Preparing An Irish Democracy
By The 32 County Sovereignty Movement
The launch of Irish Democracy, A Framework For Unity in 2005 represented a dual strategic approach to the current political and constitutional status in Ireland. As a critique of that status its analysis identified clear contradictions between the public and private stances of the main political groupings concerning this status. It identified the political and constitutional consequences of those contradictions and offered political options to address them. The Submissions contained within that document outlining the proposals of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, and sent to the main parties and governments, were met with a unified and telling silence.
There was nothing threatening in Irish Democracy, A Framework For Unity. On the contrary it was a lucid analysis urging the parties to address the probability of constitutional change and, given the implications of such change, urged the parties to prudently adopt a political safety belt to accommodate that change in the event of its realisation. They have refused, to date, to act in this prudent fashion.
The 32 County Sovereignty Movement’s objections to the political process which culminated in the signing of the Good Friday Agreement lay in the fact that the cause of conflict between our two nations, the violation of Irish sovereignty, was not to be addressed by the process but was to be used as a precondition for entry into negotiations in that those wishing to take part had to concede that no such violation existed. This rendered the process totally deficient as a mechanism for conflict resolution and the political arrangements it fathered no less so. This observation can be witnessed by the interminable wrangling over the restoration and running of the political institutions. In effect what is happening are attempts by the political parties to retrospectively introduce the constitutional question into an arena which it was not designed to address. Those who argued that the institutions, either in their running or in their collapse, offered strategic avenues to advance republican ends are now facing the political reality that both governments see the GFA as a final constitutional settlement and that those who signed up to this arrangement must practice a politics which implicitly accepts this fact. This is the reality which faces us.
Irish Democratic Framework
The core thrust of the 32CSM’s approach to political engagement and policy building is to do so within the context of an Irish Democratic Framework. This framework is primarily concerned with the democratic integrity of Irish sovereignty both as an expression of our peoples will without external impediment and the pursuit of that sovereign expression as the surest means for conflict resolution and post conflict reconciliation. It is only within an Irish Democratic Framework that the will of the people of Ireland can be truly expressed and that decisions on governance are firmly grounded in, and reflective of, the principle of Irish consent.
Irish Democracy, A Framework for Unity is more than a political critique. It is also a template for republican politics. A central tenet of the strategy is the recognition that the politics engendered by the conflict are incapable of resolving the conflict in that such politics were deliberately fostered to perpetuate it. British politics in Ireland, Colonial politics, Sectarian politics, Home Rule politics, Civil War politics and Partitionist politics have all resulted in constitutional accommodations which usurp our national sovereignty and frustrate our democratic expression. That the practice of such politics is in the ascendancy on the island does not infer that republicans must participate in such politics to alter the constitutional status quo. However what is clearly inferred by this ascendancy is that republicans must engage this politics with an alternative viewpoint which is ideologically sound, practically relevant and clearly mapped out to demonstrate both its accessibility and it’s potential to effect constitutional and social change. The 32CSM submit that separatist politics satisfies this criterion.
Within Irish republicanism, and other ideological movements, there were those who departed from core principles by the lure of populism. There were equally those who interpreted principles in an overly restrictive way severely restricting our ability to propagate the practical benefits for people which these principles were meant to deliver. The net result of both these activities is schism and marginalisation. The separatist politics which the 32CSM pursues is built upon achieving a balance between clear ideological guidelines in tandem with a liberated remit to allow us to practically pursue the politics of that ideology. To this end we submit that:
1. All claims to the republican position must be gauged not by the claim alone but by the politics engaged in to pursue it. The claim and its pursuit must be synonymous.
2. Separatist politics is democratically based.
Within the 32CSM these two principles have been embraced and with our United Nations Submission, Irish Democracy, A Framework For Unity and Preparing An Irish Democracy we have put these principles into practice. We now invite others to join us, as themselves, in developing this principled politics for our people.
