Ulster: A troublesome province.

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Belfast is the principal city of Northern Ireland. It has churches and motorways, but few mosques. As a provincial capital it enjoys the employment opportunities offered by government and its universities and colleges. It is also a communication center with docks and two airports in the vicinity.


November 1992. Top cadre of IPLO taken out by provisional IRA. IPLO were accused of too much drug dealing. It is claimed that the survivors fled to Newry.

The IPLO (Irish Peoples Liberation Organisation) were in reality enemies of the people, and many gave a sigh of relief when they were taken off the streets. Although IPLO drew justification for their violent ways from the struggle against the british imperialist oppressors they financed themselves by street robbery, directed against their neighbours.

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Belfast is a european port town. It lies somewhere off the main trading routes now, but in its heyday large ocean going ships came off the slipways of the shipyards. The Ulster Museum contains several exhibits showing the history of old Belfast.

There are no red light districts such as those of Hamburg and Amsterdam, and there are no special tourist police to rescue people from exorbitant over-charging by night clubs. However there is plenty of 'Crack'. To most in Belfast 'crack' does not mean the addictive form of cocaine which is blamed for laying waste to huge urban areas in the U.S.A. Crack is just an expression for having a good time.

To the casual observer this may seem unlikely in a place which has become notorious for a siege mentality and sectarian killings. The place could be likened to Britain's answer to Kosovo. One scenario sees Irish catholics living under a regime of brutal oppression, while an idle superstructure of protestant dignitaries lives off the fat of the land. As it happens, these people exert a baleful influence on the politics of the mainland. Many british hereditary lords owe much to the past exploitation of Ireland, but Ulster was, and is, different. The place is definitely a backwater, perhaps the 'forgotten province'. Even to get there by road is very tedious. The traveller must drive right to the top of England, then turn left at Carlisle.

There is a bar in Belfast with the name Rotterdam. It is in the old dock area, and it stands alone at the end of a road. Most of the ships call further out where the container handling equipment stands. The fenced off dock area contains antiquities whose rightful place is an industrial museum.

The owners of the pub arrange for jazz bands to go and play there, and they stay open until one in the morning.

It is not so far away from the art college, so some of the students may get to know of the bar. The place attracts a car owning crowd, and some of the musicians have travelled quite a lot. One of the people I met intends to visit some musicians in Makedonia later this year. Obviously he knows of the serbian style of music as well: the 'gypsy music' of the Balkans.

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Ulster can hardly be characterised as a single party state. However it does show a significant tendency to military rule. But England seems a single party state under the Thatcher-Major regime. The 'nomenclatura' system was merely a secularisation of the ideology that England has always used to reward its ruling class: the national church.

The british tory party is a direct descendent of the 'High Church' party, with brief periods of deviation. Perhaps the best known tory reformer was Benjamin Disraeli, whose period of power coincided with the growth of a cosmopolitan empire that came to rule much of the world.

One hundred years later, determined attempts are being made to set to set back the clock. Trade unions were given the power to manage their own finances in a legal setting. Now they are the targets of punitive legislation. England is becoming the butt of jokes and epithets such as being described an 'Off-shore Albania'. The ignorance of its leaders and agents is astonishing.

The country which exported its people to so many places now seeks to slam the door on refugees. The leaders seek to abolish a period of history. The high church of the Trinity, with King, Country and Parliament has been replaced by Free Markets, Privatisation, and Hard Currency.

But we cannot buy pakistani jeans; there is a huge government sector including those on welfare, and the british pound sterling is worth less than the irish Punt (November, 1992).

Free markets is a code word for markets where the transnational corporations can destabilise governments, sell arms where they like, and buttress torturers and dictators.

Privatisation means the replacement of planned economies by lotteries, and also the absorption of small enterprises by the TNCs( Trans National Corporations). Hard currency is important, but its maintenance often depends on robbery backed up by force of arms, as it did in the days of Disraeli. Terms of trade are manipulated by cartels. These same cartels have been able to buy the british government.

