CORRECT ANALYSIS, SHAMEFUL CONCLUSION

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 5 mins)

A leaflet from the Socialist Party of Ireland distributed at the antifascist rally in Dublin on Saturday 12th made a correct analysis of the source of the problems in Irish society of which the Far-Right are taking advantage in order to mislead people but also grow. But the leaflet text failed shamefully when it came to outlining the next steps to take.

          Titled “OPPOSE RACIST DIVISION — Organise to stop the far right”, the leaflet correctly identified the haphazard Government restrictions as the cause of insecurity and confusion about the Covid19 virus, which fed the negationist movement. It also stated that the Far-Right was manipulating these people and working to infect them with racism and homophobia.

It was correct also to point to the need for socialists to expose the real issues and organise to resolve them.

However, the leaflet text went on to state: “Recent experiences have shown that small counter demonstrations with confrontational tactics have jeopardised the safety of anti-fascist protestors and can drive some some people further into the arms of the far right.”

Perhaps the Socialist Party can tell us what kind of counter demonstration would not be seen as having “confrontational tactics”. In fact since to their credit for the first time some of their comrades actually took part in one such counter-protest, on Custom House Quay on the 22nd August, they could inform their party that the counter-protesters were attacked almost as soon as they stepped on to the Quay, before anything at all was said by them. Also, the Far-Right have been staging regular street protests since last year, many of them centred around the racist and conspiracy theorist Gemma O’Doherty, who recently unfurled a banner calling to “Make Ireland Catholic Again”. Should the Far-Right have been permitted to continue without public opposition?

Some of the armed fascists that attacked a counter-protest on Custom House Quay on 22 August 2020.
(Source Image: Internet, then cropped)

The counter-protests were small because the majority of the antifascist movement did not participate in them. It was independent anarchists, socialists and Irish Republicans who first took up that task and at that time the Far-Right protests were quite small. When the Far-Right called a larger one for Leinster House, in a coalition of fascist parties and organisations, a fairly large force of Irish Republicans and independent antifascists confronted them and a number of the Republicans were arrested. Following that event, on 14th December 2019 a larger combined force of antifascists including Irish Republicans, Antifascist Action and socialist parties occupied the protest ground planned by the Far-Right outside Leinster House and outnumbered the latter by about ten to one.

The small ad-hoc antifascist coalition of various political and social threads has been left to confront all the other fascist gatherings on their own. A Far-Right group called QAnon occupied the GPO forecourt for Saturday rallies as soon as the Covid19 restrictions were introduced and were left largely unmolested by antifascists to establish themselves as a weekly event, supported by fascist activists who travelled from different parts of the country to attend it. They were left unmolested by the Gardaí too, who nevertheless used Covid19 powers to harass Debenhams picketers around the corner in Henry Street and also by the Special Branch, Ireland’s political police, who harassed pickets held in solidarity with Irish Republican and Basque political prisoners, demanding the names and addresses of the picketers.

All subsequent rallies, pickets and meetings of the Far-Right were left entirely to the small aforementioned coalitions to oppose but when the Debenhams workers staged their march and rally on 8th August, the QAnon group abandoned their Saturday spot and took to Phoenix Park instead, showing the antifascist potential of a large gathering of the Left.

HISTORY OF ANTIFASCIST STRUGGLE IN IRELAND

          The rise of the fascist movement in Ireland in the 1930s was defeated by Irish Republicans, who confronted them physically on the streets to the extent that the ruling class feared revolution and mostly acquiesced with De Valera’s government banning a Blueshirt march, after which the Blueshirts became integrated into the Fine Gael party and ceased to have a separate existence.

Eoin O’Duffy exchanges fascist salute with Blueshirt rally in 1930s Ireland.
(Photo source: Internet)

Every attempt to establish a fascist party since then has been promptly squashed by antifascists. In 2016 the European islamophobic fascist organisation Pegida tried to launch itself in Dublin and was driven off the street by massive mobilisation of both those advocating peaceful opposition as well as those favouring physical confrontation (by the way four Republicans still face serious charges arising out of those events). The tiny group of native Irish fascists was attacked on its way into the city centre and the East European contingent had to run or be brought to safety in Garda vans.

Attempted Pegida launch February 2016.  After some short battles between antifascists and fascists with Gardaí moving in to protect the latter, they spirit them away in police vans while staging a diversion in O’Connell St.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

IN BRITAIN

           The fascist movement of Sir Oswald Moseley’s Blackshirts was physically opposed in numerous battles on the streets of British cities throughout the 1930s and after WW2, Moseley himself being knocked to the ground in Manchester and hit by a flying brick in Liverpool. Numerous battles took place in London too of course, the most famous being at Cable Street, where a coalition of Irish and Jewish antifascists, along with local Communist Party activists, fought a battle of several hours on 4th October 1936, principally with 7,000 London Metropolitan Police and all the mounted police of the city. The police got through the first barricade but failed to penetrate the second and the Blackshirts had to turn away, many being ambushed at other points such as at Hyde Park Corner.

Scene from the antifascist Battle of Cable Street 1936, fought mainly against the police who were trying to clear the way through the Jewish migrant area for the fascists.
(Source photo: Internet)
Section of mural near the scene presenting an artist’s impression of the Battle of Cable Street, East London 1936.  (Photo source: Internet).

After WW2 all attempts of Moseley and other fascists to organise were suppressed by robust action on the streets, the most serious being in 1958 in London’s Notting Hill area. Many of the post-war migration of Afro-Caribbean people to London lived in that area. Moseley’s Union of Fascists and the White Defence League organised and whipped up gangs of white youths to attack first migrant Caribbean males, then the white wife of a Caribbean man and finally Caribbean families. The Caribbean migrants and Irish and British antifascists organised defence and battles went on for two weeks. According to Wikipedia: The riots caused tension between the Metropolitan Police and the British African-Caribbean community, which claimed that the police had not taken their reports of racial attacks seriously. In 2002, files were released that revealed that senior police officers at the time had assured the Home Secretary, Rab Butler, that there was little or no racial motivation behind the disturbance, despite testimony from individual police officers to the contrary.” (That pattern of police denial of racism and neglect of targeted communities became a repeated pattern and has also been seen in many other countries).

When fascists began to organise again in Britain at the end of the 1960s, the parties of the Left first advocated ignoring them and when they did eventually mobilise counter-demonstrations, marched them away from confrontation with the fascists. Meanwhile fascists were attacking sellers of socialist papers, socialist meetings, migrants and ethnic minorities. Some elements of the Left after a while adopted the slogan of “no platform for fascists” which became popularised among students and some staff in institutions of third-level education, eventually becoming policy of the National Union of Students.

A coalition of antifascists of various political backgrounds, including some acting unofficially outside their party discipline, mainly in AFA (Anti-Fascist Action) and small groups of revolutionary communists, anarchists, Irish Republicans and antifascists expelled from their parties (e.g. Red Action) took on the National Front, the League of St. George and the British National Party in numerous battles and smashed the ability of the fascists to take possession of any significant physical space in order to organise.  On September 13th we passed by the anniversary of one of those battles in Lewisham, SE London in 1977 and we are nearly at the the anniversary of another, on the 18th in 1992 at Waterloo (the London Underground and train station, not the site of the 1815 battle in Belgium).

Scene from the antifascist Battle of Lewisham 1977. Left groups and Afro-Caribbean youth successfully battled mainly against police to prevent the fascist National Front marching through the borough’s centre.
(Photo source: Internet)

Throughout that period the main parties of the left (with the exception for a period of the SWP and the IMG) refused to confront the fascists physically and instead concentrated on organising events to attract youth away from fascism, principally through the Anti-Nazi League. It was however clearly the physical confrontations by antifascists on the streets, as had been the case in the 1930s that again defeated the rising fascist threat in Britain – for a time. Clearing the fascists from the street not only prevented the intimidation of Left activists and ethnic minorities and prevented the creation of fascist areas but also made it much more difficult for fascists to recruit and marshall forces.

LEARNING THE LESSONS?

