Justice for bloody Sunday - the campaign goes on!

bloody_sunday2 bloody_sunday

On 31 January 2011 FRFI supporters joined the annual Bloody Sunday commemoration march in Derry, Ireland. The event marks the anniversary of on 30 January, 1972, when 14 civilians were shot dead by the 1st Battalion of the Parachute Regiment of the British Army.

In the weeks preceding this year’s commemoration, confirmation emerged that this was to be the last march. Bloody Sunday families argued that the conclusions of the Saville enquiry into the murders in Derry merited alternative forms of commemoration.

This was not the view of all the families and on the day of the march thousands of their supporters diverted to Free Derry Corner rather than attend the official final rally. Led by relatives of the dead and wounded, they proclaimed: ‘Next year we march!’. Their banner asked ‘Where's the Justice?’ Not a single prosecution of the guilty is forthcoming.

Amongst the guilty is Mike Jackson, Para 1's Adjutant in 1972. This ruling-class psychopath was well rewarded by British imperialism, going on to be Chief of the General Staff of British Forces. Jackson's bullying upper class tones delivered the lies about his soldier’s conduct to the world's press on that day.  Any child could have seen through Jackson’s self- penned deceits. His killing squads had just mercilessly taken the lives of young men not so far themselves from innocent childhood.

Examined by the Saville enquiry, decades later Jackson’s soldiers advanced obviously false accounts to justify their shooting. Saville said this in his report, and how could he not, given that his enquiry cleared the Bloody Sunday dead of possession of guns or bombs? No weapons, so no defensive reason for the shootings. The incitement of senior British army officers to murder was never considered. On 7 January 1972, General Ford had called for the army to “shoot selected ringleaders” in Derry.

As one commentator put it, ‘The Saville Enquiry was heavy on innocence and light on justice’. It was a deal; the innocence of the murdered and wounded Irish given in return for the freedom of British imperialism’s gunmen. Solicitors for the bereaved families have sent on legal papers to the Public Prosecutions Service arguing for trials. We demand those involved face prosecution for murder, conspiracy to murder, and perjury.

‘Unjustified and unjustifiable’ were the words of David Cameron in the House of Commons at the carefully plotted release of the conclusions of the Saville Report in June 2010. All of the Bloody Sunday families welcomed the vindication of their campaign to uphold the innocence of their loved ones.

But as a speaker at the breakaway rally at Free Derry Corner stated, Sinn Fein have succeeded in doing what the British could not do- they have divided the Bloody Sunday families. This use of families’ differing concerns, views and influences was successfully deployed by the British government and their allies to undermine the courageous Irish hunger strikes of 1980 and 1981.

To continue the fight, the relatives pursuing justice have had to break with other Bloody Sunday families, campaign members and Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein has steadily de-mobilised and de-politicised the Irish people's struggle against British imperialism. It is significant that it is working class women that have led this renewed fight for justice. It was working class women who formed the backbone of the Relatives Action Committees to support the legitimate rights of Irish Prisoners of War in the late 1970's. The Labour government’s withdrawal of Political Status in 1976 and its criminalisation campaign against the Irish people’s struggle, led to the growth of massive community support and action for the hundreds of men and women in prison, eventually culminating in the Hunger Strikes of 1980 and 1981.

The Justice for Bloody Sunday relatives did not stand alone in 2011, a range of Irish organisations and campaigners joined them: the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, the Irish Republican Socialist Party, Republican Sinn Fein, Republican Network for Unity, the Manus Deery Campaign, the Socialist Workers Party, Palestinian solidarity activists and Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!

We marched to Free Derry Corner, where all were invited to speak. A contributor stated ‘better to stand here and organise to take up the continuing battle for justice and civil rights than be listening to the speeches and policies of Sinn Fein!’ The crowd acknowledged these remarks and it was proclaimed that this would not be the last march at all, that all would return and all would continue campaigning for justice.

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! salutes the brave and principled stance of these families and campaigners and pledges to support the defiant remembrance of those murdered on Bloody Sunday and the campaign for justice.

Well it was Sunday Bloody Sunday
When they shot the people there
The cries of thirteen martyrs
Filled the Free Derry air
Is there any one amongst you
Dare to blame it on the kids?
Not a soldier boy was bleeding
When they nailed the coffin lids!

