North of Ireland

The Tory government is on a collision course with the European Union over the question of trade and the North of Ireland. The capitalists on both sides are losing control of the situation. An explosive cocktail is being prepared.

In the course of scarcely a month, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has begun imploding in spectacular fashion. Arlene Foster – the DUP leader and First Minister at Stormont who survived the RHI scandal, the collapse of Stormont in 2017, and the introduction of Northern Ireland Protocol earlier this year – has finally and unceremoniously been booted out. The straw that broke the camel’s back? Her opposition to gay conversion therapy.

One hundred years ago, on 3 May 1921, the partition of Ireland became law in the British parliament. As the Marxist revolutionary, James Connolly, had predicted, partition created “a carnival of reaction both North and South”. It took years of terror, pogroms and bloodshed to establish what the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, James Craig, termed a “Protestant state for a Protestant people”. In the South, the newly established Free State was baptised in the blood of the Republicans who resisted the Treaty and partition.

COVID restrictions are set to loosen up in the North of Ireland – part of a cynical attempt by politicians to use the pandemic for sectarian ends. Workers in both communities need a united socialist struggle to end this chaos and crisis.

The focus of coverage of the 12 December general election has naturally been on the gains made by the Tories, particularly in the Midlands and the North of England. Less attention has been given to the seismic shift that took place in the North of Ireland. In an election marked by sectarianism, electoral alliances, Brexit and the border, the DUP received a hammering. Their fall from the position of kingmakers at Westminster two years ago has been dramatic.

On Friday 25 May, Ireland went to the polls to decide whether to repeal the 8th amendment of the constitution, which denied women the right to abortion as long as the unborn fetus had a heartbeat. Under these laws, which are part of the legacy of the Catholic Church’s domination of Ireland, abortion was illegal, even under the horrific circumstances of rape, incest or fetal abnormalities. The repeal of the 8th amendment is an epoch-making slap in the face against the Catholic Church and the establishment in the Republic.

It has been nearly two years since the British public lobbed a grenade into the Tories’ lap by voting to leave the European Union. Since this particularly hot potato was chucked her way, May has made an art out of kicking the can down the road. But for how much longer? Recent events suggest her luck may just be running out.

One phone call from Arlene Foster to the British Prime Minister Theresa May was enough to halt a deal between the European Union and British government, already agreed on Monday 4 December. Arlene Foster is the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Northern Ireland: a right-wing party with its roots in the anti-Catholicism of its former leader Ian Paisley. It is also pro-life, anti-gay and deeply reactionary.

On Monday 4 December, it was finally announced that a deal on phase one of the Brexit negotiations was about to be struck. The Financial Times lauded the Brexiteers' “surprising realism” in a negotiation described by one former head of the Treasury as more like a “drive-by shooting” than a negotiation.

Tory-DUP coalition

After a thin Queen’s Speech and long negotiations, Theresa May and DUP leader Arlene Foster finally appeared outside Downing Street earlier this week to shake hands on the deal that will keep May in power - for now.

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

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