Volume 3, Number 12
18 January 2006
E-Mail Newsletter of the Irish Republican Socialist Party
1) Editorial: Built In Sectarianism
2) Campaign for an Independent Left
3) From the Newspapers
5) What's On
EDITORIAL: BUILT IN SECTARIANISM
One of the main reasons for the IRSP opposing the Good Friday
Agreement (but not the only reason), was the sectarian basis on which
it was founded. Sectarianism should be anathema to all republicans but
unfortunately not only did the Good Friday Agreement recognise the
existence of sectarianism it put in place mechanisms to perpetuate
that sectarianism. The inevitable result was the increase of sectarian
attacks on interface areas and every issue of political importance is
now viewed through the prism of how this affects "my side."
Take the issue of housing. In North Belfast, there is a shortage of
suitable accommodation for many people. There is also a surfeit both
of housing and housing space. Unfortunately, the need for housing
rests most heavily on those perceived to be from a nationalist or
Catholic background. The surplus housing and available space is in
areas perceived to be unionist and Protestant. Result? Stalemate and a
lack of housing for nationalists. This is just one of many issues of a
socio-economic nature that is reduced to sectarian headcount.
Despite the best efforts of many progressive people in both
communities including both republicans and loyalists of all shades to
reduce sectarian tensions and improve contacts across the sectarian
divides the task is monumental.
The political commentator Eamonn McCann has recently pointed out that
pro-GFA commentators Bruce Arnold and Fintan O'Toole are now beginning
to recognize the validity of the argument that those of us opposed to
the GFA put forward. In the words of O'Toole, "the divisions have been
formalised, entrenched and deepened."
A founder member of the Queens Republican Club in 1967 and now an
Irish News columnist, Paddy Murphy, wrote that the Agreement had
"brought in a new form of State-sponsored sectarianism," -- "with the
greatest optimism in the world, it is difficult to see how a sectarian
system can produce normal politics." (IN, 31/12/05)
Objectively speaking, regardless of their subjective desires or
aspirations, all those parties who are trying to work the agreement
are perpetuating sectarianism. If either Sinn Fein or the SDLP had the
real interests of all the people of Ireland at heart they would
immediately break from the millstone of the GFA, recognize that the
Northern state is now so corrupted with sectarianism and state and
loyalist collusion that its genuine reform is now not possible. The
need now is to put before the people of all Ireland and especially
those who perceive themselves as unionists the case for a unified
political, social and economic structure.
But while these so called mainstream parties engage in their ritual
sectarian games the rest of us can not afford to sit smugly on the
side lines saying, "ya boo we told you so!"
There is an onus on all of us who consider ourselves progressive
whether from the socialist or republican camp to throw ourselves into
the class struggles that are emerging and in so doing challenge both
existing political and religious sectarianism and state sectarianism.
We will not have to look too far for the issues that everyday affect
the working people on the island -- racism, water-rates (see below on
CAWP), waste charges, low wage exploitation, US troops in Shannon,
privatisation, hospital waiting lists, sweetheart deals with
multinationals, partnership deals between trade unions and government.
On all of these class-based issues, we as republicans can co-operate
with others but we will not take our eye of the fact that the class
and the national question are so intertwined that they cannot be
separated. We will not be like some on the left, great
anti-imperialists when the struggle is far away and ignore the
struggle on our own doorstep.
CAMPAIGN FOR AN INDEPENDENT LEFT
Building a New Party of Working People -- Statement
[Last year the Tipperary South TD Mr Healy, along with independent
Dublin city councillor Joan Collins and Des Derwin, vice-president of
the Dublin Council of Trade Unions, called for a new independent party
of the left". Discussions about a possible "regroupment" on the left
had included Mr Healy's own organisation, the South Tipperary Workers'
and Unemployed Action Group; the Dublin-based Community and Workers'
Action Group; the Irish Socialist Network; the supporters of Red
Banner magazine; and a number of individual activists and independent
socialists. We include their founding statement in The Plough for
information purposes only.]
The individuals and groups involved in the Campaign for an Independent
Left are united by the common aim of a radical transformation of Irish
society. We are committed to the struggle to build a society where
working people democratically control all aspects of their lives --
social, economic, cultural and political -- and where the gap between
rich and poor is eliminated. To help achieve this transformation, we
believe it is necessary to develop a new independent all-Ireland party
of working people. By independent, we mean a party that we will oppose
in real terms the right wing pro-capital parties, north and south, and
will under no circumstances enter into government with them. This will
be a grassroots campaigning party-broad, pluralist, democratic, and
with no agenda other than advancing the interests of working people.
