Farcical manoeuvres follow Irish elections

The last three months have seen two elections, two pro-austerity coalitions entering government and two ‘oppositions’ formed in Ireland. Significant protest votes were recorded on both sides of the British-imposed partition, but overall the island-wide carnival of reaction rolls on.

26 Counties – the coalition that isn’t

In the elections to the Free State Dail on 26 February, notwithstanding a partial Fianna Fail recovery, the three traditional parties of government (Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Irish Labour Party) registered a combined vote share of just 56% – as opposed to 73% five years earlier on a higher turnout. Popular opposition, especially in the form of the campaign against water charges, has played a major role and the election result represents a rejection of the Leinster House/Troika austerity regime.

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Free Irish political prisoners!

The Irish Republican Prisoners Support Group based in London is a non-aligned pressure group. Over the years we have picketed the Home Office, Ministry of Justice and Irish Embassy to highlight the violence and human rights abuses meted out by the Northern Irish Prison Service (NIPS) and its counterpart in the Free State. 

NIPS uses segregation as a means of punishment which has led to dirty protests to demand the removal of prisoners into the Republican wing of Maghaberry.  Prisoners have faced 23-hour lock down, and restrictions on food and medical care, punishments similar to those used in the 1980s.  Political prisoners such as Colin Duffy have been pinned onto to the ground and forcibly had prison uniform put on them 

NIPS has defaulted on the August 2010 agreement to end strip searching and controlled movement within the prison. Republican prisoners still face violent strip searches when going to court, or to meet their solicitors or families. 

A number of prisoners have experienced medical neglect. For several months’ Republican prisoner Carl Reilly has been suffering with extreme back pain; he can barely walk. He has been refused medical attention by the NIPS because he refuses to be strip-searched.

There are a number of female POWs. Christine O’Connor was re-incarcerated in January 2016, having been released on an electronic tag. Following harassment by the security firm G4S, who responsible for the tagging, she asked for it to be removed and was sent back to jail.  Recently we have seen Dee Fernell gaoled for reading a statement and quoting Maire Drumm at an Easter Commemoration. 

Some prisoners face internment by default in the form of lengthy remand prior to trial. Dónal Ó Coisdealbha was arrested in May 2015 and is locked up in Portloaise; he will not face trial until 2018. 

Finally, let me highlight the plight of the Craigavon Two  - John Paul Wootton and Brendan McConville - who were wrongly convicted of the killing of a policeman and have spent seven years imprisoned as the result of this miscarriage of justice. 

History has shown that Irish political prisoners do not abandon their principles even when faced by imperialist violence - from Terence MacSweeney to the brave men and women who fought and died in prison in the 1970s and 1980s. Today Britain's cruel attitude towards political prisoners has not really changed.

Free all political prisoners!

Cinaed de Canntun

Irish Republican Prisoners Support Group

Women in the Easter Rising

Irish women workers

‘The Irish Republic is entitled to, and hereby claims, the allegiance of every Irishman and Irishwoman. The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien Government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.

‘Until our arms have brought the opportune moment for the establishment of a permanent National Government, representative of the whole people of Ireland and elected by the suffrages of all her men and women, the Provisional Government, hereby constituted, will administer the civil and military affairs of the Republic in trust for the people.’ - Proclamation of the Irish Republic, 24 April 1916.

An estimated 280 women participated actively in the Easter Rising on the side of the revolutionary nationalists, performing all kinds of tasks: they fought as soldiers, provided medical care, transported supplies and delivered vital communications be­tween outposts. In the main they were members of either Cumann na mBan, the Republican women’s military organisation which had been formed in 1914 and subsequently became part of the Irish Volunteers, or of the Irish Citizen Army, which was formed after the 1913 Dublin Lock-Out. 77 women were captured when the rebels surrendered on 29 April and were taken – either directly, or after being held elsewhere – to Dublin’s Richmond Bar­racks. Here the majority of insurgents, both male and female, were processed, before being released or imprisoned elsewhere, either in Ireland or England.

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Extract from - Ireland the key to the British revolution

Chapter VI - Irish Revolution

The First Imperialist War gave revolutionaries in Ireland the opportunity they had been waiting for. England’s difficulty was again Ireland’s opportunity to free itself once and for all from the stranglehold of its brutal oppressor, British imperialism. By taking decisive action in this period, the Irish national movement could begin the process which would destroy British imperialism and lay the basis for the socialist revolution in Europe.

The revolutionary socialist James Connolly had fully grasped the importance of this opportunity for the Irish working class. He became one of the driving forces advocating an armed insurrection. He prepared the Irish Citizen Army for such an eventuality. In January 1916, after secret meetings with members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, he became part of the Military Council preparing detailed plans for an armed uprising on Easter Sunday 23 April 1916.

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1916–2016 Easter Rising

In 1984 the RCG published Ireland: the key to the British revolution the British revolution by David Reed. This book drew together the political lessons the RCG had learned about imperialism, national liberation and opportunism, through a decade of campaigning in solidarity with the Irish struggle. An understanding of the struggle in Ireland against British imperialism has been central to shaping the anti-imperialist politics of the RCG. Through our work we discovered that Marx and Engels had changed their position on Ireland, in recognition of changed circumstances. They concluded that the conditions for the victory of the English working class necessitated that they make common cause with the oppressed in Ireland – that Ireland was the key to the British revolution, not the other way around. This opened the route to our study of Lenin's Imperialism: the highest stage of capitalism and our understanding that the division of the world into oppressed and oppressor nations has a direct impact on the class structure of the working class in the imperialist heartland – resulting in a labour aristocracy with a material interest in the imperialist system. As a result we began to break with the major inherited prejudice of Eurocentric Trotskyism – that the working class in the advanced capitalist countries would lead the revolution against capitalism. We understood that support for the right of nations to self-determination is the condition for the liberation of the working class as a whole. This has since informed our politics, with the RCG playing a significant role in campaigns against apartheid in South Africa, and in solidarity with Palestine and Kurdistan. For this reason, we mark the 100th anniversary of the heroic 1916 Easter Rising by dedicating four pages of this issue of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! to the political lessons of the Rising, by republishing a section of Ireland: the key to the British revolution. The full text of the book is now available online on our website.

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Ireland: the key to the British revolution by David Reed