Writing for TPQ on emerging possibilities for constitutional change in Ireland, Sean Bresnahan, Chair of the Thomas Ashe Society Omagh, argues that a dedicated 'broad front'-type project on Irish Unity should be the priority for Irish republicanism. He writes here in a personal capacity.
What the Irish freedom struggle demands at this time, both at home and in the Overseas Diaspora, is a 'National Platform' that proceeds from and advances the stand alone issue of Irish Unity. Partition and its denial of our national rights remains the core issue confronting republicans and nationalists – and with them the broader Irish people.
Once we confine ourselves to a set political perspective or brand, to the exclusion of others, we place limits on who we can attract to our cause and on what can be achieved as a result. In this respect, republicans might note that the issue to hand in Ireland, in particular post-Brexit, is national sovereignty – with this the foundation on which our efforts need built and towards where those efforts should focus.
None of that is to undermine the worth or necessity of local campaigning on local causes and issues – an integral part of republican struggle. Indeed such endeavour is a strategic requirement of any campaign that hopes to meet with success. In this regard, the people must be the backbone of our efforts.
But at a national level, the requirements of struggle in a nation under occupation – where a foreign power stakes a sovereign claim to a part of the national territory – demand that a broad base be pursued as far as practical, bound only in the final analysis and instance by the parameter that Irish sovereignty be restored.
Our manifesto, then, need go no further than to say that the Irish people, through a dedicated forum established for the purpose, should be free to determine the form and particulars of an independent all-Ireland republic – this in line with the 1916 Proclamation, though in keeping with the requirements of modern Ireland. We can work from there to popularise that republic, with a national referendum presented as the pathway to bring it into being.
Restoring an all-Ireland democracy is our common aim, though we will have different views as to how it should appear. But there must first be a democracy to work with and shape. With the outworking of Brexit bringing partition once more into focus, now is the time to stand together and demand our national entitlements. From there the democratic process, giving form to the will of the people, can take care of the rest as we proceed.
Britain has no democratic title in Ireland and should declare her intent to leave, allowing all of the Irish people – acting as one unit – inclusive of their differing identities and traditions – the opportunity to frame together a 'New Republic' on the building block of Irish national sovereignty.
Were republicans and nationalists to unite behind this position, emerging opportunities could be channelled as they must and important progress made. With Brexit looming and nationalism on the rise, this presents a coming challenge to those who hold Irish Unity as their priority, placing onus on all concerned to work together on that basis forthwith.
Arguably for the first time since Ireland was divided and her counterrevolution took root, opportunities are in play that can deliver a timely conclusion to the long campaign for Irish Independence. We can't afford that this slip from our grasp and must build, as one, to ensure it does not.
A broad-based 'Irish Unity Initiative' is arguably best-placed to speed that end. Best practice would dictate that it be fully independent and free of party politics, placing Irish Unity at the forefront of a 'pan-nationalist consensus', reaching across the political divisions within the wider national movement.
It is likely our best hope that Irish Freedom can be achieved in the medium term. With the changed circumstance that is Brexit, allied to shifting demographics within the northern gerrymander, it is incumbent that we grasp the opportunity it presents. As the American President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, once said, 'there is nothing to fear but fear itself'.