Manorhamilton has not revolted, annexed or removed itself from Co Leitrim and the Republic of Ireland - but with ideas for a new constitution, flag, currency and political entitity, it is almost half way there!
The past two weeks have brought a new revitalization to the North Leitrim town, not only has a long time unoccupied shop been brought to life, but the locals have been pondering, discussing and forming their ideas for political, constitutional, ideological and physical reform in Manorhamilton.
The New Republic of Manorhamilton Head Quarters was located within T.A. Goldens shop which has been unoccupied for approx 20 years. Local man Niall Walsh, came up with the idea of the New Republic project as part of his residency at the Leitrim Sculpture Centre. Niall invited the citizens of the town and environs to make their contributions to the visioning of a new political entity. The object of the project was to enable the public to propose their own ideas and images of what they imagine a new republic might look like.
The project is a response to recent economic and political events and is based on the involvement and empowerment of citizenship towards envisioning collective political futures. Niall said that many have become disillusioned with politics. He said the majority of Irish political parties have buried ideologies and philosophical models and replaced them with compromise.
According to Niall there has been a “great response” from the locals, especially to the idea of editing and replacing articles and amendments to the 1937 original Irish constitution ‘Bunreacht na hÉireann’.
Gender equality was one issue that seemed to arise quite often in the different exhibits around the room. One article idea for the new constitution stated “Men and women shall partake in equal measure in housework and children. Men shall be entitled to paternity leave on the birth of a child.”
Not surprising fracking was an issue that was discussed as part of the project. One citizen suggested: “Mining shall not be undertaken in Manorhamilton environs without the consent of all the people of Manorhamilton.”
The need for adequate Traveller Accommodation and equal rights for Travellers was also mentioned. Some advised a return of the “barter system” and to move away from worthless notes, while another said “our currency should be based on the productivity of the nation.”
For the small space of time that the Leitrim Observer was present, over five people walked in off the street, chatted with Niall and proceeded to write down ideas and engaged with the different items on display.
Niall also showed the paper the many submissions from children and adults for a new flag, new stamps and a new currency for Manorhamilton. One of the creative ideas for a local currency saw the euro symbol being turned on it’s back to look like castle turrets - Manorhamilton Castle turrets to be exact!
Some flags followed the idea of a tricolour with a symbol incorporated, others changed the flag format altogether while the majority went with some fresh new colours.
A large map showing the town of Manorhamilton has been covered in post-its of what people would like to see changed in the town. The suggestions included services, infrastructure and design. The ideas vary from a “skate park” to a Rural Craft Centre, a public car park to a children’s adventure playground and community gardens.
Local political representatives have visited the HQ and some have noted what locals want in the town. “Whether they happen or not I don’t know” Niall told the paper, but the “action of writing them down is important.” Niall said that he would like to see the community coming together and “taking action” for the town instead of having to rely on Leitrim County Council to lead the change.
The political ideology board was also jam packed with ideas, philosophies for debate including those from the far right and the far left. The board discussed ideas such as the state, religion, education, health, the family etc.
Niall said that many political aspects of our past are still relevant today. ‘Socialism’ which has almost become a dirty word in our society still plays a large role in the make up of Ireland - it was the founding idea for free education and health for everyone. Niall said that people must remember our political past, they must know about other political models and their success in order to fully assess our current situation.
The Headquarters takes its inspiration from projects in Berlin and from the ‘Occupy’ movement.
The project is still full of life and is expanding each day, Niall said he is even considering the composition of a new national anthem. He spoke about the rivalry between Amhrán na bhfiann and Ireland’s Call.
The New Republic HQ has been also acting as a social hub offering tea, coffee and buns and also showing a movie/ documentary each day - with a political theme.
Although the New Republic of Manorhamilton closed it’s doors last Friday, the HQ will re-open periodically over the next few months including Culture Night on September 21.
The New Republic intends to create a website for the submission of ideas and collaboration of the information, it is hoped that although the HQ will not always be open that the ideology of a new republic can continue on locally and inspire discussions, new approaches and most importantly “Action.”
The final exhibition of this public collaboration will be in January/February 2014 at the Leitrim Sculpture Centre and possibly other locations in the town. For more information or if you want to participate and give Niall your ideas for a New Republic of Manorhamilton contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or call Niall Walsh at (087) 7555328.