A BLIND EYE TO OPPRESSION IN IRELAND

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time text: 8 mins.)

There is a blind eye being turned to oppression in Ireland – and I use the expression in its usual meaning of “deliberately not seeing”. And it is not the Irish ruling circles I am accusing of that deliberate act, for one could hardly expect anything else of them. No, it is the Irish socialist and liberal sectors I am accusing, along with a section of the Republican movement.

All of these are in Ireland; each of these sectors either knows of this oppression or has chosen not to know. In that respect, in so far as they cry out about injustice or inequality in other areas, they are being hypocritical. And in how much hypocritical activity can one indulge and how long, before one is really and totally a hypocrite, not to be trusted on anything they say they believe?

For years, before the Good Friday Agreement, wide areas in the Six Counties suffered oppression from the colonial statelet, its police force and the imperial armed forces. Those were the working and lower middle-class “nationalist/ Catholic” areas. Prior to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, sections of the Irish Left and liberal consensus were actively ignoring this oppression and in that respect, nothing has changed. But what has happened since is that while smaller areas, neighbourhoods, are continuing to be oppressed, sections of the Republican movement have joined in that blindness and resultant silence.

Raid by armd British colonial police Belfast and arrest of two Republicans, including pregnant woman, 4th March 2021. (Photo sourced: Republic Media)
British Colonial Police invading the Bone area, Belfast, 4th March (Photo sourced: Republic Media)


HOUSE RAIDS, HUMILIATION, HOSPITALISATION & DEATH THREATS


From Republic Media: A statement released by the Republican party Saoradh quoted Cliodhna McCool, daughter of Kieran McCool who was arrested last week in Derry following a heavy house raid, reading a statement on behalf of the McCool family. Describing the ongoing and escalated harassment she said:

“As a family who hold strong traditional Republican views we have become accustomed to many forms of harassment and intimidation, in fact we have almost come to expect it. However, in recent months the occupiers have escalated this harassment by constantly following every member of our family during almost every aspect of our lives. Something that is somewhat creepy and very distressing is the fact they seem to have prior knowledge of where we are going to or coming from and will be there to mete out their harassment. “

Detailing incidents over the last year she continued: “In the last year alone we have been attacked resulting in my mother, father and younger brother being hospitalised and we have received death threats from British soldiers dressed in Crown Force uniforms.”

Describing the events of last week she said: “Once my father was removed from the house, what can only be described as a nightmare for our family began. My family were shouted at aggressively, verbally abused and threatened with arrest by masked gunmen.”

“My younger brother Fionn, who is autistic, was again manhandled and removed from his bed, searched and evicted from his home; as was my mother and other brother.”

Giving the public details of some of the more grim details of what a search entails for Republicans she explained: “While they were forced to leave our house they were refused access to a toilet, food or water. My mother was also denied her medication. My entire family was searched in an intimate manner of which I prefer not to go into detail; I will let you use your own imagination“

Concluding the family statement she said: “No matter what you think of our family’s politics, no family should ever be treated like this. If it was wrong in the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s then it’s wrong now. Our family have feelings too and refuse to be treated as lesser human beings because politicians say it’s acceptable. It’s not!”

Cliodhna McCool’s statement was read out at a protest press conference of which the purpose was, according to Saoradh “to highlight the continued profiling and targeting of Creggan residents, community activists and those who hold traditional Republican beliefs.”

British colonial police raid and arrest Ardoyne, Belfast, 9th March 2021 (Photo sourced: Republic Media)

“THUGS IN UNIFORM CLIMBING OVER EACH OTHER TO GET TO ME”

Pete Cavanagh, who suffered injuries during the raid, spoke next, describing sectarian jibes and threats handed out to residents. “It was here they began to trade in sectarian and snide remarks, calling Creggan and the people in it ‘dirty and unwashed.’ Some of them began mentioning personal details of individuals gathered there. Some raised and showed off their weapons in an attempt to intimidate us. Many of the cops gathered there were very shaky and nervous. “

Describing his attack by armed police he explained:

“After trying to push us further down the street, these thugs in uniform drew their batons and launched what can only be described as a frenzied attack. It is here I was beat between two cars with my head busted open by a British baton. So reckless was this attack that these thugs in uniform were fighting with each other to get at me. They were climbing over each other to get at me again as I lay on the ground busted open. The cop who hit me called me a “Fenian prick.”

