Peace or Pacification?
Northern Ireland after the defeat of the IRA. A critical analysis of the Irish peace process.
Often the so-called 'Irish question' is reduced to one of ancestral hatreds, but this timely book following the revenant tensions borne out of Brexit negotiations grounds its study in the context of colonialism, anti-imperialism and liberation struggles. This study demonstrates that 'peace' might not be found in 'justice', and argues instead of a 'peace process' for a 'pacification process'.
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Who won the war in an Irish town? From the tyranny of fear to fear of freedom https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/03098168211018014 ~ Paul Stewart, Tommy McKearney, Capital & Class, vol. 45, 2: pp. 311-318. , First Published June 6, 2021.
.............Ó Ruairc’s study is thorough. He has gone through numerous sources on the history and politics of Northern Ireland. Convincingly, he presents the region’s history in the context of colonialism and imperialism and ties the most recent developments to the neoliberal era. The book also includes timely reflections on “truth” in the information age and the impact of identity politics on nationalist movements. Ó Ruairc’s observations on the disillusionment of Northern Ireland’s youth with politics, with a voter turnout that can fall under 40 percent, are disheartening. The answer to the rhetorical question of the book’s title is definite: “It is … more accurate to speak of a ‘pacification process’ in Northern Ireland than a ‘peace process.’”....... https://lefttwothree.org/the-difficult-road-to-peace-in-northern-ireland/. ~ Gabriel Kuhn, LeftTwoThree
This week my reading neatly dovetailed with a short lecture on the ‘Tan War – a Just War’ for the Peadar O’Donnell Republican Socialist Forum, which will be broadcast in November. At the end of the panel discussion, the chair asked me to make some concluding remarks. A contributor had expressed uncertainty regarding Sinn Féin’s future left-wing never mind socialist orientation if it carried its current opinion poll ratings into the next general election and became the main party of government in Dublin. This had followed on from a wider question as to whether the decade of commemorations had generated renewed enthusiasm for republican and socialist ideas. I responded by paraphrasing Marx in the Holy Family that History does nothing, it ‘possesses no immense wealth’, it ‘wages no battles’. It is man, real, living man who does all that, who possesses and fights; ‘history’ is not, as it were, a person apart, using man as a means to achieve its own aims; history is nothing but the activity of man pursuing his aims. My point was that, despite many questionable theses by liberal historians, commemoration does not provoke radical calls for change, it rather provides the environment or ideological terrain on which opposition to current material conditions are articulated. The 1966 commemoration may have stimulated a re-examination of Connolly and Mellows, but without poverty north and south, a generation of northern Catholics weaned on post-war welfare measures and the continuation of a gerrymandered discriminatory one-party regime in the six-counties unconditionally backed by London, the dust from the brief flurry of state pageantry would have safely settled to the status quo ante. I continued that I had no illusions as to Sinn Féin’s socialism, since the Provisionals were long-ago content to ring the New York Stock Exchange bell in the company of Ian Paisley and oversaw the implementation of a decade of vicious austerity. While I failed to acknowledge my inspiration at the time, I can now admit that the image of Martin McGuinness gleefully chuckling in the citadel of capitalism sprang from Liam Ó Ruairc’s recent book Peace or Pacification? which I had read that very week. The author admits early on that his ‘central argument is that the “process” represents a major defeat for national liberation as it reinforces the partition of Ireland and that following the 1998 Agreement, Sinn Féin has become a junior partner of the British state.’ He later concludes that, within a mendacious ‘peace’ process, ‘truth’ has been supplanted by ‘constructive ambiguity’. Furthermore the failure to recognize the genuine right of Irish self-determination leaves the process devoid of justice. This reality is camouflaged by the general acceptance of the British state’s analysis that the Irish problem concerns competing ethno-national identities rather than unfinished decolonisation. This is nowhere more apparent than in the championing of neo-liberalism that withheld any peace ‘dividends’ from working-class people most affected by the conflict. In line with arguments in this blog, Ó Ruairc rightly identifies the origin of the Irish conflict ‘in the British state’s refusal to recognise the right of the people of Ireland as a whole to self- determination.’ Partition did not achieve self-determination for an illusory British Ulster nation, rather it sought to subvert self-determination. Lloyd George, who wrote to Carson in 1916, that ‘we must make it clear that Ulster does not, whether she wills it or not, merge with the rest of Ireland’, admitted that in 1921: ‘If you asked the people of Ireland what plan they would accept, by an emphatic majority they would say: “We want independence and an Irish Republic”.’ The imperial establishment were not prepared to recognise this democratic mandate. As Henry Wilson opined in March 1921: ‘If we lose Ireland we have lost the Empire’. I unsurprisingly agree with Ó Ruairc’s assessment that ‘the republican case against partition and the existence of Northern Ireland is not a matter of “irredentism”, it is fundamentally an issue of democracy.’ As The Sunday Times Insight Team noted: ‘The border was itself the first and biggest gerrymander:.. Protestant supremacy was the only reason why the State existed. As such, the State was an immoral concept. It therefore had to be maintained from the first by immoral means’. Similarly, readers of this blog will recognise Ó Ruairc’s emphasis on the distinction between republicanism as a radical humanist articulation of universalist and emancipatory principles, as opposed to ‘nationalism which is based on the particular’. To all intents and purposes, Ó Ruairc identifies Sinn Féin as a constitutional nationalist party, who abandoned its principles to participate in a Peace Process: ‘the strategic objective’ of which, in the words of the oft-quoted Anthony McIntyre ‘was to include republicans while excluding republicanism’. This was achieved by ‘the Irish version of the social democratic maxim “the movement is everything and the principles nothing”. Once the movement is more important than principles, republicanism becomes whatever the leadership of the movement said it is.’ While Ó Ruairc does not express it in these terms, the implication is that the Adams’ leadership exercised its authority to present republicans with a false dichotomy in the nineties between electoralism and militarism. While one Irish government source ridiculed the Sinn Féin leadership as negotiating dunces, in fact this Machiavellian vanguard skilfully triangulated its way to becoming the main representatives of northern nationalism, attracting ‘new Catholic money… largely apolitical but nationalistic in its aspirations’[quote attributed to Tony Catney] and operating as an ‘ethnic tribune’, while it soft soaped its working-class grassroots. In this reading, the Adams’ leadership emerge as the latest in a succession of nationalist populists [the heirs of Joe Devlin’s Hibernianism] who cynically employ republican rhetoric to gain a seat at the master’s table. Ó Ruairc bluntly states that The Provisional movement had gone from being the vanguard of the historic struggle for an independent, 32- county republic to a counter-revolutionary barrier protecting the British presence in Ireland. Sinn Féin has been de-republicanised and the entire liberation project has been weakened as it now accepts the political terms of its opponent. This process may have pre-dated the fall of the Berlin Wall, but Ó Ruairc draws a telling comparison between the Provisionals’ capitulation and Fukyama’s end of history, when a series of leftist liberation struggles yielded to apparent historical logic. As Danny Morrison wrote admiringly in 1990: ‘The Sandinistas had to come to terms with reality. The pragmatism of the head had to take precedence over the principle of the heart.’ While Ó Ruairc frequently cites Edward W. Said, his most telling reference locates Sinn Féin within a nexus of defeatism from Latin America through South Africa to Palestine: ‘It is simply not enough to say that we live in the New World Order which requires “pragmatism” and “realism” and that we must shed the old ideas of nationalism and liberation. That is pure nonsense. No outside power like Israel or the United States can unilaterally decree what reality is’. The Provisional leadership adopted a pragmatic [in reality an opportunistic] position that required the abandonment of republican principle to enter a process or strategy whereby the ends would ultimately justify the means. Anyone who disagreed could be labelled anti-peace. From the socialist perspective Eamonn McCann pointed out that those republicans who rejected Sinn Féin’s position ‘do not dissent from the Republican tradition. What they dissent from is departure from the tradition’. Similarly, Bernadette McAliskey identified the aim of the peace process was ‘to eradicate republicanism, not violence’. I often employ Rousseau’s admonishment that ‘falsehood has an infinity of combinations, but truth has only one mode of being’ in this blog. Yet, Provisional Sinn Féin has largely abandoned republican civic virtue in order to play the game. As Jim Gibney remarked: ‘If there is one big lesson coming out of the peace process… it is words like “certainty” and “clarity” are not part of the creative lexicon that conflict resolution requires if it is to be successful… Give me the language of ambiguity… It has oiled the engine of the peace process. Long may it continue to do so.’ This position constitutes the very antithesis of republicanism, but it is also self-defeating. From Collins to Dev to MacBride through Goulding and so on, no Irish republican organisation that went through the process of what Gramsci labelled transformismo ever emerged the same. Ó Ruairc employs McAliskey, again to devastating effect, when she warned Provisionals during the early stages of the peace process that ‘you boys, you’re going down a wee tunnel. It won’t bring you peace. It won’t bring you equality and, when you come outside at the other end of it, you won’t even have the personal and political integrity you had going into it’. What we get then is an Irish articulation of Thatcher’s ‘There is No Alternative’ [TINA], where political acumen appears commensurate to the degree to which you can delude people with smoke and mirrors. Tellingly, Sinn Féin also proceeded with the wholesale adoption of Thatcherite economic policy. Ó Ruairc provides good statistics on the damage wrought by Stormont’s unconditional promotion of ‘the virtues of free market enterprise, austerity finance, urban regeneration, public-private partnership, private-finance initiatives and foreign direct investment by global multinationals.’ Indeed, in order to be able to cut corporation tax in December 2014, Sinn Féin agreed to lose 20,000 public sector jobs, slash welfare benefits and accept a reduction of £200 million per year in the block grant. The statistics demonstrate that public spending accounts for over 70% of the North’s GDP against an OECD average of 28%. Over 30% work directly for the public sector. Proportionally, the gross disposable household income vis-a-vis the rest of UK in 2014 matched that of 1997, while the suicide rate doubled in the same period and the number of peace walls quadrupled. They can erect a statue to James Connolly in West Belfast, but the working-class people who pass it every day live in a society that Connolly himself would have railed against. Nevertheless, Ó Ruairc’s assessment of neo-liberalism, while rich in detail, tails off into a disappointing section on the victims’ industry. Arguably, there are some significant dots to be joined up here. He rightly identifies ‘counter-insurgency Keynesianism’ as the means by which even Thatcher used state employment to undermine support for the Provisionals. Yet, the section on the levelling off of the divisions between Protestants and Catholics elides some significant issues. The average hourly wage for nationalists and republicans (£9.44 per hour) is now higher than that of pro-British unionists (£9.11 per hour).In 1992, 76% of working-age Protestants were economically active, compared with 66% of working-age Catholics. By 2016, these figures had fallen to 75% for Protestants, but risen to 74% for Catholics. In 1992, 24% of working-age Protestants were economically inactive compared with 34% of working-age Catholics, a 10% point difference. In 2016, the rates were 25% for Protestants and 26% for Catholics. Over the period 1993 to 2016, the proportion of working-age economically active Protestants with no qualifications fell from 30% to 