DUBLIN ANTI-FASCIST CLEARED OF “VIOLENT DISORDER”

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 8 mins.)

Donal O Ceallaigh walked free on Wednesday to congratulations of his supporters after four years under the threat of a ten-year jail sentence and/ or unlimited fine. He had been charged with “violent disorder” arising out events in February 2016.

The charging of antifascists with “violent disorder” was a first use by the State against political activists of this vicious piece of legislation with such a heavy penalty and for which the burden of proof seems very slight.

All that seems required is for the State to prove that a situation of violence occurred or was threatened in which the accused were present (minimum of three) and “that would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at that place to fear for his or another person’s safety.”1

The background to the charges was the boast of fascist islamophobic organisation Pegida in 2016 that it would organise a public rally – and founding meeting – in every capital city in Europe and the rally they planned to take place outside the GPO on 6th February 2016.

In response, antifascists mobilised in Dublin with the intention of preventing Pegida’s launch.

IRELAND’S ANTIFASCIST RESPONSE

The mobilisation took a number of forms:

1) a large diverse group gathered outside the GPO, occupying the space well before the advertised time. A large proportion of these included religious and liberal organisations and individuals.

2) Another large group, of Republicans and Socialists of different organisations — and none — gathered in O’Connell Street, on the central pedestrian reservation and on the east side of the street.

3) Irish fascists arriving by Luas (tram system) were met on the tram itself by young antifascists.2

It appears that there were no confrontations between the GPO group and fascists which was fortunate, since some of the participants had publicly advocated non-violence and even encouraged bringing children to the event,3 no doubt in order to emphasise their pacifist nature.

The handful of known fascists of Irish background, whose intended movements were known in advance, apparently noticed or guessed the sympathies of some of the antifascist youth travelling in the Luas, addressed some unkind words to them and violence quickly resulted4.

The fascists concerned apparently abandoned their plan to attend the rally and some reportedly felt the necessity to attend A&E department in hospital instead.

There is no doubt that the longest-running conflict with the most people involved on both sides occurred around the east side of O’Connell Street and streets running off it, in particular North Earl Street and Cathedral Street.

The fascists who were involved there appeared to be all of East European origin. It seemed that they had not been spotted until some of them began to insult some women and when filmed, to make a negative comment along the lines of “your f..king communist filming”.

Once having identified themselves, a crowd of antifascists gathered around them and the situation developed quickly. The fascists were soon running, in the course of which one ran into a Euro-shop in North Earl Street with a number of anti-fascists behind.5

Some Gardaí lashed out with batons at people leaving the shop (which could clearly be seen on the police compilation of video footage shown in court), including an RTÉ cameraman.6

At least three of those fascists ran eastward down Talbot Street, which is a continuation of the short North Earl Street; two large white police vans appeared at the intersection with Marlsborough Street and the “robocops”, the Public Order Unit emerged.

The POU deployed with dogs in North Earl Street, clearing it and menacing both antifascists and shoppers.7

Shortly afterwards, word spread among the antifascists that some of the fascists were in a pub in the parallel Cathedral Street and had exchanged words with some antifascists who also happened to be in there;8 a crowd of antifascists flocked to the area concerned.

This area saw one of the sharpest confrontation between the Garda Public Order Unit and antifascists, with the former lashing out with drawn batons on largely unprotected hands and heads.

The Gardaí rescued the fascists from the pub and loaded them into one of their vans before driving off. A decoy Garda van was blocked in O’Connel Street by protestors and interested youth for a period but the fascists were spirited away to safety in another van.

Pegida had been prevented from holding their rally so the antifascists emerged victorious. The State actors sat down to decide how they would respond in the aftermath.

THE IRISH STATE SHARPENS ITS KNIVES

The first to be targeted by arrests were the antifascists in the confrontation on the LUAS tram. Visible in recordings of the CCTV camera which had remained uncovered throughout, they were identified, charged, convicted and heavily fined — as a deterrent, the judge made clear.

Next the Gardaí set about identifying antifascists active in the North Earl Street conflict and selected two Republicans from different organisations which, along with an independent antifascist from the pub in Cathedral Street, they charged with the serious offence of “violent disorder”.

This led to alarm in antifascist circles since, as outlined earlier the potential penalties with this charge are very high and it had never been used by the State before with regards to a situation of a political nature – in fact, it had hardly been used at all.

Two years after the events, one week to the day after he had been found “not guilty” on another political charge, Donal Ó Ceallaigh was charged with “violent disorder” in connection with the anti-Pegida protest too.

Through the intervening months and years, two of those charged with “violent disorder” separately agreed a deal to plead “guilty” to a lesser charge and avoid the danger of a ten-year sentence and this week at the commencement of the remaining two’s trial, another one did so.

Ó Ceallaigh then remained the only one of the original four on trial for “violent disorder”. His trial began on Monday 24th in Criminal Court No.7,9 six years after the events and four years after he was charged, with some supporters and his wife present in the public area.

TRIAL OF O’CEALLAIGH

Shortly after Ó Ceallaigh’s trial commenced, his defence counsel, Brian Gageby BL engaged by Sheehan & Partners, asked for a discussion in court in the absence of the jury and took the State’s witnesses through their process of protecting the chain of video evidence and identification of Ó Ceallaigh himself.

A compilation of six video clips was shown from: (1) the Euro Shop CCTV, (2) Garda cameras, the (1) TV cameraman’s footage (obtained by warrant) and (1) video taken by the shop’s security guard on his phone.

It emerged that 500 Gardaí have viewed the footage on an internal Garda system without identifying anyone on it.

The Garda officer responsible for ensuring identification then gave a convoluted account of how he had ended up going through associates of another activist to contacting another officer who had arrested Ó Ceallaigh in relation to water protests, who obligingly identified the activist.

That Garda said that he knew the defendant from a previous arrest and that it was he in a number of the videos, wearing a green hooded jacket and red scarf around his neck and that he has a tattoo there,10although only a very small portion of the man’s face is visible.

Another Garda who oversaw the identification claimed to have made his own statement a long time afterwards from memory alone but somehow included the exact times, in minutes and seconds on the video where the other’s statement had identified Ó Ceallaigh!

Defence counsel put it to him he could only have that precision from having written his statement to coincide with the other Garda’s, which he denied having done — of course that would have looked very much like conspiring to, as they say, “fit up” the defendant with regards to identification!

As Tuesday’s jury-less court session drew to a close, Defence counsel made two submissions to the Judge objecting to the challenged video identification evidence going to the jury, which Prosecution counsel defended and the judge retired to consider the arguments.

At resumption of the trial on Wednesday morning, the Judge announced her decision not to permit the challenged video evidence to go before the jury and the Prosecution counsel admitted that without that, effectively they had no evidence to place the activist at the scene.

The jury was then called in and the Judge directed them to return a verdict of “Not guilty”. Ó Ceallaigh was free to go and receive the embrace of his wife and congratulations of his supporters (and from some interested members of the public).

Though appearing glad he seemed to take it all quite calmly but admitted to the author that it had been “a bit of a strain”.

SUMMARY

As a result of the mobilisation and struggles on the day, Pegida was prevented from launching in Ireland, perhaps the only European country in which they failed to do so. This would have been important in any case but became especially so with the struggles around Covid to come.

The State had failed to protect the fascists’ “right” to hold their founding rally in Ireland and no doubt the Gardaí felt humiliated. They determined to recover ground and the State made a political decision of charging demonstrators with a very serious charge: “violent disorder”.

In that, the State hoped to establish a legal precedent with a view to its use against demonstrators in other situations in future. It did in fact establish the precedent in using the charge (and without an outcry from liberals and social democrats).

The State may have felt enough was gained for the moment in offering to accept a “guilty” plea to a lesser charge but when Ó Ceallaigh declined to accept the deal, they tried for a conviction, which would have given them the precedent they originally sought – but they failed.

However, many antifascist activists were punished and according to information received, 15,000 Euro in punitive fines was collected, not to speak of the worry and years spent in the shadow of the hanging sword.

Antifascists have hopefully learned the importance of going masked in similar situations and awareness of the role of CCTV cameras which are ubiquitous in the Dublin city area. The charge of “violent disorder” remains as a threat and punishment for demonstrators in future11.

The wording of the charge ensures that no actual violence need be used and the “fear” surrounding a situation remains open to subjective interpretation and even manipulation of witnesses by police.

The RTÉ’s camera footage – ironically in view of the fact of his assault by a Garda – was obtained by warrant which raises issues of concern with regard to press freedom and safety. If verified media’s film is to be used by the State, how then is the media to claim independence?

And if demonstrators know or believe that media footage of them is likely to be used by the State, are they likely to tolerate the presence of such camera operators? Will we not all be the poorer if the media cannot produce film and photos of events of a similar nature?

This is surely an issue on which the press, along with the respective trade unions should take a stand, if they truly believe in their independence and freedom and think it worth defending.

While there is no current evidence of a resurgent attempt to found Pegida in Ireland,12 a number of small fascist organisations have been founded in recent years, including Identity Ireland, the National Party, Irish Freedom Party and Síol na hÉireann.

History has shown that when the ruling capitalist class is in crisis, it suits it to use fascists as part of the repression of the people’s resistance struggles. Certainly there is something of a crisis in the capitalist system world-wide at the moment and repression is very much on the agenda.

Pegida does exist in Europe and as late as the 22nd, the Saturday before the trial in Dublin, planned to publicly burn the Koran in Rotterdam, Holland,13 to which the State there responded by arresting their leader and accusing Pegida of disseminating “hate speech”.14

End.

FOOTNOTES

1 The 1994 Public Order Act (see Sources) and this section at least uses even the same wording as the 1986 Public Order Act of the UK (see Sources).

2 That group was of Identity Ireland, led by Peter O’Loughlin, a long-time Irish fascist who apparently planned to be chairman of the Irish branch of Pegida. According to recollections of antifascists to the author, there were also much smaller groups of anti-fascists roaming the south city centre attempting to coordinate and collate information while searching for groups of fascists.

3 Pacifism in the face of potential fascist violence seems dangerously stupid to me but that pales into insignificance when compared to the criminal irresponsibility of putting children in danger of such attack.

4 This was one of the areas which the Gardaí used to bring charges against anti-fascists and footage from the LUAS CCTV was used against individuals. The antifascists involved seem to have been from Dublin soccer club supporters’ associations and those identified were fined within a relatively short period of time.

5 This site was one of those used by the Gardaí to charge a number of antifascists and footage from the security CCTV were used in evidence against the latter.

6 The management of the TV channel complained as did the cameraman. Quite some time later the Garda in question was found guilty of assault and, despite the viciousness of the assault on a clearly unthreatening person and his lack of remorse, was given a suspended sentence but remained in the police force without facing a disciplinary hearing.

7 “I was coming back from reconnoitring around the Connolly Monument in Beresford Place, in case fascists had gathered there. Cycling westward along Talbot St. I saw three young men running west; they appeared East European to me and had hair cropped very short. I assumed they were fascists but there appeared to be no-one in pursuit and three was too many for me so I passed them and at North Earl St. junction found a large crowd with Public Order Unit with barking dogs and batons drawn preventing people from entering the area. The crowd was of mixed shoppers, passers-by and anti-fascist demonstrations.” (Recollection of antifascist to author.)

8 This site too became one to attract police charges against at least one antifascist.

9 On Tuesday it was moved to No.12 instead, right next door, coincidentally, to the Special Criminal Courtroom where a trial is currently underway. The SCC was from its inception a no-jury political court for decades but recently began to try some high-profile criminal trials.

