Date: Fri, 1 May 98 13:37:00 CDT
From: Arm The Spirit <>
Subject: Irish Republican Opposition To The Stormont Talks Agreement
Article: 33740
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Irish Republican Opposition To The Stormont Talks Agreement

By Patrick Farrelly, Sunday Tribune, 19 April 1998

McAliskey Criticizes North Agreement

(Sunday Tribune—April 19, 1998) Speaking to an overflow audience at a west side union hall in Manhattan Friday night, Bernadette McAliskey said that she was opposed to the Stormont Talks Agreement. I'm not confused about this Agreement, all I'm confused about is why anyone is trying to sell it to me, why anyone is trying to tell me that this is a solution.

McAliskey, who is in the U.S. for two weeks, said that the Unionists in a new assembly will exercise their veto to prevent any further peaceful progress in the development of the people of Ireland towards democracy. That has been their single great contribution and will continue to be. The Unionist definition of democracy does not include human rights for nationalists.

McAliskey was also critical of the manner in which the agreement was negotiated. There is nothing democratic about leaders negotiating in secret and coming back with fait accomplis and threats of war. What the British are saying is that they have no alternative to this agreement other than war.

At no point in her hour-long speech—some of which was devoted to thanking American supporters of the campaign to release her daughter Roisin—did McAliskey either mention or criticize the Sinn Fein leadership.

Calling for the retention of the paramilitary cease-fires, she said that if anything had been achieved in the last period it was that we have gotten out of the war. She added, I hope we stay out of it and hold onto the cease-fire. That does not mean that we cannot make a better stab at creating progressive institutions which would allow us to progress towards democracy. We can at least agree on one thing, that war is not a valid mechanism for resolving conflict. Then we can start dismantling the war machinery, most of which is on the government side.

McAliskey was introduced by Malachy McCourt, brother of the Pulitzer prize winning author of Angela's Ashes and shared the platform with the Fr. Daniel Berrigan, the oft-imprisoned anti-war activist. The audience was sprinkled with a large number of local Irish political activists, many of whom were in attendance to hear McAliskey's take on the Agreement. Her speech was given an enthusiastic reception and a standing ovation at its conclusion.

One of those present was one-time Irish Northern Aid leader Martin Galvin. Galvin said that he had deep concerns about the Agreement. Galvin said that the core principle of Irish republicanism was the right of the Irish people to national sovereignty. Doesn't this agreement purport to abrogate that right. Are republicans being asked to accept and acquiesce in a loyalist veto on a united Ireland. Will this be copper-fastened by the two referendums and forever after be portrayed as a national referendum ceding the historic right to national sovereignty? These are some of the questions I have and like a lot of others I have some soul searching to do.

Galvin said that he had been contacted by 32 County Sovereignty Committee but didn't know whether he would join them or not. Galvin will meet with two leaders of the Sovereignty Committee, Bernadette Sands and Omagh Sinn Fein councilor Francie Mackey, when they visit New York this week.

One of Sinn Fein's top fund-raisers in New York, Sean Mackin told the Irish Voice newspaper that he had misgivings about the Agreement. My first gut reaction was I am not happy with this. From here, it doesn't look that good, and people are skeptical about Articles Two and Three and other things, Mackin said.

Sands and Mackey will attempt to tap into some of the evident confusion and discontent among local Irish activists. The important and intensely secretive republican support group, Clann na Gael is said to be on the brink of a major split. According to Clann sources the organization has been in political turmoil for some time over the course being taken by the Adams leadership. This agreement is the last straw for many people, the source said.

Veteran republican Joe Cahill met with Clann and Irish Northern Aid leaders when he visited the East Coast two weeks ago. Cahill, was also dispatched to the U.S. at the time of the first IRA cease-fire in 1994 to reassure stateside supporters. This traditional base is most vulnerable to Sinn Fein's opponents on their republican flank.

Irish Northern Aid which was once the Provisionals mainstay in the U.S. has faded in significance since the 1994 cease-fire. In New York the Northern Aid annual dinner which once attracted large crowds and influential politicians attracted only a fraction of its usual thousand plus attendees last year. This grass-roots Irish American activist group has been largely supplanted by the Friends of Sinn Fein which receives large sums of money from millionaire businessmen like Chuck Feeney and Bill Flynn.

Owen Rodgers, a prominent New Jersey-based republican activist said that activists are confused and disillusioned by this Agreement. He pointed out that while Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness still had a high standing with their traditional supporters but the Agreement was stretching that credibility to a breaking point with a growing number of people.