Stormont Serves The British Rule Alone

Sean Bresnahan, a republican from Tyrone and member of the 1916 Societies, with an opinion piece on the upcoming elections to Stormont. He writes here in a personal capacity.

At present and with elections looming, there are increased suggestions republicans should assist an electoral strategy to Stormont, entering in opposition to the Sinn Fein-DUP coalition.

But with its standing at an all-time low, with scandal after scandal and its role as nodding dog of the ‘Tory Millionaire Cabinet’ clear to be seen, republicans should concentrate efforts on exposing this reactionary facade of British rule, rather than giving it a new lease of life.

Making Stormont work, by sitting in it as some form of opposition, in reality, whether intended or not, serves the British rule in Ireland and will achieve only the modernising of the British occupation system. There's an old saying which stands true to this day, 'let the Brits do their own work'.

Britain has sought to replace the old Stormont with an updated version, to include a full role for Nationalists, since the failure of Unionist majority rule, which perished with the murder of fourteen innocents in Derry’s Bogside in January 1972. The British agenda was laid out at Darlington in the September of that year, so the idea of a ‘reformed Stormont’ is as old as the collapse of its predecessor. It was and remains integral to British strategy in Ireland.

That said, the institutions later set up to maintain British rule in 1998 have already outlived their use and themselves now need updating. Thus, we've heard repeated calls for an opposition and even suggestions it should be funded as part of the official system. So republicans going into Stormont at this time, to represent their constituents supposedly in opposition to the ruling coalition, would actually feed into a wider agenda than they might realise and thus needs considered with care.

There are no shortage of republicans who say, ‘we should have listened, why didn't we listen, if only we'd listened!’ Are we going to be saying the same all over again in ten years time, in twenty? We can't afford another twenty years of partition rule and the damage it will do to our kids and their prospects. So now is the time to put faith in our own ability to create change, rather than repeat the past ad infinitum.

Green shoots are appearing for the first time in decades. As such, the focus now should be on consolidation, before spearheading an effective campaign, together, which will finally win through against British rule in our country. The same requires that we work together to set out a proper analysis of society today, showing the Irish people we are not dinosaurs but that our politics and ideas are the key to a better future, a future deserving of us all.

The Irish Republic is the point of agreement, where republicans of various hue can coalesce and in turn move forward. As such, the failed Stormont Assembly should have no part to play in the road ahead. As the middle ground between the people and British rule, to disguise the nature of that rule, it is a barrier to achieving the Republic, as a real and living thing. Thus, the effort should be to cast it aside.

A proper analysis of power, as it applies to government in the Six Counties, demonstrates clearly that power does not lie in the regional assembly at Stormont in the first instance. The recent pseudo-negotiation between the parties there has exposed as much, with Britain impressing its agenda on the talks process, facing little resistance and with those concerned unable to prevent the same. For how could they when Britain holds all cards?

With that in mind, it is surely a moribund concept that we can somehow wrestle power away from the British state through its colonial assembly. Likewise it is mistaken to suggest we can hold power to account through this forum. It is an administration and not a parliament, with power only to administer what Britain permits. So those we need make accountable do not in fact sit there, those we need influence are not impacted by goings on within that building.

The thinking involved, strategic implications aside, can be understood to an extent and may not be entirely without merit. Of course we would wish to avail of all and every platform to raise issues of concern and highlight the failings of the existing, obscenely corrupt establishment. The trouble though is the price we pay along the road.

At a time when Stormont is seen in the most negative light – across the political spectrum – it badly needs a reboot. An effective opposition within the chamber (even were it just one or two in number) could give it the edge it needs at this time, convincing enough of those sickened by the antics ongoing that we can find a use for the place after all – thus modernising partition rule, rather than speeding its demise.

It's important to see this from a strategic viewpoint, basing our argument on the same rather than appeals to traditionalist theology or cries of ‘sell out’. The bottom line is that for such a strategy to proceed with support from republicans – indeed should it ever – the specifics of its intentions, what it hopes to achieve and how it relates into the wider republican effort should all be laid out and guaranteed. Only at that point can people make an informed decision as to its worth.

Those intending to proceed with the idea coming to the fore at this moment, of building a cross-border 'Independent Bloc' to include republicans sitting in Stormont, need to spell out what it is they believe can be achieved and how. In doing so, they should likewise be prepared to address the legitimate concerns of those who question the political worth of the imagined gains, vis-a-vis those that will accrue to the British occupation system.

