|Organisation:||Sinn Féin [Pre 1970]|
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An interesting document, this was the report that was produced on foot of a commission established at the December 1968 Sinn Féin Ard Fheis.
A little background is provided by Robert W. White in Ruairí Ó Brádaigh: The Life and Politics of an Irish Revolutionary:
Motion 17 on the agenda called for the end of abstention from Leinster House. Before the debate could begin - and by prior arrangement - Séan Garland proposed an amendment that would "set up a commission of the persons representing both branches of the movement" to examine how the new political situation "may be turned to the advantage of the movement". (White, 2006, pp141-142).
White continues that:
If the commission;'s report called for "fundamental change", it would then go before an extraordinary Ard Fheis. Séamus Costello seconded the amendment. In doing so he went too far, attacking abstntionism so hard that some suspected the commision would be a sham, its findings already decided. Still, the Garland amendment passed. People in the IRA... Knew that Goulding controlled the new 20-person Army Council and through it would influence the commission. It seemed certain that Sinn Féin and the IRA were headed for significant change.
With that in light - and worth recognising that it takes a certain view of these matters - of most interest, perhaps, is Section 3, "Arguments on Electoral Policy". This lays out in considerable detail the rationale behind abstention and clearly is pivotal in terms of the positioning of Republicanism of whatever stripe that year. That the arguments for abstentionism are covered on fewer pages than those against is a possible indication of the thrust of this document.
An interesting analysis of the class structure of Irish society island-wide is also provided. And the structural proposals are of some interest also, not least the idea of 'specialist functions'.
Above and beyond that is the tone of the document which is an intriguing combination of proscriptive - '[this document] must be studied closely by every member of the Movement... He [sic] must write down his views, in his own words, and send them in to Head Office' and the objective... 'If the Republican Movement becomes a parliamentary party, they will gain the support of the more moderate republicans and lose the support of hard-line militant republicans...'
Incidentally, is that a small joke on page 5 about the class structure of the 26 counties where the upper class is summarised as "1. A completely anglicised Anglo-Irish ascendancy, sitting on the boards of the top companies, which they share with their English counterparts. The names are familliar: Guinness, Goulding, Carroll, Goodbody, Dwyer, Stanley". Surely not.
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