11%, but the numbers of Catholics without skills fell by slightly more, from 32% to 10%. This is all very interesting, but there is little analysis or insight into what the implications are for those committed to an emancipatory future. Indeed, for the student of history, these figures represent a sea-change in the character of northern society. Only the most naïve (and this is not directed at Ó Ruairc) could suggest that this level of intervention would have taken place without the republican campaign. In a classic manifestation of the cunning of reason, Sinn Féin has emerged as the party of a new Catholic middle-class born during the Troubles – a class created to undermine the PIRA campaign during their youth. In 2001, only 17% of Catholics belonging to the highest social and economic category were born in it compared to 33% of Protestant. Working-class Catholics have a 1-in-5 chance of attending university, the figure is 1-in-10 for their Protestant counterparts. The Protestant working class represent the net losers of the peace process, but the working class as a whole has barely benefitted. Indeed, ‘Northern Ireland suffered the largest fall in household incomes and the biggest rise in poverty in the UK during the recession and austerity measures’. Ó Ruairc is right that ‘there is an economic crisis, but it has not yet reached the stage of an organic crisis – where the very legitimacy of the system itself is questioned.’ But, as a socialist republican, what means are at our disposal to challenge this vast injustice? This is where his analysis, in my opinion, ignores some pertinent tensions – admittedly perhaps due to book’s publication date during rapidly changing historical conditions. I agree with Ó Ruairc that ‘the 1998 Agreement achieved the “reconstitution of bourgeois order” in the North “not in the context of the British Empire…but in the context of the European Union”. I have previously written of a Catholic surrogate establishment at the birth of the Orange state. The republican military challenge did not achieve its objectives, but the conflict fundamentally altered the material forces or the character of northern society. We appear to have a largely redundant political system where two-thirds of young people don’t even vote. But we also have a northern bourgeoisie more European in orientation and sentiment than ever. Ó Ruairc himself points out that ‘about 60 per cent of Northern Ireland’s exports are to the EU, and of that more than half go to the Republic of Ireland’. The Brexit process and potential Scottish independence suggests that a socially liberal, economically conservative tendency on the civic nationalist model could potentially destabilise the northern bourgeoisie’s aversion to constitutional change. This is not to vindicate Sinn Féin’s ‘strategy’, but it demonstrates how external forces impinge on what appeared to be a reasonably settled political modus vivendi. At the same time, the end of heavy industry and disappearance of much of the Troubles’ security economy has dissolved the material basis of Orange patronage and narrowed the gap between two impoverished communities. We are a long way from talking about a northern working class, but the carefully managed differential that underpinned institutionalised sectarianism has largely ended – working-class Protestants and Catholics have received little if any peace dividend. Perversely, rather than an Orange State, we now live in an Orange and Green State. The potential for Protestant working-class resentment to manifest in extreme right-wing loyalism hardly needs to be explained. However, Sinn Féin as a neo-Hibernian ethnic tribune cannot attract working-class Protestants in any serious number – only genuine socialist republicanism has any faint chance of that. And this is another criticism I have of a very interesting book that mirrors my own analysis to a very large degree. There is a preponderance of criticism, but little in the way of constructive suggestion. Surely a republican or socialist committed to universalist and emancipatory principles needs to expand their horizon from ‘the individual intellectual vocation, which is neither disabled by a paralysed sense of political defeat nor impelled by groundless optimism and illusory hope.’ Ó Ruairc, for instance, offers little criticism of vanguardism. Like many critics of Sinn Féin before him, it would appear that the leaders rather than the model represented the problem, but splendid principled isolation will bring the Republic no closer. The analysis of working-class republican agency is also incredibly bleak. There is little commentary on the reality that working-class communities sustained an insurrection against a major world power for over two decades. Their movement emerged not because of a group of leaders or since commemorations spurred their efforts, but because material conditions and political realities generated the collective agency for genuine change that all revolutions require. At the end of my lecture last week, I concluded by saying that all revolutions and popular insurgencies rely in the first instance on material conditions, when Marx’s old mole resurfaces. Sinn Féin developed its peace strategy in a period when it seemed that revolutionary movements had been decisively defeated. They should not be criticised for abandoning the armed struggle [and in fairness Ó Ruairc does not do this], but because their electoral strategy displayed such a wanton lack of faith in working-class, democratic agency and such a marked propensity for elitist and hierarchical political control. If Sinn Féin enter government in the south, they will serve their class interests and despite rhetorical flourishes, they are the party of the emergent northern nationalist middle class. The working class across the island will be told that labour can wait, that we need to get unification over the line, that the strategy is finally paying dividends. Like an awful lot else, the Provisionals will pilfer some more Sticky lines and promote their own stages theory to the grass roots. This shit show has been going on for over two decades. If the Shinners enter government, then working-class Irish people need to hit the streets and demand that they walk as well as talk left. The socialist republican position rejects opportunism and develops a pragmatic position based on principle. Mass democratic movements have shaken Irish establishment politics in the past. Parnell and Davitt did not fight the land war on their own, but after an economic depression spurred hundreds of thousands to action. Tom Barry and his peers were only agents of a democratic movement that captured the mass of Irish people after the cataclysm of world war. The Orange State fell when thousands engaged in civil disobedience and when the nationalist working class refused to stay on their knees. Yes leaders emerged, but without mass political consciousness and agency, there is no meaningful and progressive societal change. Marx’s mole has poked his head to the surface once more. We are living in the midst of a decade-long global systematic crisis where the majority of people on this island and globally suffer under an exploitative economic system. The centenary of the Ireland’s unsuccessful revolution should provide lessons and inspiration, but the responsibility rests with this generation of Irish people – our demands most moderate are, we only want the earth. A Workers’ Republic now! ~ Fearghal Mac Bhloscaidh, BLOSC – blag staire le Fearghal Mac Bhloscaidh https://blosc.wordpress.com/2020/10/04/for-a-workers-republic/
