On Devolution in Northern Ireland

[Tuesday]

Eamonn McCann has written an excellent piece on the restoration of devolution in Northern Ireland, detailing its benefits to Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern.

Blair is on his way out, forced to step down by the Iraqi resistance and a police investigation into the sale of seats in the House of Lords; Ahern is in the middle of a general election and also faces financial scandals.

The ceremony at Stormont saw the two troubled leaders taking credit for peace and the return of power-sharing. State and corporate journalists took the opportunity to give a distorted history of the war in Ireland, presenting it as a petty sectarian squabble, with little mention of the British state’s repressive role, both in the last forty years and in the last four hundred.

It is true that both pressure from below and the prospect of prosperity has resulted in power-sharing, but those with a memory will recall that direct rule from Westminster was re-imposed in 2002 after a supposed Republican spy ring was broken up by the security forces. In truth, the spying was against the Republican movement by the securocrats.

The intervening years have led to Sinn Fein recognising the RUC (now calling itself the Police Service of Northern Ireland) and disarming the Provisional IRA. Ian “Dr No” Paisley has said yes to working as First Minister with SF’s Martin McGuinness as his deputy in a new executive.

The history of Northern Ireland has been alluded to, but not articulated clearly, and is now, seemingly, over. Paisley and McGuinness can argue over the spending of an aid package from Gordon Brown; Blair can now announce the date of his resignation as Labour leader and hope that peace, not war, will be his legacy.

Some hope.

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