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SWP statement on Dublin Riots
RIOTS REVEAL TENSION AT HEART OF CELTIC TIGER
The riots on O Connell St reveal the deep-seated social tensions at the heart of
the Celtic Tiger
About 500 mainly young working class men stopped an Orange parade and then
mainly turned their anger on the Irish Gardai and commercial property.
The media and the political establishment have responded with a blatant class
prejudice. Commentators like Gerry Ryan use the national airwaves to refer to
the rioters as ‘scumbags’ and mimic Dublin working class accents. The rioters
are supposed to have ‘low intelligence’ and are branded as ‘thugs’. But behind
the class prejudice is a deep-seated fear in bourgeois circles about where Irish
society is going.
The Orange march through Dublin was a provocation. Contrary to some
commentators, the Orange Order does not ‘represent’ the Protestant community or
express ‘Protestant culture’. It is a reactionary institution that over decades
fought to displace the most progressive sentiments of Irish Protestants in
favour of a supremacist ideology. It projects a false communal unity around the
idea that Catholics should take second place. Fortunately, the Orange Order has
entered a periods of decline and is unable to muster large numbers for its
supremacist parades through areas like the Garvaghy Road. Its only answer is to
stage sectarian stunts to revive its communal grip.
The Southern ruling class have their own problems. Largely unreported by the
media there has been the rise of a huge protest movement that, although still
fragmented, shows significant signs of generalisation. Once expression of this
movement – and it is only one- is the rise of Sinn Fein in the polls.
The discontent is creating greater divisions within the elite. One wing of the
establishment around FF and Mary McAleese wants to counter Sinn Fein by wrapping
the green flag ever tighter around themselves and reclaiming republicanism for
Southern state. Hence the military style parade to commemorate 1916.
The other wing led most vociferously by McDowell wants provocations to discredit
Sinn Fein and other ‘subversives’. There is no doubt that they openly connived
at the bringing the loyalist march to Dublin to stage such a provocation. On
various occasions McDowell indicated support for this march – and was even
mooted at as possible speaker.
His claim that the Gardai knew nothing about the scale of the opposition is
Republican Sinn Fein made no secret of their intentions to organise a
counter-protest – and their military associates are in any case heavily
infiltrated by the police.
McDowell wanted a provocation to present republicanism as ‘thuggish’ and also to
create the ground for police repression. Watch out for some late additions to
his Criminal Justice Bill.
Socialists do not join in the condemnation of young working class people who
riot against the police – especially given this wider context.
Some of the actions of the rioters were mistaken – like attacking the journalist
Charlie Bird as a symbol of the political establishment; or presenting the
Orange Order as people ‘who belong up there’. Singing Fields of Athenry or
waving tricolours does nothing to widen the breach between the Orange Order and
the Protestant workers who joined their Catholic brothers and sisters on a
magnificent postal strike some days before hand.
However, every riot contains contradictory elements precisely because it is a
spontaneous. Like the French riots recently they emerge suddenly – often when
the organised left least expect it. But overall they are part of a revolt
against an arrogant elite who live a life of privilege and disdain for the poor.
The riots show why it is more urgent than ever why a new left needs to make a
mark on Irish society. The new left needs to give voice to that anger and
connect it with struggles that can shake the system.
The history of this state means that many may look to republicanism. But the
Adams wing has already started the long, slow march into the political
establishment and while the RSF harks back to the armed struggle even though it
has neither the capacity or support to wage one.
Only a new left which challenges both imperialism and the rule of Irish capital
offers a viable way forward.