Book Review Liam O’Ruairc: Peace or Pacification? Northern Ireland After the Defeat of the IRA Zero Books 2019 Liam O’Ruairc’s book is written from an explicitly Republican perspective but he is anxious to reiterate that it is a particular version of that ideology. O’Ruairc’s Republicanism is based on the universalist principles of the radical enlightenment rather than the particularism of romantic Irish nationalism. The creed of Republicanism, according to O’Ruairc, is about challenging injustice and securing genuine social emancipation - the defeat of Unionism is, in this context, a precondition for this and not an end in itself. The assumption is that without national self-determination any such liberation is practically impossible. O’Ruairc reminds us that Unionists, who articulated a supremacist ideology, relied on special powers and electoral gerrymandering to secure their grotesque sectarian statelet and he makes the pertinent subsidiary observations that resistance to that state began as a “war” of liberation and that applying labels like “terrorist” make absolutely no sense in the context of “Northern Ireland”. However, the central theme of book is that the so-called “peace process” which ended with the Good Friday Agreement, constituted a catastrophic defeat for IRA and national liberation. In short the GFA meant accepting the legitimacy of the NI state, indeed (as Tony Blair noted at the time) it gave the Unionists practically everything they ever wanted. O’Ruairc goes on to explain, with some dexterity, the constructive ambiguity that underpinned the “peace process”, and maintains that it was in fact a “process of pacification” that was constructed on the back of a Republican surrender. As he says, “the process that the Provisional Republican Movement joined was pre-programmed to deliver a partitionist settlement”. The political parameters had already been set by the Downing Street Declaration, the Framework Documents and the Mitchell Principles and Adams effectively confirmed this by stating that the aim was to “re-negotiate” the Union. In fact O’Ruairc notes that Sinn Fein contributed very little to the process and, as one Irish official put it, they sat “in the dunces corner”. Any “gains” Sinn Fein secured were therefore at the margins (e.g. in relation to prisoners and the so-called “equality” agenda). Here O’Ruairc reinforces the observation (made by others) that the “peace process” may have included Republicans (or more correctly, people who referred to themselves as such) but it excluded Republicanism. Of course, the GFA was described as “Sunningdale for slow learners” by Seamus Mallon but, as O’Ruairc points out, the actual terms were significantly worse than that offered in 1973, and he refers to the Agreement as the “Republican Versailles”. In fact a more apt comparator might be the Bolshevik capitulation at Brest-Litovsk, but O’Ruairc is undoubtedly correct to point out that Sinn Fein’s “realism” meant accepting all of the major preconditions set by Britain. In the end Martin McGuinness bent the knee to Royalty and MI5 now controls “security” in the north. Any Republican seeing this as a “success” needs to be sectioned. O’Ruairc also focuses, quite correctly, on the politically significant fact that the IRA gave up its weapons. In effect this act retrospectively de-criminalized the armed resistance against the British state. He argues that “there has never been a situation in the world where an ‘undefeated army’ has willingly and unilaterally handed over its weapons to its enemy. The only situation where that applies is when an army has been defeated and is forced to hand over arms as an act of surrender”. In fact O’Ruairc actually quotes Danny Morrison, whose has persistently claimed that the IRA was “undefeated”, and proves emphatically that Morrison was “demonstrably wrong” (it wouldn’t be the only time Morrison had mangled the truth would it?). O’Ruairc makes the interesting observation that surrendering arms is in breach of General Order No.11 of the IRA constitution which deemed it an act of treason punishable by death. And to rub salt into that wound O’Ruairc quotes internal documentation from British Army in 2007 which says that their campaign was brought to a “successful conclusion”. The author of the report was General Mike Jackson – the significance of this will not be lost on Republicans. O’Ruairc also makes the point that “dissident” Republicans are not capable of waging a sustained campaign, so any actions are purely “symbolic” rather than possessing “strategic” value. Brexit, he argues, is unlikely to alter this situation. O’Ruairc’s text also deals decisively with the so-called “peace dividend” of the GFA. The material benefits have, he argues, been meagre and based on a British subsidy that conceals the economic fragility of a “province” subservient to neo-liberal orthodoxy. This subordination was symbolically represented by the images of McGuinness and Paisley opening the Nasdaq Stock Market on Wall Street in 2007. Both Sinn Fein and the Unionists accept unconditionally the neo-liberal principles of privatization, private finance initiatives, a reduction in tax rates for corporations and cuts in public services. As O’Ruairc says “peace has, in effect, been ‘privatized’”. The new Catholic middle classes may have benefitted from this process, but those that bore the brunt of the struggle have gained nothing but more economic insecurity and social inequality. Moreover, genuine social, economic and political aspirations have been transformed into matters of cultural identity and “parity of esteem”. In this O’Ruairc is, to coin a phrase, right on the money. However, given the focus is the actual “peace