CATALONIA — WHO BEST TO EXPLAIN? QUI ES MEJOR PER EXPLICAR?

Diarmuid Breatnach

 

Outside of Catalonia or the Paisos Catalans (“Catalan Countries”, which includes the Balearic Islands and Valencia), who best to explain the realities and the controversies concerning the current independence bid of Catalonia? (Version in Castillian follows this one)

There are of course many unionist Spanish commentators but for the most part they rely on denunciation rather than explanation. When they do supply some explanation it either relies on a legalistic explanation of the Spanish State Constitution of 1978 or of a misreading of Catalan society (or both together).

Inside the Spanish State there are other groups which may well provide an adequate explanation, such as for example the Basques, the Galicians and small groups in other parts.

Outside the Spanish State, there are those struggling for the national liberation of other small nations in Europe who may well have studied the Spain-Catalonia question or have quickly informed themselves and, along with them, anti-fascists and revolutionary communists or socialists.

Catalan independence solidarity groups can of course collect accurate information and disseminate it but they are comparatively small and with little influence in the societies around them.

Undoubtedly, the largest and generally best-informed group of people are the Catalan diaspora – Catalans living in other states.

Of course, these Catalans may have a wide range of views among themselves on whether Catalonia would best be independent of the Spanish State, in a federal arrangement or totally independent. They may disagree on which political party is best – or on whether any should be supported. Socialism or not might be issues for discussion, as might whether to get independence first and resolve those other questions later. Even on the issue of whether armed resistance is justified or viable, there might be considerable variation in opinion.

But anyone from Catalonia can give the lie to the Spanish unionist propaganda that the Spanish language and those who use it are under attack in Catalonia, and also to the lie that the Catalan independence movement is of a racist-nationalist kind. Anyone from Catalonia who is being honest will say that the violence of the Spanish police on the day of the Referendum, 1st October 2017, was inexcusable and a crime against civil rights (indeed some Catalans who wanted to vote ‘No’ to independence would now vote ‘Yes’ as a result of that attack). Catalans for ‘Si’ or for ‘No’ can explain many things that are not available to most people outside Catalonia.

Man and child, faces painted in the colours and symbols of the estelada, a pro-Catalan independence flag. (Image source: Internet)

This reservoir of information about the struggle around Catalan independence is the largest outside Catalonia – but is it being used? These Catalans living abroad have partners, children, workmates, fellow-students, neighbours and friends they have met in the country in which they are living. In many states of Europe these Catalans are free from the fear of deportation and therefore free to speak out to those around them about what is happening in Catalonia and in the Spanish state.

 

AN EXAMPLE

It might be instructive to examine a historical example with some parallels.

In 1968 a struggle broke out in the British colony in Ireland, the Six Counties, as a struggle for civil rights for the Catholic community (mostly descendants of the pre-colonial inhabitants). The British colonial statelet responded with great violence from its armed force, backed up by the British Army and was responded to with armed guerrilla resistance.

It may surprise many to realise that initially, the civil rights struggle often received truthful and even sympathetic coverage in the British media. Once the British army went in, this began to change noticeably and with the first British Army casualties there was no longer any real pretence of unbiassed reporting.

British media reporting then wished not only to justify the actions of the British State to the world but also to its own population. But in the latter case, it faced a serious obstacle – the Irish community in Britain.

As well as being the longest-establish migrant community in Britain, it was by far the largest. Many of these people knew their history and also at least something about conditions in the Six Counties. It was less than 50 years since the creation of the Irish State after a guerrilla war of national liberation following 800 years with many armed uprisings and cruel English repression. And these Irish – including first-generation born in Britain and even second-generation – were capable of undermining the effect of the colonial discourse on partners, friends, work-mates, neighbours and trade-union members.

Old anti-Irish racism embedded in British culture could disturb the Irish diaspora’s counter-discourse but not, it seemed, sufficiently. The Irish not only undermined the State discourse by speaking what they knew to those around them, they also organised solidarity campaigns, held pickets and demonstrations – sometimes huge ones.

The IRA’s bombing campaign in Britain could have weakened the reception for the Irish voice but, though it certainly did it no good, it did not weaken it sufficiently. The British State decided to gag that voice with state terror and prepared legislation, waiting for the appropriate moment to introduce it, which they received with the 1974 massacre resulting from an IRA bomb in a Birmingham pub and problems in communicating a warning.

The Prevention of Terrorism Act was introduced under a Labour Government and passed in a few hours, allegedly as a only a temporary measure but was renewed every year under different party governments until 1989. The Act permitted banning of Irish Republican organisations; 5-day detention without charge (which could also be extended); search without warrant; detention for questioning at airports and ports under which many thousands were interrogated, often missing their flight or boat as a result; deportation; exclusion to the Six Counties (amounting to internal exile). And of course, not officially permitted but tolerated, frame-ups, threats, beatings and torture.

Nearly 20 innocent members of the community and their friends were arrested and framed on bombing-related charges in five different cases and all convicted of murder and terrorism, to spend long years trying to establish their innocence, most of their marriages destroyed, their mental health severely injured, one to die in jail. That, and the ongoing repression of arrests-and-release, raids etc, was enough to silence, for the most part, the Irish community.

Until the Hunger Strikers of 1981 brought them out in mass again.

 

THE REASON

Why am I telling you this history? To frighten you? To make you feel sorry for the Irish in Britain in those years? No, I am retelling this history to illustrate the potential power of the diaspora to tell the truth about what is happening in its country of origin. That power was so great against the British propaganda machine that the State felt obliged to weaken it, to terrorise the Irish community, to take hostages from it.

Women with faces painted in Catalan national colours, one with the estelada design and the other with the ensenyera
(Photo credit: JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)

Today, the Catalan diaspora outside the Spanish state has a similar power but it is not “in the belly of the beast” as the Irish in Britain were nor in most cases is it subject to threat of imprisonment or other state terror.

To have that power implies a responsibility to use it, to explain things to those around them in whichever country they find themselves.

 

End

(VERSION IN CASTILLIAN FOLLOWS)

 

Fuera de Cataluña o de los Paisos Catalans (lo cual incluye a las Islas Baleares y Valencia), ¿quiénes son los mejores para explicar las realidades y las controversias sobre la actual candidatura de independencia de Cataluña?

Por supuesto, hay muchos comentaristas españoles unionistas, pero en su mayor parte se basan en la denuncia más que en la explicación. Cuando ofrecen alguna explicación, se basa en una explicación legalista de la Constitución del Estado español de 1978 o en una mala interpretación de la sociedad catalana (o ambas juntas).

Dentro del Estado español hay otros grupos que pueden proporcionar una explicación adecuada, como por ejemplo los vascos, los gallegos y grupos pequeños en otras partes.

Fuera del Estado español, hay quienes luchan por la liberación nacional de otras naciones pequeñas en Europa que bien pudieron haber estudiado la cuestión España-Cataluña o se han informado rápidamente y, junto con ellos, antifascistas y comunistas o socialistas revolucionarios.

