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(en) Ireland, RACISM RISING - WCR #4 Organise!

From Al S <klasbatalemo@yahoo.ie>
Date Sat, 21 Feb 2004 10:23:04 +0100 (CET)

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Playing the race card
As the ‘peace process’ hits yet another brick wall, the rise of racism in
the north is viewed by some as the price we will have to pay for ‘normalisation’,
as though the blow-torch of sectarian invective will simply switch its focus on
another set of blameworthies, marked out as somehow ‘different’. In fact, with the
recent electoral success of Sinn Fein and the DUP, the north is facing months, if
not years, of continued polarisation. Racists from the WNP (White Nationalist
Party), the BNP (British Nazi Party) and others are not, however, waiting for one
–ism (sectarianism) to leave by the back door before
breaking into the house with another.

Racism in our society is not a new phenomenon: ethnic
groups have experienced institutionalised racism and
racist attacks throughout the ‘troubles’. Travellers
have been and continue to be among the most
discriminated against groups in Irish society north
and south. What cannot be doubted is that racism must
be tackled.


The dramatic rise in the number of "racial incidents"
in the north over recent years is illustrated clearly
by statistics. Between 1996 and 1999, more than 350
race-motivated attacks were reported, a 400% increase
on the previous period. The number of attacks on
children also doubled - rising from 8.5% of total
attacks in 1996 to more than 16% in 1999. The annual
total increased from 186 to 269 incidents between 1999
and 2000 - a rise of 45%. Over the last two years
these high levels of attack have continued. 226
racial incidents were reported between April 2002 and
April 2003, with 185 such attacks in the previous
year. Also, due to victims’ fears over coming forward
and their lack of confidence in the police tackling
racist violence, the official statistics are likely to
significantly understate the extent of the problem.
The truth is that Northern Ireland is fast-becoming
the race-hate capital of Europe, breaking the UK’s
record for the number of racist attacks: spitting and
stoning in the street, human excrement on doorsteps,
swastikas on walls, pipe bombs, arson, the ransacking
of houses with baseball bats and crow bars, and white
supremacist leaflets nailed to front doors.


In the last few months, the Chinese community, the
largest ethnic minority in the north, and which has
had a presence here since the 1960s, has borne the
brunt of most of these attacks. A local estate agent
in the Village area of south Belfast has been warned
not to accommodate ‘Chinese, Blacks, or Asians’. Ten
tenants have already been forced out via a systematic
campaign of racial abuse. Last month, Ugandan and
Romanian families were burned out. A six-foot plank
was hurled through the front window of the home of a
Pakistani woman who was eight months pregnant. She and
her brother-in-law had moved in just twelve hours
earlier. A Swedish family were burned out of their
homes in Lurgan, presumably because they spoke with an
accent (!), and a few miles away in Portadown there is
continuing friction around the proposal to build a
mosque in the area.

Role of loyalism?

With the standing down of the South Belfast commander
of the UVF, following the racist attacks in the
Village area, denials of loyalist paramilitary
involvement ring hollow. Earlier in the year David
Ervine, in an interview with Matthew Collins published
in the February edition of Searchlight magazine,
stated that he was in no position to “legislate for
arseholes” and that:

“Racism is not acceptable to me and the UVF leadership
has assured me that they are not going to sanction
racist attacks, nor am I going to stand by and allow
it to go unchallenged.”

Links have and do undoubtedly exist between loyalism
and fascism, both are ideologically based on British
nationalism. While perhaps the leadership of loyalism
may, in the words of Patrick Yu of the Chinese Welfare
Association, “seem very serious” about taking
responsibility and confronting racism it remains to be
seen just how effective people like Ervine will be in
confronting racism. They have already stated that the
BNP is welcome to stand here – while of course denying
that they will get many votes. Whether the standing
down of the UVF commander who “sanctioned” racist
attacks in the Village puts a stop to such attacks
remains to be seen.

According to a report in the Observer newspaper
(December 28th 2003), a leading UDA figure in the area

“…he would not tolerate or sanction any attacks on
the ethnic minority community by any of his members.”
South Belfast DUP spokesperson Mark Robinson has
claimed that it was merely a coincidence that racist
attacks were taking place in loyalist areas. Even
after the attack on the home of a Muslim family, and
death threats against Muslim leaders in Craigavon,
some local councillors were still denying that there
was any racism there. Former Unionist Party Mayor
Fred Crowe said:

"I do not accept that there is racism in Craigavon.
It would be better if the police did their job in the
area and concentrated on paramilitaries and drug

The PUP have supported Filipino workers in Antrim, and
recently issued a joint statement with NICEM
condemning racist attacks. A small number of
loyalists were also present at the recent anti-racist
rally in Belfast. Many loyalists are undoubtedly
sincere in their anti-racism and identify fascism and
nazism as ideologies which many of their parents and
grandparents died to rid the world of in W.W.II.

Combat 18, the WNP and two BNP's

Combat 18 (a violent paramilitary nazi organisation
named after the position of Adolf Hitler’s initials in
the alphabet) banners have been reported at Seaview
football ground. Nick Griffin, British National Party
(who have tried to recast themselves as the
respectable face of British fascism) leader, has been
reported as visiting ‘disaffected’ loyalists in recent
weeks. The White Nationalist Party, a split from the
British Nationalist Party, have according to the
Sunday Life newspaper, been recruiting throughout
north Antrim, mainly in Ballymena, but with cells also
in Portadown and south Belfast. Another of the groups
currently circulating hate literature is the November
9 Society. Also known as the British Nazi Party, the
group takes its name from the anniversary of
Kristallnacht - the night in 1938 when Nazi mobs went
on the rampage throughout Germany, killing almost 100
Jews and destroying thousands of Jewish-owned
businesses. The BNP is thought to be preparing to
target Dungannon and the area covered by South Tyrone
borough council, where there is a growing population
of Portuguese migrant workers.

Both the WNP and British Nazi Party have denied
responsibility for the recent increase in racial
tension. One source for the BNP has claimed that:

"The people who go out to commit those type of acts
are unhinged. And whether they read our literature, or
anyone else's literature, if they are that way
inclined that's what they will do."

So when the words (hinged, naturally!) on the leaflet

"Asylum seekers would be asked to leave immediately;
if they refused they would be marched to the coast, by
the Army, and told to swim"

…anyone reading the words, agreeing with them, and
attempting to put them into action are somehow
‘unhinged’ while the authors are not.(?) (Sunday Life,
July 13th 2003).

The Far Right on the move?

Tactically, the far right wants to be in place and
ready to capitalise politically on any “explosion” in
the number of asylum-seekers entering the North.
Already the government and media across the UK and
Ireland are doing much of the ground work for them –
with regular scare stories about “gypsy invasions”,
“floods of immigrants”, “maternity tourism” and
“welfare scroungers”.

The far right’s key date will be the summer of 2005
when local government elections are scheduled, with
speculation that the BNP, NF and WNP will try to
repeat some of the election successes of the British
National Party in England.

As libertarian communists, members of Organise! and
others in the north, need to rise to the challenge. We
are aware of how racism is used to scapegoat failed
economic policies, and to divide our class. We need to
counter this with our own vision of multi-culturalism,
flourishing in a world without borders, and without
the fiction of racial difference.


>From the pages of Working Class Resistance #4,
bulletin of Organise!. To distribute WCR!, contact
Organise! at:



To make comments on this article, visit the Organise!
forum, hosted at:


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