Statement on Gerry Adams’ arrest

This is a statement on the arrest of Gerry Adams by a number of Left Unity’s national officers

We condemn political policing in northern Ireland

Gerry Adams was arrested on Wednesday evening in connection with the case of Jean McConville. Gerry Adams had made clear his willingness to meet the PSNI to speak about the case and has consistently rejected suggestions that he had any part in what happened to Jean McConville.

Gerry Adams has been one of the key figures in driving forward the peace process and positively transforming the situation in Ireland. He has played a vital leadership role in resolving the conflict in the north. He has also led Sinn Fein as a party which is opposing austerity and inequality across Ireland and which is seeing rising political support in the polls.

We share strong concerns and questions about the motivation behind the timing of recent events. His arrest serves the interests of those who oppose both the peace process and Sinn Fein’s political advance.

We extend our support and sympathy to the family of Jean McConville and to all those victims and families who have lost loved ones and suffered during the course of the conflict. They have every right to seek truth and justice. However, the current investigations into past crimes are partial as clearly shown by Theresa Villiers’ refusal to review the cases of the Ballymurphy families.

The best way to resolve all of these issues is for an even-handed, comprehensive and independent process of dealing with the past, such as that recently outlined during the Haass talks – supported by Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein.

We extend our support to the continuing work for peace and unity and urge an end to politically motivated attacks by the British state which hinder this process. We urge the British government to stop reneging on its responsibilities in relation to the peace process. We call upon the British and Irish governments and all political parties to positively engage in advancing the peace process.

Andrew Burgin, Pete Green, Kate Hudson, Chris Hurley, Oliver New, Bianca Todd, Tom Walker.

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40 responses to “Statement on Gerry Adams’ arrest”

  1. Felicity Dowling says:

    Jean McConville and her children were victims in a terrible war. Her story and the story of the children will live in memory for many years. It is not just Jean’s assault and terrible murder that appals us but the callous treatment of her traumatised children. They were cut off from their mother by her murder but then from each other by decision or by neglect from the Northern Ireland state.
    The story of the death of a woman must never be secondary, never mere collateral damage. It is more dangerous to be a woman in conflict than to be a soldier. The daughter s of Nigeria kidnapped from their school in Chibok in the north eastern Borno State are in our hearts today (
    Women and children are significant victims of all conflicts. In this century attacks on women are huge but ignored feature in reports and discussions of the wars being fought today. “Where there is war there are assaults on women from government security forces and from paramilitaries” The UN reports how government forces and opposition militias attack women (
    Left Unity is right to have condemned the arrest of Gerry Adams during an election period. The European and local Elections are taking place now; Sinn Fein are doing well in the opinion polls. The distortion of the electoral process was one of the open wounds of the North of Ireland during the conflicts; interference in that process must be condemned now.
    The peace process is precious. Women played a significant role in calling for a peace process but the peace has not delivered justice for women and their voice has not been adequately heard. “Daily experiences of sectarianism, domestic violence, political and social exclusion, a mistrust of the police and continuing structural violence are indicative that a genuine peace entails far more than just the absence of observable armed conflict.”
    The causes of the armed conflict in the North of Ireland in the late 20th century are well documented. The volunteers of the IRA set out to be a defence of their communities, in response to unbearable attacks, including Bloody Sunday and murders by the forces of the state in Ballymurphy (where Gerry Adams comes from) which are a matter of record. In that war the British state through the regular Army and undercover murder groups and protestant para military groups killed civilians as did the IRA. Soldiers and undercover operatives, protestant and republican para militaries all walk free. There has been a peace process. The names and whereabouts of many killers are, reports say, common knowledge. No effective truth and reconciliation process has been achieved and the wounds still run deep in many communities. Peace though, is a huge prize
    The reform of the police is a significant development. The RUC were held responsible for much violence, intimidation and murder; For the new Police force to be seen to be interfering in the political process is a major setback.
    In the UK, Women and children have borne 70% of cuts. The same is true in the North, the whole of Ireland, and much of Europe. Everywhere, we have been hit by massive moves of wealth to the rich from the poor. The people of the North of Ireland face all the problems of the poorer areas of England Wales and Scotland. They face poverty, ‘Austerity’, and still a face sectarian divide. “Northern Ireland’s labour market and poverty rates have deteriorated in the last five years, in addition to longstanding issues of mental health and community divisions – and welfare reforms are likely to exacerbate these problems”
    Left Unity needs its focus to be on women and working class communities if we are to begin to turn the tide. Across the world the rich are intent on taking the wealth of the poor. Wealth held in common in the welfare state, wealth held by women in small farms and small scale production, wealth as represented by wages. Left Unity is a socialist, feminist and internationalist party. We speak up with women and children, against “austerity” and against war and the causes of war. We aim to represent the interests of working class communities and to support the unity of those communities in action for a decent life for all. We aim to speak out on how political events affect women and children.

    • Chris S says:

      Apart from what you have raised Felicity the statement says that Sinn Fein opposes austerity in the north and south of Ireland. Yet Sinn Fein in the NI Assembly are complicit in cuts and attacks on living standards.

