19 October 2006 Edition
'An Phoblacht' welcomes readers' letters. Letters in Irish or English should be kept short (no more than 200 words) and typed or handwritten clearly, double-spaced and on one side of the paper only. Name and address should be supplied for verification, but these will not be published if we are so requested.
Cuireann 'An Phoblacht' fáilte roimh litreacha ónár léitheoirí. Scríobh i nGaeilge nó i mBéarla. Is fearr litreacha gearra (200 focal ar a méid) clóscríofa nó lámhscríofa go soiléir ar thaobh amháin den leathanach. Cuir ainm agus seoladh leis ach ní fhoilseoimid iad seo más é do thoil.
Republicanism, St Andrews proposals & policing
I was overjoyed to hear the DUP had committed themselves, at least in principle, to sharing power with republicans and working the all-Ireland institutions under the Good Friday Agreement.
The argument about the need to support 'law and order' is bogus. Republicans have always supported law and order. The problem is that they have been faced with a paramilitary police force, with a particular expertise in encouraging and supporting 'lawlessness and disorder' within republican communities. The new political dispensation, alongside local control of policing and justice, will ensure that the new police service in the North will, for the first time, become a service that supports the rule of law, and respects all citizens equally. The best way to ensure this happens is to have Sinn Féin taking an active role in the development and monitoring of this new service.
There will be those who disagree. I heard Anthony McIntyre, a disillusioned republican, recently arguing that IRA volunteers didn't kill and be killed to end up with republicans policing the Six Counties within the United Kingdom.
However, it is my view that the Good Friday Agreement provides the template for achieving Irish unification and as such its protection should be seen as a fundamental priority for republicans.
We have now arrived at an unprecedented position where the party most opposed to Irish unification, the DUP, has essentially endorsed this framework. For the first time in history, unionism as a whole, has accepted Irish unification as a legitimate political objective, and is prepared to engage in institutions which have the potential to achieve that objective.
However, there still exist malign elements which are intent on preventing this project reaching its natural conclusion. An unfettered police service in the North could continue to be used, as was the case when the institutions were last collapsed, to cause damage to the Agreement. It is therefore essential, in my view, that republicans take control of policing in the North, so as to ensure that it cannot ever again be used to damage the vehicle which is carrying us towards the reunification of our country.
A core issue of concern for republicans at this time is the matter of policing. While I can accept the argument that a just police force is fundamental to the creation of a society based on equality in the Six Counties, I question the logic of participating in a police force that, do date, has shown no credentials in terms of justice, equality or impartiality.
I feel there are many issues to be addressed in advance of our making a move on policing, not least those issues around 'Truth and conflict' as raised in an article An Phoblacht last week. While the article pointed out the importance of republicans facing up to the pain we've caused in the past it also rightly pointed out that if it ever comes to a time when the whole 'truth' issue is aired across the board, it'll be the British establishment that will lose out.
The PSNI come from a long line of political policing that has been heavily involved in collusion and assassination - and that's before you even consider the three decades plus of sectarianism involved.
We should be in no rush to make a commitment on policing until a few of the fundamentals are addressed first. For instance the whole issue of collusion.
I found Jackie McMullan's opinion piece on the issue of Truth not only refreshing but extremely challenging. It is not often we hear republicans publicly advocating something which is not 'seeking to reap political advantage"
On the issue of calling for, and participating in, a truth recovery process Jackie advises 'we should do the right thing....whatever negative consequences we think there might be for the party'.
The central question for me is; would dealing with the past and advocating a truth recovery process liberate and strengthen the integrity of our struggle or would it bare our souls to the 'enemies of republicanism and imprison us to their criticism?'
Most republicans adopt a defensive attitude when talking about the past. This is natural considering the manner in which we have been attacked and demonised down through the years.
One concern voiced at the recent seminar on this issue was the protection of individual republicans in any future truth process. In my view any process would have to focus on organisational and corporate responsibility as opposed to seeking out individuals.
However, I believe we should not shirk our collective responsibility on this issue. We should be brave, bold and confident not only for the sake of the 3,700 victims and their families, but also for ourselves, our support base, this, and future, generations.
Certainly there are many fears to be faced but we should identify those issues of concern, collectively debate and deal with them in a positive and politically mature manner sure in the knowledge that the 'integrity of our struggle' will be strengthened by our actions.
In Gerry Adams' address on this issue in 1999 he said 'The running sores of this conflict have to be addressed in an honest and forthright fashion'. That applies equally to the British establishment and republicans. Let's face the future with 'truth' as our guide.