CA conference November 2001

Resolutions carried

1. The Irish Peace Process


This annual conference notes that the past year has been a difficult one for the Irish peace process and that progress towards a new dispensation in the north of Ireland based on 'parity of esteem' and 'equality of treatment', as promised under the terms of the Good Friday agreement, has been both erratic and substantially under-delivered.

Conference further notes that attitude of the British government in prioritising the shoring up of the position of the embattled Ulster Unionist leader and northern Assembly first minister, at the expense of pressing ahead with the full implementation of the Good Friday agreement, has been a key element in the lack of progress since the signing of the Belfast agreement.

While recognising that the political threat posed to the position of UUP leader and NI Assemble first minister David Trimble by anti-agreement forces is both significant and growing, conference condemns the British government’s decision to prioritise the salvaging of Trimble's political career over the full and speedy implementation of reforms aimed at redressing eight decades of discrimination, for which they bear ultimate responsibility.

Conference further notes that Britain's policy of supporting the Ulster Unionist leader has included three major breaches of the international treaty (the British-Irish Agreement) signed between Britain and Ireland on Good Friday 1998. These have taken the form of unilateral suspensions of the institutions set up under the terms of the agreement at the behest of the British secretary of state.

Conference further notes that the agreement arising out of talks at Hillsborough Castle in May 2000, which resulted in the re-activation of the Good Friday institutions following the British government's first unilateral suspension, provided a positive way forward to ending the deadlock over full implementation of the Good Friday agreement.

Conference notes that the Hillsborough agreement was instrumental in the IRA issuing a statement at that time in which the organisation gave a commitment to put its arms "completely and verifiably" beyond use.

Conference also notes that progress towards the demilitarisation in the north -including the decommissioning of IRA weapons could have commenced many months ago had it not been for the British government's collusion with leadership of the UUP in making progress on the Good Friday agreement conditional on IRA decommissioning - contrary to the terms of the Good Friday agreement.

Conference welcomes and applauds the various republican and nationalist initiatives taken during this difficult period aimed at securing the re-establishment of the Northern Ireland Assembly, the power-sharing executive, the cross-border bodies and the survival of the Good Friday agreement itself.

In particular conference welcomes the IRA's reaffirmation of its support for a political solution to the Irish conflict, its co-operation with independent international inspectors, and its re-engagement with the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning, led by John de Chastelain, which has led to a significant amount of IRA weaponry being put permanently 'beyond use'.

Conference also welcomes the recent commitment given by the British government to implement measures aimed at stabilising and securing the Good Friday institutions and the uninterrupted participation of properly-nominated Assembly ministers.

Conference also welcomes moves by the British government to recommence the long-overdue process of dismantling a number of its military bases and spy centres and to make further reductions in the numbers of troops stationed in the north. Conference looks forward to a speedy completion of the immediate task and its rapid extension to include all such bases, spy posts and British military personnel throughout the north.

However, conference notes with particular concern the lack of significant progress towards demilitarisation the large areas of the South Armagh region where, despite recent developments and the amount of publicity given to the previous dismantling of one prominent observation post at Crossmaglen, the refurbishment and expansion of existing watchtowers and seven Army/RUC bases throughout the area has continued.

Conference also notes with dismay and alarm that this has included the installation of state of the art eavesdropping and surveillance equipment, a serious infringement of the human rights of the local population whose collective right to privacy continues to be denied.

Conference further notes with concern that helicopter patrols in South Armagh have increased in intensity since the signing of the Good Friday agreement and continue to cause widespread disturbance to the lives of local people and a threat to health throughout South Armagh, both to the local population and to livestock.

This conference believes that further progress towards demilitarisation of the British Army, within the context clearly established by the Good Friday agreement, is essential to the success of the peace process and looks forward to the day when the gun is removed from every aspect of Irish politics.

With regard to the establishment of a new police force, conference notes with concern that the British government has still failed to honour its commitment to implement the Patten report recommendations in full.

The establishment of a policing service acceptable and accessible to all sections of the community is another key pillar of the Good Friday agreement and essential to transforming society in the north on the basis of equality of treatment and parity of esteem.

Conference therefore notes with dismay the failure of the British government to incorporate key aspects of the Patten commission recommendations into the Police (Northern Ireland) Act and calls upon it to address these deficiencies as a matter of urgency.

Conference also regards as totally unacceptable attempts by the British secretary of state to coerce representatives of the nationalist community into joining the Police Boards by threatening that non-participation will jeopardise the entire reform process.

Conference therefore restates its belief that the reforms outlined by the Patten commission are the minimum required to transform policing in the six counties from a sectarian police force serving the unionist community into a genuine public service representative and accountable to all sections of the community.

Conference recognises that the British government's failure to address satisfactorily the key issues of police reform and only partial moves towards demilitarisation continues to raise questions about the Britain's commitment to reaching a solution to the Irish crisis based on the terms of the Good Friday agreement.

Conference also recognises that a number of other factors have served to undermine the confidence of Irish national democratic and progressive opinion in Britain's commitment to introducing radical and meaningful reforms aimed at enhancing democracy in the six counties.

