Posts Tagged ‘ireland’

On “Constitutionalism”, so-called

Aibreán 28, 2009

The word ‘constitutional’ is one of the most politically warped and deliberately conflated words in the Anglo-Irish conflict.

‘Constitutional movement for reform’ (e.g. referring to the Irish Home Rule Party operating in 19th century Britain) may seem self-explanatory within one particular cultural, political, or historical context; but e.g. in the USA (even in the Republic of Ireland) the word ‘Constitutional’ carries a very different set of contexts and meanings: a foundational legal document granting legitimacy to the state from the people, guaranteeing certain rights to citizens, that preempts all other executive, legislative, and judicial state powers.
This is fundamentally different from the British understanding of ‘constitutional’, which is closer to meaning ‘important constituent law’, but which can be overruled at will by parliament, and thus does not have the same prohibitionary power against state action or legislative fiat.
This is important, not only because the legitimacy of the British State to rule the Irish people was what was (is?) in question, but because the word ‘constitutional’ is often used as the antonym to politically delegitimise ‘physical force’ republicanism historically.
To use the American example again, no one today would describe George Washington et al as ‘physical force republicans’ in opposition to ‘constitutionalism’ or ‘constitutional reform’. No one is referring to Bastille Day as the triumph of ‘physical force republicanism’. That this can be considered appropriate to describe Irish patriots at all, only shows the extent of Orwellian abuse of language for political purposes in Ireland – and that our court historians and commentariat are the primary subversives of the Republic.

There could be another reason for this meme to be so successful in Dublin 4 politics: the political heritage of Daniel O’Connell and his Repeal (of the British-Irish parliamentary union) movement, and their tactically valid but strategically nowhere, intellectually bullshit, endorsement of the idea that “under no circumstances is a nation justified in asserting its liberties by force of arms” as a way of appeasing certain elements of the C19th British power elite. That this is so self-evidently wrong, or at least would appear to many to be in outer la-la land, does not make it so in the doublespeak of Ireland’s current commentariat. They are the inheritors of both cute-hoorish clienteelism, and the ultra-respectable Maynoothism of Catholic elements willing to sell out the country collaborate with powers hostile to Irish national interests, in exchange for the chance of material comforts and low-level advancements. The first is known too much, and is always the brickbat thrown at Fianna Fáil – although they only professionalised what everyone else are amateur enthusiasts at; but the second is like the curse of Cain on everyone from Fine Gael to the Greens, from the Workers Party entryists to the Europhiliacs.

Surely we should substitute the word “collaborationist” with “constitutional”; not only would the sentences not be adversely affected in meaning, their truth-value would increase.


[Analysis] 1791 Declaration of the United Irishmen

Meán Fómhair 7, 2008

My comments and quotes of other material are in italics; Declaration of the United Irishmen is indented; bolded emphasis is mine. I am not aware of anyone else who has tried to analyse the intellectual parallels between the US Declaration of Independence and the United Irishmen Declaration – If you are aware of any such material, please let me know:

In the present great era of reform, when unjust Governments are falling in every quarter of Europe;

This was during what is now referred to as the “Age of Revolution“: from the last decades of the 18th Century, to the first decades of the 19th, revolts, revolutions and national independence movements occurred in the Americas and in Europe – often prompted by Enlightenment ideas – and challenging monarchical, aristocratic, and imperial states and institutions – including slavery, and state-enforced religious discrimination.

when religious persecution is compelled to abjure her tyranny over conscience;

when the rights of man are ascertained in theory, and that theory substantiated by practice;

The “Rights of Man” was a treatise written in 1791 by American founding father and patriot, Thomas Paine, in response to Edmund Burke‘s attack on the French Revolution of 1789 – “Reflections on the Revolution in France” (it was also in the later 1793 title of a 1775 pamphlet – “The Real Rights of Man” – by British radical, Thomas Spense).

Paine was the Paris roommate of (Declaration author) Wolfe Tone‘s fellow patriot and confidante, “Citizen” Lord Edward Fitzgerald (himself a veteran of the British Army in North America); Paine was also declared an honorary United Irishman as a result of his influence and esteem – consider also the parallel between “United States of America” (a phrase coined by Paine) and the “Society of United Irishmen“;

Paine was – as were other prominent US Founding Fathers such as Jefferson and Franklin – a Deist, who promoted freedom of conscience and religious tolerance in his other great work: “The Age of Reason”.

when antiquity can no longer defend absurd and oppressive forms against the common sense and common interests of mankind;

Common Sense” was one the titles of a series of pamphlets written by Paine, that George Washington acknowledged as helping inspire many Americans into open revolution. “Common interest” may also be a synonym for the latin “res publica“, which can be translated or read as “the public thing”, “the public matter”, and is further developed as “the public interest”, common good”, “commonwealth”, or as a form of government: “republic”;

when all Government is acknowledged to originate from the people, and to be so far only obligatory as it protects their rights and promotes their welfare;

Consider the parallel with the US version:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

“Government by the people, for the people, and of the people” is the famous American dictum; the American Declaration of Independence bases its moral and philosophical force on what might be regarded as the breach of social-contract (a theory of political legitimacy propounded by John Locke, and which influenced American Founding Fathers) by the British Crown.

