Thursday, 31 March 2016

People Before Profit - Socialist Workers Party

It was suggested to me that over the next few weeks I should write a few posts on some of the smaller republican and 'far left' parties for the forthcoming election.  It's not that unionist voters would be voting for them but political anoraks tend to take an interest in these things. 

The People Before Profit Alliance operates in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic and was formed in October 2005 by the Socialist Workers Party as a Trotskyist front organisation.

However its roots go back to 1950 when Tony Cliff (1917-2000) founded the Socialist Review Group.  This tiny group of Trotskyists adopted a strategy of 'entryism' into the Labour Party in order to reach a wider audience and recruit new members.  After that it became the International Socialism Group at the end of 1962 and around 1965 it abandoned the strategy of 'entryism'.

According to the group's historian Ian Birchall, the position of the International Socialists was one of 'unconditional support for the IRA in the struggle against imperialism'.  In 1977 the group was renamed the Socialist Workers Party.  Such is the tangled world of Trotskyism.

Meanwhile in Ireland the Socialist Workers Movement was formed in 1971 by members of the International Socialists who were living in Ireland and who had previously been members of the People's Democracy and several other small groups.  The SWM argued that it was the duty of revolutionary socialists to support republicans in fighting against 'British imperialism'.  They supported IRA prisoners and some of their members were active in the anti-H Block committees.  The SWM also encouraged people to vote for Sinn Fein.  But that was back then.

At its conference in 1995 the SWM was renamed the Socialist Workers Party and it argued that the Sinn Fein leaders were moving to an accommodation with imperialism.  It was time for them to strike out on their own and in 1997 the SWP began contesting elections in the Irish Republic.

Gino Kenny, Bernadette McAliskey, Fiona Nic Fhearghais & Eamonn McCann

The People Before Profit Alliance has fielded a younger generation of candidates but there are still those who go back to the early days of the Troubles.  Eamonn McCann is standing for PBP in Foyle and his election agent  is none other than his old comrade from the day of the People's Democracy, Bernadette (Devlin) McAliskey.  Bernadette is also travelling down to Belfast for the campaign launch in West Belfast for Councillor Gerry Carroll.

Some folk will remember Bernadette as not only an agitator in the ranks of the People's Democracy, but also one of the founders of the Irish Republican Socialist Party, the political wing of the INLA. More recently, on 12 May 2007, McAliskey was the guest speaker at a James Connolly commemoration organised by Eirigi, one of the many dangerous and 'dissident republican' groups.

Irish Marxist Review - journal of the Socialist Workers Party, which founded People Before Profit

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

RNU's illegal parade in Ardoyne

According to a report in the Irish News (29 March):
Police are investigating two separate parades on Sunday which are thought to have taken place without proper authorisation.  The Easter commemoration in Ardoyne was organised by Republican Network for Unity and featured a recorded address by prisoner Tony Taylor.  In a statement issued yesterday ACC Stephen Martin said, 'We are investigating breaches of Parades Commission determinations in Coalisland and un-notified processions in Ardoyne and Lurgan.'
A quick check of the RNU Facebook page confirmed that there was an RNU Fianna Commemoration parade in Ardoyne on Saturday 26 March, assembling at Ardoyne Avenue at 2.00 pm.

The RNU Facebook page promises further reports and at present it is unclear whether there was just a Saturday parade or whether there was a second RNU parade on the Sunday.

However a quick check of the Parades Commission website confirmed that there was no notification of an RNU parade in Ardoyne on either Saturday or Sunday.  Any RNU parade or parades in Ardoyne must therefore have been illegal.

The RNU has posted some photographs of the Saturday event on its Facebook page.

Clearly those who took part in the illegal RNU parade on the Saturday were not masked so the PSNI should have little difficulty identifying them and bringing them before the courts.  We will therefore be expecting a substantial number of arrests and prosecutions within a comparatively short period of time.

Our intention is to meet with the PSNI later this week to get an update on what happened in Ardoyne, how the PSNI gathered information and what action they are now taking.

A recorded message by senior RNU member Tony Taylor from Londonderry was played at the Ardoyne event.  On 10 March Taylor was returned to Maghaberry after his licence was revoked by the Secretary of State..


Gerry Adams and a 'wee dander' up the Falls

Last Thursday Gerry Adams posted on his Leargas blog and promised a great centenary parade on the Falls Road on Easter Sunday.  He said:
It will be a spectacular celebration of 1916 including hundreds of participants in period dress.  As in 1966 the parade will be led by an Irish Wolfhound.  People in period dress representing the leaders of the rising will led (sic) the rest of the parade and will be followed by a full flag bearing colour party in period dress.  Other participants will include former political prisoners, the GAA and representatives of the local clubs in west Belfast.  The families of our patriot dead will carry photographs of their loved ones.  And a large delegation from the American Labour Movement will also be joining us.
These prominent figures couldn't even manage to walk in straight ranks
So how did it all match up to Gerry's promise of a 'spectacular celebration?  I decided to watch the youtube coverage of the event and see for myself.

