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Northern Ireland: Same old police, same old sectarian state

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A rising toll of repression and cuts is all Britain and her puppet executive can offer workers in the state of ‘Northern Ireland’ reports Bernie McAdam

It seems any political opposition to the Peace Deal or the sectarian nature of life in the six county state is a target of repression.

Last July a peaceful sit down protest was attacked by the police. The protest was organised by the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC) against an Orange parade marching through their area.

This was a perfectly justified response to an inflammatory, sectarian parade in an area totally opposed to it.

It seems now the police have raided forty homes of demonstrators and served many summons for attending an ‘illegal’ protest.

This should come as no surprise to Catholic areas well used to this heavy handed and unequal treatment but there is more than a whiff of hypocrisy from Cameron as he pleads for Egyptians’ right to peaceful protest.

As Britain tries to break any political resistance to its rule in the north it would appear that Cameron has learnt more from Mubarak rather than the people of Egypt!

Mairtin og Meehan spokesperson for the Republican Network for Unity (RNU) and one of the organisers of the protest has been singled out for particularly vicious attacks from the police.

RNU chairperson Danny McBrearty said, “After searching Mr Meehan under the so called Terrorism Act, a number of RUC/PSNI personnel brutally assaulted him then also forced him into wrist and leg restraints before he was dragged into an armoured land rover. Despite complaining of suffering from a serious heart condition and breathing difficulties, Mr. Meehan was arrested and taken to Antrim Road Barracks in Belfast.

“Soon afterwards, the former Republican prisoner was ‘interviewed’ by two plain- clothes RUC/PSNI members who offered him a large amount of cash to jail three named Belfast Republicans. He was further warned that if he refused to ‘co-operate’, details of his personal movements would be passed to Loyalist Paramilitaries.

“After refusing to comply, the RNU spokesperson was charged with assaulting three RUC/PSNI men, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. He was then bailed to appear at Belfast Magistrates Court next month”.

Mairtin had already endured five house raids in eight weeks and the removal of many personal items.

Bloody Sunday protesters attacked
Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) spokesperson Martin McMonagle has described an incident on board the Derry to Belfast train on Sunday in which IRSP members and supporters were attacked by members of the PSNI as outrageous, blatant sectarianism.

He began, “The IRSP condemns outright the unprovoked attack on members and supporters of our party who were returning to Belfast following their participation in the Bloody Sunday march in Derry at the weekend. The incident began when the conductor on board the train learned that the victims had just attended the march in Derry. Previous to this the conductor had engaged in friendly chat but according to witnesses his demeanor immediately changed when he found out where they had been.

“In a very dramatic and dangerous situation a large number of passengers were forced from the train by the PSNI, including women and children, no reason was given; the PSNI simply entered the train in riot gear and before speaking immediately launched a savage attack on our members, supporters and others in the carriage. They arrested a number of passengers and forced the rest on to the street in Coleraine to make their own way home. Fearing for their personal safety after being abandoned in a strange town the passengers managed to get to a safe area in Coleraine and from there managed to obtain lifts and taxis.

“Members of the IRSP were injured, including a broken arm and the effects of CS gas inhalation, following the unprovoked attack”.

Mr. McMonagle went on, “In scenes reminiscent of times gone by the PSNI were waiting in large numbers at Coleraine for the train to come to a halt in a blatant set piece situation. Accounts given to the IRSP indicate that there were between sixteen and twenty PSNI land rovers parked up around the train station in Coleraine with their blue lights flashing. When the train came to a halt the PSNI immediately began attacking all those on the carriage using implements such as extendable batons and CS gas spray. One member of the IRSP has sustained a broken arm among other injuries. Other members of the party were arrested and we suspect the usual lame line of “anyone with a complaint should contact the police ombudsman” will no doubt be trotted out by the PSNI press office”.

Maghaberry prisoners
The plight of Republican prisoners at Maghaberry jail continues to worsen. A letter from one of the prisoners D.D McLaughlin graphically describes the continuing use of strip searching in defiance of the August agreement between prison authorities and the inmates.

“I was twice subjected to forced strip searches today. That was my tenth forced rip in the last twelve weeks…. I was brought to the reception where the search team was waiting and forced into 3ftx3ft cubicle by two of them where I refused to strip…. I was then brought to a holding cell and kept in there for about 50 minute with a governor coming in twice to tell me their so-called prison rules….

All the while outside the cell the riot squad are getting ready. Suddenly the cell door bursts open and in they come in full riot gear, helmets, shields, body protection, the works. They ram the shield into my face, two of them grab my arms, another grabs my head, I’m forced to the ground - Arms forced up my back, 2 knees forced into my head to hold it down , 2 knees in the back of my legs… Then another one of them starts to force off my shoes, socks and trousers off. I’m then moved into a forced position so that my boxers are ripped down and my frontal private parts can be seen by them. I’m then forced back into a position where my boxers are completely forced off me and a hand held metal detector is ran over my backside.

At this stage, it’s hard to breathe with their gloves covering my face and mouth. I’m still being held by four of them on the floor, my private parts exposed… Naked! Lying there!

They then grab my boxers and jeans and force them up, hurting me, leaving my private parts still exposed – They then move me into another awkward position to take my t shirt off… I think my arms are about to break in two! It’s agony at this stage. My wrists are just numb... Being twisted the whole time this is going on. My shirt is now off. I’m lying now with both my arms are forced up my back towards the roof while the riot squad run out of the cell. My arms just drop to the floor. I try my best to get onto my feet using my elbows, trousers hanging off me, boxers still below my private parts. I’m aching all over!

I try to get dressed as the riot squad stand smirking at me. I just stare back at them. I think of the other things they have done to me in the past. Forced strips, cut my clothes off, broke my nose, stood on me, forced me into squat positions, and forced my mouth open by trying to break my wrist… I could go on!”

Back to the streets
These incidents demonstrate once again that the ‘Northern Ireland’ state remains a prison house for Catholics. No amount of window dressing from Sinn Fein can alter the fact that they are jointly administering a state which continues to dish out increasing doses of repression. In the interests of ‘stability’ and ‘peace’ the Executive partners, indeed all the main political parties, will now insist on draconian cuts and have a repressive apparatus to use when workers decide to fight back.

GARC has led the way in building street protests last summer. Street protests should immediately be called through social networking and word of mouth whenever communities are under police attack as when people are summarily lifted. Residents groups will undoubtedly be faced with a need to protect their own areas. All Republicans, socialists, trade unionists and community activists should form anti repression committees and link the groups up across Ireland.

A new anti imperialist movement which addresses police raids, Orange marches, political status and prisoners’ rights as well as the whole question of British presence in Ireland needs to be built. As the capitalist crisis devastates working class communities throughout the island it will be necessary to form a militant anti cuts movement as well.

A militant anti cuts movement built around the need for strike action to defeat the government whilst having its own dynamic will undoubtedly face a northern state equally contemptuous of its demands. Therein lays the opportunity for socialists to link the fight against imperialism with the struggle against all the effects of a capitalist crisis. Moreover a capitalist system north and south of the border which is inextricably bound up with serving an increasingly unstable world dominated by a small number of imperialist countries.

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