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        SOCIAL SECURITY                                         2353
        HEALTH & PERSONAL SERVICES (+ S.S. ADMIN)               1464
        EDUCATION, ARTS & LIBRARIES                             1234
        LAW ORDER AND PROTECTIVE SERVICES                        902
        INDUSTRY, ENERGY, TRADE & EMPLOYMENT                     472
        AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES & FORESTRY                        246
        HOUSING                                                  244
        ROADS AND TRANSPORT                                      174
        OTHER PUBLIC SERVICES                                     93
        Total                                                   7459
        (1)     Millions of pounds estimate for 1993-4
        (2)     Income for 1991-2
                English sources         2544    39%
                Local revenue           3905    61%
                                        6449   100%
        Guardian        22/12/92
        IRA aims for the treasury.
        Quotes April 10 (post-election bombing) as 800 LStg million.
        Mainland insurance companies want to evade their
        John Hume SDLP .. no consent for government by a significant
The religious leaders tell the IRA to renounce violence, but the british government is now showing signs of weakness. How will Scotland, Wales and Ulster chose their roles from amongst a cast which could mimic Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia. How was the diplomacy of the last four years? Germany recognised Croatia, and has acted as midwife to the dismemberment of Yugoslavia. Who will back the dismemberment of the UK? A united Germany is a bitter pill to swallow, and Italy seems set to go back to its previous North-South split.

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England is a nation which has been oppressed by right wing governments over a period of time. The government is so oppressive that it acts as a consultant in oppression, although like in so many fields of endevour, England is losing out to upstarts such as Israel or Pakistan. The ruling class of England is linked in many ways to the ruling classes of other nations, and especially in America.

John Major and Douglas Hurd are the equivalent of Saddam and Tariq Aziz. They end up playing the tribes off, one against the other. For a while, the refractory tribes in England were the trade unions. Nowadays the trade union leaders are a pathetic lot with one or two notable exceptions. Hesaltine was seriously weakened when he was pitted, alone, against the fearsome Yorkshire miners' leader, Arthur Scargill. This did not really matter, since certain sections wanted to exclude Hesaltine from the important decisions.

Trade and industry are upstaged when the state leader himself goes out to sell weapons of mass destruction to his 'friends'. Or would you prefer to be a friend of Bill Clinton. Only the rich and maybe stupid friends get arms. This means robber barons get arms, whether Pablo Escobar, or the Burmese and Algerian military rulers. An 'arms embargo' is usually a joke, since there is always some money to be made in the trade.

Northern Ireland is a province without a government. Direct rule from London means that the original government was fired. It was run by reactionary bigots who lived by feeding slogans to the masses. 'Ulster says No' is just such an example. The local politicians developed hypocrisy to become an art form. Rather than promoting literacy campaigns they preferred to arm bodies of men to oppress their brothers. There has been a long tradition of the bomb and the bullet to settle disputes.

Old photographs show armoured cars in the streets. When these were briefly taken off the roads, then they were replaced with local police forces who were used to defend the cease-fire line, and other areas. A series of beatings administered to demonstrators in 1968-9 lead to a series of problems that the local government was unable to handle. The british army was called in. They remain, helping the local police at road blocks.

The british had decided to deploy the army, because the local police had failed to control the situation. This seemed similar to the time when the USA deployed troops to enforce central government decisions in the South during the 1950's and 1960's. The civil rights campaigns lead by catholics were compared with those of Martin Luther King. The riots could be compared to communal riots in South Asia. In fact some of the affected streets were named after south asiatic towns.

The dismissal of a state legislature by the central government is characteristic of places where communal tensions incite violence. This is what the british did in Northern Ireland, the only place they really had left at the end of the 1960's. Did some of those bombers watch the 'Battle of Algiers' at a cinema ?

Ever since the nineteen sixties Northern Ireland seems to have had a mixture of military and civilian rule. The World Bank would find it hard to place in their classifications. These are:-

1) Military Rule
2) One party system
3) Parliamentary System
4) Presidential System
5) Absolute Monarchy

The statistical incidence (Morbidity Counts) were compiled by Vanhanen, 1979-80. Absolute monarchy has declined, while military rule is on the increase. The classification omits theocracy and states with a government vacuum such as Somalia or Afghanistan.