          Rather than draw on the lessons of those struggles in Ireland and in Britain, the leaflet text advocates repeating the mistakes. In effect, the leaflet advocates leaving the antifascist mobilisations for the moment and concentrating on the class struggle against the system. That strategy entails allowing the fascists to become established and grow unhindered, making it much harder to root them out later. But not only that – the Left in Ireland has a pretty poor record of taking on the capitalist system and is particularly weak at the moment, with the trade union movement largely supine. The leaflet points to the just struggle of the Debenhams workers, with which the SP is particularly closely connected, at least in Dublin; however it is well to note that those workers have been sacked, their workplaces closed and the struggle is a last-ditch defensive one for redundancy pay. In other words, we are nowhere near a situation where the overall struggle against the capitalist system is such as to cut the ground from under the Far-Right.

Because those loose antifascist networks currently active are not under the control of the SP and are hardly likely to heed their call, the effect of the leaflet text is to advocate a continuation of the current situation, where counter-protests will be outnumbered by mobilisations of the Far-Right, despite the fact that the fascist parties actually have tiny support, bussing in people to swell the numbers. Fascist attacks will continue and may well even escalate. Fascists will continue to arm with Garda impunity for their attacks but it is certain that when the antifascists arm likewise, they will be arrested for “possession of offensive weapons” and even jailed.

Finally, the leaflet failed to give any specific indication of a short or medium-term way forward except to “join the socialists”, i.e the Socialist Party. The leaflet could have advocated building a broad antifascist front and called on people to help in that work, to bring in people not currently active, to ensure large turnouts to counter mobilisations of the Far-Right. But it didn’t.

End.

LEFT IN THE LURCH BUT SINGING

“Mo Ghile Mear”, lyrics composed later in the the 18th Century lamenting the failing of an earlier Rising, a traditional Irish air at least generations old, combined in the 1970s, sung today in great style.

I have not researched the origins of this myself but the theme is well-known, so from relying on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: “Mo Ghile Mear” (translated “My Gallant Darling”, “My Spirited Lad” and variants) is an Irish song. The modern form of the song was composed in the early 1970s by Dónal Ó Liatháin (1934–2008), using a traditional air collected in Cúil Aodha, County Cork, and lyrics selected from Irish-language poems by Seán “Clárach” Mac Domhnaill (1691–1754).

 

The lyrics are partially based on Bímse Buan ar Buairt Gach Ló (“My Heart is Sore with Sorrow Deep” (but “Gach Ló” means “every day” and there is no mention of “My Heart” in the title – D. Breatnach), c. 1746), a lament of the failure of the Jacobite rising of 1745.[1][2] The original poem is in the voice of the personification of Ireland, Éire, lamenting the exile of Bonnie Prince Charlie.[3] Mo ghile mear is a term applied to the Pretender in numerous Jacobite songs of the period. O’Daly (1866) reports that many of the Irish Jacobite songs were set to the tune The White Cockade. This is in origin a love song of the 17th century, the “White Cockade” (cnotadh bán) being an ornament of ribbons worn by young women, but the term was re-interpreted to mean a military cockade in the Jacobite context.[4]

Jacobite musketeers, reenactment.
(Source: Internet)

Another part of the lyrics is based in an earlier Jacobite poem by Mac Domhnaill. This was published in Edward Walsh‘s Irish Popular Songs (Dublin, 1847) under the title of “Air Bharr na gCnoc ‘san Ime gCéin — Over the Hills and Far Away”. Walsh notes that this poem was “said to be the first Jacobite effort” by Mac Domhnaill, written during the Jacobite rising of 1715, so that here the exiled hero is the “Old Pretender”, James Francis Edward Stuart.

The composition of the modern song is associated with composer Seán Ó Riada, who established an Irish-language choir inCúil Aodha, County Cork, in the 1960s. The tune to which it is now set was collected by Ó Riada from an elderly resident of Cúil Aodha called Domhnall Ó Buachalla. Ó Riada died prematurely in 1971, and the song was composed about a year after his death, in c. 1972, with Ó Riada himself now becoming the departed hero lamented in the text. The point of departure for the song was the tape recording of Domhnall Ó Buachalla singing the tune. Ó Riada’s son Peadar suggested to Dónal Ó Liatháin that he should make a song from this melody.[5]

Ó Liatháin decided to select verses from Mac Domhnaill’s poem and set them to the tune. He chose those that were the most “universal”, so that the modern song is no longer an explicit reference to the Jacobite rising but in its origin a lament for the death of Seán Ó Riada.[6]

THIS RENDITION is to my mind and ear an excellent one in traditional-type arrangement and voices (not to mention looks of certain of the singers) and all involved are to be commended. I have not always liked the group’s rendition but this is just wonderful.

In history, we fought in Ireland for two foreign royals at two different times and on each occasion they left us in the lurch.

end.

ALTERNATIVE BASQUE LIBERATION ORGANISATIONS UNITE

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

Press release, founding of Jardun (translated by D.Breatnach)

Photo source: Jardun

On Saturday August 15, two events were held on Mount Albertia in Legutiano.

“At 12 noon, at the top of Mount Albertia, the Eusko Lurra Foundation remembered the Gudari activists who fell in the war of ’36 fighting against fascism. This year the participation of women who fought for freedom and for the rights of workers in the war of ’36 was especially remembered, since women are have been greatly overlooked in this war.

“Later, in the surrounding of the Gaztelua oak grove, a political act was held. There, to begin the act, three veteran Ekintzales militants who maintained their militancy for decades were honoured. Later the organizations Eusko Ekintza and Jarki presented the new coordination called “JARDUN”, as an initiative for the union of forces of the pro-Independence Left.

Three veteran activists honoured.
Photo source: Jardun

____________________________

“Today in Albertia, we bring to mind the gudaris (patriotic soldiers – Trans.) who, faced with fascism, fought for the freedom of Euskal Herria (Basque Country) in the war of ’36. Even so, we cannot, in any way, bring them to mind in a folklorist type of perspective. Passing beyond tears, we must approach today’s event from the point of view of the working people, whose only desire is to win and fight. That is why today, beyond only memory, we proclaim the legitimacy of the struggle of all those who in Albertia and in different parts of Euskal Herria have fallen fighting for this people. Precisely, the Albertia Day of 2020 has been organized along the line of that desire to continue fighting, in which its organizers want to make public a new tool that must respond to the aspirations of the Basque Working People. A tool that should function as a space for activation and organization.

Photo source: Jardun

“Due to fractures that have occurred for different reasons following the end of the previous cycle, the various organizations have not been able to overcome our differences and mistrust in order to agree on spaces for unity and coordination. Today, Eusko Ekintza and the revolutionary organization JARKI want to present a coordination space called JARDUN to the Basque Working People. JARDUN is not a split from anything, rather a framework that should shelter different national and local organizations, combining them in a political project and a strategy of a revolutionary independence and socialist nature. So that everyone can, from their space of struggle, organize individually or collectively.

Performance of the Auresku, the honour dance.
Photo source: Jardun

“Today’s presentation, far from being what certain organizations are raving about, is in line with the capacity that the Basque Working People has historically shown when it comes to self-organisation in the face of the oppression it suffers. JARDUN is not a brand for the organizations that compose it to impose their ideology or their political project. It is a meeting point whose objective is to encompass and coordinate the Basque Working People, and all the organizations that work in favor of it, around broad but defined ideological principles. Its strategic objectives are clear: The construction of an Independent and Socialist state that integrates Araba, Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa, Lapurdi, Nafarroa Behera, Nafarroa Garaia and Zuberoa.”

(i.e the seven provinces of the Basque Country, including those on both sides of the Border between the Spanish and French states – Translator).

SOURCE:

https://eh.lahaine.org/eusk-cast-recuerdan-en-albertia

COMMENT:

HISTORY

          Albertia is the site of a battle in the Anti-Fascist war in Araba province from 30 November to 24 December 1936. The Basque Government’s forces launched an offensive on Villareal to take the town from coupist military-fascist forces and relieve the pressure on Madrid. Though the Basque forces significantly outnumbered their opponents, the latter were in defensive positions and had substantial air cover, while the Basque forces had hardly any. Eventually the siege was relieved by which time the Basques had lost 1,000.

CURRENTLY

          Clearly a revolutionary movement needs to unite within itself different organisations and groups if it is to succeed. The official Abertzale Left had succeeded in this to a large degree, including under its umbrella a daily newspaper, a trade union, along with its welfare, political, cultural and social organisations. However, in taking the road of not only abandoning armed struggle but also focusing on the electoral path above all else, the official Abertzale leadership has taken some of its parts down that ruined road, causing confusion and fragmentation around it.

