5 December 2002 Edition

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Mala Poist

Well done, Roslea

A Chairde,

Well done to the republicans of Roslea, Co Fermanagh who organised and attended the demilitarisation protest in their area on Sunday 24 November last. The two photographs carried in last week's "An Phoblacht" truly captured the classic moment as British soldiers held their heads in shame as protesters carried placards pointing at the soldiers carrying the slogan "Get this gunman off our streets".

This is a fantastic example of radical action, of campaigning at its very best. I don't think I'm being presumptuous by predicting that one of the two photos of the protest carried in last week's " An Phoblacht" will feature in next year's "Republican Resistance" calender, for they certainly merit a place in it.

John Gollogly
Sinn Féin, Clones,
Co Monaghan

Castlerea prisoners thank campaigners

A Chairde,

On behalf of the Republican Prisoners known as the 'Castlerea Five,' I would like to thank the new 'Free The Castlerea Campaign Group' in Strabane for their recent visit to Castlerea Prison. The group briefed us on their intention to organise protests, lobby elected representatives, write letters etc to secure our release under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA). In contravention of the GFA, and for purely domestic political reasons, we continue to be held as political hostages by the Dublin government.

The group is organising a protest march from Strabane to Lifford on Saturday 7 December. The march leaves Casement Place at 1pm and I would call on the republican community in Tyrone and Donegal to support the march. Hopefully this march will encourage other areas to follow suit. The Dublin government's commitment to release all qualifying political prisoners under the terms of the GFA has not been honoured and along with Mick O'Neill, John Quinn, Jerry Sheehy and Kevin Walsh, I am asking for you to show your support for all upcoming events planned by the 'Free the Castlerea Five' campaign group.

Pearse McCauley,
Castlerea Prison

Neutrality doublespeak

A Chairde,

During the debate on the Nice Referendum, the government were very keen to assure us that our neutrality was being copper fastened and safeguarded.

In reality, however, the American Air Force are still being given free reign to our skies and to the facilities at Shannon Airport. The government also completely refused to allow a debate in Leinster House on the proposed UN resolution on Iraq prior to the vote on the United Nations Security Council. And now only two weeks ago, the Minister for Europe Dick Roche, who sold the Nice Referendum as a vote for neutrality, attended the NATO summit in Prague.

There is absolutely no reason whatsoever why Irish representatives should be attending a meeting to discuss the expansion of NATO, unless they find it legitimate and indeed are actively in favour of it?

Why did the government tell us that they favoured Irish neutrality and then demonstrate that they are, in practice, pursuing a totally different direction in Irish foreign policy?

It is perhaps foolish to complain that this particular government find it so easy to tell blatant lies to the people of this country. After all they do it so often!

Kiera Doyle,
Co Wexford.

Kathleen Maher

A Chairde,

I was privileged to have known Kathleen Maher and to have worked with (and been told off by!) her on many campaigns for over 20 years.

Kathleen's death is a great loss, not only for her loved ones, but also for the whole community in Ballymun. She was involved in almost every progressive campaign in the area in the past 25 years. From the refusal of the Shamrock and Willows bars to serve women, the closure of the Bank of Ireland, the Job Centre, the Horse Club, the new Law Centre and, of course, the Women's Centre, Kathleen was to the forefront of challenging the authorities and standing up for the underdog. It hard to accept that all that drive, energy and commitment is gone.

Well, maybe not. On the Friday before she died, Kathleen asked me to come in to discuss yet another campaign, this time very personal to her - to find the causes of the abnormally high incidence of cancers in Belclare and Poppintree and other parts of Ballymun. We owe it to Kathleen, and to the far too many others who have died prematurely of cancer, to force the authorities to establish the source of so much suffering. And, as Kathleen would have insisted, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

Sean Marlow
Ballymun Sinn Féin

The Civil War

A Chara,

It was good to see An Phoblacht mark the 80th anniversary of the Civil War, but perhaps what was missing from last week's article was an analysis of why the conflict ocurred and what lessons it holds for present day republicans

The treaty, of course, was not a stepping stone towards the Republic, but a connivance between a section of the Irish capitalist class and British imperialism, at the expense of the ordinary working class IRA volunteers who had made the revolution possible. It was a triumph for imperialism, as it copper-fastened partition, and installed in the new Free State a reactionary clique who over the next decade were only too willing to uphold the economic and political interests of the British ruling class

The problem for republicans in 1922 was their failure to understand the class forces which underpinned the Treaty and their belief that unity with their ex-colleagues might still be possible. This was the strategy of de Valera, and it was hopelessly ineffective, resulting in the IRA being sleepwalked towards massacre.

