There is no doubt in my mind that republicans will try and put a dampener at the least, or rewrite history at the most, concerning the centenary of the foundation of Northern Ireland in 2021.
In doing so, Sinn Fein will be spinning the ‘results’ of an imaginary all-Ireland General Election and how it will emerge as the largest party on the island.
Sinn Fein will point to recent opinion polls which show growing support for the republican movement’s political wing south of the Irish border.
Shinner spin doctors will trot out the line it could have won more TDs in Leinster House had it run more candidates in last year’s Dail General Election.
Sinn Fein will boast that given its Dail representation, coupled with its support at Stormont, clearly makes the party heads on to be the biggest on the Emerald Isle in the event of Irish unity.
Historically, Sinn Fein could point to the outcome of the 1918 Westminster General Election when Sinn Fein won almost 80 of the 105 Commons allocated to Ireland seats when the island was still all under British rule.
But if Sinn Fein is to repeat its 1918 performance and be taken seriously as a truly democratic movement, it must make its peace with the Roman Catholic Church. Likewise, it must also engage in a massive political charm offensive with the liberal Protestant denominations.
Mention republicanism and religion in the sentence and you could be heading for an immediate political divorce.
However, just as the pro-Union community in Northern Ireland will have to seriously consider an all-island dimension, which I have outlined in an ideology I penned known as Revolutionary Unionism, so too, will republicanism have to face the potentially unpalatable reality that the post Brexit island of Ireland from January 2021 will necessitate an accommodation between the republican movement and the Irish Catholic Church.
As a ‘no deal’ Brexit sparking a hard border creeps up the political options ladder, this rekindling of republicanism and religion becomes ever more important.
Personally, I have been a life-long eurosceptic, so as well as developing the ideology of Revolutionary Unionism, the flip side of the political coin was to devise a new ideology for republicanism which sought to heal the rift between republicans and religion.
To this end, in 2014, two years before the European Referendum in the United Kingdom, I published an ebook entitled An Saise Glas (The Green Sash): The Road to National Republicanism.
The book focuses on a non-violent way forward for the republican movement in Ireland. This new ideology I have entitled National Republicanism. Chapter Two is entitled ‘Putting Christ Back Into Republicanism.’
National Republicanism needs to spark a revival of the concept of Holy Mother Ireland instead of becoming swamped in a secular sea of atheism, agnosticism, pluralism, humanism and especially Marxism.
Old-style republicanism has always enjoyed some sort of partnership with the Irish Catholic Church. This Church/State bond was at its most influential when Eamon de Valera was President of Ireland.
However, while the republicanism which led to the Treaty in the 1920s, and the republicans who ran the old Irish Free State, even the republicans who secured full status for the 26 Counties as a full-blown republic developed the concept of Holy Mother Ireland, the republican movements which emerged after the defeat of the IRA in the 1956-62 Border campaign seemed to want to permanently scrap the ethos of Church and State.
During the conflict known as the Troubles, the Official republican movement of the Official IRA and Workers’ Party, and the various factions of the republican socialist movement (such as the IRSP and INLA) had an exceptionally fractious relationship with the Irish Catholic Church and leadership.
The republican movements which evolved in the late Sixties onwards developed at a time when Left-wing revolutionary politics was becoming a world phenomenon.
The modern republican movements wanted to see themselves as part of a global revolutionary organization, rather than a sectarian anti-Protestant movement on a tiny island on the fringe of the European continent.
The root cause of how republicanism has got itself bogged down with the secular movement goes back to the failed Easter Rising of 1916. In the immediate aftermath, Britain had the high ground. The Irish Volunteers had been defeated, and even spat upon by some Dublin Catholics as they were marched into captivity.
If Britain had boxed clever in 1916, it would have given the leaders a jail term and told them to grow up politically. Instead, it allowed General ‘Bloody’ Maxwell to take charge of ‘mopping up’ the aftermath of the failed Rising.
It was Maxwell who insisted that the Rising leaders be executed. At that time, because Britain was bogged down in the an equally bloody trench campaign of the Great War, the British political leadership agreed to Maxwell’s assertion that the Rising leaders should be executed by firing squad.
By giving the leaders a soldier’s death, he immediately and substantially raised their status from troublesome rebels to international anti-colonial martyrs. James Connolly’s death was particularly gruesome. Although wounded in the Rising, he was strapped into a chair for his execution as he was unable to stand.
