Power-Sharing in Northern Ireland – Will it Bring Peace?

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The capitalist media and politicians are hailing the new “power-sharing” government in Northern Ireland as an historic event for peace. It is indeed a notable occasion, but one that resembles the feeding of boa constrictors in a zoo.

The establishment of the new government represents the swallowing of the political movement of the oppressed people in Northern Ireland by a predominantly colonialist government dedicated to perpetuating the union with Britain and the supremacy of the pro-British community.

In this bourgeois colonialist government, Sinn Fein, the party of the nationalist insurgency, gets two ministers-education and health-and a few advisors. In order to participate, it had to commit itself to disarming the oppressed population.

For the new government to be set up, the largest pro-British party, the Ulster Unionists (UUP), had to agree to it. David Trimble, the main pro-British champion of “power-sharing,” was able to win his party’s assent by a vote of about 58 percent of the UPP council.

The basic traditional organization of the pro-British community, the Orange Order, which organizes Protestant supremacist marches, came out against “power-sharing,” as did the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Ian Paisley, the second largest pro-British party. The DUP argued that the new authority was set up with the support of a declining minority of the Protestant population.

In this context, terrorist attacks have continued against the oppressed population and a new important example of collusion between the Protestant police and the reactionary terrorists has been exposed.

Carrying out a crackdown against Protestant terrorist groups opposed to power-sharing, the Royal Irish Constabulary operatives discovered a list of names and particulars of 300 nationalists in an Orange Order hall. Those on the list had presumably been picked as targets for terrorist attacks, and the information could only have come from the police force itself.

The weapons held by the nationalists, pathetically few in comparison with the armament of the British and pro-British forces, were collected through the self-sacrifice and risk of thousands of persons because of the threat of new pogroms against the Catholic population.

The historic pattern in Northern Ireland is that whenever the colonial order is threatened the reactionary colonialist organizations launch massive and ruthless attacks on the oppressed people. New threats to this system will certainly arise, since it is fundamentally retrograde.

The way was opened for the establishment of the “power-sharing” government by a mid-November statement of the IRA leadership that they would appoint an interlocutor to discuss disarming. They committed themselves to nothing.

But Trimble has said that if the IRA does not start handing over their weapons in February, the whole deal, including the government with its Sinn Fein ministers, is off. (This threat has gone unnoticed in all the effusive coverage of the agreement in the U.S. press.)

But now the whole deal is in place-a government including Sinn Fein and abolition of the Irish government’s claim to sovereignty over Northern Ireland. It would be very hard for the IRA to risk bringing this all down by refusing to disarm, especially since the nationalist population has been conditioned, with the help of the Sinn Fein leadership, to believe that “power-sharing” is its only hope.

The right-wing colonialists are expressing pain at having to accept Sinn Feiners into their institutions. It is not easy for boa constrictors to digest their larger prey either. But the situation of the swallowed is definitely more perilous than that of the swallower.

-GERRY FOLEY

Socialist Action News

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