Wednesday, June 30, 2010

James Connolly's thoughts on the Visit of King George V

James Connolly - Visit of King George V

James ConnollyFellow-Workers,

As you are aware from reading the daily and weekly newspapers, we are about to be blessed with a visit from King George V.

Knowing from previous experience of Royal Visits, as well as from the Coronation orgies of the past few weeks, that the occasion will be utilised to make propaganda on behalf of royalty and aristocracy against the oncoming forces of democracy and National freedom, we desire to place before you some few reasons why you should unanimously refuse to countenance this visit, or to recognise it by your presence at its attendant processions or demonstrations. We appeal to you as workers, speaking to workers, whether your work be that of the brain or of the hand – manual or mental toil – it is of you and your children we are thinking; it is your cause we wish to safeguard and foster.

The future of the working class requires that all political and social positions should be open to all men and women; that all privileges of birth or wealth be abolished, and that every man or woman born into this land should have an equal opportunity to attain to the proudest position in the land. The Socialist demands that the only birthright necessary to qualify for public office should be the birthright of our common humanity.

Believing as we do that there is nothing on earth more sacred than humanity, we deny all allegiance to this institution of royalty, and hence we can only regard the visit of the King as adding fresh fuel to the fire of hatred with which we regard the plundering institutions of which he is the representative. Let the capitalist and landlord class flock to exalt him; he is theirs; in him they see embodied the idea of caste and class; they glorify him and exalt his importance that they might familiarise the public mind with the conception of political inequality, knowing well that a people mentally poisoned by the adulation of royalty can never attain to that spirit of self-reliant democracy necessary for the attainment of social freedom. The mind accustomed to political kings can easily be reconciled to social kings – capitalist kings of the workshop, the mill, the railway, the ships and the docks. Thus coronation and king's visits are by our astute never-sleeping masters made into huge Imperialist propagandist campaigns in favour of political and social schemes against democracy. But if our masters and rulers are sleepless in their schemes against us, so we, rebels against their rule, must never sleep in our appeal to our fellows to maintain as publicly our belief in the dignity of our class – in the ultimate sovereignty of those who labour.

What is monarchy? From whence does it derive its sanction? What has been its gift to humanity? Monarchy is a survival of the tyranny imposed by the hand of greed and treachery upon the human race in the darkest and most ignorant days of our history. It derives its only sanction from the sword of the marauder, and the helplessness of the producer, and its gifts to humanity are unknown, save as they can be measured in the pernicious examples of triumphant and shameless iniquities.

Every class in society save royalty, and especially British royalty, has through some of its members contributed something to the elevation of the race. But neither in science, nor in art, nor in literature, nor in exploration, nor in mechanical invention, nor in humanising of laws, nor in any sphere of human activity has a representative of British royalty helped forward the moral, intellectual or material improvement of mankind. But that royal family has opposed every forward move, fought every reform, persecuted every patriot, and intrigued against every good cause. Slandering every friend of the people, it has befriended every oppressor. Eulogised today by misguided clerics, it has been notorious in history for the revolting nature of its crimes. Murder, treachery, adultery, incest, theft, perjury – every crime known to man has been committed by some one or other of the race of monarchs from whom King George is proud to trace his descent.

We will not blame him for the crimes of his ancestors if he relinquishes the royal rights of his ancestors; but as long as he claims their rights, by virtue of descent, then, by virtue of descent, he must shoulder the responsibility for their crimes.

Fellow-workers, stand by the dignity of your class. All these parading royalties, all this insolent aristocracy, all these grovelling, dirt-eating capitalist traitors, all these are but signs of disease in any social state - diseases which a royal visit brings to a head and spews in all its nastiness before our horrified eyes. But as the recognition of the disease is the first stage towards its cure, so that we may rid our social state of its political and social diseases, we must recognise the elements of corruption. Hence, in bringing them all together and exposing their unity, even a royal visit may help us to understand and understanding, help us to know how to destroy the royal, aristocratic and capitalistic classes who live upon our labour. Their workshops, their lands, their mills, their factories, their ships, their railways must be voted into our hands who alone use them, public ownership must take the place of capitalist ownership, social democracy replace political and social inequality, the sovereignty of labour must supersede and destroy the sovereignty of birth and the monarchy of capitalism.

Ours be the task to enlighten the ignorant among our class, to dissipate and destroy the political and social superstitions of the enslaved masses and to hasten the coming day when, in the words of Joseph Brenan, the fearless patriot of '48, all the world will maintain:

    'The Right Divine of Labour
    To be first of earthly things;
    That the Thinker and the Worker
    Are Manhood's only Kings.

More Cutbacks & Bed Closures for Sligo General Hospital

Yet more cutbacks and bed closures are on the way for Sligo General Hospital. As if the cuts already implemented have not had a negative enough impact on patient care, the HSE (Health Service Executive) have confirmed that what they term the "breakeven plan" for the Hospital will be available shortly and that it will involve yet more cutbacks.

At a recent meeting of the Regional Health Forum West, the Regional Director of Operations for HSE West John Hennessy said that the Hospital was facing a budget deficit this year of €12 million and as a result further cutbacks were on the way. In what can only be described as the understatement of the year, Hennessy admitted that the cutbacks would have "some impact" on frontline services, saying that among the cuts would be more bed closures.

According to Hennessy, "the proposed plan covers a wide range of areas to be addressed including reconfiguring existing services, reviewing all non pay lines including locum cover for staff, travel, no purchase of equipment for the remainder of the year, introduction of 5-day wards and the introduction of a Same Day Admission ward area to protect elective surgery."

