Sinn Féin (/ / shin-FAYN Irish pronunciation: [ʃɪnʲ ˈfʲeːnʲ]) is an Irish republican political party active in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The name is Irish for "ourselves" or "we ourselves", although it is frequently mistranslated as "ourselves alone". Originating in the Sinn Féin organisation founded in 1905 by Arthur Griffith, it took its current form in 1970 after a split within the party (the other party became the Workers' Party of Ireland), and has been historically associated with the IRA. Gerry Adams has been party president since 1983.
Sinn Féin is currently the second-largest party behind the Democratic Unionist Party in the Northern Ireland Assembly, where it has four ministerial posts in the power-sharing Northern Ireland Executive, and the fourth-largest party in the Oireachtas, the parliament of the Republic. Sinn Féin also received the second highest number of Northern Ireland votes and seats in the 2015 Westminster elections, behind the DUP.
- 1 History
- 2 Links with the IRA
- 3 Policy and ideology
- 4 Organisational structure
- 5 Leadership history
- 6 Ministers and spokespeople
- 7 General election results
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
- 11 Further reading
- 12 External links
Sinn Féin was founded on 28 November 1905, when, at the first annual Convention of the National Council, Arthur Griffith outlined the Sinn Féin policy, "to establish in Ireland's capital a national legislature endowed with the moral authority of the Irish nation". Sinn Féin contested the North Leitrim by-election, 1908, and secured 27% of the vote. Thereafter, both support and membership fell. At the 1910 Ard Fheis (party conference) the attendance was poor and there was difficulty finding members willing to take seats on the executive.
In 1914, Sinn Féin members, including Griffith, joined the anti-Redmond Irish Volunteers, which was referred to by Redmondites and others as the "Sinn Féin Volunteers". Although Griffith himself did not take part in the Easter Rising of 1916, many Sinn Féin members, who were also members of both the Volunteers and the Irish Republican Brotherhood, did. Government and newspapers dubbed the Rising "the Sinn Féin Rising". After the Rising, republicans came together under the banner of Sinn Féin, and at the 1917 Ard Fheis the party committed itself for the first time to the establishment of an Irish Republic. In the 1918 general election, Sinn Féin won 73 of Ireland's 105 seats, and in January 1919, its MPs assembled in Dublin and proclaimed themselves Dáil Éireann, the parliament of Ireland. The party supported the Irish Republican Army during the War of Independence, and members of the Dáil government negotiated the Anglo-Irish Treaty with the British Government in 1921. In the Dáil debates that followed, the party divided on the Treaty. Anti-Treaty members led by Éamon de Valera walked out, and pro- and anti-Treaty members took opposite sides in the ensuing Civil War.
Pro-Treaty Dáil deputies and other Treaty supporters formed a new party, Cumann na nGaedheal, on 27 April 1923 at a meeting in Dublin where delegates agreed on a constitution and political programme. Cumann na nGaedheal governed the new Irish Free State for ten years. It merged with two other organisations to form Fine Gael in 1933. Anti-Treaty Sinn Féin members continued to boycott the Dáil. At a special Ard Fheis in March 1926 de Valera proposed that elected members be allowed to take their seats in the Dáil if and when the controversial Oath of Allegiance was removed. When his motion was defeated, de Valera resigned from Sinn Féin and on 16 May 1926 founded his own party, Fianna Fáil, which was dedicated to republicanising the Free State from within its political structures. He took most Sinn Féin TDs with him. De Valera's resignation meant also the loss of financial support from America. The rump Sinn Féin party could field no more than fifteen candidates, and won only six seats in the June election, a level of support not seen since before 1916. Vice-President and de facto leader Mary MacSwiney announced that the party simply did not have the funds to contest the second election called that year, declaring "no true Irish citizen can vote for any of the other parties".
An attempt in the 1940s to access funds which had been put in the care of the High Court led to the Sinn Féin Funds Case, which the party lost and in which the judge ruled that it was not the direct successor of the Sinn Féin of 1917. At the Westminister 1959 general election, the Sinn Féin vote dropped almost 60% from the 1955 number 152,000 to 63,000. In the 1960s, Sinn Féin moved to the left and became involved in campaigns over the provision of housing and social services. It also adopted a "National Liberation Strategy" which was the brainchild of Roy Johnston. In 1967 the Garland Commission was set up to investigate the possibility of ending abstentionism. Its report angered many traditionalists within the party, notably Seán Mac Stíofáin and Ruairí Ó Brádaigh.
