Republican News · Thursday 13 April 2000

[An Phoblacht]

No women elected

A Chairde,

The Ard Chomhairle elections head at this weekend's Ard Fheis are a worrisome indication of a mindset obviously held by a significant percentage of party membership and as such needs serious address by membership at the local level.

The fact that not a single woman was elected to the Ard Chomhairle indicates that while lip service is given in support of greater participation of women in electoral politics, party membership does not truly support it. When even Bairbre de Brún, our Minister of Health for the Northern Assembly, is not returned to the Ard Chomhairle, it is a problematic issue.

The argument that women will be co-opted onto the Ard Chomhairle is not good enough. If women's issues are not fully integrated into Sinn Féin's grassroots efforts to achieve peace and justice in a united 32 county socialist republic, then peace and justice will effectively only come to the male members of the population.

The history of this debate goes back to the beginnings of this struggle and has never been fully assimilated into the grassroots level in a comprehensive manner. From the Parnell sisters, Countess Markievicz, Kathleen Clarke to Mairead Farrell and Bairbre de Brún, women have played an indispensable role in the continuation of the republican struggle. As a republican, I envision feminism as an integral component of my politics and joined this party because I saw Sinn Féin as being a leader in working for gender equality. The Ard Chomhairle elections give me reason to doubt this belief.

Party leadership always says the right things on the issue of gender equality but now it is time for the rank and file membership to closely examine where they stand on the issue. If the party membership is not supporting the equal role of women in the leadership of this party, then we need to ask why. And we need to ask what must be done to get our members behind the issue.

Serious address of why the Ard Chomhairle elections went the way they did needs to happen at the cumann level and the issue of gender equality needs to become an issue taken up in a serious manner by the rank and file membership of Sinn Féin.

Kieran Clifford,
Parnell Square,
Dublin.

Membership card needed

A Chairde,

We are writing to ask all members to support the idea of a national Sinn Féin membership card for registered members of our party. The reasons that we feel that a membership card would be of a benefit to all our members are:

At this year's Ard Fheis it was almost like the begging bowl was out at every corner and turn that a delegate took.

The function was 6 a head and merchandise was overpriced.

There was no discount accommodation available or even a list of places to stay overnight.

Take this into account with the stark reality that many of our members are working class people with little or no money to spare in their weekly budget when they get their meagre wage, then add our members who are unemployed who have to depend on the generosity of others to help them get over a two-day conference in Dublin, if they don't have a contact in Dublin then they simply cannot afford to go. The fact that we have so many cumainn newly set up means that they simply do not have the finances to support delegates. However, this is not where it stops. There is travel, food and some form of social engagement to be taken into account and in turn provide for the potential of maximum attendance at Ard Fheiseanna or internal conferences and so on.

This, however, would not be where the use of the card would stop, as it could be further used to avail of discounts for members in our own Sinn Féin shops and could even be extended to friendly retailers, the same as many of the country's unions do with their membership cards. We take into account fully the need the party has in relation to raising funds and the fact that we are not a brown envelope party but would suggest that new and more invigorating ideas to raise money must be put in place as we only put off our own members if we constantly look to them all the time.

Yours

Joe Mooney, Tramore, Co. Waterford
David Dunne, Carrick on Suir, Co. Tipperary


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