Breaking Down the Border

Sean Oliver is Sinn Féin's national coordinator of the party's All-Ireland department.  Essentially, it's their campaign to "break down the effects of the Border in every possible way."

In fact, that has been the republican group's goal from the beginning: restore Ireland as one country, eliminating the partition that set the island's six northern counties apart from the rest.  Sean is in Hartford at the end of 2006 to tell us how it's going.  "We have to plan as if the Border doesn't exist," Sean says.

Although the struggle for Irish self-determination is now primarily a political one, Sean believes that the economy will ultimately play the pivotal role.  "A British and Irish government study says what we already know," Sean says.  "The Unionist business people want the Good Friday Agreement implemented," which will restore government to the local parties and increase cooperation with the booming economy in the South (For example, the corporate tax in the North is 20% higher than in southern Ireland, businesses along the Border are forced to handle two currencies, etc.).  

A critical obstacle to peace and stability, however, is the question of who controls the northern Irish police (formerly the RUC, now called the PSNI). Every Irish person knows how the RUC have colluded in the murders of activists for over 30 years.  Will that ever change?  "We look at this issue with our hearts but we also have to look at it with our heads," Sean tells us. 

"When we have political power, we can exert it over the police.  It will be a battle a day, but we will be able to finally say "I'm your boss.  Now it's time to start getting drugs out of our neighborhhoods"."

Sean explains that since armed struggle has ended, it is in fact harder to contain the forward movement of republicans.  "It used to be that they would jail us, kill us.  Now we are in Stormont, Belfast City Hall, Dublin.  We are the only all-island party and we are everywhere."

"We have moved from resistance to political power," Sean continues.  "Our tactics have changed but our objective remains the same.  It is the objective embodied in the Easter Proclamation: to become the government of a United Ireland."

From left to right: Rich Lawlor, State Rep. Peggy Sayers, Sean Oliver, Tom McBride