Westminster twists DUP's arm with abortion and marriage amendment

Demonstration for marriage equality, Belfast

On 9 July British MPs approved yet another fast-tracked emergency bill to postpone a misnamed and pointless legal ‘deadline’ for rerunning elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont, which has been dormant since March 2017. With it they also passed, with large majorities, two Labour amendments to extend British law on same sex marriage and abortion to the Six Counties. This will come into effect by January 2020 if Stormont has not been restored before 21 October this year. PATRICK CASEY reports.


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North of Ireland: local elections

Anti-Brexit protest by Sinn Fein supporters

At the local elections in May, it was the performance of smaller parties that made headlines in the North of Ireland. The Alliance Party, having gone into the contest with 32 seats across the North’s eleven ‘super councils’, came out of it with 53. The Greens made a little headway too. Their supporters rejoiced that Northern liberalism had at last broken the levee, escaping the confines of leafy South Belfast suburbia and the Ards Peninsula. The results were overdrawn by those touting for the restoration of Stormont and for a strong anti-Brexit showing in the European elections. To an excitable local media, some transfer of seats to the hallowed centre ground – if not quite heralding a sea change – was at least indicative of a ‘progressive surge’.


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North of Ireland: On the edge of Europe

In New York or Berlin, turn on the telly, tune your wireless, and Ireland is in the news bulletin. Stormont’s collapsed – it’s direct rule from Westminster and relations with the parties in Belfast are strained. South of the border, Dublin’s aligned with Brussels and wishes Britain could be too. But in London the European question has divided a bickering parliament and a hapless cabinet. In the North of Ireland it divides Unionism; there, business groups, the farmers’ union, local celebs, all plug the benefits of European free trade – to the annoyance of an obstinate Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). No, not 2019 – welcome to the Spring of 1975. For the DUP and its spiritual mainspring the Free Presbyterian Church, ‘A vote for the Common Market is a vote for Ecumenism; Rome; Dictatorship; Antichrist.’ A referendum approaches on Britain’s membership of the ‘European Communities’ (EC) and, for some in its troubled Irish possession, campaigning is underway with a Biblical vengeance.


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Bloody Sunday 1972 – still no justice

Families of the victims of the Bloody Sunday massacre

bloody sunday 2019 min

On 14 March 2019 the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) announced that just one of 17 British soldiers involved in the 1972 slaughter of peaceful protesters in Derry in the north of Ireland would face trial. This announcement was the latest in a long line of abuse and insult to the victims, survivors and families of Bloody Sunday.


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The Communist Tradition on Ireland Part 10: The long war

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no. 17, March 1982

The fall of Stormont in March 1972 changed little. The Provisional IRA knew that direct rule from Westminster would not satisfy the needs of the nationalist minority. And as Sean Mac Stíofáin later said

‘. . . there was not an iota of difference, of course, in the behaviour of the British troops towards the people who were supposed to be receiving all the imaginary benefits of direct rule. A rifle butt in the stomach or an insult to passing women felt much the same along the Falls, whether the troops delivered it under Faulkner or the new Secretary of State, Whitelaw . . . It was not the pundits who had to trek out to the concentration camp at Lisburn, taking children to see their fathers after long waits and humiliating jeers from the camp guards.’

The Provisionals’ military campaign would continue until Ireland was free from British rule.


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Ireland: DUP gets its fingers burned

A Sinn Fein party election worker dressed up as a crocodile stands behind a banner referring to Brexit outside a polling station in Belfast

On 14 November 2018 the European Commission published the draft British-EU Withdrawal Agreement. A chorus of derision greeted it at Westminster, with shrieks of betrayal from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Its backbench pulpiteers took to their feet to preach the Book of Genesis: poor unfortunate Esau – we were helpfully reminded – was once tricked into selling his birthright for a mere bowl of pottage. And then, as a matter of course, they recited Kipling’s Ulster:

Before an Empire’s eyes

The traitor claims his price.

What need of further lies?

We are the sacrifice.


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Ireland: a debate between RCG and CPGB

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no. 14 November/December 1981

On Friday 9 October an important debate took place in Conway Hall, London between the RCG and the CPGB. Over 100 people attended the meeting which was chaired by Alistair Logan.

In South Africa, El Salvador, Ireland and throughout the world imperialist rule is in crisis as the oppressed and revolutionary peoples fight to throw off the yoke of domination. Here in Britain forces are emerging in the working class to challenge and defy the imperialist state. Striving to hold back the development of a revolutionary movement in Britain are the imperialist Labour Party and trade union leadership. Nowhere is the test of a revolutionary anti-imperialist organisation more clearly shown than in its attitude to the Irish liberation struggle, a struggle that strikes at the heart of British imperialism.


