FRONTLINE ESSENTIAL WORKERS – VULNERABLE BUT NOT CONSIDERED

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 5 minutes)

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

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

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

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

WHAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN DONE

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

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

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

  3. Hand-sanitiser at every work station

  4. Wrap-around screens at all checkout points

  5. Disinfection routines for all work stations at shift changes

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

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

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

  9. Safe social distances marked for queues and enforced

  10. Regular disinfection of automatic checkout machines

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT WAS DONE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

End.

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

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

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

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

 

SUSPENDED SENTENCE FOR GARDA WHO ASSAULTED RTÉ CAMERAMAN

Diarmuid Breatnach

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

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

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

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

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

Earlier that day, the anti-fascists and anti-racists had occupied the site of the
planned Pegida rally.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)
Fascists of E. European origin make their presence known in North Earl Street through threats and insults. (Photo source: Antifascist photographer)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTIONS NOT ASKED

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

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

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

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

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

END AND AFTERMATH OF THE PEGIDA CONFLICT

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

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

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

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

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

End.

REFERENCES, SOURCES:

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

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

Anti-Irish Racism Letter to Irish Times

Anti-Irish racism in Britain

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

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

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

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

DIARMUID BREATNACH,

Baile Átha Cliath 9.

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

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

 

By Liz Curtis. First published 1984 by the Greater London Council.
(Image source: Johnsbookshop.org)
A dungeon cell in Paddington Green Metropolitan Police Station. Under the provisions of the “Prevention of Terrorism Act” (sic), Irish people were kept in cells like this for up to five days (sometimes longer) without access to solicitor, family or friends, interrogated and often brutalised.
(Photo source: Protesters who occupied the empty building recently — go raibh maith agaibh!)

HAS FERRITER BEEN READING REBEL BREEZE?

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 2 minutes)

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

Diarmaid Ferriter in Thinker pose
(Source: Internet)

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Ferriter? Nary a word.

End.

REFERENCES:

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

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

 

 

DESPITE HOSTILE PROPAGANDA, SINN FÉIN IS JUST ANOTHER IRISH POLITICAL PARTY

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 5 minutes)

Sinn Féin is not like other Irish political parties” goes the propaganda campaign against the party  by media commentators and rival mainstream politicians during the elections. What nonsense! It is exactly like the other main Irish political parties – and that’s the problem.

          Their opponents’ main objection seems to be that Provisional Sinn Féin was widely seen as the political wing of the armed resistance group Provisional IRA and, although the IRA have dissolved and decommissioned their weapons, the party still carries that mark in the eyes of its detractors (and, it must be said, fondly in the eyes of some of its supporters).

This propaganda campaign is acutely unhistorical. A few short lessons in Irish history might be of use here.

The Irish Labour Party was founded by, among others, the revolutionary socialist James Connolly and anarcho-sindicalist Jim Larkin. In 1913 both advocated arming union workers to resist armed police attacks. In 1916, the Irish Citizen Army they founded was part of the armed Rising and two of their leaders were among the 16 executed by British firing squads.

The party stayed neutral during the Civil War and was an opposition party to the Cumann na nGaedheal government. Since then, the Labour Party has been in Government only as a coalition partner – most times with the right-wing Fine Gael party. Except for it links with trade unions, the party has little claim to having “Labour” in its name and has turned away from everything if which its founders believed.

Fine Gael was formed in 1933 when two smaller groups joined Cumann na nGaedheal, which had been the governing party of the partitioned Free State from 1923 up until the merger. Michael Collins and his followers were the kind of people The founders of Cumann na nGaedheal were among the pro-Treaty and Free State supporters, i.e people who until then had been active in leading or supporting a campaign of armed resistance to the occupying British forces, including assassinations, ambushes and robberies. The Free State began the Civil War in 1922 by an artillery bombardment of Republican positions in Dublin and over the next few years carried out repression on the civilian population, torture, summary executions of prisoners of war as well as State executions – and assassinations.  The victors handed the reins over to Cumann na nGaedheal in 1923.

The parties that joined Cumann na nGaedheal in 1933 were 1) the National Centre Party, essentially a big farmers’ quasi-fascist party and 2) the Army Comrades Association (the fascist “Blueshirts”). Of the mainstream Irish political parties, Fine Gael has stayed truest to its founders and base.

