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

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 6 mins.)

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

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

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

SHORT HISTORY OF THE REVOLUTIONARY HOUSING LEAGUE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conor Owens is now Ireland Director for Hammerson.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE FUTURE

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

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

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

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

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

OVER 10,000 HOMELESS INCLUDING 2,503 CHILDREN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End.

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

FOOTNOTES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOURCES & FURTHER INFORMATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previous high-profile housing activist occupations:

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

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

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

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

A RELEVANT BLAST FROM THE PAST – WAR PROPAGANDA IN IRELAND 1918

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 6 mins.)

Propaganda is employed in wars and finds its most widescale application through the mass media. The belligerents want their own populations to support their war effort and to have other states support them.

IRISH REPORTING ON THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR

The hierarchy of the Catholic Church infamously mirrored the propaganda of their corresponding religious officials in the Spanish State in backing the fascist-military uprising against the elected Popular Front Government in 1936.

Irish newspapers and radio reporting on the whole followed the line of the Church hierarchy. The resulting conflict gave the Spanish state the greatest number of known mass graves in Europe and anywhere in the world, in fact, outside of Cambodia.

Clipping from Irish Press, not a fascist sympathising editorial line, November 1936 (Image sourced: Irish Newspaper Archives, Irish Press)

The Catholic hierarchy declared the fascist-military to be fighting a religious crusade against “Godless communism”, repeated propaganda of the fascist side, denounced real and imagined crimes of the Republican side.

They denied or ignored news of crimes of the fascists, which occurred from the first days and for years after Franco’s victory, in the course of which they denounced even priests who spoke out about the fascist crimes.

Whether the Spanish Republican Government had its own propaganda (I’m sure it did) or whether all its supporters were squeaky clean or not is besides the point. The overwhelmingly pro-fascist forces propaganda affected us in Ireland and most of it was fallacious.

Even the Irish Press, paper of De Valera who had banned the Blueshirts earlier: …. “These idealistic young men also saw their participation in the Spanish Civil War as helping to solve political divisions in Ireland and ultimately Irish unity. Interviewed in Dublin prior to his departure for Spain, Capt. P. Quinn from county Kilkenny, made the following statement: I believe that if an Irish Brigade succeed in reaching Spain, and there fights against Communism and all its terrors ….”

This had a practical effect in Ireland at the time and later, assisting religious and other fascists to attack socialists, communists and other progressives.

It helped create the atmosphere in which alternative writers were censored and hounded and the Irish State could actually expel an Irish citizen – Jimmy Grailton – for the crime of being a socialist community activist.

In turn, this anti-socialist, anti-communist atmosphere created a poisonous environment for social progress, whether championed by revolutionaries or social democrats.

It also helped create a wall shielding the ongoing endemic mental and physical – including sexual — abuse of women and children which seemed impermeable to control or even criticism for decades.

BRITISH WWI PROPAGANDA

The British imperial cant of “defence of small nations” or of “defending civilisation” in its war against Germany during WW1 while simultaneously suppressing the 1916 Rising and repressing many peoples around the world is well known.

The media related invented German atrocities, gave one-sided reporting, censored or demonised alternative views (I know, beginning to sound familiar).

That is the general, well-established picture. However, I’d like to focus on a specific incident and how it was treated: the sinking by German submarine (U-Boat) of the Howth fishing trawlers St. Michan and Geraldine on 31st of March 1918, with the loss of five Irish lives.

A Howth fishing vessel in past years
(Photo sourced: Internet)

No question of who’s in the wrong there, you’d think. The Irish unionist media (admittedly under war powers control) jumped to accuse the German Uboat crew of a “Howth atrocity”, an “Act of Murder” and that they “Shelled without warning”1.

I am grateful to Phillip O’Connor for his exploration of the incident) in his Road to Independence (2016) [Howth Free Press] on the involvement of Howth, Sutton and Baldoyle communities in the struggle for independence and social progress (and his source on the incident, Seán T. Rickard’s MA).

WAR CONTEXT OF INCIDENT

WWI was fought on land, air (even then) and sea. The British Navy was the most powerful in the world and imposed a naval blockade on Germany, bottling up the latter’s navy but also preventing supplies of any kind entering by sea. Unusually, the blockade included foods.

Germany took the position that Britain was trying to starve the German population and responded with its submarines attacking UK shipping which at the time included Ireland’s.

The British responded by concealing guns on merchant ships so that a German submarine surfacing and demanding surrender could in turn by sunk by the merchant ship in question. Indeed the British used fishing boats as mine-sweepers and even armed some too.

This had the effect of encouraging German Uboat captains on occasion to sink merchant ships without warning rather than run the risk of being sunk themselves.

However the U90, the submarine in question concerning the Irish trawlers in March 1918, appeared not to have been doing that and O’Connor quotes the case of the Greek ship SS Salaminia, of which the entire crew had been given time to get into lifeboats before being sunk.

Indeed, the eight captain and crew of the Michan all got into their “punt” and were picked up alive by a British Navy patrol. Tragically, the Geraldine had no additional boat, having set some of its crew ashore on Lambay Island to gather whelk for long-line hook-baiting.

Whether Captain Jess of the U90 believed the Geraldine was being defiant, playing for time or anything else is not known but his Uboat sank the vessel and there were no survivors.

The dominant newspapers in Ireland at the time condemned the German Uboat along the lines outlined above but also went further to make political capital out of it against the Republican movement.

They – and politicians they quoted – used the incident to attack Irish Republicanism, one going so far as to refer sarcastically to the Republicans’ “gallant allies”, lifting the quotation from the 1916 Proclamation of Independence.

There were rules of war agreed at the Hague Convention of 1907. Attacks on civilians are ruled as a war crime by the Geneva Convention but that was not composed and agreed until 1949.

However, its applicability to all the situations of conflict at sea were not codified until much later and, even then, are not binding on the signatories2.

It needs also to be noted that violations of humanitarian regulations and laws by most states have been documented during their wars with other states and in suppressing uprisings. The British did arm merchant ships during WW1 and also used them in a mine-sweeping capacity.

Looks like a drawing of the sinking RMS Leinster produced for a newspaper of the time (image sourced: https://www.postalmuseum.org/blog/the-centenary-of-the-sinking-of-rms-leinster/)

Also the Leinster, for example, sunk by German Uboat torpedoes on 10th October the same year as the Howth fishing boats, was carrying military personnel and armament and therefore in war terms a legitimate target.3

However, it is difficult to see how the fishing boats could be suspected of being armed merchantmen or even as ships supplying Britain and therefore equal to any ships attacked for breaching the Royal Navy blockade of Germany.

I am grateful to O’Connor for supplying me with the reference4 to the UK’s war-time restrictions obliging fishermen to ply their trade at 15 miles or further from its main ports, which included Dún Laoghaire and Dublin and therefore affected the Howth fishing fleet.

The U90’s captain may have suspected the British were using them as “spotters” for submarines in the area but even so, it is difficult to justify sinking without verifying radio equipment on board and especially without a dinghy to take the crew to safety ….!

German UC-1 class submarine surfaced with crew (Photo sourced: Internet)

In that respect it seems the U90 might have been in violation of agreed measures for the protection of civilians at sea in time of war by destroying civilian fishing vessels.

On the question of warning, although there were no survivors of the Geraldine, the available evidence is that the Captain of the U90 did warn before sinking shipping and had done so in a number of cases including another fishing boat on the same day.

But all was grist to the British war propaganda media and even, especially in the case of Ireland, to its colonial purposes in attacking its main anti-colonial opponents of the time, Irish Republicans.

Of course too, left unmentioned was the fact that the UK was attacking German civilians through blockading food imports5 and threatening and impounding any blockade-breaking ships (except those of the USA6).

Blockades and sanctions have cost many lives over the years – the UK blockaded the Spanish Republic during the Anti-Fascist War which did not impede Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy hugely supplying arms, aircraft and men to the military-fascist troops.

The USA imposed sanctions on Cuba for decades and Iraq for some years; in the latter case, by 1996 an estimated half million children had died as a result, a figure justified by Madeleine Albright, then USA Ambassador to the UN7.

Israel is permanently blockading Gaza in Palestine by land, air and sea – Egypt is participating too with its control over one gate. NATO sanctioned Russia which is now retaliating with some measures also.

Interestingly, O’Connor records that British war propaganda had little effect in 1918 on majority Irish opinion and even the Howth fishermen’s representative condemned the UK Admiralty for the mortal danger in obliging fishermen to ply their trade beyond 15 miles from shore8.

