Originally published in
F R E E D O M
A Sinn Fein Education Publication
The Unionists · Civil Rights · Government Repression
The Hunger Strikes · Social Issues · Electoral Rights
Pathway to Peace · Conditions for Peace
A Scenario for Peace
IRELANDLOCATION: Ireland is situated on the most western periphery of the continent of Europe.
AREA: 84,421 sq. kilometers.
CLOSEST LAND MASS: Britain
DOMESTIC DEBT: £20,000 million.
THROUGHOUT history, the island of Ireland has been regarded as a single national unit. Prior to the Norman invasions from England In 1169, the Irish people were distinct from other nations, cultivating their own system of law, culture, language, and political and social structures.
Until 1921, the island of Ireland was governed as a single political unit as a colony of Britain. A combined political/military campaign by Irish nationalists between the years 1916 to 1921 forced the British government to consider its position.
``The historical and contemporary existence of the Irish nation has never been in dispute. For centuries, Britain has sought to conquer, dominate and rule Ireland. For centuries, the Irish people have sought to free Ireland from British rule. Britain, a large, powerful and ruthless colonial power, was able to defeat the numerous and sustained efforts of the Irish people to liberate themselves. In the course of the 19th century, as a result of British oppression and famine, the population of Ireland was halved.''
Séan MacBride S. C, recipient of the 1983 Nobel and Lenin peace prizes.
With the objective of `protecting English interests with an economy of English lives' (Lord Birkenhead), the partition of Ireland was conceived.
Partition was imposed on the Irish people by an Act of Parliament, the Government of Ireland Act (1920), passed in the British legislature. The consent of the Irish people was never sought and was never freely given.
Proffered as a solution under the threat of ``immediate and terrible war'' (Lloyd George, the then British Prime Minister). The Act made provision for the creation of two states in Ireland: the ``Irish Free State'' (later to become known as the Republic of Ireland), containing 26 of Ireland's 32 counties; and ``Northern Ireland'' containing the remalnlng six counties.
Northern Ireland (the Six Counties) represented the greatest land area in which Irish unionists could maintain a majority.
The partition line first proposed had encompassed the whole province of Ulster (nine counties). Unionists rejected this because they could not maintain a majority in such an enlarged area.
All Ireland: 4,953,297
Six Counties: 1,509,892 (900,000 Protestant, 600,000 Catholic)
Twenty-six Counties: 3,443,405
Combined Nationalist population of Ireland: 3,983,063
1,200,000 people are living in poverty;
In the 26 Counties, 59% of households are estimated to be existing below the poverty line or are headed by an unemployed person.
The partition of Ireland was merely an innovation of the British governments tried and trusted colonial strategy of divide and rule, used throughout its former colonial empire.
However, while the British government had the single objective of `protecting English interests', its strategy for achieving this created deeper, more acute and more bitter multiple divisions in Irish society than those previously fostered, and which, until then, had helped sustain British rule in Ireland.
``British interference led to the Civil War (1922-23) which has disrupted the life of the country for several decades. The imposition of partition had led to a permanent insurrectionary situation in the six North Eastern counties of Ireland.''
Séan MacBride S. C.
Partition did not only physically divide the national territory of Ireland. It spawned the Civil War in 1922, which has moulded politics in the 26-County state ever since. It made more acute the divisions between nationalists and unionists in the Six-County state, and between the population of the two states. Not least, it created real and lasting divisions among nationalists themselves.
Increasingly, partition has generated the foolish and self-interested ostrich mentality in the power structures of the two statelets, which seeks piecemeal treatment of the symptoms, through coercion and censorship, instead of root-and-branch treatment of the problem.
Throughout the 19th century and until partition in this century, the British government provided its colonial rule in Ireland with a cover of `democracy'. Like other colonial powers in continental Europe, which `integrated' their colonies into the imperialist state, Britain `integrated' Ireland into the `United Kingdom' through the Act of Union (1801), which made provision for Irish representation at the British parliament.
In the changed conditions of a full-blown struggle for independence in 1920, new means for `protecting British interests' had to be found together with a new `justification' for the continuing British presence which that necessitated.
The `wishes' of Irish unionists in North East Ireland have provided that `justification' since partition.
