Thursday, October 26, 2006

London lobby for asbestos victims

VICTIMS of the asbestos-related disease, mesothelioma, with their families last Tuesday (17th October) lobbied their MPs in Westminster in a mass lobby supported by the general unions Amicus and GMB.
They were protesting at a Government decision to withdraw approval for the use of an important drug in treating the condition, which could extend the lives of sufferers.
The Government body, the NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence), earlier this year withdrew approval for a drug called Alimta, which is used as a chemotherapy treatment for mesothelioma. This mean’s that Alimta is no longer prescribed for sufferers of this horrific, painful disease, taking hope away from many patients.
Mesothelioma is a form of cancer caused almost exclusively from exposure to asbestos. Many workers in Britain have been exposed to asbestos at one time or another, and many who have worked in industries such as construction and shipbuilding, now live in real fear of contracting an asbestos related disease.
Even before the lobby, 50 MPs had signed an Early Day Motion sponsored by North East MP Fraser Kemp which calls for extended access to the life-extending drug.
Over 40 MPs attended the lobby, with many of them sharing experiences of constituents who have contracted this illness. Equally lobbyists gave their account to MPs of how the disease had affected their lives, families and loved ones.
The event comes just days before Alimta manufacturer Eli Lilley prepares for an appeal hearing against NICE’s decision on the drug.
Just before the lobby, Ian McFall, head of asbestos litigation at Thompsons Solicitors who have led the fight to free access to Alimta, said: "This is a chance for every MP in the UK to put their weight behind this campaign. During this lobby they will be able to see first hand how mesothelioma has changed the lives of many hard working people and they will learn how Alimta can help some of these people to have a better quality of life."
John McClean, GMB National Health and Safety Officer, comments: "GMB fully supports this lobby. Mesothelioma sufferers have paid the price with their
health and their lives because of the negligence of employers. If the only
licensed treatment for mesothelioma is withdrawn, innocent victims will be sent away without hope."
Amicus’s Tom Hardacre, lead officer for construction who attended the lobby, said: "Amicus is fully behind this lobby, it is very important suffers are given every opportunity to enhance their quality of life. This drug at present offers the only hope for mesothelioma victims."
A young woman at the lobby told her harrowing story, of how Alimta had been withdrawn from her mother at the last minute, after being promised treatment by a her Primary Care Trust. Even before the withdrawal, chaos and frustration rained down on mesothelioma sufferers, with some patients receiving treatment and others just a few miles away being deprived.
Tom went on to say: "here we go again, the least able to defend and protect themselves become the innocent victims".
The final decision will be given after an appeal hearing later this year; MPs have promised to bring this injustice to the attention of Government Ministers, in time for action to be taken before the appeal deadline elapses. Amicus wholeheartedly supports this cause, and will encourage MPs to keep the pressure up.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Mosley and the Battle of Cable Street

by Daphne Liddle

ON THE 4th October 1936 thousands of working class people in London’s East End, led by the Communist Party of Great Britain and the Independent Labour Party rose early from their beds to occupy four key places along the route of a planned march by Sir Oswald Mosley and his British Union of Fascist Blackshirts in order to block its path. Throughout the day they stood firmin spite of mounted police baton charges, numerous arrests.By noon Gardiner’s Corner was impassable due to the number of anti-fascist demonstrators. Police tried to clear a route through Leman Street – but this was blocked by a tram, deliberately abandoned by its driver.Police tried to reroute the march through Cable Street. Anti-fascist demonstrators, the vast majority local residents, blocked Cable Street with barricades in three different places. Police fought their way through one barricade, only to be confronted by the second. Eventually the police gave up and ordered Mosley to abandon his march. They escorted him to the Embankment where his followers dispersed.This was a humiliating defeat for Mosley and eventually led to a cutting off of vital funds from his main financial sponsor, the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.The Battle of Cable Street marked a significant turning point and the end of any prospects of fascism becoming a truly mass movement in Britain as it had done in some other European countries.