Fianna Fáil emerged from a split from Sinn Féin in 1926; interestingly, much of what is being said against Sinn Féin by establishment political commentators now – and worse — was said then about Fianna Fáil: “murderers”, “revolutionaries” (and even “Communists”!). The party first entered power in 1932, its leader De Valera having been — little more than a decade previously — a leader of the Republicans during the Civil War, opponents of the Treaty and of the Irish Government of the time.  It freed the Republican prisoners locked up by the Cumann na nGaedheal government, also having a special police force (“Broy’s Harriers”) to persecute the Blueshirts, who aspired to taking power as had Fascists in Europe.

Cumann na nGaedheal (forerunner of Fine Gael) poster against Fianna Fáil during 1930s.
(Image sourced: Internet)

By 1939, the Fianna Fáil government had introduced the savage repressive legislation of the Emergency Powers Act to intern republicans without trial and after a successful habeas corpus challenge by Seán McBride (one of the founders of Amnesty International), the Government brought in the Offences Against the State Act, was re-arresting Republicans and interning them without trial again (around 2,000). Two Republicans died on a hunger strike protest in Mountjoy Jail. Under Fianna Fáil the State executed six Republicans and some more are alleged to have died as a result of their treatment in the concentration camp.

In 1957, a Fianna Fáil government once again brought internment without trial into force, the colonial administration of the Six Counties having done the same the year previously. The last prisoner was released by FF in 1959.

Left: Cumann na nGaedheal poster urging votes against FF because of the party’s history. Right: Fianna Fáil poster appealing to the working class and small farmers.
(Image sourced: Internet)

From having been seen as the main political party of Irish Republicanism, Fianna Fáil became in a short time the preferred party of the Irish capitalists (the “Gombeen” class) and has been in government more than any other party, more often indeed than the party that won the Civil War and set up the State.

JUST LIKE ANY OTHER IRISH PARTY

          There is no historical basis for saying that Sinn Féin is very different from the other Irish mainstream political parties. It has traversed a similar path to all those others, perhaps most similarly to Fianna Fáil – it’s just a more recent arrival on the mainstream scene. It is already very like other main Irish political parties and is getting to be exactly like them.

Leader of the Sinn Féin party, Mary Lou McDonald, at the launch of the party’s manifesto. With no intention of overthrowing capitalism it promised reforms for working people.
(Photo source: Internet)

That is not a compliment.

This is a party that, in recent decades, had a revolutionary Irish republican – or at least nationalist – position. It strongly opposed the partition of the country and the colonial occupation of one-sixth of the nation’s territory. With the latter came — naturally enough — opposition to the colonial police force, the Royal Ulster Constabulary but this was much more than an ideological opposition: the RUC was an armed force created specifically for the repression of Irish Republicans and acted consistently against the Catholic minority in the Six Counties, which SF sought to represent and among which it organised.

The colonial Statelet itself, with its gerrymandering of electoral boundaries, sectarian allocation of housing and employment and its Special Powers Act, was the sworn enemy of the Sinn Féin party. And when British troops were sent in 1969 to repress the civil rights uprising, of course Provisional Sinn Féin and Provisional IRA fought them too.

The Provisional IRA gave up armed struggle against the British in 1998 and, although it maintained its armed force for control of its community for some time afterwards, eventually dissolved its organisation. By then it had already decommissioned its weapons.

Martin McGuinness (right) of SF, formerly of the IRA, as Deputy Prime Minister of the British colony of the Six Counties. He partnered the Prime Minister Ian Paisley (left), a rabid religious sectarian, Christian fundamentalist and homophobe. They were dubbed “the Chuckle Brothers”.
(Photo sourced: Internet)

In 2007 the SF party became part of the British colony’s administration in Stormont, with Martin McGuinness, former chief of the IRA in Derry, partnering Ian Paisley, notorious Loyalist religious sectarian and social bigot.

That same year the party agreed to support the armed and sectarian police force and in the reorganisation of the RUC had the name changed to “the Police Service of Northern Ireland”. The essence of the force, naturally, remains the same.

All the austerity measures inflicted on the working class by the administration since the party entered joint government of the colony have been approved by Sinn Féin MLAs.

