This is a study of conflict resolution which concentrates on two particular cases, Northern Ireland and southern Africa,
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English Pages  Year 2000
Can the Downing Street Declaration bring an end to centuries of conflict and 25 years of war in the North of Ireland? In
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David Francis is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford, where he established
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For nearly thirty years Northern Ireland has been a by-word for terrorism, bloodshed, military coercion and intense comm
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This book provides a critical understanding of the emerging role of African militaries in peacetime democratic Africa.
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Everything flows, said the prophet This being so, it is not surprising that often mere emblems remain of ideologies long abandoned or labels of political parties, whose policies are unrecognizable from the old. This makes analysis of fluid situations difficult, as in the cases of the end of apartheid in South Africa and the end of IRA action in Northern Ireland, the more so, when placing these situations alongside each other, as I have tried to do. In situations where ethnic groups and politics are linked or overlap, fixed concepts are easily accepted. Yet not every Protestant in Northern Ireland is a hard-line Unionist nor every Catholic a fiery IRA supporter, any more than every white South African was committed to apartheid or every black a fighter for freedom. The ebb and flow of politics ensures that the majority is passive, while pushing the activists to the top. Communities form the base from which activists operate, and as the will of the majority changes so do the politics. How could it be otherwise? Change is merely a matter of time and generations. In South Africa, actual change, when it came, arrived swiftly. In Northern Ireland the process of change was more intricate, the balance more delicate, and faltered often on the brink of failure. In South Africa the black—white situation made it always obvious that ‘non-whites’ would gain majority rule. In Northern Ireland, bitter enmity was more deeply ingrained; the horror of 30 years of conflict was so much part of the present that the process of change took longer. Unionism, feeling itself besieged and betrayed, had to find the courage to overcome its understandable apprehension. Republicanism had to find a way out of the impasse into which violence had led, by deferring but not relinquishing its ultimate aims. In following the process of change, Northern Ireland won out in terms of emphasis in my pages because of the intricacy, because it was happening when I first visited the island and because it was new to me. Nonetheless it seemed to me that both situations posed similar problems for the communities involved and for their leaders and outside forces. It appeared valid to look at both, as in each country individuals and groups vii
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sought desperately to find a peaceful way out of what appeared to be insoluble conflicts based on old, serious grievances and deep hurt on all sides. Naturally not everyone will agree with me about this view; indeed only a few may do so.
It is the ‘done thing’ to express thanks to those who have assisted a writer in his/her labours and hasten to add that any errors of interpretation or analysis are not theirs. Both are justified in the case of this book. Over the years I have been helped by many people, by interviews and private discussions with those involved in the struggles in southern Africa and, more recently, with individuals from both sides of the sectarian divide in both parts of Ireland. My thanks go to them all, in particular to those representing different viewpoints in Ireland, as they patiently introduced a novice to the complexities of the issues in their country. In particular I wish to thank Artur Fegan, whose dedication to his cause and his own work is as formidable as his knowledge and whose constant assistance and his family’s hospitality was tremendously appreciated, as much as it will be remembered. I am also indebted to many others, in particular Bairbre de Brun, who first initiated me into Northern Irish politics; to Rita O’Hare, who opened many doors; to Jim Gibney for his endless patience in answering my questions; and to erudite academics and Irish journalists such as Anne Cadwallader who too gave me their time. I appreciated their help all the more when I read their pieces and their thoughtful and wellinformed books, from which I learned and quoted. This book is dedicated to peacemakers everywhere. Having lived in areas of conflict almost all my life, it is gratifying to have witnessed in old age the end of conflict in some of those areas: Germany, my birthplace; Zambia, which once had been a home-from-home; Zimbabwe, whose painful road to independence I was able to accompany from the start of conflict to the jubilation of Independence Day and beyond; Angola and Mozambique and of course South Africa, which took my family in as refugees and of whose turbulent society I became a member. My final thanks go to Agency Griot whose support has been invaluable in this and other work, which has enriched the twilight years. During my work on this book, I naturally visited Ireland as often as I could. On returning from one such visit to Belfast in September 1998, I IX
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was quizzed at the airport by an immigration officer – or was he a policeman? He never did identify himself and I didn’t ask. He wanted to know why I had been to that troubled country, which by then, in theory, was already at peace, with David Trimble hard at work as First Minister of a Northern Ireland Assembly-to-be. Probing further, the polite young man also asked how I set about getting my information. I was momentarily baffled. I was a long-retired journalist who had taken to writing a few books. So how do I describe how an ex-journalist works? By talking to people, said I. He pounced on that which people? Well, there he had me. I was hardly likely to trot out the old but true adage that a journalist never reveals his or her sources, nor did I feel he had the right to ask. However, it did set me thinking about the way writers garner knowledge. I am not presumptuous enough to call it expertise. That belongs to the people I didn’t name to the young man, some of whom I mentioned in my thanks above and a few of whom I have quoted in the book, either because I had the good fortune to talk to them or because I had read what they had written. On the Irish scene I am thinking of Professor Patrick Buckland; of Kate Feron, one of the members of the Women’s Coalition, young, enthusiastic, intelligent; of Maggie Beirne of the Committee of the Administration of Justice (and their helpful archives); of interviews with Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness and Mitchel McLaughlin; meetings with other staunch fighters for the Republican cause, such as the unforgettable Bernadette Devlin-McAliskey, while also remembering the Unionists to whom I am indebted for their views. Then there were the press conferences, where I kept at the edge, as I no longer needed to serve instant news, and the helpful journalists willing to fill me in on detail. I always felt that ‘the media’ is just that – the go-between between the ‘players’ and the ‘audience’. It is the journalist’s job to present the actions of players to the audience by reports and to interpret them by analysis and comment In a book, the latter prevails. That means that statements cannot always be directly attributed to any single individual, as they have been gleaned from discussion, atmosphere and, if one is fortunate, from discreet statements on the part of the players themselves. Like all journalists, I found the latter most gratifying. Though they do not provide instant ‘sound bites’ or indeed attributable views, I often found conversation and discussion more valuable than quotable question and answer sessions. Working as I did in and on southern Africa, when the region was in Crisis, off-the-record talks with members of freedom movements, which were not yet governments-in-waiting were important. Trust was essential and that had to be built over a long period of time. I often gained friendships from such trust, as I know did other journalists. It is one of the perks of the job. It may not be an advertisement for perspicacity in the light of the downturn in his political fortunes to say I liked and
respected Dr Kenneth Kaunda, whom I interviewed numerous times; but in defence I can say that I was able during my lengthy sojourn in his country to openly write of my misgivings about his economic policies. I was also fortunate to meet informally many other Zambians in seats of power, such as Andrew Kashita or Dominic Mulaisho (with whom I once worked on the Southern African Economist) or who were out of power, such as ‘KK’s’ one-time friend and later enemy, Simon Kapepwe, or ex-‘KK’ men such as Elias Chipimo who later threw their weight behind the Frederick Chiluba government ‘KK’ of course was in power and president of his country (though I had met him initially during the dying days of the Central African Federation). Others I talked to before they were elevated to high office, or were never to achieve it Among the latter, sadly, is General Josiah Tongpgara, of whom I still have a photograph in my small living room, a few months before his return to Mozambique and the accident that robbed Zimbabwe of this important leader. As for the former, well, it is a long list, which I am glad numbers such individuals as Simon Muzenda, Zimbabwe’s long-serving Vice-President; the fiery Dr Eddison Zvogbo or the MPLA’s Paolo Jorge, who for some time held the post of Angola’s Foreign Minister; also Iko Carreira, who is no longer alive, whom I had met as a young guerrilla and who later had held such posts as head of Angola’s army and Minister of Defence. And of course there are the South Africans, who in the 1970s were outdistanced in ‘armed struggle’ by their neighbours and among whom I met such people as Alfred Nzo, then ANC’s Secretary-General, later South Africa’s Foreign Minister, President Thabo Mbeki, when he headed the ANC’s information department; Frene Ginwala before she rose to the dizzy height of Speaker of the House; or Ruth Mompati, today one of the country’s several female ambassadors. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list of the men and women whom I met, talked to and who in some cases became friends over the decades; it is meant to illustrate what I feel journalism is all about meeting and talking with the men and women who matter, so that one can understand their points of view. Or, as the current slang has it, 'where they’re coming from’. For many people living in tranquil countries, the fervour and dedication to a cause such as nationalism appears incomprehensible in the opening years of the twenty-first century. Was nationalism not something put to rest at the end of Hitler’s war, when the purity of blood and superiority of one nation over others had been proven a terrifying delusion? They are therefore baffled by the emotions which make an IRA volunteer prepared to give up his life, by an Orangeman determined to march to his ‘field’ on 12 July at any cost or by an Afrikaner who yearns for a Boerestaat, an Afrikaner Republic. But such emotions are real.
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They set events in motion. And by meeting nationalists, unionists, apartheid protagonists or anyone who identifies with a cause, one learns to respect their deep-seated beliefs, fears and hopes of achieving tolerance of opposing views.
Southern Africa ANC AWB BCM CODESA COSAG COSATU CP DRC ECC EO EPG FF FNLA FRELIMO
GEAR GNU IDASA IFP MDC MDM MPLA MPNP NGK NIS NP NSMS OAU OB PAC PAGAD PF
African National Congress Afrikaaner Weerstandsbeweging Black Consciousness Movement Convention for a Democratic South Africa Concerned South African Group Congress of South African Trade Unions Conservative Party Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) End Conscription Campaign Executive Outcomes Eminent Persons Group Freedom Front Frente Nacional de Libertacao de Angola Frente nacional libertacao de Mocambique (In 1970 re-named Frelimo Party) Growth, Employment and Redistribution Government of National Unity Institute for a Democratic Alternative in South Africa Inkatha Freedom Party Movement for Democratic Change Mass Democratic Movement Movimento popular de libertacao de Angola Multi-Party Negotiating Process Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk National Intelligence Service National Party National Security Management System Organization of African Unity Ossewabrandwag Pan Africanist Congress People Against Gangsterism and Drugs Patriotic Front
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
PWV RDP RENAMO
SACC SACP SADDC SADF SAP SDU SSC SWAPO TRC UCB UDF UDI UNITA UNTAG UP ZANU (PF) ZAPU
Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Vereeniging Reconstruction Development Programme Resistencia Nacional Mocambicana (Mozambique Resistance Movement) South African Council of Churches South African Communist Party Southern African Development Co-ordination Conference South African Defence Force South African Police Self-Defence Units State Security Council South West African People’s Organization Truth and Reconciliation Commission United Cricket Board United Democratic Front Unilateral Declaration of Independence Uniao nacional para a independencia total de Angola UN Transitional Assistance Group United Party Zimbabwe African National Union (Patriotic Front) Zimbabwe African People’s Union
AIA AP CAC CLMC CSC DUP GFA GRRC INLA IRA IRSP IV LVF NI NIA NICRA NIO PIRA PUP RIC
Anglo-Irish Agreement Alliance Party Continuity Army Council Combined Loyalist Military Command (32) County Sovereignty Committee Democratic Unionist Party Good Friday Agreement Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition Irish National Liberation Army Irish Republican Army Irish Republican Socialist Party Irish Volunteers Loyalist Volunteer Force Northern Ireland Northern Ireland Assembly Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association Northern Ireland Office Provisional Irish Republican Army Progressive Unionist Party Royal Irish Constabulary
RUC SDLP UAC UDA UDP UDR UFF UUC UUP UVF
Royal Ulster Constabulary Social Democratic and Labour Party Ulster Army Council Ulster Defence Association Ulster Democratic Party Ulster Defence Regiment Ulster Freedom Fighters Ulster Unionist Council Ulster Unionist Party Ulster Volunteer Force
EU NGO UN WCC
European Union Non-Governmental Organization United Nations World Council of Churches
Introduction: Failing the Future
We make war that we may live in peace.
ARISTOTLE Nicomachean Ethics, Book 10
Nothing becomes protagonists as much as making peace. The last decade of the twentieth century witnessed a flurry of efforts to make peace in several theatres of war. This attempt to settle minor conflagrations followed the horrors of two world wars, the Cold War, the continued violation of human rights, the fear of increasingly sophisticated weapons, rapid globalization of interests on the one hand and the ever deepening division between peoples sharing national boundaries on the other. Southern Africa and Northern Ireland were two of the theatres of smaller wars where enormous efforts were invested in making peace. The resolution of long-term conflicts in both areas began in the mid-1980s. In the case of southern Africa, with the exception of Angola, peace was achieved by the mid-1990s. In South Africa a transitional power-sharing government of 1994 was smoothly replaced by an African National Congress-led government in 1999. The desire for peace and stability was so overwhelmingly strong that agreement was reached to enable different communities to share common resources, even if these were not ideally distributed. In Northern Ireland the process of creating conditions for two different communities to live alongside each other and interact peacefully proved more difficult. The pressures on the parties in conflict to settle their disputes were as strong as in South Africa – the mediators worked as long and as hard to arrive at a settlement, if not more so. Sadly, the main ingredient proved to be missing: that of trust. In both southern Africa and Northern Ireland the issue had been the power politics of privilege. In southern Africa whites had held a dominant position which had been challenged by the non-white majority. An accommodation had to be found and was eventually arrived at. Similarly, the Irish peace process was about the creation of an equitable society. Protestants, some 60 per cent of the population, had held positions of privilege and power through Unionist (pro-British) parties from the creation of the state in 1921 until the start of direct rule from 1
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Westminster in 1972. Catholics, Irish Nationalists and Republicans, who comprised the remaining 40 per cent, felt excluded from that power. While Nationalists participated in political institutions, Republicans took up arms after the regrouping in 1969 of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA), which was to wage urban guerilla war for a quarter of a century. Protestant Loyalist groups were also involved in the conflict. An agreement on power-sharing and devolved government was hammered out on Good Friday 1998, to be fully implemented by May 2000. This Good Friday Agreement (GFA) offered Republicans ‘inclusion’ for the first time. The dream of a united Ireland was deferred. However, implementation of the GFA only began in December 1999, when the largest Unionist group, the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), finally agreed to enter into a power-sharing devolved government with the Republican Sinn Fein party according to the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. The UUP did so with the proviso that it would withdraw unless decommissioning of IRA arms had commenced by 31 January 2000. It was not the physical but the symbolic significance of decommissioning which was in question. Unionists felt increasingly threatened as their privileges were whittled down. Decommissioning had become the last bastion around which they rallied, claiming quite rightly that private armies had no place in a democratic society. For the IRA too, arms had a symbolic significance. Giving up arms was seen as tantamount to surrender. The January deadline was perceived as a Unionist ultimatum and was not met. Republicans argued that the short period of political participation was not long enough to prove to hard IRA men that politics worked. However, with the UUP withdrawal and therefore the unraveling of the GFA imminent, the Northern Ireland Secretary of State began a legislative countdown to suspend the devolved institutions. At the eleventh hour the IRA acknowledged that decommissioning was essential to peace, but without actual arms delivery this proved too little too late for the Unionists. Suspension went ahead on 11 February 2000 and was only lifted in May following an IRA compromise. This was seen as the only way to save the peace process, which, despite the fumbling and crises, had already changed the political landscape. People on both sides of Northern Ireland’s sectarian divide and also in the Irish Republic had demonstrated their desire for peace. When talks began in 1997, opposing Unionists and Republicans balked at the idea of even sitting down with each other. They initially talked through third parties, with Unionists refusing even to share common facilities. Slowly, one by one, the barriers were dismantled. By February 2000, at the height of the decommissioning crisis, contact had reached a point where it was possible for the UUP and Sinn Fein leaders, David Trimble
and Gerry Adams, to consult with each other during the frantic efforts to keep devolution in place. By then, plans for changes to the police force, the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), were under way, Dublin had renounced its territorial claim to Northern Ireland, two Sinn Fein ministers had worked alongside Unionist and Nationalist ministers, members of all parties had shared membership of parliamentary committees, cross-border structures had been set up and prisoners from both communities had been released. The old sense of exclusion felt by the Catholic community had been eroded. Since the 1960s, Catholics had achieved many of their aspirations, helped by demographic changes, the declining importance of national boundaries within the European Union and the desire of the Protestant business community to reap the benefits of peace and stability. The peace process in Northern Ireland and that in South Africa have much in common – hopefully also their final outcomes. If the GFA is allowed to collapse in Northern Ireland, the present could fail the future.
How to Play Peace
It is right for us to be here, in such urgent striving for peace. TONY BLAIR
A tale is told of Leo Tolstoy whose daily walk in a park was disturbed by the boisterous shouts of children. He walked towards them and was furious when he saw two older boys attacking a small boy. He told them to stop at once. One of the boys said, We’re only playing!’ ‘Playing at what?’ the great man growled. ‘Playing war.’ He walked away, muttering irritably, Why can’t you play peace?’ At the edge of the park one of the boys caught up with him to ask, ‘Please, how does one play peace?’ It is a question people have been asking with increasing intensity. Seemingly it is more difficult for neighbours to live at peace than at war with each other. The old days of nation-state wars seem to have been laid to rest with the past. In the dying years of the twentieth century, however, conflict between different groups sharing the same national boundaries emerged with new vigour. Ethnic conflicts with their anger, distrust and hatred are deeply rooted in the past, in Europe as well as in other continents. The history of Europe reflects an ancient pattern of conquest and coercion, of invasion and colonialism. The colourful fabric of Europe’s nations reflect none of the racial purity idealized by Germany’s Nazi rulers who revised history. Romans and Greeks might have despised barbarians, but they passed on their culture and genes to them. Not even island nations can claim ethnic purity. Saxons were conquered by Franks and fled to what were to become the British Isles, where the Norman Conquest added to the ethnic mix. Yet collective consciousness of separate groups is fed by oral history and legends which keep many memories alive. Ancient feuds were revived in new conflicts. Is it coincidence that in Bosnia the conflict of the 1990s had broken out close to the River Drina, the one-time border between two warring sides of the Roman Empire, the east and west? In Bosnia it is possible to identify the protagonists as Orthodox Serbs whose ancestors had been converted to Christianity by Constantine, Catholic Croats linked to the Roman Pope and Muslim Slavs whose 4
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ancestors had served the Ottomans. The Kosovo conflict too has its roots buried in that past. In Ireland, conflict had raged over centuries between descendants of British settlers and those of indigenous Gaelic people. The latter, Celts converted to Roman Catholicism in the fifth century BC, were an IndoEuropean people. They had spread from Alpine Europe to the Iberian Peninsula and beyond, before defeat by the Romans and by Germanic tribes confined them from the third century mainly to Britain, France and Ireland. The English and Scottish settlers were almost all Protestants who had been settled in the wake of England’s colonial acquisition of Ireland in the seventeenth century. Peace did not follow the island’s partition in 1920/21, when 26 counties were granted Free State status and six northern counties out of nine Ulster counties were set aside to form the British preserve known as Northern Ireland. Instead, deep antagonism was endemic in these six counties, as Nationalist Irish resented continued British rule over an entity in which Catholic Nationalists formed a minority. The 26 Catholicdominated counties duly achieved the status of an independent Irish Republic in 1937, with Articles 2 and 3 of its constitution claiming sovereignty over the entire island. In turn, this aroused the fury of the Protestant Irish of the north, who looked to the 1920 Westminster Government of Ireland Act as legitimizing their constitutional status. From 1968, endemic animosity and sporadic outbreaks of violent confrontation had turned into vicious open conflict. Africa too suffered from civil and ethnic conflicts. In southern Africa, conflicts erupted from the 1960s onwards, when white supremacy was challenged by non-whites, composed mainly but not only, of indigenous peoples. South Africa’s 1909 Westminster constitution had been biased in favour of whites, with its remaining electoral rights for nonwhites gradually whittled away by subsequent governments. In most centres of conflict, people yearn for peace not war – in Bosnia or Kosovo as much as in Rwanda, in southern Africa as much as in Ireland. Following the end of the Cold War, conflicts within national boundaries proliferated. As these often spilled over into neighbouring areas and also affected foreign trade and investment, outsiders began to exert pressure on the conflicting parties to settle their affairs amicably. Sometimes such resolution arose out of the end of the Cold War, as in the case of southern Africa. In addition, globalization also tended to focus more intensely on human rights abuses. Few countries could afford to ignore international opinion – as Russia did in the case of Chechnya in 1999. As a result of such changes, the art of peace-making became internationalized from the late 1980s onwards. During the last decade of the
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twentieth century a number of long-standing conflicts were eventually concluded. Peace was brokered in southern Africa and a seal finally set on a weary process in Ireland on 10 April 1998. A look at these geographically distant areas – Africa and Europe – is thus worthwhile.
Peace cannot be built on exclusion. GERRY ADAMS
April 1998 Tolstoy might have told himself that conflict was as old as humankind and would never be banished, only contained. Nonetheless conflicts do end, either through victory and defeat or by stalemate. In both cases there is a settlement, by imposition of the will of the victor in the first case and by agreement in the second. He might also have told the boys that the child they were bullying was a boy like themselves, who only wished to run in the park like themselves. The bigger boys might have agreed that smaller boys should have the use of a certain section of the park, while they played nearby, without either interfering with the others’ games. That, the older man might have said, is playing peace: searching for the root of the problem, discussing it and agreeing on a compromise. That is what conflict resolution is about and to which so many minds have applied themselves in various areas of conflict with varying degrees of success. Every long-drawn-out conflict reaches a point where those affected at the grassroots lose trust in a successful outcome for their cause and thus become impatient with and distrust continued violence. Leaders in tune with their people will channel such disappointment into a new process: making peace. In pursuing this new strategy, they open themselves to criticism and frustration, for the inevitable outcome of negotiation is compromise. Moreover, such compromise is in itself merely the beginning. It creates stability for the next equally complex process – that of implementing the agreement. Peace process
By definition, conflict resolution is a learning process. The main problem in every peace process is the different perception each party has of itself and of its enemy. The question where the line can be drawn between compromise and surrender is as delicate as it is difficult to define. This is the basis of talks, of negotiation. Success depends as much on the skill of 7
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negotiators as on the need for settlement – that is, whether the protagonists are prepared to and can afford a return to war or whether there are other alternatives, such as withdrawal from the geographical area of conflict. An enforced exodus as in the case of Kosovo is of course no solution. As for a return to war, this often needs allies as well as finance. Once either or both are withdrawn, there is no alternative but to make peace. With the proliferation of ethnic conflicts, resolution of such differences became almost an industry. Crisis managers, military experts, aid workers, mediators, peace-keepers and community relations experts worked with varying degrees of success in different areas of conflict. Conflict resolution experts speak of several stages and different tiers involved in any peace process. The first stage is one of persuasion, when both parties must be convinced that they should cease fighting. This involves breaking down old perceptions, fears and distrust. The second stage is the preparation for talking. The third stage is that of negotiating a settlement. This phase involves working out constitutional structures which provide equality for each of the different ethnic groups within the state’s borders to everyone’s satisfaction. The final stage is the most difficult of all: real reconciliation to pave the way for peaceful co-existence, sharing and respect for one another. This is achieved during the agreements’ implementation, which requires perseverance, dedication and trust of all concerned – easier said than done when one considers the Middle East or former Yugoslavia. Each level involves different time-scales. Getting the parties together may take years. This happened in South Africa and Northern Ireland. In both areas feelers were put out in the early 1980s, but contact came in stages and at a slow stop-go pace, gaining momentum only in the 1990s. Negotiations, on the other hand, can be carried out relatively quickly, given the willingness and need to compromise. In South Africa, this period covered the years 1990 to 1994, the latter date having been set by the outgoing white government from the start of talks. In Northern Ireland, the British government set aside a two-year period from June 1996 to May 1998 and in the end resolutely stuck to the timetable. Without this there might have been no peace document. Moreover, this date and the GFA of 1998 marked the start of a further frustrating 18 months of deadlock before Republicans compromised on decommissioning and the UUP on Republican entry to a power-sharing Executive. The process went into crisis in February 2000, with the suspension of the new power-sharing Executive, until the deadlock was unblocked in May to allow the process to be completed. The final stage, that of learning to live with each other and accepting each others’ rights, is the longest process of all. In southern Africa, it led to a mass exodus of whites from the former Portuguese territories almost immediately after the peace settlements between the Portuguese and
black opposition in 1974 and 1975. Some white Zimbabweans made for South Africa and elsewhere following the Lancaster House Agreement of 1979. Some South Africans who were apprehensive of a black society, either for themselves or their children, also emigrated in the wake of the democratic government of 1994. As in Zimbabwe, those white South Africans who remained had to learn to adopt new attitudes to blacks, particularly as these societies became stratified, with whites and blacks taking their place in all strata of society. Following the resolution of the post-GFA impasse in Northern Ireland in May 2000, the two communities there will also have to learn to approach each other differently. Several groups are involved in the process of conflict resolution. The top tier is of course composed of the political leadership. The next tier consists of legal experts together with political parties, while the third tier is made up of the grassroots, for it is in the heartland of the people that the conflict is carried out. As seen in southern Africa, this tier is affected long after formal agreements are signed. It requires not only structural but also psychological change. Trust between warring communities can be rebuilt only gradually. Old prejudices are hard to break down, so inevitably this is a lengthy process which may well carry on to the next generation. This phase is not helped by the fact that previously disadvantaged communities which have suffered generations of neglect and oppression are badly placed to take instant advantage of new opportunities. Thus not everyone can immediately play an equal role in new economic and political structures. Individuals and communities previously excluded from access to resources have to be empowered to make use of these, which in turn can cause new resentment on part of those previously privileged. This was clear in the reaction of whites in both Zimbabwe and South Africa to policies of ‘affirmative action’, which officially favoured non-white job applicants. Patience and leadership skills are needed to bridge the gap between expectation and reality once peace has been agreed. In any conflict resolution process, trust is built gradually: between mediators and the conflicting parties and finally between the parties themselves. Mediators learn to understand and build on the infrastructure of the culture of the parties in conflict. On occasion individual peace brokers tend towards one side and succeed in building up a relationship with it. For that reason mediators work best in teams, with different members forging their own relationships which allow the vital ingredient of communication to flourish. Every conflict resolution begins with resentment and distrust on the part of the parties. In order to overcome such feelings, the work of drafting the agreement is as important as the negotiation. Legal drafts-
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men have to tread a delicate path. On the one hand they must phrase controversial clauses clearly in order to provide guarantees to suspicious minds; on the other hand, the fine print must also allow flexibility, so that agreement cannot only be reached but actually implemented. It was this kind of wording which caused David Trimble much grief after the signing of the GFA and the difference of interpretation on the timing of decommissioning, which led to the deadlock of 1998-99. Words caused further conflict in February 2000 when the IRA refused to accept what it considered a Unionist ultimatum on decommissioning. The IRA acknowledged on 5 February the need for decommissioning but refused to be boxed into a defined date, thus rocking the peace process and forcing further mediation attempts. The Northern Ireland parties were fortunate in their mediators, who unblocked the process time and again. President Bill Clinton appointed the former US Senator George Mitchell in 1995, ostensibly as an economic envoy for a few months, to assist in the peace process when this began in earnest. Mitchell became the lynchpin of the process itself. He chaired a commission on arms decommissioning and subsequently took over the chairmanship of the multi-party talks of eight political parties which led to the GFA, returning once more when the implementation of this agreement ran into troubled waters in 1999. He was a man who appeared totally calm in public, and in private listened to all sides over long periods, showing understanding in the face of rival recriminations and accusations. He was thus able eventually to bring together the two men who mattered, David Trimble and Gerry Adams – no mean feat for any mediator. South African whites and non-whites, though long in conflict, were able to conduct their own peace process with the use of home-grown negotiators. No two conflicts are alike and therefore the process of their resolution also differs. Nonetheless, it is interesting that in cases where the root cause is similar, so is the effect. This applies to southern Africa and Ireland, where conflict was initially caused by colonial domination, the settlement of colonialists and discrimination against indigenous peoples. The period following the resolution of any conflict is as demanding as the peace process itself, if not more so. Once documents have been signed, peace declared and celebrated, former foes and peace brokers honoured, the legacy of conflict remains. Peace is a delicate plant requiring careful nurturing. As Senator Mitchell said on his departure from Northern Ireland, the parties would have to endure ‘severe pains’. As these are hopefully the birth pain of a new society, it is hoped that those who suffer them can bear them without a return to strife and discontent.
Two Areas of Conflict
Reconciliation buries the enmity of generations. ANON.
In southern Africa the plant was in place in 1994, but had not yet fully flowered by 1999. In Northern Ireland, the seed was sown in April 1998 but did not sprout until November 1999, when distrust on both sides was finally overcome to reach a compromise, only to break down once more in February 2000 before the final settlement in May. Colonialism, the common root of these conflicts, makes comparison possible, between the wars as well as between the process of resolution. It was the process of colonialism which created division along ethnic lines, deepening social and economic differences between the different communities – the one-time colonizers and the one-time colonized. First, a glance at the differences:
— Southern Africa is a huge region south of the River Congo with some 110 million inhabitants. Ireland, the divided emerald isle, has a population of only around 5.5 million. — The issue of border division is important in Ireland, while the colonial borders between the ten states of southern Africa played no direct part in the regional conflicts under review.
— In Ireland the conflict between two population groups also involved a third party, Britain, the one-time colonizing power as well as the Irish Republic. Of the conflicts in southern Africa, only that in Zimbabwe, the former Crown colony of Southern Rhodesia, can be best compared with Northern Ireland. Britain had handed power to white settlers under a 1922 constitution but had retained residual responsibility for the indigenous people of Southern Rhodesia. This had forced the British government to act after the 1965 illegal Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) by Ian Smith, the white rightwing Prime Minister. The colonial wars in Angola and Mozambique were fought between the indigenous peoples and Portugal. In Namibia, formerly South West Africa, blacks fought against South African domination, while in South Africa the National Party (NP) 11
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apartheid government faced opposition mainly but not only from its non-white peoples. — Franchise rights played a minor part in the Irish conflict, while the denial of enfranchisement to the majority was central to southern African conflicts.
Nonetheless, there are similarities. Neither the Irish nor the black majority in southern Africa had consented to government imposed by colonial masters. In each case this led to: — alienation of land; in both cases, this was a process begun hundreds of years ago – in South Africa following the arrival of Europeans in 1652, in Ireland over centuries, following the incursion by Henry II — settlement by colonists on land thus appropriated
— use of resources by and for the colonial power — discrimination by the colonial power and the settlers and exploitation of indigenous population groups. Reaction therefore was also similar: — loss of self-esteem of the oppressed peoples — resentment of and resistance to colonial masters — development of Nationalism
— establishment of political and armed organizations challenging the legitimacy of the colonial power.
The paths of resistance also took similar forms: — establishment of secret societies — development of an acute sense of group consciousness and ethnicity
— creation of historical myths — use of culture as a weapon, including language, literature and music — use of emotive symbols such as flags and emblems
— harnessing political fervour at victims’ funerals — links between paramilitary organizations and political parties. In both areas of conflict the authorities reacted to opposition by:
— suppression of political opposition by means of severe security laws — increased policing and militarization
— internment of political activists — increasing use of secret police units in pursuit of a ‘dirty war’ — propaganda war against the opposition.
TWO AREAS OF CONFLICT
Settling the conflicts
In both areas, the resulting instability forced the authorities to re-assess the military situation. President F.W. de Klerk reversed the military strategy of his predecessor, P.W. Botha, and accepted the need for talks. In the 1990s, the British government began to pursue a political solution with new vigour, while earlier the emphasis had been to defeat armed Republican groups through security measures. In southern Africa as a whole, the dispute was caused by the subjugation and discrimination of non-whites, mainly blacks, by whites. Political protest was forced underground and finally channelled into armed conflict. In turn, whites fought back not merely through the instruments of the state but also through secret paramilitary groups. The Northern Ireland conflict, rooted in the entire island’s long colonial history, was perpetuated in that region, where Catholics and Protestants had long been in conflict. Protestants, more powerful in political and economic terms, had been in the minority in the island as a whole, which had caused deep-seated mistrust and fear on the part of the Catholic majority. Northern Ireland, comprising six of Ulster’s nine counties, could be said to have provided the Protestant community with a base in which they were the majority, just as specific black nations had been supreme in ethnically structured 'black homelands’ under South Africa’s apartheid. Between 1921 and 1972 the main Unionist party, UUP, ruled the area virtually as a one-party state, not dissimilar to NP rule in South Africa from 1948 to 1994. Whenever Unionist rule was challenged, which happened with increasing intensity from 1968 onwards, Unionists used state power to suppress the challenge, backed by paramilitary "Loyalist’ structures, also similar to the conflict in South Africa. Both white South Africans and Irish Protestants took pride in a 'siege mentality’, defending that which they held. In both areas of conflict, feelings ran deep, with seemingly implacable hatred, misunderstanding and fear causing innumerable tragedies of lost, maimed and stunted lives. Yet in both cases the peacemakers persevered. The wars in the two areas were not comparable, nor could they be, given the variation of terrains, peoples and outside interests. The countdown to peace therefore also took different forms. The elements of a peace process are always jigsaw puzzles, where different pieces have to come together to form a picture. This applied equally to southern Africa and Ireland. Turning swords into ploughshares
As mentioned, South Africans initiated and managed their own conflict resolution, a fact on which they justifiably pride themselves. Still, outside
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
interests, including human rights groups, the international anti-apartheid movement and South Africa’s western trading partners, played a part and the process itself unfolded in the presence of international observers and monitors during the four-year run-up period to democratic rule. The Republic of Ireland, Britain and the USA were actively involved in the Irish peace process. Indeed, it is almost impossible to imagine a successful outcome without the interest of President Clinton and Prime Minister John Major at the outset or the total engagement of the British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Irish counterpart, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, following their entry on the scene in 1997. As Britain and the Irish Republic were both EU members, the Irish problem was also of concern to the EU as a whole. EU funding supported community projects in deprived areas in Northern Ireland, while Britain’s hefty underwriting of the economic structure of the province with its massive security apparatus amounted in 1997 to the not inconsiderable sum of around £8.5 billion. The international dimension was visible: the 1996-98 all-party talks at Stormont were chaired by a US citizen whose deputy was a former prominent Finnish politician, while a second deputy, the Canadian general John de Chastelain, headed the decommissioning body which assumed a major role once the GFA began to be implemented. In all countries where conflict rages between different communities, the organs of state and the economy become dysfunctional. As the communities live together, they are interdependent and therefore inevitably affected by destabilization. In South Africa the country was facing economic stagnation and international isolation. In Northern Ireland, both communities affected by the conflict, were war-weary by the early 1990s. Britain had already stated in 1991 that it no longer had any interest in Ireland, economic or strategic. The one-time imperial power was anxious to end its financial and military commitment. In both areas of conflict, the business communities pleaded for an end to enmity. In South Africa the major companies led by the head of the dominant Anglo-American group called on the ANC headquarters in the 1985, to the fury of President Botha; in Northern Ireland, Protestant businessmen urged David Trimble to continue with the peace process when he faced UUP big guns over the decommissioning issue. During the fraught week leading up to the Ulster Unionist Council (UUC) meeting on 17 November 1999, with anti-Trimble UUP leaders saying that the IRA’s statement was not strong enough, businessmen openly backed the embattled UUP leader. The director of the Northern Ireland section of the Confederation of British Industry, Nigel Smyth, said there was no alternative, acknowledging that the best possible deal had been negotiated. In the final analysis, it is the leaders who have to accept the terms and the timing of such acceptance. Both P.W. Botha and David Trimble
TWO AREAS OF CONFLICT
knew they had to come to a settlement. Both had to overcome their own aversion to their opponents and face the wrath of their supporters. Botha, who began the peace process, failed to complete it, handing the baton on to his successor, in the same way that John Major handed over the process he had set in train to Tony Blair. Trimble’s stubbornness took the issue to his UUC on 27 November, despite top-level UUP opposition. Extremists
In most conflict situations extreme elements, best described as fundamentalists, find it difficult to move from adopted positions and remain dissatisfied with proposed resolutions. Yet they must be pacified, as they pose a threat to future stability. In South Africa white right-wing extremists threatened the negotiations even before they began. Black radicals were also critical of a settlement with the white government. Dissatisfaction was expressed at political and conflict levels, through white groups such as the Afrikaaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) or the Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), led by Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi. In Northern Ireland, minority Republican groups shunned anything short of unification, while Unionist die-hards turned down the GFA, disagreement over which rent the Protestant community apart. Two Unionist parties refused to sit down at constitutional talks with Sinn Fein, because of its close links with the IRA and its relentless acts of terror over decades. In both arenas, extremists perpetrated acts of violence during the peace process, with strong elements of dissenters on both sides of the divide continuing to pose threats to peace and stability. Sitting down with the enemy
South Africans as well as Northern Ireland’s parties in conflict had to accept that no conflict could last indefinitely. This implied talking to each other. Only face-to-face discussions resolve any conflict. Sitting down with the enemy means having to listen to the other’s viewpoint and eventually learning to understand, if not to accept it. In South Africa, neither side embraced the idea of talks easily or eagerly. Moves towards a conference to work out a democratic constitution made slow progress. However, the ruling NP representing Afrikanerdom accepted during the 1980s the need to talk to the opposition. Three parties which had been banned for 30 years were legalized in 1990 but were still viewed by many NP supporters as terrorists. This distrust was reciprocated by the opposition, with their leadership reluctant to trust the NP government. Moreover, the African National Congress and other opposition groups realized they lacked the experience of negotiation
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
politics as well as the resources available to the NP. Moves towards talks were therefore made cautiously. Nelson Mandela said in the course of President Clinton’s 1998 visit to South Africa that it went against the grain to sit down and talk with the Boers. However, he realized that it had to be done, if peaceful change was to be effected. In Northern Ireland, as in South Africa, trust was a rare commodity. Unionists, who had been the top dogs for a long time, feared and hated Republican terrorists, denying the legitimacy of ‘their dirty little war’. Unionists continued to suspect Republicans of a hidden agenda. This became obvious as soon as Sinn Fein proposed all-party talks in response to the early initiative in the 1980s by John Hume, who was convinced that no settlement could be achieved without Republican involvement. He worked ceaselessly to bring Republicans in from the cold and succeeded despite severe criticism from his own party members and Unionists. On their part, Republicans too showed little trust for Unionists or the British. When talks got under way and Trimble went over the heads of negotiators and the Northern Ireland Secretary to seek the ear of the British Prime Minister, Republicans suspected that he and the British wished to play the ‘Orange card’, that is, force the British into concessions not made in negotiating rounds. Parties engaged in a peace process do not need to love each other, only to agree to work together. Both Mandela and de Klerk complained about each other once the process was completed. Nor is it expected that Adams and Trimble will become close friends. It is enough that such men find it in themselves to overcome political differences and possibly personal antipathy and work together for the sake of peace. Parties in conflict inevitably learn from others in similar situations. Mitchel McLaughlin, Sinn Fein chairman, told me in June 1998 that he and his colleagues had found the South African example of settling conflicts of enormous benefit. Sinn Fein leaders listened to and learned from mediators on both sides of the South African conflict and understood their different perspectives, the compromises and ‘political journeys’ they had made. Resolution of conflict
An agreement merely marks the beginning of peace. Both sides have suffered and each has inflicted hurt on the other. Only too often human rights have been violated. The victims must be heard and if possible compensated for their suffering, particularly if the perpetrator represented state power. The learning process therefore involves a painful phase, that of facing the past. Revenge has never proved effective in any situation. As with conflict resolution in general, there is no patent recipe for dealing with hurt. Without knowledge of the past, it is difficult to build a peaceful future.
TWO AREAS OF CONFLICT
South Africa’s democratic government was elected in 1994 and a year later established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). It was hoped that full knowledge of past atrocities would restore trust and lead to reconciliation. A similar need exists in Northern Ireland. Had the TRC not been created, South Africa’s conflict resolution would have been incomplete, leaving resentment on the part of the victims and indifference or even a sense of triumph on the part of the perpetrators. In the event, the TRC report caused controversy: it differentiated between state violence and violent opposition; it further dealt with the issue of legitimacy of a liberation war and the illegitimate means of fighting that war, such as torture or murder. The report in itself was a triumph of the peace process. As the Commissioners stated, one of the TRC’s goals had been to stop any repetition of the past and ensure the development of a strong human rights culture. This cannot happen instantly, either in South Africa or Ireland. Northern Ireland’s GFA made no provision for a structure such as the TRC, but it did acknowledge past problems with policing. Provisions included a commission to study new policing requirements and institutions to safeguard human rights. The Patten Commission Report on the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) was duly published in September 1999 and provided a plan for its restructuring. The report, like the TRC, caused controversy. Human rights activists were anxious that victims of the Northern Ireland conflict should be both compensated and given a voice in human rights issues. The need for such consideration was illustrated by a UN Human Rights Commission report published in April 1998, which was critical of the RUC. Republicans always suspected collusion between individuals within the security forces and Loyalist killers. Suspicions of illegal actions by members of the security forces in South Africa were a major part of the TRC’s investigations. Only openness on such issues will help any peace process. Acceptance of reality allows communities to adjust to new situations. The hunt for war criminals in the former Yugoslavia and the steps taken against them by the international community also prove this point. When the long-drawn-out talks on Kosovo erupted into war, the outrage of the mass expulsion of Albanians led to international demands that those responsible should be declared war criminals. Yet peace-keepers could not stop tit-for-tat retaliation by Albanians against Serbs when NATO’s open warfare ended, proving yet again that making peace is more difficult than making war. Salvation lies in remembrance, said the sage. Without knowledge of the truth and remorse by perpetrators, forgiveness is impossible. National reconciliation and a country’s future can only be built on the foundations of self-knowledge and acceptance of the past to forge new
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
trust. A peace process may thus be somewhat more complex than settling the squabbles of little boys, but the principles remain the same.
Land of the Fathers
They love the land because it is their own, And scorn to give aught other reasons why. FITZ-GREEN HALLECK (1790-1876)
Land was an emotive and practical issue in both arenas of conflict. England sent its men into Ireland because of its land and other resources and because of its geophysical position as a backdoor through which Continental invaders could reach the mainland. As a result of the wars with the English, the traditional structures of common land ownership was destroyed and a feudal system introduced, turning clansmen into serfs on a feudal overlord’s land. Following the defeat in the early seventeenth century of the Ulster chiefs who had held out longest, the English Crown confiscated the land. James I planned a ‘plantation’ of Protestants in six counties in the province, ‘to suppress its Gaelic, Catholic and pastoral culture by establishing towns and giving over most of the fertile and accessible hinterland to further groups of Protestant colonists.’1 The objective of this official plantation to replace the original population entirely was never achieved, as insufficient numbers of colonists came forward and local labour was needed. The indigenous population was either forced to work for pitiful wages on the land of new landlords or was evicted and forced into subsistence existence in hills and woods. This led to most of the clans supporting the bloody uprising of 1641, which was suppressed by equally bloody reprisals. Cromwell led his army into Ireland in 1649 and within ten years settled the land with Low Scottish settlers and his soldiers who were given land grants. The Catholic majority never regained full control of the land. Between the seventeenth and early twentieth centuries, Protestants formed the elite in Ireland, but it was only in Ulster that the Protestant community comprised a majority and were not merely an aristocratic landowning and professional group, but were also engaged as farm labourers, craftsmen and traders.
1 Patrick Buckley, A History of Northern Ireland (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1981), p 3.
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
The loss of the land and resulting poverty and deprivation, with the rural population over-dependent on potatoes as its staple, long remained the root cause of Irish discontent and rebellion. The land issue was central to the Irish question until the latter part of the nineteenth century, when mass emigration and urbanization changed the fabric of society and with it, the pattern of opposition. In southern Africa, colonizers were also attracted by the region’s land and resources, with the national security question also playing a part during the ‘Scramble for Africa’, when European powers vied with each other to extend their African territories. Thus Britain only moved into Walvisbay, recalling an old agreement with a local chief, after Bismarck announced German protection over South West Africa. The colonial powers expropriated land in the whole of the southern African region, with European farmers settling in the best rainfall areas and blacks pushed into remote and least productive areas. As in Ireland, the indigenous peoples were used as cheap farm labour. As one anecdote had it, a man went to sleep on his land and woke up to find himself a labourer on a white man’s farm. Land expropriation had taken place in all five territories which later experienced open conflict. German settlers established large cattle or karakul farms in German South West Africa (Namibia) in the same way that the Portuguese created coffee or sugar plantations in Angola, or tea and sugar estates in Mozambique. In the case of Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), settlers carved out huge estates and ranches. Areas for Africans were designated Tribal Trust Lands, now Communal Lands, while in South Africa, where white farming had long been established at the time of the Scramble, the official term for African land was Reserves (later designated Homelands) under apartheid. In both countries, land laws legalized the inequitable division of land. In 1913 the government of the three-year-old Union of South Africa passed a Land Act which reserved 7½ per cent of the total land area for the black majority. In Southern Rhodesia, the Land Apportionment Act of 1930 gave the best land to white settlers. Even after the conflicts were settled, land continued to cause discontent, particularly in Zimbabwe. Unfortunately the land reform programme introduced in the early years of Zimbabwe’s independence had not been carried out successfully by the administration of President Mugabe. In 1980, around 5500 white commercial farmers occupied 15.6 million hectares of prime farming land, while communal lands provided around 16.2 million hectares of arable land for 700,000 families. Under the Lancaster House Agreement, Britain had contracted to contribute to the state’s purchase of white farms on a pound-for-pound basis, provided sales were on a willing seller/willing buyer basis. About £44 million was paid under this arrangement up to 1990 and further sums were to be made available under a 1998 agreement with Britain and other
LAND OF THE FATHERS
donors. However, it had become apparent that many former white farms had passed into the hands of members of the elite and had not become part of land distribution to impoverished or landless peasants. Many expropriated farms were idle or badly run by absentee owners. Donors demanded an end to corrupt practices. By 1999 the imbalance was still glaring, with some 4000 white commercial farms and the overcrowding and landlessness in the communal lands unresolved. Agriculture is the backbone of Zimbabwe’s economy, with commercial farming contributing a major share to the GDP and accounting for some 40 per cent of its foreign earnings. Nonetheless, in early 2000, President Mugabe turned up the heat over land, following his defeat in a constitutional referendum that would have entrenched him in further terms of office. The proposals had included a clause providing the expropriation of commercial farm land without payment, but even this sweetener had failed to act as bait. Infuriated by the strength of his black opposition, Mugabe used the land issue as a political rallying point ahead of a pending general election, ‘encouraging’ veterans of the war against the Smith regime to invade white farms. Thousands of men, many of whom were too young to have fought in the bushwar of the 1970s, occupied white farms, intimidating farmers and black labourers. Despite a court ruling evicting the squatters, the police failed to act. The crisis escalated, affecting some 1000 farms by May and resulting in widespread unrest and some 18 deaths in three months. Undeterred by outside criticism, Mugabe stormed ahead to introduce the expropriation clause, claiming that white farmers were ‘the enemy’ because they failed to support his ruling party and instead backed the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). While Mugabe’s high-handed actions led to international condemnation, African voices were more subdued. With Zimbabwe openly identifying commercial farming with white privilege, this had a spin-off elsewhere. In South Africa, land redistribution became an active issue in April 2000, after years of bureaucratic inertia, following the new political dispensation of 1994. South Africa is more highly urbanized than Zimbabwe, so pressure on land is not as critical as in Zimbabwe. Only KwaZulu-Natal suffers from pressure on farm land. The major grievances relate to the apartheid policy of the 1960s and 1970s, when people were removed wholesale from so-called black spots. Mechanisms to redress such grievances had been put in place with a Restitution of Land Rights Act of 1994, but action under this law had been painfully slow. This changed in 2000, with restitution officials concerned at the situation in its neighbouring country and anxious not to be wrong-footed. Farmers’ representatives too called for farmers to help with the redistribution
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
of available land and assist emergent farmers in becoming economically viable.1 No one claims that the early white settlers had an easy time of it. Doris Lessing’s account of life on a Rhodesian farm in The Grass is Singing graphically made the point. However, whites did expropriate black lands and exploited black labour. Sadly, the problems such as those in Zimbabwe in the twenty-first century flowed out of the earlier years of conquest and domination of indigenous peoples and the urge for power by post-colonial elite.
1 Southscan, vol 15, No 8, 21 April 2000, p 60.
On the Way to Peace
When the war of freedom has been won I promise you I’ll put away my gun. IRISH SONG OF RESISTANCE
25 June 1975: thousands throng the centre of the beautiful East African port of Lourenço Marques (today Maputo) to listen to the voice of a man of short stature but with immense charisma: Samora Machel, the man who ended Portuguese power in Mozambique and now leads his country into independence. A woman in tears suddenly kisses the wall of a nearby building and exclaims, 'This belongs to the people! The Portuguese have gone!’ 11 November the same year: on the west coast of southern Africa, Angola too is announcing its independence from Portugal. Here the word ‘celebration’ is misplaced. As the new president Dr Agostinho Neto speaks in the city centre of the capital Luanda, the echo of gunfire can be heard. An ominous sign of a new war yet to escalate. March 1980: jubilant Africans pour into the neat streets of Southern Rhodesia’s capital, Salisbury, dancing, singing, rhythmically moving their elbows to the sounds of crowing cocks, the symbols of ZANU (PF), the party led by Robert Gabriel Mugabe, whose stupendous victory at the polls has elated the crowd. Behind closed doors, white shop assistants watch in total disbelief, unable to understand the people’s euphoria that Rhodesia is to become Zimbabwe. April 1994: ‘down south’ in South Africa, millions of South Africans of different races for the first time are engaged in sharing an experience: queuing patiently in front of polling stations to vote under a democratic constitution. 22 May 1998: Ireland. Voters north and south of the divided isle queue to cast their votes in referenda for or against new structures which are to govern relations between the two communities in the north, relations between north and south and between Dublin and London. These moments of history share two common features: each marked the end of a long and bitter conflict and the start of a new struggle towards reconciliation and economic stability. Not all the promises of those momentous days were fulfilled: Mozambique suffered grievous 23
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
destabilization by South Africa leading to economic disaster, from which it only slowly recovered in the late 1990s; Angola, also because of South African involvement, exploded into a seemingly endless civil war which had not yet ended in 2000; Zimbabwe’s two ethnic groups clashed shortly after independence and the economic policies of the ZANU (PF) government together with the autocratic rule of President Mugabe led to disillusionment; Ireland’s historic day in 1998 was followed by 18 bitter months of deadlock, when the peace process teetered on the edge of a cliff towards suspension of the devolved government. Yet for all that, these were great moments of history which, despite the disappointments and hiccups that followed, paved a new way forward and marked the end of periods of violent confrontation. War and peace
In southern Africa, the land area south of the River Congo which colonialism had divided into ten states, wars had flared up in the early 1960s, some five years or so before the launch of Northern Ireland’s civil rights movement, which proved to be the overture to almost three decades of violence. In both areas the 1980s witnessed the start of a slow return to peace. This was brought to fruition in South Africa in May 1994, when the world’s leaders converged on the country to celebrate the inauguration as president of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, one of the greatest figures of the twentieth century. The new democratic government ended the country’s policy of legalized racial segregation, apartheid, which had caused so much hardship and conflict between a divided people. In Northern Ireland, a roller-coaster peace process was begun in the early 1990s in an effort to bring together the equally divided Catholic and Protestant communities and end direct rule from Westminster. This led to a proposed constitutional settlement at Belfast’s Stormont Castle Buildings on Good Friday, 10 April 1998, duly known as the Good Friday Agreement (GFA). On 22 May the people voted on the proposed changes in Northern Ireland as well as in the Republic of Ireland, as the constitution of the Republic was also affected by the GFA. For the people of Northern Ireland, who had suffered for decades from IRA campaigns and Loyalist attacks, the promise of peace held out by the GFA made it indeed a good Friday. The verdict at the ballot was that 71 per cent were in favour of the GFA in the north and 94 per cent in the south, as people streamed to the polls in record numbers. Although the 71 per cent northern vote reflected greater enthusiasm for the GFA within the Nationalist/Republican/Catholic community than in the Unionist/Protestant camp, with only half the latter having cast a ‘yes’ vote, it was nonetheless a satisfactory outcome for the negotiators.
ON THE WAY TO PEACE
The GFA was a radical document by Irish standards. For the first time it seemed that power-sharing by the two communities had been given a workable framework. Like South Africa’s transitional constitution of four years earlier, it represented a compromise, designed to leave no party empty-handed. Yet, unlike South Africa’s 1993 constitution, the GFA was not instantly implemented. The subsequent stalemate over decommissioning was only resolved in May 2000. Under the GFA provisions, elections were held in Northern Ireland on 25 June for a new Northern Ireland Assembly, with David Trimble, the UUP leader, elected as First Minister and the SDLP’s deputy leader Seamus Mallon as Trimble’s deputy. Trimble, however, troubled by dissent within his party, refused to accept devolution without disarmament and therefore did not appoint an Executive, as called for under the GFA. The dispute dragged on with increasing acrimony, with Sinn Fein insisting first that the GFA did not call for instant disarmament and secondly, that Sinn Fein was a political party without the power to command the IRA to disarm. The UUP demanded ‘arms on the table’ – even if only symbolically – before entering into a power-sharing Executive. The impasse was finally breached in mid-November 1999, after ten weeks of lengthy and weary negotiations, once more under the chairmanship of Senator Mitchell, called in to unplug the deadlock. A series of ‘small steps’ led a dance by both parties towards compromise. The IRA contributed by issuing a statement on 17 November, stating its willingness to appoint a representative to talk to the GFA’s decommissioning structure. However, the follow-up proved insufficient, with no IRA arms delivered by the end of January 2000, causing a near collapse of the process. In theory, the GFA gave everyone something. Unionists were satisfied that the Union would continue – a situation which could only be changed with the consent of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland. Irish Nationalist sentiment was gratified by the creation of north—south bodies which in effect extended the powers of the Irish Republic’s Dáil Éireann into Northern Ireland regarding issues of mutual interest. Republicans were assured of social change, new policing structures and regard for Irish culture and language. Safeguards for human rights were to be provided. The early release of Republican and Loyalist prisoners linked to groups which had declared ceasefires was also agreed. This was set in motion and during the long phase prior to November 1999 led to dispute and controversy. Understandably enough in the light of the heavy toll exacted by the IRA in particular, some families of victims, mainly but not only from the Protestant community, felt painfully aggrieved that killers of their loved ones should walk free. Similar distress was caused by some
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
TRC decisions on amnesties for South African perpetrators of apartheid atrocities. In southern Africa, as in Northern Ireland, the state’s authority had been challenged by those who felt that only force could effect the change they demanded. In each case, compromises had to be made to resolve the conflicts, as peace brokers involved within the process or on the sidelines had to make clear. The long saga of distrust could not otherwise be ended. Yet it had to end, for the long years of conflict stifled hope and development.