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Armagh - barbaric attack on women prisoners - Hands Off Ireland!

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no.4 May/June 1980 

Republican women in Armagh jail have, from the start, played a full part in the struggle for POW status. The recent escalation of brutality in Armagh is British imperialism's recognition of this fact.

On 7 February this year the women were violently assaulted by a gang of riot-clad male warders. They were repeatedly kicked and punched. Several were carried spread-eagled before the governor. Since that brutal assault the women – who are allowed to wear their own clothes as all women prisoners in the Six Counties are – have been refused any change of clothes, subjected to 23 hour lock up and treated to every brutality which the limitless sadism of British imperialism can devise. Even the denial of sanitary towels is being used as a weapon to break the resistance of the women!


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Royal Victoria strike defeated - Hands Off Ireland!

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no.4 May/June 1980

The strike in April by NUPE workers at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast once again starkly exposed the role of trade union leaders in helping to sustain the British occupation of the North of Ireland. The strike was sparked off when a British soldier accidentally dropped his machine gun in a corridor of the hospital, firing a shot into the wall. For the 1300 NUPE workers at the hospital this incident was the last straw, coming as it did on top of the ever-increasing militarisation of the hospital and the continuous harassment of hospital workers by the British Army.


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The Communist Tradition on Ireland: part nine - Revolutionary war

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no. 15, January 1982

The demands of the nationalist minority for basic democratic rights could not be satisfied without destroying the very foundation of the loyalist state. The statelet was unreformable. The attempt to buy off the nationalist rebellion with cosmetic reforms could not succeed. As nationalist resistance refused to subside, the intervention of British imperialism in the Six Counties more and more assumed the character of open warfare against the nationalist minority. What for the nationalist minority began as a struggle to reform the Six Counties was now to turn into a revolutionary war to smash the loyalist state, end Partition and drive British imperialism out of Ireland. As British imperialism increasingly turned to institutionalised terror to break the resistance of the nationalist minority, so that minority gave greater and greater support to the army that defended it – the Provisional IRA.


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The Communist Tradition on Ireland: Part Eight - The rise of the Provisional IRA

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no. 14, November/December 1981

The struggle of the nationalist population for basic democratic rights in the late 1960s had demonstrated beyond doubt that the Six Counties statelet was unreformable. The insurrection in Derry in August 1969 and the defeat of the hated RUC has shown that the nationalist resistance to the sectarian statelet could no longer be contained.


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Ireland: Stormont remains on ice

Border Communities Against Brexit billboard

On 29 August 2018, almost a year and a half since the last Stormont election failed to produce a ‘new’ administration, Ireland’s north-eastern counties took first prize in Europe’s ‘time spent without government’ category. Previous title-holder Belgium had gone a mere 541 days ‘ungoverned’ back in 2010-11. The award came as something of a surprise, not least because the government with ultimate jurisdiction over the Six Counties didn’t reside at Stormont Castle anyway, but in Downing Street.


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The Communist Tradition on Ireland: Part Seven - From civil rights to insurrection

The Battle of Bogside

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no. 13, October/November 1981

What began, in the late 1960s, as a struggle of the minority nationalist population for basic democratic rights in the six north-eastern counties of Ireland, was soon to be turned into a revolutionary war to drive Britain out of Ireland. In that period, it was to be conclusively demonstrated in practice that the northern statelet was unreformable. Basic democratic rights for the nationalist population could only be achieved by ending Partition and driving British imperialism out of Ireland. They could only be achieved by revolutionary means.


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Loughinisland: truth and reconciliation?

Families of the victims of the Loughinisland massacre

Controversy continues to surround a 2016 Police Ombudsman report on Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) collusion in the 1994 Loughinisland Massacre in which eleven men were riddled with bullets while sitting at a bar, watching Ireland’s famous World Cup win over Italy. The attack was claimed by the Ulster Volunteer Force – one of several flags of convenience under which British (unofficial) state forces manoeuvred in their dirty war against the Irish people. Loughinisland was part of a coordinated escalation of loyalist violence in the months that preceded the Irish Republican Army ceasefire of August 1994.


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The Communist Tradition on Ireland: Part Six - The IRA goes on the offensive

Wrecked customs post at Killeen

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no. 11, July/August 1981

Imperialist exploitation over the whole of Ireland is maintained through the partition of Ireland. To secure Partition, British imperialism created in the six north-eastern counties of Ireland a reactionary loyalist police state. This state is based on the denial of basic democratic rights of the minority nationalist (Catholic) population in the Six Counties. Inevitably, the next major stage of the struggle for a united Ireland was to centre on this British-imposed loyalist statelet. And it was the struggle of the minority nationalist population for basic democratic rights in the late 1960s which laid the foundation for the re-emergence of revolutionary nationalism as a mass force in the six north-eastern counties of Ireland.


