Ireland

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.

In 1987 the propaganda machine of the Irish government and the bosses worked overtime to sell the social contract. Trade union leaders too were keen to sell their members the idea of social partnership, management and unions would get together to cooperate over improving the state of the Irish economy in order to share out the subsequent wealth generated.

Irish rail drivers, members of the Amalgamated Transport and General Workers Union, have been engaged in a battle with the rail bosses over conditions and recognition. Under pressure from all sides, and with the intervention of the Labour Court, the union has decided to suspend future strikes.

Born in 1868 into a poor family in Edinburgh, James Connolly was a genuine proletarian. His working life commenced at the age of ten. All his life he lived and breathed the world of the working class, shared in its trials and tribulations, suffered from its defeats and exulted in its victories. Connolly was a self-educated man who became a brilliant speaker and writer. He alone in the annals of the British and Irish Labour Movement succeeded in developing the ideas of Marxism.

Last month, Northern Ireland exploded into violence again. Petrol bombs, blazing buildings, and RUC brutality against protesters were all in evidence in the wake of the Apprentice Boys parade in Derry.

"The declaration of an unconditional ceasefire by the I.R.A. on the 31st of August represents a crushing defeat for the policy of individual terrorism. For 25 years the I.R.A. waged an armed struggle against British imperialism, with the declared aim of driving out the British army and achieving the unification of Ireland. Now, after a generation of bloody conflict, with 3,170 dead and 36,680 injured, the goal of a united Ireland is further away than ever." Ted Grant in 1994.

This article was originally published in the Militant under the title "Northern Ireland - For A United Workers' Defence Force" just after the British troops were sent into the North of Ireland in 1969. While most of the left capitulated and supported the sending in of troops the Marxists explained clearly that, "The call made for the entry of British troops will turn to vinegar in the mouths of some of the Civil Rights leaders. The troops have been sent in to impose a solution in the interest of British and Ulster Big Business."

It is impossible to understand the Easter Rising without understanding the ideas of its leader, James Connolly, who considered himself a Marxist and based himself on the ideas of Internationalism and the class struggle. (Written by Ted Grant in 1966 on the 50th anniversary of the uprising.)

In this little book Connolly challenges the nationalist myths about the Irish struggle for freedom from British rule. Connolly’s aim was to convince the radical nationalists that their policy of a ‘union of classes’ would lead to disaster. He argued that Irish independence would bring little in the way of freedom and progress for the majority of the Irish people unless it included a fundamental challenge to the structure of society. He also shows graphically how the Irish capitalist class was always prepared to abandon and betray the struggle for liberation if its economic and social interests were threatened.

This marvellous little pamphlet by James Connolly has introduced millions of workers to the basic ideas of socialism. We are reprinting it so that the working class and youth of today can continue to read it and profit from its arguments.

Join us!

Help build the forces of Marxism worldwide!

Join the IMT!