      • Cathal H says:

        SF are in a mandatory coalition with the ultra-conservative DUP. Refusing to form a government, with the backdrop of the troubles, was never an option. The NI Assembly has very limited powers. In spite of this, SF have been trying to block Tory policies, such as the welfare reforms, from coming into practice, despite DUP support for them.

    • Rachel Archer says:

      Thank you, Felicity, for articulating my thoughts on this.

    • Don Hoskins says:

      This stuff about women is a complete non sequitur and a diversion from the real politics – many of the Orange bigots are women (approximately 50% of them) and females as well as males have made up the colonialist population. They are as responsible for the years of violence as anyone else.

      • Patrick D. says:

        Don Hoskins, your disgusting views seem closer to the BNP than Left Unity. I think you are putting comments in the wrong organisation’s website!!

  2. Mozzer says:

    And with one statement my support for Left Unity is withdrawn.

    • Tim says:

      The safety and prospects of the children of Northern Ireland, enshrined in a peace process, far outweighs obsessive retribution. Compromise involving the otherwise unacceptable is required on both sides of the divide and forms the armature. There will never be peace if it rests on the wholesale settling of scores.

  3. Robert Brenchley says:

    We need an end to prosecutions for Troubles offences, and a truth and reconciliation process which can shed light on the murkier actions of both sides, and hopefully give families at least a little closure. One can’t happen without the other.

  4. Liam says:

    This reads like it’s been drafted by Sinn Fein’s press office. It was clear that there was never enough evidence to take Adams to court. Everyone who had any dealings with him in Belfast republicanism knows that he always kept a bit of distance between himself and the orders he gave.

    What is utterly revolting is how exactly the same sort of character assassination that was used against Jean McConville was deployed against people like Brendan Hughes and Doloures Price, unbroken militants who’d have been appalled by genuflections to the English queen.

    All policing is political. Some of the RUC are more sectarian than others but Adams would not have been arrested without the approval of its top leadership. The whinging about “dark forces” by Kelly and McGuninness is pitiful. Sinn Fein is an organisation which was so thoroughly defeated by British imperialism that it renounced its entire programme. The few days Adams spent at Elizabeth Windsor’s pleasure were just a reminder of that.

  5. Charli Langford says:

    I have nothing to add to the comments on politically motivated policing in the 6 counties. But I feel that comments about Jean McConville are hiding one of those big elephants in the room.

    According to wikipedia Jean McConville lived in Divis flats, a heavily republican area, and she was killed by the IRA for informing, after previously having been warned and after having a radio transmitter removed from her flat by the IRA.

    This info presumably comes from pro-IRA sources. However, I see no reason to doubt it. I can see no benefit to the IRA in a random killing of a mother of 10. What follows is on the basis that the wikipedia entry (of today, 4 May – I suspect it will be edited fairly soon) is true.

    In all wars, being discovered giving information to “the enemy” is a quick route to being at best imprisoned, more likely killed. The IRA of the time were unable to run a court, evidence, and jail system. That’s why they did kneecappings and executions.

    This happens in all wars. People we support – ANC, Sandinistas, Cuban revolutionaries of 1961, Bolsheviks, WW2 Resistance movements in occupied Europe – all did it. National armies tend to do it slightly less because they have the alternative of prison camps, but we’ll see it today in Africa, Ukraine, Syria. It happens everywhere that the tactics of resistance take a military form. It’s one of the reasons I much prefer open, mass-action, non-lethal methods of struggle.

    The problem is, we (and I think of Left Unity as fellow-travellers though I’m not a member) don’t determine the tactics that oppressed people choose for their liberation. So we are forced to choose – do we support ANC, Sandinistas, IRA, Resistance etc, or do we denounce them and thus end up effectively in support of the South African Apartheid State, the US imperialist state, the Nazis, the British oppressors of Irish Republicans?

    That is the context in which we have to decide about Jean McConville. She is not a random unfortunate swept up in an impossible situation; she is playing a military role. What she is doing will lead to Irish Republicans being killed.

    I find it difficult to think of any alternative action the IRA could take. I leave it to the wisdom of any readers to come up with an answer.

    I also think that any end-war settlement has to draw a line under events such as these. Pursuing them further undermines any settlement made.

    • John Nelson says:

      A very brave and succinct argument put forward by Charli Langford. Anyone who fights against the establishment which in all of our countries is killing people should be supported. Let us be under no illusion the IRA won the war when they took their fight to London and started bombing the counting houses at that point the Tory Government capitulated. The atrocities they had committed against ordinary people were of no account it was only when they attacked the coffers did it matter. If left unity were to get the support of a major union e.g. (UNITE)Mcluskey then they may be seen as a realistic alternative.

    • Felicity Dowling says:

      The report that Jean McConville was an informer has been withdrawn in all the accounts I have read.What happened to her and her family is inexcusable.Were her kids equally to blame?
      Left Unity is a new party trying to find its way to represent the interests of working people.In no way do we support the model and theory of organisation used by the IRA.

      • Charli Langford says:

        I’ve tried google to find content saying Jean McConville was not an informer. All I can find are references to a report by the Northern Ireland then police ombudsman, Nuala O’Loan, dated 2006, which said there was no evidence that she had been an informer. That’s very different to there being evidence that she wasn’t. Presumably the IRA didn’t hand over the British Army radio they say they found at her flat to the police.

