(Updated March 17) Irish left responses to recent armed attacks in northern Ireland

By Kerry Fitzpatrick

Belfast, March 13, 2009 -- Green Left Weekly -- The killing of two British soldiers and a Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officer by Irish republicans opposed to the peace process have threatened to destabilise the political situation in the six counties in the north of Ireland still claimed by Britain.

British soldiers Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar were shot dead on March 7 in an attack on Massereene Barracks in county Antrim, with responsibility claimed by the Real Irish Republican Army, which split from the IRA in 1997 in opposition to the peace process that sought the end the decades-long armed conflict.

This was the first political killing of a British soldier or security force member in the six counties since 1998.

The soldiers, hours away from being deployed to Afghanistan, were collecting a pizza delivery at the barracks gate when they were shot. Two other soldiers and the two pizza delivery men were also shot and injured.

While the six counties have been significantly demilitarised since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) in 1998, and the 38-year-old British military operation in the six counties was formally ended in July 2007, 5000 British troops still remain.

In 2007 and 2008, British security agency MI5, which is unaccountable to anyone except the British government, spent 15% of its overall budget in the six counties.

The GFA established “power-sharing” institutions between nationalists and unionists (those who support the “union” between the six counties and the British state) in a devolved Belfast administration, as well as increased “cross-border” cooperation between the six counties and the southern Irish state.

Since May 2007, republican party Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) have led a power-sharing executive.

On March 9, PSNI officer Stephen Carroll was shot dead by the Continuity IRA (which split from the IRA in 1986 and also opposes the peace process) while responding to an emergency services call in county Armagh.

He was the first police officer killed in a politically motivated attack since 1997, and the first since the old Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) — hated by the Catholic and nationalist community for its history of brutal repression — was re-branded as the PSNI in 2001.

Since then, far-reaching reforms have been attempted as part of the peace process aimed at de-politicising and increasing the accountability of what has long been viewed as a loyalist (pro-unionist) militia.


Fears have been raised that the attacks may lead to either the re-deployment of British troops on the streets of the north or a response from loyalist death squads, who have largely maintained a ceasefire for the past decade — but who remain fully armed.

Such death squads, in particular the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and Ulster Defence Association (UDA), actively aided by the British state and the RUC during the armed conflict, were responsible for killing more than 1000 Catholic civilians in an effort to terrorise the Irish nationalist population into abandoning their political aspirations for Irish reunification.

The Progressive Unionist Party, affiliated to the UVF, has called for calm in the wake of the attacks and Sinn Fein met for talks with the Ulster Political Research Group, linked to the UDA, for the first time on March 11.

While the IRA decommissioned its weapons in 2005 (under intense pressure from the British government, which used the issue to threaten to end the peace process), in January the British government gave loyalist paramilitary groups yet another year’s “extension”, or “amnesty”, to decommission their weapons.

The day before the attack on the Massereene barracks, PSNI chief constable Hugh Orde announced that he had requested the deployment of the British military Special Reconnaissance Regiment for “surveillance” of dissident republicans.

The SRR is an amalgamation of notorious special forces units that were involved in countless assassinations and cover-ups during the conflict.

Sinn Fein condemned Orde’s announcement as a “retrograde decision” with “very real consequences”, stating: “There can be no place for so called British Special Forces within any civic and accountable policing structures.

“Sinn Fein and its members have on countless occasions been targeted by these groups in collusion with Unionist murder gangs; as have many others across Ireland.”


In response to the killings, thousands of people in Belfast and other centres across the north joined demonstrations for peace that were organised by the trade union movement on March 10.

Sinn Fein condemned the killings as “an attack on the peace process” and on the process of demilitarisation that has taken place over the past decade.

In a March 8 statement (see below), Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams argued: “Those responsible have no support, no strategy to achieve a united Ireland. Their intention is to bring British soldiers back onto the streets.

“They want to destroy the progress of recent times and to plunge Ireland back into conflict.”

He went on to argue: “Irish republicans and democrats have a duty to oppose this and to defend the peace process. The logic of this is that we support the police in the apprehension of those involved in last night's attack.”

Speaking in the Dail (Dublin parliament) on March 11, Sinn Fein TD (MP) Caoimhghin O Caolain said: “The tiny splinter groups that carried out these murders are pursuing a militarist agenda, primarily designed to justify their own existence …

“I have no doubt that there are still people within the British system who would like to turn back the clock, to justify their own existence and to perpetuate their militarist organisations. This must not be allowed to happen either.

“It is vitally important that all responses to these killings are strictly within the law, are compliant with human rights obligations and are carried out by the PSNI.

“The British Army, MI5 or any other covert force should have no role in this response and, in fact, no role in Ireland at all.”

