Friday, October 14, 2011

Dublin conference remembers 1981 hunger strike

A large crowd assembled at Dublin’s Liberty Hall on Saturday October 1to mark the 30th anniversary of the 1981 hunger strike. The strike was formally called off on the 3rd of October that year. The meetings recalled the events of that momentous year both in the H-Blocks and Armagh women’s prison as well as on the streets. It also addressed the current situation in Maghaberry prison where republican prisoners continue to be denied political status and basic human rights.

Máire Drumm and Tommy McKearney both provided powerful personal testimonies of their time in Armagh and the H-Blocks respectively, in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Máire recalled how the arbitrary date of 1 March 1976, which marked the ending of political status, resulted in considerable differences in the treatment of those sentenced before and after that date. The withdrawal of political status that year resulted in an epic prison struggle involving hundreds of republican prisoners engaging in the blanket and no-wash protest, culminating in the hunger strikes of 1980 and 1981.

One of those who participated in the 1980 hunger strike was Tyrone man Tommy McKearney, author of the recently published and well received book The Provisional IRA: From Insurrection to Parliament. Tommy chose to focus on how republican prisoners displayed staggering levels of ingenuity, simply in order to survive the brutal conditions then pertaining in the H-Blocks. He recounted numerous stories of how the republican POWs maintained their morale during this time and the close bonds that still hold the community of ex-blanketmen together.

Mandy Duffy from Lurgan, active with the Family and Friends prisoner support group provided a comprehensive update on the situation in Maghaberry, drawing parallels with the treatment of republican prisoners in the H-Blocks. She urged people to support the prisoners in Maghaberry, who continue to be forcibly strip searched and beaten, and called for the implementation of the deal agreed earlier this year with the prison regime.

Other speakers on the day included éirígí general secretary Breandán Mac Cionnaith, who looked back at the events that precipitated the hunger strike and the lessons that can be drawn from that momentous year. Also keen to draw lessons from the past was F Stuart Ross, author of a new study Smashing H-Block – which assesses the movement that was built on the streets in support of the prisoners. Ross posed many pertinent questions for his audience, arguing it wasn’t enough simply to look back at the events of the past, rather it is crucial that we learn from it.

éirígí spokesperson Daithí Mac An Mháistir, who chaired several of the discussions on the day, thanked all of those who participated in the event at Liberty Hall and paid tribute to the men and women of the H-Blocks and Armagh. “Today was about paying tribute to the tremendous sacrifice and selflessness of the H-Block hunger strikers. It was also an opportunity to discuss the lessons to be learned from that period of our history. Given the level of participation in the discussions throughout the day it is clear that there still exists considerable interest in the events of 1980 and ’81.

“Prison struggle of this kind is not unique to Ireland, as news emerged this week that Palestinian prisoners of the PFLP, left with no option, have embarked on hunger strike in order to assert their rights. It is also clear that the mistreatment of republican prisoners in Ireland is by no means a historic event. Mandy Duffy powerfully illustrated Britain’s continued attempts to deny political status to republican prisoners in Maghaberry. Solidarity to the prisoners on hunger strike in Palestine and republican prisoners in Maghaberry fighting for political status was expressed from the meeting.”

Daithí continued, “We also extended solidarity to Basque political prisoners. Many of the flags on display at the meeting here today expressed support for an end to the Spanish state’s oppressive dispersal policy, which sees the many hundreds of Basque political prisoners sent to prisons hundreds of miles from their home. The plight of the Cuba Five, victims of US imperialism, was recalled and people encouraged to support the demo at the US embassy in Dublin.

“So today’s event presented an opportunity to look back at the past, to cherish the memory of the H-Block martyrs and crucially to learn the lessons of that period. The struggle in the prisons was not simply about the five demands, it was, in the final analysis an assertion of the right of the people of Ireland to national self-determination. As Bobby Sands wrote on the first day of his hunger strike:

“I believe I am but another of those wretched Irishmen born of a risen generation with a deeply rooted and unquenchable desire for freedom. I am dying not just to attempt to end the barbarity of H-Block, or to gain the rightful recognition of a political prisoner, but primarily because what is lost in here is lost for the Republic and those wretched oppressed whom I am deeply proud to know as the ‘risen people’.”

Daithí concluded, “Those sentiments were at the core of the politics that drove ten young IRA and INLA volunteers to withstand the torture of the H-Blocks and to place their bodies on the line in defence of the republican struggle. Thirty years on, imperialism both at home and abroad continues to be challenged in the prisons and on the streets. The ‘risen people’ continue to assert their rights whether in Ireland, Palestine, the Basque Country or Cuba. We salute all of those who struggle to end the tyranny of imperialism.”

