Anarchy #06 1971

Issue 6 of Anarchy magazine from 1971 on Ireland.

PDF taken from which also includes an interesting overview of the issue.

Alternate PDF taken from - it is missing pages 12, 13, 32 and 33.


anarchy06irl_complete.pdf13.36 MB
anarchy06_WSM.pdf4.74 MB


Introduction to Anarchy #6 1971 (second series).

The 'trouble' in Northern Ireland has been raging for exactly three years now. During that time, well over a hundred people have been killed and many hundreds more injured. Unemployment now stands at 10.8 per cent and the minimum estimate of the number of homeless in the province is 10,000.

Guesses at the amount of property destroyed vary between £12 million and £150 million (the real reason, incidentally, why troops were moved in). Yet here in England how much significance, really, is attached to the struggle? True, the media daily pepper the English public with items of Irish 'news': the latest death here, the most recent incident there and the latest 'assessment' of what may or may not be happening by some pundit/politician wherever it may be squeezed in. But, we repeat: how much significance is attributed to the Northern Ireland crisis? In our view, very little indeed. In a way, that is the most significant thing one can say about it in London politicians, money-makers, civil servants, the mass media, people at large and most of the Left regard the situation as not terribly significant. We disagree.

In 1910,1911,1916,1918-23 and, again, in 1935 (to speak only of this century) Ireland has exploded in the faces of its Imperial masters. Today Westminster continues in its refusal/Inability to realise the true dimensions of the crisis and would 'wish it away.' Meanwhile, the jumped-up councillors of Stormont, dull-witted and vicious, are enabled to determine the actions of the occupying forces. The struggle in Northern Ireland has, in this sense, now reached the stage where it constitutes the greatest internal threat to the existence of the British state seen this century.


Examine the 'reforms' to see what the anti-Unionist minority has 'gained' over the past three years. The Civil Rights demands were . .

demand - legislation

1) 'One man, one vote' - O'Neill's franchise reforms, 1969.
2) 'Disarm the RUC' - Hunt Report, 1969.
3) 'Disband B-specials' - Hunt Report, 1969 and Ulster Defence Regiment formed.
4) 'Take away Housing Trust from sectarian control' - Central Housing Trust formed, 1970.

Legislation has certainly taken place, but in real terms what have been its effects and, more important, how has it been implemented?

1) There have been no local elections nor any Stormont elections under the franchise reforms, - as it was 'too late' to put them into effect. Derry is still ruled by a commission appointed by the government and its electoral boundaries have still not been redrawn.

2) The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), according to the Hunt Commission was only to be issued arms in extraordinary circumstances and riot duty was to be left to the Army, particularly when there was a danger of armed conflict. Practically the entire police force now carries arms openly and the R. U. C. was recently used for riot duty in Derry's Bogside.

3) The 'B 'Specials were disbanded, true. In their place came the Ulster Defence Regiment, predominantly recruited from their ranks. Its number was originally fixed at 6,000. Recently, however, this limit was totally lifted and now units are to be drawn from their own localities just like the old 'B' Specials. The number of Catholics has sharply declined many resigning after internment was introduced. Also, the number of guns in the hands of gun clubs formed by the Ulster Special Constabulary Association and kindred other bodies is now estimated to be more than 110,000. This, besides the illegal arms in the hands of the Protestant vigilantes of the U. V. F. (Ulster Volunteer Force -a proscribed organisation) who openly display them while carrying out evictions in the mixed districts.

4) The Central Housing Trust, founded to prevent sectarianism in the distribution of publicly owned housing, the issue which triggered the civil rights campaign initially. The Housing Trust has aided and abetted the polarisation of the districts rather than the opposite. They have, with the British Army's consent sought ghettoisation as a means of implementing the division between the two communities, which, from the Army's point of view makes 'policing' so much easier. This explains why the Army turned a blind eye to evictions and now actively assist the forcible movement of population.

...A sorry collection of 'reforms' which adds up to a tidying of the graveyard rather than a genuine attempt to break down sectarian barriers. Each one of these 'reforms' has been manipulated by Stormont to polarise the community and at each step it has been assisted by the Army. The Civil Disobedience campaign may yet see the Army evicting Housing Trust tennants for non-payment of rents - another of their attempts at 'community; relations' no doubt.


Internment was in fact aimed at the 'left' political opposition. Its implementation polarised the community in an unparalleled fashion. Violence escalated within half an hour of the internees being seized. Within two hours the entire community of the Catholic ghettoes was In arms. The people instinctively knew that this was a deliberate attempt to crush what political voice they had left.

The Left in England reacted swiftly to tne situation but was lamentably unable to maintain any unity of action. Differant slogans are put out by different groups, more to illustrate the purity of their own politics than to assist the struggle in the North.

The seriousness of the American struggle against the Vietnam war or the brilliantly effective campaign against Australian involvement in Vietnam has yet to evolve. Some sections of the Left have even gone so far in their attempts to have their 'line' heard in Ireland as to indulge in 'socialist imperialism' and have sought or are seeking to found groups in Ireland that will be under London's control, though one presumes that these fronts will be conducted from the safety of Dublin drawing-rooms rather than the bloody and miserable battlegrounds of the North.

Again, the demand issued by Intenational Socialists' [forerunner to UK's Socialist Workers Party - Libcom] front organisation, the Labour Committee against Internment was, "Fair Trial for All Internees"- an obvious sop to its 'respectable' Labour MPs. It was heard by the Northern groups with incredulity and they felt, bitterly, that they had been let down one once more by the English Left.

Three years have passed in the present struggle and even now the only whole-hearted response is from the Irish exile organisations. Too many people who articulate their doubts about the situation do not know what to do. This same problem occurred in America until groups started to actively combat the Vietnam war without the help of 'fronts', 'parties' and the like or waiting for analyses.

The first stage in furthering the struggle in the U.S. was education (Teach-Ins, etc), coupled with mass action. This issue of Anarchy Magazine aims to contribute to the former. Only you can provide the latter.

The Left in England reacted swiftly to tne situation but was lamentably unable to maintain any unity of action.

The Belfast police mutiny of 1907 - John Gray

A history of the mutiny of 70% of the Belfast police force during a dockers' strike which brought together Catholic and Protestant workers in struggle.


This article is just an extract from a longer work on the 1907 Dock Strike in Belfast. This unearthing of the Labour history of Northern Ireland is not a purely academic exercise. History, or rather mythologies of history, remain a potent force in Irish politics, and yet the real traditions, the real record of class struggle particularly in the North has been ignored or conveniently buried by bourgeois historians. In published works the 1907 Dock Strike, the first attempt by the unskilled industrial workers of Ireland to organise and fight, rates a few paragraphs, the police mutiny a few sentences. No published work covers the 1919 General Strike, and the unemployment riots of 1934 again rate no more than a few paragraphs.

There is in fact an almost total lack of published work on any aspect of Ulster's modern history. This owes something to the priorities of historians at Queen’s University Belfast, who live in an atmosphere something akin to that at the British Embassy in Uruguay, and when they do concern themselves with Irish history they rarely advance beyond the tasteful days of Grattan’s Parliament. Southern historians have equally neglected Northern history, imbued with middle class nationalist outlook, they have no interest in the labour movement, perhaps consequently view Northern Ireland as an incomprehensible problem, and anyway find rich pickings detailing the activities of “national” leaders and movements.

The troubles of the past three years have led to a spate of new works purporting to put the Northern problem in its historical context. Given the dearth of accurate material provided by academic historians, given that the authors of this new spate of largely journalistic works have failed to do any basic research themselves, it is little wonder that they have adopted the view that the problems of the North are to be viewed as community or sectarian conflict pure and simple. Thus Andrew Boyd writes in the introduction to “Holy War In Belfast”, a work rushed out to take advantage of the riot market, “the long-standing hostility between the two communities has erupted, generation after generation, in violent sectarian riots on the streets of Belfast”. He goes on to claim, “Holy War in Belfast probes to the roots and origins of these riots and traces the first outbreaks back to the 1830’s”. The book is certainly the first that even bothered to cull government reports and describe the actual riots. There is however no attempt to explain why Belfast’s record for religious tolerance in the early 19th century deteriorated into sectarian rioting in the mid-nineteenth century. Consequently for Andrew Boyd and other historians like him history is made by individual bigots who just happened to turn up on the stage of history at a particular moment, and riots are caused by the Joe Bloggs of this world who just happen to turn up drunk with a stone in hand on a particular day. The whole social background to the events is ignored, the terrific pressures on the impoverished agrarian refugees who flocked into Belfast, a new industrial slum, are ignored, the connection between community conflict and class conflict is ignored.

At a more crass level we descend to Patrick Riddell, columnist in the “Sunday News”, and author of “Fire Over Ulster”. If nothing else, his book accurately reflects the kind of ill-informed prejudice which constitutes “knowledge of history” by many Ulster people. Here the tale of community conflict goes further than the mere recital of events looked at through blinkers, the whole situation is viewed in almost racial terms. Northern Protestants and Southern Catholics are both capable of being brutal, but some are more brutal than others. Thus “the Ulstermen defended their state fiercely but they have never in something like 200 years, perhaps not since the 17th century, shown such ferocity as the Southern Irish displayed when they fought their appalling civil war. Ulstermen will strike back but they are rarely cruel and they have to be seriously provoked before they strike back at all” (p.34), and “The Protestant Ulstermen had not descended to such depths of behaviour, such extremes of savagery, as to blow their opponents to pieces with landmines or throw them alive into furnaces”. This was apparently an ethnic trait of the Southern Catholics.

It is true that there are a few Northern historians who have tried to deal accurately with modern history. A.T.Q. Stewart is one of these, his book “The Ulster Crisis” deals factually with Ulster’s resistance to Home Rule, and in particular with the organisation of that resistance. No one can reasonably deny that in 1912 the vast majority of Protestant workers supported the UVF. But a book of this kind does not raise the question why they did so, it does not pretend to cover the experience of the Protestant industrial proletariat in the decade before, it leaves the Patrick Riddells of this world to fill in their own racial explanation, and then on that basis to glory in the resistance.

When we look at the 1907 Dock Strike and the police mutiny of the same year, this simple myth begins to evaporate. We find unskilled workers, mainly Protestant, fighting the employers, many their future leaders in the UVF, we find policemen, many Protestant, mutinying, we find the Independent Orangemen mustering hundreds of Protestant workers under a platform asking Protestants as Irishmen to play their part in the development of Ireland as a nation. To say this is not to deny the existence of community conflict in the North, those who do so bury their heads in sand, it is to say this, community conflict is an expression of acute pressures on the working-class and cannot conveniently be isolated from the question of class conflict, often indeed community conflict has been used as a deliberate safety valve to prevent class conflict. Time and time again the labour movement has almost succeeded in bringing class war to the fore in Belfast. This was true in 1907. It is only when they fail that disillusioned workers seeking other outlets for their despair fall easy prey to the slogans of sectarian war.

