The Dublin Committee of the Anti-Internment Group of Ireland held a picket yesterday to highlight the ongoing internment without trial of Irish Republicans and to protest the recent extradition of Liam Campbell to Lithuania, a country to which he has never been. The picket was held in Temple Bar, a tourist quarter of the Dublin’s south city centre.
Afterwards, the AIGI issued the following report (reposted with kind permission): “Tourists, Irish shoppers and young people socialising in Dublin city centre were interested to see the banners and placards against internment in Ireland, along with a banner against extradition of Irish Republicans. They also noted the various placards of the Anti-Internment Group of Ireland and the flags of Palestine and the Basque Country, in addition to the Starry Plough flag of the Irish Citizen Army, representing three of the many nations holding political prisoners.
Supporters distributed up to 200 leaflets and had a number of engagements with people wanting to know more. People were surprised and angry to learn that internment under another name continues in Ireland on both sides of the British Border.
A portable PA machine played resistance music and an AIGI speech from a previous public event which attracted some interest.“
The AIGI’s Facebook page lists approximately 60 political prisoners held in Ireland, mostly in Portlaoise Prison in the Irish state and Maghaberry Jail in the British colony in the north-east of the country. All of those were convicted in special no-jury courts created for the purpose of sentencing political prisoners — i.e nearly always exclusively Irish Republicans. Frequently some charged and facing trial in those special courts are denied bail and are held in custody until their trial comes up, two or three years later and if then chance to be found ‘not guilty’, they will still have spent that time in jail. When granted bail on the other hand it is always under restrictive conditions that prevent them continuing their political activity: e.g night curfew, wearing an electronic tag, banned from attending political activities, etc.
Liam Campbell, an Irish Republican from Dundalk, Co. Louth, was extradited to Lithuania last week to face charges relating to trying to obtain arms in that country. Campbell says that he has never been in that country, which Lithuania and the Irish State both seem to accept yet, after a legal battle of almost 12 years up to the Irish Supreme Court, the Irish Republican was extradited. According to unconfirmed reports Campbell has been granted bail in Lithuania but under what conditions is currently unknown.
The group campaigning against what it sees as ongoing “internment by different names” developed from the campaign to free Marian Price around six years ago and, apart from monthly pickets, has also organised conferences and concerts and representatives have travelled to Belfast, Cork, Derry, Newry and Glasgow. The group has sent messages of solidarity to a Basque liberation group which was read out at the latter’s public event and also to the Mumia Al Jamal and Leonard Peltier campaigns in the USA, Munir Farooghi campaign in England (for which AIGI spoke at public meetings in Ireland), to prisoners in Turkey, Palestine and Latin America. Its street pickets, though legal, have frequently been subject to police harassment on both sides of the British Border — in the Irish state nearly exclusively by the plain-clothes political police, the Special Branch.
The AIGI report concluded: The Anti-Internment Group of Ireland is a democratic group independent of any political party or organisation that holds monthly awareness-raising pickets, as well as a few special public events every year. It is organised by a democratic committee composed of people who attend our pickets and who would like to become involved in running the group.
NÍ NEART GO CUR LE CHÉILE. AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL.
On Wednesday (May 11th), a Palestinian journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh was shot dead by Israeli military with one shot to the head. At the time of her murder, she was wearing conflict protective clothing clearly marked “PRESS” but the bullet entered her head under the helmet. Ms. Abu Akleh’s murder has caused outrage around the world, which has been intensified by the Israeli military’s attack on mourners, even on the bearers of her coffin (one of whom has since died) and their attempt to blame the Palestinian resistance for killing the journalist.
WHY THE OUTRAGE THIS TIME, ABOUT THIS JOURNALIST?
Ms. Abu Akleh was a journalist of nearly 25 years’ experience, employed since 1997 by the Qhatari-based news agency Al Jazeera and her reports were familiar to millions in the Arab and wider Muslim world. She was with other journalists, one of whom was also shot but wounded in the back and is expected to recover, covering an Israeli Army raid into the refugee camp in Jenin in Palestine. Both Al Jazeera and Associated Press agencies insisted that the shooters were Israeli military and mapping on-the-spot investigation has discredited the Israeli version firstly that the killer was a Palestinian fighter and then latterly, that it might have been.
“This is one person,” remarked a commentator, “ but hundreds are being killed in the Ukraine war!” Another commented that the Russians have shot journalists in the Ukraine.
Thousands and millions and thousands of millions of people are killed in wars and as a result of wars. Yes and in a way their very numbers makes that difficult to grasp. In the war in the Ukraine before the Russian invasion, 14,000 is the number of estimated dead. Since the invasion, 9,599–24,5991 civilians have been killed, such a wide disparity in estimates a reflection that the conflict is still ongoing and also of the propaganda battle being fought over almost every aspect of the conflict.
In Palestine, the conflict death toll began mostly from 1936 and rose to unknown numbers of Palestinians (due the huge expulsions and fleeing terror) in 1948 when the state of Israel was created, and between 2008 and 2020 alone the death toll is estimated at 5,8502, not counting of course this year and last, with another three added since Sunday, including Abu Akleh. The overall figure of Palestinian civilians killed between 1936 and 2020, with huge gaps where the numbers are unknown, is 2,816,410.3
All three of the latest of Israel’s victims (unless they’ve killed more before I finish writing and editing) were unarmed civilians. Unarmed civilians are the group most likely to be killed in war (10 million in WWI; 50–55 million in WWII, whilst 2,000,000 civilians is the estimate for the Vietnam War). Even though the killing of civilians is an automatic result of war, there are all kind of laws and conventions agreed by most states, including major warlike ones, against the deliberate killing of civilians. But it does seem as though some states have carte blanche in that regard, international law or not.
For many people, every killing of a Palestinian announced adds to that ongoing toll by Israel, year after year for nearly eight decades. That’s one important significance of the death of Shireen Abu Akleh – she comes to personalise, to give a face to the millions of victims of Israeli Zionism.
Another significance of this murder is that Abu Akleh is the most recent of at least 45 journalists killed by Israeli military since 2000 – that’s more than two per year. The UNESCO Observatory lists 22 journalists killed by Israeli military since 2002 and the case remains “unresolved” in 19 of Israel’s judicial investigation — with no investigation at all listed in two of them.
Raising the issue of Russian armed forces’ alleged deliberate killing of civilians and of reporters, whether true or not, just does not compare. The allegations might be true, of course — an invading army is likely to encounter opposition in the course of which some of its personnel may kill civilians by intention and without justification. Indeed, armies before now have killed even those of their own country, their own ethnic group. In the currently relentless onslaught of western commentary, often quoting Ukrainian or NATO sources without question, along with the banning of much alternative comment, it is — and will continue to be for some time – difficult to say which is true and which is not. But the two conflicts do not compare, neither in scale nor in length of existence, nor does the death toll of civilians including reporters.
When Russia invaded the Ukraine, anybody who raised the issue of Palestine with regard to the other conflict, e.g “what about the US/NATO support for Israel?” was accused of ‘whataboutery’. ‘Whataboutery’ is thought of as a device to distract from confronting the actual issues initially under discussion by introducing another different or tangential one.
Of course, people do such things and rational discussion is frequently undermined and even shattered by such practice. But, in this case, when US/NATO was saying that it was supporting the post-Maidan Ukrainian regime for reasons of democracy and self-determination, was it justified to point out its record of war and invasion in the Middle East and its support of Israeli Zionist aggression? It seems clear to me that it was but that would not in itself be proof that the Ukrainian regime was wrong. Was it right to point to the regime’s attacks on Russian-speakers and in particular on the Crimea and Donbas regions? It seems to me that it was, in that gave context to secessionist feeling in those areas to which the Russian regime could well want to give military support, whether that were for protection of ethnic kindred or for its own selfish reasons.
None of that “whataboutery” takes away from the tragedy of war in the Ukraine, of course not, but it is valid in considering motivation, given that the US, the leading power in NATO, is also the biggest supporter of the Zionist state and that the EU is not far behind. Palestine exposed that whatever the rights and wrongs in the conflict, NATO and the EU’s motives were not about justice and peace.
