Despite the efforts of its political opponents, especially the British government which has adopted many measures to curb its electoral success, Sinn Fein, over the last 13 years, has been a formidable electoral force. Since 1982 the party contested 21 elections across Ireland and has contested elections in all but two of the last 13 years. This is a unique record for any political party in Ireland.
In the Six Counties, Sinn Fein now registers a majority of the nationalist electorate. Sinn Fein has also advanced rapidly in the 26 Counties. Continued Sinn Fein campaigning reaffirms that there is a large nationalist population who continue to demand and work for justice, freedom and real democracy across Ireland.
A RADICAL VOICE
Sinn Fein is a 32-County legal registered political party with a wide range of policies, not just relating to the conflict in Ireland but reflecting all Irish political, economic and social issues. Partition has caused political, social and economic devastation throughout this island The separation of the two economies has contributed to the external dependency of both states, which has resulted in levels of industrial underdevelopment, unemployment, emigration and poverty in the 32 Counties. The creation of two states, both of which were dominated by the most conservative elements on this island also set back social progress for decades.
Sinn Fein's objective is the achieving of national self-determination and the creation of a secular, socialist republic with a democratic island economy based on the principles of the Proclamation of 1916, the Democratic Programme of 1919 and the beliefs of Tone, Pearse and Connolly.
Sinn Fein has radical policies on national self-determination, neutrality, the European Union, employment, workers' rights and unemployment, industrial relations, privatisation, emigration, agriculture, poverty, women, the environment, fisheries, culture, local government, health and social services, education, the Irish language and international issues.
The party also campaigns on justice issues arising directly out of the partition of Ireland, including discrimination in employment, censorship, prisoners' issues, shoot-to-kill, plastic bullets, collusion and other repressive legislation.
SINN FÉIN'S PEACE STRATEGY
Sinn Fein's involvement in the attempts to rebuild the shattered peace process has its origins in the mid 1980s. It was then that Sinn Fein sought to engage in dialogue with as wide a spectrum of opinion as possible for the purposes of achieving a just and lasting peace in Ireland. These engagements initially began with the SDLP through its leader John Hume. They went on to include the British government through secret negotiations with Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness from 1991 - 1993, the Irish government and Irish America. It was through the engagements with the SDLP, the Dublin government and Irish America that the Irish Peace Initiative emerged.
On August 31, 1994 the Irish Republican Army took the courageous and unprecedented step of calling a "complete cessation of military operations". This provided a window of opportunity through which all could attempt to forge a new future based on justice and peace.
Sinn Fein remains totally committed to its peace strategy and to the need for the peace process to be rebuilt. It calls on the British government to stop pursuing policies which have abused the process in the past and which continue to set back the goal of securing a real Irish consensus.
Ard Fheis The Ultimate governing and legislative body within Sinn Fein is the annual Ard Fheis (conference). It consists of (a) The officers and members of the Ard Chomhairle. (b) Two delegates from each comhairle limistear. (c) Two delegates from each comhairle ceantair. (d) Two delegates from each affiliated cumann of 20 members or less.
Ard Chomhairle When the Ard Fheis is not in session, control of the party is vested in the Ard Chomhairle (National Executive) which is comprised of the president, vice-president, general secretary, two national treasurers, the publicity director, party chairperson, nine other members and one representative from each of the comhairlí limistéir.
The officers and nine other members are elected by the Ard Fheis delegates. The Ard Chomhairle has the power to co-opt five members for specific posts and the power for additional co-options to ensure that no less than one quarter of Ard Chomhairle positions are held by women.
Coiste Seasta The Ard Chomhairle elects from its members a Coiste Seasta of eight members who meet regularly and have full power to carry out routine business between Ard Chomhairle meetings.
Comhairlí Limistéir The Ard Chomhairle, in consultation with local Sinn Fein membership, can establish comhairlí limistéir. These are based on county or constituency boundaries and have charge of the Sinn Fein organisation in the region. Delegates from Cumainn in the area attend the Comhairle Limistéir AGM to elect officers and formulate policy for the ensuing year.
Comhairlí Ceantair Each comhairle ceantair is based on a county electoral area as defined from time to time by the county council, and has charge of all cumainn in the area,. The comhairle ceantair consists of its officers and two delegates from each cumann in the area.
Cumainn The base of Sinn Fein is the cumann. Cumainn are established in such areas as the Ard Chomhairle or authorised comhairle ceantair directs. A Cumann consists of not less than five members, the recommended maximum number of members being 12. The cumann, as a component part of Sinn Fein, brings the policies of the party to the people in their local area.
Departments There are a number of departments within Sinn Fein which specialise in different areas of political work. These include Publicity, Prisoner of War, Cultural, Women, Education and Trade Union Departments, and Foreign Affairs Bureau which deals with international affairs and Irish solidarity abroad.