process”, the book doesn’t really examine in detail the forces that drove the Republicans down the dead end of compromise its bitterest political enemies. There some reference to the international geo-political context, but is no doubt that the “dirty war” conducted by the British secret services, which led to the infiltration of the IRA and the manipulation of Loyalist paramilitaries, created the context for Provisional capitulation. Indeed, in many ways the hidden hand in the peace process narrative is the secret state – for example, any really comprehensive account of the abject failure of Provisional Republicanism needs to take account the impact of the Force Research Unit, the SAS and Scappattici. Once the British secret services had completed their malevolent machinations, the political task of manipulating the likes of Adams and McGuinness was made far easier. Of course there is absolutely no shame in losing, and Republicans have a long history of honorable failure - but the insidious way in which the whole process was kept secret from Republicans and then spun as “a new phase of struggle” raises serious questions about the integrity of those who led the movement in this period. This point is thrown into much sharper relief by the fact that internal critics of “the process” were often intimidated, disparaged and marginalized. As O’Ruairc says, what exists now is a “negative peace” in the sense of not having open conflict but no genuine reconciliation either. In many ways Liam O’Ruiarc’s book makes uncomfortable reading for committed republicans. He has called time of death on the Provisional version of Republicanism and the corpse has been described in relentless detail. The fact that some people refuse to acknowledge this fact does not invalidate the reality of its sad demise. As Mark Twain once remarked – no amount of evidence will ever persuade an idiot! It is time to move forward and leave the necrophiliacs in Sinn Fein to pursue the political path it has chosen for itself – the dead end of pragmatic constitutionalism. Liam O’Ruairc actually refers to Provisional Sinn Fein as “counter-revolutionary” and it is difficult to disagree with this conclusion because the really serious questions, such as how to evade ecological disaster and eliminate social injustice by replacing “vulture capitalism” with a more rational and egalitarian method of distributing resources, are now being asked outside the party. Republicans need to find a way of engaging with the people who are asking such questions, and only O’Ruairc’s version of the ideology is capable of doing this effectively. That is now the key task, and maybe it is a useful topic for O’Ruairc’s next book. I hope so. Mark Hayes ~ Dr Mark Hayes, Senior Lecturer in Human Sciences, Solent University, Southampton, An Spréach, Issue 7, January-March 2020, pp.24-25
How Ireland’s truth became the lie Review of Peace or Pacification? Northern Ireland after the defeat of the IRA Liam Ó Ruairc, Zero Books 2019. £13 Official censorship, pertaining to the North of Ireland, ended in 1994 when the London and Dublin governments lifted their broadcasting bans. War propaganda gave way to the propaganda of peace. More than that, says Liam Ó Ruairc, the process that brought us from ceasefire to Good Friday Agreement, and from there to the current power-sharing arrangements, was sustained by grand public deception. It required ‘a campaign of blatant media manipulation,’ directed by the British government, ‘to flood Northern Ireland with positive stories about the peace deal’ (p5). British state censorship was rendered obsolete by self-censorship. From the university academic to the Sinn Féin spokesman, with an agreed peace came agreed truth; real truth became the lie. Stormont press officers outnumbered journalists in Belfast newsrooms; they wrote the story. Breaking truce with falsehood, one can discern where Irish Republicanism is in reality; how it got there; and where, if anywhere, it is going. The book returns to basics, setting out what Irish Republicanism is, and what it isn’t; why it is politically relevant and globally significant. There follows an assessment of the scale of the Republican defeat of the 1990s and its consequences. Ó Ruairc proves what took place in the Six Counties was not a process grounded in justice, capable of reconciling former adversaries, but a series of political and economic measures aimed at pacifying resistance. He shows how it secured social division and increased inequality. No less importantly, he upholds the universal and emancipatory content of Irish Republicanism. The process and the peace ‘The peace process has to be seen as an attempt by the British state to reconstruct its authority in Northern Ireland in a context of decline and defeat of actually existing national liberation movements.’ (p34) ‘The paradox is that nationalists and republicans seem on the rise while they lost the constitutional dispute ...Unionists and Loyalists feel they have lost while the Union has been copper-fastened.’ (p105) Ó Ruairc reviews landmarks on the road to 1998. He shows to be untenable the thesis that the Republican Movement did not surrender but rather entered a pragmatic compromise with the British state. Not only was it defeated ‘but Sinn Féin has joined the enemy camp … a counter-revolutionary barrier protecting the British presence in Ireland’ (p87). Ó Ruairc reveals the gravity of this defeat, its consequences for the North’s politics and the lives of its people. He shows that those who suffered most in war, benefit least in peace. For many in former bastions of Republican resistance, ‘peace dividends’ are a long time coming. Concerning the Loyalist working class, he demonstrates the erosion of their former privileges and its political effect. Then he turns to the apparent winners. A new Catholic middle class Ó Ruairc argues that nationalist communal interests have been greatly advanced, benefiting from positive discrimination and public sector expansion – what he calls ‘counter-insurgency Keynesianism’ – producing a new Catholic middle class (p103). Once an insignificant minority of lawyers, priests and pub owners, teachers and doctors, serving their community, the new Catholic middle class is significant – socially and politically. It is established in accountancy, banking, engineering and architecture, but ‘essentially concentrated in the public sector and … gradually rising to its top’ (p103). Sinn Féin is their party now. In 2001 just two of the 20 most affluent areas in the North had nationalist majorities, by 2011 six of them did (pp103-4). Left-wing axioms of the 1970s and ‘80s that the sectarian