‘Neutral’ Ireland backs US imperialism

As inter-imperialist rivalries intensify and the imperialist nations redefine their blocs, the question of Irish neutrality has become a hot topic. Ireland’s policy of military neutrality has stood since the establishment of the so-called Irish Free State in 1922 and is historically intertwined with Ireland’s struggle for national liberation from British colonial control. In reality Ireland is not neutral. The economy of the 26 Counties in the south of Ireland is completely dependent on US imperialism. Such subordination inevitably results in pressure to support US imperialist interests.


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Ireland the crisis of healthcare

The state of healthcare in the 26 Counties in the south of Ireland will remain a major political question in the next period. Ireland is the only country in western Europe that does not offer universal primary care. A typical visit to the GP is €52, to A&E is €100, and you can expect to fork out €80 to spend
a night in hospital (up to €800 a year). The two-tiered healthcare system of public and private health is deeply entrenched and blurred in such a way that public sector beds are routinely used for private patients. In May 2023 over 830,000 people were on waiting lists for hospital treatment.


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Review: Learning Behind Bars

Learning behind bars

Learning Behind Bars – How IRA prisoners shaped the peace process in Ireland, Dieter Reinisch, University of Toronto Press, 2022

As its title suggests, Learning Behind Bars is about education in prison. However, as the sub-title then tells us, it is about considerably more than that. Dieter Reinisch brings together a mass of information, mainly distilled from detailed interviews with 34 former prisoners of war, to provide an accessible account of education behind bars across three decades of the incarceration of Irish freedom fighters in both the Six and 26 Counties of Ireland.


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Ireland: dependency and inequality

The 26 Counties in the south of Ireland has the second highest GDP per capita in Europe. In 2022 the Republic of Ireland reported a 12% expansion in GDP, helping the entire eurozone dodge stagnation (Financial Times, 2 June). It is so wealthy it is considering opening a sovereign wealth fund to store its money. This wealth is completely unstable, dependent on having one of the lowest corporation tax rates in Europe and reliant on a handful of US corporations using the 26 Counties as their European base. It all comes at the expense of working class people in Ireland as the cost of living soars, the housing crisis deepens and social welfare is cut.


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Sinn Fein: Britain’s trusty ally

Michelle O'Neill, Sinn Fein Vice President and First-Minister in waiting

The local elections on 18 May in the Six Counties in the north of Ireland returned Sinn Fein as the biggest party in local government for the first time. This follows Sinn Fein’s electoral success last year when it became the first nationalist party in the history of the Northern Ireland statelet to win the Stormont elections. Sinn Fein has yet to be able to enter government, however, as the devolved government has been defunct since February 2022 when the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) walked out of Stormont, boycotting it in opposition to post-Brexit trading arrangements. Meanwhile, at a time when 22% of people are food insecure, food grants for the poorest families are being taken away and the NHS is on the brink of collapse.


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Ireland - No government in the north

There has been no devolved government in the Six Counties in the north of Ireland for over a year. In February 2022 the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) walked out of Stormont in protest at the Northern Ireland Protocol, agreed as part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. After years of dispute and escalating tensions between Britain and Europe over the application of the Protocol, in March Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a new deal had been reached with the EU: the Windsor Framework.


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Ireland: IRA lays down its arms

Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness at a ceasefire celebration

On 10 April, the mainstream media, assorted British prime ministers from over the last three decades and President Biden of the United States were united in hailing the Good Friday Agreement as a 'remarkable' and 'historic' moment that marked the the end to conflict in the north of Ireland. In reality the document, signed 25 years ago by Republican and Unionist parties alongside the leaders of Britain and the Irish Republic, marked a final capitulation by the leadership of the Republican movement and the political defeat of the nationalist working class. It consolidated the Unionist veto and the control of British imperialism over the whole of Ireland. The article below, first published in 1994, explains how the movement ended up there.

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: racism on the rise

Racist protest against Direct Provision in East Wall, Dublin

Racist anti-migrant protests in the 26 Counties in the south of Ireland are on the rise. While food inflation soars above 12%, the housing crisis intensifies and poverty rises, the 26 Counties remains a haven for landlords and capital. The state is subsidising private landlords an estimated €1bn a year with housing support payments for people for whom there is no social housing (Rory Hearne, Gaffs, 2022). US tech and pharmaceutical multinational giants in particular profit from the south of Ireland having the second lowest corporate tax rate in Europe. The state infamously refused €13bn in unpaid taxes from Google in 2016. However, it is migrants, asylum seekers and refugees who some are blaming for their deteriorating standards of living.


