The purpose of the following article is to provide an introduction to the
main points contained within the discussion document launched at Sinn Fein's
1992 Ard Fheis (national convention) and re-confirmed in 1994. There are 14
sections in the document, each is an important consideration in devising any
SECTION ONE: INTRODUCTION
This section outlines Sinn Fein's criteria for a lasting peace in Ireland. Each
section following takes up and develops the issues lying behind these criteria.
An end to conflict does not necessarily lead to lasting peace and in the
context of Ireland has lead only to new outbreaks of hostilities after a number
of years. A peace process, leading to a lasting peace, must address the root
causes of the conflict.
A genuine and sustainable peace process must be grounded on democracy and
SECTION TWO: NATIONAL DEMOCRACY AND PEACE
This section looks at the role of national self determination, democracy and
democratic structures which are fundamental to a lasting peace and how Britain's
denial of these rights in Ireland and the measures it takes to enforce this
policy remain the root cause of the conflict.
The Irish people have a right to peace: A right to the political structures
which are capable of making peace permanent; a right to decide for themselves
what these structures might be; and an obligation to ensure that they serve the
best interests of all the Irish people.
Peace is not just the absence of war but is also establishing conditions which
will ensure a lasting peace. This means eradicating the root cause of the
conflict by gaining national self-determination, which in turn lays the
foundation for justice, democracy and equality - the safeguards of lasting
Britain's policy in Ireland is the root cause of the conflict between Irish
people themselves and between Britain and Ireland; its purpose is to maintain
and protect Britain's interests in Ireland. British policy denies the
fundamental right of national self-determination and therefore contravenes the
internationally accepted right of nations to self-determination.
Britain's policy in Ireland is maintained through military and political
coercion, through partition of Ireland into Six and 26 Counties, through
gerrymandering to create an artificial unionist majority in the Six Counties
(Unionists make up 20% of the people of Ireland and therefore are a minority not
a majority, in Ireland), through Protestant privilege, through the unionist
veto, i.e., Britain's support for the political wishes of the Unionists.
Britain claims that the main reason for staying in Ireland is not to maintain
its own interests but primarily to safeguard democracy; however, to protect its
own interests in Ireland, Britain has given power of veto over national
independence to a pro-British unionist minority which is in direct contravention
of the principle of national self determination and is therefore a denial of
In reality this means defending and maintaining the inequality, injustice and
the instability which are the result of a statelet founded on a political system
of political, social and economic privilege.
SECTION THREE: IRISH SOVEREIGNTY: INTERNATIONAL LAW & IRISH DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS
This section outlines examples of the main historical documents where the Irish
people's nationhood, independence and sovereignty have been reaffirmed, both in
Ireland and internationally.
In Ireland on many occasions the national independence that is a unitary state
governed by one government has been declared. Some of those occasions are as
follows: The Proclamation of Easter of 1916;
The Declaration of Independence of the first Dail, 21 January, 1919;
The 1937 Constitution, Articles 1, 2, and 3;
The Unanimous Declaration, Leinster House, 10 May, 1949;
The New Ireland Forum, May 1984;
The Dublin government's Minister for External Affairs, Dr. Patrick Hillary's
address to the United Nations' Security Council, 1969;
The Hillsborough Agreement, November 1985;
Dublin Supreme Court in McGimpsey vs. Ireland, etc.
In international law the universal principle of self determination is
enshrined in the following:
The United Nations' International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,
The United Nations' International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
The Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly
Relations and Cooperation Amongst States in Accordance with the Charter of the
The United Nations' Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial
Countries & Peoples, Article 6;
The Conference on Security & Cooperation in Europe, Paragraph VIII.
SECTION FOUR: DIVISION & COERCION
This section is in two parts: the British strategy of division and coercion in
Ireland as the root cause of the conflict. It also examines the role of the
propaganda which removes blame for the conflict from Britain, and states instead
that the problem is divisions among the Irish people - divisions deliberately
fostered by Britain's colonial selfinterest. This section challenges that
Britain is a neutral force in Ireland. In the second part of this section the
economic effects of partition are examined.
Britain has operated the classic colonial divide and rule strategy in Ireland
using partition. However, British propaganda has masked this cause of the
conflict by distracting attention away from Britain's role in creating it. The
threat and use of force has supported this British strategy, creating a state of
permanent emergency with the associated military and judicial repression. For
two decades a 30,000 strong army of occupation has been deployed, 3,000 people
have been killed, and 30,000 injured, the equivalent in Britain of 100,000 dead
and over one million injured.
Britain's arguments for remaining in Ireland are: responding to "the
democratic wishes of the Unionist majority"; to avoid a "bloodbath" in the event
of British withdrawal; and more recently, that Britain has no selfish strategic
or economic interest for remaining in Ireland and does so only to keep the peace
(Peter Brooke, 100th Day Speech, 1987).
