Monday, September 20, 2010

Protest against Cutbacks as Cowen visits Sligo

More than 120 people took part in a demonstration on Friday night outside the Clarion hotel in Sligo. The occasion was the annual dinner of Sligo Chamber at which the guest of honour was Brian Cowen.

The demonstration had been called and organised by two local campaign groups. The Save Sligo's Cancer Services were protesting at the removal of Breast Cancer services from Sligo General Hospital to Galway last year and the ongoing cutbacks at Sligo General hospital.

The Sligo Workers Alliance (SWA) also held a protest opposing the savage cutbacks imposed on essential public services, including cutbacks at Sligo General hospital, as well cuts in workers pay and social welfare payments.

According to Brian O'Boyle, spokesperson for the SWA, they were there to highlight the fact that the people who had caused the economic crisis were still in charge and forcing the less well off to carry the burden. 

Despite requests from a variety of local community organisations who had sought a meeting with Cowen, all those requests were denied. Instead, the only engagements he took part in was a meeting with the Sligo Champion, one of the many newspapers owned by Tony O'Reilly's media empire, who are launching their newpaper in new tabloid format and his attendance at the Sligo Chamber's 5-star tuxedo dinner where Cowen wined and dined with business elite of Sligo.

Amongst those taking part in the protest was local éirígí activist Gerry Casey.

Speaking following the protest Casey said: “The fact that Cowen refused to meet with local community groups effected by the cutbacks imposed by his administration, yet was more than happy to help promote one of Tony O'Reilly's newspapers and attend a lavish banquet with the wealthy business elite of Sligo, shows exactly where his priorities lie.”

He added: “Cowen and his cronies care nothing for the suffering of local working class communities who he is forcing to pay for the economic crisis brought about by his policies and that of his administration. His only concern is with protecting the interests of the wealthy political and business elite and maintaining their lavish and extravagant lifestyles. The presence of so many 2010 Mercedes' at the Chamber dinner shows Cowen has done a fine job in protecting that wealth”

“On the other hand low paid workers and welfare recipients have already suffered immense hardship due to the extent of the savage cutbacks imposed over the past two years. They have suffered cuts in pay, welfare, child benefit, early childcare supplement, home help, school transport, school book schemes, the scrapping of the Christmas bonus and new prescription charges, all of which have had a hugely negative impact on their standard of living.”

He continued “Added to this is the impact that the carbon tax, subsequent increased fuel costs and the imminent ESB price hike has had on these families and which has lead to a sharp decline in the living standards of working people and has created widespread poverty. As we approach winter, the reality is that fuel poverty is set to increase dramatically and will ultimately result in more preventable illness and deaths, placing an even heavier burden on an already overburdened public health system that has been stripped to the bone and has suffered widespread slashing of essential services.”

As éirígí have repeatedly pointed out, none of these cutbacks are based on economic necessity. This administration has pumped tens of billions of euros into bailing out the banks at the same time as they deliberately slash essential health and education services and drive increasing numbers of families into extreme poverty.”

Casey concluded: “This is a fight that working class communities cannot afford to lose. Its long past time for these communities the length and breadth of this state to come together and organise effectively to drive these self serving politicians from power. More importantly however we need to dismantle and destroy their capitalist system which is based on greed before need and is responsible for the continued and increasing exploitation of workers, the ongoing drive to slash and privatise hospital services and the neglect of the most vulnerable in society who need assistance and care."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Successful BÁC Protest against Royal Visit

Despite the appalling weather upwards of 100 people joined éirígí’s No Royal Visit protest outside of City Hall in Baile Átha Cliath last evening [September 6]. The City Councillors meeting inside the building were left in no doubt as to the mood and determination of those gathered outside, as chants of ‘Can you hear us loud and clear – British royals not welcome here’ reverberated around the precincts of City Hall and the adjoining Dublin Castle.

The protest followed on from a similar one at the last meeting of Dublin City Council on July 5. Click here for more on that protest. Both protests were called to coincide with a scheduled debate by the City Councillors on a motion opposing a state visit by Elizabeth Windsor. Last night the council again failed to debate the motion due to an overrun of other items on the agenda, including the Poolbeg Incinerator debate.

Protest against British royal visits

The wording of the motion which has been submitted by éirígí’s Councillor Louise Minihan reads “That this council notes with deep concern the proposal for a state visit to the Twenty Six Counties by the British head of state. Such a visit would be entirely inappropriate whilst the British state continues to implement imperialist policies and commit human rights abuses across the world, most notably in Afghanistan, Iraq and here in Ireland. This council calls on the Dublin government to abandon its plans to invite the British head of state to Ireland and on behalf of the proud citizens of this city we declare that Elizabeth Windsor is not welcome in Dublin.”

The motion will now be debated at a specially convened ‘motions’ meeting on Monday September 20th which deal with all the motions which were not heard at last night’s meeting. Speaking following the protest Cathaoirleach éirígí Brian Leeson confirmed that éirígí will again be organising a protest outside of City Hall to coincide with the meeting.

No British withdrawal? No Royal visits!

“On behalf of éirígí I would like to thank everyone that turned out to the protest. Tonight’s event was larger than the one in July, despite the appalling weather. Indeed, so bad was the weather we actually ended the protest earlier than planned. That scores of people were willing to come out to stand in such heavy rain shows the level of public opposition that there is to a Windsor state visit.

