As the overwhelming majority of readers of The Pensive Quill and The Blanket know, I am not an Irish republican, have never been an Irish republican, and have no intention of ever becoming an Irish republican.
But if I was an Irish republican, hypothetically speaking, and lived in one of the seven constituencies where Peadar Toibin’s Aontu party was standing, my X would be against its candidate.
For the first time for many decades, nationalist and republican voters will have a wide choice of candidate to vote for rather than simply either the moderate nationalist SDLP or the staunchly republican Sinn Fein.
For republican voters, 12 December may not simply be about whether they support or don’t support Brexit.
Aontu has thrown another ingredient into the political mix - what do republicans from a socially conservative background put first? Is it the right to life, especially of the unborn, or the desire to see a united Ireland?
Being an Irish republican does not mean you have to abandon your Christian faith and doggedly follow the atheistic rantings of Marxism, which are peddled by Sinn Fein.
But at some stage, you may have to make a choice - which is the more important to you; protecting the rights of the unborn from some of the most draconian abortion laws in Europe, or your desire to see Ireland become a 32-county democratic socialist republic as dictated by the 1916 Proclamation?
There can be no doubt that Aontu is dipping its toe in the General Election waters on 12 December and the ultimate aim, no matter what the result, is to prepare the ground politically for a potential fresh Assembly poll in the New Year.
Of the seven out of the 18 Westminster constituencies in which Aontu is standing, two have DUP MPs (South Belfast and East Londonderry) and the other five held by Sinn Fein (West Belfast, Foyle, Newry and Armagh, South Down, and West Tyrone).
The chances of Aontu winning any of these seats is virtually impossible, but the party could play a role in deciding who does get the most votes.
This is especially true in South Belfast where nationalists and Alliance are trying to convert this DUP marginal into a Remain victory. Will Aontu take more votes off the SDLP’s Claire Hanna, or Alliance’s Paula Bradshaw?
Likewise, in Foyle, would the Aontu intervention have a bearing on the outcome between defending MP Sinn Fein’s Elisha McCallion and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood in this republican marginal?
Is there an outside chance that South Down could swing back to the SDLP if Aontu took enough votes off defending Sinn Fein MP Chris Hazzard - along with Unionist tactical voting - to help the SDLP’s Michael Savage?
West Belfast, Newry and Armagh, and West Tyrone are now Sinn Fein strongholds so the intervention of Aontu will have little effect on the outcome. Similarly, East Londonderry is the stomping ground of safe DUP MP Gregory Campbell. In all these constituencies, Aontu will be looking merely to establish a political presence in the hope of building a power base for future Assembly and local government polls.
However, the key issue of the pro-life lobby should not be dismissed as it is a major issue which can cross the sectarian divide in Northern Ireland.
For example, during my late father’s time in politics at council, Forum and Assembly levels, because of his strong pro-life stance as a Christian and evangelical Presbyterian minister, he secured a significant number of transfers from nationalist voters.
And here’s a dilemma which the pro-life cause could create for many Unionist voters in the future. Which would they put first - their Christian faith, or the Union?
If faced with the prospect of a Unionist candidate who was pro-choice and supported more liberal abortion laws, or an Aontu candidate who was avowedly pro-life, but supported a united Ireland, who would that Unionist vote for?
Just as the Brexit debate - especially in the European election in May - saw a new realignment coming into play with Alliance’s Naomi Long taking the Ulster Unionist seat which the latter had held since the first European poll in 1979, could a future pro-life debate also redraw some of the traditional voting boundaries?
Meath West TD Toibin who founded Aontu came from Sinn Fein and many of its policies - including abstentionism from Westminster - mirror those of Sinn Fein.
However, while abstentionism may be the flavour of the moment in terms of the republican political recipe, the taste may not last forever. The abstentionist policy towards the Dail and Stormont have both been overturned, so why not a future Sinn Fein and Aontu MPs who take their seats in the British House of Commons like the Scottish and Welsh nationalists?
After all, if Unity candidate, the then Miss Bernadette Devlin, could take her Commons seat following the 1969 Mid Ulster Westminster by-election, defeating the Unionist candidate by just over 4,000 votes, why can’t Sinn Fein and Aontu MPs find a similar form of words which allows them to take their seats?
In the 1970 Westminster General Election, Miss Devlin increased her majority over the Unionist candidate to almost 6,000. However, in the February 1974 General Election, the intervention of the SDLP saw the Mid Ulster seat swing back to Unionism.
If Ian Paisley senior can enter a power-sharing Stormont Executive with Sinn Fein, and Sinn Fein can operate ministerial posts in a partitionist parliament at Stormont, then republicanism is capable of finding a way to dump abstentionism from Westminster.
Similarly, in spite of Aontu’s clear republican agenda, could the increasing growth of the liberal agenda within Unionism see many within the evangelical and fundamentalist Christian community consider giving votes to Aontu simply because of its staunch pro-life stance?
Listen to religious commentator Dr John Coulter’s programme, Call In Coulter, every Saturday morning around 9.30 am on Belfast’s Christian radio station, Sunshine 1049 FM. Listen online at www.thisissunshine.com
I had just yesterday answered that last question on my FB wall:ReplyDelete
'As far as I can see, there are only two pro-life parties in NI in this election: Aontu, a conservative nationalist party; and the DUP.
All the others are either pro-abortion; or leave it a conscience issue, but will not join others in opposing abortion.
I'd vote for Aontu before I'd vote for any of those. Thankfully, I have a DUP lady standing in my constituency.'
Aountu need to offer a real alternative to SF. They should seriously consider adopting eire nua as policy. Eire nua remains the best policy for Ulster and a 2 state federal solution is likely anyway in a UI. The 26 County state is totally corrupt and I believe eire nua would overturn all the nasty little corrupt dynasties of the centre right. RSF although completely honourable traditional Republicans aren't ever going to gain mainstream support sadly but eire nua is radical enough to create an Ireland of equality with local power. These days we see the emergence of nationalistic right wing groups who oppose the EU consumption of member States and with it Stoke fires that descend towards racism at times and like never before we need an economically left wing party that has the appeal to social conservatism that is consistent with so many middle age to older Irish voters which can deliver decentralised power. Aountus Pro life stance will stunt their appeal to the youth who have grown up in an ultra Liberal society. Their pro life policy is totally legitimate but its a real red line for them. I doubt PSF are adopting such "progressive" politics for any other reason than they are cynically populist searching for power. Agreed Ireland as SF keep promoting in my view is an attempt to speed up a prospective UI which is compatible with unionism light, the free state Centre and is available as a legacy to the remaining veterans of the PIRA still in the party to act to legitimise their non Republican policies for the last 25 years. Aountu needs to broaden its appeal indeed and not by going to Westminster but by adopting eire nua.ReplyDelete
Another Republican party???? How many is this now?ReplyDelete
Aontu represent a unity of anti-choice bigots who were tossed into the dustbin of history by the 2018 Referendum in the Republic and by Stella Creasy's amendment in the House of Commmons in 2019 to ensure abortion rights for women in NI.ReplyDelete