It is then a vital task for Northern socialists to learn for themselves the real history of the working-class in modern Ireland, and to broadcast to the masses their true heritage. This work is necessary for those committed to one or other section of the labour movement. The very fact that today the Labour movement in the North is going through its darkest period is witness enough to the fact that mistakes have been made in the past and there are important lessons to be learnt from those mistakes.

Prior to 1907 the Trade Union movement in Ireland was conservative and reformist, and was dominated by skilled workers. Unskilled workers were hardly organised at all, and yet in the two large cities, Belfast and Dublin, were worse off than in large British cities and equally numerous. Larkin arrived in Belfast in February 1907, it was his first visit to Ireland, and he came as National Organiser for the National Union of Dock Labourers. So successful was his message of militant solidarity between unskilled workers in the fight for better conditions that by April 1907 he had recruited approximately 3,000 men to the NUDL. At the end of that month, the Belfast Steamship Company, linked to one of the large cross-channel railway companies locked NUDL members out. They were determined to crush the union while they still had time. Small employers were willing to concede terms to the dockers, it was the large cross-channel companies, linked to the Shipping Federation, which were determined to win. The Shipping Federation was an international blackleg organisation. The blacklegs who came to Belfast had smashed a strike in Hamburg a month earlier. When the Belfast strike was over they were to travel to Antwerp to smash another strike.

When these big guns, led by Gallagher, Managing Director of Gallaghers tobacco factory and Chairman of the B.S.Co., determined to fight, the smaller companies and the City authorities fell into line. In May the striking dockers drove the blacklegs from the quays. Police and military guards were introduced. The dockers could no longer stop the blacklegs working, but Larkin replied by calling the carters out on sympathy strike. The ships could unload at the quays but blackleg carters had to run the gauntlet of angry workers on every street. Carting soon ceased.

The authorities were extremely hesitant in the face of what for them was a rapidly deteriorating situation. They had used force before in sectarian confrontations, but in this case they were threatened by a purely labour dispute, most of the strikers were Orangemen, they had the active support of many Catholic workers, the ship-yard workers, and they were led by a Catholic. Blackleg carters were being attacked in places as far apart as Divis Street, Sandy Row and the Ravenhill Road, indeed on the Ravenhill Road the police had to baton charge rioters.

By July 12 at least 5,000 workers in the City were affected by strikes. At the Independent Orange Order demonstration a collection was held for the strikers and in the following week strike meetings were held in Sandy Row, Ballymacarrett, on the Falls, on the Shankill and in York Street. In the face of this united stand by the unskilled workers of Belfast the authorities were first unwilling to act, and then, when they did prepare to act, found that their instrument of oppression, the Royal Irish Constabulary, would not act for them.

The fateful decision that finally precipitated mutiny was taken on July 18. Members of the RIC were ordered to escort traction engines through the city. The traction engines, equipped with makeshift armour had been shipped to Belfast a week earlier specifically to break the strike.

The police were already overworked without any further extension of their duties. The “Northern Whig” for July 11 reported “the strain on the police is daily increasing and yesterday between 50 and 60 members of the force from Henry Street barracks alone were on duty from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.” As early as June 29 an irate correspondent had described just what sort of work this was “the spectacle to which we were treated yesterday of a waggon-load of goods going to the quay under the protection of a score of constables is a singular one indeed, of course on that basis it would require half the entire strength of the RIC to protect the traffic to and from Belfast harbour and the Railway termini”.

The authorities were over complacent putting this kind of strain on a force which had its own grievances. In recent years there had been two commissions of enquiry into the conditions of the constabulary, but in the words of the “Constabulary Gazette”, one made “paltry recommendations that have never been put into effect, the other, confined to Belfast, has been kept by the state as a secret document”. Policemen’s pay in Belfast varied from £78 to £62 l6s p.a. That is roughly 30s a week down to 24s, a wage marginally higher than that of the best-off dockers and carters. But policemen were expected to live in respectable areas of the city, they had to pay their own tram fares on the way to duty (this affected very seriously suburban constables drafted into the city daily to deal with the strike disturbances). The police were supposed to get 1s extra if they were on continuous duty for more than 8 hours, but complained that they were continually being taken off duty after 7½ hours to avoid payment. It was against this background that a “More Pay” movement had been flourishing in the ranks of Belfast police for some time.

The strike leaders made several references to the conditions under which the police were working. As early as July 7 a visiting speaker from Birmingham, Mr. Jones, commented at a Belfast Socialist Society meeting on the Custom House Steps “the police themselves had been badly overworked from 6 in the morning till 11 and 12 at night and he saw no reason why they should not bind themselves into a Trade Union”. On July 17 Larkin said “the police were working 18 hours a day without any extra pay, and they would go on strike too – only they dared not”.

Indeed the police would not have heeded the strike leaders if it had not been for the all-embracing nature of the strike movement itself. They dared to do what Larkin said they would not, because the more they escorted blacklegs, the more they were jeered by Catholic and Protestant workers alike. When a local police force cannot live peacefully in the midst of any section of the community then indeed its loyalty is threatened.

All forms of agitation in police ranks were of course illegal. This had one fortunate consequence. The rebel policemen used the columns of the “Irish News” to put forward their plans and views, thus leaving a unique record of their activity.

First let us take their attitude to the strikers. Their letters show quite clearly how they had been enormously affected by the strike movement. How they had in some cases unconsciously adopted a revolutionary position on the role of the police in Ireland. “Willing to Strike”, undoubtedly one of the leaders of the “More Pay” movement, perhaps a group, wrote on July 10 referring to the “screeches of the capitalist newspapers in Belfast for the past few days over what they term the gross neglect of duty by the police force of this city in not attacking and batoning the unfortunate strikers who are merely looking for justice from their employers” “the strikers are as ourselves, trying to better their conditions, and if we work together we will wring from the government what I trust the strikers will soon wring from the capitalists – more pay”. “Willing to Strike” wrote again on July 16, in sarcastic vein, “of course we should slaughter all before us to settle this strike for the capitalists, who hate us as much as their unfortunate workmen. When they failed to turn the strike into a sectarian business they thought it would be a good idea if they got the police and the ‘strikers’ into conflict”.

A further letter from “Willing to Strike” appeared on July 22. It told how the RIC officers were doing “all in their power to humiliate the Belfast police in the eyes of the public by turning them into ‘blacklegs’ - to please their friends the capitalists. They tried to make us accept tea from these companies, and put us under an obligation to these ‘English sweaters’, but we indignantly refused to sell our independence”. In an editorial published on the same day the “Irish News” gave extracts from other letters it had received, one included this pathetic passage “it is shameful to see a uniformed peace officer sitting under the funnel of a ‘Puffing Billy’ or taking the other side of the car to the driver and getting hooted and jeered at through the streets. Walking after the prohibited waggons is bad enough, and sometimes one has to run a little”.

Some policemen, aware of the unhappy nature of their role on the streets of Belfast, went on to analyse the role of the RIC in Ireland as a whole. The “Irish News” editorial on the 22nd included the following extract from a letter: “. . . we have never shirked any task imposed on us, no matter how odious it might have been; yet we do not get a living wage. We have made evictions possible from Donegal to Cork. We have left nothing undone that was demanded or expected of us. We regret our past misdeeds”. “Slave”, writing on the same date, said, “The RIC were not established and armed to police Ireland but to soldier it. They were established as a garrison to enable those arbitrary rulers and landlords to impoverish, enslave, and wring rack-rents from the poor unfortunate people of this country – our fathers and grandfathers. These tyrants and landlords were the indirect employers and masters of the police. These masters have nearly all fled, owing to recent land legislation, and the few who remain have no interest in the country; they are merely waiting for their bonus.”

“Willing to Strike” explained in an eloquent statement on passive resistance on July 16, how policemen should act if ordered against the strikers. “Do our duty in a passive manner; do nothing we can avoid. We may be ordered to charge a crowd of ‘strikers’ by our officers, but they cannot make us strike them! We can refuse to identify rioters, for there is no one so blind as he who will not see. In a thousand ways we can turn the law into a farce. This is our only remedy now.”

The use of the police force to escort motor-waggons from July 19 sparked off the mutiny. On that day Constable William Barrett was ordered by District Inspector Keaveney to share the cab of a wagon with a blackleg. Barrett refused. Keaveney appealed to Head Constable Waters who ordered Barrett to do as he was told. Barrett again refused and was suspended. At the later disciplinary proceedings Keaveney explained whose instructions he was following. “Mr. Kemp (the employer) told me that Mr. Morrell (the Acting Commissioner of Police) promised him that a detective would sit with the driver of this motor” (“IN”, August 2).

Barrett, dispensing with the legal niceties of the dispute, explained in a letter to the “Irish News” published on August 8, after his dismissal from the force, “The precipitating cause of the police strike and the subsequent trouble leading to the importation of 6,000 soldiers into Belfast was due to the unwarranted conduct of the Acting Commissioner (Morrell) in having entered into an alliance with the railway companies and masters in order to defeat the carters and dockers in securing the rights they are fighting for”.

Even the “Constabulary Gazette” supported Barrett’s stand, this time on purely legal grounds, they commented: “In the first place if a policeman was necessary he should have been a uniformed man: and in the second place there is, we are informed, an order with which the officers ought to be familiar, to the effect that members of the RIC are directed not to sit with an obnoxious person when on protection duty, but rather to drive on a vehicle behind them”.

Barrett’s suspension was merely the final straw, three days earlier on July 16, “Willing to Strike” had indicated that trouble was brewing: “In a short time a circular will be sent to each of your barracks giving you instructions how to act. In the meantime keep cool; don’t get into unnecessary conflict with the workmen; subscribe as much as you can for their support – and say nothing. Your officers will be against you in this movement and will look for victims.”

The circular was published in the “Irish News” on July 22. The body of it ran as follows: “Comrades – having regard to the letters which have recently appeared in the public press and the feeling of indignation which we are all aware prevails in our midst, the hardships and injustice which are lately becoming unbearable, the despotic rule which prevents us from ventilating this injustice, we cannot refrain any longer from making our views public.”

The circular then referred to “the exhorbitant cost of living and the excessive difficult duty which we have to perform”, and went on to say that the time was now ripe for “a petition setting forth our views on this matter” this to be submitted to the government for due consideration.

The circular was moderate in tone – “we have been told lately to strike, but such is not intended if it may be avoided by granting us the justice which we deem necessary”. Its concluding paragraph ran “now comrades you are not required to do anything underhand or injurious to your position. The press is always willing to assist you. All that is required is justice and no body of men have remained so long waiting patiently for this as the police have”.

The circular gave detailed organisational arrangements for a delegate meeting to be held at Musgrave Street Police Station, at 7 p.m. on Wednesday July 24. “On receipt of this circular you will please hold a general meeting at each station. An intelligent man will be appointed to represent the party, who will enquire carefully into the views of the men, and note same for the information of the general meeting. This man should be appointed by his comrades, he will sign first, the remainder of the party to sign after. Then the list of names should be taken possession of by the selected man.” The representatives were to bring “their list of names, also a summary of views”.

