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).

Although the focus is specifically on the Irish prisoners in England, of necessity these books also reflect the history of the wider Irish struggle during that period, and indeed the political movement in England as a whole, during a period which encompassed the Labour government of the 1970s, the rise of Thatcherism, the Malvinas/Falklands War and the Miners’ Strike.

The English prison system and the IRA

The story begins in 1968 at a time when ‘[t]he criminal justice system was undergoing an uneasy transition’ following the escape of Soviet spy George Blake from Wormwood Scrubs in 1966 (Vol 1, p5). Embarrassed by the Blake escape and by those of train-robbers Charlie Wilson and Ronnie Biggs, the government commissioned the Mountbatten Report, which recommended that all high security prisoners be concentrated in a single prison on the Isle of Wight. This recommendation was rejected and instead the British state adopted the ‘Dispersal System’ whereby high security prisoners were spread among six or seven different establishments; however Mountbatten’s other main recommendation on giving each prisoner a security classification from A to D, depending on perceived risk to the public, was implemented.

The overwhelming majority of IRA prisoners were designated Category A, the highest risk level, and therefore served their entire sentences within the Dispersal System. While on paper, their classification was no different to that of the most dangerous criminal prisoners and although ‘Special Category A’, which gives these books their title, never formally existed, it was abundantly clear from the outset to the prisoners, their families and their gaolers that Irish POWs were subject in practice to yet another level of scrutiny and repression.

The prisoners who entered the English system in the late 1960s and early 1970s faced an austere regime with few legal rights: their mail was censored, their visits were interfered with and they were subject to physical violence both from staff and, before they had stamped their mark on the system, from other prisoners. While until 1976 POWs held in the occupied north of Ireland were able to claim ‘political status’, in England this did not exist, meaning that from the point of entry to the system, prisoners faced immediate battles on issues such as prison uniform and prison work, both of which they refused as incompatible with political status. This led to protests and hunger strikes, which the authorities responded to with force-feeding:

‘Dolours Price was evidently the first IRA prisoner of the group to be force-fed in Brixton on 3 December 1973. A major scare came on the third day when she lost her breath and managed to pull the tube and feeding apparatus from her mouth. Marian Price was subject to her inaugural session on 5 December…This was her twenty-first day on strike and the distress and retching caused by the process was clearly audible in her sister’s cell’. (Vol 1, p142)

The prisoners strenuously resisted this vicious treatment. And, despite censorship and other barriers to communication, they knew they could count on there being tremendous support outside prison. Although obviously not altogether unhindered, prior to the Labour government’s introduction of the Prevention of Terrorism Act in November 1974, supporters of Irish liberation were able to organise far more openly than later became the case. O’Donnell describes how, following the death of Michael Gaughan on hunger strike in Parkhurst prison on 3 June 1974:

‘A large crowd of supporters assembled in Cricklewood… to march behind an eight-man Guard of Honour dressed in black pullovers and berets. From there the 3,000-strong procession continued on a two-hour march to Kilburn and into the Sacred Heart Church, Quex Road.’ (Vol 1, p202)

Stamping their mark on the system

These two volumes provide a densely packed, encyclopaedic history of the struggle of Irish political prisoners in English prisons. What comes over most strongly of all, alongside the brutality of the system, is their absolute determination and resilience. Aside from the few who were wrongly convicted and well known to be so, these were soldiers, for whom the same war against British rule which led them to take armed action on English or Welsh soil continued to be fought every minute they remained incarcerated: ‘Such men viewed imprisonment as “another stage of the war” in which “every day was a combat day when you could do something”’ (Interview with Eddie O’Neill, Vol 2, p295).

At the start the main focus of the prison struggle was for political status. Although this was never officially reinstated in the Six Counties, after the 1981 Long Kesh hunger strike it was restored in all but name, and at that stage, the main demand for those imprisoned in England became for repatriation to serve their sentences in Ireland. The books describe how this was accompanied by a constant fight to preserve human dignity within the prison setting, although it is made clear that any demands for better treatment and indeed for repatriation, remain part of the political campaign and are not simply pursued on humanitarian, grounds.

The books are full of accounts of blanket protests, sabotage and rooftop demonstrations. In carrying these out, partly through common cause and partly out of the necessity of survival, IRA prisoners politicised and worked together with English and other prisoners, both black and white. The influence of this relatively small group (no more than 100 at any one time) of Irish men and women, spread through the Dispersal System, changed the entire character of English high security prisons and the consciousness of those incarcerated in them for a period of 25 years.