The Sinn Féin party split in two at the beginning of 1970. At the party's Ard Fheis on 11 January the proposal to end abstentionism and take seats, if elected, in the Dáil, the Parliament of Northern Ireland and the Parliament of the United Kingdom was put before the members. A similar motion had been adopted at an IRA convention the previous month, leading to the formation of a Provisional Army Council by Mac Stíofáin and other members opposed to the leadership. When the motion was put to the Ard Fheis, it failed to achieve the necessary two-thirds majority. The Executive attempted to circumvent this by introducing a motion in support of IRA policy, at which point the dissenting delegates walked out of the meeting. These members reconvened at another place, appointed a Caretaker Executive and pledged allegiance to the Provisional Army Council. The Caretaker Executive declared itself opposed 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, and the expulsion of traditional republicans by the leadership during the 1960s. At its October 1970 Ard Fheis, delegates were informed that an IRA convention had been held and had regularised its structure, bringing to an end the 'provisional' period. By then, however, the label "Provisional" or "Provo" was already being applied to them by the media. The opposing, anti-abstentionist party became known as "Official Sinn Féin". It changed its name in 1977 to "Sinn Féin, the Workers' Party", and in 1982 to "The Workers' Party".
Initially, because the "Provisionals" were committed to military rather than political action, Sinn Féin's membership was largely confined, in Danny Morrison's words, to people "over military age or women". A Belfast Sinn Féin organiser of the time described the party's role as "agitation and publicity". New cumainn (branches) were established in Belfast, and a new newspaper, Republican News, was published. Sinn Féin took off as a protest movement after the introduction of internment in August 1971, organising marches and pickets. The party launched its platform, Éire Nua (a New Ireland) at the 1971 Ard Fheis. In general, however, the party lacked a distinct political philosophy. In the words of Brian Feeney, "Ó Brádaigh would use Sinn Féin ard fheiseanna to announce republican policy, which was, in effect, IRA policy, namely that Britain should leave the North or the 'war' would continue". Sinn Féin was given a concrete presence in the community when the IRA declared a ceasefire in 1975. 'Incident centres' were set up to communicate potential confrontations to the British authorities. They were manned by Sinn Féin, which had been legalised the year before by Secretary of State, Merlyn Rees.
Political status for prisoners became an issue after the ending of the truce. Rees released the last of the internees but introduced the Diplock courts, and ended 'Special Category Status' for all prisoners convicted after 1 March 1976. This led first to the blanket protest, and then to the dirty protest . Around the same time, Gerry Adams began writing for Republican News, calling for Sinn Féin to become more involved politically . Over the next few years, Adams and those aligned with him would extend their influence throughout the republican movement and slowly marginalise Ó Brádaigh, part of a general trend of power in both Sinn Féin and the IRA shifting north. In particular, Ó'Brádaigh's part in the 1975 IRA ceasefire had damaged his reputation in the eyes of Ulster republicans.
The prisoners' protest climaxed with the 1981 hunger strike, during which striker Bobby Sands was elected Member of Parliament for Fermanagh and South Tyrone as an Anti H-Block candidate. After his death on hunger strike, his seat was held, with an increased vote, by his election agent, Owen Carron. These successes convinced republicans that they should contest every election. Danny Morrison expressed the mood at the 1981 Ard Fheis when he said:
- "Who here really believes we can win the war through the ballot box? But will anyone here object if, with a ballot paper in this hand and an Armalite in the other, we take power in Ireland?".
This was the origin of what became known as the Armalite and ballot box strategy. Éire Nua was dropped in 1982, and the following year Ó Brádaigh finally stepped down as leader, to be replaced by Adams.
Under Adams' leadership electoral politics became increasingly important. In 1983 Alex Maskey was elected to Belfast City Council, the first Sinn Féin member to sit on that body. Sinn Féin polled over 100,000 votes in the Westminster elections that year, with Adams winning the West Belfast seat previously held by the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP). By 1985 it had fifty-nine seats on seventeen of the twenty-six Northern Ireland councils, including seven on Belfast City Council.
