Category Archives: Democratic rights – general

Republican POWs and the struggle in Maghaberry today

by Nathan Hastings

The following is designed to outline the historical context of Republican Prisoners and their conditions in Maghaberry Jail. This is not aimed at providing a detailed history, but at illuminating the issues which exist in Maghaberry today.

There is a long history of Irish women and men being imprisoned as a result of their opposition to the occupation of Ireland. Through-out this history there has been a recurring theme of Britain and its agents using imprisonment and conditions in the sites of imprisonment to attack and harass those who it has viewed as rebellious or troublesome. This has been carried out as a matter of both direct state policy and the cruelty and resentment of those in control in the sites of captivity.

In response to this there has been the recurring theme of struggle and resistance to oppression amongst those imprisoned through generations. This theme can be seen, for example, in the refusal of members and supporters of the Land League to wear prison clothes, shave or cut their hair whilst imprisoned, opposing the prison uniform. The response to this in the 1880s was an offer of civilian-style clothing.

This is almost identical to Read the rest of this entry

The costs of capitulation

by Socialist Democracy

The Orange marching season in the North of Ireland kicks off each year with Twelfth of July marches, preceded by the 11th night bonfires.  This year the Twelfth demonstration passed almost without incident.  The 11th night bonfires saw a rash of hijacking and petrol bombing in east Belfast and parts of County Down.  These were protests following a court order applying fire safety rules to a bonfire.  The Ulster Volunteer Force gangsters behind the hijacking believed as a matter of principle that the bonfires should be free of any legal impediment.

They were a small minority.  The unionist population was indifferent, the paramilitaries had been paid off and, for the first time ever, the Democratic Unionist Party stepped forward to demand obedience to the law.

It has taken decades of conflict resolution and social engineering to get to Read the rest of this entry

Successful Newbridge meeting on Irish citizens of Basque origin

 

by Mick Healy

A very interesting talk on Ireland’s Basque refugees during the Spanish Civil War was given by political activist Stewart Reddin at Ubh café in Newbridge, Co. Kildare on Saturday, June 16 as part of June Fest.  The cafe was packed out for the talk, with part of the audience having to stand on the stairs.

Stewart told the extraordinary story of Ireland’s Basque refugees and one man in particular, Iker Gallastegi.  Iker survived two dictatorships, was taken to Mexico as a child refugee just months after being born.  He returned home at five years of age only to be forced to flee again as a ten-year-old following the fascist bombing of Gernika.

Living in Ireland as a refugee from 1937 to the 1950s, Iker attended school in the Meath Gaeltacht and became a Gaelic speaker. He studied in UCD and turned down an offer to play for Bohemians football club before returning home to fight in the Basque struggle against Franco’s fascist regime.

He returned again to Ireland to train with IRA members including Seamus Costello and Frank Keane in the early 1960s.  on February 12 this year, Iker passed away peacefully at his home in Algorta aged 91.

After the talk local folk singer Sive, who recently shared a stage with Christy Moore in Dublin, entertained the large crowd with a few songs like “Hoverfly” and “I Don’t Know”.

 

Some thoughts on Fianna Fail after the referendum

One of the interesting post-referendum developments is the ructions in Fianna Fail. For folks not familiar with Irish politics, Fianna Fail was the dominant party in southern irish politics from 1932-2011 and was actually in power a majority of that time. Although when it was founded in the mid-1920s it was attacked by the Catholic hierarchy as ‘communistic’, its dominant figure for almost 50 years was the socially reactionary Catholic nationalist Eamon de Valera, who served many years as prime minister and many years subsequently as president. In power in the 1930s, de Valera quickly made peace with the Catholic hierarchy and opposed Catholic moral teaching through the state.

In the 1980s, FF was closely aligned with the Catholic right in support of the 8th amendment and in preventing divorce being legislated for.

In the referendum a majority of FF members of parliament and the senate opposed repeal of the 8th amendment, however the party leader, Micheal Martin, supported a Yes vote. Some Fianna Fail parliamentarians announced their intentions to try to frustrate Read the rest of this entry

On the historic May 25 referendum victory

The article I wrote on this has just gone up on the NZ-based Redline blog.  Here.

Fantastic victory for women’s rights and people power

Firstly, apologies for not having got up commentary on the referendum.  However I did do an interview with Cat Inglis of Eirigi on the subject here:  https://rdln.wordpress.com/2018/05/22/irelands-abortion-referendum-interview-with-eirigi-activist-cat-inglis/

Sorry I didn’t put this link up earlier.

Also, there are a number of articles from past years on this blog where I made clear my support for abortion as a woman’s right to choose.

Exit polls are currently indicating a landslide, a bigger Yes vote than even in the referendum on the right of same-sex couples to marry.

The Yes campaign has struck a massive connection with the bulk of the population who really want rid of the old conservative chains that held people down and prevented them from living their lives and making their own personal decisions instead of being dictated to by church and state.  The campaign has struck a real chord with people in city, town and country and across different age groups.  Particularly impressive has been the mobilisation of young people, young people saying they want a better and freer society.

The latest RTE exit poll I am aware off indicates the Yes vote could be as high as 77% in Dublin and 69% across the twenty-six counties.

