The Love Ulster Riot In Dublin

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A small band of fringe nationalists decided to stop the Love Ulster parade. There is no question but that crowd of loyalists are sectarian bigots. During a protest against the release of republican prisoners as part of the Good Friday agreement, their leader, Willie Frazer, was asked about loyalist murder gang prisoners “They should never have been locked up in the first place,” he replied.

Republican Sinn Fein called for the march to be “opposed” and those who turned up took it on themselves to decide who could and who could not march. Let us be clear, this was not about preventing intimidation, this was not about defending an estate from thugs intending arson and violence. It was an attempt by a small group to dictate to everyone else. Simply finding something offensive is no good reason to ban it, that’s the road to authoritarianism.

Hundreds of young men (and it was mostly young men) spilled onto O’Connell Street. Having stopped the loyalist march, they turned their attention to the gardai. Bricks, bottles and iron bars rained down. It’s a wonder that nobody suffered a serious head injury.

Eight cars, two mopeds and two bicycles were burnt. About a dozen shop windows were smashed. Three shop workers in Westland Row were beaten by a mob after trying to stop people thieving alcohol. A week later they were still off work because of their injuries. RTE’s Charlie Bird was also attacked.

There was nothing progressive in this (though it’s extremely hard to get upset about a table being thrown through the PD’s window!). The rioters had no goal; they were a mixed bag of the angry, the nationalist and the discontented. Indeed the bulk of the violence happened after most of the RSF members had left.

There are a lot of working class young men who are regularly harassed by Gardai because of where they live and how they dress. There are those who the Celtic Tiger did nothing for, the early school leavers, the unskilled. There are those who treated the riot like an adventure sport, a bit of excitement in an otherwise boring life. And there were those who saw a chance to loot.

It all adds up to a display of how some young people feel alienated and without any political direction. Surrounded by wealth and opportunity, they feel left out.

Unfortunately, however, it is very difficult to turn such destructive expressions of anger into constructive channels. While some of the most marginalised elements of the working class woke up on that Sunday morning with a new appreciation of their collective power, they still lack any constructive way of expressing this and until that avenue presents itself, it won’t lead to any political force that can bring about lasting change.

Within hours, the state’s politicians were queuing up to express their outrage and ‘anger’ at the events. But what is the point of reacting to anger with anger? What use is anger against people who don’t give a fuck and who don’t have anything to lose? At any rate such expressions of anger totally miss the point. It is the policies implemented by successive governments that have destroyed communities and created a layer of disaffected youth.

There is a French anarchist saying that goes “he who sows misery, harvests anger”. On Saturday February 25th 2006, we saw the first harvest of our Celtic Tiger and chances are that it won’t be the last.


From Workers Solidarity 91, March/April 2006
PDF file online at http://www.wsm.ie/sites/default/files/ws91.pdf

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