Monday, July 24, 2017

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Snake Of Racism

Investigative Journalist and Political Commentator, Dr John Coulter, has been probing the activities of the Far Right in Ireland for almost 40 years. In this latest investigation, he poses the crucial question – where will the snake of racism rear its head next?

Reporting on racism and racist organisations and people for almost four decades gives me ethical nightmares under the journal’s Code of Practice – in trying to expose this social cancer of racism, do my reports actually fuel the very evil I am trying to expose?

As a born-again Christian, I fondly remember the chorus we were taught in Junior Sunday School – “Red and yellow, black and white, all are equal in His sight; Jesus loves all the children of the world.”

While the Christian Churches need to do much, much more to combat the evils of racism other than simply uttering pious sermons, I also get concerned that racist organisations adopt the ethos – ‘any news, even bad news, is good news.’

Will Brexit increase hate crimes? Would a future potential Irexit whereby the Republic follows the UK out of the European Union increase racism on this island? Would radical Islamic terror attacks in Ireland spark a form of racism which would eclipse the curse of sectarianism which has gripped this island for generations?

The bottom line is that Ireland must be ready to cope with any new wave of racism. To prepare for this scenarios, I’m taking readers back seven years to August 2010 and an interview I did with Nick Griffin, then a member of the European Parliament for an English constituency.

The fascist British National Party was then planning to launch an extreme Right-wing Irish National Party in the Republic, according to British National Party boss and English MEP Griffin.

Griffin, who was a former chairman of the fascist National Front party before moving to the BNP, confirmed in 2010 that plans had been set in place to establish the INP.

He said in his interview:

In the South, we have been approached by individual Irish people. We know there is no place for a British National Party in Eire, but these people want to form an Irish National Party and we want to help them establish that. There are many in Great Britain connected with the BNP who are from Irish extraction and we in the BNP are actively looking for ways that we can help those in Eire.

Under Griffin’s leadership, the BNP had become the most successful fascist party in Britain since the late Oswald Mosley’s notorious British Union of Fascists, known as the Blackshirts.

In 2009, the BNP won two seats in the European Parliament. A year later, with only weeks to go to the expected Westminster General Election and local government elections in England, there was the real fear the BNP could make further gains, including Commons seats and full control of at least one English council.

For example, Winning control Barking and Dagenham Council would give the BNP control of an annual £200 million budget.

In the 1930s, the BUF attracted considerable support from the Irish community in Britain, especially in Yorkshire.

Anti-fascists even feared Griffin was a strong contender to win one of England’s supposedly safest Labour Party Westminster seats - Barking.

Had Griffin become an MP, the launch of an INP would have been inevitable. In a past English council elections, the BNP clinched over 50 seats.

In 2010, Griffin confirmed the BNP wanted to develop its operations in the Northern Ireland where it already has a Belfast branch.

Even modest victories for the BNP in the English council polls would have seen the party attempt to make a huge political leap across the Irish Sea.

He added:

Certainty we want to develop in Northern Ireland. The core issues that the BNP stands for are becoming more relevant to Northern Ireland. We have got a local team coming together and we will see steady work taking place in Northern Ireland. But we will be guided by our local members in Northern Ireland. Sectarianism is institutionalised in Northern Ireland, but we will not be making moves until I talk with our people in Northern Ireland and hold a strategy conference.

Racism has become the new sectarian curse in the North of Ireland. Figures on racially motivated crime produced by the Police Service of Northern Ireland have emphasised this trend in racism.

Racist graffiti was daubed in loyalist areas of south Belfast against the North’s steadily growing Polish community.

Using white paint, the racists daubed swastikas, along with the slogans ‘C18’ – representing the racist terror Combat 18 – and ‘Poles out’.

Police have also warned about racist crime in the Co Armagh town of Portadown – more globally associated with the annual Drumcree Orange Order standoff each July which has been continuing since 1995.

In spite of tensions in, and lack of, the Stormont power-sharing Executive, the North’s peace process is holding firm.

The Executive and legislative Assembly, which came into existence on Devolution Day in May 2007, has lasted longer than any solution since the original Northern Parliament was axed in 1972.

But after finally getting the chance for lasting peace following more than eight centuries of religious conflict, the communities now face the prospect of a generation of racist crimes. One of the core reasons for this is that there is a blatant impasse in the Stormont peace process and the Executive needs to be urgently kick-started.

While a single group has not yet been identified as being behind the racist campaign, a number of fringe fascist organisations have been active in an attempt to gain a foothold, not just in the North, but also in the Republic of Ireland.

Former UUP Assemblyman Danny Kennedy, the Ulster Unionist Party ex-deputy leader, has warned in the past about the dangers of recruitment from the British National Party.

The fringe neo-Nazi British People’s Party produced specific posters, leaflets and stickers aimed at recruiting in Northern Ireland. It has also unveiled plans to establish an Irish Patriots Party.

In the past couple of years, the old White Nationalist Party, the National Front and the British Movement have indulged in leafleting and sticker campaigns in the North.

