It has become fashionable to dismiss the last 30 years as the bloody
failure of Sunningdale and load the principle blame for this onto the
shoulders of Sinn Fein.
The group loyal to Gerry Adams have, over the past two decades,
rested control of the PIRA, and therefore of the Republican Movement,
from volunteers who distrusted politics and put all their faith in a
flawed military strategy.I agree entirely with Anthony McIntyre (The
Battle Against Truth, 19th August) that this was achieved by
employing the most monstrous dishonesty. I also agree with Michael
Costello (Eire Nua, Revisited, 14th August) that the Adams camp
displayed a callous, cynical disregard for human life.
However, to lament Sunningdale or to promote the narrow, abstract,
nineteenth century nationalism of Eire Nua is itself to turn from the
It was not nationalism that inspired people to queue at the
Provisionals' door in the early seventies. It was the much more
universal aspiration of being able to walk down a street without
being shot or beaten to a pulp. Every volunteer knew of Bombay
Street, had seen the B Specials in action, had family and friends
interned or killed and understood that on Bloody Sunday the state had
turned on its own citizens and armed resistance was the only option.
As it was working class areas that bore the brunt of these attacks
and had necessarily spawned the civil rights demands to which they
were the response, the Provisionals were essentially a working class
movement. The nationalist goals of traditional republicanism were
grafted on to an army brought into being through social struggle.
And for all the later lies, betrayals and Stalinist subterfuge, it
was the Provisionals who took up the baton and defended those too
weak to defend themselves. It was they that understood the point in
history which required their presence. Sunningdale might have been
offered by a weak and inept British Government. But when we British
elect a Labour Government the power remains with the unelected,
reclusive and ruthless representaives of the ruling class who hold
the reins of state power. The British Army, in 1974, had no intention
of allowing Sunningdale to work. This they made clear by their
support for the Ulster Worker's Council and Paisley's adept
exploitation of it. The provisionals instinctively new this and
history has not undermined their assessment of the British Army's
ensuing role in the north of Ireland.
I agree with Anthony that the ultimate agreement waited upon the
expectation of power. Not that of Adams and McGuinness - they were
ready to serve fifteen years ago - but of Paisley and the DUP. An
expectation encouraged within them by the elusive but very real power
in Britain and their instrument, the British Army. British
imperialism forced and prolonged the conflict, not those reacting to it.
The point in History is now a different one. The British state will
never again in Ireland repeat the crass mistakes it made in the
seventies. It will never again be caught without intelligence, which
it continues to gather, propelling it into such barbaric and counter-
productive measures. It knows it will never again get away with
shooting its own citizens on the street and now projects its military
power across the world where the people it kills have less
opportunity to object.
The front line is no longer Rossville Street but the dusty, blood-
stained lanes of the middle-east. Eire Nua invites northern workers
to join a republic where lies are a way of life, morality is defined
by what you can get away with and corruption is the skeleton upon
which the state hangs its wretched body; little wonder Adams thought
he'd do well here. Nationalism, without social struggle, will not re-discover the inspiration that called them to Armagh and the H Blocks.
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