The United States’ Declaration was primarily written by Thomas Jefferson, who would later (while the second President under the US Constitution) make very important and influential allies of Irish radicals who had escaped after the 1798 and 1803 rebellions, in a major political realignment known as “the Second American Revolution” of the 1800 election (see “United Irishmen, United States: Immigrant Radicals in the Early Republic” by Donald A. Wilson, Cornell University Press (May 1998), ISBN-10: 0801431751, ISBN-13: 978-0801431753);

we think it our duty, as Irishmen, to come forward, and state what we feel to be our heavy grievance, and what we know to be its effectual remedy.

This parallels the American Declaration, which also laid out a schedule of grievances (as justification for total popular revocation of unjust rule – whereas the Irish at the time were not yet declaring complete independence, but rather a schedule of necessary remedies); Consider:

…But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security…

…Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world…

We have no national Government— we are ruled by Englishmen, and the servants of Englishmen whose object is the interest of another country, whose instrument is corruption, and whose strength is the weakness of Ireland; and these men have the whole of the power and patronage of the country as means to seduce and subdue the honesty and spirit of her representatives in the legislature.

Such an extreme power, acting with uniform force, in a direction too frequently opposite to the true line of our obvious interests, can be resisted with effect solely by unanimity, decision and spirit in the people — qualities which may be exerted most legally, constitutionally, and efficaciously by that great measure essential to the prosperity, and freedom of Ireland — an equal representation of all the people in Parliament. We do not here mention as grievances the rejection of a place-bill, of a pension bill, of a responsibility-bill, the sale of peerages in one house, the corruption publicly avowed in the other, nor the notorious infamy of borough traffic between both, not that we are insensible to their enormity, but that we consider them as but symptoms of that mortal disease which corrodes the vitals of our constitution, and leaves to the people in their own government but the shadow of a name.

Impressed with these sentiments, we have agreed to form an association to be called “The Society of United Irishmen,” and we do pledge ourselves to our country, and mutually to each other, that we will steadily support and endeavour, by all due means, to carry into effect the following resolutions:

FIRST RESOLVED: That the weight of English influence on the Government of this country is so great as to require a cordial union among all the people of Ireland to maintain that balance which is essential to the preservation of our liberties and the extension of our commerce.

SECOND: That the sole constitutional mode by which this influence can be opposed is by a complete and radical reform of the representation of the people in Parliament.

THIRD: That no reform is practicable, efficacious, or just, which shall not include Irishmen of every religious persuasion. Satisfied, as we are, that the intestine divisions among Irishmen have too often given encouragement and impunity to profligate, audacious and corrupt administrations, in measure which, but for these divisions, they durst not have attempted, we submit our resolutions to the nation as the basis of our political faith. We have gone to what we conceive to be the root of the evil. We have stated what we conceive to be the remedy. With a Parliament thus reformed, everything is easy; without it, nothing can be done. And we do call on, and most earnestly exhort, our countrymen in general to follow our example, and to form similar societies in every quarter of the kingdom for the promotion of constitutional knowledge, the abolition of bigotry in religion and politics, and the equal distribution of the rights of men through all sects and denominations of Irishmen. The people, when thus collected, will feel their own weight, and secure that power which theory has already admitted to be their portion, and to which, if they be not aroused by their present provocation to vindicate it, they deserve to forfeit their pretensions for ever.

Hello world!

Lúnasa 30, 2008

This is written by one or more nerds; sometimes in Irish, badly.

An Saoirsí (on-seer-shee) means The Libertista, so-to-speak.

“Saoirse” is Irish for liberty or freedom (to be able to do something, not simply the absence of restraint).

“Saoirsechairdiúl” (seer-sha-khar-dyool) means “libertarian”, in the same way that “daonchairdiúil” means “humanitarian”; the etymological meanings are “freedom-friendly” and “human-friendly” respectively.

Saoirsechairdiúileachas (seersha-khar-dyool-a-khas) means libertarianism – having a positive concern or belief that is friendly towards freedom and liberty in human affairs.

From Wikipedia:

The first known use in a political sense of the term translated into English as ‘libertarian’ was by the French anarcho-communist Joseph Déjacque who in 1857 employed the coinage libertaire in a letter to Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

In the 1940s, Leonard Read began calling himself “libertarian” because “classical” connotes an old, outdated and backwards leaning philosophy. In 1955, Dean Russell wrote an article pondering what to call those, such as himself, who subscribed to the classical liberal philosophy. He suggested: “Let those of us who love liberty trademark and reserve for our own use the good and honorable word “libertarian.”

Since then, some of our American friends have essentially tried to trademark the term “libertarianism” for themselves, in a very politically sectarian, ethnically chauvinistic manner. We are happy to disoblige them with this blog.

Libertarianism is not their property, and they don’t own it;

Libertarianism Is Yours – Is Libh Saoirsechairdiúileachas!