Candlelit Vigil for Palestinian Hunger Strikers

On Wednesday evening [October 5] éirígí held a successful candlelight vigil in support of Palestinian prisoners who have embarked on a hunger strike in protest against the way in which they are being detained and treated.

Around 50 activists gathered outside the Israeli Embassy on Pembroke Road to express both their solidarity with the protesting prisoners and their revulsion at the treatment they are being subjected to. The hunger-strike was initiated by prisoners from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine [PFLP] on Tuesday 27th September but has now been joined by prisoners aligned to other Palestinian groups. Details are sketchy but it appears that the protest has spread right across the Israeli prison system and now involves hundreds of prisoners. The prisoners are protesting principally against the extent of the isolation and solitary confinement to which they are subjected.

According to the Israeli Human Rights Group B’Tselem, Palestinian prisoners are routinely subjected to far more widespread mistreatment that involves “sleep deprivation, tying a detainee to a chair in painful positions, beating, slapping, kicking, threats, verbal abuse and humiliation, bending the body in extremely painful positions, intentional tightening of handcuffs, stepping on worn manacles, application of pressure to different parts of the body, forcing the detainee to squat in a painful position, choking and other forms of violence and humiliation (e.g. spitting and pulling hair, solitary confinement, exposure to extreme heat and cold, continuous exposure to artificial light, and confinement in inhuman conditions.” The truth is that what this ‘treatment’ amounts to is in fact systematic torture.

Speaking at the protest, éirígí spokesperson Daithí Mac an Mháistir took the opportunity to express the party’s solidarity with the protesting prisoners and the PFLP. He noted the gravity of the situation and appealed for progressives to do all they can to bring attention to the plight of the prisoners.

Mac an Mháistir referred to the “long and painful history of hunger-striking in Ireland” and stated his “fervent wish that no Palestinian prisoners would have to die in the face of Israeli government intransigence just as happened in Ireland in 1981 when 10 men died on hunger-strike.”

He concluded by reiterating éirígí’s support for the “ending of the occupation of Palestine, which is the primary reason why an estimated 7,000 plus Palestinian men and women are in Israeli jails in the first place.”

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Vigil for Palestinian Hunger Strikers at Israeli Embassy in Dublin

Palestinian prisoners associated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) began a hunger strike last week on September 27 against conditions imposed on detainees by the zionist regime.

The prisoners are calling for an end to the humiliating treatment and abuse of prisoners, and of those trying to visit them. They are also demanding an end to the solitary confinement of Ahamd Sa’adat, general secretary of the PFLP.

Sa’adat was arrested in January 2002 by Palestinian Authority security at the behest of Israel. He was held without charge or trial at Jericho prison until March 2006, when Israeli forces laid siege to the prison and kidnapped Sa’adat and several comrades.

The zionists eventually tried Sa’adat, convicting him of membership of a prohibited organisation [the PFLP], of holding a post in a prohibited organisation, and of incitement. For these ‘crimes’ he was sentenced to 30 years in December 2008, and has been held in solitary ever since. He has now joined the hunger strike as well.

The Israeli prison regime responded immediately by threatening to increase repression against striking prisoners, by moving them into isolation or to other prisons entirely. This prison transfer tactic has been used frequently by the regime to break up comrades and to disrupt the organisation of resistance within the prison system.

The prisoners answered by announcing that they will escalate their campaign by rejecting all prison orders and refusing to wear their uniforms.

As republicans mark the 30th anniversary of the ending of the 1981 Irish hunger strikes, we in éirígí extend our solidarity to the Palestinian prisoners who have been steadfast in their resistance to the attempts of the zionist regime to subjugate them. We also once more pay tribute to our comrades in the PFLP, who have taken this action for the sake of all prisoners of the Israeli occupation, and for their families and friends as well.

On Wednesday 5th October, éirígí will hold a candlelit vigil in support of the prisoners on hunger strike outside the Israeli embassy, Pembroke Road, Dublin. The vigil will begin at 6.30pm. Bígí linn.

We print below the prisoners’ statement announcing the commencement of the hunger strike.


“We, the comrades of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in the Zionist prisons and detention centers, declare to the steadfast, struggling brave masses of the Palestinian people and to all free people in the world:

We announce that we will begin an open-ended hunger strike on Tuesday morning, September 27, 2011, in response to the official policies of the Zionist government and its fascist prison administration. We demand our rights and our dignity, as we struggle for the victory of our values and ideals.