The party began a reappraisal of the policy of abstention from the Dáil. At the 1983 Ard Fheis the constitution was amended to remove the ban on the discussion of abstentionism, so as to allow Sinn Féin to run a candidate in the forthcoming European elections, although in his address Adams said, "We are an abstentionist party. It is not my intention to advocate change in this situation." A motion to permit entry into the Dáil was allowed at the 1985 Ard Fheis, but without the active support of the leadership, and Adams did not speak. The motion failed narrowly. By October of the following year an IRA Convention had indicated its support for elected Sinn Féin Teachtaí Dála (TDs) taking their seats. Thus, when the motion to end abstention was put to the Ard Fheis on 1 November 1986, it was clear that there would not be a split in the IRA as there had been in 1970. The motion was passed with a two-thirds majority. Ó Brádaigh and about twenty other delegates walked out, and met in a Dublin hotel with hundreds of supporters to re-organise as Republican Sinn Féin.
Tentative negotiations between Sinn Féin and the British government led to more substantive discussions with the SDLP in the 1990s. Multi-party negotiations began in 1994 in Northern Ireland, without Sinn Féin. The Provisional IRA declared a ceasefire in the autumn of 1994. Sinn Féin then joined the talks but the John Major-led Conservative government soon came to depend on unionist votes to remain in power. It suspended Sinn Féin from the talks and began to insist that the IRA decommission all of their weapons before Sinn Féin be re-admitted to the talks, leading to the IRA calling off its ceasefire. The new Labour government of Tony Blair wasn't reliant on unionist votes and re-admitted Sinn Féin, leading to another, permanent, ceasefire.
The talks led to the Good Friday Agreement of 10 April 1998 (officially known as the Belfast Agreement), which set up an inclusive devolved government in the North, and altered the Dublin government's constitutional claim to the whole island in Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution of Ireland. Republicans opposed to the direction taken by Sinn Féin in the peace process formed the 32 County Sovereignty Movement in the late 1990s.
The party expelled Denis Donaldson, a party official, in December 2005, with him stating publicly that he had been in the employ of the British government as an agent since the 1980s. Donaldson told reporters that the British security agencies who employed him were behind the collapse of the Assembly and set up Sinn Féin to take the blame for it, a claim disputed by the British Government. Donaldson was found fatally shot in his home in County Donegal on 4 April 2006, and a murder inquiry was launched. In April 2009, the Real IRA released a statement taking responsibility for the killing.
When Sinn Féin and the DUP became the largest parties, by the terms of the Belfast Agreement no deal could be made without the support of both parties. They nearly reached a deal in November 2004, but the DUP insisted on photographic and/or video evidence that decommissioning had been carried out, which was unnacceptable to Sinn Féin.
On 2 September 2006 Martin McGuinness publicly stated that Sinn Féin would refuse to participate in a shadow assembly at Stormont, asserting that his party would only take part in negotiations that were aimed at restoring a power-sharing government. This development followed a decision on the part of members of Sinn Féin to refrain from participating in debates since the Assembly's recall the previous May. The relevant parties to these talks were given a deadline of 24 November 2006 to decide upon whether or not they would ultimately form the executive.
The 86-year Sinn Féin boycott of policing in Northern Ireland ended on 28 January 2007 when the Ard Fheis voted overwhelmingly to support the PSNI. Sinn Féin members began to sit on Policing Boards and join District Policing Partnerships. There was opposition to this decision within Sinn Féin, which saw some members leave, including elected representatives. The most well-known opponent was former IRA prisoner Gerry McGeough, who stood in the 2007 Assembly Elections against Sinn Féin in the Assembly constituency of Fermanagh and South Tyrone.
Links with the IRA
Sinn Féin is the largest Irish republican political party and was closely associated with the Provisional IRA, with the Irish Government alleging that senior members of Sinn Féin have held posts on the IRA Army Council. However, the SF leadership has denied these claims. The US Government has made similar allegations.
A republican document of the early 1980s stated: "Both Sinn Féin and the IRA play different but converging roles in the war of national liberation. The Irish Republican Army wages an armed campaign... Sinn Féin maintains the propaganda war and is the public and political voice of the movement".
The British Government stated in 2005 that "we had always said all the way through we believed that Sinn Féin and the IRA were inextricably linked and that had obvious implications at leadership level".
