11 January 1970: The foundation of ‘Provisional’ Sinn Fein on this day. The political organisation was activated after a formal split arose within Sinn Fein as to what was the best approach to take in regards to opposition to British Rule in the North and towards the 26 County Government. The more left wing members of the leadership like Cathal Goulding and Sean Garland wanted to operate a broad based ‘National Liberation Front’ that would include both Sinn Fein and the likes of the Communist party within its ranks. They also wanted to recognise the parliaments in Leinster House, Westminster and Stormont as legitimate. Political Action within the current political framework was their chosen method of approach.
However to the more traditionally minded SF members these policies were anathema. They wanted to pursue a policy of active opposition to British rule in the North that would include support for armed struggle to bring about a British withdrawal from Ireland. They did not want any recognition of the Partitionist States here. In an acrimonious Ard Feis that took place in Dublin at the Intercontinental Hotel a split emerged into the open that had long being brewing. Despite the best efforts of MacStiofáin and Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, who eventually led the subsequent walkout, the changes were finally approved by the party membership but not, however, by the two thirds majority required for an alteration of the party’s constitution. In the wake of these decisions they organised a walkout by a minority of like minded delegates who reconvened a meeting at Kevin Barry Hall on Dublin’s Parnell Street and duly set up a ‘caretaker’ Sinn Féin Executive to liase with the previously elected Army Council.
Some days later the new group made its intent clear in a freshly issued pamphlet:
We pledge our allegiance to the 32 county Irish Republic proclaimed at Easter 1916, overthrown by force of arms in 1922 and suppressed to this day by the existing British imposed Six County and Twenty-Six County partition states’
Thus were born the ‘Provos’!