Pete also told how the police lied about how he received the injuries: “When I was in the back of an armoured car I seen and heard the inspector who attacked me tell his superior that I had fell and busted by head. But when asked at the hospital the doctor said there is no way I could have sustained this injury by either falling backwards or forwards given the severity and location of the strike. I received eight stitches.”

Despite Pete being on the receiving end of the physical attacks from Crown forces, he and another member of Saoradh were detained overnight and given bail with restrictive and oppressive measures.

A local resident Clare Friel also gave testimony at the conference:

“The actions and behaviour of the PSNI witnessed on Thursday 18th March were reminiscent of our past. These attacks, as described by our neighbours and community activists, were supposed to be of a bygone era, again that is not the case.

“What happened to the McCool family, residents of Ballymagowan and the wider Creggan community along with political and community activists has only served in raising further tensions between our young people, residents and the police.

“Our young people are sick and tired of being targeted by police; they are sick and tired of watching community and political activist being stopped and searched; they are sick and tired of seeing their school friends being stopped and searched while attempting to get an education; they are sick and tired of the fake community policing being rolled out in Creggan as the PSNI cycle around streets with armoured jeeps on every entry and exit of the estate. This behaviour can’t continue without our youth saying enough is enough! Is it any wonder they react!”

Saoradh National executive member Stephen Murney wrapped up proceedings by giving Saoradh’s analysis of recent events and in reference to other world events he said:

“Whilst this raid was taking place two women were forced to the ground outside and knelt on by several members of the British Forces. This bears all the hallmarks of George Floyd and the recent disturbing images in England. Are all members of the British Forces trained in how to attack women?

Criticising P Sinn Féin’s false promises, Murney pointed out that after such incidents the party regularly promises to complain to the authorities and have the attacks stopped which, however, continue and that the SF party’s support for “the oppressing force” is “unwavering”1.

Continuing, Murney asserted:

“On the other hand the Republican position is clear as day. These raids and attacks are the outworking of British occupation, they were wrong and unjust in previous years and decades and are wrong today. The Crown forces responsible are not welcome or wanted in Creggan, or indeed in any Republican community in the Six Counties.”

Murney called on people to support those being subjected to this harassment and violence and pledged his party to do so too.

HARASSMENT AND INTIMIDATION OF COMMUNITIES AFTER THE GOOD FRIDAY AGREEMENT

This harassment of activists and oppression of neighbourhoods has been ongoing since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement but has intensified in recent years. The colonial statelet wishes to normalise its situation, which means gaining acceptance of the population. But colonial status is not a natural or even desirable state of affairs and human history, in particular perhaps its Irish component, demonstrates that it will always be resisted. When that is so, the State moves in to harass, provoke, disrupt and intimidate the sectors that continue to resist.

Those who expect the resistance to die down and wish for acceptance of the Good Friday Agreement are being unrealistic and flying in the face of human and in particular Irish history. Whatever their wishes, when they turn a blind eye to the continuing oppression of sections of the Irish nation, they are helping it to continue. And when, instead, they support the oppressors or condemn those who continue to resist, they are in active collusion with the oppressor, the colonial invader and occupier. From a different but similar historical experience, history has given a name for such collaborators: Quisling.

One needs to ask what can account for this willful ‘blindness’ and resultant silence? Since those afflicted with the condition do not usually explain it, one must speculate and it seems to me that the following are the likely reasons:

For the socialists:

  • they do not wish to even seem to be endorsing armed resistance to the statelet
  • they wish to give no assistance to what is their biggest competition in the opposition to the status quo, along with the one with the largest working class base: the Republican movement,

For a section of the Republicans:

  • They do not wish to give any support to their competition inside the Republican movement

The Left and Liberals never had any difficulty in supporting the ANC despite the fact that had an armed wing, membership of which was the main charge of which Mandela was convicted. Or if they did, they kept quiet about them. They kept quiet too about the horrific practice of “Pirelli-necklacing”, when alleged informers or spies had tyres doused in petrol placed around their necks which were then set on fire.

