Aug 04 2017

TAKING A CLOSER LOOK AT THE REALITY OF NORTHERN IRELAND

Throughout the life of this blog, we have been posting material about Ireland/Northern Ireland. The British ruling class has always taken a keen interest in developments there. However, such is the nature of the unionist state, that British governments have been successful for most of the time, in getting people in England, Scotland and Wales to view the situation as being  ‘over there’ and somehow disconnected from what happens ‘over here’. Now that May has made a deal with the DUP to keep the Tories in office, it becomes even more important to understand what is happening within the UK state we live in. Below we are posting three articles from Socialist Democracy (Ireland). The first two look at the reality of the ‘Twelfth’ in Northern Ireland. The third looks at the likely impact of the DUP’s entry into mainstream British politics.

 

 

 

The ‘Twelfth’ bonfire in Belfast

1. BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES 

In July Channel 4 sent a reporter to Belfast to investigate the annual bonfire bacchanalia of the “Eleventh Night” preceding the Orange marches. She walked about conducting “vox pop” interviews, meanwhile expressing concern at the background sectarianism and atmosphere of violence. Then she saw something she found incomprehensible. A bonfire was burning too close to buildings, but the fire service was hosing the buildings, not the bonfire.

This is a standard element of bonfire night. Last year two houses burnt to the ground without any attempt to douse the bonfire.

It tells us something important. The problem is not the obvious one of a sectarian bonfire. The problem is the sectarian state. The significance of the Eleventh bonfires lies in the fact that they occur immune from the normal constraints of a democratic state – in the almost complete absence of any restraint.  In fact that is the main point of the bonfires. The yearly event shows those at the bottom of the unionist all-class alliance that they remain kings of creation and the state forces and legal system will bend to their will as the police, fire, environmental agencies and local media recuse themselves from involvement.

This presents no problem at all to unionist politicians, who defend “Protestant culture” and have been recorded lighting the bonfires and winking at the many expressions of sectarian hatred heaped on the fire. It does represent a problem for Sinn Fein. How can we be “moving on” if the sectarian culture remains?

In response the nationalists have used their position in negotiations, in the executive and in local government to try on the one hand to persuade the state to set minimal red lines and on the other to bribe the Orange to behave better.

This strategy arrived at farcical limits in 2017.  Belfast City Council bonfire management policy turned out to extend to storing wood for the fires. It then appeared that many of the wooden pallets they were storing were stolen property. An embarrassing situation was resolved when an illegal paramilitary gang, linked to the government party, the DUP, stole the materials back again, although there was further embarrassment when a public car park was requisitioned by the gang to store the loot.

An angry Sinn Fein tried to rescue their reputation by obtaining an injunction to limit the height of two bonfires. The injunction was neither enforced nor obeyed. They then forced a by-law through Belfast City Council with powers to seize bonfire materials.

However by this stage the loyalist bonfire demonstrations were over and in any case there is no chance of council action against the Orange next year in the face of absolute opposition by the Unionist parties. In the meantime the occupants of Belfast city centre flats found that the authorities, so active in facilitating the fires, denied responsibility for the damage to their homes from a nearby fire.

Sinn Fein found themselves in a familiar situation of setting an example by confronting the supporters of Nationalist bonfires. Again this did not end well. They were forced to concede to a large contingent of nationalist youth in Derry and in Belfast there were riots and repetition of threats from Sinn Fein “socialists” that the parents of the youths involved would be evicted. However the chaotic resentment of the poorest sectors fell far short of providing a political opposition to nationalist complacency.

It should be pointed out that the Sinn Fein policy towards nationalist bonfires is quite different to the policy towards the Orange. They recognise “Orange Culture.” They do not want to prevent the bonfires but replace them with braziers and “Orangefest” activities.

On the other hand they utterly oppose commemoration of the introduction of internment without trial by the British. The alternative offered to the nationalist youth is the summer schools and discos – not alternative methods of defiance but to accept pacification, Sinn Fein’s view is that the national question has been resolved and that we now live in the best of all possible worlds.

