The quest for respectability and votes transformed Sinn Fein
TIT CONFLICTS had been bloody, with no end in sight. But many in the Irish Republican Army (IRA) wanted to continue trying to force the British out of Northern Ireland. They had no interest in his sister party Sinn Fein running for office, believing it would legitimize the status quo. But party leader Gerry Adams wanted to open a second front in the fight, one that did not involve guns.
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In 1981, one of his advisers, Danny Morrison, asked a question at a Sinn Fein meeting: “Who here really believes we can win the war at the polls?” And a second: “Will anyone here object if, with a ballot in this hand and an Armalite? [rifle] in the other, we take power in Ireland? This double strategy held until the peace agreement signed on Good Friday 1998. Today, Sinn Fein is the largest and richest party on the island of Ireland. If and when Ireland will ever be reunited, it depends on much more than its electoral performance. But the hold of the ballot box on Armalite reshaped party, politics and politics on both sides of the border.
In the north, Sinn Fein has been in government since 1999 and is expected to become the largest party and lead government after the May elections. In 2020, it became the most popular party in the Republic, with 24.5% of the vote. His path to the coalition has been blocked by big center-right parties Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, but it seems likely that he will enter government in the years to come.
Her exclusion from government reflected a dominant consensus that her paramilitary history and former Marxist economic policies cast her out. But it can be a divide, says Diarmaid Ferriter, a historian at University College Dublin. Elections are scheduled for May 2025, when Fine Gael could be ready for a rest after 14 years in power. Fianna Fail, which came to power in 1932 as a defender of IRA violence, is likely to want to stay in government. She and some smaller parties may decide that a deal with Sinn Fein would not be too high a price to pay.
The party has an army of activists, both former IRA members who turned to politics and a much larger group who joined them after the killings were over. It has gone beyond the pro-IRA vote by calling on young people whose housing is expensive. “Our government program will be unlike anything seen in the state so far,” promises Eoin Ã Broin, his shadow Minister for Housing in Dublin. He proposes to put an end to the dependence of the Republic on private builders and owners and to invest in 20,000 new social housing units per year – “the largest public housing construction program in the history of the country. ‘State “. He pledged to spend 1.2 billion euros ($ 1.4 billion) on two government mandates to introduce free and universal primary health care and to prevent salaried state doctors and companies from ‘private health insurance companies to carry out parallel activities in public hospitals.
His Marxism followed the same path as his defense of violence. In 1979, Mr Adams, the prominent leader of republicanism for nearly half a century until he stepped down from party leadership in 2018, said Sinn Fein was “against big business, against big business, at multi-nationalism … to all forms and manifestations of imperialism and capitalism. âToday Pearse Doherty, his finance spokesperson in Dublin, asserts that multinationalsâ know that Sinn Fein is not going to continue. âHis northern ministers have authorized private companies to build and operate schools and have called for a significant reduction in corporate taxes.
But paramilitary discipline persisted. Irish security authorities said it was funded, at least in part, by the IRAcriminal holdings of (Sinn Fein denies). Its detractors allege that the power belongs to obscure figures to whom the IRA, not with elected politicians. Five years ago, evidence emerged that the finance minister of Sinn Fein in the north asked a trusted unelected veteran Republican from the IRA whether he would be “happy” for the minister to make a decision worth hundreds of millions of pounds. A year earlier, a security assessment – which Northern Ireland Police say is still valid – concluded that members of Sinn Fein believed the IRA still controls the party and keeps the guns.
For its part, Sinn Fein denies that the IRA still exists, let alone acts as the power behind the throne. Its objectives, however, remain unchanged. Every party in the Republic says they are looking for a united Ireland; only Sinn Fein makes reunification its priority. It remains to be seen whether the electorate would be prepared to bear the costs.
Opinion polls show strong support for a united Ireland: a poll in May found that 67% of voters were in favor of reunification, with just 16% against. But many southerners would be reluctant to subsidize the north to the tune of Â£ 10 billion ($ 13.3 billion) a year, as Britain is currently doing. Only 22% said they would be willing to pay more taxes to fund reunification, while 63% said they would not.
Lobbying for reunification could therefore cost Sinn Fein some of its social democratic support in the Republic, as well as alienating a growing constituency in the north that sees itself neither nationalist nor unionist, and could be attracted to politicians. secular and crowd-pleasing. it now offers south of the border. Mr Ã Broin suggested that his party would seek to lead public opinion, with a dedicated unit to guide discussions on what the unit might look like and its potential benefits.
Mr. Morrison, who coined the phrase “urn and Armalite”, is now 68 years old. He dodges the question of whether he will live to see a united Ireland. âThe state I live in is not the state I grew up in,â he says. âI no longer feel defeated. Ireland has indeed changed over the past four decades. Thus, in their quest for respectability and electoral success both north and south of the border, the Republicans have. â
This article appeared in the Great Britain section of the print edition under the headline “United Across the Border”