We now commit ourselves to campaigning for such a party, winning over
people active in the labour movement, community campaigns, and the
various movements for social justice to get involved in making it a
The following are the initial points of basic political agreement that
have brought us together to begin this process.
· No coalition with parties of the right, under any circumstances.
· Public ownership and democratic control of the country's resources
and services, so that they can be developed in the interests of
working people and our environment. An end to the privatisation or
commercialisation of public services.
· A comprehensive universal public health-care system. An end to all
state subsidies for private health care.
· A free, secular education system, aimed at the full and equal
development of each human being from pre-school to university. An end
to all state subsidies for private education
· The provision of housing as a basic right
· A public transport system based on the needs of users, not profit,
and the protection of the environment.
· A progressive taxation system that will redistribute wealth, making
the rich pay their fair share, and lifting the burden of stealth and
double taxes from working people.
· No to so-called "social partnership". We want trade unions run
democratically by their members, and fighting for their interests.
Repeal all restrictive legislation against union activity. Unite Irish
and migrant workers by fighting for basic trade union rights and
conditions for all workers.
· We believe in equality and solidarity between all working people --
men and women, black and white, Travellers and settled people,
Catholic and Protestant. We will offer 100 percent opposition to all
forms of racism, sexism and sectarianism.
· We are for an inclusive, multi-cultural society with equal rights
for all; asylum seekers should have the right to work; for an end to
deportations; full citizenship for all children born in Ireland; work
permits to be issued to workers and not employers.
· A foreign policy based on opposition to imperialism, and solidarity
with those fighting for democracy, justice and peace, the
re-establishment and maintenance of military neutrality, opposition to
an EU dominated by big business and for a Europe of solidarity between
We appeal to all individuals and groups who share our vision of a new
party of working people to contact us and help build it in practice'.
FROM THE NEWSPAPERS
Stalwarts of unionism must adapt and change to survive
15 January 2006
By Tom McGurk
The 'Love Ulster' campaign is heading south.
Led by Willie Frazer, spokesman for victims' group Families Acting for
Innocent Relatives (FAIR), the group is coming to protest outside the
Dáil. What exactly it is protesting about is somewhat unclear: there's
a litany of the usual grievances post-Good Friday Agreement but, on
television recently, Frazer said they wanted to find out if the South
really believed in equality for all.
That subtext is presumably to do with testing the tolerance of the
citizens of Dublin with a march containing six Orange bands and the
usual Union Jack-waving ragbag of hangers-on.
At this point, two things are important to emphasise: firstly, that
peaceful protest should be tolerated, and secondly, that it would be a
dreadful mistake to react to the provocation that is somehow inimical
to Orange parades.
Since, in the first instance, Orange parading in the North was always
about public displays of territorialism, it is important that the
marchers discover that Dublin is not a series of territories but an
authentic public space for citizenship.
On one level, I'm sure there will be vast curiosity from Dubliners,
who rarely get an opportunity to see live 18th century political
theatre. On another, there will be a profound poignancy to the whole
Frazer's ragged army, a living museum piece of a long-past imperial
age, deserves our compassion, not our contempt. Over a century, as the
imperial tide has ebbed away from this island, the last loyal tribe
now finds itself trapped on a small disappearing sandbank they call
Unable to contemplate moving into deeper waters to effect their
rescue, they simply sit there now -- generation after generation --
solemnly saying no. Since 1998, the rescue boats have been hovering
nearby, but to no avail.
Shivering in the 21st century winds that blow from all directions,
they have simply wrapped themselves in the last remaining mantle of
sectarianism and refused to budge.
Remarkably, there is not among them now a single voice who would dare
articulate the extraordinary moment of both political and economic
regeneration that awaits them, had they the wit to see it. Not 20
minutes from Frazer's door sits one of the wealthiest economies in the
Where once the border divided a poor, mostly agricultural South from a
heavily subsidised but wealthier North, now it divides economic
achievement from economic failure. One economy has become the envy of
Europe; the other has become a basket-case.
Where are those apparently traditional Northern protestant virtues of
hard work, enterprise and economic self-sufficiency that we once used
to hear so much about?
Indeed, what shade now are the "grey skies of an Irish Republic" so
beloved of the Sandy Row graffiti artists?
London is now showing all the signs of a deep impatience with Northern
Irish unionism. In the context of the past war, any reassessment of
the North's relationship with Britain would have been seen as a
concession to violence. But now, in the absence of violence, and with
a united Irish nationalist voice demanding a devolved power-sharing in
the North -- in tandem with a new and growing cross-border economic
relationship with the South -- the context is entirely different.
The days of the North having a favoured economic status in comparison
to regions of Britain are coming to an end, hastened by continuing
unionist political intransigence. With its vast dependence on public
service employment and a steadily growing subvention of over stg£5
billion a year from the British treasury, the shoe is beginning to pinch.
