Wednesday 21 February 2007

The Plough Vol 04 No 05

The Plough
Vol. 4- No 5
Wednesday 21st February 2007

E-mail newsletter of the
Irish Republican Socialist Party

1) Editorial

2) The New Northern Ireland

3) What’s On?


"...Even where there is no prospect of achieving their election the workers must put up their own candidates to preserve their independence, to gauge their own strength and to bring their revolutionary position and party standpoint to public attention. They must not be led astray by the empty phrases of the democrats, who will maintain that the workers' candidates will split the democratic party and offer the forces of reaction the chance of victory. All such talk means, in the final analysis, that the proletariat is to be swindled. The progress which the proletarian party will make by operating independently in this way is infinitely more important than the disadvantages resulting from the presence of a few reactionaries in the representative body."

-- Karl Marx and Frederick Engels

Address Of The Central Committee To The Communist League

March 1850

The above quotation from Marx and Engels bears some relevance to the Ireland of today. The coming assembly elections in the North are based around identity politics, a fact brought out well in the article by comrade Liam entitled “The New Northern Ireland”. Liam’s argument is highlighted by our Whats’On section, where three separate public meetings on the issue of water rates are advertised.

Three separate campaigns weakening an already weakened and divided working class and socialist movement. But that should not lead to the politics of despair nor to the left sinking back into gas and water socialism. The IRSP have only endorsed one candidate in the coming elections, Peggy O’Hara, mother of dead INLA volunteer and hunger striker Patsy O’ Hara. We urge all our supporters and friends to rally in support for Peggy, who is standing to highlight the fact that not all republicans endorse British police rule and to clearly state that the national question will not go away. Those associated with Provisional Sinn Fein may and do argue what is the alternative?

For the IRSP the alternative is very clearly set out not only in the writings of great socialist republicans and Marxists like James Connolly but in the radical writings of many Marxists. It is certainly not by trying to restart a war against Imperialism. That is the road to despair and defeat. Those who either argue for or try to carry on armed struggle at this time are no friends of the Irish working class

Nor is the way forward helped by trying to recreate the Provisionals agenda only with “true republicans” in the leadership. The failure of the Provo strategy was not leadership based but policy based. And it is only politics and for us that is class politics that will transform this island. The alternative is to build a revolutionary based movement prepared to fight elections in all parts of the island, lead mass struggles win support in the trade unions and energized the youth to see the relevance of socialist ideas and rescue republicanism from its identification with “catholic” politics.

There are no short cuts. The way forward may be difficult and there are many obstacles not least our own inhibitions and lack of political education. But if we remain principled flexible and do the work of winning the working class to socialist ideas and policies then we gradually turn this period of downturn in the overall struggle into the beginnings of a new upsurge in mass struggle.

John Martin

Re: Peggy O'Hara Election Fighting Fund

Details from the IRSP locally. Call 028 71 353090 or call into Teach na Failte, Unit 14 Lenamore Business Park

Election fighting fund Disco night in McGrath’s Bar, Cliftonville Road, Belfast Friday 2nd March 2007 £4 for Tickets Available from 392 Falls Road Belfast


News reports are increasingly dominated by the 'success story' of the 'New Northern Ireland'.

" There is an optimism and realism in Northern Ireland today that is dissolving ancient prejudices and boosting business confidence, the essential underpinning for growth and prosperity. Belfast and Londonderry have been transformed by peace: business parks are springing up in place of derelict shipyards, while restaurants and cafés cater to a more relaxed public culture, and the walls of Derry are attracting tourists who no longer have need to be nervous." (1)

Northern Ireland has been tipped by Lonely Planet as one of the must-see countries to visit in 2007.

"There is no better time to see Northern Ireland than now. Freed from the spectre of the gun by cease-fires and political agreement; it's abuzz with life: the cities are pulsating, the economy is thriving and the people...are in good spirits." Belfast is also mentioned in another part of the book as one of the top ten "Cities on the Rise". (2)

"Many UK cities have been regenerated in recent years but it is doubtful whether any have been transformed as dramatically as Belfast. Its image in the 1970s was of a city dominated by the threat of terrorism; its streets at best bleak and grey, and at worst reduced to rubble after another bomb attack. Today, however, Belfast is emerging as a shiny new metropolis of head-turning galleries, museums, restaurants, luxury hotels - and exciting new property developments." (3)

The Belfast skyline is now dominated by schemes such as Lanyon Place with its £20m Hilton Hotel, £35m BT Tower and £30m Fujitsu building and the Odyssey Complex, a £91m entertainment, leisure and education centre, alongside such massive regeneration projects as Europe's largest commercial and residential waterfront development, the Titanic Quarter.

One of the most visible signs of the 'new Northern Ireland' has been the immigration instead of the traditional emigration. It's estimated 35 000 ethnic minorities have settled in the North and there are another 50 000 migrant workers. Sign of the times, a thousand Poles recently applied to join the PSNI. The 'Troubles' as they were called by the media seem to be largely over. The IRA campaign is over and it has destroyed all its arms.

"The war is over. Let's build the peace" concluded Gerry Adams. (4) With a few exceptions, so-called 'paramilitary prisoners' have all been released on licence between 1998 and 2000 and HMP The Maze is being demolished. The security landscape in Belfast, Derry and South Armagh has changed. By 1 August 2007, British troops will be reduced to 5000 and the number of sites where they are stationed will be reduced to 14 from about 40 while most watchtowers will be demolished, bringing the 35 years Operation Banner -the longest in British Army history- to an end.

"The moves are part of the government's security normalisation plans."(5) Normalisation has been a British state strategy since the mid-1970s. Today is less a post-conflict situation than a successful normalisation. From a Republican perspective, this is hardly a gain. As an IRA leader concluded as early as 1975: "Suppose we get the release of all detainees, an amnesty and withdrawal of troops to barracks, we are still back where we started in 1969."(6)

But from a British state perspective, it is a clear success. As PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde concludes, "there has been (successful) normalisation".(7)

Claims that the North could somehow become an 'Orange Tiger' are totally unrealistic. In the words of Lord Trevor Smith of Clifton, the reality is that the North has "an economy more collectivized than Stalin‚s Russia, more corporatist than Mussolini‚s and more quangoised than Wilson and Health‚s United Kingdom governments." (8)

Conservative writer Alan Ruddock writes:

"Eight years on from the historic Good Friday Agreement, the much-longed-for dividends of peace remain an elusive dream for the province...The province's once-vibrant manufacturing sector has been relentlessly eroded over the past 35 years; its dependence on traditionally labour-intensive industries such as textiles and shipbuilding mean that it has suffered exponentially at the hands of globalisation. More than 100,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost since 1970, and there's no end in sight. Inward investment is sluggish and indigenous entrepreneurialism low-key; employment is now concentrated around a service sector that is an extension of mainland Britain's. The result is an economy that has more in common with the old communist regimes in Eastern Europe than with the dynamism just across the border in the Republic of Ireland, where the Celtic Tiger has delivered remarkable and sustained growth for more than a decade. Public spending by the British government is responsible for 63% of Northern Ireland's gross domestic product, and the state directly employs about a third of all those in work, double the rates south of the border and substantially more than in the rest of the UK. The effect is economic sclerosis, with statistics that point to steady economic growth masking Northern Ireland's suckling dependency on government spending. Last year, Northern Ireland received £5 billion more from the British government than it contributed, a subvention that has been rising steadily each year despite a decade of 'peace', yet the province remains one of the poorest regions in the UK, with GDP per head of population almost 20% below the UK average. Low unemployment figures of 4% conceal the fact that the levels of economic inactivity are far higher than the rest of the UK, with the number of people on incapacity benefit 74% higher than average, while university graduates leave in droves. Even demographics are against it: the province's baby-boomers are some 10 years older than their counterparts in the Republic, while school enrolment has been falling steadily for the past nine years and is forecast to fall by a further 10% in the next nine years. It’s a grim backdrop, made incalculably worse by the dismal politics that have characterised the province since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998." (9)

The performance of private enterprise is "dismal":

"There are fewer than ten plcs; the largest is the privatised electricity board. The province also has the second-lowest level of business start-ups in the UK. In spite of all the various subsidies from Whitehall, the European Union and even money from the Irish Republic, average wages are 20 per cent lower than the UK average, while the large number of people deemed to be "economically inactive" makes a mockery of the "historically low" figure of 36,000 unemployed. The boom, such as there is, has not been driven from within - hence the frustration from Northern Ireland's paymasters."(10)

Jobs have been lost faster than they were created in the North, so much for the 'vibrant knowledge-based economy'. (11)

As for the much-heralded financial package going with the St Andrews deal

"is akin to receiving a pair of Primark socks for Christmas instead of a pair of Gucci shoes." (12)

Despite this, there are claims that Northern Ireland's business growth is booming and employment is rising at a record rate, according to research from the Ulster Bank. The bank found that business activity has gone up for 46 months in a row.(13) The reason for this apparent growth is the housing market.

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, found in its European Housing Review 2007 that Northern Ireland experienced a 36% price growth in 2006 -the highest in Europe.(14) This is especially true of areas which were once synonymous with the conflict that are now becoming property hotspots.

