The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 11th May 2007

October 1994  - Gerry McLochlainn  delivers the letter from Sinn Fein to John Major

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IN ONE of the most historic days of the Peace Process, power-sharing in the North has begun between the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Féin. DUP leader, Ian Paisley, and Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness took their pledge of office as First Minister and Deputy First Minister in a power-sharing administration on Tuesday. Ten ministers of the power-sharing executive were then appointed.

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, and British premier Tony Blair, were among the guests in the visitors’ gallery. Formal proceedings at the event were delayed by 30 minutes as a mark of respect to the late DUP legislator, George Dawson, who died on Monday after a short illness.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams speaking at Stormont  said “Today is another significant landmark in the process of transforming life on this island. Today is a good day for Ireland. I want to thank and commend everyone who worked to achieve this.”

Adams said: “Today is another significant landmark in the process of transforming life on this island. It’s a good day for Ireland, it’s a good day for all of the people of this island.

“I think that Sinn Fein has delivered and I want to commend the DUP also. The talks between Sinn Fein and the DUP, and the agreements between us, have opened up the potential for new beginnings.

“I want also to remember everyone who was hurt or killed in the conflict. Over the weekend I spent time in County Tyrone with families of IRA volunteers killed 20 years ago today at Loughgall. Days like today must be about ensuring that events like Loughgall are never visited on another generation.

“I genuinely believe that we are all shaping a real process of national reconciliation and building a new relationship between the people on this island and between Ireland and Britain. There are clearly many challenges ahead but have no doubt that all these challenges can be overcome.

“We, as Republicans can develop and build and work and seek support for our vision of a united Ireland, of an Ireland of equals where everyone has rights.

“We have the right to a society where citizens are treated on the basis of equality. We want to change the political landscape from here on out. We are going to succeed.”- Sinn Féin news

HISTORY was made in the north of Ireland last Tuesday when Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley joined forces with Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness as First  Minister and Deputy First Minister of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

 This was the culmination of the peace process that began in October 1994, when Sinn Féin representative Gerry McLochlainn delivered a letter from his party’s executive to Prime Minister John Major, proposing measures that would lead to “a lasting peace”.

 The Tory government of John Major took the proposal seriously because the armed struggle of the IRA was taking too great a toll on the British state and its occupation forces in the north of Ireland.

 That letter led to the first ceasefire between the IRA and the imperialist forces but this broke down within a year or so because the British government refused to meet Sinn Féin at the negotiating table.

 The peace process was revived in 1997 when Tony Blair was elected Prime Minister. There was a second ceasefire – which still holds – and a long negotiating procedure that produced the Good Friday Agreement. That agreement contained major concessions by all parties but it was emphatically endorsed in a referendum throughout the whole of Ireland.

 Nevertheless much of the GFA has yet to be implemented and it has had heel dragging and attempted sabotage since it was signed. This includes opposition from what Sinn Féin describes as the “secureaucracy”, who have repeatedly tried to undermine the peace with false allegations that Sinn Féin was engaged in spying against other parties in the first, short-lived, Northern Ireland Assembly, when in fact they were the victims of spying. There have also been unfounded smears that Sinn Féin was involved in a major bank robbery.

 These smears were the reason given by Ian Paisley for his former intransigence in refusing to engage with Sinn Féin in a functioning elected Northern Ireland Assembly.

 But now that Assembly is functioning, Paisley’s intransigence is gone and the prospects for continuing peace are high. Sinn Féin has in no way abandoned its ultimate aim of a united Ireland, free from British occupation. But, for the first time in history, it is able to pursue that policy peacefully within the elected Assembly.


The elections and Labour’s future

THE ELECTIONS last week for the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the English local authorities produced the expected drubbing for Labour but on the whole that party was heaving a sight of relief, knowing it could have been worse.

 The Scottish National Party came in as the largest party in Scotland with 47 seats – that is 33 per cent and a long way from a workable majority. But the Liberal Democrats refused to join them in a coalition unless the SNP reneged on its promise of a referendum on Scottish independence in 2010 so the SNP is going to try to go it alone with a minority government, which will be very vulnerable with a high probability of being unstable and short-lived.

 This immediately brings out one of the main disadvantages of the proportional representation system of voting. Another is the complex ballot papers. And in Scotland around 100,000 voters inadvertently spoiled their ballot papers by making errors on the redesigned documents. The documents had been changed to make them easier to be read electronically by a machine, at a cost of making them more difficult for human beings to use.

 But ultimately, whether the voting system is proportional representation or first past the post, it is all part and parcel of the bourgeois state system that is designed to protect the privileges of the wealthy and powerful at the expense of the workers. It is not real democracy because the real and important decisions are not made in Holyrood or in Westminster – they are made in the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, in Nato, among European Union commissioners and other global capitalist bodies that are not elected. It is a fool’s errand to imagine that campaigning for proportional representation will bring any benefits for the working class.

 Now we are waiting for Blair to make his promised declaration of departure and wondering if he’s got some new trick up his sleeve to prolong the agony further. All eyes are turning to Gordon Brown and some are hoping against hope that he could be just a little bit better than Blair but the chances are remote.

 All potential challengers from the right of New Labour have fallen a way leaving John McDonnell and Michael Meacher still standing on the left. Each needs the signatures of at least 45 to trigger a leadership contest that will throw the voting open to constituency parties and affiliated trade unions – and make a real contest of it. Either would be better than Blair of Brown but McDonnell has by far the better record of consistently campaigning for policies that will benefit the working class and trade unions. It now seems they will have to pool their support to ensure that one of them gets the vital 45 MP signatures.

 If one of them were to become the next Prime Minister, there would be limits on what they could do to turn the tide of privatisation and profiteering that global capitalism is unleashing throughout the world. Nevertheless every little is worth it and the impact on working class morale and confidence would be significant – and in the end it is the mobilised working class – not Parliament – that will overthrow capitalism here and throughout the world.

 But even if Brown does take over as everyone expects there is one important consolation – war-monger Bush will have lost his favourite accomplice on the world stage and will be weaker for it.

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