A CONTROVERSY OVER A 1916 RISING COMMEMORATION IN SOUTH LONDON

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time text: 12 mins.)



As we in the SE London, Lewisham branch of the Irish in Britain Representation Group began to plan our Easter Rising commemoration locally in 2000, we could not have imagined the drama it would bring. It resulted in calls for the event’s cancellation, for the Lewisham Irish Community Centre to revoke our hire of the hall and even for the withdrawal of the Centre’s meagre funding from the local authority. And shortly afterwards an attempt was made to burn down the Centre.

Even in the general atmosphere of anti-Irish racism in Britain and context of the 30 Years’ War in Ireland, we could not have expected these developments. The Lewisham Branch of the IBRG, founded towards the end of 19861, had been hosting this annual event locally long before the Irish Centre had opened in 1992 and in fact the branch was instrumental in getting the disused building, which had belonged to the Cooperative Society, handed over to the Irish community and refurbished by the local authority. Furthermore, the 1916 Rising had been commemorated at the Lewisham Irish Centre by the local IBRG branch for a number of years running without any fuss.

As usual, whenever the event was to take place we naturally hoped others would promote it. In the days before Facebook and Twitter etc, email would would reach some contacts, a poster in the centre would be seen by users, some illegal street postering might be done and the Irish Post or Irish World might publicise the event. The rest would be by word of mouth.

“Beginning of the siege”, one of the GPO 1916 Rising series of ten paintings by Norman Teeling. (Image sourced: Internet)

It happened that in the week preceding the 1998 event, an activist of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement in London was in touch with the branch and he posted the event on the 32CSM site, intending it as a supportive advertisement. However, someone who hated that organisation took it to be an event of the 32 CSM themselves.

Victor Barker’s son James had been killed in the Omagh car bombing of 15th August 1998, carried out by the “Real IRA”, a group opposed to the Provisional IRA’s signup to the Good Friday Agreement and to the British colonial occupation of Ireland. Although the organisation responsible has always stated that it intended to kill no civilians2, with 29 fatalities the bombing took the highest death toll of a single incident (but not of a single day, which was the British intelligence bombing of Dublin and Monaghan in May 1974) during the 30 Years War.

Understandably Victor Barker had pursued a vendetta against the Real IRA since and, less understandably perhaps, against anything connected with it, including the 32CSM and even, in this case, the right of an unrelated Irish community organisation to commemorate its national history.

Barker contacted the Lewisham Irish Centre and expressed his outrage, demanding the event be cancelled. A nonplussed Brendan O’Rourke, Manager of the Centre, explained that the event was an annual one and booked by a local comunity organisation and affiliate of the Centre. Not in the least mollified, Barker then got to the local authority, an official of which rang Brendan, he repeated the explanation and the official seemed satisfied.

Logo of the Lár-Ionad na nGael/ Lewisham Irish Community Centre. (Design by D.Breatnach)
Program leaflet for the Lewisham Irish Festival (1998), founded by the Lewisham irish Centre with support from Lewisham IBRG. It ran for a few years before funding became unavailable. (Photo source: Internet)

But Brendan was getting a bit worried and phoned me at work – I had been Chair of the Management Committee since the Centre opened and was at the same time Secretary of the local IBRG branch. We discussed the matter and agreed to cary on but his next phone call was to alert me that the matter was now national or at least London-wide news, with a report in an early edition of the Evening Standard headlining that we were running a “London fundraiser for the Omagh bombers3. Furthermore, the cowardly local authority official was now saying – and quoted — that while they had no power to cancel the booking, they would be looking at the Irish Centre’s funding.

I hurried home to Lewisham as fast as I could – the SE London borough is about 90 minutes’ journey by underground line and overground train from King’s Cross, where I worked. With no time for a meal, I got some things ready and got down to the Centre, about 15 minutes’ walk from my flat.

By virtue of being Chairperson of the Irish Centre’s management committee, I had a key, opened the door, turned off the burglar alarm and locked the door again, then began to get things ready. The part-time Caretaker would lay out tables and chairs for events but I generally liked to change it to a less formal arrangement for our events and so I set to that. There was also “decoration” to be done: some posters and portraits of 1916 martyrs to put up in places, flags to hang etc.

Photo taken earlier this year showing the front of the irish Centre in Davenport Road, London SE6, more or less unchanged. The gathering in front is part of a Lockdown bicycle meals delivery service introduced by the Centre and facilitated by Inclusive Cycling volunteers. (Photo source: Lewisham Irish Centre website)

In the lobby I placed a chair by a table there and also some hidden short stout lengths of wood. This was a provision inherited from earlier days when Irish or British left-wing meetings might be attacked by fascists of the National Front or the British Movement but we hadn’t felt the need at the Irish Centre for some years now. However, with the current hysteria being whipped up by Barker and the Evening Standard and assisted by the wriggling of the Council officer, fascists might well decide the conditions favoured an attack.

Another possibility was a police raid. The “Prevention of Terrorism Act” in force since 1974 in Britain specifically targeted the Irish community and gave the police the power to detain someone for up to five days without access even to a lawyer.4

Early arrivals started to knock at the door and I was in a quandary – until I had some reliable able-bodied people to staff the door, I didn’t want to start letting people in. On the other hand if we were going to be attacked, I couldn’t leave them outside either. So it was open, let them in, lock the door again, open, let some more in …. until the arrival of some I could ask to mind the door (after I’d told them about the “extras” in case they were needed).

Then there were sound amplification checks and gradually the hall was filling up. I was to be MC and so on duty inside the hall but kept checking the lobby to see everything was ok. And of course people wanted to chat about the news so would stop me and ask me about it …

For the evening’s program, the MC was to welcome people, introduce the Irish ballad band and have them play for an hour. Then intermission, MC on again with a few words on behalf of the local organisation, introduce the featured speaker, get the band on again for an hour or so to finish. So, some time to kill, to worry before the hour for which the band was booked.

The time came but the band didn’t. At half an hour late I started to worry and the supporter who had booked the band on behalf of the branch couldn’t get any reply from them by phone. As MC I apologised to the attendance and asked for their patience. Over an hour late, the band’s manager finally phoned to say they would not be coming. Because of worry arising out of the media reporting.

A few of us in the organising group held a quick conference. Nothing for it but to face the music – or rather its absence – and so I got on the stage and told the audience that the band had pulled out and everyone was entitled to a refund of their ticket price without any hard feelings whatsoever or …

Before I could lay out the alternative, a guy sitting near the stage jumped up and shouted “We will NOT accept our money back!” to the applause of some others. A little taken aback, I thanked him for his spirit but said people should have the choice and laid out the alternative, which would be to hear the speaker and just socialise for the rest of the evening. Nobody made a move to get up and approach the door so ….. I introduced the speaker, who that year might have been from the IRSP (a previous speaker had been Michelle Gildernew, then representing Sinn Féin in Britain). He did his bit, I did mine, much of that not surprisingly being devoted to censorship, intimidation and repression of the Irish community as well as the commemoration of our history.

Then a guy approached and said he’d play guitar and sing, so he went up on stage, I followed with a few songs acapella, someone else sang a few …. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the evening, there was no trouble at the door …. and because there was no band to pay, we made more money than we had ever done for function organised by the local IBRG branch!

But there were to be two dramatic sequels to this controversy. And tensions between myself and the Centre Manager would follow.

THE “MAC CHICKEN BROTHERS”

The professional name of the Irish ballad band was The Mac Namara Brothers but Brian, a resilient Dublin comrade from a deprived background, that night baptised them the Mac Chicken Brothers (a play on the Mac Donald chain’s naming of items and a reference to the band members’ cowardice.

Our event had been on a Friday night and they were due to play Sunday afternoon at an Irish bar a five minutes’ drive from the Lewisham Irish Centre. We didn’t see how we could let them do that without confronting them. In discussion I suggested we present them with some white feathers and denounce them and Brian was all up for that; he was taking the kids to the seaside and would pick up some white feathers around the beach. But, unbelievably, he could find none. Nor could I in a local park. In the end, I opened a pillow and took out handfuls but they were all small.

The next day, we declined to invite anyone who might get hurt without being accustomed to defending themselves or who might not be sufficiently disciplined in behaviour and of the remainder, only myself and Brian were available. The pub, The Graduate, was under new management, one of three sisters from the Six Counties (perhaps Armagh), who lived in South-East London. I knew her from when she had been barmaid and perhaps manager at the Woodman, another Irish pub in the general area, where I attended Irish traditional music sessions (and sometimes a lock-in for an extra hour or so).

On Sunday we were a bit late in getting going but Brian drove us there and we entered the crowded area that would have been the public bar before the lounge and that area were combined. I bought us a round and we tried to act as relaxed and natural as possible, nodded to people we knew … It was certain that many of those present already knew what had happened but no-one came to ask us about it.

The “Mac Chicken Brothers” were playing and I was unsure whether we had perhaps missed their break. I got another round in but that was going to be my limit. To our relief, the band took a break but now my tension racked higher as I positioned myself nonchalantly near the stage and waited for the band to get ready for the second half of their act.

Finally, I saw them coming and with a small plastic bag in my hand I jumped up on to the low stage, Brian ready to handle any trouble from the floor.

“Ladies and gentlemen!” I called out loudly and got instant attention. “A few nights ago the British press ran a scare story about a 1916 Rising commemoration in Lewisham,” I continued. “This band here was booked to attend but didn’t turn up, leaving a couple of hundred people waiting. This is what we think of you,” I said, turning to the band members and threw a handful of the feathers from the bag in their direction.

“Hear, hear!” shouted someone in the crowd and I got down from the stage, glanced at Brian and made for the door, with him following closely behind. Incredibly I heard one of the band members say to me: “You might have told us you were going to do that!”

As we walked away outside, my heart thumping, the manager came rushing out.

“You had no right to do that,” she said, her eyes flashing fire. “Not in my pub!”

“Sorry, Bridget,” (not her real name), I replied, “It had to be done!”

“Not in my pub!”

“But that’s where the band was! It just had to be done.”

Now a customer came haring out looking for us and, from the look on his face, it wasn’t to offer congratulations. I felt Brian beside me change his stance to take him on but the manager took the guy by the arm and talked him back inside and we got in Brian’s van and car and drove off. “Bridge” wouldn’t talk to me for some years afterwards, though one of her sisters would.

The following day, I wrote a letter about the matter to the Irish Post5, attacking the Labour Council for its cowardice, the band for failing to comply with their booking and the Evening Standard for its felon-setting. Since I was Chairperson of the Management Committee of the Centre, which was already under some pressure, I wrote it under a pseudonym. The letter was published.

I felt that not only our branch of the IBRG but the Irish community had been attacked and we had responded appropriately and publicly, both locally and in the wider context. We would now face the next move, if one was to come, from the Council, as an Irish community with pride.

Part of IBRG Ard-Choiste delegation after lobbying Mo Mowlam in Westminster, London, 15 February 1995: (r-l) Laura Sullivan, Diarmuid Breatnach, Virginia Moyles, Pat Reynolds. (Photo source: Irish Post).

But at the next monthly meeting Management Committee, I was surprised to find that Brendan, the Centre Manager, believed that either Lewisham IBRG had organised the event jointly with 32CSM or that I had placed the advertisement. But worse, I was genuinely shocked to see that he believed my use of a pseudonym for the Irish Post letter was an attempt to distance the IBRG and myself from the controversy and leave him to face it alone. Brendan and I disagreed politically (he was a Sinn Féin supporter and I was by this time hostile to the party’s new trajectory with respect to the conflict in Ireland) but I supported him as Manager of the Centre while as Irishmen we stood together against oppression. But no matter what I said now, I seemed unable to convince him that the use of a pseudonym, far from being a device to have a say and protect myself at the same time, was to protect the Centre and himself as its Manager.

We got through the meeting and the Council officials seemed happy to let the matter rest, since the Standard lost interest and moved on to the next sensation.

But a more direct attack than that of Barker and the media was being planned somewhere.

Ard-Choiste meeting of the IBRG at the Working Class Library & Museum, Salford, 1992. (Photo source: Bernadette Hyland)

ARSON ATTACK ON THE CENTRE

In the early hours of one morning a couple of weeks later, I received a phone call from the Fire Brigade, attending at the Lewisham Irish Centre. I was one of the emergency nominees. When I got down there, Pat Baczor6, another member of the Management Committee and also an emergency nominee, was there already. So were the Fire Brigade and the police.