Northern Secretary Peter Hain has already sent signals of his
displeasure, and he has deliberately presented them as an addendum to
the forthcoming attempt to re-float the political structures.
Even worse, the social and economic crisis within traditional unionist
heartlands is beginning to fragment what were once homogenous, civic
and thrifty communities. A 'loyalist subculture' largely overseen by
the remnants of the loyalist paramilitaries has transformed these
communities into what might be termed a trailer-park world.
Unemployment and educational underachievement are everywhere and, even
from the unionist middle classes, the brain-drain to British
The lament that "our Protestant culture is being trampled on" simply
illustrates that the old heady brew of sectarian triumphalism will no
longer be tolerated either by the authorities or by nationalists.
That particular tide was stopped at Drumcree, and was finally turned
back during last year's Ardoyne riots.
When one also considers that any ongoing progress towards equality of
citizenship and cultures in the North is now being depicted by
unionism as a 'concession to Sinn Fein', the sheer scale of their
political bankruptcy becomes evident.
And whatever about a David Trimble-led UUP attempting the task ahead,
the prospects are slim that the DUP under Ian Paisley can face up to a
political legacy which it was primarily responsible for creating.
And now there is a new side to this ancient political Rubik's cube.
The recent decision to reduce local government to seven
super-councils, three of which are west of the Bann, raises a new
scenario in the context of future stalled political progress. The
temptation to devolve more and more power to this tier of local
government could create a Celtic Tiger-esque knock-on effect in the
nationalist-dominated councils west of the Bann.
Already, the town of Newry is benefiting from its geographical
hinterland, and the new M1 motorway is already radicalising employment
options in the wider region. Mid-Ulster and the border regions would
then have an opportunity for growing economic linkage that will have
inevitable political implications.
Daily, the unionist political sandbank grows smaller. Maybe it's a
vain hope but even Willie Frazer's bedraggled army, as they process
through Dublin, might sense the waters beckoning beyond.
Church is now too left-wing for Labour
Sunday, January 08, 2006
By Vincent Browne
It says something about our contemporary political culture when the
Catholic Archbishop of Dublin is significantly to the left of the
leader of the Irish Labour Party.
It's not because this particular archbishop is a raving leftie --
although he is a different political species to his predecessors.
Rather, it is that the current leader of the Labour Party is moving
the party further to the right than did any of his predecessors.
Michael O'Leary, one of those former leaders of the Labour Party, must
be squirming in embarrassment on his District Court bench. How could
the party -- which he and other stalwarts of the proletariat, such as
Ruairi Quinn, Dick Spring, Frank Cluskey and Brendan Corish, led so
valiantly -- ever have somersaulted over the already low divide
between Labour and the right-wing revanchists?
In an interview with the Irish Times last Tuesday, Pat Rabbitte
ridiculed the suggestion that he would favour an increase in any taxes
whatsoever. First, he said, there had to be "fairness" in the tax
code. But then, a rapid reversal: first there was a commitment not to
increase personal or corporation taxes, then, second, fairness in the
Imagine the mindset of a Labour leader who says that.
Then he said: "The time may be coming when we will have to sit down
and examine whether we would have to look at whether a work permits
regime ought to be implemented in terms of some of this non-national
labour, even for countries in the European Union."
This from the leader of a party that supported the treaties that
provided for the free movement of labour through an enlarged EU, a
party that supposedly supports the rights and welfare of workers
everywhere, a party that always resisted the impulses of xenophobia
The coded message: "Keep out the blacks and the Polacks - vote Labour."
The only public figure who said this was unacceptable was the
Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin. "Borders should be open. It's
what the entire EU exercise is about," he said. "We need workers. We
need managed migration, but people are not just economic units. They
may realise their dignity through work, but that dignity doesn't
evaporate when they have no work."
Ireland's immigration policy "should not be reactive or somehow
suspicious of people, but should be welcoming and integrating...lower
labour costs are indeed a significant factor in giving vitality to an
economy, but it is people themselves who are the driving force of a
modern, knowledge-based economy."
Martin said he supported "the suggestion of my Church of Ireland
colleague and friend, Archbishop John Neill, that people who have
lived peacefully and have made a decent life for themselves and their
children in Ireland for a five-year period should now have the
opportunity to have their status here regularised.
"Similar measures have been taken in many European Union states over
What is it about our politics that nobody in any of the main parties
-- including the Labour Party -- would venture anything as radical as
what the two Dublin archbishops have suggested? And they are not
talking about "opening the floodgates" to the "wretched of the earth".
They are talking about an elementally decent, fair, public policy.
