Category Archives: six counties
The Tories had actually granted IRA and other captured republican soldiers – and loyalist prisoners – ‘special category status’ in 1972. This recognised the simple fact that there was a political conflict in the six north-eastern counties of Ireland and that ‘paramilitary’ activists were political activists and not terrorists or criminals.
Special category status meant that the prisoners did not have to wear prison uniforms or do prison work. They were housed with other members of their own military organisations and were allowed more visits and food parcels than people convicted of ‘regular’ criminal offences.
Labour returned to power in 1974 and began considering how to beat the republican struggle. The strategy involved normalisation, criminalisation, and Ulsterisation. The British state would try to make “Ulster” (in reality not Ulster, which is 9 counties, but the occupied six counties) look like a ‘normal’ statelet which faced an explosion of criminal activity. The “Ulsterisation” element referred to removing the British Army from some of its frontline role and getting the local (ie Protestant/loyalist) police to take on the frontline roles.
The withdrawal of political status by the Labour imperialist government occurred on March 1, 1976.
Further reading: Republican POWs and the struggle in Maghaberry today
I agree with most of this review. And the review is well worth reading and thinking about, which is why I’ve reblogged it. However, it also has a problem. Mike M notes that whenever catholic and protestant workers have united, the protestant establishment has played the Orange card, and this has always succeeded in getting the protestant workers to split and line up again behind their exploiters. Very true. Yet, at the end of the review, what does Mike suggest?
Well, he suggests protestant and catholic workers unting on economic issues! The reason is that the political tendency Mike identifies with has never understood the importance of the national question. At least, unlike the CWI followers in Ireland, they recognise that there is a national question; but they fail to integrate it into the reasons for the divisions in the working class in the north-east.
So Mike falls back into suggesting as a road forward something he has already identified as failing! Moreover, as Seamus Costello noted way back in the 1970s, you can’t trick the protestant working class into a false unity by ignoring the national question; they’re not stupid. You have to be honest with them on the national question. Instead of adopting a partitionist view which focuses on uniting wage-workers in the six counties across the sectarian divide, by ignoring the national question, it is necessary to counterpose the solving together of the national and class questions through uniting the mass of the Irish working class on an all-island basis. This points to an all-Ireland workers’ republic in which the protestant workers would be free, instead of being the alienated tools of imperialism. – P.F.
Aaron Edwards, UVF: Behind the Mask, Dublin, Merrion Press, 2017, £14.99; reviewed by Mike Milotte.
UVF: Behind the Mask is a vast if somewhat episodic account of the killings, feuds and internal factionalism of the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force written by a lecturer at Sandhurst, the British Army’s officer training college. It would barely merit mention in this journal* were it not for its underlying, yet never fully argued thesis that Ulster loyalism is a genuine expression of Protestant working class discontent, while the violent conflict in Northern Ireland in which the UVF played such a significant part, was an “ethnic civil war”.
The author, Aaron Edwards, comes from an area of Belfast where the UVF was particularly active. During the “peace process” he befriended several leading UVF figures, one of whom persuaded him to write this book. While he rejects UVF violence, the book itself is permeated with a sense of Edwards’ high opinion of some of its worst perpetrators.
Socialists or pro-imperialists?
Edwards expresses sympathy for the views of former UVF men who have declared themselves to be socialists, but his key formulations are clearly at odds with the view of most left-wing activists and writers for whom working class loyalism is a form of Read the rest of this entry
The defeat of the hunger strike in 1981 was a severe setback for the Republican Movement. While initially, in the wake of the heroic sacrifice of the prisoners, certain political gains were made especially on the electoral front, the last few years have not seen any significant political advances by the revolutionary forces in Ireland.
The greater emphasis on electoral work and the decision to reject abstentionism in elections to the Dail has not led to the gains clearly expected. The work around ‘economic and social’ issues has not yet produced any substantial results. The revolutionary forces in Ireland have been unable to halt the growing collaboration between British imperialism and the puppet governments in the Twenty Six Counties. Finally, on the military level, the stalemate which has existed for some time between the IRA and the British and loyalist security forces remains.
Inevitably in such a period every revolutionary movement is forced to reassess and rethink its strategy if the impasse is to be broken. The Republican Movement is no exception. It is in this context that we should welcome Questions of History written by Irish Republican Prisoners of War and produced by the Education Department of Sinn Fein ‘for the purpose of promoting political discussion’. Part I has so far been made available and covers the period from Wolfe Tone to the Republican Congress (1934).
The book is a valuable historical document which uses the history of the Republican struggle as a vehicle for raising crucial Read the rest of this entry