“On Saturday the people of Dublin and Ireland gave Tony Blair the welcome he rightly deserved, leading to the subsequent cancellation of his book signings in London. For those that doubt the value of such protests, Saturday proved that street politics can work and that protesters can achieve their objectives.

Protest against British royal visits

“We will be holding another public protest outside of City Hall when the anti-royal visit motion finally gets debated. I would ask everyone that has turned up to the last two occasions to make it their business to get to City Hall for that protest. And I would ask them to try and bring at least one other person with them. It is hugely important that these protests gather momentum.

“I have no doubt that a British royal visit can be stopped, but it will require people to get organised and get onto the streets. If you are opposed to the prospect of the head of Britain’s armed forces being paraded through the streets of Dublin and elsewhere, mark 6pm on September 20th in your diary and get to City Hall and make your voice heard.’

Fund Communities, Not Royal Visits

The next protest will take place at 6pm, Monday, September 20th at City Hall on Dublin’s Dame Street. All are welcome. Bígí linn.

If you are interested in joining or helping éirígí in Dublin, or anywhere in Ireland, please: Phone: 00353 (0) 86 236 72 98

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Aftermath of the Mavi Marmara Massacre – Three Months On

If any harm comes to any of our citizens, it will have the most serious consequences.” Those were the words of Taoiseach Brian Cowen speaking in Leinster House on June 1 of this year. He was referring to the previous days events when the Israeli regime launched a military attack in International waters on the Freedom Flotilla as it attempted to bring humanitarian aid to the besieged Palestinian population living in Gaza.

During the attack, Israel murdered nine human rights and humanitarian activists aboard the Mavi Marmara and seriously wounded scores more. The boats, one of which Challenger 1 was Irish, were all seized and those onboard including a number of Irish citizens were kidnapped and brought against their will to Israel. During their captivity, the Irish citizens, despite Cowen's 'warning' of 'serious consequences' had their passports taken, their property stolen and were assaulted by their captors.

Israeli troops board the Mavi Marmara

Later that same week Israel hijacked and seized another Irish boat the MV Rachel Corrie which was carrying a cargo including cement, medical equipment, toys, paper and school books for the people of Gaza. All on board were also kidnapped and forcibly brought to Israel and detained. This was in spite of pleas to the Israeli regime from the Dublin government for them not to do so and to allow the boat complete its journey to Gaza unhindered.

The massacre on the Mavi Marmara occurred three months ago today. So, what 'serious consequences' have Israel suffered at the hands of the government in Leinster House as a result of their acts of international piracy and war crimes.

Actually the answer is None. Despite the bluster of Cowen and Martin in the aftermath of the attack, they have failed to take ANY action against Israel whatsoever. Is it shameful? Absolutely. Surprising? Considering this government's record on Israel, not at all.

This administration has failed the Irish people by not standing up for its citizens rights as a result of the crimes committed by Israel against them. They have also failed Palestinians by refusing to punish Israel for their war crimes or help the Palestinian people achieve justice and freedom.

Despite calls from human rights groups and Palestinian supporters to support the campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel and to expel the Israeli ambassador, shut down their Embassy and sever diplomatic relations with them, this administration have steadfastly refused to do so.

It should be remembered that this massacre was not some one-off aberration, but a continuation of Israel's behaviour as a serial human rights abuser and war criminal. It is also worth noting that the Dublin government does not deny Israel's criminal activity. Brian Cowen has said that Ireland's long standing position was that the blockade of Gaza was “immoral” while Foreign Affairs Minister Michael Martin has described Gaza as an “open prison”.

On November 5 2008, Minister Martin said that "the Government agrees with those who state that the effective isolation of Gaza constitutes collective punishment and is illegal under international humanitarian law."

In March 2009 Minister Martin told the International Herald Tribune the blockade was 'medieval, inhumane and utterly unacceptable'. Speaking about his recent visit to Gaza he said: “Eighty percent of the population of Gaza now lives below the poverty line and UNRWA is encountering increasing levels of abject poverty where people basically do not have enough food, even with their meager food allocations, to live.........What I witnessed in Gaza, amidst all the rubble and devastation still so evident from last year’s conflict, was a population traumatized and reduced to poverty by an unjust and completely counterproductive blockade.”

In October 2009 the UN General Assembly endorsed the findings of Justice Richard Goldstone's report into war crimes committed during Israel's month long assault on Gaza in December 2008 – January 2009. The EU Parliament endorsed it on 10th March 2010.

Yet on 22nd March the EU Foreign Affairs Council, in spite of the Israeli War Crimes documented in the Goldstone Report, voted to enhance the EU/Israel Association agreement providing Israel with even more favourable trading conditions. Israel remains in flagrant breach of the conditions applying to this agreement, which specifically demands a commitment to the rule of law, democracy and human rights.

And in what can only be described as a slap in the face for the victims of Israel's crimes, the Dublin government announced in recent weeks that they are to proceed with a multi-million euro contract with Israeli weaponry company Elbrit.

Attempting to justify their decision to continue buying military equipment from Israel, Defence Minister Tony Killeen said: "The issue of boycotts or sanctions against Israel or the cancelling of contracts with specific Israeli companies is not something that the Irish government supports at this point in time."

Foreign Affairs Minister Michael Martin, speaking before a Leinster House Committee on European Affairs on June 22 this year said that he had been a “consistent critic of the blockade since I become Minister for Foreign Affairs two years ago on the basis that it is unjust, illegal, counterproductive and in nobody’s strategic interest.”

