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The Troops Out Movement Co-ordinating Committee sincerely thank our members and supporters for their past and on-going contributions and support.
Together, we continue to campaign for the removal of the British establishment from the north of Ireland and for self-determination for the Irish people as a whole.
Troops Out Movement campaigns for unity, peace and justice on the island of Ireland.
We are well aware that the majority of the general public of England, Scotland and Wales are intentionally kept unaware by the British government and a compliant media of the truth behind current affairs in the north of Ireland.
With this in mind, we will strive to inform these good people what is actually happening in Ireland - today and every day.
We believe that the Irish people as a whole have the natural right to determine their own destiny, free from foreign interference.
Please feel free to browse our website - we have taken great care to ensure that everything posted here is 100% factual. If you have reason to believe that any of our articles infringe copyright or are misleading or factually incorrect, do please let us know.
Who are the Troops Out Movement?
The Troops Out Movement (TOM) were formed in 1973. We are a campaigning organisation committed to bringing an end to British rule in the 'Northern Ireland' statelet and thus re-uniting Ireland. We have two demands: ‘British Troops Out of Ireland’ and ‘Self Determination for the Irish People as a Whole’. We believe that the responsible removal of the British political and military presence in Ireland is fundamental to a peaceful solution to Ireland's British problem. Only when this happens can the people of Ireland truly determine their own future.
TOM was started by Irish solidarity activists in West London in late 1973. Its first main event, a large and successful public meeting, took place at Fulham Town Hall in early November of that year. TOM then expanded rapidly with branches being formed first in other areas of London and then throughout England, Scotland and Wales.
By early 1974 TOM had quickly become a well-organised, established movement, ceaselessly campaigning for the withdrawal of British troops from the north of Ireland and on issues concerning truth, peace and justice for the Irish people.
We campaign on issues of justice, policing, equality, demilitarisation, employment discrimination, cultural rights and the Irish language.
We highlight sectarian attacks on nationalist communities from unionist paramilitaries, often in full view of British security forces.
These attacks clearly highlight how the PSNI, along with the British government, are allowing naked sectarianism to continue unchallenged, despite the Good Friday Agreement stating that all people have the right to live 'free from sectarian harassment'.
TOM demands independent, international public judicial inquires into British crown forces' collusion with unionist death squads, and indeed into the many instances when crown forces have themselves murdered and/or maimed Irish citizens.
We demand the immediate end to the use of plastic bullets.
Join the Troops Out Movement. We organize protests, pickets, petitions, visits to MP's surgeries, street stalls and public meetings featuring key speakers from the north of Ireland.
In January and August each year we organise delegations to Derry and Belfast.
By joining TOM you too can help the Irish people to determine their own future, free from the interference of the British State.
You can support TOM by sending a cheque/postal order, made payable to Troops Out Movement, to TOM, 123 B11 4PS, Birmingham, UK
Troops Out Movement - 30 years campaigning for British withdrawal
There is a long and honourable tradition in Britain of opposition to the occupation of Ireland. It goes as far back as 1647 when one of the first political parties in England and early socialists, the Levellers, published The English Soldiers' Standard in which they set out their belief that Ireland should be free.
Two years later, in 1649, a group of English soldiers, inspired by the Levellers, mutinied rather than go with Oliver Cromwell and his army and take part in the slaughter of Irish people. In their own pamphlet, The Soldiers' Demand, the group asked "What have we to do in Ireland, to fight and murder a people and a nation... which have done us no harm? We have waded too far in that crimson stream already of innocent and Christian blood."
Their defiance was costly. Pursued by Cromwell, the insurgents took shelter in Burford Church in Oxfordshire before being surrounded by his men. Their leaders were hauled out of the church and executed on the spot. Corporal Perkins, Private Church and Cornet Thompson are still commemorated each year at the very place where they were murdered by the Crown.
Opposition within Britain continued to ebb and flow through the succeeding centuries with, for example, strong support for the Fenian Movement in the north of England in the 1860s, through to the Home Rule Confederation of Great Britain in the 1870s and the Irish Volunteer Movement in 1913 (of which Michael Collins was a member during his time in London).
After the 1916 Rising came the Irish Self-Determination League which numbered something like 40,000 members. And when Terence Macswiney died in Brixton Prison on 25 October 1920, tens of thousands lined the streets as his coffin passed by.
When the conflict in the north erupted in the late 1960s, the Irish Civil Rights Solidarity Campaign was formed, quickly followed by the Anti-Internment League.
This organised opposition to Britain's presence in Ireland continues to this day through, for example, the Trade Union Movement, a small but dedicated number of MPs, and groups such as the Wolfe Tone Society and the Connolly Association. The backbone of the various resistance groupings has generally consisted of first and second generation Irish people, but there has always been a small stream of English radicals, and people of other ethnic backgrounds, ready to take up the cause of Ireland.
