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And The Anglo-American Agreement To Wage War

My duty is to speak out, I do not want to be an accomplice.
- Emile Zola

Anthony McIntyre • April 13, 2003

Last Monday night saw us take to the road at Hillsborough. It seems that the only time I am ever near the town is to protest about abuse of one form or another. Just before Christmas I found myself standing freezing outside Hillsborough Castle gazing on a frosty faced Northern Ireland Office official who had belatedly emerged Dracula like to collect a letter of protest from Orlaith Dillon. A small number of us had gathered on the 22nd anniversary of the ending of the 1980 H-Block hunger strike to oppose the treatment of republican prisoners in Maghaberry. ‘You don’t need to know my name’ the NIO witch told Orlaith. Nameless alright but at least the NIO for once had a face on it even if not a nice one. It made a change from the days when they all seemed both faceless and nameless. ‘The NIO says no’ was a message invariably delivered from some jail governor, in response to even the most innocuous and mundane of requests.

Monday night’s protest was on a vastly different scale and was directed against incomparable violations of human rights by the world’s most powerful forces. Organised by the Coalition Against War a crowd of around five thousand made their way along the road from Sprucefield Roundabout to RUC lines which were the first line of defence to ensure that George Bush and Tony Blair didn’t have to see or hear the denim clad crowd. Only those who wore the uniform of the establishment - suits - were welcome behind RUC lines where the ‘brothers-in-blood’ were busy planning the prosecution of their aggressive war.

Half a mile short of RUC lines we came across the speakers’ platform. A lorry had been strategically placed in the middle of the road by the less militant Coalition Against War leadership to impose distance between ourselves and the armed forces of the Northern Ireland state. We were having none of it. It would only have muffled our voices even more than they already were. Not even the RUC would have heard us. Sweeping past the lorry we made our way right up to the RUC and stood face to balaclava as they gripped their batons and oozed eagerness to burst our heads if the opportunity presented itself. Chants soon went up of ‘SS RUC’ and there was no nonsense talked about a new police service, leading me to feel that few Sinn Feiners were in the front line. Standing there, we all knew instinctively that the RUC were still in business and that it will remain as such even if Gerry Kelly does become a peeler. At one point two-pro war demonstrators joined us to make their views felt. For the most part they were a source of puzzlement. Apart from a few in the crowd who felt attacking them was a better idea than either ignoring or reasoning with them the general consensus seemed to be one of indifference. There were bigger fish to fry.

There was a wide variety of groups and political persuasions represented on our demo. But rather pointedly Harry Browne commented in Counterpunch that:

our allegedly leading anti-imperialist party, Sinn Fein, failed to bring big numbers the 15 miles from Belfast and continued to defend their intention to talk 'peace' with Bush and Blair on Tuesday. We waited a while for the promised Sinn Fein troops to materialise. They turned up by the dozen or two at a time rather than the hundreds - the rank-and-file evidently as confused as the leadership.

My own view was that the party that is used to puffing out its chest as the ‘only all-Ireland’ party failed to be adequately represented at what was clearly an all-Ireland rally. Comments from some in the crowd echoed that sentiment. There were Sinn Fein people there but not anything like there could have been.

Mitchel McLaughlin, the Sinn Fein chairperson, when he came to speak or spoof, was according to those who witnessed it heckled by many in the crowd to the point of being drowned out. I was further up the road as part of a crowd holding a banner which seemed to stretch right across a roundabout and missed it. Not entirely persuaded of the need to boo McLaughlin, I felt at the very least people should have turned their backs on him. A Sinn Fein speaker on the platform who was prepared to call the party leadership to book for having the chutzpah to maintain it was still anti-imperialist while it wined and dined with the warmongers and also performed as the extras in the latter’s much wanted photo opportunities, would have been welcome. But to have somebody from the leadership up on the platform purely for the purpose of conning us seemed completely without merit and subversive of the anti-war ethos. Small wonder that one speaker, Aine Fox, should say ‘Shame on the Sinn Fein leadership’ when she took to the podium.

Fortunately, according to Harry Browne:

McLaughlin had the misfortune to be followed, and buried, by his Derry neighbour, socialist Eamonn McCann, the best Irish agit-orator of the last 35 years … he took us quickly, brilliantly through the struggles of the Middle East and Ireland, forecast the future of resistance in Iraq and stabbed home the eternally pertinent question, "What side are you on?" To the SDLP and Sinn Fein he cried: "I ask them even at this late stage to think about it tonight, if word went out from this place tomorrow to George Bush and to the world that democratic leaders here in Ireland had said in simple, clear terms: 'We will not bend the knee to you. We will not allow you to use the yearning for peace of the Irish people as a cover for your imperial adventure in Iraq!"

McCann is a member of the Socialist Workers Party and the party was made the object of much post-march criticism, the bulk of it seemingly from disgruntled Sinn Fein members who could not stand their bosses being called to account. There is no doubt that the party will reflect that everything did not go as they may have wished. But the fact remains that without the SWP, the Anti-War Movement would be largely ineffectual. And at the heel of the hunt they will always be on the right side of the barricades and not trying to act ‘Clever Trevor’ by being on both sides at the same time.

Late that evening, we returned to Belfast as others made their way back to further afield. The debates continued but we were too tired to press home with any vigour what was on our mind. Besides there was the following day to be considered when we were to assemble at Belfast City Hall. We didn’t realise it then but the Northern Ireland state was already massaging its batons to deal with child protestors.


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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of 'crackpot' than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.
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Index: Current Articles

14 April 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Maghaberry Update


"We Won The Peace, Now Let's Win The War"

PRO, POWs, Maghaberry


"In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash"

Paul Fitzsimmons


Killer Peaceniks
Henry McDonald


Hillsborough and the Anglo-American Agreement to Wage War
Anthony McIntyre


An English View of the 'Ra
Eamonn McCann


In the Swim with Two Boys
Seaghan O Murchu


A Better World Without Him

Anthony McIntyre


Arrogant Propaganda
Paul de Rooij


11 April 2003


Critique of the Anti War Movement

Liam O'Ruairc


A Diversion from the Task
Eoin O'Broin


Bush and Blair Summon the Irish Contras...
Anthony McIntyre


Not Firm Ground But Wet Sand: Prevaricating for Peace

Paul Fitzsimmons


Irish Leaders Miss Chance to Speak Out Against War
Eamon Lynch


London Update


Baghdad: First They Cheered and Then They...
Anthony McIntyre


America's Dual Mission

M. Shahid Alam


War: It Already Started
Paul de Rooij


Lacking Credibility
Bert Ward




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