Seating at Ard Fheiseanna

D OC donaloc at
Fri Nov 22 10:16:51 MST 2002

>Interestingly at Sinn Fein ard fheiseanna (decision-making conferences)
this form was used - everyone was seated in rows in the hall, with the
delegates merely occupying the front seats for ease of getting to the
mike.  You might have a thousand or more people seated in the hall at
various times, too.

>SF, in the heyday of its left period, was wonderfully relaxed about
this.  Non-delegates would continually go and sit in the front seats to
chat with their mates who were delegates and constant reminders had to
be given from the presidium, usually ignored, that the front seats were
for delegates.  You actually got some interesting debates as well,
criticisms of the leadership and so on and some delightful irreverence -
pretty much what you would expect in an organisation that actually
represented something serious and radical *in the working class*.

There is no division any more, you sit where you like (apart from the Ard
Comhairle seats at the very front). Everyone who wants, gets to speak -
whether or not you are a delegate but only delegates vote. The only problem
is that the party really needs a week-long conference to get through things
in sufficient detail but most people can't get off work or get child care.
This causes guillotining and the usual rows over time. That's perhaps why
the party is having more regular policy conferences around the country -
well, that and a more functional commitment to an 'activist-' as opposed to
a 'drone-' culture.

As for the irreverence and humourous slagging matches, that's one of the
best bits - alongside the socialising, discussing and networking with people
you haven't spoke to in a year.

Ard Fheiseanna are now about 2-3000 in size and have moved to the RDS. It is
likely that the next one in April will be significantly bigger.


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