NAVIGATING PROPAGANDA TO ARRIVE AT TRUTH

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 9 mins.)

We are surrounded by propaganda: to favour this or that political and economic system, those products, accept this way of life and to reject that other, to emulate or aspire to be like those people or to reject others …. The propaganda is constant but perhaps most evident in times of conflict: social conflict and wars in particular. We cannot be free of it but we can attempt to navigate it, to reach that fabled destination, the port of Truth.

Political propaganda by Cartoon: Left, Chancellor of the Exchequer Sunak shown as superhero, saving the economy and Right, former Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn shown as a Russian, suggesting he is a communist. (Images sourced: Internet)

OUR OWN PERSONAL BIAS

Firstly, we need to be aware of our own personal bias. Are we for reasons of culture, position, location or habit likely to incline to one side rather than to the other? Of course, that might be the right (or least bad) side but ….. are we being blinded by our own bias?

Our own personal biases are formed through our familial group, our schooling, training and experiences but some are engendered through the wider society, our culture.

Our cultural bias in the western world and, in particular in the English-speaking one, is towards the USA. We watch films in which the admired characters have UStater accents and even employ UStater turns of phrase and idioms1; their life-styles are recogniseably western. These cultural products cover a range from comedy to thriller or tragedy, their situations varying from urban to rural life, their genres from romance to crime to war to science fiction. In fact, both latter genres tend to present us with war-heroes who not only speak like UStaters but evoke the armed forces of the United States, whether in past real armed conflicts or in imagined ones to come. Earlier Irish generations were familiar with the dramatised plight of European settlers in the western regions of the USA being attacked by Indigenous people, only to be saved by the arrival of the US military – in that genre, the US Cavalry.2

Another major cultural influence on the English-speaking world is the UK and, to a lesser extent3, Australia. Although in Ireland there is a certain residual historical resistance to UK acculturation, some UK cultural products gained a large enough following, particularly the Coronation Street and EastEnders series4.

In comics the characters and often their environments are identifiably Western — usually of the USA5 — and even the popular Asian-based ones tend to have their facial features shaded towards European ones. Many of the electronic games also have a Western cultural bias.

And of course, we speak English. A high proportion of the Irish population is English-monoglot and even among Irish/English bilinguals, either the English is dominant or at least easily-accessible. From childhood to adulthood we see signs in English, hear it on the street, use it daily in most places, read it, are educated and instructed through it, access the Internet through it – in fact, we mostly think in English. All of which makes the pathways for accessing US and UK cultural products easy and our acceptance of the dominant discourse more probable.

Dominant discourse is of course a fact of life, some aspects of which are necessary for our social existence but other aspects of which are laden with unhelpful cultural and even political bias. We need to be alert to those aspects and prepared to investigate and analyse them.

Sometimes it looks like just about everyone is in agreement with a particular opinion and it is also the one that accords with our own inbuilt bias. Now we need to be REALLY careful, because those are two factors working together to put us at our ease on one side of a conflict and making it very difficult for us to even investigate the fact that the dominant discourse, on at least this occasion, might be mistaken. And clearly at times in history widely-accepted views HAVE been wrong – the literal seven-day creation belief, the sun going around the earth, the divine right of monarchs, the unsuitability of women for equality, the unnatural inclination of gay and lesbian people ……

OUR SOURCES

In conjunction with being aware of and taking into account our own bias and prejudices, we need to the same with our sources of information, which in industrial and post-industrial cultures – apart from educational establishments — is mostly the mass media: television, newspapers and the Internet (in particular social media).

All the owners of non-State-owned mass media that we access (and that in turn accesses us) are capitalists and not only that but monopoly capitalist. Although he has recently exited his media empire6, this was the situation six years ago: “Denis O’Brien, reputedly Ireland’s richest man, is the largest shareholder in the country’s largest newspaper publisher, Independent News & Media (INM). That company has now agreed a deal to add seven more newspaper titles to its stable by acquiring the Celtic Media Group (CMG). They include the Anglo-Celt in Cavan, the Meath Chronicle and the Connaught Telegraph in Mayo. In all, it extends INM’s footprint to five more counties.

“INM is already the major player at national level. It publishes Ireland’s two largest-selling titles, the Irish Independent and Sunday Independent, plus the Sunday World and the Dublin Herald. It also has 50% of the Irish Daily Star. O’Brien’s other media company, Communicorp, owns Ireland’s two leading commercial radio talk stations: Newstalk and Today FM. In addition, it owns Dublin’s 98FM, SPIN 1038, TXFM and SPIN South West.”7

Media companies in the USA went from 50 1984 only six conglomerates controlling 90% of the United States’s in 2011: GE/Comcast (NBC, Universal), News Corp (Fox News, Wall Street Journal, New York Post), Disney (ABC, ESPN, Pixar), Viacom (MTV, BET, Paramount Pictures), Time Warner (CNN, HBO, Warner Bros.), and CBS (Showtime, NFL.com).8

“Take the UK’s newspaper industry: in a national market of 20 daily and Sunday newspaper titles, just three companies control 90 percent of newspaper circulation. Lord Rothermere’s DMG Media—publishers of the Daily Mail, the Mail on Sunday, the Metro, and the i—accounts for almost 40 percent of all national newspapers sold each week in the UK, while Rupert Murdoch’s News UK and Reach (which publishes the Mirror and Express titles) command one-third and one-fifth of the market, respectively.

“When online readers are included, the same companies control a four-fifths market share among the major newspaper groups, giving these publishers an unparalleled influence for setting the agenda across the rest of the news media.”9

“Most of the social media we use on our laptops, Iphones or tablets is owned by five conglomerates in the USA: Meta Platforms, Inc., doing business as Meta and formerly known as Facebook, Inc., …..is the parent organization of Faecebook, Instragram and WhatsApp among other subsidiaries. Meta is one of the world’s most valuable companies. It is one of the Big Five American companies, alongside Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft.”10

It should not surprise us if that media exhibits a strong bias towards capitalism, for example in praising businessmen (capitalists) and businesses (exploitation operations) and in criticising or slanted reporting on strikes (workers’ resistance) or on what they might term ‘terrorism’ (but is often oppressed people’s resistance).

The State-owned media, in the UK the BBC and RTÉ in Ireland, are not of course the property of capitalists, however the states in question are capitalist states. It would be surprising therefore if such media were to take a stance in opposition to that of their state and their dominant classes and, by an large they do not. If, in times of conflict elements within the program-making sections of the State-owned media veer significantly away from the State’s line, official reprimands, cuts in funding, sackings and outright censorship may follow.11

This mass media, as well as being orientated in defence of monopoly capitalism, is also orientated towards the expansion of monopoly capitalism beyond its origins, i.e imperialism. And imperialists have their alliances, by far the largest of which is the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, or NATO in acronym. That alliance is led by what is still the largest imperialist superpower in the world, the USA.

We may note that the antithesis of capitalism is socialism but a capitalist or imperialist system of one state may be in contention with that of another such state which in fact often happens, even occasionally breaking out in war, as was the case with WWI, when the then-dominant imperialist alliance led by the UK and France was challenged by the weaker one of Germany and Turkey.

And mentioning socialism brings to a consideration of alternative media, including that of the Socialist and Irish Republican movements. Briefly we can note that just because they declare their opposition to the status quo does not mean necessarily a) that they are indeed so opposed, or b) that they have examined and challenged their own bias or c) therefore that their analysis is correct. Indeed both the Irish Socialist and Republican movements have made huge mistakes over the last hundred years or more and, in addition, during the height of the Covid19 pandemic we saw a plethora of misinformation ranging from the fascist and racist to the fantasticaly paranoid from sources opposed to the status quo12.

NAVIGATION

With the preparations and precautions entailed in the above completed, we are ready to sail, to navigate the propaganda ocean on board the MV Investigator. Let us take the stormy propaganda seas around the Ukraine conflict for our voyage.

According to the Russian Government, ethnic Russians were under attack in parts of the Ukraine after a coup overthrew the Ukrainian Government in 2014. Furthermore, it claims that US/NATO supported that coup and, in addition, has been gathering up states to its military alliance to encircle Russia, which it sees as a threat to the existence of the Russian state. In addition, Russia claims the Ukrainian government has fascist elements in its polity including a nazi battalion incorporated into its national military. Therefore it has invaded Ukraine in order to protect its own state and to “de-nazify” the Ukraine.

According to the Ukrainian Government and the USA, along with most Western governments, all of Russia’s claims are lies and just an excuse for it to grab land in the Ukraine, in order to extend its dominion further.

The Western media supports the Ukrainian Government and USA discourse on these issues and, on the rare occasion when it quotes the Russian one, negates it or casts doubt upon it.

So, to the navigation. The first thing is that we cannot trust the Western discourse but on the other hand can we totally discount it? We cannot trust it because it is part of a capitalist and imperialist bloc centred around the USA and NATO. On the other hand, Russia might be lying and the Western media might be correct on this occasion. After all, Russian troops HAVE invaded the sovereign state (something we usually see from the USA or NATO) of Ukraine.

Map showing Nato states in Europe (Image sourced: Internet)

So, let’s investigate! A look at the map will in fact show a large number of states in East Europe that have progressively become part of NATO and Ukraine, which shares a border with Russia, was heading that way, according to even non-Russian analysis.13 And Russia has been complaining about this for years. In addition, the elected neutral Ukrainian government WAS overthrown by a violent coup in 2014, one which was welcomed by western media. And fascists WERE active in that coup and the Azov Battalion IS full of fascists and nazis (even according to US and Canadian government circles along with human rights groups, including in Israel, only a few years ago).

