Comment: Podium - The trap into which Gerry Adams has fallen

Ruairi O Bradaigh From a speech by the President of Republican Sinn Fein to his party's Ulster Executive in Monaghan
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CROSS-BORDER bodies will not deliver for Irish republicans. The Government of Ireland Act 1920 of the British parliament, which set up two partition states in Ireland, may have been repealed but it has been re-enacted in a consolidation measure which is named the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1998.

The latter set up the new Stormont, and makes it plain that "executive authority remains vested in Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II". SDLP and Provo [Provisional Sinn Fein] members of the Stormont Executive are in fact Ministers of the Crown - their reward for a complete political surrender.

The constitutional nationalists of both of these parties, and indeed Bertie Ahern and the Dublin establishment, use the unfounded arguments of the 1920s and 1950s to bolster up the new British arrangements.

They say that Articles 2 and 3 of the 1937 Irish constitution have been "sold" for cross-border bodies which will lead to a united and free Ireland. Yet these bodies have "no significant function" (Mr Trimble's words) and, being "accountable" to Stormont, cannot grow and develop into an all-Ireland government.

They will remain powerless showpieces, cleverly designed by the British to raise false hopes, mislead nationalists away from the national objective and give roots to the new Stormont. Vital areas such as agriculture, industry, tourism, transport, education and the environment will not be in the remit of the "north-south implementation bodies". Control of inward investment - which is crucial - stays at Stormont, where it is sure to be directed to Unionist areas for political reasons. The cross-border bodies will be limited to such areas as the Irish language and Ulster Scots, inland waterways, aquaculture, food safety, trade and development and European Union funding programmes.

Republican Sinn Fein asks if anyone in his or her right mind could ever imagine such cross-border bodies growing into "a transitional mode" to a free and independent Ireland.

For almost 50 years cross-border bodies have been functioning that were set up in 1950 and 1951 as an alternative to the anti-partition campaign of the time. They included the CIE-NIR joint-railway board, the Erne joint scheme of drainage and electricity generation, and the Foyle Fisheries Commission.

There were others, but in 50 years they did not grow or develop, much less deliver a united Ireland.

Such ineffectual functions are normal between countries with adjoining territories on the European continent but they do not lead to change of sovereignty. Four years after the treaty of 1921, the Council of Ireland and the Boundary Commission, which were supposed to lead to a united Ireland, were abolished. The cross-border bodies functioning since 1951 have led nowhere, yet the old discredited arguments of the early Twenties and the early Fifties are being resurrected to deceive and sidetrack another generation.

The current process will not lead to a united and free Ireland but will copper-fasten and cement partition and British rule. It is a partition process, not a peace process. A permanent peace will only come with English disengagement from Ireland and a nine-county Ulster within a new four- province federation.

Power and decision-making at the lowest possible level will ensure participation by all, as near as feasible to a direct democracy.

The Gerry Adams leadership has been put into the trap designed for it by the British Government. Not only are the Provos weakened by the imposition by the Unionists of a mid-February deadline for the surrender of arms, but Trimble's own position is weakened by the vote, while that of he "No" camp generally is strengthened.

What we are seeing is the gradual implementation of a British counter- revolutionary and counter-insurgency strategy to demobilise, divide and demoralise the popular struggle for English disengagement and the national independence of Ireland. This strategy to update British rule in Ireland will fail.