Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Nov. 2, 1986 - Sinn Féin Reconstitutes after Constitution is Broken at Ard Fheis


IN A statement on May 12 Republican Sinn Féin
Vice-President Des Dalton said that the continued use
by the Provisionals of the honoured and historic Sinn
Féin name was an affront to all Republicans.

He went on: "Their attempts to lay claim on its
centenary by events such as those organised in Naas on
May 14 are to be deplored. The Provisionals, no more
than any of the other groups who departed from Sinn
Féin over the years, such as Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil or
the Worker's Party/Democratic Left, cannot claim any
link with the organisation founded at Dublin's Rotunda
100 years ago, to do so flies in the face of
historical reality.

"At the 1986 Ard Fheis they breached the constitution
of Sinn Féin, which since 1917 upholds the All-Ireland
Republic proclaimed in 1916. By accepting the
partitionist system, they placed themselves outside of
Sinn Féin. In the years since they have been drawn
further into the partitionist system to the point
where they have sat in a revamped Stormont as British
ministers of the crown, administering British rule in
Ireland and look set in the near future to sit on the
Six County policing boards from where they will help
to police British rule on the ground.

"Contrary to the very philosophy upon which Sinn Féin
was founded, which was to ensure that the Irish people
themselves administered political power in Ireland
rather than the British parliament at Westminster,
they are have operated offices from Westminster as
well as drawing salaries from the British state.
Republican Sinn Féin alone can trace an unbroken
organisational link with the body founded in 1905,
since 1917 we have preserved intact the Republican
constitution of our organisation despite a number of
attempts to compromise or dilute it.

"This year as we proudly celebrate 100 years of
unbroken continuity we call on the Provisionals to
desist from laying claim to the proud name of Sinn
Féin. As the Worker's Party eventually did in 1982
they should face up to the reality that have no right
to use the name of an organisation which in their case
they walked away from almost 19 years ago. Events such
as those in Naas are an attempt to deny this reality."

- From Irish Republican Information Service (no.17)

Video from '86 Ard Fheis:

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Speech by Ruairi O’Bradaigh, President of Sinn Féin,
opposing the motion on abstentionism (Resolution 162),
Sinn Féin Ard Fheis, Dublin, (2 November 1986)

"Fellow delegates, I have to say this, and I said this
in Strokestown when we had our Comhairle meeting there
on 14 September. There’s a total contradiction in this
discussion. In fact, the discussion is totally out of
order if this constitution of Sinn Fein means
anything. Because it says there that no person who
approves or supports candidates going into Leinster
House, Stormont or Westminster shall be admitted to
membership or allowed to retain membership, and yet on
this floor we have plenty of resolutions proposing to
go into Leinster House and indeed some of them
proposing to go into Westminster and Stormont as well
because they want abstentionism ended altogether. The
constitution has been, and is being, flouted and has
not been made effective.

The first step was to remove that article, have a
year’s discussion and come back the following year and
make the necessary changes. Instead, it’s all
telescoped and I would submit that it’s totally out of
order. Number two, the resolution that proposes, when
strong enough, a 32 county constituent assembly, to be
joined there by other revolutionary forces, is a
re-affirmation of the fundamental principles of our
constitution a and b. And it says here, and this is a
document which I take seriously, because I’ve worked
on it for many, many years, and for many Ard
Fheiseanna in between, and it says first the
allegiance of Irish men and Irish women is due to the
sovereign Irish republic proclaimed in 1916. It
doesn’t say that we go into Leinster House or Stormont
or Westminster.

The fundamental principle, that every thing is a
tactic, but outstanding on this document it says it’s
a fundamental principle, but secondly that the
sovereignty and unity of the republic are inalienable
and non-renunciable. In other words, they can’t be
given away and are not a matter for reconsideration.
They are absolute.

We were told last night that we can agree to disagree
on fundamentals, how in the name of heavens can we do
that? If there are fundamentals there we either accept
them as in the constitution or we go another road and
we disagree with them. Now [motion] 162 is clearly a
departure from those two basic principles enshrined in
our constitution and there’s no proposal on the floor
of the Ard Fheis to do away with that. How can those
two principles stand while proposals to go into
Leinster House or any of these other places stand at
the same time? They will not fit in the one house.

Further, the resolution from Roscommon proposes to
re-assemble the constituent assembly, an all-Ireland

And I want to ask the Ard Fheis this, where are our
revolutionary socialists, how do you expect to build a
democratic socialist republic out of Leinster House?
How can serious social change come out of Leinster
House? How can the fundamental change in property
relations come out of Leinster House? No way can it do
that. What we are asked to do today is to tip the
scales that little bit in favour of parliamentary,
constitutional and reformist action. What about
Stormont and Westminster? If you raise that you’ll be
told they’re not an issue. But naturally people want
to know what’s down the road. Are they in doubt or are
they also for consideration in due course. People want
to know and they want to know now, and they have not
been told.

