Defining Irish Republicanism

© 2017 Tom Rogers

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What is Irish Republicanism?

Irish Republicanism defies comprehensive elucidation because it is a composite of radically different ideological strands, the major three of which are:

- Irish civic nationalism;
- liberal republicanism;
- Irish neo-nationalism.

Obviously these positions overlap to some extent.

Irish civic nationalism in the Republican tradition is close to mainstream Irish Nationalism, but more militant, and embodies a sentimental commitment to Irish identity with some weak ethno-nationalist elements. Some Irish Nationalists within Republicanism will lean more towards an ethno-nationalist position. This would not normally be in an absolutist biological sense and would be without the application of a racial template to immigration policy, while at the same time seeking to preserve what they see as an essential Irish identity for Ireland.

Liberal Republicanism is in the tradition and spirit of the liberal republicanism of the French Revolution. The preservation of Irish identity is not a priority, and in so far as it is relevant, it is simply to unify a liberal polity behind a national republican identity.

Irish neo-nationalism is a watered-down form of neo-Marxism and reflects a commitment to a stages strategy for revolutionary neo-Marxist politics in Ireland. Some neo-nationalists are democratic socialists, others are Maoists.

The first position, Irish civic nationalism, is the oldest tradition in Irish Republicanism. Its motif is the United Irishman, who transcends the green (Gaelic tradition) and orange (Protestant tradition) identities of Ireland. The white in the tricolour flag represents a truce between these two major traditions. In point of fact, the most important figures in Irish Republicanism before Adams and McGuinness were Protestant, not Catholic.

Liberal Republicanism has also been very influential and is perhaps now the dominant current within the Irish Republican leadership, if only due to existing political realities.

Irish neo-nationalism/neo-Marxism became the dominant current within Irish Republicanism during the post-War period, but faded from the early 1970s as the Provisionals split away to pursue a military campaign on an essentially militant civic nationalist basis.