The resolutions to be proposed at the meeting were:-
1. A rise of pay of 1s per man.
2. That our pension on leaving be calculated as three-quarters of pay.
3. To appoint a solicitor to draw up a petition in legal form, and submit same to His Majesty’s Government.
4. To apply to the Inspector-General by wire for his permission to submit same.
5. General.

The day before the meeting, Tuesday, July 23, the authorities acted. Acting Commissioner Morrell issued a circular headed “More Pay Movement” (“IN”, July 25) – “With reference to the circular which has been sent to the several barracks in the City this morning asking the men to hold a general meeting, I have directed that you remind the men that no such meeting can be held without the direction of the Inspector-General – By Order.”

On the morning of the meeting “Willing to Strike” replied in the “Irish News”. He reported that the dissident circular “has been seized in a number of stations by those in charge on its arrival and submitted to the Commissioner” and went on: “Comrades, hold your meeting in Musgrave Street Barracks, as suggested, and if not permitted to hold it there, march in a body to Queen’s Square and hold it there”.

That night between 200 and 300 men defied the official ban and went to the meeting held in the reading room at Musgrave Street Barracks. An “Irish News” reporter attended the meeting and gave a full account of the proceedings (“IN”, July 25). The room was crammed to the doors, but before proceedings could begin a Head-Constable appeared and said that the meeting was banned. The men shouted, “We will hold the meeting”. Barrett said, “Let all the men who are with us stand here” pointing to a corner – several men moved to the corner to the accompaniment of deafening cheers. Then from the stairs came a shout of “Attention!” The men stood to attention and the Head-Constable entered followed by Acting-Commissioner Morrell. Morrell asked angrily, “What is this men? What is this I hear?” There was no answer. Morrell ordered “All the men with three years’ service fall in outside.” There was no answer. He then asked a constable, “What service have you?” “Seven years”, came the reply. Morrell then ordered, “All men of 20 years’ service come forward.” Shouts came from the assembled men, “Not one man of ye go forward,” “Not one of ye don’t.” Morrell proceeded to walk round the room threatening individual men. Barrett then spoke up, “Let no man, let no man tell his service to anyone. We are here to hold a meeting. Why should we be prevented from holding a meeting? It is as much our right as any other men in this City. Don’t allow yourselves to be bullied. If we can’t hold a meeting here we can hold it outside. But in any case you must stand together. Stand together comrades and all will be well.” Morrell advanced towards Barrett and ordered, “Constable, leave this room.” Barrett replied, “No, I will not, I am acting perfectly properly in warning these men against interference. I will not.” Morrell and District Inspector Clayton rushed forward to arrest Barrett, they seized him by the collar, the constable next to Barrett punched Morrell and he went down on the floor. Morrell then punched Constable McGrath and declared him suspended. McGrath replied, “I don’t care about you or your service. I can make as good a living anywhere else.” Then pandemonium broke out. Barrett pleaded for quiet and asked permission to reason with the men. He was again ordered out of the room. Barrett then ordered the men to fall in two deep and march to St. Mary’s Hall, “Come on, I will show you a place where we can hold our meeting.”

The men ran cheering down the stairs and lined up two deep in the yard. Just as the gate was being opened Morrell shouted, “I appeal to you, for God’s sake don’t go any further with this thing. Don’t go outside that gate into the street. Don’t make a disgrace of the policemen of Belfast – I am going into my office. Appoint five men amongst you and I will let them confer with me there. I give you ten minutes to consider this.” The men agreed to this, met Morrell and made arrangements to see him again three days later on Saturday evening. Morrell issued a statement on Friday, July 26, admitting that he had agreed to see the men. “I have agreed to hear the views of the five men selected on Wednesday last tomorrow evening at my office and no more men are to attend unless I send for them” (“IN”, July 29).

The “Irish News” account of the Wednesday night meeting created a sensation. The Tory Press dismissed it as Nationalist rumour-mongering. The “Northern Whig” for example, describing the incident in which Morrell was knocked down, said: “All that happened was that his foot was trodden on.” Barrett, defying police regulations, wrote to the “Irish News” on July 27, under his own name, confirming the “Irish News” account and the “Constabulary Gazette” described the scene accurately “when physical force was resorted to resistance followed. County Inspector Morrell was knocked down and both he and Mr. Clayton were driven from the room; tables and forms were overturned and the police cheered defiance to all authority.”

Tom Sloan, Independent MP for South Belfast and prominent in the Independent Orange Order raised the matter at Westminster on Thursday, July 25, the day after the meeting. The authorities did not yet consider the situation serious. Augustus Birrell, Secretary for Ireland replied “there is some dissatisfaction on the question of pay, but full consideration will be given to any legitimate complaints”.

The serious nature of the police unrest became clear on Saturday, July 30. Morrell had asked to see five men, but by mid-afternoon many groups of policemen could be seen making their way to Musgrave Street Barracks. They had to push their way through a dense cheering throng of strikers for it was clear to the strikers that something was afoot. That morning it had been announced that Barrett was suspended for writing to the press, and that any gathering at Musgrave Street was banned.

Despite this more than 500 and perhaps as many as 800 policemen arrived to pack the courtyard at the barracks. Barrett marshalled the men into ranks six deep. They represented a broad cross section of rank and file policemen in Belfast. A Unionist Councillor, Frank C. Johnston told the “Telegraph” (Monday, July 29) that the gathering was not “of a party (i.e. sectarian) nature at all, as he saw at the meeting members of the force representing the different religious denominations”. Although mainly the younger members of the force, there were men there with 10 or more years’ service.

Shortly after 4 p.m. Morrell and Clayton arrived to try and get control of the situation. Morrell read a statement suggesting that the men should hand in their names and forward a request for a meeting to the Inspector General. At this stage he was loudly jeered and the officers departed in some haste.

Barrett then spoke, he announced his suspension that morning, but he clearly feared that the situation was getting out of hand. He told the men “all I just ask you to do is this – let each and every one return to his barracks. Do your duty loyally and faithfully until this evening week, and then we will hold a meeting”. Many of the men there were dissatisfied with this proposal and there were cries of “Too long” and “We’ll give them one hour to reinstate you”. Barrett replied, “No, we will give them eight days to consider the matter and give us a definite answer.”

He told them that their petition had been forwarded to the Commissioner and that in due course it would go before the Inspector General, a Westminster MP (probably Sloan) had been given a copy. The petition contained the demands which had been circulated several days earlier, it did however contain this last paragraph: “The urgent character of the demands now made by the men necessitates their being urgently attended to, and, acting on our instructions, we have to press strongly, and with the greatest possible respect, for a definite assurance within a week that our case will be favourably dealt with forthwith.”

When this was read out the police broke into deafening cheers, the strikers outside burst through the doors and joined the policemen. Barrett spoke again, he welcomed the strikers saying “it has been alleged that the authorities can put 10,000 men in our place, but there are 100,000 loyal union men in the City who will support us”. He then announced that the next police meeting would be held on the Custom House Steps, and read out telegrams of support; that done he asked the crowds to disperse.

The crowd however was far too roused to simply go away. Barrett was chaired by constables and strikers and carried to the Custom House Steps. Total indecision ensued. There were calls to demonstrate outside the Commissioner’s house, to wreck the barracks, to go to the docks. Barrett persuaded them to avoid violence, and they returned to the barracks. From there they went out by the gate into Townhall Street and to the City Commissioner’s office in Chichester Street. The five district delegates elected on the Wednesday night, including Barrett went in accompanied by a Unionist Councillor, F. C. Johnston, JP. The delegation were informed that Assistant Inspector-General Gamble was to arrive from Dublin at 6 p.m. and would discuss any grievances. At 6 p.m. the crowd reassembled within the barracks. However, it was not until 8 p.m. that Barrett reappeared with the result of the talks with Gamble. He told the meeting, “I am suspended. He has refused to reinstate me.” Once again Barrett asked everyone to disperse. Again both civilians and police suggested that they rush the Commissioner’s office.

At this point the strike leaders appeared for the first time. The men who had demanded action were prepared to stop and listen to the leaders of the dockers, the carters and other strikers. The speakers included John Murphy, Secretary of the Trades Council, Alex Boyd, leader of the Municipal Employees, one of the strike leaders, and also prominent in the Independent Orange Order, and also James Sexton, General Secretary of the National Union of Dock Labourers. Despite their oratory the strike leaders from outside proved less militant, less critical in their assessment of the position of the rebellious policemen than the policemen themselves. Alex Boyd told them “he hoped that Colonel Sir Neville Chamberlain (the Inspector-General) in whom he had every confidence would investigate the matter to the bottom”. When the heat had gone out of the situation, with much talk of this kind, the strike leaders suggested that civilians should leave, and soon after the policemen began to disperse.

By failing to take any immediate action the policemen had already sealed their fate. They had timed their action to take advantage of the existing situation in Belfast, and their sole strength lay in forcing concessions while the authorities were powerless. Instead they attempted to go through legal channels in a situation in which they had no legal rights at all. As a result they had given the authorities eight days’ grace.

The Tory Press were quite aware of the position by Monday. The “Newsletter”, which had dismissed the whole affair as Nationalist rumour, now said, “When we say that these men numbered more than 500, that they met in defiance of orders, and that they or some of them hooted their officers it will be seen that the situation is serious enough and calls for prompt and decisive action on the part of the government.”

The authorities were already moving into action. The Assistant Inspector-General arrived on the evening of Saturday, July 27. He held talks with County Inspector Morrell for most of Sunday. Meanwhile officers, head-constables, and sergeants from all stations met under District Inspectors Kelly, Gelston and Clayton. Stern tactics for dealing with the mutiny were decided upon. Assistance was called for from Dublin, the decision to send in troops, which must have had the support of Augustus Birrell, Secretary for Ireland, was made, six new magistrates were sworn in. There was disagreement, however. District Inspector Kelly of the West division resigned from the force rather than accept a transfer.

The first troops, 500 men of the first battalion of Cameron Highlanders and 700 men of the Berkshire Regiment, arrived in the City on Tuesday July 30.

These signs of impending doom had their effect on the policemen. “Willing to Strike”, writing on Wednesday, July 31, said “Comrades, the demon of division is amongst you. ‘Divide and Conquer’ is the latest move.” Moderates were proposing to go back to square one and submit a new petition to the Inspector-General. Although caught between the authorities intent on repression, and the moderates hoping to salvage something, the “More Pay” movement was still active. On Wednesday, July 31, they send round a circular aimed at the higher ranks who were at that moment preparing to crush them. It was addressed “To the head-constables and sergeants of the RIC desirous of joining in and assisting the movement for increased pay and pensions”. Replies to the following questions were “respectfully requested”:-
“1. Are you in agreement with action of the men carrying on the ‘More Pay’ movement?
2. Do the demands made on behalf of the force meet with your approval?
3. Are you prepared to strike and agitate and co-operate with the men if and when required in order to force the concessions claimed?
4. In view of the fact that the County and District Inspectors and other high placed police authorities are strongly opposed to the ‘More Pay’ movement and in as much as the government have been misled in the past by the representations of these officials as to the pressing character of our grievances and the crying injustice of our case, the men are of the opinion that all our future representations and communications should be direct to the responsible minister of the crown. For this purpose we require to know, are you prepared, notwithstanding disciplinary regulations to the contrary, to support the decision come to, to hold direct communication with authorities other than the police authorities?”

