A party on the move
BY MICHAEL PIERSE
Sinn Féin Head Office has recently been upgrading and professionalising the party's Administration departments in Dublin and Belfast. Sinn Féin National Head of Administration, Maria Doherty, talked to An Phoblacht about the challenges of managing a party on the move.
``Sinn Féin is the fastest growing party in Ireland and we are currently making massive gains in election results throughout the 32 counties,'' Maria explains. ``This has consequently led to an increased challenge to our administrative facilities and this department intends on meeting that challenge.''
Maria has been working part-time in the Sinn Féin Árd Oifig in Dublin's Parnell Square since August 1999 and was appointed as full-time administrator in January 2000. Olive Sloane, who is Sinn Féin's assistant administrator, was appointed full-time in April of this year. Sinéad McLarnon is the full-time secretary/receptionist in Belfast and another similar position is now being advertised for Dublin. Pat Boland is the long standing full-time office resource worker in the Dublin office.
``We see ourselves as a point of reference for party members and others who are interested in the party. The idea of a centralised administration unit emerged naturally with the ongoing growth in membership and public support,'' says Maria. The Department is divided into a Central Office in Dublin and a Branch Office in Belfast. The Dublin offices have been fully refurbished to improve the working environment for the staff, while the Belfast buildin has been completely rebuilt.
``The Department has five basic functions,'' explains Maria. ``Firstly we provide clerical backup to Sinn Féin's National Departments and Committees, the Árd Comhairle and the Coiste Seasta.
``Another important function is to establish good communication lines with the membership. This ensures that grass roots party members are provided with the information they need.
``We need to follow up on the increase in recruitment, which has been substantial in recent times. Streamlining of administrative systems between Dublin and Belfast has also occurred, together with more resources in terms of technology and equipment. The Department is now contactable via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
``We have also compiled an information pack specifically for new members, which is also available to the public from Head Office. It can be used as an education tool and also contains a synopsis of party policies.
``It is hoped that this office will make a real difference in managing the growth of Sinn Féin. We are a resource for party members, prospective members and the public and hope to make ourselves as accessible as possible. With the prospects of increased party growth in the next general election, and our consistent outpolling of the SDLP in by-elections, there are many challenges ahead.''
Out of the Ashes of Sevastopol Street arose Sevastopol Street
When the demolition squads moved in and tore down the old Sinn Féin headquarters at the corner of the Falls Road and Sevastopol Street in Belfast, they ended an era.
With the Bobby Sands mural staring smilingly down on the streets below, greeting the ``revolutionary tourists'' from around the world, this famous old building had come to represent republican resistance, ingenuity and commitment.
Commitment, because it seemed to be there forever, standing strong.
The ingenuity was what the many people who worked in the building over the years needed to negotiate the holes in the floors, the steep stairs and to avoid the falling plaster of a building that was well past its sell by date.
This structure, however, came to symbolise republican resistance because of the way it and those who worked from it stood strong against the excesses of British rule in Ireland.
It was raided by the RUC and British Army on many occasions, but the most serious incident occurred when RUC man Allan Moore shot dead Paddy Loughran, Paddy McBride and Michael O'Dwyer in February 1992. Two others were seriously injured in that attack.
In a further attack, loyalists fired an RPG rocket at the building and opened up with AK 47 rifles. Luckily, no one was injured. In a third serious attack, the UVF planted a bomb in Sevastopol Street. The bomb exploded, but did more damage to the adjacent library than to the Sinn Féin building.
Rebuilt in recent months, the new offices now represent the development and growth of Sinn Féin as the party that represents modern republicanism.
``The strength and development of the party in Belfast has brought the struggle a long way,'' says Sinn Féin councillor Fra McCann who, as one of the party's long standing representatives, has worked out of the office for years.
Fra had his constituency base in the old office. Now his office is bright and airy, in stark contrast to what has gone before.
The new building houses almost all the party's main offices in the Six Counties. Party President Gerry Adams has relocated his office there as has the Cúige na Sé Condae (the Six County office).
The Foreign Affairs Bureau is there, but most importantly that hub of the Sinn Féin `propaganda machine', the Six-County press office, is there.
With its two rooms, three computers and fax machine, the `propagandists' are once again ready to take on the might of the British empire.
d with Internet and e mail now in their armoury, the BBC - the voice of British rule in Ireland - had better watch out.
However, no article on this new building can be complete without a mention of the adjoining Art Shop and Marguerite and Pat.
The shop itself has come to represent the struggle in the way that thousands of visitors have come to buy books, T-Shirts, posters and badges - those images of the struggle, including An Phoblacht, that can now be found in every corner of the world.