SIGNIFICANCE OF THE ISRAELI MURDER OF A JOURNALIST

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 8 mins.)

On Wednesday (May 11th), a Palestinian journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh was shot dead by Israeli military with one shot to the head. At the time of her murder, she was wearing conflict protective clothing clearly marked “PRESS” but the bullet entered her head under the helmet. Ms. Abu Akleh’s murder has caused outrage around the world, which has been intensified by the Israeli military’s attack on mourners, even on the bearers of her coffin (one of whom has since died) and their attempt to blame the Palestinian resistance for killing the journalist.

(Credit photo: Ahmad Gharabi/ Getty)

WHY THE OUTRAGE THIS TIME, ABOUT THIS JOURNALIST?

Ms. Abu Akleh was a journalist of nearly 25 years’ experience, employed since 1997 by the Qhatari-based news agency Al Jazeera and her reports were familiar to millions in the Arab and wider Muslim world. She was with other journalists, one of whom was also shot but wounded in the back and is expected to recover, covering an Israeli Army raid into the refugee camp in Jenin in Palestine. Both Al Jazeera and Associated Press agencies insisted that the shooters were Israeli military and mapping on-the-spot investigation has discredited the Israeli version firstly that the killer was a Palestinian fighter and then latterly, that it might have been.

Shireen Abu Akleh lies dead or mortally wounded while her terrified colleague fears the same fate (Source: Internet)

“This is one person,” remarked a commentator, “ but hundreds are being killed in the Ukraine war!” Another commented that the Russians have shot journalists in the Ukraine.

Thousands and millions and thousands of millions of people are killed in wars and as a result of wars. Yes and in a way their very numbers makes that difficult to grasp. In the war in the Ukraine before the Russian invasion, 14,000 is the number of estimated dead. Since the invasion, 9,599–24,5991 civilians have been killed, such a wide disparity in estimates a reflection that the conflict is still ongoing and also of the propaganda battle being fought over almost every aspect of the conflict.

In Palestine, the conflict death toll began mostly from 1936 and rose to unknown numbers of Palestinians (due the huge expulsions and fleeing terror) in 1948 when the state of Israel was created, and between 2008 and 2020 alone the death toll is estimated at 5,8502, not counting of course this year and last, with another three added since Sunday, including Abu Akleh. The overall figure of Palestinian civilians killed between 1936 and 2020, with huge gaps where the numbers are unknown, is 2,816,410.3

All three of the latest of Israel’s victims (unless they’ve killed more before I finish writing and editing) were unarmed civilians. Unarmed civilians are the group most likely to be killed in war (10 million in WWI; 50–55 million in WWII, whilst 2,000,000 civilians is the estimate for the Vietnam War). Even though the killing of civilians is an automatic result of war, there are all kind of laws and conventions agreed by most states, including major warlike ones, against the deliberate killing of civilians. But it does seem as though some states have carte blanche in that regard, international law or not.

Israeli police attack funeral of Shireen Abu Akleh, including beating pall-bearers — one of the injured died later. (Photo credit: May Levin/ AP)

For many people, every killing of a Palestinian announced adds to that ongoing toll by Israel, year after year for nearly eight decades. That’s one important significance of the death of Shireen Abu Akleh – she comes to personalise, to give a face to the millions of victims of Israeli Zionism.

Another significance of this murder is that Abu Akleh is the most recent of at least 45 journalists killed by Israeli military since 2000 – that’s more than two per year. The UNESCO Observatory lists 22 journalists killed by Israeli military since 2002 and the case remains “unresolved” in 19 of Israel’s judicial investigation — with no investigation at all listed in two of them.

One of the nearly 50 journalists killed by the Israeli military since 2000 — Yasser Murtagh in 2018 (Photo: Reuters)

Raising the issue of Russian armed forces’ alleged deliberate killing of civilians and of reporters, whether true or not, just does not compare. The allegations might be true, of course — an invading army is likely to encounter opposition in the course of which some of its personnel may kill civilians by intention and without justification. Indeed, armies before now have killed even those of their own country, their own ethnic group. In the currently relentless onslaught of western commentary, often quoting Ukrainian or NATO sources without question, along with the banning of much alternative comment, it is — and will continue to be for some time – difficult to say which is true and which is not. But the two conflicts do not compare, neither in scale nor in length of existence, nor does the death toll of civilians including reporters.

WHATABOUTERY

When Russia invaded the Ukraine, anybody who raised the issue of Palestine with regard to the other conflict, e.g “what about the US/NATO support for Israel?” was accused of ‘whataboutery’. ‘Whataboutery’ is thought of as a device to distract from confronting the actual issues initially under discussion by introducing another different or tangential one.

Of course, people do such things and rational discussion is frequently undermined and even shattered by such practice. But, in this case, when US/NATO was saying that it was supporting the post-Maidan Ukrainian regime for reasons of democracy and self-determination, was it justified to point out its record of war and invasion in the Middle East and its support of Israeli Zionist aggression? It seems clear to me that it was but that would not in itself be proof that the Ukrainian regime was wrong. Was it right to point to the regime’s attacks on Russian-speakers and in particular on the Crimea and Donbas regions? It seems to me that it was, in that gave context to secessionist feeling in those areas to which the Russian regime could well want to give military support, whether that were for protection of ethnic kindred or for its own selfish reasons.

None of that “whataboutery” takes away from the tragedy of war in the Ukraine, of course not, but it is valid in considering motivation, given that the US, the leading power in NATO, is also the biggest supporter of the Zionist state and that the EU is not far behind. Palestine exposed that whatever the rights and wrongs in the conflict, NATO and the EU’s motives were not about justice and peace.

When international sporting and cultural organisations of the western capitalist world began to ban Russian teams and individuals from participation, were people justified in saying “Hey, what about Israel?” Surely they were, for that ongoing struggle in which Palestinian land has been ripped from the hands of its people, in which the latter are daily oppressed and from time to time massacred, in which they suffer military occupation, daily discrimination, ethnic cleansing, racism and apartheid – have they not been calling for decades for banning and boycotting Israeli and its sporting teams? And what was the response? They they were bringing politics into sport! And those who did show their solidarity in sports competitions were often penalised for doing so.

When states began to apply economic sanctions to Russia and to Russian individuals, were Palestinians and their supporters not justified in crying out “Hey, what about Israel?” Of course they were.

The strange thing is that those who accused others of “whataboutery” in the past for raising the issue of Palestine in the context of the war in the Ukraine have now begun to cry “what about the Ukraine?” in the context of the international outrage about the murder of Shireen Abu Akleh. Former critics of ‘whataboutery’ have themselves become ‘whatabouters’ now – and without even the shadow of the justification of their accused predecessors.

INTERNATIONAL’ OUTRAGE

It’s worth asking what we mean by “international” in the case of the outrage over the murder of Shireen Abu Akleh. That “international” includes a large part of the Arab world. It includes a large part of the non-Arab but Muslim word4. It includes a large part of the non-Arab, non-Muslim world in western Europe and in the USA and in many other parts too. Certainly the Irish public in general has empathised with the Palestinians for decades.5

But it does not include what the western media mean when they use the words “the international community” – the outrage does not encompass the ruling classes of the Western European countries, much less of the USA, nor even the ruling classes of much of the Arab and Muslim world. In this they are being to a degree, honest. Because those ruling classes have either supported the Israeli Zionists directly, or have supported the USA which keeps Israel alive. Only seven elected representatives of the USA’s Democratic Party – out of the 225 it has in the US Congress, quickly expressed condemnation of the killing and called for a quick and independent investigation. Not one of the 210 Republicans expressed condemnation at the time – even though Shireen Abu Akleh was a citizen of the USA!

Protest in Delhi at the Israeli murder of Shireen Abu Akleh — and clearly not by Muslims alone (Hindus and Sikhs seen here also). (Photo source: Internet)
Shireen Abu Akleh murder protest march passing through Grafton Street, Dublin, Ireland yesterday (Photo source: IPSC FB page)

Leaders of a few countries expressed regret but could not bring themselves to even say that she had been killed by the Israeli military. The authorities in Berlin banned an attempt to hold a vigil over the death of the Palestinian journalist, including it in their ban on any Palestinian solidarity events at this time of year, when people commemorate the Palestinian ‘Nakba’. That is what Palestinians call the ‘Catastrophe’ that resulted from the seizure of Palestine by the Israeli Zionists, the creation of its state and the mass expulsion of Palestinians.

It is worth noting too that the media we are reading, which at first either ignored this murder, downplayed it or repeated the Israeli lies that Shireen Abu Akleh had been shot, not by Israeli military but by Palestinian resistance fighters, is compiled by journalists too. On the one hand this points to the severe loss to the world when a journalist who exposes injustice is killed (or persecuted and jailed for extradition to another country, as in the case of Julian Assange). On the other, it points to what a large contingent of hired liars and prevaricators is included among the ranks of journalists, that they cannot even stand up for the truth and protest the murder of one of their own occupation or trade.

Source images: Internet

And it teaches us how much our sources of information are mediated and manipulated by the national and corporative news media. Years ago we were being told that social media would free us from their manipulation or at least provide a viable alternative – independent news and commentary sources would flourish and we could be our own media. Yet the bans and exclusions put in place by Youtube, Facebook, Twitter and governments have shown us what an illusion all that was – in terms of information, we are generally even more controlled and manipulated now than we were before the advent of social media.

Hopefully, those who did not know this already will have learned, both from the coverage of the war in Ukraine and from the murder of this journalist. Those who thought that there was any justice in Israel or generally in the western governments towards the Palestinians, will hopefully have been disabused of that illusion too. Shireen Abu Akleh cannot be brought back to life nor can she be replaced. What we can do is strive to pull down that State that killed her and to knock away all its props around the world.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casualties_of_the_Russo-Ukrainian_War

2According to the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), some 5,600 Palestinians died between 2008 and 2020 while nearly 115,000 were injured. During the same period, around 250 Israelis have died while approximately 5,600 were injuredhttps://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2021/05/12/the-human-cost-of-the-israeli-palestinian-conflict-over-the-past-decade-infographic/

3https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palestinian_casualties_of_war

4Because a great many non-Arab Muslims sympathise with the Palestinians, who mostly ascribe to the faith of Islam and to Muslim culture. However, some Palestinians are Christian, some of Jewish (in the sense that a minority of the population of Palestine was Jewish for decades before the Israeli Zionist occupation) and some of no religion. Shireen Abu Akleh was baptised a Christian; her funeral service was held in a Catholic church and her remains were taken to a Protestant cemetery.

5The Irish cannot fail but be struck too by some parallels with the British occupation of Ireland – the impunity of the Zionist occupiers, for example and the attempt firstly to blame the resistance for those killed by the British Army, followed by a fog of conjecture and holding their own inquiry; the attack on mourners, the seizing of the national flag and attacking people for displaying it (the display of the flag was officially illegal under Israeli law in 1967 and unbanned in 1993 but as seen, is still often objected to by Israeli police).

SOURCES

Conflict deaths in Palestine 2008-2020: https://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2021/05/12/the-human-cost-of-the-israeli-palestinian-conflict-over-the-past-decade-infographic/

Conflict Palestinian civilian deaths since 1936-2020: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palestinian_casualties_of_war

At least 45 Journalists killed by Israel since 2000: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/5/12/infographic-the-journalists-killed-by-israeli-forces-since-2000

https://en.unesco.org/themes/safety-journalists/observatory/country/223793

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/5/13/al-jazeera-condemns-israeli-attack-on-shireen-abu-aklehs-funeral

https://www.breakingnews.ie/world/pallbearers-drop-journalists-coffin-as-israeli-police-hit-mourners-with-batons-1304514.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shireen_Abu_Akleh#Early_life_and_education

DEATH OF A RETIRED WARRIOR

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 12 mins.)

In mid-April (2022) Gardaí, the police force of the Irish State, broke down the door of Mick Plunkett’s home. They would not have been able to claim he resisted their entry or arrest (the usual explanation for injuries on the detained individual) – he was already dead. To be fair to them, this time they were forcing entry in response to concerns from people that Plunkett had not been seen and wasn’t answering calls. Still, Mick Plunkett’s door had been forced by police a number of times before – by the Special Branch, at least once by the Garda ‘Heavy Gang’ and another time by the special ‘anti-terrorist’ Paris police.

Mick was born into a working class family of ten siblings in Dún Laoghaire, in Kelly’s Avenue in the small area of council houses built for rent to the seaward side of the town’s main road (without however overlooking the sea itself, a view reserved for the big houses and hotels, later somewhat ruined by the DART wires and towers). Dún Laoghaire1, long-imagined as a area in which only the affluent or at least comfortably-off lived, nevertheless contained such council (formerly ‘Corporation”) houses in the nearby bottom of York Road, also Cross Avenue, Glasthule, Carriglee Gardens, Monkstown Farm and Sallynoggin areas.

As many of that era, especially among manual workers, Mick’s father died relatively young which left his widow Lilly to care for ten children with all siblings able to work and find employment contributing to the care of the rest.

