Irish struggle demands new direction

As partisans of the Irish cause gather to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of the Bloody Sunday massacre, when 14 unarmed Irish civilians were murdered by British troops, the ‘peace process’ steamrollers on. Revolutionaries in the Six Counties need to consider how they will react to the new situation

ACROSS THE WORLD liberation fighters have been drawn into ‘peace’ deals with their former enemies. Nicaragua, South Africa and Palestine have all seen conflicts which have been resolved in imperialism’s favour.

The ‘new world order’ resulting from the collapse of ‘official communism’ has meant that there is no longer an alternative world centre, acting as a counter-balance to the domination of imperialism. Ireland is not immune to these changes, and the leaders of Sinn Fein are now totally committed to making the IRA ceasefire permanent and striking a compromise deal which will leave imperialism firmly in charge.

Concessions from the British state promise to be limited, as events last week illustrated:

1. While two Irishmen are sentenced to a total of forty-five years imprisonment for conspiracy to cause explosions, moves are afoot to release a British army soldier from life imprisonment for the murder of an Irish girl after less than four years in jail.

The trial of the alleged bombers featured unidentified MI5 officers giving their evidence from behind screens and refusing to answer all questions on ‘security’ grounds. Over the past decade more than 300 Irish men and women have received life sentences, serving between 12 and 17 years, while hundreds of other prisoners of war languish in British and Irish jails.

British soldiers have killed over 300 Irish men, women and children, yet Private Lee Clegg, whose release now appears imminent, is only the second to be convicted of murder. Private Ian Thain was released after less than three years and returned to his army unit.

2. John Major reassures local government representatives from Northern Ireland that the Unionist veto on the future of the Six Counties is firmly in place. According to an advanced draft of the joint framework document, there will be no ‘cross-border institutions' which will be able to use executive powers without the agreement of both a proposed ‘Northern Ireland assembly’ and the Dail.

3. In an absurd and obscene inversion of the reality of British occupation, Cardinal Cahal Daly, head of the Irish catholic church, apologises to the congregation at Canterbury Cathedral and asks “forgiveness from the people of this land for the wrongs and hurts inflicted by Irish people upon the people of this country on many occasions during that shared history, and particularly in the past 25 years”.

Although British imperialism will clearly be dictating the terms of the ‘peace’ settlement, this does not mean that the IRA was defeated militarily. Republican leaders now intend to ‘continue the struggle by constitutional means’ and Sinn Fein leaders, buoyed by their successes on the international diplomatic scene, will now be seeking to convert their party into a ‘respectable’ mainstream force in Irish bourgeois politics.

The time is now ripe for Six Counties revolutionaries to look to the best ways to build on all the sacrifice and successes of their heroic struggle of the past 25 years. Whatever ‘concessions’ are made in the settlement, the huge social problems arising from unemployment, low pay and poverty will remain. Taking into account the huge numbers employed by the British state in the war, the settlement will see increased unemployment and discontent especially in the protestant community.

The struggle for the liberation of workers in Ireland, in common with that of the world’s working class, will continue.

Communists in particular need to examine new organisational forms with which to confront British imperialism.

Now that the revolutionary situation in the North is being resolved in imperialism’s favour and the possibility of spreading it south of the border receding, British and Six County communists must consider joint action against the state which oppresses workers on both sides of the Irish Sea.

For this reason the formation of a Communist Party of the United Kingdom - a united, disciplined force directed against a common, powerful enemy - is placed on the agenda.