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Youth Against Racism condemn Cllr. Henry Reilly’s “disgusting attempt to divide workers facing redundancy”
13 August 2009 Press Release
The Youth Against Racism campaign has condemned comments made by Cllr. Henry Reilly who has argued that migrant workers at B/E Aerospace should be sacked ahead of local workers.
Youth Against Racism spokesperson, Paddy Meehan branded the comments, “a disgusting attempt to divide workers facing redundancy.”
“Instead of opposing job losses Cllr. Reilly has attempted to pit migrant workers against local workers at B/E Aerospace. In doing so he is attempting to divide workers when they should be standing united to fight all job losses. The only people who should be facing redundancy are the bosses of B/E Aerospace not ordinary workers, local or migrant.
“This attack on migrant workers should not come as a surprise given Cllr. Reilly’s business background. He is a former President of the Newry Chamber of Commerce and has never been a friend of working people.
“Youth Against Racism will continue to combat attempts by opportunist politicians to scapegoat migrant workers for the economic crisis. It is in the interests of working people to unite to defend jobs.”
PRESS RELEASE 28 July 2009
Anti-racist campaigner receives second threat
Paddy Meehan, an organiser of protests against racist attacks on Romanian families in Belfast, has been informed by police that a threat has been issued to abduct him within the next week. It follows a threat made several weeks ago to firebomb his home and similar threats made against ethnic minority groups.
The PSNI passed on details to Mr Meehan that “Police are in receipt of anonymous information that unknown persons are proposing to abduct within the next week a Patrick Meehan who was involved in the protests in the Lisburn Rd about the Romanian’s.”
Mr Meehan who has recently been involved in setting up the Youth Against Racism group said in a statement “This will not stop me from continuing to campaign against the far-right and racists carrying out attacks on migrant workers. The far-right are targeting young people to recruit and spread their poisonous racist ideas. That is why I am determined that Youth Against Racism is built throughout Northern Ireland which can combat the far-right and unite young people to fight for decent jobs and a real future.”
In defence of anti-racist protest: a reply to Derek Hanway
Gary Mulcahy, Socialist Party, 16th July 2009
The reflections of Derek Hanway in the pages of Fortnight magazine (July/August 2009 No. 466) unfortunately have only helped to obscure and distort the facts surrounding racist attacks on Romanian families in Belfast in June.
His attempt to analyse the events and the actions of the many different organisations in response to the attacks displays an ignorance of what actually happened, especially the impact of the local residents protest on the Lisburn Rd.
The purpose of this response is to counter the arguments being made by Mr Hanway, not just for the sake of it but because there are valuable lessons from these events which need to be drawn if racist attacks are to be prevented and cut across in future. To be fair, it is not just Mr. Hanway who harbours the position that the local residents protest was counter-productive. It has been a position which has been mostly whispered by many “official” authorities, bureaucrats and politicians and more publicly by the police.
Mr. Hanway accuses the local residents who came to the assistance of the Romanian families of being in part responsible for the families fleeing Belfast. This assertion will correctly be derided by the hundreds of local people who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with their Romanian neighbours against racist thugs. It should also be noted that the many professional groups and NGO’s which are supposed to represent ethnic minorities did nothing to stop the attacks.
In his article in Fortnight, he states ‘Anyone with knowledge of Roma people would have known about a general reluctance by Roma to attract attention. While the Roma families were still in their damaged homes, they were being ‘protected’ by anti-racist activists. I witnessed many acting more like pumped up vigilantes, some bringing cider carry-outs to the garden of one home. This response strengthened the Roma families’ sense of fear and attracted more unwelcome attention to their homes.’
What Hanway chooses to ignore is the fact that there had been no publicity surrounding the attacks before Monday 15th June. The only unwelcome attention being visited upon the Romanian families was that of the racists who had persistently carried out attacks in the absence of any protests, defence or publicity.