When international sporting and cultural organisations of the western capitalist world began to ban Russian teams and individuals from participation, were people justified in saying “Hey, what about Israel?” Surely they were, for that ongoing struggle in which Palestinian land has been ripped from the hands of its people, in which the latter are daily oppressed and from time to time massacred, in which they suffer military occupation, daily discrimination, ethnic cleansing, racism and apartheid – have they not been calling for decades for banning and boycotting Israeli and its sporting teams? And what was the response? They they were bringing politics into sport! And those who did show their solidarity in sports competitions were often penalised for doing so.
When states began to apply economic sanctions to Russia and to Russian individuals, were Palestinians and their supporters not justified in crying out “Hey, what about Israel?” Of course they were.
The strange thing is that those who accused others of “whataboutery” in the past for raising the issue of Palestine in the context of the war in the Ukraine have now begun to cry “what about the Ukraine?” in the context of the international outrage about the murder of Shireen Abu Akleh. Former critics of ‘whataboutery’ have themselves become ‘whatabouters’ now – and without even the shadow of the justification of their accused predecessors.
It’s worth asking what we mean by “international” in the case of the outrage over the murder of Shireen Abu Akleh. That “international” includes a large part of the Arab world. It includes a large part of the non-Arab but Muslim word4. It includes a large part of the non-Arab, non-Muslim world in western Europe and in the USA and in many other parts too. Certainly the Irish public in general has empathised with the Palestinians for decades.5
But it does not include what the western media mean when they use the words “the international community” – the outrage does not encompass the ruling classes of the Western European countries, much less of the USA, nor even the ruling classes of much of the Arab and Muslim world. In this they are being to a degree, honest. Because those ruling classes have either supported the Israeli Zionists directly, or have supported the USA which keeps Israel alive. Only seven elected representatives of the USA’s Democratic Party – out of the 225 it has in the US Congress, quickly expressed condemnation of the killing and called for a quick and independent investigation. Not one of the 210 Republicans expressed condemnation at the time – even though Shireen Abu Akleh was a citizen of the USA!
Leaders of a few countries expressed regret but could not bring themselves to even say that she had been killed by the Israeli military. The authorities in Berlin banned an attempt to hold a vigil over the death of the Palestinian journalist, including it in their ban on any Palestinian solidarity events at this time of year, when people commemorate the Palestinian ‘Nakba’. That is what Palestinians call the ‘Catastrophe’ that resulted from the seizure of Palestine by the Israeli Zionists, the creation of its state and the mass expulsion of Palestinians.
It is worth noting too that the media we are reading, which at first either ignored this murder, downplayed it or repeated the Israeli lies that Shireen Abu Akleh had been shot, not by Israeli military but by Palestinian resistance fighters, is compiled by journalists too. On the one hand this points to the severe loss to the world when a journalist who exposes injustice is killed (or persecuted and jailed for extradition to another country, as in the case of Julian Assange). On the other, it points to what a large contingent of hired liars and prevaricators is included among the ranks of journalists, that they cannot even stand up for the truth and protest the murder of one of their own occupation or trade.
And it teaches us how much our sources of information are mediated and manipulated by the national and corporative news media. Years ago we were being told that social media would free us from their manipulation or at least provide a viable alternative – independent news and commentary sources would flourish and we could be our own media. Yet the bans and exclusions put in place by Youtube, Facebook, Twitter and governments have shown us what an illusion all that was – in terms of information, we are generally even more controlled and manipulated now than we were before the advent of social media.
Hopefully, those who did not know this already will have learned, both from the coverage of the war in Ukraine and from the murder of this journalist. Those who thought that there was any justice in Israel or generally in the western governments towards the Palestinians, will hopefully have been disabused of that illusion too. Shireen Abu Akleh cannot be brought back to life nor can she be replaced. What we can do is strive to pull down that State that killed her and to knock away all its props around the world.
4Because a great many non-Arab Muslims sympathise with the Palestinians, who mostly ascribe to the faith of Islam and to Muslim culture. However, some Palestinians are Christian, some of Jewish (in the sense that a minority of the population of Palestine was Jewish for decades before the Israeli Zionist occupation) and some of no religion. Shireen Abu Akleh was baptised a Christian; her funeral service was held in a Catholic church and her remains were taken to a Protestant cemetery.
5The Irish cannot fail but be struck too by some parallels with the British occupation of Ireland – the impunity of the Zionist occupiers, for example and the attempt firstly to blame the resistance for those killed by the British Army, followed by a fog of conjecture and holding their own inquiry; the attack on mourners, the seizing of the national flag and attacking people for displaying it (the display of the flag was officially illegal under Israeli law in 1967 and unbanned in 1993 but as seen, is still often objected to by Israeli police).
Far from the battleground which drew their separate loyalties, on Sunday (8th) an area of the Basque city of Bilbao became for a short while another battleground as pro-Palistinians and supporters of the Israeli basketball team Hapoel U-NET Holon clashed. The confrontation gave no indication of having being organised as such but many accounts from the Basque side spoke of days of anti-Palestinian actions and provocations — including an assault on a Palestinian woman — without any police intervention.
The Israeli basketball team was taking part for the first time in a four-team basketball championship, the “Big Four Finals”, the other three being MHP Ludwigsburg (Germany), Lenovo Tenerife (Canaries, Spanish State) and Baxi Manresa (Catalonia, Spanish State).1
Although the Hapoel supporters (around 80 according to one report and 200 according to others) had received some jeers when walking through the city during the weekend, their numbers had faced no organised resistance to tearing down pro-Palestinian posters and signs. The main physical clash arose on Sunday after some Zionists on their way to the basketball arena tore a Palestinian flag from the front of a small bar in the old section of the city and set fire to it. The customers in the bar responded vigorously and the battle played out in that general area until the arrival of the Ertzaintza, the Basque southwest regional police force.
Short report from Bilbao Hiria (my translation from Castillian original):
As usual in these cases, the social networks were the ones that began reporting the violent behaviour of the Hapoel Holon ultras. For two days the media remained complicit in silence until the altercations went viral and they had to start up the story manipulation machinery.
Most of the media dealing with the subject have equated the aggressors and the attacked, presenting it as fights between fans, but perhaps the worst case is that of El Correo, which turned the situation around by calling the Bilbao population “pro-Palestinian terrorists” whom it accuses of having harassed and attacked the peaceful Israeli “fans” since they arrived in the city and of setting them up in “an ambush” that was the cause of the altercations on Sunday.
It is interesting to see the treatment of the media depending on who causes the disturbances. When they happen in a demonstration or a strike, they make sure to make known how much the destruction costs each citizen, because there is nothing more evil than wanting to fight for your rights. But, on the other hand, breaking street furniture because any team loses or wins a game is the height of democracy.
THE PEOPLE UNITED… Once again it was the people’s organization that faced the attacks, that protected the establishments and denounced the impunity of the Zionist ultras. The response was quick and for Sunday afternoon they organized a rally to show rejection of what happened. Interestingly, it was the only time that the Ertzaintza made an appearance and identified some attendees, arresting two (who have since been released).
As mentioned above, earlier on the Sunday, a Basque antifascist platform, Sare Antifaxista, had convened a demonstration in what may be considered the central area of Bilbao north of the river, the Unamuno square. The demonstration was organised under pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist slogans and, as stated above, here the Ertzaintza did intervene, detaining two pro-Palestinians and recording them on their database before setting them free later. Among the slogans shouted as they began to march was “Israel is a terrorist state” (in Basque).
The Haupol fans had either passed by or avoided that demonstration before, less than 10 minutes walking distance away from Unamuno, they crossed the Nervión river on the San Anton bridge on their way to the arena. In doing so, they had to pass a small Basque bar just on the very south side where a Palestinian flag was hung over the entrance.
Soon a group of Zionists rushed the bar, tore the flag down and set fire to it with a flare. There were only 15 customers inside or on the terrace but they responded quickly and bottles and even furniture began to fly at the Zionists (possibly the Hapoel fan reported hit on the head with a chair received his injuries here). The Zionists picked up tables, chairs and parasols too to launch at the bar, smashing window glass there and on the next-door entrance to an apartment building.
There are many migrants living in that area known in Basque and Spanish as “Bilbao the Old” and they began to arrive to assist the customers of the Basque pub, at which point the Ertzaintza also arrived and shepherded the Israeli fans towards the arena and afterwards, in two groups to their accommodation in the city2. The police reported no arrests or recording of identities arising from that battle and one Hapoel supporter required medical attention after being hit over the head with a chair.