But the Russian regime anti-fascist? That is something else. Far-Right groups including openly Nazi ones have proliferated across Russia since the collapse of the USSR and there is little evidence that the Russian regime has been trying to eliminate them. De-nazification should start in your own territory first, right?

So a reasonable conclusion on the available evidence is that Putin’s statement about de-nazification is mere propaganda for international and domestic consumption but his real and primary motive for the invasion is the security of Russia and the withdrawal of NATO from its borders.

Might there be an element of acquiring some more Ukrainian territory and stragic locations there? Of course there might. So how to test that? What about if NATO agrees to withdraw, Ukraine declares its neutrality but demands withdrawal from its recently-conquered territory? Russia would have to comply or to expose its supposed territorial ambitions.

However, NATO is currently refusing to withdraw from Russia’s borders and the Western media is supporting it ideologically as well as pouring arms into Ukraine; NATO denies Russia’s declared motivation but declines to put it to the test.

Mentioning “land-grabbing” also raises the issues of the Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Those regions had a high proportion of ethnic Russians — the Crimea in particular nearly totally Russian-speaking — and according to numerous sources, came under attack from Ukrainian nationalist forces from 2014. The Western media says that Russia “annexed” the Crimea; however Crimea had an autonomous parliament and voted to secede from the Ukraine – it was not overthrown in a violent coup as was the neutral Ukrainian one. Subsequently Crimea asked for Russian protection from attack by the Ukrainian military (including in particular those Azov fascist fighters). Donetsk and Luhansk regions also asked for protection, according to the Russians while, according to the West, they were also annexed by Russia.

Ethnic map of the region (however not including Gypsies, Jews and Poles). The brown peninsula bottom centre is the Crimea; two top right regions are Donestk and Luhansk. (Image sourced: Internet)

CONTINUING THE NAVIGATION

Those are the fundamental points to think about during the conflict but we will be presented with reports of “kidnapping” of thousands of civilians by the Russians from the battle-zones on the one hand, with the “rescue” of thousands by the Ukrainian military on the other. Of course, any war impacts severely upon civilians in the war zones, as we have seen in conflicts from Vietnam to ireland to the Balkans, from Palestine to Yemen. What is happening in the Ukraine is a war, with bullets and missiles being fired by both sides and, furthermore, most of the fighting is taking place in and around heavily-populated areas. But are civilians and civilian buildings really being targeted by the Russians? They may or may not be but certainly the damage and casualties would be much higher if, as a matter of course, that were the case. Are civilians being used as hostages and shields by the Ukrainian military as some have alleged? They may be but it is difficult to prove or disprove that when the battle is taking place in an urban area.

We have to seek the actual causes of the war, rather than its features, to seek a workable and hopefully long-lasting solution.

WHAT ABOUT CENSORSHIP?

The fact is that all sides are practicing censorship. While the western media was quick to tell us that Russia had banned the BBC’s news service, it took a bit of searching to find out that had occurred after the UK banned RT, the Russian broadcasting service. We now learn that China has also banned Facebook and the BBC – the latter perhaps in response to the banning of RT but Facebook perhaps for lifting its ban and Tier 1 classification14 of Azov, the neo-nazi fighters incorporated into the Ukrainian military.

Currently, as an example of Western censorship, the Oliver Stone documentary Ukraine On Fire (2016) has been taken down off Youtube and according to users, rarely lasts more than a day if posted up anew.

And Naom Chomsky, veteran US-based anti-imperialist, who would normally be widely quoted in the Socialist media, is hardly ever heard or seen. Oh, he’s talking and writing alright but his discourse does not match the dominant one in the West — nor currently in the Western Left — and therefore he is excluded from their media.

Naom Chomsky, linguist and critic of imperialism often quoted by the Western Left but mostly silenced by them during the Ukrainian conflict. (Photo sourced: Internet)

CAN WE MOVE, PROCEED, ACT?

Obviously we cannot proceed through life in a permanent doubt – that would paralyse us, make us incapable of movement in any direction. We must come to a decision, at least for the time being, to allow us to act. But while we proceed on the basis of our certainties or at least assumptions, we need to be able to keep a part of our mind alert, questioning, challenging and – at some point – ready to dissent from the ideological environment in which we find ourselves and ready to consider taking a different – even oppositional – opinion and path.

This is the way we can navigate through the sea and storms of propaganda to a the desired landing on Truth. However, we need to remember that “truth” is an approximation, that it changes shape and what was true yesterday may not be true tomorrow. It is a floating land, not necessarily where it was when last charted, even when the most recent cartographers were not dishonest. Nevertheless, we are required to act, to act in the real world and therefore must reject paralysis. We find the nearest we can to the truth, test it and act upon it – but ready to amend our understanding if necessary.

We set sail.

End.

Chart for navigating the Propaganda Seas (Image: D.Breatnach)

FOOTNOTES

1The interjection of irrelevant “like” in conversations (e.g “I was like just leaving …”), the grammatically incorrect “I’m good” response to query-greetings, ‘hip’ interjections such as “dude” and even the “OK” for positive confirmation (in our lexicon since the 1950s), have all reached us from the USA.

2That film trope has led to a popular saying regarding last-minute deliveration, probably even employed by people who are unaware of its origin: “Saved by the Cavalry”. Of course, the Indigenous, who are having their lands stolen, their way of life and other parts of their culture destroyed and their resistance massacred, never have a last-minute salvation, neither in fiction nor in reality.

3Though we still hear “No worries” in reassurance, a phrase introduced by Australian soap-operas such as “Neighbours” screened on UK television channels in the 1980s and ‘90s.

4These two in particular propagated a very biased view of working class and lower-middle class people in Britain. The Coronation Street (note the monarchical tone of even the title) series, based on the Salford area near Birmingham, despite being an area settled by successive waves of migrants such as Irish (Engels even referred to them in his 1845 Condition of the Working Class in England), Caribbean and South Asian, did not include characters of migrant background for decades and it was not until 2019 that it introduced its first Black family characters. When the British soaps first provided characters of Irish background, both Coronation Street and EastEnders produced negative types without positive Irish characters to balance them.

5In the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s the majority of the comics bought in Ireland were English, from the younger age-orientated Dandy, Beano to the older-orientated range of Bunty, Judy and June for girls and, for boys, Eagle, Hotspur, Victor and the exclusively military Commando and War Picture Library series along with the Amazing Fantasy series. The US contributed super-hero series Marvel Comics and a range of both cartoon and realistic characters in Dell Comics. There was no competition from any Irish-focused publisher (nor is there yet to any real degree).

6https://www.irishtimes.com/business/media-and-marketing/o-brien-exits-irish-media-after-30-years-of-mixed-fortunes-1.4495046

7See News & Current Affairs Monopolies in Sources at the end of this article

8Ibid.

9https://tribunemag.co.uk/2021/04/britains-media-monopoly-is-a-threat-to-democracy

10https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meta_Platforms#:~:text=Throughout%20its%20existence%2C%20Facebook%2C%20Inc,billion%20in%20cash%20and%20stock.

11Perhaps the most extreme (or the most pulblic) such cases were the UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher criticism of the BBC for the content of its drama and current affairs programming, going so far as to ban interviewing of prominent Irish Republicans from 1988 to 1994 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BBC_controversies#1988%E2%80%931994:_Sinn_F%C3%A9in_broadcast_ban, a ban also promulgated by Irish Governments on RTÉ in 1971 and again during the 1976-1994 period https://www.rte.ie/brainstorm/2021/0507/1217560-section-31-broadcasting-ban-censorshop-troubles/

12It is also worth noting that censorship, misrepresentation of different views and verbal abuse towards those who challenge the views of the alternative media make using them to arrive at the truth more than problematic and this has been nowhere more evident than in the coverage and discussion of the conflict in Ukraine.

13In fact we can see a similar US-led encirclement of Russia in the Middle East too.

14 A classification that included ISIS and bars users from engaging in “praise, support, or representation” of blacklisted entities across the company’s platforms.

SOURCES

“Saved by the Cavalry”: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheCavalry

Comics in 1950s and ‘60s Ireland: 1https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/books/just-dandy-26629681.html

https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/the-joys-jolts-and-jingoism-of-old-children-s-books-1.1877172

News & Current Affairs Monopolies

Ireland: https://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2016/sep/07/should-ireland-allow-denis-obriens-media-empire-larger

https://www.irishtimes.com/business/media-and-marketing/o-brien-exits-irish-media-after-30-years-of-mixed-fortunes-1.4495046

USA: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media_conglomerate#:~:text=By%202011%2C%2090%25%20of%20the,Showtime%2C%20NFL.com).

UK: https://tribunemag.co.uk/2021/04/britains-media-monopoly-is-a-threat-to-democracy

Social Media: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meta_Platforms#:~:text=Throughout%20its%20existence%2C%20Facebook%2C%20Inc,billion%20in%20cash%20and%20stock.

News & Current Affairs Censorship

In the UK: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BBC_controversies#1988%E2%80%931994:_Sinn_F%C3%A9in_broadcast_ban

In the Irish state: https://www.rte.ie/brainstorm/2021/0507/1217560-section-31-broadcasting-ban-censorshop-troubles/

From the USA, over the world: Oliver Stone documentary trailer: https://www.imdb.com/video/vi4058495257?playlistId=tt5724358&ref_=vp_rv_ap_0

Facebook lifting its ban on Azov Batallion: https://theintercept.com/2022/02/24/ukraine-facebook-azov-battalion-russia/

USA’s ambitions bring danger of war

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 13 mins.)

