Sinn Fein (lit. ‘We Ourselves’). Sinn Fein is the only political party in the European Parliament to have a presence in two member states, as the party campaigns across Ireland, as part of its insistence that Ireland remains is or should be one country.
Sinn Fein is a party name which echoes throughout 20th century Irish history. The original Sinn Fein was a nationalist party which led the establishment of the Irish republic before two splinters, the pro-Treaty Fine Gael, and the anti-Treaty Fianna Fail emerged from it. The remaining, more radical, Sinn Fein was opposed to participation in Irish and British institutions that it saw as illegitimate, adopting an abstentionist principle. In any case the party quickly became almost bankrupt and could not contest elections.
The outbreak of The Troubles in Northern Ireland (which Irish Republicans, like Sinn Fein, often call the ‘six counties’) at the end of the 1960s led to another split in 1970 between a more far-left, anti-abstentionist party with a communist ideology, which became known as Official Sinn Fein, and later the Worker’s Party, and a more nationalist, protest-orientated and traditionally Irish republican party known as Provisional Sinn Fein. This is the party now generally referred to as Sinn Fein.
Sinn Fein took off as a protest movement in the North in the 1970s, but refused to participate in elections.
Sinn Fein has links to the Provisional IRA and the party is often described as the now inactive terrorist group’s ‘political wing’. Long-time party leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness have often been accused of being members of the IRA’s Army Council, most notably by the former Irish Tánaiste (Deputy PM), Michael McDowell in 2005. Adams denies ever being an IRA member, and McGuinness was an IRA member but denies reaching those heights.
Sinn Fein began to contest elections after the success of the Anti-H Block. Anti-H Block was a political label used by a series of IRA prisoners in Maze Hill prison, Northern Ireland in objection to conditions. The most famous of these prisoners was the hunger striker, Bobby Sands, who soon after his election, died on hunger strike.
Sinn Fein has come to be broadly accepting of the existence of the British state, and currently runs the devolved Northern Irish government with the Democratic Unionist Party. While SF has radical rhetoric it has proven to be a pragmatic governing party, and the Deputy First Leader, Martin McGuinness, is often said to be the most popular Northern Irish minister and the only one with cross-community approval.
The party is broadly left-leaning and populist in orientation, but in reality it mostly wins votes for being the most hardline negotiator in favour of the nationalist community.
It will certainly keep its seat in the European Parliament and may gain other from the Republic.
Sinn Fein is a broadly Eurosceptic party.
Sinn Fein sits in the European United Left grouping where it maintains a slightly below average loyalty of 85.2%.