Mick followed his father Oliver into a skilled manual worker trade, trained and qualified as a gas fitter-plumber and, by reputation, a good one; later he would often carry out repair jobs for neighbours free of charge or in exchange for fish caught nearby or by trawlers that docked in the harbour. “We saw and ate fish that many other people never saw,” said one of his sisters at his funeral reception in the evening.

Amidst the student and youth upsurge of the 1960s around the world, of which Ireland was also a part, many Irish youth of the time became rapidly politicised. The Vietnam War, Black struggles in the USA and South Africa, Civil Rights in the British colony, lack of sufficient housing in the Irish state (just as today!) were issues that engaged lively interest and which to people like Plunkett, called for solidarity and, in Ireland, direct action. At his funeral, Niall Leonach2, formerly of the IRSP, related how Plunkett, at the age of 17, had resisted the neglect of the young apprentices by his union and won improvements by organising a sit-in at the union’s office.

April 1991 article Evening Mail on conditions in the Glasthule Housing Estate (Source image: CATU)

HOUSING AND HISTORY

The Dublin and Bray Housing Action Committees were campaigning for an end to slums and affordable rental housing around the city and Dún Laoghaire soon had its own Housing Action Committee too. Nial Leonach, former comrade of Plunkett’s told the mourners at Mount Jerome that a large public housing building program was initiated as a result of this campaigning, a program that not only replaced derelict inner city tenements but created large new housing areas such as that in Ballybrack in south county Dublin.

The Housing Action campaigns not only squatted homeless families, they also fought evictions, held marches and public meetings. And in at least one case, became involved in a struggle for historical building conservation.

A Dún Laoghaire IRSP public agitation and information post pictured in the IRSP’S Newspaper (Source image: CATU).

The Dún Laoghaire group joined with conservationists wishing to save Frescati House, a large derelict building on acreage of the property planned by Roches Stores to demolish and convert into a shopping centre. The original building dated from 1739 but had been purchased by the largest landowning family in Ireland at the time, the Fitzgeralds and had wings added and the grounds planted with exotic shrubs. The house had been the childhood residence and favoured retreat of Edward Fitzgerald3, a much-loved leader of the first Irish Republican revolutionary movement, the United Irishmen, as late as 1797, the year before their Rising.

The figures heading the campaign were not only conservationists but fairly conservative too (Desmond Fitzgerald, son of a father of the same name who was Minister in a number of Fine Gael governments, was its chairperson). But it was of course the activist supporters of the DHAC who occupied the building in protest at plans for demolition and were subjected to a baton-wielding police attack to evict them.4

Niall Leonach told the crowd in the Mount Jerome chapel that the criminal charges against the arrested were serious but that as a result of Plunkett’s stratagem of issuing a subpoena for Liam Cosgrave5 to appear as witness for their defence, for the politician had been part of the conservation campaign, the more serious charges were dropped and, on the lesser ones, the penalties were lower-scale fines.

Much of DHAC soon became the Markievicz Cumann of Sinn Féin6, then a very socialist Irish Republican party, particularly in Dublin. The Civil Rights campaign in the British colony of the Six Counties became a focus for activity and Leonach told his audience that Plunkett had been particularly affected by the colonial police killing of a child by indiscriminate fire from machine-guns at a nationalist housing estate, the Divis Flats.

In 1969 the IRA, the military wing of Sinn Féin, was caught unprepared and largely unarmed to face the pogroms in the British colony, which was one of the reasons for the 1970 split in the party, out of which emerged the Provisional IRA and Provisional Sinn Féin.

Plunkett and others in the Markievicz Cumann, the three Breatnach brothers for example7, viewing the Provos as socially conservative, remained in what was now known as “Official Sinn Féin” but tried to change their party’s direction. Failing in that, they split, along with others such as the charismatic Séamus Costello8 and formed the Irish Republican Socialist Party in 1974.

It seems clear that the ruling elite of the Irish State viewed the IRSP and the associated INLA as a threat and decided to go beyond the standard and regular harassment, intimidation and petty and medium arrests9 with which they had been treating all Irish Republicans and some socialist activists.

FRAMED IN DUBLIN AND IN PARIS

On 31st March 1976 the Cork-Dublin mail train was stopped near Sallins, Co. Kildare and around £200,00010 was netted by armed men. The State decided to believe, at least officially that the operation had been carried out by the INLA and armed police raided the homes of 40 members of the IRSP and their families. The Gardaí beat up their victims and obtained “confessions” from a number of them – however, some who gave self-incriminating statements could not have been present and their prosecutions were dropped.11 Eventually, a trial in the political Special Criminal Court proceeded against Plunkett and another three IRSP members: Osgur Breatnach, Nicky Kelly and Brian McNally.

Poster supporting the four framed and on trial for the Sallins Mail Train Robbery, depicting Mick Plunkett on far right of images. (Source image: Internet)

After many abuses of the legal system and the longest judicial procedure in the State, three of the four were convicted on the basis of their tortured “confessions” which they had denied. Forensic “evidence” was provided against the only one who had refused to sign a “confession” – an alleged lock of Plunkett’s hair12 was claimed to have been found at the scene of the robbery; that was insufficient and Plunkett was finally discharged. The others were released after years of campaigning13 and were paid a financial compensation but an official enquiry into the arrests, trials and convictions was never held and currently a campaign for such is underway.14.

Mick Plunkett remained politically active but after his arrest in the vicinity of an armed training camp was charged with “membership” and scheduled to appear before the Special Criminal Court. Plunkett, knowing the chances of acquittal in “the Special” were next to nil, decamped to France.

In Paris he and Mary Reid, a poet-activist and also formerly of the IRSP, shared accommodation. In the summer of 1982, their door was kicked down by armed police of the new special “anti-terrorist” French unit. Both were arrested, along with another Irishman Stephen King and charged with possession of automatic weapons and explosives. This followed the bombing of a delicatessen in the Jewish quarter of the city which was later revealed to have had police complicity.

Plunkett, Reid and King were accused of being part of an Irish-Palestinian cell, a figment of the special unit’s imagination. All three denied the charges and the accusation and the existence of such a cell, insisting that if any weapons and explosives had been found in their accommodation, it had been planted there by the police. Niall Leonach commented to the mourners in Mount Jerome that Plunkett had gone from being involved in the greatest miscarriage of justice in the Irish state to being accused in the greatest miscarriage of justice in the French State’s modern history.

Fortunately for the Irish accused, the special police unit was in serious conflict with the main police force and that helped bring to public view the fact that the armaments had, indeed, been planted on the accused by the “anti-terrorist” police unit. All three were released after nine months in jail and Mary Reid’s nine-year-old son Cathal had been taken into care. The whole case was by then such as to convince the Irish state authorities to refrain from severely embarrassing their French counterparts by requesting Plunkett’s extradition to face his charges in the Special Criminal Court.

FRANCE – OCTOBER 05: Michael Plunkett, Mary Reid, Stephen King in Vincennes, France on October 05th , 1983. (Photo by Eric BOUVET/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images). Note poster of the Sallins Trial behind them.

Working in London at the time, I read the news about the arrests of Irish political activists in Paris and was shocked to see names I recognised. I remembered the last time I had seen Mick; I had been back in Dún Laoghaire on holiday and with four of my brothers we set off in Mick’s brother Jimmy’s rowing boat from a pier, Mick himself in it too. We had fishing rods and lines and began to fish as we cleared the harbour. Hours later as the sun dropped to the west, we turned back with our varied catch. Once inside the harbour it was quite dark and a large ship entering the harbour appeared to be bearing down on us and we couldn’t find our flashlight. The incident provided more excitement than we had wished for but seemed to give extra taste to the pints in the local pub afterwards.

Mick found happiness for a time with Tracy out of which union came their daughter Natacha. After the Good Friday Agreement Mick felt safe to returned to Ireland but Tracy remained in Paris with their daughter, Natascha visiting him and his extended family by arrangement on occasion. Plunkett seemed to have retired from political activity and had also withdrawn from social contact with many of his former contacts. His health deteriorated significantly but nevertheless his death came as something of a shock to many.

Mick Plunkett’s coffin at the funeral parlour, officiated by his daughter Natacha. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Many came to pay their respects at the funeral parlour where his coffin lay and to watch the wonderful collection of photos collected by his ex-partner, Tracy. His daughter Natacha was there to receive condolences and to offer shots of Irish whisky over the coffin (where tobacco roll-ups were also placed irreverently on the crucifix attached to the woodwork – Mick was reportedly an atheist). Natacha was also at the cremation service in Mount Jerome cemetery with her mother Tracy, where Plunkett’s coffin was covered in the blue version of the Starry Plough flag15 before being removed from the hearse, carried by relations and with the Seamus Costello Memorial Committee, in uniform and white gloves, providing a small ceremonial guard of honour.

Mick’s nephew Karl chaired the event and in turn called Jennifer Holland to give a short talk on Mick and his times followed by Niall Leonach, former General Secretary of the IRSP and close comrade of Plunkett’s, for a longer oration on Mick’s background and activism.

Karl provided many personal anecdotes from his association with his uncle and from within family stories, many of them amusing and some hilarious. He did not however avoid the political and recounted that many of them were kept unaware of the reasons for Mick’s absence and his apparent inability to travel back to Ireland even to visit. It was by going through some papers in his mother’s room that he came across the IRSP pamphlet on the Sallins case and was shocked; confronting his mother, the story began to be told.16

Recollecting the family’s trip to Paris to present two children for baptism in Notre Dame Cathedral which Mick attended, Karl spoke about their warm reception there and being touur-guided around by Plunkett, who had acquainted himself with much of the city’s history. One wonders whether that included the “Wall of the Communards” where in 1871, revolutionaries of the Paris Commune were summarily executed by French firing squads under the command of Marshall Patrice McMahon, descendant of Irish “Wild Geese” refugees from Williamite-controlled Ireland. Plunkett would hardly have been unaware of that history and its irony for the Irish.

The hearse carrying Mick Plunkett’s coffin arrives at Mt. Jerome cemetery, escorted by guard of honour supplied by the Seamus Costello Memorial Committee (the photo is from their FB page).

SOCIAL, SONG AND FLAG

Later that evening in a large reserved section of the Rochestown Lodge Hotel (formerly the Victor Hotel) just above the large Sallynoggin housing estate, mourners and celebrants gathered to eat, drink and talk. Some had not seen one another for decades. Among the many reminiscences of the social and music scene in Dún Laoghaire in the later decades of the last century, including the remark that “our harbour is a marina now”, one of Mick’s sisters spoke of raids by the Special Branch on their family home, where children would be ordered or pulled out of bed and the mattresses and beds tipped over, allegedly searching for weapons.

Strangely perhaps, there was no performance of musicians or singers or even sing-alongs at the event, though the traditional song The Parting Glass was sung to Plunkett’s daughter Natacha and a small unexpecting audience on the covered patio outside. Later inside, by which time some had left and following a query about a ceramic badge of the Starry Plough worn by one those remaining, a whole length of the original green-and-gold version of the flag was unfurled, causing much interest and queues forming asking to be photographed behind it. And a little later, a man sang Patrick Galvin’s Where Is Our James Connolly? to much applause.

Securing the Starry Plough flag to the coffin on the shoulders of relatives of Mick Plunkett, about to be carried into Mt. Jerome’s chapel for a non-religious remembrance event. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

This was fitting for as the mourners had been reminded in Mount Jerome, Connolly17 had been a great inspiration to Mick Plunkett’s political activism and to the IRSP too. But not only that, for a building in Dublin city centre, formerly a hostel but empty for many years and very recently occupied by socialist Republicans in Dublin had been named Connolly House and had that very day witnessed a rally held outside it to resist a threatened Garda operation to evict the occupants.

It seemed to me that something other than the remembrance of a retired fighter alone had happened at the Plunkett memorial events, something more than the appropriate marker of a past and finished period in Irish history, as had been suggested by Holland in her oration. It seemed to me that the history of struggle in Ireland for national self-determination and social justice had to an extent been re-invoked, that it appeared to some extent as the ghost of struggles past but also as the gaining substance of struggles present and, in particular, yet to come. I think Mick would have been pleased and, in any case, in defiance of the declarations of Fukuyama and such idealogues, history is nowhere near finished or dead. As some have commented, it is not even past.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1A harbour town seven miles south of Dublin city centre, in Dublin County but administered by DL-Rathdown Council for some years now.

2Which I heard pronounced as “Lennox”.

3He is more usually referred to as “Lord Edward Fitzgerald” which, apart from being somewhat historically inaccurate, does him a service. He was a republican, renounced his title and his sister Lucy said of him some years after his death in prison that “He was a paddy and no more; he desired no other title than this.”

4The Wikipedia entry on Frescati House and the campaign makes no mention at all of this sit-in, Garda attack or the subsequent court cases, of which there is ample documentary evidence. Hopefully someone will undertake its appropriate updating.

5Liam Cosgrave was a Fine Gael politician, son of the Leader of the Irish parliamentary Opposition from 1965 to 19873 and Taoiseach (Prime Minister) from 1973 to 1977, W.T Cosgrave.