That very day, the Israeli Occupation Forces shot dead a Palestinian for the crime of trying to pass through from the Jordan side.
THE MEDIA, THAT BAR AND THE BASQUE POPULATION
Although Bilbao social media had been buzzing with reports of Zionist provocation for two days, the mainstream media did not pick up on it until the battle at the bridge end. True to form the mainstream media either tried to represent both sides as equally at fault or, as with the case of a reporter for the right-wing El Correo3 – and ‘right-wing’ in the Spanish state usually means descended from fascist Franco supporters during the Civil War – to cast the Zionists as the unfortunate victims. It was she who alleged specifically anti-semitic insults had been thrown at the fans which though not impossible, would certainly be unusual in Bilbao. It is the fascist groups in the Spanish state (including in the Basque Country) who have a history of anti-semitism as did the fascist Falange, who fought alongside Franco’s forces in the coup against the Popular Front Government in 1936.
The Abertzale4 Left has always been socialistically-inclined, anti-fascist and anti-racist and the first planned victim of the armed Basque group ETA was Melitón Manzanas, chief of the political police division of the Guardia Civil in Donosti/ San Sebastian in 1968, a man with a record of torturing detainees but also of hunting down Jews escaping through France and handing them over to the Gestapo.
The Naiz.eus5 website had no report on the incident but its Facebook page carried a photo of the burning of the Palestinian flag by Zionists and a report which, however, did not mention the Palestinian solidarity demonstration (perhaps because its own movement had not organised it). It appears to have been the only publication to also draw attention to the shooting dead of a Palestinian by the Israelis that very day.
El Debate went even furthering misrepresentation than El Correo through the former’s manipulated video of interviews with two people. The first, a youth and alleged eye-witness, gave an account blaming “around ten youth shouting in Basque” for being the cause of the event with only an unclear reference to a flag-burning. His testimony in foreign-accented Castilian is so at variance with so many other accounts that one is inclined to take him as a plant, either by Zionists or anti-Basque popular movement interests. The other testimony, from an elderly lady, a resident next door, is sweeping in its condemnation – but of whom? She refers to a peaceful bar and people on the patio – including with children – before the clash; after the youth’s testimony one is led to believe that she is condemning those “Basque youth”. Hardly, from information received here she is in fact the owner of the bar’s mother and also much video footage shared on social media had been shot from above in her very building.6
That particular bar at the centre of the battle is right by the southern end of the bridge, very small, not much more than a passageway from door to toilet with a bar on the way but also containing a patio outside with tables and chairs of the light aluminium or plastic type. The clientele is varied in age profile from 20s right through to 50s and 60s, generally Left and pro-Basque independence — and I have never seen it empty (unlike the much bigger and well-lit nearby Taberna of the Abertzale Left which also has a patio).
If the Palestinian flag was not permanently attached7, the management or patrons may well have intended to make a point on that day. They could hardly have expected the reaction however but despite their gross disparity in numbers responded vigorously.
The final results of the Anton Bridge match ended in a draw with only one injury to a Zionist, thanks to the intervention of the very biased ‘referees’, the Ertzaintza (who also took down two players’ names from only one side). There was no extra time played. However the match will be long remembered with effect no doubt the next time any Israeli Zionist team brings its fans to Bilbao.
For those interested in the result of the other match, Lenovo knocked Hapoel out of the competition at a final score of 78-71.
1Apparently these are unwilling to support the boycott of Israel but like many others will no doubt flock to support the boycott of Russian teams declared by the International Basketball Federation, among a boycott of Russian competitors from participation in at least 27 international competitions ranging from canoeing and chess to paralympics and pentathlon.
2According to one report, that required an Ertzaintza commander speaking to them in English (a rare event in that police force, surely).
3The Courier, right-wing Basque Catholic newspaper closed down in 1936 by the Popular Front government, resuscitated under the Franco dictatorship and true to its pedigree since.
4Izquierda Abertzale, literally “Patriotic Left”, a broad movement (but centrally-led) of political party, daily newspaper, trade union, social centres and pubs (and formerly also armed organisation ETA). For generations it dominated the general Basque patriotic movement but for decades now has been losing support as its embracing of a non-existent “peace process” failed to end even the dispersal of its hundreds of political prisoners throughout the French and Spanish states, to say nothing of gaining their release under amnesty. There are also anarchists and other groups outside the formal Izquierda Abertzale, including some formed by its former members.
5Online representations of the Abertzale Left’s daily newspaper GARA.
6When the filming was being made, the bar was shut and the area deserted. One suspects the youth was there by arrangement with the reporters, whereas the elderly lady was videoed leaving the premises next door. Her recorded interview may well have been edited to remove clarification of the target of her denunciations; even if she had not made it clear herself it seems unlikely that she would not have been asked to clarify whom she was blaming. According to Wikipedia, the Spanish newspaper El Debate was a right-wing Catholic-conservative newspaper that, like El Correo, ceased publication in 1936 (year of the election of the Popular Front Government followed by the military-fascist uprising). However, an online search turns up the current newspaper’s own website, claiming its foundation in 1910 – the same year as that of its right-wing namesake and a quick review of even its headlines reveals its very right-wing and unionist editorial attitude. With the media with which it is provided it is hard to blame the average Spanish citizen for ignorance or bigotry.
7It was not so in years past but having not been there in two years can’t say whether prior to that day it had been.
In mid-April (2022) Gardaí, the police force of the Irish State, broke down the door of Mick Plunkett’s home. They would not have been able to claim he resisted their entry or arrest (the usual explanation for injuries on the detained individual) – he was already dead. To be fair to them, this time they were forcing entry in response to concerns from people that Plunkett had not been seen and wasn’t answering calls. Still, Mick Plunkett’s door had been forced by police a number of times before – by the Special Branch, at least once by the Garda ‘Heavy Gang’ and another time by the special ‘anti-terrorist’ Paris police.
Mick was born into a working class family of ten siblings in Dún Laoghaire, in Kelly’s Avenue in the small area of council houses built for rent to the seaward side of the town’s main road (without however overlooking the sea itself, a view reserved for the big houses and hotels, later somewhat ruined by the DART wires and towers). Dún Laoghaire1, long-imagined as a area in which only the affluent or at least comfortably-off lived, nevertheless contained such council (formerly ‘Corporation”) houses in the nearby bottom of York Road, also Cross Avenue, Glasthule, Carriglee Gardens, Monkstown Farm and Sallynoggin areas.
As many of that era, especially among manual workers, Mick’s father died relatively young which left his widow Lilly to care for ten children with all siblings able to work and find employment contributing to the care of the rest.
Mick followed his father Oliver into a skilled manual worker trade, trained and qualified as a gas fitter-plumber and, by reputation, a good one; later he would often carry out repair jobs for neighbours free of charge or in exchange for fish caught nearby or by trawlers that docked in the harbour. “We saw and ate fish that many other people never saw,” said one of his sisters at his funeral reception in the evening.
Amidst the student and youth upsurge of the 1960s around the world, of which Ireland was also a part, many Irish youth of the time became rapidly politicised. The Vietnam War, Black struggles in the USA and South Africa, Civil Rights in the British colony, lack of sufficient housing in the Irish state (just as today!) were issues that engaged lively interest and which to people like Plunkett, called for solidarity and, in Ireland, direct action. At his funeral, Niall Leonach2, formerly of the IRSP, related how Plunkett, at the age of 17, had resisted the neglect of the young apprentices by his union and won improvements by organising a sit-in at the union’s office.
HOUSING AND HISTORY
The Dublin and Bray Housing Action Committees were campaigning for an end to slums and affordable rental housing around the city and Dún Laoghaire soon had its own Housing Action Committee too. Nial Leonach, former comrade of Plunkett’s told the mourners at Mount Jerome that a large public housing building program was initiated as a result of this campaigning, a program that not only replaced derelict inner city tenements but created large new housing areas such as that in Ballybrack in south county Dublin.
The Housing Action campaigns not only squatted homeless families, they also fought evictions, held marches and public meetings. And in at least one case, became involved in a struggle for historical building conservation.
