Friday 10 June 2005

The Plough Vol 02 No 40

The Plough
Volume 2, Number 40
10 June 2005

E-Mail Newsletter of the Irish Republican Socialist Party

1) The British Elections in the North of Ireland
2) Are "Northern Ireland" Football Supporters Sectarian?
3) Venezuela: Lessons of Struggle
4) Quote
5) What's On



The recent General Election results in the North of Ireland saw defeat
for the Ulster Unionist Party at the hands of their unionist rivals
the Democratic Unionist Party. The DUP now has 9 Westminster seats as
against the UUP one. One of the main aims of the peace process
strategy developed by the Provisional Republican Movement was the
splitting of unionism. The reality is that we now have the vast
majority of unionists united behind the arch bigot Paisley.

Sinn Fein (Provisional) has 5 seats as opposed to the SDLP's 3 and
failed to win the Foyle constituency where the SDLP leader, Mark
Durkan was standing. In a number of constituencies their actual vote
fell. Since the election Gerry Adams has held a number of private
meetings with Bertie Ahern. There is now enormous pressure on Sinn
Fein and IRA to go the 'extra mile' and disband the IRA. The pressure
comes from Dublin, from Westminster, from the Bush administration and
of course from the DUP whose vote within the unionist community was
won on the basis of not sharing power with Sinn Fein.

The DUP want a Stormont style majority rule but failing that would
settle for a coaliation Government with the SDLP that excludes Sinn
Fein. What ever the IRA do is unlikely to be enough for the DUP. After
all the DUP did not receive its huge vote to share power but rather to
keep Sinn Fein out of power! They are not likely to change their minds
for the foreseeable future.

Whatever happens Sinn Fein face a difficult period in the coming
months. If the IRA disband or decommission a huge cache of arms they
have no guarantee that the DUP will respond and agree to share power.
They risk humiliation without the guarantee of power sharing.

Whilst the Provisional Movement wrestle with their conscience let us
not forget how far they have already appeased unionism and the British
government. The Good Friday Agreement formalised the unionist veto.
The unionists have the final say over any fundamental dismantling of
this sectarian, artificial state. They have no exercised generosity
towards the nationalists and for many of us the Northern state is
still a cold house. Despite an IRA (P) ceasefire, which has lasted,
for ten years there has been little fundamental change to British
controlled police and security forces. Also the GFA has not resolved
the main social injustice the republican struggle was based on - the
denial of the right to self-determination for the Irish people as a

On the basis of these retreats from republicanism, we republican
socialists must offer an alternative which spells out a continuing
fight against the northern sectarian state and Britain's support for
it. But we recognise we have a massive hill to climb. In the recent
elections independent republicans did not do well.

In Derry the Socialist Environmental Alliance vote polled 1,649 (3.6
per cent). The SEA, led by veteran civil rights campaigner and SWP
member Eamonn McCann, polled slightly less than the SEA Assembly
election vote in 2003. It also failed to win in the 4 wards in the
local elections. However it was a campaign that drew support from
people opposed to the intended water privatisation and water charges.
The SEA fought for a mass campaign of non-payment and has also
stressed working class unity against sectarianism, war and the big
business agenda. These are positives republican socialists can
identify with.

We can not how ever identify with a socialist organisation in the
North of Ireland which remains silent on such key issues as the peace
process itself, the police, the presence of British troops, the
validity of the northern state, the national question and imperialism.

The British state is a past master at divide and rule. Partition in
both Ireland and India was only introduced late in the negotiations
and was a clear device to undermine the struggles for national
self-determination and foster divisions within the working classes.
Partitioned India and partitioned Ireland were born amidst sectarian
strife, murder and massacre. Whilst we republican socialists should
always seek to unify all workers in struggle over specific issues and
have taken initiatives to reach out to progressive sections of the
Protestant working class we also need to understand the role of the
state, imperialism and how it keeps working people divided. We will
not abandon our republicanism to chase the false illusions of a
spurious class unity based on ignoring the fundamental issues of
partition and imperialism.


By Gerard Foster

It was 1979 and I was 16 years old. I found myself walking towards the
"Village area" of Belfast to "Windsor Park", the home of Linfield and
"Northern Ireland" football. Not a safe place for Catholics at the
best of times, but today I was with thousands of other "Catholics", we
were on our way to watch Cliftonville play against Linfield. It was
meant to be a home match for Cliftonville, but Linfield refused to
play at Solitude, the home of Cliftonville, so all their matches
against Linfield were played at "Windsor Park".

