Year 2000 No.21, February 7, 2000

Once More the Prospect of Direct Rule of the North of Ireland from Westminster

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Once More the Prospect of Direct Rule of the North of Ireland from Westminster

Attack on Union Organiser at SOAS Defeated by United Action of Staff and Students

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Once More the Prospect of Direct Rule of the North of Ireland from Westminster

Once more the British government is playing its well-worn game of preparing to rush through legislation to re-impose direct rule of the north of Ireland from Westminster.

The focus is being put on some pretext. The Report of the International Decommissioning body has been withheld from publication, the implication being that it contains dark news about how little progress has been made towards the handing over of arms by the IRA. Even the withholding is designed to create a climate of suspicion whereby, despite all the claims of good work by Peter Mandelson and his forbears, the bad news is too much for the Northern Ireland Assembly to bear, the Ulster Unionists would walk out, and all the good work of the external forces from Senator Mitchell to Tony Blair to Bill Clinton would come to nothing. Therefore, there is nothing left for it but for direct rule from Westminster to be put into operation once again. A "Review" (by the British and Irish governments) under the terms of the Agreement would be required before the Assembly and its Executive could be restored. Meanwhile, executive power rests with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and its legislative powers are to be exercised by Orders in Council. It has been left to the Republican movement to point out that the problem of decommissioning at this stage is strictly speaking a non-issue. The "deadlines" have no significance in terms of the Good Friday Agreement, and no significance in terms of the operation of the Northern Ireland Assembly, and generally speaking in terms of the development of the political process in Ireland.

The focus, as well as being put on the IRA, is also put on the Ulster Unionists. Once more this is to take the focus away from the British government with the scenario presented that the Unionists are forcing the government’s hand or that the government is caving in to their intransigence and bigotry.

The point, however, is that at every stage, the government has been acting in the interests of the bourgeoisie in this country. The division of Ireland and then the government’s own strategy for devolution and an all-Ireland dimension has been played out not only with an eye on how they can maintain domination of Ireland, not only as part of their geo-political strategy whereby they pursue their interests in line with their slogan of "stronger in Europe, stronger in the world". Most crucially it has been played out as part of creating an elaborate smoke-screen whereby the working class in England, as well as Scotland and Wales, is cajoled, manipulated, into forgetting its own historic role on the one hand and its marginalisation on the other, and acting in sympathy with its own exploiters.

The British government cannot be the arbiter of progress in Ireland. The working class must see through the smoke-screen which it continues to erect. The bourgeoisie has been coming under pressure due to the tactics of the Republicans who have pointed out the failure of the policy of partition of Ireland and have taken a step towards building the Irish nation anew, as well as objectively from the growing globalisation and the impossible drive to make Britain number one in the global marketplace. Unity with the Irish bourgeoisie to produce a hybridised Irish nation to put the assets of Ireland too up for grabs is a further piece in the jigsaw that makes up the bourgeoisie’s strategy. The working class must take advantage of this pressure too to take a stand and push forward its programme for its own interests and for modern sovereign states, in the course of the utmost condemnation of the government and the stripping away of all illusions about its actions.

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Attack on Union Organiser at SOAS Defeated by United Action of Staff and Students

Staff and students at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) this week defeated attempts to victimise a trade unionist, who had been one of several union officials monitoring the student occupation of part of the school, held to demand an end to charges for students working overseas and the £1000 per year tuition fees.

In the course of action by police and bailiffs to end the occupation two students had been injured. Then on Monday, January 31, the chairperson of UNISON was suspended, although no charges were made against him, and he was escorted from the building by security staff. Staff and students immediately held protest meetings on the steps of the School and were joined in demonstrations, including sit down protests in the area, by colleagues from other colleges. UNISON members threatened a walk out if the suspension was not immediately lifted. This threat of action had the desired result and the suspension was lifted, but the authorities at SOAS still threatened to take further disciplinary action. On Friday, February 4, all disciplinary action against the UNISON chairperson was dropped following vigorous action involving all the unions at SOAS.

The unions condemned the vicious attacks that were being launch to try to prevent trade unionists from organising at the School and the way in which police had been used to break up the students’ protests. Workers at SOAS said that this week’s action had led to unprecedented unity between unions representing students and academic and other staff and that they would continue to fight against the imposition of tuition fees.

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