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Peter Hadden

Loyalist ceasefire: Time for some class politics

(21 October 1994)

From Militant [UK], 21 October 1994.
Transcribed and marked up by Ciaran Crossey.

With the annoucement of a loyalist ceasefire the guns of all the major paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland have fallen silent. In both Protestant and Catholic areas the reaction has been the same – a sense of immense relief that after 25 years the killing may be over.

“If it gives the young people a chance to grow up without the violence it’s a good thing” is the response of working-class people whether Catholic or Protestant.

There is now a widespread feeling that the “Troubles” must be put behind us; that the politicians and paramilitaries must sit down and talk.

There will be talks. The British government will open the door to Sinn Fein participation. Loyalist paramilitaries, in some political guise, will also be present. It’s even likely that agreement will be reached on a new political framework including a power-sharing assembly and some degree of Dublin involvement.

But they’ll have an agreement, not a solution.

The IRA called their ceasefire giving the clear impression that the way was now open by political means to a united Ireland. Ex-UVF leader Gusty Spence, in reading the loyalist ceasefire statement, jabbed his finger in emphasis of the line ’the union is safe’. Both cannot be right. And in this difference lies the seeds of future conflict unless an alternative can be found.

The hope felt by many, that the politicians, paramilitaries and right-wing London and Dublin governments who have kept the conflict going for decades will now bring about a solution, is a false one.

They have no answer to the endemic poverty and mass unemployment which afflicts working-class areas, both Catholic and Protestant. And there will be no lasting solution which does not provide jobs and a secure and decent future to both Protestant and Catholic workers.

A solution has not been found but there now exists the best opportunity for class politics, for working-class unity and for socialism, since the Troubles began. Already the idea of building a new political organisation to represent the working class is being well received.

October’s meeting of the Belfast Trades Council debated a motion from the postal workers’ union branch calling for the labour movement to take a political initiative.

It should include putting forward candidates for the likely assembly elections, they said.

At the end there was a tied vote and the motion was referred back to the executive committee and will be re-discussed next month. The health branch of MSF has passed a similar motion and other union branches and trades councils are discussing it.

Militant Labour is talking to a number of individuals and groups to see if a joint campaign can be launched.

This is the real way to peace – not sectarians and Tories linking arms – but the working class coming together in a new socialist organisation to jointly combat poverty, state repression and to fight for a socialist Ireland.

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