And in a sense, that was mostly right, because the main target had to be the South African racist white minority regime and its foreign imperialist backers. Similar positions were taken with regard to the Vietnamese liberation forces and to the Palestinian resistance.

“YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A REPUBLICAN TO KNOW THAT THIS IS WRONG”

But even if one did not agree with the objectives of the ANC, the NLF in southern Vietnam and NVA, the PLO etc, that should not prevent one from speaking out against oppression of the people. Pastor Niedermeyer put it well in his famous quotation about the oppression of different groups under the Nazis. Anti-Imperialist Action Ireland put it well too when their post stated:

“Last week following a violent attack by a British Police force on women in London there was international media coverage, justified anger and protests in a number of countries including Ireland, as people rightly expressed their outrage at such disgraceful events.

“This week, as Britain’s Colonial militia in Ireland once again attacks women in Derry, some of those same Irish voices so loudly speaking out against police violence in London have said absolutely nothing. These voices remain silent because to speak out would be to raise and condemn Britain’s ongoing illegal occupation of Ireland, something they are ideologically opposed to doing. Are the women of the Creggan to be left fighting alone?

“Police violence is wrong against women in London and it is wrong in Derry. The RUC/PSNI are attempting to provoke the community in Creggan and are invading homes and attacking women and children with impunity.

“It is not acceptable for so called Socialist and progressive forces to stay silent on this. It’s not acceptable to look the other way. You don’t have to be a Republican to know that this is wrong.

“Anyone who is really an advocate for women’s liberation would be calling British Imperialism out for the violence its imperialist militia regularly perpetuates against Republican women in occupied Ireland.

“Ní Saoirse go Saoirse na mBan.”

The point about provocation is well made. It was during one such raid in Creggan on 18th April in advance of a planned Republican commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising that a Republican youth fired at the colonial police, a bullet of which tragically killed Lyra McKee, a journalist who was standing near an armoured police Land Rover2.

Those who are afflicted with the blind eye need to turn the other eye on the situation in the Six Counties and speak out. Or give up forever any credibility when speaking about injustice towards anyone.

End.

British Colonial police raiding Republicans August 2020 (Photo sourced: Saoradh)

FOOTNOTES:

1The Sinn Féin leadership has formerly accepted the colonial police force in the Six Counties, doing so publicly a number of times.

2Numerous politicians, State figures and mass and social media at the time called her killing “murder”, a clearly inaccurate statement and prejudicial to the trial outcome of anyone who might be charged as a result of her killing.

REFERENCES & FURTHER INFORMATION:

https://www.facebook.com/RepublicMediaIreland – post 24th March at 11.49

Anti-Imperialist Action post: https://fb.watch/4u6dE50hg6/

Video of part of the raid and colonial police assaults referred to: https://www.facebook.com/AIAIRELAND32/videos/773656903266947

The Red Joan of Arc — Elizabeth Gurley Flynn ( 1890- 1964)

By Geoff Cobb

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

Few Irish American women have led a more controversial life than Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. A fiery orator with a passionate dedication to social justice, Flynn dedicated her life to the working class. A militant’s militant, Flynn was arrested dozens of times fighting for the causes she espoused and served a prison term for her political beliefs. Flynn became one of the most influential labor organizers of the early 20th century, while also becoming the first female leader of the American Communist Party. Famed international journalist Eugene Lyons praised her intelligence saying she was “the most brilliant woman I had ever met.”

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, the daughter of Irish immigrants, was born in Concord, New Hampshire on August 7th, 1890. The family moved to New York’s impoverished South Bronx in 1900,where Flynn attended the local public school. She later recalled, “I hated poverty. I was determined to do something about the bad conditions under which our family and all around us suffered.” Influenced by her parents to become a socialist, Flynn was kicked out of high school for giving her first radical speech, What Socialism Will Do for Women , at the Socialist Club of Harlem.

