Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

13 February 2003 Edition

Resize: A A A Print

National Reconciliation - A Strategic Imperative


One of the key functions of republican activism presently is to strike a balance between a necessary and immediate preoccupation with the volatile political context and direct threat to the integrity of the Good Friday Agreement, and a long-term strategic perspective on building towards the Republic. Whilst these two processes are indivisible, each necessarily demands a dedicated focus.

The debate about the structure and complexion of a future republic is a political discussion in which the entire republican family needs to be involved. It has been this generation of republicans who have put up and popularised the concept of a united Ireland, and we are the people developing the sites of struggle to bring about conditions whereby this vision can be realised. However, this is the phase in which we all need to become involved in working out the detail of that vision.

Whether or not substantial political progress is made in the next two months, activists need to be putting substance on our ambition to achieve a united, democratic and pluralist Ireland. Our road map has to delineate how a future republic will facilitate a multicultural, multiethnic and multilingual society on this island. And then we need to begin to popularise the detail of that vision north and south.

Republicans and the Unionist Family

The most important and immediate element of this process is the imperative of a sustained engagement by republicans with the Protestant community and unionism. Protestant and unionist people constitute a sizeable section of the national population, with whom we must negotiate the terms of a future Ireland. This political reality for us stems from the fact that most Protestant and unionist people in the north do not define themselves exclusively in terms of an Irish national identity.

As republicans, we are challenged ideologically and politically by the gulf between our struggle and the broad unionist and Protestant community; which acts as an effective electoral and political bulwark against a united Ireland. In recent years we have contended that the two governments and specifically the British, must become persuaders for Irish unity, and correctly so. Ironically, we have not fully internalised the strategic imperative of ourselves acting as dynamic persuaders for Irish unity with Protestants and unionists.

Of course, our ability to develop meaningful and sustained contact and dialogue with this section of our people is clearly hampered by the existing political context, and particularly, in the absence of decisive and strategic leadership from within the UUP. Yet, that aside, in specific, objective terms, republicans should not underestimate the deep fears and uncertainties abroad within that community about republican intentions and their own constitutional and political future.

It is an important reality that a vast level of polarisation and division presently separates Protestants and unionists from us.

National Reconciliation

As activists in pursuit of our republican vision, we need to be focused upon building a republic which is at peace with itself politically and socially, and which celebrates the diversity of a multicultural modern Ireland. This presupposes centring the work of national reconciliation within our activism, because we carry an ideological and historic responsibility to be the proponents of this objective.

The practical outworking of this responsibility is that the focus upon national reconciliation becomes a dedicated site of struggle in itself. We need to absorb the strategic imperative of making outreach to and building dialogue with Protestants and unionists. Our outreach has to be based upon an appreciation that we must listen and hear what their community says to us, and in turn ensure that they too hear us.

The imperative of developing a process of national reconciliation with our unionist and Protestant neighbours stems from the very core of our ideological world view, which asserts that Ireland is comprised of many communities and that our future is infinitely better shared than divided from each other.

Difference and division can be resolved through negotiation when we as republicans and those of the unionist family acknowledge that contact between us is essential, and that much can be agreed to our mutual advantage when we engage on principles of inclusivity and equality.

Pro-active Persuasion

Irish republicans have contributed much to the process of conflict resolution and national reconciliation, but there is more we can and should do.

Within the context of our strategy, we should collectively explore the potential for taking new strategic initiatives aimed at generating an anti-sectarian culture, reducing polarisation, building up trust, and mutually sensitising republicans and unionists to each other's expectations and aspirations.

We need to seek to convince this section of our people that we do indeed wish to negotiate with them clear constitutional and political guarantees that will underpin a political plurality that respects their history, culture and political identity.

Although doing so in this period may stretch republicans further, against a backdrop of enduring persistent British bad faith and bad unionist leadership, our objective must be to change the context and create new conditions within which to persuade others of, and popularise the republican vision.

We must create the space to initiate and grow a sustained negotiation between ourselves and the rich diversity that comprises the Protestant and unionist people. This negotiation should be open ended, comprehensive and dedicated to achieving the terms of an optimum accommodation between all the citizens of this island.

Developing the substance of our vision and attracting more support to it in this period is intrinsic to building more political strength into the future. This will require much proactive persuasion and political heavy lifting on our part. There is no substitute for all activists applying a sharp strategic focus to the work of national reconciliation. It is an imperative inherent to the burden of pursuing revolutionary struggle in Ireland today.

A Political Revolution

Sinn Féin does not subscribe to the gombeenism that passes for politics in our country. Our business is a political revolution, which seeks to strategically mobilise the greater number of Irish people around the vision of an Irish republic. We seek to achieve an Ireland, which becomes a role model for other progressive peoples beyond our shores.

Our vision is of an Ireland that pioneers new standards of economic, social, political equality and justice; an Ireland that celebrates and guarantees cultural, linguistic and ethnic diversity; and, the dream fulfilled, of a Republic that bears living testament to the unity of Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1