4 August 2022 Edition
The Ireland we want to live in
Editorial - Eagarfhocal
It is clear in Ireland today that we are moving into a new phase of an intensified discussion on the political future of the island. There are a range of initiatives from Sinn Féin’s Commission on the Future of Ireland to the Preparing for a New Ireland conference to be held in Dublin’s 3 Arena on 1 October.
Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile writes in this issue on how the Seanad’s Public Consultation Committee is undertaking a series of hearings on the constitutional future of Ireland. There is also a piece on the Gaels le Chéile initiative where GAA supporters are encouraging fellow members, and Gaels across Ireland, to get involved by signing a letter to the Taoiseach asking him to establish an all-island Citizens’ Assembly on Irish Unity.
In his article, Ó Donnghaile comments how important it is to take advantage of the Seanad consultation process as the hearings will “provide an opportunity for people from the Six Counties, Irish citizens and others, to have a say in the heart of Dublin, to penetrate the walls where some would prefer their voices aren’t heard”.
This is a key aspect of this process. It is all happening in spite of the Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael-Green Party coalition. These parties have stalled and dithered on the unity issue. Micheál Martin still has to acknowledge or answer the Gaels le Chéile request. When Leo Varadkar takes back this post in December, I don’t expect he will answer this letter either.
In these months as we move through the Civil War centenaries, it is worth remembering the Ireland that the partitioned parliaments of the Six and 26 Counties brought into being.
For example, 1923 was the second full year of the population of Ireland living with Partition. Both these new parliaments subsequently passed special powers acts. In the Six Counties, it allowed for no jury courts and a 32,000 member special constabulary was set up alongside the 3,000 members of the newly formed Royal Ulster Constabulary.
In the 26-County state, membership of the Free State Army had grown to 58,000 troops by the end of the Civil War, and emergency legislation had facilitated the execution of 77 republican prisoners between November 1922 and May 1923. Both states exited a decade of dissent and revolution as heavily armed regimes, effectively at war with significant elements of their citizens. There were 13,000 republicans held in jails across the state in 1923.
It makes me wonder where in 1923 was the spirit of the 1916 Proclamation or the 1919 Democratic Programme. The growing discussions on Irish unity provide a unique opportunity to begin talking about the Ireland we really want to live in.