However, he then went on to reiterate his excuse for not taking action against Israel saying they were “trying to persuade Israel to change its policies. It is important for us in doing so to show Israelis that we are open to good relations with them, that we are not inherently hostile or negative, that we genuinely believe we have their best interests at heart. It is clear to me that our influence in Israel would be lessened and our voice weakened if we were to advocate - futilely, as I have pointed out - a policy of bans or boycotts.”

Leaving aside the fact that the Dublin government not just advocate, but support and impose sanctions and bans against quite a number of other countries as a result of their human rights abuses, just how successful has this policy of not punishing Israel been in terms of 'persuading Israel to change its policies?' How successful have they been in using this supposed 'influence' with Israel that they are so afraid to lose?

Quite clearly they have been a failure. The EU-Israel Association Agreement which commenced in 2000 has been defended by Minister Martin as part of that 'softly softly' approach in order to influence Israel towards complying with International Law and cease their human rights abuses. Yet despite awarding Israel such preferential treatment, Israel's violations of UN resolutions, breaching of International Law and committing of War Crimes has not lessened and has instead significantly increased.

Illegal settlements, the theft of Palestinian lands and resources and the construction of their Apartheid Wall which the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has condemned as illegal, have all intensified since 2000. Restrictions placed on Gaza from 2001 transformed into a full blown illegal and inhumane siege in 2007. In 2006, Israel invaded both Gaza and Lebanon inflicting massive civilian casualties and committing countless war crimes.

At the end of 2008, they then launched what they called “Operation Cast Lead”, slaughtering more than 1400 people, more than 300 of whom were children in their month long assault on Gaza. And then most recently we have their act of International piracy hijacking boats, kidnapping and asaulting passengers and crew and murdering nine of the activists on board. Israel also remains in violation of more than 60 UN resolutions.

Quite clearly, contrary to Michael Martin's claim, his administration have absolutely no influence over the Israeli regime who continue to colonise the West Bank, maintain their inhumane siege of Gaza and deny the Palestinian people their right to freedom and justice. Indeed, just how little influence they had was obvious when Israel contemptuously ignored their pleas to not harm the kidnapped Irish citizens and to allow the MV Rachel Corrie proceed unhindered to Gaza.

The issue at hand is not about this administrations condemnation of Israel and its war crimes. They acknowledge the barbarity and illegality of Israel's actions. The issue is their failure to act on this condemnation of Israel, saying that sanctions and boycotts are wrong and counter productive, while at the same time supporting and enforcing sanctions against other countries, including sanctions on the democratically elected representatives of the Palestinian people. Once again, the Dublin Government and the EU have had their self proclaimed commitment to human rights exposed as completely bogus.

By refusing to take action against Israel and continuing to afford them favourable trade relations with the EU, the 26 county state and the EU are helping to bankroll the Israeli military machine making them complicit in their war crimes.

Condemnation and diplomacy have failed miserably. What is needed now is for a world-wide campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against the zionist state similar to that which helped end South African Apartheid. In the coming weeks and months, let us all redouble our efforts towards this end and help to end the apartheid Israeli regime, bring Israeli war criminals to justice and secure freedom at last for the Palestinian people.

For more information on the BDS campaign and other Palestinian solidarity activities in Ireland click here

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Manorhamilton & Sligo Hospitals Endure Further Cutbacks

It appears that yet more hospital cuts are on the way here in the north west. The latest hospital to be targeted by the Health Service Executive (HSE) and their political masters is Our Lady's Hospital in Manorhamilton Co Leitrim.

Over recent years, Our Lady's has already been downgraded significantly, having suffered the loss of a wide range of services previously carried out in the hospital. Amongst the loss of services has been the closure of the Accident & Emergency (A&E) department, the removal of endoscopy and maternity services and the transfer of the orthopaedic unit to Sligo General Hospital (SGH).

Our Lady's Hospital Manorhamilton

The fear of most people in the north Leitrim area, including staff at the hospital, is that the ultimate aim of the HSE is to shut the facility altogether, shutting it down one cutback and downgrade at a time.

When questioned on their plans for the Rheumatology services, the HSE used the dreaded R word saying that they were continuing to “'review' all elements of the Rheumatology service” at Our Lady's. They went on to confirm that what they describe as a “reconfiguration of beds” will take place in the coming months at the hospital admitting that there were plans already underway to transfer acute in-patient Rheumatology services to Sligo General Hospital which is already suffering the brunt of savage cutbacks with yet more planned.

Last year SGH seen the removal of its breast cancer mammography and surgical services to Galway, the closure of its dedicated stroke unit, the loss of 72 beds and the cancellation of all elective surgery for the last two months of the year. Orthopaedic services have also been particularly hard hit. As pointed out at the start of this article, orthopaedic services previously provided in Manorhamilton was transferred to Sligo a number of years back. Now those services in Sligo, which were supposed to cater for Manorhamiltons patients as well, have been stripped to the bone. One of the two orthopaedic wards has already been shut down, with patient capacity reduced from 52 beds to just 18.

Now those 18 beds are being reduced even further to just 12 beds as the hospital  starts to cut back on elective surgery and orthopaedic activity for the rest of the year as part of its cost cutting measures.

In a statement released on August 3rd this year, the Irish Nurses & Midwives Organisation (INMO) made clear that “the level of cuts, currently being imposed upon our public health service, are compromising patient care, lowering standards and greatly increasing the clinical risk to patients.”

