Diarmaid Ferriter: Fianna Fáil’s trajectory holds lessons for Sinn Féin

SF will go on repositioning itself as the prospect of power focuses minds in the party

Former Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams looks on as the party’s leader, Mary Lou McDonald, addresses its national executive committee in Dublin on Monday. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Former Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams looks on as the party’s leader, Mary Lou McDonald, addresses its national executive committee in Dublin on Monday. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

On June 26th, 1997, the ceann comhairle, Séamus Pattison, had to remind TDs of a long-standing custom in Leinster House: that maiden speeches be uninterrupted. There was little chance of that happening, however, when the new Sinn Féin TD for Cavan-Monaghan, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, rose to speak as the party’s new and sole Dáil representative. As he spoke, some TDs interjected to refer to murders and broken ceasefires.

Fifty years previously, Fianna Fáil TDs had entered Leinster House after the end of their abstention; relations were fraught, with Civil War wounds still raw, but the head of government, Cumann na nGaedheal’s William T Cosgrave, was still able to contend: “It is the best thing that has happened during the last five years.”

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