By Danny Morrison
When Tony Blair was expressing outrage that he was being spied on by republicans (remember, IRA Spy-Ring at the heart of government?) there he was, according to Clare Short, cheerily spying away at the heart of international government.
Now, no matter what you think of United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, he is no Osama bin Laden directing suicide bombers. The 63-year-old Ghanaian-born international civil servant, with over forty years of public service under his belt, was elected to his post for a second term two years ago by the worlds nations.
But the problem Tony Blair and George Bush had with Kofi Annan was that while they were bent on starting a bloody war using lies and fake documents to bolster their case against Iraq Kofi Annan was an obstacle in their way. One year ago, before the outbreak of war, the Observer newspaper published a top-secret memo, the source of which was Katharine Gun who worked for GCHQ, the British governments intelligence and security organisation. She was arrested and charged but the charges were suddenly dropped last Wednesday.
Her defence was that she broke the Official Secrets Act out of necessity to prevent imminent loss of life. Furthermore, to the embarrassment of Blair, she intended calling upon the British Attorney-General to publish the advice he had given his government about the questionable legality of going to war without UN backing.
What was in the top-secret memo that Gun leaked? It came from US National Security Agent, Frank Koza, and it requested British help for the bugging of offices and homes in New York belonging to UN diplomats from the six swing states, those nations whose support would be vital if Washington and London were to win a Security Council resolution authorising the invasion of Iraq.
Here, three men including Denis Donaldson of Sinn Féin, were arrested and imprisoned on alleged spying charges, which were subsequently dropped, but not before the allegations were used to bring down parts of the Belfast Agreement. Using that analogy Tony Blair should be in the dock. Instead, Downing Street loyalists are calling for Clare Short to be taken into custody and charged with being in breach of the Official Secrets Act!
Republicans are accused of having double standards and are regularly lambasted for their behaviour during the evolving peace process. But as my opening story shows, it is the British government which is to the fore in hypocrisy in its relations with Ireland and the world, not giving a damn about breaking the Vienna Conventions that regulate international diplomacy nor an international treaty such as the Belfast Agreement.
Irish republican strategy is determined by certain realities: that Tony Blair is a unionist; that the North is a sectarian society; that MI5 and the PSNI Special Branch are still at war; that there is a policing vacuum; that unionists will not compromise, nor make apology for their actions or what they have spawned; that Catholics continue to be killed, their homes and properties attacked; that Dublin poorly represents and defends nationalists; that the IRA hasnt gone away.
Twelve days ago seven Catholic homes in North Belfast were attacked by loyalist paint and petrol bombers. The PSNI issued a statement making no reference to the identity of the perpetrators. Nigel Dodds, MP for the area, issued no statement of condemnation of these attacks, one victim of which was a 105-year-old woman.
Compare that with what happened when five men were stopped in a van forty-eight hours later.
The Chief Constable pronounced almost immediately it was the IRA. DUP leader Ian Paisley immediately demanded a meeting with the secretary of state. David Trimble immediately demanded sanctions against Sinn Féin. The Justice Minister in the South, Michael McDowell, immediately lashed out again at Sinn Féin. Suddenly, there was a crisis in the peace process as if there hadnt already been a crisis over the inability of unionism to share the North with nationalists on an equal footing.
For nationalists what are most frustrating are the double standards that are continually applied, despite all the compromises they have made, despite the IRA decommissioning a large number of weapons on three occasions.
Who is to sanction the British government for repeatedly reneging on reforms it promised at the Weston Park talks? It introduced legislation outside of the Agreement to suspend the executive and assembly and recently set up an International Monitoring Commission (which excludes the Irish government nominee from examining the bad faith of the British or unionists).
A High Court judge ruled that David Trimble acted illegally when he barred two Sinn Féin ministers from attending meetings of the all-Ireland bodies, yet there were no sanctions against him.
And, of course, as far as the police and the Special Branch is concerned the alleged new beginning to justice doesnt apply to them. Last Monday a UTV documentary revealed that the Special Branch and the British army had fabricated evidence against two South Down republicans who were imprisoned on remand in 2003 - and that the DPP had concealed crucial forensic reports from their defence lawyers.
The PSNI, British Army and the DPP were clearly in breach of the principles of the GFA. Whether they were acting alone or with the sanction of their leadership doesnt appear to concern a lawyer like the Minister of Justice, Michael McDowell, as much as five men in a van.
The review of the Agreement was going nowhere. The DUPs proposals, Devolution Now, are totally unacceptable to nationalists. In it the DUP makes no reference to North-South relations, policing, justice and human rights. Its models for government are insular and give the DUP a veto over nationalists. It envisages the largest nationalist party, Sinn Féin, being excluded from office and its ministerial seats redistributed and gerrymandered between the other parties. It was just such practices within the failed political entity that was the North, and a sense among nationalists (their homes burning around them) that Dublin had failed them, that turned many of them to the IRA over thirty years ago.