Our goals for this hunger strike:

1. End the solitary confinement and isolation of our comrade, General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and the PLO Central Council, Ahmad Sa’adat, Abu Ghassan.
2. End the policy of isolation for all prisoners;
3. End the policy of systematic humiliation by the occupation army against the Palestinian people at checkpoints and crossings, particularly targeting visitors to prisons, and end the arbitrary denial of visits to the prisoners, especially the prisoners from the Gaza Strip. End the humiliation and abuse of prisoners during transfer.

The principles of our revolution include the rejection of all forms of injustice, and for us to struggle and confront the occupier in all areas and places in our own manner. Accordingly, we call upon all of the Palestinian and Arab people, political forces and institutions, human rights and civil society organizations, to raise their voices for us, so that we do not become easy prey for a vicious occupier. 

We promise to all of our people, and to the legacy of the martyrs of Palestine, that we will continue on our path until victory.
Great glory to the martyrs ...
Victory to the revolution ...
Victory is inevitable.”

 Click here for previous coverage of the issue of Palestinian prisoners including Video footage from a demo outside the Israeli Embassy in Dublin

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

MacCionnaith Condemns Lurgan Raids

éirígí general secretary Breandán MacCionnaith has condemned the continuing harassment of Lurgan republicans after three homes were raided this morning [Wednesday] by the PSNI.

The PSNI arrived at the homes at 7am and were continuing with one raid this afternoon.  Among the homes raided were those belonging to relatives of imprisoned Armagh republican Colin Duffy.  Around 100 PSNI officers were involved in the searches.

MacCionnaith said: “Early morning raids are something that republicans in the Lurgan area are unfortunately very used to. However, that in no way lessens the trauma caused when a family finds its home invaded and their possessions being rifled through.

This morning, not only did the PSNI place massive strain on children by demanding they be taken from their beds so armed strangers could trample through their homes, they also confiscated harmless equipment being used for school projects and homework.”

MacCionnaith added: “These raids are about one thing – persecuting republicans for their political beliefs and activities.  The ongoing harassment of the Duffy family is an extra malicious element that has been added by the PSNI.

“éirígí and the wider republican community in Lurgan and elsewhere will not remain silent while the political police attempt to isolate and criminalise those who dare to stand up to the status quo.

“The families targeted this morning should be left alone to get on with their lives in peace.”

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sligo Protest Demands Fracking Ban

Sligo éirígí activist Gerry Casey has re-iterated the party's continued opposition to the giveaway of our natural resources.  He also expressed support for calls to ban the process of extracting natural gas called hydraulic fracturing, also known as 'fracking'. 

Casey was speaking following a protest on Saturday night (September 17) outside the Sligo Park Hotel where the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte was attending a function.

Between 40 and 50 protesters braved the heavy rain to make their concerns known to the Minister.  They made clear their total opposition to fracking and called on the Minister to impose an immediate ban on its use in Ireland similar to bans imposed in other countries and in some states in the USA.

This is just the latest in a series of protests and public meetings organised by residents throughout the north-west. It follows the commencement of exploratory works to discover commercial gas by Australian company Tamboran Resources in what is known as the Lough Allen basin.  The Lough Allen Basin covers parts of counties Cavan, Donegal, Fermanagh, Leitrim, Mayo, Monaghan, Roscommon, Sligo and Tyrone, covering an area of 8000 square kilometres in total. 

Speaking following the protest, éirígí Sligeach activist Gerry Casey who was among the demonstrators, said:

"An immediate halt must be called to this entire process.  Despite paying lip service to it, there has been no meaningful consultation by the Dublin government or by Tamboran with the communities set to be affected by this exploration and extraction of natural gas despite the massive dangers involved.  More importantly the communities affected have not given their consent for it." 

He added:  "Once again éirígí supports the call for the process known as fracking to be banned.  The potential for grave environmental damage and the dangers posed to human and animal health and safety are too great and cannot be ignored.  The health and safety of the people of the region must be put before the quest to amass profits by private exploration companies."

Casey also called for the nationalisation of all our natural resources.  He said:

"The decision by Pat Rabbitte and his colleagues in the Fine Gael/Labour coalition to continue with the shameful policy of giving away valuable natural resources begun by Fianna Fáil can only be described as despicable.  These resources, whether it is the Corrib gas off the Mayo coast or the onshore gas in the Lough Allen and Clare basins, should be taken into public ownership.  If, and only if, those resources can be safely extracted without damage to our environment and to health and safety then the wealth created should be used to benefit the people of Ireland not the shareholders of private exploration companies."