Sinn Fein blocked the functioning of the power-sharing executive for five months last year as a result of the DUP’s refusal to allow progress on the full devolution of policing and justice powers from Westminster to the six counties.

While progress was eventually made in negotiations, devolution has still not occurred.

Armed struggle

In a March 9 speech, Gerry Adams argued: “I want to see an end to British rule on this island … This can only be achieved by peaceful and democratic means.”

On the armed struggle formerly waged by the IRA against British occupation, he stated: “In the days, when there was no peaceful or democratic way forward for those who wanted basic rights, civil rights, or for those who wanted national rights as well, Sinn Fein spokespersons, including myself, defended the IRA’s armed struggle [which occurred in] the context of British Army occupation.”

Socialist republican group eirigi (see below), which split from Sinn Fein in 2006 and is opposed to the party’s position of engaging with the PSNI, said in a March 12 statement: “While supporting the right of any people to defend themselves from imperial aggression, eirigi does not believe that the conditions exist at this time for a successful armed struggle against the British occupation.”

Eirigi argued that a “Democratic Socialist Republic can only be established and sustained through the collective action of a progressive social movement incorporating local communities, organised labour, cultural organisations, campaigns groups, and political parties”.

However, eirigi concluded: “As with all of the countless and avoidable deaths that have occurred throughout the centuries of British interference in Ireland, the ultimate political responsibility for these most recent deaths lies with the British government and wider British establishment.”

Statement from Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams

March 8, 2009 -- Ógra Shinn Féin -- Commenting on last night's attack in county Antrim Mr. Adams said: "Last nights attack was an attack on the peace process. It was wrong and counter productive.

"Those responsible have no support, no strategy to achieve a United Ireland. Their intention is to bring British soldiers back onto the streets. They want to destroy the progress of recent times and to plunge Ireland back into conflict.

"Irish republicans and democrats have a duty to oppose this and to defend the peace process. Sinn Fein has a strategy to bring about an end to British rule in our country by peaceful and democratic means.

"There should be an end to actions like the one in Antrim last night. The popular will is for peaceful and democratic change.

Gerry Adams

"Sinn Fein has a responsibility to be consistent. The logic of this is that we support the police in the apprehension of those involved in last night’s attack.

"The police also have a responsibility to give leadership and to behave at all times in a transparent and accountable manner. The British government has a duty to uphold the new political arrangement and the peace process.

"I particularly want to appeal to republicans once again for calm, thoughtful and decisive leadership.

"The peace process was built against the odds and not least because of the willingness of republicans to take risks and to be strategic and long sighted.

"There are elements within Unionism and within the British system who do not want the peace process to achieve its objectives. Our responsibility is to defend the peace process and the progress that has been made to achieving national and democratic rights.

"We will not be deflected from our republican and democratic objectives.

Gerry Adams statement in the Assembly

The only way to go is forward

March 9, 2009 -- Sinn Féin -- On Saturday night I was in County Clare. The local government elections in the south are in 12 weeks' time. That’s on June 5. The elections to the European Parliament in both parts of Ireland are on the 4th and 5th.

Twelve weeks isn’t a long time and I travelled to Clare from Dublin after a hectic two days, including an Ard Chomhairle meeting, in the capital. The Ard Chomhairle was meeting for the first time since the recent Ard Fheis and it was a positive and forward looking gathering which set out a programme of work for the next 12 months. We also discussed PSNI Chief Hugh Orde’s decision to deploy undercover British Army operatives against so-called dissident elements.

Understandably Republicans and democrats, including myself, have protested against and are strongly opposed to that decision. Apart from anything else it is a harking back to the old days when such units created havoc in our society by perpetuating conflict and destabilising communities.

There was also a brief discussion about the so-called dissidents and their failure to advance any coherent strategy – in fact any strategy at all.

Hugh Orde made a mistake. But none of us should be naive about this. Huge progress has been made in developing a new political dispensation here but the British jurisdiction remains, albeit in a conditional form and that jurisdiction involves British agencies, including their spooks and spies.

Republicans and democrats are clearly opposed to this.

Anyway we had a good discussion about all of this and then off to the Banner County.

The event there took the form of a public meeting in Ennis, the County town. When it was over, somewhere around 11pm, I got news of a shooting incident in Antrim Town. The next few hours were spent trying to catch up on what had happened.

Early next morning it was clear, and since then Ireland is once again in the news big time!

So what’s it all about?

It’s an attack on the peace process, that’s what it is about.

There can be no ambiguity or ambivalence about that. Back in the north on Monday the Assembly was clear on this issue.

But what of the popular mood?

In my view the vast majority of people are opposed to what happened.

