Playing our part
by the editor
THE MAIN question today for supporters of Irish unity in Britain is how to maximise support for the Irish peace process over here and to extend our influence over government thinking and policy in these key areas.
The signing of the Good Friday agreement and the setting up of the Belfast assembly has firmly shifted the locus of political activity and campaign work back to Ireland, and rightly so.
Yet, we must not allow ourselves to lose sight of the fact that the British government retains overall political, economicand military control over the six counties and maintains partition.
Campaign strategies of the past, including the lobbying of MPs, are noticably less effective today, than they were in yesteryear. In part, the blame for this is down to changes within the British Labour Party, which have minimised the impact of both grass-roots campaigners and members of parliament, reduced the influence of trade unions and have ensured that political control of the party is retained within a small stratum at the top.
However, part of the blame rests with us in the solidarity movement for not having sufficiently taken into account the new circumstances. While there can be no doubt that the election of a Labour government with an unassailable majority has been central to advancing the Irish peace process -- particularly through the signing of the Good Friday agreement -- too many saw this as a signal to end their involvement in solidarity work.
The reality is that the reform process brought about by the agreement is constantly under attack from unionism and entrenched opposition from within important sectors of the British state -- most notably from the military establishment and key elements within the myriad and powerful security and intelligece agencies.
As supporters of Irish unity and the Irish peace process we need to take stock and rejuvenate our campaigns. An important part of this must include convincing people in Britain that sitting back and waiting for our government to fulfill its obligations is not an option.
Forswearing the oath
AMID THE hot air generated over the British government's decision to drop its opposition the Sinn Féin MPs taking up their legitimate entitlement to allowances and office facilities at Westminster has been the emergence of a long-overdue debate over the requirement for newly-elected MPs to swear an oath of allegiance to the British monarch before taking up their seats.
Despite what some people would like us to believe, it matters not one jot that Sinn Féin MPs have made it clear that they would refuse to take even an amended oath and have no intention, ever, of sitting at Westminster.
What growing numbers of democrats and republicans in Britain find so objectionable is the requirement for elected members of parliament to swear allegiance to an irrelevant royal head of one of the country’s most dysfunctional families, whose personal wealth is nothing short of an obscenity.
You do not have to be a committed revolutionary to believe that the primary allegiance of members of parliament should be to the constituents who elected them in the first place. What matters to them is that their MP represents their individual and collective interests to the best of his or her ability and carries out his or her duties inside and outside of parliament with integrity and honesty.
The campaign for changes to the parliamentary oath could unite people across party and class lines and should be supported by all those who wish to see British parliamentary democracy unfettered from the chains of unseemly royal association.
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