Despite complaining of stomach pain, political prisoner and rapper Pablo Hasel waited over a year for a medical examination, according to excerpts of a letter of his being shared on social media, in which he complains of medical neglect.
Hasel, a Catalan marxist, was jailed for the content of videos in which he denounced the Spanish State, its history and its former King. He was also convicted of a physical attack with others on Spanish fascists.
In the past the rapper has also created a video rap in which he celebrated Irish resistance to English colonialism and promoted the IRA. Hasel’s description of the former King as a criminal has been largely vindicated by what is known publicly.
Hasel views his ongoing medical neglect, despite frequent complaints of stomach pains, as additional punishment by the system. Although according to public penal policy the deprivation of liberty is the full content of sentence, to that is being added humiliation and neglect, he says.
The rapper had to refuse a scheduled colonoscopy because the Mossos d’Escuadra, Catalan regional police, insisted they would have to be present in the room with him while he was naked with a tube inserted into his rectum and during which although sedated he would be handcuffed.
Indeed, though serious enough, deprivation of liberty is rarely the only content of penal punishment. For political prisoners in particular, humiliation, as in strip searches is a frequent attendant, as also can be violence by guards or by social prisoners.
Other frustrations are known too as solitary confinement, harassment, refusing access to educational or creative opportunities or materials, blocking visits by family and friends, harassing the visitors themselves, even deliberate dispersal to prisons located far from their social environment.
Medical neglect can have consequences beyond worry for the prisoner and their friends and family but can also be the cause of pain, discomfort and even early death. Hasel says that he is “being treated worse than rapists or paedophiles.”
Political prisoners often endure these privations silently in the knowledge of the intentions of their tormentors and of the reality of their powerlessness as prisoners of the State. However, resistance against the conditions in prison is also a well-documented part of revolutionary struggle.
In solidarity with political prisoners, those on the outside disseminate information about the prisoners’ conditions, organise pickets and demonstrations, write to or visit prisoners. Complaining to the responsible authorities is also another avenue, informing them that they are under scrutiny.
When prisoners concerned are within the administration of another state, it can sometimes be effective to register a complaint with the embassy of the relevant state. Embassies are obliged to inform their state of concerns about their government raised in the state where they are located.
Good news from the Free Pablo Hasel Facebook page in Catalan but translation here:
👋 Good news! 🗣 Pablo Hasél, will have a visit from a specialist on January 23, respecting his right to privacy. We achieved it with the pressure in the streets. We will have to be alert so that Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya does not violate any rights again ❗ 🔥 Thanks to all the supporters, like Plataforma Antirepressiva de Barcelona, for making it possible ❗ 💥 Today as yesterday, solidarity is our best weapon ❗
NB: ERC, the Esquerra Republicana (Republican Left) de Catalunya party is currently in power in the Government of the Catalunya autonomous region of the Spanish State.
Spanish Embassy in Ireland, 17A Merlyn Park, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4 Ireland
(+353) 1 269 1640 / 2597 (+353) 1 283 9900
(+353) 1 269 1854
Writing to Pablo Hasel: Pablo Hasel, Centre Penitenciari Ponent, Módul 7, Victoria Kent, s/n 25071, Lleida, Catalunya, Spanish State.
Gearóid Ó Loingsigh looks at the new government in Colombia and how it talks of peace while increasing militarisation. English language version first published in Redline, 24th November, reprinted with kind permission of author.
(Reading time: 8 mins.)
The Petro–Márquez government is one which proposes to bring us to what they term Total Peace.
The term and the proposal as such have been subjected to justifiable criticism, not least because it places the insurgency of the ELN on the same footing as armed drug trafficking groups.
But there is another aspect of their government that calls upon us to reflect on what Petro – Márquez understand as peace and a demilitarized society that breaks with the past and the present of a repressive state where the answer to everything is a military response.
A first step would be to remove the military from civilian settings. But Petro has already made statements that indicate that neither he nor Márquez think that.
Shortly after taking on the presidency, he declared that the answer to deforestation of the Amazon was not only military, but Yankee.
In their electoral campaign their proposal was different, they did not talk about the military anywhere, but rather of democracy, autonomy, measures against drug trafficking and money laundering.
We will stop the deforestation and the burning of the jungle. We will dismantle the engines of deforestation, amongst them: displacement of the unemployed and landless peasants from the interior of the country towards the Amazon; land grabbers and promoters of extensive cattle ranching and other monocultures; corruption in public bodies; laundering of foreign currency through the purchase of deforested land, a by-product of drug trafficking and corruption; the uncontrolled extraction of wood etc.
And he also said that the pacts to protect the jungle would be with the communities and not national or foreign militaries.
We will build a broad national pact of regional and global importance for the environmental defence of the Amazon, Orinoco and the biogeographic corridor of the Pacific. We will set up community agreements for the regeneration and ecological restoration of these eco-systems based on organisational processes, proposing to increase the size of collective territories, registry of plots and the strengthening of traditional and ancestral authorities. We will recognise the rural communities’ own lifestyle in strategic eco-systems and their own ecological and economic forms of production in these habitats, as well as their own environmental management.
It all sounds very nice, but it goes hand in hand with militarisation. He proposed a sort of military alliance with the USA to avoid the burning of the jungle, copying the already existing model in Brazil where the USA has a base from which to put out fires.
Of course, in Brazil the mining and logging companies, etc. invade the territory with the approval of the government. The presence of north American troops never prevented any of the extractionist policies and less still poverty under the governments of Lula, Dilma and Bolsonaro.
As others have pointed out, it is nothing more than the militarisation of environmentalism and it is an old slogan of the imperialists that they should be in charge wherever they want and that includes the Amazon.
They used to brandish the anti-narcotics struggle as an excuse and now it is global warming. Al Gore once said that “The Amazon is not their property, it belongs to us all”. Of course, by us, this miscreant means Yankee imperialism: the USA.
It is the same discourse they have in relation to oil; it does not belong to the countries that have it but rather to all of us i.e. the US and European companies. Al Gore’s fame as an environmentalist is undeserved but his reputation as an old imperialist is completely justified.
Other governments have come out with similar feelings, Gore’s was not an individual outburst. Macron, NATO as such and the influential magazine Foreign Policy have argued for a military intervention in the region with the aim of protecting the planet.
For the moment, Petro is not in favour of Colombia becoming a member of NATO, rather he proposes a regional military alliance. Against whom would this alliance fight is not at all clear, or whether it would simply be an unofficial appendage to NATO.
We should be concerned and not just a little bit. In November he met with representatives of the US Embassy and the Subsecretary of Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland. Following the meeting Nuland tweeted.
Thank you, Gustavo Petro President of Colombia for our productive meeting reaffirming the importance of our continued partnership on security, peace, progress for Venezuela and protecting our planet.
Bearing in mind the murky past of Nuland in Ukraine in 2014, we should be very careful with her, but there are those who believe that Petro is charge.
It is not the only issue where he proposes military rather than civilian solutions. Faced with the lack of access to healthcare in the territories of the Pacific, he also proposed to militarise the response. The Pacific is one of the regions with the worst indicators in the area of healthcare.