In another ominous signal Hennessy used the dreaded "review" word which in HSE terms generally is the first step to the removal of specific services. He said that they were "reviewing our continued ability to provide services off site such as ENT, Dermatology, Ophthalmology and Neurology to Letterkenny General Hospital and other services to local peripheral hospitals. Such is the crucial nature of of the financial position and the requirement of the hospital to break even."

All of this is bad news for a Hospital that is already reeling following cutbacks in recent years which already have caused extreme hardship for patients and staff alike. Last year, the hospital seen the closure of 72 beds and the removal of breast cancer services to Galway. Elective surgery was completely cancelled for the last two months of 2009.
Sligo General has already lost one of its two orthapaedic wards, resulting in capacity in the single ward now reduced from 52 beds to 18 beds and has also seen an increase in the numbers of patients waiting more than three months to recieve a potentially life saving colonoscopy. Those waiting more than three months has jumped dramatically from 44 in December to 99 in May.

Particularly telling is Hennessey's comment above where he talked about "the requirement of the hospital to break even". This is indeed the nub of the problem with the HSE and the health service in this state. The health service is meant to be a public service. The HSE and their political masters in what passes for government in Leinster House view the health service as a business and peoples medical needs as a commodity.

Balancing the books has become the priority.  This is now viewed as more important than the quality of patient care, than the unnecessary suffering they will endure, than the increasingly stressful working conditions for staff and ultimately more important than the lives of those who have died due to such cutbacks. The unfortunate reality is that the proposed new cutbacks will only lead to further unnecessary suffering and deaths.
Until that mentality is consigned to the dustbin of history then we will never see an efficient health service that meets the needs of all the people and not just the wealthy as is currently the case.
There is no excuse for cutting funding and services for hospitals. It is clearly a deliberate political decision and strategy based on Fianna Fáil's and the now-defunct PD's (Progressive Democrats) right wing privatisation ideology. When it comes to throwing tens of billions of euros to bail out the banks or €8 million to bring the Commander in Chief of the British army to this state next year Fianna Fáil and the Greens have no problem. Yet ask them to invest in our hospitals and create an efficient health service that deals with patients on the basis of a person's medical need as opposed to a person's wealth and they tell us the money is just not there.

But as already pointed out, the money is there, only they believe bailing out the banks is more important than our health. This remains a very wealthy state, however the wealth is controlled by a small minority. As workers and those on welfare have seen their incomes slashed, the rich in this state have become even richer. Yet the administration in Leinster House refuses to introduce a wealth tax and refuses to nationalise our natural resources which would bring in hundreds of billions of euros that could be used to create a first class health service for all. 

This callous indifference to people's suffering has been a hallmark of Fianna Fáil in government, particularly with Mary Harney as Health Minister. They are unfit to hold office and need to be removed. More importantly, the capitalist system that they operate which encourages this greed before need mentality, needs to be overthrown. We need to create a new Ireland, a socialist Ireland that caters for all its citizens, that improves working and living standards and that provides a first class health service that is accessible to all regardless of wealth. We owe it to the generations to come.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

No welcome for British Commander in Chief in Ireland

The following letter was published in the Irish Times today (June 29 2010)

A chara, – The Mayor of Lismore Bernard Leddy has publicly invited the English monarch Elizabeth Windsor to visit the Waterford town during her proposed state visit to Ireland next year (Home News, June 28th). Just like Mr Leddy’s party leader inviting Elizabeth Windsor to this country in the first place, Mr Leddy’s invitation is appalling and should be opposed.

This woman is the commander-in-chief of the British Armed Forces, 5,000 of whom remain within the six counties as part of Britain’s continued occupation of part of our country. It is a deliberate insult to the families of the victims of the British army here in Ireland and indeed the victims of its continued brutal occupation of Afghanistan.

Such a visit is another attempt by Britain and the 26-counties political establishment to legitimise the British occupation and to “normalise” the partition of our country. But Éirígí has no intention of allowing that to happen under any circumstances. Until there is a complete withdrawal by Britain from Ireland there cannot and will not be any “normalisation” of British-Irish relations.

The bottom line is that, despite the nauseating sycophancy of Brian Cowen and Mr Leddy, any attempt to bring this apologist for state terrorism to our country should be and will be vigorously opposed.

Is mise,

éirígí Sligeach,
Click here to view the article in the Irish Times

Monday, June 28, 2010

Social Housing Leasing Scheme - a “bail-out for developers”

According to the housing and homeless charity Focus Ireland, there are currently in the region of 100,000 households on local authority social housing waiting lists across the State, 5000 people who are homeless at any one time and more than 93,000 households receiving rent supplement due to difficulty in paying their rent within the private rented sector.

At the launch of their annual report published last month,  they said that the Dublin government would fail to meet its public commitment to end homelessness by the end of this year.  They also warned that the absence of more effective action by government would only result in a deepening of the housing and homeless crisis as the need for housing is now greater than ever.
Describing those statistics as "shocking", Focus Ireland Life President and Founder Sr. Stanislaus Kennedy said that “these dramatic increases in housing need have taken place at a time when we have been building more houses than ever before.  How can it be that Ireland managed to build in the region of 250,000 homes that were not needed during the boom years yet we have still failed to provide enough homes for those who need them most?

