When RTÉ puts on a special programme about a united Ireland, you know that big changes are underway. The partition of Ireland is now under question. RTÉ, however, has a distinct agenda and that was exemplified in one dramatic incident.
After Gregory Campbell had left the screen, Joe Brolly, a former footballer, cut to the heart of the matter by claiming that the DUP was a sectarian, racist and homophobic party. Instead of talking about identity, he talked about the politics of the DUP’s unionism. And he was 100% correct. Campbell has, for example, claimed that homosexuality is ‘an evil, wicked, abhorrent practice. My opposition to that is based on the Bible’.
Yet as soon as Joe Brolly spoke, Claire Byrne shut him down. She denounced him, leapt to the defence of the absent Campbell and turned him off. In brief, censored him.
This extraordinary incident occurred because the RTÉ’s agenda – repeated several times by most of the participants – was to focus on ‘understanding identities’. The implication is that we need to go through a few decades of getting to know each other, working the Belfast Agreement before there could be a border poll.
The Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin said ‘we should not have target dates’ but work on ‘diverse relationships’. The Fine Gael leader had a similar response. ‘We’ in the South had to have a long ‘conversation’ about what are ‘we’ willing to do to accommodate a British identity.
Two key assumptions lay behind this discourse. The first is that partition arose out of competing identities and so ‘dialogue’ and ‘understanding’ is first required. Historically, this is simply untrue.
British Tories and Irish Unionists divided the country to help shore up an empire. The boundaries of the Northern state were dictated by the need for a Protestant majority. For all the justification of partition as respecting ‘minority rights’, the Northern state was constructed to crush other ‘minority rights’.
Once established it cemented sectarian identities. It fossilised and created artificial cultural divisions. Thus, Unionism is supposed to be based on a ‘British identity’ yet the Britain of its cultural imagination has long since disappeared. Few British people, for example, actually see the Queen as a defender of the Protestant faith.
The plain reality, as Joe Brolly pointed out, is that the Tory upper class loathe the DUP. They are simply pawns to be used and discarded when necessary – as the Irish Protocol demonstrates. The real ‘identity’ of the DUP is right-wing fundamentalism linked to a nostalgia for empire.
The second assumption is that Irish unity will be created by a dialogue initiated by the Southern political establishment. Yet this is the very grouping who have benefitted from partition, cementing their political base through the carnival of reaction that followed.
They have nothing to offer in real material terms to Protestant workers whose living standards have worsened. They cannot create a National Health Service. They cannot house people in need. They preside over terrible public services. And all because they want to preserve their status as a global tax haven for big business. All they can talk about is ‘accommodating identities’ and postponing a border poll.
The most disappointing aspect of the show was Mary Lou McDonald’s performance. On several occasions, Claire Byrne pointed out that she and Leo Varadkar held similar views. This is partially because Varadkar has pivoted Fine Gael away from the overt Unionism of his predecessors. But it was also because Mary Lou McDonald now accepts that the agency to end partition is the Southern state and that a long period of planning and preparatory dialogue is required.
Nobody pointed out that a border poll is simple democratic demand. That it should not be postponed like the way Repeal was until it was forced on the establishment. That a British overlord should not be able to determine when it takes place. Or that the way to win such a poll is to cut through the talk about fixed identities and propose an Ireland that involves a radical overthrow of two rotten states in order to benefit working people, whether they are Catholic, Protestant or Dissenter.
What nonsense is this Kieran? “it was also because Mary Lou McDonald now accepts that the agency to end partition is the Southern State and that a long period of planning and preparatory dialogue is required.”
Of course the Irish Republic is the agency to end partition it is the democratically elected government.After the next election Sinn Fein will be that government, either on their own or in a coalition.
Two years ago speaking as a delegate at our Sinn Fein Ard Feis I expressed doubts about, if the eventuality arose, Sinn Fein joining a coalition that included the Socialist Workers Party and the Socialist Party because both these parties had with the DUP opposed the Good Friday Agreement and to compound that stupidity also supported the DUP and the Tories in the Brexit vote.
I might add that I have doubts about your repositioning where you now state that The Troubles as they were called between 1916 /1922 was a revolution that failed.That most certainly was not the position of the IS/SWP that I was a leading member of in London in the 1970’s.But then I supported the armed struggle then and do not have to engage in any dialectical gymnastics as you do.