However this declared 'neutrality' is contradicted by Brooke's further
statement that the Conservative party is committed to keeping the Six Counties
as part of the UK. John Hume drew the conclusion that Britain was neutral and by
doing so placed the responsibility on the shoulders of nationalists to get
Britain to join the persuaders of unionists to look to national reunification.
Brooke rejected Hume's conclusion.
The formal British government position, Conservative, Labour or Coalition, is
found in Clause 1 (a) of the Hillsborough Agreement, 1985 where London and
Dublin "affirm that any change in the status of Northern Ireland would only come
about with the consent of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland" thus
Since 1973 the British have tried to enlist the active support of Irish
nationalists, the SDLP and the Dublin government for partition through: The
Sunningdale Agreement, 1973; The Powersharing Executive, 1974; The Hillsborough
Treaty, 1985, and The Brooke Talks, 1991.
What is being advocated is not peace but simply a program for political
stability and to perpetuate partition.
The social and economic effects of partition have been disastrous for working
people, North and South.
Partition has led to: discrimination in employment; waste of millions on
maintaining the border; the external dependency of the two states; industrial
under-development; unemployment; emigration; and poverty.
Partition has further led to: conservative administrations in both states; low
status of women; clerical control; stagnation in education and health provision.
A genuine peace process requires the recognition of the effects of partition.
SECTION FIVE: CONDITIONS FOR DEMOCRACY & PEACE
This section deals with responsibility in relation to the peace process and the
criteria by which any peace process might be judged. It also explores the
process of national reconciliation.
The search for peace is everyone's responsibility but particularly those
organisations which represent the people and specifically the London and Dublin
governments. It is also an international responsibility. The criteria by which
any peace initiative is judged is the degree to which it promotes national
The elements needed to bring about the conditions for peace are: a British
government that makes the ending of partition its policy in Ireland; a Dublin
government that has the same policy; cooperation between the London and Dublin
governments to bring this about in the shortest possible time with the greatest
possible consent and minimizing costs of every kind; that this be done in
cooperation with unionists and northern nationalists, i.e. to begin the process
of national reconciliation.
SECTION SIX: ARMED CONFLICT
This section traces the history of the last 20 years and places armed struggle
in the context of national liberation and colonial struggles worldwide.
During the Home Rule crisis of 1912 it was the British and loyalist forces
which threatened and used violence against the reunification of Ireland. This
was followed by 50 years of state oppression of the nationalist community
including attacks and pogroms by state forces. In this present phase of armed
struggle, state violence and armed conflict predated the IRA campaign.
The Civil Rights campaign of the 1960s was brutally attacked by the forces of
the state, official and unofficial.
The British army was sent in not to protect the nationalists but to shore up
unionism in the rest of Britain.
From 1969 - 1971, the nationalist community was subjected to repeated
RUC/loyalists/British army attacks.
90% of deaths caused by loyalists have been civilians. 55% of those killed by
the British army have been civilians.
Armed struggle throughout history has been seen as a legitimate part of a
people's resistance to foreign oppression.
Armed struggle for republicans is an option of last resort.
There is no constitutional strategy to pursue national independence.
In the circumstances the onus is on those who condemn the option of armed
struggle to advance a credible alternative.
SECTION SEVEN: BRITISH GOVERNMENT
This section deals with the reasons why partition must go and the responsibility
of the British government in persuading the unionists to look toward a united
There are many reasons why partition must go: it is anti-democratic; it
produces abnormal states; it has failed and will continue to fail to bring
lasting peace; it produces conflict and the conditions of conflict.
Cardinal O Fiach declared that change by the consent of only those people in
the artificial Six Counties to be "no policy at all...it means you do
nothing...it's an encouragement to sit tight."
SECTION EIGHT: DUBLIN GOVERNMENT
This section outlines the responsibility of the Dublin government in the genuine
search for lasting peace.
The Dublin government has a clear responsibility in establishing national
democracy. It possesses the resources and access to the world centres of power.
Since the founding of the 26-County state it has adopted a negative role towards
national democracy, taking up the issue only for electoral gain.
Since the Hillsborough Accord it has been actively involved in supporting
partition. A Dublin strategy for peace must involve persuading: the British that
partition is a failure; the unionists that reunification would benefit them; the
international community to support Irish national rights.
Furthermore Dublin be defending the democratic rights of northern nationalists
and resisting any further erosion of Irish national rights through diluting of
the 1937 Constitution.
