|Volume 53 Number 10, April 22, 2023
Workers' Weekly July 24, 1999
The minimum that could be pointed out is that the way that Westminster has fashioned the Assembly is to attempt to institutionalise the division of the "two communities". This very structure itself can be said to go against the "Framework Document" of 1995 which specified that new political institutions in Northern Ireland should "avoid any entrenchment of the main community division". This, then, is supposed to give the Labour government the right to declare the proceedings null and void when one party of one of the "two communities" institutes a boycott. What should be noted is the way Westminster passes Acts, tears them up, and passes more Acts in the space of a few hours, just as it suits them. All this, of course, is said by Tony Blair and the Labour Party to be done with the best of intentions. It is all a matter of "devolution", doing what is best for the people of Northern Ireland, working overtime with a "great sense of responsibility" to sort things out. The working class cannot get diverted by these manoeuvres, but must see them as further deepening the crisis of the credibility of the parliamentary democracy they represent. In particular, it is by virtue of the Royal Prerogative - that executive power in Northern Ireland is vested in the Crown - that the government can give itself the justification to act as it wishes with regard to the political process in the north of Ireland. In other words, it once more underlines the profoundly absolutist character of British parliamentary democracy.
The British government neither wants a state of open bloodshed in what it unjustly regards as the "province" of Northern Ireland, not does it wish to resolve the situation in the context of the sovereignty of the Irish people as a whole. The English working class, as well as all progressive people in Britain, must condemn Tony Blair for this state of affairs, carried out in defence of the status quo. They must also condemn him for using the Good Friday Agreement as a cynical manoeuvre which would be honoured only if events took the course he would wish, rather than as an agreement entered into in good faith as a step towards reuniting Ireland on terms in which the people are the decision-making power. This is no less than the Downing Street Declaration of 1993 itself recognised as the framework for progress in the north of Ireland, with the provision that it is achieved by consent. But since all parties agree not to impose their will by force, this is the recognition that this decl aration contains of the right of the Irish people as a whole to self-determination. In particular, the British government affirmed in the Framework Document that it will not impede the option of a united Ireland.