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2 August 2007 Edition

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British military campaign was a failure

The British military campaign of almost 40 years in the North of Ireland ended in failure this week. British troops were deployed on the streets of the Six Counties in August 1969 as the one-party Orange state crumbled under the weight of its own sectarianism and as the nationalist population rose up to demand their civil rights.
British soldiers were sent into the North, not as British propagandists and their allies would have it ‘to separate warring factions’ or to stop the sectarian slaughter and pogrom of Catholics. They were deployed to uphold and maintain the political status quo, to bolster the old Stormont regime and to get the RUC – discredited and defeated following events such as the Battle of the Bogside – back in control.
The British Army was Sormont’s latest weapon in an attempt to crush the popular uprising of the nationalist population.
The true role and nature of the British army in Ireland quickly became clear as the British sought to impose a military solution to a political problem. It was an oppressive force directed against one section of the community and its only interest was the maintenance of British rule in Ireland.
Throughout the conflict the British sought to criminalise and defeat the republican struggle. They failed. Repression failed and Britain was eventually forced to the negotiation table.
As a result of the policies of successive British Governments, the people of the North were subjected to decades of war. The cost of that war was felt most dearly in the Six Counties, but also throughout Ireland, in Britain and further afield.
Only the development of a peace strategy by Irish republicans leading to the Peace Process saw the eventual abandonment of a purely counter-insurgency approach by a British Government.
The abandonment of this strategy, of which the end of the British army’s campaign is part, cleared the way for political progress across Ireland which is of benefit to all in Ireland – nationalist and unionist, and indeed the people of Britain.
After decades of war the republican struggle has never been stronger and republican politics never more relevant.
In the new political dispensation that has emerged with the Peace Process and the Good Friday Agreement, the nationalist community in the Six Counties is confident and assertive of its rights and identity. It has put republicans as equals at the head of new governance in the North.
The British Government has abandoned its unilateral claim of sovereignty in Ireland, and has had to introduce a mechanism by which Irish reunification can occur politically. Today’s republicans will ensure that this happens.
The British Army could never defeat the nationalist people or the men and women Volunteers of Óglaigh na hÉireann.
And lest we forget, military repression in Ireland was a repetition of tactics previously used by the British elsewhere in the world and are the same as those used in Iraq today. It seems the British have yet to learn the lessons of history.

An Phoblacht Magazine


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