19 March 1998 Edition

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Mála Poist

Public hearing

A chairde,

Sinn Fein is committed to a settlement which will accommodate the rights of everyone on this island, something which can only be achieved through the involvement and agreement of all.

One of the difficulties of this talks process is that ordinary people have been excluded. We believe that a more open process allowing for greater involvement from communities is critical if we are to build a better future.

We are now at the beginning of a process which Sinn Féin believes will ultimately lead to Irish unity. Sinn Féin sees a 32 county republic, working through a new relationship with our nearest neighbours as the best way to eradicate the range of political, social, economic and other inequalities which affect the people of this island. There are other models. Which of these is to eventually replace the current set-up is a matter for the people of the island to decide.

Sinn Féin is convening a series of public hearings over the next few months to give people throughout the country an opportunity to make individual or group proposals as to their vision of the future. The title of the hearings will be ``Our Future - A United Ireland.''

Written and oral submissions are invited from those interested in playing a part in shaping the future of Ireland. The first session is planned for the Writers Museum, Parnell Square, Dublin on Saturday 28 March.

Submissions will be accepted in writing up to five days before each hearing and oral submissions may be made on the day.

We invite your response and participation and look forward to hearing from you in the very near future.

For further information contact Administrator, Eoghan Mac Cormaic at (01) 8726100.

Pat Doherty
Vice President, Sinn Féin

Defend Articles 2 & 3

A chairde,

Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution are often lumped together by those who call for their dilution or elimination. However, they are quite distinctive, although interlocking.

Article 2 is a political and legal statement of Irish nationhood. Those who attack it for its territorial references are not living in the real world. Without a terrirory, a nation does not exist. The people of a nation must have a homeland - a defined geographical area in which they have traditionally lived - in much the same way as a family needs a home. This principle applies, without controversy, to England, Scotland and Wales. Otherwise how could the boundries of responsibility for the new parliament in Edinburgh and Assembly in Cardiff be decided?

It is absurd to maintain that reference to its territory defines a nation solely in that way. As well as a territory a nation also possesses other vital characteristics, particularly of a cultural and psychological nature. What nationalist believes that Ireland consists simply of soil and does not encompass language, culture, tradition and community?

Article 3 of the constitution, nonetheless, has to take account of the actuality that the state is not functionally coterminous with the nation because of enforced partition by the British. Therefore, it draws a distinction between the entitlement of the people of Ireland to rule themselves without foreign interference and the point of fact that they are prevented from doing so owing to British power being forcibly asserted over the six North-Eastern counties.

Article 3 indicates that while, de jure (of right) there should be an Irish state of 32 counties, de facto (in fact) there can be only a state of 26 counties at present. In saying this, Article 3 is doing no more than combining a statement of democracy with a statement of reality.

In a divided society, like the north of Ireland, the concept of unilateral consent, or majority rule, has frustrated democracy since the forced partition of the country. The Irish National Congress is implacably opposed to the introduction of such a retrograde provision into the Irish constitution.

The INC totally rejects the view that concessions on Articles 2 and 3 will contribute to the building of peace. In such a scenario the alienation of northern nationalists from constitutional politics would grow rather than decline.

The British claim to sovereignty would still be in place as would British troops in the north and all of the conditions which perpetuate conflict would remain.

Finian McGrath
INC Exec Member

A chairde,

A country/nation is not an abstraction, but must be defined geographically. Being an island, that can't be too hard. Articles Two and Three are essential to protect national rights, and their removal or dilution would say to the world that the British/Unionist claim is superior to ours, which is ridiculous. Compromise is always wrong when it means sacrificing a principle.

Brendan Agar.

A clear strategy?

A chairde,

The hardening of position in Gerry Adams's article (12 March) is welcome. Particularly subversive of the talks process are the requirements for fundamental change in the British claim to sovereignty in Ireland, the ``Irish'' (ie 26 county) constitution not to be amended to include consent/veto, policing and the legal system to be accountable to all-Ireland institutions.

This repositioning can be attributed to the insistence by elements in the republican community that republican objectives remain central and undiluted. However, the article leaves the peace strategy intact and unaltered, and so its welcome rejection of the Framework arrangements is undermined.

Adams reasserts the strategy of building an alliance with nationalism on constitutional and political issues. He also emphasises the equality agenda. So, one more time, does this strategy provide a dynamic towards our objective, a socialist republic?

Irish nationalism supports capitalism and shares economic, social and political interests with the British state. It has little to gain from ending partition because it seeks no radical change. It is happy with the economic and political system of capitalism. Ending partition other than by consent might destabilise or radicalise Irish politics, threatening nationalist interests.

Since 1922, nationalism has failed to overthrow partition, supported consent/unionist veto, united with Britian against republicanism, and ceded sovereignty to the EU. Until the republican struggle has built enough strength to overcome this agenda, alliance with nationalism leads towards an entrenching of partition.

All republicans support the equality agenda. But to believe that the six county state cannot survive inequailty between unionists and nationalists, runs counter to republican thinking.

Since Tone, republicans have held that inequality, sectarianism, partition, were means to uphold British dominance, not ends in themselves. Since 1922, British interests in Ireland have depended less on unionism and more on nationalism and Dublin.

This shift aaccelerated under the pressure of republican struggle since 1970. Meanwhile, the equality agenda does not challenge at all the class inequailties central to capitalism.

The equality agenda can, therefore, be addressed within partition and capitalism. Changes since the 1960s in the franchise, housing, the .proroguing of Stotmont, etc., confirm this. The peace strategy provides no dynamic towards our objectives. Our party cannot exert enough political force to move its nationalist ``allies'' towards a republican agenda, and so cannot move Britian in the crucial areas of constitutional change, consent, partition. Where the armed strand of republican struggle prevented our political underdevelopment being decisive, the peace strategy has left a vacuum.

The space created by Gerry Adams's rejectionist article may allow us to address these questions of strategy. If we don't and simply continue as we are, Britain and capitalism, with their Irish allies, will continue to dominate us.

No Other Law.

Clinton is no friend

A chairde,

On Thursday 12 March Gerry Adams commended Bill Clinton on CNN for his continuing support and help for the peace process.

Let's not forget who and what Bill Clinton stands for. This is the same Bill Clinton who promised that there would be no more Joe Doherty's, and then did nothing to stop the extradition of other republicans to Long Kesh.

He had all his troops ready with the full support of the British Government to fight a war against Saddam Hussein, which would have resulted in the murder of thousands of innocent civilians including children.

If there is a deal done with the Irish and British governments and the other political parties that exclude Sinn Fein, you can be assured that whatever measures the Irish and British governments take to try and smash and isolate the republican movement, Bill Clinton will fully support them.

Paul Walsh

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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