Danny, a member from Liverpool, writes on his experience of getting involved with Red Fightback.
The 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.
- Patrick Doherty
- Gerald Donaghy
- John Duddy
- Hugh Gilmour
- Michael Kelly
- Michael McDaid
- Kevin McElhinney
- Bernard McGuigan
- Gerard McKinney
- William McKinney
- William Nash
- James Wray
- John Young
- John Johnston
The 30th of January marks 50 years since Bloody Sunday, when “elite” British forces shot over 100 live rounds into a peaceful civil rights march in Derry, hitting 26 people & killing 14. Some were shot when trying to escape from the soldiers, and others when trying to tend to those already gunned down. Subsequent investigations - at first a whitewash and finally a partial admittance of guilt, have led to no convictions. To this day, those involved in acts of extreme violence in the region have faced no repercussions, and are given funerals where they are celebrated as “heroes”.
This was just one of many crimes committed against the civilian population of the occupied 6 counties, either directly by British military or police forces, or through collusion with unionist militias. Through acts of violence & political and economic coercion, British forces have maintained, exacerbated, and exploited sectarianism to retain control of the north of the island, in some cases with the complicity of the government in Dublin.
Much has been made obscure about the reality of “Northern Ireland”. From its very beginning, following the success of the Easter Rising in 1916, the British forces were on their way out of Ireland. However, despite the 1918 all-Ireland election delivering a democratic mandate for a unified Ireland (73 Sinn Féin seats vs. Unionists’ 26,) this could not be allowed by British Imperialism. Partition was proposed as a means of saving face and of punishing the successful Irish revolutionaries, though not even its advocates were particularly enthused by the idea - in fact, which counties were to be included was not decided until very late. In the end, a larger area including Donegal was rejected since it was felt that the Catholic to Protestant ratio would favour the former. Equally, a 4-state, more heavily Protestant region was felt to be unviably small. A balance whereby a minority of Catholics could be suppressed, with benefits accruing to a loyal Protestant base, was an explicit aim when constructing the statelet. From this unfortunate beginning, a culture of hyper-sectarianism has been cultivated, with even ‘insufficiently loyal’ Protestants subject to intimidation and violence, alongside the segregation and economic & political repression of the Catholic communities. All of this has helped divide the working classes of both groups north of the border, and on the island as a whole, with rapacious capitalism and attendant levels of deprivation and inequality in both regions. The two states, as ‘mirror images’ of one another, have stalled and driven back the promise and possibility of Ireland’s liberatory struggles, and have succeeded in entrenching far-rightists in the north and Catholic fundamentalist/tax haven compradors in the south.
The left in Britain have for too long been quiet on the topic of the occupation, which distorts class struggle on both sides of the border, and on our own island. Reunification is an opportunity for the rejection of the sectarian terrors of the occupied 6 counties, as well as the neoliberal policies of the Republic. The establishment of a Socialist Republican Ireland would moreover be a huge boost for the working class in Britain, western Europe, and beyond. James Connolly argued over 100 years ago that "... no English [socialist] fails to recognise clearly that the crash which would betoken the fall of the ruling class in Ireland would sound the tocsin for the revolt of the disinherited in England" and it remains true today.
Some argue that since the Belfast agreement such arguments are outdated, but even now the existence of the partition affects all of our political systems. We’ve seen Tory governments relying on, and therefore facilitating the rule of, the far-right DUP party in Stormont. We’ve seen collusion between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in order to prevent Sinn Féin from governing the Free State, and how the arguments over Brexit have pushed the Dublin government to rely further on the anti-democratic EU (whose post-crash austerity ‘fiscal discipline’ policies particularly affected the population of the Republic). And we’ve seen the repeated (and ongoing) failure of power-sharing north of the border. None of these outcomes are delivering for the working class of each respective region; meanwhile, much like everywhere else, the wealth of the richest has increased massively in recent years.
Red Fightback refuses to organise in Ireland, instead recognising that the working and oppressed people of Ireland are more than able to lead their own struggle, and do not need any Brit or “British Justice” to help them. We offer our support and solidarity to Irish Republican Socialist organisations.
Tochfaidh ár laetha go léir le chéile! Na hOibrithe Éireannach agus Breatainach!
Kieran Allen, 2021. 32 Counties, Chapter 1 ↩︎
Marx had argued likewise in a letter to Kugelmann, 29 Nov 1869, quoted in The Selected Political Writings, Verso, 2019, P. 849 ↩︎
Connolly, Erin’s Hope, quoted in Selected Political Writings, Jonathan Cape, 1973, P. 188 ↩︎
A particularly pertinent example of its anti-democratic nature—when Ireland rejected the Lisbon treaty in 2008, “the Irish were intimidated to voting again to give the correct answer.” (Allen, 2021) After the Republic’s heavily-financialised economy was particularly damaged by the 2008 financial crash, the promise of further financial support helped seal the deal. ↩︎