NO TO A EUROPEAN ARMY – PROTEST PESCO!

(Reading time: 4 minutes)

Diarmuid Breatnach

In March this year, the Irish State signed up to join PESCO, the EU’s Permanent Structured Cooperation military force. The Irish State’s armed forces are a now a part of it and, in a sense, so is every person in Ireland. It is a military alliance with other states and that changes our neutrality stance to which we have held since the creation of the State.

Protesters with the Dáil in the background (Photo: photographer on my phone)

          On the afternoon of 15th January this year, I attended a protest against PESCO in front of the Dáil, feeling a little guilty because it was the first such I had supported. We were few in number and, among the protesters, though I recognised some of them from other events, there were none I would associate with Irish Republican or Socialist groups – perhaps a few associated with the Communist Party.

My neglect and that of others is a pity. They may feel that other issues are more pressing but that surely does not prevent an occasional attendance. They may feel that there is nothing to be done – the decision was made by the Government a year ago, with the support of Fianna Fáil. But if something is wrong and we can’t for the moment end it, we should never acquiesce to it, by agreement or by silence.

FIRST STEP TOWARDS A SINGLE EUROPEAN ARMY?

          PESCO is an EU agreement on military cooperation. It is not a European Army, according to its supporters in public. Not yet, according to its opponents – but it is a big step on the way there. The European Commission has committed €1.5bn to ­PESCO projects by 2020, and Ireland will be obliged to boost its spending on personnel and weaponry. With such a budget in its early stages this is clearly no small project.

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the EU Commission and the man who favours an EU army, was rejoicing at the sign-up to PESCO and was quoted as saying of it: “She is awake, the Sleeping Beauty of the Lisbon Treaty.” Yes, we remember the Lisbon Treaty don’t we? ‘Just keep voting until you vote the way we want you to’!1

When I cycled near to Kildare Street on Dawson, I found the south end blocked by Gardaí. I turned back pushing the bike and went up Frederick St. South, left into Setanta Place and found myself blocked by Gardaí again. I had to turn back and work my way into Molesworth Street, which runs from Dawson Street to the Dáil, facing the main entrance. There were Gardaí here too but at least they were only turning away vehicular traffic. The small group of protesters were gathered by the metal barriers at the east end of Molesworth Street and I joined them there.

All these ‘security’ operations for the anti-PESCO protesters? No, of course not but there was a bigger demonstration expected later, protesting about a range of injustices (I didn’t stay for it).

Gardaí preventing pedestrian access to Kildare St., main access route to Irish Parliament and, coincidentally, to Buswell’s Hotel
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Protests at the Dáil have become so frequent in recent years that a new type of barrier has been employed. These cannot be easily separated or unhooked and the have steps built into them at regular intervals – on the Garda side. “They’re so the bastards can stand on them and baton protesters”, explained one of the demonstrators. Indeed.

Those who support our participation in PESCO justify it on the grounds of defending Europe and that, if we are a part of it, we should help defend it. No doubt a number of Army professionals relish the thought of playing with big weapons and the big boys.

People in opposition to our involvement say if Europe should be attacked then we have a choice of whether to join in its defence and that should be made democratically, whereas PESCO brings us in by stealth.

DEFENCE – OR AGGRESSION?

          Of course, states always claim that their armies are for defence. The USA, currently and for some time the most aggressively military state in the world, calls its ministry for military affairs the “US Defence Department” and its protege, probably the most aggressive state after the USA, calls its army the “Israeli Defence Forces”2.

Regarding a ‘defence’ of Europe, we might ask: against whom? Possibly against Russia, it is sometimes said. Russia has imperialist ambitions, of course but is that any different from France or Germany? Or the UK? Even the USA is hinted at as an enemy of the EU and it certainly a competitor.

Irish Army soldiers are ideal for sending into conflict areas, as the UN has found because, apart from military considerations, it has no imperialist past, ostensibly no axe to grind. Which of course is not strictly true, since the Irish State has traditionally sided with the USA on many issues and with the EU on others. But not militarily, at least not yet (apart from the Congo, that is, in the 1960s)3.

Contributing to a European Army however puts Irish soldiers in the field under EU direction and the EU is certainly a capitalist and imperialist mutual alliance, under the control essentially of Germany and France. The Spanish State faces possible future military conflicts with some nations within the state as does the French State, which also has involvement in a number of African states. Italy too may face such conflicts in future. A number of other European states also have economic interests in states in Africa and even some of the seemingly cleanest are major arms exporters.

