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It's Good to Talk

Start talking to Unionism, and disband your terror gangs. That's the blunt message to republican dissidents from political journalist and Radical Unionist Dr John Coulter

Dr John Coulter • 5 September 2006

It’s good to talk, so let’s hope those republicans trying to build a new pan nationalist front among dissident groups will succeed.

That’s the only way fringe groups like the INLA and Real and Continuity IRAs will be persuaded to disarm and disband.

Living in a democracy is about having freedom to chose and the broad republican family needs to have the choice between Sinn Fein’s pro-Stormont peace agenda, and the Pan Republican Front’s abstentionist anti-Assembly strategy.

Given the recent dissident attacks in Newry, the sooner the Front can get its electoral bandwagon rolling, the better.

Whatever the outcome of the 24 November deadline, we don’t need a generation of Provo violence to be replaced by another generation of dissident terror and mayhem.

The main aim of the new Front should be to ensure the gun and bomb are permanently removed from republicanism.

Militant republicans should remember their history. The Free State Army was more vicious against de Valera’s IRA than even the ruthless Black and Tans.

What is especially pleasing from a Radical Unionist perspective is that this new planned Republican Front, which is clearly opposed to the present Sinn Fein political strategy, is planning to organise to oppose Sinn Fein candidates in future council elections.

One of their most articular speakers is veteran Derry Republican Michael Donnelly. In a very interesting interview (again, from a Unionist point of view), with me, he outlined how any new Pan Republican Front movement would negotiate directly with Unionists.

Let's hope the planned Toomebridge meeting – which has had to be postponed – will soon be organised to form an alternative peace strategy to the current Gerry Adams/Martin McGuinness Sinn Fein policy.

A fringe movement the Front may be at this time, but at least it is giving republicans a choice. Electorally at present, its the Shinners or nothing really.

Mr Donnelly told me it was unclear why the Toome meeting had been postponed, but it was hoped to organise a similar meeting in Derry in the not too distant future.

Here are some visionary comments from Mr Donnelly – from a republican perspective – which those branded on the so-called dissident wing of the republican family should listen to and absorb.

He told me: “There has been co-operation between a number of groups over the past few years. We want a new beginning for republicans. We are not the dissidents; Adams and his lot are the dissidents.”

Mr Donnelly said these groups included the Irish Republican Socialist Party, the 32 County Sovereignty Committee and Republican Sinn Fein as well as a number of independent Republicans.

“There has been remarkable co-operation for almost five years and we can work well together.”

Asked if people would be invited to the Derry meeting who would represent the military wings of the political groups named above, he said: “There might well be people involved in other groups. But I don’t think anyone will want to pursue the military option.

“We will be pursuing a political direction to establish unity.” The INLA is the military wing of the IRSP; the Real IRA is viewed as the military front for the 32 County Sovereignty Committee, while the Continuity IRA supposedly holds the mantel of RSF’s military wing.

“The purpose of the meeting is to form a Pan Republican Front. There is a unity because all of the splits in republicanism have been because of British interference. There have been undercover agents in the republican movement and this has gone on for so long.

“MI6 has led the way for a long time. We want a new direction to oppose the Good Friday Agreement.”

Mr Donnelly said any new republican party would be abstentionist and would not take its seats at Westminster or Stormont, but would take council seats or seats in the proposed new seven super councils to replace the existing 26 local authorities in the North.

“We will not be taking seats in Westminster or in a puppet regime in Stormont, but we would take council seats and that is very likely to happen in Derry. We have supporters from Tyrone, Belfast and Derry who no longer support the Stormont Shinners.

“We hope a separate republican party will emerge after the next council elections. We would negotiate directly with the Unionist community rather than waste time with the British.

“There is no value in talking to the British and there is little reason for this. We want to build an electoral power base to defeat the MI5 led Sinn Fein in the polls and dilute their power base.

“The Pan Republican Front would be a description of what we want to achieve. Three or four years ago, we had an Anti Partition League, but it didn’t take off. If we were to have electoral success, we would take it from there.”

“We have never had a problem dealing with Unionists. I came from the era of the civil rights movement and Protestants were involved in that, as well as the housing action campaign in 1968 and ’69. The British deliberately put a wedge between the Protestant and Catholic community,” said Mr Donnelly.

Another supporter of the Pan Republican Front who did not wish to be named also told me the purpose of the talks would be to re-create the ethos of the Republican Congress of the 1930s.

He added: “If we win seats on an abstentionist ticket, we will have public support for a united Ireland and we don’t have to go to Stormont for this. People voted for the SDLP to harm Sinn Fein; now we can encourage them to vote for independent Republicans.

“We want a republicanism which is open, democratic and peaceful. I realise it may take several elections before we achieve this. We want to discuss a strategy of getting into elections and to find people who can negotiate properly with the British. There are people there who don’t know what they are talking about.”