In the days when there was no peaceful or democratic way forward for those who wanted basic rights – civil rights – or for those who wanted national rights as well – Sinn Féin spokespersons, including myself, defended the IRA’s armed struggle.

We didn’t accept everything that was done and in most instances the case we made was in defence of the legitimacy of IRA actions in the context of British Army occupation.

There is no such legitimacy today.

Our political position was based also on the absence of any alternative way to bring about positive change.

Today there is an alternative. As I told the Assembly: “I stand here today as an unrepentant, unapologetic Irish republican. I want to see an end to British rule on this island and the unity of orange and green. This can only be achieved by peaceful and democratic means and Sinn Féin is wedded to that.”

It’s also my conviction that these objectives can be achieved. Sinn Fein has a strategy to do just that and we are building the political support and structures to advance this.

The political institutions, the peace process and Sinn Féin are as much a target of the perpetrators of Saturday nights attack as those they killed or injured.

That is why they have to be resisted. Politically. Democratically. Peacefully. They want to destroy the hard won progress of recent times. They cannot be allowed to succeed.

The gains made for and by the people of this island cannot be surrendered.

So why don’t those who have set themselves as political spokespersons for the so called dissidents come forward to explain this attack? Why don’t they outline a rationale? Why don’t they defend the legitimacy of this action? In the absence of any other explanation I can only presume it is because there is no rationale other than that they could do what they did.

And let there be no ambiguity about this. That is not good enough.

There is also an onus on the British government and the PSNI to resist any temptation or any demands for a return to the bad practices of the past. This would be equally wrong. It would also sideline the peace process and political leaders.

That would be foolhardy and play into the hands of those who were responsible for the Antrim attack.

In particular, this means that the transparent and accountability arrangements around the PSNI must be adhered to and defended.

That’s what I told British Prime Minister Gordon Brown when we met on Monday morning.

For our part genuine republicans and democrats will work with the PSNI to ensure that those involved in this attack are apprehended and subjected to due process.

The popular will in Ireland is for peaceful and democratic change. I’m sure that’s shared by our neighbours in Britain and further afield.

So everyone has a responsibility to defend the peace. There can be no going back. The only way to go is forward.

éirígí response to recent events

March 10, 2009 -- In response to repeated requests for éirígí to clarify its position with regard to recent events, spokesperson Breandán Mac Cionnaith today commented on the attacks upon the British Army and PSNI.

“I would like to take this opportunity to restate éirígí’s view of how British rule in Ireland should be challenged at this time. I would also take this opportunity to outline éirígí’s position with regard to the events of recent days.

“éirígí is an open, independent, democratic political party which is not aligned to, or supportive of, any armed organisation.

“It is éirígí's position that the British occupation is the underlying cause of the ongoing conflict in Ireland. Our history demonstrates that until that underlying cause is addressed that conflict will continue indefinitely.

“éirígí unequivocally supports the right of Irish people to oppose British rule in Ireland.

“éirígí believes that British interference in Ireland can best be challenged at this time through the building of an all-Ireland popular movement in support of national reunification and independence.

“When éirígí was founded we asserted our belief that a Democratic Socialist Republic can only be established and sustained through the collective action of a progressive social movement incorporating local communities, organised labour, cultural organisations, campaigns groups, and political parties. We believe that the creation of such a popular movement represents the best potential to create the conditions which will make British rule and capitalist exploitation in Ireland untenable.

“Over the course of the last two and a half years éirígí has organised countless public events aimed at building public opposition to British rule and imperialism in Ireland. éirígí’s protest in opposition to the controversial RIR parade in Belfast in November past is an example of just one such event.

“While supporting the right of any people to defend themselves from imperial aggression éirígí does not believe that the conditions exist at this time for a successful armed struggle against the British occupation.

“As can be seen from the recent attacks on Britain’s armed forces it is clear that not all republicans agree on how the British occupation should be resisted at this time. Those who carried out those attacks are best placed to explain their own rationale.

“As with all of the countless and avoidable deaths that have occurred throughout the centuries of British interference in Ireland, the ultimate political responsibility for these most recent deaths lies with the British government and wider British establishment.”

Socialist Democracy: Republicans attack British Army base in Antrim

March 10, 2009 -- Socialist Democracy -- Following hard on the heels of the controversy over the deployment of the SRR [Special Reconnaissance Regiment], though probably not related directly to it, came a republican attack on a British Army base in Antrim that killed two soldiers. These was the first British Army fatalities in the north since 1997, and the first time that republicans have inflicted military casualties. Claims of responsibility for this attack came from both the “Real IRA” and “ONH”.

