The Dublin Lock-out/FRFI 234 Aug/Sep 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 234 August/September 2013

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.

On these pages we reprint the section dealing with the Dublin Lock-out from Ireland the key to the British revolution by David Reed.* This book was published just before the beginning of the miners’ strike in 1984/85 which, once again, demonstrated the perfidy of both the British ruling class and the Labour and trade union movement that ensured the defeat of the strike. Working class communities in Britain are still paying the price for that defeat.

Today we face the most serious attempt to drive down the standard of living of the working class even further and to destroy state welfare. Hundreds of thousands of working class families are already on the breadline, and the ruling class has made them the target for more cuts and more austerity. Today we hear the call from union leaders, most recently at the People’s Assembly in London, to organise against capitalist austerity. As the story of the Dublin workers shows, rhetoric will achieve nothing. Victory will only come from implacable opposition to the ruling class in practice. The 1913 struggle will have been tragically in vain unless we can mine from it knowledge of who the false friends of the working class are and how they can be combated. In 1913 the British trade union leaders conspired to starve the masses of Dublin into accepting the bosses’ terms with tragic consequences. Within months those trade union leaders led the British working class into the slaughter of the First World War. In the 21st century, at long last, we must rid the working class movement of these traitors.

Michael Macgregor

* David Reed, Ireland the key to the British Revolution, published by Larkin Publications, 1984. It is now out of print, but we hope to make it available on the RCG website in the near future.

Irish labour confronts British imperialism

The end of the nineteenth century saw the rise of the new Unions of unskilled workers. They had been founded and promoted by Socialists in conditions when faith in the capitalist system was being severely shaken. They began to challenge the domination over the labour movement of the Liberal–Labour leadership of the old aristocratic unions. The next 20 years would see this struggle take place. The Irish question decisively influenced its outcome.

At the Paris Congress of the Second International (1900) Connolly’s Irish Socialist Republican Party (founded in 1896) achieved separate representation for Ireland in the face of opposition from the British delegates. The latter argued that Ireland was not an independent country, but part of Great Britain. At the Congress the Irish delegation gave the British a further lesson in revolutionary socialism by being one of the two delegations totally opposed to socialists entering bourgeois governments. Connolly, unable to attend the Congress, fully supported the Irish delegation’s stand.1 The ISRP unfortunately had little influence at that time in Ireland but it began the struggle to unite the cause of Irish Labour with national independence.

The Irish TUC (1894) was formed at a time when British unions were still predominant in organising Irish workers and British parties like the Independent Labour Party and the Fabians had a few branches in Ireland, especially in Dublin and Belfast. However, from 1907 onwards the process of Irish workers joining the British amalgamated unions began to receive a succession of major jolts as ‘New Unionism’ raised its head in Ireland. James Larkin was at the centre of this process.2

Larkin was born in Liverpool of Irish parents in 1876. He had to earn his living at the age of 11. By 16 he was a member of the Independent Labour Party and a socialist. During the Boer War he was arrested and fined several times for his street-corner denunciations of the War as a ‘jingo-imperialist venture’. In 1901 he joined the National Union of Dock Workers and soon after leading a strike in 1905 he was elected to be the Union’s general organiser. It was in that capacity that Larkin first went to Ireland in 1907 on an organisation drive for his Union.

Larkin very soon after arriving in Ireland set about organising the dock workers in Belfast (1907), Dublin (1908) and Cork (1909) in the Union. In Belfast in 1907 he led a bitter and violent strike when 50 English dockers imported through the Shipping Federation to Belfast were being used to smash the Union. During the strike troops fired on workers in the Catholic Falls Road area killing three and injuring many others. The employers and the authorities tried to sow divisions between the Catholic and Protestant workers, using the fact that Larkin was a Catholic, but due to Larkin’s efforts, they did not succeed. The strike eventually went to arbitration with the dockers, although organised, having to go back on not very satisfactory terms. Nevertheless in managing to unite Protestant and Catholic workers in organising the docks in Belfast, Larkin’s achievement, while not to be durable in the long run, was remarkable.

John Maclean, the Scottish revolutionary socialist, who on the invitation of Larkin had been in Belfast for a few days during the strike, on his return to Scotland, wrote articles defending the strikers and accusing the Liberal government of murder. He was attacked by Philip Snowden, that vile reactionary Labour MP who had defended the Government’s ‘employment of the military to quell disorder’.3 The Socialist, the paper of the Socialist Labour Party – a left-wing split from the Social Democratic Federation – also took up the defence of the strikers, and in particular attacked the Labour MPs in parliament. ‘Beyond asking a couple of questions, they did nothing … From Shackleton to Will Thorne they have become accomplices of capitalist murder’.4 […] Already the divide in the British labour movement on Ireland was becoming clear.