The Dún Laoghaire group joined with conservationists wishing to save Frescati House, a large derelict building on acreage of the property planned by Roches Stores to demolish and convert into a shopping centre. The original building dated from 1739 but had been purchased by the largest landowning family in Ireland at the time, the Fitzgeralds and had wings added and the grounds planted with exotic shrubs. The house had been the childhood residence and favoured retreat of Edward Fitzgerald3, a much-loved leader of the first Irish Republican revolutionary movement, the United Irishmen, as late as 1797, the year before their Rising.
The figures heading the campaign were not only conservationists but fairly conservative too (Desmond Fitzgerald, son of a father of the same name who was Minister in a number of Fine Gael governments, was its chairperson). But it was of course the activist supporters of the DHAC who occupied the building in protest at plans for demolition and were subjected to a baton-wielding police attack to evict them.4
Niall Leonach told the crowd in the Mount Jerome chapel that the criminal charges against the arrested were serious but that as a result of Plunkett’s stratagem of issuing a subpoena for Liam Cosgrave5 to appear as witness for their defence, for the politician had been part of the conservation campaign, the more serious charges were dropped and, on the lesser ones, the penalties were lower-scale fines.
Much of DHAC soon became the Markievicz Cumann of Sinn Féin6, then a very socialist Irish Republican party, particularly in Dublin. The Civil Rights campaign in the British colony of the Six Counties became a focus for activity and Leonach told his audience that Plunkett had been particularly affected by the colonial police killing of a child by indiscriminate fire from machine-guns at a nationalist housing estate, the Divis Flats.
In 1969 the IRA, the military wing of Sinn Féin, was caught unprepared and largely unarmed to face the pogroms in the British colony, which was one of the reasons for the 1970 split in the party, out of which emerged the Provisional IRA and Provisional Sinn Féin.
Plunkett and others in the Markievicz Cumann, the three Breatnach brothers for example7, viewing the Provos as socially conservative, remained in what was now known as “Official Sinn Féin” but tried to change their party’s direction. Failing in that, they split, along with others such as the charismatic Séamus Costello8 and formed the Irish Republican Socialist Party in 1974.
It seems clear that the ruling elite of the Irish State viewed the IRSP and the associated INLA as a threat and decided to go beyond the standard and regular harassment, intimidation and petty and medium arrests9 with which they had been treating all Irish Republicans and some socialist activists.
FRAMED IN DUBLIN AND IN PARIS
On 31st March 1976 the Cork-Dublin mail train was stopped near Sallins, Co. Kildare and around £200,00010 was netted by armed men. The State decided to believe, at least officially that the operation had been carried out by the INLA and armed police raided the homes of 40 members of the IRSP and their families. The Gardaí beat up their victims and obtained “confessions” from a number of them – however, some who gave self-incriminating statements could not have been present and their prosecutions were dropped.11 Eventually, a trial in the political Special Criminal Court proceeded against Plunkett and another three IRSP members: Osgur Breatnach, Nicky Kelly and Brian McNally.
After many abuses of the legal system and the longest judicial procedure in the State, three of the four were convicted on the basis of their tortured “confessions” which they had denied. Forensic “evidence” was provided against the only one who had refused to sign a “confession” – an alleged lock of Plunkett’s hair12 was claimed to have been found at the scene of the robbery; that was insufficient and Plunkett was finally discharged. The others were released after years of campaigning13 and were paid a financial compensation but an official enquiry into the arrests, trials and convictions was never held and currently a campaign for such is underway.14.
Mick Plunkett remained politically active but after his arrest in the vicinity of an armed training camp was charged with “membership” and scheduled to appear before the Special Criminal Court. Plunkett, knowing the chances of acquittal in “the Special” were next to nil, decamped to France.
In Paris he and Mary Reid, a poet-activist and also formerly of the IRSP, shared accommodation. In the summer of 1982, their door was kicked down by armed police of the new special “anti-terrorist” French unit. Both were arrested, along with another Irishman Stephen King and charged with possession of automatic weapons and explosives. This followed the bombing of a delicatessen in the Jewish quarter of the city which was later revealed to have had police complicity.
Plunkett, Reid and King were accused of being part of an Irish-Palestinian cell, a figment of the special unit’s imagination. All three denied the charges and the accusation and the existence of such a cell, insisting that if any weapons and explosives had been found in their accommodation, it had been planted there by the police. Niall Leonach commented to the mourners in Mount Jerome that Plunkett had gone from being involved in the greatest miscarriage of justice in the Irish state to being accused in the greatest miscarriage of justice in the French State’s modern history.
Fortunately for the Irish accused, the special police unit was in serious conflict with the main police force and that helped bring to public view the fact that the armaments had, indeed, been planted on the accused by the “anti-terrorist” police unit. All three were released after nine months in jail and Mary Reid’s nine-year-old son Cathal had been taken into care. The whole case was by then such as to convince the Irish state authorities to refrain from severely embarrassing their French counterparts by requesting Plunkett’s extradition to face his charges in the Special Criminal Court.
Working in London at the time, I read the news about the arrests of Irish political activists in Paris and was shocked to see names I recognised. I remembered the last time I had seen Mick; I had been back in Dún Laoghaire on holiday and with four of my brothers we set off in Mick’s brother Jimmy’s rowing boat from a pier, Mick himself in it too. We had fishing rods and lines and began to fish as we cleared the harbour. Hours later as the sun dropped to the west, we turned back with our varied catch. Once inside the harbour it was quite dark and a large ship entering the harbour appeared to be bearing down on us and we couldn’t find our flashlight. The incident provided more excitement than we had wished for but seemed to give extra taste to the pints in the local pub afterwards.
Mick found happiness for a time with Tracy out of which union came their daughter Natacha. After the Good Friday Agreement Mick felt safe to returned to Ireland but Tracy remained in Paris with their daughter, Natascha visiting him and his extended family by arrangement on occasion. Plunkett seemed to have retired from political activity and had also withdrawn from social contact with many of his former contacts. His health deteriorated significantly but nevertheless his death came as something of a shock to many.
Many came to pay their respects at the funeral parlour where his coffin lay and to watch the wonderful collection of photos collected by his ex-partner, Tracy. His daughter Natacha was there to receive condolences and to offer shots of Irish whisky over the coffin (where tobacco roll-ups were also placed irreverently on the crucifix attached to the woodwork – Mick was reportedly an atheist). Natacha was also at the cremation service in Mount Jerome cemetery with her mother Tracy, where Plunkett’s coffin was covered in the blue version of the Starry Plough flag15 before being removed from the hearse, carried by relations and with the Seamus Costello Memorial Committee, in uniform and white gloves, providing a small ceremonial guard of honour.
Mick’s nephew Karl chaired the event and in turn called Jennifer Holland to give a short talk on Mick and his times followed by Niall Leonach, former General Secretary of the IRSP and close comrade of Plunkett’s, for a longer oration on Mick’s background and activism.
Karl provided many personal anecdotes from his association with his uncle and from within family stories, many of them amusing and some hilarious. He did not however avoid the political and recounted that many of them were kept unaware of the reasons for Mick’s absence and his apparent inability to travel back to Ireland even to visit. It was by going through some papers in his mother’s room that he came across the IRSP pamphlet on the Sallins case and was shocked; confronting his mother, the story began to be told.16
Recollecting the family’s trip to Paris to present two children for baptism in Notre Dame Cathedral which Mick attended, Karl spoke about their warm reception there and being touur-guided around by Plunkett, who had acquainted himself with much of the city’s history. One wonders whether that included the “Wall of the Communards” where in 1871, revolutionaries of the Paris Commune were summarily executed by French firing squads under the command of Marshall Patrice McMahon, descendant of Irish “Wild Geese” refugees from Williamite-controlled Ireland. Plunkett would hardly have been unaware of that history and its irony for the Irish.
SOCIAL, SONG AND FLAG
Later that evening in a large reserved section of the Rochestown Lodge Hotel (formerly the Victor Hotel) just above the large Sallynoggin housing estate, mourners and celebrants gathered to eat, drink and talk. Some had not seen one another for decades. Among the many reminiscences of the social and music scene in Dún Laoghaire in the later decades of the last century, including the remark that “our harbour is a marina now”, one of Mick’s sisters spoke of raids by the Special Branch on their family home, where children would be ordered or pulled out of bed and the mattresses and beds tipped over, allegedly searching for weapons.
