This week I posted a comment on facebook regarding the upcoming Stormont elections. What followed demonstrated how some republicans feel strongly about elections and view participation in them as giving legitimacy to partitionist parliaments whether it be north or south of the border.
Through this debate I gauged that some republicans are sceptical of trying new approaches and have never really moved on from their respective divorces from Sinn Fein whether it be in 1986, 1998 or 2006. For some these break ups appear to have created major trust issues that keep them so far in their boxes they are afraid to look beyond the parameters they adhere to. Despite this some are quick to label those who do think outside of their box be they republican or otherwise. As someone who follows neither Queen, Kaiser or ideology I believe what is needed is a bit of progressive thinking.
Anyone who knows me knows I am no supporter of the puppet parliament of Stormont. A glance at numerous blogs will show I am on record time and time again describing Stormont as a virtual cesspool, but I would take a different view on elections. I believe elections should be contested if only for the purpose of highlighting issues. I would love nothing more than to see someone in Stormont who will shine a light on that group of cowboys masquerading as a government. As whether you view the parliaments north and south as being legitimate or not they are internationally recognised as the governments of the island.
If you look at the track record of Stormont in the council area where I live you can see that the Derry/Strabane district council area is top of the polls for all the wrong reasons. We're top for unemployment, child poverty, suicide and last year we were rated as the worst place to live. And if that doesn't scream of the need for intervention I don't know what will. I'm of the opinion we need someone in Stormont who will make it clear that Derry may be the second city in the six counties but we are not second class citizens and refuse to be treated as such.
At present an independent Dr. Anne McCloskey has declared she will stand in the upcoming Stormont election. Dr. McCloskey works in the Shantallow area of the city and works daily with those suffering from the failed policies of Stormont. So as an alternative to the clowns that currently sit in Stormont we have an intelligent, articulate professional woman who works at the coal face. The current alternative to Dr.McCloskey is serial protester Eamonn McCann. Eamonn who has stood a number of times oddly vanishes between elections, unless appearing as a commentator and not an aspiring politician on television debate shows. As one friend put it to me, he could stand in a one horse race and still come in last.
Now the fact that Anne McCloskey is a republican has other republicans up in arms, figuratively of course. Now for those republicans up in arms think about it this way, yes I know some of you are still smarting from your divorce from Sinn Fein, and I know they've jumped into bed with Lizzie, but going into Stormont to expose it is simply not the same as, to use the words of Francie Molloy, being 'prepared to administer British Rule in Ireland for the foreseeable future'.
Let's look at it another way not only do Republicans consider Stormont as a partitionist parliament but they also view Leinster house with the same contempt as it is only representative of the 26 counties. But here's the thing I don't remember hearing any complaints from republicans when Independents like Clare Daly and Mick Wallace have spoken out about issues including the treatment of republican political prisoners. And lets not forget that had it not been for Mick Wallace using his platform in the 'partitionist parliament' of Leinster house then the NAMA scandal would not have been exposed.
A cursory glance at the statements and actions of both Mick Wallace and Clare Daly will show that their purpose is not to give legitimacy to the free state government but to expose it for the den of iniquity it is.
So here's the thing why can't we have similar representation? Why can't we have someone in there doing what Mick Wallace and Clare Daly do? Why can't we have someone using their platform to expose the farce that is Stormont? Why can't we have someone in there for the people?
In 1981 Hunger Striker Bobby sands was elected to Fermanagh/South Tyrone. This move exposed the intransigence and cruelty of the British Government. In this case I doubt the candidate or voters saw this move as giving legitimacy to the British presence or Westminster rule in Ireland. It's obvious that part of this strategy was to force the British Government to grant the prisoners 5 demands and to save the lives of the hunger strikers. I'm sure many Republicans had some difficulty with this approach and I can understand that.
Today when I think of the need to put people before ideology one person comes to mind, the late Cecilia Burns from Strabane. Cecilia was 51 years old and suffered from cancer, despite this Cecilia had her benefits cut and was declared fit for work. After launching a campaign to have her benefits reinstated Cecilia won her challenge but sadly passed away a few weeks later. Ask yourself who is there in Stormont to bring these issues to the fore? Who is there to speak for people like Cecilia and the many like her? From where I sit there's no-one pro-active, it's just reactionary tokenism.
|Son of Annagry|
At times we all have to do things we don't like to do. I've had to go to meetings including some in Stormont on victims and other issues. I've sat across the table from the justice Minister David Ford knowing full well he's as useless as an ashtray on a motorbike. I've sat at the base of the Carson statue after meetings thinking that's two hours of my life I'll never get back but it had to be done if only to tell Ford that he is as useless as an ashtray on a motorbike.
I know republicans would disagree with attending these meetings but then I could be pedantic and argue that republicans have in the past attended District Policing Partnership meetings. Granted they turned up to disrupt and protest but technically they still attended. So why do some people feel it was OK to attend DPP meetings to protest and disrupt but it's not OK to go into to Stormont at the will of the people to expose the fallacy of Stormont?
Oddly loyalism, unionism and dissident republicanism in Derry have worked hand in hand in recent years by voting or encouraging others to vote SDLP MP Mark Durkan in the Westminster election. I doubt this move was to give legitimacy to Westminster, well on the part of republicans anyway. This would have been more case of stopping Sinn Fein from getting the seat, not out of love for the SDLP but on a 'my enemy's enemy is my friend' basis.
For those opposed to the election a few questions to you are:
What's your alternative to exposing Stormont from the inside?
How are you going to challenge Stormont not just on a constitutional basis but ensuring that people are not shafted?
Figures from less that 2 years ago showed that 2 out of 3 children in Derry live below the poverty line, how are you going to challenge this?
For those of you who might argue abstentionism, go back to the start of the article and read again..