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Volume 53 Number 10, April 22, 2023 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

25th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement

Oppose British Government's Attempts to Block the Irish People from Exercising their Sovereignty

Belfast - Photo: Charles McQuillan Getty Images

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement concluded on April 10, 1998. The 25th anniversary of the signing is being widely hailed as a watershed in Irish politics. Sinn Féin and the patriotic Irish forces are determined that the current situation must develop into the exercise of sovereignty by the Irish people in a united Ireland while the British continue to treat the north of Ireland as their possession, interfere in Ireland's internal affairs and encourage everything that blocks the exercise of Irish sovereignty.

Sinn Féin protesters greet the Queen's visit to northern Ireland in 1977

The Good Friday Agreement stipulated the creation of the Northern Ireland Assembly and its Executive. It further set up a north-south council for Ireland, a similar council for London-Dublin, a reduction of British military presence, and a disarmament of the IRA as well as the release of paramilitary prisoners. It became effective as of December 2, 1999.

It followed on from the historic Downing Street Declaration of 1993 at a time Britain was forced to change its policy on northern Ireland as a result of unfolding events both at home and abroad. The Downing Street Declaration reflected Britain's need to be seen as a force for peace in order to gain credibility as a peace-broker abroad, especially in the Middle East. The Declaration was signed by John Major on behalf of the British government and Albert Reynolds on behalf of the government of Ireland. It was the fruit of the struggle of the people to rid the north of the British army and ultimately to end the claim of Britain to possession of any part of the island of Ireland, and to end not only its apparatus of repression and decision-making but also its apparatus for violating the decision-making of the people of Ireland, whether in the north or the 26 countries which currently comprise the Republic of Ireland.

Today, the Irish people's history-making struggle has provided Sinn Féin with overwhelming support to form the government of the north of Ireland but Britain and the political forces at its disposal in the north will not lift their veto on the new arrangements. The crucial step, whether in the context of a united Ireland or the still-existing 26 and six countries, is that Britain end its alleged jurisdiction over any part of Ireland. The Irish people are striving to achieve this by continuing to develop political forms and processes which cement their unity in action and realise their right to self-determination without foreign interference in their internal affairs.

The peoples of Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales oppose the misuse of the "peace process" to exploit the Irish people through other means and embroil them in British and US imperialist striving for world hegemony, indicated by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's invitation to US President Joe Biden to celebrate the anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement in Belfast. Dismissing the fight of the Irish people for freedom, Biden credits the US for bringing peace to Ireland. For his part, Sunak is desperate to claim a win in the deal he has brokered with the European Union which, he claims, is a "decisive breakthrough" which ends the crisis caused by the dispute over the post-Brexit "Northern Ireland Protocol". He claimed that the changes would allow the UK to "take back control" by providing "stability in Northern Ireland". "It's about showing that our union that has lasted for centuries can and will endure," he said.

Britain should stop interfering in the affairs of the Irish people. How they want to proceed is up to them, nobody else. The progressive forces in Ireland demand as a principle that there must be no interference by the British government or the US administration in the internal affairs of Ireland.

This principle was enshrined in the Downing Street Declaration which guided the Good Friday Agreement. It said: "The British government agree that it is for the people of the Island of Ireland alone, by agreement between the two parts respectively, to exercise their right of self-determination on the basis of consent, freely and concurrently given, North and South, to bring about a united Ireland, if that is their wish." Despite this, Sunak is talking about "a union that has lasted for centuries and will endure," and the Northern Ireland Assembly, set up by the Good Friday Agreement, has been tainted since the beginning by British dictate, in particular the division into "two communities".

1914 photo of the Irish Citizen Army outside the Old Liberty Hall, Dublin

It is the persistence of the British government that the six northern counties must remain part of the United Kingdom which is causing the Northern Ireland Assembly to be dysfunctional. The British government has no right to interference in the functioning of the Northern Ireland Assembly. This is a fundamental principle. The Irish people are striving to find a way forward both in the north and the south which favours the people. So too, the opinions of the entire Irish people who inhabit the island of Ireland are crucial for a permanent solution to the issue of Irish reunification.

The heroism of the Irish people in resisting the domination of their country by the armed might of the British empire is legendary. Since the Downing Street Declaration in 1993, and particularly since the voluntary conclusion of the armed struggle in 1998, the people of Ireland themselves are involved in sorting out their own decision-making and it is up to them to decide their own future. The English working class is duty-bound to prevent the British government from interfering in Ireland's {short description of image}internal affairs and oppose all its attempts to set the agenda.

As it did during the years of struggle in Ireland for Irish Freedom against British occupation, impunity and cruelty, so too today, the working class in England, Scotland and Wales stand as one with the Irish people as the makers of history. Theirs is a common cause to oppose and block the usurpation of their decision-making power by international finance capital and the narrow private interests which operate as cartels and coalitions of oligopolies, which includes the United States/NATO configuration.

To their credit, Sinn Féin's MPs elected to the Westminster Parliament have consistently refused to take their seats, because they refuse to pledge allegiance to the English monarch. This shows that the peaceful reunification of Ireland is on the agenda on the basis of building the Irish nation anew. The patriotism, internationalism, creativity, initiative and death-defying courage with which the Irish people have faced the cruelty of the British monarchy, which invaded and occupied Ireland in the past, and of British imperialism in the twentieth century, is indeed legendary. They are now proving themselves once again as they strive to engage all Irish people at home and abroad in a nation-building project which favours them and permits the emergence of a modern democratic personality in the form of a united Irish state which upholds the rights of all without exception.


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