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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Federalism
According to the dictionary

 

Michael Gillespie • 15 October 2006

As I have made clear in a previous article I am not a politician but some one who dissents from traditional Unionism, traditional Nationalism, and traditional Republicanism, seeing all of these as failures. I am a teacher and writer whose only interest is in ideas, especially in new and original ideas, which shed new insight into the Irish problem, a problem that is long overdue a solution. Not being a politician I will not try to bamboozle the readership of The Blanket with politics but instead will don the hat of a teacher and make a bold attempt to teach and educate.

In reading the article on Federalism by Late Sinn, the Late Sinn Fein document, Eire Nua is mentioned. I have reread the document and in it I find a waffle about Rights and Freedoms. This begs the question, what were the rights and freedoms of those who were gunned down by Republicans in the 6 counties, and what were the rights and freedoms of those who disappeared at the hands of Republicans? Federalism Unionism—Early Sinn Fein equally condemns all violence as obscene, be it the obscenity of the murderous violence of Republicans or the obscenity of the murderous state violence of Right Wing Union Jack Unionism. When the waffle of Eire Nua is sliced through, it is clear Late Sinn Fein use the term freedom in the sense of Rousseau and Marx, e.g., Rousseau: Man is born free but is everywhere in chains; e.g. Marx: Workers of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains.

Acting on these old fashioned views of freedom and buoyed up by the Republican false dogma, "I have four green fields; one of them's in bondage",
Republicans mounted a campaign of violence, brutalisation, and riot to free the people of the 6 counties from their shackles. However, this was a miscalculation because people of a moderate disposition, and that is the vast majority in the 6 counties, didn't feel themselves to be in shackles in the first place, so the campaign ended in total failure. In the article on rights and freedoms published in The Blanket as part of the National Government Of Ireland Act, rights and freedoms are dealt with in a manner in which rights and freedoms are thought of in a liberal democracy nowadays. The eminent English philosopher J.S. Mill wrote that in a democracy persons should be free to do as they please, provided what they do doesn't hurt or offend anyone else. That is how freedom is understood in an Irish Christian liberal democracy. In such a democracy people are free to do as they please provided they don't break the law in doing so. In an Irish Christian Liberal Democracy the rule of law is supreme, the law being acceptable by the people, that is how freedom is nowadays understood. The verbiage of Eire Nua is the stuff from which dictators emerge. In Eire Nua, Late Sinn Fein claims they will bring true freedom to the Irish but don't say what true freedom is. J.S. Mill's sense of freedom is true freedom and that true sense of freedom can be brought to Ireland in a Irish Christian Liberal Democracy within the UK.

Eire Nua has also something to say about happiness. At this juncture in the document it would seem that Late Sinn Fein has wandered out of Marxist Cuba and into the American constitution. In Eire Nua, Late Sinn Fein claims they will make the Irish people happy. Happiness is not mentioned in the National Government of Ireland Act, and for good reason. Happiness is a psychological condition having to do with the chemistry of the brain and with one's social and personal condition, and can't be guaranteed by the state. People can experience happiness in many different and varied ways such as eating chocolate, drinking whiskey and by injecting cocaine. If happiness had been included in the National Government of Ireland Act as a right then the Irish could claim that by eating chocolate, or drinking whiskey, or by injecting cocaine, they are exercising a constitutional right. But to stick with the notion of happiness contained in Eire Nua, it would seem that Late Sinn Fein is now perfectly happy to enter Stormont, to partake of the British bounty there, to accept partition, to live with sectarianism. Late Sinn is now hooked on the opium of Stormont but Federal Unionism—Early Sinn Fein doesn't smoke that opium but keeps a clear head about Ireland.

On reading Eire Nua I also find it contains verbiage on Marxist socialism of the Old Labour type, only more extreme. This type of socialism has been rejected by the people of Great Britain and would only be approved of by Tony Benn, Fidel Castro, by the president of North Korea and by nobody else. Eire Nua is an Ireland for socialist Republicans only in an all-Ireland Socialist Republic. What would the rest of the Irish do in such a Republic? Are they supposed to jump in the Irish Sea? Eire Nua is devoid of any sense of democracy. Late Sinn Fein should come clean about its intentions in Ireland and draw up a detailed constitution for Eire Nua, publish it in the national press, and let the people of Ireland know in advance what they are letting themselves in for with Late Sinn Fein. Federal Unionism—Early Sinn Fein envisages a democratic united Eire Nua for all. Such a new Ireland can only be realised in a new reformed United Kingdom context and in no other way. I say again Eire Nua is the stuff of a dictatorship.

