Times Change, No. 1
Date:1994
Organisation:Democratic Left
Publication:Times Change
Issue:Number 1
Spring 1994
Contributors:Paddy Smyth, Stephen Hopkins, Ellen Hazelkorn, Henry Patterson, Des Geraghty, Prionsias Breathnach, Sean Kelly, Maurice Goldring, Gerard O'Quigley, John Barry
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Subjects: Downing Street Declaration, 1993 Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act

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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

27th February 2012

This first edition of Times Change is of particular interest because it is the first published example of the thinking of Democratic Left after its establishment outside of election manifesto’s [for more Times Change please see here ]. As such its contents suggests a broad range of interests, from articles on the European left, an analysis of the first year of the Fianna Fáil/Labour coalition, a staunch defence by Des Geraghty of ‘social enterprise’ against ‘economic chaos, while Proinsias Breathnach examines ‘workers’ co-operatives. What’s also of interest is the avowedly ‘cultural’ aspect to the publication. Ruth Riddick writes about the then nascent Irish film industry, George O’Brien about the legacy of Sean O’Faolain and Maurice Goldring discusses the role of The Bell during the war period and after. Add to this a short story and a poem as well as reasonably extensive book reviews and it is clear that Times Change sought to position itself some ways from its Workers’ Party predecessor, Making Sense.

An article by Paddy Smyth on Section 31, only then recently done away with by the coalition provides an example of some thinking within the party. Smyth cautiously welcomes the development and argues that ‘the notion that Joe Public is likely to switch parties because FF has received marginally more of its ‘fair’ share of sound bites is one that is deeply contemptuous and patronising of the citizen. It assumes a passivity on the part of the audience that is simply not supported by the evidence’. And he continues ‘It is is no more true to say that ‘there was no sex in Ireland before television’ than to suggest that a gullible public will have its fundamental values shaken by its occasional exposer to Gerry Adams on television’.

Smyth goes further and argues that the ‘mistaken notion of the passive and gullible audience is far more central to the argument about Section 31 than arguments about the civil rights of Sinn Féin supporters or journalistic rights’.

And he makes a basic point that ‘the truth is the status quo on S31 was no longer tenable. The recent report of the UN HRC argues quite correctly that the actual threat to our state is not such as to justify either a state of emergency or the provisions of the broadcasting ban.The government is under an international obligation to repeal it’.

The editorial under the heading “Adams agonistes” engages with Sinn Féin and the Downing Street declaration. Stating that while the IRA had not formally rejected it, it argues that the Provisional response had been ‘thus far singularly negative’. And it suggests that ‘The protracted consultation of SF members (administered by the Orwellian-sounding ‘Peace Commission’) is an elaborate charade. SF is an instrument of the IRA,and democratic debate is not part of conspiratorial politics. Likewise peace is not the first item on the IRA agenda’.

Indeed the view is profoundly pessimistic.

Rather the diehards of the IRA are intent on victory. Having failed to achieve this through violence, they thought they had found the answer in the Hume/Adams initiative. The IRA viewed Hume/Adams not as a peace process but as the foundation stone of a pan-nationalist front which would eventually involve the Irish government. It has been a long-term strategy of the Provisionals to embroil the Republic in the Northern conflict. Hence the attempts to foment civil war in the Seventies, and the emotional blackmail of the hunger strikes. This time with John Hume on board, the Provisionals thought they were home and dry.

And later it suggests that ‘[Hume/Adams] would have been the catalyst for another 20 years of violence’.

That said it also acknowledges − albeit seemingly in the context of working around rather than with SF - the need for ‘[a] settlement with or without all parties… cross-border institutions [which] should be established to underpin such a settlement, which would also formally acknowledge the equal rights of all identities and traditions in NI. A settlement of this kind will require nothing less than a historic compromise if it is to succeed. It will not give everybody everything they want. But it will provide the means whereby legitimate political objectives can be pursued in peace and democracy.’

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