If further evidence were needed of how narrow, politically bankrupt and dangerous nationalism is, then it could be found at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast on Saturday. To that criticism can also be added exclusionist.
The ‘Beyond Brexit’ conference organised by ‘civic nationalism’ and addressed by, amongst others, Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald, senior members of Fianna Fail and their new political ally the SDLP’s Colum Eastwood, was designed not to progress the debate but to polarise it.
This is not a group of people, or a political philosophy, concerned with the material conditions of ordinary people.
It represents instead, self-interested and self-serving social groups jockeying for position in a race whose outcome is yet to be confirmed using the cover of ‘rights’ to masquerade their narrow and selfish intentions.
Nationalism, Irish and British, never blames itself, never questions its actions nor reflects on its own behaviour. In the world of nationalists and nationalism someone else is always at fault.
As ‘civic nationalists’ most of them looking cautiously over their shoulders at each other, gathered in Belfast this weekend they were seeking to shift political attention away from their own failings, secure their own future positions and send a clear, unambiguous and unapologetic message to anyone who is not an Irish nationalist that a shared future does not include them.
Nationalism is not only a backward political philosophy: it is a toxic one. It seeks to divide and exploit difference. It blames others and otherness. It is a political cancer that deliberately subverts progressive politics and invariably is home to the worst examples of native gombeen men and women.
How long will it be before ‘civic unionism’ responds with its own gathering and demands for ‘unionist rights’?
Democratic secular society
The Workers Party version of a democratic secular society in Northern Ireland is based on the rights of citizens as citizens not on their allegiance to any religious or nationalist bloc.
It is for that reason that the demand for a Bill of Rights remains a fundamental part of the strategy to establish and guarantee the relationship between citizens and the state, guaranteeing the civil liberties of all citizens, regardless of communal background.
The demand for equality and democratic rights is not the property or the preserve of any bloc. Its ownership should rest firmly with citizens as citizens. Only on that basis will progress be made and citizenship flourish.
The pressing priority for Northern Ireland is not a nationalist group hug but the immediate restoration of the Assembly and the Executive to progress that agenda. But that, of course, would mean no hiding place for the failed and failing politics of nationalism.