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Identity Crisis

Mick Hall • 15 December 2004

What can one conclude from the latest peace process merry go around? The longer this particular carousal spins around, the only visible progress which appears to be being made is by the British/Unionist side. I say visible as, if one talks to SF activists, this is clearly not how they see things. Nevertheless, as far as the more traditional Irish Republicans are concerned, there seems very little progress that would advance their Cause. On the surface, any political differences the Sinn Fein negotiators may have with the British and their Unionist allies, for instance about the very existence of the six county State-let, does not appear to have been argued out at all, but left to future reference, which means in reality to bubble away below the surface, like caustic soda. In other words, it has been returned from whence it came: before it exploded so necessarily onto the political stage in 1969.

As the word betrayal is sadly never far from people’s lips within Northern Ireland, one has to be very careful what one says, as it can be so easily misconstrued. The more so these day's within SF circles, if one is not a permanent resident of the Fall's Road, or does not walk around with a shillelagh over your shoulder forever saying begorra. To be fair SF would claim they have concentrated on their equality agenda and the curtailment of the armed struggle within these negotiations. But even here if past experience in the South of Ireland is anything to go on, every gain Sinn Fein makes in bringing about equality in the north is likely to push reunification that much further away. For after all those years of living as second class citizens, if SF's equality agenda is successful in the north, fewer nationalists are going to get that fussed about reunification. The more so if it means a noticeable drop in living standards and life’s opportunities.

If anything an equality agenda hangs like the mythical Sword of Damocles above the heads of Mr Adams and his leadership clique. For if you take away the gross inequality suffered by Catholics, which has been the raison d'être of the northern Statelet ever since its creation, would it be that unattractive a place for nationalists to live in? If it were a State with normal policing, provision of housing and health care, employment prospects and a devolved government, what would make it any different from, say, Catalonia in Spain, in which Catalans and Castilian incumbers live happily side by side, both retaining their language and cultures within the Spanish State whilst operating politically in both a devolved and national environment?

It has become increasingly clear during the course of these GFA negotiations that it has been this equality agenda that has been the driving force of the PRM; and not that of traditional Irish Republicanism whose main aim is Irish unity. The overwhelming majority of PIRA's northern volunteers joined the army because they wished to kick back at the unionist State-let that oppressed them. Fighting the RUC and the British army were merely physical manifestations of this. If this was, down the years, true of the average volunteer, over time it has become doubly true of the current leadership, which became epitomised by Gerry Adams and his closest colleagues, nine out of ten are whom are not only northerners but come from a small geographical area within the north east of Ireland. The day the PRM movement succumbed, to the admittedly seemingly logical argument, that as the northerners were doing the fighting they should be the leadership majority, was the day this movement moved away from traditional republicanism; and it made a deal along the lines of the GFA almost inevitable.

In itself, unless that is you are a die-hard physical force Republican, there is nothing wrong with this; an all Ireland Left Reformist Party may well be just what is needed in Ireland. The real question is this: what Sinn Fein will become? It is pretty obvious that the Adams leadership have long ago concluded much of the above for themselves. For when Mr Adams makes statements that the party leader should be a southerner and fast-tracks youngsters like Dublin based Mary Lou, all he is doing is putting this into practice. Although in reality he seems to have no intention of this new southern Sinn Fein Party leader emerging until his (Mr Adams') bottom is firmly seated in the Presidential chair in Áras an Uachtaráin. Of course, he has his problems and this is the main reason for his continuous acts of sleight of hand and deviousness towards his own core constituency, and why he still makes what can only be described as the silly claim that SF is still a revolutionary Republican Party, when it is clearly not. Irish Republicans have never, publicly or privately, recognised the writ of the British State in any part of the Island of Ireland. Whereas SF by signing up to the GFA clearly do. And this is the rub of Mr Adams' problems, for people like Martin Ferris and Brian Keenan did not become volunteers and spend some of the best years of their lives in jail just to witness the north of Ireland become a successful social democratic corner of the United Kingdom, nor to see Mr Adams greeting their old adversaries at Áras an Uachtaráin as President of an Irish State that does not cover the whole of the Island of Ireland.

