Secular analysis of the Sinn Féin manifesto

Written by Dr Conor McGrath

The main Sinn Féin manifesto – titled ‘There Is A Better Way’ – is available at

The document is relatively short, concentrates heavily on economic recovery and public services, and lists a large number of (often uncosted) priorities without offering a huge amount of detail on each.

However, it does contain some commitments of interest from a secular perspective. It includes, for instance, a pledge (p. 28) to “Recognise and resource Educate Together and other non-denominational schools at primary and secondary level where there is demand for them.”

In the section on political reform, Sinn Féin promises the creation of an all-Ireland Constitutional Forum, which would be tasked with drafting a new Constitution (p. 33), “fully reflective of the values and aspirations of the Irish people today, soundly based on democratic principles and international human rights standards.” No particular mention is made in this regard of the values and rights of the non-religious, but nonetheless the establishment of a body with those terms of reference would certainly provide opportunities for the case to be made that the Constitution should be reframed in a secular way.

There is in the manifesto a noticeable emphasis on equality and human rights – again, not specifically as regards a secular perspective, but this overall framework suggests that Sinn Féin would be open to addressing issues on the secular agenda. For instance, the party commits itself explicitly (p. 35) to, “Build an Ireland of Equals where everyone’s rights are guaranteed, free of divisions caused by partition, sectarianism, racism, and other forms of discrimination”. It would develop an Equality Strategy, “that draws together previously fragmented strategies to eliminate discrimination and introduce real equality and establish an Oireachtas Committee on Equality and Human Rights to monitor implementation of our new equality and human rights laws” (p. 35). Sinn Féin would require that all “law and policy including budgets” would be subject to a form of equality-proofing such that equality measures here would be “at least equivalent” to those which are in effect in Northern Ireland (p. 36).

Finally, given Atheist Ireland’s role as an advocacy group, Sinn Féin’s commitment to “protect the community and voluntary sectors right to engage in advocacy” (p. 36) is of interest.

Overall then, the Sinn Féin manifesto is full of promises, and suggests that the party may be receptive to many of Atheist Ireland’s key policy concerns, but much would depend on how the promises develop as more layers of detail are built up around them.

We will be publishing an analysis of each party’s manifesto as they become available.



  1. Avatar
    Sarah Jayne Maxwell February 11, 2011

    Interesting that you only focus on the Sinn Féin manifesto and not any of the responses to the general election candidate questionnaires.

    Why was that? Would it look too much like you’d have to endorse them or something?

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    Anonymous February 11, 2011

    It’s part of a series of manifesto analyses; with 560 or so candidates the time commitment to an analysis of each one would be enourmous. The individual candidate answers are on also on

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    Tom Kennedy February 11, 2011

    Thanks Conor for doing this.

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    Richard February 11, 2011

    Well Done Conor. Great stuff. The problem with the Shinners is that the chance of them being able to implement any of thier policies is zero so they can say whatever they like. A secular vote for SF, therefore is a wasted one.