The recent announcement that the Provisional IRA had decommissioned all its weapons has been drowned out by the blasts of the loyalist paramilitaries using theirs. The Good Friday Agreement is dead. Instead of peace we have a dramatic increase in extreme sectarian violence. More than ever the call for working class unity in the struggle for socialism is the only answer.

The recent declaration by the leadership of the Provisional IRA that the armed struggle is over has been reported in the media as an historic turning point and a fundamental departure in Irish politics. In spite of the rhetoric, however, there has not been one single step in the direction of a united Ireland. At least a section of the Provisional Republican movement will now be feeling demoralised and betrayed. They and many others, especially the young people who have just started to become involved in politics, will want to know - what next?

We are publishing here a speech given by Phil Mitchinson at the recent international Marxist school in Barcelona. Dealing with the history of the centuries old struggle for freedom in Ireland, and the part played in that history by republicanism and socialism, as well as the political developments that have led to the current impasse, this should serve as an introduction to a major article analysing the recent declaration of the end of the armed struggle by the Provisional IRA which we will be publishing later this week.

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