A particular comradeship was established between Irish POWs and politicised black prisoners, and in telling this part of the history, O’Donnell is able to quote extensively from writings by Black Liberation Army prisoner Shujaa Moshesh in FRFI:

‘In prison I was meeting people who were giving me the Irish liberation view. The first thing I noticed was their commitment to the Irish struggle. They’re not halfway guys…Any kind of English hostility against black and Irish prisoners the screws will support because it’s in their interests to keep prisoners divided as well as matching their own racism. We had a lot of political discussion, were involved in protests and strikes. They proved the level of their commitment. It was a learning process; I’m sure I learned more from them than they learned from me. They used to ask me questions about aspects of the black struggle.’ (FRFI January 1989, quoted Vol 2, p67)

This unity between Irish and black prisoners informed all the major prison uprisings at Hull, Gartree, Wormwood Scrubs, Albany and Parkhurst which are detailed in O’Donnell’s books. The Irish prisoners also gained support for their actions from swathes of the English ‘gangster’ prison population who, whatever their pre-prison views on the Irish conflict, gave the IRA men respect for their dedication – and of course were forced to recognise that if they did not work with the POWs they would have to face the consequences.

Solidarity

These books are refreshingly partisan about the major conflict being described, ie firmly on the side of the Irish liberation fighters and completely against the role played by their British imperialist captors. There is no pretence at any ‘lack of bias’ on that score. Having established this as a given throughout the account, the books then take, insofar as possible, an even-handed approach to any disputes and differences which occurred within the movement itself, either inside or outside of prison.

All those who are seen to have contributed to solidarity with the prisoners, be it the Troops Out Movement, the Prisoners' Aid Committee, the nun Sister Sarah Clarke, the Young Liberals or the Irish Freedom Movement – which was set up at a similar time to the Irish Solidarity Movement (ISM) in which the RCG played a pivotal role – are given their due. There is no sectarianism here and condemnation is reserved for those who truly merit it – vicious politicians such as Labour Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Roy Mason (Vol 1, pp402-3), and Britain’s then biggest ‘left’ organisation, the Communist Party of Great Britain, which had a disgraceful stance in relation to the struggle in Ireland:

‘…the CPGB refused to be drawn into a declaration of solidarity. [It] remained wedded to a de facto policy of following the lead of communist affiliates in the North of Ireland, a body with disproportionate input from persons drawn from the Unionist, as well as sectarian Loyalist community. This produced a glaring paradox whereby the CPGB voiced support for international leftist revolutionary organisations in Continental Europe, Africa and Asia, while condemning the closest equivalent within the UK and Ireland.’ (Vol 2, p27)

Working class unity

Although completely absent from the narrative of Volume 1, the RCG is cited frequently throughout Volume 2, and clearly shown to have played a central role in prisoner solidarity, both through our dedicated organising of events such as demonstrations outside prisons, the Home Office etc, and because of our comrades’ consistent political correspondence and dialogue with the prisoners, which allowed FRFI and HOI to be the first to publicise many of the attacks on prisoners or acts of resistance by them.

Volume 2 of Special Category covers in some detail the setting up of the ISM under the heading ‘A new Broad Front’:

‘On 13 April 1983 IRA prisoners in Albany endorsed a complicated process of realignment taking place within Britain’s numerous pro-Republican groupings. The impetus derived from the 20 November 1982 conference… organised by the North London Irish Solidarity Committee. The stated aim, as outlined by David Yaffe (aka Reed) of the Revolutionary Communist Group, was the formation of a national Irish Solidarity Movement by means of achieving a “real unity – based on the common interests of the Irish people and the British working class in the defeat of British imperialism”… Alastair Logan, Helen O’Brien and Michael Holden provided information and analysis on the prisoner dimension...and ensured an Irish republican input from the outset.’ (Vol 2, pp285-6)

O’Donnell goes on to describe in detail the setting up of the ISM, the forces it drew in and the inspiring events it organised, up to 1984, when the very same weekend that the IRA spectacularly bombed the Tory Party conference hotel in Brighton, recently freed POW John McCluskey shook the hand of striking Kent miners’ leader Malcolm Pitt on the platform at an ISM rally in London (p385).

Recently released POW John McCluskey and striking miners leader Malcolm pittt at ISM Rally october 1984
Photo by Paul Mattson

Volume 2 ends in 1985, at the point when Sinn Fein has begun to operate as an electoral party and looks forward to the ‘end game’ of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement (p393).

