Statement of the Irish Republican Prisoners Support Group (London) on the accidental death of Lyra McKee

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24/04/2019 by socialistfight

The Irish Republican Support Group expresses our deepest sympathies for the family and friends of Lyra McKee tragically accidentally killed when she was standing behind a police vehicle on the Creggan estate on April 18. In a statement to the Irish News on April 22, the New Irish Republican Army (NIRA) offered “full and sincere apologies” to the journalist’s family and friends:

“On Thursday night following an incursion on the Creggan by heavily armed British crown forces which provoked rioting, the IRA deployed our volunteers to engage. We have instructed our volunteers to take the utmost care in future when engaging the enemy and put in place measures to help ensure this. In the course of attacking the enemy. Lyra McKee was tragically killed while standing beside enemy forces. The IRA offer our full and sincere apologies to the partner, family and friends of Lyra McKee for her death.”

A Saoradh Statement on April 19 also said, “This outcome is heart-breaking, and we extend our sincerest sympathy to the family, friends and loved ones of the deceased”.

But it put the accident in its proper context, as the NIRA did:

“Last night, in the latest in a series of attacks, heavily armed Crown Forces were sent into Creggan to attack Republicans in advance of upcoming Easter Rising Commemorations. The purpose of this incursion has been confirmed this morning by PSNI/RUC Commander Mark Hamilton. As per usual, nothing was found, and this incursion was utterly futile and pointless.

“The Crown Forces have waged a campaign of oppression in Republican Derry and the community has endured ongoing State Violence in the area, with deafening silence from the political establishment representatives in the area. Saoradh has not shied away from highlighting this, including attacks on our members. In doing so we have continually given our analysis that this oppression would inevitably be met with resistance, as has historically been the case.

“The inevitable reaction to such an incursion was resistance from the youth of Creggan. The blame for last night lies squarely at the feet of the British Crown Forces, who sought to grab headlines and engineered confrontation with the community.

During this attack on the community, a Republican Volunteer attempted to defend people from the PSNI/RUC. Tragically a young journalist covering the events, Lyra McKee, was killed accidentally while standing behind armed Crown Force personnel and armoured vehicles. “

The IRPSG expresses our full solidarity with the anti-imperialist struggles in Ireland and make a sharp differentiation between Republican fighters against British occupation of the six north eastern counties of Ireland, the British Army, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and Loyalist defenders of that occupation. We support the Republican anti-imperialist struggles waged by all “dissident” groups whilst disagreeing with some of their methods and fighting for socialist working class leadership of those struggles. Unconditional but critical support from socialists is the great principle for those waging anti-imperialist struggles, and in these circumstances of hypocritical witchhunting by former Republicans and others who defend British occupation and the Loyalist veto the emphasis will be on the “unconditional” and the “critical” we will state but leave to better days.

The Loyalist veto is a concession to Orange Order supremacist ideology and the traditional ‘croppy lie down’. That cry of the Orange marching season voices the old fear of the French Revolution of the Church of Ireland Protestant Ascendency bigots in 1798. That cry recognises the revolutionary potential of the struggle against British imperialism in Ireland but seeks to defeat it. To seek to unite Protestant and Catholic workers in a syndicalist manner regardless of their allegiance or opposition to British imperialism has never worked in the past and will not work now.

The IRPSG fights for political status for all Irish Republican prisoners in jails in the north of Ireland and the Irish Republic, principally Maghaberry and Portlaoise. Political status is denied in Maghaberry in an outrageous way, that belies the promises of the Good Friday Agreement. Before that 1998 Agreement Republican prisoners could learn the Irish language, play Gaelic games of hurling, football, camogie, handball and wear the Ester Lilly to commemorate the 1916 uprising in order to persuade them that they would be equal citizens after the Agreement was signed. But in 2016 the IRPWA reports discrimination against all aspects of Irish cultural identity in Maghaberry. On 05/10/2016 a prison governor responded to a solicitor’s letter stating:

“The Northern Ireland Prison Service has over recent months been required to remove such (sic) inflammatory items such as Irish tricolours and signs erected by prisoners in Irish.”

This is a response to a challenge regarding a printed issue the ‘Scairt Amach’ magazine which was refused although it was composed in the jail to begin with.  It is clear, however, that the Irish language and national flag are ‘inflammatory’.

