The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 17th October 2003

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Northern Ireland peace process hangs by a thread:

by Daphne Liddle

PRIME MINISTER Tony Blair is using the intransigence of Ulster Unionist parties to deny basic bourgeois democracy to the people of the occupied north of Ireland yet again.
The Northern Ireland Assembly was suspended last May and elections postponed, using the excuse of a totally bogus investigation into allegations of inappropriate intelligence gathering by members of Sinn Féin.
 This followed a high-profile police raid on the Stormont offices of Sinn Féin assembly members last autumn – raids that produced no evidence and resulted in no charges.
Since May the people of the occupied six counties have been denied representation by the people they elected and the right to elect any other representatives. Meanwhile the Unionist parties play the prima donna and make new demands every day as a price of returning to he negotiating table.
 These demands are in breach of the Good Friday Agreement they signed in 1998, which is the basis of the peace process that has lasted ever since.
 But that process may not last much longer as the people grow weary of waiting and waiting for the most elementary human rights to be restored.
 Summit talks earlier this week between Tony Blair and the Irish Premier Bertie Ahern and attended by Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams and Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble were supposed to pave the way for new elections in mid-November.
 But so far the talks, though described as positive, have produced no agreement, while the deadline slips away fast.
 Just before the talks Gerry Adams issued a statement saying that to postpone the elections any further would be to “wave goodbye” to this phase of the peace process.
 “My big concern,” he said, “at the moment is that the two governments and the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) have set the bar too high, right outside the Good Friday Agreement.”
 He said that demands were being made of the republicans while the British and Irish governments were in breach of the Agreement.
 He pointed out that the Ulster Unionist Party was moving the agenda away from key elements of the Agreement, such as the Equality Commission and justice issues.
 “Last Friday,” he said, “the rejectionists had their way. I look at the Ulster Unionist resolution and read through it and see rejection of element after element of the Good Friday Agreement and then I read the demands.
 “The UUP wants to see the IRA going away, and Sinn Féin’s peace strategy is to achieve that objective. But at the same time the UUP are against the British army going away and they want to see the Royal Irish Regiment retained. It just doesn’t make sense.”
positive engagements
Last Tuesday, after the unsuccessful talks, Gerry Adams said here had been a “series of positive engagements”.
 “If we continue the type of very, very focussed approach that we have taken, I still remain hopeful that we’ll get to where we want to be,” he said.
 Earlier, Adams said his party was working on the basis that there was going to be an election and that the poll would take place soon.
 “The endeavours today are about trying to ensure that the election returns working, durable, sustainable institutions,” he said.
 He said Monday’s talks were a continuation of the very intensive discussions, which have been taking place with some of the other parties and the two governments.
 Meanwhile there have been hints that the IRA may make a further gesture to help the process along with a third decommissioning of weapons.
As David Ervine, leader of the Progressive Unionist Party, prepared to travel to Dublin for talks with Bertie Ahern, he said there appeared to be “better mood music” coming out of talks between Sinn Féin and the Ulster Unionists.
 But he also called on the British and Irish Governments to work with loyalists to bring the peace process to its logical conclusion.
 The East Belfast PUP councillor said: “Certainly from the bits and pieces we are getting from the current negotiations, the atmosphere appears to be changing to one of a more positive nature.
“It is expected the IRA will make a move on weapons and we will get an election but whether we can get a comprehensive deal which can stick coming out of this remains to be seen.”
 And he conceded: “It certainly seems that not the same effort or energy is being devoted to tackle that in loyalism than it is in republicanism.”
 The deadline for an election on 13 November has passed but sources are hopeful that 27 November will be possible.
 But that is not a forgone conclusion. Three of the most extremist Unionist MPs – Jeffrey Donaldson, David Burnside and the Reverend Martin Smyth – are putting pressure on Trimble to demand the total disbandment of the IRA as a precondition to an agreement.
 This tiny minority of religious fanatics must not be allowed to hold the democratic future of Ireland to ransom. Their power derives purely from the British state and Blair can easily over-rule them, if he has he will to do so.
 It is not a small sect of off-the-wall loyalists that stand in the way of Irish democracy; it is the power of British imperialism that is using them as a fig leaf.
 We must demand the complete withdrawal of British imperialism from the sovereign island of Ireland, now!


Bush not welcome here

GEORGE W BUSH is coming to London on 19 November on a three-day state visit to Britain. He will be wined and dined by the Queen and the imperialist warlord and his chief henchman, Blair, will bask momentarily in the pomp and circumstance that usually surrounds these events.
But a bit of tinsel cannot divert attention for long from the unanswered questions of the Iraq war or end the growing isolation of Anglo-American imperialism in the rest of the world.
No weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq. Not a day passes without reports of more attacks and bombings by the Iraqi resistance against the US-led occupation army.
The Stop the War coalition is mobilising for a series of protests and demonstrations across the country to give Bush the welcome he deserves and show the world once again what the people really think about the American warmonger and his loyal lackey Blair.
Bush and Blair no doubt believe that propping each other up will revive their political fortunes and silence the growing dissent within their own ranks over the shambles of the Iraq war. We must prove them wrong.


A new plan for Palestine

Some Israeli Labour opposition politicians and a number of former Palestinian ministers have published a new “peace plan”, the fruit of over two years of secret negotiations sponsored by the Swiss government and released in draft form this week.
This plan provides for an Israeli withdrawal from most of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip that would comprise the territory of a new Palestinian state. Israel would retain key positions around Jerusalem in exchange for some land in the Negev desert. The Palestinians would give up the refugees’ right of return but a small number would be allowed home while others would receive financial compensation.
Why this should have taken two and a half years to draft is puzzling. It all looks suspiciously like the “Barak Plan” that the last Israeli Labour government tabled at the Camp David talks with President Arafat and Bill Clinton in 2000, apart from a minor further concession to put Jerusalem’s Haram al Sharif shrine under Palestinian administration.
The Barak plan fell because it did not address the problem of the Palestinian refugees. This one, dubbed the “Geneva Accord”, is likely to fare no better, though some say it has the blessing of President Arafat himself. Except, of course, that this plan has no official standing in Israel and it has already been dismissed out of hand by General Sharon’s ruling Likud coalition in Tel Aviv.
Though it may provide a focus for Israel’s Labour Party in its campaign against the disastrous policies of the Sharon administration it still shows how little they are prepared to go on the central issue of the Palestinian refugees – in fact little more than what was proposed in the 1950s when Israel offered to accept the return of 100,000 refugees on the basis of re-uniting families in exchange for a peace treaty.
The American “road map” was a plan without a map that offered the Palestinians nothing. This one has a map but lacks a plan to deal with the fundamental demand of the Palestinian people.

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