There had been an arson attempt and a hole was burned in the wood of the front door. We opened up and let the Fire Brigade in, who came out a few minutes later, pronouncing the building safe. A container with some inflammable liquid had been set by the door and had burned a hole about the size of my fist but the floor inside was tile and had not caught.

In response to the police, I said while we had received no threats, there had been some controversy in the media about a history commemoration and though I would suspect local fascists, I had no specific individuals in mind.

If we hadn’t wire screens on all the external windows, it would have been easy to smash a glass pane and to throw in the container with a lit fuse. The flooring of the whole hall was wooden and the result would have been quite different. I was very glad that during discussion on the refurbishment of the Coop Hall for use as an Irish Centre more than many years earlier, as Chair of the Steering Group, I had made a point of insisting on the wire screens. An Irish Centre in Britain could expect to be the target of an attack some day.

Christmas lunch in the hall of the Lewisham Irish Community Centre, 2014. The photo is taken with back to the stage, facing the door to the lobby on the way to the front door of the Centre. (Photo source: Lewisham Irish Centre website)

AFTER ALL THAT


We weathered that storm and the following year’s 1916 Rising commemoration took place without incident.

The next crisis for the Irish Centre came some two years later when the Council’s Labour Party Leadership, which had been “Blairite before Blair” as one local Leftie commented, listed the Centre for cuts to our total staffing: one (underpaid) Manager and one part-time caretaker-handyman. There were heavy cuts planned to the whole Council-funded service sector across the Borough of Lewisham so, although in our case the cuts would have meant wiping out our entire staffing, it was difficult to say whether the controversy some years earlier had played a role or not.

But that was another day’s battle.

End.

Publication of the IBRG (Intended to be quarterly, it ran to perhaps four editions more widely spaced apart before it ceased publication. (Photo source: Internet)

FOOTNOTES

1The wider IBRG had been founded in 1981 and consolidated in 1982. The Lewisham branch was founded from an initiative by a core of people who had taken over organising the 1985-1986 Irish Aspects course at Goldsmiths (then) Community College from its original organiser, Derry-born Peter Moloney, who was stepping down and invited them to run it in his place or that the course would come to an end. Peter was one of founding members of the branch and active within it for a few years.

2The intentions of this bombing are still the subject of dispute. The killing of civilians would have been against the interests of the organisation and in the event were strongly so; it strengthened the hands of the authorities in enacting further repressive legislation and also ideologically for the authorities and the Provisionals in gathering support for the Good Friday Agreement and in neutralising its opponents within the Irish Republican movement. Over the years the Wikipedia page on the bombing has changed substantially as cases against accused collapsed, including one in which the Gardaí were found to have concocted notes of an interview and revelation has followed revelation of intelligence services awareness of elements of the plans and failure to alert the RUC (colonial police) on the ground. Four defendants were found responsible in a controversial civil case and it seems clear that that Mickey Kevitt’s criminal conviction on questionable evidence in another case in 2003 was related to his believed involvement as was the refusal to apply all possible reductions which would have seen him released in 2016. McKevitt died of cancer on 2nd January 2021, still serving his sentence of 20 years. The full truth may never be known.

3Pat Reynolds, PRO of the IBRG throughout most of its existence, in his year-by-year review of the IBRG commented: “The London Evening Standard with a long history of anti-Irish racism came out with the headline London fundraiser for the Omagh Bombers alleging that the event was organised by supporters of the real IRA. The IBRG were seeking legal advice on the article as the event was organised by Lewisham IBRG.” Busy with more practical organising and without perhaps the right contacts, Lewisham IBRG never did take up the misreporting legally or with the Press Council.

4As Irish community activists warned the British public, it would lead to wider repressive legislation if permitted to stand, which it did. The 2006 Act allows for detention up to 28 days without charge.

5The Irish Post was founded in 1971 as a newspaper aimed at the Irish community in Britain and played a generally progressive role until its editor-owner, Brendan Mac Lua and Thomas Beattie sold the title and company to Thomas Crosbie Holdings (TCH) in 2003. In 1981 the founding of the Irish in Britain Representation Group was in part inspired by comment in the paper’s “Dolan” column (a pen-name of Mac Lua’s). In later years the newspaper suffered competition from other titles aiming at the same community, The Irish World and The London Irish News(?). More about the Post’s later history (but next to nothing about it earlier work including promoting the cases of the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four, Maguire Seven etc and also covering protests against anti-Irish racism and promoting new Irish writing) here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Irish_Post

6Patricia Ellen Baczor owed her surname to having married a Polish man. There were many such marriages between Polish refugees and servicemen who met young Irish women at Catholic parish social events in Britain during WW2. Pat was a strong widow and supporter of the rights of the Irish community, progressive in her thinking, anti-racist but not one to push herself forward. She was generally very supportive of me as Chair of the Management Committee and appreciative of the other hat I wore in the local and ‘national’ IBRG and the tensions thereby I sometimes had to negotiate.

THREAT TO IRAN OVER NUCLEAR EXPANSION?

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

Iran has informed the International Atomic Agency that it is stepping up its uranium enrichment to 20% purity, which significantly exceeds that set by the restrictive 2015 Agreement and which according to media reports places it one step away from achieving weapons grade. This has set off concerns and what might even be interpreted as threats from other states but whether we agree with the existence of nuclear weapons or not, what gives some states the right to have them and to tell others that they can’t?

Iran entered into that Agreement in exchange for ending of the economic blockade on it by the USA. However, recently Trump withdrew the USA from the Agreement, leaving little incentive for Iran to continue restricting its development of nuclear fuel.

Three big European powers signed a public call on Iran to return to the Agreement levels in the hope that Biden will bring the USA back into the Agreement (which he has indicated he will). Meanwhile, some media are reporting that a similar step by Iran prior to the Agreement led Israel to prepare to launch a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. And Israel is in fact believed to have assassinated Iran’s foremost nuclear scientist, Mohseh Fakhrizadeh last year.

Map showing states with estimated numbers of nuclear warheads. (Source image: Arms Control Association)

NUCLEAR WEAPONS GATEKEEPERS

Whether we agree with any state having a nuclear arsenal (and I don’t), what gives some states the right to dictate to others that they can’t have them? And what is the record of these “nuclear weapon gatekeepers”? The partners in the 2015 Agreement were: USA, UK, Germany, France, Russia and China. These are, if we believe the slant of much of the mass media, the states that are justified in telling others that they cannot be permitted to have nuclear weapons.

The USA is one of the states with most nuclear weapons in the world (according to some estimates, Russia has the most, followed by the USA), a state which has been involved in wars of aggression against other peoples and states almost since its creation (10 directly – not through proxies — in the last 20 years alone). Furthermore, it is the only state to have attacked another with not only one but two weapons of mass destruction, causing at least a million casualties of mostly civilians.

Map showing estimated US troops officially based in the Middle East in January 2020 (Source image: Newsweek)

The European states that made that public call on Iran are Germany, France and Britain, of which only Germany does not have nuclear weapons of its own (though it permits them to be sited there). The reason that Germany does not have them is probably because its European neighbours and in particular world powers France and the UK would not allow them to have them, with memories of two world wars in four decades during the last century.

France and the UK are imperialist states with massive armed forces which, when they have not been at war with the other, have attacked nations and peoples across the globe.

The other owners of nuclear weapons are Russia, China, India, Pakistan and North Korea. And Israel, a Zionist occupation-settler state established through ethnic cleansing and which, since its inception, has been at war with its neighbours. And massively supported by the USA, financially, militarily and politically.

IRAN

The Islamic Republic of Iran, on the other hand, has been at war with no-one since it came into existence except Iraq, when the Western powers were supporting Saddam Hussein and all his atrocities because he was attacking Iran. Saddam attacked Iran very soon after the latter’s revolutionary change of regime but within three months its offensive stalled and it began to get pushed back despite the support of the Western powers (including the supply of chemical weapons by the USA and Germany) and the international isolation of the Iranian clerical leadership. Nevertheless the war lasted eight years and was extremely draining for Iran, in particular since it was also facing US-led economic and financial sanctions.

Currently Iran has full diplomatic relations with 97 states and although it has some territorial disputes with the United Arab Emirates in the Gulf and some Caspian sea disputes with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, along with some outstanding issues from the Iraq-Iran war, these are being dealt with on the whole peacefully.

In the midst of slanted or even hysterical “reporting” — or beating of war drums — we should be aware of these facts.

End.

USA Ally States with Bases Surrounding Iran. (Source image: Internet)

NOTE: NOT “NATIONS”

By the way, the news report headline “European nations urge Iran” etc. (see below) is inaccurate: France and Britain (sic, actually the UK) are not “nations” but states, each one containing a number of nations and for example in a number of sporting bodies the existence of nations within the UK is recognised. That a number of such states are permitted to call themselves “nations” for membership of various bodies does not change that fact and journalists should be more exact in using the term.

End.

SOURCES:

https://www.breakingnews.ie/world/european-nations-urge-iran-to-reverse-nuclear-enrichment-move-1060347.html

Assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-55128970

Nuclear weapons sited in Germany: https://www.defensenews.com/global/europe/2020/05/11/nato-chief-backs-german-vow-to-keep-war-ready-us-nukes/

List states with nuclear weapons: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_states_with_nuclear_weapons

Drugs, War and the ELN

It’s not the guerrillas that are running the drug cartels …..

by Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

(Versión en castellano: https://rebelion.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/colombia_drogas_eln.pdf)

(Published elsewhere earlier in December, including Red Line; published here with author’s permission and section headings, photo choices (except one) and intro line are by Rebel Breeze editing)

The issue of drugs is one that is never far from public discourse on the Colombian conflict. Biased or just simply lazy journalists use the issue to ascribe motives for an endless list of events, massacre and murders. It is true that drug trafficking has permeated all of Colombian society and there is no sector that has not been impacted by it. But not everyone in Colombia is a drug trafficker. However, once again the King of Clubs is played to describe the conflict in terms of a drug problem.

Several Colombian newspapers have recently published articles on the supposed relationship of the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN) with drug trafficking and there are already eleven commanders who are under investigation for such crimes and are sought in extradition.[1]  They talk as if the ELN dominated the drugs trade, and talk of settling of accounts over drug money, as if they were a crime gang, instead of saying that the ELN takes drastic measures against its members who get involved in drug trafficking and that those internal executions are due to the indiscipline and betrayal of principles of some people and are not an internal dispute over money.[2]  Of course, the ELN in an open letter widely distributed on social networks and alternative press, denied any links to the drug trade.[3]  But, how true is this new tale?  Before looking at the accusations levelled against the ELN it is worth going over the history of drug trafficking in Colombia and the reality of the business in international terms.

POLITICIANS, GUERRILLAS AND BANKS

Let’s start with the obvious.  When the FARC and the ELN were founded in 1964 drug trafficking was not a problem in the country and there were no large plantations, i.e. the existence of the guerrillas predates the drugs trade.  Later in the 1970s the country went through the marijuana bonanza on the Caribbean coast, but it is the emergence of the large drugs cartels in 1980s around the production of cocaine that would define forever the shape drug trafficking in the country would take.  Up till the 1990s the country was not self sufficient in coca leaf, even though it was the main manufacturer of the final product: cocaine.  Escobar was dead by the time Colombia achieved self sufficiency and it is in that context that the discourse of blaming the FARC for the drugs trade gained ground, completely ignoring that the main narcos were the founders of the paramilitary groups.  One of the most notorious paramilitary groups in the 1980s was the MAS (Death to Kidnappers) founded by the Cali Cartel and other drug traffickers in response to the kidnapping by M-19 of Marta Nieves Ochoa a relative of the Ochoa drug barons.

That discourse, however, was useful in justifying Plan Colombia and there was an element of truth to it, but not that much back then.  The FARC’s relationship with the drugs trade has not been static and has evolved over time.  Almost everyone accepts that they began by imposing a tax on the production of coca leaf, coca base or cocaine in the territories they controlled.  The initial relationship changed and the FARC went from just collecting a revolutionary tax to promoting the crop, protecting laboratories and even having laboratories of their own and in some cases, such as the deceased commander Negro Acacio, got directly involved in the drug trade.  There is no doubt on the issue.  But neither were they the big drug barons that they tried to have us believe, those barons are in the ranks not just of the Democratic Centre but also the Liberal and Conservative parties.  It is forgotten that Samper’s (1994-1998) excuse regarding drug money entering his campaign’s coffers was and still is that it was done behind his back, but no one denies that drug trafficking has to some degree financed every electoral campaign in the country.  Although companies like Odebrecht play a role at a national level, at a local and regional level drug trafficking decides who becomes mayor, governor, representative in the house and even senators.  Even the brother of the current Vice-President Marta Lucía Ramírez was a drug trafficker and there are loads of photos of many politicians with Ñeñe Hernández and Uribe appears in photos with the son of the paramilitary drug trafficker Cuco Vanoy.  It is a matter of public knowledge that several high ranking police officers close to Uribe such as his former head of security Mauricio Santoyo were extradited to the USA for drug related crimes and Uribe’s excuse was the same as Samper’s: it was all done behind his back.

