Concerns aired at a recent Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) event in Derry over the potential for a unionist paramilitary backlash if there was a vote in favour of a ‘United Ireland,’ have been downplayed by the group.
The IRSP, which is now actively campaigning for a ‘border poll’ as a means of unifying Ireland, has said it’s been assured by senior loyalists that a ‘yes’ vote would not be opposed violently.
Ciaran Cunningham, an IRSP activist, reflecting on concerns over the prospect of a loyalist backlash, which were “strongly raised from the floor at our first public meeting on the issue in Derry City on June 6,” said he did not believe these fears were justified.
“It is our considered opinion, having consulted with elements within the loyalist ex-prisoner base, that a peaceful transition towards Irish unity will not present a catalyst for serious loyalist violence.”
“It is much more likely that renewed attempts at republican armed actions, followed by British backed strategic targeting from agents within loyalism, could be used to scupper a border poll from the outset,” he said.
The IRSP’s new advocacy for a border poll is significant in that it is provided for by the Northern Ireland Act 1998, which was enacted following the signing of the Belfast Agreement, and rejected by the republican socialist movement.
Unlike other anti-Belfast Agreement republicans who will only support an Irish unity poll if it is conducted on a 32-county basis, the IRSP now view a ‘Six County’ poll as a tool with which to work for a ‘United Ireland’. The party’s position is outlined in its ‘Britain out of Ireland, Ireland out of the EU’ document, which argues ongoing demographic shifts make it more likely a renewed movement to end partition will succeed.
“The fact that this momentum may express itself via the Good Friday Agreement (via a ‘border poll’ or unity referendum) presents no ideological or principled difficulty for the IRSP,” the document claims.
Mr. Cunningham stated: “If significant sections of the Irish working class decide to march towards a politically worthy goal in their chosen direction, then it would be nothing short of arrogance for the IRSP to stand aloof and tell them that they are wrong. To do so would risk us appearing like the Jacobite faithful of old, passionately waiting for warships that existed only in our minds.”