The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Derry's Ultimate Protest Vote
Eamon Sweeney • 23.11.03

Anthony McIntyre’s interview with Eamonn McCann in last week's edition of The Blanket, was as ever up to the usual standards of his work.

He correctly bemoaned the fact that he could not vote for McCann simply because of his geographical location, and due to a terribly unfortunate accident of birth he does not hail from Derry, nor does he live here either.

Due to a terribly unfortunate accident of birth I am from Derry, and jesting aside have always been proud to be so. This pride is due in no small part that this city has always been able to create and gleefully encompass characters like Eamonn McCann.

A characteristic of all northern towns has been to denegrate anyone of intelliegence or ability that finds the spotlight that hails from that locality. Derry people, myself included, are all guilty of this. I am convinced that this ugly trait is a mixture of jealously and centuries of acceptance of being the perennial underdogs foisted on us by the rule of another country. As a result Derry people's birth certificates I believe, have a section for a generic inferiority complex, etched in invisible ink, visible only to the UV rays of the apparatchiks of the state. No need then for “National Identity” cards for us, thank you Mr. Blunkett, we don’t need your stinking badges!

The redemption to be gleaned from this is that whilst we may think we have the right to heap scorn on our local heroes, if anyone from outside the city limits dares to do the same, they will encounter the wrath of the peculiarly vicious Derry verbal broadside.

Famous victims of our notoriously mercurial attitude include of course include Dana and Phil Coulter, and our latest protégé, the very talented and equally beautiful Nadine Coyle should also prepare herself for the backlash!

As it turned out those who slated Dana may have well had a point!

Whilst undoubtedly McCann will be wholeheartedly preoccupied with the upcoming poll, one eye at least will be on the slide towards relegation of his beloved Derry City F. C. Indeed at a recent match he was still passing around SEA leaflets, with the inspired soccer influenced tag, that we should always back the strikers!!

Another insight into the strangeness of this city and county is illustrated in the disunity of the GAA here. As I have recently been nominated to the post of P. R. O for Doire Colmcille Gaelic club, I have noticed to my dismay that the official county website is divided into north and south Derry, for no apparent reason than division for the sake of it. Considering this it is a miracle that the Sam McGuire and the Tom Markham trophies have ever found their way here at all.

Therefore I thought it was necessary to give a Derry insight as to why all right minded Derry people to should take the chance to vote for Eamonn McCann in this farce of an election.

Socialism, in the pure ideological sense is no more to the forefront of political activity in Derry as it is anywhere else. Eamonn McCann and his thinking have almost alone been the solitary voice of radical Marxism in this city for the best part of four decades. As all over the six counties and in the south the lip service paid to Socialist doctrines and it’s practical application in local and national politics is no different here.

Individual members of the Derry Republican movement are genuine adherents to the development of a socialistic programme, yet this outlook will always play second violin to the supremacy of the green flag attitude and is in mortal danger from the current leadership of being finally extinguished forever.

The flip side is the reliance of the rest of Derry nationalism to abhor any Republican Socialist elements or the full strength, full on red outlook of exponents such as Eamonn McCann. Solace is sought and nurtured therefore in the SDLP. Neither true social democrats and definitely not labour orientated, they have for far too long harnessed the willingness of the Catholic working classes to vote for them, relying simply on the fact that these people would rather do anything than vote for Sinn Fein, whose IRA comrades for so long bombed the epicenter of employment out of this town, and much more besides. As elsewhere evidence of the Provo’s policing their own constituency area lest anyone disagrees is increasingly apparent.

Still, the SDLP and their current battle cry of being 100% behind a United Ireland, insist on promoting a social outlook despite the fact that the ethos displayed by their leadership is devoutly middle class and the nepotistic attitude displayed towards the ingestion of cushy jobs in Derry is mind boggling. This also, from the party whose last leader, also a Derry man boldly pronounced some years ago that we were living in a post nationalist Europe whilst the Balkans were in flames!

As well publicized anti-social behaviour reaches fever pitch in this city, Sinn Fein are at pains to point out that they cannot do anything about this, whilst issuing threats to people who in response then say that they will call the PSNI. The eagerness of Sinn Fein to take issue with the DPP and illustrate ineffective state policing, has only resulted in hoods running amok safe in the knowledge they are practically above the law.

I have never been a fan of fully blown Marxism as a political system.

As a utopian model of the way forward it is as good as any.

Yet the trouble with a utopian model is always it’s failure to translate well into reality and it’s application there in. The frailty and greed of human nature takes care of that. The intelligensia who at the outset of any social revolt, set themselves up as a vanguard or care taker leadership, until the rest of the “under educated”are ready to realize the scope of the Socialist vision, rarely if ever surrender the reigns of power once taken into their grasp.