Questioning the governments priorities and lack of investment in housing, Sr Stanislaus asked "how can the government secure €50 billion to bail out the banks but at the same time cut welfare payments and continue to underinvest in housing and essential services?"
In county Donegal there are around 500 families on the housing waiting list, while here in County Sligo alone there are in the region of 1400 families waiting to be housed by both Sligo Borough and County Councils. 

Last year, the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government introduced what is called the Social Housing Leasing Scheme.  According to the Departments website, the supposed aim of the scheme is to expand the options "available to local authorities for the delivery of social housing. Properties will be leased from the private sector and used to accommodate households from local authority waiting lists. Leased properties will be allocated to tenants, in accordance with the local authorities allocations schemes".

Under the scheme Councils are entering into lease arrangements with property owners for periods of between 10 – 20 years.  Among the benefits the developer will secure is that their properties will be tenanted, managed and maintained throughout all of this period by the local authority.

Even better news for the property owners is that the rent they receive from the council will be guaranteed for the entire time of the lease, and that rent will be an ‘inclusive’ one that includes all rates, charges and taxes that may apply to the leased property. The houses will also be provided unfurnished and on  a ‘repair and insure’ basis where the Local Authority will be responsible for the insurance, maintenance and general repair of the properties. 

However éirígí Sligeach activist Gerry Casey has dismissed the scheme as "no solution" to the housing crisis and "nothing more than another bail-out  for developers". 

Accusing Fianna Fáil and the Greens of ignoring the plight of the homeless and those on housing waiting lists, Casey said:

"This is yet another shameful bail-out of developers  cynically dressed up as a measure to tackle the housing crisis.  The only people to benefit will be those developers who will basically have their mortgages paid and have their investment maintained at tax payers expense for between 10 to 20 years before being handed back to them in pristine condition." 

He added:  "For those in need of housing, being allocated one of these properties  by the Council to rent will not offer any long term solution.  All it provides is uncertainty as families will have no security of tenure.  Once the lease between the council and the developer runs out, the families and individuals in question will  be put out of their home and once again be placed back on the waiting list and in need of housing.  This is an unacceptable situation for families to be placed in."

"What families need, and what this administration has failed miserably to deliver, has been not just a house but more importantly a home.  Security of tenure is central to that."

"This also makes the threats to punish those who refuse to take up the offer of one of these properties by having them lose their place on the waiting list all the more despicable.  Housing is a right, not a privilege."

éirígí Tír Chonaill spokesperson Micheál Cholm MacGiolla Easbuig also attacked the scheme describing it as "scandalous" and "unjustifiable".

He said:  “Having local councils basically paying the mortgages of property developers and maintaining their properties at tax payers expense for between ten or twenty years is a scandalous and unjustifiable move. The developers who built these houses, driven by greed and a belief that they could make themselves rich on the backs of working families by selling the properties at grossly over-inflated prices, have now been left unable to sell them as the economy collapsed.”

“Along with the policies of this government and the bankers, this unbridled greed by developers also contributed greatly to the current economic crisis. Now their Fianna Fáil cronies are rescuing them by means of this long term scheme which sees tax payers pay to protect these developers investments while the developer doesnt have to spend a cent or lift a finger.”

“Fianna Fáil are happy to see families lose their homes and hundreds of thousands of people lose their jobs. They are happy to impose savage cuts in income for low paid workers and welfare recipients. They are happy to see our young people emigrate once again and they are more than happy to shut hospitals and reduce and remove essential health services.”

He concluded: “However, when it comes to allowing developers take a loss or go out of business as a result of their greed, thats a step too far. Fianna Fáil insist that they must be protected, just like the banks. That's what this scheme is about. That's Fianna Fáil priorities for you.”

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Successful Protest at Belfast City Hall

The PSNI was forced to watch impotently from the sidelines earlier today [Saturday] as éirígí held a well-attended anti-British Armed Forces Day picket at Belfast City Hall.

Last June, PSNI riot squads hemmed peaceful protestors into the Castle Street area when they attempted to make their way to City Hall to oppose the triumphalist celebration. However, this year, the best efforts of dozens of PSNI landrovers and scores of political police, as well as attempted intimidation by unionist elements, could not prevent around 100 republicans coming from across Belfast to the éirígí-organised demonstration.

Once at City Hall, the republicans, among them many young people, former political prisoners and victims of state violence, were addressed by John McCusker, the chairperson of éirígí’s ciorcal in west Belfast.

McCusker pointed out that, while the British government has now designated June 26 as ‘Armed Forces Day’, families across the Six Counties and beyond are living with the fact that nobody has ever been held to account for the state killings of their loved ones.

He also stated that what we are seeing is just the beginning of éirígí’s campaign for a British withdrawal.

Afterwards, éirígí chairperson Brian Leeson said: “Today, the inability of the PSNI to permanently prevent the right to protest was witnessed. All those who made their way to Belfast City Hall are to be commended for upholding this fundamental right in the face of a major attempt at mass intimidation.

“The British government and its agencies of occupation should take note that significant numbers of nationalists and republicans are once again prepared to defy their thugs in uniform in pursuance of the national independence struggle. These numbers will only grow in the time ahead.”

Friday, June 25, 2010

éirígí slam latest Jailing of Shell to Sea campaigner Maura Harrington

(Updated 28/6/10)

Shell to Sea and Human Rights activist Maura Harrington was arrested on Friday June 25 as she left a funeral in Doohama, Co Mayo. She was detained for non-payment of fines relating to her involvement in protests against Shell's planned pipeline and the giveaway of our natural resources.

