Building political strength
Determined mood at internal conference
``If Tony Blair wants to see people jumping through hoops then he should go to a circus,'' Louth councillor Arthur Morgan told Sinn Féin delegates gathered in Dublin last Sunday to discuss the latest crisis in the peace process.
His remark was greeted with laughter and applause but if the mood of the conference was good humoured, it was also determined. Republicans have had enough of British interference and its unionist veto.
As Martin McGuinness put it when he addressed the 300 or so delegates: ``We're in the middle of a fight and we are well able for it''.
McGuinness pointed out to the delegates that it was Sinn Fein that was driving the political agenda but stressed the need for activists to be out there ``working to build our political strength''.
``Have we the will, the ability, the organisation, the creativity and commitment to do the work that needs to be done?, he asked.
d answering his own question, the Sinn Fein negotiator made it clear that the party has the necessary commitment and creativity to achieve its goal, ``the end of British rule in Ireland''.
The conference, held last Sunday 29 March in the Terence Larkin Hall in Dublin City University, heard from delegates throughout the country.
Some comrades raised points about the present political landscape while others addressed what they saw as organisational problems that the party faced throughout the country.
Speaking on behalf of An Phoblacht, Peadar Whelan pointed out that in recent years the party had failed to use the paper to its capacity. He pointed out that the prelude to the present crisis was a ``concerted media campaign, orchestrated by the British government, that blamed republicans.
``We need to be using our own paper to counteract this type of campaign, but despite the growth in the party, paper sales have not increased.''
Matt Carthy of Ógra Shinn Féin warned, as did Eoin O'Broin, a former head of the party's youth organisation, that unless the party gave more time and effort into developing Ógra then the party could be in trouble in the future.
Having said that, delegates from across the country were quick, and rightly so, to highlight the party's successes through its grass roots organising.
Dessie Ellis said that the previous Wednesday, even with the Irish soccer team in action ``we were able to get 300 people to a public meeting in Finglas''.
Martin Meehan praised the work of the South Antrim election team who ensured that Sinn Féin's Pauline Davey-Kennedy was elected to Antrim council in face of a huge anti-republican onslaught. ``We more than doubled our vote, beat the SDLP into third place and attracted enough second preferences to overtake the unionists to win the seat,'' said Meehan.
Belfast delegate Mary McMillan said it was important for nationalists to express their anger at the suspension of the institutions. ``Millions of people, north and south of the border, voted yes in support of the Good Friday Agreement and the British government allowed 500 members of the Ulster Unionist Council to bring it down.''
As Gerry Adams said in his speech: ``Remember how we were told that the Good Friday Agreement, endorsed in referenda north and south, was the exercise of self-determination by the Irish people.
``We said it wasn't. It is clear now who was right given the actions of a British politician two weeks ago.
``Self determination for the people of this island has yet to be achieved and this party must set its sights on achieving that objective.''