Politics Made Simple Episode 2 (The Northern Ireland Assembly Election): What Is Sinn Fein?

Sinn Féin is the biggest Republican Party in Northern Ireland — though they prefer to call it The North — and for everyone who reads this who is cray cray about everything Irish, you would probably say their level of green is as green as Oz! They are the only party to exist in Northern Ireland, as well as the Republic of Ireland.

But what are the key points about their politics that you need to know before the Assembly Election? In this blog, I’m going to outline everything there is to know about Sinn Féin’s political beliefs so you can make a decision on May the 5th (it might be best if we stick to the modern day and don’t concentrate too much on history).

The history of Sinn Féin gets a wee bit mucky, but according to Britannica, they were founded at the beginning of the 20th Century. They were of little importance up until the Easter Rising in Dublin 1916, when they became the rallying point for Republicanism (if only generations from that point could have stuck instead to the earlier peaceful protesting), and were seen as the political wing of Republican terrorism throughout The Troubles.

In the modern day, Sinn Féin is a Left Wing leaning party, who’s sole political aim is Irish Unification — historically, at any cost. Although they currently hold 7 seats in the House of Commons, they don’t take them up.

Turning to some of their other beliefs, Sinn Féin has softened its historical view on the European Union, from campaigning for both Britain and Ireland to stay out of the European Economic Community in the 1970s, to supporting remain in the 2016 Brexit Referendum. The EU thanked their new softened stance in January 2021 by surprising them, every other Nationalist Party and the Republic with a blockage of vaccine passports coming from the South to Northern Ireland (without telling either side), but after apologising, their complicated relationship continued on a good side.

They support higher taxes for wealthy individuals and big corporations, and — at least in the North — support the NHS (though they haven’t given details on if we’d keep or lose the health service in a United Ireland).

They also support increased investment in public services, especially in housing and wider redistribution of wealth.

They are pro-immigration and support an easier process for refugees, and they are also in support of abortion in certain circumstances, such as sexual abuse or foetal abnormality, but are opposed to it in any other circumstances.

Since 2017, Sinn Féin has been lead in the North by Michelle O’Neill, and in recent weeks, they’ve been opposed to the DUP deciding to collapse Stormont because they would NEVER do something like that (accept when they left us for three years without a government, originally in protesting against the RHI Scandal, but then in protest for equality in getting Irish Language Legislation, gay rights, and abortion services, and threatened last year to do it again).

In the Republic of Ireland, they’ve been lead since 2018 by Mary Lou McDonald.

They faced controversy in 2020 during the Coronavirus Pandemic and an extreme Lockdown that meant that only close family members could attend a funeral after attending the funeral of Bobby Storey — a former IRA commander. After facing calls for her to resign, Michelle O’Neill said that she would “never apologise for attending the funeral of a friend.”

It’s up to the electorate to decide if they see that as history or if it’s a gratitude you’d like to vote for.

So to summarise what Sinn Féin is:

  • They are an Irish Republican Party, founded in the early 20th Century, and which has a dark history in Republican Terrorism, although links to Terrorism are also present in Unionist Parties as well.
  • Their sole political aim is to achieve Irish Reunification, for which they would require a Border Pole, which can only be organised by the Secretary of State.
  • They are currently Pro EU but have been Anti-EU in the past.
  • They support higher taxes for wealthy individuals / big corporations, and also supports increased investment in public services / wider redistribution of wealth.
  • They are pro immigration, pro abortion in certain circumstances, and support an Irish Language Act.
  • They were in support of Irish Neutrality in relation to the Ukrainian scenario, but have changed their mind in recent weeks.

Sources:

Sinn Féin Website: sinnfein.ie

Sinn Féin: https://www.politics.co.uk/reference/sinn-fein/

Sinn Féin names Michelle O’Neill as new leader in Northern Ireland: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jan/23/sinn-fein-names-michelle-oneill-as-new-leader-in-northern-ireland

Sinn Fein collapsed Stormont for three years and threatened to so again so it has no credibility to criticise DUP protocol policy: https://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/opinion/sinn-fein-collapsed-stormont-for-three-years-and-threatened-to-so-again-over-irish-language-so-it-has-no-credibility-to-criticise-dup-protocol-policy-3390282

Sinn Féin Political Party, Ireland and United Kingdom: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Sinn-Fein

Timeline of the Bobby Storey Funeral Controversy: https://www.belfastlive.co.uk/news/timeline-bobby-storey-funeral-controversy-20284835

Bobby Storey Funeral: ‘No police bias’ in decision not to prosecute attendees: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/bobby-storey-funeral-no-police-bias-in-decision-not-to-prosecute-attendees-1.4567320

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