Drums of War
It is necessary to turn political crisis into armed conflict by performing violent actions that will force those in power to transform the political situation in the country into a military situation. This will alienate the masses who, from then on, will revolt against the army and the police and blame them for this state of things. CARLOS MARIGHELA1
In southern Africa south of the River Congo, the saga began with the establishment of a vegetable garden by the Dutch East India Company in 1652 and continued during the era of the Scramble for Africa. This phase left the region divided into ten countries: South Africa, German South West Africa, three British High Commission territories (Bechuanaland, Basutoland and Swaziland), two British possessions administered by the British South Africa Company (Southern and Northern Rhodesia), the Protectorate of Nyasaland and two Portuguese territories (Angola and Mozambique). The High Commission territories became independent in the 1960s as Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland respectively. The two Rhodesias and Nyasaland were briefly federated with each other, with Nyasaland gaining independence in the 1960s as Malawi and Northern Rhodesia as Zambia. In the early 1960s, open conflicts broke out in the region. By the end of that decade a state of war existed in Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Southern Rhodesia. These conflicts were linked with each other, as were the phases of the subsequent peace processes. The first shots were fired by black Nationalists in Angola and Mozambique in the early 1960s. In Southern Rhodesia a bloody bush war followed in the wake of UDI, while in South Africa guerrilla action also began in the early 1960s, initially as acts of sabotage. In Namibia, formerly South West Africa, which had been placed under South African
1 Brazilian revolutionary killed by police, quoted in African Contemporary Record 1985-86, p B723. 27
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
administration by the League of Nations, an armed struggle was announced in 1966. In Angola, three groups were eventually involved: Movimento popular de libertacao de Angola (MPLA), Frente nacional de libertacao de Angola (FNLA), Uniao nacional para a independencia total de Angola (UNITA), while in Mozambique a united front was formed, Frente nacional de libertacao de Mocambique (FRELIMO). In Namibia, the South West African People’s Organization (SWAPO, formed as the Ovamboland People’s Congress in 1958) became the most important party and protagonist in the territory, fighting against South Africa’s occupation after the UN had officially ended South Africa’s mandate. In South Africa the ANC, created in 1912, forged an alliance with the South African Communist Party (SACP) to create its military wing, Umkontho we Sizwe (MK) to fight apartheid. In Southern Rhodesia, two Nationalist parties, the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) and the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), fought as the Patriotic Front against the white administration of Ian Smith’s right-wing Rhodesia Front. The conflicts were linked by common interests. The governments in South Africa, Southern Rhodesia and Portugal forged an alliance against perceived terrorists. South African ‘police’ were first based in the Zambezi Valley in the 1960s, with Pretoria providing strong economic and military support to Salisbury in the face of UN mandatory sanctions which followed UDI. As Portugal was a NATO member, NATO arms found their way into the colonial conflict in southern Africa. Independent African governments in the region also formed an alliance named the Frontline States. The Soviet Union supported the ANC, FRELIMO, MPLA, SWAPO and ZAPU, declaring them authentic liberation movements and providing training, arms and education to their members. The Soviets went woefully wrong in not supporting ZANU, which had the largest numerical following in Zimbabwe. Portuguese colonialism collapsed in 1974. This allowed ZANU to operate from Mozambique, infiltrating its fighters across the country’s eastern frontier, placing Salisbury under immense pressure. SWAPO too was able to operate from Angola, infiltrating into the north of Namibia. In 1979 the Lancaster House talks called by the Thatcher government between the Smith regime and the Patriotic Front, led to Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980. The Frontline States, strengthened by this, formed the Southern African Development Co-ordination Conference (SADDC), rejecting the proposal of the South African Prime Minister, later President, P.W. Botha, of a constellation of southern African states. It would have amounted to acceptance of apartheid. Botha thereupon declared his ‘total strategy’, as he feared the ‘total onslaught’ by socialist-oriented ‘terrorists’. The South African President was convinced he was defending the furthest bastion of western civiliza-
DRUMS OF WAR
tion against Soviet aggression. His strategy seriously destabilized and impoverished the entire region. Mozambique was badly hit by the activities of a group named Mozambique Resistance Movement (RENAMO), originally created by the Smith regime, which was taken over in 1980 and further developed by South Africa’s Military Intelligence. Brutal attacks against the rural population destabilized the economy, forcing President Machel and FRELIMO to sign a friendship pact with Botha in 1984, which Pretoria did not honour, as the military continued to support RENAMO. Angola had long been a target for South African aggression. Following the political vacuum created by the collapse of Portugal in 1974, the then Prime Minister John Vorster had attempted a dialogue with the Frontline States, but this was aborted when South Africa invaded Angola in 1975. The fragile national government composed of MPLA, UNITA and FNLA fell apart almost as soon as it was set up and fighting broke out between the groups, MPLA on one side, UNITA and FNLA on the other. Pretoria seized the opportunity to defeat the ‘Marxist-Leninist MPLA’ by sending an armoured battalion into Angola in support of UNITA and FNLA. An initial successful blitzkrieg ended, with the South Africans forced to withdraw in March 1976. The MPLA, which had taken control in the capital Luanda, had called on its allies for help against South Africa, which brought Cuban troops into Angola. This resulted in US support for South Africa and UNITA, drawing southern Africa into the periphery of the Cold War. As part of Botha’s ‘total strategy’, South Africa’s military presence in Namibia was strengthened and in the early 1980s, the South Africans returned to Angola, occupying land in the southern Kunene province, ostensibly to fight SWAPO. UNITA, with South African support, was fashioned into a strong fighting force, challenging the MPLA administration and controlling large rural areas. The on-going MPLA/UNITA conflict devastated a potentially rich country and brutalized its people. As the Cold War drew to an end, Pretoria was forced to change course, which led to talks with the Soviet Union and Luanda, resulting in South Africa’s withdrawal from Angola and in Namibia’s hard-won and long-delayed independence in March 1990. One month before, South Africa’s banned opposition had been legalized, followed by Nelson Mandela’s release. The peace process in southern Africa was under way. Northern Ireland
Peace in Northern Ireland was not achieved swiftly. In Ireland conflict with Britain – and between rival Irish lords – had been endemic for centuries, going back to Norman times. The division of the island in 1920 into an Irish Republic and Northern Ireland as a British province,
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
did not resolve the problem. In the 1960s, sectarian strife in Northern Ireland brought in the British troops in August 1969 to keep the peace and restore order. The sparks of sectarian strife and the Republican demand for the reunification of Ireland and the withdrawal of Britain, were fanned into flames, referred to as The Troubles’, a long period of violence and hatred, which the peace process of the 1990s tried to resolve. The long history of the Trish problem’ left deep scars on both Catholic and Protestant communities. It is more complex than the southern African situation, even if the deep-seated causes of colonial domination and discrimination are similar. 'Catholic’ and 'Protestant’ are merely shorthand terms to identify the protagonists. Three groups were involved: the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of England (later the Church of Ireland), and a large nonlinked group of Presbyterians and other Non-Conformist Protestant Churches, which by no means enjoyed the approval of the established Church of England. Presbyterians, Baptists and other Independents (now Congregationalists) were labelled "Dissenters’. However, the interest of all non-Catholic Irish merged in the fullness of time within Protestantism. Division of extreme and liberal Protestantism remained, reflected in extreme and liberal Unionism. With the emergence of a secular society, the terms "Unionist’ and ‘Loyalist’ on the Protestant side and ‘Nationalist’ and "Republican’ on the Catholic described the situation more appropriately, without of course fully covering the different shades of opinion within each group. Unionists, as their name suggests, wish to retain Northern Ireland’s 1800 Union with Britain, forged in the wake of a failed 1798 rebellion by Irish Nationalists, who included both Catholics and Protestants. Extreme Unionists are unwilling to ‘give an inch’ and are symbolized by the flamboyant and charismatic demagogue, Dr Ian Richard Kyle Paisley and his raucous shouts of "no surrender!’ This harks back to the Unionist’s favourite period of history, the English wars of succession, which brought William and Mary to the throne. Paisley, founder in 1951 of his own Free Presbyterian Church and leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), represents ultra-Unionism. Unionism as a political creed was born out of opposition to Home Rule, when traditional voting patterns changed. Previously, NonConformist Protestants were Whigs, while Anglicans were Tories. At the close of the eighteenth century Non-Conformist Protestants, but not Catholics, gained full freedom of trade and commerce. This benefited Ulster, where the majority of Protestants had been settled as tenants or small-scale farmers at the time of the plantation. Home Rule thus posed a threat to Protestant prosperity and power. The first Unionist Party had been formed in 1885, after which Ulster always returned a majority of pro-Union candidates.
DRUMS OF WAR
The largest Unionist Party, the UUP, led since 1996 by David Trimble, had formed the government in Stormont from 1921 to 1972, until upheavals in the Province forced the British to introduce direct rule. The UUP is close to the Conservative Party. Trimble, by signing the GFA, signalled his willingness to enter into a new phase of Unionism, accepting devolution. However, he held back the setting up of the Executive in terms of the GFA, demanding IRA decommissioning before Sinn Fein’s entry into a power-sharing administration. This caused deadlock and stalemate after May 1998, with the IRA refusing to comply. Trimble’s room for manoeuvre was limited, due to the dissenters within his group of ten Westminster MPs, as well as other top-level UUP members, who feared a hidden Sinn Fein agenda. Both Northern Irish Nationalists and Republicans aimed to dislodge British rule. Nationalists were prepared to fight their cause in the political arena, while Republicans believed in the use of force. Nationalism, Republicanism and Unionism are all rooted in Irish history. The Celtic Catholics, about four-fifths of the island’s population, resented British rule and the dominant Protestant community, mainly descendants of Protestant Lowland Scots and Cromwellian soldiers, who had been ‘planted’ as colonizers in the seventeenth century. The majority of the newcomers had settled in the north-east of the island. They and their descendants in turn had bitter memories of murders, such as the bloody uprising of 1641. The Protestant minority only began to develop a sense of belonging in the wake of the victory on Irish soil of the Protestant King William III, formerly Prince of Orange, who defeated his father-in-law, the Catholic King James II. Ironically, the supporters of William III included the Pope, the Holy Roman Emperor, the King of Spain and the Elector of Bavaria alongside Irish Protestants and the Irish Catholic aristocracy.1 Like most wars, this was about power, not theology. The European potentates wanted to stop the advance of France, not to further the cause of Protestantism in an obscure European island. Folk memory prefers a different spin. In 1688 the Earl of Antrim’s Catholic regiment was denied entry into Derry, when a group of doubtlessly brave apprentice boys closed the city gates. This important incident, together with other victories of that war, formed part of the heritage of Irish Protestants and is celebrated annually together with other victories of the so-called ‘Glorious Revolution’. William III will always be ‘King Billy’ to his Irish fans. After King James fled to France, William and his Queen, James IPs daughter Mary, were invited by Parliament to accept the crown jointly, which they did, ascending the throne in February 1689. A month later,
1 Gordon Lucy & Elaine McClure (eds), The Twelfth: What It Means to Me (Belfast: Ulster Society Publications, 1997), p 3.
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James landed with an army in Ireland and a war began in which England and France also clashed. Derry was besieged by James for 105 days, with the siege raised on 31 July. A year later, in July 1690, the decisive battle was eventually fought, when the two armies met on the banks of the River Boyne. The forces of James were routed and William’s throne affirmed. Irish Catholics had no reason to celebrate the reign of William. They did not share in the fruits of the Glorious Revolution, which to Unionists created ‘freedom, democracy, civil, religious liberty and a Protestant way of life’.1 Following William’s victory, the Irish Catholic community was brutalized and traumatized by a series of penal laws enacted between 1695 and 1727 with the aim of establishing Protestant supremacy and the rule of the powerful Anglican landed aristocracy. The regulations limited the rights of Catholics to land, and entry into the armed forces, politics, civil service and legal profession. Marriage between Catholics and Protestants was forbidden. Disrespect shown by Catholics towards Protestants was severely punished. The Catholic Church and its clergy were banned, Irish customs and language derided. Inevitably when emotions are suppressed, they become more important than ever. Fervour for Catholicism did not diminish. Mass was celebrated in the open air by banned priests, or silently observed. Catholic emancipation was eventually achieved in 1829, but even then lowerclass Catholics continued to suffer discrimination, lack of access to education and employment. Catholic poverty was thus perpetuated, creating a stereotyped view of upright, hardworking Protestants and feckless, lazy, filthy Catholics. The eighteenth century witnessed an upsurge of Irish Nationalism among both sections of the community, culminating in the formation of the United Irishmen, which in 1798 organized an abortive rebellion led by a middle-class Protestant from Dublin, Theobald Wolfe Tone, and resulting in the union between Britain and Ireland and the establishment of the Church of Ireland. The following century saw no let-up in conflict, as the Industrial Revolution fostered the growth of Belfast in the north-east and poverty in rural areas. Landlord exploitation reached its crisis during the time of the potato famine in the 1840s. It was only in 1997 that the British government apologized through Prime Minister Tony Blair for the terrible suffering of the era. The heart-rending misery, with its wholesale death, starvation and exile left a legacy of undying hatred of Catholics towards uncaring Protestant, usually absentee, landlords and an aloof British government fertile ground for the birth of fierce Irish Nationalism, secret societies 1 Gordon Lucy and Elaine McClure (eds), The Twelfth: What It Means to Me, p 4.
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and, during the last quarter of the century, the creation of and resistance to a movement for Irish Home Rule. In 1912, with a Liberal government on the point of granting Home Rule, Unionists backed by the Conservative Party threatened revolt against the Crown. About 500,000 Protestants signed a solemn Covenant to uphold the Union and around 100,000 joined a body named the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). This threat proved successful, in that the third Home Rule Bill, passed in 1913, was put on to the backburner until the end of a war that was clearly on the horizon. Such Unionist pressure on British governments set a pattern which was to be repeated in future years. The UVF, trained and equipped by members of the officer class, was later turned into a British division which fought with horrendous losses at the Somme. Members of a Catholic force, the Irish Volunteers (IV), were distributed throughout many British regiments. The 1920 Government of Ireland Act was shaped in the wake of a traumatic upheaval. At Easter 1916, Irish Republicans hoped to take advantage of Britain’s weakness by organizing a rebellion. The Easter Rising was bloodily put down after a week. However, the brutal manner of its suppression and the ruthless execution of the leaders gained Republicans new friends and its army fresh recruits. The first post-First World War elections resulted in a gain of 73 seats for Sinn Fein, an Irish Republican party formed in 1905. Delegates promptly assembled not in Westminster but in Dublin to form their own parliament, the Dáil Éireann. An Irish War of Independence from 1919 to 1921 followed, with the Irish Volunteers, renamed the IRA, forcing the British into talks and a truce. In 1920 six Ulster counties, the island’s industrial north-east, were sliced off to form Northern Ireland, ensuring a Protestant majority. Northern Ireland, ‘Ulster’ to Unionists, the ‘six counties’ to Republicans, continued to pose problems for Westminster. Following the truce, Nationalists negotiated a treaty covering the status of the 26 counties, which in 1922 became a Free State, today the Republic of Ireland. The treaty divided former friends within the Republican movement. A bloody year-long civil war between pro- and antiTreaty protagonists resulted in splits and intense bitterness, without changing the constitutional settlement and providing Catholics with little comfort in the north. Unionists dug themselves into the northern enclave and erected structures to perpetuate Unionist power and dominance over the Nationalists, who were reduced to about a third of Northern Ireland’s population. In 1925 the border between the two parts of Ireland – and therefore partition – was confirmed by a Boundary Commission. Thus a southern Catholic state and a smaller northern Protestant British possession were
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
established, the latter dubbed ‘the Orange State’ by the well-known Irish lawyer and writer Michael Farrell. Northern Ireland adopted an electoral system for local government based on house ownership. This paved the way for manipulation, with Catholics allocated fewer houses than Protestants. Gerrymandering of constituencies helped to create a divided society and reinforce strongly held prejudices on both sides. Flagrant discrimination always leads to opposition. The UUP, as the government, controlled the RUC and its auxiliary part-time force, the ‘BSpecials’. The RUC, a preponderantly Protestant force, came to represent Unionist power in the eyes of Catholics. When ‘the Troubles’ erupted, Catholics no longer trusted nor dared join a force that was a target for the IRA. In the 1960s, new arrangements enabled more Catholics to enter Queen’s University, Belfast. The US civil rights movement and student revolts in Europe inspired the organization of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) in 1967, with Belfast students voicing the grievances of the Catholic community. NICRA sounded alarm bells within Unionism, demanding an end to exclusion and gerrymandering, one-man-one-vote in local elections, full civil rights, access to education and training, job opportunities and, above all, an end to discrimination in housing policy. But civil disobedience was quickly overtaken by violence. The situation was ripe for take-over by extremist forces on both sides. An ambush of a civil rights march in November 1968 was organized by the fundamentalist Protestant clergyman, the Reverend Ian Paisley, heralding an invasion of Catholic areas. Protestant mobs surged through the streets, burning houses and forcing inhabitants to flee. The biased attitude of the RUC during these events laid the foundation of Nationalist mistrust of the police. The debate within the Catholic community between those who believed that the way forward was through political participation and others who wanted to revert to the use of force to ‘get the Brits out’ led in August 1970 to the creation of the Nationalist SDLP. In 2000 the SDLP, led by John Hume, the architect of the peace process, was still the most important Catholic party, with Sinn Fein an important second. The wave of violence at the time of the civil rights protests showed that it was unsafe for the two communities to live close together. Entire streets were evacuated and in Belfast in particular, but not only there, Catholic enclaves were carved out. In time, so-called ‘peace lines’ barbed-wire walls reminiscent of the Berlin Wall – were constructed, where Catholic and Protestant streets converged. The army, sent into Northern Ireland by the then Prime Minister Harold Wilson in 1969, was supposed to be there for only a short while. Republicans armed themselves in the late 1960s for what they imagined
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would be a short, sharp conflict. Both sides were wrong. The presence of the army and violence was to stretch over three embittered decades of sectarian warfare. The IRA had virtually disbanded in the early 1960s, which had left Catholics and Catholic areas exposed and, in Republican terms, ‘undefended’. After almost 12 months of quarrels and intrigue, the Provisional IRA was formed in December 1969 and a month later, Provisional Sinn Fein. Both organizations took over the functions and in time the names of the older bodies. Catholics who initially had welcomed the arrival of troops felt the army was partisan. As violence persisted and IRA attacks proliferated, Belfast began to take on the look of an armed camp, with watchtowers, a fleet of ever-present helicopters, regular and vigilant army patrols and heavily fortified police stations. The Stormont government handled the situation badly. The Labour government of the day did little better, with the deployment of troops proving unhelpful. Unrest continued. In 1971 internment without trial was introduced, a punishment which fell heavily on Catholics, with the IRA seen by the authorities as the major source of trouble. Police brutality and what Republicans perceived as army complicity, cemented Republican hatred of the British presence. The Republican perspective was expressed by Mitchel McLaughlin, founder member of the Derry civil rights association. He perceived the Irish situation as comparable with apartheid, the difference being only of ‘scale and geographical dimension. The quality of political oppression was exactly the same.’ In his home city of Derry, gerrymandering had ensured Unionist domination and ‘control of the lives and destiny of the Nationalist majority, which is the most glaring example of comparison with the white minority of South Africa’. McLaughlin said that Derry was a Nationalist city but that: the political ward system was rigged, so that the unionist minority could elect a permanent majority and control the local corporation, which also controlled the local housing allocation which also controlled many of the employment opportunities. ... On 5 October, which is generally marked as the beginning of the present troubles, there was a civil rights march in Derry, which was batoned and water-cannoned by the RUC and that really was the first evidence that peaceful protest would not be tolerated by the Stormont regime.1 Unionists perceived this period differently. They saw it as extremist Nationalist elements gaining the upper hand, intent on creating a united Ireland through terrorism. No doubt Republicans saw the use of ‘force’
1 Interview, June 1998.
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
as the means of effecting change within a society in which they felt themselves sidelined. The formation of the Provisional IRA (which took over the role of the near-defunct ‘Official’ IRA) followed the civil rights movement of 1968-69 and the slow pace of effecting reforms by the Stormont government. In The Troubles, Tim Pat Coogan graphically described the series of events during which enraged Protestant mobs invaded Catholic areas. During three months in 1969 some 1505 Catholic and 315 Protestant families were forced to flee their homes. Some 60,000 had to relocate themselves between the summer of 1969 and February 1973 – ‘Europe’s largest population movement since 1945.’1 Sadly since then, Europe has witnessed further mass population dislocation in the former Yugoslavia, also due to conflict between different ethnic groups sharing common borders. The events on 30 January 1972 in Derry, known as ‘Bloody Sunday’, and the fall of the Stormont government in March, after Brian Faulkner’s administration refused to accept the loss of law and order powers, led to contact between British Intelligence and the IRA. The Provisionals were by then the men who mattered and it was three of their members who offered to provide safe conduct to Derry for the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, William Whitelaw. The offer was not taken up but contact had been established and resulted in an IRA ceasefire and a meeting between Whitelaw and an IRA delegation which included both Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, the first time since 1921 that talks were held between Republicans and the British. No agreement was arrived at and the ceasefire ended. ‘Bloody Sunday’, however, is deeply etched into Catholic consciousness. The First Parachute Regiment was sent to Derry on 30 January 1972 to police an anti-internment demonstration of the Derry Civil Rights Association, at which one of the speakers was to have been Bernadette Devlin, later McAliskey, the young Unity MP, who had emerged from the student protests of 1968. The ‘paras’ opened fire, killing 14 unarmed men. The subsequent tribunal was headed by the Lord Chief Justice of England, Lord Widgery. The 1972 report, issued after the fall of Stormont, was controversial and seen by Catholics as a whitewash, exonerating the army. The powerful image of a priest waving a bloody handkerchief to make way for a dying man still evokes the deep resentment felt and the conviction that the paras acted in a gung-ho manner. It was left to Tony Blair to respond to calls for a new inquiry, which began its work in 1998. Some 18 months, 60,000 pages of documentary evidence, 5000 photographs and 36 hours’ worth of videotape later, the
1 Tim Pat Coogan, The Troubles: Ireland’s Ordeal 1966-1996 and the Search for Peace (London: Arrow Books, 1966), pp 91-2.
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inquiry under Lord Saville of Newdigate had reached a half-way mark.1 When the inquiry opened on 27 March 2000, some 97 per cent of 2110 targeted witnesses had been traced. The quest for the truth and the answer to the questions whether the 14 needed to die, will lie in the conclusion of the inquiry, due in 2002. The second event, ‘Bloody Friday’, on 21 June 1972 caused mayhem in Belfast, with the IRA exploding 22 bombs, leaving 11 dead and 130 injured. In March 1972, Prime Minister Edward Heath introduced direct rule, with William Whitelaw taking up office as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. In December 1973, the Prime Minister presided over a conference to find a constitutional solution against the background of increasing violence. The meeting took place at Sunningdale in Berkshire between the British and Irish governments and three Northern Irish parties: UUP, SDLP and the bi-partisan Alliance Party, also formed in 1970. The Sunningdale Agreement included important new elements: the involvement of the Republic of Ireland and the concept of power-sharing. A power-sharing Executive was set up, composed of Unionists under Brian Faulkner, the SDLP and the Alliance Party. The new structures were short-lived. Faulkner was unable to sell the proposals to the majority of Unionists, who were outraged. A massive Loyalist strike was successfully organized, which threatened to bring the country to a standstill. In May 1974 the Executive collapsed. Again Paisley played a major role, refusing to accept any move ‘Rome-wards’. Protesting against power-sharing, he was noisily determined to wreck the Sunningdale Agreement and on one occasion in January 1974, had to be forcibly removed from the Assembly. In 1998, the aging orator was less successful. Though he staged on-going protests against the Stormont talks, these were feeble compared with his earlier successes. On Good Friday, 10 April 1998, the day the document for peace was finally presented to the negotiating parties, Paisley, who had boycotted the talks, together with some 300 followers forced his way into the grounds of Stormont. He was faced by an SDLP leader, Joe Hendron, who asked, ‘In the name of God, after all these years surely you have enough wit for the sake of the babies unborn; it doesn’t matter whether they’re Catholics, Protestants, Unionists or Nationalists. ... You say you’re a man of God. Well, tonight’s the night to prove it.’2 Sadly, even then Paisley left no one in doubt that he wanted to see off the GFA, as Sunningdale had been seen off. Republicans perceived the collapse of the Sunningdale Agreement merely as another example of a British government forced to cave in under Unionist pressure. 1 Report by David McKittrick in the Independent, 28 September 1999, p 2. 2 Sunday Times, 12 April 1998, p 12.
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Direct rule was no solution. The 17 Northern Irish Members of Parliament, with Unionists inevitably in the majority, were able to bring pressure to bear on successive British governments beset by narrow majorities. John Major refuted the notion that the Unionists had been able to subvert his peace process and said in his splendid autobiography that the language of the Framework Documents, drawn up to follow the 1993 Anglo-Irish Downing Street Declaration, was difficult to follow and more ‘green’ in substance. The tone offended Unionists. Major pressed ahead with the Framework Documents which he said ‘gave the lie to the thesis of Nationalist commentators who claimed that the Unionists had a stranglehold over the government because of our shrinking majority, although the canard was often used against us.’1 Nor did direct rule stop the on-going conflict. From the time of its regrouping in 1970, the IRA fought what it saw as a war against the British government. There were three protagonists: the British army together with the RUC, the IRA and the Loyalist paramilitaries. The latter were armed groups drawn from Unionist ranks, who were infuriated by IRA attacks and perceived themselves as vigilantes, prepared to defend their community and retaliate against IRA activities. State forces used a battery of weapons which ranged from internment and so-called ‘supergrass’ informers to legal instruments such as a Special Powers Act (repealed in 1973), the UK Prevention of Terrorism Act and Diplock courts – that is, courts without juries. Human rights groups monitored not only IRA terrorist acts but also violations of human rights on the part of state forces as well as on the part of Loyalists. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who in 1984 was fortunate to have escaped the IRA bomb attack on the Brighton hotel at the time of the Conservative Party Conference, was openly pro-Unionist. She adopted a hard-line position during the ‘Dirty Protest’ and the 1980-81 H-Block hunger strikes by IRA prisoners demanding political category status, which led to the death of ten men. The death of the first man, Robert (Bobby) Sands, who was elected as MP of Fermanagh and South Tyrone, was a major event for the Catholic community, some 100,000 of whom followed him to his grave. Hunger strikes, the first of which started in October 1980, followed the Dirty Protest, when Republican prisoners rejected prison clothes after the 1972 special category status was withdrawn in 1980. Prisoners refused to be criminalized by wearing prison uniform. Draping themselves in prison blankets, they began a life ‘on the blanket’, an existence of total defiance and deprivation, leading to inevitable and brutal conflict between prisoners and warders. Conditions became intolerable. Prisoners slept in cells stinking of urine and excrement smeared on walls. Refusing 1 John Major, The Autobiography (London: HarperCollins, 1999), p 469.
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to wash, they dressed only for visits. For years prisoners lived in circumstances which sickened all eyewitnesses able to stomach a visit. Prisoners also suffered from fearful beatings by warders. The event boosted Republicanism. The long-drawn-out conflict stiffened Republican resistance and forged the IRA into a successful urban guerrilla force, innovative and committed. However, 'the Troubles’ sapped the country’s energy, costing the lives of over 3300 Nationalists, Unionists and British security personnel, stunted the economy and resulted in British subsidies. It was an untenable position. Military advisers had been certain that the IRA could be eliminated, but this view was no longer tenable by the mid-1980s. For their part, Republicans realized that the British would not be bombed out of Ireland. Another route had to be found to achieve Republican aspirations. As the Republican leadership shifted from the south to the embattled north, a dual strategy of 'bullet and ballot’ evolved in the 1980s, leading to the presentation of a paper, 'Towards A Lasting Peace’, addressed to the international community at a Sinn Fein Ard Fheis (annual conference). This was an open signal that Republicans were ready to talk peace, a process begun by John Major, who first reacted to a covert Republican message received in 1993, and continued by the incoming Blair government in 1997.
Peace: Next Stop Ireland
The flea Asked me What do you gain To go by train NONSENSE RHYMES FOR CHILDREN
1 May 1997 was an important day for Britain. Tony Blair’s New Labour swept the Tories from power after 18 years on the government benches. The new Prime Minister was determined his team should ‘hit the deck running’, as commentators had it, meeting each problem head-on. It was not long before the new government ran into one of the thorniest of these: Northern Ireland. This long-festering sore on the body politic provided bold headlines, due to the end of the IRA ceasefire in February that year. Each British government had tried to solve the problem since direct rule had been introduced in 1972. A major breakthrough was achieved by Margaret Thatcher when she signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA) with the Irish Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald on 15 November 1985. The AIA reversed Mrs Thatcher’s previous brusque refusal to allow Dublin any say on Northern Ireland issues and acknowledged the right of the Irish Republic to a say in the economic, social and security issues of the province, thus laying the foundation for discussions in the early 1990s (the Brooke–Mayhew talks) and eventually the GFA. The AIA dismayed Unionists, who felt threatened by its provisions. In 1985 Unionists used a 78-seat Assembly, set up in 1982 with advisory power and limited influence, as a forum to protest against the AIA to which they objected as it introduced ‘a Dublin dimension’. It was at the time of the AIA that Republicans like Gerry Adams, frustrated by the failure of force to achieve their aims, began to consider the importance of politics apart from force to achieve constitutional change. John Major built on his predecessor’s work and on secret contacts with Republicans which had existed since 1990, though this was only reluctantly disclosed four years later. In December 1993, Major met the Irish Taoiseach Albert Reynolds at Dublin Castle and after tough nego40
PEACE: NEXT STOP IRELAND
tiations signed a joint declaration. This was subsequently published on 15 December as the Downing Street Declaration and approved by the US administration. The document represented a compromise for all parties. Republicans realized that the goodwill of Dublin and Washington could be jeopardized if they rejected the document. Feelers were put out to IRA prisoners and cells. This probing resulted in the decision to declare a ceasefire in 1994. Albert Reynolds was secretly informed and the information passed on to Major two days later. The IRA followed this with the dramatic declaration through chosen journalists that its highest command structure was declaring a ceasefire from midnight on 31 August 1994. Negotiators had pulled out ‘three strands’ from the various documents on the table, around which they felt a peace process could be built:
— relations between the political parties of Northern Ireland — north-south relations between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland
— east-west relations between the Irish Republic and the British government. However, during John Major’s time all moves towards real negotiations became deadlocked. The bomb of February 1997 which devastated London’s Docklands, signalled the end of the IRA ceasefire and seemed also to bury hopes of a peace process. The Blair administration decided that something had to be done immediately. A flurry of diplomatic efforts were made to set events once more in motion. These by necessity involved Dublin and Washington, for these had always been part of any resolution equation. Thanks to the exodus of Irish citizens to the USA during and after the famine years, a lobby of Irish-Americans existed with long memories of their forebears’ history. Among them was the Kennedy clan and it was one of the ‘Kennedy girls’, Jean Kennedy Smith, whom President Clinton appointed on St Patrick’s Day 1993 as his Ambassador to Dublin. The US Ambassador had played a major role in the peace process begun by John Major. At the time of Major’s fall from power, a seemingly insurmountable impasse had been reached. The 1994 IRA ceasefire had allowed Sinn Fein to embark on the strategy of the ballot box, but Republicans had become dismayed at what they saw as Major’s delaying tactics and retaliated by breaking the ceasefire. The new Prime Minister vowed that he would set the Irish ‘peace train’ back on track. And that meant talking to the Irish and the Americans, for the Prime Minister needed the essential ingredients in a peace process: peace brokers and mediators. Blair warned that anyone who failed to board on time would be left behind — an evocative image. But given Ireland’s turbulent history and
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Republican mistrust of the British, that train was never likely to have a smooth ride. Within days of Labour taking office, the engine for the train began to be revved up by Dr Marjorie (Mo) Mowlam, the new Northern Ireland Secretary. Dr Mowlam superbly played the ‘hitting-the-deck-running’ game. Besuited or betrousered and, due to a serious illness, often bewigged, she breezed into Belfast and her office at Stormont Castle in May 1997 determined to knock the heads of those troublesome Irish together and make them see sense. Dr Mowlam instantly made her mark, achieving a high profile, with television cameras accompanying her down Irish high streets, hugging Irish matrons from both communities. Forthright, determined, a formidable woman with a good deal of common sense, she brought a new dimension to the Irish issue. The media hailed Dr Mowlam as ‘a breath of fresh air’, even if – or because? – the UUP leader David Trimble learned to dislike her. In 1999 he openly demanded that she should be replaced because she was leaning too far towards terrorists. Republicans grudgingly admitted that her down-to-earth style of politics was a great improvement on the Olympian toffee-nosed approach of her Tory predecessors and the train seemed set to roll in the right direction. But then came June 1997 and an IRA attack on the 16th of that month. Two RUC constables were killed on patrol in Lurgan. At the same time, Northern Ireland’s curious annual season of marching caused further emotional upheavals. The train halted abruptly, as driver Dr Mowlam stumbled against her first rock at a place called Drumcree.
The Right to March
My father wore it when a youth In bygone days of yore On the Twelfth I proudly wear The sash my father wore. ORANGE ORDER BALLAD
Drumcree is part of hallowed Unionist tradition. It takes place at the start of Ireland’s ritual marching season. Since 1995 it has regularly hit the headlines, as a major issue of disputes between the two communities. Its history is part of Northern Irish folk memory. Protestantism, Orangeism, Broeders
It was in September 1795 that Protestants (‘Peep o’Day Boys’) clashed with Catholics ('Defenders’) in an incident later named the Battle of Diamond near Loughall in County Armagh. There were many such confrontations before and after this occasion, but the Diamond had greater significance than most, for it marked a significant event: the victorious Peep o’Day Boys, a group formed in 1784, decided after their victory to form the Orange Association. This was developed into the Orange Order and thus made one Protestant Church service special, namely that held annually on the first Sunday of July at Drumcree Church at Portadown, near the site of the creation of the Order. The Orange Order became organized along Masonic lines. It reinforced the division between Protestantism and Catholicism, with orange becoming the colour of the former, green of the latter. Symbols are important in every conflict. In Ireland these took on deep emotional significance for each side. Orangemen adopted as a rallying point the Battle of the Boyne, which had taken place some 100 years earlier, as well as 'King Billy’ complete with horse. The annual Orange Order celebration of the Battle of the Boyne on the Glorious Twelfth is a major event in the political and social calendar of the entire Protestant community. Oddly enough, the great battle took place not on 12 July, but on 1 July. This is of course not significant and in no way interferes with the pomp, ceremony, church services, speeches, 43
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enjoyment and fun, and, above all, with the marching on the great day. Most Protestants remember their childhood 'Twelfth’ as a great day out, with bonfires, parades and picnics. Orange lodges were formed throughout Ireland. As many of the seventeenth-century planters were Scottish Presbyterians, Orange lodges also exist in Scotland. Given the Irish diaspora, Orange lodges were later formed not only in the USA but also in former British dominions such as New Zealand, Australia, Canada and Africa. The Orange Order met with some opposition from the authorities during the nineteenth century, which led to its banning for a period of time. However, the Order overcame this and came to entrench itself as an important pillar of Protestant society. Members had to be pure Protestant males without any Catholics in the family tree. The organization served to unite the various strands of Protestantism, with upperclass members of the Church of Ireland joining hands with lower-class Presbyterians, Methodists and other Protestant denominations. The Order represented a minority and thus perceived itself as defending Protestantism against the Roman threat. There is an analogy with South Africa. The majority of the early settlers post-1652 were staunch Dutch Calvinists, with a smattering of Germans and French Huguenots. Their descendants, who trekked inland out of the Cape away from British rule and its associated liberalism in the early nineteenth century to gain land from black peoples and establish their own republics, subsequently found themselves once more under attack by the forces from which they sought to escape. In the wake of the Anglo-Boer War of 1899–1902, a group of 14 fervent Boer Nationalists – railway employees in Johannesburg – founded an Afrikaner cultural society in 1918, which in 1921 became a secret society, the Broederbond. The Broederbond or brotherhood was dedicated to Afrikaner advancement and the defence of Afrikanerdom. Members, like those of the Orange Order, had to be male, Protestant and Afrikaner of pure descent, without any British or Catholic ancestry. Unlike the Orange Order, membership was exclusive, by invitation only, and elitist, in the sense that those chosen had to be in a position to further the cause by their status in society and their profession. The Broederbond came to be the most serious player in the political arena until the 1970s, though its presence was largely unknown until the 1960s. It was close to the NP, in the same way that the Orange Order is close to the UUP, with overlapping membership in both cases. In Ireland, Ascendancy landowners capitalized on the fervour of members of the lower orders for Protestantism, Crown and country, particularly during the 1798 uprising. This created a tradition of militarism and militancy among Orangemen. A ‘bedraggled yeomanry’, as one writer put it, was encouraged to march through Catholic villages, bran-
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dishing weapons and terrifying the villagers. That, it seems, was the origin of the Orange marches. Whatever the origin, marching is part of the tradition of the Protestant community and, if peace is to be achieved, must so be acknowledged by Nationalists and Republicans. In the conciliatory statements of 16 November 1999, the UUP said that 'disagreements over language issues, parades and other events must be resolved if the stability' and tolerance we all want to see are to be realized.’ Protestantism is known for its proud individuality and sturdy independence, so it was natural that the roots and strength of the Order were based on local lodges. The Orange Order is organized like a triangle with a strong district base, its lodges affiliated to county lodges, in turn linked to the Grand Lodge of Ireland under a Grand Master. Membership of the Order ensured standing in society and, in time, links with the major Unionist parties, with the Order entitled to a certain number of delegates to the Ulster Unionist Council. Unionist Members at Stormont, later Westminster MPs and local councillors, were usually also dignitaries of the Orange Order. The Order was closely allied with the UUP and came to represent Protestant privilege. The power of Orangeism was thus consolidated after the Government of Ireland Act of 1920 and partition. Orange Order membership in the late 1990s was estimated at 70TS,000, with lodges, branches and halls in towns and villages situated throughout Northern Ireland. It formed a major element in the fabric of Protestant, particularly rural, society. Only Orange Order men can become members of what is in effect its senior branch, the Imperial Grand Black Chapter of the British Commonwealth (known as the Royal Black Institution). Members of the Royal Black Institution are deemed to be very religious, most respectable and less overtly political than Orangemen. They have one other qualification: they must be born in wedlock. A smaller body is the Apprentice Boys of Londonderry, whose tradition is based on the event in 1688, when a group of brave boys shut the gates of Derry with the defiant cry of 'No surrender!’ Apprentice Boys marked the event of the siege of Derry each 9 August by parading on the old city walls. Unfortunately, a large Catholic community settled below, in what became known as the Bogside. One contemptuous gesture used by Apprentice Boys was to throw pennies down on to the Bogside. Thus each year, Orangemen march. The major task of lodges appears to be organizing marches, local and national, to mark various anniversaries, including the Battle of the Somme and other patriotic occasions. Catholics have always dreaded the Twelfth. "You know when it’s due, it’s like a fever that hits them, so it does,’ was how a bank clerk saw it. ‘At
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work they suddenly go all moody and go out of their way to avoid talking to any Catholic? Marching in Ireland is also a serious business for Nationalists and Republicans, who march to remember such occasions as the anniversary of the United Irishmen Rebellion, the start of internment or to honour other heroes including the hunger strikers. But above all, it is the Orange Order which marches. Other countries also stage carnivals or military and pseudo-military parades to mark anniversaries. Few do it with the same fervour and political significance as the Irish. The Apprentice Boys’ season begins around Easter, shortly after Republicans have celebrated Easter Sunday to mark the abortive 1916 Rising. They hold their main rally on 9 August and march through Derry again in December to burn an effigy of Robert Lundy, Derry’s Governor, who had advocated opening the city gates to James II’s forces in 1689. June heralds the start of the marching season proper, which ends in September. Literally thousands of events are held. On 12 July, local ‘feeder’ marches join with larger district or county marches. In 1996, some 3200 parades took place, the majority of which were those of the Orange Order. No parade is complete without a brass band, so these too play their part. They are organized separately and it is up to the organizers to choose a band to head particular parades. Marching bands are a spectator attraction. Feet are sent tapping as the boys in the bands jauntily twirl their batons, beat huge Lembeg drums and pipe out familiar tunes as part of what in the ‘good old days’ of unchallenged Unionist dominance had been pure street theatre. It still is in Unionist areas, with around 80,000 men on the march on 12 July. Some brethren cover as many as 18 miles, marching in formation behind banners and bands, many in bowler hats and carrying umbrellas, dressed in archaic costumes covered with insignia and orange sashes. The target is a field, an open space where King Billy’s victory is commemorated by church services and speeches. After this the serious business of eating and drinking can commence. Women’s lodges were also formed, but the Orange Order is essentially a male preserve, and the Orange halls private male clubs. Before Nationalists became confident enough to challenge the marchers, Catholics shut themselves away in their homes as the parades went by. ‘They strutted and gestured rudely as they passed our houses,’ a Nationalist said. ‘On their way back from the halls in the evening after they’d had a drop or two, there was always trouble. They’d throw stones and of course some of us young ones threw them right back.’ When Nationalists asserted their new-found self-confidence, they began to voice their feelings about the parades. They saw them as an example of Protestant triumphalism, for which they had every reason. Orangemen do not pretend that the Glorious Twelfth celebrates any-
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thing other than Protestant victory. Effigies are burnt of the despised Pope and ‘taigs’, one of the derogatory terms for Catholics, British patriotism is extolled, Irish Nationalism derided. As a result of ‘the Troubles’, not only red-white-and-blue icecreams make their appearance, but also T-shirts of Loyalists, masked men in battledress brandishing machine guns. Force has never been a sole IRA preserve. The real problem arose through demography. As former Protestant areas were taken over by Catholics, marches through traditional areas often became marches through Nationalist areas, with resulting confrontation. It was this which created the problems at Drumcree. Nationalist organizations demanded the re-routing of marches, which served to fuel the belligerence of the marchers. The fight of Unionists to retain the monopoly of power was reflected by Orangemen, who defended each marching route as a ‘cultural right’, refusing to avoid streets where they were unwelcome. Nationalists saw this intransigence as a demonstration of dominance, a symbol of their own second-class status. By the mid-1990s, marching, always a source of friction, had become so contentious that John Hume pleaded with the British government in July 1997 to ban all marches and street demonstrations until some accommodation had been reached. By this time specific flashpoints had become identifiable, one of which was Garvaghy Road, a wide main road near the railway station in Portadown, a town known as the heartland of extreme Protestantism. The stand at Drumcree
From the 1920s onwards, Catholic housing estates had developed around Garvaghy Road. The Catholic residents had always resented the march through their area, making their feelings known. But this particular parade is of great significance to the Orange Order. On its great day, the Portadown Orange Order traditionally walks from its lodge to the church adjacent to the housing estates to attend the service at Drumcree and returns to the town by a shorter route, down Garvaghy Road. The Orangemen insist that this is their inalienable right entrenched in their culture. However, Garvaghy Road residents, eight groups of whom formed the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition (GRRC) in the mid-1990s, pointed out that when the ancestors of the Orangemen walked back from the church to Portadown’s centre, they had taken a shortcut past open fields. These had long since disappeared and been replaced by houses. The parade itself had been diverted by a magistrate’s order in 1928 from a nearby street because of residents’ objections and clashes caused by the marches. Unfortunately the route then designated, namely
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Garvaghy Road, was also part of a Catholic area. The annual occasion regularly caused resentment and friction between the two communities. By 1995 Drumcree had become a touchstone of emotions in the Irish conflict. Even the name rolls off the tongue like a war cry, reminiscent of age-old battles. Before 1995, few outside Ireland had heard of Drumcree. After that, it became the hallmark of the marching jamboree. Walking down from Portadown station towards Garvaghy Road where several Catholic housing estates converge, it is impossible not to feel the sense of community, particularly if one is in the company of a local representative like Councillor Breandan MacConnaith, GRRC spokesperson. MacConnaith, a personable family man in his thirties, taught in a local Irish language school and was elected as an Independent Councillor in June 1997. His Republican background and a conviction in 1981 for a firearms offence compounded the problem of Drumcree: Orange Order men cringed at the thought of talking to anyone with such credentials. The GRRC membership of a Jesuit priest also did little to quench Orange resentment of the GRRC. Portadown had an ancient Celtic history, MacConnaith explained, but its modern history dated back to the planting of settlers, which had made it a predominately Protestant centre. Of Portadown’s 30,000 inhabitants, only 8000 were Catholics, the majority of whom lived in the housing estates in the town’s north-western corner, one of the poorest areas of the town, where unemployment was higher than in any other section, thanks to discrimination on the part of Protestant employers. A factory at the bottom of Garvaghy Road makes the point. Situated where it is, it would be logical to expect its employees to be drawn from the surrounding area. In fact, over 90 per cent of employees are Protestants. Discontent over the Drumcree march flared up again during the 1995 marching season when the GRRC voiced the residents’ anti-parade feelings. At this time the IRA ceasefire declared in August 1994 was in place, as was a Loyalist ceasefire which had followed that of the IRA. After a good deal of wrangling, the GRRC agreed to the march, firmly expecting face-to-face talks with the local Orange Order when it was over. Instead, the community was treated to the spectacle of a triumphant march led by loud bands, while Dr Paisley and David Trimble virtually danced a jubilant jig down their street. Trimble was at Drumcree because, as MP for Upper Bann, Portadown was part of his constituency. Sporting an orange sash, he headed the march with elation, securing Unionist applause and, overtaking other favourites, the UUP leadership later that year. His past credentials predestined him for the role, having played a key part in the early 1970s in Vanguard. This umbrella body, contemptuous of the 1974 'soft’ Unionist leadership, had been active in the strike which had brought down the Sunningdale Agreement. It was this image of the triumphant
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bigot with his sash which marked David Trimble until pragmatism and courage transformed him and the image. To the Garvaghy residents’ disappointment, no talks took place between themselves and the Orange Lodge. By the time the 1996 parade date arrived, the IRA had broken their ceasefire, so that Sir Hugh Annesley, RUC Chief Constable, fearing violence, diverted the march from the disputed road. Infuriated, Orangemen refused to budge from the church after their service. Thousands of their brethren flocked to Drumcree, insisting that the march should be allowed to go down Garvaghy Road. Orangemen blocked some 150 roads, including several to airports, disrupting traffic throughout Northern Ireland. Roadblocks were erected, vehicles burnt, Catholic householders intimidated. It became too much for the RUC. After four days of stand-off, the Chief Constable reversed his order. His reason: fear of loss of life. Clearly Annesley was convinced that his men could not contain the Orangemen. He became concerned for the safety of his men, who were faced by a tractor organized by the Loyalist Billy Wright, which threatened to mow down the barricades. Anarchy triumphed over the rule of law. The Orangemen were allowed to march. The RUC hastily dismantled the barricades and instantly turned on Garvaghy Road residents who had sat down peacefully behind police lines. Within minutes, the group was batoned into the lanes of the estates and pinned down by fusillades of plastic bullets. Even without the accusation by the SDLP’s Brid Rodgers, who shouted pale-faced on television screens, ‘this is an outrage!’ it was easy to understand Nationalist anger and despair. Fury in Belfast and Derry boiled over into disorder, matched by Unionist violence. Over 8000 petrol bombing incidents were recorded, with police firing over 6000 plastic bullets, the majority at Nationalists, who deeply resented what they perceived once more as biased RUC attitude. John Major explained in his autobiography that the event had been ‘a serious defeat for law and order, but a victory for common sense. It saved lives.’ He said that the RUC Chief Constable had feared the threat of 60,000 Orangemen marching on Drumcree, as he lacked the manpower to contain them and protect the Garvaghy Road residents.1 Yet the question remains whether the tough police stance against those residents was called for. The resulting headlines must all have seemed familiar to one distinguished visitor that summer: South Africa’s great leader, Nelson Mandela, had come to Britain in the midst of the Drumcree uproar, the first South African President to pay a state visit to Britain. He would
1 John Major, The Autobiography, p 491.
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have had no difficulty in recalling that South Africa’s police too had not acted impartially in the apartheid years. The events during the South African President’s visit showed that the dove of peace was not yet hovering over Ireland’s divided communities. The South African solution of co-existence had not yet come to Britain’s troubled province. Instead, headlines reporting public delight over President Mandela’s visit competed for days with events in Portadown. Drumcree Mark III
It was a summer of discontent and unrest, which seeped into the darkness of winter and was rekindled as spring and the 1997 marching season approached. No solution to the impasse reached in Drumcree in 1996 was in sight. Clergymen, human rights activists and politicians tried unsuccessfully to broker an arrangement between the GRRC and the local Orange lodge to prevent a recurrence of the events of 1995 and 1996. Orangemen continued to insist on their right to march in Drumcree on 6 July 1997. The GRRC stood firm. Dialogue was ruled out, with Unionists accusing the GRRC of links with terrorism through MacConnaith. They refused all contact with him because of his Terrorist’ background. MacConnaith, who made no secret of his Republicanism, insisted that he had not been connected with any terrorist activity since his release. While Unionists refused to have anything to do with Republican terrorism, they associated freely with Loyalist terrorists. David Trimble conferred openly during the 1996 Drumcree stand-off with Billy Wright, a discharged prisoner like MacConnaith, and all Unionist parties sat with representatives of Loyalist terrorist organizations at Stormont, while refusing to have anything to do with Sinn Fein, seen as representing the IRA. Once talks began, Loyalist parties with links to Loyalist paramilitaries were allowed to participate, so that the constitutional parties were in fact sitting down with terrorists. Wright, later to be sentenced to yet a further sojourn in Her Majesty’s prisons in the wake of Drumcree, was a hard-liner who had formed an extremist group, the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF), which boycotted the Stormont talks. On 28 December 1997 he was murdered inside the Maze Prison, triggering off a spate of LVF murders and a deep crisis in the peace process. The murder was perpetrated by the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), an extremist Republican group. It had been set up in 1975 as an underground army of the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP), which had been formed in 1970 as a ‘Marxist alternative’ to Sinn Fein. These troubles were yet to come in July 1997. At that point two newspapers from opposite poles of the sectarian divide, the Belfast
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Newsletter committed to Unionism, and the Irish News which supported the Nationalist cause, joined forces to publish a joint appeal for peace at Drumcree. The papers proposed a compromise in a joint editorial: Orangemen should march one year and stay at home the following year. This would allow a cooling-off period of three years and hopefully by then the conflict would have ended. Like other attempts, this too failed. The Portadown Orange lodge had firmly set its face against direct negotiations with residents. With the appearance on the scene of Dr Mo Mowlam and her willingness to talk and listen, Nationalists’ hopes rose. Dr Mowlam’s direct manner made her seem in the words of a Republican, ‘like the woman from next door’. The Northern Ireland Secretary promised that 1997 would not be a repeat of previous years. A decision would be made well in advance, to be conveyed by her personally to the residents. This was not to be. Dr Mowlam held separate proximity talks with both the Orange Order and the GRRC on 27 and 28 June. Further meetings followed, as Dr Mowlam attempted to shift the Orangemen from their position. They made minor concessions, including the banning of politicians, limiting the march to local men and agreeing not to play any music while marching down the contentious road. Nonetheless, as lodge members put it, they were determined to set Orange feet on Garvaghy Road. A peaceful protest in the form of a street festival planned by the residents was not permitted. No word about a decision on the march came by Saturday evening. Tension rose. All day there had been a steady buildup of security. Shortly before 1 am barbed wire was strung across fields near Drumcree Church and at once residents relaxed. It seemed to them that the march would be diverted after all. They were sorely disappointed. Suddenly from 2 am onwards security was stepped up along the road to Portadown. One hour later RUC and troops moved down Garvaghy Road, sealing off both sides. Sirens sounded, rousing people from their beds. Furious residents battled it out with the security forces in the small hours of the night, with the result that some 14 persons suffered injuries. The road was cleared, thanks to the biggest ever concentration of security at one spot in Northern Ireland. The march went ahead, with 1200 men taking 17 minutes from 1 pm to walk in grim silence to ‘their’ part of town, leaving the residents’ goodwill towards Dr Mowlam in tatters. They found it hard to accept her explanation that she had been unable to come herself as promised, as the final decision was taken after midnight and a further meeting with Orangemen. RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan declared that his decision had been based on security grounds. He had chosen the ‘lesser of two evils’. He had evidently feared Loyalist paramilitary action and said he was protecting lives by his decision. For Nationalists it was not merely a
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repeat of Drumcree 1995 and 1996, but a replay of 1912 and 1974: fear of Unionist violence had again been decisive. Drumcree Mark III unleashed a wave of Nationalist anger and violence across Catholic areas. 36 hours of almost uninterrupted violence sent petrol bombs and plastic bullets flying, buses and cars were set alight, trains hijacked, with some 100 people injured. Loyalist paramilitaries went on 'high alert’. One Loyalist was blown up by what appeared to have been his own bomb. The RUC litany of incidents made dismal reading: 1600 plastic bullets fired, 550 attacks on security forces, 700 petrol bombings, 57 civilians and 46 police injured, 500 calls to fire services, 41 arrests, 221 hijackings and 150 ambulance calls.1 Within days of the march on Drumcree, the Northern Ireland Secretary faced a new crisis. A document dated 20 June was leaked from her office which showed that the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) had already decided before the proximity and other talks that in the event of no compromise having been found, it would be best if the Drumcree parade were allowed to take place. Dr Mowlam stoically refuted the charge that she had known all along what would be decided and that her shuttle diplomacy had been a sham. She had received several documents, she maintained. One had included the option of banning the march. The Chief Constable had come to his decision after a late-night, last-minute meeting with local Orangemen and she had backed his decision. Tony Blair supported Dr Mowlam. He hardly had any other option: Mowlam’s Northern Ireland policy was that of the Prime Minister. The commentator Nicholas Leach wrote that ‘like the chief executive of a corporation forced to take on the management of a loss-making subsidiary, Blair is effectively taking the tactical and strategic decision on the North while relying on Mowlam to interpret them.’ He criticized the Drumcree decision because it seemed to be based ‘solely upon simplistic calculations of potential unrest’. Political repercussions had been left out of the equation. Yet despite the Drumcree march, the leaked document and the resulting disappointment and anger, the event proved a turning point in Unionist-Nationalist relations. After a horrendous week, when fear and despair reigned, the Orange Order performed as remarkable a feat as the IRA had done with their 1994 ceasefire. The Order’s leadership took a courageous and first-ever decision ahead of the flurry of marches planned for 12 July. Four of the most controversial parades were re-routed or abandoned. This voluntary re-routing lifted the cloud of disaster. Both communities heaved sighs of relief. Although fresh troops were sent into Northern Ireland and incidents of violence took place, the Glorious Twelfth passed 1 Irish Times, 8 July 1997.
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in relative peace. The bands blared, the pipers piped and women waved. Some outraged Orangemen forced one march through a Traditional’ route in Derry, where Nationalists had expected no march at all. On the whole, however, the Chief Constable must have had a better night following 12 July than he had after 6 July. Some 80,000 Orangemen had marched in 18 different locations, waved their flags and held their services without mayhem. Northern Ireland had pulled back from the brink of disaster. The goal of an ultimate settlement of the constitutional issues seemed once more within reach. The Prime Ministerial peace train which had halted before it was ever properly warmed up, could once more be called into service. Dr Mowlam promised that before the 1998 marching season new legislation would be in place, based on the North Report commissioned by John Major’s government.1 The promise was kept. A Parades Commission was set up in early 1998 and charged with deciding when and how marches could take place, thus removing the responsibility from the police and politicians. While the composition of the Commission met with initial Republican criticism, with claims of bias in favour of Unionists, the Commission banned controversial marches more often than not. The first decision of April 1998 was met with Unionist protest, as it banned an Apprentice Boys March over the Easter weekend down another contentious area, Belfast’s Lower Ormeau Road. Nationalists continued to urge the Commission to tackle the root of the marching problem, namely the refusal of Orangemen to talk directly to residents in those areas where there were objections to Orange parades. This had still not been resolved by the time of the 1998 Drumcree march. The Parades Commission decided to ban the annual Portadown Orange Order’s return from church service through Garvaghy Road on Sunday 5 July. There was instant Orange Order defiance. Ten Catholic churches were attacked, followed by attacks on Orange Lodges in retaliation. Prime Minister Blair flew once more to Northern Ireland to encourage the peace brokers. David Trimble, the man who only three years earlier had won his UUP leadership baton at Drumcree and who by now was First Minister of the new Northern Ireland Assembly, no longer backed confrontation but spoke in favour of co-existence. In 1998 he too attempted to persuade Portadown Orangemen not to protest. It was a hopeless task. Drumcree Mark IV beat all previous occasions in tension and passion, threatening total derailment of the peace train that only a few weeks before had been chuffing more or less tranquilly along.
1 North Report. Independent Review of Parades and Marches 1997. Chairman: Dr Peter North, (London: The Stationery Office, 1997).
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Dr Mowlam saw it as a clash of two rights: the right to march and the right to deny marchers access where they were unwelcome. Frantic but abortive efforts were made before 5 July to find a solution. Orangemen refused to budge. Once more they insisted that they would not surrender by talking to 'Sinn Fein-led resident groups’. They pointed to the concessions already made, the scaling down of the parade and the silence when marching down Garvaghy Road with muffled drums. They felt this was compromise enough. This time they would use 'the traditional route, this Sunday or some other day. ... We will stay at Drumcree as long as it takes.’ Prepared for trouble, troops were flown in to erect massive barricades across the lane leading from the parish church to the disputed road, turning a peaceful country area into a war zone. RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan threatened that there would be no reversal of orders as in 1996. The Orangemen prepared for a long haul. Some 5000 Orangemen from Portadown and Antrim marched soberly to church, but did not march back again. Instead, frustrated by the fortifications, they retreated to nearby fields to repeat the previous stand-off. By the afternoon, tents had sprung up as hundreds bedded down. In the small hours of the night, with a drizzle of rain, Ian Paisley arrived to lead the cry of 'no surrender’. Once more Drumcree symbolized the deep sectarian divide. The ripples of Unionist discomfort spread from Drumcree throughout Northern Ireland. The Orange Order, created to defend Protestantism, displayed the same defensive mood 200 years on. As the stand-off lengthened and Loyalist unrest spread, it became more than a local issue – it was about the GFA itself. Clearly the peace train was in danger of derailment. Loyalist road blocks went up at random, attacks on Catholic houses mounted, with 2000 acts of violence, including 500 petrol bomb incidents in eight days. It was more difficult for the security forces to deal with Loyalist than Republican violence. Loyalists were spread over a larger area, whereas Republican violence could usually be contained within the more confined space of the Catholic areas. In this sense there was a similarity with South Africa, where during the unrest of the 1980s, South African security forces had been able to contain the violence within the black townships. An exodus took place ahead of the annual Glorious Twelfth, which in 1998 was scheduled for Monday 13 July in view of sabbatical observance. Shops ended late opening hours. Pubs were deserted. Belfast took on the look of a ghost town. Proximity talks organized by the government with Orangemen and the GRRC on 11 July led nowhere. Nationalist residents had accepted a scheme to set up a forum composed of Assembly members, councillors, the business community, NGOs and representatives of the Irish and British governments to
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discuss the issue. This would have included a measure of finance, both for the discussions and for economic development in the area. The Orange Order turned down the proposal, fearing it meant postponing the Garvaghy Road parade until September. It was a dangerous situation. Loyalists attempted to make Northern Ireland non-functional, as they had done in 1974 and before. During the two weeks following 5 July, Orangemen attacked the barriers to Garvaghy Road, battling with police who fired plastic bullets, enraging Unionists just as Nationalists had been enraged in the past. As young thugs attacked the police with bricks, bottles, nail bombs and even bullets, control seemed to have slipped out of the older Orangemen’s control. On some evenings the number of attackers rose to some 15,000. At the weekend preceding the Glorious Twelfth, one incident jolted the sensibility of both communities, arousing international condemnation of Orange Order intransigence and leading to an Orange defeat. A Loyalist petrol bomb attack at 4 am on the morning of Sunday 12 July set a terraced home on fire in the modest Carnany Estate in Ballymoney. Three young boys, Richard, Mark and Jason Quinn, aged 11,9 and 7, were burnt to death as they slept. For days it had been predicted that sooner or later someone would die. Yet when death ended three young lives, the shock was numbing. Northern Ireland had endured numerous other terrible incidents, innumerable tragedies. Yet this one struck deeply. Petrol bomb attacks were almost routine intimidation, aimed at driving Catholics or, in the case of the Quinn boys, a family of mixed Catholic/Protestant background, out of homes in predominantly Protestant areas. The Quinn tragedy caused greater grief and greater awareness of the senseless ferocity of sectarianism than any other that had preceded it. Many Orangemen quietly packed up and left Drumcree on Sunday afternoon. The Drumcree stand-off of 1998 had failed. The deaths of the Quinn boys overshadowed the rest of the marching season. The controversial Lower Ormeau Road parade the morning following the tragedy had been given the go-ahead by the Parades Commission. Despite warnings of bombs near the Orange Order Lodge, the parade proceeded, flanked by silent Nationalist protesters carrying black flags as a mark of respect for the dead children as it passed through their area. Many Orangemen were ashamed and failed to rise to Dr Paisley’s cry of ‘no surrender’ and his stout assertion that Drumcree and the Quinn deaths were unrelated. A ‘freedom camp’ set up outside Hillsborough Castle, Dr Mowlam’s official residence, was abandoned on Sunday afternoon, with wreaths for the Quinn boys left behind. Some Orangemen admitted that the preceding two weeks had disgraced the Order. They deplored the fighting at Drumcree and were dismayed as much by
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
the violence directed at the RUC as by the language used against Catholics. Moderates began to raise their voices, proposing face-to-face talks between Orangemen and residents in disputed areas. When the army emerged from behind its barrier to clear the field at Drumcree, raiding tents for petrol bombs and other weapons, making a number of arrests and leaving only a token Orange presence, there was no open outrage. Despite this upsurge of emotion, the Portadown Orange Order rejected appeals, including that of David Trimble, to end their protest in view of this hate-filled, heartbreaking atrocity. The Portadown men insisted on their right to march and vowed to remain in the field until such time as they had set foot on Garvaghy Road. Several ugly clashes with police occurred. A small contingent of Orangemen was still encamped outside the church at Drumcree by Christmas Eve of 1998 and beyond. When the first Sunday of July 1999 loomed and the Parades Commission banned the Drumcree march again, Northern Ireland was prepared for the worst. This took place at a time when feelings were running high over the tricky decommissioning question, which bedevilled this phase of the peace process despite all efforts to shunt it into a siding. Police and army arrived at the church. Massive barricades went up, dwarfing those of the previous year. In the event, the Orange Portadown Lodge adopted a sensible pose. The men marched up to the barrier and silently handed in their protest. Drumcree Mark V did not match its predecessors in violence. Indeed, the 1999 marching season was the most peaceful for four years; for the first time dialogue had begun between marchers and residents of the areas in which parades aroused antagonism. Despite the agony and despair, Drumcree’s buffers did not derail Blair’s peace train. However, it must be remembered that the attempt to warm up the engine had begun much earlier, in the early 1990s, when conflict resolutions were brokered in other areas of turbulence, including those of southern Africa.
