Brexit and Ireland: Loyalism is racism – and these racists have guns

‘...the full title of my party is the Conservative and Unionist Party and that word unionist is very important to me.’ – Theresa May, in her first speech as Prime Minister.

On 23 June eligible citizens of northeast Ireland – as subjects of imperialism’s ‘United Kingdom’ – were called upon to cast their vote in Britain’s referendum on EU membership. Many stayed at home. Of those who went to the polls, 56% voted to Remain. The Remainers had, however, expected a considerably larger margin of victory. Patrick Casey reports.

Turnout was lowest in nationalist areas – below 49% in West Belfast. The nationalist working class had nothing to gain from either outcome on offer. But the Catholic middle class did go to the polls – and they plumped for Remain. They know all too well that their hard won ‘security’ – read privilege – is anything but secure; their position in the sectarian statelet is always precarious. Any threat of instability horrifies them and they opted for the status quo. Sinn Fein’s support for a Remain vote was a reflection of this. Rule Britannia?

 

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Airbrushing partition out of politics - 1916 – Ireland’s revolutionary tradition

1916 – Ireland’s revolutionary tradition

Kieran Allen, Pluto Press 2016, 222pp, £12.99

This book, by a leading member of the Socialist Workers Party in the 26 Counties, is a completely dishonest account of Irish revolutionary struggles since the 19th century. Dishonest, because the purpose in writing it is never made explicit. Worse, in that the author, a self-proclaimed Marxist, does not mention let alone analyse any of Marx’s and Engel’s copious writings on Ireland. He therefore avoids the need to assess the classic standpoint on the revolutionary significance of the struggle by oppressed nations for national liberation. Indeed, reading the book, one would not know that either of the founders of Marxism had ever written a single word on Ireland, let alone led a struggle within the British working class in support of Irish revolutionaries in prison.

 

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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

 

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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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Special Category – the long war of Irish prisoners in England

Special Category – The IRA in English prisons, Volume 1 1968-1978, and Volume 2 1978-1985 by Ruan O’Donnell, Irish Academic Press, 2012 and 2015

Hands Off Ireland The RCG played a central role in solidarity with Irish prisoners

From Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa to Bobby Sands, much has been written by and about Irish political prisoners, their sufferings at the hands of the British state and their steadfast resistance. In these two books, which are the first of what will be a four-volume set, Irish academic Ruan O’Donnell offers an original and valuable contribution to this body of research.

Special Category chronicles in detail the struggles of Irish Republican (and in particular IRA) prisoners held within prisons in England during the time known to the British media as ‘the Troubles’, to the British Army as ‘Operation Banner’ and to the IRA itself as ‘The Long War’. The books are based on material drawn from over 70 interviews with ex-prisoners, their relatives, lawyers and supporters, alongside copious documentation with which O’Donnell has been entrusted by the former prisoners – their letters, diaries, accounts and other documentation. There is also an extensive bibliography. Sources for Volume 2 include Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (FRFI) and Hands Off Ireland! (HOI – published by the RCG from 1976 to 1979) and archives of correspondence between comrades then active in our organisation and Irish prisoners of war (POWs).

 

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Iris review of 'Ireland: the key to the British Revolution' and RCG reply

The review and reply below relate to our book 'Ireland: the key to the British Revolution' by David Reed (Larkin Publications, 1984). (18/02/16)

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no 52 - September 1985

Iris review

Iris is a Sinn Fein quarterly publication. The review below was written by G McAteer

Writing to Frederick Engels in December 1869, Karl Marx commented that 'deeper study' of the Irish question had convinced him that 'the English working class will never accomplish anything before it has got rid of Ireland. The lever must be applied in Ireland. That is why the Irish question is so important for the social movement in general.'

In so writing, Marx was echoing his earlier sentiments that 'a nation which enslaves another cannot itself be free.' It's a view which David Reed believes to be as relevant today as it was when Marx put pen to paper, and it is that view which forms the kernel of the argument in Ireland: the key to the British revolution. Based on a series of no less than seventeen articles originally published in Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (the paper of the Revolutionary Communist Group in Britain), this hefty volume examines the history of the Irish struggle from the 1840s to the present, concentrating however on the current phase from 1968 to 1983.

 

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Ireland: Another Stormont crisis

On 12 August former IRA volunteer Kevin McGuigan was shot dead outside his home in the Short Strand, East Belfast. Arrests followed, as did a press conference at Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) headquarters on 20 August. There, Detective Superintendent Kevin Geddes told reporters that the PSNI suspected the killing was a revenge attack for the fatal shooting earlier this year of Gerard ‘Jock’ Davison, a prominent republican. He went on to say he believed members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army had been involved – words then echoed by the Chief Constable of the PSNI George Hamilton. Cue gasps of horror from the loyalist establishment: a decade since decommissioning and the Provisional IRA still exists? Who knew about this? Well, the PSNI for one. The British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers, said she did too. Spurred on by further arrests of high-profile republicans, including Sinn Féin’s northern chairperson Bobby Storey, the loyalists at Stormont have lost no time in transforming a long-running political impasse into a hastily-manufactured political crisis. PATRICK CASEY reports.

