Sinn Féin

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Sinn Féin (/ʃɪn ˈfn/, pronounced shin-FAYN[1] not sin-fine,[2] and commonly shortened to SF) is an Irish republican party, operating in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The name is Irish Gaelic for "ourselves" or "we ourselves",[3][4] although it is frequently mistranslated as "ourselves alone",[5] presumably to emphasize the nationalistic element of SF.

Sinn Féin was originally formed in 1905, and its unprecedented uphill electoral victory in 1918 with 70% of seats in Ireland led directly to the formation of a (mostly) independent Ireland. Afterwards, the party split off into fragments, until 1970, when its current form as Provisional Sinn Féin - later renamed to just Sinn Féin - came into being. This new SF had many, many allegations of links to the IRA and its operations during the Troubles,[6] but the party, especially upon the election of its first ever non-Gerry Adams leader in almost four decades, Mary Lou McDonald, has semi-successfully moved past its Troubled (haha) history, and have put the topic of a united Ireland back into modern political discourse.

As of the 2022 election, Sinn Féin is the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly, holding 27 out of 90 seats.

Its supporters, or suspected ones, are often referred to facetiously as "Shinners" by their opponents.[7][8] Incidentally, the term "Fenian" is used as a general term of abuse towards Irish nationalists in general, in reference to the early 19th and 20th century organisations described as "Fenian".[9]

Links with the Provisional IRA[edit]

Sinn Féin was closely associated with the Provisional IRA,[10] with the Irish Government alleging that senior members of Sinn Féin such as Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Martin Ferris, have held posts on the IRA Army Council.[11] However, the SF leadership has denied these claims.[12] The US Government also alleged that Sinn Féin and the IRA were linked,[13][14][15] so we know therefore it must be false.

Sinn Féin organiser Danny Morrison at the party's Ard Fheis (Annual Conference) in 1981, said:

"Who here really believes we can win the war through the ballot box? But will anyone here object if, with a ballot paper in this hand and an Armalite in the other, we take power in Ireland?"[16]

The British Government stated in 2005 that "we had always said all the way through we believed that Sinn Féin and the IRA were inextricably linked and that had obvious implications at leadership level".[17]

On 20 February 2005, Irish Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Michael McDowell publicly accused three men of the Sinn Féin leadership (Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Martin Ferris) of being on the seven-man IRA Army Council, which they later denied.[18][19]


The party is regarded as left-wing nationalist,[20] democratic socialist or left-wing political party.[21] The party pledges support for minority rights, migrants' rights, and eradicating poverty (generally considered progressive viewpoints), but opposes legalised abortion (generally considered a conservative viewpoint),[22] but is becoming more progressive on this issue as well.[23][24] This is probably due to the Irish attitudes towards abortion changing in recent years,[25] although Ireland remains somewhat conservative in this area.[26]


The party supports an all-Irish equivalent of the UK's National Health Service.[27]

Irish Unionism[edit]

Sinn Féin supports the idea of a United Ireland, as do their political rivals Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and the Social Democratic and Labour Party. This means that they support a single sovereign state that unites the Republic of Ireland (Éire) and Northern Ireland (Ulster), free from British rule.[28]

LGBT rights[edit]

Despite being a heavily Catholic party, Sinn Féin is pro-LGBT rights and have condemned a fake bomb sent to LGBT rights event in Dublin,[29] despite having a history of actually blowing innocent people up themselves as with their links to the (P)IRA.


Sinn Féin operates a policy of 'abstentionism' regarding the UK parliament in Westminster: it contests parliamentary seats in Northern Ireland, but if a candidate wins, they refuse to take their seat in the House of Commons, as they will not swear the necessary oath of allegience to the British Crown. This does not stop them, however, from claiming parliamentary expenses, including having an office provided for their use in Westminster. Sinn Féin MPs continue to work on behalf of their constituents, the party and N.I.; as such they require offices and expenses like other MPs. The British government refuses to pay Sinn Féin the parliamentary salary of £67,000 as they do not sit in the Commons; however they accept a wage of £365 per week (£18,980) from Sinn Féin.

For a long period of their history they also abstained from any seats in the Dáil Eireann and the Northern Ireland Assembly (during the periods such a body existed) due to the former being "partitionist" and the latter being "partitionist" and - for most of its history - a gerrymandered rubber stamp for the UUP where no other party could get any meaningful say.

Its splinter, Republican Sinn Féin, is even more abstentionist, refusing to stand for either Westminster or the Dáil Eireann.

Notable members[edit]

Notable figures include current party president Gerry Adams, and the late Martin McGuinness, formerly Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland and an unsucessful candidate in the 2011 Irish presidential election.[30]

Adams and McGuinness have attracted criticism for their close links to the IRA; Adams (unconvincingly) denies involvement, while it's generally accepted that McGuinness was IRA chief of staff for a time and hence responsible for several murders.[31][32] Adams was also criticised when it was revealed that his brother Liam had a long history of sexually abusing children and Adams may have covered up for him or at least failed to protect children.[33]

Gerry Adams, after staying in control of the party for 35 years, finally decided to give up the reins to someone who wasn't probably involved in the IRA, Mary Lou McDonald. She was a relative unknown at the time of her election, but the gamble has paid off in spades, as she led Sinn Féin to a historic victory in the 2020 Ireland general election, being the first party that wasn't centrist party Fine Gael or other identical centrist party Fianna Fáil to score a plurality in vote share for the first time in 102 years; and doing it while managing an 11% vote swing.[34] Coincidentally, both historic elections for SF - 1918 and 2020 - occurred on a Saturday.