“Wars and rumours of wars …”1 The sabres are rattling around Eastern Europe. The mass media in our latitudes largely takes the position of the USA under the guise of democracy; however with some text and the use of a few maps I hope to show that Russia’s position is essentially defensive in this regard and that the USA is the main aggressor. I hope to do that without expressing any support for the Russian regime.

WHAT IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING?

The USA sees Russia as its main opponent or competitor in Europe and has been working since the post-WWII decades to neutralise it, earlier under the guise of stopping the spread of “communism” and defending “democracy”. Since the fall of the USSR system the talk is no longer about defeating “communism” but “defending democracy” continues to used in anti-Russian rhetoric. Russia is no democracy but the notion that the US, the world superpower, the biggest imperialist power on the planet since WWII, cares about democracy should make us laugh. It would perhaps, except that the mass media keeps feeding us the USA’s rhetoric and shaping us to support it in war.

The USA is actually squeezing Russia from two directions — from Europe and from the Middle East. NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is a US-led military alliance which now has the membership of most states in the EU, along with the UK and nearly every state of the former USSR to the west of Russia. A look at the map of NATO states will demonstrate that2. Nearly every state in the Middle East is also formally or informally in the sphere of influence of US imperialism3.

“Russia says it wants Western guarantees that Nato will not allow Ukraine and other former Soviet countries to join as members. Moscow has also demanded the alliance halt weapons deployments to Ukraine and roll back its forces from eastern Europe – demands flatly rejected by the West.4

Map NATO & non-NATO countries in Europe, showing also periodic expansion (Source: The Economist)

So the Russian ruling class is naturally worried and feeling besieged. On or near their European borders they only have Sweden, Finland, Moldova, Belarus and Ukraine which are not formally part of NATO and Ukraine has clearly indicated an interest in that direction. Beyond those last three aforementioned, all the states through central Europe are NATO members right through to the UK: Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania actually bordering on Russia, with – heading generally westward and south-westward– Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Albania, Greece, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France and UK. In addition, some of those states have highly-developed military power such as Germany and two of them have nuclear armament of their own — UK and France – while the US has ready-to-launch nuclear missiles on the lands of many of the NATO states — Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey5.

Sweden, Austria and Switzerland may remain nominally neutral but are in general politically aligned with the EU and the USA rather than with Russia, while non-NATO Finland is definitely, for historical and geographical reasons, extremely wary of its Russian neighbour.

The smaller non-NATO states of the former Yugoslavia – Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Montenegro and Kosovo are in some cases friendly towards Russia (or not overly-friendly towards NATO) but they are completely surrounded by NATO states.

On its borders with the Middle East, Russia is also being squeezed. Turkey has long been a major NATO state in the region and only Georgia is located between it an Russia to the latter’s south-west, with Armenia and Azerbaijan to its south-east. Nearly all of the states in the Middle East are in formal or informal alliance with the West and therefore with the US: Cyprus, Lebanon, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar and United Arab Emirates. Yemen is embroiled in its own Saudi and West-proxy war, while Syria is threatened by Israel, Turkey and NATO. Only Iran is fairly safe for the moment on that part of Russia’s border, which is why Russia will take its side in any conflict with the West, despite the Russian ruling class’ dislike of and vulnerability in some regions, as in Chechnya, to militant fundamentalist Islam.

Middle East states and Russia (Source: Internet)

Syria is next to Iran which is also why Russia has been supporting the Assad regime and why, during the past week, it has warned Israel about its bombing raids into Syria as the latter attacks Hizbollah bases there. In fact we may see the invasions by western alliances of Iraq and Libya as part of huge US/NATO ‘domino’ plan to attack Syria with Iran next; then the pressure on Azerbaijan and Georgia on Russia’s doorstep. While on the eastern side of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan are also allies of the West ….

Further east, there is India which has long been friendly to Russia and in tussles with Pakistan — and China, which is not openly hostile to Russia as a rule but which is not a real friend either, though its competition and contention with the US keeps it friendly enough towards Russia for the moment.

What the Russian ruling class is doing is attempting to bring a halt to its encirclement by NATO at the point of Ukraine. And the US-NATO and EU are issuing a counter-threat – an open one of sanctions and a more veiled one, in the case of US-NATO, of armed action.

This week it appears that some parts of Ukraine have sought to break away from the main part, probably instigated by Russia or at least promised support if they did – which has materialised in Russian diplomatic recognition and in troop movements. This may amount to an annexation or may not but what is clear is that Russia, in the face of what it considers a threat to its existence and NATO intransigence, has decided to take some decisive action.

WHAT IS REPORTED

The western mass media reports the situation painting a picture of big powerful Russia threatening its much smaller neighbour, by threat of invasion seeking to force it into submission to Russia’s regime, in denial of the small nation’s democratic rights. And the democratic West, through NATO, is moving troops to support the Ukraine, warning Russia of consequences.

Russian Tanks and Troops Reportedly entering part of Ukraine (Photo source: The Telegraph)

The picture contains much truth but overall it is a lie. Russia is much bigger than the Ukraine and it is threatening it with troop movements. And NATO is moving troops up to counter-threaten. But to evaluate a situation properly, we need to know its antecedents, what led up to it. We also need to see the situation through the eyes of the participants, whether we agree with them or not. The mass media, apart from a couple of honest analysts tucked away inside a newspaper, far from the headlines, does not supply us with that information.

The Irish Times, one of Ireland’s main daily newspapers, on 12 February reported that “Russia’s military build-up near Ukraine and a surge of Russia’s military activity has fueled fears that Russia could invade the country. Russia denies having any such plans. However a US official has said that the US had picked up intelligence that Russia is looking at Wednesday as a target date for an incursion.”

So on the basis of the quoted paragraph, we were to draw the conclusion that Russia was threatening to invade Ukraine. OK, Russia denied it but then why the military buildup near Ukraine? Finally, the authority voice of the USA, quoting what we are supposed to see as excellent intelligence sources (which we cannot of course question), predicting a probable Russian invasion four days away. So which state are most people in this part of the world likely to believe, the Russians or the US?

Some weeks earlier, on 25th January, another Irish daily newspaper, the Examiner, reported on reactions to a Russian naval fleet exercise in the Atlantic. The Irish Government told the Russians the exercise was not welcome although not illegal6, because the area of the exercise is regarded as international waters. This from the same government that facilitates US military flights via Shannon airport, i.e on its own national territory. And NATO carries out at least one major exercise in European waters annualy, with the UK doing so twice yearly without complaint from the Irish Government.7

The Ukrainian Ambassador to Ireland, Ms Gerasko moved to take advantage of the situation “A plan to hold a major exercise by the Russian navy and air force in the Atlantic off the southwest coast of Ireland is yet another demonstration of the threat that Russia poses for the world,” she said, in a statement to the Irish Examiner.” 8

Attempts were made at the same time to whip up Irish offshore fishermen against the Russians and to whip up the Irish public in defence of “our fishermen”. The latter project failed miserably since the Russian Ambassador to Ireland met and negotiated with the fishermen, leading one of their leaders to comment that the Russians had treated his members better than their own (Irish) government.

We might expect an alternative discourse about the Ukraine crisis from Al Jazeera but its report on the 24th of January, although emphasising US military movements in the area, attached a number of articles which were generally relaying the western line. The Irish Independent carried a much more in-depth explanation, though based on the position of the UK through its premier, Boris Johnson; however it did list the Russian demand that NATO cease pushing towards them and that Russia considered Ukraine joining NATO “an existential threat” while in general still following the general anti-Russian pattern9.

Closing ceremony of Sea Breeze, NATO-Ukraine joint naval exercises in the Black Sea 12 July 2019 (Photo by US Naval Officer)

POSITION OF THE IRISH STATE

An analysis piece in its business section by the Irish State’s national broadcaster, RTÉ, concentrated on the possible economic impact of loss or drastic reduction in gas and oil exports from Russia, either as a direct consequence of conflict or through imposition of sanctions by the West. “Russia produces 11% of global oil supplies and according to David Horgan, managing director of Petrel Resources, any significant loss of Russian energy exports would result in a further spike in prices.”10

Russia is the biggest supplier of gas in the world and the largest to Europe with a third of of its gas pipeline supply to Europe crossing Ukraine. Ireland’s electricity supply is highly dependent on gas for its generating stations so any disruption will impact heavily of prices which “have already gone from $2 to about $30 per million BTU”, according to the Petrel managing director.11

It is clear that while the USA is driving the agenda through its dominance of NATO and the the threat of sanctions on Russia, which the USA regularly insists upon when teaching other countries a lesson, its own economy would suffer little as a result. However, it is a different question for the European states, which would be obliged to bear the weight of economic impact. Mícheál Martin, the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of the Irish State felt obliged to comment on this possibility but, rather than criticise the USA and NATO’s expansionism, spoke about the need to break from their dependence on Russian energy supplies.

Micheál Martin said the EU is unified in responding “very strongly” to any Russian invasion of Ukraine and stated that in Europe’s view the huge build-up of troops by Russia on the Ukraine border is “not justifiable” in any circumstances. While calling for “diplomacy and de-escalation” he clearly sided with the USA in the conflict as both the Irish ruling class and the EU’s would expect of him.12

Despite many criticisms to the contrary, the policy of the Irish state during WWII was essentially one of neutrality in favour of the Allied forces while the government of the Six Counties was of course wholly aligned with the UK. Nevertheless Irish commercial shipping was sunk by Nazi German action and cost many Irish seamen their lives.

So far the Irish state has remained outside NATO but over the past decade there has been discussion envisaging the creation of an EU rapid deployment force made up of personnel contributed from all member states. It would hardly be surprising if such a move appealed to some within the career personnel in the Irish armed forces, envisaging taking part in wider military action, alongside varied forces, employing advanced weapons and systems and with possibly better promotion prospects. Additionally in recent weeks there has been media discussion of greater funding for those forces.