In response to a challenge regarding CD’s being denied entry on 07/07/2016 the security governor wrote:

“Several songs included in the CD your client has requested are inextricably linked to the 1916 Rising and other Republican terrorist campaigns since then (straightforward Loyalist propaganda—IRPSG!).  These include Kevin Barry, The Time has Come, The Broad Black Brimmer, The Men Behind the Wire. These songs glorify armed insurrection and rebellion, prison related deaths of Republican terrorists and are supportive of terrorist organisations (past and present)”.

And in that letter lies the essence of the Good Friday Agreement. If you accept the occupation of the six north eastern counties of the Irish nation and the Loyalist veto on Irish reunification you may have limited rights and aspiration to equality – if you are middle class and can afford it. If you are working class and nationalist like Derry’s youth you get nothing, even less than Loyalist workers, who are in the main the defenders of the status quo which oppressed themselves.

In a document published by the Saville Inquiry dated 7 January 1972, General Sir Robert Ford Commander Land Forces, Northern Ireland (now dead), declared himself ‘disturbed’ by the attitude of army and police chiefs in Derry and added:

“I am coming to the conclusion that the minimum force necessary to achieve a restoration of law and order is to shoot selected ringleaders amongst the DYH (Derry Young Hooligans).”

He claimed not to remember this memo at the hearing, and he wasn’t pressed on it, but he did just that three weeks later. Seven of the murdered were indeed Derry teenagers, but not hooligans, peaceful demonstrators demanding their civil rights like the Derry teenagers who confronted the PSNI on March 18th

As the Ballad of Joe McDonnell says:

And you dare to call me a terrorist

While you looked down your gun

When I think of all the deeds that you had done

You had plundered many nations divided many lands

You had terrorised their peoples you ruled with an iron hand

And you brought this reign of terror to my land

How the left has failed in their anti-imperialist duty to Ireland again

The Workers Party made its hostility to Irish nationalism very clear on 19 April 2019:

“Revolutionary changes happen when tens of thousands of ordinary people get involved in politics and killing an innocent woman with empty militarist macho gestures stops that from happening. Last night’s murder of 29 year old Lyra McKee was the tragic, but inevitable, outcome of recent violent activity and the ongoing attacks on the community by groups of politically bankrupt gangsters. There can be no justification for Ms. McKee’s murder. …We need to be very clear about the violent intent of these people and dismiss notions of the ‘lone gunman’: there is no such thing. People who bring weapons onto the streets have often a very sophisticated, support network of people who store their guns, transport them, provide them with cover and offer practical and moral support. Those people are as morally culpable for Lyra McKee’s murder as the person who pulled the trigger.”

So, obviously the “revolutionaries” of the Workers Party would like to see these “politically bankrupt gangsters” locked up at the very least to open up the field for ‘real revolutionaries’ like themselves. The PSNI and the British Army are the only people who can legitimately, “bring weapons onto the streets” we all must all accept. This statement is beneath contempt, a failure to defend the Creggan community against police repression is shocking for any so-called left group.

I can find no comment from the Socialist party in Britain or Ireland, but I would not expect it to be good when it does come.

Eamonn McCann speaks for the Socialist Workers Party in Britain and Ireland in the Derry Journal here:

“Journalist and civil rights campaigner, Eamonn McCann, has derided claims by Saoradh that the murder of Lyra McKee in Creggan on Thursday was a ‘tragic accident.’ The People Before Profit spokesperson said: “A shudder of dismay went across the town when we heard of the death of journalist, Lyra McKee, killed by indiscriminate shooting into a crowd. “People immediately understood the sheer futility of it – we all knew no cause was being served by this murder. “It has been described as ‘accidental.’ There is nothing accidental about giving somebody a gun and sending them to shoot into a crowd.” “The actions of the New IRA are futile, cruel and stupid, but their Republicanism is lethally pure.”.

This stuff is just a West Brit grovel. Saying their actions “are futile, cruel and stupid, but their Republicanism is lethally pure” is to renounce the whole resistance to the occupation of Ireland in its modern form from 1798 on; it is to denounce Republicanism itself.

Socialist Resistance penned, The killing of Lyra McKee on 21 April. They too dub Saoradh stupid:

“Saoradh, the political organisation linked to the IRA, quickly issued a statement saying her death was an accident and extended its sympathy to her family. It offered no comment on the military wisdom of blindly firing a pistol in the general direction of the intended target and the organisation’s technical incompetence is matched only by its political stupidity.”

But Gerry Adams had more of a rational for doing approximately the same thing all those years ago:

“The Adams era riots of the early 1970s were part of a mass community defence against what was universally perceived as a hostile army of occupation. They had high levels of popular support. The Derry riot was the exact opposite. It was a demonstration of the New IRA’s lack of support and political isolation.”