Unfortunately, by the following day, Thursday, August 1, it was clear that “other authorities” were just as unsympathetic as the police authorities. The Under-Secretary for Ireland gave the reply to the petition handed in by the men the Saturday before. His statement included the following: “It is impossible for the government to entertain a petition presented under such conditions of disorder and insubordination, and of which the concluding paragraph is of a threatening nature.” Before any representations were heard there would have to be a “complete re-establishment of discipline”. The petition was “a serious discredit to all the constables concerned”. Constable William Barrett was dismissed and six other constables were suspended.

The next day, Friday, August 2, the day before the next planned meeting of dissident policemen, further blows fell. 200 policemen, most of whom had been involved in the trouble were told to prepare for immediate transfer to distant and scattered country areas. On Saturday morning the “Newsletter” reported that their replacements were already billeted in Lisburn and “the married and senior constables of Antrim, Down and Louth have been communicated with and ordered to hold themselves in readiness to take duty in Belfast when required.” The same morning the “Irish News” reported that most of the men at Mountpottinger, Springfield Road and Musgrave Street Barracks were to be moved that morning.

The price of militancy was now clear. Barrett’s most enthusiastic supporters were being got out of the city before they could cause any more trouble. Any tempted to join in the Saturday demonstration knew what lay in store for them.

The only encouragement for the police in Belfast came from RIC men in other parts of Ireland. At Athenry on August 1, 70 men met, and again the following night despite the opposition of the local DI. They passed three resolutions.

1. They objected to being made herds of.
2. They would stand by any strikers who were victimised.
3. They would support a strike.

Support also came from Tipperary and Nenagh. Cork, however, was more typical. On Tuesday, July 30, the men agreed to apply to the Inspector-General for permission to hold a meeting. On Friday, however, they were refused permission and instead of taking any action decided to wait and see what would happen in Belfast.

Belfast was packed with troops on Saturday, August 3. The English “Daily News” described the scene: “The great industrial centre, crowded with 6,000 soldiers represented an armed camp. It is impossible to imagine a dockers’ strike at Liverpool or Hull producing such a tremendous marshalling of military forces.” The “Constabulary Gazette” voiced the fears that day “the military have been pouring into the city, and it is no exaggeration to say that in all sections of the population there is a reign of terror” and “if the police and the military are set in active opposition the result will be hell”.

A huge crowd gathered, on the Saturday afternoon at the Custom House Steps, and at 4 p.m. Barrett appeared to speak. He told the crowd that “No military can make men work who are dissatisfied with their conditions. Down with blacklegs and cheap labour say I whether in civilian or constabulary life. All men are entitled to a living wage. Complaints are made that we demand redress of our grievances at the wrong time. I quite agree that we ought to have struck out for more pay at the time of the Boer War when there was no military force available in this country”. Barrett had perhaps by now realised his tactical error in not pressing home the advantages held by the policemen. He went on to describe the police as “victims of a degrading system engineered by the successive governments in the interests of the landlord reactionaries against the masses of the people by the manufacture of crime”. He considered that much of the work of the ordinary policemen involved detaining people for offences which only landlords would consider to be crimes, he believed that the RIC was vastly overloaded with District and County Inspectors and in order to justify their existence these men aided and abetted this “manufacture of crime”.

After the meeting Barrett was chaired by the demonstrators and a crowd of between 3,000 and 5,000 followed him as they toured the barracks of West Belfast. The procession went via the Donegall Road, Upper Library Street and Townsend Street, and then along the Falls to the Springfield Road returning by the Grosvenor Road.

For all the noise and clamour the march did not achieve its objectives, the mutiny itself had been utterly crushed. Many of Barrett’s supporters had left on trains from Great Victoria Street that morning, the others dared not appear. For the first time there were signs that sectarian politicians, in particular Nationalists, were more interested in the police mutiny than the labour leaders. The “Newsletter” reported that there was “a large Nationalist element in the crowd”. The “Telegraph” headed its report “NATIONALIST DEMONSTRATION – Ignored by the Constabulary”. Many of the marchers had shouted “Home Rule for Ireland” and there had been signs of tension when the march neared the Shankill.

Nationalists were, of course, interested in the police mutiny, far more interested than they were in the labour struggle. The police mutiny and the introduction of British troops raised for them the purely national question of British force in Ireland. The Dungannon Club, later to merge with Sinn Fein, led by Bulmer Hobson, later a bitter opponent of the Labour movement in the South issued a characteristic statement which included “for too long Irishmen have done the dirty work of their British masters for pay, but some of us are finding out that it pays better to be true to Ireland than to sell Ireland. The RIC are finding out at last that they are the sons of Ireland before they are the servants of the English government, and that if they strike it won’t be the heads of their brother Irishmen they’ll hit.”

The Labour leaders were far less anxious to talk about the police mutiny than the Nationalists. It raised difficult questions for them. When policemen in the South and West supported the Belfast mutineers, did that mean that Belfast strikers and mutineers were expected to throw in their lot with the Southern peasantry? If strikers either fought the military or supported mutineers were they not in fact threatening the whole fabric of British Rule in Ireland? No Labour leader had the courage to spell that message out. They still held to the belief that the strike movement was a strictly economic and non-political affair. But the strike had grown so large that it could no longer remain non-political. The police had mutinied because of the pressures put on them by the strike. When Labour leaders had nothing to say about the mutiny and let it die a quick death, their supporters were simply confused, and what was worst of all, stood by as 6,000 troops came into the City, little realising that once the soldiers had dealt with the police, they would deal with the strikers. Four days after Barrett’s final forlorn meeting on August 3, 1,000 troops were out protecting blackleg carters.

Some Labour leaders did not merely stand by while the mutineers were crushed, they believed that if the strikers showed their loyalty to the government during the mutiny, they might even gain by it. Mr. Appelton, a British TUC delegate, attempted to settle the carters’ dispute during the police mutiny because “there was a very serious danger of a conflict between the police and the military. I felt that it would be of the greatest use to remove one of the elements of danger if possible before Saturday (July 27) because then certain steps were to be taken in connection with the dismissal of some of the police”. Note that Appelton considered the striking carters as “an element of danger” which indeed they were if you were more concerned with the continuing stability of British rule in Ireland.

The episode of the police mutiny illustrates well the main failing of the labour movement in the North, often against all the odds the workers of Belfast have reached the brink of success, but the greater their success the more political questions about the whole nature of society in Ireland and its control are raised. When the labour movement flinches from those questions and claims to be non-political, or turns to British Parliamentary Democracy in its hour of crisis then it is defeated and often smashed. In 1907 they had to work with the police to succeed, they dared not do it and failed.

There is then perhaps a final comment. Events such as these occurred in a decade typified as that when all Ulster Protestants, rich and poor, exploiter and exploited stood shoulder to shoulder against an equally united Catholic population. For those who have perpetuated the myths of Ulster’s history “Willing to Strike’s” words fit well. “There is no one so blind as he who will not see.”

Transcribed by Niall who says I left it 'as written', so there might be a few minor grammar/punctuation mistakes as on the original ('Augustus Birrell' should be 'Augustine Birrell', wagon is spelt 'waggon'...)

Taken from www.wsm.i.e.

The Belfast police mutiny of 1907 - John Gray.pdf323.79 KB

The People's Democracy: A Brief History - J Quinn

Introducton by Workers Solidarity Movement (who originally transcribed the article here):

The No6 edition of the British "Anarchy" magazine published in 1970 [actually 1971 - Libcom] was largely given over to articles written by members of 'Peoples Democracy'. This article gives a PD view of the history of the north from 1960 to 1970 including the formation of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) and the origins of People's Democracy.

Lynch Liberal Reform?

Ten years ago, Northern Ireland was a relatively quiet backwater as far as the rest of the United Kingdom was concerned. True, it had just weathered a sustained campaign (1956-62) by the IRA, but that had failed to weaken the constitutional link between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. In fact, the IRA campaign, which consisted of blowing up customs posts, attacking police stations, cutting down telegraph poles and booby-trapping the odd policeman, had demonstrated the "unity" of the Ulster people - the restraint of the Ulster Protestant in the face of such "terrorist provocation", and the refusal of the Ulster Catholic to support the activities of such "evil men". Some scores of these "evil men" were imprisoned (without trial, of course, but then no one really minded), and when it came to the time to release them, even the Northern Ireland Labour Party, in the shape of David Bleakley (now Minister of Community Relations - 1971 style) was prepared to forgo its usual fence-sitting act and came out against the release of the "murderous" internees.

But a cloud loomed on the horizon, Lord Brookeborough, Prime Minister of Northern Ireland since he stabbed J.M. Andrews in the back during 1943, decided to retire to a local geriatric farm. He handed over the tiller of the ship of state to one of the clever young members of the gentry, one Terence O'Neill, thus giving a kick in the teeth to the nouveau-riche upstart called Brian Faulkner.

Unfortunately, Terence didn't heed the advice given to him by his wiser predecessor and was soon to be seen visiting Roman Catholic convents and photographed shaking the hands of nuns and generally giving the impression that Roman Catholics were almost human. This, mark you, despite the fact that he had hitherto been prepared to play the dutiful Protestant and inserted such ads in the local papers as:

"Protestant Girl required for housework.
Apply to the Hon. Mrs. Terence O'Neill
Glebe House, Ahoghill, Co. Antrim."1

This laxity and liberalism caused such moral degeneration that he was soon led down the slippery slope and was found guilty of inviting the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic to tea and biscuits at Stormont. This action to people who had just suffered at the hands of republican terrorists, was too much, and the rumblings of loyalist discontent were like a Christian Scientist with appendicitis. A saviour was on hand, however, a man of God, who was prepared to lead the children of Israel through the stoney desert of cross-border co-operation to the promised land of an Ulster with the British connection, British finance, and British tolerance for a colonised nation.

This saviour - Mr. Paisley, was a loud-mouthed cleric: scheming, ambitious and bigoted. He knew what his audience liked - the titillation of fornication stories from the bible, laced with modern analogies to the harlot of Rome and its political alter ego, Irish republicanism - and he was prepared to give it to them if that was to be the passport to political success.

He threatened to lead a march of outraged loyalists during the 1964 election campaign on the headquarters of the Republican Labour candidate, who had the effrontery to display the Irish tricolour in the windows of his headquarters. Since the headquarters were situated in the heart of the Catholic ghetto, the incident aided by the police who did the job for Paisely by breaking into the house with axes and removing the offending flag, led to the outbreak of the Divis Street Riots (1964). These were the first riots that Belfast had experienced for thirty years.

