Sinn Féin

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Sinn Féin the name used for several republican political parties within Ireland, all claiming to be the descendant of the original party established in 1905. Translated from Irish Gaelic, the name means "ourselves". In modern usage, Sinn Féin refers to the political party which promotes Irish republicanism, which was founded in the 1970's. It is often seen as the political front of the Irish Republican Army.

Initially seeking to create a 'dual monarchy' for Great Britain and Ireland along Austro-Hungarian lines, it quickly turned to supporting outright independence and supporting armed force to secure independence. The party achieved electoral success in Ireland in the wake of the 1916 Easter Rising. In the 1918 UK general election it won 73 of 105 Irish seats, and saw this as a mandate for independence: its members refused to sit at the British Parliament in London but instead set up Dail Eirrean, an Irish Parliament, in Dublin. Following the controversial Treaty with Britain creating the Irish Free State in 1922, Sinn Fein suffered a number of splits along fault lines created by the disputes within party and nation about the nature of Irish nationhood. From the original Sinn Fein emerged first Cumann na nGaedheal (later Fine Gael), successors of the pro-Treaty party, and in 1926 Fianna Fail, led by Eamon de Valera, anti-Treaty but prepared to use constitutional means. The residual Sinn Fein became a small isolated rump, like its armed organisation, the IRA.

For many decades Sinn Fein refused to participate in the constitutional political process in Ireland or the UK, and was perceived as being the political wing of the IRA. From the 1980s this policy was changed, as Irish Republicans sought their political aims through "the armalite and the ballot box", as a slogan of the time had it. Standing for local and parliamentary elections (and maintaining its boycott of the UK Parliament, though not of the Dail), it became by the early 2000s the most popular party amongst the nationalist community of Northern Ireland, supplanting the constitutional nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), though it has had less success in the Republic of Ireland. Martin McGuiness, the former IRA commander in Londonderry, is now Deputy First Minister of the Northern Ireland Government. The current leader of Sinn Fein is Gerry Adams.

Sinn Féin is dedicated to building a United Ireland, via the elimination of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom.

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