In Search of Peace
To achieve peace, you should anticipate it, run after it, and never cease to do all in your power to bring it about. HUGO GABRIEL GRYN1
The Portadown parade from what on other days is a picture-book village church, symbolized the hazards of the peace process in Northern Ireland and its tricky course, which took longer to traverse than similar routes in southern Africa. Confrontations in the region, which had erupted into open conflict in the 1960s, had all been settled by 1992. Only Angola continued in a state of unrest, with a mere few years’ lull, before fighting broke out once more between UNITA and the MPLA. The reason was simple: UNITA controlled lucrative diamond fields which allowed its leader Jonas Savimbi to pay for arms and continue his war against Luanda, with the aim of governing the country. In turn, the MPLA used the country’s oil revenue to finance its war against Savimbi. The peace process in Ireland was as complex as that in southern Africa or elsewhere. The initial step, that of the unilateral declaration of a ceasefire by the IRA on 31 August 1994 which followed secret IRABritish contacts, had met with joy and euphoria, particularly in the Nationalist areas. Ireland enjoyed its respite from the violence and tension under which both communities had lived since the early 1970s. Many Unionists remained sceptical, afraid that the IRA was simply seeking time to regroup, rearm and rethink its strategy. The IRA ceasefire was the price paid for Republican participation in talks on Northern Ireland’s future. Debate had begun in the early 1990s. Between April 1991 and November 1992 the ‘Brooke-Mayhew talks’, so named after the then successive Northern Ireland Secretaries of State, had been held between the British and Irish governments and four Northern Ireland parties, the UUP, SDLP, AP and DUP. Sinn Fein, with Adams already convinced that the political route was the only solution, wished to be included in all-party talks. Gerry Adams, who had been elected to Sinn Fein’s presidency in 1983, had looked to South Africa as a lead for some time. In his book, Free Ireland: Towards a 1 Rabbi Hugo Gryn, Auschwitz survivor. Obituary, Independent, 20 August 1996. 57
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
Lasting Peace, he said that in 1986 when he began to write the book, he could not have foreseen that within ten years Mandela would be South Africa’s President. Adams was greatly encouraged by South Africa’s example and said that ‘if the South African government had said, “we will move, but only when the right wing agrees”, they would still be sitting there. They decided to move regardless. ... The London government needs to change its policy in a similarly progressive and positive way.’ He began to argue for greater pragmatism and flexibility on part of Republicans ‘on how we might judge the need for a transitional phase in order to reach a settlement’. In time, he was able to persuade Republicans to give politics a chance. After the IRA’s ceasefire declaration, the Irish government was willing to include Sinn Fein in all-party talks. John Major proceeded more cautiously. He insisted on proof that the ceasefire was ‘permanent’ and not, as the IRA stated, ‘indefinite’. A stalemate ensued. The British Conservative Prime Minister found himself in a position similar to that of the Liberals, who had been confronted by Conservative and Unionist determination to oppose Home Rule at the start of the century. Major, like the Liberals, did not command a strong majority and relied on Unionist support in the House of Commons. Unionists on their part wanted a permanent ceasefire and the disarming of the IRA, as proof of the latter’s good faith. The IRA was unwilling to concede either of these points. The Major government committed itself to demanding the decommissioning of IRA arms before it would consider any Republican participation. At the same time the IRA insisted that in the secret contacts in the run-up to the ceasefire, decommissioning had not been an issue. The problem refused to go away. It is dealt with at some length in John Major’s autobiography. He says that the issue of arms was referred to repeatedly by both the British and Irish governments. Sir Patrick Mayhew stated after the Downing Street Declaration that IRA guns and explosives had to be made available ‘to show that violence was over’. The point was also taken up by the Irish Foreign Minister Dick Spring in a statement to the Irish Parhament. The British Prime Minister said on 21 October 1994 that the end of violence could not be assured ‘until the paramilitaries on both sides hand in their weapons. This is a difficult issue but it cannot be ducked.’ The ‘Washington Principles’ laid down by Mayhew in March 1995, that is, after the ceasefire, finally addressed the arms issue specifically, demanding ‘the actual decommissioning of some arms as a tangible confidence-building measure and to signal the start of a process’. The IRA viewed it differently. Decommissioning, they said, should be part of negotiations, not a pre-condition to these. They chafed at the slow pace of progress when no move towards all-party talks had been
IN SEARCH OF PEACE
made by 1996, feeling that their trust had been misplaced. If the issue had not been sidelined – fudged in the Unionist view – with private assurances given to David Trimble that decommissioning would take place, the GFA would not have been concluded. However, concluded it was, to much acclaim. Yet as soon as the implementation process had begun, the Unionist demand for ‘decommissioning up-front’ delayed the process by 18 months, with David Trimble insisting on ‘no guns, no government’. Moreover, when Trimble, as First Minister, finally conceded in November 1999 to set up the all-inclusive Executive in terms of the GFA, he did so with the proviso that decommissioning had to be seen to have started by the end of January 2000. This enraged Republicans who saw it as a Unionist ultimatum and refused to comply. This led to the suspension of the short-lived Executive, resulting in no guns and no government. In 1996 these events were still to come. At that point in time there was speculation of a division of opinion within top Republican circles. Hard-line military men believed that it had been mainland bombings which had set the peace process in train. Others opposed the bombing, warning that it would be best to allow the British to drag their feet, perhaps even exclude Sinn Fein from the proposed multi-party talks, to allow Republicans to occupy the high moral ground. In the event, the hard-line argument won. A massive bomb was exploded on 9 February in London’s Docklands, killing two, injuring scores and causing extensive damage. The IRA had chosen to signal their impatience by breaking the ceasefire. Other bombs followed. Understandably Unionists felt their initial distrust of the IRA’s ceasefire had been justified. Despite, or perhaps because of this event, Major announced that elections would be held in May as a preliminary step to convening constitutional talks. Sinn Fein stood in the elections, achieving their bestever result of 15½ per cent of the vote, but because of the IRA’s bombs was excluded from the talks which began in June and which were to be completed by May 1998. Initial discussions achieved little of substance, at first ranging around such weighty matters as seating arrangements. Then suddenly at the beginning of June 1997 everything seemed there to be played for. The previous month, the general elections in Britain had not only catapulted a strong Labour Party into government, but had also provided tremendous success for Sinn Fein. The Party’s President Gerry Adams and Vice-President Martin McGuinness were returned as Members of Parliament. Though unable to take their Westminster seats because of their refusal to swear allegiance to the Queen, this success was invigorating. The heady feeling was further reinforced by Sinn Fein election triumphs in subsequent local elections and bolstered by the election on 6 June of a Sinn Fein representative to the Irish Dáil.
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
It seemed as if the process initiated by John Major could now be successfully continued. Tony Blair’s instant focus on the Irish issue convinced the Republican leadership that he meant to do business. In May, the first contacts between Sinn Fein and the British took place at the level of officials. Everything seemed set for a breakthrough, enabling Sinn Fein participation in the constitutional all-party negotiations. All that was needed was a resumption of the IRA ceasefire. However, initially friendly relations instantly turned sour, first because of Drumcree Mark III, but more importantly, because of the IRA murder of two RUC men on 16 June while out on street patrol in Lurgan. The death of the two policemen upset hopes for an early renewal of the IRA ceasefire and increased tension. Grief and anger ran high. Sinn Fein, feted only a week earlier, was reviled south and north of the border and angrily accused of hypocrisy when the party refused to denounce the killings. It was said that Sinn Fein election success had brought war, not peace. Sinn Fein, dismayed at the timing of the murders and at the public reaction, was discomforted, yet also surprised. They explained that the Lurgan incident was simply the action of a local unit going about the business which the IRA had pursued for years – attacking the enemy. The ceasefire was no longer in place and such incidents had to be expected. At the same time Adams understood that he had suffered a political setback and would have to make up ground if his party was to catch Blair’s peace train. The British too were disappointed, realizing that either the train would remain stationary or depart without Sinn Fein. Yet the journey seemed pointless without Republicans aboard. Question marks abounded. What would be the final destination? Could the Irish emulate South Africans? Was Gerry Adams an Irish ‘Mandela’, a leader strong enough to persuade his people to stop fighting and start talking? Some commentators sighed for a Unionist de Klerk, a far-sighted leader of the dominant elite who was prepared to concede the end of the politics of privilege. South African contacts
Such questions were also asked by Irish politicians, thanks to contacts with South Africans, several of whom had visited Europe in 1996 in addition to the country’s illustrious President. In May 1996 a three-man South African delegation led by ‘Mac’ Maharaj, Transport Minister in the Government of National Unity1 and a veteran member of President 1 The Government of National Unity was formed after South Africa’s first democratic elections in April 1994 by the ANC, NP and the Inkatha Freedom Movement (IFP).
IN SEARCH OF PEACE
Mandela’s ANC, was invited to Ireland. The other members of the delegation were Leon Wessels, a former National Party minister, and General Constand Viljoen, leader of the small right-wing party, the Freedom Front (FF). Wessels had been the first NP minister to apologize for apartheid, his party’s doctrine of legal racist discrimination, while Viljoen, as head of the South African Defence Force (SADF), had implemented the NP’s disastrous 1980s destabilization strategy which had deliberately devastated southern Africa. Minister Maharaj insisted that discussions were held in the presence of all three. They were a team which represented their country. This attitude surprised his hosts, for only a few years earlier it would have been unthinkable that Maharaj would sit at a table with Wessels, let alone Viljoen. Maharaj, a ‘terrorist’ in the parlance of the day, had been on police wanted lists even after the release of Mandela in February 1990, and was indeed subsequently arrested. The new relationship between the members of the delegation symbolized Mandela’s new South Africa. The South African resolution of its conflict had been the subject of a presentation to the Irish Forum of Peace and Reconciliation in November 1995 by the former South African President F.W. de Klerk. The way towards this goal was also explained by yet another team paying a 48hour visit to the country in late June 1996. Cyril Ramaphosa, at the time still the ANC’s Secretary-General but who later became one of the country’s leading black businessmen, and Roelf Meyer, a former NP minister, later NP General Secretary before he headed a newly created party in 1997, told a fascinated Belfast audience of their roles as chief negotiators for the respective parties. These two men had been crucial to the delicate South African peace process. During a hazardous stand-off period in talks which lasted nine months in 1992, it was only the channel between these two, who enjoyed an unusual rapport, that enabled not only contact to be maintained unofficially, but to be resumed on 2 September 1992, when the multiparty talks which paved the way for the country’s transitional constitution and democratic rule began. Meyer explained that any question which could not be dealt with in plenary sessions was handed to Ramaphosa and himself to resolve. One was the issue of arms held by Umkontho we Sizwe (MK), the ANC’s military wing.1 Meyer said that ‘we discussed it several times and when we were asked about it, said we hadn’t come up with a solution as yet. We pushed it along like that until the end. The question was never resolved.’ He added with a grin that, ‘they probably didn’t have much anyway.’ 1 Umkontho we Sizwe - the Spear of the Nation - known as MK, was formed by the ANC, banned in 1960, and the South African Communist Party (SACP), already banned in 1950. MK became the ANC’s military wing whose guerrillas infiltrated South Africa to commit acts of sabotage and in the 1980s also trained guerrillas in the black ghettos.
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
This too amazed the audience, as decommissioning of arms – or the lack of it – was the most contentious issue of the Irish process. For Unionists, decommissioning before government had become the holy grail and continued to be the focus even after the signing of the GFA. Neither side expected the South African example of allowing disarmament to slide into the background to be emulated in Northern Ireland. Throughout the process, this issue was ever present, like a ghost at the negotiating table. For Republicans, surrendering as much as a gun was seen as tantamount to surrender. They claimed that the IRA had not been defeated, even if the British had not been driven out. Their organization was still intact. Unionists insisted that without the decommissioning of arms to signify an end to war, they could not negotiate any settlement. So the ever-present threat continued: a return to Republican violence and, by implication, Loyalist retaliation. It was only during the weary weeks prior to mid-November 1999 that a formula was finally found under Senator Mitchell’s guidance to save face on both sides. Even then the furore continued within Unionist ranks over the issue of ‘who-would-go-first’ – Republicans negotiating decommissioning or Trimble setting up the power-sharing Executive. To outsiders it seemed merely an empty debate full of sound and fury. Surely gestures were less important than actually getting down to working with each other at last. That after all was what had happened in South Africa, when former enemies had agreed to join each other in the country’s first Government of National Unity. Hands across the ocean
South Africans told the Northern Irish parties so, for contacts between the Irish and South Africans continued. In May 1997 a conference was held in South Africa at the instigation of an American academic, possibly as a result of the dynamism which Bill Clinton had injected into the Irish issue from the start of his presidency. The event, hosted by the Constitutional Development Ministry at Arniston on South Africa’s south coast, was attended by Northern Ireland’s parties including Sinn Fein, led by Martin McGuinness, and the UUP led by David Trimble. Sadly, the UUP delegation insisted on separation, which meant separate workshop venues and separate accommodation. In a country which had fought for so long against segregation, this was both ludicrous and tragic. McGuinness later repeatedly said the conference had been the most memorable of his life. He was certain that everyone who had taken part would have been affected by the experience. He was not only impressed with the trouble the South Africans had taken to organize the event, but above all by the way people who had been bitter enemies only a short
IN SEARCH OF PEACE
time before worked with and alongside each other. They had come to terms with the new situation.1 South Africans could not return the compliments. Dr Padraig O’Malley of the University of Massachusetts, who had set the IrishSouth African contacts in train, said that the South Africans were baffled by the behaviour of the Irish politicians who had refused even to share physical space with others. Veteran negotiator Ramaphosa had been convinced that he would be able to get all the politicians together in one room within 48 hours. He was sorely disappointed. Even President Mandela was forced to address the groups separately.2 Giving the Irish the benefit of his wisdom and experience, he remarked that there was no need to negotiate with one’s friends, but it was necessary to talk to one’s enemies. Despite the segregation of the delegations in South Africa, it was significant that Trimble had attended a peace conference at which Sinn Fein was present. Even more positive was the attendance of representatives of the fringe Loyalist groups, whose small parties attended the Stormont negotiations. Loyalists were in the main drawn from working-class Protestants, and in time many had drawn away from ‘respectable’ Unionist politicians, feeling that they had been used. The Loyalist political parties contributed a great deal to pushing the peace process forward. In South Africa, as is customary at seminars and conferences, a party was given by the hosts. Trimble studiously ignored the Shinners. But media rumour had it that red-haired Rita O’Hare, Sinn Fein’s press woman in Dublin, came face to face with Loyalists and neither flinched. More than that, journalists spoke of a subsequent Shinner/Loyalist encounter and a sing-song in the pub. Why not? Catholics and Protestants are still Irish. South Africans were stirred by similar discoveries. When the first tentative moves were made by quiet white men towards equally quiet ANC members, both sides were amazed to find how much they had in common. Many South Africans in exile, even blacks, often spoke Afrikaans as a nostalgic reminder of ‘home’. If South Africans found they actually liked each other as individuals, why not the Irish? The peace process brought the ANC and Sinn Fein closer together. A few South Africans acted as consultants to Sinn Fein when eventually Republicans entered the talks in September 1997, and were among the invisible men and women behind the scenes who were spared the relentless probing into Stormont’s makeshift plastic media village. Such individuals were invaluable. Moreover, once the GFA had been accepted, former ANC negotiators returned to Ireland in May 1998 to help the ‘yes’ campaign. The 1 An Phoblacbt, 5 June 1997. 2 Independent, 30 April 1998.
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
delegation included Mac Maharaj, Cyril Ramaphosa, Mathews Phosa, Premier of Mpumalanga (formerly Eastern Transvaal) and former guerrilla commander, and Constitutional Development Minister Valli Moosa. The South Africans met politicians in the Republic, from both sides of the Northern Ireland’s divide and, most significantly, were able to meet and address prisoners in the Maze, passing on their own experience of Talking to the enemy’. Not surprisingly, the visitors talked of a feeling of deja vu as they visited Ireland’s bleak prison, a reminder of their own past incarceration and those of their comrades. The warm ANC-Irish Republican relations were emphasized by Adams’s attendance at South Africa’s 1998 Freedom Day celebrations in London, where he spoke of a ‘natural affinity’ between Sinn Fein and the ANC. The Sinn Fein leader had previously visited South Africa in June 1995 To learn from the South African experience’ and had then met President Mandela. South Africans were indeed well placed to pass on their advice. Decisions during negotiations were often very finely balanced. South Africans had learned when it was wise to give way and when the opposing side was ready to concede a point. During the lengthy ANC-NP contacts, complex points were either settled by a consensus of those around the table or not settled at all. As the negotiators had explained, tricky points were often shelved or handed to a sub-committee while the plenary session moved to the next issue. Both Ramaphosa and Meyer had told their Belfast audience in 1996 that they had taken ‘ownership’ of their own peace process. This was echoed by McGuinness in the Andersonstown News on 13 August 1997, urging Nationalists To take the widest possible ownership of the peace process and not leave it to a high wire act between political parties and the two governments’.1 Following the mould-breaking events of Easter 1998, UUP leader David Trimble accepted the GFA and campaigned vigorously for its acceptance, despite opposition within the UUP leadership and the GFA’s rejection by the Orange Order’s Grand Lodge. Shinners wondered aloud if indeed a de Klerk-type figure had emerged. Trimble’s stand in 1998, unexpected in view of his hard-line image, earned him deserved respect and, in the end, joint Nobel Peace Prize honours alongside John Hume. Hopes of peace
The delight expressed publicly at the IRA’s 1994 ceasefire declaration showed that the yearning for an end to violence was as deep in Northern Ireland as it had been in South Africa. When the province returned to ‘a 1 Sinn Fein Press Release, 14 August 1997.
IN SEARCH OF PEACE
sort of war’ after the 1996 Docklands bomb, this did not match the fullscale conflict prior to the ceasefire. Security checks and barriers were not instantly re-introduced, nor was the army presence as oppressive as before. People complacently went about their business, as if the IRA had ended its activities. It had not. The first death of a soldier in the province on 11 February 1997, a year after the breaking of the ceasefire, ended complacency. The RUC’s warning of IRA plans to accelerate action proved correct with several incidents occurring and arms caches found on both sides of the border. However, it took the death of the two RUC men in Lurgan to shock people into awareness that there was indeed no peace. As a Unionist put it, while such incidents were commonplace before August 1994, in June 1997 Lurgan was seen as an intolerable outrage. Peace had been experienced briefly, only to slip once more out of the politicians’ grasp. Nonetheless hope was present alongside fear and violence. Even after Lurgan, after Drumcree, after the Glorious Twelfth, the search for a solution continued. In the Catholic camp, the Republicans Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness and the Nationalist John Hume, were as anxious to push ahead with the peace process as Tony Blair and the new man in Dublin, Bertie Ahern, leader of Fianna Fail and from 26 June 1997 the Irish Taoiseach.
Nationalism, Ethnicity and Conflict
The determination to remain distinctive and separate leads to drawing of boundaries or building of walls. SEAMUS DUNN1
Nationalism has long been a subject of intense scrutiny by academics. In his Ph.D. thesis on South African Afrikaner Nationalism,2 Christoph Marx took issue with Hans Kohn’s definition of two kinds of Nationalism. The first rested on political institutions as in Western Europe and the USA; the other Kohn traced to Central and Eastern Europe, where identity is created on the basis of fictitious origin and by means of language and cultural communities. Marx explained that from the perspective of identity, it is impossible to separate political institutions from culture. It was decisive where the emphasis was laid on man-made political institutions or emotional issues such as language and custom. It is logical that once an ethnic group sees itself threatened, it is anxious to define its identity and defend it by seeking to establish ‘constitutional nationalism’, using cultural weapons such as language and symbols. After their defeat in the Boer War, the Boers (Afrikaners) strove to end British domination and re-establish a republic. That goal was achieved in 1961. By then Afrikaner identity was seen to be threatened by international Jewry, communism and ultimately by African Nationalism. In turn, the latter emerged as a response to colonialism and oppression by Boer and British. Irish Catholics felt threatened by British domination and Protestant supremacy. Irish Nationalism developed as a response to British colonialism, with the goal, as in South Africa, of severing links with Britain. While this was achieved for the 26 counties of the Irish Republic, Re1 Seamus Dunn, Facets of the Conflict in Northern Ireland (New York: St Martin’s Press, 1995), p4. 2 Christoph Marx, Im Zeichen des Ochsenwagens. Der radikale Afrikaaner-Nationalismus in Südafrika und die Geschichte des Ossewabrandwag, in Studien zur Afrikanischen Geschichte, Bd 22 (Münster, 1988), pp 83-4. 66
NATIONALISM, ETHNICITY & CONFLICT
publicans of the six counties of Northern Ireland continued their fight for unification. Colonialism always threatened the identity and culture of the colonized. The colonizer not only claims the spoils of war, but remains in the conquered lands, where he imposes his laws and culture. Ireland and southern Africa suffered invasion, defeat and eventually colonization and occupation by foreign powers. The economies, customs and languages of the local people were displaced by those of the colonizer, inflicting physical and psychological hurts. Inevitably, colonial peoples forged closer bonds with their own kind and equally inevitably turned to their own past and traditions for strength and renewed struggle. A new sense of ethnic identity and pride developed, fostering fiery Nationalism to defend that identity. Even more inevitably, a culture of ‘them and us’ emerged. ‘They’ were seen as the enemy, while ‘we’ have a just cause. With grievances forcibly suppressed, a world view developed which was difficult to alter, having passed into group consciousness and mythology. Nationalism and ethnicity are defined differently by experts. Ethnicity is not considered identical with race, but defined as people’s perception of themselves, overriding national, cultural, racial and religious identities. Different ethnic groups do not necessarily relate to each other with hostility, but such hostility develops if different groups claim and compete for control over the same resources. The peoples of southern Africa and Ireland nurtured deep resentment against colonists and their metropolitan motherland. The foundations of conflict, hostility and confrontation were created as ethnic groups evolved, each carrying an ideological baggage of beliefs, prejudices and hatred. Latent hostilities exist within all societies which include different ethnic groups. Such hostility can be manipulated for political purposes or erupts over specific occurrences in times of hardship and stress. Jews in Europe were at the receiving end of such hostility and distrust throughout centuries, resulting in the ‘final solution’. However, such violence was one-sided, as it is in the case of open resentment against foreigners entering ‘Fortress Europe’ today. It is another matter when opposing communities confront each other, as in the case of Northern Ireland or southern Africa, where such communities lay claim to supremacy or demand equal rights. In any event, hostility directed towards any group fosters that group’s identity and sense of purpose. Southern Africa
In southern Africa, Afrikaner Nationalism emerged out of resistance to British domination, while African Nationalism developed out of opposi-
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tion to white domination. Afrikaner Nationalism and African Nationalism found themselves in competition. Ethnicity had played a part in southern Africa’s conflict from the first meeting in he mid-seventeenth century between the Dutch East India Company’s employees and indigenous Khoi-Khoi, a late Stone Age people rudely called Hottentots by the newcomers. In time the settlers usurped the Khoi-Khoi’s grazing land, sealing their fate by preventing access to watering holes. Khoi-Khoi resistance was weak, not only to superior weapons but also to the Europeans’ germs. Survivors worked for white settlers, destined to merge with the offspring of whites and slaves. The latter were mainly imported from the Far East, with the Company creating a slave-holding society at the Cape within a few years of its arrival. Overnight, sons of modest craftsmen and peasants became masters for no other reason than their lighter skins. Slaveholders in the Cape as elsewhere began to look down on people of colour and on manual work. A new ethnic group was also created, the so-called ‘Coloureds’, people of mixed race numbering some 3 million people by the 1990s, sometimes described as the only indigenous South Africans. Boer ethnicity
The settlers had brought with them their Protestant creed. The Dutch Reformed Church, the foremost religious institution, became virtually the state Church. Dutch was the language of the settler community, composed of administrators, urban professionals and ‘boere’, large-scale farmers who raised cattle and planted vineyards and orchards. As Boers moved ever further eastwards into good rainfall areas, they were thrown increasingly on their own resources, drawing on their families and their faith for strength. Social contact was rare, with men claiming large tracts of veld as their own, happy not to see their neighbours’ smoke. A local dialect, Afrikaans, evolved – a mixture of Dutch and other languages. Love for and pride in their own language is part of Boer ethnicity, which developed in the course of the nineteenth century and was so recognized from around 1870. The term ‘Afrikaner’ was used by Boers in the twentieth century to describe themselves as people of European descent living in and totally identifying with Africa. In the early eighteenth century, Boers first came into contact with Xhosa tribesmen in their trek eastwards in search of game and pasture. Boer and Xhosa economies and lifestyles were similar. Both groups were subsistence farmers competing for access to pastoral and arable land. This led to cattle raids and skirmishes, in the course of which the Xhosa were steadily pushed out of their traditional areas. Isolated even from the bustling life of Capetown, frontier Boers developed self-reliance and
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independence. Staunch Calvinists, they created a patriarchal society, with God Himself at its summit. The British occupation of the Cape in 1795 and subsequent acquisition of it after the Napoleonic Wars infuriated the Boers. The British did more than bring their own settlers, laws, language and customs, imposing these on the Dutch. Above all they introduced liberal ideas concerning indigenous peoples, together with missionaries who preached the Lord’s word among the natives. The Boers’ cup ran over when slavery was abolished in 1834 and compensation was badly handled. Already harassed by their wars with the Xhosa peoples, an exodus of mainly Eastern Cape Boers began in 1836. They were appalled at the idea of living under a colour-blind system of law. God had not intended this. He placed each person in his rightful place. Had He not separated the peoples at the Tower of Babel by giving them different tongues? Anna Steenkamp, a relative of Piet Retief, one of the Trek leaders, expressed the views of the Boers at the time by writing of the ‘scandalous and unjust procedures in regard to the freeing of our slaves’ and on ‘their being placed on an equality with Christians, contrary to the laws of God and the natural differences of race and religion, so that it was intolerable for any decent Christian to bow under such a burden; wherefore we rather moved away in order to preserve our doctrines.’1 Such perception was to change little over almost 200 years. Over a period of ten years, some 15,000 people left the Cape in what became known as the Great Trek, with Boers moving into the interior with their oxwagons, families, servants, rifles and bibles. Inevitably hostile encounters between Boers and blacks took place. Just as inevitably, guns did better than spears. Moreover, the wars of the Zulu king Shaka had depopulated vast tracts of land during the earlier years of the century. On 16 December 1838 the Boers defeated the Zulus on the banks of a river where they had built a laager, an oxwagon fort. The night before the battle the Boers vowed to dedicate the day to God if He brought them victory. Some 3000 of King Dingane’s impis fell to Boer rifles, their bodies drifting down what became known as Blood River, without a single loss of life in the Boer camp. It was a day which passed into Boer mythology, to be celebrated annually as Dingaans Day, later more politically correctly as the Day of the Covenant and eventually in new South Africa as the Day of Reconciliation. The Boers also waged war on other black nations. Following a lost battle, the Ndebele moved over the Limpopo River into Matabeleland in today’s Zimbabwe. The Sotho lost large areas of land which were to become the Orange Free State. The Tswana too lost land. The Pedi, Venda and Shangaan, in what became the Transvaal, were defeated or displaced. 1 Freda Troup, South Africa (London: Eyre Methuen, 1972), p 109.
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Several Boer republics were formed, towards which British policy vacillated. The Cape administration took the view that the Boers continued to be subject peoples and annexed the Republic of Natal in 1850 as a British colony. This led to the introduction of yet another racial group, when Indian indentured labour was hired in 1860 for new British sugar plantations in Natal. The Boers promptly trekked on, crossing the Vaal river to found the South African Republic. Following the discovery in 1867 of diamonds on the banks of the Vaal, Britain annexed the diamond fields in the face of Boer and black counter-claims. It was on the bleak high veld of the South African Republic that gold was discovered in 1886, to the consternation of Cecil John Rhodes, king of the diamond fields, and from 1890 Cape Prime Minister. It irked the archetypal imperialist Rhodes that backward Boers should be in possession of this treasure-trove. Rhodes’s plotting for possession of the gold fields led to his political downfall, the Boer War and thus to the creation of the Union of South Africa in 1910, a union between the two defeated Boer republics of Orange Free State and Transvaal and the British colonies of Natal and the Cape. The Boer sense of grievance against the British was real and well founded. It fostered a strong sense of ethnicity, finding expression in Boer Nationalism and reaching a crescendo during the Boer War. The Boers, building on the old commando system, fought what was in effect the first guerrilla war. Boers, as excellent marksmen and hunters, developed effective guerrilla tactics against conventional British forces. Farms served as refreshment stations and quartermaster depots, leading to Britain’s scorched-earth policy and the rounding-up of Boer families. Some 20,000 women and children died in concentration camps or on open veld, earning the British undying Boer hatred. The role of blacks in that war was deliberately suppressed by Boers, whose agenda of building Boer Nationalism was fostered by this last – and inglorious – British imperial war. The price of British victory was high, with political turmoil at home, a tremendous toll of British lives and international condemnation. The Boers’ indomitable courage earned great respect. Irish Nationalists identified with the Boer cause, with Irish brigades fighting with the Boers and pro-Boer demonstrators held in Dublin. The Irish also learned from enemy tactics arising out of that war. Na Fianna Eirann, a boys’ movement which became a vehicle for grooming revolutionaries of the future, was organized along the lines of the Boy Scouts established by the British General Baden-Powell, who had fought in the Boer War. Both Irish Nationalists and Boers sympathized with Germany as Britain’s enemy. During the First World War, Germany helped the Irish rebels who staged the Easter Rising. The Irish Republic remained neutral during the Second World War. Northern Irish Protestants as well as
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Catholics fought in the British army, though groups of Republicans supported the German cause. South Africa stood side by side with Britain in both wars but in the face of hard-line Afrikaner opposition. A much-loved Boer general was killed while trying to stage a rebellion during the First World War. A fascist mass movement, the Ossewabrandwag (OB) tried to sabotage and undermine the war effort during Hitler’s war. As the name Oxwagon Sentry indicates, the OB drew on Boer folklore to mobilize anti-British fervour. Formed in 1939, the OB built on the enthusiasm roused by the 1938 commemoration of the Great Trek. Boer Nationalism was strengthened with the creation of the Union. Boers became organized in party structures, various ethnic movements and cultural organizations. Ideological and personality differences emerged in due course, with party splits and the formation of new parties reflecting differences. The 1909 Westminster Constitution pandered to Boer prejudice against blacks, failing to extend the franchise to all citizens. Only whites were given the franchise apart from non-whites already on the Cape voters’ roll, with the latter’s rights subsequently whittled away. Boers did not exchange Boer Nationalism for South African Nationalism. They continued to resent English-speaking South Africans with their higher level of education, standard of living and mobility and retained the emotional fervour for the volk, their own people and language, while pursuing the goal of a republic and an end to ties with Britain – much the same aims as those that motivated Republicans in Northern Ireland. Afrikaners defended their group identity and succeeded in establishing Afrikaans as a second official language. Afrikaners lived within their own communities centred around the three Dutch Reformed Churches. Their faith had sustained Boers during the days of the Great Trek. Even when settled on widely dispersed farms, Afrikaners met regularly for nagmaal, communal services. These became major events in the social diary, with courting, dancing, singing and gossip as important as church services. At such gatherings tales were told of Boer history, long since turned into folklore. The heroes of the Great Trek and the Boer War were revered, tales of British injustice to Boers in the Cape recounted. Afrikaners perceived two distinct ethnic groups among whites – themselves and English-speaking South Africans. The aim of retaining that group identity and the purity of the volk, was one of the motivating factors which created the apartheid doctrine. The aim of ultimate Afrikaner dominance in the Union was represented by the NP formed in 1912. A gesuiwerde (cleansed) NP was created in 1934 under the leadership of Dr Francois Malan, who rejected the conciliatory policies of General Barry Hertzog. It was Malan who led the
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NP to the 1948 triumph at the polls over the United Party of the former Boer general Jan Christian Smuts, who had supported Britain in both world wars. Afrikaner and Ulster Protestants
With the rise of African Nationalism, Irish Nationalists no longer identified with the Afrikaners. Instead, they opposed apartheid and supported the ANC. On the other hand, Afrikaner and Ulster Protestants found much in common. First, Ulster Presbyterian and Afrikaner Dutch Reformed Church members shared a common faith. Many Ulster Presbyterians supported the politics of the evangelical Protestant Dr Paisley, even if they were not members of his Free Presbyterian Church. Paisley still believes that Protestants have a God-given role to play in Northern Ireland, in the same way that Afrikaners believed God had given them their role in southern Africa. The Afrikaner ideology of 'Christian Nationalism’ spelled out their belief that God had intended each race to remain separate and pure. Secondly, both groups 'created’ their identities. Both were descendants of settlers who had become alienated from their roots – English and Scottish in the case of Ulster Protestants; Dutch, German and French Huguenot in that of the Afrikaners. Thirdly, both defend their identity against an enemy represented by Catholic Nationalists for Ulster Protestants, and the British, international communism and blacks for the Afrikaners. The identities of Irish Nationalists and Ulster Loyalists were analysed by the social scientist Dr Steve Bruce, who pointed out that 'although for a long time the Catholic Church was almost the sole carrier of Irish identity, the rise of the Home Rule movement in the last century and the creation of the Free State (later the Republic) provided Irish Nationalism with a strong base, so that it could “dispense” with Catholicism.’ He argued that the situation was different for Ulster Protestants for whom 'beyond evangelical Protestantism, no secure identity is available’.1 In the same way, Afrikaners only had their faith and the link to Africa to distinguish them from other whites. Dr Bruce maintained that liberal Unionism, as represented by the one-time Prime Minister Terence O’Neill, threatened Ulster Protestant identity and was propagated by a cosmopolitan middle-class who could and did easily move to Britain, where the centre of their values was based. Liberal Unionism overlooked the fact that local identity 'was virtually all they had’. This provided Loyalists with the sense of 'seeing themselves as better’ than Catholics, even if they were equally poor.2 In
1 Steve Bruce, God Save Ulster (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), p 258. 2 Ibid.
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the same way, poor white Afrikaners regarded themselves as superior to the blacks. Thus Afrikaners and Ulster Protestants were unshaken in their belief that God had a purpose in placing them where they were. Afrikaners identified with the chosen people of the Old Testament, comparing the Great Trek with the Exodus. They believed God had chosen them to look after the Children of Ham, as they viewed Africans. Evangelist Presbyterians similarly believe in predestination, in that the 'elect’ are chosen by God for salvation. Such sentiments were echoed by Ian Paisley, who said that:
God has a people in this province. ... This little province has had the peculiar preservation of divine Providence. ... God has a purpose for this province and this plant of Protestantism sown here in the northeastern part of the island. The enemy has tried to root it out, but it still grows today. ... God who made her mighty will make her mightier yet in His Divine will.1
Irish Protestants and South African English-speaking whites also share another heritage with each other and with the whites of Zimbabwe. They are the remnants of Empire. African Nationalism
Alongside Boer Nationalism, a new ethnic 'African’ identity evolved in South Africa. As elsewhere in Africa, indigenous peoples had been dispossessed, forced into remote and often infertile land, suffering the imposition of taxes to coerce them to work for Europeans on farms, in mines, factories and households. Only a small group had been able to benefit from the new order. It was this elite, members of the professional classes, clergy, politicians and traditional leaders, members of all ethnic groups, which sent a delegation to Westminster in 1909 to discuss the constitutional issue. The British government shrugged off the delegates’ concern and assured them that the new political leaders would grant Africans full civil rights in the course of time. Africans were less certain. The leaders therefore gathered in Bloemfontein in the Orange Free State on the 8 January 1912 to form what was to become the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa, the first African Nationalist party on the continent. We are one people’, one of the ANC’s founding fathers proclaimed, stating that Africans had lost the wars against whites because they had fought as single tribes, not as a united people. Later the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) leader, Steve Biko, was to echo that cry in 1 Steve Bruce, God Save Ulster., pp 269-70.
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the 1970s. Blacks had to consider themselves as members of one group, irrespective of tribal background. They had to stand upright, shed their role of submissive servant and challenge whites on equal terms. This was a response to an apartheid system which had created ten African homelands as part of a divide-and-rule policy. The BCM united not only all Africans against the NP government, but all non-whites proudly describing themselves as 'black’, a term also claimed by some white activists during the fierce anti-apartheid struggle of the 1980s. Where South Africa led in 1912, the rest of Africa followed. Africa had suffered severely from the Arab and European slave trades. The trade was theoretically abolished at the time of the European Scramble for Africa during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, but a new kind of slavery had been imposed in the wake of it. The indigenous economies had been destroyed and their development stunted by colonialism. Humiliated, often herded into unproductive reserves as in the two Rhodesias, Africans moved from their Iron Age past into the twentieth century. Western-educated leaders developed Pan-Africanism, identifying with each other across language and clan lines. From tribal roots, they forged a collective African identity and ethnicity. Ironically, South African Nationalists were the last on the continent to achieve victory. Others who also fought colonial masters, threw off the yoke earlier. It is ironic also that the two nationalisms which clashed head-on created political parties at the same time: the ANC and NP were both founded in 1912. The ten separate southern African states each experienced different historical development due to varying indigenous structures and peoples, size, resources and different colonial domination – British in South Africa, Basutoland, Bechuanaland, Swaziland, the two Rhodesias, Nyasaland; Portuguese in Angola and Mozambique; German from 1884 to 1915 in Namibia, followed by South African rule. In all states, African Nationalism emerged and during the postSecond World War era turned against the colonial powers. African Nationalists fought successfully politically and, in the case of South Africa, Namibia, Angola, Mozambique and Zimbabwe also militarily, against colonial domination. Congo-Irish link
Ireland has an important link with central Africa through southern Africa’s neighbour, the Congo. It was an Irishman who pulled the plug on the greatest con-trick of the Scramble for Africa. In 1883 the German Chancellor Bismarck called the Berlin Conference of European powers to set out the game rules for the colonization of the African continent. The Conference also handed over Africa’s heartland to a 'philanthropist’
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authority headed by the Belgian King Leopold II, who had long schemed for such control. In 1895 Sir Roger Casement, an Irishman, son of a Protestant father and Catholic mother, was appointed HMG Consul in the Congo Free State, the huge area in central Africa which had been handed to the tender care of Leopold. The king, described by some historians as ‘a throwback from the age of absolutism with the brain of a Wall Street financier and the hide of an African rhinoceros’, treated the Congo as his personal fiefdom, granting concessions to ruthless companies and gathering vast revenues from their exploitation.1 Reports of horrors from what was to have been a model colony filtered into the smoking rooms of the gentlemen who had created the Congo Free State. Britain’s consul in the fever-stricken region was instructed to investigate. Investigate Casement did, writing a heartbreaking account of brutalized, starving villagers forced to extract rubber for concessionaires on pain of death. He spoke of baskets of chopped-off hands delivered by conscientious agents to their bosses to prove that no ammunition had been wasted or efforts spared to gather the requested quotas. Casement’s report shook up events somewhat, but slowly and without much change in Congo’s situation. Astute and able, Leopold outsmarted his enemies by ceding his Congo to a reluctant Belgian government, which took little action to improve matters. Belgian neglect led to the 1960 upheaval. Without preparing Congo’s citizens for selfrule, Brussels abruptly pulled out, leaving a country unprepared for independence and democracy. This era paved the way for US support of Mobutu Sese Seko whose corrupt administration only fell in 1997, following the bloody events which unfolded in neighbouring Rwanda and Burundi in the mid-1990s. By 1998 the Congo chaos erupted once more, when Mobutu’s enemy Laurent Kabila failed to deliver on his promises and faced a revolt. Casement’s compassionate report had been written by a man who identified with the suffering of an oppressed people. A fervent Irish Nationalist, he was executed for gun-running at the time of the 1916 Easter Uprising. Perception
In southern Africa as in Ireland, different peoples perceive the countries differently. The wide open spaces of southern Africa were lands of freedom and opportunity for whites, while Africans saw these as the lands of their ancestors which had been stolen from them. Whites lived as masters in countries they perceived as ruled by democracy, in which 1 Thomas Pakenham, The Scramble for Africa (London: Abacus, 1992), p 656.
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blacks knew their place. Blacks resented the suppression of their traditions, with their civil rights ignored. This clash of perception finally led to war and, in the end, to white acceptance of black viewpoints. Northern Ireland is also perceived differently by the two communities. Unionists see it as part of the United Kingdom in perpetuity. Republicans rejected partition and view the administration of the six counties as a transitional arrangement, before Ireland is once again unified. Any peace deal had to accommodate these perspectives. They were spelled out many times by the protagonists. Thus on 6 August 1997, when a Sinn Fein delegation met Dr Mowlam for the first time, Gerry Adams stated that Sinn Fein would enter talks ‘to promote the broad Nationalist objective of an end to British rule in Ireland. Partition is wrong. It is a failure of the past which must be put right.’1 David Trimble had a different viewpoint. In an article that appeared several days later he wrote of a Unionist ‘vision of the way ahead, a society based on equality, justice and prosperity for all’, adding that ‘the people of Northern Ireland know that the Union is the best way of safeguarding such a future.’2 No wonder then that each leader put a different spin on the GFA. The miracle was Trimble’s acknowledgement in November 1999 that it was legitimate for Republicans to pursue their political objective of a united Ireland by consent ‘through exclusively peaceful and democratic means’. That miracle was yet to come in 1997 and 1998. At Casement’s death, the scenes in Ireland and southern Africa had been set, the boundaries between various ethnic groups drawn and the walls built.
1 Irish News, 7 August 1997. 2 Sunday Tribune, 10 August 1997.
Taking Their Marching Orders
The development of the Afrikaner nation is part of God’s purpose and therefore they have a special mission. It is natural that as a small group they should take special steps to ensure their survival. DR ANDRIES TREURNICHT
Stellenbosch, 13 June 19721 Broeders
The wall built around the Afrikaner nation was high and seemingly unassailable. Yet by 1989 it was breached at a time when a similar wall around Protestantism in Northern Ireland had not yet crumbled. The cement which held both walls in place was the same – the fear of loss of identity and power. The weapons used to defend the walls were similar too, including faith, secret societies and paramilitary organizations. Growing up in the 1930s in the dingy streets of a Johannesburg poor white suburb as I did, meant imbibing Afrikaner culture and also the vibes of Boer hatred of the British and their disdain of blacks. It went along with Afrikaans, eating oversweet koeksusters (sticky buns), melktert (a kind of custard pie) and meeting bevies of bywoners. These dour folk regularly parked their wagons at the edge of the suburb, close to mining property, grazing their oxen on mine veld, while housewives bypassed the local ‘Sammy’, the Portuguese greengrocer, to buy cheap peaches, oranges or whatever could be heaped on the back of their spacious vehicles. Bywoners, my friend Lettie told me, were stupid. They squatted on other farmers’ land, often that of a brother or other close relation, and had to work for free. Only their surplus produce could be turned into cash. The kids only enjoyed schooling if there was a teacher for the farmer’s kids. Her own pa had escaped this fate, she told me with pride; he had gone as far as Standard Six, lived in a mine house and earned cash. His pa had trekked to town after the War, after his farm had been destroyed
1 Star, 14 June 1972. 77
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and his first wife had died in one of the camps of the engelse, damn them to everlasting hell. I understood, having read about the Boer War on the ship which had brought us to this country. Lettie’s pride I understood less easily. Would it not be better living on a farm with all those wide open spaces I was for ever hearing about, rather than close to the mine where the dust from the huge yellow mine dumps blew into our streets, penetrating shut doors and windows to settle on furniture, on our hair and in nose, throat and ears? Besides, to my uitlander eyes, the brood of the bywoners’ kids seemed little different from Lettie or other neighbours. They went barefoot, the girls’ dresses were faded, the boys’ khaki shorts ragged. Lettie also put on black shoes only for school or church. Otherwise she wore tackles, sport shoes, to save leather. Our neighbours, huge, brawny men, went to work in khaki trousers. Lettie said they changed into overalls and tin hats when they went underground. Like the others, her pa was a shift-boss, in charge of black work gangs and dynamite. Only whites could explode a charge, Lettie said, again with pride. Kaffirs were too stupid for that. As for the engelse, they owned the offices, like everything else. Given my background, I was aware of Afrikaner fascist organizations - the OB and the various coloured 'shirt’ groups, whose uniform was not very different from the Brownshirts I had left behind in Germany. The 'shirt movement’ was a phenomenon of the 1930s, with grey, brown and black shirt groups formed in different areas during the 1930s and later merging into the OB. I learned too about the secret Broederbond. It was organized on a cell system and from 162 members in 1925 grew far beyond that. A Broederbond cell was composed of five to ten members, with the next level, named a division, of at least 40 members, each division composed of at least two cells. There was little communication between cells and divisions, with links moving upwards to the Executive Council, the policy-making body. A possible member was identified, screened and invited to join, with the Executive Council giving the deciding nod. The Broederbond, with its aim of total Boer domination, was a highly disciplined structure. Every member swore a solemn oath to uphold the aims and principles of the organization and to reveal nothing of its affairs to anyone on pain of punishment. Each brother was bound to inform the Broederbond of job openings or any other events at his workplace, for the Broederbond planned to infiltrate every sphere of society. This aim, like political power, was achieved. They infiltrated first the cultural Afrikaner institutions, thus creating an organizational and structural network which monopolized Afrikaner life and prepared the ground for the success of Afrikaner Nationalism. Views diverge whether the elitist Broederbond created the
TAKING THEIR MARCHING ORDERS
mass Ossewabrandwag or whether there was simply an overlapping of membership. In 1938, Lettie’s pa, like his friends, stopped shaving, taking on the look of an Old Testament prophet, particularly when returning red-eyed and dust-covered from a shift. Some months later he left to join a group of other Boers to pull a ceremonial wagon from Bloemfontein to Pretoria. A huge monument was being built on a hill to mark the Great Trek and honour the Voortrekkers, the heroes who had fought black savages and civilized the country. The Voortrekker Monument is adorned with sculptures depicting heroic scenes of how the few saved their famibes and friends, with women loading their men’s guns. Within lies a sarcophagus, which is touched by a sunbeam at noon precisely on 16 December. Lettie’s family joined the hundreds of thousands who trekked to the monument to commemorate the anniversary of the battle at Blood River. Dingaans Day (now called Day of Reconciliation) was a great annual hobday. The celebrations were reminiscent of those in the field on Northern Ireland’s Glorious Twelfth. Each year Afrikaners, dressed in nineteenth-century style, the women in long embroidered dresses and demure bonnets, the men in slouch hats and wide-bottomed trousers, first attended church service, then danced to the sounds of boeremusik, enjoyed the braaivleis, the traditional barbecue of steak, and boerewors (sausages). The braai was another legacy of the trek. How else, except on an open fire, could a meal be prepared on the move? In that poor white suburb I also learned to understand Afrikaner values – strong puritanical views and a firm faith, the belief in the Old Testament and in patriarchy. My first boss, who accepted me because I spoke Afrikaans, was always respectfully addressed indirectly (e.g. ‘if Pa thinks’ rather than ‘if you think’) by his three sons, large men in their thirties and forties. His successor was a Broeder, who angrily informed me that the Boer War would only be won when the Afrikaner could claim 60 per cent of the country’s GDP, not 11 per cent as was the case in the early 1950s. He maintained that the NP would not again relinquish the power achieved at the 1948 election. The new dispensation would provide Afrikaners with their rightful place in the economic arena. Until 1948 the stakes had been heavily weighted in favour of the engelse. Taking over top jobs in government was not enough. The entire civil service had to become Afrikanerized. Afrikaans had to become the dominant language. Jobs had to be created swiftly for poor whites, by reserving lowly paid work for whites only, to keep out competing blacks. He explained that this was the reason for apartheid. Separation of all races was essential to keep Afrikaner blood pure, uncontaminated by foreign or, God forbid, black blood.
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
Some years later I was surprised that the existence of the Broederbond was not widely known nor the fact that almost every NP member of government was a member. Some of the society’s papers were leaked to the press in the early 1960s and duly published, causing consternation on the part of the general public, outrage and fury on part of the Broederbond’s Executive. The revelations in 1963 that the Broederbond had some 10,000 chosen members whose names were made public, the fact that members held the top jobs in the Church, education, broadcasting and other strategic institutions apart from government came as a shock. In 1944 the then head of the institution declared his ‘deep conviction that the Afrikaner volk has been planted in this country by the Hand of God, destined to survive as a separate volk. of its own calling.’ The image of the Broederbond as a Ku Klux Klan-style society began to circulate, but experts reject this. It was fervently committed to furthering the welfare of the Afrikaner, but was not committed to violence. Paramilitaries of later decades such as the Afrikaaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) modelled themselves on the OB, not the Broederbond. The Broederbond documents which formed the basis of the newspaper reports in the 1960s had been leaked by a friend of a prominent clergyman and dissident Broeder, Dr Christiaan Beyers Naude, who became one of the foremost and fearless opponents of apartheid. Naude had been Moderator of the Transvaal Synod of the largest Dutch Reformed Church, the Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk (NGK), before accepting a post in the Christian Institute of Southern Africa, which was subsequently banned. Expelled from his ministry for anti-apartheid views and vilified for betraying the Broederbond, Naude suffered a trial and years of ‘banning’ and house arrest. One journalist who had handled the documents was threatened with retribution, became paranoid and left the country, never to feel safe again. Such fear was understandable. Prime Minister J.M.B. Hertzog, whose NP joined Jan Smuts’s South African Party to form the United Party (UP), was the first person to mention the organization in public. In an emotional speech in 1935 he quoted a secret Broederbond letter which instructed every member to further the Afrikanerization of all aspects of South African life and stated that ‘our solution to South Africa’s ailments is not that one party or another shall obtain the whip hand, but that the Afrikaaner Broederbond shall govern South Africa.’1 The Bond swore vengeance and supported Dr Malan’s break-away Gesuiwerde Nasionale Party (Purified National Party). Hertzog was edged out of Afrikaner politics and rejected by his own people in 1939. In the turbulent 1970s, with apartheid under fire and increasing opposition, Afrikaner unity splintered. It had been held together within the NP, but had always been fragile, despite the image of solid uniformity. 1 Rand Daily Mail Johannesburg, 22 November 1963.
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New right-wing parties were formed opposed to the NP, the most important of which was the Conservative Party (CP) and even a rival to the Broederbond was formed. A wide range of views, from enlightenment (verligte) to hard-line (verkrampte) had always existed within Afrikanerdom, just as Unionism had always encompassed liberal and moderate views as well as extremism. And just as Afrikanerdom had been torn apart and splintered into different parties, so Unionism splintered. This was evident during the turbulent 1990s, with division increasing as the peace process accelerated. The voting pattern following the GFA and the subsequent heated debate showed the wide-ranging differences. Five separate parties presented themselves to Unionist voters in the June election. The UUP too was split, with six out of ten UUP MPs opposed to Trimble’s acceptance of the Agreement. In South Africa, the Broederbond maintained its secrecy and practices well into the 1980s, though it was no longer able to exercise the same power it had done earlier. Nonetheless, almost every member of even the last NP government under President de Klerk, including the President himself, had been a Broeder. It was the Broederbond which heralded the strategy later announced by the NP leader in February 1990. Broederbond papers had been leaked to the press in 1989, well in advance of de Klerk’s mould-breaking measures of 1990. One working document entitled ‘Basic Political Values For the Survival of the Afrikaner’ spelled out some unpalatable truths. ‘A healthy well-balanced realism is required,’ stated the paper, maintaining that ‘the survival of the Afrikaner is coupled with the survival of the white man’. The document included a statement which would have been heresy only a few years earlier, namely that ‘the head of the government does not necessarily have to be white’ and said bluntly that ‘there can no longer be a white government. ... The status quo can therefore not continue to exist.’1 The brotherhood thus indicated the road forward for South Africa, setting the scene for reconciliation between the NP and its opponents and beginning the process which ended the conflicts inside South Africa and the southern African region. Brethren and breeders
The upheavals and confusion over Drumcree in 1998 proved that Orangeism had not at this stage reached this point. The Orange Order with its public profile was not a think tank or elitist group such as the secretive Broederbond, even if both were male Protestant clubs designed to defend Protestant values.
1 Die Suid-Afrikaan, 9 June 1989.
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
Both Unionists and Afrikaners desired to remain separate from others with whom they shared national borders. Both wished to preserve their heritage. They also shared a distrust of Roman Catholicism. In South Africa, Italian prisoners of war were discouraged from remaining in or returning to South Africa because the majority were Catholics. For the same reason, Belgian refugees were similarly discouraged in 1960 at the time of the crisis in neighbouring Congo. A case in point is that of Derek Hanekom, a white Minister of Agriculture and Land and one of the most effective and respected members in the country’s first democratic government. His family were Afrikaner of Roman Catholic faith and therefore rejected by his community. The Hanekom children were sent to private – German – schools; Derek married an English-speaking woman from Zimbabwe. The couple ran an eco-farm in the Northern Transvaal and worked alongside blacks, both unusual practices in South Africa. They became involved with the ANC, which led to their conviction and imprisonment under the NP government in the mid-1980s and eventually to Derek’s cabinet post. Extremist elements within Unionist and Afrikaner communities developed paramilitary organizations to defend their rights, when the state seemed unable to do so. When in power, Unionists, like Afrikaners, created repressive not democratic structures. It was no coincidence that during the tenure of the NP government, Loyalists were able to obtain weapons from South Africa or that South African secret agents were anxious to trace any IRA links with the ANC. Divided societies
In divided societies, residential areas are often segregated. In South Africa, urban ghettos were established by law, in Ireland as a result of sectarian clashes and fear. Thus at the time of the Drumcree events of 1997, Chief Constable Flanagan, who feared LVF attacks on Catholics, must also have feared attacks on his own men, as they lived within Protestant areas. Such attacks happened in several instances. In the same way, black South African police had lived under threat in the violent 1980s and were eventually forced to move out of black townships. Both in Northern Ireland and South Africa, the police tried to contain outbreaks of riots within the ghettos. Unrest in black locations’ was considered inevitable – as part of the system. South African urban townships were specifically sited well away from white suburbs. Even ‘single men’s barracks’, which served as homes for migrant workers, were built with security arrangements, including police cells, to contain anticipated unrest within a large community of men without families, who lived in overcrowded and confined conditions.
