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Sinn Fein will back peace deal

February 15, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Jack Holland

Sinn Fein is almost certain to endorse the Belfast Agreement when it meets on May 10 at a special ard fheis, reliable sources are saying. It is also virtually assured that the party’s president, Gerry Adams, will succeed in getting the support of the republican movement for a change in Sinn Fein’s constitution to allow members to take their seats in the new assembly being set up as part of the April 10 agreement. Adams will argue that in order to make the cross-border bodies envisioned by the agreement work, it will be necessary for Sinn Fein members to take part in them, and this means accepting seats in the assembly. However, it is not known whether the party will attempt to deal with both issues when it convenes on May 10.

The decision to take seats in a Northern assembly would be a reversal of traditional republican thinking on the Northern Ireland state, the legitimacy of which it has rejected for 70 years. This rejection was the basis for the IRA’s armed campaigns against Northern Ireland, the longest of which endured, with occasional and usually short-lived cease-fires, from 1970 to July 20, 1997 when the current cessation was called.

The aim of Sinn Fein is to replace the moderate Social Democratic and Labor Party as the main nationalist party in Northern Ireland. Already, based on the results from the May general election in Britain, Adams’s party is within a few percentage points of overtaking the SDLP. The task will be made easier if John Hume, the SDLP leader and the party’s main vote getter, decides not to stand in the assembly elections, which is likely. The elections are scheduled for June 25.

If the changes to traditional Sinn Fein policy are made, it will represent one of the most profound transformations ever undergone by the republican movement. From outright hostility to parliamentary politics, the republican movement has developed into a vigorous political machine.

The extent of the transformation can be gauged from the fact that in 1979, in the midst of the H-Block

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