The result has not ended British imperialism's rule over the six counties, abolished the border and the partition of Ireland or got rid of British troops from Irish soil.
And yet the referenda result is a welcome development that has taken the struggle for peace and a united Ireland forward.
We have already seen that the most reactionary and bigoted elements in the loyalist camp have been isolated and rejected by the poll -- one of the most angry and disappointed politicians in northern Ireland at the moment is the Reverend Ian Paisley.
The long-standing economic and social discrimination against the Catholic community in northern Ireland Is now on the agenda to be addressed. This includes dealing with the sectarian Royal Ulster Constabulary and the releasing of prisoners of war.
And the political obstacles that hindered the development of normal economic, social and cultural links between the north and the Republic of Ireland can now be broken down.
Of course it's true that the British ruling class, the capitalists ofthe European Union and the White House allhave their own motives for supporting the Agreement.
The British ruling class is no doubt looking for a way of maintaining its dominant role without having to risk the devastation of huge bombs in the City of London, without having to foot the bill for continual security exercises and without facing criticism from other states.
The European Union seeks a future single European state and does not want two of its member states to be embroiled in political strife with each other and does not want armed struggle within its borders.
The United States leadership does not want to alienate the sizeable Irish American community at home and it wants its Nato ally -- Britain -- to be able to sustain its influence over Ireland as a whole.
But it is always the case in the fight against imperialism that, until the oppressed class Is strong enough to win outright victory, the advances and gains will have to be wrung from the oppressor in a process of continuing struggle. In this context the Agreement on Ireland is a step forward -- but with a long road of struggle ahead.
Those voices from among the ultra-left who called for a No vote in the referendum because the Agreement fell short of what they wanted only displayed their arrogance and tendency for revolutionary romanticism. They have also put themselves into the same camp as the Paisleyites and the most backward elements of Orangeism.
We support the right of the Irish people to determine their own affairs -- and that includes the Irish people's right to decide the tactics of their own struggle for peace and for Ireland's freedom.
At the same time we have a responsibility to support workers in struggle everywhere, recognising that imperialism is our oppressor too.
We now have to step up the pressure on the British government to scrap the RUC -- just tinkering with it Is not enough, to repeal all repressive legislation and for the speedy release of the prisoners of war.
The Unionists, as soon as the referenda results were announced, raised the question ofthe decommissioning of weapons. They even suggested that Sinn Fein might be prevented from sitting with them in the new Assembly if this matter was not resolved.
In the light of this it is important that our voices are raised too to Point out that by far the greatest concentration of weapons in the north of Ireland are those in the hands of the British Army.
Above all, our Party continues to raise the call for Britain to get out of Ireland. Only when British imperialism ends its occupation of part of Ireland will a lasting peace be ensured. For the chains of imperialism that shackle Ireland are around our necks as well.
AN overwhelming "Yes" vote in Ireland, north and south, to endorse the Belfast Agreement last Saturday, sets the scene for the next crucial hurdle -- elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly scheduled for 25 June.
Much media hype that the "Noes" would be in sufficient numbers to cast serious doubt on the legitimacy of an expected thin majority in northern Ireland, was confounded by a decisive vote above 70 per cent.
This was the upper marker -in an unprecedented turnout of over 81 per cent of eligible voters in the north -- that the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) David Trimble had regarded as a winner within unionism. The combined north-south vote, of course, pushes that up to over 85 percent
And Trimble's position, not that this is clear from the twoway focus between the UUP and Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), owes something to the two key loyalist parties: the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) and the Ulster Democratic party (UDP).
And despite the so far failed manoeuvrings of some UUP MPs, together with so-called "Soft No" campaigners like Jeffrey Donaldson MP, the campaigns of the DUP and UK Unionist Party (UKUP), the attack on the Agreement will continue.
Donaldson said he intends questioning British Prime Minister Tony Blair in forthcoming debates in Parliament -- particularly as the prisoners' release, decommissioning and Northern Ireland Assembly issues come up.
No sooner had the chief electoral officer announced the results to general jubilation, than the decommissioning bogey reared its head, no doubt as part of the next stage of pillorying Sinn Fein in the run-up to the Assembly elections.
In the view of Sinn Fein chairman Mitchel McLaughlin, the "No" campaigners are likely to fall away and he believed fewer candidates will be standing on such a platform. But more importantly, the issue is now firmly a question of how the British government behaves.
