Gerry McGeough to be freed – Jan 2013

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

Paul Mallon


Dolours Price - Irish revolutionary

Dolours Price
21 June 1951-24 January 2013

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

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


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Political status for Irish Republican prisoners now!

FRFI 230 December 2012/January 2013

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

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


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Free the Irish prisoners of British occupation!

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 227 June/July 2012

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


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Murder on the Rock, 6 March 1987

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


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Support Irish POWs!

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 225 February/March 2012

Free Marian Price!

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


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

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 225 February/March 2012

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

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


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Tommy McKearney speaks to Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!

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

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


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Ireland: loyalist mobs on the rampage

Loyalist rioters

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


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

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

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


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Ireland: New coalition, same attack on the working class

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 220 April/May 2011

On 7 March Fine Gael and the Labour Party formed a new coalition government in Ireland following the 25 February general election. The previous Fianna Fail/Green Party coalition had become the first government casualty of the economic and social crisis in the Eurozone. The new coalition is committed to implementing the austerity programme of its predecessor and to ensuring that the crisis in Ireland will be resolved at the expense of the poor and working class. As we have argued, there can be no capitalist solution to the crisis; the new government can do nothing to extract Ireland from its financial and social crisis.


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Ireland: the election is over - the real battles lie ahead – 4 March 2011


Following the 25 February General Election, negotiations are continuing between Fine Gael and the Labour Party, who are set to form a new coalition government. Whatever the finer details of the coalition agreement, the new government will not extract Ireland from its financial and social crisis.

The Irish parliament has 166 seats.  Fine Gael now has 76 TDs (members of parliament), who will be able to govern in coalition alongside Labour’s 37 elected representatives, at the expense of the outgoing Fianna Fail/Green coalition, which the electorate overtly punished for its part in the crisis. Previous ruling party Fianna Fail’s parliamentary representation was drastically reduced from 73 to just 20, while the Green Party, which previously held six seats, is now in the political wilderness, having lost them all.

Sinn Fein (which joined the unanimous call of all parties for low business taxes) did well in the election, with its representation increased from five to 14 TDs. Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams topped the poll in the border county of Louth and will take up his seat in parliament. Sinn Fein says that it is the only party which can fight the cuts in the Twenty Six counties; however in the Six Counties (north of Ireland), its elected representatives - governing together with the right wing Democratic Unionist Party - are implementing savage cuts.  The United Left Alliance, a coalition of various left-wing parties, won five seats.


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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.


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Ireland – economic crisis escalates

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’.


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Bloody Sunday – another whitewash

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.


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Pitched battles

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]


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Bloody Sunday Inquiry: apology is not enough


On 15 June, Lord Saville finally published his inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday, 30 January 1972, when British paratroopers shot 26 Irish nationalists at a mass demonstration in Derryagainst internment, murdering 14 of them. Prime Minister Cameron in the House of Commons apologised on behalf of the British government, stating that the actions of the soldiers were ‘unjustified and unjustifiable’. The Saville Inquiry vindicates the innocence of those who were shot, finding them all to have been unarmed, but also finds no blame attaching to the British government and higher echelons of the British Army for the massacre.

In the immediate aftermath of Bloody Sunday, the British government set up the whitewash Widgery Tribunal, which promptly gave the soldiers the all clear. The victims of state violence were then targets of a vicious propaganda campaign designed to paint them as ‘gunmen and nail bombers’, which Widgery himself endorsed. The British government only agreed to set up a new inquiry when political expediency required a concession to the nationalists as part of the Good Friday peace process


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Ireland: IRA lays down its arms

FRFI 121 October / November 1994

On 31 August the Irish Republican Army announced 'a complete cessation of military operations from midnight'. The latest phase of armed struggle to achieve Irish self-determination had ended after 25 years of bitter protracted struggle. DAVID REED analyses the background to these dramatic events.

The Adams leadership of the Republican Movement had persuaded the IRA to take the path of 'a democratic and peaceful settlement' of the North of Ireland conflict. The struggle for Irish self-determination is to be pursued in the future by constitutional means and peaceful negotiations.


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Ireland: agreement over policing reached


On 5 February the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), following consultation with the Orange Order, finally announced that it had agreed to the transfer of policing and justice powers from London to Belfast on 12 April. The Hillsborough Castle agreement ends the impasse since Sinn Fein agreed to support British policing in 2007. While Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams hailed the settlement as ‘a hugely important, as well as symbolic moment’ and continued ‘This is the political parties in the north of Ireland demonstrating our ability to negotiate a successful agreement together. It marks a new phase in the [peace] process’, in fact it was yet another step in Sinn Fein’s capitulation to British imperialism and in practice to Unionist supremacy. DUP leader and First Minister Peter Robinson was much more accurate in saying that the agreement represented ‘a good day for Unionism which will further cement Ulster’s place within the United Kingdom’.


