Our political party leaders met in a free-for-all, that would have had them thrown out of any self-respecting pub in Ireland.
On Thursday night (11th February, 2016)I watched a debacular political sketch on TV3 that was worthy of ranking with the most offensive cartoons ever printed in Punch magazine in the early 20th century deriding the Irish people as simian and savage. Our political party leaders met in a free-for-all, that would have had them thrown out of any self-respecting pub in Ireland. I learned nothing new from the politicians with one small exception, but I learned a lot about the political orientation of the political experts and self-proclaimed political elite now scavenging the back lanes of politics. It wasn’t the fault of TV3 or of their two presenters who appeared shell-shocked by their inability to cope with the job on hand, apart from the evidence that they did not know how to control the mob antics they faced. It led me to reflect on something that I have been mulling over for some time. I am disgusted and dismayed by the regularly provocative refrains from Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, and Labour alluding to Sinn Féin’s earlier links with militant republicanism. I am surprised, but then again, not really surprised, that no one has as yet commented on the following.
- Gerry Adams and his colleagues succeeded in doing what no other politician in the Southern three-and-a-bit green fields of Erin ever tried to do. They “bit on the bullet” (my apologies for such a relevant analogy), got their supporters and erstwhile freedom fighters/guerrillas/terrorists to put their arms and military equipment beyond use, to sit down with their enemies and begin a peace process. I say “begin” because I believe that there is a lot yet to be done, as there is in most peace processes negotiated internationally and legalistically.
- But we seem to overlook the elephantine figure next to the TV in the sitting room of Irish families today and that is, Sinn Féin is not the only Irish political institution to come from a blood-stained past.
- Fine Gael’s origins were in a proto-fascist militaristic tradition, with some of their leaders having fought for Ireland’s independence, with one of their favourite founders leading and carrying out assassinations and murders not dissimilar to those we now condemn in other current world conflict.
- Fianna Fáil’s origins were in militant republicanism, equally murderous, equally divisive, and equally spiritually squalid.
- The Labour Party grew out of the early Labour and Trade Union Movement assisted by the Citizen’s Army, another militant movement, that used open violence.
- Both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael went on to cry havoc on Irish society with a civil war that destroyed families, and communities, and individuals and perverted the growth of normal politics in Ireland right up to today. Many Irish trade unions have supported the Labour Party unquestioningly for decades with the result that it is now sucking on the dried tits of the present neoliberal establishment, and there is hardly a murmur from the mouths of many trade union leaders or their members.
Since I first qualified to vote as a young man, I have never voted for either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael, and neither will I do so now until their current respective leaderships apologise to one another and to the Irish people for the damage and killings and distortions their founders and ancestors imposed on our country and on our political institutions. We demanded that the British Government and Establishment do us that honour and lapped it up when the British Prime Minister and the Queen bowed to our history. Why not expect the same now from the descendents and inheritors of our own internal war and destruction? I have been a Socialist in the European and International tradition since my younger days, and spent some years with the Irish Labour Party, but they have deserted the little socialism they ever had when their earlier leaders subjected their principles to ecclesiastical nihil obstats, and they morphed into political opportunists.
But there is another, equally important dimension to this history. Last November, I launched a low-key project from my web site (www.wolflander.ie), calling on the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to institute a parallel peace process at citizen and community level. In the past 4 months, almost 1,000 people, both Arab and Israeli, have registered on the web site and shared their approval and support for my project which I called the Adomnán Project in recognition of the achievement of Adomnán, an Abbot of the Iona Monastery. In 697 A.D., long before there were international Rights of Man, of Woman, or of Child, Adomnán brought tribal and religious leaders together from what we now call the UK and Ireland, for a peace synod in Birr, Co. Offaly. There they passed the “Law of the Innocents”, protecting women from family and social violence, as well as protecting all non-combatants in tribal wars. This happened in Ireland, a small island on the edge of the world then known to the tribes of Europe, including Greece and Rome, and regarded by them as a barbarian place outside of the civilisation they knew as the Roman Empire. The intervention worked, because the law was supported at local levels and backed by the tribal leaders and was implemented by the tribal and religious leaders.
Whilst I accept the need for international negotiated legal treaties and processes at the level of governments and international institutions to provide a framework for the growth of peace, these are not sufficient in themselves to bring peace and reconciliation at the level of the citizen and the community. A parallel process of community reconciliation is also required and funds must be found to prepare individuals and families and communities to come to terms with the differences between them and to begin together on the journey to a peaceful existence together. This is still true of the peace process in Northern Ireland and much work still needs to be done there at various levels of the society and the administration.
I believe now, and I admit that it has taken me some time to reach this decision, that a Sinn Fein party in Government in the Republic of Ireland could herald a new era in Irish politics. In words adapted from Samuel Beckett, I suggest that “we can’t go on as we are, we must go on, we will go on”. Our ancestors are now calling to us on the winds of change. It is time that we responded and invited them to sit and warm themselves by our fires and help us to repair our links with an Ireland that we have all but lost. For this reason, I believe that the Irish electorate must examine and evaluate the parties that are vying for our support in this election from a new perspective. The TV debate last Thursday night followed by the various media comments and judgments since then, have led me to the conclusion that a Sinn Fein led government after the next general election has the potential to herald a new age in Irish politics and should be given that opportunity. The current political establishment with its divisive Civil War wounds and hatreds appears to be fanning the flames of anger to an extent that will blind us to that possibility and merely re-inforce the current fault lines in our society. The choice will be ours. And only ours.