Paisley's political star was in the ascendancy. All he needed now was a means of showing Ulster (and the world) that he was more Unionist than the official Unionists. This opportunity came with O'Neill's attempts to transform the cruder aspects of religious discrimination into a less overt form which was more in keeping with the requirements of modern capital investment. His reformism was underlined by the emergence of the Civil Rights movements in Northern Ireland.

During the mid-sixties a group called the Campaign for Social Justice, based in Dungannon, had been assiduously collecting the numbers of Catholics employed by the local authorities and comparing this with the proportion of Catholics in the same area. 2 This they used to determine the amount of discrimination. At the same time a republican front organisation called the Wolfe Tone Society, with the backing of the Communist Party, began to discuss the social and political set-up in Northern Ireland. In 1967, the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association was set-up mainly as a result of the coming together of these groups. NICRA was based on the the constitution of the English National Council for Civil Liberties. It was liberal in all its attitudes, timid and afraid of confrontation - not very surprisingly when one considers the CP's influence. NICRA's main activity in these days was issuing press statements. They were given an opportunity to do rather more when, in August, 1968, they were invited to lead a march from Coalisland to Dungannon protesting against the corrupt allocation of council houses. 3 A similar march was planned for Derry in October, organised by the local Housing Action Committee. 4 Again NICRA was invited to participate. Among those who travelled from Belfast was a random grouping of Young Socialists, Anarchists, Liberals and some disaffected students.

What occurred in Derry that day - the ban on the march, the batoning of the marchers, and the subsequent police attack on the Bogside has been sufficiently well documented to require no further description here. What is worth examining in more detail is the effect those scenes had on the coachload of young workers and students who had travelled from Belfast that day, and came face to face with the reality of "law and order" in the shape of a baton cracked across the skull.

Some of the marchers were already politically active with a coherent political philosophy - some of them even carried a Committee of 100 banner on the march! - but most had never though seriously about politics or the nature of the state. The most common attitude was one of vague liberalism. The transformation of the vague liberalism into conscious libertarianism, and the widespread support which libertarian ideals received subsequently, was a phenomenon hitherto unknown in Northern Ireland.

Stunned - literally - by the police action, the group licked its collective wounds and in the bus on the way back to Belfast decided to try to get some kind of protest underway in Belfast. It was decided to hold a march in Belfast from the University to the City Hall, on the following Wednesday afternoon. Fifteen hundred people, mainly students, assembled at the University. The direct route to the City Hall let through Shaftesbury Square near Sandy Row. As such it was considered Loyalist Territory and the Reverend Paisley decided to hold a counter-demonstration to prevent the "holy ground" being taken over by "republicans, rebels, anarchists and communists".

The police fulfilled their usual function in re-routing the march away from the square. By the time the marchers arrived at the rear of the City Hall they discovered yet another police barrier in Linenhall Street. Paisley had taken over the front of the City Hall for a prayer meeting (sic). Unable to proceed further, the marchers staged a sit-down for about four hours, then marched back to the University, frustrated at their impotence to carry out a simple protest meeting due the connivance of the police with the loyalists' tactics, but determined to do something about it.

A very noisy, emotional and exhausting meeting took place and lasted until after midnight. Attempts were made by established student politicians to direct the meeting, but these were quickly stifled, for while most of those present were not politically motivated, they were quite determined that they should not be used as pawns by aspiring politicians. In doing so, they showed a healthy disregard for conventional politics and set the tone for all future developments. Bureaucracy was outlawed, organisational authority was to rest with the people, or be delegated to sub-committees with no executive powers and which were to be subject to immediate recall. A committee for co-ordinating the various activities was elected on this basis and the prime criterion for eligibility was that one should be "faceless", that is politically unknown and uninvolved. Of the ten people elected to this committee, two have achieved some degree of notoriety - Mr. Kevin Boyle and Miss Bernadette Devlin.

There followed a series of nightly meetings of interminable length, though the adrenalin-induced feverishness of the participants gave them energy enough to cope with the physical as well as the emotional demands of their involvement. At the second or third meeting a name was decided upon which would encapsulate the desires of those involved to achieve a libertarian viewpoint in contrast to the repressive nature of the state. The name selected was the People's Democracy. But while the intent of the PD at that time was to get involved and oppose the non-participation of the population which passes fore democracy, their political outlook was limited to reformism.

As an early leaflet states:- "The main goal of the movement is the achievement of civil rights, specifically our five stated demands (These were: One man-one vote; fair boundaries; houses on need; jobs on merit; repeal of the Special Powers Act.) The movement is committed also to the principle of non-violent action."

Despite the innocuous nature of these demands, in the Northern Ireland context they were revolutionary. What is more they were being made by a group which cut across the sectarian divide as well as the political fence, comprising Catholics, Protestants (and Jews and atheists), socialists, nationalists, republicans, and liberal Unionists. Because of this they achieved widespread publicity, and soon acquired a facility in controlling the media by reversing the manipulative process which usually passes for independent reportage.

The PD advanced from being a simple protest group to the role of militant campaigners for civil rights. Their flair for publicity demonstrated their recognition of the importance of communications. Tourist posters with "Come to Ulster" slogans had the word "fascist" inserted in the appropriate place. Post-cards advertising the beauties of Ulster were over-printed with pictures of slums and figures for unemployed. A sit-in was staged at the Stormont Parliament on United Nations Human Rights Day. A similar sit-in at the City Hall was followed by police violence and an attempt to snarl up the evening rush-hour traffic. Various attempts were made to march to the City Hall via Shaftesbury Square to demonstrate the right of peaceful procession, but on each occasion the way was blocked by police cordons who were only too willing to accept the analysis of Mr. William Craig to the effect that the PD was "disloyal" and therefore could not march through "loyalist" territory.

However the PD was moving towards a deeper and more fundamental analysis of the Northern Ireland problem and its own role in it. Marches, it was decided, were fine for publicity, but a more positive educational polcy was needed. "The PIP" (Play to Inform the People) was an attempt to start a dialogue on civil rights among the the people, of all types and classes, to point out the injustice existing on all sides in Northern Ireland. To hammer this point home - that injustice is not confined to Unionist controlled areas - we chose Newry as a start. Successful public meetings were held. However, when we continued the PIP campaign in Armagh and Dungannon, physical violence was used against us and the meeting either harassed or broken up.

Behind the statement lies the fact that, confronted with an opposition group which was not Catholic, and which indeed was prepared to attack Catholic corruption as well as Unionist chicanery, the NI Government reacted in the only manner it knew how, by stirring up violently sectarian feelings among loyalists by claiming that the centres of towns were being taken over by Anarchists and troublemakers, who were Catholics in disguise, and who wised to destroy the fabric of society. Having succeeded in engineering violence, the government then made its gesture. Terence O'Neill made his "Ulster at the Cross-roads" speech, which was remarkable from his other speeches only in that it contained more nauseating platitudes and homilies to the paragraph than usual.

Some civil rights groups were taken in by this and arranged a truce with the government. This was particularly true in Derry where the conservative influence of John Hume, later MP, was making itself felt in the Citizen's Action Committee. The PD refused to participate in this truce and said that O'Neill's 5-point reform package was an attempt to gull the people and delay reform. However a march in Belfast - to Stormont - on December 14 was cancelled. This was due to two factors: (a) the liberal Unionists and "moderates" believed that with O'Neill's assurances, the civil rights movement was now unnecessary and should disband: and (b) more importantly, the open nature of the PD organisation, where anyone who attended a meeting was automatically a member and entitled to vote, meant that the movement was subject to being flooded by people hostile to its aims who would use their votes to distort the policy decisions being taken.

This is precisely what occurred over the December 14 march. The University Unionist Club "the Cuckoo Club" managed to pack the meeting with their supporters and on a close vote, the march was called off. At a later meeting however, a further march was arranged, this time covering the 75 miles from Belfast to Derry. The story of that march, the continual harassment, the police partiality, culminating in the highly organised ambushes at Burntollet and Irish Street, has already been told (in "Burntollet by Egan and McCormick), but its effects had massive reverberation. O'Neill who castigated the marchers and ignored their attackers, was shown to be a sham. Within his own party there was a rebellion because he was "soft on civil rights". 5 So he called an election.

Elections in Northern Ireland are usually so predictable that no one pays much attention to them. Fought along sectarian lines, it merely requires one to know the religious affiliation of any constituency to be able to predict the result. Because of this most constituencies were never contested prior to 1969. Terence O'Neill, PM, had never had to fight an election in all his twenty-one years in parliament. But this time, there was something different. The PD decided to put up candidates.

The decision was reached only after much soul-searching. How, it was asked, could the PD ask people to vote for them to put them into parliament when they had been denouncing parliament as a sham and a farce, and politicians as corrupt place-seekers? The dilemma was a genuine one, and not only for the anarchists within the PD. But the PD was not seeking power, nor even parliamentary representation. They recognised however, that for most people, elections are a time when they consider politics and politicians, if only superficially. With their eye on the publicity and the communications opportunity offered by free television time and postal deliveries, they put forward eight candidates. They stressed at their meetings and in their pamphlets that they were not out to merely win seats.

"In the turmoil of the election campaign it is important that we do not forget that, for the Peoples' Democracy, fighting the election is only one of many tactics".

"We are contesting seats, not to joion the carpet-baggers and place-seekers, but because it offers an excellent chance to put our ideas to the people and keep the demand for civil rights in the limelight. For us democracy is a continuous struggle by the people, not just marking a ballot paper every four or five years."

"People's Democracy must become more and more concerned with special issues, on housing ... on jobs ... factory closures ... trade unions. The main idea to push home is that we must depend on the power of the people and put no trust in Stormont".

Already the differences between PD policy and that of NICRA were becoming apparent. The PD was beginning to recognise that there was more, much more, in civil rights than the mere passing of voting laws or anti-discrimination legislation. The realisation of the need for economic and social issues to be raised as well indicated the development and change from being a liberal civil rights movement to a socialist one. The election manifesto included the following points: -

1. An end to repressive legislation. Repeal of the Special Powers Act. The disbanding of the Ulster Special Constabulary.

2. The declaration of a housing emergency. A crash housing programme. All vacant housing accommodation to be requisitioned. The cancellation of the Housing Trust debts to the Central Banks, to allow the Trust to build more houses.

3. A centrally drawn up points system, based only on need for allocation of houses, with a central board of appeal. The drafting of a housing list open to inspection by the public. An end to social and religious discrimination in housing.

4. Immediate state investment in industry to provide full employment and halt emigration. A massive injection of capital by the government to set up industries under workers control in those state-owned factories vacated by those fly-by-night private industrialists.

5. We recognise the right of parents to determine the kind of education they want their children to have. We want the transfer of responsibility for all educational functions to a democratically elected central government. The grouping together of schools, both state and voluntary - starting with secondary and technical colleges - into a comprehensive system integrated on a social and religious basis involving parents, students and teachers in the government of such schools. Cast iron guarantees that there will be no discrimination in the appointment of staff and that there will be no political indoctrination in education.

