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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

No More Second Class Citizens

IRSP speech for anti internment rally, Ballymena
Delivered by Paul Little

Paul Little • 8 August 2005

Tonight we applaud the courage of the organisers of tonight's demonstration and recognise the historical significance of the first ever republican rally in Ballymena.

Sixteen years ago, ten miles down the road in Antrim, same date, same time and same reason, a small group of republicans, some of whom I see here tonight, gathered with the Brendan Convery Flute band to remember the anniversary of internment. This was the first republican public demonstration in the unionist dominated town; it took place against a backdrop of a media frenzy and an incessant loyalist campaign of murder and intimidation of Catholics across County Antrim.

Like tonight's demonstration is restricted to Fisherwick it was restricted to the Rathenraw estate, the restriction did not and could not take away from the historical significance for Antrim republicans. For Ballymena republicans tonight's rally has the same significance.

Fast forward 16 years, half a dozen ceasefires and the Good Friday Agreement and what is the wider back drop of tonight's demonstration?

A media frenzy and the ongoing intimidation and sectarian attacks against Catholics in Ballymena, Ahoghill, Rasharkin, Antrim and Cloughmills. Catholics still remain twice as likely to be unemployed as their Protestant neighbours. Discrimination in Public housing allocations is rife, with Catholics unable to get homes in certain areas despite there being empty houses. In Ballymena today, it's still a case of keeping your heads lower than a Larne catholic.

Having stated that, it would be wrong to classify all Unionists and Protestants as supporting the above repression, we recognise those who from the unionist tradition who wish to represent the face of modern unionism and engage in positive dialogue in an attempt not only to achieve peace but also to improve the lot of their own community. Those from the unionist tradition who recently offered and indeed did help to clean up the chapel after another sectarian attack in Ballymena are to be applauded for their courage and decency.

The IRSP considered carefully the request for a speaker from the organisers of tonight's demonstration, we are not strictly a nationalist political party, we have very little in common with the 'hibs' and chapel gate politics, so speaking at what the media have dubbed a 'nationalist' demonstration caused some debate within the Party.

We are however Irish Republican Socialists with a proud history of standing shoulder to shoulder with the oppressed, marginalised and censored among the Irish working class, this is a demonstration for rights, human rights, civil rights and national rights. No more second class Irish citizens, whether it's in Dublin or Galway, Antrim or Ardoyne, Ballymurphy or Ballymena.

If the issue of rights is to be addressed, it has to be for everyone and not a geographical lottery where isolated communities are left at the mercy of reactionary British forces. That is why we decided to accept tonight's invitation to speak.

The anniversary of the introduction of internment by the British at the behest of Faulkner's government is nothing to celebrate; the date is carved into the collective memory of the oppressed of the occupied six-counties, as the date when republicans, socialists, trade unionists, nationalists and dissenters were dragged from their beds by the British Army to face torture, imprisonment and an uncertain future. Indeed no one returned from internment unaffected by its brutality.

As Republican Socialists we don't celebrate the 9th of August, as Republican Socialists we remember this as the date when the Brits tried to smother the struggle for Irish freedom. They failed! The struggle continues today and will continue as long as Britain continues the occupation of the six-counties. The struggle as we know it, has changed and those who refuse to acknowledge those changes and adapt their struggles to engage with the modern manifestation of the British occupation in Ireland, no matter how well intentioned and historically valid, will fail.

But let us be clear, whichever form our struggle takes, whichever tactics we use, the republican socialist struggle will continue until this state is smashed and our class and our country are free.

The republican socialist movement accepts the need for changed tactics in a rapidly changing world. But changed tactics don't mean changed principles. We stand by the Republic of James Connolly and Liam Mellows. Only when the Irish working class achieves full economic and political freedom will we say that the struggle is over. Let me be clear on this point the INLA will only disarm when that objective is met.

Internment continues in modern Ireland today, both north and south. Whilst we join with others to welcome home Sean Kelly and the Columbia three, their freedom remains a concession to a political party, there are other 'internees' in Ireland. The continued detention by the Free State government and Michael McDowell of republican socialist Dessie O'Hare is a disgrace and a direct denial of his human rights. We call on the Dublin government to release him to his family immediately.

Elsewhere, the jails in Ireland are filling up with asylum seekers who come to these shores fleeing persecution and seeking work and shelter. Instead they end up detained indefinitely, in detention centres having committed no offences. FAILTE

In Mayo we have five Irishmen detained at the behest of a multi-national oil company for trying to protect their land, - our land - Ireland, from exploitation. What price now for Rockall? Free the Rossport Five!

Internationally the illegal detention by the USA of thousands of detainees from across the Middle East at Guatanimo bay is immoral and an affront to human rights. Across Iraq and Afghanistan ordinary working men and women are imprisoned without trial or evidence by the hands of an illegal occupying power that is the Anglo/ American axis in the Middle East. These detentions continue as the west murders its way through these sovereign countries, plundering their oil resources or stealing land for oil pipelines.

Oppression, occupation, exploitation, corruption, murder, internment these are the tools of western democracy, of capitalism. The tools that they use with abandon against the poor, the defenceless and the starving with across globe.

The IRSP and the working class from across Ireland will not be lectured and moralised at by national governments whose hands drip with the blood of those who cannot defend themselves. They bring shame on the very democracy they talk about defending. From Ballymena tonight we send this message: To Britain - To America our message is clear- Out of Ireland - Out of Iraq - No war, but the Class war!

On the 28th of January 1994, a crisp Ballymena morning, I stood in Fisherwick Gardens outside the home of Cormac McDermott. Cormac had been murdered the previous night by the UVF; I stood with his father-in-law Councillor Willie Cunning waiting to for the RUC forensics to leave. They left after awhile leaving behind them spent ammunition, fragments of Cormacs hair, blood and bone still clung to the bullet, evidence if any was needed that there would be no comprehensive RUC investigation into this sectarian murder. Cormac was murdered because he was a Ballymena catholic, who was not prepared to keep his head down, his 'crime' to sell republican newspapers. Murder the ultimate form of censorship!

Ten years on from Cormacs murder, they have failed; we stand in the same street, delivering the same message that he lost his life for, Irish Unity, Irish Freedom and no more second class citizens. Onwards to the Socialist Republic - Brits Out!

"Let us look to a higher motive than praise or profit - to promote truth and labour together, as Irishmen, bound by love of country, which is far higher and stronger tie than any human obligation." - Jemmy Hope






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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

17 August 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Changes Needed All Over
Eamonn McCann

Get Tough Now
Dr John Coulter

What for the Future?
Mick Hall

Why has Gerry Adams never finished Ulysses?
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Bombing London is No Longer Good News for the IRA
Anthony McIntyre

The Conflict Encapsulated
David Adams

No More Second Class Citizens
Paul Little

Nothing Has Changed
Anthony McIntyre

Venezuela: Lessons of Struggle
Tomas Gorman

10 August 2005

Failed Entity
Anthony McIntyre

Towards Justice: Damien Walsh Lecture
Fr Sean Mc Manus

Where Terror Reigns
Fred A Wilcox

Lack of Trust — Or Courage?
Mick Hall

Process of Consulting Loses Sway
David Adams

Unionism Can't Run on Empey
Anthony McIntyre

Another Side to the Surrender
Brian Mór

Provisional Surrender A Sell-Out
Joe Dillon

The Greatest Betrayal of All
Proinsias O'Loinsaigh

Censorship at the Irish Echo
John McDonagh & Brian Mór

Take Ireland Out of the War: Irish Anti War Movement News
Michael Youlton

Venezuela: Factories Without Bosses
Tomas Gorman



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