There was no surprise when Sinn Fein voted to support the PSNI, the republican leadership does not usually put anything to a vote unless they are already pretty sure of the result. This does not mean they found it easy, it was a bitter pill for them to swallow. The IRA used to shoot cops and the cops used to shoot them. Now they have to ask their supporters to assist the PSNI, even join them.The same RUC/PSNI been running loyalist death squads, like the UVF one controlled by Mark Haddock in Belfast's Mount Vernon. No matter what spin is put on it, many of the people named in Nuala O'Loan's report are still serving in the PSNI. They passed names of potential victims to UVF and UDA gangs and helped sectarian killers evade arrest. This wasn't about a few "bad apples", it went all the way to the top, right up to Chief Constable. This is the force which Sinn Fein is now supporting.

The republican leadership argue for their opponents to put forward a "realistic alternative". They correctly point out that almost nobody wants a return to "armed struggle". They can also make a case that they have ended the Unionist monopoly of power and even that a united Ireland may well be on the cards in our lifetime.

For them there are only two options: getting into government or going back to the gun and bomb. They have already shared power with unionists in the six counties and want to do so again, they are hoping that the 26 county election will give them enough leverage to replace the PDs as Fianna Fail's coalition partners.

It all makes sense if the question is simply how best to administer the existing system in Ireland, if Sinn Fein's talk of "socialism" is not to be taken too seriously. And why should we take it seriously?

In the Stormont executive Martin McGuinness and Bairbre de Brun happily presided over education and health. They didn't stop hospital cutbacks, reopen closed facilities or end subsidies to private schools. They certainly didn't ask workers to take over the management of their own workplaces. Ending the rule of the billionaires was not on their agenda. Even mere talk of a radically different society was completely non-existent.

The question is not really about policing, it is about whether Sinn Fein wants to fundamentally change society. They definitely want to get rid of the border, but will their new Ireland be all that different? Will there still be a minority in control of most wealth and the rest of us working for them? Will we still be bossed around? Will we have any more say in the decisions that affect us?

The primary role of any police force is to protect the power and wealth of the ruling class. It's not their only role but it is more important to their paymasters than stamping out drink driving or catching heroin pushers. Getting involved in - even if it is more about appearance than substance - the management of policing is getting involved in the management of the present system. Where will SF representatives on policing boards stand on issues of police enforcing deportations of foreigners or injunctions against strikers? Will they turn against those who refuse to pay the new water tax, as the SDLP did with the rent & rates strike against internment in the 1970s? After all, you can't support of the police and, at the same time, be against them doing the job they are paid for!

A new Ireland is possible; one where wealth is used for the benefit of all, where religious bigotry and racism have been uprooted, where liberty is valued, where the motto "from each according to ability, to each according to need" becomes real. That will be harder to achieve than power-sharing between DUP and Sinn Fein politicians, but it will be a hell of a lot more worthwhile.


This article is from Workers Solidarity No96, March April 2007

Download the PDF of Workers Solidarity 96

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