Well the whole thing included just eight bands and was over in just under half an hour.  It certainly didn't merit the description 'spectacular celebration.  Of the eight bands three were local, three were from Scotland and two were pipe bands from New York - O'Neill & Allsopp Memorial Flute Band (North Belfast), St Joseph's Pipe Band (Longstone), Coatbridge Republican Flute Band, James Connolly Republican Flute Band (Glasgow), Eire Nua Flute Band (West Belfast) Ancient Order of Hibernians Memorial Pipe Band (New York), Volunteer Kevin Barry Republican Flute Band (Glasgow) and Sword of Light Pipe Band (New York).

I was surprised there were so few bands and so few local bands.  Large sections of the parade were simply made up of people straggling along as though they were out for an afternoon dander.  One woman had even brought her dog on a lead!

Definitely not a very military look
Now it did include an Irish wolfhound, as promised by Gerry,   I'll give him that, but it takes a lot more than a big dog to justify the term 'spectacular celebration', especially if the person with the dog can't manage to button his shirt properly.  That is definitely not a military look.

Some of the marchers, and I use the word 'march' very loosely, were in 'period dress' but it takes a lot more than that to justify the word 'spectacular'.

That brings us on to his promise of 'former political prisoners', of whom Sinn Fein has an abundance, and members of GAA clubs.  I presume that is the very same GAA that is 'reaching out' to be inclusive!

The inclusion of so many children, some in the ranks of the GAA clubs and some very small children in rather bizarre uniforms, was particularly disappointing.  It seems that another generation of children are being brought up in the republican ideology that idolises the 1916 rebels, the ideology that created the 'political prisoners' that Gerry promised.

Towards the end of the parade there was a group of Irish-American trade unionists but really that was it.  Oh, apart from some black taxis.

This was no spectacular celebration and all that Gerry Adams had to offer his followers after a century of struggle was a second or third rate 'dander' up the Falls Road.  He certainly didn't deliver a United Ireland by 2016 - as he promised - and he couldn't even manage to organise a  really good parade, never mind a 'spectacular celebration'.

James Connolly statue and the trade unions

Caral Ni Chuilin, Brian Campfield, Terry O'Sullivan, Patricia McKeown & Brian Connolly Heron
An Phoblacht (Saturday 26 March 2016) carried a report of the unveiling of a James Connolly statue in front of Falls Community Council in West Belfast.

The headline over the short report was 'Irish and US trade union leaders unveil new statue to James Connolly in Belfast.'

The first paragraph of the report set the statue and the unveiling in context: 'A new statue of James Connolly was unveiled on Belfast's Falls road on Good Friday 25 March as part of Belfast's programme of events marking the centenary of the Easter Rising.  So it is clear that the statue and the unveiling were commemorative of James Connolly's role in the republican 1916 Easter insurrection in Dublin.

An Phoblacht also reported that: 'The unveiling was carried out by James Connolly Heron (great-grandson of James Connolly), Sinn Fein Arts & Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin, US trade union leader Terry O'Sullivan (General President of LINUA, the Laborers' International Union of North America, which represents half a million workers in the USA and Canada) and senior Irish trade union figures Patricia McKeown and Brian Campfield.'

The unveiling was chaired by Sinn Fein councillor Jim McVeigh and in the course of a short youtube clip of the event he can be heard describing Patricia McKeown as 'head of Unison here in the North'.  In fact she is the Regional Secretary of Unison and clearly she took part in that capacity.  The introduction by Councillor Jim McVeigh and the wording of the An Phoblacht report both confirm that Patricia McKeown was there as a senior trade unionist and a senior figure in Unison.

Now Unison claims to have 40,000 members in Northern Ireland, and like most trade unions in Northern Ireland its membership will include both unionists and nationalists.  Yet Patricia McKeown is confident enough of her position to represent the union at an event which was part of an Easter rising programme.  What regard or respect does that show for trade union members who are not Irish nationalists or republicans?

The other 'senior Irish trade union figure' was Brian Campfield, who is now president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.  He was formerly General Secretary of NIPSA from 2010 to 2015 and is reported to be a leading member of the Communist Party of Ireland.

The participation of Brian Campfield and Patricia McKeown in this element of Belfast's Easter Rising centenary programme illustrates the dominant political ethos within the trade union movement.