Photo source: Jardun

Is this Jardun a first step in the process of unification of the revolutionary alternative? Will it include the Amnistia and youth movements? Can it also include different elements such as anti-authoritarian self-organising groups? Will the internationalist arm of Basque national liberation, Askapena, be re-activated on a revolutionary basis? And can the mistakes of the past be overcome?

We shall have to hope, wait and see.

End.

Photo source: Jardun

FALSE FLAGS AND FAKE PATRIOTS: 1) The Irish Tricolour

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

This series of short pieces sets out to demonstrate not only that the “patriotism” claimed by the Far-Right in Ireland is profoundly fake but that so also are their chief symbols. It is not that the flags and songs are false in themselves – far from it — but that they are being employed falsely, i.e in disregard of their origins and in total contradiction to their historical context and meaning. The “patriots” displaying them are fake, not only in their use of the flags and songs but in the contexts in which they employ them, their discourse and the direction in which they wish to take the Irish nation.

OTHERS TO FOLLOW SEPARATELY:

  • Flag: The “Irish Republic” flag
  • Flag: The “Starry Plough”
  • Flag: The Harp on a green field flag
  • Patriotic song: Amhrán na bhFiann
  • Patriotic song: A Nation Once Again
  • The Far-Right creed of fake patriotism
The Irish Tricolour flag (Photo sourced: Internet)

1. THE IRISH TRICOLOUR

          This is the flag design most commonly associated with Ireland and the official one of the Irish State, though it was not officially adopted by the State until the Constitution of 1937. The flag gained prominence during the 1916 Rising, when it was flown on the Henry Street corner of the GPO roof and was the flag of the Republic during the War of Independence (1919-1921). The Free State which came into being in 1922 controlling five-sixths of Ireland was not the Irish Republic most people had fought for and, in fact, it went to war against those who upheld that Republic. However, the neo-colonial State feared to leave all the symbols of Irish nationalism in the exclusive hands of its enemies and therefore eventually appropriated the flag, adopted the Irish language as its symbolic first language and the Soldiers’ Song to represent it.

On the other hand its display in public in the Six Counties colony was held to be illegal under the Flags and Emblems Act of 1954 until its repeal in 1987 and a number of street battles took place there when colonial police moved in on people to confiscate it.

Although the first use of the colours of green, white and orange as a tricolour arrangement (on cockades and rosettes) was in 1830, when Irish Republicans celebrated the French revolution of that year restoring the French Tricolour as the flag of France, their first recorded use on a flag was not until 1848.

On 28th July 1846 a group of progressive Irish nationalists had broken from Daniel O’Connell’s movement to Repeal the Union, i.e to give Ireland an Irish parliament again but under ultimate British rule. Meagher was one who led the breakaway, opposing the Repeal Association resolution to refuse the option of armed resistance in any and all circumstance, in a famous speech about the right to use weapons in the struggle for freedom, which earned him the nickname Meagher “of the Sword”.

The group became known disparagingly as The Young Irelanders but, like many mocking names, became fixed with respect in Irish history. One of its leaders was Thomas Davis, co-founder of The Irish Nation newspaper and composer of such iconic works as A Nation Once Again, The West’s Awake (songs) and Fontenoy (poem).

Monument in Dame Street to Thomas Davis, Republican, Young Irelander, author, composer, journalist.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

During what became known as “the Year of Revolutions:, 1848, Meagher went to Paris, which was in the hands of revolutionaries as an envoy to the Provisional Government and was there presented by revolutionary women with the Irish Tricolour, which they had sown in fine silk. They explained that its design was intended to reflect the revolutionary ideal of peace, represented by the colour white, between the Catholic Irish (indigenous and Norman descendants), represented by the colour green and the Protestants, descendants of planters and other colonists, represented by the colour orange.  But an active peace, a collaboration in national liberation from English rule and the establishment of a secular Republic.

It would not be surprising had those women been aware of Les Irlandais Unis (the United Irishmen), who had risen less than fifty years earlier for a secular and independent republic and had sought military assistance from the French Republic.

Returning to Ireland with the flag, Meagher unfurled it in public for the first time on 7th March 1848 while speaking from an upper-floor window of the Wolfe Tone Club in Wexford to people celebrating the revolution in Paris. In Dublin it was unfurled in the Music Hall in Lwr. Abbey Street on 15th April 1848 but there was another Irish flag which at the time was more popular and the question of which flag was to represent an independent Ireland (or the movement to achieve such) was left undecided.

Plaque in Waterford recording the first public unfurling of the Irish Tricolour in Ireland.
(Photo sourced: internet)
Plaque in Abbey Street recording the first public unfurling of the Irish Tricolour in Dublin.
(Photo sourced: internet)
Illustration of the trial of Meagher, McManus and Donohoe.
(Image sourced: internet)

Meagher was sentenced to transportation to Van Demien’s Land (now Tasmania), later freed on condition of not returning to Ireland and emigrated to the USA. He supported the Union in the American Civil War for the abolition of slavery and he and his wife actively recruited for the Union Army; he served as a Brigadier General in the Irish Brigade, of which one regiment, the 88th New York, became known as “Mrs. Meagher’s Own”. The Irish Brigade fought many important engagements against the Confederacy and suffered 4,000 dead in the course of the war; two of its commanding officers including Meagher were wounded and three killed. Meagher was believed drowned from a Missouri riverboat on a trip on 1st July 1867, leading some to suspect that he had been murdered, possibly by the nativist anti-migrant organisation known as the “Know Nothings”.1

Thomas Francis Meagher as Union Army officer and Governor of Montana.
Plaque in Waterford recording the first public unfurling of the Irish Tricolour in Ireland.
(Photo sourced: internet)

The Far-Right in Ireland, composed as it is of racists, fascists, Catholic conservatives and religious sectarians, seeks an Ireland far removed from the republican ethos of the flag, presented by French republican revolutionaries to their Irish republican counterparts. It is a flag symbolising inclusion rather than exclusion and explicitly, in its colours, rejecting religious sectarianism. It flies in declared opposition to those who seek an Ireland “made Catholic again”2, oppose immigration and seek an Ireland based on “Irish ethnicity” (meaning blood), a prescription that would have had no place for Thomas Davis’ Welsh father, nor for Meagher, who led thousands of Irish migrants who fought against slavery of Africans in the USA. Their Ireland would have had no place for the Young Irelanders who, like Thomas Davis, were mostly Protestant Republicans.

The Far-Right in Ireland wave the Tricolour flag outside Leinster House in this protest of theirs demanding “free speech” for racist diatribes in February 2020 in sharp contrast to the flag’s meaning and history.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

 

 

 

 

 

The irish Tricolour in Kilmainham Jail (now museum) in the execution yard of 14 patriots of the 1916 Rising (Photo source: Aitor Munoz Munoz, royalty-free).

FOOTNOTES:

1A nickname they earned through their habit of saying that they knew nothing in answer to questions by the police or in court.

2Slogan put forward by notorious racist and conspiracty theorist Gemma Doherty in preparation for an islamophobic rally outside Croke Park on 31st July, supported by fascist organisations Síol na hÉireann and the National Party, both parties opposed to immigration and promoting a racist concept of “Irishness” based on blood.

SOURCES:

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flags_and_Emblems_(Display)_Act_(Northern_Ireland)_1954

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

https://www.thejournal.ie/1848-irish-tricolour-waterford-meagher-819571-Mar2013/

USEFUL LINKS (independent and non-NGO organisations):

Dublin Republicans Against Fascism: https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Political-Organization/Dublin-Republicans-Against-Fascism-104013457786981/

Anti-Fascist Action Ireland: https://www.facebook.com/afaireland/

A SALE OF TWO CENTURIES

REPUBLICANS AND SOCIALISTS PICKET AUCTION OF IRISH HISTORICAL ARTIFACTS

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 5 mins.)

On Saturday 25th July tourists and other passers-by were treated to the sight of people picketing the Freemason Hall in Molesworth Street, Dublin, where the Whyte’s company was holding an auction of Irish historical artifacts.  The picketers flew the historical flags of the Sunrise of na Fianna Éireann and the Starry Plough of the Irish Citizen Army and a banner proclaimed OUR HISTORY IS NOT FOR SALE – is linne uilig í. Placards displayed by the picketers denounced, in Irish and English, the sale of artifacts of Irish history. Among their periodic chants were “Irish history is not for sale!” and “Shame on Whyte’s!”