The Northern Bank robbery of £26.5 million in Belfast in December 2004 further delayed a political deal in Northern Ireland. The IRA were widely blamed for the robbery although Sinn Féin denied this and stated that party officials had not known of the robbery nor sanctioned it. Because of the timing of the robbery, it is considered that the plans for the robbery must have been laid whilst Sinn Féin was engaged in talks about a possible peace settlement. This undermined confidence among unionists about the sincerity of republicans towards reaching agreement. In the aftermath of the row over the robbery, a further controversy erupted when, on RTÉ's Questions and Answers programme, the chairman of Sinn Féin, Mitchel McLaughlin, insisted that the IRA's controversial killing of a mother of ten young children, Jean McConville, in the early 1970s though "wrong", was not a crime, as it had taken place in the context of the political conflict. Politicians from the Republic, along with the Irish media strongly attacked McLaughlin's comments.
On 10 February 2005, the government-appointed Independent Monitoring Commission reported that it firmly supported the PSNI and Garda Síochána assessments that the IRA was responsible for the Northern Bank robbery and that certain senior members of Sinn Féin were also senior members of the IRA and would have had knowledge of and given approval to the carrying out of the robbery. Sinn Féin have argued that the IMC is not independent and the inclusion of former Alliance Party Leader John Alderdice and a British security head was proof of this. The IMC recommended further financial sanctions against Sinn Féin members of the Northern Ireland Assembly. The British government responded by saying it would ask MPs to vote to withdraw the parliamentary allowances of the four Sinn Féin MPs elected in 2001.
On 20 February 2005, Irish Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Michael McDowell publicly accused three of the Sinn Féin leadership, Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Martin Ferris (TD for Kerry North) of being on the seven-man IRA Army Council which they later denied.
On 27 February 2005, a demonstration against the murder of Robert McCartney on 30 January 2005 was held in East Belfast. Alex Maskey, a former Sinn Féin Lord Mayor of Belfast, was told by relatives of McCartney to "hand over the 12" IRA members involved. The McCartney family, although formerly Sinn Féin voters themselves, urged witnesses to the crime to contact the PSNI. Three IRA men were expelled from the organisation, and a man was charged with McCartney's murder.
Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern subsequently called Sinn Féin and the IRA "both sides of the same coin". The official ostracism of Sinn Féin was shown in February 2005 when Dáil Éireann passed a motion condemning the party's alleged involvement in illegal activity. US President George W. Bush and Senator Edward Kennedy refused to meet Gerry Adams while meeting the family of Robert McCartney.
On 10 March 2005, the British House of Commons in London passed a motion placed by the British Government to withdraw the allowances of the four Sinn Féin MPs for one year in response to the Northern Bank Robbery without significant opposition. This measure cost the party approximately £400,000. However, the debate prior to the vote mainly surrounded the more recent events connected with the murder of Robert McCartney. Conservatives and unionists put down amendments to have the Sinn Féin MPs evicted from their offices at the House of Commons but these were defeated.
In March 2005, Mitchell Reiss, the United States special envoy to Northern Ireland, condemned the party's links to the IRA, saying "it is hard to understand how a European country in the year 2005 can have a private army associated with a political party".
The October 2015 Assessment on Paramilitary Groups in Northern Ireland concluded that the Provisional IRA still exists "in a much reduced form" and that some IRA members believe its Army Council oversees both the PIRA and Sinn Féin.
Policy and ideology
Most of the party's policies are intended to be implemented on an 'all-Ireland' basis which further emphasises their central aim of creating a united Ireland.
Sinn Féin is considered a democratic socialist or left-wing party. In the European parliament, the party aligns itself with the European United Left–Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) parliamentary group. The party pledges support for minority rights, migrants' rights, and eradicating poverty. Although it is not in favour of the extension of legalised abortion (British 1967 Act) to Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin state they are opposed to the attitudes in society which "pressurise women" to have abortions and "criminalise" women who make this decision. The party does state that in cases of incest, rape, sexual abuse, "fatal foetal abnormalities", or when a woman's life and health are at risk or in danger that the final decision must rest with the woman.
Sinn Féin has been considered to be Eurosceptic. The party campaigned for a "No" vote in the referendum on joining the European Economic Community in 1972. The party was critical for the need of an EU constitution as proposed in 2002, and urged a "No" vote in the 2008 referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, although Mary Lou McDonald said that there was "no contradiction in being pro-Europe but anti-treaty." In its manifesto for the 2015 UK general election, Sinn Féin pledged that the party would campaign for the UK to stay within the European Union (EU), Martin McGuinness saying that an exit "would be absolutely economically disastrous". Gerry Adams said that if there were to be a referendum on the question, there ought to be a separate and binding referendum for Northern Ireland. Its policy of a "Europe of Equals", and its critical engagement after 2001, together with as its engagement with the European Parliament, marks a change from the party's previous opposition to the EU. The party expresses, on one hand, "support for Europe-wide measures that promote and enhance human rights, equality and the all-Ireland agenda", and on the other a "principled opposition" to a European superstate.