10 He does in fact but you’d need x-ray vision to see it through a scarf! There had been a mass campaign against the proposed additional water charges and the belief that the public water supply system in the Irish state was about to be privatised. Protesting in the context that water charges were already being paid through two different public taxes, hundreds of thousands marched and smaller groups mobilised to disrupt the installation of water meters outside people’s houses (the locations of those unused meters may still be seen around Dublin city in particular). Most arrests took place in this latter part of the struggle, though a number of defendants fought a successful battle to prevent the State convicting them of “kidnapping” a Government Minister while protesting against her ministerial visit to a school in Jobstown. The additional taxation and privatisation plan was abandoned in 2015 – at least for the moment.

11 Note that there have been many situations of actual violence by fascists wielding clubs in Ireland in recent years in which the State chose not to charge any of the perpetrators with “violent disorder” and in fact only with great reluctance charged one individual, Michael Quinn of the National Party with assault after widely-circulated video evidence refuted Garda public statements that no violence had occurred.

12 According to Anti-Fascist Action Ireland from people viewing the fascist communication traffic, the Eastern European fascists who participated on the day denounced the Irish fascists of Identity Ireland as cowards and declared they would never work with them again.

13 Religious book of greatest importance to Muslims, equivalent to the Bible for Christian and the Talmud for Jews.

14 (See Sources).

SOURCES AND FURTHER INFORMATION

Violent Disorder charge in Ireland: Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, 1994, Section 15 (irishstatutebook.ie)

In the UK: Public Order Act 1986 (legislation.gov.uk)

Pegida intent to burn the Koran in Rotterdam: Dutch police disperse planned Quran burning rally of Islamophobic group Pegida (yenisafak.com)

https://nltimes.nl/2022/10/23/anti-islam-group-pegida-attempts-burn-koran-rotterdam-leader-arrested

RTÉ cameraman struck by Garda at anti-Pegida protest: SUSPENDED SENTENCE FOR GARDA WHO ASSAULTED RTÉ CAMERAMAN – rebelbreeze

“Oh. My. God!”

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 5 mins.)

That’s what she wrote — in response to a political statement I had written. And it was funny — but at the same time an expression of the gulf that separates people like her not only from people like me – but from reality too.

Her comment on a FB post was that the PSNI are not the same as the RUC, to which another woman had replied that the uniforms and the name are different but that’s all, the essence being still the same.

In turn, herself above had replied that anyone who thought that, didn’t understand the current realities and what the whole peace process is about.

To which I replied that I too agreed that all that happened was that the colonial gendarmerie had changed its name and uniform and what the pacification process (because let’s call it what it was and is) is about is holding on to the colony while dismantling the opposition.

And then she made that response, the “Oh. My. God!” — and quoth no more. I laughed but also recognised that her response, from her point of view (apart from the appeal to a nebulous deity, which I take as just an idiom to express shock), was entirely logical.

No, not her political position, which is entirely illogical – but her reaction, from where she stands, away on the other side of the chasm between us.

(Photo sourced: Internet)

AN UNBRIDGEABLE GULF BETWEEN WORLDS

She recognises the gulf that separates her world from mine and knows straight away that there is no bridge to cross it. There is no point in debate, not only because I may not be easily overcome in argument but because we don’t even agree on the reality of the world.

By which I mean the economic, political and philosophical reality of the world of humanity, rather than the physical world of gravity and weather.

In her world, I’m guessing, admittedly there were some horrible injustices in the history of “Northern Ireland” and then there was a horrible war which made things worse and now everything is changed (even “utterly”, perhaps!) and going in the right direction.

To call the “Northern Ireland” entity a colony is shocking to her, though she knows some people probably think that.

Seeing reality is useful for getting around but it can be very uncomfortable too. The Six Counties is of course a colony, taken by force and maintained by force since 1921.

PSNI raid and arrest of a pregnant woman in the Bone (‘nationalist’) area of Belfast March 2021 — this led to riot (Photo sourced: Internet)
Residents objecting to PSNI in riot gear invasion of Roseapenna Street (‘nationalist’), West Belfast, August 2015 (Photo sourced: Internet)

The whole of Ireland was a colony even when it had its tiny minority parliament1 and it continued to be one when that Parliament, under massive bribery, voted to abolish itself in 1800 without the vast majority of the population in Ireland, native AND planter, having any say in the matter.

When the level of anti-colonial struggle in Ireland rose to a certain level and the rulers of the UK were beset by difficulties on most sides, a deal was done with an Irish client bourgeoisie and the country partitioned.

Whatever the status of the Irish State thereafter, the status of the Six Counties was clearly that of a colony. That is and was so, regardless of whether it is sectarian or not, whether there are civil rights or not. It is part of our nation held for the Crown by force of arms.

Those arms were again very much in evidence during the fairly recent 30 Years’ War – in the hands of the formal British Army, formal colonial police and informal proxy murder gangs.

And yes, the PSNI today is an armed colonial police force – and it would be that even if it had no history, if it were created today. But as it happens, it does have a history. It is a variant of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. And the RUC was a variant of the Royal Irish Constabulary2. And the RIC was a gendarmerie.

RIC and British soldiers supporting an eviction in Galway during the Land War (Photo sourced: Internet)

A COLONIAL POLICE FORCE WITH A LONG HISTORY

Perhaps my opponent has heard the term before. Maybe she associates it with Turkey … or even with the Spanish state. But such things belong to foreign and authoritarian states, right? Couldn’t possibly be to do with here!

States that have conquered nations within them, resisting from time to time, or regions that are otherwise difficult to manage, need to control them by army or police. The first becomes problematical over time and the second needs to be coordinated from the centre, not mainly local.

The solution some states have found is to have a central quasi-militarised police force: the Guardia Civil of the Spanish State, the Turkish Gendarmerie, the Caribieneri of the Italian State, the French Gendarmerie.

Gendarmerie of the Spanish State: Guardia Civil in modern uniform (Photo sourced: Internet)

These forces typically live in barracks and are directly answerable to the central State. The Royal Irish Constabulary was such a gendarmerie also. And nothing like it existed in Britain.

It was a colonial armed quasi-militarised police force to spy on and suppress the Irish by force.

What was left of the RIC in Ireland became the RUC after Partition and the RUC became the PSNI after some reforms. They don’t live in barracks but they do sally forth from them and they are armed – still keeping ‘the natives’ down since 1836.3

All-Ireland gendarmerie Royal Irish Constabulary in front of their barracks, King Street, Dublin, viewed by local people after a Republican forces attack during the War of independence 1919-1921 (Photo sourced: Internet)

PACIFICATION FOR NORMALISATION

Then there was my shocking description of the role of the ‘Process’ that she described as for peace and I for pacification. She is shocked even by the title I give it, a title suggesting it is not about justice but rather about maintaining control, by trickery or violence.

And I actually stated that is its purpose! Oh. My. God indeed!

Any process which starts from the basis of normalising the colony is doing just that: normalising the foreign occupation of a part of the nation taken by force and which has never been accepted by the conquered population. It is “about is holding on to the colony”, as I described it.

But what is fundamentally abnormal can never be normalised.

That attempt requires pacification, by repression and coercion or by deception – or by a combination of both. The Occupier has used all but, since the late 1990s, mainly deception. The masking and twisting of reality, the blowing of smoke in eyes.

“Join the British Gendarmerie!” Recruitment drive for the PSNI supported by Unionists and Sinn Féin, February 2020 (Photo sourced: Internet)

Who is fooled? Mostly, those who want to be, some who see a workable future in the colony, under occupation.

The other deluded ones are those who are being deceived by their leaders, the latter who have given up not only the arms but any kind of struggle other than climbing into the elite.

Ultimately, the reality is so obvious that the deception is only possible when the deceived help it along themselves. Why do that? Because it’s comfortable, or seen as an alternative to hopelessness, or less frightening than the alternative – revolutionary struggle.

Oh. My. God! Yes indeed.

And yet we say, we who look at the reality, in the face of those who deny it, as Galileo is said to have muttered to his persecutors, who denied the world moved around the sun (rather than the reverse): “Eppur si muove”(“And yet it moves)”.4

We might also say, whether some find it shocking or just uncomfortable, something more mundane: Est quodcumque est. (It is what it is.)

end.

FOOTNOTES

1At various times Catholics were excluded from voting for representation in the Parliament and at all times from the Reformation onwards barred from being elected to the body or from holding high office. The vast majority of the Irish population were Catholics. Protestants other than Anglicans suffered discrimination too but not to the same degree.

2The PSNI themselves recognise that history – see https://www.psni.police.uk/about-us/our-history/history-policing-ireland

3And they got the “Royal” in their name in 1867 for their role in suppression of the Fenian rising that year.

4Galileo di Vincenzo Bonaiuti de’ Galilei (15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642) was an Italian astronomer, physicist and engineer. He publicly ascribed to the theory of Copernicus before him that the sun’s position is static with the Earth revolving around it (heliocentrism) which had been attacked by the Protestant religions as contradicting the Christian Bible (Old Testament). But it was the Catholic Inquisition of which Galileo fell foul, firstly in 1616 when he was instructed not to hold that opinion. In 1633 he was forced to recant it after a long trial and lived under house arrest for the rest of his life.

SOURCES

Gendarmerie: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gendarmerie

RIC: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Irish_Constabulary

THE PROPAGANDA & CENSORSHIP CURTAIN SLIPS

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: under 4 mins.)

This year we in “the West” have been been subjected to a mass media bombardment of war propaganda, accompanied by the military-like operations of censorship. Sadly, some of that has been supported, even cheered, by some on the Left.

But occasionally the haze of the bombardment clears and we get a glimpse of what might be happening in reality. Two of those examples occurred this weekend.

UKRAINIAN MILITARY BOMBING CIVILIAN TARGETS

It has long been claimed by alternative media sources to the wsm (western mass media) that Ukrainian military have been a) bombing civilian targets in their opposing areas and b) using civilian areas and structures from which to fire on their opponents.

Generally the wsm has ignored these claims or claimed they were unable to verify them, an approach very different to that which they take in the case of Ukrainian state and NATO military and political claims (and denials).

However this weekend an Associated Press report of the Ukrainian rocket attack on the municipal building (i.e the town council building) of Donetsk (a clearly civilian target) in the Donbas was widely reported in the western mainstream media.

Photos circulating on social media showed plumes of smoke swirling around the building, rows of blown-out windows and a partially collapsed ceiling. RIA Novosti and local media also reported that three cars parked nearby had burnt out as a result of the strike.1

The Ukrainian state’s silence on the matter was reported also.

Donetsk Municipal Building Damaged by Ukrainian Bombardment October 16, 2022. (Photo credit: REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko)

Of course, Zelensky might yet come up with some “justification” for the attack, which would no doubt be faithfully reported by the wsm. An outright denial seems highly unlikely, given that photographs of the damaged building have been widely circulated.

Wsm reporting does try some squirming to exonerate itself of course, claiming that “Kremlin-backed separatist authorities have previously accused Ukraine of numerous strikes on infrastructure and residential targets in the occupied territories … without providing corroborating information.2

Aside from the fact that the absence of corroborating information in reporting Ukrainian or NATO claims has rarely been seen as a problem by the wsm, there has been plenty of corroborating material of this fact – it’s just that the wsm was not interested in reporting it3.

In fact, though undoubtedly also used for military transport (as are a most major bridges in the world), the bombing of the 12-mile (19 km) Kerch Strait Bridge, the longest in Europe, was also an attack on an important civilian transport facility.

MILITARY DIFFICULTIES OF UKRAINIAN MILITARY

There is no doubt that the Ukrainian counterattack caused serious reverses in Russian military operations in the Donbas, a cause of much celebration to the Ukrainian state and to its NATO allies which found its reflection in the wsm (western mass media).

Russian military responses have been underplayed, except with regard to missile attack and artillery shelling of Kiyv and other areas after the Ukrainian bombing of the Kerch Strait Bridge4, generally portrayed by the wsm in terms of rage and desperation at such success by the Ukrainian state.

