Gerry Adams TD
Mary Lou McDonald TD
Declan Kearney MLA
Leader in Northern Ireland
Michelle O'Neill MLA
Sinn Féin (/ʃɪn ˈfeɪn/ shin-FAYN; [ʃɪnʲ ˈfʲeːnʲ]; English: Ourselves or We Ourselves) is an Irish republican political party active throughout Ireland.
- Links with the IRA
- Policy and ideology
- Social and cultural
- International relations
- Organisational structure
- Ard Chomhairle Officer Board
- Leadership Members elected at the Ard Fhis 2012
- Northern Ireland Assembly
- Dil ireann
- Seanad ireann
- European Parliament
- Dil ireann elections
- Local Government elections
- European elections
The Sinn Féin organisation was founded in 1905 by Arthur Griffith. It took its current form in 1970 after a split within the party (with the other side becoming the Workers' Party of Ireland), and has historically been associated with the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). Gerry Adams has been party president since 1983.
Sinn Féin is a major party in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. It is the largest nationalist party in the Northern Ireland Assembly, and the second-largest overall, holding only one seat fewer than the Democratic Unionist Party; it has four ministerial posts in the power-sharing Northern Ireland Executive. It holds four of Northern Ireland's 18 seats at Westminster, the second-largest bloc after the DUP, where it follows a policy of abstentionism. It is the third-largest party in the Oireachtas, the parliament of the Republic of Ireland.
The phrase "Sinn Féin" is Irish for "ourselves" or "we ourselves", although it is frequently mistranslated as "ourselves alone" (from 'Sinn Féin Amháin', an early 20th century slogan. See also Sinn Féin (slogan)). The meaning of the name itself is an assertion of Irish national sovereignty and self-determination, i.e. – the Irish people governing themselves, rather than being part of a political union with Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) under the Westminster Parliament.
Around the time of 1969–1970, due to the split in the republican movement, there were two groups calling themselves Sinn Féin; one under Tomás Mac Giolla, the other under Ruairí Ó Brádaigh. The latter became known as Sinn Féin (Kevin Street) or Provisional Sinn Féin and the former became known as Sinn Féin (Gardiner Place) or Official Sinn Féin. As the "Officials" dropped all mention of Sinn Féin from their name in 1982, instead calling itself the Workers' Party of Ireland, the Provisionals were now generally known as Sinn Féin. Supporters of Republican Sinn Féin, which came from a 1986 split, still use the term "Provisional Sinn Féin" to refer to the party led by Gerry Adams.
Sinn Féin members have also been referred to as 'Shinners', a term intended as a pejorative.
Sinn Féin was founded on 28 November 1905, when, at the first annual Convention of the National Council, Arthur Griffith outlined the Sinn Féin policy, "to establish in Ireland's capital a national legislature endowed with the moral authority of the Irish nation". Sinn Féin contested the North Leitrim by-election, 1908, and secured 27% of the vote. Thereafter, both support and membership fell. At the 1910 Ard Fheis (party conference) the attendance was poor and there was difficulty finding members willing to take seats on the executive.
In 1914, Sinn Féin members, including Griffith, joined the anti-Redmond Irish Volunteers, which was referred to by Redmondites and others as the "Sinn Féin Volunteers". Although Griffith himself did not take part in the Easter Rising of 1916, many Sinn Féin members, who were also members of both the Volunteers and the Irish Republican Brotherhood, did. Government and newspapers dubbed the Rising "the Sinn Féin Rising". After the Rising, republicans came together under the banner of Sinn Féin, and at the 1917 Ard Fheis the party committed itself for the first time to the establishment of an Irish Republic. In the 1918 general election, Sinn Féin won 73 of Ireland's 105 seats, and in January 1919, its MPs assembled in Dublin and proclaimed themselves Dáil Éireann, the parliament of Ireland. The party supported the Irish Republican Army during the War of Independence, and members of the Dáil government negotiated the Anglo-Irish Treaty with the British government in 1921. In the Dáil debates that followed, the party divided on the Treaty. Anti-Treaty members led by Éamon de Valera walked out, and pro- and anti-Treaty members took opposite sides in the ensuing Civil War.