It would seem to me that if it was “a failed revolution in 1922 then the IRA and there political wing were the logical continuity of that struggle in 1970.The inheritors of James Connelly.GPO REPUBLICAN SOCIALISTS
You also say that you disagree with the idea “that a long period of planning and preparatory dialogue is required” It seems to me that you miss the point entirely. T he debate which has started is about the nature of the new Irish state . Above all a secular state where the most progressive elements of each state will be the benchmark to be improved on.e.g A National Health System as in the North but not the one the Tories gutted .Free education at 3rd level and religion a private matter removed from the organs of the state.
A referendum is the end product of this debate an affirmation of the discussion, as was the abortion referendum.This is not about how long is a piece of string ” a long period of planning” .You are trying to give the impression that the Shinners are going soft and the SWP are stepping in to fill the republican breech. I can see the placards WE WANT A REFERENDUM AND WE WANT IT NOW.
It seems to me as if with you Kieran it is all tactics and building the party.A real Republican Socialist demands more you have to have your heart in it as well.
You say that “a border poll is a simple democratic demand”.wrong it is a right within the GFA which you opposed.
When before Brexit, which has changed everything as it is now the dynamic for Irish unity within the European Union, we in Sinn Fein were conducting small polls along the border affirming and demanding the right, as written in the GFA you nor the SWP were not there, I have no doubt that the SWP and The Socialist Party (who as Militant were always a unionist pary) jeered at our demand for a border poll as a futile exercise. .Now that it is a “hot” item you are jumping in. You remind me of the French Socialist who seeing the mass of people going by his window exclaimed “there go my people I must lead them”
” border poll is a SIMPLE DEMOCRATIC DEMAND” jesus what planet are you living on?.
Hardly simple and the unionist working class would not consider it democratic and a demand sounds like an ultimatum.What I am saying is that all of this stuff is pure rhetoric.
I n your last paragraph the rhetoric is even more distilled. The SWP is now The Fenian Party fighting the good fight against those catholic Home Rulers ” that it should not be postponed like Repeal was until it was forced on the establishment.The SWP are now both Fenians and marching into the GPO with James Connelly.
To bring it up to the present we have a ringing declaration “That a British overlord should not be able to determine when it [the referendum] takes place”Go on ye boy ye go on youre the bull youre the bull (a reference to the film The Field for those of a more literary bent)
We end with with a ringing declaration from Wolfe Tone “whether they are Catholic, Protest or Dissenter.”
All we need now is to declare that when Willie Cummings got shot up in the car with Seamus Costello by the Stickies coming back from Waterford that it an SWP active service unit
If Eamonn Mc Cann was to read this speech at Free Derry Corner you would swear he had joined Sinn Fein rather than endlessly giving out about them.
As a republican socialist from the 70’s (SWP/IRSP and a member of SINN FEIN from the 80’s to the present) I feel a bit like Joe Higgins when Bertie Ahern declared himself to be a socialist.Joe a Militant td,- in labour and then expelled from labour with the others in the militant tendency – had not been in Leinster House when Bertie said this. When Joe came back he said that when he heard Bertie had declared himself a socialist he felt that Bertie had got into his wardrobe and robbed him of all his clothes.
I think Kieran is trying to raid a few Republican wardrobes
Also Kieran does not seems to want to win a referendum as he will not accept yes votes unless they are socialist.The debate about the nature of the new United Ireland is vital but it is not a precondition as Kieran appears to intimate.People will vote yes for many different reasons.
We have for the first time a chance to have a left alternative government and get rid of FF/FG.I cannot at the moment see the SWP being part of such a government as their socialist vision is far too narrow and sectarian.
A good start might be if they could get their sister party in England to get their finger out of their arse and do some real work on getting the Brits out of Ireland.
For far too long, since the hunger strike in fact, the English SWP has used token articles from the Irish SWP as a cover for their total failure to say, never mind do, anything on Ireland.It is to the disgrace to both parties but in particular to the Irish SWP and Kieran Allen in particular that this was allowed to happen.
It ha been said since the Brexit referendum that before it nobody anticipated the trouble it would cause in Ireland.As this outcome was plain to see from ireland why were Eamonn Mc Cann and Kieran Allen ,inter alia, not pointing this out to their English comrades and as an All Ireland political party taking their own political line on this
The relationship seems to have been more neo colonial than socialist republican