By Fra Hughes – Sep 3, 2020
Has the Good Friday Agreement failed?
Francie Molloy, Sinn Fein Member of the British Parliament for the constituency of Mid Ulster recently commented,‘We were sold a pup with the GFA no commitment from either Dublin or London to deliver for Nationalists or Republicans it was just a bluff’.
The Northern Ireland Executive power-sharing administration at Stormont recently awarded members increases in expenses and allowances landing the taxpayer with an extra annual bill in the region of 4.2 million and this when we are in the middle of a global viral pandemic.
So what can we deduce from both these statements?
My conclusion is the democratic model as presented today is not fit for purpose.
If we dwell briefly on the foundations of the Good Friday Agreement to which The MP for Mid Ulster was referring then that will lead us into the second part of this article.
It is the view of this author that the Good Friday Agreement was the political vehicle which was created to allow militant armed republicans, to eschew violence and enter into constitutional politics, thus completing the normalisation of project ‘Northern Ireland’.
A brief resume of the period leading up to the signing of the GFA.
Ireland was and still is, in part, Britain’s First Colony.
The Irish claim to have lived under foreign military occupation for 800 years and colonisation by English and Scottish settlers for 400 years.
There have been successive unsuccessful rebellions against this colonisation /occupation from its inception.
The native indigenous Irish have striven for national self-determination for centuries both politically and militarily and during the Easter Rising of 1916, and the War of Independence 1919-1921, 26 of 32 counties in Ireland claimed partial self-determination while six counties in the North East of the country remained under British rule when the island of Ireland was partitioned leading to two separate jurisdictions on May 3 rd 1921.
The settler-colonial presence in the North East which was a minority in Ireland now became the majority in the Partitioned pro-Unionist pro-British one-party state that now ruled Northern Ireland as a part of the United Kingdom with regional autonomy using devolved powers.
The scene was set for a continuation of the Irish struggle for independence and the determination of the settler-colonial powers and militias to prevent this.
We move on 50 years to the birth of the Civil Rights movement in the Northern State.
After decades of discrimination by the Unionist pro-British State against the indigenous Irish now held in political and economic servitude, there were calls for a peaceful transmission from a State monopoly of power, to citizen participation in the political and economic structures of government. This was violently resisted by right-wing sectors of society and state actors, leading to street confrontation, physical violence, riots and further polarisation and segregation of the community..
The peaceful call for reform was met with brutal bloody repression.
The gun returned to Irish politics as Nationalist communities came under sustained and heavy assault, many times by both the official state forces and the unofficial paramilitary armed sections of loyalism.
The fight to defend nationalist homes, lives and community then became another chapter in the National war of liberation.
The struggle had begun.
Violence is like a tap, once it was turned on it was difficult to turn off.
How was it legitimate and even desirable one day to fight British military occupation and imperialism but somehow not necessarily legitimate or even desirable on another day?
Surely the National war for Independence, if justified on the first day, must also be justified on subsequent days, unless circumstances have drastically changed, it would be justified until the occupation had ended?
A conflict, war, struggle, then ensued for over 25 years.
The British army and their loyalist cohorts could not militarily or politically defeat the Irish Republican Army.
We entered into the long war.
In the words of Terence Mac Swiney author and elected Lord Mayor of Cork who was arrested by the British during the War of Independence and died on hunger strike on 25 October 1920 after 74 days in Brixton Jail, London ‘It is not those who can inflict the most but those who can endure the most will conquer’
The war of attrition was in full swing.
At this time prior to the signing of the GFA, the British government was pursuing a policy of normalisation.
Republicans were being imprisoned by various means including mass incarcerations on the word of discredited informers.
A shoot to kill policy was in operation at different times and the ongoing criminalisation of Irish republicans and their cause continued unabated, alongside the indiscriminate murder of many catholic nationalists and republicans by state-aligned paramilitary loyalist death squads in collusion with state actors.
With the rise of Sinn Fein as a political party in the North after the election of Irish republicans during the Hunger strikes of 1981 to both the British and Irish Parliaments. Bobby Sands who died after 66 days in Her Majesty’s Prison ‘The Maze’ known to its inmates as ‘Long Kesh’ had been elected Member of Parliament for Fermanagh SouthTyrone gaining more votes than Margaret Thatcher the then Prime Minister of Britain. It was Thatcher who had helped create the conditions which lead to the hunger strike.
Sinn Fein now had a dual policy of the Ballot box and the Armalite.
At some point, all the main protagonists realised that an impasse had been reached.
The violence could go on indefinitely for years and decades to come.
The only outcome was more convicted prisoners, more families bereaved, and communities devastated by the continuation of the conflict and the endless suffering for many in the working class ghettos of Belfast, Derry, Straban, Lurgan and other epicentres of the conflict from Coalisland to Crossmaglen.
A decision was taken I believe by the leadership of the Irish Republican Army, Provisional wing, to secure a cessation of the violence.
They took the moral high ground.