Alvaro Uribe, ex-President of Colombia and patron of current President Duque is under house arrest and investigation for close links with drug cartels and murder paramilitary organisations. (Photo source: Internet)
Late drug mafia boss”Nene” Jose Guillermo Hernandez (r) with President Ivan Duque ((Photo source: La Nueva Prensa)

NOT THE ELN

But when we look at the extent of illicit crops in Colombia, we can clearly see the reason why they are linked to the FARC for so long and not to the ELN.  The reason is simple, the majority of the large plantations of coca and opium poppy were to be found in areas under the influence of the FARC.  If we look at the crop monitoring carried out by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) we can see that in 2001 the main departments (administrative regions: Colombia has 32 — RB editing) where there were crops were almost exclusively FARC fiefdoms.

In 2001, coca was to be found in 22 departments of the country, compared to just 12 in 1999.  However, despite the expansion, just two areas accounted for the majority of the crops:  Putumayo-Caquetá had 45% of the total amount of coca (about 65,000 hectares) and Meta-Guaviare-Vaupés with 34% of the area (about 49,000 hectares) i.e. 79% of the total area under coca.[4]  They were areas that were completely dominated by the FARC, not a single eleno was to be found in those territories and if they did venture in, it was undercover at the risk of execution by the FARC were they discovered as the FARC did not tolerate political competition in their fiefdoms. When one looks at the map of crops back then, one can see not only the concentration in those areas but also almost all the other departments were dominated by the FARC and those where there were significant amounts of coca and also an ELN presence, one finds Cauca with 3,139 hectares, Nariño with 7,494 hectares and the Norte de Santander with 9,145 hectares.  But in those areas there was a certain territorial balance between the different guerrillas and one of the few departments where the ELN was clearly the dominant force was Arauca with 2,749 hectares.[5]  But when we look at the counties we can see that it is not as clear cut, as in the Norte de Santander 83% of the coca crops were to be found in just one county: Tibú, FARC fiefdom for many years before the paramilitary takeover in 1999.[6]  In Arauca the county of Araquita accounted for 60% of the crops in the department and it was also a FARC fiefdom within an area dominated by the ELN.  Thus it is obvious as to why they spoke almost exclusively about the role of the FARC in drug trafficking and not the ELN at that time.

Years later the situation had not changed much, the main producing departments were the FARC fiefdoms.  The UNODC study on coca crops in the country in 2013 continues to show a concentration in FARC fiefdoms, with a displacement from Putumayo to Nariño due to aerial spraying and the persecution of the FARC by the State.  In 2013, there were just 48,000 hectares of coca in the entire country, with significant reductions in some parts. Nariño, Putumayo, Guaviare and Caquetá accounted for 62% of the land under coca, with Norte de Santander representing 13% and Cauca with just 9%.[7]  There was a reduction and a displacement of the crops towards new areas with Nariño accounting for the most dramatic increase of all departments.

In 2019, there was 154,000 hectares of coca, a little over three times the amount grown in 2013, though it was slightly down on 2018 when there was 169,000 hectares.[8]  Coca production recovered after 2014 in the middle of the peace process with the FARC.  It stands out that in 2019, Arauca, a department dominated by the ELN the UNODC did not report any coca crops.[9]  Once again Norte de Santander is a department with widespread coca leaf production almost quadrupling the amount reported in 2001.  It had 41,749 hectares of coca but the county of Tibú alone had 20,000 hectares and the same UNODC report indicated that these are not new areas and show that the crop has deep roots in the area.[10]

THE BANKS, THE BANKS!

However, despite the role of the FARC in the drugs trade, they weren’t the big drug barons we were led to believe.  How can we be sure?  Their demobilisation did not alter the flow of cocaine towards the USA and Europe.  The big drugs capos in the companies, the Congress of the Republic, the international banks did not stop for a second.  Neither did people such as Ñeñe Hernández and other associates of right wing political parties in Colombia stop for a single instant.

Neither the production nor consumption of cocaine halted.  The UNODC’s World Drug Report says as much about both phenomena.  According to the UNODC consumption of cocaine fell from 2.5% in 2002 to 1.5% in 2011 in the USA, but from that year it increased again reaching 2.0% in 2018 and also there are indications of an increase in the sale of cocaine of high purity at lower prices between 2013 and 2017.  The price of a gram fell by 29% and the purity increased by 32%.[11]  The report also indicates that in Europe there was a significant increase in various places such as the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Estonia and Germany.  Nevertheless, some of those countries had seen decreases in consumption in the first years of the century.[12]  All of this suggests that there is a greater supply of the drug.  This can be seen not only in the previously mentioned figures of an increase in the production of coca leaf in Colombia (or in other countries such as Peru and Bolivia), but can also be seen in drug seizures.  An increase in seizures may indicate greater efficiency by the police forces, but combined with stability or an increase in consumption and a reduction in price, rather indicate an increase in production and availability.

According to the UNODC cocaine seizures have increased dramatically since the commencement of Plan Colombia, indicating, although they do not acknowledge it, the failure of their anti-drugs strategy and the tactic of aerial spraying with glyphosate.  In 1998 400 tonnes were seized globally and that figure remained relatively stable till 2003, reaching 750 tonnes in 2005 and surpassing the threshold of 900 tonnes in 2015 to finish off at 1,300 tonnes in 2018,[13] i.e. there was no reduction in consumption or the production of cocaine.  Throughout the years with or without the FARC there has been coca production and of course the main drug barons never demobilised, the heads of the banks remain in their posts.

The real drug traffickers wear a tie, own large estates, meet with President Duque, it is not the ELN that moves hundreds of tonnes of cocaine around the world.  In 2012, the Swiss bank HSBC reached an agreement with the US authorities to pay a kind of fine of $1,920 million dollars for having laundered $881 million dollars from the Sinaloa Cartel and the Cartel of Northern Valle, Colombia.  The bank had, despite everything, classified Mexico as a low risk country, thus excluding $670 billion dollars in transactions from monitoring systems and the bank was notified by the authorities but ignored them.[14]  Nobody went to jail, in fact no one was prosecuted.  As Senator Warren in a session of the Senate Banking Commission pointed out, no one was going to go to jail for this massive crime.  Moreover, the Sub Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, David S. Cohen refused to recommend a criminal investigation against the bank.  There is no need to state that no ELN commander is on the board of this or other banks.  The ELN is usually accused of infiltrating universities, but to date no one has accused them of having infiltrated the boards of banks.

In 2012, the Swiss bank HSBC paid US authorities a penalty of $1,920 million for having laundered $881 million dollars from the Sinaloa Cartel and the Cartel of Northern Valle, Colombia. The bank had classified Mexico as a low risk country (!), thus excluding $670 billion dollars in transactions from monitoring systems. (Photo sourced: Internet)
HSBC bank has bought building of former Central Bank Ireland on Central Plaza, Dame Street, Dublin (Photo sourced: Internet).

It is not the only bank implicated in money laundering, in 2015 London was described as one of the main centres for money laundering the proceeds of drug trafficking.[15]  A report by the UK National Crime Agency states, on the basis of a UN calculation that between 2% and 5% of global GDP are laundered funds “that there is a realistic possibility [defined as between 40-50%] that it is in the hundreds of billions of pounds annually”[16] and the majority of it comes from crimes committed outside of the UK.  There is no need to say that no ELN commander is a director of those companies, nor is there any need to state that these companies continue to operate and their directors are walking about free and according to the report they could only recover £132 million.[17]  The NCA cites favourably the reports of Transparency International.  According to this organisation, 1,201 companies operating in the British Overseas Territories inflicted £250 billion in damage through corruption in recent decades.  They analysed 237 cases of corruption in the last 30 years.  The majority of the companies are registered in the British Virgin Islands (92%) and the majority (90%) of the cases happened there[18] in the favourite headquarters of many companies that operate in Colombia, without mentioning those who finance election campaigns.  Once again, the ELN does not operate in those territories, although many mining companies in Colombia are registered there.  The report points out that due to legislative changes there are fewer reasons to buy property in the UK through those companies registered in the Overseas Territories, yet the number of properties has remained relatively stable at some 28,000.[19]  Of course not all them are the result of illicit funds, however… As far as we know the ELN’s Central Command is not the owner of any of these properties.

Transparency International continued with its investigations and its last report highlighted the number of British companies involved in money laundering or dubious transactions.  It states that there are 86 banks and financial institutions, 81 legal firms and 62 accounting companies (including the big four that dominate the market).  According to this NGO

Whether unwittingly or otherwise, these businesses helped acquire the following assets and entities used to obtain, move and defend corrupt or suspicious wealth: 2,225 Companies  incorporated in the UK, its Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies directly involved in making payments; 17,000 more companies incorporated in the UK that we have reasonable grounds to suspect have facilitated similar activity; 421 Properties in the UK worth more than £5 billion; 7 Luxury Jets 3 Luxury Yachts  worth around £237 million worth around £170 million. [20]

Of course not all the laundered funds are drug related but they are all illicit in origin.  However, the USA has not sought in extradition any of the banking capos, legal firms and less still the four big accountancy companies in the world.  It would simply collapse the financial system were they to do so.

The extradition of criminals from Colombia has always been problematic in legal and political terms.  Nowadays, the majority of those extradited are extradited for drug trafficking.  The USA receives 73% of all those extradited from Colombia and 60% of them face charges of drug trafficking or money laundering.[21]  Though not all those extradited are guilty and there are various cases of people being returned to Colombia, after their extradition, or others more fortunate who managed to demonstrate their innocence before being extradited, such is the case of Ariel Josué, a carpenter from San Vicente del Caguán who didn’t even know how to use a computer and yet for

… the United States and then the Colombian justice system, Ariel Josué was the head of an electronic money laundering network, and had to pay for his crime in a north American prison.

In the absence of an independent investigation nor the verification of his identity, the Supreme Court issued a court order in favour of his extradition and even President Juan Manuel Santos signed the order for him to be taken.[22]

OPEN LETTER FROM THE ELN

Despite those extradited, when not innocent, being poor people or those who have some relationship with right wing political parties or the economic elites of the country, the media and the Colombian and US governments’ focus on the problem is always the same: the guerrillas and not the banks or business leaders.  In fact, one of the most famous people extradited is Simón Trinidad, a FARC commander and part of the negotiating team in the Caguán.  Trinidad was extradited for drug trafficking and despite being a FARC commander they didn’t manage to prove any link to the drugs trade and thus resorted to the detention and captivity of three north American mercenaries hired by the Dyncorp company, a company denounced for crimes such as trafficking in minors, prostitution, sexual abuse amongst others.[23]  So we should be very careful when it comes to accepting these new allegations against the ELN.

Private company mercenaries in Yemen conflict, paid by United Arab Emirates. Dyncorp have replaced Blackwater/ Academi there, who were faring badly against President-loyal troops and guerrillas’ resistance. Vulture capitalists Cerberus now own Dyncorp which has ex-Vice President USA Dan Quayle and Israeli billionaire Steve Feinberg as directors. (Photo source: voltairenet.org)

The ELN in its open letter acknowledges that they collect taxes from the buyers of coca base and cocaine who come into their areas of influence, as they do with other economic activities.  So if the ELN is not involved in drug trafficking, how can we explain the presence of illicit crops[24] in their areas?  The ELN commanders explain the presence of these crops in the same manner and the same dynamic they describe could be seen in all the regions where they had to deal with the FARC.  There was a dispute between the two organisations as to what to do regarding the crops and drug trafficking itself.  Initially the ELN opposed the planting of coca and opium poppy in the regions, but the FARC said yes and they authorised the peasants to grow it and moreover in some parts they were willing to buy base or cocaine itself, depending on the region.  Faced with this reality the ELN felt that it had no choice but to allow the growing of the crop, as otherwise they would have to militarily face the FARC and the communities.  That is why the ELN is to be found in areas with a coca tradition and as they acknowledge in their open letter they tax the buyers as they do with other economic activities.  However, it is worth pointing out that the FARC also initially only charged taxes, but given the long ELN tradition on drugs it is unlikely, though not impossible that they do the same.

