“We’d be the traditional crowd, we never changed” – An interview with the only elected dissident republican in the Republic of Ireland

The story of how Sinn Féin left the path of violence and entered mainstream politics is well-known, but what about those who never accepted the compromises? One such group is Republican Sinn Féin, which split off in 1986 rather than recognise the Dáil as the legitimate parliament of Ireland. The party is on the margins of Irish politics and holds the distinction of being the only party in the 26 counties that opposed the Good Friday Agreement.

Yet it is not completely without support and does have one elected representative. Tomás Ó Curraoin was first elected to Galway County Council in 2009 and re-elected in 2014 and 2019, representing the district of Connemara South. He’s an old-fashioned man who admits “I don’t have a computer; I can’t work it and I haven’t a clue even about turning it on.” He left school at 13 and spent 17 years in England working as a manual labourer.

Continue reading ““We’d be the traditional crowd, we never changed” – An interview with the only elected dissident republican in the Republic of Ireland”

I’m the only one with a mask at an anti-mask protest

There’s more flags than masks here. Half a dozen Irish flags, just in case we forget which country we’re in. A banner is unfurled “Only slaves wear masks”.  As the only person wearing a mask in this crowd of 50 outside the GPO, I stand out. A woman takes up a microphone and starts speaking about taking back control. For no particular reason she shouts “Up the Ra! And I mean the Real IRA, not those other messers!” Three gardaí (wearing masks) wander over but the speaker shouts them down. Soon the whole crowd is chanting “We have no contract with you!” (which they believe means they don’t have to obey the gardaí) until they leave. I don’t know what I’ve gotten myself into.

Continue reading “I’m the only one with a mask at an anti-mask protest”

Lessons from the Marriage Referendum for the Abortion Referendum

For months the wheels have been slowly turning in preparation for the abortion referendum and soon the campaign will kick off fully. It will likely bear some similarities with the Marriage Equality referendum of 2015, so I think it’s crucial to study the lessons of the last referendum if we want to repeat its success in the next one. Both issues are heavily influenced by the position of the Catholic Church and the No side will again be led by Catholic groups like the Iona Institute. The vote will be split on similar lines, with older and rural people more likely to vote No. Here are some lessons I learned from canvassing for a Yes vote that I think are applicable to the next referendum. Continue reading “Lessons from the Marriage Referendum for the Abortion Referendum”

Not Even Sinn Féin Are Prepared For A United Ireland

Due to the rising number of Catholics as a share of Northern Ireland’s population and the possible ramifications of Brexit, there has been an increased pushed for a border poll, especially by Sinn Féin. A United Ireland, long a nationalist dream, for at least a hundred if not a thousand years (depending on how you view history) might actually become a reality. But despite the wishes and efforts of nationalists, there seems to be very little idea of what a United Ireland would look like. How would the Republic deal with the expansion? Can we afford to pay for it? How will we deal with an ethnic minority who may not recognise the state? Continue reading “Not Even Sinn Féin Are Prepared For A United Ireland”

Why I Am Not A (Irish) Nationalist

During my teenage years, I was a passionate nationalist (because nationalism varies so much by country, this will be mainly in reference to Irish nationalism, but applicable to nationalism generally). I’ve always had a great interest in history and I loved to read about heroes from the glorious past. I especially loved the stories about the heroes who fought the British during 800 years of foreign occupation. While my classmates were interested in football and television, I read everything I could about Gaelic chieftains during ancient times, glorious rebels who fought for liberty, the United Irishmen who battled for a Republic where Catholics and Protestants would be equal, the brave war of independence and the modern war to throw the British out of Northern Ireland. Continue reading “Why I Am Not A (Irish) Nationalist”

Why Ireland Should Become A Secular Republic

There was a time when Ireland was for all practical purposes, a Catholic state. Divorce, homosexuality, abortion and contraceptives were all illegal. Books and films had to be approved by a censorship board which banned anything that was contrary to Catholic teaching (which turned out to be a lot). The Church ran almost all schools, hospitals as well homes for “fallen women” and forgotten children. Acting contrary to Catholic teaching meant shame and banishment. The state was guided by Catholic principles to such an extent that it was hardly noticed or commented on. That was just the way things were. Continue reading “Why Ireland Should Become A Secular Republic”

Could The Far-Right Be Successful In Ireland?

Across the West there has been a growth in support for the far-right and a surge in the number of votes they’ve received. New Fascist political parties have been increasing in size and influence and even the mainstream conservative parties have been pulled further right. Anti-immigrant sentiment can be seen in the Brexit referendum, the election of Donald Trump and the threat of Marine Le Pen.

So far Ireland has stayed completely clear of this rising tide. There is no New Fascist presence here and little anti-immigrant activity. There have been attempts to create a far-right party (Identity Ireland and the National Party) but neither of them got off the ground. A google search shows that their party launch was their only activity. Out of all the candidates in the 2016 general election, only a single one could be called far-right and he only received 183 votes.

So is Ireland safe? Does the far-right simply have no appeal here? Is there something about Irish society or politics that prevents the extremists from being popular? Or are we just as susceptible as the rest of the West and might one day too have to face far-right extremism? Can it happen here? Continue reading “Could The Far-Right Be Successful In Ireland?”

Why I Hope There Never Is A United Ireland

For generations the goal of Irish nationalists has been a 32 county United Irish Republic where the whole island is free of British rule. In theory all Irish political parties support this, even if there isn’t much they can do about it. With the centenary celebration of the 1916 Rising (and the War of Independence soon to come) there has been a celebration and an examination of national pride. In Northern Ireland, higher birth rates means that the number of Catholics is catching up with the number of Protestants and may soon over take it. This has led to a number of people to suggest that a United Ireland may soon happen.

However, the thought of a United Ireland doesn’t fill me with patriotism and I don’t see it as something to rejoice. If I was ever given a choice, I would vote against it. This might seem treasonous from someone who was raised as an Irish Catholic but the thought of a United Ireland fills me with dread and were it to ever happen, it could bankrupt the Republic of Ireland. A United Ireland would lead to crippling taxes, drastic reduction in services, widespread unrest and a return to the violence of the Troubles. Continue reading “Why I Hope There Never Is A United Ireland”

Uncomfortable Questions About The 1916 Easter Rising

Today is a day of celebration in Ireland. A hundred years ago today, Irish rebels rose up against British rule and declared an Irish Republic (Although technically they did this in Easter 1916, which fell at the end of April). This is a little unusual because in Ireland we don’t really do patriotism like other countries, we don’t even an Independence Day. It is also unusual because the rebellion failed and the proclaimed Irish Republic was crushed within a week. But Irish history isn’t like other histories, it’s not a collection of successes and victories. Instead our heroes are noble failures, almost always defeated, but in a brave and proud way. Continue reading “Uncomfortable Questions About The 1916 Easter Rising”

Have We Learned Nothing From The Crisis?

Do you remember 2007? The economy was booming (or so we were told) and the government was swaggering. This was all due to their wisdom and excellent management they told us. Don’t throw it away, they told us, by electing that other crowd, or even worst still, those leftists who might try to regulate the property market. There is was no debate over whether the property boom was sustainable or if the banks were properly regulated. Those who questioned if all parts of society were benefiting or if the government really knew what it was doing were dismissed as moaners. Questions over whether giving tax cuts so that people could buy bigger houses was the best use of resources were ignored. The system was working so don’t question it. Continue reading “Have We Learned Nothing From The Crisis?”