Redmond and Adams? August 31, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
What do people make of this, written in the IT by Ronan O’Brien, an advisor to the last government, a piece that seeks to make a comparison between John Redmond and Gerry Adams? I was particularly struck by the following line.
The difficulty is that while Redmond was open to a more positive association with Britain, Adams is not. Nor is he alone in that. Redmond, like Parnell before him, had underestimated the attachment of unionism to its British identity. But it is well established now. The challenge, post-Good Friday agreement and the consent principle, is how that British identity can be reconciled with a republican view that nothing positive emerged from our past membership of the UK?
Is any of that correct? Adams, as the author of the piece acknowledges, has been clear about being open to to ‘other arrangements’ than a unitary state. And as part of that would, inevitably, be links to the UK of some form or another during a perhaps very long, perhaps indefinite, transitional period. Adams, like many, may not consider that optimal, but recognising that the optimal is unachievable in the short to medium term is not the same as saying that he/they are not open to more positive associations.
And what then of the claim that republicans view that ‘nothing positive emerged from our past membership of the UK’? I’m a republican, I know some here also are, and others are not. But it would be a fairly unreconstructed example of the former who was so simplistic in their thinking as to believe nothing good came from that period.
But it’s also interesting because – in my reading of it – it evades a central aspect of republican critiques (in both large and small ‘r’ versions in relation to Ireland, and by the by I’d be an English republican too while we’re on the subject) which is about how political power is exercised and who represents and who is represented.
In other words it wasn’t simply the issue of being a member of the UK or whether there were positive or negative aspects of that ‘membership’ but what that entailed, a more rather than less inevitable democratic deficit, loss of sovereignty, local representation, democratic representation and so on.
And he completely ignores the reality today that in Scotland those issues still loom sufficiently large, even in the context of a more advanced British polity, to power the representation of the SNP – perhaps not quite to the point of rupture with the UK, but certainly to a devo-max situation.
Nor is it particularly difficult to see a certain softening of north-east/west identities between NI and the UK still being entirely possible in the context of an Ireland that is shifting towards a unitary state situation.
Ironically if anything is putting that last at risk it is the threat of Brexit, an almost entirely home-grown English political dynamic.
Notable is the lack of an actual example of how that reconciling of British identity and Republican views might be achieved. Is he talking about rejoining the Commonwealth, or some other all islands (plural) representative structures or something else entirely. Does he think that the only barrier to these are Sinn Féin? And would they be of any particular utility?
His last line is interesting for it seems to swerve off on a different tangent entirely:
It is a while since the Irish State or politicians grappled with these issues. We talk about the financial obstacles to unity but surely when there is a will a way can be found. It might be that we find the cultural challenge too demanding?
It is difficult to know precisely what cultural challenge that is. It certainly won’t be for want of trying on the part of some. But it surely won’t be made easier by the indifferent to Ireland but far from positive dynamics of English nationalism.