Larkin now concentrated his energies in organising the dockers in Dublin. In 1908 he was involved in another series of bitter strikes, with the employers again attempting to smash the Union. During this period Larkin increasingly clashed with Union Headquarters. On one occasion, the Union leadership in England settled a dispute over his head. Sexton, General Secretary of the Union, was bitterly opposed to Larkin’s activities and, particularly, the sympathetic strike. The dispute soon came to a head. In 1908 Larkin appealed for assistance. Sexton sent a postcard saying ‘Stew in your own juice’.5 When Larkin warned the Executive who were intent on holding his work back that ‘there was a movement on foot for organising the whole of unskilled labour in Ireland’,6 Sexton’s reply was to notify Larkin and all the Union branches of his suspension from the Union on 7 December 1908. Larkin’s reply was to form the Irish Transport and General Workers Union (ITGWU) decisively separating from the reactionary leadership of Sexton and Co.

The ITGWU, in its rule book, announced an end to the ‘policy of grafting ourselves on the English Trade Union Movement’. The Union was unique in many respects. It embodied a political programme which included nationalisation of all means of transport, the legal eight hours-day, provision of work for all unemployed and ‘the land of Ireland for the people of Ireland’.7 It declared its dedication to the organisation into one union of all workers – skilled and unskilled – in an industry. It argued for the use of boycotts and sympathetic strike action (a revolutionary position for trade-unions) to achieve its ends. In 1911 James Connolly, having returned from America, became the Belfast Secretary of the ITGWU. So an Irish union, having broken with the English trade-union traditions, born out of bitter struggles against the capitalist class in Ireland was now led by two revolutionary socialists – James Larkin and James Connolly.

The revolutionary potential of the British trade union and labour movement was now to be gauged by its attitude and support for the ITGWU.

The Dublin Lock-out

By 1911, the ITGWU had established such an organisation amongst unskilled workers in Dublin that the employers had set up their own federation to combat it. In August 1913, William Martin Murphy, owner of the Dublin United Tramways Company and the Irish Independent Group of Newspapers, took the initiative in the effort of the Dublin employers to smash the ITGWU. He told the workers in the dispatch department of his newspaper company that they must resign from the Union and sign an assurance they would not strike or they would be dismissed from the company. The Union put pickets on retailers selling Murphy’s paper the Irish Independent. The ITGWU members were locked out on 26 August. 700 workers from Murphy’s Tramways Company walked off their trams leaving them wherever they happened to be. Murphy called a meeting of the Dublin Employers Federation and on 3 September 400 employers agreed to lock out all their workers. By 22 September 25,000 workers had been locked out, involving, with their families, one third of the population of Dublin. If the same proportion of workers were locked out in London today, there would be about three quarters of a million locked out.

A meeting in support of the locked out men and the strikers was called for Sunday 31 August in O’Connell Street. It was to be addressed by Larkin. Rumours suggested that the meeting would be banned. On the Thursday, 28 August, Larkin and other ITGWU officials were arrested for seditious libel and seditious conspiracy. They were released on bail on the understanding they would not break the law while awaiting trial. On the Friday the meeting was banned by proclamation. That evening Larkin burnt the ‘Proclamation of the King’ in front of a crowd of 10,000 people at Beresford Place. Announcing that ‘People make Kings and people can unmake them’ he said that ‘we will meet in O’Connell Street, and if the police and soldiers stop the meeting let them take the responsibility’.8 Another warrant was put out for Larkin’s arrest. Larkin, however, turned up in disguise on the balcony of a hotel (owned by Murphy) in O’Connell Street at the time of the meeting. After he started to speak to the crowd he was immediately arrested. Soon after, the police indiscriminately baton charged the crowd and the result was yet another Bloody Sunday in Ireland’s history. Two men were killed over the weekend of Bloody Sunday and hundreds were injured.

Connolly was also arrested with Larkin. Connolly refused to recognise the court and was sentenced to three months. He was released after a week’s hunger strike. Larkin was released on bail on 12 September and decided to leave for England and Scotland to appeal for support.

