Wednesday, November 30, 2005


'What If'? Wednesday - Republican party

Permit me to put this question to you:

What if we had a truly republican party in Ireland?

First off do you feel that we do have a truly republican party in Ireland at present? If you don't think so and are of the view that no party measures up to the values espoused by Wolfe Tone and the United Irishmen, how do you feel a party which did espouse these values would do?

There is a good article in the Irish News by Brian McCaffrey, that you can read
here, which examines how a range of parties now claim to be the true voice of 'republicanism'.

McCaffrey analyses the claims made by the various parties. He mentions comments made by Fianna Fáil leader Bertie Ahern who spoke of the need for the Irish people to "reclaim the spirit of 1916, which is not the property of those who have abused and debased the title of republicanism".

McCaffrey goes on to quote comments made by Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny:

"Today's Sinn Féin merely offers outdated and discredited policies, and an approach to politics that only serves as a warning to the present generation of the risks associated with a flirtation with a party that shares nothing but the wording of the party founded by Griffith and none of the true republican idealism of Collins."

McCaffrey notes the claim made by the SDLP's Mark Durkan that his party reflects "true republicanism":

"Those of us that share in the true republican ideals of unity among Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter must stand against those that would denigrate and degrade those ideals in a rush for domination over other traditions."

Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly has also gotten in on the act for good measure:

"People will not be fooled by what Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the SDLP are trying to do.

"They chose to ignore the ideals of republicanism for decades and are now trying to rebrand themselves for political gain."

The problem with analysing republicanism in Ireland is that the very term 'Republican' takes quite a different meaning in this island of ours in contrast to our friends overseas.

Over on
Raiméis, Gerry O'Sullivan eloquently described the problems:

"I used the term ‘nationalist’ reluctantly, as like yourself, I wouldn’t describe myself as a nationalist. However it is recognised as a shorthand term for those of us who advocate a united Ireland by peaceful means.

"The Irish use of the terms ‘Republican’ and ‘Nationalist’ is arseways, imo. Sinn Féin is a classic example of an ethnic nationalist movement. Republicanism in its most definitive sense is an inclusive ideology, something SF manifestly is not.

"I would much prefer to describe myself as a republican, but I don’t want to be mistaken for a SF supporter."

Gerry is spot on. I share his discomfort with the Irish terminology. I class myself and this blog as nationalist - however I am in favour of a United Ireland which gives respect to Britishness. That is another nationality. I favour protecting people of all races, colours and creeds. Am I therefore a Republican? To me, the word 'Republican' conjures up images of close-minded people who prefer to drape themselves in Irish tricolours rather than extend the hand of friendship to others. What about my position on issues like rejoining the commonwealth? Personally I think such a move would be of benefit to Ireland and I don't necessarily mind a United Ireland having a link to the British crown. That must surely disqualify me from being a Republican? Then again, Sinn Féin have been recently celebrating Arthur Griffith, a man who held views like this. Indeed Eamon de Valera flirted with all kinds of ideas later in his life in an effort to convince unionists of the merits of the all-Ireland argument. Eamon O'Cuiv, grandson of de Valera, is perhaps the most well-known advocate of Commonwealth re-entry. O'Cuiv is a member of Fianna Fáil - the 'Republican party'.

Gerry summed it up nicely. The whole thing is arseways.

It's almost perverse to hear Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly accuse others of ignoring 'the ideals of republicanism' when his party has been aligned with a group that has, in the words of John Hume, committed 'sectarian genocide'.

In his article, McCaffrey mentions these interesting comments from Professor Paul Bew of Queen's University Belfast:

"Every generation of politicians that comes along tries to reinvent the traditional ideological mantle, but the reality is that things move on.

"Despite what the various leaders have said about laying claim to the title of republicanism there is no sense that anyone has gained any ground.

"The reality is that the status quo has remained the same.

"It remains to be seen who, if anyone, will win out in the end."

I think these are fair remarks. As for who will win out in the end, it's hard to say. Looking ahead into the future, and bearing in mind that things are arseways in this country, I can see a situation where nationalists succeed in achieiving an all-Ireland Republic...which will not be nationalist in character. And this all-Ireland Republic...will not prove attractive to Irish Republicans. Unionists will find this new Republic the expense of the Union. Which will lead to the creation of divisionists (those hostile to the United Ireland) and they will push for a division of Ireland...on the basis that they have been divided from Britain.

Arseways indeed.


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