Debate within Republicanism, part 1

Last month, a group of republicans were to meet in Toome. For a variety of reasons, that meeting did not happen. The idea of it, however, has sparked some debate. Brian Feeney was among the first to chime in, noted here on Slugger, mocking the publicising of the meeting in the media, and dismissing the concept as more fodder for the DUP to baulk over. Also previously blogged on Slugger, David Adams warmed to the idea of the debate, but warned against returning to armed conflict. [Full text of Adams’ article can be accessed here]

Adams and Feeney, however keen their observations may be, are not Republicans, they are outsiders to that circle looking in. Danny Morrison, known for his role in the (Gerry) Adams think-tank, took up the mantle in the last week of Daily Ireland. He used his platform on the whole to have a go at dissidents, unfortunately, as has been noted in the comments on Slugger, slagging them for not being able to sustain a newspaper. However clumsy, the article was an appeal for dialogue.

In this week’s Blanket, Martin Galvin takes up Morrison, disproving a number of his assertions (“They cannot sustain a propaganda newspaper or magazine. They have not produced a programme. They have not offered a compelling analysis or even a woeful one. Their spokespersons have been spectacularly unimpressive and inarticulate.”) just by answering him:He chose The Blanket to publish his rebuttal in, which, at 5 years online – without any government funding or advertising – has far outlasted Daily Ireland, and his reply is well written, cogent, and articulate. That aside, it is worth Slugger readers noting Galvin’s article, both in terms of the ongoing debate within Republicanism, and also to compare to Fr. Sean McManus’ article on policing blogged a wee bit down the page.

In the first instance, Galvin robustly questions the direction Morrison’s brand of Republicanism has gone in, and what, exactly, it has brought for Republicans, and will continue to bring. As to the second, for as much of a giant step McManus’ visit to Garnerville was, Galvin makes salient points about how many more steps are still ahead.

Galvin writes:

For the British, more prized than even the suitably witnessed destruction of IRA arms, would be the import of a Sinn Fein endorsement of the crown constabulary. Regardless of whether a crown will be physically emblazoned on the cap or sleeve, the British constabulary will be imposing British laws, hauling Republican political suspects before British courts and jailing Republican opponents of British rule in Her Majesty’s prisons.
The constabulary may be called by a new name, but is officered, trained, vetted and commanded by long-serving veterans of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. It is simply a re-named and re-uniformed RUC.

The obvious way of looking at that last sentence is the knee-jerk way, that it is resurrecting and relying on the abuses of the RUC’s past to reject the PSNI (and Galvin shows how that spirit still haunts us in the present in the next paragraph). But the point is more subtle than that. The PSNI is the RUC, in much the same way a new secretary is still the secretary. They may not be the former employee, but they are still working for the same boss, in the same location, doing the same job, at the same desk. When Sinn Fein endorses the police, where will this leave Republicans, and Republicanism?

  • mickhall

    If/when SF recognize the PSNI and more importantly serve on its [oversight] committee they will no longer be Republicans as the term has historically been understood.

    This has nothing to do with armed struggle, historically it has never been the business of Republicans to help administer the British State, to do so is to turn Republicanism on its head. More to the point Republicans have no role to play in administering/bolstering part of the British States armed defense mechanism in the north east of Ireland and if you take away the PR that is what the PSNI remains.

    If unlike its predecessor the RUC, the PSNI acts within the law, there is no reason why Republicans and their families should not engage with the PSNI. But why they feel the need to administer it bewilders me, although it is easy to see why the British and Unionists demand they do so.

  • If the core of Martin’s objection to the police really is that they are “the British constabulary [who] will be imposing British laws”, then he can have nothing constructive to say about policing until there is a United Ireland. Which, back in the real world, means they will have nothing to contribute on policing for a long time to come.

    Danny says “Today nationalists are glad the war is over” and “feel that a political solution is available”. He challenges the dissidents to say what their alternative strategy is.