Strangely perhaps, there was no performance of musicians or singers or even sing-alongs at the event, though the traditional song The Parting Glass was sung to Plunkett’s daughter Natacha and a small unexpecting audience on the covered patio outside. Later inside, by which time some had left and following a query about a ceramic badge of the Starry Plough worn by one those remaining, a whole length of the original green-and-gold version of the flag was unfurled, causing much interest and queues forming asking to be photographed behind it. And a little later, a man sang Patrick Galvin’s Where Is Our James Connolly? to much applause.
This was fitting for as the mourners had been reminded in Mount Jerome, Connolly17 had been a great inspiration to Mick Plunkett’s political activism and to the IRSP too. But not only that, for a building in Dublin city centre, formerly a hostel but empty for many years and very recently occupied by socialist Republicans in Dublin had been named Connolly House and had that very day witnessed a rally held outside it to resist a threatened Garda operation to evict the occupants.
It seemed to me that something other than the remembrance of a retired fighter alone had happened at the Plunkett memorial events, something more than the appropriate marker of a past and finished period in Irish history, as had been suggested by Holland in her oration. It seemed to me that the history of struggle in Ireland for national self-determination and social justice had to an extent been re-invoked, that it appeared to some extent as the ghost of struggles past but also as the gaining substance of struggles present and, in particular, yet to come. I think Mick would have been pleased and, in any case, in defiance of the declarations of Fukuyama and such idealogues, history is nowhere near finished or dead. As some have commented, it is not even past.
1A harbour town seven miles south of Dublin city centre, in Dublin County but administered by DL-Rathdown Council for some years now.
3He is more usually referred to as “Lord Edward Fitzgerald” which, apart from being somewhat historically inaccurate, does him a service. He was a republican, renounced his title and his sister Lucy said of him some years after his death in prison that “He was a paddy and no more; he desired no other title than this.”
4The Wikipedia entry on Frescati House and the campaign makes no mention at all of this sit-in, Garda attack or the subsequent court cases, of which there is ample documentary evidence. Hopefully someone will undertake its appropriate updating.
5Liam Cosgrave was a Fine Gael politician, son of the Leader of the Irish parliamentary Opposition from 1965 to 19873 and Taoiseach (Prime Minister) from 1973 to 1977, W.T Cosgrave.
6The Sinn Féin party has gone through many metamorpheses, from being a reformist dual-monarchy party, to revolutionary republican to constitutionalist. Constance Markievicz was a socialist Republican who took part in the 1916 Rising as an officer in the Irish Citizen Army – the name of a socialist revolutionary woman chosen for the cumann (‘association’, a branch of the SF party at the time) indicated an inclination towards revolution, feminism and socialism.
8Séamus Costello (b. 1939) was murdered by the Official IRA in Dublin on 5th October 1977.
9An example of the medium-seriousness was the charge of “membership of an illegal organisation” under the Amendment to the Offences Against the State Act, introduced in 1972 which required only the unsupported word of a Garda officer at rank of superintendent or above for conviction and a virtually automatic jail sentence of one to two years.
10€237,389.81 –without taking into account inflation — for today’s value
11Notably John Fitzpatrick, who years later publicly challenged the State to charge him with the offence to which he had “confessed” – there was no response.
12If it had been Plunkett’s hair, it had to have been planted by the Heavy Gang, since Mick had been nowhere near that scene and, in fact, the robbery had been carried out by the Provisional IRA. In addition, without the later development of DNA testing, all a sample of hair could tell, apart from its natural colour, was the blood-type of its owner.
13Some of those involved at the time, whether as victims or as campaigners, were present at some of the funeral events too, including Osgur Breatnach, Nicky Kelly, Caoilte and Peetera Schilders-Bhreatnach.
15The flag with a design in the shape of the constellation known as Ursa Mayor was of the Irish Citizen Army, formed to defend the workers during the strike and 8-month lockout of 1913 and later fought in the 1916 Rising. Originally the design was of the constellation in white or silver overlaid by the depiction of a plough in gold, with sword as the plough-share and all on a green background. A later version was the plain blue one with Ursa Mayor outlined in white stars. That version was the one in use by the short-lived Republican Congress of the 1930s and was for many years later, probably up to the end of the century, the main one displayed and therefore familiar to Republicans and socialists (even for years flown by the Irish Labour Party) but has now been largely supplanted by the original green version.
16This is not at all an unusual experience in Ireland and, whether by desire to protect the young, pain of reminiscence or even disapproval, much of our history has been concealed from generations for a time or even completely lost.
17James Connolly, revolutionary socialist, trade union organiser, historian, journalist, song-writer and one of the Seven Signatories of the 1916 Proclamation of Independence, was tried by British military court for his leading role in the Rising and executed by firing squad.
Speakers on Sunday 17th April 2022 at a 1916 Rising commemoration in Dublin called for defence of Irish neutrality between contending imperialist and capitalist states but also for revolution to end British colonial occupation and partition, in addition to general imperialist domination of Ireland. They called for a working class socialist republic and a revolution necessary to achieve it. The Proclamation of the Irish Republic (1916) was read to those assembled, as was the message of Patrick Pearse during the Rising and a dedication by James Connolly to the Irish Citizen Army (1915)1 and floral tributes of lilies were laid. The event also included the singing viva voce of songs relevant to the occasion.
MARCH, FLAGS, BANNERS
The event was organised by the Anti-Imperialist Action organisation and commenced with a march up a section of the Finglas Road which runs between both parts of the famous Glasnevin cemetery, before turning into the “St. Paul’s” section.2 The march was led by a colour party of two, dressed in black with white gloves bearing the Irish Tricolour and the green and gold Starry Plough.
Following behind in two columns were others with a variety of flags flying among them: Starry Plough3, Basque Ikurrina, Red Flag with golden hammer and sickle, flag of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. As they marched the short section of road, passing traffic beeped them in appreciation. The police of the Irish State, the Gardaí, were in attendance but did not interfere with the participants.
Two banners were also carried by participants, a No to NATO one of the AIA and another of the Dublin Committee of the Anti-Internment Committee of Ireland.
Beginning in Irish and then changing to English, the Chairperson welcomed those in attendance and spoke of the reason for holding such commemorations but also putting this one, the sixth Easter Rising Commemoration organised by the young organisation, in the context of current events in Ireland and in the world.
James Connolly in Ireland and Lenin in Russia had been quite clear about the correct attitude to imperialist war, the Chairperson said, which was to oppose it and if it went ahead to turn it into revolution; on Liberty Hall4 the banner had been hung declaring that “We serve neither King nor Kaiser”.
In the current war situation, some politicians in Ireland are trying to abandon the State’s official traditional stance of neutrality, which is why the AIA thought it important to promote the “No to NATO” message depicted on one of the banners present at the event. It is important for people to realise that, with the UK occupying a part of Ireland, a part of Ireland is already in NATO. Opinion polls have shown a majority in the state against joining NATO, he pointed out.
During this speech a helicopter passed by overhead.
The main speaker had been delayed in arriving and, putting aside his notes, spoke about the need for sacrifice, pointing out that those who took part in the Rising and in subsequent struggles had jobs or small businesses as well as families but they put themselves forward and made sacrifices. Although today we may not face death here, nevertheless sacrifices are called for, he said and though there is not a rising here today, it will come.
The Chairperson of the event also pointed to the importance of relations of internationalist solidarity and alluded to the struggle of the Palestinian people with particular reference to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, also to the Basque people’s struggle. The AIA had sent a solidarity message to be read out at the Jardun organisation’s celebration of the Basque country’s national day, Aberri Eguna, noting that Easter Sunday had been chosen in emulation of the Easter Rising by Elias Gallestegi. The event had been first celebrated on Easter Sunday 27 March 1932 in Bilbo, supported by a demonstration of some 65,000 which included the Basque Nationalist Women’s organisation, inspired by the Republican Irish women’s organisation Cumann na mBan, which had fought in the 1916 Rising.
Also mentioned by the Chairperson were the struggles of organisations in Peru and the Philippines and by the Communist Party of Brazil.