Pro-Treaty Dáil deputies and other Treaty supporters formed a new party, Cumann na nGaedheal, on 27 April 1923 at a meeting in Dublin where delegates agreed on a constitution and political programme. Cumann na nGaedheal governed the new Irish Free State for ten years. It merged with two other organisations to form Fine Gael in 1933. Anti-Treaty Sinn Féin members continued to boycott the Dáil. At a special Ard Fheis in March 1926, de Valera proposed that elected members be allowed to take their seats in the Dáil if and when the controversial Oath of Allegiance was removed. When his motion was defeated, de Valera resigned from Sinn Féin and on 16 May 1926 founded his own party, Fianna Fáil, which was dedicated to republicanising the Free State from within its political structures. He took most Sinn Féin TDs with him. De Valera's resignation meant also the loss of financial support from America. The rump Sinn Féin party could field no more than fifteen candidates, and won only six seats in the June election, a level of support not seen since before 1916. Vice-President and de facto leader Mary MacSwiney announced that the party simply did not have the funds to contest the second election called that year, declaring "no true Irish citizen can vote for any of the other parties". Fianna Fáil came to power for 16 years in 1932 and would go on to dominate politics in the independent Irish state.
An attempt in the 1940s to access funds which had been put in the care of the High Court led to the Sinn Féin Funds case, which the party lost and in which the judge ruled that it was not the legal successor to the Sinn Féin of 1917. At the Westminister 1955 general election, two Sinn Féin candidates were elected to Westminster, but the party's vote decreased at the following election in 1959 during the IRA's Border Campaign. In 1962, supporters of Marxist–Leninism took control of the Sinn Féin leadership from traditional republicans and started to take policy in a new direction. The same thing happened in the Irish Republican Army, with the ascent of Cathal Goulding. These people were influenced by Communist Party of Ireland member Roy Johnston's "National Liberation Strategy" and the theories of C. Desmond Greaves of the Connolly Association (part of the Communist Party of Great Britain). In 1967 the Garland Commission was set up to investigate the possibility of ending abstentionism. Its report angered the already disaffected traditional republican element within the party, notably Seán Mac Stíofáin and Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, who viewed such a policy as treason against the Irish Republic.
The Sinn Féin party split in two at the beginning of 1970. At the party's Ard Fheis on 11 January the proposal to end abstentionism and take seats, if elected, in the Dáil, the Parliament of Northern Ireland and the Parliament of the United Kingdom was put before the members. A similar motion had been adopted at an IRA convention the previous month, leading to the formation of a Provisional Army Council by Mac Stíofáin and other members opposed to the leadership. When the motion was put to the Ard Fheis, it failed to achieve the necessary two-thirds majority. The Executive attempted to circumvent this by introducing a motion in support of IRA policy, at which point the dissenting delegates walked out of the meeting. These members reconvened at another place, appointed a Caretaker Executive and pledged allegiance to the Provisional Army Council. The Caretaker Executive declared itself opposed to the ending of abstentionism, the drift towards "extreme forms of socialism", the failure of the leadership to defend the nationalist people of Belfast during the 1969 Northern Ireland riots, and the expulsion of traditional republicans by the leadership during the 1960s.
At its October 1970 Ard Fheis, delegates were informed that an IRA convention had been held and had regularised its structure, bringing to an end the 'provisional' period. By then, however, the label "Provisional" or "Provo" was already being applied to them by the media. The opposing, anti-abstentionist party became known as "Official Sinn Féin". It changed its name in 1977 to "Sinn Féin, the Workers' Party", and in 1982 to "The Workers' Party".
Because the "Provisionals" were committed to military rather than political action, Sinn Féin's initial membership was largely confined, in Danny Morrison's words, to men "over military age or women". A Belfast Sinn Féin organiser of the time described the party's role as "agitation and publicity". New cumainn (branches) were established in Belfast, and a new newspaper, Republican News, was published. Sinn Féin took off as a protest movement after the introduction of internment in August 1971, organising marches and pickets. The party launched its platform, Éire Nua (a New Ireland) at the 1971 Ard Fheis. In general, however, the party lacked a distinct political philosophy. In the words of Brian Feeney, "Ó Brádaigh would use Sinn Féin ard fheiseanna (party conferences) to announce republican policy, which was, in effect, IRA policy, namely that Britain should leave the North or the 'war' would continue". Sinn Féin was given a concrete presence in the community when the IRA declared a ceasefire in 1975. 'Incident centres' were set up to communicate potential confrontations to the British authorities. They were manned by Sinn Féin, which had been legalised the year before by Secretary of State, Merlyn Rees.
