'A United Ireland will only come by consent.'
That short extract from a recent interview with Anne McCloskey on The Pensive Quill – as her election campaign to Stormont of itself – is instructive for republicanism going forward. The 'departure' of running Independents to take their seats in Stormont was originally sold by those behind Anne's campaign as some sort of anti-establishment, republican initiative that would reap a return for groups as our own, should we row in behind it. We would not even need to declare our hand – a clever 'get out of gaol free card' for all concerned.
Despite what were to prove mislaid assurances, doled out in an effort to procure support, reality soon interjected. The pressure the establishment brings to bear on the position of those seeking election to its institutions quickly becoming apparent. Those pressures made mince-meat out of any republican sentiment attaching to Anne's campaign as it rowed away from the republican position in an effort to become electable.
Within the short space of an election campaign, her team's position shifted from supposed support for an all-Ireland referendum to an endorsement on live radio of a border poll – and as witnessed above of the notion of consent as set out by the Good Friday Agreement. She also came to argue for Britain to remain in the imperialist EU, stated her willingness to work with the PSNI and spoke about 'Northern Ireland'.
All of that would seem a clear embrace of normalisation in the hope of boosting electoral appeal – the notion of an 'anti-establishment, republican alternative' consigned to the dustbin in pursuit of electoral gain. Where have we seen that in the past and where did it lead? In all of this we see the historic conundrum republicanism is confronted by when it seeks to move from abstention. In all of this are clear lessons – lessons that need to be heeded.
None of that is a reflection on Anne McCloskey or a criticism of a woman I've heard great reports on, who I'm sure is a very personable and an honest worker – attributes likely reflected in the strength of her vote. If she supports a border poll, the authority of PSNI or taking her seat in Stormont then that is her business and she's fully entitled to do all that. No-one has ever suggested different.
But for the republicans who fronted her from behind, wooing others towards what would have been unmitigated disaster, no such entitlement should proceed. There are questions to be answered. This should not be allowed to go forward as a precedent - with talk already of 'the next time' - and thus their actions cannot be quietly brushed under the carpet. There is a duty that this be challenged.
All of this requires frank and open discussion, a learning process that sets out to guard against another shift towards reformism. For we have already seen where it ends: the abandoning of the republican position. Partition and its institutions exist to usurp Irish national self-determination. Thus the need for One Ireland One Vote in the first instance – to supplant that which the occupier sets forth as the route to change, empowering instead the national rights of our people.
Republicans should be under no illusion that a long term process, with no quick fix, lies ahead. We will face many challenges along the way – not least efforts to steer what remains of republicanism away from its core beliefs and principles to a position that can reconcile with Britain's strategic aims as opposed to ours. One Ireland One Vote must be the bulwark against that agenda and be clear in its opposition to every strata of the occupation regime.
With the rise of nationalist sentiment in the UK, long-dormant forces are again becoming relevant and the state must adapt or die. The British state is thus changing to suit its needs in the modern era. We would be remiss to expect that Ireland doesn't figure in its thinking. Thus we hear Sinn Féin talk now of an 'Agreed Ireland' as opposed to a United Ireland - a United Ireland, as hinted at by Adams, that 'will not be as traditionally imagined by republicans'.
It's important One Ireland One Vote not be shifted towards this notion, as Britain moves towards a constitutional reconfiguration of the UK state. Stormont is the thin end of the wedge. A United Ireland must be a sovereign Ireland and our campaign must hold to that core principle. Rejecting the authority of Stormont, its Border Poll, the Crown Forces and partitionist agreements born of the Crown must be our steadfast position and that is the lesson of Sinn Féin's failure. We don't need another.
One Ireland One Vote, if it hopes to succeed, must stand full square behind the Irish Republic, insisting this same Republic, the Republic of 1916, go forward from our right to national self-determination. There is no other way. There is no path to the Republic through conceding that which stands to usurp national self-determination. We must stand behind the right to self-determination; we must stand behind the Irish Republic. If not we'd be as well to rejoin Sinn Fein.