The Executive is still no way forward for Northern Ireland


THE NORTHERN EXECUTIVE (the wanna-be government of the six counties) is gone for the moment. The leaders of the UUP, SDLP and Sinn Féin had been getting used to the Ministerial high life. They were not eager to let it go.

If it were just up to the professional politicians, a deal would have been cobbled together in no time at all. However, Trimble's buddies can only move so far, there are big sections of his party that will not agree to any coalition with republicans. If the truth be admitted, many of them don't want to share power with Catholics of any sort.

And the republican leadership around Adams and McGuinness can't move too quickly on decommissioning without provoking a split in the IRA. To many of the militarists it feels too much like surrender.

The unionists can probably afford to sit it out for a fair while. Direct rule from London is not a big problem for them. While many of them want a return to Stormont rule, there is also a sizeable integrationist wing in the party.

For the republicans it's a lot more of a problem. With no power sharing and no 'cross-border institutions', they can't show their supporters what has been gained by ending their armed struggle.

Yet, a return to military struggle is not a real option for them. After so many years of death, injury, suffering, imprisonment and fear; there is no support for a resumption of bombing and shooting. The Continuity and Real IRAs have been isolated. It is a breathtaking arrogance for a hundred or so militarists to ignore the wishes of everyone else, to attempt to wage war in the name of the five million people on this island.

There will be a lot of huffing and puffing, but it is hard to see Sinn Féin walking away from the 'peace process'. Decommissioning, in some form or other, will probably happen &endash; but not in a hurry. Where does that leave anarchists and socialists? What we should not do is defend the Good Friday Agreement. We must distinguish between the ceasefires, which we welcomed, and the Agreement.

As the Workers Solidarity Movement said at the time of the Good Friday Agreement:

There is a great desire for peace, which is being used to pressurise us into choosing between two completely flawed alternatives. The agreement, which was drawn up in secret by our so-called 'representatives', does not challenge the sectarian divisions that have bedevilled this country.

In fact the structures proposed in the agreement actually institutionalise sectarian divisions. Politicians elected to the proposed Assembly must declare themselves either 'unionist' or 'nationalist' - those who refuse will not have their votes counted in measuring the cross community support necessary for passing legislation. We are supposed to line up behind Catholic/Green or Protestant/Orange banners and seek the best deal for 'our community'. The concept of working class interests is not even considered.

What the agreement proposes is bringing some nationalist politicians into a power-sharing arrangement with some unionist politicians. The division between rulers and ruled, between bosses and workers, between rich and poor remains. The biggest change will be a few nationalist faces sitting down with bigots like Trimble and Taylor, to make laws which preserve the dominance of the rich over the poor.

We do call for the continuation of the IRA and loyalist ceasefires. There must be no going back to the failed 'armed struggle' that gave us nothing except repression, suffering and increased sectarian hatred.

The task of anarchists, socialists and trade unionists is to unite our class in a struggle for working class interests. When working class people begin to ask what kind of country they want to live in, and what kind of country they want their children to grow up in, the politics of anti-imperialism will start making sense to people who up to now have been trapped in green and orange communalism.

Our struggle is for liberty, we are for the removal of the British Troops from Ireland - and the destruction of the sectarian Orange state in the North and the Green conservative state in the South.

We remain committed to a united Irish Workers Republic, run by working class people in their own interests, and democratically controlled through a federated system of workers' and community councils. Nobody has the right to wage war on our behalf, working people themselves must discuss the future they want and fight together for that future. Our struggle is for liberty, and no minority can impose liberty on the majority. The emancipation of the working class is the task of the working class itself.


Marching season

As the north once more enters into the annual round of sectarian marches readers with internet access might like to check out our web archive on the Orange Order at

From Workers Solidarity 59, Spring 2000