Twenty years later – hopes cynically dashed

Good Friday Agreement coverTwenty years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement,  and with the institutions in-operative for over twelve months, the hopes that were raised in 1998 have been cynically dashed by the sectarian power blocs that still dominate Northern Ireland.

Momentous advance                       The Agreement offered new possibilities. It was undoubtedly a momentous advance.

After thirty years of miserable sectarian terror the participants in the major sectarian blocs began to establish the basis for a settlement within which nationalists and unionists could reach some form of accommodation without relinquishing, in practice, their respective long-term constitutional ambitions. Of course, not everyone agreed.

Nationalist irredentism and unionist extremism combined in opposition to the Agreement. The people, however, said “yes” to the Agreement.

Limitations                                                                                                             We recognised the limitations of the Agreement and expressly  noted that it failed to reflect many of the concerns raised by the Workers’ Party over the previous 30 years.

However, the Party welcomed the Agreement as a realisation of the hopes of the people of Northern Ireland and as an opportunity to advance the long-standing and consistent Workers’ Party demand for devolution and the Party’s programme of Anti-Sectarianism, Peace, Work, Democracy and Class Politics.

Institutional Sectarianism                                                                                      An Agreement constructed on the faulty foundations of sectarian division; an institutional framework which incorporates sectarianism at its core and an Assembly and Executive which effectively manages sectarianism, rather than seeking to eradicate it, will not and cannot deliver for the working class and the process becomes a recipe for competing and conflicting communal interests, continuing division and open sectarian conflict.

Lowest common denominator                                                                                 The refusal of the unionist and nationalists to keep the focus on the big picture – the creation of a new Northern Ireland – and their decision to pander to the lowest common denominator within their own constituencies robbed the Agreement of what was advanced as its essential political underpinnings which marked it out as a new departure, the so-called historic compromise.

Continuing division                                                                                                 An Agreement constructed on the faulty foundations of sectarian division; an institutional framework which incorporates sectarianism at its core and an Assembly and Executive which effectively manages sectarianism, rather than seeking to eradicate it, will not and cannot deliver for the working class and the process becomes a recipe for competing and conflicting communal interests, continuing division and open sectarian conflict.

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