Political status for prisoners became an issue after the ending of the truce. Rees released the last of the internees but introduced the Diplock courts, and ended 'Special Category Status' for all prisoners convicted after 1 March 1976. This led first to the blanket protest, and then to the dirty protest . Around the same time, Gerry Adams began writing for Republican News, calling for Sinn Féin to become more involved politically . Over the next few years, Adams and those aligned with him would extend their influence throughout the republican movement and slowly marginalise Ó Brádaigh, part of a general trend of power in both Sinn Féin and the IRA shifting north. In particular, Ó'Brádaigh's part in the 1975 IRA ceasefire had damaged his reputation in the eyes of Ulster republicans.
The prisoners' protest climaxed with the 1981 hunger strike, during which striker Bobby Sands was elected Member of Parliament for Fermanagh and South Tyrone as an Anti H-Block candidate. After his death on hunger strike, his seat was held, with an increased vote, by his election agent, Owen Carron. Two other Anti H-Block candidates were elected to Dáil Éireann in the general election in the Republic. These successes convinced republicans that they should contest every election. Danny Morrison expressed the mood at the 1981 Ard Fheis when he said:"Who here really believes we can win the war through the ballot box? But will anyone here object if, with a ballot paper in this hand and an Armalite in the other, we take power in Ireland?".
This was the origin of what became known as the Armalite and ballot box strategy. Éire Nua was dropped in 1982, and the following year Ó Brádaigh stepped down as leader, and was replaced by Adams.
Under Adams' leadership electoral politics became increasingly important. In 1983 Alex Maskey was elected to Belfast City Council, the first Sinn Féin member to sit on that body. Sinn Féin polled over 100,000 votes in the Westminster elections that year, and Adams won the West Belfast seat that had been held by the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP). By 1985 it had fifty-nine seats on seventeen of the twenty-six Northern Ireland councils, including seven on Belfast City Council.
The party began a reappraisal of the policy of abstention from the Dáil. At the 1983 Ard Fheis the constitution was amended to remove the ban on the discussion of abstentionism to allow Sinn Féin to run a candidate in the forthcoming European elections. However, in his address Adams said, "We are an abstentionist party. It is not my intention to advocate change in this situation." A motion to permit entry into the Dáil was allowed at the 1985 Ard Fheis, but without the active support of the leadership, and Adams did not speak. The motion failed narrowly. By October of the following year an IRA Convention had indicated its support for elected Sinn Féin Teachtaí Dála (TDs) taking their seats. Thus, when the motion to end abstention was put to the Ard Fheis on 1 November 1986, it was clear that there would not be a split in the IRA as there had been in 1970. The motion was passed with a two-thirds majority. Ó Brádaigh and about twenty other delegates walked out, and met in a Dublin hotel with hundreds of supporters to re-organise as Republican Sinn Féin.
Tentative negotiations between Sinn Féin and the British government led to more substantive discussions with the SDLP in the 1990s. Multi-party negotiations began in 1994 in Northern Ireland, without Sinn Féin. The Provisional IRA declared a ceasefire in the autumn of 1994. Sinn Féin then joined the talks but the John Major-led Conservative government soon came to depend on unionist votes to remain in power. It suspended Sinn Féin from the talks and began to insist that the IRA decommission all of their weapons before Sinn Féin be re-admitted to the talks, leading to the IRA calling off its ceasefire. The new Labour government of Tony Blair wasn't reliant on unionist votes and re-admitted Sinn Féin, leading to another, permanent, ceasefire.
The talks led to the Good Friday Agreement of 10 April 1998 (officially known as the Belfast Agreement), which set up an inclusive devolved government in the North, and altered the Dublin government's constitutional claim to the whole island in Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution of Ireland. Republicans opposed to the direction taken by Sinn Féin in the peace process formed the 32 County Sovereignty Movement in the late 1990s.