The UK General Election results in Ireland six weeks later would be a convincing illustration of how the vast majority of the population was thinking.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1It would be interesting to know whether it entered the heads of any editors that the British military had bombarded the city centre of Dublin with a number of land and sea-born artillery pieces just two years earlier, without any attempt of warning to the civilian population whatsoever.

2https://casebook.icrc.org/law/naval-warfare

3The Wikipedia entry on the sinking of the the Leinster, while acknowledging the nearly 500 military personnel on board, does not common on this negation of the ship’s civilian status. It does not mention the gun mounted on it either, which is noted in this record https://www.rmsleinster.com/sinking/sinking.htm

4See Appendix for details on this (thanks to Phillip O’Connor).

5The 1994 San Remo Manual states:

102. The declaration or establishment of a blockade is prohibited if:
a) it has the sole purpose of starving the civilian population or denying it other objects essential for its survival.

103. If the civilian population of the blockaded territory is inadequately provided with food and other objects essential for its survival, the blockading party must provide for free passage of such foodstuffs and other essential supplies.

6Vide O’Connor The Road to Independence (2016) [Howth Free Press]

7https://www.newsweek.com/watch-madeleine-albright-saying-iraqi-kids-deaths-worth-it-resurfaces-1691193

8The Road to Independence (2016) [Howth Free Press], p.52.

SOURCES

The Road to Independence (2016) [Howth Free Press]

British naval blockade of Germany: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blockade_of_Germany#:~:text=The%20British%2C%20with%20their%20overwhelming,to%20be%20a%20war%20zone%2C

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

Merchant shipping in wartime: https://casebook.icrc.org/glossary/merchant-shipping

https://casebook.icrc.org/law/naval-warfare

Sinking of the Leinster: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMS_Leinster
https://www.rmsleinster.com/sinking/sinking.htm

APPENDIX

   To regulate the security risk of fishing around Ireland during the war the Admiralty thought it necessary to divide the coasts into security zones. These zones had various levels of regulation and protection. Areas were either licensed by special permit, which allowed fishermen to fish these areas under restriction or were simply designated as areas where fishing was prohibited. Orders directly issued by the Admiralty were passed on to the fishermen through the D.A.T.I. via Notices to Mariners (NA G/12 (1917) & G/20/5 (1918). 

Fishing was generally prohibited several miles from headlands, as it was a favourite spot for lurking U-boats. It was also prohibited around minefields, which were used to protect the coast and divert traffic into safer zones for escorts. It was also prohibited around naval bases and near convoy meeting points. And traditionally it was always prohibited in sea-lanes where there was heavy sea traffic. It was prohibited in many areas between sunset and sunrise, (a term still used in modern Rules Of the Road) and also known as “dark hours”. If any security measure presented itself, fishing could also be prohibited at short notice for whatever reason by word of mouth on the local naval authority shoreside or naval authority at sea. The Admiralty also had the right to commandeer vessels and/or cargo space also at short notice. The Admiralty later ordered that if the fishermen sighted enemy submarines they were to stop their fishing activity and go immediately to inform the closest naval authority whether at sea or ashore. This made fishing more difficult, costly and dangerous and particularly annoying to Irish fishermen with national sentiments.

The Admiralty even warned that a failure to comply might lead them to be fired on by naval vessels. Immediately affecting Howth fishermen was the prohibition of fishing within fifteen miles of Kingstown. This area roughly to the NW of Kingstown and roughly a few miles off Howth Head was a favourite bait procurement ground for Howth fishermen but also fell within range of most of their local fishing grounds.

     In March 1917 the following rules affected fishermen fishing the East coast of Ireland but in particular Howth fishermen were as follows:

All decked and motorboats fishing anywhere between Ballywalter, Co. Down, and Howth, or anywhere between Wicklow Head and Loop Head, must carry official permits to fish. Between Ballywalter, the Isle of Man, and Howth, such boats may fish by day and by night at any distance from land within the limits of their permits.

They are forbidden to be stopped in or to pass during dark hours through waters where no fishing is allowed.

Moored nets may be left out at night, provided that the head ropes are kept five feet or more below the surface.

(Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction for Ireland. Notice to Fishermen. Effective 1 March 1917. Wt.-865. 250. 2/17)

     Later rules came into effect in 1918 for the locality, one of which was fishing could only be conducted within daylight hours in this area.

WHO IS RISKING A NUCLEAR CATASTROPHE FOR WAR GAINS?

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 5 mins.)

According to the media, the nuclear power plant in Ukraine is controlled by the Russian military and being bombed by artillery.

The Ukrainian state spokespersons accuse the Russians of bombing it themselves while the Russian state spokespersons blame the Ukrainian military. Both warn of the danger of a nuclear disaster.

Amidst the trading accusations, about what can we all be sure?

Well, really only of a few things about which there is (or seems to be) agreement:

  • The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, although it is being maintained in operation by the Ukrainian State’s employees is within the area occupied by the Russian military very soon after the Russian invasion.
  • The plant is being bombed by someone.
  • Due to the bombing, there is a danger of nuclear disaster, initially in the Donbas region where the plant is located but quickly affecting large areas of at least the Ukrainian and of the Russian states and ultimately affecting other areas of Europe1.
  • The bombing of the plant should stop immediately and all possible efforts should be expended in that direction.

To go beyond that and arrive at a reasonably safe conclusion about who is doing the bombing, we need to employ critical deductive analysis and to set aside as far as we can our prejudices. We can’t help but have those but we can set them aside for a moment.

Using critical deductive analysis means looking at aspects like what is logical, who benefits from what, what other evidence is available ….

Russian or Donbas military Guard Outside Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, Russian-controlled Enerhodar City Zaporizhzhia Region, Ukraine August 4, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko/File Photo

CRITICAL DEDUCTIVE ANALYSIS

Who could benefit from the bombing? In theory, either.

The Ukrainian authorities say the Russian do because they wish to blame their opponents.

Since the Ukrainians have demanded the Russians – apart from withdrawing their military entirely – remove themselves from the area of the nuclear plant, presumably the Ukrainians would benefit from blame attaching to the Russians.

Interestingly, “The US, United Nations and Ukraine have called for a withdrawal of military equipment and personnel from the nuclear complex, Europe’s largest, to ensure it is not a target.”2

The Ukrainian state already has US/NATO and the western mass media on its side but a threatened nuclear disaster would inject much greater urgency into the Ukrainian State’s regular calls for more and greater weapons.

Presumably the Russian state, if they were seen to be innocent of this bombing, could use the danger of nuclear disaster to rally greater support within its state and among its allies too.

Who faces the greatest risk in the continued bombing?

Both face a risk of a nuclear disaster, initially and later from fallout. However, initially at least, it is the Russian military in the immediate area, along with the Ukrainian staff of the plant at greatest risk.

But very close behind that in high risk come the civilian population of the Donbas, from which Luhansk militia are drawn – in other words, friends, families, relations, lovers of the Luhansk militia.

Who knows the truth?

Undoubtedly, in the immediate first instance, the Ukrainian military, the Russian military, the people of the locality including the Luhansk militia and, presumably, the staff of the nuclear plant. But also the intelligence services of US/NATO.

The mainstream western media is not publishing interviews with the people of the locality and have slanted their general reporting against Russia, which leaves the Ukrainian State side with the most impact3 in the controversy.

And the intelligence services of US/NATO, who have kept quiet on this issue.

Another accusation which the Ukrainian authorities have made against the Russian side is that they have installed artillery around the nuclear plant from which they have been firing at the Ukrainian military.

This would be against rules of conflict that military should avoid installing their personnel, weapons or material in or around civilian facilities.4

Accusing the Russian military of installing artillery around the site would also seem to provide the Ukrainian military with a reason for shelling the area themselves.

There is a strong inconsistency in the Ukrainian accusation, ignored by the media. We are asked to believe that the Russian military is shelling the facility but also firing from next to it?

One of a number of aerial photos published after missile strike very near the nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe (Image sourced: Internet)

Is it possible? Fire from the position, move all the weapons and personnel out, then bomb it themselves, repeat the whole operation and repeat again? Hardly.

And such movements would surely show up in intelligence reports of US/NATO but they are not confirming it. In fact, the Russian side showed their satellite photos of the site in which no artillery could be seen and also pointed out that the US had their own satellite images but was saying nothing.

Satellite imagery was published recently showing smoke from artillery strikes on the site and would surely be available to show alleged Russian artillery installations there and, in fact, their firing from there5.

