Thursday, December 11, 2008

X Factor Heroes?

In response to the release of the X Factor’s ‘Hero’ in support of Britain’s occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq éirígí has compiled an alternative video highlighting the true nature of modern day imperialism.

Viewer discretion is advised as some may find some of the scenes contained within this video disturbing.

‘The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly - it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over.’

The propagandists of the British state clearly agree with the substance of the quote above. Since the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq began a small number of points have been endlessly repeated. Chief amongst these constant themes has been the assertion that the people of Britain should support ‘our boys’ as they ‘do a difficult job’ in far-off lands.

The fact that this ‘difficult job’ is a product of British and American imperialism is conveniently forgotten. That this ‘difficult job’ involves the deaths of millions of people is routinely ignored. Support for ‘our boys’ overrides all other considerations and political judgements. You are either with us or against us. Sympathy is to be reserved for British soldiers injured and killed alone. The suffering of those maimed and murdered by those same troops is not worthy of mention.

In recent weeks the British media has succeeded in creating a near-frenzy of support for those British soldiers serving in occupied Afghanistan and Iraq. For the entire month of November it seemed that every public figure in Britain was permanently sporting a poppy on their lapels. Traditionally worn as a tribute to those who died in past wars the poppy has now become a public expression of support for Britain’s modern day great wars.

This is the backdrop against which the producers of the ‘X-Factor’ television show chose to release the ‘Hero’ single at the start of November. While the lyrics of the song refer to the ‘hero that lies in you’ the accompanying video alternates between the young singers and smiling British soldiers, re-united with their families on return from Afghanistan and Iraq. These images stand in stark contrast to the reality of the millions of families that have been torn asunder – quite literally on many occasions - by the actions of these soldiers and the government they serve.

The marketing of both the song and video has been tireless with commercial radio and television stations dutifully playing their part in supporting ‘our boys’. That the audience of the ‘X-Factor’ is largely made up of young teenagers makes the whole exercise all the more disturbing. For this generation a relatively innocent talent show has been cynically hijacked by those who wish to justify the savagery of modern-day imperialism.

It can be expected that the British state will continue to practise the propaganda advice contained within the quote at the start of this article - a fact that becomes all the more understandable when the author of that quote is revealed. He, himself, knew how to rally popular support at home for brutal occupations abroad. He also knew how to create sympathy for the perpetrator at the expense of the victim. His name? Joseph Goebbels.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bankrolling Murder in Colombia

Francisco Santos CalderónThe Colombian vice-president, Francisco Santos Calderón, was in Belfast this week.

Calderón was here to address a PSNI-run drugs conference on the issue of the cocaine trade and how to combat it. Unfortunately, the senior Colombian politico was not expected to address the involvement of the right-wing death squads in the trade and their dubious relationship with his government.

According to the European Union, Colombia is designated as a developing country.

Over the years, as a result of this classification, under a scheme entitled the General System of Preferences (GSP), Colombia has received preferential trading status with the EU. This scheme and the special benefits that apply and which Colombia is in receipt of are intended solely for countries that respect certain basic human rights and the rights of workers.

Back in 2005 the scheme was altered to a new system entitled GSP Plus, which delivers extra benefits for qualifying countries. However, the new system significantly required those qualifying countries to not just ratify a number of core international conventions on labour rights and human rights, but, more importantly, to also “effectively implement” these international conventions. Among the rights enshrined in these conventions are the right to protection to organise and collective bargaining, as well as the right to freedom of association.

So, while the Colombian regime has indeed ratified the necessary conventions, they have failed to implement them effectively and, in fact, they consistently and regularly breach these and other International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions as a matter of course. Indeed, all the evidence clearly shows that they actively engage in measures, both directly and indirectly through their allies in the right-wing death squads, to hamper the work of trade union activists and to intimidate, disappear, torture and murder those engaged in trade union activity as well as other human rights activists and political opponents. Trade union membership numbers have plummeted in recent decades to just 850,000, just 5 per cent of the total workforce and just half of what union membership figures were 20-years-ago.

