Justice for Ireland

Published in WIN (Workshop in Nonviolence) Magazine A journal of the War Resisters League March 21, 1974

The war in Northern Ireland has confused many of us. It has received little attention in the peace movement here. I hope in this article to familiarize WIN readers with a group that can provide some good answers to our questions. I'm just learning some of the answers myself. I visited Belfast four years ago and remember some of my impressions. In the middle of the pain of that war I recognized the fear of the British soldiers as I came upon them one night in the back streets. I remembered how I felt as I traveled in Saigon and empathized with them. Now I know they have no more right to be there and I had in Vietnam. I did not carry the connection between the two cities further at that time. I can now. Both Saigon and Belfast are occupied by military force. The United States plays important role in sustaining the war in both. The truth about Vietnam is well known. The truth about Northern Ireland is better disguised. Ireland was one of England's first colonies. There England developed imperialism which she later brought to the rest of the world. The US support has allowed England to continue her control in Northern Ireland. The US agreed to replace British NATO troops so they could be sent to Northern Ireland. The US has protected the British economic system through World Bank loans. British marines are trained to fight urban guerrilla war at Camp Le Jeune. American industry provides the rubber bullets and tear gas. American media has relayed British propaganda that it is a religious war. The media here does not question British contentions blaming the IRA for each act of terrorism. The media does not discuss charges from the different sides that Britain has set up sectarian fronts engaging in assassination (a Phoenix type program). These assassinations have provided the rationale that troops are there to keep peace between warring Irishmen. We need to know more about this. Those of us who believe in nonviolence have had a difficult time discussing Northern Ireland. There seems to be the side of the IRA and the side of the British. Like most situations though there is a third and less publicized side. That is the nonviolent civil rights movement. That is the Northern Ireland civil rights movement. The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) is not well known but it has been active for many years and needs our help. Its affiliate in the US is the National Association for Irish Freedom (NAIF). NAIF was formed in 1971. It emerge from the National Association for Irish justice (NAIJ) and was a broad-based group that included those who wanted a united Ireland and believe armed struggle is the way to justice, and those who support self-determination for all, acting through nonviolence. The split came over who was for what and NAIF was formed by those who preferred a militant nonviolent civil 1

rights movement. They believe that some people hate the British more than they love their own people. That the violence of the IRA has caused the isolation of the civil rights struggle and given the British an excuse to extend their control. NAIF would prefer to isolate the British through rent strikes and civil disobedience while they organize the people to control their own lives. NAIF has engaged in actions here including sit-ins at Nixon s re-election office. They have focused on US involvement during testimony in Congress. They have sat in at the British consulate. Presently they are trying to get New York s Mayor Beame to cancel a party he has scheduled aboard the Queen Elizabeth ll. This ship is subsidized by the British government. Like other Irish groups they boycott British goods. (The word boycott, by the way, originated in Ireland when many tenants stopped paying rents to Captain Boycott) N AIF has tried to clarify the issues for the American Irish community. They are not well-liked by the St. Patrick's Day committee. In 1972 a coffin they were carrying was taken from them during the parade. In 1973 they were expelled as they approached the reviewing stand and television cameras. They were carrying pictures of 13 people massacred at Derry only six weeks earlier. Judge Comerford runs the parade and he does not like the songs and pretty colors being upset by the reality of oppression. Signs have recently been allowed calling for England to get out of Ireland. NAIF points out that this can happen if the Irish community in the US demands that the US withdraw its support. N AIF/NICRA presently has seven cases of torture before the European Human Rights Committee .They are also bringing cases before the United Nations. While the thrust of their activity has been toward Northern Island they also emphasize the need to organize one's own community. Their members are involved in tenants committees and trying to fight racism and sectarianism here. They are strong advocates of unity in the Irish movement while they have been subjected to red-baiting by those who believe the struggle belongs to the Catholic Church. Their services in Northern Ireland are used by Loyalists and Republicans alike. Ed Murphy Ed Murphy lives on Staten Island. He is a Vietnam Veteran who currently serves on the Executive Committee of the War Resisters League


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