Socialism should be regarded as a natural by product of an economically fair and wholly just society. It is doomed to failure once placed with in the strictures of a bureaucratically organized adminstration. Look at Georgia last weekend, then look again at those who took over in five years time. Will the velvet revolution of November 2003 be the iron fist of 2008? Worse still, will the Mc Donalds Coca-Cola coalition be welcomed with open arms and even more open mouths?

Georgia’s most infamous product, if you needed a reminder, was Joseph Stalin, man of steel and an altar boy until the age of twelve!

Still, as our polling day approaches it would be nice to have the luxury of choosing to argue like this at all, free even if this is a sham poll, to debate a choice of ideology. In Derry at least we have an outstanding candidate standing for an organization, whom as you shall see I do not wholly approve of, but in terms of integrity shine brighter than those who have the financial clout, but continue to assail us with the same old crap.

By the virtue of his own admission, in the preface to the new edition of his “War and an Irish Town”, Eamonn McCann stated that when he began the examination of his much vaunted work in 1993 to begin the revamp of the work completed twenty years earlier that, “Some of the predictions now seem naïve, some of the judgements wrong headed, some of the language inappropriate. But it’s an accurate account of how things seemed to me then, and I think most of it stands the test of time well enough. ”

There are few authors political or otherwise, that would choose to deride their own past thoughts and ideas in such a manner in the opening line of their own work.

It however has been Eamonn McCann’s intrinsic verbal and written honesty that has attracted my attention over the years as opposed to his political outlook, although in the context of this election that has begun to change as well, and at quite a rapid pace.

Also in the preface to his work, McCann has the tenacity to admit that when he concluded his work back in 1973, he envisaged the way forward via the forces of Marxism, but that he did not actually join any Marxist organization until 1983.

It was not as if he was dormant in that interim decade though. As a journalist and a political activist McCann has used his talent as a writer to correctly and unashamedly promote his socialist thinking at any and every opportunity. Yet is thirty three years since he mounted the hustings as a political candidate.

His last foray into elections was a Labour candidate in the Westminster election of 1970. On Wednesday November 26th 2003 he is standing under the umbrella platform of the Socialist Environmental Alliance, who undoubtedly have been favoured greatly by the presence of such a vibrant and recognised candidate.

It has been Eamonn McCann’s hands on political activism as opposed to a chosen political career that has afforded him the luxury of razor sharp analysis and being completely forthright unencumbered as he is by any establishment political vehicle.

It has been a long and at times arduous journey for this man, from the days of the fledgling Peoples Democracy at Queens University, where the status quo ensured that his third level education was ended prematurely in a very under handed fashion. Nevertheless and in spite of this set back it was this generation, the first Catholic born generation to have access to a free university education, that spawned not only the daunting voice of McCann but other figures such as Bernadette Devlin and Michael Farrell. In these times were certain political party’s are determined to airbrush history and claim the kudos gained from being the originators of a civil rights movement, it must not be forgotten that it was young individuals such as these were in the vanguard of this struggle and began to break an already ruptured structure built of age and class and sectarianism.

There is no need here to fill in the gaps of the ensuing disaster that followed in the next three decades when a Unionist dominated society brought the full weight of their police force and all other forms of structural abuse down on the heads of the mild demands of the civil rights movement. On many occasions such as Duke Street and at Burntollet bridge this literally happened, and no more so than on January 30th 1972 on the streets of his native Bogside. McCann was and is a perennial presence on all such occasions.

I have always found amusing to say the least that in Derry there is a healthy respect from all directions for Eamonn McCann, but little actual support for his idelogical leanings. I have heard on many occasions expressions of the sentiment that he would be a great leader if wasn’t a damn commie. There have been notable exceptions to the avoidance of McCann’s thinking in wider issues. In the nationalist family his work for the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign, speaks for itself. It simply demands respect.

The scorning of McCann’s “Pinko” outlook however by his fellow Derry natives is little to do with anti-socialist fundamentalism but an overt over reliance on the attitudes of the Catholic Church with whom Eamonn has been famously at odds for many decades. It is far from a personal defamation of McCann but more the victory of one, forgive the pun, mass opiate over another.

In recent years McCann’s correct contention that there are instances were the sectarian chasm can be bridged were exemplified in his contribution to the large peace rallies of the early 1990’s. However it was ever thus that until the settlement of what is turgidly referred to as the national question, socialism or at least a society with economic parity and social justice, is condemned to the role of political bridesmaid. It is a credit to McCann, that like Connolly before him he fully realizes this, but it has not dampened the vigour of his thinking and campaigning on hundreds of different issues, national and international. This has been no easy feat in the face of the turmoil of this state, where in two ideologies have consumed the political landscape almost in it’s entirety and whilst squabbles abound about the territory around us, that territory is divided again amongst unaccountable multi-nationals that are making full exploitative use of cheap labour, based safe in the knowledge that we are grateful for any employment we can get are hands on.

In Derry we are in possession of one of the most educated dole queues in Western Europe.

