IS ANY REPUBLIC GOOD ENOUGH?
On 21 February 1923, members of the Free State Army stormed
the tenements of 21 Upper Dorset Street, Dublin, in pursuit of
my great Aunt, Maire Cleary. Such was the young woman's recalcitrance,
her teenage sister Nellie was soon 'kidnapped' also. . Seven months
later, on 7 September 1923, after stints in Kilmainham and the
North Dublin Union Internment Camp, Maire returned to the tenement,
unrepentant about the position she’d taken on partitioned Ireland.
The Brits put Eamon de Valera, upstairs to the left. Grace
Plunkett, widow of the executed IRB and Easter 1916 man, Joseph,
was held on the ground floor to the right of the stairs.
Her gaolers were the Free Staters.
When I met Maire and Nellie 50 years later, across the road from
the tenement, I was taken by their by their resilience and their
passion for the cause of Ireland. The suffering these women endured
in search of a more just republic than that offered by Prime Minister
John Howard’s heroes, David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill,
is nothing short of inspirational. It helps place the taunts of
"wrecker" and "queen’s man" in proper
The contempt shown to those direct electionists who opposed the
phoney ARN republic, one that partitioned the people from the
symbols of authority, is quite mad. If only we'd supported the
partitioned republic proposed by Rupert Murdoch, Peter Costello,
Steve Bracks, Kerry Packer, Bob Carr, Malcolm Fraser, his archrival
Gough Whitlam, Steve Vizard, Malcolm Turnbull and the boys. If
only we'd cast aside our explicit opposition to the exclusivist,
partitioned republic and linked arms with the big end of town
republicans. If only!
And how instructive that those, who in November 1999 accused
the voters of gross ignorance for not voting how they were told
by Kylie Minogue and Rupert, should now be praising 'ordinary'
Australians for their creative approach to the Commonwealth Games
and the circus that accompanied it. Some even went so far
as to declare that Australia was a republic in spirit already.
Might not that be the reason why the ARM's obsession was so foolish?
The truth is that the republic on offer on 6 November 1999 mocked
the very idea of participation by the people. That’s why people
in the bush and outside the epicentre of power voted against it.
The chorus of unconditional support from the likes of Steve Bracks
and Bob Carr for the action of the police outside Crown Casino
in September should serve as a chilling reminder of just how desperate
the major parties are about holding on to the levers of control.
An elected president stood as a metaphor for participation and
in no small way challenged the modus operandi of the new ruling
class and its allies. The alternative, a model in which the same
old mob would orchestrate the same old charade, wasn’t worth any
self respecting Irish-Australian crossing the road to vote for.
If Ned Kelly seriously wanted a republic in the North East of
Victoria, do you think he'd have settled for the parliament selecting
the boss cockie?
I've met with the ARM and am keenly interested in participating
in any movement to bring about a republic. The question
is, what kind of republic do we deserve? Is any jingoistic
shell of a republic good enough? I think not. Do we
really want to hand over the selection of a president to a parliament
inhabited by men and women slavishly addicted to the party line?
One of the reasons for the establishment of the magazine Táin
was the anger and frustration of Irish Australians with the anti-Irish
press in Australia. Val Noone and others decided that it
was time we had a vehicle through which to articulate Irish-Australian
matters on our own terms. So too we should want a president
on our own terms.
If the political pressure is mobilised there'll be good reason
for the politicians to offer us a plebiscite after which time
we can have a serious discussion about the form of the republic.