    The best Martin can manage is an airy assertion of “other political strategies being cogently and coherently articulated by Republicans”. Unfortunately they might as well be articulated in a soundproof bunker, for all he tells us.

    Not only am I no wiser after reading his article in the blanket – I’m no better informed about how they can make any constructive contribution to 21st century Ireland.

    The sooner they “go away”, the better!

  • jerryp

    Is that irresponsible dope Galvin still around ? I remember years ago he used to come here on vacation and stir up passions and was usually obliged with the odd riot or two.AFAIK , one of the riots ended up with a teenager being killed . I think his legal colleagues used to go to Florida and Montego bay while he was in the old sod . I always suspected it was because he couldn’t swim or, maybe. he had “issues ” about exposing so much of his body !

  • Miss Fitz

    When you say the PSNI is the RUC, is that not being disingenous?

    The PSNI are a police service, in the way that the RUC were a police force. But they are not the same organisation, and there are many signs of that being the case.

    Sometimes, it may look, walk and quack like a mallard, but actually be a mandarin

  • Nic

    Why do we insist on using the euphemism “republican” when what is meant is provisional IRA members and committed supporters?

    Secondly, it is true, in the literal sense, that the PSNI is the “new” RUC, though it may be organised differently and have different priorities. In my potted school history, the IRA under Collins central tactic was attacking policemen to force an over-reaction and stir up trouble among the populace.
    For obsessive followers of and believers in the “armed struggle”, this is a central tenet and to contemplate accepting any other authority as the legitimate police force (I include the Garda Siochana in this), shakes the very foundations.

    It seems to me that the quintessence is that we are heading for another “split” of some sort. Adams and his insiders will get cushy jobs in British government or as advisers to FF in Ireland and the true greens will head into the hills to plot their return. Their law will chucky again, if you will.

    EG If McGuinness then becomes head of police in NornIron, will he pursue them as vigorously as his predecessors did?
    Answer: he may have to, because by donning a British policeman’s cap, he will have made himself a legitimate target.

    What a delicious conundrum for “republicanism” to fudge it’s way out of, eh?

  • Henry94

    What Martin Galvin is saying is that the definition of republicanism is the rejection of the British state in Ireland. It is not legitimate therefore its police, courts, traffic lights etc have no validity and we have no obligation to be bound by them.

    That was a fantastic strategy in 1918 and advanced the republican cause. For Galvin and his fellow believers it does not stop at the PNSI. The Gardai are not legitimate either as they are the police force of a partitionist entity.

    But the reality is that the republican institutions of 1918 were legitimate, only, because they had the support of the Irish people.

    That legitimacy can’t be passed on through a tiny group of believers but can only be conferred by the Irish people.

    It is a legitimacy that belongs today in the Good Friday Agreement. It is a legitimacy that has the support of almost the entire nationalist population and not only that but about half the unionist population too.

    That is a better mandate, a more inclusive mandate, than 1918. A republican is obliged to accept it. There can be no legitimate use of force against it.

  • Little Eva

    Having just read the 4 pieces in their entirety -what a drag – I have to say Adams makes the most cogent argument of all. I.E., that the dissidents would be daft not to learn from the provos, who were fucked so had to build a mandate and go for a political settlement. Pity he didn’t elaborate on who the sensible dissidents he refers to are.
    As for the rest, Feeney just goes for insult, Morrison for much the same with a couple of added points and Galvin is obviously as detached from reality as he is physically from Ireland and personal danger.

  • Kathy C

    posted by Kathy C

    Hi all,

    I thought it was an excellent article by Martin Galvin and he was so correct in his analysis that Danny Morrison (professing the mantra of gerry adams in sinn fein) Danny has opted for the george bush approach. Although Martin Galvin didn’t call it that. The…if you don’t agree with the approach…your loyalty is questioned and your patriotism is questioned…by george bush or the likes of danny morrison.
    I’m glad to see there are brave republicans standing up and speaking out against the approach being taken today by the sinn fein leadership…because the leadership is on the wrong road… Many republicans know it…many Americans know it…and the Irish voters who were recently polled and reported by the Sunday Tribune know it….there ‘no further progress for Sinn Fein in poll.”
    Personally, I see that sinn fein is going backwards…back to a party with little electorial clout…and people have the current leadership of adams/mcguiness/kelly to blame.