Until the british army was called in, Ulster had a parliamentary system which was able to operate as a One Party System. As such it ran its own irregular army called the UDR.

This was similar to the british territorial army, except that its members could be required to patrol a real border. There was always a fear of invasion by a small weak neighbour just as the serbs fear invasion by Albania, or the greeks fear invasion by Makedonia.

In fact there were fears that the state itself was already vulnerable because a section of its populace owed allegiance to the state beyond the border. Was this state an enemy state ? The answer appeared to be in the affirmative for many. Most of these were willing to fight for the british empire as the street names in Belfast attest.

This place was Yemen and Cyprus and even India for some. But not really. Before the partition Ireland had had dozens of members in the british parliament and most of them had wanted independence, and for the whole island. The ruling classes decided on mutual divorce of the two distinct geographical entities, but the people of Ulster defied the ruling class and made trouble. They subjected the province to the feuds of british party politics, and organised paramilitary units to participate in armed propaganda on behalf of the state.

For over twenty years the province has been under 'direct rule' from London. Did Northern Ireland act as a trend setter? The senility of governments and the return to nineteenth century politics ? Even while England was building the largest empire in the world, the 'Home Rule' question was a burning issue in domestic politics. Even more serious than class issues if the governments could get their way.

The empire needed its defenders closer to home, and the military traditions were strongly influenced by local oppression. Any efforts to organise people on class lines were opposed by both the church and the state. In parts of Ireland this made things very difficult for progressives, since on the principal that "my enemies' enemy is my friend", the church, which normally opposed the oppressors, opposed the introduction of ideas which could help the people to free themselves from oppression.

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    Country                    Pop.     Area  Energy  Forest   Water
 ESP Spain                     38.80  505.00 2204.00  108.00   45.25
 IRL Ireland                    3.50   70.00 2499.00    4.00    0.79
 ITA Italy                     57.50  301.00 2721.00   81.00   56.20
 AUT Austria                    7.60   84.00 3479.00   38.00    3.13
 JPN Japan                    123.10  378.00 3484.00  253.00  107.80
 DNK Denmark                    5.10   43.00 3598.00    5.00    1.46
 GBR United Kingdom            57.20  245.00 3624.00   22.00   28.35
 FRA France                    56.20  552.00 3778.00  151.00   40.00
 CHE Switzerland                6.60   41.00 3913.00   11.00    3.20
 DEU Germany                   62.00  249.00 4383.00   72.00   41.22
 BEL Belgium                   10.00   31.00 4804.00    8.00    9.03
 NLD Netherlands               14.80   37.00 4948.00    4.00   14.47
 NZL New Zealand                3.30  269.00 5282.00   95.00    1.20
 AUS Australia                 16.80 7687.00 5291.00 1067.00   17.80
 FIN Finland                    5.00  338.00 5547.00  232.00    3.70
 SWE Sweden                     8.50  450.00 6228.00  278.00    3.98
 USA United States            248.80 9373.00 7794.00 2960.00  467.00
 NOR Norway                     4.20  324.00 8940.00   87.00    2.00
 CAN Canada                    26.20 9976.00 9959.00 4364.00   42.20
World bank tables 1992.

The Netherlands and Belgium consume rather more energy than Ireland and the UK, so that unless there is an amazing statistical anomaly, then Ulster must find itself low in the list.

Hot house agriculture has put the Netherlands on the map, along with the rich alluvial plains of the Rhine. The irish probably need to import soil in order to sustain their agriculture. The place is like a saucer with mountain ranges round the edges. The mountains are not high, but at high latitudes they do not hold much vegetation. The table also shows how poorly the UK and Ireland are for forest resources.

The Benelux countries put Ireland to shame. The British army should do the opposite of what the Burmese and Thais are doing and attempt to diversify the flora of the border regions. Hide the problem, and grow jungles. Cash crops to defray the expenses of the war, perhaps. If the electricity and prisons are to be privatised, then why not the army ? Professional troops from Pakistan and Vietnam, perhaps. Wages are low in those countries.

