The Counter Revolution 1920-2020

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by Joe McVeigh

There are two ways of looking at what has happened in Ireland over the last 100 years since Partition. There is “the official” way - that those who supported the Treaty and Partition were doing what they believed was best for the country, that they believed they had a mandate and they believed that they were acting within their rights to exclude and suppress all those who were opposed to the settlement on moral as well as political grounds. In pursuing this line they had the support of the Catholic hierarchy and the pro-establishment media.

The other way of looking at what happened in Ireland over the last 100 years is to see it terms of a counter–revolution supported by the privileged classes in Ireland and in Britain. That is, some argue, a more honest way and a more progressive way of understanding our past because it better explains what has been going on in politics since Partition and what is still going on in Ireland today. It also offers a way of understanding politics that opens up all kinds of possibilities for great change in the future –now that Sinn Féinis a highly organised party and is growing in popular support as seen at the last election in February 2020.

In the course of the last 100 years since Partition those who held on to the dream of a free and independent Ireland were regarded as suspect and a threat to the security of the state – north and south. It was not always a matter of whether they supported armed struggle or not. If they spoke Irish or sang Irish ballads they were suspect. They were regarded as a threat to security. The resort to armed struggle by some has to be understood in the context of what happened after 1916, the sacrifices many made during the War of Independence and how those who supported the Treaty refused to accept their concerns and went all out to suppress them by force. This approach resulted in the dreadful civil war.

When Sinn Féinsplit again in 1926 and Fianna Fail decided to enter electoral politics and achieved power in 1933, a small number of people still held on to the 1916 dream. In the situation they found they were unable to organise a political alternative. Most republicans had by then decided to support De Valera and the Fianna Fáil party. The small number of idealists were isolated and felt abandoned –as did the nationalists in the north-eastern six counties.

The counter revolution, which began when Sinn Féinsplit in 1921 over the Treaty, continued throughout the decades in various forms of repression and exclusion and it continues today led by Fine Gael and Fianna Fail with the support of the media. One big difference now is the power of social media. Republicans do not depend on RTE or Independent newspapers for publicity.

What we are witnessing today in the 26 counties is the continuation of that counter–revolution with the two parties FF and FG, who once were sworn enemies, joining together to exclude Sinn Féin – ‘because of their past’! Their past does not matter if they go into government with Unionists in the north. It is interesting to watch the tone of the leaders of FG and FF when they speak about SF. The Dublin political establishment want things to continue as they always have been for the privileged classes. They will use any tactic including Sinn Féinpolicies to maintain control of their state at all costs. However, it is clear after the February 2020 election that the people want change. The people have a broader vision. The days of the counter-revolution are coming to an end. It has been a long time coming.

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