Los grupos de solidaridad con la independencia catalana, por supuesto, pueden recopilar información precisa y difundirla, pero son comparativamente pequeños y con poca influencia en las sociedades que los rodean.

Sin lugar a dudas, el grupo de personas más grande y generalmente mejor informado es la diáspora catalana: los catalanes que viven en otros estados.

Some european cities where Catalans may be found
(map source: Internet)

Por supuesto, est@s catalan@s pueden tener una amplia gama de puntos de vista sobre si Cataluña sería mejor independiente del Estado español, en un acuerdo federal o totalmente independiente. Pueden estar en desacuerdo sobre cuál es el mejor partido político, o si se debe apoyar a alguno. El socialismo o no puede ser un tema de discusión, ya sea si obtener la independencia primero y resolver esas otras preguntas más adelante. Incluso en la cuestión de si la resistencia armada es justificada o viable, puede haber una variación considerable en la opinión.

Pero cualquiera de Cataluña puede desmentir a la propaganda sindicalista española de que el idioma español y los que la usan están bajo ataque en Cataluña, y también a la mentira de que el movimiento independentista catalán es de tipo racista-nacionalista. Cualquier persona de Cataluña que sea honesta dirá que la violencia de la policía española el día del Referéndum, el 1 de octubre de 2017, fue inexcusable y un crimen contra los derechos civiles (de hecho, algunos catalanes que querían votar “No” a la independencia ahora votarían “Sí” como resultado de ese ataque). Los catalanes para ‘Si’ o para ‘No’ pueden explicar muchas cosas que no están disponibles para la mayoría de las personas fuera de Cataluña.

Esta reserva de información sobre la lucha en torno a la independencia catalana es la más grande fuera de Cataluña, pero ¿se está utilizando? Est@s catalan@s que viven en el extranjero tienen compañer@s, hij@s, compañer@s de trabajo, compañer@s de estudios, vecin@s y amig@s que han conocido en el país en el que viven. En muchos estados de Europa, est@s catalan@s están libres del temor a la deportación y, por lo tanto, pueden hablar libremente con quienes les rodean sobre lo que está sucediendo en Cataluña y en el Estado español.

UN EJEMPLO

Podría ser instructivo examinar un ejemplo histórico con algunos paralelos.

En 1968 estalló una lucha en la colonia británica en Irlanda, los Seis Condados, como una lucha por los derechos civiles de la comunidad católica (en su mayoría descendientes de los habitantes ante coloniales). El estadito colonial británico respondió con gran violencia de su fuerza armada, respaldado por el ejército británico y fue respondido con la resistencia guerrillera armada.

Puede sorprender a muchos darse cuenta de que inicialmente, la lucha por los derechos civiles a menudo recibió una cobertura sincera e incluso simpática en los medios británicos. Una vez que entró el ejército británico, esto comenzó a cambiar notablemente y con las primeras bajas del ejército británico ya no hubo ninguna pretensión real de informar sin sesgos.

Los medios de comunicación británicos entonces deseaban no solo justificar las acciones del Estado británico ante el mundo, sino también ante su propia población. Pero en este último caso, se enfrentó a un serio obstáculo: la comunidad irlandesa en Gran Bretaña.

Además de ser la comunidad de migrantes más antigua en Gran Bretaña, fue, con mucho, la más grande. Muchas de estas personas conocían su historia y también al menos algo sobre las condiciones en los Seis Condados. Pasaron menos de 50 años desde la creación del Estado irlandés después de una guerra guerrillera de liberación nacional, después de 800 años con muchos levantamientos armados y la cruel represión inglesa. Y estos irlandeses, incluyendo la primera generación nacida en Gran Bretaña e incluso la segunda generación, fueron capaces de socavar el efecto del discurso colonial en los socios, amigos, compañer@s de trabajo, vecin@s y miembros de sindicatos.

El viejo racismo antiirlandés incrustado en la cultura británica podría perturbar el discurso en contra de la diáspora irlandesa, pero no, al parecer, lo suficiente. L@s irlandes@s no solo socavaron el discurso del Estado al decir lo que sabían a quienes los rodeaban, sino que también organizaron campañas de solidaridad, celebraron piquetes y manifestaciones, a veces enormes.

La campaña de bombardeos del IRA en Gran Bretaña podría haber debilitado la recepción de la voz irlandesa pero, aunque ciertamente no le sirvió, no la debilitó lo suficiente. El Estado británico decidió amordazar esa voz con terror estatal y preparó una legislación, esperando el momento adecuado para introducirla, que recibió con la masacre de 1974 que resultó de una bomba del IRA en un pub de Birmingham y problemas para comunicar una advertencia.

La Ley de Prevención del Terrorismo se introdujo bajo un gobierno social demócrata y se aprobó en unas pocas horas, supuestamente como una medida temporal, pero se renovó cada año bajo gobiernos de diferentes partidos hasta 1989. La Ley permitió la prohibición de organizaciones republicanas irlandesas; 5 días de detención sin cargos (que también podría ampliarse); búsqueda sin orden judicial; detención por interrogatorio en aeropuertos y puertos en los que se interrogó a miles de personas, por lo que a menudo perdieron su vuelo o bote; deportación; exclusión a los Seis Condados (equivalente al exilio interno). Y, por supuesto, no está permitido oficialmente, pero se tolera, enmarañamientos, amenazas, golpizas y torturas.

Cerca de 20 miembros inocentes de la comunidad y sus amigas fueron arrestados y acusados ​​de atentados con bombas en cinco casos diferentes y tod@s condenad@s por asesinato y terrorismo, por largos años tratando de establecer su inocencia, la mayoría de sus matrimonios destruidos, su salud mental gravemente herido, uno para morir en la cárcel. Eso, y la continua represión de detenciones y liberaciones, redadas, etc., fue suficiente para silenciar, en su mayor parte, a la comunidad irlandesa.

Hasta que los huelguistas del hambre del 1981 los sacaron a la calle de nuevo en masas.

LA RAZÓN

          ¿Por qué les estoy contando esta historia? ¿Para asustar les? ¿Para hacer les sentir mal por los irlandeses en Gran Bretaña en esos años? No, estoy contando esta historia para ilustrar el poder potencial de la diáspora para contar la verdad sobre lo que está sucediendo en su país de origen. Ese poder era tan grande contra la maquinaria de propaganda británica que el Estado se sintió obligado a debilitarlo, a aterrorizar a la comunidad irlandesa, a tomar rehenes de él.

Hoy en día, la diáspora catalana fuera del Estado español tiene un poder similar, pero no está “en el vientre de la bestia” como estaban l@s irlandes@s en Gran Bretaña ni en la mayoría de los casos está sujeta a amenazas de encarcelamiento u otro terror estatal.

Tener ese poder implica la responsabilidad de usarlo, de explicar las cosas a quienes los rodean en cualquier país en el que se encuentren.