From my own perspective, I am not adverse to discussion on these matters and respect the right of others to their opinion. I do though believe there has not been a discussion, certainly not among republicans, and would promote as much as of utmost necessity at this time and before we head down the wrong path all over again. One other point worth noting is that an 'Independent Bloc' of itself is not the issue and can be progressive in its own right. The issue here is the sitting in Stormont.

For me personally, supporting an electoral strategy to Stormont, in this moment and along the lines suggested, will impact on efforts to build a grassroots movement towards Irish Unity. For if we truly believe in building such a thing then why veer off on a tangent and why afford recognition to an institution, by proxy or however, whose strategic purpose is to thwart the same? Irish republicanism demands an end to Stormont, so how the two fit together is difficult to see and has not been explained.

That aside, while many republicans have appealed for a conversation on the issue, there seems no-one willing to spell out what they actually feel can be achieved, likewise the mechanics involved. This of itself raises further questions but regardless, there is, as said, a clear and pressing need for open and honest discussion on the matter, between and within the wider republican family.

There is nothing mischievous or such to enquire after the same, not when the record of the last eighteen years demonstrates how republicans, many with good intent, time and again become absorbed by this system in futile and foolish, ultimately self-defeating, efforts to cheat the establishment from within.

That old mantra spoken of at the outset, ‘let Britain do her own work’, is as relevant now as before, perhaps even more so given all at stake. For those suggesting otherwise, they might set out clearly what they hope to gain and why republicans should endorse their efforts. To do otherwise brings into question the entire initiative, given how republicans themselves are being asked to help shoulder the workload. As such, it is far from an unreasonable request.

Again for me, the issue is not necessarily republican theology but the strategic impact and outworking of where this leads and ends. If going into Stormont affords merely a higher platform to shout at the DUP and Sinn Fein but in return stabilises the British rule, then we must seriously question the idea of this. Giving a ‘black eye’ to Sinn Fein is not the sum of the republican struggle, our enemy sits in London and we must keep our eye on the ball.

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

19 comments to ''Stormont Serves The British Rule Alone"


  1. There are no shortage of republicans who say, ‘we should have listened, why didn't we listen, if only we'd listened!’ ..................

    Aint that the truth Sean. James Connolly said "

    "If you remove the English army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organization of the Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain. England would still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs"

    And today in 2016 in the 26C's people are WAITING FOR THE SHERIFF....

    The six counties are as bad and will get worse now SF signed up to Tory Welfare Reform...

    Why people bother wasting their time on voting is beyond me....


  2. Now Sean wants to follow the blueprint of The House of Commons by having an opposition in the Assembly!

    At least I think that's what he means....

    He seems to completely discredit it then demand it's reformation!

    " From my own perspective, I am not adverse to discussion on these matters and respect the right of others to their opinion. "

    Utter shite, he can't stand anyone having a different opinion than him, and this incoherent article aside has no real plan for an alternative.


  3. Steve,

    I sense a carry over of hostility from the previous exchange between you and Sean. Is goading really the way to press home your point? We know that this is only likely to lead to the type of discussion on Pauline Mellon's piece which was only pulled back from slang by the intervention of Christy and Gerry.

  4. As the man says Steve, say nothing 'til ye hear more. Thanks for carrying the piece Anthony, I hope it helps speed debate on this issue, whether here or somewhere elsewhere. GRMA

  5. AM

    Perhaps, but the point stands. It seems a bit odd that someone being so against the British state now wants to introduce a House of Commons style Opposition in the Assembly which he so clearly despises as being there only to 'Modernise British Rule in Ireland'.

    I suppose it is better than standing on the fringes of society with a major chip on your shoulder that the armed campaign is over....though quite why someone who likes to criticize the Shinners for administering British rule via the Assembly now wants to modernise that arena so it is more Westminster-like is baffling, if not downright hypocritical.

    Like I said, incoherent.

  6. Rather than continue to snipe every chance you get Steve it'd probably be best to just let it go. Let it go man, it's starting to look like your developing a fixation

  7. I'm afraid I will not be silenced Sean, your obviously illogical viewpoint needs to be highlighted lest the unwary fall for your rhetoric.

    I notice you can't refute what I say either.

