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Year 2001 No. 182, October 25, 2001 ARCHIVE HOME SEARCH SUBSCRIBE

An Advance Based on the Republican Movement’s Principled Stand

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

An Advance Based on the Republican Movement’s Principled Stand

Anti-war Demonstration in Dublin

Welsh Assembly Debates Military Action in Afghanistan

Walthamstow Vigil and Open Air Meeting

Together we can stop the war!

Walthamstow Vigil

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An Advance Based on the Republican Movement’s Principled Stand

The statement of the IRA on October 23 and the putting into practice of their words has opened up a further chapter in the advance of the Irish people towards unity and independence, and the possibility of building their nation anew.

Of course, Tony Blair has taken it upon himself to cloak his own person in glory, as though the block towards the advance of the Peace Process was someone else’s doing. But within this somewhat overblown rhetoric about the "historic event" and a "profound" development, he summed up what the possibility of progress meant: "The Republic of Ireland yielding up their territorial claim to Northern Ireland, and the Nationalist community’s aspiration to a united Ireland recognised in bodies covering North and South." In other words, this is a stage in rendering concrete what the British government recognised in the 1993 Downing Street declaration – the right of the people of the whole island of Ireland to determine their own affairs.

The Prime Minister was asked by the press what the IRA statement meant in practical terms. In effect, it had been answered earlier in the House of Commons in a statement by the Northern Ireland Secretary, John Reid. He said that "the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) had reported that they had witnessed an event, which they regarded as significant, in which the IRA had put a quantity of arms beyond use. The material in question had included arms, ammunition and explosives. The Commission were satisfied that the arms in question had been dealt with in accordance with the scheme and regulations. In other words, the IRA’s act constituted an act of decommissioning under their statutory remit." Later in his statement he told of what would be the government’s immediate response to these developments – to demolish the observation tower on Sturgan mountain in South Armagh and one of the observation towers on Camlough mountain in South Armagh. In addition, the government will demolish the supersangar at Newtownhamilton police station adjacent to the helicopter landing site and the Magherafelt army base.

Were the government to be consistent, it would also have been putting in place a "peace process" in Central Asia, the method of negotiation and dialogue that Tony Blair emphasised was so important to sort out the democratically expressed wishes of the people. As he said: "Violence offers no way forward. … when all the violence finishes, people always come back to the same issues and questions. And the question is do you carry on killing people, and then talk, or do you decide to stop the killing and talk straightaway."

Tony Blair places especial emphasis on the "process" whereas if one looks at the statements of both the IRA and Sinn Fein, one sees that the content of their politics takes priority, the objectives of Irish Republicanism. As part of this, Sinn Fein is unequivocal in emphasising that republicanism recognises that the British connection is the source of all Ireland’s political ills. As Gerry Adams pointed out: "The British government has inflicted and continues to sustain historic wrongs upon the people of this island and even today there are elements within the British establishment which are against the peace process."

The fact of the matter is that the British connection, to use Gerry Adams words, has brought nothing but divisions and bloodshed to the Irish people. The same conclusion can be drawn about what is now happening in Afghanistan.

The step of the IRA is to be hailed as a decisive and appropriate step in the world post-September 11. The British workers must also play their role in this world and aim their struggles both at the "British connection" and against the politics of chauvinism and big power arrogance which is causing devastation globally as well as entrenching reaction domestically. Both Irish and British workers have the historic mission of engaging on their respective nation-building projects.

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Anti-war Demonstration in Dublin

Between 800 and 1,000 people marched through the centre of Dublin last week as part of an anti-war protest called by Globalise Resistance and in solidarity with the many protests internationally.

The demonstration started with a rally outside the Central Bank in Dame Street.

There were several speakers before the start of the march. One speaker demanded firstly no refuelling of US war planes at Shannon and secondly the automatic acceptance of any Afghan refugees who apply for asylum in Ireland.

At O'Connell Bridge there was a token sit down protest and a minute’s silence for the victims of the attack on the US.

The march returned to its starting point, the Plaza outside the Central Bank where there were more speeches.

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Welsh Assembly Debates Military Action in Afghanistan

The Welsh Assembly held its first political vote on Tuesday on the military campaign in Afghanistan.

The discussion showed a polarisation of opinion on the military aggression between those upholding the government line, which includes the Conservative members of the Assembly, and those who demand a halt to the war.

Glyn Davies, a Conservative Assembly member, gave firm support to the government. He said of Tony Blair, in tones redolent with echoes of Britain’s colonialist era, that " when the chips were down he did what I would expect from a British prime minister, he looked down the barrel of the gun and stood firm".

However, the former Welsh secretary, Ron Davies, expressed a concern which is evident even in the Labour Party: "My support for military action is not unconditional. Who knows what tomorrow may bring?"

Labour Assembly members, under orders from the whips, voted in support of the government. Fifteen Plaid Cymru members registered their disapproval.

Ieuan Wyn Jones, leader of Plaid Cymru, which tabled the debate, had spoken the previous day of the growing support for the bombing in Afghanistan to be ended. He said: "A growing number of Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs, and some Labour AMs, are joining our call for an end to the current bombing campaign. More and more of them are accepting the view of aid agencies that unless the bombing stops, millions of innocent Afghans face starvation in the next few weeks."