MUSIC AND READINGS
As part of the program of the event, Seán Óg accompanied himself on guitar to sing Charles O’Neill’s The Foggy Dew and the Larry Kirwan’s James Connolly/ Citizen Army Song. Diarmuid Breatnach sang acapella his version of Patrick Galvin’s Where Is Our James Connolly? with some small alterations, though none Breatnach said to alter the fundamental meaning of the lyrics.
A young woman read out Pearse’s message and a young man, Connolly’s 1915 praise of the Irish Citizen Army.
To conclude the event Seán Óg sang the chorus of Amhrán na bhFiann5, the Irish National Anthem and the participants exited the cemetery to pass the uniformed police and Special Branch surveillance without incident.
1Patrick Pearse, journalist, poet, educator and Irish Volunteer, was overall commander of the insurrectionary forces in 1916; James Connolly, trade union and socialist organiser, historian, journalist, writer and Irish Citizen Army, was Commandant of the Dublin fighters. Both men were signatories of the Proclamation and, along with the other five Signatories and another seven volunteers in Dublin, were executed by British Army firing squads.
2Although a newer and less famous section of the cemetery it too includes the graves of a number of important political leaders as well as the largest monument to Irish insurrections, containing the dates 1798, 1803, 1848, 1867, 1881 and 1916.
3Flag of the Irish Citizen Army, believed to be the first workers’ army in the world (and the first to recruit women, some of whom were officers), formed in 1913 to defend striking and locked-out workers from the attacks of the Dublin Metropolitan Police and that also participated in the 1916 Rising.
4Liberty Hall was the HQ of the Irish Transport & General Workers’ Union and of the Irish Citizen Army; in addition to the Citizen Army members, many of the Irish Volunteers and of Cumann na mBan mustered there on the first morning of the Rising. It was destroyed by British shelling and the tall building now on that site, also called Liberty Hall, is the HQ of SIPTU (largest trade union in Ireland).
5Originally composed in English as The Soldier’s Song by Peadar Kearney and Patrick Heeney and sung during the Rising, it was later translated into Irish by Liam Ó Rinn and in 1926 adopted by the partitioned Irish State as its official anthem (usually the air of the chorus alone). When sung at events it is usually the Irish language version of the chorus that is sung only.
SPEECH DELIVERED AT THE RALLIES ORGANISED BY JARDUN IN RESPONSE TO THE MURDER OF CORSICAN POLITICAL PRISONER YVAN COLONNA (Se encuentra la versión anterior en castellano/español al fondo)
Yvan Colonna was from a young age a member of the Corsican liberation movement. After being forced to remain in hiding for four years, he was arrested in 2003, accused of participating in an action carried out by an anonymous group. The accusation was based on statements of several of the movement’s members detained at the police station, who later rejected the statements but Yvan was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Colonna was left in a very serious coma after the beating by a jihadist prisoner in Arles prison. On Monday of this week, Yvan passed away after three weeks in hospital. During that time there were riots denouncing the role of the French state in Yvan’s murder.
Yvan was murdereded by the penitentiary policy of dispersal and the conditions of the prison. We in the JARDUN Coordination charge that the beating and death received by Yvan was a direct consequence of the penitentiary policy of the French State. Likewise, we want to underline the need to create an organisation in support of the freedom of political prisoners and the fight against oppression and exploitation.
It should not be forgotten that in Corsica, the struggle for independence has been ongoing for decades with the aim of overcoming the political-economic system imposed by the French State and fighting for a popular and democratic government that would act in favour of the Corsican people. The struggle of the Corsicans is the struggle against French imperialism, against the oppression of the local working people and against the exploitation they suffer.
In Euskal Herria (the Basque Country – Trans.) we are well aware of the repression and oppression by oppressive states and we are witnesses to the massacres committed so many times by the French State. Because we cannot forget the imperialist attitude of the French State in Algiers and other colonies, becoming, together with the United States, the main promoters of contemporary torture.
All of this shows us nothing less than the need for the organisation of the working class. It is evident that both the imperialist power and the oppressive States exercise a monopoly on violence to defend their economic interests and, in every nation, those who pay are always the working class.
It is time to denounce the fraud of social peace, it is time to denounce the warlike attitude of NATO, in Donbass, the Sahara, Palestine, today they are waging endless wars in defence of the interests of imperialism and its servants — and in view of this, it is time to awaken internationalist solidarity!
For this reason, we in JARDUN proclaim that it is time to turn to revolutionary organisation for all working people! Because only the organised people can offer real help and, as far as we are concerned, only the Basque working people can obstruct the participation of the Spanish and French States, organizing themselves in Euskal Herria to face the enemy, working for a political system in favour of the Basque working people.
We are clear that struggle is the only way and we will loudly proclaim that we have to confront the enemy, exploitation and class oppression. That is why we encourage you to join the organisation, because it is time to fight, it is essential to resist!
AGUR ETA OHORE YVAN! (Farewell with Honour Yvan!)
GORA KORSIKAKO HERRI LANGILEAREN BORROKA! (Long live the struggle of the Corsican working people!)
GORA EUSKAL HERRIA ASKATUTA! (Long live a free Basque Country!).
Lectura lanzada en las concentraciones organizadas por JARDUN ante el asesinato de Yvan Colonna
Yvan Colonna era miembro del movimiento de liberación corso, en el que militó desde joven. Tras ser obligada a permanecer 4 años en la clandestinidad, fue detenida en 2003 acusada de participar en una acción llevada a cabo por un grupo anónimo. La acusación se fundamenta en la declaración de varios de los miembros detenidos en la comisaría, que posteriormente rechazaron la declaración, pero Yvan fue condenado a cadena perpetua.
Colonna quedó en coma muy grave tras la paliza de un preso yihadista en la cárcel de Arlés. El lunes de esta semana, Yvan falleció cuando llevaba 3 semanas hospitalizado. Con el objetivo de denunciar el papel del Estado francés en el asesinato de Yvan desde que ingresó en hospital, durante ese tiempo ha habido disturbios.
Yvan fue asesinado por la política penitenciaria por la dispersión vivida y las condiciones de la prisión. Desde la coordinadora JARDUN denunciamos que la paliza y la muerte recibida por Yvan ha sido consecuencia directa de la política penitenciaria del estado francés. Asimismo, queremos subrayar la necesidad de articular una organización a favor de la libertad de los presos políticos y de la lucha contra la opresión y la explotación.
No hay que olvidar que en Córcega, la lucha por la independencia se ha dado durante décadas con el objetivo de superar el sistema político económico impuesto por el Estado francés y luchar por un gobierno popular y democrático que actuara en favor del pueblo corso. La lucha de los corsos es la lucha contra el imperialismo francés, la opresión del pueblo obrero local y la lucha contra la explotación que sufren.
En Euskal Herria conocemos bien la represión y la opresión de los estados opresores y somos testigos de las masacres cometidas tantas veces por el Estado francés. Porque no podemos olvidar la actitud imperialista del Estado francés en Argel y otras colonias, llegando a ser, junto con los Estados Unidos, los principales impulsores de la tortura contemporánea.
Todo ello no nos demuestra más que la necesidad de la organización de la clase trabajadora.. Es evidente que tanto la potencia imperialista como los Estados opresores ejercen el monopolio de la violencia para defender sus intereses económicos, y en todo pueblo, su pagador, es siempre la clase obrera.
Es hora de denunciar el fraude de la paz social, es tiempo de denunciar la actitud guerrera de la OTAN, Donbass, el Sáhara, Palestina, hoy en día están dando un sinfín de guerras en defensa de los intereses del imperialismo y de sus siervos, ¡y ante eso es tiempo de despertar la solidaridad internacionalista!
Para ello, desde JARDUN proclamamos que es hora de volcarse en la organización revolucionaria para todo pueblo obrero!! ¡Porque sólo el pueblo organizado puede ofrecer una verdadera ayuda, y en lo que a nosotros se refiere, sólo el pueblo trabajador vasco puede interrumpir la participación de los Estados Español y Francés, organizándose en Euskal Herria para hacer frente al enemigo, trabajando por un sistema político a favor del pueblo trabajador vasco.
