SF to mark centenary with recruitment drive

2004-12-28 09:50:02+00

Sinn Féin will use centenary celebrations next year to embark on a major recruitment drive on both sides of the border, it emerged today.

The party is planning rallies, concerts, exhibitions and leadership tours across Ireland throughout 2005 as well as events in Britain, Europe, Australia and other parts of the world.

South Down Assembly member Caitríona Ruane, a member of the party committee responsible for the celebrations, said: "This is a huge undertaking for us.

"The last six months have been spent preparing for the centenary celebrations.

"A programme will be launched in January which will include events like a special women's conference in Newry in February and a massive centenary celebration in Dublin's City West Hotel which holds around 2,500 people.

"There will also be concerts featuring major artistes and events on a local level such as leadership tours, exhibitions and a series of murals throughout the 32 counties.

"We are organising events in England, Scotland and Wales. Gerry Adams is going to take part in an event in Europe and we are also planning events in the Middle East, Latin America and Africa.

"The ard fheis in March will be different to any of those we have had before. There will also be events in colleges and universities and the centenary will be the platform for a recruitment drive."

Sinn Féin was founded in 1905 by Arthur Griffith.

However, after the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin and the execution of republican rebel leaders, the party reorganised and grew in electoral strength under the leadership of Eamon de Valera and Michael Collins while the IRA engaged in guerilla warfare.

After partition, Sinn Féin focused on getting rid of the border and on reunification.

During the Troubles, the party split in 1970 over the issue of whether parliaments in Belfast and Dublin should be recognised by its members.

Opponents of the move walked out and formed their own organisation, Provisional Sinn Féin, in Dublin, with the Provisional IRA also emerging.

Those who remained formed the Official IRA and Official Sinn Féin which later mutated into the Workers' Party which split in 1992.

In 1986, Provisional Sinn Féin suffered its own split at a conference in Dublin, with Ruairí Ó Brádaigh leading a faction out of the party after a majority of delegates backed a proposal that the party should sit in the Dáil if it won seats.

Mr Ó Brádaigh and his supporters formed Republican Sinn Féin.

Since the 1994 and 1997 IRA ceasefires, Sinn Féin has become the largest nationalist party in Northern Ireland, has taken seats in a Stormont Assembly and served in a power-sharing executive with unionists between 1999 and 2002.

The party has also grown significantly in the Irish Republic.

Sinn Féin now has two MEPs (one on either side of the border), 232 councillors throughout Ireland, 24 members of the Stormont Assembly, five TDs in the Dáil and four MPs.

Ms Ruane, a former director of the West Belfast Festival, said: "Our celebrations in 2005 will reflect how Sinn Féin has become the fastest-growing party in Ireland.

"We will involve activists across all layers of the party as well as others outside the party.

"Our centenary celebrations will focus on issues of huge importance to Ireland's future such as equality, human rights and ethnic minorities."

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