At present and with elections looming, there are increased suggestions republicans should assist an electoral strategy to Stormont, entering in opposition to the Sinn Fein-DUP coalition.
But with its standing at an all-time low, with scandal after scandal and its role as nodding dog of the ‘Tory Millionaire Cabinet’ clear to be seen, republicans should concentrate efforts on exposing this reactionary facade of British rule, rather than giving it a new lease of life.
Making Stormont work, by sitting in it as some form of opposition, in reality, whether intended or not, serves the British rule in Ireland and will achieve only the modernising of the British occupation system. There's an old saying which stands true to this day, 'let the Brits do their own work'.
Britain has sought to replace the old Stormont with an updated version, to include a full role for Nationalists, since the failure of Unionist majority rule, which perished with the murder of fourteen innocents in Derry’s Bogside in January 1972. The British agenda was laid out at Darlington in the September of that year, so the idea of a ‘reformed Stormont’ is as old as the collapse of its predecessor. It was and remains integral to British strategy in Ireland.
That said, the institutions later set up to maintain British rule in 1998 have already outlived their use and themselves now need updating. Thus, we've heard repeated calls for an opposition and even suggestions it should be funded as part of the official system. So republicans going into Stormont at this time, to represent their constituents supposedly in opposition to the ruling coalition, would actually feed into a wider agenda than they might realise and thus needs considered with care.
There are no shortage of republicans who say, ‘we should have listened, why didn't we listen, if only we'd listened!’ Are we going to be saying the same all over again in ten years time, in twenty? We can't afford another twenty years of partition rule and the damage it will do to our kids and their prospects. So now is the time to put faith in our own ability to create change, rather than repeat the past ad infinitum.
Green shoots are appearing for the first time in decades. As such, the focus now should be on consolidation, before spearheading an effective campaign, together, which will finally win through against British rule in our country. The same requires that we work together to set out a proper analysis of society today, showing the Irish people we are not dinosaurs but that our politics and ideas are the key to a better future, a future deserving of us all.
The Irish Republic is the point of agreement, where republicans of various hue can coalesce and in turn move forward. As such, the failed Stormont Assembly should have no part to play in the road ahead. As the middle ground between the people and British rule, to disguise the nature of that rule, it is a barrier to achieving the Republic, as a real and living thing. Thus, the effort should be to cast it aside.
A proper analysis of power, as it applies to government in the Six Counties, demonstrates clearly that power does not lie in the regional assembly at Stormont in the first instance. The recent pseudo-negotiation between the parties there has exposed as much, with Britain impressing its agenda on the talks process, facing little resistance and with those concerned unable to prevent the same. For how could they when Britain holds all cards?
With that in mind, it is surely a moribund concept that we can somehow wrestle power away from the British state through its colonial assembly. Likewise it is mistaken to suggest we can hold power to account through this forum. It is an administration and not a parliament, with power only to administer what Britain permits. So those we need make accountable do not in fact sit there, those we need influence are not impacted by goings on within that building.
The thinking involved, strategic implications aside, can be understood to an extent and may not be entirely without merit. Of course we would wish to avail of all and every platform to raise issues of concern and highlight the failings of the existing, obscenely corrupt establishment. The trouble though is the price we pay along the road.
At a time when Stormont is seen in the most negative light – across the political spectrum – it badly needs a reboot. An effective opposition within the chamber (even were it just one or two in number) could give it the edge it needs at this time, convincing enough of those sickened by the antics ongoing that we can find a use for the place after all – thus modernising partition rule, rather than speeding its demise.
It's important to see this from a strategic viewpoint, basing our argument on the same rather than appeals to traditionalist theology or cries of ‘sell out’. The bottom line is that for such a strategy to proceed with support from republicans – indeed should it ever – the specifics of its intentions, what it hopes to achieve and how it relates into the wider republican effort should all be laid out and guaranteed. Only at that point can people make an informed decision as to its worth.
Those intending to proceed with the idea coming to the fore at this moment, of building a cross-border 'Independent Bloc' to include republicans sitting in Stormont, need to spell out what it is they believe can be achieved and how. In doing so, they should likewise be prepared to address the legitimate concerns of those who question the political worth of the imagined gains, vis-a-vis those that will accrue to the British occupation system.
From my own perspective, I am not adverse to discussion on these matters and respect the right of others to their opinion. I do though believe there has not been a discussion, certainly not among republicans, and would promote as much as of utmost necessity at this time and before we head down the wrong path all over again. One other point worth noting is that an 'Independent Bloc' of itself is not the issue and can be progressive in its own right. The issue here is the sitting in Stormont.
For me personally, supporting an electoral strategy to Stormont, in this moment and along the lines suggested, will impact on efforts to build a grassroots movement towards Irish Unity. For if we truly believe in building such a thing then why veer off on a tangent and why afford recognition to an institution, by proxy or however, whose strategic purpose is to thwart the same? Irish republicanism demands an end to Stormont, so how the two fit together is difficult to see and has not been explained.
That aside, while many republicans have appealed for a conversation on the issue, there seems no-one willing to spell out what they actually feel can be achieved, likewise the mechanics involved. This of itself raises further questions but regardless, there is, as said, a clear and pressing need for open and honest discussion on the matter, between and within the wider republican family.
There is nothing mischievous or such to enquire after the same, not when the record of the last eighteen years demonstrates how republicans, many with good intent, time and again become absorbed by this system in futile and foolish, ultimately self-defeating, efforts to cheat the establishment from within.
That old mantra spoken of at the outset, ‘let Britain do her own work’, is as relevant now as before, perhaps even more so given all at stake. For those suggesting otherwise, they might set out clearly what they hope to gain and why republicans should endorse their efforts. To do otherwise brings into question the entire initiative, given how republicans themselves are being asked to help shoulder the workload. As such, it is far from an unreasonable request.
Again for me, the issue is not necessarily republican theology but the strategic impact and outworking of where this leads and ends. If going into Stormont affords merely a higher platform to shout at the DUP and Sinn Fein but in return stabilises the British rule, then we must seriously question the idea of this. Giving a ‘black eye’ to Sinn Fein is not the sum of the republican struggle, our enemy sits in London and we must keep our eye on the ball.