An Open Letter to the Nationalist and Republican Parties of Ireland

In light of the dearth of overtly positive sentiment and active political momentum – on the part of Irish parties nationwide who profess republican credentials or who purport to be advocates of Irish re-unification – towards the national aspiration and constitutional imperative of Irish re-unification, four concerned Irish citizens have penned an open letter (that I have re-published below on their behalf) to said parties to challenge those parties’ present inertia.

We are at a stage in Irish history where Brexit poses many significant challenges to Ireland but also a potential opportunity for the re-unification our nation. With Britain apparently pursuing an increasingly isolationist approach in international affairs and demographics quickly changing in the north of Ireland, thus potentially leading us to a scenario that might be more favourable to our aims or conducive to winning a unity referendum, it is time for all Irish parties concerned to truly sell the aspiration of a united Ireland that will benefit all the people of our island.

If a unity referendum is ever to be triggered by convincing the northern secretary of state that a majority of people in the north of Ireland would back Irish unity, it is necessary to initiate concerted campaigning as soon as possible, so as to first build that support. Passivity or sole reliance upon “letting things fall into place” as a result of the effects of Brexit, a force ultimately of external origin, will not bring us any closer to our goal.



To the Nationalist and Republican Parties of Ireland

Dear Sir / Madam,

My friends and I, in light of the recent publication by Queens University Belfast (QUB), ‘Northern Ireland and the UK’s Exit from the EU, what do the people think’, published 21/05/2018 have been reflecting on the polled results. May we communicate our disappointment at these results, specifically in respect of the low appetite for a United Ireland (see Page 44, Figure 7), but we feel it has allowed time for honest reflection and for us to personally dig down and ask genuine questions; hence this email to the main Nationalist and Republican parties of Ireland.

We feel the outcome of the QUB research has shattered any presumptions that a United Ireland border poll is remotely winnable at present or in the near future. Circumstances have advanced the United Ireland debate, but not far enough. There is genuine feeling from among us that there is too much reliance on the circumstances surrounding Brexit and not enough practical measures being taken to pursue, promote and advance further the case for Irish unity and specifically so from within the traditionally held ‘fertile ground’ that is the Catholic, Nationalist and Republican communities in the North.

We feel there needs to be a more joined up approach across all the Nationalist parties on the island to create and publish a vision of the ‘New Ireland’. Why isn’t this happening? Why isn’t your political party calling on other political organisations to establish an agreed Nationalist consensus on a United Ireland – a consensus that explains the broad vision of what unity means; detailing the cold hard economic numbers, including all the envisioned economic positives and negatives? Demonstrating that the vision is progressive, inclusive and signifies a willingness to build a shared society for all on this island- a vision that the people of Ireland want to embrace and be part of?

None of the undersigned have ever been asked by any political party what our view is on a United Ireland. No political representative has ever knocked our door to canvass our opinion on how we would vote on this issue. No political party has ever asked us what our hopes and fears are in relation to a United Ireland. No one has asked us what we would like to see in a United Ireland. Why is this?

The burden you must bear as the Nationalist and Republican political class, is to persuade! We level at you today that you are failing.

It is our feeling the biggest mistake that political Nationalism faces is that it’s a victim of its own misconceptions. Why aren’t foundations for a United Ireland being built amongst the nationalist community first? The QUB poll shows that some Catholics (who we perceive to be nationalists) aren’t supportive of a United Ireland? Why is this? Are these questions being asked? What are the responses and what are the parties doing to challenge this?

We believe a United Ireland for the people by the people, has to have the input of the people! And so we would humbly suggest that the four parties, in an official capacity as one body, make a public pledge to begin time-sensitive initiatives across the communities to build momentum toward a United Ireland, to commit to engaging with the people across the island and seek their views, ideas and visions of a United Ireland. We would hope that this combined effort would begin with door-to-door canvassing, building consensus, getting the debate moving, hearing and challenging views, helping foster views, generate and listen to ideas.

May we also suggest as part of this initiative you formally write to the UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley MP, requesting her to clarify the circumstances that will trigger a border poll! This will help greatly in preparing for the vote, as both sides will be aware and thus not shocked when the day arrives.

It is our assessment presently that collective Nationalism across the island is doing nothing to prepare for and lead the people into a United Ireland; at present there is no plan, there is no strategy, there is no time frame. We ask: why?

Calls for a border poll need to be backed with facts and figures, a vision, a blueprint and a roadmap – all of these are absent yet we, as a nationalist community, are keen to call the British government out on allowing for a border poll – should we not call the British government out by having the said information in place? To challenge them, to challenge the electorate – you, as the political representatives of nationalism hold a key responsibility – not only can you build momentum, you can progress momentum and allow momentum to be transferred into practical political realities. A United Ireland can be achieved – we need to start with the conversations. We need to convince and sell the project. This needs to start now. We implore you to begin….

Thank you in anticipation and we look forward to your reply.