        Given the choice between believing the Northern Ireland police or the IRA on an issue like this, I would distrust the police more. There is a lot of evidence of police and British army cover-ups – check out the Stevens report – – or else the content of the Stalker report. Of course we’ll never know for sure what was happening with Jean McConville, but my initial view stands – I can see disbenefit to the IRA in killing her with no reason, while I can see a lot of benefit to the police for denying she was informing.

        There is also the possibility that she was forced into informing by blackmail or threats against her family.

        Least anyone be confused, I’m not in favour of her killing or the consequent situation of her children. I’ve already said I didn’t support the IRA’s method of struggle. But you have to look at these things with a grip on reality and as near to an objective assessment as you can.

  6. Philip Foxe says:

    Are there Left Unity national officers who didn’t support this statement? If not why issue a partial statement? Can we now look forward to statements on various issues by ‘some’ officers without never having an agreed position. Not sure this is a wise precedent to set.

  7. Roger Welch says:

    Charlie is spot on. What the IRA did at the time is what any resistance movement engaged in a war against an army of occupation would have done.

  8. Tim Nelson says:

    As one of the officers I didn’t sign it because there are some problems with it. First off, it says Sinn Fein is “resisting austerity in Ireland”, which it isn’t, in Northern Ireland it’s pushing it through. While I absolutely don’t support Adams’ arrest, and I don’t support the right of the Unionists or the British state to arrest anyone in Ireland; I also don’t think the left should have any illusions in Sinn Fein, either as being anti-austerity or as being the organisation which is serious about liberating and uniting Ireland. They’ve sold out both struggles consistently. I think it’s fine to call for the left to release Adams, but while we’re doing so we shouldn’t wrap him in a red flag imho.

    On a separate point, there were arguments in favour of having this go out as a statement on behalf of Left Unity officially, and I opposed that as well, as I think in doing so it would have committed us to a position on Ireland and Sinn Fein which many in the organisation don’t share, and we haven’t decided democratically as a whole.

  9. Liam says:

    One of the sinister aspects of Sinn Fein’s response to Adams’ arrest has been the vitriol directed against the Boston College project. Those involved have been labelled as “touts”, the most offensive word in the Republican vocabulary and one that used to carry a death sentence.

    This is partly about control of the historical narrative. Republican areas in the north of Ireland have seen an epidemic of shrine building and mural painting commissioned by Sinn Fein and its satellite organisations. This has a few purposes. It’s a way of saying all that stuff is now history and only something to be commemorated. It drives home the Republican message that there was only one form of struggle and they were the only people active in it and it transmits the officially sanctioned SF version of history to the exclusion of all others. The great value of the Boston project was that reminds us that there are other ways of recounting that history.

    On many levels this LU officers’ statement is dreadful and it serves no useful political purpose. Sinn Fein are as corrupt as Fianna Fail and in coalition with a party which is to the right of UKIP. They serve in a government which is principally concerned with the sectarian distribution of patronage and it’s about time socialists in England started applying to same criteria when judging it as they would when assessing any other party.

    The article below is the best currently available on Adams’ arrest.

  10. Nick Wrack says:

    It seems self-evident that the arrest of Gerry Adams at this moment is politically motivated, but to state that Gerry Adams “has also led Sinn Fein as a party which is opposing austerity and inequality across Ireland and which is seeing rising political support in the polls” is completely false.

    Sinn Fein is not opposing austerity and inequality across Ireland. It is in government in Northern Ireland and has consistently voted to implement austerity policies and increase hardship and inequality, as this article from Sean McVeigh in 2012 explains:

    Sinn Fein may say it is opposed to austerity but it is deeds, not words, that matter.

    If this is how ‘some’ Left Unity officers consider austerity should be opposed, they should step aside now.

    • pete green says:

      As someone who, after extensive discussion, agreed to sign the revised statement I need to say that I agree with Nick, John Penney and others about Sinn Fein the austerity issue and that sentence should have been excised. (My somewhat feeble excuse for failing to insist on that at the time is that the discussion among the officers had become focused on whether and how any statement should be issued at all and having welcomed the revisions to an earlier draft I agreed to sign without correcting that specific point) So I see no need to step aside now although I will welcome a contested election next time round!
      On the question of whether this was an attempt to foist a position on Ireland onto Left Unity the fact that the statement was only released in the name of specific officers should have signalled that several of us were concerned to avoid giving that impression(as Tim Nelson is aware as he contributed to that process as one of the Trade Union officers – for information there were I think four officers who declined to sign – Terry Conway, Felicity Dowling, Tim Nelson and Salman Shaheen, although not all for the same reason). Certainly I don’t believe we should be declaring our support for Sinn Fein or any other organisation in Ireland without a thorough discussion among the Left Unity membership.
      I also value Felicity Dowling’s contribution which quite rightly emphasises the tragic dimension of this for the McConville and other families caught up in the conflict.

  11. Bob says:

    we can only hope that a left unity government would be as affective as resisting austerity as Sinn Fein …


    This is a joke.