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Britain’s tightrope in Ireland

In the Six Counties in the north of Ireland there has been no government for the past nine months as Loyalists pressure the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to boycott Stormont until the Northern Ireland Protocol is thrown out. The Protocol was agreed as part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement between Britain and the European Union (EU), but the Johnson administration, egged on by the European Research Group (ERG) wing of the Tory Party, refused to implement it. Now, to the dismay of the Loyalists, representatives of Britain and the EU have reported progress in talks to resolve issues related to the Protocol.


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Ireland: no future with British imperialism

Loyalists protest against the Northern Ireland Protocol

The conditions for people in the Six Counties in the north of Ireland are increasingly intolerable. The Six Counties has the longest hospital waiting times in the UK. Half of people are already in fuel poverty, even before the price cap rises again on 1 October. Loyalists can no longer depend on material privileges historically given to them by British imperialism. The 2021 census revealed there are now more Catholics than Protestants in the Six Counties. Loyalists express frustration at their deteriorating position through opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol and have pushed the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to refuse to take up its seats in the power sharing executive until Britain has made progress in getting rid of the Protocol.


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Tensions escalate over Northern Ireland Protocol

The Stormont Assembly in the Six Counties in the north of Ireland has not been able to fully reconvene since Sinn Fein won the Northern Ireland election two months ago. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) refused to nominate the necessary deputy ministers for the Assembly to function until the Northern Ireland Protocol, agreed between Britain and the EU as part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, is overhauled. The Johnson government has now unilaterally rewritten the Agreement. This was presented to the House of Commons as the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill on 13 June. The Protocol Bill has been passed by the Commons and sits with the House of Lords for debate.


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Johnson uses north of Ireland for leverage

Boris Johnson with DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson

On 6 May Sinn Fein became the first nationalist party to win the most votes in Stormont elections, and therefore nominate a speaker and first minister since the creation of the Northern Ireland statelet 101 years ago. Under power-sharing arrangements in the Six Counties in the north of Ireland, Stormont can now only function if the unionist party with the most votes, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), nominates the deputy speaker and deputy first minister. The DUP is refusing to do so unless the Northern Ireland Protocol is thrown out, giving the British government the pretext for trying to override its international agreement with the EU. On 17 May Foreign Secretary Liz Truss announced in Parliament that Britain plans to take unilateral measures to overturn the Protocol.


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Ireland: unionism in crisis

Ulster Volunteer Force mural

On 3 February Paul Givan of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) resigned his post as first minister of the Six Counties in the north of Ireland. The resignation of the first minister automatically triggers the removal of the deputy first minister, Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill, and means the Northern Ireland Executive in Stormont is defunct. DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson has been threatening to force the collapse of the Stormont executive since September 2021 in an effort to appease Loyalist anti-Protocol voters. The Northern Ireland Protocol is the part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, agreed by Britain and the EU, that puts a trade border between Britain and the Six Counties. The DUP finally followed through on its stunt just ahead of the Northern Ireland Assembly election on 5 May.


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50 years since Bloody Sunday 1972

30 January 2022 was the 50th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday massacre when British troops in the occupied North of Ireland shot 26 unarmed demonstrators, killing 14. Despite a £400m inquiry, no British soldier has been punished. This extract from FRFI 216, August/September 2010 gives the context and political significance of the events.

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.


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Ireland: British occupation causes Brexit drama

Loyalists in Lower Shankill declare 'no surrender' of the Six Counties (photo: Rossographer | CC BY-SA 2.0)

On 14 October 2021 the European Union (EU) released its offer of a package of reforms to ease the impact of the Northern Ireland Protocol. The deal would eliminate most checks on goods travelling from Britain to the Six Counties in the north of Ireland. It comes after months of threats from the Loyalists in the Six Counties who have pushed Britain to demand that the EU renegotiate the Protocol. The EU will not renegotiate the deal it spent five years working on with Britain as part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, but the EU has made a series of concessions. The concessions are not enough for the Loyalists; they will accept nothing less than an overhaul of the Protocol. If Britain does not accept the EU’s deal, it will face the consequences of being thrown into conflict with the EU and the US.


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Ireland: 100 years of division

Banner on the gates of Stormont reads '100 years of partition: the centenary of oppression'

In 1921 the British government partitioned Ireland under the 1920 Government of Ireland Act. It did so against the will of the Irish people, who had overwhelmingly voted for Irish sovereignty in the 1919 elections and then fought for their right to self-determination in the Irish War of Independence. Britain split the 32 Counties of Ireland into a 26 County ‘Free State’ Irish Republic in the south and a Six County statelet in the northeast. The statelet was to remain under British control as part of the United Kingdom (UK). The Six Counties has always been maintained through violence, division and segregation. Today Brexit deepens the divisions. RIA AIBHILIN reports.