He went on: "We are pleased that 13 Labour MPs have signed a Commons motion calling for an end to the bombing, including one Welsh Labour MP, Julie Morgan. The Liberal Democrat frontbench spokesperson on International Affairs, Jenny Tonge MP, has also called for the bombing campaign to be halted."

The Plaid Cymru president drew attention to the present desperate situation in Afghanistan. He said: "The UN Commission for Refugees confirms that over five million Afghans face grave problems over food and shelter, and the aid agencies say that the air drops of food is not reaching the people who need it. They insist that the food has to be carried in by trucks, because these vehicles can carry the required amount and deliver them to areas where it is most needed. It is estimated that 56,000 tonnes of food a month is needed, and since the bombing started, only 1,500 tonnes has been getting through. The aid programme needs a massive boost and this can only be done safely if the bombing is halted now."

Ieuan Wyn Jones added: "The world is facing a humanitarian catastrophe of huge proportions in Afghanistan and if there is no response, we can hardly expect the Muslim world to work with the west to create a New World order when the conflict is over."

The Plaid Cymru leader, speaking in the National Assembly debate, again warned about the imminent humanitarian disaster: "This is worse, much worse, than what we saw in Ethiopia in the 1980s," he said. "The world is facing a human catastrophe of immense proportions and as a result of the current bombing campaign in Afghanistan, the plight of innocent civilians is getting worse by the day."

He went on: "We are strongly of the opinion that only through aid and securing people's immediate safety, can there be any possibility of future stability there, or indeed in the wider world. Aid cannot be effectively or safely distributed whilst there is open conflict in Afghanistan."

With 2.5 million people in Afghanistan facing death by starvation unless they are provided with food and shelter, he stressed the urgent need for help. "Although some food is reaching the World Food Programme warehouses, the aid agencies such as Oxfam tell us that their own warehouses are empty. No truck drivers will carry the food from the WFP depots because of the bombing campaign. For that reason, very little food, if any, is reaching those who need it. Christian Aid tells us that 600 people have already died from starvation."

Ieuan Wyn Jones said: "Because of the bombing campaign, people are fleeing the cities and urban centres. Some cities have seen 80% of the population leave. The dropping of food from aircraft is both ineffective and dangerous. Afghanistan is the most heavily mined country on earth. Landmines are everywhere, and food parcels are being dropped indiscriminately."

Referring to military action, he said that if it were to go ahead, it "must be sanctioned by the UN and specifically designed to bring the terrorists to justice".

Referring to Plaid Cymru’s opposition to the amendment tabled to its motion in the name of the other three parties, he said: "We deliberately tabled a non-contentious motion that all members could feel free to support. We avoided to express criticism of some of the actions taken by the UK government. But we should not be in the business of giving 'blank cheques' messages of support to the government. I can assure you that a substantial body of opinion among the people of Wales who are suspicious of some of the action taken. We should not be afraid of voicing our concerns."

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Walthamstow Vigil and Open Air Meeting

A vigil against the "war on terrorism" was held in Wanstead on The Green last Saturday evening, October 20, at 8pm. The demonstrators had candles, there was a local Health Workers Against The War banner and fire swinging took place. People came mostly by word of mouth, old friends met up and new friends were discovered. The demonstrators gave leaflets to passers by, and – as is characterising the anti-war actions – intensive discussion was held in every corner.

The Green is a piece of common land with a strong recent protest history. It was there that protesters against the M11 link road set up home in the branches of an ancient tree to try to prevent its felling to make way for the road. Many local people took part in that campaign and are coming together again now against this war.

The local people decided to make the vigil a weekly event on Friday evenings so people would see it going home from work, and so that Wanstead people and others near by who are against this war can meet up and give public voice to their opposition.

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Together we can stop the war!

The following has been put out by Waltham Forest & Redbridge Stop the War

The carnage of the terrorist attacks on 11th September outraged all of us, but George Bush’s (and Tony Blair’s) war against Afghanistan is already bringing horror to people every bit as innocent as those killed in New York or Washington.

Afghanistan is one of the poorest people in the world and the humanitarian crisis facing its people is already critical, and the attacks are making it impossible to get food where its needed. A Red Cross relief warehouse has already been bombed. Aid agencies are calling for an end to the bombings.

Military planners are "resigned to civilian casualties" but many, many people are not resigned to this death and destruction. Over 50,000 people marched through London on 11th October demanding "Stop the War". Across the world millions more have protested that Bush’s war of revenge, will make terrorist attacks more likely.

The Stop the War Coalition has been formed to encourage the largest possible movement against this war. Its aim is simple – to draw together everyone who wants to stop the war and to present the anti-war arguments which are squeezed out of the media.

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Vigil and open air meeting at Walthamstow Town Square, The Market, Selbourne Walk, below the Central Library. Speakers from local trade union branches, trades council, community organisations and stop the war coalition.

Every Friday Wanstead vigil 6.00 p.m. to 7.30 p.m., George Green, opposite Wanstead Tube Station. Bring candles, musical instruments, placards.

Public meeting, November 14th, (venue to be confirmed but probably Ross Wylde Hall, Church Hill, corner of Hoe Street). 7.30 p.m.

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