A branch of the Ku Klux Klan - the Knights of the Invisible Empire - has been active in the North since 1999.

In 2009, the Klan unsuccessfully tried to launch two initiatives - bringing all the Far Right groups together under the banner of the White Aryan Resistance.

The Klan also tried to launch another racist terror group, known as Lodge 14 - the number representing the 14 words of the American racist movement about creating a better world for white children. Both plans flopped. But the racist Right just keeps coming back and coming back.

The island’s community – both in Northern Ireland and in the Republic - faces a dilemma - ethically, morally, and socially it should ignore these racists by not giving them a platform, but the racial crime continues to climb and the police continue to warn about incidents - so somebody must be doing it.

When the BNP also won a London Assembly seat, there were also fears it would cross the Irish Sea and try and recruit in the North as well as launch the INP in the South. Every time the racist Right wins in mainland Britain, the spotlight falls on Ireland.

Southern Ireland does have a history of flirting with fascism. In the 1920s and ‘30s, General Eoin O’Duffy had a thriving Blueshirt movement. Just as many Irish folk went to fight for Franco’s fascists in Spain as those who fought for the Republican International Brigade.

During World War 2, the IRA wanted to assist with any Nazi invasion of Britain, and Oswald Mosley, the British Union of Fascist boss, was committed to the Irish republican cause.

Even in Northern Ireland, the extreme Right-wing Ulster Protestant League enjoyed some success in the pre-War 1930s.

One of the major problems is that the modern racist leadership in the North has moved away from the working class skinhead movement and into the educated middle class.

Such faceless leaders – under the guise of anti-social behaviour - can always find gullible, working class kids to put up their graffiti or smash windows in the homes of migrant workers.

But this leadership will remain in respectable middle class, well educated white collar jobs. For example, the Klan orders its members to infiltrate existing democratic political parties, churches and community groups.

The racist plan is that the BNP, NF and others who replace them will take the main ‘heat’, leaving the middle class-run Klan to oversee the whole operation. It is clear the racist problem will get worse with the increase in the population of ethnic workers, asylum seekers, and the Irish Travelling community.

The US State Department has claimed at least six radical Islamic groups are operating in Ireland, while Shannon airport in the Republic has been used as a base for rendition, or alleged torture flights.

Only a few years ago in one predominantly Protestant growing commuter village, about 20 minutes’ drive from Belfast, a fundamentalist Christian church was holding a series of meetings aimed at combating the anti-social behaviour in the locality.

A meeting to organise the events noted the biggest threat to the Christian outreach came from the recruiting activities of the BNP.

Traditionally, the Far Right was always recruited from the loyalist working class community, but has found it impossible to gain an English-style electoral foothold because of working class support for the parties linked to loyalist terror groups, such as the Progressive Unionists (linked to the UVF and Red Hand Commandoes) and the Ulster Political Research Group (linked to the UDA and UFF).

While much of the racially motivated crime has been occurring in loyalist areas of the North, the real danger could come if racism spreads into traditionally Catholic districts, or across the border into the Republic.

Who's Who In Northern Ireland Racism Over The Years

British People’s Party: formerly known as the White Nationalist Party. Has around 50 members, but had support of 200 when known as WNP. Openly neo-Nazi and wants to recruit both Catholics and Protestants. Most active racist group with links to Nazi terror gang, Combat 18. Target areas – Larne, Lisburn, Coleraine, Belfast, Portadown.

British National Party: largest of Britain fascist movements winning over 50 council seats in England in 2010. Pursuing “a low-key leafleting campaign in a number of parts”, according to a spokesman. 

National Front: has only a handful of activists, mostly based in Coleraine and Bangor; indulged in limited leafleting, but is a shadow of the late 1980s organisation.

British Movement: although largely defunct on mainland, still has a few supporters in the North; was responsible for low-level leafleting around north Antrim.

Ku Klux Klan: focuses on recruiting middle class, university educated Protestants by invitation only; branch known as Knights of the Invisible Empire – one of the leading Klan units in the US in 1930s. Supposedly believes in “quality, not quantity”, according to Northern spokesman. Wants to infiltrate the various Unionist parties and “influence from within”. Has unsuccessfully tried to form its own terror network in Ireland.

Ulster Monday Club: while not racist or fascist, UMC has been defunct since 1980s. Extreme Right-wing Unionists want to use the new Conservative and Unionist electoral link to re-vamp the Club because of its once high standing in UUP. Before disbanding, was one of the most influential pressure groups in UUP, boasting a number of MPs and several councillors. Disbanded because of racist allegation scandal which engulfed the English-based National Monday Club.

Combat 18: Neo-Nazi terror group thought responsible for some of the racist attacks in the North. Takes its name from the first and eighth letters of the alphabet – A and H – which stand for Adolf Hitler, the Nazi dictator responsible for the Holocaust. While the Hebrew community in the North is very small, Combat 18’s main targets have been families from the growing Eastern European communities, especially the Roma community from Romania. 

