THE FIRST STEP TOWARDS A PEACEFUL IRELAND

From Eire Nua essays first published in the 1980's

The Anglo-Treaty of 1921 that copper-fastened the partition Ireland into two sectarian states was a betrayal of the Easter Proclamation of 1916, notwithstanding, the claim by its signatories and supporters that it signing avoided an all-out war with the British. By signing that infamous treaty, the Irish delegation accepted the existence of the Northern Ireland State established in 1920 by an act of the British Parliament without the prior approval of Dail Eireann.  Unfortunately for the Irish people, the delegation was granted full power to sign a compromise agreement by Eamonn De Valera, President of the Republic, without any prior approval.

After ninety plus years of political instability in Ireland it’s obvious that the treaty was a sham that lead to a civil war in the 26-county Free State and an ongoing freedom struggle in the British occupied 6-county state.

If real peace is to be achieved in Ireland, the 1920 Government of Ireland Act, together with its grandchild the Good Friday Agreement needs to be scrapped and replaced with a new agreement, wherein, the British would concede sovereignty of the occupied six counties thus, clearing the way for the Irish people of both traditions to unite in one free and independent nation.

To this end the National Irish Freedom Committee supports the establishment of a Constituent Assembly as a first step in this process. The proposed Assembly would draft a new 32-county all-Ireland constitution that would include the following underlying principles:

1)        A Bill of Rights for the protection of human rights and social justice,

2)        New government structures based on a federation of the four historic provinces of Ireland,

3)        An Independent Judiciary.

4)        Separation of Church and State

The convening of a Constituent Assembly is a logical first step in a process designed to bring peace, unity and prosperity to Ireland. It offers the prospect of a permanent solution as opposed to the failed Sunningdale, Hillsborough and Good Friday type schemes put forward by the London and Dublin governments. This proposal is neither new nor radical. It is similar in many respects to the 1787 Constitutional Convention convened in Philadelphia to draft a new federal constitution for the emerging United States of America.

 Since that time, many other emerging nations came into existence through a similar process such as South Africa, a country where the vast majority of its people were enslaved by a descendant colonist minority. Many felt this situation would never change, but South Africa today is a united and free country, where all of the people can participate in determining their own destiny. The colonist minority was also allowed to participate in the transformation process. .

The road towards a peaceful Ireland is fraught with obstacles, inherent and protected in the political and economic status quo. In this climate, any proposal guaranteeing equal rights and opportunity to all the people of Ireland is not welcome. The schemes put forward by the British and Dublin governments are minor revisions to the Treaty of 1921, primarily intended to perpetuate the status quo, and therefore destined to end in failure.

The proposed Constituent Assembly would be representative of the whole people of Ireland and would be elected by the suffrage of the adult population. The Assembly's sole function would be to draft a new constitution. The draft constitution would then be submitted to the people in referendum for acceptance or rejection. This open democratic process would be more meaningful to the Irish people today, than the closed-door meetings held between the same politicians who have failed the people so often in the past. All elements of Irish society would be free to contest the election for the Assembly. This approach would ensure that the internal relations of the Irish people with each other and with the world at large would be determined through free and open debate.

In order for this process to succeed all politicians and political parties expressing an interest or concern for Ireland's future must put aside their differences and participate for the common good. In addition, all those individuals and political parties now excluded  must be allowed to participate and have access to the media. The Irish people deserve the opportunity to participate in such a process.

Contributor - Tomás Ó Coisdealba

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