Frequently Asked Questions

Amazingly, some of the most vociferous opponents of the YFU ‘Border Poll’ position, claim to admire the legacy of Seamus Costello. But Seamus himself made it very clear, on very many occasions, that his party should consider each and every tactic available, depending on their desirability at the time. Speaking of abstentionism from parliament he said to an American journalist … “There are circumstances and conditions under which it might be desirable to abstain, and if we felt that it was tactically desirable at any particular point in time, in either the North or South, to abstain, then we would do so. That would depend, however, on the circumstances”. In the same interview he also said, “We see both parliamentary institutions in Ireland as institutions that have to be abolished if we are to make progress towards a Socialist Republic”. Again, Seamus was making it Chrystal clear that Republican Socialists could and should utilise institutions of the state alongside all and any other forms of struggle in order to bring down the very same state, as per the suitability of the tactic at that time. The doctrine of Guerrilla Politics. For ‘Yes for Unity’ that is exactly what they are doing. It suited in 1973 to abstain from a referendum on Irish Unity, but the factors which made ’73 unfavourable have without doubt shifted and may shift further if given the right push. In the meantime, the same people campaigning within ‘Yes for Unity’ remain active in and open to, every other form of political, socioeconomic and agrarian struggle going, as avenues to be explored on the long road to the Worker’s Republic. And if the YFU road fails, those other political avenues will still be there; Guerrilla politics! simple really.
Our parents and grandparents took to the streets to demand Civil Rights within the occupied six counties, to demand housing, jobs, the right to vote, and an end to Internment; Republicanism in its entirety backed them and rightly so. Today, Republicans in the six counties regularly utilise the courts system to secure further civil rights in terms of Judicial Review, appeal rights etc. Were those Civil Rights marchers “running with a begging bowl to the Brits” ? as Border Poll advocates have been colourfully referred to in some quarters in recent times? Why is the ultimate Civil Rights demand (an end to partition) any less honourable than the demands of past generations in ‘the North’?
Serious question. If a border poll was successful and the Republican Left had been seen to stand aloof from the process which had secured Irish Unity, why would we then think that we could credibly argue for a stake in new Irish society? Had Catalunya succeeded (and it may yet) then the left there would have been recognised as an integral part of what emerged, and precisely because they were part of the people’s momentum that had delivered independence. The Neo-Liberal right and middle-class nationalism are already planning for their image of a post Border Poll United Ireland and for the left to abstain is absurd and dangerous.
In all likelihood, a border poll is going to occur within the next few generations if not earlier; Brexit, demographics and public opinion make it a virtual certainty. Do republican opponents of the process suggest that we simply stand aloof and wag our fingers at hundreds of thousands of progressive people in ‘the North’ determined to break out of the sectarian state in an opportunistic fashion? What would be revolutionary about that?
In regard to those who hold to the ‘already declared republic’ position; we have a great deal more sympathy for this line of questioning than the others and understand the passionate beliefs of those who find notions of voting today on independence and sovereignty unpalatable, we find it unpalatable ourselves. However, repeated research suggests that demographics and public feeling are shifting with a momentum that may soon over shadow any such concerns in terms of real time political relevance. When a border poll scenario arises (which it most likely will) it will be bigger than the program of any one political party or any revolutionary tendency. And, if a significant section of the Irish working class within the occupied six counties decides to march in that chosen direction, then it would be nothing short of arrogance for Republican Socialists to stand aloof and tell them that they are wrong. To do this would risk us appearing like the Jacobite faithful of old, passionately waiting for warships that existed only in our minds, while ignoring the emerging trends of actual struggle that existed all around us. Surely the Democratically elected 1st Dail would not have wished for their adherents to stand, many decades after their passing, and evoke their monarchical title rights? And all because the electoral process was being presided over by the enemy (as was their own) all the while passing up on tangible opportunities to seriously weaken British rule in Ireland, if not end it? Of course not! And, it is at this point where supporters of a Border Poll may start asking equally difficult questions of their critics.
This is also easily answered, as such opportunistic critiques were also forwarded throughout decades of brutal political and people’s struggle against the Orange state, most often by the lifestylist left and other anti-republican tendencies, who, (from a position of political cowardice) were more offended by positive aspirations to end partition than Loyalist aspirations to maintain it. We owe nothing to such people today.
This question was easily answered by the IRSP’s original ‘Britain out of Ireland/ Ireland out of the EU’ position paper which first proposed the Republican Socialist Border Poll position. And it is an answer shared by the ‘Yes for Unity’ campaign. The opening caveat of the position paper simply states: “In the event of any failure to end partition via so called ‘constitutional’ means, Republican Socialists would be under no more compulsion to recognise the Unionist Veto than we are today.” Seamus Costello’s declaration that he favoured “Guerrilla tactics in parliament” just as he did “in many other respects”, opened up for us all, the prospect of taking or leaving the mechanisms of the state as and when it suits us, confident that we need not compromise our overall goals while doing so. In layman’s terms then, if the Border Poll project breaks down, we get another bus. We owe this state no courtesy.