As far as Ferris is concerned (and many like him) Mr Adams has found him a comfortable birth as Sinn Fein's Farmer Giles in the Dail, which should see him out until retirement (And many like him who have been found similar jobs). But men like Keenan have no wish or need for such baubles. They are ever conscious of the ebb and flow of Irish history, that when the need arises each generation will provide the men and women who will do their duty and complete, if at all possible, the national revolution. They understand that for a host of reasons their generation, despite Herculean efforts, were unable to do this. But they, rightly or wrongly, have no doubt that they have laid down a benchmark for future generations to follow. That Mr Adams intends laying down an altogether different type of benchmark has either not registered properly or does not matter that much to them; only history will tell us which of these two parties turn out to be correct.

Most of Mr Adams former comrades who have left the PRM look upon him as a traitor to their Cause and if you look at what he says today and what he said twenty years ago, that they do so is perfectly understandable. However many of those who remained within PIRA look upon Mr Adams with a little more tolerance. They see him more like a spoilt and wilful teenager, who is determined to have his own way; and as they feel the armed struggle for the time being has run its course, they see little harm in letting him to get on with it, although I am sure many of them doubt in the long term much will come of it, as historically they have seen much of this before. The alternative for them would be to shut up shop, go home and await better days; however one must take into account due to age, for many of these people better day’s are something many of them are unlikely to see. Although as the recent negotiations showed, they are not averse to taking away Mr Adams ball and stopping him from going out to play for a few days. As it seems T. P. cannot quite yet bring 'himself' to sign the final proclamation.

Of course there is and always has been another option that Republicans could choose, however Mr Adams and his colleagues have consistently refused to even contemplate it. It is possible to agree with peace and disagree with the Peace Process and its offspring the Good Friday Agreement. I just wish some members of the PRM who still consider themselves to be Left Republicans, would make even the slightest effort to understand this. It is simply not possible for a radical political party to get into the slipstream of the Bourgeois State for any length of time and not be swept along in its undertow. To understand this one only has to have witnessed both SF and the DUP demand for a one billion pound handout during the recent negotiations. One wonders if these people were ever told who pays the piper calls the tune? If SF remains in this flow for any length of time it will inevitably be transmogrified into a moderate nationalist party of the right, in fact just like the governing party is in Catalonia. Indeed many Shinners have already started describing themselves, or rather their party as such, although still claiming to be of the Left. In the 21st Century, Nationalism is not an attractive political phenomenon, especially these days when racism and a fear of asylum seekers are on the rise. A Party which positions itself as such will inevitably end up with some uncomfortable bedfellows; indeed this has already happened with Sinn Fein over a woman‘s right to choose. The sooner Sinn Fein decides exactly what type of party it intends to place itself before the electorate as, the better for all. Its current masquerade as a Revolutionary Irish Republican Party is long past its sell by date, and an insult to the electorate.







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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
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Index: Current Articles

16 December 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

Failed Entity
Michael Benson

Out of the Ashes
Brian Mór

Identity Crisis
Mick Hall

Lights, Camera, Inaction
Jimmy Sands

St Joseph, Patron Saint of the Peace Process
Anthony McIntyre

Breeding Ground for Racism
Dr John Coulter

Torture in Chile
Tito Tricot

The Broom Flower: Robin Kirk's The Monkey's Paw: New Chronicles from Perú
Seaghán Ó Murchú

11 December 2004

Post-Debacle Stress Syndrome
Anthony McIntyre

Keeping the Lid on Pandora's Box
Davy Adams

Paisley's Guide for Penitent Provos
Brian Mór

Talking to Mr. George
Fred A. Wilcox

Dr No Says No, Again; Dublin Wrong to Back Photos
Fr. Sean Mc Manus

A Way Out of the Impasse
Liam O Comain

'Eternal Elves of the West'
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Bobby Tohill vs. The Andersonstown News
Liam O Ruairc

Peace Comes Dropping Slow
Brian Lennon



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