The statement added: “Furthermore frontline nurses and midwives are having their views ignored and every effort they are making, to highlight real and significant risks to patients, are being simply set aside.”

According to éirígí activist Gerry Casey, the HSE and their political masters have decimated services at SGH and Our Lady's in Manorhamilton and put lives at risk in the process.

Casey said: “The HSE and this administration has repeatedly shown a callous disregard for the health and well being of the people of this region and for the public health service in general.”

What we are seeing is cutback after cutback in essential front line services. The end result is patients on trolleys, longer waiting lists, ill people having to travel long distances to receive treatment, prolonged suffering and lives being placed unnecessarily at risk.”

He added: “As éirígí have repeatedly pointed out, contrary to what the HSE and their political masters would have us believe, the cutbacks are not based on economic necessity. They are instead part of a deliberate strategy of running down and dismantling the public health care system in order to pave the way for the privatisation of our hospitals.”

Given the choice of protecting the health and well being of the people they claim to represent or bail out the banks, they have shown where their warped priorities lie by taking a conscious decision to pump tens of billions of euros into bailing out the banks while slashing essential health services.”

Casey concluded: “This is a fight that working class communities cannot afford to lose. It is vital that no compromise or 'deals' are made on these cutbacks, in particular from the leadership of the health service Trade Unions. It has been previous such 'deals' that has led our health service to this present crisis. Reducing the level of cutbacks is not a solution - only the ending of the  drive towards privatisation of the public health system and the complete reversal of all cutbacks is acceptable.”

Saturday, August 28, 2010

éirígí Announce Protest for Blair Book Signing

éirígí has reiterated its demand for the former British prime minister Tony Blair to be arrested for war crimes if he enters the Twenty-Six Counties.

The demand was made as the socialist republican party announced it will be staging a demonstration outside Eason’s bookshop on O'Connell Street, Dublin at 10am on Saturday [September 4], where Blair is scheduled to attend a book signing event.
Partners in Crime - Tony Blair & George Bush
Announcing the protest, éirígí spokesperson Daithí Mac An Mhaistír said Blair's legacy is one of illegal invasions, occupations and war crimes.

Mac An Mhaistír said: “Tony Blair is a war criminal, with the blood of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians on his hands.  Alongside his US allies, Blair launched brutal and bloody wars against the people of Afghanistan and Iraq.  More than 1.3 million Iraqis are believed to have been killed during the illegal invasion and subsequent occupation.

"This man should be arrested and put before the International Criminal Court.”

He continued: “In Afghanistan, casualties continue to mount as the occupation and slaughter of civilians continues.  Blair’s justifications for these invasions are a tissue of lies and deceit.  His book is an attempt to rewrite history and justify his role in these illegal wars and the countless war crimes committed by British troops.

“In his time as British prime minister, Blair also oversaw the normalisation of the British occupation in the Six Counties and the murder by pro-British forces of nationalist civilians, including human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson.  He also blocked all attempts to secure the truth about collusion between British forces and unionist death squads, in particular their role in the Dublin/Monaghan bombings.”

Mac An Mhaistír concluded:  “The book promotion in Eason’s is an insult to the victims of Blair's war crimes and Eason's should withdraw their invitation to him.  If Blair proceeds with his visit, éirígí will be highlighting his crimes and staging a protest outside Eason's from 10am on Saturday [September 4].”

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mobilise Against Windsor - September 6

éirígí chairperson Brian Leeson has called on republicans and socialists to take to the streets in support of a motion the socialist republican party will have before Dublin City Council on Monday, September 6.

The Council is due to debate a motion lodged by éirígí councillor Louise Minihan which commits the body to opposing any state visit by the commander-in-chief of Britain’s armed forces Elizabeth Windsor.

The motion reads: “That this council notes with deep concern the proposal for a state visit to the Twenty Six Counties by the British head of state. Such a visit would be entirely inappropriate whilst the British state continues to implement imperialist policies and commit human rights abuses across the world, most notably in Afghanistan, Iraq and here in Ireland. This council calls on the Dublin government to abandon its plans to invite the British head of state to Ireland and on behalf of the proud citizens of this city we declare that
Elizabeth Windsor is not welcome in Dublin.”

At the same time as the Council is debating the motion, éirígí will be holding a protest outside Dublin City Hall.

Leeson said: “It is crucial that the councillors who will be debating and voting on this motion realise the strength of feeling there is Dublin about the prospect of a state visit by Elizabeth Windsor.  This is why it is important that as many people as possible turn up on the night to join the éirígí protest.

“In the meantime, people should lobby their local councillors to impress upon them the need to vote in support of this motion.”

Leeson continued: “As commander-in-chief of Britain’s armed forces, Windsor is the figurehead of those troops who remain in occupation of the Six Counties.  She is also the figurehead of the murderers in uniform who have laid waste to Afghanistan and Iraq over the last decade.

“For these reasons, Dublin City Council should send a clear message on behalf of the citizens of the city that Elizabeth Windsor is not welcome in this country’s capital.”

éirígí’s motion will go before Dublin City Council on Monday, September 6, while the éirígí protest will take place outside City Hall on Dame Street, Dublin between 7pm and 9pm on the same night.

Breizhistance: The Struggle for Independence and Socialism in Brittany

BreizhistanceSometimes it is easy to slip into self-doubt and wonder whether the struggle for an independent and socialist Ireland is an impossible task.

One of the easiest ways to overcome any doubts or questions is to look at similar struggles being fought throughout the world. In recent years, many activists have become well informed on the struggles in Venezuela, Palestine and the Basque Country. Another, less reported struggle is that of the people of Brittany.