The "Blues", as Linfield are known in "football circles" said their
supporters were in danger by attending away matches at Solitude. This
goes back to 1970 or 71, when the I.R.A. shot over the heads of the
"Huns" (as they were known to us) as they left Solitude after a match.
The I.R.A. did this in response to the damage that the "Huns" were
causing in the area before and after matches, damage to homes and cars
etc. Locals put pressure on the "Ra" to do something about this, hence
the shots into the air.

Well that's how it was explained to me when I asked why all the away
matches were at "Windsor Park" when they played Linfield. I don't know
if this is true or not, but Glentoran and their supporters, who always
played their away games at Solitude, were never shot at, never mind
shots being fired over their heads. As a matter of fact, Glentoran
believed that this was an excuse to give Linfield an advantage over
all the other teams in the league.

But back to 1979, as we got into the Village area we were "tunnelled"
into "Windsor Park" by the R.U.C., in other words, they lined the
street on either side as we walked by. This might seem like good
"policing" on the face of it, but in effect, it just made us easy
targets for the stones and bottles that were thrown over the roofs
into the street at us. This did not really bother me, as I knew to
expect it. What really frightened me was the venom that was spat at us
from elderly women, who took to their upstairs windows to make sure we
saw them, and called us all the names under the sun. They brought
photos of their Queen, union jacks and any other thing they thought we
might find offensive. The hatred I saw in their faces as they shouted
down at us is something I will never forget. Their cheers when one of
us was hit by something, or more often than not, when the R.U.C.
battered one of us, was unbelievable. After the match we had to run
this gauntlet of sectarian hatred again as we made our way home.
I used to wonder what it was that these elderly women hated about us,
but I was never to find the answer. I also wondered if women like my
Mother could be capable of such hatred. Though I doubted it, it did
make me wonder.

So when I was asked a few weeks ago would I go to watch Northern
Ireland play Germany, I had my reservations, to say the least. I was
on a course and the subject came up about the support for Northern
Ireland being sectarian. Of course it is, we all know that, don't we?
One of the people on the course was a supporter, and the next day he
informed us the I.F.A. was willing to give us 20 tickets for the
match. So there it is, I found myself having to back up my opinions or
be proved wrong, and the only way to do that was to go to the match!!!
So with a little bit more than fear, I made my way to the top of Tates
Avenue to where we had agreed to meet. Although our group was very
mixed I thought I stood out, a prime-evil fear no doubt. But being an
ex-P.O.W. only made things worse, what if someone recognised me from
the prison? What was I doing among all these "Huns" and I don't mean
the German supporters? Christ, I don't even like this team, why should
I put myself through all this fear just because Gerry Ruddy said I
should do this course? Why didn't he do it himself? All sorts of
thoughts were running through my head. To top it all the only green I
had to wear was either a Celtic or Ireland top, and as that was not an
option, I brought an "Ulster" flag that I had got in circumstances
that I will not go into.

As we walked towards the ground things seemed to be pleasant enough,
German supporters mixed with us, some people finished of their beer
before they got to the ground as not alcohol is allowed in anymore.
This walk was very different from the last time I did it, no elderly
women shouting abuse, no stones coming over the roofs, no "tunnelling"
by the R.U.C. but still I felt I was walking into the lion's den. One
of the first things that surprised me after I went through the turn
styles was two blokes wearing Ireland tops, now this was unreal, was a
joke being played on me? No as it turned out. Into the stands I looked
around and noticed how much the place had changed since 1979, it did
look a lot better. As we waited for the match to start the lad that
had got us the tickets said he was surprised I actually came, nowhere
near as surprised as I was!!! So I settled in my seat and as the
matched started, I listened to the crowd and the songs they were
singing, I had been told that there would no "Billy boys" songs; even
the "Sash" was not sung anymore. This I found hard to believe as I
thought it was the only two songs they knew!! I was also told that
there would be no union jacks, and this turned out to be true, there
was not one in the crowd. The singing was a surprise also, not one
sectarian song was sung during the whole match. They didn't have too
many songs; it seems that "Northern Ireland" is a bit of a mouthful to
fit in!!

As the match progressed I started to feel a bit more at ease, we
seemed to be in the "Family stand" as there was a lot of children
running about. The crowd in the opposite stand started to do the "Dam
Busters Tune" to try and annoy the German supporters. It didn't work;
maybe the Germans know that it is probably the most over-rated
operation of World War Two. As the reason that I went to the match was
to observe the crowd, I didn't show too much interest in the actual
match. As you probably know the Germans, down to 10 men for most of
the match, won 4 to 1. I give out a bit of stick about this, as it
showed how bad the "Northern Ireland" really is. At the end of the
match the result of the Ireland-Israel was given out, this seem to get
the loudest cheer of the whole night!!