One of the great dynamics of the 32CSM position is its accessibility for others to adopt without recourse to precondition, loss of identity or independent contribution. The two principles listed above hold true for those of the socialist persuasion also. The position is the property of those who genuinely pursue it. It is a position which is cognisant of our history but is neither a prisoner of it nor a threat to it. It is a position which is open to development but reliant on its practical pursuit to ensure its success.
Preparing An Irish Democracy is an invitation to all progressive political viewpoints to engage in constructing a constitutional and policy template to ensure that Irish sovereignty is synonymous with a maximum expression of our peoples democracy and also represents a template for social change and for other nations to evolve from their colonial and conflict ridden pasts.
Incentives For Engagement
There is a clear imperative to engage in a process to construct a constitutional and policy template for a sovereign democratic Ireland. Accountable democracy is the proven prescription for conflict resolution and post conflict reconciliation. Empowering people with the ability to shape and direct the democratic direction of their own national sovereignty is fundamental to ensuring a peaceful and equitable future for all our people. For this to happen practical planning to create the forums and social structures necessary to empower the people must commence now as opposed to waiting for constitutional change to occur.
Necessity For Constitutional Change
Without question constitutional change is the necessary catalyst to create the political and ideological circumstances in which this empowerment can be facilitated. Not to plan for such an eventuality, let alone not avail of it, would represent a gross dereliction of anyone’s ideological outlook which is primarily concerned with freedom and social justice. Not to plan for our people’s future is to leave that future in the hands of a political and academic elite, the same elite which nurtured the conflict to sustain their own dominance. The political oligarchies on the island must end if democracy is to be restored to our people.
In as much as the ideological arguments beg for inclusion in this process the practical arguments are no less compelling. All societies are built upon practical structures the success of which determines their ability to foster social equality and justice. And what must be borne in mind is that a sovereign Ireland, encompassing its entire people, represents a unique legal and constitutional entity not constrained or bound by previous treaties or governmental structures of former administrations. A sovereign Ireland represents an infancy of statehood with the opportunity for its people to parent its own development. The magnitude of this opportunity is the reason why 'Irish Democracy, A Framework For Unity' urged all political bodies on the island to address it and why Preparing An Irish Democracy urges those same bodies to practically plan for it. This is a process which the people can truly take ownership of.
Aspirational politics is a politics of secondary concern to most people. Practical politics is the medium by which peoples everyday lives are made relevant to the ideal aspired to. In confining our ideals to the realm of aspiration republicans are in effect divorcing themselves from the very people whose interests we claim to represent. Of equal importance is that republicans recognise that we cannot conduct our politics over the heads of the people nor indeed view the people as an entity merely to endorse what republicans place before them. If we agree, as we have to, that republicanism is about people then it is amongst the people that we must go to deliver our core message.
Partitioned Ireland is fast becoming a multicultural society and that in itself brings new challenges for republicans. There are new differences to address which is why any constitutional and policy template must be encompassing of this reality. The mentality of partition does not foster reconciliation or integration which makes the inclusion of these people and their representative’s crucial if this process is to succeed.
In addressing this idea to unionism the 32CSM strongly reiterates its position as outlined in Irish Democracy, A Framework For Unity and once again urges unionism to approach the issue of Irish unity from a pragmatic perspective. The probability of unity and the resultant change which that entails demands a prudent response from the political, religious and economic leadership of unionism. Unionist consent, within an Irish democratic framework, is truly required to construct a just society for all our people.
Constitutional And Policy Templates
National Constitution And Policy Forum
‘We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible’
The 32 County Sovereignty Movement proposes to establish The National Constitution And Policy Forum as a platform to orientate the constitutional debate into an all Ireland context. We wish to propel the national debate on reunification beyond the realms of aspiration and into a framework which sees reunification as a practical reality necessitating critical planning to receive this eventuality. We propose that this forum be used as a vehicle to draft a blueprint of the sovereign Ireland we envisage so as to demonstrably educate all of our people to the benefits and opportunities that constitutional change will afford.
