Spotlight poll confirms failure of republican project


The latest Spotlight poll indicating the vast majority of Northern Ireland voters would reject Irish unity highlights the need to build a different type of politics which is not rooted in tribal loyalties, but  based on class and revolutionary transformation of society.  While some republicans may say the poll is not representative and that real opinions can only be revealed by an independent referendum north and South of the border, the reality is polls  over the years have consistently indicated minority support for a United Ireland. (1)

The poll, carried out for the BBC Spotlight programme by Ispos Mori, interviewed more than 1000 adults across all social classes at 64 locations across the North between 17 and 26 January and found a 65% to 17% majority for Northern Ireland remaining in the UK.

Not surprisingly, more than 90% of those who identify themselves as protestants told pollsters they wanted to stay in the UK.  On the other side of the divide a substantial 38% of Catholics also favoured the current status-quo- three percentage points more than the number who backed a united Ireland.

This figure from the broadly ‘catholic/nationalist community’ is reflective of a wider paralysis within republicanism -  especially given that the Provisionals emerged from this community and yet their main goal of a united Ireland is further away than ever given their complete integration into the British state apparatus.

Those within various shades of ‘disillusioned republicanism’ also need to take note and move beyond the simple ‘sold-out’ theory. Sinn Fein has never been wedded to social revolution and smashing capitalism/state.  Broadly, republicanism has always represented a cross-class pan nationalist movement whose tensions and contradictions have been clearly exposed during times of crisis. While those who remain theologically wedded to armed struggle need to take note because it can never be a substitute for building a mass movement and the last 30 years has only proved this.

Reality is the test and Sinn Fein’s firm commitment to neo-liberalism and collaboration with imperialism at home and abroad should leave us in little doubt that the question we should really be asking ourselves is what type of society we want rather than the colour of the flag we wish to live under.

We need to cut the link once and for all with our political subordination and enslavement to the reactionary forces of unionism and nationalism because clearly it is not delivering and will never deliver in terms of building a lasting society based on social equality and freedom for all.

Grovelling to politicians and petty squabbles over flags will do little to alleviate or confront everyday class issues from mass unemployment, cuts to housing benefit and jobs, poverty or even the forces of imperialism. The task of  challenging and convincing our work colleagues and neighbours to join the fight against the status quo is a great one but one which is a necessity because our ruling class will only come back for more unless we build a movement with a vision beyond the smoke and mirrors of sectarianism.


Words: Sean Matthews


Please check the link below for a further analysis of Irish Republicanism from an anarchist perspective. These range from analysis of the issues of the day to detailed re-examination of the history of the republican rebellions and movements -