Was Sinn Féin dying? A quantitative post-mortem of the party's decline and the emergence of Fianna Fáil
Ó Beacháin, Donnacha (2009) Was Sinn Féin dying? A quantitative post-mortem of the party's decline and the emergence of Fianna Fáil. Irish Political Studies, 24 (3). pp. 385-398. ISSN 0790-7184
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This article calls for a reappraisal of the consensus surrounding the split within Sinn Féin in 1926 that led to the foundation of Fianna Fáil. It demonstrates that quantitative factors cited to demonstrate Sinn Féin’s “terminal” decline – finances, cumann numbers, and election results – and to explain de Valera’s decision to leave Sinn Féin and establish a rival republican organisation, Fianna Fáil, do not provide sufficient objective grounds to explain the republican leader’s actions. This article demonstrates that Sinn Féin’s election results during the period in question (1923-1926) were encouraging and the decline in finances and cumann numbers can be explained by the fact that the base year used to compare progress was 1923, an election year. Moreover, this article compares the performance of Sinn Féin to the first five years of Fianna Fáil (1926-1931) to show that what has been interpreted as terminal decline can also be attributed to normal inter-election lulls in party activity. Correspondingly, subjective factors – e.g. personal rivalries, differences in ideology, organisational style and levels of patience in terms of achieving political power – were most likely the determining factors rather than organisational decline.
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