These include:

  • The pro-unionist stance adopted successive British secretaries of state;
  • The attempts by David Trimble’s to impose a unilateral ban on Sinn Fein ministers attending official meetings of the North-South ministerial council prior to the start of IRA 'decommissioning' (and the refusal of the British secretary of state to apply meaningful pressure on the first minister to end the unwarranted and illegal ban);
  • Ongoing efforts by the Ulster Unionist Party leadership to destabilise the Good Friday institutions in an attempt to impose their way, outside of the terms of the Good Friday agreement, over the issue of ‘decommissioning’
  • The decision of the former British secretary of state Peter Mandelson to impose the flying of the Union flag, and the exclusion of the tricolour, over government buildings on 17 days of the year;
  • The decision by a British Army board, including a British government minister, to allow two soldiers convicted of murdering the Belfast teenager Peter McBride to continue with their army careers;
  • The ongoing failures to announce independent inquiries into the murders of Rosemary Nelson, Pat Finucane and Robert Hamill;
  • The refusal to implement an immediate ban on the use of plastic bullets;
  • The delay over the completion of the latest Stevens inquiry into collusion between the British security forces and loyalist paramilitaries;
  • The failure to abolish no-jury Diplock Courts;
  • The continuing imbalance in employment levels between Catholics and Protestants throughout the six counties;

Conference recognises that other a number of other factors have also had a negative impact on the peace process over the last period, including:

  • The persistence and intensification of sectarian-inspired intimidation and attacks on Catholics and nationalists throughout the six counties, most of which are the responsibility of the UDA/UFF and LVF loyalist paramilitaries. These actions have resulted in several deaths, scores of injuries and substantial damage to property and have forced large numbers of people to flee their homes in fear of their lives. They have included the terrorising of schoolchildren attending the Holy Cross school in north Belfast;
  • The threat to the peace process posed by the actions of loyalist paramilitaries and dissident republican groups committed to maintaining an armed struggle against Britain;

Despite the difficulties of the recent period, and the endless series of crises which have beset the Irish peace process since the signing of the Good Friday agreement, this conference believes there remains room for optimism.

  • While the slow pace and inadequacy of reform in a number of key areas remains unacceptable, progress has been made towards bringing about greater equality within the six counties. The establishment of equality and human-rights commissions and an independent police ombudsman are examples of how this is taking place in practice.
  • With all key sections of Irish national democracy firmly focused on a political solution to the Irish crisis, their chances of reaping significant political dividends over the years, including at the ballot box, north and south, have been greatly enhanced, although the strains within the republican movement as a result of the IRA’s efforts to prevent the destruction of the Good Friday agreement should not be underestimated.
  • Unionist and British government attempts to separate Sinn Fein from other sections of the national democratic movement have, to date, been singularly unsuccessful.
  • Although limited and in need to expansion, areas of north/south co-operation have been significantly enhanced under the terms of the Good Friday agreement.
  • While moves towards total British demilitarisation need to be accelerated as a matter of urgency if further advances are to be made towards ‘taking the gun out of Irish politics forever’, the announcement that further British troop reductions are planned is to be welcomed.
  • Unionist efforts to use the ‘decommissioning’ issue to stall and block key reforms have received a major - though not necessarily permanent - setback as a result of the recent IRA actions.
  • The forces of unionism are divided as never before, with key sections continuing to demonstrate to British and world public opinion their lack of support for even a moderate reform agenda;
  • The prisoner issue has largely been resolved through the early release programme.
  • The new Bloody Sunday inquiry under Lord Saville continues to evaluate evidence from a wide range of sources and hold out the prospect of reaching conclusions which will finally overturn the discredited Widgery tribunal;
  • Although there remains significant opposition to the political and democratic arguments for a united Ireland among unionists, economic imperatives and the current strength of the economy in the 32 counties has substantially strengthened the economic argument for a united Ireland.

In recognition of the above, conference reaffirms the Connolly Association’s existing policy of backing the Good Friday agreement, while continuing to make a critical assessment of how this is achieved and to what extent developments are likely to bring about the Association’s desire to witness a united and independent Ireland, and instructs the incoming executive to:

  1. co-operate wherever possible with those organisations who broadly share the Association’s objectives and who support a political solution to the Anglo-Irish conflict and the implementation of the Good Friday agreement;
  2. continue to promote the interests of Irish national democracy and the Irish community in Britain;
  3. continue with the Association’s efforts to convince the British people, the labour movement in Britain and the British government of the benefits to democracy in Britain of an end to Britain’s colonial involvement in Ireland.
  4. to make a detailed assessment of the Association’s resources, human and financial, and to examine the best ways in which these can be utilised towards expanding the influence of the association and promoting its objectives over the coming year.

Executive Committee


2.Independent United Ireland

That the Connolly Association reaffirms its traditional commitment to the goal of an independent united Ireland and resolves to do all in its power to help bring about a complete British disengagement from the north east of Ireland

Glasgow branch

3.Parliamentary Oath

This conference believes that the oath which MPs are obliged to swear as a condition of taking their seats in the House of Commons is offensive to republicans of every political persuasion and wholly imappropriate for a modern parliamentary democracy.

