The pioneering US current affairs website Vice News has just published a short documentary examining the Fianna Éireann, the youth wing of Republican Sinn Féin. The latter group broke away from mainstream (Provisional) Sinn Féin in 1986 and has devolved into more of a political tradition amongst certain families and communities than a nation-wide organisation. RSF is of course closely associated with the so-called Continuity Irish Republican Army (CIRA), a would-be insurgent force founded out of the same split in the political and military wings of the (Provisional) Republican movement in the mid-to-late 1980s. The paramilitary grouping has been mired in allegations of criminality, including drug-dealing, for a decade or more and the broader RSF movement has itself suffered several violent splits. The Fianna Éireann (also known as Na Fianna and incorrectly as Na Fianna Éireann) is a republican scouting organisation that pre-dates the Irish Revolution of 1916-23, though it too has suffered internal divisions. While the Fianna Éireann section of (Provisional) Sinn Féin has been transformed into the ridiculously named “Sinn Féin Republican Youth” (dropping an earlier Irish language title of Ógra Shinn Féin, a change which aptly illustrates the party’s facile commitment to our indigenous culture), RSF has retained the FÉ moniker.
While the Vice documentary is flawed – and adding English subtitles to the speech of English-speaking Irish men and women but not the English-speaking British presenter is vaguely racist – it is still worth a watch. As always, and like most republicans of any persuasion, I question the value of RSF and its off-shoots. It represents, with its anachronistic claims of Second Dáil authority, alienating arguments over republican legitimatism and visible taint of criminality, the deserved “lost cause” of Irish politics. Its obviously committed activists deserve better than those who lead them.