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Ireland: unionist divisions intensify as Foster forced out

Banner displayed in loyalist Sandy Row, Belfast reads 'Sandy Row says no to Irish Sea border' (photo: Whiteabbey. CC BY-SA 4.0)

Arlene Foster was replaced by the reactionary creationist Edwin Poots as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party on 14 May after being forced out of the post by hardline Loyalists. Foster is also being removed as First Minister of the Northern Irish Assembly. This is happening in the context of Brexit. After the Good Friday Agreement the DUP became the dominant party for Unionism, uniting the Loyalist working class with sections of middle-class Unionists. But the impacts of Brexit threaten to erode the material privileges afforded to these sections by British imperialism. 


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Unionists threaten port-staff in north of Ireland

Red Hand Commando mural, Rathcoole

Tensions around the Brexit withdrawal agreement in the north of Ireland have escalated. Port staff were withdrawn from work for one week from 2 February after a rise in terror threats from Loyalist paramilitaries who labelled the staff as legitimate targets. The staff are administering customs checks as part of post-Brexit arrangements under the Northern Ireland protocol. The protocol has angered a stratum of Unionists who see it as undermining the Statelet’s alliance with Britain, and therefore weakening their position.


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Unionist terror gangs commanded by British state

Pat Finucane

On 30 November 2020, the British government announced it would not hold a public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane. Finucane, a high profile civil and human rights solicitor in Belfast, was shot 14 times by members of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) as he sat down to dinner with his family on 12 February 1989. Having made several promises to conduct an independent public inquiry, successive Labour and Tory governments have failed to do so. This is despite, or in fact because, significant evidence exists demonstrating that the UDA, along with other unionist paramilitary groups, was operating at the behest of the British government and in cooperation with British army and intelligence forces. 


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US props up crisis-ridden Irish economy

Protesters demand the Irish government claim billions in tax from Apple

At first glance, the 26 Counties of Ireland’s economic hit from coronavirus appears to be much softer than other EU member states. While in the first half of 2020 exports fell by around 3%, they fell by around 40% in Spain and Portugal. Ireland’s real GDP contracted by 2.1% in the first quarter of 2020 and 6.1% in the second quarter, while in Italy real GDP contracted by 18% in the first half of the year. But closer analysis reveals that these figures are cushioned by high numbers of exports from multinational corporations. Although demand for Irish domestic exports fell by one fifth in the first two quarters of 2020, overall demand remained high due to the activities of foreign multinationals – in particular US pharmaceutical and business service corporations – that have set up base in Ireland. RIA AIBHILIN reports.


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Terri Gavin – life-long Irish republican activist

Terri Gavin (bottom right) at Anti-Interment Group demonstration, London

Terri Gavin

3 September 1931 - 25 June 2020

The Revolutionary Communist Group pays tribute to the Irish solidarity work and internationalist campaigning of Terri Gavin and we reprint here a tribute to her from the Anti-Internment Group (AIG) London.

The Anti Internment Group London would like to pay tribute to our dear friend, patron and comrade Terri Gavin Mcweeney who passed away at the Butterworth Nursing Home in St John’s Wood London in June 2020. 


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Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No 12, September 1981

The war of national liberation conducted by the Irish people against British imperialism has not been confined to Ireland. Time and again it has been brought into the heartland of British imperialism by bombing campaigns and other military actions. A growing number of Irish men and women have been jailed as a result. Many of them had no part in the actions for which they were jailed. They have been framed and jailed as part of the systematic terror conducted by the British ruling class to prevent Irish people in England from joining the war of national liberation. The trials and convictions of Irish prisoners of war in England thoroughly expose a web of lies, corruption, brutality and perjury. They have exposed the police and courts for what they are: instruments of the ruling class designed to suppress the revolt of the oppressed against rotten and decaying imperialism. The case now being manufactured against the Bradford 12 shows that the machinery perfected against the Irish will now be directed against revolutionary workers in this country who dare to fight oppression. The experience of the Irish POWs contains a wealth of warnings and lessons for the vanguard forces of the working class in this country.


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How Ireland’s truth became the lie

Peace or Pacification? Northern Ireland after the defeat of the IRA Liam Ó Ruairc, Zero Books, 2019. £13

Official censorship, pertaining to the North of Ireland, ended in 1994 when the London and Dublin governments lifted their broadcasting bans. War propaganda gave way to the propaganda of peace. More than that, says Liam Ó Ruairc, the process that brought us from ceasefire to Good Friday Agreement, and from there to the current power-sharing arrangements, was sustained by grand public deception. It required ‘a campaign of blatant media manipulation,’ directed by the British government, ‘to flood Northern Ireland with positive stories about the peace deal’ (p5). British state censorship was rendered obsolete by self-censorship. From the university academic to the Sinn Féin spokesman, with an agreed peace came agreed truth; real truth became the lie. Stormont press officers outnumbered journalists in Belfast newsrooms; they wrote the story.