Not yet eighteen years of age, Flynn became a full-time organizer for the radical labor group The Industrial Workers of the World, or as they were more commonly known, the Wobblies. A passionate devotee of free speech, she led the first of three free speech fights in 1909 as an I.W.W organizer and over the course of her life Flynn remained a dedicated advocate for free expression, freedom of the press and assembly, and the right to a fair trial for all labor activists, regardless of their political affiliation. In 1907, Flynn met a much older Minnesota local I.W.W. organizer, J. A. Jones. Flynn later stated in her autobiography, “I fell in love with him and we were married in January 1908. She had two children with Jones, one who died as an infant and her son Fred who was born in 1910. The marriage broke up and Flynn returned to her family.

Her first major involvement in an I.W.W. job action was at the famous Lawrence, Massachusetts Textile Strike of 1912, which began when the American Woolen Company there tried to reduce the wages of its largely immigrant workforce. The workers walked off the job and the I.W.W. formed a strike committee with two representatives from each of the striking nationalities sitting on the committee. The strikers demanded a 15 per cent wage increase, double-time for overtime work and a 55 hour week. Using her powerful oratory, Flynn became one of the leaders of the strike, which became very violent. Reporters from around the country covered the strike and filed stories on the violence and the poverty of the Lawrence workers. Eventually, after management realized that it was losing the publicity battle, they settled with the strikers, giving Flynn and the I.W.W a great victory.

The following year Flynn gained even more fame for her role in the famous Patterson, N.J. Silk strike, which saw three hundred silk mills shut down by thousands of striking workers, many of whom were female. Flynn set up weekly women’s meetings on the issues. Flynn wrote in her autobiography of her experience in Paterson: 

“Sunday after Sunday, as the days became pleasanter, we spoke there to enormous crowds of thousands of people — the strikers and their families, workers from other Paterson industries, people from nearby New Jersey cities, delegations from New York of trade unionists, students and others. Visitors came from all over America and from foreign countries. People who saw these Haledon meetings never forgot them.”

1913 Patterson Silk Workers’ strike. L-R Patrick Quinlan, Carlo Tresca, Flynn, Adolph Lessig, Big Bill Heywood. (Source photo: Wikipedia)

Unfortunately for the workers, management was able to drive them back to the mills without achieving their strike demands. Flynn continued to organize restaurant workers, silk weavers, garment workers and miners across America. She was often arrested, but never convicted. She became such a celebrated labor activist that leftist songwriter Joe Hill wrote a 1915 song, reputedly dedicated to Flynn, called The Rebel Girl. A feminist, she began to write articles and make speeches criticizing labor unions as being male dominated and deaf to the needs of female workers.

1915 song sheet cover for ” The Rebel Girl” by Joe Hill, dedicated to Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. (Source photo: Wikipedia)

She later became romantically involved with Carlo Tresca, a fellow I.W.W labor organizer and writer. When Flynn discovered that her sister was also romantically involved with Tresca, she suffered a mental breakdown that prevented her from working for eight years. During this period Flynn lived in Portland, Oregon with birth control activist, suffragette, and I.W.W activist Marie Equi.

Returning to politics, Flynn joined the Communist Party of the United States in 1936 and began to write a women’s column for the Communist Party newspaper the Daily Worker. She quickly was elected to the party’s national committee, but as a result of her party membership she was ejected from the American Civil Liberties Union as part of a pre-World War II red scare. During the war, she played a central role in the campaign for equal economic opportunity and pay for women, as well as the establishment of day care  centers for working mothers. She ran for Congress in New York and received an astonishing 50,000 votes in a losing effort. In the Red Scare that followed the war, Flynn was arrested under the Smith Act, which made it a crime to support a violent overthrow of the American government. She was convicted and sentenced to a three-year term. Flynn served her sentence in the Alderson Federal Penitentiary  in West Virginia. During her incarceration she wrote a memoir entitled, in The Alderson Story: My Life as a Political Prisoner (1955). That same year she published her memoir, I Speak My Own Piece: Autobiography of “The Rebel Girl.

Flynn became national chairman of the Communist Party of the United States in 1961. She made several visits to the Soviet Union and died there unexpectedly in September 1964. She was given a state funeral in Red Square. In accordance with her wishes, Flynn’s remains were flown to the U.S. for burial in Chicago’s Waldheim Cemetery, near the graves of I.W. W. Members Eugene Dennis and Big Bill Haywood.