This is latest in a growing number of attacks carried out by republicans, which have ranged from shootings to car booby trap bombs, landmines to the large 250lb-plus car bomb only last month. There is no doubt that the level of activity of republicans is growing and that they are picking up some degree of support, particularly in the most marginalised nationalist areas. The main reason for the growth of republican groups is the increasingly obvious failure of Sinn Fein to make any advances on even the most minimal nationalist demands, never mind a republican agenda.

There is also the ongoing decay of Sinn Fein from an activist party with grassroots support to one staffed by full timers who are dependent on patronage that flows from Stormont. In the most marginalised nationalist areas, Sinn Fein are increasingly seen as corrupt and out of touch. A particular touchstone for discontent is the issue of anti-social behaviour. It has gotten much worse in recent years -- serving to highlight both Sinn Fein’s diminishing authority and failure to improve policing. This has provided the opportunity for republicans to build a degree of support through vigilantism. It is this general social and political decay that has enabled republicans to build up a base to sustain a low level military campaign.

This in no way poses a challenge to the British state, but it does put pressure on Sinn Fein as it faces demands from the British and Unionists to support more repressive measures against republicans. It the wake of the Antrim attack Sinn Fein are being urged to give their full support to the Chief Constable and his decision to deploy special forces.

If republican groups have any form of strategy it is to provoke more a repressive response from the British state that they hope will boost their own support and further discredit Sinn Fein. It is a variation of the old guerrilla concept than repression will inevitably provoke revolt. However, in most cases this has proved to be an illusion.

More repression has just meant more repression and defeat. The republicans also have a flawed assessment the Provisional [Irish Republian Army] campaign – putting its failure down to the development of a political program rather than its adherence to armed struggle.

The reality was that the armed struggle was defeated because of its own inherent limitations. Once it was defeated the republican political program went down with. The critical point is that the Provisionals' political defeat followed their military defeat, not the other way round as the republicans claim. Despite their criticism of Provisional movement they have actually adopted its strategy and are bound to repeat its failure. 

Socialist Democracy: Sinn Fein's Michael Collins moment

By John McAnulty

March 14, 2009 -- Socialist Democracy -- There has been a unlted response by all the Irish and British political parties to the killing of British soldiers in Antrim and the later killing of a policeman in Craigavon.

They all say that:

Republican militarists have nothing to offer.

The militarists have no support.

The political process in the North of Ireland is secure.

Only one of these assertions is true.

It is true that the militarists offer absolutely no way forward for Irish workers. It is not true to assert that they have no support nor that the political process is secure. In fact, it is precisely because the political settlement is failing that the militarists are gaining in support.

It is highly unlikely that any outside the most frantic of Sinn Fein supporters believed that that the end result of the peace process would be a united Ireland. What they all believed was that that the Northern statelet could be reformed to become a more equal society.

Right from the beginning that proved too much. Democratic rights were mutated by the Good Friday Agreement into supposedly equal sectarian and communal rights. It was a settlement that didn't give enough to Britain's Unionist base and it was tweaked towards Unionist majority rule in the St. Andrews agreement.

During St. Andrews the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) agreed to devolve policing and justice and Sinn Fein were promised sops around a centre recording the hunger strike and a unified sport stadium and an Irish language act.

It proved impossible to get the DUP administration to honour these promises and a Sinn Fein work to rule blocking the functioning of the executive failed. The British gave them substantial backhanders to compensate them. More recently, alongside the decision to block any full investigation of state terror, came an offer of £12 000 to the relatives of those killed. Unionist outcry led to the withdrawal of the offer. Even the backhanders have dried up.

On the economic front the shootings led the Sinn Fein and DUP leaders to cancel an investment tour of the USA -- one of many such trips, all failures, serving to underline the absence of any real economic strategy for the North of Ireland.

This has not led to a mass nationalist rejection of the Northern settlement. The Irish capitalists will support any imperialist plan. The power of the Catholic Church has greatly increased under the sectarian set-up. The middle class wallow in sectarian privilege marked by ``equality'' positions in the public service earmarked for one confessional group or the other. Sinn Fein itself has a backbone of ``community workers'' paid by the state.

A minority of republicans have rejected Sinn Fein and the partitionist settlement, aiming to revive a military campaign against British rule. They have been completely ineffective because of the demoralisation caused by decades of militarism and state repression, because of their fragmented and divided movement and because of the absence of support. Above all, the total absence of any political program has fatally handicapped them.

They are still not large, but they have now seen the exodus of the last of the militarists holding on in the Provos. More generally there is a growing revulsion at the aroma of corruption around Sinn Fein. A growing number of working-class youth are unable to see the new world that the Shinners promised. The result of that growth is that state intelligence has degraded. They still know the old hands, but have only partial penetration of the new cells. There is also the growth of a new infrastructure of supporters willing to provide money, intelligence, safe houses and weapons dumps.