And very clear satellite imagery was readily available and published in the media to support the Ukrainian authorities’ claim that Russian planes in the Saky airbase in the Crimea had been destroyed on 9th August.6

Aerial Photos Crimean Airbase Before & After Ukrainian Missile Strikes Ukraine War August 9 2022

Another inconsistency of the allegation that the Russians are risking a nuclear disaster is in reconciling it with Russian state war aims.

The Russians say they invaded to prevent the Ukrainian state from becoming an outpost of the US/NATO offensive military alliance along their border and b) to protect the largely Russian-speaking population of the Donbas area from attacks by the Ukrainian fascists and military.

The Ukrainian State, backed up by US/NATO and the media7 say that all of it is to do with Russian imperialism and land-grabbing.

In either case, is it likely that the Russians would risk nuclear contamination of the whole area they wish to occupy or to defend? And is it likely that the Luhansk militia, drawn from the people of the area, would permit their homes and family to be put in such a terrible risk?

CONCLUSION:

Having employed critical deductive analysis of the available evidence, the logical conclusion must be that

  • The nuclear facility is being bombed by the Ukrainian military
  • They are bombing it hoping to force the Russian military evacuation out of the area and/or to accuse the Russian military of doing the bombing and to employ it in propaganda against the invading Russian military
  • and to create a sense of environmental danger from the latter
  • in which they are accustomed to expect uncritical cooperation from the mainstream western media and from US/NATO
  • to assist in having states within NATO send them more and more weapons

WHAT SHOULD HAPPEN?

  • Clearly, the Ukrainian military should cease bombarding the nuclear installation immediately
  • and to assist in that, the western media should make clear who is responsible.
  • And the International Atomic Energy Agency should send as neutral a team as possible (including perhaps officials and experts from China, Iran and India) to inspect the site and publish their results8.
  • The USA/ NATO should break their silence on their satellite surveillance and photos of the site.

This process and conclusion will be difficult for a number of key players and for many commentators. The process will expose the Ukrainian military as having been engaged in activity with potential to cause an environmental disaster.

It will expose their political leadership as having lied while trying to blame their opponents. The US/NATO block and their allies will be put in an awkward position for having supported the Ukrainian authorities while they were engaged in that activity.

The whole affair may switch – or at least weaken — wide western public sympathy away from the Ukrainian state. Many people may have to reappraise their positions in part or even completely.

Difficult, yes – but is that any justification for collusion in the possibility of a nuclear disaster?

End.

IAEA Mission Setting Out for Nuclear Power Plant Ukraine 29 August 2022 (Source image: IAEA’s website)

FOOTNOTES:

1Although assessments of the likely affected range of the disaster differ strongly (see Sources)

2https://www.rte.ie/news/ukraine/2022/0829/1319298-ukraine-russia/ (emphasis in bold is mine)

3At least in the Western world

4Both sides have been accused of violating those rules but in terms of hard evidence, mostly the Ukrainian military, as was revealed in the recent report of the more usually pro-western Amnesty International.

5See image with https://www.breakingnews.ie/world/russia-and-ukraine-trade-claims-of-nuclear-plant-attacks-1356286.html

6Not only that but before and after the explosion images https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/aug/11/russian-warplanes-destroyed-in-crimea-saky-airbase-attack-satellite-images-show

7And large sections of Western liberal and Left opinion.

8As I write this I read that a IAEA team has begun their journey there but without information about its composition https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/iaea-support-and-assistance-mission-sets-out-to-zaporizhzhya-nuclear-power-plant-in-ukraine

SOURCES:

A recent media report which on this subject is unusually even-handed: https://www.breakingnews.ie/world/russia-and-ukraine-trade-claims-of-nuclear-plant-attacks-1356286.html

Satellite imagery of and report on strikes against Russian airbase in the Crimea: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/aug/11/russian-warplanes-destroyed-in-crimea-saky-airbase-attack-satellite-images-show

Extremely biased report on degree of danger of and from nuclear fallout, emphasing the danger to the local area: https://www.politico.eu/article/how-real-is-the-danger-from-ukraines-zaporizhzhia-nuclear-power-plant/

Also biased report but claiming much greater danger: https://www.greenpeace.org/international/press-release/52459/nuclear-hazards-zaporizhzhia-plant-ukraine-military-invasion/

IAIA team departs for inspection of the plant: https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/iaea-support-and-assistance-mission-sets-out-to-zaporizhzhya-nuclear-power-plant-in-ukraine
https://www.rte.ie/news/ukraine/2022/0829/1319298-ukraine-russia/

Wikipedia entry on the IAIA: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Atomic_Energy_Agency#Criticism

Colombia: Paramilitaries, Businesses and the “Truth”

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.

Ernesto Samper, President of Colombia from 1994 to 1998, representing the Liberal Party. Secretary General of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) 2014-2017. He defended the Convivir and later pretended the paramilitary terrorism had been done behind his back. (Photo sourced: Internet)

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 USA-based petroleum company was present in the meeting that set up the paramilitary murder group. (Image sourced: Internet)

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)

National Federation of Cattle Ranchers in Colombia — part of the group that set up the paramilitary murder group — their president admitted in 2006 that they had paid paramilitaries, as had some large agricultural interests. (Image sourced: Internet)

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).

One of the founders of the Triple A (American Anti-communist Alliance) paramilitary terrorists, at the time Lt-Col. Harold Bedoya of the Charry Solano Battalion, later Commander of the Colombian Armed Forces. (Photo sourced: Internet)

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.

2017 video

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)

Colombian paramilitaries working with the army and paid by big growers, these in “the Banana Bloc” in Colombia (Photo: Huffington Post)

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.

Gustavo Petro, newly-elected President of Colombia (R) shaking hands with Francisco de Roux (L), who outlined the executive summary of the Truth Commission’s Report in his column before the latter was even published. (Image sourced: Internet)

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.

End.

Notes

(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

(10) CEV (2022) Op. Cit. P.296

(11) Ibíd., p.502

(12) Ibíd., p.299

(13) Ibíd., pp. 345 & 346

(14) Ibíd., p.310

(15) Ibíd., p. 350

(16) Francisco de Roux (01/03/2017) Pido perdón https://www.eltiempo.com/archivo/documento/CMS-16832051

(17) Ibíd.,

(18) Ibíd.,

(19) Ibíd.,

GUNS LANDED AT HOWTH!

Clive Sulish

(Reading time main text: 7 mins.)

The above would have been the headline 100 years ago1. Well, not the main one, perhaps, which would have been MASSACRE AT BACHELOR’S WALK – TROOPS OPEN FIRE ON CIVILIANS – 4 DEAD, MANY WOUNDED2.

Then, probably, GUNS LANDED AT HOWTH! POLICE AND SCOTTISH OWN BORDERERS FACED DOWN — REPORTS OF 1,500 GERMAN RIFLES LANDED FROM AMERICAN YACHT.

JOINT OPERATION OF IRISH VOLUNTEERS, IRISH CITIZEN ARMY, CUMANN NA MBAN AND FIANNA ÉIREANN — DUBLIN CASTLE FURIOUS.

MAYOR SHOCKED AT CIVILIAN DEAD AND WOUNDED — DEMANDS INQUIRY.

Speakers at a commemoration on the West Pier, Howth on Saturday 23rd July commented on all those features of the landing of 1,500 German rifles, single-shot Mauser Model 71 (M1871), their collection by the organisations of the broad revolutionary movement — and the army massacre that followed.

The event was organised by Irish Socialist Republicans and Anti-Imperialist Action organisations. A colour party of two men and two women led the march up to the pierhead where the event was held.

The Save Moore Street From Demolition campaign banner was displayed along the way.

Event about to begin, Margaret McKearney in distance, colour party in foreground, mostly bystanders to the right, attendance out of shot behind and to right of camera person. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The event was chaired by Margaret McKearney, a veteran Republican from Tyrone once described by Scotland Yard as “the most dangerous woman in Britain” and who lost three brothers in the struggle (one in SAS ambush at Loughgall and another murdered by UVF).

McKearney recalled the need of Irish nationalists for weapons when the Loyalists were arming to prevent Home Rule3 being granted to Ireland and the Loyalists with British elite complicity had received a huge shipment at Larne.

Speakers, songs and a laying of a floral wreath were the main content of the event.

THREE SPEECHES – DETAILED, DIRECT AND DEFIANT

McKearney called Phillip O’Connor to speak, a historian and local resident with a particular interest in the revolutionary period in Howth4.

O’Connor began with a quotation from C.J. O’Connell in his Lordship of the World (1924) that “Every Nation, if it is to survive as a nation, must study its own history and have a foreign policy”.

