In 1916, men and women heroically gave their lives for the birth of a nation. A Republic was proclaimed and died for in blood. That reality has hung proudly on the walls of many households which recognise the validity of our provisional sovereignty as a country. At that point, we picked ourselves up as a people and took up the fight anew despite so many failures and such immense suffering – hunger, famine, poverty, murder and discrimination. It was a grim context to which we were confined and I have the highest respect for the men and women who opposed it by force of arms to rid this country of foreign domination.
But this is not 1916, lets be honest. Back then we assumed we would have a unitary state with a single government in Dublin. This is 2019 and people have lived for decades under global neo-liberalism and developed more diverse forms of identity. Major consultation with the Protestant churches is needed in an all Ireland North-South forum. We know that the Unionists boycotted the last feeble one set up by Garret Fitzgerald (also to isolate republicans) but this time we must put something on the table that amounts to the proverbial “offer they cannot refuse”.
With the chaos of Brexit, let’s look to the Plan B – we have a reunified Ireland with joint Heads of State (being the British Monarch and an elected President). We have a Federal Union of Ireland with devolution in all provinces; with legal safeguards presided over by independent Commissioners. Likewise, all of this should be underwritten in an agreed Constitution – if the Unionists reject it at first then we should mobilise to garner support for this New Deal via all other parties. It being one that protects the British identity while granting republicans a unitary state. We have the option of rejoining the Commonwealth – if decided. And the people have the ultimate say through referenda on any contentious subjects. But genuinely we must sit down and seek to accommodate where possible the alternative identities to the nationalist majority in Ireland and reassure them of no such injustices of the past. All decision making will be removed from religious orders and we will have bodies set up to present and preserve the Protestant-Unionist-Loyalist culture and traditions. They will be given agreed seats in the Senate and may well hold the balance of power at every election – proving Pearse’s point that the Orangemen are better off in an Irish government which respects them than on the floor of a British parliament which looks down on them.
I am in no position to fulfil this by myself; merely a voice in the wilderness offering a constructive suggestion on the basis that “blessed is the peace maker.” However, my intention is to get across the idea to all sides that there is an alternative which, if agreed, could break the debacle that is Stormont. Power-sharing as we have known it failed. It was one step forward and two steps back at times, but by God did people like McGuinness, Paisley and Mo Mowlam try to make it work.
Having not had a government here in years now; it is time to think of what to replace that with. The status quo collapsed and misery has followed. Let us think deeply about alternatives and I request that you give some thought to my suggestion – a “Crown Republic”.
Put simply, a reunified Irish Republic which pays respect to the British identity of our neighbours and friends. It is time to reach out and see if we, as Irish people (in one form or another), can resolve our own problems without British intervention. If the Unionists continue to be intransigent then change cannot be dependent alone on their conservative tendencies or attachment to the current arrangements with Britain. It must be decided by popular vote via a battle for hearts and minds. Now that we have a model in mind, it’s time to make it a bespoke reality to a New Ireland.
Ultimately, it is up to you. Do we stay as we are in total disorder or do we sit down and put together a proper and fair alternative that amounts to a genuine “Nation once again.” Tackle all your elected representatives about this and talk to all your neighbours; discussion being a radical thing. For one thing is for sure in life – change always comes one way or another.