Return to Debate menu
Ireland and Palestine – forward to 1965? 

Gerry Fitzpatrick

21 September 2006

Gerry Fitzpatrick writes to us presenting a new view of the Irish Peace process and linking it to the collapse of the Oslo accord in the Middle East.  He also looks at factional tensions within unionism. We welcome further contributions on this issue.


On the occasion of 25th anniversary of the 1981 Hunger Strikes Gerry Adams gave a speech at Casement Park that could only be described as a rallying cry to republicans to realise Irish unification. The Unionist and press reaction to this call was less than negligible (most of the negative comment concentrated on the fact that the GAA had ‘allowed’ the use of Casement Park for the rally), once such a statement would have provoked outrage among Unionists and Paisleyites. This would have been followed by the weary ministerial statement from the NIO that ‘Northern Ireland will of course remain British so long as the majority of its citizens so wish it.’ The reason why there was no outrage and no weary ministerial statement is simple; Unionist opinion regards the possibility of Sinn Fein leader realising what he called for as so highly unlikely that it simply does not appear on their radar. And that is quite an achievement considering the fact that up until recently such a call would have been regarded as an act of war. However this lack of reaction does not mean recognition by Unionists of any ‘legitimate right’ of republicans to have or promote such politics. 

Compare this to the Unionist reaction to the inclusion of David Irvine of the UVF taking a place as a leading spokesman of the Unionist Party Assembly group and his issuing of a recent threat/warning in his Sunday Times interview: that there would be a violent reaction if there was an attempt to increase cross border co-operation by Dublin and London. Outrage of an older anti-republican type there may not have been, but there was grave concern among Unionists about the implications of Irvine’s new position and the statements he is now making from it. Unionists, politically ignored what they would once have thought a statement of war-like intent from the republican leadership and concentrated on the implications of political statements from the leadership of the UVF this is just one of the consequences of the working of three processes which together form the Post-Agreement Process: Politicide, Sectarianization and Politicization.




The term ‘politicide’ as used by Baruch Kimberling in Politicide: Sharon’s War Against the Palestinians (2003) details the disintegration of the Fatah Palestinian National Authority led by Yasser Arafat and their increasing inability to influence events in the occupied territories. 

Following the 1994 Oslo Accords, and in exchange for recognising Israel, Fatah sold Oslo on the basis that Palestinians would see the end of Israel’s illegal land occupation and the withdrawal of the Israeli forces. Fatah then claimed that the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) was therefore proof of  Washington and Israel’s recognition of Palestinian political aspirations, that would lead to: Palestinian statehood. 

The price demanded by Israel and the US for devolving this limited notion of power to the PNA was the isolation (and eventual destruction) of the ‘militants’ (in this case Hamas and Hezbollah). 

We now have seen the results of the Fatah’s PNA political regime and law and order policies in the West Bank and Gaza. It was, to say the least, a forgone conclusion that Fatah could not complete the isolation of the militants. For the simple reason these ‘militants’ soon comprised the majority of the Palestinian population. And as Fatah could not move against its own population from which it took what was left of its support, then Israel then moved against Fatah and the PNA saying that Arafat ‘had broken the Oslo Agreement’ – that is for not being able to stop the attacks against Israel (retribution in the form of Israeli firepower of course had itself lead to the second Intifada in 2000).

On the other hand the Palestinian population increasingly saw Fatah and the PNA as accepting a peace whereby they became victims of more aggressive targeting by Israel. Following the collapse of Fatah and withdrawal of the settlers, Israel then established ‘free fire zones’ into the populations of Gaza and then Lebanon from which Hamas and Hezbollah draw their support (the fact that the new PNA Hamas government and Hezbollah have performed strongly in democratic elections was and is not a barrier to the US, Britain and Israel seeking their destruction).

