One initiative which came from this gathering was the launch of a newsletter about anarchist activities in Ireland, the Irish Anarchist Bulletin. (For a copy send an SAE to either Organise-IWA, P.O. Box 505, Belfast BT11 9EE or to the WSM, P.O. Box 1528, Dublin 8).
The following month saw anarchists building for the April 25 anti-deportation protests in Belfast, Cork, Dublin, Galway and Roscrea. Members and friends of the WSM were out leafletting in neighbourhoods and shopping centres, putting up posters. On the day itself anarchists were there with banners and plackards, and the WSM produced a special four page Anarchist News (send an SAE for a copy). Over the summer WSM members will be leafletting their own localities with a leaflet about the rising number of racist attacks.
Sabine Shorts fled the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw during the 1930s, a step ahead of the Gestapo. Her father faked an official letter which allowed her a four week visa to Ireland. Once here, an official from the Department of External Affairs urged her not to return - he would lie to his bosses and say that he saw her leave. A Garda sergeant's family took her into their home and protected her - again totally illegal.
Sixty years on we salute those brave, decent Irish people who lied and broke a wrong and immoral law to protect a refugee. We hope there are still enough people with the courage, honesty and decency to lie and break the law to help refugees fleeing the many modern day gestapos (Turkey, Algeria, China, Indonesia, most South American and African countries and, sadly, many more). Justice Minister John O'Donoghue doesn't.
He is preparing new rules that will require workers in hospitals, schools, social welfare, FAS and accommodation services to report any refugees they are dealing with who do not have legal status here. If this goes through it will not only make things even tougher for refugees but will also encourage the harassment of everyone who doesn't look "Irish".
Landlords, civil servants, school principals and others will be expected to demand that foreigners prove that that their papers are in order. If they are not satisfied this is so, they will be expected to report them to the Aliens Office.
Some people who have fled from brutality, torture or war may become afraid to seek essential medical services, to enrol their children in school, to seek proper housing. They will be afraid of being reported, of drawing attention to themselves.
The Irish National Teachers Organisation has just published an anti-racist handbook for teachers. The IMPACT union (which organises in the health boards and local authorities), at its conference this year, passed a motion for an anti-charter to be drawn up. Most people who get to hear anti-racist arguments agree with them. One problem is - because of the scaremongering and blatant bias of the media- that a lot of people are only hearing half truths and outright lies (like the Star's "Refugee rapists on the rampage" headline, which even the Gardaí had to admit was a completely baseless lie).
Anarchists and other anti-racists now need to step up activity in our workplaces and unions. It's down to us to challenge the rubbish that is being accepted as fact. It is also down to those of us who work in jobs dealing with refugees and asylum seekers to see that none of our workmates is turned into a spy for John O'Donoghue and the Aliens Office.
Brendan Gleeson is media flavour of the month. The star of John Boorman's film 'The General' is mentioned all over the place. But one interview he gave to the British 'Guardian' has not been reprinted, or even referred to, in Ireland. A selection of quotes may show why the bosses in RTE and Independent Newspapers didn't think it was the sort of thing we should be reading:
"...with the Celtic Tiger a new class is emerging that drives huge cars, has very expensive tastes and has pushed property beyond the reach of ordinary people. The rich are cleaning up, and the alienation of the poor gets worse. Those at the very bottom almost feel justified in robbing and thieving".
"A kind of awful mutant Thatcherism is seeping in by the back door. This inflated fear of crime gives the new rich a self-righteousness that drives me bananas. Now they are starting to get freaked out by immigrants - we who have exported our youth to every corner of the world!"
"...now we are being asked to defend Fortress Europe. I can't believe we would sell ourselves that easily and send our children to fight wars for international commerce".