Nobody doubts about the need for an urgent and comprehensive response for the region. The military boat USNS Comfort visited Colombia to provide medical assistance.
It was not the first time, the said boat has visited the country four times as part of the Continuing Promise mission, a medical and public relations initiative of the US, deploying its Soft Power.
This boat also took part in the two wars in Iraq as a military hospital, and in the invasion of Haití in 1994. Petro’s response on Twitter was:
I am grateful for this support in healthcare from the US government to the people of the Caribbean. It is important that we think about the Pacific. A mission for the National Navy, along with the building of the first frigate “made in Colombia” will be the building of a hospital ship.
In a non-militarised state healthcare should be under the remit of the Ministry of Health and not the Ministry of Defence, but Petro – Márquez want to bring healthcare to the Pacific through military rather than civilian institutions.
Such incoherence with his public discourse!
In previous governments the military has used its economic power and civic-military days as part of its military and armed operations.
The mobilisation of troops and the demand for collaboration from the civilian population is justified on the basis of access to medical services that are provided for by civilians in Bogotá and other parts of the country without the need to explain themselves to military institution in the midst of a war.
The Petro – Márquez government is also going to continue with the proposal of the Santos government to build a military base on the Gorgona Island. It is worth remembering that Santos was one of these other men of peace that are in abundance in Colombia: hawks dressed as doves.
The Gorgona Island was, for many years, a penal colony, the Colombian version of the infamous Devil’s Island immortalised in Papillon film with Steve McQueen. In 1982 it was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO due to it high ecological value.
Now they want to go ahead with the plan to place a military base there. What is new in the Petro – Márquez government is that there is a rumour that the USA will have access to the base.
It is not an absurd idea, as the project has anti-narcotic aims and is financed by the US Embassy in the country. With absolute certainty, the DEA will at least have access to it.
There are alternatives, such as a warship as a centre of operations. Petro wants the Navy to build a hospital ship but is not up to telling them to build a ship for what does fall within its remit.
He says he wants peace but he wants to promote the military at every turn, even turning up every time he can wearing military caps.
So far, he hasn’t acted ridiculous like Iván Duque dressing up as a police officer in the midst of the National Strike of 2021, but as his supporters point out he has only been president for a little more than 100 days and we have to give him time.
In every circus you have to wait for the clowns to come in. We can’t always see the lion-tamer but clowns and clownish antics are always there.
Some social climbers from social and human rights organisations ran to take up posts in the ministries of Defence and also the Interior.
They used to be critics of the armed forces and police of the state, now they look out for its good name in the area of human rights and international humanitarian law. They also promote the military at each turn.
The recently appointed Alexandra González, a former functionary of the Committee for Solidarity with Political Prisoners, who is now the Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of National Defence published an effusive tweet full of praise of the Ministry of Defence that stated “Military engineers will build tertiary road to benefit the peasant population.”
She doesn’t understand that the armed forces are never for anything other than war, even in peace time they are preparing for war. It is their only function. In any case, no one can explain why the military have to the ones that are building those roads.
But as a good political opportunist she claims as her own that which does not belong to her. On twitter they replied to her, pointing out that those projects were old ones.
A retired military officer and former advisor to the High Commissioner for Peace pointed her in the direction of an article in the regional newspaper El Quindiano written by himself, speaking of the beginning of these civic – military projects in the 1960s.
All governments have carried out infrastructural projects through the Ministry of Defence and in all governments, they were referred to as peace projects.
Perhaps the fugitives from the human rights organisations feel the need to say that it is new in order not to make evident that there is a continuity between this government and all of the previous ones.
I don’t understand why they signed up to the non-binding declaration on safe schools, if they are promoting the military presence in all other aspects of civilian life.
The ideal situation would be to not permit the military to use schools as bases or human shields in the midst of fighting nor use the military to build infrastructural projects.
If the government was really progressive (an imprecise term) it would remove the civilian contracts from the military, healthcare would be the exclusive responsibility of health bodies and not the military, it would not propose a military alliance in a world with an excess of them.
And the symbols that Peto would put on a pedestal would be civilian ones, from the people, the communities, even from some trade union, even if it were just out of pure nostalgia, as when he was Mayor of Bogotá he didn’t think much of unions.
Text by Gearóid Ó Loingsigh (images and video chosen by Rebel Breeze)
29 July 2022 (first published in English in Socialist Democracy)
The Colombian Truth Commission’s (CEV) report Findings and Recommendations aims to be a text that reveals a truth, that up to now was hidden or partially hidden from Colombian society.
It is true that in Colombia, after decades of a conflict that began before many of those actually alive were born, along with propaganda from the media, the churches and political parties, there are many aspects that are not well known to everyone.
That is not to say that it is a document that reveals or uncovers these truths. If we look at the issue of paramilitaries and how the CEV treats it, various problems with this commission are evident.
It comes out with some truths about the paramilitaries that initially give one hope about the content of the Report.
Paramilitarism is not just an armed actor – understood as private armies with terror strategies aimed at the civilian population – but rather a network of interests and alliances also associated with economic, social and political projects that managed to impose an armed territorial control through terror and violence and also through mechanisms to legitimate it, the establishment of rules and norms.(1)
It is true that the paramilitaries are about more than just massacres, but the CEV not only fails to explain what the interests at stake are, but it gets it back to front about who is in charge and who serves.
It inverts the roles many times and though it acknowledges the role the State played, or still plays, the State is presented almost as just another victim of the paramilitaries.
The CEV accepts that the USA played a role in the 1960s.
The recommendations of US missions that visited the country during the administration of Alberto Lleras Camargo (1958-1962) led to Decree 1381 of 1963, Decree 3398 of 1965 and National Defence Law 48 of 1968, through which the involvement of civilians in the armed conflict was institutionalised.(2)
But it doesn’t explore this role that much further, it would seem as if various north American governments played no further role than that, that they have not been the one constant factor in the history of the conflict, as if their support to all the Colombian governments, the training of the Colombian military in the School of the Americas did not count for anything, and of course there is Plan Colombia which is dealt with by the report.
Neither do they explore the role of the state that passed those laws. It would seem as if the laws appeared through magic. They accept that paramilitaries enjoyed legal status for a long time, but they put no names to the matter, nor who benefitted from those laws or what were the interests of the presidents and congresspeople involved in passing those laws and decrees.
We are told of how Virgilio Barco suspended the legality of the paramilitaries in 1989, but according to the CEV it was revived in practice through the rural security cooperatives known as the Convivir.(3)
It is dubious to say that the Convivir were the paramilitaries in practice and not paramilitaries de jure, as it is not the case that these cooperatives were corrupted.
It was always the intention to legalise the paramilitaries through this figure and in that, President Cesar Gaviria and his Minister for Defence, Rafael Pardo both of whom signed the degree that brought them to life, played an important role as did President Samper who implemented the decree during his government.
These people are not spoken of as promotors of paramilitaries.