The support of the British trade union movement for the strike was to be critical. At its 1 September Congress the British TUC could not avoid discussing the Dublin events. In the debate James Sexton called for support, ‘black as James Larkin might be, and James Connolly too.’9 Very useful! The Congress did not vote support for the strike. It simply condemned the conduct of the Dublin police and decided to send a delegation to investigate the situation there. A motion demanding the release of Larkin and Connolly and calling for finance for the strikers was not put to the vote. ‘Revolutionary speeches’ were made by Ben Tillett and Robert Smillie, but this couldn’t help the strikers.

While the TUC delegation was in Dublin it spent a great part of its time trying to patch up a dirty compromise with the employers. But the employers refused to comply, no doubt confident in the knowledge that if the TUC hadn’t acted at the beginning of the strike they had little to fear. In contrast, the strength of the Dublin workers was demonstrated on 3 September when 50,000 workers marched behind the coffin of James Nolan, one of the workers murdered by the police. The funeral procession was guarded by ITGWU squads bearing makeshift arms – an embryo of the Irish Citizen Army formed the following month as an armed workers’ defence force against the attacks of police and scab workers. The Dublin police kept out of sight.

Soon the number of workers on strike or locked out grew. The British TUC began to send money and foodstuffs to Dublin. The Miners Federation voted to give £1,000 a week and various Labour newspapers opened subscription lists. But the bulk of this aid did not come until late September. Although the money and foodships were vital to workers whom the employers were trying to starve back to work, they could not take the place of solidarity action.

While the British TUC was as afraid of the ITGWU as the Dublin employers, the rank and file responded quickly to the example of the Dublin workers. The Liverpool railwaymen went out on strike on 9 September and began real solidarity action, which the Executive of the National Union of Railwaymen and the British TUC did their best to destroy. 3,000 in Liverpool came out one day, followed by 4,000 in Birmingham the next day. Transport strikes took place in London, Liverpool, Birmingham, and Manchester. NUR officials led by JH Thomas were trying everything they could to get the workers back. (Eventually, they did succeed.) The strike spread to other parts of the country. The rank and file wanted a national strike. The British TUC responded by announcing a fund and the first of the foodships for the strikers. The revolutionary socialist Sylvia Pankhurst’s comments were well placed when she said:

‘In the long-drawn misery of the Dublin lock-out its victims pleaded vainly for sympathetic action by British transport workers, and received instead a “food ship” from the Trade Union Congress – a mere handful of crumbs in the vast desert of their need’.10

When, at the end of October, the Dublin Strike Committee appealed for direct financial aid, the British TUC sent £2,000 to be distributed only to affiliated unions. As the ITGWU was not affiliated to the British TUC it was not able to have any of this money.11

On 27 October, Larkin’s trial was held and he was sentenced to seven months in prison. On the following Sunday a gigantic meeting took place in the Albert Hall in London to protest against Larkin’s sentence. Sylvia Pankhurst defied arrest to speak at this meeting in support of Larkin. Connolly called on everyone to work and vote against the Liberal Government until Larkin was free. Public opinion and the by-election results soon had the desired effect as the Liberals lost votes. Larkin was freed after only 17 days in gaol.

Larkin then launched his ‘fiery cross’ campaign of public meetings in England, Scotland and Wales. 5,000 heard him speak in the Manchester Free Trade Hall with 20,000 waiting, outside. The workers called for national strike action. A few days later, mid-November, the British TUC decided to call a special Congress on the Dublin lock out for 9 December in order to head off the pressure of the rank-and-file workers for national strike action. Larkin addressed a massive meeting in the Albert Hall the next evening: 10,000 inside and 15,000 waiting outside. George Lansbury, Editor of the Daily Herald, and other socialists denounced the Labour Party and the reactionary trade union officials for their inaction.

A few days later Larkin decided to go over the heads of the trade union leaders and appeal to the rank-and-file. He told them through a manifesto printed in the Daily Herald to tell their leaders ‘for the future they must stand for Trade Unionism’ and ‘that they are not there as apologists for the shortcomings of the capitalist system’.12 Larkin had issued a revolutionary appeal to the British workers to split from their treacherous leaders and unite with the Dublin workers. Attacks on Larkin now began. JH Wilson, head of the National Seamen’s and Firemen’s Union, issued a manifesto denouncing Larkin and the methods of the Transport Union in Dublin. Larkin was soon to reply. He told a massive meeting in London in referring to JH Wilson and Philip Snowden that ‘I am not going to allow these serpents to raise their foul heads and spit out their poison any longer’. He denounced the union leaders and the Labour Party for failing to support the strike. JH Thomas was particularly singled out for forcing rank-and-file railwaymen back to work.