The Fatah Effect: One-Sided Pacification

Here in the North the effects of one-sided pacification are just beginning but the advanced signs of politicide are already manifesting themselves. There may have been little need to confront political dissidents outside SF, as they are indeed isolated. And as Kimberling observes, the effect of Politicide is that political opposition decays and what is left is sterile debate on the support for desperate acts such as suicide bombings. While there have been desperate acts, the republican opposition to Sinn Fein has repeatedly stalled around the equally sterile accusations on returns to militarism (as was the case with a recently abandoned meeting on the Peace Process).  But the sterility has also benefited SF and it supporters as they continue to deny that this peace settlement is in fact a one sided pacification. 

Those who had any doubt about this being the case, have only to look at the evidence of Sinn Fein leaders’ visit to the Middle East and the occupied territories.  Unionist politicians and the Israeli government were quick to link the visit to the contact that the Sinn Fein leader had with Hamas when it is clear the reason for the visit was Fatah and British inspired. Now under more intense pressure than ever President Abbas and the Fatah leadership invited Adams to tell the Palestinian population that Peace Agreements like Oslo and Belfast are working - that the goal of liberation can be pursued by ‘peaceful means’.  The visit may have been organised a while ago but to deliver this endorsement of Fatah and the Oslo Accords now - when they could not be more extinct in the minds of the Palestinians and the military-political leadership in Israel – is a new low in Sinn Fein’s diplomacy of denial.  No doubt Sinn Fein the visiting warm up act, will say their insistence that Hamas should now form a ‘unity government’ with Fatah was very different from a similar message delivered by the visiting main act: one Tony Blair MP. 

However, the reaction to Sinn Fein’s policy may not come from within SF but will start  as in Palestine as reaction to the re-imposition of the State Sectarianization that Sinn Fein, like Fattah, will implement.


Making Northern Ireland Better By Making British Rule Work

Sinn Fein would attempt to reject the PNA analogy and the fate of Fatah and Arafat for they are, as Gerry Adams has said pursuing ‘what everybody wants: Equality. 

If there was a moment where SF should have realised the weakness of that claim and what is actually is going on, it was after the final judgement was delivered in the equality case that they took against the Secretary of State over his appointments to the new Parades Commission.

The first legal judgement they received did indeed recognise that SF had a case - that the new Parades Commission appointments were undeniably discriminatory (no SFers or republicans were canvassed, but Orangemen and Protestant Churchmen were actively recruited to the Commission).  After a strong protest from Secretary of State Hain against this initial judgment the decision was reversed on appeal.  SF will no doubt continue to oppose the new Sectarianization of public bodies and funding policies. However, if the British State itself is now actively sectarianizing state funding and powerful public appointments – and promoting these actions as the embodiment of fairness - then DUP has a very easy job indeed in making and taking similar advantage in the new 6 county 3-3-1 council split. 

It will however be very difficult for SF to maintain this opposition to such discrimination and sectarianization when they play their part in realising the British plan of establishing a 6 county 3-3-1 council split. It’s success depends on the Republican Leaderships’ ability to convince their supporters that the 3-3-1 council split will be the proving ground of a push for Irish Unity – as they will doubtless attempt to be seen to be advancing cross?border co-operation. 

In recent statements – particularly those broadcast a few weeks ago on Belfast community television (NVTV) – Gerry Adams answered the criticism that the Post Agreement Process has become simply a matter of ‘waiting for Paisley’. The example of the Agreement ‘working’ and not ‘waiting for Paisley’ was he said ‘Belfast City Council’, where republicans had legally challenged the DUP’s closing of committees to stop republicans participating. This, he went on, was the new order of things across the North’s Councils, where the DUP are forced to accept the reality of republicans and SF in local government. The implication being that, as the SF had accepted the legitimacy of the state, then the DUP and Unionists should act in kind at Stormont and recognise the legitimacy of Sinn Fein to be in its government! 

Once, British governments told us that reform of Unionist state structures was the way forward. Now there is an open return to blatant state sectarianism with the British as the prime movers which cannot be divorced from another important British process: Loyalist Politicisation. 