For trade unionists, Colombia remains the most dangerous place in the world. An Amnesty International report issued in July of last year highlighted the fact that, during the past two decades, over 2,000 trade union activists have been killed (the figure stands at 2,683 in the last 22 years), while 138 have been the victims of enforced disappearance in Colombia. In more than 90 per cent of these cases, the people responsible for these atrocities have yet to be brought to justice.

In stark contrast to the image presented to the world by the Colombian regime and its US and British allies, the situation has not improved and violence in Colombia has increased dramatically throughout 2008. From January 1 this year up until the end of August, 40 trade unionists were murdered, a figure already higher than the numbers for the entire year of 2007. Among those activists murdered were 15 trade union leaders. Over the past decade, the number of trade unionists killed in Colombia has been consistently greater than those killed in all other countries worldwide combined.

Added to that is the extremely worrying fact that 125 death threats were issued against trade unionists trying to carry out their activity in the workplace throughout Colombia this year alone. Considering the propensity of those issuing the death threats to murder or disappear those that they threaten, those figures are a real source of concern for Colombian trade unionists and should be of major concern for the EU and those who decide what countries are to awarded GSP Plus status.

And it is not just trade unionists that bear the brunt of the Colombian regime’s murderous campaign. The reality of life in Colombia is that those that dare speak out against the regime, those that dare stand up to the repression and murder inflicted by the regime and their allies, those that dare to speak out for human rights and against the appalling human rights record of Colombia all face intimidation, arbitrary arrest, kidnapping, torture and murder for their beliefs and activities, whether political, human rights or trade union orientated.

No more state crimes!Human rights groups have shown that, during the current president’s six-year period in office, the Colombian military has been responsible for the extrajudicial executions of around 1,200 civilians, a figure that is almost twice the number killed in the period between 1996 and 2002.

Amnesty International’s latest report, entitled Leave Us in Peace! - Targeting Civilians in Colombia’s Internal Armed Conflict, again documents an increase in the numbers of civilians killed by the Colombian military and calls for an end to all military aid to the regime. Among the many Colombian military units for which there is clear evidence of involvement in torture, murder and other human rights abuses are units who receive British government and British military assistance, the notorious High Mountain Battalions of the Colombian Army. The report also documents a significant upward surge in attacks against human rights and trade union activists and increases in the forced disappearances and forced displacement of civilians by the regime.

That such a regime, with such an appalling human rights record, should be rewarded with special status by the EU is appalling and should not be allowed to continue.

The position of countries that have GSP status is currently under review and a decision will be announced by the EU Commission on December 15. It is imperative that the EU does not renew Colombia’s special trade status. Instead, they should, as has been called for by the CUT trade union federation, the largest union organisation in Colombia, initiate a high-level and thorough investigation into the murder campaign and human rights abuses carried out by the regime and its allies against trade unionists, human rights activists and political opponents.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Myth of "normality" shattered in Belfast

éirígí have commended all those who came onto the streets of Belfast on Sunday to protest at the "homecoming parade" for the Royal Irish Regiment (RIR) in defiance of the threats and lies of the RUC-PSNI, unionist politicians and others.

éirígí members and activists from Sligo and throughout the entire north-west were among the crowd of at least 400 republicans that gathered at Divis Tower before marching to the RUC-PSNI barricade blocking the bottom of the Falls Road.

There they were addressed by éirígí chairperson Brian Leeson and Brenda Downes, whose husband John was murdered by the RUC in 1984. A statement was also read out on behalf of Relatives for Justice - the organisation that campaigns on behalf of the victims of British state violence – by Alex Mc Crory, an eírígí activist, former political prisoner and blanketman.

Addressing the crowd Brian Leeson commended those who attended and defied British law to do so.