Until those British bullets dispatched him into eternity, Connolly was not a republican hero, but a largely insignificant Scottish communist dabbling in Irish politics. Connolly was first and foremost a Marxist, not a Catholic nationalist. His political vehicle was the Irish Socialist Republican Party, not to be confused with the IRSP, the INLA’s political wing.
But his execution elevated his writings, beliefs and actions to a new level in Irish nationalism. Connolly’s communism became a significant factor in the rapidly emerging Irish Republican Army which fought the War of Independence a few years after the doomed Rising.
The fallout from the Treaty meant that the Irish Catholic hierarchy largely supported the Free State forces rather than the anti-Treaty IRA. The images as portrayed in the hit 2006 film, The Wind That Shakes The Barley, of the priest hearing IRA confessions and blessing the terrorists before they left to attack the British in the War of Independence, had long since faded into mythology and folklore.
It should not be forgotten that more IRA prisoners were executed by the Free State forces during the Irish Civil War than killed by the Black and Tans during the War of Independence. When republican goes to war against republican, the ensuing bloodshed can be even more sadistic than republican terror campaigns against the British state.
The Free State victors and subsequent Dails for generations to come guaranteed the Irish Catholic hierarchy a central role in the political life of the 26 Counties.
Clerical sex abuse, whether by individuals or by institutions, went unchecked and unpunished. On this point, how much did the modern day Provisional republican movement know about the activities of paedophile priests? The Provisionals were very quick to expose – and punish – people it deemed to be ‘guilty’ of informing, or anti-social behaviour.
But is there any known record of the Provisionals ‘knee-capping’ a Catholic priest or nun suspected of known sexual abuse against children? Surely the Provisionals must have known about allegations of clerical abuse in their republican heartlands? If they did, why did the Provisionals remain silent over these generations?
Connolly’s atheistic Marxism within republicanism became a viable alternative to the sexual crimes of Irish Catholicism’s institutionalized religion. For many Catholics in Ireland, the Catholic Church came to symbolize Christianity.
Connolly’s atheistic Marxism became a vehicle to challenge the previously unquestionable power of the Catholic priests. This naturally led to friction between republicans loyal to the Connolly tradition and the Catholic hierarchy, especially during the Eamon de Valera years. It was he who maximized the concept of Church and State.
It has become a matter of some debate that Connolly recanted from his atheistic Marxism in the hours before his brutal execution.
The main ethos of my National Republicanism is to re-introduce true Biblical Christianity, especially the teachings of Jesus Christ Himself, back into republican ideology.
A major stereotype which National Republicanism will seek to eradicate is the false perception that Biblical Christianity is the institutionalized litany of the Catholic Church and bishops under another name.
Biblical Christianity is not the priests trying to shake off the stigma of the clerical abuse scandals. Biblical Christianity is precisely what its title states – the true Christian beliefs as stated by Jesus in the Bible.
National Republicanism will dismantle the structures of the Irish Catholic Church in Ireland and establish a Biblically-based Christian Church which is free of Vatican control. This new Church will be based on Biblical principals.
A perfect example of this type of new Church sweeping the 26 Counties is the Pentecostal denomination, which was founded in Co Monaghan in the early 1900s. In spite of a fall in attendances at mainstream Christian denominations throughout Ireland north and south, the Pentecostal movement is bucking the trend and is increasing in numbers, especially in the Dublin area.
This is not a case of Catholics converting to Protestantism, but a case of Catholics – disillusioned with their Church and the sexual abuse scandals – looking to a new expression of their Christian faith.
National Republicanism will revise the concept of Church and State in Ireland – north and south. Instead of the bond of Church and State, National Republicanism seeks a rebirth of the concept of Holy Mother Ireland through the strategy of Christ and State. National Republicanism wants to see a revival of Biblical Christianity – which our patron Saint, Patrick, introduced to the Emerald Isle – as our national personal faith.
I emphasise the term ‘personal faith in Christ’ as opposed to ‘institutionalized religion’, which the Catholic Church represented.
The modern republican movement, especially those who see themselves as republican socialists, want to see the development and expansion of a pluralist and secular society in Ireland under the supposed banner of a democratic socialist 32-county republic.
In reality, many modern republicans despise the Catholic Church hierarchy, seeing many clerics and nuns as the modern-day equivalents of the Biblical Pharisees.
National Republicanism seeks to restore republican confidence in the Biblical Christian faith. Ironically, the same crisis is facing modern loyalism. One of its most famous slogans is ‘For God And Ulster.’
