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Pól Ó Lorcáin
Paul Larkin

Chroniclers are privileged to enter where they list, to come and go through keyholes, to ride upon the wind, to overcome in their soarings up and down, all obstacles of distance, time and place.
Charles Dickens - Barnaby Rudge, Chapter The Ninth

Peace Process - time for the "Irish" to wake up and smell the Fair Trade coffee

A chomradaithe is cairde/comrades and friends - being suddenly presented with a chance to fly to Copenhagen (in an airplane) I found myself yesterday 30.000 feet up in the atmosphere and sending emails to people via my phone as I was on a plane that provides WiFi . Today I am posting this Cic Saor blog, again via phone - whilst attending a book-fair - please excuse, dear reader's, a middle aged man's euphoria at being alive for such a moment.

Now on to the matter in hand.

The Murder of David Black – it’s not just the dissidents who have questions to answer

The murder last week of senior prison officer David Black by the Real IRA in the same week, almost the same day, that a key ceasefire persuader within the Provisional IRA was arrested (for being in the IRA) may go down as a watershed moment in Irish politics if the political situation remains unaltered.

From what I am hearing, a real resentment is building against a peace process that seems to have been reduced to a sectarian security agenda that might have been dreamed up by backwoods DUP men and the old scripting and staging department of RUC Special Branch.

What other conclusion can we draw from a number of significant events over the summer just past ,where the combined might of MI5, PSNI anti riot cohorts, motorised police and foot patrols were unable to stop the Orange Order from simply ignoring a Parades Commission ruling about where it was allowed to march. Worse, the PSNI simply stood and watched as loyalist bandsmen “celebrated” the Famine outside a Catholic place of worship by marching in circles outside the entrance to the church. Worse for Sinn Féin, meanwhile, was the fact that it was the Catholic clergy that was proactive and issued the strongest condemnation of the police, with the bishop of Down and Connor, Dr Noel Treanor, flaying the PSNI for making ‘no visible effort to enforce the lawful restrictions imposed on the march’.

In the same period, the 80% Catholic village of Crumlin in County Antrim was placed in complete lockdown by the police for nearly the whole day in order that 10,000 Orangemen and dozens of bands could celebrate their “culture”, which often seems to consist of nothing more than a perennial need to assert their self perceived religious and racial superiority in hostile “Irish” areas.

But there is a more fundamental crisis running below this dramatic surface and no Sinn Féin nor Irish government figure has referred to this as far as I’m aware. For it has not been lost on people in the North that the Orange Order was seemingly able to flout the law at will, as the PSNI stood by and watched, but when Irish nationalists protested against the provocative and indeed paramilitary behaviour of the Orange Order they were met with the full panoply of the British state’s public disorder apparatus – surveillance, dogs, agent provacateurs, water cannon, helicopters, massed ranks of armoured land rovers, plastic bullets fired and follow up video evidence used.

Now to be absolutely fair, follow up video evidence was also used to arrest members of the band that had stopped outside St Patrick’s Catholic church on Donegall Street and played sectarian tuness, but the disparity in approach is there for all to see. Even the Left Republican tinged Phoenix Magazine has seen fit to excoriate Sinn Féin over this and other issues in the North over the last few months.

The vast majority of Irish people did not sign up to the Good Friday Agreement in order to entrench sectarianism, or indeed to simply close our eyes and pretend it wasn’t there. We signed up for parity not triumphalist coat trailing and aggressive dis-parity. What we are have seen instead is the DUP not only stridently and continually calling for the destruction of the Parades Commission – one of the tangible benefits of the peace process; but also using things like housing policy to effectively block access to homes that are desperately needed by Catholics and those who declare themselves as Irish in places like North Belfast. In North Belfast by 2013 that there will be an overwhelming 95% of people with an Irish/Catholic background still waiting to be housed.

