There is, I think, among Ireland’s newer nationalists a certain sentimentality surrounding Sinn Féin and the Provisional IRA. The backlight of history has cast larger-than-life silhouettes of them as rebels with a cause. We are enamoured with their unbroken traditions and unbending principles. And how, when Belfast was burning, they sprung to the defence of their communities. Men like Billy McKee at the Battle of St Matthew’s, battered and bleeding like Brugha before him, inspire us.
Yet as modern Ireland quickens its descent into post-Gaelic political decrepitude, young Nationalists are left wondering where the boys of the old brigade have gone. As it was in the 1960s, the Republican cause is again constrained by communistic commitments anathema to Ireland. Therefore, the intention of this article is to address the problems burdening the Traditionalist remnant in groups like Republican Sinn Féin and elsewhere so to hopefully enter into an inter-dissident dialogue fruitful for all.
It must be said then in no uncertain terms that the marriage of Marxism with Irish Republicanism has been an unmitigated ideological disaster. Without such a man as Connolly to anchor it in Ireland, it has wandered off into the domain of contradiction and inapplicable abstraction. Such shallow slogans as anti-racism and equality have substituted deeper thought and effectively ruined Republican resistance to cultural invasion.
Take this one quote by Sean Bresnahan for instance, ‘not for one split second should a ‘de-Irishing’ of our country — neither now or come the future — be considered’. An otherwise excellent extract spoiled by the fact that it is immediately preceded by a most milquetoast concession that ‘yes, that republic must be a welcoming place for all’.
Yet the contradiction here is obvious, how can one have both an Irish Ireland and an Ireland for everyone, these things are mutually exclusive. Indeed, were one to insist on an Irish Ireland of any sort, Ebun Joesph would appear on RTÉ with maledictions on implicit ethnic superiority and the exclusionary essence of such an ambition with Ryan Tubridy nodding furiously all the while. To even speak Irish at all is an exclusionary act. The predicament Bresnahan has written himself into is indicative of the larger political paradox that has trapped Traditional Irish Republicanism.
The basis of my appeal henceforth is to rely on some Leftist theory probably known to Republicans and some history undoubtedly known by them. Dialectics has been a method of orthodox Marxism since the publication of Das Kapital. Dialectically then shall we commence our deconstruction of some of the contradictions present within modern Irish Republicanism.
Former Republican Sinn Fein president, Des Dalton, had this to say in a 2014 presidential address, ‘The Republican position is based on the premise of the existence of the historic Irish nation… We are not a revolted colony nor as Thomas Davis said ‘a sandbank thrown up by caprice of wind and wave’, but an ancient people’. And in a previous presidential address, while referring to Ireland’s right of ownership to its own natural resources, he would employ that much maligned maxim, saying that ‘As Irish Republicans we too believe… in keeping with the principle of the “The right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland”’.
These statements are all together quite agreeable and will form our thesis. Des supplies our antithesis in a more recent polemical article aimed against the Irish Right, in which he concludes by remarking that ‘racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, sectarianism, or any other discrimination or hate based on gender, colour or ethnicity have no part of Irish republicanism’. The resulting synthesis is an effective negation of the thesis as all the energy of Nationalism is sapped for causes inimical to it.
The outlined contradictions are explicable by the Brazilian educationalist Paulo Freire’s theory of cultural invasion. Most modern Leftist ideology is in fact a form of liberalism, and has come not to oppose but as part of capitalism. This imported ideology has parasitically implemented itself into Irish Republicanism and in invading its host, it ‘leads to the cultural inauthenticity of those who are invaded; they begin to respond to the values, the standards, the goals of the invaders’.
Thus, if I were to criticise Dublin for how demographically like London it has become, ‘racist’ will likely be replied by Republicans. Moreover, one cannot ignore the super-structural source of many of today’s popular isms relating to gender, sexuality and race. Most of which are postmodern manifestations and it is prescient here to remember that postmodernism has been labelled the logic of late capitalism by Fredric Jameson. The flood of perverse progressive ideologies from critical race to queer theory serve not to unite but to atomise under the auspice of diversity – divide and conquer by a different name. All these ideologies are then given generous donations and complete corporate sponsorship. Testament to which is the annual advertising campaign on any given grievance. October is black history month; June is for gay pride. Neatly presented with modified monochrome or rainbow logo product placement respectively. Whoever came out to bat for the cause of Ireland in such a way?