Martin McGuinness publicly shaking hand of British colonial Queen when SF officially opposed the visit. However SF did not demonstrate against her visit and Gerry Adams later approved of it.
(Photo sourced: Internet)

In 2011, despite an official SF policy of opposition to the visit of the Queen of England, Commander-in-Chief of the British Armed Forces, to the 26 Counties (the Irish state), leaders greeted her (one in person) and urged no protests be made against her visit.

In 2019, SF welcomed Prince Charles on a two-day visit to the colony and to the State; this man is not only son of the English Monarch but ceremonial commander-in-chief of the Parachute Regiment, authors of the massacres of Derry’s Bloody Sunday (14 dead) and Ballymurphy (11 dead) for which not a single soldier or commander has ever been tried. The SF Mayor of Derry, however, refused to meet him.

Gerry Adams shakes hands with Prince Phillip, titular head of the Parachute Regiment (the SF Mayor of Derry refused to meet him).
(Photo sourced: Internet)

This year, 2020, the Six-County part of the leadership of Sinn Féin joined others in publicly seeking recruits for the PSNI, while the 26-County leadership withdrew from its previous position of seeking abolition of the repressive emergency powers of the Offences Against the State Act.

In the 26 Counties, SF long ago indicated its willingness to join in a governing coalition with some one of the other mainstream political parties: i.e capitalist, neo-colonial political parties.

On so many occasions, it has shown itself to be like the other parties and prepared to ditch formerly-declared principles for what it considered a political advantage, proving itself a “safe pair of hands” to the rulers of the system.

Yes, Sinn Féin is indeed a party like any other Irish mainstream political party: capitalist, neo-colonial, undemocratic and supporting State repression. As to the latter, why not? It won’t be SF that the State will be repressing — it’ll be Irish Republicans. And if SF ever get where they want to, into majority control of government – they’ll have plenty of opponents themselves to drag before those non-jury courts.

End.

L-R: PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne, Anne Connolly, Chairperson of the NI Policing Board, Gerry Kelly MLA, Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill and Deputy Chief Constable elect, Mark Hamilton at recruitment launch for the colonial police force.

MORE INFORMATION LINKS

“Sinn Féin is not a conventional democratic party”: https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/sinn-f%C3%A9in-is-not-a-conventional-democratic-party-this-is-undeniable-1.4161818?

The most vicious of unhistorical attacks on SF, although from an alleged historian: https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/columnists/ruth-dudley-edwards/sinn-feins-rise-akin-to-that-of-nazis-in-1930s-and-is-a-threat-to-democracy-on-this-island-38940177.html

Internment without trial under Fianna Fáil 1957: https://www.anphoblacht.com/contents/19806

Sinn Féin shares in administration of the British colony for the first time: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/sinn-f%C3%A9in-endorses-psni-by-overwhelming-majority-1.1292110?

Sinn Féin accepts the colonial police force: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/sinn-f%C3%A9in-endorses-psni-by-overwhelming-majority-1.1292110?

Relatives of people murdered by Crown forces and allies object to SF support for the PSNI: https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/209838/posts/2580601201

Sinn Féin leader McGuinness welcoming Queen of England to the colony despite SF official policy against her visit: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/queen-publicly-shakes-hands-with-sinn-feins-martin-mcguinness-after-historic-meeting-7892750.html

SF leader Gerry Adams commenting favourably on Queen’s visit to the Irish State despite official SF policy: https://edition.cnn.com/2012/06/27/world/europe/uk-queen-northern-ireland/index.html

Sinn Féin welcoming Prince Phillip: https://www.irishnews.com/news/northernirelandnews/2019/05/22/news/duchess-1625989/

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-44474996

Gerry Adams meeting Prince Phillip: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-32786393

Sinn Féin recruiting for the colonial police force: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/sinn-f%C3%A9in-presence-at-psni-recruitment-event-seismic-and-historic-1.4161267?

