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
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
“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.”
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
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.
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
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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