Republicanism is in crisis. The British presence is
still there, the Unionists are still ruling the place,
all this for the foreseeable future. The fact that
Irish Republicanism has not been able to realise its
aims and has suffered a massive defeat is at the root
of this present crisis.
has greatly aggravated it is the fact that Provisional
Irish Republicanism has effectively integrated the
institutions that it once tried to destroy. In the
North, Sinn Féin ministers are sitting in Stormont,
and it is a matter of time before the party enters
into coalition government in the South. Far from subverting
those institutions, the participation of the Provisional
Movement makes them effectively administer British
rule and implement neoliberal policies such as closing
hospitals, promoting PFI in the field of education,
etc. Had the Provisional Movement retained any sense
of Republican principles, it would have gone into
opposition instead of taking up ministerial posts.
Rhetoric of the Provisional movement set aside, Republicanism
has de facto transformed itself into its opposite.
fact that people that once led dissent and resistance
are now being part of the problem and the status quo
against which they protested is traumatic and difficult
to get over for many. Contemporary Irish Republicanism
is at present deeply divided; there are no fewer than
four IRAs and two Sinn Feins. Those divisions show
a clear crisis as to what the way ahead is. There
is a crisis of leadership and a strategic uncertainty.
A current able to regenerate Irish Republicanism is
not yet hegemonic and is not presently capable of
transforming itself into a significant political force.
relevance and future of Irish Republicanism is also
threatened by objective factors. The 26-County state
is the legitimate Irish Republic in the eyes of the
vast majority of its citizens, and in the North an
agreement far short of a United Ireland free of British
control has the support of the greater number of the
Nationalist population. Both the "Free State"
and British Rule have relatively succeeded in making
themselves acceptable. The worst effects of the national
question have been deflected. Combined with the ability
of the British and Southern states to address people's
discontent through economic and social reforms, this
has severely undercut Irish Republicanism's potential
to develop. However, this presupposes that it is always
possible for reforms to succeed, which is highly unlikely.
Also, the level of integration of the people by the
State is never absolute, but relative and situations
are not static but dynamic. Those two factors indicate
that this situation might not remain identical in
youth of Ardoyne and those protesting against racism
and exclusion in the South are there to prove it.
But the fact that at present no significant section
of the people North and South are mobilized and the
majority of the population demobilized make the emergence
of a credible radical opposition difficult. People
are tired of politics in general, they have been betrayed
by the politicians so many times.
EU integration and globalisation are also challenges
to the traditional Republican project of establishing
a sovereign nationstate. Those are objective factors
that threaten Irish Republicanism with becoming an
anachronism and an irrelevancy if it is not able to
develop. But time and again, Irish Republicanism has
shown great ability to adapt itself to changing circumstances.
Even if it operates in difficult circumstances, its
strength and ability to regenerate are not to be underestimated.
fundamental question is whether this present conjuncture
is just a crisis of Irish Republicanism - albeit a
serious one - or its death agony. During its two hundred
years existence, Irish Republicanism has gone through
a number of crisis; but has always managed to recover
from them and go forward. The present crisis is no
different. It can be asserted with relative confidence
that in due time, Irish Republicanism will once again
arise from its ashes. Those who assert that this period
of history sees the death agony of Irish Republicanism,
as it was argued above, overestimate the ability of
the British and 26-County states to create and implement
reforms and underestimate Irish Republicanism's ability
to sustain and develop itself. However, what remains
to be seen is under what form Republicanism will re-emerge,
under a fundamentalist or a progressive one.
crisis of Irish Republicanism is perhaps less related
to objective problems than subjective ones. The fundamental
problem is that an alternative strategy and political
vision that would regenerate Irish Republicanism is
very slow to emerge. Where we can be confident is
that Irish Republicanism has proved itself to have
a progressive potential and be able to evolve. On
that basis, let us develop that vision and strategy.
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