ELN guerrilla patrol in Colombia (Photo source: GL)

Its open letter not only refutes the allegations against it, but they also put forward proposals as to what to do regarding the problem of crops and drug consumption.  It extends an invitation to various organisms to carry out in situ visits and inspections to see the reality of their relationship to the drugs trade, but they go further than clearing up the question of their links or otherwise to the drugs trade and they put forward proposals on the drugs problem as such.

PROPOSALSSOLUTIONS?

To pick up the proposals made on various occasions by the ELN with the aim of reaching an Agreement that overcomes the phenomenon of drug trafficking that includes the participation of the international community, the communities in the regions that suffer this scourge and various sectors of Colombian society.[25]

The issue of drug trafficking is not one that Colombia can solve on its own, it is an international issue in nature, not just in terms of the distribution and consumption of the final products, such as cocaine and heroine or ecstasy and other drugs generally produced in northern countries, but also because Colombia’s obligations on the issue are covered by various international UN treaties.  The ELN makes various points.

  • Only the legalisation of psychotropic substances will put end to the extraordinary profits of drug trafficking and its raison d’être.

This position has been discussed thousands of times in various fora and international settings. It is partially true.  No doubt the legalisation demanded by various social organisations, including health organisations, would put an end to the mafia’s profits, but not the profits as such.  The medicinal uses of coca and opium have never been banned, rather the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) regulates and controls its production and end use.  The UNODC calculates that in 2018 there just under 12 billion daily doses of opiates available in the legal market, double the amount available in 1998.[26]  Cocaine and medicinal opiates, including heroin, have always been used in a medical context and the use and regulation of cannabis is a growing market.  The legalisation of recreational consumption is another matter, the state of Colorado in the USA and Uruguay are two places where they legalised the recreational consumption, with various benefits in terms of crime, health and taxes.  The profits are lower in these legal markets but they are large, nonetheless, as are they for other legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco, products that are controlled in terms of quality and their impact on the health of the consumer.  The legal marijuana market in Colorado amounted to $1,750 millions in 2019 with 69,960,024 transactions with an average price per transaction of $51.89, but the price to the consumer continues to fall and quality is guaranteed.[27]  However, both Colorado and Uruguay have experienced legal problems with the banking system as their legalisation has no international recognition.  The ELN’s proposal could only happen in the context of an international debate and a paradigm shift in the states and regulatory bodies at an international level such as the UNODC and the INCB, amongst others and the recent decision by the WHO on the medicinal use of cannabis is a good start.[28]

  • A pact on shared responsibility between drug producer and consumer countries is required

This pact already exists.  There are various UN pacts on the issue starting with the Single Convention of 1961, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1981 and United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.  This last treaty deals with aspects related to organised crime, precursor chemicals etc.  What is lacking is political will, not another pact. The factories where the acids used to make cocaine are not bombarded but they do attack and bombard the producer communities, neither do they bombard the factories of illegal drugs such as ecstasy in the Netherlands.  It is not the case that there is a lack of pacts but rather as they say the law is for the ragged and in geopolitical terms, Colombia is very ragged

  • The drug addicts are sick and should be treated by the states and should not be pursued as criminals.

This is one point that is always overlooked in the discussions on illicit crops and despite the belligerent tone of the USA, both the north American health system and that of the majority of countries in Europe deal with it as such, some countries do not even pursue consumption as such, acknowledging its character as a health problem and only go after related crimes.  The UN accepts the need for treatment for drug addicts and calculates in its World Drug Report that 35.6 million people in the world abuse drugs and just 12.5% of those who need treatment get it, i.e. about 4.45 million people.[29]

  • The peasants who work with illicit use crops, should have alternative plans for food production or industrial raw materials, financed by the states in order to solve their sustenance without seeking recourse in illicit use crops.

Although this point is well intentioned it makes the same mistake as the FARC, the NGOs, international aid etc. Whilst it is true that the peasants should have alternative plans and receive economic support from the states, the problem is a core issue and cannot be solved through projects or credits: the economic aperture ruined the agricultural production of the country and the peasants can’t compete with the imports subsidised by the US and European governments.  The underlying problem is not agricultural, nor economic but political and requires national and international changes.  The free trade agreements, the monopoly in the agricultural and food sector exercised by multinationals such as Cargill, Nestlé, Barry Callebaut amongst others are not resolved by subsidies or projects.[30]

  • As well as pursuing the Cartels in the narcotic producing countries they should also pursue the distribution Cartels in the industrialised consuming countries; as well as the Cartels for the precursor chemicals and money laundering of narco funds in the international financial system and the tax havens.

This is a key point.  As long as drugs are illegal, they should go after the points in the production chain there, both the banks and the companies that engage in money laundering and the companies whose chemicals are used in the manufacture of cocaine.  They don’t do this, one little bit or not much at least.  Whilst the USA seek in extradition just about anyone in Colombia, they have never sought nor will they seek the directors of banks such as HSBC.

There are reasons to accept the ELN’s word on the issue of drugs, and there are more than sufficient reasons to accept the debate on drugs and what to do about them.  It is a debate that never occurred in the context of the negotiations with the FARC.  The FARC opted to negotiate benefits for themselves, their social base and they never touched the structure of the agricultural economy in the country nor the international law in force on drugs.[31]

The allegations against the ELN lack any basis in fact, but the media does not ask us to treat it as truth, rather it serves as an excuse to delegitimise this organisation in the eyes of Colombian people and in the international area they are useful as excuse to continue to militarily support the Colombian state and in a given moment can be used as a pretext for more direct interventions against the ELN and perhaps Venezuela.

End.

“Freedom for political prisoners; Jail for those who oppress the people.” Cartoon poster from Chile but which applies to Colombia with thousands of political prisoners (Image sourced: Internet)

FOOTNOTES

[1] El Tiempo (05/10/2020) Los 11 elenos que EE.UU. pide en extradición por narcotráfico https://www.eltiempo.com/unidad-investigativa/los-11-miembros-del-eln-que-estados-unidos-pide-en-extradicion-por-narcotrafico-541475

[2] El Tiempo (16/10/2020) Confirman vendetta por coca en las entrañas del Elnhttps://www.eltiempo.com/unidad-investigativa/eln-alias-pablito-ordena-ejecutar-a-3-lideres-por-temas-de-narcotrafico-543671

[3] ELN (12/10/2020) Carta abierta al Departamento de Estado, a la Fiscalía Federal de los Estados Unidos y al gobierno colombiano https://eln-voces.net/carta-abierta-al-departamento-de-estado-a-la-fiscalia-federal-de-los-estados-unidos-y-al-gobierno-colombiano/

[4] UNODC (2002) Annual Coca Cultivation Survey 2001, SIMCI Project AD/COL/99/E67 p.4

[5] Ibíd., p.6

[6] Calculations made on the basis of the Coca Census November 1st 2001, SIMCI Project.

[7] UNODC (2014) Colombia: Monitoreo de Cultivos de Coca 2013.  Colombia.  UNODC p. 17

[8] UNODC (2020) Colombia: Monitoreo de Cultivos de Coca 2019.  Colombia.  UNODC p.15

[9] Ibíd., p.22

[10] Ibíd., p.81

[11] UNODC (2020) World Drug Report Vol. 2 Drug Use and Health Consequences. UNODC. Vienna, p. 26

[12] Ibíd., p.29

[13] UNODC (2020) World Drug Report Vol. 3 Drug Supply. UNODC. Vienna. p.28

[14] Reuters (11/12/2020) HSBC to pay $1.9 billion U.S. fine in money laundering case https://www.reuters.com/article/us-hsbc-probe-idUSBRE8BA05M20121211

[15] The Independent (25/12/2015) London is now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert.https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/london-

[16] NCA (2020) National Strategic Assessment of Serious and Organised Crime. NCA. London p.54 https://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/who-we-are/publications/437-national-strategic-assessment-of-serious-and-organised-crime-2020/file

[17] Ibíd., p.55

[18] Transparency International UK (2018) The Cost of Secrecy: The role played by companies registered in the UK’s Overseas Territories in money launderin and corruption. TIUK. London. p.2https://www.transparency.org.uk/sites/default/files/pdf/publications/TIUK-CostofSecrecy-WEB-v2.pdf

[19] Ibíd., p.4

[20] Transparency International (2019) At Your Service: Investigating how UK businesses and institutions help corrupt individuals and regimes launder their money and reputations p.13https://www.transparency.org.uk/sites/default/files/pdf/publications/TIUK_AtYourService_WEB.pdf

[21] Rojas Castañeda, D. (16/07/2020) Estados Unidos recibió 73% de extraditados desde Colombia en los últimos tres añoshttps://www.asuntoslegales.com.co/consumidor/estados-unido-recibio-73-de-extraditados-desde-colombia-en-los-ultimos-tres-anos-3032110

[22] This and other stories can be consulted at https://www.kienyke.com/krimen-y-korrupcion/indignantes-historias-de-inocentes-que-fueron-prision-por-errores-judiciales

[23] The description of Dyncorp as a mercenary company may seem controversial, but their own webpage leaves in no doubt on the issue.  It has 15,000 employees and contractors in 36 countries in the world and they offer their services to all branches of the US military forces, federal agencies and other international “clients”.  See  https://www.dyn-intl.com/  .  Furthermore, the company has been publicly denounced for various activities, amongst them the ill-treatment of its employees and child trafficking and prostitution in Bosnia and Afghanistan.  See https://www.mintpressnews.com/lawsuit-military-contractor-enslaved-american-employees-sewage-flooded-barracks-tent-cities/250994/ The website https://trello.com/b/KdjpFSGS/dyncorp-crimes-by-country  gives a list of the companies crimes by country.

[24] Some NGOs prefer the expression illicit use crops, but it is misnomer.  The international treaties on the matter leave us in no doubt on the issue, the crop itself is illicit.  The Single Convention of 1961, the convention in force on the issue, in Article 22 No.1 demands the total eradication, the coca leaf and its derivatives are banned.  The treaty demands that even the plants belonging to indigenous people be destroyed.

[25] ELN (12/10/2020) Op. Cit.

[26] UNODC (2020) World Drug Report Vol 6. Other Drug Policy Issues. Vienna. UNODC p.9

[27] MPG (2020) 2019 Regulated Marijuana Market Update.https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/sites/default/files/2019 Regulated Marijuana Market Update Report Final.pdf

[28] For more information on the WHO decision see Jelsma, M. (2020) Potential fall-out from the vote on the WHO cannabis recommendationshttps://www.tni.org/en/article/potential-fall-out-from-the-vote-on-the-who-cannabis-recommendations

[29] UNODC (2020) World Drug Report Vol 5. Socioeconomic Characteristics and Drug Use Disorders.  Vienna. UNODC.

[30] For a critique of the Colombian agricultural model in the sub region of Southern Bolivar, North East of Antioquia and Bajo Cauca see Ó Loingsigh, G. (27/07/2014) El Modelo Agro-Exportador y las Comunidades Campesinashttps://www.academia.edu/44677017/El_Modelo_Agro_Exportador_y_las_Comunidades_Campesinas  and Ó Loingsigh, G. (2019) Extractivismo y muerte en el nororiente. Bogotá. Equipo Jurídico Pueblos https://www.equipopueblos.com/project/extractivismo-y-muerte-en-el-nororiente/

[31] Ó Loingsigh, G. (2016) Las Drogas y la Paz.  El Salmón. No.27  Ibagué pp. 42 – 46 https://www.academia.edu/30669926/La_Paz_y_las_Drogas

Two Deaths: Just One Loss

Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

(01/11/2020)

(Reading time: 2 mins.)

On October 31st two people died, one known around the world for his cinema roles, Seán Connery, who played James Bond and many better and less well known roles. The other death was that of the Colombian liberal politician Horacio Serpa. No sooner had he died the liberals and NGOs and all the former revolutionaries began to write and comment on the life of Serpa with a script that not even Connery could convincingly play.

So, just who was Horacio Serpa and what was his role in Colombian politics? His body hadn’t time to go cold and they were already rewriting the history of the country. The headline on El Espectador said it all, Remembering an Authentic Liberal. i Of course part of the problem depends on what you understand as a liberal, as in the current times when they talk of liberals and the Liberal Party one can barely recognise that it is and always has been the party of a sector of the Colombian oligarchy, that it is the party that gave us legalised paramilitaries, it is the party of massacre after massacre and of course they talk about it as if it wasn’t Liberal Party that gave us the health reform Law 100 (the liberal senator Uribe was the the speaker to the motion on the law, but the law was a proposal from the entire Liberal Party), nor that it was the party that gave us the infamous economic aperture of 1990.