In the loyalist Shankill Road, terraced houses rose from £70 000 to £130 000 in a year. (15) House prices in Nationalist West Belfast have increased by 22 per cent in the past three months. There is currently an average of eight people bidding on each available property. Houses that were being sold for £40 000 15 years ago are now going for over £200 000. Property speculators and the growth of the buy-to-let market are pushing the cost of homes out of the reach of people, particularly first-time buyers. House prices are being fuelled by mortgage companies who are giving out 40-year mortgages and mortgages of up to five times one's salary. This can lead to debt and danger for young people and first-time buyers.

The lack of affordable housing is compounded by the serious under-provision of social housing: latest figures from the Housing Executive show that at the end of March last year there were 2 575 people on the social housing list in West Belfast. The result is that thousands of people looking for affordable housing, thousands of people trapped on waiting lists for social housing and spiraling homelessness. (16)

Things are made worse by the fact that the government is not releasing enough land for houses to be built on. Compared to England, twice as many houses need to be built in Northern Ireland. According to Sir John Semple, who was appointed by the Government to look into the housing crisis:

"The very sharp rise in house prices in Northern Ireland has created a new situation here. The market here has changed from a relatively stable one to one where house prices in some areas are ahead of the UK -in a province where earnings are 20% lower."

He said the latest Council of Mortgage Lenders figures show the number of first-time buyers has halved from 60% to 30%. First time buyers are being outbid by investors -70% of new homes are bought by investors. (17) Investors purchase properties in order to let them. A study by the University of Ulster revealed that the buy-to-let sector in NI has grown by 120% over the past 15 years. There is evidence of increasing numbers of vacant properties in the private rented sector. By 2004 there were over 12 000 vacant properties, bringing the total number of private rented properties to 75 000.(18)

With rise in house prices, homeowners have built up over £58bn in equities in their properties over the last ten years. The average homeowner has made £134 000 and many people have become millionaires. This accounts for the growing numbers of new bars, cafes, restaurants, shops and flashy car dealerships. Jas Mooney opened Belfast's first 'style bar', The Apartment, in 2001. Since then his Botanic Inns group opened one trendy drinking spot after the other as there is a growing market for it. (19) The appearance of new life style publications such as South Belfast Life reflect the growth of new money. (20)

This provides the material basis for the collapse of political consciousness of the so-called 'anti-imperialist masses' of the so-called 'most politicised community in Western Europe', namely the republican base. What were once 'war zones' are now a kind of 'Republican Disneyland' for tourists. (21) The famous murals from being symbols of resistance are now totally commodified. (22) To a large extent, prosperity has killed Republicanism "by kindness". It has created a whole class of conservative property owners and small shopkeepers with the most philistine kulak and nepmen mentality.

This can be illustrated by the evolution of the Andersonstown News, a large circulation community newspaper in the Sinn Fein heartland of West Belfast. From being the official voice of the Andersonstown Central Civil Resistance Committee the paper now celebrates the local entrepreneurial spirit and has an extensive property supplement. Some years ago, after visiting Indian reservations in the US its editor suggested opening casinos in republican areas! Its enthusiasm for the South African peace process is fuelled by the fact that there never has been so many black millionaires.

Young people are politically apathetic and morally nihilistic. For many, the 'struggle' is not something contemporary. The population in the North is one of the youngest in Europe. Over 40 percent is aged 29 or less, and nearly 60 percent is under the age of 40.(23) There is a generation gap between those who were involved in the war, many of whom are already grandparents, and people who will first be able to vote now who were ten years old at the time of the 1998 Belfast Agreement.

Apologists for the Provisional strategy such as Laurence McKeown and Jim Gibney argue that the peace process has made life better for Nationalists in the North, and that the struggle was successful to the extent that never again will Nationalists be second-class citizens.(24) It is undeniable that life is better for many Nationalists. The 1998 Belfast Agreement copper-fastened partition; yet it also involved the advancing of nationalist communal interest within the North itself. As Suzanne Breen points:

"Certainly the Agreement represents advancement in many areas for Catholics in the North -but within the existing constitutional arrangements."(25)

Material prosperity has gone hand in hand with political apathy. The latest electoral register shows that the number of people entitled to vote is 7% down on last year with 82 000 fewer on the electoral register. Republican areas are "disproportionately affected" by registration shortfalls. West Belfast has been the hardest hit, with "twice as many as any other constituency stripped from the last register". (26) The nationalist community may be dynamic, however "it should be noted that the celebration of a community spirit is not discouraged by the British government. It is part of the process of transforming political aspirations into cultural ones."(27)

It is in the shift towards identity politics that the collapse of political consciousness is most evident. Politics are now about the recognition of the nationalist 'identity' and ensuring its 'parity of esteem' within the North. The shift from politics to culture and sport can be illustrated by debates about the funding of the West Belfast Feile festival, the development of a Gaelic quarter in Belfast and the use and redevelopment of the GAA Casement Park.

Denis O Hearn's political biography of Bobby Sands Nothing But and Unfinished Song has now been readapted as a children story in Irish entitled D'Eirigh Me ar Maidin (I arose this morning). Loyalism has found new legitimacy thanks to the shift towards identity politics. It is now a legitimate identity, which needs 'parity of esteem' rather than a form of political supremacist that needs to be fought.

Orange marches can now be rebranded as aesthetics of percussion rather than sectarian intimidation. The twelfth of July is allegedly the largest carnival in Europe. Re-branded in the language of cultural studies, loyalism has even proved to be very popular with ex-leftwing publishers in Britain like Pluto Press. (Also note that while the media has concentrated on the issue of IRA decommissioning, it has totally failed to make an issue of the fact that not a single UVF or UDA weapon has been decommissioned, and worse they have not remained silent!)

The other symptom signaling the collapse of political consciousness is the shift from political solutions to therapy. The idea is that what is needed even more than radical change or political transformation is therapy, a helping had to 'get over' things. (28) 'Truth body is 'top priority' was the headline of the Irish News (20 February 2007) The Bloody Sunday Inquiry as well as the attempt to set up some kind of Truth and Reconciliation Commission for example are based on this idea. As Bernadette McAliskey argued about the Bloody Sunday inquiry:

'This inquiry is like therapy. It has allowed people to tell their stories, it has had a therapeutic effect for many people in Derry - but that is not what an inquiry is about. It is not the function of public inquiries to facilitate people's grieving processes’. (29)

This focuses on individual experience and memory. But in the process, the more political and structural aspects of the conflict are forgotten.

It is true that prosperity has at best been uneven. Northern Ireland's house prices may be rising by £600 a week but less than a mile from south Belfast's most prestigious properties, some residents are living in squalor. (30) If people further up the social ladder have done well out of the peace - the gap between rich and poor is higher than in the rest of Britain. (31)

The poorest members of society in NI, both Catholics and Protestants, are worse off now than 10 years ago. (32) Half of Northern Ireland's population has an income of less than £300 a week, according to a government report. The study found that the number of people living below the average income was high compared to the rest of the UK. Pensioners are particularly affected with over 50% living on less than the national average. (33) According to university researchers, 37.4% of children are growing up in poor households, and the poorest 40% of households have 17% of total household income. The report concluded that 'Northern Ireland is one of the most unequal societies in the developed world.' (34) And the poverty gap is growing rather than decreasing. (35)

Despite the spin about prosperity, the tendency towards deprivation is likely to increase further. An influential think tank, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, has warned in a report (Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion in Northern Ireland) that rising rates and impeding water charges will send countless families plunging into poverty. (36)

Apart from economic deprivation, there are also growing symptoms of alienation and social anomy. A study carried out by the University of Ulster and the Department of Psychiatry at the Belfast Mater Hospital found that suicides have sharply risen since the Peace Process.(37) Young men from deprived areas of North and West Belfast have been particularly affected.(38) There has also been a sharp increase in crime and anti social behavior, particularly so in Nationalist areas. (39) A PSNI detective said that in nationalist area of West Belfast, car crime had increased by 48% and burglary by 15%. (40) Gerry Adams stated that the single biggest election issue in his West Belfast constituency was anti social behaviour. It was the only issue people wanted to talk about on their doorsteps.(41) He also said in 2002 that

"We do have a problem with alcohol abuse, with prescription drug-taking, with solvent abuse and with illicit drug abuse such as cannabis, ecstasy, and a growing problem of cocaine use."(42)

This is not to mention the alcohol and binge drinking problem. Those symptoms are an indication that whatever social discontent is now expressed in a criminal or privatised form rather than a collective political one. With a culture of paranoid parenting and the rise of the therapeutical state, it is unlikely that political consciousness might arise from this situation.