  • Kathy C

    posted by Kathy C

    Hi all,

    I forgot to say in the above post…there might be many causes why the newspaper Daily Ireland is now out of business…I think one of them is because of as a contributing writer for the paper…Danny Morrison…well, people don’t want to read or listen to what he has to say anymore. The irony of life…the Blanket is still in publishing but not the Daily Ireland and Danny Morrison. Does anyone else see the irony here?

  • slug

    “The irony of life…the Blanket is still in publishing but not the Daily Ireland and Danny Morrison. Does anyone else see the irony here?”

    Does the blanked have a print edition though?

  • Dave

    The long and short of it, is that the republican movement with much help from Gerry, Martin and a few governments have painted republicanism into a corner. In the eyes of the world republicans/Nationalists will (must) abide by the rule of law (British law at that).

    There are some within the RM who believe that the return to an armed struggle will secure a United Ireland, don’t try to tell dissidents this is futile. After all this is what the republican movement is all about gunmen having their way by armed force.

    The war is over. See if you can persuade me to participate in a United Ireland looking down the barrel of a gun? You are neither wanted nor needed. The people of Northern Ireland will vote for their future and that of their children.

    Independence for Northern Ireland is a viable option.

  • na

    Is the Blanket now the voice of dissident Republicanism? Was that why Mackers addressed the RSF/CIRA Hunger Strike commemoration in Bundoran?

    Or is, as I suspect, the Blanket just an online magazine?

    Those that hold it up to challenge Danny’s view, ‘They cannot sustain a propaganda newspaper or magazine’ seem to have an opinion differing from that of those running the website. So, who is making these claims on the Blankets behalf that it is a successful dissident Republican propaganda platform(albeit only online)?

    I thought it was about Freedom of Speech (that’s what they say on their tin) but I’m willing to be convinced it is merely a propaganda publication.

  • harpo

    ‘It is not legitimate therefore its police, courts, traffic lights etc have no validity and we have no obligation to be bound by them.’

    henry 94:

    You don’t obey the traffic lights of the evil British oppressor?

    Good for you luv.

    LOL

  • harpo

    ‘That legitimacy can’t be passed on through a tiny group of believers but can only be conferred by the Irish people.’

    Henry94:

    I wonder if you said the same during the height of the Provo campaign in the 1970s and 1980s?

    The Provos were forever saying that numbers didn’t matter and that only principles did, just as Galvin says today. And Provo supporters cheered the PIRA on, despite an obvious lack of approval by ‘the Irish people’. There were constant references to the sellout by the second Dail and how the provos were the legitimate government in Ireland, since this was conferred on them by some old guy who was in the second Dail. During those times, anyone who dared oppose this Provo view of the world was condemned as a sellout Free Stater, west-Brit or worse.

    I have to say it’s strange seeing the Provos now talking about accepting the ‘new’ (1998 version)will of the Irish people. Up until 1993 or so the supposed 1918 version was trotted out at every opportunity.

    Today’s dissidents are just the same as the pre-1993 Provos. In fact many of them were in the Provos in the 1970s and 1980s. It isn’t republicanism that has changed – it’s those who are left calling themselves Provos who have changed. They eventually got the point that a UI wasn’t going to come about at the barrel of a gun. It’s just a pity that it took them 25 years to work this out.

  • jerryp

    Ok, harpo ,let’s go back to feeding Christians to the Lions and burning suspected witches.I don’t think the people were ever asked if they wanted these practices changed !

  • Occasional Commentator

    I’d like to ask the various republicans what would be their position towards the PSNI when Westminster permanently devolves policing and justice to Irish people? That’s due to happen sooner or later as part of any deal. It cannot be said to be British then. The only issue then is a over whether the structures, and procedures et cetera are effective in giving us a good police force.

