Saturday 16 December 2017

If Sinn Fein won't bite the bullet how can it embrace democracy?

As Gerry Adams reigns on and on and bully boys dominate, the party seems unable to shake off its past

Complaint: Cllr Lisa Marie Sheehy, who has made allegations against Sinn Fein members
Complaint: Cllr Lisa Marie Sheehy, who has made allegations against Sinn Fein members
Dan O'Brien

Dan O'Brien

The most important question for Irish democracy is the democratisation of Sinn Fein. Where that party is on the path from the position it was in two decades ago, when it was a profoundly undemocratic party in multiple respects, is becoming an ever more important question.

That is because it has shifted its position on entering government in Dublin. Whereas until recently it would consider forming a coalition only if it was the senior partner, it has become less unbending on that issue. That clearly increases the chances of the party having direct influence over the sovereign government of this Republic in the near term.

That raises issues that every citizen and voter should be aware of and consider carefully because developments in recent weeks underscore how far Sinn Fein is from being a fully democratic party. These developments include: yet more allegations of bullying and intimidation in its lower ranks, to add to many others; the absence of normal political ambitions playing out in its upper ranks, as Gerry Adams effectively declared himself president for a 34th year last week; and the party's role in the perpetuation of political crisis in Northern Ireland.

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