Friday, June 26, 2009

An phoblacht's view on the recent racist attacks in Belfast

I was asked to post the editoral from An Phoblacht concerning the recent racist attacks in Belfast. It was recently stated that not enough Sinn Féin activists are reading the paper and as a result many are not aware of the party's position or thinking on current issues.

So here you go. See what you think.

Sectarianism and racism must be confronted

DESPITE all the political progress of recent years there are still some unionist politicians in the North who continue to oppose equality and refuse to confront sectarianism.

The Six Counties is a state that was established on the basis of sectarianism and inequality. It remains sectarian at its core. When Unionism was in control of the institutions of state it abused those institutions and used its political power to sustain its control.

Sectarianism is a device to keep citizens in their place. Catholics were the main target of this sectarianism and victims of state policies of discrimination.
Sectarianism also kept working class Protestants in their place, divided from their Catholic neighbours and distrustful of them even though in many cases living conditions, particularly for all poor working class people, were similar.
Because the North is a sectarian state and because unionism could not be trusted to govern fairly, the outcomes of the Good Friday Agreement and the Saint Andrews Agreement are all-Ireland in nature, particularly in their institutions.
There are also many equality and other legal safeguards built into the new political dispensation. These include compulsory power sharing and partnership political arrangements. ‘Thinking unionism’ knows that this will be the case for as long as the new dispensation lasts and fair minded unionist MLAs have slowly but surely come to terms with this reality. They fulfil their political duties in a positive way. They also appreciate that these safeguards are to their advantage as the constitutional position changes in the future.

Others, inside and outside the North’s Assembly, toy with the idea that the system of governance can be changed. If they are serious, they are living in Fantasy Land.
If the new political dispensation is to deliver for everyone, it will do so because all political parties have entered into the spirit as well as the letter of power sharing.

Any suggestion that the compulsory nature of the power sharing arrangements can be changed is dishonest and misleading. Those who argue for this position know that it is unattainable. All politicians have a duty to set their faces against sectarianism.
Recent attacks on members of the Romanian community in South Belfast and other attacks against people from eastern Europe in other parts of the North have led many people to correctly draw parallels between these racist incidents and the long history of sectarian discrimination and violence in the Six Counties. Racism and sectarianism are two sides of the one coin.The tolerance that is shown by many political leaders for sectarianism makes it inevitable that racism will thrive. It also needs to be confronted.

Friday, June 19, 2009

How will Sinn Féin tackle reactionary groups within the unionist working class?

Over the past number of weeks some of the worst elements within the unionist working class have come to the fore. The first incident was the murder of Kevin McDaid by a loyalist mob and the second has been the racist attacks on Romanian families in Belfast.

The response by Sinn Féin to both of these cases has been strong condemnation and a call for the police and local community to come together to prosecute those involved. Martin McGuinness has made clear and correct statements on the fact that the motivation behind these attacks is reactionary and should be opposed by all progressive forces within society.

The question I ask here is that all we can do? Is/will Sinn Féin be forced to simply condemn these attacks from the outside and to call on other groups to tackle these reactionary elements within working class unionism?

To date I’m unaware of anything happening within Coleraine that could be viewed as any orgainsed attempt to challenge the bigotry that led to Kevin McDaid’s death. However within Belfast that is not the case. The clearest challenge to the forces of racism has come form Paddy Meehan of the Socialist party Youth wing. He has been there organising resistance to racist attacks. He has stood with the Romanian families when they needed support and he was there to be counted and as a result he has been informed of death threats against him.

Yes, I know he has put himself forward as a resident’s spokesperson and kept his party loyalties in the background. And yes I know the Socialist party have avoided issues such as the RIR and other issues, but so what.

Paddy Meehan is doing what every good socialist knows needs to be done. He knows that the way to deal with these reactionary elements is to force the issue out into the open and deal with it. Communities need to confront the issues around these types of attacks and the community needs to decide whether it sees such behaviour as acceptable. If this does not happen and people are allowed to turn a blind eye to such attacks, then those behind them grow in power and influence. This then results in victims of such attacks becoming in ever-greater danger of serious injury or death.