This conference therefore calls upon the incoming executive to work with other concerned parties actively to seek its replacement with that which truly reflects the aspirations of the overwhelming majority of MPs to faithfully serve their constituents, whom they are elected to represent, and to parliament, the body to which they are elected.

Sheffield & S. Yorkshire branch

4.Good Friday Peace Agreement

That the Connolly Association still believes that the full and speedy implementation of the Good Friday Peace Agreement represents the best opportunity for removing the causes of conflict in Ireland and delivering peace, justice and freedom to the people of that island.

We condemn the attempts by the leadership of the UUP, to delay, re-write and prevent the full implementation of the agreement which was endorsed by a majority of people in both communities and in both parts of Ireland.

We insist that the rights of six county nationalists to equality of treatment and parity of esteem cannot be denied by unionist politicians or loyalist gunmen, nor can they be made conditional or subject to a bartering process.

We further condemn the current British Government for continuing to follow its predecessors by viewing events and issues through the filter of unionism and limiting change to that acceptable to the Ulster Unionists. We believe this approach effectively negates the Good Friday Agreement and encourages the forces of unionism to engage in actions designed to halt the process of political change.

We therefore call on the British government to consistently and vigorously defend and implement the Good Friday Agreement and to resolutely reject the current unionist veto exercised by the UUP over the implementation of the agreement.

Glasgow branch

5.Good Friday Peace Agreement

This conference believes that the British government is wholly liable for the extremely slow progress of the peace process.

The British government's failure to face up to their responsibilities and reneging on their promises made under the Good Friday Agreement, particularly regarding policing and demilitarisation, and their unwillingness to tackle unionism head-on has resulted in a process of continual crisis which has hindered political progress and change and further Remarks allowed anti-agreement forces to engage in a wrecking course of action.

However, we are encouraged by the recent advances made towards stabilizing the peace process and urge the incoming executive to act as a catalyst in seeking co-operation and coordination and improved affinity with those who seek just solutions and settlement for the satisfactory conclusion of the Irish question.

London branch

6.Government Policy

This conference calls upon the incoming executive committee to continue to expose the reality of the British government's claim to be a neutral party to the conflict in Ireland.

In so doing, this conference believes that the democratic and labour movement in Britain must be encouraged to demonstrate the benefits and widespread support in Britain for a united and democratic Ireland and to make its views known to the British government.

This conference believes that an important part of this process will be in persuading the Labour government to utilise the full weight of its powers, diplomatic, economic and political, in convincing unionists that their future lies in seeking an accommodation with the nationalist community in a united Ireland.

This conference therefore suggests that the incoming executive examines the possibility of holding a broad-based conference in 2002 to examine the current prospects for a united and independent Ireland and to explore ways in which, given current developments, the democratic and enlightened people in Britain can assist in this process.

Sheffield & South Yorkshire branch

7. Robert Hamill

This conference believes that the RUC and the state authorities have failed in their duty to fully investigate the murder of Robert Hamill in Portadown in 1997

The conduct of the RUC on the night of Robert Hamillís attack and the subsequent handling of the investigation into his murder, raise serious questions that need to be answered.

If we are to have a new beginning with a police service that is both effective and representative of the society it serves and is capable of attracting and sustaining support from all sections of the community then these questions need to be answered satisfactorily.

This conference believes that an independent judicial inquiry is the only means of establishing the full facts of this case.

To this end we fully support the Hamill family's demand for a full independent judicial inquiry into the events and circumstances surrounding Robertís murder. We urge the incoming executive council to redouble its efforts and use its influence within the broad labour movement and Irish community to pursue MPs and the British government to meet this demand.

London branch

8.Anti-Euro Federalism

Conference opposes the aims of the Euro federalists to form a single state, with a single currency, a single government, and with an expanding frontier, a single army to control, a single flag, a single system of criminal law, a single system of tax and spending, a single citizenship, the moving forward to a single European state with full economic and political control by an unelected President and Commission.

Conference seeks from the Executive Council and members a full commitment of opposition to such a policy in line with the publicly expressed opinion of working people of Britain. Conference records its thanks and congratulations to all in Ireland for their historic refusal to accept the Nice Treaty.

London branch

9.Executive tasks

This conference calls on the new Executive Council to ensure that all Connolly Association material is achieved and secure for future historians and to this end to nominate a suitable person to act as archivist.

Northampton branch

10.Executive tasks

This branch calls upon the incoming executive committee to identify specific members to be given responsibility for the construction, circulation and update of an email and telephone tree for campaigning and lobbying purposes.

n addition, the incoming executive should identify people (preferably, but not necessarily, from within the new executive) to assist Connolly Publications with publicity and promotion of the Four Provinces Bookshop and the Irish Democrat newspaper

Sheffield & South Yorkshire branch

11.Executive tasks

This annual conference of the Connolly Association calls on the Executive Council to nominate persons on its committee to take responsibility for specific jobs that require regular attention.

Northampton branch


This document was last modified by David Granville on 2011-03-12 15:04:44.
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