ACCORDING TO unionists, no political progress can be made in light of the current IMC report. They need no excuse - but one has been given, courtesy of a politically appointed body created outside the terms of the Good Friday agreement.
Established in January 2004, the body, made up of four commissioners, has since consistently submitted biased and politically motivated reports to the British and Irish governments, designed to undermine republican's capacity to transform the northern state.
Three of the commissioners have close working links with American, British and official Irish state security agencies respectively. They have no credibility within the nationalist and republican communities in Ireland, particularly amongst those voters that the body is currently attempting to disenfranchise.
General John de Chastelain, chairman of the Independent Decommissioning Body has defended his Semptember findings that the IRA had ridden itself of the totality of its weaponry. He has put it to the IMC and those wanting to use its report as an excuse not to engage democratically with Sinn Fein, to provide proof that the IRA has retained arms. We would fully agree. For unless we see proof that such a scenario has taken place, democrats in Britain and Ireland can only conclude that the suggestion of arms retention is a political device brought into the political arena to facilitate a reactionary agenda.
The IMC report has helped stall equality and justice reforms. It has also blocked the prospect of democratic institutions being re-established in the north, meaning there will continue to exist no political accountablity in the six counties. The north wil continue to face drastic cuts in social spending and further privitisation initiatives by an extreme rightwing 'Labour' government in Britain.
The IMC's report also seems to dovetail with an overall British and Irish state strategy of attempting to marginalise and denigrate republicans in order to weaken Sinn Fein politically and electorally. For the past two months, British security agencies have been releasing information about supposed informers operating within the republican movement. The veracity of many of these reports is not known but the intention for discloure seems apparent.
As one of our columnists has suggested in this paper, there now exists an attempt to undermine the Sinn Fein Party to make it more amenable to British government policy. If more revelations of informers within the upper ranks of Sinn Fein and wider movement were to be released during or before election time, it would surely effect the republican vote and help to re-draw the nationalist electoral map in the north.
The IMC itself has given unionism an excuse to dig in its heals. But not only has the IMC undermined Sinn Fein's position as a democratic partner within the powersharing executive, it has also fatally undermined the very agreement it was supposedly set up to protect.
Connolly Publications Ltd, 244 Gray's Inn Road, London, WC1X 8JR
Copyright © 2001 Connolly Publications Ltd