Ireland – and not only the UK’s colony here – can be dragged into war more easily than we perhaps imagine and also into being targeted for retaliatory action. Indeed, the facilitation of US military personnel and materiel through Ireland’s airport at Shannon, along with CIA transport of secret prisoners (“rendition”) has already exposed the State (and succeeding governments) to accusations of military partisanship.

Contrary to popular belief, the Irish State’s ‘neutrality’ is in general a matter of government policy rather than a requirement of the Constitution or Statute law.13 

The principal statute governing the Irish Defence Forces is the Defence Act 1954, which did not oblige members of the Irish Army to serve outside the state (members of the Air Corps and Naval Service are not so excused). A 1960 amendment intended to allow deployment in United Nations Peacekeeping missions requires three forms of authorisation, since the 1990s often described as the “triple lock”:

  1. A UN Security Council Resolution or UN General Assembly Resolution;
  2. A formal decision by the Irish government;
  3. Approval by a resolution of Dáil Éireann (the lower house of the Oireachtas, to which the government is responsible).

From those last two it is clear that the 26 Counties can be put on a war footing by a decision of the Irish Government or even a majority vote in favour in the Dáil. Anyone who believes that the party with most TDs would necessarily vote against such a motion is fooling themselves since the SF party has been at pains to portray itself as a safe pair of hands for Irish capitalism and recently called for greater funding for the armed forces of the Irish state; in addition it has long had an uncritically friendly relationship with the USA, in particular – though not only – with its Democratic Party.

A resolution from the UN Security Council obliging the Irish state to go to war against Russia is impossible and though such from the General Council might be possible, albeit unlikely.14

These provisions were modified in 1993 to allow for UN Chapter VII missions and again in 2006 to allow for regionally organised UN missions.

Joint NATO-Ukraine military exercise September 2021 (Photo sourced: Internet)

WHAT WE CAN DO

There seems no middle way — either NATO will back down or Russia will. No doubt the Western powers think it reasonable that Russia be the one to blink but as commented earlier, for the latter NATO creep to their borders is seen as a threat to their very existence. The same people who thought it reasonable for John Kennedy as President of the US to threaten war on the Soviet Union for the location of some missiles on the Caribbean island of Cuba think Russia should accept the advance of NATO to its borders.

In practical terms there seems little we can do in Ireland except struggle to resist the state and colony in which we live being dragged into war – for which we need to mobilise the opposition we can on the street. Sadly the anti-imperialist war movement in Ireland of years ago was allowed to deteriorate — but we should work to rebuild it.

In order to assist in this it is essential that we expose the reality of what is going on in the world. Some will say that because the USA is the main aggressor in this case and the biggest bully, we should support Russia but to do so would be a big mistake. Not long ago, while joining others in anti-fascist solidarity with people in the Donbas region in SE Ukraine, I found us being increasingly nudged towards support for Russia which I did not view as being the same thing at all.

Russia has its own crimes against people and workers and calling for support for it now will cause confusion when in future we will need to condemn it. Our position should be that while neither the USA’s regime or Russia’s is to be supported, the biggest danger of war comes from the USA and therefore it will be the main target of our hostility – besides which it is the power with which the ruling classes of Ireland and the UK are aligned. It is the biggest imperialist power in the world by far along with being the biggest military power in most of the world.

Most Irish people have no wish to be dragged into an armed conflict anywhere where they do not feel threatened. On the other hand our society is conditioned not only by decades of strong cultural influences from the USA, in particular through film but also by media reporting that is biased towards the dominant western European view and that of the USA. In that paradigm, the Russians are the bad guys, the gunfighters in the black hats, while the US and the West in general are on the side of the angels.

With the 1916 Rising in the middle of WWI, Ireland became the first country to carry out an uprising against world war15, against the dominant trend throughout Europe at the time — a tradition worth upholding. As long as imperialism exists, the world will continue to suffer smaller wars and the danger of another major war. It is necessary to overthrow imperialism and we can best contribute towards that aim by coordinating our struggles with the aim of carrying out a revolution in Ireland, thereby depriving imperialism of one of its supporters in Europe.

End.

FOOTNOTES
1
“And you will begin to hear of wars and rumors of wars. Behold, do not be alarmed; for it is necessary to take place, but the end is not yet” — Christian New Testament Bible, Matthew, Chapter 24:6.

2See map NATO states

3See appropriate map for this also

4https://www.breakingnews.ie/world/white-house-calls-russian-moves-on-ukraine-an-invasion-1262219.html

5https://armscontrolcenter.org/fact-sheet-u-s-nuclear-weapons-in-europe/

6https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40792923.html

7https://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/news-and-latest-activity/operations/united-kingdom/exercise-joint-warrior

8Ibid.

9https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/ukraine-crisis-why-russia-might-invade-and-what-could-happen-next-41279592.html

10https://www.rte.ie/news/business/2022/0128/1276522-ukraine-ireland-analysis/

11Ibid.

12https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40811598.html

13According to Wikipedia: “One exception is Article 29, section 4, subsection 9° of the Irish constitution:

The State shall not adopt a decision taken by the European Council to establish a common defence pursuant to Article 42 of the Treaty on European Union where that common defence would include the State.

This was originally inserted by the 2002 amendment ratifying the Treaty of Nice,and updated by the 2009 amendment ratifying the Treaty of Lisbon. An earlier bill intended to ratify the Treaty of Nice did not include a common defence opt-out, and was rejected in the first Nice referendum, in 2001.”

14Resolutions of the UN Security Council, the only ones binding on all member states, require unanimous agreement by all five Permanent Members: UK, France, USA, Russia and China. Forcing a vote such as this in the UN General Assembly would likely lead to the fracture of the organisation.

15The following year there were two in Russia and in 1918 another in Germany.

SOURCES

Matthew 24:6 https://biblehub.com › matthew

https://www.dw.com/en/thousands-of-russian-troops-leave-ukraine-border/a-60257452

https://www.breakingnews.ie/world/putin-orders-forces-to-maintain-peace-in-eastern-ukraine-1261744.html

https://www.breakingnews.ie/world/emergency-meeting-called-by-un-security-council-over-ukraine-crisis-1261794.html

Map Middle-East towards Russia: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/291678513336896419/

European states holding US nuclear weapons: https://armscontrolcenter.org/fact-sheet-u-s-nuclear-weapons-in-europe/

Map NATO states towards Russia: https://www.businessinsider.com/map-europe-divided-nato-russia-2016-7?r=US&IR=T

UK bi-annual military including naval exercises: https://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/news-and-latest-activity/operations/united-kingdom/exercise-joint-warrior

NATO exercise 2021: https://mc.nato.int/media-centre/news/2021/nato-exercise-dynamic-mariner-and-joint-warrior-begins-in-the-atlantic#:~:text=It%20runs%20between%2018%20and,Kingdom%20and%20the%20United%20States.

Mass media:

Ireland, on Russian Naval fleet in the Atlantic and Ukraine Ambassador: https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40792923.html

Al Jazeera on the Ukraine confrontation: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/1/24/uk-pulls-staff-from-ukraine-as-fears-of-war-rise-liveblog

Much more in-depth coverage with emphasis on the UK position: https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/ukraine-crisis-why-russia-might-invade-and-what-could-happen-next-41279592.html

Irish Government position: https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40811598.html

Irish neutrality — facts: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_neutrality

Calls for a joint EU countries armed force: https://www.france24.com/en/europe/20210902-proposals-for-an-eu-army-re-emerge-after-afghan-pullout-%E2%80%93-but-many-remain-hard-to-convince

BRITISH QUEEN’S LONG SERVICE TO COLONIAL & IMPERIALIST WAR

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 5 mins)

Recently the Queen of the UK and Commonwealth regions reached the 70th year of her reign, called by convention the “platinum jubilee” and has received congratulations from the heads of imperialist, colonial and neo-colonial states around the world. In Ireland, she has also received the congratulations of the head of a formerly Republican party now aspiring to neo-colonial government. When Mary Lou MacDonald, President of Sinn Féin praised Elizabeth II for her “long service” we should ask: service to whom and to what? We are also entitled to compare her words to those of James Connolly, Irish revolutionary socialist and republican, in reference to the British Monarchy.

WHAT THE PRESIDENT OF SINN FÉIN SAID

Mary Lou McDonald, President of Sinn Féin was widely reported reacting to the news that a tree is to be planted in the grounds of Parliament Buildings at Stormont to mark the anniversary.

“I think it is important that we are respectful of the identity of our citizens who are British,” she said on Thursday.

“I think that is entirely appropriate and I welcome that decision.

She was reported wishing well to those who will celebrate the jubilee, and said she believes those who won’t “are now big enough, bold enough, generous enough to acknowledge the identity of others.”

“Can I also extend to the British Queen a word of congratulations because 70 years is quite some record,” she added.

“That is what you call a lifetime of service.”

Any logical consideration of those words should quickly find some problems with them. What does “respecting the identity of our (Irish) citizens who are British” or “acknowledging the identity of others” actually mean? One would imagine that respecting the identity of others would involve primarily not subjecting them to discrimination, racism or religious sectarianism. Does respecting the national identity of any people give them the right to seize with armed force and occupy a part of the nation? Because that is what constitutes the basis for the British colony of the Six Counties in Ireland and the administration of that colony is the purpose of the Stormont Parliament and Executive. Furthermore, discrimination and sectarianism is precisely what is suffered by a huge part of the population of that colony – from the very institutions being upheld by SF and by its President.

