Sinn Féin

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Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin.png
With the Déanta i nÉirinn ("Made in Ireland") logo, used as the title on the original SF newspaper.
Political position Irish nationalism
Gaelic restoration
Leader Arthur Griffith
Éamon de Valera
John J. O'Kelly
Margaret Buckley
Paddy McLogan
Thomas Gill
Country Ireland
Existence 1905–1970
Headquarters Gardiner Street,
Dublin, Ireland
Newspaper United Irishman
Sinn Féin
Affiliation Irish Republican Army
Colours green

Sinn Féin (English: We Ourselves) was an Irish nationalist political party, founded in 1905 and ending in 1970 when it split into two groups both claiming its legacy. Throughout its history, different ideological factions have taken ahold of the party promoting a variety of political views; its two most consistent policies throughout included advocating the national sovereignty of Ireland (seceding from political union with the United Kingdom) and promoting widespread usage of the Irish language, also known as Gaelic.

The party was founded under Arthur Griffith, a traditionalist patriot, advocating Irish sovereignty under a dual-monarchy. As the political situation evolved and the Easter Rising of 1916 took place, many surviving republicans joined the party. As WWI was taking place, there was some talk of offering Ireland to a Hohenzollern scion, however the republicans won the debate and Éamon de Valera became party leader. SF won the 1918 election, declaring the first Dáil. Armed violence known as the Tan War between the IRA and the British state followed. Following the Anglo-Irish Treaty, the Irish Civil War took place and after the victory of the pro-Treatyites, much of the party loyal to Michael Collins became Cumann na nGaedheal. De Valera himself left SF in 1926 over absentionism, founding Fianna Fáil.

What remained of SF were politically marginal hardliners, led by Mary MacSwiney and John J. O'Kelly. In 1938, with some IRA irregulars under the banner of Comhairle na Poblachta, they promoted the concept republican legitimism. The party would languish in obscurity until the 1950s, when under the influence of the "three Macs", it sprung back to life as the political wing of the irregular IRA who carried out the Border Campaign in 1956. Traditionalists were prominent early on, but Marxists subverted and took control of the party under Thomas Gill, who became leader in 1962. A split within the party took place at the onset of The Troubles, the more traditionalist wing became Provisional Sinn Féin (with the Provisional IRA) and extremist reds became Official Sinn Féin (with the Official IRA).


Foundation of Sinn Féin

Arthur Griffith, founding member and leading theoretician.

Sinn Féin represented the convergence of several different currents at work by the start of the 20th century in Ireland. The literary Celtic Revival of the indigenous Gaelic culture of Ireland had been initiated by the Gaelic League and others, which led to a renewed focus on the Irish language, sports through the Gaelic Athletic Association, folklore and musical traditions. Much of this countered the predominating liberal Anglophone culture, eminating from Britain (especially metropolitan areas) with its music hall entertainments. Since the Catholic Emancipation and recovery after the Great Famine, a new Irish Catholic middle-class had emerged, regarding the old Irish Parliamentary Party as insufficiently patriotic and somewhat of a "Token Taig" party serving the British Liberal Party. Sinn Féin emerged to persue their group interests in a more forthright manner, declaring the Acts of Union 1800 illegal and desiring a sovereign Irish Parliament as the situation was under Henry Grattan to persue their political aspirations.

The party developed between the years 1905 and 1908 as various Irish nationalist and Gaelic cultural interest groups came together under a common banner. The most significant of these were Bulmer Hobson's Dungannon Clubs which were based in Ulster and the original Cumann na nGaedheal of Arthur Griffith. In 1903, Griffith organised a group called the National Council with Maud Gonne of the women's patriot group Inghinidhe na hÉireann to protest the visit of Edward VII; they would also take part in early Sinn Féin. Early members included W. T. Cosgrave, Seán Mac Diarmada, Countess Markievicz and Seán T. O’Kelly. The newspaper, also known as Sinn Féin, was the primary organ of the party's ideology, edited by Griffith; becoming more outspoken as time went on, it was outlawed by the state in 1914, when the United Irishman became its newspaper. Griffith proposed a dual-monarchy along the lines of Austria-Hungary as an attempt to win over unionists to the Irish nationalist cause, in economic matters he was a strong advocate of Friedrich List and his "national economic system".[note 1]