She was brought to Belmullet Garda station and then on later in the evening to Mountjoy prison.  A protest organised by Shell to Sea, and including éirígí activists, took place outside the jail on Friday evening as she arrived.  (Photos at the bottom of this article)

Maura has on a number of occasions previously been arrested and jailed as a result of her unwillingness to bow to Shell law in north Mayo. Her most recent detention in Mountjoy was only last December.

Other Shell to Sea and human rights activists, Pat 'the chief' O'Donnell and Niall Harnett are also currently serving sentences in Castlerea prison as a result of their resistance to Shell.

Condemning the latest arrest and jailing of Maura, éirígí Sligeach activist Gerry Casey said that the timing of her arrest was deliberate and designed to assist Shell who are to resume work in north Mayo in the coming days.

Casey said: “The arrest and imprisonment of Maura Harrington once again is despicable but not surprising. The timing of her arrest is also no coincidence.”

He added: “Once more, the Gardai are doing the dirty work of Shell. As with the jailing of Maura on previous occasions, and with Pat O'Donnell and Niall Harnett both of whom remain in Castlerea Prison, removing key activists opposed to Shell's pipeline and the giveaway of hundreds of billions of euro worth of natural resources, is a deliberate tactic used by the Gardai to assist Shell.”

“In this instance, Shell are to resume work on their project in a number of days. Quite clearly Maura was removed at Shell's behest in an attempt to lessen legitimate protest against their activities.”

"It is a testament to Maura's steely determination that Shell and the Gardai feel the need to target her for intimidation, assault and arrest and feel the need to remove her from Mayo in order to force this dangerous pipeline through. She has been a consistent thorn in their side and has refused to bow down or be bought off despite everything that Shell and all arms of the state have thrown at her on Shell's behalf."

“Maura's only crime is to stand up to injustice, to stand up for the safety of the people of north Mayo and to resist giving the Irish nations vast wealth to private companies, wealth that could be utilised to reverse cutbacks, increase living standards for all and to provide efficient health and education serevices for all.”

He concluded: “It is not Maura that should be in jail. It is the bankers, the developers and the politicians that brought this country to its knees, that squandered and pilfered the wealth created by workers and that created the worst recession seen by this state, that should be in Mountjoy tonight and for a long time to come. Maura Harrington, and her colleagues in Castlerea prison, should be released immediately.”

*  Photos from Friday's protest outside Mountjoy Prison

Shell to Hell


Jailing Activists at the Behest of Shell

British Army's Commander in Chief Not Welcome

Following a meeting on Wednesday (June 23) in London between Brian Cowen and the British Prime Minister David Cameron, plans for a state visit to the 26-counties by the British Monarch Elizabeth Windsor now appear to be underway. Cowen confirmed that a process had begun between both Prime Minister's offices in order to bring such a visit about.

According to Cowen there was now no obstacle in the way of Queen Elizabeth coming to Ireland. He also said that he wanted to see that happen before 26-county President Mary McAleese leaves office. McAleeses' term of office ends in November of next year.

Media reports have also suggested that she will visit Classiebawn Castle in Mullaghmore, Co.Sligo, which was the home of her cousin Louis Mountbatten before he was killed by the IRA in 1979.

Classiebawn Castle

Reacting to these comments éirígí Sligeach activist Gerry Casey said that any state visit to Sligo or any other part of Ireland by the commander in chief of Britain’s armed forces Elizabeth Windsor will be vigorously opposed.

Casey said: “Contrary to Cowen's suggestion that are 'no obstacles' in the way of a visit by Windsor, there are in fact 5000 'obstacles'. Thats the number of British troops that remain in our country. Their record here is one of repression, torture and murder. The British army still occupy the six-counties, and alongside the PSNI and MI5, continue to engage in repression against those opposed to the continuing occupation.”

He added: “This suggestion by Cowen to invite the Commander in Chief of the British armed forces on an official state visit to this country is truly appalling. It is a deliberate insult to the families of the victims of the British army here in Ireland and indeed the victims of their continued brutal occupation of Afghanistan.”

“The bottom line is that any attempt to bring this apologist for state terrorism to our country will be vigorously opposed. It has been suggested in the media that Windsor may visit Classiebawn Castle in Mullaghmore Co Sligo during such a visit. If they attempt to arrange any such visit éirígí will organise and ensure stiff opposition and demonstrations against it. She is the head of a foreign occupying army and as such is not welcome here.”

Casey concluded: “Just like Britains Armed Forces Day tomorrow (June 26), such a visit is another attempt by Britain and the political establishment in the 26-counties to legitimise the British occupation and to 'normalise' the partition of our country. But éirígí has no intention of allowing that to happen under any circumstances. Until there is a complete withdrawal by Britain from Ireland there cannot and will not be any 'normalisation' of British-Irish relations.”

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Resist Normalisation – Oppose Armed Forces Day

Britain's Armed Forces Day takes place this Saturday (June 26). As well as the many triumphalist and jingoistic parades and events that are taking place throughout Britain, events to mark Armed Forces Day are disgracefully to be held in a number of locations within the occupied six counties here in Ireland. Amongst the events on Saturday to mark this occasion will be the raising of a British military flag over Belfast City Hall.

If we were to believe the official Armed Forces Day website, the day is “an annual opportunity for the nation to Show Your Support for the men and women who make up the Armed Forces community”.

