Friday, March 31, 2006

Peace in an Irish town

by Theo Russell

At Sinn Féin’s Ard Fheis in Dublin last month the New Worker interviewed Gerry Machlochlainn, a Sinn Féin councillor in Derry City and former Sinn Féin representative in Britain, about the changes Derry has seen with the end of the conflict and the impact of the Good Friday Agreement in the north of Ireland. The following is his assessment of the changes seen in recent years:

MAJOR ADVANCES have taken place in Derry, such as the removal of British troops and military paraphernalia from the streets. There are still some listening and observation posts in the Rosemount district as well as a British army barracks but the military presence is far less visible.
Sinn Féin is much stronger in Derry and in the local elections in May 2005 achieved its largest ever vote. Although the party emerged with the same number of council seats, it closed the gap with the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), for whom Derry is their main base in the Six Counties.
Sinn Féin now has ten councillors against 14 for the SDLP and six unionist seats (the overwhelming majority of Derry being Catholic and nationalist).
Under direct rule Derry suffered from a lack of investment and poor infrastructure and was very low in spending priorities. Sinn Féin is pushing an all-Ireland development agenda and a balanced regional approach in the northwest of Ireland, involving the counties of Donegal in the Republic and Derry, Limavady and Strabane in the Six Counties. The party has received a very positive response to its development policies.
Now the SDLP is also supporting "north-south development", and the government in Dublin is also talking about developing the northwest. Levels of poverty in Derry neighbouring and Donegal are still unacceptably high.
While the Irish Republic is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, with a GDP second in Europe to Luxembourg, it is also the most unequal in Europe.
The impact of globalisation has meant the export of traditional jobs such as clothing, textiles and other more recent industries to developing countries.
The "race to the bottom" and the cheapest labour mean that the future lies in building a high skills and highly paid economy, by developing educational and intellectual structures and developing a social response.
Currently economic development is reliant on multi-national companies. What is needed is to develop an indigenous economy with some contribution from foreign direct investment.
One area where reform has not been delivered is policing. The SDLP is now paying the price for accepting the new Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and joining the policing board. People can see how the PSNI engage in blatant acts, carrying out very public raids on republicans under the guise of investigating "serious crime", and can see their provocations against young people leading to confrontations.
In the summer of 2005 The PSNI decided to issue charges for the annual march commemorating the 1981 Hunger Strike, saying that a 20-minute procession through a republican area was illegal.
Thirty people, including several Sinn Féin councillors, face being convicted of an offence for walking down their own street. All this because the deadline for requesting permission had been missed!
This is in comparison to the PSNI setting up road-blocks and sealing off nationalist areas to allow Orange Order marches in Belfast and other towns.
Communities in Derry are vulnerable without an acceptable police service. Petty criminals are tolerated by the PSNI and used as paid informers. Republicans and nationalists are very angry about this.
Poverty and degradation are a legacy of the conflict, Irish drinking culture, drugs, these need a multi-faceted approach. Community restorative justice structures are active in the city but there’s still a huge gap to be filled.
The voluntary community sector is very active and there is a thriving social economy with projects including community-based enterprises, a shopping centre and leisure centre set up by ex-prisoners.
More children are learning the Irish language than ever – several hundred at Irish schools and Conradh na Gaeilge is building a £2 – £3 million Irish language and cultural centre serving Derry.
But there are still interface problems. Young people on both sides take part in "recreational rioting" and in the Unionist community they are being exploited by loyalists. A Catholic family on the protestant Fountain estate and a protestant family who were friendly with Catholics have had bomb attacks.
Young people in both communities are also involved in disgraceful behaviour and this is a challenge for Sinn Féin – we need to ensure that the Fountain doesn’t feel under siege. This involves a fast response to confrontations, and trying to mobilise the communities and get people to take responsibility to end the dangers to young people and to the political situation in Derry.
The unionist community has five Democratic Unionist Party councillors and one Official Unionist Party councillor, all of them anti-Good Friday Agreement. There is no effective challenge to the rejectionists, but civic unionism – business, the church and non-political – is engaging in a very significant way with nationalists.
On the issue of marches, the Apprentice Boys of Derry have entered into negotiations with others, including nationalists, and agreements have been reached to allow marches to happen without major disruption.
There is an important lesson for other parts of Ireland that agreement can be reached through talking. But there isn’t yet a permanent long-term solution and the marches still cause major disruption for residents and businesses, and the business community is pressing for changes.
There is no significant support for "dissident" republicans in Derry. There is a range of opinion in the nationalist community on the recent changes and Sinn Féin’s policies, but there is overwhelming support for taking the process forward through political and democratic measures.
These micro-groups are not representative and are totally discredited, and they are in effect disrupting their own community.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

End the Occupation -- Solidarity with the Iraqi people (update)

Statement of Communist and Workers’ Parties on the occasion of the 3rd Anniversary of the War against Iraq


End of occupation - Solidarity with the Iraqi people



The war against Iraq, launched by the US imperialism and its allies has been going on for three years now.