At home that night I thought about the crowd, had things really
changed that much? As a teenager I saw real hatred, "Windsor Park" has
seen some ugly scenes over the years. Some of them made it into the
local media probably the most notable were the game against Ireland.
That night the sectarian hatred was so bad that Irish supporters were
not allowed into the ground. I was in prison that night and was
listening to the match on the radio in my cell. Even in the prison I
could hear the crowd over the broadcasters talk. Things got that bad
Jack Charlton, the Irish manager at that time, wouldn't sake the hand
of Billy Bingham, the "Northern Ireland" manager, at the end of the
match because he was inciting the crowd in its sectarian hatred. There
was even a play made about this match because of the sectarianism that

This and other notable sectarian events were the hallmark of "Windsor
Park". So for me to see such a change was challenging to say the
least. My first thought was, well this is against the Germans, what if
it was against Ireland? Would the "Dam Busters" and chants of "Healy,
Healy give us a goal" have been enough for the crowd? Then again does
that matter? The fact that the I.F.A. and their supporters are doing
their best to get rid of sectarianism at these matches is a step

We as republican socialists should always look at progressive steps in
a manner that befits our beliefs. I am not asking us to run out and
support "Northern Ireland" but to ignore any move, no matter how
small, that comes from the unionist people would be a mistake on our
behalf. We are about uniting people, not dividing them. We do not tell
people what they should or should not believe in. We will have to
except that the people I saw in "Windsor Park" that night were
passionate about their team, it was part of their identity, and if
they are trying to get rid of sectarianism at these matches, why
should we still be ignorant of their efforts?

I didn't believe that these changes were possible, again it was only
one match, but I did see changes, massive changes when you think about
it. I still feel nothing for or identify with anything that is
"Northern Irish" but these people are sharing this island with us, and
if we can not work with them or try to understand and come to identify
with each other, then as a working class party we will fail to ever
achieve any sort of working class unity. So to me the challenge is not
for the "Northern Ireland" supporters and unionism to come to our way
of thinking, but for us to try to understand and work with progressive
unionists to find a way towards working class unity. After all it is
said that horse racing is the sport of kings and that soccer is the
sport of the working class, why not try from here to find some working
class unity?

Coming out of the ground I did feel that the I.F.A. were at least
trying to end the overt bigotry and their supporters were playing
their part in this also. But I felt a bit of sadness as I left, not
only had Ireland dropped a few points against Israel, but as an Irish
supporter I could no longer call this team "Northern Ireland nil"!!


By Tomas Gorman

It's true to say that some things are the same all around the world,
no matter how far you go. Alexis took a fair deal of coaxing before he
would sing us all a song but once he got going we couldn't shut him
up. It was my last night in Caracas and for the last hour of my
English class at the Juan Alberdi School, we had pulled our chairs
around in a circle and chatted about different things. They wanted to
know more about Ireland and quizzed me on the weather, landscape,
food, etc. whilst I drew crude maps of Europe on the blackboard for
them. It was typical for the Friday classes to finish like this. The
missions were about meeting socially too and sharing experiences and
knowledge gained during the last week. I enjoyed these Friday evenings
immensely. They bubbled with excited Spanish and laughter. I was
usually the main target of all the banter (being the novelty in the
class) and my last night was celebrated with the women teaching me the
salsa, meringue and rumba dance steps and in exchange I had to sing an
Irish song for the class at the blackboard. At home this kind of
abandonment of prudence would be unspeakable in sobriety, but here in
this classroom in western Caracas, such was the joy and abandon that
it would have been embarrassing not to have joined the melee. It would
of course be better to have had visited the poor barrios of Caracas
both pre and post Chavez, but I doubt that such vitality and spirit
existed there ten, fifteen, twenty years ago.

