Apr 15 2019

BRITISH GOVERNMENT EXPANDS POWERS IN THE NORTH

The following article from Socialist Democracy (Ireland) highlights the impact of the reactionary unionism in Northern Ireland.  The Good Friday Agreement,  with its official  recognition of Unionists and Nationalists in a reformed Stormont, acted as liberal mask for the continued sectarian order in Northern Ireland. This placed the UK government in the position of ‘neutral’ arbiter, the better to ensure its continued rule. With the DUP now in alliance with May’s post-Brexit vote Conservative government, reactionary unionists see no need to maintain the liberal facade. Growing UK centralisation of power was always a central feature of Brexit, and its implications are not confined to Ireland.

 

 

BRITISH GOVERNMENT EXPANDS POWERS IN THE NORTH

A common myth regarding the northern state is that it has been without a government since the Stormont Assembly and executive collapsed in early 2017.  Accompanying this is the claim every that every ill in society (from sectarian intimidation to a failing health service) is down to (or at the very least made worse) by the absence of devolved government.  What usually follows from this is a call for Stormont to be restored as a means to bring about some improvement.  This is a call that is made unambiguously and unconditionally by the trade unions. It is also a call that is made by the left groups (albeit dressed up in rhetoric about fighting austerity or securing civil rights). The underlying assumptions here are that the political institutions brought into existence by the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) can shield the working class to some degree or even be a vehicle for reforms.

The problem is that such assumptions about the governmental structures in the north are without foundation.  The Stormont Executive and Assembly – throughout the period of their existence – had a very poor record on public services , extending rights or  countering sectarianism.  As the devolved institutions matured they actually got worse and at the time of their collapse had become a by word for incompetence, corruption, sectarian patronage and austerity.  Indeed, it was this decay (highlighted by the Renewable Heat Incentive  scandal – ‘Cash for Ash’)  that provoked the revolt in Sinn Fein’s support base that forced the party to pull out of the Executive and bring down the institutions.  The proposition that a restoration of Stormont will improve conditions for people in the north is fanciful.

Equally as fanciful is the claim that there is no government in the northern state.  Local politicians may be out of office but the most important organs of the state – the civil service, police, courts etc – continue to function.   As in any other capitalist society there is an apparatus of class rule that continues to operate irrespective of what party is in government or even if there is a government at all.  The critical point to be made in relation to Northern Ireland is that there certainly is a government that is exercising authority – and that is the British government.  While it may not be direct rule in its full form it is still rule by Britain.  While the local civil service may be one step removed from London it is there that its political direction is being set.

As time progresses the guiding hand of the British government becomes more visible as it takes on greater powers and responsibilities.   The most recent example of this is the unveiling of an annual budget for Stormont by the Secretary of State (SoS).  This is the third such annual budget that has been introduced at Westminster since the collapse of the local institutions.  The actual legal basis for such interventions is dubious with the legislation allowing for this only being passed last October.  Under its provisions civil servants are permitted to make decisions in the “public interest” and under guidelines set by the SoS.   The legislation included a talks timetable for the restoration of devolution running from January to March and allowing an extension to August after which an election must be called.  Of course this falls completely outside of the terms of the GFA – demonstrating the degree to which the British government can make things up as it goes along and also retrospectively justify any decision it has taken in the past.  For all of the talk (particularly around Brexit) about the GFA being an internationally recognised treaty experience has shown that any of its provisions be overturned at Westminster and that Britain as a state is not bound by it in any way.

In terms of substance the budget introduced by the SoS carries on the policies of austerity.  In cash terms it is around £11.bn which is similar to previous years – but when inflation and demand pressures are taken into account it represents further financial tightening.   For example, the health service is set for a 6% cash increase, but when inflation is factored in the uplift equates to around 2% in real terms.  Meanwhile education gets a 3.2% boost – but that works out at a 0.7% cut when inflation and this year’s in-year spending is factored.  Overall, the budget falls far short of the coast projection of £11.9bn that is needed to fund public services.  This is despite the additional £140m this year from the Treasury  as part of the DUP’s supply an confidence deal.  Indeed, as most of the £1bn of that deal falls outside regular departmental budgets  – and is ring-fenced for infrastructure projects – its impact on the day to day running of public services has been limited.  Also underpinning the budget is an assumption that £320m of efficiency saving can be found –  most of this is focused on the health service and the implementation of the privatisation policies  in the Bengoa Report.   The budget also raises rates with  domestic rates set to rise by almost 5% and business rates by just under 2%.   Overall, what the budget  signals is not just a continuation of austerity but also an extension of control by the British government over taxation and spending in the north.

