It is necessary for us to come to a decision at once on what our attitude is to
be with regard to the elections for the Ulster Six County
The fundamental question is: How many Ulster representatives can
be elected on the 'abstention' policy. That can be approximately determined by
a careful examination of the results of the last parliamentary and local
elections, supplemented by the consideration of whether the Republican voters of
the last election will, under the new circumstances, stand for this abstention
policy, and to what extent we can hope for an accession from the Nationalists.
Unless we are able to secure about one-fourth (), or at least one-fifth
() - say 10 members - of the total representation for the Republican and Nationalist
side, I think it would be inadvisable to show up our weakness, for if the
Unionists can secure a majority of much more than three to one, the British will use it
in a world-wide way to make it appear that partition was justified.
It would be better in that case for us to boycott the elections altogether, but
if we get over one-fourth or so of the representation I think that the
arguments are altogether in favor of vigorously contesting the seats, it being
understood that the representatives elected will become members of Dail Eireann.
The arguments it seems to me in favor of contesting the seats, provided
the condition of a prospect of at least ten successful candidates be fulfilled,
- It is the course most directly in line with our past policy and least liable to misrepresentation in foreign countries.
- The unity of Republican sentiment throughout Ireland will be demonstrated. Letting the elections go by default will be construed as a throwing up of the sponge on our part as far as the North is concerned. It will be taken that we have given way to 'Partition', and our friends in the North will be thrown of necessity into the Nationalist, or old Party camp, - a result which might later have a dangerous reactionary effect, by contagion, on the South.
- The contesting of the elections by us will strengthen our movement in the North, perhaps eliminating the old Party group altogether. This is bound also to have its effect on the South - a result favourable to us.
- Contesting the elections will prevent 'Independents' (Nationalist) from going forward. It is difficult to say how this can be affected otherwise, because they are sure to be attracted by the prospect of a substantial Nationalist or Republican vote which is likely to be given them resulting from the animosity towards the Unionists that undoubtedly exists in the North. Any such independent candidature would weaken our position.
- Contesting the elections will almost, as well as if we boycotted
them, tend to divide the Unionists into Labour and Capitalist groups. If
the Nationalists are not represented in the Parliament (assuming it functions
at all), the struggle for power will be altogether between the Unionists
themselves. This struggle of course will not reach its height until the Parliament is
sitting, but if it is made clear in advance that the Nationalists will take no share in
the working of the Parliament the struggle between the two sections of the
Unionists will develop as early as the election campaign itself, though not perhaps
as definitely as if we boycotted the elections.
- A great moral effect will be secured if, having contested the election
and won a substantial proportion of the representation we boycott the
Northern Parliament and attach this representation to Dail Eireann. If we boycott
the elections, the extent and significance of the boycott can only be expressed
in very indefinite terms through vague statistics which will not carry conviction to the outsider to anything like the extent that a definite number of members elected representing a definitely ascertained vote would. In fact, in my
opinion, the boycott of the elections as distinct from a boycott of the Parliament, is
bound to be interpreted in the sense referred to in (b) viz: as a throwing up of
the sponge because of the weakness of which we were conscious.
- The fact that the elections will be under the P. R. system will
diminish the danger that our entry would have in tending to solidify or amalgamate
the Unionist groups. The reason for amalgamation in the past was as a rule
the danger of three-cornered contests under the old system. I have not yet
studied the P. R. system in use, but if it gives results even approximately 'proportional' the amalgamation of groups should give but
comparatively little advantage.
In favour of a boycott of the elections, I can see only the following arguments:
- That the division between the Unionist sections would then develop
more quickly and more intensely during the campaign as each of the sections
would realise more clearly than if we were in the contest that
the struggle for power is between themselves alone. It should be our business, however, to see that
this effect is not lost even though we do enter into the contest. It should not
be difficult to make it clear from the beginning that successes by us in the
elections will have nothing to do with the power of parties in the parliament
inasmuch as our representatives will not go to that parliament.
- Simplicity of 'not bothering' attitude.