Around the 18th March, on the occasion of the anniversary of the war, there will be demonstrations and protests all over the world against the ongoing occupation.

We call upon the working people to strengthen their struggle and solidarity with the Iraqi people and to stop the threat of new military imperialist interventions in the region.

As communist and workers' parties struggling for peace, social justice, progress and socialism, we support the legitimate right of the Iraqi people to resist occupation.

We reiterate our firm solidarity with their struggle for the end of occupation, for the restoration of the sovereignty and independence, for the liberation and integrity of their country.

We demand the immediate withdrawal of all occupation forces as a prerequisite for a democratic and sovereign Iraq, legal action against the crimes of the invaders and full compensation for the damage they caused.

The parties

Communist Party of Albania
Algerian Party for Democracy and Socialism
Communist Party of Argentina
Communist Party of Armenia
Communist Party of Australia
Communist Party of Bangladesh
Communist Party of Belarus
Workers' Party of Belgium
Communist Workers' Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Brazilian Communist Party
Communist Party of Brazil
Communist Party of Britain
New Communist Party of Britain
Bulgarian Communist Party Georgi Dimitroff
Communist Party of Bulgaria
Communist Party of Canada
Communist Party of Cuba
AKEL, Cyprus
Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia
Communist Party in Denmark
Communist Party of Denmark
Communist Party of Estonia
Communist Party of Finland
Communist Party of Macedonia
Unified Communist Party of Georgia
German Communist Party
Communist Party of Greece
Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party
Communist Party of India
Communist Party of Ireland
Workers’ Party of Ireland
Communist Party of Israel
Party of the Italian Communists (PdCI)
Jordanian Communist Party
Workers Party of Korea
Socialist Party of Latvia
Socialist Party of Lithuania
Communist Party of Luxembourg
Party of the Communists of Mexico
Popular Socialist Party of Mexico
Communist Party of Malta
New Communist Party of the Netherlands
Palestinian Communist Party
Philippine Communist Party (PKP-1930)
Communist Party of Poland
Portuguese Communist Party
Communist Party of Romania
Socialist Alliance Party Romania
Communist Party of Soviet Union
Communist Party of the Russian Federation
Communist Workers' Party of Russia - Party of the Russian Communists
New Communist Party of Yugoslavia
Communist Party of Slovakia
South African Communist Party
Communist Party of Peoples of Spain
Communist Party of Sweden
Communist Party of Syria
Syrian Communist Party
Communist Party of Tadjikistan
Communist Party of Turkey
Communist Party of Ukraine
Union of Communists of Ukraine
Communist Party of Venezuela

24th March 2006

Plunder at Home, Plunder Abroad

The world's leading imperialist powers, Britain and the United States, are fond of accusing other governments and institutions of corruption.

Recently it was Kenya, before that the Palestinian Authority, Zimbabwe and the whole of Africa. US senator Paul Volcker led the onslaught on the United Nations over the oil for food programme.

Kofi Annan, his son, and even our own George Galloway MP were targetted, but the real aim was to undermine the UN itself as a body speaking on behalf of the world's nations.
But what is the record of the two guardians of democracy and freedom?

US journalist Ed Harriman has exposed corruption and criminality In Iraq on a staggering scale.The US-run Coalition Privisional Authority (CPA) handed huge contracts to a handful of US firms with no competition. The CPA's inspector general found that $8.8 billion spent by the Iraqi Interim Government was not properly accounted for - more than the Mobutu stole from Zaire in 32 years. Millions simply disappeared from the Iraqi Central Bank, and $800m was handed out to US commanders without even being counted. A US contractor was overpaid by $2,825,755, another given $25 million in cash with no record.