The homes of the Romanian families on Belgravia Avenue, Wellington Park and Wellesley Avenue had been attacked on nine occasions between Wednesday 10th June and Monday 15th June. One of the neighbours who played a leading role in organising the defence of the families and the residents protest and also a Socialist Party member, Paddy Meehan, gave a flavour of these attacks:
‘A consistent campaign to forcibly evict the Roma began on Wednesday 10th June when a house on Belgravia Avenue was attacked by a gang of up to 20 young people. Windows were broken with stones and bricks. The attack, like the rest of the attacks, would last for only a few minutes. In this way the attackers knew they could get away from the police and launch persistent attacks as the police wouldn’t remain in the area. On Thursday 11th June some of the Roma including a small child were attacked as they stood outside their house on Wellesley Avenue. They were threatened the houses would be burnt down if they didn’t leave immediately. On Friday evening a group of local residents including myself witnessed the attack on 14 Belgravia Ave. As the attackers fled they shouted “Up Combat-18” and “Get the Paki’s out”.’
These attacks happened before any protests or defence was organised by local residents. There was no reporting of these attacks. No attention had been drawn to the attacks, yet they persisted. In fact, after an attack on the afternoon of Saturday 13th June, the BBC was contacted several times asking that they send reporters to the scene of the attacks. This was done, correctly, in order to raise the issue publicly and show the reality of racist attacks, an important aspect in tackling racist attacks. But the BBC refused to report the attacks, claiming that they were waiting on police reports. After the families were attacked again at about 1am on Sunday morning, it was agreed by residents to organise a protest in solidarity with the families. Only then did the media begin to report the attacks. On Monday morning, a press release was issued by Paddy Meehan on behalf of the residents who had begun to organise rotas of residents to defend the homes around the clock from Sunday. The first reports of the attacks were in response to the decision of residents to call the protest and organise defence.
Mr Hanway also chooses to ignore the fact that no racist attacks occurred after defence was organised on Sunday 14th June. Despite the best efforts to pressurise the PSNI into taking action against the racists and provide protection for the families, the police were unable to stop the attacks. Serious criticisms have been made of the police inaction by residents. Organisers of the protest publicised the details of the police response to the attacks. On Channel 4 News a representative from the PSNI was unable to defend their inaction and admitted that the PSNI did not respond appropriately. The most effective defence of the homes was not to rely on the police; it was by organising local residents to be present outside of the homes. This approach, combined with the protest and publicity, succeeded in stopping the attacks.
None of the ‘statutory bodies’ stopped the attacks. The actions of residents also made a major impact in exposing and embarrassing the police and the statutory bodies into taking action, albeit late in the day. However, as far as the authorities and the political establishment in the Northern Ireland Executive were concerned, the way to ‘deal’ with this problem was to encourage the families to return to Romania. Instead of examining the actual needs of the Romanian families and the basis for racist attacks, they chose instead to put their heads in the sand and allow the racists to claim victory.
Racist attacks need to be combated in the communities where they are taking place. By mobilising the local community, racists can be isolated and the ability of the far-right to gain a foothold can be cut across. There is no doubt that the residents action has succeeded in isolating the handful of thugs responsible for carrying out the attacks. The trade union movement together with young people and genuine community groups must also respond quickly to confront racists carrying out attacks in communities, by organising local protests and campaigning against racism.
Hand in hand with this approach, it is vital that the social problems which exist in many communities are also tackled in order to combat racism. Unemployment, lack of social housing, unfit housing and landlordism all create the breeding ground for racism. In order to fully combat racism, it is therefore necessary to fight for an end to poverty, unemployment and lack of social housing. The lack of a mass political voice which can unite working class people to stand together and fight for decent jobs, homes and a real future for young people creates a political vacuum, offering the far-right the opportunity to exploit and manipulate people who see no future. The economic crisis which is unfolding internationally is a vivid illustration of the inability of capitalism to provide for the needs of working class people. It is urgent that a mass political alternative is built which can provide a socialist alternative to the poison of racism and poverty.
JOBS & HOMES FOR ALL, NOT RACISM
Gary Mulcahy, 23 June 2009
THE RACIST attacks against Romanian families carried out by a tiny minority of thugs in the Lisburn Road area of Belfast show the real face of the far-right and fascists.
These attacks could have led to the death of children in these homes were it not for the action taken by local residents who organised defence and solidarity.