 

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Fighting against water charges in Ireland

The battle against the implementation of water charges continues across the 26 Counties, although the story is no longer on the front pages of the mainstream media as it was in November and December 2014. 40% of households have still not completed the self-registration forms which the government sent to every household in the country in what can only have been a fit of blind optimism.

 

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Irish working class fights water charges

Ireland is seeing a massive upsurge in working class militancy and resistance to the Fine Gael/Labour government’s attempt to impose water charges on the nation.

The water charges are a double taxation that the government intends to extort from the Irish people, to help bridge the massive budgetary deficit incurred by the EU-IMF bailout of the banks and property developers. The Irish working class has taken a battering from the austerity measures brought in by this and the last government, with long-term unemployment rising to 16.4% at the height of the crisis in 2011; home repossessions, benefit caps and massive mortgage arrears are all part of the day-to-day plight of the people. The reduced unemployment figures the current government boasts of flatter to deceive when one considers that over 300,000 people have left the country in the last four to five years.

 

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British troops go on manoeuvres in north of Ireland

On 15 December 1993 then British Prime Minister John Major stood on the steps of Downing Street with Irish Taoiseach Albert Reynolds to announce a joint peace declaration. Major stated that the British Government had ‘no selfish strategic or economic interest’ in the north of Ireland, and went on to suggest that its role would be that of an altruistic neighbour whose sole interest was to see ‘peace, stability and reconciliation’ in Ireland.

What became known as the Downing Street declaration set the foundation for the much lauded Good Friday Agreement, which, from Beirut to Bogota, is held up as an example of a successful peace process.

 

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Gerard Conlon: fighter for justice 1954 - 2014

Gerry Conlon, one of the four innocent people sentenced to life imprisonment in 1974 for the Guildford pub bombings, died on 21 June 2014 aged 60. The Guildford Four - Gerry Conlon, Paul Hill, Patrick Armstrong and Carole Richardson - spent 15 years in British prisons and were finally released on appeal in 1989. Gerry will be remembered both as one of the most prominent victims of British judicial abuse of Irish people and as someone who went on to spend the rest of his life tirelessly campaigning on behalf of others wrongly imprisoned.

 

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Ireland?Sinn Fein under pressure

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 239 June/July 2014

On 30 April Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams was arrested under the Terrorism Act by the Serious Crimes Branch of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). After four days of questioning he was released without charge. Ostensibly the arrest was about the case of Jean McConville, the suspected informer executed by the Irish Republican Army in 1972, which has long been a cause célèbre of those opposed to the 25-year armed struggle of the IRA. In reality his arrest was political and took place in the midst of a renewed political offensive by the North’s loyalist majority.

 

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Remembering the Easter Rising

The 2014 London commemoration of the 98th anniversary of the Easter Rising in Ireland, organised by the London branch of Republican Sinn Fein, and attended by a wide range of independent Republicans, communists and anti-imperialists was the best attended commemoration event in recent years.

The Easter proclamation was read out, as was the Roll of Honour of Republicans from London who gave their lives to the struggle, followed by the lowering of flags and a minute’s silence.

Many of the speakers condemned Sinn Fein's Martin McGuiness, for meeting once again with the Queen of England. It is even rumoured she has been invited to the centenary commemoration of the Rising in Dublin in 2016.

The General Secretary of the Irish Republican Prisoners’ Support Group read out two messages from prisoners.

The first was from Gavin Coyle, who has been kept in solidarity confinement at Maghaberry prison since 2011:

… after 14 days of interrogation at the hands of the British Armed Forces, namely RUC/PSNI. They attempted to recruit me as an informer which I refused… During the first six months there were numerous attempts from both RUC/PSNI and MI5 to recruit me as an agent. I will never bend my knee and that's why the torture continues!’

 

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Ireland: an exit from the crisis?

Over recent months Ireland has been elevated to ‘model pupil’ status by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Union (EU) for its obedience in implementing devastating austerity measures. In December 2013 Ireland became the first Eurozone country to formally exit a bailout programme. In 2008 it became the first country in Europe to enter recession and in November 2010 it accepted a joint EU/IMF bank bailout package worth over €85bn (£72bn) in order to stabilise the unravelling economy. Part of the deal forced the Dublin government to introduce more than 200 austerity programmes, implementing structural reforms such as a property tax as well as severe slashing of public spending. The Fine Gael/Labour coalition elected in 2011 has claimed to be aiming at regaining ‘Ireland’s economic sovereignty’. Despite the optimistic headlines, the fundamental causes of the crisis remain. The Irish people continue to face the devastating social consequences.

