What is violence? - Does 'the Peace Process' really mean Peace?

A little over two decades ago, news-screens around the world projected the images of Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams, among others, deep in conversation as they walked the paths of some British government compound or other, strategizing the next steps they might take in the ‘process’ that had begun some years earlier.

These were the days of ‘peace’, and within weeks they had produced a document referred to by many as ‘The Good Friday Agreement’.

The following years saw the implementation of that agreement which would massively reduce the presence of British troops on our streets. Though confined to barracks, the British government retained all structures, weaponry and control within the Six Counties.

In contrast, these years also bore witness to the complete dismantling of military structures whose intention was the liberation of our island, alongside the destruction of a weapons arsenal amassed over many decades and intended for the defence of a people, by those that it had been intended to defend against.

All of this guaranteed erstwhile Republicans a seat at the Stormont government table - whenever it functioned.

The dawn of a new era and the absence of ‘violence’, they said. This was ‘The Peace Process’.

Republican districts across Belfast, Derry and every where in between did not know it then, but soon they would face a new ‘violence’, visited upon them by the political parties and government institutions of Stormont and Westminster. As ‘normality’ seeped in through the cracks, the onslaught of Capital would begin, and imperialism was given free rein to do as it pleased.

Indeed, recent figures show that, in the two decades since, over a quarter of children in The Six Counties still live in poverty.

Across this whole island there are over 200,000 empty houses whilst over 129,000 families lie on housing waiting lists.

Working class communities across this failed state are experiencing the incremental onslaught of hard drugs like crack and heroin.

And suicide levels have skyrocketed since the mid 90’s. Indeed, far more have died from suicide (4,500+) since the most recent liberation campaign, than died during it (3,600+). A recent Samaritans report found that the number of men taking their own lives in The Six Counties per 100,000 of the population had increased by 82 per cent from 1985 to 2015. ‘Peace’, they call this, but are these deaths not indeed violent?

When our daughters and sons end their lives by means of a rope, tied tight around a bannister and wrapped around their neck as their feet kick at a floor they cannot reach, is this not indeed a violent act? 

Is the ingestion of 100 paracetamol tablets, and the onset of excruciating pain within the bodies of our children until their organs give out, not indeed a violent act?

And what of those children who suffered but did not die? When violence visited them, wrapped in the brown paper of a dole letter posted through the letter-box of their private-rental, and told them that they would get less money, and consequently less to eat, from now on; is this not indeed a violent act? 

Our ‘peace’ is not the absence of violence. Violent acts are ending the lives of our daughters and our sons every other day. Where is their peace agreement?

If we accept that we are surrounded by violence, indeed undeniably so, surely then it is fair to say that ‘peace’ does not exist? And in the absence of that peace, what then do we call the ‘process’ we have endured this past two decades?

For that process has been largely unconcerned with the major issues affecting the Irish people, beyond the need to pacify the population. Indeed, it has been a Pacification Process; one where the largest ‘Republican’ organisation on the island has conformed to the very system it once fought; one where an arsenal amassed by rebel forces here over decades to defend our people and bring about our liberation, was handed over en masse to those who once found themselves within the sights of those same weapons; one where our mortal enemies retained every rifle, round and rubber bullet; and we did not.

So, remember that, when they say ‘peace’ they mean peace for them and not for us;

for we have never known peace - only violence.

Article submitted by Pól Torbóid as part of Issue 3 of An Spréach Magazine.