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Dublin & 40 European cities protest Spanish political trials and Catalan political prisoners

Rebel Breeze reporter

 

Leading up to the start date of the trials in Madrid of 12 Catalan independence activists, nine of whom have been in jail for 15 months awaiting trial, 40 cities around Europe were to hold solidarity protests. Today, 9th February, was the turn of some, including Berlin, Germany and Dublin, Ireland.

 

(Photo source: Rebel Breeze)

The defendants are charged with ‘rebellion’, ‘sedition’ and ‘misuse of public funds’ arising out of organising peaceful demonstrations and a referendum and later supporting a declaration of independence — and the Spanish State has refused to make provision for international observers.

Though the call for international actions came from the leadership of the grass-roots organisation ANC (Catalan National Assembly) in Catalonia, the action in Dublin was organised in cooperation by CDR (Comitè de defensa de la República) Dublin and With Catalonia/ Leis an Chatalóin. This followed very soon after organising to welcome Puigdemont to Dublin to take part in a debate at Trinity College and also to meet politicians at the Dáil (Irish Parliament).

Placards displayed in Merchant’s Arch (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Placards displayed in Merchant’s Arch (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Placards displayed in Merchant’s Arch (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Placards with images of exiled (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The solidarity protesters met in Merchant’s Arch, a well-known spot for people living in Dublin and well-trodden by tourists, leading from Temple Bar to the Ha’penny Bridge on the other side of the road. This iconic pedestrian bridge crosses the Liffey river from south to north in the heart of Dublin city.

Some displays were set up inside the Arch by CDR, which also draped a huge banner over the railing of the boardwalk on the north side of the river, which read “Freedom for All Catalan Political Prisoners and Exiles!”. Over the same railing WCLC hung large bunting with the word “SÍ” on each flag, a reminder of the verdict for an independent republic in the referendum on 1st October 2017.

Catalan Estelades (pro-independence flags) were attached near the entrance to the Arch as was a small banner calling for freedom for political prisoners. Placards of the Catalan pro-independence activists on trial were also on display.

Supporters handed out informational leaflets and engaged members of the public in discussion before untying the banner and streamers from the riverside, packing up the displays and placards in Merchant’s Arch and heading off for warm food (and possibly drink).

“Si” bunting hung along north riverside
(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The 12 go on trial in Madrid on 12th February, a day when further solidarity protest actions will take place in various European cities and a General Strike in Catalunya.

CDR Dublin and WCLC will continue to organise in Ireland, according to their spokespersons and welcome involvement from others of whatever ethnic background. “Contrary to what the Spanish State and its supporters claim, we are not anti-Spanish” their spokespersons said. “We are for the right of self-determination and as democrats must be against the repressive behaviour of the Spanish State, so reminiscent of its previous dictator General Franco.”

End.

Merchant’s Arch entrance seen from Ha’penny Bridge steps
(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Setting up in Merchant’s Arch (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Banner-minding duty
(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

PUIGDEMONT IN DUBLIN DEBATE: INDEPENDENCE, NATIONALISM AND DEMOCRACY

Diarmuid Breatnach

Section of audience queuing to enter the auditorium

A debate on the above theme was organised in Trinity College for the 29th January and advertised at less than a week’s notice, which however gave rise to such interest that the venue had to be changed from the 160-seat Robert Emmett Theatre to the Edmund Burke and people were turned away after the 406 seats had been filled.

          Trinity College is a prestige university in Dublin and in the world generally, though its history in Dublin was for centuries of a religious sectarian and colonialist nature, founded as it was by Elizabeth I to ensure the education of the male children of English colonists in what she considered the ‘true faith’ of Anglicanism (which was and is still the State religion of England and of which the English monarch is Head). Its location too is very central to the city, being just across the Liffey on the south side and in 1916 served as a Headquarters for the British suppression of the Rising.

Section of audience waiting to back left of the auditorium in Trinity College, Dublin (Photo: D.Breatnach)

View of audience to the left and front of the auditorium. 
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

View of audience to the rear of the auditorium. 
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

View of section of audience to the right of the auditorium. 
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

 

Huge human rights solidarity banner unfurled in the auditorium for photo but not while the debate was in session. 
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Puigdemont had been invited to take part in a debate on Independence, Nationalism and Democracy by TRISS, the Trinity Research in Social Sciences department, whose MC for the evening was clearly taken aback by the numbers who had pre-booked tickets and most of whom queued for half an hour outside the lecture theatre – and some for even longer waiting to get in.

A quick photo opportunity for some supporters of Catalan (and Basque) independence outside the Trinity College’s main gate before entering to hear the debate on “Nationalism, Independence and Democracy”.
(Photo: Marina Dolcet)

Members and supporters of the campaign group With Catalonia/ Leis an Chatalóin, Comite de Defensa de la República and the cultural organisation Casal Catalá de Irlanda were there of course but so were a great many others; mostly Catalans with some Irish and people from other countries sprinkled among them and including some from elsewhere in the Spanish state. The overall feeling was clear when, as soon as Puigdemont was spotted entering the auditorium from a side entrance, along with other participants, he was applauded in what turned out to be a mostly standing ovation.

The MC or chairperson, Gail McElroy, Professor in Political Science and Head of the School of Social Sciences and Philosophy, made a special plea for good behaviour from the audience and also revealed that she had experienced some trepidation in preparation for the event. These expressions led to speculation among sections of the audience that the organisers of the debate had been subjected to a bombardment of hostile electronic communication. People in the Spanish state and sometimes abroad are familiar with this behaviour from right-wing Spanish nationalists, including outright fascists and even state-orchestrated trolls but for someone encountering it for the first time, no doubt it can be intimidating.

Puigdemont at lectern.

PUIGDEMONT: IT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE IN EUROPE

          Puigdemont began by saying that some of those present might want to know why Catalans do not want to be part of Spain. He could answer that question by recalling the history of Catalonia as a nation, its struggles, its language and its culture. That would be the discourse of 19th-20th Century nationalism, he said. However he preferred to outline it as modern process in the 21st Century, rooted in Europe and in democracy.

The President-in-exile surprised some of his listeners, no doubt, by pointing out that as recently as four years ago, the majority of the Catalan independentist parties had been asking only for greater autonomy from the Spanish State. The history of recent growth towards a majority demand for independence has been as a result of the refusal of the Spanish State to concede any greater autonomy and of the Spanish Court revoking laws passed by the Catalan Government.

But the Spanish response to Catalan demands has always been “no”, to everything”, said Puigdemont. “No” to dialogue. “No” to negotiation. “No” to reaching a democratic solution. Given the refusal, and obeying the mandate given to us by the majority of Catalan citizens, the Government of Catalonia, which it was my honour to preside, called a referendum on selfdetermination on 1 October 2017, with the legal backing of the Parliament of Catalonia. We did so while observing the basic principles of universal rights.”

And the world had seen the violence of the Spanish police inflicted upon people wishing peacefully to vote.

