No women elected
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
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.
Membership card needed
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.
Joe Mooney, Tramore, Co. Waterford
David Dunne, Carrick on Suir, Co. Tipperary