I do not know whether Diarmuid Martin has yet spoken out about our
treatment of Travellers, but his predecessor, Desmond Connell, did so
frequently. So, too, have the likes of the Bishop of Killaloe, Willie
Walsh, and the Bishop of Cork, John Buckley.
But when last did someone in the Labour Party -- other that Liz
McManus -- do so? I don't recall a word being said by Rabbitte or
anybody senior in the party about the manslaughter of John Ward by the
Mayo farmer Padraig Nally.
When was the last time anyone in Labour complained about the antics of
Fine Gael's leader and three of his colleagues on that issue? The only
public figure I heard speaking out clearly on the matter was Michael
So here we have a clutch of Catholic bishops, at least one Church of
Ireland bishop and Michael McDowell taking positions on a crucial
issue of justice and fairness, far to the left of the Labour Party!
Last Friday, The Irish Times reported that the rate of cot death among
Traveller babies was now 12 times the national average. More than 20
per cent of Traveller families are still living either by the side of
the road or in basic halting sites, according to a new report which
said: "Travellers continue to have lower life expectancy, lower
education qualifications and, in many cases, unacceptable accommodation."
There was a time -- wasn't there? -- when the Labour Party would have
led a campaign to confront such endemic injustice. Now, again with the
exception of Liz McManus, what happens? The party keeps its collective
head down, fearful of frightening anybody.
It is time that the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin intervened directly
in politics here.
A direct takeover of the Labour Party is required. Diarmuid Martin as
leader and Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs-in-waiting, John
Neill as Minister for Education-in-waiting, Willie Walsh as Minister
for Social Welfare-in-waiting, Sister Stanislaus Kennedy as Minister
for Housing-in-waiting, and John Buckley as Minister for
In addition -- or alternatively -- bring back Michael O'Leary. We need
some left-wing politics, now.
Nurses' postcard protest on overcrowding
The Irish Nurses Organisation (INO) is stepping up the pressure on
Tanaiste Mary Harney over A&E overcrowding by launching a postcard
campaign to highlight the issue.The protest, part of the "Enough is
Enough" campaign against the number of people on trolleys in emergency
wards across the country, was launched at the INO's head office in Dublin.
The postcards are available on the organisation's website and in A&E
The INO is hoping thousands of patients, their relatives and members
of the public will return the postcards, which will then be sent on to
According to the nurses union the crisis in emergency wards is as bad
as it has ever been.The second phase of their "Enough is Enough"
campaign - which previously saw nurses holding lunchtime protests
outside hospitals - comes as hundreds of people a day are on trolleys
in A&E wards across the country.
The US has used torture for decades
By Naomi Klein
Saturday December 10 2005
It was the "Mission Accomplished" of George Bush's second term, and an
announcement of that magnitude called for a suitably dramatic
location. But what was the right backdrop for the infamous "We do not
torture" declaration? With characteristic audacity, the Bush team
settled on downtown Panama City.
It was certainly bold. An hour and a half's drive from where Bush
stood, the US military ran the notorious School of the Americas from
1946 to 1984, a sinister educational institution that, if it had a
motto, might have been "We do torture". It is here in Panama, and
later at the school's new location in Fort Benning, Georgia, where the
roots of the current torture scandals can be found.
According to declassified training manuals, SOA students -- military
and police officers from across the hemisphere -- were instructed in
many of the same "coercive interrogation" techniques that have since
gone to Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib: early morning capture to maximise
shock, immediate hooding and blindfolding, forced nudity, sensory
deprivation, sensory overload, sleep and food "manipulation",
humiliation, extreme temperatures, isolation, stress positions -- and
worse. In 1996 President Clinton's Intelligence Oversight Board
admitted that US-produced training materials condoned "execution of
guerrillas, extortion, physical abuse, coercion and false imprisonment".
Some Panama school graduates went on to commit the continent's
greatest war crimes of the past half-century: the murders of
Archbishop Oscar Romero and six Jesuit priests in El Salvador; the
systematic theft of babies from Argentina's "disappeared" prisoners;
the massacre of 900 civilians in El Mozote in El Salvador; and
military coups too numerous to list here.
Yet when covering the Bush announcement, not a single mainstream news
outlet mentioned the location's sordid history. How could they? That
would require something totally absent from the debate: an admission
that the embrace of torture by US officials has been integral to US
foreign policy since the Vietnam war.
It's a history exhaustively documented in an avalanche of books,
declassified documents, CIA training manuals, court records and truth
commissions. In his forthcoming book, A Question of Torture, Alfred
McCoy synthesises this evidence, producing a riveting account of how
monstrous CIA-funded experiments on psychiatric patients and prisoners
in the 1950s turned into a template for what he calls "no-touch
torture", based on sensory deprivation and self-inflicted pain. McCoy
traces how these methods were field-tested by CIA agents in Vietnam as
part of the Phoenix programme and then imported to Latin America and
Asia under the guise of police training.
