When a British Prime Minister, David Cameron uses words such as “shocking” to refer to the activities of his own security forces then you know something is up. He was responding to the publication of a review of the papers accumulated from different investigations carried out by different agencies of the British state into the death of Pat Finucane. Part of that report said there had been
"a wilful and abject failure by successive Governments"
Employees of British state organisations played a key role in the murder of Pat Finucane.
There was a failure to properly investigate the murder, and a failure to arrest and interview key loyalist paramilitaries.
Senior British Army Officers deliberately lied during investigations.
The Royal Ulster Constabulary seriously obstructed the investigation.
85% of loyalist paramilitaries ‘intelligence’ originated from the British security forces.
There were extensive ‘leaks of police information to loyalist paramilitary organisations.
MI5 knew of the threats against Finucane’s life but failed to protect him.
Pat Finucane was a defence lawyer for mainly republicans accused of activities against the state in the North of Ireland. Finucane was shot dead while sitting at his family dinner on a Sunday in 1989. His killers were all members of a West Belfast unit of the Ulster Defence Association, a loyalist para-military gang.
UDA MARCHING 1972
They were all then, or subsequently later, informers and agents for different sections of British security forces. They carried out the murder two weeks after a junior Tory minister claimed some defence lawyers were active in the IRA. After Finucane’s killing the gang subsequently targeted two other defence lawyers, Oliver Kelly and PJ Mc Grory. Despite knowledge of all three targets before hand the RUC did not warn any of these individuals.
The British Prime Minister at that time was called Margaret Thatcher. While leader of the opposition her mentor and closest advisor on security, Airy Neave was assassinated, by a unit of the INLA, in the car park of the House of Commons . After she became Prime Minister, key players in both the INLA and IRSP were subsequently assassinated by unknowns, but probably by UDA/ British intelligence agents. No one has ever been charged in relation to those killings.
Throughout the seventies and eighties it was well known in republican and journalist circles that British intelligence was using and manipulating loyalist gangs to attack republicans and catholics.
A British military intelligence file from 1973 estimated that between five and 15 per cent of soldiers in the Ulster Defence Regiment – a local infantry regiment of the British Army – were linked to loyalist paramilitaries. The best single source of weapons, and only significant source of modern weapons for loyalist groups, has been the UDR. The British government knew then that more than 200 weapons had passed from the UDR to loyalist paramilitaries, and that these were being used to murder Catholic civilians. The RUC in the seventies referred to these killings as motiveless and denied that they were sectarian. Furthermore the brutal sectarian and sadistic murders of the “Shankill Butchers” took place when the British army had rings of steel around Belfast and yet the murders continued. Furthermore the same British Army refused to break the Loyalist lock out in 1974 which lead to the fall of the then power sharing Government in the north. Shades of the 1914 Curragh Mutiny!!
And yet the British establishment claims to be shocked by the revelations in the De Silva report.
They should not have been. Historically the British establishment have used murder gangs, shoot to kill policies, sectarian, religious and racist divisions, massacres, assassins, double agents, torture, rape and pillage to impose the will of the British Empire on over 1/3 of the world. That is what the Empire was built upon and the flag of that Empire, the Union Jack, commonly referred to as the Butcher’s Apron in nationalist areas of the North is such a symbol of division.
The conscious whipping up of the Protestant working class by the two main pro-unionist/capitalist parties through the distribution of over 40,000 leaflets targeted at the middle of the road Alliance Party has lead to an orgy of sectarian intimidation, violence, including petrol and pipe bomb attacks on political opponents, rabble rousing and the appearance of a BNP financial supporter addressing a mass rally of unionists in front of Belfast City Hall.
HOODED LOYALIST PROTESTERS
At a time of deep recession and the pauperisation of huge swathes of working class areas it is tragic, but not surprising, to see the working class diverted by the issue of flags and turning their hatred inward instead of against the system that perpetuates poverty, exploitation and hatred.
The full responsibility for that rests clearly with the British establishment. Their actions throughout the conflict in Ireland show that unlike the public image they put out abroad as neutrals, holding the line between two warring factions they are instead the instigators: instigators of murder, and instigators of sectarian conflict.