Phillip O’Connor speaking at the event — the plaque at the pier head behind him. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The speaker went on to relate how our rulers demote and distort our nation’s history and how for various reasons even families and communities neglect to pass on that history to following generations.

O’Connor went on to relate the extensive instances of local people’s participation in our nation’s revolutionary history. He brought out names of local people who had been active in Cumann na mBan and the Irish Volunteers and the Sinn Féin party of the time.

The speaker also drew attention to the Irish Citizen Army unit in the locality – the only one outside Dublin – that went on to participate in the 1916 Rising in Dublin and in Fingal. Of course many of that spread of revolutionary organisations had participated in the Howth guns landing.

O’Connor concluded by repeating the quotation: “Every Nation, if it is to survive as a nation, must study its own history and have a foreign policy”.5

McKearney then called on Seán Doyle, a veteran socialist Republican who spoke on behalf of the Revolutionary Housing League, focusing on the housing crisis in Ireland and quoted Roger Casement1 at his trial in London in 1916:

Where all your rights become only an accumulated wrong; where men must beg with bated breath for leave to subsist in their own land, to think their own thoughts, to sing their own songs, to garner the fruits of their own labours…

then surely it is a braver, a saner and a truer thing, to be a rebel in act and deed against such circumstances as these than tamely to accept it as the natural lot of men. Doyle went on to recall James Connolly’s admiration for the struggle of the Land League and for Michael Davitt2.

However, Connolly, the speaker reminded his audience, had excoriated those who were outraged by the eviction of a tenant farmer but with “the working person locked out from his workplace or evicted from his home”, remained “at best silent if not critical.”

“We need to engender the same passion ourselves because the system does not care or share the plight of working people,” Doyle asserted and lashed “anyone who says he loves Ireland and can witness people dying on the street homeless while 180,000 houses are boarded up vacant”.

The speaker declared that the RHL would no longer remain silent, confined or recognise the ruling class’ self-serving laws or allow them to prosper, would no longer accept homelessness, nor “see our children rent an mortgage slaves for the rest of their lives”.

“We in the RHL believe that a roof over your head is not a commodity but an essential of life like water or oxygen. Houses make homes, make communities and a society we aspire to”. Doyle went on to call for a realisation “that pleading and appealing to a non-caring ruling class is futile.”

Seán Doyle speaking on behalf of the Revolutionary Housing League (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Concluding, Doyle called on people to join the Socialist Republicans in action and quoted James Connolly6:We believe in constitutional action in normal times; we believe in revolutionary action in exceptional times. These are exceptional times, and called on people to “Build the Revolution!”

Cáit Trainor, an independent Republican activist from Armagh was called and stepped forward to give a rousing speech.

Reviewing as others had done the impelling of the arming of the Irish Volunteers by the arming of the Unionists against the prospective Irish “Home Rule”, Trainor went on to recall some of the other participants in the revolutionary movement of the time.

“Cumann na mBan with upwards of 1500 members was formed to assist the Volunteers, though some of the most radical women republicans, such as Helena Moloney and Constance Markievicz, elected to join the socialist Citizen Army instead, where they were given equal standing with the men.

“The Volunteers also had a ready-made youth wing, the Fianna Éireann, founded by Constance Markievicz7 in 1903 as an alternative to the ‘imperialist’ Boy Scouts. The Fianna were in fact to provide many of the most militant Volunteer activists.

“All of these groups would work together in the lead up to and including the 1916 rising, working together while maintaining their own autonomy with a unity of purpose.” “The Irish Volunteers had the men, the women and the youth, the next move was to secure the arms.”

Trainor referred to the arduous journey of guns-carrying yacht which included a stop in Holyhead to repair damaged sales after the Boat was hit with one of the worst storms to hit the area for decades.

The speaker attributed the success of the Howth landing to “the working together of various sections of Irish society.” “They came from varying religious backgrounds, not all were even Irish born and — even more surprising for the time — women took a leading role.”

Cáit Trainor speaking at the event on the Howth pier (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Taking the 1916 Proclamation as an example, with its address to “Irishmen and Irish Women”, Trainor maintained that “Irish Republicanism has always been and remains to be a modern forward-thinking ideology in comparison with the outdated imperialist mindset of unionism.”

Cáit Trainor compared that address with the opening line of the unionist Ulster proclamation of 1913 that opens with “Whereas Ulstermen” and continued without any reference to women anywhere in the document.

Trainor stated that today Irish Republicanism needed to “get every section of society more involved in the struggle” and that “anyone who makes their home in Ireland must be encouraged to make their contribution and to be as passionate about Ireland and its success as an independent nation as anyone else.”

The speaker recalled Thomas Davis’ words: “It is not blood that makes you Irish but a willingness to be part of the Irish Nation.8

“Irish Republicanism”, stated Trainor “stands in stark contrast to the archaic outlook of British imperialists and Irish reactionaries by boasting of a diverse membership” bringing “fresh and original insights, talent and ingenuity” unlike the paradigm of “Christian, male and white”.

Trainor remarked that “Revolutions are a dirty business and revolutionaries must be armed to meet the might of their opponent” and that “the revolutionaries of today … come from the same tradition”, that “the cause and goal has not changed for any true Irish Republican.”

“Republicans in the early part of the last century did not set out to simply smash an orange state, or replace one flag for another; they were out for the Republic, an independent state for all the people, Republicans and the political prisoners who currently reside in prisons both north and South are out for the same thing9.

“It is an absolute travesty that the Republican prisoners are widely ignored by greater society, indeed most people would not even know they exist, believing falsely that with the signing of the GFA all prisoners were released and that political prisoners in Ireland were consigned to history.

“The media and constitutional nationalists along with pseudo socialist groupings like to skirt over the truth of the matter, they are more concerned with political prisoners in far-flung places around the world than political prisoners on their own doorstep.

“…. we understand that while Ireland remains occupied there will always be men and women willing to resist it, that this inevitably will ensure that political prisoners remain a reality in Ireland, and these prisoners will always have the decided and unfaltering support of Irish Republicans.

“Surrendering for seats in the enemies parliament isn’t a victory of any kind,” said Trainor, “it’s an utter defeat, the idea is to pacify with false power and notions of equality with your overlords, imperialists have used this strategy for centuries to quell rebellion and unbelievably it still works.”

Trainor dismissed the “alternatives to the Irish Republic” and condemned “reformism or British and Free State parliaments.”

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Pointing out that it was not an easy road for revolutionaries in the past no more than in the present, Trainor declared that “Revolutions are not won in the halls of parliaments but on the streets with the ordinary people”.

Coming back to the Howth landing of guns 100 years earlier, she said that “there is again an increase in militarism internationally and also nationally with unionist paramilitaries evidently armed and threatening violence.”

While constitutional nationalists sit on their laurels begging for British concessions unionist paramilitaries supported by unionist parties are organising again to secure their dominance and Irelands submission.

Cáit Trainor concluded with another quotation from Pádraig Pearse10: “The Orangeman11 with a gun is not as laughable as the nationalist12 without one”.

Living flowers in a pot are laid in remembrance of those who have given their lives in the struggle. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

SONGS

Diarmuid Breatnach sang the ballad Me Old Howth Gun, written by James Doherty under the name of ‘Séamas McGallowgly’ and collected in 1921, with words that seemed extremely prescient for its time, with the civil war to come the following year:

…… There was glorious hope that we
Would set old Ireland free
But now you’re parted far from me, oh me old Howth gun.

Oh, the day will surely come,
Oh me old Howth gun,
When I’ll join the fighting men,
Oh me old Howth gun;
In some brave determined band
I will surely take my stand
For the freedom of my land,
Oh me old Howth gun.

Diarmuid Breatnach singing at the Howth event (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Afterwards many people commented that they had not heard the song before and Breatnach replied that Pádraig Drummond had sent him the lyrics to learn for the event (which he had half-managed to do, he commented ruefully).

The event ended with the lowering of the colour party’s flags in honour of those who died for Irish freedom and, introducing it as “a fighting song, sung during the Rising”, Breatnach sang the first verse and chorus of Amhrán na bhFiann (The Soldiers’ Song).

End.

View of colour party with the harbour behind them (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

FOOTNOTES

1The guns were landed in Howth Harbour on 26th July 2014 by Erskine Childers and crew in his yacht The Asgard (which has its own room with the original yacht in the National Museum at Collins Barracks, Dublin).