(John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Sunday Bloody Sunday, 1972)

Justice for Bloody Sunday!

Britain out of Ireland!

Victory to the Irish People!

Michael MacGregor

Ireland – economic crisis escalates /FRFI 218 Dec 2010 / Jan 2011

FRFI 218 December 2010/January 2011

The economic and political crisis in Ireland is the latest expression of the global crisis of capitalism, with a bail-out package being put in place which is intended to stop the crisis spreading to the rest of Europe. The consequences are devastating. The Dublin Fire Brigade report that they are now more often called out to rescue attempted suicides from the River Liffey than to put out fires, and attribute this to the growing anxiety people are experiencing as the crisis deepens. Commenting on the four-year austerity plan announced on 24 November, David Keeble of Credit Agricole told the BBC: ‘It looks vicious, predictably vicious. There is going to be enormous social uprising against this one, undeniably’.

PAUL MALLON reports.

On 22 November 2010 the Irish government accepted a bail-out package worth over €85 billion (£72 billion) from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union. These latest developments mark an intensification of the class war which was declared against the Irish people at the start of the crisis. In response, on 27 November up to 150,000 people marched in Dublin in opposition to the plans. No matter what the ruling class does, the crisis gets deeper: first it was a banking crisis, then a financial crisis. We are now in a political crisis not limited to Ireland but, increasingly, one that is spreading throughout the Eurozone.

Social crisis

Even before the latest bail-out was agreed, the living standards of Irish people were being driven down sharply. Unemployment stands at 13.6%, or 284,500, of Ireland’s two million workforce.[1] The number of people on the Live Register now stands at 429,553; this includes workers entitled to Jobseeker’s Benefit or Allowance.[2] These figures are partly offset by a rise in emigration of around 50,000 in the past year; the Economic and Social Research Institute estimates that 100,000 people will move abroad in the next two years. Around 100,000 men formerly involved in the construction industry are among the long-term unemployed, while youth unemployment stands at 30%. An average 15% pay cut had already been imposed across the public sector.

Previous austerity budgets have hit the poorest and most vulnerable first - as one commentator put it: ‘the Irish have given a new meaning to the concept of women and children first’. Homelessness is rising. Around 100,000 new homes remain unoccupied, many complete, but unable to be sold.[3] It has been reported that many will be demolished as they are seen as contributing to the downward spiral of house prices. Villages and towns are littered with flashy new unoccupied office and retail units. Focus Ireland, a charity for the homeless, says that there has been a massive increase in the number of unemployed people seeking help. Joyce Loughnan, chief executive of the charity, said: ‘There are men coming in to our Coffee Shop who last year or the year before were working on building sites, but then lost their jobs and got into debt’. She added: ‘It’s sadly ironic that despite the thousands of surplus houses that were built in recent years, up to 5,000 people are still homeless due to the lack of social housing.’

Meanwhile 100,000 households are already facing difficulties repaying their debts. 34,000 households are more than 90 days behind with mortgage repayments. The Electricity Supply Board has entered into ‘special repayments’ with 100,000 customers. Across all utility suppliers, disconnections are running at a rate of 2,500 per month. In 2009 alone, 4,800 people were sent to prison for being unable to pay fines.

The bail-out

Ireland was the first Eurozone country to go into recession in the first half of 2008. The government responded by socialising private bank debt, nationalising the banks and implementing a punitive austerity programme.[4] However, far from resolving the enormous contradictions and difficulties facing the Irish economy, these measures in fact accelerated the crisis. The dilemma faced by the Irish economy was expressed on 9 September 2010 by The Wall Street Journal: ‘Until recently, Ireland was thought to be on course for tackling its financial problems, thanks to an aggressive programme of spending cuts to reduce the deficit, the biggest in the Eurozone. But as Ireland’s problems have persisted, its credibility with investors has been eroded.’

In late September 2010, the government revealed that the full cost of the January 2009 bank bail-out to the Irish taxpayer was €50 billion, or 32% of Ireland’s GDP. This sparked a Europe-wide crisis as the cost of Irish borrowing on the international bond markets rose to around 9%. Germany was forced to intervene and assert its dominance within the European Union by calling for a new bail-out mechanism for those countries facing economic ruin. In November it was confirmed that corporate customers with Irish banks had been withdrawing money, significantly undermining bank balance sheets and further forcing EU and IMF intervention for fear the crisis would spread across Europe.