Nowhere is this most evident than in the recent campaigns organised against the introduction of water taxes. The fact that oppositional politics are now reduced to what Connolly called "gas and water" socialism is in itself an indication of how successfully normalised the North has become. In a balance sheet of the campaign against water privatisation, Socialist Democracy (ex-People's Democracy) noted:

"The fundamental weakness of the campaign against the water charges was the lack of organised working class opposition. This itself was a reflection of the low level of political consciousness amongst the working class in the North, and related to this, the continuing hold of the dead hand of the bureaucracy on the trade union movement. It also shows that, contrary to the unstated assumptions of the Œwe won‚t pay‚ campaigns, you cannot simply bypass that existing leadership. It has to be challenged. The lack of an organised working class opposition also undermined our own arguments which looked to water workers, and more generally public sector workers, to lead a fight against privatisation. This was emphasised by the lack of reaction to the privatisation of water treatment facilities. The government‚s water reform policy has not been sufficient in itself to provoke the sort of reaction amongst the working class that could translate into a serious opposition movement. This cannot be created by small campaigns such as our own."(43)

Some may challenge the idea that there is a lack of working class opposition and a low level of political consciousness by pointing to the growth of trade union membership in the North. Total trade union membership in the North now stands at 250 948. Members paid a total of £20 million in contributions. 75% of members are affilitated to UK unions, 20% to Northern Ireland ones, and only 5% to Irish unions.

The public sector dominates with over 65% of membership, NIPSA being the largest with 43076 members.(44) With the dominance of British unions and of the public sector (which includes many unionised 'workers in uniform'...) this hardly provides a basis to develop political consciousness; especially since Anglo-Saxon unionism is based on the separation of politics and economics.

The extent of discontent and how much could be mobilised into political protest is unclear at the present moment. It is also too early to know how successful the Provisional movement will be in reforming the Northern state and the extent to which this will reconcile the vast majority of Nationalists to the status quo. However the collapse of political consciousness means that any attempt to build an alternative will be extremely difficult. Objective and subjective factors are heavily weighted against us.


(1) Editorial, Ulster moves forward, the Times, 5 October 2006. See also Editorial, A sign of rising confidence, The Independent 3 February 2007

(2) Lonely Planet Blue List: The Best in Travel 2007, pp.150-151

(3) Ben West, Belfast's ship comes in, The Observer, 8 October 2006

(4) Gerry Adams, Time is Right for Policing Decision, The Sunday Life, 21 January 2007

(5) Troop withdrawal plan published, BBC 28 March 2006,

(6) Paul Bew and Henry Patterson, The British State and the Ulster Crisis, London: Verso, 1985, p.84

(7) NI murder rate lowest in 20 years, BBC 8 February 2007,

(8) Lord Trevor Smith of Clifton, Hansard, 20 July 2004 c.152

(9) Alan Ruddock, Northern Ireland - Where is the bright new future? Management Today, 23 March 2006,

(10) John Kampfner, Divided in Peace, The New Statesman, 20 November 2006

(11) Jobs lost despite huge investment, BBC 26 September 2006,

(12) Tom Kelly,'Peace dividend' leaves north short-changed, The Irish News, 6 November 2006

(12) Bank report on NI 'business boom', BBC 12 February 2007,

Original report:

(13) Alexandra Cochrane, NI house prices rising fastest in Europe -report, The Irish Times, 8 February 2007

(14) Helen Carson, Ulster's latest house price hotspot: the Shankill Road, Belfast Telegraph, 26 January 20007

(15) Roisin McManus, West House Prices soar, The Andersonstown News, 08 February 2007

(16) Helen Carson, Overhaul is only way to solve Ulster House crisis, The Belfast Telegraph, 2 February 2007

(17) University of Ulster News Release, Rental Sector Booms, But Vacancies Grow, 13th February 2007,

(18) Yvette Shapiro, NI homeowners 'paper millionaires', BBC 13 February 2007,

(19) Carissa Casey, Belfast bar owners toast their success, The Sunday Times, 15 January 2006

(20) Fionola Meredith, Knocking the froth off, The Irish Times, 23 November 2004

(21) For example: Anne Jouan, A Belfast-Ouest, avec les anciens de l'IRA, Le Figaro, 14 Septembre 2006

(22) The contrast is evident between Bill Rolston, Drawing Support: Murals in the North of Ireland, Belfast: Beyond the Pale Publications, 1992 and the later Bill Rolston, Drawing Support: Murals and Transition in the North of Ireland, Belfast: Beyond the Pale Publications, 2003


(24) Jim Gibney, Spirit of '69 still hindered by obstacles, The Irish News, 21 July 2005

(25) Suzanne Breen, On the One Road, Fortnight, September 2000

(26) Damian McCarney, One in four voters not on the register, Andersonstown News, 7 December 2006

(27) Mark Ryan, War and Peace in Ireland, London: Pluto Press, 1994, p.135

(28) Brendan O Neill, Bloody Sunday: Why Now?

(29) 'It has nothing to do with the truth',

(30) Squalor on shadow of property boom, BBC 7 June 2006,

(31) Mary O Hara, False Dawn, The Guardian 24 November 2004. (,11499,1357823,00.html)

See also publications of the Nothern Ireland anti poverty network:

(32) Poor 'worse off now than in 1996' BBC 14 September 2006,

(33) Report highlights NI poverty rate, BBC 4 May 2006,

(34) Third of children 'live in poverty', BBC 13 October 2003,

(35) NI poverty levels 'on increase', BBC 18 October 2005,

(36) Bimpte Fatogun, Poverty levels in the north will soar, The Irish News, 17 November 2006

(37) Suicides 'lower during troubles', BBC 30 August 2005,

(38) Belfast Suicides expose despair, BBC 18 February 2004,

(39) Press Association, More crimes in nationalist areas reported, 2 February 2006,

(40) 600 incidents in 'families' feud', BBC, 27 September 2006,

(41) West Belfast's biggest issue?, BBC 23 May 2001,



(44) David Gordon, Trade Union Membership up by 5400 in one year, Belfast Telegraph 6 February 2007

What’s On?

Public Meeting

The evaluation of your bill is in. We already pay for water through our rates. Don‚t pay twice. Come to this meeting to discuss how we can beat the water charges.

Water Charges, Privatisation and Poverty in West Belfast

Bernadette McAliskey speaks at election launch of Pb4profit

7.30pm Wednesday 21st February

Conway Mill


Bernadette McAliskey, Civil Rights activist, Youngest ever woman MP, STEP

Sean Mitchell Youngest ever candidate to stand for the Assembly, for Non-Payment of Water

Charges Fiona McCausland Community Worker, Old Warren, Communities against Water Charges

Public meeting on water privatisation with Prof. David Hall

Transport House, Belfast

Thursday 22 February 2007 7.30pm

Communities against Water Charges - public meeting next tuesday

Communities against Water Taxes

Major Public Meeting on Water Charges

“Don’t Pay Twice” speakers include John Corey(General Secretary NIPSA)

Manus Maguire (CAWT)7.30pm February 27th Grosvenor House

Press Release

“Don’t pay Twice”

On the back of the very successful Communities against the Water Tax (CAWT) meeting held in Derry last week where close to 200 met to establish a non-payment campaign throughout the North West, CAWT will be holding a major public meeting in Belfast on Tuesday February 27th.

The meeting will take place at Grosvenor House starting at 7.30pm and will feature John Corey, General Secretary of the Northern Ireland Public Service Association, Manus Maguire (Communities against the Water Tax) and other community and trade union speakers.Manus Maguire from Communities against the Water Tax said “We are holding this meeting after the very successful Communities against Water Taxes in Derry last week.”

“Everyone knows what is happening with water charges. We already pay for water through our rates and the government is trying to make us pay twice for water. Here where wages are lower on average than elsewhere, where we have a huge number of people relying solely on income from benefits to charge people twice is a disgrace. It’s even worse than that because the government has lied all along about the fact that we already pay for our water service.”

“This is also about creating a cash flow so that the government can hand the service over to a private company once the charges are established.”“The government is in for a fight and CAWT will be organising a non-payment campaign alongside the Trade Union Movement in every locality across Northern Ireland. There is no way this tax is coming in. It’s that simple. They can find the money somewhere else.”For interviews or further information Contact Manus Maguire (CAWT) on

07748801277 – 02890 749147


Friday 23 February, 8:30–10 p.m.

Gala reopening of Connolly House

▶43 East Essex Street

Connolly House—home of the Communist Party of Ireland, the Connolly Youth Movement, Connolly Books, the New Theatre and the Progressive Film Club, and meeting-place of the Ionad Buail Isteach and other social and cultural organisations—is reopening following its complete renovation. In addition to its previous resources, Connolly House now adds a coffee bar as well as the CPI Archives (under the direction of a professional archivist).

★Address of welcome by the oldest and the youngest member of the party

★Short address by the general secretary of the CPI, Eugene McCartan, and general secretary of the Connolly Youth Movement, Gareth Murphy

★Formal opening by the national chairperson of the CPI, Lynda Walker

★Live music ★Refreshments

All are welcome


Friday 23 February, 8 p.m.

Fund-raising social

Live music

▶National Social Club (Queen Street)

Tickets: £5 (unwaged and low-waged £2.50)

Organised by the International Brigade Commemoration Committee

Further information: (048) 90771491

Belfast Saturday 24 February

Irish-language act now!

March to demand an Irish-language act for the North of Ireland

▶Assemble at the Cultúrlann (Falls Road), 1 p.m


Saturday 24 February, 3 p.m.

Guantánamo Bay events

Speaker: Mozzam Begg (former Guantánamo prisoner). Chairperson: Bernadette McAliskey

▶Rock Theatre, Belfast Institute of Further and Higher Education (College Square, East) Belfast

Saturday 24 February, 8 p.m.

