22 October 2009 Edition
Liverpool remembers 'genius' Jim Larkin
LIVERPOOL’S Irish community, trade unionists and many others took to the streets on Saturday 10 October to remember one of that city’s most famous figures when the local James Larkin Society and Cairde na hÉireann branch held their annual Larkin Commemoration.
Bands and supporters travelled from Scotland, Wales and other parts of England for a colourful parade through the city centre, finishing with a rally addressed by a series of speakers.
Paul Diplacito, from the Viva Palestina group in Scotland, related in graphic detail the effects of the Israeli bombardment of Gaza in late 2008 and the efforts being made by many groups to bring aid into that region for the people still living amid the devastation.
Paul took part in a convoy in early 2009 to bring much-needed materials to Gaza and encouraged the crowd to dig deep and help out in gathering the necessary items for another convoy which will be travelling to Gaza in December to coincide with the first anniversary of the Israeli onslaught (more details on that Viva Palestina convoy can be got by contacting Paul at 0774 2314 103 or via the Glasgow Cairde na hÉireann office at 0141 552 8554).
Next up was Merseyside TUC President Alec McFadden, who, in another passionate address, spoke on the issue of racism in society in England.
He made particular mention of the sinister developments taking place in Manchester that same day where a rally was being held by a shadowy right-wing group called the English Defence League, who seek to target the Muslim community in Britain.
The main speaker of the event was former political prisoner and Sinn Féin MLA for West Belfast Jennifer McCann. She reminded people that the event was “to commemorate and celebrate the life of a man whom James Connolly described as a genius and who was committed to ending the exploitation of the under privileged classes in his time”.
“While I know all of you here are proud to say that he was born in Liverpool, the people of Belfast also are proud of the special role he played in the trade union movement in Belfast at the turn of the 20th century and how he became a legend among the workers of Ireland.
“He was a charismatic and dynamic leader when he came to unionise the dock workers. He sought to change their working conditions and also to challenge and fight against the economic and social conditions that left so many people in poverty and destitution.”
Addressing the rally’s theme of ‘No to Racism and Sectarianism – Yes to Irish Unity’, Jennifer recalled the events in Belfast and the North in the late 1960s when many died during the loyalist pogroms of 1969 as thousands of nationalists were forced from their homes by loyalist mobs and others were murdered by the B-Specials and RUC.
She spoke of how these events catapulted many young people like herself into the resistance and liberation struggle, with many of them ending up spending long years in prison.
Part of that struggle involved collusion between the British and their loyalist allies. As Jennifer said:
“This was much more than simply passing on information. This was about the deliberate and orchestrated targeting and assassination of hundreds of citizens.
“It wasn’t until Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson, two human rights lawyers, were murdered that the level of state collusion in the murder of Irish citizens was to be exposed. Both victims were high-profile and, in the case of Pat Finucane, it was clear that the British state – in the guise of the British Army and the RUC, and the UDR – instigated and planned his murder and facilitated his execution. A photograph and an address were supplied, weapons were procured and roadblocks were removed at the last minute to ensure a clean getaway.”
Dealing with that past is now another contentious issue, and, as Jennifer reminded the crowd:
“This week saw Sinn Féin launch its proposals for a genuine truth recovery process. Only an independent international truth commission can deliver the truth for families of those who died during the conflict. A process set up by one of any of the combatant groups cannot and will not deliver the truth in an independent and impartial way.”
Closing her address on the issue of republicans’ ongoing struggle for Irish unity, the West Belfast MLA said:
“Today, in 2009, republicans remain deeply committed to the ideals of the 1916 Proclamation and to the objectives of Irish independence, national unity and social equality proclaimed by the first and only freely-elected parliament of all the Irish people, the First Dáil.
“The Peace Process has delivered an end to conflict and that is to be welcomed and applauded. But the underlying cause of conflict persists – the British Government’s claim of jurisdiction over a part of Ireland. It is this denial of the Irish people’s right to self-determination, freedom and independence that is the core outstanding issue that must be resolved.
“We need to be the agents of change and push forward an agenda that will deliver the unification of Ireland and tackle economic and social deprivation within communities. We will not allow those opposed to change to stop the agenda of change. It is only by delivering the economic, social and political change needed that we will deliver a better quality of life to all the people of Ireland.
“The journey since 1969 has been a difficult one and we have seen many young people lose their lives in the conflict. Some unionists want to return to the days when they were the ruling classes at Stormont but that will never happen.
“Republicans will see the vision of Jim Larkin and James Connolly become a reality. We will stay focused and stay strong and deliver a united socialist Ireland where everyone is treated with equality and dignity.
She finished with the words of her friend and comrade, IRA Volunteer Bobby Sands:
“Our Revenge will be the laughter of our children.”
Part of the colourful parade through Liverpool city