My e-book was published on Amazon Kindle two years before the UK’s referendum on membership of the European Union. Today’s column is largely comprised of my final chapter in the e-book and its conclusions.
I remain adamant that given the outcome of the latest Dail General Election, National Republicanism should be that vision. Critics may dismiss this direction because it has been conceived by a Unionist.
But in the ‘topsy-turvey’ world of Irish politics, yesterday’s jibe can become tomorrow’s political reality. Here is the full chapter:
“In this final chapter on conclusions, we will try and draw the main strands of National Republicanism together. It will not be a repetition of what I have written in previous chapters; merely an opportunity to get people – especially modern republicans of whatever shade – to think about the way forward for their ideology.
As a Radical Right-wing Unionist and, therefore, not a sympathiser to the republican cause the one historical element of every republican agenda is its inability to separate political beliefs from armed struggle to achieve those beliefs. My National Republicanism is a purely modern democratic ideology – there is no need for National Republicans to be involved in terrorism.
Since the Elizabethan settlements in Ireland in the late 16th century, Irish republicans have already believed they needed to resort to violence to remove the colonial settlers. It has always been a case of ‘war first, negotiate second’ – and on every occasion this strategy has failed.
Oliver Cromwell stamped out the Catholic rebellion which erupted in the 1640s; the Glorious Revolution of King William III put paid to the Jacobite cause in the 1690s; the United Irishmen’s revolution of 1798 was an unmitigated military disaster; the Fenian Movement of the 1840s fared no better; the 1916 Dublin Easter Rising was equally pathetic, until General ‘Bloody’ Maxwell adopted the totally daft policy of having the Rising ring leaders executed by firing squad.
In 1919, after the horrors of the Great War in which many nationalists fought – and died and were maimed – in their thousands for the Crown, the doomed Irish Volunteers and Irish Citizen Army were replaced by the guerrilla tactics of Michael Collins’ Irish Republican Army.
In spite of dramatic single attacks, such as the killing of more than a dozen British agents in one operation by Collins’ terrorists, sparking the 1920 Bloody Sunday massacre at Croke Park, it would be a myth to believe that Collins’ IRA attacks forced the British to the negotiating table for talks; talks which spawned the ill-fated Anglo-Irish Treaty so far as republicans were concerned.
The British agreeing to Treaty talks were more because – having lost tens of thousands of troops from the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth countries – the British did not want a prolonged war in Ireland; a war they could have easily won given their experiences in the Great War. Secondly, although many Commonwealth states had fought with distinction for the Crown in the Great War, the British were smart enough to recognise that the seeds of nationalism had already been sown in their Empire states, especially in Africa, the Middle East and the Far East.
Violence is so enshrined in the republican ideology that the concept of the ‘broad republican family’ which National Republicanism would create is thrown out the political window when republicans fall out.
It should not be forgotten that more IRA men were executed by the pro-Treaty Free State forces during the Irish Civil War than were shot by the British during the earlier War of Independence which eventually led to the signing of the Treaty.
It is no secret that Eamon de Valera sent Collins and Sinn Fein founder Arthur Griffith to the Treaty talks knowing that the republican delegation could not deliver the end goal of a 32-county democratic socialist republic.
Militant republicans really blotted their political copy books during the Second World War when they became embroiled in a plot to help Hitler’s Nazis invade mainland Britain landing in Northern Ireland. So much for republicanism’s boast about being a socialist ideology when it climbs into bed with an organisation – the German Nazi Party – whose SS was responsible for the Holocaust and the slaughter of six million Jews in the Nazi death, concentration and labour camps.
The disastrous 1940s campaign was followed by an equally doomed Border campaign from 1956-62. The then IRA could simply not cope with the intelligence gathering superiority of the B Specials.
With the ideological split in republicanism in the late Sixties, which saw the Marxist-leaning Official IRA give birth to the more Catholic-friendly Provisional IRA, nightmares of the Irish Civil War were unleashed again with gun battles between the Official and Provisional factions, particularly in Belfast. In these cases, the British Army merely stood back and let the various republican factions rip each other apart.
By the mid-1970s, even the Official IRA had split again as a bitter feud erupted between the Officials and the even more Marxist Irish Republican Socialist Party and its military wing, the Irish National Liberation Army.
Throughout the Eighties, the INLA was plagued with violent schisms which saw some of its top terrorists murdered by their own kind. When the INLA fragmented again to spawn the Irish People’s Liberation Organisation, the IPLO’s activities eventually goaded the Provisional IRA to launch a Nazi-style ‘Night of the Long Knives’ against the splinter group.
Sinn Fein becoming the largest political party in Northern Ireland and the Stormont Assembly; entering a power-sharing Executive with the Democratic Unionist Party at Parliament Buildings; formally recognising the Police Service of Northern Ireland; taking its seats on the Policing Board; decommissioning much of the IRA’s arsenal has all led to the formation of a dissident republican movement, with some of my interviews with these factions contained in the appendix.
When one of the dissident terror factions murdered a Catholic member of the security forces, the Sinn Fein deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness – a former Londonderry IRA commander – publicly branded the dissident faction as “traitors”. The INLA – also supposedly disbanded and on a ceasefire – has fragmented into various criminal organisations.
What conventional republicanism now faces is that a new generation of militant is emerging that either was very young or not even born when the first Provisional IRA ceasefire was declared in 1994, followed by the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. These ‘Young Turks’ terror-wise now find themselves back in the late 1960s when the Provisionals split from the Officials because the latter was opting for a purely political route. The Official IRA later declared a formal ceasefire in 1972 – ironically, the same year the British Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath axed the original Unionist-dominated Stormont Parliament which had existed and ruled Northern Ireland since the 1920s.