A continuation of the conflict which had no outright victory for any of those involved seemed illogical.
Fighting for freedom will always be justified as the oppressor will not willingly surrender power to the oppressed.
Though some in charge of the Republican leadership felt the time had come to use the ballot box and give up the Armalite.
How to switch off the violence then took centre stage.
How was it justifiable for armed republicans to fight oppression and occupation by a foreign power on Monday and somehow by Tuesday, the sacrifice of all those dead, injured, on the run and incarcerated would be for what exactly?
The answer by the re[ublican leadership was to continue the struggle politically. To give peace a chance.
A referendum was called based on the Good Friday Agreement.
A negotiated settlement of the conflict by all the main protagonists, would for the first time in history, guarantee that Northern Ireland would remain an integral part of the United Kingdom until the people of Northern Ireland would vote on the continued status of partition and the possibility of national reunification at some unspecified future date.
Many people I know voted in favour of the Good Friday Agreement in both jurisdictions.
Many voted for peace, for an end to violent conflict and the opportunity to allow politics to be the battleground, the debating chamber and not the streets.
What did we get?
A devolved government.
A peace agreement that has been ignored, rewritten and unimplemented in many of its most important aspects.
A lack of violence is not peace, it is simply a lack of violence.
The underlying obstacles to peace, discrimination, religious intolerance, repression of the Irish language, culture and identity, segregation, continue day and daily.
Nothing has changed except the physical fight for freedom which has ended for many but not all republicans.
What did a locally accountable regional government provide the people of Northern Ireland?
It has cemented and entrenched the position of Northern Ireland with the United Kingdom.
It has created a de facto coalition of the unwilling to govern us.
The D’Hont mechanism establishes the need for cross-party agreement on policy which includes a veto, to prevent a return to a unionist dominated dysfunctional and discriminatory one-party government.
It has led to a repartition, this time of the government as nationalist SF and unionist DUP divide up the governmental ministries and do not administer power by class interest or political ideology but in the interests of their own communities and party sponsors.
We do not have joined up adult political discourse based on need and the distribution of state assets.
We have a chamber of horrors where it’s every party for themselves.
The agreed spending budgets are handed out to each department to be spent as the minister sees fit.
Having collapsed twice since its inception the Stormont cabal has resumed their attempts to administer British policy in the North of Ireland.
With innumerable scandals from Redsky to RHI, double jobbing and jobs for the boys and girls, friends, family and relatives, the local government resembles the graft and corruption of African dictators, just on a smaller scale.
The powers that be in the assembly recently voted to give themselves a massive 4.2 million rise in expenses for staff stationary and offices?
I did not vote for a locally devolved regional government to implement neoliberal austerity policies on behalf of the British government.
It is shambolic, the ineptitude and gargantuan failures of our locally devolved regional assembly is legend.
No local or ministerial accountability is evident.
A shrug of the shoulders followed by a throwaway remark such as ‘we have learnt from our mistakes and I promise you we will endeavour to ensure this will not happen again’ and then it’s off for subsidised food and drink in the member’s lounge or canteen.
As some of you may know I stood as an independent anti-austerity socialist candidate in several elections in North Belfast.
No individual or party on the ballot represents my views or politics.
I wondered how many others either did not vote or voted for a party which did not reflect their views in order to keep the other side out.
They voted mainly on Green and Orange issues
I stood to offer a genuine alternative to tribal politics.
Ultimately I was unsuccessful.
I have now reached a point where I am in total political disconnect with the establishment, its failures and its duopoly of politics.
The system is irreformable, do not let people tell you otherwise.
It perpetuates division, social disadvantage, class inequality and promotes the interests of big business and corporations over the needs of families and young people.
The Good Friday Agreement has failed.
The government is rotten and inept.
The system is self-sustaining with a revolving door of faces putting self and party interests before the welfare of the people.
The system is irreformable, it must be smashed, be it in Stormont, the Whitehouse, Parliament or the Bundestag.
What is the alternative I hear you cry?
A system of government based on the needs of the people, with a structure and plan to address the inequalities in society, a better life for all based on a fairer distribution of wealth and of opportunity. A return to free education and health care for all, a living wage with universal payments, a shorter working week and more care provision for our senior citizens.
A Republic fit for purpose for all its sons and daughters.
You won’t get that from the shower running the Free State nor from the clowns in Stormont.
You cannot vote for change, which was once my political slogan, because the system will not allow it.
Look at Corbyn, a threat to the establishment vilified and eventually marginalised through lies and smears.
The Good Friday Agreement brought you a devolved regional government.
Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party brought you misgovernment avarice and graft.
In the words of Mr Molloy, we have all been sold a pup .
Most dogs pass on peacefully around 14 years of age.
They’ve had their 14 years lets fight for real democratic accountability with a people’s assembly to run our new Republic.
Capitalism has given us debt, trillionaires. poverty. wars and inequality as never seen before. We must end the capitalist system and strike out disadvantage.
Another world is possible