Special steel barricades now used by the police at the Dáil. Note the step provided on the police side! (Photo: D.Breatnach)

CONCLUSION

          PESCO is of course an EU military alliance and a first step towards an EU army and Ireland joining it is undermining its traditional neutrality. Irish soldiers will be mobilised in EU military offensives against regimes the EU finds awkward, whether in support of the USA for example, as many EU states did in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, or possibly against former colonies of France and Spain, with new governments, taking measures to safeguard their natural resources. Our country’s involvement in such operations will of course render us a possible target for terrorist action here in Ireland.

I think more people should protest against PESCO, even if occasionally. I will make sure I do.

 

Protesters with Dáil (Irish Parliament) in the background, Buswell’s Hotel to the right and also the Irish National Archaeological Museum entrance visible in right background, access to all blocked by Gardaí. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

End.

FOOTNOTES:

1The Irish State signed up to the Lisbon Treaty of the EU in October 2009, following a referendum majority vote earlier that year in favour of the necessary amendment to the Irish Constitution. However, a majority vote in an earlier referendum in 2008 had voted to reject that amendment. A ‘no’ vote in Ireland could have finished the Lisbon Treaty for the whole EU and Ireland was the only state to hold a referendum on the question. After the first referendum, a campaign of State and media propaganda had pushed for a second referendum and achieved a 20% swing in favour in the 2009 vote, reversing the previous popular verdict.

2Apart from its attacks on Palestinians, Israel has attacked Egypt (with France and the UK, over control of the Suez Canal), Jordan, Lebanon and Syria and has carried out assassinations in and bombings of a number of other states; it is also constantly rattling its sabre at Iran.

3The Belgian state engineered a breakaway of Katanga Province from the new Republic of the Congo which, led by Patrice Lumumba, had declared independence in 1960 and was intending to protect the state’s natural resources. Katanga had copper mines. The Belgian state armed a rebel army run by a warlord and also supplied military expertise in the form of European mercenaries and seconded officers. The USA supported the breakaway (as did France) and the UN brokered a very imperfect ceasefire which the rebel army and the Belgian state had no interest in observing. The Irish Army were deployed there as part of the UN peacekeeping force, undermined and badly supported. Nine Irish soldiers were killed in ambush by tribesmen who did not support the secessionists and had seen their villages burned by European mercenaries as a result. More about it here: http://www.theirishstory.com/2016/10/07/the-irish-army-the-un-jadotville-and-the-congo/#.XIZa1SOLRsM

 

LINKS FOR REFERENCE AND FURTHER INFORMATION

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/explainer-ireland-joins-pesco-is-it-the-start-of-an-eu-army-36409443.html

Good overall summary here: https://www.rte.ie/news/politics/2018/1230/1019537-pesco-ireland/

PANA (Peace And Neutrality Alliance — organises some protests against Ireland joining PESCO): https://www.pana.ie/

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HOUSING DEMONSTRATIONS MARCH THROUGH DUBLIN

Diarmuid Breatnach

Protesters calling for the urgent construction of public housing marched through Dublin today. Various organisations and many independent activists took part in the protest with a broad range of people took pat, from socialist to republican-orientated, some with their children. The event was organised by the National Homeless and Housing Coalition.

Early part of the march detachment starting from the GPO, here proceeding south along O’Connell St, the long-closed Clery’s department store on the left and the Larkin Monument on the right. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

          On their Facebook page, the NHHC had issued a statement, part of which read:

Rebuild Ireland has been an unmitigated disaster yet the cross party motion that was passed in the Dail in October that called for practical actions that would end the emergency, including making it illegal to evict someone into homelessness, were ignored by the government even though it was supported by all parties except Fine Gael. We are demanding action on the motion.

We also learned that 15 Dublin hotels received over €1m each in 2018 for accommodating homeless families which further illustrates the reliance on the private sector. These families need public housing built on public lands, they need proper homes. Last year there were 842 cases of children being discharged from the Temple Street Emergency Department back into homeless emergency accommodation. The majority of these cases were a direct result of the fact that these children are living in completely unsuitable and cramped emergency accommodation.”

The march, though far from small, seemed somewhat smaller than expected which may have been due to a cold windy day with lashing rain a little earlier in the day but may also have had another cause. The Coalition of groups has split with ICTU (Irish Council of Trade Unions) and a number of NGOs pulling out to form a different campaign on housing, apparently declining to support the demand for public housing on public land.