To the CEV the paramilitaries are a type of loose cannon, independent of the State, with a life of their own. The ills of the country are the result of the actions of this loose cannon and how it infiltrates the state, the institutions, including the military and how it co-opts spaces.(4)
Thus, the institutionalisation – through various governments – of armed groups legally at the service of private interests, as well as their legitimation from the 1960s show not only the tolerance but also the promotion by state of the outsourcing of public security (bold not in the original). The legal cover and political legitimation have allowed for the maintenance and expansion of the paramilitaries, structures that were co-opted by paramilitary bosses.(5)
To the CEV, the paramilitaries were an outsourcing of security to private bodies that went wrong. Dr. Frankenstein thought he was creating life and his creation turned into a monster despite his wishes.
Paramilitaries are referred to in this manner throughout the document, they exist and act with the approval of named sectors, but the responsibility does not lie with any known person. They are incapable of saying that Samper and Gaviria legalised the paramilitaries.
Samper was fully aware of what the Convivir were and defended them tooth and nail during his government, and lashed out at those who denounced the Convivir as paramilitary structures.
Samper never put an end to the Convivir, rather it was the Constitutional Court that declared that they couldn’t use arms reserved for the State’s military, so the paramilitaries had no need to use this cover any more if they couldn’t obtain arms legally.
The paramilitaries were a state policy as can be seen from the laws and decrees enacted, in the promotions of military officers involved in massacres and also in the persecution of social actors, human rights organisations and in a number of cases the systematic murder of witnesses.
The CEV talks about these things but does not connect them together as a state policy. It shamelessly accepts the excuses of Uribe that everyone lied to him, the face Santos put on of it wasn’t me, or the “it was all done behind my back” of Samper.
A real truth commission would try to tell us not only what happened but who did it (with full names) and also why.
The same complacent attitude it takes with the State is extended to the business people. It talks of interests but does not put a name to them. But thanks to the decades long work of social organisations we can put a name to many of the cases.
The CEV doesn’t do that and goes on with its tale of some sectors. But these same sectors have been more honest than the CEV. The CEV names the cattle rancher’s association in Puerto Boyacá, Acdegam, as a key player in the founding of the paramilitary groups.(6)
But it does not mention the role played by Texaco. Carlos Medina Gallego in his book Autodefensas, Paramilitares y Narcotráfico in Colombia describes the birth of this group.
The process in the region began with the creation of a private army or paramilitary group alongside the army to jointly combat the subversives.
This group was set up during the military mayorship of Captain Oscar Echandía, in a meeting which, in addition to the Mayor, was attended by representatives of the Texas Petroleum Company, members of the Cattle Ranchers Committee, political leaders, the Civil Defence, members of the armed forces and other special guests.(7)
Neither does it mention the National Federation of Cattle Ranchers, Fedegan. The president of Fedegan, however did acknowledge the role they played. In 2006, in an interview given to Cambio magazine, he said that they had paid paramilitaries, as had others such as flower and rice growers amongst others.(8)
Around the same time, 10,000 cattle ranchers, traders and industrialists signed a letter acknowledging and justifying their financing of the paramilitaries.(9)
The CEV describes paramilitarism as something unstable and changeable in nature and that “it has had diverse actors, motives and modus operandi, which leads to difficulties when it comes to trying to come up with a static definition.”(10)
Yes, it is true that the paramilitaries have changed over time, as has the army, the state, the political parties, the guerrillas and even society. Nothing stands still, but that doesn’t mean we can’t come up with an approximation of what it is, taking into account the variables.
That is what the study of history, politics and also any branch of knowledge is about. So, the CEV doesn’t describe the paramilitaries as a state policy, not because it is a changing phenomenon, but rather because it doesn’t want to.
It deals with various paramilitary forms and leaves out one very clear telling example: the AAA (American Anti-Communist Alliance).
The AAA was a paramilitary structure founded by the commanders of the Charry Solano Battalion, amongst them Lieutenant Colonel Harold Bedoya, who would later become the Commander of the armed forces.
The existence of such a paramilitary structure operating within the battalion was public knowledge as five soldiers reported it to the presidency, the Procurator, the Organisation of American States and the news was even published in the Mexican press. This structure is not mentioned in the CEV report.
Another paramilitary structure that is dealt with partially in the Report is the 07 Naval Intelligence Network. However, it does not delve into the reality of the Network and the significance of its activity as a state policy.
The case of the 07 Naval Intelligence Network based in Barrancabermeja that operated in part of Bolívar and Cesar stands out due to the seriousness of it. According to the ordinary criminal justice system, the network functioned as a powerful “death squad” with logistical means, personnel trained to kill and was responsible for dozens of murders, forced disappearances and massacres whose victims were mainly trade unionists, politicians, community leaders and activists. The network financed paramilitaries using secret funds.(11)
But the network was the paramilitary structure par excellence. Despite the CEV’s quote, they do not go into great detail as the issue cannot be dealt with and conclude that it was just some functionaries and not the military unit as such.
The Network murdered at least 68 people, though some estimates put the figure of 430. The soldiers implicated were exonerated by the commander in chief of the official armed forces of the state, General Fernando Tapias. To the CEV this is just another case of rotten apples.
But, can 60 years of violence be explained as the result of the actions of some soldiers, some politicians, some business people? We are talking about tens of thousands of dead, tortured, disappeared and the outcome follows from the actions of some… and not from a state policy?
…the paramilitary phenomenon has maintained a role in components of the state such as the armed forces, security and intelligence agencies, collegiate state bodies (Congress, assemblies and councils), judicial institutions and oversight bodies, as well as economic sectors such agri-industrial, extractive industries, public servants and candidates in elections. It has also permeated sectors of the church and the media. Without the close link between this body of sectors and the armed paramilitaries, this phenomenon would not have unleashed the deep wounds that it inflicted nor would it have lasted as long.(12)
There are no policies here, no state-backed dirty war but rather a compendium of massacres carried out by blood thirsty types that co-opted everyone else, i.e. Colombia is an open-air lunatic asylum.
Politicians and functionaries were another sector that was widely implicated in the paramilitary plan to “penetrate all political power: mayors, councillors, deputies, governors, congress people from the zones that we managed […] ultimately, regional powers that together guaranteed a national power for the self defence groups”. The relationship between politics and paramilitaries went in both directions as many politicians and functionaries in turn sought out the commanders of the paramilitary groups to benefit from their armed power.(13)
In this repugnant discourse, the paramilitaries are the ones who penetrate the state and some politicians seek them out, the paramilitaries are not a counter-insurgency strategy of the state nor a policy to implement “development” projects they want, but rather the excuse is “the paramilitaries made us do it”.
It comes across like crying children trying to blame the other for breaking the window, but they are not broken windows, rather tens of thousands of broken bodies. And the CEV does not want to blame who it should. It accepts that the State played a role, but limits it to individual behaviour and private interests but not part of a strategy.
Not even the genocide committed against the Patriotic Union (UP) is seen as a state policy, once again the State is a victim of the paramilitaries. The CEV describes it in the following terms.
