Election Diary: Pledgeless manifesto gives SF plenty of talks wriggle-room

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams and Michelle O'Neill launching Sinn Fein's manifesto
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams and Michelle O'Neill launching Sinn Fein's manifesto

Sinn Fein has declined to explain why it has produced a manifesto which contains just two largely uncontroversial pledges, rather than the usual tens or scores of firm commitments which parties set out before the electorate.

The manifesto, which was launched on Monday but received limited scrutiny due to the Manchester atrocity leading to a suspension of campaigning, gives Sinn Fein a remarkably free hand in the post-election negotiations.

The last Sinn Fein manifesto for a General Election, in 2015, contained 45 firm pledges where it said “Sinn Fein will...” before detailing clear pledges on everything from taxation to saying that Sinn Fein would “deliver” both an Irish language act and a border poll.

Despite Sinn Fein’s far more hardline stance and rhetoric since it collapsed devolution in January, the manifesto for this election is actually far less clear-cut – even about issues such as an Irish language act which the party has appeared to be prioritising far more than it did two years ago. Rather than the usual list of firm pledges, this manifesto instead sets out lists of Sinn Fein’s “priorities”, a word which is far less rigid than commitments.

There are just two clear pledges. The first says that “in the Oireachtas, in the European Parliament and in the North Sinn Féin will advocate tirelessly for, and defend your rights as EU citizens, and for your right to work, travel and trade in the EU” and the second says that “after the election on the 8th June we will immediately return to talks”.

When asked why Sinn Fein had only set out two pledges and whether it was planning to set out in a separate document its pledges to voters, the party said: “This election is about Brexit. Theresa May and her Tory government alongside the DUP want to disregard the democratic wishes of the people of the North who voted to remain within the European Union...this manifesto lays out Sinn Féin’s priorities in fighting Brexit, in tackling Tory austerity and tackling the economic devastation of what would be a hardening of the border.”