statelet was ‘irreformable’, incapable of civil equality, were therefore wrong – ‘or at least premature’ (p102). The minor politics of identity Politically, behind the superficial radicalism of painted gable walls, the landscape is changed utterly: self-determination, republicanism, socialism – are redefined to fit the logic of the peace. ‘From irreconcilable political projects,’ republicanism and unionism are ‘transformed into different “traditions”’ (p109). History is reworked, causes of conflict reexplained thus: Irish cultural identity was not respected; British cultural identity was perceived to be under threat. The solution? ‘Parity of esteem’ and ‘respect to all identities and cultures’ (p109). The Left confines itself to minor politics, Sinn Féin to identity politics: not contesting actual sovereignty but squabbling with Unionism over the symbolism of sovereignty – whose flag should fly where and when, what official status befits the Irish language. ‘Northern Ireland has gone from the politics of imperialism versus anti-imperialism to the narcissism of small differences’ (p111). Victim culture Imperialism is airbrushed or confined to ‘history’. All that remains to account for a fractious, abnormal present is the ‘legacy’: the outer ripples of an uncomfortable past, embodied in a backward facing, traumatised population. A ‘victim industry’ spawned ‘almost 50 dedicated victim and survivor groups’ by 2014 (p113). With the rise of identity politics, victim culture is indicative ‘not only of the crisis of republicanism and unionism,’ but of a ‘general weakened sense of agency’ (p114). It is symptomatic of the ‘collapse of historical forces [and] diminished political expectations’ (p120). So long as the British state is accepted as arbiter in dealing with ‘the past’, this carnival of helplessness paves a new way for Britain ‘to reassert its authority in the Six Counties’. As Ó Ruairc points out, Brexit changes none of this fundamentally – other than to make it all worse. Irish unity is not on the cards, let alone Irish liberty. Political accident won’t free Ireland, but Ó Ruairc’s analysis is a point of departure for those who might. Patrick Casey FIGHT RACISM! FIGHT IMPERIALISM! 274 February/March 2020 page 13 ~ Patrick Casey , FIGHT RACISM! FIGHT IMPERIALISM! 274 February/March 2020 page 13
Book review Peace or Pacification? Northern Ireland after the defeat of the IRA Liam Ó Ruairc Zero books Winchester, UK Washington, USA 2019 ISBN: 978 1 78904 127 9 978 1 78904 128 6 (ebook) Reviewed by John McAnulty 17 September 2019 Liam Ó Ruairc 's book is meticulously researched, with many of the assertions backed up by references and direct quotes. Using this approach he establishes in the first few pages that the Irish peace process was built upon "constructive ambiguity" or outright lies and that all the forces involved openly admit that this was the case. They lied openly and now boast of their skill in prevarication. The prevarication is not historical. Journalism today operates within a regime of self-censorship where criticism of the peace process is beyond the pale. So how can you have a whole process and the subsequent social structures built upon a global mechanism of lying? According to the author this was absolutely essential because what was presented as a peace process was in fact a pacification process. A peace process would have involved some movement towards national self-determination for Ireland. Pacification would be based on republican defeat and would involve incorporating them into what was essentially the status quo ante. Liam Ó Ruairc illustrates this by reference to the positions of the British and the IRA in 1923 talks. The IRA demanded: British withdrawal An all-Ireland constituent assembly Release of Prisoners. The British position of continued British sovereignty, no change without majority support in the North, a six-county assembly and cross- border bodies as a symbolic Irish dimension were all realised in the eventual settlement. The republican proposals were nowhere to be seen. The book documents in some detail the political collapse that followed, when politics was replaced by culture wars and identity politics and war into competing forms of victimhood. Strategic apologies allowed Britain to move from participant in the conflict to neutral mediator. The author's argument becomes more complex when he addresses economic strategy. A neoliberal economic strategy is separated from the peace process. As he notes, this is an issue in such settlements across the globe. However such a separation is only necessary if the peace process contains progressive elements in contrast to the economic programme. If both are part of an imperialist victory such a separation is unnecessary. Liam Ó Ruairc demonstrates convincingly that there is no peace dividend and that the North is a failed political entity, heavily dependent on British subsidy, with low wages and low labour productivity. Does it run alongside a political victory for nationalism? It is certainly the case that there have been major advances for the catholic middle class and that unemployment and wage rates at the lower levels of the working class are now similar. However ever growing sectarianism, continued housing apartheid and a high level of impunity granted to loyalists by the srate state suggest that the issue of civil rights in the North has yet to be resolved. One difficulty is that the author misstates the "irreformability" argument advanced by socialists and republicans during the conflict. It is stated as an assertion that the North was irreformable. The actual argument was that systematic and structural reform that delivered human rights would remove the foundations on which the state rested and lead to its dissolution. In essence this is what is playing out now. The system of communal rights falls short of civil rights but has delivered for the catholic middle class. It has also provoked a furious backlash by unionism to preserve sectarian rights. Under this pressure unionism has collapsed the state institutions and it seems unlikely that they will be revived in their current form. The book does valuable work, but there is much that it ignores. The peace process was not just the outcome of a battle between Britain and Ireland, but of a class struggle within Ireland. The argument about the irreformability of the North marked class divisions within Ireland and ideological differences in the resistance. Irish capitalism sought to contain the civil rights struggle and crush the republican upsurge. The Communist party, the Workers party and their allies demanded the reform of the North