Sinn Féin’s complicated history in Ireland | Letter

David McManus on a history of splits and name changes from 1905 to 1986

Your report (‘Not if … but when’: Sinn Féin on path to power in Ireland, 28 December) refers to Sinn Féin as a party “founded in 1905”; this unfortunately omits important context in understanding modern Irish politics.

The Anglo-Irish treaty of 1921 was negotiated and supported by the British government and an Irish delegation led by Arthur Griffith, the founder of the original Sinn Féin party of 1905. Following intense debate, the treaty was passed in the Irish parliament (Dáil Éireann) in January 1922 to establish the Irish Free State.

In the June 1922 general election, almost 80% of votes cast were for pro-treaty candidates. The successful pro-treaty Sinn Féin party elected WT Cosgrave as president of the Irish Free State and the party changed its name to Cumann na nGaedheal (Association of the Irish), the precursor to today’s Fine Gael (Family of the Irish).

Most of anti-treaty Sinn Féin were led by Éamon de Valera to become today’s Fianna Fáil.

The small remaining rump of Sinn Féin maintained a policy of abstentionism to the Irish parliament, leading to a split in 1970 – those wishing to take their seats became Official Sinn Féin, and then the Workers’ party.

Those wishing to maintain abstentionism called themselves Provisional Sinn Féin, which included a young Gerry Adams. By 1986, the Adams wing ended its policy of abstentionism and adopted a shorter name that no other party was using: Sinn Féin.
Councillor David McManus
Fine Gael, South Dublin county council

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