- Created: Friday, 15 May 2009 15:55
- Written by Bob Shepherd
FRFI 169 October / November 2002
The funeral of Gerard Lawlor, whose murder by the fascist Ulster Freedom Fighters was reported in the last issue of FRFI, took place on 25 July. On the same day, Tony Blair threatened Sinn Fein with expulsion from the Northern Ireland Executive unless the IRA kept to a new, toughened, definition of the ceasefire that John Reid, Minister for Northern Ireland, had announced the week before.
On 21 September, the Ulster Unionist Council, meeting a week after four Catholic men narrowly escaped death in a Belfast loyalist drive-by shooting, set a deadline of 18 January for the IRA to ‘disarm completely’. Following the meeting Trimble issued Sinn Fein an ultimatum: failure to meet the deadline would lead the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) to collapse the Stormont government. He also said that the UUP would withdraw immediately from any cross-border meetings involving Sinn Fein.
Blair and Trimble's continued pressure on Sinn Fein comes amidst an escalation of random sectarian attacks by loyalists on Catholics across the whole of the north of Ireland. RUC/PSNI figures for Coleraine, Larne, Antrim and Carrickfergus for the first nine months of 2002 show loyalists have carried out 46 gun attacks, 11 pipe bombings and 27 petrol bombings; and this is only scratching the surface of the reality of sectarian attacks. On 30 August at 11.30pm, Michael Craig, aged 15, was standing with a group of friends, three Protestants and two Catholics, outside shops in Antrim Town. A gang of loyalists, members of the Ulster Young Militants, the youth wing of the UDA, attacked them. Michael was struck with a hatchet and seriously wounded on the back of his head. In the past three months over 50 Catholic families have been forced to leave their homes in Antrim.
In Belfast the ruling class media has continued to portray the rising violence at the so-called interfaces between Catholic and Protestant working class communities as ‘tit for tat’. In reality, these are attacks organised and carried out by loyalist gangs, predominately the UDA and LVF, against nationalist communities. The assistant Chief Constable of the RUC/PSNI has been forced to admit that loyalist gangs cause the ‘significant majority’ of violence in Belfast.
Sinn Fein’s response is to appeal to the chief warmonger himself, Tony Blair. Gerry Adams recently called on him and the Labour government to return to the ‘strategy which it had applied to create the conditions for conflict resolution…I am calling on Tony Blair to return to the task of implementing the Good Friday Agreement’.
The reality is that British imperialism has never moved from its strategy to undermine and destroy any prospect of a revolutionary challenge to its continued domination of the north of Ireland. Sinn Fein and the Republican movement chose the path they are now on, a path that leads to impotence where defending a place in the Northern Ireland Executive is now more important than defending working class communities. m