The party expelled Denis Donaldson, a party official, in December 2005, with him stating publicly that he had been in the employ of the British government as an agent since the 1980s. Donaldson told reporters that the British security agencies who employed him were behind the collapse of the Assembly and set up Sinn Féin to take the blame for it, a claim disputed by the British Government. Donaldson was found fatally shot in his home in County Donegal on 4 April 2006, and a murder inquiry was launched. In April 2009, the Real IRA released a statement taking responsibility for the killing.
When Sinn Féin and the DUP became the largest parties, by the terms of the Belfast Agreement no deal could be made without the support of both parties. They nearly reached a deal in November 2004, but the DUP insisted on photographic and/or video evidence that decommissioning had been carried out, which was unacceptable to Sinn Féin.
On 2 September 2006 Martin McGuinness publicly stated that Sinn Féin would refuse to participate in a shadow assembly at Stormont, asserting that his party would only take part in negotiations that were aimed at restoring a power-sharing government. This development followed a decision on the part of members of Sinn Féin to refrain from participating in debates since the Assembly's recall the previous May. The relevant parties to these talks were given a deadline of 24 November 2006 to decide upon whether or not they would ultimately form the executive.
The 86-year Sinn Féin boycott of policing in Northern Ireland ended on 28 January 2007 when the Ard Fheis voted overwhelmingly to support the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). Sinn Féin members began to sit on Policing Boards and join District Policing Partnerships. There was opposition to this decision within Sinn Féin, and some members left, including elected representatives. The most well-known opponent was former IRA prisoner Gerry McGeough, who stood in the 2007 Assembly Elections against Sinn Féin in the Assembly constituency of Fermanagh and South Tyrone as an Independent Republican. Others who opposed this development splintered off to found the Republican Network for Unity.
Links with the IRA
Sinn Féin is the largest Irish republican political party and was closely associated with the Provisional IRA. The Irish Government alleged that senior members of Sinn Féin have held posts on the IRA Army Council. However, the SF leadership has denied these claims. The US Government has made similar allegations.
A republican document of the early 1980s stated: "Both Sinn Féin and the IRA play different but converging roles in the war of national liberation. The Irish Republican Army wages an armed campaign... Sinn Féin maintains the propaganda war and is the public and political voice of the movement".
The British Government stated in 2005 that "we had always said all the way through we believed that Sinn Féin and the IRA were inextricably linked and that had obvious implications at leadership level".
The Northern Bank robbery of £26.5 million in Belfast in December 2004 further delayed a political deal in Northern Ireland. The IRA were widely blamed for the robbery although Sinn Féin denied this and stated that party officials had not known of the robbery nor sanctioned it. Because of the timing of the robbery, it is considered that the plans for the robbery must have been laid whilst Sinn Féin was engaged in talks about a possible peace settlement. This undermined confidence among unionists about the sincerity of republicans towards reaching agreement. In the aftermath of the row over the robbery, a further controversy erupted when, on RTÉ's Questions and Answers programme, the chairman of Sinn Féin, Mitchel McLaughlin, insisted that the IRA's controversial killing of a mother of ten young children, Jean McConville, in the early 1970s though "wrong", was not a crime, as it had taken place in the context of the political conflict. Politicians from the Republic, along with the Irish media strongly attacked McLaughlin's comments.
On 10 February 2005, the government-appointed Independent Monitoring Commission reported that it firmly supported the PSNI and Garda Síochána assessments that the IRA was responsible for the Northern Bank robbery and that certain senior members of Sinn Féin were also senior members of the IRA and would have had knowledge of and given approval to the carrying out of the robbery. Sinn Féin have argued that the IMC is not independent and the inclusion of former Alliance Party Leader John Alderdice and a British security head was proof of this. The IMC recommended further financial sanctions against Sinn Féin members of the Northern Ireland Assembly. The British government responded by saying it would ask MPs to vote to withdraw the parliamentary allowances of the four Sinn Féin MPs elected in 2001.
Gerry Adams responded to the IMC report by challenging the Irish Government to have him arrested for IRA membership, a crime in both jurisdictions, and conspiracy.
On 20 February 2005, Irish Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Michael McDowell publicly accused three of the Sinn Féin leadership, Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Martin Ferris (TD for Kerry North) of being on the seven-man IRA Army Council which they later denied.
