Sean Bresnahan, 1916 Societies PRO and Secretary of the Thomas Ashe Society Omagh, with a personal reflection on last month’s result in Scotland and how it might impact on the future in both Scotland and in Ireland.
The result of September’s independence referendum in Scotland represents a massive let-down for us all but we should remain fully conscious that nationhood and sovereignty are not and never can be predicated on a vote of any description – for they are inviolable. Scotland tried and it failed but there’s no shame in that failure and there’s certainly no shame in the trying. And try we will again.
Scotland’s demand for independence remains as legitimate today as ever and that has not changed. It will never change and British Crown rule over Scotland remains as fundamentally wrong this morning as it did any other morning. Britain still needs to withdraw its political apparatus in its entirety and the struggle to achieve that worthy objective continues. It’s what we do from here that matters, yesterday is gone. Today we must go out and organise anew for the republic. For in Scotland, as in Ireland, the aim is to be free and we can never allow a vote held under the terms and conditions of an occupying power to get in the way of that, nor any vote for that matter.
We in Ireland have much to learn from what just transpired in Scotland and the fundamental lesson should be that as Irish republicans we must fully embrace the republican analysis as understood prior to the revisionist shift. Any campaign, along Scottish lines or any other, needs to remain wholly consistent with that analysis or risk a similar situation as applies in Scotland this morning. This is something I feel we can achieve if we work together.
So long as that is the case then we can’t go wrong. Step out of sync though and we concede a lot more than the possibility of defeat in a referendum. For those, myself included, who were duped by a leadership that willingly departed from that analysis, we should take heed of the late Ruairi Ó Bradaigh and his assertion that it’s never too late to return to the Republic. For therein lies the answer.
Personally and speaking only for myself, I would not be willing to cede even an all-Ireland referendum, never mind the limited Border Poll proposed by some, to either of the governments that claim authority in Ireland at present. It has to be organised independently of both in my view for it to remain consistent with the Republican Constitution. We need to frame our analysis at all times to reflect that Ireland is occupied and that the British occupation has no legal basis. Any proposed use of a referendum-type strategy must account for that ongoing reality. Such a campaign can serve the purpose of building political support for Irish Unity while exposing the fundamentally undemocratic nature of British partitionist rule in Ireland.
Nowhere does it need genuflect to partition or its institutions and for me that has to be a central tenet of republicanism moving forward. The Republic has already been established, this is about achieving British withdrawal and an end to occupation. Nowhere though does republicanism exclude the use of a democratic, referendum-type campaign to oust the British from our country. It’s the national right of our people to have their voice heard and this can be a means of giving expression to that voice – no matter if it has been ignored time-and-again in the past.
I strongly feel we would be wrong to rule out any method that might remove the British at this or any other time but of course there needs to be a recognition that we can’t and should never allow the Brits to dictate the parameters of a referendum or submit it to their authority. Why would we do that? The Brits will never agree to an all-Ireland referendum to begin with, anyone who thinks otherwise underestimates their commitment to the 1998 arrangements, which of course helps secure their strategic goals. But why would we even ask them?
They have absolutely no lawful right to any say in this country, we on the other hand are a different story. There’s nothing to stop people organising something of an extralegal nature fully under their own control that does not invade our sovereignty or put it in any way at risk. As such it is merely a tool of struggle and does not involve begging anyone for anything. Rather, it would be a case of giving expression to the legitimate, democratic demand of the Irish people for freedom and self-determination, in the process empowering the Republic. The Irish Republic is real and it must be respected, we go to see that respect made good. Onwards we go: onwards to victory – it’s still our day will come.