Thursday, March 29, 2007

Northern Ireland: Road to the Future or Cul-de-Sac?

The agreement between Gerry Adam’s Sinn Féin and Ian Paisley’s DUP to accept the configuration of Devolution Government in Northern Ireland within the UK as decreed by the British Government’s legislation, although delayed by five weeks to conciliate some of Paisley’s more hard-line supporters, is welcome if it is a prelude to the normalisation of politics in the area after 30 years of sectarian conflict and violence which has disfigured all aspects of life there.

It will take some time for the hatreds aroused by the killings, shootings, bombings which were characteristic of the conflict to ease down and allow some kind of objective consideration of the political realities to emerge and, hopefully, a re-alignment of political forces onto the common European model of Left/ Right division which reflects the real class interests of the population.
Unfortunately, the type of government structure now to be established has the propensity to formalise the sectarian Catholic/Protestant division which is the main cause of the conflict, whereas the real need for the people is to dump these sectarian divisions and modernise the political system for better representation of their own interests. There is an opportunity here for those representing the Labour interest, mainly the SDLP led by Mark Durkan, but also the Labour Party in the Republic of Ireland, to focus on re-vitalising labour politics on the whole island and offering, to the people in Northern Ireland in particular, a modern, democratic, socialist alternative to the sterile futility of Catholic/Protestant turf wars.


Paisley’s DUP, one of the most backward political forces in Europe, doesn’t have anything to offer the people of Northern Ireland in the long-term. Motivated by sectarian religious hatred of catholics based on 17th century English politics and conflict with Catholic France and Spain, the DUP are stuck in a time-warp of their own making and have no logical way out of it without undermining their entire basis for existing. The Union of Britain and Ireland, an expedient of the ruling elite of England for complete domination of the islands, lasted only 120 years and was sundered by the achievement of sovereign independence by the greater part of Ireland in 1921. The detachment of the six counties of Northern Ireland was a crime against Irish democracy by the Imperialist Government in London in their own interests of maintaining domination of Ireland for political and strategic reasons.


These interests no longer have the same import as 100 years ago, but, the DUP and others of the same ilk continue to cling to the past as if the 20th century never happened. It is a supreme irony that as Ian Paisley shuffles into office as First Minister in a devolved government of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom, the people of Scotland will sound the death-knell of the British Union a few days later as the Scottish National Party sweeps to power in Edinburgh with an agenda for full independence for Scotland as soon as it can be effected. Recent polls taken in England show that more than 60% of the English also favour Scottish independence, a remarkable turnaround in a relatively short time and a portent of where the future of British politics might lie. Sooner, rather than later, there will be no Union for the Unionists of Northern Ireland to cling to.

Rather than waiting for the political earthquake to happen, Labour politicians in Ireland as a whole should take the initiative now and act to expand, develop and consolidate the Labour interest throughout the island.

FearFeasa Mac Léinn
Áth Cliath/Dublin, 29 Márta/March 2007.

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