Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Anti-racism and Republicans
( I am NOT Bernadette Devlin-McAliskey NOR am I connected to her in any way. I discuss naming it after her in the "notes" post)
(the URL and the original name of this post are questionable, so I changed the name, but kept the 2nd paragraph below because of the URL; it's discussed on the Notes post, item #5)
I've apparently developed a habit of naming stuff after living people. But Liam Quinn kind of represents what this posting will be about. He was born to an Irish-American father and a Mexican mother and grew up in America. He joined the IRA and spent some time in prison. As far as the appropriateness of referring to him, as far as I can tell, he represents the main intersection of PROVISIONAL republicanism and anti-racism; that is assuming his mother is more or less non-white.
Sinn Fein is a very anti-racist organization, probably a very large majority of members are anti-racist. It's almost that good for the Nationalist (Catholic) community in general (based partly on a N. Ireland Life and Times 2008 survey that says: 51% of Catholics are more or less anti-racist and 29% are non-racist) (the SDLP and Alliance are probably just as anti-racist as SF (racists in the nationalist community are probably disproportionately unaffiliated to any political party)). About 1% of N. Ireland is people of color, about 5% of the Republic of Ireland is people of color. There's always been a fair amount of white supremacist racism in the North, often resulting in violence, almost all of which emenates from the loyalist/unionist side (based partly on Northern Ireland Life and Times surveys, I'd say there's a large minority of unionists who are racist). There's some in the South as well.
There are/have been strong connections between loyalist paramilitaries and British Nazis. For example, see this. One time I saw a Confederate flag in a loyalist area of North Belfast.
In all fairness, it appears that the Loyalists are not anti-semitic. In recent years, in response to republicans putting up Palestinian flags in their areas, Loyalists put up Israeli flags (these were temporarily taken down when British Nazis came to visit). Later on I'll write something about anti-semitism and Jews in Ireland, as well as something about homophobia. (the former is here, and the latter is here)
The Ulster Unionist Party has a history of racism. Two bits are:
1. About 6 years ago, in Portadown, UUP Councilors opposed the construction of a mosque.
2. In the 60s and 70s there was a British Tory MP named Enoch Powell. He made a notorious speech known as the "Rivers of Blood" speech attacking immigration from the Commonwealth and the civil rights Race Relations Act. Six years later when he left the Conservative Party over Europe, he was elected as an Ulster Unionist from South Down, and was an MP with them between 1974 and 1987.
The Democratic Unionist Party also has a history of racism. Two bits are:
1. It's founder and until recently long-time leader, Ian Paisley, was close to Bob Jones University, an American university with a solid reputation as racist, at least until recently.
2. After 9/11, the Muslim community in Ballymena approached the local council (on which the DUP were the largest party) with some artwork as a gift. The council said that after 9/11 they could not accept it.
Getting back to Sinn Fein, here's some facts that more or less support my statement that SF is very anti-racist.
1. In the 70s and 80s probably about some very large minority of them had been involved in the Civil Rights Movement. The NI CRM was based very much on the American one, to the extent that they would often sing "We Shall Overcome."
2. When Gerry Adams first came to America in 1994, he met with Rosa Parks. On another trip around 2002, he spoke at a black church.
3. Gerry Adams has spoken at at least one anti-racist rally (that I know of), and Sinn Fein representatives held a meeting between SF MEPs and representatives from anti-racist and people of color organizations in the Republic of Ireland.
4. At the 2002 National Conference of Sinn Fein Youth, there was a panel discussion attended by everyone (there was not a competing event) about multi-culturalism in Ireland. Two of the speakers were people of color.
5. In 2003, SF councilours launched a campaign to get Northern local councils to adopt anti-racist programmes.
6. Also at that time, the editor of the Andersontown News, a republican/SF-aligned community paper in West Belfast, wrote about how the nationalist community was exxagerating how anti-racist it is (I assume that was referring to claims that the nationalist community was 100% anti-racist).
7. There's probably about 40 murals in republican areas of N. Ireland that celebrate 3rd world liberation struggles, African-American political figures, that explicitly condemn racism, or that compare the experiences of nationalists with those of people of color.
8. Sinn Fein's newspaper often contains anti-racist material, and also material about the struggles of people of color in other parts of the world.
9. Sinn Fein gets along great with the ANC, and does a lot of work to support the Palestinians.
10. When I was at the 2002 National Conference of Sinn Fein Youth, I was representing the Anti-Racism Commission of the Democratic Socialists of America. They all knew that and I was invited to attend the private part of the conference and hung out with them 2-3 nights at a pub during the conference. This was despite the fact that early in the conference I criticized SF in front of 100 people (well, they might have agreed with my criticism, but it could also be that they valued my presence there as an anti-racist American supporter so much that even though I had just publicly criticized their party they still wanted me around).
Some things that indicate that there's probably a very small minority of SF members who are racist:
1. There is that article about how the nationalist community is less than 100% anti-racist, and I've found polls indicating that's definitely true. A 2008 Northern Ireland Life and Times poll found that, in response to the statement "in relation to colour and ethnicity, I prefer to stick with people of my own kind" 5% of Catholics strongly agreed and 16% agreed.
2. I'd estimate that some small minority of their American supporters are racist (that's counting half the shades of grey; there's probably no white supremacists who would be considered SF supporters), that has probably rubbed off on a small number of SF members.
3. There's a guy named Gerry McGeough who was something like 1/15 of SF's National Leadership for something like a few or several years around 2000. His publication The Hibernian, has published some racist articles. He's also associated with Justin Barrett, pretty much confirmed as Ireland's leading fascist, who has strong connections to explicitly fascist organizations in Europe.
I'm not saying it's confirmed McGeough is racist, but it's very likely he is, and at the very least he's soft on racism. At some point around 2005 he left the party, partly because SF was too liberal for him. Also, his extremely conservative publication started AFTER he left SF, although they probably had some idea of where he stood before that.
4. At the 2002 National Conference of Sinn Fein Youth, I met a SFY member who told me that he was racist (I had significant conversations with about 10 members total).