held on November 26th 2003 to the Northern Ireland
Assembly have failed to break the deadlock in the
Good Friday Agreement. The elections were designed
to break the deadlock following the suspension of
the Stormont Assembly in October 2002. The prospect
of Ian Paisley, whose Democratic Unionist Party (DUP)
won most seats, as the prospective First Minster with
Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein as his number two,
ensures the executive cannot be restored. As the media
focuses on a normal North of Ireland and
its electoral process the realities of the nationalist
working class is deadly different. Loyalist attacks
have continued against Catholics even as talks about
talks get underway to break the deadlock. One thing
is clear: neither a review of the Good Friday Agreement
nor a return to the Stormont Assembly will give any
respite to the nationalists on the receiving end of
the Loyalist hate mobs.
within the Good Friday Agreement is the unionist veto.
This means for the Agreement to work it requires the
consent of the majority of Unionists. Prior to the
election the majority of Unionist members of the Assembly
had supported the Agreement. This is no longer the
case now that Ian Paisleys Democratic Unionist
Party (DUP) has become the leading Unionist party
in the assembly with 25.7% of first preference votes
with 30 assembly seats. The DUP increased its vote
by 7.5%, but mainly at the expense of other anti-Agreement
unionist parties. The pro-Agreement Ulster Unionist
Party (UUP) vote actually increased by 1.4% to 22.7%,
but it lost one seat, ending up with 27 seats.
Fein was able convince enough middle class nationalists
to vote for them as they eclipsed the SDLP as the
main nationalist party of the north for the first
time ever. Sinn Feins vote increased by 5.9%
while the SDLP vote fell by 5%. This gave Sinn Fein
24 seats to the SDLPs 18. The prospect of any
return to devolved power in the next period almost
impossible given the DUPs present position refusing
of refusing to share power with Republicans.
British Government to announced these elections following
the third act of IRA arms decommissioning on October
21st. The Republican movement were once again attempting
to reassure Unionism of it commitment to the peace
process. Launching Sinn Feins election manifesto
in Belfast on November 15th Martin McGuinness revealed
the extent to which Sinn Fein is dependent on the
peace process by calling Republicans to use their
preference votes for other pro Agreement parties even
if they were Unionists! This was an attempt
vain in the end to bolster the Ulster Unionist
Party and help it defeat the Democratic Unionist party.
the election build up the Loyalist attacks on nationalists
continued. They remain largely unreported by a media
and political establishment eager to normalise the
Sunday 16 November, 37-year-old Catholic man, Paul
Denvir, lost an eye after being viciously attacked
by four loyalists armed with hammers and machetes
as he left the Boundary bar on the Shore Road on the
outskirts of North Belfast. The sectarian murder attempt
happened at around 11 pm, when four Loyalists jumped
from a car that pulled up alongside the victim. One
of the gang then hit him on the back of the head with
a claw hammer. Apart from the loss of his eye, Pauls
injures included a broken jaw and cheekbones, smashed
teeth, lacerated chin and serious head injuries, Its
important to let other people know that there are
still those out there prepared to do this, just because
Im a Catholic, Paul said he recovered.
one week before the election on Thursday 20 November
21-year-old Catholic James McMahon was severely bludgeoned
in a sectarian attack by a Loyalist death squad dying
of his injuries the following day.
review of the Good Friday Agreement in the next period
will attempt to wrest further concessions from Sinn
Fein to appease Unionists and the British government.
However the realities of continued Loyalist attacks
on nationalist make further decommissioning by the
IRA untenable at this stage.
further elections are being mooted as the only way
to create the conditions for Stormont rule to return.
But elections cannot change the character of Northern
Ireland as a sectarian state. Widespread discrimination
against Catholics remains. Loyalism continues its
war on the nationalist working class. Ian Paisleys
election as the prospective First Minster is a symbol
of how little has changed in the North in the past
35 years since the civil rights movement. Right now
Sinn Fein is being exposed as little more than a radical
version of the failed and discredited SDLP, politically
and physically unable to defend the nationalist working
class and tied to the status quo of British imperialist
rule in Ireland.
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! Number 176 December
2003 / January 2004, www.revolutionarycommunist.com
Published with permission.
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