Socialist Party members living on the Lisburn Rd. played an excellent role in organising residents and rallying support for the families. If it were not for the stand taken by local residents, the issue would have been consigned to a few lines in the side columns deep inside newspapers and gone largely unnoticed. Instead, as a result of the protest action and organised defence, the issue has been propelled to the top of the agenda in the press and hit the headlines across the world. It has also seriously exposed the inaction of the PSNI and the local authorities. Socialist Party members publicised how the police failed to respond quickly enough to catch those carrying out the attacks and failed to properly investigate the attacks. The police had no interest in taking any statements from witnesses and did not even bother to get interpreters. Socialist Party members had to fight for local services such as interpreters, battling against pointless bureaucracy from “official” groups in the process.
After a rota of local residents was organised to defend the families’ homes, it was decided to call a protest on the morning of Monday 15 June. That evening 200 local residents came out to publicly show their disgust at the attacks and give support to the Romanian families. A small group of fascist youths approached the protest shouting “Pakis Out” and were drowned out by the protest with chants of “Nazi scum off our streets” and “Nazis Out!” They then turned up a side street, but returned ten minutes later hurling glass bottles and bricks at the protest but missed their target. They were quickly chased back by protestors, which included the Romanian residents, and dispersed out of the area. Two PSNI officers arrived at the protest and were instructed by protestors to take the necks of the broken bottles for fingerprints. The protest lasted another 40 minutes and grew in numbers after the attempted attack by fascists. Squads of residents then took turns to guard the homes of the families. Socialist Party member and leading organiser of the residents, Paddy Meehan has now become a target for the fascists who have threatened to firebomb his home. The trade union leaders have a responsibility to organise their members to link up with local residents in protests and defence of people in areas where racist attacks occur.
Some politicians have opportunistically tried to manipulate the situation by trying to inject a sectarian element into the debate. But residents have shown that those responsible for carrying out the attacks are a tiny minority who do not represent the views of people in the Lisburn Rd. area. The Lisburn Rd. is an area of huge inequality. Areas of affluence are divided by the Lisburn Rd. from large areas of deprivation. Working class estates along the Donegall Rd., Tates Avenue and the Village have been neglected for decades. Housing conditions are some of the worst in the UK. Landlordism has also led to social disintegration with transient populations and a breakdown in community cohesion. It is the failure of the capitalist political establishment which is to blame for these conditions, not immigrant workers. Fascist groups are scapegoating immigrant workers in order to develop a base for their wider agenda of removing all democratic rights.
It is a damning indictment of the authorities, the police and the parties in power in the Assembly that the Romanian families felt they had no choice but to flee the country. That is why working class people, including immigrant workers, need a new mass party which can fight against the scandalous social conditions which breed racism, and unite working class people to fight against racism and the capitalist system, which has failed working class people of all countries.
Shut down BNP “call centre”
Socialist Youth member, 23 June 09
THE FAR-RIGHT BNP are running a “call centre” out of a Dundonald business park in Belfast. The operation is seen by the leadership of the BNP as playing a pivotal role in dealing with recruitment, posting out fascist and racist propaganda, fundraising and acting as a distribution warehouse.
The BNP claim that the “call centre”, which is located at Unit 5 Carrowreagh Business Centre, is raising £1,500 per day and employs 12 staff. However, the staff were employed to work for a front company known as Adlorries.com and were unaware that they were actually going to work for the BNP. A former worker at the centre revealed that BNP Fuhrer Nick Griffin recently visited “the administrative hub for the party” and broadcast a video of him speaking about how important the centre is to building the BNP.
Adlorries.com has a registered address in Leicestershire. The sole director is Jim Dowson, who lives in the Ballygowan area. Dowson, originally from Cumbernauld, near Glasgow, is a founder of the right-wing anti-abortion group Precious Life in Scotland. He was kicked out of the Orange Order, which he later described as being full of “atheists and boozers”. He has a long list of criminal convictions including breach of the peace in 1986, possession of a weapon and breach of the peace in 1991 and criminal damage in 1992. He has also produced loyalist flute band tapes containing tributes to sectarian murderer Michael Stone.
Dowson’s son James who works out of the BNP call centre is listed as a director of a company called ultraplumb.com which is based in Unit 130, Thomas House, 47 Botanic Avenue, Belfast.
