Was last Saturday a ganging-up of nationalists?

Was last Saturday a ganging-up of nationalists?  No and Yes.

Talk of pan-nationalist “ganging-up” suggests that united action by nationalists of all stripes is a bad thing, something deliberately provocative. But it might be more sensible to view it from the other side. An inert or fragmented nationalism is obviously a bad thing for nationalism. It means that nationalists remain by-standers at events which may shape their lives and that matters are left to others.

Maybe a comparison would help. When the DUP got twelve MPs elected to Westminster, I don’t think any nationalists suggested that they shouldn’t act as one cohesive force. The fact that they’ve done that in a way that plays into the hands of the right-wing Tories and may inflict savage damage on their own constituents is not the point under consideration.  The DUP MPs came together and exerted and are exerting influence at Westminster. There are nationalist voices against their political actions but not against their right to act in unison.

I don’t know the plans of those who organized last Saturday’s  inspiring event, but I do know that one of the first speakers on Saturday, the south’s  Education minister,  Joe McHugh, made it clear that the Fine Gael government were opposed to any border poll “at this time”. In fact when I think back, there were relatively few ideas put forward for specific action, other than Conor  Patterson  that the south should stop referring to themselves as ‘Ireland’ when they obviously are not, and that the south should pass their extra two MEPs to the north, since, even though we’re EU citizens, we won’t have representation at Brussels. And even Conor’s two items were more suggestions than plans of action.

I’ve sat through too many meetings in my life that were pointless, other than as a way for people to air their grievances or ride their pet hobby-horse. If a gathering doesn’t have clear aims for action in the light of the meeting, I’m dubious about its worth. Saturday was an inspiring day last week, but if it doesn’t result in specific actions, then those who saw it as a ganging-up will be getting worked up about nothing. As Karl Marx said “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The  point, however, is to change it.”

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