Social and cultural
Sinn Féin's main political goal is a united Ireland. Other key policies from their most recent election manifesto are listed below:
- The 18 Northern Ireland MPs that sit in the Parliament of the United Kingdom to be allowed to sit in the Dáil Éireann as full Deputies as well
- Ending academic selection within the education system
- Support for a 'Minister for Children'
- Diplomatic pressure to close Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant (in Britain)
- A draft Irish Language Bill for Northern Ireland, a Bill that would give the Irish Language the same status that the Welsh language has in Wales
- 'Plastic bag levy' to be extended to Northern Ireland
- To further Irish language teaching in Northern Ireland
- Same-sex marriage to be extended to Northern Ireland
- Increase in capital gains tax and deposit interest retention tax
- A cap on public sector pay at three times the average worker's wage
- A cap on the salaries of TDs and government ministers
- Standardisation of discretionary tax reliefs
- Greater state investment in the economy
- Reducing mortgage interest tax relief for landlords and property-based tax reliefs
- Establishment of a government fund to aid small and medium enterprises
- An 'all-Ireland' economy with a common currency and one tax policy
- Greater investment for those who are disabled
- An 'All-Ireland-Health-Service' akin to the National Health Service of the United Kingdom,
- Cap on consultants' pay
- Abolishment of prescription charges for medical card patients
- Expansion of primary care centres
- Gradual removal of subsidies of private practice in public hospitals and the introduction of a charge for practitioners for the use of public equipment and staff in their private practice
- Free breast screening (to check for breast cancer) of all women over forty
Sinn Féin is organised throughout Ireland, and membership is open to all Irish residents over the age of 16. The party is organised hierarchically into cumainn (branches), comhairle ceantair (district executives), cúigí (regional executives). At national level, the Coiste Seasta (Standing Committee) oversees the day-to-day running of Sinn Féin. It is an eight-member body nominated by the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle (National Executive) and also includes the chairperson of each cúige. The Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle meets at least once a month. It directs the overall implementation of Sinn Féin policy and activities of the party.
The Ard Chomhairle also oversees the operation of various departments of Sinn Féin, viz Administration, Finance, National Organiser, Campaigns, Sinn Féin Republican Youth, Women's Forum, Culture, Publicity and International Affairs. It is made up of the following: Officer Board and nine other members, all of whom are elected by delegates to the Ard Fheis, fifteen representing the five Cúige regions (three delegates each). The Ard Chomhairle can co-opt eight members for specific posts and additional members can be co-opted, if necessary, to ensure that at least thirty per cent of Ard Chomhairle members are women.
The Ardfheis (national delegate conference) is the ultimate policy-making body of the party where delegates – directly elected by members of cumainn – can decide on and implement policy. It is held at least once a year but a special Ard Fheis can be called by the Ard Chomhairle or the membership under special circumstances.