These books have already sold well and been widely praised. They will clearly go on to become one of the definitive accounts of this aspect and period of the struggle for Irish freedom.

Nicki Jameson


Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 249 February/March 2016

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.

Right from the outset, David Reed lays his political cards firmly on the table, declaring that he fully supports the Republican Movement as the revolutionary inheritors of the republican tradition.

However the main thrust of his book is not to provide a history of the Irish struggle, but to examine the revolutionary implications of this struggle for the British working class. Predictably, Reed's findings in that respect are gloomy. He maintains that the British working class and their political and trade union representatives have consistently failed to make 'common cause' with the Irish struggle, and by so doing have not only held back Irish self-determination but also have fatally undermined the struggle for socialism in Britain.

Since Reed's supposition about the dependence of British socialism on withdrawal from Ireland is surely correct, then it follows that the sooner this comes about the better both for the British and Irish working classes. It would therefore seem logical to republicans that the role of British socialists is to build on whatever support there is in Britain for a withdrawal, so that a broad-based climate of opinion will develop which supports disengagement from Ireland. But this is where David Reed fundamentally differs, not just from this reviewer but from the perspectives adopted by most socialist organisations in Britain itself.

Using support for the Irish struggle as a litmus test on which to judge the political credentials of British socialists, Reed proceeds to lambast virtually every left-wing group in Britain and those individuals within the Labour Party and elsewhere who are attempting to raise the issue of a British withdrawal. His impatience with such groups and individuals stems from their ambivalence or indeed opposition to the IRA's armed struggle.

While of course the optimum position would be that the British working class and their representatives understood and supported the Republican Movement, this is a totally unrealistic expectation given the political situation for the foreseeable future. Republicans cannot afford the luxury of waiting around until the British working class becomes sufficiently politicised to fully support our struggle in all its forms. We must encourage, pragmatically, any willingness — for whatever reason it comes and from whatever quarter — to withdraw from Ireland. Whether from a left-wing IRA supporter, or from a Liberal who believes the British government has spent too much in Ireland, or from a Tory whose will has been broken by the bombing in Brighton.

Reed's insistence that only mobilisation on an RCG political programme can bring about British withdrawal is an isolationist stance that is doomed to obscurity. His contempt for other political groups is hardly conducive to the building of a groundswell of support for British withdrawal. This same antagonism may well cause the book to be dismissed out of hand by most members of the British working class, at whom it is aimed.

Reprinted from Iris No 10 July 1985

 

RCG reply

As we go to press this letter has not been published

The Editor

22 July 1985

An Phoblacht/Republican News

51/53 Falls Road

Belfast

 

Dear Sir

I am writing in response to G McAteer's review of my book Ireland: the key to the British revolution in Iris (No 10 July 1985). The review unfortunately gives a false picture to Irish readers of the political argument of the Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG) on the crucial question of how to build an Irish solidarity movement in Britain.

G McAteer claims that the RCG insists that 'only mobilisation on an RCG political programme can bring about British withdrawal' and he further implies that the RCG is opposed to working with all trends and individuals, socialist and non-socialist prepared to oppose the British presence in Ireland. This is simply not true. RCG comrades working in the Irish Solidarity Movement (ISM) have consistently campaigned for unity in action on the Irish question. It was our trend which supported the call by Albany Irish POWs in 1983 for a united solidarity movement and initiated a unity campaign culminating in a demonstration and conference in 1983. This campaign foundered on the sectarian refusal of other solidarity organisations to take part. When Ken Livingstone was attacked for speaking out on Ireland, the ISM publicly defended his right to speak. During the miners' strike ISM supporters worked to form links with the striking miners. This resulted in an historic ISM conference in 1984 when the then recently released Irish POW John McCluskey clasped hands with Kent miners' leader Malcolm Pitt on a public platform, which I was proud to share. Finally the ISM is today working with others in the Maire O'Shea defence campaign.