It is not only apologists for torture who ignore this history when
they blame abuses on "a few bad apples". A startling number of
torture's most prominent opponents keep telling us that the idea of
torturing prisoners first occurred to US officials on September 11
2001, at which point the methods used in Guantanamo apparently
emerged, fully formed, from the sadistic recesses of Dick Cheney's and
Donald Rumsfeld's brains. Up until that moment, we are told, America
fought its enemies while keeping its humanity intact.
The principal propagator of this narrative (what Garry Wills termed
"original sinlessness") is Senator John McCain. Writing in Newsweek on
the need to ban torture, McCain says that when he was a prisoner of
war in Hanoi, he held fast to the knowledge "that we were different
from our enemies...that we, if the roles were reversed, would not
disgrace ourselves by committing or approving such mistreatment of
them". It is a stunning historical distortion. By the time McCain was
taken captive, the CIA had launched the Phoenix programme and, as
McCoy writes, "its agents were operating 40 interrogation centres in
South Vietnam that killed more than 20,000 suspects and tortured
Does it somehow lessen today's horrors to admit that this is not the
first time the US government has used torture, that it has operated
secret prisons before, that it has actively supported regimes that
tried to erase the left by dropping students out of airplanes? That,
closer to home, photographs of lynchings were traded and sold as
trophies and warnings? Many seem to think so. On November 8,
Democratic Congressman Jim McDermott made the astonishing claim to the
House of Representatives that "America has never had a question about
its moral integrity, until now".
Other cultures deal with a legacy of torture by declaring "Never
again!" Why do so many Americans insist on dealing with the current
torture crisis by crying "Never before"? I suspect it stems from a
sincere desire to convey the seriousness of this administration's
crimes. And its open embrace of torture is indeed unprecedented.
But let's be clear about what is unprecedented: not the torture, but
the openness. Past administrations kept their "black ops" secret; the
crimes were sanctioned but they were committed in the shadows,
officially denied and condemned. The Bush administration has broken
this deal: post-9/11, it demanded the right to torture without shame,
legitimised by new definitions and new laws.
Despite all the talk of outsourced torture, the real innovation has
been in-sourcing, with prisoners being abused by US citizens in US-run
prisons and transported to third countries in US planes. It is this
departure from clandestine etiquette that has so much of the military
and intelligence community up in arms: Bush has robbed everyone of
plausible deniability. This shift is of huge significance. When
torture is covertly practised but officially and legally repudiated,
there is still hope that if atrocities are exposed, justice could
prevail. When torture is pseudo-legal and those responsible deny that
it is torture, what dies is what Hannah Arendt called "the juridical
person in man". Soon victims no longer bother to search for justice,
so sure are they of the futility, and danger, of that quest. This is a
larger mirror of what happens inside the torture chamber, when
prisoners are told they can scream all they want because no one can
hear them and no one is going to save them.
The terrible irony of the anti-historicism of the torture debate is
that in the name of eradicating future abuses, past crimes are being
erased from the record. Since the US has never had truth commissions,
the memory of its complicity in far-away crimes has always been
fragile. Now these memories are fading further, and the disappeared
are disappearing again.
This casual amnesia does a disservice not only to the victims, but
also to the cause of trying to remove torture from the US policy
arsenal once and for all. Already there are signs that the
administration will deal with the uproar by returning to plausible
deniability. The McCain amendment protects every "individual in the
custody or under the physical control of the United States
government"; it says nothing about torture training or buying
information from the exploding industry of for-profit interrogators.
And in Iraq the dirty work is already being handed over to Iraqi death
squads, trained by the US and supervised by commanders like Jim
Steele, who prepared for the job by setting up similar units in El
Salvador. The US role in training and supervising Iraq's interior
ministry was forgotten, moreover, when 173 prisoners were recently
discovered in a ministry dungeon, some tortured so badly that their
skin was falling off. "Look, it's a sovereign country. The Iraqi
government exists," Rumsfeld said. He sounded just like the CIA's
William Colby who, asked in a 1971 Congressional probe about the
thousands killed under Phoenix, a programme he helped launch, replied
that it was now "entirely a South Vietnamese programme".
As McCoy says, "if you don't understand the history and the depths of
the institutional and public complicity, then you can't begin to
undertake meaningful reforms." Lawmakers will respond to pressure by
eliminating one small piece of the torture apparatus: closing a
prison, shutting down a programme, even demanding the resignation of a
really bad apple like Rumsfeld. But he warns, "they will preserve the
prerogative to torture."