Nosotros tenemos claro que la lucha es el único camino y proclamaremos en voz alta que tenemos que enfrentar al enemigo, a la explotación y la opresión de clase. Por eso os animamos a uniros a la organización, porque es tiempo de lucha, ¡es imprescindible resistir!
The Dublin Anti-Internment Committee held a well-attended picket on Saturday (5th March) against the continuing practice of interning Irish Republicans without trial and also in support of human rights for political prisoners. At one point the picket was subjected to the unwelcome attention of the Irish political police.
The event was in furtherance of the Committee’s advertised intention to hold monthly public events to highlight the deprivation of civil rights from Irish Republicans — on both sides of the British border — through the operation of special legislation and in particular of the no-jury political courts (Special Criminal Courts in the Irish state and Diplock Court in the British colony). The Committee has admitted that it does not always succeed in holding a public event every month and in fact its most recent public appearance was during the December festive season, in solidarity with Irish Republican prisoners, when it was supported by a number of organisations and independent activists.
WHY THESE PUBLIC EVENTS?
The Dublin Committee holds these public events because it believes that most people are unaware of the abuse of civil rights in Ireland, the civil right to belong to an organisation that criticises the State and seeks profound change. The reaction of people receiving a leaflet at their public events would seem to bear this out.
Choosing a couple of extracts from their current leaflet: ‘At various times in Ireland’s history, people have been rounded up and jailed without bothering with a trial – people whom the government found troublesome and wished removed. Today the same process carries on although they don’t call it “internment” now – other names such as “due process”, “remanded in custody” are used ….”
‘Even when Republican activists are granted bail, it is on outrageous conditions such as not being permitted to reside in their own home, having to observe a curfew and wear an electronic tag, not being permitted to attend meetings and demonstrations …..’
The leaflet text makes the point that one doesn’t have to agree with the politics of Irish Republicans to see that these injustices are profoundly undemocratic abuses of civil rights — and “are ultimately a danger to all oppositional movements, whether Republican or not”. One aspect of their protest was against the denial of open family visits to Republican prisoners in the jails of the British colony in the north-east of Ireland — a violation of human rights.
The surprise in learning the facts is not confined to Irish people because often it is expressed by tourists or migrants, even if they have encountered such practices in their own countries of origin.
An example of the interest from abroad on Saturday was of a Basque man and, separately, of two young Basque women, reacting warmly to seeing the Basque flag among the picketers. The Dublin Committee objects not only to the incarceration of Irish Republicans but also of people seeking freedom in many other parts of the world, for which reason the Palestinian and Basque flags are frequently flown on their pickets, next to the revolutionary Irish workers’ flag of the Starry Plough.
A person who expressed support for the right to campaign without state repression was, interestingly, from Barcelona. However he did not wish for Catalan independence, wanting instead a unitary but democratic Spanish state – a position held by some communists and the main socia-democratic parties there. Although his position did not concur with that of the picketers, who tend to support the struggles for self-determination, the conversation was conducted without hostility.
Not so with another individual, who approached some picketers to argue for their support for the Ukrainian state in the current armed conflict there, a question that has deeply divided the Irish Left and Republican movements. He went further and announced his support for the Azov Battalion, an East European fascist organisation integrated into the Ukrainian state’s military, at which point the tolerance of the picketers for his intervention ended and he was urged to depart.
POLITICAL POLICE INTIMIDATION
Another temporary presence unwelcome to the picketers was of three members of the Irish State’s political police. These are members of what used to be called the Special Branch but are now officially called the Special Detective Unit, formerly C3 and successor to the CID when the Irish State was created. This type of political police force is modelled on the Irish Special Branch of Scotland Yard, the HQ of the British police, founded to spy on the influence and activities of the “Fenians” (i.e the Irish Republican Brotherhood) in the cities of Victorian-era Britain. However, in Dublin under British occupation, their parallel force was the G Division of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, known as “G-men”; it was they who identified many Republican and other prisoners of the British military after the 1916 Rising, ensuring death sentences for many (though most commuted to life imprisonment) and jail sentence for many others. During the War of Independence (1919-1921 they were identified as the intelligence service of the British occupation and many were selectively assassinated by the IRA of the time.
The Garda “Branch” (as they are known colloquially) of the Irish State have a long history of harassment of and spying on Irish Republicans, sometimes associated with violence and often with perjury in court. Their unsupported observations through the mouth of a Garda officer at the rank of Superintendent has been enough “evidence”, in the no-jury Special Criminal Court, to send many Irish Republicans to jail on a charge of “membership of an illegal organisation.”
One of these gentlemen on Saturday approached the youngest supporter of the picket, who was distributing leaflets to passers-by, identified himself as a Gárda officer in plain-clothes and demanded the young activist’s name. His accosting of the leafletter attracted the attention of others on the picket and two went quickly to support the subject of State harassment. The Branchman demanded no further information and sone moved away. However, when he had reached about half-way along the picketters, he stopped and began filming them.
At that point one of the picketers began to call out to passers-by, many of whom were tourists, that this man was a member of the secret political police, who was filming and attempting to intimidate people on a legal political protest, that this is the kind of ‘democracy’ that exists in the Irish state, etc, etc. Shortly thereafter, the Branchman departed, along with another two of his colleagues that had been observed further down towards Temple Bar.
According to picket participants this intervention of the political police represented an escalation of their attentions in recent times, though not in the least unusual in the past, when every picketer might have their name (and even their address) demanded and jotted down.
A spokesperson of the Dublin Anti-Internment Committee stated that it is independent of any political party or organisation and that it welcomes the participation at its public events of democratic individuals, whether independent activists or members of organisations and had distributed many of its leaflets. It regrets that a number of political activists — who should have an interest, even if only in self-preservation – in defending the democratic rights to organise and to protest, decline to support their events.
Palestinian flags fluttered in the breeze over the iconic Ha’penny Bridge in Dublin City centre, while banners festooned its length on New Year’s Eve. The numbers were down from previous years, more likely from the soaring Covid19 infection rate than from any lessening of the long-running Ireland solidarity with the oppressed Palestinians. This was ironic since, unlike previous years, this was not a rally braving sleet, snow, rain or icy wind – in fact, the very mild weather raised only the amount of breeze necessary to set the flags fluttering.
The event is organised every year for New Year’s Eve at the same location by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign and supporters, among which were Irish and Palestinians, handed out leaflets encouraging BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) of Israel, an apartheid ste. Martin Quigley, for the IPSC led some chants on a megaphone, which were taken up by people on the pedestrian Bridge, among which were that “Israel is a terrorist state”, that “Palestine will be free” and in solidarity that “we are ALL Palestinians”.
Each year more Palestinian land is stolen, more of their homes demolished or under threat of eviction, in Gaza they have periods without electricity, they are restricted in importing fuel for heating or cooking (never mind transport), or building materials (so much has been destroyed by the Israeli bombardments), they continue to be harassed and made have lengthy waits at checkpoints, their inshore sea is polluted, their fishing boats further out are attacked and harassed ….
As of 2019, more than 5.6 million Palestinians were registered with UNRWA as refugees, of which more than 1.5 million live in UNRWA-run camps.
According to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, there are currently (2021) 4,650 Palestinians held in Israeli jails in Israel and the occupied territories. Palestinians view them as political prisoners attempting to end Israel’s illegal occupation. Of those: 520 are being held without charge or trial.
At the end of September 2020, 157 Palestinian minors were held in Israeli prisons as security detainees and prisoners, at least two of whom were held in administrative detention. Another 2 Palestinian minors were held in Israel Prison Service facilities for being in Israel illegally. The IPS considers these minors – both detainees and prisoners – criminal offenders. In addition, a small number of minors are held in IDF-run facilities for short periods of time. (And the Israeli Prison Service since October 2020 has been refusing to publish figures or to supply Palestinian human rights groups with them).
BIG POWERS BACKING ISRAELI ZIONISM
The United States is the major power backing the Israeli Zionists and partly because of its position in the world and partly also for their own economic or political interests, most of the European states back the Zionists too.
In 2018 Donald Trump, as US President, moved the US Embassy for Israel into Jerusalem, endorsing the Zionist claim that the multi-faith city is Jewish and Zionist, although it is an occupied city even in international law. Shortly before he reluctantly left the office of the US Presidency, Donald Trump also endorsed Morocco’s illegal occupation of Western Sahara in exchange for Morocco recognising Israel. So far, Joe Biden, Trump’s successor, has not reversed either of those decisions.
