Friday, February 16, 2007


The recent strike by BBC journalists over the 'REAL LIVES' programme and the dispute at RTE over the interview with NORAID representative MARTIN GALVIN have focused world attention on Sinn Fein once again .MICHAEL KELLY spoke to Sinn Fein president GERRY ADAMS at interviews in Dublin and Belfast , conducted over the course of the past month .

From 'IN DUBLIN' magazine, August 1985 .

A wet morning in Belfast . The passengers who boarded the eight o' clock train in Dublin turn up their collars against the stubborn drizzle . The drivers of the big black taxis cluster in the concourse of Central Station looking for business - but not my sort of business : " The Falls, that's where you want to go ? " replies one taxi driver on hearing my destination . " Hang on a minute , we'll see if anyone will take you..."

Finally , after a careful examination , one of the dozen drivers agrees to take me there . Sammy , chatty but alert , says few other drivers would take you to West Belfast, and none operate there except the drivers of the Catholic taxis who operate a shuttle service up the Falls Road . Ten minutes later he drops me off with directions on how to reach the city centre on my return and where the best value is for shopping - " You want to watch out , you could get shot around here " , he says , joking . I think .

Sinn Fein's offices in Belfast are in a squat concrete building at 51-53 Falls Road , surrounded by steel grilles and barbed wire . The first step to entering is through an electrically-opened gate then , having been examined , through a heavy steel door . Down the hall there is a room with the notice - 'Ciuneas : rang ar siul' on the door . There the elderly drivers inspect the racing pages while they wait for parcels to be handed in to be brought to Long Kesh for IRA prisoners . Relatives bring newspapers and other items daily . Murals cover the walls of the office showing men in balaclavas and combat jackets carrying machine guns and tributes to 'the men behind the wire' are fixed to the wall beside them.......

From 'MAGILL' magazine, August 1983 .

Magistrate John Fyffe said dispassionately - " If there is any disruption by any member of the public , or any relative - any person guilty of disruption or harassment will be excluded from the court ." He sat back and the door in the wall to his right , a few steps up , opened : three men in civilian clothes came out and down , quickly , smoothly , and were in place below the magistrate , still on his right , within seconds . The third man was Raymond Gilmour.

He could not easily be seen from the body of the court . He sat into the chair in the witness box , effectively at ground level , and the two 'civilians' , members of the RUC Special Branch, stood shoulder to shoulder with their backs against the box , staring out and up into the body of the courtroom . The 28 prisoners in the raised dock , and their relatives packed into benches behind them - that rose even higher like seats in a football stand - were faced with a human curtain.......

Sinn Fein's recent election success in the North of Ireland have focussed attention on the Provisionals' new turn to political activity at local level . There have been parallel developments in the organisation in the 26 counties .
'GRALTON' magazine spoke to Paddy Bolger , Ard Comhairle member and National Organiser for Sinn Fein ,with special responsibility for Dublin , about the changed perspective .
From 'GRALTON' magazine , August/September 1983 .

'GRALTON' magazine : " Do you not recognise that this concern for electoral achievement imposes certain patterns of work and obligations to engage in 'service politics' ?* Is that a price you reckon you have to pay ?" ('1169...' Comment * ie 'Clientelism' , where a local political representative promises , for example , that he/she can get the street light outside your house fixed faster than the political rep from the other party : in other words , 'jobs' that can be organised by the house-holder themselves if they could be bothered . All Leinster House parties depend on 'Joe and Josephine Soap' NOT being bothered .)

PADDY BOLGER : " The problem that the left here and through-out Europe has to face is that in a non-revolutionary situation - and that's what we have in the 26 Counties - you can't always advance as far along the lines of your programme as you would like . We are very conscious of the dangers of slipping into reformism. At the moment , we are providing in Dublin what could be called a 'clientelism service' , but it is better and more principled (translation: '....we get it done quicker than the other crowd..' !) than the service which the other parties are providing , including the Workers' Party. We see this simply as a means of establishing our presence and our credibility in the areas . People are extremely cynical of all parties .

We do not believe that revolutionary sloganising , however correct its content , will produce results . ('1169...' Comment : depending on how you rate 'playing the constitutional game' [ie a 'success' or a 'distraction from the main issue'] this could or could not be described as "getting results" . We view it, and those pictured , as 'distractions' .) We are now building up our organisation to get ourselves accepted as a credible and locally informed organisation . But we see that only as the basis to build up agitational politics and would also hope to build a base for propaganda work , through publications , seminars and surveys at 26-County level . Our education programme is geared to preventing an influx of new members who don't have a definite ideology ( didn't work!) but might be attracted to us because of the Northern successes .

We want to prevent such an influx blunting our revolutionary edge, but we have no fantasies about the possibilities for red revolution in the 26 Counties . We know it's a hard slog - the clientelist work is a principled service ('1169...' Comment - a "principled service" to assist in returning the 'server' to power!) , people are in need and even if we only provide a better service than the rest we will be accomplishing something . We need to develop , as the major left parties in Europe have done , an alternative constituency , a body of the working class who just don't accept the strategy that the other parties offer . "

(Please note : we have had to enable the ' Captcha Settings' in our 'Guestbook' , by which we mean that those wishing to leave a comment in same must first verify that comment by copying text from a graphic and placing said text in a small box on the form . We have been plagued , in the last few days especially , by thousands of spam messages - mostly from car companies - and can find better use for the time it took us to delete those 'messages' . Apologises for any inconvenience caused....)