The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Voting Respect

 

John Devine • 8 May 2005

To Mackers, a friend,

First, I suppose I'd better nail my colours to the mast. I voted Sinn Féin in the election, and encouraged others to vote Sinn Féin, although I am not technically a member myself. I don't have consistent enough politics myself, I suppose, to actually commit to any party. I think it is a good thing to have alternative debate within republicanism, although I do think it can sometimes be overly negative.

I wouldn't have the same pessimistic view of the elections, and the people involved in them, as you have expressed in your article. On election day I was proud to let my two daughters, aged 8 and 4, take part in the atmosphere. There were no greasy politicians drooling for votes or kisses, just individuals on all sides whose life's work and reputations depended on this election. Only those who knew our daughters, and who have always been there for us, even dared cast us a friendly glance, never mind a kiss. They know, and even my 4 year old daughter knows who is who. Only fools hand their daughters over to strangers, and daughters won't be long rebelling when they don't want kissed.

A school is a great place for an election. The weans get a day off, and it is an inviting and neutral venue for the democratic act of voting. Unfortunately, our school is not used as a polling booth...probably because it's a mixture of portacabins, and nobody speaks English in it, just Irish, which might not be any consolation to those who are seeking to understand the origin, development and consolidation of the evolutionary idea of the proletariat, but there you go. Having said that, one of those non-drooling, friendly, but not fawning politicians, Pat Doherty, actually secured some private American funding to keep our little school alive when the "powers-that-be" thought we were a blip in an otherwise perfect education system. It's a pity we couldn't vote for him in our Irish speaking school, but I marched gladly into our local English medium school, and voted for a man and a party that might bring some change...even though I will continue to hold him to account for that change. That is my job, and my responsibility as an Irish citizen. Pat knows he has to be careful with us. That is good. We took part in the cavalcade, my daughters loved it, and they now think politics is a good thing to be involved in. In a way we are not actually voting for the candidates at all, we are voting for ourselves. And all those individual voices are saying "this is us, we are still here, and we believe in a united Ireland, we still believe in what Bobby Sands believed in. It's time to respect our mandate." That to me is the importance of the election, not the various candidates.

I cannot claim to know why a "beaming" Gerry Adams waved at you, but I do know that sometimes I wave at people who I have had strong disagreements with, and I genuinely mean it as a sign of respect and possible reconciliation, and regret about the way that things have worked out...a wave is at least an acknowledgement that we are worthy of attention...there is an inherent mark of respect in it. So I wouldn't think it would be just a sentimental act to wave back...it might actually also be a mutual sign of respect, in spite of the disagreement.

May the 5th. Twenty four years ago. I have absolutely no conception of what was happening in Long Kesh in the months leading to this date. I was 16 at the time of the first hungerstrike, which barely stirred me at all, given that I was not politically aware at that time. The hungerstrikers originally were not a major part of my thinking. Gradually the response of Thatcher and Humphrey Atkins (if my memory serves me right) began to stir a political response in me, and I was one of those many young men who became a republican, as opposed to some others who were born and bred republicans. It's hard to know what Bobby Sands and the other hungerstrikers would have thought of the current political situation, and I suspect some of them would have been for, and some would have been against, so I doubt if any of us can claim to have "more in common with them" than anyone else. I respect the fact that you remembered Bobby in your own personal way, but I also know if the people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone had all spoiled their vote in 1981 Bobby Sands would never have been elected himself, and the world would never have received the massive message it did on that day. So when I was voting for Sinn Féin, I feel I was continuing what Bobby Sands asked us to do. Well done Michelle Gildernew, and thank you for keeping Bobby's memory alive.

To me it is not consistent to measure all candidates against what they have in common with Bobby Sands, be unable to bring yourself even to transfer to any of them, and then vote for a single SDLP candidate, no matter how good Margaret Walsh might be. Does she have anything in common with Bobby Sands? If republicans were to judge every candidate in relation to Bobby Sands, I doubt if any of us would ever vote again, never mind for Margaret Walsh.

Sometimes when people leave a movement their criticism of that movement can become more overbearing than their criticism of the real political foe. This happened between the various parties in the 26 counties in the aftermath of the Civil War, it happened when Fianna Fáil split from Sinn Féin, and it happened when the Official IRA and the Provisional IRA split. And these internecine verbal feuds can last decades. I view these as a drain on the movements and individuals involved.

This all said, the article was well written, even if I wouldn't agree with the tone and thrust of it.


 

 



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All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw



Index: Current Articles



11 May 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Always the Centre Ground
Anthony McIntyre

Those Voting Outside the Box are the Overall Winners
Sean Mc Aughey

Voting Respect
John Devine

Stand Down or Deliver
Paul A Fitzsimmons

Testing Free Speech in America
M. Shahid Alam

Whither Disorder?
Colin Kalmbacher


6 May 2005

Voting Bobby Sands
Anthony McIntyre

Ruritanian Mockney State
Mick Hall

It's a Dirty Job
Brian Mór

Listening
Fred A Wilcox

 

 

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