The reformist socialist groups hardly covered themselves in glory. The Socialist Party yet again announced its neutrality by denouncing all …ALL… sectarianism from ALL sides. When the council initiative was announced they did not demand that council workers be protected in carrying out their duties but that they should not be “put in the front line.” The SWP supported Sinn Fein, under the illusion that putting “trade union and community” at the end of a resolution made it left wing. They demurred from the eviction threats, arguing that more social services were the answer, but held to their position that there was no political justification for these sorts of nationalist demonstrations in the new Northern Ireland.

The socialist position surely, is basically a democratic one. If people want to commemorate with bonfires they should have them. They would have to be held away from buildings and laws relating to incitement of racism, sectarianism and the issue of environmental controls should apply.

If the organisers of bonfires are exempt from law and regulation then that is because we live in a sectarian state. Socialists should oppose the state, not wring their hands in the ashes of the fires.

 

This article was first posted at:- http://socialistdemocracy.org/RecentArticles/RecentBonfireOfTheVanities.html

 

2. THE TWELFTH IN IRELAND

Emma Little Pengelly supports the flying of UVF flags over houses in South Belfast

 

Triangle of hate – or is it a quadrilateral?

The DUP-Conservative party pact in Britain led to a greater than usual focus on Orange demonstrations in Ireland and to expressions of horror and disgust at what was observed. There was widespread horror at the expressions of sectarian and racist hatred around the Orange celebrations, combined with incredulity at the impunity of the organisers in relation to fire safety and pollution laws and the collaboration of local councils in paying grants and storing wood. Continue reading “TAKING A CLOSER LOOK AT THE REALITY OF NORTHERN IRELAND”

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Jan 17 2014

REPUBLICAN SOCIALISM AND LEFT UNITY

Steve Freeman of the Republican Socialist Alliance in England spoke, along with Bernadette McAliskey and Mary MacGregor (RCN) at the ‘break-up of the UK’ session at the Radical Independence Conference on 23rd November in Glasgow. The following week on November 30th in London Steve spoke at the Left Unity Party founding conference putting the case for a socialist republican strategy which recognised the significance of the forthcoming Scottish independence referendum. In this article Steve analyses the various political forces to be found at this conference.

Continue reading “REPUBLICAN SOCIALISM AND LEFT UNITY”

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Mar 25 2013

THE CRISIS IN THE SWP:- The failure of the Central Committee’s ‘recruit, recruit, recruit’ tactics

This article  examines one aspect of the current crisis enveloping the SWP. The SWP has not had a  programme, so it has no real strategy for achieving the socialism it claims to support. Instead, the SWP leadership concentrates on the tactics it thinks will bring it new members. In the SWP leadership’s thinking, socialism will come about through an arithmetical increase in SWP members. Allan Armstrong, himself a former member of the SWP and its predecessor organisation, the International Socialists between 1972-82, looks into the history of the SWP’s lack of programme and strategy, and some of the results of its concentration on recruitment tactics.

thThe SWP is currently undergoing a severe, and possibly a terminal crisis. The immediate causes of this crisis lie in the expulsion of four members for planning to meet to form a faction before the 2013 Party Conference; and the allegations of sexual assault directed against Central Committee (CC) member, ‘Comrade Delta’. As elsewhere in Britain, Scottish SWP members are divided between CC loyalists and dissidents.

Just before this crisis exploded into the public arena, the SWP published a contribution to the Scottish independence referendum debate – Scotland – Yes to independence, No to nationalism. This pamphlet has been written the SWP’s Scottish organiser, Keir McKechnie. SWP organisers are appointed by the CC. So, there can be little doubt, where Keir’s allegiances lie in the current dispute in the SWP.

Continue reading “THE CRISIS IN THE SWP:- The failure of the Central Committee’s ‘recruit, recruit, recruit’ tactics”

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