Árd Fheis '72 Report
Organisation: Sinn Féin [Official]
Type:Conference Report
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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

24th May 2010

This document was issued at a high point for Official Sinn Féin in the 1970s. It had navigated away from a disastrous split in the Republican Movement, had pushed towards a strongly politicised stance. It had also managed to successfully implement a ceasefire without - at that point - initiating a further split. Although conflict in Northern Ireland continued the future looked reasonably optimistic.

As noted at the start of the Report:

The 67th Ard Fheis of Sinn Féin was held in the Mansion House, Dublin on December 15th and 16th. Upwards of seven hundred delegates representing cumainn from all over Ireland attended with as many visitors and observers: fraternal delegates attended from organisations in Britain, America, Australia and Europe. There were over 300 resolutions on the Clar dealing with every aspect of the Irish Revolution.

And it continues:

The Ard Fheis of 1973 demonstrates that Sinn Féin has the programme, the members and the capacity to organise the Irish people for a successful Socialist Revolution.

It’s worth noting that the party was strongly in favour of contesting elections. In the same introduction it notes how it had contested 10 seats in the 1973 General Election. It notes that ‘Sinn Féin was, for the first time, contesting an election in the Twenty-Six County state and taking its seats’. This was an historic demarche whose subsequent effects spread - perhaps - more widely than OSF itself.

It is fascinating to also see how strongly wedded to an all-island strategy OSF was.

The policy on which Sinn Féin fought was: the ownership, control and development of the resources of Ireland by and on behalf of the working-class people of Ireland; the establishment of a secular state with equal rights and equal opportunities for all, irrespective of sex, religion or conviction; the elimination of repressive legislation and the achievement of full development, by and on behalf of the people, of their cultural inheritance. Welded to these national aims and aspirations, which will ultimately be won only with the establishment of a 32-county socialist republic, the candidates of Sinn Fein each of whom qualified by work already done on behalf of the workers of his or her area, there were important local issues.

Inside it is interesting to see however, the Sinn Féin Programme for action is clearly positioned in the context of the Republic of Ireland.

Oráid An Uachtarán (The Presidents speech - Tomás Mac Giolla then and long after) is also of interest, and in particular the text on pages 9 and 11 where a direct appeal is made to members of the Provisionals…

I would appeal to their members who may have been misled by lies and distortions, to examine our actions and policies. I am confident that they will find there is only one Republican Movement, only one Sinn Féin which stands uncompromisingly with the secularism and non sectarianism of Tone, with the Separatism and Socialism of Pearse and Connolly and they will find it here.

It continues:

Our objective is a Sovereign Democratic Socialist Republic for all Ireland. We do not want a totalitarian state; we do not want a capitalist state; we do not want a neo-colonial state dominated by British Imperialism (even if it is united) and we do not want a divided nation or a divided people. Basically our objective can be stated to be the reconquest of Ireland and our struggle is for the ownership and control of the wealth of Ireland by the mass of the Irish people.

The rest of the document provides an interesting overview of the activities of OSF during this period. Perhaps most telling as regards that overview is the mention of the IRA at various points.

It also demonstrates, under the National Affairs heading (p.31) some of the gaps that OSF sought to bridge in terms of dealing with the reality of partition. Also of interest are the linkages established under the International heading which are broadly speaking liberation struggles in the developing world rather than the Soviets and affiliated states.

Although the articles are unsigned at this point in time the General Secretary was Máirín de Burca.

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  • By: Jim Monaghan Tue, 25 May 2010 16:19:02

    I think if you look carefully you will se a motion which refers to abortion as a civil right. A first in a major party.

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  • By: Budapestkick Tue, 25 May 2010 22:31:59

    It’s difficult whether you can label OSF at this point as a major party but yes it’s quite progressive for the time.

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Wed, 26 May 2010 06:20:46

    In reply to Budapestkick.

    But for the Irish left quite a big party.

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  • By: Lonely prison wall Wed, 26 May 2010 08:30:04

    ‘I think if you look carefully you will se a motion which refers to abortion as a civil right. A first in a major party.’

    Not endorsed as I remember. Neither was it when the IRSP was set up- Costello was against abortion.

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  • By: Neues aus den Archiven der radikalen (und nicht so radikalen) Linken « Entdinglichung Wed, 26 May 2010 08:38:30

    […] Official Sinn Féin: Árd Fheis Report 1972 […]

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  • By: Jim Monaghan Wed, 26 May 2010 11:26:18

    It was referred to the incoming Ard Comhairle. O’Hagan spoke and offered some support and stated he was a member of the NI abortion reform society or something like that. I was at the IRSP conference where it was debated. Yes, Costello opposed, cannot remember the outcome.

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  • By: Joe Wed, 26 May 2010 13:24:35

    I recall a motion to the WP ArdFheis in the late 80s, calling for the UK abortion law to be put into effect in NI i.e. that women in the North be given the right to abortion. It was carried without much debate as far as I recall. To me, that meant the Party supported same in the south although that wasn’t explicit in the motion. I remember a Dublin comrade lamenting at the time along the lines of: “Oh no, that’s all we need. Now they’ll be calling us baby killers on the doorsteps.”
    If I recall correctly too, some time in the 90s PSF passed a motion in favour of abortion rights. Which gave some of their mainstream opponents (FF, FG) in the south the opportunity to say that they had added unborn babies to their list of legitimate targets. I’m pretty sure it was overturned at the next ArdFheis with Gerry Adams arguing against abortion rights.

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  • By: HAL Wed, 26 May 2010 17:02:57

    Was there a PSF Womens section, pro abortion motion passed during a morning session only to be overturned in a later session.I remember a Shinner explainig that it was adopted during the womens session when nobody of influence was there.

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  • By: Joe Wed, 26 May 2010 18:53:57

    My memory is that it was passed as policy at the Ard Fheis one quiet Sunday morning. Anne Speed proposing???? Adams et al then had to put up with it for a year until they overturned it at the next Ard Fheis. A rare case of Gerry’s control freaks letting their eye off the ball.

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  • By: Captain Rock Wed, 26 May 2010 18:58:56

    In 1985 the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis passed a motion supporting abortion. According to legend there was very few there, Sunday morning etc…anyway in 1986 that was overturned, again according to legend after the IRA made it a condition of backing the end of abstention in the south.

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  • By: John O'Neill Thu, 27 May 2010 14:49:11


    Maybe I am ‘misremembering’ as the yanks say, but my recollection is a bit different. The WP actually supported Abortion Rights in NI (or an extension of the existing UK rights to NI) but didn’t extend that to the banana Republic, I stuck in my mind because a comrade quipped that the provo’s were right; the WP are two nationist as we had one position for the North, abortion rights, and one for the South where the WP were campaigning for the right to information.

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  • By: Drithleóg Thu, 27 May 2010 15:29:20

    I remember there was a debate on it at the Workers Party Ard Fheis in June 1992 (after the De Rossa breakaway). The party adopted the “woman’s right to choose” position and have held to that position ever since.

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  • By: HAL Thu, 27 May 2010 15:38:12

    I think to ask for British law to be extended into the south would have been a bit silly,but calling for equal rights for all UK citizens seems fair enough.Calling for the right to information and travel was where the campaign was at in the south during that time.Having different tactic’s and applying different stratigies dont amount to two nationist.You must struggle with the tools available.

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  • By: Irp Sun, 20 Jun 2010 14:07:25

    I believe, that despite Costello opposing abortion, the IRSP as a party was pro-choice.

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