Martin Galvin (MG) interviews Sean Bresnahan (SB) of the 1916 Societies via telephone from Co. Tyrone about the Societies' One Ireland One Vote initiative. Thanks to TPQ transcriber.
WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio
New York City
20 June 2015
(begin timestamp ~ 27:30)
MG: And we're talking with Sean Bresnahan. Sean is in Omagh, Co. Tyrone. He's with the group the 1916 Societies, who this week relaunched a dramatic new initiative. Sean, how are you doing?
SB: Hello Martin, how's it going... Good to hear from you.
MG: Sean, this week you relaunched what's called the One Ireland One Vote initiative – there were full pages ads in the Irish News, the largest selling paper in the North of Ireland, there was a launch done by the Dublin Lord Mayor, formerly with Sinn Féin now he's an independent, Christy Burke. Could you tell us what the One Ireland One Vote initiative is and what you're trying to achieve?
SB: Alright. Well, One Ireland One Vote is a campaign we've launched. It's about, we're looking to get a thirty-two county democratic referendum on Irish Unity. We would see it as a means to determine the national aspirations of all the Irish people, free from outside interference – basically when we're talking about that we talking about the British not being involved in the process. We think that all the people of the country have the right to decide together what should happen to the country.
MG: Well Sean, there is a proposal for a referendum under the Stormont Agreement. And under that referendum six counties would vote and then if there was a majority within the Six Counties, which would include a Unionist veto, but if you got past that then the votes in the rest of Ireland, the other twenty-six counties, would be counted whether they wanted to accept the North. How is your proposed referendum, the One Ireland One Vote, different?
SB: Well, our vote is different obviously because in that process you just described Irish Unity needs the consent of a majority within the Six Counties before anything can happen. And we would say that that's not self-determination, we think that all the people should vote as one on this issue. For us partition, the partition of the country, was done without mandate – Britain had no right to do it. So to say that, at this stage, that territory which they created has the right to hold off on reunification for the whole of the country – we would go against that. Our argument would be that people in Monaghan or Tipperary, in Dublin or wherever, should have as much of a say in what happens to Ireland as anybody living up here, in Tyrone or Derry, in Belfast or wherever.
MG: Alright. Now Sean, one of the things that you're doing: you're having launches, you're having meetings in Dublin and other places, you're trying to get debates so that people within the Twenty-Six Counties are talking about a United Ireland as well as doing the same thing, having those debates, within the Six Counties. And you're trying to do this – build-up the lead-up to 1916 and the commemorations – all of that feeling – to get this going, to drive the process forward. Why is it that some people who are Nationalists or Republicans are against that? Against having debates, against having discussions, against even considering that type of initiative for one vote in which all Irish people count as one?
SB: Well, only they can really answer that. My thinking on it is they're tied into this process, they've agreed to this process involving those restraints we've already spoken about, what we call the Triple Lock. You know, they negotiated that agreement so they're tied into that process. And I suppose the way I would look at it is that maybe they see the emergence of a group like the 1916 Societies, a group that's prepared to have these debates, and really we're about contesting those mechanisms that they’ve went along with, we're in contest with those. So for them, I suppose, if they were to see our line of politics starting to gain traction their concern would probably be well how's this going to affect us? Their whole strategy is based on continuing to grow their support and part of that obviously involves a need to hold onto their core republican base. But as we've seen with developments in Tyrone, and starting now to spread through other parts of the country, the republican base is starting to move away and beyond all that and towards this agenda we're pushing, which is for self-determination unrestrained – you know? Where the British don't really get to...
MG: ...Alright. Sean, we're talking with Sean Bresnahan of the 1916 Societies. Sean, there is a concern that some Nationalists have expressed to me that the British will use the fact Sinn Féin members are in government, that they're on policing boards, that they're on other structures of government to say that, you know, British rule isn't really so bad. Nationalists now share in it, Republicans now share in it. If it comes to a referendum they'll use that as an argument to make sure that within the Six Counties the vote would go against such a proposal – a support for a United Ireland. What is the feeling of your group about that?
SB: Well, I'm not sure of all what you said there but my thinking would be that in terms of this idea that British rule now is all okay, we really only have to look at the situation in the prison – in Maghaberry at the minute – where we have Republican prisoners still being abused, still having their human rights, you know, all these violations ongoing. We have Scotchy Kearney, he's in gaol at the minute for an offence as they call it that took place thirty years ago. So if we’re saying that everything's moved on and things are all great now well you know, things aren’t so good for the likes of Scotchy Kearney who’s sitting rotting away in Maghaberry at the minute.
MG: As they were not for Gerry McGeough and Ivor Bell is still under charges and there'll be other examples to come. Sean, I want to move on quickly – a few weeks ago there was a development that the Irish Flag and the Proclamation Flag were raised over Stormont – they were only up for about twenty minutes. A statement appeared on the 1916 Societies' website claiming credit for doing that. What was the reaction to having an Irish Flag over Stormont for those twenty-odd minutes?
SB: Right well, the flag on the roof basically for us was about a peaceful protest, to challenge this normalisation agenda you were just referring to – ongoing at the minute. For the powers that be, they don't want any thought that the Six Counties is actually a part of Ireland, they want that kept outside people's thinking. So in a way what we were doing was trying to break through that censorship. The response of Unionism was just typical, unfortunately. Hysterical would be a fair way of describing it – just the old fear politics as usual coming to the fore. But what I really took out of the whole thing, out of this reaction, was this idea that there were seven detectives charged with investigating this – it was just all so sensational. And this at a time when they say they don't have the resources to look into the crimes the British committed in Ireland over the course of The Troubles. So on the one hand they're saying we don't have the resources to deal with what happened in the past yet at the same time they're saying there's seven detectives available to investigate a flag going up on a roof.
MG: And at the same time also in the lead-up to July 12th there are Unionist flags going up – no one's getting arrested for that. Alright Sean, I know that you have a website, if you hit up Tyrone 1916 Societies you'll be able to get it. There's a place to sign that petition, read about it in depth and we're encouraging everybody to read that petition, look at that website, sign on and support this effort. We want to move, as we move to 1916, we want to start having debates, having more and more people within the Twenty-Six Counties as well as the North think about a United Ireland – debating – moving – doing the work that's necessary to get that referendum. Sean, I want to thank you. We're moving ahead very quickly. We want to thank you for being with us today and telling us about this very important initiative, One Ireland One Vote, about that petition and about what Americans can do for this new political strategy.
SB: No problem. (end timestamp ~ 36:43)