In this fellow Celtic country, many activists are drawing similar conclusions to those of many in Ireland – they are organising not only for independence but also for socialism.

Less than a year ago, over the weekend of October 24-25 2009, left-wing supporters of independence for Brittany met in conference. After substantial deliberations, a new organisation was formed: Breizhistance-Socialist Party of Brittany. The new organisation announced the appointment of a national directorate and that a meeting would be held in public to announce its 100 Proposals for an Alternative Brittany. At this meeting, attended by over 60 people, the new proposals were launched alongside the public launch of this new political initiative.

The proposals centred on demands for a democratic process in all of Britanny to allow for self determination, as well as on how the economy can be transformed in order to redistribute the wealth of the nation equitably.

After this presentation of its political programme, Breizhistance quickly demonstrated that it was not to be just a party of theory. On November 11 2009, around 30 activists gathered outside the French Army recruitment office in Rennes to protest against the presence of a foreign army in Brittany and in other occupied countries such as Afghanistan. November 11 in France is officially a day of remembrance for those who died in WW1 but the protestors highlighted the fact that, instead of just remembering the dead, the day was used to sanitise old imperial adventures and justify present day imperialist activities by the French state.

In the months that have passed, Breizhistance has built on these initial steps and has become central to the struggle for independence and socialism in Brittany. With a focus on popular mobilisation around the area of national rights, Breizhistance has remained consistently active.

National Rights
In the French state at present the ruling UMP [Union pour un Mouvement Populaire] has started a debate on the issue of “national identity” because it fears the recent resurgence of what it calls “regionalism”.

The debate, according to the right-wing politicians, is to centre on the usage of the French language, the importance of the “national anthem” and display of the French tricolour. The French Socialist Party is not immune from this jingoism, with public figures on occasion suggesting that all houses should be forced to display the French tricolour and that the French national anthem should be sung each day by schoolchildren.
The people of Brittany, the Basque Country, Corsica and Martinique who find their countries occupied by the French state obviously have a huge issue with the idea that inspires the ‘national identity’ since it calls into question their very existence as nations.

As part of the French jingoistic debate, 12 public meetings were scheduled to take place in Brittany. The first was arranged for Guingamp on Monday, December 17 at 5pm. The day, the proximity of the date to Christmas and time were all designed to ensure that the ability of protestors to upset this showpiece for the French state would be limited. Breizhistance, only a few months in existence, called a protest and, at short notice, mobilised over 100 activists. Consequently, the meeting was officially postponed while one planned for Nantes was cancelled.

44 = BHZOne of the major nationalist campaigns in recent years in Brittany is entitled ‘44 = BZH’. [BZH is short for Breizh, which is the name for Brittany in the Breton language]. This campaign sees the slogan displayed everywhere all over the country – on stickers, posters, graffiti and items of clothing. The message is simple. The 44 counties of Brittany make up the country and the French occupation and partition of it into different regional administration sections doesn’t alter this fact.

On March 1 this year, an interesting method of getting the message across was organised in a public square in Nantes. Around 2,000 people, including Breizhistance activists, gathered and a human fresco of the 44 = BZH was organised. The amazing aerial photographs demonstrated the popular demand for Brittany’s independence.

In early June, six young Breizhistance activists appeared in court to appeal a sentence they received for acts of graffiti undertaken in favour of the 44 = BZH campaign. The six had endured raids on their homes and 40 hours in police custody for this simple act of defiance in December 2008. At their initial trial, the six received a fine totalling €32,000 fine, two month suspended prison sentences and 100 hours of community service each. This obvious act of overkill by the French state is the subject of ongoing protests.

One of the more original aspects of the Breizhistance campaign to secure the national rights of the Breton people was in relation to the bi-annual Forum on Human Rights held in Nantes. The conference is hosted and funded by the local administration in Nantes which is controlled by the French Socialist Party.

The sessions of the 2008 conference included discussions on Identities and Minorities and The Crisis in Labour Law. This from a political party which cooperates closely with the French right to deny Bretons and other oppressed peoples self-determination, while also promoting privatisation and the EU inspired race to the bottom in terms of workers’ rights.

Breizhistance took the opportunity to highlight what an obvious joke the conference really represented by organising a colourful protest.  Just as in Ireland, the struggle for national independence and socialism is alive and well in Brittany.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Protest against Apartheid Israel at Bray World Cup Qualifier

"Although no two countries or struggles are identical there can be no doubt that the success of the anti-apartheid movement and the BDS (Boycott Divestment & Sanctions) campaign that helped bring down apartheid, can be emulated with regard to apartheid Israel and the struggle of the Palestinian people.  The BDS campaign against the colonial, racist zionist state of Israel - guilty in fact of far worse crimes than apartheid South Africa - must be advanced and sustained with all the energy and unity we can muster." - Ronnie Kasrils, former South African MP and National Executive member of the African National Congress (ANC)

This Wednesday (August 25), the Irish Women's soccer team are set to play the first leg of  a  World Cup qualifying tie against Israel at the Carlisle Grounds in Bray, the home of League of Ireland side Bray Wanderers.  

This is the second Israeli side to play in Ireland in recent weeks.  Just last month Shamrock Rovers played host to Israeli side Bnei Yehuda Tel Aviv FC at Tallaght Stadium in a Europa League Qualifier.  On that occasion a protest to highlight the continued occuption of Palestine and to support the campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel, organised by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) and supported by éirígí, the Palestinian Rights Institute (PRI) and the Irish Anti War Movement (IAWM), was held outside the ground.

