement as it argues that the referendum on the agreement did not offer the people of Ireland the choice of living in a united Ireland, and that the referendum was invalid since separate polls were held in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

It opposes the Northern Ireland Assembly as it feels it this further entrenches British presence in Ireland, adding that "those nationalists who took their seats in the new Stormont" were "guilty of treachery to the Irish Republic".

The party occasionally stands in local elections in the Republic of Ireland, and until 2007 did not contest elections in Northern Ireland (RSF now can contest elections in Northern Ireland on an abstentionist ticket on the basis that there is no political oath to the British crown.) It initially planned to field 23 candidates, including three sitting councillors elected for Sinn Féin in 1985, in the 1989 local government elections in Northern Ireland. However, shortly before the elections, the British Parliament introduced a the 'Elected Authorities (Northern Ireland) Act' which required that all prospective candidates sign the following declaration renouncing:

"(a) any organisation that is for the time being a proscribed organisation specified in Schedule 2 to the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978: or
(b) acts of terrorism (that is to say, violence for political ends) connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland" .

RSF refused to do so on the grounds that such an oath "calls for the public disowning of the Irish Republican Army, Cumann na mBan, Fianna Éireann and a repudiation of the right of the Irish people to use force of arms to end British occupation". Consequently its candidates became ineligible. It is not registered with the Electoral Commission as a political party in Northern Ireland meaning that in elections in Northern Ireland, the party name cannot appear on the ballot paper, the party cannot make party political broadcasts or incur expenditure of more than £5,000 in an election.

It stands on a platform of the establishment of social justice based on what it describes as the principles of Irish Republican Socialism, based on the 1916 proclamation of an Irish Republic. It also has a policy named Éire Nua ("New Ireland"), which would see the establishment of a 32 county Ireland completely independent of the United Kingdom and set up as a federation of the four Irish provinces.

2007 Northern Ireland Assembly Election

Republican Sinn Féin ran six abstentionist candidates in the 2007 Assembly Election. As the party did not register with the Electoral Commission in Belfast, the candidates had no party affiliation recorded on the ballot paper, apart from Geraldine Taylor who appeared as an Independent.

The RSF aligned candidates netted a total of 2,522 first preference votes. The candidates share of the total valid poll (661,191) was 0.38 per cent. Their share of the total valid poll in the six constituencies in which it fielded candidates (242,860) was 1.03 per cent.

2004 RSF Local Elections Results

Republican Sinn Féin ran seven candidates in the last local elections in the Republic of Ireland. The party's only elected representative lost his seat in the elections. Netting a total of 2,403 first preference votes, the RSF share of the total valid poll (1,819,761) was 0.13 per cent.

  • Councillor Seán Lynch stood for re-election in the Drumlish district for Longford County Council and received 441 or 15.90% of the vote (Quota: 694). He was eliminated on the 2nd count and lost his seat to Martin Mulleady of Fianna Fáil.
  • Tomás Ó Curraoin stood in the Conamara district for Galway County Council, receiving 1,076 or 6.46% of the first preference votes and was eliminated on the 13th count. The quota was 2,084.
  • Seán O'Neill stood in the Limerick No 4 district for Limerick City Council and received 256 or 5.26% of the vote. The quota was 974 and he was eliminated on the 6th count.
  • Mick Ryan stood in the Limerick No 1 area of Limerick City Council and received 263 or 4.02% of the vote. The quota was 1,092 and Ryan was eliminated on the 5th count, receiving no expenses.
  • Des Dalton stood in the Athy district for Kildare County Council, receiving 131 or 4.45% of the vote and was eliminated on the 11th Count. The quota was 295.
  • Terence Varian stood for the Midleton Town Council and received 57 or 1.61% of the vote. He was the first to be eliminated and lost his deposit. The quota was 355.
  • Donal Varian stood for Cobh Town Council and received 179 or 3.85% of the vote. He lost his deposit

1999 RSF Local Elections Results

In the 1999 local elections in the Republic of Ireland, RSF candidates received 1,390 votes in county/city council elections, and 149 votes urban district council level.

  • Councillor Seán Lynch stood for re-election in the Drumlish area of Longford County Council. He was returned with 478 first preferences which was 20.78 percent of the valid poll.
  • Joe O'Neill stood in the Donegal electoral area of Donegal County Council, receiving 180 first preferences or 1.36 per cent of the valid poll. The quota being 1,891, O'Neill lost his deposit and was the first candidate to be eliminated.
  • Councillor Joe O'Neill also stood for re-election to the Bundoran Urban District Council, receiving 47 first preference votes which was 4.31 per cent of the valid poll. The quota was 110 and he was eliminated.
  • John MacElhinney stood for election to Letterkenny Urban District Council and received 39 first preference votes or 0.69 per cent of the vote. The quota was 564; he was first to be eliminated and also lost his deposit.
  • Des Long, who was the vice-president of Republican Sinn Féin at the time, stood in Limerick No 4 ward of Limerick City Council, receiving 148 or 3.59 per cent of the valid poll. He lost his deposit; the quota was 825.
  • Tomás Ó Curraoin stood in the Conamara district of Galway County Council, receiving 584 or 4.64 per cent of the vote. The quota was 1,574.
  • Geraldine McNamara stood for election to Tipperary Urban District Council, receiving 63 or 2.69 per cent of the vote. The quota was 235

1991 RSF Local Elections Results

The results for 1991 are only partially available. A number of other people stood for RSF, including Joe O'Neill for Bundoran UDC, Sean Lynch for Longford County Council, Tomás Ó Curraoin, David Joyce and Frank Glynn in Galway, and Jimmy Kavanagh in Wexford. Two sitting councillors, Joe O'Neill (Bundoran UDC) and Seán Lynch (Longford County Council) were re-elected. Sitting county councillor Frank Glynn lost his seat on Galway County Council which he had held for 24 years.

  • Peter Cunningham stood in the Tallaght/Oldbawn electoral area of the South Dublin County Council. He polled 125 first preference votes which was 1.78 per cent of the valid poll. He was the first candidate to be eliminated and he lost his deposit.
  • Joe O'Neill stood in the Donegal electoral area of Donegal County Council and received 377 first preference votes which was 3.18 per cent of the total valid poll. The quota was 1,693 and he was eliminated.

Internal tensions

In September 2005, a number of cumainn (or branches) and individual members of RSF left the party in protest over the party's treatment of Continuity IRA prisoners held in Portlaoise Prison. As a consequence of this dispute, a number of people resigned from RSF and formed the Concerned Group for Republican Prisoners to raise funds and provide moral support for the former Continuity IRA-aligned prisoners they support.

Footnotes

External links

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