Recent Events in Ireland


Carl von Clausewitz wrote 'A conqueror is always a lover of peace', a statement that appears contradictory until one considers present day imperialism and its campaigns to hold old spheres of influence and acquire others through what it calls globalisation. In a number of countries pacification processes masquerade as 'peace process' and the absence of a proletarian leadership in the national liberation struggle leads to the division and disillusionment of the revolutionary movement. Such is the case in Ireland where British imperialism, the master of divide and rule has put in place measures to update its occupation of part of Ireland for the 21st century. Modern imperialism everywhere encourages acceptance of its 'new world order' where it believes armed national and class struggle against its rule is redundant.

Ireland historically contains thirty-two divisions called counties, six of which are occupied by Britain. After the War of Independence concluded in 1921 Lloyd George with the support of the Irish comprador bourgeoisie established a state with Dominion Status in 26 counties, what is known since 1937 as the 'Irish Republic'.

The national revolutionaries and Marxist Irish Citizen Army defeated in the Civil War of 1923 were identified by the Comintern as potential allies of the Communist Party of Ireland that had been founded on the 14th October 1921. New studies at the former Central Party Archive of the CPSU indicate that the promotion of the syndicalist Jim Larkin by Harry Pollit of the CPGB to leadership of the nascent communist movement in Ireland was a serious mistake. Larkin's break with the Comintern in 1929 and this coupled with the rise of reactionary Catholic power in the 1930's following the publication of Quadragesimo anno in 1931 seriously undermined the foundations of the Communist Party in Ireland. An opportunity to challenge the prestige of the Catholic Church (gained as a result of it being a bastion of national traditions throughout the centuries of English occupation) was lost due to Larkin's inability to work with the national revolutionaries and build a Communist Party.

In 1920 Britain exempted six of the nine counties of the province of Ulster in the North East and created a state (Northern Ireland) on the basis of religious sectarianism, a state run de facto by the Orange Order (akin to the BJP in India)

Why just six of the nine counties? The Unionist Edward Carson stated -

'There is no use our undertaking a Government which we know will be a failure.... If we were to be saddled with these three counties... you would bring in from those three counties into the Northern Province an additional two hundred and sixty thousand Roman Catholics.'

Sir James Craig Prime Minister of Northern Ireland from 1921 to 1940 stated -

'I have always said I am an Orangeman first and a politician and member of Parliament afterwards... all I boast is that we are a Protestant Parliament and a Protestant State.'

The Irish Civil Rights movement which took its inspiration from the African-American movement of the 1960's, failed to reform the sectarian northern state, collapsed, and its more militant members turned to armed struggle in the revived Irish Republican Army.

Thirty years later the defining feature of the new 'peace process' in Ireland is the participation of the Provisional Sinn Féin/Irish Republican Army - largest by far of the four republican political/military groups, and who support the political structures worked out by the British and Dublin governments.

The 'Belfast Agreement', end product of the recent process has been promoted by those 'nationalists' who accept it, as having features that will allow for a transition from British rule to a united Ireland. Supporters point to the North-South ministerial council as such a transitional mechanism. This idea of a north-south council has some precedents, notably the Council of Ireland of 1920, which was included in the treaty of 1921 and which provided for :

'...the eventual establishment of a parliament for the whole of Ireland and to bring about harmonious action between the parliaments and governments of Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland.'

And whose remit was railways, animal diseases and fisheries.

It never got off the ground because the comprador bourgeoisie of the new Free State did not participate - a commission on the boundary was pending which they naively thought would reduce the size of Northern Ireland to a very small area.

The second precedent is the Council of Ireland of the Sunningdale Agreement of December 1973, which proposed:

'a council of ministers, with executive and harmonising functions and a consultative assembly with advisory and review functions'.

Key areas were to be agriculture, environment, trade, industry, transport, tourism, public health, sport, culture and the arts.

The Unionist veto - derived from their artificial majority built in to Northern Ireland at partition (in the language of diplomacy 'consent'), was accepted by the Dublin government who at the same time would not drop the definition in their 1937 constitution that the nation consisted of the whole island.

Both the 1920 and 1973 accommodations with Unionism were rejected by the Republican movement as they did not recognise the right of the Irish people to self-determination and independence and instead upheld British claims and perpetuated the division of the country.

The current process has its origins in the mid-eighties and the shift within republicanism towards constitutional politics.

Recognition of this by the Dublin and British governments prompted the Joint Declaration of 15 December 1993 which stated :

'The British government agree that it is for the people of Ireland alone, by agreement between the two parts respectively, to exercise their rights to self determination on the basis of consent, freely and concurrently given'.

As can be seen from this the English start from the premise of partition, itself the antithesis of democracy having being imposed on Ireland by threat of war.

It is ridiculous to think that a minority of the Irish people in one of the 'two parts' receiving subventions of approximately three billion pounds per annum from Britain are free to do anything than accept and demand more of the same treatment.

Close examination of the Belfast Agreement of 1999 shows that the new deal gives the Dublin government even less than Sunningdale.

The initial draft of the Belfast Agreement was composed by the British and Dublin governments in cooperation with a group headed by USA senator George Mitchell and proposed new bodies to strengthen economic ties between the two states in Ireland.

The Sunday Tribune journalist Ed Moloney commented:

'Most significant of all the Mitchell Draft makes it clear that the Irish and British governments had already made a key concession to David Trimble (Unionist leader) on North-South Bodies before the final negotiations began. This was an agreement that the workings of the cross-Border mechanisms and their future development would, in the North, be firmly under the control of the new Assembly. The relevant sections in the Mitchell Draft and the final agreement are identical.

Unionists are hailing this as David Trimble's greatest achievement in the Talks since, in their eyes, it confirms an effective Unionist veto over the North-South arrangements.'

Whereas the Sunningdale agreement had proposed 40 areas of cooperation the Belfast agreement has 12 areas of minor significance such as Inland Waterways, Animal Health, Tourism and Teacher Qualifications. These areas of cooperation between the two states are not endowed with executive powers and only commit to using 'best endeavours' and to 'make determined efforts' in their dealings. A talk shop for well paid politicians in short.

An important part of the Agreement for the imperialists is the proposed disarmament and destruction of the weapons of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). In return the British Army is to merely withdraw the majority of its troops (depending on the security situation). On February 11th Peter Mandelson, the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland unilaterally suspended the Northern Ireland parliament and reintroduced Direct Rule due to the fact that at the time the (P)IRA had not decommissioned any weapons. A (P)IRA statement considering 'how to put arms and explosives beyond use' made no difference.

The Canadian Gen de Chastelain who is overseeing the process of decommissioning stated that (P)IRA representatives indicated to the Commission (on disarmament - O'C) 'the context in which the IRA will initiate a comprehensive process to put arms beyond use, in a manner as to ensure maximum public confidence. The Commission believes that this commitment... holds out the real prospect of an agreement which would enable it to fulfil the substance of its mandate.'

Starting from the status quo of partition and an unwillingness to undermine Unionism the Belfast Agreement represents an obstacle to be overcome in the struggle for Irish freedom.

The 'peace process' in the North of Ireland has been complimented by the southern Irish State's participation in a Council of all the constituents of the so-called United Kingdom. Furthermore they have also joined the NATO led 'Partnership for Peace', without a referendum, further compromising the sovereignty of the Irish people. A return to the Commonwealth is also being muted.

Experience in Ireland confirms Lenin's oft quoted thesis that:

'Without a revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement'. In spite of a heroic continuous struggle of three decades the limitations of republican ideology has led to division within the ranks of the national revolutionaries and temporary setback in the struggle for Irish freedom.

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