British still in war mode says Labour MP
BY FERN LANE
``The terrorism bill which went through last week basically demonstrated that the government has not moved on in its thinking; that it still envisages engaging in a war.'' So said Labour Party MP John MacDonald at a public meeting on the British government's new Prevention of Terrorism Act, organised by the Wolfe Tone Society in London on 22 March.
The Act, currently going through the final stages of parliamentary approval, has attracted heavy criticism from a huge number of individuals and groups concerned about the attacks on human rights contained within it.
Although the British government has signed an agreement committing itself to a long-term peace process, it is quite clear that it is not decommissioning its own powers. In fact, quite the reverse, it is upping the ante
MacDonald, a consistent critic of the bill, again voiced his concerns about the implications of the legislation. Sinn Féin's Francie Molloy also attended to provide activists with an update on events in the Six Counties, and Shane O'Neill, brother of Volunteer Diarmuid O'Neill, also spoke.
MacDonald told the audience of his dismay that only three Labour MPs - himself, Jeremy Corbyn and Paul Flynn, had voted against the bill, but began by speaking of his own anger and frustration at the ``reinstitution of the unionist veto'' via the collapsing of the Assembly:
``I have got used to it being difficult being a socialist in the Labour Party,'' he observed, ``but it is even more difficult being a republican. From the republican position, the Good Friday Agreement gave the embryonic opportunity for unification and for all of us, it gave us peace. It meant that we could deal with the political issues of the day within fora which none of us were particularly happy with, but which at least moved forward the emphasis of the debate.
``And if you see the work done by people like Bairbre de Brún and Martin McGuinness, they were proving that Sinn Féin could work on the day-to-day issues in a constructive way which respected the different traditions. That really boosted the confidence of all of us that we could see some way for the future and a just and lasting settlement.
``Having raised our hopes and expectations, I think we were all frightened by that reinstitution of the unionist veto. The British minister and British government unilaterally suspended democratic institutions which had been agreed by all sides. That came not as a shock, but as an object lesson that politics has not moved on.''
However, MacDonald reserved his strongest criticism for the government in respect of the introduction of the new PTA, saying: ``If you look at the definitions within the bill regarding what powers the government can now exert, they are more draconian than anything we have ever seen before.
``They now define, in British law, terrorism as any act based upon a motive which is political, religious or ideological. The powers which can be drawn from that bill include all the powers of the PTA and much more.
``It is symbolic of the mentality which hasn't moved on. Although the British government has signed an agreement committing itself to a long-term peace process, it is quite clear that it is not decommissioning its own powers. In fact, quite the reverse, it is upping the ante. What was staggering was that only three MPs were capable of voting against the bill.''