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One more body - the murder of Guiseppe Conlon

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no. 3, March/April 1980

Up to Wednesday 23 January 1980 four Irish prisoners had been murdered in English jails – Michael Gaughan June 1974, Frank Stagg February 1976, Noel Jenkinson October 1976 and Sean O’Conaill October 1977. On 23 January 1980 Guiseppe Conlon became the fifth Irish prisoner to be murdered.


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Ireland: victory against repressive abortion laws

Women rally in Ireland for a repeal of the 8th Amendment

On 25 May Ireland went to the polls in a historic referendum on whether to repeal the 8th Amendment to the constitution, which effectively outlawed abortion. The result was a landslide 66.4% of the vote for the ‘Yes’ campaign. This is a massive victory for women, and in particular working class women, in Ireland. Rachel Francis reports.


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The Irish War: What is to be done in Britain

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no.8 January/February 1981

hunger strikes

The hunger strike by Irish political prisoners ended on 18 December. It has become clear that the British Government secured the ending of the strike by making secret promises. Those promises have not been kept. The prisoners’ struggle to achieve recognition as political prisoners continues and as long as it does, the duty of British Communists is to express full support for that struggle and total opposition to the British state’s attempts to portray Irish freedom fighters as criminals.

The hunger strike aroused the worldwide anger of democratic and working-class forces against British imperialism. Only in Britain, where pressure could most effectively have been exerted, was there a minimal and ineffectual response. The hunger strike dramatically exposed the continuing stranglehold which a pro-imperialist leadership has on the British working-class movement. It exposed the treachery of what passes for the British left – the CP, SWP, IMG. It also shows the enormous task facing the small forces of communism in Britain.


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The Communist Tradition on Ireland: Part Two – Irish Labour confronts British imperialism

Jim Larkin

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no.8 January/February 1981

The period from the end of the First International to the founding Conference of the Third (Communist) International was a decisive one for the working-class movement world-wide. In this period a fundamental change in the nature of the capitalist system took place. Capitalism entered its imperialist phase.

Imperialism and the working class

Capitalism in its relentless drive for profits has grown into a world-wide system of colonial oppression and financial domination of the overwhelming majority of the world by a small number of imperialist countries. This domination has divided the world into oppressor and oppressed nations. A handful of the imperialist countries obtain high monopoly profits out of the brutal exploitation of oppressed peoples world-wide. Out of these ‘super-profits’ imperialism is able to create and sustain a small privileged and influential layer of the working class in the imperialist countries whose conditions of life isolate it from the suffering, misery and temper of the broad mass of the working class. This privileged layer has a material interest in the continuation of imperialism, for it is the source of its economic and political privileges. These workers, a labour aristocracy, constitute the social base of opportunism in the working class. Politically this current represents the interests of the ruling class in the working-class movement. To protect its own minority interests this layer sacrifices the fundamental interests of the working class for an alliance with the ruling class – an alliance directed against the interests of the mass of the working class. Imperialism therefore not only divides the world into oppressor and oppressed nations, but also in the imperialist countries creates a split in the working-class movement between a small influential opportunist layer and the broad mass of the working class. The split was to have major implications in the international working-class movement.


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British opportunists and the hunger strike

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no.8 January/February 1981

hunger strikes

The hunger strike by Irish political prisoners begun by 7 men in the H-Blocks on 27 October, ended on 18 December. By then 37 men and 3 women were on hunger strike for political status.

In our Editorial Statement to FRFI 7 we wrote that the hunger strike:

‘ ... has become the central issue of the Irish people’s war against British imperialism ... winning political status will be a body blow to British imperialism in Ireland and a great step forward for the Irish people.

British Communists do not hesitate to declare complete and uncompromising support for the hunger strikers. Their struggle demands the consistent mobilisation of revolutionary forces in Britain.’


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New perspectives on the Dublin Lockout

The Dublin Lockout 1913 – New Perspectives on Class War and its Legacy – Conor McNamara and Padraig Yeates, Irish Academic Press, 2017, €24.99/€49.99

Much has already been written about the 1913 Dublin Lockout but this collection - published in 2017 and comprised of essays written up from a centenary commemoration event - contains some interesting insights.

The book starts with a handy chronology of the relevant events of 1913-14, beginning on 19 July 1913, when William Martin Murphy, the President of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, called his workers to a midnight meeting to tell them that anyone belonging to the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU) will be sacked.


