Guest writer Sean Ashe addresses issues raised by John Coulter in an earlier piece on TPQ.
A recent article published on The Pensive Quill from Dr John Coulter was supposed to be about addressing the use of armed struggle. Instead the article meandered from why republicans should not engage in armed struggle just in case they inflame loyalists, to a nonsense about the ability or non
ability to march that tied in Ardoyne, the Boys Brigade and the Catholic Church!
Dr Coulter stated that:
Republicans must no longer use violence, not primarily because they can never defeat the British in a long war scenario, but because of the effects it will have on an increasingly disaffected loyalist community.
Yet a mere few lines later Dr. Coulter contradicts himself: 'Armed conflict as a weapon of political agitation is now a spent cause.' If attacks by republicans are affecting the Loyalist community and by default the attempts at normalisation in the six counties then it could be argued that republicans engaged in armed struggle are achieving something.
In the face of major military powers obviously a military victory is something even the most hard line militaristic republican would admit is not feasible, however is a military victory the end goal? I would say from observation it is not. However the destabilising of the façade that passes as democracy and government in the six counties could well be in their sights. Can this be achieved without armed struggle is a question republicans should well be asking themselves, more so can it be achieved without compromising their beliefs and selling out as the Provisional Movement has done?
I'm not attempting to justify nor condemn the use of armed struggle. In the face of a media that portrays Republicans opposed to the Stormont regime as horned headed bloodthirsty warmongers I believe there needs to be a proactive approach by republicans to demonstrate that Republicanism isn't a dirty word, but something that will progress the Irish nation as a whole, Catholic, Protestant, Dissenter, Athiest, Jew Hindu, Gay or Straight ...
Republicans who oppose the Stormont regime are constantly goaded by those who administer British rule in Ireland to take them on electorally. The question republicans should be asking is why should Irish republicans dance to that tune?
When the suggestion that republicans should engage with the Stormont regime in electoralism arises I'm always minded of the words of Arthur Griffith. Quoted in Macardle's excellent book The Irish Republic. Griffith contended that Irishmen in Westminster were wasting their time, something I would apply to Stormont. Griffith stated that:
Ireland has maintained a representation of 103 men in the English Parliament for 108 years...The Irishmen are faced with 567 foreigners ... Ten years hence the majority of Irishmen will marvel they once believed the battleground for Ireland was one chosen & filled by Ireland's enemies.
As an Irish Republican I have no problem with qualifying Stormont in the same way that Griffith qualified Westminster. Why would modern day republicans enter a battleground chosen and filled by Ireland's enemies? What we do and how we do it, as republicans to create an alternative to the accepted and normalised status quo in the occupied six counties is something that we must focus our energies on.
I believe we must encourage a revolution of consciousness, of thought, we must encourage people to think and to challenge; to ignore what they are being spoon fed by the media and the Stormont regime.
However in turn we must be prepared to be challenged for our actions and deeds. Our actions should be for the good of all, not just a chosen or select few on this island of equals.
It is oft said that money is the root of all evil. I would surmise that money is the glue that holds Stormont together, that and some deft 'ruling by fooling' as James Connolly so wisely said.
The media and political spin doctors sit day after day, churning out press release after press release feeding the masses their hot air and the Stormont normalisation line. As such we need to turn the tables, cut through their spin and propaganda and spell out what they would happily gloss over. And we need to highlight this to as many people as possible, locally, nationally and internationally.
What these bastions of democracy say, how they said it and how they act should be scrutinised at every turn, as should the conduct of party members in 'community positions' funded from the public purse.
The Stormont regime's double standards and hypocrisy should be exposed at every opportunity. Sadly at present it seems that the unionist leaning press coupled with the TUV's Jim Allister, and on occasion the Irish News, have been at the forefront of recent revelations around specific failings of pro-Stormont parties, their members and their associates. No opportunity should be missed. There may be a stanglehold over the mainstream media, but they can't stop bloggers, social media, or leaflets going in doors. The essential thing is to ensure the information is accurate, and it can be substantiated. This is where information obtained under freedom of information comes into play. Under the Freedom of Information Act govt departments and public bodies are legally bound to provide you with information or documents you ask for.
The political parties in the six counties have been exposed time and time again for their hypocrisy, the wastage of public money that the TUV's Jim Allister points out on a regular basis, the unfair allocation of homes to family members by leading Shinners, the investment of MLA's pensions in nuclear weapons, and the recent Red Sky/Nelson McCausland scandal. How Stoop MLA Pat Ramsey can justify £98,000 in expenses when many are barely eking out a living. People should be told these things, and reminded of them time and time again.
Republicans need to begin to make a concerted effort to publicly expose how people are being failed You may not support the Stormont regime, but you have every right to question it. You don't have to take them on electorally, you can choose the how and when you challenge them, exploiting
every opportunity to do so.
If the DSD provide funding for a Sinn Fein community quango, and jobs go to those politically affiliated, then ask for copies of the funding applications. Look for copies of their monitoring returns and see what they are claiming they are doing. I'm sure you will find a great disparity on certain occasions. Make sure they are providing what they have received funding for, and make sure they are not ghettoising your community to fill their back pockets with money that should be invested in communities.
We must involve ourselves in community projects, providing oversight and ensuring that when resources are earmarked for an area that they are delivered equitably, that communities are consulted in an open honest and transparent manner, and that the wishes of the community are respected.
An example of this being effectively put into play was a couple of years back when a Sinn Fein community quango in cahoots with the NIO erected 'security gates' in the middle of the Bogside in Derry. It was proved their consultation with the community was somewhat lacking. Republicans and local
residents came together and removed the gates.
As political and community activists we need to be practical and pragmatic. As individuals or members of groups we need to start this work within our own communities at a grass roots level. This should not to merely expose the failings of the politicians, but for the betterment of all, for a true island of equals.
I'm delighted to say I do see this happening in some areas, people are organising and working on the ground, within our communities, and not just for nice funded jobs. This has seen the start of new community groups, food banks and active support for communities suffering from anti-social
As the MLA fat cats award themselves pay rises and sponge off their huge expense accounts in their subsidised eateries Republicans should be involved in activities that benefit everyone especially those who are most vulnerable: working with the people for the good of the people, not against the people.
If I was to suggest one thing that would help advance any alternative to Stormont then I would encourage people to question. This is something I do with with my friends and work colleagues on a regular basis. And because I am raising the topic in general terms and not specifically Republican terms then it provides more scope for conversation, and in turn they may go and talk to people about what we have discussed. A prime example being the recent conduct of former Sinn Fein Councillor Joe O'Donnell in Belfast who
bypassed a homeless man in favour of his niece. That brought up some interesting conversations, which then led to other discussions: the result being that next election at least two of my colleagues will be abstaining.
As Bobby Sands is often quoted:
Everyone Republican or otherwise has their own particular part to play. No part is too great or too small, no one is too old or too young to do something.
Perhaps now is a prime opportunity to bring those words to life.