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Peter Hadden


Where now for the peace process?

(March 2005)

From The Socialist (Dublin), 4 March 2005.
Downloaded with thanks from
Marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopedia of Trotskyism OnLine (ETOL).

The Northern Bank robbery, the McCartney killing and the attempt to cover it up, and then the allegations about the multi million euro/pound criminal empire run by the IRA have put the leadership of the republican movement under intense pressure.

The “friends” and “allies” they have tried to court among the Irish, British and US ruling establishment have all turned on them, trying to isolate them and to damage Sinn Fein electorally.

A few months ago, these people were prepared to turn a partial blind eye to the robberies and other rackets that they knew were carried out by the IRA. The brutal methods used by the IRA and other paramilitaries to keep a grip on working class communities were also ignored. For Bush, Blair and Ahern, the deaths of working class people in the loyalist or republican heartlands of Belfast and Derry are of no concern provided they do not upset the “peace process”.

What changed this was not the Northern Bank robbery or the death of Robert McCartney. It was the collapse of the talks at the start of December and the realisation that unless more concessions could be got from the republican movement, there was little or no prospect of the Assembly being revived.

The British and Irish governments are using recent events to try and knock Sinn Fein back, in the hope either that a deal could be done without them or else that the republican leadership could be left with no choice but to disband the IRA.

Republicans now find themselves in a very difficult position. A return to war is not a serious option. But their political strategy, which was based on the myth that by getting into government North and South and by introducing piecemeal and minor constitutional changes, they could eventually achieve a united Ireland, is now in tatters.

Unionists have now raised the bar and will demand the complete dismantling of the IRA as a precondition of any new deal. Even if they were prepared to consider this, the republican leadership would find it very hard to persuade their members that the IRA should be folded up in return for a promissory note from Ian Paisley that he might eventually share power with them. In any case the dismantling of a multi million pound/euro enterprise with assets that stretch across the world would be very difficult to achieve.

Under this onslaught from the very people they had tried for years to court as “allies”, the first reaction of Adams and co. was to lean back to the base of republicanism in the working class communities in the North. A series of rallies were called to protest against what they portrayed as the attempt to “criminalise the nationalist community.”

Their problem, and the reason for their obvious discomfort, is that just as they were trying to mobilise the Catholic community in the North behind them, a section of this community was angrily mobilising against them over the McCartney killing.

Neither the governments nor the main political parties have any idea how to get beyond the current impasse. They are incapable of bringing about a solution.

The talks between the four main parties have only been about how they can rule over a permanently divided society, not how that division can be overcome.

It is only the working class who can solve the problem. The mass reaction against the murder of Robert McCartney showed how the sectarian and paramilitary organisations can be isolated and stopped in their tracks by a movement of working class people. What happened in the Short Strand could also happen in Protestant working class communities in opposition to the brutal gangster methods of the loyalist paramilitaries.

Other class issues have also come to the fore that have cut across the sectarian division. The problem is the lack of a political alternative. Despite the barrage of attacks from the media and despite the real anger over the McCartney murder, it is not likely that Sinn Fein will suffer significantly in the May elections, mainly because of the lack of a viable alternative.

A new mass party to represent the common interests of working class people is needed. This could give a political voice to movements like the campaign for justice for Robert McCartney as well as to the industrial and social movements that are taking place.

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