So what does Sinn Féin stand for?
To answer what the party stands for now, you need to look at the state of Irish politics from 1905 onwards. The early part of the 20th century was divisive, with almost continual conflict with the UK. In the space of ten years, Ireland saw the Dublin Lockouts, the Easter Uprising, the War of Independence, and Civil War. It was a period that saw a surge in Irish nationalism in many forms. Initially not military, it took the form of increasing interest in the Irish language and history. Yet it was also a time where ordinary working class Irish were increasingly repressed after the horrors of the famines and mass immigration of the 19th century. The status quo saw the UK treat Ireland poorly, and with only a select few Irish being able to vote, it was a increasingly volatile atmosphere.
"Sinn Féin aims at securing the international recognition of Ireland as an independent Irish republic. Having achieved that status the Irish people may by referendum freely choose their own form of Government."
Progression into Politics and an Armed Struggle
Sinn Féin supported the IRA in its struggle to free Ireland from UK rule during the War of Independence. It also participated in the negotiations for the Anglo Irish Treaty that finally brought independence for all but the six counties in the north. But it was this later act that ultimately brought the divisions in its ranks to the surface, and led to civil war. The conflict lasted just under a year, but its effect was to last a lot longer.
Politically Dáil Éireann was deeply divided following the Civil War. Comrades that had fought alongside each other during the War of Independence, now fundamentally disagreed with each other. The Anglo Irish Treaty negotiations are shrouded in controversy with each side blaming each other for the final text, but the division of Ireland into the six counties in the north and the 26 in the south was ratified by the Irish Parliament.
Following the civil war and victory for the pro-treaty side, the pro-treaty supporters founded Fine Gael, whilst the anti-treaty supporters formed Fianna Fáil. Most Sinn Féin supporters were anti-treaty, Fianna Fáil made massive gains and in 1927 general election. with Sinn Féin only winning six seats. For the next 40 years, Sinn Féin was largely a spent force, virtually bankrupt, and with minimal political representatives. Itt moved to the left of political spectrum, angering more traditional nationalists.
The Formation of Provisional Sinn Féin
- Their opposition to the ending of abstentionism.
- The drift towards "extreme forms of socialism".
- The failure of the leadership to defend the nationalist people of Belfast during the 1969 Northern Ireland riots.
- The expulsion of traditional republicans by the leadership during the 1960s.