It is not just financial matters on which Westminster has intervened.   The SoS has also made extensive use of the power of appointment contained in recent legislation.   Used initially to reconstitute the Policing Board this has extended to cover the appointments of the attorney general, senior police officers,  members of the Probation Board and the post of Police Ombudsman.  The power to appoint members of the Judicial Appointments Commission – the body which appoints judges – has already been transferred to the Lord Chancellor in London.  This is not confined to the policing/judicial field but across the public sector.  The SoS has now taken  the power to appoint a member of the Victims’ Commission, a member or chair of the Livestock and Meat Commission or a member, chair or vice-chair of the Housing Executive.

The role of British government in the north will expand greatly in any post Brexit scenario in which a large amount of new legislation, regulations and government orders which will become necessary.  It has been reported in the Irish Times that in such a scenario direct rule in its fullest form would be introduced.   According to same report the Irish government is viewing  such a development as “ an administrative necessity rather than a political move”.

This response really shows the weakness and complicity of the Irish ruling elite in regards  to the north.  Despite the earlier rhetoric about a return to direct rule being unacceptable and not allowing people to lose out  under Brexit this is exactly what is coming to pass.   The reintroduction of direct rule would be of huge political significance – marking the formal end of the Good Friday Agreement process after many years of decay.  This would be a new situation in which any pretence of neutrality on the part of Britain or any attempt at power sharing will have been completely abandoned.  This will have the support of the majority of unionists who have moved decisively against devolution and in favour of direct rule.  Indeed, the immediate introduction of direct rule is now the main demand  from all the unionist parties.

Brexit (particularly a no-deal Brexit) will reinforce this by creating economic barriers and divergence between north and south.  Rather than the border being blurred out  by European integration it will now become increasing visible.  All the nationalist assumptions about how the peace process would developed have been completely overturned.  The latest grasping of straws – that somehow Brexit will boost nationalist sentiment and hasten a united Ireland – is likely to prove as illusory.   All of this – which is reflected in the muted response of Sinn Fein to the moves towards direct rule – points to the broader weakness of Irish nationalism and its inability to challenge the power of Britain and its unionist allies.

 

8.3.19

 

This article was first posted at:-

http://www.socialistdemocracy.org/RecentArticles/RecentBritishGovernmentExpandsPowersInTheNorth.html

 

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also see:-

http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2019/02/19/brexitandwhatitmeansforireland/

http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2019/01/22/failing-governments-in-ireland-south-and-north/

2. THE#WEDESERVEBETTER FANTASY

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Apr 09 2019

BREXIT AND THE RISE OF RIGHT NATIONAL POPULISM FOLLOWING THE 2016 EURO-REFERENDUM

The following article, written by Allan Armstrong, is the second last chapter of his new book, From Pre-Brit to Ex-Brit – The Forging and the Break-up of the UK  and Britishnessness. It is hoped to publish the full book on line. Anybody who would like a pre-publication pdf copy of the book send an e-mail to intfrobel@yahoo.com

 

BREXIT AND THE RISE OF RIGHT NATIONAL POPULISM FOLLOWING THE 2016 EURO-REFERENDUM

 

From the ‘Peoples Vote’ demonstration in London on 23.3.19

The 2016 Euro-referendum highlighted the divisions that had emerged amongst the British ruling class over the UK’s future relationship with the European Union (EU). But it was the 2007/8 Financial Crisis which bought about the preconditions foe this split. This crisis showed that the UK economy wasn’t bearing up too well, and British politicians could see that their influence amongst the Council of Ministers on the top table of the EU was shrinking. Continue reading “BREXIT AND THE RISE OF RIGHT NATIONAL POPULISM FOLLOWING THE 2016 EURO-REFERENDUM”