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Interview with Provisional IRA

Fight Racism! Fight imperialism! no.7 - November/December 1980

Editorial Note: The following interview was given to FRFI by members of the IRA in the border area. The interview took place in October of this year [1980].

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! is proud to publish the following interview with members of the IRISH REPUBLICAN ARMY in the border areas of the Six Counties. It is our policy to open the pages of our newspaper to national liberation movements so that the British working class may hear the views of those who have steadfastly fought for democracy and freedom against British imperialism. In its reactionary and brutal war against the Irish people, British imperialism has never ceased its lying, hypocritical and reactionary propaganda campaign against the Irish Republican Army — the IRA. The working class in this country is constantly told that the men and women volunteer soldiers of the IRA are nothing but murderers and criminals. With Irish prisoners of war on Hunger Strike in the H-Blocks for Political Status this reactionary propaganda campaign will be intensified. Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! will exert every effort to expose and destroy this imperialist slander campaign. The interview below shows, in their own words, the IRA Volunteers as working class militants dedicated to the fight for democracy and socialism in Ireland. It shows them as un-compromising enemies of British imperialism and of the capitalist system in Ireland as a whole. It shows the IRA Volunteers as a politically conscious vanguard of the Irish revolution for democracy and socialism. Their views on the Labour lefts such as Benn, the concern they express for the future struggles of the British working class and their solidarity with the South West African Peoples Organisation of Namibia and the African National Congress (South Africa) demonstrates an internationalism which the British working class can only be proud to associate with. The interview demonstrates, categorically and unquestionably, that the men in the H-Blocks on Hunger Strike for Political Status are captives from a national liberation army, are prisoners of war and therefore deserve and must have the full and unconditional support of the British working class.


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Ireland: a litany of scandal

The Fine Gael minority government, propped up by its ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement with supposed opponents Fianna Fáil, threatens to survive the litany of scandal that has dogged it for over a year: illegal phone tapping; ‘misappropriation’ of EU funds; and two million – yes, two million – faked breathalyser tests, resulting in thousands of wrongful convictions for motoring offences. Yet they emerge into the New Year not entirely unscathed. New revelations in the years-old saga of corruption, cover-up and whistle-blower persecution in An Garda Siochana (the Free State police) eventually claimed the heads of a garda commissioner – Nóirín O’Sullivan – and a tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) – Frances Fitzgerald.


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Hands Off Ireland - H-Block: The struggle goes on


Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no 3, March/April 1980

370 men are enduring the barbarity of British imperialism in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh concentration camp. Throughout the history of British oppression in Ireland, the struggle in the prisons has been a central part of the fight for Irish freedom. Today, once again, Irish prisoners of war are fighting the British imperialist prison system.

On 1 March 1976 the right of special category status was withdrawn for all those convicted of offences after that date. Special category status was a covert recognition that Irish freedom fighters were political prisoners. It had been won by a Republican hunger strike. In March 1976 the British state began its long struggle to criminalise the Irish war of national liberation. This effort to brand Irish Republicans as criminals is a major part of British imperialism's war effort.

In September 1976 Kieran Nugent became the first man to be imprisoned under the new regulations. He refused to wear criminal uniform or do criminal work. He demanded recognition as a prisoner of war. He was given a blanket to wear. And so the struggle of the blanketmen began.


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The Communist Tradition on Ireland - Part Five: Revolutionary nationalism in retreat

Orange Day celebrations in Belfast

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no. 11, July/August 1981

After the signing of the Treaty in December 1921 the small British Communist Party made it clear that, as far as it was concerned, ‘there is no Irish settlement’. In an article ‘A Fresh War in Ireland Soon’, The Communist argued:

‘The war on the British Empire is not over. It may be forced to assume other methods and disguises, but it will go on. Not till every trace of the British connection is wiped out will the Irish war of independence cease.’ (14 January 1922)

British communists then understood that the Republican struggle was not at an end. They fully supported the anti-Treaty forces. They urged Irish workers to continue the war against British imperialism. And they were critical of the Irish Labour Party’s and Transport Union’s neutrality in the face of the national struggle, arguing that they were seriously undermining the working-class cause.


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Interview with Sean Mac Stiofain

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no. 3, March/April 1980

In a recent interview with Hands Off Ireland!, Comrade Sean Mac Stiofain (former Chief-of-Staff of the Provisional IRA) made certain political points which will be of enormous interest to readers of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!. During the interview, Comrade Mac Stiofain said: ‘I only recognise one struggle, that's the revolutionary struggle against capitalism, imperialism and against racialism.' He went on to show the connection between the struggle against imperialism in Ireland, in Southern Africa and against racism in Britain. We reprint extracts from this interview below, but readers of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! are strongly urged to read the full interview in Hands Off Ireland! 10.