Today, this finds expression in Article 1 (a) of the `Anglo-lrish Treaty' signed in November 1985.
Article 1 (a) states:
``The Two Governments
(a) Affirm that any change in the status of Northern Ireland would only come about with the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland.''
British government-fostered political division between Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants through a system of political, social and economic privilege has produced today's unionists in the Six Counties. Unionists seek the maintenance of British rule on their terms for a variety of reasons, including the perception that it protects their interests as conferred by privilege. Unionists are held up by the British government as the major reason for its continuing presence in Ireland.
Today's unionists represent some 20% of the Irish nation. They are a national minority, a significant minority, but a minority nevertheless. To bestow the power of veto over national independence and sovereignty on a national minority is in direct contravention of the principle of self-determination. To prescribe self-determination for a nationalist minority as a distinct entity from the rest of the nation is a mutation of the principle of self-determination.
British government policy has created and maintained a division of political allegiances in Ireland,the national allegiance of a clear nationalist majority and the pro-British allegiance of a national minority.
That policy upholds the political allegiance of the unionists as a national minority against the national and democratic rights of the nationalist majority.
When a people are divided in political allegiance, the democratic principle is that majority rights should prevail,the more so when such fundamentals as national rights are in question.
``On what rightful principle may a state, being not more than one-fifth part of the Nation in soil and population, break up the Nation and then cause a proportionately large sub-division of itself in a most arbitrary way?''
Both as individuals and as a significant national minority, unionists have democratic rights which not only can be upheld but which must be upheld in an independent Ireland. That is the democratic norm. That is an essential ingredient of peace and stability.
Those democratic rights, however, must not extend to a veto over the national rights of the Irish people as a whole.
However, the unionists hold only tenancy of the veto.
The title deeds rest in the political vaults of Westminster and Downing Street.
The unionist veto is, in fact, the British manufactured gerrymander which dictated the size and make-up of the respective populations of the Six and 26-County states.
The historical and contemporary purpose of that gerrymander was, and is, to protect British interests through the erection of a barrier against Irish reunification in perpetuity. lt flouts all the accepted concepts of democracy. As such, it is basically flawed. The inequities which the Six-County state has spawned are an inevitable consequence of its very existence.
Inequality is the price which has had to be paid for a state founded on a system of political, social and economic privilege. That price will be demanded and paid for as long as that state exists.
In the wake of partition, unionist society rapidly adopted a monolithic structure with an almost seamless fusion of political, social, religious and industrial organizations. Unionist political and economic influence and control permeated all aspects of society. Sir Basil Brooke, who was Prime Minister of `Northern Ireland' for 20 years, synopsised the situation thus: ``I have always said that I am an Orangeman first and a politician and a member of parliament afterwards... All l boast is that we have a Protestant parliament and a Protestant state.''
The inbuilt, manufactured unionist majority meant continuous government by the Unionist Party and its control of the autonomous legislature at Stormont. For the Unionist Party, its single most important piece of legislation was the Special Powers Act (SPA). The SPA was a comprehensive piece of repressive legislation with wide-ranging powers of search, arrest, detention and imprisonment and included the power to prohibit inquests.
So appealing was the SPA to despots that it prompted the then South African Minister for Justice Mr. Vorster, to say that he ``would be willing to exchange all the [South African] legislation of that sort for one clause of the Northern Ireland Special Powers Act.''
The SPA was actively and enthusiastically enforced by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) - nominally the police force but in effect the paramilitary adjunct of the Unionist Party - and its reserve force the `B'-Specials. Both forces were overwhelmingly Protestant in composition, the latter exclusively so.
For nationalists, Brooke's ``Protestant state'' was a system of political and economic apartheid with which the envious Mr. Vorster could easily find an affinity:
Unionist rule was conditional only on its ability to maintain British interests through political stability.
Organized discontent with the apartheid system began to emerge in the late `60s and led to the formation of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. Its moderate demands were aimed at trying to reform and democratize the state. The issue of partition was not part of its agenda. Unionists, however, interpreted any form of political dissent, however moderate, as a threat to their privileged position and the union with Britain.
