Sinn Fein urged to engage in debate
Sinn Fein urged to engage in debate


Suggestions by Sinn Fein for talks with ‘dissidents’ has been met with a proposal for a series of public debates.

In a statement, eirigi has revealed that it rejected an offer from Sinn Fein to hold behind-closed-door talks and instead issued its own offer to debate in public.

It is understood the original talks offer was made in writing by Sinn Fein before Christmas and since then both parties have continued to write to each other.

Breandan Mac Cionnaith, general secretary of the small left-wing republican party, said he believes a public discussion between the two parties would “engender widespread support and public interest”.

“It is our view that the ideological and strategic distance between eirigi and Sinn Fein is simply too great to permit the development of the sort of ‘common ground’ or ‘areas of agreement’ that Sinn Fein is proposing,” he said.

“As an alternative to that format, we have put forward our own proposal which would see the commencement of a series of public debates between eirigi and Sinn Fein. We believe that our proposal would engender widespread support and public interest.”

Mr Mac Cionnaith was responding to a speech by Sinn Fein party chairman Declan Kearney earlier this month when he told party delegates that “fear and suspicion” among nationalists whether “real or imagined” could be addressed by proper engagement in talks.

“There is no alternative to dialogue,” he said.

But Mr Mac Cionnaith said the current Sinn Fein strategy of “de facto acceptance of partition and British interference in Irish affairs” while acting as “administrators of British political, social and economic rule” made it difficult to establish common political ground.

He said public debates would provide a practical opportunity to compare and contrast the ideological and strategic differences between the two organisations.

“Such a process of public debate would also contribute to increased levels of political awareness and knowledge among the participants and the general public, something which has an inherent value of its own.

“We believe our proposal reflects and builds upon the stated intention and purpose of Sinn Fein’s original invitation.”

But he criticised what he said was “a highly significant political difference” between the thrust of Sinn Fein’s public utterances and the content of that party’s recent correspondence to eirigi.

“Over a number of years, up to the present, Sinn Fein spokespersons have systematically and repeatedly attempted to label all opponents of their political strategy as ‘dissident’ republicans.

“Many non-conformist and dissenting voices within the broader Republican community, including our own party, have been lumped together under this catch-all tag of ‘dissident’ by Sinn Fein and other establishment parties.

“Sinn Fein’s recent approach to eirigi on the basis of developing ‘common ground’ and ‘potential areas of agreement’ stands in complete contrast to those public stances.

“Sinn Fein’s recent communications with eirigi represent an inherent recognition of the fact that opposition to the status quo in Ireland is far more complex and widespread than that party has previously acknowledged.

“It also represents a clear acknowledgement of eirigi’s bona fides as a legitimate political party, something which Sinn Fein’s leadership has implicitly refused to recognise publicly in the past.

“We hope this belated recognition of the legitimacy and validity of alternative political positions extends beyond the current interaction.”

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