Front of the march pausing on Custom House Quay (Photo: D.Breatnach)

The organisers of today’s march published a list of demands:

Declare the housing and homelessness crisis an emergency.
Provide a minimum of 10,000 public house a year. No to privatization: build public houses on public land.
Make housing a constitutional right.
End evictions, bank repossessions and sell-offs to vulture funds.
Create a national Traveller accommodation agency to oversee and deliver Traveller Accommodation.
Legislate for real security of tenure, real rent control and affordable rents.
End the use of B&B’s and hotels for emergency accommodation. Improve emergency accommodation facilities and provide security for all in need.
Create rent pressure zones for Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA). Ensure tenant’s rights for students in PBSA and digs-style accommodation.

One group set off from the GPO and after making a circuit on O’Connell Bridge, marched along the north quays, meeting up with another group coming across Butt Bridge to join them from the Housing Agency HQ; apparently another group had marched from City Hall. The march continued on to Samuel Becket Bridge, to the bemusement of some participants, where the participants halted and were addressed by a number of speakers.

Student on the march displaying flag of Union of Students in Ireland (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Along the route of the march, slogans were shouted, among which were:

“Raise the roof, not the rents!” and “Housing is a human right!”

Section of the march stretching out along the north quays. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

One of the organisers speaking at the rally at the end of the march: Tina McVeigh, of PBP. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

As well as Socialists, a number of Republicans were in evidence, marching without party banners. Sinn Féin supporters had a banner and party flags, as did People Before Profit and the Workers’ Party. Some Union of Students in Ireland flags were in evidence too. A Travellers’ group and some community groups also carried banners identifying their group with the march and its cause.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Report by Irish Times, with video including interviews with participants: http://https://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/thousands-march-in-support-of-homeless-in-dublin-1.3820626?fbclid=IwAR2aW9yLVjHbTrJ9kbb21MEHOl3R8llbRhy3GFeX8NvkGLtdjH69TF9fQxc&mode=amp

 

End.

IRISH YELLOW VESTS AND QUESTIONS

Diarmuid Breatnach

Recently a number of people have been marching in Dublin, saying that they are the Yellow Vests of Ireland. This is obviously inspired by the Gilets Jaunes (“Yellow Vests”) whose protests against the French Government began in November last year and swelled to huge numbers in Paris demonstrations and riots. Some smaller groups have announced their formation in different parts of Ireland too.  But there are questions concerning them.

Irish Yellow Vest protest crossing O’Connell Bridge 15 December 2019.
(Photo source: Internet)

          The Yellow Vests in Dublin have been meeting on Saturday afternoons at the Custom House and marching from there. I am busy on Saturdays and on the one day I made the time to join them, I did not find them and learned later from their posts that on that occasion they had gone to Dublin Port and apparently blocked the approach road for a period.

Originally the organisers stated that there would be no leaders but then two emerged, Glen Miller and Ben Gilroy. Until last week Gilroy was serving three months for contempt of court, a sentence imposed by a judge when he learned that Gilroy had not completed the community service sentence imposed for a previous contempt of court. Held in contempt of court a number of times Gilroy has always apologised afterwards and had his contempt considered “purged”, i.e cleared. It seems that the judge in this case decided that Gilroy was playing games with the court around the issue of contempt, which is probably a fair assumption (which is not at all to say that such actions are wrong).

Gilroy took a case to the High Court alleging failure to comply with certain legal requirement and on February 4th the Judge granted him liberty on bail in his own recognisance (i.e his own financial bond) while is case was discussed and decided. However this week the Judge ruled that his imprisonment was not unlawful and revoked Gilroy’s bail, which meant he had to return to jail.

In recent years a number of groups have sprung up which oppose a number of unpopular legal procedures, for example evictions, by a mixture of physical obstruction (by numbers of people) to bailiffs but also by appealing to what they claim are laws that take precedence over the legal procedures they are confronting. The “Land League” is one of these (no organic relationship to the 19th Century Irish organisation of Davitt and Parnell) and, not unrelated to the “League” in its reliance on arcane laws and procedures, real or imagined, is the Sovereign Movement, the “Irish Republican Brotherhood” (again, despite their claim of “inheritance”, no organic relationship to the 19th and 20th Century organisation) and the Fremen.