Indeed earlier this week British Prime Minister David Cameron was also urging people to support Armed Forces Day and wave the union jack. Cameron claimed that “there is huge respect for the Armed Forces community out there, and I want that expressed more loudly and more proudly. As someone once said, silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone – so next Saturday I hope we see an explosion of red, white and blue all over the country.”

Contrary to Cameron's suggestion, the Irish people do not have 'huge respect' for the British army. Contempt would be a more apt description of Irish peoples views of a military force responsible for Bloody Sunday and many other massacres in Ireland and around the world.

Cameron also needs to be reminded also that the six counties are not his country. They are an integral part of our national terroritory. They are not now and never will be a part of Britain.

British troops have no right to be here in any part of our country. For Irish republicans and nationalists, Armed Forces Day is a deliberate insult to those who suffered at the hands of the British army throughout their occupation which continues to this day. It is an insult to all the families of those who were murdered directly by the British army or by loyalist death squads acting in collusion with the British army.

Sligo éirígí activist Gerry Casey described the 'celebrations' as obscene and an attempt to normalise the continued occupation of our country.

Casey said: “There most definitely is nothing to 'celebrate' about one of the world's most murderous military forces.”

The British army record in Ireland has been a lengthy, shameful and bloody one. Their occupation, which continues to this day, has been one of intimidation, political repression, assault, torture, collusion and murder. More than 5000 troops remain in the six counties with the Special Reconaissance Regiment (SRR), effectively an undercover British army death squad, back on the streets of the six-counties once more.”

He added: “To 'celebrate' and 'glorify' a force with such an appalling human rights record and a propensity for mass murder is truly obscene. It is nothing short of trampling over the graves of their victims, especially coming less than two weeks after the publication of the Saville Report which was a damning indictment of the British army massacre of civil rights marchers on the streets of Derry on Bloody Sunday 1972.”

It is also a blatant attempt by the British Government to attempt to normalise the six counties and the continued occupation. However, just like previous attempts at 'normalisation' by successive British governments, republican opposition will ensure that this attempt is doomed to failure also.”

While some people may now be willing to support a policy of 'normalisation' and administer the occupation from Stormont, Irish Republicans will never accept or legitimise it, will never accept British troops in our country and will continue to resist that occupation for as long as it continues.”

Casey concluded: “Like the British army, éirígí will be marking Armed Forces Day. Unlike the British army, we will not be celebrating their murderous deeds. éirígí will be holding a demonstration to oppose these events taking place in our country outside City Hall in Belfast at 12 midday. Oppose British imperialism and the continued occupation of the six counties and Afghanistan. Bigí linn.”

Gas issue lies in ownership

The following letter appeared in today's (June 22) issue of the Sligo Weekender. It was response to a letter published in the same paper on June 8 from the Mayor of Sligo Labour Cllr Jim McGarry. His letter can be read by clicking here

PLEASE allow me to respond to Cllr Jim McGarry's call (postbag June 8) for the Corrib gas to be piped to Sligo, which ignored the key issues at the heart of the dispute over that gas.

Firstly, the gas is not being brought ashore yet as Shell's plans to build a highly dangerous pipeline carrying raw, unrefined gas through a small north Mayo community have been rightly resisted.

The gas should be refined at sea in line with best international practice.

Secondly, under the current circumstances, the Irish people will secure no benefit from this gas as the rights to it have been shamefully given away to Shell.

Indeed, any talk of price stability for the gas is nonsense, as Shell have no obligation to sell the gas back to us in the first place, and even if they do, they can charge whatever price they want.

As Cllr McGarry pointed out, extending the gas network to Sligo requires a once off Dublin government subvention of €39 million, which has been ruled out.

However, the simple solution is to nationalise these valuable resources, extract them safely and use the wealth generated to benefit all the people on this island.

More than 500 billion euro worth of natural resources lies off our shores. If these valuable resources, which rightfully belong to the Irish people were nationalised, the cost of extending the network to Sligo and other regions would not be an issue and could not be used as an excuse as is currently the case.

éirígí have repeatedly asked those seeking to bring this gas to Sligo to publicly call for the nationalisation of our oil and gas. To date, they have refused to do so. They have also refused to explain why.

Once again, éirígí challenge those campaigners to publicly justify their reasons for refusing to support a simple and just demand that would benefit all the people of this island.

At a time when savage cutbacks in income and public services are being imposed, if they are content with this giveaway to multinationals of hundreds of billions of euros that could be used to create economic prosperity for all, then Cllr McGarry and the others need to explain to the public why that is so.

Gerry Casey
éirígí Sligeach

Israel easing of Gaza siege a "PR Stunt"

Following widespread condemnation and outrage worldwide in the wake of their slaughter of humanitarian aid workers on the Gaza aid flotilla, Israel has said they will “ease” their almost four year old siege of Gaza.

This move by Israel was agreed between their Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in his role as envoy for the quartet of mideast so-called “peacemakers” which comprises the European Union (EU), the US, Russia and the United Nations (UN).

Blair has hailed it as a “sensible policy" despite the fact that Israel will continue with what will remain an inhumane and completely illegal siege, and will continue to decide who or what gets in or out of Gaza. Himself a serial violator of International law during his tenure as British Prime Minster and responsible for countless war crimes committed by British troops during their occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, Blair went on to effectively back Israel's continued naval blockade by stating that “there is no need to bring things directly into the seaport in Gaza."

The shameful acquiesance and support shown by Blair and the quartet should come as no surprise. Despite the pretence of being “neutral mediators”, the quartet has colluded with Israel in maintaining their barbaric siege and in the continued repression of the Palestinian people in general.

