The 1981 Irish Hunger Strike – ‘ one of the most heroic chapters in human history ’

26th April 2011 Socialist Action 0

By Frances Davis

This year will mark the 30th Anniversary of the 1981 hunger strike, in which Bobby Sands and nine other republican prisoners died in a struggle for political status against the Thatcher government’s brutal policy of ‘criminalisation’. The hunger strike was a critical turning point in the most prolonged struggle against colonialism anywhere in history – the more than 800-year-long struggle against British rule in Ireland. This historic moment in Irish history, which ultimately saw the victory of the hunger strikers’ demands, was indeed, as Fidel Castro described that year, ‘one of the most heroic chapters in human history’.

Gerry Adams on the Ireland election

2nd March 2011 Socialist Action 0

Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn Féin and elected to the Dáil in the recent Irish elections, draws out the historic turn in the politics of Ireland marked by the 1981 hunger strike and the elections of hunger strikers Bobby Sands (to the Westminster Parliament) and Ciaran Doherty and Paddy Agnew (to the Dublin Dáil). He draws out how this period marked a turn in the politics of Ireland on both sides of the border and shaped the subsequent three decades of Irish politics. The article orginally appeared on his blog.

Photo: An Phoblacht

Historic breakthrough for Sinn Féin as Dáil election marks turning point in Irish politics

2nd March 2011 Socialist Action 0

By Frances Davis

The 2011 Dáil election last Friday represents one of the most significant political shifts in the 26-county state for over nine decades. As Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said, it potentially represents ‘the beginning of a realignment of Irish politics’. He also pointed out that, while the outcome is likely to be Fine Gael and Labour implementing Fianna Fáil policies – one right wing government replaced by another one – an examination of the results reveal a more fundamental change. This is the beginning of the break-up of the post-civil war political domination by Fianna Fáil (FF) and Fine Gael (FG) and in fact some significant move to the left – most notably the dramatic rise in support for Sinn Féin and their consolidation as a significant party in the south, potentially the leading opposition voice in the coming Dáil.

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What lies behind the current impasse in Ireland’s peace process

28th December 2009 Socialist Action 0

By Frances Davis

Yet again, a crisis is brewing in the Irish peace process. This time it centres on the ongoing failure of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to agree a date for the transfer of powers on justice and policing from Westminster to the Assembly in Belfast.

The DUP’s obstructive approach on the issue has seen, at every twist and turn, excuse after excuse in order to block this key element of the new system, which is an integral part of the peace process.

Over 11 years ago, the Good Friday Agreement was endorsed by referenda in the two parts of Ireland. It outlined a series of key measures to address one of the central inequalities of the northern six-county statelet – a legal system and a police force which were riddled with injustice to the core. From the foundation of the ‘Northern Ireland’ state in 1921, an armed sectarian police force acted to suppress and brutalise that section of the population which did not support British rule, and upheld in the most brutal way a rotten, sectarian state, which systematically discriminated against Catholics and Irish nationalists. This history of brutality, of the ‘police’ acting as a pro-British state militia, combined with a blatantly discriminatory system of so-called justice, was unique to that part of the ‘UK’. It included the use of non-jury ‘Diplock’ courts, torture, collusion, political bans and other methods which drew international condemnation – all of which has been well documented. Unsurprisingly, it met with sustained and mass popular resistance and political opposition.

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Unionists try to wreck peace process

1st February 1998 Socialist Action 0

First published: February 1998

Unionist politicians and loyalist death squads are doing everything in their power to wreck the Irish peace process. While Ian Paisley boycotts the talks, David Trimble sabotages them from within by refusing to talk to Sinn Féin, and loyalist paramilitaries murder Catholics chosen at random. Their common goal is to block any fundamental change in Northern Ireland’s status quo.

The Unionist programme is very simple. Northern Ireland must be maintained as a sectarian state in which nationalists are treated as second class citizens. Unionism stands for discrimination in employment, housing, education, culture, religion and politics. Nationalist resistance is met with sectarian murders, pogroms and legalised repression. Unionism correctly sees the partition of Ireland and British rule in the north as the guarantees of the privileges and discrimination which cement the Orange bloc.

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Gerry Adams replies to Tony Blair

1st July 1997 Socialist Action 0

First published: July 1997

The largest swing to any political party in the general election was to Sinn Féin – a 60 per cent increase in their vote over 1992, nationalist voters made clear that they held John Major, not Sinn Féin, responsible for the collapse of the peace process. As well as gaining two seats – Mid-Ulster and Belfast West – the party’s 16.1 per cent of the vote made them the third largest in Northern Ireland, overtaking Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party. In the local elections which followed, the Unionists lost control of Belfast City Council and Sinn Féin’s vote advanced further.

But, in his first major policy statement on the north, Tony Blair made clear that as far as he is concerned Labour’s conference policy for ‘Irish unity by consent’ is now a dead letter. Blair did not make clear under what conditions Sinn Féin would be admitted to all-party talks.

For the information of our readers we reproduce here the bulk of Gerry Adams’ reply to Tony Blair.