6. We oppose the existing agricultural policy of the government which involves the clearing of large numbers of farmers from the land in the west and south of the province. We want employment for all members of the rural community in their own area. We feel that the situation in which a few people control huge estates while many others barely exist on very small holdings is unjust. We suggest that these huge estates are broken up and used to form cooperative farms for those small-holders willing to move into them.

7. We are making our demands for civil rights in Northern Ireland. We recognise the right of the people of Northern Ireland to determine their own political future. The border is not the issue. Civil Rights is. Many of our demands in the North are equally relevant in the South and we support those who are working for full civil rights there and elsewhere.

This manifesto can be faulted on many counts; and it has been by those who claim that it demonstrates PD is not Marxist or Socialist, or Republican, or libertarian. But in February, 1969, the PD itself did not claim to be anything specific, other than a militant civil rights organisation. Already though, the need to look beyond the narrow limits imposed by civil rights activity was making itself felt. True, there was as yet no recognition of the roles played by capitalism and imperialism in Ireland, North or South; but the election manifesto quoted above, shows a searching and groping for solutions to to the economic, social and political problems which made Northern Ireland a bigot's dream and a libertarian socialist's nightmare. They show as well a desire to extend the same freedom which existed their own organisation to the society at large, and to give people control over their own lives in industry through a system of workers control, in education and agriculture. The implications, or methods of implementation, had not been thought through, but the libertarian concepts central to a restructured society in which people controlled their own lives were pushing through.

The major flaw, if flaw it be, was in the final point which stated that the struggle was confined to Northern Ireland, and that the border was not an issue. This point was seized upon by some politically sectarian leftist groups which even now, more than two years later, use it as proof of PD's pro-imperialist stance! The criticism would be valid if the PD, at that stage in its development, had claimed to be a revolutionary socialist organisation. It did not so declare itself until October 1969. In February, its membership, while steeped in political activity since the previous October, tended to a adopt a militant stance and then find political justification later. But on the border issue, they were aware that the Unionist government, divided against itself, and under pressure from Paisley on the right, would attempt to reunite their all-class Protestant alliance by revealing the danger to the constitution and to the border. Consequently there was an attempt to bend over backwards in order to placate the Protestant worker and assure him that he was not being inveigled into exchanging "the blue skies of freedom for the greys mists of an Irish Republic", that, in fact, the PD programme was designed to benefit all workers and not merely those on one or other side of the political divide.

Across the Lines

The PD election campaign succeeded in uniting Catholic and Protestant more than ever before, and in the most unusual circumstances. The PD tactic of opposing usually uncontested Nationalist as well as Unionist seats had a traumatic effect on the green and orange tories. In Fermanagh, where there are three constituencies - two Unionist and one Nationalist - the PD stood in all three areas. On polling day, in South Fermanagh the local Orange Order Lodges ferried their members to cast their votes on behalf of the aged Nationalist MP Carron, while in the neighbouring Unionist-held constituencies, the reverse was the case with the local Hibernians turning out in force to support the Unionists against the "red menace" (sic).

There were many other examples of unity in favour of PD, with old republicans sharing polling booth duties with young Protestants. This was further shown in the results themselves where PD candidates did remarkably well. In fact one of them, Fergus Woods, almost did too well in South Down. On the first count, he was elected by nearly 200 votes. There was consternation, not least among the PD workers on the count. On a recount it was decided to add several spoiled votes to the tally of Keogh, the incumbent MP, and so he held on to his seat, to the relief of the PD. In South Derry, the Minister of Agriculture, Major James Chichester-Clark, defeated Bernadette Devlin by 9,000 votes to 6,000, while in Bannside the Prime Minister won on a minority vote against Ian Paisley and Michael Farrell. 6

Back to the Streets

Having used the election as a means of putting their policies across to the people, the PD prepared to carry out their election promise and return to the streets at once to protest against the Public Order Amendment Bill. This was an addition to the arsenal of repressive legislation, and opposition to it by the PD indicated that the path they had started on was to be mainly political. The Civil Rights Association and the various Citizens Action Committees decided not to hold any protests since this would be likely to cause trouble and lead to violence. The PD went ahead and organised sit down protests in six centres - since sit-downs were made illegal in the Bill. Thus the difference between the "political" PD and the "non-political" CRA became more apparent. The chief architects of this politicising of the movement were Michael Farrel, Eamonn McCann and Cyril Toman, who were responsible for developing the lines of socialist thought à la Marx and Connolly, and John McGuffin who ensured that these lines should not be too narrowly drawn and that the libertarian idealism of the early PD should not be lost in a welter of factional disputes and bureaucracy. Marx and Connolly were read and referred to, but not treated in the hushed reverence of holy ikons which is common, on the left. Even "good old Trotters" was spoken of with complete irreverence. Stalin occupied a place close to Sir Edward Carson, Sir James Craig, William of Orange and William Craig.

Throughout the spring and early summer of 1969, the PD continued its programme of politicising the civil rights movement, not only by its agitation on repressive legislation, but by attacks on those conservative elements in NICRA who tried to maintain that civil rights was non-political, and that jobs and housing had nothing to do with it.

A considerable advance in its political outlook occurred between February and Easter when the PD decided to have a march from Belfast to Dublin. This was significant on several counts. It represented a break with the constitutionalism of the election period. It was the first time since 1921 that anyone had attempted to break through the partition mentality which afflicted the Irish people - even the republicans to some extent. Above all it was an indication that the PD opposed the superficial but widespread belief among Catholics that all would be well if only the tricolour were flying over Belfast City Hall. It was an acceptance of the fact that the same problems existed in the "Free" State as existed in the Six Counties, and therefore an agreement with the oft-repeated Protestant allegation that life in the South was a vicious circle of low wages, unemployment, bad housing and emigration caused by low unemployment benefits, the lot compounded by the interference of the Roman Catholic Church in political life.

For these reasons the PD marched south, crossing the border displaying banned books - by Henry Miller and Edna O'Brien!! - in opposition to the South's censorship laws. The march whose route from Belfast to the border had been banned by the Unionist Government, had been swollen by large contingents of revolutionary socialists and anarchist comrades from Britain.

Organisationally, the march was poorly planned, and this led to some tensions and an occasional flaring temper. But politically the march was very important, insofar as it foreshadowed the absolute dominance of socialist thought within the PD. Not that there had been a "take-over" by the socialists from the liberal and uncommitted mass of the organisation, but rather that when confronted with the full range of social, political and economic problems which burgeoned in Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland, the socialists - including the libertarian and anarchist groupings - were the only ones who had a coherent and rational analysis of the situation and who could propose solutions which coincided with the anti-bureaucratic outlook of the membership of the left, and to the point where they accepted as part of PD policy, the establishment of a 32-county Workers' and Small Farmers' Republic.

In the wider context, the political situation in Northern Ireland was hotting up. There was another armed police attack on the Bogside at the end of April during which the RUC broke into the home of Sammy Devenney, batoned his family and himself, inflicting injuries from which he died. Intermittent violence broke out in other areas, Dungiven, Coalisland, and the Ardoyne and Falls areas of Belfast, as the police used intimidatory attacks on the people, against demonstrations, or just out of bloody-mindedness.

On July 12 Orange marches were held, and the usual sectarian speeches made. Major Chichester-Clark, speaking at Moneymore made a violent attack on the People's Democracy in "making a full-time profession of protest". Serious rioting in Derry, Lugan, Dungiven, and Belfast. In Dungiven a man died of head injuries after a police baton charge.

On July 26 the PD planned to hold a march in Fermanagh to highlight the way in which the county was gerrymandered, the high unemployment and emigration from the area. The march and all meetings of the PD in Fermanagh were banned. On the day in question, before any meeting was held, individual members of PD, carrying placards, and walking down the street fifty yards apart were arrested. One of those arrested carried a blank placard. Shortly afterwards, a meeting and sit-down took place at which 53 people including women and children were arrested. At a special court held during that night the women and children were granted bail and the 37 men were remanded in custody.

The cumulative effect of all these incidents rendered inevitable the violence which erupted in Derry during the Apprentice Boys' march on August 12, and which quickly spread elsewhere, notably to Belfast, where police Shoreland armoured cars and Ferret scouts with heaving Browning machine guns led combined RUC, "B" Special and extremist Protestant attacks on the Catholic ghettoes of Falls, Ardoyne and Ballymacarrett. In Derry and Belfast these areas were barricaded off against such attacks and became known as Free Derry and Free Belfast.

These "free" areas were bought at great cost - the deaths of at least eight people, the destruction by petrol bombing of 500 working-class homes and the intimidation and eviction of at least another 1,000 families. Further it was bought at the cost of direct intervention by the British army.

The Barrel of whose Gun?

This created problems for the PD and the left in general. Balanced against their desire to see and end to people being shot down in the streets was their knowledge that in the long term the presence of the military could only make the situation worse. This was shown in leaflets which were issued in Derry and in Belfast. In Derry the opening sentence of the broadsheet stated, "The Arrival of British troops on the streets of Derry is a defeat for the RUC: but it is not a victory for us." 7 The Belfast leaflet asked: "Why have the British Government put troops into Northern Ireland?" and answered that the military were here "to hold the ring while Chichester-Clark tries to liberalise the Unionist Government", and explained how peace and reform in Northern Ireland was to the benefit of British capital at this time, just as sectarianism had been useful in the past.

The "troubles" of August 1969, also saw the end of PD policy of total non-violence, and the adoption of the philosophy of self defence. But while the main burden of defence fell on the republicans during the 13th, 14th and 15th, it was after that the PD came into a position of dominance, mainly due to its capacity for control and communications, propaganda and the media. Radio Free Belfast and Radio Free Derry were established and run mainly by PD. The main policy of the stations was to damp down sectarianism, attack the corruption of local Green and Orange politicians, and put forward a solution in terms of a united working-class combining to overthrow those who had manipulated them and set them at each other's throat. A daily newspaper, "Citizen Press", was put out in Belfast. "Barricade Bulletin", written mainly by Eamonn McCann, was put out in Derry. All these things were done in close co-operation with the local republicans until the ideological gurus were dispatched from Dublin HQ to lay down the "right line" to the local units. It seemed that the local people, in their eagerness to fight against the armed wing of the Unionist Government, had forgotten about the need to adhere closely to the stages theory of historical development. 8 Therefore their attempts to overthrow the reactionary Unionist regime were "adventurist", since they were missing out the very important stage of the "bourgeois revolution". So with the advent of Stalinist directives, the PD, finding its movement circumscribed, once again asserted its own independence by establishing its own newspaper - a weekly called "Free Citizen" - which is still running.

They also decided to break away from the Queen's University, to lose the student image and establish branches in various centres throughout Northern Ireland. In so doing, they transformed themselves from being a loose organised group into a political movement with a clearly defined political philosophy. In the 18 months since then they have proved not only their determination, dedication and staying power, but also they have had not forgotten the ideals which sustained the early PD; opposition to injustice, destruction of political privilege and the establishment of social conditions whereby people would be in a position to control their own lives and their own localities.

