Ireland: ten years of ceasefire, but no nearer justice

Since the May 1998 referendum overwhelmingly endorsed the Good Friday Agreement, the peace process in Ireland has been in near-perpetual crisis. Each crisis has served to wrest further concessions from the Republican movement. Loyalist attacks on the Catholic community have continued. British troop levels remain the same as in January 2002. A new round of political prisoners is incarcerated in British and Irish gaols, this time stripped of political status and isolated from the wider Republican movement. Political power remains with the British government and the Unionists. The Stormont Assembly is currently in its fourth suspension since February 2000.

The Unionists have manufactured every crisis: first over IRA decommissioning, then over verifiable decommissioning, and now total disarmament or in other words the disbanding of the IRA. In all these crises the Labour government has supported the Unionists, and they follow a similar cycle. First the Unionists complain about an aspect of IRA decommissioning. Then Adams and Sinn Fein appeal to British imperialism to push the ‘peace process’ forward. Next the British government backs up the Unionists. Lastly, the Republican movement retreats. A few weeks or months later the pattern repeats itself. After every round, British imperialism and its Unionist allies are in a stronger position. Sinn Fein no longer has the political will to mobilise the nationalist working class in an anti-imperialist campaign against British rule. It therefore has only one option left – to appeal to Blair and the Labour government to rein in the Unionists.

The Good Friday Agreement established the Patten Commission on policing which reported in September 1999 making 175 recommendations. Of these, only 11 have ever been fully implemented, with a further 75 partially dealt with. On 9 September, Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Chief Hugh Orde announced the retention of the PSNI full-time reserve in a further breach of Patten Report recommendations. The disbandment of the RUC has been a cosmetic exercise to reassure the Catholic middle class that the overtly sectarian excesses of the past have been curbed. In reality, the PSNI is no different.

The IRA has undertaken several separate acts of decommissioning under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, none of which have ended loyalist intransigence. Now Gerry Adams has paved the way for IRA disbandment by stating that ‘Republicans need to be prepared to remove the issue of the IRA and of IRA arms as an excuse for Unionists to block political progress in the Six Counties’ (An Phoblacht/Republican News, 12 August 2004). The Loyalists, however, demand complete surrender.
In October/November 1994, we wrote:

‘The struggle is not over. The economic, political and social problems which keep forcing the national struggle on to the political agenda still remain. The Six Counties is a sectarian statelet. British imperialism has not left Ireland. The political prisoners are still in goal. The nationalist working class faces massive economic deprivation and discrimination with unemployment levels more than twice that of the loyalist working class. Should the Sinn Fein leadership be drawn into any proposed “New Ireland” Administration, in the Six Counties or 26 Counties and have conferred on it the status and privilege of bourgeois parliamentarians, it will find itself in conflict with the nationalist working class – those people of no property who have always been a bedrock of the anti-imperialist struggle in Ireland.’ (FRFI 121)

Ten years on this still remains the case.

Paul Mallon
Pat Finucane: cover-up continues

A former police special branch informer has been sentenced to life for the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane. Ken Barrett, was one of two loyalist gunmen who shot Finucane 14 times in his Belfast home in February 1999. Barrett pleaded guilty so that no evidence was presented in court. He will spend little time in prison as a result of the Good Friday Agreement. The murder was at the centre of a 15-year inquiry into collusion between Loyalist paramilitaries and the security forces in the Six Counties. However, the Labour government has refused to establish a public inquiry into the murder, despite the demands of the Finucane family, and have only conceded an internal judicial inquiry. There is too much to hide!

FRFI 181 October / November 2004


Ireland: the key to the British revolution by David Reed

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