Ard Chomhairle (National Executive) Officer Board
- President: Gerry Adams
- Vice-President: Mary Lou McDonald
- Chairperson: Declan Kearney
- General Secretary: Dawn Doyle
- Director of Publicity: Sean Mac Brádaigh
- Treasurers: Rita O'Hare and Maurice Quinlivan
Ard Chomhairle (Sinn Féin Leadership) Members elected at the Ard Fhéis 2012
|Éamon de Valera||1917–1926||Resigned from Sinn Féin and formed Fianna Fáil in 1926|
|John J. O'Kelly (Sceilg)||1926–1931|
|Fr. Michael O'Flanagan||1933–1935|
|Cathal Ó Murchadha||1935–1937|
|Tomás Ó Dubhghaill||1952–1954|
|Tomás Mac Giolla||1962–1970||From 1970 was president of Official Sinn Féin, renamed The Workers' Party in 1982|
|Ruairí Ó Brádaigh||1970–1983|
Ministers and spokespeople
Northern Ireland Assembly
- See also: Executive of the 4th Northern Ireland Assembly, Northern Ireland Assembly, Members of the 4th Northern Ireland Assembly
|Assembly Group Leader||Raymond McCartney MLA|
|Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland||Martin McGuinness MLA|
|Junior Minister at Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister||Jennifer McCann MLA|
|Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development||Michelle O'Neill MLA|
|Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure||Carál Ní Chuilín MLA|
|Minister of Education||John O'Dowd MLA|
|Seanad Group Leader
Trade Union Outreach/Workers Rights and Political Reform
Junior Spokesperson for Jobs and Enterprise
|Senator David Cullinane|
|Gaeltacht, Irish Language and Rural Affairs
Junior Spokesperson for Justice, Equality and Defence
|Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh|
|Youth Affairs, European Affairs and All-Ireland Economy||Senator Kathryn Reilly|
- See also: Eighth European Parliament, European Parliament, Members of the European Parliament, 2014–19
|European Parliamentary Group Leader
Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs; Relations with the Palestinian Legislative Council
|Martina Anderson MEP|
|Environment, Public Health and Food||Lynn Boylan MEP|
|Agriculture and Rural Development; Relations with the United States||Matt Carthy MEP|
|Budgets; Fisheries; Relations with the People's Republic of China||Liadh Ní Riada MEP|
General election results
Devolved legislature elections
|Election||Body||Seats won||±||Position||First preference votes||%||Government||Leader|
|1921||House of Commons||
6 / 52
|6||2nd||104,917||20.5%||Abstention||Éamon de Valera|
5 / 78
|5||5th||64,191||10.1%||Abstention||Ruairí Ó Brádaigh|
17 / 110
18 / 108
|18||4th||142,858||17.7%||Power-sharing (UUP-SDLP-DUP-SF)||Gerry Adams|
24 / 108
|6||3rd||162,758||23.5%||Direct Rule||Gerry Adams|
28 / 108
|4||2nd||180,573||26.2%||Power-sharing (DUP-SF-SDLP-UUP-AP)||Gerry Adams|
29 / 108
|1||2nd||178,224||26.3%||Power-sharing (DUP-SF-UUP-SDLP-AP)||Gerry Adams|
|Election||Seats (in NI)||±||Position||Total votes||% (in NI)||% (in UK)||Government||Leader|
0 / 13
|None||34,181||0.2%||No seats||Éamon de Valera|
0 / 12
|None||23,362||0.1%||No seats||Margaret Buckley|
2 / 12
0 / 12
|2||None||63,415||0.2%||No seats||Paddy McLogan|
1 / 17
|1||8th||102,701||13.4%||0.3%||Abstention||Ruairí Ó Brádaigh|
1 / 17
0 / 17
|1||None||78,291||10.0%||0.2%||No seats||Gerry Adams|
2 / 18
4 / 18
5 / 18
5 / 18
4 / 18
Sinn Féin returned to Northern Ireland elections at the 1982 Assembly elections, winning five seats with 64,191 votes (10.1%). The party narrowly missed winning additional seats in Belfast North and Fermanagh and South Tyrone. In the 1983 Westminster elections eight months later Sinn Féin increased its support, breaking the hundred thousand vote barrier in Northern Ireland for the first time by polling 102,701 votes (13.4%). Gerry Adams won the Belfast West constituency with Danny Morrison only 78 votes short of victory in Mid Ulster.
By the beginning of 1985, Sinn Féin had won their first representation on local councils due to three by-election wins in Omagh (Seamus Kerr, May 1983) and Belfast (Alex Maskey in June 1983 and Sean McKnight in March 1984). Three sitting councillors also defected to Sinn Féin in Dungannon, Fermanagh and Derry (the last defecting from the SDLP). Sinn Féin succeeded in winning 59 seats in the 1985 local government elections, after it had predicted winning only 40 seats. However, the results continued to show a decline from the peak of 1983 as the party won 75,686 votes (11.8%). The party failed to gain any seats in the 1986 by-elections caused by the resignation of unionist MPs in protest at the Anglo-Irish Agreement. While this was partly due to an electoral pact between unionist candidates, the SF vote fell in the four constituencies they contested.
In the 1987 election Gerry Adams held his Belfast West seat but the party failed to make breakthroughs elsewhere and overall polled 83,389 votes (11.4%). The same year saw the party contest the Dáil election in the Republic of Ireland, however they failed to win any seats and polled less than 2%.
The 1989 local government elections saw a drop in support for Sinn Féin. Defending 58 seats (the 59 won in 1985 plus two 1987 by-election gains in West Belfast minus three councillors who had defected to Republican Sinn Féin in 1986) the party lost 15 seats. In the aftermath of the election Mitchell McLaughlin admitted that recent IRA activity had affected the Sinn Féin vote.