“… The killing of Lyra has cost them a lot of support in the communities in which they are active and many of its younger members must now be asking themselves if they really want to spend twenty years in prison as the result of a futile gamble.”

But hold on, they too are forced to contradict themselves:

“Nevertheless, the New IRA is tapping into reserves of frustration and despair …Creggan, the area in which Lyra died, is one of the poorest wards in the British state or Ireland. The Good Friday Agreement has created a gravy train for people close to Sinn Fein and the DUP but Derry’s unemployed youth haven’t been given tickets for it … The New IRA has set back the cause of Irish unity and strengthened the hand of those who support partition. Revolutionary changes happen when tens of thousands of ordinary people get involved in politics and killing an innocent woman with empty militarist macho gestures stops that from happening.”

Tell that to the those who follow the tradition of 1916. Wait for the mass movement and then we can jump on the bandwagon, as the USFI jumped on Gerry Adam’s bandwagon. But now, when revolutionary leadership is needed, we best go over all law-abiding and respectable.

Socialist Democracy, the SR’s more anti-imperialist Irish comrades, make strong criticisms of Saoradh and the INIRA on 20 April. A group based in the north of Ireland would be expected to do so but nonetheless they too fail to take sides in this conflict. We cannot accept that:

“It’s not much more difficult to see the sheer strategic and political incapacity of the Derry republicans. Outside their own ranks celebrating Easter by encouraging small bands of youth to petrol bomb and the odd bullet aimed at police is not well understood.”

Despite admitting:

“The Republicans have a strong base in Derry. The police want to break that base and that aim is shared with Sinn Fein. Campaigns at Easter and during the bonfire period always see coordinated action between police and the local council to suppress demonstrations. Of course, Derry republicanism would collapse instantly if Sinn Fein could persuade the (Good Friday) agreement to deliver for nationalist youth, yet study after study shows that young workers have gained nothing in 21 years of the GFA and are facing savage and growing austerity.”

Seems to suggest that the urging of the Derry republicans is getting a big response from the Derry nationalist youth for very good reasons. The piece finishes thus:

“Society in the North of Ireland is in decay. There is a growing sense of desperation amongst youth. Those who have sufficient money and education flee. The rest live lives of quiet desperation.  Traditional republicanism offers no way forward, but even less so do those trying to hold up the decaying system.”

That is a middle of the road non-conclusion from a writer with no answers and who has failed to defend the oppressed against the oppressors. Let us remember that historically the Border Campaign from 1956 to 1962 was led by right wing Catholic republicans; Sean South was himself linked to a rightist Catholic group called Maria Duce. But he was a courageous Republican who died for his beliefs. That campaign should have been unconditionally but critically supported as the only resistance to British imperialism in its day. It certainly prepared the ground for the long struggle after 1969. Are we to denounce that too as futile because it did not reach revolutionary socialist conclusions? And Saoradh are certainly no Catholic rightists but declared Republican socialists.

In the light of this it is very heartening to see an English socialist come out unequivocally in defence of those Derry Republicans:

“For once the MSM (Rory Carroll in The Guardian yesterday) have admitted the Real IRA have several hundred active supporters ..and explained why ..the Good Friday agreement has reinforced and legitimised Loyalist rule and this is being enforced by the Protestant dominated PSNI ..(or PSNI/ RUC as Saoradh , the political party reflecting Real IRA thinking calls it).

“The tragic death of journalist Lyra McKee has led to British condemnation without acknowledgement that the PSNI raid on the Creggan estate was bound to lead to resistance. As so often in Irish history, only when a 32 county nation is allowed to exist, and Britain withdraws will there be peace.”

And Rory Carrol in that Guardian article was also forced to admit that the Derry Republicans were not without support:

“Stephen Mallett, a community leader in Creggan, said veteran republicans disenchanted with the peace process had been recruiting young men with poor educations and job prospects. Government austerity measures and aggressive policing had compounded social exclusion, he said, making it easier for the New IRA and its supporters in the political party Saoradh to find recruits. Young people were rallying to their cause,” he said. However, McKee’s killing had united the community against the dissidents. “Now they’re dead in the water. They’ll get no quarter from anybody.”

We think that is a big mistake.

Signed John, Carty Chair,

Gerry Downing Secretary,

Irish Republican Prisoners Support Group. 24-4-2019

The Irish Republican Support Group expresses our deepest sympathies for the family and friends of Lyra McKee tragically accidentally killed when she was standing behind a police vehicle on the Creggan estate on April 18.

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