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Editorial: IRA announces new ceasefire

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No. 138, August/September 1997

As we go to press, the IRA has announced a new ceasefire beginning at noon, Sunday 20 July. This followed a statement by Gerry Adams, who said that the commitments which allowed the original ceasefire to be called, and which the previous Tory government had reneged on, now appeared to be back in place. Most significant were comments allegedly made by Northern Ireland Secretary of State Mo Mowlam that a London-Dublin paper on decommissioning would not be amended to guarantee paramilitary arms would be handed over during talks.


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British solutions for Ireland: BEWARE FALSE FRIENDS

Are you with Benn or the H-Block men?

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No 11 July/August 1981

The Irish crisis is once again moving towards a climax as more hunger strikers approach death. As the anger of the nationalist people threatens once again to burst onto the streets there has been a flurry of activity in the citadels of British imperialism. A wave of ‘solutions’ has come from those whose only concern is desperation to head off the growing threats to British imperialism in Ireland. All of them have one characteristic in common — they deny the right of the Irish people to self-determination. All come from long-standing enemies of the working class and oppressed peoples. All are British-imposed solutions.


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Westminster twists DUP's arm with abortion and marriage amendment

Demonstration for marriage equality, Belfast

On 9 July British MPs approved yet another fast-tracked emergency bill to postpone a misnamed and pointless legal ‘deadline’ for rerunning elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont, which has been dormant since March 2017. With it they also passed, with large majorities, two Labour amendments to extend British law on same sex marriage and abortion to the Six Counties. This will come into effect by January 2020 if Stormont has not been restored before 21 October this year. PATRICK CASEY reports.


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North of Ireland: local elections

Anti-Brexit protest by Sinn Fein supporters

At the local elections in May, it was the performance of smaller parties that made headlines in the North of Ireland. The Alliance Party, having gone into the contest with 32 seats across the North’s eleven ‘super councils’, came out of it with 53. The Greens made a little headway too. Their supporters rejoiced that Northern liberalism had at last broken the levee, escaping the confines of leafy South Belfast suburbia and the Ards Peninsula. The results were overdrawn by those touting for the restoration of Stormont and for a strong anti-Brexit showing in the European elections. To an excitable local media, some transfer of seats to the hallowed centre ground – if not quite heralding a sea change – was at least indicative of a ‘progressive surge’.


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North of Ireland: On the edge of Europe

In New York or Berlin, turn on the telly, tune your wireless, and Ireland is in the news bulletin. Stormont’s collapsed – it’s direct rule from Westminster and relations with the parties in Belfast are strained. South of the border, Dublin’s aligned with Brussels and wishes Britain could be too. But in London the European question has divided a bickering parliament and a hapless cabinet. In the North of Ireland it divides Unionism; there, business groups, the farmers’ union, local celebs, all plug the benefits of European free trade – to the annoyance of an obstinate Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). No, not 2019 – welcome to the Spring of 1975. For the DUP and its spiritual mainspring the Free Presbyterian Church, ‘A vote for the Common Market is a vote for Ecumenism; Rome; Dictatorship; Antichrist.’ A referendum approaches on Britain’s membership of the ‘European Communities’ (EC) and, for some in its troubled Irish possession, campaigning is underway with a Biblical vengeance.


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Bloody Sunday 1972 – still no justice

Families of the victims of the Bloody Sunday massacre

bloody sunday 2019 min

On 14 March 2019 the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) announced that just one of 17 British soldiers involved in the 1972 slaughter of peaceful protesters in Derry in the north of Ireland would face trial. This announcement was the latest in a long line of abuse and insult to the victims, survivors and families of Bloody Sunday.


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The Communist Tradition on Ireland Part 10: The long war

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no. 17, March 1982

The fall of Stormont in March 1972 changed little. The Provisional IRA knew that direct rule from Westminster would not satisfy the needs of the nationalist minority. And as Sean Mac Stíofáin later said

‘. . . there was not an iota of difference, of course, in the behaviour of the British troops towards the people who were supposed to be receiving all the imaginary benefits of direct rule. A rifle butt in the stomach or an insult to passing women felt much the same along the Falls, whether the troops delivered it under Faulkner or the new Secretary of State, Whitelaw . . . It was not the pundits who had to trek out to the concentration camp at Lisburn, taking children to see their fathers after long waits and humiliating jeers from the camp guards.’

The Provisionals’ military campaign would continue until Ireland was free from British rule.


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Ireland: the key to the British revolution by David Reed