May Day's march in Caracas was one event that I had looked forward to
with great anticipation. James, my English host, travelled with me by
Metro to the marches starting point at the La Bandera district. The
Metro was heaving with people in red chavista t-shirts moving
hurriedly, talking excitedly. When we ascended to ground level at La
Bandera station, I was taken aback by the size of the crowd waiting to
disembark. It was a sea of red with the occasional truck dressed with
flags pumping out lively Latin music that the crowd naturally danced
along the route to. The sheer vibrancy of the crowd swept me away.
The contrast between the May Day processions that I had attended in
Belfast was stark. Our processions were conservative, orderly, almost
sombre, as though we were commemorating socialism as an old friend
that we had buried in 1989. Here in Caracas, half a million people
were celebrating socialism and workers solidarity as something very
much alive and growing. They danced and waved flags as they snaked
their way through Caracas to the rally point where Hugo Chavez gave
his rousing address. I was able to get quite close up to the speaking
platform and heard him describe the goals of the revolutionary
process; "the creation of a new fair and equal Bolivarian Socialist
Venezuela we see forming and building around us". The people responded
to all of his strong points with cheers, whistling and flag waving. I
proudly waved my Starry Plough high over the crowd and was elated to
see it on the Venezuelan news channel that night.

What was evident that May Day in Caracas and in the classrooms and
every barrio I visited was the exuberance and enthusiasm that the
people had for the revolutionary process. Venezuela is embarking on,
what is in many respects, a unique revolutionary transition. It is
taking place in the context of various socio-economic and political
factors which are also unique to Venezuela and to try and replicate
the Venezuelan model here in Ireland would be in vain. However, we can
take certain elements and lessons from it. The Bolivarian government
has begun to organise its society around the needs of its people. It
has begun to use the land and resources as a commonwealth for the
benefits of its people. In doing so it has relieved many welfare and
economic pressures that the people suffered and created space for them
to fulfil their full human potential by whatever means they wish. It
is creating a culture where success and achievement are not measured
strictly in material gain but in sports, arts, technological,
agricultural and industrial development.

It's true to say that some things are the same all around the world,
no matter how far you go. If we can find the imaginative ambition,
tempered with the reality of our own socio-economic and political
status-quo, to create the space for our own people to develop our
society along similar lines, radical change would surely follow. It is
how we do this is, in my opinion, our greatest challenge.

One of my motivations is to see the same vitality and vibrancy that I
experienced on my last night in that classroom in western Caracas. I
left the classroom that night sad that I was going home, but with my
heart swelled with joy, my head bursting with ideas.



Camilo Torres, a priest who died in combat with the Colombian ELN,
said: "Marxists believe that when you die worms eat you, while
Christians believe that when you die you go to heaven or hell
according to how you behaved in Earth. Yet of one thing are Marxists
and Christians sure of: hunger kills."




Every Wednesday 1pm to 2 pm

Lunchtime political discussion on the issues of the day in 392 Falls
Road, Belfast. Telephone 028-9032-1024. Wednesday June 8th –
Venezuela. Comrades and friends welcome.


Saturday-Sunday, 18-19 June

Day School and AGM, 18 and 19 June 2005
Conway Hall, Red Lion Square
London WC1
Nearest tube: Holborn

Colombia Solidarity Campaign Day School, fundraiser and AGM
18 June 2005
Day School

Suggested donation: £4/2

11am: Privatisation, Repression and Resistance in the Public

Luz Estella Villareal (Colombian University Lecturer)
Juan Pablo Ochoa (Colombian Student Activist)
Lara Coleman (Universidad Viva Campaign)
12am: Communities in Resistance: Barrancabermeja, San Jose de Apartado
and Arauca.
Juan Carlos Galvis
(Vice President CUT Barrancabermeja and Human Rights Director,
Juan Pablo Ochoa
Andy Dockett

1-2 pm: lunch will be available in Conway Hall

2pm: The Multinationals in Colombia: Coca-Cola and BP Juan Carlos
Galvis (Juan Carlos is one of the plaintiffs in the US court case
against CC)
Marta Hinestroza
(Lawyer representing communities destroyed by BP)

3.30pm: The rebirth of the Social Movement across the Andes.
Speakers on Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia.

7pm-2am, Fundraising party
With live Cumbia, salsa DJs, food and drink.
Venue to be announced

19 June 2005.
11am-3pm. The AGM of the Colombia Solidarity Campaign will take place
in Conway Hall, with a prompt starting time of 11am. We aim to be
finished by 3pm. Details of the meeting; reports, motions and all
relevant instructions will be available soon. Lunch will be available.
Members and Affiliated Organisations only.

Conway Hall is fully wheelchair accessible.
Colombia Solidarity Campaign
- E-mail:
- Homepage:


Saturday, 18 June

Let us stay! Let us work!
Saturday 18 June, 12.30 pm

GPO, O'Connell Street, Dublin



Michael McDowell's deportation machine has got worse than ever in
recent months. He has sent his snatch squads into schools, attempting
to drag children away from their classmates and teachers. He has
separated mothers from their children. He has torn people away from
communities they are now a part of, ignoring calls for compassion from
their friends and neighbours. Asylum seekers in Ireland are forced to
live on only E19.10 a week. They are banned from working or studying.
People who are ready, willing and able to work are condemned by the
government to compulsory unemployment and poverty.