TAKING THEIR MARCHING ORDERS
Until well into the late 1980s, white suburbs were untouched by the violence which destroyed schools, beer halls and lives only a few miles away. In the same way, many upper and middle-class suburbs in Belfast and other towns in Northern Ireland were cushioned from the fury of Nationalist youths rioting in their own areas. Time brought demographic shifts. Today non-whites live in former all-white suburbs. In Northern Ireland changes also took place. As members of the Catholic community became more affluent, they too moved into middle-class areas previously inhabited mainly by Protestants. Nostalgia
Every ethnic group has its heroes and memories and glorifies the past. The greater the fear of the future, the more comforting the thought of a golden age. Afrikaners and Unionists both celebrate events that should be dimmed by the passing of time, but instead glow brightly. What the 12 July is to a Unionist, 16 December was to an Afrikaner and still is to right-wing Afrikaner extremists. These dates celebrate triumph over a perceived enemy: in the case of South African over blacks, in Northern Ireland over Irish Catholics. In both cases, descendants of the victors failed to consider the feelings of the descendants of the vanquished, who were constantly reminded of their forebears’ defeat. For them, their ‘special days’ reinforced a sense of identity. They were also simply occasions for enjoyment – both Afrikaners and Orangemen lived mainly in rural communities, where large-scale social gatherings were important features of the social calendar. John Lyttle, writing in 1996 in London’s Independent, remembered that:
on the morning of the Twelfth, my maternal grandfather would make toast on a fork and fill our heads with Apprentice Boys’ sacrifice. ... The night before would be spent burning the Pope and various contemporary politicians in effigy, on wasteland or in the middle of our narrow streets, atop small mountains of planks, crates and discarded settees. ... We’d roast potatoes, boast how our great-grandmothers ran guns for the UVF and swig Barr’s American Cream Soda and chant. (No Pope Here! Nor Holy Water! No Home Rule for Ireland! We are The People! Ulster Says No! Kill the Fenian Bastards!)1 The author Jonathan Bardon wrote of his first experience of the Twelfth in the 1997 publication The Twelfth: What it Means to Me: T was unashamedly stirred by hymn-playing silver bands and the skirl of bagpipes and fascinated by the extraordinary, the unique rolling, weaving, swaying,
1 The Independent, 12 July 1996.
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
dancing march of girls following the fife and drum of inner city bands.’ Above all, he was Transfixed by the banners commemorating the 1641 Portadown massacre, the siege of Derry and portraits of men he recognized from his history degree course.’ Often songs express feelings best:
It’s old but it’s beautiful Its colours they are fine, It was worn at Derry, Aughrim, Enniskillen and the Boyne.
My father wore it when a youth In bygone days of yore On the Twelfth I proudly wear The sash my father wore. Then Orangemen remember King William And your fathers who with him did join And fought for our glorious deliverance, On the green, grassy slopes of the Boyne.
An unpublished Afrikaner writer recalled his boyhood this way:
We sat round the campfire the night before, me snuggling up to Pa, who for once tolerated it with a solemn nod. He threw me a boerewors straight from the glowing fire, too hot to handle but too good to drop and raised his baritone voice to lead the men in the good songs of old. The martyrs of Slagtersneck were invoked, the men hanged by the Brits after some rebellion, back in 1815. The men remembered them and their names as if it had happened yesterday. They hailed Oom Paul Kruger, damned the English and swore that no black man would ever rule. Worn out with food and sips of Pa’s beer, I’d fall asleep at his knee, until Ma came and carried me to the wagon to sleep the rest of the night away between my little sisters and brother. In South Africa, Africans had always resented Dingaans Day but just as Catholics had accepted Orange parades, so they had accepted the day’s celebrations. That is, until 16 December 1961. On that day Umkontho we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation – ‘MK’) announced its existence. The first MK bombs were exploded, the date deliberately chosen. Calls to local media heralded the event. There will always be die-hards. Old Nazis and indeed neo-Nazis continue to drink secretly to the Fuehrer on his birthday. In the same way, some ‘Rhodies’ continued to toast Ian Smith’s illegal independence of 1965, long after Zimbabwe’s true independence in 1980. And in South Africa, a group of extreme right-wing Afrikaners met on 16 December 1996 to renew their vow to set up a Boer Republic. In Ireland as elsewhere collective memory is selective: Unionists choose to keep the memory of the conquest of Ireland alive. Yet would
TAKING THEIR MARCHING ORDERS
any surviving Jacobites not have opened themselves to ridicule had they mourned the passing of the last of the Stuarts when Albrecht, Duke of Bavaria, a descendant of James I, was laid to rest in July 1996? Survival of the Afrikaner as a people was an understandable and achievable aim; continued dominance of Afrikaner over Africans and others was not and such claims were relinquished. What remained was the desire of a minority to maintain their group rights and traditions. Unionists groped their way forwards, once talks had included Sinn Fein. In 1997 Unionists were still hesitant concerning real constitutional change in Northern Ireland. Trimble wrote in the Sunday Tribune that ‘we in UUP represent the reasonable aspirations of the majority of the people in Northern Ireland’, aspirations, which he was then convinced could achieve ‘a Northern Ireland at ease with itself.1 Only in April 1998, by signing the Agreement, did he acknowledge the equal rights of the Catholic community. It was difficult for Unionists to accept Nationalist, let alone Republican perceptions. The writer Fraser Agnew in The Twelfth: What it Means to Me, spoke of the awareness and inner belief of Protestants ‘in the righteousness of the cause. There is a knowledge that no matter what the fascist enemies of this state may do, there is nothing than can remove sincerely held beliefs whether political or religious.’ As late as 1998, many Unionists still found it difficult to grasp that Nationalists felt that in 1920 they had been suddenly cut off from their roots and separated from their own people through partition. A Republican remarked that Unionists recognized only their own right to be linked to their roots in Britain, without understanding those with Celtic roots claiming the right to be linked to the Republic. The 1968 NICRA demands for equality and civil rights were similar to those made by all freedom movements facing colonial masters. The Unionist Prime Minister Captain Terence O’Neill, who had responded by introducing a five-point reform package, found himself replaced by James Chichester-Clark in 1969. Unionism was not happy with concessions to Nationalism. Nor were Afrikaners happy to concede anything to blacks; eventually, however, they understood that there was no choice. They bowed to the dictates of reality, with apartheid theorists finally acknowledging the failure of the doctrine to accommodate black majority demands. They reluctantly recognized that apartheid had failed to achieve its aims: it had not ensured the survival of Afrikaners as an ethnic group, nor had it provided prosperity for all through ‘parallel development’. By the 1980s Afrikaners faced a country in turmoil, an economy in decline, guerrilla attacks by the ANC and the break-away Pan Africanist Congress (PAC),
1 Sunday Tribune, 10 August 1997.
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burning townships and international isolation. Apartheid could not be reformed. It had to go. The Unionist predicament in the 1990s was not dissimilar to that of the Afrikaner in the 1980s. Opposing meaningful constitutional change and continued conflict inflicted damage on the economy and exacted a heavy toll of lives and property. There were good economic arguments for Unionist-Nationalist partnership, if not for reunification with the south. These exercised the minds of businessmen and economists, not to mention the British Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Irish Republic had joined the European Community in 1973, at the same time as Britain, and had enjoyed benefits flowing from this. The Irish Tiger was an economy of which Northern Ireland could be justifiably envious. South Africa’s experience had shown that peace brought a dividend, with the downturn in its ailing economy of the 1980s taking a turn for the better in the 1990s, despite all the ills which the legacy of apartheid brought with it and which could not be cured in a short period of time. In April 1998 Northern Ireland and the border counties looked to the EU’s institutional funds for increased regeneration and to the USA for an upturn in trade and investment, as promised by President Clinton. It was also due to receive further support from the special 1995 EU Peace and Reconciliation Programme. By 1998 the fund had already allocated almost £229 million to various social projects.1 Naturally the ultimate peace dividend is the end of bloodshed and hostility. This cannot be achieved instantly. It was not the case in South Africa, nor can it be expected in Ireland. It hardly needed the series of violent incidents which followed the euphoric 1998 May referendum to make the point that old habits and mindsets on either side of a divide are hard to break. David Trimble, much as he campaigned for a ‘yes’ vote for the Good Friday Agreement, saw no analogy between Unionism and Afrikanerdom, saying that ‘if the IRA had its way, the true comparison will be with pre-Mandela South Africa, where the majority was dictated to and oppressed by a tiny deluded minority.’2 Yet demographic trends showed that even in Northern Ireland, Protestant domination was on the wane. The ‘deluded minority’ to whom Trimble referred, were Afrikaners with whom Trimble shared his faith. When Dutch-speaking clergy were in short supply, Scottish Presbyterians filled the gap in Dutch Reformed Churches with remarkable success. Indeed, Dr Paisley would probably feel comfortable in any Dutch Reformed Church and certainly any such congregation would enjoy and endorse a fiery Paisley sermon. His large girth, loud voice and view of the Catholic Church as the mother of harlots fits well into rural Afri1 Independent, 13 April 1998. 2 Sunday Tribune, 10 August 1997.
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kanerdom. Afrikaners denounced work or play on the Sabbath and in the early period of NP rule, Sundays were no-enjoyment days. Dr Paisley’s abhorrence of Sunday trading, legalized in Northern Ireland as late as August 1997, could well have been shared by a Dutch Reformed Church congregation. The big man’ might be most at home in the right-wing break-away Afrikaner Protestante Kerk, formed in 1987 in protest at change within the established Dutch Reformed Churches. Though initially endorsing apartheid, the established Churches denounced the ideology in 1986 – hence the need for a right-wing Church. Yet despite extremist elements, Afrikaners relinquished power without loss of identity. Right wingers still yearn and work for their own state - a boerestaat – but the majority accepted change, just as Unionists came to accept new structures at the end of the peace process. Unionism was hard hit and confused by the GFA. It was at this stage that David Trimble finally spoke of a new view of Northern Ireland. In an election speech he spoke of partnership. He proposed a society in which 'pluralist Unionism and constitutional Nationalism can speak to each other with the civility that is the foundation of freedom.’1 For the first time, the UUP leader offered a constructive option in place of narrow ethnic aims. Not all Unionists agreed with him. The UUP, though it won the largest number of seats under the proportional representation system, came under pressure. Many Unionists remained unconvinced by talk of partnership. They shared Paisley’s fear of ultimate reunion with the southern Catholic state, even if the Agreement had obliged the Republic to renounce its territorial claim over the six northern counties. It was this fear which accounted for Unionist insistence on IRA arms deliveries by January 2000, following Trimble’s bold step of taking the UUP into a power-sharing government with Sinn Fein in November 1999. Unionism, however, could no longer point to the Irish Republic as an authoritarian state. The country had found its democratic base some time ago. In 1998 it was not the theocracy portrayed by Dr Paisley. Trimble had accused Dublin of negotiating unfairly in the heat of the final days of negotiations. Yet actually Trimble had forged closer links with Dublin than any Unionist had achieved previously. The future looked a mix of orange and green.
1 Independent, 24 June 1998.
How Odd of God
One of the difficulties of pure high Calvinism has always been that, since God alone saves for his inscrutable reasons, neither goodness nor piety nor any human merit can assure us of salvation. But Paisley is more confident than his forebears: ‘The inner witness of the Spirit is given – the Spirit that gives witness to our spirit that we are the children of God.’ Independent Magazine 31 March 1997 Does the Almighty have his favourites? Perhaps the couplet remarking how it was odd of God to choose the Jews should be extended: how odd of God to choose sides in any conflict. The Greeks at the Siege of Troy had an easier time of it. The Olympians were divided and chose their own heroes to protect. Each side therefore could pray to their own protectors. Jews, Christians and Muslims do not enjoy such options. One of the Ten Commandments demands that God’s name should not be taken in vain. With the name being invoked so often and by both sides to every conflict, the question of the role of His institutions arises. That other commandment, that one should not kill, is already broken by the conflict itself. The question of the role of God’s institutions and its attitude to violence was an issue in Northern Ireland as well as in Southern Africa. It is a question not easily answered, as different Churches spoke with different tongues. Moreover, individual clergy often opposed the official policy of their own Church in both arenas of conflict. The question whether violence was justified was a major issue for South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The TRC’s report concluded that state violence and violence used by an oppressed people subjected to state violence could not be compared. At the same time, the use of justified violence by the oppressed could not be excessive or directed against innocent bystanders. This issue of violence and the response of Churches exercised the minds of southern Africans as much as those in Northern Ireland. A South African clergyman was invited to a four-day gathering in August 88
HOW ODD OF GOD
1997 of some 3000 Presbyterians in Northern Ireland to address the meeting on the role of the Church in a divided society. This was understandable, for Churches were concerned in every conflict in southern Africa, just as both the Roman Catholic Church and the various Protestant denominations are concerned in Ireland. Southern Africa
In Angola and Mozambique the Catholic Church was in effect the state Church, while in South Africa it represented a minority among the country’s Christians. It thus spoke with a divided voice in the region, tending to support the black majority in South Africa and the establishment in the Portuguese territories. Yet in Mozambique the horrific massacre perpetrated during the colonial war in a village by Portuguese troops was revealed by Catholic priests. In the course of Zimbabwe’s bloody bush war, missions of various denominations often became outposts of the guerrilla forces, providing medical aid for the wounded and refuge for the hunted. As a result, missions suffered attacks and casualties. It was never fully revealed whether they had become victims of guerrillas or anti-guerrilla troops masquerading as guerrillas. Printing works, the property of a Catholic mission in Gwelo (Gweru), were bombed in 1980 during the transitional period. This was almost certainly an operation by Rhodesian security forces incensed by the mission’s anti-Smith publications. The Zimbabwe Catholic Justice and Peace Commission played an important part in highlighting atrocities perpetrated by government security forces. The same organization also recorded human rights abuses after independence, in particular at the height of the conflict in the 1980s between the one-time Patriotic Front allies, the ruling ZANU (PF) Party and ZAPU. As late as 1997 President Mugabe negotiated with eight bishops not to publish a report of events in the mid-1980s in Matabeleland, the heartland of ZAPU supporters, when government troops brutalized villagers searching for ZAPU dissidents. The publication was held not to be 'helpful’ to the unity forged at the end of the 1980s between the two parties. Nonetheless its contents were leaked to the media in July 1997, to the embarrassment of the ZANU (PF) government and the consternation and indignation of the public. It was only in 1999 that President Mugabe was forced to acknowledge the Matabeleland atrocities and express a measure of regret, an admission thought to have been forced by the arrest of Chile’s General Pinochet and Mugabe’s precarious political position. Traditional African religious beliefs also played a role during Zimbabwe’s bush war. Spirit mediums of important ancestors helped to mobilize the rural communities to assist the guerrillas. At the end of the 1896 revolt of the Ndebele and Shona peoples, the British had hanged
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
two spirit mediums as leaders of the uprising. One had been the then spirit medium of Mbuya Nehanda, sister of Chaminuka, the most important national spirit ancestor. Nehanda became a symbol of the struggle against the white settlers. During the bush war, the medium of Mbuya Nehanda was an old lady living close to the Mozambique border. In 1973 she foretold in a trance that the time had come to regain the land which had been stolen from their ancestors, and thus heightened villagers’ awareness of the war and gained support for ZANU forces secretly infiltrating into Zimbabwe from Mozambique. South Africa
In South Africa, almost all protagonists were Christians, though of different denominations. On the government side, the Dutch Reformed Churches originally supported the concept of apartheid. Every NP meeting including cabinet meetings began with prayers. Indeed the Cape Church had practised apartheid itself, having established separate mission churches for black and brown Dutch Reformed Church converts. This had evolved during the era of slavery, when Christians could not be enslaved. As a result, the Cape’s Dutch Reformed Church did little missionary work and rarely baptized slave children, the reason being that by converting slaves or baptizing their children the Church was depriving the Cape burghers of slaves. This helped the spread of Islam, brought from the Far East by slaves, entrenching it within the Coloured community, while it was left to denominations other than the Dutch Reformed Church to establish the first Christian missions among blacks and Coloureds. Dutch Reformed Churches within the Coloured and black communities number relatively small congregations. The Dutch Reformed Church did not permit its clergy to accompany the Trekkers, whose move out of the Cape was seen as opposition to legal authority. Therefore only lay preachers accompanied the Trekkers, creating the foundation for two break-away Dutch Reformed Churches. In the early 1960s, all three Dutch Reformed Churches huffily withdrew from the World Council of Churches (WCC) when it denounced apartheid. In the 1970s, the WCC was heavily criticized by conservative Protestants, especially from Northern Ireland, when it introduced an anti-racism programme and financially supported liberation movements. This was seen as financing terrorism. In South Africa the government regarded the anti-apartheid South African Council of Churches (SACC) as part of the enemy forces. The bombing of Khotso House, the SACC headquarters, was not the work of a right-wing maverick but of the South African Police (SAP) and subsequently was so acknowledged by the former Police Minister, Adriaan Vlok. The Irish Presbyterian Church withdrew from the WCC in the 1970s in response to the anti-racism programme, while remaining linked with
HOW ODD OF GOD
the Irish Council of Churches, a WCC member. This was a response to Paisley’s Free Presbyterian Church, which violently denounced the WCC’s anti-racism programme as well as the ecumenical movement which Paisley saw as a direct road leading to Rome. It could scarcely be denied that Protestant fears of Catholic domination were deeply ingrained in the community’s historical consciousness. The early years of the Republic of Ireland as a Catholic state did little to allay the understandable anxiety that Protestantism would be oppressed by Catholicism once Catholics also became dominant in Northern Ireland. In South Africa, the Catholic Bishops Conference together with the highly influential SACC placed itself in the anti-apartheid camp. Many black South African Christians belong to independent African Churches, not all of which opposed apartheid. The Pretoria government was able to hijack several such organizations and use them for propaganda purposes abroad. Individual clergymen of establishment Churches became their people’s spokespersons, the best known of whom was the Anglican Bishop, later Archbishop, Desmond Tutu, who subsequently headed the TRC. It became increasingly difficult for the government to denounce or silence these prominent clergymen. Less well-known individuals who lived close to the people and spoke out against torture and oppression were themselves subjected to such treatment. At the height of the upheavals in the black ghettos in the 1980s, when mass detention, intimidation and violent police attacks on peaceful demonstration were the order of the day, clergy of all denominations led a march in Capetown in protest. The police were unable to move against such prominent individuals and were forced to resort to different means of crowd control after this. Missions of all denominations were drawn into the conflict, as this intensified. In the black ghettos, certain churches became a focus, assuming a political mantle or having it thrust upon them, attracting huge congregations in times of crisis. Thus both apartheid protagonists and anti-apartheid activists claimed that God was on their side. But then, warring armies have always prayed before battles that He should bless their arms and bring them victory, even if the battle was not fought for His glory or in His name. Ireland
This situation had its highest profile during the Reformation. Unfortunately, the Irish conflict not only inherited the history of that era but perpetuated attitudes which are archaic in the context of the beginning of the twenty-first century. Historical facts too are often overlooked by bigots. Dr Martin Mansergh, the important adviser to the Fianna Fail leadership, who played a role in the peace process, said in a lecture at Belfast’s
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
Conway Hall in August 1995, apropos the Orangemen who so fervently commemorate the victories of William of Orange, that:
It is a pity that they do not occasionally commemorate instead the deeds of the first William of Orange, ruler of the Netherlands in the sixteenth century, who in the course of a lifetime was literally Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter in that order. He protected his Calvinist subjects from persecution by Spain against heroic odds, telling Philip of Spain’s advisers: ‘However strongly I am myself a Catholic, I cannot approve of princes attempting to rule the conscience of their subjects’. Later in life, he tried to protect his Catholic subjects from Calvinist intolerance and bigotry and to keep Catholic churches open, and he ran a firebrand rabble-rousing Calvinist preacher in Ghent, called Dathenus, out of town. William of Orange’s goals in the words of his biographer was ‘freedom from foreign control and liberty of conscience for all people of the Netherlands of whatever creed’. It is a sad irony, that the first William Prince of Orange, one of the greatest champions of civil and religious liberty in human history, for having been a Catholic and married a Catholic, could never have been a member of the Orange Order! Incidentally, he established the Dutch Republic as well, having refused the crown of the Netherlands several times.1 Tolerance was not always a hallmark of Orangeism. The Orangemen who paraded Protestantism each 12 July did not realize that the 1997 Drumcree parade withheld the right to religious freedom from the ‘others’. While the Garvaghy Road parade marked the return from a Sunday service, the security arrangements hemmed in the Catholic residents during Drumcree Mark III. Garvaghy Road residents therefore held an open-air Mass, reminiscent of the days of Catholic persecution. Certainly many Orangemen learned to regard tolerance as important during the peace process. David Trimble led his community in this regard, as summed up in his statement of 16 November 1999 which pleaded for tolerance and acceptance of the points of view of both communities. He thus consigned the old concept to the past, that only the Orange Order represented the true Christian tradition in Ireland, which gave the Order a God-given mission to ‘strenuously oppose the fatal errors and doctrines of the Church of Rome ... and resist the ascendancy of that Church, its encroachments and the extension of its power.’2 At the time of Ireland’s plantation, the two communities, settlers and indigenous Gaelic people, were divided by religion and remained divided, whether members of the two groups were church-goers or not. 1 Martin Mansergh, ‘No Selfish Strategic or Economic Interest? The Path to an All-Island Economy’. The Third Annual Frank Cahill Memorial Lecture, West Belfast Economic Forum, 1995. 2 Eamon Stack, ‘Jesuit member of the GRRC’, newspaper article, 27 May 1997.
HOW ODD OF GOD
For Dr Paisley, old-style preacher that he is, politics merge with religion. He does not regard Catholics as real Christians and remains convinced that the Catholic Church seeks to dominate all Ireland. However, there was always some tolerance among moderate Protestants and Orangemen. When Loyalist thugs terrorized Harryville churchgoers over a 41-week period in 1996-97 to stop them attending Mass, the Order’s Grand Master himself stood shoulder to shoulder with other protesters against Loyalist sectarianism. Dr Steve Bruce sees the division between Catholicism and Protestantism as unbridgeable. The term ‘Protestantism’ alone indicates this, representing as it does a protest against the structure and practices of the Church of Rome. The hierarchy of the Catholic Church was an affront to Protestants who advocated introducing democracy and independence into the lives of Christians. Protestant values were a source of pride and justification. If Protestants were better off than Catholics, this was because they had the right religion. Bruce thus stressed the importance of religion for the identity of Ulster Protestants in general and Loyalists in particular. He argues that ‘the paramilitary and evangelical worlds’ were subsections of Loyalism, in the same way that ‘republican terrorists, constitutional Nationalists and the Catholic Church’ were part of the same world. ‘Paramilitaries and the evangelicals share common goals: keeping Northern Ireland British and if that fails, keeping Northern Ireland out of the Irish Republic.’1 Michael Farrell had another view. He argued that since Unionism ‘straddled social classes with very different and often conflicting day-today interests, the only issue that could hold them together was the defence of Protestant supremacy.’2 In the same way Afrikaner extremists such as the Afrikaaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) – Afrikaner Armed Resistance – under its eccentric leader Eugene Terre’Blanche had been determined to defend Afrikaner supremacy. The AWB and other Afrikaner right wingers opposed de Klerk and the NP in their search for an agreement with nonwhite political opposition. Like working-class Loyalists, lower-class Afrikaners felt threatened by a new constitutional dispensation. Still, as we have seen, South Africans accepted by the mid-1980s that this concept was neither based on the Scriptures nor did it make good politics. By November 1999, moderate Unionists accepted that the situation had moved from a position that ‘made sense in pre-Enlightenment Europe, when it was commonly held that error had no rights and theology authenticated the state’, to the concept that ‘liberal democracy, with its fundamental principle of free and equal citizenship, is the best form of 1 Steve Bruce, The Edge of the Union (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), p 32. 2 Michael Farrell, Arming The Protestants (London: Pluto Press, 1983), p 3.
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government available. It has been able to accommodate, on the basis of equality, groups which are otherwise fundamentally divided on moral, philosophical and religious grounds.’1 In South Africa, the Broeders experienced a change of heart. Once the Broederbond had shed the belief that apartheid was God-given and eventually dismantled the laws that had protected that doctrine, the organization also accepted the right of all South African citizens to full participation in the structures of the state. This made resolution of the confrontation between the white elite and black dispossessed not only possible, but inevitable. The Bond did not wish to preside over the disintegration of Afrikaner identity – hence its agreement to a settlement which preserved Afrikaner culture if not Afrikaner power. Every tradition has its rights. Unionists acknowledged this tacitly in mid-1997 when the tense situation over Orange marches on 12 July threatened to destabilize the region, and leading Orangemen courageously reversed previously defended positions to divert four controversial Glorious Twelfth marches and another on 9 August away from the contentious Belfast Lower Ormeau Road route. Among those who helped the Orange Order make its historic decision were the Rev. William Bingham, County Armagh Grand Chaplain and the Rev. Brian Kennaway, convenor of the Orange Order’s education committee. Unfortunately this accommodation was seen as weakness by rightwing elements, who founded a pressure group in 1996, ‘The Spirit of Drumcree’, and who protested vigorously in 1997 and in 1998, backing the siege of Garvaghy Road. Such elements also took umbrage at the Rev. Bingham’s conciliatory stance in 1998, sending him anonymous death threats. Yet there was also positive debate within Unionism. Once it had become clear that Sinn Fein would participate in talks in September 1997, the UUP leadership took counsel on how to deal with this new situation. David Trimble surprised observers by including members of the Catholic Church hierarchy in these consultations. Dr Paisley, who once had openly called the Pope the ‘Antichrist’ to his face, fumed at this heresy. For many Protestants and not only the secular, it made common sense. The Catholic Church had always been in a difficult position in Ireland, even following Catholic emancipation. By accepting the Union and the authority of the British Crown, it became part of the establishment. After partition, the main concern of the Church hierarchy was continued control over education. Father Joseph McVeigh, though not representative of orthodox Church thinking, argued that having secured such control and ‘so long as it retained the substantial power it had come to enjoy within its own “community”, the Catholic hierarchy was prepared
1 Eamon Stack, ‘Jesuit member of the GRRC’.
HOW ODD OF GOD
to urge acceptance of the status quo, irrespective of the institutional discrimination suffered by the Catholic population in general.’1 Monsignor Raymond Murray, like McVeigh and others a doughty fighter for the Nationalist cause, explained that the Catholic Church was in a difficult position in the early nineteenth century. After all, the hierarchy could not possibly countenance the French Revolution nor the instability of the state. Yet it had been the French Revolution which had stirred emotions in Ireland, fermented Irish Nationalism and rallied opposition to suppression of the rights of the Catholic community. Still, the Church did not feel it could march alongside revolutionaries. It attempted to consolidate its position at the same time when grassroot members were organizing resistance to state violence. This explained the hostility of the Church to the United Irishmen, Fenianism, the Irish Brotherhood and the IRA. In 1881 Pope Leo XIII advised Irish Catholics not to cast aside obedience to lawful rulers. While the Church did what it could to protect its flock, it never aligned itself with ‘the men of violence’. Initially Irish bishops denounced the 1916 Uprising. Nor did it openly support the civil rights movement. Revolutionaries throughout the years faced excommunication, a terrible punishment for Catholics. It is one which was never suffered by Hitler or other Catholics in his entourage. The history of the Catholic Church in Portugal’s African territories is not dissimilar to that of its role in Latin America throughout the history of colonialism. It was in this region that liberation theology evolved in the 1960s, in keeping with the colonial conflicts. In turn this affected South Africa and Ireland, for liberation theology moved away from Church alliance and state authority. Liberation theology identified specific state structures as oppressive, unjust and therefore violent, legitimizing opposition to those structures by the oppressed. Liberation theology inspired South African clergymen to issue the Kairos Document, which laid the blame for conflict not on the shoulders of freedom fighters but on the violence of the state. In Ireland individual and groups of Catholic clergy always supported the cause of their communities. Many have worked and still work ceaselessly for peace. Monsignor Murray and Monsignor Denis Faul were among a group of Catholic priests who became outspoken critics of the brutality of the British army and the RUC and championed the cause of human rights. The Committee on the Administration of Justice, an active human rights group, was also founded by a clergyman. Father Desmond Wilson criticized the Pope for not visiting the six counties during his visit to Ireland in 1979, as Nationalists were suffering ‘because they were Catholics’. Yet another priest, Father Alex Reid, acted as go-between
1 Joseph McVeigh, A Wounded Church (DubEn: Mercier Press, 1989), p 78.
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
during the negotiations between the hunger-strikers and the British government and became a major figure in the peace process. An authority on Ireland, Tim Pat Coogan, in his book The Troubles, paid tribute to the role of the many priests who helped to broker peace with the IRA. He spoke of the patience, skill and determination shown by clergymen such as Father Reid and Father Gerry Reynolds, as well as by the Presbyterian Rev. Roy Magee and others in their work of reconciliation.1 The hierarchy of the Catholic Church has never called on God’s blessing for Republican arms. As the Pope told the huge turnout of Catholics who received him in Ireland on his 1979 visit 'violence destroys the work of justice. ... Do not follow any leaders who train you in the ways of inflicting death. Those who resort to violence always claim that only violence brings change. You must know that there is a political peaceful way to justice.’2 Nonetheless the Church played a part in the peace process. It could hardly do otherwise when two groups engaged in bitter conflict identified themselves on religious grounds, even if the conflict itself is not a theological dispute but concerns the politics of power. As Coogan explained, the Pope’s speech also included an appeal to politicians to seek a political solution. This, he said, sowed the seed for the peace process. The Pope’s address was believed to have been written by Bishop Cathal Daly. It led to a lengthy if indirect debate between Gerry Adams and Bishop Daly, later the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland. Adams asked the Bishop to explain his views on partition and ‘the methods of pacification and repression deployed by the British government. I call on him to stop condemning the IRA and apply himself instead to developing solutions to the problems which face us.’3 Father Reid took the debate down a practical route which was to involve the Irish government, John Hume and his SDLP, Irish-Americans and the Clinton administration, culminating in Sinn Fein’s position paper, ‘Scenario for Peace’, which accepted that the way forward was through all-inclusive talks. The difficult period which followed the early 1988 contacts between Hume and Adams as well as the era after the Docklands bombing, elicited further efforts to serve the cause of peace. Among those involved were several clergy on both sides. During the last week of June 1997, a number of Catholic priests wrote to the Irish Times that, ‘we need a profound change of heart, a painful facing up to historical and present realities in our relationships together as Christians on this island.’4
1 Tim Pat Coogan, The Troubles (London: Arrow Books, 1996), p 388. 2 Ibid., p 388. 3 Ibid., p 386. 4 Irish Times, 25 June 1997.
HOW ODD OF GOD
Despite the strong evangelical element among Irish Protestantism, not every Protestant minister can be seen as either bigoted or fundamentalist. The debate which followed the decision to change the marching orders in 1997 showed that. For some commentators the Orange Order’s decision might have been pragmatic in fear of Nationalist anger, but it was also a momentous return to the true spirit of Protestantism. The creed had been founded on ideals of freedom, the rights of the individual and therefore on tolerance. It is difficult to deny that the problems in Ireland have a religious dimension. Bruce quoted Conor Cruise O’Brien who once said that if religion was a red herring, in the Irish conflict ‘it was the size of a whale’. Churches cannot stand aside in any conflict. They did not do so in South Africa nor in Ireland during either the conflict or the peace process. South Africa’s experience after its transition to a democratic state showed that an agreement was merely the start of a learning process for former foes to live together. Perhaps someone will also point out a passage in the Good Book to Dr Paisley which says ‘love they neighbour’. In time the Catholic Church will have to fight its corner. In November 1999 a group of 26 women began a legal battle to try and extend UK abortion rights to Northern Ireland, in the hope of ending backroom abortions. A cause, perhaps, to bring out the Church guns? This was only one of the areas affecting women, who were so deeply involved in conflict, as mothers, wives, daughters, sisters and also as combatants. Their role both in southern Africa and Northern Ireland deserves some scrutiny.
Women at War
The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. 'Dark it was, with no moon, only a broken lamp reflecting the drifting smoke. Powerful, that silence. Not as powerful though as the sound that suddenly broke it. A sound that set your heart beating, tickled your nerves and made you scream, yeah, yeah ... and grab your own bin lid, to join the hen brigade, so it was.’ That was how a Falls Road woman remembered the nights of the bin lids in the 1970s after internment had come to Northern Ireland. Women would listen and watch for soldiers and if they spotted a raid, they rattled their bin lids to alert their neighbours and protest against the invaders. Bin Lids was the title of a play which celebrates 27 years of struggle, performed at the 1997 West Belfast Festival with gusto, professionalism and, naturally, bias. A good title and apt tribute to the 'bin women’ keeping a lookout for security forces ready to kick down the front doors of suspected Republicans. Bin women were central to the events of that turbulent period. In South African townships, bin lids too had woken up the neighbourhood during the 1980s, banged by women who protested with their neighbours against the invasion of their streets by Saracens, Hippos and other armoured vehicles. Neither the British forces nor the South African police were amused. Marie Moore, today a white-haired Sinn Fein councillor for Belfast, described the women as 'Hen Brigades who went about with bin lids and whistles to create a commotion once the Brits’ "Duck Patrols” sneaked into the areas late at night or in the early hours of the morning.’ Soldiers retaliated by firing on women. On 23 October 1971 two sisters on 'Hen Patrols’ were killed. Moore added that:
about three weeks afterwards, the Brits opened up in the Clonard area on the women and I was shot in the foot. On the news the next morning they said I was a ‘gunman’. Kathleen Thompson of Derry was shot dead by the British army on 6 November. She’d been trying to alert people in the area with her bin Ed. They shot her in the back garden and claimed it was an accident. ... The Hen Patrols died down, but the women would 98
WOMEN AT WAR
continue to sit in their houses and listen for raids and go out with the bin lids.1 This was not the first time that Irish women were involved alongside their men. In 1913, the Irish Volunteers (IV) were formed, followed six months later by the establishment of Cumann na mBan, a women’s organization. The women’s fervour in no way lagged behind that of the men. In 1915 some 1000 members of Cumann na mBan marched alongside other Nationalist organizations at the funeral of a Nationalist leader. Members recall with pride that they were the only section which did not split when dissent rent the Republican movement apart. The conflicts in southern Africa and in Ireland involved patriarchal societies. Yet in all conflicts women became actively involved as soldiers or politicians, sometimes as both, claiming equality with male fighters, proving just as courageous as men, sometimes more so. It was an involvement that did not always gain the approval of conservative communities nor, once the conflicts ended, full recognition of the women’s role or improved conditions for women in the new societies. Nonetheless, outstanding women were appointed to important posts in all new governments. While the best-known female figures emerged from groups challenging state authorities – members of IRA or Sinn Fein in Ireland and of the liberation movements of South Africa – women in Protestant and white communities in southern Africa were also strongly involved. Boer mythology glorified the role of the woman loading the gun in the laager to hand it to her man shooting at the enemy. Protestant women in Northern Ireland suffered as deeply as those in the Catholic community as victims or close relatives of victims. In southern Africa, white women learned to handle firearms during the height of conflict. Protestant women, as committed to Unionist ideals as their men, were not given to assuming high-profile public positions. As in most societies, Protestant women also followed their men’s lead. On 27 November 1999, the day on which David Trimble gained the support of his party 'to jump first’ into power-sharing without a firm IRA commitment to decommissioning, DUP women from the Shankill Road ‘waved flags and wept with rage’, according to a report in the Sunday Tribune2, which quoted an ironic statement by one of the ladies: ‘See them peace women? There’s English and all among them. What’s this got to do with them? Why don’t they go away home?’ said Mrs Margaret Beattie, waving her Union Jack. Yet other Shankill women voted ‘yes’ inside the hall. Moreover, as delegates arrived to ponder Trimble’s proposal, women with flowers handed them candles with a quote from
1 Women In Struggle (Sinn Fein Women’s Department, Autumn 1994), p 10. 2 The Sunday Tribune, 28 November 1999.
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
Joan Wilson whose daughter had been one of the victims of the IRA’s 1987 Enniskillen bomb: ‘Say children who lived.’ In all these societies the dictum of home, hearth and children ruled. The conflicts themselves often paved the way for future feminist activities, although female members of black liberation movements always protested to white counterparts at international meetings that the first task was to establish a just society. Only then could they tackle feminist issues. Sinn Fein tried to include feminism in its platform. Shinner Joan O’Connor told the party’s Women’s Conference in November 1994 that she opposed the Irish Republic’s repressive 1937 constitution which has been used to attack, intimidate and enshrine women as second class citizens in the 26 counties. As a feminist I want to be part of an Ireland which recognizes the civil and human rights of all the people of this country not a constitution which enshrines my role in Irish society as a wife and mother, which attacks my right to life and refuses to recognize that I am equal to the other 48% of the population.
One of Sinn Fein’s main negotiators during the peace process was a woman, Bairbre de Brun, who was also elected to the Assembly and was appointed as one of two Sinn Fein ministers in November 1999. At the same time the SDLP also elevated a woman to a ministerial post in the new power-sharing government. One of the first actions by South African women was the drafting of a National Charter For Women’s Rights, presented on 9 August 1994 to the Speaker of the House, Frene Ginwala, herself a redoubtable longterm fighter against apartheid and for women’s rights. On that occasion 9 August was designated as South Africa’s Women’s Day. It commemorates the protest against pass laws for women by some 20,000 women who had gathered peacefully at Pretoria’s Union Building on 9 August 1956. The majority of the demonstrators were black, but it included also women from white, Coloured and Asian communities. Until 1952 women did not have to carry the hated ‘dompas’, which forced thousands into prison for petty pass offences and allowed any policeman to stop any black man at any time. The long exemption of African women had been due to the bold leadership of Charlotte Maxeke, one of the founding mothers of the ANC’s Women’s League, who as early as 1913 had led a successful women’s protest against passes. The 1956 protest was not successful but impressively dramatic. The women objected to passes because they said that if they were arrested, who would look after the children? Their protest song said it all: ‘Strijdom, You have Struck A Rock, You Have Touched The Women.’ The women had raised their own rail fares to Pretoria, a tremendous achievement for working mothers and peasants. They walked to the Union Building in single file, as a demonstration had been forbidden,
WOMEN AT WAR
then gathered in the amphitheatre of the grounds waiting for their leaders, who included women such as the ANC’s Lilian Ngoyi and the courageous white woman, Helen Joseph, who was later to suffer long years of house arrest and was to be buried under a democratic government as a national heroine. The petitions were collected and dumped in sacks in front of the door of Prime Minister Strijdom, who ‘happened’ to be absent. Then they stood for one minute in silence. Not even a baby stirred on its mother’s back. The glorious voice of one of the leaders then soared to lead the women in the ANC’s hymn, ‘Nkosi Sikele’i Afrika’ – God Save Africa, today one of South Africa’s national anthems. By the time they dispersed and arrived at the bus station, workers were returning home. The men heard what had happened and suddenly they stood back and said, ‘let the women get on first’ – an unexpected and moving gesture. It was followed at the Kliptown Congress of the People held not long afterwards, at which the Freedom Charter was proclaimed. Delegates were greeted by a huge banner: ‘We Thank the Women’. The pass laws which had led to the 1952 ANC Defiance Campaign, which in the Transvaal was led by Nelson Mandela, were finally repealed in the dying decade of apartheid. Every conflict has its heroines. Ruth Tailion has graphically described the events involving some 200 women during the Easter Rising of 1916 in her book, The Women of 1916. She pointed out that the major role of these women had been largely ignored. Many women were engaged in nursing, while others were active soldiers. The most famous of the women was Countess Constance Markievicz, a member of the Ascendancy who nonetheless became an important leader of the revolt. She was imprisoned for her role and was revered by Republicans for her courage, admired for her looks and vivacity and ensured of her place among the Republican heroes of the struggle. Markievicz, who first became involved in the ‘Daughters of Erin’ and was often described as totally fearless, was a first-rate shot and fierce Irish patriot. Among her many achievements was the training manual, the Fianna Handbook. Another of the Women of 1916’ was Kathleen Lynn, a surgeon and fighter for women’s rights, co-founder of a children’s hospital with Madeleine ffrench-Mullen. The women were by no means all professionals or upper class, but included such women as the seamstress Nora Connolly and others, who had been involved in a 1911 industrial action, out of which the Irish Women Workers Union was born. 3000 women had gone on strike at a biscuit factory for higher wages and won, in what was described as a famous victory against soulless Dublin employers. All southern African movements trained women as well as men as soldiers, although women’s involvement in war was not traditional.
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
Physical warfare is associated with men, but in wars involving unconventional warfare women always played a part. It is fitting that in Luanda the memorial commemorating the colonial wars portrays a woman. Women contributed a great deal to the southern African wars. Zimbabwe’s bush war was largely carried out on the backs of rural women, the majority of the peasantry. Women fed and housed guerrillas who intermingled with villagers. Young women carried fighters’ arms, messages and provisions. In Zimbabwe, the first minister in Mugabe’s cabinet representing women’s affairs was a former guerrilla, Tourai Ropa Nhengu (who later reverted to her ‘civilian’ name). All southern African movements claimed to follow socialist policies and therefore the equality of women. Duties in guerrilla or refugee camps were allocated on this basis, with men too performing traditional female tasks such as cooking, collecting wood or cleaning. Unfortunately these values were not always carried into civil society on return home. In Zimbabwe for instance, many former female fighters found themselves left on their own with their children, as former comrades sought traditionally educated women. A traditionally minded society resented liberated women. In Zimbabwe women discovered, as elsewhere, that the struggle for gender equality had not ended with the end of conflict. The most famous woman involved in Northern Ireland’s civil rights movement was Bernadette McAliskey, who as Bernadette Devlin took her seat in the British Parliament on her 22nd birthday, the youngest woman ever to be elected and the youngest MP in 50 years. Naturally this slight, five-foot tall woman attracted headlines. She was present at the ‘Battle of the Bogside’ in 1969, as well as on Bloody Sunday, over which she created a furore in Parliament. When the debate on Bloody Sunday was closed without Devlin having been allowed to speak, she rose and, as she recalled, said “‘the hon. lady member has whatever rights she chooses to exert”. I walked over and hit the Home Secretary (Reginald Maudling). Then consternation broke out. There was more coverage of the violence in the hallowed chamber than of why it was done.’1 McAliskey suffered imprisonment and she and her husband were seriously injured in a Loyalist attack on their home in 1981. Middle age had not dimmed her fire, stamina or brilliance. In 1997 she fought for the release of her daughter Roisin McAliskey who had been arrested by the German government on suspicion of involvement in an IRA attack on a British military base in Germany. She was pregnant and in poor health at the time of her arrest, but was first taken to an all-male prison and held in appalling circumstances. Though she was moved to Holloway and her conditions improved after her case had made the headlines, she contin1 Women in Struggle (Sinn Fein Women’s Department, Autumn 1994), p 11.
WOMEN AT WAR
ued to be held in solitary confinement, with bail withheld until the birth of her baby was imminent. She had to be treated for post-natal depression while awaiting extradition. The case was dropped in early 1998, ostensibly because of Roisin’s ill health. ‘She had nothing to do with the attack,’ Mrs McAliskey told me. ‘There was no real evidence whatever.’ Women involved in Republican action included Rita O’Hare. Forthright, highly intelligent and outspoken, she sought refuge from arrest in the Republic where she headed Sinn Fein’s Dublin-based press section and was later sent to the party’s office in the USA. O’Hare was described in August 1997 by the Dublin media as one of the ten most powerful women in Ireland. O’Hare was one of the Shinners who had decided the political solution was the right way to go. 'We hate this war’, she wrote in 1994. ‘Our desire is to see it ended and a free Ireland based on liberty and equality. Only that will ensure that our children will be able to live in peace.’1 During a fraught period of 1998 when Unionists were demanding Sinn Fein’s expulsion from the talks (the party was suspended following a number of IRA killings), Dr Mowlam was castigated for being seen talking to O’Hare, ‘a wanted terrorist’. Maire Drumm, Sinn Fein Vice-President in the early 1970s, was shot dead in 1976 when assassins burst into a Belfast hospital where she was a patient. Four years later a memorial to Drumm was unveiled in Milltown Cemetery, the resting place of many Republican dead. One of the three IRA volunteers killed in Gibraltar in 1988 was a woman, Mairead Farrell. She had been a participant in the hunger strike with other women, supporting male prisoners’ efforts to gain political status. On occasion women were more militant than men. Bernadette Sands McKevitt, sister of the hunger striker Bobby Sands, opposed the GFA, believing that Ireland would only gain peace with the unification of the 32 counties. She maintained that her brother had died for a united Ireland, not for power-sharing. This view was shared by her husband, a former IRA quartermaster who defected in 1997 and was co-founder of the notorious break-away group first styling itself the Thirty-two County Sovereignty Committee (CSC), linked to the ‘Real IRA’ which was responsible for the terrible Omagh bombing in August 1998 which killed 29 people who had been enjoying an outing in a country town on a sunny afternoon. This traumatic event brought both communities together like no other had done. Even during the rocky period of August 1999, before Senator Mitchell’s magic had bridged the ever-widening UUP/Sinn Fein divide and at a time when rowdy Catholic elements rioted in Derry against an Apprentice Boys’ march on Saturday 14 August, thousands of Catholics and Protestants gathered in Omagh to pay tribute to the 1 Women in Struggle (Sinn Fein Women’s Department, Autumn 1994), p 1.
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
victims of the massacre. At that time this was the most hopeful sign that the search for peace would continue. Some 38 Republican women were interned along with men during the 1970s. Whether interned or sentenced for political offences, they were brutalized. Strip-searches, a humiliating and degrading experience, were the norm. Father, later Monsignor, Denis Faul recorded the women’s statements. He wrote that:
girls entering or leaving the women’s prison, Armagh, for whatever reason ... have to undergo a completely naked visual examination of all parts of their body front and back while the prisoner stands totally naked before the prison female warders. ... This has been a traumatic experience for young Catholic girls and older women, married and single, all of whom were reared and educated in Catholic homes and schools, where the strictest standards of modesty were impressed upon them as a matter of conscience.1 Women were forcibly stripped if they refused. One prisoner in Maghaberry Prison described how 21 women were strip-searched on 2 March 1992. ‘Each of them was held down by groups of screws while her clothes were removed. ... Because this happened inside a prison does not mean that it was not a sexual assault.’2 Women were involved in every prison protest, including the blanket protest and the hunger strike. Women were physically assaulted by warders and severely beaten. Following one such assault in February 1980, they began a ‘no-wash’ protest. It proved a long endurance test. Half-starved, filthy and suffering from diseases such as gastroenteritis, the women’s suffering was indescribable. Pauline McLaughlin who spent two years on the no-wash protest said that at 19 she looked like 90, weighed only five stones, with hair and teeth falling out.3 In southern Africa too many women suffered internment, prison and torture. Those best known include Winnie Mandela, still an ANC idol, and Ruth First who was killed by a South African letter bomb in Maputo in 1982 and who had written a graphic account of her 117 days in solitary confinement in the 1960s in a book of that title. As in all wars, women shouldered family responsibilities. In Ireland, as in southern Africa, the unsung women are those who became heads of households in the absence of the men, forced to take on the job of bread-winner as well as mother, nurse, cook and housekeeper. In Northern Ireland it was often women from both sides of the sectarian divide who attempted to broker peace. The Peace People, a group committed to ending violence, was founded in 1976 by Betty Williams, Mairead Corrigan and Ciaran McKeon, the two former women sharing 1 Denis Faul, The Stripping Naked of the Women Prisoners in Armagh Prison 1982-3, (1983), p 1. 2 Women In Struggle, Sinn Fein Women’s Department, Autumn 1994. 3 Political Hostages. Internment without Trial 1971-1975, p 46.
WOMEN AT WAR
the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize. Inspired by the death of the three Maguire children, who were killed by a gunman’s getaway car in the Andersonstown area of Belfast, the Peace People tried to bring a non-partisan, non-violent approach to the conflict. It attracted large rallies at first, then switched to community efforts such as improving recreational facilities and providing employment by the creation of small industries. It also assisted paramilitary prisoners, ran holiday camps and tried to bring young people from both communities together. Though its high profile had waned by the 1990s, the Peace People was still part of the fabric of Northern Irish politics. A Northern Ireland women’s party, the Women’s Coalition led by the formidable Monica Williams, was elected in 1996 to represent women’s interests at the Stormont negotiations. It was a truly women-only European party. During the talks, the women complained of sexist attitudes on the part of some Unionist delegates. Nonetheless, their dedication was rewarded by the electorate, their campaign winning two seats in the GFA’s Northern Ireland Assembly. Working-class Irish women found themselves in situations scarcely different from those in southern Africa. Hilda Hartley, born in 1911, recalled her mother having to go out to work cleaning people’s houses, 'I remember one house she went to, it still makes me angry, for two shillings she polished the brasses, scrubbed the hall and step, then came in to wash six blankets using soap and a wash board, put them through the mangle, then to finish her day’s work, blacklead the grate and scrub the kitchen floor.’1 This mirrored the lot of South African domestics. In my day in the 1960s, a ‘girl’, who was expected to live in the backyard, would be paid no more than £3 a month for what amounted to a 10–12 hour day, with Thursday afternoons off. Institutionalized apartheid made conditions worse, with children prohibited from living with their mothers and men forbidden to visit their wives in domestic service. Though pay and backrooms improved in the intervening decades, domestic servants still worked long hours at low pay, often isolated and always exposed to the moods of employers. A new trade union for domestic workers was launched in 1999, replacing an earlier organization. Innumerable women played a major part in the struggle against apartheid, ranging from ANC women leaders such as Gertrude Shope to the respected one-time trade unionist Ray Simons. During a visit to South Africa in 1994, I contacted a Major Anderson for an appointment with the Minister of Defence. A female voice answered and when I said what I wanted, she exclaimed, ‘It’s me, Ruth, Muff Anderson!’ Maeve Anderson, whom I had known as a journalist, had not only been an ANC member but one of the few white guerrillas. Her middle-class English1 Women In Struble, Sinn Fein Women’s Department, Autumn 1994, p 3.
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
speaking background had not led me to imagine that this had been her role. Other women trained as ANC guerrillas included people like Marion Sparg. Women are much in evidence in South Africa’s Parliament and several women represent their country at ambassadorial level. South Africa’s High Commissioner in Britain since 1998, Cheryl Carolus, a University of Western Cape graduate, a one-time leading member of the umbrella organization of the 1980s, the United Democratic Front, had been the first woman to be detained in 1976. In 1990 she became one of the 11member ANC team in the first talks with the NP government and before her diplomatic job had worked as the ANC’s Acting Secretary-General. Another member of the ANC’s exploratory talks team was Ruth Mompad, from 1996 Ambassador in Switzerland. Mompati was a veteran activist who had worked in the Mandela-Tambo law firm as a secretary in the 1960s, had acted as a strategist in the Military Council and had held the post of ANC’s Chief Representative in London in the 1980s. Slowly South African women are working towards the goal of their own liberation. Under apartheid they had suffered discrimination because they were black, because they were women and because they were black women in a traditionally patriarchal community. In a system where a man suffers daily humiliation, it was understandable that he in turn oppressed his own women. Unfortunately the goal of gender equality is not yet reached. Rape is increasing, and the new society is battling against new ills, including high rates of crime and AIDS. Yet given women’s sacrifice, peace, when it came to southern Africa, deserved a similar accolade as that given at South Africa’s Congress of the People: ‘We Thank the Men and Women in the Struggle.’
The Violence of Injustice
The longed for tidal wave of justice can rise up and hope and history rhyme ... SEAMUS HEANY
When does the struggle change from political confrontation to violence? The answer from those taking up arms is simple: when those in power refuse to listen to words. In southern Africa and Ireland, communities which felt excluded and discriminated against became convinced that dialogue with state structures had failed. Only force could bring about change. Discrimination was verbally expressed. Catholics were ‘paddies’ and ‘taigs’ to Protestants, just as blacks were ‘kaffirs’ to white South Africans, and ‘munts’ or ‘afs’ to white Rhodesians. In South Africa, Africans were originally termed ‘natives’ and whites ‘Europeans’, until it was realized that this labelled the latter as foreigners. When Afrikaners refused to use this term for blacks, Africans became officially ‘Bantu’ in apartheidspeak. Disparaging labels are common currency in situations of conflict. Ironically, ‘Bantu’ means ‘people’, so that Afrikaners excluded themselves from that concept. However, neither in southern Africa nor in Ireland was discrimination confined to words. The effect of colonization was always economic, with these two countries no exceptions. The economic factor: South Africa
It was always realized that apartheid was an economic system, designed to benefit whites, in particular lower-class Afrikaners. During the turbulent 1970s and 1980s, the issues for blacks included equality of access to resources, to education, training, education, housing and social services. In terms of apartheid theory, blacks were ‘temporary sojourners’ in ‘white’ South Africa, so that housing provided for them was considered temporary too. This applied not only to communal barracks on mine property or farm compounds. It was also the case with urban housing. ‘Single-men barracks’ for migrant workers and tiny family houses set in 107
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
unpaved, unlit streets in ‘locations’ – townships – became familiar sights for television viewers world-wide during the turbulent 1980s. The apartheid government cut urban housing as part of an ‘influx control’ policy in the vain hope of restricting blacks to designated homelands, which in fact housed only a small proportion of the total African population. The result of overcrowded housing and homelessness still bedevils South Africa at the start of the new century. In Gauteng, formerly Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Vereeniging (PWV), slum housing has mushroomed adjacent to existing townships, with the authorities feverishly working to catch up on an impossible backlog. As long ago as 1988 the Institute of Race Relations reported a shortage of some 300,000 housing units in the PWV region, but little was done to rectify the situation. During the same period, African earnings were still half those of whites. At least half of all African urban households lived below the household subsistence level. Unemployment was high among the black labour force with an estimated 1 million blacks out of work against some 86,000 whites. African literature which emerged from the 1950s onwards, painted vivid images of township life. The following opening of an unpublished story is one of innumerable examples: Jesus, man, would you believe it, another stinking body in the room when I woke up, how did he ever find room among the eight of us in what they called the kids’ room in this palace of a four-roomed shebeen, yeah, the kids’ room because the shebeen queen’s small ones could piss on the floor, there weren’t any mattresses to be soaked, see, so it didn’t matter that this drunken Zulu had crawled in while I was snoring my own troubles away.
as is this extract from another:
The door opened, as Ticky knew it would and Dolly tiptoed through, lips clenched, as she carefully carried the family’s pisspot, like she did every morning. A girl’s job. Ticky waited till she was gone, then took a deep breath in the hopeless hope that it would last while he sat over the stinking black hole, eyes closed against the stench, the flies and the worms, especially the worms writhing below. Conflict
It was ‘Bantu’ education, designed to keep blacks in their inferior place, which finally caused open uprising inside the country. The events of 16 June 1976, when police fired on a peaceful demonstration of some 15,000 Soweto schoolchildren, became another landmark in South Africa’s struggle against apartheid. Inspired by Steve Biko’s BCM, township youngsters heeded his cry that it was better to live on one’s feet
VIOLENCE OF INJUSTICE
than die on one’s knees. BCM injected a feeling of pride into a generation of blacks who recognized their parents’ hopelessness and despair and knew they too faced a dismal future. In the 1990s, a memorial to 13-year old Hector Petersen, the first child killed on 16 June, commemorated victims of the uprising which had set the black ghettos alight for six months. Some 10,000 young people had fled across the border to join the liberation movements, the ANC and PAC, the latter founded in 1959. Both parties had been banned in 1960, to be unbanned with the SACP by President de Klerk in 1990. It had been a PAC demonstration against pass laws which had triggered off the 1960 Sharpeville massacre, catapulting apartheid into international headlines for the first time. The young people’s revolt invigorated the guerrilla war and intensified the anti-apartheid struggle. The conflict between black youth and the security forces became endemic, flaring up again in the early 1980s in the wake of President Botha’s constitutional reforms, which again excluded blacks from new dispensations. This time the uprising struck a fatal blow against apartheid which already had begun its terminal decline. The ANC had successfully stepped up a guerrilla war, international opinion had swung against apartheid, sanctions were imposed, and in 1985 financial institutions and investors finally turned their backs on Pretoria and on President Botha’s secret and illegal war to destabilize his neighbours – a vain attempt to keep ANC freedom fighters from reaching South Africa.1 The economic factor: Ireland
Northern Ireland’s economy was also stultified as a result of the conflict. This was acknowledged in March 1999 by the European Union when it agreed that the NI Peace Programme of aid (worth £340 million) would be continued for another five years in recognition of the on-going peace efforts. Economics was a major factor in that peace process. As mentioned, NICRA had based its 1960s campaign on demands for equal opportunities, demanding an end to manipulation over housing, linked to the local government electoral system and to outright gerrymandering, which had entrenched Unionists in local councils. This had caused overcrowding in Catholic housing. Housing stock was poorly maintained and insufficiently enlarged or renewed, with a mere 6000 houses built per year. 1 Botha’s aim in destabilizing his neighbours was to intimidate governments not to support the ANC and deny them access to South Africa’s borders. This worked in the case of Mozambique, when the demoralized FRELIMO government, suffering from attacks by the South African-supported RENAMO, signed a Friendship Accord and told the ANC to leave the country. MK nonetheless still managed to infiltrate into South Africa, thanks to the country’s extensive borders with several countries, which could not be fully electrically fenced.