So where does this leave Sinn Féin? How do we propose to be able to stand with Paddy Meehan and others in fighting racism? How can we develop in such a way so that we can be seen on the streets (in unionist working class areas) with progressive groups, immigrants and concerned residents? When do we see ourselves as being able to put our views across in person to the unionist working class?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Do actions speak louder than words? Selling northern coalition ploicies to left wing voters.

Following the election I have not posted anything because I wished to let the dust settle and recharge my batteries.

Below are two articles I received concerning Sinn Fein’s role in the Northern Government. The first article is from a Sinn Féin member in the South who was/is struggling to justify to others, and himself, the parties differing attitude to Public Finance Initiatives in the north and in the South.

This to me is very valid viewpoint. When Sinn Féin supporters in the South go around promoting our left wing policies it is hard to respond to left wing criticism of certain actions taken by our ministers in the North. In the case of the first article it is Public Private Financing of projects.

The second article asks what can be done about this contradiction and proposes how we can possibly move forward.

Policy must apply on an all-Ireland basis by Slán Abhaile

Over the past number of months I have noticed some inconsistencies in the way in which the party is applying policy North and South of the border.One recent instance of this is the signing of a contract, oversaw by Education Minister Catriona Ruane, for the construction of four schools in the Co. Down area. The contract for £4.45million is to be completed by Public Private Partnership (PPP), yet Sinn Féin policy is explicit in its opposition to Public Private Partnerships and it features prominently in our Local Government Election Manifesto 2009.

In the past these Public Private Partnerships have been bad value for taxpayer’s money and several examples litter the island such as the farce that is the toll bridge on Dublin’s M50 motorway. Ms. Ruane must be questioned regarding her support for a Public Private Partnership and the actual cost of this Partnership must be made public, as has been demanded by Sinn Féin of similar Fianna Fail-backed PPPs in the 26 Counties.

Second Article 

The UUP have entered into an alliance with the English conservative party. The English Conservative Party looks set to win the next election on the island of Britain. The Conservative Party NI spokesperson has echoed UUP sentiment that they view the involuntary nature of coalition in the six counties as a temporary arrangement and that they view majority rule as the favourable solution. After years of work there are major problems in this for SF but for the sake of argument and the sake of this blog looking at things in a left perspective hypothetically could there be a positive?

If after a fight/negotiations etc there were guaranteed legal rights for the minority in the northern statelet, a greater role for the south to secure them, an Irish language act, finance raising powers, transfer of police and justice powers etc. What if in such circumstances SF did take up a position of the largest opposition party, would it be all bad?

At the moment one of the negatives of our involvement in the executive is having to implement economics that we feel uncomfortable with. Water charges, teacher assistants cuts, public private partnerships etc. this is inconsistent with our position in the south and has opened us up for criticism on such issues. After an election where we were the only left wing party not to benefit from a swing do such weaknesses matter? I think they might. Some people think we’re right wing others left. It’s a major problem that there’s a doubt.

If we were in a role of opposition in the six counties we would have a consistent message across Ireland. The issues are the same, government cuts, privatisation, marginalisation etc the boarder doesn’t distinguish. As Seamus Costello said, "I believe in guerrilla tactics inside and outside of parliaments."

What if we changed tactic in the north? Obviously there are losses but we have proved able to turn weakness into strength before. Hypothetically is there a case for it here?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

This site is simply washing Sinn Féin's dirty laundry in public

I received this post as a comment and again i think the points raised are valid and should be discussed.

This is a general comment on your blog, having read through your earlier posts.

I mean this genuinely with no disrespect, as I don't know you or your background in the party. I realize your intention here is something positive, but would it not fit you better, rather than washing dirty laundry in public about the party, to get more involved in your local party structures and argue your case from there?

I think you'll find the more active you are and the more responsibility you take on, the more respect you will have in SF circles - the more respect you have then the easier it is to argue your case up the line and have leadership people take your views on board.again no disrespect - but would you stand at the side of the road with a megaphone criticizing and debating the parties faults? No? well then why do it on the internet?