AP 3 - 2022 - 200-2

7 April 2022 Edition

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People heard the clear positive message

• All Smiles: Poll toppers in North Belfast, Carál Ní Chuilín and Gerry Kelly are joined by Pat Sheehan who was elected in West Belfast

The results of the Assembly elections are nothing short of historic. Sinn Féin emerging as the largest party marks a shift in the politics of the North and presents a major catalyst for Irish Unity. 

While you can’t predict the future and the practical implications of the results are yet to be seen, the feeling surrounding the results cannot be underestimated.

A quarter of a million people, almost 30% of voters, rallied behind a party whose raison d’être is Irish Unity. Northern nationalists are realising that Sinn Féin can and will drive the mobilisation to end Partition. The impossible is beginning to become the possible. 

Sinn Féin also gained support outside of their traditional support base, which demonstrates that there are those outside of nationalism who realise that their future is not best served by a British government in Westminster, but by people in Ireland.

Young people and those living outside of the North need to understand that what happened at the weekend was never meant to happen. 

James Craig, the first Prime Minister for the Northern state, referred to Stormont as a ‘Protestant parliament for a Protestant people’ with Belfast becoming the ‘new impregnable Pale’.  An in-built Unionist majority was created to prevent Unionism from ever losing power. 

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• Sinn Féin's clear positive message was more money into the health service, a radical approach to the housing crisis and tackling the rising cost of living

Northern nationalists after the Anglo-Irish treaty were left to the whim of a sectarian and aggressive Orange state that oppressed the minority to the extent that the apartheid regime in South Africa was envious of it. Therefore, it is not surprising that many in the older generation were emotional seeing the results filter through. Older generations remember living through a time when thousands of British troops saturated our areas, taking over schools, tower blocks, houses, and sports pitches. 

Those foreign soldiers, along with the now tarnished RUC, harassed and brutalised people on a daily basis while loyalist murder gangs roamed at will, often with the blessing or involvement of British crown forces. 

Many resisted and no matter how much the British state threw at them, they remained resolute and committed, unbowed and unbroken. Many experts predicted that Sinn Féin would lose seats, they were wrong. Sinn Féin not only increased their vote in traditional republican areas but in other areas as well. 

People heard the clear positive message expressed by Sinn Féin – more money into the health service, a radical approach to the housing crisis and tackling the rising cost of living.  

The DUP also galvanised the Sinn Féin vote. Their arrogance in refusing to clarify whether they would serve with a Sinn Féin First Minister resulted in northern nationalists wanting to send them a message - gone are the days of an Orange State.

These were not the only factors explaining Sinn Féin’s success as the party has a long history of grassroots activism and delivery. Sinn Féin has built a solid base of support in many working-class areas over the last number of decades. 

Grassroots activism and organisation was the strategy adopted by republican prisoners returning to local communities. They established youth clubs, schools, Irish language groups, community groups, advice centres, housing action committees and more. Other political parties in the North envy Sinn Féin’s support base and the dedication of their activists.

Over the last number of years, Sinn Féin, as members of the North’s executive, have delivered on major projects that have benefited ordinary people. This includes capital investments into sporting and leisure facilities, supporting the growing Irish-medium sector, delivering the biggest shake-up to the housing system and using their positions in Stormont as the last lines of defence against Tory austerity, protecting the most vulnerable in society. 

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More and more people in the North are realising the potential for radical change with Irish Unity. It provides our best chance as a people to create a better future for Irish citizens, both North and South, a blank canvas.  

The artificial and sectarian carve up of our country has resulted in two failed statelets, which have done nothing but solidify the position of the elite on both sides of the border. 

A United Ireland is not simply about getting the ‘Brits out’ or achieving some nationalistic relic of ‘old Ireland’. It’s about giving the Irish people, for the first time in history as a singular unit, the opportunity to decide its fate without interference from another state. 

A United Ireland provides our best chance at combating inequality, tackling the climate crisis, creating a fairer economic system and healing the wounds and divisions of the past that have been ‘carefully fostered by an alien government’. 

A country where families aren’t struggling to make ends meet, where they are not choosing between eating and heating, and where young people don’t feel forced to emigrate to make a better life for themselves. 

Stormont can only bring a degree of change and mitigate the worst of Tory austerity. Democracy and economic justice can never be a reality in Ireland so long as Westminster retains economic powers over the North and establishment parties protect their class interests in the 26 Counties. 

That is why the Southern political establishment fear a United Ireland. It is a threat to their class interests and it will bring a new democratic reality to Irish politics with the inclusion of Northern citizens, including those from a Unionist tradition.

Young people are becoming more and more attracted to republican ideals and it is always young people who drive change. I hear frequently from older activists that there has not been better time to be a republican. I truly believe that to be the case. •

We must take no steps backward, our steps must be forward… — Máire Drumm

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