The article on federalism supports the idea of a federal Ireland. It would have been helpful if the author had looked up the words federal and federalism in the dictionary and had written about that, rather than compile a concoction about federalism of his own making. In the dictionary, federal has three definitions:

Definition 1: Of, or pertaining to, or designing a form of government in which political units recognise the sovereignty of a central government while retaining certain residual powers of government.
Definition 2: Of, or pertaining to, the central government of a federation, as distinct from the governments of its constituent political units.
Definition 3: Of, or pertaining to, or formed by a treaty or compact between constituent political units.
Federalism: the doctrine or system of a federal government.
Confederacy: A union of persons parties states or nations for a common purpose

A prime example of a federal union as Definition 1 is the U.S.A. There you have a president standing head and shoulders over the state governors. There is a sovereign central government, which can pass national legislation over and above state legislation. There is a constitution accepted by all. There is a common language and a common American culture. There are now moves a foot to set up a federal Europe as in Definition 1. A federal Europe is faced with profound difficulties. A constitution has been drafted but this has been defeated in a number of countries. At the moment Europe is a Tower of Babel as far as language is concerned but English may become the language of Europe in the distant future. Europe is a plethora of cultures but will require a common European culture, what that culture will be like is impossible to tell. Europe will require a constitution, which provides a President standing head and shoulders above the heads of state of the constituent nations and which provides a government in Brussels, which can enact legislation over and above the legislation enacted by the governments of the European nation states. This gives rise to a fear of loss of sovereignty in the nation states This is acutely felt in G.B. Late Sinn Fein comes into this camp but in their confusion advocate a Federal Ireland. It seems to be the intention of Late Sinn Fein to set up Ireland as an offshore Cuba in Europe.

To talk about a federal Ireland as in Definition 1 and as a mini U.S.A. is laughable, but there is Definition 3. By this definition, a federal Ireland could be attempted as a treaty or compact (a covenant or agreement) between two states. However there are difficulties in this. The two states in Ireland are constituted as foreign to one another, and each regards itself as a nation. To have a federation between these states is as unrealistic as to advocate the setting up of a federal Iberian Peninsula in a treaty or compact between Spain and Portugal. As a solution to the Irish problem, James Molyneaux said that the two nations that occupy the island should live side by side in peace harmony just as Spain and Portugal live side by side in the common territory, the Iberian Peninsula. Republicans did not accept this. But there is another option by Definition 3. A federal Ireland could be set up in a treaty or compact entered into between Dail Eireann and Westminster as in joint authority over the 6 counties. This would be done over the heads of Late Sinn Fein and Union Jack Unionism, and would be opposed by Union Jack Unionism and could give rise to civil disturbance and violence in the Loyalist Community.

However, a federal UK is possible, feasible, and doable, and the conditions for such a confederation are in place. There is a possible head of state. A possible constitution, a new reformed UK Constitution including The National Government of Ireland Act which would be the constitution of the Irish nation in the confederation. There is a common language for the confederation and while the Irish, English, Scottish, and Welsh cultures are different, yet similar and these cultures do not regard each other as foreign. A federal UK is consistent, the purpose of the confederation being peace and stability, the defence of democracy and the territorial integrity of the Isles of the North Atlantic. The Isles of the North Atlantic being defined in The National Government of Ireland Act (Article 9). What the article on Federalism by Late Sinn Fein probably means by Federalism is some kind of shoddy deal between extremists, such as the Belfast Agreement in which power is carved up among the extremes and they agree to stop murdering one another, partition is accepted and sectarianism institutionalised. Extremists in the 6 counties are entering into such a deal at the present time.