“Make Guantánamo history”

Video presentation and music from the world-famous American protest singer David Rovics, with Terry “Cruncher” O’Neill and Barry Kerr. Guest speaker: Éamonn McCann (anti-war activist).

▶Roddy McCorley Club Rooms (Glen Road)

Doors open 7:30 p.m. Admission £5


Saturday 24 February

National rally

▶Assemble at Garden of Remembrance (Parnell Square East and North), 2 p.m.

Organised by Shell to Sea

Further information:




International Women’s Day event

Saturday 10 March 2007, 12:15 pm
Women in the Front Line of the struggle for justice and progress

Speaker: Nadia Harb

Palestinian People’s Party

Transport House: Belfast (102 High Street) Organised by the Communist Party of Ireland Organised by the Communist Party of Ireland
Further information: 077 51951785

Béal Feirste

Saturday 10 March, 12:15 p.m.

International Women’s Day event

Public meeting

Speaker: Nadia Harb (Palestinian People’s Party)

▶Transport House (102 High Street)

Organised by the CPI

Further information: 077 51951785

Thursday 22 March, 7 p.m. International Women's Day event

Doffers and Dockers: Belfast Industrial Struggles, 1906-7

Speaker: Theresa Moriarty

(author of biographies of Delia Larkin of the Irish Women Workers' Union and

Mary Galway of the Textile Operatives' Society of Ireland). Chairperson:

Dawn Purvis (T&GWU). ?Linen Hall Library (Fountain Street)

Organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions

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It is the policy of the Plough to acknowledge information and articles from other sources.

The Republican Socialist Youth Movement have re-launched their website.

It can be viewed at

An Glór / The Voice

News sheet of Belfast Republican Socialist Youth Movement

January 2007

Circulation: 400

- Brit police never acceptable

- Maghaberry Prison protest continues

- Assets Recovery Agency, a question of money

- Support the Turkish death fast

- Ard Fheis rejects any move towards INLA decommissioning

- Volunteer Davy McNutt RIP

The Republican Socialist Youth Movement have produced a short video on the situation concerning Shannon airport and its continued use by American troops and the CIA. The video can be viewed at

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Wednesday 14 February 2007

The Plough Vol 04 No 04

The Plough
Vol. 4- No 4
Thursday 14th February 2007

E-mail newsletter of the
Irish Republican Socialist Party

1) Editorial



4) What’s On?


This edition of the Plough is devoted entirely to an article about understanding the Irish peace process. It totally cuts the ground from all those who claim that process as a success. It is neither a model for the Basque struggle nor indeed a model for the Irish struggle. This article should be required reading for the international left, Irish republicans of whatever persuasion, and those socialists anywhere who ever had illusions in either the provisional movement or in the so called “peace process”. It totally exposes the fact that the Emperor despite fooling many of his followers has indeed no clothes.


by Xabier JIMENEZ and Liam O RUAIRC

The conflict in Ireland has essentially been one between the "principle of self-determination without external impediment" and the so-called "principle of consent". The demarcation between republicanism and other political forces like constitutional nationalism (government parties in the south of Ireland such as Fianna Fail or the SDLP in the North), unionism and the British state is the principle of consent.

The essence of Republicanism in Ireland is democracy. Democracy is rule of the people, by the people in the interests of the people. For Republicans, the people of Ireland should be able to determine their own future democratically (that is 'self-determination') without external impediment.

British interference in Ireland is a barrier to democracy. The problem is that the people of Ireland cannot determine their future democratically as it is the British state which determines the parameters on how self-determination should be exercised: there will be no change to the constitutional status of the North unless a majority there agrees to.

In diplomatic jargon, this is called "the principle of consent". Republicans reject the principle of consent because in practice, it means that 12% of the people of Ireland can have a veto over the other 88%. Any political changes to the constitutional status have to be acceptable to the 12% of the people who are Unionists before they are enacted. Republicans reject this as anti-democratic and therefore call the "principle of consent" a "unionist veto".

It is necessary 'to break the British connection' because an alien government divides a minority from the majority and erects obstacles upon the resolution of differences. A minority should certainly have rights, but should not have a veto over the majority. It is the rejection of the "principle of consent" which mainly distinguishes republicanism from constitutional nationalism. Constitutional nationalism also believes in self-determination, that the people of Ireland should be able to determine their own future. However, it accepts to operate within the existing constitutional parameters and therefore recognises the "principle of consent" that there won't be any changes unless they are acceptable to a majority in the North. Constitutional nationalists believe that constitutional politics should be the only means used to achieve self-determination.

Republicans were unambiguous in their view of constitutional nationalist parties such as the SDLP as 'partitionist nationalist'. For republicans, the gap between 'partitionist nationalism' and republicanism was unbridgeable. In the eyes of Gerry Adams in 1986, the SDLP was "a fully fledged catholic partitionist party"(1).

The British government's political strategy was devised in 1973/1974. Its alternative to republicanism consisted in a power sharing system in the North with cross border bodies and a Council of Ireland to recognize the (Irish dimension) all of this premised upon the 'principle of consent'. This materialized in the 1974 Sunningdale Agreement. These political parameters were similar to those of the 1998 Belfast Agreement.

The IRA emphatically rejected out of hand the various constitutional initiatives and the 1974 Agreement, viewing them as British attempts to marginalize Republicanism and isolate the Irish freedom struggle. The British government's March 1973 White paper which set out its alternative was immediately rejected by the IRA (2). For the then Sinn Fein president Ruairi O Bradaigh,

'the Green Paper solves nothing', 'it merely seeks to perpetuate Britain's grip on Ireland'; the White paper was devised 'to stabilise the situation and perpetuate her own control over the area', the Sunningdale Agreement 'constitutes a step backwards rather than an advance' for the liberation struggle (3).

The Provisionals opposed the Sunningdale Agreement and when it failed to secure necessary unionist support and was brought down by the May 1974 Ulster Workers‚ Council strike, this was praised by the Provisionals. Constitutional nationalists who accepted the Sunningdale Agreement and saw it as a stepping-stone to a united Ireland were denounced. Gerry Adams accused the SDLP, because it had endorsed the arrangement, of being the first Catholic partitionist party.

However it is worth pausing for one moment to reflect upon the many political characteristics that are common to both Sunningdale and the subsequent 1998 Belfast Agreement. Both Agreements were founded upon the unionist veto and both sought to establish power-sharing executives within the six-county state, which were designed to co-exist alongside minimalist cross-border institutions. While bearing these similarities in mind, perhaps we should also remind ourselves of the fact that hundreds of republican prisoners have served thousands of years in jails across Ireland and Britain between 1973-1998 and we must also never forget the graveyards across Ireland that are filled with republican dead who fell on active service during this period. When one considers these facts one must ask oneself: how in 1998 could the Provisional leadership morally justify their acceptance of the Belfast Agreement, which was procured at so great a human cost, while its political equivalent, the Sunningdale Agreement, was rejected in 1973? (4)

This point has also been underlined by mainstream media.

"What incidentally was the 'martyrdom' of nearly 300 IRA volunteers about? What did it achieve that could not have been achieved through political means alone? More specifically, what advance does the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 represent on the Sunningdale Agreement of 1973? Yes, there are some differences. The Good Friday Agreement envisages a reversion of responsibility for security and policing to the Northern Ireland executives, Sunningdale did not provide for that but left it open. But what else? Sunningdale provided for power sharing and all-Ireland institutions...Do the 'advances' of the Good Friday Agreement, beyond what was agreed at Sunningdale 25 years previously, justify the loss of a single human life, be that of an innocent civilian, a member of the security forces or of an IRA volunteer?" (5) After Sunningdale, the IRA was therefore "fighting the wrong war" (6).

The republican armed struggle has to be understood as a kind of "counter-veto" to the unionist veto. The central aim of the armed struggle was to create conditions, which render an internal Northern Ireland settlement (even with the 'externality' of cross border bodies and 'Irish dimension' grafted upon it) impossible thus forcing a progression towards Irish unification as the only option for peacemakers.

Malachi O Doherty (7) correctly summed the IRA strategy as "a strategy of vetoing an internal settlement through the narrowing of options". Its purpose is the prevention of any settlement on Britain's terms: "The campaign does not primarily force the British to leave Ireland through making their presence too costly, but it sets limits to their ability to resolve the conflict internally." The armed struggle Narrow the political options the British government had for settling the violence. "The British would continue to resist the option of withdrawal until all alternatives had been tried and proved not to have brought peace." "Republicans saw their campaign as narrowing the options of the British to the point where they would have to consider withdrawal."

The so-called 'peace process' signaled a dramatic shift for Provisional republicans. The shift from armed struggle to a 'peace process' strategy was essentially a Republican retreat disguised as some new 'strategic initiative'. By the late 1980s, the Provisional Movement experienced considerable political and military marginalisation. This position of weakness compelled it to envisage a strategic alliance with constitutional nationalism.

