In 1996, the IRA attacked a British army base in Osnabruck, Germany, and today, eleven years on, Roisin McAliskey is fighting the second attempt to extradite her to Germany in connection with the attacks. She was detained under a European Arrest Warrant (Extradition Act 2003) in May, a warrant that was issued in October last year, but which apparently ‘disappeared’ for seven months until some secretive authority gave the order to act upon it.
After her initial arrest in 1998, and following a traumatic 15 months in prison (during which time she gave birth under appalling conditions), the Crown Prosecution Service ruled that Ms McAliskey had no case to answer and she returned home. After imprisonment and a thorough trial in the British courts that found her free to walk, it is strange that Germany should choose this moment to start the entire proceedings over again. Stranger still that the arrest warrant issued in 2006 was sat on for so long by an unknown official, and not used until after the historic feat accomplished by Sinn Féin and the republican community in May.
Ms McAliskey is being represented by Gareth Pierce, the human rights lawyer who represented the Guildford Four, Moazzam Begg (the Guantanamo detainee) and the family of Jean Charles de Menezes. Roisin will fight the extradition order at Belfast Recorder’s Court in late June, Ms Pierce explained that Roisin McAliskey was abused by police at Castlereagh holding centre in Belfast and continued to suffer throughout her pregnancy whilst in custody in England. She was examined by a psychiatrist on 16 June and a full report has yet to be compiled. The hearing was adjourned until 22 August.
In contradistinction to the case of Roisin McAliskey is that of Ken Barrett. Barrett was found guilty of the murder of Belfast republican solicitor Pat Finucane, who was gunned down in his home in 1989. Barrett had been aided and abetted in this murder by British state forces, but, in 2004, he was finally sent to prison for a minimum of 22 years. Somebody, however, had the bright idea of transferring this brutal murderer from his English prison to Maghaberry, where, under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, he became eligible for early release, and last year walked free.
Meanwhile, last month, the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) ruled that no police officer or soldier would be charged in connection with the murder of Pat Finucane, deceitfully bemoaning a “lack of evidence”. And this despite the fact that the Stevens Report in 2003 had in fact gone to some lengths to make sure that the cases it handed over to the PPS had a very good chance of reaching a prosecution, and had stated openly that elements within the police and security forces had colluded with terrorist groups such as the UDA (Barrett’s degenerate pals) in the murder of Mr Finucane.
Sinn Féin’s Alex Maskey rightly described the decision as an “absolute scandal” and said that “People are being told that while the state was involved in the murders of their loved ones, no prosecution will be taken.” (BBC News at One, 25 June 2007)
The release of Barrett and the re-arrest of Roisin are attempts by elements of the British ruling elite to sabotage the peace process and provoke the republican community. These are surely the last rolls of the dice by a section of the soon-to-be-expropriated imperialist rulers.
General election in the 26 counties
The recent general election in the Irish 26 counties has brought about some interesting developments. After some initial doubt it now appears certain that the Green Party will enter into a coalition with the bourgeois Fianna Fail. The move is a highly unusual one given the previous opposition of this middle-class mouthpiece to the Tara debacle and, most prominently, its objection to the use of Shannon airport by the CIA, which was revealed to be using the airport as a drop off on its ‘extraordinary rendition’ torture tours.
Trevor Sargent, the leader of the Greens, has now stood down, and it is thought that if contention arises between the coalition partners in the future, the Greens may well withdraw.
Sinn Féin, the radical republican option, and Fianna Fail, a bourgeois constitutional strand of the republican movement, both have support amongst the Irish working class. It is Sinn Féin, however, which has consistently fought for policies that really benefit the working class. The party has been in the forefront of opposition to the war on Iraq, it has opposed draconian government housing policies and defended the health sector, as well as fighting for the interests of workers in the fisheries and agriculture. It is Sinn Féin that has quite correctly pursued and kept on the agenda the Irish national question, ie, of national reunification.
One interesting feature of the election was that, despite Sinn Féin being the only all-Ireland political force to confront and expose the sell-off of Ireland’s natural resources to foreign multinationals, and being the only party to highlight the corruption endemic in the political system, the party failed to make the breakthrough gains they had hoped for.
This disappointment does, however, have to be seen in the wider context: there were no significant gains for any of the other parties with the exception of Fianna Fail. It is also noteworthy that the only Socialist Party candidate, Joe Higgins, has lost his seat. Fear not, for this is no great loss, Higgins is a trenchant Trot and his ‘revolutionary principles’ have led him to oppose the reunification of the national territory!
Gerrymandering, established and practised in the north since the founding of the partitionist statelet, has also realised its utility in southern electoral politics with just one subtle difference: where it was deployed in the six counties to disenfranchise republicans and deny them their democratic mandate, in the 26 counties not only Sinn Féin but also all the other smaller parties have been its target. In effect, its raison d’etre has been to favour the main parties of the Irish bourgeoisie. A prime example of this is that the Green Party was able to obtain six seats (and a place in the coalition government) with 4.7 percent of the votes, Sinn Fein, with 6.9 percent, won only four seats.
Despite all this, one thing is certain. No matter what the political fortunes of the Greens now that they’ve jettisoned their anti-war principles to stand in coalition with Fianna Fail, the southern bourgeoisie, alongside its reactionary allies in the clerical, business and media world, will continue to fear the rise of Sinn Féin, which stands as the only all-Ireland party to challenge collusion, corruption, and foreign multinational exploitation of the people and land, while continuing to pursue the ultimate objective of a 32-county Irish republic.