Peaceful civil rights supporters were consequently viciously attacked by the RUC and B-Specials. The violent reaction of the state shocked the world as television cameras relayed scenes of unprovoked attacks on civil rights marches and demonstrations. The British government was not prepared to allow its interests to be compromised by widespread political unrest. At 5 p.m. on August 14th, 1969, substantial numbers of British soldiers moved into Belfast and Derry. The British army was injected into the situation under the propaganda cover of being a peace-keeping force deployed ``to keep the warring factions apart''. The `religious war' myth was regenerated as justification for the occupation. In reality, it had been introduced as a life-support unit to sustain a state which was under threat of collapse.
The bad dream of partition was about to be come the `nationalist nightmare'. Within a relatively short period, the British army's real job became apparent. With the unionist government nominally still in control, the actual power behind the throne was the British government's proxy, the British army.
The Falls Curfew, Interment and Bloody Sunday in Derry, clearly identified it as an indispensable and major instrument of government for Westminster in the same way as the RUC had previously served the Stormont regime.
Within weeks of the Bloody Sunday massacre in 1972, Westminster had prorogued Stormont and resumed direct responsibility for the governance of its colony.
Some two decades ago, people in the Six Counties were marching for civil rights, Justice, equality and self-respect.
The moderate and just demands of the Civil Rights movement were:
Pursuit of those demands and the Stormont regime's reaction to it brought the state to a point of collapse. Only the life-support system provided by the British army staved off the collapse, and in the process of attempting to sustain the state has exacerbated the situation.
A brief, and by no means comprehensive, survey of the situation over the past 20 years and as it exists now demonstrates the denial of civil rights throughout that period and the current state of civil rights today.
The SPA was indeed repealed. However, it was replaced by even more comprehensive repressive legislation, chiefly embodied in the Emergency Provision Act (EPA) and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). This has had the effect that since its inception, the Six-county state has been continuously governed by repressive legislation.
Anyone can be stopped by British forces anywhere, at any time. They must give their name, address, where they are coming from, where they are going to.
Anyone can be arrested anywhere, at any time. A detainee can be held for up to seven days for interrogation. More than 60,000 arrests have thus taken place. No further legal action was taken against the overwhelming majority of those arrested. Powers of arrest, therefore, are used largely for purposes of gathering information. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that seven-day detentions are in contravention of the European Convention. Britain accordingly derogated from the Convention. This represents the eighth occasion that such a derogation from the Convention by the British government has occurred. In almost all cases, the offenses related to human rights violation in Ireland.
Some 7,000 people have been charged with politically motivated offences. A substantial percentage were charged solely on the basis of statements of admission extracted through torture and maltreatment. The British government has been found guilty of ``inhuman and degrading'' treatment by the European Court of Human Rights. It is regularly criticized over treatment of detainees in interrogation centres by Amnesty International. The Guildford Four, the Birmingham Six and the Maguire Seven cases are only the tip of the iceberg.
More than 2,000 people were interned without charge or trial between 1971 and 1975. The power to intern remains on the statute books and can be reactivated at any time.
Torture and maltreatment of detainees during interrogation replaced internment as the chief means of removing opponents from the streets. In one three-year period in the late `70s, 94% of all charges were brought on the basis of statements of admission thus extracted, while 80% of all convictions were similarly based.
Widespread torture was replaced as a policy, as the result of a national and international outcry, by the use of paid-perjurers and mass show-trials involving up to 40 defendants. This in turn had to be abandoned because of public outrage and discredited prosecution witnesses, but can be reactivated at any time.
With the ending of internment, the securing of convictions was facilitated by the use of juryless, single judge Diplock courts. Many of the judges have direct links with the Unionist Party.
Diplock judges can now draw a negative legal inference from the detainees' exercise of their right to silence during Interrogation. In effect, the right to silence now ceases to exist.
Changes in the Judges' Rules of Evidence have meant that in firearms and explosives cases the onus of proof lies with the defendants. Defendants are deemed guilty until they can prove their innocence.
Extensive powers to search have led to the searching of almost 300,000 premises.
Any property can be seized for the use of the military. Residences, schools, industrial premises, sports grounds and farmland have been seized for use as military installations.
The British government has now vested itself with the powers to seize the homes of political opponents.