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Chicago Hunger Strike Commemoration Committee
Colm Misteil, Concerned Group for Republican Prisoners - Chairman
Deirdre Fennessy, Irish Freedom Committee (Chicago Cumann)
TJ O Conchuir, Irish Republican Socialist Committees of North America
CHICAGO, IL - January 14, 2006
IRISH REPUBLICANS UNITE TO COMMEMORATE HUNGER STRIKES
25 Years On Commemoration Says "We Must Be United!"
Twenty-Five years ago, ten brave men stunned the world by their
agonizing deaths on Hunger Strike in Long Kesh jail in Ireland. Seven
political prisoners allied to the Irish Republican Army, and three
representing the Irish National Liberation Army, sacrificed their
lives to expose injustice and brutality in British jails and to
restore Political Status to their imprisoned comrades. These ten
martyrs, united in cause and principle under different factions of
Irish Republicanism, left an unfulfilled legacy of strength in unity
to Irish Republicans today.
In 2006, the 25th Anniversary of the 1981 Hunger Strikes, a diverse
group of US-based Irish Republican organizations will unite in homage
to the memories of these ten martyrs and to the causes and demands for
which they died. These organizations, the Concerned Group for
Republican Prisoners, the Chicago Cumann of The Irish Freedom
Committee, and The Irish Republican Socialist Committees of North
America, will join together under the banner of the Chicago Hunger
Strike Commemoration Committee to stage a series of events in the
Chicago area to observe the historic 25th Anniversary of the 1981
Hunger Strikes. All groups involved are devoted to the pursuit of a
United and Sovereign 32 County Socialist Irish Republic, free of
British military and administrative rule; and to the support of the
families of Irish Republican political prisoners.
The Chicago Hunger Strike Commemoration Committee will stage several
events in the Chicago area in 2006 to mark the 25th Anniversary of the
Hunger Strikes. Event dates and locations are to be announced shortly,
but these will include a benefit Rock and Roll show in April, and a
Commemoration Dinner Dance to be hosted in August 2006. A special
Testimonial Journal will also be pressed for this historic occasion.
All funds raised at the Commemoration will go directly to aid the
families of current Irish Republican POWs, some of whom still fight
for the Political Status which the ten 1981 Hunger Strikers died for.
In the spirit of Theobald Wolfe Tone, who sought to unite "Catholic,
Protestant and Dissenter"; in acknowledgement of the leadership of the
Easter 1916 Rising, which united disparate Republican forces against
the might of Britain’s army; and most especially in the memory of the
1981 hunger strikers, who died united in protest inside the H-Blocks
of Long Kesh; The Chicago Hunger Strike Commemoration Committee will
do our part in unity to pay respectful homage to the legacy of ten
brave men who sacrificed all for Ireland.
IN TRIBUTE TO THE TEN MARTYRS WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES ON HUNGER STRIKE
Vol. Bobby Sands, IRA
Vol. Francis Hughes, IRA
Vol. Patsy O'Hara, INLA
Vol. Raymond McCreesh, IRA
Vol. Joe McDonnell, IRA
Vol. Martin Hurson, IRA
Vol. Kevin Lynch, INLA
Vol. Kieran Doherty, IRA
Vol. Thomas McElwee, IRA
Vol. Michael Devine, INLA
Tiochfaidh ár lá!
For more information and event updates please visit The Chicago Hunger
Strike Commemoration Committee at http://www.wemustbeunited.com/ or
email the CHSCC at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Concerned Group for Republican Prisoners (CGRP) was launched in
the summer of 2005 in response to a critical need for support for a
group of Irish Republican Political Prisoners on E4 landing at
Portlaoise Prison. The Irish Freedom Committee (IFC), formed in 1961,
is a Nation-wide organization which has supported anti-Treaty Irish
Republican political prisoners and their families for many years and
has lead numerous human rights campaigns, speaking tours, film
screenings, musical benefits, and public protests on behalf of the
prisoners and their families. The Irish Republican Socialist
Committees of North America (IRSCNA) was founded in 1984 to expand
support for the Irish Republican Socialist Movement in Ireland through
political forums, press releases, and demonstrations.
Is míse le meas,
TJ O Conchúir
RSYM Ard Comhairle
Campaign Against Water Privatisation
Newsletter No 1: Winter 2005/2006
Hain's triple whammy - redundancies, rates rises, and water charges
When the Government announced it was to postpone the introduction of
water charges some peple hailed it as a sign that the government was
on the back foot. However, this optimistic assessment was punctured by
Secretary of State Peter Hain's keynote speech setting out his vision
for the future. Delivered to a meeting of the Institute of Directors
in Belfast on 21 September it set out a comprehensive programme for
the neo-liberal reform of the local economy.