It would be my dream that there won’t be violence, but the reality is that when you make a people voiceless there will be a reaction and a response. We have seen it so many times in the past. (David Irvine)
There are two ways of looking at this Irvine classic threat/warning given to the Sunday Times on what would happen if there was cross-border co-operation without devolution: 
  • It is a ‘peace’ blackmail – the UVF making their play for their share of the British ‘bribes’ that are to be handed out to the UDA. 
  •  That Irvine and UVF are signalling that they too are ready to be ‘Politicised’ like the new UDA. 
It is still surprising just how many people believe in the notion that British political ‘bribes’ of Loyalism can magically produce a decrease in Loyalist sectarian violence. But many still do believe just that.  Even a simple look at what the increasing success of the ‘political wing’ of Loyalism – the DUP - has actually meant in terms of social ‘progress’ – an increase in moral panics, racist and sectarian attacks and sectarian hatred – as witnessed at the 2006 Loyalist Orange-fest 12th. These celebrations also included a very public celebration of the murder of Michael McIlveen – a young Ballymena Catholic brutally beaten to death by a Loyalist mob. 

But it is not surprising that those who accept the notion of Loyalist peace ‘bribes’ also like to see the fallen Loyalist commanders as ‘colourful characters’ or ‘brigadiers of bling’ giving them the patina of tabloid celebrities and not people who dealt in fear and death – and not just drugs. These were not the exception; they were and are the rule and what rules Loyalism. Those who agree with the notion of British bribes leading to the fall of a few ‘crooked’ commanders, would then no doubt see the recent armed Loyalist picket in North Belfast as positive development – because it was a mass showing of the ‘good’ now Politicised UDA, against the ‘bad’ corrupt UDA of Gray and the Soukris’.

Since the first Loyalist ‘ceasefire’ in 1994 Loyalist mob action and pipe bombings and sectarian attacks and killings have continued with little interruption, reaching new heights in September 2005 when all the Unionist parties came out in support of the Loyalist mobs instantly taking up and running with whatever feeble excuses Orange and Loyalists spokesmen like Irvine said was the cause. ‘Protestant deprivation’ was the justification and no matter how loudly and angrily commentators like Brian Feeney complained about how this feeble propaganda on unequal treatment of Loyalist areas was in fact blatant lies – the British liked the sound of it and saw in it an opportunity to re?brand Loyalism. 

And so it was, where once there was violent sectarian Loyalism there would now be Political Cash Rich Community Loyalism and arranging the removal of a few Loyalist bad apples suddenly meant that the barrel was no longer rotten! 

Economies of Scale

Unionist commentators like Roy Garland in the pages of the Irish News have demonstrated exceptional logic in trying to justify the British direct payments. Apart from the fact that he too accepts the idea that the money paid to Loyalists (in what ever shape or form) somehow will have the effect of halting Loyalist violence and sectarianism. The reason they are entitled to the money Garland says is that Loyalism perceives the Peace Process is unequal. Citing their belief that IRA still retains weapons to be used at some future date and their role in putting a large minus to the tune of £26m in the Northern Banks Balance sheet. All the major Loyalist organisations being strongly opposed to the Belfast Agreement’s ‘concessions to republicans’, Peter Hain has made it clear that Loyalist confidence is to be restored by giving Loyalists £33m. This is not to restore confidence in something called the Peace Process but to help restore Loyalist confidence in the British government and refute their supposed desertion of Loyalism.
Then there is the even more exceptional logic of the revisionists, who conclude that Loyalists are basically corrupt – but not when they back and front channel the Irish Presidency and not when they receive British free money – a panacea for corruption that would have gone down very well at ENRON. 

Including the Loyalists so That They Can Exclude

Those who believe in the bribe theory of government have also been singular their inability to explain just how a British Nationalization of Loyalism will stop Loyalist sectarianism and sectarian attacks? Or how this management buy-out will stop Unionist support for Loyalist mob action?  Reg Empy, the leader of Ulster Unionist Party, in supporting the September 2005 mobs actually paved the way for Irvine to take the newly branded Loyalism – inside the Unionist Party. 