6The Sinn Féin party has gone through many metamorpheses, from being a reformist dual-monarchy party, to revolutionary republican to constitutionalist. Constance Markievicz was a socialist Republican who took part in the 1916 Rising as an officer in the Irish Citizen Army – the name of a socialist revolutionary woman chosen for the cumann (‘association’, a branch of the SF party at the time) indicated an inclination towards revolution, feminism and socialism.

7Osgur, Caoilte and Oisín.

8Séamus Costello (b. 1939) was murdered by the Official IRA in Dublin on 5th October 1977.

9An example of the medium-seriousness was the charge of “membership of an illegal organisation” under the Amendment to the Offences Against the State Act, introduced in 1972 which required only the unsupported word of a Garda officer at rank of superintendent or above for conviction and a virtually automatic jail sentence of one to two years.

10€237,389.81 –without taking into account inflation — for today’s value

11Notably John Fitzpatrick, who years later publicly challenged the State to charge him with the offence to which he had “confessed” – there was no response.

12If it had been Plunkett’s hair, it had to have been planted by the Heavy Gang, since Mick had been nowhere near that scene and, in fact, the robbery had been carried out by the Provisional IRA. In addition, without the later development of DNA testing, all a sample of hair could tell, apart from its natural colour, was the blood-type of its owner.

13Some of those involved at the time, whether as victims or as campaigners, were present at some of the funeral events too, including Osgur Breatnach, Nicky Kelly, Caoilte and Peetera Schilders-Bhreatnach.

14https://sallinsinquirynow.ie/

15The flag with a design in the shape of the constellation known as Ursa Mayor was of the Irish Citizen Army, formed to defend the workers during the strike and 8-month lockout of 1913 and later fought in the 1916 Rising. Originally the design was of the constellation in white or silver overlaid by the depiction of a plough in gold, with sword as the plough-share and all on a green background. A later version was the plain blue one with Ursa Mayor outlined in white stars. That version was the one in use by the short-lived Republican Congress of the 1930s and was for many years later, probably up to the end of the century, the main one displayed and therefore familiar to Republicans and socialists (even for years flown by the Irish Labour Party) but has now been largely supplanted by the original green version.

16This is not at all an unusual experience in Ireland and, whether by desire to protect the young, pain of reminiscence or even disapproval, much of our history has been concealed from generations for a time or even completely lost.

17James Connolly, revolutionary socialist, trade union organiser, historian, journalist, song-writer and one of the Seven Signatories of the 1916 Proclamation of Independence, was tried by British military court for his leading role in the Rising and executed by firing squad.

SOURCES & FURTHER READING

https://rip.ie/death-notice/michael-mick-plunkett-glasthule-dublin/494040

Edward Fitzgerald a republican: https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/praise-the-lord-and-pass-the-egalitarianism-1.1534895

Frescati House (with the curious omission at the time of access of the DHAC sit-in, police attack and subsequent trials): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frescati_House

Call for enquiry into the Sallins case: https://sallinsinquirynow.ie/

Civil and human rights criticism of the Special Criminal Court: https://www.iccl.ie/2022/international-call-for-end-to-special-criminal-court/

Mary Read & Paris frame-up: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Reid_(activist)
https://www.irishtimes.com/news/socialist-republican-and-poet-with-a-big-heart-1.349096
https://www.rte.ie/brainstorm/2020/0325/1126344-1982-irish-republicans-france-mitterrand-vincennes/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sallins_Train_robbery
Sallins frame-up: https://www.rsvplive.ie/news/irish-news/1976-sallins-robbery-saw-nicky-25971809
https://www.thewhistleblower.ie/booking
https://extra.ie/2022/01/17/news/irish-news/hunger-striker-nicky-kelly

CATALAN PROMOTES NEW INDEPENDENCE STRATEGY IN DUBLIN MEETING

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

In Dublin on Friday, prominent Catalan journalist Vicent Partal departed from the advertised subject of his Irish tour to talk specifically about the struggle for Catalan1 independence and to propound a new tactical departure for the nation in conflict with the Spanish state. In three-night speaking tour organised by ANC Ireland, Partal spoke also in Belfast and Cork, in which venues he stuck reportedly more closely to the advertised subject.

ANC Ireland is an Irish-based iteration of Asamblea Nacional de Catalonia, a mass grassroots pro-independence Catalan organisation which has been primarily responsible for the massive demonstrations on the Diada, the Catalan national Day and for the organisation and promotion of the Referendum on 1st October 2017, when scenes of Spanish police attacking voters shocked many around the world. The President of the ANC at the time, Jordi Sanchez, was later jailed by a Spanish court along with Jordi Cuixart, the President of another Catalan grassroots organisation, Omnium Cultural2.

Carles Pujol of ANC Ireland (right) introducing Vicent Partal (left)

Vicent Partal, who began his tour in Queen’s University in Belfast on the 9th continuing on to Cork University on the 10th, spoke in Dublin on the 11th in the Teachers’ Club in the City centre. Partal has been a journalist since the early 1980s, in which career he has covered the Balkan War, the Demolition of the Berlin Wall, the Beijing Students’ Protests and other events of international prominence. His publishing ventures in Catalonia progressed to the founding in 1995 of the electronic newspaper Infopista catalana that later became VilaWeb, publishing mainly in Catalan but from time to time in English also. In 2007 VilaWeb TV opened as a web TV initiative and nowadays is available as a YouTube channel and on iTunes. Partal is also Chairperson of the European Journalism Centre.

THE NEW TACTIC

In Dublin, Carles Pujol, of ANC Ireland, introduced Vicent Partal to the 50 or so of mostly Catalans in attendance at the talk on Friday in the Teachers’ Club.

Vicent Partal addressing the audience in Dublin

Partal came out from behind the speakers’ table covered in Esteladas, independentist flags, and leaning informally against it behind him, faced his audience. Instead of covering the advertised subject of “minoritised languages” and their promotion through the Internet, he addressed recent features of the struggle for independence of the Catalan nation and proposed tactics which he believed would lead to success. His audience was no doubt surprised but seemed engaged and no-one objected. Partal remarked that he had a somewhat blunt habit of stating what he believed but wished to encourage debate. He stated that the “monster” that is “the real Spain” needed to be exposed to the Catalan people and, now that has been done, needs to be exposed to the EU. Catalonia had the credit of having exposed the Spanish State as none else had done, he maintained and had stood up to the regime as none else after the fake Transition from the fascist dictatorship of General Franco.

In essence, Partal stated, a further exposure would come when the exiled Catalan Members of the European Parliament returned to Catalonia and were arrested by the Spanish State. This violation of their immunity as MEPs under the laws of the EU would be condemned by the European Court of Justice which would order their release. The exposure of the true fascist nature of the Spanish State, in addition to mobilisations on the streets would bring about irresistible pressures for the independence of Catalonia.

After the applause for his presentation had died down, Carles Pujol called for questions or statements and approximately ten members of the audience obliged, with Partal replying to each. The first question related to censorship and pressures against publication which Partal may have faced, to which he replied that pressures only work if one gives in to them. With regard to State threats he had disobeyed an instruction to the media from the Spanish State and time would tell what would be the outcome in that regard.

Another question was whether it would not be better to keep building up the numbers of votes for pro-independence parties, currently represented by 52%, in order to win independence? Partal replied that once the Spanish State had attacked a Referendum, the question of numbers for validation ceased to exist – “after that, even 5,000 people on the street for independence would be enough!” Besides, the Catalans need to return to the position they had when Puigdemont declared a Republic on 10th October (but suspended it) and to follow it through.

A scenario of increasing repression and no advance towards independence was what another person saw and Vicent replied that freedom was not without cost and that the repression needed to be faced and defeated. The Catalan journalist also denied there was anything to be gained by participation in talks with the Spanish state when independence was ruled out in advance.

Another member of the audience disagreed with the statement that Catalonia was the first to stand up in rupture from the Spanish State since the Transition, pointing out that the only region to reject the monarchist and unitary state Constitution forced on to the people in Spanish State after the death of Franco had been the Basques3, to which Partal conceded. The man also asked whether with the two main trade unions in Catalonia4 being being in favour of union with the Spanish State, effective general strikes could be organised in Catalonia. Vicent replied that he did not see the traditional approach favouring trade union organisation and action in popular protests as useful any longer. The youth in the Battle of Urquinaona5 had proved that they were able to drive the Spanish Police out and they had done so without trade union organisation, perhaps even without ever having employment to become union members.

An Irishman asked how Partal would define or describe democracy. The Catalan journalist said that there are a number of ways of looking at that question but his most basic one would be that no-one lived in fear.

To the question of what the Catalan journalist saw as an effective organisational political approach to take the struggle for independence forward, he said that all three pro-independence parties6 are now in a position of not struggling for independence and a new formation is necessary. At a recent conference, the pro-independence party with most elected members of the Catalan Government was talking about progressing to independence in 40 years! It was unclear whether the new approach should be just a platform for independence or a new fourth party but he did not at present support the latter option. It was clear that the independence movement needs to be in opposition to the Catalan Government, Partal said.

One section of the crowd in the bar area before the talk

The meeting ended with thanks to the campaigning Catalan journalist and to the meeting’s participants, along with some notifications and a request for people to get involved in Catalan solidarity work. However discussions continued informally for hours afterwards in the bar area.

End.

A small section of the crowd in the bar area before the meeting

FOOTNOTES

1Catalonia is usually understood to comprise the territory of the autonomous region of that name (Catalunya in their own language) within the Spanish state. However the region of Pau within the French state territory is often included and the term Paisos Catalans (Catalan Countries) includes not only Paul but also the autonomous region of Valencia and the Balearic Islands.

2Tried after two years in jail without bail, they were convicted of the crime of sedition and in October 2019 sentenced to nine years in jail, arising out of their efforts to manage peacefully a large spontaneous protest at Spanish police invasion of Catalan Government offices. They were pardoned in June 2021 and released.

3He might also have mentioned the decades of struggle of the southern Basque Country on military and political levels, with a huge number of Basques as political prisoners.

4Comisiones Obreras formed by the Communist Party during the Franco dictatorship but no longer under the party’s control and UGT, very much allied to the social-democratic Partido Socialista Obrero, by far the main trade unions in the Spanish state. Far behind in membership in Catalonia but growing is Intersindical CSC, a class trade union.

5https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/oct/18/catalonia-general-strike-protests-independence

6Esquerra Republicana (Republican Left), Junts per Cat (Together for Cat(alonia) and CUP (Popular Unity Candidacy); the first two made up the pro-independence majority in the Catalan parliament, with CUP in opposition but supporting them with their delegates votes in clashes with the Spanish unionist parties.

FURTHER INFORMATION & REFERENCES

Wiki on Partal (but “Spanish journalist”!): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vicent_Partal

ANC in Ireland: https://www.facebook.com/IrlandaPerLaIndependenciaDeCatalunya/

Other Irish-Catalan people solidarity groups: https://www.facebook.com/WithCataloniaIreland

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100066691386630

The “Two Jordis”: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/meet-the-two-jailed-activists-behind-catalonias-independence-movement/2017/10/20/a0a10e4a-b4e0-11e7-9b93-b97043e57a22_story.html

Vila Web: https://www.vilaweb.cat/

and in English: https://english.vilaweb.cat/

BRITISH SUPREME COURT VINDICATES TORTURED “HOODED MEN” – CRITICISES POLICE CHIEF

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time up to ‘Background’: 4 mins.)

A group of Irish people were jubilant in London’s Little George Street on 15th December. The location was that of the UK’s Supreme Court and it was unusual for Irish people to be happy at a judgement of a British court. But the judges inside had quashed an appeal by the Police Service of Northern Ireland1 against a judgement of the High Court in Belfast, that the colonial police force had been wrong not to investigate the claims of fourteen men of being tortured in the British colony in 19712.

Bernadette Devlin (now McAlliskey) addressing an anti-internment rally in Derry in August 1971 (Photo cred: Popperfoto, Getty Images)

The claims related to what happened during the introduction of internment without trial in the occupied Six Counties in August 1971. What many internees experienced ranged from brutal treatment to torture: “Many of those arrested reported that they and their families were assaulted, verbally abused and threatened by the soldiers. There were claims of soldiers smashing their way into houses without warning and firing rubber baton rounds through doors and windows. Many of those arrested also reported being ill-treated during their three-day detention at the holding centres. They complained of being beaten, verbally abused, threatened, harassed by dogs, denied sleep, and starved. Some reported being forced to run a gauntlet of baton-wielding soldiers, being forced to run an ‘obstacle course’, having their heads forcefully shaved, being kept naked, being burnt with cigarettes, having a sack placed over their heads for long periods, having a rope kept around their necks, having the barrel of a gun pressed against their heads, being dragged by the hair, being trailed behind armoured vehicles while barefoot, and being tied to armoured trucks as a human shield” (for the soldiers against attack by the IRA). (Wikipedia)

(Photo sourced: Internet)

Some were hooded, beaten and, having been told they were hundreds of feet in the air, were then thrown from a helicopter — but were actually only a few feet from the ground. In addition, they were subjected to disorientating “white noise”, forced to remain in stress positions for long periods and deprived of food, water and sleep. Fourteen men who endured this for seven days became known as the “Hooded Men” and have been campaigning for over 50 years to have the British State admit that in its Irish colony, it had tortured them. Interestingly, some of those techniques have also been complained of more recently – by prisoners of the British military in Iraq3 — and this despite a statement by the UK’s Attorney General in 1977 that the techniques would not be used by them again.4

(Photo sourced: Internet)

Unusually, the Irish State5 took the case of the Fourteen to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and in 1976 obtained a judgement that “the five interrogation techniques” were torture.