Nineteen billion new Iraqi dinars turned up on a plane sent to Lebanon by the Iraqi interior minister, and $1.4bn was flown to the Kurdish regional capital Irbil where it vanished. Ministers and officials distributed millions in cash to their friends, relatives or private militias. No records were kept of Iraqi oil exports, and in flagrant breach of Security Council Resolution 1483 oil income was not placed in development accounts. Christian Aid protested that the distribution of Iraq's money should have been subject to international oversight, but nobody listened. $18.4 billion approved by the US Congress for Iraq ended up being spent on fighting the resistance. Reconstruction funds went on the war, while in Iraq hospitals and schools were derelict, electricity intermittent, and water supplies polluted.

The war in Iraq cost Britain and the US £105 billion, paid for by the working people of those countries. But this figure is dwarfed by the estimated £3 trillion in Iraqi oil wealth.In 1972 Saddam Hussain nationalised the oil industry and the US and British oil giants were excluded from the country. After the occupation, executives from BP, Shell, Exxon Mobil and Halliburton gathered in London to share out the oil contracts.The 2005 Iraqi constitution, written by the US occupiers, requires major sectors of the economy to be privatised, and guarantees foreign companies a major role.

This is the real reason for the invasion and occupation, and why the occupiers had to search desparately for a just cause.And what about Britain itself? New Labour and the Treasury are overseeing 'legal' corruption involving billions in public funds. A BBC investigation has revealed billions being wasted on management consultants in the public sector.These companies and civil servants have lied to MPs and the punlic, while in almost every case leaving a worse financial situation than they found. In 2004 consultants across the public sector cost almost £2 billion. In recent years Surrey and Sussex Healthcare Trust has been overrun by consultants from Quo Health, McKinseys and Secta. A chief executive from Quo Health was appointed at a salary of over £300,000, but the trust's deficit grew to £62m. The contract was terminated early.McKinseys carried out "a holistic financial and activity diagnostic." Then consultants from Secta were "franchised" by the Department of Health to run the trust under a new Chief Executive.A deficit of £3m became £11.5m. The former trust chairman said "the whole process of the franchise failed completely." But according to Secta, "services were substantially improved."Secta's contract also was terminated early, but the company refused to say how much they were paid off on grounds of "commercial confidentiality".

Members of the Patients Forum were told that £150,000 was spent on private operations, but found under the Freedom of Information act the true figure was £2.8m.Local MP Mike Penning said Secta "goes around in circles to try and make sure you do not get the facts," and the government was "ploughing more and more and more into Trusts to oversee the management, which we're already paying for in the first place."An HM Revenue and Customs employee told the BBC 'advisors' had been doing his job for much higher pay. "When you look at the car park, you see expensive cars and clearly they can't belong to civil servants - you know, Mercedes, BMWs and Porsches."The National Audit Office questioned the use of consultants at the Department for Education and Skills, citing "ineffective outcomes, cost overruns, poor value for money and lack of propriety."

When Labour MP Austin Mitchell, a member of the Public Accounts Committee, asked the DfES how much was spent on consultants, he was told "about £4.4m a year." But an internal audit he was refused access to gave the true figure: £20-£30m.Mitchell says "the estimate they gave me was really untrue and they were trying to con me. They lied."The BBC investigation reveals corruption, waste and dishonesty involving billions in taxes paid by working people, and the contempt with which elected and public representatives are treated by the Whitehall mandarins overseeing this 'legal' robbery.

Such corruption and injustice is endemic. NHS hospitals are now among the dirtiest in the whole of Europe, east and west. The number of hospital cleaners has fallen by half since contracting out started in 1979.

Private lobbyists operate at every level of parliament & government, and research bodies on GM crops are packed with representatives of agribusiness and food retailers. The NHS, teaching and local government are subject to endless monitoring and restructuring overseen by consultants.

Of course corruption is rife in many developing countries, where the most respectable British companies openly admit to handing out lavish bribes. There is just as much corruption in Britain and the rest of Europe, where it is more effectively hidden.

But this corruption pales into insignificance when set against the vast wealth plundered from the developing nations by imperialism, through debt, privatisation, unequal trade, and now though war and re-colonisation.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Reg Birch -- a life remembered

Review

by Ken Ruddock

Reg Birch:Engineer, trade unionist, communist by Will Podmore, Bellman Books, London 2004. Pbk, illus, 308pp, £8.00.

