3 July 1997 Edition

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Mála Poist

Last chance?

A Chairde,

While Blair's ``last chance'' offer may not panic us, the time for hard decisions draws closer. Repeating ``there is no alternative'' will not assist in making them. The debate is not between armed and unarmed strategies. This is a media construction which seeks to divide republicans. It misrepresented the Lurgan killings as a strike by ``militarist hardliners'' over the heads of a ``political'' peace camp. I have heard no-one who questions the present strategy advocate such a way forward.

The debate is about strategies to achieve republican objectives. The first question has been how can the peace strategy lead to the achievement of our objectives? Further questions followed: if it can't, must we lower our sights? Or is there an alternative?

Notwithstanding the hostile reaction to Blair's outline settlement, these talks cannot end partition. Political and constitutional change, demilitarisation and parity of esteem will take the form of a Six County assembly, some cross-border elements, equality measures and an end to the war.

If this is an interim settlement with a thrust towards a United Ireland, where is this thrust to come from? Two possibilities are apparent: the forces of EU integration and capitalism, or the absorption of unionism into a nationalist/republican consensus.

While republicanism is opposed to EU integration and capitalism, economic integration seems unlikely to dissolve the British, French and German states into each other. Why will it lead to a unitary Irish state? The idea that unionism will come to embrace Irish unity and independence while the British presence remains, is implausible and sectarian. Republicans must accept the Britishness of unionists while allowing space for their Irishness - when British rule is removed, we can negotiate an accommodation.

The conclusion that republicans alone could not achieve our objectives was broadly accepted. The peace strategy proposed harnessing the Dublin government and Irish nationalism to the project of ending partition. This was doubly mistaken. Firstly, it led to alliances with conservative and reactionary forces (Hume, Reynolds, Clinton, the Irish-American establishment). Secondly, it ignored the lesson of seventy years of history, that nationalism would never overturn partition: its interests had been met in the 26 County state, while it would settle for parity of esteem in the Six Counties. Only alliances with progressive forces and the development of republican politics can overcome these problems.

The shape of an alternative is already apparent: opposition to conservative nationalism, engagement with progressive forces; development of republican politics; involvement and interaction within community; meaningful opposition to partition; engagement with progressive forces internationally; dialogue with unionism; opposition to sectarianism.

This is a long term strategy involving slow and painstaking work. If we do not take it up, we can be sure that sooner or later others will.

No Other Law

Ahern vote regressive

A Chairde,

Sinn Féin's vote of confidence in Bertie Ahern is I believe a capitulation to a right-wing party with a past of anti-democratic and repressive measures against republicans. While it was stated that it was a vote of confidence in the peace process, Bertie Ahern has not proven himself on this issue.

I welcome Caoimhghín O'Caoláin's statement outlining the failures of the state's economic and social policy and it is good that such was said, but it could have been said while explaining why we were voting against or abstaining on the prime minister's vote.

Some will argue that we shouldn't be negative the whole time, but I believe that abstaining was far more progressive and affirmative than the regressive endorsement of Ahern.

Just because we are in the Big Boys' club does not mean we have to play by their rules. Hopefully Caoimhghín will prove this in the future.

Aengus O'Snodaigh,

Nothing new

A Chairde,

Well, well, on 25 June Mr Tony Blair disclosed a much-trumpeted ``new'' plan for all-party ``peace'' talks. Really? Where did this take place? Certainly not in London as that disclosed plan has nothing ``new'' in it.

In that ``new'' plan, Blair continues to blame the IRA for breaking a ceasefire which the British had broken months previously. Blair continues to deny the rampant fascism exemplified in the denial of democracy as evidenced by refusing to uphold Sinn Féin's electoral mandate provided through a fair and just election. Blair continues to ignore the fact that the Loyalist cessation of hostilities has been broken many times. Blair pretends to prance on the morality stage by patting himself on the back for being willing to ``offer'' Sinn Féin a chance to participate in all-party talks (to which they have previously been elected) despite righteous indignation over IRA violence. In reality, Blair promotes a rigidly-applied double-standard of conduct wherein IRA violence is condemned but where Loyalist violence is welcomed with open arms; no sanctions, no preconditions, and the solid support of the RUC - who don't see or hear the harassment, gunshots, beatings and murders.

I have not seen, word for word, this decommissioning proposal of Blair's, but I am willing to bet that he has left out the decommissioning of the two largest and well-funded loyalist paramilitaries: the British Army and the RUC.

Such actions reveal the true nature of Tony Blair's agenda for ``peace'' talks. To wit, the cementing of the British occupation of Ireland. Without a definitive timetable for the reunification of Ireland what reason is there for a renewal of the IRA cessation? For Sinn Féin to participate in the September talks under such preconditions is for Sinn Féin to sacrifice Irish nationalism on the altar of British imperialism.

Jonquil Alexia,

To Ireland for news of Hong Kong

A chara,

Being from the northern parts of Europe, I am surprised that I have to go to Ireland for deeper facts on the takeover of Hong Kong by the Chinese.

The press here in Sweden tends to ``forget'' the slowness of English democracy. Thanks for the illuminating story on Hong Kong history.

BJ Zetterling

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1