The Pan-Nationalist Alliance

Central to the new strategy was the idea that the pan nationalist alliance of the Irish government, Sinn Fein, SDLP could pressurize the British government in a diplomatic offensive to 'persuade' the Unionists that their interest was in a united Ireland. The Provisionals spent a long time in the early 1990s building that pan nationalist coalition through secret talks with Fianna Fail, and in particular the Hume-Adams initiatives of 1993. When the Provisional movement finally succeeded to build an alliance with those other political forces, it was not on its own terms: for this 'national consensus' to be possible, it had to accept considerable sections of the SDLP and Fianna Fail's constitutional nationalist agenda.

(i) The emphasis was no longer on the traditional objective of a British government declaration of intent to withdraw, but upon its recognition that "the Irish people as a whole have a right to self-determination"(8). While in appearance being in continuity with traditional republican demand, the concept represented a shift in position, because the constitutional nationalist understanding of self-determination allows for a degree of ambiguity around the means of exercising that right. For example this means that if a majority of people in Ireland as a whole decide that there will be no united Ireland until a majority of people in the North decide to, that constitutes national self-determination rather than a partitionist compromise.

(ii) Consequently, the Provisional movement now stated that the exercise of self-determination is a matter for agreement between the people of Ireland. This signaled a profound change. The 23 April 1993 Hume Adams statement contained the following two crucial sentences: "The exercise of self-determination is a matter for agreement between the people of Ireland. It is the search for that agreement and the means of achieving it on which we will be concentrating." (9) Never before had the republican movement stated publicly that there had to be agreement on the exercise of self-determination. That meant that any accommodation had to be based on terms acceptable to the Unionist community. It meant that the unionist community had a veto over whatever was to happen. In other words, it was the Unionist veto rewritten.

(iii) The Provisional movement now recognised that the consent and allegiance of Unionists are essential if a lasting peace is to be established. While still arguing that the unionist veto must go, they were "seeking to obtain the consent of a majority of people in the North"(10). However, the difficulty with this is that the unionist right to consent is precisely what republicans have always claimed constituted that veto: unity by consent of the majority of the North of Ireland was nothing more than a partitionist fudge.

(iv) Last but not least, the Provisional revised its analysis of the British presence. Rather than being seen as the cause of the problem it was now seen as part of the solution, the British government now given a neutral if not a positive role by "joining the ranks of the persuaders" (11) and convincing the Unionists that their future lies in a united Ireland. However, the British state's main strategic objective has always been to render ineffectual the military capacity of the IRA to effect political change, not convincing the Unionists to change. Thus it is not the Dublin government and the SDLP that had come to the Republican position, but rather the Provisional movement, which had moved to the constitutional nationalist position that Irish self-determination would have to be achieved with the consent of the people of the North.

Republicanism had become subsumed within a partitionist nationalist project. The price of the inclusion of Republicans in the pan nationalist alliance was the exclusion of Republicanism. By relying on elements who had always been much more hostile to the IRA than to British involvement in Ireland, the Provisional movement's anti-partitionist thrust could only be seriously weakened. In seeking an alliance with parties who accept the unionist veto as the foundation of any political settlement, the Adams leadership was implicitly acknowledging that any future political arrangement would be a predominantly internal one, leaving the constitutional status of the six-counties unaltered.

Parallel to this, the objective of a 32 county socialist republic was given a very ultimate‚ nature. A very important departure from previous positions was that the Provisionals now stated that

"the British government’s departure must be preceded by a sustained period of peace and will arise out of negotiations" (12). In 1993, Martin McGuinness signaled this major compromise on the objective of 'Brits Out' when at Bodenstown; he spoke about 'interim arrangements', implying that armed struggle might end short of British withdrawal. (13) Those interim arrangements would provide a transition (duration unspecified) into the ultimate objective. The thing Provisional no longer had any specific timetable for British withdrawal. Later, in early 1995, Gerry Adams spoke of a 'transitional phase' in which there must be 'maximum democracy', 'equality of treatment' and 'parity of esteem'. (14) Those statements signaled that the Provisional leadership would inevitably attempt to sell any future political agreement as transitional, while ignoring the absence of any concrete transitional mechanisms for democratic political change, thus representing a de facto recognition of British rule in Ireland.

In the early 1990s, the Provisional leadership engaged in secret talks with the British government. This, as well as other positive signals from the British, led the Provisional to believe that at some point in the 1990s London and Dublin agreed that the old policy of excluding republicans was futile and that the only strategic alternative was one of inclusion in dialogue and negotiations. What goes unmentioned is that "the strategic objective was to include republicans while excluding republicanism". (15) The price to be paid for the inclusion of republicans in the talks was the exclusion of republicanism. This means dialogue with Republican leaders and organisations but on the basis of an agenda that excludes the political objectives of Republicanism. Central to the political objectives of Republicanism were that there would be no internal settlement (a settlement internal to Northern Ireland) that the political connection with Britain must be severed, that partition should go and therefore Ireland reunite. The whole peace process may have included Republicans, but from the 1993 Downing Street Declaration to the final 1998 Belfast Agreement, was always based on the British state‚s political alternative to Republicanism since 1972: an internal solution (a power sharing assembly in the North which includes Nationalists) with the externality of an Irish dimension (cross border bodies) grafted on it.

The longstanding Provisional demands were never serious runners for all party talks. And none of them appeared in the final Belfast Agreement.

"What the British were allowing republicans - by permitting them into all-party talks where they can argue for a united Ireland without the remotest possibility of securing it - is an opportunity to dig a tunnel to the moon." (16) By negotiating with the Provisional movement, the British state was signaling to the IRA a way out of its armed campaign rather than a way out of Ireland for itself.

The SDLP and Fianna Fail were only prepared to work with the Provisional leadership if the IRA called a cessation of operations, and the British government made clear that it would be ready to include Sinn Fein in negotiations if Provisional IRA weapon were silent.


So on 31 August 1994, it declared a cessation. For the Adams leadership, preserving the unity of the movement was crucial. It had to avoid at all costs elements skeptical of the peace strategy splitting away. The message given internally was that the Provisional movement was in a 'win-win' situation. Either the movement's objectives could be won through the 'unarmed strategy', or it could go back to war. However, the problem was that the Provisional movement would find itself in a situation in which it could neither win its objectives through the unarmed strategy nor go back to war and its traditional political agenda. The 1994 IRA ceasefire lasted until February 1996 and broke down because of a growing number of preconditions to inclusive negotiations, which were unacceptable to the Provisional movement. The Provisional movement had invested too much and had gone too far in the peace process to do a u-turn at this stage. On top of that, the disastrous nature of the 1996-1997 campaign showed that it was difficult to go back to war. The movement had not prepared a 'plan B' and thus was stuck in the process. The worst was that the movement had paid a very high price to be included in a process, which brought it few benefits.

By the time the Provisional IRA reinstated its ceasefire in July 1997 and Sinn Fein entered political negotiations in September of that year, the political parameters had been set and any future political arrangement would be a predominantly internal one. The publication of the Framework Document in February 1995 envisaged the establishment of a power sharing arrangement in Stormont along with the establishment of minimalist cross-border bodies. From a Republican standpoint, rejection of the Framework document (like the Downing Street declaration) should have been immediate. But the Provisional leadership did not reject it. Already back in 1993-1994 they had not immediately rejected the Downing Street declaration, like they did with Sunningdale in 1973 or the Anglo Irish Agreement, and instead were asking for 'clarifications.

After the 1997 ceasefire, the Provisionals downgraded the republican political agenda to the point where Gerry Adams now wrote about 'renegotiating the Union' rather than ending it. (17) In January 1998 the London and Dublin governments published the Heads of Agreement Paper, which provided the blueprint for the subsequent Belfast Agreement. To conclude, one can only agree with Bernadette Devlin-McAliskey that the whole 1990s peace process was 'ideologically wrong as well as strategically and tactically stupid'. Its central purpose was 'to demobilise, demilitarise and demoralise the republican people of Ireland -and it has done all three.'(18)


(1) Gerry Adams, The Politics of Irish Freedom, Dingle: Brandon Books, 1986, p.110

(2) See Provisionals reply, An Phoblacht 30 March 1973 and also Provisional IRA: Freedom Struggle, 1973 pp.89-90

(3) Ruairi O Bradaigh, Our People Our Future, Dublin: Sinn Fein, 1973, pp.31-32, 43, 50-52, 59-60

(4) The Irish Republican Struggle 1969-1998,

(5) Vincent Browne, Provos were always killers without a cause, The Sunday Business Post, 31 July 2005

(6) Tom McGurk, After Sunningdale, the IRA was fighting the wrong war, The Sunday Business Post, 31 July 2005

(7) Malachi O Doherty, The Trouble With Guns: Republican Strategy and the Provisional IRA, Belfast: The Blackstaff Press, 1998, pp.96, 114-115, 120

(8) Sinn Fein, Towards A Lasting Peace (Dublin and Belfast, 1992)

(9) Joint Statements from Gerry Adams and John Hume, APRN 30 September 1993, p.8

(10) Towards A Lasting Peace, p.12

(11) Ibid

(12) It is our job to develop the struggle for freedom - Bodenstown Address, APRN, 25 June 1992, pp.8-9

(13) There will be no turning back, APRN 24 June 1993, p.10

(14) Peace means justice - Justice demands freedom, APRN, 2 March 1995, pp.8-9

(15) Anthony McIntyre, Why Stormont reminded me of Animal Farm, Sunday Tribune, 12 April 1998

(16) Anthony McIntyre, Sinn Fein Stance Hinders Republican Cause, Sunday Tribune, 20 July 1997

(17) Another Chance for Progress', APRN, 24 July 1997, p.9 and Irish News, 17 July 1997



by Liam O RUAIRC and Xabier JIMENEZ

The culmination of the peace process was the signing of the Belfast Agreement on April 10th 1998 and its subsequent endorsement in two referenda’s in May 1998. Apologists for the Belfast Agreement argue that it was an act of self-determination as it had been freely negotiated and democratically endorsed. But the British government, democratically unaccountable to any Irish constituency, and constituting the foremost military strength on the island, determined the parameters of the negotiations, which led to the signing of the Belfast Agreement.