Where we differ with others in Britain and possibly with G McAteer is in our belief that a strong and effective solidarity movement must be based on the most oppressed sections of the working class who have nothing to lose but everything to gain from the victory of the Irish revolution. Far from ruling out alliances with other less reliable forces this offers a solid foundation for building effective campaigning alliances with them. History confirms this view. What have those who have based themselves on the official Labour Party and trade union movement and other less reliable forces produced over the last 15 years in Britain? The honest answer is nothing. And with the Labour Party today moving rapidly to the right it should be obvious that a new approach is required. Neil Kinnock has recently demonstrated his slavish loyalty to British imperialism by rejecting out of hand Tony Benn's amnesty bill for imprisoned miners, while congratulating the police on breaking a so-called IRA 'summer bombing campaign'. The Irish people can expect nothing from a movement led by such a man. Those who disagree with this have yet to produce any tangible evidence for their point of view.

The best summary of the RCG's real position on building a solidarity movement was given at the founding conference of the ISM in November 1982,

'While an Irish solidarity movement itself would be based on those forces who fully support the anti-imperialist position on Ireland, it would also work with other organisations and individuals who supported, for example, the abolition of plastic bullets ... this would include, for example, members of the Labour Party and individual MPs ... The Irish solidarity movement would, of course, be fighting to win all those it works with, in whatever campaign, to the anti-imperialist position on Ireland without making this a condition for working with them.'

Finally, neither the RCG nor the ISM demands support for the armed struggle of the IRA as a precondition for united work.

 Yours fraternally

David Reed

 cc The Editor, An Phoblacht/ Republican News, 44 Parnell Square, Dublin 1

The Editor, Iris, 44 Parnell Square Dublin 1

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.

Resignations, rogues and renegades

On 1 September Mike Nesbitt’s Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) withdrew its sole minister from the Stormont Executive on the basis that it was now ‘impossible to do business with [Sinn Féin] because we do not trust them’. The party will, however, continue to do well-paid ‘business’ with Sinn Féin and everyone else in the assembly chamber and in its various committees. The UUP move was, in part, opportunistic, intended to wrong-foot the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) which has been loyalism’s dominant electoral force for the past 12 years. In the British general election in May, the UUP halted its electoral decline and made gains at the DUP’s expense. With the DUP leadership facing a challenge from its party’s own right-wing and the threat of financial scandal hovering overhead, the Ulster Unionists saw an opportunity to capitalise.

Determined not to be outdone or outflanked by its UUP elders, the DUP responded. Having variously failed to either exclude Sinn Féin from the Executive, to temporarily adjourn the Stormont Assembly or to indefinitely suspend it, DUP leader Peter Robinson threatened to resign as First Minister – again. Then on 10 September, along with three other DUP ministers, he did. Sort of. ‘Resign’ has since become ‘stepped aside’ with the DUP’s Arlene Foster taking over the reins as interim First Minister – again. By leaving Foster in place, the DUP is propping up the Executive and avoiding an election it does not want while ‘defending the unionist community’ from ‘rogue Sinn Féin’ and ‘renegade SDLP’ ministers who may have used the DUP’s absence to make ‘financial and other decisions…detrimental to Northern Ire­land’. If seats in the Stormont Execu­tive are left empty for a week without re-nomination, it falls to the Assembly to reallocate them to other parties based on the d’Hondt system. So, six days later the DUP ministers were back at their posts…only to promptly resign all over again. They say they will repeat the process until Westminster legislates to suspend power-sharing and reinstate direct rule. And so it goes on.

Criminality and terror

As Sinn Féin insists that the ‘IRA has gone away’, loyalists meanwhile have demanded the reintroduction of the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) as part of ‘decisive action’ against ‘criminality and terrorisation of communities’. Of course whether you are Peter Robinson or the PSNI, in order to oppose ‘criminality and terror’ whilst aiming to preserve a sectarian statelet founded on and sustained by criminality and terror, you have to be somewhat selective.

Little more than two years have passed since the leaders of mainstream unionism were rubbing shoulders with political representatives of the paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force and Ulster Defence Association as part of their ‘Ulster Forum’ united front. In the case of recent UVF shootings, the PSNI has admitted loyalist involvement only after significant delay. No ‘crisis talks’ or ministerial resignations have followed. In August it was revealed Peter Robinson was among a number of DUP politicians who wrote to a Belfast court judge urging ‘leniency’ in the case of former loyalist paramilitary Samuel Tweed.

Deadlock to crisis

Behind the farce and bluster is a determination on behalf of Britain and loyalism to break the deadlock that has existed since the signing of the Stor­mont House Agreement in December 2014. Threats to suspend the Assembly, reintroduce the IMC or revoke release licences of former political prisoners are intended to pressure Sinn Féin into making further concessions – particularly on the issue of welfare cuts. Whilst Stormont has presided over years of austerity, a very limited opposition led by Sinn Féin has delayed full implementation of the welfare ‘reform’ demanded by imperialism. With the Easter Rising centenary and elections at Stormont and Leinster House fast approaching, Sinn Féin has relied on these delay tactics to help maintain a pretence of opposition to austerity – of the ‘Tory’ and Troika varieties. In reality, its history in Stormont is one of perpetual capitulation.