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Ireland: economic crisis deepens

FRFI 213 February / March 2010

The economic crisis has continued to deepen in Ireland. As we reported in FRFI 211, in October 2008 Ireland became the first eurozone country to enter recession, and the IMF acknowledged that the Republic faced the deepest crisis of any advanced economy in the world. In December 2009, the Irish government announced yet another budget in an attempt to stem the crisis. Living standards are now under serious attack, and the Irish people are having to face up to a reality that the ‘Celtic Tiger’ economic boom is over. More unrest lies ahead.


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Ireland: impasse over policing

FRFI 213 February / March 2010

The political dispute over the devolution of policing and justice powers to the Six Counties was still threatening to bring down the power-sharing government as FRFI went to press. Both Gordon Brown and Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowan went to Belfast at the end of January to try to force through an agreement between the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Fein. The talks follow a three-year impasse following Sinn Fein’s acceptance in 2007 of British police in Ireland. Since then the reality of a political settlement enshrining the Unionist veto has paralysed the process much to Sinn Fein’s frustration. Allegations of corruption and sleaze levelled in particular at the DUP have complicated matters: the DUP leadership fears it will lose unionist support if there are elections brought about by a collapse of Stormont.


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After the defeat of the Fenian uprising in 1867, the opposition to British rule in Ireland mainly came through the Land League and Parnell’s leadership of the Irish (Home Rule) Party in the British House of Commons. The last years of the 1870s saw bad harvests in Ireland and famine soon threatened again. The peasantry organised in Michael Davitt’s Land League resisted evictions and seized land from the landlords - the land war had begun. They were supported by the Irish Republican Brotherhood which had secretly reorganised in 1873. Parnell became President of the Land League, so reinforcing his parliamentary campaign and ‘obstruction’ tactics in the House of Commons with the implied threat of a resort to violence if efforts to obtain Home Rule should fail. The Irish Party also held the balance of power between the Liberal and Conservative Parties, so the Irish question could not be pushed aside.


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The period from the end of the First International to the founding Conference of the Third (Communist) International was a decisive one for the working class movement worldwide. In this period a fundamental change in the nature of the capitalist system took place. Capitalism entered its imperialist phase.


What was true of the relationship of Britain and Ireland in the later part of the nineteenth century was mirrored all over the world with the development of imperialism as a world system. By the turn of the century capitalism, in its relentless drive for profits, had entered its imperialist phase - a world-wide system of colonial oppression and financial domination of the overwhelming majority of the world by a small number of imperialist countries. Imperialism divides the world into oppressed and oppressor nations. It also divides the working class. A handful of imperialist countries obtain high monopoly profits out of the brutal exploitation of oppressed peoples world-wide. Out of these ‘super-profits’ imperialism is able to create and sustain a small privileged and influential layer of the working class in the imperialist countries whose conditions of life isolate it from the suffering, poverty and temper of the mass of the working class. Such workers, a labour aristocracy, constitute the social base of opportunism in the working class movement. So critical was this development for the working class movement and so great the damage done to the interests of the working class as a result of the activities of these opportunist layers that Lenin, at the Second Congress of the Communist International (1920), said that:


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‘The policy of Marx and Engels on the Irish question serves as a splendid example of the attitude the proletariat of the oppressor nation should adopt towards national movements, an example which has lost none of its immense practical importance…’

VI Lenin 1


Over 100 years ago Marx and Engels laid the foundation for a consistent communist standpoint on Ireland. Through their work on Ireland in the First International they were able to develop a proletarian policy towards national liberation movements not only for the British working class but for the international working class movement as a whole. That policy has lost none of its practical importance for the struggle to build a communist movement today.


Over a period of 20 years there was to be a fundamental shift in Marx and Engels’ position on the national question. Their deep study of the relation between Britain and Ireland was decisive in the change of standpoint.


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Ireland: ‘normalisation’ challenged

FRFI 212 December 2009 / January 2010

The activity of Republican militants opposed to the peace process has increased in the north of Ireland as the political wrangle between Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party over the devolution of policing powers to Belfast continues. The Brit­ish strategy of normalisation, to treat the Six Counties that make up North­ern Ireland as a normal part of the United Kingdom, is being undermined by the activities of those opposed to British imperialism in Ireland. In re­sponse the British army has increased covert patrols and the harassment of Repub­licans has intensified.


