The Pursuit of Individual Rights is Overshadowing Our National Rights

Guest writer Mairtin Mac Giolla Eoin, a former Republican Prisoner and current Republican activist from Derry gives us his thoughts on individual rights vs national rights

I’ve been discussing this topic over the past month or so with some comrades, I feel that it would be useful to articulate my thoughts and the process that has lead me to the conclusion that our national rights are being overshadowed.

First of all what do I mean by our national rights? Our sovereignty as a people and a nation is the foremost right; it is undeniable that we are a distinct people, with both a vibrant culture and language. Our identity has been suppressed for as long as we have been occupied and it can never be fully realised under British rule or via her surrogates in Leinster house. Secondly our right to an Irish Republic, despite some narratives a United Ireland is not the objective, as our country can be united under many guises, such as it had been in the past entirely under British Rule. There are more national rights that can be alluded to but are mostly covered by our sovereignty.

Moving onto how these rights are being overshadowed, a number of cases can be used. All these cases have seen Irish Republicans become involved in the constitutional matters of both the British State and her surrogates in the 26 counties. In recent years Brexit was one of the first to emerge, using the old mantra that Britain’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity, many republicans flocked to the polls either to vote for or against, but inevitably cast a vote for British Sovereignty. Some using the mantra hoped that this would bring the Republic closer, despite the fact that historically, Irish Republicans have never availed from Britain’s difficulty. Brexit certainly has brought the potential for a United Ireland to the fore of constitutional politics but this could inevitably be a death knell to the Irish Republic that we envisage.

However the constitutional matters of the 26 county Free State present a more perplexing example of this overshadowing. Whether it is same sex marriage, abortion or blasphemy, these matters have been put out to referendum, consequences of which can affect the entirety of the Irish people, yet cannot be said to represent the entire Irish population due to partition. Furthermore to partake in the reformation or preservation of a constitution that we view not only as illegitimate but subversive, is beyond a paradox and ultimately detrimental to the Irish Republic we pursue.

Our Republican ideals are taking preference to the Irish Republic; I have said before that the threat of a 32 county Free State would render our politics as a new reformer within that constitutional makeup, yet it seems that many are content with the two state system and using reform as a method of moulding a better society. These matters are a double edged sword for Irish Republicanism and there are both glaring positives and negatives to becoming involved. The recent referenda have championed woman’s rights, preservation of life, equality and further separation from church and state. All of these are fundamental in one way or another to our Republican ideals and it is absolutely correct to champion these ideals. It is when it becomes a matter of constitutional politics that it becomes problematic for us, as I said in the previous paragraph it is a paradox that these rights which form our ideals are simultaneously becoming a part of the subversion of our nation. A glaring positive to adopting stances on these issues is that it can make Irish Republicanism more relevant and relatable and another is that ideally we all wish to live in a better society, ultimately be secure and safe and provide for our families. Yet if we look at the realities that some may be better off but a lot more are worse off, as austerity cripples us and forces our most vulnerable onto the streets. Without breaking off into a tangent, individualism plays a hand in our political outlook at times and this is usually to the detriment of the communities we are attempting to liberate and empower.

There is nothing easy about this situation, and yes these matters will continue with or without Republican interjection, yet only we and our ideology suffer the consequences either way. For my part I believe that if we continue to reform both states in our pursuit of our ideals then this will render the Irish Republic irrelevant and unnecessary and it is this we must guard against moving forward into the future.

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