  12. Stuart Richardson says:

    The comment in the Left Unity officers statement on Gerry Adams arrest which says
    “He has also led Sinn Fein as a party which is opposing austerity and inequality across Ireland…”
    is ridiculous and should be withdrawn immediately since it is obviously untrue. Sinn Fein members are part of the Northern Ireland government which has loyally implemented all the cuts demanded by the British Coalition since 2010.
    Prior to this when the cuts were implemented in the public sector pensions systems (affected teachers and civil servants)was “reformed” the Sinn Fein members in the Northern Ireland Assembly voted for its implementation but the SDLP (similar politics to the British LP) opposed it. Previous to this a Sinn Fein member who was a minister in the Northern Ireland government closed hospital facilities linked women’s health. One could go on and on!!

    Surely a better focus for a statement by Left Unity would be to point out no member of the British military services has been been brought to trial for the killing of civilains and the widespread use of torture committed by the British Army and the SAS. A good friend of mine observed many acts of torture committed by the British Army.

    Stuart Richardson

  13. Gary Hunter says:

    Sinn Fein is opposed to the Welfare “Reform” NI Act, which, in its present form, seeks to ape the UK Act and is being driven by the DUP. Apart from the Greens, its the only party to take this stand against legislation which will adversely affect the sick and disabled in NI.
    I don’t support SF; in fact as LU chose not to stand in NI, there isn’t much of a choice for socialists. On the McConville tragedy, this was a shameful episode amongst many during the conflict. The shrieking harpies who arrived to take Jean away in front of those deeply traumatised children have to live with what they did that day, as does whoever gave the order. However, a line needs to be drawn under it. Health and Welfare services are being destroyed here as elsewhere in UK. Move on to oppose austerity and capitalism for the sake of the people alive now.

  14. John Penney says:

    Left Unity as a party has not as yet even discussed, never mind reached a consensus or a majority position, on the Ireland/Northern Ireland conflict. In fact it is quite clear from current debates on Scottish independence and the EU that , outside of the current policy areas agreed on the economy , Welfare, anti racism , etc, that on broader areas of political analysis Left Unity’s membership hold a quite diverse range of views.

    This needn’t matter too much if we concentrate on our core task of building a resolute radical , “broad church” Left anti Austerity party – and avoid thinking we need to have “a line” on each and every conflict across the world. The Irish/Northern Ireland conflict is obviously much closer to home than, say, the current Ukraine crisis – but why a group of officers of Left Unity felt the need to express a view at all in a “statement” on the arrest of Gerry Adams which essentially mirrors the press output of SF, and completely inaccurately suggests SF is any sort of consistent anti Austerity party, beats me.

    The statement was unnecessary, and in the context of British domestic politics, tactically extremely foolish too. Such a statement will be misinterpreted by many potential Left Unity members and voters , and may cost us dear.

    Very often over the years to come, Left Unity will have to simply “take the flak” from adopting positions on vital issues which are domestically unpopular but politically principled . However, In this case a group of key Left Unity officers have issued a completely unnecessary statement, which has no mandate from Party Conference, or even the National Committee, which simply WILL do us damage outside of the hothouse political bubble of the Far Left.

    We need to be more politically acute than this if we hope to build a broad mass party of the radical Left.

    • Len Hulley says:

      John – I share your view completely.

      It is LU’s central policies which attracted me to them as they seem to reflect basic humanity and common sense. I appreciate that many areas of politics cannot be so simple as this – and the situations in Ireland and Ukraine are just two examples of this. I also appreciate that LU may strive to be an internationalist party, which shows solidarity with similar left-wing or anti-austerity groups in other countries.

      However, I can see that this statement could be hugely divisive within what is still just a fledgling movement. Whilst the statement is careful to offer support for the victims, and explicitly outlines the need to promote peace, it can easily be interpreted as offering support for a man who has been strongly linked with a terrorist organisation.

      Whilst the intention of this statement is likely well-meaning, as John says, the risk of misinterpretation or misunderstanding is very real. Given the scale of LU’s immediate challenges in promoting its core principles, the statement does seem somewhat unnecessary.

  15. Sisters and Brothers The Statement by a number of Officers on Gerry Adams Arrest was an excellent initiative I would have liked to have seen its publication earlier immediately after Gerry’s Arrest rather than half an hour before his release … I hope the statement will help initiate a mature and reasoned discussion on what sort of policy towards Ireland Left Unity should develop.
    I would just like to remind all comrades that this Day in 1981 Bobby Sands MP died after 66 Days on Hungerstrike 25years after Bobby’s Death another, now departed, comrade Tony Benn had these words to say and 8 years on they could constitute the basis of Left Unity policy on Ireland

    Tony Benn Statement on the 25th Anniversary of Bobby Sands Death in 2006

    “Bobby Sands gave his life for the people of Ireland and their right to be free from British domination, which for centuries has cast such a dark shadow over its history.

    He joined the struggle that had gone on for so long and which will continue until his dream of Irish unity and freedom, is realised, and in making the final sacrifice he kept faith with those who had gone before and inspired those who followed.

    In Britain we are often told that there is an Irish problem but the truth is that there is a British problem in Ireland and every attempt to deal with it has failed. Occupation failed, partition failed, Stormont failed, direct rule failed, strip-searching, plastic bullets and the H-Blocks failed because they were all designed to retain British rule.

