Return to Recent Articles menu

“Draconian governments, draconian laws”

Activists discuss state repression, North and South

13 May 2014

Behind the scenes, in many parts of Ireland, a very slow recomposition of republicanism is taking place, mainly in the form of lectures and discussions either of past events or of current repression.

The last event Socialist Democracy reported on was a discussion of policing organized by the Friends and Family of Rosemary Nelson.

A new discussion has now been held by the Friends and Family of Brendan Hughes.

The 200 strong meeting, titled "Draconian governments, draconian laws”, in the Donegall Celtic club in Belfast, was addressed by human rights lawyers Gareth Peirce and socialist TD Clare Daly. A local solicitor was available to answer specific questions and the meeting was chaired by independent socialist republican Ciaran Mulholland.

They drew a picture of barbarism and brutality. Gareth graphically illustrated an image of a British state that routinely depended on rendition, internment and torture. Laws were re-written, evaded and broken at whim. The British had more and more adopted a "national security" model that had written out any consideration of the human rights of citizens.

A key element of government policy was the use of stealth techniques. This was the use of torture techniques that did not leave long-term physical evidence. It had been developed in Palestine and Ireland and was amplified by the use of rendition and collaboration with dictatorships. The evidence of Britain as a torture state was exposed when the fall of the Libyan state freed the records of the secret police.

Today the British state was arresting Muslim youth on spurious grounds, and then releasing them on police bail to gain control of their passports.

Clare Daly outlined the campaign by herself, Mick Wallace and Ming Flanagan to expose Garda corruption with the help of whistleblowers within the force. At first they had been vilified and an attempt had been made to fit her up on a drink driving charge.

The Garda were seen as above reproach and as defenders of the community. That in no way represented their relationship with Irish workers.

The culture of impunity had grown to such an extent that it involved the cover-up of crime at every level. Ian Bailey, after years of being fitted up for the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, obtained a court order forcing document disclosure from the Guards. Even then they simply ignored the court and failed to disclose an Ombudsman's investigation declaring their behavior in relation to the case reckless. 

In the case of Kieran Boylan the Guards had obtained conviction simply by stating that they believed he was a member of a subversive organization. His denial was taken as proof of guilt.

In Ireland state repression and ill treatment of republican suspects continues both sides of the border. Particularly savage is the constant strip searching of republican prisoners.

The meeting was opened for discussion. SD member John McAnulty reminded the meeting that widespread repression was paralleled by widespread impunity. Despite endless enquiries no-one was to blame for the bank bail-out or for any of the endless scandals of Irish capitalism. A judge in Belfast had found that the PSNI had facilitated violent and illegal loyalist demonstrations. In a week when Adams was arrested Theresa Villiers closed the door on any investigation of the Ballymurphy massacre or further investigation of state crimes. Why had the balance of power swung so sharply against us? It was because organizations formally seen as acting in our defence, the trade unions and Sinn Fein, were firmly on the other side of the barricade.

There is some way to go before these discussions lead to a new movement. There was however a useful political discussion. Gareth Price felt that the law could be seized by the people and made their own. Clare Daly and Tommy McKearney saw the law as an instrument of class rule, with justice for workers requiring a struggle to overthrow the capitalist state.

One thing is clear. That is that work of Clare Daly and her compatriots makes it much more likely that a new movement against repression will be all-Ireland in character, opposing both British imperialism and native capitalism.


Return to top of page