The crisis in Ireland must be understood in the wider context of the overall crisis facing international capitalism, and in particular the very existence of the Eurozone as an economic and political entity. At the heart of the crisis stands foreign exposure to Irish debt. According to the Bank of International Settlements, the two biggest creditors to Ireland are Britain and Germany, owed €113bn (£95bn) and €105bn (£89bn) respectively.[5] Rivalries among the major imperialist powers emerged over the terms of any bail-out package, as Germany, supported by France, called for a rise in Ireland’s corporation tax which, at 12.5%, is one of the lowest in Europe. This forced the United States to intervene, when companies such as Microsoft, Google and Intel threatened to leave Ireland if a rise in corporation tax were made central to the terms of the bail-out. In the US the tax rate for businesses is 35%, in Germany 29% and in France 33.3%. The exceptionally low corporation tax in Ireland is essential to attracting foreign direct investment. As FRFI goes to press, the battle over this tax continues.

Amidst the talks of the IMF-EU bail-out package, British Chancellor Osborne intervened, offering bilateral loans to Dublin in the region of £7bn. He argued he was simply acting as a good neighbour and that it was in Britain’s national interest to do so. In reality, the offer expresses British financial and political interests in Ireland. Two partly-nationalised British banks are exposed to Irish debts of £57.6bn (Royal Bank of Scotland) and £27bn (Lloyds Banking group). The governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, said that the overall financial sector exposure to Ireland was ‘by no means trivial’. While Britain’s dependence on trade with Ireland is being played down, it is significant: in 2009, there was £3,607 spent on British imports by every man, woman and child in Ireland – one of the highest per capita spends on British goods in the world. Britain exports more to Ireland than it does to Brazil, Russia, India and China combined. The north of Ireland is particularly vulnerable, with 40% of the Six Counties’ exports crossing the border in 2009.

The priorities of the Irish government, backed by the IMF and EU, are made clear in the four-year plan. The poor and low-paid will be hit hardest, while corporation tax will remain at its current rate. The intention is to cut the deficit by a further €15bn (£13.7bn): €10bn from public spending and €5bn extra taxes. €6bn of cuts are to be achieved in 2011 alone. Welfare spending will be slashed by €3bn with major cuts in unemployment benefit and child benefit. The tax threshold will be lowered to include more low-level earners while public sector pay is to be cut by a further €1.2bn, reducing staff numbers by a further 25,000. The minimum wage has been cut by €1 (85p) per hour to €7.65 (£6.48). VAT will also increase by 1% on top of the current 21% rate in 2011, rising to 23% in 2014.

The objective of the bail-out packages is not to save the Irish economy but to save the Eurozone. To do this it will be necessary to crush the living standards of the Irish working class and further reduce the Irish economy to ruin in an attempt to restore the profitability of capitalism. The cold calculation is that the appalling social consequences will be a price worth paying.

Political crisis

The concentration of wealth in Ireland reveals the real class nature that the ‘Celtic Tiger’ and ruling Fianna Fail party represent. A 2007 Bank of Ireland Private Banking report [6] estimated that, including private residential property, the top 1% of the population held 20% of the wealth, the top 2% held 30% of the wealth and the top 5% held 40%. When residential property was excluded, the top 1% held 34% of the wealth. The same report observed that between 1995 and 2006 the personal wealth of the top 1%, even when considerable residential property was excluded, grew by €75 billion. It was also estimated that there were 33,000 millionaires on the eve of the crash.

