Participants’ reports on our delegation to the North of Ireland
The North of Ireland is far away from being a normal society. A legacy of British colonialism in Ireland is the aggressive anti-irish attitude of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC, in a military fashion organised police force), their collusion with the anti-catholic Orange Order and with loyalist death squads. Have a look at the brutality with which the RUC attack Nationalist protesters and at the many cases in which attacks against nationalist communities show signs of collusion between the RUC and loyalist death squads. State terror against Irish nationalists, republicans or simply against catholics is only rarely brought to court. Inquiries are only taking place after years of civil right campaigns in such cases where victims themselves or relatives present results.
(appeal for participation in the delegation, pogrom No. 205, April 2000, Uschi Grandel)
From September, 10th - 17th, 2000 we were visiting the North of Ireland. Our aim was to visit those organisations whose members have been fighting (sometimes for decades) for equality, human and civil rights and against state terror and massive human rights violations.
The places: Derry, Belfast, Portadown, Crossmaglen.
Participants of the journey: five people who came to care about the conflict in the North of Ireland for different reasons, by working in a human rights organisation, by supporting the struggle of Irish Republicans for an Ireland free of British occupation, by doing research on this conflict at University.
The aim of our reports is twofold: to share our experiences with others and to thank the people we met for their hospitality, their openness and their cordiality.
The planning of the weeks' program was done in cooperation with the Derry based Pat Finucane Centre. The International Departement of Sinn Fein in Belfast lend a helping hand in organizing our visits in Belfast. We want to thank both organisations for the good cooperation.
You will find our individual reports below. They are thought to express personal experiences rather than summarize the whole week.
In addition we give an introduction to the organisation we visited.
The week was over too quickly and time flies. So a lot of aspects are not covered here. But our journey need not be the last one.
..... unsere Eindrücke und Erfahrungen / our personal experiences
..... die Organisationen, die wir besucht haben / introduction to the groups we visited
Pat Finucane Centre for human rights and social change
The Pat Finucane Centre is based in Derry, Ireland. The Centre advocates human rights and encourages political development and social change in Ireland. The centre promotes a nonviolent ethos and actively works to build alliances with groups and individuals within the radical and progressive wings of Irish politics. The centre believes that the attainment of human, political cultural and economic rights can only be achieved within the context of active self determination involving all the Irish people.
Bloody Sunday Trust
On January 30th, 1972 ,known as Bloody Sunday, 14 participants of an anti-internment rally in Derry were murdererd by British troops. In the aftermath a tribunal under Lord Widgery declared the victims guilty of being armed terrorists and the soldiers acting in self-defence. The relatives of the victims have been fighting for the truth for decades. Meanwhile it is admitted that the murdered victims were unarmed civilians. It is also established that reports of soldiers were manipulated. It’s a big success for the campaign that a new inquiry under Lord Saville was launched in March 2000. The hearings are held in Derry, they are public.
Rosemary Nelson Campaign
Rosemary Nelson was a renowned rights lawyer in the north of Ireland. She was murdered on Monday, March 15, 1999 when a loyalist booby-trap bomb attached to her car exploded, severing both her legs and causing extensive abdominal injuries. Rosemary died hours later in hospital. Rosemary's murder came the same day as her article in the Irish News decrying the ongoing illegal Orange Order siege in Portadown, and weeks after she called for a deeper look at RUC/British collusion in the murder of Pat Finucane -- another lawyer whose murder has chillingly similar characteristics to Rosemary's. Although the loyalist Red Hand Defenders have claimed responsibility for her murder, possible collusion between the RUC and loyalist terrorists is strongly suggested -- and it is the RUC themselves who are investigating her murder.
Ardoyne Commemoration Project
Ardoyne is one of the irish republican areas in the North of Belfast. 83 people from Ardoyne have been killed over the last 30 years. Over a quarter died at the hands of the British army or the RUC, although not one soldier or policeman spent a day in jail as a result. Two years ago people from Ardoyne started to do research on their own history. One of the reasons was the anger about the unionist enemies of the peace process who used victims of the conflict for their own selfish reason of damaging the peace process. Two years of research and over 300 interviews will result in a book which is due out in spring 2001. It will tell the story of each single person who was killed, to remember the victims and to contribute to telling the truth about what happened.
Falls Women Centre
The Falls Women Centre exists for almost thirty years. As in women’s centres all over the world the main issue is women helping women with all problems they come up with. But in addition the centre is facing the problems resulting from conflict and oppression. Hence for decades the women of the Falls Women Centre contributed to the fight against oppression and injustice.
Coiste na n’Iarchimi
Coiste na n-Iarchimí (ex-prisoners committee) is a new organisation established in 1998 to co-ordinate the activities of groups and individuals working with republican ex-prisoners and their families. Meanwhile some 17 local groups have been established throughout Ireland. A central aim of the group is the fight against criminalisation of ex-prisoners. This include the struggle against employment difficulties facing ex-prisoners; for freedom of movement for ex-prisoners and the need for an amnesty for those convicted as a result of the conflict.
Garvaghy Road Residence Committee
The Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition is an umbrella group set up by the residents of the Catholic/Nationalist Garvaghy Road area of the town of Portadown. The area has now achieved worldwide notoriety for its annual round of parades and counter-demonstrations, and for the violence which accompanies them. For two years, the community has been under constant siege by the Orange Order and its supporters. The residents continue to stand strong and struggle for their right to equality, freedom from sectarian discrimination and harassment.
Relatives for Justice
Over the past thirty years British state forces have been directly responsible for the killing of almost 400 people, over 60 of them children. Countless others have been killed as a result of collusion between these same forces and loyalist death squads. For in excess of 25 years those involved in Relatives for Justice (RFJ) have been providing support for families and individuals who have suffered as a result of our conflict. RFJ works primarily with, and on behalf of, families who have been affected by state and state sponsored violence. RFJ is itself formed by relatives who themselves have experienced violence from the state.
South Armagh Farmer and Residence Committee
Unfortunately we did not visit the SAFRC this time because we arrived in South Armagh at Friday late afternoon. We spent a whole weekend in Crossmaglen in South Armagh and experienced and witnessed the heavy militarisation of the area in spite of the British obligation under the Good Friday Agreement to demilitarization. People are constantly spied at by a huge amount of electronic devices which are also suspected to damage health, British foot soldiers are still patrolling the area, harassment by British soldiers and RUC is frequently reported, most of the occupied land is not given back to the owners, frequent helicopter flights endanger residents and kills thousends of livestock each year.
Organisatoren dieser Delegation/Organizers of this delegation
This delegation was organized by Irlandinitiative Heidelberg and by Save the Good Friday Agreement Coalition (Regensburg)