How Republicanism can Rebrand Itself

Guest writer Dr John Coulter is a Radical Unionist commentator and a former columnist with The Blanket. He is currently writing an e-book about republicanism as an outsider looking in. The e-book is entitled An Saise Glas (The Green Sash) The Road to National Republicanism. The chapters are being published exclusively on The Pensive Quill. In this latest chapter, he examines how republicanism can rebrand itself as a relevant and progressive ideology in the 26 Counties.

National Republicanism does not live in the mythology of history, believing tales of ambushes during the Tan War that the British war machine in Ireland can be defeated militarily.

   Means of communication within the British security forces have advanced substantially since Dan Breen sparked the War of Independence with his Soloheadbeg ambush of Royal Irish Constabulary members in 1919, an event which saw two police officers murdered.

   British and Irish security intelligence services could watch militant republicans and those republicans would not be aware they were being watched. The days of suspicious looking characters standing at street corners have been replaced by intricate satellite surveillance.

   National Republicanism recognises the cruel, brutal truth that the 26 Counties as a political experiment in being a republic has failed and the South is witnessing an export of Irish people – especially the youth – not seen since the disastrous potato famine of the 19th century.

   Republicans also need to remember that the legacy of the bloody Irish Civil War still lingers on the island. More Anti-Treaty IRA members were executed by the Free State forces than by the British during the War of Independence.

   Around two dozen were executed by the British, compared to over 70 by the Free State forces. The Ballyseedy Memorial in Co Kerry is testament to the ruthlessness of the Free State forces against the Anti-Treaty IRA, when nine members were tied to a landmine, killing eight.

   The bitter lesson republicans must understand is that a nationalist government in the South is tougher on republicans than a Unionist government at Stormont or a British Government at Westminster.

   In the Ireland of the 21st century, a Dan Breen attitude and policy against the British and Southern Irish war machines on the island simply will not work. Evidence of this can be found in the ‘start/stop’ terror campaign of the various dissident republican factions, compared to the supposed ‘long war’ strategy of the Provisionals.

   Likewise, the British and Irish war machines have the advantage of a cash flow which can afford to pay legions of informants, spies and agents to infiltrate the various republican factions.

   In spite of all the traditional republican propaganda about ‘croppies lying down’, many Irish nationalists served with distinction in the British forces in both world wars, especially the first. German machine-gun bullets did not distinguish between Unionists and nationalists on the bloody opening day of the Somme battle on 1st July, 1916.

   A few years earlier, the Home Rule crisis in Ireland had set the scene for a showdown between the Unionists’ Ulster Volunteers and the nationalists’ Irish Volunteers. When the Great War erupted in 1914, the UVF formed the bulk of the 36th Ulster Division, while many nationalists swelled the ranks of the 10th and 16th Irish Divisions.

   Across the British Empire, folk of Irish ancestry joined Commonwealth regiments, especially in Australia, Canada and New Zealand. When the United States entered the Great War in 1917, thousands of Irish-Americans were in those ranks.

   Even today, the Irish in Britain represents one of the largest ethnic communities in the UK mainland, begging the question – if Britain is such an evil nation, why do so many Irish people quit the Emerald Isle to study, work and live on the mainland?

   While the post Treaty IRA carried out numerous pogroms against the Southern Unionist and Protestant population of the 26 Counties, the centenary of the UVF’s formation has demonstrated the strong Unionist and Orange connections with the Southern Border counties of Donegal, Cavan, Monaghan and Leitrim.

   After years of decline, the Southern Protestant population is now on the rise again. National Republicanism takes full account of the influential Protestant nationalist minority in the 26 Counties. Many Protestant families who chose to remain in the 26 Counties after partition integrated themselves into the Southern political structures, especially with Fine Gael and Irish Labour.

   One of the fastest growing Christian denominations of the present decade is the Elim Pentecostal movement, founded in Monaghan in the early 1900s. The advance of Pentecostalism has come as a result of disillusionment with the Irish Catholic Church as a result of the clerical abuse scandals.