So, for starts, Horacio Serpa who was the Minister of the Interior, under Samper, a government which deepened the aperture, was a neoliberal politician. In the midst of the political poverty of the current Colombian left, such as statement comes across like a grenade thrown or a burst of gunfire against Serpa’s good name. But, how are we to describe a minister in a neoliberal government as anything else? They say we shouldn’t and part of the problem is there are those who forget who President Samper was and what his government’s policies were. Worse still, they forget their own criticisms of that government. So let’s remind ourselves. Serpa was a neoliberal. Of course, he was a neoliberal speaking out both sides of his mouth, capable of calming the angels whilst defended the devils tooth and nail. A man of the right wing at the service of the oligarchy who with his populist discourse made himself out to be a progressive. Once again, some will say he wasn’t right wing. Is there another type of Minister of the Interior? Not only was he Minister of the Interior under Samper and champion in defending him against accusations of links to drug traffickers, but also he would later be Uribe’s ambassador to the Organisation of American States.

As we are in Colombia and politicians like Serpa are very deft, there is no lack of supposed lefties who will talk about how Serpa helped them. So in order to see what he was really like we should deal with some examples when Serpa did the exact opposite. In his passage through the Procurator General’s office he did nothing for the disappeared from the Palace of Justice. It was not at all surprising given his own role in that. The then Procurator Carlos Jiménez Gómez drew up a report and formerly denounced to

… the House Commission of Accusations President Belisario Betancur and his Minister of Defence, Miguel Vega Uribe for violating the Constitution and the Law of Nations now known as International Humanitarian Law.

The Procurator Jiménez’s denunciation with precise hard-hitting proof in hand was shelved through a motion presented by the representatives Carlos Mauro Hoyos, Horacio Serpa and Darío Alberto Ordoñez, arguing that “it was a typical act of government in the most important area under the remit of the President of the Republic namely to uphold public order and re-establish it wherever it has broken down”.ii

That is Horacio Serpa, the man who ensured that there would be no investigation of the events. A friend and accessory after the fact of criminals. It is worth pointing out that two of those who suppressed the accusation would later hold the office of procurator, Hoyos was the successor to the whistleblower Jiménez Gómez and Serpa then replaced Hoyos and thus the truth was buried underneath the ruins of the palace and the manoeuvres of Serpa and company.

But some claim he was a friend of the workers and an enemy of paramilitaries. Leave aside that he served in governments that actively promoted paramilitaries, those of Samper and Uribe and lets look at when workers reached out to his office to seek protection. After the 1995 massacre of palm workers in San Alberto, Cesar, the workers met with Horacio Serpa who was the Minister of the Interior at the time. In their oral history published in 2018, the workers narrate how Serpa told them “there was nothing that could be done as the paramilitary project was very big, and upon finishing the meeting and when we were heading towards the door he said ‘lads it is best that you be careful, because in this country if you stick your head above the parapet it will get knocked off.”iii Of course, he didn’t want to do anything to protect the workers of the palm company Indupalma, whilst at that exact time both he and his government maintained a military base within the plantation to protect the company’s assets. That is Horacio Serpa, loyal friend of the oligarchy, traitor speaking out both sides of his mouth to the workers, a defender of criminals such as the murderers behind the events of the Palace of Justice and a man capable of placing an entire battalion at the disposition of a company in order to protect it and not lift a finger to protect the workers in that company.

So, on October 31st, one of the greats died who we will remember fondly, with admiration, someone who contributed positively to our lives. Rest in Peace, Seán Connery.

End.

i El Espectador (31/10/2020) Remembranza de un liberal auténtico https://www.elespectador.com/noticias/politica/muerte-de-horacio-serpa-un-liberal-autentico/

ii Llano, H (16/11/2015) Palacio de justicia: mentiras públicas y verdades desaparecidas https://razonpublica.com/palacio-de-justicia-mentiras-publicas-y-verdades-desaparecidas/

iii Centro Nacional de Memoria Histórica (2018) Y A La Vida Por Fin Daremos Todo… Bogotá: CNMHp. 242

NATIONAL PARTY RALLY SAVED BY GARDAÍ — NP leader tells Gardaí “We are of you”

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 7 mins)

A rally outside Leinster House organised by the Irish fascist National Party for Saturday 10th October survived a clash with antifascists thanks only to the protection of a large force of Gardaí. The rally was a continuation of the attempt of the Far-Right in Ireland to use popular frustration over the Government’s haphazard and stop-go restrictions to build up their fascist and racist organisations.

The Irish Tricolour and both versions of the socialist Starry Plough, the original one of the Irish Citizen Army and the later one of the Republican Congress. (Photo source: AFA Ireland)

A broad coalition of antifascists, Irish Republicans, Socialists, Communists, LGBT activists etc, led by Antifascist Action Ireland, mobilised a counter-protest to the National Party’s presence. Immediately the counter-protesters arrived, the two forces clashed. The NP supporters were visibly taken aback as the barriers between them and their opponents flew aside or were thrown down, some actually going into the air. Two flash-bangs they threw into the antifascists seemed to have no effect and it was the Gardaí with baton blows that saved the NP. The rally’s banner was seized by antifascists and only retrieved by Gardaí.

NP supporters (right of photo) in shock as the antifascists (right of photo) clash with them. (Photo source: Internet)

The National Party, formed in 2016, are a fascist, racist, homophobic and fundamentalist sectarian Catholic organisation. Their leader Justin Barrett recently commented that when he got into power he would remove the citizenship of the current elected Mayor of Dublin, Ms. Hazel Chu, although she was born and raised in Ireland. The party propagates the “Replacement conspiracy”, where the EU is supposedly planning to replace all Irish people with migrants, proposes hanging for doctors who carry out a pregnancy termination and opposes LGBT equality. A prominent member of their organisation boasted about having organised the mob of up to 60 men who attacked a peaceful counter-protest on Custom House Quay on August 22nd with iron bars and lengths of timber.

With threatening batons and at times striking with them, the Gardaí first of all pushed all the counter-protestors into Molesworth St. where uniformed Gardaí and POU (Public Order Unit) faced off the antifascists, who alternated between shouting at the fascists over the heads of the Gardaí and shouting at the Gardaí themselves, e.g “Garda Blueshirts!”1

Original defensive screen for the NP of Gardaí with drawn batons (Photo source: Rebel Breeze)

At one point POU officers blocked off access to some antifascists who were on the steps of one of the buildings in the street and proceeded to search them but apparently found nothing. They did not conduct searches among the supporters of the NP, who had earlier thrown the flash-bangs and some other missiles at their opponents. Nor were they seen confiscating any flags from the NP supporters, while they wrenched flags from a number of antifascists – including a tricolour on a long fairly fragile carbon plastic rod (shown on Breaking News, which also showed NP supporters in a different photo striking at antifascists with flags that seemed to be on metal rods).

Public Order Gardaí forcibly searching an antifascist but nothing found (Photo source: Rebel Breeze)

Things could have remained at stasis at that point but the Gardaí several times pushed the antifascists savagely back, a few feet at a time. They were successful in doing so over some metres but it was not made easy for them – there was strong militant resistance and a number of clashes.

During the whole of these interactions after the initial clash with the NP, a number of antifascists were guarding the rear of their numbers and some fascists approaching, presumably latecomers for the rally, were turned away.

The Public Order Unit, which took over from the Gardaí and began to aggressively push the antifascists back but were resisted. The fascists may be seen beyond, with the Irish Parliament beyond that. (Photo source: Rebel Breeze)

At one point it appeared that the Gardaí were mobilising numbers to block off the antifascists’ exit but in response to a call to fall back, the solid mass passed through the Gardaí’s incomplete lines thereby defeating any intention of “kettling” the antifascists and shutting down their mobility.

NP SPEAKERS AND SPEECHES

The fascists chanted “Pedos off our streets!” in response to the antifascists’ calls for “Nazi scum off our streets!” — to the fascists, LGBT people are “paedophiles” and they find it a handy though baseless slogan to throw at all antifascists. The antifascists, apart from regularly chanting also met any attempt at fascist speeches with a barrage of shouts, rhythmic clapping, whistles and booing. Consequently, although the speakers were visible to the antifascists albeit at a distance, the content is known only from media reports.

The speakers were Mick “Chopper” O’Keefe, Rowan Croft (“Tan” Torino)2 and Justin Barrett. According to The Beacon, Barrett claimed that the Government is altering the death figures in relation to COVID-19 in order to justify its actions and that that the virus is part of a wider agenda on the part of “international finance capital”3 to destroy the world’s economies. Barrett insisted that the “restrictions are here to stay” as part of the economy-destroying agenda.

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

Prior to the event, on social media the NP cautioned its supporters to be friendly towards the Gardaí: “The Gardaí know the reds are scum, remember the migration compact protest: the Gardaí were having the banter with us, they had their batons out for the reds. We need to maintain that dynamic.”

(Photo source: Rebel Breeze)

According to the Beacon, Barrett, who beats the law-and-order drum, told the Gardai “you are of us and we are of you”.

(Photo source: Rebel Breeze)

FASCISTS CHASED AND REPORTING

After mocking the fascists as they left, the antifascists marched off in apparently the opposite direction, then swung around to pursue the NP supporters. Apart from the Garda circle around the latter, they also threw up a cordon against the antifascists at the Nasseau Street junction with Kildare Street.

The main body of antifascists turned then and marched through the city centre chanting “Fascist scum off our streets” to applause from some bystanders, then rallied at the GPO. Gardaí reported two arrests and it is known that they arrested an antifascist in Moore St for having allegedly confiscated a POU cap back in Molesworth Street. There are rumours that a few unguarded fascists were also met by antifascists to the dismay of the former but these have not been confirmed.

Media reporting varied, from a wildly inaccurate account in Dublin.Live to RTÉ’s equating of both groups on the same level, with the Irish Times giving the very erroneous impression that the NP were as eager to get to grips with the antifascists as the antifascists were with them.

Commenting on the events in a statement later, Anti-Fascist Ireland said: “The NP event was a failed attempt to use current Covid-19 restrictions as a rallying point to attract unsuspecting members of the public who may hold genuine grievances with the lockdown.”

Quoting the London-based Anarchist antifascist Albert Meltzer (1920-1996) “there’s no such thing as a fascist march – only a police march”4 the statement referred to” the massive Garda operation required to ensure the larger anti-fascist mobilisation was kept away from the underwhelming fascist presence.”

Referring to the recent fascist boast of about ‘controlling’ the streets of Dublin, the AFA statement commented that “they seemed genuinely shocked and scared by the sight of hundreds of working-class anti-fascists in Dublin today” and reported that “A nervous Torino was spotted leaving the vicinity immediately after his rant and did not even stay around for Justin Barret’s rambling long speech.”

The statement pointed out that the NP oppose the use of masks to prevent the spread of Covid19 and that their supporters disregard any restrictions. “We know that huge numbers of our supporters did not take to the streets today out of concern for the most vulnerable in society”, the statement continued. Those of us out today did so out of a sense of necessity and true patriotism to protect our country from their dangerous and toxic ideologies.”

The statement concluded: “AFA Ireland is a militant anti-fascist organisation formed in 1991. We believe in physically and ideologically confronting fascism whenever and wherever it rears its ugly head. As always, we encourage all anti-fascist minded people across the island to reach out to us and work together in a militant, disciplined movement against fascism. Profound thanks again to all our members and supporters in the republican, socialist, grassroots, LGBTQ+ and trade union movements.

Beir Bua. La Lucha Continúa. No pasarán.”

FAILURE OF THE LEFT FACILITATED GROWTH OF THE FAR-RIGHT

The National Party is one of a number of similar organisations and parties that make up the Far-Right in the 26 Counties (in addition there are the Loyalists in the Six Counties). There are also the Irish Freedom Party led by Herman Kelly, Síol na hÉireann led by Niall McConnell, QAnon led by Dee Wall (real name Dolores Webster) – who was at the NP rally, Anti-Corruption Ireland led by Gemma O’Doherty and Irish Yellow Vests, led by Glen Miller and Ben Gilroy (who also has his own promotion through the Tiger Reborn FB page). Despite their wide representation on social media, most of these are tiny groups which is why until recently they have been banding together at a number of events and in particular participating in events organised by the more popular Irish Yellow Vests. The IYV have been making a comeback since they fizzled out a couple of years ago after the Islamophobia of Miller, opportunism of Gilroy and racism of some of their supporters was exposed.