Put bluntly, and as with many other places in the North, the Irish Catholic population is chronically overcrowded and under housed but housing policy seems to be to ignore this and to keep a 50/50 Protestant/Catholic approach. Sinn Féin’s only possible reason for accepting this situation is that it doesn’t want to annoy the DUP, which on the controversial Girdwood site in North Belfast has insisted that housing be allocated on a half and half ethnic basis.

This, in my view, crazy and wrongheaded policy is the reverse of where we were supposed to be going and actually means that conditions for the booming Irish population in parts of Belfast have got much worse throughout the time of the new dispensation that was supposed to be leading us to greater equality. But don’t just take my word for it. Listen to respected human rights campaigner Inez McCormack who says that housing opportunities for Catholics in Belfast have worsened as the peace process has progressed. See here -

“Decisions like this and the recent decision by the NIHE to create a Belfast city centre waiting list based on 50/50 are evidence of a continued failure to address housing inequality.”

Discrimination in housing. Wasn’t this where it all started in 1969? Even outside Belfast in more rural areas, the word is in certain places that you need “pull” with the DUP to get a house.

Padraig Wilson - his IRA links no longer useful to the British

We saw from the demonstrations held by the party's own supporters in the North a few days ago that Sinn Féin is deeply angry at what they see as a complete imbalance in police scrutiny of events in the Troubles. Yes their immediate anger concerned the arrest of former senior IRA man Padraig Wilson, but the background fury that has been building for some time relates to the accusation that the Historical Enquiries Team has gone after the Provos but RUC Special Branch, not to mention the FRU, are viewed as untouchable. We learned only last week that the latest report on the scandalous RUC and FRU conspiracy that led to solicitor Pat Finucane’s murder, amongst many others, has to be vetted by MI5. MI5 spooks being the very people that sanctioned the murder in the first place.

It’s not hard to conclude that the DUP has completely wrongfooted both Sinn Fein and, by extension, the Irish government. One can only imagine the glee felt in Orange Order circles at the bizarre arrest of a man whom the British were happy to see use his influence as a senior IRA man (Padraig Wilson) to convince his comrades that a ceasefire and IRA decommissioning was a step towards Irish unity, but who is now charged with being in the IRA. Padraig Wilson is out on bail for the moment but should his “guilt” be confirmed in the coming court case and he is returned to jail, it is difficult to see how the likes of Gerry Kelly and Caitriona Ruane can remain as members of the policing board.

The whole narrative that has unfolded since the start of the summer tends to confirm the testimony of those who have their ears much closer to the Northern ground than I do. Testimony that states that Unionist politicians and elements of the state structure are out to wreck the Good Friday Agreement and that Sinn Féin has gone AWOL. The fact that Sinn Féin has discovered some really brilliant and able Teachtaí Dála like Pearse Doherty and Mary Lou McDonald (Niall Ó Donnghaile in Belfast also) will be of no use if the party does not re-establish its radical credentials in its Northern redoubt. In fact, I never thought I would say this but the militantly moderate SDLP now believes that the “Chucks” have made a crucial tactical mistake by failing to confront the DUP (and David Cameron behind them) and believes it can pose as a radical alternative. The SDLP to the left of Sinn Féin? Unthinkable surely? But then in the condemnations of the dissidents who murdered David Black last week neither the DUP (predictably), nor Sinn Féin (far more surprisingly) saw fit to mention the ongoing “dirty protest” and enforced strip searching that is the undoubted background to this tragic murder. Remember the days when journalists used to provide a background and context to events rather than just soundbiting politicians?

And who is it that has being doing more than most to highlight these prison conditions? Why none other than the SDLP.

Readers can find out more on this from An Sionnach Fionn's blog here -

As one person in Derry said to me last week – “its time Sinn Féin and the Irish Government woke up and smelled the Fair Trade coffee. The same might be said of the Irish media. For recent Irish history has already taught us that if you do not report on important issues, or indeed if you suppress them, they will come back to bite you.

@Paul Larkin
Mí na Samhna 2012
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Title: Peace Process - time for the "Irish" to wake up and smell the Fair Trade coffee
Date posted: 10 Nov '12 - 10:59
Filed under: General
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