2On their return from Howth, the revolutionary forces were confronted by a force of Dublin Metropolitan police but they were unsuccessful in having the rifles surrendered, as were also a unit of the British Army, the King’s Own Scottish Borderers. The latter were jeered by a Dublin crowd on their empty-handed return and at Bachelor’s Walk on the quays they opened fire on the crowd and bayoneted at least one victim. A woman and three men were killed and many wounded.

3A kind of partial autonomy that was on offer but within the British Commonwealth.

4See ROAD TO INDEPENDENCE – Howth, Sutton and Baldoyle play their part (2016) by Phillip O’Connor.

5The point about studying our history is often made at Irish Republican events but the one about having a foreign policy, though so important, is rarely if ever mentioned. Having a sound revolutionary foreign policy would have militated against the Provisional organisation’s seeking an accommodation with the leaders of US Imperialism 1970-1999 or expecting better of the World imperialist leaders at the “Paris Peace Conference” in 1919. Today the broad Republican movement has no coherent foreign policy except currently for Irish State neutrality.

6Roger Casement (1864-1916), of Anglo-Irish background, British diplomat (CMG) then Irish nationalist, member of the Gaelic League, poet, important role in organising the purchase of rifles that were transported to Howth and Wicklow. He was hanged in Pentonville Jail 3rd August, the last of the 1916 executions by the British.

7Thomas Davis (1814-1845), foremost among the Young Irelanders, publisher and contributor to The Nation, composer of A Nation Once Again, The West’s Awake and other notable songs and poems; his father was Welsh.

8James Connolly (1868-1916), revolutionary socialist, trade union organiser, journalist, historian, songwriter), Commandant of the insurrectionary forces in the 1916 Rising, executed by British firing squad.

9Constance Markievicz (nee Gore-Booth), (1868-1927), socialist Republican revolutionary, suffragist, founder member of the Irish Citizen Army and Cumann na mBan, fought as officer of the Irish Citizen Army in the 1916 Rising, sentenced to death (commuted), joined Sinn Féin, took the Republican side in the Civil War, founder member of Fianna Fáil. She was the first woman elected to Westminster Parliament (on abstentionist ticket), first Cabinet Minister in Europe (in the First Dáil) and first Minister of Labour in the world.

10There are currently around 60 Irish Republican prisoners in prisons on both sides of the British border.

11Pádraig Mac Piarais/ Patrick Pearse (1879-1916), writer, poet and journalist in English and Irish, educationalist, revolutionary Republican, Commander-in-chief of the 1916 insurrectionary forces, executed by British firing squad.

12British loyalists, followers of the anti-Catholic sectarian ideology of the Orange Order (founded 1796).

13At the time most Irish Republicans, despite the long existence of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, were seen as part of the broad nationalist spectrum but at its most militant end and were described as ‘advanced nationalists’.

Different view of colour party, against the lighthouse at the East Pierhead (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

USEFUL LINKS:

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

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

The Colombian Truth Commission and its Truths

Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

(01/07/2022)

(Reading time: 11 mins.)

The Truth Commission (CEV) in Colombia has just published its report on the Colombian conflict. As was to be expected it is a very detailed report and deals with many aspects of the conflict and therefore it is impossible to carry out a detailed criticism in just one article.

This article aims to deal with the document entitled Call for Peace and in later articles I will deal with some points in greater detail such as the regions, the business class and drug trafficking.

Of course, there are very positive aspects, such as the statistics compiled, some proposals that they make and also the stories of the victims that they included.

However, there are also some very problematic aspects on the ideological plane and how they present the conflict, the actors, motives and there is an underlying idea in the document that we should advance towards a new society — with changes — but a society that continues to be the same with regard the economy.

They discount any class struggle as not only as anachronistic but also as something which is undesirable, regardless of the methods used.

The document is full of adjectives, some of them emotive, something which is not a criticism as such, emotions have a place in this setting, but it is imbued with Christian references and the Catholic faith as such.

That is not that surprising given that the boss is a Jesuit priest, Francisco de Roux, s.j. But due to this, its starting point is based on suppositions not shared by everyone and that are very questionable.

President-elect of Colombia Gustavo Petro shakes hands with Francisco de Roux at the launch of the Report.

OH BROTHER!

They start off with the statement and question “We started off from the issue that has dogged humanity from the beginning: where is your brother?”

I don’t know whether this first part is true or not, but the question about the brother presumes we know and share this concept of brother. In the Catholic faith we are all theoretically brothers, though not in practice.

But the idea informs a concept taken from family therapy that the Colombian conflict is between siblings that love each other or at least can love each other, just as a woman can love the man who abuses her in their relationship or the man who can stop abusing her and love her as she deserves.

It is a deservedly highly questioned concept, but it is applied in many countries that have gone through peace processes and truth commissions. But it is not the case, this conflict is not between siblings, but rather between interests.

The conflict has names and surnames and moreover surnames of the great and good and its victims are everyone else. There are power relationships. There are also economic interests.

It is an insult to say that the powerful, such as Luís Carlos Sarmiento and the Santos family are the brothers of their employees, or that associations such as the cattle ranchers of FEDEGAN represent people that are the brothers of the displaced peasants.

Though the report does acknowledge the role of some business people in the conflict.

…what has been grievous for the pain and injustice for the victims is the finding that leading business initiatives paid paramilitary groups in order to displace and steal the land and territories from the communities and implant mining or agribusinesses, or within their enterprises they stigmatised the workers and are complicit in the murder of hundreds of trade unionists.1

Such people, responsible for the murder of hundreds of trade unionists are nobody’s brothers, other than their shareholders’. They killed them as part of a strategy to accumulate wealth, the most base reason for doing so.

The CEV’s position turns the businessman into our brother, though it does acknowledge that

we did not carry out any specific study on the armed conflict and the economy, following four years of listening to the drama of the war, the Commission takes as given that if no major changes are made to the economic model of development in the country it will be impossible to prevent the repetition of the armed conflict which will reappear and evolve in an unpredictable manner.

But despite not carrying out any specific analysis of the conflict and the economy the CEV calls on businesses to avoid a resurgence in the armed conflict.

The state, society and in particular the business people behind the large industrial and financial projects should prioritise guaranteeing the welfare and dignified life of the people and communities without any exclusions, with a shared vision of the future to overcome the structural inequality that makes this country one of the most unequal countries in the world in terms of the concentration of income, wealth and land.2

It is part of the discourse that we are all brothers. Instead of criticising the call they make for a society where the welfare of the people is a priority for the businesses, we only have to ask a question. Where does this happen? In what countries does this occur?

They usually make clumsy references to Switzerland or Sweden, ignoring that it is not quite the case and the welfare programmes in Europe (those that are left) are the result of social struggles and are largely financed by the super-exploitation of the Global South.

It is an illusion and part of liberal mythology, that is usually sold during elections every four or more years depending on the country, but is not to be found anywhere in reality and couldn’t be — legally a company looks out for the welfare of its shareholders and nobody else.

The lack of an analysis of the economic model as a factor in the conflict is a serious weakness, something I will deal with in another article.

But in a conflict for land, where the landlords and business people murder peasants and trade unionists3, failing to analyse the context of the economic model is disingenuous.

AN OLD VERY BAD JOKE

The CEV, however, engages in another great act of untruthfulness when it repeats the old refrain of the business class and the state that paramilitaries are reactive i.e. they react to the presence of guerrillas.

It seems like a bad joke that at this stage a commission that supposedly seeks the truth repeats such a lie: a lie challenged at the time by many of the organisations that now praise the CEV, in the days when they didn’t receive as many cheques from USAID and the European Union.

It has also been shown that companies paid armed groups large amounts of money as indispensable operational costs to keep their projects active.

And the reality of economic actors that in despair at the guerrillas and in the face of insecurity, contributed to the creation of the Convivir [rural security cooperatives] and on other occasions sought out the paramilitaries to bring their security of terror.

Following that there were those who took advantage of the land abandoned in midst of the terror to buy land through frontmen and set up projects. And there were those who used money to place members of the armed forces at their disposal.4

When the bloodthirsty Carlos Castaño called his paramilitary organisation United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia, he did so for a reason: the need to present his barbarous acts as a necessary evil, that of self-defence.

Javier Giraldo, s.j. also a Jesuit has spent his entire life fighting against just such a lie. He has documented how the paramilitaries existed before the foundation of the guerrillas and they were not reactive, but rather they were a state policy.5

The problem with the focus that ignores the state and its role and says that we are brothers is that it asks for reconciliation on that basis, that we are brothers. De Roux in his presentation asked more than once “how did we do” and asked for reconciliation.