The basic tenet of Hain's speech was that the economy was
over-dependent on the public sector. He cited the fact that public
spending accounted for over 60 per cent of GDP, nearly a third higher
than in the UK, and that a third of all employment was in the public
sector, compared to the UK average of a fifth.
Following on from this premise, Hain set out a number of strategies on
how a massive reduction in public spending will be achieved. The first
of these is privatisation, with parts of the public sector, and those
who are employed in them, to be handed over to private companies. This
is euphemistically described as giving the "private sector a greater
role in the delivery of public services". In reality, it is the
destruction of public services, and is always associated with a
deterioration in the terms and conditions of the workforce. This
process is already ongoing in with the expansion of Private Finance
Initiatives, particularly in the health and education sectors. Hain's
speech envisaged an acceleration of this with an "ambitious programme
of asset sales" (i.e. privatization).
The second element of element of Hain's programme, and probably the
most far reaching, is the reorganisation of the Governmental
structures, from health and education boards, to local councils. This
is being carried out under the Review of Public Administration. It is
due to put forward its proposals later in the year. These are likely
to include the abolition of boards and councils and the centralisation
of services over larger geographic areas. While this is proposed under
the guise of the phoney populism of cutting bureaucracy and shifting
resources to the frontline, it will actually result in the loss of
services and massive public sector redundancies. We can see that
already happening with the cuts in the education budget. Schools are
losing teachers, special needs assistants and crossing patrols, while
parents now have to pay for what were once "concessionary" services
such and transport and music lessons. In the health sector, rural
hospitals are being stripped of acute services. The recent Appleby
Report on the health service envisages this process of rationalisation
going further. It also proposes the introduction of regional pay for
health workers. The Review of Public Administration will move this
process a step further with the complete closure of many schools and
The third element of the programme for reducing public spending is an
increase in rates and the introduction of service charges. The aim is
to raise the level of the household bill for rates and water closer to
the average in England and Wales, which is about £1,500 a year. The
average rates bill in Northern Ireland is around £600 a year. Key to
this is the introduction of the water charge, which will be around
£400 a year. Hain signalled that, despite the opposition, the
government is determined to introduce this in April 2007. He also
repeated the lie that any surplus raised by the water charge can be
used to fund other public services. The fact is that any money
collected through the water charge will be private money; the newly
created water company will own it. Indeed, the point of setting the
water charge so high is to build up a capital surplus that will
attract investors when the Government owned water company is
An effective opposition to this onslaught must be built at the
grassroots level, among trade union members and in working class
communities. It is only a mass campaign that will move politicians and
the Government. It must also be a campaign that has opposition to
privatisation as its foundation. What Hain's speech makes clear is
that this is a general offensive against the public sector, of which
the introduction of water charges is but one part. Therefore the
response must also be generalised. This is why the CAWP has continued
to highlight the importance of privatisation in the anti-water charges
campaign. It is the issue that ties all these various attacks together
and the basis on which they should be opposed. The positive thing
about Hain's speech is that it clearly lays out the intentions of the
Government. It should serve as a shake people out of their
complacency. Hain has thrown down the gauntlet; now is the time for us
to pick it up and meet the challenge.
In October the government announced that water treatment works would
be handed over to a private consortium - Dalriada Water. Despite the
local name, this consortium was composed entirely of international
utility companies. It included the notorious Tyco International. By
coincidence, in the same week of the announcement in the future of
water treatment works, the former chief executive and finance director
of Tyco were being sentences in a New York after being found guilty of
serious fraud charges. During their period with the company they moved
the company's registration to Bermuda, then went on to set up 115
subsidiaries in tax haven countries, including eight in the Bahamas,
17 in Barbados, 55 in Bermuda, and five in the Cayman Islands. Most of
these companies had nothing to do with real business, but were front
companies used in accounting scams to evade taxes and to allow it to
issue false accounting reports that hid bad debts and exaggerated
assets. Stock prices shot up, investors bought, and Tyco executives
made a bundle. In 2002 Tyco chief executive Dennis Kozlowski took home
over $71 million, up $34.7 million raise from the previous year when
the company laid off 11,300 workers. When the truth came out investors
lost their money and Tyco's former top executives were charged with
looting the company of $600 million.
