Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Irish peace process: the next step

By Theo Russell

The question of the British Labour Party organising and standing in elections in the north of Ireland came under the spotlight last week at a highly successful meeting organised by Islington North Labour Party on the future of the Irish peace process.
The meeting brought together Martina Anderson, a Sinn Féin delegate on the Northern Ireland Policing Committee and director of the party’s unionist outreach programme; Sammy Wilson of the Democratic Unionist Party; Rodney McEwan of the Ulster Unionist P and Paul Callaghan of the Social & Democratic Labour Party.
Martina Anderson, who spent several years in Armagh women’s gaol during the conflict, focused on the need to tackle poverty and deprivation affecting both communities in the north of Ireland.
She said there were 100,000 pensioners and 50,000 children living in poverty, and 3,000 people a year dying from poverty-related causes, and quoted accountants Price Cooper Waterhouse who described Northern Ireland as a “basket-case economy”.
Speaking of the class divisions in the north, she said “there are comfortable people in both our communities who want to keep our communities apart, who do not want a society predicated on equality and human rights for all the marginalised groups.”
Another key issue at the meeting was that of Irish unity. Paul Callaghan said the consequences of a divided country for past 80 years, and the conflict which arose from that, could not be ignored.
“The question now is to build a country which is reconciled with itself and bringing the unionist community into the mainstream of Irish political life, without which unity is impossible.”
He added that people in the north of Ireland should look to the Irish Republic’s National Development Plan when planning their own economic strategy.
The DUP’s Sammy Wilson disappointed everyone by speaking as if nothing had changed in the past decade. He said the unionist community was unhappy with “the release of terrorists, the actions of Sinn Féin ministers and attacks on the police. Sinn Féin wants to be in government while running guns, committing murders and running spy rings.”
He did however add that the DUP “wants devolution on a basis which would actually last.”
Rodney McEwan of the UUP claimed that “the British government made direct rule as uncomfortable as possible,” using cross-community issues such as the 11 plus exams and water rates to encourage the parties to make a deal on power-sharing.
But he sparked a lively debate when he called on the British Labour Party to “look seriously at organising in Northern Ireland” and “give people the chance to vote for a party of national power”.

photo: Sammy Wilson next to Martina Anderson

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And what do you think of Obadiah Shoher's arguments against the peace process ( )?