Dealing With the Past – Only workers’ movement can deliver truth and justice


By Kevin Henry

Recent months have seen a series of public inquiries and reports into some of the most horrific events of the Troubles, committed by sectarian forces on both sides and the British state.

The inquest into the Kingsmill massacre gives an insight into one of the most brutal periods of the Troubles. On January 5th 1976, six Catholics from two families were murdered by the loyalist Glenanne Gang in south Armagh. The next day, the Provisional IRA retaliated, using the cover name of the South Armagh Republican Action Force. They stopped a workers’ bus on a country road near Kingsmill. They asked all twelve men on the bus their religion, ordered the only Catholic to walk away, and riddled the others with bullets, killing ten and leaving the other for dead. It is believe that state informants were involved in both these atrocities, and this may have led to the investigations being impeded.

An investigation by the Police Ombudsman found that police informants may also have been involved in the Loughinisland massacre, when UVF gunmen opened fire on a bar, killing six Catholics as they watched the World Cup in June 1994. Yet Secretary of State Theresa Villiers described accusations of collusions as “a pernicious counter-narrative.” This illustrates the unwillingness of the British state to come clean on the scope and nature of its dirty war.

The Socialist Party supports the right of all victims of the Troubles and their families to win truth and justice. However, the proposals or lack thereof in the Fresh Start and Stormont House Agreements illustrates the reality that the sectarian parties seek to examine the past through the prism of today, seeking to confirm their analysis and reinforce their positions. They have no interest in exposing their own records to scrutiny.

A genuine examination of the past would expose the role played by sectarian parties and paramilitary groups. It would also expose the role of the state, which employed vicious repressive methods for decades. It is important to set out the record of all the contending forces. Shining the clear light of day on the past is essential in order to prevent the same forces dragging us back to conflict in the future.

Throughout the Troubles, trade unionists took action to oppose sectarian barbarism. After the Glennane Gang killing and the subsequent Kingsmill massacre, Newry Trades Council organised a strike against tit-for-tat killings, bringing thousands onto the streets. They were joined by thousands more in Lurgan. Members of the Socialist Party and its predecessors have been key to ensuring that the trade union movement takes up issues of collusion and state repression. Today, the workers’ movement is uniquely positioned, unlike the main sectarian and state forces, to shine a light on the events of the Troubles and offer a real accounting of the past.

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