Monthly Archives: April 2012

Powerful anti-household tax protest at Labour Party conference


I like the “No way – we won’t pay” and fightback chants.  But I think it’s best to avoid chants that suggest Labour-Fine Gael don’t really know what they’re doing or that it doesn’t make sense – from the standpoint of the interests of capital, it makes perfect sense.  That’s what needs to be explained to people.  This is what capitalism requires right now, so it’s capitalism that needs to be organised against not just the tax.


The changing nature of six-county society

The article below provides much more detail than my short piece on the socio-economic indicators outlined in the Peace Monitoring Report #1, here.  Liam wrote it in late 2011, but the stats it provides are confirmed by the Peace Monitoring Report (February 2012).

Two faces of Belfast: working class and wealthy



by Liam O Ruairc

For many commentators, ‘Northern Ireland’ in 2012 is a ‘post-Troubles’ society(1).  With its ‘propaganda of peace’, the media is giving the public an explicit narrative of ‘an end to violence’ and of a ‘political settlement’ having been achieved, as well as an implicit narrative according to which Northern Ireland is fit ‘for integration into the consumerist society and the global economic order’(2). For example, in its editorials, the Irish Times keeps stressing that the north “is a better place” (3) and “has improved immensely in recent years”(4).  The so-called ‘Troubles’ are now “passing from the realm of contemporary politics into that of history” (5).

Some time ago the Belfast Telegraph spoke of a “new era”: “Northern Ireland has changed so much in recent years that it can be difficult now to recall the darkest days of the Troubles.  A new generation is growing up which has no memory of bombs, bullets, rioting or roadblocks.”(6)  There is a generation gap between those who were involved in the conflict, many of whom are already grandparents, and people who were ten years old or less at the time of the 1998 Belfast Agreement: “The Troubles are fading from memory into history. . . For many of the younger generations living in Provisional heartlands, ‘the struggle’ is not something contemporary”(7).  For example, when the book Voices From The Grave came out in 2010, Brian Feeney noted: “Hughes’ tale is so long ago.  The majority of the population in West Belfast is under 40, half under 25.  Arguing about who did what and when 35 or 40 years ago is of little interest to them.  That’s for their parents and grandparents.”(8)

Things have sufficiently moved on for the Troubles to be now re-packaged as Read the rest of this entry

IRSP investigation on hunger strike deal vindicates O’Rawe, calls for independent inquiry

On Wednesday, April 11, Teach na Failte (the organisation of former Republican Socialist POWs) hosted a public meeting in Belfast on the 1981 Hunger Strike, the first in a 3-day exhibition and series of public meetings on the H-Block campaign era held in Cliftonvile Community Centre in the north of the city.

The meeting was chaired by Teach na Failte representative Paul Little and included invited speaker Richard O’Rawe, former PRO of the Provisional IRA H-Block prisoners during the Hunger Strike and author of  Blanketmen and Afterlives.  Also on the panel was Rab Collins, the former O/C of INLA prisoners in the H-Blocks  during the 1981 Hunger Strike,  and Willie Gallagher, a former INLA blanketman and present-day IRSP spokesperson. Former Sinn Fein publicity director Danny Morrison and former H-Block O/C of the Provisional IRA prisoners during the 1981 Hunger Strike Bik McFarlane were both invited to take part in the public meeting but neither attended.

Willie Gallagher took the opportunity to reveal the definitive findings of a 7-year-long IRSP investigation into the reported existence of a ‘deal’ offered by British government representatives during the secret ‘Mountain Climber’ negotiations at the time of the 1981 H-Block hunger strike which would have met the majority of the H-Block protesting prisoners’ five demands and saved the lives of at least five of the hunger strikers.  He stated, “the 7-year IRSP investigation into the revelations, first disclosed in February 2005 in the book Blanketmen, has conclusively found that Read the rest of this entry

Main IRSP and éirígí Easter orations, Belfast, April 8 and 9 (2012)

Below are orations from both events.  Originally I had them up as two separate posts but, within a couple of hours, I thought “bugger it, just because they chose to have separate events doesn’t mean those of us who favour socialist-republican co-operation should treat them separately”, so I’ve combined them.  I also intend to do a short write-up on the Easter commemorations. The IRSP main oration appears before the éirígí one purely because it came first chronologically.

It’s certainly very encouraging to see excellent turnouts for both events but, who knows, maybe next year socialist-republicans will be able to organise a combined event, making it even more attractive and showing our side can work together where it makes sense to!  Live in hope . . .


Below is the oration delivered by Jason Nott of Cork IRSP at the party’s annual Easter 1916 Commemoration in Belfast on Easter Sunday, April 8:


today we gather to remember and salute the memory of our comrades who made the ultimate sacrifice in pursuit of a 32 County democratic Irish republic. An Irish Republic based on the finest principles of socialism – freedom, equality and fraternity.

We remember with pride those volunteers of the Irish National Liberation Army and their comrades in the Irish Republican Socialist Party who lie buried in this plot and further afield.

Without their intellect, their courage and their bravery the integrity of republican socialism would have long ago been consigned to history, but I am proud to say we are still here following in their footsteps.

We also send fraternal greetings to all imprisoned republicans, our comrades in Portlaois and to the republican prisoners in Maghaberry who are on protest at this time. Especially in our thoughts is Marian Price, the victim of a vindictive British state, and we call for her immediate release.

