Ireland

When the Irish Catholic priest Fr. Hugh O’Donnell decided it was time to build a Catholic church in Belfast he had a problem: it costs a lot of money to build a church. The Catholic population of Belfast was too small and too poor to provide enough money, so if he had to rely on the Catholics alone it would take forever. He had to seek help elsewhere. So he asked the Protestants of Belfast to help him out. As you do.

There are many ways to judge the health of a society. The speculators in the European Bond Markets judge the health of nations by the state of their public finances; socialists and trade unionists point to the way that old people and children are treated and especially the position of women in society. Economists look at the volume of imports and exports and at the rate of economic growth.  One measure looks at the scale of inequality within society.

While between 2 and 3 million struck in Britain, in the North of Ireland about 200,000 people took part in the Public Sector  strike action on 30th November. Schools and civil service offices were shut, as were job centres and council services. Rail and bus services were non-existent. Union members held marches, pickets, and rallies throughout the country over the issue of pensions. The main rally took place in Belfast city centre, where around 15,000 gathered and several thousands spread over Craigavon, Omagh, Armagh, Ballymena, Derry and other towns.

Last Thursday’s by election in Dublin West came down to a three horse race between Councillor Patrick Nulty of Labour who won and Councillor Ruth Coppinger of the Socialist Party who came third, while Fianna Fáil (FF) squeezed into second place after a tie for second and third place – on the basis that they had more first preference votes.

The Greek working class has moved decisively into action. The last few days in Greece have demonstrated that faced with an approaching economic calamity the workers are prepared to fight to defend their living standards and their jobs also. However, the bankers and the various competing European powers have no option but to fight for their own interests and will fight to the last gasp. The scene is set for further conflict in the euro zone between the increasingly divergent interests of the European states and between the classes in each of the European countries.

 The decision of the Secretary Of State to revoke Marian Price’s release from prison has been met with widespread opposition from the Republican movement. The justification given was that the threat that she poses has “significantly increased” and that she had been encouraging support for an illegal organisation based on her involvement in an Easter comm

The Nama Wine Lake Blog recently exposed the scandalous statistic that while there are some 300,000 vacant houses in the state, there are still some 100,000 households on the list for state housing. Nama Wine Lake estimates that this represents a minimum of 176,147 people. Even a very conservative estimate of the “overhang” of vacant properties – excluding holiday homes indicates that there are some 100,000 vacant homes - 23 -33,000 of which are on the so called “ghost estates”.

The 24 hour strike by UNISON members to defend Health and Education Services in the North is an indication of the scale of the crisis in the public sector. But its also the most significant trade union struggle to hit the North since the onset of the current economic crisis.

The UVF attacks on the Short Strand area of Belfast over the last days and the clashes between Catholic and Protestant youth demonstrate that despite the claims of the various ministers at Stormont, the underlying tensions and conflicts in the North have neither been resolved nor overcome.

Within the last couple of weeks there has been yet another outbreak of youth protest internationally with the huge movement in Spain which encompasses some 80 cities and now a new movement in Greece has erupted. Meanwhile in North Africa and the Middle East new waves of struggle are being prepared. However, if the Irish press are to believed the waves of struggle that are affecting everywhere else will barely cause a ripple in good ould Ireland. After all, with the royal and presidential distractions of the last few weeks, the only revolting youth to get any coverage in Ireland were Jedward.

The announcement that the Irish banking sector needs another €24 billion, that’s €24,000,000,000 in real numbers or another €5,500 for every Irish man, woman and child, is another sign of the capitalist crisis in the state. Standard and Poor’s one of the main international credit agencies has now downgraded Ireland by a further point.

Some commentators described it as a “democratic revolution.”They were not talking about the current uprisings in parts of North Africa or the wave of mass demonstrations across the Middle East. Rather they were talking about the results of the 26-county elections, which saw the dominant force, Fianna Fail reduced to a mere handful of seats, 20 in all.

We republish here an article by Gerry Ruddy, originally published in the The Red Plough (March 2011), which draws some important lessons from the mass movements in North Africa and the Middle East and their relevance to the struggle for a united Ireland.

Friday's election saw Labour gain the most votes and seats in its history. But Fine Gael came out as the largest party. Eamon Gilmore and Enda Kenny have established negotiating teams to prepare the way for a coalition government. While Labour's leaders have given the negotiations the go ahead any final decision must be made by the party conference which meets on Sunday. Fightback is wholly opposed to such a deal.

Join us!

Help build the forces of Marxism worldwide!

Join the IMT!