But this “We” doesn’t exist. As Javier Giraldo points out.

A similar effort must be made in order to translate the value of Christian reconciliation to the judicial/political arena. There must be a public clarification and admission of guilt, an explicit condemnation of the mechanisms, structures and doctrines which facilitate crimes, the implementation of corrective measures to stop them from being repeated and reparation to victims and society. These must all be dealt with head-on and unequivocally. The very nature of a political community makes this imperative: unless there is an explicit and profound social sanction of crimes, internalized by society’s members and engraved in society’s “collective memory,” such crimes are not truly delegitimated. Without these conditions, the Christian value of forgiveness becomes a perverse expression of its real essence: from a fraternal and creative act to an act which covers up the institutionalization of crime (bold not in original) and destroys the barriers which protect human dignity.6

THE GERMAN EXAMPLE – AN OLD ILLUSION

The CEV points to the case of Germany following the Second World War as an example to follow. It is usually a sign of the poverty of the arguments when someone refers to the Nazis in order speak ill of someone, like saying some such a leader is the new Hitler.

But it is also a sign of argument povery to a degree when they refer to the topic to speak of reconciliation and so forth in post-War Germany. However, that is what the CEV did.

Our German friends who accompany us in the Commission’s process have shown us how its people recovered its dignity and pride when, even decades after the genocide of Jews and the war crimes committed, took on board the suffering of the victims, the wound as part of the national psyche and accepted its collective responsibility.7

What they claim just isn’t true. First of all, the post-Nazi Germany was not a denazified country.

Various later personalities from that period held high positions of responsibility, amongst them Kurt Waldheim, an officer in the Nazi army who became Secretary General of the United Nations and also President of Austria; war criminal Adolf Heusinger who became President of the Military Committee of NATO8 and Johannes Steinhoff who was in charge of the Luftwaffe after the War.

Kurt Georg Kiesinger was a member of the Nazi party, and worked side by side with Nazi propagandist Goebbels and later between 1966 and 1969 he was the German Chancellor.

Another Nazi, Wernher von Braun, who designed the Nazis’ bombs and rockets earned a good wage in the USA in order to put one of the rockets on the Moon. None of them confessed or accepted their responsibility.

And let’s not forget that young member of the Hitler Youth, one Joseph Ratzinger who became head of the Catholic Church. Of course, being a young man, he bore a lesser responsibility than the others.

The Nazis’ anti-gay legislation was applied up to 1969 and between 1946 and 1969 50,000 people were tried under that law. And whilst the Nazis had high-ranking posts the Communists were banned from working in the public administration and they and other dissidents, such as pacifists, were pursued.

Even under the “Communist Clause” victims of the Nazis who were Communists were not compensated.9 They chose a very bad example — or perhaps De Roux is conscious of the example he chose.

However, what it is about is blending one myth with another. It is surprising that they don’t mention South Africa, maybe because it is easier to see the reality of its Truth Commission and it is a more realistic comparison than Germany after the War.

What they aim to say is that if the Germans could accept their collective guilt, why can’t Colombia do so? But such collective guilt does not exist, or at least not in the way De Roux and company mean.

Many Germans lost their lives in the struggle against the Nazis, it has been calculated that the Nazis murdered 288,000 members of the opposition, including before Hitler came to power.

It wasn’t all Germans who did it but amongst those who did, there are familiar household names, Siemens and Krupps, just to name two companies — both used slave labour in their factories and had close relations with the Nazi Party.

Or there is Hugo Boss, the Nazi Party member who made his fortune manufacturing the uniforms of the Nazi Party, later of the Wehrmacht and of course of the SS, which is why they looked so good.

Hugo Boss menswear shop in Dublin. The company founder was a close supporter of the Nazi regime and produced uniforms for the Nazi Party, Wermacht and SS. (Image sourced: Internet)

And of course, Bayer, the company that made Zkylon-B, the gas they used, still exists and is still rich. Following the war, 13 directors from the company were convicted of war crimes but were freed without serving their full sentences and took up their posts in the company.

The murderers continued in power with the tale of “collective guilt”. The Nazis were a political project of a sector of the German bourgeoisie to stop the rise of the Communists, any similarity to cattle ranchers declaring Puerto Boyacá the anti-capitalist capital10 is a mere coincidence, I suppose.

The reference to Germany as an example of reconciliation is a cheap tale. If Colombia goes down the same road, the surnames Mancuso, Uribe, Santo Domingo, Samper and Santos and the others will be the dominant surnames in the future, with their economic and social power intact.

Protest about the army murders of civilians claimed as “positive” FARC guerrillas by relatives portraying the victims, Bogotá in 2009

THE “FALSE POSITIVES”

The CEV also deals with the issue of the “False Positives” and states something about the issue which is absolutely true that “If there had been ten, it would be very serious. If there had been one hundred, it would enough to demand a change of army. But there were thousands and it was monstrous.”11

But almost immediately it states that:

There was no law or written instructions that ordered it, but the soldiers who fired felt that they were doing what the institution wanted, due to the incentives and pressure that demanded immediate results with corpses, the publicity that they gave to those “killed in combat” and the protection given to the perpetrators.12

Yes, it is true that there was no law or written order that instructed them to do so. But we can’t expect criminals to leave us easy proof. There was no law, but there were incentives as they pointed out.

There were directives and a system for bonuses that encouraged the murder of civilians. Who authorised the payments? The then minister of Defence, Juan Manuel Santos. What does the document say about Santos?

The former president Santos – who was Minister for Defence from the end of 2006 to the end of 2008 – came to the Commission to contribute to the truth with his testimony, as ex-President and public servant, and he centred his intervention on the rigorous analysis of the False Positives to conclude asking for forgiveness from all the families and Colombia and invited the Armed Forces to ask the national and international community for forgiveness.13

It is not true, his intervention was not very rigorous and he ended by asking for forgiveness, as the CEV says, but at the same time he said he wasn’t to blame.

He took up Samper’s excuse regarding drug trafficking and said that it all happened behind his back and he lied on various occasions in his declaration to the CEV.14

Juan Manuel Santos, them President of Colombia shaking hands with Donald Trump, then President of the USA, in the White House 18 May 2017 (Image sourced: Internet).

IN CONCLUSION

Without a doubt the CEV will contribute to the knowledge of the conflict with its data, interviews and in some parts, its analysis. But the report as a whole will not be the truth about the conflict.

The CEV stated that “we don’t share the position, according to which, there are many truths that are equally valid regarding the same matter.”15

Yes, not all “truths” are equal, you have to analyse them, discuss them, contrast them with the facts and even look at who is enunciating them to see which perspective is closer to the truth, but in this case, it is not the “truth” of the CEV that is true.

Neither do I share the idea that any truth is of equal value no matter how powerful or well thought-of those who write that truth are.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1 CEV (2022) Convocatoria a la PAZ GRANDE p. 39 https://www.comisiondelaverdad.co/hay-futuro-si-hay-verdad

2 Ibíd., p.56

3 “The Human Rights Information System of the National Trade Union School (ENS) recorded 15,430 violations of trade unionists’ rights to life, freedom and integrity in Colombia between 1 January 1971 and 29 September 2021. Around a fifth of the cases reported were murders: 3,288 trade unionists have been assassinated over the last five decades in Colombia.” https://www.equaltimes.org/colombia-has-signed-a-peace?lang=en#.YtXwJuzMI6E

4 Ibíd., p.39

5 Giraldo, J. (2004) Cronología de hechos reveladores del Paramilitarismo como política de Estado. http://www.javiergiraldo.org/spip.php?article75

6 Girald, J. (1996) Colombia, The Genocidal Democracy. Common Courage Press. Maine p.44 http://www.javiergiraldo.org/IMG/libros/Colombia_The_Genocidal_Democracy.pdf

7 CEV (2022) Op. Cit. P.45

8 Ayuso, M. (10/01/2016) Adolf Heusinger: la historia del general nazi que acabó dirigiendo la OTAN https://www.elconfidencial.com/alma-corazon-vida/2016-01-10/adolf-heusinger-la-historia-del-general-nazi-que-acabo-dirigiendo-la-otan_1132337/

9 Creuzberger, S. ‘Make life for communists as difficult as possible’ State-run anticommunism and ‘psychological warfare’ in the early years of the Federal Republic of Germany. Asian j. Ger. Eur. stud. 2, 9 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40856-017-0020-7

10 The location was the birth place of the paramilitary model that arose in the 1980s and was avowedly right wing. There was a sign on the way in to it, that said “Welcome to Puerto Boyacá, Anti-Communist Capital of Colombia.”

