The body politic on the island of Ireland and its electoral base are resigned to the continuation of partition. This resignation is enhanced as a result of the dual referenda in respect of the Good Friday Agreement and their interpretation of that result as a mandate for removing their obligation to achieve Irish unity. Republican and socialist separatists are marginalised both within and without that body politic to the extent that our arguments and observations on the national question are not refuted but ignored. To the broad population of Ireland the Constitutional Question is resolved and there is no expectation amongst them that their political leaders should pursue a policy of seeking change to the constitutional status quo. The timing and opportunity for the republican analysis to have had any bearing on this question, as it currently stands, is ostensibly passed because we did not and do not possess sufficient political strength to alter the course that has been taken. And although we remain steadfast in our opposition to the events and how they evolved our opposition is symbolic and devoid of influential capability.
The republican demand for a unilateral British withdrawal from Ireland must remain to the forefront of all republican thinking because policies sought to secure this end must be based on a necessary criterion to ensure that such policies do not undermine the goal they seek to attain. An end to British Parliamentary activity in Ireland is necessary for a democratic resolution of the Anglo-Irish conflict.
The key question now facing republicanism is; how do we develop an influential capability from our present status? We can only hope to address this question successfully if we approach it honestly and on the simple basis that the problem can only be resolved if we first recognise that the problem exists. Equally the demise of republicanism is the collective responsibility of all republicans and our duty to restore its fortunes no less so. No matter which way we turn to address our predicament we cannot avoid the necessity of this collective approach. We in the 32CSM are firm believers in republican cooperation and have prepared several strategy documents outlining our perspective and proposals on republican unity. We also recognise that republican unity is essentially a political activity tasked with advancing our goals via such activity in a unified fashion. The degree of unity and political activity engaged in are interdependent.
It is from this position that the 32CSM wish to augment our existing proposals. The format and potential of the republican struggle at any given time is wholly dependent on the strengths of republicanism at that time. To struggle beyond our means is not to struggle at all. With the current strength of Irish republicanism we contend that partition will not end in a singular unilateral British withdrawal but will end through a process of dismantling, out of which that withdrawal will evolve. We say this for two reasons; firstly, the political reasoning behind partition alters and adapts to the differing needs of the British establishment to preserve it. And secondly Irish opposition to partition is self dividing with republican separatism unable to deliver a clinical defeat of Irish vested interests whose views on partition also adapt according to their political interests at any given time. When the duality of these reasons work in harmony the magnitude of the political edifice which maintains partition becomes vividly apparent as does the necessity for a strategic incremental approach by republicans in counteracting it.
An incremental approach to dismantling partition goes hand in hand with a parallel process of building all Ireland approaches to the cultural, social and political activities of the islands inhabitants. Crucial to this approach is the recognition of a clear differentiation between an All Ireland approach and a Cross Border approach the latter being the foremost activity of the current political process. Partition is maintained by partitionist and imperialist politics. This politics allows for all Ireland sentiments based on a cross border premise but the political and organisational expressions of these sentiments are not homogenous, they are partitionist themselves and echo the border. That the centre of gravity for Irish politics should be the people of the whole island is beyond dispute but to practice a politics which undermines the necessary unity and cohesion of our people negates this premise. It is the totality of this practice which republican and socialist separatists need to address.
Republican unity, and efforts toward that unity, must be cognisant of this. All our actions must be seen in a functioning all Ireland context and all our arguments delivered in a similar vein. As an effective counterpoint to partition republicans need to address all aspects of how partition functions and campaign to supplant them with all Ireland alternatives that are within our gift to both articulate and implement. This is not an ideological analysis but a scheduling of tasks for a unified republican approach to pursue on an agreed basis. Given our belief that republican unity is essentially a political activity we need to collectively schedule and format political activity to nourish both the unity project and our efforts to secure our objectives. In effect the basis for republican unity becomes synonymous with its political activity.
Current Political Climate
All struggles are based on an argued premise and all counter struggles are based on the nullifying of that premise. In Ireland today the out workings of this process are clearly evident concerning the border as a contentious issue. Once the establishment parties have removed the border as an issue from day to day politics the resultant political indifference amongst the people strengthens its existence. The policy of normalisation secures legitimacy for the status quo via the protraction of this political indifference. Moreover all questions of political abnormality are dealt with within the established constitutional framework because that framework is now deemed to be legitimate. All protests against the nature of this framework are impotent unless they protest against the existence of it. The goal of normalisation is ultimately achieved once the constitutional issue is normalised. It is a highly effective political strategy.
