The Founding of Sinn Féin In 1905

Arthur Griffith Founder of Sinn Féin

After the Parnell debacle of 1890, Irish nationalism, as a movement, was weakened by the lack of coherent leadership. It was a kaleidoscope of disparate groups, all following their own paths.

The Gaelic league was gaining strength and harnessing the Irish people in rekindling Gaelic language and culture. The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) was demonstrating great success promoting Irish sports such as hurling and football (peil Gaelach) in practically every parish throughout the country.

Poets and playwrights, authors and columnists were busy at pushing Ireland and things Irish to the attention international audience. Political advances, however, were frustrated by the failure of achieving Home Rule.

Arthur Griffith, editor of the newspaper “United Irishmen”, an admirer of Parnell but also a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and a supporter of the Boer cause, formed in November 1900, Cumann na Gaedheal, an organization which he hoped would bring together all the different groups within nationalism. However, the Cumann was unable to achieve very much in the way of uniting the various factions of nationalism although it was an ardent supporter of the Gaelic League.

The Hungarian Influence

Griffith became an admirer of the Hungarian nationalists who, two decades before, had achieved parity with Austria as a separate independent kingdom. This was won by a campaign of civil disobedience and the withdrawal of Hungarian representatives from the imperial parliament of the Austro-Hungarian Empire of which it was previously a subject state. Griffith believed that the same could be achieved for Ireland and he proposed this in a series of articles, later in pamphlet form, called “The Resurrection of Hungary”. This proposal was described by Máire Butler, a cousin of Edward Carson QC, as Sinn Féin, which translate into English as we ourselves. It is the first phase of an old slogan of the Gaelic League…sinn féin, sinn féin amhain or in English,” we ourselves, we ourselves alone”.

Sinn Féin is formed

In 1905 at the National Council Convention, attended by all the elected representatives of county councils from around Ireland, adopted Sinn Féin as their policy. It was also to become the name of the party.

Their credo was that the Union of Great Britain and Ireland was illegal from its inception and that no Irishman or woman could thereby legally participate in any of its institutions. Ireland was to be a free and independent kingdom sharing the same monarch as Great Briain.

In 1907, Sinn Féin was strengthened by uniting with the northern Dungannon Clubs which were also founded in 1905 by Bulmer Hobson and Denis Mc Cullough. Maud Gonne’s Inghinidhe na hÉireann (Daughters of Ireland) also became absorbed into it. It was also supported by Countess Markievicz, Seán Mc Dermott and Roger Casement.


Sources

  • The Green Flag, A History of Irish Nationalism by Robert Kee. Penguin Books. London. 2000.
  • 2. A history of Ireland in 250 Episodes by Jonathan Bardon. Gill & Macmillan. Dublin 2009

Last updated August 5, 2019.

About the Author

Pádraig Mac Donnchadha
Pádraig is a fluent Irish speaker with a passion for history, traditional music, and story telling.