Ira's Sinn Fein Slates Hopefuls

Posted: November 03, 1986

DUBLIN, Ireland — Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, yesterday agreed to end its boycott of the Irish Parliament, prompting a faction of hardliners to set up a rival party.

The decision to reenter mainstream politics was passed at the party's annual conference by a vote of 429-161, just 10 votes above the required two- thirds majority. It had been approved earlier at a secret meeting of the IRA army council.

Martin McGuinness, a member of the party executive, said it would continue to boycott the British Parliament, where Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams holds a seat.

After the vote, about 30 delegates, led by former Sinn Fein President Ruairi O. Bradaigh, walked out of the conference hall. Despite a plea for unity, the splinter group announced the creation of a rival Sinn Fein.

Garret FitzGerald, the Irish prime minister, also reacted sharply to the Sinn Fein vote, saying that all democratic parties were "obliged" to ensure that Sinn Fein didn't win seats.

"For the first time, a party engaged actively in a brutal campaign of violence, and which requires from all its elected representatives a specific commitment to support this murderous campaign, has committed itself to . . . taking seats in the Irish parliament," FitzGerald said.

Republicans have traditionally boycotted parliament to protest the island's partition. Under this policy, Sinn Fein candidates contest seats in the Dail but do not occupy them.

Sinn Fein last won seats in an Irish election in 1981, in the middle of an IRA prisoners' hunger strike in Northern Ireland.

McGuinness vowed Sinn Fein would "never, never, never" weaken its support for the IRA's war to drive Britain out of Northern Ireland.

But, McGuinness said, "We are not at war with the government of the 26 counties."

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