Yet many loyalists were influenced in prison by the writing and words of the late Gusty Spence and David Ervine, who followed a progressive socialist path. Many loyalist prisoners found themselves in jail because they followed the ‘blood and thunder’ sermons of Protestant fundamentalism, a fundamentalism which largely deserted them once those loyalists found themselves on the wrong side of the law.
Just as loyalism abandoned the Christian God in ‘For God And Ulster’ so too, many republicans turned their back on the Catholic concept of Holy Mother Ireland.
Modern loyalism and republicanism are – ironically – both trying to cut religion out of their respective ideologies. Both seem to be singing from the same hymn sheet that Marxism and extreme socialism hold the keys to the future development of the respective communities.
This is a huge error of judgment, especially for republicanism. Having read Karl Marx’s ‘Das Capital’ from start to finish, I can only conclude there is a startling similarity between the type of ideal society which Marx is trying to create, and the Biblical Christian society which Jesus wished to create.
National Republicanism is seeking a return of Biblical Christianity as a central core of republican thinking by getting republicans to focus on the New Testament account of the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus Christ as told in St Matthew’s Gospel Chapter Five.
In this aspect, Christ outlines a series of attributes, commonly known as The Beatitudes. There is a school of ideological thinking – to which I personally belong – which maintains that Marx based ‘Das Capital’ on The Beatitudes and his overt criticism of religion was merely a tactic ploy to disguise the fact that he had pinched his ideas from the Bible, and the words of Jesus Himself.
In reality, Jesus Christ was the first real communist – not Karl Marx. National Republicanism’s Christ and State ideology is, therefore, based on St Matthew’s Gospel chapter 5, verses 1 to 12. Many of the Beatitudes begin (using the Authorized King James translation) “Blessed are …”
However, when the words of Jesus are taken in a modern context, they make the basis for a realistic political agenda for National Republicanism. Here are the key points which the Beatitudes highlight:
The poor in spirit (verse 3) – the need to restore national pride in society;
Those who mourn (verse 4) – the need to remember and help the victims of the conflict in Ireland;
The meek (verse 5) – the need to help the working class, and for the rich to invest their wealth in helping those less well off in society;
They which do hunger (verse 6) – the need to combat growing poverty in society, and also provide a sound educational and health system for all;
The merciful (verse 7) – the need for a fair and accountable justice system;
Pure in heart (verse 8) – the need to restore the moral fabric of society, to encourage family values and implement the concept of society’s conscience;
Peacemakers (verse 9) – the need for compromise and respect of people’s views based on the concept of accommodation, not capitulation;
Persecuted (verse 10) – the need for National Republicans to have the courage to stand up for their beliefs;
When men shall revile you (verse 11) – the need for a free press with responsible regulation.
National Republicanism is about the creation of the concept of Christian citizenship. Under this concept, compulsory voting – as exists in the Commonwealth nation of Australia – would be introduced to Ireland.
A key emphasis of National Republicanism is Christian pride in the nation under the banner of ‘Ireland for the Irish’. National Republicanism wants to combat the so-called ‘Brain Drain’ where Ireland’s young people feel the need to leave the nation and not return.
National Republicanism would not only seek to keep this generation on the island, but to encourage those who have emigrated to return with their skills to the island.
In this respect, all Irish citizens would complete a two-year compulsory National Service in the nation’s armed forces, during which time they would also learn a vocational trade.
The Christian Churches would have a role in encouraging people of all ages to develop a community service role.
In conclusion, it must again be emphasised that National Republicanism is not seeking to re-establish the rule of the Catholic bishops. Readers of National Republicanism must not confuse having a personal faith with Jesus Christ with those who want to implement a draconian form of institutionalized, ritualistic worship. There is no role for a pope in National Republicanism.
There is a major difference between an all-island future as defined by my Revolutionary Unionist ideology, but it also requires my counter balancing ideology known as National Republicanism.
The two new ideologies must co-exist if Brexit is not to see a return to widespread violence from both dissident republicans and loyalists.
National Republicanism can lead to more positive relations with Ireland’s Unionists, Protestants, loyalists and Loyal Orders.
Slam National Republicanism if you want or must, but at least with the Taoiseach pushing his Shared Island model, I cannot be accused of not putting forward workable ideas.
An Saise Glas (The Green Sash) The Road to National Republicanism, by Dr John Coulter, is available on Amazon Kindle.
Listen to Dr John Coulter’s religious show, Call In Coulter, every Saturday morning around 9.30 am on Belfast’s Christian radio station, Sunshine 1049 FM, or listen online at www.thisissunshine.com