The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 14th January 2005

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by Daphne Liddle

before Christmas it seemed as though the reluctant Democratic Unionist Party was going to have to face up to the inevitability of  working with Sinn Féin in a restored Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont.

They had dragged their feet, raised objection after objection and were unable any longer to disguise their real objection to allowing the republican community in the occupied north of Ireland so much as a sniff of involvement in any kind of democratic process.

 Politically they had no where left to go. More importantly, Tony Blair had run out of credible reasons for pandering to their intransigence.
bottom of list

Then there was a huge £22 million-bank robbery in the north of Ireland. At first it was reported simply as a criminal act. Several gangland figures headed the long suspect list. At the bottom were a few paramilitaries, mostly loyalist. At the very bottom of the suspect list was the IRA.

 But last week, without producing a shred of evidence, Hugh Orde, Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, declared that he believed the IRA was responsible for the robbery.

 The DUP and Blair were off the hook. They now had another reason to continue to refuse to talk to Sinn Féin representatives – despite their large electoral mandate.

 And it seems that over the festive season, while the rest of the world was concentrating on the Indian Ocean Tsunami, the PSNI – following in the footsteps of its predecessor, the notorious Royal Ulster Constabulary – was out and about raiding the homes of republican activists and their families, using the robbery as an excuse. It seems none of the other suspects on the list was paid any attention at all.

 That police force is clearly part of the unionist camp in the same way as its predecessor.

 Now the British media and the Government, without any evidence or due process of law, have declared the IRA guilty and the prospects of a return to devolved government all but sunk.

 Sinn Féin leaders have reacted in the only way they can, with anger and exasperation. The IRA has strongly denied any involvement – and that is believable because it would have been an act of the utmost political stupidity in the circumstances.

 When Hugh Orde first made his unfounded accusation, Sinn Féin chief negotiator Martin McGuiness MP responded: “Hugh Orde’s comments today are nothing more than politically biased allegations. He has not produced a scrap of evidence. Within days of the robbery at the Northern Bank, and following media speculation and PSNI briefings, which suggested IRA involvement, I asked the IRA about this and was assured that they were not involved.”

 West Belfast Sinn Féin Assembly member Michael Ferguson described the continuing PSNI operation against the republican and nationalist community in North and West Belfast as “political in motivation and violent in nature”.
ongoing operation

He said: “Since Christmas Eve the PSNI have been involved in an ongoing operation against the nationalist and republican community in the North and West of Belfast. The guise for this campaign has been their investigation into the robbery at the Northern Bank.

 “It has involved raids on scores of businesses and homes in the majority of cases without any form of warrant. Health Board and Education Board offices have been raided along with a children’s playgroup.

 “Unsurprisingly nobody has been arrested and nothing linking any of these raids to any robbery has been uncovered.

 “This campaign is not about solving a robbery. It is about pointing the finger at republicans and it is about trying to frustrate efforts to see a comprehensive political deal agreed.

“This operation is clearly political in motivation and violent in nature and is causing widespread anger within the broad nationalist movement and republican community.”

 Later Sinn Féin chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin accused securocrats from the Northern Ireland Office of trying to criminalise republicans.

 And he added that the politics of seclusion, which had failed for 30 years, would not be tolerated.

 “There is no doubt that the process has been in difficulty since December,” he said, “when the DUP refused to sign up for power sharing government and this situation has been worsened as a result of Hugh Orde’s politically motivated accusations.

 “There is also no doubt that there are those within the NIO who are seeking to exploit this difficulty to bring about the exclusion of Sinn Féin and ensure the comprehensive deal will not be achieved.”

 He also pointed out that, in discussed the predicament of the Guantanamo detainees, MP after MP had insisted that due process of law must be followed when anyone is accused of a crime. “But when it comes to Ireland, due process goes out of the window,” he said.


Hobson’s choice?

  THE PANTOMIME spectacle of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor slugging it out for the leadership of the Labour Party has brightened up a week of news dominated by war and disasters. The twin architects of New Labour have, of course, been at loggerheads for years but not, alas, over any high principle, unless you count the one so sacred to Labour careerists of “my turn now”.

Gordon Brown’s followers say that the Chancellor would make the better candidate to lead Labour into the next election – a view backed by an opinion poll this week. But the same could be said of any number of senior Labour politicians given that Tony Blair’s personal standing plummeted after he led Britain into the disastrous and criminal war in Iraq.

Little or nothing divides Brown from Blair. Brown is an Atlanticist who loyally supports American imperialism’s aggression against Iraq. Brown, like Blair, is opposed to the Euro and greater EU integration and the Chancellor is the high priest of the privatisation of what’s left of the public sector and the “welfare state”.

No, the only issue that divides them is the claim that Blair has reneged on promises to stand down in favour of Gordon Brown – the latest apparently made at a dinner in 2003 hosted by deputy premier John Prescott.

Brown’s problem is that his support comes from the same New Labour camp as Blair’s and he fears a direct challenge for the leadership that could split it and let others waiting in the wings snatch victory from his grasp. Brown wants Blair to endorse him as the successor to Labour’s crown to guarantee the support of the overwhelming majority of the Labour bloc in the current parliament.

 The trouble is that Blair’s not playing the game by Brown’s rules. Blair first promised before the 1997 election to step down in favour of Brown after one term, if we are to believe the stories from Brown’s followers over the years. But that, like subsequent offers, disappeared in a puff of smoke when a new election appears on the horizon.

 Brown’s supporters spread anti-Blair stories in the media, like those in  the much-publicised book that came out in December and Blair retaliates by trying to belittle his chief minister in public. Both men hypocritically talk about Labour Party unity in public while flaying around, like the reactionary political dinosaurs that they are, in private.

Though both of them have bleated on about “democracy” in the Labour Party when they moved to marginalise the views of the trade union movement whose funds keep the party going, neither of them have the courage to openly use Labour’s machinery for a new leadership contest that could resolve the matter once and for all.

The leadership of the Labour Party cannot be left to back-door intrigue and stitch-up deals in the corridors of power. The left and the unions must reassert the principles of working-class democracy within the party that owes its entire existence to organised labour.

The Labour Party needs a leader who reflects the demands of working people for higher wages and restoration of the public sector and the “welfare state”. It needs a leadership that is ready to unconditionally withdraw all our troops from Iraq and end another shameful chapter in British history. Blair’s not the man. Nor is Gordon Brown. Both must go.

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