Casey concluded:  "Let Tamboran Resources as well as Pat Rabbitte and his colleagues be fully aware that the people of this region will not roll over and accept the current situation.  If they ignore the massive opposition that there is within this region to this process, then just as Shell  and the Dublin government discovered in north Mayo over the past decade, they too will meet fierce and determined resistance here."

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Minister Rabbitte to face Anti-Fracking Protest in Sligo Tonight

An Anti-fracking protest will take place tonight (Saturday 17th) at 8.30PM outside the Sligo Park Hotel on Pearse Road in the town.
Minister for Communications, Energy & Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte is the guest of honour at a dinner in the hotel which starts at 8.30 p.m.
People are asked to assemble in the hotel carpark at 8PM.
For previous articles on fracking and the giveaway of our natural resources please click here & here 

Gasland is an American documentary film written and directed by Josh Fox. The film focuses on communities in the United States impacted by natural gas drilling and, specifically, a stimulation method known as hydraulic fracturing.

Click on the image above to watch the documentary in full.


Friday, September 16, 2011

RIR Stunt Will be Opposed

éirígí general secretary Breandán MacCionnaith has revealed the socialist republican party will be actively opposing the Royal Irish Regiment’s event in Belfast next month.

The Royal Irish Regiment will be holding a ‘review’ in Belfast’s Kings Hall in October.

In 2008, éirígí organised significant opposition to an RIR parade through Belfast city centre.

MacCionnaith said: “The Royal Irish Regiment is a sectarian unionist militia that has a played a disgraceful role in conflicts in Ireland, Afghanistan and elsewhere.  The people involved with the RIR should be taken to task for the crimes they have committed, not be congratulated.

“Files that have recently been recovered from the British government’s Kew Gardens archive provide conclusive proof that the RIR, under its previous name of UDR, was up to its neck in colluding with the unofficial unionist death squads.  It is insult to the victims and their families that this event is being held.”

MacCionnaith added: “éirígí will be actively opposing this insensitive stunt. Details will be released in the coming weeks.”

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Lillis a Victim of Sick System

éirígí general secretary Breandán MacCionnaith has slammed the indifference of Six County justice minister David Ford to the plight of Maghaberry prisoner Brendan Lillis.

Following a meeting with Lillis’ partner, Roisin Lynch, yesterday [Wednesday], Ford again claimed there were no grounds for his release.

MacCionnaith said: “Brendan Lillis is a critically ill man interned in prison on the word of a British secretary of state – if David Ford can see no grounds for his release he is willfully blind.

“Brendan Lillis has already suffered enough at the hands of the British state.  He spent 17 years in prison as a result of the conflict and has now been confined to a bed in a cramped prison cell for more than 600 days due to a crippling bone disease.  He is in no way mobile, he cannot eat and he has failing eyesight.  It is absurd for anyone to suggest this man is a threat to the public.”

MacCionnaith added: “Over the last few months, David Ford has proven beyond doubt that any commitment he claims towards human rights is a sham and a lie.  Like many who went before him charged with implementing British injustice in Ireland, he is capable of acting only callously and ruthlessly.

“Every week that passes produces further evidence that the institutions at Stormont are incapable of delivering equality and human rights for nationalists and republicans.  The case of Brendan Lillis is but the latest example.

“Brendan Lillis must not be allowed to die in jail. It is imperative that all those with an interest in human rights act now to increase the pressure on the Stormont regime.”

Friday, July 29, 2011

éirígí Activists Among Four Injured By Shell Thugs in Mayo

éirígí Chairperson Brian Leeson has condemned the thuggish behaviour of Shell security personnel and Gardai who injured a number of anti-Shell activists in Mayo earlier today.  At least four protesters required medical attention for their injuries, whilst a number of other people suffered cuts and bruises.

One of the injured, éirígí’s Joe Keegan, required stitches to a head wound following an attack by a number of IRMS personnel (IRMS are the private security firm employed by Shell in Mayo).  Joe had gone to the aid of a female activist who was being manhandled by IRMS boss Jim Farrell.  Another activist, Gary Ronaghan, required stitches to his mouth after he was struck by a large piece of steel fencing which was pushed at him by IRMS staff.

Leeson said, “Today we have seen yet another example of violence from the Gardai and Shell’s hired thugs.  Those who are opposed to Shell’s operations in Mayo have a fundamental right to protest without fear of assault.  For years that right has been deliberately and systematically suppressed by the Gardai, a fact which they haven’t even tried to hide. Superintendent Joe Gannon has publicly declared that there is a ‘no arrest’ policy in relation to the Shell protests.  Instead of arresting people the state are using brute force to facilitate Shell’s robbery of the Corrib gas reserve.”