Spontaneous anti-government demonstrations are prohibited by the Public Order (Nl) Order 1987, which demands seven days' notice of any demonstration and contains intimidatory clauses which require that the organizers provide their names and addresses to the authorities.
Legislation introduced in 1988 means that the broadcast media are banned from interviewing republican spokespersons. Effectively, the British government can carry out its undemocratic policies in Ireland with impunity.
The Payment of Debt Act effectively removed from the nationalist population the only limited economic muscle it possessed in its ability to withhold monies due to public bodies.
Other gross violations of human rights have been carried out by both the British army and RUC, with the perpetrators being given the full support of the legal and judicial system to act with impunity.
Rubber and plastic bullets have been used as a means of intimidating and deterring demonstrations. Since 1973, more than 54,000 of these lethal projectiles have been fired at the civilian population. Seventeen people, eight of them young children, have been killed, most in circumstances which amount to murder. Hundreds have been seriously injured. Injuries include serious mental and physical disablement.
Over 300, mainly unarmed, nationalists have been killed by members of the various security agencies, the British army and the RUC. Over 160 people have been killed in disputed circumstances.
British forces have been given virtual immunity from conviction by the Diplock courts for offenses committed while on duty. In 20 years, only one British soldier has been convicted in the Diplock courts for murder while on duty. Despite receiving a life sentence, the soldier was released after serving only two years and three months, and was immediately reinstated in the army.
Since the early 1970s, the British government has periodically engaged in a policy of eliminating political opponents. Initially, this policy was restricted to the attempt to kill opponents in `credible circumstances' - in possession of or in proximity to weapons or explosives. Since the early `80s, however, it has been the general rule that the killing takes place first and ``credible circumstances'' are manufactured afterwards. This was the case in the series of killings carried out in Armagh in 1982 and again in Gibraltar in 1988. Amnesty International has called these ``extra-judicial killings'' and has demanded a judicial inquiry into all disputed killings. The British government has refused.
In addition to the oppression meted out by nationalist government forces, the nationalist population has suffered the onslaught of attacks from the extremes of unionism.
Almost 700 people, 90.5% nationalists, have been victims of sectarian assassinations perpetrated by loyalist paramilitaries. Many of these killings have been carried out with the collusion of members of the British army and RUC.
In August 1969, Interment week 1972 and in the wake of the signing of the Hillsborough Treaty in 1985, thousands of nationalists were fire-bombed out of their homes by loyalist extremists.
Sporadic attacks on nationalist homes and individuals have been a constant feature of the past 20 years.
As well as the trauma and suffering on the streets, nationalist opponents of British rule in Ireland were selected for very special treatment inside British prisons. The struggle for decent conditions, dignity and recognition as political prisoners has been constant throughout the past 20 years and continues today. Of all the prison campaigns the most publicized, because of the numbers involved and because of the toll of lives extracted, was the `blanket protest' which culminated in the hunger-strikes of 1980 and 1981.
Deprived of political status in 1975, republican prisoners refused to don prison uniforms and clad themselves in blankets. Within a short period, the punitive actions of the regime forced them to live in their cells surrounded by their own excrement. Beatings and degradation were used, in an attempt to break the prisoners' will. For four years, the prisoners persevered in the most awful conditions. On October 27th 1980, a hunger-strike began which was to last 53 Days. It extracted sufficient concessions from the British government to make a settlement possible. Having secured the end of the hunger-strike, the British reneged. A second hunger-strike was initiated on March 1st 1981. It lasted 217 days, ending on October 3rd. International censure of the British, and with it the irrefutable recognition of political status, which the British had so vainly and bloody-mindedly attempted to deny, was the formal outcome.
In the interim, ten young Irishmen, Bobby Sands, Francis Hughes, Ray McCreesh, Patsy O'Hara, Joe McDonnell, Martin Hurson, Kevin Lynch, Kieran Doherty, Tom McElwee and Mickey Devine, had given their lives. Mairéad Farrell, who participated In the first hunger-strike, was later to be killed In Gilbralter by the British Army's Special Air Services.
On the streets, Paul Whitters (15), Julie Livingstone (14), Carol Ann Kelly (12), Harry Duffy (45), Nora McCabe (29), Peter Doherty (40) and Peter Magennis (40) were killed by plastic bullets.