Violence, or the use of armed struggle, has become engrained into republican thinking. As an ideology, my National Republicanism is heavily influenced by the Scottish model. All Irish republican parties with links to terror groups or histories with such links should carefully examine how the Scottish National Party has developed its fully democratic dominion-style republicanism to the point where it is now the majority party and government in the Scottish Parliament and even secured a referendum on independence in September 2014.
The SNP gained all these achievements entirely through the ballot box. The SNP does not have a paramilitary wing, such as the Scottish National Liberation Army, or the Scottish Republican Army. It did not need to stage a death fast by any so-called ‘nationalist’ POWs in Scottish jails.
The SNP has been able to attract electoral support from both Catholics and Protestants in spite of the continued sectarian problems which Scotland still faces. How many Protestant members does Sinn Fein have in contrast? While the SNP is certainly seen as a party which wants ultimately to take Scotland out of the Union and break up the United Kingdom as a consequence, it is not perceived to be a ‘Catholic’ party in the same way Sinn Fein is seen as a ‘militant Catholic’ party in Ireland, compared to the ‘moderate Catholic’ label attached to the Social Democratic and Labour Party.
National Republicanism is, therefore, unique as an ideology for republicanism because it is an entirely democratic model for achieving a united island, which is not necessarily the same ideal as Sinn Fein’s united Ireland as portrayed in The Proclamation. It should never be forgotten that Arthur Griffith founded Sinn Fein as a separatist movement, not a hardline republican party requiring a terrorist wing.
National Republicanism will clearly seek to redefine the relationship between Church and State. The Irish Catholic Church can no longer be dominated by the stereotype that it is Sinn Fein at prayer, in the same way that the Protestant fundamentalist church, the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster was once dubbed the Democratic Unionist Party at prayer during the Paisley senior era.
While Ian Paisley senior – now Lord Bannside – formed the Free Presbyterian Church in 1951, it would be two decades later in 1971 that Paisley would unveil his DUP from the foundations of his personally successful Protestant Unionist Party through which he captured the Bannside Stormont seat and North Antrim Westminster seat from the ruling Unionist Party.
Given the fact that I am a Radical Right-wing Unionist who has never been an Irish republican, The Pensive Quill blog site gave me the opportunity to test some feedback to the early draft chapters of this book. One observation emerged – a significant number of people who were critical of the proposed relationship of Faith and State rather than Church and State, clearly could – or would – not distinguish between Irish Catholicism and Biblical Christianity.
To many of these critics of a Faith/State link as proposed by National Republicanism, it was seen that Biblical Christianity was either Protestantism under another name, or it was an attempt to reinvent the Eamon de Valera ethos of the Irish Catholic Bishops dictating political policy in the Dail.
Some of the most vicious criticism of National Republicanism’s Faith/State concept came from the secular, Left-wing, or Marxist wings of existing republicanism. It seemed that the mere mention of the Christian faith was a red flag to a pluralist bull. It is equally clear that the root cause of this criticism is linked to the alleged cover-ups of clerical sex abuse by the Catholic hierarchy.
Given the amount of cover-ups which have already emerged in dealing with paedophile priests, it is clear there is a severe lack of trust in the Catholic Church by the republican community, hence the swing of republicans away from Catholic theology and litany and over towards socialist, Left-leaning politics, and especially atheistic Marxism.
Why? Simply because atheistic Marxism represented a radical alternative to the perceived religious hypocrisy of the Catholic leadership. This Catholic leadership liked to present itself as the moral guardians of the republican tradition, yet in reality, it was turning a blind eye to decades of clerical sex abuse against boys and girls, many of whom were in the care of the Catholic Church.
Many Catholics may have lost confidence in the Irish Catholic Church, but not their religious faith – hence we are also seeing many Catholic redefining their faith in the non-denominational Irish Pentecostal movement, particularly in Dublin. These ‘Catholics’ would now see themselves – not as Protestants – but as Biblical Christians, the very type of theological position espoused by National Republicanism.
National Republicanism, because of its close ties to Biblical Christianity, seeks to restore the moral conscience in Irish politics. Hopefully, National Republicanism will be viewed as a rational and constructive way forward for republicans. If nothing else, The Green Sash should encourage republicans to consider why they are republicans, and indeed, to answer the poignant question – what is a true republican?
I thank the Editor and management of the Irish Daily Star for allowing me to use articles on republicans for research which I have had published in the newspaper. This is a list of articles I used:
Thursday 15th November, 2007: Page 12; Dissidents declare war on Sinn Fein.
Tuesday 20th November, 2007: Page 15; Dissidents plan to murder a PSNI officer.
Saturday 14th March, 2009: Page 10; Dissident threat to politicians.
Thursday 19th March, 2009: Page 18; Exclusive – Dissidents: we’ll keep on killing.
Friday 20th March, 2009: Page 19; Exclusive – ‘Irish special forces should ambush and kill the dissidents’: Ex-Brit spook says it’s only way to keep peace.
Tuesday 31st August, 2010: Pages 1, 10 and 11: Exclusive – We will kill until Stormont is gone: Dissident vow more bloodshed.
Wednesday 24th November, 2010: Page 21; Rebels given access to bomb triggers.
Tuesday 29th November, 2011: Page 16; Exclusive – Dissidents ‘have run out of steam.’
Tuesday 28th August, 2012: Page 10; Exclusive – Action speak louder than words.
Thursday 18th April, 2013: Pages 1 and 12; Exclusive – Warning of RIRA terror onslaught.”