By Mick Hall (for the Blanket)
It is no secret that an increasing numbers of Irish Republicans have become disillusioned with the Good Friday Agreement and disconcerted with SF’s inability to get the British State to enforce the terms of the agreement upon Unionism. This despite the Provisional Republican Movement having committed itself to honoring its side of the agreement, which has meant it has overseen the decommissioning of most of its armory and stood down all but its most senior Volunteers, both of which went against the wishes of the majority of the organization’s volunteers and the historic traditions of the Oglaigh na hEireann. Nevertheless, despite the aforementioned lack of forward movement, the PRM leadership having signed up to the GFA hook, line and sinker still rigidly adheres to it as if there is no alternative but to bend the knee to ever more demands from the Unionist politicians.
It is hardly surprising three dozen or so Irish Republicans considered getting together in Toomebridge to have a chat about the future of their country and the role of Irish Republicanism within it. They came from a myriad of Republican organizations and none. Amongst their number were soldiers, politicians, trade unionists, political activists, the unemployed, writers and academics. In the main they came from the working classes and those who toil on the land, but as the aforementioned professions suggest, there is a sprinkling of middle class people amongst their number. They themselves make no mention of armed struggle for this was not the purpose of the meeting, which basically boils down to ‘Whither Irish Republicanism,’ circa 2006. True, some will be advocates of Abstentionist Armed Struggle, others, whilst recognizing the right of Irishmen and women to take up arms to end the British State’s occupation of the north east of Ireland, which is after all maintained by force of British arms, believe that there is not the will within core Republican communities for a return to war, nor would that option in all probability meet with any more success today than it did during the ‘Long War’. However, what all of these Republicans have in common is they openly raise the question as to there being a need for an alternative, organized Republican prospective to the Good Friday Agreement.
These Republicans all agree that the PRM, in its head-long rush for political power has made one compromise too many, and in the cold light of day, for all their trashing of Republican values and decommissioning of arms, they have very little to show for it politically. Indeed, in the South they have no more parliamentary seats in Dail Eireann than the Workers Party, a previous split from Republicanism, achieved in its heyday. In the north, little political progress has been made as the Unionists still refuse to sit with SF in a devolved local government. After each compromise, designed by SF to kick start the negotiations to bring about a devolved government, the Unionists and their British masters raise the bar and demand yet another bout of self flagellation from the Shinners. The latest obstacle the Unionists claim is SF’s refusal to help administer the colonial Police Service Northern Ireland. Mr Adams once again claims this is a rubicon he will not cross, yet few believe him as he was part of a leadership that toured the country telling their members ‘not an ounce or a single bullet’, only for the unfortunate-but-ultra-loyal Seanna Walsh to appear on TV to tell volunteers that they had been made redundant as the business was downsizing. A thesis could be written about how Mr Adams abuses people’s loyalty and turns something which is an admirable human characteristic into a weakness, bordering on a betrayal, whilst keeping his own reputation spotless.
So why has the media, NI’s politicians and in all probability the security forces, got themselves into such a dizzy spin over this proposed meeting in Toomebridge? More to the point, why did SF get called in to put a stop to it, for that is the only conclusion one can draw from the cancellation of the meeting at such short notice. There is real irony here if the claims being made about the local council being pressurized to cancel the venue are true, for how many times in the past, did the Dublin government pressurize public and private organizations not to rent SF a Hall to hold its annual Ard Fheis in?
I could continue this essay, add this or that as to the reasons why the thought of a Renaissance Republicanism, which is firmy anchored within the real politics of the 21st century would set alarm bells ringing in the Viceroy’s Mansion and beyond. But I have no need, for although times change, some things remain eternal, thus I will return again to Padraig Pearse’s words to point out why Irish patriots, whilst Ireland remains unfree, will turn to Republicanism, no matter what any transient Republican leadership may say or do, and thus why the enemies of Irish Unity will become panicked by the thought of such a coming together of Irish Republicans.
“They think that they have pacified Ireland. They think that they have purchased half of us and intimidated the other half. They think that they have foreseen everything, think that they have provided against everything; but, the fools, the fools, the fools! -- They have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.”