This is a book about separations. To separate, here, does not mean to repudiate; it means to step back in order to rethink some of the prevailing ideas and images that have shaped the political understanding of most modern Irish citizens. My aim is not to denounce nationalism—Irish or British—out of hand, but to reinterrogate its critical implications. Hence my endeavours, in what follows, to evaluate the origins and ends of the main ideologies informing the Irish-British syndrome and to suggest how they might be critically redeployed in a new configuration. My own tentative itinerary on this path is charted, for what it is worth, in three joint-submissions to political Forums published below as Chapter 5—Forum for a New Ireland (1983), Opsahl Commission (1993), Forum for Peace and Reconciliation (1995). These represent three stages in a transition from what might broadly be called a nationalist to a postnationalist position. I include them not out of self-regard, but because I consider it unwise for anyone today to speak about the ‘national question’ without also stating where he/she is speaking from.
At a more theoretical level, this volume attempts to separate out a number of elided terms which have conditioned the political culture of these islands. I am thinking, for example, about the separation of region from state, state from nation, nation from republic, republicanism from nationalism, nationality from sovereignty, absolute sovereignty from shared sovereignty, internationalism from supranationalism, federation from centralization. And I am thinking, further, about the disentangling of these separated terms into their various kinds and qualifications—e.g. nationalism into ‘civic’, ‘ethnic’, ‘romantic’, ‘economic’, ‘separatist’, ‘sectarian’ and ‘cultural’; republicanism into ‘classical’, ‘modern’ and ‘postmodern’. In each case, it is a question of unpacking wholes in favour of parts; of differentiating in order to better apprehend; of disassembling the ideologies which have undergirded the parallel