It was during the attempts at a democratic aperture and the peace policies of the government of Belisario Betancur (1982-1986). It is in this context the paramilitary network from Puerto Boyacá sought to contain the democratic and peace initiatives through systematic violence (persecution, extermination and displacement) against members of left wing political groups such as the Patriotic Union and the Communist Party, trade unionists and social leaders.(14)
The reality is that no one expected the UP to be successful and the oligarchy took fright and responded as it always does: with violence. The extermination of the UP was not an attempt to contain supposed democratic measures from President Betancur, but rather an attempt to suppress a left-wing political group.
The CEV forgets that Betancur allowed the military to attack and burn the Palace of Justice in 1985, which was only a few metres from the Presidential Palace. He was not a just man whose peace initiatives were undermined by the unjust.
Lastly, we should look at how they describe the business people.
The economic agents were a key part of the paramilitary web. Some national and international business people, local and regional economic powers and productive sectors supported them in different ways because they had interests in the war.(15)
We shouldn’t be surprised that the CEV, led by the favourite child of the bourgeoisie reaches such conclusions. De Roux wrote an executive summary of the report before he even formally took up the job of President of the CEV.
In March 2017, shortly before he began working for the CEV he wrote a column in the El Tiempo newspaper with a simple headline I ask for forgiveness.(16) The column makes various assertions, amongst which the following stand out:
I incur in a generalisation when I write that the paramilitaries were financed by businesspeople. When, in truth, some paramilitary groups were financed by businesses, whilst the majority of women and men to whom we owe the production of goods and services in this country did not finance the paramilitaries.(17)
That is to say, as the CEV report does, that it was only some of them. He continues with another assertion that some of them did it as a response to guerrilla violence, repeating one of the great lies of the business associations and the State about the nature of paramilitarism.
Others out of rage, following the kidnapping and payment of the ransom, supported the AUC to attack the kidnappers. Others did so because they didn’t trust the state’s security forces.(18)
And lastly, this little gem which reduces the dirty war to the behaviour of just some.
I must also acknowledge that I have been unfair when I have generalised about soldiers and police officers in Colombia. I admit that I have an intellectual and emotive abhorrence of weapons on all sides. I am a follower of Jesus who once and for all separated God from all wars and preached efficient non-violence. But I know there have been many and increasing numbers of men and women in the Armed Forces who see service to the homeland as a service to the dignity and rights of every human being and the collective good of peace.(19)
A question arises. Given that De Roux through his column outlined an executive summary of the future report of the CEV, why did he not save us time, money and the effort by writing, on his own, a report 100% to his liking? It would have had the advantage of not selling false hopes to the victims of the conflict.
(1) CEV (2022) Hallazgos y Propuestas. CEV p.296
(2) Ibíd., p.303
(3) Ibíd., pp 304 y 305
(4) Ibíd., p.299
(5) Ibíd., p.305
(6) Ibíd., p.310
(7) Medina Gallego, C. (1990) Autodefensas, Paramilitares y Narcotráfico en Colombia. Editorial Documentos Periodisticos. Bogotá p.173
(8) El Cambio No 704 diciembre 2006/enero 2007 Diez Preguntas (Entrevista con José Félix Lafaurie) p.48
(9) El Espectador (17/12/2006) La hora de los ganaderos, p. 2A
Historians and political activists gave talks in Dublin presenting a review of the conduct of what is more usually called the Irish Civil and its effect since on life in Ireland. All the speakers described that conflict as “a counterrevolution”, to overturn many of the gains made in the period of struggle immediately before it and to head off any possibility of yet further gains in Irish political, economical and social life, having a braking effect on such progress up to this very moment.
The event on 26th June, held in the function room of The Cobblestone, was organised by the Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum, itself established in early 2013, the result of a number of meetings and seminars organised over the course of 2012. It combined communists and socialist Republicans to organise discussions on a number of issues, such as Irish state neutrality, Irish national independence, working-class programs in struggle etc.
Ciaran Perry, a socialist Republican and Independent Dublin City Councillor, also a local history activist, introduced the event. He talked about the importance of history and in particular local history, the traditions of struggle and how some of those had been weakened in the trade unions and communities over the years.
Perry introduced the MC for the meeting, Mags Glennon who is also a socialist Republican activist and history enthusiast.
Glennon introduced historian Fearghal MacBhloscaidh from Tyrone who began in Irish and then continued in English, his presentation laying out clearly his position that the Civil War was a planned counterrevolution, quoting Cabinet papers and correspondence and supplying figures on the arms and equipment supplied to the Free State ruling elite by the British. MacBhloscaidh also maintained that the De Valera Government, though supported by the wider Republican movement at the time, was also a counterrevolutionary measure when subjected to a class analysis.
A woman (whose name I did not catch) was called to stage. In a clear voice she read an account of of the horrific Ballyseedy Massacre. Free State soldiers, after torturing their Republican prisoners, brought nine of them out to a road barricade, in which they had placed a landmine which they exploded. One survived by some miracle but spent the rest of his life needing frequent medical intervention.
At intervals between speakers, Pól MacAdaim performed his music, singing accompanied by guitar. Among the songs he sang were Tipperary So Far Away and Take It Down From the Mast (in the chorus of which some members of the audience could be heard joining).
Mags Glennon then introduced historian Liz Gillis from Dublin who talked about the reaction of women to the Treaty and to the Civil War. The vast majority of Cumann na mBan members rejected the Treaty and many actively supported the Republicans in the following conflict. Gillis also spoke about how the women, who had been active in the struggle in 1916 and briefly to the fore in public life with the elections of 1918 and the War of Independence, were driven back to almost invisibility by the Free State Government and also the De Valera government and the 1937 Constitution. Gillis lauded Kathleen Clarke whom she said continued to fight the struggle for the rights of women in representational politics and criticised the De Valera Constitution of 1937.
Mags next introduced Jimmy Doran, a communist and long-time trade union activist, who talked about the contribution of the organised Irish workers to the struggle against British colonialism and for the advance of the working class. Doran went on to comment on the trade unions’ history and current situation in the Irish state. I had to go to the toilet and when I returned stayed near the entrance so as not to distract the audience by retaking my seat near the front and unfortunately, due to the lack of a PA system and the acoustics of that location, I was unable to hear the rest of his presentation.
Although the meeting was thrown open to questions or contributions, little was forthcoming although there was a short debate on whether the Irish bourgeoisie prepare well into the future and whether they prepare better than their opponents in the Republican movement.
The proceedings ended with announcements of forthcoming events, thanks from Mags to the speakers, audience and to Pol Mac Adaim who ended the day on a musical note.
Niall McConnell, Director of the fascist organisation Síol na hÉireann failed to attend court in Dublin on Friday in pursuance of his claim of being assaulted by disabled antifascist Aisling Butler. Gardaí asked for a continuance in order to make further attempts to contact McConnell, including by registered letter but hearing that he had already been sent a letter and also failed to reply to a phone call, the presiding judge struck out the case. Also struck out for failure to appear was another charge by Ciaran Reddin, former right-hand man of McConnell’s (but with whom he has apparently fallen out since). Ms. Butler, who had attended as required, was embraced by supporters.