  8. Keep trolling buddy, winning or losing whatever battle's going on in your mind is honestly of no concern to me. Slán

  9. A Sheáin,
    Good effort, well argued.
    Subtle enough to require a few readings to be fully appreciated.
    Why bring up Stormont if it is not an ideal position.
    Surely the debate is not between a Bloc that includes Stormont and one that aspires to a pan-national ideology. Surely the debate is between the 'Bloc' and local grounds up embryonic democracy.
    Le meas.

  10. Kevin a chara, I sent a response this morning which for whatever reason never appeared. I still have it saved so will make use of it now as it deals in part with what you're hinting towards. To clear up any confusion elsewhere, the piece does not call for anything of the sort as suggested by Steve. Indeed the purpose of the article is to critique the very idea he accuses it of supporting, i.e. entering Stormont as some form of opposition. Personally, I agree with developing Dixie's idea of empowering our own structures OUTSIDE the state and at whatever level we can establish them on an incremental basis. This is where we need to be looking and not Stormont. Indeed a contributor to the discussion elsewhere is writing up a piece on this same concept as we speak, as we hope to keep this debate going and expand on it. Our intent is to take whatever dynamic we can from the discussion thus far and thrash out accompanying ideas going forward. I've no doubt TPQ will help towards that end. All that aside, Steve's increasing petulance seems more a reflection of a need to win some perceived battle in his mind than anything else. The bitterness is starting to ooze now and I see him resort to trolling as a result. Let him run on, par for the course I suppose and maybe it makes him feel better after a long day, who knows. Regardless, I look forward to continuing the discussions that have emerged in recent weeks, most of them offline it should be said but I thank TPQ for their contribution no matter. It has helped more than might be realised and has been integral to how things have moved forward, again most of that taking place away from the site and the Internet itself but still dependent on that original spark, ignited from here, which itself was crucial. So once again, go raibh míle mhaith agat a Antoin. Let the trollers troll but it hardly matters in the greater scheme of things. Oiche mhaith...

  11. Now who's deflecting Sean? Ad hominen the only response?

    Clearly you've thought this through!

  12. That said and as I suggested in response to your original invective, let it go man, this is fast becoming ridiculous. Take a walk in the park if needs be but stop obsessing. Not only is it unbecoming but it gets you nowhere when all's said and done

  13. Steve, aside from the fact you've no right to accuse anyone of 'ad hominem attacks' (being the ad hominem attacker yourself), you clearly have nothing to offer this debate and are simply trolling me. There should be a rule regards this type of thing and I recall mention of it before when another character was warned for using the same tactics. That said and as I suggested in response to your original invective, let it go man, this is fast becoming ridiculous. Take a walk in the park if needs be but stop obsessing. Not only is it unbecoming but it gets you nowhere when all's said and done

  14. Only the fascist fears free speech Sean.

    I see above, you have changed your tack somewhat. Now you are wanting to 'empower your own structures outside the State'.

    Like a separate police or judicial system? Or another armed group?

    I am deadly serious Sean, calling me a troll just highlights your deflection and yet again you have suggested censorship on this site...'There should be a rule regards this type of thing '

    I am asking directly, what 'structures' are you wanting to empower?

  15. I have no wish to proceed with a debate with you Steve, seeing little point having noted you are now actively trolling me, for which the site host pulled you at the outset. And for the record there is no obligation, whether here or wherever, to put up with or answer to trolls. So this comment is addressed to the site readership instead, just to avoid the inference I'm unable to answer your remarks.

    Firstly, I have not changed tact. You've grabbed a hold of something in error, selectively reading a partial sentence without reading it entire and thus missing its central point: by entering Stormont as an opposition we help modernise the rule and thus bolster its standing. You definitely cannot disagree with that analysis, given that you've actually hung your coat on it.

    Secondly, by way of alternative and rather than to enter Stormont (and thus the state), we should aim to empower whatever structures independent of that state as can be put in place, working on a progressive basis going forward. It could begin with a simple street committee, roll into a voluntary community council and so on. Such grassroots institutions can be used to help meet the basic needs of the community where possible and in turn to pressure the state, which of course will continue to exist. I just don't see any sense joining it when it blocks the changes we require and itself can only be strengthened by our presence - even in opposition. Indeed the central thesis of the article is that such opposition actually serves the rule instead of weakening it (which you have readily seconded throughout your 'contributions').