The British State appealed the ECHR judgement and in 1978 won a judgement that although the treatment of the Hooded Men amounted to “inhuman and degrading treatment” and breached Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights it nevertheless fell short of torture6.

When documentation came to light proving that British Government Ministers had approved the treatment, the Irish State appealed the revised judgement of the ECHR but in 2018 was unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, the legal team of the Hooded Men pursued their case through the legal system of the UK’s Irish colony. In October 2014 the PSNI formally decided not to investigate the allegations, following which in 2015 judicial review proceedings against the PSNI, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Department of Justice were initiated by Francis McGuigan, one of the ‘Hooded Men’. A co-appellant was Mary McKenna, the daughter of Sean McKenna, another of the Hooded Men, who died in 1975, never having fully recovered from his mistreatment. The proceedings followed the discovery of additional documentary materials relevant to the mistreatment of the men, which were featured in a 2014 RTÉ Documentary, The Torture Files.7

Following this Documentary, the Chief Constable stated that the PSNI would assess “any allegation or emerging evidence of criminal behaviour, from whatever quarter” concerning the ill-treatment of the Hooded Men “with a view to substantiating such an allegation and identifying sufficient evidence to justify a prosecution and bring people to court’”. However in October 2014 the PSNI took the decision not to investigate. In late 2017, the High Court ruled that the failure by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to investigate the allegations of torture was unlawful.

Some of the Hooded Men in London for the Supreme Court judgement. (Photo sourced: Internet)

Instead of accepting the judgement however the PSNI sought to appeal the High Court decision but in September 2019 the Court of Appeal ruled that the decision should stand. One would have to contrast the determination of the colonial police in the courts to their appalling record in investigating collusion between their own force and Loyalist murder gangs, for the PSNI then appealed to the UK Supreme Court. In November 2019 the UK Supreme Court upheld the decision of the colony’s Court of Appeal and the PSNI appealed that judgement too. The decision last week in London marks the end of the legal options of the colonial gendarmerie.

The very month the decision not to investigate the allegations of the Hooded Men was taken by the colonial police force, October 2014, Drew Harris had been appointed Deputy Chief Constable of the PSNI.

IMPLICATIONS OF JUDGEMENT

The implications of the High Court judgement for Britain and its colonial administration are that once again they have been shown to have deployed barbarous methods in their repression of resistance by the nationalist minority in the colony and that they have exceeded or ignored even their own laws.

As has been the case throughout the recent 30 Years’ War, with the system lying and trying to cover up the reality of its actions, then delaying by all available means, the judgement comes too late for a number of the victims, as only nine of the 14 are still alive.

Nevertheless, the judgement adds to a number of other judgements and admissions over the years, such as those surrounding the Bloody Sunday Massacre in Derry in 1972 and the Ballymurphy Massacre in 1971. On 13 December this year, the British Ministry of Defence and PSNI agreed to a £1.5m out-of-court settlement to compensate victims of the Miami Showband Massacre over suspected state collusion with loyalist terrorists.

Three members of the band died from explosions and bullets after they were forced to get out of their bus at a fake police checkpoint on their return to Dublin from the Six Counties. Stephen Travers, who was injured in the attack, said he was convinced he would have won his civil action to prove that there was collaboration between the State and terrorists but that the Government’s decision to “dispense with justice rather than to dispense justice” had motivated the out-of court settlement.

Had the UK’s Supreme Court rejected the Hooded Men’s case, the latter would have been free to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights – not that they had been tortured but that the police should have investigated their claims that they were. And, based on a similar case by the manager of a Basque newspaper against the Spanish State8, they would probably have won their case with damages awarded against the UK.

On the other hand, the Supreme Court decision puts the onus of investigating the accusations of the Hooded Men on to the PSNI, the very organisation deeply implicated in the treatment of the victims, the organisation which declined to investigate them previously and which justified its decision through the courts in the Six Counties and then in the Supreme Court of the UK.

But not only the British state and its colony are put into the dock by the Supreme Court judgement – Drew Harris, formerly Deputy Chief Constable of the PSNI is currently in charge of the police force of the Irish State, where he was appointed Chief Commissioner of the Gardaí in September 2018 on a yearly salary of €250,000.

Drew Harris (Left) as Garda Commissioner with his former boss, George Hamilton, Chief Constable of the colonial police, the PSNI, on the occasion they both received an honour from the British Monarch. (Photo sourced: Internet)

APPENDIX — BACKGROUND

Creation of “Northern Ireland”:

The statelet of “Northern Ireland”9 was created in 1922 after Ireland was partitioned by the British Government at the end of 1921. Ireland had been invaded from Britain in 1169 and gradually entirely occupied and colonised by the invaders, albeit with its own semi-autonomous parliament which had been abolished in 1801, after the United Irish uprisings of 179810. Subsequently Members of Parliament elected in Ireland were required to attend the Westminster Parliament.

Following the rise of Irish nationalist sentiment after the suppression of the 1916 Rising, the 1918 UK General Election returned a huge majority of MPs in Ireland sworn to establish an independent Irish Republic. These formed their own parliament in Dublin, at first ignored but then later banned by the British. The guerrilla War of Independence of 1919-1921 convinced the British rulers to offer Ireland autonomy as a “Dominion” within the British system and under the Crown. However, at the same time, the British conceded to the demand of the unionist minority in Ireland to secede from the new Irish state and to remain a colony of Britain and in the UK. The Irish Free State was set up in December 1921 on 26 counties and the Northern Ireland statelet of six counties in January 192211.

From the outset the colonial statelet had been marked by the religious sectarianism of its local rulers, Presbyterians and Anglicans by religion and of unionist ideology, against a very large nationalist minority of mostly Catholics, representing the majority in Ireland as a whole. A raft of special powers empowered the statelet in repression of the nationalist minority; the colonial gendarmerie, abolished in the Irish state, continued in existence, with a part-time wing and even unofficial Loyalist militia in support and de facto anti-nationalist discrimination existed in every sphere: law, housing allocation, education.

In 1968 a campaign for civil rights for the nationalist minority began, to be met by truncheons, water-cannon, tear gas and bullets which however, merely drove parts of the minority into open insurrection. The colonial gendarmerie (the Royal Ulster Constabulary), even with the active support of the part-time B-Specials and Loyalist paramilitaries, was unable to suppress the uprising primarily in Derry but also in West Belfast and in August 1969 the British Government sent in the British Army to take control.

Initially the soldiers were represented to the nationalist population as being present to protect them from the sectarian colonial police and from the Loyalists but it soon became clear that their primary focus was to repress the risen nationalist population and the IRA began to take action against them.

Introduction of Internment Without Trial:

The Prime Minister of the “Northern Ireland” statelet, Brian Faulkner, recommended to his colonial masters that internment without trial be introduced against the nationalist population; this was agreed and “Operation Demetrius” began on 9th August and continuing over the 10th 1971 with British Army raids into nationalist areas, forcing their way into homes and dragging their captives away to be interrogated by RUC Special Branch, after which they were jailed. In the initial sweep the occupation forces arrested 342 men, sparking four days of violence in which 20 civilians, two IRA members and two British soldiers were killed and 7,000 people fled their homes. All of those interned were from the nationalist community.

Poster by the Anti-Internment League of Ireland – the internees in the photo are handcuffed together. (Photo sourced: Internet)

The detentions without charge continued until December 1975 and by that time 1,981 people had been interned, of which 1,874 were from the nationalist community. Only 107 were Loyalists and none of those had been interned until February 1973. Resistance to internment continued after the initial sweep and from 9th to 11th August, British Paratroopers caused the death of 11 unarmed people in the Ballymurphy area of Belfast. In January the following year the Paras and other units attacked people marching against internment in Derry, killing 14 and injuring 12.

Internment was protested in the rest of Ireland and in other countries, including Britain. The Men Behind the Wire, an anti-internment song composed in 1971 by Paddy McGuigan and recorded by the Barleycorn group in Belfast, was pressed into disc in Dublin and shot to the top of the Irish charts, greatly exceeding in numbers of sales any record previously released in Ireland.

Excerpt:

Through the little streets of Belfast,
In the dark of early mo
rn,
British soldiers came marauding
Wrecking little homes with scorn.

Heedless of the crying children,
Dragging fathers from their beds;
Beating sons while helpless mothers
Watched the blood flow from their heads.

Armoured cars and tanks and guns
Came to take away our sons
But every man will stand behind
The Men Behind the Wire.

Poster by People”s Democracy, believed in 1970, prior to introduction of internment. (Photo sourced: Internet)

Brian Faulkner, unionist Prime Minister of the statelet, who had asked the British to introduce internment, was hated by a great many people. When he died in March 1977 following an accident during a stag hunt, thrown by his horse Cannonball, an English communist composed a short song he named “Cannonball”.

Excerpt:

Lord Faulkner was a hunter of men and of deer

And both have good reason to laugh and to cheer

At the death of a tyrant whose interests were clear

Those of imperialism that have cost Ireland dear.

Cannonball, Cannonball has many a friend,

From the top of old Ireland right down to its end,

Where the brave people struggle

In one resolute bid

To throw off their oppressors —

Just as Cannonball did!

End.

FOOTNOTES

  1. The colonial gendarmerie formerly known as the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

2 (see “Background” section).

3. The Court’s ruling that the five techniques did not amount to torture was later cited by the United States and Israel to justify their own interrogation methods, which included the five techniques. British agents also taught the five techniques to the forces of Brazil’s military dictatorship. During the Iraq War, the illegal use of the five techniques by British soldiers contributed to the death of at least one detainee, Baha Mousa.

4 “The Government of the United Kingdom have considered the question of the use of the ‘five techniques’ with very great care and with particular regard to Article 3 (art. 3) of the Convention. They now give this unqualified undertaking, that the ‘five techniques’ will not in any circumstances be reintroduced as an aid to interrogation.”

5 Unusually, because during the three decades of ill-treatment by a foreign power of people who were, according to the Irish Constitution its citizens, only in one other case did the Irish State bring a complaint against the UK to an international arena.

6 I admit that I fail completely to understand the distinction.

7. Rita O’Reilly, the journalist who led that program, also commented extremely well on the UK Supreme Court decision and the whole case on Prime Time on RTÉ this week (see Links).

8. Martxelo Otamendi, along with others detained, was tortured by his Guardia Civil captors when the Basque newspaper of which he was manager was closed by the Spanish State, alleging that it had been cooperating with terrorists. He was freed eventually and even later in 2010 the Spanish Supreme Court admitted that there had been no evidence against him or the newspaper – but neither admitted the torture nor ordered his allegations be investigated. Otamendi filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights in 2012 and in 2014 the ECHR found the Spanish State guilty of not having investigated Otamendi’s allegation of being tortured and awarded him €24,000 in damages and expenses from the Spanish state.

9. A misnomer since the British colony is not the northernmost part of Ireland, which is in County Donegal, inside the Irish state. “Ulster”, a name given by the Unionists to the statelet and frequently repeated in the British media, is also a misnomer since the Province of Ulster contains nine counties, six of which are in the colonial statelet but three of which are within the Irish state.

10. There were many uprisings prior to 1798, which was the first Republican one and there were many of that kind afterwards too.

11. Shortly after that the Free State, supplied with weapons and transport by the British, attacked the Republicans, who had been demonstrating their dissatisfaction with the Anglo-Irish Treaty. This precipitated a Civil War in which the Republicans were defeated.

USEFUL LINKS FOR MORE INFORMATION

Unusually excellent (for RTÉ) report by Rita O’Reilly: https://www.rte.ie/news/primetime/2021/1217/1267343-uk-supreme-court-decision-on-hooded-men/

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/hooded-men-uk-court-finds-psni-decision-not-to-investigate-case-unlawful-1.4755885

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

HOWARD ZINN — US INTELLECTUAL CRITIC AND ACTIVIST

By Geoff Cobb

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

Like many Brooklyn Jews of his generation, Howard Zinn, an icon of the American left, questioned laissez fair American capitalism and American nationalist glorification of country. He was the author of “A People’s History of the United States,” a best seller which sold more than two million copies and inspired a generation of high school and college students to rethink American history. He was also a strong supporter of the civil rights movement and an opponent of the Vietnam war, as well as being a much-loved professor. Proudly, unabashedly radical, Zinn delighted in debating ideological foes, including his own college president, and in attacking conventional ideas, not the least that American history was a heroic march toward democracy.