While some people are impressed by these arcane legalisms others are bewildered by or scornful of them and, despite their claims, these organisations seem unable to point to where their legalisms have actually been ultimately successful. They have certainly succeeded in slowing down such actions as repossessions and evictions by taking up court time and numbers turning up to block an eviction will often succeed in delaying the process, without any need to appeal to any kind of legalistic underpinning. Property rights reign supreme under capitalism and certainly the Irish state is no exception to that rule; on the other hand the authorities in the Irish state tend to prefer to carry out the normal business of capitalism with as little confrontation as possible.

Summoning numbers to block or delay an eviction and to support a victim of the system in court are of course tactics of struggle honoured by time and usage in Ireland, whether against the British administration or that of the Irish State. Such reliance on mobilisation of numbers can sometimes produce small or partial victories but they hint at something else – the mass mobilisation of insurrection and revolution. And that is part of the appeal of groups such as the “Land League” and probably in part of the Yellow Vests.

Section of Irish Vest protest Dublin 22 December 2019.
(Photo source: Internet)

But if insurrection and revolution are hinted at, we need to know whether the hints are in earnest. Calling for a general election, one of the demands of the Yellow Vests, hardly seems insurrectionary. How would that change anything? Calling for an end to a number of attacks on working people including evictions is good but how is it to be achieved? Is there an objective of overthrowing capitalism and imperialism in Ireland? We do not hear so if there is. If an insurrection is hinted at, by whom is it to be and for whom?

RACISM

          It is here that we run into a disturbing problem: racism, of which Gilroy and Miller have both been accused. Any movement or organisation led by racists is not going to be one for progressive change in society, let alone a socialist insurrection but worse – it is likely to be a breeding ground for fascism. And of late, fascist forces are gathering throughout most of the world and certainly in Europe. Capitalism is struggling and the workers must be made to pay the cost through keeping wages and social expenditure down and profits high. When persuasion and collaborationist workers’ leaderships are no longer effective, capitalism must fall back on naked force. Fascist movements are the frontline of that force, its leading edge and racism (or religious sectarianism, with which we in Ireland have more experience) is used to divide the lower classes, the ones that will be made to pay.

Of course not all the people supporting the Yellow Vests are racist but when an anti-immigration banner is tolerated on a march1 then it would be remarkable if racism were not being tolerated as well. And with regard to the leadership, Glen Miller’s racism is well established from his posts on social media. He has posted material against immigration, against Muslims, against Travellers and against lesbian, gay and transgender people – classical minority targets of fascism to split the working people. He also shares racist material by others including Tommy Robinson, a fascist public figure operating in England.

Gilroy is not usually so glaringly racist but he has certainly posted an islamophobic rant on social media.

One might argue that Islam is a religion and that being against it is not racism. Perhaps not, if one were against all religion, for example. But ethnicity and religious belief or organisation are often interconnected, at least in particular periods and societies. Most muslims are not white European. And the Irish certainly know from their own experience how easily anti-Catholicism became conflated with anti-Irishness, in Britain for example, in the USA (think of WASPS and the ‘Nativists’) and in Ireland under colonial rule.

Islamophobes fantasise about Moslems taking over the country, anti-immigrationists fantasise about immigrants taking over the country, racists fantasise about non-Europeans taking over the country. There are nuances between them but in the end do they matter that much? The effect is the same: society is portrayed as divided by ethnic origin rather than by class and the focus is diverted from the bankers, gombeen capitalists and their political servants an on to migrants instead.

It might be argued that “looking after our own first” is a natural outlook and not racist. But we need to look at where that comes from and where it leads. It starts from the false premise that there is a great shortage and that we should divide those scarce resources first among the Irish. But in fact there is sufficient wealth produced in Ireland to fund all the education, housing and healthcare needs of all the people, immigrants included. And this is because the wealth is produced by working people – including migrants. The problem for us all is that that huge portions of that wealth is being diverted to fund the market gambling, lifestyles and financial empires of Gombeen (Irish capitalists) and foreign capitalists and bankers. Those are the people who would be rubbing their hands with glee or happily exchanging bribes and payoffs if, instead of uniting to confront them, the workers began to fight amongst themselves, divided by race or religion.