The Hunger Strike Commemorative Web Site
Structural discrimination in employment has remained a feature of British government rule in the Six Counties. Direct responsibility for that lies with the British government.
Discrimination has, in fact, been synonymous with British rule. Unionist loyalty - the rockbed of the British presence - is in part, conditional on the maintenance of the economic privilege, often marginal, which employment discrimination has conferred on unionists.
Patterns of discrimination which existed throughout the period of the Stormont regime have remained intact since Westminster assumed direct responsibility for the governance of the Six Counties. In one aspect, unemployment, the situation of nationalists has actually deteriorated.
Unemployment in the Six Counties in April 1989 officially stood at 107,623, representing 15.6% of the workforce. Trade union estimates place the figures at least 40,000 higher. Areas which suffer most unemployment are the nationalist areas west of the River Bann - Dungannon, Strabane and Derry - and West Tyrone.
In 1970, nationalists (40% of the population) were twice as likely to be unemployed as unionists.
By the 1980s, nationalists were 2.5 to 3 times as likely to be unemployed. This despite an annual turnover in the jobs market of 100,000 and the introduction 13 years ago of legislation which had the alleged aim of eradicating discrimination. Newly enacted anti-discrimination legislation has failed to get the full support of either the British Labour Party or the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. lt has ignored the recommendations most likely to produce positive effect, which were presented to the British government by its own Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights (SACHR). It appears that the British government's objectivein introducing the new legislation is to attempt to relieve itself of the political pressure. It has been subjected to on the issue as a result of the MacBride Principles campaign in the United States.
With the obvious and undeniable abuses in the exercise of franchise under the Stormont regime, which bd to the demand for `one man, one vote', had to be removed and could be removed without posing any threat to the state, the British government has, in the `80s, introduced legislation specifically to hamper the exercise of franchise by Sinn Fein supporters.
Identification requirements at the polling booth are directed at disenfranchising the overwhelmingly working class Sinn Fein voter.
Prisoners can no longer stand as candidates.
Ex-prison candidates for local government seats must have completed their sentence five years in advance of their candidacy.
An anti-violence declaration for local government candidates was introduced in an attempt to deter Sinn Fein candidates from standing in the hope of disqualifying succesful Sinn Fein candidates at a future date.
Censorship in the broadcast media denies SInn Fein the ability to address the electorate on relevant issues.
``Britain cannot solve the Irish problem because we caused it with partition in 1920 and we are still part of it. A settlement can not be reached until Britain has withdrawn, totally, from Ireland... That is the only way out of continuing bigotry, hatred, anarchy and murder... It wouldn't be weakness for Britain to leave. It would be strength. It is the only path to permanent peace'' Robert Maxwell, (proprietor) in an editorial in the Iargest circulation British daily newspaper, the Daily Mirror, August 10th 1989.
Peace is not simply the absence of war or conflict.
lt is the existence of conditions of justice and equality which eradicate the causes of war or conflict. It is the existence of conditions in which the absence of war or conflict is self-sustaining.
The Irish people have never known peace. Despite protracted periods of an absence of war, the conditions fostered and imposed on them have ensured perennial conflict. The Irish people have a right to peace. They have a right to political structures which are capable of sustaining peace, of making peace permanent. They have a right to decide for themselves what those structures should be. They have an obligation to ensure that the ethos and practice of those structures guarantee equality for all Irish people and serve the best interests of all the Irish people.
Those who claim to seek permanent peace, justice, democracy, equality of opportunity, and stability cannot refute that the abiding and universally accepted principle of Nationalist self-determination, in which is enshrined the principle of democracy, is the surest means within which to further those political and social aims and, once having achieved them, of maintaining them. The refusal by successive British governments to allow the Irish nation to exercise its right to self-determination has been, and is, British government policy. That policy is the root cause of the conflict. That policy, in conjunction with the measures taken to maintain it, is the cause of the ruptures in the relationships between the Irish people themselves and between Ireland and Britain.
