Many claim it – from Sinn Féin to Fianna Fail to the SDLP and a wealth of smaller groups including RSF, IRSP, Workers Party, éirígí and the 32CSM (sorry if I left you out). To address the question requires a definition of what Republicanism is and that isn’t something easily agreed on.
It used to be reasonably easy to define – primarily those demanding complete independence from Britain and the establishment of a Republican government. After that various elements had differing significance for various parties:
· Socialism – pretty much a perquisite
· The 1916 Proclamation
· The 1919 Democratic Programme
· Articles 2 & 3
After the GFA the definitions altered for many with FF overseeing the removal of Articles 2 & 3 from the 26 county constitution, previously the foundations of state Republicanism; SF accepting and enthusiastically promoting an ‘Agreement’ based on partition and enshrining the ‘consent principle’ (Unionist veto) as the way forward, now for them the only way to unity despite often declaring it ‘not a Republican document’.
Did the nature of Republicanism suddenly change when the ‘Agreement’ came about? Has Republicanism changed from outright rejection of British influence in Ireland to working within,or supporting from outside, partitioned structures in the north of Ireland and no guarantee of future unity never mind the Socialist Republic? Has constitutional Nationalism become Republicanism? Or has traditional Republicanism ceased to exist for many and been sidelined?
These are not unique Irish questions in modern politics as the meanings of ‘Left’ and ‘Socialism’ are facing attempted redefinition in popular consciousness. Topics on Splintered Sunrise raised this as an
attempt by those in certain movements, who had always been opposed to Socialism, attempting to set acceptable limits on where political discourse lies by defining themselves as the ideology and more traditional views as beyond the pale.
Is similar occurring within Republicanism? Is the claim to ownership from FF, SF and the SDLP from positions closer to those normally viewed as constitutional nationalism trying to limit where acceptable discourse on Irish politics can be held? Is there a move to the centre and a fire walling of the approved limits for debate? Is the traditional view on Republicanism being treated as abnormal?
As Socialism, also claimed by FF, SF and the SDLP, takes a backseat in the policies and actions of government in Ireland and those declaring it involve themselves in privatisation, strike-breaking, non-unionised labour promotion and other policies more often associated with the right have the twin and interlinked foundations of Republicanism/Socialism been distorted into something else?
Of course there are other smaller groups still proclaiming to be truly Republican, like those proclaiming true Socialism elsewhere but is their form of Republicanism and Socialism a thing of the past? Can ideologies really alter through time? Can definitions change? Or are some not facing the fact they have changed while the ideology remains unaltered?
So where is Republicanism in modern Ireland? Certainly not where it was before.