A salient lesson learned from the process which led to the GFA is that both the British Parliament and Unionism are more resilient in their defence of partition than their Irish counterparts are in trying to abolish it. The relevant constitutional legislations introduced as part of the GFA are testament to this. The ongoing political implication of this British/Unionist resilience is that they will be the driving force behind the future political development of partition. The politics of a contentious border will be replaced with the politics of an agreed national frontier. The cross border approach will be to the fore because the siege mentality of unionism, and its paranoid relationship with Westminster, finds solace in tangible manifestations of the border.
From the converse side the Irish establishment’s reluctance to pursue a truly national agenda acts as a buttress to the cross border approach. For the established parties in the twenty six counties politics stops at the border by their own choice. The provenance of those main parties is partitionist and the fact that their electoral powerbases are confined to a part of the island means there is no appetite amongst them to alter that. They are devoid of All Ireland thinking. Without question the British establishment, and those within unionism whom they advise, are well aware of this and exploit it to their advantage.
Although republicans may view this state of affairs with disdain it does nonetheless represent the realpolitik of modern Ireland and is set to continue on this course for the immediate to mid-term future. A further complication for republicanism is that our constituency is deemed to be a willing participant in this framework via the intervention of Provisional Sinn Fein into the constitutional nationalist camp. All within that ideology now share a common position on the constitutional question and have invoked a partitioned electoral endorsement of their actions to lend a semblance of democratic legitimacy to it. With a Northern endorsement and a Southern rejection of the PSF experiment that organisation has been exposed as a poor two state, cross border party which further demonstrates the prevalence of the two state, cross border constitutional approach.
A Realignment of Constitutional Nationalism
Constitutional nationalism does not do controversy well. It has no revolutionary spirit and primarily seeks accommodation with the establishment via tepid engagements on soft issues. It addresses symptoms over causes and finds refuge in obfuscation on points of principle which would force it to confront that establishment. In the Six Counties it would not confront civil rights abuses as a tool of British occupation and in the Twenty Six Counties it would not confront partition as a violation of sovereignty. Whilst these issues courted maximum controversy constitutional nationalism defined itself along partitioned lines with neither willing to commit to a definitive policy for Irish freedom but listed it as a possible amongst other possibilities. Now that these controversies have the appearance of resolution, or at least are no longer confrontational in nature, a realignment of Constitutional Nationalism can be expected.
A Two State Ireland is now considered to be the establishment and Constitutional Nationalism by its nature will organise to preserve it and its supremacy within it. Fianna Fail has already initiated formal proceedings to explore the possibility of the SDLP becoming its northern voice. Without any sense of reticence FF insiders have openly declared this project as a bulwark against the rising electoral tide of PSF. The nationalism which would not confront the spectre of British Parliamentary activity in Ireland is moving to assert its authority in the new dispensation decreed by that activity. The obvious problem that this poses for PSF is having once donned the policies and language of such nationalism in an attempt to out vote it, it cannot entertain the idea of jettisoning its new found persona in an attempt to counter the strategy. Its much vaunted claim of being the only 32 County Party (sic) as a point to politically distinguish itself will be negated by the FF move. The only viable option left for PSF is to continue to emulate that nationalism which it belatedly claims to be distinct from.
This direction is of immense relevance to republican separatists and socialists. As political clarity descends on the actual constituency and interests which Constitutional Nationalism represents the republican constituency, which was blurred by the claims made by PSF to being its voice, will become more defined and more receptive to being politically organised. To do this republicans need to be organised themselves.
For all our marginalisation the republican position remains a distinct, well grounded and tenacious argument which has a proven capacity for reinvention in the face of insurmountable odds. Modern Irish republicanism did not fail; it was failed against, meaning its basic tenets do not have to be altered. What needs to be altered is the way in which we present our republicanism to reflect its relevance. Only republicans can do this and only republicans working together can make this effective.
For republicanism to be made relevant it must be brought to the people with republicans fully cognisant of their indifference to it. It’s not enough to state that we are right, or that others are wrong, but to state and demonstrate that our republicanism is better. The panacea to political indifference is political demonstration, leading to political awareness, leading to political engagement. A political presentation which shows an inability of republicans to engage with each other hardly bodes well for a successful engagement of republicanism with the people. The pinnacle objective of such engagement is the creation of a new republican constituency.