The perplexing term "British culture" is used in the article on Federalism. If the author had mentioned American culture that would have made sense because American culture is widespread in Ireland. But that is another matter. I have a good idea what Irish, English, Scottish and Welsh cultures are but when it comes to "British culture" my mind is a blank. In my understanding of "Britishness" it has to do with power and dominance, namely economic power and dominance, political power and dominance, military power and dominance, and isn't about culture. British power and dominance rose to a peak in the British Empire but even so India retained its own culture. British power and dominance in the world began to decline after the First World War and has been declining ever since, to be replaced by American power and dominance, which in turn may be replaced by China. It is possible that Right Wing Union Jack Unionism's insistence that its identity is British isn't about culture, but is a vain attempt to cling onto power in the 6 counties. Union Jack unionism must eventually realise that their power and dominance collapsed with the rise of the civil rights movement in the 6 counties. Those unionists who value the union genuinely must rethink the union radically and make it a union that is acceptable to all. Federal Unionism Early Sinn Fein can be of assistance in this. Right Wing Union Jack Unionism rests on the false dogma that to be loyal to the Crown one must be a Protestant, wave a Union Jack, sing God Save The Queen, travel on a British passport and have a paranoid hatred of all things Irish. This is paralleled by the false Republican dogma that to be Irish one must be a Catholic, wave a Tricolour, sing a Soldiers Song, travel on an Irish passport and have a paranoid hatred of all things British. It has to be clearly understood that Federal Unionism—Early Sinn Fein hasn't a British bone in its body but is Irish to the core — but its Irishness finds no inconsistency in being loyal to the Crown. In Canada, Canadians are loyal to the Crown but at the same time are thoroughly Canadian. Canadians can be that way because the Canadian constitution allows it. In Ireland one cannot be loyal to the Crown and be Irish, the constitution of the island doesn't permit that. Only when the day comes when the Irish can be loyal to the Crown and at the same be thoroughly Irish, like Canadians, on that day Ireland will be united and form a sovereign nation just as Canada is. That can be achieved in a new reformed written UK constitution as in the National Government of Ireland Act. In Ireland, the Irish should be free to be loyal to the Crown, not in a British style, but in their own independent Irish style, just as Canadians are free to be loyal to the Crown, not in a British style, but in their own independent Canadian style.

It may be worthwhile to dwell a little on culture in Ireland. Ireland may become a multicultural society and a liberal democracy wouldn't prevent that. Federal Unionism—Early Sinn Fein recognises three long-standing cultures in Ireland:

  1. Gaelic culture whose mother tongue is Irish
  2. Anglo-Irish culture whose mother tongue is English
  3. Loyalist culture whose mother tongue is English/Ulster Scots, the central plank of their culture being loyalty to the Crown

The social structure of Gaelic culture collapsed with the Flight Of the Earls after the Boyne but even so the Irish language was widely spoken up to the famine when the language went into an accelerated decline. The feelings of the people have been expressed by Irish poets and this expression can be found in An Duanaire 1600-1900 Poems of the Dispossessed. Gaelic culture has also a significant body of prose literature in writers such as Paedar Ui Connaire of Galway and the Mac Grainnas of Donegal. The accelerated decline of the Irish language in the 19th century was worsened further by the introduction of the National Schools in 1832. Westminster's purpose in introducing these schools was admirable. It was the government's intention that in these schools Catholic and Protestant would be educated together and in that way would form friendships that would last throughout life. This admirable purpose was rejected by sectarian Ireland. But the National Schools went down in infamy for another reason. Irish teachers staffed these schools and these teachers beat the Irish language out of the school population and beat the English language into it. This was done with the full approval of the parents. This stands in marked contrast to what happened to the Welsh language. In Wales parents insisted that Welsh be taught in the schools and in that way the Welsh language was preserved.

After the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1921 Dail Eireann introduced compulsory Irish in the schools in the 26 counties. An effort was made to beat the Irish language back into the school population. The Irish Christian Brothers spearheaded this effort, believing in a false Republican dogma about the language. This forced-feeding of the Irish language was carried out with the full approval of Dail Eireann. This venture failed and created in the minds of many in the 26 counties a distaste of the language.

The treatment of the Irish language in Ireland raises the deeper question of compulsion in a democracy. There is in existence at the present time a group of philosophers led by the eminent Jesuit philosopher Ivan Illich who argue that compulsory state schooling should be abolished and should be replaced by a voluntary system of education. The article on schooling in the Act published in The Blanket (Article 11) was written with Illich in mind, but stops short of him. Attendance at Christian Studies is voluntary and is underpinned by freedom. On the other hand attendance at Secular Studies is compulsory but is also underpinned by freedom. There is further compulsion in schooling in that the Irish National Anthem has to be sung at the end of morning Assembly and the National and Provincial flags flown in the school grounds. This educational practice is in keeping with some research in America I came across years ago when doing research at university. This research looked at the formation of American identity in elementary schoolings. The research established that a strong sense of American identity was fully formed by the end of elementary education and that the identity was not connected with ethnic origin so identity has nothing to do with genes as Fascists would have us believe and has nothing to do with blowing up Canary Warf or shooting policemen in the 6 counties as Republicans would lead us to believe. A sense of identity is firstly a product of the home, then of the schooling one gets in ones childhood and youth and also it has to do with the constitution under which one lives.

