[Marxism] From DoC on Sinn Fein

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Aug 9 16:38:06 MDT 2005

(I am not sure why this bounced.)

The following are some articles which appeared in the bourgeois press on
Sunday 7th August. They are informative on the current situation in

I will attempt to write a response to points raised by list members -
when I get the time.

Le meas,

Poll shows SF is set to make political gains

07 August 2005  by Pat Leahy, Political Correspondent

Almost half of voters say they would be "happy to see Sinn Féin in a
coalition government now' 'and almost four out of ten voters say they
are "more likely to vote Sinn Féin" as a result of the IRA statement.

If these sentiments were replicated in a general election, they would
lead to several more Sinn Féin TDs being elected to the Dáil.  The
survey was conducted by telephone among 1,000 adults across the country
early last week.  There is still a substantial minority of voters -
rising to almost half on certain questions - who remain hostile to Sinn
Féin, and these numbers rise when voters are questioned about the IRA.

Some 51 per cent don't believe that IRA members will give up all
criminal activities and nearly as many (47 per cent) want the state to
pursue the IRA for the proceeds of past criminal activity.  However, a
large majority (71 per cent) believe that the IRA should be given time
to decommission its weapons and wind down its organisation.

The acceptance of the prospect of Sinn Féin in government by almost half
of the electorate represents a significant softening of public attitudes
towards the party from earlier in the year, when the period after the
Northern Bank robbery and the killing of Robert McCartney led to
enormous political and media pressure on the republican movement.

In a Sunday Business Post poll published in March, only 20 per cent of
voters said a Fianna Fáil-Sinn Féin coalition would be "acceptable".
Now, 45 per cent of voters would be happy to see them in a coalition
government.  Half of these voters agree strongly with the prospect; the
other half agree slightly.  According to a series of published opinion
polls, Sinn Féin's support currently rests at about 10 per cent of the
electorate nationally.  Previously, non-Sinn Féin voters were very
hostile to the party and showed an unwillingness to give the party any
voting preference at all.  This placed a huge handicap on the party's
candidates in multi-seat constituencies.

What today's figures show is that the party is eliminating the "transfer
repellency" outside the party's core base of supporters.  If this is
carried into a general election - even on 10 per cent of the vote - it
will return many more Sinn Féin TDs.

Politics of colonisation come home to roost
07 August 2005

Now that the Provos have finally decided to leave the Armalite in the
thatch for supervised destruction by the Canadian general, it's been a
week when some political birds have been flying home to roost.

Now that the Provies have gone away, what will all the armchair generals
do without them? From now on, quite a few will have to climb
unsettlingly down from the political moral high ground, from where they
have been lecturing us all, and join in the post war scenario.

First off the blocks this week was Ian Paisley, who went all the way to
Downing Street to throw all his toys out of his cot. (I would love to
know just what Tony Blair really thinks of him. Can you imagine amore
unlikely pair sitting down in Downing Street: the Oxford educated new
Labourite barrister and the fire-and-brimstoner educated in a mission
hall on York Road.)

I detect this week a growing sense of panic in the DUP ranks, as the IRA
statement has truly stripped them down to their political undies. "But
the IRA will have to disappear completely," said Peter Robinson, and the
mind marvelled at what trick 'Houdini' Adams was next required to
perform. Down south, the Free Staters were running in circles too.
Gerry Adams' demand that Northern elected parliamentarians be allowed
speaking rights in theDáil got a fairly typical musty 26county response
from Fine Gael, Labour and the PDs.

Fine Gael said that they "would have a problem with it".  Come on, no
sniggering, readers! Labour's Liz McManus said that it was "very
important that nothing should be done that would compromise the role of
the Oireachtas as the sovereign parliament of the state''. So there you
have it - after 35 long years of paramilitarism, newfound Northern
nationalist zeal for parliamentary democracy requires curtailing.

That huge numbers of six county folk fought and died to establish Dáil
Éireann is clearly a chapter excised from Liz's formative Workers Party
re-education.  And, indeed that the party she now deigns to deputy-lead
was itself originally founded by activists principally from the six
counties.  Could it be that now, with the shadow of the gunman hopefully
disappearing from the scene, the entire post-partitionist political
establishments, north and south, feel a new and not entirely comfortable
wind blowing?  Given this week's reactions north and south to the IRA's
farewell to arms, the days for platitudes from the moral high ground
about the North may be about to disappear.  Indeed two of the leading
26county commentators betrayed - I thought - more than a little
tightening of the collar in their reactions. Irish Times columnists
Fintan O'Toole and Kevin Myers, reacting to the IRA statement, were
angrily dismissive, Myers in particular was vitriolic about what he
called the 'dog collared' clergymen who would witness the arms
decommissioning.  For years, many people who should know better have
sheltered in the south behind the simple wisdom that the crisis in the
North was principally caused by the IRA.