The 9 December British TUC Congress took place. Connolly presented the Irish case for holding out. Then, to everyone’s amazement, Ben Tillett moved a resolution condemning Larkin’s unfair attacks on British trade union officials. He was then considered one of the most militant trade unionists in Britain and had, only a few weeks earlier, stood on platforms with Larkin calling for armed worker squads. He went on to ask the Congress to affirm its confidence in the ability of these officials to negotiate an honourable settlement. Armed squads were one thing. Attacking the leadership of the trade union movement quite another. Larkin confronted Tillett with a choice: stand with the masses, with Larkin and against his fellow trade union leaders, or desert the workers and go over to the other side. Tillett went over. When the First Imperialist War broke out nine months later Tillett became a recruiting sergeant for imperialism.

Speaker after speaker got up and condemned Larkin. He was finally called on to reply. He began, ‘Mr Chairman and human beings’, and amidst continual uproar he denounced those leaders who had betrayed the strike. He told them the Dublin workers would struggle on to the end. The Congress offered nothing. After all it had only been called to stave off the pressure of the rank-and-file.13

The strike was eventually lost. Without British TUC support it could not be won. It revealed, as events in Britain were later to show and Ben Tillett’s sell-out conclusively proved, that the revolutionary trends in the British working class were not strong enough to defeat the opportunist leadership of the British labour movement. Opportunism had triumphed.

The opportunist leaders of the British labour movement and the employers of Dublin certainly were in agreement on one vital thing. As William Martin Murphy so clearly said about his stand:

‘It is not a question of an attack on trade unionism at all. I have been in business for nearly fifty years, and I have never before known anything like Larkinism. It is not trade unionism in the ordinary sense at all.’14

The Secretary of the Engineering Employers’ Federation made the same point.

‘A victory for the syndicalist leaders there would be disastrous for the employers not only in Dublin, but throughout the United Kingdom.’15

The revolutionary unionism of the Dublin working class had shown the way. Larkin instinctively followed what Lenin was later to call ‘the essence of Marxist tactics’.16 He went deeper and lower into the masses. The ITGWU represented the organisation of the unskilled Irish workers and exposed to the world their revolutionary strength and courage. The democracy of the ITGWU was firmly based on the masses, its organising principle proletarian solidarity. It created the first armed workers’ militia – the Irish Citizen Army. It later opposed the imperialist war. It spurned ‘respectability’, ‘compromise’ and ‘moderation’. The ITGWU had only one measure for its actions: the needs of the working masses. Little wonder that British imperialism, the Dublin employers and the British trade union leaders hated it.

In the years just before the lock-out the British working class had demonstrated its ability to fight in a series of bitter strikes – the transport strikes of 1911 and 1912, and the miners’ strikes of 1912. But in 1913 it could not rise to the challenge of Dublin’s revolutionary lead. The British working class had proved unable to prevent its leaders selling out the revolutionary Irish. As a result those same leaders were able to draw the British working class into support for the imperialist war and so lead it to political defeat. The same leaders were to betray the struggles of the British working class right up to the defeat of the General Strike [in 1926].

The defeat of the Dublin workers had established one essential point. The Irish working class could only free itself as part of a revolutionary national struggle to separate Ireland from Britain. Behind the Dublin capitalists lay British imperialism and its agents in the British working class.


1 See Challinor R, The Origins of British Bolshevism London 1977 pp.9-13. Also Kendall W, The Revolutionary Movement in Britain 1900-1921 London 1971 pp.14-15.

2 Material on Larkin, the Irish Trade Union movement, the Dublin Lock Out and the response in Britain is based on the following major sources: Larkin E, James Larkin London 1965; Mitchell A, Labour in Irish Politics 1890-1930 Dublin 1974; Clarkson J D, Labour and Nationalism in Ireland New York 1925; and the following newspapers: Manchester Guardian, The Socialist, Labour Leader, Daily Herald and Justice.

3 Challinor R, op cit p.51. See also Milton N, John Maclean London 1973 p.35.

4 The Socialist September 1907.

5 Clarkson J D, op cit p.221 fn. 1.

6 Larkin E, op cit p.62.

7 ibid p.63.

8 ibid p.123.