Sinn Féin and the Special Criminal Court: https://www.thejournal.ie/special-criminal-court-explainer-4993281-Feb2020/

https://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/ireland/sinn-fein-call-for-review-not-abolition-of-special-criminal-court-976322.html

February 2020 Election results: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/10/irish-general-election-everything-you-need-to-know

“CATALAN TERRORISM” MEDIA HYSTERIA COLLAPSES

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 5 minutes)

In September this year the Spanish newspapers were bleating that Catalans had been discovered preparing a terrorist attack with explosives — and some foreign media even picked up the reports. Nine alleged members of CDRs (Committees for the Defence of the Republic) were arrested under terrorism legislation while the media showed exciting footage and photos of a big Guardia Civil operation with police breaking down doors. Some right-wing Spanish newspapers even claimed to know the target of the “terrorist cell”. Five months later, no charges of possession of explosives have emerged and all but two have been released on bail.

Spanish State Security Forces conducting a search as part of “Operation Judas” (Source: Spanish State Ministry of Information (sic))

          At least 500 members of the Spanish State’s Security Forces and Corps took part in the well-publicised operation against the CDRs on 23 September. In the usual Spanish judicial disregard for the concept of “innocent until proven guity”, the National Court Prosecuting office and Spanish media declared that the arrested had “advanced plans” for attacks over the forthcoming days.

El Mundo (daily of the editorial line of the right-wing PP), for example, opened its paper edition with the headline “The CDR intended a terrorist attack in Catalonia ‘on D-Day’”. Seven of the arrested were sent to jail without bail and the scare-story of Catalan independence terrorists ready to attack ran like wildfire through news and social media. El Confidencial was able to go further and to disclose that the intended explosive “thermite” (which is not even an explosive) was intended to blow up a barracks of the Guardia Civil.

El Confidencial might have the scoop on the target but El Mundo scooped the actual date for the explosion: “on the second day of the Trial” (i.e of the Catalan independentists).

Another right-wing journal, carrying without any sense of irony the title La Razón (“Reason”) was able not only to confirm the target but to identify even more actors in the conspiracy, with their headline that “The CDR of Torra squeeze: they were going to attack a barracks with explosives”. Quim Torra is currently President of the Catalan Government and the most he has been accused of by the Spanish State is “disobedience” for delaying in removing yellow prisoner solidarity bunting from the Government’s building during the last elections.

Not to be outdone, another media with the unassuming (but surely at most aspirational) title of El Periódico, somehow knew that not only Quim Torra was involved but also Carles Puigdemont, who was over in Brussels.

Nobody can accuse most of the Spanish media of failing to appreciate fantasy and though such “reporting” may be laughable to us, it is sobering to reflect that this is what is being fed daily to the broad Spanish public and used to justify all kinds of repression against oppositional movements and even critical individuals.

Anyway, where is all this hysteria of a CDR bombing plot now, three months later?

Nowhere.

FIVE “TERRORISTS” RELEASED ON BAIL

Five of the seven members of what had been called ‘Technical Response Team’ have been released on bail coming up to the Christmas holidays; the first three on 5,000 euros bail, on December 20th. The National Court’s rationale was somewhat bizarre for a “terrorist” case, categorising two subgroups among the seven, one being the “producer” of the explosives, consisting of four people, and another the “executor.” So the Court released on bail those they considered to be the members of the “executor” team: Eduard Garzón, of which the Guardia Civil had stated that he was “the second most important member of the criminal organization”, Guillermo Xavier Duch and Xavier Bugas.

Just six days later, the National Court also released Ferrán Jolis, on bail of 5,000 euros, also stating that he did not belong to the subgroup responsible for the preparation of explosives. However, on the same day, despite opposition from the Prosecutor’s Office, another judgement ordered the release on bail of Alexis Codina on 10,000 bail. The Guardia Civil “investigations” had earlier declared Codina the owner of a “clandestine laboratory” where explosive compounds were prepared!

The dreaded Audiencia Nacional, the special Spanish State court for “terrorism” charges, located in Madrid.
(Source photo: Internet)

But wait a minute! So perhaps these were people low down in the terrorist organisation? Or even perhaps the police were mistaken about their involvement? But there WAS a terrorist cell, right? There were explosives found, right?

The National Court, with a special brief to deal with ‘national security crimes’, found many words to answer that question in a resounding negative: “The Court declares “the objective non-existence of explosives held by Mr. Codina” since it only found “precursors” of the thermite and also that the defendant has “documents with information to make explosives.”

Or in other words, no explosives. Or lots of other stuff you might find around a house or garage. Thermite itself is not even an explosive but combustible material, such as one might find in fireworks or flares, for example. Which, strangely enough, was what many Catalans were insisting back in September was all that the police had found. But who listens to Catalans, anyway? Especially pro-self-determination ones.