   This should not be misinterpreted that legions of Catholics are converting to Protestantism, merely that in terms of the Christian faith, many Catholics are becoming born-again believers within the Christian Pentecostal movement.

   The 1998 Good Friday Agreement has not only signalled a new era in Anglo-Irish relations with the success of many cross-Border bodies and British-Irish institutions, but has also witnessed a growth in the traditional ‘Donegal Dander’ at the coastal village of Rossnowlagh on the Saturday before the Northern Twelfth demonstrations.

   National Republicanism recognises the vital role which Southern Protestant nationalists have in the political life of the 26 Counties as well as those who still have a link to the British culture and society. Rossnowlagh is the physical embodiment of that British Irish tradition.

   Attracting a large number of spectators, the Rossnowlagh Twelfth is renowned for its family-friendly atmosphere and minimal security presence.

   Around 50 lodges from the Border counties of Donegal, Cavan, Leitrim and Monaghan, as well as visiting Orangemen from Dublin and Wicklow, Northern Ireland and further afield, take part in the parade which begins close to St John’s Parish Church.

    Accompanied by a varied selection of marching bands, the main parade then proceeds along a narrow country road as it makes its way into the seaside village and onto the demonstration field, situated in close proximity to the beach. The route is usually around a mile.

   The religious service in 2013 was conducted by the local Church of Ireland minister Rev Brian Russell. The sermon was given by Free Presbyterian cleric, the Rev Ron Johnstone, a Grand Chaplain of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland.

   Among the senior Orange brethren on the platform was the County Donegal Grand Master David Mahon, who is also an Assistant Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland.

    During the religious service, the new banner of Doorin True Blues LOL 1148 was formally dedicated. The banner – in memory of several deceased members – was unfurled by a daughter of one of the brethren, Irene Huey, who is currently the most senior Orangewoman in the United States.

    The banner unfurling marked a busy year for the Co Donegal Lodge following the recent refurbishment of its Orange hall.

    Renovations are also underway at a number of other Orange halls in the Border counties, including Ballintra and Manorcunningham.

   There are 44 Orange halls in Donegal, Cavan, Monaghan and Leitrim and the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland has members in nine counties in the Republic. National Republicanism must harness the power of this tradition rather than trying to eradicate it.
   Militant republicans can no longer compare themselves to anti-colonial terrorists, such as the butchers of the Mau Mau campaign in Kenya. Achieving the ideals of the 1916 Proclamation through violence is unattainable through violence.

   Modern republicans cannot compare themselves either to the Islamic guerrillas of the Mujahideen who forced the mighty Soviet Russian empire to withdraw from Afghanistan in the 1980s.

   National Republicanism seeks to abandon James Connolly’s atheistic Marxism in favour of Christian socialism. It should not be forgotten that after the failure of the Easter Rising, many Irish Volunteers were spat upon by the Dublin Catholic citizens as they were marched into captivity.

   It was only when British general, Bloody Maxwell, insisted on the execution by firing squad of the rebel leaders that he converted a bunch of irritating political upstarts into legendary republican martyrs.

    National Republicanism to achieve its aims within the 26 Counties needs the formation of a new political movement as none of the existing parties have the vision to carry out this ideology. A vehicle, known as the Democratic Republican Party, will be the political route.

   Although the DRP will push the concept of Christian socialism, it will also seek to disband the political influence of the Irish Catholic Church and the rapidly dwindling power of the Catholic Bishops.
   The DRP’s National Republicanism will demand an Irish Catholic Church which is independent of the Vatican. Its brand of National Republicanism is based on the concept of responsible republicanism, which puts people before pride.
   This is why a new political movement is required to champion these causes. It seeks a united island at peace rather than a united Ireland at war. It is not about abandoning republican principles, but about leaving behind outdated policies.

   National Republicanism through the vehicle of the DRP will take Ireland out of the failed European Union and into a new working relationship with the British in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. What will restore national pride in Ireland – being an EU lapdog, or an equal partner with Britain in the CPA?