As part of the Weston Park Agreement which led to power sharing in the North the British agreed to five Public Enquiries. Four were held but no agreement could be reached on the Finucane issue because it went to the heart of the British establishment.
However under constant pressure from both MI5 and the Ministry of Defence several British Governments crumbled, failed to establish a Public Enquiry and eventually Cameron set up a review of the papers connected to the Finucane killing .The review was subsequently carried out by Sir Desmond de Silva, QC. This was against the wishes of the Finucane family, Northern Nationalists and Republicans and the Irish Government. But of course those wishes were ignored.
Moreover during that review only seven people were interviewed out of a possible total of thousands. Documents were re-dacted and permission had to be sought and explained to MI5, why documents were being reviewed. It is no wonder the Finucane family have called the review
“a sham.... a whitewash..... A confidence trick”
However despite this there were some telling revelations within the report.
The Forces Research Unit, a shadowy undercover unit, had started to encourage the same UDA gang to assassinate Provisional Sinn Fein President, Gerry Adams. This was a number of years prior to the murder of Pat Finucane and at a time, when a section of the Provisional movement, was seriously considering running down the IRA(P) armed campaign.
As a first step a move was made to stand for elections in the South and take their Dail seats if elected. This move agreed at an Ard-Feis led to a walk out and the establishment of Republican Sinn Fein under the leadership of traditionalists such as veteran republican, Ruairi o’Bradaigh.
Walking away from the provisionals-O'Bradaigh
A previous attempt by the UDA to kill Adams had only wounded him. Now the key British agent inside the UDA, Brian Nelson revealed that the UDA wanted to have another go by planting a limpet type bomb on the roof of Adams heavily fortified car- the only part not reinforced.
However British Intelligence had during the 1981 Hunger strikes established a direct line of communications with the Adams faction within Provisional Sinn Fein. They immediately took steps to prevent another attempt on Adams life based on the fact that
“--the assassination of Adams, had it gone ahead would have been counter-productive, particularly given the delicate balance of power within Sinn Fein
( from British Agents Journal - Irish News Page 10 13/12/12)
So it is clear not only that there was long term collusion between the British forces and loyalist murder gangs but that the British were also manipulating the situation inside the provisional movement to suit their own purposes. The head of the so called “nutting squad”(which deal with so called informers) inside the Provisional IRA was a British agent. A key figure at the heart of Sinn Fein’s policy making was another British agent. So by the end of the 1980’s not only was it British policy to arm, direct and control the activities of the loyalist murder gangs but they were also at the strategic heart of the Provos manipulating, directing controlling and eliminating those who posed serious threats to their interests.
No British review of the events in the North of Ireland will ever find that murder was condoned from the very top of the establishment. The politicians hands must be clean. So no evidence will be found that politicians sanctioned murder.
So it is now clear that much of the violence that place in the north between 1970 and 1998 was micro managed by the British establishment. It also clearly establishes that the strategy of armed struggle in Ireland is doomed to repeated failures because it can be so easily manipulated.
The only way forward for the working classes in Ireland is through class struggle. At a time of the longest recession in recent history with mass unemployment, cuts in welfare and the privatisation of national assets the working classes in both Britain and Ireland are under the hammer and need to unite and resist capitalism. Distraction like flags, or armed actions do nothing to advance the cause of the working class. Let us learn the lessons of history.
Bizarrely the opening session featured a debate entitled
“Austerity: A price worth paying?"
featuring Daniel Waldron of Socialist Youth and Bill Manwaring, Chair of the Northern Ireland Conservatives. Yes you read that right! A member of the Tory Party speaking at an event that poses the serious question ‘Time for a new working class party?’ While the comrades in the SP are to be congratulated on their initiative they shot themselves in the foot with this debate. In a room full of socialists looking to see was there a way forward to build a mass party of the working class the heavily one sided debate only reinforced what the body of the conference already believed, that austerity was bad for the working class. This was not a genuine debate but a free shot at the Tories. Simply to reinforce our own beliefs and exposing the shallowness of the Tory arguments is no way to build a party of the working class.
