From Socialist Voice, November 2004

DUP remain the obstacle

It is clear to most people who take an interest in the peace process in the North of Ireland that it is not republicans who are the obstacle to attaining a settlement and the re-establishment of the Executive and getting the Assembly back in operation. Nothing will satisfy the Democratic Unionist Party, short of all members of Sinn Féin and the IRA voluntarily walking into Long Kesh prison and locking themselves in and throwing out the keys to Ian Paisley.
     Paisley wants victory over republicans and for croppies to lie down—for all Catholics and nationalists to give a firm oath of allegiance to the British state. The DUP wants to hollow out the Good Friday Agreement, so that it remains in form but devoid of content. They want to consolidate the unionist veto over political developments in the North. It is very likely that they are holding out until the next British general election, when they hope to replace the UUP in the British Parliament, also hoping to capitalise on the deep unpopularity of the Blair government giving them a stronger negotiating position.
     If the current round of talks fails, we need to press on if that means that we have to transcend the Good Friday Agreement. One possible way forward is joint authority between the Irish and British governments as the means of having the substance of the agreement implemented and the Assembly activated to monitor the workings of any joint-authority bodies.
     The longer this malaise is allowed to continue the more it will lead to disillusionment with politics, particularly among those sections of the population who moved away from paramilitary activity, believing that politics could provide a way forward.
     Unionism and the unionist veto have always been the problem; the violence of republicans was purely a symptom of the real problem. Elements of the unionist business elite, because of their own economic and political interests, are under pressure from British monopoly interests who want to develop their interest in the whole of the island as it moves towards further incorporation in the European Union.

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