Once again, the IPSC have organised a demonstration, which will take place in two parts at two diferent locations in Bray.  The first stage of the protest takes place at the Bray Royal Hotel from 5.30pm as the Israeli Embassy are hosting a pre-match meal and reception there.  Following that, the protest will move on and continue outside the Carlisle Grounds from 7pm, with the game kicking off at 7.30pm

As on the previous occasion at the Shamrock Rovers game, the theme of this protest" will also be "Love Football - Hate Apartheid".  Banners bearing that slogan as well as 'Unity Against Occupation' and  'Boycott Israeli Apartheid' will be on show at the protests alongside Palestinian national flags.

According to the IPSC, the protest will call for a sporting boycott of Israel due to the racist and apartheid nature of the Israeli state. This is in support of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) who have confirmed this match falls under their Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) guidelines.

Announcing the protest, IPSC National Chairperson Freda Hughes said: “Israel is a racist apartheid state with a human rights record worse than that of Apartheid South Africa. It continues to defy United Nations Security Council Resolutions and breaches International law on a daily basis. It is long past time that Israel was shown that there is a heavy price to pay for its human rights abuses, war crimes and continued denial of freedom to the Palestinian people.”

Ms Hughes added: "While some may suggest that sports and politics shouldn't mix, we believe there is no place in sport for racism or teams who act as ambassadors for racist or apartheid states.”

Ms Hughes continued: “Attempts by the Palestinian national soccer team to participate in International competitions are consistently hampered by Israel. Travel restrictions including refusing players exit visas as well as a complete ban on travel between the West Bank and Gaza makes training virtually impossible and has led to cancelled internationals. In 2006, Israel bombed their stadium in Gaza and three footballers were murdered during their month long attack on the strip last year.”

Ms Hughes concluded: “The IPSC are urging people to join the protests, to take a stand against Israeli apartheid and to show their solidarity with the people of Palestine. We are also urging Irish fans not to travel to Israel for the second leg of this tie. Similar to the International boycott of the Apartheid South African regime, Israel must be boycotted completely, including all sporting events such as this upcoming game. The Boycott helped end South African apartheid. It can be used again to help end Israeli apartheid and secure freedom for Palestine.”

Sligo éirígí activist Gerry Casey said that while Israeli apartheid and the denial of freedom for Palestine continued, a complete ban on participation by Israeli individuals and teams in sporting events similar to that which was imposed on apartheid era South Africa must be imposed.

Expressing support for the protest, Casey said:  "Human rights abuses, the illegal siege of Gaza and the occupation and colonisation of Palestinian land continues unabated.  Israel has seized further Palestinian lands through the building of their illegal wall.  The West Bank has half a million Israeli settlers living in illegal settlements, joined together by a network of special "Israeli only" apartheid roads, access to which is denied to Palestinians.  There are more than 600 military checkpoints across the West Bank, through which Palestinians need identity cards to get from one village to another."

 He added:  "While Israeli apartheid and the occupation of Palestine continues, then it is essential that the boycott of Israel be not just maintained, but expanded and intensified.  As well as economic and diplomatic  sanctions, Israel and Israeli teams and individuals, must also be completely blacklisted and banned from participation in all international sporting events just as apartheid era South African sports teams and individuals were banned."

Casey concluded:  "Wednesday's demonstration is a chance for people to once again stand with the Palestinian people and against the racist apartheid Israeli regime.  While the Dublin government shamefully refuse to take any action against Israel despite their war crimes and their kidnapping and brutalisation of Irish citizens, the message needs to be sent to Israel that those who represent that apartheid state are not welcome in our country."

For more information on the protest and the activities of the IPSC click here

Health Crisis No Accident - éirígí

The following letter to the editor from éirígí Sligeach activist Gerry Casey was recently published in the Western People Newspaper.  It can be viewed online here

Mayo General Hospital

A Chara

Your editorial (August 3) rightly expresses concern over HSE plans to slash services at Mayo General Hospital and the health service in general.

Our health service is in crisis, a deliberately manufactured crisis. What has happened in recent years has been the systematic stripping down of services from hospitals around the country.

This is no accident. It is ideology driven and part of a deliberate strategy of running down the public health system, increasingly privatising all aspects of health care, including our hospitals.

The current economic crisis, brought about by a combination of greed and corruption, is being used as a smokescreen for implementing these cuts and privatising the public healthcare system.

Despite Government claims, there is no excuse for cutting funding and services for hospitals. The money to properly fund our health service is there, only they believe spending tens of billions on bank bailouts and possibly €10 million to welcome the English monarch are more important than spending on people’s health.
Finance Minister Brian Lenihan has attempted to justify his savage cutbacks saying there was “no pot of gold that can be raided from the wealthy that can solve our difficulties”. This is untrue. The business elite, who amassed billions of euros on the backs of workers throughout the Celtic Tiger, remain wealthy individuals. Despite the recession, the richest people in this country have got even richer.

Hundreds of billions of euro worth of oil and gas lie off the Irish coast, the rights to these resources given away by previous Fianna Fáil administrations. Those natural resources could be nationalised at the stroke of a pen.

Yet the Government has taken deliberate decisions not to nationalise these natural resources and not to tax the rich. Instead, they are content to reduce workers’ incomes and slash essential health and education services, including funding for our hospitals.