In the 1989 European elections, candidate Danny Morrison again failed to win a seat, polling at 48,914 votes (9%).
The nadir for SF in this period came in 1992, with Gerry Adams losing his Belfast West seat to the SDLP and the SF vote falling in the other constituencies that they had contested relative to 1987.
In the 1997 British General Election, Gerry Adams regained his Belfast West seat. Martin McGuinness also won a seat in Mid Ulster. In Irish elections the same year the party won its first seat since the 1957 elections with Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin gaining a seat in the Cavan-Monaghan constituency. In the Irish local elections in 1999 the party increased its number of councillors from 7 to 23.
The party overtook its nationalist rival, the Social Democratic and Labour Party as the largest nationalist party in the 2001 Westminster general election and local elections, winning four Westminster seats to the SDLP's three. The party continues to subscribe, however, to an abstentionist policy towards the Westminster British parliament, on account of opposing that parliament's jurisdiction in Northern Ireland, as well as its oath to the Queen.
Sinn Féin increased its share of the nationalist vote in the 2003, 2007, and 2011 Assembly elections, with Martin McGuinness, former Minister for Education, taking the post of deputy First Minister in the Northern Ireland power-sharing Executive Committee. The party has three ministers in the Executive Committee.
In the 2010 General Election, the party retained its five seats, and for the first time topped the poll at a Westminster Election in Northern Ireland, winning 25.5% of the vote. All Sinn Féin MPs increased their share of the vote and with the exception of Fermanagh and South Tyrone, increased their majorities. In Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Unionist parties agreed a joint candidate, this resulted in the closest contest of the election, with Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gildernew holding her seat by 4 votes after 3 recounts and an election petition challenging the result.
Republic of Ireland
Dáil Éireann elections
|Election||Seats won||±||Position||First Pref votes||%||Government||Leader|
73 / 105
|73||1st||476,087||46.9%||Aireacht Gov't||Éamon de Valera|
124 / 128
|51||1st||–||–||Aireacht Gov't||Éamon de Valera|
58 / 128
|N/A||1st||239,195||38.5%||Minority Gov't||Michael Collins
36 / 128
|N/A||2nd||135,310||21.8%||Abstention||Éamon de Valera
44 / 153
|8||2nd||288,794||27.4%||Abstention||Éamon de Valera|
5 / 153
|39||6th||41,401||3.6%||Abstention||John J. O'Kelly|
0 / 147
|None||1,990||0.1%||No Seats||Tomás Ó Dubhghaill|
4 / 147
0 / 144
|4||None||36,396||3.1%||No Seats||Paddy McLogan|
0 / 166
|None||16,894||1.0%||No Seats||Ruairí Ó Brádaigh|
0 / 166
|None||32,933||1.9%||No Seats||Gerry Adams|
0 / 166
|None||20,003||1.2%||No Seats||Gerry Adams|
0 / 166
|None||27,809||1.6%||No Seats||Gerry Adams|
1 / 166
5 / 166
4 / 166
14 / 166
The party had five TDs elected in the 2002 Republic general election, an increase of four from the previous election. At the general election in 2007 the party had expectations of substantial gains, with poll predictions that they would gain five to ten seats. However, the party lost one of its seats to Fine Gael. Seán Crowe, who had topped the poll in Dublin South–West fell to fifth place, with his first preference vote reduced from 20.28% to 12.16%.
On 26 November 2010, Pearse Doherty won a seat in the Donegal South–West by-election. It was the party's first by-election victory in the Republic of Ireland since 1925. After negotiations with the left wing Independent TDs Finian McGrath and Maureen O'Sullivan, a Technical Group was formed in the Dáil to give its members more speaking time.
In the 2011 Irish General Election the party made gains. All its sitting TDs were returned with Seán Crowe regaining the seat in Dublin South–West he lost in 2007. In addition to winning long time targeted seats such as Dublin Central and Dublin North–West the party gained unexpected seats in Cork East and Sligo–North Leitrim. It ultimately won 14 seats, the best performance for the party's current incarnation. The party went on to win three seats in the Seanad election which followed their success at the General Election.