The aim was not just to confiscate ballot boxes and ballot slips”, Puigdemont maintained but instead “to make people give up their right to vote. But this ignominious act backfired on the politicians responsible for it. Over 2.4 million citizens overcame their fear and went out to vote. We do not know how many tried to do so unsuccessfully, but we do know the polling stations that were violently closed represented a further 770,000 voters.

Puigdemont continued: Today, democracy in Spain is at risk because basic rights have been de facto” suspended, and this represents a major threat to all Catalan and Spanish citizens, as well as to the European Union. Today, an EU member state cannot guarantee the judicial rights of its citizens, given that in recent months Spain has contravened international treaties ratified by the Spanish state itself, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

Referring to the Spanish State taking direct control of the Catalan government administration and preparing criminal charges against grass-roots organisation leaders and elected representatives, taking some as prisoners while others went into exile, Puigdemont said that this was not an internal Spanish problem but instead a Europan one. Seven hundred others, mostly town mayors, are under investigation too. Those independence activists, who have done nothing wrong and even according to Spanish law are innocent until proven guilty, have been kept in prison for over a year.

Concluding, Puigdemont said: “We will not falter. I have often said that what threatens democracy is not disagreement; indeed, democracy needs disagreements. What really threatens it is a lack of tools to solve disagreements democratically. We Catalans hope and trust that the political conflict over our selfdetermination can be resolved peacefully, without war, without violence, without winners and losers, without victims and thugs. We reject all the violence used in the last century in any part of the planet to resolve political conflict.

As Pau Casals, a well-known Catalan, reminded us in a memorable speech to the United Nations Assembly in 1971, Catalans in the eleventh century met ‘to talk about peace, because at that time, the Catalans were already against war’. Ten centuries later, we maintain these same values of peace and harmony.”

THE OTHER SPEAKERS IN THE DEBATE

          Located as the debate was in the capital city of Ireland and in the centenary of the founding of the first democratically-elected Irish Parliament, an Chéad Dáil, it was most noticeable that neither Puigdemont nor the other speakers referred to the experience of Ireland’s struggle for independence.

Dr Marvin Suesse – Assistant Professor in Economics, Trinity College Dublin spoke on The Economic Costs of Sovereignty”, from his research on the political economy of separatism and nationalism. He said that while the benefits of independence in terms of feelings of pride, promotion of culture etc. were difficult to measure, the economic benefits were not. Suesse went on to give examples which indicated that the costs of independence were greater than the benefits.

Dr Michelle D’Arcy – Assistant Professor in Political Science, Trinity College Dublin. spoke on “Secession and the Fiscal Contract: Reflections from the Post-Colonial World.”

D’Arcy teaches African politics and the political economy of development to undergraduate and postgraduate students and her research broadly focuses on understanding how politics and institutions enable and constrain human development and more specifically on democratization in Africa and state-building in Europe historically. Though she made some interesting points and believes that independence movements engage in a “fiscal contract”, it was difficult to see where she stood on the question under discussion.

Dr, Coman’s screen display

Dr. Coman at lectern.

Dr Emanuel Coman – Assistant Professor in Political Science, Trinity College Dublin spoke on “When does the Right to Self-Determination Actually Apply?”

Emanuel Coman is Assistant Professor in Political Science at Trinity College Dublin, teaching courses in comparative institutions and American Politics. His research is primarily in the fields of party politics and elections, with empirics driven primarily from Eastern Europe.

Coman, from Rumania as he told his audience, analysed the European nations that were successful in gaining independence after WWI. Most had been under the rule of the defeated belligerents. His thesis seemed to be that a nation’s bid for independence required the support of the big powers exerting influence in the area.

ONE MUST ALSO WEIGH THE COST OF NOT DECLARING INDEPENDENCE!”

          Commenting on the presentations of the other speakers and responding to questions after his presentation, Puigdemont was more lively than when reading his speech and at times showed some fire, particularly when he responded that as well as weighing the costs of independence, one must consider the costs of not becoming independent, which brought some applause from sections of the audience. Aside from anything else, he said, it is a question of dignity: the Catalans had the right to make their own decisions, whether they be correct ones or mistaken.

A much greater applause and cheers broke out when Puigdemont denied that the Spanish State could be described as “a democracy” and stated that this was not opinion but fact, given that the Monarch and Head of State (father of the current monarch) had been personally appointed as his successor by the fascist coupist General Franco, whose mausoleum is a national monument of the State.

Responding to a suggestion that the Catalan pro-independence movement might benefit from employing the tactics of the “Yellow Vests” of Paris, Puigdemont was most emphatic that his movement was peaceful and would never under any circumstances resort to violence.

One member of the audience criticised the panel (other than Puigdemont) for not addressing the actual issues in Catalan independence and the Spanish State’s opposition.

Asked by a member of the audience to describe his feelings of exile, Puigdemont replied that he could not indulge those feelings since he would be unable to continue the struggle if he did so. He revealed that his own grandfather, in a concentration camp in France after the fall of Barcelona to Franco’s military-fascist forces, had written to his family so that they were aware of the feelings of exile even though they never saw him again. His voice seemed to gain a heightened emotion when he remarked that when he compared his situation to that of refugees, like those from Syria, launching themselves on the hazardous journey to European shores, survivors arriving often to be badly treated, he felt he had little of which to complain.

Puigdemont surrounded by well-wishers and the curious after the debate while others are in excited conversation.

AUDIENCE REACTION

          The audience gave Puigdemont and, one supposes, the other speakers and TRISS for having organised the debate, sustained applause and cheers, during which one could hear some pro-independence slogans in Catalan. Afterwards, many remained in the auditorium to speak to Puigdemont or to chat amongst themselves in a general buzz of excitement.

Views expressed by a number of listeners afterwards on the content of the debate were in general positive though these varied through a continuum from “excellent” to “all right but somewhat disappointing”. All feedback received agreed that on two points Puigdemont had been excellent: on the question of calculating the cost of NOT seceding from the Spanish state and also on the characterisation of the Spanish State as not being a democracy, as one that had failed to break properly with its Franco-fascist past.  Few gave positive feedback on the other debaters.

Crowds delayed leaving for around half an hour, gathering talking among themselves or queuing up to shake Puigdemont’s hand, talk to him etc. and Casals Catala presented him with some books on Irish history.

COMMENT:

          Puigdemont comes across as quite genuine in his convictions and as an able debater, even in a language which cannot be his first or second. His vision of Europe does not perhaps coincide with the views of some others and one may doubt the practicality of his commitment to non-violence. One may also question whether anyone has the right to commit the movement to peaceful resistance alone, even if it were to be attacked violently.

I did not hear him speak any words in Irish but the written text of Puigdemont’s speech did contain some. Although it was good to see some Irish there, for the few words he was going to speak in the language, Puigdemont (or his advisors) might have taken the trouble to formulate them correctly. Addressing “mná agus uasal” although addressing women first, suggests that the audience was an almost all-female one and who were not “uasal” (noble, important), but was surely unintended. And “dea-trathnóna leat (‘to you’, singular) go léir” (to all of you) is a conflation of singular and plural in the same address; likewise with the “go raibh maith agat” which thanks one person rather than the audience which was the intention and “go mór” which if not incorrect is clumsy and straight from Google Translate for “thanks a lot”.

