August, 1994, and the IRA’s announcement of a ceasefire, will go down as an historic date in Irish history. The ending of the IRA campaign was quickly followed by pressure from working class communities on the loyalist paramilitaries, the UDA and the UVF, to likewise call a halt. Six weeks later they also called off their campaigns.
Does this mean that after 25 years, over 3,350 dead and ten times that number injured, the Northern Ireland Troubles are over?
To answer this question it is necessary to see beyond immediate events, to the origins and real causes of the violence. To see whether the sectarian division which keeps Catholic and Protestant working class people apart will disappear, it is necessary to understand how this division came about, and why it flared up in the way it did twenty five years ago.
This booklet has been produced to provide answers to these questions. Whereas most of what has been written about Northern Ireland presents the problem either from a unionist or nationalist view, or else as a meaningless squabble about religion, this work explains the situation in class terms.
It explains why Ireland was partitioned, why the civil rights movement developed in the late 1960s, why this gave way to sectarian pogroms in August 1969, why the troops were sent in, why the Provisional IRA began to grow and why their campaign attracted the support of Catholic working class youth, why the loyalist paramilitaries began to reply with random assassinations of Catholics, why the Troubles proved insoluble over more than two decades, and finally why the recent dramatic turn of events have occurred and what this means for the future.
It argues that whatever deal is worked out between the main political parties and the London and Dublin governments, will not solve the fundamental problems.
The fact that sectarian politicians may reach ‘a temporary compromise with each other will not eradicate the division which separates the working class communities. Nor will it bring jobs, or adequate services to these areas, despite all the claims being made about an economic ‘peace dividend’. But it does provide an opening for the labour movement and the working class to throw up new organisations, put forward new ideas and find new methods of struggle. The possibility now exists for a new political movement to be built which can unite the working class and especially the youth, against sectarianism and against capitalism.
For this to be done successfully the pitfalls and mistakes – made by the working class movement in the past, which helped open the way to the Troubles, need to be analysed and understood. So also do the reasons why the labour movement was never able to decisively cut across the sectarian reaction of the last twenty five years.
This booklet examines these questions and provides the answers. It is essential reading for all who want to understand the Northern Ireland Troubles, how they arose and most important of all, how they can be permanently ended.