When the 1916 Proclamation declared the objective of the insurgents to “pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation ….oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided the minority from the majority in the past”, it was addressing in part that religious sectarianism by which England had restrained the descendants of its colonists from overthrowing its colonial rule and also the pitting of Protestant against Catholic workers, a division which had been played out before 1916 and was to be enacted to even worse degree later. The “Protestants” were the “immigrants” of those years, along with their descendants2, albeit a privileged minority which migrants rarely are.

In making that statement, the insurgents of 1916 were drawing on an Irish revolutionary tradition stretching back to the United Irish of the 1790s and early 1800s, of the likes of Wolfe Tone, Henry Joy McCracken and Robert Emmett. It was a tradition that ran through every revolutionary movement in Ireland since that time, through the Young Irelanders, the Fenians, the Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army, a tradition that called for overcoming differences to build unity against the common enemy. That is the unity that fascists and racists seek to shatter.

Fascists may and often do verbally castigate capitalist governments, politicians, industrialists and bankers. But they end up serving them. They split the mass of the working and lower middle classes on the basis of race, they attack the defence organisations of the working class, they target other groups such as gay and lesbians, push women into the most subservient roles possible. The Nazis were “National Socialists” and part of their movement talked about nationalising industry under workers’ control. But they were backed by big capitalists such as Thyssen, Krupp and IG Farben and many others in Germany. In the USA and in Britain they were backed by Henry Ford and promoted by Viscounts Northcliffe and Rothermere, owners of the Daily Mail (until England declared war on Germany and the US entered WWII on the Allied side). The Nazis in Germany took over the trade union offices on Mayday and closed them down, forcing workers instead to join fascist unions controlled from the top, part of the State.

WHAT KIND OF UNITY?

          It is interesting that while fascists divide the working people in order to facilitate their control and undermine the struggles against the capitalist class, they often cry for unity. German unity. Aryan unity. White unity. Spanish unity. British unity. Irish unity. And when people have criticised individual leading figures in these groups, in particular recently of the Yellow Vests in Ireland, they have been accused of dividing, of undermining the struggle and calls for “unity” have been raised.

Whether it is right that the court should consider it criminal for someone to hold it up to disrepute, as Gilroy and some others have done on occasion, is another question and whether three months is a reasonable punishment for “contempt of court” in another. The courts are instruments of the State which in turn is an instrument of the ruling class and as such all revolutionaries must perforce hold them in disrepute and, in my opinion, three months in jail is excessive by normal standards in this state. But cries raised by the Irish Yellow Vests against this seek to glorify Gilroy as some kind of “people’s leader” and in turn to promote the ‘Vests’ as a viable resistance movement.

Workers know that unity in struggle is necessary but have also learned over the years that calls for unity may also be used to allow collaborationist trade union leaders and politicians to continue misleading the workers. Such calls can be employed to silence questions about where the movement is going. And now they are being used, unwittingly by some no doubt, to the effect of trying to silence the challenges to such as Gilroy and Miller about their racism and where they are trying to lead the Yellow Vests.

Such calls are being used not only to stifle the criticism of the leaders’ racism but to undermine the criticism of racism itself, as though racism were some kind of Leftie concept or diversion from the real issues. In a post in defence of Gilroy on 18th January, Miller posted a long ‘plain folksy’ discourse in which he said that Gilroy and he have “no time for political correctness and the posh talk”. So according to that discourse we should ignore the accusations of racism, action is needed, and for that we need unity – we should stop bleating on about racism. But the action is often dubious, the destination vague, the unity based on lack of analysis and stifling of criticism and – ultimately – on the opposite of unity, the division of the working people and the undermining of their resistance to those who are the real source of their misery and discontent.

It is not because of the anti-racist or politically-correct posturing of anyone, whether middle class or not, that socialists stand against racism: it is not just because it is inhumane, either; it is primarily because it splits and weakens the working class and diverts anger and resentment from the real enemy.

The Yellow Vests in Ireland are by no means a fascist or even racist movement. But they tolerate racists, are led by racists and could provide a breeding ground for fascists – something for which fascists are always on the lookout.

WHAT TO DO?

          So what should be our response, as socialists of various kinds?

First, I think we need to step back and examine the situation a little. The Yellow Vests here copy the Yellow Vests in Paris. Awhile back, the Socialist parties (I do not count the Labour Party in this) wanted us to copy the Greek uprising and Syriza’s electoral success. Earlier than that, some people wanted us to emulate the Indignados of Spain. And further back still, others sought to copy the Occupation movement of the USA.

