From Socialist Voice, April 2007

A big step forward

The decision to establish an Executive in the North of Ireland is a big step forward in the building of peace and reconciliation. It has taken more than ten years for the Democratic Unionist Party to sit around the table and have a face-to-face meeting with Sinn Féin. This process has been a slow and painful one on all sides.
     The two parties have committed themselves to establishing a power-sharing Executive by 8 May, and will hold a number of joint meetings in the coming weeks to work out the details. As well as the DUP and Sinn Féin, the SDLP and the Ulster Unionist Party will hold talks for putting together a programme for government. They will also be joining forces to approach the British government for an increased financial package to underpin the new political arrangements.
     While the new Executive will not come into being until 8 May, it is vitally important that there be no further delays. The re-establishment of a functioning Assembly and Executive must become the focal point for resistance to the continuing attacks on public services, the introduction of water charges, and exorbitant rates increases.
     The elections to the Assembly saw a continued growth in support for both Sinn Féin and the DUP. The election of a Green Party candidate for North Down is to be welcomed—though, given the nature of the constituency, it may not necessarily reflect a major shift or a growing emphasis on environmental issues over constitutional ones.
     We know from experience that political parties and, most importantly, the establishment like to control and channel political debate into the safe confines of parliamentary structures. Clearly there is a need to build more radical forms of representation and consultation with the people. We need to develop forms that have the potential to open the path to a new, people-centred democracy and to bring real substance to decisions affecting people’s lives, not just in the North but throughout Ireland.
     In this regard Sinn Féin has presented itself as a radical new alternative to the moribund SDLP. So will it bring anything new to the way in which people are consulted and can engage in political and economic decision-making? Will workers and their representatives have a say in how economic policies are developed?
     Where is the 21st-century version of “Liberty, equality, fraternity”? If republicanism is about popular sovereignty and the will of the people, is this to be confined to placing a mark on a ballot paper every four or five years?
     With the re-establishment of the Executive it is crucial that alternative economic and social policies are developed and campaigned for by the labour movement, to strengthen all-Ireland co-operation in the building of an all-Ireland manufacturing base, centred around the most advanced technological and scientific developments.
     A central plank of this process must be the development of an all-Ireland plan for the use, exploitation and development of our natural resources, under public ownership, to meet the needs of all our people.
     The re-established Assembly and Executive must become a focal point for working people’s political struggles, to enable pressure to be brought to bear that will ensure that public services are defended and developed and that the proposed water charges are scrapped, and not just deferred.
     We must not allow the establishment of an Executive to be the end of the process but rather something that needs to be developed.

Home page  >  Publications  >  Socialist Voice  >  April 2007  >  A big step forward
Baile  >  Foilseacháin  >  Socialist Voice  >  Aibreán 2007  >  Aibreán 2007  >  A big step forward