Republican Democrats

The following brief copy was written after Easter for the Fourthwrite website and posted on July 4 @

Easter Sunday 2011 has come and gone. We are fifty years closer to a united Ireland than we were fifty years ago. In fifty years from now we will be fifty years closer to a united Ireland than we are today. All truisms with absolutely no strategic use value whatsoever. Hardly worth the violent candle and the snuffed out lives.

If there is to be a united Ireland it will be through evolution not revolution. Republicanism has failed to make the qualitative leap that would allow for a fundamental realignment in relations between Ireland and the British state. Republicanism has failed to provide the answer to the partition question. Gutting as it is to say it, the Northern Ireland state has proved to be a viable political ensemble, republicanism a failed political entity.

Attempts to resurrect an unsuccessful armed struggle will merely compound the lack of success. While armed republicans understandably seek to use the past to legitimise their actions, there is a greater likelihood that their use of armed force in the present will delegitimise the past and hand an even greater victory to the British state than previously gained by it.

Let republicanism be democratic or not at all.


  1. 'Gutting as it is to say it, the Northern Ireland state has proved to be a viable political ensemble, republicanism a failed political entity'.

    perfectly put. Wouldn't have been possible without the Adams/McGuinness gang.

  2. This is fair comment and Martin Galvin recently implied the same thing, even if unintentionally, when he called for ALL the Republican 'Leaderships' to unite, effectively what all this means is that Republicans are all over the place and some are using violence in pursuit of deligitimising themselves because the same arguements of just cause of last resort no longer stand up. Galvin may deny that was what he had meant but, as they say, the writing is on the wall.

  3. Larry,

    With or without the Adams/McGuinness gang there was no victory to be achieved. Although no republican leaders in history were so co-opted as those two.

  4. If it hadn't have been for the Provo campaign, would the 1916 rising and the War of Independence ever have come under such intense revisionist scrutiny?

  5. Alfie,

    I doubt if they would have. I think the idea of a small group violently inflicting its perspective on the entire nation in the name of the nation without being mandated by the nation has caused much reflection on these matters. Had the Provos fought a much more limited war against state repression rather than claim to be fighting a war of national liberation the amount of revisionist probing of the two aforementioned wars would not be anywhere near as great. I think what drew revisionist ire was the notion that small self appointed bodies could assume to speak in the name of the nation. If you listen to some of the arguments presented in defence of today's activities you get a sense of how off the wall it can come across.

  6. Anthony,

    I think historical revisionism is important. Indeed many of the revisionist arguments are sound. However, many journalists who proudly embrace the revisionist moniker are as ideologically biased as the most rabid Shinner. I mean, Eoghan Harris never met a Unionist or an Israeli he didn't like. Both he and Kevin Myers lavished praise on The Year of Disappearances, Gerard Murphy's recent book about alleged sectarian killings by the Cork IRA in the 1920s, though the book was subsequently savaged by academic historians of every hue for its incredibly shoddy scholarship. And the essence of Ruth Dudley Edwards's revisionist arguments is that British imperialism wasn't as bad as others. To me, it seems that these journalists - particularly Ms. Edwards - are more interested in justifying the actions of the British empire and minimising its crimes than in writing balanced commentary on Irish politics and history.

  7. Alfie,

    revising historical accounts is fine.
    Revisionism, however, is a loaded term that resembles falsifying more than revising. Revisionism as we understand it as a conscious act of distorting history to bring it into line with the needs of the present.

    I think the same happened with Peter Harte's work on the IRA in Cork. It came under serious scrutiny after it had initially been greeted pretty positively. There is a tendency by revisionists to jump at anything that suits their needs or reinforces their prejudices.

    Myers is a very good writer and while long disagreeing with him he has made me think. He did a good piece a few weeks back on Dawkins.

    I have debated with Harris and know Ruth. I think she is much more consistent than he is.

  8. Hi Anthony,

    Could you elaborate on Peter Hart's work you mentioned? I missed any discussion on "The IRA and it's Enemies".

    I haven't read any of his other books but have one or two on my shelves.

    I believe Hart was being clear about a revision of history due to the sub-title of "Mick" which was - "The Real Michael Collins". The sub-title implied a new take on the man. I suppose it'll take me to read it to make up my own mind.

  9. Simon,

    this link might be of use to you

    I recall reading a few years back that there were serious questions raised over the scholarship in particular on the question of interviews. There might have been some allegations that the interviews did not in fact take place. But you would need to check this out. It is a while since I engaged with the discussion

  10. Anthony,

    I did read Myers's article on Dawkins a few weeks back. Apparently, he now accepts that evolution is essentially true. But, as a friend remarked to me recently, it speaks volumes about the man that we have to give him credit for accepting a scientific fact. It's like saying, "Well done, Kevin. You've finally accepted that you have an arsehole below your back. Good for you."

    Indeed, he is a gifted writer and can be very persuasive. However, a lot of what he writes is facile sophistry. What is more, he is not above the occasional cheap shot, as John A Murphy found out when he criticised the Reform Movement a few years ago. He is also prone to exaggeration; for instance, he has claimed several times that Jim Larkin pocketed union funds and then was charged with embezzlement before fleeing to America. From what I've read about Larkin, this is an outrageous smear. Firstly, Larkin was charged and imprisoned in 1910 not for taking union money for himself, but for diverting Cork dockers’ union dues to give strike pay to Dublin workers. At most he was guilty of sloppy accounting, for the union branch in Cork had not been set up formally. It was a trumped-up charge and Larkin's imprisonment was widely seen as unjust. Secondly, Larkin did not "flee" to America to escape imprisonment; he served three months in Mountjoy in 1910 for the offence. It was not until 1914 that he left for America. So when Kevin Myers makes an astonishing claim, I am often inclined to investigate it further before I accept it.

  11. Thanks Anthony. It looks like I have quite a bit to get my teeth into there with those articles. Thanks for the link. I appreciate it.

  12. Alfie,

    It amazed me too that a guy so intelligent arrived at the evolution position so late in the day. But I admired his willingness to. He looked at the evidence. The evidence for evolution is so well presented that it seems impossible to refute it. Alternative explanations just don’t stand up. The theology of Intelligent Design ended up on a par with astrology. ID needs to draw its critics into the fog of theology where suddenly talking snakes and celestial fairies appear.