Sean Bresnahan with a piece on the potential for One Ireland One Vote, a campaign he has helped drive. Sean Bresnahan is a member of the Thomas Ashe Society in Omagh and National PRO of the 1916 Societies.
For the 1916 Societies, the most effective means to challenge global capitalism, in what is today a 'globalised' society, is to chart a return to national sovereignty – a notion which lies at the core of our 'One Ireland One Vote' initiative. This is an issue not only for Ireland but for other societies who likewise have been absorbed into the neoliberal economic framework, what many term the 'Washington Consensus'.
The problem in Ireland is further compounded by the division of the national territory. Competing claims to sovereignty foster conflict and inhibit efforts to establish a progressive narrative, instead producing a conservative and often reactionary attitude towards political and socioeconomic change. This helps ensure the reigning neoliberal order faces little by way of opposition from progressive sections of society, themselves weakened by the impact of partition on popular demand for change – even where it be in the public interest.
The current state of Ireland, in line with the origins of the current order, frustrates the outworking of normal left-right politics associated with more stable societies. Whether North or South, we are living in a reactionary polity defined at its root by partition. The basic instinct of society is to ensure dormant forces, that might threaten the carefully constructed facade of progress, are kept in check and a 'balance' maintained. Maintaining the balance assumes priority, with a hesitant public afraid should they become too vocal they might contribute to further unrest. This is as true for the southern entity as it is for the Six Counties – arguably even more-so given its perception of the gains made since 'independence'. Thus, there is an underlying aversion to anything that threatens the same.
An end to partition and a rebirth of democracy can offer a new beginning, displacing a reactionary paradigm that thrives on division with a confident and progressive alternative. And this holds true for all of Ireland. As such, our campaign seeks not just a British withdrawal from the North but societal advance nationwide. One Ireland One Vote is a vehicle to further that end, that a new society, where the dominant position of transnational capital gives way to the popular need, might go forward in a reconstituted democracy.
For the 1916 Societies, not only political change but socioeconomic change with it must flow from Irish reunification – change of a type that centres the narrative of any proposed new Ireland around core principles of sovereignty, justice and equality. Through establishing such a 'New Ireland' we can shift the paradigm away from reaction and onto a positive footing. It is not then partition alone or its legitimacy that we challenge but the economic consensus it has engendered over the course of the last century – and with it the society it has fostered.
We should not though retreat into strict nationalism, hankering after a mythical past as though globalisation and the integration of the global economy can be ignored. Instead we must strive for a community of nations where all of us, while retaining control of our destinies, work in partnership and with mutual respect towards realising common goals. In Ireland, the first step is to assert the right to shape that destiny, alone and without impediment. For ourselves, this can be realised through a national referendum that underwrites Irish sovereignty. This must be the focus of One Ireland One Vote.
A reconstituted All-Ireland Republic, with Irish sovereignty secured, can best confront the challenges of modern society. By returning power to the local unit, using that power to shape a policy framework where environmental, economic and social considerations proceed as first priority, we can face these challenges with confidence. In doing so we would offer an example to others in struggle, building through that example a fraternal association of nations as once envisaged by the great James Connolly.
One Ireland One Vote holds that the people should be free to decide their future, shaping together the society they live in. Indeed this must be a permanent feature of the political process going forward. By restoring the right to national self-determination it can impact on the design of modern capitalism, delivering a shift away from capitalism and towards an alternative vision, where people and not capital determine the policies governing their lives.
In an international context, it seeks a new relationship between likeminded communities, where solidarity and mutual respect form the basis of a cooperative association. In a global age, where powerful corporations drive the capitalist economy from behind, dominating national economies in the doing, it holds a return to sovereignty can transplant the reigning consensus, stripping power from capital and channeling it back to the people. One Ireland One Vote must set out to empower that end.