One of the many different jacket covers for reprints of Zinn’s most famous book — this one abridged for teaching purposes (Image sourced: Internet)

Born Aug. 24, 1922, Howard Zinn grew up in Bedford Stuyvesant. His parents were Jewish immigrants who met in a factory. His father worked as a ditch digger and window cleaner during the Depression. His father and mother ran a neighborhood candy store for a brief time, barely getting by. For many years his father was in the waiter’s union and worked as a waiter for weddings and bar mitzvahs. “We moved a lot, one step ahead of the landlord,” Zinn recalled. “I lived in all of Brooklyn’s best slums.”

“NO LONGER A LIBERAL”

His parents were not intellectuals and Zinn recalled that there were no books in his home growing up. At some point his parents, knowing his interest in books, and never having heard of Charles Dickens, sent in a coupon with a dime each month to the New York Post and received one of ultimately twenty volumes of Dickens’ complete works. He became interested in fascism and began to read about its rise in Europe and to engage in political discussions and debates with some young Communists in his neighborhood. Zinn was radicalized thanks to a peaceful political rally in Times Square, where mounted police charged the marchers, hit Zinn knocked him unconscious. Zinn explained, “From that moment on, I was no longer a liberal, a believer in the self-correcting character of American democracy. . . The situation required not just a new president or new laws, but an uprooting of the old order, the introduction of a new kind of society—cooperative, peaceful, egalitarian.”

After graduating from Thomas Jefferson High School, Zinn became an apprentice shipfitter in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where he and a few other apprentices began to discuss books and strategize about how to improve their dangerous working conditions. Excluded from the craft unions of skilled workers, they formed their own Apprentice Association. On an overnight boat trip he organized to raise money for the association, he met his future wife, Roslyn Shechter, who shared Howard’s progressive views and was also a Jewish child of immigrants. Zinn joined the Army Air Corps in 1943, eager to fight the fascists, and became a bombardier in a B-17. While in the Air Force he was disturbed by the race and class inequality among the servicemen. It wasn’t until years after the war that he questioned the necessity of the bombs that he dropped.  But at the end of the war, back in New York, he deposited his medals in an envelope and wrote: “Never Again.”

View of students and faculty carrying signs during a strike by faculty and staff of Boston University, on Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, 1979. Historian Howard Zinn, then a professor at BU, is just visible in the centre foreground. (Photo by Spencer Grant/Getty Images)

“I would not deny that [WWII] had a certain moral core, but that made it easier for Americans to treat all subsequent wars with a kind of glow,” Zinn said. “Every enemy becomes Hitler.”

After the war, he went back to interview victims of the bombing, and later wrote about it in two books. His own experience and his subsequent interviews led him to conclude that the bombing had been ordered more to enhance the careers of senior officers than for any military imperative, and he later wrote about the ethics of bombing in the context of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Tokyo and Dresden, as well as Iraq.

Zinn and Roz married in 1944. While Zinn worked various jobs after the war, they lived on meager income in a rat-infested basement apartment in Brooklyn. Their daughter Myla was born in 1947 and Jeff in 1949. They moved to new public housing in 1949 and Zinn went to New York University for his B.A in history.

Thanks to the GI Bill, which paid the tuition of veterans, Zinn went to Columbia, where he earned an MA in 1952 with a thesis about a famous coalminers’ strike in Colorado, then obtained his PhD with a dissertation about the career in Congress of Fiorello LaGuardia, the reforming mayor of New York. He studied at Columbia under Richard Hofstadter who taught Zinn that American liberals were not as liberal as they thought they were, and that the two common threads in all American history were nationalism and capitalism.

PROFESSOR ZINN

In 1956, Zinn accepted a professorship at Spelman College, a traditionally black college for women in Atlanta, Georgia. Among his students were Maria Wright Edelman, the campaigner for children’s rights, and the future novelist Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple. At Spelman, he was a mentor to and later the historian of the Student Non-Violent Co-ordinating Committee (SNCC), the radical student wing of the civil rights movement. Zinn took part in many civil rights protests, and he encouraged his students to join him in these marches, which angered Spelman’s president. Zinn angered the authorities at Spelman over his insistence that its students should not be trained to be ladies, but should be actively involved in politics. “I was fired for insubordination,” he recalled. “Which happened to be true.” Zinn moved to Boston University in 1964, where he quickly became an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War. He angered many Americans, including Boston University’s president, by traveling with the Rev. Daniel Berrigan to Hanoi to receive prisoners released by the North Vietnamese, and produced the antiwar books “Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal” (1967) and “Disobedience and Democracy” (1968). When Daniel Ellsberg, a previously gung-ho John F Kennedy and Lyndon B Johnson administration official, came out against the war, he gave one copy of the Pentagon Papers (officially titled United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense, the government’s secret history of the war) to Zinn and his wife, Roslyn. Zinn and Noam Chomsky edited what became known as the Mike Gravel edition, published in Boston in 1971-72 by the Beacon Press.

In 1980, he published his most successful work, A People’s History of the United States, which was a highly controversial revision of American history. Instead of the usual congratulatory tone of most American history textbooks, his work concentrated on what he saw as the genocidal depredations of Christopher Columbus, the blood lust of Theodore Roosevelt and the racial failings of Abraham Lincoln. He also highlighted the revolutionary struggles of impoverished farmers, feminists, laborers and resisters of slavery and war. Bruce Springsteen said the starkest of his many albums, “Nebraska,” drew inspiration in part from Mr. Zinn’s writings.

For decades, he poured out articles attacking war and government secrecy. 

When President Ronald Reagan bombed Tripoli in 1986, Zinn wrote: “There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people for a purpose which is unattainable.” He denounced the invasion of Iraq and also criticized President Barack Obama’s intensification of the war in Afghanistan. He was sharply attacked in Israel and by many of his fellow American Jews for saying that war was morally the equivalent of terrorism.

Howard Zinn (Photo sourced: Internet)

Mr. Zinn retired in 1988, concluding his last class early so he could join a picket line. He invited his students to join him. Zinn also wrote three plays: “Daughter of Venus,” “Marx in Soho” and “Emma,” about the life of the anarchist Emma Goldman. All have been produced. Zinn died in 2010.

Zinn always believed in standing up to injustice and fighting for oppression. He said near the end of his life, “Where progress has been made, wherever any kind of injustice has been overturned, it’s been because people acted as citizens, and not as politicians. They didn’t just moan. They worked, they acted, they organized, they rioted if necessary to bring their situation to the attention of people in power. And that’s what we have to do today.”

End.

POSTSCRIPT from Rebel Breeze:

TRUMP ATTACKS ZINN AFTER LATTER’S DEATH

“If you want to read a real history book,” Matt Damon’s character tells his therapist, played by Robin Williams, in the 1997 film “Good Will Hunting,” “read Howard Zinn’s ‘A People’s History of the United States.’ That book will knock you on your ass.”

It is very unlikely that President Donald Trump knew who Howard Zinn was before he saw the name on his teleprompter. And it is even less likely that he’s read “A People’s History of the United States.” But that didn’t stop him from saying — at the White House Conference on American History on Thursday — that today’s “left-wing rioting and mayhem are the direct result of decades of left-wing indoctrination in our schools. It’s gone on far too long. Our children are instructed from propaganda tracts, like those of Howard Zinn, that try to make students ashamed of their own history.”

Quoted from https://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/09/23/rights-long-war-howard-zinn-reaches-white-house

POLICE RIOTS — THE BIRTH OF THE IRISH CITIZEN ARMY

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 2 mins.)

The Dublin police played a fundamental role in the creation of the first workers’ army in the world, the Irish Citizen Army.

The Dublin employer syndicate’s offensive against the working-class “syndicalism” of the Irish Transport & General Worker’s Union1 began with the 1913 Lockout, in turn triggering strikes on August 26th, when workers were presented with a document they were to sign declaring that they would leave the ITG&WU or, if not a member, would refuse to support it in any action2. Most workers of any union and none refused to sign and 20,000 workers were confronted by 400 employers.

However, the employers’ numbers were added to by the Dublin Metropolitan Police and the Royal Irish Constabulary, backed up by the judiciary. Morally and ideologically the Irish Times and Irish Independent (the latter owned by W.M. Murphy, leader of the employers) backed the employers as, to a large extent, did the Irish Catholic Church hierarchy3.

Workers’ demonstration with newsboys (WM Murphy owned the Irish Independent newspaper). (Source image: Internet)

The national (non-workers’) movement was divided in its opinion: many of Redmond’s Irish Parliamentary Party representatives were employers or landlords and their sympathies were naturally not with the workers. But for example Seán Mac Diarmada, a republican and national revolutionary, organiser for the secret Irish Republican Brotherhood4, opposed the strike on the basis that foreign business interests would profit by the paralysing of Irish business concerns5. On the other hand, Mac Diarmada’s mentor and head of the IRB in Ireland, Tom Clarke, was sympathetic to the strikers.

POLICE RIOTS

Unlike the gendarmerie6 British police force throughout Ireland of the Royal Irish Constabulary, at this time the constables of the DMP were unarmed except with truncheons but even with those they managed to kill people. On 30th August 1913 the DMP baton-charged a crowd in a street meeting on Eden Quay, outside Liberty Hall, HQ of the union7. Among the many injured were James Nolan and John Byrne who died 31st August and 4th September respectively, both in Jervis St. Hospital. (see also other riots and police attacks in Sources & Further Reading below).

On the 31st Jim Larkin went in disguise to address an advertised public meeting, banned by a magistrate, in Sackville (now O’Connell) St., Dublin. In view of the behaviour of the police, most of the IT&GWU activists went instead to their rented facilities at Fairview but a large enough crowd of the committed and the curious were assembled in O’Connell Street, along with large force of the DMP. Larkin, disguised as an elderly Protestant minister arrived by horse-drawn carriage and, as befitted a man made infirm by age, was assisted by Nellie Gifford8 into the Clery’s building which housed the Imperial Hotel restaurant, which belonged to W.M. Murphy (as did the Dublin Tram Co.). In order that Larkin’s strong Liverpool accent should not give him away, Nellie Gifford did all the talking to the staff inside. Shortly afterwards Larkin appeared at a restaurant window on the first floor and, top hat removed, spoke briefly to the crowd below but, as DMP rushed into the building, tried to make his getaway.

The arrest of Jim Larkin on 31st August 1913, being removed from the Clery’s building (see plinth of the Nelson Pillar behind and to the left) in O’Connell Street, just before the Dublin Metropolitan Police attack on the crowd. (Source image: Internet)

The DMP arrested Larkin and when the crowd cheered him (led by Constance Markievicz), the DMP baton-charged the crowd, striking out indiscriminately, including knocking unconscious a Fianna (Republican youth organisation) boy Patsy O’Connor who was giving First Aid to a man the police had already knocked to the ground. Between 400 and 600 were injured and Patsy suffered from headaches thereafter; though active in the Republican movement (he was prominent in the 1914 Howth guns collection9) he died in 1915, the year before the Rising. Among those beaten were journalists and casual passers-by. Those caught in Princes Street10 between DMP already in that street and the police charging across the main street were beaten particularly savagely.

The police attack became known as “Bloody Sunday 1913” (though two workers had been fatally injured on Eden Quay the day before and are often wrongly listed as having been killed on that day).

A photo of the police riot taking place on 31st August 1913 in O’Connell St; police can be seen striking with their truncheons even those on the ground. (Source image: Internet)

Also on that day the DMP attacked the poor working-class dwellings of Corporation Buildings (in “the Monto”, off Talbot St11), beat the residents and smashed their paltry furniture. The raid was a revenge attack for the reception of bottles and stones they had received on the 30th, when they were chasing fleeing workers from Liberty Hall (others crossed Butt Bridge to the south side and a running battle took place along Townsend Street and almost to Ringsend.

Protest march goes past closed-down Clery’s to the left in 2016 while Larkin looks down from his pedestal to the right. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

THE IRISH CITIZEN ARMY 1913 AND 1916

Very soon after those attacks, Larkin and Connolly each called publicly for the formation of a workers’ defence force, which became the Irish Citizen Army. Around 120 ICA, including female members fought with distinction in the 1916 Rising and raised their flag, the Starry Plough on the roof of WM Murphy’s Imperial Hotel on the upper floors of Clery’s building, opposite the GPO13. A number of its Volunteers were killed or wounded in action and two of the ICA’s leaders, Connolly and Mallin, were executed afterwards; another, Constance Markievicz, had her sentence of death commuted.

Irish Citizen Army on parade at their facility in Fairview. (Source image: Internet)

A much-diminished ICA took part in the War of Independence.

The end of August 1913 on Eden Quay and in O’Connell Street may be seen as the period and birthplaces of the ICA, the “first workers’ army in the world” and the first also to recruit women, some of whom were officers.

The Jim Larkin monument stands opposite the Clery’s building, which is now under renovation but without a mention on the monument or on the building of Bloody Sunday 1913 or its background and result. Sic transit gloria proletariis

end.