Standing outside the auditorium with a placard announcing the Catalan solidarity demonstration on Saturday 9th April, at one point I noticed Puigdemont standing some metres away with some others. As he caught my eye, he stepped towards me, hand outstretched.

I gripped his hand and smiling, said: “Fáilte go Baile Átha Cliath!”

“Thank you,” he replied, smiling also and stepped back.

Whatever else he may be, I suspect he is what we in Dublin would call (with a meaning remote from any kind of subservience) “A gentleman.”

End.

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES ON PUIGDEMONT:

          Born in Amer, a village in the province of Girona and fifty-seven years of age last December, Carles Puigedemont is a journalist by trade and ex-Mayor of Girona, a major Catalonian city of over 100,000, just under 100 kilometres (62 miles) north-east of Barcelona. In 2006, after a track record of activism in Catalan culture and nationalist activism, he was adopted as a political candidate by the CIU (Convergence and Union) political party and later to represent the reformation of that party in the Junts per Si (Together for Yes) coalition, composed of mostly nationalist capitalist elements. He has been successful in every election and currently heads the uneasy Junts per Cat (Together for Catalonia) coalition. The current Govern is made up of a coalition between JuntsXCat and ERC (Republican Left of Catalonia), with the other pro-independence party, CUP (Popular Unity Candidacy) in opposition, though not voting with the Spanish-unionist opposition.

In what seems an action contradictory to his political position, in January 2019 Puigdemont filed a constitutional application for amparo (remedy, to put right) directed against the President of the Catalan Parliament, Roger Torrent and the Board of the Chamber, to the Spanish Constitutional Court. The application argues Puigdemont had been denied the use of his political rights as Torrent did not allow him to delegate his vote from Belgium after Puigdemont’s criminal indictment and suspension of his parliamentary position by Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena.

Despite constant Spanish-unionist claims from both Right and Left, the Catalan pro-independence movement has shown itself more tolerant of migrants and diversity than can be said in general of much of the rest of the Spanish State; one of the laws of the Govern sought to give migrants equal access to Catalan national health care but was twice squashed by the Spanish Supreme Court. Puigdemont is himself married to Romanian journalist (Marcela Topor in 2000) and they have two daughters, Magali and Maria, the family home in Girona. His children are multi-lingual and Puigdemont himself speaks Catalan and Castillian (Spanish), as do most Catalans but also English, French and Romanian.

LINKS AND FURTHER INFORMATION

Text of Puigdemont’s address in the debate in full attached at the end of the brief report in El Nacional: https://www.elnacional.cat/en/news/puigdemont-dublin-bertie-ahern-trinity-college-ireland_349173_102.html

Pre-event publicity from Trinity College: https://www.tcd.ie/ssp/events/lectures/2019-01-independence/

With Catalonia/ Leis an Chatalóin: https://www.facebook.com/WithCataloniaIreland/

CDR Dublin: https://www.facebook.com/CDRDublin/

Casal Catalá de Irlanda: https://www.facebook.com/casalcatalairlanda/

CATALAN PRESIDENT-IN-EXILE MEETS IRISH PARLIAMENTARIANS IN DUBLIN

Rebel Breeze Reporter

Puigdemont. President-in-exile of Catalonia, visited Dublin to take part in a debate in Trinity College on Tuesday 29th January and visited the Dáil and a number of Irish politicians on the same day.

Puigdemont and Puignól at the Barcelona-ireland friendship tree in Cow’s Lane, bracketed by activists of Casals Catalá de Irlanda, Catalan cultural organisation in Ireland on each side.
(Photo source: ACN, El Nacional).

          Carles Puigdemont was elected President of the pro-independence Catalan Government, declared an independent Catalan Republic but immediately suspended it; then had his Presidency abolished by the Spanish State, which took direct control of Catalonia for a period. He went into exile with a number of other Catalan Government ministers in order to avoid arrest; the Spanish State issued a European Arrest Warrant for him which was party unsuccessful and then withdrew it; however, he remains in exile in Brussels. Most pro-independence Catalans and even others consider him the legitimate President of Catalonia, though another had to be elected to fill his place; Quim Torra, who is currently the elected President, says that he considers himself only “the interim President”.

Carles Puigdemont was elected President of the Govern, the Catalan Government, in January 2016, in an agreement between pro-independence parties. On 27th October 2017, with a majority of October 1st Referendum votes salvaged and counted — after the Spanish police attacks on the voters – in favour of independence, he declared a Catalan Republic on behalf of the Govern. However, he almost immediately suspended it, to the dismay of many Catalans, including supporters of his own party. The Spanish State, the Constitution of which forbids any secession without the majority vote of the Parliament of the whole territory, was not mollified by the suspension and, as the Spanish State prepared criminal charges against him and Catalan Ministers, Puigdemont went into exile (as did another five Catalan ministers).

ARRESTS AND EXILE

          The Spanish State arrested a number of others, including seven ministers and two leaders of grass-roots movements and charged them with sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds, carrying 30, 15 and six years in prison respectively and European Arrest Warrants were issued for Puigdemont and other ministers. On 25th March 2018, Puigdemont was detained on that warrant while passing through Germany on his way back to Brussels from a speaking engagement in Finland. A German judge decided the issue of the “rebellion” charge first, declaring that any such charge had to provide evidence of violence, of which there had been none by the detainee (there had been plenty of violence but all by the Spanish police) nor under his direction.

The German court decided in July that Puigdemont could be extradited to the Spanish State to be tried for misuse of public funds but the Spanish State, not wishing to have to try him and the other ministers only on those while the other ministers were being tried on the more serious charges, withdrew the arrest warrants. These charges can of course be renewed at any time and another warrant issued.

Since his return to Brussels after release by the German court, this Dublin visit has been Puigdemont’s first venture outside Belgium.

Accompanied by Jordi Puigneró, the current Minister of Digital Policies and administration of Catalonia, also visiting Ireland, Puigdemont paid a brief visit to an olive tree donated by Barcelona to Dublin in acknowledgement of the Irish who had fought for Catalonia in the War of the Spanish Succession. After a meeting with the Mayor of Dublin for the year, Niall Ring, Carles Puigdemont attended the Dáil (the Irish Parliament) for a private meeting with Bertie Ahearn, a Fianna Fáil party parliamentarian and ex-Taoiseach (Prime Minister).

Puignól attaches a yellow ribbon to the Barcelona-Ireland olive tree in solidarity with the Catalan political prisoners.
(Photo source: Casals Catalá de Irlanda)

MEETING IN THE DÁIL

          Afterwards Puigdemont addressed a meeting room of around 100, organised by the Dáil organisation Oireachtas Friends of Catalonia, with its chairperson Pat Gavan, Sinn Féin Senator, presiding.  Jordi Puigneró sat beside Puigdemont as did Lynn Boylan, Sinn Féin MEP.