They have consistently refused to take any action against Israel in spite of their countless human rights abuses and war crimes. This includes their murderous month long assault on Gaza last year that resulted in the slaughter of more than 1400 Palestinians, amongst them hundreds of children, or their murder of those aboard the Mavi Marmara at the start of this month.

Their continued theft of Palestinian lands and resources by Israel, their construction of their apartheid wall and ongoing building of illegal settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank has been met with no sanction whatsoever by the quartet.

While they refuse to recognise or directly talk with the democratically elected representatives of Gaza, they have no hesitation in meeting and trading with Israel despite their atrocities and contempt for international law. While Blair and the quartet have consistently raised the issue of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier currently held by Hamas, they have refused to raise the issue of the thousands of Palestinian prisoners, including children and elected representatives, held in appalling conditions in Israeli jails.

Israel's siege continues to impose real hardship and poverty on the civilian population of Gaza. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) more than 10% of children are suffering from chronic malnutrition. Referring to the psychological effect the siege was having on children, the UN's John Ging expressed grave concern over mental health statistics which he said showed that “most of the children living in Gaza are traumatised”.

The entire infrastructure and economy has been obliterated by Israel. Their bombing of Gaza has seen them destroy factories, shops, houses, schools, universities, hospitals and homes. The enforcement of the blockade has ensured that these remain unbuilt or unrepaired as the necessary materials are prevented by Israel from getting into Gaza. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) “the quality of Gaza's health care system has reached an all-time low”.

There is virtually no commercial activity within Gaza as a result of Israel's deliberate policies. The naval blockade and the occupation by Israeli troops, of the so-called “buffer zone”, in which two thirds of Gaza's farmland is situated, has all but destroyed the fishing and agricultural industries within the strip.

There is close on 50% unemployment with up on 80% of the population living in poverty. According to B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights organisation, 95 per cent of Gaza's factories have closed, 93 per cent of Gaza's water is polluted and 98 per cent of residents suffer from blackouts .

However, not everyone has swallowed Blair's line in relation to Israel's latest move as the UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) have made clear that only a complete ending of the siege will satisy them.

UNRWA spokesperson Christopher Gunness said the situation on the ground was “grim”. He said it was “a humanitarian catastrophe in every sphere of life. So we need to get this illegal blockade lifted".

"With international law” he added “you're either violating or you're not. And this blockade is a violation. So if Israel wants to stop being in violation of international law it has to end the blockade, not ease it."

Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's director for the Middle East and North Africa, also slammed Israel's move. According to Smart, "this announcement makes it clear that Israel is not intending to end its collective punishment of Gaza's civilian population, but only ease it. This is not enough ... Israel must now comply with its obligations as the occupying power under international law and immediately lift the blockade.”

Writing in the Irish Times on Monday (June 21) Trócaire Director Justin Kilcullen said that Israel’s move to 'ease'' wont improve peoples lives. “The port will still be closed. The airport will still be closed, and now it seems Palestinians will only be allowed to leave by land through the border crossing at Rafah with Egypt. This collective punishment of civilians is in violation of people’s human rights and of international law.”

Sligo éirígí activist Gerry Casey also dismissed Israel's claims of “easing” their siege of Gaza as nothing more than a Public Relations (PR) stunt.

Echoing those calls for a complete and immediate end to the blockade Casey said:

“The Palestinian people as a whole continue to be denied their freedom and the right to a sovereign and independent Palestinian state. In particular the people of Gaza are suffering unimaginable hardship and horror as Israel continue to impose their inhumane and illegal blockade. The 1.4 million residents of Gaza, which includes in the region of 750,000 children, are victims of collective punishment by Israel.”

He added: “Israel's claims of an “easing” of the blockade is merely a PR exercise designed to deflect attention away from their war crimes, their massacre of humanitarian aid activists on the Gaza aid flotilla and their continuing siege of Gaza in defiance of international law.”

Casey concluded: “Israel has no right to decide who or what gets in or out of Gaza. The blockade must be ended completely and immediately and those responsible for implementing this illegal and barbaric siege must be swiftly brought to justice.”

Political Policing in Newry Political Policing in Newry

PSNIIt could have been a scene from the 1970s or ’80s when, in the early hours of last Wednesday morning [June 16], a large convoy of armoured PSNI landrovers descended on the nationalist Derrybeg estate in Newry.

Dozens of riot clad members of the political police decamped from their vehicles and conducted a politically-motivated operation during which they raided the home of a republican activist. A search operation was also carried out in the surrounding area which lasted for most of the day.

Throughout the day, heavily armed PSNI personnel stopped vehicles entering and leaving Derrybeg, which caused widespread disruption for residents in the area, including parents collecting their children from the nearby school.

Several other homes across the city were also targeted in Wednesday’s raids.

éirígí’s rúnaí ginearálta Breandán Mac Cionnaith condemned the raids: “At a time when the great and the good are proclaiming a new beginning for policing in the Six Counties, the PSNI is proving, by its own actions, that it is business as usual as far as its treatment of nationalist communities is concerned.

“Is this the new beginning to policing we were promised? This is not normal policing, this is not civic policing. This is the same repressive policing that we have been subjected to for decades. Nothing has changed with this paramilitary force except their name and badge.”

Mac Cionnaith continued: “Despite the change of name, the primary aim of the PSNI is exactly the same as the primary aim of the RUC – to protect the British occupation of the Six Counties. Ironically, the actions of the PSNI last week proved that point. The type of political policing is exactly the type of thing the RUC were infamous for.”