There are many books written about the history of the trade unions and the working class covering the period up to and during the Second World War, but there are very few that deal with the ongoing struggle that many of us took part in and who remember the part that Reg Birch took – a leading part.
The sub-title says it all – engineer, trade unionist, communist. He was all three in one.
Leaving school at the age of 15 in 1929, he became an apprentice toolmaker and joined the Amalgamated Engineering Union (AEU). Ten years later he became a shop steward.
He joined the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1939 but parted company with it in 1968. By that time the CPGB had drifted away from its revolutionary principles, downgraded the importance of the industrial struggle and had adopted The British Road to Socialism (BRS) as its programme. Reg, like many other militant comrades, had long opposed the BRS as a left-social democratic programme and the style of work that followed, which in his words divided the CPGB into “thinkers” and “doers”, of full-time officers and passive dues payers.
Reg had great faith in the industrial working class, in its ability to defeat the capitalist employers in struggle, given the right leadership. He served the union as a branch officer, branch president, shop stewards’ convenor, and member of its London District Committee. Then he became its district organiser, executive councilman, and secretary of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions.
Much of his time was spent in conflict with employers in the aircraft industry, in which the unions were militant and well organised in those days and this is covered at length in the book.
In 1968 Reg decided that it was necessary to form an “honest” communist party, a Marxist-Leninist party. And so the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) was formed, with himself as chairman, a post he held until he retired in 1985.
Some communists in engineering joined its ranks. Others, who later helped found the New Communist Party of Britain in 1977, felt that Reg’s move was premature.
But, under Reg’s leadership, the London North district committee of the AEU was not only concerned with national problems. It also had an international outlook and went on record in opposition to the repression of the Palestinian people.
It opposed the United States aggression against Vietnam – in fact Reg was in Hanoi during the bombing of Vietnam in December 1972. He had made many friends in his travels: Chou En-Lai in China and Enver Hoxha, leader of the Party of Labour of Albania amongst them.
Whilst the book of 308 pages is the story of Reg Birch, there is also included a chapter devoted to his wife Dorothy, a fighter in her own right and a great support to Reg. It is packed with anecdotes and stories about industrial struggle including a hilarious account of the AUEW’s presentation to the Trade and Industry Sub-Committee of the House of Commons in 1975.
Reg Birch was an outstanding union leader who fought for the class all his life which is why he is remembered with affection by many who knew him but did not necessarily agree with everything he said. His controversial decision to form the CPB (ML) in 1968 and the political line it subsequently developed can be studied in this text which includes some key Birch speeches and CPB(ML) pamphlets.
This is invaluable reading for all interested in the history of the class and the British communist movement. It can be bought in any bookshop or directly from: Bread Books, PO Box 1806, Coventry, CV6 1YJ. Please add £2.00 for p&p if ordering it directly.

Monday, March 20, 2006

End the Occupation -- Solidarity with the Iraqi People

Statement of Communist and Workers’ Parties on the occasion of the 3rd Anniversary of the War against Iraq


End of occupation - Solidarity with the Iraqi people


The war against Iraq, launched by the US imperialism and its allies has been going on for three years now.
Around the 18th March, on the occasion of the anniversary of the war, there will be demonstrations and protests all over the world against the ongoing occupation.
We call upon the working people to strengthen their struggle and solidarity with the Iraqi people and to stop the threat of new military imperialist interventions in the region.
As communist and workers' parties struggling for peace, social justice, progress and socialism, we support the legitimate right of the Iraqi people to resist occupation.
We reiterate our firm solidarity with their struggle for the end of occupation, for the restoration of the sovereignty and independence, for the liberation and integrity of their country.
We demand the immediate withdrawal of all occupation forces as a prerequisite for a democratic and sovereign Iraq, legal action against the crimes of the invaders and full compensation for the damage they caused.