THE PEOPLE OF THE WORLD SUPPORT THE PALESTINIANS
As is usually the case, it is the ordinary people in Ireland and around the world that support the Palestinians, while the big capitalists and imperialists, while occasionally criticising the Israeli Zionists, continue to support them politically, economically, culturally and militarily. Even in the United Nations, an organisation controlled by the big powers, a majority condemned the Zionist state in 17 separate motions in 2020 and last year formally ratified another six resolutions criticising Israel.
So why has international action not been taken against this terrorist state? The answer is that although the UN has 193 member states, only its Security Council decisions have to be carried out and there are only five permanent members of the Security Council: USA, UK, France, Russia and China. And what’s more, their decisions have to be unanimous.
On the other hand, so many civil organisations around the world have declared themselves in solidarity with the Palestinians and in Ireland. Hundreds of thousands have marched in so many countries and sports people, many popular culture stars and academics have refused to perform or attend conferences in Israel. One can no longer find Israeli goods in most shops or supermarkets (and when on occasion they are on sale, their country of origin is not marked on the product).
Amidst festive season lights, passing Santa Clauses on horse-drawn carriages and hungry people being fed by volunteers in the Dublin city centre, Irish Republicans and Socialists gathered to send a public message of solidarity to political prisoners in Ireland and elsewhere.
The event is an annual one organised by the Anti-Internment Group of Ireland, an independent non-aligned group raising awareness that internment without trial continues in Ireland, through revoking of licence of ex-prisoners and through refusal of bail in the no-jury courts both sides of the British Border. The Dublin committee of the AIGI holds monthly public awareness-raising pickets in the city centre.
The annual picket on Thursday early evening was supported by activists of the Irish Republican Prisoners’ Welfare Association and of the Anti-Imperialist Action organisation, along with some independents and took place in front of the iconic GPO building, on Dublin’s main street.
The picketers and passers-by were addressed by a representative of the Anti-Internment Group outlining the participants’ presence to send solidarity greeting to political prisoners in Ireland and around the world. The speaker drew particular attention to three prisoners: Leonard Peltier, Native American, 45 years in jail and Black American Mumia Al Jamaal, 40 years in prison, both framed by police in the USA. Also highlighted was the case of Ali Osman Kose, 37 years in jail, 21 of which he has spent in solitary confinement. The speaker informed the audience that those three political prisoners, apart from their very long years of incarceration, have multiple health issues and should be released, he said on humanitarian grounds alone. “But no ….. they want them to die in jail”, he said.
Going on to speak about political prisoners in Ireland, the speaker said that they and hostages had existed almost from the moment Ireland had been invaded by its neighbour and from the defeated United Irishmen up to the Fenians, had included not only dungeons and prison cells but also penal colonies on the other side of the world, after which they had been confined in special prisons and concentrations camps.
The creation of the Irish State on a partitioned Irish country a century ago this month had not brought freedom nor an end to the struggle, the speaker said and pointed out that the Irish State had executed 80 Irish Republicans during the years of the Civil War, which was more than the British had done during the War of Independence preceding it.
“Whether we are religious or not ….. in our culture at this time of year we expect to be with our families, our partner, children and friends,” the AIGI representative said but pointed out that this opportunity is not available to the prisoners, which makes this a particularly difficult time of year for them, which is why the Group and others hold this event every year.
The speaker then called a young boy forward “to send a message to the prisoners from this younger generation who hopefully will see a free and united Ireland with social justice and equality. The young boy stepped forward and through the PA, asked all at this time of year to think of the Republican prisoners.
The Starry Plough, the Palestinian flag and the Basque Ikurrina were flown by participants and among the banners of the IRPWA and Dublin Committee of the AIGI there was also one displaying the Carlos Latuff graphic of Palestinian and Irish Republican prisoner solidarity. The centrepiece in the picket line was the word Saoirse (‘freedom’ in Irish) picked out by lights on a dark background. Appropriate music was also played during the picket from a PA system, except while being addressed by the speaker.
The event concluded with thanks to all the attendance and the singing the first verse and chorus of the battle-song Amhrán na bhFiann (The Soldiers’ Song in Irish, which is also the National Anthem).
It is understood that seasonal greeting cards have also been sent by AIGI to political prisoners in prisons in the Irish state and in the colonial statelet.
Last Saturday in the Teachers’ Club in Dublin (26/11/21), the revolutionary music Grup Yorum from Turkey, with some Irish musician input, played to an audience of up to two hundred. In between performing different numbers from their repertoire, band members spoke to the audience of the history of the struggles of their people and of the band.
The Irish tour of the band was organised by the Anti-Imperialist Action Ireland organisation; earlier that week Yorum played in a small music venue in Belfast to around 40 people. The attendance in Dublin was so large that the location had to be changed from a large room on the first floor to the much larger hall down below.
In Belfast in the Sunflower Lounge, Bobby Fields from Armagh and Séan Óg from Dublin entertained those in attendance with songs of Irish resistance followed by Grup Yorum coming on afterwards. The Grup’s performance was enthusiastically received and was followed by a questions-and-answers session to learn more about the situation in Turkey.
The Grup members toured some of the area and visited the famous international solidarity wall along with the grave of Bobby Sands, where paying their respects included singing a song at the graveside.
In the large hall in the Teachers’ Club, Dublin, Séan Óg took to the stage first, playing guitar to accompany himself on guitar to sing The Killmichael Ambush, Viva la Quinze Brigada, Back Home in Derry1 and The Internationale. Veteran activist and traditional singer Diarmuid Breatnach followed, singing unaccompanied the Anne Devlin Ballad, I’ll Wear No Convict’s Uniform2and James Connolly’s satirical song Be Moderate3. Some of the audience sang along with some of the lyrics sung by each singer.
The four members of Grup Yorum present then took to the stage to huge applause and addressed the audience in Turkish, their words being translated into English by a member of their entourage. In the performance that followed, two guitars, flute and cajón were the instruments with a male and female leading voices. Each song was preceded by an explanation placing the piece in historical and political context.
Some of the songs in particular were clearly known to Turkish and Kurdish people in the audience and at some points they sang along, often waving an arm in the air. Towards the end of their performance the crowd got more and more excited and then Seán Óg joined them for a couple of numbers.
The Grup’s interpreter made a special appeal for help from those in attendance to pressurise the Turkish authorities to release political prisoner Ali Osman Köse who has been in solitary confinement for 20 years and has multiple health issues. There are fears for the man’s life as he has had a cancerous kidney removed in May of this year without any follow-up treatment and despite everything has been pronounced “fit” to continue in jail.
This was followed by members of the Resistance Choir taking to the stage to join Grup Yorum in a rendition of the Italian antifascist Bella Ciao! Song before Diarmuid Breatnach returned to the stage to bring the evening to a close with the first verse and chorus of Amhrán na bhFiann4 with members of the audience joining in (including some from Anatolia)
THE GRUP YORUM BAND
A revolutionary music band from Turkey, Grup Yorum members compose their own material and the band has has released twenty-three albums and one film since 1985. The band has suffered repression with some concerts and albums banned and members have been arrested, jailed and tortured, two members also dying on hunger strike. The band is popular in Turkey and as well as their albums selling well in Turkey and internationally, it has also given concerts in Germany, Austria, Australia, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, United Kingdom, Greece and Syria.
Grup Yorum publishes an art, culture, literature, and music magazine entitled Tavir, and several group members manage a cultural centre called İdil Kültür Merkez in the Okmeydani neighbourhood of Istanbul.
1The lyrics and air of Viva la Quinze Brigada are by famous Irish folk musician Christy Moore, who also arranged Bobby Sands’ poem to the air of the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (by Gordon Lightfoot) as Back Home in Derry.
2Diarmuid sings this song to an air he composed himself.
3Diarmuid sings this to the air of A Nation Once Again (by Thomas Davis).
4Written by Peadar Kearney originally under the title The Soldiers’ Song and sung by insurgents during the 1916 Rising, its chorus is the official national anthem of the Irish State. However, it is also sung by many who are opposed to the State, particularly by Irish Republicans. Normally only the chorus is heard, sung in Irish (translation).