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
A report on the Short Strand, one of Belfast’s deprived areas in 1977, at the height of the conflict, makes the point: In that quarter square mile of 27 streets are two bookies, seven drinking clubs, one pub, two churches (one of them Protestant), two schools, one Police station, one Army base, two playgrounds (both closed because of vandalism), three paramilitary organizations, lots of committees, acres of dereliction and rat-infested bricked-up houses and about 2500 people, including a sprinkling of Protestants, with about 300 pensioners, living in some 800 households. There is no shortage of descriptions of such poverty and deprivation in Irish literature. Frank McCourt wrote, "... the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.’1 Although McCourt’s ‘miserable childhood’ was spent in a Limerick slum, his powerful account of a poverty-stricken family mirrored similar situations in the north. By the 1960s Northern Ireland had fallen into economic decline, with little new investment and few job opportunities. Catholics were hardest hit. For this community it had become a matter of either poorly paid work or no work at all. Historically the means of production had long been in Protestant hands, so it was logical that the majority of the entrepreneurial class was composed of and employed Protestants who in turn preferred to work with Protestants. In the shipyards of Belfast, Orange foremen physically kept Catholics out. ‘Belfast confetti’, showers of redhot nuts and bolts, greeted many Catholics brave enough to accept jobs in Protestant workplaces. Tim Pat Coogan wrote that in 1963 unemployment in the six counties ran at 9.5 per cent, while average earnings stood at only 78 per cent of those in Britain. He added that ‘some 32 per cent of all houses in the statelet had no piped water or flush toilets.’ One Unionist he quoted proposed that a register of unemployed Loyalists should be kept, with Loyalists assured of first choice of jobs. While this indicated that poverty also existed within the Protestant community, it illustrated the bias of Protestant employers.2 Trade unions too reinforced the protection of Protestant jobs. This was hardly different from the policy applied by South Africa’s NP government after it had come to power. One example of NP labour legislation was the Job Reservation Act, which specified which positions were to be reserved for whites only and included such ‘skilled’ jobs as that of lift operator. Sheltered employment for poor white Afrikaners was a pillar of the apartheid policy.
1 Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir of a Childhood (London: Flamingo, 1997) p 98. 2 Tim Pat Coogan, The Troubles (Arrow Books, 1996), p 47.
VIOLENCE OF INJUSTICE
Little changed from the perspective of the Catholic working class from the early 1970s to the IRA ceasefire in 1994. High unemployment and poverty was still rife in the 1990s in the estates which spread out from the Falls Road. The presence of British soldiers, fortifications, helicopters and other manifestations of 'the Troubles’ reinforced Catholic perception of exclusion and alienation. The shipyards and linen mills of the early industrial era had shut, to be replaced by modern industries. Yet male Catholic unemployment still stood at around 30 per cent in 1991, against 12 per cent for Protestant males. (The overall rate was twice the UK average.) The higher rate of Protestant employment was attributed to the high rate of Protestants within the security forces. The unemployment differentials between the two communities remained unchanged over two decades. In 1971 a Catholic male was 2.6 times more likely to be unemployed than a Protestant, a figure which had improved to 2.2 by 1991. Catholic women were 1.8 times more likely to be unemployed than Protestant women. In 1997 Catholic males were still more than twice as likely as Protestants to be unemployed.1 Codes of conduct
Economic discrimination was recognized by supporters of both South African blacks and Catholic Irish. The anti-apartheid movement successfully launched a sanctions campaign against South Africa and, coupled with the increasing strength of black trade unions in the country, was successful in drawing up several codes of conduct for foreign companies operating in South Africa. These included equal pay for equal work as well as job and training opportunities for non-whites. The code of conduct for US companies in South Africa became known as the Sullivan Principles. These rules were copied in a campaign to make US company investment in Northern Ireland conditional on the observance of certain practices. Nine MacBride Principles, named after Sean MacBride, a former Irish Foreign Minister and winner of the Nobel and Lenin Peace Prizes, included increased Catholic staff within the workforce of a company including skilled and managerial jobs, security for Catholics at work and training opportunities for members of the Catholic community. The MacBride Principles became law in 13 US states. President Clinton supported this code of conduct during his 1993 presidential campaign. The British government, however, opposed the measures, claiming that affirmative action was discriminatory, infringing the fair employment legislation which had been enacted in Northern Ireland in 1976 and 1989 1 Commission on the Administration of Justice, Submission io the UN Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (May 1997), p 2.
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
in response to calls for reform. The legislation has been the subject of intense analysis by academics, with many judging the 1976 Fair Employment Agency a failure. In 1991 Tony Gallagher of the Conflict Studies Centre at Ulster University argued that much remained to be done to achieve fair employment.1 The 1991 report of the Fair Employment Commission showed that Catholics were almost equal to Protestants in terms of the higher professional posts they held, and well ahead in professional and technical occupations, due to the large number of Catholic nurses. However, Catholics were over-represented in unskilled and semi-skilled manual jobs.2 Marie Moore, already mentioned as a Republican activist, well remembered her first job interview after she had left school at 15. ‘Most employers were Protestants, you see. When I turned up, they looked at my application. Then they asked my religion. I knew immediately I wouldn’t get the job.’ It took several more applications and similar experiences before she finally found employment. Sometimes they didn’t ask outright, only inquired which school she had attended or where she lived. That was enough to confirm her religion. It was dissatisfaction within the Catholic community with their economic prospects and their social status which empowered NICRA, the organization founded by the first crop of Catholic university students, and which was to be overtaken by the violence of the IRA.
1 Irish News, 13 May 1991. 2 Ibid.
The Long War: The Paramilitary Armies
A war of attrition ... aimed at causing as many casualties and deaths as possible so as to create a demand from their people at home for their withdrawal. from the IRA Green Book1 The IRA: Violence begetting violence
The violent reaction to the civil rights demonstrations shook both communities. The first demonstration in August 1968 was dispersed by tough police action. On 1 January 1969, members of the People’s Democracy marched to Derry to protest against police brutality. The marchers were ambushed and forced to run a gaundet of Protestant attacks. The arrival of bloodied but triumphant demonstrators in Derry set off a riot. That night an attack took place on Bogside residents by police and B-Specials. The subsequent rampage through Catholic areas by Protestant mobs has been graphically described by numerous eyewitnesses and writers. Running battles between police and Catholic youths was the start of open conflict and the regrouping of the IRA, with the creation of the Provisional IRA, which soon dropped the ‘Provisional’ label (though ‘Provos’ was still used by the British and Unionists). The IRA had begun to wind down its operations earlier in the decade after the upheavals of treaty, partition, border dispute and civil war. It is an odd footnote to history that the chairman of the controversial Border Commission should have been a South African, Justice Richard Feetham. He rejected the redrawing of Northern Ireland’s boundaries to include border areas with Catholic majorities, thus fixing the six/twenty-six counties division. This was hardly surprising, since Feetham had represented a Unionist Party in South Africa’s parliament.12 1 Brendan O’Brien, The Long War. The IRA and Sinn Fein from Armed Struggle to Peace Talks (Dublin: The O’Brien Press, 1993), p 23. 2 Adrian Guelke, ‘The Peace Process in South Africa, Israel and Northern Ireland: A Farewell to Arms?’ in Irish Studies in International Affairs, vol 5, 1994, p 975.
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
Thus the IRA returned after the bloody events of the summer of 1969, when some 300 Protestants and 1500 Catholic families fled their homes – events which are deeply etched into the folk memory of both sides. Segregated areas became the norm in Belfast working-class districts. Physical and psychological barriers and ghettos were created. In the working-class areas, where much of the violence was played out, the construction of 'peace lines’ – pure Orwellian-speak – did little to heal wounds. To the embarrassment of the Northern Ireland Office, a corrugated-iron 'peace line’ barrier had to be erected during April 1998 between Protestant and Catholic streets at White City on the outskirts of Belfast, just as the Stormont talks were moving towards their crescendo. Co-existence in the streets was at conflict level. In 1999 ferocious murals, painted kerbstones and defiant flags still marked rival territories. In the late 1960s, the IRA had sealed off Catholic districts as no-go areas, rekindling a sense of community pride and creating a feeling of selfsufficiency. Between 1969 and 1974 the IRA fought what Republicans perceived was a justified war to force Britain out of Northern Ireland. 'Attacks on soldiers and police would get the Brits out. They moved out of other parts of their Empire, didn’t they?’ a Republican said. Reaction to police bias and hatred of Loyalists proved a base for recruitment of IRA volunteers for over a quarter of a century. It was partly the waning of enthusiasm by young people which made Republicans rethink the policy of force. The IRA based the legitimacy of its claims on the 1916 Provisional Government and the first Dáil of 1919 and the second of 1921. It also rejected the 1922 Treaty, choosing to regard the Dublin and Stormont governments as equally illegitimate and adopting an abstentionist policy to both institutions. The IRA’s Army Council, the highest authority of the organization, was perceived as the legitimate provisional government. The policy of abstention from political activity in Dublin and London became a serious issue of dispute, leading to splits within Republicanism in 1969. The IRA, like MK and other secret armies, exercised strong discipline. The fear of infiltration in such organizations is ever present. Terrible punishment is meted out to suspected informers, as the TRC document highlighted in the case of the ANC and MK. Nor is the IRA known to treat suspected 'touts’ with kid gloves but has been charged with kidnapping, torture and murder. Nonetheless both South African and British security forces succeeded by coercion or bribery to ‘turn’ some opponents. Gerry Adams is credited with restructuring the organization into small informer-proof cells, in addition to turning Sinn Fein into a well-organized political party able to take on Unionist parties. Like southern African guerrillas, IRA fighters are politically motivated and do not see themselves as brutal, mindless killers. Yet
THE LONG WAR
Republicans tend to underestimate the terrible toll they have exacted from the Protestant community, just as Protestants reject claims that Catholics have suffered discrimination. Killings by two sides do not cancel each other’s responsibility for innocent deaths. The gloomy statistics of 27 years of violence have often been quoted: over 3300 dead including civilians, British and Irish soldiers and police.1 Some 1000 IRA members were imprisoned for murder, at least 10,000 on other charges. The IRA targeted police, army, judiciary and collaborators, with IRA shootings and bombings also claiming large numbers of innocent civilians. Around a dozen persons believed to have been killed by the IRA simply ‘disappeared’. This issue was publicly discussed after the GFA and in 1999 the IRA disclosed the whereabouts of some of the missing bodies, enabling grieving families to give them a Christian burial at last. The search for other bodies continued. Loyalist paramilitaries
The British did not get out of Ireland. The army stayed, working alongside the RUC against the IRA. Allegedly they also worked with Protestant Loyalists, who retaliated against IRA terror through their own organizations, and who carried out attacks on Catholics, few of whom had any connection with terrorist organizations. In March 1999 the BBC transmitted a series on Loyalist organizations, in which a member of the illegal Ulster Defence Association (UDA) claimed his group had received numerous documents from the RUC, army and Ulster Defence Regiment. He told interviewer Peter Taylor that T was getting that many documents that I didn’t know where to put them.’ Links also seemingly existed in the 1980s between South Africa’s apartheid security forces and Loyalist groups including the UDA, UVF and Ulster Resistance, with weapons delivered to them by South African Military Intelligence in 1988. Allegedly the weapons were used in Loyalist attacks. A Republican human rights group, Relatives for Justice, published a dossier claiming that South African weapons were used by Loyalist paramilitaries in 185 attacks between 1990 and 1994, 168 of which were described as sectarian or political. The dossier mentioned the South African delivery of AK47s and Browning 9 mm pistols, claiming 1 Brendan O’Brien wrote that by the time of the IRA’s August 1994 ceasefire, there had been 3346 deaths: ‘The Provisional IRA was responsible for about half the dead, 1776, by far the largest attributable to one single organization. ... Up to three-quarters of the IRA’s victims were locals. ... There were other statistics, often masked by the sound of IRA bombs. In broad figures, Loyalist paramilitaries killed 948 people, the bulk of them Catholic. ... The British Army and the RUC killed 357 people, again mostly Catholic but also IRA. ... Each side had its victims’ (The Long War, p 26).
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
that before the shipment Loyalists had used ‘home-made machine-guns, sawn-off shot guns and old revolvers’. This charge was revived by the UN report, already mentioned, which was issued in April 1998 and dealt with the case of British agent Brian Nelson and his dealings with Loyalists. Loyalist forces
Loyalists traced their history to the days of Unionist opposition to Home Rule, when landed gentry leaders set up and drilled some 90,000 UVF recruits on their estates in 1912. A full-scale rebellion was only averted by the outbreak of war. The UVF experience at the Somme during the First World War laid the foundation for patriotic pride, producing a network of veterans and setting a precedent for other groups. By the time new Loyalist groups proliferated after 1966, the aristocracy, which had formed the officer corps of the period between 1912 and 1920, was no longer involved. When the UVF was revived in the mid1960s in opposition to the liberal Unionist Prime Minister Terence O’Neill who banned the organization, it was working-class based. The UVF played a part in the attacks on Catholic homes in the late 1960s. When direct rule was imposed in 1972, the group had already begun a campaign of assassinating Catholics. The UDA, formed in 1971, remained legal until 1992, while its close associate, the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), was banned in 1973. The Ulster Army Council (UAC), an umbrella body formed in late 1973, included groups such as the UVF, UDA, the Ulster Special Constabulary Association and the Red Hand Commando. The UAC was involved in the strike which brought down Sunningdale. In 1991 the Combined Loyalist Military Command (CLMC) emerged as an umbrella organization of the UVF, UFF and the Red Hand. The proliferation of paramilitary groups, similar to those formed within South Africa’s right wing, were sometimes short-lived, centring around a single personality. Others were better organized and attracted larger membership. Like the IRA and right-wing South African groups, Loyalist groups were private armies. They enjoyed the support of their communities. By the early 1990s, Loyalists were killing more people than Republicans and during ‘the Troubles’ had been responsible for more civilian deaths than the IRA. A five-year reign of terror perpetrated by the Loyalist ‘Shankill Butchers’ during the 1970s was as bloody as anything ascribed to South African death squad killers. The gang operated with extreme cruelty, choosing victims simply because they were Catholics. The commentator Tom McGurk said in June 1997 that ‘they perceived that within their own community their stock would rise as a result of what they were doing.’ The Butchers even conducted torture sessions in public. McGurk
THE LONG WAR
wrote that some 20 murders were unsolved. Two major gang members were never convicted, nor were other less well-known figures in a group sometimes numbering over 20.1 After Drumcree of 1996, a small but menacing group, the LVF, led by Billy Wright, emerged and operated outside the CLMC. LVF prisoners rioted in the Maze in August 1997 and their colleagues attacked warders’ homes in protest against prison conditions. As mentioned, Billy Wright’s murder in prison by the extremist Republican INLA group signalled a horrendous Loyalist murder spree which threatened the peace process. After Wright’s death, the LVF disintegrated into a small, violent group engaged in drug dealing, confined mainly to mid-Ulster, until it handed in its arms in December 1998. Two Loyalist parties participated in the Stormont talks from their start in June 1997, the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) and the Ulster Democratic Party (UDP). The PUP, first formed as the Independent Unionist Group in the Shankill Road in 1978, named PUP a year later, had UVF links. Its leader, David Ervine, himself a former prisoner, proved to be an intelligent and highly articulate politician. The UDP, which dated back to 1989, was close to the Ulster Defence Association. The UDP’s first chairman, John McMichael, was murdered by the IRA. His son Gary led the UDP successfully at Stormont. Mainstream Unionists did not initially object to sitting down with these representatives of killers, and when Paisley did so it was more due to irritation that his own constituency was being challenged. The UDP, threatened with expulsion in January 1998 under the rules of the talks at the height of the LVF murder spree, chose to withdraw temporarily from the talks after the RUC pointed to UDA involvement in the LVF killing campaign. Shortly after this, Sinn Fein was also temporarily expelled because of IRA links with two murders. In South Africa, the AWB with its Nazi-style uniform and insignia was as visible in the hard-line northern platteland (rural area) as were Loyalist paramilitaries in Northern Ireland at the peak of their power. The latter could occasionally be seen in the early 1970s strutting in city streets, masked and dressed in combat jackets. During the violent days in July 1997 they allowed a training exercise to be filmed by a television crew. Community ‘activities’
Liberation movements and paramilitary organizations became increasingly involved in their communities’ affairs. Community-based paramilitary organizations such as the ANC, IRA or Loyalist paramihta1 Tom McGurk, ‘The life and death of Butcher “Basher” Bates’, Sunday Business Post, 15 June 1997.
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
ries have to show that they can protect and control their communities. The IRA and southern African liberation movements based their challenge to and rejection of state authority on the acceptance of their authority by their people. This meant that they also wished to be seen as shouldering social responsibilities as administrators-in-waiting. In Angola and Mozambique, liberation movements took over and organized the administration of ‘liberated’ areas. In the 1980s ‘civics’ (street committees) took on similar roles in South Africa’s townships. The IRA wrested control of Catholic working-class areas, particularly in Belfast, from the authorities for some time in the early 1970s, creating no-go areas. Until state forces waded in, the IRA was in control behind the barricades. Subsequently Sinn Fein advice centres were established to deal with community problems ranging from domestic violence to more serious crimes such as drug offences. Loyalist paramilitaries also exercised power in their areas. During the 1970s and 1980s, South Africa’s townships were in open revolt. Young people took the lead, guided by ANC activists. White businesses, rent, electricity, waste disposal charges and ‘Bantu education’ schools were boycotted. Neighbourhood committees provided communal services, organized waste disposals and dealt with transport issues. Urban youth did more than that: they began to punish suspected informers and people who broke boycotts. Women returning from the city with shopping from boycotted white stores were brutally handled. The ANC condemned the terrible practice of burning people alive, so-called ‘necklacing’, by placing petrol-filled tyres around victims’ necks and setting them alight. They ordered that this should be stopped, as should other human rights violations. People’s courts replaced instant justice. When municipal township buses were burnt, community-based transport, usually in the form of privately owned minibuses, took their place. In Northern Ireland, communal transport services also developed, alongside other ‘informal sector’ operations. A depot in Belfast’s city centre houses black taxis which run communal services to the Falls Road area. Low-cost services bolstered a sense of community, while helping party funds. Both the IRA and Loyalists also became engaged in racketeering to add to those funds. Punishment beatings
In Belfast’s working-class districts, both the IRA and Loyalists ‘policed’ their own territories. ‘Policing’ came to mean brutal punishment beatings using nail-studded bats, or knee-capping by shooting, which severely crippled victims. Such practices did not end with the IRA and Loyalist ceasefires. Between January and May 1998, the police reported 34 punishment beatings, of which 21 were attributed to Republicans and 13 to Loyalists. During 1999 there was no let-up. Punishment beatings and
THE LONG WAR
the ejection of ‘undesirables’ from their areas in Northern Ireland caused a public outcry. In most cases, the punishment exceeded the crime. The issue added to the problems besetting the peace process during this period. Punishment was decided by a local commander who instructed special teams to carry out the sentence. One Catholic woman said, ‘Our people live in closed communities. Everyone knows everyone else. If something happens, such as a theft, drug-dealing, vandalism or joyriding, it’s known who’s responsible. Anywhere else, one would call the police. But our people distrust the RUC. So they call in the IRA to sort things out.’ Another commented that, ‘the IRA is an army, not a police force. They set themselves up as police, court and executioners. Their punishments, say of kids who’ve stolen a car or tried drugs, are much worse than anything a judge might hand down. But no one dares to complain.’ Similarly no South African township dweller would have thought of calling on the police for help. The police was the enemy. Nor did the police perceive itself as a community service. A ranking policeman told me that he would never apologize for his actions during the apartheid era: ‘I was only doing my duty, upholding the laws of the day.’ The rapid emergence of drugs and drug dealing as a problem after democratic rule showed that South Africa’s police had not been accustomed to dealing with ‘ordinary’ crime. Policemen had been taught to concentrate on fighting subversive elements. In South Africa and Northern Ireland police forces had become accustomed to dealing with ‘politicals’, seeking out subversives, which alienated them from the community. None of this, however, excuses the cruelty of punishment beatings. In South Africa, community policing and justice were automatically outlawed with the advent of democratic government. Similarly the GFA demanded an end to all ‘private’ justice systems which involved violence, and in his conciliatory statement of 16 November 1999 Gerry Adams stated that Sinn Fein was totally opposed to punishment attacks. This statement was part of the final lap towards the goal of powersharing. In South Africa the process had secretly begun around the time of the first moves in Northern Ireland and had led to an earlier successful conclusion, ending three decades of regional conflict.
Peace at Last in Southern Africa
Cedant arma togae, concedant laurea laudi. (Let war yield to peace, laurels to paeans.) CICERO
De Officiis, Bk 1, ch. 77 Angola and Mozambique
Lisbon’s African wars were ended by sheer exhaustion. The conflicts drained Portugal’s economy and demoralized the conscript army. The country suffered long years of dictatorship under Antonio Salazar and his successor Marcelo Caetano. The political elite had become paralysed and enfeebled, refusing all concessions to the colonial peoples. The opposition, persecuted and oppressed, was ineffective. A ranking officer with colonial experience, General Antonio Spinola, realized that change could only come from within the regime. In a book published in February 1974 he stated that the colonial war could only be ended by political not military means. The book caused a sensation and opened the door for the group of young officers who organized the coup of April 1974. Despite confused events in Lisbon, the officers, who accepted Spinola as President for a short time, were anxious to withdraw from Africa. Spinola conceded the right of colonial peoples to self-determination and the scene was set for peace talks. President Kaunda and his then Foreign Minister Vernon Mwaanga acted as peacemakers. Talks began in Lusaka in mid-1974 between the new Portuguese rulers and FRELIMO and were swiftly concluded. In June 1975 Mozambique became an independent republic under a FRELIMO government. Mozambique, a lengthy coastal strip along the East African coast, was structured to serve its neighbours as a transport route through the ports of Nacala, Beira and Lourenco Marques, today’s Maputo. Portugal’s new rulers felt little regret in giving it up. Angola was another matter. A country some 14 times larger than Portugal with a small population, thanks to its depletion during the slave trade, it possessed great mineral wealth in the form of iron ore, copper, diamonds and, above all, oil. Control was not so easily yielded. Lisbon prevaricated and long-drawn-out talks were held. Finally in January 1975 120
PEACE AT LAST IN SOUTHERN AFRICA
a meeting in the Algarve between the new Portuguese rulers and the three Angolan groups (MPLA, UNITA and FNLA) agreed to set up a government of national unity, with 11 November 1975 fixed as the day of independence. As was seen, this unity swiftly disintegrated, with the conflict exacerbated by South Africa’s invasion and support for UNITA and FNLA. Following the MPLA’s taking control in Luanda, war continued, with the MPLA backed by the Soviet Union and Cuba, and UNITA and FNLA supported by South Africa and the USA. The Cold War ensured US funding. It first financed South Africa’s military adventure clandestinely through its base in Zaire, with open support later forthcoming to UNITA. In 1989 alone US arms supplies were estimated at US$50 million, Though there is no conceptual basis for this aid.’1 As mentioned, South Africa did not end its Angolan intervention in 1976, but continued to support UNITA secretly and heavily. Settlement
Angola’s debilitating civil war plunged its people into long-drawn-out misery, and its economy into bankruptcy, with its resources – game, diamonds and oil – drained to pay for the war. The sight of limping mutilados, amputee victims of landmines, estimated in 1997 to number over 70,000, were visible signs of a merciless and seemingly never-ending war, which had not yet been settled by 2000. South Africa also interfered in Mozambique, which had been devastated by the activities of the South African-backed RENAMO group. The conflict sapped the country’s resources. In the late 1980s, the FRELIMO government adapted to the changes taking place in Europe. In 1989 the party abandoned its Marxist policies. The USA struck the country off its list of socialist states, which resulted in increased US aid and trade. The FRELIMO government also agreed to talks with RENAMO, brokered by the Frontline States, with Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe playing a leading role, as Zimbabwean troops had also been involved inside Mozambique. Protracted talks in Rome followed from 1990 onwards, leading to new constitutional arrangements and elections in 1994. RENAMO proved surprisingly successful, having built up a base among chiefs and their people disaffected by FRELIMO’s socialist policies. The party gained 112 seats compared with 129 for FRELIMO, but President Joaquim Chissano defeated RENAMO’s leader Afonso Dlakama for the presidency by 54 per cent to 34. Slowly the rehabilitation of the country’s economy began, though this was dramatically halted by the disastrous floods of the 2000 rainy season.
1 African Contemporary Record 1989-1990 (Africana Publishing Company), p A112.
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
Angolan affairs were not so easily settled. Despite the loss of US and South African support at the end of the Cold War, UNITA, based on the largest ethnic group, the Ovimbundu, fought on. The group benefited from massive US and South African support in the past, and from its occupation of an area which included vast diamond fields. This resource was used to fund the war. UNITA’s charismatic and ambitious leader Jonas Savimbi intended to take over the presidency. He was not easily satisfied with second place. Neighbouring states as well as the UN were involved as intermediaries in Angola. Meetings arranged in 1990 had to be cancelled because of escalating violence by both sides, though an arrangement for elections was finally arrived at and a UN peace-keeping force dispatched to Angola in 1992. However, Savimbi refused to accept the outcome of the 1992 elections in which UNITA was beaten by the MPLA. Between 1994 and 1998 an uneasy peace existed. This was broken by events in neighbouring Zaire, again to become Congo, in which both UNITA and the MPLA were involved. This led to renewed conflict within Angola, with Savimbi refusing to give up the diamond-rich territories. The peace process in Angola limped along at a slow pace, with oil funding the MPLA administration’s war and diamonds that of UNITA – revenue that should have benefited the country’s economic development instead of funding a war disastrous for the people of Angola and the region as a whole. It wrought destruction, loss of human life, property and brought corruption in its wake. The thousands of landmines strewn in the countryside threatened limbs and lives, destroying both production and distribution systems, and necessitating South African imports. Zimbabwe
It took six years after the end of Portuguese rule in southern Africa before conflicts were settled in Southern Rhodesia, Namibia and South Africa. As Sir Seretse Khama, Prime Minister of Botswana remarked:
[Africans] were still being sent to prison because of the colour of their skin. They are still being denied the right to live where they wish, to live with their families, to decide as they see fit in freedom and peace, and above all, to participate freely in the political affairs of their countries. Denied recourse even to the rule of law, they have been forced to rebellion against tyranny and oppression. The first issue which was resolved was that of Southern Rhodesia, a legacy of the ill-fated Federation of Southern and Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland which the British had set up in 1952 and which was dissolved in 1963. Blacks perceived federation as a ploy to ensure the dominance of white settlers, the majority of whom were based in South-
PEACE AT LAST IN SOUTHERN AFRICA
ern Rhodesia. The protectorates of Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Nyasaland (Malawi) were granted independence within a year. Southern Rhodesia’s situation proved more difficult to resolve because of the intransigence of the Ian Smith regime’s UDI, which led to the bloody and long-drawn-out war with the PF alliance of ZANU and ZAPU. The UDI issue involved the international community. Britain had appealed successfully to the UN for mandatory sanctions against Rhodesia. Only South Africa continued to trade with and aid its white neighbour. By the mid-1970s, sanctions, together with the bush war, drained the economy. Whites voted with their feet – taking the 'gap’, as moving down south or emigrating elsewhere was called – and international pressure, not least by the USA through Henry Kissinger, forced South Africa to persuade Ian Smith to go to the conference table at Lancaster House in 1979. Pretoria had wearied of the continued limelight focused on Salisbury, realizing that Smith’s 'internal’ solution of placing a black man, Bishop Abel Muzorewa, in the prime ministerial place was internationally unacceptable. At Lancaster House the British adopted a step-by-step approach. Each proposal and aspect was separately debated and agreed before the next point was proposed. There were many hiccups during negotiations. Both sides had to make concessions. At the same time the supporters of both sides wanted to end the conflict, just as Britain, the Republic of Ireland and the US administration were keen to bring the Northern Ireland issue to a conclusion. When the PF leaders threatened to withdraw from the talks, the presidents of Mozambique and Zambia sent messengers to London with a clear warning: if they returned to the bush, they could not expect further support. Both countries needed a settlement, as their economies and peoples had already paid too high a price for their neighbour’s problems. The message could not be misinterpreted: the PF had to settle at the best terms on offer. The PF, however, won a major point in the negotiations over a ceasefire: there was to be no disarmament. It was agreed that Rhodesian forces would be confined to barracks during a transitional period and that freedom fighters would assemble at specified camps. The PF had to concede several major points, the most important of which was the land issue. The British wanted a non-executive president and special parliamentary seats for whites, both of which the PF agreed to. The Rhodesian delegation hoped to achieve at least a constitution which could create a ‘moderate’ leader. Both Rhodesian whites and their South African backers wanted elections to be won by a moderate, preferably Bishop Muzorewa. In the event, the Marxist Robert Mugabe,
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
leader of ZANU (PF) won the 1980 elections, beating his rival Joshua Nkomo of ZAPU into second place. The Lancaster House Agreement with its compromises covered a ten-year period. The PF as well as the Muzorewa delegation signed the deal and the temporary governor, Lord Soames, and his team were dispatched instantly, together with a military and police task force to prepare assembly points for guerrillas expected to emerge from the bush. The time of transition was a dicey period and could have gone incredibly wrong. However, despite daily incidents of provocation, dirty Rhodesian tricks and voter intimidation by all parties, the exercise had the required result: independence and majority rule. Lancaster House was an exercise in the art of negotiation and compromise. The Nationalists did not obtain everything they wanted, nor did the whites. The latter conceded that finally their role of political dominance was over. Smith, asked what he had achieved, said he had held the clock back for 17 years. Nonetheless, those whites who remained in Zimbabwe found they had made the right decision: they still wielded considerable economic power, though the troublesome land issue again reared its head from the 1990s onwards, erupting into the crisis of 2000, as explained earlier. Like other African countries, Zimbabwe also had to settle internal differences between the majority Shona-speaking groups and the Ndebele and Karanga of Matabeleland. This was achieved by a unity pact between ZANU (PF) and ZAPU in the late 1987, though the problem over the tough measures adopted in Matabeleland by ZANU government forces at the time of open conflict rumbled on into the 1990s. In many ways Rhodesia was a preparation for the solution of the South African conflict.
Path to Peace
Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defence of peace must be constructed. UNESCO Constitution 16 November 1945
The achievement which finally held out hopes for a peaceful development of South Africa was of course the end of apartheid in 1990. The countdown to talks with anti-apartheid forces was linked with South Africa’s military occupation of Namibia and military engagement in Angola. To Pretoria’s fury, the UN had accepted responsibility for the legitimizing of Namibia’s claims for independence, making this an international issue. The UN set out its position in several documents: Resolution 435 of 1978, Resolution 623 of 1989 and two SecretaryGeneral reports of 1989. UN Resolution 435 provided the basis for Namibian independence under the UN. By the mid-1980s, President Botha’s military system, his undeclared war against his neighbours, troubled the West. South Africa’s ‘total war’ was costly, with the economy beginning to feel the pressure of international sanctions. Botha’s constitutional reforms which introduced a tricamera parliament for whites, Asians and Coloureds, again excluding blacks, fanned black resentment into open defiance. As the townships began once more to revolt in the 1980s, they came under police and army occupation. MK operations also became increasingly successful. Conflict in southern Africa was different to that in Ireland. The freedom fighters of southern Africa were not urban guerrillas who sniped at troops and police patrolling a ghetto street and escaped from that same street by dodging across the roofs to appear inside their own front rooms within minutes. Instead the region’s liberation armies lodged in camps in neighbouring states and other African countries, infiltrating into their countries to fight in rural areas or stage attacks on strategic targets. South African freedom movements thus faced great logistical and military problems. First, they had to cross several borders to reach their own country. Secondly, South Africa was highly militarized and urbanized. MK guerrilla attacks on military targets, installations and personnel were carried out in urban locations, with accompanying high risks. 125
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The life-span of an MK freedom fighter who infiltrated into South Africa during the height of the ANC’s armed struggle in the early 1980s was no more than a few weeks. The ‘kill-ratio’ as South Africans termed it, was high. For that reason, the MK trained cadres inside the townships, but these did not compare in numbers with fighters based in camps outside the borders. The Mass Democratic Movement (MDM), an umbrella group of some 600 diverse organizations ranging from trade unions and churches to political groups such as UDF, now emerged. The townships responded to the call by ANC’s President Oliver Tambo, based in Lusaka, to make South Africa ‘ungovernable’. In addition, ‘civic’ associations of township dwellers were set up, as people organized their own affairs. It was the people who legitimized the banned ANC, whose colours were seen at political funerals, as chanting youths raised and stamped their feet, dancing the defiant toyi-toyi steps. ‘Nkosi Sikele’i Afrika’, the ANC’s hymn, was heard openly: the ANC had unbanned itself The revolt of township youth met with the state’s iron fist. In 1985 Botha declared a state of emergency. Some 20,000 people were detained, the majority youths and children, in efforts to smash the new civic structures. Scenes of rioting, with burly policemen wielding long-handed whips against schoolchildren, appeared on television screens. Whites too scented change. Young whites slipped out of the country to avoid conscription, with the End Conscription Campaign (ECC) gaining momentum. The banning of the ECC in 1985 led to a protest signed by over 100 leading academics, artists, writers and journalists. Apartheid was no longer watertight. Young people travelled to pop stars’ concerts in Zimbabwe to enjoy themselves among mixed-race audiences. Colour was no longer the bar to social intercourse it had once been, thanks to the emergence of a black middle class. International indignation at apartheid became a major issue at international forums, with the work of anti-apartheid groups eventually resulting in sanctions, despite opposition by such personalities as Mrs Thatcher and President Reagan. The Commonwealth heads of state dispatched an Eminent Persons Group (EPG) to South Africa in 1985. The EPG held talks with all protagonists, including the Frontline States and Mandela, then still a prisoner, but their peace-seeking mission was rudely halted by Pretoria’s bombing raids on neighbouring countries, signalling Botha’s defiance to the outside world. By 1985, investors no longer believed that Botha could stabilize his country. Alarmed by the rapid escalation of disinvestment, the fall of the South African currency and the slamming of doors by financial institutions, business leaders acted. US companies withdrew, with the British Barclays Bank among other large organizations disposing of its South African interests. The visit to Lusaka by a delegation of major business-
PATH TO PEACE
men in mid-1985 has already been mentioned. The delegation conferred with the ANC leadership in one of the Zambian President’s lodges. Other South African groups and individuals also visited Lusaka, including a student group from Stellenbosch University, the citadel of Afrikanerdom. Although Botha was then already following his own secret agenda of contact with the ANC, this roused him to fury. In 1987 Botha had already given the nod to a private initiative by the South African lawyer Richard Rosenthal to find out if the ANC would be willing to begin talks.1 This effort was superseded by more official contacts with Botha’s National Intelligence Service (NIS), which complemented the links previously forged with Nelson Mandela in prison. Indeed, before his own departure from the political arena, Botha was to entertain Mandela to tea in the Tuynhuys, the presidential residence, in which only five years later President Mandela was to reside. The meeting on 5 July 1989 followed years of secret contact between Botha’s administration and the Very Important Prisoner. Thus from the mid-1980s, the world beat a path to the shabby ANC headquarters in Lusaka’s Cha Cha Road. The ANC was seen no longer as a terrorist organization but as a government-in-waiting. Apartheid had failed. South African and Namibian whites began to accept that political stability could only be established through political change. An important factor was the changing military situation. In November 1987 the SADF suffered defeat in Angola at a decisive battle at Cuito Cuanavale. Shocked South Africans began to question why their young men should have to die in Angola and Namibia, and why they seemed to be at war with their servants’ children in the townships. In 1988 events began to take a new turn. A Western Contact group, which had attempted unsuccessfully for years to broker a settlement in Namibia, was dissolved. However, the Cold War was drawing to an end and the West received help from a new source. Mikhail Gorbachev assisted in arranging the first tripartite talks between South Africa, Angola and Cuba under US mediation in May 1988. This was followed by the first meeting in half a century between South African and Soviet diplomats on 13 December 1988 in Brazzaville, ending in agreements drawn up in New York on 22 December. A further meeting followed, this time without non-regional participation: South Africans, white and black, were anxious to arrange their own affairs and dispense with outside advisers, peace brokers and mediators. The pace of the settlement of the never-declared war in southern Africa proceeded surprisingly swiftly. South Africa finally agreed to comply with UN Resolution 435 and permit free elections in Namibia. In January 1989, Cuba’s withdrawal from Angola began, with South Africans too phasing the withdrawal of its troops. In Namibia, the ‘internal’ parties 1 Richard Rosenthal, Mission Improbable (Cape Town: David Philip Publishers, 1998).
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
stepped down, with a South African Administrator-General taking control in March 1989. The UN Transitional Assistance Group (UNTAG) moved into Namibia a month later. Although South Africa interfered in the November 1989 election campaign, SWAPO gained its rightful victory and formed the government. On 21 March 1990 the last old-style colony in Africa finally achieved independence. Events moved at a fast pace. Inside South African gaols, the detainees, many of them juveniles, sensed change. In January 1989 almost 1000 detainees embarked on a historic hunger strike to obtain their release. Many said later that they had been sustained during their protracted ordeal by the example of Bobby Sands. The hunger strike, with an increasing number of sick but defiant men in prison hospital wards, embarrassed a government only too aware that this weapon could be used again, with all the attendant and undesirable attention. The ANC was buoyed up by the climate of change. In August 1989, the Harare Declaration was issued by the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and subsequently adopted by the UN. It included the following demands:
— release of political prisoners — lifting of the state of emergency and withdrawal of security forces from townships — scrapping of repressive laws which banned organizations and people, and prohibited free speech
— ending of all apartheid legislation, including the so-called ‘homeland’ policy, and the independence of four of the homeland states — unconditional return of refugees.
By September 1989 the new President, F.W. de Klerk, was in place. Botha had suffered an onslaught on his health through a stroke and on his job by his former colleagues. The ‘great crocodile’ was forced to go. De Klerk lost no time. He dismantled Botha’s complex security structures and took steps to end the undeclared war against South Africa’s neighbours. However, the new President focused mainly on domestic affairs. Pretoria continued the process of contact with the ANC begun by Botha through his secret contacts with Mandela in prison and put out feelers to the ANC in exile. The ANC leadership agonized over the choice between armed struggle and negotiation. In the end it concluded that political rewards would follow dialogue. Joe Slovo, a leading member of the ANC and the SACP, argued that debate and dialogue would divide the ruling class. The process of quiet contact between Pretoria and Mandela and between Pretoria and the exiled leadership intensified. The diplomatic moves began in 1988 and reached a crescendo by early 1989. Meetings
PATH TO PEACE
between South African emissaries and ANC leaders took place at international conferences and privately arranged seminars. The Institute for a Democratic Alternative in South Africa (IDASA) organized many contacts through Zimbabwe’s Cold Comfort Farm Trust, which held seminars and conferences between white South Africans and exiles. Secret meetings also took place in Switzerland and other European venues. It was only a matter of time before official negotiations started. The Thatcher government, also anxious for change, made contact with white liberals, business leaders and Africans, including the ANC. Aware of Thatcher’s aversion to sanctions against Pretoria, the ANC was determined not to allow the initiative to slip from its fingers. In June 1989 a meeting was held in Lusaka between the ANC and its allies, the UDF and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) which had led the struggle inside the country. In a memorandum to the external membership, the ANC stated that it felt manoeuvres were designed to lead to negotiations with the NP government and pointed out that similar efforts had been made in 1987. These had failed, as Pretoria had then demanded that the ANC should give up the armed struggle, which it refused to do.1 The memorandum explained that President Botha, whose departure from the scene was then imminent, had called on the British Prime Minister and told her that the 'reformers’ in the cabinet were in the majority. De Klerk’s base in the hard-line Transvaal had decreased, so that he was more dependent on the reformers and was planning a "representative forum of all racial groups’ – an indaba in South African terminology. The "reformers’ wanted Thatcher to encourage Africans to participate. The ANC thought that Thatcher would unveil de Klerk’s plans to the Commonwealth heads of state meeting due to be held in Malaysia in October and ask for an end to sanctions. The ANC feared that de Klerk would attempt to exclude the movement from his proposed negotiations. Zambia, aware of the moves, declared its willingness to invite South Africa to a Frontline State meeting. According to the memorandum, the Chinese told the ANC leadership that they ‘should be prepared for slow movement and accept modifications of the status quo as a starting point’. The Soviets were more optimistic. The document stated that ‘from the Soviet Union there are signs that they are prepared to work for a peaceful solution for the South African question side-by-side with the western countries. The contact group which was suggested by Mrs Thatcher could include some of our close friends.’ The ANC leadership advised its members that it had to make certain that its own action programme was in place. This was the Harare Decla1 'What is our position on negotiations?’, Internal ANC position paper, June 1989.
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
ration, already mentioned. The programme had long been in place: negotiations with the NP, transitional government and a constitutional conference to lead to democratic elections and majority rule. De Klerk’s revolution
Mandela remained a prisoner until February 1990, but enjoyed extraordinary status. The president-to-be was housed in the home of a former warder complete with swimming pool, fax and telephone, able to receive any visitors he chose, with warders themselves acting as servants rather than gaolers. In November 1989, de Klerk released the remaining Rivonia trial prisoners, except Mandela. Though they enjoyed a tremendous welcome by their supporters, they left for Lusaka within weeks of their release. Mandela’s release and the unbanning of political parties was about to happen. Consultation within the ANC leadership was essential. The former prisoners attended a crucial meeting of the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC) in January 1989 to discuss the vital issues of negotiations and armed struggle. The serious soul-searching undertaken during two days became apparent at a meeting at which Secretary-General Alfred Nzo gave the keynote address. He told the NEC that 'we must admit that we do not have the capacity to intensify the armed struggle in any meaningful way.’ He further said that once unbanned, the ANC had to consider whether it would operate completely legally or continue to maintain some underground units. The movement could not 'tail behind events to confront a new reality’, but had to break new ground, keeping the initiative firmly in its hands. On 2 February 1990 de Klerk made the historic speech in which he announced the unbanning of opposition parties. This was met with a euphoric reaction among the ANC rank and file inside and outside the country but a more cautious response by the leadership. As Pallo Jordan, then responsible for the Information Department and who was in Harare at the time, told me, the leadership had yet to see the small print. A statement on 12 February 1990 insisted that no talks could take place before the release of all political prisoners, the end of the state of emergency and the withdrawal of troops from township streets. This was understandable given that, at this point, the leaders were still wanted men, liable to arrest inside the country. However, the South African President had indeed met most of the demands of the Harare Declaration and the small print in due course was interpreted as satisfactory. After Nelson Mandela took his famous steps to freedom on 10 February 1990, negotiations for amnesties and the return of exiled leaders followed.
PATH TO PEACE
Talks about talks
The first official meeting between the NP government and the ANC took place in May 1990 at Groote Schuur, the President’s Cape Town residence. This resulted in the ‘Groote Schuur Minute’ which outlined several objectives. A working group was set up to make recommendations on the definition of ‘political prisoners’ and advise on the mechanisms for dealing with their release and the question of amnesties. A committee for the return of some 16,000 ANC exiles, including MK cadres, was established. For months exuberant scenes of welcome enlivened the arrival halls of the country’s international airports. Prisoners
The issue of prisoners was not dealt with to everyone’s satisfaction. Though many prisoners and detainees were released after the initial contact, in particular those with a high profile, many remained in prison. Those still incarcerated included individuals who had been charged with involvement in ‘necklacing’ during the 1980s. The ANC was forced to compromise, with the NP insisting that there were no ‘political prisoners’ in gaols, only people convicted of specific crimes. Prisoners still behind bars later applied for amnesty to the TRC. In Northern Ireland, the issue of prisoner releases was crucial. Without prisoner release arrangements there could have been no package agreed on Good Friday in 1998 – a view shared by Sinn Fein and the Loyalist parties. Both groups had consulted their prisoners throughout the peace process. Prisoner releases was one of the issues addressed by Tony Blair during the final agonizing days of the Stormont talks. South Africa’s constitutional talks
In Pretoria, a second meeting took place between the NP government and the ANC on 6 August 1990. The ‘Pretoria Minute’ of that date made a momentous announcement: the ANC had decided to suspend its armed struggle to pave the way for negotiations. As in the case of the IRA ceasefire, pockets of radicals opposed this move. But, again as in Northern Ireland, the view of marginal groups failed to deflect the decisions of the major players. In any event, the ANC’s armed struggle could not be equated with that of the IRA. The ANC’s background was that of non-violent resistance, based on the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, whose politics and philosophy had evolved in South Africa. The very name of the ANC is reminiscent of Gandhi’s 1894 Natal – later South African – Indian Congress.
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
Indeed in the late 1970s, the ANC was still arguing whether it was justifiable to attack 'soft’ (non-military and civilian) targets. From the start of open conflict, only military and economic targets were deemed to be justified. Although the guerrilla war had its spectacular successes, it had a low profile, unlike the conflict in Northern Ireland. By August 1990 the way had been opened for bilateral NP-ANC talks and constitutional negotiations: the NP had accepted apartheid’s failure and the fact that no government can function without the participation of the majority. The ANC had conceded that it lacked the muscle to overthrow the government by military means. Both understood the need for compromise. The process of change had begun. This was the experience which the South African visitors shared with their Irish friends and which could be compared with the Stormont talks leading to the GFA.
The most urgent and important issue ... is to remove the causes of conflict, to overcome the legacy of history and to heal the divisions. Joint Declaration of the British and Irish governments 15 December 1993 Following bilateral contact between the ANC and the NP government, the ANC formed a partnership with the SACP and COSATU. Shortly before Christmas 1991, the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) met at Johannesburg’s World Trade Centre. 228 delegates representing 19 parties issued a declaration of intent to create a new South Africa. This was followed by a whites-only referendum in March 1992 which confirmed de Klerk’s mandate for negotiations. A further meeting named CODESA II took place two months later, but failed to be reconvened. This phase collapsed, because one CODESA working group could not agree on a time-frame for achieving constitutional change or indeed on constitutional principles. It was in this intervening period that the contact of the Ramaphosa/Meyer Channel became vital. Finally, on 26 September 1992 Mandela and de Klerk signed a record of understanding to embark on multi-party negotiations. On occasion these took an intriguing form, that of informal bosraad (bush council) meetings, held in remote areas out of sight of the media. They served to loosen up the atmosphere and forge personal relationships between participants. The Multi-Party Negotiating Process (MPNP) began work in March 1993. A 26 multi-party forum agreed on structures and an agenda for constitutional talks. Unfortunately this work was interrupted by the traumatic event of the murder by right wingers of Chris Hani, the much loved charismatic SACP Secretary-General, which plunged the country into grief and confusion. Rioting followed and the talks were in jeopardy. When meetings resumed on 26 April, the atmosphere was tense. CODESA had produced broad agreement on various tricky issues. In the new phase which lasted several months, the MPNP succeeded in drafting a transitional constitution, creating a Transitional Executive Council
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
before the April 1994 elections and a Government of National Unity (GNU) by May. Five of the 26 parties later abstained from the talks. The MPNP structure included a Plenary, Negotiating Forum (NF), Negotiating Council (NC), sub-committees and an administrative structure. The Plenary was composed of party leaders and nine delegates per party. The NC was the workhorse of the process and considered the most important structure. It dealt with on-going negotiations and met at least three times a week. The NF and NC were each chaired by a panel of six rotating chairpersons. The NC coped with contentious issues. The structure enabled face-to-face talks, with proposals to be made by all parties. It was the job of the NF to confirm submissions to be made to the Plenary. Unlike the MPNP procedures, work at Stormont was largely bilateral, taking place between Northern Ireland officials and ministers and the parties or the Chair and parties. This was due to Unionist reluctance to engage Sinn Fein, even after their admission to the talks. There was also open hostility at the MPNP. The right-wing Afrikaner Conservative Party (CP) called at the outset for a suspension of talks 'until the capacity to terrorize’ had been removed. As the NP had accepted the ANC’s ceasefire, this demand was unlikely to be met. It is reminiscent of Unionist views about the presence of Shinners at Stormont and their doomed attempt to dislodge them after admission. The South Africans naturally met as many stumbling blocks as the parties at Stormont. If consensus could not be reached, the issue was handed back to the chief negotiators, Ramaphosa and Meyer, while the rest considered the next point. In this way the thorny issue of weapons was sidelined, enabling other matters of substance to be dealt with. A Broederbond working paper which had become public in 1989, declared that 'the exclusion of effective black sharing in the political processes at the highest level is a threat to the survival of the white man.’ It further said that 'the majority of the government members will indeed be black, but the system and procedure operated in such a way that all the groups can participate effectively and not be dominated by one group.’1 Naturally this overlooked the fact that 'one group’, the Afrikaners through the NP, had dominated the rest for more than 40 years. However, the future was the issue, not the past. It was impossible for the ANC to consider anything that smacked of representation on a group basis which was apartheid-based. Only oneperson-one-vote was acceptable. The NP was forced to concede the issue of ‘group interests’ and settle for a democratic principle. On its part, the ANC accepted the compromise of power-sharing for five years following the first election.
1 ‘Basic Political Values for the Survival of the Afrikaner’, Afrikaner Broederbond Working Document, published in Die Suid-AJrikaan, 9 June 1989.
Another controversy had raged over regional powers, a debate that continued into the drafting of the final constitution. The initial deadlock was broken by the ANC’s willingness to compromise. Although the NP and all previous governments had been centrally controlled, de Klerk opposed centralization and supported stronger regional powers. This too was the demand of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), led by Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, KwaZulu Prime Minister and an embittered opponent of the ANC. Buthelezi, along with the CP, boycotted the meetings, declaring himself dissatisfied with the terms on offer. The interim constitution of November 1993 provided an extensive list of regional powers for nine new regions which were created in place of the former four provinces. Such powers included the right to draft regional constitutions and to raise local taxes. Buthelezi objected to the right granted to the central government to override regional laws if these clashed with national goals. A final constitution was produced after the election and the formation of the GNU. MPNP constitutional principles were binding on the elected Constituent Assembly. The interim constitution included the following major points: — a National Assembly of 400 members
— a Senate composed of 10 members from each regional legislature — definition of regions and their rights and responsibilities — provision for a commission to deal with regional government to be set up within 30 days of the interim constitution coming into effect — provision for the establishment of the Constituent Assembly — creation of the post of Ombudsman and Human Rights Commission. The Constituent Assembly was composed of the two houses of parliament and sat under the chairmanship of one of the two principal CODESA negotiators, the ANC’s then General Secretary Cyril Ramaphosa. In 1996 the final constitution was passed, with President Mandela signing the document at the site of the 1960 Sharpeville massacre. In May 1996, after completion of the final constitution, de Klerk took the NP out of the cabinet, although the party was theoretically entitled to remain in government until 1999. The decision was probably taken because the new constitution was based on the winner-take-all principle. The NP accepted the constitution, but de Klerk felt it ‘dealt a death blow to multi-party sharing’, which had been included in the interim constitution and which the NP had tried to retain. Buthelezi, who served in the GNU cabinet, was also dissatisfied both with the interim constitution and the final document. This could account for the on-going conflict between the IFP and ANC, which continued to cost lives and instability in KwaZulu-Natal and was not settled until the late 1990s.
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
The embittered conflict between the two parties had broken out soon after Mandela’s release, with confrontation continuing after 1994. It was only in 1996 that the first steps were taken towards peace. In June 1997 details of an ANC-IFP peace deal were leaked, to Buthelezi’s annoyance, but without ending the initiative, which was expected to lead to an ANC-IFP pact. Nonetheless compromise was in the air. Buthelezi also accepted a post in the Mbeki cabinet in 1999, by which time the troubled KwaZuluNatal region had been largely pacified, thanks to protracted peace talks between the parties. The confrontation between the two groups was not an ethnic Xhosa (ANC)–Zulu (IFP) conflict as it was often presented. After all, it took place in a region peopled mainly by Zulus. The causes of conflict were linked to land, poverty and an urban/rural divide. Most of the IFP ‘warlords’ were traditional chiefs who clashed with industrial urban workers. Added to this were the personal ambitions of Buthelezi, who had hoped to become South Africa’s first black president. He had first unleashed the conflict in the 1980s, when he had clamped down on UDF and COSATU members in KwaZulu, affronted by what he perceived as a challenge to his authority. No one disputes, however, that rivalry always existed between Xhosa and Zulu peoples. Mandela is a Xhosa, Buthelezi a Zulu chief. As the Xhosa were the first of the Nguni-speaking peoples to meet whites, they were not only involved with them first in conflict over land and water rights, but were also the first to encounter white missionaries and European-style schooling. It is no coincidence that the first black university and the first publishing house catering for blacks were founded in lands occupied by the Xhosa. Thus a larger number of Xhosa than Zulu were among the ANC’s founding fathers. More Xhosas found their way into white areas as employees, while the majority of Zulu employees were migrant workers. After Mandela’s release from prison, the Zulu leader, anxious to become a national figure, turned his ‘cultural’ Inkatha organization into a political party, the Inkatha Freedom Party. He also joined hands with white right-wing parties and homeland leaders such as Bophuthatswana’s Lucas Mangope in the Concerned South African Group (COSAG), opposed to NP–ANC talks. COSAG was a curious group, linking extremist white racists such as the AWB with black homeland leaders and white right-wing generals. Anti-talks elements in the security forces were encouraged to use the IFP in the same way in which anti-government groups had been used in neighbouring countries during the 1990s to destabilize the country. The IFP exported its impis (armed warriors) to the industrial complex around Johannesburg, where they dug themselves into migrant workers’ bar-
racks. From these bases, attacks on townships followed. Within a short time of Mandela’s release and what was expected to be the start of peace, murder and mayhem ruled, with the police apparently standing helplessly by – and often apparently inciting attacks. Nelson Mandela accused de Klerk of bad faith, dubbed the rightwing security men a 'third force’ and after the massacre at a township named Boipatong, angrily broke off contact with the NP government. More people were killed during the turbulent years of 1990 to 1994 than in the apartheid era. This forced de Klerk to call a peace conference in 1991, attended by political parties as well as army, police and Churches. A national peace pact was signed, which in turn created local peace committees composed of all the important groups in their respective areas. International monitors were allowed into the country to observe the peace process and eventually the 1994 elections. Monitors often acted as instant mediators when clashes occurred, for the ANC also armed its members in the townships, turning young people into Self-Defence Units (SDUs). This too added to the violence and proliferation of weapons. A commission to probe the causes of unrest was established under Judge Richard Goldstone and first proved the existence of the Third force’, later to be further probed by the TRC. The danger from extreme left- and right-wing groups was ever present during South Africa’s peace process, as it is in Northern Ireland.
Holding Back the Clock
They spent their time mostly looking forward to the past. JOHN OSBORNE
Look Back in Anger, 1956
During the South African talks, the right wing played a dubious role, both within the security forces and the political arena. Right-wing extremist groups proliferated, the most prominent of these being the AWB. In 1990 it was estimated that there were some 20 extremist groups, sporting titles such as the White Front or the Order of Death, with over 18,000 members, and an additional 30 fundamentalist organizations.1 In their heyday, links with the military and police establishments had provided Afrikaner paramilitaries with access to weapons. This link ended with the new dispensation and reorganization of police and the SADF. In late 1996 General Constand Viljoen, the former head of the SADF who had now entered politics, revealed that in 1994 a conspiracy had been plotted to disrupt the elections and create an Afrikaner homeland by force. As many as 100,000 men were allegedly involved. It had already been known that differences had arisen within COSAG as to the way forward with regard to constitutional talks – in much the same way as differences existed within the UUP over the Stormont talks. At that time the AWB had run into serious trouble. Civil servants in the then homeland of Bophuthatswana had gone on strike and AWB members, anxious for action, rushed to the aid of the homeland leader Mangope. They were bloodily defeated by Bophuthatswana defence forces and left humiliated and disgraced. The right wing lost morale, and the AWB its credibility, with Constand Viljoen emerging as a moderate right-wing leader. Unlike the CP and other right wingers, Viljoen participated in the May election. His Freedom Front (FF) party subsequently played a positive role in Parliament. FF members sat on the parliamentary defence committee and relations between Viljoen and President Mandela became cordial.
1 J. Van Rooyen, Hard Right (London: IB Tauris, 1994), pp 10, 91-2.
HOLDING BACK THE CLOCK
Viljoen said he had entered politics in order to help in the creation of an Afrikaner state, a boerestaat, in which Afrikaners could pursue their own culture without outside interference. To outsiders this delving into the past, the glorification of heroes of the Great Trek and the creation of a white tribe within a continent peopled mainly by blacks, appears a romantic and impossible dream. To hard-line Afrikaners it remains a political aim. Viljoen said in September 1996 that ‘a volkstaat would be like an engine-room pumping Afrikaner culture right through the country.’ The precise location of this state shifted from one location to another. The Northern Cape was suggested at one time, bits of the Orange Free State and Eastern Transvaal at another. Afrikaners are nowhere in the majority. An enclave would have to be artificially created. Viljoen began to search for other solutions, becoming involved in schemes to settle Afrikaner farmers in other African countries. He argued that Afrikaners would feel part of a boerestaat irrespective of where they lived, in much the same way as Jews regarded Israel as their homeland. Afrikaner protest
It was difficult for many lower-class Afrikaners to accept the end of white dominance. The right wing, organized and vocal, accused de Klerk, the NP and the ANC of betraying them to communism. In much the same way, David Trimble was accused of treachery by uncompromising Unionists in the 1998-99 phase of the Northern Ireland peace process. In South Africa one incident in 1994 highlighted right-wing thinking and AWB-police links, in much the same way as Drumcree Mark I had highlighted Orange Order-RUC links. Over 3000 Afrikaners converged on the World Trade Centre. Khaki-clad men in slouch hats with AWB Swastika-style insignias shouted threats and brandished guns as they marched. Demonstrators overturned cars, shouted abuse and finally crashed into the foyer of the Centre with an armoured vehicle, rampaging through the building, smashing furniture and equipment, as terrified delegates ran for shelter and the police stood idly by. The demonstrators finally left of their own accord. Incongruously, the marchers had been accompanied by women and children carrying picnic baskets, ready to celebrate their men’s finest hour. The reaction or lack of it of the police caused little surprise. This was the police force of apartheid days, whose members were almost totally drawn from lower-class Afrikaner ranks, the same group which formed the backbone of groups such as the AWB. Apartheid had failed to secure the interests of the less privileged working-class and rural Afrikaner. Afrikanerdom had become stratified, with a political, intellectual and business elite and a well-to-do middle class, leaving the lower class most threatened by a black government.
