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By Jason Michael
‘IT WAS EMOTIONAL,’ said by comrade. I confessed to shedding a tear myself. We never saw it coming. No one saw it coming. Mary Lou McDonald, an unassuming wee woman from Dublin, had led Sinn Féin to its greatest election victory in over a hundred years – a century that has seen Ireland struggle through the darkness of a revolution unfinished and the pain of division, of partition, and of a bloody armed conflict. Back in 1998 the parties of the Free State; Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, asked us to come in from the cold, to put down the gun and continue the struggle at the ballot box. Armed struggle in the occupied counties had brought Britain to heel. In Belfast we chipped away at the chains of empire, and robbed the unionists of their majority. Against the endless sniping in Dublin, the continual and conceited reminders of the past, we won our place in Dáil Éireann.
Irish people, beat down by austerity, sick of the homelessness and the housing crisis, have turned to Sinn Féin in numbers; the only party for a united Ireland – a Republic for all the children of Ireland. As the counting trundled on, one win after another put to bed forever the idea that Ireland cannot awaken from the nightmare of its history, a story imposed on us for centuries by British soldiers, their occupation, laws, and atrocities. At long last our day has come, and the wave – the ‘surge’ – of emotion that rushed through the Republican movement was equalled only by the stunned shock with which it was met in the ranks of the defeated old establishment. Only a week ago their chorus of ‘no coalition with Sinn Féin’ was all we heard. Now, the phone won’t stop ringing.
Jason Michael (@Jeggit) February 09, 2020
But before we break out the glasses, a few words need saying. The past will remain with us for as long as we allow it. Sinn Féin’s victory is at the same time closure and continuation; it puts to an end the bitterness of the war that brought us here and yet resets the clock on Easter 1916, giving us – after a lengthy hiatus – the opportunity to finish the revolution begun by Pádraig Pearse, James Connolly, and all the brave young women and men who fought in Cumann na mBan, the Irish Volunteers, the Citizen Army, and Na Fianna Éireann. At no time since Britain partitioned this island in 1921 has unification been closer than it is today, and while the final blows of this process were struck in peace, we cannot forget that this peace and this opportunity were made possible by war. Only the volunteers and soldiers of that war could be the peacemakers.
Every Irish voter who marked Sinn Féin on their ballot paper was asked by the Irish and British media, by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and the Greens ‘What about the IRA?’ As a Sinn Féin member and as someone who voted for my party, I’m going to give you my answer to that poisonous question.
Too often, when attempting to address this question, Republicans first point to the blood-soaked histories of Fianna Fáil and the fascists of Fine Gael. But let’s not do that here. Let’s just talk about Sinn Féin and the Provisional Irish Republican Army. Yes, Sinn Féin was the political voice of the Provisional IRA. Many Sinn Féin members were volunteers, and many Provos were card-carrying members of political Sinn Féin. In many parts of the North it was impossible to tell where Sinn Féin ended and the IRA begun. And so, there must be at least some justification in the efforts of our opponents to shame us with the past, but we can answer this without shame – we can accept the past, even take pride in what was achieved, while looking to a future without violence.
🇮🇪 Observers in Europe have said Brexit's not over, and next week Britain might have to deal with a Sinn Féin Irish… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Jason Michael (@Jeggit) February 09, 2020
The men and women of Easter 1916 went out against Great Britain for the freedom of Ireland; for the freedom of the nine counties of Ulster as much as they did for the freedom of Connacht, Leinster, and Munster. They fought and laid down their lives for a united and free thirty-two county Republic. Today, when the parties of the Republic condemn ‘the IRA,’ they betray their defeated Free Stater mentality – because the Provisionals were the only ones who could say with any credibility that they were continuing the work of the martyrs and rebels of 1916 – an incomplete revolution which had created a cosy little bubble in the twenty-six counties in which southern Irishmen could get fat and clap themselves on the back, saying: ‘A job well done.’ But all the while, in terms of the Republican tradition, only the IRA and Sinn Féin – the militant Republican movement – could lay claim to the spirit of 1916.
The war was necessary and it was unavoidable. This may be difficult for many in modern ‘Ireland’ to accept, but the conflict in the North was as necessary and unavoidable as the Easter Rising and the War of Independence. In fact, all three are but phases of the same struggle for a free and united Ireland, the real Ireland – the only authentic Irish Republic. British rule in ‘Northern Ireland’ – ‘a Protestant State for a Protestant People’ – was every bit as barbaric, callous, and cruel as it was in the rest of Ireland before independence. The same anti-Irish imperial thinking that produced Cromwell, the Penal Laws, the Famine, the workhouse, and Ireland’s heartbroken global diaspora produced the rabid sectarian statelet in which Irish men and Irish women were turned off their land, put out their homes, denied the vote, and kept out of industry. Apartheid Northern Ireland, in which Irish people daily suffered state violence, was simply Britain doing in the north of Ireland what it had been doing all over Ireland until partition.
Dublin with its back turned to Belfast and Derry could never finish the work of Pearse and Connolly. The Free State mentality was always a betrayal of the Republic. Dublin shares responsibility for Britain’s violence – because doing nothing is a sin too. When British paratroopers went house to house gunning down old men and young mothers in Ballymurphy, when those same criminals opened fire on the people of Derry, who was going to defend them? Who was going to save them, protect them? Dublin? The ‘Republic’ of Ireland? No.
🇮🇪 As Sinn Féin prepares to make history, I want to put one name out there - Bobby Sands. Elected to a foreign parl… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Jason Michael (@Jeggit) February 09, 2020
The Good Friday Agreement was no more the achievement of the Dublin government than it was that of the British government. The Good Friday Agreement was the achievement of the IRA, the only force on the island of Ireland willing and able to tober Britain and protect Irish people in Ireland. But Dublin and London love to take the credit, and from the sides of their mouths they curse at the ‘violence’ and ‘criminality’ of the IRA. Their double standards are astounding. Never would the Brits describe the Battle of Britain as violence against Germany, and Ireland wouldn’t describe the actions of the rebels of 1916 as criminality. Defence is not violence, and nor is it a crime to fight for the freedom of your country against a repressive foreign occupation. Ireland never invaded England, and the IRA didn’t intern British politicians and starve them to death. Odd as it might sound from where we are now, but the IRA was doing in 1980 what the Irish government should have been doing. But one was a Provisional Republic and one was a Free State.
It’s not easy for me to say this or even think it. I despise war and violence. No political cause is worth bloodshed and murder, but the IRA wasn’t fighting for a political cause. Irish Republicans took up arms in response to Britain’s political cause and England’s violence – and that’s defence, not ‘violence.’ It wasn’t heroic. It was war. The IRA killed innocent people. It committed war crimes. Republican volunteers were not saints, they were soldiers. War is an ugly, ugly business. But Britain was never going to leave, it was never going to quit its violence and criminality against Ireland and Irish people until Irish people stood up and defended themselves. This is precisely what the IRA did. It was messy, and awful, and it was painful, but we would not be where we are today without the Troubles and what brave Irish women and men were prepared to do to defend their country. The IRA’s war was what made peace possible, what made todays democracy possible – and that is where we are now. We have arrived at peace and at last have a free and united Ireland in our sights.
Damien Dempsey – Colony