End.

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn’s gravestone in Waldheim, Chicago. (Source photo: Wikipedia)

Rebel Breeze comment:

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was indeed an Irish UStater and made a point of her background, keeping the surnames of both mother (Gurley) and father (Flynn) and stating it in her autobiography.

Her ashes being taken to Waldheim Cemetery near the grave of Big Bill Heywood can be viewed as something of an irony as in 1916 she had a major rupture with Big Bill over a plea bargain that she and another organiser, Joe Ettor, had counseled three innocent miners to accept when Heywood thought they could beat the charges. In addition, the one year jail time part of the plea bargain somehow ended up as 20. According to some accounts, she and Ettor were expelled from the IWW but according to others, Ettor left and Flynn remained but generally avoiding Heywood from then on.

During the years of Flynn’s labour organising in the USA, employers often hired company thugs (including the (in)famous Pinkerton Detective Agency) to beat up those they considered agitators or union organisers, who were also targeted by reactionaries including racists and fascists. Many worker organisers were killed or permanently disabled. In addition, many were jailed by the UStater legislature or even executed, as were the Molly Maguires, Saccho and Vanzetti, five of the Chicago Eight and Joe Hill. Being even a moderate union organiser in those years required courage and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was far from being a moderate.

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn speaking from a public platform. (Source photo: Internet)

ONE LEAVES DETENTION THIS MORNING; THREE DETAINED THIS EVENING

Diarmuid Breatnach

Anti-Water Tax protester leaves Dublin court today at liberty after two months but Gardaí arrest three Pro-Choice campaigners this evening, pepper-spraying at least one of them while held immobile on the ground.

Arrested impeding Irish Water vehicles

Stephen Bennet was brought from Mountjoy Prison this morning to Dublin Criminal Court to face “Public Order” charges relating to “obstructing” Irish Water vehicles in Dún Laoghaire and Dalkey and refusing to comply with Gárda instructions to desist. The Dún Laoghaire court had imposed conditions for releasing Bennet on bail which included a curfew, staying away from Irish Water vehicles and a large financial surety. Declaring the conditions unreasonable and a restriction on his civil rights to protest, Bennet had refused to agree to the conditions and the judge had taken to jail.

Some of the crowd of supporters welcome Bennet as he emerges into the court ground floor lobby. His daughter Saoirse can be seen the left holding Bennet's grandson. Unfortunately, Bennet himself is hidden by a supporter moving forward as photo was taken.
Some of the crowd of supporters welcome Bennet as he emerges into the court ground floor lobby. His daughter Saoirse can be seen to the left holding Bennet’s grandson. Unfortunately, Bennet is hidden as he moved forward as photo was taken.

Up to 30 supporters crowded into the court this morning to hear Bennet’s case being tried. There was also a large number of Special Branch Gardaí (political police in plain clothes) and a smaller number of uniformed police. A Garda Sergeant Gilmore from Dun Laoghaire station gave evidence of having confronted Bennet at York Road in Dún Laoghaire, where the accused had been sitting in the road and at Dalkey, where he had been “marching extremely slowly”. Sgt. Gilmore quoted the Public Order Act to Bennet and ordered him to desist but Bennet had declined to comply. Defence Counsel maintained that there was “a reasonable doubt” as to whether Bennet had been in violation of laws initially which would have rendered his subsequent refusal to comply with Garda instructions not an offence. Since there was no question of accusation of breaches of the peace, assault or criminal damage, the point at issue was whether the Public Order Act was applicable. State Prosecution Counsel argued that blocking or slowing traffic was creating “a nuisance”, to which Defence Counsel replied that causing a nuisance was part of the purpose of a protest, in order to make it effective. Sit-down and marching slowly protests had not been tested in Irish law, said Defence Counsel but quoted a number of cases from the European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg where the Court had ruled in favour of applicants’ rights to protest even when the applicants’ states had found them in violation of their laws and penalised them.