In common with the sour Brendan Behan joke about the first item on the agenda being the split, a number of splits have occured in the party.

  • 1970. SF split into Provisional and Official wings. Officials later became the Workers' Party of Ireland, dropped the republicanism and later merged with the Labour Party. Provisionals kept the name.
  • 1986. Following a decision to take up seats in Dáil Eireann, a walk out occurred led by Ruairi O'Braidagh and 20 of his followers who set up Republican Sinn Féin.
  • 1998. 32 County Sovereignty movement formed after decision to support the Good Friday Agreement. Largely the political wing of the Real IRA.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Official websites
Other websites


  1. "Sinn Féin: definition of Sinn Féin in Oxford dictionary (British & World English). Meaning, pronunciation and origin of the word". Oxford University Press. 2013. Retrieved 1 December 2013. 
  2. Although they have been known to sin on occasion (see: thou shalt not kill).
  3. Niall Ó Dónaill (1977). (advisory ed. Tomás de Bhaldraithe). ed (in Irish). Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla [Irish-English Dictionary]. Dublin: An Gúm. pp. 533, 1095. ISBN 978-1-85791-037-7. 
  4. MacDonncha (2005), p.12
  5. "The first Sinn Féin party". Retrieved 20 April 2010. 
  6. And some of them are even true!
  7. Griffin, Sam. Bertie Ahern: 'Shinners are doing well' Belfast Telegraph. 18 April 2014.
  8. Lord, Miriam. Miriam Lord: Sinn Féin’s capital coup leaves parties reeling The Irish Times. 26 May 2014
  9. See the Wikipedia article on Fenian.
  10. "The political counterpart of PIRA": entry under Provisional Sinn Féin, W.D. Flackes & Sydney Elliott (1994) Northern Ireland: A Political Directory 1968–1993. Belfast: Blackstaff Press
  11. "Irish government allegations about IRA army council". London: 21 February 2005. Retrieved 20 April 2010. 
  12. "Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein". Public Broadcasting Service. 1998. Archived from the original on 9 July 2000. Retrieved 30 May 2015. "The relationship between Sinn Fein and the IRA, historically, has been symbiotic. It is impossible to separate them. In more recent years, Sinn Fein has said, "We are not the IRA, they are a totally separate organization." In the minds of the vast majority of people in Ireland, whether they are Unionist or Nationalist, Sinn Fein is the political wing of the IRA, and it has played that role quite hotly down the years." 
  13. Sinn Fein says IRA may cease to exist
  14. Kennedy tells Sinn Féin to end links to IRA
  15. Sinn Fein Leader Snubbed by Bush, Kennedy
  16. Taylor (1997), pp.281–2
  17. "Press Briefing: 3.45pm Monday 21 February 2005". 10 Downing Street online. 21 February 2005. Archived from the original on 20 May 2008. Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  18. Tom Brady & Senan Molony (21 February 2005). "McDowell: These men are leaders of the IRA". Irish Independent. Retrieved 28 March 2007. 
  19. Peter Taggart (21 February 2005). "Dublin: Sinn Féin chiefs in IRA". CNN. Retrieved 28 March 2007. 
  20. See the Wikipedia article on Sinn Féin.
  21. Kevin Rafter, Sinn Féin, 1905–2005: In the Shadow of Gunmen, Gill & Macmillan, 2005, p. 219.
  22. except in cases of incest, rape, sexual abuse, "foetal abnormalities", or when a woman's life and health are at risk or in danger, yadda yadda...
  23. "Sinn Féin on the Assembly debate on Abortion". Sinn Féin. 22 October 2007. Archived from the original on 25 October 2007. Retrieved 14 November 2007. 
  24. McDonald, Henry (7 March 2015). "Sinn Féin drops opposition to abortion at Derry congress". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 1 April 2015. Retrieved 30 May 2015. "The party voted this weekend to support terminations in limited cases, such as pregnant women with fatal foetal abnormalities." 
  25. Fitzgerald, Mary. Irish views on abortion have moved on 23 December 2009.
  26. See the Wikipedia article on Abortion in the Republic of Ireland.
  27. Sinn Fein set out need for all-Ireland health strategy Irish Democratic
  28. See the Wikipedia article on United Ireland.
  29. Duffy, Nick. Sinn Féin condemns hoax bomb sent to Dublin gay rights charity. Pink News. 18 June 2015.
  30. Martin McGuinness faces life without the presidency - BBC News
  31. Gerry Adams' IRA denial 'a lie', says veteran republican, BBC, 17 Sep 2019
  32. Martin McGuinness – a timeline of his IRA and political life, The Guardian, 21 Mar 2017
  33. Gerry Adams: Abuse scandal put family under spotlight, BBC, 10 Feb 2018
  34. Election 2020 Results by RTÉ