Division and coercion have always been, and are, the basic tenets of that policy. Division obtains not only in the physical division of the country through partition but in the British government-sponsored division which spawned the Civil War in 1922 and which has molded politics in the 26-County state ever since; in the divisions between nationalists and unionists which were cultivated by an inequitable system of Privilege and sustained by the British government-bestowed unionist veto which, as designed, guarantees partition; and finally, but not least, in the very real divisions among nationalists themselves.
Self-determination is universally accepted to mean a nation's right to exercise the political freedom to determine its own social, economic and cultural development without extreme influence and without partial or total disruption of the national unity or territorial integrity.
Those criteria are not observed in Ireland.
British government involvement in Ireland has been in contravention of all the long-established international norms which give reign to conditions conducive to the establishment of Internal peace, democracy, justice, stability and national freedom, and, by extension, to the development of good relations between Ireland and Britain.
The right of the Irish people, as a whole, to self-determination is supported by universally recognized principles of International law established in the two United Nations' Covenants of 1966. Articles 1 of each Covenant states:
``1. All peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they determine their economic, social and cultural development''. Also:
``...all people have the right freely to determine, without external intervention, their political status and to pursue their economic, social and cultural development and every state has the duty to respect thls right in accordance with the provisions of the charter.''
Partition is also in contravention of the United Nations' declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. Article 6 of which states:
``Any attempt aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and the territorial integrity of a country is incompatible with the purposes and principals of the charter of the United Nations.''
The national territory of Ireland has been physically divided by partition with the British government assuming sovereignty over the Six Counties.
The Irish people are divided within the Six Counties and between the Six and 26 Counties.
National unity, far from being allowed to develop, has been consciously and deliberately fractured in the interests of the British government. The social, economic and cultural development of Ireland has been variously disrupted, stultified or eroded.
The responsibly for partition - for conceiving, enforcing and maintaining it - lies with the British government. The pretext for partition - the wishes of a national minority to maintain British rule - holds no validity against the express wishes of a clear national majority.
Nevertheless, British government interests have dictated that the opposite should be the case.
The root cause of the conflict in Ireland is the denial of democracy, the refusal by the British government to allow the Irish people to exercise their right to national self-determination.
The solution to the conflict in Ireland lies In the democratic exercise of that right in the form of national re-unification, national independence and sovereignty.
In the words of the late Séan MacBride, Irish recipient of both the Nobel and Lenin peace prizes:
``Ireland's right to sovereignty, independence and unity are inalienable and indefeasible. It is for the Irish people as a whole to determine the future status of Ireland. Neither Britain nor a small minority selected by Britain has any right to partition the ancient island of Ireland, nor to determine its future as a sovereign nation.''
A true and lasting peace in Ireland can only be achieved by the creation of the necessary political conditions. These conditions are:
It is only through the process of decolonisation and dialogue that a peaceful, stable Ireland will emerge. Only when independence is restored can Ireland hope to prosper and take her place among the nations of the world.
The onus is on the British government to ensure a peaceful transition to a united and independent Ireland. The shape of that society is a matter for the Irish people. Only when Britain recognizes that right and initiates a strategy of decolonisation along these lines will peace and reconciliation between Irish people and between Britain and Ireland be established.
THE Island of Ireland, throughout history, has been universally regarded as one unit.
The historical and contemporary existence of the Irish nation has never been disputed.
The Irish people have never relinquished their claim to the right of self-determination.
What has been in contest is the right of the Irish people, as a whole, to self-determination and their freedom to exercise that right.
For centuries, the relationship between the British government and the Irish people has been the relationship between the conqueror and the conquered, the oppressor and the oppressed.
The perennial cycle of oppression/domination/resistance/oppression has been a constant feature of the British government's involvement in Ireland and the Irish people's rejection of that government's usurpation of the right to exercise control over their political, social, economic and cultural destiny.
From the late 17th century onwards, that usurpation provoked both revolutionary resistance and, within the narrowest confines of British constitutional legality, constitutional opposition. In the course of the 19th century, British oppression and famine caused the population of Ireland to be halved.
The only occasion on which the people of all Ireland have been permitted to hold free and fair elections to determine their political future was in the 1918 Westminster election. Sinn Fein, with a political programme demanding complete independence for the unitary state of Ireland, won the election with 69% of the vote. Those democratically-elected representatives of the Irish people formed Dail Eireann and, on January 21st, 1919, enacted the Declaration of Independence.