A landslide for a new, freer, better society.  Brilliant.

 

Charlie O’Neill, socialist-republican, 1937-2016

by Mick Healy

Thomas (Charlie) O’Neill was born in Drimnagh in Dublin on 20th December 1937 and was a dyer by trade. His family had fought with the United Irishman and the Fenians. He was a Socialist Republican with a sharp wit who loved classical music, the Irish Times, a glass of wine and, especially, his family. 

As a young man, Charlie joined the Irish Republican Army where, with a large number of Dublin volunteers, he became involved with the breakaway Joe Christle group.  In 1956 they joined forces with Liam Kelly’s organisation Saor Uladh in Co. Tyrone.  Christle and Kelly were annoyed at the lack of action by the IRA, although the IRA leadership were actually putting together plans for Operation Harvest aka “the border campaign”. 

Saor Uladh went on the offensive and attacked the RUC barracks in Roslea, Co. Fermanagh in 1955, custom post telephone exchanges, bridges, B-Special drill halls as well as demolishing lough gates at Newry.  When the IRA began its own campaign in 1956, Saor Uladh was subsumed back into it.

Charlie (on left) with folk musician Luke Kelly (on right) and others

With the failure of Operation Harvest, Charlie moved to Cork.  He worked in a shoe factory there during the early 1960s and eventually bought a cottage in Crosshaven.  He became good friends with many of the University College Cork socialists as well as Jim Lane and Gerry Higgins from Irish Revolutionary Forces. Charlie, Gerry and Jim attended an anti-Vietnam War protest, organised by the Cork Vietnamese Freedom Association, during the berthing of USS Courtyney in Cork harbour in 1967.

At this time Charlie also became good friends with the legendary Tom Barry who had commanded the IRA’s Third West Cork Flying Column during the Irish War of Independence, fought on the anti-Treaty side in the civil war and briefly became IRA chief-of-staff in 1937.

(Left to Right) Lucille Redmond with Republicans Charlie O’Neill, Simon O’Donnell and Bryan McNally.

Upon his return to Dublin, Charlie was associated with the radical National Civil Liberties League.  The NCLL agitated around industrial disputes and tenant and traveller rights.  Later he became involved in the Saor Éire Action Group, a militant Marxist-republican group which included prominent former members of the IRA like Frank Keane and Liam Sutcliffe and Trotskyist activists associated with the Fourth International.

On October 3, 1968, shots were fired in a Read the rest of this entry

Protest outside Leinster House, 9-noon, Thursday, April 26

Protesting the activities of Turas Nua, Seetec and the Dept of Social Protection, in particular the way unemployed people are harassed and corraled into very low-paid work.

The protest is organised by the Dublin branch of United People.  All welcome.

 

Marx, Engels and the Irish and British revolutions: a note

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx and the 150th anniversary of the birth of Ireland’s greatest Marxist, James Connolly.

Accordingly, I will be running material by Marx (and Engels) on the subject of Irish freedom and its interconnectedness with the British revolution, as well as material by and about James Connolly.

This year also marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of one of Connolly’s great co-workers, Constance Markievicz.

This blog already contains a substantial body of her writings and also articles about her.  Most recently, I added her 1923 pamphlet What Irish Republicans Stand For.

Later this year, I will be putting up a substantial piece on her and the Irish revolution, something I began to write well over 20 years ago and put aside unfinished.

I will also continue my (so far rather haphazard) efforts to get up everything I have of Fintan Lalor’s writings and write something substantial on ‘Fintan Lalor and the Irish revolution’.  I had made a load of notes for this last year and then lost them, so I have to start again; very frustrating.

I want to get something substantial up soon on Sean McLoughlin too, a kind of precis of the book by Charlie McGuire, a book I urge folks to go out and buy.

As always, I have a bunch of books – and it’s growing, also as always! – which I want to review.  They go back to stuff published about five years ago now, I have been so lax in getting these reviews done.  Aaaarrrggghhh!

And there are a few old articles from several journals that I want to get up here, but I have to type them up – a very time-consuming task.

Remembering rubber and plastic bullet killings by ‘Crown forces’

by Philip Ferguson

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the civil rights movement as a mass movement on the streets of the north-east of Ireland.

A peaceful movement was met with fierce repression by the Orange state – peaceful protesters were assaulted with police truncheons and tear gas.  Sections of the Special Powers Act, legislation jealously admired by the apartheid regime in South Africa, were used to try to ban marches and other civil rights activity.  Orange mobs, protected by the Royal Ulster Constabulary, were also unleashed on the nationalist population.

In 1971 Emma Groves was blinded in both eyes when a British soldier fired a rubber bullet at her, through her window, as she stood in her living room

As the nationalist working class began to effectively defend its areas with barricades and street fighting, the British government sent in troops to “restore order”, ie put a risen people back in their place.

An array of repression

Over the following decades the British used a whole array of repressive measures against the nationalist people: batons and tear gas, along with stun guns, live rounds, rubber and then plastic bullets, internment, non-jury Diplock Courts, supergrass frame-up trials and shoot-to-kill (ie execution) policies were all deployed.  While the British state widely used terror  Read the rest of this entry