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31 January 1997

The peace process: Time to face reality

Thursday 30 January was the 25th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, when 14 people were murdered by British troops on a civil rights demonstration. Here is the text of a leaflet that LM distributed during the commemorations

It is horrifying to think that 25 years after Bloody Sunday, and after all the sacrifices made by the nationalist people since then, the prospect of an end to British rule is now off the agenda altogether. As the British secure their position in Ireland with the help of the Dublin government and the Clinton administration, the liberation movement has already become an historical curiosity which you can watch in your local cinema. It is time we dispensed with the fantasies of the peace process and looked instead at the reality of what it has done.

Many say that the peace process has failed. This is not true. It has done precisely what its main architects planned it to do-destroy the movement for Irish liberation. Back in 1993, when the peace process first became public knowledge, Living Marxism was alone in pointing out the dangers of what was taking place. The peace process we argued at the time, was the continuation of Britain's war against the Irish people by other means. Unable to defeat the liberation movement by force alone, the British government embarked on a sophisticated political strategy in collaboration with the Irish government and the Clinton administration. This strategy aimed to exploit the political weakness of the republican movement, promise them a place in a negotiated settlement and by so doing draw them into a web from which they could not escape. The strategy was a stunning success. The peace process has destroyed what remained of the movement for Irish freedom.

It is of course easy to blame the Brits for what has happened, and we can expect many worthy and ringing denunciations from the platform today. But what's the point of blaming your enemy when you lose the fight? When you fight a war you should expect your opponent to do what he can to win and prepare accordingly. Little is to be gained from bleating about how the British have not played fair. It is time we turned the spotlight on those both in Britain and Ireland who claimed that they would.

Unlike the republican movement, the British government never lost sight of the fact that they were fighting a war, and saw the peace process as a means to achieve victory. The republican movement on the other hand was taken in by all the windy rhetoric of the peace process. Remember when Adams and McGuinness declared how 'we were moving out of a situation of conflict into one of dialogue', and that a united Ireland could be achieved by negotiation, while at the same time deluding their supporters that the IRA had the Brits on the run? And now that Clinton has told Adams that he won't let him into the United States, perhaps this would be an opportune time to reflect on the grand alliance that Adams believed he had forged with Dublin and the 'international community' (aka Bill Clinton). No doubt republican leaders still believe they can be major players in any stitch-up deal clinched between London and Washington. They may well save their own hides yet, but it will be at the expense of the Irish people, especially in the North.

In order to save face, the republican leadership has resumed the IRA campaign. This is a shameful piece of manipulation. The lives of young volunteers, not to mention innocent civilians, are being put at risk so that Sinn Fein can cosy up to the most bitter opponents of Irish freedom. Even worse, by using the IRA as a battering ram to gain entry to all-party talks, Sinn Fein heaps dishonour on the liberation struggle and on the memory of those who fought and died for Irish freedom. This disgraceful and cynical campaign should stop immediately.

Far from there being a lack of a peace process, there is far too much of it. The more there is and the faster it goes the more complete will be the humiliation of the nationalist people. If Tony Blair comes to power in May, expect the peace process to accelerate and Sinn Fein to plumb new depths of shame. The only hope is to stop the peace process altogether, not in order to go back to the past, but to work out a new strategy for liberation for the 21st century. A radical rethink is desperately needed, but to prepare ourselves for the future we must now face up to the failures of the past.

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