Belfast's answer to 'political cabaret'. They had a session in the Speakeasy at Queen's University student union, and it appeared that security there was slightly stepped up. They did not want people to shoot the actors. The sketches could cross to other cultures: serb and croat, christian and muslim, or isreali and palestinian. The fact that such political cabaret can exist at all show that ulstermen can fall in love with their own problems, just like a true psychotic is in love with psychosis.

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The french lost Viet-Nam and Algeria, while the americans lost Viet-Nam. When colonial rule became minority rule then the rich of the minority simply pulled out, taking as much money as possible. When the americans pulled out of South East Asia their companies also left Thailand. A turbulent period of politics followed until Vietnam invaded Kampuchea, when the chinese withdrew most of their support for local communist parties. The Thai policy of counter insurgency seemed to have succeeded. The main features were summed up by the acronym CPM. Not the micro- computer operating system, but rather Civilian-Police-Military.

All the british generals have been in Northern Ireland. They are not able to make flamboyant acts of pacification with elaborate military ceremonies as they pay off the opposition with land and money.

The military have not signed any peace treaties here. That is left to the politicians who have been dragging their feet. Big wars had peace treaties signed in big cities like Paris or London. There have been no settlements for a long time.

Change is necessary. The politicians are not delivering peace.

Civilians are against violence ? Not necessarily. There are 'week end' soldiers who work in civilian occupations during the week, but hold parades and do some fighting at weekends. These people are part time soldiers. There are also men who beat their wives and children, or use violence in the pursuit of financial gain. These people are criminals, and every society has its share. When the state employs coercive measures to collect taxes there is also a measure of violence and that is at the root of civil society. This is especially true when the state lacks sufficient power to tax the rich, and so places an unjust burden on the poor.

Instead of pacifying Northern Ireland, the british political establishment has been destabilising places closer to home. The attacks on the working class were called off at just the last moment with the abolition of the poll tax but there is a deep resentment of the ruling party that causes anti-government activity to flourish.

Armed rebellion has not been confined to Ireland: there are regular bomb alerts in London, and many over the water mistakenly believe that the IRA are fighting for them as a class.

Stalingrad used to be a town on the Volga, but now it is a suburb of Paris near to the Gare du Nord. It is close to Belleville, which was a notorious slum area. I went there several times with Nigerian friends. They had some hashish dealers. They were good salons for 'racial mixing', unlike anywhere I ever saw in America.

More reminiscent of Paris is the area behind the administration building of Queen's University, Belfast. After dark the youths of the city congregate in winter or summer to drink cheap booze. This is just like the area around La Republique in Paris used to be. The police occasionally arrive to clear these people away, but they always come back. These are the unemployed, who don't have the money to go in the bars.

During the summer months the northern latitudes have all sorts of insects. In the old times they could spread many parasites. The filarial worms perhaps. And malaria, and maybe the various forms of virus which could carry a haemorragic fever such as the 'Red Death' popularised by Edgar Allen Poe. Mosquitoes are potential disease vectors, but no mass extermination campaigns are carried out here.

Instead farmers have to use organo-phosphorous to combat of the sheep scab parasite. This has lead to a variety of distressing neuro-toxic affects including depression, loss of co-ordination and suicide.

In Amsterdam the pharmacies are able to advertise malaria prophylactics. A world map showing disease patterns is visible from the street. Here, the shops are not always keen to display all their wares. There are often broken windows.

Global warming is likely to usher in tropical diseases to new locations, undoubtedly including Ireland.

Sectarian violence makes the news here, but in the Netherlands much media attention is devoted to kidnappings, or the settling of scores amongst the criminal classes. In the Netherlands the criminals are rather more international than the local gangs here.

When a man is gunned down in his car on the Amsterdam ring road, he is assumed to have made a fortune our of XTC. XTC is the dutch acronym for the drug ecstasy. It is also one of the reasons why the dutch keep the X in their alphabet.

