The stalled peace process in Ireland
I have been hoping that Phillip would take tome out to comment on events in Ireland. However I will have a go and hopefully he will help out.
The so called peace process seems to have stalled. The Unionists wanted their pound of flesh - IRA arms before Sin Fein could enter the Assembly. The Assembly collapsed amid a Unionist boycott. Apparently the Unionists are delighted. This, according to them, has shown their independence and strength vis a vis the Blair govt and the Americans.
There is indeed an air of deja vu about it all. I am tempted to think that this is once more a rerun of the Home Rule fracas of last century and early this century. A Liberal British govt has come up with a plan for devolution in Ireland. The Unionists in N. Ireland have said "no" and they are backed by sections of the British Army and the Tory establishment. Faced with an attack from the Right the liberal Blair Govt has signalled it will back down. So the status quo is preserved in Ulster and Britain's oldest colony stays true and blue.
There are though interesting variations on the Catholic/nationalist side. The equivalent of the Redmondite right of 1914 is today John Hume and Seamus Mallon. The latter is a fairly insignificant figure. An ageing school master who was made deputy First Minster because Hume did not want the job. Hume is the real power broker in the Catholic right. After him though - la deluge. There is no alternative "moderate" Catholic leader. The king in waiting is Gerry Adams. Everyone knows this. However the unionists angled that they could split the moderate Catholic SDLP off and get them to form a government without Sinn Fein. John Major, the former Tory Prime Minister, made this plea publicly in a House of Commons debate last week in London.
However Mallon could not oblige. I have no doubt at all he wanted to. But it would have been electoral suicide to have excluded Adams and thrown in his lot with the Ulster Unionists. For out in the Catholic community there is growing anger at the refusal of the Unionists to compromise. In many ways the latter have been out maneuvered by the Adams end game.
I accept of course the analysis that the IRA were defeated by and large in the war with Britain. Yet Adams was able to launch the peace process initially catch the British government and the unionist establishment by surprise. But it is an end game he is playing. He had very few cards in his hand. However the dialectics of the peace process have enabled him to project himself as a leader and someone who must be listened to. However the establishment British and Unionist are most reluctant to deal with him. This is shown by the Nobel Ctee's refusal to grant him the Peace Prize, and here in Australia by the lackey Prime Minster's refusal to meet