He said: "We will not ask the permission of our oppressors to march on our streets. If we are to take this country back we must take these streets back and break the mentality that we must ask the British state nicely to allow us to do so."

"The people of Vietnam did not seek permission from the United States to fight back; the people of South Africa did not ask the permission of the apartheid regime to fight for their rights. We, Irish republicans, will not seek permission from the Six County Parades Commission or any other British appointed body to protest the occupation of Ireland."

Brian said: "Throughout the last number of weeks, the RUC-PSNI, unionist politicians and some who should know better raised the spectre of violence in response to éirígí calling people onto the streets. Today, éirígí did exactly what it said it was going to do and held a peaceful, disciplined, dignified protest in opposition to the British military tramping through the streets of Belfast."

"Today, the unionist politicians, the unionist paramilitaries who encouraged the pro-British rabble into the city centre, the RUC-PSNI and the Six County Parades Commission were all proven conclusively wrong. All the threats and lies failed to intimidate the republicans of Belfast and further afield from making a forceful point."

Brian continued: "More importantly, the British government's normalisation agenda, of which this parade was an integral part, was today proven to be an agenda that is doomed to fail.

"Belfast is not a British city. It is an Irish city that is under British military and political occupation. As long as the British government continues planning stunts that will portray their presence in Ireland as somehow normal and acceptable, they will have to deal with large numbers of Irish republicans opposing them."

Sligo/Leitrim éirígí activist Gerry Casey who was among those from the north-west that took part in the demonstration said that republicans should take encouragement from Sundays demonstrations against the UDR/RIR.

He said: "The British state have been sent a clear signal - Irish Republicanism remains a force to be reckoned with. Their normalisation policy ended up in tatters today at their barricade blocking the route of the demonstration from the Falls Road into the City Centre."

He continued: "Is it a 'normal' society that sees heavily armed, masked paramilitary thugs masquerading as police, blocking the road from behind their armoured jeeps and riot shields to prevent peaceful demonstrators from marching through their streets?"

"Of course not. Unlike any normal society the British occupation of Ireland has always been maintained and had its rule enforced from the barrel of a gun. Sundays events show that despite what many would wish us all to believe, this remains the case."

Casey concluded: "Forty years ago, the RUC similarly blocked demonstrators marching for Civil Rights in what were also termed "illegal" parades. Today the RUC-PSNI have shown that while the uniform and name may have changed, the force remains the same anti-democratic paramilitary outfit it always has been and remains in the front line of upholding British rule in Ireland and of repressing those who dare to challenge Britains ocupation."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

éirígí claim budget will deliver increased poverty, illness and death

éirígí have described the recent budget as a direct attack on low paid workers and those less well off and vulnerable in our society, specifically children and the elderly.

The new 1% income tax levy on all low paid workers, the cutbacks in child benefit and early childcare payments, the minimal social welfare increases, the withdrawal of medical cards for over-70's, increases in hospital fees and the increases in VAT and petrol prices are just some of the measures introduced by Minister Lenihan that will have a major negative impact on the low paid and the most vulnerable in our society.

Sligo éirígí activist Gerry Casey said: "As a direct consequence of this budget, poverty in this state is set to increase. Those most affected will be children and the elderly, while increasing numbers of people will die from preventable illnesses as a result of being unable to afford necessary GP and Hospital visits as well as medicines."

"Tens of thousands of Irish families already struggle to heat their homes as the reality of 'fuel poverty' takes hold in post 'celtic-tiger' Ireland. They have now been dealt a further hammer blow by the Fianna Fail led government. Almost 3,000 people die each year in Ireland due to preventable, cold-related illness, with that figure almost certainly set to rise due to these latest measures."

Casey concluded: "This was a deliberate attack on low-income workers and the most vulnerable in this state by an administration that has consistently shown their contempt for workers and the less well off in our society. While they have pandered to their cronies in the construction industry once again, it will be children and the elderly that will suffer the brunt of increasing poverty and illness as a result of this shameful budget."