Stickers in Belfast proclaim 'John Major, Zionist Agent', from traffic lights. This is a back handed complement from the bigots. This type of slogan may be disturbing to some, but encouragement for others. Perhaps the best tory leader that Britain ever had was Benjamin Disraeli. He was the tory who legislated for trades unions as part of the british way of life. He also was a well informed imperialist.

The Disraeli tendency of conservatism stands in the direct antithesis of Thatcherism. Britain Incorporated could dominate the world, in partnership with the trading elites irrespective of their race or religion.

When zealots in the Tory party try to pander to the racist tendencies of some of their constituents, John Major is among the first to condemn. His collection of merit will serve him well in future struggles.

The bomb explosions cost millions of pounds. The damage gets repaired but the money gets diverted from other sources. Health and education are under threat, but the perceived source of the threat is not always the I.R.A. The british government is also beginning to be seen as a threat.

The drive to get rich is absent from many here. This may not be so bad in terms of consequence to the environment, but there are still many improvements to be made before people give up trying.

Cycle lanes
Red light district
Removal of barbed wire
More foreigners
Pavement bars (when the weather is good).
More relaxed security situation.
Better choice of music.

They will never surrender
Commemorate the dead of 1914-18
Maintain Class divisions
Long history of opposition to 'Home Rule'.
During this years TT races on the Isle of Man, nine spectators have already died, because they also race their bikes round the island. There are no speed limits on the country roads.

JULY 1993
Ex prime-minister Edward Heath shows his loyalty to the people by advocating peace, and honesty. As a member of the old guard he reviews with horror the events which have overtaken the world since the triumph of such badly flawed capitalism, and has to be counted with Willy Brandt as an architect of the Europe of good dreams.

He appeared on a radio program, and it appears that his early love of music made him a citizen with broad horizons from his youth.

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Because Belfast has so many churches, it is fertile ground for 'christian' charities. These are NGOs working within the state itself. They can be as damaging to social structures as the 'Death Watch Beetle' can be debilitating to church buildings. Indeed the naughty antics of a priest even brought down the irish government in 1994.

Christianity when it supports a traditional order based on 'blood and soil' can be a particularly vicious phenomenon. That is why the more admirable christian leaders such as Desmond Tutu and Father Aristide exhibit progressive tendencies. They seek to exploit the good sense in the christian message to pursue social change.

Ulster has the opposite sort. Marginalised councils of elders seek to enforce their narrow minded views. Their charities provide child care and so on. But they do have unsavoury bedfellows. The american cults are an example.

Since arriving here I have heard three blasts. None of these were fatal. The first was on the new year's eve, at a hotel in South Belfast. In the summer months one at the main station, and another again at a hotel on the southern boundary of the cities. The last bang happened when I was playing go with Mr Xiu. We continued the game. I told him we could find out where it was from the radio.
Unlike other places, the left has no illusions about the working class. Since the strikes against the anglo-irish negotiations of the 1970s, it is not considered crimethink to regard the working class as a possibly reactionary or sectarian force. The most effective UK strike ever, attested by university lecturers and witnesses alike was the 'loyalist' strike against the power sharing executive. This happened in May, 1974.

The strike confused many people. It is even rumoured that Muammar Ghadafi welcomed this assertion of rights by an oppressed group.

Yonothan Berhane has constantly told me that the left's faith in the working class is totally misplaced, but the Belfast leftists at least know the form.

I learnt this at a meeting of the embryonic Bosnian solidarity committee. The speaker, Geoff Ryan was very appreciative of his Belfast audience. He said most of the people there were very well informed.

The Tory party attacked both soldiers and students, not to mention the workers. Does this not make Ulster ripe for a Soldier, Sdudent, Worker rebellion. A quick military coup with the shelling of the palace of Westminster would be a welcome riposte. This is especially true when most members of the ruling party gave Boris Yeltsin of Russia full support when he ordered the russian parliament building to be shelled, then stormed by elite units of the army.

If it was done quickly, when there were strikes and traffic jams then it would all be over in a few hours.

The Major-Reynalds talks could go down in history like various other failed peace initiatives. It has always been easier to mobilise people by making enemies rather than building peace. Religion always did this once the religion was big enough for the non-religion to become an interesting enemy for the demagogues.