Picketer inside the Freemason Hall (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

          Very shortly before the event some people had learned of the forthcoming auction by the Whyte’s company, which has an office and shopfront in Molesworth Street (also the street in which the Freemason’s Hall is located), a couple of minutes’ walk from Leinster House, the location of the Oireachtas (the Irish Parliament). The glossy brochure for the event listed a huge amount of items, including an original copy of the 1916 Proclamation of which the Irish State has only one original copy and others have been sold in 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019.

Also up for auction were writings of Thomas Ashe, who died from force-feeding while on hunger-strike in 1917 and a copy of Wolfe Tone’s speech – in his own handwriting — at the trial that condemned him to hang in 1798.

One of the Auctioneer company representatives tried to convince the picketers that he was carrying out a useful national historical service (though he admitted also at a tidy profit) by bringing some of those items for auction to Ireland. Wolfe Tone’s speech notes were a case in point, he claimed, since they had been in the family of a former English Army general. The picketers however were adamant that the item was “stolen property” and that the Irish Government should demand the return of that item and others like it, to which the auctioneer replied “That’s nonsense!”

Banner on display facing the location of the auction.
(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The Auctioneer soon shifted tack and asked the picketers whether they had permission to hold their protest. They responded that they did not need one and were in a public place; the auctioneer went inside the building calling out that the picketers were mistaken.

Shortly thereafter, a Garda patrol car drove into the street and stopped near the protesters, disgorging two serving Garda and a trainee. The picketers explained their presence and that it was a peaceful protest, also assuring the officer in charge that they had obstructed no-one from entering and that indeed a half-dozen or so had entered the building already, passing them on the way; the officer then collected her team, got back in the patrol car and drove away.

The protesters, who had arrived at around 12.30, a half-hour before the advertised start time for the auction, remained until 1.30pm and left. At intervals their chants echoed around the street, no doubt clearly audible to people staying at or using Buswell’s hotel about 50 yards away.

Diarmuid Breatnach, an independent revolutionary socialist, spoke at the event, as did Sean Doyle, of Anti-Imperialist Action and Ger Devereux of the Saoradh organisation.

NOT THE HISTORY OF THE GOMBEENS

          Breatnach denounced the sale of historical artifacts in general but focused in particular on the speech notes of Wolfe Tone, going on to relate how Tone and other Republicans and liberals had tried to build a nation of equality between the various religions in Ireland. They supported the liberal Grattan’s bid to extend the franchise and representation in the Irish Parliament (in which only the tiny minority of Anglicans were permitted to enter) to Catholics and non-Anglican Protestants such as the Presbyterians). When the majority in Parliament rejected the bid by Grattan, Tone and Edward Fitzgerald and McCracken and others knew there was no way forward except revolution, explained the speaker.

In 1798 they had risen in three great uprisings in Wexford, Antrim and Mayo and many smaller ones and along with many others, Wolfe Tone had paid with his life. What kind of ghouls could take and sell the last words of such a man as Tone, Breatnach asked rhetorically? And what kind people could buy them?

Some people wonder how the Irish capitalist class were capable of selling their own history, commented the speaker and went on to say they could do so because it wasn’t their history. It was not the “Gombeen” class that risen to fight for freedom and equality in 1798 nor since but it was they who had “climbed up on our backs in 1921”. That was why the Gombeens could not only sell Irish history but also destroy our sugar beet industry, so that we had to buy sugar from the USA which subsides its industry, hand part of our country over to a foreign power, sell our public services to foreign companies and try to sell our water to one of their own.

Just as there was no way forward to build an Ireland of equality but revolution in 1798, Breatnach concluded, there was no way forward now without getting rid of the Gombeen rulers and the only way that could be done is by revolution.

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Speaking in a quiet voice, Sean Doyle introduced the piece he was going to read, which was an extract from the speech from the dock of another Irish Republican martyr, Roger Casement, hanged by the British in 1916 in Pentonville Prison, London.

Doyle alluded to the irony of Britain going to war allegedly to save Belgium, when Casement had reported on the the exploitation and mutilation of indigenous people in the Congo by forces operating under King Leopold of Belgium.

Casement’s speech also pointed out the fake independence that Ireland was being offered under Home Rule (which some might compare to the “independence” of the Irish state today in partitioned Ireland) and described the nature of true patriotism.

Some of the picketers inside the Freemason Hall.
(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

WHOSE HISTORY AND HERITAGE?

          Ger Devereux of the Saoradh organisation gave a short speech in which he pointed out that the items were of historical importance and belonged to the Irish nation alone, that they should not be sold to private collectors, nor should anyone be making a profit out of them.

The protesters concluded their protest with some more chants including “Whose history? OUR history! Whose heritage? OUR heritage! Irish history is not for sale!”

The Irish State has only three original copies of the Proclamation: one is in Leinster House and only two on regular view to the public, one in the GPO and another in the National Museum. Another copy is on display in the Long Room of Trinity College. Others have been sold by auction in 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019.

VIDEO thanks to Anti-Imperialist Action. 

REFERENCES:

https://www.rte.ie/news/2020/0725/1155496-1916-proclamation-auction/

https://www.thejournal.ie/proclamation-sale-auction-5159850-Jul2020/

INTO SPANISH JAIL AFTER THREE YEARS FREE FROM FRENCH JAIL

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 5 mins.)

Basque independentist militant Itxaso Zaldua was arrested on Tuesday in Hernani, in the Basque province of Gipuzkoa and according to media is to be charged with complicity in the killing of a senior right-wing politician in 2001. She has spent only three years at liberty in the southern Basque Country after nearly twelve in a French jail and is now back in custody pending trial. Her arrest has been denounced by both wings of the Basque pro-independence movement but from different perspectives.

           As according to the bilingual GARA newspaper Zaldua was not held incommunicado, i.e without access to friends and relations, lawyer or doctor of choice, it is not likely that she will be tortured. Until a few years ago the use of a variety of types of torture during the five-day incommunicado period under the “anti-terror” (sic) laws was the rule rather than the exception. However, all detainees charged under the terrorism laws of the Spanish State are always taken to Madrid for interrogation by the Guardia Civil and then for court appearance, the distance from their homes placing an additional burden on friends, relatives and supporters (it is 450 km from Hernani). Some of those will be given temporary accommodation and support by Madrid organisations in solidarity.

TWELVE YEARS IN JAIL

          Back in April 2005 Itxaso Zaldua was arrested in the Lannemezan area of the Occitan region of the French state, along with her comrade José Segurola Querejeta. They were charged with membership of ATAKA (sub-structure of the armed Basque resistance organisation ETA), of which she was accused of leading and duly convicted and jailed in the French system (which also disperses political prisoners to jails throughout the territory).

Zaldua was released in 2017 and right-wing Spanish unionist organisations including the “Association of Victims of Terrorism”, many of their members relatives of Spanish police or military, complained at the traditional honouring reception she received upon her return home from French jail. Zaldua walked hand-in-hand with her young daughter down a street with well-wishers on both sides cheering, was presented with a floral bouquet, two women danced the aurresku (honour dance) before here and another shouted the irrintzi, the high-pitched yodeling cry reputed to have been a battle-cry (see embedded video) and the Eusko Gudariak (“Basque Soldiers”, similar to the Irish “Soldiers’ Song”) was sung by all.

https://www.vozpopuli.com/espana/instituciones-permiten-homenaje-etarra-Itxaso-Zaldua-yihadista_0_1057095289.html (apologies for the use of video from a right-wing source but it was the only one I was able to access).

2017-08-23, Hernani. Itsaso, euskal preso politikoa aske, ongi etorria.
23-08-2017, Hernani. Itsaso, presa politica vasca libre, recibimiento.

“TIME TO BE EMPTYING THE JAILS, NOT FILLING THEM”

          The “official” Basque independentist movement responded quickly to the ex-prisoner’s new arrest: the Sare organisation convened a demonstration in Hernani the same afternoon demanding Zaldua’s release and the trade union works committee of her place of employed also denounced her arrest. The official movement’s political party EH Bildu (headed by Arnaldo Otegi), issued a statement that “It is time to be emptying the jails, not filling them,” a reference to the nearly 250 Basque political prisoners still in jail.

2020-07-21, Demonstration Tuesday afternoon in Hernani in protest at arrest of Itxaso Zaldua in the town earlier that day.
(Photo sourced: Naiz.info)

The party’s statement called the arrest “another obstacle in the path chosen by this nation towards peace, coexistence and freedom; a path which, cost whatever it may, we are determined to follow”.

