Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Guest Post: Protests against a return to violence

Mark McCormick from the Irish Green Party has very kindly written me a guest post on the silent protests in response to the recent killings by dissident republicans in the north of Ireland.

The killings of two British Soldiers, no older than I, and the killing of a PSNI Officer who left behind a wife children and grandchildren has cast a dark mood throughout our small province of Northern Ireland.

I was actually at the Irish Green Party conference in a small B&B on Sunday morning when I faintly heard the radio broadcast say two soldiers have been shot in Antrim. I thought I must have misheard assuming it must have been an attack in Iraq or Afghanistan... returning to my room I turned on the TV to see the news report and my stomach turned in knots.

I grew up coming out of the troubles thankfully. The Peace Process was what I grew up through and I have lived a very peaceful life so far in Northern Ireland. The thought that some people wish a return to the violence of the past sickens me and so many people young and old throughout our society.

For the first time we seen Peter Robinson of the DUP, Martin McGuiness of Sinn Fein and Hugh Orde of the PSNI stand side by side and condemn this violence. This was one shining beacon coming out of all this. Staunch Unionists and Staunch Republicans coming together to condemn the violence.

Today Silent Protests where organised throughout Northern Ireland with the largest rally in Belfast City Centre. Thousands of people from all faiths, backgrounds and political persuasions stood side by side in silence. It was such a moving moment to stand there and see just how many people were standing with me. It became clear, no one wants a return to the old days of blood and tears. I held a banner which I believe summed up the mood of all people there "Dear Dissidents, Hear our Plea - Please end the Killing Spree."

I don't think the Dissidents will heed our plea. When the two soldiers were shot two pizza delivery men were also shot. At first everyone thought they were caught in the cross fire. To our horror when the Real IRA released a statement they said they purposely shot the pizza delivery men for collaborating with the British Army - collaborating by delivering them pizza. This sort of act shows the mindset of these people. They are trapped in the past, they will never move on.

For this conflict to end we need strong political leadership that will unite the people against those who wish to destroy the peace process that we have worked so hard to achieve so that our children will not have to see the violence we have witnessed the past few days.


QUB GREENS said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
QUB GREENS said...

Thank you for the opportunity to write this Jim.

It was a very moving protest and I am glad to share the experience in some way or form with others.

Best wishes

Mark McCormick

ModernityBlog said...

good post

Charlie Marks said...

The way to resolve this? Hold a referendum on Irish reunification across Ireland. I am disappointed this isn't addressed in the post.

Jim Jay said...

I know what you're saying Charlie but I wanted a feel of what people are saying there, and I really don't think that's on people's agenda.

Don't get me wrong I think there's scope to say some really interesting things about reunification in today's context - but I suspect people are wary of the baggage that kind of politics brings with it (in that context, not thinking about the left/Marxist position in this case) and it seems to me there are people looking towards a "new left" that focuses on working class, environmental and social justice issues.

Those people seem to be holding the (correct) slogan of a united ireland at arms length. I think I can understand why that is.

Green Gordon said...

Honestly, a referendum on reunification? And what would the result of that be? Would a 51% majority be enough, or we would we say two thirds? What do we do with the 1/3 of people who didn't want to leave? Should we bring in partition and ethnic cleansing? You might find some the losing side getting back into violence pretty quickly (with presumed retaliation)...

These recent murders have strong historical resonance, but they need to be treated as divorced from that, and as crimes of violent idealogical sociopaths, rather than indicative of any movement.

How many members are there between the two groups? I'm sure I was told the Real IRA is about 6 people... (wikipedia says a maximum of about 150 each).

One crazed republican (or loyalist) can commit many murders, but it's disapointing to see this framed as a possible return to old times. Is it that easy?

QUB GREENS said...

With all respects Charlie Marks the silent protest was for to express our disgust at the killings, our sympathy with the families of those killed and to tell the men and women of violence that they are not welcome in Ireland.

To try and hijack the situation by calling for a referendum on Irish reunification would have been very inapropriate during that protest.

Mark McCormick

Charlie Marks said...

Mark - you are right, the protests initiated by the trade unions were about asserting social solidarity and the road of peaceful politics; anything else would have been counterproductive as well as disrespectful.

I was not saying that there should have been any hijacking, I was referring to your guest post in which you say nothing of the future of Ireland. Linking the decision on reunification to peaceful politics and citizen participation. Armed groups go behind the backs of people to carry out acts which are ultimately detrimental to their supposed aims, to say nothing of the grief caused.

Green Gordon - the Good Friday Agreement which has led to power-sharing, police reform, and an end to army operations in the Six Counties, was on the basis that any moves towards reunification would be on the basis of referenda. Indeed, the GFA was put to the people in referenda in both the Republic of Ireland and in the Six Counties where it received majority backing. The reason the Irish flag is green white and orange was to reflect the different communities on the island, 2% of the population of the Republic of Ireland are Protestants, they have not faced ethnic cleansing nor partition.

Green Gordon said...

There's a pretty different context to what's going on in the south and north of Ireland? Presumably protestant Irish people are happy living in Ireland (or accepting of it). I'm not sure you could say the same for Protestants in the north.

Why reunify, anyway? Would it lead to a safeguarded peace? Should the referendum be across NI or the whole island? Would the protestants have some form of electoral of protection against how greatly they would be outnumbered by citizens of the Irish Republic (in the referendum)?

Power-sharing, police-reform, and getting the army out seem good. What would reunification add?

Joseph said...

Just as a matter of information, without discussing the political content of the post, Mark is also the Co-Secretary of the Green Islands Network, which held a conference last Saturday in London with MEP Jean Lambert. Unfortunately Steven Agnew, the lead Green Party Euro candidate in Northern Ireland, was unable to make it but he was due to speak about the current state of affairs there.

GIN is the body for Green parties in these islands and recently agreed to grant membership to the Cornish Green Party. I am Mark's predecessor as Secretary. The other Co-Secretary is Tommy Simpson from the Republic. So GIN now has two Co-Secretaries on either side of the border, which I think is a good symbol.