Stripped down to its essentials, we are only “big enough, bold enough, generous enough” if we accept the partition of our small nation, the forcible retention of a colony and pay our respects to the Head of that state and the Commander-in-Chief of its armed forces.

This is a monarch who has presided over her armed forces’ participation in at least 24 wars or interventions since her inauguration, two of them in our national territory. Her armed forces invaded foreign lands, bombed and shot down those who resisted, carried out massacres, tortured prisoners and she has personally decorated the leaders of those armed forces, including those who murdered Irish people. The very least one could expect from an Irish politician with any dignity would have been silence or “no comment” on the occasion.

A poster calling for retired Army officer General Sir Mike Jackson to be jailed and advertising a march commemorating Bloody Sunday, on display in the Bogside area of Derry, Six Counties. Jackson was one of many military murderers to be decorated by the British Queen. (Photo by Niall Carson/PA Images via Getty Images).

This is far from the worst thing that the Sinn Féin leadership has done with regard to the British Monarch, for in May 2011 they called for no protests against her while she desecrated the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin and while the Gardaí attacked “dissident” Republican protesters nearby and outside her state reception in Dublin Castle, the old seat of her royal enforcers in Ireland. The following year, Martin McGuinness, prominent in the leaderships of both the IRA and Sinn Féin, welcomed her to her colony and shook her hand.

Martin McGuinness, in leadership of Sinn Féin and the IRA, welcomes the British Queen to visit her colony in 2012 (Photo sourced: Internet)

WHAT JAMES CONNOLLY SAID

James Connolly on occasions too referred to contemporary British monarchs – but in markedly different terms to those from the leadership of Sinn Féin in recent decades.

“What is monarchy? From whence does it derive its sanction? What has been its gift to humanity? Monarchy is a survival of the tyranny imposed by the hand of greed and treachery upon the human race in the darkest and most ignorant days of our history. It derives its only sanction from the sword of the marauder, and the helplessness of the producer, and its gifts to humanity are unknown, save as they can be measured in the pernicious examples of triumphant and shameless iniquities.

“Every class in society save royalty, and especially British royalty, has through some of its members contributed something to the elevation of the race. But neither in science, nor in art, nor in literature, nor in exploration, nor in mechanical invention, nor in humanising of laws, nor in any sphere of human activity has a representative of British royalty helped forward the moral, intellectual or material improvement of mankind. But that royal family has opposed every forward move, fought every reform, persecuted every patriot, and intrigued against every good cause. Slandering every friend of the people, it has befriended every oppressor. Eulogised today by misguided clerics, it has been notorious in history for the revolting nature of its crimes. Murder, treachery, adultery, incest, theft, perjury – every crime known to man has been committed by some one or other of the race of monarchs from whom King George is proud to trace his descent.

…………………….

Two completely opposite attitudes to British Monarchy: Mary Lou McDonald (L) and James Connolly (R)

“Fellow-workers, stand by the dignity of your class. All these parading royalties, all this insolent aristocracy, all these grovelling, dirt-eating capitalist traitors, all these are but signs of disease in any social state – diseases which a royal visit brings to a head and spews in all its nastiness before our horrified eyes. But as the recognition of the disease is the first stage towards its cure, so that we may rid our social state of its political and social diseases, we must recognise the elements of corruption. Hence, in bringing them all together and exposing their unity, even a royal visit may help us to understand and understanding, help us to know how to destroy the royal, aristocratic and capitalistic classes who live upon our labour. Their workshops, their lands, their mills, their factories, their ships, their railways must be voted into our hands who alone use them, public ownership must take the place of capitalist ownership, social democracy1 replace political and social inequality, the sovereignty of labour must supersede and destroy the sovereignty of birth and the monarchy of capitalism.

“Ours be the task to enlighten the ignorant among our class, to dissipate and destroy the political and social superstitions of the enslaved masses and to hasten the coming day when, in the words of Joseph Brenan, the fearless patriot of ’48, all the world will maintain

The Right Divine of Labour
To be first of earthly things;
That the Thinker and the Worker
Are Manhood’s only Kings.”2

SUPPORT FOR SINN FÉIN

Most followers of the Sinn Féin party, who are by long tradition anti-monarchist and desire a reunified and independent Ireland, tend to regard those kinds of heretical statements by the party leaders as no more than some kind of camouflage to get them into power. Once there, they imagine, their party will lead them to the hallowed objectives of Irish independence and unity. In fact, the same kind of attitude that was that of the early followers of Fianna Fáil, “the Republican party”3.

The blindness, or more accurately the ability of self-deception exhibited by these followers is amazing. The majority continued to believe the leadership when it publicly abandoned armed struggle against British colonialism and declared it would never return to that (believing that to be a fake position) and even when it had most of its arms decommissioned. Then the party not only fielded candidates in elections in the partitioned Irish state but also in the colonial one and, in arguably its greatest betrayal of its previous position, participated in the running of the colonial state which it continues to do. Since then its leaders have sought support for and even assisted in recruitment for the sectarian and colonial gendarmerie4 and, more recently, declared its acceptance of non-jury special courts, a clear reference in particular to the no-jury Special Criminal Courts of the Irish state5, condemned by a number of civil rights organisations6 and of which the party’s own supporters have been frequent victims.

The attitude of the larger mass of instinctively pro-independence people, mostly working-class or lower middle-class is that they might as well give Sinn Féin a turn in government – after all they can hardly treat them worse than the other gombeen7 parties that have been in government since the creation of the Irish State. Such attitudes account for the rapid growth in the party’s electoral base in recent years when it became the first party in terms of elected representatives so that two other neo-colonial parties, with a long history of hatred for one another, were obliged to join and form a coalition with a third8 in order to form a government excluding the new kid on the block.

General Jackson with Prince Charles, heir apparent to the throne of England and Commander-in-Chief of the Paratroop Regiment (Photo sourced: Internet)

The attitude expressed by the President of the SF party runs not only completely contrary to the traditions of Irish Republicanism but even to its own history. It is more than that, it is an expression of the lack of dignity and craven forelock-tugging attitude of the neo-colonial Gombeen class that has ruled the Irish state since its inception.

While socialists and republicans rightly condemn that mentality and its practical applications, we should place our hopes in another outlook, as outlined by Connolly over a century earlier, and in the practical expression of that outlook today and in the near future. It is surely appropriate then to end this commentary with Connolly’s own words on another British royal jubilee, Queen Victoria’s in 1897:

“….. It is time then that some organised party in Ireland — other than those in whose mouths Patriotism means Compromise, and Freedom, High Dividends — should speak out bravely and honestly the sentiments awakened in the breast of every lover of freedom by this ghastly farce now being played out before our eyes. Hence the Irish Socialist Republican Party — which, from its inception, has never hesitated to proclaim its unswerving hostility to the British Crown, and to the political and social order of which in these islands that Crown is but the symbol — takes this opportunity of hurling at the heads of all the courtly mummers who grovel at the shrine of royalty the contempt and hatred of the Irish Revolutionary Democracy. We, at least, are not loyal men; we confess to having more respect and honour for the raggedest child of the poorest labourer in Ireland to-day than for any, even the most virtuous, descendant of the long array of murderers, adulterers and madmen who have sat upon the throne of England ….

“The working class alone have nothing to hope for save in a revolutionary reconstruction of society; they, and they alone, are capable of that revolutionary initiative which, with all the political and economic development of the time to aid it, can carry us forward into the promised land of perfect Freedom, the reward of the age-long travail of the people.”9

End.

APPENDIX:

List of armed interventions and wars by British Armed forces under Queen Elizabeth II:

Mau Mau Uprising(1952–1960)

Jebel Akhdar War
(1954–1959)

Cyprus Emergency
(1955–1959)

Suez Crisis(1956–1957)

Border Campaign
(1956–1962)

First Cod War
(1958–1961)

Upper Yafa disturbances[22](1959)

Dhofar Rebellion
(1962–1975)

Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation
(1963–1966)

Aden Emergency(1963–1967)

The Troubles(1968–1998)

Invasion of Anguila, Caribbean
(1969)

Second Cod War
(1972–1973)

Third Cod War
(1975–1976)

Falklands War
(1982)

Multinational Force in Lebanon
(1982–1984)

Gulf War
(1990–1991)

Bosnian War
(1992–1995)

Operation Desert Fox
(1998)

Kosovo War
(1998–1999)

Sierra Leone Civil War(2000–2002)

War in Afghanistan
(2001–2021)

Iraq War
(2003–2009)

First Libyan Civil War(2011)

2019–2021 Persian Gulf crisis(2019–present)

FOOTNOTES:

1In Connolly’s time, the term “social democrats” covered most revolutionaries in Europe in addition to reformists whereas today it is confined to describing only the latter.

2Commenting in 1910 on the announced visit of King George V to Ireland https://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1911/xx/visitkng.htm

3Fianna Fáil was a 1926 split from Sinn Féin led be De Valera, based on participating in elections within the Irish State, initially supported by many Irish Republicans in elections and when voted into Government in 1932 released Republican political prisoners jailed by the Government of pro-Treaty forces. Subsequently however a FF Government banned the IRA and jailed and even executed some Republicans.

4A gendarmerie is an armed state-wide military-like police force, such as for example the ones in the Spanish, Italian and Turkish states, typical of a State endeavouring to impose central rule on subject nations or regions where recurrent resistance may be expected. In Ireland the English occupation had the Royal Irish Constabulary which after 1922 in the colonial statelet became the Royal Ulster Constabulary, later changing its name to the Police Force of Northern Ireland. It has always been a sectarian (anti-Catholic) and repressive force.