Today’s DMP, Garda Public Order Unit guarding far-Right gathering in O’Connell Street in 2020 (facing them, out of photo view). The Larkin monument can be seen in part at the top right-hand corner. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

FOOTNOTES

1The ITGWU was formed in 1909 by James Larkin, former organiser for the National Union of Dock Labourers after his bitter departure from that union. Most of the members Larkin had recruited for the NUDL, with the exception of the Belfast Protestant membership, left the NUDL and joined the IT&GWU.

2The provision in the declaration for members of unions other than the iT&GWU was necessary for the employers because of the general credo in Irish trade unionism that one did not cross a picket line, whether of one’s own union or of another, a credo that persisted in Ireland until the 1980s when the Irish Trade Union Council joined the “Social Partnership” of the State and the employers’ Federation. In addition, Larkin had added the principle that goods from a workplace on strike, even if strike-breakers could be got to bring them out, were “tainted goods” and would not be handled by members of the IT&GWU, nor should they be by any other union either.

3 Apart from any statements by bishops and priests, the religious charity organisation, the St. Vincent de Paul, refused assistance to families of strikers.

4 The IRB was founded simultaneously in Dublin and New York on 17th March 1858 and became known as “the Fenians”. In 1913 the movement had declined but was being rebuilt under the leadership of Tom Clarke, who went on to become one of the Seven Signatories of the 1916 Proclamation of Independence, all of which were executed b y firing squad after surrendering, along with another nine. Both were signatories of the Proclamation of Independence.

5It is one of the many ironies that on May 12th 1916, the last of the of the 14 surrendered leadership executed in Dublin (another two were executed elsewhere, one in Cork and the last in London) were Mac Diarmada and James Connolly, shot by British firing squads in Kilmainham Jail; the one an opponent of the workers’ action and the other one of its leadership.

6The gendarmerie is a particular militarised type of police force, armed and often operating out of barracks, like the Carabinieri of Italy, Gendarmerie of Turkey and Guardia Civil of the Spanish State. It is an armed force of state repression designed to control wide areas of potentially rebellious populations and it is notable that the parallel of the RIC did not exist in Britain, where the police force was mostly unarmed except by truncheon.

7Liberty Hall is still there today but a very different building (the original was shelled by the British in 1916) and SIPTU is a very different union too.

8Nellie was one of 12 children of a mixed religion marriage and was, like all her sisters (unlike the six unionist boys), a nationalist and supporter of women’s suffrage. Her sister Grace married Volunteer Joseph Plunkett hours before his execution and is, with Plunkett, the subject of the plaintive ballad “Grace” and Muriel married Thomas McDonagh, one of the Seven Signatories of the Proclamation, all of whom were among the 16 executed after surrendering in 1916. Nellie Gifford was the only one who participated in the Rising; she was a member of the Irish Citizen Army and was active in the Stephen’s Green/ College of Surgeons garrison, jailed and continued to be active after her release.

926th July 1914, when the yacht Asgard, captained by the Englishman Erskine Childrers, delivered a consignment of Mauser rifles and ammunition to the Irish Volunteers.

10Those may have been heading for Williams Lane which even today leads out from Princes Street to Middle Abbey Street (the junction of which is where James Connolly received the impact to his ankle in 1916).

11Corporation Buildings as one might expect housed working class people and the “Monto” (Montgomery Street) was a notorious red light district.

12The police station is still there, staffed by the Garda Síochána but in 1913 it housed also a British Army garrison.

13This flag, one of at least four different flags flown during the Rising, is now in the Irish National Museum at Collins Barrack. Shortly after the Rising it was noted by a British Army officer still in place upon the gutted Clery’s building and taken by him as a trophy to England. In 1966, the 50th anniversary of the Rising, the officer’s family returned the flag to the Irish people.

SOURCES AND FURTHER READING

Nellie Gifford: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nellie_Gifford

The Fianna boy who suffered a head injury: https://fiannaeireannhistory.wordpress.com/2014/12/

http://multitext.ucc.ie/…/Report_of_the_Dublin

1913 Ringsend Riot: http://comeheretome.com/…/04/07/1913-the-riot-in-ringsend/

GUNSHIPS IN THE MERSEY, ARMED TROOPS ON THE STREET — LIVERPOOL 1911

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 6 mins)

As part of a general rise in workers trade union militancy in the UK (including then Ireland), a general transport strike was called in August 1911. This involved train operators, dockers, sailors, carters and other types of worker. At one point the British State drafted extra police into Liverpool and, eventually, armed soldiers (as had been done against striking miners in the Rhonda Valley, Wales) and Royal Navy gunboats were sent up the Mersey river. On 12th August a massive police charge on workers attending a rally in Liverpool resulted in nearly two hundred injuries and became known as the city’s Bloody Sunday1.

BACKGROUND

1888 is seen by many labour historians as the point at which the weight of importance in the trade union movement shifted from the craft unions with their guild traditions, to the general workers, the “unskilled” (sic) and “semi-skilled” and when trade union actions began to be more militant and sustained. Over the following years, the working class built up its strength through many industrial struggles, many of which it lost but the general impetus was forward.

The great areas of need for capitalism were coal extraction for power, factory production for producing commodities and machines, along with transport to convey the coal to the factories and the commodities from the factories to the country and to the world. In 1911 transport involved trains and shipping, as well as horse and cart (motor transport had yet to generally oust the horse), the unions being those of train workers, ship-builders, carters and sailors. Factory workers were in engineering, textile and other unions. Miners unions recruited the coal-diggers and sorters. Construction workers were needed to build housing for workers, factories for them to work in, roads, railways and canals to transport goods and fuel.

In general, workers were becoming more militant and more politicised, more aware of ideas about the situation of their class and its future. Increasingly, workers in one union would support those of another on strike (although it was not until 1914 that three unions formed the Triple Alliance: The Miners Federation of G. Britain, The National Union of Railwaymen and The National Transport Workers’ Federation).

LIVERPOOL

In Liverpool on May 11th 1911 there was a huge demonstration in the port city of Liverpool as part of the seamen’s strike led by the Transport Workers Federation. The strike being total and with difficulty in employing trained scabs, the employers were obliged to agree new terms with the union.

Mass workers meeting, Liverpool August 1911 (Sourced photo: Gunboats article)

“Hearing of the victory of the seamen, 4,000 dockers immediately walked off the job on June 28 demanding improved pay and conditions. The dockers, many of whom had refused to load ships during the national strike, were quickly followed out by the scalers and coal heavers, and by the end of the day 10,000 men were on strike. Seeing this, the seamen walked out on strike again purely in support of the dockers. Mass meetings were held, and the largely un-unionised dock workers began to flock to the National Union of Dock Labourers (NUDL2).” (Libcom)

“It was the Transport strike during August that was to see matters escalate even further and near pushed the country to revolution. This incidentally was a national dispute with the railways going out on strike. This in turn was supported by dockers and other transport workers that saw the transportation of goods being brought to a grinding halt.

“Tensions were rising with the shipping companies stating that the dockers were in breach of their contract and declaring a lockout. To add fuel to the fire they also tried to call the military in as strike breakers.” (Gunboats up the Mersey)

As the rail strike began to spread across the country, a mass demonstration in Liverpool was declared as a show of support.

Support for the strike cut across the sectarian lines existing in Liverpool. “Reading Fred Bower’s account of workers marching from all over Liverpool must have shaken the establishment. ‘From Orange Garston, Everton and Toxteth Park, from Roman Catholic Bootle and the Scotland Road area they came. Forgotten were their religious feuds. The Garston band had walked five miles and their drum major proudly whirled his sceptre twined with orange and green ribbon.’

‘Never in the history of this or any other country had the majority and might of the humble toiler been so displayed. A wonderful spirit of humour and friendliness permeated the atmosphere.’ ” (Gunboats etc)

Tom Mann addressing a mass meeting in Liverpool August 1911 (Sourced photo: Gunboats article)

“Taking place on August 13 at St George’s Plateau, 100,000 workers came to hear speeches by workers and leaders of the unions, including Tom Mann. The demonstration went without incident until about 4 o’clock, when, completely unprovoked, the crowds of workers suddenly came under attack from the police. Indiscriminatedly attacking bystanders, the police succeeded in clearing the steps of St George’s Hall in half an hour, despite resistance from strikers who used whatever they could find as weapons. Fighting soon spilled out into nearby streets, causing the police and troops to come under attack as workers pelted them with missiles from rooftops. Becoming known as Bloody Sunday, the fighting resulted in scores of injuries on both sides.” (Libcom)

Mounted Police escorting material with armed troops marching behind them, Liverpool August 1911 (Sourced photo: Gunboats article)

“There are no records of why the Police decided to charge a peaceful crowd which resulted in a mass panic with 186 people being hospitalised and 95 arrests. Fred reports how after the carnage caused by the Police that it resembled a battlefield with wounded men, women, and children, lying singly in heaps over a vast area.” (Gunboats etc)

(Police with prisoners, Liverpool August 1911 (Sourced photo: Gunboats article)

“Fighting across the city continued for several days, coming to a head when a group of workers attacked a prison van carrying some arrested strikers. Two workers were shot dead by troops during the ensuing struggle, one a docker and the other a carter.

“A general strike of all transport workers in Liverpool was arranged for the night of August 14, and the next day saw the city come to a complete halt. Any movement of goods was closely guarded by troops, most of whom were drafted in from outside of Liverpool as the territorials of the city had largely been confined to barracks, the authorities wary of their loyalty3.” (Libcom)

Liverpool August 1911 (Sourced photo: Gunboats article)

“Following Bloody Sunday a convoy of prisoners who had been arrested on that day were being escorted by thirty-two soldiers of the 18th Hussars on horseback fully armed with live ammunition along with mounted Police. A magistrate was also present carrying a copy of the riot act. However before it could be even read a disturbance broke out on Vauxhall road with troops opening fire, injuring five people, two fatally. The victims were John W. Sutcliffe and a twenty-nine year old docker Michael Prendergast. Five days later, on the 19th August two more civilians were shot by troops in Llanelli. These are the last occasions in history when British soldiers have killed civilians on the streets of mainland Britain.” (Gunboats etc)

Troops ride a lorry load of material, Liverpool August 1911 (Sourced photo: Gunboats article)

“However, the strike’s days were numbered. Under intense pressure from the government to end the dispute, the railway employers and moderate leaders of the railwaymen’s union began a series of talks. A deal was struck ensuring that all strikers would be reinstated, and the railwaymen returned to work on August 21, with a general return to work ordered for the next day. Sporadic rioting occurred in working class districts throughout the end of August.” (Libcom)

Troops bearing rifles, Liverpool August 1911 (Sourced photo: Gunboats article)

“The show of strength displayed by the transport workers of Liverpool in 1911 clearly demonstrated the material gains that could be won through cross-industry solidarity. Paving the way for the massive industrial revolts by British workers during 1910-1914, the strike movement inspired similar action throughout the pre-war years.” (Libcom)

COMMENT:

Some historical commentary from the Left criticises the union leadership for their actions in settling the strike but I find it hard to see the justification for this. They got reinstatement of all sacked and locked-out workers (which is a lot more than the union leaders did in 1926 as, under the influence of the Labour Party, they scrambled to call off the General Strike). The alternative would seem to have been to go for revolutionary insurrection (which would certainly have impeded the later carnage of WWI 1914-1918) but: a) is it reasonable to expect revolutionary leadership from trade union leaders and (b) were conditions such that a significantly large section of the workers in Britain would have answered the call to revolution?

A different question is perhaps that of preparation for a possible police charge, of which there had been enough examples. Workers could have been encouraged to prepare pieces of timber as placard holders and staffs as flag and banner-poles. A defeat of a police attack is both a welcome defensive action as well as a confidence-building one for oppressed people.

The role of Churchill is striking in this period, particularly in the midst of recent disputes about his racism in general and his encouraging the setting up of the terror units of the Auxiliary Royal Irish Constabulary (Black and Tans) and the Auxilliary Division in Ireland. Although it must be remembered that Government Ministers generally act as representatives and in the interest of the ruling class, Churchill was a particularly imperialist and capitalist reactionary and had in January of that same year sanctioned the burning of an East End building in which anarchists had taken refuge in the Siege of Sidney Street.

In fact, Churchill was so reactionary and bellicose that during the 1926 General Strike he was kept away from any operational control in the Cabinet and entrusted with editing and producing eight editions of the virulent anti-striker British Gazette. The challenge to the adulation of the British ruling class and sycophantic historical cheerleaders of the historical person of Churchill does not lack for material to justify that challenge.

The fact that local troops in Liverpool could not be trusted by the ruling class is interesting and occurred again during the Glasgow General Strike in 1919 when, arguably a revolution should have been called for. By then the soldiers had been conscripted into a horrific imperialist war and were being prevented from demobilisation because they were going to be needed to suppress the national liberation struggles breaking out across the Empire. And one of those struggles was the War of Independence in Ireland which one can confidently predict would have allied with a British insurrection both from class solidarity and from opportunism. One of the leaders of the Glasgow workers, Willie Gallacher, of Irish descent (so was Tom Mann, by the way), member of the Independent Labour Party and later a Communist, commented later that the workers were ready but that the leaders were not. A revolutionary outlook should alert one that if the ruling class does not trust a part of their repressive forces, the least revolutionaries should do would be to call on those to join the struggle.

