Sinn Féin held a major conference in Dublin at the weekend to plot a new way forward for the party in Irish politics, particularly in the South.
The one-day event, entitled ‘Engaging Modern Ireland’, was designed to re-ignite the party in the 26 Counties following a disappointing general election in May.
New Senator Pearse Doherty said the party needed to reach out and engage with communities and constituencies across Ireland.
“Our core principles remain the same - we are working for Irish reunification, equality and justice. But we need to make sure that we also have policies that will deliver on these principles,” he said.
Issues addressed at Griffith College in Dublin focused on economic development, community safety and policing, climate change and immigrant communities.
Speakers included senior Sinn Féin politicians as well as Policing Ombudsman Al Hutchinson and other speakers.
Criticising Fianna Fail’s registration as a political party in the Six Counties, Mr Doherty said it would “take far more than a bit of paper from the Electoral Commission to make them an all-Ireland party”.
Party president Gerry Adams later told delegates the republican struggle had now switched across the border into the 26 Counties.
He also confirmed that Sinn Féin would be opposing the European Union Reform Treaty when it is put to a referendum next year.
“Today, the frontline of the struggle is here in the south. That means adopting and developing new strategies and tactics to meet the challenges facing republicanism in this part of the island,” he said.
Highlighting the need to move into the political mainstream, he said: “We need to be as comfortable with words like “prosperity” and “economic opportunity” as we are with “equality” and “independence”.
Republicans, he said, “need to present relevant, modern politics and policies to meet the needs of Ireland in the 21st century,” he told delegates from around Ireland.
The poor general election result in May, where the party’s Dail team was reduced from six to five, was “a wake-up call” for Sinn Féin: “We need to do things differently,” he said. The party’s leadership “needs to be expanded to be truly national”.
An internal review, he said, had shown that Sinn Féin “is not strong enough on the ground in many constituencies” and that it had to widen its “political appeal” if it is to succeed in future.
“We also need to present our message in a better, more coherent way,” said Mr Adams.
Sinn Féin, he said, “needs to rejuvenate our party from the ground up and republicans need to re-organise, restructure and recruit more young people”.
“Today, the frontline of the struggle is here in the south. That means adopting and developing new strategies and tactics to meet the challenges facing republicanism in this part of the island.”
Pointing out that Sinn Féin is “not a high tax party”, Mr Adams said it had said that election promises by other parties to cut taxes had been “irresponsible” and “we were correct in that”.
The Budget, which was particularly disappointing for those on low and middle incomes, had seen Fianna Fail “renege on many of the promises that saw them elected in the first place”.
The Dublin government “seems oblivious of the difficulties facing ordinary people” and this has been best illustrated by its decision to accept pay rises. “If this government had any principles whatsoever they would decline this latest wage increase. It is not fair, it is not money well spent and it is not compulsory,” he declared.