CAIN Web Service

Abstentionism: Sinn Féin Ard Fheis, 1-2 November 1986
- Summary of the Issue

[Key_Events] [Key_Issues] [Conflict_Background]
ABSTENTIONISM: [Menu] [Reading] [Summary] [Background] [Chronology] [Main_Items] [Assessment] [Legacy] [Sources]

Text: Brendan Lynn
Material is added to this site on a regular basis - information on this page may change

Abstentionism: Sinn Féin Ard Fheis, 1-2 November 1986 - Summary of the Issue



The term abstentionism in Irish politics refers to a policy held, by Sinn Féin, not to allow its members, where elected, to sit in certain parliaments or assemblies. After the partition of Ireland in 1921 this policy was adopted in relation to all the parliamentary institutions in London, Dublin and Belfast.

However as events unfolded some sections of republicanism in the then Free State decided to take their seats in Dáil Éireann. Such moves were preceeded by, or accompanyied by, splits in the organisation and new parties were formed.

By the early 1980s Sinn Féin was being led by republicans in Northern Ireland who felt that the organisation needed to change its policy and be prepared to enter the Dáil. A failed attempt was made to change the policy in 1985, however a resolution in favour of a change was passed at the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in Dublin in November 1986.

Following the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 Sinn Féin called a special Ard Fheis in May 1998 when delegates voted overwhelmingly to allow successful candidates to take their seats in the proposed Assembly at Stormont. As a result of this decision the policy on abstentionism now only applies to the British parliament at Westminster.


CAIN contains information and source material on the conflict and politics in Northern Ireland.
CAIN is based within Ulster University.

go to the top of this page go to the top of this page
Last modified :