    Bobby Sands’ election to the House of Commons proved that even when the campaign was waged through the ballot box it was still not accepted by those in power in London.

    I am sure that the opportunity that seemed to be opening up with the Belfast Agreement is one that he would have welcomed, but, like many republicans, he would not have been surprised to see it frustrated and undermined by the hostility of the unionists and the weakness of the governments in London and Dublin.

    Every excuse for delaying the implementation of what had been promised on Good Friday has been trotted out from the original demand, years before, first for a cease-fire, then that it be permanent, then that the arms be decommissioned, that decommissioning be photographed (in order to humiliate), then because of a bank robbery and the brutal murder of Robert McCartney by individuals, and delayed even after the IRA put all of its weapons beyond use and declared an end to its armed struggle.

    But Bobby Sands’ cause has prospered and will succeed because peace and justice is what the people need and want.

    Bobby Sands said, before he died, “Our revenge will be the laughter of our children” – a phrase that says all we need to know about him and looks beyond the bloodshed to true peace.”

    Tony Benn 2006 in the collection of Essays’A Cause that Will Succeed’

  16. ben madigan says:

    read the statement and comments which were all very interesting. Charli langford certainly cut to the chase over separating propaganda from fact or probable facts. Interesting point of view. Anyway for anyone that is interested here’s a post with Gerry Adams press conference after his release, Ed moloney talking about the Boston tapes and finally the latest speech from the self-styled “Grand Chaplin” of the orange order – just to give everyone a little more info on aspects of NI that were raised in the comments.

  17. Ruth Knox says:

    The torture and murder of Jean McConville was an atrocity. Her family, like other families where the circumstances behind their deaths have been hidden or lied about have a right, above all else, to the truth. I see a parallel to the Hillsborough campaign and also to the Ballymurphy families. I would have thought that any attempt to find out the truth about Mrs McConville’s death would at some point have involved interviewing Gerry Adams who was certainly an important figure at the time and may have been able to contribute useful information. The statement gave a couple of paragraphs to his role in the peace process and Sinn Fein’s opposition to austerity ( extremely questionable, but that is not the point) How is this relevant? Does it place him above the law? For that matter, Tony Blair contributed to the Northern Ireland peace process but I live in hope that he will be arraigned at the Hague. If the argument is that other atrocities by the British army are not being pursued, then the answer is that all should be pursued vigorously. I don’t see how suppressing attempts to get at the truth helps.

  18. Those officers of Left Unity who didn’t sign the Statement in Solidarity with Gerry Adams and those like Pete Green who are half heartedly distancing themselves from signing the Statement perhaps should view this video of Sinn Fein’s 6 County Election Rally held earlier today. Given that the entire population of the 6 Counties is about 1.8 Million [approximately the size of Birmingham and the Black Country]and the Rally was called at short notice then the turn out was impressive by any standards. Comrades Like Felicity Dowling may be impressed that 75% of Sinn Fein’s Lead Euro Candidates are Women and one of them is a working class woman who served 14 years as a political prisoner in England. Sinn Fein is part of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left widely seen as the Anti Capitalist Alliance at the European Level…. If and When Left Unity in 2019 Left Unity gains MEP’s in Europe then we will be part of the same Alliance as Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein will be our ‘Sister Party’.
    As far as I am concerned I wish Sinn Fein every success in the European Elections… and I look forward to a mature debate inside Left Unity over the months to come that leads to us adopting clear and simple policy on Ireland. We should be committed to Irish Unity and we should establish working relationship with Republican’s and Socialists in Ireland from all traditions on the basis of equality of esteem. But above all Left Unity should seek to challenge the disgusting behaviour of our own ruling Class over generations and the oppressive measures adopted to attempt to crush a risen people by successive British Governments… Please Watch this video and I would like to hear precisely what comrades disagree with in the content of Gerry Adams Speech ….

  19. John Penney says:

    There has already been some debate within Left Unity as to whether the party should attempt to build and recruit within Northern Ireland – with an overwhelming decision so far NOT to do so. The argument for trying to do so being that as things stand there is no consistently radical socialist anti austerity party in place there – which has any chance of recruiting across the sectarian Catholic/Protestant working class divide. Sinn Fein is of course not a consistent anti Austerity Party, and its sectarian background history, as the political wing of PIRA , means it will never be able to recruit from the Protestant Working class majority in the Northern Irish statelet, not ever. We do recognise the existence of a majority Protestant working class, with a distinct, non-Catholic, culture, in the Northern Irish statelet though don’t we ? Or has its long domination by Unionist ideology somehow made this sizeable group of workers invisible to us on the Left, and not “worthy” of even agitating on a non sectarian socioalist platform within ?

    I accept that the ambiguous historical status of the Northern Irish statelet makes it pretty much impossible for the British Left to even consider organising in it – without appearing to “take sides” with British Imperialism. However given that any realistic observer would surely conclude that the present generation of struggle for Irish unification is off the cards now for an unforeseeable time, given that the last generation of armed struggle was decisively DEFEATED – by the usual tactically cunning , age old, British imperialist strategy of selective military force, community division, and eventual co-option of the previously intransigent rebels into actually helping to run the statelet – the question remains as to which radical Left party can realistically organise both the Protestant majority working class as well as the Catholic minority working class . It may be such a party will have to be organised on an all-Ireland basis. It wont ever be Sinn Fein though – a party we should keep at arms length.