    Thirdly, those who talk about fascism, while ignoring that 'democracy' as practiced by Britain in Ireland centres on the Bloody Sunday's, the Dublin-Monaghan's, the Omagh's and now indeed, as we've learned over the course of recent days, the Shankill's (and God only knows what else), should simply avoid bandying about such terms. This is the second time Steve has attempted this method to shout others down, supposedly to protect this cherished 'free speech'.

    All that said, I don't see what is to be gained by a further interaction with this Steve character, who is motivated by rage at this point and is clearly trying to win whatever silly argument he believes in his head is going on, trying to claim a wee victory for himself on some sort of technicality. I've better things to be at so if he wants to critique my ideas on structures beyond the state let him write a piece criticising the themes involved instead of trying to get at me on a personal level. I'm heading to Derry shortly so good day to anyone still following this

  16. If I am mistaken, then I apologize to you Sean. I may have been hasty with my irritation due to your post about me on a previous thread which you insinuated I slandered a greaving Omagh family member, of which I did no such thing.

    For the record I have never once sought to stifle debate here, it seems to me that you get very upset when questions are asked of your 'plan', but what are you here for if not to debate it?

    You have better things to be at then? I hope you are working out how this idea of 'outside of the state' structures is going to be funded? Hope you have deep pockets.

    The truth of the matter is however much you hate it, the Assembly is the best mode of governance that is available at the present time. It is far from perfect, but suggesting dividing communities by having structures that are 'extra to the state' serves only to undermine it, and will invariably lead only back toward conflict.

    Moreover, you will also create instant friction within communities by having 'voluntary councils' as what will happen is that disputes brought to these councils between two parties will result in the losing party seeking legal recourse through the 'State', potentially out of spite.

    How do you cope with that? How do you enforce it?

    Seems a very basic question Sean.

  17. Steve, you are clearly picking things up wrong when you allege you were accused of slandering an Omagh widow. What I actually said and asked was that if you were going to dismiss my account regards Omagh, on the basis it was reactionary and fascist and all while ignoring the multitude of evidence already in the public domain, then you would need to do likewise as regards Kevin Skelton's account, which mirrored my own.

    So I asked you a question, which was are you going to likewise dismiss Kevin Skelton's allegations, that Omagh was prompted by the state to serve its own war aims and agenda, as reactionary and fascist as you did with mine? Nowhere where you accused of anything. As you've done again on this thread you've simply picked something up to suit yourself and ran with it relentlessly and regardless of the fact you have, in your obvious irritation, proceeded from a false premise to begin with.

    As regards your lateral contribution, as I've already made clear I've no wish to play silly games with those who set out to troll me in their 'irritation'. Go and write an article critiquing the idea of voluntary participatory street committees and community councils and get it published here on TPQ. Sin é

  18. In terms of Derry and the likes of Anne McCloskey, this is about more than giving the Shinners a black eye though, It's about giving the people in Derry an alternitive voice, something which is not only badly needed, but which the city is crying out for. What better way to channel that frustration and use it for a force of good, than to hand it to someone who's heart is in the community, who hears that frustration day in daily.

    Far from bolstering Stormont, a genuine voice of dissent will show up it's inadequacies, just how badly it is failing. All you have to do is look at the city plight to get a rehabilitation center, or the lack of job and investment etc.

    Everyday that the people's voices go unheard, the more the apathy grows, people grow more desperate and disillusioned. We have to start to fight back, to grow the vehicles of transition.

    To do that we have to use every platform, however unsavoury

  19. All you will succeed in doing is to convince people a use for Stormont exists after all, that their interests can be represented within that chamber if we only vote for 'our people'. We both know they can't, that the institution of itself does not serve any such purpose, instead being only a facade to disguise the nature of the British rule, which stems from London and not Stormont.

    There is no reason why republicans should view this place as somewhere we can 'grow the vehicles of transition'. Jim Gibney told me pretty much the same thing 18 years ago, appealing that the opportunities afforded at Stormont be employed to effect a wider strategy. We know where that ended.

    That aside, this will channel discontent into the safety net of voting for an Independent - who cannot change anything anyway, as you already admitted elsewhere. And it should be realised that this, indeed, is not only what Britain wants at this time, it's what it NEEDS at this time, with the reputation of Stormont in the gutter.

    This can quickly become yet another mistake on the part of republicans if we don't proceed from the correct analysis. Stormont is designed as the middle-ground between the people and the rule, to give the veneer of local accountability to a process fully shaped from London, hiding London's role in the rule. As such we have no business there and must work to tear down the facade, not give it a new lease...


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