Of course we shouldn't be surprised.  Fifty years ago the secretary of the Belfast Trades Council, Betty Sinclair, who was also a Moscow-trained Communist, took part in an Easter Rising parade up the Falls Road.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Sinn Fein's fantasy economics

Kurt Hubner and Mary Lou McDonald
There is something rather ridiculous about a new report claiming that Irish Unity would bring great economic advantages.  It was launched in Dublin yesterday and then launched in Belfast today but in fact it was actually completed in August last year and then launched in New York last November.

Of course having failed to deliver a United Ireland by 2016 and having failed to deliver a border referendum in 2016, Sinn Fein are scrambling round for something to take the bad look off their failure.  That probably explains why Sinn Fein decided on the re-launch and then re-re-launch of an old document.

As regards the report it is presented as being 'independent' but in fact it was commissioned by Sinn Fein under the cover name Knights of the Red Branch, 'a San Francisco Bay area-based non-profit social welfare organisation and conflict resolution through education.'  In reality it is a front for Sinn Fein.  So hardly independent!!

I am also amused by their use of the name Knights of the Red Branch as the Red Branch Knights served the King of Ulster and fought to keep out of the men of the south - a sort of early partitionist army.  Ah well, their knowledge of ancient tradition is probably as bad as their understanding of economics.

The credibility of the document was certainly not enhanced by the disclosure in An Phoblacht that the authors had done a similar report arguing for the unification of for North and South Korea.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Sinn Fein candidate compares Orangemen to KKK

Dermot Kennedy, Sinn Fein candidate in Strangford
A veteran member of Sinn Finn has created a tweet depicting four member of the Ku Klux Klan in full KKK uniform above a photograph of a Belfast Orange parade at Carlisle Circus in North Belfast with the comment:  ‘Spot the difference.  Answers on a tweet please.’  

The Orange brethren are members of the colour party of the County Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast.

This tweet is thoroughly sectarian and offensive.  

The author of the tweet is veteran Sinn Fein member and businessman Dermot Kennedy, who is the prospective Sinn Fein election candidate in the forthcoming Assembly elections in the constituency of Strangford.  He has been a member of Sinn Fein for almost forty years and is an experienced politician as well as a businessman.

Dermot Kennedy has worked at the heart of Sinn Fein.  He was a college lecturer before going in to business but has also worked in the policy department of Sinn Fein.  So we know a little more about the sort of people employed by Sinn Fein.

Dermot Kennedy contested the 2003 Assembly election in Strangford, the 2005 General Election for Strangford, a Castlereagh seat in the 2005 Local Government election and the 2007 Assembly election in Strangford but has always been unsuccessful.  However when he contested the Strangford seat at the 2003 Assembly election he said he was 'keen to reach out and to work alongside unionists and fellow nationalists within Strangford to build relationships across the community.'  That was what he said in public but we now know what he really thinks about us.

On this occasion his mask has slipped and we see the sectarianism and bigotry that permeate his party.

Dermot Kennedy is not the first prominent member of Sinn Fein to make such a remark.  In October 2000 Sinn Fein MLA Dr Dara O'Hagan compared the Orange Order to the KKK on the floor of the Assembly.

This is a particularly nasty element of the Sinn Fein narrative but it surfaces from time to time and is part of the Sinn Fein strategy of demonising Orangemen and indeed the wider unioinist community.

In his book Northern Ireland and the Divided World, Professor John McGarry, a political scientist, said that those Irish republicans who opposed Orange parades 'frequently refer to the Orange Order as akin to the Ke Klux Klan' so that is something that Dermot Kennedy will have heard many times in Sinn Fein gatherings.

Ruth Dudley Edwards has confirmed this.  She said: 'During anti-parade protests of the 1990s - which the IRA army council deliberately organised to foment community violence - republican propagandists ruthlessly demonised Orangemen, depicting them as the Klan with Orange sashes.'

So it's over now to the leadership of Sinn Fein. What do they make of Dermot Kennedy's KKK tweet and what are they going to do about it?

Dermot Kennedy has never been convicted of a terrorist related offence but he was mentioned in court in April and May 2010.  During the summer of 2004 his brother Kevin Kennedy had been forced to resign from a job with the Policing Board after failing a security check.  Kevin Kennedy, a former Roman Catholic priest, had worked as a civil servant for many years but had failed security vetting ‘because of historical and recent intelligence regarding his brother, Dermot Kennedy, which had been assessed and reliable and accurate information.’

Dermot Kennedy also appeared in court as a businessman and developer after demolishing a listed building in the Malone area of South Belfast.  For this offence he was fined a paltry £150.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Holywood and the American Civil War

In Holywood, county Down, there is a fine house named Carnwood House in Victoria Road.  This magnificent house was built in 1855 and it has an interesting historical connection to the American Civil War, for it was once the home of Captain Theophilus Alexander Blakely.