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
Die-hard Afrikaners revere neither the flag of new South Africa, with its mix of ANC and old South African colours, nor the old Union flag, which included the British emblem. They respect only the old Boer Republic vierkleur flag. By 1997 these extremists had become marginalized, especially after the conviction in June of AWB leader Eugene Terre’Blanche for the attempted murder of an African. Institutionalized racism cannot disappear overnight. In April 1998, a white farmer shot and killed an eight-month-old baby and injured the child who had been carrying the baby on its back. The children’s family worked on the farm but the farmer claimed he had thought they were trespassing and had acted in self-defence. Conditions for farm labour had always been appalling, with the word of the baas (master) law. In the late 1990s, several farmers had been murdered, with former labourers suspected of taking their revenge. Old prejudices die hard. In November 1999, South Africa’s national cricket team was hit not so much by the visiting English side, but by rows over racism. The country’s United Cricket Board (UCB) was anything but united and was accused of anti-black bias, with black players not being given equal opportunities. Such events could be foreseen. Racism had been too deeply ingrained to be eradicated instantly. During the 1970s, the monolithic unity of Afrikaners symbolized by the NP, splintered. New political parties to the right of the NP emerged. This process continued during the 1980s, well into the transition and beyond. By 1999, the NP’s power had all but collapsed and the power of paramilitaries had also waned. In Northern Ireland, the IRA and Loyalist paramilitaries were to play a greater role in the peace process than in South Africa.
All Change in Ireland
Change is inevitable in a progressive country. Change is constant. DISRAELI 1867
Events often unfolded in southern Africa and Ireland around the same time. The Liberal government which tried to introduce Home Rule was the same government which drafted the racist Union of South Africa constitution of 1909, setting in train the birth of the ANC and organized opposition to white-only rule. In the late 1960s, both the ANC and the IRA geared up their armies; but by the mid-1980s, the ANC and Republicans were beginning to consider scenarios for talks. However, it took longer in Northern Ireland than in South Africa for the peace process to get under way. Unionists found it more difficult than white South Africans to accept the need for change. They feared that the culture of Unionism and Orangeism was in danger of being destroyed by Republican bigots. Battered by the long IRA campaign, fearful of the Dublin input into Northern Ireland, and anxious about their future, given demographic changes in the province, Unionists were slow to come to terms with power-sharing. It was David Trimble who introduced a new note when he first spoke of a ‘partnership with Nationalists’ in June 1998 and consulted not only Unionists but also the Dublin government in the course of the peace process. He defended the GFA after it was agreed, declaring that it ‘reinforced the Union’ and told his critics belligerently that the Agreement was a good deal, ‘as good as it gets’. Dr Norman Porter has defined three types of Unionism: cultural Unionism based on a ‘Protestant-British’ way of life in which concepts of liberty and loyalty play a cardinal role; ‘liberal Unionism’ which strips it of its cultural Protestant connotations, aspires to a political way of life shared in common with the rest of the United Kingdom; and ‘civic Unionism’ which accepts both Britishness and Irishness in Northern Ireland and established ‘structures of democracy and justice’.1
1 Norman Porter, Rethinking Unionism (Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 1996), p xi.
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
The definition of civic Unionism matched Trimble’s new vision. He did not find it easy to convince all Unionists, just as de Klerk had not found it easy to win over every Afrikaner. The debate unleashed by the GFA and its rejection by the Orange Order tore Unionism apart, just as Afrikanerdom had been torn apart after the principle of majority rule had become inevitable. By the 1990s, Unionists felt themselves besieged. Britain had already stated that it no longer had any strategic and economic interest in Northern Ireland, which had rung alarm bells throughout Unionism. Those Unionists who identified themselves through a perceived Britishness failed to understand that Nationalists were offended that the symbols of state were identical with Unionist emblems such as the Union Jack, the Crown and use of the word ‘Royal’. Policing
This was clearly demonstrated when a commission headed by European Commissioner Chris Patten reported on the RUC in September 1999. The report met with Unionist fury and was heavily criticized by David Trimble. The most vehement criticism was instantly directed at the proposed changes in emblems: the title of ‘Royal’ was to go, along with the emblem, the Queen’s portrait and the flag at police stations, while the cut of the uniform was also to be changed. These symbolic changes roused Dr Paisley to the intemperate comment that the RUC was being ‘offered as a final sacrificial lamb to appease Roman Catholic murderers and their Nationalist fellow travellers’. While this was expected Paisley-speak, there was no doubt that the removal of the symbols deeply perturbed many Unionists. Yet other changes should have been seen as more significant, such as the scaling down of the numbers (8500 regular officers, 4300 reservists, 2700 civilian staff), demilitarization of the force, and other proposals which would help turn it into a neutral, community-oriented ‘ordinary’ police service. Apart from anything else, this would remove the need for local vigilante groups organized by paramilitaries. Paisley, as well as Trimble, embarked on a campaign to ensure the scaling down of the Patten recommendations. These campaigns came in the midst of yet another symbolic act. On 13 November 1999, ahead of Trimble’s all-important 850-strong member Ulster Unionist Council (UUC) meeting on the GFA, it was announced that the RUC had been awarded the George Cross.1 This was only the second time the medal had been awarded for collective valour, the first being to Malta during the Second World War. It strengthened the drooping morale of the RUC, which had suffered severe losses during ‘the Troubles’, with some 300 1 The medal was later presented to the RUC by the Queen in person.
ALL CHANGE IN IRELAND
officers killed and 8000 injured. The RUC was aware of coming change and no doubt many understood the need for it. Sinn Fein instantly denounced the award as ‘grossly offensive’, which showed that Republicans still had some way to move towards full reconciliation with the past. Republicans perceive the RUC as a political police. They demanded that it should be disbanded, a demand that was never likely to be met. The Patten recommendations went a long way to forge a compromise to turn Northern Ireland’s contentious police into an acceptable force. An overhaul was inevitable in a society where one section – Catholic Nationalists and Republicans – viewed policemen as the armed protectors of the other community. The perception was due partly to the history of the RUC, which was founded in the unhappy year of 1922, when it arose out of the ashes of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) which had fought alongside the army in Ireland’s war of independence and its civil war. The RUC’s composition of mainly Protestant members, its close links with Orangeism and the actions of the hated B-Specials until these were disbanded in 1970, reinforced anti-police perception. The small number of Catholics in the RUC at its inception were mainly former RIC men, and later Catholic RUC members were often offspring of such families. The Catholic component was always low, at around eight per cent, partly because the RUC was perceived as a Protestant force and also because of justified fears that a Catholic RUC man would be an obvious IRA target.1 The police under apartheid also lacked credibility with non-whites. Tremendous efforts were made after 1994 to change the focus of the force by more than just new paint on police stations (which was done). A businessman was given the job of improving management structures, human rights seminars were held and many older officers took early retirement. By 2000 the police was not yet fully reformed or fully effective. High rates of crime resulted in the proliferation of private security firms, many staffed by former government security personnel. Demography
In South Africa the inexorable laws of demographic change contributed to the move towards democracy. In a country inhabited by some 40 million people of whom 35 million are non-white, it is impossible for whites to remain dominant. In Northern Ireland demography also plays a part. The Protestant majority was gradually being eroded, partly by emigration, partly by Catholic birth rates. In turn, this increased the electoral strength of Nationalists and Republicans while reinforcing Unionist fears. 1 Brian Griffin, ‘A Force Divided. Policing Ireland 1900-60’, History Today, October 1999, pp 25-31.
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
The 1997 General Election gave the SDLP and Sinn Fein a combined 40 per cent share of the vote. Worse was to come. The 1998 Assembly election resulted in the largest number of votes going to the SDLP, even if the proportional representation system gave Trimble’s UUP the largest number of seats. In time, the fear is that this situation could be reversed, with Protestants losing their majority status. Republicans who opposed the peace process of the 1990s pointed to the failures of the 1970s, claiming that only another 25 years of strife and demographic change would effect change. Ballot not bullet
Yet the Republicans did not rely on demography. They had come to see that the ballot, not the bullet, offered the best solution. They did not reach the Stormont talks and the GFA easily. It was a learning process along a long route. The new generation of Republican leaders which had emerged in the 1980s were mostly men from the north. They began to expound the view that a political solution had to be pursued. Force had begun to be counterproductive, as the emotions during the 1980-81 hunger strikes subsided. A major decision was the change in the policy of abstentionism, which had been set off by the election to Westminster of the dying hunger striker Bobby Sands. Within a short time this crystallized around several personalities, the foremost of whom was Gerry Adams. Adams, born in 1948 in West Belfast into a Republican family, had long been considered by his community as a man to be reckoned with. Government security personnel believe he was in charge of an IRA Belfast battalion in the 1970s. Adams was one of the men who took part in the 1972 meeting with William Whitelaw and also played a pivotal role in the 1981 hunger strike. As early as 1979 Adams told a Wolfe Tone rally that Republicans could not achieve their aims by the use of arms only and advocated working on a political strategy. In 1980 he told Sinn Fein’s Ard Fheis that Republicans had to accept that there would be no military victory. This view caused a clash between Adams and his followers and the established Sinn Fein leadership. The younger man emerged the victor. He was elected as Sinn Fein president in 1983, having won the West Belfast parliamentary election in July that year. A year later Loyalists shot and injured him when he was being driven through Belfast. Three years on, Adams nudged his party further down the electoral road. In 1986 Sinn Fein dropped their abstentionism towards the Dáil, a radical step which divided the movement but strengthened Adams, who retained his position. Sinn Fein gained in importance and emerged as a political Republican sister party to the IRA in its own right. Commenta-
ALL CHANGE IN IRELAND
tors such as Tim Pat Coogan who knew the Republican scene well, spoke highly of Adams as a man of integrity and valued his ability to involve his party in lengthy and meaningful debate, teasing out and considering different issues. The resulting debate moved away from the simplistic demand of 'Brits Out’ into the more complex areas of accommodating the aspirations and needs of both communities. Catholic Church leaders were as anxious as their parishioners to find a solution and entered into a dialogue with the vigorous Sinn Fein leader. Naturally they favoured a non-violent approach. Republicans also enjoyed the backing and financial support of Irish-Americans but like the war itself, it was not enough to achieve the goal of peace. What was needed was a new political solution. Coogan described the efforts of the Catholic clergy, as the Republican movement under Adams’s leadership began to search for ways towards peaceful co-existence:
The way forward was seen as based on a shared approach by nationalist parties, north and south. While republicans continued to opt for a united Ireland, this did not need to be the shape of the new Ireland which might emerge from negotiations between nationalists and unionists concerning new institutions for ‘a form of genuine self-determination’. Such talks were to be ‘worked out free of British dictation’ and could then be accepted by Sinn Fein.1 It was a reversal of the old-style Republican position, and was as revolutionary as the Broederbond’s decision to accept majority rule in South Africa. Republicans realized that they had assured the increasingly nervous Unionist community that they had everything to gain and nothing to lose under a new dispensation. Mitchel McLaughlin saw it this way: Every liberation struggle has always acknowledged the primacy of politics, otherwise you are talking about annihilation and genocide. ... We always acknowledged that we envisaged circumstances where selfdetermination will be exercised and equality of people and equality of esteem will be the corner stones of a new democracy and a new way of life. So it becomes a matter of judgement when you move from armed conflict to engagement with your former enemies and create the space for democratic political development. It is a matter of careful consideration and judgement and one can be wrong. The judgement was made in South Africa and one had the glorious example of calling it correctly.2 Adams’s judgement was backed up by another important Sinn Fein leader, Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein’s Vice-President. He too had been among the top-level Republicans who had met William Whitelaw. 1 Tim Pat Coogan, The Troubles, pp 390-1. 2 Interview, June 1998.
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
McGuinness, a Derry man, added great weight to Adams’s argument for a political solution. Talk of peace
John Hume was the man to bring Sinn Fein out of the political cold. Born in 1937 in Derry, he had emerged as a political leader through the turbulence of the 1960s. A one-time teacher and civil rights campaigner, he was a founder member of the SDLP and its leader since 1979. Unlike Adams, Hume had chosen the route of non-violence but was also fervently devoted to the Nationalist cause. By the early 1980s, Hume, like others, realized that the British were not being bombed out of Ireland, yet the IRA would not stop bombing unless something was done. Hume made contact with the Republicans. Though in 1985 he walked out of a meeting with the IRA, he persevered in his attempt to engage Republicans in dialogue and finally succeeded. In January 1988 he again met Gerry Adams. The meeting, despite adverse publicity, marked a turning point in the Irish debate. Both politicians brushed aside the criticism to which Hume in particular was subjected. After initial setbacks, he enlisted the support of the Irish Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, leader of Fianna Fail, who was anxious to find a formula for a constitutional solution. Hume became an important conduit through which Sinn Fein made its views known to Dublin. Adams’s own ‘alternative strategy’ had met with hostility in London and suspicion in Dublin. Therefore it was not surprising that the first overtures to Dublin were rebuffed. In South Africa, indeed in the whole of southern Africa, African Nationalists and opponents of apartheid had been demonized to the extent that their emergence as political players was regarded with public disbelief. Adams initially met with a similar reaction. The negative perception of the ANC and IRA had been fostered by media coverage. In the case of the IRA this was reinforced by banning utterances on radio and television by leaders such as Adams. That too had been a South African problem. When the first interview with Oliver Tambo appeared in the late 1980s in the pro-government Afrikaanslanguage paper, Vaderland, the interviewer, the paper’s editor Harald Pakendorf, had been dismissed. Yet politics being what they are, Pakendorf was subsequently respected, not merely for his bold stance but for his perceptive political analysis. Hume-Adams talks
Adams and Hume represented two different points of view. Hume argued that Britain was not the enemy but a neutral referee. The British government was a player but only in the sense that it felt it was its duty
ALL CHANGE IN IRELAND
to uphold law and order. It had no interest in Ireland, as the Anglo-Irish Agreement had shown. Adams did not accept the neutrality of Britain and insisted that the Brits had to go. Coogan wrote that Hume pointed out that instant withdrawal by Britain would create a political vacuum, which would be explosive, given the presence of an armed RUC and Loyalist paramilitaries. The result could be bloodshed on a scale which would plunge the country into permanent war. The only solution was to ensure the agreement of all those involved. That meant multi-party talks. The contact between Hume and Adams continued for some six months and generated internal debate within Republican circles. As Coogan described it, this established Sinn Fein’s bottom line, which was contained in the communiqué issued at the end of the talks. This stated that: our discussions with the SDLP elicited the shared political view that the Irish people as a whole have the right to national self-determination and that the Irish people should be defined as those people domiciled on the island of Ireland. In that context it is accepted that an internal settlement is no solution.1 The Hume-Adams talks paid off. Lines of communication were opened between Dublin and Republicans. What was still needed was British involvement. The Hume–Adams talks provided the best chance for peace yet.
1 Tim Pat Coogan, The Troubles, p 369.
Sparing No Efforts
If at first you don’t succeed, try and try and try again. From 1979 onwards, US pressure to end the Northern Ireland conflict was increasingly felt in Westminster. Humphrey Atkins, the Secretary of State, issued a White Paper, 'Proposals for Further Discussion’, which called for a constitutional conference, but the idea was killed by the hunger strike. However, a new route was opened in 1980, when British ministers met the Irish government in Dublin in an attempt to improve frosty Anglo-Irish relations. For a long time, to the disappointment of Republicans, the Irish Free State, a republic from 1949, had kept its head down where the affairs of its smaller neighbour were concerned. After 1922, Sinn Fein was replaced in the Free State by two major parties, Fine Gael, which came from the pro-Treaty wing and formed the first IFS government, and Fianna Fail from the anti-Treaty wing, which came to power in 1932 under Eamon de Valera and which declared the IRA illegal. 'The south didn’t exactly say, we’re all right, but it is a situation comparable with Germany after the Second World War’, a senior academic explained to me. "Adenauer got on with putting West Germany on its feet without constantly looking at partition from East Germany. There was nothing he could do about it at the time. West Germany made provision in its constitution for the restoration of the eastern Laender. The Irish Free State passed a new constitution in 1937 which claimed sovereignty of the whole of Ireland.’ This claim still alarmed Unionists in the 1990s, despite specific British guarantees regarding the Union. Unionists opposed any constitutional initiatives which included Dublin. Nonetheless such a link was as inevitable as it was logical and had to be accepted in the end. It was one of the major concessions in the GFA that the Irish Republic changed its constitution and dropped the controversial claim over the six Ulster counties. The AIA of 1985 eventually moved some of the pieces of the peace mosaic into place. It proposed a joint British and Irish ministerial conference, which met for the first time in December 1985, as well as a permanent secretariat based close to Stormont. Its job was to monitor 148
SPARING NO EFFORTS
issues of concern to the Nationalist minority. Ireland’s role in any constitutional settlement on Northern Ireland was thus positioned. The three-strand strategy, already described, was devised and later built into the Stormont talks of 1996-98. Unionists who felt themselves threatened, rejected the AIA. Indeed, some began to favour integration with Britain instead of devolution, a policy which was unacceptable to Nationalists and abhorrent to Republicans. The next milestone was reached in 1991 when Peter Brooke stated that Britain had no strategic or economic interests in Ireland. In terms of the 1973 guarantees, Northern Ireland would remain part of the United Kingdom until the majority of its people decided otherwise. Brooke acknowledged the aspirations of the Nationalists for a 32-county state. He also said that both points of view could be upheld, but neither could be promoted by violence. These views were later to be expressed in UUP and Sinn Fein statements on the GFA in November 1999. While the IRA continued its actions, Gerry Adams pursued his own initiative. He knew that he needed allies, and in Towards A Lasting Peace he outlined Dublin’s role in any settlement talks. An interim period for dialogue was also proposed, edging Republicans to a closer working relationship with Nationalists. At its 1992 annual conference, Sinn Fein passed a resolution, accepting a 'broad front’ as the main vehicle to achieve national liberation. This was interpreted as accepting cooperation with the SDLP. Contact between Sinn Fein and the SDLP thus continued. At the same time, the Brooke-Mayhew talks were under way without Republican participation, strengthening Sinn Fein’s resolve not to be excluded from constitutional negotiations. The Hume-Adams talks resulted in a mutual agreement which was expressed in a document handed to the British government in mid-1993. The paper dealt with the principles on which a settlement should be based. Details of the paper were not published. The complexity of negotiations explained the delicacy with which this was handled and the slow pace of progress. Republicans could not risk a sell-out, while the two governments had to consider their own constituencies. The Irish government had to achieve an IRA ceasefire, while the British government had to deliver Unionist approval to negotiations by assuring them that the Union was secure. The involvement of Washington and President Clinton was of major importance. The President was anxious that the two European governments should arrive at a joint agreement which would allow a peace process to begin in earnest. This began after the meeting between John Major and Albert Reynolds and the publication of the Downing Street Declaration, which again outlined the three-strand approach. A new Northern Ireland Assembly was to be set up; direct talks between the northern Irish parties to develop new internal structures were
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
to be held; a north-south body of elected representatives from and accountable to the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Irish Dáil was to be established. For the British, the key clause was the Irish government’s recognition that ‘the democratic right of self-determination by the people of Ireland as a whole must be achieved and exercised with and subject to the agreement and consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland.’ The Downing Street Declaration led to the IRA’s ceasefire on 31 August 1994. The response in Northern Ireland was nothing short of euphoric: peace seemed within grasp for the first time within a generation. Not everyone in the Republican camp was happy, either with the Hume-Adams talks or the ceasefire. Republican critics thought it was a return to everything which had been on the table in 1974, namely mere power-sharing. Bernadette McAliskey wrote in 1996 that: Albert Reynolds spelt all this out very clearly at the beginning, when he publicly stated that the issue of partition won’t come up for 25 years at least. This is the interim solution, the idea that 25 years of power-sharing will get us used to each other, so we can have a normal discussion on partition. You couldn’t have a normal discussion on partition in this country in 135 years!
She felt that the war was over and the good guys had lost. Such pessimism did not permeate the entire movement. The IRA had lost little and had gained the promise of a peace debate. In September 1994 that seemed enough. The movement did not split over the decision but remained united. Hopes for a settlement were high. The relief which followed the cessation of hostilities was great. The man chosen by Loyalists to announce their October 1994 ceasefire was ‘Gusty’ Spence, a well-known UVF man who had been sentenced to 20 years for shooting a Catholic barman in 1965 and been released in 1983. Spence, a popular figure, had long advocated peace and was clearly delighted with the ceasefire. Delight was shared by both communities. The period after the IRA and Loyalist ceasefires, though eventful, was relatively peaceful. The parade of funerals, inevitably charged with the same emotional and political intensity as they had been in South Africa, ceased. The atmosphere palpably relaxed, with police no longer following the daily ritual of searching for bombs under their cars. Soldiers opened their flak jackets or even discarded them in the heat of the 1995 summer. David McKittrick put it this way, ‘Tourists have replaced troops, ... there are backpackers a plenty, lots of foreign student types and older couples’, adding that the main change was seen in the ghettos, where
SPARING NO EFFORTS
‘there is no longer heavy military patrolling’.1 Catholics saw this with more jaundiced eyes: the soldiers were still there, the patrols were in the street and helicopters whirled overhead. John Hume expressed it differently: a year after the IRA ceasefire declaration, a hundred people were alive who without the peace process might otherwise have been dead. The RUC Chief Constable, Sir Hugh Annesley cautiously forecast in December 1994 that peace might last until Easter. It lasted almost a year beyond that. But too little happened too slowly for the IRA in between, and 18 months after the declaration of the ceasefire the IRA exploded its deadly Docklands bomb on 9 February 1996.
1 David McKittrick, The Nervous Peace (Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 1996), p 58.
Fumbling at the Crossroad
In a land so steeped in conflict and paramilitarism no one can say with complete assurance that the violence will not break out again. ... But it was an historic time for Ireland when the guns fell silent. DAVID MCKITTRICK1
Inevitably, analysis and heart-searching began. What had gone wrong in the Irish peace process? In South Africa, the period of transition between 1990 and 1994 had been punctuated by violence, but a constitutional solution of a constitutional issue had been found. In Northern Ireland too the problem was a constitutional issue – that of devolution of power from direct rule, with framework documents ready to be deliberated yet months of peace in Ireland had failed to push the process along. The difference was obvious. Once the majority of whites had accepted the NP’s new policy and thereby the end of white domination, they were prepared to get around a table with the former enemy, with the exception of those hard-liners who boycotted the talks. In 1994, the majority of Unionists were still reluctant to accept change. Unionist MPs exerted pressure on a weak Major government, causing a sluggish British response to the IRA ceasefire. Though Ulster MPs’ power waned under a Labour government, six out of ten UUP Westminster men still opposed the GFA under a Blair government in 1999. In contrast, Dublin moved swiftly. Taoiseach Albert Reynolds publicly shook Gerry Adams’s hand in Dublin only five days after the ceasefire had come into operation, before they both clasped the hand of John Hume, the man who had brought them together. It was the first time that such a meeting had taken place since the end of the civil war of the 1920s. The joint statement by the three politicians was upbeat, proclaiming 'the beginning of a new era in which we are all totally and absolutely committed to democratic and peaceful methods of resolving our political problems’. Dublin followed this first symbolic meeting by releasing Republican prisoners, a third of whom were out by April 1995. Even a change of 1 David McKittrick, The Nervous Peace, pp 16-17. 152
FUMBLING AT THE CROSSROADS
government in Dublin in December 1994, following the fall of Reynolds over an internal political issue, had not changed Dublin’s approach to the peace process, though the new Taoiseach, Fine Gael leader John Bruton, was not known for fervent Republicanism. Britain echoed South Africa’s NP sentiments on political prisoners. In April 1995 Sir Patrick Mayhew told Parliament that there was no such thing as an Irish political prisoner. Prime Minister Major adopted a waitand-see attitude. He insisted that he had to be certain that the IRA ceasefire was permanent before making overtures to Sinn Fein. Dublin, anxious to move on, established the Forum of Peace and Reconciliation, which was formally opened on 28 October 1994. Sinn Fein was represented, the British government was not. Unionists bluntly refused to join the Forum, which knocked the idea of an early all-party get-together on the head. Nonetheless Dublin had placed yet another mosaic piece in place. During its existence, the Forum served not merely as a stepping stone for the Republican movement into the political arena, but also allowed different viewpoints to go on record. The quiet diplomacy which had preceded the IRA’s decision had led Republicans to believe that there would be swift contact with British officials, followed by all-party talks. This did not happen, infuriating militant Republicans at what they saw as a go-slow by Westminster. Talks had been seen by Republicans as the key to finding a solution. As the ceasefire declaration said, the IRA believed that ‘an opportunity to secure a just and lasting settlement had been created’, adding that the Downing Street Declaration was not a solution nor presented as such but that ‘a solution will only be found as a result of inclusive negotiations.’ Such negotiations still appeared to be elusive. Washington reacted swiftly to the ceasefire it had helped to initiate. The White House had become involved in the Irish issue in January 1994 when President Clinton had given the green light for granting a visa to Gerry Adams, despite British protests. After the ceasefire, Adams was granted a second visa and invited to Washington to meet officials in early October 1995. On 21 October, Major finally made the ‘working assumption’ that the ceasefire was permanent and in December it looked as if the peace wagon was rolling. On 9 December, a Sinn Fein delegation met British officials. Within days the same courtesy was extended to the Loyalist parties. Men such as David Ervine and Billy Hutchinson, both one-time paramilitaries, were among those exchanging guns for words and soon proved their worth. New framework for peace
However, in 1995 the focus was still firmly on better-known politicians, two of whom met in February 1995. John Major and the new Taoiseach
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
John Bruton launched a document at Balmoral in south Belfast entitled ‘Framework for the Future’ which was heralded as a new milestone along the road to peace. McKittrick pointed out that while the document went over a good deal of ground previously covered, in particular the ill-fated 1972 Sunningdale Agreement, it was the first British initiative launched against the background of peace. Republicans and Loyalists ‘were still out there but their guns are silent’. A month later Loyalist politicians met the British government, though at this stage no contact had yet been made at that level with Sinn Fein. The following month the peace process was dealt a severe body blow and one from which it was hard to recover. The British government announced that bilateral talks would shortly begin with Northern Irish parties, with exploratory talks to take place with Sinn Fein on decommissioning. Republicans were rocked back on their heels. They claimed that this had not been set as a pre-condition during the run-up to the ceasefire. This view was backed by Albert Reynolds, who said in August 1995 that he would not have signed the Downing Street Declaration if decommissioning had been made a pre-condition for talks. A good deal of ill will was generated. A meeting at ministerial level finally took place in May 1995, when Martin McGuinness led a delegation to meet a member of the British government, Michael Ancram, at Stormont. It was truly a meeting of former enemies. Ancram had been in the Brighton Grand Hotel when the IRA bombed it during the Conservative Party Conference in 1984, while McGuinness had been hunted and ‘shot at’ by British security forces, as he put it. Later that month Sir Patrick Mayhew met Gerry Adams in a Washington hotel. Though nothing of substance emerged, the meeting itself was held to be significant. The marching season followed and as always did little to spread sweetness and light, with high-profile incidents of confrontation taking place at two flash-points, Belfast’s Lower Ormeau Road and Drumcree. But it was the decommissioning issue which bedevilled the latter part of 1995. Despite the people’s enjoyment of a summer of peace, the political mood was one of caution. Sinn Fein’s stock had risen as the Irish issue had become internationalized. The secret diplomacy involving the White House became public knowledge and was acclaimed in Nationalist and Republican circles. Unionists remained sceptical, the British aloof, and Dublin annoyed at London’s insistence on decommissioning. A stalemate ensued between London and Dublin. An Anglo-Irish summit planned for September was postponed. The two prime ministers finally met in November and agreed the aim of holding multi-party talks by late February.
FUMBLING AT THE CROSSROADS
The arms issue was temporarily resolved in November 1995 by the old solution of setting up an International Commission under the chairmanship of the former Democratic Senator George Mitchell to inquire into illegal arms. The Commission immediately got down to work, calling for submissions from the two governments, British and Northern Ireland parties and the RUC. On 18 December 1995, Adams made his presentation. He made the point which Republicans had always made, namely that the IRA was not the only group to carry arms, but that the weapons of Loyalist militaries and government forces were also in the field and these too had to be removed. The gap between the Dublin and London positions emerged. Dublin thought that decommissioning should be part of the talks process, while the British insisted on decommissioning of ‘some arms’ prior to talks. The peace process received a much-needed shot in the arm when President Clinton descended on Ireland in early December and received the kind of rapturous welcome that no doubt he would have been only too delighted to have received in his own country. Clinton seemed to believe, as did others, that the Irish conflict was a thing of the past. In a well-orchestrated scene, the American President and the President of Sinn Fein met to shake hands on the Falls Road. The Clinton administration and its high-profile Ambassador to Ireland, Jean Kennedy Smith, were major actors on the Irish stage. Washington relied on Dublin to deliver the Republicans, while leaning on Westminster to deliver the Unionists. In turn, Dublin looked to Adams to deliver the IRA. On its part, the IRA had to overcome its mistrust of Britain and rely on London to gather the parties around a conference table. It was a diplomatic game filled with hazards. Senator Mitchell presented his report on 24 January 1996, which recommended that all parties should sign up to six principles of democracy and non-violence. These ‘Mitchell Principles’ included a commitment to the disarmament of paramilitary bodies, an end to punishment beatings and other killings and suggested modalities of decommissioning and confidence building measures. As a compromise on decommissioning, the report proposed that this process should run parallel with all-party talks. The Mitchell Principles offered a way out of the impasse. The question of arms would have been sidelined, while Sinn Fein’s signing up to the principles would have ensured that it persuaded the IRA to stop its use of force. It seemed an excellent solution, though not for a British prime minister in a weak position. In 1995 Major needed all the support he could get against his party’s ‘Eurosceptics’. The Prime Minister seized on a proposal in the Mitchell Report which suggested an elective process. On 14 January 1996, without prior consultation with Dublin, the British
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government announced that elections were to be held in April or May, in order to decide which Northern Ireland parties would participate in constitutional talks. The British Prime Minister was obviously trying to bypass Unionist demands for pre-conditions to parties entering the talks. Dublin fumed. Republicans despaired at what they perceived as a devious move by Perfidious Albion. Moreover the target talks deadline of February as agreed between the two government had been knocked awry by the proposal of elections in April or May. They were also suspicious that elections were to be used as ‘a means to index the strength of the parties’ delegations’. This made it clear that negotiations would not be between two sides whose views would be given equal consideration, but between delegations of varying strengths. Given the Unionist majority, Republicans feared that decisions would be weighted in Unionists’ favour. In South Africa, 26 parties had participated in the multi-party talks to agree on a new political dispensation which was to include Africans hitherto excluded from the political arena. However, the substantive negotiations were those between the NP and the ANC, with the NP representing white interests and the ANC the non-white majority. The input of all those around the table was considered. But the real matter of give-and-take was between the NP and the ANC. In the same way, it had been expected that any constitutional talks about Northern Ireland would be a matter of settling the differences between the dominant Protestant group and the Catholic minority which had been excluded de facto if not dejure from the seats of power. Republicans distrusted the proposal that parties allowed to attend the talks would do so on the basis of electoral results. If several small parties stood, as in the end they did, this might further dilute Republican strength. As they saw it, the exercise was designed to undermine the Republican position. Republicans feared that Unionists would be given the right of veto, with themselves shunted into a corner. Once more it looked as if the British were placing their full weight behind Unionism. At the same time, Unionists viewed with scepticism the Republican reluctance to participate in a democratic process, which they rightly felt was what constitutions and government were all about. The debate within the IRA centred once more on 'bullet versus ballot’. Hard-line militarists believed that the only argument Britain understood was force. Force had brought the British government to concede improved housing and decriminalization of prisoners. More of the same would go a long way towards achieving the ultimate goal. As weeks had lengthened into months, without more tangible results than handshakes and a visa or two, militarists became edgy. Dr Mansergh attributed the reasons for the breakdown of the ceasefire to:
FUMBLING AT THE CROSSROADS
— the British trying to put on the brakes from the start — the Newry Post Office murder by the IRA in November 1994, providing the Northern Ireland Secretary of State with an excuse to demand decommissioning — the fall of the Reynolds government — Unionist rejection in February 1995 of the Framework Document, although it was an extension of the Joint Declaration to which the UUP had agreed
— the imposition of the Washington three pre-conditions in March 1995, requiring the surrender of some arms before allowing Sinn Fein to come to the table — unsuccessful intergovernmental diplomacy in the autumn of 1995
— Taoiseach Bruton’s refusal to meet Hume and Adams together, thus shaking Nationalist confidence — British tiptoeing around the Mitchell Report and choosing Assembly elections, as requested by Unionists.1 Peace process continued
Although Republican militarists had won out, the peace quest continued. Violence at the level prior to the 1994 ceasefire did not recur after its cessation. Nonetheless IRA violence was ever present. Docklands was followed by another devastating bomb in Manchester. By the time the first attack inside Ireland happened, the euphoria of 1994 had long evaporated. Subsequent IRA actions were less successful. One ‘own goal’ killed a volunteer, while police on both sides of the border and in Britain foiled several operations and few took place inside Northern Ireland itself. It seemed that Republicans had taken on board the Catholic community’s desire for peace and its hope that this could still be achieved, even if John Major had stumbled over the best chance for a settlement that had existed since 1920.
1 Martin Mansergh, Address to the Political Discussion Society, University College, Galway, 25 November 1996.
Never Say Never Again
It will be a society in which peace is not a mere interlude between wars, but an incentive to the creative and collective energies of all people who live on this island. GERRY ADAMS
The end of the IRA ceasefire was clearly more serious than the hiccups during South Africa’s CODESA talks. It was to take more than a few months for Republicans to regain the position prior to 9 February 1996. The Docklands bomb shattered the contact between the Major government and Sinn Fein. The British Prime Minister insisted that he would only talk to Sinn Fein if the ceasefire was restored. Moreover Gerry Adams’s admission to the White House, the Clinton-Adams handshake and the triumph over Britain’s unsuccessful efforts to block a US visa for Adams had become past history, as had invitations to Washington’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations. Still, the peace process was not abandoned, only delayed, as it had been in South Africa. Major’s reaction to the Docklands bomb was cautious. He merely spoke of the ‘evil act in London’, insisting that the electoral process was the way forward. There was no alternative but to forge ahead with elections. Nor was there any alternative for Gerry Adams, who seemingly had not been advised of the IRA’s intention to breach the ceasefire. It may well have been a deliberate move, to leave Adams with clean hands and allow him to pursue the political route. Adams had proved himself to be a skilful player and was becoming acknowledged internationally. It would have been foolish to undermine him. Little to talk about
In March John Major announced that elections would be held in May. A complex formula of proportional representation for 18 constituencies was to be used. Jim Gibney, in charge of Sinn Fein’s press office, expressed his disappointment. The previous year everyone had felt a great sense of expectation, of optimism, of movement. ‘I thought we had 158
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crossed the Rubicon of armed conflict. It seemed to me that at last dialogue was the instrument of political change and was anchored centrestage.’ A slender man, bouncing with energy and enthusiasm, Gibney had long been a key member of Sinn Fein’s Executive. He was himself a prison graduate and had been close to Bobby Sands. His views reflected the sombre mood of the party. Faced with the prospect of a further 25 years of struggle, Sinn Fein decided to take part in the May elections. The outcome was its best-ever result with 15.5 per cent, only six points behind the moderate SDLP. Yet when talks opened on 10 June 1996 under Senator Mitchell’s chairmanship, the doors of Stormont were closed to Sinn Fein’s delegation, as the IRA had not resumed its ceasefire. Nine parties attended, including the Alliance Party, the Loyalist parties, PUP and UDP, the small Labour Party and the Women’s Coalition group. Nationalism was represented by the SDLP, Unionism by three parties, the mainstream UUP, Paisley’s DUP and Robert McCartney’s fringe UK Unionist Party. The Loyalist ceasefire remained theoretically in place, permitting them to remain at the talks, but in fact it was repeatedly broken. Loyalists simply did not claim responsibility for any operation, which allowed them to sit at the table until the dark days which followed Billy Wright’s murder in December 1997. Wright’s break-away LVF was not part of the Loyalist military grouping and continued to carry out acts of violence, as did splinter Republican groups. No substantive debate ensued, as parties began wrangling over technicalities. Meetings were punctuated by confrontations during the 1996 parades. Talks were adjourned later that year, but little more was achieved when meetings resumed in 1997. As the new year began, it was only a matter of time before the lame Major government announced the May general election, which unseated the Tories after 18 years of power. A new dawn?
The new Blair administration was anxious to prove itself on all fronts, including that of Ireland. It was not easy. Blair had backed the Major government’s Irish policy. The sensitivities of Unionists remained a concern to the new British government. Sinn Fein had triumphed at the polls, doing even better than in the elections for the constitutional talks in 1996. Gerry Adams took the West Belfast seat from the SDLP’s Dr Joseph (Joe) Hendron. To top this, Martin McGuinness won a County Tyrone seat, described jubilantly as ‘the cherry on the cake’ by a young Shinner. Republicans and Nationalists were gratified at the ousting of the Rev. William McCrea from his marginal Mid-Ulster seat. McCrea, a Free Presbyterian minister, considered an ultra-bigoted DUP man, had opposed power-sharing in 1990.
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
His departure weakened Paisley and strengthened the UUP’s David Trimble, whose impressive showing at the polls allowed him to stop peering over his shoulder at his DUP rival. The SDLP had refused an election pact offer from Sinn Fein. John Hume fought a heated election campaign, attacking Sinn Fein and claiming intimidation of his party’s election staff. In an interview on 19 February, Hume said that a vote for Sinn Fein would be a ‘vote for killing’. This reflected his disappointment at the breaking of the IRA ceasefire. When this was not reinstated, he had been unable to ‘deliver’ the Republican movement to the peace process. Others, including the then Irish Foreign Minister Dick Spring, felt that ‘a vote for Sinn Fein was a vote for peace’. The 16 per cent poll for Sinn Fein compared with 20 per cent for the SDLP, the strongest Nationalist party, seemed to indicate that Catholics were beginning to look to the younger Shinners rather than the moderate, middle-aged and middle-class SDLP leaders to bring about peace. Local elections which followed hard on the heels of the general election strengthened this view, with Sinn Fein gaining several new councillors. The greatest shock for Unionists came in Belfast, where a Nationalist became Lord Mayor, thanks to the combined support of SDLP and Sinn Fein councillors. Unionists lost Belfast, with the new man even sweeping aside some trappings of the Crown close to Unionist hearts and increasing Unionist fears of change. On 6 June Sinn Fein celebrated another triumph. The elections in the Irish Republic resulted in victory for their candidate, Caoimhghin O’Caolain, who was elected in Cavan Monaghan, the first Shinner to take his seat in the Republic’s Dáil. Within five weeks Sinn Fein had proved itself in three elections. An Phoblacht wrote that Sinn Fein had knocked on the doors of establishment power and had to be recognized as a legitimate political group. All seemed set for a new beginning, but the main piece was missing in the mosaic: a renewed IRA ceasefire. The Major government had continued to insist on decommissioning as a pre-condition of talks. Sinn Fein equally continued to insist that this was unacceptable. Prime Minister Blair visited Belfast on 16 May, gratifyingly early after taking on his new job, and talked about the peace train which would soon depart. Substantive talks were to begin on 15 September. Sinn Fein was invited to come on board, he told them, his officials were ready to meet them. Major had denied such access after the Docklands bomb. Both the swiftness of the visit and the invitation were satisfactory to Republicans, though they were disappointed at what they saw as Blair’s sop to the Unionists. The new Prime Minister stated publicly that the Union was important to him and was unlikely to end in his lifetime or in that of the youngest person present.
NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN
Nonetheless, the meeting between a Sinn Fein delegation, led by Martin McGuinness, and British officials went ahead. The Republicans were delighted with the result. The officials had not changed, but their attitude had. They were more open and prepared to talk; after all, they had new masters. The second meeting was less satisfactory. Sinn Fein had asked for clarification on various points and felt that these had not been satisfactorily answered. Before they were prepared to approach the IRA to ask for a renewal of the ceasefire, they wanted to be certain that nothing would go awry. They therefore requested answers on four points: no decommissioning or other pre-conditions to Sinn Fein’s entry into all-inclusive talks; no cooling-off period before entry, once the IRA ceasefire had been renewed; a definite time-frame for the talks of no more than six to nine months; confidence-building measures such as the release of prisoners and the reform of the RUC. A third meeting was to be held in June and Sinn Fein was quietly confident that this would bring the desired replies. They were satisfied that the strength of Labour’s majority would enable Blair to face down the UUP and also ignore the fulminations of Dr Paisley. All change
The proposed meeting did not happen, nor did a scheduled talk with the Taoiseach-in-waiting, Bertie Ahern, leader of Fianna Fail. Instead, Northern Ireland was once more plunged into despair. For something else occurred; the murder in Lurgan on 16 June of two young RUC men on patrol. Blair was distressed and infuriated. Public anger was openly expressed. Contact between the government and Sinn Fein was immediately cancelled. Yet the process of seeking a solution continued. The first sign of this came on 21 June, when Prime Minister Blair met President Clinton in Denver during the G7 Summit. The agenda: Northern Ireland. At this stage, Britain had gained the high moral ground. Lurgan had stifled a process which the governments in London, Dublin and Washington had expected to move rapidly in the wake of Britain’s initiative. Had it not been for the murders, Sinn Fein could have expected to enter talks very soon. Three days before the events in Lurgan, the British Prime Minister had sent an aide-memoire to Sinn Fein dated Friday 13 June. In this he had proposed a six-week timetable for Sinn Fein’s entry into talks following a restoration of an IRA ceasefire. It would have meant Sinn Fein’s attendance at Stormont before the end of July, at which point the party would have been asked to sign up to the Mitchell Principles of democracy and non-violence. Substantive talks had been
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
planned to begin in September to allow the process to be completed by May 1998. In the event, this date was adhered to with the GFA. However, due to Lurgan in particular and Unionist distrust of Republican motives in general, it was achieved neither easily nor happily. The British felt that through the aide-memoire Sinn Fein had been offered everything they had asked for and more. Lurgan therefore dismayed Westminster, apart from the human tragedy involved. It raised new questions. Was there a power struggle within the Republican movement? Was the IRA committed to fighting on and no longer prepared to embark on negotiations? Could Gerry Adams still deliver the IRA? The US administration was also disturbed. Clinton had previously contributed a great deal towards the process. Washington had been disappointed by Major’s stalling and was dismayed at the IRA’s bombs and even more so the killings in Lurgan. Moreover, the new Prime Minister had addressed the thorny issue of decommissioning. He had picked up the Mitchell recommendations, which had been shelved by the Major government. The Mitchell Report had waived decommissioning as a pre-condition to the entry of talks, suggesting that this should take place parallel with negotiations. By dropping the pre-condition, Blair reset the points on the tracks of his peace train, enabling it to continue its journey. Debate on arms could now take place during negotiations, as it had in South Africa and elsewhere. The Prime Minister had set a date for the departure of his peace train and a deadline for buying a ticket. It was up to Sinn Fein to obtain the right currency for its ticket. The leadership was prepared to buy it – as long as it was not paid for in arms.
Arms and the Men
It is inevitably the oppressed that are told to ‘lay down their arms’, not the forces of repression. Challenge to the Church The Kairos Document, 1985
The age-old signal of the white cloth on a pole showing that one party in a conflict wants to parley, applies to all wars. The end of conventional warfare ended with a formal ceasefire, during which peace terms were arranged and which included arrangements regarding the arms of the defeated party. However, the conflicts in southern Africa and Northern Ireland were not conventional. Guerrilla-style tactics were employed by forces challenging the legitimacy of the state. Nor were there clear victors and vanquished. When talks began, the issue of arms was only one of many points to be addressed. Once the challengers became part of the establishment, the need for illegal arms fell away. However, it was also an emotive issue, as violence had become rooted in the culture. In southern Africa, the arms issue was placed on the back burner, with the parties concentrating on the crux of the matter – that of constitutional reform. Unfortunately this was not the case in Northern Ireland, where guns had assumed great symbolic significance on both sides of the sectarian divide. Gun culture
In southern Africa, the majority of whites owned licensed guns during the instability of the latter half of the twentieth century; in Rhodesia, Namibia and South Africa even white women learned to handle guns. White South African and Rhodesian males served in the security forces and as territorials. In South Africa, paramilitaries held illegal arms. The indigenous people too had learned the power conferred by the gun. In Northern Ireland both communities were wedded to guns. Both spawned groups of armed and trained men. The IRA was not the only paramilitary group holding illegal arms. Numerous secret groups, such as the banned UDA, had long existed and continued to exist within the 163
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Protestant community. Orange parades, with their bands and banners, also have a military flavour, much of which arises from the enormous losses suffered by Irish regiments in the First World War. Protestants were readily drawn into the state forces, either as full-time soldiers and policemen, or as police auxiliaries such as the B-Specials. The symbolic significance of arms hampered the peace process. The inclusion of Sinn Fein, first in talks and then in a devolved government, was perceived by the IRA to have been achieved through the use of force since 1970. The IRA leadership viewed it as part of the ‘bullet and ballot’ strategy formulated in the 1980s, and was loth to give up the ‘bullet’ element until it was certain that the ‘ballot’ was effective. The southern African approach was more pragmatic. Southern African disarmament
In each of the five southern African countries where fighting took place, the conflicts were settled without the arms issue being allowed to upset the new constitutional arrangements. Thus the former South African President F.W. de Klerk pointed out in his autobiography that the ANC never fulfilled its commitment to disarm, neither under an agreement arrived at in Capetown’s D.F. Malan’s Airport in 1991, nor in terms of the national peace accord. However, this did not disrupt the peace talks. It would have been difficult to disarm at the time, considering the state of open conflict which had marked the negotiation phase from its start in February 1990 and which involved the ANC, IFP and elements of the security forces. During the negotiations, the arms issue was handed to the ANC’s Cyril Ramaphosa and the NP’s Roelf Meyer, who formed a subcommittee. The issue was never really tackled or settled. Meyer suggested facetiously in his Belfast address that South Africans could circumvent the question because the MK’s arms arsenals were not large – and, he might have added, because Russia no longer supplied arms. But the point was that the armed struggle was not bound up with ANC mythology in the same way that guns are part of IRA and Loyalist folklore. Moreover, with Pretoria as anxious as the ANC to arrive at a settlement, it was prudent to ignore the question of arms caches. In the accommodation reached between Portugal’s new rulers and Mozambique’s FRELIMO after April 1974, arms were not an issue. As FRELIMO was accepted as the legitimate government of Mozambique, so its armed wing was legitimized as the new national army. Moreover, the Portuguese-Angolan negotiations were too fraught for disarmament to be on the agenda. When the Portuguese hurriedly departed, leaving behind a fragile agreement between three hostile groups, each was left in full control of its arsenals. Unfortunately these were soon to be used in the civil war. In Angola, the warring parties had
ARMS AND THE MEN
access to valuable resources and were able to fund their on-going conflicts over decades, thus impoverishing their country and brutalizing its people. As Namibia’s independence was agreed under a UN resolution, the liberation movement, SWAPO, was legitimized and never disarmed. During the ceasefire arranged in 1989, armed SWAPO fighters crossed into Namibia and were ruthlessly and needlessly cut down by South African forces. The Lancaster House Conference on the Rhodesian constitutional issues agreed a ceasefire which allowed the PF partners to keep their arms. For white Rhodesians, it was salutary to watch thousands of guerrillas, men and women, emerge from the bush, neatly uniformed and proudly carrying their guns as they marched towards their assembly points. In conflicts such as these, where a government is involved on the one side and a section of its population on the other, demilitarization is a difficult issue and should not be part of negotiations. The long conflicts have left their legacy in southern Africa; arms abound, legal and otherwise, with guns in use in crimes such as car hijacking and robbery. Northern Ireland
In the Northern Ireland peace process, decommissioning was always considered both a security and a political demand. In Sinn Fein’s submission to the Mitchell Commission during the Major years, before they had been allowed to join the all-party talks, Gerry Adams had made the point that demanding decommissioning of a ‘native guerrilla army which has not been defeated, by an occupying power which was not victorious, raises many questions about the good faith of the British’. He also pointed to the existence of arms apart from those held by the IRA, adding that Northern Ireland had never been a peaceful, democratic society, but had ‘been dependent on the existence and exercise of repressive legislation, coercion and discrimination’.1 However, events had moved on since then. In practical terms, the delivery of ‘some IRA arms’ would mean little. Arms can be replaced. It was the symbolic significance which triumphed. Decommissioning
It was this symbolism which caused the greatest grief during the Northern Ireland peace process. Unionists wanted decommissioning by the
1 ‘Building a Permanent Peace’, Sinn Fein submission to the International Body on Decommissioning, January 1996.
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
IRA as a sign of good faith. The IRA felt this to be a demand for surrender. Decommissioning, though not identical with disarmament, was still an affront to Republicans, who insisted that the IRA had not been defeated. The IRA, wedded to the precise use and definition of words, did not like the definition of either decommissioning or disarmament. It was aggrieved that its ceasefire was not seen as sufficient proof that it supported Sinn Fein’s move into politics and the peace process. Decommissioning became a constant irritant after it came into play in March 1995. Republicans indignantly denied that the issue of arms had been a pre-condition to talks. Unionists insisted that without decommissioning there would be no deal. Many attempts to circumvent the point failed at various times during the weary years of negotiation. The GFA attempted to bypass it. Trimble instantly baulked at that, delaying the GFA implementation for 18 months with the cry of ‘no guns, no government’. The First Minister’s ‘jump’ into power-sharing with Republicans in December 1999 was short-lived, as his party had imposed a deadline for decommissioning which the IRA refused to meet. The suspension of devolved government in February 2000 seemed the end of the peace process. Finally, in May 2000, the IRA accepted a formula on the arms question which it felt did not add up to surrender. It promised to put its arms ‘beyond use’ and allow this to be verified by chosen inspectors. Decommissioning may not have become as clear as Unionists wished, but the IRA statement of 6 May to allow its arms dumps to be inspected regularly ‘to ensure that the weapons have remained silent’ is indeed historic, representing that seismic shift which had often been invoked during the long-drawn-out process. Arsenals
Experts have tried to estimate what arsenals are kept by which armies, state or private. Southern African liberation armies were supplied by Eastern bloc countries, including, for example, Sam missiles in Angola. South Africa supplied UNITA in Angola and RENAMO in Mozambique with weaponry. South Africa had built up its own weapons industry with Israeli help, when an arms boycott became imminent in the 1960s. Other government arms industries, including the British, have no problems keeping up with the competitors in this highly lucrative trade. Following the end of the conflicts, southern Africa was awash with guns, which were purchasable by criminals. Like South Africa, Northern Ireland has a large number of licensed weapons such as shotguns, smallbore rifles and handguns, in addition to arsenals held by paramilitaries. Loyalist groups were believed to have some 400 rifles, 300 handguns,
ARMS AND THE MEN
dozens of machine guns and explosives. There are some 130,000 legal guns, most of them farmers’ shotguns. The IRA was equipped in the 1980s by Libya. The Irish Independent quoted Gardai sources as saying that Libyan shipments included 4 tonnes of Semtex, 1270 assault rifles, 60 light machine guns, 300 revolvers, 460 grenades, bazookas, flame-throwers, boxes of ammunition and Sam 7 missiles, half of which may still be around.1 Moreover, the IRA has proved handy with the manufacture of homemade bombs. It even managed to construct rockets which struck 10 Downing Street when John Major was in residence. Paramilitary arms
The question whether or not it is legitimate to use force in challenging the state has been the subject of heated debate. As far as South Africa was concerned, the Christian activists who drew up the Kairos Document felt that in the light of Pretoria’s refusal to act democratically, there was no alternative to force. The document also argued that it was unreasonable to demand that the liberation movement should disarm itself. Time and again the Pretoria government called on the ANC to give up violence. President Botha dangled the carrot of freedom before his eminent prisoner, Nelson Mandela, provided he gave up the armed struggle. It was an offer which Mandela scathingly refused. Indeed, he was forced to refuse, as an acceptance would have diminished his standing. The Pretoria government refused to accept that the state used undue violence, despite the fact that its very laws were instruments of violence. Thus the 1963 General Law Amendment Act introduced detention without trial and gave the green light for the torture of political prisoners. In the course of the TRC hearings, as well as during the trials of former security personnel, horrific details of numerous atrocities and human rights abuses were revealed. The TRC report leaves no one in doubt that the human rights of anti-apartheid activists were violated by servants of the state, ranging from surveillance to murder. In some instances, individual acts of brutality and sadism were perpetrated, while others were the work of special units, including death squads established for that very purpose. Both F.W. de Klerk and his predecessor, P.W. Botha, denied any wrong-doing. In June 1997, de Klerk took legal action against what he considered bias on the part of both the TRC Chairman, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and his deputy, Dr Alex Borraine. Tutu had expressed regret at de Klerk’s denial of responsibility for apartheid crimes, while Borraine had voiced incredulity that the former president had been 1 Irish Independent, 21 July 1997.
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
ignorant of atrocities perpetrated by the security forces. Determined to establish the responsibility of the state, the TRC subpoenaed former State Security Council members to appear at its hearings in June 1997. When the TRC finally issued its devastatingly detailed report in 1998, de Klerk succeeded through the courts in having certain references to himself deleted. His predecessor considered force exercised by government security personnel as legitimate, whereas force used by opponents of the state was not. Former President P.W. Botha was also affronted by the TRC’s request that he should give evidence. He not only refused to appear, but was prepared to go to court for contempt for refusing to do so. This event took place in 1998, rallying right-wing forces around the frail figure of the one-time president, who publicly defended apartheid and his actions as correct. Botha was totally unapologetic and refused to accept that his government had abused its power. Yet on 16 April 1998, the court heard that a directive of Botha’s State Security Council had sanctioned killings and torture and ordered the elimination and ‘physical destruction’ of revolutionary leaders inside and outside the country. Some 30,000 opponents of apartheid were gaoled at the height of Botha’s power and 20,000 people had died as a result of political violence. The TRC denounced the use of state violence. However, while it accepted the legitimacy of the use of force by liberation movements, it said that this had to be exercised with due care and without violation of human rights. Thus the bombing of a restaurant by a freedom fighter or the torturing of a suspected informer within a liberation movement were no more acceptable than the torture of a suspect by the security services or the assassination of a so-called enemy of the state.
A last chance to ensure that the North will not see another generation ... growing up with violence and hatred and despair around them. TONY BLAIR
20 July 1997
Republicans had looked to the new government to find a way of skirting around the weapons question. David Trimble, anticipating Sinn Fein’s entry, offered to push decommissioning on to the backburner at the Stormont talks, until such time as Sinn Fein entered the talks and the issue resurfaced. Dr Mowlam informed Parliament during her first Northern Ireland question time that the talks, resumed in September 1997, would become inclusive and substantive and were to be concluded by May 1998. It was the first time that a time limit for the talks had been mentioned and answered one of the points on which Sinn Fein had asked clarification. The question remained whether this was enough time for the party to take its case to the IRA and ask for a restoration of the ceasefire. The incoming Dublin government thought it did, because a meeting between the Taoiseach-elect, Bertie Ahern, and Adams was scheduled. However, this was the meeting that never happened because of the tragic events in Lurgan. John Hume proved his mettle during this fraught period. He bluntly said that he was not in government and did not carry the same kind of responsibilities as Mr Ahern. He was determined to do everything in his power to keep blood off the streets. If this meant meeting Sinn Fein, then that was what he would do. In the weeks that followed, which witnessed Drumcree and the terrible havoc on the streets, Hume kept his nerve and his contact with Sinn Fein. Again he became the go-between for Adams and the two governments. Sinn Fein was unable to condemn the deaths on the streets of Lurgan without losing credibility with Republicans. Observers who speculated on hawk and dove factions within the Republican camp were certain about one issue: Adams would not risk another debilitating split in the movement. If a split was threatened, the movement would close ranks. 169
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In search of the grail
Tony Blair used existing documents such as the Mitchell Report and that by Lord North on parades in his search for a solution. He badly wanted that elusive prize, a settlement of the Irish question. He moved quickly, with what some observers considered total ruthlessness. As already mentioned, the latter part of June 1997 witnessed swift developments, beginning with Mr Blair’s aide-memoire. The question of decommissioning had to be resolved before progress on the real issue, that of Ireland’s future, could be made. Sinn Fein had to be brought on board. Constitutional talks without the Republicans was like playing Hamlet without the prince. Inevitably, to-ing and fro-ing took place in the wings. Yet a surprising amount of action was visible on-stage, beginning with the unprecedented 30-minute meeting between Clinton and Blair in Denver. This was followed on 23 June by a 30-minute meeting between the outgoing Taoiseach, John Bruton, and Blair at the fringe of yet another international meeting, this time the UN Earth Summit. Both men told the media that they had agreed on a set of proposals on decommissioning. Blair carefully pointed out that this was a government-to-government agreement, which had not yet been put to the political parties. Indeed, it began to look as if negotiations were being conducted via the media, with Sinn Fein’s McGuinness responding instantly, saying that they would have to study such proposals when they were presented. The following day the Prime Minister met the UUP. Trimble confirmed to the waiting media that decommissioning proposals would be based on the Mitchell Principles and indicated that he was prepared to live with them. He found himself instantly at odds with his own party, with Paisley thundering denouncements of a ‘UUP sell-out’ and Blair’s U-turn. As John Hume said, if the Mitchell Principles were accepted, the pre-condition of decommissioning was being removed. By making decommissioning an exercise parallel to talks, it became part of the talks process. Hume pointed to the heart of the matter: the essential issues were the talks themselves. For the first time in Ireland’s history, these would allow both communities to discuss their concerns and arrive at a mutually acceptable agreement. Blair’s boldness
25 June was Northern Ireland day in Westminster. It began with a public relations exercise by the Prime Minister, when he entertained a 12-yearold Protestant girl from West Belfast who had written asking him to bring peace in her time. This was followed by Blair’s statement to the House on the Irish peace process, which included details of the aidememoire of 13 June.
