Article from the Feb. 2005 issue of the Socialist , newspaper of the Socialist Party, Irish section of the CWI

IRA statement - another dead end

THE IRA withdrawal of their decommissioning offer, their threat that they will not "remain quiescent" does not signal a resumption of the armed struggle.

What these statements do demonstrate is the impasse in the peace process and the dead-end of the tactics, firstly military and now political, of the republican leadership.

It is worth remembering that the talks process did not end over this statement, or over the Northern Bank robbery, but had already broken down.

With no hope of talks being resumed in earnest before the Autumn, and with only a slender prospect of them getting anywhere, the two governments seized on the Northern Bank raid with the aim of isolating Sinn Fein.

When the talks process was still alive the British and Irish governments were prepared to turn a partial blind eye to previous robberies such as the 1 million raid on Macro or the 2 million cigarette heist in the South, both of which their "intelligence" blamed on the IRA.

Now, with the talks process in tatters, the governments' only options are either to put enough pressure on the republican movement to secure the disbandment of the IRA, to split the republican movement and get some Sinn Fein leaders to distance themselves from the IRA, or to try to halt the political advance of Sinn Fein by bolstering the SDLP so that progress could be made without them.

All these are fragile hopes. The disbandment of the IRA is not an immediate prospect and, even if it were, there is no guarantee that it would move the DUP any closer to a deal. The idea that there is a major split between the Adams/McGuinness wing of republicanism and the "hard men" who are supposed to be driving them is largely wishful thinking. The Westminster and local elections in May are likely to see Sinn Fein consolidate its lead over the SDLP.

Nonetheless, the republican movement has been clearly shaken by the cold shoulder it has been given since the Northern Bank robbery. The IRA statement is their response.

It does not mean that they have now an option of a return to the "long war". The conditions that drove thousands of young people to join the IRA in the early 70s do not exist at present.

The republican movement have arrived at the position they are now in through a series of dead ends. The methods of individual terrorism employed in the 70s could never succeed.

The back of this struggle was virtually broken by the end of the 70s. The hunger strikes and the intransigence of the Thatcher government allowed the republican leadership to stumble on a political strategy. But the attempt to marry this with the military campaign led to another dead end. The result was the peace process, the 1994 ceasefire and the reliance on "politics".

This too has been based on a false premise - that Sinn Fein's rise North and South and all the changes that go with it would, in Sinn Fein speak "contain the dynamic" to bring about a united Ireland.

The peace process has instead led to an historic deepening of the sectarian divide in the north. Society is polarised as never before. The idea that a demoralised Protestant community would eventually split and throw up leaders who would throw in the towel has not and will not materialise.

The choice is not a return to "war". Nor will a resumption of talks bring a solution that will last or will overcome the sectarian division. But things can't stand still either. Left in the hands of sectarian politicians and paramilitaries the peace process is pointing in the direction of a "war" of a different kind, a sectarian conflict and ultimately the danger of repartition.

The only way out is to build an alternative to these forces - a movement of the working class united around the struggle for a socialist solution.

More articles from this issue of the Socialist are listed here.

More articles from the SP archives of are available in our sitemap