Great Irony of “Constitutionalism”

Posted By: August 11, 2021

Letters to Editor. Irish News. Belfast. Published, Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Fr. Sean McManus. President Irish National Caucus. Washington DC.

One of the great ironies of “constitutionalism” as opposed to physical force tradition in Ireland (and in Northern Ireland since the London Parliament on December 23, 1920, enacted The Partition Act, with the assent of the king of England) is that ‘constitutionalists’ blithely dismissed and ignored the actual importance of constitutions.

So, for example, a few years ago, a leading “constitutionalist” in the north, when asked what his attitude was to the sectarian British Constitution (which bans a Catholic from inheriting the throne of England) grandly responded that as an Irish republican he couldn’t care less about that constitution. Would he have responded like that if there were a sectarian/racist clause in the American Constitution banning a black person being president of the United States?

Also, many “constitutionalists” intone the inanity “you cannot eat a flag” (as if anyone ever suggested one could). Surely, a constitutionalist ought to respect the flag that has been democratically decided?

And then, of course, there is the maddening and asinine trope: “The border is only a line on the map,” which should offend republicans/ nationalists and unionists/British alike – the former because it dismisses the importance of an Irish constitution and the latter group because it dismisses the importance of the British constitution.

At least American office-holders have to continually emphasize that they have sworn an oath – not to a person or a particular regime, but to the Constitution. Even the Trumpiest politician has to still claim that as a bare minimum – but “constitutionalists” in Ireland can casually dismiss all such constraints, in logic, plain-speaking, and common sense. So, to what do they swear an oath?