The BNP represents a real danger to trade unionists, socialists, ethnic minorities and the rights of working class people across the UK. They have attempted to present a respectable face to the public in recent years to hide the fascist core of the party. The lack of a mass workers’ party which can represent the interests of all working class people, regardless of nationality or colour of skin has allowed the BNP in some areas of Britain to tap into a mood of discontent with the entire political establishment. But their agenda is to take away all rights won by working people, such as the right to join a trade union.
The trade union movement needs to take the presence of this fascist "call centre" seriously. The vicious, racist propaganda it distributes leads directly to attacks on ethnic minorities and those campaigning against racism. The unions should boycott all deliveries to and from this call centre and campaign for this centre of race hate to be shut down for good.
Socialist Party replies to attacks in the Irish News over anti-racist campaign
18th June 2009
Fionnuala O’Connor and Newton Emerson (The Irish News, 18th June 2009) would be better off checking their facts before attacking people for standing up to racist attacks.
Fionnuala O’Connor obviously did not care to read the joint Socialist Party / Socialist Youth leaflet distributed to protestors on the Lisburn Rd on Monday 15th June. If she had, she would have seen that nowhere on the leaflet did it state the protest was a ‘Socialist Party NI demonstration’. The leaflet was a message of support to local residents who had turned out to take a stand against racists thugs.
Newton Emerson should be ashamed of himself for accusing members of the Socialist Party of being involved in a ‘sinister’ conspiracy for political gain. If it was not for the action of several members of the Socialist Party living on the Lisburn Rd, who played an excellent role in organising local residents to provide defence of the Romanian families, the lives of babies and innocent people would have been put in jeopardy. No attacks occurred on these families after defence was organised by local residents, a minority of whom were Socialist Party members.
It is regretful that some sections of the media have attempted to discredit local residents and the Socialist Party for standing up to thugs who have carried out vicious assaults and attacks, putting peoples lives in danger.
The Socialist Party will not be distracted however by cynical journalists who stand on the sidelines and choose to attack anti-racists and anti-fascists from a comfortable distance while families are being attacked by fascist groups. The Socialist Party believes it is necessary to combat those who are attempting to build fascist organisations in Northern Ireland and who scapegoat migrant workers for the economic and social problems working class people face. Like Hitler in the 1930’s, these thugs are attempting to whip up racism against a vulnerable minority in order to promote their agenda which is to remove all democratic rights. The key to defeating this small minority of thugs is to mobilise local communities which is what the Socialist Party is currently engaged in.
Text of leaflet distributed at protest Monday 15th June, Lisburn Rd, Belfast
Socialist Party / Socialist Youth
UNITE AGAINST RACIST ATTACKS
The Socialist Party and Socialist Youth fully support local residents in opposing racist attacks in this area.
These cowardly attacks are being organised and carried out by members of far right racist and fascist groups. These groups are deliberately targeting migrant workers and their families. They attempt to justify their actions by blaming members of ethic minority communities for social and economic problems – just as Hitler did with the Jews.
But problems such as unemployment and poor housing are caused by the economic system, not by immigrants. The racist scapegoating of migrants must be stopped. Working class people instead need to stand together to fight for jobs, decent wages and conditions and proper housing for all.
How can we stop racist attacks
The police response to these latest attacks has been half-hearted at best. Response times have been too long to be effective and there has been no follow up action to try to identify and arrest those responsible. The result is that families have had to move out. United community action can isolate the small groups responsible and can force them to call a halt to the attacks.
Tonight’s protest is an excellent first step. An anti racist network now needs to be set up in the area so that members of the local community can be mobilised within minutes every time an attack takes place. This can be done through a mobile phone/telephone tree arrangement. With the community mobilised in this way it will be easy to positively identify those involved in carrying out the attacks.
The police should be given this information and then pressure should be applied to make sure these people are prosecuted for their racist hate crimes.
Don’t let a few racist thugs intimidate a community – United community action can defeat them.
Questions raised over ‘misreporting’ of anti-racist protest
16 June 2009
Residents who organised an anti-racist protest on the Lisburn Rd in Belfast last night have criticised some reports which claimed that the protest was abandoned due to a small group of youths hurling bricks and bottles at the protestors.