J. Quinn.


"Disturbances in Northern Ireland" (Cameron Report).
"Struggle in the North" by M. Farrell.
"The Great Eel Robbery" by M. Farrell
"Free Citizen"
"Northern Star"
"The Sins Of Our Fathers" by Owen Dudley Edwards.
"La Rumeur Irlandaise" by J.P. Carasso
"Burntollett" by Egan and McCormick

  • 1. O'Neill's "Protestant Girl" ad appeared in the "Belfast Telegraph" in November, 1959.
  • 2. Statistics from "Eye Witness in Northern Ireland" pamphlet by A. Corrigan, 1970 - see chart linked from this page.
  • 3. A centrally drawn up points system, based only on need for allocation of houses, with a central board of appeal. The drafting of a housing list open to inspection by the public. An end to social and religious discrimination in housing.
  • 4. Immediate state investment in industry to provide full employment and halt emigration. A massive injection of capital by the government to set up industries under workers control in those state-owned factories vacated by those fly-by-night private industrialists.
  • 5. We recognise the right of parents to determine the kind of education they want their children to have. We want the transfer of responsibility for all educational functions to a democratically elected central government. The grouping together of schools, both state and voluntary - starting with secondary and technical colleges - into a comprehensive system integrated on a social and religious basis involving parents, students and teachers in the government of such schools. Cast iron guarantees that there will be no discrimination in the appointment of staff and that there will be no political indoctrination in education.
  • 6. We oppose the existing agricultural policy of the government which involves the clearing of large numbers of farmers from the land in the west and south of the province. We want employment for all members of the rural community in their own area. We feel that the situation in which a few people control huge estates while many others barely exist on very small holdings is unjust. We suggest that these huge estates are broken up and used to form cooperative farms for those small-holders willing to move into them.
  • 7. The "Derry Broadsheet" was turned out by various groups, mainly individual members of the Derry Labour Party, Cyril Toman and myself. "No Victory For Us" one was the first of these and was written by Eamonn McCann. The others came out daily and were duplicated sheets.
  • 8. "Stages Theory" Well beloved by our CP brethren. It is basically a mechanistic application of the concept of historical development and progression, i.e., from feudalism, capitalism, socialism, anarchism. The CP and many republicans here believe that Marx stated that in general one has a bourgeois revolution, and therefore we must first fight for the establishment of a bourgeois state, and once that has been achieved, go on to struggle for socialism. We reject this entirely, considering that 1916 was the bourgeois revolution, culminating in the 1921 Treaty. In any case it is not our job to do the fighting on behalf of the bourgeoisie, to put them in power and then see them use that power to crush any libertarian movement which opposed them.
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People's Democracy must become more and more concerned with special issues, on housing ... on jobs ... factory closures ... trade unions. The main idea to push home is that we must depend on the power of the people and put no trust in Stormont.

The Hole: Crumlin Jail - "Major Mullen"

An account of an anarchist's time in Crumlin Road Young Prisoners Centre (Belfast) in the early 1970s.

From Anarchy #6 (second series) 1971.


I was arrested in a fairly quiet area of Belfast last August, two days after the murder by the army in a fairly small riot, of a youth, Danny O'Hagan, allegedly for throwing a petrol bomb. The incident sparked off a week of vicious rioting all over Belfast, even in areas which had previously seen none. I was out walking with my brother and a friend not far from home when we were picked up by the military and charged with disorderly-behaviour, which at the time carried a mandatory six month jail sentence. Soldiers don't like rioters or riots. By arresting us they were able to get away from the scene to which they had been sent as reinforcements. They vented their anger in the old way.

When arrested I was wearing my black badge. They did not like any explanation that this was in mourning for Danny O'Hagan1. We were convicted on very thin evidence and sentenced to serve six months. On appeal one soldier was forced to admit that he did not actually make the arrest which he had spent the previous 20 minutes describing. Estimates of crowd size, - given by the soldiers, varied from 12 to 500. We had four further witnesses to corroborate our story but nonetheIess the conviction stood.

Belfast Prison works in much the same way as other British prisons. As Young Prisoners we were entitled to very few privileges in the first month. Pay was 3/- per week and we were locked up every evening at 4.30 p.m. We saw no television, except at weekends, worked seven days a week and suffered the same gruel and disrespect as the other prisoners. We were given jobs in the dining hall and spent our days scrubbing floors and doing equally mundane work.


I worked every day of my committal (including- Saturnalia) except for two days that I spent "sick in cell". For the first few weeks the prison officers made it their duty to let us know our place. After a month we were given a few more privileges; television at 8 p.m. every evening except Sunday and pay on a points system. I was then able to earn as much as 6/3 a week. Making friends was easy. A work squad very quickly becomes a gang. Within these groups there is, on the surface at least, a strong sense of loyalty. I noticed that one or two individuals could hold positions of respect. When the dirty jobs were shared out (prisoners could often decide their own scheme) these individuals got off easy.

Prisons, for some reason, abound with working class people. Throughout the rioting political manouvring has ensured that most of the prisoners came from one side of the sectarian fence. Again the heaviest sentences were given to these people. Consequently the proportions of "Catholics" to "Protestants" in Belfast Prison does not reflect the regional trend.

This cannot be explained away wholly by saying that Catholics do most of the rioting or that no Protestant subversive army exists. This state of affairs manifests itself in the almost complete division of the prison into two camps. The vast majority of the prisoners were brought up in the ghettoes and the prison itself is a system of superimposed ghettoes.

Catholics and Protestants often share the same cell2. Prisoners are forced to sit where they are put in the dining hail. Mixing occurs. On these occasions, and during "association" the time when all prisoners watch television, this mixing is inevitable. Division is most obvious in the work parties. Some jobs are considered more desirable than others. Dining hall work is not one of them. The hours are longer and one works every day. All members cf the dining hall worksquad (barring the occasional misplaced new prisoner) are Catholics. For long term prisoners the most desirable job is that of orderly. This involves keeping the place tidy and arselicking the screws for confiscated tobacco. The other most desirable job is a trade. This offers the young prisoner the opportunity of finishing his apprenticeship or picking up the threads of a new one, if the facilities happen to be available.


In the Young Prisoners' Centre, while I was there., there was only one Catholic orderly, out of a turnover in my time of about 20 and in the trades, when I went in, there was only one Catholic.

Later a young Catholic, serving eight years for possession of a firearm, was given a job. It was made clear that the reason for this was that he could be watched more closely in that part of the prison. When a vacancy arose a young Protestant serving six months was given it in preference to any one of a fresh batch of IRA men starting sentences ranging from two to eight years for possession of arms.

In Belfast Prison, probably more than in any other, a political prisoner lives in suspicion of everyone else, particularly those of a different political (and often religious) persuasion. During my time I learnt to trust one other individual that I had met there. My politics were known to most of the prisoners but in their minds I was grouped with the republicans. I was seen as a "Catholic anarchist". As a result of this I found it nearly impossible to talk to Protestants, especially those in for political offences.

I was talking casually to one, asked where he lived just for the sake of conversation, and he answered, "I'd be a fool to tell you that". He probably thought I wanted to shoot him sometime outside. All he did by saying that was virtually convince me that he was a member of the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force —Protestant fascist army as distinct from IRA "provisional"—Catholic fascist army).

Short-termers were always suspect. Political prisoners are always on the look out for Special Branch spies. The greater danger is from fellow prisoners who try to make life easy for themselves by arselicking the screws. If they are non-political they may think that they have nothing to lose and a lot to gain by telling on other prisoners. While I was inside two men were shot dead on separate occasions shortly after release. Maybe they had something to lose, their lives.

I firmly believe that there are prisoners in Belfast Prison working directly for the Special Branch. I was told by a fellow prisoner that two men who had been shunned, because they were suspected of this, were granted immediate discharges. I found out more about the IRA in prison, through the idle talk of others than I could have learnt anywhere else. Every pub in Belfast, known to be frequented by subversives, is also frequented by army intelligence and Special Branch, who often make no effort to disguise themselves (they don't actually come in uniform). Spies are in the prison but I suspect that most of them are genuine convicts either arselicking or being threatened by the authorities.


As in probably all prisons the inmates are treated with contempt. It is impossible for a prisoner to make a complaint and, unless suffering from something very small or very serious, impossible to get adequate medical attention. Several genuine protests were made by the prisoners. In December a group of prisoners refused to take their evening meal on the grounds that it was inadequate, as it always is. They were all locked up and asked individually if they wanted to make a complaint. Eleven did. They were brought before the Board of Visitors (the Ministry's impartial non-political henchmen). Their complaint was found to be groundless and the men were confined to their cells without privileges for 22 days. On another occasion prisoners working out in the woodyard refused to work in the poor weather without adequate clothing. The Governor was called for. He told the prisoners to work and this time only one refused.

He was given three days, "on the board". That is solitary confinement on a restricted diet of one pint of soup, one pint of tea and dry bread. Prisoners on the board are forced to sleep on a bare wooden table. Later all prisoners were given special outdoor dress. On another occasion a prisoner, a personal friend, tripped over a log in the woodyard. He hurt his hand and went to see the doctor. Three times in three weeks the doctor diagnosed a sprained hand. On the fourth week he discovered that three fingers were broken. The young man received hospital treatment but by that time his hand was irreparably deformed. Again another friend had his wrist broken in an incident with a screw. He moved from his seat during meal time without permission. The screw, being a playful animal, pulled out his baton and struck the man on the wrist. This was in front of about 200 witnesses.. The man insisted on making a complaint but was told that if he did so he would be punished, for making a groundless complaint. He was offered an already typed statement to sign, accepting most of the blame for the incident. No complaint was made.


Screws are not animals. The one involved in this incident was never noted for brutality, he was just carrying on. Many screws just carry on, making themselves a nuisance, feeling good by being a nuisance and occasionally hurting somebody. But brutality is a fact. I have seen prisoners badly beaten. On no occasion did I receive anything worse than a punch on the jaw but I have seen many prisoners being kicked in the stomach, the testicles and the head, beaten with keys and whipped with the strap of a baton.

Screws have a real hangup for tidiness, but take real pleasure in wrecking cells, throwing beds in the air, pouring piss all over the cell, beds and all and scattering personal belongings everywhere. I have known this to happen to the same cell three time in one day despite the fact that prisoners must always keep their cells spick and span with the floors shining.

Several times in the four months of my incarceration various politicians visited the prison "to investigate allegations of poor conditions". Ex-prisoners had dared to allege brutality, sickening food, inadequate clothing, broken windows in many cells and inadequate sanitary provisions.

Everyone should understand that the people from slums are used to such things. Such people do not mind shitting in poes and sharing a toilet with 74 other prisoners and such people, even if they work in the kitchen, would not wash their hands anyway, even if the facilities were there3.

Politicians of all parties found the allegations to be groundless. The leader of the main Opposition party at Stormont, Social Democratic and Labour Party MP Mr. Gerald Fitt declared, "I was delighted to see no hint of sectarian friction". Belfast Prison is not a place, he declared, he would mind staying in if he had a few good books. It is the place where he, and his friends of all parties should be.