Leeson continued, “The oil and gas that lies off Ireland’s coast has the potential to secure Ireland’s energy needs for decades to come and to address many of the financial challenges we now face.  Corrib and the other oil and gas reserves belong to the people of Ireland, not to a handful of politicians in Leinster House.  They don’t have the right to give away that which is not theirs in the first place.  Those who took part in the protests and direct actions in Mayo today are acting in the interests of the people of this country.  For that they are to be applauded.”

Leeson concluded by re-committing éirígí to the battle for Corrib: 

“Through corruption, manipulation, bribery and brute force Shell have succeeded in tapping the Corrib reserve, in building their refinery in Ballinaboy and in laying their offshore pipeline.  But they have not  succeeded in laying the onshore section of that pipeline and without it they cannot extract the gas.  We in éirígí are committed to fighting the laying of every inch of that pipeline.  To fail to do so is to surrender countless billions of euro’s to Shell and the other private energy companies.”  

Shell to Sea Spokesperson Terence Conway also condemned the assaults on peaceful protesters.

He said:  "The injuries inflicted today indicate an expectation of impunity on the part of those assaulting Shell to Sea campaigners. It is clear that individual Garda and private security personnel feel confident that serious assaults on campaigners will not lead to them being prosecuted. The level of violence we have seen today against Shell to Sea campaigners engaged in civil disobedience is confirmation of how little has changed in the policing of the Corrib project."

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Newry Protest Against PSNI Harassment

Once again republicans have been forced to take to the streets to stand up against MI5/PSNI harassment in Newry.

Over 70 people took part in yesterday’s [July 2] protest at Ardmore PSNI barracks in Newry, in direct response to a relentless campaign of harassment and intimidation directed towards republicans in the area by the PSNI.

The protesters were met with a large presence of PSNI thugs in several cars, armoured landrovers and on foot around the barracks, obviously fearful of éirígí’s intentions. For the duration of the protest the PSNI videoed and recorded everyone, including children, some of whom were stopped and searched last weekend.

Protest against MI5/PSNI harassment

Speaking at the protest éirígí’s Stephen Murney thanked all those who attended.

“Just a few months ago we were forced to come to this barracks to protest against harassment, now here were are again with double the numbers. At a time when people are being persecuted by the PSNI and MI5 it’s heartening to see so many people, young and old coming here to confront the thugs responsible for harassing them. Last week we announced that we would intensify our Different Name, Same Aim campaign, this protest is only the start of things to come,” Murney said.

The main speaker at the protest was rúnaí ginearálta éirígí Breandán Mac Cionnaith.

Breandán Mac Cionnaith addresses the protest

In his speech Breandán highlighted the unchanged nature of the force.

“In November 2001, amid much fanfare, the British government re-branded the discredited Royal Ulster Constabulary with a new name. And with that new name, the occupying power promised ‘a new beginning’ to policing in the Six Counties.

“Almost a decade later, it is now abundantly clear that, instead of delivering a ‘new beginning’, the PSNI has simply continued with the same failed anti-working class and anti-republican agenda of the RUC and Royal Irish Constabulary before them. The lie of ‘community-based’ policing has been exposed by the reality of increased draconian legislation, harassment and brutality,” he said.

Protest against MI5/PSNI harassment

Mac Cionnaith continued, “éirígí activists in Newry are no strangers to Crown Force harassment. Our activists, along with other republicans are being stopped under the draconian British Justice and Security Act. It’s clear that our activists and supporters in the area are being singled out for special treatment because of their political activities.

“The PSNI are only proving by their own actions that they are an unchanged, unaccountable paramilitary force. The PSNI remains a British police force, enforcing British law in support of the British occupation.

“No amount of PSNI harassment, in Newry or anywhere else, will prevent éirígí activists from continuing the work of rebuilding the republican struggle.”


Breandán concluded, “Despite what those constitutional nationalist parties who sit in Stormont may claim, that move has neither affected the function or the form of the PSNI. Nor has it placed manners on them, as one prominent apologist for British policing once claimed.

“The PSNI remains a British police force, enforcing British law in support of the British state. Like police forces across the capitalist world its primary aim remains the protection of the state and the protection of the interests of the ruling class; interests which run in direct contradiction to the interests of the working class and of republicans.”

Republican Newry will be seeing a lot more actions in the coming weeks and months and we urge all those who oppose British policing to join us in our struggle.