Republican unity: opportunity must be seized

Republican Network for Unity PRO Nathan Stuart with a short piece on the prospect of republican unity.

The election results pose many questions and challenges for those who continue to hold out for separation between Ireland and England. Any Irish republican who believes the current situation that anti-agreement republicanism finds itself in is in any way desirable isn’t examining the situation with honestly.

Sinn Féin are undoubtedly the winners of the election. Their results represents a seismic protest vote against DUP corruption and sectarian rhetoric. Sinn Féin, admirably, are portraying this result as an expression of separatism, without examining the reasons behind the electoral mobilisation or admitting the severe limitations of the Belfast Agreement in delivering for those with aspirations for Irish unity.

The Stormont project has been a failure from its inception. All it has to offer is a bulwark between the Irish people and Ireland’s reunification. While the turnout may be higher than previous years, the result will inevitably be the same – Stormont cannot work. However, in the wake of these results Irish republicans must give serious thought to the future and begin to ask how we can really challenge the status quo.

Republicans have a few immediate tasks at hand in order to influence national debate, galvanise support from the discontented and provide a vessel for those seeking an end to partition. We need to begin a process of working together – factionalism and protesting in isolation is allowing Stormont to dominate the narrative. We need to create a movement capable of providing a clear strategy for Irish unity, while simultaneously improving the lives and prospects of the Irish people. We also need to find a suitable mechanism for challenging the State and exerting our influence over major debates e.g Brexit.

The marginalisation of anti-GFA republicanism is the result of a culmination of factors however one, which is of our own making, is the unattractive and unpopular factionalism which has for years stifled support and demoralised current and prospective Irish republicans.

The thought of republican unity began long ago, however, now is the time to act upon it, abandoning the long held position of circling each other until someone makes the first move. It is now time to erect a project of unity based on mutual respect, equality of expression and acceptance of both the opinions and duties of all parties and groups involved.

Irish republicans must provide a coherent vision of the future, what a United Ireland will look like, how it will benefit the Irish people as a whole and how we can achieve this beyond long held cliches and rhetoric. The window of opportunity has been made smaller by the latest results, pro-Stormont parties have gained a greater consensus as they offer the only show in town. Republicans must begin the change this and widen the window. An opportunity, albeit small, exists for republicans to forge together and ensure our vision of the future enters national debate.