100 years of confusion
100 years of confusion

A Fine Gael attempt to stake a claim to the Sinn Féin heritage has sparked a row over the legacy of Arthur Griffith’s movement.

The opposition party is today commemorating the founding of Sinn Féin in 1905 by Griffith at a meeting in the Mansion House in Dublin, while Sinn Féin is holding a similar event in County Monaghan.

“To honour the political memory of Arthur Griffith and to enhance the political awareness of young people on our island, it is vital that we rediscover and celebrate the true, inclusive Sinn Féin, not the version of the party and its ethos that has been hijacked by a certain section of Irish nationalism to achieve its own narrow ends,” said Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny.

Sinn Féin laughed off Mr Kenny’s efforts as Martin Ferris welcomed the decision to hold the commemoration, adding that Fine Gael emerged from the “fascist blueshirt movement.”

Said Mr Kenny: “After the Convention to establish Sinn Féin, the members of our parent party, Cumann na nGaedhael, merged into its ranks. So, at this time, and as the Party that established our State, it is both Fine Gael’s duty and pleasure to celebrate the founding of this movement which sought freedom by political means.”

Accusing Mr Kenny of being “utterly confused”, Mr Ferris said Sinn Féin could trace its origins to Griffith’s organisation.

“Unlike Enda Kenny’s party we didn’t emerge from the fascist blueshirt movement. We haven’t sought to prevent the representatives of the Six Counties from engaging in political discourse in Leinster House,” he said.


Sinn Féin is holding a national conference on all-Ireland development this weekend as part of its centenary events.

Launching the event in Corcaghan, County Monaghan, Sinn Féin general secretary Mitchel McLaughlin told reporters that republicans would “discuss the shape, form and nature that a reunited Ireland will take”.

The party’s general secretary said: “We need to start discussing the practical steps that need to be taken to complete the journey to Irish independence and unity, and the challenges and opportunities facing all of us on the island. Following the launch of our campaign earlier this year to get the Irish government to bring forward a green paper on Irish unity, we have seen the opening up of the debate right across the island.

“The government are reinstating the commemoration for the Easter Rising, Fine Gael are celebrating the 100th anniversary of Sinn Féin, and last month we had the first ever debate on Irish unity in the Dail.

“Irish unity must be more than an aspiration or an objective, however sincerely held. If we are serious, we need to work together towards Irish unity,” Mr McLaughlin said.

Saturday’s conference, entitled An Ireland of Equals, is focused specifically on practical planning for Irish unity in terms of issues such as human rights and participatory democracy. A framework for governance in a united Ireland and a constitution for new social inclusion is also being discussed.

“The all-Ireland aspects of the Good Friday Agreement need to be built upon,” Mr McLaughlin said.

“The Irish government should be initiating and sustaining a planned programme of all-Ireland social and economic development which aims to remove the obstacles created by partition.

“Sinn Féin is setting out our vision of an inclusive Ireland -- an Ireland where diversity is valued and the greatest possible participation of the people of the island in the civil and political life of the country is a primary objective.

“Republicanism is about much more than reuniting Ireland. It is about equality and utilising the resources of the country in the interests of all of us who live here.

“1905 was a time of renewal and rebirth in Ireland and Sinn Féin was the political expression of that new confidence. There was a coming together of republicans, nationalists, the trade union movement, the Women’s Suffrage movement, the Gaelic League. If Irish unity is to be achieved, we need to see the coming together of all those who want to bring it about,” Mr McLaughlin said.

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© 2005 Irish Republican News