For all that their opponents are right when they say that republican militarism offers no way forward. In the tradition of pure physical force republicanism, RIRA boast that it has no political organisation.

Without a thought they include pizza delivery men as targets, apparently unaware of the extent to which the policy of the ``soft target'' demoralised their own supporters and besmirched the name of republicanism in the past.

They have no explanation, other than betrayal, for the abysmal failure of decades of military struggle and the relatively easy absorption of their compatriots into the structure of colonial rule. Above all they seem completely unaware that the southern capitalists are the most frantic supporters of the settlement and the chief mechanism through which the political dissolution of the Provos was obtained.

Yet within the narrow grounds of the physical force tradition, the republicans have a clear strategy. Their military capacity represents nothing in relation to British military might, but they believe that even a low level of activity will be enough to bring down the new Stormont regime.

A major target is Sinn Fein. The republicans calculate that the pressures of their campaign will collapse the organisation and win supporters to the RIRA. They also calculate that it will act as a recruiting sergeant, bringing disaffected nationalist youth into their ranks.

Politically their belief that armed action can bring down the northern statelet makes little sense. It is true that the Good Friday Agreement has been decaying since its inception, but it has been decaying to the right, into a more naked and reactionary expression of imperialist interest, driven by increasing Unionist reaction and republican capitulation. Militarism can only play a traditional role of stirring up and accelerating the political process -- in this case speeding up a drive to the right.

A sign of that drive to the right came quickly, with what one reporter called ``Martin McGuinness's 'Michael Collins moment'''. (Collins was a leading figure in the Irish war of independence who then led the Free State repression of the republicans). McGuinness called the republicans ``traitors to the island of Ireland''. He called on his supporters to inform on them and to support state repression.

He claimed that the new dispensation guaranteed political progress, despite being unable to show any such progress other than the presence of themselves and their supporters within the state apparatus.

Such was the determination of Sinn Fein to prove its worth that it did not stop with assurances to the British and DUP. A special meeting with representatives of the loyalist paramilitaries brought them in on the act. Apparently the fact that they retain a full arsenal of weapons aimed at Catholic workers is no longer a cause for censure.

Sinn Fein have little choice. They themselves are targets of the republicans. Any suggestion that the good Friday process failed would lead to the collapse of their organisation. They must support instant state repression in the hope that it quickly defeats the militarists. In any case any hesitation on their part might well lead to their expulsion from the administration. British Tory leader David Cameron has already indicated that he wants to replace the current forced coalition of Sinn Fein and DUP with a ``voluntary coalition'' -- in other words, Unionist majority rule.

So already we have a step-change to the right. The Irish peace process has left behind any pretence that jaw-jaw will be enough to sustain it. There is to be war-war in the form of state repression. This new dispensation will be spearheaded by Sinn Fein and will enjoy widespread public support.

In the short term the militarists have strengthened the imperialist settlement. In the long run there are still many contradictions. Sinn Fein will be isolated from significant sections of the nationalist working class and will continue to decay. The state will want to target the repression so that the republicans are isolated, but this will be difficult to do given the intelligence deficit. The DUP leadership has welcomed the Provos role in spearheading the reaction, but that does not mean they will reward them by supporting any reform. At the grassroots the reaction of many members of the DUP to the attacks will be to look for Sinn Fein's expulsion from the administration.

The Irish peace process will continue its march to the right. A military campaign offers no solution, but then neither does the position of their opponents, which offers frantic support to the British and denounces any political criticism of the settlement as a form of terrorism.

Trade union demonstrations on the days following the deaths illustrated this perfectly. They went well beyond protests about the shooting of the two workers or more general protests about militarism to hysterical calls by Peter Bunting [of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions] for unconditional support for the sectarian status quo. In an even more extreme development Patricia McKeown of Unison claimed that the trade unions would act as ``civic society'' in coordination with the state to make the repression successful.

The widespread hysteria from all sides is not aimed at the relative handful of militarists. The disquiet about the corrupt society that has been brought into existence is much wider and a consistent theme of the supporters of the current settlement has been to demonise the opposition and attempt to convince workers that the only alternative to supporting the status quo is a sectarian bloodbath. It is this unconditional support for an imperialist settlement, rather than a criticism of militarism that makes this Sinn Fein’s Michael Collins moment and makes the organisation an obstacle to the resolution of the Irish question.

