Report on anti-war march to HMS Ocean

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Date:

Just over 150 people marched down to HMS Ocean to protest the presence of this British warship which was involved in the invasion of Iraq in Dublin port Thursday June 29. Although some will be disappointed with this turnout in reality it was a significant number for a wet mid week demonstration. Also on the positive side there was a real effort to overcome some of the divisions that have characterised the anti-war movement.Ciaran O'Reilly spoke for the Pitstop Ploughshares 5 whose third trial begins July 5th. He was given a warm introduction by Richard Boyd Barret of the SWP.

As the march formed up a small boat from the ship checked us out from the river. There was also a strong Gardai presence, over 40 were visible at one point and fences had been built across the road to prevent us getting closer than a couple of hundred meters to the ship.

Below is the text of the speech Alan MacSimoin from the WSM gave.

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On behalf of the Workers Solidarity Movement I want to thank the IAWM for inviting us to speak, and more importantly I want to thank all of you who turned up this evening.

"On February 15th 2003, 100,000 people marched through this city to demand that the Irish government not co-operate or facilitate in any way the invasion of Iraq. Every opinion poll taken at that time, and since, has shown a large majority opposed to the war.

"What was the response of the government to that massive public demonstration by the people they claim to serve? Over 500,000 US troops have been allowed to pass through Shannon airport since 2003. There has been full co-operation with the CIA’s so-called ‘rendition’ flights, where suspects are kidnapped and taken to third countries for questioning with the use of torture.

"And to give us all an additional slap in the face, Bertie Ahern tried to claim that the 100,000 who marched did so in support of government policy.

"This does not mean that there is no point in taking to the streets. Large marches are good, they bring us together, they publicise our views, they show that there is mass opposition to the war. But on their own they are not enough – our rulers will continue to ignore us if they think they can get away with it. That’s what they have done with the health crisis, with gridlock, with spiralling house prices.

"We can plead with them, asking that they do things we know they have no intention of doing. Or we can take action ourselves. Thousands of people at Shannon airport, peaceful but determined to enter the grounds and stop the warplanes would bring far better results than any number of polite petitions and appeals.

"There is nothing new in this. Back in 1911 James Connolly wrote: “Direct Action is not liked by lawyers, politicians, or employers. It keeps the two former out of a job, and often leaves the latter out of pocket. But it is useful to Labour, and if not relied upon too exclusively, or used too recklessly, it may yet be made a potent weapon in the armoury of the working class.”

"In 2003 when small numbers broke through the fence at Shannon, when Mary Kelly and the Pitstop Ploughshares 5 disabled a US warplane – there was an almost instant response. Within a month, three of the four companies contracted to ferry US troops and weapons had left Ireland. They only returned when they no longer felt under pressure from the anti-war movement.

"If we want to stop Ireland’s participation in the war, rather than just protest about it, mass direct action at Shannon needs to be a central plank of our campaign. Let us begin discussing such a strategy, and begin planning for effective mass action.

"Let us also begin taking concrete initiatives to assist the progressive, secular and trade union forces in Iraq who oppose both the occupation and the terrorism of the anti-woman and anti-freedom religious bigots.

"Finally, let us not forget that next Monday the Pitstop Ploughshares people are back in court, after two failed trials the state is dragging them in for a third one. If you are free, you can join them at the Spire at 9am and walk to the court with them. Show that they are not on their own. As we say in the trade union movement “an injury to one is the concern of all”.

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