Local Government elections
|Election||Country||First Preference Vote||Vote %||Seats|
|1974||Republic of Ireland||–||–||
7 / 802
|1979||Republic of Ireland||–||–||
11 / 798
59 / 565
|1985||Republic of Ireland||46,391||3.3%||–|
43 / 565
|1991||Republic of Ireland||29,054||2.1%||
8 / 883
51 / 582
74 / 575
|1999||Republic of Ireland||49,192||3.5%||
21 / 883
108 / 582
|2004||Republic of Ireland||146,391||8.0%||
54 / 883
126 / 582
|2009||Republic of Ireland||138,405||7.4%||
54 / 883
138 / 583
105 / 462
|2014||Republic of Ireland||258,650||15.2%||
159 / 949
Sinn Féin is represented on most county and city councils. It made large gains in the local elections of 2004, increasing its number of councillors from 21 to 54, and replacing the Progressive Democrats as the fourth-largest party in local government. At the local elections of June 2009, the party's vote fell by 0.95% to 7.34%, with no change in the number of seats. Losses in Dublin and urban areas were balanced by gains in areas such as Limerick, Wicklow, Cork, Tipperary and Kilkenny and the border counties . However, three of Sinn Féin's seven representatives on Dublin City Council resigned within six months of the June 2009 elections, one of them defecting to the Labour Party.
|Election||Country||First Preference Vote||Vote %||Seats|
0 / 3
|Republic of Ireland||54,672||4.9%||
0 / 15
0 / 3
|Republic of Ireland||35,923||2.2%||
0 / 15
0 / 3
|Republic of Ireland||33,823||3.0%||
0 / 15
0 / 3
|Republic of Ireland||88,165||6.3%||
0 / 15
1 / 3
|Republic of Ireland||197,715||11.1%||
1 / 13
1 / 3
|Republic of Ireland||205,613||11.2%||
0 / 12
1 / 3
|Republic of Ireland||323,300||19.5%||
3 / 11
In the 2004 European Parliament election, Bairbre de Brún won Sinn Féin's first seat in the European Parliament, at the expense of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP). She came in second behind Jim Allister, then of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). In the 2009 election, de Brún was re-elected with 126,184 first preference votes, the only candidate to reach the quota on the first count. This was the first time since elections began in 1979 that the DUP failed to take the first seat, and was the first occasion Sinn Féin topped a poll in any Northern Ireland election.
Sinn Féin made a breakthrough in the Dublin constituency in 2004. The party's candidate, Mary Lou McDonald, was elected on the sixth count as one of four MEPs for Dublin, effectively taking the seat of Patricia McKenna of the Green Party. In the 2009 election, when Dublin's representation was reduced to three MEPs, she failed to hold her seat. In the South constituency their candidate, Councillor Toireasa Ferris, managed to nearly double the number of first preference votes, lying third after the first count, but failed to get enough transfers to win a seat.
In the 2014 election, Martina Anderson topped the poll in Northern Ireland, as did Lynn Boylan in Dublin. Liadh Ní Riada was elected in the South constituency, and Matt Carthy in Midlands–North-West.
- List of political parties in Northern Ireland
- Elected representatives of Sinn Féin
- List of Sinn Féin MPs (for members elected to the British House of Commons)
- Friends of Sinn Féin (an organisation designed to support Sinn Féin's cause with members in the United States, Canada and Australia)
- Sinn Féin Republican Youth (the youth wing of Sinn Féin)
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The relationship between Sinn Fein and the IRA, historically, has been symbiotic. It is impossible to separate them. In more recent years, Sinn Fein has said, "We are not the IRA, they are a totally separate organization." In the minds of the vast majority of people in Ireland, whether they are Unionist or Nationalist, Sinn Fein is the political wing of the IRA, and it has played that role quite hotly down the years.
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The party voted this weekend to support terminations in limited cases, such as pregnant women with fatal foetal abnormalities.
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This Ard Fheis reaffirms its support of equality in all of its forms and reaffirms its support for the LGBT community and commends the work of local councillors and party members throughout both the 26- and Six-County states for pushing for the extension of full marriage rights to the LGBT Community and An Phoblacht for its continued coverage of these important issues.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sinn Féin.|
- Official websites
- Sinn Féin
- Sinn Féin's "Ireland of Equals" website
- Sinn Féin delegation to the GUE/NGL group in the European Parliament in Brussels website
- Other websites
- Sinn Féin
- Behind The Mask: The IRA & Sinn Féin Companion website to the Frontline documentary about Sinn Féin, which aired on PBS.
- Guardian – Special Report