OK, OK, but a terrorist organisation was discovered, right?

The National Court had something to say about that: “The Court, at this time of resolution of an appeal against a precautionary measure, with a broad, but limited knowledge of the proceedings that are in ongoing investigation, without the existence of a previous criminal organization of a terrorist character thus judicially declared of reference, cannot issue a definitive judgment sufficiently founded on the nature or non-terrorist of the facts, or the existence of an organization that would have been constituted ex novo, nor from the point of view of its purposes, structuring, previous criminal manifestations, or degree of development in its possible conformation.”

That sounds like another “No”, too.

So why are two Catalans still in jail and on what charges are the nine to be tried eventually? Surely the Spanish State will find something? If only they still had the Baltazar Garzón judge still in office, with his mantra of “everything is ETA”!

Former Judge Baltazar Garzón, who ignored accusations of torture while sentencing Basque independentists on the basis of “confessions” and closed down all kinds of social, political and media agencies under the mantra that “everything is ETA”. Sadly he was lauded as a progressive by many liberals when he ordered the exhumation of one of the many mass graves of Franco’s era.
(Photo source: Internet)

And concerning the two still in jail, who were denied access to solicitors for weeks and one of whom refused legal assistance of the Catalan movement, there is something of a smell about that whole business too. Was that guy an informer? Or one who was turned by threats or even worse? Why would he, as the State claims he did, admit to things that even the Court is now saying were not done nor going to be done? And was the code name of the police operation, “Judas”, though somewhat unimaginative, a clue?

TERRORISTS EVERYWHERE!

          Painting oppositional movements — especially those for national self-determination – as “terrorist” is an old game of the Spanish State, going right back to Franco’s regime (a bit ironical really since his regime was certainly terrorist). It was done with the Basques for decades, banning political parties, closing down social centres, banning newspapers, radio stations and social media pages. In fact, creating a climate of terror amongst Basque pro-independence activists of all types.

Of course, the Spanish State itself has been caught out in terrorism, even after the death of Franco, when the social-democratic PSOE government in the 1980s was running terrorist kidnap and murder gangs against the Basques, with Government Ministers, senior police and army officers instructing and paying hired assassins.

The great thing about the “terrorism” brush is that once the State and the media begin to paint oppositional people with it, all one sees of those sometimes troublesome liberals is dust-clouds as they depart at speed – and not by any means only in the Spanish state.

Maybe you can’t teach an old dog new tricks – but in the Spanish State, the old tricks are usually good enough.

End.

MAIN SOURCE:

https://www.publico.es/politica/tesis-oficial-terrorismo-catalunya-desinfla-5-7-cdr-encarcelados-libertad-fianza.html

IS IT A CRIME TO HATE YOUR OPPRESSORS?

(Reading time: four minutes)

Diarmuid Breatnach

Some might say it more of a democratic duty!

A recent article of the Belfast Telegraph, a British-Unionist paper, reports that nationalist youth have built a bonfire and decorated it with, among other things, a banner representing the Parachute Regiment and another representing “Soldier F”. The article reports that the Police Service of Northern Ireland are treating this as “a hate crime”.

August 2019 Soldier F Bonfire
The bonfire preparation referred to in the Belfast Telegraph article (Photo source: Internet)

The newspaper comments also that this bonfire is associated with “anti-social behaviour” the nature of which however they neglect to specify. Although the article treats the PSNI statement as unremarkable and neglects to interrogate it as responsible journalism should do, the police statement is actually not only totally inaccurate in terms of law but also discriminatory and oppressive.

One definition of “hate crime” from an on-line dictionary is a crime, typically one involving violence, that is motivated by prejudice on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation, or other grounds.

Wikipedia posts at greater length and depth: A hate crime (also known as a bias-motivated crime or bias crime is a prejudice-motivated crime which occurs when a perpetrator targets a victim because of their membership (or perceived membership) in a certain social group or race.

Examples of such groups can include, and are almost exclusively limited to: sex, ethnicity, disability, language, nationality, physical appearance, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation. Non-criminal actions that are motivated by these reasons are often called “bias incidents“.