While reporting on two gunmen opening fire on volunteer military trainees on a Russian firing range and killing 11 (which if occurring to a NATO member or ally would be described as “a terrorist attack”), the Associated Press described current difficulties for Ukrainian forces.

A very severe situation persists in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions” Zelenskyy said, referring to two regions Russia says its has annexed. The most difficult is near Bakhmut, like in previous days. We are still holding our positions,” he said5.

Quoting Zelensky on the matter was no surprise since his utterances are guaranteed entry to the wsm but giving voice to what seems to be a disgruntled Ukrainian soldier is something else and is highly unusual for the wsm6:

One soldier, just back from the front line, told AFP they had been fighting for four days non-stop.

Out of the 13 guys in my group, we lost two soldiers, and five got evacuated,” said the 50-year-old soldier, “Poliak”, from the 93rd brigade. “For days I didn’t sleep, didn’t eat, didn’t drink except coffee,” he added.

That is an over 50% attrition rate in that soldier’s unit and if that rate is even approached in others is not sustainable for the Ukrainian forces, while Russia on the other hand can count on the 300,000 reservists it is bringing into the conflict7 and even more if required.

US/NATO and its allies are well aware that even with the massive supply of military hardware supplied to the Ukrainian state’s forces (and even if they all were to reach their scheduled objectives), the Russian military (and Donbas volunteers) cannot be defeated in conventional war.

The purpose of US/NATO therefore in what amounts to using up Ukrainian manpower, seems to be primarily to weaken the Russian Federation and to strengthen US domination over and cohesion of its own allies in its contention with its main opponent as world superpower – China.

Meanwhile, for us on the other side of the disinformation curtain, the examples quoted may represent nothing more than an inadvertent twitch of the material. It would be nice to think that instead it represented a drift towards more objective or even-handed reporting of a serious conflict.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1https://www.thejournal.ie/donetsk-mayor-rocket-explosion-5894617-Oct2022/

2Ibid.

3Filming and interviews by Patrick Lancaster on Youtube has been one such corroborative source.

4Arguably of a type of what would be described normally in the media as a terrorist attack and one in which the driver may have been unaware of his deadly cargo.

5https://www.thejournal.ie/russia-shooting-death-ukraine-training-base-5894484-Oct2022/

6Quotations from Ukrainian military personnel complaining of NATO-supplied arms and equipment reaching the black market instead of them, for example, have usually only surfaced in alternative media sources.

7We might wish to note that the call up of some reservists at this late stage alone does bear out Putin’s statement, often mocked in the wsm, that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February was and is a “special military operation” and, unlike wsm claims, that it was never a failed operation to capture Kiyv, much less occupy the whole of Ukraine.

SOURCES

Ukrainian rocket attack on municipal building: https://www.thejournal.ie/donetsk-mayor-rocket-explosion-5894617-Oct2022/

https://www.breakingnews.ie/world/rockets-strike-mayors-office-in-separatist-donetsk-1378090.html

Military difficulty for Ukrainian forces: https://www.thejournal.ie/russia-shooting-death-ukraine-training-base-5894484-Oct2022/

Rare wsm (Reuters) report on Ukrainian June bombing of civilian target in Donetsk: https://www.reuters.com/business/aerospace-defense/three-killed-artillery-attack-donetsk-market-separatist-news-agency-2022-06-13/

2015 Ukrainian bombing of Donetsk: https://www.balcanicaucaso.org/eng/Areas/Ukraine/Under-the-bombs-in-Donetsk-158549

OFFICIAL DIPLOMATIC REPRESENTATION FOR THE POLISARIO IN IRELAND?

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 6 mins)

A Dublin public meeting on Western Sahara attracted a high-powered attendance including ambassadors and other diplomats of four foreign states, along with the Prime Minister and Minister for Women and Social Affairs of Western Sahara.

Western Sahara – a Spanish colonial possession but then occupied by the Kingdom of Morocco, has been called “the last colony in Africa”, by which is meant the last African region remaining under formal occupation by its coloniser.1

The Western Sahara liberation politicians included the Prime Minister of the Polisario Front, the national political representation of the Saharawi nation, Mr. Boucharay Beyoun and Souilima Biruk, Minister for Women and Social Affairs.

Other diplomatic representation for the Saharawi people was provided by Mr. Oubi Bouchraya for the EU and Europe, Mr. Sidi Breika, for the UK and Mr. Nafi Sediki, for the Irish state.

For other countries, there were the Ambassadors to Ireland of Cuba Mr. Bernardi Guanche, of Algeria Mr. Mohammed Belaoura and of South Africa Ms. Yolisa Maya. For Colombia, Andres Echeverri, Deputy Chief of Mission and Consul attended.

Also in attendance at the meeting in the Teachers’s Club, in Dublin’s City centre were the diplomats’ support and security staff, a few solidarity activists and SIPTU officials. Earlier, the Saharawi delegation had met with TDs, members of the Irish parliament.

COLONIAL RULE AND RESISTANCE BACKGROUND

Western Sahara is a territory located between the internationally-recognised borders of Algeria to the south, Mauritania to the east and Morocco to the north. Along with much of North Africa it was colonised by the Spanish State in the latter’s various forms2 from 1884 to 1976.

In 1967 the Harakat Tahrir organisation was formed and challenged Spanish rule peacefully but publicly. In 1970 the Spanish police destroyed the organisation and ‘disappeared’ its founder, Muhammad Basiri, widely believed murdered.

As the Spanish state left without making any arrangements for decolonisation, holding a referendum or handing over power to Saharawi representatives, armies of the Moroccan and Mauritanian states invaded. In response, the Frente Polisario was created, raising armed and political resistance.

Mauritania withdrew in 1979 and revoked its territorial claim but Morocco, supported by France, rather intensified its occupation and attendant repression. Large numbers of Saharawi people fled over the border into Algeria where they currently inhabit refugee camps.

The population is of part-Berber, part-Arabic descent, mostly Muslim in religion and in many aspects of culture. The people are universally at least bilingual, common languages in the occupied area being Arabic and Castilian (Spanish) along with, in the refugee camps in Algeria, Arabic and French3.

The Polisario Front has been resisting the Moroccan occupation from the moment it began in guerrilla war but in 1991 the United Nations brokered a ceasefire which was supposed to be followed by arrangements for the Saharawi people to determine the territory’s future.

All attempts in this direction have failed due to the irreconcilable differences between the objectives of the mass of Sahrawi people on the one hand, i.e self-determination and independence and those of the Moroccan State on the other, colonisation and extraction of natural resources.4

The Moroccan state has built a 2,700 km (1,700 mi) long wall or berm of rocks and sand fortified by bunkers, topped by surveillance and communication equipment. Artillery posts dot the wall with airfields on the Moroccan occupiers’ side.

Running along this is the minefield, the longest in the world. The wall even penetrates the Mauritanean side for several kilometres.

Popular demonstrations of the Saharawi people broke out at different points since, including a “protest camp” of 12,000 people broken up by Moroccan militarised police with disputed claims about numbers of injuries and fatalities and in 2020 more military action against Saharawi protests.

After the latter, the Polisario Front considered that the Moroccan forces had broken the truce and, declaring their own abandonment of it, resumed the guerrilla war last fought in 19915.

DUBLIN MEETING: PRESENTATIONS, SPEECHES AND EXCHANGES
Mark McLoughlin opened the meeting welcoming people and giving a brief overview of the situation of the Saharawi, before introducing the first speaker.

Mark McLoughlin opening the meeting (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Suelma Beirouk,Minister for Social Affairs and the Promotion of Women, spoke briefly in Spanish, with her words interpreted into English. The delegation had been received and listened to by representatives of most of the political parties, she said.

Ms Suelma Beirouk (centre), Minister for Social Affairs and Promotion of Women, speaking with her interpreter (left) and Oubi Bouchraya (right).

They had also met with some civil society organisations and were made welcome. Saharawi women, Ms Beirouk went on to say, were at the forefront of the struggle for the nation’s self-determination and had suffered much – including even rape — but continued to resist.

Mr. Oubi Bouchraya, Polisario representative for the EU and Europe was the next to speak and the main speaker. In fluent English he set out the current international situation regarding Western Sahara and the context of the Delegation’s visit to Ireland.

The speaker pointed to the diplomatic importance of Ireland with its presence in the United Nations Security Council in which the Saharawi would hope for its support when the question of a referendum is due to be discussed there at the end of the month.

The UN has had a mission called MINURSO based in W. Sahara since 1991, the only one in the world without a human rights observation role. If it is not going to oversee that referendum, what is the point of it being there? On the other hand, observing human rights would be useful.

Mr. Oubi Bouchraya speaking (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

As a member of the European Union, Ireland also has an important role to play. The EU’s Ministers negotiated economic agreements with Morocco which included access to resources in Western Sahara. As WS is a non-self-governing colony, by international law, those agreements were illegal.

The European Court of Justice has judged accordingly and, though it allows them to stand temporarily, the agreements must fall, stated Mr. Bouchraya.

Questions, Contributions and Responses

From the floor there was a question as to whether the Polisario could have a national delegation recognised by the Irish government, as had happened in the cases of South Africa before the end of apartheid and currently with Palestine.

This question is being explored by the Saharawi mission. An aide to the South African Ambassador pointed out that that recognition for South Africa and Palestine had been gained as a result of pressure “from the bottom up” and went on to speak of the ANC’s unequivocal support.

South African speaking from the floor, next to his state’s Ambassador. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

A Dublin member of the audience, responding to the need for “bottom-upwards pressure”, related the history of the Western Sahara Action Ireland solidarity group some years ago which had been very active publicly to the extent of being harassed and even threatened by some Moroccans.

The WSAI group had however had suffered a number of departures of activists and with a number also active in other areas of struggle, was unable to maintain itself as an active group. He stated that he believed the group’s necessary reactivation needed an injection of some personnel.

A number of questions addressed the issue of the support for Western Sahara in Africa and generally. Over 80 states formally support the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination and most of those are in Africa, including the formal support of the African Union6.

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)
(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

FOOTNOTES

1Actually this is not accurate since Ceuta and Melilla are both colonial enclaves on the northern and north-eastern coasts of North Africa, surrounded on land by territory of the Kingdom of Morocco. It would be more accurate to say that Western Sahara is the only remaining un-decolonised large territory.

2The Spanish State was a monarchy until it became a French client 1807-1814, followed by monarchy again but interrupted briefly by the First Republic (1873-1874), a monarchy again until the Second Republic in 1931, in which it was briefly a military dictatorship, followed by a Popular Front democracy (1936-1939). A military-fascist rebellion against the Republic led to its defeat and rule by a military dictatorship 1939-1978, then to its current form, a monarchy once more.

3Algeria was colonised by the French in 1830, winning formal independence in 1962 after a fierce national liberation struggle.

4The major natural resources being exploited are the extremely rich fishing off the coast and phosphates being mined on land. Solar energy ‘farms’ are also being run without benefit to the indigenous people and though not discovered yet (“thank God!” commented a Saharawi in a meeting), sources of oil and gas are a possibility.

5And for which there had been sporadic periods of pressure in particular from Saharawi youth.

6Formed in 1963, the African all 55 states currently in Africa.

LINKS

Western Sahara Action Ireland: https://www.facebook.com/groups/256377861125569

Western Sahara Resource Watch: https://www.facebook.com/wsrw.org

https://www.irishtimes.com/politics/2022/10/12/western-saharan-delegation-lobbies-irish-parties-for-diplomatic-recognition/?

30th Anniversary of Irish Centre Celebrated in London Irish Embassy

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Main text reading time: 16 mins.)

In September this year, a commemoration was organised to take place in the Irish Embassy in London. As founder-member and Chairperson of the Lewisham Irish Centre for nearly a decade, I was invited to be one of the speakers.