In you were leafing through the jobs sections in the local press in
October you may have noticed a job advert for the Department for
Regional development inviting applications for the post of Chair and 4
Non-Executive Directors to the Board of Water Service. This is
intended to be the new executive board of the Water Service when it is
transformed into a Government Owned Company (GoCo) in April 2005. This
is the body that will be "at heart of the government's reform of the
water industry". So how much time do they need to devote to this
important task. Well the chair will be required to work three days a
month, and the non-executive directors two days a month. For this
sacrifice the chair will receive £40,000 pa, that's about £1100 a day,
while non-executive directors will receive £18,000 pa, a measly £750 a
day. Of course, these figures may be on the conservative side, as they
don't include expenses. Potential applicants for these posts would
certainly agree with the advert that the Water Service is undergoing
"dramatic and exciting change". However, if you are member of the
Water Service workforce facing redundancy or the loss of your pension,
or a member of a household facing a £400 annual bill you may have a
different point of view.
One of the argurments in favour of privistaoistion is that it lowers
prices. However, in England and Wales, where water utilities have been
privatised since 1989, bills have been steadily rising. Under the
latest deal stuck between the water companies and the regulator water
bills are to rise by an average of 13 per cent over the next five
years, from £249 to £282. A large proportion of this increase will be
put on in the first year. Even with such a big rise the water
companies were not satisfied, they had lobbied for twice this rate.
The example of the RVH car park epitomises the abuse associated with
privatisation. Built at a cost of £2m through a private finance
initiative (PFI), the company that runs it has been able to recoup the
cost of its construction after just seven years of a 20-year contract.
In 2002 alone, the car park generated more than £500,000 in profits.
Yet, the hospital has only received a fraction of this money. Under
the PFI contract the company agreed to pay the RVH £25,000 a year for
the use of the land and a further £15,000 a year if profits exceeded
initial forecasts. These terms have resulted in the hospital receiving
less than 5 per cent of the annual profits. Rather than going back
into the health service, this money, extracted from patients, their
families and hospital employees, is being drained away. This is the
reality of private sector "investment" in our public services.
The CAWP was set up in November 2004 by socialist groups to oppose the
introduction of water charges. We are part of the wider anti-water
charges campaign and do not set ourselves in opposition to any other
group. Our primary role is to emphasise the issue of privatisation and
advocate strategies that we believe can successfully oppose it. Over
the past year, our activities have included public meetings, stalls,
postering and film shows. We also had a contingent on the Belfast May
Day parade. A number of campaign committees have been established
across the city. These involve residents organising in their local
area to raise awareness of the consequences of water privatisation,
and to mobilise public opposition against it.
If you agree with us and would like to find more about the CAWP and
its activities, or are interested in setting up a committee in your
area, then contact us at:
PO Box 40, Belfast, BT11 9DL
Thursday, 19 January
A Connolly Forum public meeting entitled Jim Gralton - the Leitrim
Socialist will be held in the Trades Club, Castle Street, Sligo, on
Wednesday, January 19, at 8.30pm. Pat Feeley, the writer and former
RTE radio presenter, will be among the speakers.
Thursday, 19 January
James Connolly Debating Society
The James Connolly Debating Society is a forum for republicans and
socialists to meet, discuss and debate the works of some of Ireland's
greatest political thinkers, from the United Irishmen to Connolly and
Pearse, right up to the present.
This second meeting of the society will be taking place in the Felons'
Club, Falls Road, Belfast on Thursday 19th January at 7.30pm
Sunday, 26 January
VISIT PALESTINE (80 minutes Film)
Sunday 26th January 7pm Tricycle Cinema, 269 Kilburn High Road, London
Tickets £8 and £7 - BOX OFFICE Telephone 020 7328 1000
"An astonishing piece of work, a wonderful film...quite unlike
anything I've seen." - John Pilger
What drives a young, well-educated Irishwoman to volunteer as a "peace
activist" in the Middle East? Caiomhe Butterly is one of a growing
number of volunteers who risk their own safety to intervene in the
long-running and bloody conflict between Israel and Palestine. Several
internationals, including her, have now been injured. Some have died.
In this film, she describes witnessing the aftermath of the attack on
Jenin in April 2002. The film follows her work, the main emphasis
being "the accompaniment of communities at risk". Despite being
threatened, shot in the leg and deported later that year, she is
determined to go back. In the interim, she brings her story back to
her native Ireland at public meetings, receives a Time Magazine
"European Hero Award", and travels to post-war Iraq to visit the
Palestinian refugee camps. She arrives back in Jenin, shortly before a
young woman from that community, Hanadi Jaradat, blows herself up in a
suicide bombing in Haifa.
Activists such as Butterly are usually stereotyped as lunatics,
meddlers or saints. This film offers an insight into a brave, honest,
determined yet self-critical woman who takes direct action to the
limit, with no quest for glory. She also serves as a conduit into the
everyday lives of Palestinians, who are also usually presented to the
viewer in a one-dimensional way, as fighters or victims, heroes or
fanatics. The film gives us a rare chance to see what she calls "the
spaces of beauty and joy" created by a people under occupation.
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