The basis upon which the 32CSM now establishes The National Constitution And Policy Forum is our inalienable right as a sovereign people to draft and adopt such a constitution and to formulate policy under its guidance. The responsible exercising of rights represents the most potent form of defense and promotion for such rights and creates an evolving charter by which the standard of our people’s freedom and their governance can develop. The forum will represent an expression of our sovereign nationhood as it seeks from all our people their contribution to this drafting.
The National Constitution And Policy Forum will have as its core objectives the following;
1. To coalesce progressive political viewpoints around the central issue of national sovereignty, unity and the necessity for constitutional change.
2. To construct a blueprint of the sovereign Ireland that as republicans we envisage for our people.
3. To promote this blueprint as the rightful alternative to partition.
The construction of this blueprint for a sovereign Ireland will be the principle function of the forum which in turn is the principle role of its participants. The forum will be predicated on two principles,
A. It will be democratic.
B. It will hold Irish National Sovereignty to be inalienable and indefeasible.
1. Coalescing of Viewpoints
There are many issues born of the conflict which concern us and there are many viewpoints on how they should be addressed. Invariably this diversity was seen as a stumbling block to progress because of the erroneous belief that such diversity had to be removed on any given issue before cooperation for progress could commence. There is strength in diversity and the key to utilizing this strength is how to co-ordinate its application. The 32CSM envisage one of the forum’s roles to be the facilitator for this coordination which will allow its participants to be the authors of its direction.
The strategic merit of this coordinated approach maximizes the ability of republican resources to impact on the varied issues which confront us. A more focused campaign, both in the selection of a given issue and agreed inter republican cooperation on it, yields greater results all round. When such an agreed approach is set in the context of the need for constitutional change, as the ultimate resolution of that issue, any perceived conflict between diverse views and acting on them together is removed because the diversity of the campaign is directed toward a singular outcome. That this becomes democratically agreed through the auspices of the forum guarantees the principle that any stance on a given issue must be synonymous with how that issue is pursued.
2. A Blueprint for a Sovereign Ireland
Any blueprint devised from the forum must be rooted in practical reality, be accessible and contain a structured format clearly illustrating the type of nation and society we wish to create. To aid this construction the 32CSM outline the following template to allow the forum to successfully complete this task.
BILL OF RIGHTS
NATIONAL POLICY PROGRAM
This national marriage can more readily prevail if we recognize the interdependency of its component parts as we draft them. Only democratic debate can ensure that no conflict of interests arises between either program. As a whole this will represent the totality of the relationship between the people and the State. This means that the forum should approach each program as a function of that relationship as opposed to a static list of rules and regulations. It is essential that the republican blueprint clearly reflect that the success of this relationship is dependent on the people’s role within it and that consequently that role is clearly and transparently defined.
The forum shall draft a Model Constitution for a sovereign Ireland dealing with the following like areas:
a. the fundamental principles upon which a sovereign Ireland is based.
b. the structure and powers of government.
c. the democratic process.
d. the enactment of laws and the separation of powers
e. the location of sovereignty.
f. the basis for international relations.
Bill Of Rights
A sovereign Ireland must outline the rights of citizens which are deemed inalienable and not subject to majorities, political controversy or religious bias. Inalienable human rights are not conferred by the State but are secured by the State which underpins the basis upon which justice and law are administered. Whereas a Constitution defines the rights and parameters by which governments can administer a Bill of Rights ensures that such administrations cannot infringe upon the basic rights of the individual.
On January 21st 1919 Dáil Éireann, assembling for the first time, read and adopted unanimously the Democratic Programme of Dáil Éireann. It represented the Dáil’s mechanism for implementing the ethos of the 1916 Proclamation into the broader spectrum of Irish society. It was a charter for government based on the principles which established that government. It was aspiration put into practice.
And whereas the principles which established that government remain inviolate to the present day the society into which those same principles were applied by Dail Eireann has changed considerably.