Interviewed on Radio Four on the day of the result, the Sinn Fein leader said it was essential the British government maintained "rigorous impartiality". The Times (18.5.98), in an alleged leaked letter from Donaldson, had already tried to call this into question by alleging that the UUP MPs' views had been directly represented in Tony Blair's last minute "Yes" campaigning to "rescue" the vote by "wooing" unionist dissenters.
The main lines of attack on decommissioning were clear in this: no ministerial posts for Sinn Fein unless the IRA commit themselves to non-violence -- not something loyalist paramilitaries are being questioned about.
And so, it was clear what Sinn Fein would be asked as the vote came through. But both John Hume, leader of the Social Democratic & Labour Party (SDLP) and Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, interviewed together amid the cheering, refused to reduce the significance of the vote to yet another tired demand that the IRA disarm unilaterally.
There are some obvious facts that, loyalist attacks aside, have to be declared. Among which is the overlooked issue that the British government throughout the Stormont proceedings, have actually upgraded the British military infrastructure in northern Ireland -- costing about £45 million since the IRA ceasefires.
As Mitchel McLaughlin said in response to suggestions that the UUP want the IRA to say the war is over: "There are eighteen-and-a-half thousand British combat soldiers on my streets; I want to see them say the war is over as well. I want to take all those guns out of circulation...I don't want to deal with only one dimension of it.
"All of us as political parties -- unionisf nationalist and republicans -- are actually putting in place the very foundations of the type of political conditions which will see that achieved."
Intense coverage of the Belfast Agreement by the English media was in stark contrast to the almost complete silence about the referendum on the Amsterdam Treaty in the Republic of Ireland, which took place simultaneously with the Belfast Agreement poll. It is also, incidentally, in contrast to the attention being paid to the Denmark poll where opposition is strong.
Whereas over 94 percent voted in favour of the Belfast Agreement the picture was more ambiguous in respect of the Amsterdam Treaty poll: 61.74 per cent "Yes", 38.26 per cent "No". The turnout for both votes in the south were, not surprisingly, virtually identical at just over 56 percent.
But campaigners opposed to European Union (EU) integration regard the result as a green light to push forward against the EU. Since 1972 the four stages of Ireland's EU involvement have shown a consistent decline in "Yes" votes.
Belfast Agreement poll:
Northern Ireland: 81.10 percent turnout. YES: 676,966 (71.12 percent);
NO: 274,879 (28.88 per cent).
Repubiic of lreland: 56.26 percent turnout. YES: 1,442,583 (94.39 percent); NO: 85,748 (5.61 percent). Overall result: YES: 2,119,549 (85.46 percent); NO: 360,627 (14.54 percent).
Amsterdam Treaty poll (Republic ofIreland): Turnout: 56.20 per
cent. YES: 932,632 (61.74 per cent); NO: 578,070 (38.26 per cent). Spoiled
votes twice the number in the Belfast Agreement vote. Historically: In
1972 EEC membership vote: 83 per cent; 1987 Single European Act: 70 per
cent; 1992: Maastricht Treaty: 69 per cent; 1998: Amsterdam Treaty: 61.74
A Mori poll published last Tuesday, timed to coincide with National Childcare Week, showed that although 73 percent of firms recognise the need for childcare and 73 percent agree they have a moral responsibility to provide it, very few workers get any kind of help from their employers on this.
The poll surveyed Britain's top 500 companies and found only one in 20 provide workplace childcare, two percent have reserved nursery place schemes, five percent make a contribution to childcare costs, and only three per cent have after school clubs for employees' children.
But 81 percent of firms thought the government should help firms provide childcare.
The poll was conducted on behalf of the Daycare Trust and its director, Collette Kelleher said the survey revealed "double standards".
She added: "There is still a big gap between what companies say and what they are doing. We are aiming to bridge that gap.
"With increasing numbers of mothers with young children returning to work. employers need an effective childcare infrastructure as much as roads and railways.
"No one is suggesting that employers should foot the entire bill, but they have an important role to play and significant benefits to gain by developing childcare is Britain."
The government green paper details plans to provide an extra £300 million over the next five years to provide out of school clubs for children and more training for carers.
It also proposes the introduclion of care credit for low income families and improved child benefit.
PALESTINIAN President Yasser Arafat is moving towards a unilateral declaration of independence next year following the complete collapse of the "peace process". This was spelt out by a leading Palestinian official on Voice of Palestine radio last Tuesday.
"Our response to the collapse of the peace process will be the formal establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital," Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Eirekat declared during a phone-in programme on the major radio station within the "autonomous" zones.
