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The first major protests of Ireland's EU presidency took place this weekend in Galway, with a number of groups speaking out on issues ranging from racism to fishing in Connemara. They coincided with a meeting of employment/social affairs ministers in a city-centre hotel. The largest demonstration took place under the banner "Another Europe Is Possible", in Eyre Square, close to the venue, and was attended by around 500 people.
Gardai were present in large numbers, and a helicopter hovered overhead. Two people were arrested in a car-park for "obstructing traffic" late on Friday evening. Eoin Rice, a well-known activist, was arrested on Saturday morning, and was allegedly beaten while in Garda custody. In a statement made later that day, he detailed the alleged assaults. "One man stood on my neck as I lay on the ground while several others kicked at me and one man struck me acrossthe legs repeatedly with a telescopic baton which had a large ballbearing on the end. At least a dozen uniformed Gardai stood by watching this scene".
Fintan Lane, PRO of the Irish Anti-War Movement, "unreservedly condemn(ed) the heavy handed approach taken by Gardai in Galway". Edward Horgan of the Peace and Neutrality Alliance called for an "urgent independent investigation of these complaints against the Gardai". The Garda press office confirmed that Eoin Rice had been arrested and is due in court in February. They declined to comment on the allegations of a beating in custody but said that there are "several channels open to him if he wishes to make a complaint". Eoin was examined by a doctor at the Garda station and, on his instigation, was taken directly to Galway Hospital where a wound to his head was stitched, his arm was x-rayed and bandaged and anti-inflammatories and painkillers were administered.
According to Conor Cregan, an anti-war activist who was present at the arrest, all of these injuries were caused after Eoin had been taken away by Gardai. Eoin Rice, Conor Cregan and a third activist (from Spain) confirmed to an Indymedia Editor that they have already lodged complaints about the incident with the Garda Complaints Board.
This serious allegation comes at a time when questions about the accountability of the Gardai and allegations that they are 'out of control' have been recieving enormous public attention as a result of a recent Primetime Programme. The programme in question made extensive use of Indymedia Ireland footage of the Mayday RTS debacle. It is grimly ironic that that the broadcasting by Primetime of the very evidence that made allegations against Gardai in relation to the Mayday RTS impossible to ignore or deny outright is now being used by Lawyers for a number of Gardai as a potential way to have their trials delayed or called off.
IMC IRL Interview with Eoin Rice
As reported in The Guardian, a number of of letter bombs were sent in the last week of December to prominent EU officials including Romano Prodi (President of the European Commission) and Jean-Claude Trichet (Governor of the European Central Bank). All the letters were mailed from Bologna where a previously unknown group calling itself the Informal Anarchic Federation (FAI) claimed responsibility for two small explosions near Prodi's home earlier in December. No injury was caused by any of the devices. Despite the fact that one of them went off in Mr. Prodi's hands, the only damage done was some carpet burn. Meanwhile, editorials in European newspapers have been declaring that we are witnessing a resurgence in "anarchist terrorism" (ABC - Spain) and that it's only been a matter of luck that no-one has been injured (Mitteldeutsche Zeitung). Britain’s Independent argued that the money used for the war on Iraq would have been better spent on surveillance of potential terrorists.
As Ireland took over the presidency of the EU, the head of the European Parliament, Pat Cox (PD) came out with the startling observation that the incidents were a "criminal conspiracy against democracy". Naturally, security measures have been stepped up within EU state institutions and on Monday, Italy's Interior Ministry announced the creation of a European task force to combat "anarchist insurrection".
The truth is that the vast majority of anarchists and leftists both in Italy and worldwide are opposed to such acts. The Italian Anarchist Federation (FAI), co-incidentally sharing the same initials as this strange new group and having suffered state repression under similar circumstances as recently as 1997, have denounced the indiscriminate violence of such devices. This was further put into perspective by a recent statement from the Federazione dei Comunisti Anarchici (FdCA) emphasising anarchists' commitment to "horizontal, anti-authoritarian, mass organisation" struggle.
Many are of the opinion that the recent events are merely the latest incident in the Italian state's "Strategy of Tension" - a clandestine campaign to discredit popular left movements from the 60s onwards which reached its climax in 1980 when officials of the Italian state conspired with the fascist group "Ordine Nuovo" to set off a bomb in a Bologna railway station killing 80 people. Similar attempts to isolate more militant groups from larger social movements were seen in the run-up to the 2001 G8 summit in Genoa.
Further Indymedia links: Feature on indymedia.org - More on the Strategy of Tension
The concept of the EU is still a popular one in Ireland as is shown by the detail of the results of a recent poll on the EU. It is a far less popular concept generally in Europe as is shown by the headline results of the self-same poll. This bodes ill for the ongoing negotiations on a draft EU constitution taking place at present in Italy.
The broad popular movement represented by the European Social Forum has advocated a Europe wide civil society rejection of the way in which Neo-Liberalism is consecrated as an official doctrine in the proposed Constitution as it now stands. The Declaration of the Assembly of Social Movements has instead called for a Europe 'based on the recognition of social, economic, cultural and ecological rights'.
Ireland will hold the Presidency of the EU in the buildup to the planned ratification of an EU Constitution in May 2004 and it seems inevitable that Ireland will become a battleground for these opposing conceptions of what Europe is and should be.
Domestic critics of the proposed EU Constitution on both the right (National Platform) and left (Democracy and Public Services in Europe Group) have begun to make their voices heard and it seems that the battle of ideas that raged during the Nice Treaty II debate will most likely be joined again at some point next year when a referendum on the new Constitution is held in Ireland. Watch this space!
Thu 23 May, 09:50
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