Republican "revisionists" have played a vital role in preparing the intellectual ground for the Northern Ireland peace process. These traitors to the nationalist cause include a new generation of Irish writers and former IRA volunteers who have reached out to David Trimble's new unionismby John Lloyd / January 20, 2000 / Leave a comment
Traitors have played a crucial part in achieving the fragile agreement which has put republicans, nationalists, unionists and protestant fundamentalists in the same Northern Ireland cabinet. Traitors, that is, to the cause of Irish republicanism: an immensely powerful ideology, perhaps the most powerful of such geists in the western world. For much of the past century, its common principle was an assumption of Irish victimhood and British guilt, sewn into a seamless web of historical oppression.
But the traitors have cracked that fa?ade. From within the republic and from within republicanism has come a critique which, while not (usually) taking sides with the British-and often being detailed and frank about the blacker parts of British rule in pre-independence Ireland-has made its main targets the narrowness and bigotry in its own backyard.
The traitors were as much a sign of change in Ireland as harbingers of it. But their words have been crucial to modernising politics, in both the south and north. Catholics in the north had in the past often become unionists of a kind; some rose to high positions in the state. But in doing so they folded themselves into a unionist culture (while remaining suspect to the more bigoted members of it). Today’s traitors do not regard themselves as bound to cross any Rubicons: they can remain in an Irish culture which they have made capacious enough for dissent and self-examination.
Some of the republican revisionists have sought to engage with the civic unionism of David Trimble, now first minister of Northern Ireland. These people have helped to infuse unionism with the beginnings of an understanding of the diversity of Irish thought; and to provide it with a strategic and dispassionate view of republicanism, both in its carefully cultivated hatred of Britishness and in its struggle to locate itself in democratic practice. This contradictory, one-step-forward two-steps-back movement in republicanism could be embraced with too much gratitude, as it was under the Northern Ireland secretaryship of Mo Mowlam; or rejected as a con trick, as it has been by the Democratic Unionist Party of Ian Paisley and the UK Unionist Party (now split) of Robert McCartney. In order to stay with the peace process, the Ulster Unionists needed both some faith that republicans could engage with a pluralist society and a guide to its violent mind set. The traitors gave them both.
ireland is now too contented for…