Beware the 'snake-oil salesmen'

As Gerry Moriarty, in the Irish Times reports, the Irish Government Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, was at the launch of the SDLP’s proposals yesterday. And he had a scathing response to Sinn Féin’s calls for an Irish Government Green Paper on a united Ireland – “Like the snake-oil salesmen of the American west, the proponents of a Green Paper advance it as a panacea for all our ills. It is not.”

The Irish Times report consists mostly of quotes from Dermot Ahern so I’ll add those paragraphs in here –

“Those advancing it are in fact impeding the drive towards unity by distracting attention from the immediate priorities of getting the institutions of the [ Belfast] Agreement back to full working order, including the concomitant North/South dimension and the justice, equality and policing reforms,” he said.

“I want to stress that we already have the template [ for Irish unity] – it’s called the Good Friday agreement. That agreement is backed by a popular 32-county vote. Its mandate is bigger than any one party. Only those who are working to implement the agreement have credibility on unity,” Mr Ahern added.

He said that as a “republican my main personal and political goal is the unity of Ireland” but that it could not be achieved by violence. “For Fianna Fáil, the democratic political goal of a united Ireland is at the heart of our republican perspective. Our project did not end in 1923.

“Our project held, and still holds that unity by armed force would – at best – transfer nationalist isolation and alienation on to unionists. At worst it would threaten the lives of tens of thousands of fellow Irish men and women. We believe Connolly was right when he said that ‘Ireland without her people means nothing to me’.” He said the agreement represented the clear will of the Irish people, and “no republican can impede that will”.

“Our bottom line is this – unity down the barrel of a gun, unity through intimidation, aggression, murder, cannot work. Anyone clinging to those means is impeding the path to unity. Any such group or party cannot claim to be republican,” he added.

Unity could not be achieved unless nationalist Ireland started focusing on the future and not the past. He said Irish republicanism has always been “of its time” and “whatever about the past – in today’s democratic world violence for political purposes is simply unacceptable”.

“While the alienation and isolation of the past should never be forgotten, rather than be immobilised by a divisive past we need to focus on a shared future. We must stop describing the present with reference to the conflict and the simple dichotomies of the past – Catholic versus Protestant, Irish versus English.”

  • drumcree

    Interesting as far as it goes, however, Ahern knows more than anyone, than for a true Irish Republican being part of the European project matters more than anything – the logical consequence is not ever increasing unity North and South, but ever increasing harmonisation for all of the EU Member States, and for Ireland, the most significant being the other English speaking part of the British Isles – namely the United Kingdom. Once that fact is faced up to, perhaps politics North and South can move onto a more realistic footing.

  • Whatabout

    Couldn’t have put it better myself, Drumcree.

  • Dave

    The entire speech is on the FF website – v. interesting to see stance of that Party re modern Republicanism. The difference between 1790’s, 1916 and the present.

    Also a bit on the economics of unity which is worthwhile.

    Its at:

  • Billy Pilgrim

    It’s a very interesting speech. Ahern is a clever man, no doubt. The way he has extolled the memory of ’98 and ’16, whilst at the same time boxing them into history, is masterful.

    I think we’re seeing the beginning of a debate within nationalism, the end of which will hopefully see Irish nationalism having its house well and truly in order.

    Looking in from the outside, and without prejudice to your own opposition to unification, what do unionists make of this debate?

  • spartacus

    ‘violence for political purposes is unacceptable…’

    Here we have a classic case of hypocrisy, from a party which has allowed Shannon to be used to transport upwards of 100,00 US troops to and from Iraq, and which has more than likely offered up its airspace for the transport of ‘suspects’ for torture at the hands of the US and its allies.

    Leave aside the attempt to present itself as above and beyond ‘antiquated’ nationalism, an outlook agreed by the chattering classes everywhere in this country. The more-democratic-than-thou stuff stinks to high heaven, and regardless of where one comes down on the ‘national question,’ Ahern and co. should not be allowed to get away with this hypocritical cant.