In July 2020 fascists and other racists objected to the hire of the national Gaelic sports stadium Croke Park in Dublin to a Muslim congregation to celebrate their annual Eid religious festival. The fascist organisation Síol na hÉireann called for a prayer-protest outside the stadium and announced their intention of reciting the Catholic prayer collection of the Rosary there. Their protest was supported by other fascists and racists including Phillip Dwyer of the National Party, Gemma O’Doherty and some others calling themselves Stand Together and QAnon, in emulation of the Trumpist far-Right movement in the USA1.
Dublin Republicans Against Fascism organised a counter-protest and attended with placards in Irish and in English quoting from the 1916 Proclamation2“The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty to all” and also chanted those words at the fascists.
“Five of us turned up early, mostly women,” said a spokesperson for the anti-fascist group outside the court “and only McConnell and another two were there with a banner. They took fright when they saw us, folded up their banner and called to the Gardaí for protection. But as more of their sort arrived, they got more confident, opened their banner out and began their prayers and racist chants and so on. When there were a lot more of them than us they got aggressive and there were a couple of scuffles when they assaulted a few on the sly or provoked us by pushing their video cameras near our faces. Some local people came out to stand with us against them but the fascists were arriving from all over.”
McConnell claimed he had been assaulted by Ms. Butler but apparently the Gardaí on the spot were unimpressed by his claims so he took his complaint to GSOC3, which agency charged Ms. Butler with assault. As a result she has been required to attend court a number of times over the intervening years while McConnell and GSOC got their case together.
The Síol organisation is registered as a company rather than as a political party4 and sells fascist and far-Right material on line, causing some of their opponents to call them, along with general far-Right individuals who seek on-line funding: “PayPal Paytriots”. The latter is because of the claim of the fascists and far-Rightists that they are true Irish patriots with Irish Tricolours and “Irish Republic” flags proliferating at their protests.
Referring to the words of the 1916 Proclamation displayed and chanted by the antifascist counter-protesters, the spokesperson for the antifascist Republicans said: “One of the fascists had a Tricolour flag with the text of the Proclamation printed on it. We kept inviting her and her friends to actually read the words but of course they ignored us. They wave Irish flags and play patriotic ballads but they don’t know anything about Irish history or what the people who went out against the British Empire in 1916 stood for. The fascists promote Catholic religion dominance in opposition to the secular Republic that was fought for and in denial of the historic role of Protestants in founding and fighting for Irish Republicanism.”
A repeated feature of the Síol protest outside Croke Park5 was the reciting of prayers of the Rosary loudly through a megaphone. Another was the sprinkling of salt and holy water and vinegar near the feet of the anti-fascists: “They think antifascist women are witches and that will ward them off” Ms. Butler said, smiling.
As Muslims – including children – began to arrive for their ceremony, the antifascists welcomed them and attempted to screen the fascists from the arrivals, while the chants of the fascists grew louder. After the ceremony, the Gardaí arranged for the muslim congregation to leave by another exit and once they were gone, the antifascists left also, some of them to nearby houses.
Spreading fears about “Ireland being swamped by Muslims” is one of the regular activities of the fascists, in contradiction to the statistical facts6. They also claim that asylum seekers are being treated more favourably than the native Irish, being given houses and money, etc. This is also in contradiction of the established facts which are that asylum seekers are housed in rooms in Direct Provision hostels for years in conditions that have been denounced by human rights activists and where a number of suicides have taken place.
Fascists and other far-Right individuals and organisations were very prominent during the height of the Covid pandemic, some propagating unlikely conspiracy theories and others protesting at the perceived limitations of their civil rights.7 Antifascists counter-protested them on a number of occasions, partly in defence of equal rights but also out of concern that following the epidemic, fascists will be used by the ruling elites as historically to crack down on resistance to austerity measures.
In September 2020 a prominent LGBT campaigner was beset by National Party supporters near Leinster House and a member clubbed her to the ground.8 In October that year, antifascists stormed a rally of the same party, causing the latter to ask for Garda protection to escort them away9. Some confrontations took place outside the GPO10 building in O’Connell Street against “Stand Together” and QAnon also and on Custom House Quay two weeks before the assault of the LGBT activist, at a rally organised by the far-Right organisation Irish Yellow Vests, fascists wielding lengths of metal and wood disguised as flags attacked counter-protesters who were then also attacked by riot police. The general tolerance of police towards the fascists – the latter in clear breach of pandemic restrictions — has been remarked upon by a number of observers.
The celebration of Eid in Croke Park last year drew less than a half-dozen fascist protesters. As the Covid restrictions were relaxed, the fascist and other far-Right protests began to fade, though the organisations are still there, regularly seizing on some issue in the media to promote racism, homophobia etc. Some of the participants have a track record of protesting against all kinds of equality legislation over decades and all of them promote the Catholic religion (though some don’t accept the authority of the Papacy). Niall McConnell himself, like most public fascists, is a practitioner of the big lie: addressing a far-Right gathering in Europe some years ago he claimed that Ireland has more migrants than indigenous; on another he claimed on social media that James Connolly had been born in Ireland.11
1These could be seen every Saturday for months outside the General Post Office building in Dublin city centre’s main thoroughfare, O’Connell Street.
2The Proclamation was issued by insurgents in 1916 and is a remarkable document for its time.
6According to the 2016 Census, the percentage of the population in Ireland that are muslims is 1.33%.
7E.g that the virus was not real but the restrictions part of a Jewish plot, the vaccination were to inject nanobots into people to pacify them; that the Communist Party of China was secretly running the world through the UN and the EU, that the latter (or Jews) was working to replace white people with people of colour, partly through encouraging homosexuality; the masks were to separate people from one another and damage them through inhalation of carbon dioxide ….
8The Gardaí on that occasion ordered the victim — blood streaming from her head — to leave the area and claimed to the media that no incidence of importance had occurred. In the face of video evidence they later changed their statement and eventually, on a registered complaint by the victim, charged NP member Michael Quinn with the assault. In October 2020, Quinn pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years in prison, the third year suspended.
10The imposing General Post Office building in Dublin city centre was used as a headquarters by the insurgents in the 1916 Rising and the area outside it is regularly used for political rallies, commemorative events and, in recent years, for feeding homeless or otherwise hungry people.
11The claiming by fascists of the revolutionary socialist James Connolly may seem bizarre but is also an indication of the rank opportunism of fascists generally, in this case because of the high regard in which Irish people hold Connolly. James Connolly was born in the working-class Cowgate area of Edinburgh to parents of the Irish diaspora and both he and his brother became socialist activists, James travelling in later life alternately to Dublin and New York as a socialist writer and organiser. Returning to Dublin, Connolly became a trade union and socialist organiser, historian and journalist, co-founder of the workers’ militia the Irish Citizen Army in 1913 and overall Dublin Commandant in the 1916 Rising. He was executed by British Army firing squad in Kilmainham Jail on May 12th 1916.
