Article from the Feb. 2005 issue of the Socialist
newspaper of the Socialist Party, Irish section of the CWI
Joe Higgins Column
ALTHOUGH ISSUES relating to Northern Ireland, such as the crisis in the peace process and the actions of the paramilitary organisations, feature in the D‡il on a weekly basis, there is rarely time for considered statements. And when that does happen, the Socialist Party, having just one Deputy, doesn't have the time necessary to do justice to our analysis and programme regarding the national question and the complexities in the political situation in the North.
It was really no different when Fine Gael gave over its three hours of Private Members' Time in early February to the North. The debate really amounted to the government, Fine Gael and the Labour Party agreeing a motion with their analysis and using the opportunity to attack Sinn FŽin and the IRA.
But what all parties including Sinn Fein were arguing was that the Good Friday Agreement and the institutions set up under it would provide a solution.
I was determined to put on record the general position of the Socialist Party, which is clear that neither the capitalist political parties that dominate political life nor nationalist or sectarian based parties can provide any resolution to the problems in Northern Ireland.
I put a formal amendment to the Fine Gael motion on the D‡il order paper and ensured it was read into the record as the socialist alternative to the amalgam of parties contributing to the debate.
The key points proposed were, that the Dail:
- Believes that events in Northern Ireland since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement show clearly that a resolution cannot be found based on the institutionalisation of sectarian division and on political parties that are based on sectarian division;
- Believes that the large majority of the population in Northern Ireland want peace and no resumption of paramilitary attacks;
- Demands the continuation of ceasefires by paramilitary organisations but notes the continuation by these organisations on both sides of the community of undemocratic and oppressive methods to maintain control over areas where they are based and calls for an end to these activities;
- Has no confidence that the current British or Irish Governments, which are implementing neo-liberal economic policies, have any solution to the underlying social and economic problems which blight in particular Catholic and Protestant working class communities;
- Notes in particular the British Government's policy for further privatisation of public services and the planned introduction in 2006 of water charges for householders;
- Believes that a resolution to the problems in Northern Ireland can only be based on a united working class mobilising to resolve the economic, social and political problems that confront society;
- Calls for complete demilitarisation;
- Calls for an end to all activity by all paramilitaries, loyalist and republican;
- Calls for the establishment of genuine policing services that are locally based and under the control of democratically elected policing committees;
- Calls for the building of a mass political party capable of uniting the working class in the struggle for a socialist solution.
After putting these points on the record, there was only time for a few sentences to reiterate that the current political parties have no solution: "I oppose the motion and the amendments by the Government and Sinn Fein which seek to restore what has failed, namely, the institutionalisation of sectarian division for which the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement provide.
It beggars belief that anybody can believe that a continuation of these structures, based on sectarian divisions and parties, can advance the situation. It is unbelievable that anyone would think that for a section of the republican movement, which is not a socialist movement, to be in government with an extreme right wing section of unionism is an advance for working class people in Northern Ireland."