Category Archives: Democratic rights – general

Revisiting People’s Democracy and the ‘Burntollet’ march

The January 1969 Belfast to Derry march, organised by People’s Democracy, modelled on the US civil rights marches from Selma to Montgomery in 1965

Last week I watched a video of a public meeting at the CP’s Dublin headquarters marking the 50th anniversary of the explosion of the civil rights movement onto the streets of Derry and the wider six counties.  One of the speakers was Tommy McKearney, someone whom I respect a great deal.  To my unpleasant surprise, however, Tommy wheeled out the old Stickies and CP attacks on “ultralefts” going destructively ahead with activities which unnecessarily provoked violent clashes instead of listening to the advice of more seasoned folk like Betty Sinclair.

Wow!

It’s hard to know where to start in responding to this, so I’m linking to two articles on the People’s Democracy organisation, the civil rights movement and Burntollet.  One is by Matt Collins, from SWN/People Before Profit looking back on the events as a Marxist today and the other is by John McAnulty, a veteran of PD and the movement back then and an active Marxist still.  John agrees with much in the Matt Collins article, which defends PD, while also noting a few things Matt got wrong.

Before linking to these, I just want to say something about Betty Sinclair and the question of ‘experience’.  Tommy is dead wrong to say Bernadette Devlin, Michael Farrell, John McAnulty and the “ultralefts” should have Read the rest of this entry

Roe 4 prisoners on “upsurge in harassment against our visitors”

Statement from Republican Prisoners, Roe 4, Maghaberry gaol (issued by Saoradh POW Dept):

“Over the past number of weeks Republican prisoners have witnessed an upsurge in harassment against our visitors. These escalations in provocative behaviour have now become a routine occurrence, with family, friends and loved ones enduring intimidation from bigoted screws.

“In the past week alone there have been several incidents. In the first one man was dragged from the visits, forcibly strip searched and held in isolation for 48 hours. This was highlighted at the time, but the gaol administration remained undaunted. Subsequently the so-called ‘drug dog’ reacting to visitors has been used to prevent visits from taking place.

“These dogs are notoriously unreliable and, in any case, Read the rest of this entry

Bernard Fox letter on the road to armed struggle

The following letter appeared in the October 26 issue of the Belfast-based Irish News.  Bernard Fox spent decades in the Irish Republican Army, including a stint on the Army Council, the IRA’s seven-person central leadership.  He came to oppose the direction the Adams-McGuinness cabal took as they decided to become part of the political establishment across the island.

I commend The Irish News coverage of the emergence of the civil rights association and the events surrounding the Duke Street march 50 years ago. Leona O’Neill’s column (October 9) about her brave father’s involvement and decisions made then were made in response to what he experienced on the ground. However, at that time there were no easy decisions to make.

I was a 17-year-old in 1969 living in the St James’s area off the Falls Road. My interests were sport, the Beatles and girls. I was serving an apprenticeship in an engineering firm where I had many Read the rest of this entry

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