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Ireland Celtic Tiger no more

FRFI 211 October / November 2009

Ireland is suffering its most severe economic crisis since the foundation of the state in 1922. In October 2008, it became the first country in the Eurozone to officially enter recession; the IMF has said it faces the deepest crisis of any advanced economy in the world. The resulting social and political crisis now  threatens the very stability of the state.

In the first quarter of 2009 Irish Gross National Product (GNP) was down 12% on the previous year.1 The 2009 budget deficit stands at €18bn. Figures released in September by the Central Statistics Office reveal that unemployment has more than doubled in the past year to 264,600 or 11.6%2 and is forecast to rise to almost 17% in 2010. The Economic and Social Research Institute predicted in April 2009 that ‘Ireland’s economy will contract by around 14% over the three years 2008 to 2010...this is a truly dramatic development.’ The construction sector saw over 72,200 jobs lost in the past year alone.


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Communism and Armed Struggle

FRFI 111 February / March 1993  

The current [1993] IRA mainland bombing campaign, and the response to it of sections of the British left, has raised the question of the role, and the legitimacy, of armed struggle within liberation and socialist movements. CAT WIENER examines some of the issues.

"Why does the guerrilla fighter fight? We must come to the conclusion that the guerrilla fighter is a social reformer, that he takes up arms responding to the angry protest of the people against their oppressors, and that he fights in order to change the social system that keeps all his unarmed brothers in ignominy and misery."


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North of Ireland – sectarianism and racism

FRFI 210 August / September 2009

‘No sympathy for foreigners, get out of our Queen’s country before our bonfire night and parade day [or] your building will be blown up. Keep Northern Ireland white. Northern Ireland is only for white British.’ Letter sent by youth wing of the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Defence Association to Belfast Islamic Centre, Polish Association and Indian Community Centre, 10 July 2009.

Recent events in the north of Ireland in the lead-up to the loyalist summer marching season served once again to expose the sectarian and racist character of the loyalist tradition. In June, 100 members of Belfast’s Romanian community were forced to leave their homes and flee the country following racist attacks. In July loyalist marches across the north led to widespread disturbances as nationalist youth fought with police to defend their areas. 


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Ireland news

FRFI 209 June / July 2009

Sectarian murder in Coleraine
On 25 May, Kevin McDaid, a 49-year-old father of four, was murdered yards from his home in Coleraine by a loyalist mob simply for being a Catholic. Around 70 loyalists were involved. The attack, following Glasgow Rangers taking the Scottish league title, took place in full view of a Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) car. Kevin’s wife was also badly beaten and two other young women attacked; one who is pregnant was kicked in the stomach whilst the other suffered a broken jaw. A 46-year-old man, Damien Flaming, is fighting for survival in hospital as FRFI goes to press, having been assaulted by the same loyalist murder gang. Ryan McDaid, one of the dead man’s sons, stated: ‘The police sat and watched as Dad died, they never moved, there were four police officers in a car and they sat and watched from Pates Lane. They never moved, never came, never helped...We were totally outnumbered. There was nothing we could do, they were local UDA members.’ The police have denied this.  Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness, the Assembly’s deputy First Minister, called on nationalists to have faith in the PSNI and to cooperate with their investigation. Nationalist anger on the ground threatens to boil over; they do not share Sinn Fein’s illusions in the PSNI. As the loyalist marching season approaches nationalists are bracing themselves for further sectarian attacks.


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The Labour Party, Ireland and the General Election

FRFI 179 June / July 2004

From Hands off Ireland! (Issue No 5) prior to the 1979 general election explaining why we oppose Labour.

The Labour Party reveals its pro-imperialist and racist character more clearly on the Irish issue than any other. In 1949, it was a Labour government which passed the Government of Ireland Act which was designed to strengthen the Loyalist ascendancy in the Six Counties. Twenty years later, in 1969, another Labour government sent troops into the Six Counties to suppress the struggle of the nationalist working class. Five years later, yet another Labour government passed the racist anti-Irish Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). In 1976, the same government withdrew special category status [for Irish prisoners – FRFI] and created the torture blocks of Long Kesh. In 1977, the same government announced the expansion of the RUC, UDR and SAS. Since December 1977, the SAS has been responsible for at least eleven assassinations in the Six Counties. The Labour government is presiding over a systematic terror campaign against the Irish people.


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Ireland: the key to the British revolution by David Reed

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