The second session was entitled "Tearing down the peace walls - How can sectarianism be overcome?’ with two speakers, Ciaran Mulholland, from the Socialist Party and Tommy McKearney, an ex-republican prisoner. Both agreed that Imperialism had exploited sectarian division and that the emergence of two states within Ireland had indeed produced two essentially sectarian states. However Tommy Mc Kearney pointed out that conditions had changed and the power sharing arrangements covered up a sectarian carve up.
Ciaran Mulholland described how the ‘peace process’ has failed to deliver for working class Catholics and Protestants, and that sectarian division has actually increased. However he failed to point out that
the Socialist Party had argued for a "yes" vote in the referendum that followed the GFA claiming that a
In actual fact it was the yes vote that " strengthened the camp of sectarian reaction. Then as now they argued for a alternative to right wing and sectarian politics. Unfortunately while no particular blame can be attached to the SP for the failure to build such an alternative, 14 years on and Northern Ireland is an even more deeply entrenched sectarian state that it was then. In calling for a Yes vote in 1998 the Socialist Party effectively endorsed a sectarian Imperialist carve up.
The whole approach of the SP speakers from both the floor and the platform was one of "and on the one hand and on the other hand"
In other words balance unionist sectarianism with nationalist sectarianism. If the Northern state was sectarian then so also was the southern state. Therefore they were equally sectarian. Acts of republicans are sectarian just as are those of loyalists. This "plague on both your houses" approach is essentially dishonest, and ends up giving a falsified view of history. For example read this from Ciaran Mulholland
"The refusal of the leadership of the trade unions and the Northern Ireland Labour Party to give a lead against repression, sectarianism and to fight for a socialist alternative allowed right-wing middle class Catholic forces, personified by the former leader of the SDLP, John Hume, to transform the civil rights movement. It became a movement for rights for Catholics, thereby cutting across the potential for a united working class alternative."
Two major errors here at least. The Civil Rights Movement did not become a movement for rights for Catholics and the labelling of John Hume is simply lazy rhetoric. After all when the SDLP was formed they affiliated with European social democratic parties, one of which was the British Labour Party with which the Militant tendency(Forerunner of the SP) was also associated. Did that make Militant right wing?Of course not.
In actual fact John Hume represented the aspirations of the catholic middle classes restricted from advancement by a sectarian state and a political Party, the Ulster Unionist Party that for 50 years had blatantly discriminated against the Catholic population.
Speakers called on the labour movement to campaign against sectarianism but again this is rhetoric. All the unions are against sectarianism-some more than others. Who actually supports and say they support sectarianism?
Even First Minister Robinson supports a "Northern Ireland at peace with itself"while his Finance Minister Wilson makes racist jibes about his fellow Sinn Fein ministers!
It is the nature of Northern Ireland.
The final debate of the conference was on" Time for a new working class party?" with a series of speakers including Gayle Matthews from the PCS union, Gerry Grainger from the Workers Party, Padraig Mulholland, the President of the main public sector union, NIPSA, Jimmy Kelly, the Unite Regional Secretary, Joe Higgins TD (MP in Irish Republic) and Carmel Gates from the Socialist Party.
the platform party
The WP Speaker was the only one to oppose the idea of a new party but in favour of co-operation on the left. All others favoured an organised campaign in the unions and in communities to oppose the austerity policies emanating from Stormont.
It is important to look at what is happening to he labour movement itself. Trade union membership in the North has declined by 17,000 in the 10 years to 2011. Now there are only 226,000 workers in trade unions in the north. More and more workers are in low paid unorganised service industries. Graduates are entering call centres and also doing part time-work in cafes and restaurants. It is the public sector that is unionised and the employers use this as a stick to try to separate public sector workers from private sector workers. Then on top of that there is the deep sectarian divisions within northern society.