The LIC was founded in the 1980s, difficult years for the Irish in Britain. The seemingly unlikely vision of its founders was rewarded but there were some challenging and even dangerous years experienced by its supporters.

The event opened with an introduction to the proceedings followed by the Ambassador, Martin Fraser, giving a brief welcome to the packed audience and in a modest speech handing out praise for the Centre’s achievements and longevity, who then introduced me to speak next.

Speakers and performers: L-R Kathleen Sheridan, Diarmuid Breatnach, Jean Kelly, Denis Costello, Eileen Doyle, Ambassador Martin Fraser and Deirdre Fraser, Colm Mackey and Larry Bruce. (Photo sourced: lewishamirish.org with thanks).

SPEECH OF FORMER AND LONGEST-SERVING CHAIRPERSON

Ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil as an gcuireadh ón Ambasadóir chun a bheith i láthair ar an gcomóradh seo, agus d’fhoireann na hAmbasáide as an t-ullmhúchán don ócáid.

I’d like to thank the Ambassador for the invitation to attend and the Embassy’s team for its preparations for the event. Agus don chomhluadar as a bheith i láthair – and to the general attendance here now in which I include my daughter Sorcha, her husband Irwin and my son Kevin.

Diarmuid, Kevin, Sorcha, Irwin.

The founding of the Lewisham Irish Centre, Lár-Ionad na nGael as it came to be called, was an initiative of the Lewisham branch of the Irish in Britain Representation Group, a vibrant group formed in 19811.

The IBRG was founded as the Irish community began to shake off the repressive fear of the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 1974 – a year in which a score of innocent people from our community were jailed in four different cases2 and were to spend decades incarcerated.

I myself didn’t join the IBRG until 1986 which was the same year that its Lewisham branch was founded and I was elected Secretary of the branch. At the same meeting, a number of objectives were set out, which included the obtaining of a centre for our community.

AN IRISH CENTRE IN 1980s BRITAIN

Setting out to win an Irish Centre in 1980s Britain could be viewed as a daunting task. Blatant anti-Irish racism seemed to be everywhere and was considered acceptable in the media and in many quarters of British society3. And of course the war was still going on – very much so.

True, in London we had the Greater London Council4 which had helped the Irish community open centres and projects in a number of places in North and West London — and there was an Irish project in Greenwich – but there was no Irish centre in the whole of South London.

Furthermore, although Lewisham had an Irish ethnic minority population in significant numbers, it was not anecdotally known for such, despite containing for many years the Harp dance hall and many Irish pubs, some with weekly Irish trad music sessions.

The Irish were not then recognised as an ethnic minority by Lewisham Council or by the local Race Equality Forum or, indeed, as a diaspora, by the British Race Relations Board. Nor practically by the first Race Relations Act of 1965, which made it illegal to spread racial hatred — but not racial contempt and ridicule.

The next Race Relations Act, of 1968, made discrimination in employment and housing illegal, arguably the principal areas in which Irish and black people faced discrimination — but it was to be some time before an Irish person succeeded in a case taken under the Act.

The Race Relations Act of 1976 extended the prohibition of discrimination to provision of training and provision of facilities and services.

Throughout, the dissemination of lies, ridicule and contempt continued to be legal and also one could not take a case on behalf of the injured community, only on behalf of an individual.

The first time an ethnicity question was included in the UK Census – as distinct from “place of birth” – was in 1991 and the Irish were excluded, despite being the longest-established and largest ethnic minority within Britain.

The exclusion was also despite lobbying by the IBRG and by a number of Irish community projects.

It wasn’t until 2001 that “Irish” and “Irish Traveller” became available as ethnic categories on the UK census forms, by which time the IBRG had most local authorities in Britain signed up to agreement on ethnic monitoring with an Irish category.

Section of the crowd at the event (Photo sourced: lewishamirish.org with thanks)

MY PERSONAL INVOLVEMENT

Back in 1986 I had returned to live in the Lewisham borough after an absence of a few years and, after Thatcher’s abolition of the Inner London Education Authority, I was transferred as a part-time youthworker to Lewisham Council’s Education Department5.

I was also active in the local branch of the trade union NALGO, later to become after a number of mergers, UNISON. As I said earlier, that was also the year I joined Lewisham IBRG.

The Lewisham branch of the Irish in Britain Representation Group, to further its aim of obtaining an Irish Community Centre, set up an Irish Centre Steering Group in which a number of Irish pensioners and younger members took part and I was elected its Chairperson.

Given its origins, the original Steering Group was 100% composed of IBRG members.

Meanwhile, the IBRG branch got on with other work, including getting Lewisham’s Adult Education department to provide classes in Irish culture, including language, dance and history, lobbying the Council on services and other issues.

These included opposing anti-Irish racism (and indeed any other kind of racism) and campaigning for the abolition of the Prevention of Terrorism Act6.

LÁR-IONAD NA NGAEL

Another section of the crowd at the event (Photo sourced: lewishamirish.org with thanks)

Nearly six years later, largely I think through lobbying led by Teresa Burke, an active Labour Party member, a member of the IBRG and of the Lewisham Irish Pensioners’ Association, which the IBRG had founded, the long-disused building of Davenport Hall in Catford was made available by Lewisham Council to the Irish community.

For weeks and months the Steering Group debated a constitution, discussed the facilities, looked at design plans, watched the original budget get cut – twice – and stipulated wire screens on all the windows7, discussed staffing and placed job advertisements.

The Group also processed applications, interviewed applicants, drew up funding applications and agreed a logo — for which I’m proud to say my design was accepted.

Logo of the Lár-Ionad na nGael/ Lewisham Irish Centre, designed by D.Breatnach

Six years after the initial meeting of the Lewisham branch of the IBRG, the Centre had its grand opening to a capacity (some might say over-capacity!) invitation-only crowd in 1992 and among those present were Joseph Small, the Irish Ambassador of the time.

Also there were then Labour MEPs Jim Dowd and Richard Balfe (now Conservative member of the House of Lords) and local labour MP Joan Ruddock. The then Mayor of Lambeth attended and of course a number of Lewisham Councillors, many if not all of Irish descent.

And the Chair and Vice-Chair of Meath Urban District Council in Ireland, birthplace of Jim Connell, author of the lyrics of the Red Flag, who came to present a piece of stone from Connell’s home.

Jim Connell was living in Stondon Park in Lewisham when he composed the lyrics and there’s a plaque on his house commemorating that fact — which we also had a hand in doing8.

Plaque on home of Jim Connell from Meath. The Lewisham Branch of the IBRG requested adding the words “Irish Republican” but the latter word did not make it on to the plaque. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

After the speeches, the Irish music and Irish dancing exhibition, we got down to managing the centre. The Steering Group had six months to go before an AGM of members of the newly-opened centre would elect a management committee.

That was a democratic stipulation we had set ourselves, seeking as wide a representation as possible from the community.

When the six months were up, the AGM was held and surprise surprise, more or less the same people from the Steering Group were elected on to the new Management Committee. The Committee members in turn, did me the honour of electing me again as Chairperson.

I was elected annually to that position until about 2001 I think when, after two attempts I finally managed to get out of it — but remained on the Management Committee until I returned to Ireland in the summer of 2003 to manage a hostel for street drinkers.

By that time Lewisham IBRG had proposed that the Irish Pensioners’ sub-group become independent, which it did and affiliated to the Lár-Ionad in its own right, as did also the IBRG branch.

Both groups were the original community groups affiliated to the Centre and were followed afterwards by an Irish step-dancing school that held classes in the Lár-Ionad.

For most of those years, those were all the affiliated groups although later and for a short while, a local Irish accordion marching band also affiliated.

OVERVIEW OF EVENTS & SERVICES

The Lár-Ionad held or facilitated a plethora of activities and events: Irish step-dance classes through Tony Tyrel; set-dancing classes9; social functions including céilíthe and the Sth. London St. Patrick’s Day Parade for a number of years, each one with a different theme.

Photo of the South London St. Patrick’s Day Parade which ran for four years. It is shown parading through Lewisham on its way back to the Irish Centre passing the public baths building. (Photo sourced LIC archives with thanks)

It also founded Lewisham Irish Week and ran activities during it; a weekly advice service; weekly pensioners’ social meetings; conferences on issues affecting the Irish community; meetings; lobbying for an Irish ethnic minority category ….

The IBRG branch organised a weekly Children’s Irish Art & History Group and produced two plays, ran an annual Children’s Irish Hallowe’en Party and also organised historical commemorations and talks.

In addition the hire of the hall was made available for other communities and organisations though quite early on we stipulated there be no religious services of any kind in the hall.

The Celtic Cross Accordion Band back at the LIG after participating in the SL St. Patrick’s Parade (Photo sourced: lewishamirish.org with thanks)

CHALLENGES

Work in any community will have its rewards and challenges and any migrant community in the 1980s and 1990s would have those as well as ones related to being an Irish community.

There were tensions with sections of the local Irish community who saw the Irish Centre perhaps as upstarts, or might have felt they should control the Centre. There were at times too of tensions within the management committee itself, which is not surprising.

However twice during the early years I felt obliged to threaten resignation as Chairperson if proposals which I felt went against our Constitution were carried10.

I was of course accused of blackmail but a Chairperson is, above all other committee members, a guardian of the constitution and I was glad the proposals were withdrawn.

Most of the time we got along very well and did an enormous amount of work, really, looking back on it now.

The Irish World Heritage pipe band back at the LIG after the South London St. Patrick’s Parade (Photo sourced: lewishamirish.org with thanks)

THREATS – ARSON AND FUNDING WITHDRAWAL

The other threats we faced were external. One year the advertised annual 1916 Rising commemoration event held in the Centre11 came to the attention of an individual who had tragically lost a son in the Omagh bombing.

He called the Centre’s Manager to have the event cancelled, which he naturally declined to do, after which the man rang the Council and not getting the response he wished, got on to the media.

I received a phone call from the centre’s Manager at my job, then managing a hostel12 in the Kings Cross area, that we were in the evening newspaper supposedly holding an “IRA commemoration” and had to leave work hurriedly to get back to Lewisham.

The Council spokesperson had by now panicked and was promising the media an investigation of the Centre’s funding13. The band hired to play at the commemoration also exhibited an absence of backbone and pulled out.

However, the event went ahead – albeit under our high security conditions – and everyone in attendance indignantly refused to have their ticket money refunded and organised their own entertainment from musicians in attendance.14

Subsequently we had an arson attack which burned a hole in the building’s front door and I was so glad I had insisted on wire mesh screens for the windows.

We faced a period of our intruder alarm being repeatedly set off, requiring attendance by key-holding members of the Management Committee, and had to lobby the council to install CCTV cameras on the exterior. Which they did and the alarm-setting ceased.

The next external threat was the later and unrelated round of savage council funding cuts throughout the Lewisham NGO sector. The removal of the funding for our Manager – our only full-time member of staff — would have crippled the Centre.

We lobbied the Councillors by letter and by attending Council meetings, also held rallies outside the Town Hall and had Irish step-dancers in attendance in full costume, which of course made interesting photos for the local newspapers.

I am glad that the threat of cuts was finally withdrawn from the Centre, though it certainly could do with — and deserves — more funding. Hopefully it will never be threatened again.

Lewisham Council does now recognise the Irish as an ethnic minority within the borough and collects statistics on its representation in the Council’s employment and service take-up.

Diarmuid Breatnach speaking at the event (Photo sourced: Sorcha Ford with thanks)

PERSONAL NOTE

In conclusion, I want to put on record my earnest go raibh míle maith agaibh to the Lár-Ionad’s Staff, for their sticking with the Centre, in particular our first and wonderful Centre Manager, Brendan O’Rourke15 and our first caretaker Michael Naughton.

Also our first advice worker Tom Devine and subsequent and current advice worker Kathleen Sheridan(who is somehow these days managing that job at the same time as managing the Centre!). And who did a great job in liaison with the Embassy for this commemoration.

