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Randy Street • 27 April 2004

Virtually every media source reporting on the peace process heaps enormous criticism on Gerry Adams and SF. This is true of British, Unionist, Nationalist and Republican press. I often wonder how SF accomplished what it has electorally with the endless parade of critical talking heads. The British and certain unionist elements seem intent on suspending the power-sharing government in the Six Counties and, further, excluding SF from it should it be restored. The price tag supposedly placed on SF participation is complete disbandment and decommissioning by PIRA. Yet other unionist camps, including the DUP (I believe the now the unionist party with the largest number of seats) wish to scuttle the entire GFA and power-sharing government altogether (though they may or may not deny it) and certainly see no place for SF. Yet, at the same time, the PIRA is the ONLY paramilitary to decommission any significant number of weapons. The last act and most significant act of decommissioning was rewarded with the suspension of the Stormont assembly. All the while, loyalist paramilitary violence continues at an alarming rate. (Yet, here in America virtually no one even knows there is such a thing as loyalist paramilitary groups. Americans know more about the botched Tohill incident than they do of all loyalist death squad murders in the last thirty years. Loyalist killers receive no press here.) The PIRA surely must see little good in decommissioning under circumstances in which loyalist paramilitaries perpetuate continuous attacks and the British army and security forces solidifies their positions.

Thus, the British and UUP position places SF between the decommission/disband rock on the one side and the loyalist paramilitary violence/"securocrat" continuation/British military build up "hard spot" on the other. Throw in the DUP joker in this deck and the mind boggles at how far this process proceeded. Several parties are dealing very dangerous hands in this high stakes game of political poker. The British and Unionists are apparently betting that sufficient pressure will force SF into completely dismantling the PIRA and, thereby, effectively ending armed struggle for good. They may well be wrong. By excluding SF from the power sharing government, don't they risk alienating the very people so miraculously brought to the table to start with? Don't they risk leaving Republicans with no representation and, hence, seemingly no POLITICAL options? Are they not also gambling that Gerry Adams and company can deliver? Meanwhile, isn't the PIRA leadership gambling on the entire process at the same time? Wouldn't further decommissioning be tantamount in their minds to throwing good money after bad? Then, add in the DUP element, which could not care less about SF and will not agree to power share with SF no matter how many old provos just fade away. Now, what happens?

The mere fact the lid has been kept on this powder keg for so long is truly amazing. Someone must cry "uncle." The center cannot hold. I have not so much as read a thoughtful answer to any of these issues from anyone and do not pretend to have the answers myself. I doubt Gerry Adams and SF have the answers either. At least, though, they are trying to keep the lid on the powder keg and move forward in some constructive way to continue peace and promote economic prosperity and democracy. As an American I certainly sympathize with any people seeking to throw off the chains of British oppression, including Irish Republicans. I also do not agree the last 800 years of struggle could be legitimately branded as crime. I believe equally strongly that the armed struggle of the last thirty years cannot continue or be resurrected, even if someone wanted to do it. I sincerely hope someone with vision and conviction steps forward to try to solve this problem. If not, the current politicos will probably destroy any semblence of peace.




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