as opposed to Irish unity and labelled the Provos "Green fascists." The current settlement and its contradictions mirrors elements of the proposals they made at the beginning of the conflict. Liam Ó Ruairc draws upon anti imperialist writers on Palestine: Said, Chomsky, Pappe, Massad and Finkelstein. These writers have much that is deep and illuminating to say. Edward Said's "Peace and its Discontents" is a classic tour de force, worth reading and rereading. The genre has immense conviction and descriptive power. Its weaknesses lies in explanation and in future policy. Liam's analysis has the weakness of his mentors. It is credible and convincing, but leaves us in the dark about the collapse of republicanism other than pointing to a global weakness of national liberation struggles following the collapse of "actually existing socialism" and blind loyalty among the ranks. In terms of future policy he quotes Tommy Mc Kearney in calling for a "new and relevant republicanism," by it is quite clear from the context that this new republicanism is to leave to one side the issue of partition - that is, the thing that makes republicanism republicanism. Later the book offers "an articulation of social forces" which seems itself a retreat from the class based analysis of the past. It ends on a pessimistic note. Critical thought is a sort of "message in a bottle" to be picked in some future struggle. The reviewer disagrees. History has not ground to a standstill. Workers movements that have been in long retreat are showing signs of revival. The internal contradictions of capitalism continue to operate, tearing it apart. We have to look to classical Marxist analysis both for explanation of past failure and direction towards future advance. http://www.socialistdemocracy.org/RecentArticles/RecentReviewPeaceOrPacification.html ~ John McAnulty, http://www.socialistdemocracy.org/RecentArticles/RecentReviewPeaceOrPacification.html
Often the so-called 'Irish question' is reduced to one of ancestral hatreds, but "Peace or Pacification?: Northern Ireland After The Defeat of the IRA" follows the relevant tensions (a soft border vs a hard border) borne out of Brexit negotiations grounds in a thought-provoking study within the context of colonialism, anti-imperialism and liberation struggles. "Peace or Pacification?" demonstrates that 'peace' might not be found in 'justice', and argues instead of a 'peace process' for a 'pacification process'. Timely, relevant, informative, thoughtful, instructive, and a critically significant contribution to the current Brexit controversy, "Peace or Pacification?: Northern Ireland After The Defeat of the IRA" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community and academic library collections. ~ James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief, Mid West Book Review
"This book is good - interesting overview of how we got to where we are." - Matt Treacy was a member of the IRA for 30 years, spending four of these in Portlaoise prison, and worked for over ten years as a senior political advisor to Sinn Féin in the Irish parliament. His book The IRA 1956-69: Rethinking the Republic (Manchester University Press) is based on his PhD. He published his memoir A Tunnel to the Moon: The End of the Irish Republican Army in 2017. ~ Matt Treacy
"In his book Peace or Pacification: Northern Ireland After the Defeat of the IRA, which will be published later this month, Belfast-based academic Liam O Ruairc offers an incisive analysis of all shades of republicanism.." ~ Suzanne Breen, Political Editor, Belfast Telegraph (Northern Ireland's main daily newspaper) , https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/columnists/suzanne-breen/suzanne-breen-diehards-will-carry-on-in-stubborn-bid-to-prevent-normalisation-38418124.html
"Der Belfaster Autor Liam O›Ruairc - ein ehemals führendes Mitglied der Irisch-Republikanischen Sozialistischen Partei und früherer Herausgeber des Diskussionsmediums »The Blanket« - ist anderer Meinung. In seiner bei Zero Books erscheinenden Studie »Peace or Pacification? Northern Ireland After the Defeat of the IRA« erläutert er, dass das Wiedererstarken radikaler Kräfte weniger mit dem EU-Austritt Großbritanniens zu tun hat als vielmehr mit einem faktischen Scheitern des Friedensprozesses. Der Wandel von IRA und der Partei Sinn Féin von einer revolutionären zu einer konstitutionellen Bewegung brachte keinen Frieden. Die »Niederlage« der IRA, so O‹Ruairc, manifestiere sich darin, dass der republikanischen Ideologie ihr transformativer Horizont abhanden kam. Der republikanische Kampf sei umgedeutet worden - weg vom Ziel einer vereinten sozialistischen Republik, hin zu einem Kampf um Bürgerrechte und Identität. Noch in den 1970ern sahen irische Republikaner und ihre internationalen Unterstützer Nordirland als Relikt des untergehenden britischen Kolonialismus. Der Friedensprozess aber besiegelte die Auffassung, es gehe nur um einen Kampf für die Rechte der katholischen Minderheit innerhalb Großbritanniens. Echten Frieden, so O›Ruairc, habe es aber nicht gegeben, nur eine Befriedung zu britischen Bedingungen: Die IRA gab die Waffen ab und machte einen großen Schritt - während die Gegenseite nicht viel unternahm. Die sozialen und politischen Probleme, die hinter dem Konflikt standen, sind bis heute nicht gelöst. Die einstige Industrieregion ist heute einer der ärmsten Landstriche Europas. Wenn es Arbeit gibt, dann bei der öffentlichen Hand, ein Privatsektor existiert kaum. Die Jugendarbeitslosigkeit ist exorbitant und selbst die Lebenserwartung ist in vielen katholischen Arbeiterbezirken gering. Nordirland hat die höchste Selbstmordrate Großbritanniens - seit 1998 haben mehr Menschen Suizid begangen, als zuvor bei Kampfhandlungen gestorben waren. Diese Lage liefert Radikalen wie der »Neuen IRA« die Rekruten: Arbeitslose Jugendliche, die zwar oft erst nach dem Karfreitagsabkommen geboren wurden - und doch voll Wut sind auf das politische System, ihre Lebensbedingungen und auch die nach wie vor harte Repression der Polizei. Es trifft zwar zu, dass die Unsicherheit rund um den Brexit Öl ins Feuer gießt. Doch weil die gegenwärtige Misere in den EU-Zeiten Großbritanniens gewachsen sind, spielt nun auch der Brexit eher eine Nebenrolle. Der radikale Republikanismus, der wieder an Zulauf gewinnt, zielt wie eh und je auf eine vereinte irische Republik und Sozialismus. Auf dem Kontinent wird oft übersehen, dass Nordirland auch seit dem Karfreitagsabkommen nie von politischer Gewalt frei war. Die über 100 Menschenleben, die sie seither forderte, können nur im Licht der vorherigen Lage als niedriges Level gelten. Nordirland ist auf dem Weg zu einem scheiternden Staat, in dem die Jugend keine Perspektive sieht. So wenig, wie heute die Bedingungen für einen wirklichen Frieden bestehen, ist es der Brexit allein, der den Krieg zurückbringen könnte. ~ Neues Deutschland (German daily newspaper with a circulation of 21,352 as of 2019) The newspaper is both politically and financially tied to one of i, https://www.neues-deutschland.de/artikel/1124441.nordirland-befriedung-statt-frieden.html