The 32CSM now propose that the National Constitution and Policy Forum be tasked with updating the Democratic Programme of Dail Eireann so as to encompass the modernity of present Irish society and to be more relevant to that societies people. We see this exercise as demonstrating our contention that republican politics can maintain a loyalty to history by making that history relevant to today’s needs.
National Policy Program
In approaching the issue of National Policy the 32CSM is of the view that the forum should adopt a position of developing such policies for the basis of the general governing ethos of a sovereign Ireland as opposed to a set of policies for a specific political government. We believe that the forum should be capable of reaching a consensus on certain basic principles upon which national policies should be predicated. These principles would be in line with the guiding principles of the Model Constitution, be in accordance with the Bill of Rights and represent the practical fruits of the Democratic Program.
Naturally the nuts and bolts of any given policy are partly determined by the circumstances of a given time. However, in constructing the founding principles for these policies the forum will be demonstrating that the republican governance of a sovereign Ireland does not merely react to circumstance but determines what such circumstances should be. This is especially important given the increasing effects and control of globalization. Globalization can best be described as “the present worldwide drive toward a globalized economic system dominated by supranational corporate trade and banking institutions that are not accountable to democratic processes or national governments.” As James Connolly pointed out, national freedom is only the beginning but it is a beginning that must be achieved.
The 32CSM contend that the securing of our national sovereignty is both a protest in itself against globalization but is also a prerequisite to allow Irish politics to devlop national policies to augment this protest. We firmly believe, like James Fintan Lalor, that social injustice is a microcosm of national injustice and that in Ireland the attainment of national freedom is the key to the resolution of both.
The 32CSM envisages the forum developing policy foundations for the following like areas:
a. Natural Resources
b. Distribution and Production of Wealth
d. Health and Social Care
f. Cultural Development.
h. Fisheries and Agriculture.
i. International Relations.
This template is a guide only and is open to the inclusion of other areas which participants feel are worthy of addressing. However the development of any policy on a given area or constitutional clause must be formulated on an all Ireland basis. The 32CSM draws a clear distinction between a cross border approach and that of an all Ireland one. The blueprint for a sovereign Ireland is a post partition scenario specifically designed to demonstrate the benefits of removing British parliamentary activity in Ireland.
3. Promoting An Alternative
In tandem with the forums role of devising a blueprint for a sovereign Ireland it will be equally tasked with formulating mechanisms to promote it. Given that the forums participants will invariably involve political organizations it would be essential to utilize the various structures of those organizations to optimize this task. The forum does not seek to homogenize these structures but rather capitalize on their diversity to reach a wider audience and tap more varied resources. The National Constitution And Policy Forum is not an organization but a platform for organizations who see the republican objective as the ultimate authority.
As with any campaign the mechanisms to promote it follow standard fare;
3. Distribution of literature
4. Political engagement
If the forum can conclude agreement on a draft Model Constitution and a draft National Policy Program it would certainly be within its gift to agree guidelines to ensure that it is these entities which are promoted and not individual organizations involved in their drafting. The 32CSM does not claim ownership of the National Constitution And Policy Forum but would be resolutely insistent that it be founded and run along the inalienable principles already outlined.
The 32CSM believe that agreement on how to generate republican cooperation is as vital as agreement on how to reach common ground on political outlook. However such prior agreement on either front is not a precondition for participation in the forum as it is the function of the forum to bring such agreement about.
Participation in the forum is open to all political, economic, religious, cultural and social viewpoints which accept Irish national sovereignty as inalienable and indefeasible. It is an open democratic forum. In conjunction with this open invitation and in keeping with its declared democratic ethos the 32CSM will initiate a series of one to one meetings with groups and individuals to extend, not only an invitation to participate in the forum, but to seek their views and assistance in making this strategy a practical reality.
With this initiative the 32CSM are in essence bringing back into effect the strategy adopted by republicans after the 1916 Rising. We need to enact our political beliefs. We need to cease the constant restating of the validity of our position and bring that position into the practical world. The unending quest for ideological purity will render our republicanism indefinitely irrelevant to the people we claim to serve. We must think and act practically.