People in Ireland feel betrayed by the corruption and greed of the system and the government. The Donegal Southwest by-election on 25 November was won overwhelmingly by the Sinn Fein candidate at the expense of Fianna Fail, further reducing the ruling party’s narrow majority to just two. Sinn Fein claims that it would refuse to join any coalition which imposed the cuts. But in practice, whatever its radical rhetoric, Sinn Fein has demonstrated that it is willing to sell any principles in order to gain power. In the north of Ireland, the party has ministers in a coalition government implementing cuts to health and education. In the south, Sinn Fein voted for the bank guarantee in the September 2008 bail-out, which effectively handed a blank cheque to the Irish banking sector. Fianna Fail’s coalition partners, the Greens, are calling for elections in the New Year. Before then however, a further budget is due to be passed by the Irish parliament on 7 December. Under the Irish constitution, if the government’s budget were to be voted down, this would automatically lead to the resignation of Taoiseach Brian Cowen, the dissolution of parliament and fresh elections. Parliament will be asked to support the budget in the ‘national interest.’ Cowen has said he will call an election after the budget is passed.

No capitalist solution

Whatever respite the bail-out has brought will prove temporary. The fundamental underlying contradictions remain. The Irish economy has already shrunk by over 20% since the crisis started in 2007. Further austerity measures will undermine living standards even further and the next few months will see an intensification of the class war in Ireland, with those on the receiving end of wholesale attacks pitched against a government implementing them. There can be no capitalist solution to the crisis.

1 Latest seasonally adjusted figure for April to June 2010, Quarterly National Household Survey.

2 The Live Register provides quarterly figures on the Irish economy; this figure includes part-time and seasonal or casual workers. It can be viewed at: www.cso.ie/releasespublications/documents/labour_market/current/lreg.pdf

3 www.rte.ie/news/2010/1022/ghostestates.html

4 For the background see: ‘Ireland: economic crisis deepens’ FRFI 213, Feb/March 2010 and ‘Celtic Tiger no more’, FRFI 211 October/November 2009

5 Financial Times 22 November 2010

6 See The Wealth of the Nation, Bank of Ireland Private Banking, page 14, available online www.finfacts.ie/biz10/WealthNationReportJuly07.pdf

Bloody Sunday – another whitewash / FRFI 216 Aug/Sep 2010

FRFI 216 August/September 2010

Bloody Sunday – another whitewash

On 15 June, Lord Saville finally published his report into the events of Bloody Sunday, 30 January 1972, when British paratroopers shot 26 Irish nationalists at a mass demonstration in Derry against internment, murdering 14 of them. The report took 12 years to complete, cost £195 million and runs to over 5,000 pages. Press coverage concentrated on two things: Prime Minister Cameron’s apology and the cost to the British taxpayer. What was more important, however, was that Saville, like Widgery before him, exonerated the British government – this time the blame was placed on individual soldiers. The outcome is what the British imperialist state wanted – it is free to do the same again when necessary.

Background

In August 1969 the Labour government sent British troops to the Six Counties, ostensibly in a peacekeeping role, but in reality to quell the civil rights struggle and the nationalist uprising against British rule. Over the next two years, the Army’s presence worsened the crisis. On 9 August 1971, the introduction of internment without trial saw 342 men detained. Chief-of-Staff of the British Army, Brigadier Marston Tickell, claimed that 70% of the IRA leadership had been captured and that the IRA was ‘virtually defeated’ – all of which proved to be nonsense. The overwhelming majority of internees were not involved in any armed campaign. The purpose of internment was to destroy leading Republicans and terrorise the nationalist community. Across the north, Loyalist mobs attacked nationalist areas; in the four days after the start of internment, 22 people were killed, 19 of them civilians. The result of internment was not pacification but an intensification of the uprising.

The internees suffered a planned regime of physical torture and sophisticated psychological ill treatment. Evidence of sensory deprivation, hooding, electric shock treatment, systematic beatings, stress positions and being blind-folded and thrown out of hovering helicopters soon emerged.[1] In response to media reports from internees and their families, the Home Office hastily commissioned an inquiry chaired by Sir Edmund Compton. Compton quickly exonerated the RUC and British Army, and could only find instances of ‘unintended hardship’. The Compton Report concluded that internees were put in stress positions and made to run obstacle courses ‘to keep them warm’. Prime Minister Heath announced that the Report was hopelessly deficient in not defending the reputation of the British Army well enough. The mood in the Republican communities became, rightly, incandescent.