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The Great Escape! – Review of Out of the Maze

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 89 September 1989

h blocks

Out of the Maze by Derek Dunne. Gill and Macmillan, 170pp., £5.95, 1988.

Out of the Maze is the story of how the IRA pulled off the impossible. Like the ‘unsinkable’ Titanic, the Maze/Long Kesh prison was built of watertight compartments. Each of the 8 H-blocks a prison within a prison, beyond the blocks a further two sealed compounds, a double ‘airlock’ main gate stood between the prisoners and the countryside beyond.


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Full abortion rights for women in Ireland - Éirígí statement

The RCG is happy to reproduce a statement by Éirígí on abortion rights in Ireland:

Gerry Adam's Ard Fheis statement that women 'deserve and are entitled to be trusted' is flatly contradicted by his party's position on abortion rights.

Sinn Féin is now in favour of a repeal of the 8th amendment and the introduction of abortion in limited circumstances including rape, abuse and situations where there is a threat to the health or life of the woman, but critically they refuse to support 'abortion on request'.


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Ireland: Devil’s deal

ireland devils deal

The £1bn Tory deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) cast a sharp light on splits in the British ruling class and compelled those moving against the current administration to feign shock at the politics of a party with whom they have shared the Commons benches since 1971. To Labour’s Shaun Woodward the deal was simply ‘reprehensible’. We remember that at the time of Westminster’s last hung parliament in 2010, Woodward – then shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland – drew up Labour’s own ‘economic package’ to coax the DUP into coalition. This time around, as Labour politicians lined up to express their newfound outrage at aspects of the DUP’s politics, claims surfaced in the press that they themselves were in discussion with DUP negotiators – heaping further pressure on Theresa May’s ‘team’ to concede on key Unionist demands.

The DUP intends to play the space between government and opposition, sidling up to Labour as necessary to increase its leverage over government. Its alliance with May remains fruitful for as long as her government’s ability to win key votes in Parliament remains precarious. Of course, this suits Labour too, making closer ties with the DUP an attractive prospect. And so off went Labour’s Owen Smith to join in with Orange Order festivities in Belfast – the new shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland celebrating loyalist supremacy on the Twelfth. Truly reprehensible.


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The DUP and Ireland


A speech given by Nicki Jameson at a London RCG meeting on 28 June

After failing to secure an overall majority, the Conservatives have been negotiating with the DUP and have finally done a deal to secure the votes of its ten MPs on key questions. This deal will provide £1bn for state sector spending in the north of Ireland.

Everyone in Britain outside of Tory HQ is bristling with indignation of one sort or another. Regional governments in Scotland and Wales, which are already a poor relation, subsidy-wise compared to the north of Ireland, are incandescent; while Labour supporters point out that the DUP seems to have had no problem locating that magic money tree that Corbyn was ridiculed by Amber Rudd for relying on. Outraged commentators are asking if ‘cash for votes’ is legal (which it clearly is!) and, ever since the negotiations started, supporters of Corbyn have been going on about the hypocrisy of the government talking to the DUP - which has clear links to loyalist paramilitaries - while having made propaganda out of Corbyn’s earlier support for Sinn Fein, the IRA and Irish republicanism.

Much has been made in the press of the DUP’s reactionary politics – its stances against abortion and gay rights, and in favour of creationist education. But relatively little has been said about why the DUP exists at all. Why indeed the little statelet of ‘Northern Ireland’, which has been propped up by subsidies from Westminster for many a year, exists.


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Ireland: reaction north and south of the border

apple billions protest tax
The Irish government assisted Apple to appeal against a decision by the European Commission to order the company to pay €13bn in taxes to the Irish states.

Ireland: caught in the crossfire

On 17 May Enda Kenny announced his long-awaited retirement as leader of Fine Gael – the right-wing party that heads the ruling coalition in the Twenty-Six Counties. Having wanted to get rid of him from time immemorial, his party and the Irish media now praise his ‘extraordinary leadership’ in tackling ‘the Brexit issue’, elbowing his way into the great chambers of Brussels and securing his nation a prominent place at the negotiating table. Ireland has indeed found its way to the table – not as a ‘player’, but as a Brexit bargaining chip. Today’s ‘Irish question’ sits between the exit bill and citizens’ rights – ‘progress’ on all three being an EU precondition for commencing trade talks with Britain. As rivalry sharpens between the major imperialist powers, Ireland – chained to foreign capital – finds itself caught in the crossfire.


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Ireland: the key to the British revolution by David Reed

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