The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Foundations For Development Laid As Sinn Fein Goes Unionist
Eamonn McCann • Belfast Telegraph, 12 February 2004

One reason there's a deal on the cards is that Sinn Fein has gone unionist. The other is that the DUP has conceded the nationalist case. The Shinners will snort in anger at the suggestion they have become reconciled to partition. In dreams, perhaps they have not. But in practice, by endorsing the Agreement they have accepted that the north will stay within the United Kingdom until such times as a majority of northern voters decides otherwise. This is all that Craigavon insisted on.

Meanwhile, Peter Robinson cannot make it to the end of an interview without spelling it out that no system of government will survive without the backing of both unionist and nationalist communities. But acceptance of the necessity of nationalist assent is all that Joe Devlin demanded. It is still hard to see the exact mechanism by which they will get over or around the "guns before government" impediment.

Additionally, they are at the mercy of events, dear boy, events. But the foundation has been laid on which a deal can be erected and the surveyors are prowling the site. On Prime Time on Tuesday, Ian Paisley was clear that the DUP will share office with Sinn Fein once Sinn Fein has extricated itself from paramilitarism - a giant leap by a party which once set its face against power-sharing with the SDLP.

The Agreement is Sunningdale for slow learners, right enough. And the DUP has signalled its readiness to sign up. Sinn Fein leaders want disentanglement from "armed struggle", too. It's half a dozen years since Martin McGuinness told Emily O'Reilly in an Observer Magazine piece that he looked forward to the day - and he wasn't talking of the far distant future - when the IRA had dumped arms for good and members met instead for social events, reminiscence and commemorative functions.

This fully meets the condition for power-sharing which Paisley set out for Miriam O'Callaghan. There it is, then. The Shinners and Paisleyites are inching towards one another with draft proposals, not daggers, in hand. So why isn't there a palpable sense of excitement? Surely this is the curtain dropping on the final scene in Act Five of what's hitherto been experienced as a never-ending tragedy when it hasn't been a recurring farce? Why no rising rumble of approval, or at least of relief, from the punters in the stalls? Why, indeed, the apparent lack even of interest?

Last week, when the delegations mustered at Stormont for the formal opening of the review (or re-negotiation, if you like), radio journalists seeking vox pop reaction had difficulty finding passers-by who knew what was going on, and greater difficulty coaxing a comment. A majority on all sides seems to want devolution. The line-up of Blairite third-raters at the NIO must be a factor. And, as one NIPSA striker put it at a rally in Guildhall Square last Friday: "When it's the local lot, you feel you can maybe get your hands around their throats."

But it is a preference, not a desperate urgent desire, for devolution. The NIPSA dispute is a case in point. Viewed in the perspective of defence of the public service against free-market wreckers and vindicating the interests of the low-paid, the strike is the most important development in these parts in recent years. This is the only region of the UK where wages in the public sector are (marginally) higher than in private employment. A defeat for NIPSA will be a blow to every worker living on the margins. Here, indeed, is a matter of desperate urgency - about which the goings-on at Stormont have marginal relevance at most. The main reason there isn't wild excitement at the looming likelihood of a
DUP-Sinn Fein administration is that for precisely those people with real reason urgently to want change, Paisley and Adams clasping hands will make no difference at all.

Devolution or no, for those at the bottom the struggle goes on.





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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

20 February 2004


Other Articles From This Issue:


A Malignant Menage a trois

Anthony McIntyre


On the Record
Kathleen O'Halloran


David Lidington
Eamon Sweeney


The Buck Stops Here
Brian Mór


Loyalist Racism and Terror Attacks
Paul Mallon


Foundations for Development Laid as Sinn Fein Goes Unionist
Eamonn McCann


All Are Targets
Mohammed Omer


Calendar of Events
Belfast Anti-War Movement


14 February 2004


GFA in the Toilet
Brian Mór


No Retreat
Glen Phillips


Terrorism and Democratic Society

Anthony McIntyre


SEA: The SWP and the Partition of Ireland
Paul Mallon


The "Free Trade" History Eraser: Honduras, Maquilas and Popular Protest in Latin America
Toni Solo


On A Street in America
Annie Higgins


The BBC and the Quiet Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinians
Paul de Rooij




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