 

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Women in the Dublin Lock-Out

[Speech by Nicki Jameson of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! to the Dublin Lock-Out Centenary Conference in London on 24 August 2013]

The Dublin Lock-Out took place during a time of struggle on many fronts. In Ireland, as in other British colonies across the world, popular movements for national liberation from imperialist rule were growing in strength. At the same time, workers were taking action to gain labour rights and the right to self-organisation. And women were stepping up the fight for equal suffrage.

The poverty of Dublin and the every-day struggle for survival

In 1911 Dublin’s death rate was the same as that of Calcutta, a city also ruled by British imperialism, which was at the time rife with cholera and other diseases. 41.2% of deaths in Dublin took place in workhouses to which the destitute poor were consigned. The infant mortality rate was 142 per 100,000, far higher than any city in England

 

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The Dublin Lock-out

One hundred years ago, 25,000 Irish workers and their families in Dublin were reduced to starvation by the bosses who locked them out of their jobs. They were simply fighting for basic trade union rights and better working conditions when they were told to leave the union or starve. This was the Dublin Lock-out. It is timely to remember this battle waged by the working class in Ireland, ruled then as a colony of British imperialism. The 1913 struggle provides many lessons, not least about how the opportunists in the Labour and trade union movement betray the working class. The workers in Dublin were defeated because of the cowardly betrayal of the leadership of the British trade union movement.

 

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Ireland: loyalists riot in defence of privilege

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 231 February-March 2013

On 3 December Belfast City Council voted to fly the union flag on just 18 designated days rather than all year round. Since then, protests and street disturbances have engulfed the north of Ireland and Belfast in particular, and sectarian attacks on the nationalist minority have captured international news headlines. The Confederation of British Industry complained that the riots have cost the Belfast economy £15m in lost trade and warned of the impact on future foreign investment. Images of burning cars and daily rioting had supposedly been consigned to history. It is not something Prime Minister David Cameron wants to see in the run up to June’s G8 summit in Enniskillen. What lies behind these latest developments?

 

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Bloody Sunday 2013 - End Impunity - No to the Cover-ups - Lessons for the future

Bloody Sunday 2013
‘It is the message from the working class families of Bloody Sunday, the Miners Strike and Hillsborough:

'Why develop such an elaborate mechanism of cover-up if not anticipating using it in the future...'!’

FRFI Supporters have continued to stand with the campaigning relatives and supporters of those 14 people murdered by the Parachute regiment on the streets of Derry, Ireland on Sunday 30 January 1972. Thousands marched again this year on the original route of the 1972 Civil Rights march which was brutally attacked by the British army as it reached the Bogside 41 years ago.

 

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Gerry McGeough to be freed – Jan 2013

FRFI welcomes the 29 January release of Irish political prisoner Gerry McGeough from Maghaberry prison. On 7 March 2007 Gerry, from Dungannon, County Tyrone, stood unsuccessfully as an independent republican on an anti-policing ticket; the following day, while leaving the count centre at Omagh he was arrested and interned by Crown forces. In April 2011 he was convicted of the attempted murder of a British army officer in 1981 and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. Gerry, who has been in poor health, was eligible for release on licence after 2 years due to the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

Paul Mallon

 

Dolours Price - Irish revolutionary

Dolours Price
21 June 1951-24 January 2013

Dolours Price died at her home in Dublin on 24 January, aged 61. She will be remembered as a brave principled fighter for Irish freedom who stood firm in the face of oppression and opportunism.

From a Republican family in Belfast, Dolours, along with her sister Marian, took up the fight against British imperialism. In 1968 Dolours joined the student-based socialist group Peoples Democracy demanding one person one vote in local government elections and action on unemployment and housing; an end to the administrative policy of systematic discrimination against the Catholic minority.

 

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Political status for Irish Republican prisoners now!

FRFI 230 December 2012/January 2013

On 1 November 2012, a prison officer was shot dead as he made his way to work at the notorious top security Maghaberry gaol near Lisburn on the outskirts of Belfast. It later emerged that the officer was a member of the sectarian Orange Order and had been working on the wing where Irish political prisoners are currently being held in appalling conditions; his career went as far back as 1980.

The response from the political establishment has been predictable, with widespread condemnation of the attack. Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein condemned it as a ‘pointless and futile killing’ and United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it was an ‘outrageous and cowardly act’. Despite the condemnation, the first such targeted execution of a senior British prison employee since the early 1980s has drawn public attention to the conflict in the north of Ireland and the increasingly bitter dispute over the treatment of Republican prisoners at Maghaberry.