While at its outbreak the struggle was united around the issue of civil rights, internment concentrated the anger of the mass of the nationalist working class against British rule. In the hope of preventing more civil disorder, the Stormont government imposed a ban on all demonstrations for a year after internment. Divisions over the direction of the civil rights campaign began to open up between constitutional nationalists and revolutionary nationalists, as the civil rights campaign threatened to become a mass uprising against British rule. This is the context in which the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association, in order to maintain its leadership on the ground, called the demonstration against internment in Derry on 30 January 1972.

The events of that day are well documented. The 1st Battalion of the Parachute Regiment, fresh from suppressing opposition to British rule in Aden, opened fire on unarmed demonstrators, some of whom were running for cover. The bloodbath was televised across the world. Just as the Soweto uprising in South Africa became a watershed in the struggle against apartheid, the aftermath of the massacre on Bloody Sunday saw support for the revolutionary national struggle led by the Provisional IRA grow as thousands were drawn into the struggle.

For Republicans, Bloody Sunday was further evidence of the nature of British imperialist rule in Ireland. As former IRA volunteer Tommy McKearney put it: ‘the state was beyond being reformed and there could not be a peaceful solution’.[2] Another former IRA volunteer, Eammon McDermott, stated: ‘In the immediate aftermath I was clear that it was a planned systematic operation by the British. It was not a situation that went out of control … The paratroopers were entirely disciplined and de liberate. The firing was controlled, ordered and under control at all times …’ On the question of responsibility, he continued: ‘Evidence would tend to indicate that the British Cabinet was involved. Maudling, Home Secretary, had a special briefing at Lisburn in the days leading up to the march and Foreign Secretary Douglas-Home drafted a memo to the British Cabinet before Bloody Sunday on how to handle the public relations situation internationally as a result of British operations against the march. It was planned.’

The Widgery Tribunal

In the immediate aftermath, the British launched another inquiry led by Lord Chief Justice Widgery who, 11 weeks later, exonerated the Parachute Regiment and British government completely. The whitewash was a further insult to the people of Derry. Widgery did not even mention internment and referred to the demonstrators throughout as ‘hooligans’, claiming that they had been involved in mindless violence. This is how the British Army, the RUC and the British government portray the Republican movement: not as people with a political cause, but as violent thugs. This tactic continues to this day; the state and the media persistently refer to the nationalist protestors opposed to Orange marches as ‘criminals’ and ‘hooligans’. It is no coincidence. The British have always tried to depoliticise the Irish struggle as part of a conscious and deliberate process of isolating it from support from the British working class as a whole.

As a result of the Widgery Report, no disciplinary action was ever taken against the soldiers involved. Lieutenant-Colonel Derek Wilford, commanding officer, was decorated for his ‘gallant services’.

The Saville Inquiry

For many years the families fought for a fresh inquiry into Bloody Sunday in order to prove the victims’ innocence. In 1998 Prime Minister Blair announced a judicial inquiry to be led by Law Lord Mark Saville. After 12 years the report was finally published in June, but nowhere do the words ‘unlawful killing’ or ‘murder’ appear. Saville explicitly denies any high level political involvement in the massacre, stating: ‘The immediate responsibility for the deaths and injuries on Bloody Sunday lies with those members of Support Company whose unjustifiable firing was the cause of those deaths and injuries.’

The report was immediately, un equivocally endorsed by Prime Minister Cameron, speaking to the House of Commons and broadcast live on large television screens in Derry’s Guildhall Square. He said: ‘What happened should never, ever have happened – some members of our armed forces acted wrongly. On behalf of our government and our country I am deeply sorry’. But this afternoon theatre cannot absolve the British government of responsibility for its continued war against the Irish people. The British state has, throughout the conflict, tried to isolate and destroy its opponents in Ireland by whatever means necessary. Witness the targeted assassination of Republicans: Miriam Daly on 26 June 1980; civil rights lawyer Pat Finucane on 12 February 1989 by British agents; human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson outside her home on 15 March 1999. Witness the murders by the use of shoot-to-kill. Witness also the recent incarceration of Sean Hoey, and the continued detention of Colin Duffy along with scores of other political prisoners.

The Saville Inquiry can only be understood in the context of the peace process. The Bloody Sunday Inquiry is part of the political process which aims to reconcile the nationalist community to continued British rule. The acceptance of the new policing and judicial system by the Republican movement is a key part of giving legitimacy to the British state in Ireland. It was only in the context of peace talks that an inquiry was offered to nationalists as some sort of bargaining chip. While much has been made of the costs and duration of the Inquiry, it will be a small price to pay for the British state if it helps to legitimise its rule in Ireland.

