I have received a very strong reaction to my post examining the upcoming meeting between Martin McGuinness and the visiting British head of state. Messages, emails, texts and even the odd phone call. Some positive, some negative. But many more of the former than the latter, I’m grateful to say. And some have been thankful for presenting the meeting in a new light, a new interpretation that helps illuminate the bigger picture. The historical context and what it tells us. Even Independent Republicans, some of whom are bitterly opposed to the present Sinn Féin leadership and policies, can see that there is more here than rhetorical posturing about the Queen’s shilling and all the rest. This is the reply I gave to some Comments on Facebook and it serves just as well here:
“The British spent the best part of four decades condemning the Volunteers of the Irish Republican Army as terrorists, murderers, serial killers, men of violence, godfathers of violence, psychopaths, etc. The armed struggle was illegal, illegitimate, immoral, undemocratic, etc.
Now the British head of state is to meet one of those Volunteers, the former GOC the Northern Command, Chief of Staff and Chairperson of the Army Council of the Irish Republican Army. A person who participated in and led the armed struggle.
Regardless of the circumstances, or one’s opinions on the Belfast Agreement, the Northern Executive/Assembly, the recent and current policies of Sinn Féin and the IRA, and all the rest, as an Irish Republican one should take satisfaction in seeing the British implicitly acknowledging and recognising the legitimacy of the armed struggle and those who waged it.
The British themselves recognise that, which is why we have had the “counter-balancing” visit by the British head of state to Enniskillen and the highlighting of the terrible events there in 1987. It is an attempt to contextualise the meeting between Martin McGuinness and the British queen, to place the moment within a British narrative of the Long War because they realise they have lost control of that narrative. The British head of state went to the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin and accepted the legitimacy of armed resistance against the British Occupation. This is part of the same process. The British are the only ones attempting to spin the story because they are no longer the authors of it.
Independent Republicans of whatever persuasion should see the coming meeting in that light. There is no requirement on anyone to accept Sinn Féin or the SF vision for the future. I have my own criticisms in this area and believe that SF needs to adopt more progressive and proactive policies in the areas of cross-border institutions, All-Ireland structures, the reform of policing and justice, the de-Britification of the north-east, Irish language rights, etc.
The failure to push the transitional nature of the Belfast Agreement is to SF’s shame.
I also understand the anger and hurt felt by many Republicans at McGuinness’ remarks in relation to the “traitors to the island of Ireland” and all that has come from that. It was intemperate, ill-conceived and counter-productive. SF’s failure to engage with the broad Republican Community, and its failure to channel young people into peaceful but PROACTIVE methods of pursuing the reunification of the nation is deserving of condemnation. But I would include ALL Irish nationalist parties in that. While politics work militancy is not required. When politics fail to work then militancy will thrive.
See this meeting as a positive rather than a negative. Do not allow the British, Unionists, Neo-Unionists, anti-Republicans and anti-Nationalists write the agenda here and spin the story in their favour.
The British head of state, the British queen, will be meeting an IRA man on equal terms. Does anyone really believe that Martin McGuinness sees himself as anything but her equal? Even if one completely opposes the Belfast Agreement and all that stems from it, even if one supports continued armed resistance to the British Occupation, realise that sooner or later the British always capitulate. And always, always will meet the enemy they pledged never to meet; never to negotiate with; never to recognise.
That is why this is a victory. Or rather, yet another one. With many more to go.”
- Smells Like Victory (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness happy to pose for photograph with Queen Elizabeth (irishcentral.com)
- Martin McGuinness the Queen and Sinn Fein’s “Tiocfaidh ar Lámh”* campaign… (sluggerotoole.com)