The political bedrock of a republican constituency must be the central belief that an end to partition is a necessary criterion to facilitate the Irish people’s right to national self-determination and that only by such an act of self-determination can our future be democratically developed. This belief must be grounded in both historical fact and pragmatic articulation if it is to have any chance of courting belief and support. But above all it must clearly reflect a relevance and an ability to secure incremental and fundamental change. No political constituency can develop whilst its organised voice remains static both in terms of its message and its activity. Repetition is a poor subordinate to vibrant reinvention and the campaign to bring an end to partition must be replete with this vibrancy because the campaign to maintain it has vastly more resources at its disposal.
The task now is to reintroduce partition into the political lexicon via issues which both the border impacts on and by consequence impacts on the welfare of the people. Although the body politic and its electoral base are content with the stability of the constitutional status quo there are other national questions which pose difficult political scenarios for the established parties because such questions are not resolved beyond further political scrutiny. In these circumstances a well presented argument, even from a marginalised political quarter, can exert an influence far and beyond that which limited organisational abilities and political influence would allow. Equally there are issues which can be given a dynamic by addressing them in national terms which in turn can give the broad population an expectation that their political leaders should pursue an All Ireland agenda on such issues.
To propel this agenda defined policies would need to be devised and adopted on these issues to give a coherency to our argument. Such policies would need to be national, graphic and explanatory and not a source of endless inter republican analysis. A coherent policy is the frontline activity of republican engagement with a potential constituency
Key to such an approach is how successful we can be in integrating not only various acts of political activity on a given issue with each other but also on the tenets of that issue with the Constitutional Question. Guided by the philosophy of James Fintan Lalor, that the struggle between Landlord and Tennant is a microcosm of the struggle between Ireland and the British Parliament, republicans need to orientate similar struggles in a similar direction. As a compliment to Preparing An Irish Democracy, which sought to create a focus for unity around a strategy for public engagement, the 32CSM propose the following framework to practically put that strategy into effect.
- A Republican Constituency to be developed.
- Republican Unity is necessary.
- The centrality of the Constitutional Question to be broadened into other areas of national relevance.
- A Schedule of Political Campaigns to be drawn up for a coordinated, All Ireland approach by republicans in pursuit of stated policies.
- 2016, the Centenary of the 1916 Rising, to be a target date for agreed achievements and a launch date for new initiatives based on those achievements.
- A Data-base for contacts in Political, Social, Religious, Media, Cultural, Economic and International spheres.
The Physical Border
The border is not irrelevant, those who argue that it is, or will become obsolete, are those who do not wish to address its existence. The physical border is the hub around which a partitioned Ireland will develop. Its relevance to the interests of the British government is best exposed through political actions which force them to defend it. By default any interest which necessitates British Parliamentary activity in Ireland is a national interest denied to the Irish people. The deliberately fostered political indifference towards the border is intended to mask this fact. Politically provoking the British government on the border issue can become the catalyst for addressing this indifference. Republican involvement in issues of national relevance can amplify the borders role in retarding that development. This is the argument of the better republicanism.
As it stands republicans are already involved in such issues and campaigns but not in a coordinated or integrated way. Even if it appears that such issues warrant resolution in and of themselves it is the role of republicans to educate those campaigning that the ultimate resolution lies in an All Ireland context. Shell to Sea, Hill of Tara, Irish Language Act and the Anti War Movement/Raytheon protests are indicative of such issues which possess a national relevance.
Shell To Sea National Natural Resources
Hill Of Tara National Heritage
Irish Language Act National Culture
Anti War/Raytheon National Neutrality
At a glance British interests are obvious and the claim to having no selfish, strategic or economic reasons for remaining in Ireland is seriously challenged. To this end the 32CSM proposes an immediate coordination of republican activism in existing campaigns to strengthen this challenge. This requires republicans meeting republicans in open, non committal discussions. Coordination is being sought on the practical out workings of campaigning such as joint pickets, strategic leafleting both in timing and geography, maximising the impact of republican publications in a similar way, media development, international influence and engagement with elected representatives.