The Historic Links Between Racists And The North

The rise of racism in the North did not come with the start of the new millennium. Links between Loyalism and the Far Right can be traced back to the 1970s.

In the early ‘70s, the NF, then Britain’s largest racist organisation, tried to establish itself in the aftermath of the paramilitary-backed Ulster Workers’ Council strike which brought down the power-sharing Sunningdale Executive in 1974.

However, in spite of the NF’s very public support of the Union, working class loyalists opted instead to develop their own political parties attached to the UDA and UVF.

But in the late Seventies, when the NF collapsed in Britain with the rise of hardline Tory boss Maggie Thatcher, the UVF formed terror links with the European Nazi movement.

It established an unholy alliance with the Belgian neo-Nazi terror group, the Vlaamse Militante Orde (VMO or Flemish Militant Order).

The North Antrim hills were used for a limited amount of joint UVF/VMO training, but the relationship turned sour when the UVF refused to attack the North’s small Jewish community.

It was to be 1986 and unionist opposition to the previous year’s Anglo-Irish Agreement which sparked the next major foray by the Far Right into the North.

The NF tried to re-establish its presence by sending John Field, then a 26-year-old Londoner and member of the party’s ruling National Directorate, to the North. The NF opened a bookshop and headquarters in east Belfast.

However, this time the NF was espousing the cause of independence for the North, and urged its members to joining the growing grassroots Protestant movement, the Ulster Clubs.

In an interview with me in the late 1980s, Field said when asked if the NF enjoyed close relations with the UDA:

We’re not prepared to comment on what organisations, paramilitary or otherwise, that we are associated with. We believe any people have a duty and a right to take up arms against those who are prepared to wage an armed struggle against the British people and nation. We are not a religious organisation and we don't support sectarian murder. But if a person who is in the IRA or supports the armed republican struggle in one form or another is taken out by the loyalist paramilitaries, we would be the first to applaud it.

The NF contested council elections in Newtownabbey, but only scored a handful of votes. The movement eventually split and at one time in the late 1980s, there were two separate groups – both calling themselves the NF, one based around a paper called NF News, the other around another paper called The Flag.

While the NF based itself in the loyalist working class, in 1986 another sinister hardline Right-wing group supporting an independent North established itself in the unionist middle class. Called the Ulster Movement for Self-Determination (MSD), it wanted the three counties of Ulster now in the Republic to join with the six Northern counties to form a new political state.

MSD was thought to want the expulsion of nationalists from the new nine-county state to ensure a loyalist majority. MSD was defunct by 1991.

Fascism and racism were not exclusive to the Northern Protestant tradition. Nationalism, too, has had a murky link with the Far Right. Britain’s most notorious pre-War Nazi leader, Sir Oswald Mosley, who founded the street thugs known as the Blackshirts, was an avid Irish republican.

In 1930s Britain, quite a number of Yorkshire-based Irish migrant families supported Mosley’s British Union of Fascists organisation.

And British Government documents made public since the start of the new millennium suggested a small group of IRA supporters were prepared to help the Nazis invade the North during World War Two.

Also in the early 1930s, Protestant nationalist Ernest Blythe from Lisburn became a leading figure in General Eoin O’Duffy’s equally notorious fascist Blueshirts – a movement which was later to become one of the inspirations of the modern day Southern party, Fine Gael.

Republicanism’s flirtation with racism reached its peak in the early 1984 when one of the smaller Ku Klux Klan organisations based in the United States pledged its support for the nationalist cause.

The links were confirmed in the June 1984 literature of the pro-Klan organisation, The Mountain Church, based in Cohoctah, Michigan.

This particular pro-Klan movement noted in its Ireland File:

At the risk of sounding like some sort of babbling liberal, the problem in Northern Ireland is to bring peace and reconciliation to the two warring tribes, and then to unite all of Ireland’s 32 counties under a populist, racial nationalist society.

In the same edition of the Mountain Church, writing under the banner of the Irish Republican Association, an author who signs himself “IRA Glen Cove, New York” brands the Jews as “the synagogue of satan”.

While the BNP represents the biggest threat in Northern Ireland, a recent court ruling ordering the party to change its constitution allowing ethnic minorities to join could lead to increased support for the ‘whites only’ NF instead. 

  • Follow Dr John Coulter on Twitter @JohnAHCoulter


Organized Rage said...

A quick point about John's article which incidentally I found interesting. While the BNP did gain a foothold in east London on Barking and Dagenham Council, that is no longer the case, Hope not Hate and the Labour Left sent considerable resources into Barking and Dagenham to work with the local LP and anti fascists who lived in the area, and today the BNP doesn't have a single council seat, while Corbyn's LP controls all 51 council seats. It shows these people can be defeated if the will is there.

Wolfsbane said...

As a naive youth, I took the British patriot line from the NF at face value. I even traveled to one of their marches and helped one of their candidates. But I soon found out that they were mainly homosexual Nazis - at least the group I knew. I've no reason to think the rest were any different. Probably fronts for MI5.