The failure of the Irish Left to mount a comprehensive resistance to the attacks of the Irish ruling class on working people over the years and, in particular, its failure to construct an adequate response to the Covid19 pandemic and to the Government’s handling of it has proved a boon to the ‘Vests and they have provided platform and marching space for all the other parts of the Far-Right, including the obvious fascists, but also attracting a number of innocent but confused people.

Recently the ‘Vests have been trying to clean up their image a bit by dumping the likes of O’Doherty, despite having using her notoriety up to now, along with the parties led by Barrett, McConnell and Kelly. And a report in the Examiner recently suggested that the State wished to assist the Vests in gaining popularity, as the report quoted unnamed senior Garda sources alluding to their alleged investigation of the “penetration” of the anti-mask movement “by fascist organisations”. If this is so however, the Gardaí on Saturday seemed to have not yet received the message – unless it was just their old prejudice against Republicans and the Left coming into play.

The media reported that Gardaí were going to “investigate the organisers” of the NP event (pretty obvious really!) and of the antifascist counter-protest. This is a ritual verbal response from a police force which has left the weekly QAnon protest outside the GPO unmolested from the very start of the Covid19 restrictions, while they harassed Debenhams workers’ pickets around the corner in Henry Street and their Special Branch did the same to political prisoner solidarity pickets further down O’Connell St.

End.

LGBT and Irish Tricolour flown among the antfascists. (Photo source: Rebel Breeze)

FOOTNOTES

1A reference to the fascist movement in 1930s Ireland, the leader of which was the former first Commissioner of the Free State Gardaí.

2Rowan Croft nicknamed himself the “Gran Torino” but has been nicknamed “Tan Torino” by opponents due to his past service in the British Army and possibly also due to his participating in a panel, along with Herman Kelly, with notorious fascist and British Loyalist Jim Dowson.

3This term in the past has been and today too is often a coded expression of anti-semitism and Barrett has let slip some remarks indicating in that direction.

4Based on the experience of antifascists when fascist marches are accompanied or even led by police, as for example in London at Cable Street in 1936 and Lewisham in 1977.

REFERENCES & LINKS FOR FURTHER INFORMATION

Antifascist Action Ireland: https://www.facebook.com/afaireland

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

RTE: https://www.rte.ie/news/2020/1010/1170689-dublin-protests/

Radio wildly inaccurate report: https://www.dublinlive.ie/news/dublin-news/protest-dublin-city-coronavirus-lockdown-19083969?fbclid=IwAR0UDq7tF_XFclsXbm-UdBoqc5VRTDos-BA3nIsndi9mIpm4P_tmV-z1ix0

The Beacon: https://www.facebook.com/TheBeaconIrl/posts/359885528700841

Irish Times: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/hundreds-clash-in-violent-exchanges-at-dublin-protest-1.4377808

Earlier report about “infiltration” in the Examiner: https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40062431.html?type=amp&__twitter_impression=true&fbclid=IwAR3FCKr-5Vj3kR8q6UKSS5TczaTD0vtTNlM_om_4YDBjeyr3bY44RC14PG4

“THERE WILL BE ANOTHER DAY”

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 10 mins.)

A group of antifascists, broad in composition but not large in numbers, went to counter-protest a rally in Dublin last Saturday and were attacked by a much larger mob, some of them armed, leaving one of the counter-protesters unconscious. The Gardaí then intervened, including members of the Public Order Unit, treating the assailants gently but pushing and shoving the anti-fascists and threatening them with drawn batons. What was all this about?

Section of the crowd at the anti-Covid19 restrictions rally at the Custom House, 22 August 2020.
(Source photo: Internet)

          The event had been called by a rarelyheard-of organisation called Health Freedom Ireland and was advertised as being a “Protest Against Oppressive Government Restrictions and Mandates”, in opposition to Government restrictions around the spread of Covid19, against social distancing and the wearing of masks requirements and against any notion of the implementation of a vaccination program. According to the media, HFI is led by anti-vaccination campaigners Maeve Murran and Kelly Johnston, claiming that vaccination can cause autism.

So one might object to the stated purpose of the rally on health grounds, or intellectually reject the implied conspiracy theories, but why would antifascists specifically want to counter-protest this event? The answer becomes clearer when we examine the organisers of the event, some of the speakers and some of the supporting groups.

Antifascists walking on to Custom House Quay a minute before they were attacked.
22 August 2020.
(Source photo: Internet)

The event was to be officially co-hosted by the Irish Yellow Vests, a very small group led by the notorious Islamophobe Glen Miller. He and Ben Gilroy, one of the featured speakers, had tried to bind together such disparate groups as campaigners around the right to housing, water, against the bailouts of the bankers and subsequent austerity measures, evictions, against corruption, State repression — but also those with strange conspiracy theories. As a result the Yellow Vests had briefly enjoyed some support from a cross-section of forces opposed to the Government until Miller’s Islamophobia and the racist agenda of some of his supporters became clear, after which the group faded from the scene (though Miller could occasionally be seen supporting events of the Far-Right, such as in February outside Leinster House, against mooted “anti-hate speech laws”).

One of the speakers to be featured was Dolores Cahill, 2nd in the leadership of the Irish Freedom Party, another small anti-immigration and for a “Catholic Ireland” right-wing party and in attendance was its Chair Jim Corr and PRO Herman Kelly, the latter having in the past been PRO for Farrage’s UKIP and also taken part in a panel with Ulster Loyalist and British fascist Jim Dowson.

Numerous figures of the Far-Right were vociferous in their support for the rally, including activists of the QAnon group who have been taking advantage of the Government restrictions around Covid19 to regularly protest against them outside the GPO, apparently free from any Garda action (while sacked Debenhams workers and their supporters demonstrating around the corner in Henry Street, though masked and observing social distancing, were nevertheless victims of police intimidation and harassment). The QAnon group, including their chief spokesperson Dee Wall and others prominent in the group, also demonstrated recently against the letting of Croke Park to a group of Muslims to celebrate the Eid festival, supporting another Far-Right racist activist, Gemma O’Doherty, who declared her wish to “make Ireland Catholic again” (sic).

Of course, not all the hundreds who attended the rally on Custom House Quay were racists. Just days before, a member of the Irish Government, other politicians and business people, around 80 in total, had attended a parliamentary golf society dinner in Clifden, Galway, in apparent oblivion to all Government restrictions. People who are subjected to those restrictions, unemployed as a result or losing their business, were understandably angry, some even questioning whether the restrictions were really necessary. After all, if prominent people , including a member of the very Government, don’t seem to think them important ….

One of the many strange conspiracy theories among supporters of the Far-Right, seen at the anti-mask etc rally 22 August 2020.
(Source photo: Internet)

There are those who are not racists but who believe, contrary to overwhelming scientific evidence, that vaccinations do more harm than good. And there are believers in all kinds of conspiracy theories, other than the rational ones about capitalism and imperialism, who imagine a global conspiracy by dark forces encouraging homosexuality, immigration, etc, etc, allegedly pushed by the Communist Party of China through the UN and the EU! Some of those conspiracy theorists are racist and some are not but all find a welcoming home in the ranks of the Far-Right, whose own official parties and organisations are tiny. Some hard-line fundamentalist Catholics like John Waters, along with strident racist Gemma O’Doherty, seem able to set aside the alleged message of love for humanity in the Christian New Testament and are also embraced by the Far-Right.

COUNTER-PROTESTS

          Events of the Far-Right are often counter-protested by groups and individuals called together informally, without anyone exercising leadership. This has been the case with counter-protests to Gemma O’Doherty in Dublin, for example and to Niall McConnell, of the tiny fascist party Síol na hÉireann, who was expelled along with his propaganda stall from outside the GPO in an unannounced action some months ago.

Indeed, it has been a remarkable feature of most gatherings of the Far-Right in Dublin at least that no organisation or network has called publicly to oppose them (the one notable exception since 2016 has been the December 2019 counter-rally outside Leinster House). None of the main parties of the Irish Left or Republican movement, although all opposed to racism and fascism, have made a public call for those mobilisations.

But in advance of the Custom House Quay event, this time there were two public calls for a counter-protest, one from the Belfast IWWU (International Workers of the World) trade union and the other from the Dublin Republicans Against Fascism network.

A small group of antifascist activists, gathered from such varied sectors as republicans, socialists, anarchists, anti-racism and animal rights met on Eden Quay with the intention of proceeding to mount a counter-protest to the rally.

A PREPLANNED ARMED ATTACK

          At the advertised time of 1.30pm the relatively small group of counter-protesters came on to Custom House Quay, on the far side from where the invited speakers were standing. Further along the river wall, a mass of men was gathered, many wearing masks and gloves. Given that the rally was called specifically against Covid19 restrictions and wearing of masks, one must assume a different reason for their wearing them – such as avoiding identification and gloves for concealing fingerprints (which in turn makes it likely that many have fingerprints on Garda records).

Armed fascists charge antifascist counter protesters, seen here striking antifascist with flagpole.  22 August 2020 (Photo source: Internet)

 

According to statements of some of the counter-protesters, they had hardly stepped out on the Custom House Quay from under the railway bridge when they were attacked by the mob. One of the antifascists in the lead was heard to shout “Stand fast!” and then the wave of fascists struck, howling, punching, many wielding metal bars and wooden clubs. As soon as any antifascist went down many assailants joined in on kicking and stamping on him. The antifascists fought back but had no weapons.

Antifascists fight back, one trying to wrest flagpole from fascist 22 August 2020.
(Source photo: Internet)

Shortly afterwards, the Gardaí – including members of the Public Order Unit — moved in and opened up a space between both groups. According to participant and video evidence, they concentrated their numbers and ferocity on the smaller, unarmed group, the victims of the attack, shouting at them to leave, threatening them with drawn batons and shoving them hard. One of the counter-protesters lay on the ground, apparently unconscious but the police prevented any of his group going to his aid. The Gardaí ceased their pushing and threats only when they had got the counter-protesters about half way along Butt Bridge, by which time they had knocked a number to the ground, whereas their attackers were permitted to remain more or less where they had been, now taunting their victims.

Antifascists continue fighting back (note three assailants at least on antifascist by river wall. 22 August 2020 (Photo source: Internet)

Hyped-up and confused fascists attack one of their own (centre). 22 August 2020 (Photo source: Internet)

BIZARRE REPORTING

            A bizarre aspect of the whole event was the media reporting, with earlier reports making no reference at all to the conflict. Later reports included vague references that in no way described the situation, with a general projection of the Gardaí as an impartial order-keeping force in minor disturbances. An early photograph on the Irish Times website of the Public Order Unit and other Gardaí confronting antifascists on Butt Bridge quickly disappeared. When the conflict was finally described, in a report on Monday by Conor Lally of the Irish Times, allegedly from Garda sources, it was as though the antifascists had preplanned an attack! A few days later, the item was quietly edited.

Some reports, for example of RTÉ and print media, briefly mentioned a “counter-protest” on Butt Bridge, without any mention of how that counter-protest ended up there.

22/8/2020 Plenty of fascist weapons in evidence. Antifascist pushed back by numbers, falls over junction box (legs only in view, far right of photo).  (Photo source: Internet)

Given that the counter-protest had been promoted on the pages of the Belfast IWW and Dublin Republicans Against Fascism, had either organisation been approached by the media for comment? No, neither had, according to representatives of each.

Ógra Sinn Féin, one of whose members had been knocked unconscious by the armed fascists, posted a very short statement condemning the attack, along with a mention of the Gardaí making four arrests, one for possession of an offensive weapon. Taken in context, that too was bizarre – as though that Garda response was in any way an appropriate one in the circumstances.

Behind the rental bicycles, a number of fascists are attacking an antifascist.   22 August 2020 (Photo source: Internet)

 

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

           Did the antifascists expect what happened?

Perhaps not entirely on the scale of it but according to various individuals who were there, they had all been made aware of the threats on the day and of reports that the fascists were carrying weapons.

Possibly point at which  Gardaí began to intervene — retreating fascists getting in some final blows on downed antifascist. 22 August 2020 (Photo source: Internet)

They were informed that we expected to be attacked and that some at least of the fascists were armed,” said a DRAF participant. “They still chose to go ahead. About half of them were women and some very small in stature. Hardly any seemed to have much experience of street fighting. Neverthelss, they chose to go ahead.”

There were also indications prior to the day, as people claiming to be antifascists had engaged in threats and counter-threats with fascists on social media. “Most of those antifascists made threats they couldn’t back up and then didn’t even turn up themselves,” said a young woman who was there in obvious disgust.

I can’t even begin to express the contempt I feel for that kind of behaviour,” said a Republican who was also there.

