Central problem for Nationalists has been about consent

Posted By: September 13, 2017


Distributed by Irish National Caucus
“This letter in the Irish News of Belfast will make useful reading for Members of Congress. 
The letter highlights  one of the central problems inherent in the undemocratic and violent partition of Ireland by  England’s 1920  Government of Ireland Act, which brought “Northern Ireland” into existence in 1921.
The Nationalists/Republicans (Catholics) —without their consent—were torn away from the rest of Ireland in the 26 Counties, and trapped in the new,  artificially gerrymandered ‘majority’ in The North. … All the other political ‘sins’ inevitably follow from that ‘original sin.'”—Fr. Sean Mc Manus

 Dominic McSherry.Letters to Editor. Irish News. Belfast.Wednesday, September 13, 2017

It is looking increasingly likely that the DUP, at least in the short-term, is focused on indirectly wielding power in Northern Ireland through the Tory Committee established to administer their supply and demand payoff. This conveniently circumvents the need to work with Nationalists/Republicans on an equal footing in Northern Ireland, something John Taylor recently remarked was not necessary while Unionism remained in the majority. In a sense this is old-style Unionism writ large, simply ignoring the wishes of the large minority in Northern Ireland, and in that sense is deeply disturbing. This harks back to the good old days of Ulster Unionism, when Nationalists knew their place, and everything was as it should be. But it wasn’t, and we’ve 30 years of violent political conflict to evidence that perspective.

The central problem historically for Northern nationalists has been about consent. They did not give their consent to be locked into a British state in 1921, with a predetermined Unionist majority that thwarted any possibility of political change, and which treated them, as John Taylor alluded to, as lesser than [equals]. They did not give their consent to be absented from representation in Dáil Éireann, and instead ruled by an Orange political elite, at the acquiescence of London. Effectively, they were being ruled against their wishes. This type of political sterility was fertile ground for a philosophy that sees the use of violence as the only means to resist political oppression. The emergent IRA saw this as the only solution, as did the ANC.

However, for Northern Ireland hope arrived in 1998 in the form of the Good Friday Agreement, that had at its core the principle of power sharing between Unionism and Nationalism, centered on equality and parity of esteem. This was voted on by the people of Ireland and for the first time in history a political architecture was consented to by Nationalism/Republicanism in The North. This consent is now absent again and this is very concerning.

They say that if you do not learn the lessons of history,  then you risk repeating them. So, my advice to the British government and political Unionism is to be extremely careful at this juncture in our shared history. The failure to resurrect the political institutions and the return to some form of direct rule, will mean that hundreds of thousands of Nationalist/Republicans in Northern Ireland will be ruled against their wishes again.

In a sense Northern Ireland will simply revert to being a colony without its own political institutions and being ruled from a distance by the dominant power. This needs to be avoided at all costs, lest the stench of the cesspit starts to rise again.