'Love Ulster' march ends in violence and attempt to smear IWU

110 loyalists attended Dublin rally claims lawyer

by Democrat reporter

ONLY 110 loyalists showed up to participate at last month's Love Ulster Rally in Dublin according to a prominent human rights lawyer.

Belfast solicitor Pádraigín Drinan was in Dublin when rioting began after Gardaí came under attack by protestors erecting barricades along O'Connell Street. The cancelled march was scheduled to have travelled past the GPO to Leinster House, where a rally was to be addressed by FAIR director Independent Workers and DUP Lagan Valley MP Jeffery Donaldson.

Around 40 people were arrested when over 1000 protestors carried out sustained attacks on Gardaí positions, resulting in several Gardaí being hospitalised.

A dozen cars were also set alight and surrounding buildings in the area were damaged, causing millions of Euros worth of damage.

However, Ms Drinan told the Irish Democrat that much of the violence could have been avoided if Gardaí had ensured the parade began on time.

"I counted 110 people congregated at Parnell Square. They were beating Lambeg drums, playing 'the sash' and marching on the spot. It was clear they had no intention of parading down O'Connell St. With such a small number they would have looked pathetic," she said.

"The march was supposed to leave at 12.30pm and at that time the roads were clear. At 12.45pm I ask a Garda officer why it hadn't and received no reply. At around the same time the first signs of trouble were occuring. If the parade left at 12.30pm the trouble may not have been as bad," she added.

A Gardaí spokesperson said the march could not have started at 12.30pm because protestors had blocked the road and that marchers had been late in getting into Dublin. Ms Drinan also said that, contrary to many media reports, much of the fighting had been caused after local Dubliners had been forced off O'Connell Street and down adjourning side streets by Gardaí officers.

"I saw hundreds of middle-aged local people jossle aggressively with Garda officers after being forced down side streets. They weren't the type you would associate with a riot," she said.

She was also critical of what she called Sinn Fein's "blanket denunciation" of the violence.

"To call the actions of protestors 'disgraceful' is off the mark. Sinn Fein can't go around condemning ordinary people in Dublin for their response to a extremely provocative march and a mishandled Gardaí response to it," she said.

After meeting with minister for justice Michael McDowell, spokesman for FAIR, Willie Frazer, signalled his group's intention of travelling to Dublin again in the near future.

Paper attempts to implicate IWU in Dublin rioting

Tommy McKearney reports on an alarming misrepresentation of a trade union by media after the recent "Love Ulster" Dublin riots

THE INDEPENDENT Workers' Union (IWU) is a small, recently formed trade union with little financial resources.

Unlike most other Irish unions, IWU is not affiliated to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), arguing as it does that the Social Partnership process has diluted, rather than strengthened, working class influence in Irish society.

With a membership coming largely from less well-paid and migrant workers, the Cork-based union is very conscious of disadvantage caused by lack of influence. In spite of (or perhaps due to) its very obvious lack of affluence, the IWU has lately began to attract support from a number of young, left-wing political activists, particularly in Dublin.

This may partly explain a recent attempt to embroil the union in the controversy surrounding a 'Love Ulster' rally and the violent counter demonstration that turned a normal Dublin Saturday into mayhem.

IWU members had no direct interest in the rally, either before or during the day's events. For reasons of organisational harmony, the IWU is like many other unions in this respect and steers clear of party politics, even the less contentious variety.

The Ireland edition of the Sunday Times in February, however, claimed to have received a leaflet allegedly issued and distributed by the union in the weeks preceding the rally calling for support for the counter demonstration.

The IWU did not see a copy of the leaflet nor has anybody else shown one to the union. The Sunday Times, nevertheless, decided to quote this bogus leaflet on the morning after the riot without bothering to verify the authenticity of the publication with any IWU official. Moreover, the newspaper's Ireland editor Frank Fitzgibbon reinforced this erroneous assertion on RTE's Questions and Answers programme the following day (26 February), when he repeated the allegation on national television.

The union issued a statement rejecting the newspaper's assertion and was criticised by its news editor John Burns for doing so without consulting him first.

The Sunday Times was at least prepared to make a statement of sorts, albeit unsatisfactory. RTE was an altogether proposition.

Monday evenings Questions and Answers programme is undoubtedly one of the country's best-watched and most influential programmes. A remark made or an accusation levelled before John Bowman is heard around the country and can either help raise or bring low a reputation.

When the IWU sought to have the Fitzgibbon allegation corrected, it found that the only contact with the programme producer is through an email account used for issuing tickets to the general public.

An IWU representative, nevertheless, used this channel to contact Questions and Answers on 2 March and received a reply from the programme editor next day saying that she would speak with the union after she had again viewed the show.

No further word has been received at time of in spite of the fact that the excerpt in question is available for downloading and viewing across the world on RTE's website. A fact, incidentally, that gives rise to no little anxiety among northern-based union members, worried that hard-line loyalists may not bother to check their facts either.

"What did you expect from the powerful and mighty in the media", asked IWU national secretary, Noel Murphy.

"If they really cared about accuracy or accountability, we wouldn't have the amount of inequality in this society that we do".

It is, nevertheless, a cause for concern that a group can be so widely maligned and have so little avenues of redress without having to opt for costly legal action.

Freedom of expression was certainly assaulted by thoughtless violence in Dublin, yet when powerful media organs treat facts loosely, press freedom is also undermined.

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This document was last modified by David Granville on 2006-04-07 12:26:30.
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