|Organisation:||Sinn Féin [Pre 1970]|
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This week we have the Presidential Address of Thomas (sic) Mac Giolla to the 63rd Annual Ardfheis of Sinn Féin in December 1968. It was passed to me as a photocopy and unfortunately one or two lines of text are missing at the foot of some pages, while it may also be missing a cover.
It’s only 8 printed pages long and gives a good indication of the thinking of the pre-split Sinn Féin.
There is a telling even-handedness as regards ‘interference’ internationally…
‘… We equally condemn American interference in Vietnam and Russian interference in Czechoslovakia…’ A line that was missing from the United Irishman, some years later.
The impact of the Civil Rights Movement is strongly lauded… ‘… A slumbering and despairing Irish nation has suddenly awakened and showing amazing vigour and maturity has given a severe jolt to two powerful political machines who have controlled the destiny of this partitioned country for nearly half a century…’
But the tensions that the call for Civil Rights within Northern Ireland generated are not clearly teased out. And there is, in retrospect, a significant reference to the ‘… Ban on Republican Clubs… They have taken their full part in the Civil Rights Campaign together with other political organisations. It is only natural that they should since, in addition to denial of Civil Rights, they are denied the right of political existence…’.
That was a difficult road to take.
There is mention of ‘Direct Action’ and ‘extra-parliamentary democracy’ and somewhat optimistically it argues that ‘… Gradually the system of political patronage is being broken down’… A reference to the voting referendum of that year in the Republic of Ireland, with a hint of paranoia as well… ‘and follow this up with new coercive legislation against the mass organisations of the people’.
The section on Republicanism and Socialism is brief. We are told that ‘… True Republicanism and True Socialism are identical as both are based on the Brotherhood of man…’ and that ‘Socialism has nothing to do with either Atheism or totalitarianism as is evident from even a superficial reading of Connolly’. Whatever about the latter, I’m not as certain as MacGiolla about the former.
So, already the tensions that would convulse the movement months later were evident, albeit in submerged form.