Friday, October 23, 2009

Councillors are part of the vanguard of our movement

Below are parts of a piece from this weeks An Phoblacht and it is written by CLLR PÁDRAIG Mac LOCHLAINN, Chairperson National Councillors’ Forum.

To me this is an important article given the internal debate going on about the development of the party in the South following the last local elections. For me this article points the way forward for the party. It agrees with Treasa Ferris when she talks about a need to focus on local politics and it agrees with her that local councillors are vital to getting the message of the party out to the people. However, it also mentions the need for those councillors to be getting out the left republican message and for them to receive the correct support in doing that. To me this is vital. The party should focus on supporting our local representatives and building our local base, rather than overly focusing on attepts to get high profile individuals on a national scale. If we get the representation at local level, then national representation will follow.

I believe working on a local level is the way forward for the party as it will allow us to build the links with other groups on the left, who are so unwilling to do so on a national level. Also it will help us get around the obvious media bias that exists against us on a national level.


THE Sinn Féin National Councillors’ Forum is the collective voice of 232 elected representatives across 31 of the 32 counties.

Of that total, 120 represent communities across the 26 Counties. To state the 26-County figure is not to be partitionist but to highlight it to republicans so that they remember it the next time they read or listen to the prattling of a ‘neutral’ commentator or journalist about how the 26-County state is some sort of a political desert for Sinn Féin.

As Gerry Adams declared at the recent annual conference of the forum: our councillors play a crucial role because they are the public interface that the vast majority of our people have with Sinn Féin. I would take that a step further and argue that our councillors are a crucial part of the vanguard of this movement, particularly in the 26 Counties, where our numbers in the Oireachtas are small. Councillors deal with the bread and butter issues that are the foundation of all republican politics. The hallmark of Sinn Féin councillors is that we have sought to empower our communities rather than engage in self-serving clientelism.

However, I feel that we can and must improve cohesion and co-operation between our councillors in the time ahead to advance our republican objectives. We need to ensure that we continue to work together to advance the all-Ireland agenda. Much good work has been done on the council cross-border groups but there is no room for complacency.

In the 26 Counties, our councillors are the frontline for advancing our politics in the absence of Sinn Féin parliamentary representation in 39 of the 43 Dáil constituencies. It is crucial that our party ensures that those councillors who are tasked with representing us on local radios and in local newspapers across the state are properly resourced and trained in all areas of policy.

They, in turn, must take the mantle of leadership seriously and ensure that they are fully engaged with evolving Sinn Féin policies and fully participating in the party’s national campaigns.

While Sinn Féin are often squeezed out of the national media, due to our small numbers in the Oireachtas, our local councillors cannot be ignored. This is a crucial point and more attention must be paid to the importance of local media in communicating Sinn Féin’s message to local communities.

More people engage with local newspapers and radio than with the national media. Therefore, we must ensure that our local councillors are covered regularly in their local media in a strategic and methodical fashion.

As I said at the outset, the 26 Counties is no political desert for Sinn Féin but much remains to be done and our 120 councillors and Udarás member will be central to any party-building strategy. It is clear that we have to punch above our political weight in many parts of the state.

This is the time for Left republican politics. This is the time for the commonsense politics of one all-Ireland economy.

The bible of unbridled capitalism beloved by the two major political parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, has backfired spectacularly. It is clear that the reckless pursuit of greed and the over-reliance of taxation on the construction and consumption bubble has crippled the 26-County state. Our elected representatives must be prominent as the champions of those multitudes failed by those in political power and facing real hardship.

We must confront the agenda of cuts to crucial public services and defend the vulnerable in our society. We must intelligently articulate an alternative vision and win the battle for hearts and minds in our townlands, villages, towns, and cities.

None of this is easy but we have to have the desire to win and the belief in our Left republican analysis. Most importantly, we have to believe in each other. Comradeship has never been more important for Irish republicans. We are at a political crossroads. We either become despondent and dance to the tune of our political opponents or we take inspiration from what has been achieved and rededicate ourselves to take the next steps forward. And if we are seeking inspiration, where better to start than a Sinn Féin forum of 232 elected representatives in 31 of the 32 counties?


  1. in terms of local media i agree with him. but the real rear guard of the moverment is the membership and active supporters.

    iam an active member of the movement. in the past in my work life i have been the centre of anger, interest, curiosity and good will SF related. how ever i conducted myself had a bareing on the party. may not have been a huge influence but multiply thousands of people like me around the country in jobs, community, football clubs family etc then its a big effect. we the membership need the same consistency. knowingly or unknowingly we all do more than deliver leaflets. if some one wants to pick our brains where SF stands on an issue then we need to know. not saying every one needs to be policy experts. thats unrealistic but consistent left wing principles republican principles, were all comeing from the same point of view. some people on this board talk in contrast to the neo liberal agenda and thats great. its understandable. were in the situation we are now because of a failed idology etc the ideology is continueing etc but is it just people on this board haveing this conversation or is it nationaly. if its not, the membership are in the same state the cllrs are in and its just as important that there not.

    but people on the top can't realisticy just make it happen, i accept the onus is on the mebership and the paper is a great resourse and this as well. but some onus is on the leadership. they need to facilitate and nurture it.

  2. Anon, (please give yourself an initial or something so your points can be adressed easier)

    I can disagree with next to nothing you say here. I totally agree that the local membership are the most important thing the party has. But councillors should take that to the next level in terms of there being able to represent what the local memebership is and getting into a position to show that left republican politics is the way forward for individuals and the local communities.

    In relation to your second point regarding the role of the leadership in promoting our policies etc. Yes they have a massive role to play, but it is the membership that should hold them to account on this. This site is an attempt to encourage positive debate within the party and to involve as may people in that debate as possible. It is trying to allow members from all over the country to have a place to share their views on issues with a group of people from outside their local cumann. To me the internet offers great opportunities for the memebrship of the party, but it is up to us if we decide to use it.

    Therefore I would ask you to spread the word about the site to people you know, submit an article if you wish but most importantly of all just get involved in the mational debate as to where Sinn Féin is going and where you wish to see the party go.

  3. I find this site interesting and a good idea in terms of letting people come together to look at Sinn Féin issues in a positive manner.

    I think however the idea now needs to move forward. I would like to see the party open up a discussion forum just for party members. This could be somewhere for memebers to debate issues in a constructive environment. It could also have regular sessions with leading party figures.