The Blanket

Ciarán Irvine,
decentralisation, and "Eire Nua"

Seaghan O Murchu

Having studied the "Eire Nua" policy adopted in the early 1970's by the Provisionals under Daithi O Conaill and Ruari O Bradaigh, with the same policy belittled as "a sop to the unionists" by later Provisional northerners who would rise to dominance on this issue to weaken those Dublin-based leaders over the next decade, I'd like to ask Ciaran Irvine how he sees his proposals as distinctive from this previously publicised federalist model.

"Eire Nua" (still propounded by Sinn Fein Phoblachtach today), in its lengthy booklet form first published circa 1972-3, devotes considerable attention to details about how Ireland could recognise Unionist representation within a greater island nation. The point that Ciaran Irvine makes about cantons being able to negotiate their own treaties seems particularly intriguing here; I'm unsure if the "Eire Nua" planners considered this in their platform. The cantonal approach was first suggested by Alfred O'Rahilly back around 1923 when the Dail was sorting out possible ways to reunite the nation.

What causes me to seek clarification upon the differences. as well as more apparent similarities, between the past "Eire Nua" and presently mooted model is this: the failure of "Eire Nua" and related policies drawn up by O Conaill, O Bradaigh, and others like Desmond Fennell in the early 1970's has conventionally been blamed on its "otherworldly" assumptions of the workability of such a model. and the corporatist-Christian socialist thinking that coloured that policy's tone. Not red enough for the Marxists, certainly green enough for the left, but too nationalistic for the peaceniks: who would support such a meticulously planned collection of electoral districts, fishing and farming issues, worker-owned businesses, and committed republican ideals (and idealism)? While the outreach towards the north in all its diversity appealed to the intellectual, the practical nay-sayers (John Robb excepted?) rubbished the efforts of (a few non-Sticky) republicans to present their vision to enemies and skeptics of how truces and withdrawals could lead to a truly socialist, land-based, employee-run, democratically-controlled, locally-centred nation. "Small iis Beautiful" indeed: E.F. Schumacher meets Pearse and Connolly and WIlliam Thompson, perhaps, Ireland's first socialist thinker (see the chapter in Fennell's "Heresy" collection of essays, or Fintan Lane's book).

Fennell's book "Beyond Nationalism" covers this era in more depth, and ephemeral newsletters at that time document the efforts of a few activists to assemble a Dail Uladh and tie together the policies in "Eire Nua" with public fora and grassroots organising throughout Ireland in the mid-1970's. After this time, I have not uncovered in my own research any lasting legacy of the "Eire Nua" promoters, although I assume that links would have been made with the co-operative and land reform campaigns in the West and Conamara Gaetltacht that Fennell spearheaded during his residence there.

Not to mention the unrelenting hostility--or jeering rejection--of the mainstream media towards the feasiblity of such a model. Of course, many in the Provisional movement at the time saw the more pressing need at the moment to hoist up armalites rather than ballot boxes. So, I wonder how Ciaran Irvine predicts a better likelihood of such a model being accepted three decades on? When federalist models were suggested, and worked out in no small fashion, thirty years ago, the military domination of the republican strategy drowned out the calls for political alternatives in a post-British island-wide government. Now, as republicans generally admit that the ballot box has supplanted the armalite, do we enjoy a better climate in which to promote the federalist, decentralised approach? I know some among us still would recoil from working with the Greens on this issue, but analysis of their treatment of the decentralised, post-national future would be invaluable for republicans eager to place our vision within a wider European and global context.

Richard Kearney published much over the 1990's about "post-nationalist Ireland," and while he nearly ignores Fennell's earlier work, both philosophers at least trace some common ground ovelapping the "Eire Nua" sketch of a Celtic-based community within an archipelago of the North Atlantic--this reminds me of the Council of the Isles idea that surfaced during GFA palaver. Within a devolving European structure that simultaneously unites and unties its smaller nations--Kearney, "Eire Nua," and Fennell all have variously suggested--lies the best hope for a future Irish plurality. Mulling over about the viability of such ideas over three decades since "Eire Nua," I look forward to the musings of Ciaran Irvine, readers of the Blanket, and other thoughtful republicans and unionists alike as we again try to draft a map of an Ireland where we all can share power and peace.



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No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.
- Barbara Ehrenreich

Index: Current Articles

20 June 2002


Other Articles From This Issue:


Against Suicide Bombings

Carrie Twomey

The Power to Force Respect
Anthony McIntyre


Ciarán Irvine, decentralisation, and "Eire Nua"
Seaghan O Murchu

Why the Earth Moved

Ciarán Irvine


16 June 2002


Zionism, Palestine & The Spirit of the Warsaw Ghetto

Brian Kelly

Avoiding Park Benches
Anthony McIntyre


A Case For Change
Ciarán Irvine


The Terrifying Power of Life and Death
Brendan Hughes



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