The Anglo-lrish Treaty of 1922, the partition of Ireland and the Constitution of the Irish Free State were imposed on the Irish people under the threat of ``immediate and terrible war''. They were not submitted to the Irish people for ratification and their imposition represents a denial to the Irish people of the freedom to exercise their right to self-determination.
The pretext for partition - the wishes of a national minority to maintain British rule - holds no validity against the express wishes of the vast majority of the Irish people.
Secession is not the same as self-determination.
Partition perpetuates the British government's denial of the Irish people's right to self-determination. It perpetuates the cycle of oppression/domination/resistance/oppression.
In the words of Séan MacBride, winner of the Nobel and Lenin Peace Prizes:
``Ireland's right to sovereignty, independence and unity are inalienable and indefeasible. It is for the Irish people as a whole to determine the future status of Ireland. Neither Britain nor a small minority selected by Britain has any right to partition the ancient island of Ireland, nor to determine its future as a sovereign nation.''
IRELAND'S RIGHT to sovereignty, independence and unity, the right of the Irish people, as a whole, to self-determination, is supported by universally recognized principles of International law.
The right to self-determination is enshrined in the two United Nations' Covenants of 1966, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights. Article 1 of each covenant states:
``1. All peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they determine their economic, social and cultural development.''
The landmark Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation Among States in Accordance with the Charter of the United Nations declares:
``... all people have the right freely to determine, without external influence, their political status and to pursue their economic, social and cultural development and every state has the duty to respect this right in accordance with the provisions of the Charter.''
Partition is in contravention of the United Nations' Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. Article 6 of which states:
``Any attempt aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and the territorial integrity of a country is incompatible with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.''
THE MAJOR stumbling block to Independence Is British colonial interference. However, it suits the British and the loyalists for the loyalists to be portrayed as the real obstacle to that Independence and allows Westminster off the hook, projecting itself as the `honest broker'.
While we in no way wish to ignore the economic challenge which reunification presents, or minimize the extent of the problem, or the great trauma that will be experienced by the unionist population, we believe that loyalism derives an artificial psychological strength from the British presence, from the Union. Indeed, the relationship between intransigence and past unconditional British support is recognized (though unacknowledged) by Thatcher's government, part of whose present strategy, via the Hillsborough Treaty, is to rock the morale of loyalists, split the unionists and force the emergence of a pragmatic leadership which will do an internal deal with the SDLP.
The loyalists are a national minority in Ireland. According to most opinion polls, the majority of people in Britain want to wash their hands of Ireland. Increasingly, loyalists are finding themselves in an untenable position. Their protest campaign against the Hillsborough Treaty has cost them dearly in PR terms and to the British public it has only emphasized the differences between the Six Counties and Britain. Their refusal to enter into dialogue (with anyone) and their disillusionment with the British government is producing a momentum towards disaster where Civil War, or a Unilateral Declaration of Independence, or repartition are among the irrational proposals put forward by some of the paramilitaries and politicians.
Sinn Fein seeks a new constitution for Ireland which would include written guarantees for those presently constituted as `loyalists'. This would recognize present-day social reality and would include, for example, the provisions for family planning and the right to civil divorce.
The resolution of the conflict would free unionists from their historic laager mentality and would grant them real security instead of tenure based on repression and triumphalism. We do not intend to turn back the pages of history, or to dispossess the loyalists and foolishly attempt to reverse the Plantation. We offer them a settlement based on their throwing in their lot with the rest of the Irish people and ending sectarianism. We offer them peace. We offer them equality.
It is only through the process of decolonisation and dialogue that a peaceful, stable Ireland will emerge. Only when independence is restored can Ireland hope to prosper and take her place among the nations of the world. Britain must take the initiative and declare its intention to withdraw. That is the first step on the road to peace. Republicans will respond quickly and positively.
THE ENDING of partition, a British disengagement from Ireland and the restoration to the Irish people of the right to exercise self-sovereignty remain the only solution to the British colonial conflict In Ireland.
The Hillsborough Treaty and the processes it involves seek merely to camouflage the fact that the Six-County state is a failed entity, socially, economically and politically. The Treaty does not challenge the constitutional status of the Union but actually reinforces it.
