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World Politics Book Review – ‘A Pathway to Peace’

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This book was written by Gerry Adams, the President of the Sinn Fein, as a collection of his uncensored views to bringing peace to Northern Ireland. His view is that the six counties in Northern Ireland should be allowed complete self-determination, which in turn would lead to a unified Irish island. However, because of the British interests in Northern Ireland, this has been prevented both through military means as well as political veto. Gerry Adams proposes a strategy to create peace and Irish unity, and the need for the retreat of the British from matters concerning Northern Ireland.

The majority of the book mentions the right for self-determination in the six counties and how the British State has wrongfully denied this. Firstly he reviews the Hillsborough Treaty, which was signed in 1985. He especially pinpoints one article in this treaty as being a “bulwark against Irish unity”. He then proceeds to summarise the failures of the treaty during the three years since after its signing. A few examples of the British acting as arbitrators in justice are also given. Gerry Adams gives a very good definition of peace not simply the absence of war or conflict but that “it is the existence of conditions of justice and equality that eradicate the causes of war or conflict.” The opinion given is that this can not be achieved through justice, as the laws of justice are set by the British, for their own benefit.

The role of Dublin and the Irish government is discussed and generally criticised for its passiveness. Adams then describes the role of Unionism, Constitutional Nationalism and Verbalised Nationalism. He states that the sovereignty of the unionists, which make up a national minority, is in direct contravention of the principle of self-determination. The British claim that it is the wish of the people of Northern Ireland that no change in Northern Ireland’s status is made, while Gerry Adams says that this is only the case for the unionist minority.

A strategy for peace is then outlined with an aim, the development and implementation of certain strategies, and the development and support of programmes to increase popular, political and economic support. There is also a mention of the change in the SDLP’s willingness to confront the Sinn Fein openly in discussions, in a positive direction.

Finally Adams talks about the necessity to build a mass movement of support to further the cause of self-determination. He also proposes a charter that would encompass the nature of this movement, and exclaims the urgency for its establishment.

The book is definitely very biased to the Irish Republican side, but does pass on an effective argument for Irish unity, and the right for Irish self-determination. I especially found the argument referring to the United Nation’s Covenants of 1966 very strong. Gerry Adams states that the Irish right to self-determination is “supported by universally-recognised principles of international law.” The UN Charters quoted, clearly state that Northern Ireland has the right to determine her political status, without any external influence. Secondly, partition enforced by Britain is in contravention to the UN Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.

The use of violence is mentioned in a few chapters, and is never renounced as a means for achieving the ultimate goal. Adams does convey the wish that a peaceful transition to unity is preferred. The book generally gives reasonable solutions to the problems, although I felt that most would result in little.

My main disagreements with Adams in the book lie in his views of the policies Ireland should adopt after a possible unification. He believes that a certain amount of Protectionism is needed and that Ireland should aim for neutrality. I believe that if or when Ireland becomes united, it will be through the support of other countries. For Ireland to then ‘isolate’ herself would create little incentive for such support, as well as being the least effective method for fast economic growth.

The book gives some good factual and ideological knowledge on the situation in Northern Ireland, even though it was written in 1988. It is easy to read, but demands some prior knowledge to the dispute. It is also written by one of the leading political activists involved in the civil rights struggle and therefore gives a better idea of the wishes of the Sinn Fein.

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