5Both the Irish State and the colonial statelet have no-jury courts to jail political dissidents on low evidential requirements and under emergency legislation. The position SF’s elected representatives since 1972 has been to vote against the existence of the Special Criminal Court until two years ago, when it began to abstain and finally this year at its Ard-Fheis (annual general meeting), after an extremely poor debate, the party voted to accept such a court.

6Including the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and Amnesty International.

7A term of contempt dating from the years of the Great Hunger to describe capitalists who are happy to use the colonial system to amass personal wealth at the expense of their compatriots; its source is in the Irish language (an gaimbín/ gaimbíneachas — https://www.dictionary.com/browse/gombeen)

8Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party. The first two have been the major parties of the State almost since its inception, with the Greens being a smaller and more recent phenomenon. Fine Gael are the political representatives of the neo-colonial class that supported the partition of the country in the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1921 for which they fought a Civil War (1922-1923) against the Irish Republicans (chiefly the IRA and Sinn Féin). Fianna Fáil led a major split in the Republican movement to form an Irish Government and soon attracted support (and later domination) by a section of native capitalists, soon becoming the favoured choice of the neo-colonial Irish capitalist class, alternating in government from time to time with Fine Gael (the latter in coalition, several times with the social-democratic Labour Party). However, since 1981 no Irish political party has commanded an absolute majority in elected representatives and all governments of the State since then have been coalitions of one kind or another.

9https://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1897/xx/qundimnd.htm Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Day, 22 June 1897, was marked by Connolly and Maud Gonne with protests on the streets of Dublin. Connolly dumped a symbolic coffin into the River Liffey and shouted “to hell with the British Empire”, for which ‘crime’ he spent the night in jail.

SOURCES:

James Connolly on visit of King George in 1911: https://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1911/xx/visitkng.htm

and on Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee: https://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1897/xx/qundimnd.htm

For list of armed conflicts in which the UK has led or participated since coronation date of Elizabeth Windsor in 1953: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_involving_the_United_Kingdom

Invasion of Anguila (missing from above list): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Sheepskin#:~:text=Operation%20Sheepskin%20was%20a%20British,itself%20as%20an%20independent%20Republic.

UK Armed forces officially recorded in the Middle East: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-8794/

British military bases around the world: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overseas_military_bases_of_the_United_Kingdom

The Queen’s Service To ….

Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

(Reading time: one minute)


Queen Elizabeth II / Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald

Mary Lou McDonald, the current president of Sinn Féin, surprised a few, just a few, with her recent comments thanking the English queen, Elizabeth, for her service.  She stated that “Can I also extend to the British Queen a word of congratulations because 70 years is quite some record.  That is what you call a lifetime of service.”(1)

Why someone who describes herself as a republican would want to heap praise on a monarch and refer to the reign of the monarch as service is bewildering.  However, it is not that strange in the context of the Irish peace process.  It is part of the long road of Sinn Féin’s accommodation to the British state that was laid out in the Good Friday Agreement.  Sinn Féin at that time abandoned any pretence of having a critique of imperialism and capitalism.

The agreement signed basically stated that the British had no selfish interest in Ireland and the conflict was a communal one.  Putting it in blunt terms, two savage tribes agreed to settle their differences, the British state was not one of those savage agents in the conflict.(2)

Exactly what service has the English queen given and to whom?  As a monarch she has blessed every British military adventure since her coronation in 1953, including the savagery of the British repression of the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya, various other colonial wars, not to mention her awarding of an OBE to Lt. Colonel Derek Wilford the man responsible for Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972.  In 2019 she stood over her behaviour when she stated that the British government would “bring forward proposals to tackle vexatious claims that undermine our armed forces, and will continue to seek better ways of dealing with legacy issues that provide better outcomes for victims and survivors”.(3)  The massacre of Bloody Sunday was placed in the category of vexatious claims.

Part of the service that McDonald now lauds includes this and many more such incidents.  Though it is not unexpected.  It can only surprise those who pay no attention to the outcomes of peace processes around the world.  Yasser Arafat spent more time repressing Palestinians than he did fighting the Israelis after the Oslo Accords.  In South Africa, the former mining trade union leader Cyril Ramphosa became a mining magnate, whose company was involved in the massacre of 34 striking miners at Marikana in 2012.(4)  He and the ANC made their peace with white capitalists and obtained a share of the wealth, in Ramphosa’s case a very substantial amount which some estimates place around $780 million dollars.  In El Salvador, the FMLN eventually gained power, but did not implement a single thing they had ever fought for and their former commander Joaquín Villalobos is now a consultant to right wing forces on how to defeat left wing movements and contributes to the right-wing think tank The Inter-American Dialogue, which includes such illustrious figures as Violetta Chamorro from Nicaragua and former head of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, to name just two unsavoury characters.(5)  In Colombia, the ink hadn’t even dried on the agreement and the FARC commander Timochenko declared that the Colombian armed forces would be allies of the FARC in building a new country.  The murder of just over 300 members of the FARC since the signing of the peace agreement has not caused him to change his evaluation of the Colombian armed forces, in fact he has doubled down on his position.

It is in the nature of the beast.  In every peace process that has happened, the former enemies of the state reconciled themselves to the regime and the system, without exception.  McDonald’s declarations are just a confirmation of that and also a sign that it is a bottomless pit and there is no level of political depravity that Sinn Féin will not sink to.

Notes

(1)  Belfast Telegraph (10/02/2022) Sinn Féin leader congratulates Queen on ‘lifetime of service’ https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/sinn-fein-leader-congratulates-queen-on-lifetime-of-service-41334673.html

(2)  The agreement can be consulted at https://www.dfa.ie/media/dfa/alldfawebsitemedia/ourrolesandpolicies/northernireland/good-friday-agreement.pdf

(3)  The Irish Post (20/12/2019) Anger as Queen’s speech appears to dismiss fight for justice for Bloody Sunday victim’s as ‘vexatious claims’ https://www.irishpost.com/news/anger-queens-speech-appears-dismiss-fight-justice-bloody-sunday-victims-vexatious-claims-175999

(4)  The Guardian (19/05/2015) Marikana massacre: the untold story of the strike leader who died for workers’ rights https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/19/marikana-massacre-untold-story-strike-leader-died-workers-rights
 
(5) See https://www.thedialogue.org

Bombing children at play

(from The Treason Felony Blog le buíochas: The Weaver Street Bombing and not dealing with the past)

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

In Belfast, on 13th February 1922, some children playing in Milewater Street, at the corner of Weaver Street, off the York Road, were approached by two Special Constables and told to go and “play with their own” (Special Constables invariably being Protestant, the children were Catholics in a largely Protestant district). They joined other children in the mainly Catholic-occupied Weaver Street and played on a swing attached to a lamp-post. Ten minutes later, two men came to the North Derby Street end of Weaver Street (one eye witness claimed one Special Constable had just spoken to the same two men). They were about 20 metres away from where the children were playing. One of the men then threw a bomb into the middle of the children. As the bomb exploded, gunfire directed into Weaver Street from North Derby Street, covered the two men’s retreat.

Weaver St map
Map showing Weaver Street running from North Derby Street to Milewater Street (which isn’t named on the map)

The explosion killed or injured Mary Johnson (13), Catherine Kennedy (14), W.J. Dempsey (13), Annie Pimley (16), John O’Hanlon (16), Elizabeth O’Hanlon (11), Murtie O’Hanlon (16), Barney Kennedy (10), John McCluskey (12), Rose Ann McNeill (13), Mary McClinton (18), Mary Kerr (6), Susanne Lavery (14), George O’Connor (16), Joseph Conway (12), Patrick Maguire (14), Kate O’Neill (14), Robert McBirney (16) and William Connolly (13). All lived in Weaver Street. Adults standing in their doorways were also badly injured.

The force of the blast threw the children up into the air and caused catastrophic injuries, maiming many of those who survived. Mary Johnson and Catherine Kennedy died immediately. Eliza O’Hanlon died the next day. Statements made in the press and in Westminster indicate that three of those injured had died by the next day, the third being O’Hanlon. By the time the inquest was held on 3rd March, a fourth girl had died from the blast. Two adults were to succumb to their injuries. Margaret Smith died on the 23rd March, while Mary Owens (who lived in nearby Shore Street) died from injuries sustained in the blast on the 6th April.

This was not the first bombing of its kind. On September 25th the previous year, a bomb had been thrown into a group of Catholic children on Milewater Street, injuring nine, including four under six years of age. One man, George Barry, died from injuries he received. The bomb had such force that two houses were wrecked. A bomb had also been thrown by loyalists into a group of school children in Herbert Street on 12th January, injuring six (the Belfast Telegraph erroneously reported it as an IRA attack). The same month, a bomb had been thrown into Weaver Street from a passing taxi.

The Belfast Telegraph claimed the 13th February bomb was one of the largest ever used in the city. It also implausibly offered justification for the bomb attack, saying shots had earlier been fired at an armoured car in Weaver Street. In retrospect, the Belfast Telegraph’s link to an attack of an armoured car merely ties the Special Constabulary closer to the bombing (the ‘Specials’, created at roughly the same time, performed the Black and Tans roles in repression and reprisals in the north).

James Craig also included a reference to the bomb in a report sent to the Colonial Secretary, Winston Churchill and read in Westminster the next day. It stated that there had been…

..the indiscriminate throwing of bombs over a wall into Weaver Street, a Sinn Fein area, which resulted in the death of two children and the wounding of fourteen others. These outrages are greatly deplored by my Government, especially the latter dastardly deed, involving the lives of children.

