Building the Political Party and ‘Republicanization’, 1981–5



The election of Bobby Sands as the MP for Fermanagh/South Tyrone in May 1981 ushered in a new era for Sinn Féin and the broader republican movement. It marked the point at which republicans embraced a new, electoral-driven approach to politics. This reality was confirmed by the announcement, following the death of Sands, that his election agent, Owen Carron, would stand for the again vacant seat. Given that republicans had previously claimed that Sands’ intervention represented a once-only ‘borrowing’ of the seat for the prisoners’ cause, Carron’s candidacy indicated that republican involvement in politics would be more enduring than first imagined; all the more so, as Kevin Rafter has noted, because Carron declared, when subsequently elected (as he was in August 1981, on the same ‘National H-Block/Armagh’ ticket as Sands), that he would stay on beyond the end of the hunger strike, but now as a Sinn Féin MP.2 In becoming the modern Sinn Féin party’s first elected representative at national level, Carron (despite the fact he was displaced at the subsequent 1983 British general election), set the stage for the 1981 Sinn Féin ard fheis, at which Danny Morrison made his proclamation of the ‘Armalite and the ballot box’ strategy.3


Political Party Labour Party Irish Unity Hunger Strike Party News 
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Copyright information

© Martyn Frampton 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.PeterhouseUniversity of CambridgeUK

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