“Hate crime” generally refers to criminal acts which are seen to have been motivated by bias against one or more of the social groups listed above, or by bias against their derivatives. Incidents may involve physical assault, damage to property, bullying, harassment, verbal abuse or insults, mate crime or offensive graffiti or letters (hate mail).

Now, how does placing an emblem or banner to represent the Paratroop Regiment constitute a “hate crime” under any of those definitions? First of all, is it a crime to burn the banner? Not in itself, no and therefore it cannot be a hate crime. But even if burning a banner were defined in law as a crime, how would it fit the definition of “hate crime” as given above? It is none of those categories above that leads to the Parachute Regiment being reviled.

It is interesting, since the issue of “hate crimes” was brought into law, how incorrectly they are being ascribed by people in authority and by mass media and, curiously, applied to people struggling for national self-determination against repressive states and also to those opposing fascists. In other words, it is progressive forces that are being accused of “hate crimes” because of their resistance to oppression and resistance. Not the reactionary forces one might suppose were the object of the classification.

Certainly, it is the discriminatory and repressive behaviour towards its large Catholic minority of the ‘Northern Ireland’ statelet since its formation which clearly fits into the definitions of “hate crime”, although often its actions were not defined as crimes since they were authorised by its repressive legislation. Nevertheless, even within the parameters of that body of legislation the Statelet and its police committed thousands of crimes, including petty harassment, beatings, torture, perjury, arson, collusion with Loyalist paramilitaries and murder.

The British Army became an active participant in those crimes when it was sent into the Six Counties to bolster the crumbling government and exhausted sectarian police. Chief among those in criminality was the Parachute Regiment, responsible for an admitted list of unarmed civilian fatalities which includes 10 in Ballymurphy in August 1971, 13 in Derry in January of 1972 and another five in July of that year on the Springfield Estate.

Book Cover Impact Parachute Regiment in Belfast 1970-73
Booklet published by the Pat Finucane Centre documenting the murderous activities of the Parachute Regiment in just four years in Belfast. The bonfire preparation referred to in the Belfast Telegraph article (Photo source: Internet)

It is perfectly reasonable, natural and, I would say healthy to hate the people who carried out those massacres. And to hate them cannot reasonably be called a crime.

Soldier F” is the only member of that regiment to have been charged with the crime of murder and to be facing trial. As a representative of that murderous regiment he did not become a public target of hate until the Loyalists chose to publicly flaunt their support for him with banners, graffiti and badges. None of those, motivated by hate for the nationalist community, were charged with committing a hate crime. However, when nationalist youth, responding to that hateful campaign of the Loyalists, place the soldier’s alias on a bonfire, suddenly it is they who are accused of perpetrating a “hate crime”.

Portadown Stands with Soldier F street bannerGarvagh Supports Soldier F Banner

Lisburn Supports Soldier F Street Banner
Photographs of a small selection of prominent street banners in different areas of the Six Counties supporting ‘Soldier F’ and the Parachute Regiment erected by Loyalists (and over which no action was taken by the authorities). The bonfire preparation referred to in the Belfast Telegraph article (Photos source: Internet)

Unfortunate it may be that the nationalist youth have focused on this individual soldier but it is not a hate crime. They are targeting him not because of race, ethnicity, colour, religion, sexuality, disability etc, etc but because of his membership of a murderous regiment and, furthermore, in response to a campaign of provocation by Loyalists against which the sectarian PSNI and Statelet authorities have taken no action whatsoever.

And you know what? Although I am not from Derry or Belfast, I hate the Paratroop Regiment too. And the sectarian Statelet and its sectarian police force and the Loyalist bigots who support it and try to suppress the democratic rights of the nationalist population, as well as of migrants, women and LBGT people.

I could get to hate the Belfast Telegraph as well.

End.

REFERENCES:

BT article: https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/bonfire-adorned-with-parachute-regiment-and-soldier-f-banners-lit-in-derry-38408117.html?fbclid=IwAR2__W8lONddIRoU61aTPtGw2CKJo_oxaytKKIK1FKRs8RM_8PPHQp2Ryv0

Definition hate crime: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hate_crime

Short review of book about the Parachute Regiment in Belfast: https://www.irishnews.com/news/northernirelandnews/2018/08/09/news/new-booklet-explores-the-impact-of-the-parachute-regiment-on-belfast-1403186/