Vol. 4- No 4
Thursday 14th February 2007
E-mail newsletter of the
Irish Republican Socialist Party
2) UNDERSTANDING THE IRISH PEACE PROCESS (Part One)
3) UNDERSTANDING THE IRISH PEACE PROCESS (Part Two)
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.
UNDERSTANDING THE IRISH PEACE PROCESS: PART 1
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, www.newrepublicanforum.ie
(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
(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
PART2: THE BELFAST AGREEMENT AND AFTER
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) http://www.irishfreedomcommittee.com/HISTORY/StormontTreaty/voting_results.htm
(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, rwg.phoblacht.net/mackersarchieve13.html
(8) Cfr: Austin Currie, All Hell Will Break Loose, Dublin: O Brien Press, 2004
(9) Cfr. Adams Predicts United Ireland, BBC 14 January 2000, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/601115.stm 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, http://www.numberten.gov.uk/output/Page948.asp
(14) Anthony McIntyre, Jude The Obscure, lark.phoblacht.net/am2904058g.html
(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, http://www.phoblacht.net/tg23112g.html
(26) Editorial, Ulster moves forward, the Times, 5 October 2006
(27) Jobs lost despite huge investment, BBC 26 September 2006, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/5380094.stm
(28) Mary O Hara, False Dawn, The Guardian 24 November 2004. See also publications of the Northern Ireland Anti Poverty Network http://www.niapn.org/public/publications/reports.htm
(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 (http://www.research.ofmdfmni.gov.uk/publications.htm) 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
COMMUNIST PARTY OF IRELAND.
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY CELEBRATIONS
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 -
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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