Guest writer David McSweeney with a piece that addresses among other things the likelihood of Irish unity.
We are confronted with a vast, confusing and obscure tableau of processes and committees and sub groups which pretend to solve common problems, from terrorist financing, to avian flu and the Middle East Peace process. Now working on the side of those subjected to these processes, rather than those designing or running them, it is clear that the existence of such processes can have in itself a debilitative effect: the mere existence of a “process” creates the erroneous impression that something is being done, when it is not.
An example is the “peace process” to resolve the illegal occupation of Western Sahara. This process has lasted since the ceasefire in 1990 between the occupiers, Morocco, and the representatives of the indigenous people, the Saharawis- twenty years and counting. Morocco agreed to a referendum for the territory’s people to decide their status, an agreement and legal requirement endorsed many times by the “international community” at the UN.
The referendum has never taken place. In fact the “process” is a way of shelving the issue indefinitely, to permit the existing status quo- of occupation, which privately suits the narrowly defined “interests” of these states, the US and EU above all. The process is thus a sham; the opposite of what it pretends to be. The Middle East peace process, nominally supposed to end Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories, bears similar but not identical characteristics: the “process” is a word that implies movement, even progress, but conceals a reality that there is none.
Carne Ross wrote the above in his book The Leaderless Revolution. Ross was a senior British diplomat during the Blair administration including being a senior diplomat at the UN for five years. No longer working for the British government his retrospective evaluation of so called peace processes is stark.
How here in Ireland in our own “process” can so much apparent movement, energy, and time have been devoted to such complete denial of National rights and maintenance of the status quo? A hint may be in the job George Mitchell took up after his chairing of meetings which produced the Stormont deal. Walt Disney is where Mitchell ended up as CEO.
Take one of the central characters in the fairytale, Fr Alex Reid. In 1989 the Redemptorist Peace Mission clearly outlined in their mission statement what their involvement in the process was about. There is no ambiguity when the Redemptorist statement says:
We wish to concentrate on the pastoral efforts we have been making, particularly over the past four or five years to persuade the Republican movement, namely the IRA and the Sinn Fein party to end the use of armed force in the pursuit of their aims and to change over completely to the use of political and diplomatic forces.
This is no Oscar Romero like plea for justice while holding the position of opposition to violence. This involved no personal courage like that shown by the Rev David Armstrong. It is worth noting that Reid had the official permission and backing of the Vatican to pursue the above agenda. Enough said.
The Americans gave the “peace process” production some glitz and glamour. They were our friends, we could trust them. No less than the Clintons told us so. Economist Morgan Kelly in an article in May 2011 in the Irish Times points out that in the bailout discussions in late 2010 it was US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geitner who blocked the burning of the Anglo Irish bondholders. That decision has cost the taxpayers in the 26 county state 20 billion euros. Hilary Clinton was third in command in the administration which enforced the full and total repayment of unsecured bondholders. These bondholders were legally or morally due not one cent. Hilary Clinton or the US establishment in general are no friends of the Irish people. America’s role in the peace process was to deliver for its closest military ally; this it did.
The economic dividend has proven as illusionary as political change. The Asda Income Tracker in early 2013 shows that families in the 6 counties have half the average disposable income of a family in Britain. The NI Statistics and Research Agency’s figures show that in terms of family income and employment 16 of the poorest 20 wards are in Nationalist areas.
Sinn Fein talked about having a unionist de Klerk type figure. The reality is Unionism has taken a Terreblanche road in its relationship with the rest of Ireland. This is clearly highlighted in the editorial of the Belfast Newsletter of January 10. It stated: “The UK link is what made this part of the British Isles civilised and prosperous”. This deeply racist statement could have been text accompanying Punch cartoons denigrating Irish people in the 19th century. This is how far we have come in fifteen years.
The same editorial gives a clear insight in to why asking, begging, pleading, persuading, or encouraging unionists to engage with “equality” is a waste of time even if it was ever a sound strategy. The Belfast Newsletter editorial says “last April, the Irish minister Eamon Gilmore took advantage of an invite to the Alliance party conference to demand a Northern Ireland Bill of Rights (as wanted by the political descendents of the most vile human rights abusers - the Provisional IRA)”.
That a request for a Bill of Rights should evoke such spleen from a voice of mainstream unionism a decade and a half into the “process” speaks volumes.
Richard Irvine is a history lecturer at Queens University Belfast, the largest educational institute in the six counties. In mid January the Irish Times carried an opinion piece by Mr Irvine titled “Flag flying unionists don’t know when they have Won”. Among the opinions postulated by Irvine were:
Within a week of the 1994 IRA ceasefire, graffiti on the loyalist Shankill road declared, “The Protestant people of West Belfast accept the unconditional surrender of the IRA”.
