Assess the view that Sinn Fein has abandoned many of its traditional policies.

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Assess the view that Sinn Fein has abandoned many of its traditional policies. [26]

Sinn Fein has come a long way since the first ceasefire in 1994. Arguably it had also come a long way before agreeing to ceasefire at that time. Some would argue that the party has abandoned many of its core principles and policies in the past eighteen years, most notably its commitment to a united Ireland and its refusal to sit in and work a “partitionist” assembly at Stormont. Those who take such a view include those republicans who oppose this change in Sinn Fein’s position and those who approve of the party’s willingness to compromise in the interests of peace.

Sinn Fein emerged in the early 20th century in opposition to Home Rule, their separatist stance evident from their name: Sinn Fein means ‘ourselves alone.’ They made their first foray into politics after the Easter Rising of 1916. In the 1980s Sinn Fein realised that their voice could be heard politically in Northern Ireland and Gerry Adams was first elected in 1983. However, this entrance into politics has led many to accuse them of abandoning their traditional policies.

By the 1990s international developments caused Sinn Fein to abandon many of its traditional policies. Firstly, the collapse of communism and the USSR forced them to rethink how they branded themselves. SF had placed itself on the left of the political spectrum, identifying strongly with revolutionary Marxism and Leninism. When the very state that had epitomised this ideology collapsed it became harder for Sinn Fein to present themselves as a revolutionary party of the left, and therefore they abandoned many of their policies.

Secondly, the ending of Apartheid in South Africa is equally significant in causing Sinn Fein to abandon many of its traditional policies. SF had long sympathised with the Black population struggling against white supremacists and there had been frequent exchanges of persons and papers between them and the African National Congress. Yet by the 1990s this conflict had been solved by peaceful means through Nelson Mandela. This forced Sinn Fein to realise that their goals would have to be achieved by peaceful means and they abandoned many of their more extreme policies. Sinn Fein now strongly reject dissident terrorist attacks, calling them ‘traitors to Ireland.’ This has all led to the growth in middle class Nationalist support.

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These factors help explain the willingness of Sinn Fein to reach the point in 1994 when the IRA declared a ceasefire, making it possible for them to enter talks on settlement. The end result of such talks – the signing of the GFA – was historic in many ways, especially because Sinn Fein were no longer seeking to ‘smash Stormont’ but were prepared to work within it. They had accepted the need for compromise and this angered many of their supporters who saw this as evidence that they had abandoned many of their traditional policies.

Once they agreed to ...

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