The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Fitting Ireland Into Foreign Moulds

Paul Dunne

The other day, while inflicting on myself the latest gushings from Ireland's small crew of "bloggers" (it can be a dirty job, but someone has to do it), the following piece of pomposity caught my eye:

"Sinn bloody Féin, with their standard stale rhetoric tweaked to suit the occasion. Aonghus Ó Snodaigh, a Shinner whose thuggish visage I particularly detest, started his speech in Irish, saying that this was a great day because the whole island of Ireland stood together in opposition, and I twitched in disgust. How dare he hijack this criminal war for his outmoded, pathetic nationalist ideals?"

Ach, ja: West Britain is alive and well. I suppose "West Britain" is a bit harsh, since our writer doesn't appear to be Irish. But note how she feels entitled to lay down the law to us nonetheless. Note as well that, while it's alright for *some* to comment on this "criminal war", not least our friend here, and -- dare I say it? -- even "hijack it" to serve their own ideological ends, God forbid that Paddy should even *think* of doing the same. One law for them, another for us. Same as it ever was in Ireland. It's our own fault of course, though that doesn't make it any easier to bear. If this were merely the rantings of one stranger, it wouldn't be so bad. But it is symptomatic of the state of modern Ireland, a place ruled by the will of anonymous foreigners, whether of the left or right.

From the PDs to the SWP, solving Irish problems in an Irish way has never been less popular. For example, we are told by leftists that Gerry Adams shouldn't have meet Mr. Bush in Washington recently (a bizarre mirror-image of the media spin before the visit, that Mr. Bush would refuse to shake Adams's hand?). Forget about the continuing crisis in the peace process, forget about the US government's important role in same -- Iraq must take precedence over Ireland. Business as usual. What marks the Irish left and right, brings them together, is their diminution of and contempt for the Irish national struggle. The right are quite happy with overlordship. If it can't be British, then they'll settle for Washington or Brussels. The left support Irish resistance only on condition that it fits into their pre-formed, "made elsewhere" mould. God forbid that we should go our own way, actually take the words "Sinn Féin" seriously. "Ourselves alone", as a slogan, is a damn sight better than "Neither Washington nor Moscow, but the Central Committee of the Socialist Workers' Party (of Britain)".

Sadly, the political parties merely reflect a broad consensus in the land. Tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people in Ireland are now making their voices loudly heard over a war which they haven't the faintest chance of averting or affecting the course of. Where were all these people when there was a war forty miles up the road, in their own country, which they had a damn site more chance of affecting? Well, some at least made their voices heard just as loudly then -- in condemning the army of the Irish Republic. National freedom is great, just so long as it's not at home. Why is this? I think at the root of it is what Malcolm X called "the slave mind". We can't do anything without the Master's nod. Everything we have is worthless, unless the Master finds it of worth. So we sneer and laugh at Irish nationalism and national ideals, because to the Master these are meaningless. We dress up like dee big Boss, wrapping ourselves in his cast-off rags and his stove-in top hat, making ourselves look ridiculous. Like a cargo cult, we wait for the hand-outs and the goodies, inventing little rituals and phrases that we hope will attract them. And so, opposition to the invasion of Iraq is legitimised for us by the fact that there is opposition in America and Britain, in the lands of the Great White Gods From Across the Sea.

And are Sinn Féin really all that different? The irony is that, for all our guest's outrage at "outmoded, pathetic nationalist ideals", there was precious little evidence of those ideals to be found in Ó Snodaigh's utterance. Not only is the rhetoric stale, but you'd be damned hard-put to it to call it *Republican* rhetoric. And it's not just him. To judge by their press releases and party paper, SF is situating itself as a left social-democratic party, presumably because that's what wins votes. Its nationalism seems rapidly to be going the way of that of Fianna Fáil before it: left in the front parlour for the odd visitor to look at, not actually used to anything. As you reap, so shall you sow. If we have no guiding principle, no definition of Irishness and what it means to be Irish, if "Irishness" is merely a matter of lifestyle choice or an accident of birth, then we shall one day find that "Ireland" is a nation no longer, but only a geographical expression. And if what seems is, then for God's sake what was all the killing about these last thirty years? "Civil rights"? I'll paraphrase a veteran Republican (I think it was the late Seán Mac Stiofáin), and say that "parity of esteem" wasn't worth killing anyone for. Excuse me if I sound naïve, but I thought the IRA were fighting for national freedom; for an Irish Ireland; for a country "united, Gaelic and free"; and all the rest of the Republican litany. Has this now been ditched as so much impedimenta? If so, then SF are indeed heading fast down the slippery slope to Stickydom, as the likes of Anthony McIntyre having been telling us for years now.

Nevertheless, I remain hopeful. The political process Sinn Féin has set in motion in the Good Friday agreement is bigger than that party, bigger than any one party or all the parties put together. By breaking the log-jam of the military stalemate, by exposing the bankruptcy of Unionism and the difficulties of an "internal settlement", it gives the Irish a chance at building a new national movement to replace the one destroyed by Truce and Treaty. If SF don't take up the challenge, then are there not others who will? For God's sake, can we not leave aside the great Irish past-time of knocking a man when he's up, leave Gerry to hob-nob with the great and good if that's what he wants, and get on with trying to build this movement? We have a long ways to go, but the longest journey starts with a single step.

But, to get back to the war. Am I not against the war myself then? Well, indeed I am. I think the sovereignty of small nations is a principle well worth defending. It's just that, when I see all this hullabaloo in the South about the the violation of Iraqi sovereignty, I wonder why that same principle isn't thought to be valid at home too. The quotation from our friend above is the epitome of all that's wrong with the anti-war movement in Ireland. To quote the same passage from Paul Mattick yet again (I won't stop until ye've all memorised it!):

"They find their inspiration not in the developmental processes of their own society but in the heroes of popular revolution in faraway countries, thereby revealing that their enthusiasm is not as yet a real concern for decisive social change."

In fact, I am perhaps being over-optimistic in presuming that the violation even of Iraqi sovereignty means anything to most anti-war campaigners. They seem rather to adhere to a simple and simple-minded pacifism, less Wolfe Tone than Boy George: "War is stupid/And people are stupid...".

Finally, to end, a quote found on the weblog of an anonymous Iraqi (whom I pray is still alive):

"the West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion but rather by its superiority in applying organised violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do."

Perhaps Paddy should take less note of his geographical location, and more of his history. He might then realise the import of those words for himself. A true opposition to this war can only start when we are willing to stand up for our own national sovereignty as well as that of others.


Read Paul Dunne's weblog, The Shamrockshire Eagle




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of 'crackpot' than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.
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Index: Current Articles

25 March 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Fitting Ireland into Foreign Moulds
Paul Dunne


Republican Not Bandit Country
Anthony McIntyre


Denigration of Heroes

Proinsias O'Loinsaigh


Dodging Double Dicks at the Freak Dance
Eoghan O'Suilleabhain


Bombing Baghdad Rather than Ankara
Anthony McIntyre


21 March 2003

War In Our Time But Not In Our Name
Anthony McIntyre


Belfast Schools Against War
Davy Carlin


Not Your Father's Socialism

Kevin Donegan


Disturbing Secrets
Liam O Ruairc



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