MICHAEL McDowell isn’t the only southern politician trying to redefine republicanism in the aftermath of the Northern heist. The Taoiseach’s adviser, Martin Mansergh – a Protestant republican – has his own ideas.Mansergh wrote in the Irish Times:
The only source of power attainable in Ireland today is democracy, institutionally adapted in the case of Northern Ireland to the needs of a deeply divided society. In all major statements, from the Downing Street Declaration to the Mitchell Principles to the Good Friday agreement, and subsequently down to last month, the abiding position is that full democratic participation and especially the shared tenure of power require a complete and lasting cessation of all associated paramilitary activity. There is no fudging of democracy in any of that.
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Some argue that continued activity by the IRA has to be strung out as long as possible, because it enhances Sinn Féin’s negotiating power and electoral aura. One could just as plausibly argue it is an albatross round their neck or, to use another avian metaphor, makes them a sitting duck for the securocrats.
It is shocking that, while the Sinn Féin leadership was negotiating with Taoiseach and Prime Minister, with or without their knowledge, others within the republican movement, more sceptical of the peace process, could have been meticulously planning the Northern Bank heist.
The Good Friday agreement is a good one, and demands a proper chance as a model of co-operation between very different traditions. Working it, or allowing it to work, could constitute a tentative first step towards uniting Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter, albeit on a limited basis.
If political leadership cannot even now deliver the future free of paramilitary threat that would make that possible, then perhaps a different republicanism needs to be brought together, one with wide appeal and less baggage, and more closely associated with the much denigrated but far the most successful part of the whole republican project, the independent State to the south.