Mosley’s BUF was not the first fascist movement in Britain. That was the Imperial Fascist League, founded by Arnold Leese, a former army camel vetinary who had served in India and the Middle East. This tiny group modelled itself on Mussolini’s fascist movement but, unlike Mussolini at that time, Leese was virulently anti-Semitic. He claimed this sprang from his vetinary objections to kosher animal slaughter practices.He was further influenced by the notorious forgery, The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion – the same work that influenced the young Hitler.

Mosley began his political career by being elected Conservative MP for Harrow in 1918 at the age of 23. He soon found party discipline irksome andleft the party to become first an Independent Conservative and then simply an Independent. In April 1924 he joined the Labour Party, five months after it had formed a minority government supported by the Liberals.By 1925 Mosley was proposing a new economic policy based on the theories of John Maynard Keynes, whom he had consulted in drawing up his version of social credit policy. Mosley proposed the nationalisation of the banking system and a system of social credits to the unemployed to stimulate demand.When Labour lost the October 1924 general election to the Tories, as a backbench MP he accused the Government of wishing to be fascist but not having the courage.In May 1930 he resigned from Ramsay MacDonald’s Labour government after it failed to adopt his economic policies and took with him a number of other Labour (or rather Independent Labour) members, including John Strachey, Dr Robert Forgan, W J Brown, Oliver Baldwin and his first wife, Cynthia Mosley,to form the New Party.The New Party tried to make a populist appeal to the unemployed as an alternative to the young Communist Party of Great Britain. But it failed to attract a mass following. Then Mosley visited Mussolini in Italy and was very impressed; he decided to form a Union of Fascists based on the New Party’s youth movement. He drafted a new programme, the Greater Britain and aimed to win fascist power in Britain.

One obstacle to making fascism popular in Britain is that it is a particularly nationalistic cult and in the 1930s was already identified firmly with Italian and German nationalism. So Mosley tried to prove that fascism also had British roots and tried to construct a British tradition of fascism. For this he seized upon the Ulster Volunteer Force, an organisation led by Sir Edward Carson in the north of Ireland in the earlier part of the20th century implacably opposed to home rule for Ireland.In 1914 Prime Minister Lloyd George had passed a Home Rule Bill through Parliament, giving Ireland its freedom. But Carson staged a rebellion in Ulster. The army was ordered to deal with this rebellion but the officers mutinied – the British aristocrat class fully supported Carson – and Parliament was forced to back down. Lenin at the time pointed out that this was an indicator of the true nature of class power in Britain.

Mosley gave the job to one of his lieutenants, W E D Allen, former Tory MP for Belfast West to mould the legacy of Carson and the paramilitary UVF to fit a fascist perspective. Ever since, the fascist extreme right-wing in Britain has had strong links with Protestant paramilitaries in the occupied six counties of Ireland.For Mosley himself this led to a strangely two-faced position as he had inthe past backed a united Ireland and had links with the Blueshirt Irish nationalists. One of the advantages of fascism as an “ideology” is that it does not have to adhere to rationalism or consistency – “faith”, strong emotions and “leadership qualities” are given priority.

Mosley’s vision of a fascist Britain included an Enabling Act to free the Government from parliamentary control while it introduced the new economic policy. Parliament would no longer have the right to dismiss a Government through a vote of censure. Parliament would be elected on an occupational franchise rather than on geographical constituencies and its role would be purely advisory; the Commons would advise on political and economic matters while the Lords would advise on moral and religious matters.Once every five years there would be a referendum and the population would be allowed to endorse the Government. If the people voted against it, the monarch would summon new ministers who, in his opinion, would be likely to win support in a fresh vote. Parallel to this would be an apparently self-governing industrial structure, a “corporate state” comprising employers, tame trade unions and consumer groups. Each corporation – governing a whole sector of the economy– would determine its own policies on wages, prices and conditions.