An attack on such a scale and preplanned is something new. If the Left had forgotten history and needed a warning about the potential for violence of fascism, they were certainly given a reminder on the 22nd August in Dublin.

Senior Garda officer screaming and threatening antifascists (who seem to have captured a tricolour from the fascists). 22 August 2020 (Photo source: Internet)

How to explain the action of the Gardaí? To threaten, push and shove the unarmed victims of the fascist attack? And their mild confrontation with the armed attackers?

They knew exactly what they were doing,” according to one of the counter-protesters. “Even before we were attacked it was clear that was the intention of the fascists. They cops allowed the fascists to attack for a few minutes, then moved in, shooing the fascists away and shoving us, shouting and threatening us with waving batons.”

Viewing the video and hearing other accounts bears out her assertions.  

What about the four arrests Gardaí made reported by media, one for “offensive weapon” and “three for public order offences”?

Counter-protesters are adamant none of their number were arrested.  “There was one arrest at the east end of the bridge about half an hour after the fascist attack but none of that big armed mob that attacked us at the west end of the Quay were touched,” confirmed several.

Mild police restraint of armed fascists after attack (none arrested even for offensive weapons). 22 August 2020 (Photo source: Internet)

Was this something new in the behaviour of the Gardaí?

In scale, yes,” replied a Republican, “but not in essence. “The Gardaí favoured the Far-Right every Saturday at the GPO while they harassed Debenhams pickets around the corner, using Covid19 legislation. They also harassed our pickets about political prisoners a few hundred metres away, quoting the Offences Against the State Act.”

OK, harassment, but toleration of violence?

A few weeks ago, an antifascist was assaulted in plain view in front of the GPO, even attempting to push him out into the traffic. Four Gardaí rushed over and took him away, questioning him. His assailants? Nothing. A few weeks before that, the Gardaí permitted people from the same group to cross the road and confront antifascists standing in the middle pedestrian reservation. Then one of the fascists walked in among the antifascists and assaulted a Republican who was sitting down; he retaliated and in a minute they were both rolling around in the southbound traffic lane. The Gardaí separated them, in the course of which one of them punched the Republican several times, then escorted the fascist safely back to his group. They didn’t even take his name, never mind charge him.”

A number of media reports mentioned “a counter-protest on Butt Bridge”, omitting the antifascists were pushed, shoved and threatened with drawn batons by Gardaí to there from the Quay after being attacked by fascists. 22 August 2020 (Photo source: Internet)

Testimony of some participants in a counter-protest to the 11th July Far-Right protest would have given a strong indication too. The Far-Right had mounted a homophobic protest under the guise of being against pedophilia, using certain statements decades ago of the British-based activist Peter Thatchell and the fact that years ago, Roderic O’Gorman (who is gay), long before he became the current Irish Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration, had appeared in a photograph with Thatchell at a Gay Pride parade. The homophobic rally had gained most publicity due to the presence as a speaker of dramatist and TV actor John Connors, who later apologised for his appearance and his words, claiming he had allowed himself to be manipulated by the Far-Right. A very small “March of Innocence” counter-protest had been organised and one of its participants said that even before they got around in view of Leinster House, the Gardaí told them they were not going to protect them. As they neared the rally, they were handled roughly with some blows and shoves by about 40 Far-Right “security”, without interference by the Gardaí, true to their word. The Gardaí only intervened when the Far-Right “security” withdrew and the general mob came forward to attack.

But what could be the reason for such Garda partiality towards the Far Right and hostility towards the antifascists? It is almost as though they see the Far-Right as the legitimate group and the counter-protesters as the problem. Could it be because the police are regularly confronted by some of the same people as are found among the antifascists on issues such as water meter protests, housing, austerity measures, republican prisoners, repression, etc? Or might it be even more sinister? Could it be that the Irish ruling class and State are keeping the fascists handy as a backup, in case they are needed to help cope with resistance to forthcoming austerity measures? Fascists have played that role in a number of countries.

Person arrested at east end of Custom House Quay, possibly man charged with possession of a knife. By this time police had pushed antifascists on to Butt Bridge. 22 August 2020 (Photo source: Internet)

BEIDH LÁ EILE AG AN bPAORACH

          The fascists and Far-Right, including a number of the actual participants are crowing about the outcome of this attack on their social media networks.

Was it wise to counter-protest a rally so large with so few? Were the fascists in effect handed a victory?

It kinda makes me angry when we get criticised for our low numbers,” said one who was there. “Other times, people have complained they didn’t know, hadn’t been informed. This time there was a public call. If we are few it’s because all the other antifascists don’t join in, it’s as simple as that,” she said.

Are we supposed to just stand by and let them build up and up and do nothing?” asked another. “I don’t want our children and grandchildren to grow up in a fascist or racist country.”

Another expressed the hope that the incident would wake up the wider antifascist, antiracist movement.

They might be crowing about it now,” said an Irish Republican, referring to the Far-Right, “boasting about how with weapons and twice the numbers they beat a small force of unarmed antifascists, about half of which were women. Although they can’t deny that we didn’t run and it was the cops who pushed us out of there. And they had to work at it too.”

Beidh lá eile ag an bPaorach”, said a member of Dublin Republicans Against Fascism. It’s a saying in the Irish language – its meaning in essence being ‘There will be another day.’

Lá níos fearr” (‘a better day’), he added.

End.

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FRONTLINE ESSENTIAL WORKERS – VULNERABLE BUT NOT CONSIDERED

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 5 minutes)

We hear talk from time to time about essential frontline workers, a discussion the origins of which can be traced to the call on the Government to shut down all non-essential work. That of course raised the issue of what is essential work and therefore, who are the essential workers. High among the category considered essential were health practitioners and their rate of infection, when statistics were published, was exceeding 25%. But there is another group of workers who are essential and vulnerable and although most members of the public are in contact with them on a weekly basis at least, nevertheless they are given little protection and rarely mentioned.

          Essential workers include, apart from healthcare workers, those maintaining our supplies of clean water, electricity and gas, sanitation, agriculture, production of necessary equipment, public transport, transport of essential supplies, fire-fighting, telecommunication (but not commercial call centres), postal services …. All of these should be in the first rank of consideration for protection from the Coronavirus-19, because they are vulnerable and for the selfish reason that we need them. But much more exposed on a daily basis to a greater number of people are the shop and supermarket workers.

Customer and staff both wearing mask and gloves in a foreign supermarket
(Photo source: Internet)

They are the most numerous of the essential workers in daily contact with the public, which puts them at risk and, if they become infected, puts the general public, the shopping customers at risk too. And yet, their levels of protection organised by their employers are very poor overall. Despite this, we rarely hear them mentioned in public discourse, they do not receive particular attention from the Left and even their own trade unions are inactive on the issue.

WHAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN DONE

          Let us take a moment to consider what should have been the measures put in place for these workers and for the public coming into contact with them:

  1. Immediate training program in prevention for all staff, with regular refresher or reinforcement measures

  2. Immediate supply of protective clothing, disposed/ washed after each break and shift, this to include face-mask and gloves

  3. Hand-sanitiser at every work station

  4. Wrap-around screens at all checkout points

  5. Disinfection routines for all work stations at shift changes

  6. No shelf-filling during hours open to the public or non-essential interaction between public and staff inside of six feet distance

  7. Staff in necessary close proximity to members of the public, including security staff, to be given special protection in clothing and in shift arrangements and testing

  8. Safe social distances enforced by restrictions on numbers of customers in store at one time

  9. Safe social distances marked for queues and enforced

  10. Regular disinfection of automatic checkout machines

  11. Supply of hand-sanitiser at all entrances/ exits and checkout machines for the public

  12. Prevention informational visual and audio prompts for public and staff

  13. All companies obliged by Government to publish their protocols so as to educate staff and public and also give a point of correction if either feel that the protocols are not being adhered to.

Some readers may protest that management had no previous experience of a pandemic, that some of these measures were implemented but a delay was inevitable and some measures are too extreme. I would respond that any group of reasonably intelligent people, knowing the danger and typical transmission routes, sitting down to think of precautions, would come up with a similar list. Companies are supposed to carry out risk assessments of their procedures.  Trade union officials and representatives would be trained in how to assess levels of risk and how to employ measures to eliminate or reduce the level of risk as much as practicable.

Should anyone consider any of those measures excessive, they should be able to point out which and to say why. Or likewise justify the claim that late implementation was unavoidable.

Notice on screen in one shopping chain.
(Photo source: Internet)

WHAT WAS DONE

          Let us now take a moment to review which of those measure have been implemented, how and when.

  1. I am not in a position to give a definite answer on whether staff were given intensive training in avoiding infection or not but from my observation while shopping of staff in a number of supermarkets I would feel confident in saying that they had not or, if they had, that the required practice was not being monitored by management.

  2. Even to the day of writing this piece, in only one workplace, Eurospar in Fairview, have I seen all the staff wearing face masks. Workers in a number of other companies have told me that they are not supplied with them.

  3. Hand-sanitiser was supplied to work-stations in some supermarkets (possibly all) but weeks after the pandemic hit Ireland (though it had been raging abroad for many weeks before that and covered in news reports).

  4. No screens were in place at work-stations until weeks after the arrival of the virus and even now are rudimentary in many places. Single screens with spaces between permit staff and customers to position themselves in the open spaces, which I have seen both do at times. A number of cashier screens with an open section for customers to receive and load their checked-out purchases are well inside six feet of the staff member.

  5. Whether there are any such shift-change disinfection routines at any supermarket I cannot say but in some supermarkets I have seen staff leave or take up work at a station without any evidence of its disinfection.

  6. I have seen frequent shelf-filling during-open-to the-public hours in Dunnes, Tesco, Centra and Aldi (I have not been in a Lidl since the virus arrived) and even without gloves; also unprotected staff moving among customers on other pieces of work, including stacking and removing empty baskets. Even this evening in a Tesco outlet, although at least they were wearing orange (?) gloves, staff were attending to shelves (and without face-masks, as was the staff member stationed near the automatic machines).

  7. In addition to the above, staff maintaining queue lines, including security staff: every single one without masks and all being passed by customers at distances inside of six feet. The most shocking case was of a security guard in Tesco Drumcondra being passed by customers at distances of between one and three feet – he had no mask and only his company uniform, which he probably takes home to his family and puts on again next day. As to testing, given the long waiting times reported for testing and even longer for results, along with the general level of care for employees shown by the companies, how likely is any are being regularly tested?

  8. Yes but in at least one case, I saw that the security guard on the door monitoring numbers was absent for awhile. Of course, there are calls of nature but shouldn’t the protocols require the temporary replacement of the person at this post? Would we wish to be the ones who were infected because this probability had not been foreseen and provided for?

  9. The safe social distances for queueing customers – but not among staff — are now being enforced in most supermarkets, weeks after the arrival of the virus (but I noticed today that the separation is actually less than the advertised two metres).

  10. I have very rarely seen disinfection of automatic machines.

  11. In a local Centra, the first I saw to erect perspex screens, there was a sanitiser dispenser at the entrance with instructions. On at least one occasion it was empty and I have seen customers pass it without using it or having it called to their attention. I saw none in any other chain supermarket, although in Aldi a spray was provided by the baskets with instructions to use it on the basket handles.

  12. Prevention information posters may be seen but usually of the most generalised kind (like those from the HSE) and asking for staff to be treated with patience; graphic posters very rarely, film and audio prompts never. In other words, the means supermarkets use when they really want something, like mood enhancement, customers aware of bargains or special promotions, urgent attention to a checkpoint machine or stores about to close – are precisely those that they are not using for promotion of infection prevention.

  13. The Government has not obliged companies to publish their protocols (not even suggested that they should do so) and the companies have not done so themselves.

Customers in a supermarket (none seem to be taking any precautions other than perhaps social distancing. (Photo source: Internet)

CONCLUSION

          This is a serious lack of care provision for a large section of essential workers and with a potential collateral effect on most of the public. First in line of responsibility for this failure must be of course the companies but their main motive has always been profit. Next in line must be the Government, which has the power to implement emergency measures (and used it recently with giving extra power to Gardaí an courts to employ against individuals) but our governments have always been primarily in the service of capital. Who do I personally blame most for this area of neglect? Those whose very publicised reason for existence is the protection of workers and the promotion of a just society – the trade unions and the Left.

Among the statistics that are published on rates of testing positive and deaths attributed to the virus, there are breakdowns into age and gender groups and, at least in the earlier days, of healthcare workers. We never see, among those statistics, any for shop workers. Or for those who might in turn have been infected by them. The largest statistic given for route of infection is that of “social contact” and presumably that’s where they are, hidden. We remain uninformed and the low level of protection continues, with no real effort being made to change the situation.

