|"'This is the Republic of Ireland 2011—not Northern Ireland'. The Taoiseach will forgive me if, by way of introduction, I adapt this line from his celebrated speech on church-state relations because it sums up the reasons why Martin McGuinness is unfit to be President…"
That is the opening of Professor Emeritus Ronan Fanning's contribution tot he anti-McGuinness election campaign in the Sunday Independent of 25th September. Fanning dismisses the raking over of details of the Northern war by other anti-Sinn Feiners on the ground that this will not damage McGuinness's prospects with voters who have come on the scene since McGuinness became the most effective Man of Peace of our time and place. McGuinness, he says, can only be damaged by "clinical" opposition, and therefore he deplores "rabid denunciation".
Here is the "clinical" case:
"Northern Ireland has always been, and still is, a dysfunctional statelet within the United Kingdom where the circumstances of its creation have made, and still make, the normal workings of democracy impossible. This state, in start contrast, is an independent republic with a proud and continuous tradition of democracy extending more than 90 years. That distinction explains why McGuinness's achievements in Northern Ireland in no way qualify him to become President of Ireland…"
And yet Fanning considers the role of President to have been "admirably executed by President McAleese", who came from that same "dysfunctional statelet".
If McGuinness is unsuitable to be President because he comes from an undemocratic and dysfunctional statelet, why not McAleese?
McAleese, as President, launched a hysterical tirade against the Ulster Unionists as Nazis. It is not conceivable that McGuinness might do such a thing.
McAleese, advancing her career in Belfast and Dublin by veering this way and that in opportunist adaptations, retained the chip-on-the-shoulder resentments of Hibernian nationalism. McGuinness, provoked into political action by the dysfunctional and undemocratic statelet, dealt with it straightforwardly, in war and peace, from a republican perspective which did not see the Unionists as aliens. And he established a degree of functionality by establishing a political relationship with Ulster Unionism which, a generation ago, the Unionists were certain they would never agree to. This makes McGuinness a statesman.
Statesmanship is what is conspicuously lacking amongst the politicians of what Fanning calls "Ireland", who have forfeited its economic sovereignty, and who are relying on the good offices of international banking to keep it functional—the very system that brought it to the brink of bankruptcy.
What is the citizen supposed to do within an undemocratic, dysfunctional statelet? Indeed, is there citizenship in such a statelet? Fanning does not tell us.
What is a "statelet"? He does not tell us that either.
The North was set up as an integral part of the British State and remained so. It had no State rights whatever. But, while being entirely subject to the sovereign authority of the Westminster Parliament, it was excluded from the essential processes of British democracy. The publishers of this journal attempted during the 1970s and 1980s to bring it within the British democracy, but neither Britain nor the Unionists would have it. Sinn Fein applied itself to the other possibility, democratisation as part of the Republic. Fanning evaded the issue. He is still evading it.
And he evades another issue with his statement about the "proud and continuous tradition of democracy extending more than 90 years"—the political tendency to which he belongs committed itself to the establishment of Fascism in the Free State in the 1930s. Fine Gael began its life as a Fascist Party. It was defeated in that project by Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein and had to resign itself to being a party in a Parliamentary system.
In the present European situation, with a Polish Government Minister raising the prospect of European war within the next decade, the word "democracy" should not be tossed around casually as a magic formula to ward off evil.
A new book by Brendan Clifford, Northern Ireland: What Is It? Professor Mansergh Changes His Mind discusses the actuality of democracy, and includes a chapter relevant to the McGuinness affair: The Problem Of The Legitimacy Of Violence In A Pseudo State.
The Irish Republic has lived in a morass of confusion about the North, neither being able to act purposefully towards it as part of its own responsibilities, nor to detach itself from it as being foreign. However, Northern Ireland has entered the political scene of Ireland for the first time since Independence. First, with the election to the Dail of the Northern-based leader of the all-Ireland party, Sinn Fein; and now with the candidature of the serving Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. The issue of partition has thus moved from the realm of rhetoric and wish-fulfilment into practical politics. It is now more necessary than ever for the body politic to get an idea of Northern Ireland. It will not go away.
Northern Ireland What Is It? Professor Mansergh Changes His Mind by Brendan Clifford.
278pp. Index. ISBN 978-1-874157-25-0.