Better Sooner - Batasuna


Somebody with their head in a spacesuit has to be advising David Trimble. The First Minister couldn’t be issuing these moonbeams on his own. Last week in the Assembly he challenged republicans to state whether they had maintained their links to the recently proscribed Basque independence party, Batasuna, and if they had then they were in breach of - daa, daaaaaaaaa! - the Good Friday Agreement!

Yip, the dirty, stinking, devious, deceitful, two-faced, hypocritical republicans of Adams and McGuinness’s party have once again undermined and disillusioned the honest, honourable, hard-working, humble unionists.

Where does it end, where does it end?

Well, when the independent ceasefire monitor eventually fails to satisfy the unionists (as will surely be the case), David’s space cadets will, no doubt, then produce ‘The Undertaking’!

“I (NAME: Gerry Adams, Chrissie McAuley, etc.) undertake to the Ulster Unionist Council that from this day forward I will not attend the ard fheis, stand for election, speak Irish, watch the all-Ireland, ceili swing, listen to the Wolfe Tones, go to Mass, have any more children, drink Powers or use Kerrygold butter, nor speak about Palestinians, the hunger strike in Turkey or the quarrying in Black Mountain because I realise that I would be in breach of the Good Friday Agreement.

“I further undertake, when called upon to do so by the Ulster Unionist Council, to make the tea, fly the Union flag, sign on the dole, speak Ulster-Scots, welcome Orange marches, support the return of the B Specials - or go down South to live if I love Ireland that much.”

When the first IRA cessation was announced in August 1994 loyalists jubilantly painted on gable walls that the IRA had surrendered. Unionists, such as Sir Reg Empey, claimed that the cessation represented a major defeat for republicans and that in the Good Friday Agreement republicans had bought into the union and recognition of the symbols of the state, etc. This was partly wishful thinking, but mostly was aimed at reassuring an increasingly unhappy rank and file. They were beginning to realise that, whilst the clever republicans had cease-fired and compromised, the repercussions of the equality agenda meant the surrender of unionist hegemony and that was possibly worse than armed struggle.

The innumerable crises in the peace process have been based on that simple realisation and have been aimed at stopping or slowing down the process by hook or by crook. And this explains the unionist tactic of making demands of republicans which they think cannot be met, or, if met, might create a crisis within republicanism (which, understandably, from their point of view, is better than a crisis in unionism).

And so republicans must stop being republicans, must stop being anti-imperialist and pro-neutrality; must buy into the unionist world and the world order of George Bush and Tony Blair… or the Spanish government.

“All the parties who endorsed the agreement affirmed their absolute commitment to peaceful means and opposition to the use or threat of violence, whether in regard to this agreement or otherwise,” said Trimble.

“That ‘otherwise’ is not in any way qualified, so if a party here or an organisation has been involved in assisting terrorist organisations elsewhere, as indeed the republican movement has, then that party is clearly acting in breach of the undertakings it gave in the Agreement…”

Batasuna is the Basque independence party which receives around ten per cent of the vote in elections. For refusing to condemn the armed campaign of ETA it has just been banned for three years. Batasuna representatives have attended Sinn Fein ard fheiseanna in the past and republicans naturally sympathise with the struggle of the Basque people.

Now, Headmaster Trimble says that all has to stop. Or else. Or else, what? What’s he going to do that he hasn’t already threatened to do? Write out his resignation twenty times?

Batasuna finds itself actually worse off than Sinn Fein when the British government repeatedly attempted to undermine its popular vote through the broadcasting ban and changes to the electoral law (in addition to conspiring with loyalists to assassinate Sinn Fein representatives). Batasuna’s offices have been closed down and it has been banned from contesting elections.

Now, I happen to believe that ETA made a major blunder when it began killing local councillors belonging to the ruling Popular Party, and when it returned to armed struggle in December 1999, following a fourteen-month-long ceasefire. I certainly do not support its armed struggle but I support Basque independence. There was more to be gained by maintaining the ceasefire even though securocrats in the Madrid government (like their cousins around the world) did everything to subvert the peace and frustrate the Basques (by, for example, refusing to move prisoners to jails closer to their families).

However, the banning of Batasuna by the Spanish government will not bring about an end to ETA attacks and may actually lead to more violence given that political activity is no longer an option for activists and is deemed as subversive as armed struggle.

Batasuna - legal or banned - is a legitimate party, representing a legitimate political opinion. It may be demonised for a time but just as political reality compelled the British government to eventually talk to Sinn Fein, so too will the Spanish government have to talk to Batasuna - or Batasuna/ETA to borrow that self-defeating phrase of unionists which continually reminds them of the republican successes.

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© 2007 Irish Author and Journalist - Danny Morrison