The Dublin Committee of the Anti-Internment Group of Ireland held a picket yesterday to highlight the ongoing internment without trial of Irish Republicans and to protest the recent extradition of Liam Campbell to Lithuania, a country to which he has never been. The picket was held in Temple Bar, a tourist quarter of the Dublin’s south city centre.
Afterwards, the AIGI issued the following report (reposted with kind permission): “Tourists, Irish shoppers and young people socialising in Dublin city centre were interested to see the banners and placards against internment in Ireland, along with a banner against extradition of Irish Republicans. They also noted the various placards of the Anti-Internment Group of Ireland and the flags of Palestine and the Basque Country, in addition to the Starry Plough flag of the Irish Citizen Army, representing three of the many nations holding political prisoners.
Supporters distributed up to 200 leaflets and had a number of engagements with people wanting to know more. People were surprised and angry to learn that internment under another name continues in Ireland on both sides of the British Border.
A portable PA machine played resistance music and an AIGI speech from a previous public event which attracted some interest.“
The AIGI’s Facebook page lists approximately 60 political prisoners held in Ireland, mostly in Portlaoise Prison in the Irish state and Maghaberry Jail in the British colony in the north-east of the country. All of those were convicted in special no-jury courts created for the purpose of sentencing political prisoners — i.e nearly always exclusively Irish Republicans. Frequently some charged and facing trial in those special courts are denied bail and are held in custody until their trial comes up, two or three years later and if then chance to be found ‘not guilty’, they will still have spent that time in jail. When granted bail on the other hand it is always under restrictive conditions that prevent them continuing their political activity: e.g night curfew, wearing an electronic tag, banned from attending political activities, etc.
Liam Campbell, an Irish Republican from Dundalk, Co. Louth, was extradited to Lithuania last week to face charges relating to trying to obtain arms in that country. Campbell says that he has never been in that country, which Lithuania and the Irish State both seem to accept yet, after a legal battle of almost 12 years up to the Irish Supreme Court, the Irish Republican was extradited. According to unconfirmed reports Campbell has been granted bail in Lithuania but under what conditions is currently unknown.
The group campaigning against what it sees as ongoing “internment by different names” developed from the campaign to free Marian Price around six years ago and, apart from monthly pickets, has also organised conferences and concerts and representatives have travelled to Belfast, Cork, Derry, Newry and Glasgow. The group has sent messages of solidarity to a Basque liberation group which was read out at the latter’s public event and also to the Mumia Al Jamal and Leonard Peltier campaigns in the USA, Munir Farooghi campaign in England (for which AIGI spoke at public meetings in Ireland), to prisoners in Turkey, Palestine and Latin America. Its street pickets, though legal, have frequently been subject to police harassment on both sides of the British Border — in the Irish state nearly exclusively by the plain-clothes political police, the Special Branch.
The AIGI report concluded: The Anti-Internment Group of Ireland is a democratic group independent of any political party or organisation that holds monthly awareness-raising pickets, as well as a few special public events every year. It is organised by a democratic committee composed of people who attend our pickets and who would like to become involved in running the group.
NÍ NEART GO CUR LE CHÉILE. AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL.
Anatoly Shariy, a popular blogger who opposes Zelensky but also the Russian invasion, accused of being “pro-Russian” and of “high treason” to Ukraine, has been arrested in Spain for extradition to Ukraine, where he has been threatened by nazis. He has also been threatened by Zelensky supporters at his Catalonian address, where he has registered a complaint with the police. Shariy is considered “not a flight risk” by the Spanish State and is out on bail while his extradition warrant is processed. This is at least the second occasion of Spanish State involvement with the Ukrainian authorities against critics – Spanish secret service agents questioned the family and friends of Pablo González, the Basque reporter on the conflict threatened by the Ukrainian intelligence service and later arrested by Poland on charges of “spying” for the Russians, now in his third month of detention without yet a judicial hearing.
Reporting on the arrest and accusations, most right-wing and conservative media outlets follow what has become their standard practice of mirroring Ukrainian official opinion and refer to him as “pro-Russian” in their headlines and it seems clear that if extradited, Shariy would have little chance of a fair trial.
5th May 2022
The following is mostly translation by D.Breatnach from article in Castillian Spanish
According to the Ukrainian government, the Spanish National Police arrested the Ukrainian journalist Antoli Sharíy who has been persecuted by the Kyiv government and threatened with death by the fascist groups that operate under its protection.
Anatoli Sharíy and Olga Bondarenko live with their son in Roda de Berà (DB: near Tarragona, Catalonia, Spanish state) and, for two years, have been harassed at their doorstep by people close to the government of Volodomír Zelenski. The Mossos d’Esquadra (DB: Catalonia police) are aware and prevent physical assault but the threatening messages – also in the image of a blood-stained cradle – have not stopped.
All this is related to the public activity of this Ukrainian couple, who have not set foot in their country for several years. Anatoli Sharí has a YouTube channel with almost three million subscribers and is one of the most influential journalists since even before the Maidan revolt in 2014.
Neo-Nazis have not only leaked the address of his home but also posted the identity of the son, a minor to which, according to his mother Olga Bondarenko, only the Ukrainian Consulate could have access. The last protest took place before Easter, but they fear for their safety especially when the men are allowed to leave Ukraine once the conflict ends.
Until now, all the extradition attempts have been unsuccessful, but after Pedro Sánchez’s visit to Kyiv it seems that everything has been reactivated. The Spanish Government has given way to the bizarre accusation made by the Zelensky government: high treason.
Before leaving the Ukraine, Shari was a journalist based in Kiiv who worked for the Obozravatel outlet. He investigated issues related to illegal casinos, the sale of drugs in pharmacies, murders … Some of them, as he explained in an interview given a few days ago to Nació Digital, “had a connection with the Ministry of the Interior, which covered up the crimes.” At that time, Viktor Yanukovych ruled, a president considered pro-Russian and originally from Donbass.
As a result of some pressure, in 2012 Shari went into exile, passing through the Netherlands and ending up in Barcelona. In 2015 he decided to move to Roda de Berà, albeit without refugee status.
Between the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014, the Euromaidan revolt broke out, a series of protests especially concentrated in the capital that sought to oust the then president, Viktor Yanukovych, to force a rapprochement with the European Union. Anatoli watched it from exile, but it was shortly before he began his careeras a political journalist.
The events of May 2, 2014, in Odessa, in which 48 people were killed by the launch of Molotov cocktails when they took refuge from the neo-Nazis in the so-called “House of Trade Unions”, raised alarms. This mass murder carried out by the Pravy Sektor (‘Right Sector’, neo-Nazi) caused Anatoli to start posting videos on the networks expressing his opinion and at the same time communicating information about his investigations.
“There has never been as much corruption as now”
Anatoly is accused of treason by supporting Russia on you Tube … but contrary to the accusation, YouTube is known to ban all videos that support Russia.
The first months of the Zelensky government did not meet the expectations of a part of the population, who saw him as a leader who could command respect among the different political outlooks that existed in the country. “We wanted Zelensky to be elected because in Ukraine there are many problems with the battalions and the neo-Nazis,” explains Olga.
