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SF - Stormont First

Anthony McIntyre • 29.09.02

A week after the Ulster Unionist Council convened and the discursive effects of the fall out continue to vibrate throughout the world of print. Whether they will have any impact greater than the disturbance caused by last week’s English earthquake is another matter.

David Trimble whether through accident or design is - by pointing to his lack of internal space in which to manoeuvre - preparing the way to increase his external bargaining power with the British Government. Needless to say, those with substantial scope for manoeuvre, republicans, will come under considerable pressure. A leadership that can sell its grassroots virtually any abandonment dressed up as the taking of new ground would be perceived in the centres of establishment power as ripe for a bit more squeezing. This also holds true of America where, complained the Irish Voice, Richard Haass ‘listens only’ to British Secretary of State John Reid when it comes to the North,

Even if such squeezing failed to produce the desired response and the Agreement were to collapse what alternative template is there in the mind of the British establishment - the ultimate power broker in the North of Ireland and which, to draw on Schattschneider’s memorable phrase, has the ability to ensure that ‘some things are organised into politics, while others are organised out‘? From the moment of any collapse the beast that produced the Good Friday Agreement will be in heat again and ready for impregnation by British ministers. It is in its very nature. With Provisional republicanism’s proposed solution - upon which it fought and lost a war - reduced to a discursive objective there is, as supporters of the Agreement say, no other establishment show in town.

Having long since abandoned its anti-systemic challenge to establishment logic coupled with a jettisoning of any notion of becoming a radical body of opposition, Sinn Fein must fear a reversion to direct rule. Its leaders can only feel, rightly, that such a course blurs the vision they project of their strategy once adumbrated by Martin McGuinness - ‘you could have a situation where Sinn Féin is in government in the North and Sinn Féin in government in the South. The logic is that the division of the country will have to end’- as knitting together the two parts of the country. It is not a question of Sinn Fein being asked to ‘Save Dave’ as Gerry Adams likes to put it. Any movement by Sinn Fein presented as a generous gesture to ‘save Dave’ is a ruse to camouflage the fact that Trimble is merely the loop through which the lifeline travels on its way back to Adams. Sinn Fein more than anybody need the institutions to proceed.

In the same vein the unionist demand for a border poll and Sinn Fein’s fear of it, exposes the soft underbelly of the party’s project. It shows it to be little other than a reformist and gradualist strategy tarted up internally as revolutionary or insurrectionary on the evidence of nothing other than unionist unease. Sinn Fein inflates the value of its project by telling its base that demographically nationalists are breathing down the necks of the unionists. But because the Sinn Fein leadership know only too well that while virtually all unionists will vote for the union not all nationalists will vote against it. A border poll revealing a gap that would not be bridged by the mythical ‘freedom 2016’ year would convey two things. Firstly, to republicans, that there is a certain permanence to partition and that references to transition are rhetorical devices aimed at giving legs to the illusion of forward movement; secondly, and more importantly, to unionists, that the union is nowhere nearly as insecure as some of them believe thus displacing much of their unease and consequently depicting republicans as confidence tricksters.

In is against this backdrop that David Trimble devalues his own achievements when calling for the IRA to surrender, and in doing so gives voice to the dog that has perpetually failed to bark, Jeffrey Donaldson. The latter has stipulated that the IRA ‘must disappear’ and that its organisation, structure, weapons and threat must all go’.

In all of this it seems that a silencer has been placed over the fact that the IRA has surrendered the principle of consent. And after that what serious threat does it pose to the terms on which the British state has based its presence for the last three decades that would be radically different from that posed by the Worker’s Party? The organisation no longer exists to challenge the union as maintained through the consent principle. Consequently, as Paul Bew explained in the Financial Times, ‘essentially, voters would be asked to tolerate devolved government with Sinn Féin ministers as the most practical way of sustaining the Union.’

And what conclusion does this point to? That which suggests that the safe money will be placed on Sinn Fein ensuring that the Assembly’s fat lady will not be singing any swan song.






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The man who lets a leader prescribe his course is a wreck being towed to the scrap heap.
- Ayn Rand

Index: Current Articles

4 October 2002


Other Articles From This Issue:


Revealing Secrets


At Last We Know the Human Cost of Gerry Adams

Paul Bew


The Boys of the Old Brigade Are Not Happy
Brian Mór


Segregation in Oldham
Mark Hayes


Common Denominators

Aine Fox


SF - Stormont First
Anthony McIntyre


Dispatches from the U.S. Anti-War Movement
Julie Brown


Preventing the Bush Turkey Shoot
Steve McWilliams


29 September 2002


Landlordism and the Housing Question
Liam O Ruairc


No Rest Days

Anthony McIntyre


The Meeting
Davy Carlin


It Shall All Come Tumbling Down
Sam Bahour




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