Is mise

Gerry Casey,

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Latest PSNI incursion into Donegal Condemned

Sligo éirígí activist Gerry Casey has slammed the latest incursion by armed British forces across the border into the 26-counties. He was speaking following revelations that the PSNI crossed the border from Belleek in County Fermanagh into County Donegal on Thursday August 12th.

A PSNI spokesperson attempted to justify the incursion by saying that it was a “simple mistake” and that “the officers were from the Omagh area and not familiar with local landmarks.”

PSNI Checkpoint
Yet this is at the very least the third incursion by the PSNI at this very same location this year alone. On both previous occasions, once when they set up a checkpoint and stopped cars in County Donegal and on a second occasion when they entered a shop south of the border, the PSNI ignored locals who told them they were out of their juridstiction.

This excuse that the PSNI were unaware of where exactly the border lies is absolute nonsense. Do the PSNI honestly expect people to believe that they send their officers out to patrol the border without knowing where the border actually is? The border is clearly marked with the bridge over the Erne river seperating Fermanagh from Donegal. Signposts welcoming people to Donegal also give the game away for any supposedly 'below intelligence' or 'lost' PSNI personnel.

Newspaper coverage of previous PSNI incursion at the same location
Rubbishing the PSNI 'excuses' Casey said: “Incursions by the British military and police south of the border are nothing new. Over the past few decades they have regularly crossed the border for a host of various reasons, from intimidation, to intelligence gathering to murder, as in the instance of John Francis Green who was assassinated in county Monaghan. British army helicopters have also regularly overflown and indeed have even landed south of the border .”

He continued: “On a number of occasions, armed British soldiers from both regular units and undercover SAS units have been apprehended in this state by the Gardai. In stark contrast to the 26-county states treatment of those who engaged in resistance against the British occupation, these armed terrorists were released without charge and sent back across the border to continue their operations against nationalist and republican communities.”

Bridge seperating County Donegal from Belleek Co.Fermanagh
“Particularly reprehensible has been the silence and lack of action by what passes for government in Leinster House. However, we shouldn't be surprised at that considering it is only a few months back that Donegal Fianna Fáil Senator Cecilia Keaveney proposed allowing British troops to operate in the 26 counties in some circumstances.”

Casey concluded: “This latest incursion is just the latest example of a police force that have not changed their ways as the nationalist parties in Stormont would have us believe. They continue to act as a law unto themselves, to engage in harrassment and intimidation of northern nationalists as well as political repression of those, including éirígí activists, who oppose the continued British occupation. The PSNI remain a heavily armed unaccountable and unchanged British paramilitary force enforcing British rule in Ireland and, as they showed once again in Ardoyne on the 12th July, they are willing to use whatever force necessary to maintain the occupation.”

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Castlebar Town Council's Invite to Brit Royal's Condemned

The following letter to the editor from éirígí Sligeach activist Gerry Casey was published in the Connaught Telegraph Newspaper on Tuesday August 11th.  It can be viewed online here

A chara

For the second time in a month, your front page carries a report on Castlebar councillors inviting the English Monarch Elizabeth Windsor to Mayo. Such an invitation is appalling and will be vigorously opposed.

She is Commander in Chief of the British army and head of a sectarian institution, the English Monarchy.  The notion of a birthright to rule and have their wildly extravagant lifestyles paid for by their subjects (i.e workers) may appeal to these councillors, but to most people it is obscene.

As health, education and social welfare budgets are to be slashed even further, people are willing to splash out up to €10 million to afford her a state visit to our country. Another obscenity and example of warped priorities.

Such a visit is a deliberate insult to the families of the victims of the British army here in Ireland, including those killed in the Dublin/Monaghan bombings, and indeed the victims of their continued brutal occupation of Afghanistan.

It is another attempt by Britain and 26 county political establishment to legitimise and 'normalise' partition and the British occupation.  But 5,000 foreign combat troops stationed in our country is not 'normal'.

The bottom line is that, despite the nauseating sycophancy of these politicians, any attempt to bring this apologist for state terrorism to our country will be vigorously opposed and met with protests, whether in Dublin, Castlebar or elsewhere.  Until there is a complete withdrawal by Britain from Ireland there cannot be any 'normalisation' of British-Irish relations.

Is mise

Gerry Casey

War Criminal Blair Should be Arrested in Dublin

Tony BlairResponding to reports that former British prime minister Tony Blair is to attend a book signing session in Dublin next month, éirígí spokesperson Daithí Mac An Mhaistír has said he should be arrested if he enters the Twenty-Six Counties.

Reports have suggested that Blair is to sign books at Eason’s bookstore in Dublin on September 4.

During his time in office, Tony Blair waged war, along with two US presidents, on the people of Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Independent assessments of the cost of the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 have estimated that one million Iraqis lost their lives as a result of it.

Blair also oversaw the normalisation of the British occupation in the Six Counties, during which time a number of nationalist civilians were killed by pro-British forces.

Mac An Mhaistír said: “Tony Blair is a war criminal who is responsible for the laying to waste of two already poor countries – Afghanistan and Iraq – under false pretences. On his watch, a number of Irish citizens were also killed in acts of collusion between the British state and unionist paramilitaries – the most prominent of these being human rights solicitor Rosemary Nelson."

“If this man lands in the Twenty-Six Counties, the Dublin government should immediately order his arrest to facilitate his appearance at the International Criminal Court.”

