BY DES DALTON, CONTRIBUTOR AND PRESIDENT OF REPUBLICAN SINN FEIN
In a letter to the Gown, President of Republican Sinn Fein Des Dalton outlines his perspective on the “sectarian power blocs” of Stormont and his vision of Irish unity founded in the “Éire Nua” document.
The latest Stormont “crisis” is yet more political gamesmanship from the political class, as the DUP and UUP jockey for political hegemony of unionism while the Provisionals are content to see the Stormont Executive suspended while they create distance from any responsibility for the implementation of the British Tory Government’s austerity policies against working class communities across the Six Counties. Both sectarian power blocs are content in the knowledge that Stormont’s future is guaranteed by the British Government. While savage cuts are proposed for health, education, social welfare and public services, there is no limit to the money that the British Government are prepared to spend in propping up the sectarian Stormont regime. The British Government is pouring £860,000 into the coffers of the Stormont parties. The DUP receives over £200,000. The Provisionals get £178,000 and the SDLP brings in £127,000. This money goes directly to the parties. MLAs personally receive £5.8 million in salaries and £8.3 million in expenses. Including Westminster MPs and councillors, politicians and their parties here cost about £18 million annually. Yet there is not a word uttered by the Stormont political class about the social and economic war that is being waged on the most vulnerable people within the Six Counties.
The Six-County State is fundamentally undemocratic and intrinsically sectarian. It contrasts sharply with the vision of a pluralist and democratic Ireland contained within the Éire Nua programme for a New Ireland. Such an Ireland would draw its sovereignty and legitimacy from the Irish people themselves. Éire Nua appeals to the idealism and highest instincts of the Irish people, while the Stormont Agreement panders to the darkest forces of sectarianism. Éire Nua would bring to fruition principles of the 1916 Proclamation making the All-Ireland Republic of 1916 a reality for all sections of the Irish people. A true Republic, based on principles of religious and political freedom and the protection of human rights. A Republic that would truly “cherish all the children of the nation equally” both socially and economically.
Writing in the Irish News in December 2012, Patrick Murphy described Stormont as: “a sectarian carve-up of limited autonomy… It is designed to cater for, rather than counter, sectarian differences.” The Provisionals, having abandoned Irish Republicanism have attempted to reduce the issue of Irish freedom to a question of flags and symbols. By doing so they hope to distract from their abandonment of even a basic nationalist, let alone, a Republican position. In 2009 Vincent Browne in his nightly TV3 programme put it clearly. He said in effect that the nationalist view had been rejected and the unionist position had been accepted. The nationalist standpoint was that the people of Ireland as a whole should determine the future of Ireland. He continued: “the Unionist position was that the majority in the Six Counties should decide the future. We have all become unionists.”
Having abandoned Republicanism the Provisionals have embraced sectarianism as the means to consolidate their power base. As Patrick Murphy points out: “with few modern writers, philosophers or even poets saying much about the Irish nation, nationalism in the north has degenerated into what we might call quantitative sectarianism. It uses a sectarian inch tape to quantify the frequency of flag flying, the number of Catholics in the census results and the volume of music from Orange bands. Unionism is delighted to hold the other end of the British-made tape.” It is working class Protestants now who are the enemy, not the British Government or establishment Provo leaders who queue up to shake hands with the Queen of England while stoking the flames of sectarian conflict.
There is a clear and credible alternative to this cycle of sectarianism. We believe that Éire Nua provides the basis for a New Ireland capable of accommodating all sections of the Irish people. Speaking in University College on January 28, 2008, Ruairi Ó Brádaigh, one of the architects of Éire Nua explained the philosophy which underpinned Éire Nua: “we do not want to back the Unionists on to a cliff-edge politically where they will oppose us all the more. Neither do we seek to have them as a permanent and disgruntled political minority in one corner of Ireland. Besides, the proposals outlined would be more in keeping with the ideas of Wolfe Tone and Thomas Davis.” Republicans such as Ó Brádaigh took this very seriously: “During the 1970s, soundings were taken with every shade of unionism to obtain reactions. The result in all cases was similar. “What would they do if the British did disengage from Ireland?”.
First choice was an independent Six Counties. We did not think that would be viable. In that case all said they would opt for our “four provinces idea” as the “most generous on offer”. As recently as September 2007, a delegation from the Ulster-Scots Society at a seminar in Donegal town reacted in the same manner: “provincial government” is what interested them. When the Adams-McGuinness faction declared Éire Nua to be merely “a sop to Unionists” and got the 1981 Ard-Fheis of Sinn Féin to drop it as a policy, and a subsequent Ard-Fheis to delete all reference to a federal Ireland from the Sinn Féin constitution, Ruairí Ó Brádaigh and Dáithí Ó Conaill stood down from the the leadership. They were not going to renege on something they had created and in which they believed passionately. Following the breaching of the Sinn Féin constitution by Adams-McGuinness in 1986 the newly reorganised Republican Sinn Féin redrafted and republished Éire Nua. It has remained a core policy since and has been supplemented by the SAOL NUA Social and Economic Programme. Apart from providing a solution to the Ulster situation, these proposals would bring power nearer to the people and help to correct east-west economic imbalance nationally. Republicans submit that such structures will be necessary to ensure justice for all, including the 18% of the national population who have supported the unionist position.
Former loyalist public representative David Adams, writing in the Irish Times on 3rd December 2009, criticised the failure of nationalist or republican Ireland to propose a blueprint for a united Ireland. He wrote: “clarity is what the people of Northern Ireland (sic) need. Those who believe that, if it comes to it, the six Northern counties could simply be tacked on to the Republic (sic), and Unionists would fit neatly in with a 32-County version of how things are in the South at present, are kidding themselves. That would be a recipe for perpetual instability across the island.” He criticised the Provos (Adams and McGuinness) for having no more than a half-baked notion of how to get a united Ireland, and then declared: “in fairness to Sinn Féin (sic), none of the southern-based political parties has been forthcoming with anything like a detailed post-unity plan either.The Éire Nua document, authored by Ruairí Ó Brádaigh and Dáithí Ó Conaill in the 1970s, remains the only serious bid by any strand of nationalism or republicanism to address the issue at all”.
There is also another major element emerging. The Scots, Welsh, Cornish and even English nationalities or nationalisms are asserting themselves once more. The ties which bind the “Union” are fraying, a certain momentum is building up and we all need to be planning for a better future. What better basis on which to build than a free, united, federal Ireland of over six million people? The core value of Éire Nua is power to the people and that places it in opposition to the over-centralised modern states, even some nominally federal states. As we have seen in recent times, many states now play a subservient role to the interests of the faceless people of big business and international capital while governments run scared before powerful media corporations. Such states and their governments thus betray the interests of their own citizens. We humbly submit that Éire Nua provides a far brighter future for all of the Irish people, providing real All-Ireland political, social and economic democracy.