1916 and the Irish Revolution

During the First World War, the Irish Republican Brotherhood and some other Irish republicans organised an armed revolt against the British state in Ireland. This was known as the Easter Rising and occured in 1916, mostly in Dublin. Some individual Sinn Féin members participated in the Irish Volunteers and the hostile press described it as the "Sinn Féin Rebellion", however the party was not organisationally responsible.[note 2] This perception may have been heightened by the knowledge of Griffith's Germanophilia, coupled with the fact that some Irish nationalists such as Roger Casement were involved with trying to aquire assistance from the German Empire. Regardless, in the aftermath, most of those who survived and were not executed by the British state joined Sinn Féin. At the 1917 Ard Fheis; the general assembly of the party; the republican faction took control under the leadership of Éamon de Valera, one of the survivors of the Rising. There had been some talk of offering an Irish throne to Prince Joachim of Prussia,[1] younger son of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, but the majority agreed to leave this issue to a public referendum after the establishment of an independent republic.

The First Dáil consisted of Sinn Féin members elected in 1918 who declared themselves the assembly of the Irish Republic.

In the run up to the 1918 general election, support for Sinn Féin swelled. Nationalist historiography generally attributes this to the handling by General John Maxwell of the aftermath of the Easter Rising, where fifteen participants were executed under conditions of martial law instead of the DORA, which gave the impression to the public of no due process. However, more significant was the Conscription Crisis of 1918, where the British government had moved to introduce mandatory draft for Irishmen to be sent to Flanders following the German Spring Offensive. SF won a clear majority of 72 seats in the election, taking much of the Irish Parliamentary Party's seats. In early 1919, Sinn Féin MPs assembled in Dublin and proclaimed an Irish Republic, with themselves as parliament, they also elected a ministry and Cathal Brugha as first Prime Minister, leaving the provision for a head of state vacant. This occured a few months after Armistice Day and no nation recognised the Irish declaration.

The initial strategy of Sinn Féin was to build up parallel structures to the British state in Ireland, seeing their election as a democratic mandate from the Irish people to do so. Members of the British security forces, such as the Royal Irish Constabulary (an armed police force with ranks mostly of native Irish Catholics) were socially shunned. However, some members of the Irish Republican Army in County Tipperary attempted to ignite a military conflict, acting independently, executing some British military personnel. This was successful, as the Tan War took place from 1919 to 1921. However, the Sinn Féin president of the Dáil Éireann, Éamon de Valera, didn't formally declare war with the United Kingdom until early 1921. Harsh reprisals against civilians from the Black and Tans led to widening support for the IRA amongst the people, especially in the south, in areas like County Cork where fighting was most fierce. Michael Collins and Richard Mulcahy emerged as IRA leaders; a truce was declared on 11 July 1921 with the British government of David Lloyd George.

Treaty and ensuing Civil War


The combined crusades of the Gaelic League, the Catholic clergy, Moran's Leader, the GAA and others against the evils of Anglicisation created an anti-British counter culture which had mass-appeal. By idealising the values of Gaelic, Catholic, rural society and exploiting historic native Catholic antagonism towards the institutions and ethos of the British Protestant state it mobilised a broad constituency whose political consciousness was shaped by an ethnic Catholic communalist tradition and offered them a native Gaelic Catholic status system as an alternative to the alien British one.

—Liam S. Andrews, 2002, Northern Nationalists and the Politics of the Irish Language.

Against the red flag of communism we raise the flag of an Irish nation. Under that flag will be protection, safety and freedom for all of us.

—Sinn Féin, 30 September 1911.[2]


  1. Griffith was a life long opponent of international Jewish finance and its freemasonic associates. He was an admirer of Paul Kruger and supported the Boers in the Second Boer War, when the Rothschilds were using the British Army to set up various Jewish randlords over the diamond and gold mines there. His friend John MacBride founded the Irish Transvaal Brigade to fight. Rothschild funded the Ulster Volunteer Force in 1913 as revenge, to the sum of £10,000. Griffith also opposed usuristic Jewish exploitation of the working-class Irish people at home, notably at Limerick in 1904.
  2. While it is specious to say there was no involvement of SF, the main organ which created the rising was the Irish Republican Brotherhood. Many members of SF either were or had been members of the IRB also. Patrick Pearse, the main leader of the Easter Rising, had been inducted into the IRB by Bulmer Hobson.




  • Coogan, Tim Pat (2009). Ireland in the 20th Century. Random House. ISBN 1407097210. 

See also

External links