The Blanket

Republicanism And The Crisis Within The Peace Process

Davy Carlin • October 14, 2002

This recent situation and still developing crisis within the peace process now facing suspension once again, has found accusations and counter accusations leveled at individuals, organisations and political parties. It initially emerged from the recent UUC meeting which seen in all practical terms an endorsed shift to anti agreement unionism. The developments thereafter I would suggest were tactical manoeuvres by elements who wish to embrace a 'traditional' status quo, thus anti agreement Unionism, this both within sections of the political and security establishment. The political reasoning for the raids on Sinn Fein Assembly offices was two fold. Firstly a strategic move to shift the blame from Trimble to republicanism in relation to the impending collapse of the institutions in January. Secondly, therefore with the blame now perceived to be squarely at Sinn Fein's door and the situation now reversed, consequently then an attempt to further pressurize the IRA to disband is then intensified.

This was a well mapped agenda, provided with the opportunity it only then needed the timing. I would suggest that it was no coincidence that they now choose to play this card to aid Trimble, reverse the blame and now inevitably sooner rather than later to see the standing down of the IRA. Secondly this situation has enabled anti agreement unionism to attempt to block or hold back continual change, which is really at the root cause of their problem as it seems they believe that change based on equality means that Nationalism gains, so consequently, therefore, somehow they must be losing out. It is, though, interesting to hear the call for IRA disbandment echoing increasingly louder, not only from unionism, Blair, Reid and company but now also by aspects of Nationalism and its media outlets amongst others.

While the overwhelming majority of people would want that such organisations should disband, the problem I believe does not lay in the eventual standing down of the IRA but in the perceived and real agenda of attempting to force the IRA to disband on unionist time limits, terms and constant demands. Like any such organisation attempting to move away from conflict to a conflict resolution situation and to some form of stability (despite various internal contradictions and public allegations) to be faced with still provocation and intimidation from one's military opponents and constant demands on their terms from one's political opponents doesn't sit well with conflict resolution. While Reid warned Republicans not to ride two horses at once many people do have an understanding of what he means. For example while the British political establishment call for peace, aspects of their security agencies actively seek a return to confrontation. While the UUP call for those to be booted out who 'have not shown' that they want the agreement to work they make this call as an anti agreement party.

It is interesting to see this development, a pro-agreement party voting to collapse the agreement and in the process becoming an anti-agreement party, who state the vote for collapse of the institutions was done in order to save that agreement. So with this and the timely security intervention on behalf of anti agreement unionism, we then have history being told that rather than anti-agreement unionism being responsible for the institutions collapse it was in fact pro-agreement republicanism who were in fact responsible.

So we see also within this recent situation questions being raised such as why were the IRA allegedly keeping names on groups such as prison officers? Other questions were also raised. Why were there so many PSNI officers needed to raid an unlocked office in such a fashion? Is it really a coincidence that this happened against the backdrop of the developments at the UUC where a once pro-agreement stance became a now anti-agreement one, thus the impending collapse of the institutions in January in all reality would be laid at Unionism and Trimble's door? Is it a coincidence that after a year or so of investigation that this issue came fortunately and timely for Trimble in full view of the world's press, timed coincidentally with the Colombia three trial?

Although this tactic - politically motivated for a strategic reason has seemingly put republicans on the back foot, the situation though may have the potential of developing in either of two directions in relation to republican grass roots. On the one hand it has all but succeeded in its goal to reverse the main blame of the institutions downfall upon republicans while in tandem pressure evermore mounting for IRA disbandment. This situation though in turn could cause confusion, anger, disillusionment and frustration of activists, with calls of 'we told you so' (a well worn tactic) to attempt division, criticism and infighting. On the other hand, however, as within the situation with Arafat, the organisations and its supporters can close ranks and pull activists and supporters even peripheral ones closer together if the see their movement, their party, their organisations, their leadership - their rights continually and increasingly attacked by political and-or military opponents. Whether such situations are based on either perceptions or realities, it will be used by all sides for specific aims and objectives, this ever developing or indeed 'developed'.

For republicans they have progressed through 'broad republicanism' and militant nationalism to now as openly stated by sections of its support base to 'New Nationalism'. This still embraces the contradictions held within the left wing spoke by some, and such aspiration of a few, to its centre right governance and implementation of some Thatcherite policies by its ministers. Yet despite this the republican movement by and large has remained intact with also a still growing electoral mandate. The peace process has increasingly brought on board for them new 'middle nationalism' supporters while still holding the bulk of their working class constituents, this despite that many within such working class communities see still little economic and social change with now the limited political change stalled.

This peace process has went from crisis to crisis, yet this is not a surprise. The institutions were established on the very basis of divisions, therefore little unity or trust, thus entrenching sectarianism even deeper. This developed also an economic and social agenda that provided both perceived and real exclusiveness for the most vulnerable people and communities, thus then the institutions continually concretised poverty through its political and economic structures.

The peace process is by many called the 'imperfect peace' - everyone may benefit from peace but not everyone will eventually benefit from the process. Despite this, it cannot be denied that change has happened and progress has been made in some areas. Now though as before due to suspension a space has again been created for those who relish such a situation. Those who oppose not only the concept of the process but of also the peace may they be loyalist, republican or elements within the British security and political establishment, will attempt further to return to the past rather than to attempt to create a decent future, this will intensify the longer suspension remains.

Although such organisations are opposed to the peace process there are many though who are for peace but against a process that has the social and economic implications of exclusion to many communities and people, combined with the establishment of institutions that by their very structure institutionalize sectarianism.

The whole role of Unionism within this recent situation has seen continual vocal attacks and demands of republicans while their silence and lack of response (although muted response when prompted) against ongoing loyalist violence, which as in the past when they stop killing each other may then direct their attentions onto nationalists. Their anti-agreement position also doesn't fit well for the implementation of the agreement, while their political threats don't inspire Nationalist confidence or indeed show Unionist belief in the process of change.

Any such process needs to be a process of real change that embraces all. It should be a process of economic and social inclusion with political equality. It should be a process that delivers peace and stability and develops unity not division. With this then a base can continually be built for eventual real economic and political emancipation for all our peoples.


Davy Carlin is a member of the West Belfast Socialist Workers Party




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It is better to be defeated on principle than to win on lies.
- Arthur Calwell
Index: Current Articles

17 October 2002


Other Articles From This Issue:


Statement from Republican Prisoners, Maghaberry


Running on Empty
Anthony McIntyre


The Political Treachery at the Heart of the IRA

Toby Harnden


Adams' Ashes
Brian Mór


The Boys of the New Brigade
Brian Mór


The Original 1930's Classic Blue Shirt
Brian Mór


Cherishing the Children of the Nation Equally
Liam O Ruairc


Republicanism and the Crisis Within the Peace Process
Davy Carlin


13 October 2002


Just Say No
Ciarán Irvine


Full of Sound & Fury
Aine Fox


The Edge of the Abyss...Again

Brendan O'Neill


If You're In, You Can't Win
Anthony McIntyre


How Clever Was Adams?
Henry Patterson


Please, My Friend is Being Tortured
Sam Bahour




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