SECTION NINE: A STRATEGY FOR CHANGE
This section outlines Sinn Fein's views on what needs to be done by both the
Dublin and London governments if they are serious about pursuing a genuine
Britain has a responsibility to: recognize the right of the Irish people to
self-determination; change its current policy to one of ending partition and
giving sovereignty to an all-Ireland government; influence unionist attitudes to
this end; consult with Dublin to agreement on ending partition.
If Britain refuses to do this then Dublin should; win international support
for Irish national rights; mobilise support for this among Irish people and
their descendants living abroad; use every international forum at its disposal;
mobilise in Britain on Irish national self-determination; initiate debate with
Northern unionists regarding national reunification; mobilise support in every
aspect of Irish life to secure national independence; review every treaty with
Britain re. such issues as extradition; organise nationally and internationally
in defense of democratic social and economic rights; and establish democratic
structures through which the above can be implemented.
SECTION 10: THE ROLE OF NATIONALIST PARTIES
This section highlights the contradiction faced by the SDLP and Fianna Fail in
their refusal to challenge the existence of partition and Britain's
responsibility for the current conflict.
Fianna Fail and the SDLP have considerable influence in the world power
centres'. They could and should reject the British propaganda view of "Britain
as a honest broker."
If they believe that partition is not a viable solution to the conflict, they
must firmly reject any proposed solution which involves partition.
They should demand that Britain follow to its logical end the claim that they
are neutral and formally accept the Irish people's right to selfdetermination.
They should highlight all abuse of human rights in Ireland and demand that the
CSCE should monitor human rights abuses currently happening in the Six Counties.
SECTION ELEVEN: THE UNIONISTS
This section looks at the impact unionists have on the demand for
self-determination and outlines Sinn Fein's approach to discussion with them in
relation to this.
Unionists are 20% of the Irish people and have a considerable impact on the
peace process. Peace requires a settlement between Irish nationalists and Irish
This debate cannot begin as long as Britain guarantees the continuation of the
unionist artificial majority in the Six Counties. The 'unionist veto' must be
ended. To achieve national reconciliation the deep rooted fears of people must
be addressed. All gain from a democratic settlement.
SECTION TWELVE: THE EUROPEAN DIMENSION
This section looks at the various changes that have been taking place in Western
and Eastern Europe and places Irish reunification in that context.
The process of political and economic restructuring which is taking place in
Europe has raised the issue of national self-determination. The partition of
Ireland, anomalous in international law, should be considered in this context.
Many European governments have already accepted Irish reunification is a
necessity for durable peace to be established. Already various EC reports have
recognized the 'anomalous' status of Britain's remaining jurisdiction in
The Conference of Security and Cooperation in Europe is empowered to carry out
checks on human rights abuses. It should be invited to do so in the Six
SECTION THIRTEEN: THE UNITED NATIONS
This section deals with the role of the United Nations in resolving conflicts
with suggestions as to how these might be applied in the context of Ireland. The
situation in the North is a failure of the normal political process and there is
little reason to have confidence in either government's willingness or ability
to resolve the conflict. In such a case it is possible for the United Nations to
be requested to help with the resolution.
The United Nations Secretary General and the UN's Decolonization Committee
share a duty with member states to create the conditions in which the "freely
expressed will of the people concerned" can be reliably ascertained.
This means, firstly, removing all forms of repression. In Ireland this would
mean the removal of every barrier created to enforce partition.
Those concerned with peace in Ireland should ask the United Nations to:
request annual reports from Britain on its role in Ireland in line with Article
73 of the UN Charter; ask the Decolonisation Committee to hold an annual review
of the toll of partition.
Sinn Fιin does not support placing UN troops in Ireland.
Any deadlocks encountered during the process of British withdrawal could be
assisted towards a resolution by the United Nations.
The United Nations could be requested to convene a conference of all parties
SECTION FOURTEEN: SUMMARY
1. Peace requires the conditions of democracy, freedom and justice to eradicate
the causes of war.
2. The Irish people have the same historical right to sovereignty and nationhood
which is recognized by international law. Partition contravenes these laws and
frustrates national democracy and national reconciliation.
3. British rule in Ireland has no democratic legitimacy and has rested on
division and coercion. They should recognize the failure of partition.
4. The Dublin government should assume its responsibility in relation to
reunification either in cooperation with Britain or if necessary, independently.
5. The unionist minority have nothing to fear from a united Ireland. Removing
the veto will open up the possibility for constructive dialogue.
6. Irish republicans are committed to playing a constructive role in building
national democracy when the British government finally adopts a policy of
withdrawal from Ireland.
7. The partition of Ireland and the British claim to jurisdiction over the Six
Counties is a European issue.
8. The United Nations has the authority and mandate to monitor a decolonisation
process in Ireland. As an interim measure Sinn Fιin would propose that the
United Nations monitors partition and Britain's role within it.