The London Gazette (23 November 1860 & 26 February 1861) reported that Captain Theophilus Alexander Blakely, of Holywood, a captain in the Royal Artillery, had been granted a patent for 'the invention of an improved method of increasing the strength of steel and wrought iron'.

Captain Theophilus Alexander Blakely (1827-1868) was born in Sligo on 7 January 1827 and was the son of Rev Theophilus Alexander Blakely, a Church of Ireland minister of English descent, and his Ulster-Scots wife, Mary William Stewart of Belfast.  Although his first name was Theophilus he tended not to use it and preferred to be called Alexander.

He was a British ordnance expert and from the 1850s through to the 1880s he designed a series of muzzle-loading cannon which were best known for their use by the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War.  During the Civil War his sympathy was with the Confederacy and he did much to assist the Southern states, who did not have enough modern artillery.  He sold finished guns to both the Confederate States Army and Navy and his knowledge of ordnance and his patents were extremely important.

We often think of associations with the Civil War in terms of the role of Scotch-Irish Americans and Irish-Americans but this is an almost forgotten association.

During the 1860s Captain Blakely spent much of his time in Holywood, where he had a house, but it seems that he had to leave Britain to escape the courts and went to Peru, where he lived in near poverty.  He died of yellow fever at Chorrillos in Peru on 4 May 1868, at the early age of forty-one.

There is a commemorative inscription to Blakely on his mother's grave: 'Mother of CAPTAIN BLAKELY Royal Artillery, Original Inventor of Improvements in Cannon and the Greatest Artillerist of the Age.'

St Patrick's Day in Belfast

I have long had an interest in the story of Patrick, a man whom God sent to spread the gospel across Ulster and whose followers then took it across the island.

The man, his message and his ministry should be of interest to all who profess to follow Christ and indeed to everyone with an interest in the history of this island.

For some the interest will be spiritual, for some it will be historical and for some of us it will be both.

As I look at the film footage of  the crowd chanting IRA slogans in Donegall Place this afternoon, many of them dressed in Celtic shirts and draped in Irish tricolours, one thought occurred to me.  Patrick would have had no time for the IRA or indeed any other terrorist organisation.

As a young man he was taken from his home, along with many others, by raiders who terrorised his community and took him into slavery.  He had experienced terrorism.

What we saw in the centre of Belfast today and what occurred in South Belfast last night and again today was nothing to do with Patrick.  It was simply the expression of another generation of sectarian bigots who were well fuelled with alcohol.  Such people have no interest in an inclusive day and simply see it as giving them licence to drag their bigotry into the heart of the city.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Talkback and those FAI team shirts

Yesterday morning I received a telephone call from the Radio Ulster programme Talkback.  

They wanted me to on to discuss the fact that the Irish Republic's football team have shirts commemorating the 1916 Easter Rising.  The invitation came on the back of newspaper coverage of a statement I had issued on the matter.

I asked the woman who rang, who else would be on the programme with me and she said she didn't know.  I made the point that I would not be going on to discuss this with a 'commentator' or a nationalist politician. I explained that there was no point in going on if they could not get someone from the Football Association of Ireland and preferably their chief executive John Delaney.

John Delaney, FAI chief executive
She asked if I would debate it with someone from the football world in the Republic but I pressed the point that it had to be someone from the FAI.  They are responsible for the team and for the choice of a team kit commemorating the 1916 Easter rebellion. 

A short time later she rang back to say that the FAI had declined to put up a spokesperson for Talkback, so I said that I wouldn't take part in the programme.

I would have been keen to confront John Delaney on the programme because it would have been an opportunity to discuss 1916 team shirt with the chief executive of the organisation that chose it. 

It would also have been an opportunity to discuss the statement he once made about their team singing rebel songs on the team bus.  Indeed he himself was once recorded in a Dublin bar singing a song about a member of the Provisional IRA.  So it is probably not surprising that the FAI didn't put up a spokesman.

But this raises a wider issue about Talkback and similar programmes.  They let certain organisations and individuals off the hook.

Some time ago there was a controversy about Carrick Hill republican Frank 'Dipper' Dempsey.  I was invited into the Radio Ulster studio but Dempsey went AWOL and they said they couldn't contact him.  In that way Dempsey was able to avoid scrutiny and he was allowed to avoid it.

I'm rather tired of being brought on to programmes and then set against a nationalist politician or a 'commentator'.  It allows Radio Ulster to have a lively debate but it reinforces a public perception of constant political bickering and allows people like John Delaney and Frank 'Dipper' Dempsey off the hook.