However the ‘dissident’ organisation Amnistia (Movement for Amnesty and Against Repression), which also condemned the arrest, issued a statement declaring that “There will be no peace until the reasons that are at base of the conflict are resolved and until all the militants who are punished as a consequence of said conflict are free.

Both organisations called the people to action, with EH Bildu referring to “the participation and activation of Basque society” and Amnistia in contrast stating that “the working class need to organize”.

“THEY WANT TO HUMILIATE THE BASQUE COUNTRY”

          The Basque organisation ETA ended its armed struggle in 2012 as part of a unilateral bid for a peace process of the movement under the leadership of Arnaldo Otegi. However, a peace process requires the participation of at least both antagonists and the Spanish State has shown no interest in negotiation. Whatever one may say about such processes in Ireland or in South Africa, the resistance organisations in those countries ensured the freedom of their imprisoned members before they signed up to the deal. This was not so in the Basque case.

It is no doubt difficult for observers to understand why the Spanish State is now pursuing an ex-prisoner for alleged complicity in an assassination nineteen years ago when State has gained not only the ETA’s abandonment of armed struggle but even its dissolution. Nor is there any sign that Zaldua is a sympathiser of the “dissident” movement; the statements in her support from across the “official” movement and the speed of response is in stark contrast to the “officials’” response to the hunger and thirst strike of political prisoner Patxi Ruiz in May. Ruiz had denounced the “official” leadership some years ago and been expelled from the collective that leadership controls (and which precipitated the resignations of another four Basque prisoners in solidarity).

Ironically, it is the assessment of the “dissident” Amnistia which seems correct: “This arrest, like other previous ones, shows that the States (i.e French and Spanish) want to humiliate the Basque Country. By means of life sentences against a specific against a specific model of resistance, they want to intimidate the new generations that join the struggle.”

Itxaso Zaldua, photographed a year after her release from 12 years in French jails.
(Photo sourced: Internet)

DIFFERENT PATHS

          Whatever the eventual outcome of the judicial process against Zaldua in the no-jury National Court in Madrid, it is clear that the struggle against the Spanish State is far from finished in the southern Basque Country, though its armed stage seems over at least for the present.

The “official” leadership has been following an electoral path and quoting the support of external political figures such as Bertie Ahern, Gerry Adams, Kofi Anan, Tony Blair and Brian Currin of South Africa.

In the Euskadi regional government elections on Sunday in the southern Basque Country, the “official” party led by Otegi, EH Bildu, as expected came in second. The PNV, the Basque Nationalist Party, came in first and the PSE, Basque version of the Spanish unionist PSOE, in third place. Despite periodic approaches by the EH Bildu leadership, the PNV will govern the three provinces either in coalition with the PSE or in “confidence and supply” agreement with the party.

Even if EH Bildu in years to come were able to reach first place in Euskadi regional elections, what of the other region, Nafarroa? And the three northern provinces of the Basque Country, under French rule? And, even with an eventual majority in all seven provinces, if the Spanish State were still to deny independence, as it does with an independentist majority in Catalonia, what then?

Over to the Amnistia movement, which advocates street power: “If we are to achieve peace, it will come from the full implementation of total amnesty, with the unconditional release of prisoners, refugees and political deportees, with the expulsion of the occupation forces and with the overcoming of the reasons that pushed so many people to fight. That will be the only guarantee to end arrests like today and other similar repressive actions.”

That seems a realistic enough assessment. But as to how to achieve their objectives against the opposition of the Spanish and French states, neither section of the Basque independentist movement seems to have an answer.

End.

Workmates of Itxaso Zaldua at company CAF Besain demand her release.
(Photo sourced: Internet)

SOURCES:

Movement for Amnesty and Against Repression statement: https://www.amnistiaaskatasuna.com/index.php/es/articulo/ante-la-detencion-de-itxaso-zaldua

Report on-line GARA (naiz): https://www.naiz.eus/en/actualidad/noticia/20200721/detienen-a-la-expresa-itxaso-zaldua-en-hernani

POLITICAL AGITATOR INTERVIEW PART III

Mick Healy of the Irish Marxist History Project was kind enough to interview me about some of the issues about which I have been active.  Parts I and II were published together a couple of months ago and here’s Part III now.

Mostly its snippets about the founding of the Irish in Britain Representation Group, my involvement in the foundation of the Lewisham branch of IBRG in SE London and from there, the Lewisham Irish Centre.  Also my participation in Kurdish solidarity and a trade union delegation to Turkish-occupied Kurdistan (the YPG placard photo is of me in Trafalgar Square, London a couple of years ago when I was over visiting kids & grandkids) and the anti-water charge campaign in Ireland.

FASCISTS PLAN PUBLIC GLORIFICATION OF FRANCO IN MADRID

CARLISTS ALSO PLAN A COMMEMORATION

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 3 minutes)

According to a report by the left-wing Spanish on-line media Publico.es, the fascist Spanish Catholic Movement1 plans an event glorifying the fascist dictator Franco and the only restriction placed upon them by the city council of Madrid has been to “wear masks and maintain social distancing”. At the time of publication, the Council had yet to reply to enquiries from Publico.es.

          José Luis Corral, leader of the fascist Spanish Catholic Movement says all is organised for this Saturday the 18th with a rally at the Arco de la Victoria (“Victory Arch”) to celebrate the “national uprising”: the first military attempted coup against the elected Spanish Government was on 18th July 1936 but was defeated.

Arco de la Victoria, Madrid, commemorating the victory of the military-fascist forces in 1939.
(Photo source: Internet)

The rally is to be followed by a procession to where Franco’s remains now lie, at Mingorrubio Cemetery. The Movement also asked supporters to attend mass (Catholic religious service) at the church in the Valley of the Fallen, the monument and mausoleum to Franquism built by the labour of political prisoners from where finally, after many unfulfilled promises by the PSOE party, Franco’s remains were removed. This took place in October last year among protests by fascists and followed by national TV services in a style reminiscent of an act of national mourning.

General Franco, Dictator of Spain, giving the fascist salute probably 1960s.
(Photo source: Internet)

Also planned to honour in the event at that cemetery is the memory of the fascist Admiral Carrero Blanco, whose body was also removed from the mausoleum in the Valley of the Fallen. Carrero Blanco was Franco’s nominated successor but he was assassinated in Madrid by the Basque armed group ETA in December 1973, two years before the death of the Dictator.

FASCISM IN SPAIN WAS NOT DEFEATED

          In 1936 General Franco led a military-fascist uprising against the elected left-republican Popular Front Government which resulted in a war that did not end until 1939, causing an estimated 200,000 deaths by violence. Following the victory of his forces, which had been aided by Italian Fascist and Nazi German armament, transport and men, a fascist dictatorship was established in which thousands of men were imprisoned, shot out of hand, executed after summary court martial or sent to penal battalions. Women were jailed and shot too, many were raped and publicly humiliated. All of the above was with the full support of the Catholic hierarchy in Spain, in Ireland and in most of the world. Only Cambodia has more mass graves than the Spanish State.

After Franco died, the Transition to “democracy” deal with the social-democratic PSOE and Communist Party leaderships ensured impunity for the fascist perpetrators of tortures and murders and a curtain of silence drawn over the whole history, with mass graves remaining unexcavated or even unmarked for decades. Monuments to Franco and his followers remained throughout much of the state. The Transition also imposed a monarchy on the populace and a unionist Constitution which has been the cause of conflict with the Basque Country and Catalonia for decades.

The display of fascist Franco symbols or glorification of fascism has been forbidden by law in the Spanish State for years but fascists regularly hold events, display fascist symbols, sing fascist songs and shout fascist slogans without any police intervention, to say nothing of facing charges in court. This is certain to be repeated on Saturday.

November 2018, Spanish fascists in Madrid displaying fascist symbols and giving fascist salutes with impunity.
(Photo source: Internet)

The Fascist leader admitted to Publico’s reporter that he had not applied for permission to hold an event celebrating a military-fascist coup but rather “as a protest against the Historical Memory Law2 and a demand that they care for the Victory Arch3, which is very neglected.”

Also on the same day as the Franco glorification event in Madrid, the ultra-conservative Traditionalist Carlist Communion also plans a commemoration of their own. The ultra-Catholic Carlists took the Basque province of Nafarroa into alliance with the Franco military-fascist forces in 1936, massacring around 3,000 Republicans, Socialists, Communists, Anti-Fascists and Basque Nationalists in the province.

