12 July 2007 Edition
The all Ireland agenda : Challenging injustice, North and South
Mobilising people to fight for their rights
SEAN OLIVER argues that Sinn Féin’s all-Ireland agenda must exploit new political opportunities to mobilise people on both sides of the border to demand their rights and create a new Ireland.
Sinn Féin’s all Ireland agenda is about the political reunification of the island but not on any terms – it’s about a new Ireland, one based upon equality.
The armed struggle arose from the discrimination against one section of the people in the North by another, a local garrison. The force that maintained this discrimination was British rule, which maintained its power through sectarianism and through division within the community.
The armed struggle challenged British rule in arms, and mobilised and empowered people to struggle against inequality and discrimination. The years of negotiations yielded an agreement that holds the seeds to end all of this, an agreement by which the struggle to achieve equality can be advanced, within a legal framework which nominally accords rights to all the people of Ireland. But more of that later.
However, rights have to be fought for. Rights have to be realised.
Our all-Ireland agenda must be about mobilising people North and South to fight for those rights, to exploit the opportunities which the political process flowing from the armed struggle have brought into play.
In the South, the choice of a government led by either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael – the politics of Tweedledum or Tweedledee – has served to maintain inequality, injustice and a society which excludes those who have been marginalised through poverty. A system that denies human rights to health, education and housing has made the 26 Counties one of the most unequal societies in the western world, second only to the USA.
To take our struggle forward, we have to build the fight for rights, across the whole island. We must challenge the injustices of our society, North and South. Why?
- Ideologically — because that is what Irish republicanism has always been about, going back to Wolfe Tone’s time – a struggle for equality, secularism and anti-sectarianism, for and by ‘the people of no property’, as Bobby Sands reminded us.
- Politically — we need to use the new all-Ireland, democratic, political institutions to help to embody our all Ireland vision, and to help the people North and South to use their strength to achieve their rights.
- Economically — We must develop the economy as one economy for the island – one where economic growth and prosperity is also achieved through participation and social economic action. Onto the existing unequal patterns of ownership and power we need to graft a new order, built from the ground up, of people engaging in, and managing their own processes of wealth creation and distribution.
- Culturally — An empowered people across the island must have a framework in which to develop their own culture, and be free to use the language of their ancestors, should they so decide.
A New Ireland benefits us all
A unified, all-island economy will bring a bigger market. It will enable people, North and South to join their efforts to eradicate poverty, and to mobilise our own indigenous economy, with sovereignty over our own resources. It would allow all of the people who live and work on this island to engage together, without the divisions of sectarianism and discrimination.
In a new Ireland, we can build an economy together where we plan for sustainable development, and make the best use of our unique national resources – agriculture, fisheries, forestry, tourism, our wind and water technology – for our economic growth, and for the prosperity of all the people on the island, east and west, as well as north and south.
In an island with one government, we could forward plan to protect our economy from the inevitable ebbs and flows of global capital, the huge personal indebtedness of the people and the impending crisis of peaking oil prices.
We must harness the resourcefulness, skills and innovation of the Irish people to help them to build their own economy, through a growing social economy where the resources of the people are controlled, owned and managed by people themselves – a truly all-Ireland economy.
We look to have a government for Ireland, which, just as under the current provisions of the Good Friday Agreement, is constrained by legislation which enshrines human rights, and the rights of people to participate in decisions which affect them.
A re-united Ireland must extend human rights protection to all the people, through a Consultative Forum composed of the social partners, of communities and workers, who together, in consultation with government and the business sector, can negotiate together the real wage in the economy, and monitor the implementation of government plans to accord the people their rights to social and economic justice, within a context of economic growth.
Furthermore the Ireland we are building for must include a new system of regional governance to empower local communities to participate in decisions which determine local planning, welfare and the provision of social services of health, housing, education, care of the elderly, children, those with disabilities, and deliver a sustainable clean environment.
The all-Ireland institutions of the Good Friday Agreement, which are in the very process of development now, can help us to move in the direction we want, and towards the type of Ireland we desire. Progress on forming an all Ireland Civic Consultative Forum and developing an All Ireland Charter of Rights allow us – in the interim, in the period of transition – to put down the foundations towards the type of republic which we aspire to create.
This is the all Ireland vision which republicans are working through the power-sharing executive to achieve, using the all Ireland institutional framework – areas of ministerial co-operation, implementation bodies and the North South Ministerial Council. It must be to drive forward our vision of an Ireland of equals, without discrimination or sectarianism, but based upon the realisation of human rights – ideologically, politically, economically and culturally – that is our all Ireland agenda.
• Sean Oliver is head of Sinn Féin’s All-Ireland Department
An Phoblacht Magazine
AN PHOBLACHT MAGAZINE:
- The first edition of this new magazine will feature a 10 page special on the life and legacy of our leader Martin McGuinness to mark the first anniversary of his untimely passing.
- It will include a personal reminiscence by Gerry Adams and contributions from the McGuinness family.
- There will also be an exclusive interview with our new Uachtarán Mary Lou McDonald.