Sometimes there was the Gay Byrne school of banality that solemnly
declared that "one side is as bad as the other'', but in general in the
southern establishment the finger was only pointing in the one
direction.  And interestingly, that finger was usually pointed inwards,
towards us, the Irish, as though somehow part of the Problem was being
or expressing 'Irishness' in the first place.
Decolonisation of the mind can take generations, but I have no doubt
that future sociologists and historians will sense that so much of this
type of southern reaction to the North was actually not about the North
at all, but about how the south felt about itself in the first place.

For the south, the North became a deeply unsettling experience, not just
because of the south's understandable and humane reaction to the death
and destruction, but because it kept picking away at the old historical
consensus and the still healing post-colonial wounds.  In the 1960s, as
the south began for the first time to experience the ending of
emigration and the beginning of educational and financial advancement,
the Northern deluge burst over it.  It then sought various protective
devices to block its ears to Northern realities like historical
revisionism and censorship under Section 31, but these were only

It took a generation of dead and dying before the southern political
establishment, under first Charles Haughey, and most significantly
Albert Reynolds, decided that the politically ghettoised in the North
had to be brought into the mainstream.

And that is what the peace process was about, and now that the IRA have
left the stage its wider significance may now begin to workout on the
south just as much as it has worked out on the North.  It is important
to understand that southern nationalism - remarkably as yet unrecognised
in almost any historical critique - and Irish pan-nationalism are two
different and opposing instincts.  Southern nationalism's silent
consensus on the necessity of partition to its political establishment
was initially disturbed by the peace process, but as Sinn Féin were soon
to discover, the honey moon wasn't to last very long.  As the Liz
McManus subtext unmistakably spelled it out this week, the southern
state must remain mostly uncontaminated by the North.  The defining
tenets of southern nationalism are, and have always been, stabilisation
of the Border and pacification of the nationalist minority.  Their
mobilisation could always potentially jeopardise the 1922 settlement,
and the peace process - now, importantly in tandem with British
interests - is only the latest chapter in this requirement. The bitter
and mostly unacknowledged truth underlying all of this is that the 1922
settlement, with the subsequent civil war as prosecuted by the new
southern nationalist political establishment, was the triumph of then
British imperial policy for Ireland.

The south was given commonwealth status under the king, and the North
its own colony - and that all of this has been subsequently dressed up
by southern historians and popular culture as 'independence' actually
speaks for itself.

The festering problem, of course, that finally wrecked this cosy
consensus was that the Northern minority - finally abandoned by the
south in 1924 - erupted after three generations of unionist colonial
rule into first demands for civil rights and then the killing machine
that was the Provisional IRA.

Given this sweep of history, one senses that we might be much closer to
half-time in the peace process than the full-time that some, judging by
their reactions only this week, are apparently fervently hoping for.

SF in power may be closer here than there

07 August 2005
Given the predictability of the "End of the world is nigh" DUP reaction
to the IRA statement of 10 days ago and the consequent response by the
British government, it is the impact on politics in the south that is of
more immediate interest.

That fact was not lost on the key makers of those events of July 28.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, was out responding to
the question as to whether his party could or would serve in a
government with Sinn Féin practically before the question had been

For a party whose only political philosophy is self-serving flexibility,
his protestations of deep policy differences with Sinn Féin were a
source of some mirth to some around the Backroom.  After all, this is
the party that flits between Labour and the PDs when forming
governments.  It isn't particularly funny - not just because MrAhern is
a member of Fianna Fáil, but because Sinn Féin's sense of its own
importance is, like Fianna Fáil's, far more critical than any principle
it pretends to hold.  If hospitals need to be closed, Sinn Féin are the
boys to call. Barbara de Brún proved that.  Sure, isn't flexibility and
evolving need the basis on which the whole peace process is built?

The truth is that Sinn Féin are not far off clearing the hurdle set for
them by parties this side of the border for participation in government
is necessary.  With the DUP talking about two years before the assembly
might be up and running - anything more generous might run the risk of
suggesting that David Trimble's long march was the proper one - the
issue of what to do with the Shinners may well arise down here before it
does up there.  Positive reports from the decommissioning bodies would
certainly throw the cat among the pigeons.  The truth is that the main
obstacle to Sinn Féin participation in government in the Republic is the
fact that no party wants to hold office with them.  Gerry may be up for
coalition - and who believes he isn't? -But he's a mite short of dancing
partners.  Not without cause either.  All parties in the Republic are
more than aware of the power of the Independent Group news papers.  An
Independent editorial on Tuesday this week effectively arguing for any
government but one involving SF is probably a foretaste of what will
come down on anybody who brings them into government in the short term.
In the Examiner, former Labour spin doctor Fergus Finlay was warning
about the dangers of Fianna Fáil allowing Sinn Féin into power in three
elections hence.  It is understandable, too, that so far all the
attention has been on Fianna Fáil's potential to do the evil deed, but
the historical record about accommodating republicanism's latest
offshoots tells another story.