Some of the supporters outside the Dublin Court today
Some of the supporters outside the Dublin Court today

The Judge retired to consider the case and when he returned he found Bennet guilty on all charges and sentenced him to a total of around €800 in fines, in default of which a total of 11 days in jail. One one charge, he sentence Bennet to two months’ imprisonment but, since that was time already served awaiting trial, Bennet was freed to cheers from his supporters, including his daughter Saoirse and his grandson, who had been born while he was in jail.

Belfast mother charged with giving her daughter an abortion-inducing pill

At 6pm this evening a protest took place at the Spire in Dublin in solidarity with a Belfast mother who facing criminal charged for having given her daughter a pill which induces abortion in very early pregnancies. The pill is freely available in Britain and legal there but the 1967 Act which legalised abortion in Britain has not been enacted in the Six Counties.

West side, O'Connell Street central pedestrian reservation, Dublin, just near Spire
West side, O’Connell Street central pedestrian reservation, Dublin, just near Spire

4,000+ Women Travel placard
The event had been organised by the Workers’ Solidarity Movement and Real Productive Health organisation in order to express solidarity with the mother and also to link the struggle of women in the 26 Counties with those in the Six, women in both parts of Ireland having to travel to another country, Britain, to avail of abortions and similar protests took place in Belfast and in Galway.

East side O'Connell Street, Dublin, just near Spire
East side O’Connell Street, Dublin, just near the Spire

A number of people spoke and soon afterwards some excitement stirred through the crowd and they began to examine the roof of the GPO where something was going on. Very shortly after that a Garda squad car with siren blaring and blue lights flashing tore along O’Connell Street and turned into Henry Street.

Another group at the protest
Another group at the protest

Sitters and Standers mid-way through the demonstration
Sitters and Standers mid-way through the demonstration

Violent Garda arrest scenes

People broke away from the pro-choice demonstration and gathered in Henry Street as other Garda squad cars, a motorbike, a cycle Garda and a number uniformed and Special Branch Gardaí on foot poured into the street. The scene was  was somewhat confusing for many but what was clear was that the Gardaí had torn the shirt off one one young man, handcuffed him and put him, stripped to the waist, in a squad car. Another young man was also handcuffed and ended up on the ground with a number of police on top, one of whom pepper-sprayed him while in that position. This action provoked shouts from onlookers and uncertain physical intervention. As a third was arrested and bundled into a police car, the word went around that these were pro-choice demonstrators who had got on to the GPO roof (presumably using the scaffolding to the side of the building) and that they had attempted to display a banner up there.

Man arrested after shirt torn off in squad car in Henry Street
Man arrested after shirt torn off in squad car in Henry Street can just be discerned in the back seat of the squad car

Another of those arrested in Henry Street; he ended up on the ground with a number of police on top before being put in the car.
Another of those arrested in Henry Street; he ended up on the ground with a number of police on top before being put in the car.

People gathered around the Gardaí, some of whom threatened to arrest those arguing with them. The Gardaí were then seen to be picking up a banner to put in the back of one of their vehicles when a woman cried sarcastically: “A banner! Oh, thank you for saving us from a banner!” Others joined in shouting: “Bad banner! Bad banner!” amidst other calls from protesters and passers-by generally expressing an opinion that the police action had been unnecessary, repressive and over the top in violence and in numbers. Indeed, the numbers of Gardaí present who had suddenly appeared did suggest to many that they had been kept in readiness to move on the pro-choice demonstration at some point or were aware that some publicity action had been planned. Protesters who attended Store Street Garda station soon afterwards were told that the accused would be charged and released on bail “in a couple of hours”. The wording on the banner apparently had been “ABORTION CHARGES ARE BOLLIX”.

WSM video of scenes at the arrests: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPwZlWYW3kE

WSM Video of the rally just prior to the arrests: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFp_AzsFIa0

Workers’ Solidarity Movement statement on the arrests http://www.wsm.ie/c/wsm-statement-garda-arrest-pro-choice-campaigners-july2015

Some in crowd beginning to argue with Gardaí as others look on amazed
Some in crowd beginning to argue with Gardaí as others look on amazed

Two placards in the crowd earlier, a reminder of what it was about
Two placards in the crowd earlier, a reminder of what it was about

End.