His promises of full employment did attract some working class support in those areas worst hit: the depressed textile industries of Lancashire, Leeds and London’s East End. But even in these places the fascists never gained a majority and were tainted by the anti-Semitic reputation of international fascism.

Mosley was not originally anti-Semitic but did not discourage it among his members when they attacked Jews. He was a great opportunist, seeking financial support from European fascists who were very anti-Semitic. When Jews and communists united to fight back, Mosley’s movement became very anti-Semitic. Arnold Leese, resentful that Mosley had stolen so many of his potential followers, was scornful of Mosley’s insincere anti-Semitism and labelled him a “Kosher fascist”.

Mosley sought but did not find support from Britain’s industrialists but did not admit this in public. Historian Robert Benewick wrote: “Among those rumoured to have contributed generously were Sir William Morris, LordInchcape, Sir Henry Deterling, Watney’s Brewery and the Imperial Tobacco Company. These rumours were, for the most part, without foundation.”

Some had backed the New Party before Mosley turned it fascist. Mosley did get some support from a section of the British aristocracy,particularly the friends and relations of his second wife, Diana Mitford and from the Cliveden Set, who toyed with the idea of supporting Hitler.Left-wing journalist Clive Cockburn, editor of The Week, certainly regarded the Cliveden Set as a pro-Nazi conspiratorial group. They did manage to spread some confusion among the German and British governments. DianaMitford/Mosley and her sister Unity possibly gave Hitler a false impression that the British aristocracy would support him.The BUF did gain some support in the London area, including a handful of intellectuals such as William Joyce, Raven Thompson and A K Chesterton, plus an assortment of disenchanted petty bourgeoisie and workers. But it never gained enough support from any class to say that it in anyway representedthe outlook of that class.The opportunism of the BUF, in allowing itself to be seen as anything tha ta potential recruit mighty want it to be, in order to maximise membership,lead to confusion and divisions and eventually more members were leaving than joining. Some who joined were obvious cranks and eccentrics, and their presence discouraged others.

Mosley did have one powerful supporter in the shape of newspaper baron Lord Rothermere, owner of the Daily Mail, the Sunday Dispatch and the London Evening News. Rothermere used his papers to promote fascism, which he seemed to interpret as a sort of armed Conservatism. He did not share the fascists’anti-Semitism nor their stated opposition to international finance capital.Rothermere backed off from supporting Mosley as Hitler’s fascism became more notorious, especially after the “Night of the Long Knives”. Rothermere was also disconcerted by the violence associated with Mosley’s mass rallies in Olympia in the early 1930s.This violence attracted a diversity of recruits who saw in fascism theembodiment of their own frustrated causes but who did not help the movement except in terms of recruitment statistics. Benewick wrote: “In 1933 and1934, particularly during Lord Rothermere’s boost the BUF had taken hold like wildfire and had drawn to itself every unstable person and adventurer of either sex that the town.”The BUF did provoke a great deal of opposition, which was mobilised by theCPGB – at the same time that volunteers were being recruited for the International Brigade to fight in the anti-fascist war in Spain.

These twin struggles against fascism at home and abroad helped to strengthen and shape the CPGB. Membership doubled between 1935 and '37.Following the seventh Comintern conference of 1935, the CPGB aimed to build a broad Popular Front against fascism based on Dimitrov’s analysis of fascism and the best way to combat it.The Labour Party’s attitude to fascism was to hope that it would disappear naturally if ignored. The leadership felt that strong opposition to fascism only drew attention to it and encouraged. So they did not support thePopular Front as a party. But many individual members did support it.