The settlement in the North of Ireland is not a democratic settlement. It hardly pretends any longer to be one, depending on popular rejection of a failed militarism and on unconditional support for the state from the formerly anti-imperialist opposition. That's not enough to prevent its eventual collapse. The former radicals bay their hatred of the militarists, but by blocking any political critique they are telling the disaffected and marginalised that only physical force remains as a response.

It is for socialists and democrats to prove the former radicals wrong and build a political opposition.

Socialist Workers Party Ireland: Pointless and counterproductive action that will only strengthen the forces of reaction

March 11, 2009 -- SWP.ie -- The killing of two soldiers and a police officer by the Real IRA and Continuity IRA is an attempt to re-launch a campaign of armed struggle that has been abandoned by the Provisional IRA.

It is a pointless and counterproductive action that will only strengthen the forces of reaction on this island. It will provide our rulers with a chance to promote a law and order agenda and to deploy the SAS under the pretence of providing security.

Irish republicanism was born from an honourable opposition to colonialism and empire. But it soon adopted a method whereby decisions on tactics are decided by a tiny minority behind the backs of the population. The authority of an army council and an absurd claim to an unbroken connection with first IRA leadership who asserted that they were the real government of Ireland, is deemed sufficient justification to launch armed struggle – regardless of the conditions or beliefs of the majority of workers.

The last phase of this struggle lasted nearly thirty years – and produced a settlement in which former IRA leaders now sit in government with the right wing bigots of the DUP. Despite their historic emnity, both have no difficulty in implementing Thatcherite-style attacks on working people.

The tragic truth of Irish republicanism is that no phase of their armed struggle has ever ended differently. Virtually all Irish governments have contained former members of the Army Council of the IRA who proceeded to attack the interests of working people with the same gusto as the rest of establishment. Former IRA leaders such as Frank Aiken, Sean McBride or Martin McGuiness behaved no differently when it came to crossing the line between the gun and cabinet table

It is perfectly clear that Irish republicanism has reached a dead end and that those who seek a genuinely radical solution to the problems caused by capitalism and imperialism must look elsewhere.

Despite its claims to be the inheritors of the ‘authentic’ republican tradition,  the Real IRA – or any other republican movement – will act no differently to its predecessors. Its former leader Michael McKevitt, for example, has already indicated that his ambitions go no further than that of his former comrades in the Provisional IRA. He too wants to join the official ‘peace process’ in order to make the transition from gunman to respectable politician. There could be no stronger confirmation of the political bankruptcy of the Real IRA.

Given these circumstances, the Real or Continuity  IRA have absolutely no right to try to drag the working people back into a form of communal violence that will produce huge suffering but no gain for any section of workers. Their description of workers who deliver pizzas as "collaborators" shows a deep contempt for people who are condemned to live on poverty wages.

Our opposition to the Real IRA has nothing to do with the hypocritical utterances of Gordon Brown or Brian Cowen.

The two British soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan were about to be deployed within a few hours to Afghanistan. It is a tragic commentary on the lives of working-class soldiers that if they had not been killed by the IRA, they might have suffered a similar fate from the Taliban. All of which begs the question: How has Gordon Brown the slightest right to condemn the violence of the Real IRA when he sends working class soldiers to colonise Afghanistan and to risk their lives for the American Empire.

The Real IRA are a puny terrorist force when compared to the violence perpetrated by Blair and Brown in their horrible wars of empire.

Brian Cowen may equally condemn the violence of the Real IRA – but the blood that drips from his own hands is equally visible. Over one million US troops have travelled to Iraq to kill and be killed in order to protect the US empire – thanks to the collaboration of Brian Cowen who preaches peace even while he supports wars of occupation.

As socialists, the SWP is implacably opposed to empire and the presence of imperial troops. Even while opposing the Real IRA actions, we openly state that the British Army has no right to occupy Afghanistan or even maintain a presence in Northern Ireland.

We want an Ireland that is free of state violence and the paramilitarism which originally arose in response to that violence.

Our methods, however, differ fundamentally from all variants of the republican tradition. We look to the mass of working people, who are forced to confront the daily ravage of capitalism, as the real agents of change. Despite differences in outlook that were produced by the sectarian settlement of the Irish question, Catholic and Protestant workers have the capacity to unite to challenge a system that exploits them both.

But they will do so from a class perspective that seeks fundamental social change throughout the whole of Ireland rather than underneath a green flag that surfs a wave of militarism until it eventually accommodates itself to the system.

Socialist Party (CWI Ireland): Real IRA killings shock working class people

Danger of sectarianism shows need for socialist alternative

Belfast, March 9, 2009 -- SocialistWorldNet -- At a time when the working class in Northern Ireland is suffering record job losses and deep cuts in pay and public services, the Real IRA’s shooting of soldiers and two workers in Antrim [and the killing of a police officer near Craigavon town, last night] raise the perspective of a possible return to sectarian conflict and outlines the utter reactionary role of such attacks.