We are clear. The responsibility for Bloody Sunday lies squarely with British imperialism. We are neither prepared to forgive nor forget the actions of the British state on Bloody Sunday or throughout its rule in Ireland. We reject this latest attempt by British imperialism to cover up its continued occupation and policy of torture and terror in the north of Ireland. There is no validity in issuing an apology for this massacre when it is quite clear that the British government and its Army will massacre, torture and violently suppress its opponents again whenever and wherever it feels it is necessary. The nature of the British occupation may have changed since the outbreak of the conflict, but British imperialism remains in Ireland and its war against its political opponents is far from over. Thirty-eight years on from Bloody Sunday, it is time to build a movement to destroy British imperialism.

Paul Mallon

1 See Torture: The Record of British Brutality in Ireland, Northern Aid and Association for Legal Justice, 1971; also Report of the inquiry into allegations against the security forces of physical brutality in Northern Ireland arising out of the events on the 9th August, 1971 (Compton Report), HMSO, November 1971. See also http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/events/intern/ source.htm for source material. As a consequence of the experience in Ireland, the use of torture and inhumane treatment by the British state and its military was stepped up and refined. All the main methods of torture used today in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay were first used and continue to be used against the nationalist community.

2 Quoted in K Bean, M Hayes, Republican Voices, Seesyu Press, Monaghan, 2001, p40.

Pitched battles / FRFI 216 Aug/Sep 2010

FRFI 216 August/September 2010

Pitched battles

In July nationalist youth fought pitched battles with police in the Six Counties. Using provocative language Sinn Fein described the youth as ‘anti-social and criminal elements’ (Gerry Adams) and ‘Neanderthals’ (Martin McGuinness). West Belfast Sinn Fein representative Caral Ni Chuilin, said on television: ‘I will … be going to the statutory bodies, including the Housing Executive, the Housing Association, Social Services and passing information on. Anyone involved in that activity should not be allowed to live in this area.’[1]

The fighting was neither anti-social nor criminal. Tensions always run high during the Orange marching season, as Loyalists deliberately parade their supremacy through nationalist areas. In the nationalist St James area, residents fought with police and Loyalist mobs over the weekend of 3/4 July. Over the same weekend, disturbances took place in the nationalist Short Strand and also in Ardoyne. Officers of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) responded with plastic bullets.

In Ardoyne the Orange Order refused to negotiate with the Parades Commission. Their intransigence was rewarded when the marchers were allowed to pass twice through the area on 12 July. Residents called for a sit-down protest and were violently attacked by riot-clad PSNI officers. At 7.30pm, around 200 Loyalists broke away and entered Ardoyne in order to attack 30 nationalist homes. One woman in her garden was reported to have had her throat cut. Another man ended up in intensive care after being beaten with a concrete bench by a mob of 20 Loyalists. FRFI spoke to local residents who were outraged that the PSNI refused to act. The media blackout of the attack compounded their anger. What followed were several nights of disturbances as nationalists fought with riot police. Opposition to Loyalist parades also took place in Armagh and Derry.

2010 will be the last year of operation for the Parades Commission which has long been opposed by the Orange Order. A new law is proposed, equating sectarian marches with political protests and regulating public meetings.[2] The Bill requires organisers of any public march or assembly to give 37 working days’ notice where it is believed that 50 people or more will attend. Many believe that the proposed law would breach article 11 of the Human Rights Act, the right to peaceful assembly.

The underlying contradictions in the north of Ireland are once again beginning to assert themselves. The economy is in crisis and social deprivation is concentrated in nationalist areas. The crisis in the prisons is escalating (see page 15). As FRFI goes to press, major arrests of Republicans are being carried out. Self-defence for the nationalist community is once again becoming a political issue.

Paul Mallon

1 www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_JVM6rXPpA&

2 The Bill can be read at: www.nidirect.gov.uk/public-assemblies-parades-and-protests-in-northern-ireland-2.pdf.

Ireland: the key to the British revolution by David Reed