`It institutionalises and formalises the sectarian division which gave rise to the violence’

Eamonn McCann: “It is the only agreement in the history of conflicts which does not define the conflict which it is designed to resolve.” Photograph: Paul Faith/PA

Eamonn McCann: “It is the only agreement in the history of conflicts which does not define the conflict which it is designed to resolve.” Photograph: Paul Faith/PA

Wed, Apr 10, 2013, 06:00

EAMONN McCANN: socialist, writer and political activist opposed the Belfast Agreement

“The reason I spoke against the agreement at the time was not about not wanting peace. It was the fundamental flaw in the agreement that it was not to bring people together but to police them apart, to replace hostility between the people by a grudging willingness to rope along together separately . . . The contradiction at the heart of the agreement is the fact that it institutionalises and formalises the sectarian division which gave rise to the violence in the first place. I am still convinced about that.

“We are better in Northern Ireland than the Good Friday Agreement. We think better of one another than is admitted or acknowledged in the Good Friday Agreement.

“It is the only agreement in the history of conflicts which does not define the conflict which it is designed to resolve . . . nowhere does it say what the conflict was about – it is a prescription without a diagnosis, which is a dangerous way to go about things . . . I think the reason why we have got peace is nothing to do with the Belfast Agreement negotiations. The key players in bringing about peace were the two sections of the working class in the North. In Catholic working-class areas support for republican paramilitarism by the 1990s had reached a settled position of being unwilling to support a war for a united Ireland if this meant conflict with their Protestant neighbours. At the same time the vast majority of Protestant working-class people had made it plain that they were unwilling to support a loyalist paramilitary campaign if it was to prevent Catholics getting a share of power.”