No More Omagh bombings


WHEN THE REAL IRA exploded its massive car bomb in the centre of Omagh as it was thronged with Saturday afternoon shoppers on August 15, they showed a callous disregard for the safety and lives of hundreds of people. The bomb and the horrific loss of life and injuries caused by it provoked widespread condemnation throughout the island.

Those behind this outrage have shown by their actions that they care little for the wishes or needs of ordinary Irish people - North or South, Protestant or Catholic. They have little real support but have chosen to set themselves up as "freedom fighters" on behalf of the Irish people and as defenders of the republican ideal.

For almost three decades we have seen too many "tragic mistakes" like Bloody Friday, Birmingham, the La Mon Hotel, Enniskillen, the Abercorn restaurant, Claudy, the Shankill Road, etc. etc. Planting bombs in town centres means treating the risk of casualties as "acceptable". Prior to Omagh the Real IRA had bombed Banbridge causing 35 injuries. If that bomb had exploded a couple of minutes earlier, many of those injuries could have been casualties.

When the Provisional IRA declared its original cease-fire in August 1994, the Workers Solidarity Movement welcomed it. In a statement issued at the time we said "We welcome the IRA cease-fire. Over the last 25 years over 3,000 people have been killed and 40,000 injured. Thousands have been through or are still in prison. The primary blame for these deaths and all the associated suffering belongs with the British state; the IRA cease-fire alone will not bring peace, much less justice".

Primary responsibility

The WSM has always held a position that the primary responsibility for the Northern conflict lies with the British state and that the Republican tactic of armed struggle was never likely to bring about an end to partition. As our position paper on the National Question states in relation to armed struggle: "The tactic of armed struggle, as carried out by the Republicans was never capable of achieving a solution as it was incapable of delivering a military victory over the British army. Furthermore a "commercial bombing campaign" will always, whether deliberately or not, cause civilian casualties and heighten sectarian tensions".

The armed struggle was also faulted because it relied on the actions of a few, with the masses left in either a totally inactive role, or one limited to providing intelligence and shelter to the few.

The British state is responsible for the long history of armed conflict in the North. As long as the British remain in Ireland there is likely to be armed resistance, especially when there is no mass movement to demonstrate an alternative to militarism. When the 1994 cease fire was declared we welcomed it because the ending of the armed struggle opens up real possibilities for revolutionary politics.

We oppose the republican armed struggle because it is an impediment to working class unity. It is based on wrong politics, it is a wrong strategy and it uses wrong tactics. However we refuse to blame the republicans for the situation in the six counties. Their campaign is the result of a problem and must not be confused with its cause. We are clear that, in the final analysis, the fault lies with the continuing British occupation.

While we welcomed the cease-fires we made it clear, however that we rejected the so-called 'peace process', stating in our 1994 statement that it "..will not deliver a united socialist Ireland, or significant improvements apart from those associated with 'de-militarisation' , it represents a hardening of traditional nationalism, and the goal of getting an alliance of all the nationalists, Fianna Fáil, SDLP, Sinn Fein and the Catholic church".

Sectarian division copperfastened

With the outcome of the 'peace process' - the publication of the 'Good Friday Agreement', this analysis was proved correct. The agreement offered nothing except a sectarian division of the spoils, and in fact copperfastened sectarian division.

We called for an abstention in the referendum, refusing to align ourselves with those calling for a 'no' vote, pointing out that "they have no alternative to offer, just more of the same conflict that has ruined tens of thousands of working class lives. The republican forces of the 32 County Sovereignty Committee, RSF and IRSP have nothing but increased communalism and sectarian tension to offer. The loyalist opponents - whose rallies are attended by vocal supporters of the Loyalist Volunteer Force death squads - want a return to a time when Catholics lived on their knees and in fear".

No return to violence

The huge vote, North and South, in favour of the referendum - whatever else it might have indicated - showed quite clearly that the vast majority of people do not want a return to the pre-cease-fire violence. The Omagh bombing, following on from the sectarian murders of the 3 Quinn brothers in Ballymoney during the Drumcree standoff, flies in the face of this.

As a result of the huge wave of public revulsion, the Real IRA has reluctantly called a ceasefire. It remains to be seen whether all its members will hold to this or whether a faction will attempt to "continue the war". While re-iterating our view that the British state is ultimately to blame for the ongoing conflict, the WSM nevertheless calls on all those still involved in armed struggle to leave down their weapons. This includes the British army, the RUC and the RIR, although we recognise that nothing short of a Social Revolution will bring this about. As we said in the concluding paragraphs of the statement which we issued on the May 22nd referendum: "Our struggle is for liberty, we are for the removal of the British troops from Ireland - and the destruction of the sectarian Orange state in the North and the Green conservative state in the South".

We remain committed to a united Irish Workers Republic, run by working class people in their own interests, and democratically controlled through a federated system of workers and community councils. Nobody has the right to wage war on our behalf, working people themselves must discuss the future they want and fight together for that future. Our struggle is for liberty, and no minority can impose liberty on the majority. The emancipation of the working class is the task of the working class itself".

Civil Liberties Under attack

In the immediate aftermath of the Omagh bombing, several politicians and commentators were calling for the re-introduction of internment. Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said that 'dissident groups' would have to be "crushed" and "taken out of circulation" - language not usually associated with people who call themselves democrats. The Southern government announced a package of security measures, including:

-abolition of the right to silence (refusal to answer garda questions can now be used as corroboration of a garda chief superintendent's evidence that someone is a member of an illegal organisation)
-extension of the period of detention allowed for questioning from two to four days
-the seizure of property which has been used for storing weapons or making bombs
-new offences of "directing" an illegal organisation; possessing items for purposes connected with firearms or explosives offences; withholding information; unlawfully collecting information; training persons in the use of firearms or explosives.
In announcing these measures, Minister for Justice John O'Donoghue himself described them as "draconian". Within days Tony Blair's government announced a similar package of measures.

We are all only too well aware of the torture of suspects which has been carried out by the RUC in Castlereagh, Gough Barracks and elsewhere over the past couple of decades. More recently, following the murder of garda Jerry McCabe many of those arrested were subjected to severe beatings while in garda custody. The activities of the 'Heavy Gang' which operated in the gardaí in the 1970s are well documented.

Once "emergency legislation" is passed, it tends to stay on the books and its scope gets extended. One good example of this is the Forcible Entry Act, when it was passed we were told that it would only be used against squatters (as if that wasn't bad enough). In time it was also used against workers' occupations like those at Ranks Mill and the Liffey Dockyard.

The government is using the horror of Omagh to further erode civil liberties. The terrorists don't give a damn about our lives and the government doesn't give a damn about our freedoms. Neither should be allowed to think we support what they are doing.

This article is from Workers Solidarity No 55 published in October 1998