Craig was more concerned about a gun battle in Clones between republican forces and Special Constables travelling to Enniskillen the day before the Weaver Street bombing. Joe Devlin fumed that Craigs wording was deliberately vague and that some international press had been led to believe that the bomb was thrown by republicans.

As sectarian attacks continued through 1921 and 1922, and even after the 13th February bomb, the (relatively) safe places for Catholic families to live in that part of the York Road had shrank to the area around Weaver Street. The attacks continued to intensify in early summer. On 18th May Thomas McCaffrey from Shore Street was killed. On the night of 20th May, Thomas McShane from Jennymount Street was killed. That same night the remaining Catholic residents of Weaver Street, Milewater Street, North Derby Street, Shore Street and Jennymount Street, some one hundred and forty-eight families, were forced from their homes at gunpoint. By the 21st May 1922 the Catholic community that had established itself around Weaver Street had fled. The 1924 street directory only shows one household remaining from the 1918 directory (in comparison, nearby Seaview Street had two thirds of the same households). Houses in Weaver Street remained occupied until the 1960s as Unilever and the Associated Feed Mills bought up property around Shore Street, Weaver Street and Milewater Street eventually enclosing all but the York Road end of Milewater Street.

The view today of where Weaver Street met North Derby Street. This is more or less where the bomb was thrown from.

Today, Shore Street and Weaver Street are gone, no longer visible on the streetscape of Belfast. Patiently neglected over the decades after 1922, their former occupants were dispersed around other districts of the city. Similarly, the detail of its own particular sadness, sectarianism and savagery are now, largely, long forgotten. The memory of the violence of 1920-22, mostly unarticulated, was indelibly etched into the psyche of the Catholic residents of Belfast.

Some 20-25% of those killed in the 1920-22 conflict died in Belfast but, with few notable exceptions, little was written or said about it over the decades that followed (even today only a handful of books have been written about it). So despite what has happened since 1969, few have considered how the memory of 1920-22 influenced communities. Even fewer have considered the role an absence of public discourse around the violence of 1920-22 may have had in later outbreaks of sectarian violence in the 1930s and 1960s.

Today, the very obliteration of Weaver Street from the streetscape of Belfast, somehow elevates it as an appropriate metaphor for the eclipse of public discourse on the violence of 1920-22.

end.

FURTHER READING

https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/why-don-t-we-remember-the-weaver-street-massacre-in-belfast-1.4797959?fbclid=IwAR2rDtvRV9j1bM8p9SnIxfAEl5ejHHAutwFJG7-U3XtKGiaYPbfwRsiMa38

DUBLIN NEW YEAR SOLIDARITY GREETINGS TO PALESTINE

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

Palestinian flags fluttered in the breeze over the iconic Ha’penny Bridge in Dublin City centre, while banners festooned its length on New Year’s Eve. The numbers were down from previous years, more likely from the soaring Covid19 infection rate than from any lessening of the long-running Ireland solidarity with the oppressed Palestinians. This was ironic since, unlike previous years, this was not a rally braving sleet, snow, rain or icy wind – in fact, the very mild weather raised only the amount of breeze necessary to set the flags fluttering.

(Photo by Tamin Al Fatin, IPSC)
Tamin Al Fatin, IPSC Chairperson, centre photo (Photo by IPSC))

The event is organised every year for New Year’s Eve at the same location by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign and supporters, among which were Irish and Palestinians, handed out leaflets encouraging BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) of Israel, an apartheid ste. Martin Quigley, for the IPSC led some chants on a megaphone, which were taken up by people on the pedestrian Bridge, among which were that “Israel is a terrorist state”, that “Palestine will be free” and in solidarity that “we are ALL Palestinians”.

Each year more Palestinian land is stolen, more of their homes demolished or under threat of eviction, in Gaza they have periods without electricity, they are restricted in importing fuel for heating or cooking (never mind transport), or building materials (so much has been destroyed by the Israeli bombardments), they continue to be harassed and made have lengthy waits at checkpoints, their inshore sea is polluted, their fishing boats further out are attacked and harassed ….

(Photo by Tamin Al Fatin, IPSC)
  • As of 2019, more than 5.6 million Palestinians were registered with UNRWA as refugees, of which more than 1.5 million live in UNRWA-run camps.
  • According to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, there are currently (2021) 4,650 Palestinians held in Israeli jails in Israel and the occupied territories. Palestinians view them as political prisoners attempting to end Israel’s illegal occupation. Of those: 520 are being held without charge or trial.
  • At the end of September 2020, 157 Palestinian minors were held in Israeli prisons as security detainees and prisoners, at least two of whom were held in administrative detention. Another 2 Palestinian minors were held in Israel Prison Service facilities for being in Israel illegally. The IPS considers these minors – both detainees and prisoners – criminal offenders. In addition, a small number of minors are held in IDF-run facilities for short periods of time. (And the Israeli Prison Service since October 2020 has been refusing to publish figures or to supply Palestinian human rights groups with them).

BIG POWERS BACKING ISRAELI ZIONISM

The United States is the major power backing the Israeli Zionists and partly because of its position in the world and partly also for their own economic or political interests, most of the European states back the Zionists too.

In 2018 Donald Trump, as US President, moved the US Embassy for Israel into Jerusalem, endorsing the Zionist claim that the multi-faith city is Jewish and Zionist, although it is an occupied city even in international law. Shortly before he reluctantly left the office of the US Presidency, Donald Trump also endorsed Morocco’s illegal occupation of Western Sahara in exchange for Morocco recognising Israel. So far, Joe Biden, Trump’s successor, has not reversed either of those decisions.

(Photo by D.Breatnach)

THE PEOPLE OF THE WORLD SUPPORT THE PALESTINIANS

As is usually the case, it is the ordinary people in Ireland and around the world that support the Palestinians, while the big capitalists and imperialists, while occasionally criticising the Israeli Zionists, continue to support them politically, economically, culturally and militarily. Even in the United Nations, an organisation controlled by the big powers, a majority condemned the Zionist state in 17 separate motions in 2020 and last year formally ratified another six resolutions criticising Israel.

So why has international action not been taken against this terrorist state? The answer is that although the UN has 193 member states, only its Security Council decisions have to be carried out and there are only five permanent members of the Security Council: USA, UK, France, Russia and China. And what’s more, their decisions have to be unanimous.

(Photo by Tamin Al Fatin, IPSC)

On the other hand, so many civil organisations around the world have declared themselves in solidarity with the Palestinians and in Ireland. Hundreds of thousands have marched in so many countries and sports people, many popular culture stars and academics have refused to perform or attend conferences in Israel. One can no longer find Israeli goods in most shops or supermarkets (and when on occasion they are on sale, their country of origin is not marked on the product).

End.

(Photo by Tamin Al Fatin, IPSC)

Video (playable only on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/100001732057139/videos/pcb.4926773100723710/647305976619628

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

“BRITAIN OUT OF IRELAND!” ON ANNIVERSARY OF THE ANGLO-IRISH TREATY

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

Socialist Republicans gathered in Dublin’s main O’Connell Street on Saturday 4th December to reaffirm their commitment that Britain has no right to be in Ireland. The event, taking place on the nearest weekend to the centenary of the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, was organised by the Anti-Imperialist Action Ireland organisation and supported by other socialist Republicans including the Anti-Internment Group of Ireland.

View of the picket with the GPO at the back of the photographer (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

One of the participants sang Irish revolutionary songs, accompanying himself by guitar, his unamplified voice ringing across the street and bouncing off the General Post Office opposite, location of the headquarters of the 1916 Rising. Another singer’s voice accompanied him in some of the songs.

Despite the cold, people passing on the street stopped to look, to take photos or video and, in some cases, to applaud. Some individuals also approached the participants to talk, while gestures of approval were being made from some passing public and private transport.

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The event concluded with the singing in Irish of the first verse and chorus of The Soldiers’ Song, a patriotic fighting song, the air of the chorus of which was adopted as the national anthem of the Irish state (but regarded by many as the property of the unfinished national liberation struggle).

The Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed on 6th December 1921 in London by negotiators of the Irish resistance movement. What was conceded by the British ruling class fell far short of what the armed movement had been fighting for since January 1919 and led soon afterwards to civil war (1922-1923). Clearly the negotiators should have brought back the terms for approval or rejection by the Dáil (the banned Irish parliament), instead of first signing the document, which is what they did.

The Treaty offered Dominion status for Ireland as a member of the Commonwealth under the British Crown, i.e akin to that of the “white”-governed colonies such as Australia, Canada and South Africa. It also offered the British Unionists in the north of Ireland the right to secede.

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The subsequent debate on whether to ratify the Treaty was at times bitter. Some felt the terms were the best they were likely to get, other that they offered a base on which to build for greater gains while others still felt they were a betrayal of Ireland’s long struggle for independence and the sacrifices of two years of guerrilla struggle against state repression. The vast majority of the military organisations of the movement, the IRA and Cumann na mBan, were opposed to the Treaty terms but those in favour of signing gained a slim majority in the Dáil (64 in favour and 57 against).

The British unionists swiftly availed themselves of the terms, leading to the partition of Ireland early in 1922, six of the 32 Counties becoming a permanent British colony.

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Some have seen the positioning around the Treaty in most of Ireland as signifying a trend led by the native Irish capitalist class and supported by the Irish Catholic Church hierarchy of putting the brakes on the national liberation movement and elements of its social content. From that perspective, the signing of the document in London signalled the first overt move of the counterrevolution which was sealed with armed force by the new neo-colonialist state through war, repression, imprisonment, kidnappings, torture and executions, both official and unofficial.