Der Friedensprozess sei kein Aushandeln auf Augenhöhe gewesen, argumentiert der irische Publizist, sondern das Resultat einer Niederlage der IRA, die man sich einzugestehen habe, wenn man den Republikanismus als politische Idee weiterentwickeln wolle. Die versprochene „Friedensdividende“ sei ausgeblieben, ja mehr noch sei mit der Befriedung ein Prozess des neoliberalen Umbaus Nordirlands einhergegangen. Der Quellenreichtum von „Friede oder Befriedung?“ macht das Buch dabei gerade auch für Irland-Laien lesenswert – es liefert viele wenig bekannte Daten und Fakten und geschichtlichen Kontext. Die Schärfe der Beobachtung macht es passagenweise auch ganz unabhängig von dem konkreten Bezug zu einer lehrreichen Lektüre. So sind zum Beispiel die Bemerkungen zu „Opfer-Industrie und Therapiekultur“ unschwer etwa auf die in spanischen und baskischen Debatten um den Kampf der ETA vorherrschende Entpolitisierung der Gedenkkultur wiederzufinden. Und wem in unserer postmodernen Linken würde nicht die Entschärfung des Konflikts durch eine Verlagerung auf das Level der „narzistischen kleinen Differenzen“ bekannt vorkommen? „Zuvor wurde der Konflikt klar verstanden als ein politischer Konflikt zwischen zwei entgegengesetzten politischen Ideologien – Republikanismus und Unionismus. Die Frage war, wer letztendlich der Souverän war: Der Britische Staat oder das irische Volk als Ganzes. Der Friedensprozess hat das fundamental verändert: Der Konflikt wird nun neu definiert – nicht als ein Disput zwischen entgegengesetzten politischen Ideologien, sondern als kultureller Clash zwischen zwei unterschiedlichen kulturellen Identitäten.“ Die Frage, wer real die Souveränität in Nordirland hat, tritt zurück hinter Spiegelfechtereien darüber, wer wie viele Tage im Jahr welche Fahne irgendwohin hängen darf. Ó Ruaircs Buch gibt nicht nur einen guten Überblick über die Lage in Nordirland heute; es ist auch lesenswert im Hinblick auf aktuelle Entwicklungen auf der Insel. Denn so oder so, der Brexit wird die immer noch unvollendete Befreiung Irlands von britischer Vorherrschaft wieder in den Fokus der öffentlichen Debatte rücken. Und dabei kann es nicht schaden, die Stimmen dissidenter Linker aus Irland zumindest zur Kenntnis zu nehmen. ~ Lower Class Mag , https://lowerclassmag.com/2019/08/12/befriedung-ohne-frieden/
Liam Ó Ruairc has written an important, revelatory analysis of the peace process in Northern Ireland which I am confident will take its place among the best books written about this consequential period in Anglo-Irish history. His underlying thesis is that what has happened in the near thirty years or so since the IRA recognized the southern state and embarked on a journey to constitutionalism is less a peace process and more a pacification process in which the republicans and the British co-operated to drain and enfeeble the vital ideological juices which had sustained resistance to partition for so long. The war in Ireland began with republicans and their allies abroad viewing the NI situation as a relic of British colonialism and ended with the militants accepting that it was really just a struggle over cultural identity; in the process republicans have been drained of their radicalism and now subscribe entirely to the neo-liberalism panacea. It is impossible to read this book and not wonder at the scale of the British triumph. The companion to this book, explaining how British intelligence so completely overwhelmed the IRA, has yet to be written. Until then Ó Ruairc’s fine work will do very nicely. ~ Ed Moloney, former Northern Ireland editor for The Irish Times and The Sunday Tribune, author of: A Secret History of the IRA
Liam Ó Ruairc is one of the most fastidious commentators of the Irish political scene. Whether one agrees or disagrees with his opinion, his work is invariably scrupulously researched and supported evidentially. His book is, therefore, a welcome and valuable contribution to our understanding and analysis of the current political situation in the northern part of Ireland and deserves the wide readership that scholarship of this calibre merits. ~ Tommy McKearney, senior member of the Provisional IRA from the early 1970s until his arrest in 1977, author of: The Provisional IRA
A fascinating and provocative book. Even those who remain unpersuaded by its arguments will benefit from engaging with it. ~ Richard English CBE, Professor at and Pro-Vice-Chancellor Queen's University Belfast, author of Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA
Liam Ó Ruairc is a meticulous research with a particular eye for detail. A most astute observer of the Northern Irish political scene he has with this book brought acute discernment to major aspects of the peace process. This work will stand the test of time. ~ Anthony McIntyre PhD, former IRA prisoner who spent eighteen years in prison, author of Good Friday: The Death of Irish Republicanism
Liam Ó Ruairc's Peace or Pacification? Northern Ireland After the Defeat of the IRA offers an interesting and provocative perspective on the Northern Ireland peace process. Neo-liberals who believe that there has been a "peace dividend" and those who believe that the "revolutionary ideology" of Irish Republicanism has been "de-republicanized" will benefit from Ó Ruairc 's insightful presentation. ~ Robert W. White, author of Out of the Ashes: An Oral History of the Provisional Irish Republican Movement
Liam Ó Ruairc’s stated aim in this book is to present Irish republicanism as part of a wider, international struggle against oppression, injustice and exploitation. In exploring both the historical and contemporary forces that have shaped Irish politics he not only admirably succeeds in that project, but also challenges key aspects of the complacent consensus that has come to dominate public debate on both sides of the border since the late 1990s. By going beyond the mere repetition of worn out shibboleths Ó Ruairc’s account reclaims the ‘universal and emancipatory core’ of republicanism and thus opens up new possibilities for political thought and action in Ireland. ~ Dr. Kevin Bean, Lecturer in Irish Politics, Institute of Irish Studies,University of Liverpool, author of The New Politics of Sinn Féin