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Mar 04 2019

WE WON’T MARCH WITH AN ORGANISATION THAT WORKS TO SUPPRESS ANTI-RACISM

We are publishing a statement from the Scottish Campaign Against Criminalising Communities, protesting against Stand Up to Racism allowing two Zionist organisations that uphold the apartheid nature of Israel to join its ‘anti-racist’ march in Glasgow on 16th March. This follows the SUTR’s acceptance of Zionists on last year’s march (see http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2018/03/17/scottish-stand-up-to-racism-bows-to-zionist-pressure/)

 

WE WON’T MARCH WITH AN ORGANISATION THAT WORKS TO SUPPRESS ANTI-RACISM

 

Apartheid Wall

Apartheid Wall –  “Fading homage to Delacroix”

SACC has worked with Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) Scotland since its inception 1. We regret that this year we cannot support SUTR’s anti-racism march, to be held in Glasgow on 16 March, as we understand that it will include representation from Glasgow Friends of Israel (GFI) and the Confederation of Friends of Israel, Scotland (COFIS).

GFI and COFIS are pro-Israel lobby groups inspired and guided by organisations that work with the Israeli government. They support Israeli state racism and aim to suppress the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel – a movement that is founded on anti-racist principles and is supported by anti-racists.

Continue reading “WE WON’T MARCH WITH AN ORGANISATION THAT WORKS TO SUPPRESS ANTI-RACISM”

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Mar 04 2019

IRISH NURSES AND THE FAILURE OF SOCIAL PARTNERSHIP

We are posting two articles from the Socialist Democracy (Ireland) blog addressing the nurses’ struggle for improved pay and a better health service in Ireland. The second goes into the underlying problems faced when unions embrace a partnerships with the state and employers in a time of economic crisis. 

 

1.SQUARING THE CIRCLE

Government, union bureaucracy put nurses back in their box

 

Nurses take action in Dublin

In antiquity Greek mathematicians came up with an insoluble problem called “squaring the circle”.  The term entered the English language as a metaphor for an impossible task.

Yet this is the task that INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha, alongside the executives of the nurses and midwives union and the psychiatric nurses union, with the support of ICTU, set out to achieve. Continue reading “IRISH NURSES AND THE FAILURE OF SOCIAL PARTNERSHIP”

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Feb 19 2019

FROM BLATCHERISM TO MAYBYNISM

Below is a synopsis of Allan Armstrong’s new pamphlet  From Blatcherism to Maybynsism. Chapter 6, Scotland – from ‘Project Hope’ to ‘Project Hate’and from ‘Better Together’ to ‘Bitter Together’ can be seen in the bella caledonia blog at:- 

https://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2019/02/19/from-project-fear-to-project-hate-from-better-together-to-bitter-together/

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FROM BLATCHERISM TO MAYBYNISM

THE CONTINUING SHIFT TO THE RIGHT
IN THE TRANSITION FROM
NEO-LIBERALISM TO NATIONAL POPULISM

 

Allan Armstrong presents a case that the world is leaving the period of neo-liberal domination and entering a period of national populist domination. This is analogous to the earlier move from post-Second World War social democratic domination, which ended in 1979/80. He emphasises the role of the 2008 Crash in dividing the UK and US ruling classes. This had led to the rapid growth of national populist politics in these and other states. The Right’s winning of the Brexit vote and then the election of Trump (‘Brexit, plus, plus, plus’) has performed a similar role in the transition from neo-liberalist domination to national populist domination that the election of Thatcher and Reagan had played in the earlier transition. Continue reading “FROM BLATCHERISM TO MAYBYNISM”

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Feb 19 2019

BREXIT AND WHAT IT MEANS IN IRELAND

The E&L blog  has been reporting the situation in Ireland since we started up. However, during  current Brexit negotiations , the  ‘backstop’ has pushed the issue of Northern Ireland to the fore. We are publishing two articles which share a lot in common in their analysis of Ireland, but which offer differing perspectives on the role of the EU. The first is written by David Jamieson and first appeared on the Commonspace blog. The second is written by Allan Armstrong and forms the seventh chapter of his new pamphlet From Blatcherism to Maybynism.

