My God – is it that time already? The Sunday Tribune has a photograph of Eamon Gilmore, the Labour Party leader in the south along with Maggie Ritchie, the SDLP leader in the north. Eamon is twisting his fingers like a man who finds himself somewhere but can’t think of an excuse to be elsewhere; Maggie is gazing into the middle distance and has her mouth shaped as though she’ s either about to say something rude or is thinking what it’d be like to suck a large popsicle. But the truly arresting thing is Eamon’s speech to the Labour Party faithful.
“It is time, in my view, for a fundamental review of our constitution. There is much about the constitution that has served us well but it is a document written in the 1930s for the 1930s… Let us set ourselves the target to have it [ a new constitution] ready for the 100th anniversary of the 1916 rising, that seminal moment when our state was conceived”.
Well good man, Eamon. Nothing like lighting on something that can cause a big a amount of fuss but not necessarily too much money. But could I mention one or two things, before you call that big ‘constitutional convention’ you talk about?
1. If the constitution was ‘for the 1930s’, how come it’s only now that you and your Party have got round to pointing this out? I mean, the 1930s was…Good God, eighty years ago! We’ve heard of delayed reaction but this is a bit excessive, isn’t it?
2. I love that ‘seminal moment when our state was conceived’ talk – sort of romantic and sexy at the same time – but presumably the ‘our state’ you have in mind is the twenty-six counties. Mmm. You know, I’d never thought of Padraig Pearse dreaming into being a twenty-six county state when he drafted the Proclamation back then.
Still, let’s not be to hard on little Eamon. He’s the first but you may be very sure he’s not the last of the south’s party leaders who will be clambering awkwardly onto the good ship 2016 over the next six years. When you’ve been busting a gut for thirty years or more to avoid all talk of nationalism, let alone republicanism, it requires a change of mental costume before you can come on-stage and start declaring yourself a child of 1916, an admirer of the men who engaged in violence back then so that Ireland might take her place among the nations of the earth. By the time we get to 2015, there’ll be standing-room only, high-profile politicians elbowing each other and telling anyone who will listen “Of COURSE we’re republicans! Always have been. In fact, all that stuff in the north over the past thirty years and more – it only LOOKED like republicanism. In fact it was ANTI-REPUBLICAN, if you understand republicanism truly. Which we do, because we’re republican to the marrow of our bones’.
Do you think has Eamon read ‘1984’? You know, all that ‘War Is Peace’ and ‘Black Is White’ stuff? Or maybe he’s busy re-writing it to make it more directly applicable to the 26-county state that Padraig Pearse fathered?