I’d like to pay tribute to the early members of the Irish Lewisham Pensioners’ Association, Irish Centre Steering Group and later Management Committee.

Muriel Perry, Ellen Baczor, Kathleen Henry, Molly Kennedy, Peter Sexton, and especially Teresa Burke, those survivors of Irish emigration to Britain in the 1930s and 40s, all now passed on, who worked hard, often in jobs considered menial.

They paid their taxes in Britain and still sent money home to their families in Ireland. From the 1940s up to the 1960s, those remittances formed a significant portion of the economy of the Irish state.

I remember some of their stories: Kathleen Henry, a Presbyterian by religion, telling me that her forebears “were out” in the 1798 Uprising; Teresa Burke failing to catch a bus in wartime Lewisham and seeing a Nazi bomb blow it up further down the road.

Muriel Perry telling me that Catholics in her Belfast area during the same war were refused dole and encouraged to go to England.

Teresa Burke again, arguing with me that I should vote Labour and, at her husband’s funeral, bursting out laughing to see me in a suit for the first time in all the years she had known me.

As we say back home, I lift a stone to place on each of their cairns.

I want to acknowledge also later management committee members — and hopefully all surviving — Patrick Codd, Raymond Barnes, Brian Fitzgerald and Tony Urquhart16.

Also to raise a symbolic glass to the broad Irish community, with all its exasperations but also its persistence and in many ways, heroism, to activists of the now-defunct Irish in Britain Representation Group, both nationally and in Lewisham.

Also to my part-time Lewisham youth-work boss Malcolm Ball, recently taken well before his time, who understood my commitment to the Irish community and accommodated it.

This is only the second time I have attended an event at the Embassy …. I was indeed more often outside it, protesting actions or inaction of the Irish Government17.

I was inside the Embassy once another time getting emergency help with a temporary passport18 when the Embassy official kindly attended on a weekend to sort me out. A thousand thanks to him too, wherever he may be now.

Mar fhocal scoir, ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil arísleis an Ambasadóir, an t-Uasal Martin Fraser agus le foireann na hAmbasáide as an t-ullmhúchán don ócáid.

Finally, I’d like to thank again the Ambassador for the invitation to attend and the Embassy’s team for its preparations for the event. And to you all for listening.

Sin a bhfuil uaimse anois – that’s all from me now, you’ll no doubt be glad to hear.

OTHER CONTRIBUTIONS

CHAIR OF THE TRUSTEES

Colum Mackey gave a report on the financial situation of the Centre and its services, in terms of donations and grants received. He also reported on activities and organisations with which the Centre is now connected and also thanked staff and the membership of centre’s Board of Trustees (the management committee as trustees of its charity status).

CEO (CURRENT MANAGER AND ADVICE WORKER)

Kathleen Sheridan began her talk with an Irish-language proverb: Ní neart go cur le chéile (meaning that strength comes from united effort) and continued in a warm acknowledgement of the work of employees and volunteers, naming so many of them, and also the Meals on Wheels voluntary service in the area and the Southwark Irish groups with which they had relations.

HARPIST AND SINGERS

Jean Kelly gave a warm and interesting address relating how during the Covid lockdown she had found a Friday morning Zoom session with people in the Centre so very rewarding. She then went on to perform Jimmy a Stór and The Last Rose of Summer on the harp.

Three pensioners – Denis Costello, Eileen Doyle & Larry Bruce — succeeded one another on to the stage to render a song: The Bold Thady O’Quill, When Irish Eyes Are Smiling and Dublin In the Rare Aul’ Times.

PERSONAL REFLECTION

My family members were impressed by the whole event and I received some compliments on my speech, including from the Ambassador; the latter’s wife Deirdre was most gracious.

Some decades ago I am sure that in the unlikely event of my having received a similar invitation, the reception would have been a good deal frostier.

It was curious how many people, including those who had been members or even in management of the Centre in succeeding years, said that they had been unaware of the events to which I referred in my speech.

Old friends and colleagues meet for the first time in decades: Brendan O’Rourke, Raymond Barnes, Brian Fitzgerald, Elizabeth Nicholls, Diarmuid Breatnach. (Photo sourced: Raymond Barnes with thanks)

This was of course sufficient reason on its own for relating them but it is sad how communities can lose their history or have it obscured.

It was great to briefly catch up with people I knew but eventually had to tear myself away and depart with my family members.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1 I didn’t relate this but it was fairly well known at the time that the Federation of Irish Societies, a bourgeois and conservative Irish association (and the one with which the Embassy of the time preferred to have dealings) had their AGM in May 1981, during which the death of Volunteer (and MP) Bobby Sands became known. An attempt to have the meeting record a vote of sympathy for Sands’ family was ruled out of order by the Chair. Subsequently, Breandán Mac Alua, then Editor of the Irish community newspaper The Irish Post, wrote in his Dolan column that perhaps there was a need in Britain for a different and more assertive type of Irish community organisation. Subsequently community activists got together and formed the Irish in Britain Representation Group which, at its height, had a number of branches in London and individual branches in Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Coventry, Leeds, Manchester and NE Lancs. The Irish Post was very supportive of the IBRG during Mac Alua’s editorship.

2 The Birmingham Six, Guildford Four, Maguire Seven and Judith Ward were the most prominent of those.

3 Many incidents of anti-Irish racism were recorded and no doubt hundreds of thousands of others went unrecorded during this period and earlier. The Comedians TV series regularly featured ‘comic’ material belittling the Irish, newspapers including dailies did so too, including brutish caricatures, while TV soaps and drama series regularly included a violent Irish character (usually the only Irish character in the episode). And of course the ongoing war was reported with heavy anti-‘Nationalist’ bias and much violence towards that community unreported. The Prevention of Terrorism (sic) Act was specifically aimed at terrorising the Irish community to disrupt its activities of solidarity with the Irish struggle.

4 Led by Ken Livingstone with John McDonnell as Deputy, it was abolished by Thatcher in 1986, who then went on to abolish the Inner London Education Authority four years later in 1990.

5 I had already been working as a part-time youthworker in Lewisham but under the ILEA and had also worked in Haringey. As a part-time adult education tutor the ILEA had also employed me in Lewisham, briefly in Haringey and Southwark, while the London Borough of Newham (outside the ILEA) also employed me in that capacity. At times some of those posts were concurrent but not all.

6 It also included asking Councillors to oppose the then strip-searching of Volunteers Ella O’Brien and Martina Anderson and, as part of the overall IBRG, campaigning for Irish solidarity and British withdrawal, against plastic bullets, transfer for Irish political prisoners to Ireland and other issues. However, I left those out of my speech.

7 This was an especially strong recommendation by myself – the windows were tall on one side of the hall of which the floorboards were in wood. We were to have reason to be grateful for those wire screens.

8 For a while the LB of Lewisham employed a decent man as local historian archivist and he proposed the placing of the plaque on the house (with the permission of the owners) and notified Lewisham IBRG of the intention and wording. We responded and asked him to include “Irish Republican and author”, all of which — excluding the words “Republican” — were duly included. On the day of its unveiling a very small group attended to hear Gordon Brown MP give a speech and hear the Tannenbaum air played by trumpet. I jumped up on a nearby low wall and addressed them too, pointing out that as well as being a communist, Jim Connell had been an Irish Republican and would have strongly opposed the war against Irish people being conducted by British governments. I sent an account to the Irish Post which wrote it up in its Dolan column.

9 For those who might not know, Irish set-dancing is a form requiring four (or multiples of) pairs, dancing to different Irish traditional airs and completing patterns, taking a short rest and commencing on the next pattern. Originating with the quadrilles of Napoleonic France, set-dances have reached as far as Cuba, though of course to different bodies of music. Although one would usually encounter perhaps only between five of them, an enthusiast once told me that there are 50 different Irish set dances!

10 At this point I can only remember one of those: Some leading members of a local Irish group had been bad-mouthing the Centre and at least one Management Committee member wanted the organisation’s application for membership of the Centre refused. I did not agree with the action proposed and was also sure our Constitution gave no right to refuse membership of an organisation due to the behaviour of some of its members.

11 Lewisham IBRG had been commemorating that event since 1987 and at Lár-Ionad na nGael, as an affiliated organisation, since 1983, without any difficulties.

12 For active drug-users.

13 The IBRG branch called on Lewisham Council to apologise and retract their remarks; they never replied nor apologised. We also wrote to the Irish Post denouncing the Council’s reaction but I had to use an assumed name so as not to implicate the Management Committee, of which I was not only a member but Chairperson and Trustee.

14 The response of the attendance was heart-warming. There was a sequel to this a few days later when I and Brian Fitzgerald confronted and shamed the band at a gig they were playing in a pub not far away. I have written about this separately.

15 It was wonderful to see Brendan in attendance.

16 The latter three were very much alive and indeed in attendance.

17 For example, extradition of Republicans from the Irish state to the Six Counties colony or to Britain (e.g Dessie Ellis and Róisín McAlliskey).

18 One does not require a passport for entry into Britain from the Irish state, only acceptable forms of ID (as with the EU). Some carriers however, such as Ryanair, insist on a passport for travellers.

LINKS

lewishamirish.org.uk

BROADLY SPEAKING

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: One min.)

“Unity Is Strength” (Image sourced: Internet)

Oh, hey! We’ve started a broad front to fight this struggle.

Oh, who’s running it?

Just some of us. Independents mostly. How about you and your party joining it?

Is that (xxxxxxx redacted) party in your broad front?

They’re thinking about it.

We couldn’t join it if they were in it.

Funnily enough, the guy I spoke to said the same thing about your party.

Well, there you go.

What do you mean “there you go”? Are you interested in joining a broad front or not?

Yes, of course but ….

But only if your party is in charge, is that it?

Now, hold on! I didn’t say …..

….. ….. ….. ….. …..

Hey, we’ve started a broad front to fight this struggle. Lots of people are joining. How about you and your party?

Hmm … Who’s in it?

(xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx redacted).

Those Lefties are in it? They’re not serious – just middle class young people mostly, going through a stage ….

But weren’t you saying just last week that we need a united front? Of all kinds of people?

Yeah but not with the likes of them! It would be a waste of time.

….. ….. ….. ….. …..

We’ve started a broad front to fight this struggle. It would be good if you and your party joined it.

Those Republicans are in it, right? Some of them are being investigated for trying to organise an armed group.

Doesn’t mean they really are doing that, though. Besides, it’s their open political group that joined it.

No sorry, we can’t be associated with them.

But haven’t you been telling me for ages that we need a united front? Really need one?

Yeah but not with the likes of them! That would be too dangerous.

End.

IMPERIALIST NARRATIVE IN ‘OBJECTIVE REPORTING’

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 4 mins.)

“Palestinian gunman wounds two Israelis in Jerusalem shooting” proclaims the headline. We don’t have to worry trying to figure out whose side we’re expected to be on, who’s in the wrong and who in the right. It’s right there in the headline.

“Gunman” is a heavy clue and the fact that the two he wounded are just “Israelis” – we are led to believe just ordinary civilians – does the rest of the job. That is, if indeed we are not somehow already prejudiced against Palestinians and in favour of Israelis.

However, should we bother to read further, we find that two of the wounded were far from being harmless civilians but in fact an Israeli soldier and a security guard, certainly armed for their job (even Israeli Jewish civilians are routinely permitted to carry firearms).1

The2 report tells us that the soldier was a woman. Why is this relevant? Like male soldiers, she was a serving member of the Israeli Zionist occupation armed forces, misleadingly named “Defence Forces”. Zionist female soldiers are present at all levels and all theatres of war.3

It is difficult to avoid the suspicion that this is being inserted in order to mitigate the impact of revelation that it was a soldier who was shot, which might possibly lessen sympathy for the victims on that score.