A few years ago, if you mentioned about Leinster House
you were told you were raising bogey men. Did you want
to make accusations? Did you want to make charges?
What were you talking about? And then suddenly it all
collapses on it.

The courts have been mentioned, the courts were always
a tactic in capital charges, in test cases and when
permitted by the military authority of this movement
to do so. They were never a principle.

With regards to Councils, Sinn Fein has always been in
the Councils and that is as near as to the enemy
system that we dare to go. Sitting in Leinster House
is not a revolutionary activity. Once you go in there,
you sign the roll of the House and accept the
institutions of the state. Once you accept the Ceann
Comhairle's rulings you will not be able to do it
according to your rules. You will have to go according
to their rules and they can stand up and gang up on
you, and put you outside in the street and keep you
outside in the street.

John A. Murphy was quoted here today. I'd like to
quote Dick Walsh, political correspondent of The Irish
Times last Thursday. He said about us, "The party is
struggling with its own contradictions, if its
delegates this weekend give adequate support that
their candidates should take their seats in the Dail
", he calls it, " they will whether they say so or
not, be recognising the legitimacy of the Oireachtas
and as a direct and inescapable consequence of that
the illegitimacy of any force other than the army, the
Free State army, claiming to wage war on behalf of the
Irish people"

I will not accept the Free State Army. The media, the
Irish Times on 30 August said, wherever it got its
information, in a leading article "There’s a
considerable body of support within the Provisional
movement (as they called it) for entering parliament,"
and then went on to say it is the only road forward.
The Irish Press in an editorial on 20 October said
"Politicians may object to sitting down with these
terrible people, but, after all, isn’t it a small
price to pay to emesh them in the constitutional
system." They’re very clear as to what’s happening.

The destabilisation of the state, we are told, will
result and the movement will be strengthened. Always
has it been otherwise, every time has it been
otherwise, the movement suffered and the state was
strengthened. Four times since 1922 it happened, all
ended in failure and ended ultimately in the
degradation and shame of collaborating with the
British, of handing over our political prisoners to
them and running counter to what they originally set
out to do.

A Chairde, I put it to you this way, we have not been
wrong for 65 years, we have not been wrong for all
those 70 years — we have been right and we should
continue to be right. I ask you to reject 162 and to
accept 184, and, in Gods name, don’t let it come about
that tomorrow, the next day or the day after, that
Haughey, FitzGerald, Spring, and those in London and
Belfast who oppose it so much, can come out and say,
"Ah, it took 65 years, but we have them at last," and
those in Leinster House who have done everything, the
firing squad, the prison cells, the internment camps,
the hunger strike, the lot, and weren’t able to break
this movement, that they can come and say at last we
have them towing the line. It took us 65 years but
they come in from the polls, they come in from the
wilderness and we have them now. Never, that’s what I
say to you — never."


Speech by Martin McGuinness at the 1986 Ard Fheis

"Sadly, the inference that the removal of
abstentionism would lead to the demise of military
opposition to British rule has indeed called into
question the committment of the IRA to pursue this
struggle to a successful conclusion. I reject any such
suggestion, and I reject the notion that entering
Leinster House would mean an end to Sinn Féin's
unapologetic support for the right of Irish people to
oppose in arms the British forces of occupation. That,
my friends, IS A PRINCIPLE which a minority in this
hall might doubt, but which I believe all our
opponents clearly understand. Or position is clear,
and it will never, never, never change. The war
against British rule must continue until freedom is
...we are told, among other things, that we are
counter-revolutionaries, and that if we lose this
vote, we will be discredited. It's sad and surprising
that this could have been said by a Republican. The
British government have a different opinion of us,
however. They fear this movement. They fear this
leadership. They have every right to fear us because,
in or out of Leinster House, we lead the most
dangerous and committed revolutionary force in Ireland
for 65 years.
...Finally, those opposed to us on this issue know
there isn't going to be any split in Sinn Féin. They
also know that the ranks of the IRA contain a minority
of Volunteers who, while opposed to the removal of
abstentionism from Leinster House, have committed
themselves to stand shoulder to shoulder in unity with
our comrades. They will not split. They will not walk
away from the armed struggle. They are the real
revolutionaries. If you allow yourselves to be lead
out of this hall today, the only place you're going is
home. You will be walking away from the struggle.
Don't go, my friends. We will lead you to the

-- Martin McGuinness at the '86 Ard Fheis


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