Opening Up New Fronts
Front Page Story
January 17th, 1981
Whilst it is premature to assume that the protests in H Block and Armagh Jail have been resolved, and whilst extreme vigilance is still required, it will do no harm to consider the fronts republicans will have to pour their energies into, and the fronts they will have to open up in the freedom struggle when the present prison crisis has been eventually settled.
Many lessons were learnt. The peaceful and disciplined protests under the broad front of the National H-Block/Armagh Committee attracted, on a single issue, scores of thousands of people, and united people of different political persuasions as well as uniting the nationalist people in the North in a big way not seen since perhaps the early internment rallies nine years ago.
Rubbing shoulders with republicans dispelled for many of these non-republican, though nationally-minded people some of the ill pre-conceived notions they had about republicans. For many republicans, the experience has shown that thousands of people can be mobilised into a political force and with a great deal of considered thought and planning, the lessons could possibly be put to greater use over the questions of the British occupation of the six counties and Irish self-determination.
But, before moving on, one big Brit myth needs to be disposed of.
The Brits have been persistently painting the H Blocks as merely a propaganda plank for the IRA which it enjoyed and did not want removed. But events showed that the prisoners controlled their own protest and made their own decisions, that the movement on the outside made all efforts to resolve the protest, and that nobody but the Brits are into dragging their heels and prolonging the H Block/Armagh deadlock.
One spill over from those who have swallowed or consciously been part of this British propaganda is the story presently being floated, mainly in British newspapers, that the IRA and Sinn Fein do not know where to turn next because the prison protest is "almost over" and because the December Thatcher/Haughey summit meeting in Dublin (hyped up to "historical" proportions by an exuberant Haughey) has undercut Republican support and the Republican struggle.
That is a fine piece of wishful thinking which Crossmaglen or the Belfast Brigade, or the active service units in England can dispose of at their own pace, as the scaling down of military operations, which coincided with the hungerstrike and its supporting street mobilisations, is now reversed. Similarly, Sinn Fein with increased support can now get back to devoting itself to the painstaking work of building a strong radical republican political organisation. In the areas where it has influence and support Sinn Fein has to give leadership to the people in their everyday struggles in a capitalist society - the cost of which is high unemployment, poor housing and burdensome living standards, all of which sufferings are further compounded by the greater evil of partition.
By example, and by showing spirit, republicans can raise the people out of any resignation to fate.
The priority issue which has caused most suffering is the British occupation of the six counties. Irish people pay for this occupation with their very lives and with the loss of their freedom, and the Charles Haughey without sanction, dips his hand into the pockets of people in the Free State for a 100Million Sterling annual contribution to keeping th Brits repressing the North.
Ireland, as of right, belongs tot he people of Ireland and any foreign writ not approved by the Irish nation is not binding, is illegal and should be opposed. It is the Brits who will not listen to a democratic or a peaceful solution, and who had made the resort to guerilla warfare the only effective opposition to their rule, the Irish Republican Army the only force that can bring about a positive change.