Kieran Maxwell (Citizen of Ireland)
David Maxwell (Citizen of Ireland)
Seán Molloy (Citizen of Ireland)
Michael O’Doherty (Citizen of Ireland)

5 comments

  1. What about disaffected former unionists?
    If this is simply an issue for the same old ‘nationalist’political parties it will keep the issue in the sectarian camp. Unionists & the British government will be able to write it off as such.
    To put it bluntly the issue of a UI must seek to enlist Protestant support.

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    1. I wholeheartedly agree with you sentiment, William. I will alert Kieran to your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Hi William thanks for taking the time to read the letter, however, I feel you may have missed the main thrust of the letter.

      The first paragraph refers the reader to the QUB research and specifically to pg. 44, Fig 7, (see link below). QUB chose to show support for a UI in Catholic & Protestant terms. This begs the question: why? To quote the document on Page 44 they state “We are particularly interested in Catholics’ responses to understand the extent to which their support for Irish unity is dependent on the type of UK exit from the EU.”

      Given this point and the context of the QUB question posed AND the poor response in favour of a UI from the ‘Catholic’ quarter, I feel it is completely legitimate to suggest that Political Nationalism needs to start persuading nationalists first, before they even think about selling to Unionism. I mean if only 42% of Catholics (who I would perceive to be broadly nationalist) are in favour of voting positively for a United Ireland AFTER the UK leaves the EU, then there is absolutely no chance of winning a border poll now or in the near future. Hence the letter and hence my call for a joined up approach to persuade the nationalist family first.

      This is not about sectarianism at all! I state in the letter my hope that the parties can put forward an idea of a UI which demonstrates “…that the vision is progressive, inclusive and signifies a willingness to build a shared society for all on this island- a vision that the people of Ireland want to embrace and be part of..” Political unionism can’t do this – only Nationalism can, ergo the call to do it together and to start now. Sin é.

      A few questions for you William; I’m interested in what you term ‘disaffected former unionists’ – can you elaborate a little please; do you have any data on this demographic? Would you class yourself as a disaffected former unionists and if so why is this the case? There again; what do you see as the solution, to increasing support for a UI? If I may inquire father; do you support a UI and if so what type of UI would you like to see?

      Cheers.
      Kieran

      https://www.qub.ac.uk/sites/brexitni/BrexitandtheBorder/Report/Filetoupload,820734,en.pdf#page44

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      1. Fair point about northern Catholics needing persuaded about UI.
        However I would suggest that there are similarities in attitudes between ‘soft unionists’ & unconvinced Catholcs & a similar approach can be used for both. If you give out mixed messages appealing to different constituencies you are in danger of alienating one constituency or another.
        It’s the same message I would suggest for all.

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  2. By ‘disaffected former unionists’ I mean people who used to be unionists but have become steadily disillusioned with the union with Britain & are in transition. They would now be prepared to seriously explore a UI. I am one of those & would be happy to see a UI – under the right democratic terms.
    As for a demographic there isn’t one – as far as i know, but through social media I am encountering more and more in this category since Brexit & the collapse of Stormont. You must understand that a lot of these people are closet ‘United Irishmen & women’ – I use that term because they wouldn’t describe themselves as ‘nationalists’ – to them that’s a loaded term. Due to various pressures of family, friends & community most are unwilling to publicly declare their beliefs in this area. So getting a demographic in these circumstances would be difficult.
    The ‘new Ireland’ in order to work will have to attract people from many diverse backgrounds – not just northern Protestants – who are not your classic Irish nationalist or republican. I believe if presented properly it will attract northern Protestants for a number of reasons – they will come to see they would be financially better off & have more control over their affairs compared to now – even with a devolved assembly in Belfast under the union. There is also the EU dimension. Many are coming round to the opinion that if they had to choose between Britain & the EU they will chose the EU. That is a major change.
    In time they will come to accept their Irishness & their sense of belonging on this island, but first the nuts & bolts need addressed. How will it work for them?
    Irish Nationalists must begin to understand the northern Protestant mindset – regardless of whether you agree with it or not. This is a huge step for a northern Protestant after 100 years of partition. To encourage this constituency they must begin to see that this is not some narrow agenda that will marginalise northern Protestants. They must be persuaded that their culture will be protected & respected in a UI; that they would in fact be better off within UI compared to their current sorry state within the UK.
    In the 70’s a proposal for a federal Ireland was floated by Provisional Sinn Fein. This gave the north more autonomy. This attracted some protestant support even then.Desmond Boal, Chair of the DUP & close friend of Ian Paisley supported it.
    There is a big fear & not just among northern Protestants that too much power will be centralised in Dublin – as is the case now. Power needs decentralised to the regions – Ulster, Munster, Leinster & Connacht.
    This group – https://newirelandvision.com/index.html – The New Ireland Movement – was founded by a Northern Protestant in the 70s – Dr John Robb – to ‘Promote a participatory democracy in a confederal Ireland, through the process of peace’. Robb became a member of the Seanad. He died quite recently. I don’t know if this group is still active.
    Hope all that helps. I’d be interested in staying in touch.

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