Communist Party of Albania
Algerian Party for Democracy and Socialism
Communist Party of Argentina
Communist Party of Armenia
Communist Party of Australia
Communist Party of Bangladesh
Communist Party of Belarus
Workers' Party of Belgium
Communist Workers' Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Brazilian Communist Party
Communist Party of Brazil
New Communist Party of Britain
Bulgarian Communist Party Georgi Dimitroff
Communist Party of Bulgaria
Communist Party of Canada
Communist Party of Cuba
AKEL, Cyprus
Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia
Communist Party in Denmark
Communist Party of Denmark
Communist Party of Estonia
Communist Party of Finland
Communist Party of Macedonia
Unified Communist Party of Georgia
German Communist Party
Communist Party of Greece
Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party
Communist Party of India
Communist Party of Ireland
Workers’ Party of Ireland
Communist Party of Israel
Party of the Italian Communists (PdCI)
Jordanian Communist Party
Workers Party of Korea
Socialist Party of Latvia
Socialist Party of Lithuania
Communist Party of Luxembourg
Party of the Communists of Mexico
Popular Socialist Party of Mexico
Communist Party of Malta
New Communist Party of the Netherlands
Palestinian Communist Party
Philippine Communist Party (PKP-1930)
Communist Party of Poland
Portuguese Communist Party
Socialist Alliance Party Romania
Communist Party of the Russian Federation
Communist Workers' Party of Russia - Party of the Russian Communists
New Communist Party of Yugoslavia
Communist Party of Slovakia
South African Communist Party
Communist Party of Peoples of Spain
Communist Party of Sweden
Communist Party of Syria
Syrian Communist Party
Communist Party of Tadjikistan
Communist Party of Turkey
Communist Party of Ukraine
Union of Communists of Ukraine
Communist Party of Venezuela


16th March 2006

Monday, March 06, 2006

Sinn Fein faces tough decisions with confidence

by Theo Russell

SINN Féin delegates from all over Ireland met in Dublin on 17th –19th
February to prepare for a new round of negotiations which will decide
the fate of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA), imminent elections in
northern and southern Ireland, and to debate the complex issues thrown
up by the peace process.
Gerry Adams reminded delegates in his presidential address that the
background to last year’s Ard Fheis was a political impasse threatening
to send the peace process into freefall.
Since then the IRA has completed de-commissioning, the Robert McCartney
murder and Northern Bank robbery are no longer live issues, and the
British government has restored the salaries and facilities of Sinn Féin
MPs at Westminster.
Sinn Féin has successfully driven the peace process forward, despite
interference from British ministers, the machinations of British
intelligence and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Special
Branch, the abdication of commitments by the Dublin government, and the
intransigence of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
But the party has no illusions about the prospects for finally
implementing the GFA, and is adopting a tough stance. In his report on
the talks chief negotiator Martin McGuinness said: "We are entering a
critical phase of our peace strategy. The future of the Good Friday
Agreement is on the line."
This time, however, Sinn Féin is quite prepared to see it fall. But that
does no mean a return to conflict. McGuinness quoted delegate Declan
Kearney, who said that even if the GFA collapsed, "Its substance has
been secured as the minimal threshold for anything that might replace or
supersede it."
Far from seeking to hold on to the Northern Ireland assembly and
executive at any cost, Sinn Féin is pressing Northern Ireland Secretary
Peter Hain to call the DUP’s bluff by setting a six week deadline for
the talks.
If no deal is reached then Sinn Féin wants London and Dublin to
implement the provisions of the GFA, even without DUP participation,
which is technically possible. Otherwise, the assembly should be
scrapped and the salaries of MLAs withdrawn, effectively ending the
DUP’s veto over the peace process.
In the unlikely event of a deal being done, Sinn Féin hopes to see the
assembly and executive restored, the complete demilitarisation of the
north, the transference of policing and justice powers, the repeal of
repressive legislation, the release of the remaining republican
prisoners, and a solution to the issue of "OTRs" – republicans still "on
the run".
Sinn Féin is also demanding the repeal of legislation allowing the
Northern Ireland Secretary to suspend the political institutions, and
changes to legislation to prevent the abuses of procedures employed by
the DUP to disrupt the work of the and executive.

‘Toytown Assembly’