The shooting dead of two British soldiers by the Real IRA (RIRA) at the entrance of Massereene army barracks, on the edge of Antrim town, shocked many people across Northern Ireland. Another two soldiers were shot on the scene but survived. Two pizza delivery drivers, one from Poland, were also gunned down – in the eyes of the RIRA they are “legitimate targets”.

Such incidents were commonplace in the seventies, eighties and early nineties, and would have had little impact on the wider political situation. This attack, however, is the first of its kind in over ten years, and was carried out by dissident republicans opposed to the peace process and the participation of Sinn Fein in the power-sharing Assembly Executive.

Over the past few years, dissident republican groups have stepped up their campaign of targeting PSNI (Police Service of N. Ireland) and army personnel. They have launched fifteen attacks in the last six months. Last month, a 300lb car bomb was abandoned in Castlewellan. If it had reached its intended target, Ballykinlar Army Barracks, significant casualties could have resulted.

While there is little support in Catholic working class areas for a return to ‘war’ at this time, and the dissident groups are small and relatively isolated, there is little doubt that they are growing in strength and confidence.

Dissidents’ aims

The dissidents’ goal for the moment is to undermine the power-sharing institutions by provoking a reaction from unionists, in particular the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), in response to attacks on the police and army. Because of the sectarian nature of Sinn Fein’s politics, the party now finds itself in a very difficult position. The logic of Sinn Fein’s political trajectory over the last twenty years, and its current position in government, means that it must condemn the attack and call for co-operation with the police. Sinn Fein states that it is opposed to any return to severe state repression, of course, but its call for people to go to the PSNI with information on the dissidents will further undermine its credibility with young Catholics.

The DUP is calling for an increase in repression, including shoot-to-kill policies. DUP figures acknowledge that Sinn Fein has moved in its position on the police but put it under pressure by implying that Sinn Fein actually know who is involved in the dissident groups and could hand suspects up to the police, if it so chose, and by criticising its support for the PSNI as half-hearted.

An echo of the repressive policies of the state in the past was heard a few days before the Antrim attack, when it was revealed that the ‘Special Reconnaissance Regiment’ of the British Army has been deployed in Northern Ireland. The SRR was formed primarily from the ‘14th Intelligence Company’, a unit responsible for many shoot-to-kill incidents during the Troubles.

This limited return of the army to a combat role was a propaganda gain for the dissidents. The 32-County Sovereignty Committee (the political group linked to the Real IRA) claimed it as evidence that Britain has “failed to pacify Ireland” and that it is a major embarrassment to Sinn Fein. Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness [a former leader of the Provisional IRA] described the decision to deploy the SRR as “stupid and dangerous” but he has no power to stop this move.

If policing is devolved to Stormont [the seat of local power-sharing government] in the next one to two years, the storm generated by the future killing of a soldier or police officer will be even greater. And the intentions of the dissidents are clear - they do not have the resources for a campaign on the scale of the Provisional IRA campaign but they will continue with intermittent attacks in an attempt to destabilise the power-sharing Executive.

Opposition to Sinn Fein in its heartlands is growing. This opposition is not just based on its failure to deliver on the national question but on the correct perception that Sinn Fein is a right-wing party on social and economic issues. As the recession deepens, the potential for dissident groupings to garner more support will increase, especially among young people.

Dead end of paramilitary campaigns

This Antrim attack comes at a time when working class people are facing a future of rising unemployment and deepening poverty. In such a context, an increase in united working class struggles, such as strikes and movements against health cutbacks, is on the cards. An attack, such as the Antrim killings, has the capacity to increase sectarian division and cut across working class unity in struggle.

While there is no support amongst the parties for a collapse of the power-sharing Executive, outside of economic policy there are deep divisions on every major issue which could lead to the Executive falling. It is more likely that the Executive will continue to be characterised by paralysis on a number of key issues, including attitudes to dissident attacks. And a major dispute on an unforeseen sectarian issue could explode at any time.

From the beginning of the peace process, in the 1990s, the Socialist Party argued that no lasting solution could be found on the basis of an uneasy compromise between sectarian politicians. The Socialist Party also argued however that the relative peace ushered in by the paramilitary ceasefires in 1994 would open up possibilities for the development of class politics and greater working class unity. This opportunity will not last forever.