But when asked how such a state could be viable when the bulk of the West Bank and Arab east Jerusalem was swamped with Zionist settlements, Eirekat was understandably evasive.
"Jewish settlements don't concern me much because they are illegal and illegitimate, and they will have to be dismantled sooner or later, Like Yamit [the Zionist settlement in occupied Egypt dismantled in 1979 when the Israelis pulled out of Sinai].
More to the point, Eirekat dismissed Israeli Premier Benyamin Netanyahu as a "liar and a psychopath".
"This man doesn't say what he means and doesn't meanwhat he says...he is a megalomaniac who thinks he can impose anything on anybody," Eirekat said.
Every Palestinian and many Israelis would agree with that, but few would share Eirekat's optimism about the future.
In fact Netanyahu's government shows no sign of giving a further inch of Palestinian tenitory back let alone handing over the settlements now or ever.
Tension is rising in the West Bank. Violent clashes between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli security is becoming more and more frequent. In Arab Jerusalem Palestinian youths battled with Israeli police trying to stop them from overwhelming huts erected by Zionist fanatics in the Muslim Quarter.
On this occasion the Zionist mayor of the city ordered the settler fanatics out. Butelsewhere the Zionist settlement programme, backed by Netanyahu's government, goes on relentlessly.
The failure of the recent talks in London and Washington has been a deep disappointment for President Arafat and his supporters. Arafat staked his reputation on the "peace process" which was supported by Israel's former Labour government.
Now it's going nowhere and the Americans who pull the strings in Tel Aviv, as well as many other Arab capitals, have shown no interest in putting any real pressure on Israel to make a further modest withdrawal to give Arafat's Palestinian administration some more credibility.
Arafat must now hope that Netanyahu can be forced into an early election and defeated by Labour. But even if that happened, and that's a big if, there's no guarantee that a Labour-led administration would be much better.
Israeli Labour leaders love to woo the peace movement when in opposition. In power their "realism" is little better than the open Arab-hating views of Netanyahu's Likud bloc and the settlers.
But the Israeli peace movement and the communist-led Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (Hadesh) will have a crucial role to play in the coming months to build the movement to oust Netanyahu and put pressure on Labour's leaders to move forward for a genuine peace with the Palestinians and Israel's other Arab neighbours. The alternative can only be war.
So far some 20,500 young people between the ages of 18 and 24 have passed through the "gateway" process of job preparation.
But of those only 2,000 have gone on to job placements and each of those jobs is costing taxpayers at least £6,000.
Those in the scheme face four options after the "gateway" stage: continuing in full time education or vocational training; a "nornal" job; work with an environnental task force or in the volunary sector or a subsidised job.
The subsidised job placement s the one that has received most publicity. Each placement lasts for six months with one day a veek for training.
The employer gets paid £75 a veek for each placement but pays the New Deal workers whatever wage they want, there is no specified minimum.
The employer is under no obligation to keep the worker after the six months.
Unemployed young people who refuse these options (or as many of them as are actually offered) can face having their benefit axed.
The government is also publiising independent research which shows that the New Deal for single parents is having "positive effects".
But again it is a lot of noise and not much substance. So far only 800 lone parents have found jobs under the scheme, with a total saving on benefits to the taxpayer of £33,000 a week.
The calculations show that women who have left Income Support for these jobs are on average just £39 a week better off.
The New Deal for lone parents is targeted at those who have school age children.
Though the government talks a lot about childcare, very little is actually available and without it lone parents cannot seek jobs.
And even when they seek them, like the young New Deal people, there are not many jobs available.
The government also last week warned the long-term unemployed over 25 that they will also be expected to take part in new, expanded New Deal schemes or face benefit cuts.
The scheme for this age group will be launched nationally on 29 June.
A report published by the Policy Studies Institute two weeks ago showed that temporary and part-time jobs and self-employment -- which are seen by many as a stepping stone to get the unemployed back to work, are only of limited use.
These jobs do not often lead to full-time employment.
A five-year study followed people who became unemployed between 1990 and 1992 and showed that 20 per cent did not find work in that period.
Fewer than 25 percent of those who took part-time work went on to get full-time jobs.
Very few of those who accepted a drop in skills and wage levels later improved their circumstances.
And while 38 per cent of those who took temporary work and did move on to full-time work, another 25 per cent remained trapped in short-term work contracts. Another 36 per cent fell back into unemployment.
Researcher Michael White called on the government to make radical
changes to National Insurance to encourage employers to use full-time rather
than part-time workers.