Republicanism: a retreat from reality?

Eoghan Harris found himself under political blockcade from what turned out to be a highly personable local Sinn Fein councillor protesting against Harris’ journalistic emnity towards Gerry Adams and the wider Sinn Fein project. Worth the read for its raconteur value alone!He begins:

LAST Sunday afternoon, I came back to my house in Baltimore, hoping to catch some of the Cork-Tipperary game on television, to find a man in dark glasses sitting in a big space-wagon parked outside my house, a tricolour poking out the window, the car adorned with a large poster of Gerry Adams, and festooned with handmade posters. The posters proclaimed that the picketers were not pleased with what I write in this paper. One said ‘Eoghan Harris is pro-unionist, pro-British, pro-Iraq war and anti-peace process’. The slogan beside the Adams poster said ‘Harris, Just Let This Man Get on With His Good Work’ and ‘End Your Campaign of Hate Against Gerry Adams and the Peace process’.

After discovering the identity of his lone protester, they got to talking:

In many ways, he and I have much in common. He comes from the same kind of hardline republican home, has read much the same political literature, shares the same narratives. But in spite of that we had come to totally different different conclusions. But I still found last Sunday’s picket pretty depressing. Apart from the implicit intimidation involved in protesting at a private house, it brought back bad memories of a 1950s boyhood. My grandfather was a 1916-22 veteran. My father had a huge head scar from fighting the Blueshirts at Marsh’s Yard in the 1930s. They lived for battles long ago. Republicanism was their secular religion. But it was a religion cold as Calvinism. It brought them no personal happiness.

And finally:

An authentic life is a search for what is real. Republicanism is a retreat from reality. Look at the lack of any real link between republican language and real life revealed in SF charges that people like me, are pro-British or pro-Unionist, or anti-peace process.

First, far from being pro-British, I totally oppose the policy of the British Government and British intelligence services towards Ireland. Anxious to avoid bombs on the mainland, these two bodies have been doing deals with republicans for the past decade – even if this means dropping Irish democracy down the drain.

Second, far from being pro-Unionist, I do not want Ireland to be part of the United Kingdom. But, as a Wolfe Tone republican, I feel I have a firm duty to defend the rights of Protestants and Dissenters to do their own thing until such time as we can persuade them their future is in a federal Ireland.

Finally, far from being against the peace process, I called the Belfast Agreement an “amazing grace”, and advised David Trimble to trust Sinn Fein-IRA. But the Provos betrayed that trust. And I am not alone in looking for an alternative.

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