The partition of Ireland, following the Government Of Ireland Act in 1920, gave strength to the reactionary 'theory' that has always been perpetuated by pro-Unionist elements amongst the Northern labour movement that workers' interests were better served by maintaining the link with British capitalism.

After 1945, British imperialism had a different agenda for Northern Ireland. Ireland had been partitioned in 1920 to keep hold of the profitable industries of the North, as well as the important military bases that protected Britain's western flanks. More importantly however, Partition served to act as a break on the growing social revolution that accompanied the struggle for national liberation in Ireland, which had included land and factory seizures by the workers.

The decision by Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson to send British troops into Northern Ireland in 1969 reflected that government's abandonment of any semblance of socialist policies. It was a squandered opportunity that tied the Labour leadership to the blind alley of 'bipartisanship' for the next three decades.

For the fourth time in its short existence the Northern Ireland Assembly has been suspended. On Monday October 14, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, John Reid, announced that London was once again imposing direct rule. The whole process has been like a perverse game in which the workers hopes are constantly sent sliding backwards.

The only way out, the labour movement

Recent events in Northern Ireland have shown the volatility and underlying weakness inherent in the 'peace process.' Despite the ceasefire, despite hours and hours of talks between all the various sectarian politicians and the governments in London, Dublin and Washington, little or nothing has changed.

The recent broadcast of two unusually frank TV dramas exposing the horrors of Bloody Sunday in 1972, is a timely reminder of the role played by British imperialism in Ireland. If it is possible, the murder of those thirteen innocent people fighting for their rights is made even more tragic by nightly news bulletins thirty years later reporting the mounting toll of sectarian violence which shatters the myth of the so-called peace process.

In the last few weeks we have witnessed a debate in the media about the events on Bloody Sunday. Both Sunday and Bloody Sunday[two films] were released about the massacre 30 years ago.

The proposals that have emerged from the Northern Ireland peace process have been hailed as an historic breakthrough. Tony Blair has been lauded with praise for his 'peacemaking' role. Characters like David Trimble, who led the Orangemen at Drumcree, have received praise upon praise for their bravery. But what does any of this mean for the working class people of Ireland who have been subjected to decades of sectarian rule, violence, intimidation and ruined lives? Can it really bring peace?

The agreement will mean the setting up of a new Northern Ireland Assembly based on proportional representation and with a complicated 'power sharing' executive structure, the establishment of


On 17th April 1916 the Irish Citizen Army, together with the Irish Volunteers, rose up in arms against the might of the British Empire to strike a blow for Irish freedom and for the setting up of an Irish Republic. Their blow for freedom was to reverberate round the world, and preceded the first Russian Revolution by almost a year.

As the Good Friday Agreement stumbles from one crisis to another, hopes have been raised that the new "concessions" given by the provisional IRA on weapons will be sufficient to draw the Unionists into another power sharing executive and assembly with Sinn Fein.

The suspension of the Northern Ireland Assembly is the latest demonstration of the inability of capitalism to solve the national question in Ireland. Below we look at the reasons for the breakdown in the current talks, the future prospects for the IRA, the unionists, and the possibility of a socialist solution.

The situation in Ireland is changing very fast. After almost 10 years of economic boom (the "Celtic Tiger") the whole of the economy is in recession. In October unemployment rose by 5, 000. Aer Lingus has sacked 2, 000 workers, Nortel 265, RTE 160, Irish Times 250, FLS Aerospace 200, AFL 300, Tara Mines 700. The list is endless, and that is just in the third month of the recession. The Department of Trade and Enterprise has announced a 42% increase in redundancies for the year so far (the biggest increase since the beginning of the "Celtic Tiger" myth). Some analysts reckon that 20,000 jobs in the construction industry and 20,000 in tourism will be lost in the next 12 months.

The announcement that the IRA will begin decommissioning its arms marks a new stage in the troubled peace process in Northern Ireland. What is the meaning of this? And what attitude should socialists and the labour movement take towards it?

The Irish peace process is mired in crisis. Despite all the fanfare accompanying the Good Friday Agreement, the people in the Six Counties of the north once again find themselves at an impasse. Phil Mitchinson looks at the issues involved.