Those parameters stipulated that partition was a legitimate state of affairs, that Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution were illegal claims of sovereignty over part of the United Kingdom and that the right of the Irish people as represented by the 32 counties to self determination without external impediment is non existent.

The Agreement was not 'freely negotiated’, as the price of participation in the negotiations was the acceptance of their pre-determined outcome through the British imposed pre-condition that all participants concede to the principle of "consent". The premise for any agreement was partitionist. The fact that the British government, democratically unaccountable to any Irish constituency, insisted on this precondition renders any assertion that the ensuing referenda could in any meaningful way be described as an act of self-determination by the Irish people.

What the referenda actually represented was an exercise in how the British government believed the Irish people should vote, leaving itself insulated from any objections the Irish people may have because such a vote is subordinate to the 'consent' pre-condition. This is why the option of Irish unity was not presented to the Irish people in the dual referenda. There were two referendums held in two different states for different purposes and different sets of questions. The fact that they were held concurrently did not make them a single event and even less an act of self-determination. The "act of concurrent self determination" was nothing more than a rubber-stamping of British demands. Just because there's a vote doesn't mean it’s democratic; the facts bear scrutiny. (1) Voting statistics must be further considered in light of a mass media campaign sponsored by the British and Irish governments in the months and weeks preceding the vote, in which a "No" vote was equated in the public mind with a vote for violence and a "Yes" vote as a vote for peace. Reasonable and thought-provoking discussion and debate was utterly quashed in a total media blackout of dissenting voices, such as those of Marian Price, Bernadette Devlin-McAliskey, Anthony McIntyre and others; many of whom agreed with the peace but not with the process.

The logic, dynamic and parameters of the peace process combined to mould a partitionist framework which served to predetermine a type of outcome republicanism had for long stood rock solid against. The 1998 Belfast agreement amounts to the following: the British state has repeated its 1973 Sunningdale declaration of intent to remain in the North until a majority in it asks it to do otherwise; the British state has made it clear that the unionist veto shall remain in place and has strengthened the partitionist ethos underlying that veto by having it enshrined it in the revised Southern constitution; the British state has ruled out any transition to a united Ireland by refusing to state that by a certain date - no matter how far in the distant future - it will no longer have a presence in Ireland.

The fact remains that the unionists will determine when the north will join a united Ireland. This represents the best deal unionists could possibly have won. In the words of Anthony Blair, the British Prime Minister: "This offers unionists every key demand they have made since partition eighty years ago...The principle of consent, no change to the constitutional status of Northern Ireland without the consent of the majority of the people, is enshrined. The Irish constitution has been changed...A devolved assembly and government for Northern Ireland is now there for the taking. When I first came to Northern Ireland as a Prime Minister, these demands were pressed in me as what unionists really needed. I have delivered them all." (2)

With no end to partition, no British declaration of intent to withdraw, no united Ireland, the outcome of the peace process had no identifiable Republican content. It was a partitionist fudge‚. "In trade union terms, the republican leadership had secured a six-day week and lower wages." (3)

The Provisional movement claims that the Belfast Agreement does not represent a defeat for Republicanism. Danny Morrison, former Sinn Fein publicity director, claims that the British couldn't defeat the IRA nor could the IRA defeat the British, so the IRA did not win but had not lost either. (4) That is demonstrably wrong. "The political objective of the Provisional IRA was to secure a British declaration of intent to withdraw. It failed. The objective of the British state was to force the Provisional IRA to accept - and subsequently respond with a new strategic logic - that it would not leave Ireland until a majority in the North consented to such a move. It succeeded." (5)

Nevertheless, the Provisional leadership still maintains the myth of an undefeated army. The Provisional movement claims that the Belfast Agreement does not represent a defeat but an honorable compromise. Gerry Adams stated that it was "a historic compromise between nationalism and unionism" (6).

The problem is less that it is a compromise than the fact that it is a bad compromise.

(i), First is that it was Nationalism that did all the compromising. It accepted the principle of unionist consent on the national question

(ii),the maintenance of British sovereignty

(iii), deleting Article 2 and 3 of the Irish Constitution claiming the North

(iv), the retention and not the abolition of the Northern Ireland police force

(v); the resurrection of Stormont.

All in exchange for six cross border bodies and British government appointed commissions on the equality and human rights agendas. To get a measure of how little has been ceded by unionists -and by implication how much by republicans- we need only view it through the following prism:

"If, for example, through the Good Friday Agreement, the unionists had signed up to a British declaration of intent to withdraw from the North and a Dublin declaration of intent to annex the six counties, no amount of wordplay and casuistry would have permitted this outcome to be regarded as anything other than a resounding defeat. Small consolation it would have been to them to have won outright on Strand One matters, such as keeping the RUC intact or the prisoners locked up. Unionism would have lost on the great philosophical question of consent." (7)

It looks more like a Republican Versailles than a honourable compromise. Second, there had been a better deal on offer in 1973-1974. For example, Austin Currie, a minister in the 1974 power-sharing executive actually feels that the Sunningdale Agreement was a better deal for nationalists than the Belfast Agreement. (8) The Provisional movement had rejected Sunningdale, denounced it as a sell-out, and finally settled for less than the SDLP got in 1973.

One of the main arguments used by Provisional Sinn Fein to sell the 1998 Belfast Agreement to its supporters is that it is supposed to provide the transitional mechanisms for Irish unity to happen by 2016, the one hundredth anniversary of the Easter Rising. (9) For Gerry Adams, by accepting the Belfast Agreement the Provisional movement was entering a "new phase of the struggle": while the Agreement "is not a settlement, it is a basis for advancement", "it could become a transitional stage towards reunification". (10) Thus, the motion officially ratified by the party at its 1998 Ard Fheis read: "The Good Friday document is not a political settlement. When set in the context of our strategy, tactics and goals the Good Friday document is a basis for further progress and advancement of our struggle. It is another staging post on the road to a peace settlement. (...) The Good Friday document does not go as far as we would have liked at this time but it is clearly transitional. (...) It can be a basis for pushing forward national and democratic objectives. In short, it allows us to move our struggle into a new and potentially more productive phase." (11) This rests on two sets of arguments.

In negative terms, the Provisionals argue that it weakens the Union as well as destabilises and divides Unionists. Gerry Adams stated that thanks to the Belfast Agreement, there were no longer any raft of legislation to maintain Northern Ireland as part of the UK, with the British government's repeal of section 75 of the 1920 Government of Ireland Act. However, the replacement of the 1920 Government of Ireland Act was legally 'of no significance', rather it reconstructed British sovereignty. (12)

Legally, the Agreement does not shift the balance of constitutional forces towards reunification. The only significant constitutional shift went in the opposite direction; the British state retained sovereignty in the North and the consent principle was embedded, whereas Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution were deleted. In the words of Prime Minister Blair, the settlement "is not a slippery slope to a united Ireland. The government will not be persuaders for unity." (13)

As to dividing and destabilising Unionists, Provisional supporters misquote James Molyneaux, the UUP leader at the time of the first IRA ceasefire. Molyneaux merely claimed that the ceasefire (and not the Agreement signed four years later) had destabilised Unionism.

"Writers fond of citing this in favour of the 'GFA is a stepping stone to a United Ireland' position invariably fail to tell us that Molyneaux explained why the ceasefire was destabilising; insisting that it was beyond his ken why republicans sold a horse and bought a saddle. Or as Stephen King puts it, Unionism was confounded as to why Republicans had fought so hard just to settle for so little. Eleven years after the 1994 ceasefire and the Molyneaux observations, we can find Eric Waugh mocking Republicans: 'the old ideal of unity is more remote than ever. Unionists are not interested.' Even one as hostile to the Agreement as Jeffrey Donaldson can still claim Republicanism was 'defeated by a partitionist settlement based on the concession of self-determination of Northern Ireland.' " (14)

In positive terms, according to Mitchell McLaughlin:

"There is steady demographic, political, social and economic change, undeniably pointing in one direction, towards support for a united Ireland." (15) But do these changes really point in that direction? The first argument is that demographics show that the Catholics will soon be in a majority position in the North and will vote for a united Ireland at the earliest opportunity. (16) Partition will supposedly come to an end when Catholics reach the magic figure of 51% of the population in the North.

However, the idea that a united Ireland could be brought about by demographic change has been highly disputed and dealt a blow by the most recent (2001) census figures. (17) It could be decades before the two communities will have equal numbers and before this translates into votes. On top of that, Northern Ireland Life and Times surveys indicate that 30% of Catholics would not vote for unity.