End.

PS: Readers may wonder at the absence of information directly from the workers themselves.  The reason is that personally I am unaware of anyone in my acquaintance working in this sector and did not wish to cause the workers more stress than they have to deal with already.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

For focus on steps trade unions and the Left failed to take, see article titled WHAT DID NOT HAPPEN in Rebel Breeze.

Death of a cashier: https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-health-coronavirus-france-supermarket/after-death-of-a-cashier-french-supermarket-staff-work-in-fear-idUKKBN21K1VH

 

SUSPENDED SENTENCE FOR GARDA WHO ASSAULTED RTÉ CAMERAMAN

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time RB article: 5 mins; I.Times article: 3 mins)

In court on 6th March in Dublin, Garda Sean Lucey, who had struck an RTÉ cameraman with his baton in the groin, although his statement was “less than an apology”, received a suspended prison sentence. He had been found guilty by a jury in December but the Judge had postponed sentencing. Antifascists arrested on the same day as the assault by Garda Lucey, while preventing the proposed Dublin launch of the European islamophobic group Pegida, have been fined and three are still facing trial.

Garda Sean Lucey, leaving the court after his sentencing for assault on a journalist.
(Source: Irish Times).

          It was back on 6th February 2016, coincidentally the centenary of the 1916 Rising, when the islamophobic European organisation Pegida, announcing its intention to launch itself in a major city in every European state, planned a rally to launch an Irish branch in Dublin. The individuals and organisations supporting this initiative included racist, fascist and generally far-Right groups and individuals in Europe, including in Ireland.

Long before the planned Pegida rally, anti-racists and antifascists had occupied the intended space outside the GPO, while groups of anti-fascists mingled with curious bystanders on the other side of the street. Quite soon, some fascists of Eastern European background began to insult some women and also to threaten a filmmaker from Rabble, an independent alternative media organisation, calling him a “ fucking communist”.

Earlier that day, the anti-fascists and anti-racists had occupied the site of the
planned Pegida rally.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Fascists of E. European origin make their presence known in North Earl Street through threats and insults. (Photo source: Antifascist photographer)

Having revealed themselves, the fascists quickly became the targets of antifascist hostility and scattered down North Earl Street. Some scuffles took place there and some of the fascists ran on down Talbot Street. Gardaí, including riot police (Public Order Unit) waded into the antifascists and also beat up a fascist, in an apparent case of mistaken identity. Subsequently the Gardaí cordoned off that area with drawn batons and police dogs.

It was soon revealed that some other fascists were holed up in a bar in Cathedral Street and many antifascists made their way there, only to run into another confrontation with riot police who repeatedly struck anti-fascists in order to drive them out into O’Connell Street. It was there that the assault on the RTÉ journalist took place.  It took until December 2020 for the case to come to court while, in the meantime, anti-fascists were charged, convicted and fined.

Gardaí wielding batons in Cathedral St.
(Photo source: Antifascist photographer)

The report of the case in the Irish Times (see References, Sources) reveals three things, it seems:

  1. The fact that his victim was a journalist of the State broadcaster and supported by his union and employers meant the Gardaí could not get away with the assault without some kind of punishment;

  2. On the other hand the Judge was determined to treat the assault as leniently as possible under the circumstances;

  3. The Garda’s whole attitude was in essence that he had done nothing really wrong.

Regarding Garda Lucey’s attitude, which even Judge Melinda Greally remarked upon (“his statement of regret falling short of an apology”), it suggested that he might well have assaulted or would in future assault some other member of the public – especially if he were not a journalist of a State broadcasting service. Perhaps an independent journalist …. or an anti-fascist demonstrator …. or even some member of the public who voiced some objection to his behaviour.

Furthermore, before Garda Lucey struck Mr. Colm Hand in the groin, he struck at his camera. What can that mean? Surely nothing less than that he did not wish his actions or those of his colleagues to be recorded! And perhaps a message to other potential journalists in future. Colm Hand declared that apart from the pain of the injury at the time (which could have caused permanent injury), “what happened on that day shattered my confidence and I have never fully recovered.” The five-day trial in December last year, necessary because Garda Lucey did not admit initially to the offence, was also stressful for Mr. Hand and that and the period leading up to it had caused him worry and sleeplessness.

The Judge must’ve been aware of all these possibilities in future and past Garda behaviour and yet, despite Garda Lucey’s attitude, decided to view his assault as “an aberration.”

This was because, she said, he had no previous blots on his career. But how would those blots have appeared if he had, indeed, behaved similarly in previous situations? Who would have recorded those incidents in his career? The only reason this occasion was noted was because he had struck a journalist of a state broadcasting service and neither the victim, his employers nor his union had been prepared to drop the matter so that, eventually, it had to come to court.

QUESTIONS NOT ASKED

          The Irish mass media – including RTÉ itself — does not ask such questions. Nor speculate whether Garda violence was inflicted on others in that area on that day.  It was and I myself witnessed it. 

Part of the struggle in Cathedral Street.
(Photo source: Internet)

After I moved forward to denounce one Garda who was beating the protectively-raised hands of a protester, one huge member of the POU struck at my fingers with his baton several times and when I evaded the blows, shoved the baton into my stomach, which caused me in reflex to grab it and engage in a short tugging battle, during which he grew increasingly irate and I increasingly worried for my personal safety.

During a sit-down protest outside the Dáil some years ago, Gardaí drew their batons and assaulted demonstrators peacefully sitting down, which was photographed in clear evidence. Not one Garda was charged with assault (nor likely reprimanded) arising out of that incident. And there have been many other such incidents.

No judge should quote an unblotted record of a Garda as any reason for leniency in sentencing. But of course, the judiciary realise that the Gardaí are the first physical line of defence of the system they uphold and for that reason they will always get special consideration. As Judge Greally was quoted as saying, “she has the highest regard for the work of the Gardaí.”

END AND AFTERMATH OF THE PEGIDA CONFLICT

          The Pegida V Anti-racists conflict in which that assault on Colm Hand took place is only vaguely referred to in the Irish Times report – surely a deliberate occluding of context and of an event that would have been of interest to its readers.

After the various struggles in North Earl and Cathedral Streets, Gardaí pretended to arrest the fascists and brought them out in police vans to safety while decoy vans made their way into O’Connell Street, drawing large crowds of anti-fascists to block them and curious onlookers to view the event. Earlier, some Irish fascists coming in to town by LUAS had run into antifascists and never made it to the intended Pegida launch, one needing to go to A&E instead.

Subsequently, antifascists monitoring fascist communications reported that some Eastern European fascists complained of the lack of spine of their Irish counterparts and swore they would never again cooperate with them. Dublin may have been the only European capital where Pegida did not succeed in launching itself and subsequently the whole initiative faded from the news.

Launch of the Pegida ship in Dublin.
(Cartoon D.Breatnach)

As noted earlier, a number of antifascists faced charges and were sentenced in court, including fined. Three Irish Republicans of different allegiances were charged and are currently awaiting trial; their charges are of “violent disorder” which on conviction carry a sentence of up to ten years imprisonment, an unspecified fine, or both. It is the first time this charge has been used by the Irish State against political activists.

End.

REFERENCES, SOURCES:

Irish Times report on sentence: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/courts/criminal-court/garda-who-assaulted-rt%C3%A9-cameraman-gets-suspended-sentence-1.4195207

Violent disorder charge and penalty: http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/1994/act/2/section/15/enacted/en/html

Anti-Irish Racism Letter to Irish Times

Anti-Irish racism in Britain

Sir, – Gerard Murphy (Letters, February 27th) and some others doubt the existence of anti-Irish racism in Britain prior to the Brexit debates, claiming never to have experienced or witnessed it themselves.

After the Race Relations Act (1976) drove the blatant discrimination of notices in lodging-house windows and “help wanted” advertisements into concealment, in 1984 the Greater London Council published Liz Curtis’s booklet Nothing But the Same Old Story, full of public examples of anti-Irish racism in print and in drawings over centuries, including cartoons in the Evening Standard during the 1970s.

In the mid-1970s nearly a score of innocent people in five different cases were taken from the Irish community and convicted of murder or in assisting murder while Irish people were being regularly stopped at airports and embarkation points, as well as having their houses raided and being taken into Paddington Green police station, for example, to spend days in underground cells without daylight or access to solicitor, to be eventually released without charge. In the 1970s Granada TV series The Comedians, stand-up performers told sexist and racist jokes, with the Irish often being the butt of the latter. In the 1980s the Irish in Britain Representation Group picketed WH Smith shops until they removed from sale their “Irish mugs”, which had the handle on the inside.

Letters in Irish community newspapers in Britain like the Irish Post and the Irish World regularly complained of anti-Irish racism in print, on TV, on radio and in public places. Anti-Irish racism has a history of centuries but it was all around Britain in the 1970s, 1980s and even the 1990s. – Yours, etc,

DIARMUID BREATNACH,

Baile Átha Cliath 9.

Anti-Irish Racism in Britain: Not a great letter or anything but the first letter of mine the Irish Times has ever published!

Scene outside the Court of Appeal’s 1984 quashing of the convictions of the Guildford Four and Maguire Seven. Gerry Conlon, one of the Four, seen here shouting his anger to the crowd at his unjustly serving 10 years in jail and his father having died in jail. The Birmingham Six were not released until 1991 and Judith Ward in 1992!
(Source photo: Internet)

 

By Liz Curtis. First published 1984 by the Greater London Council.
(Image source: Johnsbookshop.org)

A dungeon cell in Paddington Green Metropolitan Police Station. Under the provisions of the “Prevention of Terrorism Act” (sic), Irish people were kept in cells like this for up to five days (sometimes longer) without access to solicitor, family or friends, interrogated and often brutalised.
(Photo source: Protesters who occupied the empty building recently — go raibh maith agaibh!)

HAS FERRITER BEEN READING REBEL BREEZE?

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 2 minutes)

On 15 February Ferriter’s column in the Irish Times expressed the opinion that comparison of Sinn Féin with Fianna Fáil in the 1930s only takes us so far. After looking at less of the overall history of the main Irish parties than I had in my article of 11 February in Rebel Breeze but adding some pieces I had not, what was his conclusion that differed so widely from mine? Well, that the military past was too new with SF!

Diarmaid Ferriter in Thinker pose
(Source: Internet)

But, actually, not true of Provisional SF with regard to FF, which came into government in 1932, less than two decades after the end of the Civil War and only six years after its split from Sinn Féin. De Valera, President of Fianna Fáil, had been a leader of the Republican side in the Civil War, from which side came the majority of Fianna Fáil’s supporters. By the time PSF gets into Government, it will be LONGER than two decades since Provisional IRA gave up its armed struggle!

On 11 February I posted an article of mine on Rebel Breeze and from there on to Facebook, making the point that, despite hostile media and politician claims to the contrary, Sinn Féin is very like the main Irish political parties – and that that is not a good thing. I traced the main elements of the parties’ history, how they had changed their positions and I elaborated the point that the main difference in their trajectories is that SF’s arrival on the neo-colonial capitalist political field was just more recent.

Meeting of Provisional Sinn Féin’s Ard-Choiste (national executive) in February 2020.
(Source photo: Niall Carson, AP, Internet)

It is worth noting (a point I had omitted in my piece) that nearly the entire Fianna Fáil government Cabinet in 1932 was composed of Civil War IRA men and that most of the remainder had been in Free State prison during that war.

It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but I can easily avoid being pleased by Ferriter substantially following my line of historical analysis. This is the man who, during the 2016 High Court hearing about the Government and property speculator plans for Moore Street, wrote a nasty attack on the demonstrators who had occupied the buildings and subsequently blockaded them against demolition. If he had been hoping to influence the High Court’s decision he failed – and spectacularly, because the judgement was that not only the buildings but the whole quarter is a 1916 historical monument.

Frank McDonald had also written an opinion piece during the trial against conservation and the demonstrators in the same newspaper (what WAS the Irish Times up to?) but after the judgement, he had the grace to apologise (sort of: he wrote that he had been in error).

But Ferriter? Nary a word.

End.

REFERENCES:

Piece by D. Breatnach in Rebel Breeze: https://rebelbreeze.wordpress.com/2020/02/11/despite-hostile-propaganda-sinn-fein-is-just-another-irish-political-party/

Piece by D. Ferriter in the Irish Times: https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/diarmaid-ferriter-fianna-f%C3%A1il-s-trajectory-holds-lessons-for-sinn-f%C3%A9in-1.4173709?