As we gather to reflect on the ‘Year Of Revolution’, when the Irish people rose to assert their national freedom and sovereignty, the focus of my own contribution centres on what it demands of us today. In the first and the main, here, the momentous events of that seismic period provide us with a template for what we ourselves need to action, in the now.
As Brexit and demographic change across Ireland undermine certainties of old, it is clear that the prospect of constitutional change is afoot. Influencing the direction such change is to assume, ensuring that its detail be full freedom and sovereignty, as set out under the Proclamation, is the contemporary function of Republican struggle and, thus, where we need to be focused.
The consequence that constitutional would present, to the people of Ireland, is the opportunity to re-make our society in our own preferred image. Just as it was a century ago, it would give to us ability to change all and everything, as far as is desired, in the one fell swoop, through a national dialogue that otherwise would not arise.
The events of recent weeks suggest that our people are up for that challenge. What is lacking, however, is leadership — leadership that would traditionally have come from Republicanism but which, unfortunately, is hopelessly disorganised. History and those who have went before us, who’ve lit the path, demand we do better.
For while change is surely in the air, the politics of the status quo — which includes reform of the status quo — stand to ensure against significant political movement arising as a consequence of political change. Instead, change can be managed in a way that preserves into new and reformed arrangements the hegemony of vested power.
It was for this reason, though not for this alone, that Mellows described the Irish Free State, with its would-be successors, as a bulwark between British position and power and the sovereignty of the Irish Republic. It remains the case to this day. The situation demands, then, not mere reform of the status quo but a political revolution, which history tells us will only be driven by organised Irish Republicanism.
In this sense, when we look towards constitutional change, we are looking at a once in a lifetime opening to upend the status quo — to thus transform the fundamental basis of our country. Indeed this was understood by the revolutionary generation of a century ago, when it set out a whole new political framework under the auspices of An Chéad Dáil Éireann.
Republicans must consider the events shaping up in their concrete political context, specifically with regard to their strategic ramifications. We must urgently review, from a critical perspective, our tactics and forward approach. We are entering a period of constitutional flux — one not seen coming but with everything to play for.
Republicans must impact emerging dynamics that Republican objectives in their turn be advanced, come the event that this ‘change process’ accelerate. That is where Republican struggle now lies. This demands not the politics of rejection, nor comfortable certainties of old. Instead is demanded a positive campaign, based on solid proposals, concentrated on political engagement.
What is to be the fundamental basis of a United Ireland is a major point of struggle opening up — and we need to be better positioned. We must take stock of newly emerging realities and form our approach from there, armed with a vision of the Irish Republic.
In light of same, the keystone of our political argument must be to establish anew the Republic, through the convene of Dáil Éireann as a constituent assembly upon a 32-county election. A new constitution, that includes within its framework an embedded charter of fundamental rights, should there, then, be drafted and put out to all-Ireland referendum.
At a time of change, but where fundamentals are lacking, that argument offers to all of us cohesion. It offers a beachhead to impact the form that constitutional change is to assume. Only by impacting that form can we contest the ambitions of the status quo, as we need to.
Brexit and demographic change ongoing speed unheralded opportunity to alter the political landscape. This, in turn, has the consequence for ourselves that realities unfolding give onto a clear shift in strategy. There is a responsibility on us, in their context, to develop the necessary strategic approach they demand.
It is imperative, here, that Irish Republicans build a citizen-centred popular initiative to push for fundamental change, once the wheel begins to turn. We must speed a vision that can reach those it needs to — our people, who are speaking out for change. The Irish Republic must shine as the frontispiece of that vision. As Connolly rightly said, it must be made a word to conjure with.
Take heart, a chairde, from all that is occurring around us — even where its significance is not immediately apparent. Look not for the negatives but the positives. Go out from here to win the hearts and minds of our people, to win them to the cause of the Republic. It is then we will see the rising of the moon, for which we have waited so long.
Those who would wish to slam on the brake, in collusion with the occupier, cannot be let carry the day. A century on from Partition, and all endured in the interim, the stars of a new tomorrow are lining up. We cannot sit back and must engage the environment around us, with the Irish Republic as our masthead, pushing onwards to the secure of our goal.
The words of the Republican General, Liam Lynch, still guide and light our way; ‘we have declared for the Irish Republic and will not live under any other law’. In holding to that essential is where revolution in Ireland still lies today. The Irish Republic was the Irish revolution. The Irish Republic is the Irish revolution. Ar aghaidh, le chéile — An Phoblacht Abú.
Sean Bresnahan is an independent Republican from Co. Tyrone who
blogs @ Claidheamh Soluis. Follow Sean Bresnahan on Twitter @bres79