   In this respect, the DRP will evolve in the same manner as the staunchly anti-EU United Kingdom Independence Party in Britain, especially under the leadership of MEP Nigel Farage. The important role of Ireland, north and south, was emphasised during an interview I conducted with Mr Farage in July 2013 during his visit to Northern Ireland.

   Nigel Farage wants to see a UKIP-style party launched in the Republic to take Ireland out of the EU. He outlined his radical views to me in my role as the Irish Daily Star’s Northern Political Columnist. A shorter version of this interview appeared in the Star on Thursday 11th July.

   The Republic needs a strong anti-EU party to take the nation out of the European Union, according to Nigel Farage MEP, the leader of the staunchly euroskeptic United Kingdom Independence Party.

   In an exclusive interview with the Star, Mr Farage said he was saddened by the fact there was no clear anti-EU party running in the Republic for next year’s European poll.

  Asked if he would like to see the equivalent of a UKIP movement formed in the Republic, Mr Farage said:

I have worked my blooming socks off in referendums in Eire and in fact when Biffo (former Taoiseach Brian Cowan) stood up and said, you know after Lisbon won, that Irish democracy had been subverted by Nigel Farage, I cheered to the rafters.

I have worked damned hard in Ireland, you know putting leaflets through doors, and all the rest of it, and at the moment I am gutted, frankly, that there doesn’t appear to be a euro sceptic list next year for the European elections.

Well, there needs to be; there really needs to be. You know, Ireland was seduced, seduced into the euro zone,  It was as plain as the nose on your face that it wasn’t going to work and they are now paying a horrible price for it. 

And I know, I mean, what is the point in fighting the British for 500 years, then giving into Herman?

   Mr Farage emphasised that he would be in favour of people in the Republic launching their own Irish Independence Party, along the lines of UKIP.

Of course I would go and speak on their platforms and support them and help them. And in the belief that I want to live, work and breathe in a modern Europe, with sovereign nations that prayed together, co-operate together, but not ones that surrender everything they have held dear to these institutions.

   But realistically, did Mr Farage genuinely believe can the UK and the Republic out of Europe?

Oh yeah, good Lord yeah.  I mean you know we are seeing the fightback now, the establishment, the CBI, people with peerages and knighthoods already, all telling us that the status quo must be defended and the sky would fall in if anything changed, but there is a growing tidal wave of public opinion that says we don’t want this, and I am very proud of the fact that UKIP have been the major lead supporters.”

   But the question still remained, what was the alternative to the EU if the UK and Ireland left? Would the Republic be formed to rejoin the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association to survive.

   Mr Farage said:

Well, I am very pro the commonwealth and I am very pro to the wider concept of an English speaking world who share common law, similar contract law, friendships that go back in many cases centuries.

So I am very, very pro that. I think the important emphasis we have to get across to people is that we will go on buying and selling, which is between our firms and Europe, regardless of whether we are in a  political union or not.
This idea that if , you are not part of the union all trade ceases is nonsense; that’s the most important nut we’ve got to crack and I think what we have to show is the positive message.  I don’t favour just going for one alternative. I favour a broader Swiss-style approach which says we’re free, you can negotiate. UKIP will be tackling some of those themes in the future.

   However, UKIP was clearly viewed as a British party. In terms of UKIP being on this island of Ireland as a whole, where did Mr Farage see his party fitting in in terms of the overall structure of Irish politics?  He said:

The overall structure of Northern Irish politics has changed so fundamentally in the last 20 years, who are we to predict where it will be in 10 or 20 years. If I had said to you 20 years ago the DUP would eclipse the UUP, the SDLP would disappear and Shinners would… I mean, we wouldn’t have believed it.

So I think it’s impossible to answer that question. I think we’re living through a period of change, I think amongst the unionist population there is considerable disenchantment with their parties and actually I think some of the Nationalists will vote UKIP next May because I think they will realise that this is a much bigger question.