The first large open air fascist rally in London’s East End happened on 7th June 1936. The fascists claimed that 100,000 had attended but press estimates varied from 3,000 to 50,000. Among them were 500 uniformed Blackshirts. The rally provoked a hostile crowd of local residents which was attacked by police. It ended in a free-for-all of hand-to-hand fighting.In mid-July the East London Trades Council organised an anti-fascist march and rally in Victoria Park, with Labour MP Herbert Morrison to speak along with Sylvia Pankhurst. Fascists attacked the march, throwing stones as well as bags of flour and soot.The East End became engulfed in a frenzy of political activity, with meetings every night – for and against the fascists. The Home Office recorded police attendance at 536 meetings in August, 603 in September and647 in October. Nearly 300 extra police a day were drafted into the area.In Parliament Herbert Morrison described how the Jews in the area felt under this pressure: “I say, and I am sure the whole House will agree, that inthis country we are not prepared to tolerate any form of Jew-baiting.“We are not in the least disposed to look with an indulgent eye on any form of persecution. It is therefore necessary that public attention should be drawn to this danger.”Subsequently Mosley wrote in protest to the Home Secretary, Sir John Simpson, claiming that Jews were now the only people in Britain immune from attack! He argued that it was illegal to incite others to violence but felt he had as much right to attack Jews on their conduct in Great Britain as the Labour Party had the right to attack capitalists.This was the background to the Battle of Cable Street.

The BUF planned to assemble in Royal Mint Street near Tower Bridge and then march in four columns to meetings in Shoreditch, Limehouse, Bow and Bethnal Green. Mosley planned to address all four meetings. Various Labour local authority and Jewish groups had tried to get the march banned in vain. The Labour leadership and its papers, the Daily Herald and News Chronicle advised all anti-fascists to stay away.But the Communist Daily Worker called on people to come out, a previously planned rally in Trafalgar Square in support of Republican Spain was dropped, after pressure from Communist Party members living in the East End,and comrades were told to rally to defend the East End.

Benewick describes the scene: “On the morning of 4th October, the East End was transformed into an expectant Madrid. Red flags were draped from windows, and variations of the slogan ‘They shall not pass’ adorned walls throughout the district. Gangs of youths marched through the streets chanting ‘Mosley shall not pass’ and ‘Bar the road to fascism’.“Members of the Jewish People’s Council distributed a handbill which ended,‘This march must not take place’. Leaflets were distributed by the Communists calling for a demonstration at Aldgate. The Ex-Servicemen’s Movement Against Fascism distributed handbills calling on its supporters toparade. The national Unemployed Workers’ Movement boasted of a human barricade. The loudspeaker vans of the Communist Party and the Jewish ex-Servicemen’s Association echoed throughout the boroughs. Anti-fascist rallies were announced for 2pm at Cable Street and at 8pm at Shoreditch.”

Hundreds of thousands of people began to converge on the four places wherethe fascists had planned to meet.Some 3,000 fascists assembled in Royal Mint Street at 2.30pm. Even at the starting point, police had to baton charge anti fascists to try to clear away for the fascists.Throughout the East End, anti-fascist crowds – mostly local residents –blocked the planned fascist routes at strategic points. The path from Leman Street to Commercial Street was blocked by an abandoned tram. When police tried to reroute the march through Cable Street, it was blocked by barricades at three points.The anti-fascist crowds defied repeated mounted police baton charges. There were legends of one or two police officers trying to surrender to the crowd– much to their embarrassment. Eventually the police gave up and told Mosley he could not march that day.

There were subsequent fascist rallies and meetings but none so big again.On 3rd October 1937 Mosley – now banned from the East End – attempted a march through Bermondsey in south London which also met with implacable opposition from local anti-fascists.The communists stepped up their work among the East End residents on all sorts of local issues but especially housing. They backed rent strikes against exorbitant rents rises and won many working class former Mosleyites away from fascism. Workers soon learned that in any dispute with landlords or bosses, the fascists would take sides against the workers and consequently their support declined dramatically.Mussolini’s support for Mosley waned when he could not gain mastery of London’s streets. Mosley complained that this was due to Communist influence and underhand conspiracies – but that the local people really did support him. But in subsequent elections BUF support declined and Mussolini withdrew financial support from Mosley.