Puigdemont in the packed Dáil meeting room, Leinster House, Dublin.  Others L-R: Minister Jordi Puignól, MEP Lynn Boylan, Sen. Paul Gavan.
(Photo source: Internet)

Fifty-seven years of age last December, Carles Puigedemont is a journalist by trade and ex-Mayor of Girona, a major Catalonian city of over 100,000, just under 100 kilometres (62 miles) north-east of Barcelona. In 2006, after a track record of activism in Catalan culture and nationalist activism, he was adopted as a political candidate by the CIU (Convergence and Union) political party and later to represent the reformation of that party in the Junts per Si (Together for Yes) coalition, composed of mostly nationalist capitalist elements. He has been successful in every election and currently heads the uneasy coalition platform Junts per Cat (Together for Catalonia). The current Govern is made up of a coalition between JuntsXCat and ERC (Republican Left of Catalonia), with the other pro-independence party, CUP (Popular Unity Candidacy) in opposition, though not voting with the Spanish-unionist opposition.

In what seems an action contradictory to his political position, in January 2019 Puigdemont filed a constitutional application for amparo (remedy, to put right) directed against the President of the Catalan Parliament, Roger Torrent and the Board of the Chamber, to the Spanish Constitutional Court. The application argues Puigdemont had been denied the use of his political rights as Torrent did not allow him to delegate his vote from Belgium after Puigdemont’s criminal indictment and suspension of his parliamentary position by Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena.

Despite constant Spanish-unionist claims from both Right and Left, the Catalan pro-independence movement has shown itself more tolerant of migrants and diversity than can be said in general of much of the rest of the Spanish State and one of the laws of the Govern, twice squashed by the Spanish Supreme Court, sought to give migrants equal access to Catalan national health care. Puigdemont is himself married to Romanian journalist (Marcela Topor in 2000) and they have two daughters, Magali and Maria, the family home in Girona. His children are multi-lingual and Puigdemont himself speaks Catalan and Castillian (Spanish), as do most Catalans but also English, French and Romanian.

Addressing the full room, after thanking Gavin for presiding over the meeting and those assembled for their presence, Puigdemont presented his case that Catalonia had the right to secede, that holding a referendum was a democratic activity per excellance, that the arrest and trial of politicians for having promoted that referendum was undemocratic and that such activity was not within keeping of the EU ethos.

Replying to questions on what he would ask Irish politicians to do in order to help Catalonia’s struggle and on how he saw his nation’s struggle combining with other nations within the Spanish state, for example the Basque Country, Puigdemont said he did not wish to tell other countries what do and that the struggle of Catalonia stood on its own. He declined to relate the content of his discussions with Aherne, which he said were confidential. One member of the audience reminded Puigdemont that 100 years ago, the first democratically-elected Irish national parliament had met and that many of its delegates were also in jail or in exile.

To a question about alleged flight of business from Catalonia, Puigdemont said that one had to read alternate media to some of the dominant ones and make up one’s own mind, critically examining all sources – including himself! But he did say that although some addresses of head offices were transferred to the Spanish State in what he said was not legally right, not one factory, working office or member of staff had been transferred out of Catalonia. Also, the struggle with the Spanish State and some Spanish attempts at boycott had obliged Catalans to look outside the Spanish state for their markets and business links whereas previously, imports from and exports to the Spanish state had accounted for 90% and 80% respectively. Jordi Puigneró commented that he was in Ireland in part because of that, in particular to follow up on the Irish state’s success in attracting and developing information technology business.

After the Dáil meeting, Puigdemont and Puignól pose for photos with Catalan solidarity supporters.
(Photo source: Casals Catalá de Irelanda)

Outside in the icy cold after the fairly short meeting, Puigdemont lined up for a few photos surrounded by Catalan and other well-wishers and departed to the singing by them of Catalan’s national anthem, Els Segadors (The Reapers). He had a debate at which to speak in a few hours and most of the Catalans in attendance would be there too.

 

End.

OTHER MEDIA REPORTS:

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/politics/well-continue-fighting-for-our-freedom-it-doesnt-matter-if-were-in-jail-excatalan-president-tells-tds-37763055.html

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/carles-puigdemont-i-may-participate-in-the-european-elections-1.3776372

 

 

DUBLIN PICKET AGAINST INTERNMENT AND SPECIAL COURTS HARASSED BY POLICE

Clive Sulish

 

A picket called on the British Embassy to protest against continuing internment and special courts was harassed and kept under heavy surveillance by Irish police, both in uniform and in plainclothes, with marked and unmarked vehicles.

One view of part of the protest (the main entrance to the British Embassy is behind the picketers). (Source photo: Participant in the protest)

The protest was called by Irish Socialist Republicans, Anti-Imperialist Action Ireland, Dublin Anti-Internment Committee and Abolish the Special Courts campaign, was supported by members of a number of Republican and socialist organisations and independent activists.

Another view of the picket with the entrance to the British Embassy behind them (Photo source: Picket participant)

The objective of the protest was to highlight that the undemocratic practices of using the courts to remove the political opponents of those in power continues – the use of the courts”as a propaganda cover … to remove unwanted members of the public”, in the words of Brigadier Frank Kitson (British Army). These abuses of civil rights continue through a number of methods: revoking of ex-prisoners’ licences; refusal of bail; granting of bail under conditions preventing political activity; convictions in special no-jury courts. And they continue in both administrations: the Six-County British colony and the 26-County Irish state.

A Garda Special Branch (political police) male officer, accompanied by a female officer, requiring participants to give their names and addresses.
(Photo source: Picket participant)

The harassment of the protesters outside the British Embassy was at a level to which Irish Republicans have become unfortunately accustomed: a Garda officer in plain clothes identifying himself as a member of the Special Branch and displaying his Garda identification request, accompanied by another, approached those in the picket line and required them to give their names and addresses, quoting Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act1.

This practice of taking people’s names and addresses is one of intimidation which does restrain some new people from joining such pickets. The surveillance has the same intent, being visible; highly visible on this occasion with three unmarked SB cars, two Garda cyclists and one marked patrol car (in addition to the Garda officer permanently on duty outside the Embassy). “Remember this the next time you hear or read that the Gardaí were unable to respond to a domestic violence call for a number of hours because they were “short on resources’ “, commented one of the protesters. “Or unable to refer young offenders into the Diversion Program2” added another.

Intimidatory police surveillance on the other side of the road from the protest: two unmarked Special Branch cars, two bicycle police and one patrol car. Another SB car was parked on the pavement on the same side as the Embassy, which has a Garda officer on permanent duty also.
(Photo source: Picket participant)

The drivers of a number of vehicles, especially taxis, tooted their horns in solidarity as they passed. Although the cold was penetrating through footwear to feet, the protest ended a little after an hour.

 

FOOTNOTES:

1The section authorises those questions by a Garda officer who has reasonable grounds for suspecting the interrogated may be committing or about to commit a crime – clearly inapplicable in most cases where this is used.