So, it would appear, ironically, the proposed new Pan Republican Front is trying to copy the electoral success of Sinn Fein in the 1918 Westminster General Election when Ireland was still united under British rule. Sinn Fein took the majority of Irish seats, fighting on an abstentionist ticket and the movement’s victory laid the foundations for the Treaty which partitioned Ireland.

However, I don't need to remind all you republicans the island of Ireland is littered with memorials to republicans executed or killed by the Free State Army.

The message is simple – if so-called dissidents go back to what they love to brand as 'the armed struggle', you can expect more Loughgall-type operations from the SAS on the Northern side of the border.

Indeed, in the event of Stormont flopping and joint authority on the cards, the Dublin government could initiate anti-terror laws which would make anything the British used against the Provos seem like a Sunday School picnic.

Republicans have the right to chose how they express their views, but they must win the day by force of argument and electoral strength, not by force of arms and a body count.

The emergence of the Front represents the most significant political development in republicanism since the formation of Provisional Sinn Fein in the early Seventies.

The Pan Republican Front wants an agenda of talking to Northern Unionists rather than the British Government. The trouble is, while you have active dissidents around your ranks, Unionists will not touch you with their traditional 40-foot barge pole.

Then again, the Front could rightly ask – what is the point in holding out any hand of friendship to Unionists when the DUP won’t do a deal with what the Front has branded the ‘Stormont Shinners’?

Bertie and Tony are talking about a very expensive Scottish junket to kick start the last ditch bid to save the Executive. At this point, the MLAs have a better chance of finding the Loch Ness monster than finding an agreement.

Tactically, if the Paisleyites are eventually going to sup soup with Shinners, they will leave it until the last possible moment in November before signing up.

Maybe what's actually keeping the Paisley camp is that the Bill to rewrite the Good Friday Agreement may not be passed itself until 20 November.

Such a Bill would be the very lifeline which DUP deputy boss Peter Robinson needs to nudge Big Ian into the Executive.

It’s all part of their cunning plan to keep the North on tenderhooks, keep their hill billies in check and weigh up the odds of finishing off the well-battered Ulster Unionist Party for good.

Losing Stormont would mean the end of the UUP as we know it. Word is, liberal Unionists are already preparing a leadership challenge to party boss Reg Empey, probably at the traditional March annual meeting of the ruling Ulster Unionist Council.

There’s also been a lot of gossip around North Down that liberal Unionists want to form a new centre grouping involving the UUP, Alliance and the ‘not so green’ section of the SDLP.

Here’s another poser emerging from the holiday recess – what have some on the UUP’s Hard Right been up to over the summer?

What’s the real reason some Right-wingers want to re-activate the supposedly defunct pressure group, the Ulster Monday Club, which was once the party’s secret power base during the 1980s?



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There is no such thing as a dirty word. Nor is there a word so powerful, that it's going to send the listener to the lake of fire upon hearing it.
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Index: Current Articles

10 September 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

It's Good to Talk
Dr John Coulter

Bye-Bye Daily Lies
Geraldine Adams

Peelers Give You Trouble
Martin Galvin

If You Cannot Organise a Meeting, How Can You Expect to Organise a Revolution?
Liam O Comain

RSF not involved in proposed 'Front'
Republican Sinn Fein Press Release

Renaissance Republicanism
Mick Hall

Goulding, the Provisionals and the Current Political Process
Roy Johnston

Puppet Show
John Kennedy

Fr. Mc Manus on His Visit to Garnerville PSNI Training Center
Fr Sean Mc Manus

Irlande du Nord: Interview With Anthony McIntyre
André Poulin

Sectarian Interfaces: Glenn Patterson's That Which Was
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Federal Unionism—Early Sinn Fein: Article 9
Michael Gillespie

Federal Unionism—Early Sinn Fein: Article 10
Michael Gillespie

A Curious Snub
Fred A. Wilcox

Con Artist
John Kennedy

Against Civilisation
Seamus Mac An tSaoir

Blanket Coverage for All
Carrie Twomey

5 Years
Brian Mór

3 September 2006

Sinn Fein: Or the Party of Symbolic Republicanism
David Kruidenier

Public Commitment or Public Relations
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Suits You, Sir
John Kennedy

False Memory Syndrome
Ray McAreavey

True Faith
Eamon Sweeney

Not the Cathal Goulding I Knew
Liam O Comain

Dark Days Ahead
John Kennedy

Return to Conflict No Alternative
David Adams

Sir Reg's Party Games
Anthony McIntyre

A Secret History of Irish Music
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Unionism's Favourite Nationalist
Dr John Coulter

Federal Unionism—Early Sinn Fein: Article 7
Michael Gillespie

Federal Unionism—Early Sinn Fein: Article 8
Michael Gillespie

Trotsky and the Ghetto of the Sects
Mick Hall

Global Conscience Not US Capital: The Case for Liberal Intervention
Gabriel Glickman

Letter to Bertie
Michael McKevitt Justice Campaign



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