The organisers claim that they are commemorating the 111th anniversary of the death in exile of Carlos VII Borbonne and East Austria (their choice for Monarch of Spain, which was part of the cause of the Carlist Wars) and that the only flags or banners permitted will be the those of the “Cross of St. Andrew”, with or without “the Sacred Hearts” and the “Spanish Flag with the Sacred Heart”. However, the organisers have also let it be known that there are “additional reasons” for the event.

Fascism in the Spanish State was never defeated but instead an accommodation was reached with it. Now, in common with much of the world, the fascist movement is rising again but incensed at the national independentist claims of the Basques and Catalans and also at what they perceive as defilement of the memory of their fascist heroes. The Spanish State, even under a Left-Social Democratic government, at the very least exhibits a tolerance towards the fascist movements and their activities which is far from its response to the independentist movements or to the militant Left.

End.

Followers of fascist dictator Franco protesting the long overdue removal of his remains from the Valley of the Fallen fascist monument in October 2019.
(Photo source: Publico.es)

 

FOOTNOTES:

1This is but one of the organisations in the Spanish state that reveres the memory of Franco. I call them “fascists” because that is what they are but Publico calls them “far-Right”.

2 The Historical Memory Law seeks to remedy some of the silence and fear around the history of the Spanish Anti-Fascist War and of the Dictatorship and is one of the regular targets of fascist diatribes

3The Victory Arch monument celebrates the victory of the military-fascist forces over those of the elected government in 1939.

SOURCE:

https://www.publico.es/politica/delegacion-gobierno-madrid-permite-acto-exaltacion-golpe-franquista.html

COALITION PARTIES RENEW REPRESSIVE LEGISLATION WITHOUT SINN FÉIN OPPOSITION

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 7 mins.)

On June 24th, as the repressive Offences Against the State Act was up for debate in the Dáil, it was voted for renewal by TDs of the Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Green parties, along with Labour, while only a Solidarity/People Before Profit and two Independent TDs voted against. For the first time since Sinn Féin had TDs present in the Dáil in 1997, they abstained in the vote. They failed to vote against an undemocratic Act that was brought into being precisely to repress their own political ancestors.

          The Offences Against the State Act was made law by the De Valera Government (Fianna Fáil) in 1939 and 1940 to nullify the writ of habeas corpus served by Seán McBride (Irish Republican, former IRA officer and later one of the founders of Amnesty International) which gained the release of IRA prisoners interned without trial under the previous Emergency Powers Act 1939. The Act established the Special Criminal Court which processed the rearrested internees and sent them back to prison and concentration camp in the Curragh.

BRITISH INTELLIGENCE FATAL BOMBING HELPED TOUGHEN LAW AGAINST REPUBLICANS

          In 1972 the Fianna Fáil Government sought to strengthen the Act even further, among other attacks on civil liberties to permit an inference of guilt by the Special Criminal Court from refusal to answer questions by the Gardaí, along with the taking of a senior Garda officer’s word, unsupported by any substantial evidence, as the main “proof” of membership of an illegal organisation. However, the forecast looked bad for the Government since the Labour Party and Fine Gael were predicted to vote the Amendment down. During the debate, two bombs exploded in Dublin killing two Dublin public transport workers and injuring a number of others, some horrifically (two years later a similar bombing team was to kill 33 and injure around 260 in Dublin and Monaghan). The 1972 explosions, most likely the work of Loyalists working with British Intelligence, were blamed on the IRA and the opposition to the Amendment crumbled, ensuring it passed into law — and there it has remained.

A photo of the bombing adjacent to Liberty Hall (Photo source: Internet)

The Act empowers the Government to bring internment without trial into force by order (i.e without debate, even if the Government should be a minority one). Among its powers the OAS permits the State to ban organisations and subsequently (with its 1972 Amendment) jail people for membership of said organisation, the unsupported testimony of a Garda not below the rank of Chief Superintendent being considered prima facie evidence of said membership.

In a state where trials of all indictable offences under criminal law are by jury with a judge presiding, the Special Criminal Court is a non-jury court. Virtually all Irish Republicans serving time in prisons of the State have been convicted in the SCC, where even the unsupported word of a senior Garda officer is considered important proof and the standard of additional evidence required is very low. As one might expect in such conditions, the conviction rate is unusually high. On the charge of “membership of an illegal organisation” and largely on the word of senior Garda officer, conviction is almost certain and becomes an easy way to remove Irish Republican activists from circulation for the standard two years.

“GREATEST MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE IN THE IRISH STATE”

           In two trials in 1978, the Special Criminal Court, in what has been called “the greatest miscarriage of justice of the Irish State”, tried and sentenced three Republicans to long terms of imprisonment for a mail train robbery at Sallins in which they had played no part. The judges in the Court chose to believe what 12 jurors would likely not have done: that the defendants had voluntarily confessed to actions they had not committed, that they had not been beaten by Gardaí and that the defendants’ bruising had been self-inflicted. The Garda “Heavy Gang” went on to obtain “voluntary confessions” from others, including Joanna Hayes and her relations in the “Kerry Babies” case, later also cleared and recipients of a Government apology in 2019. Those convicted of the Sallins mail train robbery were eventually cleared and released. The circumstances of those false “voluntary confessions” accepted by the SCC have never been investigated.

A poster from the campaign in support of four framed activists in the Special Criminal Court. All but the last one to the left were convicted and sentenced for up to 12 years, being eventually exonerated after long campaigning. The Gardaí involved were never even disciplined and some went on to frame others.
(Image source: http://www.thewhistleblower.ie).
Joanna Hayes, another who “confessed” to a crime she had not committed as did members of her family. Some of the Garda Heavy Gang, permitted by the SCC to get away with beating false confessions in the Sallins Train frameup, went on to be involved in the Hayes case. Even after the Government and Gardaí apologised to her years later, still no investigation. (Photo source: Internet)

In 2001 Colm Murphy was convicted in the Special Criminal Court of conspiracy to cause a bombing on the basis of Garda evidence which Murphy said was untrue — but the judges chose to believe the Gardaí. The Court of Appeal ordered a retrial when it was shown that the Gardaí’s notes had been fabricated and Murphy was cleared in the SCC in 2010.

In 2003 Michael McKevitt was convicted in the Special Court of leadership of the Real IRA on evidence widely believed not to have met the standard necessary for conviction, including that given by a paid informer. McKevitt is still serving his 20-year sentence.

Although the title of the Court includes the word “criminal” it was clearly created for political purposes and until 1998 all but one of its trials have been of Irish Republicans. That did not prevent the TDs of the Greens, a party with a record of previous opposition to the Act, using gang crime along with Labour as an excuse for voting for the Act’s renewal during the recent debate.

“THE SPECIAL BRANCH ACT”

          The granting of wide powers to the State to use against their political opponents has resulted in even those powers being regularly exceeded. Without ever even charging anyone with any crime, the Act has been used by generations of the Special Branch, the political police renamed the Special Detective Unit, to harass and intimidate Republican activists and their supporters. People have been approached and their contact details demanded by these secret police when they have attended a protest picket or rally, public meeting, visited a Republican office or were observed talking to a Republican. People have been searched in the street, had their vehicles stopped and searched also.

Sellers and distributors of Republican newspapers have been harassed and threatened. Without any authorisation even by the Act, officers have approached parents of young activists and their school or college, as well as the place of employment of older activists, to express their concern at the activity or associations of the activists concerned. Officers of the special unit, all of which go armed, have displayed their weapons on occasion to intimidate Republicans (on one famous occasion discharging their firearm in a busy shop). They have filmed and photographed Republicans without any legal right to do so, followed them around, sat obtrusively outside their offices and even their homes, often day after day for months or even years. So widely have the secret police of the Irish State come to see the Act as entitling their intimidation and file-building that when, at a recent Dublin picket about political prisoners, a Republican asked what legal authority the officer had for harassing him, the man replied in all seriousness: “Special Branch Act.”

But on the 24th June, only three TDs voted against the Act’s renewal: Mick Barry (Solidarity/ People Before Profit), Michael MacNamara (Independent, formerly Labour) and Thomas Pringle (Independent). Two TD abstentions were recorded: Pa Daly and Martin Kenny (both Sinn Féin).

