[Marxism] addition to Paul LeBlancs tribute

David Walsh davidrail68 at yahoo.com
Sat Apr 4 11:52:16 MDT 2009

Paul forgot to mention one other key struggle that helped to radicalize so many youth in his excellent tribute to Steffie Brooks. The Irish Civil Rights movement. It helped Irish-American kids, like me, at that time to make some important connections to Black Liberation and then even broader issues.                 Northern Ireland is a European country which has witnessed violence over many decades mainly because of sectarian tensions between the Catholic and Protestant community.


Bloody Sunday (1972) memorial mural
The Civil Rights struggle in Northern Ireland can be traced to women in Dungannon who those are some to fight for better housing for the members of the Catholic community. This domestic issue would not have led to a fight for Civil Rights if the policies of Northern Ireland did not make being a registered householder the qualification for the local government franchise. Thus these women were not only challenging what they saw as unfair housing policies, they were also taking the first steps toward fighting for Civil Rights for their community. Using various means to defend and improve the conditions for their communities, these women were in fact preparing a large part of the Catholic population to move beyond local and domestic issue and to embrace the larger purpose of the Civil Rights battle. This substantial contribution made by women is often erased from the general history of Northern Ireland primarily because this country still has a Protestant
 majority and a conservative culture who often overlook the role of women in the political sphere. [1].
On a more broad based and organized front, in January 1964, the Campaign for Social Justice (CSJ) was launched officially in Belfast. This organization took over the woman's struggle over better housing and committed itself to end the discrimination in employment. The CSJ promised the Catholic community that their cries would be heard. They challenged the government, promising that they would take their case to the Commission for Human Rights in Strasbourg and to the United Nations[2].
Having started with basic domestic issues, the Civil Rights struggle in Northern Ireland escalated to a full scale movement who found its embodiment in the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. NICRA campaigned in the late sixties and early seventies, consciously modeled itself on the civil rights movement in the United States. Empowered by what African-Americans were doing, the movement took on marches and protest to demand better conditions for the minority of Catholics who lived in the Protestant state. Republican leader Gerry Adams explained that Catholics -courtesy of television- saw that it was possible for them to have their demands heard. He wrote that "we were able to see an example of the fact that you didn't just have to take it, you could fight back"[3].
NICRA originally had five main demands:

one man, one vote 
an end to discrimination in housing 
an end to discrimination in local government 
an end to the gerrymandering of district boundaries, which limited the effect of Catholic voting 
the disbandment of the B-Specials, an entirely Protestant Police reserve, perceived as sectarian. 
All of these specific demands were aimed at an ultimate goal that had been the one of women at the very beginning :the end to discrimination towards the Catholics.
Civil rights activists all around Northern Ireland soon launched a campaign of civil disobedience. There was obviously widespread opposition from Protestant extremists (or Loyalists), who were aided by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), Northern Ireland's Police Force. At this point, the RUC was over 90% Protestant in its make-up. Violence escalated, resulting in the rise of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) from the Catholic community, a reminiscent group from the War of Independence and the Civil War that occurred in the 1920s - this group launched a campaign of violence to end British government presence in Northern Ireland. The British government responded with a policy of internment without trial of suspected IRA members. For more than three hundred people, the internment lasted several years. The huge majority of those interned by the British forces were Catholic. Protestant Loyalist paramilitaries had begun murdering dozens of
 Catholics, but were largely ignored by the British forces. In 1978, in a case brought by the government of the Republic of Ireland against the government of the United Kingdom, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the interrogation techniques approved for use by the British army on internees in 1971 amounted to "inhuman and degrading" treatment.
Although it is common knowledge that for a time the aims of the Republicans - and their military division, the IRA - and those of NICRA converged, the two bodies never merged. The IRA told the Republicans to join in the Civil Rights movement but it never controlled NICRA has Unionists often portrayed. The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association fought for the end of discrimination toward Catholics and it was happy to do so within the British state [4].
One of the most important event in the era of Civil Rights in Northern Ireland took place in Derry, it was an event that changed the peaceful movement who used civil disobedience into an armed conflict. The Battle of the Bogside started on 12 August when an Apprentice Boys parade - a Protestant order - passed through Waterloo Place, where a large crowd was gathered at the mouth of William Street, on the edge of the Bogside. Different account described the first outbreak of violence either as an attack by youths from the Bogside on the RUC or as an outbreak of fighting between Protestants ans Catholics. In either way, the violence escalated in the neighborhood called the Bogside, where barricades were erected. Proclaiming this distrinct to be the Free Derry, Bogsiders carry on fights with the RUC for days using stones and petrol bombs. The government finally withdraw the RUC and instead sent the army to disbend the crowds of Catholics who were barricated
 in the Bogside [5].
Bloody Sunday in Derry is seen as a turning point in the Civil Rights movement. On this day, the Catholics were trying a peaceful way of resolving the problem. But they were ignored and fights broke out.Fourteen Catholic Civil rights marchers protesting against internment were shot dead by the British army and many were left wounded on the streets.
The peace process has made significant gains in recent years. Through open dialogue from all parties, a lasting ceasefire from all paramilitary groups seems to be lasting. A relatively strong economy and more opportunities for all citizens has improved Northern Ireland's standard of living. Civil rights issues have become far less of a concern for many Catholics in Northern Ireland over the past twenty years as laws and policies protecting their rights and forms of affirmative action have been implemented for all government offices and many private businesses. Tensions still exist in some corners of the province, but the vast majority of citizens are no longer affected by the violence that once paralyzed the province.



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