Mac An Mhaistír continued: “Unfortunately, it is unlikely that the Dublin government would have the moral integrity or courage to carry out such an arrest. Consequently, if Tony Blair does land in Ireland to sign copies of a book that attempts to justify his blood-soaked career, éirígí will be mobilising in protest."

“Tony Blair should not be allowed to profit from the deaths of a million Iraqi civilians. éirígí will be making sure that message is heard loud and clear in Dublin.”

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Where are the promised Lisbon jobs Now?

IBEC posters promising jobs during second Lisbon Treaty Referendum Campaign
Do you remember seeing all these posters?  'Yes for Jobs', 'Yes for Jobs and Investment', 'Yes to Recovery' as well as a whole host of other literature bearing a similar message.  Remember all those politicians promising the moon and the stars (and particularly the jobs) in order to con people into voting for a treaty that they had already democratically rejected?

Well that was almost 12 months, so where exactly are all these jobs we were promised if the Lisbon Treaty was ratified?  Recently released figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) showed that,  contrary to those  promises of economic recovery and job creation,  unemployment levels in this state are at its highest in more than 16 years.  The numbers on the live register in July reached more than 466,000, an increase of 14,000 on June of this year and more than 34,000 higher than July of 2009.

The state wide figures are replicated here in the north west also.  There were 22,832 people on the Live Register in Donegal at the end of July, up 1,981 on the same period last year, a rise of 9.5%.  However, the jobless figure for Ballyshannon rose by a massive 15%, with Dungloe increasing by 13% and Letterkenny by 12%.  And in the latest blow to Donegal's unemployment problems, it was announced last week that the Keith Prowse call centre in Lisfannon, Buncrana, Co Donegal is set to close with the loss of up to 100 jobs.

In County Sligo, the unemployed numbers have risen by 166 from June and almost 500 from July 2009 to now stand at 5932.   In Leitrim those signing on has increased by 163 to total 3900, while County Roscommon's total is now 4,306 following yet another increase of 216 from last month and up 425 on July of last year.  County Mayo also seen an increase in those signing on with an extra 450 people joining the live register in July bringing the total to 13,965, and increase of more than 1200 on this time last year.

Despite the continued job losses and the fact that Fianna Fáil led administrations have succeeded in increasing unemployment levels from just 4.3% in July 2005 to the current level of 13.7% and rising in July 2010, Fianna Fáil Ministers have defended and attempted to justify the rising unemployment figures and their abject failure to save and create jobs.

According to Batt O'Keefe, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, Fianna Fáil policies "are helping Ireland to emerge from recession and to avoid another period of protracted recession."

"We will persist with our policies" he said "to help unemployed workers to get back into the labour force and create conditions conducive to job creation".

Billboard in Donegal (December 2009)
Reacting to the latest unemployment figures and Fianna Fáil's response to them, éirígi activist Gerry Casey accused the government of "gross incompetence and mismanagement  of the economy".  He also claimed that the true figures for people losing their jobs is far higher than the figures suggest.

Casey said:  "At the time of the second Lisbon Treaty referendum campaign last year, Fianna Fáil backed up by the supposed opposition parties, Labour and Fine Gael as well as the representatives of big business such as IBEC and the American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland, promised us all that a vote for the Lisbon Treaty would secure jobs for Ireland.  As éirígí pointed out during the campaign, that was a blatant lie.  The continued loss of jobs around the state and the latest unemployment figures which now stands at a 16 year high of 466,000, exposes that lie clearly for all to see."

He added:  "However bad people may think those figures are, the reality is that the numbers losing their jobs is actually far higher.  What the figures don't show are those who are unemployed and have been forced to emigrate once more, egged on by a government happy to push them onto a boat or plane and get them off the live register.  Shamefully, forced emigration, a thing the Irish people thought was a thing of the past, has re-emerged with a vengeance as a direct result of this governments policies.  The statistics also hide those who are now on state schemes or remained in education due to a lack of employment."

"Fianna Fáil and the Greens have failed  miserably in tacking the jobs crisis and creating sustainable employment.  Their policy in terms of reducing the numbers of unemployed has been to cynically squeeze our young people who find themselves out of work to such a degree that they are forced to emigrate."

"On top of losing their jobs, young people had their dole reduced to €100 a week and €150 a week for under 21's and 22-24 year olds respectively, making it virtually impossible for them to survive on the dole in their own country.  Even at that, people signing on to receive this pittance are been forced to wait for as long as 16 weeks before being paid.  These measures were deliberately introduced by a callous government in order to make life unbearable for young unemployed people in the hope they would choose the option of emigration thus helping to hide the true extent of unemployment.”

FIanna Fáil, Fine Gael & Labour Unite in False Jobs Promises during Lisbon Treaty Referendum Campaign

"This administration, aided by the 'opposition' and big business, lied to the Irish people when they told us that ratifying the Lisbon Treaty would mean job creation and an end to the recession.  The 'opposition' who would offer themselves as an alternative deliberately lied to the Irish people also.  These parties, along with the neo-liberal capitalist system they strive to maintain, all share responsibility for the current economic crisis and the savage attacks being waged against working people and those less well off in society." 

Casey concluded:  "The solution to our social and economic problems is not replacing Tweedledum (Fianna Fáil/Greens) with Tweedledee (Fine Gael/Labour).  The solution lies in dismantling their rotten corrupt  capitalist system that continues to heap misery and hardship on working class communities and to replace it with an alternative Ireland based on public ownership and a decent standard of living and working conditions for all."