It seems to me that all that striving speaks of a desperate need felt by some elements in our society, a need that cries out that something must be done; something to cure the mess that our Gombeen system has made of our health and welfare systems, of the housing crisis, of cuts to other services; that some stand should be made against paying off the bankers’ gambling debts with our hard-earned money and trying to get us to pay a third tax on our water supply when the money collected already has not been used as it should. A feeling that something should be done about the corruption of that give-away of our natural resources, about the selling of our transport, postal, telecommunications systems, about the funding of private landlords, about renewed emigration of our young. About increased hours and travel time spent just trying to stay still economically but nevertheless slipping slowly back. About evictions of people who have paid the actual building cost of their homes a number of times over. About governments that oversee this rotten system, worrying chiefly about staying in government and pleasing native and foreign capitalists; about a police force in which we find an average of a scandal per year with no end in sight and yet happy to repress people’s resistance …. and with their Armed Response Unit cars to be seen everywhere around the city centre.

Those people are right, of course. Something should be done. Something must be done. But what? There’s the rub, as they say. The working class should rise and take power, is the classic revolutionary socialist answer; also of the socialist Republicans, who tie the question to getting rid of British colonialism. Whether our revolutionary socialists in Ireland are actually revolutionary is a good question however, and in any case they are small parties. Whether our socialist Republicans are actually socialists or Republicans first is another interesting question and in any case they are splintered in groups and independents.

All those movements abroad that various people tried to emulate or reproduce here in Ireland did not succeed in changing the situation in their own lands. The USA, the country with the most billionaires in the world (and in politics!), continues to slide towards eventual downfall, in huge debt as a result of funding its military-industrial-financial system, for which billions around the world and millions inside its own borders pay with misery ….. and still the debt cannot be paid. But a huge sub-class exists, often living in city wastelands of run-down housing estates.

The Spanish state continues to squeeze its citizens, prepares to go to war against a nation seeking independence and fascist groups organise openly. Suicides prior to, during or after evictions are no longer startling news.

The Greek Left-coalition government of Syriza collapsed and prostrated itself to the EU and the IMF and schools had to close in winter for lack of heating fuel.

The French Government has alternated repression with some concessions but ultimately nothing has changed.

The growing vacuum of resistance in Ireland will be filled by a revolutionary movement based on working people in militant resistance to – and directed at – the capitalist system. Or it will be filled by fascism.

To build a revolutionary resistance movement, unity in struggle is needed and for that unity, racism must be driven out of the people’s movements. That will not be done by condemnation of racists alone. It will not be achieved only by calling for unity against capitalism. The revolutionary movement must be built and it is by action that it will distinguish itself and attract support from the militant sections of the people.

It is by its revolutionary critical discussion on politics, history, science and culture that it will inform the mass of its potential and necessary objectives.

It will not be built by theoretical declarations or arguments alone, nor by actions that are either timid or cannot be maintained, or by actions of only a few far in advance of the mass. Some of the actions will, perforce be risky and the State will exert a price.

But it is either that or – fascism awaits.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1Reported on at least one of the marches and I have seen a photograph of it

2Some Protestants were descendants of Catholics who had changed their religion to avoid persecution or land confiscation and some Catholics were descendants of Protestants who had converted or who had married a Catholic who raised their children in that faith. But largely, Anglicans, Presbyterians and other Protestant sects in Ireland were descendants of waves of colonists in particular from the 15th Century onwards, while Catholics were largely descendants of the indigenous Irish and of the Norman invaders.

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.

Captain Moonlight and the Roscommon Evictions

CAPTAIN MOONLIGHT REVIVED: Ireland’s New Land War? — excellent article by Kerron Ó Luain, reproduced with his permission

(click on the link above to find the whole article)

“During this past week, near Strokestown, County Roscommon, a usually tranquil corner of rural Ireland, events have unfolded that exhibit undeniable echoes of the Land War of 1879-82. On 11December, three siblings in their fifties and sixties were brutally evicted from their homestead and family farm by private security goons backed by An Garda Síochána (the ‘Guardians of Peace’, aka the police) at the behest of KBC Bank, or by a receiver acting on behalf of the bank.”

The area in 1879: “Evictions of tenant farmers by bailiffs, agents, and sheriffs, with the backing of the Royal Irish Constabulary, were commonplace during this period. As were organized blockades, rent strikes, social ostracism, and other forms of civil disobedience to resist them.”

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