11 CEV (2022) Op. Cit. P.26

12 Ibid

13 Ibid., p.28

14 Ó Loingisgh, G. (12/06/2021) Santos Whitewashing His Image, Washing His Hands http://www.socialistdemocracy.org/RecentArticles/RecentColombiaSantosWhitewashingHisImageWashingHisHands.html

15 CEV (2022) Op. Cit. P.42

“Civil War to Avert a Workers’ Republic” – Peadar O’Donnell Forum talk in Dublin

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 2 mins.)

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.

Liz Gillis speaking (Photo: D.Breatnach)
L-R: Fearghal Mac Bloscaidh, Mags Glennon, Ciaran Perry (Photo: D.Breatnach)

BACKGROUND

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.

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

SPEAKERS

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.

Reading the account of the Ballysheedy Massacre (Photo: D.Breatnach)

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.

Sorry, slightly out of focus Jimmy Doran (Photo: D.Breatnach)

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).

Pól Mac Adaim performing at the event (Photo: D.Breatnach)

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.

Poster for the event.
Supporters and organisers (Photo: D.Breatnach)

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.

End.

Upcoming events:

USEFUL LINKS

https://www.facebook.com/people/Peadar-ODonnell-Socialist-Republican-Forum/100057585515589/

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100057585515589

Ciaran Perry: https://cieranperry.ie/

Fearghal Mac Bhloscaidh blog: https://blosc.wordpress.com/

Pol Mac Adaim: https://www.antiwarsongs.org/artista.php?id=9761&lang=en&rif=1#:~:text=Pol%20MacAdaim%20is%2038%20years,%2C%20Rock%2C%20Soul%20and%20Contemporary.

Ballyseedy massacre: https://stairnaheireann.net/2016/03/10/what-really-happened-at-ballyseedy/

Liz Gillis: https://www.champlain.edu/academics/champlain-abroad/champlain-abroad-dublin/faculty-and-staff-dublin/gillis-liz

Jimmy Doran: https://www.peoplesworld.org/authors/jimmy-doran/

PROTEST ABOUT POLICE EVICTIONS AT STORE STREET GARDA STATION

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 1 min.)

Passers-by on foot and on the Luas tram lines watched curiously as housing activists and others held a picket outside Store Street Garda station in Dublin on the evening of 13th June 2022. The picket was called for by the Revolutionary Workers Union, protesting the taking by over 80 Gardaí of a house on Eden Quay and arresting of two occupants, followed by the arrest of another two activists near another address.

Poster advertising the event on social media. (Image sourced: Internet)

The picket was called at fairly short notice and supported by people from a variety of political backgrounds, all with what were clearly home-made placards. Picketing a police station is somewhat counter-intuitive, given that’s to where the police take their prisoners and most people want to stay away from those places, with good reason. However, the station is the location of the police symbolically and in reality and Store Street is one of the main ones in Dublin so, when one wants to protest about the police …… Once having protested at a police station, the apprehension is never quite the same again.

Some passers-by stopped to ask what the protest was about, some of whom expressed anger at the actions of the Gardaí and a reporter from an independent media interviewed some of the participants.

Picketers outside Store Street Garda Station, Dublin City centre on Monday. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Some time later the picketers were addressed by Seán Doyle of the RWU who spoke about the morality of the landlords and speculators and the Gardaí who work for them. Doyle contrasted that morality with the one that saw provision for need instead of profit. During the course of his address, Doyle pointed out that the RWU knows people who work in emergency interventions such as with people attempting suicide, who are then brought to agencies to help them but who are soon out again and homeless. “This is not ‘ethnic cleansing’,” the activist said, “it’s class cleansing.”

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The RWU spokesperson at the picket remarked on the use of the law and the Gardaí against housing activists while speculators and landlords make big profits out of the misery of homelessness. A law that upholds and defends that kind of practice must be defied, he stated as he drew to a close.

Some of the picketers on Monday (Sean Doyle is second to the right). (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Seán Doyle was one of two activists that were removed recently by over 80 Gardaí from a one-and-a-half years empty homeless hostel which the RWU had “acquisitioned” and renamed “James Connolly House”. Another premises subsequently acquisitioned, also empty for a long period, the RWU renamed “Liam Mellowes House” and the Gardaí arrested two activists near there also, despite any occupation of the building being a civil law matter and outside the remit of the Gardaí.

The RWU on a number of occasions have called on people to “take back empty buildings” and have declared that they will not be intimidated by arrests but will continue to fight for the right of people to a secure home.

Another view of part of the picket on Monday (Photo: Rebel Breeze)
One of the home-made placards at the event. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

End.

A placard denounces the recent 80+ Garda eviction of “James Connolly House” and arrest of two occupants (Photo: Rebel Breeze)
(Photo: Rebel Breeze)
(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

FURTHER INFORMATION

https://www.facebook.com/JamesConnollyHouse

https://www.facebook.com/revolutionaryworkersfront/

SITUATION IMPROVING FOR ETHNIC GREEKS FOLLOWING DEFEAT OF AZOV BATTALION IN MARIUPOL

Written by Paul Antonopoulos, independent geopolitical analyst

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

Rebel Breeze preface: An interesting article (reprinted from South Front with thanks) about an ethnic minority rarely mentioned in the propaganda war from each of the antagonists and their supporters. Although some alternative media sources alluded to their being persecuted following the abrupt change of Ukrainian government in 2014 and the 8 years that followed in the Donbas region preceding the Russian invasion, the ethnic Greeks dropped out of site despite their large concentration particularly around Mariupol. This article reminds us of them and also of their history as a community in the Ukraine.

The surrender of the Azovstal Plant in Mariupol on May 20 was a major victory for Russian forces as they not only gained control of a major port city, but symbolically drove away the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion from their base. Although consumers of Western mainstream media were bombarded with allegations of war crimes perpetrated by Russian soldiers, such as the Mariupol Drama Theatre (in which local residents warned of a Ukrainian false flag operation days earlier), they had completely ignored the crimes and persecutions faced by non-Ukrainian speakers, including ethnic Greeks.

Mariupol and its surrounding villages are home to 100,000-120,000 ethnic Greeks, who are native Russian-speakers. Only a small number are currently proficient in either Crimean-Mariupolitan Greek or Modern Standard Greek. Mariupol is a city founded in 1778 by Crimean Greeks on the invitation of Catherine the Great to resettle lands that had been conquered from the Ottoman Turks and to escape persecution in the then Muslim-dominated Crimea. A second wave of Greek migrants arrived in the Azov region from Pontos to escape the Ottoman Turkish perpetrated genocide in 1913-1923.

Pontic Greek resistance to Turkish genocide (Photo sourced: Internet)

Yet, despite Greeks having first colonized Crimea in the 7th century BC, more than a millennium and a half before the Slavs arrived in the mid-10th century after the peninsula was conquered by Prince Sviatoslav I of Kiev, Ukrainian authorities refuses to recognize the Greeks as an indigenous group to Ukraine. Although the reality is that Crimea is now a part of Russia, Kiev continues to recognize it as occupied territory, and in turn the designation of Greeks as non-indigenous means that they could not access the same resources as other ethnic groups which have been labelled indigenous. This makes preserving language, culture and identity all the more difficult.

Pontic Greek dancers in traditional costumes (Photo sourced: Internet)

The fact that Mariupol Greeks are native Russian speakers and their villages voted in their majority to join the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic in 2014, saw them persecuted by the Ukrainian state and their Azov Battalion enforcers. It is recalled that on February 14, only 10 days before the Ukraine War began, one Greek was killed and another wounded in a shooting by the Azov Battalion because they were speaking Russian amongst themselves in the village of Granitne. Before the Russian operation began, this was the line of contact between Ukrainian and Russian forces, and like many of the other Greek villages, had voted to join the DPR.

Azov Battallion fighters in Ukraine (Photo sourced: Internet)

One woman from the Greek-majority town of Sartana, 17 kilometers northeast of Mariupol, told American journalist Patrick Lancaster that they were forced to endure Ukrainization and could not speak Russian in public unless they wanted to risk a fine.

Between the non-recognition as an indigenous minority, forced Ukrainization and even murder, the Greeks of Mariupol have suffered immensely under the Azov Battalion, yet Western media has remained near silent, or at the maximum they are non-critical of the racist policies of Kiev. Although Western audiences were bombarded with scenes from the battle of Mariupol, including the Greek government’s unverified claims that the Russian air force bombed Greek villages, there has been near silence now about the current situation in the port city and its surrounds.