He further announced the implementation of the Mitchell Report. An independent commission on decommissioning was to be set up complementary to the Stormont talks, ‘to make proposals for decommissioning and to monitor its implementation; and a Committee of the Plenary to deal with these issues, with a sub-Committee specifically on decommissioning’. This was to be ‘an approach under which some decommissioning would take place during negotiations’. This was to be an ongoing process – a ‘mutual progress on decommissioning and substantive political issues leading to a progressive pattern of mounting trust and confidence’. The Stormont talks chairman, Senator Mitchell, set a target date, placing decommissioning on the Stormont agenda for 16 July, with a vote on the proposals scheduled for 23 July. Expectations were high that at last the irrelevancies would be eliminated, so that after the summer recess the parties could get to grips with the real issues. Impasse
But decommissioning had not gone away. Unionists still insisted that this should be a pre-condition or, as Sinn Fein perceived it, a ploy to keep them out of talks. The Unionist parties were divided. DUP spokesman Peter Robinson scornfully accused the government of giving in to terrorists. The UK Unionists were no more restrained in their comments and the UUP’s David Trimble spoke more cautiously about the need for changes in the document’s wording. Once more the marching season intervened, with the accompanying rise in emotions and tempers which delayed further thought or discussion, particularly after those Orange feet had gone down Garvaghy Road. On 9 July, three days after Drumcree III, thousands of Nationalists converged on the area to show their solidarity with the residents at what they felt an insulting ‘invasion’ of Garvaghy Road. Nationalists were angry and ready to do battle. People were prepared to die on Belfast’s Lower Ormeau Road, where a march was expected on the holiest of holy days, 12 July. Reports had it that ‘the guns were out’. The atmosphere was tense. Peace was not the flavour of the moment. The tension caused an exodus before the Glorious Twelfth which threatened to turn into a Bloody Twelfth. Railway stations, ferries and airports were crowded on Friday as people tried to leave the troubled area. In the event, there was no need. ‘People Power’, as An Phoblacht had it, or, as the RUC made clear, fear of organized violence, forced the Orange Order to make its historic decision to re-route controversial marches.
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For the first time, the Orange Order’s leaders had overruled protests by grassroot members. Rifts within Unionism widened, with Paisley speaking of ‘Roman fascism’. Martin McGuinness later confirmed that thousands of Nationalists would indeed have poured on to the Ormeau Road had the parade gone ahead. In that case clashes would have been unavoidable – a scenario which fortunately had been averted. The relief was heartfelt. The parade in Belfast and other areas took place peacefully along directed diversions. The cloud overhanging the day and the celebrations lifted. The authorities and public opinion applauded the Orange Order’s decision. Not only had the province pulled back from the brink of anarchy, but the scene had been set for further moves to put the peace train back on track. Breaking the deadlock
Ironically it was the squabble over decommissioning which set off the events which broke the impasse. Unionists had become increasingly incensed at what they considered the government’s mishandling of this issue. By 16 July it became known that Sinn Fein had telephoned and written to the British government, requesting clarification of the decommissioning paper. Replies had been sent, including a letter dated 9 July. Unionists were outraged. Had the Prime Minister not said that contact with Sinn Fein was broken off after the deaths in Lurgan? Was the government secretly negotiating with Republicans? Dr Mowlam was once more engulfed in a political row and became the fierce target of Unionist criticism. The Northern Ireland Secretary denied there had been negotiations over the ceasefire. Officials had merely provided certain clarification – a moot point which did little to smooth the Unionists’ ruffled feathers. On 16 July, the day decommissioning was first on the agenda, all three Unionist parties demonstratively walked out of the Stormont talks. They claimed that they had not been given sufficient ‘clarification’. The DUP’s deputy leader, Peter Robinson, commented that if one rang from a Sinn Fein advice centre ‘the Government will jump through hoops, but if you are one of the elected democratic parties at the talks you cannot get the clarification you need.’ For UK Unionist Robert McCartney ‘the party was over’. The next day, 17 July, David Trimble called on the Prime Minister for a 75-minute and, for him, unsatisfactory meeting. Blair refused to demand arms decommissioning at the start of substantive talks or to schedule a precise decommissioning timetable. In reply to a question in the House by the UUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson, a fierce critic of Blair’s peace plan and subsequently of the GFA and his own leader, the Prime Minister confirmed that his officials had re-
sponded to Sinn Fein’s requests for clarification. He hoped to create a situation which would permit Sinn Fein to give up violence and enter the talks. Should they refuse, they could not take part in negotiations. The contents of the government’s letter of 9 July to Sinn Fein was disclosed on the same day. On decommissioning it said, ‘Provided that all participants are acting on the basis of the implementation of all aspects of the Mitchell Report in good faith, progress should be possible.’ This was progress of a kind unpalatable to Unionists, for it failed to mention decommissioning ‘up front’. However, the letter paved the way for an IRA ceasefire and subsequent Sinn Fein participation in constitutional talks. Sinn Fein, anxious about the impasse, turned to US contacts and well-known conduits such as former Congressman Bruce Morrison to sound out the views of the US administration. Ceasefire
The surprise came on Friday, a dramatic day in a dramatic fortnight. On Thursday 17 July John Hume met Gerry Adams and told the press so the following morning. This became the Shinner’s day. Their joint communiqué expressed their optimism and said their meeting had gone well. No doubt it had, for by then both knew what was in the wind. The same day an Anglo-Irish meeting took place in London between Dr Mowlam and the Irish Foreign Minister Ray Burke. Mr Burke was uncompromising on the issue of decommissioning. He said that the relevant document had been drawn up by the UK and Irish governments and could not be changed at the request of any individual, an obvious reference to Trimble’s demand for amendments. When Mo Mowlam cancelled a press conference following her encounter with Ray Burke, alleging a pressing appointment, the media scoffed: rumours of an impending ceasefire had swiftly circulated. With good reason. On the same day the National Executive of Sinn Fein met in Dublin. The leaders had already left for Belfast when a statement hit the media: Sinn Fein said it would request the IRA to reinstate its ceasefire. The party was certain that there would be a swift response. The news broke into television programmes and instantly became the main item on all television and radio news broadcasts. It was only a matter of time before a positive IRA response. It came. A ceasefire was announced the following morning in good time for a 10 am broadcast, to become effective from noon on Sunday 20 July. The peace train looked ready to leave with all aboard.
Unblocking the Track
It is time for honesty and realism and for the adoption of a position best calculated to genuinely remove the gun and bomb in Irish politics for good. BERTIE AHERN
2 July 1997 Although the word 'unequivocal’ appeared in the IRA’s statement on the reinstatement of its ceasefire, this failed to satisfy Unionists. As in 1994, they refused to believe the ceasefire was genuine or permanent. The only proof that would convince them would be arms on the table and that, they claimed, meant a change in the 'fudge’ of the decommissioning proposals, which did not guarantee when arms were to be given up. The DUP and UK Unionists bitterly condemned the Blair government as weak in giving in to terrorists. Both maintained that it was impossible to sit down with people who held guns under the table and who would use them again if matters did not go their way. Such vehement statements ignored the fact that they had already sat down with men who had 'guns under the table’, namely the Loyalist paramilitaries. Government statistics showed that during the first six months of 1997, Loyalists had carried out 32 punishment shootings and 40 beatings, compared with four IRA shootings and 48 beatings – both equally horrifying statistics. On Monday 21 July, when Sinn Fein arrived to take over their reserved offices at Stormont, the UK Unionists walked out. Paisley and the DUP had already departed. UUP comments were more subdued, but when exchanges between the Prime Minister and David Trimble elicited no change in government attitude, the UUP joined the other three parties on 23 July to vote against the decommissioning paper. Nonetheless, Trimble did not join the walk-out of other Unionists. Fury continued to be expressed by Unionists from many quarters. Every Unionist spokesman voiced the same view: the IRA declaration was not a genuine ceasefire. It was a mere tactical move. One journalist claimed the ceasefire was to last only four months, a claim furiously refuted by Gerry Adams.
UNBLOCKING THE TRACK
The Loyalist parties were less condemnatory. The arms issue concerned them too. Both Bill Hutchinson and David Ervine gave the ceasefire a cautious welcome and the Loyalist parties agreed to the presence of Sinn Fein at talks. One spokesman said that Paisley had attacked Loyalists. Now that Sinn Fein was to attend the meetings, they should attack them as the enemy, not walk away. Sinn Fein’s timing in political terms was good. With Unionists agonizing over clauses in the decommissioning paper, the Sinn Fein leadership accepted that it gave them what they had asked for: no precondition to talks and the sidelining of an unnecessary stumbling block. Washington signalled that the same support would be available as that during the first phase of the ceasefire. The Mitchell Report had spelled out several ‘modalities’ for decommissioning which included: — transferring weapons to the International Commission or designated representatives of the British or Irish governments for destruction
— providing information on arms caches leading to their destruction — depositing weapons for collection and destruction.
The parties also had the option of destroying weapons themselves. If decommissioning was agreed in the course of talks, this could be a method which would satisfy the honour of the paramilitary organizations, giving them control over their own arsenals. Despite the furore, the public was quietly relieved. When the clock struck 12 noon on Sunday 20 July, there was no dancing in the street, only thanksgiving and prayers of hope. Nothing is ever the same twice. The crowd in 1997 around Sinn Fein offices was not as large or as vociferous as in 1994. People’s emotions had see-sawed greatly during the three years of an on-off war. They wanted peace and were glad of the respite. But they could not recapture the mood and enthusiasm of 1 September 1994. Still, Tony Benn’s classic remark about terrorists who later took tea with the Queen suddenly seemed to apply to Gerry Adams. His voice, banned from British airwaves only a few years before, was heard constantly on all television and radio channels over the weekend of 19 July. A group of leading Irish-Americans who had played their part in getting the 1994 ceasefire into place, visited Belfast a week after its renewal. A Sinn Fein visit to America was instantly in the pipeline, to be scheduled for 6 September for Adams, McGuinness and the Dáil TD, Caoimhghin O’Caolain. The cancelled meeting with Bertie Ahern was rescheduled too, for 25 July, when the Taoiseach appeared with Hume and Adams in front of the cameras, saying that next time he hoped David Trimble would also be present. As Trimble’s visiting list during the summer recess had included not only business and community leaders, but also the head of the Northern
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Ireland Catholic Church, these were no mere words uttered into the wind. Republicans such as Sinn Fein’s Mitchel McLaughlin were puzzled by Trimble’s willingness to look for an accommodation. McLaughlin concluded that it was the business community which prodded Trimble into moving towards a settlement, as they needed to keep in step with Europe. To observers it looked as if Trimble was changing and looked set to become what so many had called for: Northern Ireland’s de Klerk. Despite Unionist unease, the two governments formally set out their decommissioning rules on 27 June by signing an international agreement along the lines of the Mitchell recommendations. Two days later they invited Sinn Fein to attend the Stormont talks. Dr Mowlam took her reading from the RUC and declared herself satisfied that there had been a cessation of IRA activities. It looked as if the peace process had been given a new chance.
In Ireland there’s a precedent for everything. Except commonsense. BENEDICT KIELY1
Despite David Trimble’s heart-searching, peace did not instantly break out after the IRA’s re-instatement of the ceasefire. Instead, the mood of Unionists turned warlike. Downing Street, so long intent on getting Sinn Fein into talks, had to shift gear and work to keep Unionists in. Talking at last?
The Shinners, at last admitted to talks when these resumed on 15 September, confidently swept past the guards into the gates of Stormont Castle to a flurry of media attention. Headline writers once more described the occasion as ‘historic’, a term losing its meaning by over-usage. Historic or not, David Trimble kept away that day, though his party did not boycott the talks. He clearly wanted to avoid the media circus of the first day of Sinn Fein’s attendance, for he returned to Stormont with his team on 23 September. Yet other Unionist voices were still heard, such as those of UUP MPs William Thompson and William Ross who demanded the UUP have nothing to do with ‘thugs’. Such voices became shriller still in the aftermath of the GFA. The arrival at Stormont of the UUP delegation meant that mainstream Unionists faced Sinn Fein for the first time since partition. Yet it still did not bring the parties closer to actually talking to each other. Unionists stolidly refused to have anything to do with Republicans. UUP’s first action was to move, unsuccessfully, for Sinn Fein’s expulsion from Stormont on the grounds of IRA refusal to hand over any weapons. This issue might have been shelved as far as the British government was concerned, but continued to exercise Unionists. Following the expected failure to get Sinn Fein expelled, UUP delegates refused to acknowledge the Shinners’ very presence. It became more than a matter of avoiding eye contact but turned into a strategy to 1 Benedict Kiely, ‘Nothing Happens in Camincross’, ‘The Landing’ in the Penguin Dictionary of Twentieth Century Quotations, p 208. 177
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sideline Sinn Fein, bypassing plenary sessions and working on a bilateral basis with 'constitutional’ parties such as the SDLP, the chairman and government officials. When Trimble found Dr Mowlam’s forthright manner unpalatable, he took to going over her head direct to the Prime Minister and when he clashed with the Northern Ireland Secretary in 1999, he went even further, demanding her replacement. Indeed, when Peter Mandelson finally took over the job, Unionists felt relieved – they had considered Dr Mowlam pro-Republican. In 1997-99 the UUP ploy of ignoring the very existence of Sinn Fein might extract a few jokes in the men’s washroom, as Adams once put it, but promised little progress in moving the talks towards substantive issues. Republicans complained about lack of progress on such matters and about Unionist refusal to engage in 'real talks’. Aware that nothing would have pleased Unionists more than a Sinn Fein walk-out, they stayed, along with the seven other parties – the UUP, SLDP, Alliance Party, PUP, DUP, Women’s Coalition and Labour Party. Like the rest, Shinners presented position papers, engaging in what the poet Thomas McCartney mourned as the 'productive atmosphere of peace’, saddened by an Adams absorbed by politics and ‘flying columns of documents’. But that is what negotiations are about, even if McCartney wrote in 1994 in 'Talking to Gerry Adams’: Today it’s the 'productive atmosphere of peace’ after war. I find myself switching sides already. Maybe that’s what poets are for in a destitute time. To stay apart from the Dail. Thinking finds a Protestant in me and Ulster an autonomous region of the heart.
The media tended to find the flying columns of documents as tedious as did the poet. Except for a few hardened peace process watchers and news agencies, they stayed away from the prefab media village outside Castle Buildings. Adams in Downing Street
Interest re-awakened on 11 December for another important and, yes, 'historic’ moment: the first visit by Adams, McGuinness and a fiveperson team to Downing Street. It was the second handshake between the British Prime Minister and Adams. The first had taken place in Belfast on 13 October, which was followed by Unionist barracking in a Belfast shopping mall – a shock for a prime minister used to adulation not abuse. The top-level Downing Street meeting enjoyed a high profile. It was recalled that it was the first time in 75 years that a British prime minister had met Irish Republicans. The last occasion had been the meeting
between Lloyd George and Michael Collins, which had resulted in the signing of the controversial treaty, the bloody civil war, Ireland’s partition and Collins’s own death. Neither Blair nor Adams needed commentators to point out the risks. Blair defended his meeting, saying that it might be difficult for some people to see Sinn Fein walk into Number Ten but that 'it’s important to take those risks’. Gerry Adams described the meeting as a good moment in history: ‘We come from a small island of five million people, of grief and pain and division over centuries. We want to see it ending.’1 Unionist unease
Dublin showed that it was also a player. Following Sinn Fein’s entry into the talks, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern not only posed for symbolic handshakes with Hume and Adams but also responded to overtures by Unionists. Furthermore, Dublin decided on an early release of some Republican prisoners. The British government too showed willingness to release prisoners in the north. All this helped to increase Unionist unease. David Trimble intensified his strategy of approaching the British Prime Minister over the head of the Northern Ireland Secretary and also created good relations with Dublin. Friendly gestures by Unionists was a new development for the Irish government, for so long a bogey to Unionists. Yet little progress could be reported about the talks themselves. Moreover, Loyalists felt restive and complained that their interests were being ignored, while Republicans were ‘getting all the perks’. Despite the talks, there was a dangerous undercurrent of dissatisfaction. On 13 December, violence erupted in Derry, a city in which Catholics are in the majority. Despite Nationalist protests, the RUC permitted the annual Apprentice Boys jamboree of burning the Lundy effigy, to proceed through the city centre. This effectively sealed off the city centre and incensed Republicans. The result was a confrontation between police and Republicans, ending in a riot which caused millions of pounds’ worth of damage to premises and the earnings of shops. As the Christmas recess drew close, Senator Mitchell asked the party leaders to draw up an agenda or, as he termed it, ‘Heads of Agreement’, as a basis for negotiations from 12 January onwards, so that the final Agreement could be drafted by May. This exercise also failed, with parties being unable to agree even the points on which to disagree. Sinn Fein complained that any constructive move was blocked by UUP intransigence.
1 Irish Times, 4 June 1997.
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
The Christmas period should have brought a respite. But there was little of good cheer. As prisoners went home for the festive season, each side could confer with their people outside, with disastrous results. Unleashing murder
On 28 December an INLA gunman killed Billy Wright inside the Maze Prison. This would have been incredible in any other prison, but inside the Maze it was feasible. Its political prisoners were divided according to the paramilitary group to which they belonged; they answered to their own commanding officer, wore civilian clothes and regarded themselves as prisoners of war. Prisoners, not warders, appeared to call the tune. Somehow a gun was smuggled into the prison to kill Billy Wright. In June 1997 Dr Mowlam had added the LVF as well as the Continuity Army Council (CAC) to the long list of proscribed bodies which included the IRA, INLA, UVF, UDA, UFF and the Red Hand Commando.1 Break-away groups such as the Loyalist LVF or the Republican INLA and Continuity Army Council, none of which were represented at Stormont, threatened the peace process. Further defections from Sinn Fein and the IRA also occurred after the successful Mitchell review in 1999. Immediately after Wright’s death, the LVF and UDA embarked on a killing spree, threatening Catholic lives and Northern Ireland’s future. Billy Wright had been held responsible for the murders of dozens of Catholics between 1980 and December 1997. Within hours of his death, a hotel was attacked in County Tyrone resulting in the death of a doorman, Seamus Dillon, a Republican and one-time IRA prisoner. On New Year’s Eve another horrendous attack was staged in a North Belfast pub, when two masked men opened fire, killing one man and injuring three others. The incident, though claimed by the LVF, was suspected as having been carried out by the UDA. War and peace had always co-existed throughout the peace process. Over 300 people had been charged with Terrorist-related and serious public disorder offences’ in 1997. In January, despite the truce, Northern Ireland suddenly tilted further towards war than to peace. On 11 January 1997 a young man of 28 – a ‘wee laddie’ in Irish parlance – died in Belfast in the early hours of the morning. Terry Enright was killed as he and other doormen ran for cover outside a Belfast citycentre club when gun-toting men opened fire. His death symbolized much of war and peace in Ireland. Terry Enright was married to Gerry Adams’s niece and worked as a doorman of a club owned by the sisterin-law of David Ervine, the PUP leader. Another PUP leader, Billy Hutchinson, paid tribute to the dead man as one of the few who had Independent, 12 December 1997.
been able to cross the sectarian divide. Enright had worked with young deprived people not only in the Falls but also in the Shankill Road. Wright’s funeral in Portadown became a demonstration of Loyalist strength, with some 3000 following the body during the long hours of ritual before it reached its resting place. Shops shut, as shopkeepers pulled down the shutters in response to a request they could not refuse. Seamus Dillon’s funeral also attracted massed mourners, as did Enright’s cortege. The LVF killings continued, with 25 Catholics shot and nine killed in eight weeks. It was at this point that the UDA was accused of involvement in the deaths of three Catholics, whereupon the UDP withdrew from the talks before they could be expelled, to be re-admitted only four weeks later. Sinn Fein’s similar difficulty followed over the two deaths in which the IRA was implicated. Sinn Fein fiercely resisted expulsion proposed by the British. As Jim Gibney maintained, they were at the talks by right, having been given an electoral mandate. Republicans felt that the British used double standards. Indeed, commentators pointed out that Sinn Fein was judged by more stringent standards than Loyalist parties linked to paramilitaries. The RUC Chief Constable had already stated in May 1997 that all constituent parts of the Combined Military Command had breached their ceasefires. Yet it had taken 20 months of numerous violent incidents before a Loyalist party at the talks was taken to task. In contrast, four days after the two IRA murders in January, an indictment of Sinn Fein was being sought. Negotiations due to be held in Dublin on Strand Two of the talks never got off the ground. Instead, the drama of the week centred on Sinn Fein, which had taken its case to court. The controversy was settled by a two-week suspension of Republicans until 9 March, which in turn irked Loyalists whose exclusion had lasted longer. Resumption of talks
When talks resumed at Stormont on 12 January, the eight parties found themselves studying a remarkable, if brief, agenda paper. Cobbled together by the British and Irish governments, the document provided the framework for substantive discussions in the count-down towards a constitutional settlement. The shape of Ireland-to-come as seen by London and Dublin was finally presented to Belfast. The death of Terry Enright had been yet another tragedy to add to the toll of victims of the Irish conflict. It happened while Tony Blair was in Japan. Possibly it was this event which turned the British Prime Minister’s attention to the Stormont talks, well aware that no agenda had been set for these. To avoid a delay or, worse, a final halt of his peace
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train, he reached for the phone to begin an extraordinary round of longdistance negotiations. A series of some 100 telephone calls from Tokyo, most of them to Dublin, others to Belfast, resulted in a document entitled ‘Heads of Agreement’. Hailed by the media as a blueprint for peace, it was this document which the parties were asked to review on 12 January as guidelines for negotiations during the run-up to the May deadline. However, this document, against the current background of violence, failed to resolve the impasse which had been reached. The peace process looked decidedly shaky. Loyalists’ ‘no’
Even before the new session of talks and the perusal of the document, Loyalist prisoners caused a major upset. Their Christmas leave had reinforced the Loyalist view that everything was going the way of Republicans with little cheer for themselves. Prisoners linked to the UDA announced in early January that they were withdrawing support for the Stormont talks. Hurried visits to the prison by political leaders, including Trimble, failed to convince the hard men of the importance of the negotiations. Instead they spoke dourly of the erosion of their position, identity and culture. The prisoners’ stance threatened to end the Loyalist ceasefire, which would have been a major blow to the talks, possibly ending them before the scheduled 12 January resumption. At this point Dr Mowlam resorted to the most unorthodox step in her high-profile career. She decided to visit the Maze to talk to the hard men herself. As her car swept through the prison gate on 9 January, the first minister ever to make as dramatic a move in the course of the conflict, she did so to a chorus of acclaim and criticism; acclaim, because of her courage in putting her political career on the line, criticism, because she was creating a precedent which might allow prisoners a dangerous leverage. However, the Northern Ireland Secretary’s two-hour visit, which also took in a short meeting with IRA prisoners whose tattoos and haircuts made a brief television appearance, was well spent. The UDA prisoners withdrew their objections to the talks. This was followed by the crosscontinental telephone diplomacy the following weekend, resulting in the London-Dublin ‘Heads of Agreement’ paper. The peace train proceeded once more, despite the ominous rumble of war which accompanied it. Heads of Agreement
The new ‘Heads of Agreement’ failed to bridge the gap between Sinn Fein’s reluctance to accept a power-sharing Northern Ireland Assembly
which could be construed as an 'internal constitutional solution’ and Unionists’ fear that cross-border structures would allow direct Dublin interference in Northern Ireland’s affairs. The paper was viewed with dismay by Sinn Fein, who read it as a tilt towards Unionism and a blueprint for partition-as-before. The document proposed an Assembly under Strand One (internal Northern Ireland relations) and north–south bodies within Strand Two (relations between the two Irish entities). Sinn Fein felt that while the details for the Assembly were clear, those relating to north-south structures were vague and unsatisfactory. The "Heads of Agreement’ document was almost immediately accepted by all the parties the day after its presentation. Sinn Fein alone rejected it. The negotiations faced a new crisis. The "Heads of Agreement’ proclaimed ‘balanced constitutional change’ through the introduction of: — a Northern Ireland Assembly elected by proportional representation
— a new British-Irish Agreement to replace the existing 1984 AngloIrish Agreement to embrace an Intergovernmental Council to include representatives of the British and Irish governments, the Northern Ireland Administration and the new devolved institutions of Scodand and Wales — a North-South Ministerial Council "to bring together those with executive responsibilities in Northern Ireland and the Irish government in particular areas’.
A Bill of Rights was also proposed, with clauses safeguarding the rights of both communities ‘through arrangements for the comprehensive protection of fundamental human, civil, political, social, economic and social rights ... to achieve full respects for the principles of equity of treatment and freedom from discrimination and the cultural identity and ethos of both communities.’ The position of prisoners would also be considered.1 Unionists were delighted both with the governments’ acceptance that Northern Ireland should remain within the UK family and the creation of a Northern Ireland Assembly. Trimble dismissed the north-south body as being ‘merely consultative’ and clearly looked forward to his dominant role in the new Assembly. The SDLP was satisfied with the role to be exercised by Dublin within the Council of Ministers. Sinn Fein pointed out that the proposals fell short of the Joint Framework, which they had seen as the basis for discussion, though Unionists had vociferously objected to it. The new paper did not include a north-south body with executive powers, which had been part of the Joint Framework.
1 Independent, 13 January 1998.
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
Republicans had not been unrealistic enough to hope for a united Ireland to emerge by the end of the talks. However, they had expected the creation of cross-border structures strong enough to form a bridge from which Republicanism could eventually work towards re-unification. Talks had always been regarded as a phase in the count-down to a united Ireland, not the ultimate end in itself. Thus the weeks to come were seen as crucial. Everything would depend on the fine print, then not yet written. Sinn Fein were also alarmed by the flirtation between the Irish government and the UUP, which was believed to have resulted in Dublin’s agreement to a watered-down Joint Framework position. Leaks prior to the London-Dublin agreement had not been helpful, indicating that Unionists had 'got their way’. These turned out to be mere rumours, but had served to heighten Republican suspicions of the intentions of the two governments. A meeting in Downing Street between Blair, Adams and McGuinness on 19 January left none of the happy afterglow of the December occasion. Dissidents and extremists
Sinn Fein had to look hard at the dissident elements who had disassociated themselves openly from them in the months following the party’s admission to the talks. Leaked reports spoke of an IRA Army Council meeting in October 1997 at which Adams and McGuinness were said to have explained their strategy. This had been accepted by the majority of those present, but had not stopped several important defections. Among these were men who had founded the CSC, later linked to the ‘Real IRA’. Initially the CSC functioned as a pressure group within Sinn Fein, but was later barred from attending Sinn Fein’s annual conference. The rift between Sinn Fein and dissidents was of some concern. Dissent appeared to be strongest among Republicans based in Ireland’s south, who of course had not been directly affected by violence. It was easier for a southern commander to order action on the part of a northern unit, thus causing Loyalist or police reaction. A northern officer knew that his family and friends would be directly in the firing line. During the heated referendum campaign on the GFA, dissidents increased support in the south and, thanks to the defection of key IRA officers, developed their military capability. In November 1999, following the success of the Mitchell review, dissident groups such as the Real IRA, Continuity Army Council (CAC), INLA and others were believed to co-operate with each other in planned terror campaigns. Unionists were also deeply divided, as the upset caused by Loyalist prisoners initially showed and which became more apparent during the referendum campaign.
The last two weeks of February witnessed further violence. Republican bombings of a police station in Moira and in the Loyalist heartland of Portadown, attributed by the RUC either to the CAC or INLA, did little to ease tension. PUP leader David Ervine spoke darkly of the danger of Loyalist reaction to Republican operations. Letter bombs sent to Catholic addresses and the explosion of a bomb in a sorting office, injuring several individuals, lent credence to the threat. Nonetheless political manoeuvring continued. Sinn Fein leaders called on the Taoiseach in Dublin on 24 February, while the parties plodded on at Stormont, discussing the possible shape of north-south institutions. On 26 February the British Prime Minister turned his attention once more to the Irish problem. He received a UDP delegation for the first time since the outbreak of Loyalist violence and the party’s withdrawal from and re-admittance to the talks. On the same day Blair met the Taoiseach at Downing Street. Together they maintained that the peace process was on course and could not be derailed. By the end of February, the peace train was still on an apparent fast track towards its final stop: a constitutional solution to be put to the voters in May. As the legal machinery for that had to be put in place by April, it left only two months for the train to arrive there. With the Shinners again within the fold and Unionists also at the table, there was a chance that Dr Mowlam’s undimmed optimism had substance – which, observers remarked, was more than could be said for the talks themselves. After almost two years, what precisely had been achieved except a series of ‘historic occasions’? Were Unionists still building their hopes on a Sinn Fein exit, to allow them and the SDLP to get on with the job? On their part, Republicans said that if Unionists refused to engage in talks with them, the two governments would have to act and put a deal in place themselves. This could then be discussed and analyzed, as had happened with the abused ‘Heads of Agreement’, before being finally negotiated on a bilateral basis. In the event, this did not happen. Instead, there were negotiations of a kind, even if these were not carried out in the presence of all the parties, as had been the case in South Africa. Instead, talks took place between parties – though not between the UUP and Sinn Fein – between parties and officials, parties and the chairman, the Northern Ireland Secretary and, on occasion, between parties and one or other of the two prime ministers – a hectic form of procedure, taking time and patience. Given the approach of Easter and its spate of commemorative marches, it became a matter of urgency for Dr Mowlam to strive for something to be in place by early April.
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It is an observable phenomenon in Northern Ireland – or elsewhere - that tension and violence tend to rise when compromise is in the air. BERTIE AHERN
February 1998 Countdown to deadline
Northern Ireland’s delicate Easter egg, an agreed constitutional blueprint, was finally laid on Good Friday 10 April 1998. It had been a long time gestating. The last weeks, then days and finally hours before it was proudly unwrapped, were so fraught that it seemed the thin shell would be broken long before its emergence. Yet finally the impossible was made possible. Late, but in one piece, the Stormont Agreement was presented in time, said a cynic, for George Mitchell to spend the Easter weekend with his wife and young son. Perhaps. Certainly it was the Senator who sternly announced in the wake of the murders of January and the high jinks over Sinn Fein’s expulsion in February that everything had to be wrapped up by Easter. The chairman’s guillotine of Thursday 9 April was given a countdown: the parties were to receive his ‘synthesized’ version of everyone’s views by Friday 3 April; they were to comment by Monday 6 April; this would allow the final paper to be drafted for unveiling by the end of the day on Thursday 9 April. This would allow time for the final blessing the two referendums, to be held north and south of the border on 22 May. The American’s homesickness may well have been reinforced on St Patrick’s Day, 17 March, when everyone who was anyone on the Irish scene, north, south, London or Washington, seemed to gather for the occasion in the White House. Irish eyes were smiling even during the serious business of talking politics. With Sinn Fein back at the talks and its delegation enjoying US hospitality together with David Trimble, nothing more was needed to confirm that negotiations were truly back on course. 186
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More than that, for the first time real negotiations were taking place after the celebrations, instead of the posturing that previously had so infuriated Republicans. They charged that everything was being crammed into this final stage because Unionists had failed to engage seriously. Nonetheless, at last the train was on the move. Media editors duly took note to dispatch their camera teams, top reporters, seasoned commentators and journalistic footfolk to the drab media village which had mushroomed near Stormont’s office block during the two years of talks. None who knew it, relished the thought. While negotiators deplored the fluorescent-lit offices of Castle Buildings, with its lack of private corners for whispered consultations and an atmosphere like a dentist’s waiting room – or, according to Adams, like an interrogation centre – the media suffered the grey uncomfortable portakabins cluttering the lawns neither gladly nor with patience. Visible cracks
Mo Mowlam would have her April Fool’s joke: she announced that progress had been so good that the deadline had been advanced. A sad joke. On 1 April, Unionism and Nationalism were as wide apart as ever, despite constant whizzing by Trimble to and from London and, on occasion, Adams to and from Dublin with another call at Downing Street – a bonus which followed the ending of his party’s suspension. Possibly these contacts helped to bridge divisions, the outlines of which had become less blurred than before. A new controversy embroiled Unionists and Sinn Fein, this time over the issue of consent. Unionists had insisted on the importance of the ‘consent’ factor, certain that Sinn Fein would never accept a majority decision which said ‘no’ to a united Ireland. Unionists asked whether Sinn Fein would accept any majority decision which went against them or whether this would be a signal to return to war. Consent to any change had been built into all proposals on Northern Ireland by British as well as Irish governments. The Sunningdale Agreement had spelled out the Irish position by stating that the Irish government ‘fully accepted and solemnly declared that there could be no change in the status of Northern Ireland until a majority of the people of Northern Ireland desired a change in that status’. The British had undertaken that ‘if in the future the majority of the people of Northern Ireland should indicate a wish to become part of a united Ireland the British government would support that wish.’ Sinn Fein was therefore well aware of the consent principle, even if Republicans pointed out that partition had not been created by consent of the majority of the people of the island but had been imposed by force.
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
Republicans would have preferred one referendum on all issues to be decided by the population of the whole island, instead of by two separate referenda. In theory, this was justified by the UN principle of the right of self-determination of a people and its definition of a 'nation’. This speaks of a well-defined area populated by a coherent ethnic or cultural group which in the case of the emerald isle included a different minority group in the north-east. The 1916 Proclamation had embraced this concept. Partition and the effects which flowed from it had rejected it. Republicans said that what they hoped to achieve by talks was the same as they had always demanded: equality of citizens irrespective of religion or political affiliation – 'parity of esteem’ – an end to biased policing and a better life for their community. From the start of the process, Unionists had opposed any constitutional amendment which would involve Dublin in the affairs of the north. As an Irish minister put it, Unionists wanted minimal change, Republicans demanded maximum change. Despite these known and often stated positions, Senator Mitchell’s deadline suddenly focused the minds of the parties. They began to get their heads down and study the fine print of numerous documents to analyse the implications. The two governments promised a joint statement to help the paperwork along. But their efforts served to illustrate the gap, this time between London and Dublin. Three strands
The issues compressed into the 'three strands’ were interlocked in such a way that none could be resolved without the other. Everything depended on give-and-take. On Strand One, which dealt with inter-party relations, Republicans compromised on a Northern Ireland Assembly (NIA). They had initially rejected this. Sinn Fein’s constitution in fact precluded it from sitting on any such body which would confer legitimacy on partition. Unionists preferred a low-key structure, while the SDLP wanted a strong executive assembly. Republicans accused Nationalists of having accepted the NIA proposal too easily. Unionists finally arrived at the position which South Africa’s whites had reached before they entered talks in the early 1990s: they accepted that there were two communities with equal rights. More than that, a sizable part of the 'other’ community was represented by a Republican party which could actually become engaged in Northern Ireland’s administration alongside themselves. This was not easily accepted nor accepted at all by some Unionists. Even after the GFA was signed, even after the Mitchell review, many Unionists remained opposed to powersharing, just as hard-line Republicans opposed the GFA. The UUP had proposed a weak NIA without a cabinet-style Executive and suggested
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committees with independent chairpersons to deal with administrative matters. For Unionists the idea of sharing ministerial status with a Shinner still stuck in the gullet. This puzzled outsiders, as for years Unionists had shared council and committee rooms at local level with Shinners throughout Northern Ireland. But as Sinn Fein councillors pointed out, relations had been kept to a minimum and restricted to committee rooms. There was never any fraternizing. For Strand Two, which concerned north-south relations, both Nationalists and Republicans wanted a structure with executive powers, not a cosy Unionist-conceived club providing occasional get-togethers of ministers from the north and south. Unionists, however, resisted Nationalist proposals that the north-south structure should be an independent body with executive powers, to be established by legislation in London and Dublin. As for Strand Three, relations between Britain and the Republic and the conflicting claims of sovereignty over Ireland, Westminster signalled its intent of amending the 1920 Act concerning Ireland, while Dublin was prepared to make changes to Articles 2 and 3 of its constitution, which laid claim to the whole of the island. Article 2 stated that ‘the national territory consists of the whole island of Ireland, its islands and the territorial seas’. This had already been dealt with in the Joint Framework, which stated that the Irish constitution would be amended to ensure that ‘no territorial claim of right to jurisdiction over Northern Ireland contrary to the will of its people is asserted.’ This left the amendments on east–west relations up to the two governments, presenting Ahern rather than Blair with controversy, with the Republic’s media asking why sovereignty rights over the whole island should be so easily revoked. One columnist pointed out that if the Irish constitution was to be changed to guarantee citizens in Northern Ireland ‘British rights’ in Britain, then it would only be fair to guarantee those citizens who wanted it ‘Irish rights’ in the Republic. Last-minute hitches
It became obvious that all was not well between the two prime ministers after a flurry of meetings over 48 hours in early April. Bertie Ahern said after a visit to Downing Street on 2 April that he had ‘compromised enough’ and could make no further concessions. Seemingly, Tony Blair had made submissions on behalf of David Trimble which the Taoiseach found unacceptable. ‘I have made the changes I was required to make and they are known and quite clear ... the Irish government will not be moving any further’, he asserted. Bertie Ahern had closed ranks with the Nationalist cause. No doubt he felt that without backing Adams, no allinclusive agreement could be delivered.
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
The key issues of the NIA and the scale and scope of cross-border bodies appeared to have come unstuck. To add to the tension, an enormous bomb attributed to splinter-group Republicans was intercepted by the Gardai at a port near Dublin, intended either to upset the Grand National that Saturday or to attack an international summit held in London. Senator Mitchell, anxious to stick to the deadline, began to press the two leaders for their joint paper. Then, as if there were not enough stumbling blocks already in place, Unionists demanded a decommissioning timetable. If they had to accept Republicans in an assembly, they wanted to be certain ‘there were no guns under the table’. The gap between the two prime ministers was narrowed but not bridged. Instead of one joint paper, parallel papers were submitted to George Mitchell. He was to include the options in the paper which the parties – and the world press – awaited eagerly on Friday 3 April. The British Prime Minister and Irish Taoiseach were on stand-by for the final lap. As the hours passed by and the portakabins in the makeshift media village filled up, along with the bins for empty coffee cups, tension rose. Trimble was known to be unhappy. Had he sprinted to London? Had Adams abandoned the whole thing because he could not stomach an assembly which smacked of Stormont Mark Two? As a huge tent went up to accommodate incoming foreign media, a cameraman canvassed his peers’ views: would there or would there not be an agreement before Easter? Surprisingly the odds turned out to be 2:1. The media at least was optimistic. Rumours floated around, sometimes to be picked up and translated into solemn comments on television and radio. Life was hard on poor hacks forced to turn in bulletins by the hour, on the hour. Non-news was repeated as everyone stood by for the Mitchell paper, originally expected to be handed to the parties at 6 pm. The hour came and went. Time dragged on. The occasional politician appeared in the makeshift briefing room to provide a sound-bite or two. Rain added its own drama, along with falling temperatures and muddy lawns. Finally at 9 pm, Senator Mitchell emerged in the briefing room, flanked by his deputies. He regretted that his synthesized document had not been completed, but refused to be drawn into blaming anyone. It was the chairman’s responsibility to produce the paper and it was the chairman who had fallen down on the job, he maintained. Contentious points were not mentioned. Nor for that matter was a new deadline. The weekend saw officials, including Senator Mitchell, hard at work behind closed doors. By Monday morning there was still no sign of the paper. More intense activity followed, as negotiations by proxy continued. So did more nail-biting, further raising of blood pressures, more heated telephoning, behind-the-
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scene contacts between capital cities, including Washington, more soundbites and more Paisley sneering from the sidelines, vowing to fight ‘Dublin interference’. The Mitchell paper
Late on Monday night, the chairman’s document of 65 pages was ready at last. Senator Mitchell told the media that he had asked that the secrecy of its contents should be maintained. Lives were at risk by leaks, as the parties were edging closer to each other and to a deal. Tired as they were, the politicians seemed to have burnt the midnight oil when they returned home. By midday, Trimble was ready to comment. Clearly agitated, he said he was unable to recommend the document to his people as it stood. It would be necessary to return to the drawing board. This reaction threw participants into disarray. Had Trimble really managed to read the whole thing, Adams asked. He himself had studied it until the small hours and was certain that it was impossible to analyse all the implications so swiftly. Be that as it may, the UUP leader was adamant. He demanded radically different proposals. Mitchell’s paper was too green to be mixed with any orange. Jeffrey Donaldson, who later was to reject the compromise arrived at, declared that the ‘Prime Minister would have to do better than put forward these proposals.’ The UUP’s deputy leader John Taylor blustered that he wouldn’t touch the paper with a 40-foot pole. Unlike Donaldson, he later accepted the Easter Agreement. The atmosphere began to take on that of a pressure cooker. The hand of history
In Dublin, the Taoiseach suffered the blow of his mother’s sudden death, yet was able to deal with his personal grief as well as with public duties. The British Prime Minister, with a date in Belfast already marked in his diary, flew in earlier than planned. In the late afternoon of Tuesday 7 April, a helicopter overhead told the media that the Prime Minister was about to touch down at Hillsborough. He was to spend 72 crucial hours in the province before the Sea King helicopter departed late on Friday afternoon to carry him eastwards with a compromise agreement in his officials’ briefcases. With Blair’s arrival, the curtain had lifted on the last act of the Easter drama. The Prime Minister immediately plunged into meetings, including an initial talk with Trimble, who complained that Dublin was not negotiating ‘in good faith’ and that Mitchell’s paper was weighted too greatly in favour of Nationalist and Republican sentiments. The cameras later
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caught the two men, as a shirt-sleeved Blair saw his anxious guest to the door. Nationalists and Republicans were cheered by Blair’s remark that he accepted the Unionist demand that Northern Ireland should remain part of the UK as long as the majority wanted it to. For he added that 'in return for that, obviously there has to be recognition of the fact that there is a Nationalist aspiration and identity there and we’ve got to put in place arrangements which make sense of that.’ A relieved Republican told me that when he heard that, he felt 'the time had come for partition to end’. Surely the comment meant that the north-south body would be a structure of some substance. He added that the UUP would try to water down the functions of this body. Blair’s arrival showed his commitment to go the proverbial extra mile, stating that he felt 'the hand of history upon our shoulders. I think we need to acknowledge that and respond to it.’ This meant driving the process forward, assuring Trimble on 'terrorist’ arms and talking to other leaders, in particular holding crucial talks with Gerry Adams. Blair also made concessions on prisoners. Those linked to paramilitary organizations whose ceasefire was in place, were to be free within two years. The process meant days and nights of hard slog, attention to detail, meetings and consultations. No one seemed to go home. Prime Minister’s Wednesday Question Time was missed, as was everyone’s usual bedtime. Blair was joined by the Irish Taoiseach, who arrived just hours before his mother’s funeral service and returned after it. Mo Mowlam in her inimitable manner, her newly growing hair slipping from beneath a bright scarf, was always at hand, moving from one negotiator to the other. The backroom boys and girls worked non-stop, filing and editing ‘as papers flew around all over the place’, as one negotiator described it. Some delegates dragged in mattresses, others snatched sleep on chairs or on the floor. Paisley stormed in too but failed to hold much media attention and was faced by Loyalist heckling. These were extraordinary days. By Thursday, President Clinton took a hand at the telephone to add his weight to the persuaders. He omitted no one. Seamus Mallon, the SDLP’s deputy leader, said he had been getting a cup of coffee when the phone rang and the woman behind the counter handed it to him, saying that President Clinton was on the line. It was a Clinton spokesman who revealed in Kentucky that the talks in Belfast would probably slide past the midnight witching hour of 9 April, Senator Mitchell’s deadline. Observers feared the worst. The agreement seemed to be slipping out of the negotiators’ hands. The long night’s work continued, with hardened media outside fighting the elements as much as sleep, as the temperature dropped and snow fell.
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Sealed, signed if not yet delivered
Then at last, late on Good Friday afternoon the deal was done. Participants broke into applause, some embraced each other. All fell silent, aware of the momentous occasion, when Senator Mitchell took the chair in the conference room for the last time and in the glare of television cameras. His opening words, short as they were, summed up the magnitude of the achievement. ‘I am pleased to announce that the two governments and the political parties in Northern Ireland have reached agreement.’ Senator Mitchell reminded the gathering of the death of two young friends – one Catholic, the other Protestant – who had been shot dead in Poyntzpass only a month before. He said that they had lived and died together, seeing each other not as Protestant and Catholic but as flesh and blood. Their lives had shown what Northern Ireland could become. Then it was the turn of party leaders to make their statements. They represented all shades of political opinion and included men who in the name of 'Ulster’ or for the ideal of 'one Ireland’ had killed or given orders for killing. There was no signing ceremony, no cheerful euphoria. Possibly the long night’s session had something to do with it, or perhaps the persisting different perceptions. David Trimble said the deal had strengthened the Union. Gerry Adams said he was reaching out a hand of friendship, which at this point Trimble was not yet ready to take. As for a weary Tony Blair, he recalled the remark made on his arrival in Belfast earlier that week, when he had spoken of feeling history’s hand on his shoulder. "Today I hope that the burden of history can at last start to be lifted from our shoulders. The work to win that prize goes on.’ Ireland’s Easter Agreement shared not merely the blood, sweat, tears and compromises of South Africa’s solution, but also a power-sharing element. The transitional constitution in South Africa had provided a five-year government of national unity. The Agreement ensured that both communities shared power in the Northern Ireland Assembly Executive. Good Friday had brought good news to Ireland. Time to rest, await the round of Easter parades and finally, to reflect. The peace train was still on the move, heading towards party conferences and the people’s voice on 22 May in a Northern Ireland referendum on what became known as the Good Friday Agreement. The GFA was a major milestone, but not, even then, the end of the negotiating road.
After the War is Over
We ... believe that the agreement we have negotiated offers a truly historic opportunity for a new beginning. Declaration of Support to Belfast Agreement April 1998 On 22 May 1998 the people of Ireland, north and south, participated in something that had not happened for almost 80 years: they all went to the polls together, just as South Africans had done four years earlier, when for the first time everyone had the right to vote. In Ireland the issue was the GFA. For Northern Ireland the new deal meant devolution of power from Westminster, while southerners gave up territorial claims to the northern counties. The staggering results have already been quoted – a 71 per cent yes-vote in the north and almost a 94 per cent one in the south. What the people really voted for was peace. The people of Northern Ireland went once more to the polls on 26 June, this time to elect the parties to the NIA with its 108 seats. The turnout was not as massive as for the referendum, but still higher than the average poll. The results were a triumph for Nationalists and Republicans. While SDLP votes outnumbered those for the UUP, the latter gained 28 seats under the PR system against 24 for the SDLP. This meant that the UUP remained the largest party, with the SDLP taking a respectable second place. Sinn Fein increased its 1997 poll with a 17 per cent share of the vote, taking 18 seats. Paisley’s DUP, in third place with 20 seats, did not have sufficient strength to wreck the new structure. Given Paisley’s experience and cunning, no one was left in doubt that he would manoeuvre himself into a position to continue his policy, possibly through links with like-minded parties such as the UK Unionists with its five seats. The Alliance Party won six seats, while the Progressive Unionists took two, as did the Women’s Coalition. The UUP provided the First Minister, with the SDLP entitled to the post of Deputy First Minister. Sinn Fein’s results entitled it to two seats on the Executive, matched by the DUP.
The Good Friday Agreement
The GFA might not please all the people all of the time, but it did achieve a fine balancing act of pleasing most people who mattered most of the time. The main points agreed were:
— the creation of a Northern Ireland Assembly (NIA) of 108 members elected by proportional representation, to take over the six departments previously the responsibility of Northern Ireland ministers — the creation of a 12-member Executive Committee to be elected by the NIA on a cross-border basis — the creation of a North—South Ministerial Council, accountable to the NIA and the Dáil, without executive powers of its own
— the establishment of an Inter-Governmental Council, with members drawn from the NIA, the Dáil, the British Parliament and the devolved Scottish and Welsh Assemblies
— the repeal by the British government of the 1920 Government of Ireland Act in exchange for amendments by the Irish government to Articles 2 and 3 of its constitution — the replacement of the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement with a BritishIrish Agreement — the establishment of a British-Irish Inter-Governmental Conference, to replace the existing body to cover bilateral British-Irish issues
— the creation of an Independent Commission to review policing in Northern Ireland and submit a report by summer 1999. The Agreement broke new ground on all three strands of the negotiations. On Strands One and Two it spelled out radically new arrangements for the devolved Northern Ireland Assembly and its power-sharing Executive Committee, the Council of Ministers drawn from both sides of the border and the cross-border decision-making bodies. To stop Unionists from dragging their heels in establishing the North-South Ministerial Council, the Agreement stated that if this did not happen within a year, the NIA would be dissolved. In turn, Unionists were gratified that Dublin was prepared to renounce claims of sovereignty over the whole of the island under Strand Three by amending Articles 2 and 3 of its constitution, so long an irritant to Unionism. Unionist misgivings
If David Trimble’s misgiving could be understood, Paisley’s outright ‘no’ could not. Trimble sold the document on the basis that the Union was stronger than ever, thanks to the principle of consent to be enshrined
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
constitutionally and accepted by the two governments. Yet many Unionists were asking if the Union was truly safe forever? As mentioned, the principle of consent had always been part of every constitutional proposal. This meant that the situation would remain unchanged as long as the majority of the people of Northern Ireland desired it. But demographic transformation can easily take place within a generation or two. In the 1920s, the Catholic community in the six counties represented a minority of some 30 per cent. By the late 1990s this had risen to over 40 per cent. What will happen when it tops 50 per cent and more? Will the majority’s consent then tilt towards and demand a united Ireland? Following the hard bargaining and cliff-hanging of the pre-Easter week, David Trimble told his Ulster Unionist Council on 18 April, that the Agreement 'was as good as it gets’. It meant that Trimble had moved into the arena of realpolitik. He had come to accept the two non-Unionist dimensions of the Irish question – British interests and those of nonUnionist Irish. After all the years of building walls around Unionism, of saying no, of denigrating Nationalist sentiments, of hoping that Sinn Fein would either be expelled or would withdraw from the all-party talks, Trimble and the 73 per cent of UUC members who voted his way, finally accepted that Nationalism and Republicanism had their places too. Trimble had thus arrived at a new-style Unionism and had persuaded the majority of his followers to accept it. What was even more gratifying for him was the fact that he had achieved this without the blessing of the Orange Order leadership, which had said that it could not recommend the GFA to its members. The referendum and the election results had shown that not all Unionists had gone Trimble’s way. Yet given the emotional 'no’ appeal by Paisley and the fear of the unknown, the UUP leader had every reason to be delighted with the outcome. In spite of misgivings, he also had good reason to be satisfied with the GFA. It was not a blueprint for a slow slide towards a unified Ireland through north-south bodies. The document ensured that responsibility was shared between existing structures such as government departments and separate implementation bodies. Moreover the North-South Ministerial Council was to be accountable to the NIA and the Oireachtas (the two Houses of the Irish Parliament) and could thus largely be controlled by the NIA, in which Unionists were in the majority. Points for dissent remained. The most important of these remained decommissioning. The de Chastelain Commission, appointed to oversee this, was in place, with the GFA making provision for decommissioning by paramilitaries to take place within two years. No deadline for the start of decommissioning was included in the Agreement, though Trimble was sent a letter from the British Prime Minister on this thorny subject. This formed the basis of heated squabbles during the following year.
AFTER THE WAR IS OVER
In May, the IRA issued a statement which ruled out instant decommissioning, adding a significant rider to the dismay of Unionists that decommissioning was ‘a matter only for the IRA, to be decided upon and pronounced upon by us’. This was reinforced in December, when an IRA convention decided to defer the process. In other words, the Army Council wanted to sit back and see how the GFA worked. It also showed that the IRA was prepared to maintain the ceasefire, while not conceding that the GFA was the end of the process. This troubled Unionists greatly. They wanted greater assurance that the IRA had given up violence for good. David Trimble felt the IRA statement precluded Sinn Fein from participating in any bodies set up under the Agreement. It was a view he continued to argue until the Mitchell review and which he expressed in the blunt slogan of ‘no guns, no government’. Nationalist view
The SDLP had gained the important point that the north-south bodies envisaged in the Agreement had to be set up by Westminster and Dublin, not by the NIA Executive. Much praise was heaped on John Hume, the veteran SDLP leader who had engineered the peace process in the first place. He had never wavered in his determination to achieve equality for his community and end the violence. The acknowledgement of his role by the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, which awarded its Prize jointly to Hume and David Trimble, was warmly applauded. (South Africa’s Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk had earlier been honoured in the same way.) However, Hume declined the job of Deputy First Minister, which went instead to Seamus Mallon. Republican problems
Gerry Adams applauded Trimble’s achievement with the startling comment of ‘Well done, David!’ even if ‘David’ had not yet acknowledged ‘Gerry’ by 22 May or indeed by 25 June. Nevertheless, Republicans had their own difficulties with the Agreement. As far as his own constituents were concerned, Adams’s trump card was the human rights clauses and the acknowledgement of the equality of the two communities. The provision concerning early prisoner releases was accepted as inevitable. Without this, Republicans could not have approved the GFA. The inclusion of agendas on equality in employment, consideration for the Irish language and culture, promises of an overhaul of policing and a review of demilitarization were also crucial. The British government further agreed to carry out a detailed review of the criminal justice system, with a report due by autumn 1999. Recom-
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
mendations arising out of this report were to be discussed by the Irish government and the political parties. The number and role of the army was to be reduced ‘to levels compatible with a normal peaceful society’. Nonetheless, Gerry Adams did not have an easy ride, for the understandable reason that the Agreement had not achieved the Republican aim of a united Ireland. Nor did every Republican believe that the northsouth bodies were strong enough to be used to produce this goal. Adams, like Trimble, had his selling to do. He had to persuade his constituents that the built-in guarantees in the Agreement were powerful enough to stop Unionists controlling the levers of power. Sinn Fein’s difficulty lay in accepting any northern structure at all, as it went a long way towards accepting partition and the six counties as a legal entity. This was rejected by dissident extremists. Sinn Fein’s Ard Fheis held at the weekend following the GFA was adjourned to 10 May, when it was re-convened at the Royal Dublin Society. To their delight, delegates were joined by IRA prisoners, specially released for 48 hours in order to attend the meeting. Delegates gave the men and women a rapturous welcome. They included seasoned Republicans such as the ‘Balcombe Street Four’, responsible for attacks in England in the 1970s. Shortly before 10 May, they had been transferred to an Irish gaol. One Republican spoke of ‘soldiers coming home’, while Adams commented that ‘these are our Mandelas’. The comments and scenes, seen on television screens, pushed many Unionists into the ‘no’ camp. Nothing could have shown the difference of perceptions more clearly. For Republicans the presence of the prisoners was an endorsement of the political process by old-style hard men. Unionists only saw the faces of murderous terrorists who would soon walk free in their streets. Even the special release of a Loyalist killer who subsequently attended a rally on his side of the political fence did little to pacify Unionists on the prisoner issue. The Ard Fheis voted overwhelmingly in favour of the Good Friday Agreement. Moreover, after six hours of heated debate, 331 delegates out of 350 voted to change Sinn Fein’s constitution, which allowed the party to take its seats in the NIA. Jim Gibney described the occasion as a ‘seismic, historic watershed’. He, like every other Republican, felt that now there was no going back. Life would never be the same again. Mitchel McLaughlin felt his party had benefited from the South African experience. It had learned above all to ‘harness the public mood, to create a dynamic out of public expectation for change that is irreversible, that is greater than the forces of those who would prevent change’. Sinn Fein was trying to emulate the South African example of creating ‘the dynamics for peaceful and democratic revolution’. Circumstances were of course different. For one thing, there was the sovereign Dublin
AFTER THE WAR IS OVER
government, a factor which had not been present in the South African issue. London and Dublin
The two governments were also bound by the GFA, which stated that they recognized ‘the legitimacy of whatever choice is freely exercised by a majority of the people of Ireland with regard to its status, whether they continue to support the Union or a sovereign united Ireland’. This made it difficult to sympathize with Paisley’s fulmination about a ‘devil’s pact’ or doing business with killers. The preamble to the GFA stated that the parties were absolutely committed to ‘exclusively democratic and peaceful means of resolving differences on political issues and our opposition to any use or threat of force by others for any political purpose, whether in regard to this agreement or otherwise’. Nonetheless, as mentioned, splinter groups such as the ‘Real IRA’ continued to pose the kind of threats posed by extremists in South Africa. Irish constitution
A new British-Irish Agreement replaced the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Britain’s 1920 Government of Ireland Act was to go, and Dublin was to amend its constitution. This meant that the concept of Irish identity was now enshrined in the new wording of Articles 2 and 3. Together they confirmed that anyone in Northern Ireland could choose to be British, Irish or both. The wording of Article 2 proposed in the GFA read:
It is the entitlement and birthright of every person born in the island of Ireland, which includes its islands and seas, to be part of the Irish nation. That is also the entitlement of all persons otherwise qualified in accordance with laws to be citizens of Ireland. Furthermore, the Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage.
Article 3 was to be changed to: 1.
