Having been away over St. Patrick's, only getting a 'catch up' on the TV planner last night, it was with a mix of delight and disgust that I watched last week's episode of The Stephen Nolan Show.
What soon became obvious is that censorship and the barracking of those who won't normalise with the status quo is as prevalent today as ever. The attempts of Nolan to intimidate were as plain as the man is ignorant but at one point he couldn't contain himself, seething across the studio as though Des himself had killed Adrian Ismay, whose death was cynically exploited throughout. Sickening stuff to say the least but to be expected from a prize bully, well-known for his obnoxious approach to presenting.
All of that aside, it was great to hear the name Ruairi Ó Bradaigh sound out once more on mainstream media, for the first time in a long time. That his cherished proposals for a New Ireland based on a provincial federation were not allowed into the discussion, shouted down by a baying Nolan, merely reflected the true agenda. It was deeply disappointing, especially as a unionist observer had asked what republicans intend to do with his community in a United Ireland. In where Des was trying to move the discussion lay the answer, and with it a pathway to a true peace for all in our country.
Censorship however prevailed, because those on the programme do not want a meaningful peace. They want to prove they were right and others wrong, a disturbing and bitter mindset cloaked only by their self-righteousness. As pointed out to no avail, they refuse to grasp the root cause of conflict in Ireland, which continues to be the unjust partition of the island and the claims to sovereignty by a foreign government over part of its territory. Until this is acknowledged and a settlement agreed accordingly there will be those prepared to respond through armed actions – no matter how many condemn them or how futile be their campaign. It may not make them right but it remains the reality and that is what Des had tried to explain.
Joining the attack we then were treated to Sinn Féin’s Raymond McCartney, his description of a non-existent strategy for Irish Unity as convincing as Nolan’s neutrality. Plenty of soundbite and nothing of substance, the Triple Lock and Unionist Veto, which stand as permanent barriers to a United Ireland, wilfully glossed over alongside his party’s total surrender to the normalisation process. He claimed that the political framework which gave rise to the 1998 Agreement emerged from a broad-based consensus when in reality the British government imposed their Framework Documents unilaterally and regardless of the Irish.
The means to achieve Irish freedom are not found in the Good Friday Agreement and the politics Raymond now pursues. His claims that everything changed in 1998 and that the so-called democratic process became open to all, allowing all to achieve their objectives by peaceful and democratic means, is entirely bogus. The framework he now defends was on the table from as early as Sunningdale. The one-time notion of a transition to a transition has never materialised, his party now defined by its commitment to administering British rule with no end in sight. A sad end for Raymond.
If honest debate had been permitted so much more could have been realised. Had Des and the issues he raised been given fair hearing, rather than barked at throughout, we might have seen that republicans of his persuasion have more to offer than credited. The Éire Nua policy he advocates remains the only fully-developed proposal not only for how a reunified Ireland might appear but for how it might reconcile with the Protestant community in Ulster and deliver a full and permanent peace. That this was barked down is a sad waste but in truth to be expected from those who want peace on their terms alone.
Regardless, the proposal remains and is worth revisiting. Of itself, it presents a credible alternative to the existing partitionist establishment, envisaging the reunification of Ireland in the form of an all-Ireland federal arrangement, with the historic Provinces of Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Connacht at the hub of new governmental structures. Éire Nua seeks peace within a democratic polity where decision-making power resides with the people, giving all sections of the community a direct say in the governing of their own affairs.
Surely that is to be embraced and not shouted down, included instead of shut out. Surely it’s worth considering when the current arrangements, bequeathed us by McCartney, Woodward et al, have failed society, proven totally unworkable and are incapable of establishing peace. We should take note that peace is about more than the absence of violence and involves agreeing a just settlement to conflict and moving forward from there. Éire Nua can achieve that while Good Friday never will. Excluding alternatives will do nothing but prolong that very same conflict, condemning our country to further generations of wrangling and bitterness. That Nolan will have plenty to prop up his ratings is of little comfort to the rest of us.