The Derrybeg estate has a proud history of opposing the British occupation, whether it comes in the form of the British army or British policing. No doubt, republican activists from the area will continue their work despite this upsurge in Crown Forces harassment.

Serious concern has also been expressed by éirígí as newly published figures show that politically-motivated stop and search legislation has been used on almost 35,000 occasions in the Six Counties within a 12 month period.

Amongst those being harassed with this legislation are éirígí activists engaged in peaceful protests and other political activity.

Mac Cionnaith concluded: “While constitutional nationalist politicians might try to claim that there has been a sea-change in policing in the Six Counties, the reality of ongoing repressive tactics on the ground belies the harsh truth that little has changed. People in working-class communities across the North are only too aware of that fact.”

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Stop the shameful EU - Colombia Free Trade Agreement

Speaking on the recently agreed Free Trade Agreement between the European Union (EU) and Colombia before the International Trade Committee of the European Parliament (INTA) in Brussels in March of this year, Karel De Gucht European Commissioner for Trade, claimed that Colombia “is genuinely striving to put a final marker to its history of violence and despair”.

Referring to their human rights record, De Gucht went on to claim that “the situation has been steadily improving in recent years”.

His comments however, while not surprising from an EU official, are completely untrue. In fact the complete opposite is the case. As a result the EU has come under pressure from human rights campaigners and Trade Union organisations both in Europe and Colombia itself not to ratify this or any similar deals with Colombia while these abuses continue.

In direct contradiction to De Gucht's claims, Justice for Colombia (JLC) in a submission opposing this agreement revealed that assassinations of trade unionists, extrajudicial executions, forced displacement, torture and forced disappearances have all recently increased”.

Over recent years, Colombia has already received preferential trading status with the EU through a scheme entitled the General System of Preferences plus (GSP+). This scheme and the special benefits that apply, was intended solely for countries that respect certain basic human rights and the rights of workers.

Qualifying countries were obliged to not just ratify a number of international conventions on labour rights and human rights. More importantly, they were obliged to “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.

While Colombia have ratified the necessary conventions, they quite clearly failed to implement them as successive reports from human rights organisations revealed. The Colombia regime consistently violated and continue to breach these and other International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions on a daily basis.

However, as in Israels case also, the EU have chosen to deliberately ignore their own conditions and responsibilities relating to human rights compliance imposed as part of their dealings with Colombia.

As De Gucht himself said in his address about this new deal “the Agreement contains a solid HR (human rights) clause. It allows for the immediate and unilateral adoption of appropriate measures – including suspension - whenever an essential element of the Agreement has been violated”.

Furthermore, he added that “the threshold for unilateral suspension is, significantly lower since - in this case - there is no requirement of a qualified violation of an essential element, but a simple violation would suffice”.

Fine words, words that taken at face value would make many believe that Colombia would face sanction and suspension from their agreements with the EU in the event of any human rights violations.

The reality however is that, in the face of the overwhelming evidence of Colombia's ongoing human rights violations, the EU have turned a blind eye to these flagrant abuses and have refused to implement the conditions of their own current agreements which would result in the suspension of Colombia from these deals.

As with the EU's relationship with Israel, the EU continue to shamefully overlook and ignore the vast scale of human rights abuses, including political repression, arbitary arrest, displacement, torture and murder committed by the Colombian regime against its political, social and trade union opponents.

Again, just as with Israel, it is Colombia's close political and military relationship with the United States, that lies behind the EU's decision to forge closer ties with Colombia and to grant them special trading status denied to many countries with better human rights records.

Colombia continues to remain the most dangerous country on the planet to be a Trade Unionist. Last year (2009) there were more than 500 attacks on Trade Unionists, resulting in 48 of then being murdered.

Already this year, more than 30 union activists have been murdered. According to the International Trade Union Confederation's (ITUC) 2010 Annual Survey of Trade Union Rights (click here to read it) released earlier this month, for the past 23 years “trade unionists in Colombia have been killed at the rate of one every three days”.

ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder said that “Colombia was yet again the country where standing up for fundamental rights of workers is more likely than anywhere else to mean a death sentence, despite the Colombian government’s public relations campaign to the contrary”.

Almost all were killed by either the military or their allies in the right wing death squads. Highlighting these attacks on Trade Unionists, JFC's submission outlined how “impunity remains the norm in the vast majority of cases of human rights violations”.

This is backed up by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights who expressed their alarm last month at the continuing murders of trade unionists who they said remained victims of various forms of threats and violence”. The Committee also highlighted the impunity with which those carrying out attacks on trade unionists operate, pointing out how only “a small number of acts of violence against trade-unionists were investigated”.

In its report published at the end of 2008 entitled “LEAVE US IN PEACE - TARGETING CIVILIANS IN COLOMBIA’S INTERNAL ARMED CONFLICTAmnesty International said that “Over the last 20 years, paramilitary groups – acting in co-ordination with, or with the acquiescence of, the security forces – have been responsible for the largest number of killings of civilians. However, especially since the start of the paramilitary demobilization process in 2003, there has been an increase in reports of extrajudicial executions carried out directly by the security forces. Around 330 extrajudicial executions33 by the security forces were reported in 2007, compared to some 220 a year in 2004-2006, 130 in 2003, and around 100 in 2002. Most victims have been either campesinos or community leaders who the security forces have falsely claimed were guerrillas killed in combat”.