Perhaps the fact that the Palestinian in question appears to have initiated the incident justifies the appellation of “gunman”? OK, when Israeli armed forces initiate an action, do we ever see “Israeli gunmen open fire on Palestinians”?

Scene of shooting of two Israeli Zionist armed forces on Saturday in Jerusalem, one fatally (Photo credit: PA Images)

Certainly not in mainstream western media. And not just because of bias towards state armed forces, because even when the shooters are Israeli Zionist civilians, they are never called “gunmen”. And such incidents occurred on a monthly basis recently.4

MOTIVE, BACKGROUND, CONTEXT

Moving away from the actual incident, what about the background and context? “Israel already has been carrying out daily arrest raids in the occupied West Bank since a series of Palestinian attacks last spring killed 19 Israelis” the report informs us.

So the Palestinian “gunman” could have had an understandable motive in responding to Israeli Zionist oppression and repression but in case we should sympathise with him, we are reminded that “Palestinian attacks last spring killed 19 Israelis.”

After conditioning with that paragraph, the report gives us more recent possible motivation for the attack (even then, note the attempted justification for actions of “Israeli forces” fighting “gunmen” and “militants”).

“Earlier on Saturday, the Israeli military shot and killed two Palestinian teenagers during an arrest raid in the Jenin refugee camp, the site of repeated clashes between Israeli forces and local gunmen and residents. The camp is known as a stronghold of Palestinian militants.”

Body of 16-year-old Palestinian Ahmad Daraghmeh killed by Zionist Israeli soldiers carried in protest mourning. Also killed with him were Mahmoud as-Sous, 18. (Photo credit: Agence France Press)

“Palestinian officials said soldiers entered the camp early on Saturday and surrounded a house. In videos circulated on social media, exchanges of fire could be heard. The Palestinian Health Ministry reported two dead and 11 wounded, three of them critically.”

And let’s put that “killing of 19 Israelis” last spring in context too: Last year, “as a result of the violence, at least 256 Palestinians, including 66 children, were killed … In Israel, at least 13 people were killed, including two children”5. A search of any year will find a similar or worse story.

SOME OF THE TRUTH

Occasionally, we are supplied with truth, as when the report informs us that “Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed the area in a move that is not recognised internationally.”

“It considers the entire city, including east Jerusalem, home to the city’s most important holy sites, to be its capital. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.” Nor is East Jerusalem the only area occupied by Israel judged illegally by “international law”.6

But even this is partial truth because, whether “recognised internationally” or not, the whole territory of the state of Israel is an occupation by force of Palestinian land by European settlers in 1948, backed by some world superpowers and a constant source of conflict there ever since.

MAKING SENSE OF CONFLICTS

Context is crucial to understanding events but justification is a moral and practical judgement7 according to the standpoint of those doing the judging and evaluation. Clearly the standpoint of an occupier and a person displaced — an occupier and the oppressor – can never be the same.

It follows that those who support the occupier and more certainly invest in its support, are going to be biased against the displaced, the oppressed and repressed. The world’s biggest superpower, the USA, supports Israel hugely militarily, financially and politically.

The states of the world and their controlling elites are well aware of the balance of power and, for the moment, most support the superpower. This is even more so in the case of the geo-political area designated “the West”, location of most mainstream media agencies’ headquarters.

The bias is clear if we take the trouble to analyse and we’ll find it not only in the reporting on the Israeli Zionist state and the Palestinians but on all other conflicts, to greater or lesser degree. What stand we take depends on whether we align ourselves with the oppressor or the oppressed.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1See “Gun-carrying for Israeli citizens” in Sources.

2She has since died and headlines are now including her gender.

3“ … today women make up only about 40% of conscript soldiers and 25% of the office (sic officer?) corps.” This despite Orthodox Jewish men objecting to serve in the company of female soldiers https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/israel-defense-forces

4See “Absence of “gunman” when an Israeli Zionist civilian is the shooter” in Sources. Note that all these reports were taken from media sources one might suppose not sympathetic to Israeli Zionism; a quick search of Reuters only brought up a 2012 reference to such an incident and of Associated Press, not even one on the first search page.

5https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2021_Israel%E2%80%93Palestine_crisis#:~:text=As%20a%20result%20of%20the,were%20killed%2C%20including%20two%20children.

6Syria’s Golan Heights are one such as are the settlements on lands grabbed after the founding of the Israeli state: https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2022/03/israels-55-year-occupation-palestinian-territory-apartheid-un-human-rights

7Moral, as in do we think it wrong or right according to moral principles; practical as in whether we can show it works.

SOURCES

The report being analysed: https://www.breakingnews.ie/world/palestinian-gunman-wounds-two-israelis-in-jerusalem-shooting-1374673.html

Gun-carrying for Israeli citizens: https://www.ojp.gov/ncjrs/virtual-library/abstracts/israel-has-successful-gun-control-policy-gun-control-p-248-251-1992

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/9/12/israels-eased-gun-laws-palestinian-fear-over-new-gun-permits

Absence of “gunman” when an Israeli Zionist civilian is the shooter: https://www.dci-palestine.org/israeli_settler_soldier_shoot_and_kill_palestinian_boy

https://english.wafa.ps/Pages/Details/130104

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/palestinian-boy-shot-dead-israeli-settler-east-ramallah

https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-palestinians-israel-violence-idUKBRE84P0BE20120526

Female Israeli Zionist soldiers: https://www.lawfareblog.com/female-service-idf-challenge-integrated-army

Recent background to current incident report: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-62445951

REVOLUTIONARY BLOC AS PART OF HUGE COST OF LIVING PROTEST

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 4mins.)

Many thousands marched through Dublin’s city centre yesterday in protest against the soaring cost of living, pushed in particular by rising energy costs. Most mass media avoided estimating numbers except the ridiculous ‘estimate’ of 3,000 by the Irish Times daily1.

As the Cost of Living Coalition convened a mass protest demonstration in Dublin, the Anti-Imperialist Action organisation called for a Revolutionary Bloc to meet at the James Connolly monument2 in Beresford Place.

In mid-July, statistics published showed the average cost of living had risen above 9%. The average figure conceals the higher percentage rise in daily consumables such as food and drink that will rise higher still with price hikes by energy supply companies.

Companies are raising their prices steeply across at least the western world in a trend that began, despite much media discourse, prior to the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. But Ireland emerges as the most expensive country in the EU with Dublin the most expensive city there by far3.

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

SPEECHES FOR REVOLUTION & AGAINST REPRESSION

At the Connolly monument, people gathered with banners about the housing struggle and against NATO, along with placards and flags, of which latter the most common was the green-and-gold version of the “Starry Plough”, flag of the Irish Citizen Army4.

The cathaoirleach (chairperson) welcomed people, introduced the purpose of the meeting as being to protest the soaring cost of living and introduced the first speaker, from the Revolutionary Housing League. The RHL speaker outlined their program of direct action.

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

“What can be more direct than to occupy empty buildings?” he asked those assembled. He recounted some of the recent actions of the RHL and said that they are attracting attention and support, ending by calling on others to get involved5.

The second speaker, introduced as a revolutionary socialist anti-imperialist, went through a list of ills brought by the capitalist system, including lack of housing, selling off our resources and infrastructure, disregard for our language, environmental destruction and danger of nuclear war.

For all said the speaker, the Irish national bourgeoisie are guilty, “the Gombeens, a class unable even to free their own country”. “We need broad fronts to fight all these attacks of class war”, he said “but they must be directed openly against capitalism and imperialism.”

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The final speaker, a socialist Republican, represented the newly-formed End State Repression campaign group. Those wanting to oppose rising prices, he emphasised, could not share their struggle with those intending to enter a coalition with Fiann Fáil or Fine Gael.

He also recalled how when protests against the bank bailouts and student fee hikes were getting going in 2010, they were met with state violence through the Gardaí. As the resistance builds, it will get attacked, he said but “we can’t allow them to drive us off the streets again.”

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Many drivers passing the rally in vehicles, private and of work – including public transport — sounded their horns in solidarity, giving rise to cheers from the protesters.

MARCH TO BLACKWATER

The assembled then set off in two lines along Custom House Quay, across Talbot Memorial Bridge and then eastward along the quays. On the way they shouted slogans including “One, two, three, four – Housing crisis no more!” and “Only solution: Revolution!”

Revolutionary Bloc outside Blackwater’s offices (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Other slogans include “Whose streets? Our streets!” “Whose Republic? Our Republic!” and “High rent, high taxes – fight back!”

The marchers stopped upon reaching the offices Blackwater Asset Management Company which boasts its background in “coming from the following sectors, Police Force, Legal Profession, Defence Forces, Financial Services & Private Security sectors”.

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)
(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The crowd expressed its disapproval of the actions of this company. A speaker assured all that any attack on housing activists will be met with resistance. Two songs were sung there too, including Connolly’s Be Moderate/ We Only Want the Earth.6

THE BLOC MEETS THE MAIN MARCH

The Bloc marchers passed through the high-rise apartment blocs in the area before going on to Pearse Street and marching to the junction with D’Olier Street, where they met the main march of many thousands7 rounding Trinity College and still coming down from O’Connell Street.

Here the revolutionary bloc displayed their banners and placards and chanted some slogans. Many in the crowd marching past gave signs of appreciation and people in an anarchist bloc shouted “Solidarity”, raising clenched fists, giving rise to equal response from the Bloc8.

Section of the main cost of living protest march in D’Olier Street and rounding junction with Pearse Street. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The large Sinn Féin9 section aroused shouts of “No Collusion! One Solution! Revolution!” from the Bloc. The earlier slogan of “1,2,3,4 – Housing crisis no more!” segued for awhile into “5,6,7,8 – Smash the Free State!”

The main Dublin march was organised by the Cost of Living Coalition of 30 organisations, including People Before Profit but also Sinn Féin, which is on a clear trajectory to enter Government in the near future but in coalition with traditional neo-liberal capitalist political parties.

Revolutionary Bloc meets main march at junction Pearse Street and D’Olier Street. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The CLC also includes trade unions which many accused of not mobilising for the protest.

Derry city saw a small protest against the rising cost of living also.

A far-Right march in Cork which was addressed by a representative of the fascist National Party attracted little more than 150. Ostensibly against the housing crisis, speakers of course attacked immigration despite it having no connection to the State failure to build affordable public housing.

FB speeded up video of entire main march (recommend mute the sound): https://www.facebook.com/michael.caul.56/videos/3279662202295870

A marcher in Dublin carrying a placard calling for an end to immigration until the housing crisis were solved gave rise to a chorus of “Home for All!” from the Revolutionary Bloc, calls echoed by some among the passing marchers.

Anarchist section in the main march indicating solidarity with the Revolutionary Bloc. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Gardaí on foot and in patrol cars tailing the main march were greeted, as they passed the Revolutionary Bloc, with shouts linking Drew Harris10, Commissioner of the police force of the Irish State, to the British Intelligence Service MI5.

A notable feature of both marches was the patience with the interruption to their journeys of private and public transport drivers and, indeed, the signs of support from many, including beeping of horns and hand signals such as the ‘thumbs-up’ and even the occasional clenched fist.

end.

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

FOOTNOTES

1The Irish Times has a track record of drastically reducing the estimated numbers in reports of anti-government demonstrations, demonstrated most strikingly during the giant water protest marches. It gave the figure 3,000 in leading paragraph to its original twitter report but more recently amended that on line to “several thousand”. The Sunday Mirror reported 20,000 and supporters estimated between 15,000 and 20,000.

2The monument includes a representation in bronze of the Scottish-Irish revolutionary James Connolly, across the road from where he had his office in Liberty Hall (the two-storey building was destroyed by British shelling in 1916 and has since been replaced by a tall man-storey building, HQ of the SIPTU union. Connolly was one of 16 executed by the British in 1916 after the Rising that year.