A peace has to be followed by a 'reconstruction', and that is the big problem. Ken Livingstone mentions a 'jobs package', and the success or failure of the agreement depends very much on Europe's ability to handle other regional conflicts.

In the case of Northern Ireland, reconstruction has always been a continuous process. After a big bomb, the builders move in and sometimes the town looks better than before. The province has never been short of money. Even in the aftermath of the Manchester bomb Gerry Adams was appearing in new buildings opened with the help of government funds. But many of these buildings have no real use. Just because London has a flood barrier, so the british tax-payer shelled out for a gaily lit structure in the Lagan estuary. But this structure cannot possibly protect the areas at greatest risk of flooding: the business parks built on reclaimed land well to the seaward side of the barrier.

The political scholars even speak of 'Ulsterisation' as a counterpart to Balkanisation or Lebanisation. That seems to be a sort of tribalisation based on very narrow differences. But always a disguise for class differences. Linguistic, ethnic, racial, caste or creed are the names. Class is not mentioned as a reason for conflict in democracy. Democracy is meant to equalise class differences . Those that disagree use the gun and the bomb. But as the history of Taiwan, Korea and Thailand show, political violence does not necessarily hinder economic growth. This is a lesson which still has to be learned by the ruling class in the UK.

Because democracy often means majority voting, that means that leaders of a majority can pass laws to kill the minority. That happened in Germany. So democracy or mass voting needs other checks and balances. This is money, where there is wealth, but when resources are scarce, then predatory behaviour may replace bribery. Hyperinflation is a method. The government makes sure no one gets properly paid.

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Change threatens many here.

(1) Loss of police jobs.
(2) Large scale developments which demolish old Belfast.
(3) Mass immigration of Hong Kong chinese, Kurds etc.
(4) Growth as money laundering center.
(5) Proliferation of international banks.
(6) Sex tourism industry.
(7) Open sale of soft drugs.
(8) More mosques and buddha statues.

The Orange order has a set of icons including the British Royal Family, the Church, and the Union of England, Scotland and part of Ireland. In the 1990s these icons are tarnished, even while the murals of defenders of the Union are being retouched. They are waiting for a great leader, but not the Reverend Martin Smyth. The Drumcree group wish to replace the grand master. No hope of the English king eliminating them like the french monarch eliminated the Knights Templars. Instead the english monarchy could adapt to the times in the wake of messy marital scandals. The men in grey suits could initiate another constitutional coup to celebrate the world of free markets and the end of history.

Just as Henry VIII changed the state religion, so England could adapt a new age religion. Polygamy is already possible on islam, so the new religion would draw on Islam, Christianity and Buddhism rather like the vietnamese Cao-Dai. There would also be secular saints. Chiang Kai Shek and Margaret Thatcher could be brought into the pantheon, because of their favourable attitude to capitalism. Future loyalist parades would become much more noisy events with fireworks, and a greater variety of drums and bells.

The English rave scene should be co-opted into the new state religion. Ecstasy and LSD would be the new sacrament, at the altar of the new hi-tech copying and mixing equipment which comes mainly from the Far East. Besides Buddha and Mohammed, homage is paid to Hitachi and Sony.

For an era of instant gratification an antinomian religion is clearly just the thing. Shopping should be capable of vanquishing war as well as real socialism. At least in Europe, and increasing areas of Asia.

Free markets will even finance a space program as millionaires pay for space tourism and zero-G honeymoon suites. Tourism investment will also continue to finance the opening up of large parts of the world.

All of this sounds great with the ending of the Bosnian war just before Christmas 1995. But is it ? Perhaps the Bosnia civil war is just a prelude to other wars caused by bankrupt ideologies. The nineteenth century nation state with its deliberate myth creation saw its demise with the overthrow of Haile Selassie in 1974. The anti-fascist creation of Tito lasted even shorter. In the democracies fascists have votes, and we can see this in the divisions of Italy over its anti-immigration legislation.

(C) Tony Goddard. Belfast 1996
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