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A Trojan horse of reaction

London, Dublin, US, try to force peace process reboot

John McAnulty

1 December 2014

British and Irish government’s pessimism about peace talks, claiming that there is little chance of agreement between the political parties at Stormont, is in fact a last pressure point to force Sinn Fein to accept unionist demands. The hint is amplified by a searchlight on Sinn Fein corruption in claiming parliamentary expenses, ongoing claims of rape cover-ups and arrest and interrogation of leading members about historic cases.

However it is also the first step towards plan B - a future in which, despite endless bribes to all sides, the local administration collapses. 

The reasons for crisis are quite simple. Despite the frenzied support of nationalists, the media, academic and cultural sectors and the trade unions, the majority party, the Democratic Unionist Party, are opposed to concessions to nationalism. It has proved impossible to develop a sizable unionist current that will accept restriction of the sectarian rights that are the basis of the statelet.  The task of DUP leaders is to bridge the gap between the mountain of patronage arising from remaining in government and the rejectionism of their base. A fundamental requirement is that the DUP be the majority party. They must not lose that position through being outflanked by more fundamentalist parties. The result is that at the first sign of threat they ditch their leaders and move sharply to the right - a process that is happening now.

Racist taunts

The process could be seen in action at the recent DUP conference. The semi-fascist Gregory Campbell kept up an ongoing campaign of racist taunts aimed at the Irish language. He said that the DUP would never agree to an Irish Language Act and that the Sinn Fein proposals to the current talks might as well be written on toilet paper as far as DUP acceptance went. 

DUP leader Peter Robinson, his policy of pragmatism itself reduced to toilet paper, supported Campbell while also trying to keep negotiations alive with the claim that Gregory was being humorous.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, questioned about the Sinn Fein response to unionist bigotry, said that the point was to "break the bastards" through a Trojan horse of forcing equality. Just how unbalanced society is in the North of Ireland is shown by the reaction of unionist politicians and local media. Having complacently ignored Campbell, they denounced Adams as beyond the pale.


In the furore the sheer implausibility of Sinn Fein's response to their supporter’s questions was ignored.

The DUP, and the Unionists as a whole, have quite clearly rejected any equality agenda. They supported the flag demonstrations and demands for supremacy, rejected proposals by US representative Richard Haass and lead a front in alliance with loyalist paramilitaries in support of sectarian marches. Only two unionist MLAs supported any accommodation with nationalists and they were forced out of the Unionist party. The Alliance party, supporting a compromise, continues to be the subject of paramilitary threat – a campaign ignored by the unionist parties and the British.

In the face of unionist rejection, who will force equality? The British, US and Dublin government have made no criticism of unionism and are bending Sinn Fein's arm in the search for a flexible response to unionism's demands.

Conflict resolution?

The Trojan horse of equality is simply part of Sinn Fein ideology. We are in a new era of conflict resolution, all on a journey together. We must make compromises and unionism needs leadership to realise that they must compromise before imperialism punishes them.

In the real world republicanism was defeated and Sinn Fein is now a capitalist party, a client of imperialism forced to constantly give ground. They desperately seek membership of the next coalition government in Dublin and have already demonstrated responsibility by endorsing a new austerity package in the North. The leaks indicating the transfer of taxation powers to allow the reduction of corporation tax is a sign that the British are confident that Sinn Fein will do the right thing and sign up to an even more sectarian solution. The fact that subsidising multinationals is a core element of Sinn Fin economic strategy and that the money to pay for this reduction will come straight from public services tells us that their willingness to support a sectarian solution is matched by a far right economic perspective. The main focus of the current negotiations is to find some cover to justify further capitulation and a desperate search for guarantees that the unionists will keep their word and not move the goalposts yet again. 

A favourite saying of supporters of the Irish peace process is "how far we have come."  In fact capitalism and imperialism have been totally unable to resolve the Irish question. 

Forty years ago the nationalists advanced an equality agenda of Civil Rights, setting aside the issue of national liberation. The British and the unionists claimed that this was a Trojan horse.  Ignoring the fact that they could spring the trap by delivering a democratic society, they brought the gun back into Irish politics. Today defeat has driven the struggle backwards - Sinn Fein's call for sectarian equality fall far short of the early calls for a secular democratic society and civil rights for all.

The possibility of overcoming the mistakes of the past, the defeats and retreats of today, are posed by the new mobilizations of southern workers against austerity. The greater the level of mobilisation, the more tawdry the pretend radicalism of Sinn Fein will become and the sooner the search for a genuine revolutionary perspective will get under way. 

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