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Rebellion in Dublin

Youth attack pro-British parade and corporate symbols

Published Mar 5, 2006 9:01 AM

When reactionary “Orange” Protestant organizations attempted to march on Feb. 25 in Dublin, Ireland, a mostly spontaneous rebellion decisively shut down the parade.

Before the rebellion.

The label “Orange” refers to the victory in 1690 of Protestant King William of Orange over Catholic King James II, which intensified British colonial rule over Ireland. Today, the Unionist movement in Northern Ireland and its extreme faction of Loyalists remain loyal to the British crown and favor continued union with Britain. These Loyalists receive backing from Britain, which still occupies six counties in the North of Ireland.

Each year on July 12 these Klan-like organ izations celebrate William of Orange’s victory by laying siege to nationalist, primarily Catholic, communities, parading through their towns. The Loyal ists count on support from Britain, especially when they meet resistance from Republican forces, who are trying to liberate Ireland from imperialist occupation and unite their country in one Irish Republic.

Youths set up barricades
in Dublin.

This year, Unionist organizers named their divisive parade in Dublin “Love Ulster,” their name for the six northern counties that are not part of the Irish Republic.

On Feb. 25, Orange parade participants, mostly from the north, lined up for the event. The march was organized by various groups, including Families Acting for Innocent Relatives (Fair) and Unionists from the Dublin City Council. Their intent was to march down O’Connell Street past the General Post Office—a revered site of the 1916 Easter Rising for Ireland’s freedom.

This April is the 90th anniversary of that uprising, led by James Connolly. It is also the 25th anniversary of the deaths of 10 hunger strikers in 1981. Led by Bobby Sands, these Irish Republican Army members behind bars had fasted to the death to demand recognition of their status as political prisoners.

As the Unionists attempted to march, they were confronted initially by a youthful group of several hundred, according to press accounts. The reactionaries turned back after being pelted with bricks, home-made petrol projectiles and rocks, which also hit several Irish police, or gardai, who were present.

As the gardai moved in to suppress the resistance, the counter-demonstration grew to over 1,000. During pitched battles that lasted more than three hours in Dublin Center and on nearby city streets, some of the protesters smashed windows of stores seen as most representative of capitalism and imperialism, such as McDonalds.

Eventually the Irish police placed the “Orangies” on buses and sent them packing. The Loyalists have vowed to return soon, possibly within the next month, reports the Feb. 27 edition of the Belfast Telegraph.

At least 42 resisters were arrested. Irish police and state officials say they will be arresting more after viewing video surveillance tapes. Unionists on the Dublin City Council, Justice Minister Michael Mc Dowell, who called the rebellion “orchestrated political terror,” and Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern also vowed to hold a “riot inquiry.”

The British government as well as Ahern and other Irish officials accuse Sinn Fein—the political wing of the Irish Republican Army (IRA)—and other Repub lican organizations, such as Republican Sinn Fein and the Irish Republican Social ist Party—of allegedly “instigating” the rebellion.

But Indymedia Ireland reports that the Feb. 25 actions were “an expression of the anger of the most marginalized sector of Dublin’s urban poor.”

Many of the youth chanted nationalist slogans, according to news accounts, and one group held up a banner, “Remember Bloody Sunday.” Indymedia reports that those watching the rebellion mostly sympathized with the counter-demonstrators. (www.indymedia.ie)

U.S. moving in concert with Britain?

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams had urged his party members not to confront the Loyalists’ march and, according to the Belfast Telegraph, condemned the resistance to it.

It is possible that Sinn Fein believes the U.S. and Britain were using the Loyalist march as a provocation to create sharper sectarianism between Catholic and Pro testant workers and to split the party into factions, or alienate it from the Irish masses on the island and in the diaspora, specifically in the U.S.

It could also be that Adams is trying to keep Sinn Fein from becoming isolated at a time when the party remains in negotiation with the British government regarding policing reform in Northern Ireland. Legislation is currently being debated which would devolve policing and justice to elected officials in the north of Ireland, which Sinn Fein has been lobbying for.

A Feb. 25 Irish Northern Aid bulletin says that “The U.S. Special Envoy, Ambassador Mitchell Reiss, has barred Gerry Adams once again from attending a fund-raising event unless the party endorses the PSNI [Police Service of Northern Ireland]. This time it is a Friends of Sinn Fein breakfast at the Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., on the morning of March 16.” This is the second time in recent months that Adams has been denied a U.S. visa.

“The IRA moves over the past months in standing down as a military force and totally decommissioning its arms seem to have stimulated the U.S. administration to punish Sinn Fein. The IMC [Independent Monitoring Commission], which is neither independent nor monitors anything—it is told what to report by the PSNI—just happens to be visiting the U.S.,” continued the bulletin of the U.S.-based solidarity group.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Unionist Party, led by ultra-rightist Ian Paisley, is opening a U.S. office with the full support of Washington. Is this another U.S. move in concert with the British to sabotage the Good Friday Accords that Sinn Fein and the Irish Republican Army have adhered to in good faith?

U.S. controls Ireland, too

Colonialism and partition have kept many in the 26 counties of the Irish Republic mired in poverty. Of the 3.4 million people living there, over 55 percent earn below the poverty level or live in a household headed by someone unemployed. When Northern Ireland is added in, a total of 5 million people live in Ireland’s 32 counties.

Although Britain is the most well-known colonial subjugator of Ireland—controlling the economy and political structure, as well as sending troops and other repressive forces for over 800 years—the U.S. today, and for some time, has controlled Ireland as well.

Most recently British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a junior partner in the U.S.-led colonial war in Iraq, has used this relationship to pressure Ireland. This geographical area is a strategic military location, vital to controlling the sea routes in the North Atlantic and access to Europe and the Mediterranean. Former U.S. Gen. Alex ander Haig often reminded U.S. imperialists of this, pointing out that if Ireland were independent it “could become the Cuba of Europe.”

In the current Iraq War, U.S. military vessels have docked at Ireland’s ports. Shannon Airport is being used by the U.S. and Britain as a staging point in the occupation of Iraq and a conduit for the transfer of CIA prisoners undergoing “extraordinary rendition.” All this is a clear violation of Ireland’s neutrality stance.

Thousands of Irish people have campaigned and protested against U.S. war and repression.

Finally, U.S. transnational corporations are the largest investors in Ireland and take in the most profits.

But recently many high-tech corporations have begun laying off Irish workers en masse and even moving elsewhere in search of higher rates of profit. As the “Celtic Tiger,” specifically in Dublin, has begun to stagnate economically, social conditions have continued to deteriorate. The runaway corporations leave in their wake abandoned buildings, lost tax revenue and psychological scars.

At the same time, as the youth rebellion demonstrated, consciousness of the role of capitalism is rising.