3See statistics in Useful Links, including https://www.independent.ie/business/personal-finance/irelands-cost-of-living-soars-above-eu-average-as-new-report-reveals-just-how-much-prices-are-rising-41774596.html

4The ICA was formed to defend striking workers from police attacks during the 1913 Lockout in Dublin. It was based on trade union membership and took a prominent role in the 1916 Rising, with a much-reduced one in the War of Independence (1919-1921) and the ensuing Civil War (1922-1923). The ICA recruited women as well as men and some of the women held officer positions, possibly the first revolutionary organisation, certainly the first socialist-based one to do so.

5See https://rebelbreeze.com/2022/09/22/concert-in-occupied-building-murals-pickets-and-court-cases-the-revolutionary-housing-league-spreads-the-fight/

6The lyrics were composed by James Connolly and published in hist Songs of Freedom in New York in 1907. The title was the ironic “Be Moderate” but has come to be known from the refrain as “We Only Want the Earth”. Furthermore, arranged to the air of “A Nation Once Again”, it provides a chorus of “We Only Want the Earth!”

7Most media would only state “thousands” or “many thousands”, but the Irish Times had the audacity to claim the ridiculously low number of 3,000! Estimates by participants varied from 10,000 to 20,000 (latter also figure of the Sunday Mirror).

8It seemed likely that had the Revolutionary Bloc been widely publicised earlier that it would have been supported by many individuals and at some other organisations.

9The former revolutionary republican party rarely mobilises its large membership for street protests as these days it is more concerned with votes in elections. However, SF is part of the Cost of Living Coalitionand SF’s President, Mary Lou MacDonald, was one of the scheduled speakers at the main march rally.

10Immediately prior to his current appointment, Drew Harris was Deputy Chief Constable of the sectarian British colonial gendarmerie, the Police Force of Northern Ireland which, until 2001, was the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

USEFUL LINKS

Anti-Imperialist Action:

End State Repression campaign:

Mass media march reports: https://www.irishmirror.ie/news/irish-news/cost-living-protest-live-updates-28070843

https://www.sundayworld.com/news/irish-news/crowd-of-20000-march-through-dublin-city-centre-in-massive-protest-over-cost-of-living-crisis/1154985225.html

Other reports: https://www.facebook.com/michael.caul.56/videos/3279662202295870

Cost of living statistics: https://www.expatistan.com/cost-of-living/country/ireland

https://www.independent.ie/business/personal-finance/irelands-cost-of-living-soars-above-eu-average-as-new-report-reveals-just-how-much-prices-are-rising-41774596.html

https://www.irishtimes.com/business/economy/2022/07/14/inflation-hits-38-year-peak-of-91-as-cost-of-living-crisis-worsens/

THE REVOLUTIONARY HOUSING LEAGUE SPREADS THE FIGHT — concert in occupied building, murals, pickets and court appearances

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 6 mins.)

For a group that first came into public view on May 1st with an occupation of a building empty for two years, the Revolutionary Housing League has certainly been busy. At least two further acquisitions1 have followed since.

In addition, a hundred police with vehicles and helicopter have been videoed in one eviction of two activists; four activists have appeared defiantly in court in different cases and the High Court has granted injunction to companies against activists.

As I write this another eviction is being planned, resistance is being organised and further repression through courts and jail seem certain. The RHL are fighting the system, fighting a fundamental social wrong acknowledged by almost everyone.

SHORT HISTORY OF THE REVOLUTIONARY HOUSING LEAGUE

In 1st May 2022 activists acquired Lefroy House on Dublin’s Eden Quay, formerly used by the religious-based NGO, the Salvation Army to provide night-beds for young homeless people but empty for two years. The activists renamed the building Connolly2 House.

A decorated tile at the door of Connolly House in May/June 2022 (Photo: D.Breatnach)

At that time the occupiers were calling themselves the Revolutionary Workers’ Union though their council subsequently formed the Revolutionary Housing League.

The Salvation Army took the occupants to court, claiming the SA had been renovating the house in order to accommodate Ukrainian refugees. Despite the absence of evidence of any renovation work and the presence of a leaky roof (fixed by the activists!), the court granted the injunction.

The occupiers called for a rally against eviction on 2nd June and a large crowd of people of various political backgrounds, organisations and independents, arrived to support but of course, the eviction forces could wait and choose their time.

Musician performing and section of crowd at rally against eviction outside Connolly House (Photo: D.Breatnach)

On June 9th at 5.45 a.m early passers-by were amazed to see 100 Gardaí3 with a number of vehicles, supported by a helicopter, including armed police4, assault the building to take posession of it for the SA and to arrest two activist occupants. A video of the event taken by a passer-by went viral.

Eviction video: https://www.facebook.com/JamesConnollyHouse/videos/2172514896242639

Both activists were later released on their own surety bail to await court process and the building was fortified against being retaken. To this date it remains empty.

On 13th June, the housing activists convened a protest picket outside Store Street Garda station.

Picket on Store Street Garda Station following eviction of James Connolly House (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Story of Connolly House: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSL453gVHAg

The RHL had acquired another site5, this one having been a building for homeless people of the municipality, Dublin City Council, but also empty for a long period. On June 10th Gardaí arrested two activists near the building and they too are being processed by the courts.

After that, the RHL occupied a large warehouse-type building on the very north bank of the Liffey by Sean Heuston Bridge which they named, naturally enough, Ionad6 Seán Heuston. They opened it as emergency accommodation and held talks and discussions within it.

Parkgate Street front of Ionad Seán Heuston in early September 2022 (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Employees of Pinnacle Security company with bolt-cutters entered the site on 3rd September but failed to evict residents and on the 5th September RHL activists picketed the company which, as a consequence, withdrew from acting as security for Chartered Land, owners of the site.

Pinnacle Security staff, one armed with bolt-cutters, entered Ionad Seán Heuston on 3rd September but failed to intimidate the residents into leaving. Two days later, RHL picketed their HQ and were given a written undertaking that the company would no longer carry out security for Chartered Land on the site. (Photo: Revolutionary Housing League)

The building owner’s interests are managed by Davy Platform ICAV, acting on behalf of its sub-fund the Phoenix Sub-fund but ultimately, the owner is Chartered Land which intends to build high-rental apartments on the site.

Joe O’Reilly is the property speculator tycoon behind Chartered Land, once the biggest debtor to NAMA whose responsible officer Conor Owens permitted O’Reilly to transfer his Moore Street, ILAC and Dundrum Shopping Centre holdings to Hammerson, a British-based property company.

Plan of Joe O’Reilly’s mansion while he owed NAMA €3 Billion which paid him a salary of €200,000 to ‘order his affairs’ (Image source:https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2063815/3bn-debtor-living-life-OReilly-Developer-sprawling-Dublin-mansion.html)
Joe O’Reilly after appearing as a witness in criminal court in 2015 (Photo: Irish Independent)

That transfer gave Hammerson control of properties O’Reilly’s planning permission from Dublin City Council for a giant “shopping mall” there which they have now changed but again approved by DCC’s Planning Officer and which is under appeal to An Bord Pleanála.

Conor Owens is now Ireland Director for Hammerson.

Lawyers for O’Reilly named a number of individuals as being in occupation of the property, at least two of them apparently on the basis of photographs of the interior shared by the them on social media. Last Thursday a number appeared in court on applications for injunctions against them.

One who had not been named, a homeless individual, made an emotional appeal for he and his partner to be allowed to stay and the occupants to provide services to more homeless people. Another denied he had been an occupant but had merely shared photos on social media.

That latter individual had the injunction against him removed but was asked to sign an undertaking he would not enter the building, which he declined to do, remarking that he should not even have had to attend the High Court in the first place.

Sean Doyle of the RHL declared that the action they were taking was necessary and quoted James Connolly: We believe in constitutional action in normal times; we believe in revolutionary action in exceptional times. “These are certainly exceptional times”, Doyle remarked.

The judge went ahead and granted the injunction and required all occupants to evacuate building by Wednesday 21st (i.e as this piece was being concluded).

The RHL organised a picket and temporary protest occupation of Davy stockbrokers, who were handling procedures for Joe O’Reilly, the property tycoon owner of the site of Ionad Seán Heuston.

RHL picket and temporary occupation of Davy stockbrokers (Photo: Revolutionary Housing League)

Last weekend the RHL organised a solidarity concert at Ionad Seán Heuston with somewhere between 150 to 200 in attendance and with at least two bands posting on social media their delight at having performed there.

O’Reilly’s legal team claimed “a flagrant breach of the court order”.

The RHL have called a solidarity rally against the eviction at the site for tomorrow at 10am.

Band performing to crowd at Ionad Seán Heuston — “a flagrant breach of court order” according to property tycoon’s lawyers. (Photo: Revolutionary Housing League)

THE FUTURE

Whatever the outcome of the eviction intended for this particular building or the eventual result of court cases, it seems clear that the RHL are on a collision course with the State and its protection of landlords and property speculators.

While some may look askance at such a contest, one may ask legitimately what other course of action is effective and viable?

Marches and short-term symbolic occupations of individual buildings, including the high-profile Apollo House one supported by prominent individuals in December 2016, though possibly raising awareness, have not made a single dent in the homeless crisis.

Section of the crowd at rally outside Apollo House 11 January 2016. Events such as these mobilised opinion but did not change the situation as indeed it worsened (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Indeed, the situation seems to have got steadily worse – at least for those seeking accommodation; while on the other hand clearly landlords, letting agencies, property speculators, vulture funds and the very banks are raking in their profits.

OVER 10,000 HOMELESS INCLUDING 2,503 CHILDREN

Earlier this year the State admitted that homeless figures had passed ten thousand, for the first time since the covid pandemic7, a statistic that includes the shocking figure of 2,503 children.8

And a recent report states that the levels of homelessness are under-estimated because of the accounting system used by the State, which focuses on rough sleepers and those accessing emergency accommodation9.

Mural representing revolutionary Irish socialist Republican Constance Markievicz and the outline in red stars of “the Starry Plough” (Ursa mayor), one of the impressive murals inside Ionad Seán Heuston (Photo: Rebel Breeze).

Sofa-surfing, rotating between friends and family, precarious rental arrangements all figure in homelessness but are not measured or accounted for by the State. Indeed these features of homelessness have been known for decades.

Clearly too, the obvious solution, the release of substantial funds by the State to local authorities to build public housing for affordable rent, is not favoured by any of the Government political parties.10

Apart from the general inclination of the ‘political class’ to serve big business many have direct interests in the housing situation, as an audit of TDs (member of the Irish Parliament) found over 80, i.e more than half, are landlords or own property – or both.11

Faced with such a situation it is clear that only a very substantial shock to the political system has any hope of having a serious impact on the housing crisis. Though the solution need not be revolutionary, all the evidence is that the methods do indeed have to be so12.

An interesting side-aspect of the RHL’s occupation has been the use of innovative and highly-effective art in banners and murals. Also the holding of a concert and some trad music sessions in acquired buildings, along with educational talks, discussions and Irish language classes.

Another of the murals in Ionad Seán Heuston, a representation of the profile of Pádraig Mac Piarais/ Patrick Pearse, revolutionary Irish Republican, writer, educator, executed by British firing squad in 1916. His slogan translates as: “A country with out its language (is) a country without a soul”. (Photo: Revolutionary Housing League)

The RHL is a small organisation fighting the State Goliath which is representing the Philistines of property speculators, vulture funds and banks. They deserve our support in whatever measure we are able to give, in attending events and spreading the word.

Indeed, they have called for wider action – the RHL has on a number of occasions called on people to do what they are doing, to occupy the thousands of empty buildings which, if people did, would transform this struggle into a mass movement.

With no other viable solution in sight, surely we should support the RHL? Do we not owe it to those on the street or struggling to pay mortgages or high rents? Do we not owe to the children now, the future generation that will be blighted unless we act?