    I might take the enthusiasm of those keen to speak up for Sinn Fein , like Mark Anthony France more seriously if he hasn’t also previously argued that Left Unity shouldn’t even organise in Wales, or Scotland, or even Cornwall (!) – simply because each of these areas has a sectarian nationalist party in situ . Personally , as a radical internationalist socialist I have no time for the socialist Left “tailing” petty nationalism, even if their policy bundle is dressed up in some entirely tactically driven , temporary, “left rhetoric”. In the Irish context particularly, if ex Chiefs of Staff of the IRA can put Irish reunification on the “back burner” pretty much indefinitely, and participate fully in running the Northern Irish statelet – including implementing the capitalist Austerity agenda, maybe its time for the British Left to finally “move on” politically to the reality of two state entities in Ireland for the foreseeable capitalist future – and think about how we help build a radical Left alternative in the Northern statelet of that island – even if that is merely by supporting some appropriate radical Left sister party organised on an all-Ireland basis – but NOT Sinn Fein.

  20. John Tummon says:

    First, I want to say what a rich discussion this is and thanks to the officers for starting it. Yes, we have a broad range of opinion on Ireland and this seems to be true, for the moment, on Scotland, too. That is why this debate is so welcome.

    In my opinion, the reason for this diversity of opinion is that, when it comes to imperialism, the modern Left has such a poor legacy from our 20th century ancestors. Lenin’s “Imperialism – the Highest Stage of Capitalism” is the problem, because it was too timebound, too focused on the World War, too extrapolated from German development and, most of all, because it relegated the actual struggles of people against imperialism to a bit part in his theory. That’s what made it totally useless to 20th century Africans, Latin Americans, Arabs and Asians who struggled for independence and improvised their theory as they went along, always rendering it secondary to military and other tactical considerations. The fact that so many ‘left nationalist’ organisations like SInn Fein, ZANU, the ANC and PLO have accomodated so fully to the neoliberal era results from this legacy, as does the abstract internationalism which is currently taking hold in Left Unity.

    European Lefties are still stuck in this flawed Leninist framework when it comes to imperialism, self-determination and independence struggles. We are rudderless, hence our diversity of views.

    I think Charli, Ruth and Mark are closest to the direction Left Unity should move and hope I can now explain why:

    The Savile Report ( in 2010 revealed – 38 years on – that the Bloody Sunday Massacre of Sunday 30th January 1972, in which 13 civilians were killed by the British paras, involved no provocation from those civilians and that they had been killed without justification. Similarly, those Irish people imprisoned for the Birmingham and Guildford bombs which followed in the wake of Bloody Sunday have since been released and declared innocent. This completely reverses what the British people were encouraged to believe at the time of these events.

    This has implications for how the subsequent history of Northern Ireland ought to be understood and the same is also true for other similar conflicts; the phenomenon of two sides in a historical conflict believing two entirely different sets of facts about major events within their conflict is a particular feature of modern ‘limited’ wars between, on the one hand, colonial or imperial powers and on the other, rebels against this colonial or imperial domination. It illustrates the increasing importance of propaganda, access to and control over information, media independence, investigative journalism and embedded journalism in the modern world.

    As already mentioned, at the height of the conflict in the early ’70s, there was a civil war going on and the PIRA was adapting to the challenges it faced in a very improvised way, conditioned by circumstances beyond its control. No-one should forget how insurrectionary this was – both the tricolour of the Irish Republic and the Starry Plough (the flag of James Connolly’s Irish Citizens’ Army and by then a symbol of a workers’ republic) were flying from the top of the high flats in the Bogside in 1969.

    Between 1968 and 1994, over 3,500 people died and over 35,000 were injured in Northern Ireland as a direct result of the fighting – something which is bound to be picked over for at least this generation, so there is no point in trying to wish it away, hoping to bring the Irish working class together in anti austerity politics or denouncing those parties, like SF, who vacillate on this and other questions. History affects people, their sense of identity and their priorities.

    Take Ballymurphy for example – let’s remind ourselves:

    Between 9th and 11th of August 1971, over 600 British soldiers entered the Ballymurphy area of West Belfast, raiding homes and rounding up men. Many, both young and old, were shot and beaten as they were dragged from their homes.

    The British Army’s Parachute Regiment killed all 11 unarmed civilians. One of the victims was a well known parish priest and another was a 45 year old mother of eight children. No investigations were carried out and no member of the British Army was held to account.

    It is believed that some of the soldiers involved in Ballymurphy went on to Derry some months later where similar events occurred on Bloody Sunday.

    Something like 90 percent of clearly unlawful army killings throughout the Troubles were by the three battalions of the Parachute Regiment. The Paras shot both Catholic priests who died in the Troubles.