Earlier this year the United Nations Committee against Torture confirmed these continuing human rights abuses by the right wing death squads and their Colombian military allies. According to its latest report on Colombia it said that“paramilitary groups continue to operate and to commit serious human rights violations .... and continue to be able to count on the support or acquiescence of sectors of the security forces”.

Despite all of this overwhelming evidence, the European Commission pressed ahead with the Agreement.

Concluding his speech back in March, De Gucht stated that “he was determined to leverage this agreement to the maximum possible extent to promote and ensure respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law.”

There is nothing new in these words. The EU regularly pay lip service to the notion of upholding human rights. But actions speak louder than words.

To date the EU have failed to sanction Colombia or suspend their special trade status under the GPS+ scheme. They have proceeded to sign this latest trade agreement with them this year despite the regime's ongoing violations of their obligations under this and previous deals.

Such actions expose the hypocrisy and double standards of the EU's supposed “commitment” to human rights. Their continued bankrolling of the Colombian regime also makes them complicit in the abuses and war crimes carried out by Colombia.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Saville report on Bloody Sunday a damning indictment of British rule

June 15, 2010 was a day of vindication for the families of those civil rights marchers murdered by the British army's Parachute Regiment in Derry on Bloody Sunday in January 1972.

The publication of the Saville Report confirmed, more than 38 years after that massacre, what the people of Derry, the people of Ireland and indeed the vast majority of the people around the world already knew – that these victims were completely innocent and that the British army had spent the past four decades lying and trying to cover up the truth of that massacre.

Unable to hide the truth any longer, British Prime Minister David Cameron, was forced into acknowledging the innocence of the victims and that the murders were completely unjustifiable. He was also forced into apologising for the massacre.

The report found that:

No warning was issued to the thousands taking part in that day’s civil rights march when the British army opened fired on it in 1972.

The British army did not open fire in response to petrol bombers, stone throwers or gun attacks.

Many of the dead and injured were shot while attempting to aid the wounded and dying.

None of the casualties posed a threat or done anything that would “justify” their being shot.

The British army lied about its actions on January 30 1972.

Following publication of the report, éirígí Sligeach activist Gerry Casey praised the resiliance of the victims families.

“It has been their determination” Casey said “that has led, 38 years after the massacre, to a British Prime Minister being forced to apologise and admit to a British Parliament that British troops engaged in the mass murder of innocent Irish civilians on the streets of Derry."

“Despite the massive obstacles they faced over the decades, the families never gave up and insisted on ensuring that those victims of British state terror were exonerated and that the truth of that massacre be finally acknowledged publicly by, not just the army that carried it out, but also by their political masters.”

“This report is a damning indictment of the British army murder machine and its utter contempt for the lives of northern nationalist civilians and for truth and justice. For, contrary to the suggestion that this was somehow an “aberration” and that the British army had a “noble and honourable tradition” in Ireland, the reality is the complete opposite.”

He added: “The British army record in our country is a shameful and bloody one. It is one of intense repression, torture and murder against republicans and nationalists. They have been responsible for many similar type atrocities both before and after Bloody Sunday here in Ireland and in other countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan which they continue to occupy.”

“Indeed, only months before Bloody Sunday, in August 1971 the British army murdered 11 civilians, including a priest, in what is now known as the Ballymurphy massacre. Less than five months after Bloody Sunday, the British army once again carried out a massacre of 5 civilians in Springhill in West Belfast. Amonst those gunned down in cold blood were a priest and two children. Many more were injured.”

“In circumstances similar to what happened on Bloody Sunday, a number of those murdered in Springhill were shot as they attempted to assist others who were injured. To suggest that Bloody Sunday was an aberration or a rogue operation is to ignore the reality of British rule in Ireland and indeed elsewhere around the world”.

He concluded: "Bloody Sunday also has striking similarities with Israel's recent massacre of civilians on the Gaza aid flotilla. In both instances the military murdered unarmed civilians who posed no threat to them. In both instances, those murdered were engaged in campaigning for civil and human rights. In both instances the killers lied through their teeth, tried to cover up their crimes and attempted to blacken the names of those killed by making false accusations aginst them. In both instances the world has seen through their lies."

éirígí general secretary Breandán Mac Cionnaith echoed those sentiments.

He said: “Today is, first and foremost, a victory for the families of the 14 dead. Their steadfastness and determination in demanding that Britain face up to what it did to their families on Bloody Sunday has been an inspiration to everyone in Ireland who cares about truth and justice. Even during the darkest days of the last 38 years, they never gave up, never stopped believing that they and the people of Derry were worthy of justice.”

“Today, for the first time ever, a British prime minister was forced to stand in his own parliament and apologise for a crime his government committed in Ireland. The people of Derry and the families of the dead should be deeply proud that they have brought this about. éirígí salutes their courage and integrity.”

Mac Cionnaith continued: “If David Cameron is truly sorry about what happened on Bloody Sunday he can do a few things to right the wrongs. Firstly, he can take his troops out of this country and Afghanistan, ensuring that never again will British soldiers run amok in cities and towns where they are not welcome.”

“Secondly, he can remove the whole apparatus of the occupation from Ireland and recognise the Irish people’s right to unity and self-determination. He can do likewise in Afghanistan.”

“Finally, he can declare Britain’s resolve to never again interfere in the internal affairs of another country and drown democratic movements in blood.”

“When David Cameron does these things, we will know he and his government are sincere about righting the wrongs of the past.”

The full Saville report can be read by clicking here