 

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  1. ANALYSIS – MICRO-POLITICS ISN’T ENOUGH – WE MUST ADDRESS

THE  PARTITION OF IRELAND

 

Debates around the UK border in Ireland and the so called ‘backstop’ bring the crisis elements of the British state into sharper focus. Continue reading “BREXIT AND WHAT IT MEANS IN IRELAND”

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Jan 31 2019

CORBYN, LABOUR AND THE TORIES’ IMMIGRATION BILL – A dialogue

This is a new dialogue over the consequences of Brexit following the Corbyn-led Labour Party helping Theresa May get the second reading of the Tories’ Immigration Bill through on Wednesday 29th January

see an earlier dialogue at:-

FROM FARAGE’S BREXIT TO TRUMP’S “BREXIT PLUS, PLUS, PLUS”, AND ON TO ‘MADAME FREXIT’?

This dialogue came about in response to a posting Allan Armstrong made on the Republican Socialist Alliance list. It was also taken up by Phil Vellender (Editorial Board of The Chartist) on his Facebook page.

Continue reading “CORBYN, LABOUR AND THE TORIES’ IMMIGRATION BILL – A dialogue”

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Jan 22 2019

REVIEW: CLASS NOT CREED, 1968

Connor Beaton reviews the pamphlet Class Not Creed, 1968 by Richie Venton both as a historic account of events in Northern Ireland and as an indication of the current politics of the Scottish Socialist Party.

Fifty years after the beginning of the civil rights movement in the north of Ireland, the whole island is coming alive with mass political activity. Campaigns against water charges, against sexual violence, for abortion law reform, for marriage equality, and for affordable housing have spilled onto the streets in virtually every major city in Ireland over the past five years. Protests in the south have consistently mobilised tens of thousands of people, particularly young people and women, and demonstrations have also taken place north of the border in a more limited way. Meanwhile, the Brexit vote in 2016 and the collapse of Stormont at the start of 2017 have precipitated a political crisis in the north, making partition a central political issue in perhaps the most serious way since the Good Friday Agreement was concluded in 1998. Continue reading “REVIEW: CLASS NOT CREED, 1968”

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Jan 22 2019

FAILING GOVERNMENTS IN IRELAND – SOUTH AND NORTH

We are posting two articles from the Socialist Democracy (Ireland) website, highlighting the problems faced by  the current Fine Gael  government in  the Dail and the lack of enthusiasm for reviving Stormont in Belfast.

 

1. CONFIDENCE AND SUPPLY AGREEMENT EXTENDED

Varadkar (Fine Gael) and Martin (Fianna Fail) agree deal at the Dail

A de facto government of national unity in Ireland weakens capitalism and poses a sharp challenge for the opposition.

In mid-December Fianna Fail and Fine Gael agreed a new confidence and supply agreement, maintaining the minority Fine Gael government in place until 2020. The event went almost unnoticed, with smiles from both parties, claims that the agreement was forced by the national interest and the imminence of Brexit. The smaller parties cried foul from the sidelines, having been deprived of an election contest. Continue reading “FAILING GOVERNMENTS IN IRELAND – SOUTH AND NORTH”

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Dec 11 2018

UK: THE POLITICAL CRISIS INTENSIFIES OVER THE BREXIT DEAL

This article first posted by Socialist Democracy (Ireland) analyses the crisis for the UK state, the British ruling class and the Tories and Labour over there deal May is trying to get through parliament.

UK: THE POLITICAL CRISIS INTENSIFIES OVER THE BREXIT DEAL


The unveiling of the draft agreement on withdrawal from the EU has intensified the political crisis within the British ruling elite – provoking a rash of resignations from the Conservative government; threats to overthrow the premiership of Theresa May; and warnings of dire consequences should it fail to win support in Parliament. Continue reading “UK: THE POLITICAL CRISIS INTENSIFIES OVER THE BREXIT DEAL”

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