    The real crime, Irish columnist Kevin Myers says, was not just the killings that Lord Savile has been investigating in his enquiry, but the tolerance of the Parachute Regiment’s conduct by both the British army and successive British governments. He continues:

    “That is the real mystery. Because the IRA had no better friend than the Parachute Regiment; wherever the Paras went, IRA recruitment subsequently rose. The price to be paid for their random and reckless brutality was the lives of other soldiers and the many, many more civilians killed by the IRA”.

    That’s why I think Left Unity should be pressing for public inquiries into all events that are still contentious, with a particular focus on the parachute regiment, without which the PIRA may never have existed as a significant force. Unfortunately, focusing our comments on opposing the arrest of Gerry Adams feeds the ruling class’s tendencey to avoid any further Inquiries. Above all, they want to protect the name of the Parachute regiment – the Monarchy, the MIlitary establishment, the Privy Council and the rest of the Oligarchy are determined to resist anything that goes beyond the Savile Inquiry – because they do not want the Wootton Bassett consensus so painfully built up over the past 4 years to unravel.

    Finally, its not just SInn Fein – Syriza vacillates, too, and so do most of our other friends in Europe, but we want a relationsuip with them because of some fundamentals we have in common and because the alternative is isolation or, even worse, arrogantly setting up our own organisation as their rival in their own country, on the flakey assuumption that we know better than them what are the interests of the working class. We should therefore seek a close relationship with the RIC is Scotland and with SF, too.

    I think we need an imperialism commission to take this debate further and try to fashion some kind of theoretical basis for our work in this whole area, or we will end up trying to ignore anything beyond vague statements of international solidarity or, worse, shut down the obvious divisions of opinion, which some people seem keen on over the equally difficult issue of the Scottish Referendum.

  21. Pete b says:

    No john. The point is to support the irish peoples right to self determination. To opposr british imperialism. Britain out of ireland. I dont know what kinf of radical party you want left unity to be – but I dont think brits out is too radical for left unity to say?

  22. M. Jones says:


    The key point here is the dead end of nationalism and the capitulation of Provisional Sinn Fein as the main current of “physical force republicanism” to the British and US imperialists. Socialist Democracy has a far better statement:
    Essentially nationalism cannot deliver for the oppressed – this applies to Scotland also.

  23. In General I agree with this analysis of the political import of Gerry Adams arrest… written by Frances Davis of Socialist Action

    “The recent arrest and imprisonment of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, who was subsequently released without charge, was a clear political intervention, designed to undermine the peace process and to reverse the rise in support across Ireland for Sinn Fein.

    The astonishing turn of events saw Ireland’s most popular party leader (polling 33 per cent rating), held for four days on the most spurious, hearsay taped evidence from a project now discredited, questioned for up to 17 hours a day and with some 33 hours of taped interviews and then released without any charge whatsoever.

    The objection – and anger – from Sinn Fein at the highly questionable nature and timing of events, given that Gerry Adams had willingly gone to answer police questions, was totally justified. Imagine if this had happened, in similar circumstances, to a leader of a political party in Britain? But in relation to Ireland the political context of these events is everything. Gerry Adams at every turn had forthrightly stated his innocence, explaining in detail the events around the arrest in a recent article. In the same article the Sinn Fein leader asks the key question – what were the motives behind this?

    Who stands to gain?

    Firstly, conservative, political forces opposed to the peace process and progressive change – both within the unionist leaderships and within the British establishment – have every interest in attempting to shift the focus of the political agenda. Despite denials by the PSNI and British government, as Sinn Fein Chair Declan Kearney points on in a recent piece, the anti-peace process elements are clearly still active. These elements are desperate to divert attention from their own attempts to block the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement (GFA).

    The past period has seen the DUP in particular – but also the UUP – in a permanent negative position, looking over their shoulder to the most rejectionist elements, and minority, who primarily want to stop the process and move backwards on rights and equality. This has included encouraging things like the sectarian and violent flags protests. It has also included their failure to sign up to the Haass proposals at the end of last year – which would have set out a clear and comprehensive framework on many difficult issues, in particular dealing with the past. The unionist leaderships have been in a permanent `election mode’, with a strategy of trying to be the most intransigent in the fight to the bottom.

    This has been utterly facilitated by the British government, which has been disengaged on the peace process for virtually its entire term, and has actively allowed unionism to block progress. The most striking example of this is the failure of the British government to back the Haass proposals.

    Alongside this is their utter disregard for the principles of the GFA, as shown by the totally one-sided and partial approach to dealing with injustices and the past. Whilst rushing to secure not one, but five, inquiries into the so-called `On the Runs’ (OTR) issue following the John Downey Case, and backing the PSNI over the Gerry Adams arrest, the British government simultaneously announced there would be no inquiry into the killings of 11 civilians during British state forces operations in Ballymurphy. They continue to renege on commitments to hold a full inquiry into the death of Pat Finucane.

    The government’s actions on these and other issues and their failure to positively push forward the peace process has only served to encourage the most negative and rejectionist elements, and failed to challenge the opponents of change still embedded in parts of the state. This was clearly seen during Gerry Adams’ arrest.

    However this is not proving so successful. Going backwards is not an option, nor something which commands support in the population. Sinn Fein has continued to hold fast and show leadership in their commitment to the peace process. Gerry Adams made this clear in his response following his release.

