Massive Let Down

Guest writer Sean Bresnahan with a personal reflection on this morning's result in Scotland and what it should mean for the future in both Scotland and in Ireland.

The result in Scotland this morning is a massive let-down for us all but we should remain fully conscious that nationhood and sovereignty are not and never can be predicated on a vote of any description - for they are inviolable. Scotland tried and it failed but there's no shame in that failure and there's certainly no shame in the trying. And try we will again. 
Scotland's demand for independence remains as legitimate today as it was yesterday and that has not changed. It will never change and British Crown rule over Scotland remains as fundamentally wrong this morning as it did any other morning. Britain then needs to withdraw its political apparatus in its entirety and the struggle to achieve that worthy objective continues. It's what we do from here that matters, yesterday is gone. Today we must go out and organise anew for the republic. For in Scotland as in Ireland the aim is to be free and we can never allow a vote held under the terms and conditions of an occupying power to get in the way of that, nor any vote for that matter.

Personally I think we in Ireland have much to learn from what just transpired in Scotland and the fundamental lesson should be that as Irish republicans we must fully embrace the republican analysis as understood prior to the revisionist shift. Any campaign, along Scottish lines or any other, needs to remain wholly consistent with that analysis or risk a similar situation as applies in Scotland this morning. This is something I feel we can achieve if we work together. 

So long as that is the case then we can't go wrong. Step out of sync though and we concede a lot more than the possibility of defeat in a referendum. For those, myself included, who were duped by a leadership that willingly departed from that analysis we should take heed of the late Ruairi O'Bradaigh and his assertion that it's never too late to return to the republic. For therein lies the answer.

Personally I would not be willing to cede even an all-Ireland referendum, never mind the limited border poll proposed by some, to either of the governments that claim authority in Ireland at present. It has to be organised independently of both in my view for it to remain consistent with the republican constitution. We need to frame our analysis at all times to reflect the fact Ireland is occupied and that the British occupation has no legal basis. Any proposed use of a referendum-based strategy must account for that ongoing reality. Such a campaign can serve the purpose of building political support for Irish Unity while exposing the fundamentally undemocratic nature of British partitionist rule in Ireland.

Nowhere does it need genuflect to partition or its institutions and for me that has to be a central tenet of republicanism moving forward. The republic has already been established, this is about achieving British withdrawal and an end to occupation. Nowhere though does republicanism exclude the use of a democratic, referendum-type campaign to oust the British from our country. It's the national right of our people to have their voice heard and this can be a means of giving expression to that voice, no matter if it has been ignored time-and-again in the past.

I strongly feel we would be wrong to rule out any method that might remove the British at this or any other time but of course there needs to be a recognition that we can't and should never allow the Brits to dictate the parameters of a referendum or submit it to their authority. Why would we do that? The Brits will never agree to an all-Ireland referendum to begin with, anyone who thinks otherwise underestimates their commitment to the 1998 arrangements, which of course help secure their strategic goals. But why would we even ask them? 

They have absolutely no legal right to any say in this country,. We on the other hand are a different story. There's nothing to stop people organising something of an extralegal nature fully under their own control that does not invade our sovereignty or put it in any way at risk. As such it is merely a tool of struggle and does not involve begging anyone for anything. Rather it would be a case of giving expression to the legitimate, democratic demand of the Irish people for freedom and self-determination, in the process empowering the republic. The Irish republic is real and it must be respected, we go to see that respect made good. Onwards we go ... onwards to victory. It's still our day will come.


  1. Sean, I have misunderstood who the “one Ireland, one vote” slogan was aimed it, if you want to conduct a vote organised independently of
    “either of the governments that claim authority in Ireland at present”,
    wont find you have no adversaries in the debates leading up to the poll? Republicans would surely be the only participants? It would be a (another) still born democratic demand if that’s the case.

