As a Scot seasoned in a campaign for Scotland’s independence against the Westminster establishment and its BBC lapdog, it galls me to read Jonathan Powell, former Downing Street Chief of Staff under Tony Blair, pontificate on peace-building through risky dialogue. In every paragraph his words stink to high heaven with that nauseating stench of affected British moral superiority, and positively ring with the splendid arrogance of power. He contemptuously dismisses the better history of his so-called terrorists as a result of their leaderships’ undemocratic longer stay in power rather than once concede the truth that imperial Britain inflicted history upon them – as it did us.

Yet he is right, I will admit, that dialogue is a must if we are to see an end to violent conflict. Typical of his kind, he vainly imagines that this dialogue, in the case of the north of Ireland, offered the Provisional IRA a way out of the war via negotiations in London. Talks gave his Britain as much of an escape route as it ever gave the Republicans. Discussion, he and I can at least agree, was the only way out, and so it is – ultimately – in every conflict that cannot be won by the brutality of force.

Ireland’s peace, fragile as it is, was celebrated as a miracle by its brokers who desperately sought divine intervention. As such it was appropriated as a commodity which could be sold and re-sold wherever the peacemakers required a cherry for their battle-for-hearts-and-minds cakes to pacify their other colonies. The London School of Economics’ James Hughes takes almost twenty pages to spell out the European Union’s banker model of the Irish peace as it was applied in Kosovo and its inevitable failure to accommodate real difference when the cookie-cutter hit the dough. Still, in his redressing of the EU and the UN, Hughes can’t escape Britain’s imperial repackaging. Peace, he concludes, can only be won with the creation of lines between communities.

Had it not been for Eamonn McCann I think I may have abandoned all hope.  As long as we are to make our peace with the reality of élites at the reigns of states, we have to accept that peace by the division of people down lines of invented difference benefits only those who gain from governance by domination. Power over communities divided by walls merely makes latent the crisis and keeps the gravy train of the peace industry on the tracks. Class and economic interests offer the only route to a lasting peace in the North.

Jason Michael
Blog Author

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