The BUF never recovered from Cable Street and the fascist movement wastotally discredited during the Second World War when Mosley and a number ofhis followers were interned as potential fifth columnists.After the war Mosley made several unsuccessful attempts to revive his movement under different names but his support was reduced to a small fringeof cranks and eccentrics. When racism reared its ugly head in Britain again in the 1970s neo-nazi parties like the National Front barely mentioned him.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Latest Information Bulletin Out


Information Bulletin 2/2005(13)

by Ray Jones

THIS BULLETIN is the second part of the contributions to the November 2005 conference of communist and workers’ parties hosted by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE).
Reports from communist parties in former soviet republics and socialist states show the and resilience of Marxism Leninism under immense pressure. Parties continue to fight despite of huge losses in membership, great hostility from the new state powers and worsening of economic conditions.
The Communist Party of Bulgaria points out that in the first 16 years of socialism the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Bulgaria increased three-fold while in the 16 years since the return of capitalism the GDP has decreased two-fold. While a small minority has gained, the great majority have lost and an unemployment rate of almost nil under socialism has now grown to 15 per cent.
In Estonia the population has decreased from 1,372,000 to 1,176,390; a large minority of the population have been stripped of their citizenship and the Communist Party of Estonia is so feared by the capitalists that it is barred by law from organising in companies or institutions.
Contributions to the discussion come from all over the world and inevitably, given the present world situation, there are a few that readers may not agree with. One comes from the Democratic Tribune, Bahrain, which under the banner of anti feudalism and pro modernism, ends up by, in effect, supporting US imperialism - a sad case, perhaps, of not seeing further than your own borders.
The conference sent out messages of solidarity around the world.

This edition and previous issues are available from NCP Lit. PO Box 73, London SW11 2PQ, for £5 inc. postage. Cheques to New Worker.

Met more likely to sack ethnic minority staff

LONDON’S Metropolitan Police was last week accused of having a discriminatory policy in its handling of disciplinary procedures for its civilian staff.
Reports published last week showed that ethnic minority workers at Scotland Yard are far more likely to be sacked at the end of a disciplinary process than their white counterparts.
This coincides with another report that black people in London are far more likely to face criminal charges when caught carrying cannabis, while white people are more likely to be simply cautioned.
The reports are based on analyses of the Met’s own statistics.
The PCS civil service union, which represents many of the Met’s civilian staff, said that the force appeared to have learned little from a report two years ago by Lord (Bill) Morris, former general secretary of the TGWU union, which said ethnic minority officers still face discrimination.
“Diversity is about more than ticking boxes, it is something that needs to be embedded within the culture of an organisation,” said a PCS spokesperson.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Defend Democratic Korea!

FRIENDS of the Korean people gathered in Southall’s Saklatvala Hall last Saturday to celebrate two of the most important landmarks in modern Korean history. The formation of the Down with Imperialism Union on 17th October 1926 marked the beginning of the struggle to free Korea from the brutal yoke of Japanese colonialism.
The foundation of the Workers Party of Korea on 10th October 1945 was the culmination of 19 years of struggle against the might of the Japanese Empire that ended in victory in August 1945. It also heralded the new era for the working people of Korea who were breaking the chains of feudalism and capitalist exploitation in the north of the peninsula.
Throughout the year a preparatory committee, that includes the members of the NCP, RCPB (ML), CPGB (ML), SLP and others, organises meetings across London to promote solidarity and friendship with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Chaired by Zane Carpenter of the CPGB (ML), NCP leader Andy Brooks spoke on behalf of the committee and Ha Sin Guk, from the London embassy of the DPR Korea. Both comrades spoke of Kim Il Sung’s immense contribution to the struggle for Korea’s liberation and Democratic Korea’s determination to defend its independence and socialist system.
Andy Brooks listed the unrelenting provocations of US imperialism against the DPRK from the day the Korean war ended in 1953 to Washington’s refusal to respond to north Korea’s realistic proposals to end the crisis on the peninsula.
“In face of these renewed threats the DPRK has had no alternative but to develop a nuclear deterrent to defend its socialist system. At the same time it has pledged that it will never use nuclear weapons first and it had also vowed never to threaten the use of nuclear weapons or allow the transfer of nuclear technology to other countries.” he said. “These are the circumstances that forced the DPRK to resume its nuclear programme and the development of its own long-range missiles.
“These are the reasons why Democratic Korea announced this week that it would test its first nuclear weapon in the near future. It was as inevitable as it was justifiable”.
This was echoed by Ella Rule who moved a solidarity message on behalf of the committee that was adopted unanimously.
The meeting then heard a report back from one of the CPGB (ML) comrades who had recently returned from the DPRK and saw some of their photos displayed on the walls as well as a video about the capture of the US spy-ship Pueblo in 1968.
But all these meetings are celebrations and as Southall is in the heart of London’s Asian community the formal part of the proceedings ended not surprisingly with a performance of Indian progressive songs and Indian food and drink.