There are also attempts to restore the GFA bodies on a watered-down
basis. The DUP want a phased return of the institutions, starting with a
"toytown assembly" but no Executive.
The moderate nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) has
proposed restoring the assembly, but with British-appointed and
unelected commissioners in place of executive ministers.
Both proposals would mean re-negotiating the GFA, something Sinn Féin
is implacably opposed to. Sinn Féin is confident that even if the GFA
falls the party will strengthen its democratic mandate throughout
Ireland, and that eventually even the DUP will have to embrace change.
One ongoing problem is the Independent Monitoring Commission; a body
set up by London and Dublin outside the terms of the GFA. The IMC has
consistently attempted to discredit Sinn Féin by questioning the
integrity of the IRA’s actions.
When the British government stripped Sinn Fein MPs of £400,000 in
parliamentary allowances in March last year it was at the recommendation
of the IMC, which claimed the IRA had been behind the Northern Bank
robbery.
The IMC has also sought to undermine the Independent international
Commission on Decommissioning, the official body overseeing the
disarming of the Northern Ireland paramilitaries headed by Canadian
general Jean de Chastelain, by appearing to give an alternative
"official" version of events.
At the Ard Fheis Martin McGuinness demolished the IMC’s credibility,
reporting that it had failed to clarify allegations of IRA involvement
in incidents in July and August last year.
"It is my view that the incidents in question did not even happen," he
said. "In one particular bizarre line they report six unreported
assaults – just think about that for a minute – they say they considered
six unreported assaults!"
McGuinness made it clear that "unless the issue of the IMC is
addressed, this latest round of political discussions will run aground.
The IMC can be summed in one word. Balderdash! It is time they were
decommissioned."

Difficult challenges

The development of the peace process has also thrown up many difficult
decisions and challenges for Irish republicans. Gerry Adams told the Ard
Fheis: "The decisions by the IRA were undoubtedly deeply difficult for
many," and added: "There are republicans still trying to come to terms
with it many months later.
"Indeed undoubtedly there are some who believe that the IRA has made a
mistake. They are entitled to their opinion but to no more than that. No
one should harbour the notion that the republican struggle can be
advanced any further by an armed campaign.
"This leadership is firmly opposed to such a departure. I have made it
clear from the republican perspective – the war is over."
But he added: "Unfortunately, powerful elements within the British
system have both a war mentality and the resources to sustain this. For
them the peace process is war by other means."
Other issues on which doubts are still held by some republicans are a
possible coalition with other parties in the Irish Republic, and what
Adams called "the deeply problematic issue" of policing in the six
counties. Sinn Féin’s leadership were clear on both matters.
Several motions ruling out joining a future Dublin coalition
government, with parties who are rightly regarded as corrupt and
reactionary, were defeated. One motion warned that entering a coalition
would "dilute our revolutionary politics".
Gerry Adams said that if the party has the mandate and can secure a
coalition government and policies consistent with its republican
objectives: "We will look at being in government in the south. Our sole
purpose of going into government is to bring about the maximum amount of
change."
But a delegates’ motion demanding the repeal of the Offences Against
the State Act as a pre-condition before any coalition talks was carried.
The 1939 Act set up the non-jury Special Criminal Court, which tries
terrorist cases in the republic.
Sean Crowe, TD (Dáil member) for Dublin South-West, urged delegates not
to limit the party’s options in advance of the general election, saying:
"I do not know if government is ready for me, but I am ready for
government."
And Martin McGuinness pointed out that as education minister in a
coalition with unionists in Belfast, he had implemented the crucial
decision to abolish the eleven-plus exam, adding that to completely rule
out participation in a coalition "would be grossly irresponsible".
Ten motions opposing participation in policing in the north, some
placing conditions such as the achievement of a sovereign united Ireland
or a timetable for British withdrawal, were defeated.
Gerry Kelly, spokesperson on policing and justice, spoke for the Ard
Chomhairle (executive committee) when he said: "Whatever happens in
negotiations, key issues such as policing and justice cannot be put on
the shelf to be dusted down when we achieve a united Ireland. We must
develop further our all-Ireland vision for justice and policing."
He welcomed legislation initiated by Peter Hain committing London to
the transfer of policing and justice powers to a future administration
at Stormont, but said this on its own was not enough for Sinn Féin to
agree to joining the Northern Ireland policing board.
Among other things this would require guarantees for a genuinely
accountable policing service, and a commitment from the DUP to the
transfer of powers.
Another problem thrown up by the British is the decision to give MI5
the lead in intelligence gathering in the north from next year,
effective even after policing powers have been transferred.
Kelly said it was "unacceptable for organisation which has set itself
against policing and political change throughout the course of this
process to be given an expanded role," and said Sinn Féin would be
challenging this in the latest round of talks.