    Republicanism cannot be defined in terms of being against police. It surely must be about who controls the police ultimately and whether they do a good job.

  • mickhall

    Ireland was partitioned by British force of arms against the democratic will of the majority of its people; and it has been maintained by the force of British arms. It is perfectly logical for some Irish men and women to challenge that partition by force of arms.

    Whether people like it or not the last all Ireland ballot was in 1918, it would therefore need an all Ireland ballot about partition to supersede it. For Henry to claim that the votes conducted over the GFA does so is nonsense, as only the people in the north east took part, which whilst it may have been a means to end the war does not give it legitimacy as to the future of Ireland.[the ballot in RoI was on articles etc]

    It is the hight of hypocrisy for Morrison to condemn RSF for doing what he advocated for decades. Having said this it is clear armed struggle is not going to be any more successful in the immediate future that it was in the ‘long war’. But it must be understood if the British claim the right to defend partition by force of arms without an all Ireland mandate, Republicans have every right to attempt to deny them this right by force of arms. If Britain believes partition is legitimate, then it is only correct they test there argument in an all Ireland ballot, otherwise there position is no more legitimate that RSF or vice versa

    Arm struggle should not be set in stone, it is merely a strategy, an option to be considered. There are a number of others that should perhaps be considered first, but administering a British police force cannot be one of them, for to do so is nothing more than behaving as a quisling.

    Now if the local government was allowed to raise revenue by taxation and set up its own police force which would be totally controlled and financed locally, that would perhaps be a different matter. If this arose then it would have to be seriously considered, there are examples of this happening in Catalonia and the Basque counties of Spain. However that is not what is being proposed with the PSNI.

    The reason the police are different from say the ambulance service is because at times of political crises. The police are an integral part of the British States mechanism to defend partition. As the overall aim of republicans is to end partition and we humans cannot see into the future, it would be a pretty dim witted republican who worked to make this arm of the British State ever more effective. For the very simple reason it might again be used against republicans. It is a fact of history that the police almost always defend the status quo.

    But as it is, the Assembly admin is really nothing more than one giant and costly rubber stamp for the government in London.

  • Occasional Commentator

    mickhall,
    You mention that ‘local’ police forces might be considered by republicans, even if they weren’t controlled by a unitary 32-county Irish republic, depending on the details of course. Won’t the PSNI but such a local Irish force once Westminster permanently devolves policing and justice powers to Irish politicians?

  • Henry94

    harpo

    Today’s dissidents are just the same as the pre-1993 Provos. In fact many of them were in the Provos in the 1970s and 1980s. It isn’t republicanism that has changed – it’s those who are left calling themselves Provos who have changed.

    Circumstances have changed. It is the dissidents who are raising armed struggle to the status of supreme principle. The vast majority of republicans see politics as the way forward in the context of the agreement.

    Armed struggle has to be justified in today’s terms not in historical terms.

    They eventually got the point that a UI wasn’t going to come about at the barrel of a gun. It’s just a pity that it took them 25 years to work this out.

    I think it’s more complicated than that and this is something the dissidents must think about. The IRA had a capacity to wage a struggle far more intensely and ruthlessly than they did. It became obvious that their own members and supporters were against indiscriminate all out and ruthless war.

    The use of armed struggle has long been a tactical issue.

    The historical (and for the dissidents, current) problem of capacity was more or less solved but was replaced by the problem of moral/political constraint.

    Thus the level of violence acceptable to the republican people was well within what Britain could absorb. That was the reality. Even the British it emerges (in the Frank Hegarty case) were trying to push the IRA into more brutal actions in order to discredit them. What does that tell you?

    So the alternative to the peace strategy is permanent but futile war. While I am conscious that there is a comfort in that for some people I think leadership means getting out of such cul-de-sacs.