9 Manchester Guardian 2 September 1913.

10 Pankhurst S, The Suffragette Movement London 1977 p.501.

11 Moran B, ‘1913, Jim Larkin and the British Labour Movement’ in Saothar 4 Dublin nd p.41.

12 Manchester Guardian 22 November 1913

13 Larkin E, op cit pp.147-155.

14 Manchester Guardian 6 September 1913.

15 See Holton B, British Syndicalism 1900-1914 London 1976 p.135.

16 Lenin, ‘Imperialism and the Split in Socialism’ LCW Volume 23 p.120.

Ireland: loyalists riot in defence of privilege / FRFI 231 Feb/Mar 2013

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?

Although the protests started over flag flying they are sustained by a variety of grievances. Chief among them are loyalist community fears about the erosion of their privileges. The sectarian statelet of Northern Ireland was established in 1920 by British imperialism in order to dominate all of Ireland. Discrimination against the Catholic nationalist minority was the Stormont government’s policy for 50 years prior to its collapse in 1972 in the face of the revolutionary national struggle led by the Provisional IRA. This collapse was a defeat for the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) which had ruled since the inception of the state, and started a process whereby Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) replaced it as the dominant loyalist party.

The DUP has been central to whipping up sectarian anger over the flag flying, seizing the opportunity to attack the Alliance Party which made significant electoral inroads in DUP heartlands, notably ousting DUP leader and former First Minister Peter Robinson from his East Belfast Westminster seat in 2010. Death threats against Alliance Party representatives have accompanied attacks on its offices in Belfast, Bangor and Carrickfergus. As protests escalated, loyalist paramilitaries – the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) – used the opportunity to reaffirm their positions. They are facing their own crisis with the re-emergence of supergrass trials, particularly of leading UVF member, Gary Haggarty, who is prepared to testify against his former associates in exchange for a lighter sentence.

Since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, there have been persistent disagreements between the loyalist parties as they have been forced to share power with nationalists. The Unionist community benefited from decades of discrimination against the Catholic minority and finds any move towards equality hard to take; notions of ‘losing out’ persist. However, despite successive employment and equality legislation, anti-Catholic discrimination remains.

The Northern Ireland Multiple Deprivation Measure 2010 records that 14 of the 20 most deprived wards are predominantly nationalist; including eight of the ten most deprived wards. The Peace Monitoring Report 2012 stated that ‘the proportion of people who are in low-income households is much higher among Catholics (26%) than among Protestants (16%)’. Poverty and deprivation indicators show that working class Protestant communities are not losing out to Catholics.1

Peace funding

A key factor upsetting the loyalists is peace funding. The political process in the north of Ireland has been underwritten by huge subsidies from Britain, the European Union and the US. The European Council created Peace I (1995-1999) giving the Six Counties €667m with a further €500m from the EU. Peace II (2000-2004) allocated €995m. In June 2005, following political unrest, €160m was added for 2005-06. Peace III (2007-2013) saw funding reduced to €330m. There are very low expectations of Peace IV (2014-2020), under discussion. This money has been crucial for the community organisations which are the bedrock of loyalist groups.

The peace money has been central to shoring up the statelet. The Six County state’s economy has been transformed. Once dominated by industries such as shipbuilding, textiles and heavy engineering, between 1920 and 1945 unemployment grew as industry stagnated. After the war, public sector employment was inflated to offset losses in manufacture. Between 1950 and 1994 manufacturing employment declined by 50.4%, while service and public sector employment grew by 22.8%. Health and social services increased by 27.8% between 1974 and 1992, education employment by 26.3% and the security sector by 54.3%. Catholics benefited from these employment opportunities; a basis was laid for the emergence of a Catholic middle class which supported moves towards the 1998 peace settlement. Today total British subsidies to the north are £5bn, 20% of its annual economic output, while the Office for National Statistics reports the north of Ireland having the highest concentration of public sector employment at 27.7%, compared to Wales (25.7%), Scotland (23.5%) and the North East (22.2%).

Speaking in 2006 the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Peter Hain said, ‘There is no prospect of the status quo prevailing – millions of pounds being paid out for people not to do their jobs…I don’t think people have woken up to the fact that the economy is not sustainable in its present form in the long term. We have got to become more competitive, less dependent upon a bloated public sector with huge state subsidies’ (Sunday Times, 15 January 2006). The British Treasury endorses this, suggesting special exemption for a lower corporation tax to attract foreign direct investment.2

The protests in the north reflect uncertainty over future funding in a context of deepening world crisis. The loyalists are determined to hang on to their privileges come what may. The flag protests are collective bargaining by rioting.

Paul Mallon 


2 HM Treasury, March 2011, Rebalancing the Northern Ireland economy, available online

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.

