Gerry Adams Essay, Research Paper
The struggles in Northern Ireland described in nationalistic terms can be described as the last chapter of British subjugation of the Irish people. In their fight for self rule the costs to Irish people have been great. Tens of thousands of Irish and British lives have been lost or ruined in this conflict. By allowing this conflict to come to a peaceful conclusion Northern Ireland will be afforded a chance to demilitarize and begin to rebuild a new nation. Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, and major political party, has been at the forefront of the peace talks and is recognized as the major player in discussions with the British. All of the major steps toward peace in Northern Ireland are do to the actions of Sinn Fein. To clarify this statement, Sinn Fein, has been able to represent the Irish Republican Army’s platform through political efforts. Because of the nature of their guerrilla tactics the Irish Republican Army was never able to have a public figure represent them. Because of friendships formed in hope of a common cause Sinn Fein was able to represent the Irish Republican Army in peace talks. Now that Sinn Fein had a representative body peace talks could commence. What is also important to remember is that Sinn Fein represents the Catholic minority in the region. The Ulster Unionists have also made impressive strides toward peace but they represent the protestant majority who were always represented and ready to make concessions. The addition of Sinn Fein to the negotiations was the last thing that needed to happen for peace in the region.
Sinn Fein was established in 1905 as a society to promote an Irish governed society in English held Northern Ireland. In Freedom, a publication of Sinn Fein’s Education Department, Sinn Fein defines itself as ” the oldest of Ireland’s political parties and uniquely organized on a thirty-two county basis. Membership in Sinn Fein, from the Gaelic meaning ” We Ourselves” is open to all Irish people who are prepared to work for a just and democratic Irish society.” “Sinn Fein believes in the end of partition and British jurisdiction in the six north-eastern counties of Ireland and its replacement with an agreed non-sectarian and pluralist society, with equality and justice for all.” Sinn Fein’s major contention is that Ireland can never be truly free with British influence and equality cannot exist without an independent Ireland.
Sinn Fein was established at a Convention of the National Council convened in Dublin on November 28, 1905 headed by Edward Martyn. “The policy of Sinn Fein was laid on constitutional lines, following the economic doctrines of Fredrich Liszt, a German economist, and aimed at making Ireland independent industrially as well as agriculturally. National Independence, in every sense of the term, being the permanent idea.” Sinn Fein caught on like wild fire and Irish Nationalism grew to unprecedented levels. By 1914 Sinn Fein had established itself in every county and membership was growing at unprecedented levels.
It was then that Sinn Fein earned its first victory. In reaction to British conscription, Sinn Fein, organized “the most spectacular and complete demonstration ever seen in Ireland.” An anti-conscription pledge was drafted and signed by practically every parish, in every county. In accord the Irish Labor Party staged a strike in which the whole of Ireland was shut down for one full day. This show of power demonstrated to Britain how Sinn Fein planned to deal with future issues.
Sinn Fein used the famine of 1917 as a chance to reaffirm its power to the Irish people. By establishing the Sinn Fein Food Council, “they were able to ensure that cattle, oats, and butter would not be exported to the detriment of the Irish people. This action increased the popularity of Sinn Fein and helped materially to conserve food supplies for home use.” In the elections of 1918 Sinn Fein was poised to contest every seat of parliament. Sinn Fein began actively campaigning but was met with staunch resistance from the English. Pamphlets were held up in the post office, papers were suppressed, and leaders were jailed. When the election was completed and all the votes tallied Sinn Fein had won 73 of the 105 seats.
In 1919, Sinn Fein members in the British Parliament met as an Irish national assembly, the Dail Eireann. The leaders were Arthur Griffith, Michael Collins, and Eamon de Valera.
In 1921, the Irish Republican Army and Britain signed a treaty establishing the Irish Free State in southern Ireland as a dominion within the British Commonwealth. In 1926, a schism formed in the party, de Valera and a majority of Sinn Fein left the party because the party refused to recognize the new Irish government, whose members had to take an oath of allegiance to the British Crown. De Valera formed a new party, Fianna Fail, which means “Soldiers of Destiny” in Gaelic. Sinn Fein lost much of its political influence. In 1932, Fianna Fail gained control of the Irish government.
Sinn Fein remained a lame duck up until the 1970’s when it’s members were able to establish a rapport with the Irish Republican Army. Sinn Fein, with its noble roots, was the perfect vehicle for delivering its message to the Irish people and the world. Sinn Fein was then considered the political wing of the Irish Republican Army. With this kind of connection the party rose to immediate prominence, even without a large base of members.
Sinn Fein was recently in the public eye as it negotiated the most important deal as of yet in the troubled region, the Good Friday Accord. This treaty allows for an unprecedented coalition government in Northern Ireland. It allows the Irish people self-government with the provision that the Irish Republican Army disarm. This request was not met in time and the whole plan has recently been placed on hold.
The biggest problem with the legitimacy of Sinn Fein is the unclear relationship it possesses with the Irish Republican Army. Though Sinn Fein speaks for the I.R.A. it has no real control over them. This was never clearer than when Sinn Fein could not force the I.R.A. into disarmament. If Sinn Fein hopes to become a more popular party with the people it must be able to live up to the promises it makes to the people of Ireland.
Even with this problem Sinn Fein continues to be the only nationalist party that is willing to negotiate a peace. Without Sinn Fein the peace process would never have made it this far. It is also important to note that the recent failure in the peace process cannot be entirely blamed on Sinn Fein. The British government refused to extend the deadline that resulted in this stalemate. In my next paper I will look further into the problems of the Good Friday Accord and Unclear relationship between Sinn Fein and the Irish Republican Army.