To want Ireland to be Irish is to be backward according to our urban bourgeoise. Freire continues to elaborate that ‘for cultural invasion to succeed, it is essential that those invaded become convinced of their intrinsic inferiority’. And are we not convinced of our own inferiority? We were barbarians before abortion and slaves for attending Sunday service, or so the Anglo-American media says.
It is the cornerstone of colonialism to convince the colonised of their inferiority and what all the whips in England failed to do over centuries has been within a generation accomplished by American capitalism. How desperately Ireland apes America and ‘the more [we] mimic the invaders, the more stable the position of the latter becomes’. Unopposed this neo-colonialism will only succeed in sparking new colour wars, merely changing Orange and Green for black and white, while a different red, white and blue flag wave over us.
Traditional Republicans have been correct in the past over the EU. Their position being that ‘The sovereignty and independence of the Irish people is the goal of Irish Republicanism. There is no point in removing the shackles of British imperialism only to replace them with the political and economic imperialism of the EU’. Yet such a position is gainsaid where it only opposes capitalism’s economic aspect but ignores its Left-liberal social dimension. This stance unamended is self-contradictory, metaphorically put it is to love the fruit but scorn the tree.
Turning our attention to history now and beginning with the first Sinn Féin split which spawned Fianna Fáil in 1926. The party that remained under the leadership of J. J. O’Kelly was universally marred as far-right and reactionary for its intransigence over abstention. Who among those partisans of principle would forego the cause of Ireland for political point scoring or concede some point of the Proclamation to appease Anglo-America? Surely not Brian O’Higgins nor George Noble Plunkett. Unfortunately, true to O’Sullivan’s first law Sinn Féin grew ideologically entropic and became politically inert until it was rescued by Republican recusants in the late sixties.
Leftism weighs on Irish Republicanism like sin on the soul. This is as true now as it was in 1969, when under the intellectual yoke of Goulding and Johnston, Ó Brádaigh, Ó Conaill and so many others tore themselves from the grasp of the Stickies to fight not for communism but for Ireland. Hitherto the Left-wing had severely withered their cause. Matt Treacy has astutely pointed out the fact that ‘Far from the new “left” course propelling the movement forward, the number of cumainn with delegates at the 1968 Ard Fheis had fallen to 64 from 265 in 1966’. And again, was Sinn Féin not irreparably undermined in principle when Gerry Adams shed abstentionism in 1986 and subsequently all pretence to tradition. Adams, it is important to remember, received his ideological education from the Marxist subversives of the sixties.
From his time in office, Adam’s hence has had free reign to mar Sinn Féin’s noble name with whatever progressive cause will win him the most votes. When in 1970, Sinn Féin split, Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, himself noted that ‘an extreme form of socialism was being pushed on the movement… [and] this was a further reason for the “walk-out”’. Well that time has come again to walk out of the Intercontinental hotel and reconvene at Kevin Barry hall. To stand for Tradition and to stand for Ireland.
Traditional Republicans have been left by the Left, abandoned as an anachronism. A convenient way-into politics to be discarded and disregarded as soon as they are capable of taking power for themselves. Liberalism and Leftism have betrayed Irish Republicanism, indeed the impetus for this article was the common outrage we shared at the historical vandalism occurring in our country right now. Both at the rectifiable desecrations – Sean Russell’s statue – and the permanent destructions – The O’Rahilly’s home. The way forward then for Traditionalist Republicans is to be filled with the spirit of ’69 and ’70 and leave the Left themselves.
In anticipation of counterattack, allow me to pre-emptively correct any preconception of us you have. While some purport our goals to be ‘about individualist self-promotion’, the truth is we are not the avaricious affiliates of loyalism nor are we paranoid conspiratorial quacks. We are nothing so new-fangled as neo-Nazis or Neo-cons. We are old fashioned enough to be both a Catholic and Nationalist. We abhor the decay of our country both morally and materially. And D4 is as much your enemy as it is ours, however you have the admirable honour of being it for longer. We believe that Ireland shouldn’t be measured by American metrics or be governed by greasy fumblers, overzealously concerned with GDP but be free to develop as she is naturally inclined and not by capitalist economics confined. We support that which is Gaelic in Ireland, not garrison games or grime rap or any other imported ideology.
My co-authors at The Burkean have proclaimed Irish Republicanism to be moribund and indeed it is dying, if not already dead. But we as Irishmen know best of all that ‘Life springs from death; and from the graves of patriot men and women spring living nations.’