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Correspondence: The case against Sinn Fein 
John McAnulty replies to Niall Vallely

23 January 2007

As part of the Sinn Fein push to win support for endorsing the RUC all sorts of worthies joined a publicity drive to convince everyone that backing the police was the logical expression of early civil rights demands for democracy.  The pitched battles, the petrol bombs and the cries of SS RUC! were demands for accountable policing which was now within our grasp.  It was a difficult case to make, given that the actual demands of socialist and republican activists was for the disbandment of the hated force and the pulling down of the sectarian state that had spawned them.  John McAnulty took the opportunity to reply to Niall Vallely in the pages of the Irish News.  We reprint the letter here. (A summary of  his position is included in the letter).

Dear Editor,

Some decades ago I shared a common organisation – Peoples Democracy – with Niall Vallely.  His letter to the Irish News (January 16th) indicates that the gulf in time is as nothing to the political gulf that now separates us, and that also separates the ideals of the original civil rights activists from the politics of today’s Sinn Fein.

Niall makes one weak point in order to make some very bad points. He argues that it is not good enough for republican dissidents (once simply called republicans) to declare pure republican credentials.  This is the time for realpoitik.

Unfortunately his realpolitik bears little resemblance to the real world and significantly distorts the history of the troubles.

Insofar as I can follow his argument it is that:

The conflict was with ‘the plantation’ (i.e. it was a sectarian struggle) and not with the British occupation.

The way to defeat the plantation is to force Paisley to be Prime minister.

A DUP/Sinn Fein coalition will lead to a united Ireland as their joint efforts turn the North into the land of milk and honey that the South represents.

All of this is as realistic as the writings of Lewis Carroll – Alice’s adventures in Wonderland springs to mind.  The conflict was primarily with the British. The Unionists have smashed up the Good Friday agreement and hung it around Sinn Fein’s neck.  It took only a few weeks for them to do the same thing with the St. Andrews agreement.  They were able to do this because the British have asserted all the way through that they remain the colonial power and the base for their dominance in Ireland remains the unionist base.  At every turn Blair has re-written the script to make that clear and the whole grand conclave of agreements now boils down to whatever ticket Ian Paisley cares to write as a condition for entering government. 

Given that Paisley is in this position any suggestion that him taking over as First minister is a defeat for the DUP is just daft.  It is Sinn Fein who are defeated and humiliated, forced to vote through support for the police even as yet more evidence emerges of their role in collusion with Loyalist killers and that the political process is still unable to bring these killers to book or even try any of the special branch handlers as, yet again, evidence and records go missing.  No-one should imagine for a moment that this is the last humiliation for Sinn Fein.  As Ian Paisley says, deeds will be required.  Sinn Fein will not just be required to support the police, it will be the police, bringing the nationalist population to heel.

Perhaps the strangest part of Niall’s letter is his hymn of praise to the 26 county state.  One would never realise that he began his political career in a socialist organisation, filled with contempt for the Southern gombeen.  Socialists feel the same contempt today. Where he sees a ‘prosperous …. and inclusive democracy’ we see a class-ridden plutocracy, intent on the superexploitation of  both native and foreign workers, opposed to the very idea of an Irish democracy, unable even to prevent a major airport being subverted to an imperialist war in defiance of its constitution.

That’s the alternative Niall.  Socialism is the alternative.  Your taunt your republican dissidents for lacking an alternative but you build on one failure – the failure of republican militarism – a second failure built on collaboration with a corrupt gombeen capitalism.

Your republican critics at least get one thing right.  Whatever the rights and wrongs of your programme they are at least there to tell us that it bears no resemblance to the programme of republicanism.


John Mc Anulty


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