By GERRY FOLEY
The political compromise inscribed in the Northern Ireland peace agreement was scheduled to go into operation on June 30. A power-sharing executive was to be set up, in which the political organization representing the rebellion of the oppressed nationalist people, Sinn Fein, was to hold important positions.
All parties to the agreement-Sinn Fein, the Irish government, the Unionist Party leadership, and the British government-agreed that if the deadline were missed the success of the deal would be in question.
Nonetheless, the Unionist Party leader, David Trimble, adopted a line that seemed designed to negate the compromise. He insisted that the Irish Republican Army (IRA) must begin giving up its weapons before Sinn Fein could sit in the executive.
At the same time, Trimble took a hostile stance toward the British Labour Party government, demanding the removal of Home Secretary Mo Mowlan, who, he said, had lost the confidence of the Unionist people.
The Sinn Fein leadership has explained that the IRA will not surrender its weapons. Northern Ireland has a long history of pogroms and reactionary terrorism against the nationalist community.
The IRA has been supported by the nationalist population as its defense force. There is no way it could surrender its weapons as long as the nationalist people continue to be threatened, as they clearly are.
Only a few months ago, a prominent human rights lawyer, Rosemary Nelson, was murdered in circumstances that suggested the collusion of Northern Irish police with reactionary murder squads. The case has aroused an international outcry, reflected in a major story in the May 2New York Times.
On June 24, a former British soldier, William Alfred Stobie, was jailed on the charge of murdering Pat Finucane, another human rights lawyer, in 1989. Stobie was arrested by officers working with the inquiry team headed by London deputy commissioner John Stevens, which was set up to investigate the possibility of police collusion in the Nelson murder.
Stobie, who was working as a police informer at the time of Finucane’s murder, denied the charge. He claimed to have warned the police that someone, he did not know who, was going to be murdered.
In his book, “The Committee,” just issued in paperback, prominent investigative journalist Sean McPhilemy presented evidence of systematic collusion between the Royal Irish Constabulary and reactionary death squads. McPhilemy claimed that Trimble, supposedly the leader of the pro-compromise wing of the Unionist Party, was involved in a conspiracy to assassinate nationalists. Rosemary Nelson was one of the sources for the book.
Before her death, the murdered lawyer was working with the nationalist residents’ committees opposing the threatening marches of reactionary pro-imperialists through their neighborhoods.
Trimble, before becoming the Unionist father of the “compromise,” distinguished himself as a leader of the reactionaries at the flashpoint of Drumcree, in the Portadown area.
This year, the intransigent wing of the pro-imperialists are stepping up their threats to the nationalist neighborhoods. The Orangemen maintain that they are determined to march in Drumcree, even if the British and Irish authorities try to stop them.
Moreover, the Orange Order has signaled a general attack on compromise with the nationalists by announcing that it intends to hold 1300 parades in the next six weeks, 40 of them in Portadown.
Compromisers historically have fared poorly in the pro-imperialist parties. Even Trimble, who has benefited from Sinn Fein’s surrender of one nationalist principle after another and who has a formidable record as an oppressor of the nationalist people, is in increasing trouble.
In its June 17 issue, the Belfast Irish-language weekly, An Lá, noted, with respect to the poor showing of Jim Nicolson, a collaborator of Trimble, in the recent European elections: “David Trimble is on his last legs in Westminster after the beating given to Jim Nicolson. He got the lowest vote that the UUP [the main Unionist Party] has ever gotten, a fact that was not lost on Ian Paisley [an opponent of the compromise], who topped the poll.”
The paper went on to point out: “It was reported yesterday that Ken Maginnis, one of the Unionist Party head’s [Trimble’s] strongest supporters, is no longer willing to attend meetings of the Unionist Party parliamentary fraction. That leaves Trimble without anyone among the Unionist MPs who supports the Good Friday Agreement [the peace agreement] except Cecil Walker. … But everyone admits that he is the oldest and least effective MP.
“Ken Maginnis accused the deputy head of the party, John Taylor, for saying publicly that he would only cast a third-preference vote for Nicolson, after giving the first two to Ian Paisley and Bob McCartney of the United Kingdom Unionist Party.”
The pro-imperialist party vote was split almost equally on the referendum for the Good Friday agreement, with a small majority in favor. But it now looks as if the balance is shifting toward the traditional hard line of terrorizing the nationalist population.
The Northern Ireland colonialist system in fact is quite inflexible. The state is defined by the largest area in which it is possible to assemble a pro-imperialist majority. That means that repression of the nationalist community, now almost half the population, is an integral and unalterable part of the system.
The Good Friday Agreement is the latest of a series of schemes that have been put forward with the pretense of conjuring away the basic contradiction of the Northern Ireland state. Like its predecessors, it is proving to be an illusion.
The immediate danger, however, is that the nationalist population will be demobilized by this illusion in the face of pro-imperialist attack. Supporters of human rights must be on the alert and ready during the Orange marching season to come to the aid of the oppressed population of Northern Ireland.