Irish Times | News Round-Up: July-August 2012

Ceasefire's political editor, Omayr Ghani, gives his bimonthly round-up of news from across the Irish Sea, including the formation of a "new IRA," the continuing backlash over the handshake between the Queen and Martin McGuinness, as well as ongoing arrests over violence in the Ardoyne area.

Irish Times, New in Ceasefire - Posted on Friday, August 31, 2012 19:27 - 0 Comments

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“Security services put the number of armed republicans as a whole to be 650, and estimate the RAAD/RIRA/independents amalgamation to be several hundred strong.”

“Dissidents” Unite

Vigilante group Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD), the Real IRA and a collection of independent physical-force republicans (who were responsible for the death of a policeman last April) have joined forces, following increasing co-operation between republican prisoners in Maghaberry jail.

Whilst the long dormant Continuity IRA have not joined this new grouping, they did announce a new leadership on the same day. Security services put the number of armed republicans as a whole to be 650, and estimate the RAAD/RIRA/independents amalgamation to be several hundred strong.

The same night the merger was announced shots were fired at an armoured police car in west Belfast though the Police Service of Northern Ireland chose not to announce the attack until three days later.

The backlash towards the Stormont consensus has also been taking increasingly successful non-violent forms, as evidenced by the Republican Socialist group’s éirígí launch of a Know Your Rights campaign in Newry last Thursday to help combat the endless use of unwarranted stop-and-searches by the PSNI, as well as house raids, harassment of children and targeting of activists while at work or on holiday. The launch attracted dozens and was supported by the Committee of Administrative Justice.

While Sinn Fein has largely ignored police harassment and brutality since its acceptance of the St. Andrews’ Agreement in 2008 the PSNI raid of the officers of the Sinn Fein Mayor of Derry seems to have changed that.

During an alleged crackdown on RAAD, the PSNI inexplicably raided Mayor and MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly of Stormont) Kevin Campbell’s home and confiscated not only his laptop but also the mobile phone of his 10-year-old daughter (who was home at the time).

At the same time as requesting “heads to roll”, the Mayor of the city has accepted the link between police behaviour and their lack of support, stating “People will be looking at this situation and asking what this is about. You would think that there are people in there who don’t want the PSNI to be accepted”.

“This year police arrested 28 North Belfast residents, including a 13-year-old boy. The PSNI claimed 20 of their members were injured in the fight back.”

Parade Intimidation

The annual triumphalist Orange Order 12th July parade to commemorate the Dutch protestant King William’s invasion of Ireland was again backed by the government’s Parade’s commission and the PSNI.

This year a marching band with uniforms bearing the acronym YCV (the youth wing of the protestant death-squad, the UVF) was filmed singing The Famine Song, a sectarian anthem usually sung to Scots of Irish-Catholic descent and containing the words “the famine is over why don’t you go home” outside a Catholic church.

Bonfires, often reaching 50 ft high – so they can be seen over “peace walls” – are lit around the North of Ireland by unionists the night before. Topped with a burning Irish flag and emblazoned with sectarian slogans such as Kill All Taigs (Catholics) and FTP (fuck the pope). These bonfires never result in any arrests despite the obvious incitement to murder, racially aggravated speech and public safety hazard.

The march itself passes through the majority-catholic and (as a result of these PSNI-backed marches) hardline-republican Ardoyne area. Protests (supported by the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective yet opposed by Sinn Fein) against the march often result in police baton charging, firing rubber bullets and deploying water cannon in order to disperse people from there own community.

This year police arrested 28 North Belfast residents, including a 13-year-old boy. The PSNI claimed 20 of their members were injured in the fight back.

Anarchist tribute to John Mcguffin

Anarchist Flag flies over Free Derry Corner

In commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the death of local Anarchist John Mcguffin, Free Derry corner has been painted red and black (the colours of anarcho-syndicalism) and the anarchist black flag had been hoisted above it.

Free Derry was an autonomous enclave of the city created after 1969’s ‘Battle of the Bogside’ left the Bogside and adjacent Creggan free of police control; a vacuum filled by the Derry Citizens Defence Association (who had co-ordinated the resistance against the RUC during the battle.)

Free Derry’s autonomy came to an end when on 31 July 1972, two months after the Official IRA went on Ceasefire. The British Army launched what was then its biggest military operation since the invasion of the Suez canal in 1956 and took over the area, and others in which the state had ceased to exist, with 22,000 troops and several converted tanks.

Despite paramilitaries being under instructions not to resist the incursion, the British Army shot four innocent people during the operation and killed a 15-year-old boy. Though the Bogside and Creggan were no longer free the graffiti on the gable wall proclaiming “You Are Now Entering Free Derry” (a phrase inspired by a similar declaration in a campus in Berkeley) remained and its radical symbolism is often co-opted by parties who would have had nothing to do with maintaining its freedom. The anarchist tribute to John Mcguffin thus marks a welcome departure from this trend.

A Tricolour and writing declaring “Eriu is our Queen”, put up by republicans on the Belfast Black Mountain.

Queen handshake backlash

A Tory MP and former Army colonel, who lost 11 soldiers when the INLA (an offshoot of the Official IRA) bombed the Droppin Well disco in 1982, expressed his horror last month at the meeting of Sinn Fein’s joint First Minister for Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness and the Queen weeks earlier saying “the idea of McGuinness going anywhere near Her Majesty the Queen… is an anathema.”

The “Grand Master” of the Orange Order in Scotland also admitted “bile” was in his throat when seeing the hand shake yet saw it, as most commentators did, as “acknowledgment by Mr McGuinness of the Queen’s jurisdiction in Ireland” in contravention of the wishes of the majority of the population of Ireland.

Martin McGuinness, despite his previous denials of ever being in the IRA and current position that he had left the organisation in the early 1970s (a position contradicted by every serious historian of the republican movement yet unchallenged by the mainstream media,) was in fact commander-in-chief of the IRA on the day the Queen’s uncle -and last Viceroy of India (whose poorly implemented Partition Plan led to the deaths of over a million people, Lord Mountbatten, was killed by an IRA bomb on his boat off the coast of Sligo; meaning that McGuinness would have had to personally approve the operation (18 British soldiers were also killed by the IRA on the same day making it the deadliest for the British Army since the Korean War.)

Unionists and supporters of the “peace” process however by and large supported the move as a chance to show the “normalisation” of the North of Ireland since the end of the Provisional IRA’s armed campaign in 1997.

In reality, the North of Ireland remains far from normal. 5,000 British troops (more than the number currently deployed in Afghanistan,) 6,500 armed police and 1893 prison staff remain in the statelet of 1.6 million people, making it one of the most militarised areas in the developed world.

Peace Walls (18 foot high barriers that enforce segregation between catholic and protestant communities) have more than tripled (from 26 to 93) since the Good Friday agreement, meaning 70% of people now live in segregated areas. Meanwhile there are hundreds of gun and bomb attacks (both successful and unsuccessful) every year by “dissident” republicans, each one of the kind that would generate front page headlines in the British media had they been carried out by an Islamist group.

The sham of normality and widespread acceptance of British rule in Ireland was soon exposed: a Tricolour and writing declaring “Eriu [also known as Erin, a Gaelic pagan deity synonymous with Ireland] is our Queen” was put up by republicans on the Belfast Black Mountain only for PSNI helicopters to descend on the sign with low flying helicopters (in order to blow the sign away) and loyalists armed with hammers to attack those who put the sign up.

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Omayr Ghani is Ceasefire's political editor.

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