FRFI 247 October/November 2015

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.

Read more ...

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.

The current struggle against water charges echoes the campaign against the bin tax in the early 2000s which saw the state take out injunctions against and then go on to imprison 22 people for ‘obstructing the collection of rubbish by the council’. Today, even more so than in 2003, the working class has no option but to fight and, as with the bin tax, water charges are recognised as privatisation by the back door and a licence to increase charges year on year.

Although resistance to the proposed water charges has been on-going for a number of years the recent increase in mainstream media coverage began with the Dublin South West by-election. In a constituency that should have been a fairly safe Sinn Fein (SF) seat, the Socialist Party’s Paul Murphy won on second preference votes. This was in no small way thanks to his work and profile in the anti-water charge campaign. Commentators have noted that SF’s failure to win the seat may be a reflection of its new-found respectability in the mainstream and desire to be in government come the next election, which means while it is arguing against the charges in the parliament (SF deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald was expelled from the Dail chambers for refusing to leave when the Dail was suspended after a robust exchange with Deputy Prime Minister Joan Burton) it has refused to advocate non-payment. The Socialist Party, on the other hand, along with other forces on the left – Eirigi, People before Profit etc – has been at the forefront of the campaign of non-payment.

On 1 November there was a mass rally in Dublin, along with smaller rallies in cities and towns around the country, with an estimated total attendance of over 200,000 people, a colossal proportion of the Irish population taking to the streets. The rally demanded the repeal of the proposals. In time-honoured tradition the government decided it was not the charges that need to be reconsidered; it was how they were proposed to the people that was the real problem (see the second Lisbon and Nice treaty referendums for what happens when the Irish people do not give the government the answer it wants).

On 14 November Joan Burton arrived in Jobstown, in the constituency of recently elected Murphy, to speak at the graduation ceremony at a local college. Upon leaving the event Burton was heckled and harangued by a massive crowd of anti-water charge protesters, a well-placed water balloon adding to her humiliation. While heavy-handed policing ensured she made it to her car, she was held up by protesters beating on her car and blockading her way for over three hours.

Video footage of the action revealed the Garda (police) doing what it does best, dragging elderly women to the ground, assaulting protesters (a photo of an Eirigi member appears on their website, bruised with his shirt half ripped off him) and attempting to terrorise and prevent this working class community from exercising its right to protest. It didn’t work. The following evening the Taoiseach Enda Kenny was attending an a book launch at the Lord Mayor of Dublin’s residence when he had to run the gauntlet of another crowd of angry protesters, where once again people were brutally attacked by the Garda.

Then on 16 November reports came in of two Irish water trucks burnt out in an apparent arson attack in County Cork. The next day the government and press, particularly national broadcaster RTE, began the counter-offensive. Joan Burton was given any amount of radio time to recount how: ‘children could have being seriously hurt by the mob’. ‘Well it’s not about water, is it?’ Enda Kenny told us. ‘Sinister elements’ are at play around the country (typical Free State shorthand for militant Republicans), according to Kenny, trying to scare people away from further protests which are beginning to escalate around the country.

Paul Murphy was fingered as the ring leader, accused of looking on ‘smirking’ while his gang of left-wing minions wreaked havoc around the city. Murphy for the most part has done well in the media refusing to back down or condemn the protests; although he has been drawn into a debate over what constitutes peaceful protest. This needs to stop; there should be no concession to the media or the government and their fake outrage, and there should be no limits placed on people’s resistance in an attempt to pander to respectable politics. As Eirigi closed a recent statement ‘Opportunist politicians who shout “Vote for me and I’ll abolish the water tax” cannot be trusted to deliver. The water tax and the wider injustices in our society can only be defeated on the streets by a mobilised working class and not in the Leinster House Assembly’.* This is a lesson that should be well remembered!

As we go to press local demonstrations are increasing in momentum and a national assembly is planned to take place on 10 December in Dublin.

John Byrne

* ‘First they came for us and then they came for our water!’ Eirigi statement September 2014

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 242 December 2014/January 2015

Ireland: the key to the British revolution by David Reed