It is the firm will of the Irish nation, in harmony and friendship, to unite all the people who share the territory of the island of Ireland, in all the diversity of their identities and traditions, recognizing that a united Ireland shall be brought about only by peaceful means with the consent of a majority of the people democratically expressed, in both jurisdictions in the island. Until then, the laws enacted by the Parliament established by this Constitution shall have the like area and extent of application as the laws enacted by the Parliament that existed immediately before the coming into operation of this Constitution.
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
Institutions with executive powers and functions that are shared between those jurisdictions may be established by their respective responsible authorities for stated purposes and may exercise powers and functions in respect of all or any part of the island. Points of contention
The GFA did not secure the Union for all time nor did it promise one Ireland in the near future. It provided democratic mechanisms missing at the time of partition in 1920. The reduction of British army personnel was a major issue for Republicans. At the height of The Troubles’ in 1972, there were some 30,000 troops in Northern Ireland against a level of around 18,000 in early 1998. According to the Northern Ireland Office, some 1500 soldiers were withdrawn in the wake of the 1994 ceasefire, with 1000 returning after the Docklands bomb. More troops arrived during January 1998 at the time of the LVF/UDA murders. Additional troops were also brought in for Drumcree 1998, with the threat of Orange Order defiance of the Parade Commission’s ruling that they were not to step on to Garvaghy Road. The GFA’s section on human rights promised the inclusion of the European Convention on Human Rights into Northern Ireland law. Both governments undertook the creation of Human Rights Commissions, whose membership was to reflect The community balance’. Representatives of both commissions were to form a Human Rights Forum. Several issues, however, continued to be contentious. One concerned the prisoner release programme which affected IRA and Loyalist prisoners alike. Mitchel McLaughlin said that the first thing the ANC told Sinn Fein was to ensure that the definition of ‘political prisoner’ was made clear during the negotiations. Indeed, such clear definition had not been outlined in the ANC’s Harare Declaration. South Africa’s handling of the prisoner issue also appeared to interest the British government, according to a report in the Mail on Sunday of 8 January 1998. The question of prisoners, affecting around 450 persons, was agreed with Gerry Adams two days before the final Agreement. Provisions included a review process to advance release dates. With a rise in remissions and changes in the structure of sentences, it was expected that most prisoners linked with groups signed up to a ceasefire would be back in civilian life within two years. Mid-2000 would thus see the end of ‘political prisoners’ of the major paramilitary groups in Irish and British gaols. Many Unionists objected to this. They were uneasy about the release of people who had pointed guns at them and who had killed their loved ones. They were also upset by the swift release of some prisoners by the Dublin government on the heels of the Agreement.
AFTER THE WAR IS OVER
Paramilitaries did not see it that way. Prisoners were perceived as activists acting under orders and out of political conviction. The Northern Ireland Office, in a report of October 1997, conceded that the issues were political, stating that ‘no one pretends that there is a military solution to the problems of Northern Ireland, the problems are essentially political ones, which require a combination of political, social, economic and security measures to resolve.’ Released political prisoners rarely offended again, either because they were older or because they were known to the police. Most of them felt they had ‘done their bit, like soldiers in conventional wars’, an expert said. Several Loyalist prisoners in Northern Ireland had turned to religion and had become born-again Christians. The expert’s contention was borne out by events. By November 1999 some 300 prisoners had been released, but few had re-offended. On the contrary. Their return home proved a strong incentive for paramilitaries on both sides to hold their fire during a fraught year. However, there was anger on the part of victims as well as others when the early release programme began. At Christmas 1998 many Unionists expressed their fury over the paroles for IRA prisoners, several of whom were associated with some of the ugliest incidents of ‘the Troubles’. Although Loyalist prisoners too received Christmas paroles, calls were made to halt prisoner releases until such time as the IRA decommissioned its weapons. This was repeated in July 1999, when the peace process again became deadlocked. Peace had not instantly ‘broken out’ with the signatures on the Good Friday Agreement.
The Horror of Violence
Sinn Fein believes the violence we have seen must be for all of us now a thing of the past, over, done with and gone. GERRY ADAMS
1 September 1998 Once the ink had dried on the GFA, events failed to move as quickly as the public had expected. Decommissioning once more began to preoccupy Unionists. They felt this had not yet been properly addressed. On 7 September 1998 David Trimble held a meeting with all the party leaders in the NIA to discuss business issues. Three days later, the first face-to-face meeting between Trimble and Adams finally took place. However, wearing his UUP leader’s hat, Trimble was less than accommodating. He continued to protest at Sinn Fein’s reluctance to comply with the demand for decommissioning of IRA arms and rejected Adams’s argument that decommissioning was voluntary and part of the twoyear process laid down by the GFA. Sinn Fein pressed for the creation of an Executive, which they said was not linked to a decommissioning exercise. Trimble refused to comply until decommissioning had begun. He said that he could not sit down with a party which still held arms. The GFA had tried to solve this thorny problem by stating that participants reaffirmed their commitment to total disarmament, with the Irish and British governments promising to facilitate and oversee decommissioning. The governments also promised to use their influence to persuade the decommissioning of all arms within two years of the referenda of 22 May 1998. The deadlock caused great concern. Though Tony Blair had exclaimed at the completion of the GFA that the people had taken the gun out of Irish poEtics, there were still plenty of guns around. Some RepubEcan ‘yesterday-groups’ had not gone away but were regrouping. There were also Unionist bitter-enders such as the LVF or the Portadown Orangemen, still determined to march down Garvaghy Road. The ‘Real IRA’ began a bombing campaign which reached a horrendous climax on 16 August. On that lovely Saturday afternoon the tranquillity of the County Tyrone town of Omagh was torn apart by a
THE HORROR OF VIOLENCE
massive bomb in its centre among a crowd of relaxed shoppers. Its toll of 29 lives and 200 injured traumatized an entire community. The terrible death and destruction unleashed widespread fury, grief and revulsion on both sides of the border and was condemned so widely that the bomb turned the tide against the plotters. The diabolical disregard for people’s lives united the Irish as never before. For the first time Adams uttered the word ‘condemn’ when voicing his abhorrence at the violence. For the first time too, Adams and Trimble stood in the same congregation at one of the sad series of funerals after the Omagh bomb. As the eminent South African writer Allister Sparks had written in Tomorrow is Another Country about a violent incident during South Africa’s peace process, ‘this national trauma strengthened rather than weakened the political centre and spurred the negotiating parties to speed up their work.’ Omagh focused the minds of the peacemakers. The political leadership of the ‘Real IRA’ panicked and tried to disassociate itself from its military operatives as the shock waves emanating from deep-felt anger overwhelmed them. The IRA advised the group to disband. The Irish and British governments took unprecedented steps to introduce in parallel tough security laws, to the consternation of human rights groups. Both the LVF and INLA declared ceasefires at the end of August. The INLA said that it did not consider the GFA worth the sacrifice of the past 30 years, but the people had accepted it. A weak apology by the ‘Real IRA’ was finally followed by a formal ceasefire on 8 September. The mood was for politics, not violence. Omagh quickened the political pace which had decelerated after the June election. August witnessed a series of steps which the media described as careful orchestration ahead of the September visit to Ireland by President Clinton. The US President was denied the drama of an Adams-Trimble handshake, by UUP continued insistence on up-front decommissioning, by Adams’s inability to deliver, and by Downing Street’s reluctance to see Washington stealing the limelight by such a gesture. Nonetheless, the American President, recognized as a prime mover in the peace process, received a tumultuous welcome. His speech referred to outstanding issues such as decommissioning, an end to punishment beatings by paramilitaries, the reform of the police and the swift establishment of an Executive and north–south bodies. Unionists were still urging the IRA to declare that the war had ended. Though he did not use those words, Gerry Adams made a strong statement on 1 September that ‘violence must be a thing of the past, over, done with and gone.’ Though the political mosaic had not yet been completed, the Omagh tragedy in its way contributed towards furthering the progress to peace. The real missing piece was that of trust. Sinn Fein leaders stated that over a long period of time they had carefully constructed an alternative
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
to war through participation in the peace process. Republicans felt that after 30 years of violence a British government had indirectly conceded the failure of partition. The British were no longer forcing a system of government on Northern Ireland. Instead, the GFA had left the choice to the people. This made it not only possible but necessary for Republicans to work within the democratic process. Contact between the British and Irish governments continued. The climax came when Tony Blair addressed the Oireachtas, the Dáil and Senate, on 26 November 1998, the first British prime minister to do so. He was met with warmth and indeed with affection, an acknowledgement of his personal contribution to the peace process. At the start of the twentieth century every Irish Catholic child had imbibed hatred of the British with its mother’s milk. The role of the imperial power had not been glorious in the emerald isle. The standing ovation for a British prime minister in Dublin was thus an extraordinary event. The Irish Republic had developed a sturdy independence, self-esteem and prosperity and it now hoped for peace in the north. The economic growth of the south spilled over into the north, where property was cheap and investment opportunities – ahead of peace – attractive. Britain’s role in the search for that peace was warmly applauded. However, the ‘no guns, no government’ debate continued. Despite Tony Blair’s personal intervention on 9 December, the rift between Trimble and Sinn Fein was not bridged by Christmas. Chief Constable Flanagan said in November that the IRA’s ceasefire, which had held for 16 months at that point, could help to effect permanent peace. Adams also argued that the ceasefire was convincing evidence that the IRA was prepared to give the parties space to work out their political solution. The decommissioning row diverted attention from this. People who had enthusiastically cast their votes were disappointed. They longed for a peace which still eluded the politicians. As George Mitchell, who together with others involved in the peace process was honoured in Blair’s end of 1998 Honours List, said in his Richard Dimbleby Lecture of 3 December 1998, ‘the people of Northern Ireland are sick of war. ... They want peace and I hope they can keep it.’ In the end, Senator Mitchell was called back to help once again. A great deal had happened in the year following the GFA. The principle of consent over the constitutional status was in place, with the removal of Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish Republic’s constitution; the agenda to ensure equality of both communities with provisions of police reform and structures to safeguard human rights had been accepted; the NIA was established; meetings had taken place between First Minister Trimble and Sinn Fein’s President Gerry Adams; the programme of early prisoner releases had gone ahead. Yet the final piece of the mosaic of devolution, setting up the Executive, was still missing in May 1999.
Stretching the Stamina
Peace is harder to adjust to than violence. DR ROBERT EAMES Primate of the Church of Ireland
During May and June a good deal of shadow-boxing went on. Until then, the IRA and that meant also Sinn Fein, had held on to the Republican principle never to surrender a gun. Yet Sinn Fein, aware of the mood of its constituents, wanted to get into government. To achieve this, McGuinness made an offer: guns in exchange for a place in government. What was on offer by Republicans was more than a token surrender of arms. Sinn Fein asked for the instant setting up of the Executive, that is, the implementation of the GFA. In return, it offered to remove the gun permanently out of politics. This was to be effected by the appointment of an interlocutor between the IRA and de Chastelain’s decommissioning committee within a week. Decommissioning was planned to begin by December and be completed by May 2000, two years after the acceptance of the GFA. A number of checks would be introduced to ensure the process was creditable and mechanisms set up to achieve this goal. The penalty for defaulting would be the winding up of the Executive. This was seen as a 'fail-safe’ arrangement to ensure that Sinn Fein’s promises were kept. The Irish and British governments were delighted. When the news was made public, Blair spoke of 'historic and seismic shifts’ in Northern Ireland’s political landscape. The governments set about taking soundings and hastily preparing position papers and documents for any necessary legislation. The British government believed that a deal with Unionists could be hammered out. Trimble’s reception of the proposal was lukewarm. The problem of Unionist distrust re-emerged, which viewed every innovation as a manoeuvre aimed at the diminution of Unionist power. The UUP leader said he had no problem dealing with former terrorists, but he would not sit down with people who still held terrorist arms. In other words, it all came down to a dance around what politicians called ‘sequencing’. Who would go first? Would arms be given up first, to be followed by the establishment of the power-sharing Executive? Would it happen simulta205
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
neously? The flurry of meetings and telephone calls which had led to the climax on Good Friday in 1998 was repeated. Trimble and his men remained adamant: they would only move after, not before, arms were seen to be delivered. High drama followed. In June Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern turned their full attention to Northern Ireland and tried the sort of hands-on strategy which had worked so well the previous year. They spent an unprecedented five days in the last week of June 1999 closeted at Stormont with each other and the warring parties, in an attempt to unblock 15 months of deadlock and achieve the longed-for devolution which would allow Unionists, Nationalists and Republicans to work together in peace. In literally over 100 meetings, the prime ministers hammered out proposals which were presented to the parties on 2 July and which were to provide Northern Ireland with its new government and a plan for decommissioning. The phasing of decommissioning was to be a matter of decision by General de Chastelain. At the same time fail-safe mechanisms were to be introduced through legislation. The UUP leadership hedged. They argued that the proposals were drawn up too quickly to provide secure guarantees. Moreover it was unfair that democrats should be punished by the winding up of the Executive, if the terrorists failed to give up their guns. On 13 July the Bill on Northern Ireland which included the fail-safe provision was presented to Parliament and pushed through all its stages in one sitting. Following heated debate, the government agreed to certain amendments. In the event, these were not needed. On the morning of 15 July, the day that the Assembly was to become part of a devolved Northern Ireland administration, the parties met in what was a travesty of a formal sitting. The seats of UUP members remained empty. The UUP leadership was otherwise occupied. They were holding a meeting to discuss the proposed legislation at their downtown offices at 10 am. They emerged 15 minutes later to announce that it was unacceptable. The Unionists felt they had compromised a great deal without seeing as much as a grenade emerging from the IRA arsenal. The assurances made to them seemed insufficient. Further thought was needed. Disappointed and visibly upset, Seamus Mallon resigned instantly as Trimble’s deputy. The First Minister stayed on in his post. Mallon accused the UUP of using the crisis to 'bleed more concessions out of the governments. They are dishonouring the Agreement. They are insulting its principles.’ Such emotion did not move the First Minister. Like the rest of the politicians and the public he awaited the end of summer and a new review of the process. It was then that Senator Mitchell, who had gained
STRETCHING THE STAMINA
everyone’s trust, was again asked to intervene. He did so reluctantly but in the end he succeeded. Seamus Mallon’s resignation became the subject of the curious motion on 29 November of that year, when the parties were finally in a position to nominate members of the Executive. In terms of the GFA this could only happen with the First Minister and his deputy pulling in tandem in order stop acrimonious debate. The Speaker ruled that Mallon had not legally resigned. It did not in fact stop the debate or its acrimony, but afforded the anti-GFA members of the Assembly an opportunity to voice their views before the real drama of the day began – the setting up of the first power-sharing government in the 77-year history of the Northern Ireland state. Even before the Mitchell review began, the UUP asked Dr Mowlam in mid-August to expel Sinn Fein from the peace process on the grounds that the IRA had broken its ceasefire. A halt to the prisoner release programme was also demanded. The controversial issue was the involvement of the IRA in punishment beatings, the inhuman practice which all paramilitaries had been involved in for years. In August, human rights groups stated that some 800 people had been ‘exiled’ from Northern Ireland by paramilitaries from both communities – actions which caused immense hardship to the individuals concerned. The Northern Ireland Secretary took advice and declared that the ceasefire had not been broken. This was challenged in court, but subsequently upheld. By then, Peter Mandelson had replaced Mo Mowlam. Then in the autumn Senator Mitchell waved his wand. He had achieved the impossible by whisking the talks away from the clinical environment of Stormont and the intense media glare, and had installed the teams in more pleasant surroundings, including the US ambassadorial residence in London. This time round there were face-to-face discussions between Trimble and Adams. More than that. In contrast to the stiff separation at the South African seminar, this time the two men dined and drank with each other and the rest. This human contact seemingly convinced each side that the other was to be trusted. Despite the many false starts over the ten weeks, despite the defiance of 13 UUP members of the NIA (against 14 who voted in favour of Trimble’s go-ahead), the Mitchell review emerged triumphant. On 15 November, General de Chastelain called on paramilitaries to appoint representatives so that his commission could complete decommissioning of arms by May 2000 in terms of the GFA. This was followed the next day by the UUP and Sinn Fein statements already quoted, undertaking the appointment of executive members on 29 November and devolution on 2 December, the day on which the IRA would appoint its delegate to the de Chastelain Commission. In effect it meant that the Executive was to be set up before decommissioning began. This was hard for many Unionists to swallow. David
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
Trimble had a tough task to persuade the UUC to accept his lead. He presented his motion on 27 November and, to his relief, the previous week’s intensive lobbying paid off: 58 per cent voted to accept the arrangement, provided that it was reviewed in February 2000. The relief was tremendous. On Monday 29 November the NIA’s chamber, which had witnessed the shambles of the empty chairs in July, was filled to capacity as the Executive was appointed. This was followed by the swift passing of legislation by Westminster and the signing of the Bill by the Queen. By midnight on 1 December Northern Ireland was once more under Home Rule, with the new Executive beginning its work on 2 December 1999. The new millennium had taken on a great significance for the people of Northern Ireland. And yet, no sooner had it and the GFA implementation begun than it stumbled. Three months after it had been set up, the devolved government was suspended. The barrier proved to be decommissioning yet again. In February 2000 the peace train was brought to an abrupt halt. Suspension
The new Secretary of State, Peter Mandelson, informed Parliament on 22 November 1999 of the result of the Mitchell magic, which had resolved the 18-month impasse, by outlining the UUP-Sinn Fein agreement. Decommissioning, he said confidently, would happen ‘as a natural and essential development of the peace process’ and threatened to freeze devolution unless decommissioning did take place. It did not. Certainly not by 31 January, the deadline which the UUP leader David Trimble had set in order to obtain his party’s agreement to enter into the power-sharing government. The party had given its consent with the proviso that this was to be reviewed on 12 February 2000 and dependent on one issue – whether or not IRA decommissioning was on course by 31 January. If it was not, Trimble said he would resign as First Minister. As the deadline approached, it became clear that the demand for ‘arms on the table’ was not being met. The IRA had appointed its man to the de Chastelain Commission; there had been two meetings but no firm commitment as to the when, how or what of decommissioning. Nerves in the Northern Ireland Office became increasingly taut. Once more the flurry of diplomatic moves began between the two governments and the two parties, and between Sinn Fein and the IRA. The Secretary of State set the legislation in place on 5 February to return the province to direct rule on 11 February. The British government feared that if David Trimble withdrew from the government, the new institutions would collapse irrevocably.
STRETCHING THE STAMINA
Trimble was under pressure from his own party and from Paisley’s DUP. In order to save the peace process, Mandelson decided that the only solution was to suspend devolution. The GFA was an intricate structure in which the whole depended on the different parts. If one mosaic piece dropped out, the entire arrangement was jeopardized. Sinn Fein had been jubilant over its participation in government, which had begun with the swearing in of its two ministers, Bairbre de Brun and Martin McGuinness. For the first time Republicans enjoyed the taste of power. The Party’s leadership felt it had done its part to persuade the IRA to enter into the decommissioning process. Under the GFA, decommissioning was voluntary, due to be completed by 22 May 2000, not 31 January. Sinn Fein argued that because Trimble had delayed setting up the Executive, not enough progress on the ground had been made to enable the IRA to begin to decommission. For Unionists, decommissioning was seen as the ultimate proof of IRA sincerity. Private armies had no place in a democratic society. David Trimble had Jumped first’ by creating the Executive. The IRA was seen to be morally bound to begin decommissioning. Sinn Fein on its part claimed that elements in Unionism were happy to use the issue as a means of blocking devolution and thus of power-sharing. The peace process reached its deepest crisis. During the days and nights up to the deadline of Friday 11 February, frantic and wearying efforts were made to avert suspension. Late on that afternoon Gerry Adams announced a major breakthrough on the arms question. The IRA’s liaison man to the Decommissioning Commission called on the Canadian general with a new submission. This allowed de Chastelain to issue a new report, more upbeat than his January statement. However, for Mandelson the IRA’s statement was ambiguous and so he went ahead with the suspension, to Sinn Fein’s fury and against the wishes of the Irish government. Republicans had placed their faith in propinquity. They argued that if the Executive had been set up as planned, there would have been almost two years of close co-operation between Unionists, Nationalists and Republicans. The process would have gained its own momentum. New links would have been forged, successes chalked up in providing the kind of government which the people needed and wanted. In these circumstances decommissioning would have become irrelevant; guns could then be dug out of cellars, attics or the ground, or remain there to rust. The future was power-sharing, not power monopoly or renewed conflict. Seismic shift
The fear of that renewed conflict led to months of quiet diplomacy. The IRA, like Sinn Fein, must have felt the mood of its people. They wanted peace not war and Sinn Fein wanted to be back in the seats of power to
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
oversee the process of change. London and Dublin worked hard to stop the peace process from unravelling. The GFA was the best document yet to have come out of the many efforts to find an acceptable basis for the two communities to live at peace with each other. The opportunity was too good to be allowed to slip through the politicians’ grasp. Consultations were conducted away from the public gaze. Only the finale, the meetings at top level between the two prime ministers in Downing Street in early May and their subsequent get-together with party leaders in Belfast, heralded what was truly a seismic shift – their announcement on the night of Friday 5 May that they hoped to reinstate the Belfast Assembly by 22 May. This was underpinned by the IRA’s statement the following day, that its leadership ‘will initiate a process that will completely and verifiably put IRA arms beyond use’. The statement explained that the IRA leadership ‘has agreed to put in place within weeks a confidence-building measure to confirm that our weapons remain secure’.1 It was no coincidence that one of the two international inspectors who would be given access to the IRA arsenal was the South African Cyril Ramaphosa, who had been so much part of his own country’s peace process. By 2000 Ramaphosa was out of politics and into business, having been beaten to the coveted post of successor to Nelson Mandela by President Thabo Mbeki. But he still enjoys international recognition, as does his co-inspector, Martti Ahtisaari, who had negotiated the end of the Kosovo conflict in 1999 when President of Finland. They will work closely with the chairman of the decommissioning body, General John de Chastelain, who had remarked once that ‘the only people who can get the IRA to disarm is the IRA themselves’.2 The IRA’s May 2000 statement did not promise disarmament, but nonetheless promised an end to violence. Thus Unionists, who were divided down on the middle on the GFA, did not get what they wanted destruction of IRA weapons. Yet there is little doubt that for Republicans peace was the chosen way forward. Reluctantly perhaps, the IRA had signalled its choice of ballot, discarding the bullet. Possibly this is not enough for hard-line Unionists, but hopefully enough for an attempt to create peaceful co-existence with Nationalists and Republicans, despite the inevitable setbacks to come. As in southern Africa and other areas of conflict, co-existence will be a difficult learning process, when new responses to old resentments must evolve. The IRA’s offer ended the free-fall into which the peace process had fallen, following the suspension of devolution. Unionism was once more plunged into soul-searching debates. The 22 May 2000 deadline, that is the day precisely two years on from when both the north and south 1 Independent on Sunday, 7 May 2000. 2 Ibid.
STRETCHING THE STAMINA
voted together on the GFA, was missed. However, on 27 May the UUC gave a relieved David Trimble a 'yes’ to a return to sharing power with Republicans. It was a narrow 450 to 403 victory. At midnight 29 May devolution was back on course and on 1 June the Executive met once more at Stormont. Yet again the two DUP ministers stayed away, with Paisley pledging publicly to wreck the GFA from within, to the impatience of all other parties. The same day a bomb exploded on London’s Hammersmith Bridge, an ominous reminder that dissident Republicans such as the ‘Real IRA’ and ‘Continuity IRA’ had not gone away. All was peaceful on every front when the Assembly met again for the first time on 5 June. However, the first test whether the compromises made were workable and working came soon enough. In July 2000, Drumcree VI once more unleashed street violence, posing a very real threat to the GFA and stability. The Portadown Orange Order, thwarted once more in its determination to ‘place Orange feet on Garvaghy Road’, called for its brethren’s total support. There was support. Road blocks went up to disrupt traffic and missiles were hurled at Drumcree Church. Protesters battled it out with police and army as people rushed to exit the troubled area. Belfast streets were emptied. But the authorities refused to be bullied, and the decision not to allow the march to go ahead remained in place. The Orange Order, like Unionism before it, divided into those prepared to go forward and those determined to cling to the ghost of the past. No doubt Drumcree and the marching season in general will continue to be rallying points for extremists to voice Loyalist grievances. However, the GFA and the compromise it represents was upheld by the overwhelming desire for peace. The wreckers are there, inside and outside the GFA structure, but so is the will to end centuries of strife. Northern Ireland, like southern Africa before it, has finally accepted constitutional structures designed to allow different communities to develop peaceful relations with each other.
Epilogue: No Return to Conflict
The recall of Senator Mitchell as negotiator in 1999 in the Northern Irish conflict highlights the importance of mediators in conflict resolutions and the trust which such men enjoy. The impartiality, objectivity, calm and patience which the American displayed are highly valued assets in delicate negotiations. No process can proceed without referees. South Africans who pride themselves in achieving results at CODESA and MPNP, nonetheless could not have arrived at satisfactory conclusions without the involvement of many outsiders over a long period of time, of which the Commonwealth EPG was only one group among many. It must be a matter of pride for South Africa that one of the chief negotiators during its conflict resolution was chosen as one of the inspectors to ensure that IRA guns are kept silent. No conflict is isolated from international opinion or backers. It is not simple to walk away from negotiations, once these have begun. Protagonists need the support of their own group and that of allies. The South African NP government was losing the support of its own people for apartheid and the wars fought to defend it. Pretoria was forced to end its illegal, undeclared wars in southern Africa, when Western policy changed at the close of the Cold War. This led to Namibia’s independence and also to an accommodation between Mozambique’s FRELIMO government, which no longer enjoyed Soviet backing, and RENAMO, which had lost Pretoria’s support. The ANC too could no longer look for help to the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, a situation which contributed to its willingness to talk to Pretoria. Joshua Nkomo and Robert Mugabe, leaders of Zimbabwe’s PF, were dismayed that their backers, Zambia and Mozambique, could not countenance their withdrawal from the Lancaster House talks. Only Angola’s UNITA could afford to conduct stop-go peace talks for over four years before returning to war – 'afford’ being the operative word. The proceeds from UNITA’s diamond sales covered arms purchases. The global diamond monopoly De Beers agreed in 1999 to monitor Angolan sales, though experts fear such effort may be halfhearted. UNITA has become a major player within the industry. 212
The protagonists in Northern Ireland’s peace process also had to consider the feelings of their peoples and supporters. The Catholic community showed through their votes in the referendum and the 1998 elections how anxious they were for peace. Protestants too were anxious for peace, even if they were wary of Republican intentions. Dublin and Washington wished Republicans to remain within the peace process and participate in Northern Ireland’s administration. Their influence on their 'client’, the Republican movement, was strong. The British prime ministers, John Major and Tony Blair, did their utmost to 'deliver’ the Unionists. Blair spent more time and effort on Northern Ireland than on any other issue. It would have been difficult for Unionists to walk away from everything which was on offer without exposing Northern Ireland once more to instability and violence. The Irish government too was deeply involved in every step along the way, once John Hume had made the link with Dublin, bringing Sinn Fein out of the shadows. The amendments to the constitution of the Irish Republic went a long way to quell the ever present fear among Unionists of Dublin domination. Certainly Republicans did not lose sight of their cherished goal of a united Ireland, but by accepting the GFA and democratic structures, they moved away from the use of force to the turbulence of politics. They had indeed crossed the Rubicon. The other bank of the Rubicon does not instantly lead to a land of milk and honey. In no area of strife were the new terms of co-existence easily accepted. The old elite continued to be dominant in the economy in southern Africa, as no doubt will be the case in Northern Ireland. New links must be forged, new partners sought, new opportunities created for formerly disadvantaged sections of the population, and new reserves of tolerance tapped. Ethnic and religious conflicts still scar countries other than southern Africa and Northern Ireland. Mediators cannot resolve such conflicts or their aftermath. The protagonists must be ready for peace to make room for mediation. Once the mediators have done their work, the future is in the hands of former enemies to make peace a reality. The past may always be present, but it cannot any longer be allowed to dictate the future. The frustrating stops and starts of the Northern Ireland peace process highlight the main difference between it and South Africa: the question of numbers. Protestants, though a minority in Ireland as a whole, represent a majority in the north. Both southern African whites and the Protestant Northern Ireland community have economic punch. However, whites, outnumbered as they were and with their supremacy internationally denounced, accepted the need for and have since worked within a new dispensation. On the other hand, the deep divisions within Unionism showed that such acceptance is by no means general. David Trimble, who pulled Unionism away from archaic posturing, found his
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
own party’s support dwindling during the weary process, with Dr Paisley and others outside that party fiercely attacking the compromises made. Northern Ireland’s future rests on the ability of politicians to deal successfully with real problems. Emotive issues will always be present and must be respected but should not dictate the pace. Stability anywhere is dependent on development and prosperity, and that in turn is dependent on peace.
Adams, Gerry, Free Ireland: Towards a Lasting Peace (Co. Kerry: Brandon Books, 1986) ----- Before the Dawn. Autobiography (London: Heinemann, 1996) Aughey, Arthur and Duncan Morrow (eds), Northern Ireland Politics (London: Longmans, 1996) Bean, Kevin, The New Departure, Occasional Papers in Irish Studies No 6 (University of Liverpool, 1994) Bell, J. Bowyer, Back to the Future. The Protestants and a United Ireland (Dublin: Poolberg Press, 1996) Beresford, David, Ten Dead Men (London: HarperCollins, 1987) Bruce, Steve, The Edge of the Union. The Ulster Loyalist Political Vision (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994) ----- God Save Ulster! The Religion and Politics of Paisleyism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986) Buckland, Patrick, A History ofNorthern Ireland (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 1981) Burns, Elinor, British Imperialism in Ireland, reprint (Coworkers’ Club, 1974) Coogan, Tim Pat, Michael Collins (London: Arrow Books, 1991) ----- The Troubles: Ireland's Ordeal 1966-1996 and the Search for Peace (London: Arrow Books, 1996) Curtis, Liz, The Cause of Ireland: From the United Irishmen to Partition (Belfast: Beyond The Pale Publications, 1994) ----- Nothing But the Same Old Story. The Roots of Anti-Irish Racism (London: Information on Ireland, 1984) Dillon, Martin, The Dirty War (London: Arrow Books, 1991) Doherty & Hickey, A Chronology of Irish History since 1500 (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 1989) Dunn, Seamus (ed), Facets of the Conflict in Northern Ireland (New York: St Martin’s Press, 1995) Dunnigan, John P., Deeprooted Conflict and the IRA Ceasefire (University Presses of America, 1995) Edwards, Ruth Dudley, An Atlas of Irish History, 2nd edition (London: Routledge, 1989) Farrell, Michael, Northern Ireland: The Orange State (London: Pluto Press, 1976) ----- Arming the Protestants (London: Pluto Press, 1983) Flackes, W.D. and Sydney Elliott, Northern Ireland. A Political Directory 1968-1995, revised edition (Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 1994) Foley, Conor, Legion of the Rearguard. The IRA and the Modern Irish State (London: Pluto Press, 1992) 215
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
Jarman, Neil and Dominic Bryan, Parade and Protest (Belfast: University of Ulster, Centre for the Study of Conflict, 1996) Lucy, Gordon and Elaine McClure (eds), The Twelfth: What It Means to Me (Ulster Society Publications Ltd, 1997) McCourt, Frank, Angela's Ashes: A Memoir of a Childhood (London: Flamingo, 1997) McGarry, John and Brendan O’Leary, Explaining Northern Ireland (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995 McKittrick, David, The Nervous Peace (Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 1996) McVeigh, Joseph, A Wounded Church. Religion, Politics and Justice in Ireland (Dublin: Mercier Press, 1989) Major, John, The Autobiography (London: HarperCollins, 1999) Mansergh, Martin, ‘No Selfish Strategic Economic Interest? The Path to an AllIreland Economy’, 3rd Frank Cahill Memorial Lecture, West Belfast Economic Forum, 1995 Marx, Christoph, Im Zeichen des Ochsenagens, Der radikale Afrikaaner Nationalismus in Südafrika und die Geschichte des Ossewabrandwag in Studien zur Afrikanische Geschichte, Bd. 22 (Lit Verlag, 1998) Murray, Raymond, The SAS in Ireland (Dublin: Mercier Press, 1990) O’Brien, Brendan, The Long War. The IRA and Sinn Fein from Armed Struggle to Peace Talks (Dublin: The O’Brien Press, 1995) Paths to a Political Settlement in Ireland. Policy Papers Submitted to the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation (Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 1995) Phoenix, Eamon, Northern Nationalism. Nationalist Politics, Partition and the Catholic Minority in Northern Ireland 1890-1940 (Belfast: Ulster Historical Foundation,
1994) Rolston, Bill, Turning The Page Without Closing The Book. The Right to Truth in the Irish Context (Dublin: Irish Reporter Publications, 1996) ----- Drawing Support. Murals of War and Peace (Belfast: Beyond the Pale Publication, 1995) Rowan, Brian, Behind the Lines. The Story of the IRA and Loyalist Ceasefires (Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 1995) Sinn Fein Publicity Department, The Ulster Defence Regiment. The Loyalist Militia, 1990 Tomlinson, Mike, ‘25 Years On: The Costs of War and the Dividends of Peace’, 2nd Frank Cahill Memorial Lecture, West Belfast Economic Forum, 1994 Trimble, David, The Foundation of Northern Ireland (Belfast: Ulster Society Publications Ltd, 1991) Walker, Brian, Dancing to History's Tune: History, Myth and Politics in Ireland (Belfast: Queen’s University, 1996) Wright, Frank, Northern Ireland. A Comparative Analysis (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 1987)
Ireland 1609 1641 1649
1690 1779 1795
1798 1800 1815
Articles of Plantation Insurrection in Ireland Oliver Cromwell appointed Governor General of Ireland
Jan van Riebeeck lands at Cape
Restoration of monarchy; Act of Settlement confirms Cromwellian settlers in their possessions Apprentice Boys close Derry gates against Catholic army Siege of Derry Battle of the Boyne United Irishmen reconstituted as secret society; ‘Battle of The Diamond’ in Co. Armagh; Orange Society (later Order) formed United Irishmen uprising Act of Union
Second British Occupation of Cape Emancipation of slaves at Cape Great Trek begins First Boer Republic founded; Boers defeat Ndebele who cross Limpopo River British annex Natal
1834 1836 1837
1843 1846 1852 1853 1854
1858 1860 1867 1873
First Xhosa War First British occupation of Cape
First potato failure
Fenian Brotherhood established
Home Rule Confederation 217
Independence of Transvaal Responsible government in Cape Independence of Orange Free State First Basuto War Indian Labourers brought to Natal Diamonds discovered
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
1884 1886 1887 1890
1893 1895 1896 1899 1902 1905
Sinn Fein formed
Ulster Volunteer Force formed
Irish Volunteer Force formed; Home Rule postponed Germans defeated in South West Africa
1921 1922 1925
Easter Uprising Dáil formed IV become Irish Republican Army Treaty signed; Civil War; Northern Ireland parliament opened Irish Free State founded
Afrikaans becomes an official language of South Africa ‘Purified’ National Party formed IFS constitution claims sovereignty over whole of Ireland National Party wins elections under ‘apartheid’ slogan
1949 1950 1952 1955
Zulus defeated by British Germans annex Angua Paquena (South West Africa) Berlin Conference on Africa Gold discovered in Transvaal Zululand annexed by Britain Cecil Rhodes becomes Cape Prime Minister Rhodes sends Pioneer Column into Mashonaland Ndebele War Jameson Raid into Transvaal First Chimurenga (Ndebele/ Shona war) Boer War starts Boer War ends African Peoples Organization formed African delegation to London fails to obtain constitutional rights Union of South Africa established African National Congress formed National Party formed Land Act provides 7½ per cent of total land area for Africans
Irish Free State becomes Irish Republic Suppression of Communism Act ANC launches defiance campaign Congress of People adopt
IRA border campaign
IRA calls off campaign
NICRA formed First civil rights marches
PD march to Derry attacked by mob; RUC enter Bogside resulting in creation of no-go areas; Bernadette Devlin wins MidUlster by-election IRA splits into Officials and Provisionals; Sinn Fein splits into Officials and Provisionals; 500 British troops sent to Northern Ireland; council franchise changed in line with that in Britain Internment dawn swoop of 300 persons Direct Rule re-imposed
30 January: 14 killed by army in Derry (Bloody Sunday) 21 July: IRA explodes bombs in Belfast, killing nine (Bloody Friday)
Freedom Charter Treason Trial begins; internment without trial Nationalist parties formed in Nyasaland, Northern and Southern Rhodesias in line with ANC; Pan-Africanist Congress formed in South Africa Sharpeville Massacre in South Africa; ANC and PAC banned South Africa becomes Republic; Umkontho we Sizwe formed Breakup of Federation of Northern and Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland; FNLA attack on coffee farms in northern Angola; Mandela arrested; house arrest introduced in South Africa 90 days detention introduced; Rivonia Trial; independence of Malawi and Zambia; FRELIMO formed in Mozambique Unilateral Declaration of Independence by white Southern Rhodesians 180 days detention introduced in South Africa
Black Consciousness Movement formed
Bush war in Southern Rhodesia intensified
Army enters no-go areas (‘Operation Motorman’) Sunningdale Agreement on power-sharing United Ulster Unionist Council rejects Sunningdale; power cuts close factories; strikes; Executive collapses; Prevention of Terrorism Act
European Court of Human Rights find UK guilty of torture of Republican prisoners 11 ‘Shankill Butchers’ (Protestants) sentenced to life imprisonment; Pope visits Irish Republic Internment law repealed First hunger strike for political status by Republican prisoners Second hunger strike by Republicans; hunger striker Bobby Sands elected MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone; Sands and nine others die after hunger strike Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams wins West Belfast seat; Adams elected Sinn Fein President Anglo-Irish Agreement signed; first meeting of SDLP leader John Hume with Sinn Fein Sinn Fein changes abstention policy Hume-Adams talks resumed
1992 1993 1994
Brooke talks on Northern Ireland
IRA declares ceasefire Loyalists declare ceasefire
Coup in Portugal
Independence of Angola and Mozambique; civil war in Angola June 16: Uprising of black ghettos in South Africa
Lancaster House Conference on Rhodesia
Independence of Zimbabwe
‘MK’ incursions into SA increase
President P.W. Botha replaced by F.W. de Klerk; Rivonia Trial prisoners except Mandela released De Klerk ends apartheid; legalizes opposition parties; releases Mandela; talks begin; Inkatha Freedom Party formed; independence of Namibia Peace Accord signed; Goldstone Commission set up Interim constitution agreed First democratic elections held Mandela becomes President; Government of National Unity formed (ANC, NP, IFP)
British government insists on demilitarization Orange Order parade at Drumcree causes riot; Mitchell Commission on demilitarization IRA breaks ceasefire; elections for multi-party talks; talks begin without Sinn Fein 1 May: British Labour Party wins general election September: Sinn Fein enters talks despite Unionist protests October: 32 County Sovereignty Committee formed December: Loyalist Billy Wright murdered January: Loyalist revenge killings UDP excluded from talks for four weeks February: Sinn Fein excluded from talks for two weeks Republican breakaway groups INLA, Continuity Army Council continue bombing campaigns March: Adams at third Downing Street meeting 23 March: Talks resume April: Good Friday Agreement (GFA) concludes multi-party talks UUP decides in favour of GFA May: Sinn Fein special Ard Fheis agrees to change party constitution 22 May: referendum in north results in 71 per cent ‘yes’ vote; in south 94 per cent 25 June: Assembly elections, leaving UUP largest party, SDLP with largest number of seats, Sinn Fein gaining 18 seats 1 July: David Trimble elected First Minister; SDLP’s Seamus Mallon elected Deputy First Minister Parades Commission rules Orange Order not to return from Drumcree Parish Church through Garvaghy Road Orangemen dig in at Drumcree 12 July: Three Quinn boys fall
Truth and Reconciliation Commission formed
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
victim to petrol bomb, leaving Drumcree protest in shambles 9 August: Apprentice Boys march peaceful, following agreement with Bogside Resident Group LVF declares end of murder campaign 26 August: Bomb at Omagh September: First meeting of Assembly 10 September: Face-to-face meeting between Trimble and Adams President Clinton revisits Ireland 26 November: Blair addresses Oireachtas
July: Drumcree and marching season peaceful 15 July: Blair/Ahern proposals on decommissioning unacceptable to UUP; devolution fails to be implemented September: Senator Mitchell reviews process November: Review completed after UUP/Sinn Fein compromise; IRA agrees to appoint delegate to decommissioning body on 2 December 27 November: UUP agrees to Mitchell deal 29 November: First powersharing government formed 1 December: Queen signs legislation on devolution 2 December: Irish government changes its constitution IRA appoints go-between to decommissioning body Power-sharing Executive meets for first time 14 January: Trimble demands IRA progress on arms 18 January: Mandelson backs RUC overhaul 11 February: Devolution suspended to avert Trimble resignation 15 February: IRA withdraws from arms talks
27 March: Inquiry into Bloody Sunday opens; Trimble achieves narrow win over Martin Smyth’s leadership challenge 5 May: Blair and Ahern declare that suspension of devolved government may be lifted by 22 May 6 May: IRA states that arms will be put ‘beyond use’ and propose inspection of arms dumps by two international figures 27 May: UUC votes to return to government following IRA statement 1 June: Devolved government reinstated; Executive meets for first time but without two DUP ministers, with Paisley pledged to wrecking the GFA; bomb, thought to be the work of Republican dissidents, explodes on Hammersmith Bridge
Adams, Gerard (Gerry), 2, 7, 10, 16,40, 60, 65,76, 144, 145, 149, 152, 157, 158, 162, 165, 169, 174, 180, 189, 197, 198, 204, 206, 208, 210; meeting with Whitelaw (1972), 36; quotes South Africa as example, 57-8; and 1997 parliamentary elections, 59; correspondence with Bishop Daly, 96; reorganizes Republican movement, 114; and punishment beatings, 119; meetings with Hume, 146, 173; and US visa, 153; meeting with Mayhew, 154; and Mitchell Commission, 155; and Westminster elections, 159; voice banned on media, 175; first Downing Street visit, 1789; second Downing Street visit, 184; visits Dublin, 184; accepts GFA, 190; first meeting with Trimble, 202; and Omagh bombing, 203 African National Congress (ANC), 1, 14, 15, 61,63, 64, 72, 73, 74, 85, 101, 105, 109, 117, 118, 126, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132, 133, 134, 135, 136, 139, 140, 141, 146, 164, 167, 200, 213 Afrikaaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB), 15,93,117,138,139, 140 Ahern, Bertie, 14, 65, 161, 169, 174, 175, 186, 188; Hume/Adams handshake, 179;
mother’s death, 191; meeting with Blair at Stormont, 192; efforts to resolve decommissioning, 207 Ahtisaari, Martti, 211 AIA see Anglo-Irish Agreement Alliance Party (AP), 37, 57, 159, 178, 194 ANC see African National Congress Ancram, Michael, 154 Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA), 40, 148, 149 Annesley, Sir Hugh, 49, 151 AP see Alliance Party Apprentice Boys, 45, 103, 179 Atkins, Humphrey, 148 AWB see Afrikaaner Weerstandsbeweging
B-Specials, 34, 113, 143, 164 BCM see Black Consciousness Movement Belfast Agreement see Good Friday Agreement Biko, Steve, 73, 109 Bingham, Reverend William, 94 Black Consciousness Movement (BCM), 73,74, 108, 109 Blair, Tony, 4, 14, 15, 39, 41,52, 65, 131, 152, 160, 162, 169, 174, 183, 189, 207,214; apologizes for potato famine, 32; apologizes for Bloody Sunday, 36; and Drumcree 1998, 53-5; first contacts with Sinn Fein, 60; meeting with Clinton, 161; efforts to ensure 225
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
Sinn Fein entry into talks, 170; first meeting with Sinn Fein at Downing Street, 178-9; telephone diplomacy, 181-2; meeting with Ahern, 185; meetings at Stormont, 191-2; addresses Oireachtas, 204 Bloody Friday, 37 Bloody Sunday, 30, 172 Botha, P.W., 13, 14, 15, 28, 29, 109, 125, 126, 127, 129, 167, 168 Broederbond, 44, 46, 53, 78, 80, 81,94, 134, 145 Brooke, Peter, 40, 149 Bruton, John, 153, 154, 157 Buthelezi, Chief Mangosuthu, 15, 135, 136 CAC see Continuity Army Council Caetano, Marcel, 120 Carolus, Cheryl, 106 Casement, Sir Roger, 75, 76 Chichester-Clark, James, 85 Clinton, Bill, 10, 14, 16, 41, 62, 86, 96, 111, 149, 153, 155, 156, 161, 162, 170, 192, 203 CLMC see Combined Loyalist Military Command CODESA, 133, 135, 158,213 Collins, Michael, 179 Combined Loyalist Military Command (CLMC), 116 Conservative Party (South Africa), 134, 135, 138 Continuity Army Council (CAC), 180, 183, 185 Coogan, Tim Pat, 36, 96, 110, 145, 147 COSATU, 129 Daly, Bishop Cathal, 96 de Brun, Bairbre, xi, 100, 210 de Chastelain, General John, 14, 196, 206, 207, 208, 210, 211 de Klerk, F.W., 13, 16, 61, 81, 109, 128, 129, 130, 133, 135, 137, 139, 142, 164, 167, 197 de Valera, Eamon, 148
Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), 30, 57, 159, 160, 171, 174, 178, 194 Devlin-McAliskey, Bernadette, xii, 36, 192, 150 Disraeli, Benjamin, 141 Donaldson, Jeffrey, 172, 191 Downing Street Declaration, 38, 41, 149, 150, 153, 154 Drumm, Maire, 103 Dunn, Seamus, 66 DUP see Democratic Unionist Party
Eames, Dr Robert, 206 End Conscription Campaign (ECC), 126 Ervine, David, 117, 153, 175, 180, 185 Farrell, Michael, 34, 93 Faul, Monsignor Denis, 104, 95 Faulkner, Brian, 36, 37 First, Ruth, 104 Fitzgerald, Garret, 40 Flanagan, Ronnie, 51, 54, 82 Frente Nacional de libertacao de Angola (FNLA), 28, 29, 121 Frente nacional libertacao de Mocambique (FRELIMO), 28, 29, 120, 121, 164,213
Gandhi, Mahatma, 131 Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition (GRRC), 47, 50, 51, 54 GFA see Good Friday Agreement Gibney, Jim, xi, 158, 159, 181, 198 Ginwala, Frene, xiii, 104 Goldstone, Justice Richard, 137 Good Friday Agreement (GFA), 2, 3,8, 10, 15, 17,24,31,37, 59, 62, 63, 64,81,87, 105, 115, 132, 141, 142, 148, 152, 162, 166, 172, 184, 186, 188, 193, 194, 195, 196, 197, 198, 200, 201,202, 204, 206, 208, 210, 211,212, 214 Gorbachev, Mikhail, 127
GRRC see Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition Gryn, Hugo Gabriel, 57
210; offers to put arms beyond use, 211 Irish Volunteers, 33, 99
Hanekom, Derek, 82 Hani, Chris, 133 Harare Declaration, 128, 130, 200 Heany, Seamus, 107 Heath, Edward, 37 Hendron, Joseph (Joe), 37, 159 Hertzog, J.M.B. (Barry), 71, 80 Hume, John, 16, 34, 47, 64, 65, 96, 142, 147, 157, 170, 214; talks with Sinn Fein, 146; and 1997 Westminster elections, 160; Sinn Fein contacts after Lurgan murders, 269; meeting with Adams before renewed ceasefire, 173; Ahern/Adams handshake, 179; receives Nobel Peace Prize, 197 Hutchinson, Billy, 153, 175, 180
Jordan, Pallo, 130 Joseph, Helen, 101
Irish National Liberation Army (INLA),50, 117, 180, 185,203 Irish Republican Army (IRA), ix, xiii, 2, 10, 15, 25,31,33, 38, 39, 47, 57, 59, 60, 62, 64, 86, 87, 99, 111, 113, 114, 115, 117, 118, 119, 131, 140, 141, 143, 146, 148, 150, 151, 152, 153, 154, 155, 156, 157, 158, 159, 160, 161, 162, 165, 167, 169, 174, 176, 184, 202, 204, 213; formation of PIRA, 35; contacts with British Intelligence 1972, 36; 1994 ceasefire, 41; murder of two Lurgan policemen, 42; Docklands bombing, 59, 151; refusal to decommission, 164, 197; offer on arms inspections, 166; ceasefire reinstated, 173; defections, 180; implicated in two murders, 181; Mowlam visits prisoners, 182; prisoner paroles, 200; man appointed to Decommissioning Commission, 209; new submission to Commission,
Kabila, Laurent, 75 Kaunda, Kenneth David, xiii, 120 Kennaway, Reverend Brian, 94 Kennedy-Smith, Jean, 41 Khama, Seretse, 122 Kiely, Benedict, 177 Kissinger, Henry, 123
Labour Party, 159, 178 Lancaster House Agreement, 9, 124, 165 Leopold II (King of Belgium), 75 Lessing, Doris, 22 Lloyd George, David, 179 Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF), 50, 117, 159, 180, 181,200, 202, 203 McAliskey, Bernadette see DevlinMcAliskey McAliskey, Roisin, 102 MacBride, Sean, 111 McCartney, Robert, 172 McCartney, Thomas, 178 McConnaith, Brendan, 48 McGuinness, Martin, xii, 64, 65, 146, 154, 159, 161, 172, 175; meeting with Whitelaw, 36; elected to parliament, 59; seminar in South Africa, 62; first Downing Street visit, 178; second Downing Street visit, 184; decommissioning offer, 206; becomes minister, 210 Machel, Samora, 23, 29 McKevitt, Bernadette Sands, 103 McKittrick, David, 150, 152, 154 McLaughlin, Mitchel, xii, 16, 35, 145 McMichael, Gary 117 McVeigh, Fr Joseph, 94 Maharaj, ‘Mac’, 60, 61
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
Major, John, 14, 15, 38, 39, 40, 41, 49, 53, 58, 60, 149, 153, 157, 158, 165, 167, 214 Malan, Dr Francois, 80 Mallon, Seamus, 25, 192; appointed Deputy First Minister, 187; resignation 207; resignation deemed void, 208 Mandela, Nelson Rolihlahla, 16, 24, 29, 49, 50, 58, 60, 63, 64, 86, 101, 126, 128, 130, 133, 135, 136, 137, 138, 197 Mandela, Winifred (Winnie), 104 Mandelson, Peter; replaces Mowlam, 208; informs Commons of Mitchell review, 209; suspends devolved government, 210 Mansergh, Dr Martin, 91, 156 Markievicz, Countess Constance, 101 Mass Democratic Movement, 126 Mayhew, Sir Patrick, 40, 57, 58, 153, 154 Mbeki, Thabo, xiii, 136,211 Meyer, Roelf, 61, 64, 133, 134, 164 Mitchell, Senator George, 10, 25, 62, 103, 155, 159, 161, 165, 170, 171, 172, 175, 176, 184, 186, 188, 190, 191, 192, 193, 204, 207, 208,212 MK see Umkontho we Sizwe Mobutu Sese Seko, 75 Moore, Marie, 98, 112 Movimento popular de libertacao de Angola (MPLA), 28, 29, 57, 121 Mowlam, Marjorie (‘Mo’), 53, 55, 76, 103, 169, 172, 173, 176, 180, 185, 187; and Drumcree 1997, 51-2; visit to Maze Prison, 182; last days at Stormont before GFA, 192 MPLA see Movimento popular de libertacao de Angola Mugabe, Robert Gabriel, 20, 21, 23, 24, 89, 123, 213 Murray, Monsignor Raymond, 95 Muzorewa, Bishop Abel, 123 Mwaanga, Vernon, 120
National Party (NP), 11, 13, 15, 16, 44, 64, 74,81,87,90, 110, 131, 132, 133, 134, 135, 139, 152, 153, 156, 213 Naude, Dr Beyers Christiaan, 80 Ngoyi, Lilian, 101 Nhongo, Teurai Ropa, 102 NICRA see Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association Nkomo, Joshua, 124, 213 North Report 170 Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA), 34, 85, 109 NP see National Party Nzo, Alfred, xiii, 130 O’Caolain, Caoimhghin, 160, 175 O’Hare, Rita, xi, 63, 103 O’Malley, Padraig, 63 O’Neill, Terence, 72, 85 Orange Order, 44, 45, 46, 97, 139, 172, 198, 202; formation, 43; and Drumcree 1996, 49-51; and Drumcree 1998, 53-6; and Drumcree 2000, 211; debate on GFA, 142; rerouting of marches 1997, 171; rejects GFA, 196 Osborne, John, 138 PAC see Pan Africanist Congress Paisley, Dr Ian, 30, 34, 37, 48, 54, 55, 72, 73, 86, 87,91,93, 94, 97, 142, 160, 161, 172, 175, 191, 192, 194, 195, 198,210, 212,215 Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), 85, 109 Patriotic Front, 28, 123, 124, 165, 213 Patten Report, 142, 143 Peace People, 104 Phosa, Mathews, 64 Progressive Unionist Party (PUP), 117, 159, 178, 180, 185, 194 Provisional IRA, 2, 35, 36, 113 PUP see Progressive Unionist Party
Ramaphosa, Cyril, 61, 63, 64, 133, 134, 135, 164, 211 ‘Real IRA’, 103, 184, 198, 202, 203 Red Hand Commando, 116, 180 Reid, Fr Alex, 95 Resistencia Nacional Mocambicana (RENAMO), 29, 121, 166, 213 Reynolds, Albert, 40, 41, 146, 149, 150, 152, 154, 157 Rhodes, Cecil John, 70 Rodgers, Brid, 49 Rosenthal, Richard, 127 Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), 3, 34, 38, 55, 60, 65, 117, 119, 139, 143, 161, 176; and the Patten report, 17; two officers murdered in Lurgan, 42; and Drumcree 1996, 49; and Drumcree 1997, 51-4; and Drumcree 1998, 56; and Bogside rioting, 113; George Cross award, 142 SACP see South African Communist Party Salazar, Antonio, 120 Sands, Robert (Bobby), 38, 103, 128, 144, 159 Savimbi, Dr Jonas, 57, 122 SDLP see Social Democratic and Labour Party Shankill Butchers, 116 Shope, Gertrude, 105 Slovo,Joe, 128 Smith, Ian, 11, 84, 123, 124, 155 Smuts, Jan Christian, 72 Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), 34, 37, 57, 96, 144, 146, 147, 149, 159, 160, 178, 183, 185, 188, 192, 194 South African Communist Party (SACP), 28, 109, 128, 133 South West African People’s Organization (SWAPO), 28, 29, 128, 165 Spring, Dick, 160 Sullivan Principles, 111 Sunningdale Agreement, 37, 48, 187
SWAPO see South West African People’s Organization
Tambo, Oliver, 126, 146 Terre’Blanche Eugene, 93, 140 Thatcher, Margaret, 38, 40, 129 Thirty-Two County Sovereign Committee (CSC), 103, 184 Tolstoy, Leo, 4, 7 Tone, Theobald Wolfe, 32, 144 TRC see Truth and Reconciliation Commission Treurnicht, Dr Andries, 77 Trimble, David, xii, 2, 10, 14, 15, 16, 25,31,64, 76,81,85, 86, 87, 99, 139, 141, 160, 169, 171, 174, 175, 176, 177, 178, 186, 187, 189, 190, 203, 204, 206, 207, 208, 210; criticism of Mowlam, 42; and Drumcree 1995, 48, 49, 50; and Drumcree 1998, 53-5; ‘no-guns nogovernment’ decision, 59; seminar in South Africa, 62; campaign to scale down Patten report, 142; meeting with Blair on decommissioning, 172; meeting with Blair at Stormont, 191; accepts GFA, 193; demands exclusion of Sinn Fein, 197; receives Nobel Prize, 197; first meeting with Adams, 202; dwindling support within Unionism, 214 Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), 17, 25, 88, 114, 137, 167, 168 Tutu, Archbishop Desmond, 91, 167
UAC see Ulster Army Council UDA see Ulster Defence Association UDF see United Democratic Front UDI see Unilateral Declaration of Independence UDP see Ulster Democratic Party UFF see Ulster Freedom Fighters UK Unionist Party, 159, 172, 174 Ulster Army Council (UAC), 116
PEACE IN THEIR TIME
Ulster Defence Association (UDA), 115, 116, 163, 180, 181, 182, 185, 200 Ulster Democratic Party (UDP), 117, 159, 181 Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), 116, 180 Ulster Special Constabulary (USC), 116 Ulster Unionist Council (UUC), 14, 15, 45, 142, 196, 209,212 Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), 33, 115, 116 Umkontho we Sizwe (MK), 28, 61, 84, 114, 125, 126, 131, 164 Uniao nacional para a independencia total de Angola (UNITA), 28, 29, 57, 121, 122, 166, 213 Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI), 11, 123 Unionism, 30,31,87, 141, 142, 172, 177, 187, 196,210, 211, 214
UNITA see Uniao nacional para a independencia total de Angola United Democratic Front (UDF), 126 USC see Ulster Special Constabulary UUC see Ulster Unionist Council UVF see Ulster Volunteer Force
Viljoen, Constand, 61, 138, 139 Vlok, Adriaan, 90 Vorster, John, 29 William III, 30, 31, 32, 43, 84, 92 Williams, Monica, 105 Wilson, Fr Desmond, 95 Wilson, Harold, 34 Women’s Coalition, xii, 178 Wright, Billy, 49, 50, 159, 180, 181
Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), 23, 24, 28, 29, 123 Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU), 28, 89, 123