   Did Mr Farage see UKIP being the party that would defend the freedom of Christian worship in Ireland? He was very emphatic in his response:

 Very much so. I think the defence of our Christian culture and the belief that we have to manage immigration and all these issues if you like along the John Howard Australian model – we are not against anybody, but if you come here this is how we live, this is how we operate, and I think we are really, certainly in England, the only party encouraged to do that.

   Turning to the North where UKIP will definitely be contesting next year’s European poll as well as the planned Super Council and Assembly elections in the following years, Mr Farage stressed that UKIP had something difference to offer Northern voters in spite of the existing range of Unionist parties.  He said:

The official Ulster Unionist Party has had its day and appears to be dying; the history books will record that the Belfast Agreement with all its difficulties, and David Trimble was a great man in every sense in doing that, but like Gorbachev breaking up Soviet Russia, the good guys ended up paying a heavy price, and it’s ironic.

 They (the UUP) are not really a Eurosceptic party; they pay lip-service to that, but are no more than that. The DUP are completely all over the place. To listen to Nigel Dodds, you hear him saying one thing in the House of Commons, and then you listen to Peter Robinson, saying ‘what would our farmers do if we weren’t part of the European Union’.

 The Unionist community – both the strong Union parties - are now very much weaker than they were some time previously and on the European question, offering no real opposition at all.  Sinn Fein, the hardmen of the Left, the hardmen on the British Union, the hardmen on the European Union, have softened immeasurably on both – it’s quite remarkable, to the extent its funny what a ministerial car can do, isn’t it?

   But the question still remained, what could UKIP do in the North that was different to the existing parties? Mr Farage said:

Well, number one, it’s inclusive; it doesn’t just treat Northern Ireland as a total little back water. The fact is, for better or worse, the constitutional position is, that Northern Ireland is part of the UK, and we’re a UK-wide political party, we respect that; we believe in devolved powers; we believe that England needs its own voice, too, but we’re going to treat this Province as if it’s part of the UK.

The second point is total clarity on this whole question of democratic independence; frankly, whether all the while we are part of the European Union is all pretty irrelevant anyway.

And thirdly and I think significantly our approach to politics here in Northern Ireland, as it is back on the mainland is one of non-sectarianism, and I am sure there are Protestants and Catholics in this meeting room and, I mean you look at Northern Irish politics, you can weigh the vote by postcode, just simply along sectarian lines, and we’re offering something different to that. 

I think they’re all listening to things that we can offer and I would add a fourth point if I can – which is this, the real European debate is now kicking off in the UK.  Ireland has been left behind in that. 

I am going to use the European elections next year, with UKIP candidates standing here, to include Northern Ireland in that debate.  And I hope and pray that south of the border a similar conversation will take place, whether it will or not remains to be seen and it’s possibly beyond my power  - stressed Mr Farage.

  The patriotism which National Republicanism seeks to create is the same non-violent, democratic nationalism which the Scottish National Party has created in Scotland and Plaid Cymru has developed in Wales. This is in spite of violent groups, such as the Scottish National Liberation Army, and the Free Wales Army.

  The responsible republicanism of the National Republicanism ideology with its ethos of ‘people before pride’ will create an Irish patriotism which will vehemently encourage Irish citizens to remain on the island and plough their skills and expertise into developing the all-island economy.

   It is a national shame that Ireland’s biggest export is its young people, creating the curse of the so-called ‘brain drain’ whereby many of our young people never return to Ireland with their skills and expertise.

   National Republicanism will seek to redress this dilemma. That is why a republican ideology is required which puts a patriotic pride into Irish citizenship, and does not implement an ideology of repressive republicanism which condemns Irish citizens to another century of sectarian strife and conflict.

   The island has already had to endure 800 years of conflict. If it does not address the ‘brain drain’, this island will merely become the dumping ground for EU immigrants who are not wanted by their own nations and who are encouraged to come to Ireland merely to see cash benefits.

   That is why another political movement – the DRP – is required to implement this National Republican ideology as the existing parties, particularly in Southern Ireland, carry too much historical baggage.

