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Peter Hadden

No prospect of a real solution

(October 1997)

From Voice [Dublin], Issue 8, October 1997.
Transcribed and marked up by Ciaran Crossey.

The Northern Ireland peace talks began on 15th September, with less prospect than ever of producing a real solution to the problem.

Three years ago when the IRA and then the Loyalists declared cease fires, there was a groundswell of support in both Protestant and Catholic areas for peace. The opening of the peace process came after a huge united movement of the working class against sectarian atrocities and demanding an end to the paramilitary campaigns.

Behind the cover up of the “peace process” and the talks, the real process on the ground over the last year and more has been a process of sectarian lines. If sectarian organisations, republican and loyalist, maintain their current grip in working class communities this “repartition process” will continue whatever happens at the talks.

The voices arguing for a return to the paramilitary campaigns are now quite isolated. However, the Continuity IRA threatens to bomb Britain “into the third world” and the LVF operates as the unofficial paramilitary shadow of the DUP, picking up dissident UVF and UDA members. Even if all these groups remain small, the situation is more volatile and less predictable than ever.

What has happened is a serious setback to the labour movement and to working class people generally. And what may happen could be much worse.

Throughout the Troubles there was never any possibility of a real solution on the basis of the present economic system. Now, as the sectarian divide has deepened the basis for even a temporary accommodation has become narrowed.

Despite all that has happened the common interests of working class people are far greater and stronger than the sectarian divisions which separate them.

Unity already exists in the workplaces and in workplace union organisations. Some community organisations which are genuinely cross community have held together. It is by building on this unity at the bottom, not by relying on the politicians at the top, that the basis for a solution can be found.

A parallel peace process involving rank and file trade union bodies, community groups, women’s groups; youth groups and other organisations with roots in working class communities is now needed. A “People’s Forum” involving such groups would be far more capable of coming up with a solution than the politicians with their sectarian vested interests at Stormont.

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Last updated: 30 August 2016