The long-term republican activist, Cáit Trainor, formerly of the breakaway grouping Republican Sinn Féin, has written an interesting opinion piece for An Spréach, a new independent left-wing magazine. In the article (republished on her aptly-named website, Damn Your Concessions) she repeats many of the core tenets of her former party: no accommodation with the United Kingdom’s continued occupation of the north-east of the country; no recognition of Ireland – the “Free State” – as the de jure embodiment of the revolutionary Irish Republic proclaimed in 1916; no countenance of an end to partition through simultaneous referendums held north and south, with the resulting reunification of the Six County colony-state with the Twenty-Six County nation-state; and so on. It is a short feature but well worth reading in its own right. However I do feel the need to offer a thought or two of my own on what seems to me to be some rather unrealistic and unattainable thinking; thinking very much in accord with RSF’s near-extinct brand of republicanism. So if I may be permitted a few representative quotes.
Republicans oppose the Free State as much as anyone.
The Republic declared and fought for since 1916, that all Republicans pledge their allegiance to, was suppressed in the bitter counter-revolution that followed and in its place the two partitionist states were set up. Republicans since the partition of Ireland have been fighting a war against these two illegitimate states.
….much like the 6-County state, the 26-County State also exists in complete defiance of the Irish Republic proclaimed in 1916 and re-affirmed through the first all-Ireland Dáil Éireann.
Whatever about its muddied origins in the 1922-23 counterrevolution, can there really be much debate about the legitimacy of the present nation-state of Ireland? It is manifestly a democratic, sovereign and independent polity. One which enjoys the allegiance of a majority of the inhabitants of the island of Ireland; that is, the Irish people as a whole. While there is a republican absolutist argument to be made on the 1921-23 era, one could just as easily see the years between the general election of February 1932 (which saw Fianna Fáil, the core of the anti-Treaty faction, taking power in Dublin) and the implementation of the Republic of Ireland Act in April 1949 (severing the last links with the so-called British Commonwealth) as a period of counter-counterrevolution in the “Free State”. An entity which only existed from December 1922 until December 1937, when it was restored to the status of a republic through a plebiscite-endorsed constitution: Bunreacht na hÉireann (a status which both the former civil war foes, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, made explicit through their actions in the years which followed).
Lobbying for a better Ireland, a more progressive, equitable and prosperous society, is an entirely laudable and necessary cause. Believing that it can only be achieved to its fullest extent through the architecture of a Thirty-Two County nation-state is equally valid. It is a view I share. However, that does not deligitamise the existing structures of Irish nationhood. They are the foundations upon which the greater edifice must be built. When some alternative strands of republicanism speak of modern Ireland as the “Free State”, as an impostor or puppet entity in political thralldom to the UK, they are pursuing an argument which the majority of the Irish people settled at the ballot box several decades ago. Such antiquated opinions, however fiercely felt, simply fly in the face of reality, denying what the inhabitants of the island – both north and south – can see and experience all around them. Modern Ireland is the republic of Easter 1916, no matter how great its compromises or inadequacies. It is the sapling from the seed, with the potential to grow into a tree. And the successful reintegration of the Six Counties into the national territory – in whatever form that will take – should be seen as the end point in not so much an unfinished revolution as a long revolution: one with many “stepping stones” along the way, and with many more stretching away into the future.