The writer may have been premature and tongue in cheek, but the Belfast agreement, IRA decommissioning and the participation of former IRA leaders in the partitionist parliament at Stormont, all bear out the truth of "the writing on the wall."
Irvine goes on to say:
Well, from the unionist perspective, an unfortunate consequence of the current new inclusive Northern Ireland is that it has to be new and inclusive. Sinn Fein while not aggressively pushing Irish Unity - it’s a political non starter - have instead pushed the agenda of shared space and parity of esteem. Something which means the greening of the Orange State.
Irvine’s words whatever their motivation should help snap Irish Republicans into a realisation that attempting to green the orange state of 2013 is akin to having suggested to anti-apartheid activists in South Africa that they should accept apartheid on the basis that deep within those Afrikaners who ran and believed in an apartheid system there was a seam of racial equality awaiting to be awakened. Apartheid was dismantled, that was the basis for a different, peaceful future in South Africa. The unionist veto/orange state must also be dismantled for the people of Ireland to move forward in the context of political, human and civic rights for all living in Ireland: British, Irish and others. In 1987 the ANC stated as a point of principle that “There is no middle ground either political or moral in our struggle against apartheid”. Some in Sinn Fein at the time of the lead up to the Belfast Agreement spoke of Alaister Sparks book Tomorrow is another Country as a reference point as to what was possible in Ireland. Sadly, Paul Larkin’s book A very British Jihad is a more pertinent read in explaining the unbroken thread of British strategy from pre stormont deal to 2013.
At the height of the ongoing violence by loyalism/unionism Theresa Villiers felt the need to say “no one can be in any doubt about the governments support for the union and the flag”. Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams spoke to media in the Short Strand in the aftermath of serious attacks on the area in terms of “Peter and Martin” coming up with answers to the Unionist/Loyalist violence. The problem with this scenario is that “Peter” initiated the present situation when he and his party along with the UUP party distributed 40,000 leaflets all over Belfast calling unionists to target the Alliance party over the Union flag issue. This the foot soldiers did, and seven weeks of chaos have ensued.
In amazing statistics the RUC/PSNI response to the violence was a sizable fall in arrests as the violence intensified and spread outside Belfast. There were roads where three and four teenagers stood being “heldback” by four and five land rovers which ensured total blockage of the route. So brazen was the police collusion with the Loyalists it prompted Jim Gibney to say:
when anger takes over the coin is easily flipped and comparisons are then made between the actions of the PSNI and the RUC. However unfair this is, people always relate to their personal experience.
There is nothing unfair in stating as a fact that the PSNI is significantly in personnel, and totally in spirit the RUC. Official British government figures show over 1,000 ex RUC have rejoined the PSNI, some within months of the name change. One fifth of the RUC members who left under Patten are back in the ranks of the PSNI . This does not include those who transferred directly at the time of the handover. It is not surprising then that the Irish News, on January 23, in a front page strap line, advertised an inside article with the words “PSNI too cosy with Unionist paramilitaries”.
Just how cosy that relationship is will become evident in the coming months, there are more Orange Order/Loyal Order marches now than there were twenty years ago. They will be this year, like every other one, forced through communities where they are not wanted.
Matt Baggot head of the RUC/PSNI gave a speech at the PUPs last annual conference. Is it a first in world terms that the head of a police force attends and gives an input into a conference for the spokespersons for an illegal organisation under his/her jurisdiction?
In early January Baggot gave an interview to the media in which he said “Whatever chance of the protests ending, that may not happen, they must be organised better to insure they do not cause disruption to people”. The head of a police force calling for illegal protests to be organised better? Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams put it quite clearly in 1998 when he said 'The RUC is unacceptable. It is a significant part of the problem. It cannot be part of the solution. Unionist militias can be no part of a settlement.'
Vililiers words on the union should not be seen as an aberration either. Liam o Ruairc noted in a 2011 article “Is the Union stronger than ever?” in Fourthwrite magazine:
in a December 2007 speech David Cameron stated “I personally believe in the Union and the future of the whole United Kingdom. We must confront and defeat the ugly stain of separatism seeping through the union flag”.
O Ruairc goes on to record what Cameron had to say in direct reference to Peter Brookes statement in 1990 that Britain “has no selfish, strategic or economic interest” in remaining in Ireland. In a December 2008 speech Cameron said in reference to having a Northern Ireland firmly settled in the UK “ it is in the interests of Northern Ireland” and the Tory leader added “in the interests of the United Kingdom”. In May 2010 Cameron pledged “I will never be neutral on the Union”. Put plainly Brooke's words were lies.