This year the Bloody Sunday Commemorative Programme of events brought together speakers from the Miners Strike of 1984- 85 and the Hillsborough Justice Campaign. Dave Douglass of the National Union of Miners reminded participants of the scale of the industrial battle and the national police operation mounted to defeat the miners and their allies: 144,228 miners remained on strike for a year, 9,000 were arrested, there were 10,000 charges and 200 jail sentences, 20,000 miners were hospitalised and 80,000 jobs were lost. Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! spoke of the significance of the open handshake between Liam McCluskey, an ex- Irish Prisoner of War and the National Union of Miners' Malcolm Pitt who had been sentenced to 7 years as a result of the Miners Strike. This demonstration of the need for common cause between the Irish people and the working class of Britain took place at a conference held in 1984 entitled 'Building an Irish Solidarity Movement' sponsored by FRFI/RCG. That movement remains to be built.

Jenny Hicks lost two daughters at the disaster at the Hillsborough Football Stadium in 1989, where 96 people died due to police incompetence and indifference. Police contempt for working class people was evident on the day itself but was magnified over and over again in the organised cover-ups after the deaths. The relatives campaign for justice has recently won a victory in the overturning of the cover-up inquest findings of ‘accidental death' in 1990.   index.php/britain/2728-a-catalogue-of-lies.

It was recognised by the miners and Hillsborough campaigners that the cover-up operations deployed to exonerate the guilty and condemn the innocent were presided over by the same Prime Minister- Margaret Thatcher- and the same Chief Constable and South Yorkshire Police Force. Relatives of those killed on Bloody Sunday have vast and painful experience of the murderous capacity of the British ruling class but what they shared was recognised by all. That the deeds in themselves were injustices but this was compounded by the state directed cover-up operation put into action within minutes of the crimes. In one sense this was the greater crime as relatives had to witness the victims maligned and then they themselves were subject to pressure and abuse. The Bloody Sunday relatives and their supporters spoke of the recent demonisation of those who had insisted that despite David Cameron's apology and acceptance of the innocence of most of the murdered, that justice still needed to be done. The Police Service of Northern Ireland has begun a criminal investigation but has not yet interviewed a single British soldier. Sinn Fein's call in 2010 to stop marching has done something the British were never able to do- divide the Bloody Sunday families. Those who continue to campaign rejected the characterisation that they were psychologically marooned in the past, cripplingly unable to move on, stuck in grief. This attack is another weapon in the British state's cover-up toolkit: along with media manipulation, evidence tampering and delay.

At the final panel discussions entitled 'Cover-up' and 'End Impunity', solicitor Gareth Peirce, who has represented framed up miners and Irish people, spoke of the present campaign of the Kenyan people tortured and abused by Britain and why the call to end impunity for these crimes matters so much. In her argument for this she pointed out that as the state and its agents have nothing to fear from the crimes they commit they will continue to carry them out. The soldiers who murdered on Bloody Sunday knew they would not face justice. Danial Holder, Deputy Director of the Campaign for the Administration of Justice, chillingly reviewed how Britain's rule in Ireland was so far from internationally accepted legal norms. He knew of no model of accountability in the world like that the British had constructed about the Bloody Sunday Inquiry with the novel 'Review and apologise' arrangement. He convincingly detailed how powerless was legal process when faced with counter- insurgency policing, re- branded since 1981 as 'intelligence led policing', stating that 'it is impossible to say if MI5 are operating within the law'. The system of cover-up has actually been, legalised, modernised and strengthened to withstand the demands of campaigners for an end to impunity and for legal accountability. Mr Holder made a final, vital, point. 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...'! His warning was echoed by Bernadette McAliskey when she spoke at Free Derry Corner after the march, that the British state's historical circumvention of legality could not be challenged by the 'collaborators' who were now in government. Interment without trial, the ending of which was an original demand of the march in 1972, was still in place and responsible for the continuing illegal imprisonment of Marion Price and others. The previous day the Stormont Minister of Justice had been condemned by a senior judge for his refusal to grant compassionate parole for Marion Price to mourn the death of her sister Delours with her family. Looking about the Bogside where, as Bernadette Devlin, she had addressed the crowds on the day of the massacre in 1972, she called for a stepping up of campaigning and political organisation to challenge unemployment, poor housing and attacks on welfare -and to be prepared to face again the brutality of the British state in doing so.

Michael MacGregor

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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Ireland: the key to the British revolution by David Reed