Socialist Worker


Defend the Barricades

(SW, 11 September 1969)


No peace until Stormont goes


For a brief moment last Sunday the ruling classes of Ireland, North and South, permitted themselves a sigh of relief.

The Reverend Ian Paisley had rallied to the call for moderation from his Unionist masters and had begged the Protestants of Donegal Road, Belfast, to move their "protest" barricade.

In return, Major General Dyball, deputy director of military operations, in Northern Ireland, persuaded the Catholics of Divis Street and Albert Street to remove their main road barricades.

The right-wing press of Belfast, Dublin and London estimated that "tension had eased" and that everything might turn out well.


Racism and hate

They got their answer from Radio Orange and Radio Ulster, the pirate radio stations which poured out nightly racism and hate against the Catholics behind the barricades.

Within half an hour that Sunday evening, Radio Orange called 3,000 Protestants out into the street ostensibly to protest against the alleged pulling down of a Union Jack, in reality to demonstrate that the removal of the barricades was seen as a pretext to continue the plunder of Catholic Belfast.

All their lives these Protestants had been told, as families had been told for three centuries, that they owed their livelihood, their dignity, their very existence to the Orange Order.

.They had been taught by their political and religious leaders that their Protestant religion marked them off as a superior caste to Roman Catholics. They had been led into bitter battles by English Tories, recruited into B-Special platoons by the forbears of Major Chichester Clark, chivvied into pogroms.

In July 1935, for instance, an upsurge in the demand for Catholic emancipation led to large-scale riots in Belfast. Two hundred Catholic houses were burnt to the ground.

Fourteen people were killed and many hundreds injured. The Ulster Premier, backed by Baldwin in the House of Commons, turned down demands for a public inquiry.

In Dublin President de Valera was too busy closing the vice on his former Republican comrades-in-arms to utter more than a whisper of protest.

Thirty-four years later both governments have reacted to riots of exactly the same type and violence by setting up an immediate inquiry and by “stabilising” the situation with British troops.

In Dublin Prime Minister Lynch has no option but to declare an amnesty for Republican militants and to move three-quarters of the Free State army to the Border.

The difference is that in 1935 capitalism in Ulster was still hugely profitable and the maintenance of Orange Power crucial to that capitalism’s health.

Today, although Ulster still provides profits for the British ruling class, booming exploitation in Southern Ireland is much more valuable. Orange Power is a threat, to "stability" in the South and therefore an embarrassment.

The lessons of the past week’s rioting for the beleaguered Catholics of Belfast are plain. The barricades must stay.

More must be built, and more must be reinforced.

They should call on their supporters in the South to open a second front on the Green Tory regime in Dublin: to send them arms from the Southern arsenals to enable them eventually to demand the withdrawal of the British troops in the confidence that they themselves can stave off a pogrom.

The breathing space provided by the presence of British troops is short but vital. Those who call for the immediate withdrawal of the troops before the men behind the barricades can defend themselves are inviting a pogrom which will hit first and hardest at socialists.

The barricades must stay until the B-men have been disbanded, the Stormont regime indefinitely suspended and the Ulster police state smashed forever.

Yet the struggle cannot end there. There can be no hope of progress for Irish workers while the island is divided.

But a civil war fought on sectarian religious differences for a United Ireland imposed in blood in a holy war, is no passport to progress either. The lasting success of the beleaguered people of Northern Ireland will depend on the extent to which they and their supporters in the South seek out and work alongside those Protestant workers who are sick to death of the ravings of Radio Orange.


The cry grows

Their success depends on fighting issues which mean something real to every working man and woman in Ireland. From behind the barricades the cry grows:

That is what we want and all who want the same are our comrades.


Last updated on 20.6.2002