 

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Free the Irish prisoners of British occupation!

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 227 June/July 2012

The situation of political prisoners in the north of Ireland acutely exposes the reality of continued British rule. Imprisonment is being used in an attempt to silence those such as Marian Price and Gerry McGeough who criticise Sinn Fein’s collaboration with British rule. There are currently around 50 prisoners in Maghaberry prison on a dirty protest, following the repeated failure to implement an agreement reached in August 2010, which was intended to resolve a dispute over the use of strip-searches. In a further recent development, the Public Prosecution Service is now increasing the use of ‘intercept evidence’ in the non-jury Diplock courts in order to secure convictions against those accused of political offences.

 

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Murder on the Rock, 6 March 1987

Murder on the RockTwenty-five years ago, on 6 March 1987, three unarmed members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) were shot dead by the British Army Special Air Service (SAS).  The cold-blooded execution of Mairead Farrell, Daniel McCann and Sean Savage was immediately welcomed by the Conservative government, led by Margaret Thatcher, by the Labour Party, led by Neil Kinnock, and by the British press, all of whom acclaimed the killings as a victory against terrorism.

 

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Support Irish POWs!

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 225 February/March 2012

Free Marian Price!

As we go to press, Marian Price continues to be held in in solitary confinement at Maghaberry prison, where she is the only female prisoner. Marian, who is 57 years old and suffers from ill health as a result of her time on hunger strike, was arrested during a police raid on her Belfast home on 13 May 2011 and charged with encouraging support for an illegal organisation. She was granted bail in court on this charge, but the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Owen Patterson, then blocked her release by revoking the parole licence relating to her conviction on charges of bombing the Old Bailey in London in 1973.

 

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Lessons from the north of Ireland as British state prepares for class war

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 225 February/March 2012

On 20 December 2011 Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) published a report entitled The rules of engagement, which argues that serious consideration should be given to the use of plastic bullets and water cannon and, where necessary, lethal force. The British state is preparing for class war and social unrest and, in doing so, will be relying on its experience in suppressing opposition to its rule in Ireland.

The report was commissioned by the Home Secretary following the August uprisings in English cities. It recommends the establishment of a national framework for resolving public disorder, with new rules of engagement supported by ever more sophisticated communication after fatal or controversial incidents, backed up by an ‘all source hub’ intelligence gathering with a greater emphasis on ‘advanced software analysis’ and social media monitoring. The report also states that: ‘in extreme circumstances, where life is threatened, their commanders must also be able to use extraordinary measures’.

 

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Tommy McKearney speaks to Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!

tommy_mckearney‘Normalisation is normal as defined by Britain; it’s not defined by people like me or you.’

On Sunday 29 May, around 1,500 people marched in Glasgow to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Irish hunger strike in which ten republicans gave their lives in the struggle against British rule. The event was organised by the 1980-81 West of Scotland Hunger Strike Commemoration Committee. The march was made up of working class men and women from across Glasgow and Lanarkshire; there was a noticeable absence of any of the groups on the left aside from supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!.

 

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Ireland: loyalist mobs on the rampage

Loyalist rioters

This year’s loyalist marching season has seen intense street fighting across the north of Ireland as thousands of unionists took part in their annual display of supremacy intended to intimidate the nationalist minority. It started on 20 June when hundreds of loyalists attacked nationalist residents in the Short Strand area of East Belfast. Images of the subsequent street disturbances, which involved running street battles, were broadcast around the world, belying the image which is normally projected of a society at peace. On 12 July, nationalists in north Belfast faced police attack for opposing a supremacist loyalist march through Ardoyne. Other disturbances took place in Derry, Craigavon and Portadown where nationalist residents came under attack from members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). In Portadown, immigrant families from East Timor fled a nationalist area after experiencing a racist loyalist attack.

 

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The Irish hunger strike: were you with Benn or the H Block men?

Photo: Tony Benn speaks on an ANL platform in London, 8 December 1980
tony_benn_speaks_on_an_anl_platform_in_london_8_december_1980

The announcement that Tony Benn has been invited to speak at a Sinn Fein conference in London on 18 June commemorating the 30th anniversary of the 1981 Irish hunger strike is an insult to the struggle of the Irish people. Benn’s record during this period was one of unstinting support for British imperialism. He was a member of the Labour government whose strategy of criminalising the Irish liberation movement precipitated the prisoners’ struggle for political status and eventually led to the hunger strike. Not once during this period did he attend a demonstration in support of the Irish prisoners, not once did he stand up for them in public.

 

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Ireland: the key to the British revolution by David Reed

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