On 27 February 2005, a demonstration against the murder of Robert McCartney on 30 January 2005 was held in East Belfast. Alex Maskey, a former Sinn Féin Lord Mayor of Belfast, was told by relatives of McCartney to "hand over the 12" IRA members involved. The McCartney family, although formerly Sinn Féin voters themselves, urged witnesses to the crime to contact the PSNI. Three IRA men were expelled from the organisation, and a man was charged with McCartney's murder.
Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern subsequently called Sinn Féin and the IRA "both sides of the same coin". The official ostracism of Sinn Féin was shown in February 2005 when Dáil Éireann passed a motion condemning the party's alleged involvement in illegal activity. US President George W. Bush and Senator Edward Kennedy refused to meet Gerry Adams while meeting the family of Robert McCartney.
On 10 March 2005, the British House of Commons in London passed a motion placed by the British Government to withdraw the allowances of the four Sinn Féin MPs for one year in response to the Northern Bank Robbery without significant opposition. This measure cost the party approximately £400,000. However, the debate prior to the vote mainly surrounded the more recent events connected with the murder of Robert McCartney. Conservatives and unionists put down amendments to have the Sinn Féin MPs evicted from their offices at the House of Commons but these were defeated.
In March 2005, Mitchell Reiss, the United States special envoy to Northern Ireland, condemned the party's links to the IRA, saying "it is hard to understand how a European country in the year 2005 can have a private army associated with a political party".
The October 2015 Assessment on Paramilitary Groups in Northern Ireland concluded that the Provisional IRA still exists "in a much reduced form" and that some IRA members believe its Army Council oversees both the PIRA and Sinn Féin.
Policy and ideology
Most of the party's policies are intended to be implemented on an 'all-Ireland' basis which further emphasises their central aim of creating a united Ireland.
Sinn Féin currently is considered a democratic socialist or left-wing party. In the European parliament, the party aligns itself with the European United Left–Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) parliamentary group. The party pledges support for minority rights, migrants' rights, and eradicating poverty. Although it is not in favour of the extension of legalised abortion (British 1967 Act) to Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin state they are opposed to the attitudes in society which "pressurise women" to have abortions and "criminalise" women who make this decision. The party does state that in cases of incest, rape, sexual abuse, "fatal foetal abnormalities", or when a woman's life and health are at risk or in danger that the final decision must rest with the woman. In 2014 leading party strategist and ideologue Eoin Ó Broin described Sinn Féin's entire political project as unashamedly populist.
Sinn Féin has been considered to be Eurosceptic. The party campaigned for a "No" vote in the referendum on joining the European Economic Community in 1972. The party was critical of the supposed need for an EU constitution as proposed in 2002, and urged a "No" vote in the 2008 referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, although Mary Lou McDonald said that there was "no contradiction in being pro-Europe but anti-treaty." In its manifesto for the 2015 UK general election, Sinn Féin pledged that the party would campaign for the UK to stay within the European Union (EU), Martin McGuinness saying that an exit "would be absolutely economically disastrous". Gerry Adams said that if there were to be a referendum on the question, there ought to be a separate and binding referendum for Northern Ireland. Its policy of a "Europe of Equals", and its critical engagement after 2001, together with its engagement with the European Parliament, marks a change from the party's previous opposition to the EU. The party expresses, on one hand, "support for Europe-wide measures that promote and enhance human rights, equality and the all-Ireland agenda", and on the other a "principled opposition" to a European superstate.
Social and cultural
Sinn Féin's main political goal is a united Ireland. Other key policies from their most recent election manifesto are listed below:
Sinn Féin supports the creation of a 'Minister for Europe', the independence of the Basque Country from Spain and France, and the Palestinians in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.
Sinn Féin is organised throughout Ireland, and membership is open to all Irish residents over the age of 16. The party is organised hierarchically into cumainn (branches), comhairle ceantair (district executives), cúigí (regional executives). At national level, the Coiste Seasta (Standing Committee) oversees the day-to-day running of Sinn Féin. It is an eight-member body nominated by the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle (National Executive) and also includes the chairperson of each cúige. The Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle meets at least once a month. It directs the overall implementation of Sinn Féin policy and activities of the party.