2https://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/ireland/garda-report-shows-3500-children-escaped-prosecution-for-crimes-898197.html Although this report highlights the victims of the crimes, the youth themselves became victims of a life of mostly low-level crime and associated lifestyles of early substance use, early parenthood and, later jail and, in many cases, early death.

MISCONCEPTIONS

Diarmuid Breatnach

 

There are many misconceptions about Irish politics and history and the centenary of the inauguration of the First Dáil and of the first shots fired in the War of Independence (one of several of our “wars of independence”) seems like an appropriate occasion to try to tease some of them out.

The Irish Tricolour — national flag of the State but also quintessentially of Irish Republicans.

The “Starry Plough”, flag of the Irish Citizen Army. Today it is held to belong variously to socialist Republicans, Revolutionary Socialists and even sometimes social democrats.

The Red Flag, flown by Communists, Revolutionary Socialists and even sometimes by Social Democrats.

Flag colours of the Anarcho-Syndicalists.

A different version of the Starry Plough, usually but not only flown by social democrats. However, it was the flag of the Republican Congress in the 1930s.

For sure, many of those misconceptions belong to those viewing us from outside but here I’d like to deal with those from among our own. These misconceptions are spread equally among the Irish Republicans, Irish Socialists, Irish social-democrats and liberals – but each group believes different ones.

 

REPUBLICANS

To Irish Republicans (and I think I am objectively correct in not applying that to all who claim the title), the War in the Six Counties was lost because their political and military leadership, or most of it, abandoned the struggle or betrayed it. I think that is a fundamental misconception which leads to further misconceptions about what might be the way forward.

Please do not think for one minute that I am excusing the conduct of that leadership – I am not. Anybody is entitled to abandon the struggle but they are not entitled to claim their departure as a new way forward and to call on others to do the same – that is if they do not wish to be called “traitors”. Nor is anyone, least of all, entitled to take part in the colonial administration and if they do so, they have earned the titles not only of “traitors” but also of “collaborators”.

That judgement has nothing to do with peaceful versus armed struggle, parliamentary participation versus abstentionism or any such debate but is simply this: anyone who participates in colonial government is colluding with the colonist power, the invader, the appropriator. That is a truth understood by most people throughout the world.

It is a different point I am making entirely: the 30 Years War was lost because it could never have been won. To see this written or to hear it said will shock many Republicans and be seen as a kind of heresy – but that does not stop it from being true. Think about it: how could an armed struggle fought in one sixth of the country alone against a modern imperial army, possibly succeed? And that one-sixth further divided with at most 30% (and in reality a lot less) possibly sympathetic to the fighters? Who could sit down to ponder this and believe that struggle had a chance? The remarkable thing is not that it was lost or given up – but that it lasted as long as it did.

The only way that struggle could possibly win would be with the support of the 26-County State and it may well be that those who embarked upon it thought that at some point the Irish bourgeoisie would intervene in some way. They did — but to increase repression of Republicans.

A war might have been won if it had been extended across the whole state. Not necessarily an armed struggle across the whole country but certainly a social, economic, political one. It is not reasonable to expect the mass of people in the 26 Counties to fight year after year for those in only one part of the country, be it a colony or not, and have their own needs ignored. The people in the Six Counties would not do that either if the situation were reversed.

Certainly there was no shortage of issues going begging, from gender and sexuality-related civil rights, housing, unemployment, censorship, clerical domination, bleeding of the national language, sell-out to foreign capital, emigration, absentee landlords, private ownership of natural resources, sexual and other abuse by institutions. However, to take on the spread of issues oppressing or of concern to the people in Twenty-Six Counties would have meant taking on the Irish Gombeen class, its State and its supporting Church.  Whether because they still had hopes of the Irish State or did not want to clash with the Church which had the religious allegiance of the majority of their followers – or because they themselves did not want to challenge some or all of those institutions,It is clear that the leadership of the Republican movement then could not bring themselves to that confrontation.

If only a struggle across the whole “island of Ireland” (sic) could possibly have won then it seems logical that only such a struggle has a hope of winning today.

Some of the Republican groups perhaps have this awareness and certainly they have been seen in water and housing protests in the 26 Counties. But they are small groups, their activity patchy, lacking collaboration with one another (even in resisting State repression). More fundamentally there is no strategic plan for organising the working class. In a way, they can’t be blamed for that: they are not communists or anarchists; no matter how revolutionary or left-wing, they are primarily and always Irish Republicans.

 

REVOLUTIONARY SOCIALISTS

There is another sector whose members might well be nodding their heads in agreement with the above criticism but they too are beset by an important misconception – albeit a different one. They are the communists, socialists and anarchists who would consider themselves revolutionary, i.e who claim to believe in a revolutionary transformation of society.  A general disdain of the Republicans runs through this sector, considering Irish Republicans to be simple militarists, adventurist and even sectarian.

Their disdain – or perhaps their fear of being tarred by association – is such that they cheerfully allow all kinds of abuses against Republicans by the Irish State and the colonist statelet. By “allow” I mean that they do not protest against the abuses. Ethically, this is reprehensible but functionally it is dangerous. And in a country where the most numerous section ready to take on the State happens to be Irish Republican of one kind or another, such an attitude by the “revolutionary” Left is nothing short of counter-revolutionary.

This is, in a way, the sector to which I most belong but without that disdain or political apartheid.

Nor do our tiny cliques and small parties exhibit revolutionary spirit even in straight socialist issues, being in general concerned more with peaceful mobilisations and speeches or elections to public office than direct action.

One would think that trade unions would be of particular interest to the revolutionary Left – certainly the Republican movement has paid them little attention. However one finds only small struggles to appoint some Left-winger, usually not even a revolutionary, to the heights of union bureaucracy. When issues of industrial conflict arise, one does find revolutionary socialist shop stewards pushing for militant action.

But where is the education of workers? Where is the mobilisation of revolutionaries of different parties and none to support workers in industrial action? There is in fact no such “Broad Left” organisation in Ireland (not that its example in Britain is anything to emulate) and generally strike support is used for party building. When that particular conflict is over, nothing remains that was not there already.

 

SOCIAL DEMOCRATS AND LIBERALS

The third sector, shaking their heads at the “militarism” of the Republicans and the “impracticality” of the revolutionary socialists, are the social democrats and liberals. Their misconception is that capitalism and imperialism can be reformed so that they no longer be rapacious.

Maybe there was a time when such a belief was reasonable (though I find it hard to imagine it) but certainly that was long ago. Sincere reformers, benevolent capitalists and aristocrats and scheming reformists have all failed to reform the system of exploitation. Indeed, what historical experience has shown is that even if a capitalist or imperialist wished to subscribe to ownership in common, his or her class colleagues would not permit it.