Sinn Fein seeks to create conditions which will lead to a permanent cessation of hostilities, an end to our long war and the development of a peaceful, united and independent Irish society. Such objectives will only be achieved when a British government adopts a strategy for decolonisation.
It must begin by repealing the `Government of Ireland Act' and publicly declaring that the `Northern Ireland' statelet is no longer part of the United Kingdom.
Furthermore, it must declare that its military forces and its system of political administration will remain only for as long as it takes to arrange their permanent withdrawal.
This would need to be accomplished within the shortest practical period. A definite date within the lifetime of a British government would need to be set for the completion of this withdrawal.
Such an irreversible declaration of intent would minimize any loyalist backlash and would go a long way towards bringing round to reality most loyalists and those of their representatives genuinely interested in peace and negotiation. It would be the business of such negotiations to set constitutional, economic, social and political arrangements for a new Irish state through a Constitutional Conference.
FREE ELECTIONS to an all-Ireland Constitutional Conference would be arranged. The conference would consist of the elected representatives of the Irish people and would be open to submissions from all significant organizations in Ireland (e.g. the Trade Union Movement, the Women's Movement, the Churches) and would draw up a new constitution and organize a national system of government.
While the conference could have no influence on the decision by Britain to withdraw, it would play an important role in organizing the transition to a new governmental system. Should it fail agreement on a new Constitution, or on any other matter, a British withdrawal would proceed anyway within the fixed time period.
Republicans have consistently asserted that the loyalist people, in common with all other citizens, must be given firm guarantees of their religious and civil liberties and we repeat our belief that, faced with a British withdrawal and the removal of partition, a considerable body of loyalist opinion would accept the wisdom of negotiating for the type of society which would reflect their needs and interests. The irreversible nature of a British withdrawal strategy would be a major influence in convincing loyalists that we were entering into a new situation which could not be changed by the traditional methods of loyalist intransigence.
AS PART of the military withdrawal, the RUC and UDR would be disarmed and disbanded.
The introduction of United Nations forces or European forces to supervise a British withdrawal or fill any alleged vacuum would only frustrate a settlement and must be avoided. Experience in other conflicts has shown that such a `temporary' presence would become `permanent' and the deployment would have a political bias. Their subsequent withdrawal would become a point of contention and there would be a re-run of the bloodbath-threat scenario. Similarly, there should be a real effort to avoid the introduction of forces from the 26 Counties.
The Constitutional Conference would be responsible for determining the nature and composition of an emergent national police service and the judiciary. There is absolutely no doubt in our minds that, if Britain were to be sincere about disengaging and was committed to an orderly transference of power, this could be achieved with a minimum of disorder.
All political prisoners would be unconditionally released.
A cessation of all offensive military actions by all organizations would create the climate necessary for a peaceful transition to a negotiated settlement.
As part of the settlement, the British government must accept the responsibility for providing financial support by agreeing by Treaty with the national government to provide economic subvention for an agreed period. Given the disastrous involvement of British rule in Ireland, reparations for an agreed period are the least contribution Britain could make to ensure an orderly transition to a national democracy and the harmonisation of the economies, North and South.
Sinn Fein Head Office, 44 Parnell Square, Dublin 1. Telephone: 726100/726932 9:30am-5pm Monday to Friday.
International enquiries to: Sinn Fein Foreign Affairs Bureau, 51/55 Falls Road, Belfast BT12. Telephone: 323214; Fax: 231723; 9:30am-5pm Monday to Friday
Sinn Fein Foreign Affairs Bureau, 44 Parnell Square, Dublin 1. Telephone: 7261C/726932.
Press enquiries: Republican Press Centre, 51/55 Falls Road, Belfast BT12. Telephone: 230261; Fax: 231723. 10am-6pm Monday to Friday.
An Phoblacht/Republican Newspaper, Belfast Office: 51/55 Falls Road, Belfast BT12. Telephone: 246841.
Dublin Office: 58 Parnell Square, Dublin 1. Telephone: 733611/733839. Fax: 733074.
Sinn Fein Press Office, 44 Parnell Square, Dublin 1
Released in the US by:
Friends of Sinn Fein, 510 C Street, NE, Washington DC 20002