The second argument is that the development of an all-Ireland economy will create a dynamic towards unification and therefore make partition redundant. Peter Hain, Northern Ireland Secretary of State, recently said on the argument that the 'all Ireland economy' is a stepping stone towards a united Ireland: "The interpretation that this is a kind of Trojan horse for a united Ireland is 100% wrong." (18) Economic exchanges by themselves will not abolish the border no more than the development of the Benelux economy merged the three countries together.

Says Hain: "It has nothing to do with the constitutional future, that's entirely separate and dependent on the votes of the people and they've decided that through the referendum following the Good Friday agreement; so the border exists constitutionally, but in economic terms it doesn't; in economic terms it's about cooperating across the border and making use of best friends either side." By way of example, Hain referred to counties Derry and Donegal. It was in the interest of both to be "joined at the hip" economically and for business purposes. However, "the constitutional separation will remain unless otherwise decided by the people." (19)

The third argument is that the development of cross border institutions will generate a political dynamic towards unification. Cross border bodies - cannot and will not lead to reunification and an end to British rule. In his address on 30 September 2000, Martin Mansergh, Northern Advisor to three successive heads of 26 counties administrations, stated that 'there is no evidence, let alone inevitability, from international experience, that limited cross border co-operation necessarily leads to political unification.' Such bodies have existed for decades and have not brought a united Ireland any closer. (20)

That the Agreement is non-transitional and that republican strategy is no longer designed toward destabilising the northern state which would possess the potential to create transitional structures can both be ascertained from the following exchange in 2000 between Frank Millar of the Irish Times and Gerry Adams on the question of Peter Mandelson suspending the Stormont Assembly.

Millar: "For wasn't the act and fact of suspension rooted in the legislation establishing a devolved Assembly at all times subject to the authority of the British Crown?"

Adams: "Oh yes, and, in terms of the realpolitik, we have accepted entirely, it's obvious, partition is still here, that the British jurisdiction is still here."

Millar: "Is this a peace process, about reconciliation with the unionists, accepting the existing constitutional parameters until such time as there is consent to change them? Or is Sinn Féin's real game- struggle continuing by other means - to destabilise Northern Ireland and show it to be irreformable?"

Adams: "No, that isn't the case, the second scenario isn't the case." (21)

Clearly, by its own admission, it is no longer Sinn Fein's intention to destabilise the northern state and seeks to administer it. Consequently all the central tenets of both traditional republicanism and Provisional republicanism have been jettisoned.

Prominent SDLP leader Seamus Mallon sums up the Provisionals‚ trajectory: "Sinn Féin have come on board, essentially to the thesis that the SDLP has been promoting for over 30 years. The Good Friday Agreement was based, by and large, on the SDLP analysis on the principle of consent, on non-violence, and on the concept of partnership and it is Sinn Féin who have made a substantial move from support for violent republicanism to the polices and strategies of the SDLP." (22) That is why he called the Agreement Sunningdale for slow learners‚.

The Belfast Agreement is not a transition to a united Ireland, but rather the transition of the Provisional Movement in the British institutions: "By claiming the GFA will lead to Irish unity, Adams et al are providing a fig leaf for an ideological retreat unequalled in Irish history. What they have done, and are anxious to conceal from their supporters, is to accept a reformed Northern Ireland that, in accordance with the consent principle, will remain British as long as one can see. In return they have avoided political extinction, kept their skins and attained respectability and access to power. The Agreement is indeed 'transformative', but not in the way 'Provo' spinmeisters suggest. By guaranteeing Catholics their place in the Northern Ireland sun, it has the potential to erode nationalist alienation from the constitutional status quo and, by so doing, dismantle the raison d'etre of the Provisional IRA." (23)

This is why despite the fact that Sinn Fein has substantially increased its share of the vote in elections North and South it represents no growth of republicanism: "The more effective that Sinn Fein is as an electoral force, the more impotent it becomes as an ideological one. Every deal it strikes with Tony Blair legitimises the British presence in Northern Ireland. Every concession it secures that advances the economic and social standing of ordinary Roman Catholics in Ulster weakens the argument that it is only through Irish unification that those material interests can be realised. With every step that Ulster takes towards becoming a 'normal society', so what Sinn Fein officially regards as an 'interim settlement' becomes more deeply entrenched. This is the outlook for Republicanism. A larger and larger number of nationalists in both the North and the South will vote for Sinn Fein -but more because they regard it as the best vehicle for representing them in a divided Ireland than out of support for a united one. Nor will it make much difference if Catholics finally outbreed Protestants in Ulster. Even at the height of the Troubles a substantial percentage of nationalists preferred the status quo to the upheaval of unification." (24)

The Provisional movement has been in the habit of describing its strategic failure in terms of 'new phase of the struggle'. For Republican veteran Tommy Gorman this 'new phase of the struggle' only points to the fact that they are a failed leadership:

"In the early days our struggle was depicted as an odyssey of sorts and that, along the way we would come to and pass various milestones and road signs keeping us on track and giving us a clear vision of progress made toward the socialist republic.

* An end to partition

* No return to Stormont Rule

* The disbandment of the RUC

* A declaration of intent by the British Government to withdraw from Ireland

Through their efforts Sinn Fein have managed, in collaboration with other right wing partners, to negotiate

* The copper-fastening of partition

* A resurrected Stormont

* A renamed RUC

* A declaration of their intent to stay by the British Government." (25)

Republicanism may have been defeated, but media coverage of post-Belfast Agreement Northern Ireland like to point that it has made life much better. Typical of this is this editorial from The Times:

"There is an optimism and realism in Northern Ireland today that is dissolving ancient prejudices and boosting business confidence, the essential underpinning for growth and prosperity. Belfast and Londonderry have been transformed by peace: business parks are springing up in place of derelict shipyards, while restaurants and cafés cater to a more relaxed public culture, and the walls of Derry are attracting tourists who no longer have need to be nervous." (26)

However, beyond shiny appearances is another story. Jobs have been lost faster than they were created in the North -so much for a 'vibrant' economy. (27) Also, if people further up the social ladder have done well out of the peace, the gap between rich and poor is not only higher, but higher than in the rest of the UK. (28)

Despite all the reforms, Catholics still experience substantially higher unemployment and poverty rates than Protestants. While Catholics make up 48.1 percent of the total population of working age, they make up 55.7 per cent of economically inactive population of working age. Equally, while Protestants make up 51.9 percent of the total working age population, they make up only 44.3 per cent of those economically inactive population of working age. Based on NIHE figures, Catholics are spending on average almost one and a half times as long on the housing waiting list as Protestants. While the absolute numbers of those on the waiting list has increased for both communities, the increase for the Catholic community has been almost double that for the Protestant community. (30 per cent and 16 percent respectively).

Tim Cunningham, CAJ‚s Equality Officer, said, "Despite government rhetoric to the contrary, the reality is that the poorest members of our society, both Catholics and Protestants, are relatively worse off than they were ten years ago. Northern Ireland has the highest economic inactivity rate in the UK, so the idea that Northern Ireland as a whole is benefiting from increased prosperity and economic growth is nonsense. The situation of the "hidden unemployed" is getting worse. Moreover, government‚s own research shows that programmes such as the New Deal benefit least those who are in most need of employment."

Mr. Cunningham continued,

"Rather than genuinely tackling poverty in both Catholic and Protestant working class communities, government appears to be sectarianising the debate. It has disregarded major differences in labour market trends between the two communities; failed to target investment effectively at those in most need; and has pursued measures such as Shared Future and the Taskforce on Protestant Working Class Communities that at best ignore and at worst exacerbate community differentials." (29)

As to healing divisions and bringing peace, an increasing number of commentators are pointing that in fact divisions have increased. The leading English conservative newspaper recently noted:

"Walking through the centre of most Northern Ireland cities and towns, it's hard to see that this was, little more than a decade ago, a war zone. New businesses, hotels, theatres and opera houses have blossomed. The streets are vibrant and bustling and in the evening, especially in Belfast, where good restaurants and hotels are frequently booked out. (...) But hidden behind the Government's "Ulster is Blooming" facade, the familiar pattern of sectarian violence and intimidation that spawned the Troubles is growing once again. Police statistics reveal that sectarian attacks have increased by nearly 40 per cent. Between April 1 and July 1 this year there were 491 serious incidents. In the same months in 2005 there were 353. Knife crimes have also doubled since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, and in the same period some 8,000 families have been forced out of their homes by paramilitaries. In Londonderry, sectarian crimes have risen by 70 per cent from April to July 2006, compared to the previous year. (...) If sectarian attacks continue, many fear the Troubles may reignite. Peter Shirlow, a lecturer at the University of Ulster and co-author of Belfast: Segregation, Violence and the City, has predicted as much. "I don't think we have the circumstances to take us back to conflict yet," he says, "but in 20 to 30 years' time, with constitutional uncertainty, the same pattern could emerge." (30)

The facts are there. "Seven years after Good Friday, the North is more violent than ever", titled a Sunday Tribune headline last year (28 August 2005). The number of sectarian crimes rose by 35% in a year averaging five attacks every day. Latest police statistics point to a deteriorating situation. Latest police figures show that since April there have been an average of 38 sectarian attacks across the north every week. Between April 1 and July 7 there were a total of 491 reports. This compares to 363 for the same period in 2005, up more than a third. Police classification of sectarian incidents‚ ranges from verbal abuse to bomb attacks and attempted murders. Although the figures are not broken down by community, it is generally accepted that the majority of attacks were carried out by Loyalists. (31) A major new official report (32) based on statistics from the PSNI, Housing Executive and other research shows that levels of sectarian violence are higher than before the ceasefires.