In the deeper sense compulsion should have no place in a liberal democracy. The only compulsion acceptable in such a state is the enforcement of compulsory state law the law being accepted by the people. In the article on culture in The Blanket (Article 14), Irish culture would be promoted everywhere in Ireland by a state funded body, The Royal Society for the Promotion of Irish Culture, but Irish culture would not be imposed on those who do not want it. The Royal Society is underpinned by freedom of choice and freedom to refuse. On reading Late Sinn Fein's Eire Nua it is their intention to restore the Irish language to every day use but how that is to be achieved is left unsaid. It could that the language would be rammed down people's throats as has been done in the past by Republicans. It could also be that socialism would be rammed down the throats of the people as well, as is done in Cuba and N. Korea.

To turn to the second culture found in Ireland, namely Anglo-Irish culture whose mother tongue is English. This culture is now the dominant culture of the island. This culture finds literary expression in the writings of Swift, Moore, Joyce, AE, Friel, Synge, O' Casey, Yeats, Kavanagh, Heaney, Edna O' Brien, Maeve Binchey, and Roddy Doyle. It finds artistic expression in the paintings of John Lavery, Roderic O'Connor, Jack Yeats, Paul Henry, Sean Keating, Francis Bacon, Colleen Browning, and Alice Maher, and in the music of Sean O'Riada. However traditional Irish music is shared equally by Anglo-Irish culture and Gaelic culture. Anglo-Irish culture has the dance forms, Riverdance and other traditional Irish dance forms. It should be made clear that Anglo-Irish culture is the culture of the ordinary man and woman on the Island and doesn't include the illustrious Anglo-Irish family, the Butler/Ormond family of Kilkenny Castle whose culture was English. Late Sinn Fein correctly belongs to Anglo-Irish culture, even if Gerry Adams mutilates the Irish tongue, from time to time, on TV.

The third culture in Ireland is Loyalist culture whose mother tongue is English/Ulster Scots. The central plank of this culture is loyalty to the Crown. However, this culture has no significant Ulster literature buts adopts Scottish literature, especially the poetry of Robert Burns. This culture has no significant Ulster music except for a limited repertoire of Orange Songs tainted with sectarianism but again adopts Scottish music and song, and again this culture has no Ulster dance form, but adopts Scottish dance. This culture has a folk art found on gable walls in the loyalist districts. If Republicans had their way this culture would be wiped from the map of Ireland. Because of this Republicanism is fatally flawed and should be rejected just as Right Wing Union Jack Unionism is fatally flawed and should be rejected.

It could be that when watching BBC TV, Late Sinn Fein may feel they are being exposed to British culture and that BBC TV should be jammed. It could also be that when Union Jack Unionism is watching RTE they may feel they are being exposed to Irish culture and that RTE should be jammed in the 6 counties. Neither have any thing to fear about culture as far as television is concerned. TV has to do with mass appeal and mass entertainment and will express any culture that has mass appeal and sells, such as films about Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales and about America and about outer space, or of music of any description that appeals. The mass entertainment of RTE being an imitation of the BBC.

I have dealt with Federalism at length as I feel the commentary is of importance. I hope the readership of The Blanket will find the commentary helpful and instructive.

 

 

 


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Index: Current Articles



19 November 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

The Bogeyman
Anthony McIntyre

Believe It Or Not
John Kennedy

Contra Con Artists
Anthony McIntyre

The Wrong Kind of Republican?
Ivan Morley

Equality Agenda: British Rhetoric and Reality
Martin Galvin

A Deal Done By Quislings
Mick Hall

Realignments
Dr John Coulter

Deadline? Pull the other one!
David Adams

Political Policing
Martin Ingram

It's Not The Taking Part
Anthony McIntyre

Who Can Get Dr No to Say Yes?
Dr John Coulter

Equality or Equity
Michéal MháDonnáin

Federalism
Michael Gillespie

Revolutionary Unionism
Dr John Coulter

Who Needs Enemies
John Kennedy

The King's Threshold
Robin Kirk


7 November 2006

When It's Time for Change, No One Is Irreplaceable
Mick Hall

Date Fixed For Flawed Landmark Case
Michael McKevitt Justice Campaign

Souper Sinn Fein
Eoghan O'Suilleabhain

Boo!
Dr John Coulter

St Andrews Agreement & 'the Left'
Davy Carlin

Shotgun Wedding
John Kennedy

...and to create the space for a diversity of views...
Noel Dolan

'Undo the Great Betrayal, Free the Occupied 26'
Dr John Coulter

The Wind That Shakes the Barley
Anthony McIntyre

Power & Powerlessness
Patricia Campbell

The Constantine Institute
Terry O'Neill

Mary Robinson Spotlights Human Rights Abuses in Darfur
William Hughes

Fearless Speech
Anthony McIntyre

 

 

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