As the overwhelming majority of Greeks are now in territory controlled by Russian forces, life has resumed as normal as possible for those living close to a warzone. Schools in Sartana are operating again and people are trying to resume business as normal. What is for certain though is that racist killings just for speaking Russian or any other language other than Ukrainian has come to an end.

With the Greeks of Mariupol now a part of the DPR, the Greek government finds itself in a conundrum as they promised to never abandon the autocephalous community but at the same time has agreed to nearly every anti-Russia sanction and demand made by Washington and Brussels. This makes the reopening of the Greek Consulate in Mariupol dependent on the goodwill of the DPR administration.

Only on May 31 it was announced that Greece’s East Germany-made ΒΜΡ-1 infantry fighting vehicles would be sent to Ukraine so Berlin can replace Greece’s fleet with German-made Marder armoured vehicles. As Athens continues its hostile policy, it lessens the chance of any Russian goodwill so that the Greek community can remain connected to the Greek State via the consulate.

The plan to transfer BMP-1’s to Ukraine once again created outrage in Greece as the announcement was not made by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis during his joint statement with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, but rather by the German leader himself. Greeks lambasted the cowardliness of Mitsotakis of not having made the announcement himself – keeping in mind that over 70% of Greeks in a poll want Athens to have a neutral policy towards the war.

Despite the persecution of Greeks since 2014 whilst living under Kiev’s authority and the Azov Battalion, the Greek government has been near silent on this, only releasing periodical statements that hint towards Ukraine needing to improve minority rights and nowhere near to the same degree of their criticism of Russia.

Greece in the months leading up to the war was making strong attempts to have soft power influence in Mariupol, something that could have continued if there was an acceptance that the entirety of Donetsk was going to be under full Russian control. The harsh reality for Athens is that although the Greeks of Mariupol will be disconnected from Greece, they will live in a far safer environment and with respect to their identity and language, just as the Greeks in Russia’s Crimea, Stavropol Krai and Krasnodar Krai experience.

end.

SOURCE & FURTHER INFORMATION

https://theworld.org/stories/2014-04-18/why-do-so-many-places-ukraine-and-crimea-sound-bit-greek

COLOMBIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS — ANY CHANGE?

Gearóid Ó Loingsigh, political activist and analyst for many years in Colombia, was interviewed by Dimitris Givisis about the current presidential elections there and a candidate presenting as Left; published in https://www.rednblack.gr/arthra/kolomvia-o-petro-oikodomei-mia-eklogiki-symmachia-kai-ochi-mia-koinoniki-dynami/

1) What do you think the elections of May 29th will mean for the future of Colombia? What are the stakes of these elections?

The elections are not as key as some commentators would like to make out in terms of profound changes in Colombia. Though, the reaction in some sectors and fears about the transparency of the elections are well founded and even some fears of a violent reaction from some sectors of the bourgeoisie and the army. So, on one level the elections are about the degree to which the bourgeoisie, including the narco-bourgeoisie are willing to accept electoral defeat. This election is likely to bring about a long period of uncertainty in the country as Petro tries to manage the expectations and demands of the bourgeoisie and contain the hopes of his own supporters.

People displaced in the north of Santander by ongoing violence try to get by as best they can (Photo cred: GÓ Loingsigh)

2) What is the political scenery like, one week before the elections? These elections take place midst what kind of atmosphere?

The atmosphere oscillates between one of hope that Petro will be elected and bring an end to a long conflict that has been going on for almost 60 years and one of fear. No one knows what the far right are capable of doing and thinking at the moment. General Zapateiro intervened in the election campaign, which is unconstitutional as the military don’t even have the right to vote in Colombia. There are other fears about electoral fraud, a portal has been set up to report electoral fraud. Already it has tallied 3,500 incidents and no one has cast a vote yet. Leading businesses have stated they will sack any workers who vote for Petro and have demanded that their employees take photos of the electoral card that they mark and send it to them. It is expected that Petro has the ability to win in the first round, sufficient electoral fraud to force a second round run off with any candidate other than Fico would make matters more complicated for Petro as people may vote against him out of fear were it to come to a second round against one of the other candidates other than the reincarnation of Uribe that is Fico.

The Colombian military are not permitted to vote but there is always the possibility that they will intervene militarily (Photo cred: GÓ Loingsigh)

3) In the surveys, we see that Gustavo Petrois is ahead. How do you interpret this? What are the social alliances he has created? What are people’s expectations from him?

Petro has been around for a long time and this is not his first but third outing as a presidential candidate. After 20 years of Uribe as the leading figure in Colombian politics, there is a growing tiredness coupled with really serious levels of poverty, whilst kleptocrats openly steal the resources of the state. However, he hasn’t built social alliances as such. There has been a confluence of various social organisations and sectors more out of a hope that there might be some change. Petro for example opposed the wave of protests that erupted in the country last year. At a moment when Duque looked very weak, Petro came out to say that he didn’t want Duque to fall through the protests and demanded that the protests be called off. He more than anyone was responsible for the defeat. Petro is building an electoral alliance not a social force and his electoral alliance includes the bourgeoisie. He has long called for a programmatic agreement with the bourgeoisie and his alliance includes people from various previous governments, including Uribe’s governments. Leading functionaries from the Santos government play lead roles in his campaign, such as Alfonso Prada, who is also a close friend of Santos. Former president Samper, the man who implemented the decree that gave us the Convivir, the legal façade for the paramilitaries in the 1990s is also involved in his campaign. This is not a minor point, Samper managed to reinvent himself as a man of peace, even though he more than any president bears responsibility for the blood bath of the mid 1990s to the early years of the 21st century. He also tried to include the former president Cesar Gaviria, the man who gave us the economic aperture of the neoliberal period. It was opposition from his electoral base which forced him to rethink that one. These people play a greater role than any social movement.

Marchers on the annual Victims’ Day in March with placards of murdered trade union and human rights activists (Photo cred: GO’Loingsigh)

4) If Gustavo Petro wins the elections, what possibilities/room does he have to implement a progressive/social democratic policy for the people΄s classes, the workers, the poor, the precarious, etc?

This goes back to the last question and his programmatic alliance with the bourgeoisie. So, there are two elements, to what degree does he actually want to implement a progressive policy? He has spoken about reforms in health and education, some of which sound almost Keynesian, but Petro is not Keynesian. His programme does not contemplate a break with neoliberalism but to work within it, controlling deficits etc, subsidies for industry etc.. His economic policies are a continuation of the last 30 years, with one difference, he wants to move away from mining and oil exploitation, the former coming to an end in any case with various coal mining companies announcing their withdrawal from the country, though some gold mining companies are staying and these companies have legal guarantees on continuing with mining prospecting and exploitation that Petro will not and cannot legally bring to an end. He has however, said that he will promote agribusiness and continue with the policies that are in place, again with some minor tweaking.

Gustavos Petro campaigning (Photo cred: Financial Times)

5) How do you see the next day, after the disaster that the four years of Duque’s neoliberal policy has brought? What are the most important problems that the new government will face? What are the difficulties?

The next day, the one problem Petro will have is how the right will react to destabilise his government. A situation similar to that of Allende of a long drawn-out phase of destabilisation from some sectors is a possibility, though unlike Allende, Petro’s campaign is electoral, he does not believe in organising people and is in fact opposed to it. Part of his base has been bought off with the promise of jobs for the leaders of organisations and access to the public purse, which is normal for Colombian elections. Offers of jobs and government contracts in communities is the normal way elections are bought in Colombia.

Colombian military looks towards a protest demonstration (Photo cred: GO’Loingsigh)

Petro also does not have a majority in Congress, in fact he is very far from it. And will have to negotiate many things, which will push his programme further to the right as he will not use popular mobilisation to counter any blocking of policies by Congress. In the long term, this presents a problem for him and we will almost certainly see another wave of protests like those of last year, but this time against the Petro government. I also predict that his Vice President, Francia Márquez will not complete her term of office and will resign at some point in the face of the reality of Petro’s government as opposed to the expectations.

He has proposed renegotiating the free trade agreements, a task that is just not possible. He will also face problems in reforming the health sector as many international health companies have invested heavily in the sector and will most like sue the government for any changes that affect their profits, something he will be forced to back down on. In fact, within his campaign there have already been retreats on this point, as he no longer proposes to abolish the role of these companies, just to change how much of the public purse they have access to.

end.

People fishing in Cesar Department, Colombia (Photo cred: G.Ó Loingsigh)
Coal miner in Colombia (Photo cred: G.Ó Loingsigh)