Thursday, October 2, 2008

éirígí highlight lack of screening in north west

Sligo éirígí activist Gerry Casey has called on the Twenty-Six County government to act immediately to extend the BreastCheck programme across the state.
It was recently revealed that women from Donegal were having to organise bus trips to avail of breast cancer screening in Belfast, highlighting once again the refusal of the Twenty-Six County government to roll out the Breast Check screening programme to counties Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal.

The BreastCheck programme commenced eight years ago. It is a free service, offering screening for breast cancer every two years in the areas covered by the programme to women in the target age bracket of 50-65. To date, the programme has been rolled out throughout the vast majority of the state, yet despite repeated promises, women in the north-west continue to be denied access to what is an extremely valuable and potentially life saving service.

As far back as March 2003, the former health minister Micheál Martin announced that BreastCheck would be in place and operating in the north-west by September 2005 at the very latest. In December 2006, minister Mary Harney stated that screening would begin by the spring of 2007. None of these promises have been upheld and there is currently no date set for the roll out of this service

Casey said: "The continued denial of this potentially life saving service to the women of counties Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal is scandalous.

"Every year, more than 600 women in the Twenty-Six Counties die from breast cancer, while more than 2,000 others are diagnosed with it. The reality is that in the vast majority of cases, the early detection of breast cancer makes the chances of a full recovery extremely likely, while also making the entire treatment and recovery process far less traumatic for the patient involved.

"According to the All-Ireland Cancer Statistics 1998-2000, between the years 1994 and 2000, mortality rates from breast cancer fell by more than 20 per cent in the Six Counties where screening programmes were well established, while, in the Twenty-Six County state where no screening programme had yet been established, mortality figures remained the same in 2000 as they were in 1994."

Gerry concluded: "By continuing to deny women in the north-west access to a proper screening service, which is available in most other counties, the Dublin government is playing with their lives. The simple fact is that women in these counties will die unnecessarily from breast cancer as a direct result of this administration's policy. There is no excuse for any further delay and the government needs to begin the immediate roll out of the BreastCheck programme to counties Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal."

Sunday, August 10, 2008

éirígí Challenges Britain's Modern Day Internment

éirígí chairperson Brian Leeson has commended all those who attended Saturday's demonstrations against the British government's plans to interrogate people for 42-days without charge or trial.

Held on the 37th anniversary of the introduction of internment in the Six Counties, the protests were aimed at the 42-day detention legislation which was passed by the British parliament in June this year.

éirígí activists and supporters gathered at various locations to include Dublin's British embassy, Lurgan town centre, RUC-PSNI Barracks in Antrim town, Belfast and Enniskillen. Amongst those in attendance at Saturdays protest in Enniskillen were Republicans from Counties Sligo and Leitrim.

Speaking after the well-attended events, Leeson said: "August 9 1971 was a seminal date in modern Irish history. As hundreds of innocent people were being carted off to torture centres and onto prison camps, hopes that Britain and its forces could play a benign or impartial role in Irish affairs once again went up in smoke.

"Despite the fact that the British government's attempts to contain the insurgency in the Six Counties through the use of internment without trial were utterly unsuccessful, they are today pressing ahead with legislation which is internment by another name. Clearly, London has yet to learn its lesson with regard to denying people their legal rights."

Brian continued: "It is worrying that the passing of the 42-day detention legislation has met with little comment in Ireland, especially given Britain's record in this country. While Gordon Brown's administration has used the spectre of 'islamic fundamentalism' to hold innocent people for so long without charge or trail, there is little doubt that, given the opportunity, they will use the legislation against Irish republicans and vulnerable communities in Britain.

Fermanagh activist, Kevin Martin stated, "All those who turned out in Enniskillen are to be commended for breaking the silence on this issue. They made it clear that the best way to remember the massive injustice that was internment is to challenge Britain's modern day plans to lock people up without charge or trial."