Liverpool’s son Jim Larkin was already in Ireland as an organiser for the NUDL and by 1911 leading the breakaway Irish Transport & General Workers Union, with the great struggle of the Lockout still to come in 1913. Then with Edinburgh-born-and-raised James Connolly, he went on to initiate the first workers’ army in the world, the Irish Citizen Army.

The 1911 martyrs of Sutcliffe and Prendergast were recorded as being A contingent of Liverpool city’s Irish diaspora would join the Irish Volunteers and embark for Dublin to take part in the 1916 Rising, when a Royal Navy gunboat would sail up a different river and open fire on what was considered a British city. Later, sailors and dockers operating from Liverpool would be sending consignments of arms to the IRA for their War of Independence.

But in Britain, the workers of Liverpool fought some great battles and those of August 1911 were a harbinger of others to come.

End.


FOOTNOTES

1 (NB: I remember reading about this many years ago and as the anniversary is with us decided to write it up however briefly. I have used material from some articles rather than the articles themselves because some lacked detail, others were more general or I did not agree with descriptions of workers’ motivations being solely about wages and good working conditions. However I hope this article encourages people do their own reading on the events or at the very least raises their awareness of the history of the working class and of its enemies.)

2This was the trade union that employed Jim Larkin as an organiser and also sent him to organise in Belfast. Subsequently Larkin was sent to Dublin where he led the building up the NUDL up very successfully with a number of successful strikes. Subsequently Larkin and the NUDL’s Irish leader, Sexton, parted company after the latter had Larkin tried in court. After that, Larkin founded the Irish Transport & General Workers’ Union and most of the Dublin members of the NUDL left that union to join the ITG&WU, of which James Connolly also became a leader.

3This is similar to the situation of the 1919 Glasgow General Strike, when the locally-garrisoned troops were confined to barracks for fear they’d support the workers.

REFERENCES AND SOURCES

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1911_Liverpool_general_transport_strike

https://libcom.org/history/1911-liverpool-general-transport-strike

https://chbenj23.wordpress.com/2014/08/07/send-the-gunboats-up-the-mersey/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triple_Alliance_(1914)

DUBLIN PICKET AGAINST ONGOING INTERNMENT MARKS 50th ANNIVERSARY OF BRITISH INTERNMENT IN THE SIX COUNTIES

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 5 mins.)

As Limerick and Waterford county teams prepared to face one another in the GAA hurling semi-final at Croke Park stadium, anti-internment protesters and campaigners lined up outside Dublin’s General Post Office, in the city centre, to mark the 50th Anniversary on the introduction of internment without trial in the British colony of the Six Counties. Their placards, leaflets and speakers denounced the continuing practice of interning political activists in Ireland today.

Seen at the anti-internment event in Dublin today (Photo crdt: Sean Hogan)

The event was organised by the Anti-Internment Group of Ireland, an independent and non-affiliated campaigning organisation and the supporters included a mixture of socialist Irish Republicans and anarchists. The heavy and persistent rain of the morning held off and Dublin city centre was thronged as GAA hurling supporters added to the usual shoppers. The banners and placards of the picketers drew considerable interest from those passing and here and there people stopped to discuss with them.

Some young Basque girls were curious but also delighted to see their nation’s flag, the ikurrina, being flown at the event and stopped to engage one of the picketers in discussion. Also in evidence was the flag of Amnistia, Basque organisation around solidarity with its political prisoners and against repression, along with the flag of Palestine.

Flag of the Amnistia organisation (solidarity with their political prisoners) in the Basque Country seen on the anti-internment event in Dublin today (Photo crdt: Sean Hogan)

Around 200 leaflets were distributed to passers-by, discussions were held and contacts were made with people interested in supporting the work of the Anti-Internment Group Ireland.

After some time in a picket line and distributing leaflets, a representative of the organisers, speaking in Irish and in English, welcomed the attendance and introduced a speaker from the Anti-Imperialist Action organisation.

One of the leafleters outside the GPO at the anti-internment event in Dublin today (Photo: C.Sulish)

SPEAKERS

Speaking in Irish as some passers-by stopped to listen, the young man said they were there to commemorate the introduction of internment and mindful of the existence of political prisoners all over the world. The were also protesting the extradition to Lithuania of Liam Campbell to face trial in a country in which he had never previously set foot.

The organisers’ representative then spoke in English about the history of repression in the Six Counties colony, how from the moment the nationalist community there stood up to demand equal rights and justice the State had responded with violence. Since the people raised the level of their resistance in response, the State in turn raised the level of its violence higher again, in a rising spiral of violence.

The nationalist community in the Six Counties had marched for civil rights and had been met with the violence of the colonial police and of the Loyalists — the speaker said — but they had continued to resist. Internment without trial was introduced to break that resistance but, knowing that would also lead to increased resistance, the State had prepared the Paratroopers to shoot unarmed civilians dead. They had done that in Ballymurphy on the very day that internment had been introduced1, he reminded his audience and later had shot dead two unarmed Cumann na mBan Volunteers (Republican women’s organisation) who were alerting people to the raiding parties of the British Army. At the start of the following year, the British Army murdered unarmed civilians again, this time in Derry2.

That year 1972, the speaker stated, had the highest death toll of any year during the three decades of the war3 and Loyalists were also bombing streets nearby in Dublin, again in 1973, killing workers. In 1974 Loyalists and British intelligence bombed the Dublin city centre again and Monaghan, killing the highest number of people killed in one day during the war4. That year too, the IRA bombed pubs in England and killed people and the State brought in the repressive Prevention of Terrorism Act against the Irish community. They jailed a score of innocent people on extremely serious charges5 and one of them, Giuseppe Conlon, died in jail6.

The speaker went on to say that although there had been hard repression before, the introduction of internment without trial and the follow-up massacres by the British Army had lit a fuse to a chain-reaction of violence for decades to follow.

Pointing out that internment consists of jailing people without trial, the speaker stated that the practice continues today, by refusing bail to political activists awaiting trial in the non-jury courts on both sides of the British Border. The Anti-Internment Group of Ireland will continue striving to expose this reality and he called on people to support the monthly pickets in the city centre and to follow the End Internment page on Facebook.

ONGOING AGITATING AGAINST INTERNMENT

As the applause died down people began to pack away flags, banners, placards and leaflets and to catch up socially among themselves or to engage with passers-by who had stopped to listen and/ or to ask questions.

Organisers of the event said they hope to hold another picket at some venue in the city centre in a month’s time – when scheduled, the event will be announced on the End Internment FB page.

End.

Leafleter right foreground, person reading leaflet left foreground, picket line of the anti-internment event in Dublin today. ( Photo: C.Sulish)
(Photo: S.Hogan)


(Photo: S.Hogan)
View of the picket with a passer-by expressing solidarity with the picketers (far right of photo). (Photo: C.Sulish)

FOOTNOTES

1Between 9-11 August, British paratroopers caused the deaths of 11 unarmed civilians in Ballymurphy.

213 people were shot dead by British paratroopers on Bloody Sunday in Derry as they protested against internment and a 14th died later of his wounds.

3The period from August 1971 to the end of the year saw a huge jump to 136 violent deaths (including British and colonial armed forces) and the following year, 1972 is counted the most violent year of the conflict overall with 479 people killed (including 130 British soldiers) and 4,876 injured.

434 people were killed that day, all civilians.

5The Birmingham Six, Guildford Four, Maguire Seven, Giuseppe Conlon and Judith Ward. All were eventually cleared after long years of campaigning around them and failed court appeals.

6Giuseppe Conlon, hearing that his son Gerry had been arrested for the Guildford Pub Bombings, came to London to help him in 1974 and was swept up into the police net to become one of the innocent framed victims. Giuseppe Conlon was not a healthy man and died in his 7th year in jail, before the verdicts on the other framed prisoners were finally overturned. His son Gerry, also an innocent man in jail, was not permitted to attend his father’s funeral.

LOWEST VOTE EVER AGAINST THE NON-JURY COURT — ALL SF TDs GO ABSENT

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: mins.)

The undemocratic non-jury Special Criminal Court was renewed for another year in the Dáil yesterday evening with the lowest abstentions or vote against it ever. All Sinn Féin’s TDs (members of the Irish parliament) absented themselves and FG, FF, Greens and Labour all voted for another year’s renewal, with the Social Democrats abstaining. Seven votes were cast against it, the lowest ever since it was brought in as part of the Offences Against the State Act in 1972.

Voting against renewal were the five PBP/Solidarity TDs (Bríd Smith, Richard Boyd Barrett, Gino Kenny, Mick Barry, Paul Murphy) and the two left-wing Independent TDs: Joan Collins and Thomas Pringle. Sinn Féin, who abstained in 1920 for the first time after decades of opposition, just didn’t attend at all this time. In 1920 they said that they were awaiting a review of the Act promised by the Justice Minister – but without any explanation of what in the review could possibly convince them to keep the Act in place. The Social Democrats, whose amendment to bring the Special Court to an end by a deadline of June 29th next year was rejected, abstained in the vote.

Section of picketers with banner (Photo: Abolish the Special Courts)

SINN FÉIN ABANDONS DECADES OF OPPOSITION TO THE SPECIAL CRIMINAL COURT

Since the Acts’ inception, Sinn Féin has voted against the annual renewal – until last year, when they abstained and this year, absented themselves from the Dáil before the vote. For some years now, the party has been reshaping itself to take part in a coalition government with one of the government parties. Supporters of the party who believe this a necessary disguise to enter the corridors of power and that the party will then return to its Republican past will find that for whatever principle the party gives up voluntarily, a further one will be extracted by pressure. Those who crawl into government will never be able to stand up in it later.

James Geoghegan, FG’s candidate for the forthcoming by-election in Dublin Bay East, taking a swipe at SF’s candidate Lynn Boylan, said “When it comes before both the Dáil and Seanad, what will Sinn Féin and Senator Lynn Boylan do? Will they abstain yet again, which undermines the laws in place to keep our citizens and democratic institutions safe?

“If Senator Boylan wishes to be a senior legislator and member of Dáil Eireann, she must show her support for the institutions of the State and do all in her power to protect the public from criminality and the threat of terrorism.”

Note that Geoghegan has no difficulty in equating support for “democratic institutions” with supporting their very negation, such as jury-less trials.

Voting display in the Dáil (sourced from Abolish the Special Courts)

Sinn Féin party leaders may think that in not opposing the SCC’s renewal, they are abandoning only some Republican principles, as Republicans have been the main victims of the Special Criminal Court to date but in fact they are also colluding in a major attack on civil and human rights, as pointed to by the opposition of civil and human rights organisations to the SCC.

OPPOSITION OUTSIDE THE DÁIL

Picket group at intersection just before Garda barrier. (Photo: Anti-Imperialist Action)

Outside the Dáil, which has been held in the Convention Building on the Dublin quays since the Covid 19 measures, a protest picket took place before the vote. The demonstration was organised by the Abolish the Special Courts campaign and supported by a mixed attendance of Republicans, Socialists and Anarchists.

A number of passing motorists, particularly in company vans and lorries, blew their car horns in solidarity in passing, some also extending a clenched fist or “thumbs up” sign out of their window.

Left Independent TDs Thomas Pringle and Joan Collins joined the picketers for a while and Richard Boyd Barrett chatted with them in passing too; all three posed for a photo while holding a placard against the SCC before returning to the Dáil to speak and vote against the juryless court.

Independent left TDs (Irish MPs) Joan Collins and Thomas Pringle joined the picket for a while. (Photo: Abolish the Special Courts)

The Abolish the Special Courts campaign was launched in 2017 and a public meeting the campaign group organised in Dublin in 2018 heard about a number of then recent cases of unjust convictions in the non-jury courts. Since then the campaign group has organised protests against the SCC.

Group of picketers near the Samuel Beckett Bridge (Photo: Anti-Imperialist Action)

IRISH STATE TERRORIST LEGISLATION ASSISTED BY BRITISH TERRORISM

The Special Criminal Court, as stated earlier, is part of the Offences Against the State Act (OAS) 1939, which is sometimes described as the Irish State’s anti-terror legislation. However, the setting up of the Special Criminal Court and the infamous Amendment to the OAS which allows convictions of “membership of an illegal organisation” solely on the unsupported word of a Garda at superintendent rank or higher, was in fact passed on a wave of hysteria after a terrorist bombing in 1972 by British Intelligence terrorists.

Aftermath of the 1972 car bomb explosion by British agents to have the Dáil vote in favour of the SCC and the Amendment to the Offences Against the State Act. Two public transport workers were killed here. (Photo sourced: Internet)

On the evening of December 1st, 1972, a car bomb exploded near Liberty Hall in Dublin and although there were no fatalities in that explosion, many were injured. A second bomb a short time later at Sackville Place, off O’Connell Street, killed Mr George Bradshaw (29), a bus driver, and Mr Duffy (24), a bus conductor.

The indications had been that Fine Gael and Labour were both going to vote against the Fianna Fáil proposals but in the panic after the the explosions, which were blamed against all logic on the IRA, the opposition to the Acts collapsed and they passed.