The Ard Chomhairle also oversees the operation of various departments of Sinn Féin, viz Administration, Finance, National Organiser, Campaigns, Sinn Féin Republican Youth, Women's Forum, Culture, Publicity and International Affairs. It is made up of the following: Officer Board and nine other members, all of whom are elected by delegates to the Ard Fheis, fifteen representing the five Cúige regions (three delegates each). The Ard Chomhairle can co-opt eight members for specific posts and additional members can be co-opted, if necessary, to ensure that at least thirty per cent of Ard Chomhairle members are women.
The Ardfheis (national delegate conference) is the ultimate policy-making body of the party where delegates – directly elected by members of cumainn – can decide on and implement policy. It is held at least once a year but a special Ard Fheis can be called by the Ard Chomhairle or the membership under special circumstances.
Ard Chomhairle Officer Board
Leadership Members elected at the Ard Fhéis 2012
Northern Ireland AssemblySee also: Executive of the 5th Northern Ireland Assembly, Northern Ireland Assembly, Members of the 5th Northern Ireland Assembly
Dáil ÉireannSee also: Front Bench, Dáil Éireann, Members of the 31st Dáil
Seanad ÉireannSee also: Front Bench, Seanad Éireann, Members of the 24th Seanad
European ParliamentSee also: Eighth European Parliament, European Parliament, Members of the European Parliament, 2014–19
Sinn Féin returned to Northern Ireland elections at the 1982 Assembly elections, winning five seats with 64,191 votes (10.1%). The party narrowly missed winning additional seats in Belfast North and Fermanagh and South Tyrone. In the 1983 Westminster elections eight months later Sinn Féin increased its support, breaking the hundred thousand vote barrier in Northern Ireland for the first time by polling 102,701 votes (13.4%). Gerry Adams won the Belfast West constituency with Danny Morrison only 78 votes short of victory in Mid Ulster.
The 1984 European elections proved to be a disappointment, with Sinn Féin's candidate Danny Morrison polling 91,476 (13.3%) and falling well behind the SDLP candidate John Hume.
By the beginning of 1985, Sinn Féin had won their first representation on local councils due to three by-election wins in Omagh (Seamus Kerr, May 1983) and Belfast (Alex Maskey in June 1983 and Sean McKnight in March 1984). Three sitting councillors also defected to Sinn Féin in Dungannon, Fermanagh and Derry (the last defecting from the SDLP). Sinn Féin succeeded in winning 59 seats in the 1985 local government elections, after it had predicted winning only 40 seats. However, the results continued to show a decline from the peak of 1983 as the party won 75,686 votes (11.8%). The party failed to gain any seats in the 1986 by-elections caused by the resignation of unionist MPs in protest at the Anglo-Irish Agreement. While this was partly due to an electoral pact between unionist candidates, the SF vote fell in the four constituencies they contested.
In the 1987 election Gerry Adams held his Belfast West seat but the party failed to make breakthroughs elsewhere and overall polled 83,389 votes (11.4%). The same year saw the party contest the Dáil election in the Republic of Ireland, however they failed to win any seats and polled less than 2%.
The 1989 local government elections saw a drop in support for Sinn Féin. Defending 58 seats (the 59 won in 1985 plus two 1987 by-election gains in West Belfast minus three councillors who had defected to Republican Sinn Féin in 1986) the party lost 15 seats. In the aftermath of the election Mitchell McLaughlin admitted that recent IRA activity had affected the Sinn Féin vote.
In the 1989 European elections, candidate Danny Morrison again failed to win a seat, polling at 48,914 votes (9%).
The nadir for SF in this period came in 1992, with Gerry Adams losing his Belfast West seat to the SDLP and the SF vote falling in the other constituencies that they had contested relative to 1987.
In the 1997 British General Election, Gerry Adams regained his Belfast West seat. Martin McGuinness also won a seat in Mid Ulster. In Irish elections the same year the party won its first seat since the 1957 elections with Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin gaining a seat in the Cavan-Monaghan constituency. In the Irish local elections in 1999 the party increased its number of councillors from 7 to 23.
The party overtook its nationalist rival, the Social Democratic and Labour Party as the largest nationalist party in the 2001 Westminster general election and local elections, winning four Westminster seats to the SDLP's three. The party continues to subscribe, however, to an abstentionist policy towards the Westminster British parliament, on account of opposing that parliament's jurisdiction in Northern Ireland, as well as its oath to the Queen.