pic: Ha Sin Guk, Zane Carpenter and Andy Brooks

Celebration in Cable Street

HUNDREDS of people gathered in Cable Street in London’s East End to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street, where Sir Oswald Mosley and his British Union of Fascists were prevented from marching by hundreds of thousands of East End people who came out and blocked the streets.
There was a brief procession with banners, including many trade union banners, a special Cable Street community banner and a replica of the banner of the 15th battalion of the International Brigade. It went from Shadwell Underground Station to the small park behind St George’s Town Hall where there were stalls and food vendors.
It was a light-hearted affair, in very pleasant autumn weather, without heavy speeches but lots of music. Poet Michael Rosen opened the event and introduced his father, Harold Rosen, a veteran of the Battle of Cable Street.
Harold gave an account of the battle and of the feelings at the time, when Italy and Germany had already turned to fascism, there was a fierce war against fascism going on in Spain and no one knew for certain who would win – in the East End or in the world.
The entertainment included Spanish flamenco dancing, a local Bangladeshi folk group and a cracking kletzmer band, Kletzmania, that sparked an outbreak of spontaneous dancing – very rare at left-wing events.
The audience included many well known faces: Bob Crow of the RMT transport union, Matt Wrack of the Fire Brigades Union, local Respect MP George Galloway and Communities Minister Ruth Kelly.
New Worker sellers sold out and wished they had brought more copies of the paper and a good time was had by all.

Another Black death in custody

THE INDEPENDENT Police Complaints Commission is investigating the death of Frank Ogburo, a 43-year-old Nigerian who was visiting Woolwich in south east London last month and who died while being arrested.
Police were called to a disturbance at the Vista block of flats in Woolwich town centre at 10.30 pm on Wednesday 27th September. Police say that during the arrest Ogburo became unwell and stopped breathing. They called an ambulance; paramedics tried to revive him but he was dead before he arrived at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital on Woolwich Common. shouting
One resident of the block of flats said: “I could hear shouting from above my flat and then a while later I looked out of my window, which looks on to Calderwood Street. There were lots of policemen and I could see a black man trying to run off up the road.”
Eltham MP Clive Efford described the death as “a shocking tragedy, which requires a thorough investigation by the IPCC”.Meanwhile Frank Ogburo’s wife Christine was awaiting his return to Lagos. She told reporters: “I want to know what killed my husband”.
The case has grim resonances of another death in the same borough just two years ago when young black fitness instructor Paul Coker died in mysterious circumstances while being arrested by the same local police force. And it was this police force, based at Plumstead Police Station, that failed to investigate properly the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence a decade ago.
Paul came from a mixed family – an African father and English mother. He had been arrested, allegedly for causing a disturbance, subdued by several police officers and then put in a cell. The next thing the family knew was that the police were informing them that Paul was dead – with no explanation of how it happened.
Paul’s father Sam Coker was a former councillor and political activist who had been among many at an anti-racist meeting at nearby Welling library that was attacked by British National Party thugs. Sam, a former army PT instructor, had leapt out of an upstairs window in order to grapple with a couple of fascists in the street below. Paul also kept himself very fit.
Paul Coker had won a compensation case against the police six years before his death and had initiated a second legal action against the prison service, claiming he had been assaulted by a prison officer while serving a one-year sentence for burglary.
There have been 151 deaths in custody since 1993.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Diarmuid O'Neill: framed to be killed.

