16 July 2009 Edition

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Mála Poist

Cuireann An Phoblacht fáilte roimh litreacha ónár léitheoirí. Scríobh i nGaeilge nó i mBéarla, 200 focal ar a méid. Déantar giorrú ar litreachta más gá. Cuir do litir chuig [email protected]
An Phoblacht welcomes readers’ letters. Write in Irish or English, 200 words maximum. Letters may be edited for brevity. Send your letters to [email protected] No attachments please

What does Sinn Féin stand for?

TOIRÉASA Ferris’s article last week was the most accurate assessment of the recent elections that I’ve seen. June 6th was a bad day for Sinn Féin but we’ve had a lot worse in the past. As someone who probably should have done a lot better in the election but could have done a lot worse I can relate to Toiréasa’s article. We do need to decide what we’re about, and fast.
We have spread ourselves too wide by trying to appeal to everyone. We need to be more focused on what we’re about. We need to stop burying our heads in the sand, hoping this problem will go away because it will only get worse. The decisions we make in the next few weeks and months will decide the future of the party in the South. Every cumann and cuige has to have this debate in their own area.
I do remember the passion, self-confidence and enthusiasm in Sinn Féin when I joined seven years ago but that is not there now. We all (myself included) need to get that back. We don’t have a magic wand to fix this but we do have dedicated and committed activists who can.

WHILE agreeing with much of what Toiréasa Ferris said, I was puzzled by her two examples of our ‘wayward’ direction of late.
Our position on bloodsports was arrived at by the democratic will of the party membership.
And it is important to realise that when we talk about rights we are talking about the rights of citizens not of ‘criminals’. We talk about rights in terms of building a better, more equal society.
I agree that we have been trying to appeal to too broad a spectrum of people to the point where a large percentage of the electorate do not know what we stand for. Our message has become bland and meaningless. Our mixed messages on the economy and our dithering over the possibility of going into government amounted to a poor attempt at fancy political footwork which resulted in us falling flat on our faces.
As an organisation we are over-managed and over-cautious to the point where it stifles our ability to respond quickly enough to situations at local or national level.
We can pick ourselves up and go back to doing what we have done best in the past  – being a radical, community-based political organisation that doesn’t pander to every whim of the electorate but rather wins support for our policies at a local and national level.
It may take time but people will respond to honesty, integrity and principles. That, I believe, can be the thing that once again separates us from the crowd.
County Dublin

TONIGHT I got my weekly copy via the post of An Phoblacht and what a pleasure to read Toiréasa’s views, She nailed it on the head, very simple is politics – community work, less running into 44. The votes will come when people see you getting involved.
Cluain Dolcáin
Baile Átha Cliath

TOIRÉASA Ferris’s column (An Phoblacht, 9 July) reminded me of why I went from canvassing for my local Sinn Féin candidate in the 2002 election to not even voting for the party in 2007 or 2009.
With all due respect to Cllr Ferris, I challenge her suggestion that Left and Right is just “abstract talk” meaningless to ordinary people. Quite the opposite.
Left and Right does matter. Reducing real political discourse to the vacuous language of “decency, looking out for each other, or a sense of community”, as Toiréasa suggests, is a seductive option. Certainly more than one (typically conservative) party has been elected in other countries on platforms based around meaningless concepts such as ‘family values’ and ‘common sense’. But this is the language of advertising and salesmanship rather than genuine political engagement.
I am particularly appalled by Cllr Ferris’s statement that “‘rights talk’ by our national spokespeople show the party to be out of touch with its base”.  It hardly seems like a plan designed to regain the votes of republicans like me, for whom human rights, equality and socialism are core values, let alone gain the new votes and preferences from those who would otherwise vote Labour, Green Party, independent socialist or progressive Fianna Fáil.
Galway City

I DO NOT think there is a huge identity crisis in Sinn Féin. I believe that deep down we all know what we are about but, as Toiréasa rightly states, we need to spell it out.
We are playing by the rules of the game that have been set out by the existing government system and that cannot deliver real change. It is not designed that way.
The fact that most of our councillors retained their seats in the election shows that we are producing competent and capable public reps but we also need to ‘up the ante’ in the broader political arena.
Are we at the core or even openly engaging today’s popular movements that might bring about dramatic change like education and students’ movements, employment, agriculture and the fishing industry? And if we are, is that involvement serving that particular movement or is it serving Sinn Féin?
The main Government parties have all stated clearly that they do not want us in government. Perhaps we should make it clear that we do not want to be in their type of government. Are these not the questions of a revolutionary party?
County Galway

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