How might a Republican future unfold, who or what might shape it, and what can it achieve?

There’s a very good interview with Anthony McIntyre on Vice, not least because it provides rather more light than we normally get on the Boston College project. But one aspect relates to Anthony’s characteristic pessimism when it comes to the future of Irish Republicanism:

To me, republicanism is over, but can I see a future for republicans if they behave in a rational manner and pursue justice and politics. Unfortunately, there are still people who think that political violence is the way forward, but for me it’s an absolute waste.

I say characteristic, because McIntyre’s been pretty consistent since the first time I heard himself and Danny Morrison debate the future of Republicanism at St Johns College in Oxford. It turned out to be a relatively civil squabble over the past.

Danny seemed willing to slough off his younger fundamentalist self in favour of some new and wholly peaceful means of attaining his prefered goal. Anthony on the other hand, having committed everything to a cause that failed militarily, could not see a sustainable way forward.

The frustrating thing about that engagement for me (having not long before written a Rowntree funded report on the future of unionism) as a member of the audience was that familiar refusal or unwillingness in both men to consider in practical terms how to approach the future of Irish Republicanism.

Perhaps it was an unreasonable expectation on my part. After all, although it was widely read at senior political levels at the time, many of the lessons outlined in the pamphlet seem to have gone unheeded in the eleven years since. Ironically, some of our ‘findings’ relate to the subject matter of Father Des Wilson’s ATN column this week

Some of our unionist friends realise that what they need is not just a re-arrangement of the things they always did, but a set of new things to do. And the question arises, is a new visionary leadership of unionism possible?

Taking Behan’s maxim on Republican splits as read, there does also seem to be a concomitant unwillingness amongst republicans to think about how a Republican future might unfold, who or what it might be shaped by, and what it might achieve.

Perhaps this relates to Republicanism’s historic commitment to action, Facta non Verba (even within a resolutely constitutional frame Fianna Fail, The Republican Party tend to self characterise as ‘doers’ rather than ‘thinkers’), which tends to block such introspection.

But it may also relate to something else, perhaps connected to Father Des’s observations of unionism: ie, the limitation of future possibilities because of a reptilian grip on past certainties.

To rip a little from Alex Massie commenting on the issues currently at stake in Scotland perhaps it’s a game of loyalties, of belonging and, in some senses, the expansiveness of your Scottishness Irishness?

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