THE PRETENCE OF “TEMPORARY PROVISIONS”

The Acts must be voted upon annually because, as with much emergency legislation across the world, the myth is propagated that the provisions are temporary; however these “temporary measures” have now been in place for 82 years! To give another example, the specifically anti-Irish emergency legislation introduced to Britain in 1974, the annually-renewable Prevention of Terrorism Act, was only abolished 15 years later to be replaced by the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1989 (again “Temporary Provisions”) which in turn was replaced by the Terrorism Act 2000.

The powers this Act provide the police have been controversial, leading to noted cases of alleged abuse, and to legal challenges in British and European courts. The stop-and-search powers under section 44 of the Act have been ruled illegal by the European Court of Human Rights.

That Act was strengthened by the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, which was then replaced by Section 1 of the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures 2011. All repressive legislation in Britain has now ceased even the pretence of being temporary.

A similar trajectory has been followed by “emergency” legislation in the Six Counties statelet, from the very creation of the administration in 1921 (with the Emergency Powers Act of 1920), a new Act in 1926, amended in 1964 and replaced by the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, providing unlimited powers of harassment for the colonial police along with refusal of bail, undemocratic bail conditions and easy convictions for the non-jury Diplock Courts.

Section of picketers with banner proclaiming a slogan of the Irish Transport & General Workers Union during WW1 (Photo: Abolish the Special Courts)

NON-JURY COURTS

Historically, on occasion juries have been misled and have also been complicit in unjust verdicts, convicting innocent people (there are infamous cases such as the Irish-related ones in Britain in the 1970s, the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four, Maguire Seven, Giuseppe Conlon and Judith Ward). But much less so than non-jury courts. The right to be tried by a jury empaneled by random selection is considered across the world a fundamental democratic right and, furthermore, is one that has been fought for across the centuries, first to win the actual right, then to apply it across classes and finally to apply it to women and ethnic minorities.

The Six County colony has the Diplock non-jury courts and the Irish State has the SCC, both emergency and undemocratic measures in two states that are supposed to be democracies. Both courts regularly remand accused in custody without bail or impose undemocratic restrictions on the few occasions when bail is granted, such as having to be indoors by a specific time daily, prohibition from attending political meetings, etc. At trial, the required burden of proof on the Prosecution is very light indeed, ensuring an unnaturally high rate of convictions.

Richard Boyd Barrett TD of PBP/Solidarity, holding placard, supporting the picket. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

The Irish Council of Civil Liberties, which was founded in 1976 by people concerned about the increase in repressive powers of the Irish State, has stated that the court “continues to represent the single biggest denial of fair trial rights in our legal system”. The SCC has also been condemned by Amnesty International and the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations.

Whereas apologists for these undemocratic and repressive measures argue that non-jury courts are necessary because jurors might be intimidated, they fail to produce evidence of this having happened. However, there is hard evidence of unjust convictions by the Special Criminal Court.

In 2017 Michael Connolly, who had already spent 14 months in prison had his SCC conviction for alleged membership of the IRA overturned and a retrial ordered, during which he was found “not guilty”. Assistant Commissioner of the Gardaí Michael O’Sullivan was judged to have been “careless” in producing a single piece of “evidence” twice as the basis of his belief of the man’s guilt, which made it appear that there were two pieces of evidence, which the SCC considered sufficient to convict.

In 1986 the Special Criminal Court found Osgur Breatnach, Brian McNally and Nicky Kelly guilty of robbing a mail train near Sallins, Co. Kildare. They were innocent but had “confessed” after beatings in Garda custody, which the Prosecution claimed they had inflicted upon themselves and which the SCC accepted despite vigorous denials and the fact that Breatnach had been in a cell on his own. The three were sentenced to between nine and 12 years but their convictions were later overturned and they were paid compensation by the State in acknowledgement of their innocence. “Whistleblower”, a multi-media work on the unjust convictions organised by musician Cormac Breatnach, a brother of one of the victims of the SCC, has won Irish and international awards –but the SCC continues in operation and to be supported by TDs year after year.

SHAME!

This year and last were the worst years in the existence of the undemocratic court, with lowest votes ever recorded against it. As the Abolish Special Courts campaign succinctly summarised the vote in the Dáil: “Shame on those who used to support the abolition of non-jury special courts who now vote in favour of it, abstain or don’t show up to vote at all.”

End.

Line-up of protesters for a photo as picket draws to a close (Photo : Anti-Imperialist Action)

SOURCES & REFERENCES

Vote and SF absence: https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/politics/arid-40321172.html

Vote and Social Democrat amendment: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/oireachtas/sinn-f%C3%A9in-tds-leave-d%C3%A1il-before-vote-on-use-of-special-criminal-court-1.4601771

Content and history of the SCC: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_Criminal_Court

British bomb helped repressive legislation to pass: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/british-behind-1972-dublin-attack-widow-tells-hearing-1.1296467

Most recent ICCL statement about the SCC: https://www.iccl.ie/2021/special-criminal-court-denying-fair-trial-rights-for-half-a-century/

Abolish the Special Courts campaign group: https://www.facebook.com/Abolish-The-Special-Courts-208341809705138

“Temporary Provisions” of “emergency legislation”: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terrorism_Act_2000

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prevention_of_Terrorism_Act_2005

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Emergency_laws_in_the_United_Kingdom

Some unjust convictions of political activists in the SCC: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/wronged-man-still-seeking-answers-40-years-after-sallins-train-robbery-1.3673264

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

Whistleblower Project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0rpGo6F6_Y

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/courts/state-facing-significant-compensation-bill-over-miscarriage-of-justice-1.4535359

SPANISH POLICEMAN ARRESTED WAITRESS BECAUSE HE DIDN’T LIKE HIS COFFEE — TO APPEAR IN COURT

(Reading time: 5 mins.)

E. Conde NOTICIAS DE NAVARRA (translation by D.Breatnach)

Never could a coffee have been so bitter. This Wednesday the First Section of the Provincial Court of Navarra is to judge a Guardia Civil officer, belonging to the Citizen Security Unit of the Command of Navarra, accused by the Prosecutor’s Office and the private prosecution of the crime of illegal detention by a public official after he arrested a waitress at a gas station, with whom he argued because the coffee was not to his liking. They ask for him to be fined a sum of 2,160 euros and that he be disqualified for nine years from his post. In addition, they demand that he compensate the victim with 1,000 euros for moral damage.

The events occurred around 10:30 p.m. on July 27, 2019 when the defendant, a Guardia Civil since 2005, in command of a unit arrived with his colleague at the Acciona service station on the A-12, in the area of Legarda. There they went into the café and ordered some coffees. According to the Prosecutor’s Office, “since he did not like the coffee, he argued with the waitress and manager, who was serving the rest of the customers.”

Neither the complaint form nor her driver’s license was acceptable to him

He did not restrict himself to mere protest. He requested the complaint sheet, arguing with her to give it to him immediately. The defendant considered that said sheet was not the corresponding one and asked for her National ID and the woman gave him her driving license. The Guardia insisted that this sheet was not the correct one and considered her driving licence identification insufficient.

The waitress continued working, but the defendant called her, made her step outside away from where the customers could see what was happening and “with abuse of authority, telling her that she was disrespectful”, proceeded to arrest her at around 10:45 p.m. and to put her in the patrol car. She was taken to the Puente la Reina barracks, and handcuffed as a detainee. She was held until 2:00 am, when a statement was taken and she was released. As a result, the victim suffered from anxiety.

During the investigation of the case there was an attempt to resolve the matter by the criminal mediation procedure but as this was unsuccessful, it goes to trial. In principle, any possibility of agreement is ruled out since the officer, if convicted of said crime, would be disqualified from any similar job for a relevant period of time.

COMMENT

by Diarmuid Breatnach

The case is an extreme example of a common aspect of the Guardia Civil – arrogance, a sense of entitlement and impunity and lack of respect for issues of justice or ordinary people. Contempt and hostility towards socialists, LGBT and aspirations of the nations within the state are common too but, although this took place in Nafarroa, in one of the Basque regional autonomies, the report does not reveal whether this played a part.

The Guardia Civil is one of two “national” police forces of the Spanish State and the oldest police force of the kingdom. It is a gendarmerie, an armed police force with military organisation and role in addition to a civil one, such as the Gendarmerie of the French state, Carabinieri of the Italian state and the Royal Irish Constabulary all over Ireland until 1921 and its remnant, the Police Force of Northern Ireland (British colony) today. The force is quartered in barracks for accommodation with police station facilities, cells etc.

GUARDIA CIVIL AND FASCISM

When the fascist-military coup was launched against the republican Popular Front Government of the Spanish state in 1936, the Guardia Civil split evenly between those who remained loyal to the Government and those who defected to the fascist-military, with those loyal becoming the Guardia Republicana. However, that percentage was in the lowest order of police force loyalty to the republican Government, with elected government loyalty in other police forces at around 70% of membership. After the defeat of the republican forces, the superior officer of the Guardia Republicana, General José Aranguren was tried by Francoist military court, sentenced to death and executed in Barcelona.

Often thought to be of Franco prisoners during the Civil War, in fact this photo is of prisoners of the Guardia Civil during the suppression of the Asturias Miners’ Strike in 1934 by General Franco during the right-wing period of the Republican Government, which was overturned in the 1936 elections of the Popular Front. (Photo sourced: Internet)

In the areas conquered by the fascist-military forces and in the whole state after the defeat of the republican forces, the Guardia Civil were one of the chief forces seeking out and rounding up former supporters of the republican Government along with communists, socialists, anarchists, republicans, Basque, Catalan and Galician nationalists. Most of the detainees were brought before military courts and either sentenced to death, to penal servitude or to heavy fines and confiscations of property. Some never made it to court, being summarily executed. Rapes were also recorded and infants of murdered parents were trafficked to fascist childless families.

In the nations that had shown wishes for independence or autonomy, such as Catalonia and the southern Basque Country (of which Navarre is a part), along with other areas where antifascist resistance had been strong such as some areas of Madrid, the Guardia Civil was a constant and visible force of surveillance and repression of the civil population in terms of culture, morality and politics.

Guardia Civil searching country area during the later decades of the Franco regime. (Photo sourced: Internet)

During times of guerrilla conflict, the Guardia at times killed prisoners and routinely tortured detainees during interrogation (the Wikipedia entry says that they were accused of “heavy-handedness”!). Colonel Tejero of the Guardia Civil led 200 of that force in a failed attempted coup in 1981 which included an armed invasion of the Spanish Parliament. Several Guardia including very high-ranking officers were convicted of organising the fascist murder squads of the 1980s (GAL etc) run by the Spanish PSOE Government.

The Guardia until recently was the primary police force acting against the Basque national resistance and numerous of their detainees over decades have testified to being tortured, humiliated (including sexually) and threatened almost immediately after arrest, during their transportation by the Guardia to the force’s barracks in Madrid, where the torture etc continued up to the five days incommunicado detention permitted under Spanish State “anti-terrorist” legislation. The treatment usually produced “confessions” which were then used to secure a conviction and long prison sentence. The European Court of Human Rights has a number of times found the Spanish State guilty of not investigating allegations of torture by detainees and a number of human rights organisations such as Amnesty International have condemned the impunity of the torturers.

Guardia Civil in action in Catalonia during the Referendum on independence there on 1st October 2017. (Photo sourced: Internet)

The Guardia Civil frequently break up demonstrations and in 2017 both they and the Policía Nacional invaded Catalonia in force, the Guardia Civil seizing ballot boxes in the Catalonia Independence Referendum and beating voters and people protesting their actions (also firing rubber bullets which are banned by the regional Government).

Since 2020, actions against Basque and Catalan independence campaigners have been carried out mostly by their autonomous regional police forces (Ertzaintza and Forales in the Basque autonomous regions and Mossos d’Escuadra in Catalonia) but, if charged with “terrorism” or “security crimes”, detainees were delivered to the Guardia Civil who then took them to Madrid for interrogation.

(Photo sourced: Internet)

SOURCES

There report on the case:

https://www.noticiasdenavarra.com/actualidad/sociedad/2021/03/22/juzgan-guardia-civil-navarra-arresto/1131185.html?

Extremely sanitised Wikipedia description of the Guhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gendarmerieardia Civil: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_Guard_(Spain)

Gendarmerie:

Amnesty international report 1976: https://www.irekia.euskadi.eus/uploads/attachments/10710/Amnistia_Internacional1976.pdf

1985 Torture, murder of Basque activists and subsequent cursory investigation: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/old-bones-reveal-dark-side-1.262790

1993 murder of Basque activist detainee: https://medium.com/@stewreddin/they-came-for-her-in-the-morning-f4585ddc8c07

UN Committee on 2007 kidnapping and torture (including sexual) of Basque activist: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24629&LangID=E

European Council investigation into allegations of mistreatment of migrants 2015: http://webfolder.eurac.edu/MIDAS/1C28407F-517E-41C1-9EB5-8AE40974577C/0/EgunkariaEgunon3250203.pdf