Easter is the time of year when we commemorate not only the political vision of the men and women of Easter week 1916, it is also the time when we analyse the current state of the Irish republican struggle and its ability to confront the forces of British and international imperialism in Ireland. We also use this sombre time to review how we as the Irish Republican Socialist Movement continue to prosecute revolutionary struggle in Ireland.

The men and women of Easter week 1916 tilled the land of the nation and sowed the seeds of working class Read the rest of this entry

Analysing the Peace Monitoring Report, 1: socio-economic indicators

by Philip Ferguson

“On every indicator of deprivation the proportion of Catholics affected is higher than the proportion of Protestants.”  For instance, less than one in six Protestants (16%) live in low-income households, while over one in four Catholics (26%) are in such households.  If this was taken as symptomatic of socio-economic conditions and indicators then the conclusion might be that nothing much has changed in the six counties since the days of the one-party Orange state and systematic, institutionalised discrimination against the Catholic section of the population.

However, a host of other statistics indicate that while much of the Catholic working class remains deprived, there has been a substantial growth, in both numerical and wealth terms, of the Catholic middle class and burgeoning capitalists.  The Protestant section of the working class has lost much of its privileged position as not only the Orange state but also industries such as engineering and shipbuilding are largely gone.  Sectarian privilege has basically been Read the rest of this entry

2009 interview with Tommy McKearney

This is the main part of an interview I did with Tommy McKearney back in 2009.  In the next few weeks the blog will get up a review of his excellent book on the Provos and their incorporation by the Brits.

Philip Ferguson: Could you tell us a bit about the Independent Workers Union in Ireland?  How did it begin?  What sections of workers does it try to organise?

Tommy McKearney: The IWU is a general trade union that organizes among all section of the workforce. It has, however, found that some workers are more open to recruitment than others. This has come about partly due to our origins and partly as a result of the current situation in the Irish workplace. The IWU was set up seven years ago in response to an attempt by bureaucrats in the trade union hierarchy, working we believe in concert with the employers and the state, to stymie criticism of the Social Partnership agreement. The strongest criticism of partnership was at the time emanating from the Irish Read the rest of this entry

Dole TV piece on anti-household taxes campaign

Work in progress

I have been slowed down considerably more than I expected through a combination of work-work and family care.  However, my aim is to get the following done by the end of April/first week of May:

* A review of Joost Augusteijn’s biography of Pearse

* An interview with F. Stuart Ross, the author of Smashing H-Block

* A piece on why anti-capitalist solutions need to be put forward, not warmed-up (and failed) Keynesian ‘counter-crisis’ measures

* A review of Socialist Democracy’s excellent Ireland’s Credit Crunch (which I should have done when it first came out)

* Coverage of éirígí and IRSP Easter 1916 commemorations

* Constance Markievicz’s What Republicans Stand For

* I’ll be starting a short series of articles on the statistics and other material contained in Northern Ireland Peace Monitoring Report #1

* Other interviews which are currently being followed up/arranged are with James McBarron of the Workers Solidarity Movement and with veteran socialist-republicans Sean Doyle (a comrade of Seamus Costello) and Frank Keane (a founding leader of Saor Eire in the late 1960s/early 70s)

And, of course, I’ll also be sticking up stuff from éirígí and the IRSP and any other interesting, relevant material I come across.

Capitalist crisis, Keynesian delusions

A little while back I mentioned how Keynesian economics are put forward by quite a lot of the Irish left, including much of the Irish far left, because they somehow think it is more ‘reasonable’ or more ‘credible’ than an actual anti-capitalist analysis and anti-capitalist solutions.  I’m still going to write something on this, but first I’ll stick up this excellent piece which is more thorough than what I was going to write.  It’s by Tony Norfield and appeared first on his Economics of Imperialism site last September (2011):


Economic growth in the major capitalist countries has ground to a halt, governments plan expenditure cuts, unemployment is rising and austerity begins. Surely, there is a way out – some way to revive growth? How can it make sense to cut spending when the economy is already in bad shape? Given that capitalism is in its worst crisis since the 1930s, it is understandable that such questions should arise.

This article looks at one of the proposed solutions to the crisis: boosting state investment. I do not claim that this proposal is at the forefront of a vibrant debate. If anything, it is advocated in a way that recognises it is dead in the water. However, the ideas behind such proposals are common among critics of capitalism, so they are worth addressing. My objectives are to show how these notions have little understanding of the cause of the crisis and are deluded about what it will take to ‘solve’ it. First, I will look at the basic ideas, and then I will examine the theory that lies behind such proposals, one that stems from a ‘Keynesian’ analysis of what is wrong with capitalism.

1. Stiglitz and stagnation

Columbia professor, economics Nobel Prize winner, critic of and ex-Chief Economist for the World Bank, Joseph Stiglitz, argued in a recent Financial Times article that the world economy was Read the rest of this entry

Messing with history

Once upon a time, the Easter Rising wasn’t especially contentious.  All the main political movements in the south paid fealty to it.  However, once armed confict emerged in the north, the systematic rewriting of Irish history, in order to develop an essentially anti-republican and pro-imperialist historiography, was undertaken by a growing layer of professional anti-republicans.  There are a number of pieces on the blog dealing with this:

Politics and the rise of historical revisionism

The Easter Rising and the ‘blood sacrifice’

Nationalisms and anti-nationalisms in Irish historiography