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Troops Out Movement Delegation to Belfast

Mary Pearson | 08.10.2007 21:36 | Birmingham | London

The Troops Out Movement, which campaigns for British Withdrawal from Ireland, organises an annual trip to Belfast to meet with campaign organisations and community groups. This is a report of this years visit.

Report on Troops Out Movement Delegation to Belfast
Thur 9th – Sun 12th August 2007

The delegation was attended by 16 people and accommodated by local people in West Belfast. A number of delegates arrived before the specified arrival date and were able to participate in events organised as part of Feile an Phobail (Peoples Festival – West Belfast Community Festival).
• Frank Cahill Memorial Lecture – Dedicated to community activists
• Palestine Solidarity Lecture
• PJ McGrory Lecture by Sunny Jacobs mother of 2, a framed prisoner who spent 17 years on Death Row. Her Book is called Stolen Time
• Annual Plastic Bullet Vigil – this year dedicated to Emma Groves - blinded by a Rubber Bullet, she was a founder member of the United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets. The Troops Out Movement was honoured to speak at the memorial meeting
• Belfast Talks Back – a huge question & answer session where local people have the chance to confront politicians of all shades of opinion

Thur 9th Aug - The delegation officially started and was welcomed to West Belfast by Local Sinn Fein Councillor, Michael Brown.
After settling into their accommodation the delegates were guests at the 25th Anniversary of the Falls Women’s Centre. We were particularly welcomed as many women in TOM had contributed their work skills and money to helping renovate the original building and have continued support and contact.

Fri 10th Aug - am – Meeting with Relatives for Justice. The talk concentrated mainly on the campaign to highlight the case of the Ballymurphy 11 who were murdered by the British Army during the first 3 days of Internment in 1972. No one has ever been brought to justice and the victims have never had the focus of the Bloody Sunday victims. 13 of the 14 Bloody Sunday victims were shot within 20 minutes in full view of the worlds media. The Ballymurphy victims were shot over 3 days in their own back streets. The families have now come together to demand justice.
pm - Prisoners Day at the Felons Club. Some delegates visited this re-union
day for ex-prisoners and an exhibition of prisoners work and videos on the prison issues. The exhibition this year was dedicated to youth in struggle.
pm – Lecture – The Thirty Year War. Other delegates attended this talk by Peter Taylor on journalism in the changing face of conflict.
eve – The Story of Internment. Local people spoke very movingly about their experiences of Internment, interspersed with songs and music from the time. This was followed by a disco of songs from 1971!

Sat 11 Aug – am - Meeting with Springfield Residents Action Group – Re Orange Marches. In spite of Parades Commission rulings these residents are still suffering the harassment of Orange marches going through their area and defying commission guidelines. Sean Murray was one of the residents who met with us and is newly appointed to be on the review commission on contentious parades.
pm - Meeting with An Fhirinne (The Truth) a group working with families who have lost loved ones as a result of British security forces acting in collusion with loyalist paramilitaries. Many have heard of the high profile cases like Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson but there are hundreds more.
Eve – The Great Escape. Ex-prisoners and escapees Bik MacFarlane, Gerry Kelly and Bobby Storey, told how they planned participated in the escape of 38 prisoners from Long Kesh in 1983. An hilarious event!

Sun 12 Aug – am – Political Update with Tom Hartley Sinn Fein Councillor. These are brief notes. Tom argues that what is needed now is a national conversation on the ending of partition and the creation of an Irish national democracy. He believes the SF position in the Northern Assembly is culmination of many years of strategic planning and hard work by republicans and it puts SF at the very heart of the decision-making process. It has its political foundations in campaigns for economic, cultural and political equality, for fair employment and an end to religious discrimination in the workplace, for transparent and democratic local government, for better housing and health care, for the truth on collusion, and from the mid-1980s for the building of a peace process and an engagement with the unionist community. He states that this journey was often difficult and painful for many republicans. From the ending of the armed conflict to the decision on policing, republicans have grappled with difficult and challenging political decisions.
“In summary, we fought hard to move the Northern nationalist and republican community out of its status as second-class citizens and into its role as a vibrant, confident and central element of Northern society. Today the political expectation of the Northern nationalist and republican community has advanced to the point where their expectations have become the motor of change, driving the Northern political agenda. It is therefore imperative that we now focus on the next period of political development – the end of English Government in Ireland and the establishment of an Irish national democracy.”

- pm – March and Rally for Truth. The theme of the march and rally linked in with what we had learned from our meeting with An Fhirinne. It was a really well supported march with feeder marches coming from all areas of the city. Not only was the size impressive but also the visual creativity. A play was performed at the start of the rally exposing the British establishment’s flouting of their own laws and procedures. The speakers were all people who had family members killed by British collusion with loyalist paramilitaries. The Rally was ended by Gerry Adams – MP and Assembly member for West Belfast.

What to do now?
The Troops Out Movement is offering speakers and video shows to organisations interested in the current situation and ongoing miscarriages of justice. We are also planning a speaking tour in January with two daughters of the Ballymurphy victims.

To request a speaker or further information contact:
TOM. PO Box 1032 Birmingham B12 8BZ
Tel: 0121 773 8683 Mob: 0797 017 4167

Mary Pearson
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