My thoughts on tomorrow's Ard Fheis

Now that the internal debate is all but over, I think it's an appropriate time for me to go into the precise reasons why I oppose going on the policing boards.

The first and most obvious reason is ideological. Republicanism's primary raison d'etre at this time is (supposed to be) to oppose the Six County statelet. Signing up to an armed force which exists to defend that statelet is simply incompatible with that purpose. This is not a case of infiltrating to destroy; we are endorsing that armed force. I cannot get my head around this.

Now even having said that, I am a pragmatist and if it could be demonstrated to me that in doing this we would actually be hastening the demise of the statelet, I could accept it, nose held and all. But that hasn't been demonstrated to me. I do not see any way that this will actually advance the process of reunification. It may advance the restoration of the Executive but, as I've said previously, I think that's essentially irrelevant anyway. Bluntly, I just don't see the Executive as a prize worth sacrificing any more of our integrity for. And I have serious doubts as to whether that "prize" will be forthcoming as a result of this decision anyway; I think it's far more likely that the DUP will continue to move the goalposts... and that the governments will continue to let them get away with it. I just hope that at some point we find the sense to refuse to do so.

Policing supporters ask what the alternative is. Well, I don't know. But I don't think we've really explored the question. The choice has always been put to us as if it was either black or white and I just don't think that's the case. It seems to me that a lot of the 'yes' arguments are the same ones that the SDLP have been making for years. And I'm not convinced that there have been enough changes in the PSNI to justify the contention that we aren't making the same mistake they did and jumping too soon.

I also find that the attempts to portray this move as a "strategic initiative" fall flat. An initiative, by definition, cannot be a move that you make when you're under pressure to make that move - as we clearly are. I do not for one moment believe that we would be doing this if the governments had not made it clear to us that we have to, if we want "progress".

So far all those reasons, I voted for my cumann to oppose the motion. This position was adopted unanimously and as a delegate to the Ard Fheis tomorrow I will be voting No.

Now, having said all that, I want to say something else.

The debate that has gone on within the party has been described (mainly by our opponents within the broader republican movement, but also by some party members or new ex-members) as a sham debate. It has been said that tomorrow's result is a foregone conclusion and that no real dissent within the party has taken place.

I don't know about the rest of the country, but that's a load of bollox as far as Dublin is concerned.

I've attended about half a dozen meetings (apart from my cumann meetings) on the subject. At all occasions, debate has been robust and thorough. The leadership figures present have listened attentively and responded thoroughly and respectfully to all concerns raised. Obviously, their responses weren't sufficient to allay my objections, but at no time did I feel that those objections were just ignored or dismissed.

The leadership will win the motion tomorrow for the simple reason that they have managed to convince the majority of the membership that this is the right move. Now people can decide for themselves whether that's because the members are "sheep", or because their arguments were framed more persuasively than the opposition's were, or whatever. But the fact is that people have been given the opportunity to make up their minds and they have done so freely. The leadership have won the debate fair and square - I don't have to agree with them to acknowledge that.

I think this is a bad move for the party. I think it will come back to bite us on the arse. I hope I'm proven wrong. But I can't say that I have any real complaints about the way it's been handled.

I doubt that there is any other party in this country that would have dealt with such a crucial internal matter in such a creditable way.

1 comment:

Brendan said...

Well comrade, its 4.52am and I can’t sleep a wink (aint even had a pint), I disagree with you on what you have said yet I can’t sleep a wink because there is a persistent thought, what if this is not the right thing to do, ah at the end of the day all I can hope is that the members make the right decision and then regardless the members make it work, and if its against me I will still be there. Tiocfaidh ar La mo chara.

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