Irish republicanism

Irish republicanism

Irish republicanism ( _ga. Poblachtánachas) is an ideology based on the Irish nationalist belief that all of Ireland should be a single independent republic.

In 1801, under the Act of Union, the Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland merged (partly through bribery via the granting of peerages) to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. [Alan J. Ward, The Irish Constitutional Tradition p.28.] This followed hundreds of years of conquest and resistance through rebellion, [The Cause of Ireland, Liz Curtis, Beyond the Pale, ISBN 0 9514229 6 0, p.1-3] [New Perspectives on Ireland:Colonialism & Identity, Daltún Ó Ceallaigh, Léirmheas, Dublin, 1998, ISBN 0 9518777 6 3 p.9-13] and union of the crowns of both countries since 1542. The development of nationalist and democratic sentiment throughout Europe was reflected in Ireland in the emergence of republicanism, in opposition to British rule. Discrimination against Roman Catholics and a feeling that Ireland was economically disadvantaged in the United Kingdom were among the specific factors leading to such opposition.

In Irish history and politics, it is common to draw a distinction between "nationalism" and "republicanism". The term "nationalism" is used for any manifestation of national sentiment, including cultural manifestations; for movements demanding autonomy from Britain but not complete independence; and sometimes for secessionist movements committed to constitutional methods. The term "republicanism" denotes movements demanding complete independence under a republican government. It is frequently associated with a willingness to use force to achieve political goals (see Physical force Irish republicanism), and often, but not always, with a secular or non-sectarian outlook, whereas Irish nationalism is almost universally associated with Catholicism. Frequently, Irish republicanism is also associated with left-wing politics, as many of the key Irish Republican thinkers of the 19th and 20th centuries were avowed socialists and/or Marxists, while many Republican organizations promote some form of socialism as the system which would govern a hypothetical united Ireland.


"See also Irish nationalism"Irish republicanism was born in the late eighteenth century. The republican revolutions in France and United States during the late 18th century influenced Irish people, who wanted democratic reforms, and independence from Britain which would also see an end to discrimination against Catholics. The United Irishmen were the first group to advocate an independent Irish republic. With military aid from the republican government in France, they organized the Irish Rebellion of 1798. Theobald Wolfe Tone famously summarised the inclusive agenda of republicanism as the uniting of Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter. Thereafter, republicanism was to play a central part in the development of Irish nationalism.

After the Act of Union in 1801 merging Ireland with Britain into the United Kingdom, Irish independence movements were suppressed by the British. Nationalist rebellions against British rule in 1803, by Robert Emmett, 1848 (by the Young Irelanders) and 1865 and 1867 (by the Fenians) were followed by harsh reprisals by British forces.

In 1916 the Easter Rising organised by the Irish Republican Brotherhood was launched in Dublin. The Rising was suppressed after six days, and most of its leaders were executed by the British. This was to be a turning point in Irish history, leading to the end of British rule in most of Ireland.

From 1919-1921 the Irish Republican Army (IRA) was organized as a guerrilla army, led by Michael Collins and fought against British forces. During the Anglo-Irish War (or War of Irish Independence) the British sent paramilitary police, the "Black and Tans" and the Auxiliary Division, to help the British army and Royal Irish Constabulary. These groups committed atrocities which included killing captured POWs and Irish civilians viewed as being sympathetic to the IRA. The most infamous of all their actions was the burning of half the city of Cork in 1920 and the Bloody Sunday massacre of 1920. These atrocities, together with the popularity of the republican ideal, and British repression of republican political expression, led to widespread support across Ireland for the Irish rebels.

In 1921 the British government led by David Lloyd George negotiated the Anglo-Irish Treaty with Arthur Griffith, Michael Collins and the other republican leaders all of whom acted as plenipoteniaries on behalf of the provisional Irish government, thus ending the Anglo-Irish War.

Irish Republicanism in independent Ireland

The Irish Free State

Though many across the country were unhappy with the Anglo-Irish Treaty (since, during the Anglo-Irish war, the IRA had fought for independence for all Ireland and for a republic, not a partitioned dominion under the British crown), some republicans were satisfied that the Treaty was the best that could be achieved at the time. However, a substantial number opposed it. Dáil Éireann, the Irish parliament, voted by 64 votes to 57 to ratify it, the majority believing that the treaty created a new base from which to move forward. Éamon de Valera, who had served as President of the Irish Republic during the war, refused to accept the decision of the Dáil and led the opponents of the treaty out of the House. The IRA itself split between pro-Treaty and anti-Treaty elements, with the former forming the nucleus of the new National Army.

Michael Collins became Commander-in-Chief of the National Army. Shortly afterwards, some dissidents, apparently without the authorisation of the anti-Treaty IRA Army Executive, occupied the Four Courts in Dublin and kidnapped a pro-Treaty general. The government, responding to this provocation and to intensified British pressure following the assassination by an IRA unit in London of Sir Henry Wilson, ordered the regular army to take the Four Courts, thereby beginning the Irish Civil War.

It is believed that Collins continued to fund and supply the IRA in Northern Ireland throughout the civil war but, after his death, W. T. Cosgrave (the new President of the Executive Council) discontinued this support.

By May 1923, the war (which had claimed more lives than the War of Independence) had ended in the call by the IRA to dump arms. However, the harsh measures adopted by both sides, including assassinations of politicians by the Republicans and executions and atrocities by the Free State side, left a bitter legacy in Irish politics for decades to come.

De Valera, who had strongly supported the Republican side in the Civil War, reconsidered his views while in jail, and came to accept the ideas of political activity under the terms of the Free State constitution. However, he and his supporters failed to convince a majority of the anti-treaty Sinn Féin of these views and the movement split again. In 1926, he formed a new party called Fianna Fáil (Soldiers of Destiny). In 1932 he was elected President of the Executive Council of the Free State and began a slow process of turning the country from a constitutional monarchy to a constitutional republic, thus fulfilling Collins' prediction of "the freedom to achieve freedom".

