I am a Republican, but I haven’t always been. I was born into a Protestant and Unionist family post Good Friday Agreement.
Before this I had family in the British Army and the RUC. I believed these people were defending the North from terrorists. I would look around and see Rangers football shirts. On the Queen’s birthday I have waved a small Union flag.
In short, I believed I was British, and this was total normality to me.
I went to an integrated school which doesn’t deserve the title integrated. I learnt about the Battle of the Boyne and British kings and queens. The only thing I knew of the Irish Rebellion was the year it happened.
In this school casual sectarianism was normal, and an eye wouldn’t be batted at it. Fenian, Hun, Taig you’d hear and say daily.
I also remember making a joke about Bloody Sunday, which is probably the most shameful thing I can remember saying, as well as believing what the UVF did was justified.
Now I can see these beliefs and jokes were abhorrent, but when you are raised this way you viewed Republicans as invaders who were out for your blood, despite this not being reality.
Now it seems like a form of brainwashing young Protestants go through. There was a total siege mentality.
I was too young to vote but I was planning to vote DUP when I reached the age, even though I am a bisexual and they don’t support my right to marriage, even though I am pro-choice and even though they implement crushing austerity which grinds away at the working class.
Seeing the true nature of the things I believed in
Approximately two years ago I took a class in sociology.
I was introduced to three theoretical perspectives, two which I still hold dearly as my core beliefs: functionalism, which I don’t hold, feminism and Marxism, which I do still hold.
I was instantly hooked on the idea of class conflict and how capitalism works. It just instantly made sense, coming from a working-class background.
That night when I went home I started reading into Marxism. I bought a Communist Manifesto, half jokingly, out of pure curiosity, which is still sitting on my shelf.
I was absolutely astonished when I finished looking into Marxism. For several weeks everything which I had held as good, the free market, capitalism, unionism (mind you, I was a right-wing libertarian before I was a Marxist) were all torn down around me, and I saw the true nature of the things I believed in.
However, even after I considered myself a Marxist the last thing I let go of was my sense of “Britishness,” which I now cringe at typing. For the first time I called myself Irish.
I firmly believe that, as Connolly said, Britain had no right in Ireland, has no right in Ireland, and can never have any right in Ireland. I was finished with unionism.
So how, then, do we show more unionists the evils of British imperialism and capitalism?
It’s no surprise that unionist communities, such as the Shankill Road, have been decimated by austerity from the Tories, DUP, and Sinn Féin, and we as Socialist Republicans have to reach a hand out to places like the Shankill Road and large swathes of East Belfast and show these people that we are not evil murderers, we are people who want to help free them from the austerity imposed by people who they currently believe they have no choice but to vote for: the DUP.
This is how we will win the hearts and minds of people who currently consider themselves Unionist, soft or hard. This is a process we must undertake.
- Creig McRoibín is a member of the Connolly Youth Movement.