Fifteen years on: republican progress?

If you’re a unionist, you may or may not think that things are on their way to hell in a handcart, with nationalists/republicans gaining on all fronts while unionists’ culture and sensibilities are being dulled into numbness. And if you’re a nationalist/republican?  Well, there are two views you can take.

One, that those favouring justice and and national unity are on a slow but steady line of progress. The old Orange state has indeed been dismantled, relations between Ireland north and south, and Britain, are better than they ever were. The Catholic/nationalist population is growing steadily as the unionist population declines, so that by the next census it’s perfectly possible there will be a Catholic majority in the north.
The second view is less sanguine. I had an email from a friend the other day which listed the sense of frustration among those republicans who reject the Sinn Féin analysis of the situation.  He argued that as the old Nationalist party was replaced by the SDLP and the SDLP by Sinn Féin, so Sinn Féin will eventually be replaced by those republicans/nationalists disillusioned by a lack of progress over the past 15 years. “Those who go down the road of compromising with British rule inevitably get replaced. The reason: it never delivers Irish unity”.  Far from seeing progress in winning unionists to see their place in a reunited Ireland, he believes that republicans/nationalists are faced with “An increasingly ignorant, unforgiving, obdurate, inflexible and hostile unionism”.  
It’s a credible commentary as to where we are a decade and a half after the Good Friday Agreement.  However, it ignores one thing: that if a true republic is to be created in Ireland it must include and respect that “ignorant, unforgiving, obdurate, inflexible and hostile unionism”. It is true that there are few signs of change in unionist attitude. By and large, the DUP still regards all things republican as loathsome and finds it hard to adopt a civil air when in the presence of republicans. And while there has indeed been a dismantling of the unionist state, there has been little evidence of major change via the cross-border bodies. 
Perhaps the answer is in a comment from Gerry Adams about thinking in terms of 40-year blocs. To an individual 40 years is a long, long time. In terms of history, it’s but the blink of an eye. Perhaps republicans/nationalists need to see movement towards unity in those terms.
Alternatively, of course, my frustrated friend might be right.

7 Responses to Fifteen years on: republican progress?

  1. Colman April 11, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

    Johnny Giles says, you have to take things on its merits.
    Lets consider the gains 15 years on from the Agreement.

    A new start to policing and justice?
    The old RUC members have been rehired and retrained. Internment without trial is still used as an instrument of oppression and denial of political expression. Those outside the accepted 'thought tank 'are targeted for harassment. Irish citizens can be imprisoned for years without trial on the stroke of a pen by an English overlord. Juryless trials continue. Former combatants are still being pursued for pre-ceasefire violations. The police and courts are still soft on loyalism. The Finucane's and other families from a Nationalist background are still thwarted in their search for justice. There seems no hope of that Truth and Reconciliation project ever getting off the ground while state forces are exonerated for their role in the conflict while Irish Republicans remain under threat of imprisonment. Score one for your friend.

    There is a new shared future?
    More peace walls exist than before ceasefire times. The long awaited document outlining the steps toward a harmonious future has been shelved because agreement on equality of identity cant be obtained. The Irish symbols of expression are denied. No Irish language Act. No Bill of Rights. No parity of esteem for the flag of half the population of the 6 counties and 2/3 of the people on the island. It's tight, but score another one for your friend.

    The economy has improved and people are better off?
    The British Tory Government still control the purse strings here, collect taxes, set the corporation tax, control funding, manipulate the rising unemployment figures?
    I read that more 6 county citizens are living below the poverty line in segregated housing than ever before.
    Can't think of any major new investment in West Belfast, Derry, Dungannon, Armagh or Newry as part of the peace dividend. The industry that appears to be blossoming is the political one; more jobs for each party and increased pay rises for their representatives.
    I can see why your friend is so cynical.

    Cross Border bodies have brought huge benefits to the island?
    I'd be willing to bet that nine in ten couldn't state one benefit that the All Ireland bodies have brought, but they could probably tell you that the wee bridge going in at Narrow Water and the proposed A5 road look like busted flushes.
    I'm sure I heard about one hospital that now caters for patients from All Ireland but I have yet to see a report on the reduction of waste from the amalgamation of resources and the savings passed onto the Irish people. At least the Gardai and PSNI are getting along much better tracking down smugglers while the Bankers and Greedy shareholders who brought catastrophe to the economy with impropriety are rehabilitated with bail out loans.
    You know, this is a close one, but I have to concede this one to your friend also.

    People are not getting killed everyday?
    Right. Score one against your friend here. However, it sure looks like a lot of people still have killing on their minds.
    Why is that? Frustration with all the above? A sense that what was promised in the agreement has not been delivered. A feeling of disillusionment with an agreement that still grants preference to the aspirations of a minority of people on this island, in deference to the majority?
    Listening to English Ministers reject out of hand overtures from Irish citizens for a poll on the future of Ireland?
    On second thoughts, I think your friend may be onto something.

    One thing you may be right about, from an Irish Republican perspective, is that 40 years from now, there has to be a better alternative. The onus is on Irish Republicans opposed to Sinn Fein's to shape it. And judging from the growing caucus of disillusioned Irish Republicans, the time to start planning couldn't be more opportune.

  2. Anonymous April 11, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

    Have to agree with you on all points. Either SF have fallen asleep at the wheel, or they are waiting for something?, or they have donned the suits & are policing their own communities, as in MMcG trying to discourage people from showing solidarity with people in Britain who had also suffered under Thatchers regime. Ding Dong.

  3. Anonymous April 11, 2013 at 7:09 pm #

    As negetaive as your assessment is its hard to fault. 15yrs on and I for one don't feel any better off, no closer to a united country, more marches than before in more contentious areas than before and Sinn Féin with more power and yet more powerless than before. It almost seems that we won the lotto and then lost the ticket.

  4. giordanobruno April 11, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

    Any suggestions for a better way?
    I assume you are not suggesting that disillusioned Republicans should embark on another armed campaign?
    The turnout in the last assembly elections was 54 percent. That leaves a lot of voters to be persuaded. If Republicans can win hearts and minds then there may be no need for history to repeat itself again. It may not even take 40 years.

  5. Anonymous April 11, 2013 at 10:32 pm #

    Maybe the Sinn Fein Ard-Fheis in Castlebar at the weekend will give us some clues as to Republican thinking for the future.It'll be a long journey for you ,Jude!

  6. Anonymous April 13, 2013 at 7:08 am #

    Couldn't agree more Colman,lately it seems Sinn Fein are more obsessed with containing the discontent within the Nationalist/Republican communities than actively exercising their mandate,apart from Pearse Doherty I don't see any shining lights in the party as a whole,time for new blood and forward thinking, fearless and articulate leadership that are more proactive and just don't sit around waiting to react to Unionist/British policies.Places like Derry and West Belfast are much worse off than they were during the 70's while,the figures from Invest Northern Ireland really tell the tale that the more things change the more they stay the same.

  7. Anonymous April 20, 2013 at 9:26 am #

    Or the fact that over 70% of the people of Northern Ireland are pro-union, irrespective of their religion. This includes about a slight majority of Catholics.

    Ooooh those nasty Brits, that nasty British state! Too bad the people don't agree with all that nasty republican ant-Brit and anti-Northern Irish propaganda like that espoused by Collins and his fellow republicans. The big majority are happy with life with the British state. Bloggers like Collins are swimming against the tide.