Northern Ireland

The British government could intervene to extend reproductive rights to Northern Ireland but it chooses not to, writes Kellie O’Dowd from Northern Ireland’s Alliance for Choice.

A soldier is to stand trial for the 1988 fatal shooting of a man as he walked through a British Army checkpoint during Britain’s military occupation of the six counties in Ireland’s north still claimed by Britain.

Northern Ireland is in the grip of a deep political crisis.

The power-sharing administration in the six northern Irish counties still claimed by Britain between the Irish republican party Sinn Fein and the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) collapsed when Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness resigned on January 9 and called for new elections.

Explaining his decision to resign, McGuinness cited “growing DUP arrogance and lack of respect, whether that was for women, our LGBT community, ethnic minorities or the Irish-language community and identity.”

Operation Banner, a 38-year British military operation in the north of Ireland, formally came to a close on July 31. The operation began in 1969, when British troops were deployed in the six counties that make up the sectarian state of Northern Ireland to support the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), which was unable to maintain “public order” in the face of the explosion of the civil rights movement. The RUC had also been thoroughly discredited among the Catholic and nationalist communities for its role in facilitating sectarian pogroms against them.

Four years after an inquiry established collusion between British intelligence, the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the loyalist paramilitary killers of leading Belfast civil rights lawyer Pat Finucane, the Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service (PPS) ruled on June 25 that there was “insufficient evidence” to bring charges against any police officers or British military intelligence personnel.

The arrest of two prominent Republican activists has strained the new power-sharing government in Stormont (the Northern Ireland Assembly), established between Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party of Ian Paisley in May. In January, as a step towards a coalition with the DUP, SF agreed to recognise the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI); SF members took up positions on the Policing Board for the first time on May 31.

In early May, Green Left Weekly’s Emma Clancy spoke to Ciaran Quinn from Sinn Fein about the new power-sharing agreement between Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which restores power to the Northern Ireland Assembly, ending London’s direct rule of the six counties. From 2003-06, Quinn was Sinn Fein’s deputy general-secretary, and he is a member of the party’s Ard Chomhairle (national executive). He is currently living in Sydney, where he is coordinating Friends of Sinn Fein Australia.

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