From Socialist Voice, February 2006

British still blocking change

As the Northern peace process remains stalled, with the likelihood of the re-establishment of the Executive and the Assembly further away than ever, it is important that progressive opinion remain focused on what is happening.
    The recently released and “eagerly awaited” report of the Independent Monitoring Commission into the continued activities, real or otherwise, of paramilitary groups in the North—particularly in relation to the IRA after its final act of decommissioning last September—is a very strange concoction indeed.
    The political establishments, both Irish and British, are clearly more concerned about the IRA than they are about loyalist paramilitaries, for very real but different reasons. From a Southern viewpoint, loyalist violence does not impinge upon the politics of the state, and they know that the British have a lot of control over their actions, while republican influence continues to grow, north and south. The British security apparatus, such as the Security Service (“MI5”) and the PSNI Special Branch (political police), have been running loyalist organisations for decades and have been engaged in their own dirty war for the last forty years. The British are more interested in controlling the process and ensuring an outcome that meets their current objectives.
    The IMC report claims that the IRA has retained some of its arsenal of weapons. They quote sources stating that they cannot quantify exactly what the IRA has retained: “Reports are not able to indicate precisely what is the nature or volume of any remaining weapons but suggest two things—first, that there is a range of different types of weapons and ammunition; second, that the material goes beyond what might possibly have been expected to have missed decommissioning, such as a limited number of handguns . . .”
    The IMC goes on to state: “We recognise that, if these reports were confirmed, the key question would be how much the PIRA [‘Provisional IRA’] leadership knew about these weapons.”
    One of the members of the IMC, Commander John Grieve, was quoted as saying, “We have no doubt that the Provisional IRA uniquely amongst paramilitary groups has taken a strategic decision to abandon terrorism and pursue a political path.” He went on to state that there was no evidence of IRA recruitment or training, and that it had no intention of attacking members of the “security forces,” nor had it carried out any attacks in the period under review. So how can this body make claims that the IRA still retains weapons?
    The body that oversaw the decommissioning of IRA weapons, the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning, headed by General John de Chastelain, also issued a statement, coinciding with the IMC report, stating categorically that they had witnessed the complete decommissioning of IRA weapons, and further that they had recently had two meetings with a representative of the IRA in relation to the allegation contained in the ICM report.
    De Chastelain also stated that “over the past week [the last week in January] we have discussed the intelligence assessments with senior officers in the Garda Síochána . . . The Garda informed us that what they regard as reliable sources in relation to the IRA and its weaponry have produced no intelligence suggesting any arms have been retained.” The decommissioning body suggested that the source of recent questioning of the decommissioning carried out was “security sources within Northern Ireland.”
    What is happening is that we have one body drafting a report based on “intelligence” presented to them by forces that are actively engaged in undermining the whole process. In a situation where the nature and role of policing is a very controversial and divisive issue, this body treats a number of discredited groups as accurate and true sources for reliable information. This is farcical beyond belief. This body and the two governments—particularly the British—are allowing the political police and MI5 to determine how the process develops. It has given them a virtual veto on progress.
    So instead of the British bringing pressure to bear on the DUP to seriously engage in the process, they are attempting to put the pressure back onto republicans as the obstacle to progress. Clearly unionism is still a necessary ally for the British in its current strategy.
    As the Socialist Voice pointed out in the last issue, there are serious forces at a very high level within the British security service who are attempting to derail the peace process. They carried out a virtual coup d’état by using their leading operative within Sinn Féin to bring about the suspension of the Assembly and Executive.
    These same forces have been raiding homes and businesses in the North, and in Britain, to coincide with important moments in the political process so as to stoke up the tension and block any attempts to re-establish the Executive and Assembly. The IRA decommissioning all its weapons in September last year was a blow to those elements of unionism that want to block political progress and change, and also to the political police and MI5. All the efforts of these forces are now concentrated on splitting republicans and securing a political process that meets the needs of their political masters in London. They are attempting to use the frustration with the slowness of the political process within republicanism to manipulate those who feel that the more they give the less they get from the process.
    Another disturbing development was the recent release of information to the press by the Department of Justice about raids carried out by the Criminal Assets Bureau on more than twenty pubs and offices and a hotel in the Dublin region and the seizure of computers, disks, and files. These raids took place in the last week of January but were made public only to coincide with the release of the report by the Independent Monitoring Commission.
    The Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, is hell-bent on fighting his own war against republicans in the South, regardless of the damage to the peace process. His actions are designed to prevent the growth of anti-establishment forces in the Republic. He is prepared to use everything to achieve this, including reinforcing intransigent unionism in the North.
    This can all be dressed up in whatever clothes they like, but it is a taste of what class struggle is about. They want a compliant republican movement, decommissioned of all politics. They do not want political parties that are independent of the business interests that finance and control the establishment parties in Dáil Éireann: Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the Progressive Democrats, and the Labour Party. They know that he who pays the piper calls the tune. There is a distinct hostility in the tone of McDowell’s actions and attacks, in the projection and reinterpretation of events presented by the Irish Independent group and the rest of the establishment media.
    What both the British and Irish establishments need is to control and manage change to suit their interests, which is not the same as what working people require or aspire to. Their strategy of reconfiguring the middle ground with permanent SDLP-UUP control over the Executive has collapsed; their second line is to decommission radical republican politics. They want to “house-train” radical republicanism.
    The question now facing republicans is, Do they want to be “house-trained” by the establishment and enter the swamp of parliamentarism and electoralism?

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