Diarmuid O’Neill: ‘framed up to be killed’

by Theo Russell

SUPPORTERS of the Justice for Diarmuid O’Neill Campaign gathered in London last Saturday to mark 10 years since he was shot six times during an early morning police raid in Hammersmith.
Gwen Cook of the Justice for Diarmuid O’Neill Campaign drew parallels between Diarmuid’s case and the more recent shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes. Immediately after the event, she recalled, the Metropolitan Police said that a gun battle had taken place when they had raided a “bomb factory”. In fact Diarmuid has been followed for weeks and police had searched the flat, and knew that he was not armed and there were no weapons in the flat.
Diarmuid, she said, “was killed because he aspired to a united Ireland free of British occupation”.
The justice campaign’s demand for an independent public inquiry received support from human rights groups (including Amnesty International), trade unions and community groups.
But the Police Complaints Authority handed the investigation to the Metropolitan Police itself – a departure from the norm of giving the responsibility to another force. After three years, the family were informed that no-one was to be charged.
The inquest into the shooting, in 1999-2000, was chaired not by the coroner for Hammersmith and Fulham but the previous, retired coroner, and not in Hammersmith but in Kingston-upon-Thames, far more inconvenient for family and supporters to reach.
The coroner shocked observers by addressing the jury after he had made his summing up, declaring that and unlawful killing verdict would make Diarmuid into a “martyr”, and then getting into a row with the family’s legal representative Michael Mansfield. A verdict of lawful killing was returned.
Pete Middleton of the Wolfe Tone Society, again comparing the case with the Menezes shooting, said bluntly: “When the British government decide that you are enemy, you will be framed up to be killed.”
He described Diarmuid O’Neill as “a young, proud and enthusiastic man” who was active in selling Republican News and in protests against the poll tax and the 1990 Gulf War.
“He had strong principles and moved on to become a volunteer for the Irish Republican Army – but he was no different, he was the same enthusiastic young man. He was an internationalist with a keen interest in the Basque Country and Palestine. He wasn’t anti-English, he was anti the establishment occupying his country.”
Middleton said that “on this 10th anniversary, people should be thinking of getting back involved with the republican movement”. If Diarmuid O’Neill had lived, he said, “he would have known that progress was possible not just through armed means, but through political struggle.”
Gerry Kelly, Sinn Fein’s spokesperson on policing and justice, told the meeting that while it was hard being a republican in the north or the south of Ireland, “it was even harder being a republican in London”. shoot-to-kill
“Diarmuid didn’t want to die, and more important he didn’t deserve to die”, he said. “But unfortunately this was a shoot-to-kill operation, and unfortunately it doesn’t sit on its own – there have been many such events over the years.”
Kelly said the British authorities’ greatest fear of holding inquiries is not that some people will go to prison, “but their being stopped from carrying out actions which override all the rules of society and of democracy. For this reason their greatest fear was an independent public enquiry.”
Comparing the Justice for Diarmuid O’Neill Campaign with the many other ongoing campaigns and inquiries arising from the conflict in Ireland, such as those on the killings of Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson, Kelly said that such campaigns were “long, slow, frustrating and sometimes demoralising – but they work, they change things, and they’re very worthwhile doing.”
He ended by saying, “Given that Diarmuid was an ordinary fella living in extraordinary times, Diarmuid rose to the challenge. My commitment is to finish the struggle that Diarmuid was involved in.”
The meeting was also attended by Diarmuid’s father, Eoghan, who had travelled from Ireland, and heard of plans for plaque in Hammersmith commemorating Diarmuid’s death – likely to be on hold since the borough is now Tory-controlled.