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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

A Diversion From The Task

Cllr. Eoin O'Broin • 08.04.03

Those of us who have been involved in the Stop the War Coalition have been encouraged by the ability of various organisations and individuals to come together and develop a real and meaningful broad based campaign against the ongoing war in Iraq. Unlike earlier attempts, such as during the NATO bombing of Serbia, there is now a serious political force which has expressed itself in small and large demonstrations and protests around the country. The Coalition combines different political parties, trade unions, NGO's and individuals, many of whom have profound disagreements which each other on the detail of the anti-war campaign and political issues closer to home.

Yet despite all of these differences, the Coalition continues to grow and clearly has captured the popular mood across the country.

Yet just at the very moment when it looks like we are overcoming the pettey bickering and infighting which disabled earlier campaigns, the same immaturity appears to be raising its head. Monday nights hijacking of the Stop The War Rally in Sprucefield by sectional interests within the Coalition serves nobody's interests. Ignoring the agreed plan of action by the Coalition, heckling speakers, and embarking on opportunistic protests is counter productive and weakens the overall campaign. This is not to say that individual organisations within the Coalition do not have the right to criticise others publicly - clearly they do - but such criticism must be in a form which does not damage the cohesion and effectiveness of the Coalition itself.

A simple example of such opportunism is to be found on the Indymenia website this afternoon. A discussion link begins with a spoof statement placed by someone claiming to represent the Sinn Fein press office. Clearly there are activists out there who are failing to recognise the task at hand, which is focusing our energies on the anti-war protests. These activists want to waste time and energy on trying to fragment and split the most successfull anti-war coalition in Ireland in the last number of decades.

Sinn Fein's position on the war is clear. We are opposed to Bush and Blair's intervention in Iraq. We have stated it publicly. We have stated it in meetings with Bush and Blair directly. We have mobilised and protested and spoken at rallies.

The reality of Tuesday's meeting in Hillsborough is that the current round of negotiations on the Irish peace process are crucial for the survival of the Good Friday Agreement. Refusing to attend any of the sessions, including that with Bush and Blair, would mean leaving the talks to the unionists, with all the likely consequences that would bring.

Many Sinn Fein activists such as myself are uncomfortable about engaging with Bush and Blair, but the successful development of the peace process is vital, and in that context we must engage with all relevant parties and leaders, domestic and international, to ensure that the republican position is effective.

While I respect the feelings of anger and disapointment expressed by many comrades outside the Sinn Fein organisation on this issue, people need to realise the importance of these negotiations, and the negative impact if Sinn Fein withdrew from them.

It does not surprise me that some organisations fail to understand the importance of these negotiations, or indeed that others want to make short term political capital out of attacking Sinn Fein. Thats the nature of politics. Nor does it surprise me that anti-Sinn Fein republicans chose to take the opportunity to attack Sinn Fein. But then that's politics.

However, people need to think of the consequences of fragmenting the anti-war coalition. Our objective, throughout this campaign, is to manage the diverse organisational and ideological differences which exist between the constitutent parts of the coalition, and to mobilise effective, joint action. Individual organisations have the right to criticise others, but hijacking rallys, heckling speakers, engaging in negative and wasteful debate, or indeed posting fake statements is counter productive and only serves the interests of those supporting the war.

This anti-war coalition is a positive and refreshing development for all radical, left and progressive forces in Ireland. Lets ensure that it doesn't go the way of earlier failed attempts, through petty bickering and narrow point scoring. Less diversions and more united action is what we need.





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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of 'crackpot' than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.
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Index: Current Articles

11 April 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Critique of the Anti War Movement

Liam O'Ruairc


A Diversion from the Task
Eoin O'Broin


Bush and Blair Summon the Irish Contras...
Anthony McIntyre


Not Firm Ground But Wet Sand: Prevaricating for Peace

Paul Fitzsimmons


Irish Leaders Miss Chance to Speak Out Against War
Eamon Lynch


London Update


Baghdad: First They Cheered and Then They...
Anthony McIntyre


America's Dual Mission

M. Shahid Alam


War: It Already Started
Paul de Rooij


Lacking Credibility
Bert Ward


7 April 2003


Adams Will Tell Bush He's Anti-War
Eoin O'Broin


Stand Firm
Davy Carlin


Anti-War Human Rights Activists on Trial


First We Take Basra, And Then We Take ...Basra Again
Anthony McIntyre


Belfast - Building an Anti-War Movement

Davy Carlin




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