Paddy Meehan, a spokesperson for the residents stated “We are disappointed that a reporter for a major broadcaster misreported last nights events, claiming that we abandoned our protest because of the attacks. This is completely untrue. As has been independently verified by footage on UTV, we succeeded in chasing them and forced them to disperse. In fact the protest grew larger after the racist thugs threw bottles at us. The protest then continued for forty minutes and a rota of residents was organised to defend the families overnight. As a result of this action on the ground there have been no attacks for the past two nights.”
Mr. Meehan added that “attempts from some quarters to blame residents for provoking the racists into attacking the protest by chanting anti-racist slogans were letting the racists off the hook. The media needs to focus on the fact that a small number of racist thugs are still intent on attacking homes and putting the lives of young children in danger.”
Racist attacks on Roma families in Belfast for the past five nights
15th June 2009
Residents call protest against racist attacks on Lisburn Rd, Belfast
8pm Monday 15th June outside Mace shop Lisburn Rd
Residents of Belgravia Avenue and Wellesley Avenue have called on the people of South Belfast to protest outside the Mace shop on the Lisburn Rd tomorrow evening at 8pm against continuous racist attacks against Roma families.
Since Wednesday evening gangs have attacked the homes of Roma families every evening, smashing windows and shouting racist abuse.
The attackers have shouted Combat 18 (a fascist group) slogans to neighbours of the Roma families after the assaults. A number of people have been injured and children of the family are severely traumatised as a result.
Police have been called to the scenes of these attacks but as yet there has been no arrests.
One family has been forced to leave their home on Belgravia Avenue after been attacked for the past four nights. During an attack on a house on Wellesley Avenue this evening, a note from the racist gang dropped through the letterbox is thought to contain text from Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.
Local residents are calling on the people of South Belfast to join a protest tomorrow evening in solidarity with Roma families who are under attack from racist thugs to show they do not represent the community and that racist attacks will not be tolerated.
A special call has been made for trade unions and political parties to publicly condemn the attacks and to support the protest.
Questions need to be answered by police
Accusations of ‘police inaction’ and ‘feeding misinformation’ to media
Local residents organising a protest against racist attacks have criticised the police for lack of action in dealing with serious racist attacks carried out by small groups of racists in the Lisburn Rd area.
One of the organisers of the protest, Paddy Meehan has also criticised the police for misinforming the media that the families under attack were Polish, when in fact they are Romanian. Mr. Meehan explained “The police’s reports to the media that the families under attack are Polish is particularly dangerous after recent tensions in the area after the clashes at the recent Northern Ireland Poland football match.”
Log of events
Wednesday 10th June
About 5pm: Crowd of 15 attacked member of Romanian family on Wellesely Avenue.
At 11pm: Police called after attack on house on 14 Belgravia Ave – Police arrive at 12.30am
Thursday 11th June
About 10pm: Assault on member of family at 113 Wellesely Avenue by a gang estimated 15 people, hit with large plank of wood – broken nose and injuries to head and back – child also hit – Police were phoned but when they arrived they did not chase after gang when they fled.
Friday 12th June
About 9.30pm – Attack on house at 14 Belgravia Ave
About 12am: Group of 6 or 7 attack house at 14 Belgravia Ave with stones. While running away from scene they shouted “Up Combat 18 – Out with Pakis” and retreated behind billboards at the top of Ulsterville Ave. Police were informed through 999 emergency number of their whereabouts. 15 minutes later gang returned and attempted to kick front door in. 10 minutes after second attack police arrived.
Saturday 13th June
About 5.30pm – Gang of seven racists threw stones at family outside 14 Belgravia Ave. Police phoned immediately and arrive ten minutes later. Another attack on 14 Belgravia Avenue between 1am and 2am. Police contacted and arrived. Family leave house on Belgravia Ave.
About 1am - Attack on houses at 113 Wellesley Ave and 78 Wellington Park – Police phoned at 1am – Police said they were busy. Residents told police they were worried because there was a two day old baby as well as other children in the house. Police arrive at roughly 1.30pm.
Police inform media that families are Polish, not Romanian.