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 / 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 

1 www.nisra.gov.uk/deprivation/archive/Updateof2005Measures/NIMDM_2010_Report.pdf

2 HM Treasury, March 2011, Rebalancing the Northern Ireland economy, available online www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/consult_rebalancing_ni_economy.htm

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

Ireland: the key to the British revolution by David Reed