Both states in Ireland henceforth would be socially conservative, the colonial one religiously sectarian and the Irish one with the Catholic Church hierarchy as the regime’s arm of social control. The Irish state remained for decades under-industrialised and generally under-developed with constant emigration maintaining the population at its post-Great Hunger low point until near the close of the Century (and even today has not fully recovered).

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Since the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed there have been armed challenges by Irish Republicans during the Civil War of 1922-1923, during the 1930s, WWII, the “Border Campaign” of 1959-1962 and of course the more recent war of thirty years.

In addition there have strong struggles for social rights against censorship and around gender and sexuality: the right to purchase prophylactics, divorce, female equality, homosexuality, pregnancy termination and gay marriage. Struggles have also taken place around housing, wages and workers’ rights, in defence of natural resources, infrastructures and the environment.

The Six County colonial statelet remains socially conservative and sectarian religiously. Both administrations maintain no-jury special courts for dealing with some political cases.

Clearly, the Treaty left much unfinished business.

End.

A southward view of the banner and flags on the picket, the Starry Plough of the Irish Citizen Army and the Sunburst of the Fianna Éireann, with the Jim Larkin monument in the background. A LUAS tram is approaching to right of photo. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

USEFUL LINKS

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

https://www.facebook.com/End-Internment-581232915354743

DUBLIN HOSTS TURKISH REVOLUTIONARY MUSIC GROUP

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

Last Saturday in the Teachers’ Club in Dublin (26/11/21), the revolutionary music Grup Yorum from Turkey, with some Irish musician input, played to an audience of up to two hundred. In between performing different numbers from their repertoire, band members spoke to the audience of the history of the struggles of their people and of the band.

The Irish tour of the band was organised by the Anti-Imperialist Action Ireland organisation; earlier that week Yorum played in a small music venue in Belfast to around 40 people. The attendance in Dublin was so large that the location had to be changed from a large room on the first floor to the much larger hall down below.

Grup Yorum performing in Dublin (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

BELFAST

In Belfast in the Sunflower Lounge, Bobby Fields from Armagh and Séan Óg from Dublin entertained those in attendance with songs of Irish resistance followed by Grup Yorum coming on afterwards. The Grup’s performance was enthusiastically received and was followed by a questions-and-answers session to learn more about the situation in Turkey.

The Grup members toured some of the area and visited the famous international solidarity wall along with the grave of Bobby Sands, where paying their respects included singing a song at the graveside.

DUBLIN

In the large hall in the Teachers’ Club, Dublin, Séan Óg took to the stage first, playing guitar to accompany himself on guitar to sing The Killmichael Ambush, Viva la Quinze Brigada, Back Home in Derry1 and The Internationale. Veteran activist and traditional singer Diarmuid Breatnach followed, singing unaccompanied the Anne Devlin Ballad, I’ll Wear No Convict’s Uniform2 and James Connolly’s satirical song Be Moderate3. Some of the audience sang along with some of the lyrics sung by each singer.

Be Moderate, satirical song by James Connolly, sung by Diarmuid Breatnach at the event (the link can be played on Facebook).

The four members of Grup Yorum present then took to the stage to huge applause and addressed the audience in Turkish, their words being translated into English by a member of their entourage. In the performance that followed, two guitars, flute and cajón were the instruments with a male and female leading voices. Each song was preceded by an explanation placing the piece in historical and political context.

Some of the songs in particular were clearly known to Turkish and Kurdish people in the audience and at some points they sang along, often waving an arm in the air. Towards the end of their performance the crowd got more and more excited and then Seán Óg joined them for a couple of numbers.

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)
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The Grup’s interpreter made a special appeal for help from those in attendance to pressurise the Turkish authorities to release political prisoner Ali Osman Köse who has been in solitary confinement for 20 years and has multiple health issues. There are fears for the man’s life as he has had a cancerous kidney removed in May of this year without any follow-up treatment and despite everything has been pronounced “fit” to continue in jail.

This was followed by members of the Resistance Choir taking to the stage to join Grup Yorum in a rendition of the Italian antifascist Bella Ciao! Song before Diarmuid Breatnach returned to the stage to bring the evening to a close with the first verse and chorus of Amhrán na bhFiann4 with members of the audience joining in (including some from Anatolia)

The Resistance Choir from Dublin on stage with Grup Yorum to perform the Bella Ciao song (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

THE GRUP YORUM BAND

A revolutionary music band from Turkey, Grup Yorum members compose their own material and the band has has released twenty-three albums and one film since 1985. The band has suffered repression with some concerts and albums banned and members have been arrested, jailed and tortured, two members also dying on hunger strike. The band is popular in Turkey and as well as their albums selling well in Turkey and internationally, it has also given concerts in Germany, Austria, Australia, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, United Kingdom, Greece and Syria.

Grup Yorum publishes an art, culture, literature, and music magazine entitled Tavir, and several group members manage a cultural centre called İdil Kültür Merkez in the Okmeydani neighbourhood of Istanbul.

Section of the crowd in Dublin saluting the Grup Yorum performers (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

FOOTNOTES:

1The lyrics and air of Viva la Quinze Brigada are by famous Irish folk musician Christy Moore, who also arranged Bobby Sands’ poem to the air of the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (by Gordon Lightfoot) as Back Home in Derry.

2Diarmuid sings this song to an air he composed himself.

3Diarmuid sings this to the air of A Nation Once Again (by Thomas Davis).

4Written by Peadar Kearney originally under the title The Soldiers’ Song and sung by insurgents during the 1916 Rising, its chorus is the official national anthem of the Irish State. However, it is also sung by many who are opposed to the State, particularly by Irish Republicans. Normally only the chorus is heard, sung in Irish (translation).

USEFUL LINKS:

https://www.facebook.com/grupyorum1985

https://www.facebook.com/Anti-Imperialist-Action-Dublin-North-City-110852710835826

https://www.facebook.com/socialistrepublicanballyfermot

https://freealiosmankose.wordpress.com/

PROTESTS GREET PRESENTATION OF CHANCELORSHIP TO HILLARY CLINTON

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: mins.)

Queen’s University Belfast appointed Hillary Clinton as the institution’s Chancellor1. On 24th September 2021 the University authorities organised an event to mark her formal inauguration; however a large and voluble crowd gathered to protest the inauguration and the authorities’ choosing her as Chancellor of the University. Among the shouts of protesters were “War criminal!” and “Hillary, Hillary, Hillary – Out, out, out!” (This story is now “old”, apologies but nevertheless worth posting for those who might not be aware of it as media coverage was muted)

Although the Belfast Telegraph’s coverage of the event made no mention whatsoever of protests, they were reported in a number of other media. The protest saw Irish Republican and Left socialist groups come together to carry out the protest, with a number of them taking turns to speak.

The speakers at the protest included Pól Torbóid of Lasair Dhearg; Aidan Moran, a former ISM activist in Occupied Palestine, on behalf of Cairde Palestine; Conal MacMathúna on behalf of the Connolly Youth Movement; Local Councillor Michael Collins from People Before Profit; and Dr. Azadeh Sobout, Scholar of Transitional Justice and Peace building and Member of Academics for Palestine.

In addition to Irish organisations’ banners and flags, the national flags of Palestine and Cuba were also in evidence.

Hillary Clinton has been a member of the USA Congress from 2001 to 2009, followed by Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013, having also held the ceremonial position of First Lady during her husband Bill Clinton’s tenure as President of the USA 1993-2001. The Secretary of State of the USA, appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate, is the President’s chief foreign affairs adviser. The Secretary carries out the President’s foreign policies through the State Department and the Foreign Service of the United States.

Lasair Dhearg’s Pól Torbóid, who helped organise and also spoke at the event, said, “Queen’s University’s complicity in the whitewashing of Hillary Clinton and her war crimes further epitomises the university’s role in an international framework of imperialism that sees it not only glorify warmongers like Clinton, but have immense financial investment in military contracts and companies guilty of immense environmental destruction.”

“Queen’s has facilitated the visitation of many war criminals and parasites over the years, but arguably none as big as the visit of Hillary Clinton as its chancellor. A proud Zionist and imperialist; with a war record as long as your arm, Clinton has helped oversee US bombing campaigns in over 9 countries.”

“As US secretary for war, she authorised over 400 drone strikes across multiple nations, which overwhelmingly killed civilians and even children at a proportion of almost 90%.”

“She labelled black men ‘super-predators’ when she helped lobby for the 1994 US Clinton Crime Bill, which was immensely important in creating the mass incarceration levels that exists today in the US to benefit the prison-industrial complex – which is a system of slavery by new means.”

Section of the protest as seen from the inside of the University (Photo sourced: Internet)

“A Zionist, Hillary Clinton has shown herself to be an enemy of Palestinian liberation, siding with the oppressor every time it mattered, like during the 2014 Israeli bombing campaign of Gaza. She increased annual US funding to Israel from 2.5billion, to 3.1 billion US dollars whilst she was US Secretary of State, and she stated that countering the BDS movement globally should be a priority for Israel’s defence.”

“All this – and Queen’s award her chancellor for her Peace and Reconciliation efforts. For all the books Queen’s have at its disposal, I don’t think their management have ever read one! PEACE IS SOMETHING HILLARY CLINTON CAN’T EVEN SPELL, NEVER MIND DISPENSE!”

Full video below (with thanks to Lasair Dhearg organisation):

(Photo sourced: Internet)

FOOTNOTES

  1. In the UK university system, the office of Chancellor is held by a distinguished individual, from academia or public life, who is not usually resident and does not hold any other University office.

SOURCES

https://www.thejournal.ie/hillary-clinton-installed-chancellor-queens-university-belfast-5557234-Sep2021/

https://www.v-c.admin.cam.ac.uk/chancellors-role