A new relationship with unionism

One of five challenges facing Sinn Féin in the next year outlined by
Gerry Adams was "developing an entirely new relationship with unionism".
He said: "There are many good people within unionism, people who care
about their community, people who want to see stability, peace and
prosperity, people in the PUP, the DUP and the UUP who have worked with
Sinn Féin in committees and at councils."
Adams said: "Partition has failed the very community it was designed to
safeguard. It has failed unionists. Unionist working class communities
are ravaged by unemployment and educational under achievement. This is
bad for everyone."
Another major issue at the Ard Fheis was the growing economic and
social divide in the Irish Republic in spite of a decade of
unprecedented growth. Adams said: "There are also – to the Irish
government’s great shame – tens of thousands living in poverty... 15 per
cent of all children live in consistent poverty, while one in four
children are at risk of poverty."
He said: "After 15 years of growth it is a disgrace that people are
left waiting for days on hospital trolleys, people can’t afford a home
to live in, and the transport system is gridlocked."
"This state gives taxpayers’ money to a thriving private health sector.
Those who can afford to pay avail of the best that is available in the
private system, including access to private beds in public hospitals.
Health privatisation is a reality in the 26 Counties."
Adams condemned a tax regime that allows 41 of the top 100 individual
earners in to pay less than five per cent income tax, while ordinary
working people start paying tax at 42 per cent on anything over €29,400
(£21,000).
He said the present Fianna Fáil-People’s Democrat government was
systematically destroying agriculture and what was left of the fishing
industry. "They privatise our public highways and give their friends
permission to erect toll booth, after toll booth, after toll booth."
The latest round of investigations into corruption in the Republic, the
Mahon Tribunals, has exposed yet another scandal payments by corrupt
developers to crooked politicians. Adams contrasted the establishment
parties’ recent re-adoption of a "republican" image with the caustic
comment that "for many of these people they probably think of the GPO
(the headquarters if the 1916 Easter Rising) only as a place to buy
brown envelopes".
And he condemned the (Irish) Labour Party - originally founded by James
Connolly – for using the issue of immigration to adopt "populist
policies, which risk setting one group of workers in the existing
workforce, against another group of migrant workers".
Adams said: "Sinn Féin welcomes new communities of all nationalities to
our country. We reject racism and discrimination in any form. It is good
that many people are coming here to work. Immigrant workers are not the
problem. The problem is unscrupulous employers who exploit immigrant
workers with low pay and poor conditions."
TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh said that Irish justice minister Michael McDowell
was "hell bent on expanding and privatising the prison estate and
inflating prison spending," and planned to "turn the prison system into
a massive money-making opportunity for his profiteering buddies" by
building a "private super-prison" in north Dublin.

Sinn Féin economic policy

As an alternative to these corrupt and divisive policies, Sinn Féin has
published an All-Ireland Enterprise and Job Creation Policy setting out
the party’s objectives.
These include: the right to join unions, strike and picket; protection
of natural resources and the environment; limits to market competition;
universal public services; direct progressive taxation; and reduced
dependence on foreign investment.
The document says no attempt should be made to abolish rights to
private ownership or inheritance unless "necessitated by the common
good". It also proposes the "extending the euro throughout the whole
island as a necessary step in paving the way for reunification".
It calls for continued opposition to the EU Services Directive, which
allows private companies to undercut public service providers by
employing people on the salaries of their country of origin.
While citing the Nordic countries, with high taxes and public spending
but highly competitive economies, as a model for development, the
document also says: "We plan to build on the achievements of the most
successful socialist economies, and to learn from the mistakes of
unworkable and unsuccessful economies."
It notes that Northern Ireland "tops the list on practically every
deprivation indicator in the UK", and says: "The six county economy is
unsustainable by itself, and abnormally dependent on subsidy and the
public sector for employment," – especially on the numbers employed by
the Northern Ireland Office and Ministry of Defence.
The paper calls for a progressive reform of the tax system and
increased corporation tax in the 26 Counties from the 12.5 per cent to
17.5 per cent. In his keynote address Gerry Adams said: "Sinn Féin would
effectively tax high earners and increase taxes on capital gains,
property speculation and corporate profits."
But he warned the party: "Expect more attacks on Sinn Féin, including
totally unprincipled efforts to vilify us in the time ahead. Don’t be
distracted by this nonsense." Sinn Féin faces major decisions and a
mountain of work in the coming period, but as always the party’s morale
is high and its leadership is confident about achieving its long-term
goals.
As Adams told delegates: "Our objective is an all-Ireland parliament for
all the people of Ireland." And in the words of Martin McGuinness: "Sinn
Féin’s objective is to defend and consolidate the advances already made.
To open up new arenas of negotiations and struggle and to continue to
build the bridge to our ultimate objective – a united democratic and
socialist republic."