The fighting of Council elections in Ireland, and participation in those Councils, is arguably an extension of the Republican Struggle in terms of community empowerment and relevance.
Various Republican Organisations' have ideological positions that rightly ensures they should not, can not and will not follow the failed path of existing purely for the purposes of being elected. This undoubtedly helps identify them as acting without self-intetest or attracting careerists.
However, without demonstrable support at a grassroots level I believe they are doomed to instead repeat the mistakes of those that count their existence as their only recognisable achievement.
Councils are not legislatures. As such, they have allowed Republicans to tactically and strategically utilise the opportunities they provide to benefit the Republican struggle in a way that those who have stood aloof have failed to do.
This position predates the contemporary era of Republicanism. Others undoubtedly pretend to be independent when they are not. This duplicity ultimately detracts from what good work they do. Their reluctance to nail their colours to their own particular mast is a cynical exercise in my opinion. This also allows them, on occasion, to present themselves as a bloc but in reality they are anything but. When you cut through Council backpatting, most have diametrically opposed positions on issues ranging from armed struggle, to sovereignty, to national self-determination, to community development. This combines to (rightly or wrongly) raise suspicions about their endeavours.
However, Republicans opposed to participation in elections cannot deny that these councillors (by their very election) and others who polled respectfully in other instances, have given Republicanism a sense of legitimacy and acceptance in certain communities that was lacking from at least 1998 until 2014. Their participation in Councils has allowed them to successfully challenge quislings, Free Staters and unionists on a range of local and international issues. They have exposed corruption in terms of Council procedures and funding allocations. They have used their position to highlight injustices that affect all Republicans, to a lesser or greater degree. This includes poverty, ongoing Crown Force harassment and prisoner issues. Many of these interventions would have been instead restricted to closed meetings and the scourge of social media.
Republicans need to be cognisant of the desire within working class communities to be heard. The experience of West Belfast Republicans demonstrate that if we dont provide that voice, counter revolutionaries will step in and do it instead. People Before Profit rode a wave of anti-Stormont and anti-establishment sentiment that Republicans fermented, while we remain marginalised.
Organisations in relative infancy are in no position to run election campaigns, logistically or otherwise. Due to their relative youth, they have not yet had the opportunity to develop policy positions and ideological clarity with regard to some issues that would undoubtedly be of importance to the working class. That work will be ongoing and should shape strategic and tactical decisions that are consistent with Revolutionary Republicanism. For some, 2019 is not the right time.
Those who claim the legacy of lConnolly, Mellows, Costello and Sands, all of whom stood for or won elections, cannot allow ourselves to be driven into a cul-de-sac of irrelevance and accusations of no support, in my opinion. Republicans need to give ourselves not only the freedom to fight Council elections in the future when it is strategically beneficial. We need to also be confident enough to go into Councils to defend and advance Republicanism, while representing and empowering the working class. And as stated earlier, this can not and should not impact upon abstentionist stances with regards to Westminster, Leinster House and Stormont. As many of us often state, we should use "any and all means". We should not allow the charlatans, the quislings and the irrelevant the opportunity to pertain to speak on our behalf in future. We should have the courage to do it ourselves.
|Dee Fennell is North Belfast republican|