The Great Irish Cement Strike of 1970 - "FE 3 C. (CEMENT)"

Hugely entertaining account of the Peoples Democracy group's militant support for the six month unofficial strike by cement workers in Drogheda and Limerick in 1970.

From Anarchy #6 (second series) 1971.

The cement strike began in Eire in February, 1970. The main employer Cement Limited made £6 million profit in 1969. They paid £1,685,000 out to their shareholders, that is over £2,000 for every man out on strike (750). The workers' case was that for a dirty filthy job—dermatitis was an accepted occupational hazard—their meagre wages of £13 16s. plus an 8s. bonus which hadn't been increased for 20 years, was totally inadequate for a 40-hour week.

A massive new plant in Drogheda threatened redundancies and at least an end to overtime on which the men depended in order to make a living wage. They negotiated for a £7 a week rise. The company offered 50s. It was refused. The Labour court approved the offer with the proviso that another pound a week be payable from 1st June. The strike was on. The Irish Transport and General Workers Union behaved despicably, as did the ATGWU.

Only £5 a week was paid out in strike pay, and very little effort was made to black all cement coming into the South, which would have ended the strike considerably sooner than eventually transpired. The strikers themselves, assisted by other workers in solidarity with their cause did manage to destroy 8,000 tons of cement which were hi-jacked at various times when scabs attempted to bring it across the border.

In the North the Peoples Democracy (PD) was the only socialist group to get involved following contacts with the strikers. Money was collected in both Armagh and Belfast for the strikers and leaflets distributed in both towns, and distributed at the border to would-be scabs. Several articles appeared in the "Free Citizen", but as the strike wore on more and more scabs in the North began to take advantage of the cement shortage in the South. Anyone with a lorry could make himself £80 for a 60 mile drive. Various small ports began to be visited by cement-carrying ships. Following representations from the strikers and the PD the Belfast dockers agreed to black all cement coming in, but the trade went on through the small ports of Cushendun, Kilkeel and Ardglass.

The PD began holding meetings in these towns and were well received, -even in Kilkeel, a well-known Paisleyite/Ulster Volunteer Force stronghold. On June 16 the PD went down with a group of 30 people to hold another meeting on the pier at Ardglass where they had been informed by locals that cement would be unloaded. A previous meeting had been well attended by local people and there had been no trouble, so only 30 went along. The PD marched down the pier and began to set up the loudspeaking equipment within earshot of the scabs. There were only three local policemen about, leaning indolently against the wall.

As the people gathered around the car with the microphone, a cement-carrying lorry accelerated into the crowd forcing some of them to jump for their lives. One youth threw a stone at the departing lorry without inflicting any damage and suddenly two tender loads of Royak Ulster Constabulary men, the riot squad, appeared out of nowhere. The youth was seized and dragged into the tender. A PD member went up to ask what the charge was and where he was being taken. He was seized by an hysterical Inspector R. L. Brown and thrown in also. DI Campbell then seemed to go berserk and ordered his men to "get stuck in" to the people standing beside a pile of fish boxes.

Without the hated TV cameras to record their fun and games the riot squad were obviously intent on a bit of revenge. 425, Trevor Little (known jocosely to his friends as "the beast") completely lost control and assaulted three bystanders before he was hauled off by less zealous colleagues, and Sergeant Ferguson and Inspector McFarland excelled themselves with "zest". Within four minutes 15 PD members, including two girls had been arrested. Brown arrived at the tender and pointed at the prisoners saying to his grinning underlings "pick a man and charge him".

The lack of control of the police and in particular their officers surprised even the hardened veterans amongst the ranks of the demonstrators. When DI Campbell was asked by a speaker why people were being arrested he screamed "why don't you all go down south where you belong". None of the demonstrators was from Eire.

The prisoners were taken to the local sty where several had to have medical treatment—Dermot Kelly in particular after an attempt to tear his balls off by Sgt. Ferguson while he was being held by five minions. Two more people were arrested outside the station for "jaywalking", a charge which was altered to "disorderly behaviour", the commonest charge, closely followed by "assault". The two girls and three juveniles were allowed bail, the rest taken to a cell in Belfast and brought to Bangor in the morning where bail was reluctantly granted after guarantees for £1,700 were produced. (It was as well that' most answered their bail since the PD didn't have £170 let alone ten times that amount.)

The trial itself was a travesty. It was held in front of the arch-bigot Walmsley, who announced himself convinced of the moral turpitude of the prisoners in advance saying that the police "had informed him that the words 'pigs' and 'corrupt court' had been found written on a spectator's bench during the three day trial". The PD were ably defended, for free, by Paddy McCrory, Ulster's nearest to a people's lawyer. However, he was unable to be in the court for all the cases since it was held miles away in Downpatrick and his deputy was abysmal. Not that it mattered really. Despite the admitted perjury of various constables and one inspector—whom McCrory crucified in the box, to the dismay of the 70 police who crowded into the small court to intimidate the witnesses—a local man who agreed to give evidence was immediately summonsed himself—Walmsley lived up to his reputation. The class nature of the verdicts were interesting also. The two teachers were acquitted, the student& were fined and eight workers (including one girl) were given sentences ranging from four months to 15 months.

All sentences were automatically appealed. After the case there was much discussion. We had been framed, but we had only ourselves to blame. We knew the police were after us and we weren't careful enough. Either we should have done absolutely nothing illegal OR we should have acted secretly and not got caught. As to the conduct of the case we had fallen between the two stools of treating it as a political trial—which it was—or treating it as a civil trial and doing anything short of a deal to get off. (It is also perhaps true to say that the fact that one of the defendants, who had several previous convictions, had skipped bail, with our prior knowledge, and hadn't helped matters by ringing up Walmsiey, a RM whom he knew of old, on the morning, of the trial and giving his name. "Why aren't you in cour this morning?" asked RM Albert. "You have to catch me first, motherfucker" was the rejoinder, which, however apposite. may not have done his co-defendants any good.)

Obviously a purge was on. Within a week PD members found themselves facing over 100 summonses for everything from squatting to picketing and even 30 summoned for drinking after hours. We replied with articles on police perjury and invitations to sue in the "Free Citizen" and unflattering references to Albert, but we determined not to forget the cement strike. One condition of continuing bail had been an undertaking not to go back to Ardglass and so the campaign was switched. In addition to trying to find the £400 needed for outstanding fines we continued picketing and leafletting.

For no other reason than to harass the police 18 official complaints concerning police brutality—all genuine as it happened—were made. The senior police officer who conducted the "impartial" inquiry subsequently admitted that it had taken up over 1,000 man hours.

However, in Armagh, the peace was disturbed by a strange phenomenon. Within the course of two weeks no fewer that 21 lorries owned by cement scabs mysteriously combusted. Worse still, at the time the police and fire brigade were at the other side of the town dealing with anonymous and malicious phone calls. Subsequently police have told claims tribunals that they believed the fires to be the work of a "well-known local group of political troublemakers", but that no one had been apprehended—an incredible admission of incompetence.

Compensation is hard to obtain unless it can be proved that three or more people were responsible for the conflagration. A certain "plumber" Duffy, himself a former PD member, gave evidence. A pathetic figure, the plumber had been an enthusiastic member until tempted by the big profits to be earned by scabbing he had taken his lorry on the cement run, claiming to be "checking up on local scabs". He had been expelled, somewhat forcibly from the local PD HQ down a long flight of stairs. Speaking as well as he could considering the circumstances he claimed to have been at PD meetings when the names and addresses of local lorry-owning scabs had been announced and that the speaker had said that as a "private individual he was powerless to prevent the righteous wrath of the people". Duffy is, of course, scarcely a reliable witness for his lorry was mysteriously set alight amongst the six remaining Armagh lorries the next week.

The destruction of 27 lorries by person or persons unknown ended the lorry running from Armagh, but the habit had spread unfortunately to Newry where five cement loads were destroyed. Here it is true to say that it was perhaps more due to the zeal of the Newry fire brigade who were summoned on several occasions to parked cement lorries which were, they were informed by local bystanders, on fire. In vain did the drivers protest that this was not so and that the token fire had been extinguished.

The stern-faced and diligent Newry fire brigade, all union members, solemnly hosed down five loads of cement, inadvertently destroying them, but doubtless saving the town from a mighty conflagration. More serious was the irresponsible outbreak of hooliganism, which the local papers maliciously blamed upon Newry PD, when a ship bearing cement attempted to enter Newry harbour and unload. Over 200 local people emerged from their houses and stoned the boat out of the harbour where it was forced to return to Holland without unloading.

After 22 weeks the cement strike ended in partial defeat for the strikers. They were granted more money but it was tied into a productivity deal. The suffering of the strikers and their families had been great and the unions emerged with no credit, nor the English unions which refused to black the cement, nor the "democratic socialist people's republic of Poland" which shipped most of the cement. The cement industry has now been taken over by the government.

The epilogue to the PD's part in the struggle came in October, when the appeals were heard. These resulted in Dermot Kelly being acquitted (he had got 15 months from Walmsley), a clear acceptance by RM Brown, no liberal, that the police had been guilty of both perjury and brutality. Micky McCullough, James Ruddy, Brid McGlade, and Denis Cassin all got their sentences reduced and suspended. Oliver Cosgrove got his seven months reduced to one month, Eugene Cassin and Brian Vallely had to serve sentences of four and six months respectively. John McGuffin and Joe Quigley had previously been acquitted. John Curly who had skipped bail was eventually caught some months later but due to a technicality and the able defence of PD's new lawyer only served two months. Albert Walmsley is still on the bench but a changed man.

The crown prosecutor has been heard to say "that bastard Walmsley's been intimidated by all those phone calls and letters, he's no bloody use for a conviction now". Surely no one believes this harsh judgement! Is it likely that a man of such proven experience and thuggery would allow his judgement to be affected? Those who point to his rapid mellowing are obviously forgetting the consequences of old age. His colleague RM Fox whose house was bombed last month is also a man of stronger stuff than these terrorists! The spell in jail has not affected adversely any of the PD members — eight of whom have now done time, indeed their protests against brutality by warders has even resulted in some of them drastically altering their behaviour, though some say that the explosion outside the house of the notorious screw Madden was in some way influential.

The PD had nothing to do with this and it was only coincidental that he had been named in the "Free Citizen" the week before. The paper is more than willing to sue anyone rash enough to assert otherwise. The lessons to be learned from the cement strike action, only one of the many campaigns the PD engaged in in the last two years, are several. Firstly, more planning before demos. Secondly, concerted courtroom tactics. Thirdly, the power of solidarity, with the dockers who blacked cement in Belfast and Larne, and with the strikers whose meetings we attended in Drogheda and Dundalk and who supported us when we were in court. Finally, the virtues of "self help" and local initiative.

Within the course of two weeks no fewer that 21 lorries owned by cement scabs mysteriously combusted.