   For example, Provisional Sinn Fein, in spite of seeing a rebirth of its electoral fortunes since Party President Gerry Adams left his West Belfast Westminster seat and became a TD for the Louth constituency in the Dail, is still viewed as the Provisional IRA’s mouthpiece and being an overtly Marxist party.

   Fianna Fail has too much of a background in the old Anti-Treaty IRA. Fine Gael has a history with the fascist Blueshirt movement, and Irish Labour is suspected of being infiltrated by activists from the old Workers’ Party and Communist Party of Ireland. The Progressive Democrats are defunct, and the Green Party has largely had its policies politically pinched by other parties who see the value of the environmental issues with voters.

   Until it was abandoned in Britain, National Service in the British Army was one of the most patriotic, discipline-building concepts of life in the United Kingdom. A DRP Government would introduce National Service for the Irish Defence Forces and Garda Siochana. A National Republican Government would also form a part-time security reserve – similar to the former B Special Constabulary in the North – to allow citizens of every age and ability to contribute to their nation’s security.

   The ethos of a DRP Government is ‘Ireland for Irish Patriots’. Irish citizenship would not merely be a passport obtainable by completing a document from a post office.

In the next chapter of this e-book, I will deal with the topic of how National Republicanism will deal with republicanism’s violent past over the ages.


  1. Very Interesting Piece from Dr Coulter, A lot of good points to be looked into further for future reference.

    So, I will just dwell on one point in this post, Its what I and Others call, "The Unseen Enemy" , Spies in The skies. This is satellite and drone spies , Is to use new blood, unknowns , those without a so called Criminal record, those who stay away from demonstrations , white Pickets etc. Those who stay away from known Republican Bars , Those who will never enter into a debate on Todays Irish Republicanism , Those who stay in full time education in very specific subjects, who will advance to University. We see of late to many arrests and Arms dumps being found, many through Agents within, but most with the Spies in the sky. The days of Agents within has not gone away, The British still need them to identify those to be tracked via drones and satellites.

  2. If Ferage could sort the Orange Order out and prevent flash-point parades it wouldn't surprise me in the least if middle class Catholics in the North voted for him in droves.

    The Orange Order is like Sinn Fein, totally different on either side of the border.

    An interesting read, quite enjoyed it.

  3. Another divergent analysis from the boul Dr.
    Interesting observations on the present leader of the UKIP view on where we all went wrong. As a citizen who actively campaigned against Lisbon's, I would put much of the blame for loss in the second referendum on the uppity Mr. Farage whose upper middle class englishness alienated many people here who had previously voted 'nil'.
    Dr. John again fails to recognise that we're kinda different from the brits, because we're not, we're Irish, equally the rise in the free-state Protestant population is largely the result of Nigerian evangelical immigrants, present in the occupied terrority also, rather than sudden increase in the indigenous Protestant population whose 2.1 birthrate remains fairly constant.
    Nice try Dr. but it's a pipedream, the key to being Irish is conservatism in politics, it's not that the OUP, or the SDLP lost votes to an emergent DUP and SF, it's just that they stole SDLP/OUP clothes, the same with ILP, even with the stickie influence, who are clearly soaking up FF disillusionment but will need to get gay marriage though to have any chance to keep the majority of their seats in the 31st Dail, a not easy achievement given the split their pro-choice policy has brought to the senior coalition party.

  4. itsjustmaker-

    They are called the unknowns for a very good reason-the fcuks don't exist-never did and never will-

    [ I am talking about a unit not just one individual ]-unknowns my arse-

  5. michaelhenry:


    little do you know!

    I wont say what I'm talking about, Unit/Cell/Individual.

    Since you mentioned the word "Arse" ,Seems your talking through your's and sound a bit worried , so you should!.

    I will not state that they exist , but , I will not state they don't exist!.
    We still have a British dominated Norn iron of which SF is a part of that British State which they signed up for and administer British Laws and British Police Brutal Harassment against Nationalists which you and your party condone. No excuses MH , Facts are Facts.