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Title: Can Sinn Fein policy still be considered 'Republican'?
Author: Cooke, Alexander James
ISNI:       0000 0004 2735 6787
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2011
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This thesis endeavoured to accurately gauge the extent to which modern Sinn Fein continues to adhere to the principles of Irish Republicanism in the modern age. This required an examination of the movement's origins and its development over time. Competing interpretations of Irish Republican history and ideology were analysed in an attempt to isolate those principles central to the movement, before a conclusion being drawn about the extent to which Sinn Fein remain truly 'Republican'. In charting the development of the Republican movement and the extent to which Sinn Fein have moved away from previous, 'hard-line' positions, the thesis also tackled the issue of nationalist convergence in Northern Ireland. Provisional Sinn Fein and the SDLP were both founded at the start of the 1970s, both primarily representing the nationalist community, but were seen as focusing on wholly different political agendas. The thesis measured the extent to which this was the case after a series of policy alterations by both parties, as well as the likelihood of two large parties continuing to vie for electoral supremacy within Northern Ireland's smaller ethnic bloc. The thesis also gave focus to the rising levels of 'dissident' activity in the wake of the Good Friday Agreement. This is a modern phenomenon and as such, has not attracted a great deal of academic scrutiny. The range of 'dissident' groups operative in the wake of the Good Friday Agreement were investigated with a view to pinning down their aspirations, tactics and particular grievances against the Republican mainstream as embodied by Sinn Fein. The levels of sympathy and support for such groups were also considered as part of the process of assessing Sinn Fein's Republican credentials. Ultimately, the thesis was extremely successful in charting the evolving relationship between Sinn Fein and the SDLP over the forty years of their existence. Interviews with politicians and strategists and scrutiny of crucial policy documents revealed that each party has undertaken significant policy alterations over the course of their existences. Whilst a common perception is that Sinn Fein morphed from an extreme party into a moderate one emulating long-standing SDLP policies, in truth it was the SDLP that first underwent a significant change in approach. Originally participatory and primarily concerned with social democratic goals within the Northern Irish state, the party later employed abstentionism on occasion and became more 'green', demanding an Irish dimension to any political deal as a prerequisite for talks. Ultimately a firm conclusion on whether Sinn Fein remains true to Republican principles could not be offered. Having spoken to a range of republicans of different ilk, it was concluded that elements above and beyond delivering Irish unity via an all-island plebiscite could be discarded as marginal, however popular amongst supporters, activists and representatives. Consequently, whilst the party continues to work towards that goal, any judgement on the legitimacy of its claim to represent Republican principles in a modern setting must be reserved. What was concluded, however, was that as of 2011 it remained unclear precisely how the party would be able to deliver on traditional goals.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available