End.

The Starry Plough flag of the Irish Citizen Army in the early decades of the 20th Century flies above Ionad Seán Heuston (Photo credit Revolutionary Housing League, taken from Seán Heuston Bridge)

FOOTNOTES

1The RHL call their taking of empty properties “acquisitions” in the name of the people.

2After notable socialist revolutionary, trade union organiser, journalist, historian and writer James Connolly, executed by British firing squad in 1916.

3The police force of the Irish State is called An Garda Síochána and the plural of its members, “Gardaí”, singular “Garda”.

4The Garda Síochána is essentially an unarmed police force with an armed response section, the latter which however seems to be growing and more in evidence in different situations.

5They named that one Liam Mellows House in honour of socialist Irish Republican and former member of the Irish parliament, the Dáil, executed during the Civil War by the Irish State in retaliation on 8th December 1922.

6Ionad in Irish means “place/ location/situation”.

7https://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/over-10000-people-homeless-in-ireland-for-first-time-since-pandemic-1311934.html

8https://www.independent.ie/news/homeless-figures-rise-to-10325-including-3028-children-41787023.html

9https://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/narrow-definition-of-homelessness-failing-to-respond-to-true-nature-of-crisis-1365817.html

10Sinn Féin’s latest housing policy indicates a crash building program for “affordable homes” but unclear whether to rent or own. Election promises tend to be taken with a pinch of salt by commentators; SF Councillors on Dublin City Council voted public land sold to developers. In addition, a future government including SF would almost certainly include a former government party in the coalition.

11https://www.irishtimes.com/politics/2022/08/24/almost-80-tds-and-senators-are-landlords-property-owners-or-both/

12The State has the power to put empty properties to use to eliminate all homelessness immediately and the Government can divert funds towards starting a big housing construction program which would give everyone good quality affordable homes in a couple of years. It does not do so because that would upset the profits of the property speculators, property management companies and the banks, their lenders.

SOURCES & FURTHER INFORMATION

Revolutionary Housing League: https://www.facebook.com/JamesConnollyHouse

on Twitter: https://twitter.com/rhlireland/status/1562495657814138880

Video interview as RHL awaits eviction force: https://www.facebook.com/JamesConnollyHouse/videos/435978475290460

Official homeless figures: https://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/over-10000-people-homeless-in-ireland-for-first-time-since-pandemic-1311934.html

https://www.independent.ie/news/homeless-figures-rise-to-10325-including-3028-children-41787023.html

A total of 115 homeless people died in Dublin 2021, more than double the number who died in 2019: https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40853996.html

Discussion of number of empty buildings per homeless people: https://www.thejournal.ie/factcheck-16-vacant-homes-per-homeless-person-ireland-5801978-Jul2022/

https://www.thejournal.ie/200-asylum-seekers-without-accommodation-ireland-5862168-Sep2022/?

Narrow definition of homelessness by Irish State: https://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/narrow-definition-of-homelessness-failing-to-respond-to-true-nature-of-crisis-1365817.html

RWG/ RHL acquisition of Connolly House: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/workers-group-occupying-eden-quay-property-to-defy-court-order-1.488610

Property speculator seeks eviction of occupants Seán Heuston House: https://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/high-court-injunction-sought-for-alleged-illegal-occupation-of-dublin-building-1361850.html

Joe O’Reilly (Chartered Land): https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2063815/3bn-debtor-living-life-OReilly-Developer-sprawling-Dublin-mansion.html

Property Speculator seeks further legal action agains RHL: https://www.thejournal.ie/high-court-revolutionary-housing-league-parkgate-house-5871136-Sep2022/

Concert a “flagrant breach of court order”: https://www.msn.com/en-ie/news/newsireland/concert-held-in-property-occupied-by-homeless-campaigners-a-flagrant-breach-of-court-order/ar-AA122xZA?li=BBr5KbJ

Ex-NAMA senior officer now Director of Hammerson Ireland: https://europe-re.com/hammerson-appoints-connor-owens-as-director-of-ireland/68421#:~:text=Hammerson%20has%20appointed%20Connor%20Owens,ILAC%20Centre%2C%20and%20Swords%20Pavilions.

Previous high-profile housing activist occupations:

Apollo House December 2016: https://www.thejournal.ie/apollo-house-glen-hansard-hozier-performance-homeless-3151048-Dec2016/

Frederick Street: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/what-happened-who-is-involved-and-why-are-activists-occupying-vacant-properties-1.3627980

“Almost 80 TDs are landlords, landowners or both”: https://www.facebook.com/JamesConnollyHouse/photos/a.104667018908396/149716974403400/

https://www.irishtimes.com/politics/2022/08/24/almost-80-tds-and-senators-are-landlords-property-owners-or-both/

DUBLIN ANTI-MONARCHY DEMONSTRATION DURING LONDON ROYAL FUNERAL

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 4 mins.)

On Monday, as the remains of Queen Elizabeth II were being conducted in State funeral in London, Socialist Republicans rallied against monarchy in front of the James Connolly1 monument in Dublin.

They displayed flags and placards, heard speeches and burned the flag of the UK.

They then marched to O’Connell Bridge carrying a “coffin” bearing the words “British Empire RIP”, dumped it into the Liffey and marched on to the General Post Office building, where a large force of Irish state police prevented their entry.

Bob Marley’s lyrics applied to the situation on a home-made placard at the event (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The actions occurred as the royal funeral was taking place in London. In a move that drew public criticism from presenter of independent program Newstalk, national broadcaster RTÉ sent a crew to cover the funeral in London to film it in realtime for Irish national television.

Taoiseach (equivalent of Prime Minister) Mícheál Martin and President Michael D. Higgins in persons represented the Irish State at the British royal funeral.

Many Irish politicians (including leaders of the Sinn Féin political party) and public figures had sent fulsome messages of condolence and praise of the late British Queen.

“DOWN WITH THE MONARCHY!”

The chairperson of the event and speakers lambasted the “sycophancy” of Irish Government figures and other politicians and public figures. They drew attention of the past record of British Royalty and to the ongoing British occupation of Ireland.

The “RIP British Empire” ‘coffin’ parked temporarily next to James Connolly Monument (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The event had been publicised on social media under the slogan of “Down with the Monarchy!” and that was very much the tone of the event as occupants in a police van watched from across the street.

The chairperson opened proceedings by reminding the attendance of Connolly’s slogan at the outbreak of WWI that “We serve neither King nor Kaiser but Ireland.” Passing vehicles occasionally tooted their horns in approval.

Police van surveilling events across street at James Connolly Monument (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

A young socialist Republican read out Connolly’s article in The Workers’ Republic of March 1902 on the occasion of the coronation of Edward VIII.

Connolly stated that to Socialists the replacement of one exploiter by another hardly mattered and would excite little comment.

But although we would rather treat the matter thus philosophically, we find that the machinations of those in power do not leave us that possibility; with them, and because of them, the festivities attending the Coronation have taken on the aspect not merely of a huge parade of pomp and magnificence – cloaking the festering sores of that slave society on which it is built – but have also become an elaborately contrived and astutely worked piece of Royalist and Capitalist propaganda, designed to captivate the imagination of the unthinking multitude, and thus lead them to look askance upon every movement which would set up as an ideal to work for something less gorgeously spectacular, even if more solidly real.

The evil effects of private ownership of industries is thus illustrated once more in a manner that ought to appeal to those patriots in our midst who still dread the innovating effects of Socialism on the National spirit of the Irish people2.”

A home-made banner carried by participants at the event (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

DIVINE RIGHT AND WORKERS’ RIGHT

Diarmuid Breatnach quoted John Ball, a leader of the English Peasant’s Revolt of 1381 who, addressing the crowd in reference to the Christian Bible story of Adam and Eve, enquired: “When Adam delved (dug) and Eve span, who then was the gentleman?”

For that challenge to divine right to rule or right by birth, Breatnach related, King Richard II had John Ball hanged, drawn and quartered, his head stuck on a pike on London Bridge and a quarter of his body displayed at each of four different towns in England.

Breatnach contrasted this to the right of workers, who he said produce all things, to the ownership of all things and called on working people to take their place in history as conscious beings.

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Another speaker, on behalf of Spirit of Irish Freedom Republican Society and the Michael Fagan Fenian Society based in Westmeath also spoke and included the Sinn Féin leadership in his denunciation of Irish politicians who had accepted and praised British Royalty.

Seán Doyle spoke about the attitude of servility which works its way into many different aspects of life, for example into accepting the laws of the capitalist system and the housing crisis.

Doyle likened the acceptance of this right of capitalism to acceptance of the divine right to rule and stated that workers had to break from this acceptance, which is what the Revolutionary Housing League was advocating and practicing in action.

UNION JACK IN FLAMES AND COFFIN INTO THE RIVER

After the speeches a copy of the “Union Jack” flag was set on fire to symbolise the future of the forced union of nations — including a part of Ireland — under England rule.

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)
(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Participants formed up into two columns flying flags, headed by four persons carrying a large pseudo-coffin. Taking to the road, they crossed Butt Bridge, turned right along the quay until they reached O’Connell Bridge.

There Gardaí and three Public Order Vehicles awaited them. Undeterred, the marchers cheered a short speech and chanted some slogans. Then at the count of “a h-aon, a dó, a trí” the “coffin” was heaved over the parapet into the Liffey river.

Marchers led by four carrying the “British Empire” ‘coffin’ crossing Butt Bridge (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

This action emulated a similar one carried out by James Connolly and revolutionary socialists in 1897 during Queen Victoria’s visit to Dublin.

It is worth recording too that Queen Victoria visited again in 1900 to affirm Ireland as part of the UK and to help recruit more Irish to go and fight the Boers in South Africa.

In response to that occasion, Iníní na hÉireann (Daughters of Ireland) led over 50 women in organising a Children’s Patriotic Party on the Sunday after the Wolf Tone Commemoration in July of that year.

Over 30,000 children had paraded from Beresford Place to Clonturk Park in north Dublin where they were served picnic lunches and listened to anti-recruitment speeches.

The marchers on O’Connell Bridge just before the “British Empire” ‘coffin’ is thrown into the Liffey (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

After disposing of the “coffin” of the “British Empire” on Monday, the marchers proceeded to the General Post Office where the building had been closed and a strong force of Gardaí also prevented access.

The GPO was the HQ of the insurrectionary forces during the 1916 Rising and many considered it insulting to their memory that the Irish tricolour above the building was lowered to half-mast in respect for the British monarchy.

March concluding at the GPO in Dublin’s main street — the police are blocking the doorway to the left of photo (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The event concluded with cheers from passers-by and without any arrests.

End.

“British Empire RIP” ‘coffin’ immediately after being thrown over the bridge into the Liffey. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)
The ‘coffin’ emerging on the east side of the Bridge on its journey seaward. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

FOOTNOTES

1The James Connolly monument in Dublin is located in Beresford Place, across the street from what was the old Liberty Hall, the HQ of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ union (now replaced by SIPTU).

2See Sources & Further Information for a link to the full text.

SOURCES & FURTHER INFORMATION

Connolly on occasion coronation Edward VII: https://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1902/xx/coronkng.htm

Irish newscaster slams Irish broadcasting team sent to cover royal funeral: teahttps://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/uk/elizabeth-is-not-our-queen-irish-presenter-slams-tv-coverage-of-monarchs-funeral/articleshow/94281107.cms

ITV report and photo: https://www.itv.com/news/utv/2022-09-19/coffin-thrown-into-river-at-march-against-monarchy?fbclid=IwAR3HeY6N5jI5Kol0dgOhm3P1DCOzielCC_KVMyMPvi_3c5n5Z15-B1YCNs4

Anti-Imperialism Action Ireland: https://www.facebook.com/AIAI-For-National-Liberation-and-Socialist-Revolution-101829345633677