The best analysis of the treaty and civil war period was that offered by Roddy Connolly in his 'Republican Struggle in Ireland' pamphlet. Written in 1922, this work is still infinitely more valuable than the guff which often passes for the history of this period, and should be required reading for all republicans today.

Connolly, son of James and himself involved in the Rising as a 15-year-old boy, set up the Communist Party of Ireland in late 1921 along with his friend Sean McLoughlin, a remarkable Volunteer who at age 16 was promoted to the rank of Commandant by James Connolly during Easter week. The CPI was the first political party to oppose the treaty and over the next few months attempted to open the eyes of the republican leadership to the fate that was being stored for them by Collins and Co.

When the civil war began, the CPI fought alongside the IRA, with McLoughlin leading a flying column in Tipperary and Connolly helping to guard various republican posts in Dublin. They urged republican leaders to adopt a socialist programme, in order to swing Irish workers behind them, and helped to convince Liam Mellows that this was the right course to take. Mellows' famous 'Notes fron Mountjoy' were based on a document drawn up by Connolly and a Comintern agent, Michael Borodin.

Unfortunately, the republican leadership on the outside did not implement this policy. As a consequence the IRA were eventually isolated and crushed by the neo-colonial Free State regime.

The main lessons to be learned from the civil war period are that any compromise with imperialism can only result in it being strengthened, and that any republican strategy which divorces itself from the struggles of the Irish working class will end up either angling for such a compromise, or being left powerless to prevent it.

Conor Magill

Free the Colombia Three

A Chairde,

Recently Sinn Féin in Wexford were pleased to host a group of young people from the New Lodge Road and Ardoyne areas of North Belfast. Their visit was part of a number of ongoing projects by republican ex-prisoners and community workers, to educate nationalist youth in anti-sectarianism projects.

These young people visited the heritage centre in Westgate, the 1798 centre in Enniscorthy and were given a talk on Oulart Hill by local historian Brian Cleary. Their trip was extremely informative and beneficial, as many had been unaware that the 1798 rebellion was led by prominent members of the Protestant community. Sectarianism was an evil encouraged as a tool by those who sought to divide and conquer but has never had any part to play in Irish republicanism.

Joe Doherty, ex-prisoner and now a leading community worker in North Belfast, has expressed many thanks to Brian Cleary and Martin McDonald for the courtesy that they extended during their visit.

Former prisoner Joe Doherty is currently on a trip to Kosovo with an inter-community youth group. There, young people from both sides of the community are learning about each other as well as sharing their experiences of conflict resolution with the Youth of Kosovo.

Republicans have also frequenty visited South Africa, the Middle East and many other areas of international conflict in order to observe and learn from individual experiences of conflict resolution.

Unfortunately, while three such republicans were observing the peace process in Colombia, they became hostages to Colombian, British and American political vested interests, and are now set to face their second Christmas in prison for their efforts.

There is no evidence or justification for holding these men in prison. Their only crime was travelling on false passports, which they were advised to do for their own safety.

They have become political pawns. How can they receive a fair trial when so many powerful interests wish to condemn them in a country where 28 defence lawyers have been murdered in recent years? Where the president of that country has already declared them guilty? Where they are set to face a court with no jury?

We would do well to remember those same vested interests who held the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four in prison for so many years.

The families of Niall Connolly, (who played a role in the protests at Carnsore point), Martin McCauley and James Monaghan have asked that the Irish government appoint a legal observer to this trial.

Let us not wait for 15 or 17 years as we did in the case of the Birmingham Six. It is imperative that the government use every means at their discretion to have these three Irish men brought home now.

David Forde,
Dunne/Kelly Cumann,
Sinn Féin,

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1