The electoral path, so detested by some communists and many republicans, is where social democrats and liberals most place their hope and faith. And yet, despite an occasional individual exception, what has the history of those experiments shown us? Corruption of individual activists, wholesale corruption of party leaderships; diversion from the struggles on the ground to bureaucratic struggles in parliaments; careerist trade union leaders and bureaucratic officials; disempowerment of the working people; weakening of organs of real struggle; respect for the capitalists’ laws …..

Not one government of a socialist revolutionary kind has emerged by this process and, whenever it seemed to come close, it was overthrown by military coup or foreign imperialist intervention.

But still, it might work next time, eh? To the advocates of this ideology, of these methods, history does not matter – it can be ignored, denied or expected to cease its operation.

 

MOVING FORWARD

So where does all this leave us? Yes, I know, in the proverbial cac — but how can we move forward?

This is what I think:

The Revolutionary Left needs to a) organise in a revolutionary manner among the working class and b) to defend the civil right of Republicans;

The Republicans need to unite at least against State repression and take up social and economic issues of working people;

the Social-democrats and liberals should unite with the others on issues of civil rights and social issues;

but ultimately the Republicans and Socialists should ignore reformist illusions.

 

And what about me?

I do what I can where I think I can have a positive effect – criticise but participate; participate but criticise. And hope to learn not only from the mistakes of others but also from my own.

End.

ABUSE OF POWER AND VIOLATION OF CIVIL RIGHTS IN IRELAND ARE NOT THINGS OF THE PAST

Diarmuid Breatnach

The violation of the civil rights of Osgur Breatnach (then a leading member of the IRSP) exposed in the program in the Finné series on TG4 (Irish language TV channel) shown recently and repeated a week later was set in the 1970s but the injustice did not end there.

Osgur Breatnach, photographed recently and still wanting his beating and framing investigated
(Source image: Dara Mac Dónaill, Irish Times).

          Even after a High Court admission that he and McNally had been subjected to “oppression” and his conviction thereby overturned 17 months after his jailing, the court still maintained he had beaten himself up – a fiction it maintains to this day.

Of course to say otherwise would have been to admit the Gardaí special unit that came to be known as “The Heavy Gang” were vicious thugs who fabricated “confessions”. And that the judiciary of the Special Criminal Court had, despite the medical evidence and signs of beating on all, including the three who had “confessed” and the repudiation of those statements in court, colluded with the beatings, accepted the statements as true confessions and convicted three of the men for up to 12 years’ jail. And to admit that the Court of Appeal and High Court had been complicit in accepting as a “finding of fact” which could not be overturned that they had beaten one another up (and done it to himself, in the case of Breatnach).

All of which meant that the Heavy Gang got more encouragement for their ‘work’ so that some of them were able to turn up on the scene of other scandals, including that of the false confessions of Joanna Hayes and her family (about which Gardaí nothing has been done either).

Even today, not one of those Gardaí has been even charged and the complicit judiciary and State Prosecution carried on in their jobs and in some cases rose higher.

The injustice did not stop there, for when Nicky Kelly, who had been on the run, gave himself up, even though exactly the same evidence had been used to convict him, he was told he had run over the timeframe in which he could appeal and it took four years of campaigning to get him out too. And then only for “humanitarian reasons,” so the “guilty of armed robbery” verdict still stood for his reputation, potential relationships, job prospects etc.

Another eight years later he received a Presidential “Pardon” from Uachtarán Mary Robinson.

Then the State fought the financial compensation case, taking it to the extreme of bringing Gay Byrne to court over an interview he had given Osgur Breatnach. At this point some wiser heads decided to limit the damage, pay up but with the condition that the three did not go after the police or proceed with any case about the beatings.

A facet of British and Irish civil law of which many are probably unaware is this: If the respondent (i.e the one against which you are taking the case) offers you a sum and you refuse it, and you later win the case but are awarded less than what you were offered earlier, you have to pay all the costs of the defence! You can actually end up owing money!

But back to ongoing injustice. Since not a single one of the Heavy Gang was ever even charged or disciplined over this and other similar behaviour and some were even promoted; since not a single member of the legal profession or judiciary was even reprimanded for their part in it; no warning about where the boundaries are has been given to the Gardaí much less to the judiciary. Which means that it can all easily happen again.

The defendants in the Jobstown case were not beaten up to force them to ‘confess’ but when we hear Garda after Garda, including a senior one, affirm under oath in court that one of the defendants said something which all the video evidence proves he did not, at what conclusion can we arrive other than that they were all lying? But not one of them has been charged or even disciplined either.

Conversely, the State has no problem with dragging anti-fascists to court recently and this to answer charges such as “violent disorder” arising out alleged actions preventing the European fascist organisation Pegida from launching a branch in Dublin.

12-hour protest at Department of Justice in January 2004 –Cormac Breatnach, musician and brother of heavy gang victim Osgur with other musicians including of the Ó Snodaigh family and TD Aongus, their brother.
(Photo source: Indymedia — see Links)

ARE THINGS TODAY IMPROVED?

          The Heavy Gang is not operating as such today (or at least not yet) but in some respects things are actually worse than they were back in the 1970s ad ’80s. There was one Special Criminal Court then – now there are two! The Public Order Act was brought into force in 1994 to give Gardaí great powers to repress public protests and the scheduled offence of Violent Disorder was included in that Act: three unconnected individuals at the scene of a “disorder” can be convicted under the latter provision and sentenced up to ten years in jail or fined an unlimited amount (or both)!

The non-jury Special Criminal Court on its last day in Green Street before it moved to its new location in Parkgate Street (Photo source: Internet)

Courts are imposing bail conditions preventing activists from continuing to be politically active, i.e from attending public meetings, rallies, demonstrations, pickets etc – for up to the two years it can take the case to come to trial.

And just as in the ‘bad old days’, the unsupported opinion of a Garda of Superintendent rank or over is sufficient to convict Republicans of “belonging to an illegal organisation” and visitors to the public gallery of the SCC have to give their names and addresses to the Gardaí before being admitted.

Special Branch officers still routinely and openly watch Republicans carrying out their peaceful political work and demand their names and addresses on pickets. But now not only is surveillance carried out on people’s electronic communication equipment, communication is also being blocked at times by special equipment of the Gardaí.

Sadly, as the struggle over social and political issues becomes more acute in this state, we will see more repression, as the State tries to force the whole of civil society into compliance, especially by concentrating that repression on society’s more politicised and active sectors. Already in Dublin we have seen masked bailiffs and masked police carrying out an eviction of a small token occupation group in an empty house and, a week later, armed police turning up to a dispute between a couple and their landlord.

Only by admission of wrongdoing followed by actions overturning the current impunity of the Gardaí and the judiciary can a worsening of the situation perhaps be averted. But there is no sign of that happening.

End.

 

LINKS FOR REFERENCE/ FURTHER INFORMATION

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/wronged-man-still-seeking-answers-40-years-after-sallins-train-robbery-1.3673264

https://www.indymedia.ie/article/63140?userlanguage=ga&save_prefs=true

https://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/from-heavy-gang-to-bailey-case-how-gardai-havent-learnt-lessons-30201431.html