North Belfast is the worst affected. From 1996 to 2004 there were 6623 incidents of sectarian disorder there, including 3883 of criminal damage, 1343 of assault, 1021 disturbances and 376 riots. There has been an average of five attacks a month on Churches, GAA clubs and Orange halls. Most occur in counties Antrim and Tyrone, the fewest in Fermanagh. More people are being intimidated out of their homes. An average of 1378 people a year seek rehousing because of sectarian intimidation.

About 500 people a year formally complain of religious discrimination at work. 19% of Catholic and 10% of Protestant workers say they experience sectarian graffiti, jokes, songs, ostracisation or threatened or actual violence. Up to 60% of complaints are not formally reported. There are 37 peace walls across the North; none have been removed since the ceasefires, with 18 actually built. The same reported that 42% of Protestants and 33% of Catholics prefer to live in unmixed religious areas, while 48% of young Catholics and 42% of Protestants want separate schools. This confirms the other trend: that the North is more segregated, polarised and sectarian since the start of the peace process. A report issued in 2002 by the Royal Geographical Society (33) found that sectarian divisions have worsened since the peace process began in Northern Ireland.

Prompted in part by the Northern Ireland Office's denials that sectarianism was on the increase, Dr Peter Shirlow of the University of Ulster interviewed 4,800 people in 12 Belfast estates, 6 Catholic and six Protestant. The results are damning. Believing the hype about the peace process many, mostly Catholics, moved house to areas not dominated by their own religious denomination. The Housing Executive report that three thousand moved between 1994 and 1996 but sectarian intimidation forced a reverse movement of 6,000 in the following five years. Two-thirds of the population now live in areas which are either 90% Catholic or 90% Protestant. In predominantly Protestant areas companies have a Catholic workforce of only 5% while in Catholic areas only 8% of the workforce is Protestant. Only one in five people would take a job on the other side of the peace line. 62% in areas separated by a peace line think community relations have got worse. 68% of young people between the ages of 18 and 25 claim never to have had a meaningful conversation with someone from the other religious denomination and 62% say they have been the victim of physical or verbal sectarian abuse since the 1994 IRA ceasefire. Of those surveyed, 88% said they would not enter an area dominated by the other denomination, even by car, and 58% would not use shopping or leisure facilities in areas controlled by the other religion, even if they were better.

It is of great significance that The Irish Times, the leading newspaper in Ireland (equivalent of El Pais) could note earlier this year: "The hard fact of the matter is that it is now eight years since the agreement was laboriously put together. If one crucial part of the deal is still not working, after all that time, then maybe the inescapable conclusion is that it is never going to work." (34) People of the Basque country should well take note of this at a time when they are being told that a Belfast Agreement type settlement is the way forward to solve the conflict in the Basque country. (1)

(2) Blair‚s Dawn Call kept the heat on Trimble, Sunday Times, 4 July 1999

(3) Anthony McIntyre, We, the IRA, have failed, The Guardian 22 May 1998

(4) Danny Morrison, The war is over Now we must look for the future, The Guardian, 11 May 1998

(5) Anthony McIntyre, We, the IRA, have failed, The Guardian 22 May 1998

(6) A moment in history, APRN 25 November 1999, p.9

(7) Anthony McIntyre, Britain -the sovereign power,

(8) Cfr: Austin Currie, All Hell Will Break Loose, Dublin: O Brien Press, 2004

(9) Cfr. Adams Predicts United Ireland, BBC 14 January 2000, and Mitchell Mc Laughlin, Towards 2016 - A United Ireland, APRN 22 August 2002

(10) 'Preparing for a new phase of the struggle': Presidential Address by Gerry Adams, APRN 23 April 1998, pp.16-18

(11) Resolution Number 1, Ard Chomhairle Paper to 1998 Sinn Fein Ard Fheis,special supplement to APRN 7 May 1998

(12) see B. Hadfield, The Belfast Agreement, Sovereignty and the State of the Union, Public Law, volume 15, Winter 1998, p.615

(13) Speech by the Prime Minister Tony Blair at the Royal Ulster Agricultural Show, Friday 16 May 1997,

(14) Anthony McIntyre, Jude The Obscure,

(15) Rosie Cowan, Census hits republican hopes, The Guardian, 20 December 2002

(16) Ed Moloney, Nationalists advance inexorably, making love not war, Sunday Tribune, 12 April 1998

(17) Cfr. Malachi O Doherty, Breeding schemes, The Guardian, 13 April 2001 for a refutation of the theoretical basis of the demographic argument and Rosie Cowan, Census hits republican hopes, The Guardian, 20 December 2002 for an empirical refutation of the figures on which it is based.

(18) Liam Clarke meets Peter Hain -Man with a north-south plan, Sunday Times, 15 January 2006

(19) Ray O Hanlon, An all-island economy: It's Hain's way or the highway for North polls, The Irish Echo, 2-8 August 2006

(20) Ed Moloney, Mansergh doubts the GFA will lead to unity, Sunday Tribune, 1 October 2000. Nationalist commentator Brian Feeney noted that not only is there reluctance on the part of the Irish civil service to beef up all-Ireland structures, but the difference this time as compared to 1974 or 1986 is that Irish politicians are lukewarm too. (Brian Feeney, Ministers have lost interest in north-south links, The Irish News, 13 September 2006)

(21) Frank Millar, Is there enough time to revive the Agreement? The Irish Times, 15 April 2000

(22) Mallon comes in at last as key trust-builder, Irish Times, 4 July 1998

(23) Ed Moloney, The Mild Man of the North's one fatal flaw, Sunday Independent, 5 September 2004

(24) Tim Hames, The IRA disarms, Sinn Fein sweeps the polls. And Gerry Adams is a looser, The Times 1 August 2005

(25) Tommy Gorman, Dropping the Last Veil,

(26) Editorial, Ulster moves forward, the Times, 5 October 2006

(27) Jobs lost despite huge investment, BBC 26 September 2006,

(28) Mary O Hara, False Dawn, The Guardian 24 November 2004. See also publications of the Northern Ireland Anti Poverty Network

(29) CAJ report "Equality in Northern Ireland: The Rhetoric and the Reality" (September 2006). Also, the "Indicators of Social Need for Northern Ireland" published by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister ( show that Catholics are still suffering considerable economic disadvantage.
(30) Olga Craig, Are the Troubles really over for Northern Ireland? Sunday Telegraph 8 October 2006

(31) See Sharon O Neill, Sectarian Incidents double in past year, Irish News, 23 September 2005; Marie Louise McCrory and Barry McCaffrey, Sectarian attacks increasing despite quite march season, The Irish News, 25 July 2006. The PSNI started gathering figures for sectarian attacks last year. The first annual figures available shows police recorded 1701 in Northern Ireland between April 2005 and April 2006. Only 142 of the 1470 sectarian crimes recorded by the police in the 12 months to March resulted in a charge or a court summons. From April to July 2006 just 30 out of 559 reported sectarian crimes were brought to court. (Sharon O Neill, One-in-10 sectarian crimes end in court, The Irish News, 23 August 2006)

(32) Neil Jarman, No longer a problem? Sectarian Violence in Northern Ireland, Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, August 2005.

(33) Paul Brown, Peace but no love as Northern Ireland divide grows ever, The Guardian, 4 January 2002; and Charles Clover, Belfast is still divided despite ceasefires, Daily Telegraph 4 January 2002. Cfr. the official reports by Peter Shirlow, Mapping the Spaces of Fear in Ardoyne and Upper Ardoyne (North Belfast Partnership Board, 2001) and (with B. Murtagh, V. Mesev and A. McMullan) Measuring and visualising labour market and community segregation in Belfast (OFM/DFM-Equality Unit, 2002). Also see his Fear and Ethnic Division in Belfast, Peace Review (Vol. 13 issue 2, 2001 pp.67-74)

(34) Stephen Collins; The Belfast Agreement has resulted in stalemate, The Irish Times, 11 March 2006



Dear comrade & friends.

The CPI has invited ZAHRA KHAZEM KHALDI a representative of the

Palestinian Peoples Party to speak in Ireland for International Women's Day

8th March. Comrade Zahra Khaldi (Member in the Women Department of PPP)

and lives in Jerusalem. We hope to have her in the country from the 6th -

10th March.

She will be speaking in Dublin in the New Theatre as well as in Belfast.

We hope to get her to a number of other venues around the country. Check

our website for further details in the near future.

Of course her visit depends upon the Israeli government allowing her to

leave and granting her a visa.

Yours in solidarity

Eugene Mc Cartan.

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An Glór / The Voice

News sheet of Belfast Republican Socialist Youth Movement

January 2007

Circulation: 400

- Brit police never acceptable

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