Sinn Féin ardfheis
The Irish Times - Mon, Mar 08, 2010
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams may have credibility problems with the broad electorate, but his reception at the party’s weekend ardfheis in Dublin would suggest a colossal level of support among active members. As for early retirement, he appears determined to lead the party into the forthcoming Westminster and Northern Ireland Assembly elections and beyond.
Attempting to tap into public anger over Government cutbacks and widespread unemployment, Mr Adams spoke of transforming life in the South and building a new Republic where there would be homes and work for all and no banker would be able to evict a family. Nama would not be tolerated. There would be help for the farm sector and disadvantaged areas. And people would be encouraged to take a stand against corruption, greed and injustice. It was as appealing as homemade apple pie.
But, in urging people to take a stand against authority, there were hints of a public disobedience campaign.
The grainy, difficult side of politics emerged when discussion turned to the Hillsborough agreement and arrangements for the transfer of policing and justice powers. Martin McGuinness excoriated Reg Empey and the Ulster Unionist Party for jeopardising a hard-won deal with the Democratic Unionist Party, while Mr Adams justified concessions made to Peter Robinson on Orange parades. Sinn Féin was in government in Northern Ireland and was bringing about change. It could do the same in the South.
It was a delicate exercise. Having offered to share power with Fianna Fáil before a disappointing 2007 general election and to form a broad alliance with the Labour Party and the Green Party before the local and European elections of 2009, future party alliances were uncertain. Activists sought to forestall a future alliance with Fianna Fail through an anti-coalition motion.
They were routed by a leadership that damned both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and went on to assure delegates that a special conference would be called to decide the matter. Despite that, such open dissent within the party – following the resignation of a number of councillors – is likely to spell future trouble.
Becalmed in the opinion polls since last year’s local elections, Sinn Féin has struggled to connect with the economic concerns of southern voters and offer a positive way forward. Its solution: a jobs creation programme based on higher taxes and increased State borrowing and spending over an extended period carried echoes of trade union demands. The approach is likely to appeal to newly unemployed and low paid workers.
Getting that message to its target audience may be complicated. Delegates complained of being excluded by the media from the broad economic debate. Their problems do not stop there. Support for the party is greatest among low-income groups where voting can be sporadic, at best. Expanding that base will be difficult. Senior members spoke of making ‘incremental’ progress. Sinn Féin is flying high in Northern Ireland. Down here, it looks like being a long, slow haul.
This is a classic example of the radical socialist cotswallop that is at the root of Sinn Fein’s political agenda. If their goal for a United Ireland is “a 32 county socialist republic”, it certainly is not mine. I am quite sure that a huge majority of those Americans who have admired their steadfast, unwavering pursuit of a free and United Ireland, myself included, were either not aware of, or chose not to recognize their radical socialist agenda. As a very proud citizen of both the United States of America and Ireland, I am disgusted by the very thought of the United Ireland of our dreams being established as a 32 county socialist republic.
I do not believe, nor will I ever accept that in order for a person to be considered an avid supporter of a free, united, 32 county Ireland whose destiny is determined only by her own people, the person must also be expected to support the entire political agenda any specific political party. This is especially true when that party's agenda advocates a policy of radical socialism. I want to be perfectly clear when I say that I hold no animosity toward Sinn Fein, but I vehemently disagree with their socialist political ideology.
Jack Meehan, Past National President
Ancient Order of Hibernians in America