Beside her, Anatoli denies that these are few: “It is very easy to control the population with weapons even if they are only 10 out of 100,000.” “They have a lot of power, they have weapons, they attack journalists, a lot of people are afraid and the Government does nothing about them,” he adds. One of the best-known battalions in this sense is the Azov, which has even welcomed among its members different international fighters with extreme right-wing ideology, one of them a resident of Segur de Calafell (DB: in Tarragona, Catalonia).
Break with Zelensky
Although before the elections a good relationship existed between Anatoli Sharí and Volodomír Zelensky, the situation changed drastically in 2020. Cases of corruption, such as speculation with the sale of protective masks that arrived in the country during the pandemic were denounced by Anatoli. He declares that “there has never been as much corruption as there is now, not even with Poroshenko.”
The military operation of the Russian government is considered by Anatoli a “gift” for Zelensky, who was steadily declining in popularity before it occurred. One of his rivals in his political career was Anatoli himself, who since June 2019 has led his own party, with a liberal ideology and a discourse against corruption and against neo-Nazi groups.
“The three main opponents of Zelensky are Viktor Medvedchuk, Poroshenko and Anatoli,” says Olga, who points out that this would be one of the reasons why he was accused of high treason in 2020 and, later, once the war had already started, had his party banned, along with others. “Zelensky is a little tyrant and now he has won the lottery to do whatever he wants,” she says.
The accusation of high treason was used by Zelensky to block Anatoli’s and Olga’s Facebook, YouTube and Instagram profiles, and not only that, but he has also imposed various sanctions such as prohibiting them both and also Olga’s mother from having a bank account.
With the blocking of opponents’ (of Zelensky) social networks, thousands of Ukrainians have had to look for alternatives from which to receive information of all kinds. Views of Anatoli’s YouTube channel every time he uploads a video are almost instantaneous, apart from live broadcasts, and most are either from residents in the country — through VPN services — or from Ukrainians who have had to leave. Through these spaces, they get in touch to help one another, for example when someone needs some medicine, according to Olga.
Meanwhile, the Zelensky government continues to try to narrow Anatoli’s circle more and more. One of his followers, arrested and later fled the country, assured him that, during his arrest, he had been tortured…
Prominent blogger and critic of the Ukrainian government, Anatoly Shariy, has been detained by Spanish police as part of an international operation, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) announced on Thursday.
Shariy was arrested on Wednesday in a joint operation by Spanish and Ukrainian police officers, as well as international “partners”, the SBU said in a statement.
The agency, Kyiv’s successor to the Soviet KGB, said the opposition figure is wanted on charges of treason by Kyiv, among other things. Shariy has been infringing Ukraine’s national security through his media activities, while allegedly acting on behalf of “foreign” forces, it insisted.
The case against the YouTuber with almost 3 million subscribers began in February 2021.
Shariy’s arrest “is one more proof that every traitor to Ukraine will sooner or later receive the deserved punishment from him. It is unavoidable,” the SBU said.
The Ukrainian announcement was confirmed by the Spanish police
The Ukrainian announcement was confirmed by Spanish police, who told RIA-Novosti that Shariy was arrested in the coastal city of Tarragona on May 4 on an international arrest warrant.
Shariy received political asylum in the EU in Lithuania in 2012. At the time, he said he was fleeing persecution from the government of Viktor Yanukovych, who was branded as pro-Russian by Western media.
Yanukovych was deposed after the Maidan coup in 2014, but the blogger remained a harsh critic of the authorities in Ukraine, be it President Petro Poroshenko or his successor Volodymyr Zelensky.
He condemned Russia’s military operation in Ukraine after it was launched in late February, but continued to point to what he saw as flaws in Kyiv’s conduct during the ongoing conflict.
The blogger’s political asylum was canceled by Lithuania in January this year.
Shariy was absent from social media on Wednesday, but on Thursday he used Telegram to share a photo of his wife feeding parrots in Barcelona, accompanying it with a comment that read: “This is really a comedy.”
In his Twitter account, according to Publico report, in which Shariy related he had been threatened by a Ukrainian government adviser, the blogger commented: “The only crime I have committed is not to have exposed enough thieves.”
On 9th April, the Dublin Anti-Internment Committee held another of its regular awareness-rising events in the city, this time on on the northside, at the junction of the busy shopping Henry Street and Liffey Street.
Supporters lined up with the Anti-Internment Committee of Ireland banner and placards. In addition to the Starry Plough of the Irish working class, the Palestinian and the Basque flags were flown in symbols of solidarity and also as a demonstration that political prisoners are held in many countries around the world.
Going on for 200 of the AIGI’s leaflets were distributed, explaining that Irish Republicans continue to be held in custody without trial through the practice of refusal of bail and through revocation of licence. This practice by administrations on both sides of the British Border are anti-democratic suppression of the right to hold political opinions and to organise in their furtherance.
Recordings of relevant songs were played on a portable PA, such as The Roll of Honour, Viva la Quinze Brigada and Something Inside So Strong. Throughout the period of the event, two Special Branch (plainclothes political police) kept up an obvious surveillance which however did not deter the picketers.
The Anti-Internment Committee of Ireland is an independent broad and democratic committee, endeavouring to hold regular awareness-raising events and all democratic people are welcome to attend its public events, always advertised in advance on its Facebook page.
The Dublin Anti-Internment Committee held a well-attended picket on Saturday (5th March) against the continuing practice of interning Irish Republicans without trial and also in support of human rights for political prisoners. At one point the picket was subjected to the unwelcome attention of the Irish political police.
The event was in furtherance of the Committee’s advertised intention to hold monthly public events to highlight the deprivation of civil rights from Irish Republicans — on both sides of the British border — through the operation of special legislation and in particular of the no-jury political courts (Special Criminal Courts in the Irish state and Diplock Court in the British colony). The Committee has admitted that it does not always succeed in holding a public event every month and in fact its most recent public appearance was during the December festive season, in solidarity with Irish Republican prisoners, when it was supported by a number of organisations and independent activists.
WHY THESE PUBLIC EVENTS?
The Dublin Committee holds these public events because it believes that most people are unaware of the abuse of civil rights in Ireland, the civil right to belong to an organisation that criticises the State and seeks profound change. The reaction of people receiving a leaflet at their public events would seem to bear this out.
Choosing a couple of extracts from their current leaflet: ‘At various times in Ireland’s history, people have been rounded up and jailed without bothering with a trial – people whom the government found troublesome and wished removed. Today the same process carries on although they don’t call it “internment” now – other names such as “due process”, “remanded in custody” are used ….”
‘Even when Republican activists are granted bail, it is on outrageous conditions such as not being permitted to reside in their own home, having to observe a curfew and wear an electronic tag, not being permitted to attend meetings and demonstrations …..’
The leaflet text makes the point that one doesn’t have to agree with the politics of Irish Republicans to see that these injustices are profoundly undemocratic abuses of civil rights — and “are ultimately a danger to all oppositional movements, whether Republican or not”. One aspect of their protest was against the denial of open family visits to Republican prisoners in the jails of the British colony in the north-east of Ireland — a violation of human rights.
