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Abstentionism: Sinn Féin Ard Fheis, 1-2 November 1986
Text: Brendan Lynn
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Abstentionism: Sinn Féin Ard Fheis, 1-2 November 1986 - Background
For much of the twentieth century the republican movement in Ireland adhered to the belief that it should follow a policy of abstention from any parliament or assembly it considered as helping, in any way, to maintain the British presence in Ireland. After the partition of Ireland in 1921 this approach was adopted in relation to parliamentary institutions in London, Dublin and Belfast. If anything this conviction was to grow as republicans viewed with disdain former colleagues who had abandoned this line in favour of an active involvement in politics. Thus there was contempt for ex-republicans, like De Valera and Fianna Fáil in 1926 and Séan Mac Bride and Clann na Poblachta in 1946 who had gone onto take their seats in Dáil Éireann (the lower house of the parliament of the Irish republic). More recently in 1970 the republican movement had witnessed a further split in its ranks over the question of abstentionism when serious differences emerged over whether it should take part in parliaments in London, Dublin and Belfast. This had led to two Sinn Féin (SF) organisations: Provisional SF and Official SF being established. In turn this development mirrored the split that had occurred towards the end of 1969 when the Irish Republican Army (IRA) had divided into the Provisional IRA (PIRA) and Official IRA (OIRA). As a consequence of such developments those within PSF and PIRA came to view any involvement in politics and political activity with a large degree of suspicion. Out of this had therefore grown the conviction that their devotion to the policy on abstentionism was essential in order to protect the purity of republican thinking and ideology.