Similarly such discussions should focus on other issues which offer republicans the opportunities to pursue a national agenda. In tandem with this effort should be the development of tasks to undermine and challenge the physical border to augment the basic political message we wish to espouse via these campaigns. To contribute to this agenda the 32CSM propose the following:
- The Republican Unity project convenes the National Constitutional & Policy Forum.
- A Republican Socialist Manifesto to be issued.
- The Republican Unity project re-issues the Declaration Of Independence as a relevant political act. .
- An Annual Republican Summer School be established to review and promote republican and socialist ideals.
Interim Political & Organisational Goals
2016 will be a date wherein the established parties on the island will attempt to portray partition as being reconciled with the Proclamation. It is a date that no amount of fostered political indifference can allow them to ignore. As demonstrated for the 90th anniversary the twenty six county state has no qualms in reducing the Easter Rising to the level of an electoral expedient. The Centenary will be somewhat different in that the Rising will be used to endorse the cross border concept of a constitutional settlement. Republicans need to prepare for 2016.
This preparation goes beyond the staging of a counter commemoration but must have at its core a counter argument replete with political achievement. It is not enough to argue historical interpretations with political views who only heed political advances. For republicans the Centenary will be a watershed for Irish separatism because if political achievements are beyond us by that date, and because of that date, Irish separatism may never advance.
We will not achieve British withdrawal by 2016. This fact, once accepted, decrees that our struggle toward that aim must be incremental. It is through incremental advances and achievements that we keep the aim of British withdrawal relevant. As we advance we need to establish political footholds for our position to ensure a forward momentum. We cannot do this without engaging our political opponents who currently hold all the initiatives. Our goals need to be realistic and also need to make political sense.
The 32CSM propose that the campaign strategy previously outlined should seek to attain the following organisational objectives by 2016.
- A campaigns based Republican Movement.
- A functioning structured presence in every county.
- A structure within the Student Body.
- A sustained media profile.
- A focussed Internet Organisation.
- A defined interface between the Republican Movement and the republican constituency.
If attained these are political achievements in their own right.
The republican position needs to be demonstrated because the veracity of our argument to those whom we wish to convey it is measured according to their perceptions of our organisational and influential capabilities. The weaker the capability the weaker the perception of our position. Censorship, misrepresentation and revisionism are all centred on maintaining that weak perception and no amount of eloquent prose will penetrate that vista. A campaigns based policy offers the only realistic route out of this cul de sac because a raised profile is essential for political engagement. It is important to remember that we are not merely seeking out already republican minded people but politically aware people to whom our position can be argued. Introducing the constitutional question into more areas of national concern broadens the scope of encountering such people.
An increase in organisational strength merits an increase in political achievement. Aiming too high is as detrimental as aiming too low but what we aspire to must be within our gift to achieve, and once achieved, consolidated. It would be important also that like the tangible nature of campaigning its netted results should be tangible also. Our organisational advances are interdependent with our political advances and injury to one is injury to both. Our interim political aspirations must address political reality and that reality states that Irish freedom will not come about independent of the current political establishments on the island. In any struggle the opponents must be engaged and the 32CSM have already outlined the basis for that engagement and the issues that can be pursued without undermining our basic republican position.
Our opponents are defined by those who oppose an end to British Parliamentary activity in Ireland by word or deed. These are varied, and with varied interests, all of which do not work in harmony. Conflicts of interest are fudged so as not to create an issue over the constitutional status quo and it is to this fragility that republicans should focus our campaigns attentions. In our strategy document Irish Democracy, A Framework For Unity the 32CSM identified a series of political, democratic and constitutional inconsistencies between the supposed agreed parties. Our observations were not refuted, but ignored. We now return to these as a basis for securing political gains on the grounds that the strengths of a unified republican voice on these and other issues can redress this response.
A weakening of our opponent’s position on the constitutional question is a strengthening of the separatist cause. This reasoning should form the basis of setting out our interim political objectives for 2016. From the standpoint of the 32CSM the weakness of these positions is to be found in their contradictory nature.
- The British Government is not democratically accountable to any Irish constituency yet claims their presence in Ireland is to protect the democratic rights of unionists.
- Unionism pledges loyalty to an establishment it will never trust.
- Constitutional nationalism adheres to ‘unity by consent’ favouring unity but will not initiate any movement towards securing that consent.
- All three will not address their own contradictions or the contradictions of the other parties.
- None can electorally campaign on their true intent.
