The New Worker
The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 24th October 2003
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UNIONISTS TRY TO WRECK PEACE HOPE
by Daphne Liddle
HOPES OF restoring any kind of democracy to the occupied
north of Ireland were thrown into chaos last Wednesday when Ulster Unionist
Party leader David Trimble refused to accept the latest round of IRA decommissioning.
He said it was not “transparent” enough unless he was given chapter and verse
over exactly what weapons had been destroyed.
This follows weeks of negotiations between the Irish and British premiers
and four-way talks involving Blair, Ahern, Sinn Féin and the Ulster
The talks have been aimed at getting an agreement that would allow
the long delayed elections for the northern Irish Assembly to go ahead. They
were suspended last May after the Ulster Unionists refused their co-operation.
The assembly itself was suspended a year ago after allegations that
Sinn Féin members had been involved in spying. Despite high profile
police raids, none of these allegations was ever sustained.
The recent talks seemed to have been successful and an election date
for Wednesday 26 November has been set.
The IRA had made a huge concession and agreed to decommission a large
number of arms. The head of the international decommissioning body General
John de Chastelaine confirmed the decommissioning.
He described it as larger than previous decommissioning events and
that the IRA had destroyed light, medium and heavy ordnance.
But Trimble claimed there was not enough transparency and used this
to refuse to engage with the electoral process.
Many believe he is under pressure from other Unionists who do not want
any kind of democratic assembly that they do not totally control. They are
fighting to retain their complete veto over everything that happens in the
occupied six counties. In other words they want to reverse the peace process.
Blair has said that the elections will go ahead in any case and has
called for a few more days for more talks. But time is running out to get
the electoral process up and running again before the end of the year.
on a limb
Trimble may find himself out on a limb when it comes to the elections. Most
of the electorate in the north of Ireland – nationalist and loyalist – want
the peace process to continue. They do not want a return to the war situation
that prevailed before.
The IRA and Sinn Féin have been seen to make very big concessions
to save the peace process from imminent collapse while Trimble and the loyalist
extremists have been seen to do their utmost to sabotage it.
This is not the first time the republicans have made concessions of
this kind, only to get a slap in the face for it. Every time Sinn Féin
and the IRA move to meet a Unionist demand, the Unionists move the goalposts
and make some new, impossible demand. The truth is they are divided over
whether they want to take part in the peace process at all.
But the British government is playing the most duplicitous role in
all of this. Blair has the power to tell Trimble and the rest of the Unionists
to accept the deal they agreed to, and shook hands on, last Monday – or lump
If the loyalists consider themselves to be part of the British state
– then the vast majority of people in Britain want the peace process to succeed.
So do the people of Ireland and so the majority of people in the occupied
Whichever way we look at it, the Ulster Unionists have no democratic
mandate to sabotage the peace process. They have no power to stop the process
except what Downing Street allows them.
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams was furious at the Unionists’ last-minute
sabotage. He said that the conflict would only be ended by the full implementation
of the Good Friday Agreement. He said arrangements had been made to keep
the details of IRA arms decommissioning confidential.
Gerry Adams said that the process had suffered a “profound” setback
and said it was difficult to see how the latest glitch could be resolved
in the short term.
“There could not have been under any circumstances any misunderstandings
at all,” Adams declared.
“Do you think that the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach would have
flown in here once again had there not been an agreement and had there not
been an agreed sequence?”
In August, leaders of the UUP were deeply divided over the peace process
and met to hammer out new demands.
At the time, North Belfast Sinn Féin representative Gerry Kelly
said that the Unionists must not be allowed to have a veto over the peace
“Over the past five years, the continual pandering to negative unionism by
the British government has resulted in the peace process becoming stalled
and many aspects of the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement remain
outstanding,” he said.
“Internal difficulties within the UUP are no excuse for the continual
stalling of key aspects of the Equality and Human Rights agenda, which is
at the core of the Agreement.
“People did not vote for the implementation of the parts of the Agreement
which elements of the UUP are comfortable with. They voted for the full implementation
of the Agreement and these rights and entitlements cannot be contingent on
the outcome of a UUC meeting.”
Step up the pressure!
SOME TRADE UNION leaders, including a number who have risen
to the top on a left ticket, are now saying that it’s time to call a halt
on the arguments over Tony Blair’s leadership and the Iraq war. They claim
that this is all water under the bridge and that we must now move on to the
issues of the day. What they don’t say is that this is exactly what Blair
& Co want – to sweep the question of whether Parliament was misled over
Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction under the carpet.
Blair can wish for this as much as he likes. But as long as there’s a question
mark over his conduct in Parliament and as long as over 10,000 troops remain
in southern Iraq, the peace movement within the labour movement must continue
the fight for truth and justice.
Lord Hutton will submit his conclusions on the Kelly affair next month but
his inquiry raised more questions than it could answer, given the straight-jacket
terms of reference set by a government which clearly has something to hide.
The people have the right to know what the actual status of the “dodgy dossier”
was and whether it was doctored to sway the vote in the House of Commons
and justify British participation in America’s criminal aggression against
a near-defenceless country. There must be a public inquiry into the circumstances
that led to Britain’s entry in the Iraq war.
Bad news for the racists
The labour movement will be heartened at the news
of the defeats for neo-nazi British National Party (BNP) in two local council
by-elections last week. Though it pretends to renounce its fascist heritage,
the avowedly racist BNP has exploited the hysteria over asylum seekers drummed
up by some reactionary newspapers to win a small number of council seats
over the past two years, mainly in the north of England.
That trend has at last been reversed, though it is sad comment on Labour’s
standing in these mainly working-class areas that it has been at the hands
of the Liberal Democrats.
The fascist appeal, such as it is, is based on the crude racism of the “superiority”
of the supposed white race in comparison with anyone else. But the
fascists also pose as defenders of working class interests and they sometimes
rail against some of the injustices of the capitalist system.
The fascist creed is essentially that of the most reactionary elements of
the ruling class they pretend to despise. What their claims boil down to
is simply that working people would have more of the crumbs from the rich
man’s table if all non-whites were expelled from this country.
Their hatred is reserved for the religious and ethnic minorities they scapegoat
as the source of all the problems in society. Their propaganda and violence
are not directed against the real exploiters and oppressors of the working
class but at the unions and the democratic gains won through mass struggle
over the years. And their icons are the worst tyrants and butchers the world
has ever seen.
Working people lived in poverty, squalor, bad housing and mass unemployment
long before the mass immigration of the post-war period. It is the inevitable
by-product of the capitalist system. Only socialism can bring that to an
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