Since Wolfe Tone and other (mainly Protestants) members of the United Irish society brought ideas of republicanism to Ireland in the 1790s, republicanism has often been confused with simple nationalism. In fact republicanism is a lot more than simply nationalism. It contains many -isms which aim to promote an inclusivist Ireland. The most obvious one is secularism, or the separation of Church and state -so that religious differences cannot be used to disable people’s ability to live as equals in society. As a young person growing up under occupation in the North, I learned of the many –isms of republicanism, -isms which also included feminism, anti-sectarianism, anti-imperialism (in the global sense), internationalism, and indeed socialism. In Ireland and in particular in the North, where ethno-religious differences can still lead to people losing their livelihoods, their homes, their lives, I think it is incumbent on republicans to articulate a republicanism which embodies ideas such as secularism, and which is relevant to the modern world. That still means being anti-imperialist and socialist, anti-sectarian and anti-racist. It also means promoting a concept of Irishness for the modern era which is big enough to incorporate all our people as equals – Catholic, Protestant, Dissenter, but also Jew, Muslim, Traveller, new Irish, people with disabilities, people of different sexuality. That’s one reason I’ll be voting ‘YES’ in the forthcoming Marriage Equality referendum in the South.
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