Peter Hadden Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Peter Hadden

After the Wrangling
It’s Time for Class Politics

(November 1999)

From The Socialist [UK], 19 November 1999.
Transcribed and marked up by Ciaran Crossey.

It now appears that the Mitchell Review has produced a deal between Sinn Fein and David Trimble, the wrangling that preceded the deal means much credibility has already leaked away from the Good Friday Agreement.

The current deal was brought into being because neither Sinn Fein nor the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) leadership around Trimble wanted the prospect of complete failure. Trimble and Adams may find it very difficult to move forward, but they did not want a total collapse of the peace process at this stage.

Both the Sinn Fein leadership and those around Trimble in the UUP are in favour of implementing the Agreement. The Adams wing of republicanism have shifted their position most dramatically in order to gain seats in the new Executive. There are reports of fights breaking out among republican prisoners because their prospects of release are being bartered away to achieve this new deal.

Trimble has conceded partially over the timescale of decommissioning but has given little of substance. Trimble’s strongest card in Unionist ranks will be to argue that it will just be a case of waiting for just a few weeks to see if Sinn Fein and the IRA deliver on decommissioning.

Despite this, he may still face difficulties getting it through his party’s ranks and avoiding a split. Were it just a matter of the intentions of Adams and Trimble the decommissioning versus seats hurdle would have been cleared long ago. The problem, and the reason for the long impasse, is that neither can be sure that if they give ground they will be able to carry their supporters with them.

Trimble, along with the British and Irish governments, is clearly convinced of how far republican leadership has gone over decommissioning and recognises that the best way to neuter them is to bring them into government.


When the Good Friday Agreement was signed the Socialist Party described it as fudge and said it would not offer a lasting solution. Nonetheless when it came to the referendum we advocated a yes vote on the grounds that a continuation of the peace process was better than a return to conflict.

Similarly we now join with most people hoping the dead-lock will be broken and the Assembly will see the light of day. A collapse now would only benefit hard-line bigots on both sides and open up the prospect of a rapid intensification of sectarian violence.

On the other hand this new agreement does not bring us any nearer a real solution. The Good Friday agreement assumed that the sectarian divide would forever dominate politics. The Agreement, therefore, merely provides a mechanism for the political representatives of unionism and nationalism to co-exist and co-operate. The basic assumption is that ordinary people will remain forever divided while the sectarian politicians they elect will link arms at the top across this division.

So even if the Executive is eventually set up, the polarisation on the ground will constantly throw up obstacles to co-operation at the top. As with similar arrangements in Cyprus and Lebanon the whole thing is likely to come crashing down at some point.

What is needed is a real peace process. This must be built from the bottom up. It must involve people in the working-class communities coming together to work out a way forward. It means starting now to build a new working-class party which can provide a socialist challenge to the establishment parties.

But having the Assembly set up means that the working class will have more time and a more favourable political terrain to overcome sectarianism and build a challenge to unionism and nationalism. Giving the major parties control of health, education, the economy and other matters means that their anti-working class policies will become clear.

Whatever happens in the next two months, it is no time for class politics.

Peter Hadden Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 5 October 2015