Speaking outside the GPO on the centenary of the 1916 Rising, the famed Derry Republican Martin McGuinness stated in no uncertain terms, what in his view, was the greatest wedge dividing our 32 counties:
“For 100 years the established parties in the south not only failed to address this fracture [partition] in the Irish nation but, disgracefully they abandoned northern nationalists to a sordid sectarian state. But the days of second-class citizenship are over and gone forever, not because of anything the political establishment in Dublin has done…”
Herein lies the open wound, inflicted by years of history, that grieves many in the North about the 26 county state. The division intrinsic in partition has seeped into the political rhetoric of the establishment parties in the South. An oft-quoted prediction of Liam Mellows was that establishments would arise on both sides of the border, and be reliant on its continuance for their survival. Sadly, today, the parties of Collins and De Valera have abandoned the republican ideals of their founding fathers and instead looked upon the North as a means to try score cheap political points.
Only a few days ago, did Fine Gael Minister Simon Harris attempt to rebuke Sinn Féin by criticising their policies in the North, when answering questions upon his own Department. The response was one of: ‘When Fine Gael represents the North, then we’ll talk.’ Quite frankly it is hard to disagree with Sinn Féin’s response, why even entertain the mildest of criticism from a political party that refuses to represent the North? Indeed, the most action ever taken by Fine Gael to represent the North was to open up a college branch of YFG. That society became more so a vehicle for those whose political aspirations lay south of the border, than extending representation to those counties left behind. The supposed ‘true republican’ party of Fianna Fáil are little better, when they sacked Éamon Ó’Cuív and Mark Daly from leadership positions for trying to run a candidate in the six counties. Instead, they have ‘outsourced’ representation of the North to the SDLP. In other words, the interests of the two main establishment parties in the South are confining themselves to the 26 counties.
Whereas credit where credit is due, there are several parties representing all 32 counties: Aontú, Sinn Féin, the Green Party and People Before Profit. For all the talk during Brexit, of Dublin standing by the North, why did Dublin parties never decide to capitalise on this supposed show of support by running candidates in the North? I think this indicates Dublin’s solidarity with the North, was more for its own interests than the common interests of the island of Ireland.
To pick up on the second element of what McGuinness stated: But the days of second-class citizenship are over and gone forever, not because of anything the political establishment in Dublin has done…” This encapsulates the anger in the North towards Dublin. The Treaty – regardless of arguments for and against – left hundreds of thousands of Catholics at the mercy of a murderous Orange State. Unionist supremacists enacted discrimination into law to target and ostracise on the basis of faith and community. Our brethren in the North, were left at the mercy of Brooke, Carson and Paisley. And, we wonder why they rose up? Why the Nationalist community was either out on the streets marching or continuing the armed struggle? It is indicative of how divorced we are from one another, that we even ask that question.
Even if we contrast the treatment of Republicans by the media, with criticism of Unionists. Only Republicans are interrogated over the conflict in the North. Indeed, Unionists are criticised by the Dublin Press for their views on Brexit and social issues – in lieu of the state of supremacy and discrimination they predicated and protected, or the collusion of loyalist paramilitaries with British State forces to murder innocent Catholics across the six counties. I would wager Unionists have faced more criticism for their Brexiteer views from the Irish media, than they ever have for the ‘Murder Triangle’ or their glorification of bigots like Paisley who incited violence against innocent families. Indeed, there has been no political will amongst the political establishment in Dublin to investigate the bloodshed of British forces or British collusion in the North. The Protocol has been a greater redline in our relations with Britain than the state-sponsored murder of innocent men, women and children ever was.
To speak of Irish unity, is not just to speak about the abolition of partition. It is to speak to the division that has arisen between Irish peoples by virtue of partition. Cultural, societal and even value chasms have arisen between our communities. Too often now, I have heard people state openly ‘they don’t get the North’ or see it as foreign. Such attitudes will copper fasten and indeed preserve partition more so than any regulation will. To achieve reunification, cannot be to just to focus on removing an arbitrary border from our land, but to expel the division and resentment in our midst, to become a united people in a united land. In other words, to understand one another.