By then, the IRA was engaged in confrontations with the Blueshirts, a quasi-fascist group led by a former War of Independence and pro-Treaty leader, General Eoin O'Duffy. O'Duffy looked to Fascist Italy as an example for Ireland to follow. Several hundred supporters of O'Duffy briefly went to Spain to volunteer on the Nationalist side in the Spanish Civil War, and a smaller number of IRA members, communists and others participated on the Republican side. By the start of World War II, some Republicans had even formed ties with Nazi Germany for strategic (anti-British rather than ideological) reasons.Fact|date=May 2008

In 1937 the Constitution of Ireland was written by the De Valera government; the Constitution claimed jurisdiction over the whole of Ireland and, with an elected Irish President, diminished the role of the King as Ireland's head of state to the purely ceremonial. Although de Valera claimed Ireland was a republic in every way except in name, legally the country was still a British "dominion" like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or South Africa. Furthermore, the claim to the whole of the island did not reflect practical reality and probably further entrenched Unionist opposition. Despite the successive splits of 1922 and 1926, the remainder of the IRA rejected all compromise with political realities and continued to consider themselves to be original and sole Republican Movement.

Republic of Ireland

"See also: Irish Republicanism in Northern Ireland".Ireland finally became a republic in 1949 when the Republic of Ireland Act came into effect. This finally severed constitutional connection with Britain or The Commonwealth. In 1955 the Republic joined the United Nations and in 1973 joined the European Economic Community (now the European Union) in a move designed to bring Ireland closer to British politics and other European nations.

Nowadays the Republic of Ireland and Britain are close partners in trade and commerce. Today all the dominant political parties in Britain, and the Republic of Ireland support Democracy and the state's constitution including the Republic of Ireland Act of 1948.This friendship extends to open travel between the countries as basic ID cards are only required for crossings between the states (though none are needed on the land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic).

Republican political parties in Ireland

Parties in favour of the Good Friday Agreement

*Fianna Fáil - The Republican Party (Rough translation: Soldiers of Destiny). A populist party, it is Ireland's largest and most successful political organisation and is currently the main partner in the Republic's coalition government. Its origins are in the 1926 split of the anti-treaty fraction of the original Sinn Féin. Anti-Treaty activists who decided to end abstention from Dáil Éireann left Sinn Féin to form a constitutional republican party, Fianna Fáil, led by anti-Treaty leader Eamon de Valera. Until recently membership was not open to residents of Northern Ireland. Its new northern members regularly meet informally as the Northern Fianna Fáil Forum. Some within the party advocate formally organising on a thirty two county basis either in its own right or by merging with a party in Northern Ireland, preferably the Social Democratic and Labour Party.

*Fine Gael - The United Ireland Party (Rough translation: family of the Irish), a nationalist organisation with roots in the pro-treaty tradition in Irish politics, also supported the Good Friday Agreement as did all parties in the Dáil at the time.

*Sinn Féin is now Northern Ireland's biggest republican party and throughout the Northern Ireland troubles was closely allied with the Provisional IRA, publicly arguing for the validity of its violent campaign. Its policy platform combines staunch nationalism with socialist views on economic issues. It is led by Gerry Adams, and organises in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. It is also known as Provisional Sinn Féin, the current organisation has its origins in the 1970 split between that group and Official Sinn Féin. In 1986 it reversed its original policy of not taking seats in Dáil Éireann. By the early 21st century it had replaced the SDLP as Northern Ireland's largest nationalist party. It currently holds a small number of seats in the British parliament, a modest number in the Dáil, and a large number in Northern Ireland's provincial assembly. Sinn Féin members elected to the British parliament refuse to take their seats in Westminster and are elected on an abstentionist basis, as they refuse to accept the right of that body to rule in any part of Ireland.

*Workers' Party of Ireland - After the IRA split in 1970 between the Provisional IRA and the Official IRA, Sinn Féin split as well between those who supported the leadership's Marxist line and more traditional republicans who supported Seán Mac Stiofáin and the Provisional IRA. In 1972 after a two-year armed campaign, the Official IRA called a ceasefire. Official Sinn Féin , in 1977, changed its name to Sinn Féin - The Workers' Party and in 1982 to simply The Workers Party. The Workers Party engaged in a Marxist-Leninist platform stressing "class politics", hoping to attract working-class Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland away from sectarian politics. However their efforts yielded little electoral success in Northern Ireland, where the party has performed very poorly at the polls.

Parties opposed to the Good Friday Agreement

*Republican Sinn Féin The party operates on an abstentionist basis therefore it would not take seats in the assemblies of the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland because it views both as illegitimate. It is linked to the Continuity IRA, whose goals are the overthrow of British rule in Northern Ireland and the unification of the island to form an independent country. They are led by former Sinn Féin leader Ruairí Ó Brádaigh who led radicals in a break with Sinn Féin in 1986 to create the party.

*Irish Republican Socialist Party The IRSP was founded by Seamus Costello in 1974, who possibly had an eye towards James Connolly's Irish Socialist Republican Party of the late 19th/early 20th century when coining the party's name. Costello led other former Official IRA members dissatisfied with Goulding's policies and tactics. The party quickly organized a paramilitary wing called the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) which is still operating today, though on a "no first strike" ceasefire. It claims to follow the principles of republican socialism as set out by the 1916 rebellion leader James Connolly and radical 20th-century trade unionist James Larkin.


ee also

*Protestant Nationalist
*Irish nationalism
*United Ireland
*Unionists (Ireland)

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