The old adage that education goes a long way is an old adage because it is true, except that in Derry it rarely goes anywhere except airports and train stations.

The exploitation of graduate employees in this city is at a massive level.

The exploitation of all those employed in Derry is at a massive level.

Those who choose to stay in order to find employment here are treated disgracefully by employers such as Stream and Seagate, both in finanacial terms and in terms of workers rights. Whilst other party’s take credit for bringing such employment to Derry, and indeed credit is in some part due, the levels of unaccountability and dictatorship enjoyed by these organisations cannot be allowed to continue. On my doorstep I have heard the SDLP for example, pat themselves on the back on these issues without any actual realization that attracting this sort of investment in Derry they pander to those who fully realize that the purposeful economic strangulation of the North West is as rife in 2003 as it was in 1963. I have to take umbridge at this point with the SEA manifesto that derides the Raytheon company. I am fully aware what this company is involved in throughout the world, I also work in the same building as that company in Derry.

I personally know some people who work there, these are people whom I trust.

Nothing that they do in this plant is in anyway directly connected to the manufacture of arms. This is a glaring gap in what otherwise is an sincere and well considered manifesto from the Socialist Environmental Alliance. You cannot on one hand demand economic parity on a class basis and then expect people to vote for you to campaign to put Derry people out of jobs, because it suits an overly paranoid notion of globalisation and the linkage of Derry to American imperialism.

With the current economic state of this area, beggars cannot be choosers.

To be fair though this point is more the preference of the SEA than an invention of Eamonn McCann.

It is only a week since I decided to actually cast a vote at all in this poll.

Chided vociferously by those who correctly assert that people of the generation that included McCann fought hard to gain my right to vote and after witnessing the TV appearances by “our” nationalist and republican representatives, I was of the opinion that I would at best destroy the ballot paper.

If however it was not for the alternative that he is providing no amount of chastisement would drag me into a polling booth. This is quite an admission for someone who graduated from Queen’s with a degree in politics and a MA in Conflict Resolution from Magee, yet it exemplifies the futile and self induced stagnancy of what passes as a political state, albeit an illegally constructed one.

I am still mindful of the fact that this is a British election to an assembly that will still not actually exist after the election anyway. I am more mindful as is Eamonn McCann that the likelihood of his success is minimal. If however you feel like myself and can contribute to keeping one more SDLP or Sinn Fein representative out of any future assembly, then use your vote as a protest for the ultimate protestor Derry and this island has ever produced, if only to hear the best orator in Irish political life make a speech in an assembly that is the antithesis of everything he stands for.

In 1998 Sinn Fein told us that a vote for the agreement was not a vote for the IRA.

To an extent this was actually true. You do not have to be a Socialist, Marxist, Communist or a Trotskyite to vote for McCann this time either.

In the interests of more than lip service being paid to accountable employment, increasing the minimum wage, abolition of anti-union laws, a more open political system, crucial opposition to water charges, an alternative approach to the six counties that transcends the demarcation lines of inter-communal strife, a chance to actually police the police and the redirection of millions spent on war funds to crucial public services, mark the spot beside the name Eamonn McCann.

At 60 the mass of curls that for many years was used as a point of satire against McCann may have relinquished itself to the rigours of time. Thankfully his strength was not akin to that of the fabled Samson. The voice and the eyes have not yet yielded it’s trademark venom and determination to be heard over those hundreds who have traded jeans for Armani in the intervening years between 1970 and now. This is an opportunity, perhaps the last opportunity, to use your vote expediently against those mainstream party’s who treat your vote expediently everytime. If voted in McCann’s success on just one of the above issues, will be one more success than any of the others will even have the chance to strive for amongst the labeling and name calling, and that is if the assembly actually returns! You never know, Eamonn. Go and buy a tie and prepare for government!




Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews + Letters + Archives

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

23 November 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Raymond Blaney Interviewed
Anthony McIntyre


Derry's Ultimate Protest Vote

Eamon Sweeney


Boycott Undemocratic Elections
Andy Martin


Is Northern Ireland A Dangerous Place
Liam O Ruairc


Liam O Comain


Stop Bush
Colin Gregory Palmer


The Learning Experience of Rakan
Mary La Rosa


18 November 2003


Interview with Eamonn McCann
Anthony McIntyre


SEA Foyle Election Manifesto


Towards True National Liberation

Liam O Comain


Belief in Santa Claus
Tommy Gorman


Getting It All Wrong
Liam O Ruairc


Castlewellan Arrests
Green Party


Inductive Writing Doesn't Make It So
Marty Egan


All Animals Are Equal, But Some Are More Equal Than Others
Sean Smyth


Authentic Americans - US Martyrs Pose Questions for John Negroponte
Toni Solo


Call for Boycott
Palestinian Academics




The Blanket




Latest News & Views
Index: Current Articles
Book Reviews
The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
Republican Voices