His ideological obsession with deporting people makes Michael McDowell
unfit to be in charge of the asylum system. The system should be taken
out of the hands of politicians altogether, and run by a body such as
the Human Rights Commission committed to fair play for asylum seekers.

Exploitation of immigrant workers is widespread in Ireland, based
largely on the current work permit system. The permit is given to the
employer, not the worker, which ties you to a single company with no
right to change jobs. If the boss doesn't renew your permit, you have
no legal right to stay in Ireland. Recently, popular protest forced
McDowell to do a U-turn, and reverse the deportation of Kunle
Elukanlo, a school student from Dublin. In the run-up to World Refugee
Day, 18 June is a chance to show that not everyone is prepared to
stand by and allow state racism to continue.

- Stop the deportations
- Give asylum seekers the right to work
- Take the asylum system out of the politicians' hands
- Take the work permits away from the employer

Residents Against Racism was set up in 1998 to fight against state
racism, and to oppose all manifestations of racism. We have
successfully campaigned in support of refugees facing deportation and
other forms of harassment from the state. Our supporters include Joe
Costello TD, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, Joe Higgins TD, Ciarán Cuffe
TD, Finian McGrath TD, Michael O'Reilly of the ATGWU, and many other
individuals and groups. We are not connected to any political party,
and do not receive any state funding.

Contact details on website


Wednesday, 22 June 2005

Linen Hall Library Lecture

The Act Of Union Virtual Library

Wednesday 22nd June 2005 at 1pm


Dr Jonathan Bardon & Dr Paul Ell

Jonathan Bardon and Paul Ell will describe and illustrate the
innovative project, which saw the creation of a virtual library of
contemporary sources relating to the Act of Union between Great
Britain and Ireland in 1800. The accessibility and utility of this web
based archive will be demonstrated in a user friendly way.

Admission Free - All Welcome

This lecture has been sponsored by the International Fund for Ireland.


Camp Havana Glencolmcille

From Friday 16th to Sunday 18th September 2005 over 100 men, women and
children from every corner of this island - and indeed from much
further away - will gather in Glencolmcille / Donegal. They will
come in busses, by car, bicycle or on foot.

They will erect CAMP HAVANA and walk to the top of Slieve League.
Some will take the challenging hike across the whole ridge,
accompanied by a trained mountain guide. Some will use a more relaxed
walking route and some will only go as far as the bus can take them.
All of them will enjoy Europe's highest sea - cliffs which are
surrounded by scenery incomparable to anywhere else on this earth.
Of course we are not just gathering to admire spectacular scenery. We
will get together in what is going to be the biggest show of
friendship with people from another island, Cuba, ever to happen on
these shores.

We are making this effort mainly because five young men are serving
lengthy prison sentences in the USA, guilty of nothing but the attempt
to stop terrorism; murderous and destructive acts which have killed
over 3,500 civilians in Cuba - more than the troubles in Northern

These men went to Miami to try and stop the people who orchestrate
this terrorism and ended up in US prisons. They have spent months in
isolation cells; their wives, kids and relations have been denied

The Miami 5 are victims of one of the most brutal human rights
violations in recent history, victims of breaches of both
international and US law.

We want freedom for these innocent men!

With our sponsored mountain walk and the large meeting / concert on
the evening of Saturday September 17th we will achieve;
- Massive publicity and increased awareness about the case.
- Pressure on political representatives (TDs, MPs, MEPs) to act
as opposed to talk.
- Raising of much needed financial support for the campaign and for
another urgent aid project in Cuba
- Pushing forward the world-wide campaign to free the Miami 5
and strengthen the links between campaigners from various countries
(At this very early stage we already know that there will be people
from England, the USA, Austria, Germany and Denmark coming to show
their support).

We can and we will free the Miami 5!
Nobody in this world is going to do it for us!
Lend us your support!
Join Camp Havana Glencolmcille 2005!
Get in touch with us now!

On behalf of the organisers of Camp Havana
Yours fraternally
Hermann Glaser-Baur

Phone us at: 028 77742655 (from Republic of Ireland: 04877742655)


Sunday, 26 June

Annual IRSM Wolfe Tone Commemoration will take place at 2pm on Sunday
26th of June in Bodenstown, Sallins, Co. Kildare. Republican Socialist
bands will be in attendance. All welcome. Contact for further details.


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