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John Palmer

Build the Irish Civil Rights
Solidarity Campaign

(12 June 1969)

From Socialist Worker, No. 126, 12 June 1969, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

THE CIVIL RIGHTS TRUCE granted to the new Unionist prime minister in Northern Ireland, Major James Chichester-Clarke, when he took over from Captain O’Neill, is running out. In the intervening weeks it has become clear that the Unionists have little intention of meeting the basic demands of the civil rights movement – or of any section of the working people of Northern Ireland.

The Unionist Party bosses promise electoral reform at some distant date. In the meantime they have appointed hardliner Brian Faulkner to preside over the examination of boundary changes. There can be no confidence that the Unionist government will eliminate the basis of their own party’s sectarian grip on many local councils. To do so would be to invite a total split in the party.

There is even less intention of tackling the appalling problem of housing and unemployment. On the former the Unionists have made big play with a promise to increase the house building programme by a few thousand ‘by the mid 1970s’. In the meantime Catholic and Protestant workers can fester in the slums of cities like Derry and Belfast.

Even less has been done to provide jobs for ‘Catholic’ and ‘Protestant’ areas alike. Not that much could be done within the paralysing grip of the crisis of declining capitalism in Northern Ireland.

While turning their back on social and economic reform, the Orange junta has flouted any demand to disband the armed Paisleyite B-Special police.

‘The Specials have been given full support by the Unionists and will continue to be supplied with arms and ammunition by courtesy of Wilson’

The working people or Northern Ireland have been remarkably patient. But there can be no doubt that the civil rights movement, spearheaded by its militant wing, People’s Democracy, will take to the streets.

There is no doubt that with demonstrations likely to start soon, repression from the B-Specials and Paisleyite bully boys will be ferocious. For that reason alone the development of a massive solidarity campaign in Britain is vital.

Campaign started to act

The Irish Civil Rights Solidarity Campaign has started with a series of successful mass meetings at town halls, factories, and building sites in London addressed by Bernadette Devlin. Several branches of the campaign in Irish areas have already been set up.

Both International Socialists and the People’s Democracy are giving full support to the campaign which will now be taken throughout the length of Britain with meetings planned in Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow and other cities.

The campaign is open to all socialists and workers supporting the six points of the militant civil rights movement (one person one equal vote, one family one house, one man one job, disarm and disband the B-Specials and Royal Ulster Constabulary, and for the right of the whole Irish people to national self-determination). Of course socialists within this campaign will not abandon their advocacy of an Irish workers’ republic as the only viable path for Catholic and Protestant workers in Ireland.

As Bernadette Devlin and the ICRSC have made clear, the campaign will also attack the abuses which exist in the southern state where a general election is being held. But the main emphasis at present is correctly on the north. And ICRSC will also support every other genuine civil rights mobilisation in Britain. For that reason we are supporting the June 22 Trafalgar Square rally being called by the London branch of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Campaign.

But the need now is for every section of the revolutionary left in Britain to practise what it preaches about solidarity with workers fighting in countries dominated by imperialism. Ireland is on our doorstep. The outcome of the struggle there is bound to have a profound impact on the development of the struggle in Britain itself.

For details of the Irish Civil Rights Solidarity Campaign contact Pat Denny at 01-485 0476.

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Last updated: 18 January 2020