The surprise in learning the facts is not confined to Irish people because often it is expressed by tourists or migrants, even if they have encountered such practices in their own countries of origin.
An example of the interest from abroad on Saturday was of a Basque man and, separately, of two young Basque women, reacting warmly to seeing the Basque flag among the picketers. The Dublin Committee objects not only to the incarceration of Irish Republicans but also of people seeking freedom in many other parts of the world, for which reason the Palestinian and Basque flags are frequently flown on their pickets, next to the revolutionary Irish workers’ flag of the Starry Plough.
A person who expressed support for the right to campaign without state repression was, interestingly, from Barcelona. However he did not wish for Catalan independence, wanting instead a unitary but democratic Spanish state – a position held by some communists and the main socia-democratic parties there. Although his position did not concur with that of the picketers, who tend to support the struggles for self-determination, the conversation was conducted without hostility.
Not so with another individual, who approached some picketers to argue for their support for the Ukrainian state in the current armed conflict there, a question that has deeply divided the Irish Left and Republican movements. He went further and announced his support for the Azov Battalion, an East European fascist organisation integrated into the Ukrainian state’s military, at which point the tolerance of the picketers for his intervention ended and he was urged to depart.
POLITICAL POLICE INTIMIDATION
Another temporary presence unwelcome to the picketers was of three members of the Irish State’s political police. These are members of what used to be called the Special Branch but are now officially called the Special Detective Unit, formerly C3 and successor to the CID when the Irish State was created. This type of political police force is modelled on the Irish Special Branch of Scotland Yard, the HQ of the British police, founded to spy on the influence and activities of the “Fenians” (i.e the Irish Republican Brotherhood) in the cities of Victorian-era Britain. However, in Dublin under British occupation, their parallel force was the G Division of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, known as “G-men”; it was they who identified many Republican and other prisoners of the British military after the 1916 Rising, ensuring death sentences for many (though most commuted to life imprisonment) and jail sentence for many others. During the War of Independence (1919-1921 they were identified as the intelligence service of the British occupation and many were selectively assassinated by the IRA of the time.
The Garda “Branch” (as they are known colloquially) of the Irish State have a long history of harassment of and spying on Irish Republicans, sometimes associated with violence and often with perjury in court. Their unsupported observations through the mouth of a Garda officer at the rank of Superintendent has been enough “evidence”, in the no-jury Special Criminal Court, to send many Irish Republicans to jail on a charge of “membership of an illegal organisation.”
One of these gentlemen on Saturday approached the youngest supporter of the picket, who was distributing leaflets to passers-by, identified himself as a Gárda officer in plain-clothes and demanded the young activist’s name. His accosting of the leafletter attracted the attention of others on the picket and two went quickly to support the subject of State harassment. The Branchman demanded no further information and sone moved away. However, when he had reached about half-way along the picketters, he stopped and began filming them.
At that point one of the picketers began to call out to passers-by, many of whom were tourists, that this man was a member of the secret political police, who was filming and attempting to intimidate people on a legal political protest, that this is the kind of ‘democracy’ that exists in the Irish state, etc, etc. Shortly thereafter, the Branchman departed, along with another two of his colleagues that had been observed further down towards Temple Bar.
According to picket participants this intervention of the political police represented an escalation of their attentions in recent times, though not in the least unusual in the past, when every picketer might have their name (and even their address) demanded and jotted down.
A spokesperson of the Dublin Anti-Internment Committee stated that it is independent of any political party or organisation and that it welcomes the participation at its public events of democratic individuals, whether independent activists or members of organisations and had distributed many of its leaflets. It regrets that a number of political activists — who should have an interest, even if only in self-preservation – in defending the democratic rights to organise and to protest, decline to support their events.
Amidst festive season lights, passing Santa Clauses on horse-drawn carriages and hungry people being fed by volunteers in the Dublin city centre, Irish Republicans and Socialists gathered to send a public message of solidarity to political prisoners in Ireland and elsewhere.
The event is an annual one organised by the Anti-Internment Group of Ireland, an independent non-aligned group raising awareness that internment without trial continues in Ireland, through revoking of licence of ex-prisoners and through refusal of bail in the no-jury courts both sides of the British Border. The Dublin committee of the AIGI holds monthly public awareness-raising pickets in the city centre.
The annual picket on Thursday early evening was supported by activists of the Irish Republican Prisoners’ Welfare Association and of the Anti-Imperialist Action organisation, along with some independents and took place in front of the iconic GPO building, on Dublin’s main street.
The picketers and passers-by were addressed by a representative of the Anti-Internment Group outlining the participants’ presence to send solidarity greeting to political prisoners in Ireland and around the world. The speaker drew particular attention to three prisoners: Leonard Peltier, Native American, 45 years in jail and Black American Mumia Al Jamaal, 40 years in prison, both framed by police in the USA. Also highlighted was the case of Ali Osman Kose, 37 years in jail, 21 of which he has spent in solitary confinement. The speaker informed the audience that those three political prisoners, apart from their very long years of incarceration, have multiple health issues and should be released, he said on humanitarian grounds alone. “But no ….. they want them to die in jail”, he said.
Going on to speak about political prisoners in Ireland, the speaker said that they and hostages had existed almost from the moment Ireland had been invaded by its neighbour and from the defeated United Irishmen up to the Fenians, had included not only dungeons and prison cells but also penal colonies on the other side of the world, after which they had been confined in special prisons and concentrations camps.
The creation of the Irish State on a partitioned Irish country a century ago this month had not brought freedom nor an end to the struggle, the speaker said and pointed out that the Irish State had executed 80 Irish Republicans during the years of the Civil War, which was more than the British had done during the War of Independence preceding it.
“Whether we are religious or not ….. in our culture at this time of year we expect to be with our families, our partner, children and friends,” the AIGI representative said but pointed out that this opportunity is not available to the prisoners, which makes this a particularly difficult time of year for them, which is why the Group and others hold this event every year.
The speaker then called a young boy forward “to send a message to the prisoners from this younger generation who hopefully will see a free and united Ireland with social justice and equality. The young boy stepped forward and through the PA, asked all at this time of year to think of the Republican prisoners.
The Starry Plough, the Palestinian flag and the Basque Ikurrina were flown by participants and among the banners of the IRPWA and Dublin Committee of the AIGI there was also one displaying the Carlos Latuff graphic of Palestinian and Irish Republican prisoner solidarity. The centrepiece in the picket line was the word Saoirse (‘freedom’ in Irish) picked out by lights on a dark background. Appropriate music was also played during the picket from a PA system, except while being addressed by the speaker.
The event concluded with thanks to all the attendance and the singing the first verse and chorus of the battle-song Amhrán na bhFiann (The Soldiers’ Song in Irish, which is also the National Anthem).
It is understood that seasonal greeting cards have also been sent by AIGI to political prisoners in prisons in the Irish state and in the colonial statelet.