Sinn Féin increased its share of the nationalist vote in the 2003, 2007, and 2011 Assembly elections, with Martin McGuinness, former Minister for Education, taking the post of deputy First Minister in the Northern Ireland power-sharing Executive Committee. The party has three ministers in the Executive Committee.
In the 2010 General Election, the party retained its five seats, and for the first time topped the poll at a Westminster Election in Northern Ireland, winning 25.5% of the vote. All Sinn Féin MPs increased their share of the vote and with the exception of Fermanagh and South Tyrone, increased their majorities. In Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Unionist parties agreed a joint candidate, this resulted in the closest contest of the election, with Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gildernew holding her seat by 4 votes after 3 recounts and an election petition challenging the result.
Sinn Féin lost some ground in the 2016 Assembly election, dropping one seat to finish with 28, ten behind the DUP. In the snap election eight months later caused by the resignation of McGuinness as deputy First Minister, however, the party surged, winning 27.9% of the popular vote to 28.1% for the DUP, and 27 seats to the DUP's 28 in an Assembly reduced by 18 seats.
Dáil Éireann elections
The party had five TDs elected in the 2002 Republic general election, an increase of four from the previous election. At the general election in 2007 the party had expectations of substantial gains, with poll predictions that they would gain five to ten seats. However, the party lost one of its seats to Fine Gael. Seán Crowe, who had topped the poll in Dublin South–West fell to fifth place, with his first preference vote reduced from 20.28% to 12.16%.
On 26 November 2010, Pearse Doherty won a seat in the Donegal South–West by-election. It was the party's first by-election victory in the Republic of Ireland since 1925. After negotiations with the left wing Independent TDs Finian McGrath and Maureen O'Sullivan, a Technical Group was formed in the Dáil to give its members more speaking time.
In the 2011 Irish General Election the party made significant gains. All its sitting TDs were returned with Seán Crowe regaining the seat in Dublin South–West he lost in 2007. In addition to winning long time targeted seats such as Dublin Central and Dublin North–West the party gained unexpected seats in Cork East and Sligo–North Leitrim. It ultimately won 14 seats, the best performance for the party's current incarnation. The party went on to win three seats in the Seanad election which followed their success at the General Election. In the 2016 election it made further gains, finishing with 23 Dáil seats and overtaking the Labour party as third largest party in the state. It ran seven candidates in the Seanad election, all of whom were successful.
Local Government elections
Sinn Féin is represented on most county and city councils. It made large gains in the local elections of 2004, increasing its number of councillors from 21 to 54, and replacing the Progressive Democrats as the fourth-largest party in local government. At the local elections of June 2009, the party's vote fell by 0.95% to 7.34%, with no change in the number of seats. Losses in Dublin and urban areas were balanced by gains in areas such as Limerick, Wicklow, Cork, Tipperary and Kilkenny and the border counties . However, three of Sinn Féin's seven representatives on Dublin City Council resigned within six months of the June 2009 elections, one of them defecting to the Labour Party.
In the 2004 European Parliament election, Bairbre de Brún won Sinn Féin's first seat in the European Parliament, at the expense of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP). She came in second behind Jim Allister, then of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). In the 2009 election, de Brún was re-elected with 126,184 first preference votes, the only candidate to reach the quota on the first count. This was the first time since elections began in 1979 that the DUP failed to take the first seat, and was the first occasion Sinn Féin topped a poll in any Northern Ireland election.
Sinn Féin made a breakthrough in the Dublin constituency in 2004. The party's candidate, Mary Lou McDonald, was elected on the sixth count as one of four MEPs for Dublin, effectively taking the seat of Patricia McKenna of the Green Party. In the 2009 election, when Dublin's representation was reduced to three MEPs, she failed to hold her seat. In the South constituency their candidate, Councillor Toireasa Ferris, managed to nearly double the number of first preference votes, lying third after the first count, but failed to get enough transfers to win a seat.
In the 2014 election, Martina Anderson topped the poll in Northern Ireland, as did Lynn Boylan in Dublin. Liadh Ní Riada was elected in the South constituency, and Matt Carthy in Midlands–North-West.