Building a mass working class party would be an enormously difficult task. But it will not happen by a merger of small socialist groups who gloss over their histories or their differences. To be fair to the platform no one suggested that but believed in the need to concentrate on the unions and the youth to build an alternative. If following this conference there is an engagement with all progressive sections of the working classes in the north including progressive republicans and loyalists
over a sustained period parallelled with unified actions in support of the working class then there just may be some glimmer of hope on the horizon.
Missing their sense of purpose-
Over the last few years various news reports have revealed plans by one of the 26 counties largest trade unions, SIPTU (Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union), to build a new tower block on the site of the present 17 storey office block owned by the union, Liberty Hall, on Eden Quay.
The proposed new tower block would, if approved, have been a 22 storey leviathan that would have dominated Dublin's skyline for years to come. On Saturday November 17th 2012 the Irish Daily Mirror on page 12 headlined “SKYSCRAPPED, Union fury after planning bosses block new HQ”. This was in reference to the An Bord Pleanala decision to block the development. SIPTU General Secretary, Joe O’Flynn, said “The union, our architects and professional advisors have put five years hard work into this project including an enormous amount of consultation with Dublin City Council”.
Would this “five years hard work” not have been better spent working out a formula to prevent the savage cuts experienced by their members by the government/bosses onslaught against the working class? Would the, no doubt, phenomenal amount of money intended to be spent on this monstrosity not have being better put into a strike fund in preparation for a general strike against austerity?
Obviously SIPTUs priorities are more about keeping up with the capitalist enemies, that is if capitalism is SIPTUs enemy, state of the arts buildings than preparing their members for the coming apocalypse against the proletariat of Ireland as a whole, in fact Europe as a whole. It is a fact that any trade union needs modest though smart and comfortable offices.
There is however a large expanse of space between modest, smart, comfortable offices and a building which would rival the New York Hilton. The money could and should have been put into an orchestrated campaign of resistance, through the general strike, with strike pay, disobedience and ultimately seditious revolution against the system of exploitation. With this money small comfortable sub offices where members could call in should have been opened in every city throughout the 26 counties. Obviously this was not and perhaps never will be, SIPTUs aims and objectives. This is surprising considering one of the unions senior officers is reportedly a former member of the Trotskyite Workers Revolutionary Party part of whose policies is/was the general strike!
General strikes cost money, members who are taking this course of direct action need supporting. Their children need clothing and feeding, admittedly not to the standards of so called normality but starvation is also not an option, particularly when money to the tune of what this new Skyscraper would have cost is quite evidently available.
Of course there is another possibility as to why An Bord Pleanala turned down the unions application. Could it be as we enter a new stage of the capitalist epoch that the system does not perceive a long term need for trade unions? Therefore why go through the motions of allowing them to build plush new offices! As we enter an era introducing more and more anti working class legislation, arguably to the point in certain areas of ParaFascism, (see The Nature Of Fascism: Roger Griffin) not to be mistaken with the complete ideology of fascism itself, the capitalist system may be envisaging an environment without the nuisance of trade unions! Who would stop such a scenario?
After all when Hitler closed the trade unions down in Nazi Germany there was no general strike, not even a word spoke in opposition! If, in Ireland, the trade unions became, either through their own inaction or governmental legislation, redundant or surplus to requirements who would complain? At the moment many working class people purvey the impression that they are in a union as a “favour”, that they could quite easily do without trade unions! The question we must ask is why do such attitudes of flippancy exist within the ranks of the “neo proletariat”. I use this term because of the changes in the means of production from industrial to post industrial technological modes of production.
Whatever the pros and cons are one issue must stand out like a sore thumb! Why does a large trade union like SIPTU need,or indeed can afford, a large gigantic tower block consisting of 22 storeys featuring a “theatre, a sky deck with panoramic views of the capital and a heritage centre focusing on the country’s labour movement”? Of all these extras perhaps only the heritage centre bears any relevance to what SIPTU and indeed the trade union movement as a whole is/are all about. What would be wrong with having a smaller heritage centre in more modest offices with similar facilities in every major city in Ireland? Just a thought!
When members see their union subscriptions going on projects of this magnitude, coupled with poor representation along with an anti trade union establishment is there little wonder membership of trade unions is sadly on the decrease?