  • Henry94

    mickhall

    Ireland was partitioned by British force of arms against the democratic will of the majority of its people; and it has been maintained by the force of British arms. It is perfectly logical for some Irish men and women to challenge that partition by force of arms.

    But it is for such people to offer a convincing and winning strategy for doing so. Just because you feel entitled to use force is not a good enough reason.

    Whether people like it or not the last all Ireland ballot was in 1918, it would therefore need an all Ireland ballot about partition to supersede it. For Henry to claim that the votes conducted over the GFA does so is nonsense

    The GFA vote is more legitimate for three reasons.

    1. It is more current in that the people who voted for it are, largely, still with us.

    2. It embraces a far broader consensus of the Irish people including as it does large number of unionists (hint: see tricolour)

    3. It comes at the end of an armed struggle not at the beginning of one so people had a far more realistic view of what they wanted and did not want.

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Mick,

    “Ireland was partitioned by British force of arms against the democratic will of the majority of its people; and it has been maintained by the force of British arms. It is perfectly logical for some Irish men and women to challenge that partition by force of arms.”

    The 1918 UK election was won by the Conservative and Unionist Party. Therefore, it could equally be said that…

    “the UK was partitioned by Republican force of arms against the democratic will of the majority of its people”

    Even taking Ireland as a separate entity it can be argued that there was no clear majority for independence. Coupled with widespread intimidation it was hardly a free vote.

    Finally, should a UI ever come about would it (based on 1918) be…

    “perfectly logical for some Irish men and women to challenge that partition(of the UK) by force of arms?”

  • nmc

    Just as a side note, I believe Danny Morrisson occassionally writes for the Guardian.

  • Dualta

    Mick Hall,

    [i]Ireland was partitioned by British force of arms against the democratic will of the majority of its people; and it has been maintained by the force of British arms. It is perfectly logical for some Irish men and women to challenge that partition by force of arms.[/i]

    Mick, I’m sorry, but you are wrong. It is absolutely wrong to deny the right of the Irish people our right to determine by ourselves the future of our nation and the struggle for its realisation. It is wrong for the British and it is wrong for any small group of Republicans.

    Nor can you hold up the democratically expressed wish of a dead generation as being more important than that of this living and breathing on. They were cheated. We must not be.

    It is hypocritical for traditional Republicans to deride the British for denying us our right to self determination whilst denying it to us as well.

    The Irish people were not duped into supporting the GFA. We had as much opportunity to reject it as we did to accept it and we chose to accept it. North and south we made a decision and all Irish people should respect that.

    Of course the process of designing the GFA and presenting it to the people was littered with crap and it falls way short of what is needed for real, sustainable peace and prosperity, but it has been chosen as enough by the Irish people.

    We have spoken about our rejection of armed struggle and all Republicans must respect the will of their fellow Irish people.

  • mickhall

    We have spoken about our rejection of armed struggle and all Republicans must respect the will of their fellow Irish people.
    Posted by Dualta

    Dualta

    I agree completely.

    Henry,

    What I find difficult to understand is why SF cannot look upon the PSNI as a necessary evil. Most nationalists in my experience think like this. What is the point of joining police committee, other than the British blooding you all.

    Best regards

  • Henry94

    mickhall

    I can give you my own view. Assuming the best possible deal can be done then why have policing with political input from the DUP, UUP and SDLP but not from Sinn Fein?

    I agree that acceptence of policing is a pragmatic thing but I would extend the pragmatism to sitting on the board and being vigilant on behalf of those who are likely to suffer from bad policing.

  • mickhall

    Henry

    Thanks for that, I am sure I do not need to remind you, but this is a very ‘large’ rubicon for Republicans to cross, no matter who they give there allegiance to. In many ways it is greater than decommissioning, as it goes to the heart of their core beliefs.

  • Mick Fealty

    na,

    “Or is, as I suspect, the Blanket just an online magazine?”

    Talk about stating the bleeding obvious!

    Seriously though, this attacking the messenger is tiresome. Please make some effort to address the issues raised.