The unionist appetite for domination and imposition is insatiable. In June 2012 the British Armed Forces flag flew for six days over Belfast City Hall. This was six times longer than it had flown before. The De Silva report into the murder of Pat Finucane in Belfast stated that 85% of intelligence in the hands of the UDA at the time of the killing came from the British military. In a wider context a UN report into Child Deaths and Injuries in War issued the same month this flag was flown showed that every day of 2011 five Afghan children were killed or injured during the war there. This war was initiated and is sustained by the US and British military.
In his 2000 book The End of the Peace Process Palestinian academic Edward W Said articulates his opposition to the Oslo peace process. Part of the Irish Times review of the work is carried on the back cover of the book. The review says of Saids analysis:
Oslo he claims postponed the hard issues, Jerusalem, refugees, settlements borders and sovereignty- foregrounding instead meaningless Israeli declarations about recognition, which actually hinder the Palestinian quest for self-determination and liberation. His commitment to a democratic and secular Palestinian state is expressed with characteristic eloquence.
David Cameron in recent times has given a major speech on Britain’s relationship with Europe. The British Prime Minister claimed a referendum in the UK on Europe now would be a “false choice”. That phrase captures well what the Stormont/Good Friday agreement amounted to. The agreement was an updated and PR savvy version of the historic choice of acceptance or “immediate and terrible war” given by Lloyd George. In Propaganda for Peace, a book by Greg Mc Laughlin and Stephen Baker, their analysis of the print Media's relentless message at the time of the agreement and the referenda can best be summed up as - the people must decide and be heard and their decision and choice must be that of the agreement, nothing else is acceptable.
In the same speech on Europe Cameron spoke of “democratic consent”. This phrase encapsulates what could be the basis for a just, lasting and equitable peace in Ireland.
Democratic consent as opposed to the blocking veto delivered to unionism in the Stormont deal, would allow negotiated, real, and meaningful progression forward. The overwhelming wish of the people of Ireland to determine our collective future outside of British state involvement would interlock with consent from those British people in Ireland as to how their aspirations were expressed and structured in the new Ireland.
The recent economic meltdown in the 26 counties has exposed another plank of the GFA charade. The “will of the people” the “voice of the people” the avoidance of “imposing” anything on any sector in Ireland were some of the verbal mantras which acted as window dressing for the GFA. In November 2010 the Fianna Fail led government accepted a diktat which saw the troika become the de facto rulers of the 26 county state. A group of three economic terrorists visit Dublin at intervals during the year and tell there underlings in the Dublin administration what public spending cuts they want, and veto any spending they wish. The electoral mandate of these vermin is exactly zero votes. Indeed a committee of the German Bundestag has already and will in the future discuss and tweak 26 county budgets before they come before the Oireachtas.
The most vocal Fianna Fail media voice in defence of this national treachery and its figurehead Brian Cowen was Martin Mansergh. The same Mansergh was the Dublin government golden boy of the “process”. It would appear Martin didn't value the consent of the people of the 26 counties when it came to serving the troika.
Tony Blair declared at the time of the referenda in 1998 “there is no Plan B”. There are always options.
An example of how we can move forward from the failure of the Stormont deal was set out in a letter to the Irish News, on January 8, from P. Nugent, of Galbally, Co Tyrone. The letter states:
The United Kingdom of Great Britain itself came into being on March 6 1707, the result of the Act of Union of January that same year, which derived from the Scottish parliaments 1706 treaty of Union. How ironic then, that after centuries of often violent struggle against British misrule in Ireland, our celtic cousins are being offered an early opportunity in the autumn of 2014 to break with that union. Not only will their entire country be asked to vote on a single day, on the single question of independence for Scotland but it is intended that the electoral franchise will be extended to everyone over 16. This is what I like so many others advocate for our own country, an entirely peaceful and democratic means to achieve national independence and freedom. How much more in keeping with the 1916 Proclamations ideal of “ treating all of the Nations children equally “ is this model, than the tawdry “Northern Ireland Border Poll” on offer under the Belfast/Good Friday agreement?
Speaking to the Kevin Barry Cumann of University College Dublin in December 1996 Martin Mansergh stated 'Experience has shown that Britain cannot govern Northern Ireland for any length of time without the co-operation of the Irish government.' The Dublin government/political establishment is by the day loosing legitimacy in the eyes of the people. Within the next two to three years this governments structural ability to function without huge repression will come into question.
Many are desolate about where we as Irish Republicans find ourselves. Personally I feel we are within a decade of seeing our political vision in large parts realised.