Republicanism in Dublin and London

Time once again to dust off the cobwebs on here and draw together a few threads from my writing over the last couple of weeks.

First of all my report for OurKingdom from the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis two weeks ago. It was a very interesting time to be in Dublin, with 120,000 people marching on the streets against the Government's swingeing austerity measures. Gerry Adams cannily tapped into the mood by calling for a left-wing alliance with the Labour Party.

What was even more timely was the launch that week of Eoin Ó Broin's book, Sinn Féin and the Politics of Left Republicanism. I took up the opportunity to pick up a copy and I can't recommend it too highly. As well as providing a much-needed critique of the dominant revisionist reading of republican history, it is a powerful call for a democratic socialist republicanism, which cannot but be taken seriously in the wake of the collapse of neo-liberalism.

The following weekend I was at the Convention on Modern Liberty. I spent the morning in the session on Liberty and the National Question, which in practice was largely a debate about the relationship between English/Scottish/Welsh nationalism and multiculturalism. I made a somewhat ineffectual intervention myself, and realised afterwards what I should have said: that the debate Englishness vs Britishness is in part a debate about parliamentary sovereignty vs popular sovereignty.

This session produced a good crop of commentary on Comment is Free from Ros Taylor, Gareth Young and Paul Kingsnorth.

The afternoon sessions included one on Liberty, Sovereignty, and Republicanism, which I reported on for OK and the Convention website. There was a real buzz about the discussion, perhaps fed by the growing literary debate about democratic republicanism.

So how much do the debates about republicanism in London and Dublin have in common? Well, it is notable that Ó Broin's chapter on the origins of Irish republicanism looks to many of the same antecedents in the English and French revolutions that were cited at the Convention. His call for a practical alternative to neo-liberalism has much in common with Stuart White's call for a democratic republican response to the economic crisis.

If there is a contrast, it is perhaps between Irish republicans moving towards socialism, and British socialists moving towards republicanism. I can't help feeling that there's much that those involved in the two debates could usefully learn from each other.






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