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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Jun 05 2015

LBGT RIGHTS IN IRELAND – A BEACON OF LIBERATION FOR US ALL

Following the inspiring referendum vote in support of gay marriage in Ireland, E&L is posting the article below from Socialist Democracy (Ireland).

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Celebrating victory in the streets of Dublin

 

The 22nd of May was a truly historic day. The population of the Irish state, long seen as a bastion of Catholic conservatism, voted in an overwhelming majority to amend the constitution to support LBGT marriage.
Continue reading “LBGT RIGHTS IN IRELAND – A BEACON OF LIBERATION FOR US ALL”

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Sep 25 2014

EMANCIPATION & LIBERATION RIC SPECIAL BULLETIN – September, 2014

Allan Armstrong (RCN) has written the following article for the RCN Radical Independence Campaign Special Bulletin, which will be distributed at the RIC National Forum in Glasgow on September 27th.

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Nobody could have anticipated the rise of the Radical Independence Campaign, nor the form it would take. It has been moulded by the largest movement for popular democracy seen in these isles since the Irish War of Independence, and by a new clamouring for political participation and far-reaching changes, not only in Scotland, but across the globe. RIC has been a big success, despite displaying some of the political and organisational weaknesses found in works-in-progress.

Continue reading “EMANCIPATION & LIBERATION RIC SPECIAL BULLETIN – September, 2014”

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Sep 08 2010

Why we oppose the Pope’s State Visit to Britain

Taken from Peter Tatchells site

Pope Benedict preaches intolerance & rejects key human rights

Even most Catholics oppose many of his teachings

London – 13 August 2010

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who is also a spokesperson for the Protest the Pope campaign, spoke at a public meeting in Richmond, London, last night.

In his speech, he set out many of the reasons why the majority of the British people disagree with the Pope on key moral, social and human rights issues.

Text of Peter Tatchell’s speech at the Protest the Pope public meeting at the Old Town Hall, Richmond, on 12 August 2010:

Pope Benedict comes to Britain next month. As democrats, we believe he has every right to come here and express his opinions. But we also have a right to protest against his often harsh, extreme views. We have a right to say that he is not welcome.

The Protest the Pope campaign is calling on the British government to disassociate itself from the Pope’s intolerant teachings on issues such as women’s rights, gay equality and the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV. On these and many other issues, Benedict is out of step with the majority of British people, including most Catholics.

We also object to his visit being funded by the taxpayer. Much of his itinerary involves religious and spiritual events. It is not appropriate that these are paid for by the public. After all, we don’t fund visits by the Grand Mufti of Mecca or the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem.

On so many important social issues, the Pope rejects human rights.

Pope Benedict opposes women’s ordination. Women are deemed unfit to preach the gospel. This is an insult to the whole female sex. The implication of the Pope’s teaching is that women have no moral capability or capacity for spiritual leadership. This is pure patriarchy, sexism and misogyny.

The Pope says artificial contraception is a sin. He condemns poor parents to having large families that they can’t care for adequately. In some countries, priests spread the lie that contraception makes women sick.

Pope Benedict opposes IVF fertility treatment, to give childless couples the chance of parenthood. This is odd. The Catholic Church says having children is God’s will but denies this option of parenthood to infertile couples.

The Pope rejects potentially life-saving embryonic stem cell research, which could help find cures for terrible illnesses like motor neurone disease – saving lives and improving people’s quality of life. Surely this research is fulfilling Christian values and ideals?

Benedict XVI has denounced the use of condoms, even to stop the spread of HIV. He has also claimed that condom usage may increase the rate of HIV infection. His dishonest teachings discourage a proven way to reduce HIV transmission; thereby putting millions of lives at risk.

The Pope has colluded with the Vatican’s promotion of the lie that condoms spread HIV because latex is porous to the virus (sic). This is an outrageous falsehood and has been condemned as untrue and irresponsible by scientists and medical professionals.

In 1992, When he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he authored a Vatican document that condemned homosexuality as an objective disorder and a strong tendency ordered towards an intrinsic moral evil. Rejecting the concept of gay human rights, the document asserted that there is no right to laws protecting homosexual people against discrimination, suggesting that the civil liberties of lesbians and gay men can be legitimately limited for objectively disordered external conduct.

The Pope has attacked same-sex marriages as evil and vilified supporters of gay equality as gravely immoral. He has also denounced homosexual equality as a deviant trend and condemned same-sex love as being without any social value. He even threatened to excommunicate Catholic legislators who voted for gay rights laws.

While condemning loving, consenting adult same-sex relations, the Pontiff played a role in shielding Catholic clergy guilty of child sex abuse from prosecution.

In 2001, Pope Benedict wrote a letter to all Catholic Bishops, which ordered Papal silence concerning allegations of child sex abuse. He instructed the Bishops to report all such cases to him in Rome, so the idea that he did not know about sex abuse by priests is nonsense. His letter did not tell Bishops to report the abusers to the police.

The esteemed Catholic theologian, Hans Kung, said the Pope bears co-responsibility for the cover-up and that Benedict has failed to apologise for his own personal shortcomings during the child sex abuse scandal.

For more than two decades, as a Cardinal and as a Pope, Joseph Ratzinger has attempted to reverse the liberalising trends of the Second Vatican Council – pushing the whole church back to a more orthodox, conservative agenda. He’s strengthening the hierarchy and autocracy of the Vatican and the Papacy.

This has prompted a grass-roots Catholic revolt – the We are Church movement – which seeks a more democratic, transparent, accountable church.

The Pope has condemned liberation theology, as espoused by Catholic theologians such as Gustavo Gutierriz and Leondaro Boff, and he has opposed the worker priest movement. He preaches social justice but attacks those clergy who advocate political action to reform society and make it more just.

Earlier this year, Pope Benedict rescinded the excommunication of Bishop Richard Williamson who, in 2008, denied key elements of the Holocaust; claiming that a maximum of 300,000 Jews died in concentration camps and that none were gassed by the Nazis.

Benedict has also paved the way for eventual sainthood of Pope, Pius XII, despite the war-time pontiff’s failure to speak out publicly, either during or after the Holocaust, against the Nazi mass murder of six million Jews and millions of others, including Russian, Polish, disabled, gay and Roma people – and many more.

Pius XII was no saint. The fact that Pope Benedict wants to makes him a saint shows how far he has strayed from the moral and ethical values of most Catholics and most of humanity.

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