The working class and young people cannot rely on the Assembly to deliver lasting peace, a decrease in sectarian division or improved living standards. The dead-end of paramilitary campaigns is no way out for young people in either community and only deepens division. Working class people need their own party: a mass party which attracts support by posing a socialist alternative to the right wing policies of the Assembly parties and the various paramilitary groups and seeks to overcome sectarian division not cement it. The inaction of the leadership of the trade union movement, by refusing to support the building of a mass working class party and by continuing to prop up the Assembly parties, only allows the sectarian forces intent in dragging us back into conflict more scope to grow.

32 County Sovereignty Movement


They Haven’t Gone Away You Know.

Revelations that Hugh Orde is calling on special intelligence services of the British army to combat the growing threat from republicanism have cause widespread shock and alarm from some within our society, it causes neither to us.

It was blatantly obvious that at some stage or another the true colours of the British state in Ireland would be exposed. Republicans have long known that a process of normalisation, in tandem with one of criminalisation, was underway in support of the British institutions at Stormont, this latest twist shows that both have failed. What normal society, a society where there is consensus on the political institutions, needs a heavily armed police force backed by a war hardened army support network?

What sort of society tasks covert units of the British army to deal with criminality?

What sort of success story that is lauded in Washington and elsewhere relies on such measures to maintain its façade?

What sort of accountability measures allow a chief police constable in a regional police service to introduce such measures unilaterally?

The 32 County Sovereignty Movement believe that this latest action by the British is an admission that they have failed to pacify Ireland despite what Blair, Brown, Ahern, Cowen et al have been stating. It is also an admission that the constitutional issue is not settled and that those who engage in wishful thinking and semantics are powerless to settle it.
Republicans, whether armed or otherwise represent the greatest threat to this artificially created statelet and by extension to those who created and maintain that statelet, Orde’s actions prove this.

There are dark days ahead for republicans, no one is under any illusion that these British Army units are here with any other purpose than to try and smash the republican movement. They will kill IRA volunteers if they are instructed to do so, the question is who will give the orders and what will they be protecting?

Finally, why is the existence of such units, which republicans have known about for some time, only being made public now?


End The Conflict, End British Rule In Ireland

If the conflict in Ireland is to end once and for all, so too must the illegal British claim to sovereignty over the Six Counties. That has been made clear in light of the violent events of recent days. That the so called peace process failed to openly address this central core issue of conflict is the reason for its failure now. Attempts to cocoon the problem in a puppet British Assembly arguing along sectarian lines are doomed to failure. From the outset of this process the British government have moved to defend their illegal sovereign claim to Irelands territory. This was evident when they made it an absolute pre-condition that the entry fee into negotiations was the acceptance of a partitionist outcome. Once republican leaders acquiesced to this British demand the republican project within that process was doomed. As it limped from crisis to crisis its British and unionist credentials began to assert themselves. What also emerged was the clear fact that rather than accept their abject defeat in negotiations with the British, republican leaders dug deeper into the morass whilst making outlandish and unsustainable claims about achieving Irish unity by certain dates to keep supporters on board.

It was a classic British trap. This British strategy has now reached its pinnacle with a Provisional Sinn Fein leader standing at Stormont, under the British flag, as a minister of the British crown, calling IRA Volunteers ‘traitors’ for continuing to resist British occupation.

We note the ritual chorus of condemnation emanating from Leinster House. Far from reflecting a unity of purpose it represents a bankruptcy of will from that institution to pursue the objective of a Sovereign Irish Republic. From its inception Leinster House abandoned the Irish people in the Six Counties. It abandoned them further under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. It evolved a politics which made it a slave to vested interests. It is economically on its knees because of financial and political corruption at the highest level. It has selectively spurned its own referenda results because it lacked the courage to represent those results to the political elite in Europe. It is no position to lecture to anyone on any matter of substance.

From its inception the 32 County Sovereignty Movement has endeavored to place the issue of Irish National Sovereignty at the heart of the political process via peaceful methods. We sought to raise our concerns by pursuing our case at the United Nations only to have that peaceful route disbarred to us when London and Dublin petitioned Washington to have our organization declared illegal in the US. We petitioned all the main parties with detailed submissions but were met with silence. We sought peace. We seek peace, but we recognise clearly that this can only be achieved if true parity is brought to a negotiations process.

Britain’s claim to have ‘no selfish, strategic or economic reasons’ to remain in Ireland is laid bare when one sees its use of Irish soil to train and dispatch British soldiers to kill in foreign wars. The British are not neutral in Ireland, no more than they are in Afghanistan or Iraq. To allow them to claim this, which the Good Friday Agreement does, represents a massive abdication of duty and responsibility by all those supposed nationalists who support it. The recent loss of life as a result of military action is yet another tragedy in the continuing conflict in Ireland. What is required to resolve it is an end to British Parliamentary activity in Ireland so that the people of the island can come to their own democratic arrangements as to how we govern ourselves.