Leaders of Sinn Féin photographed in 2016 after announcing they would put their traditional opposition to the OAS in their election manifesto.
(Photo source: Internet)

UNTENABLE IN A DEMOCRACY”

          Traditionally, Sinn Féin, along with other Irish Republicans, have opposed this undemocratic repressive legislation. But not just SF, also the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Amnesty International, Irish and international jurists and UN Rapporteurs and Committees on democratic rights of the United Nations. And not just once but a number of times. The following statement was released by the ICCL in the week before the debate.

23 June 2020

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL), ahead of the mooted renewal of the Offences Against the State Act next week and the Dáil debate tomorrow, renews our call for repeal of the Act and with it the abolition of the non-jury Special Criminal Court.

There is no jury at the Special Criminal Court and it accepts secret evidence from gardaí. This is in violation of our right to a fair trial, our right to trial by jury and our right to equality before the law. ICCL has opposed both the Act and the Court since their introduction to deal with a terrorist threat in 1972. We continue to strongly oppose these emergency measures which have now become the norm in dealing with organised crime.

ICCL’s Executive Director, Liam Herrick, said:

It’s untenable that in a democracy like ours, which prides itself on its human rights record abroad, a law and court like these can exist.

The State contends that it needs the Special in order to protect juries but it has never considered alternatives to abandoning jury trial.”

The protection of jury members is of deep concern to ICCL. But the State has never demonstrated, as required by human rights law, that alternatives to a non-jury trial are ineffective. There are a number of obvious options for protecting juries such as anonymising juries, the use of video link for juries, or granting special protections for juries.

Last year at the Special Criminal Court, Judge Tara Burns acquitted two men of IRA membership after the head of the Garda Special Detective Unit refused to disclose underlying evidence pertaining to “belief evidence” to the prosecution. This meant gardaí were seeking a conviction without disclosing evidence to the defendant’s legal team, the Court or the DPP. ICCL welcomed the Judge’s decision but the case revealed some concerning attitudes and practices at the Court.

ICCL is not alone in our opposition to the Special Criminal Court. Various UN human rights independent experts and the UN Human Rights Committee have repeatedly declared the State to be in violation of its human rights obligations because of the continued use of the Court beyond the emergency it was designed to address. Eminent Irish legal experts, Mr. Justice Hederman, Professor Dermot Walsh and Professor William Binchy have also called for abolition of the Court.

At its introduction in 1972, the Special Criminal Court was considered a radical and purely temporary departure from the norm. Forty years have passed since then. It’s time for its abolition. Statement ends.

CONCLUSION

          Defenders of Sinn Féin have said that dropping opposition to the OAS from their election program for government and even after their party won the highest number of elected TDs (delegates) in the February 2020 General Election, was purely a temporary tactical one. Presumably this decision was in response to Mícheál Martin’s statement last year that Sinn Féin was not a legitimate choice for government because they were against the Act.

Part of the sculpture outside the modern criminal courts building in Dublin, which also houses the Special Criminal Court.
(Image sourced: Intenet)
Special no-jury Criminal Court.
Image sourced: internet)

Not a legitimate choice for whom? one might ask. Do the mass of working people in the country want this undemocratic Act in place? Not that they were ever asked by any Irish Government! Now there was an opportunity to put this before the electorate — but it is not the opinion of the mass of working people that Sinn Féin worries about but that of the ruling class and their media hounds.

When however the two main parties of the Irish Gombeen capitalist class went into coalition with the “alternative” Green Party in order to exclude Sinn Féin from government – and one might have thought SF had nothing now to lose by voting against the renewal of the OAS – even then they failed to oppose it. Some say SF’s tacticians expected the negotiations between the other parties to collapse and then to be able to put themselves forward as a credible alternative. But again, credible to whom?

For years now, Sinn Féin has been at pains to demonstrate that it is a safe pair of hands for Irish capitalism (which entails also being safe for foreign capitalism and British colonialism). It is not necessarily a question of supporting armed struggle or not but to enter into the administration of an invader, as SF did in 2007 when it became part of the British colony’s government, would for most patriots and anti-imperialists be considered a clear crossing of the line. After WW2 many liberated countries executed a number of those who had taken part in such administrations and from one example, a new adjective entered the English language: “quisling”.

Sinn Féin has gone even further now to show the Irish ruling classes and both states that their panoply of repression on both sides of the British Border is safe: undemocratic legislation granting special powers to the police, politicised police forces and special non-jury courts with low quality “proof” required for convictions.

It is understandable with so little viable alternative choice that so many voted for SF candidates in February and in fact, would probably have elected even more had the party fielded sufficient candidates. All the other main parties and even the Greens have been in Government previously, all have approved bank bailouts and austerity budgets.

Sinn Féin is the only major party who had not been in Government and those who wanted to see them in practice had a reasonable point. But seeing them in “opposition” is also instructive. A political party that is so afraid of the ruling class and its media that even in opposition it will not vote against undemocratic repressive legislation and instruments, that were brought in precisely against its own earlier members and supporters – is not going to be braver in government, when it will inevitably be in a coalition with a capitalist party or parties.

Protesters from a variety of Republican organisations and none protest the Special Courts in Dublin City Centre on a rainy afternoon in 2018.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

However, the undemocratic Offences Against the State Act and its non-jury Special Courts remain and must be opposed. The struggle against them will continue to be waged by its victims, currently the “dissident” Republicans and by people and bodies concerned with civil rights. As the State encounters increasing resistance to austerity measures it may well be that it will widen the list of targets of this Act to include social and economic campaigners, as it was rumoured considering against the Jobstown water protest defendants in 2017, all of whom were cleared by the jury who did not believe Garda witness lies (exposed by recordings).

It is essential to oppose this Act and a wider opposition to it needs to be built – one that does not depend on false friends.

End.

REFERENCES

Official record of the debate: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/vote/dail/33/2020-06-24/15/

Irish Times report: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/sinn-f%C3%A9in-abstains-for-first-time-in-offences-against-state-act-renewal-vote-1.4287325

The Offences Against the State Act as on the Statute Book: http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/1998/act/39/enacted/en/print.html

History and some discussion on the Offences Against the State Act: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Offences_against_the_State_Acts_1939%E2%80%931998

Creation of the Act to frustrate Act of habeas corpus: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_Republican_Army_(1922%E2%80%931969)

Amendment 1972: http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/1972/act/26/enacted/en/html

British bomb in Dublin helped ensure vote in favour of Amendment: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1972_and_1973_Dublin_bombings#Keith_and_Kenneth_Littlejohn

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/british-behind-1972-dublin-attack-widow-tells-hearing-1.1296467

FURTHER INFORMATION

Find ICCL’s latest position paper on the Special Criminal Court here: https://www.iccl.ie/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/ICCL-Review-of-the-Special-Criminal-Court-2020.pdf

Comments by the Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin: https://www.iccl.ie/news/un-expert-criticises-special-criminal-court/

Link to the “Hederman Report”, the Report of the Committee to Review the Offences Against the State Acts 1939 -1998 and Related Matters – http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/hederman%20report.pdf/Files/hederman%20report.pdf

Report of the Human Rights Committee criticising Ireland’s use of the SCC and calling for an end to its use from 2000:https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=A%2F55%2F40%5BVOL.I%5D(SUPP)&Lang=en

United Nations Human Rights Committee, ‘Concluding observations on the fourth periodic report of Ireland’, CCPR/C/IRL/CO/4 (19 August 2014) – http://docstore.ohchr.org/SelfServices/FilesHandler.ashx?enc=6QkG1d%2FPPRiCAqhKb7yhsieXFSudRZs%2FX1ZaMqUUOS9yIqPEMRvxx26PpQFtwrk%2BhtvbJ1frkLE%2BCPVCm6lW%2BYjfrz7jxiC9GMVvGkvu2UIuUfSqikQb9KMVoAoKkgSG

Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, 26th February 2013, UN General Assembly, in which the Special Rapporteur says Ireland should aim for the end of the SCC jurisdiction https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session22/A-HRC-22-47-Add-3_en.pdf

JOHN, I HARDLY KNEW YE!

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: )

With their cries and lies and lies and cries, haroo, haroo!

With their cries and lies and lies and cries, haroo, haroo!

With their cries and lies and lies and cries,

The enemy surely fooled ya …..

Ya looked so queer, I shed a tear —

John Connors I hardly knew ya!

