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Tommy Mckearney:Sovereignty and Reunification
     Release time: 2024-01-23
  In a recent interview with the Irish Times, arch-revisionist historian Roy Foster opined that Irish reunification is nearer than he would have thought a couple of decades ago. A week earlier the Irish News published results of an opinion poll indicating a majority of Alliance Party voters believed that, in the absence of a Stormont Assembly, a united Ireland was a preferred option to direct rule. Admittedly, neither fact is a game changer, yet they do underline the immediacy of Irish reunification as an issue.
  A re-united Ireland; why do we need it? Is its achievement now a realistic possibility? If the answer to either or both questions is yes, how might we go about ensuring the realisation of this goal?
  To begin, let’s explore the value of and indeed need for ending partition. On an everyday yet important level, a single island wide political structure would undoubtedly offer benefits arising from consolidated, unified infrastructures and services. Duplication in health and education provision could be eliminated, for example, while transport facilities would benefit from having a single administration.
  Yet reunification would involve much more than consolidation. At its most basic, breaking the political connection with Britain would correct a long violation of democracy and thus reinforce the primacy of a peoples’ will. Such a development would, in turn, offer an opportunity to reassert the country’s independence and sovereignty. Because, notwithstanding assertions that such is already a fact, reality is at odds with this claim.
  In the first instance we need hardly comment on the absence of independence and sovereignty in the Six Counties. Pro-Consul Heaton-Harris’ refusal last month to endorse the levelling-up payment is proof enough if any were needed. That’s even before mentioning the presence of British Army bases and MI5 offices in the Six Counties.
  While south of the border, external influence is such that the old notion of limited home rule is more applicable than independent self-government. Having surrendered ultimate control of its currency, fiscal policy, labour legislation and foreign policy to the European Union, you might think that the Irish ruling class had not much more left to give away. Yet with Micheál Martin, the new John Redmond, planning to end the Triple-Lock, this after his predecessors donated Shannon airport to the US military, now not even the pretense of neutrality remains.
  The consequences resulting from conceding control are plain to be seen in both jurisdictions. An island-wide housing crisis, failing health services with adequate access available only to the wealthy, insufficient care for the elderly and offensive, debilitating inequality across the board. All happening as imperialistic neoliberal economic policy is slavishly implemented.
  Breaking the political connection with Britain and ending partition will not of itself remedy social and economic deprivation. While reunification is a necessary, indeed vital, precondition for comprehensively addressing the needs of all members of society, a more extensive programme is required and must be implemented. As James Connolly stated forcefully, “unless you set about the organization of the Socialist Republic your efforts will be in vain.”
  Objectively speaking the prospect for positive, progressive change is good. There is a growing realisation that the status quo, north and south, is unsustainable. Sinn Féin, currently committed to Irish unity, is apparently well placed to play a leading role in political administrations in Belfast and Dublin.
  However, it is important to ensure against that party’s penchant for backsliding. It is evident nevertheless, from its recent u-turn in relation to the Israeli ambassador that the organisation is responsive to grassroots and popular pressure. It’s important therefore not to let them deviate.
  The task of building for a workers republic cannot, however, be postponed until after reunification. Both objectives have to be seen as one agenda to be pursued together and that is a challenge facing the serious left. So no let up on demanding reunification but equally an insistence on thorough-going measures to enable economic socialisation and real and meaningful neutrality. Otherwise we risk, at best, turning two failed states into one single, failed entity.
  Nevertheless, the prospects for progressive change are encouraging, so in the words of Bobby Seale, let’s seize the time.
  Editor: Zhong Yao  Wei Xiaoxue
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