    Sinn Fein have skillfully advanced the peace process through decades of leading the political struggle through the most difficult of times, being able to adapt and develop a political strategy which has build their own political strength, without compromising on core principles.

    The Good Friday Agreement represents a clear advance of the Irish national struggle, putting as it does the case for a united Ireland on a level footing with the status quo. Its core principles of equality, rights, tackling discrimination, a new beginning to policing, inclusive mechanisms such as power-sharing and developing an all-Ireland agenda, where implemented, erode the reactionary basis on which the northern state was constructed. Economic developments, which see an opportunity for putting forward the case for a unite Ireland economy and demographic changes underpinning this, all point towards a strong likelihood of a future united Ireland. It is this advancement that is drawing the sharp response from both unionism and from within the British state.

    In the southern Irish state, those who most stand to gain from Gerry Adams’ recent arrest are of course the right wing political establishment and parties – who are being challenged by Sinn Fein over their catastrophic austerity policies and the disastrous economic situation. Sinn Fein is the credible, progressive alternative to this, and is also leading the challenge over corrupt political and institutional practices, which most recently saw the resignation of a senior minister.

    As a result the party is riding high in opinion polls. Not only was Gerry Adams the most popular leader with 33 per cent rating in the recent opinion poll prior to his arrest – despite a sustained, intense campaign of vilification in the media and by all the major parties – Sinn Fein is now regularly polling around 20 per cent. Labour’s support has utterly collapsed and both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael are desperate to stem the tide of Sinn Fein’s growing support. One poll in the highly anti-Sinn Fein Sunday Independent the weekend before Gerry Adams’ arrest, suggested Sinn Fein may even gain a seat in all three European constituencies in the south, adding to the existing seat held by Martina Anderson in the north. The party is standing an unprecedented number of candidates in council elections across the whole of Ireland, in every single ward and area. Again, this is the background to the arrest of Gerry Adams.

    Coming out of this, the effect appears to have backfired on Sinn Fein’s detractors. Certainly in the north of Ireland it has only served to galvanise Sinn Fein’s support, with new posters going up, emblazoned with Gerry Adams’ picture. In the south, the arrest comes after a long period of attacks on similar lines, which, up to now, have not dented Sinn Fein’s growth, as people vote on the issues which most affect them and the sharp decline in living standards.

    Sinn Fein’s message remains clear. Their party political broadcast for all of the elections north and south, with its range of people across Ireland representing the party’s support and issues, is incredibly strong: forwards with the peace process, for an Ireland of equality and change – and a progressive alternative to the right wing parties of austerity.

    Here in Britain, whilst some on the left should be commended for speaking out over Gerry Adams’ arrest, much more can be done, and the issue of Ireland must move up the political agenda. More pressure must be put on the British government for its negative role, and in particular Labour needs to be playing a far more positive and active role in defending the peace process – something which was a positive achievement of the last Labour government. Both the Tories and Labour cannot be let off the hook. Secondly, the left in Britain has to positively identify with Sinn Fein, as one of the most — if not the most — politically advanced and growing political forces in Europe, and do its part in supporting the peace process and, most importantly, the dynamics towards a united Ireland.”

    Over two years ago I wrote on aspects of the Peace Process and the lack of any process of truth and reconciliation in England you can access the piece here

  24. Laura Beesley says:

    I think it is a very brave move by the party to publish a statement on an issue that has opened up so many old wounds – or perhaps simply returned to general attention those that remain open. I think supporters should applaud this move, whether or not they agree wholly with the words expressed. The concept of this party is to unite the, often disparate, opinions of socialists in this country and provide a real alternative: a difficult task that is undoubtedly bound to face criticism from both within and without. Those who are withdrawing support based on one statement are ignoring the larger picture here. There is nothing inflammatory in this statement unless you believe the future of socialism should refrain from confronting such contentious subjects. I look forward to observing how the party tackles future concerns.

  25. Coolfonz says:

    I agree 100pc with John Penney’s first post.

    Why is this debate not being held on a forum – yet to be built – rather than stuck slap bang on the front page of the site? There are 1,900 members of the party and just seven of them have chosen to put this on the front page of our site, with hardly any wider recourse to what any one else thinks.

    Please delete this whole thread/article and move it somewhere else. Fast.

  26. Ruth Knox says:

    I am not totally clear. I can see an argument about timing. But is it being argued that, if Gerry Adams were actually to have ordered or been complicit in this murder he should in any case not be held to account?

  27. Mark Reeves says:


  28. M. Jones says:


    See further Socialist Democracy piece on the po0litical significance of the attack on Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein here:

  29. Pete b says:

    Have the comments on this dried up, or been moved elsewhere. Totally disagree with these vomments to hide away debate. Some comrades seem to think that differences put people off rather than impress people that there is open debate in and around left unity. There are irish republican socialists still fighting for the british to get out of ireland. I would think that weshould be supporting that struggle. The peace process has tied sf into a sectarian state. There needs to be a renewed struggle for, an open struggle for a socialist united ireland. It is the acif test for british socialists as to wether they support that struggle. So no dont hide the debates away. Dont be scared to support the irish struggle, it is a vital internationalist position.

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