          Sad it was to see John Connors speaking at a Far-Right rally outside Leinster House yesterday; sad not only because he gained some fame as a dramatist and the fascists will use that to their advantage but sad because John also stood up for one of the most discriminated-against group in Ireland, the Travellers, of which he is himself a member.

Now I’d be far from saying that the Irish Republican or Socialist movement has a great record in combating anti-Traveller racism but surely their record is far better than that of the Far-Right? But the Far-Right calls all us Republicans and Socialists “pedophiles”, and claims we are paid by a foreign millionaire. These are the new friends of John Connors – at least as long as they can use him, because they are certainly no friends of Traveller rights.

Supporters of the Far-Right rally give a practical demonstration of their belief in “free speech” as they attack the tiny number of counter-protesters. (Photo source: Internet)

I do not claim to have been hugely active against anti-Traveller racism but I have opposed pubs and shops with “No Travellers” notices and wrote against that discrimination during my brief sojourn at the University of Limerick. I don’t remember any right-wing people agreeing with me then – quite the contrary. When the IBRG took up a stance against anti-Traveller racism in Britain and supported the campaign for halting-sites, it was right-wing British (of the type of UKIP today and others – but more about later) and right-wing Irish who opposed us.

Among those at the Epsom Derby years ago to support Roma people being threatened with removal by police, I didn’t see any of the Right and most appeared to be more of the “Far-Left” (sic) – Anarchists, in fact.

I have never heard before yesterday of the Right, whether Far or more “moderate”, giving Travellers a platform to proclaim their cause. At one of the Connolly Festivals, I think it was two years ago, I and Paul O’Brien were glad to be a support act for John Connors at the New Theatre, as singers and musician (Paul) performing songs about (and by, in some cases) Travellers and against racism, before Connors gave his talk. Needless to say, no Far-Right there either.

Mention of singing reminds me that I have attended two festivals of Traveller culture where I also sang. I didn’t see any of the Far-Right there – all the non-Traveller people there were Republicans or Socialists, as far as I could see. John Connors sang a song there too. No great singer, as he has said himself, but far sweeter to listen to singing than to hear him speak at a rally organised by some of the most backward forces in Ireland.

I heard a recording of a little of John’s speech and at the beginning, he spoke against the refusal to two young women, who wanted to speak against sexual abuse, of speaking space by the organisers. Well they might! For these campaigners for “free speech” (another of the false flags of the Far-Right) try to stifle every voice with which they do not agree and, when they cannot stifle it, to smear it. And fair play to John for saying they should have been listened to. But who spoke from the platform after John Connors’ shameful appearance? Herman Kelly, former Assistant Editor of the Catholic Herald that for awhile defended the Catholic Church against accusations of sexual abuse, claimed they were “fake news” and helped to cover them up!

“Patriot” and ex-British Army Rowan Croft, rabid Loyalist and British fascist Jim Dowson and “Irish Patriot” Herman Kelly at a conference.
(Photo source: Internet)

In institutions run by that organisation, the Catholic Church, there occurred the highest and most concentrated incidence of not only physical and emotional abuse but also specifically sexual abuse. And most of that sexual abuse was of minors, boys and girls – in other words, pedophilia.

When denunciations of that abuse began to surface, from where did the support of the survivors and demands for inquiry and restitution come? Not from the Right, who fought tooth and nail to defend the Church! No, it was from the Left and basic democratic people that call came and also support for the survivors. Oh but now that the defenders of pedophiles wish to attack us, they label us pedophiles! Like Herman Kelly, they can change their false flags when they wish.

One of those false flags is that of “patriotism”, strutting around under the Tricolour and the “Irish Republic” flag, ignorant and uncaring of the history of those specific flags and of those who fought under them. Herman Kelly is an “Irish Patriot”, he tells anyone who will listen, especially if they don’t remember that he managed publicity work for UKIP, the British Far-Right and full-of-fascists organisation run by Nigel Farrage. Kelly also shared a speaking platform with Jim Dowson, a rabid Ulster Loyalist and British fascist.

“Irish Patriot” Herman Kelly (left) with Nigel Farage, leader of British far-right party UKIP, for which Kelly worked as press officer.
(Photo source: Internet)

As for the other “patriot” notables of the Far-Right, Gemma O’Doherty, John Waters, Ben Gilroy, Glen Miller, Justin Barrett, Rowan Croft and Niall McConnell, when have they campaigned to defend the Irish language? Or against the British Petroleum pipeline in Erris? No, that was Socialists and Republicans. Well then, for the unification of Ireland and expulsion of British imperialism? No, in fact some have openly colluded with Loyalists and another is a former British Army soldier, late of Afghanistan invasion. For the defence of our natural resources, against the privatisation of public services, often to foreign companies? Have we seen them defending Irish heritage sites against property speculators?

None of the above, these ‘patriots’. Ah, what a fine company John Connors has chosen to join!

Opportunist friendst: Ben Gilroy (left) and Herman Kelly (right) (but both on the Far-Right).
(Photo source: Internet).

It would have been thought, coming from an ethnic group so badly treated, that John Connors would refuse to consort with racists, yet racism has been one of the main planks of the Far-Right. They spread the “Replacement Conspiracy” lie, that of “EU plans to replace Irish people with migrants”, which Herman Kelly is on video endorsing. They have campaigned against the admittance of migrants and asylum seekers. Gemma O’Doherty and Justin Barrett even objected to the election of the current Lord Mayor of Dublin on the basis that her parents come from China. Barrett said he would remove her citizenship if he got into power – to threaten that to a woman born in the Mater Hospital, raised and educated in Ireland goes even beyond racism and into straightforward nazism.

Of late, some of the Far-Right people, such as the regular speaker at the Stand Together rallies at the GPO during the height of the Covid19 pandemic (insisting the virus is all a hoax) have claimed to be anti-racists. Yet a number of their “peaceful” militants there strut up to their opponents demanding “Are you Irish?” and have been seen supporting Gemma O’Doherty rallies. One of these “peaceful” supporters recently attacked a Republican who was sitting down at the time before the aggressor was escorted by Gardaí (without arrest) back to his own lines.  Some also tweeted that their rally on Sunday was attacked by opponents, while actually the truth is that the tiny band of counter-protesters were attacked by supporters of the rally, as can be seen from photos and videos of the event.

THE REAL TARGET

          Now, to the nub of the matter, the real reason for that Far-Right rally (apart from recruiting fascists in secret): homophobia. Nothing less than fear and hatred of homosexuals under the guise of hatred of pedophiles. Pedophiles exist and I suppose can be of any sexuality, gay, heterosexual, bisexual and maybe transexual but somehow it is gay men that are mostly accused of it. I have no interest in supporting either Peter Thatchell or Roderic O’Gorman as politicians or political activists but that is not the reason they are being attacked. This is the background being used by the Far-Right: Over two decades ago, Thatchell wrote a letter to the Guardian in which he defended instances of sex between adults and minors in some societies, though he also said he did not advocate it. Thatchell is, among other issues, a prominent campaigner for rights of gay and lesbian women, chiefly active in Britain. Some years later he apologised for those remarks and repeated that pedophilia could not be condoned.

O’Gorman, who is a gay man, welcomed Thatchell to a Gay Pride march once and posed for a photograph with an arm around Thatchell.

That apparently makes O’Gorman a pedophile? No, in the eyes of the Far-Right, it makes him a useful target, for O’Gorman is a Minister in the new Coalition Government, and part of his portfolio is children. So now the Far-Right, who have not only consistently opposed equal rights for any of the LGBT community but even their decriminalisation, have the false flag of “defending our kids” to wave and to whip up a hysteria that has nothing to do with the real problem of pedophilia or the other real problems of our society.

They didn’t do much “defending our kids” from the Catholic Church, of course. Nor did the Loyalist friends of Kelly and others when the British were using Kincora House to entrap prominent Protestants, including politicians, for blackmail about the pedophilia there.

John Connors, dramatist and Traveller, speaking at the Far-Right rally outside Leinster House yesterday.  (Source photo: Internet)

As a society, we have overcome a lot of misconception an prejudice about LBGT people but there is no reason for complacency. Dark forces continue to exist and to manipulate the opinions of the credulous whenever they can. Already they have raised the old slur of pedophilia against the LGBT community and also, a newer one, against all antifascists.

And LGBT people among Irish Travellers, who have suffered not only oppression in society at large but also within their own ethnic group, will find their lives now that much harder.

Ah, John, sure I hardly knew ye!

End.