The DUP and Sinn Fein Overview
This is the second in a series of weekly blog posts giving an overview of each of the main eight political parties' manifestos ahead of the General Election.
In Northern Ireland there are 56 political parties registered to contest elections, with 18 constituencies. This blog focusses on two of the main parties; the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin. The structure and history of Irish politics is, at best, complex and I am not able to sum it up in 500 words. There has obviously been a huge amount of historical turmoil that affects where the parties stand now and changes that each party wants to make. This blog does not focus on the Republic of Ireland (southern) which is a sovereign state and is not part of the United Kingdom.
In 2006 an agreement between the British and Irish governments and Northern Ireland's political parties in relation to the devolution of power resulted in the restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly, the formation of a new Northern Ireland Executive. It also stated a decision by Sinn Féin to support the Police Service of Northern Ireland and courts and rule of law. This agreement was called the St Andrews Agreement.
DUP are the only party in Northern Ireland with representation at every level. DUP is the larger of the two main unionist political parties in Northern Ireland. DUP believe that unionisation on all levels and working together is the way forward. Currently led by Peter Robinson the DUP is the fourth largest party in the House of Commons holding 8 seats.
Sinn Féin state they are the only truly all-Ireland political party. They are an Irish Republican political party in Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Sinn Féin is a left wing party believing in nationalism and democratic socialism. Sinn Féin firmly believe that Ireland should be an independent republic and their Facebook page states they are an Irish Republican party dedicated to the reunification of Ireland and the creation of a 32-county democratic socialist republic. Gerry Adams has been leader of the party since 1983. Currently Sinn Féin has 5 seats at Westminster. They are opposed to the Euro-led austerity measures which they believe have stifled the economic recovery.
Although many will think that the May elections will not be affected particularly by Northern Ireland, the predicted closeness of the polls for Labour and the Conservatives may mean that Northern Irish MPs may be influential in deciding the Westminster government in a couple of ways. Firstly, potential MPs from the DUP (or the UUP if they win any seats) may be crucial to keeping a Conservative government in power. Secondly, Sinn Féin, who refuse to take up seats they win in Westminster (due to their long-standing policy of refusing to recognise the legitimacy of British rule in Northern Ireland), potentially lower the threshold required for a majority or to make a minority government stable.
Neither party mention green or environmental concerns but both focus more on rebuilding communities and getting Ireland stable again. Publicly both parties are seen to be spatting with each other but on the other hand it appears that over the past few years that both the DUP and Sinn Féin appear to be both agreeing something between themselves and then passing it through the Executive and Assembly. Both parties appear to not particularly like or respect each other but there is certainly a picture emerging that they have some kind of informal agreement to drive changes forward.
In summary, both parties are very focussed towards Northern Ireland (obviously!), both are community focussed and striving for stability, although the wrangling and squabbling still appears to be continuing. The parties are looking to increase their number elected representatives, and given the odds of a hung parliament it may increase the chance for smaller parties to wield some influence.