Flicking through my portfolio of clippings from my days writing political articles in the News Letter in the 1980s, I came across an interview I did with then leading North Belfast solicitor and nationalist politician, the late Paschal O’Hare. He was then seemingly disillusioned with the direction the SDLP was taking and suggested the formation of a new nationalist party based on the ideals of the New Ireland Forum.
This was during the era when former British Prime Minister, the late Maggie Thatcher, delivered her famous ‘out, out, out’ speech in relation to the recommendations of the New Ireland Forum.
Basically, the New Ireland Forum report was a democratic and purely political ‘long war’ to secure a united Ireland and radically opposed the Provos’ vision of the terrorist ‘long war’ to secure the so-called democratic socialist 32-county republic.
Moderate nationalism must be asking itself, what is the democratic alternative to Sinn Fein now that the Provos’ apologist front has supposedly fully embraced the concept of ‘the ballot paper in one hand and the bachelor’s degree in the other’.
Just as the SDLP replaced the late Eddie McAteer’s Irish Nationalist Party when the latter had run its political course, so now a new moderate nationalist vehicle is needed to replace the SDLP now that that party has run its course and succumbed to the Sinn Fein bandwagon.
Moderate nationalists will have to face the inevitable. To combat the republican movement’s political respectability strategy the time has come to fold up the SDLP and allow Fianna Fail to contest elections in Northern Ireland.
The Northern manifesto for Fianna Fail in the six counties must be the New Ireland Forum report - along with the pledge that any FF Westminster MPs will follow the example of the Scottish and Welsh nationalists and take their seats. This could put quite a number of Sinn Fein’s seven Commons boltholes in doubt.
At Stormont, the DUP may not be able to cut a deal with Sinn Fein, but a key to restoring devolution long term could be a DUP/FF power-sharing Executive - a move which would inevitably nudge Sinn Fein openly into a Far Left position as nothing more than James Connolly’s avowedly communist Irish Socialist Republican Party (not to be confused with the INLA’s political wing, the IRSP).
Nationalists north and south need to be aware that Unionism’s ace card is a hard border under Brexit. Such a move would cripple the republic economically, reducing its financial state to nothing more than the castrated Celtic Tiger of a few years ago when it took millions of euros - much of it supplied by the UK - to bail out the republic.
For a number of years I have been pushing my own Unionist ideology of Revolutionary Unionism which looks at Irish politics from an all-island perspective. The term comes from the 17th century Glorious Revolution when the Protestant Ascendancy ruled the entire island of Ireland.
The clerical abuse scandals across the island have been the political iceberg which has effectively sunk the religious Titanic known as the Irish Catholic Church. In the early 1900s, the Unionist chant was ‘Home Rule means Rome Rule’.
The influence of the Catholic Church has been terminally smashed. This does not mean the Christian faith is dead in southern Ireland. There will always be certain parishes which will remain true to Rome, especially after the planned visit of Pope Francis.
But many Catholics are deserting Rome and swelling the ranks of the Pentecostal movement. This should not be misinterpreted as Catholics joining the Reformed Faith of Protestantism. Irish Pentecostalism views itself as a non-denominational Christian faith based purely on the Salvationist theology of being ‘born again’ spiritually. The movement was founded in Monaghan in 1915 during the teeth of the Great War.
While many of its churches are in the north, it is starting to expand rapidly in the republic. It means the Catholic Church in southern Ireland is being battered from two directions - the growing secularism caused by the fallout from the clerical abuse scandals, as well as the quiet revolution in Pentecostalism.
At long last Unionism is starting the slow process of thinking outside the box - or should that read, thinking outside Northern Ireland? Gone are the days in the DUP when an elected representative would be severely disciplined for venturing across the Irish border into the 26 Counties.
Likewise, Revolutionary Unionism should not be confused with the liberal trend in Unionism which suggests Northern Unionists should prepare themselves for the inevitability of a united Ireland. Revolutionary Unionism is about dismantling the failed experiment known as ‘the republic’ and bringing the ‘Occupied 26 Counties’ back into a new Union with the UK post Brexit.
The key to this scenario will be the role of the Commonwealth, and especially the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. In the so-called ‘Noughties’ (the post new millennium years) when I was composing the ideology of all-island Revolutionary Unionism, I would have been mocked on a regular basis about such an all-island solution.
Mind you, as a young cub BBC Radio Ulster freelancer in 1981 covering the Fermanagh/South Tyrone Westminster by-election won by Owen Carron - the late IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands MP’s election agent - if I’d told Carron as he gave his victory speech that day that one day Sinn Fein would sit in a partitionist parliament at Stormont with Ian Paisley senior’s DUP, he would have probably recommended me for serious counselling. But it happened in 2007.
In 1985 as a reporter, I stood feet away from Rev Paisley when he issued his famous ‘never, never, never, never’ speech against the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Imagine what the reaction of ‘The Big Man’ would have been as he walked off the platform that day if I had said to him - ‘Dr Paisley, one day you will do a deal with the IRA’s political wing and enter a power-sharing Executive at Parliament Buildings!’ But it happened in 2007.
Fianna Fail is the only party which can save nationalism in a post Brexit Ireland. If its MPs can take their Commons seats, why do we need a republic on this island? Like it or not, Southern Ireland needs to become part of a British dominion in a post Brexit society.
Could Ireland become a British dominion like Canada, New Zealand or Australia after March 2019 when the UK formally quits the European Union? Don’t titter; with Brexit negotiations still not reaching a conclusion, especially over a Customs Union and hard/soft border, my dream of a Revolutionary Unionist Ireland is still on the cards.
His ebook, An Sais Glas (The Green Sash) The Road to National Republicanism is published on Amazon Kindle.
Dr Coulter is on Twitter @JohnAHCoulter