The democratic deficit of British Parliamentary activity in Ireland and its unwillingness to be addressed by the signatories of the GFA negates a moral necessity for an electoral based challenge against it. Democracy cannot endorse an absence of democracy. Having no electoral mandate cannot be credibly invoked as a counter argument against us. Alternatively any mandate received by Irish republicanism from any Irish constituency as a protest against British Parliamentary activity in our country supersedes any claimed mandate in support of it. We cannot as republicans place the issue of legitimate democratic mandates and their expression at the preserve of partitioned electoralism or past events.
Accordingly it should be a political goal of the Republican Unity project to both define and secure such a mandate as a tangible expression of the sovereign democracy envisaged by the 1916 Proclamation. The mandate must be defined in terms of its democratic integrity and not simply in terms of electoral percentages.
Regardless of the democratic or electoral wishes of the Irish people concerning the future of Ireland British intentions will be governed by British interests. By default Irish interests, unionists included, are subordinate and wholly dependent on British intentions. Global events concerning the balance of power between the nuclear states, economic trends, oil and natural resources all play a part in discerning British interests in Ireland. The British are not a neutral party here. To elicit from the British a declaration of their long term intentions toward Ireland challenges that claimed neutrality and exposes the constitutional question to greater political clarity for all concerned. This is politically destabilising to the status quo. The 32CSM argue that the pursuit of such a declaration is a democratic imperative because British Parliamentary activity in Ireland has no democratic basis. The 32CSM propose that the Republican Unity project attain such a declaration and that the theme of our commemorations for 2016 should be ‘Irish Democracy For The Irish People’.
Unionism pledges loyalty to an establishment it will never trust. It has forgone a democratic future for its people and tentatively secured an electoral arrangement for its political dominance based on a sectarian headcount. Its future is now dependent on statistics most of which are beyond its control or influence. Nothing of their identity or ethos is promoted to defend the Union because they realise that the British establishment are indifferent to it. Unionists know that the greatest threat to the Union is not Dublin but London. Republicans need to engage unionism on its right to its identity but that its democratic future lies within an Irish Democratic Framework. The society which that framework fashions will be as much of unionist design as any other. It should be the political goal of republicans to formally engage unionism to secure a Unionist Green Paper on a post partition Ireland.
It is the contention of the Dublin Government that the Constitutional Question is resolved and its actions conclude that constitutional change therein need not be pursued. As republicans we refute this and proffer our arguments accordingly but we nonetheless address the claim as it is made. An examination of the claim could conclude that what Dublin is actually conceding to be resolved is the mechanism which allows for constitutional change to come about. With Dublin’s declared preference for a unitary state this interpretation would mean that constitutional change can and should be pursued on the basis of their declared preference. It is important to note that calls from other GFA signatories on Dublin to prepare a Green Paper on unity were dismissed as a red herring precisely because those calls came from within the GFA framework. Republicans are not bound by any such restrictions and are better placed to argue for movement from Dublin on the issue of Irish unity. The Republican Unity project should challenge Dublin to prepare a Green Paper on Irish Unity for 2016 on the grounds of their own declared preference, the democratic deficit of British Parliamentary activity in Ireland and the necessity of unionist input into a post partition Ireland.
Republican Centenary Commemorations
The connective sinew for this immense body of work is the annual timeframe between now and the centenary of 1916. Republicans should use each intervening annual Easter commemoration as a target date for incremental achievement and review. The Republican Unity project, acting on its successful 2007 Bodenstown commemoration, should organise unified commemorations each Easter with a view to each being a rehearsal for the centenary event. 2016 is not an end but a watershed and a beginning.
The 32CSM thus outlines the following political objectives to be pursued and attained by 2016.
- A democratic republican mandate.
- A British Declaration of its long term intentions toward Ireland.
- From sustained Unionist engagement a Unionist Green Paper on Irish unity.
- From sustained All Ireland campaigning A Dublin Green Paper on Irish unity.
- A combined Republican Socialist commemoration for the Centenary celebrations of the 1916 Easter Rising.
This is one view within the republican family but it is a formatted and presented view. It is a view to positive political activity to advance republicanism. It is not set in stone because by its nature it is a work in practice. It challenges nothing that we do not want to have challenged and it challenges everything that we need to challenge. The crossroads at which republicanism now finds itself is not just a matter of choosing the right direction but understanding that how we choose itwill impact considerably on the direction we eventually take. History and theory are not enough. We must away to work.
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