This summer saw Sinn Fein logic at its most fallacious and Fatahanised in their indulging and belief in David Irvine. When David Irvine had a Sinn Fein audience at this year’s West Belfast Festival he stressed that republicans derived their legitimacy partly through violence and that this was and still is, the case for Loyalism. This he said, he wanted to change by having a power sharing ‘inclusive government’.

However, Sinn Fein have seen this inclusivity in action at Stormont when David Irvine agreed to be included in the Unionist Party Assembly group specifically to exclude Sinn Fein. Reg Empy the hapless Ulster Unionist leader pleading that he be given a chance to help make the new Loyalism work – which means doing what you can to exclude Sinn Fein from an inclusive government. 

Sinn Fein do not seem able to wake up from their delusions as their dream-time includes the fantasy that the UUP are social democrats and the PUP are socialists and both are still pro-Agreement parties.

In any case whatever micro measures Irvine and the UUP come up with for excluding Sinn Fein they will never be able to beat the macro measures and manoeuvrings of the DUP. As their party leader, Ian Paisley, commented on the equally feeble Sinn Fein strategy of self-exclusion from The Preparation For Government Committee so-as-to-be-better-included-in-a-Stormont-of-the-future:

“[Sinn Fein] refuses to support the police, the courts and the rule of law. Such behaviour cannot provide a basis for admission to the government of Northern Ireland”.
And he went on:
“The Secretary of State has done nothing to address the issues that stop devolution. He needs to remember that it is not Unionists who are blocking the way”.  (Ian Paisley Snr)
When the DUP leader refers to ‘devolution’ here he is of course means a Unionist Devolution. The DUP is ‘not waiting for Sinn Fein’ as they oppose their inclusion in any Stormont government. Yet no amount of these, now frequent, statements from the DUP, seems to penitrate the minds of the Sinn Fein leadership or prick the south sea bubble of journo-boosterism like that emanating from the Sunday Times and the Observer about the ‘billions’ the British will give the DUP if they ‘do a deal’ with Sinn Fein. 

The Unionist main interest at the moment still remains in Irvine’s stalled Unionist party debut rather than the prospect of Irish Unity or ‘doing a deal’ with Sinn Fein because some Unionists have difficulties facing up to the fact that the UVF and Irvine are the Real Deal: the true expression of Unionism: bigoted, violent and sectarian – something that the Silvia Herman types in the UUP would rather not acknowledge. So that is why Irvine and not Gerry Adams’ call to realise Irish Unity is exercising Unionists opinion at the moment.

The strange idea that the political funding and re-branding of Loyalism somehow brings them ‘in from the cold’ – giving them the chance to at least approach normal politics. Few ask what peace exactly can they sue for? When it is as clients of the British, that Loyalists draw their very existence and that this is the source of their normality in the state known as Northern Ireland. The British slush fund for Loyalism does do not amount to new funding; rather Loyalists are simply requesting an increase in their (once secret) British subsidies and no re-arrangement at Stormont will stop the Loyalist mobs ability to keep setting the political agenda.

This is not a Peace a Process it is a political process which has deepened sectarianism and once again legitimised violent Loyalist opposition, as Baruch Kimberling pointed out in relation to Fatah, Israel and the Oslo Accords:

“One of the main flaws of the Oslo Accords was the assumption that the Palestinian Authority would be a subcontractor regime, working to maintain Israel’s security, while all other issues would be subject to endless rounds of negotiations with every concession depending on Israeli generosity. This approach proved futile. In addition, the collapse of the Oslo process showed that the long period of ‘trust building’ caused mainly mutual distrust and offered plenty of opportunities for internal projectionist forces to sabotage any agreements.”
In his latest threat/warning David Irvine says that there will be a violent reaction to any moves towards North South Joint Authority (any devolved Unionist or Loyalist at Stormont would of course be even better placed to oppose such moves) and whatever gains or nominal control SF will have of the new enlarged councils and whatever action Sinn Fein controlled councils make to advance North-South co-operation themselves, that will be another opportunity for Loyalists to ‘react violently’. No doubt if and when that occurs, there will be much hand wringing from the UVF political leader along the lines of him finding the violence very regrettable but understandable. 

Return to top of page