It was Labour that assisted deValera's rise to power in 1932, Fine Gael
and Labour that allowed Sean MacBride and Clann na Poblachta into
government in 1948, Labour and Fine Gael together in 1995 that
facilitated the participation in government by Democratic Left, the
larger part of the remnants of Official Sinn Féin.  The problem with
Provisional Sinn Féin and the next general election is not that they may
end up in government, but how a government could be formed without them.
In Vincent Browne's Village magazine recently the great and the good
(Vincent himself and Garret FitzGerald among others) have been setting
out their predictions for the outcome of the next election.  Their
analyses are not dissimilar.  Large gains for Fine Gael (funnily enough
both these men have history in that party), small gains for Labour, and
substantial, but not catastrophic, losses for Fianna Fáil.  Both expect
Sinn Féin to gain four seats, taking their total to nine.  The competing
blocs of Fianna Fáil PDs and Fine Gael-Labour (and maybe the
'in-again-out-again' Greens) fall well short of the overall majority.
In each case their totals sat in the mid-1970s some way short of the 83
required for a governing majority.

In both cases, it might just be possible to form a government if
practically every independent could be trusted to get, and stay, on
board.  The easy thing to do would be to avail of the nine seats held by
Sinn Féin, but we are told that cannot happen.  Effectively, the Sinn
Féin tally, whatever it may be, is not available to either side.
Obviously, these figures have been contested by the political parties,
with both Fine Gael and Labour strategists arguing that their parties
will do better.  And the addition of the PDs to the 'Alternative' might
put them so close to the winning post that government formation would be
possible - but even if Pat Rabbitte could live with this, could his
party?  Again, this is merely a bit of fun, but an unspoken consensus
does emerge.  The only possible stable and non-Sinn-Féin government that
could emerge from the next election - on present predictions - is one
involving Labour and Fianna Fáil.  The numbers add up here comfortably.
The obvious difficulty is that Pat Rabbitte has personally set his face
against such a proposition, though the possibility is not specifically
precluded by the motion passed by the Labour Party at its annual

But the dynamic could well change after the next election.  Some of the
very forces that have lauded the Labour leader for throwing in his lot
with Fine Gael may well jump ship when faced with the appalling vista of
Sinn Féin in government, and demand that he do the opposite.

How would Rabbitte respond in these circumstances?

Sinn Féin and British in secret devolution talks

07 August 2005  By Paul T Colgan
The two sides will work towards a deal on policing in the coming weeks,
sources said, raising expectations that Sinn Féin would soon advise
nationalists to join the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the new
policing bodies.  "Sinn Féin wants to be involved in policing - we just
have to get it right," said a party source.  "There are problems, but we
don't think they are insurmountable."  If Sinn Féin were to back new
policing arrangements, it would be a potentially more significant move
by republicans than the standing down of the IRA.

The announcement by the British government that it is to disband three
battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment (RIR) and significantly scale
back the British army presence in the North is understood to have
re-invigorated the relationship between Sinn Féin and Tony Blair.  Blair
invited Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams and chief negotiator Martin
McGuinness to Downing Street last week where the three discussed the
issue of policing against a backdrop of ongoing negotiations.

The IRA statement of ten days ago - instructing members to dump arms and
engage in purely peaceful activities - has been warmly welcomed by
Blair.  "We're in agreement about what should now happen," said a
source.  "There may be some differences of opinion about the exact
timing of certain things, but that's always the case."  The disbandment
of the locally-recruited RIR holds huge significance for Northern
nationalists, many of whom regard it as unionism's "private army''.
Republicans have said it has done much to build confidence.

Sinn Féin has said that it still has problems with the use of plastic
bullets and the retention of MI5 for intelligence gathering purposes.
IRA decommissioning will be carried out "as soon as possible'', said
republican sources, but certain "mechanical" issues needed to be
addressed.  Head of the Independent International Commission on
Decommissioning (IICD), retired General John de Chastelain, is currently
at home in Canada, while his colleague Andrew Sens is understood to be
in the United States.

"The British government wants decommissioning to be carried out as
quickly as possible in order to build confidence - that remains the
IRA's intention," said a republican source.  "But it is now a technical
matter between the IICD and the IRA."

The identity of the two clergymen tasked with witnessing IRA
decommissioning remains unknown, amid some speculation that republicans
have not agreed to the DUP's preferred appointee. 

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