  2. Could you honestly envisaging them granting such a poll? There commitment is clear, to the Good Friday arrangements that entrench the status quo and preserve the interests of those who hold power

  3. ”Could you honestly envisaging them granting such a poll?”
    Probably only at a time when they are guaranteed an outcome to their favour.This would mean sooner rather than later, and which would be a strategic error for Republicans. The result would be another ‘democratic mandate’ to be presented as justification for partition.
    If it comes from the extra legal route, the end result will be Republicans saying they want a United Ireland, but with no route to deliver it (effectively the Sinn Fein position?). Why would Unionists and the British participate in something that throws into question something they are keen to present as decided/fair/quaint?

  4. Sinn Fein's position is different, they have accepted the unity by consent model as laid out in the Stormont Agreement. I was at an interesting talk last night on Tyrone during the revolutionary period, very good discussion. What struck me in terms of the situation we face today was a need to preserve the tradition for another day while trying to broaden the base as far as possible in the meantime. For me that's the strategic goal at present and I think a OneIreland-One Vote campaign has the type of appeal we need to speed that end. The important thing from my perspective is that republicanism remains at its core and republicans retain control of the movement. History shows us that this is where things have gone wrong in the past. We are now in a rebuilding stage. What you say at the end would be my worry also and I hoped to address that in the piece, don't know if it came out as I intended or not. We can't put forward a process like that applied to Scotland because the result, open as it is to manipulation of course, could conceivably result in a 'democratic mandate' as you say for partition where none currently exists. So we need to be careful where we take this and thus why I'm off the opuinion we must at all times square policy or strategy with the republican constitution and the republic. As republicanism attempts to redefine itself for the contemporary age a I think we need to be debating all these things now rather than after the fact

  5. Just in terms of who will we debating these concepts with in my view it has to be the Irish people themselves and that may be the real worth in a One Ireland-One Vote campaign. There may never even be an actual referendum, who knows, but the debate and discussion will be given a platform on which to be hesrd and republicanism can be brouyght back into the political narrative. For me that's an important strategic goal and something we can begin working on immediately. One Ireland-One Vote as a concept can help deliver that end and that for me is its real value at present

  6. Good luck Sean, One thing in your favour is I haven’t known a time like present where the question of national sovereignty seems to be being posed world wide. The common theme in the successful struggles, is the Army creating the space these movements inhabit, maybe referenda like this have a role afterwards as a democratic fig leaf (like the GFA is for British).

  7. nationhood and sovereignty are not and never can be predicated on a vote of any description - for they are inviolable

    So who decides what constitutes a "nation"? Because people aren't all going to agree. You can't build a democracy if the act of drawing a border around that democracy is taken in an undemocratic manner.

  8. Scotland remains a sovereign nation today regardless of yesterday's vote, the legitimacy of which even sovereign governments are now calling into question. In all likelihood Scotland was robbed here by those who operate from the shadows, would it really surprise us? Where's the democracy in that I ask you...

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  10. scotland is better off than us down here with the cu*ts in dail eirinn. we are all being monitored now by our fones and comps, cctv etc, 99% of debate about scottish independence was a load of haggis shite. if there is such an animal. im done with polls and referendums. its time to get the guillotines sharpened bres.

  11. the No vote in Scotland will have some surprising reverberations.
    And according to this article Scotland has no hope of getting Devo-Max or Home Rule
    Wonder how that will play out with some No voters who are probably already regretting their decision?

  12. Euro,
    I was listening to Malachi O'Doherty just after the resutls came in and he said what Alex Salmond should have done was go 'two tier' and had a vote on Devo Max first, and have a sustained period of managing their affairs for 5-7 yrs then vote for full independence.. He reckons it was the only way to stop the doom mongers (no camp). Then he said part of the reason the British SOS wont call a border poll in the six counties is once that's triggered, there has to be a poll/vote every 7yrs as laid out in the GFA. Personally I think the 1916 societies should encourage PSF with their border poll. What it will do is give them an idea of where to target their energies for free. I'm sure they (1916-ers) have a good idea of where the vote will be strong..

    I'm waiting for new oil & gas finds in the North Sea. I never understood why Tony Blair increased the English water border in 1999.. now I think I know why.. Got to be more oil and gas.