By September 1973 some British left-wing radicals, trade unionists, Irish people living in Britain and many other ordinary people had managed to see something of the truth of what was happening in the North of Ireland through the fog of British Government propaganda.
They were appalled at what they were seeing and they came together in London to form the Troops Out Movement.
They were tapping into an almost unbroken tradition of resistance within Britain to the state's involvement in Ireland. In 1974 there was sufficient support for the group to be launched nationally, with branches throughout Britain.
In October this year TOM celebrates its 30th year of opposition to the British presence in Ireland.
Like the Civil Rights Movement in the Six Counties, TOM's founders and earliest activists were also inspired by the contemporary political milieu. The Civil Rights Movement had swept like a tidal wave across America and anti-Vietnam war demonstrations had been an almost daily occurrence. Europe had seen student uprisings which were met with the sort of state brutality which was commonplace in the North of Ireland.
But it is worth remembering that for people living in Britain in the 1960s, '70s and '80s, particularly those without family or cultural ties to Ireland, making the leap from vague disquiet about the British Army in Ireland, to committed activism to get it out was no easy thing.
So much militated against it. Irish history was not taught in schools, even as part of the history of the British Empire. There was social disapproval, apathy and, perhaps most crucially, lack of information. When Ireland was not being studiously ignored, it was being misrepresented.
It was, for example, a given that the Republican Movement was, by definition, evil and its members psychopaths. Their cause was rarely, if ever, explained in anything other than the most crude and sectarian way and reaching any kind of understanding or knowledge of it required a determined and independent mind.
During that period, as anti-censorship activist and historian Liz Curtis chronicles, anyone who was interested in Ireland would have had to see through such apparently authoritative opinions as the historian RJ Cootes, who in 1972 wrote: "In 1969 bitter fighting broke out in the streets of Belfast and other northern towns. British troops were sent in to keep the peace, but longstanding religious differences could not be settled overnight".
Those of a less academic bent could rely on the Daily Mirror, which in 1969 informed its readership: "The Irish agree on one thing only. That is to go on arguing and fighting about a peace that has not existed in their history". Or they could consult the Sunday Times which in 1977, at precisely the time when the RUC was engaged in the practice of torturing prisoners, opined: "The notorious problem is how a civilised country can overpower uncivilised people without becoming less civilised in the process."
By 1981 this condition of self-delusion had reached such a level that Peregrine Worsthorne could, in absolute, po-faced seriousness, write the following sentence: "The English have every reason to feel proud of their country's recent record in Northern Ireland, since it sets the world a uniquely impressive example of altruistic service in the cause of peace. Nothing done by any other country in modern times so richly deserves the Nobel prize."
The unvarying message sent out by government and media since the beginning of the conflict has been, as Tony Benn has shrewdly observed, that Ireland is Britain's problem when of course the reality is that Britain is Ireland's problem. But then, as the historian J Bowyer-Bell equally shrewdly observed: "Perception is all". It was a philosophy keenly adopted by Frank Kitson who, in the classic of the time, Low Intensity Operations, stressed the need for the British military in Ireland to "dictate how others saw the essence of the conflict".
But there were then, as there are now, a few people in Britain who would not allow their understanding and view of the conflict to be controlled by either the government or the media. One of them was Aly Renwick, the British soldier who served for a short time in Ireland before becoming a political activist, writer and founder member of TOM. Another was Mary Pearson, another founder member of TOM who has remained an indefatigable campaigner every since.
Ever cheery, she is a familiar face in the North of Ireland, and in common with many of those who joined TOM in its infancy, recalls that it was the events of Bloody Sunday which finally motivated her to become involved in some way in Irish politics. Previously, she says, although she felt a sense of what she calls "emotional support" for the nationalist population, she had little understanding of the political situation, other than a firm belief that interment without trial was wrong.
"Bloody Sunday shocked me to the core" she says. "That armed soldiers would shoot unarmed people in cold blood. I was upset and angry about the British army acting 'in my name'."
The added insult to the deep injury was the handling of the situation by the media. "I watched the initial news flashes on TV" Mary recalls. "It was horrific and showed the raw reality of state murder. But by the evening news, the whole event was sanitised and the blame put on the unarmed protesters who were called bombers and gunmen. I remember crying with sheer anger at the role the media were playing".
Since then, she has worked tirelessly to inform the British people what their successive governments have been up to in Ireland.
For their own part, successive British governments have also displayed a keen interest in TOM and its members, an interest quite out of proportion to the group's membership or indeed activities which have been unfailingly non-violent. It is something which has at times perplexed Mary.
"The government reaction to TOM has been quite strange" she says. "We have never been a mass organisation; even in the heydays of the seventies and eighties we never had more than a thousand members. Yet we have had quite serious harassment and infiltration over the years"
Indeed, she recalls being at a meeting some years ago at which Colin Wallace, the MI5 whistleblower who was framed by British intelligence for a murder he did not commit after he refused to take part in the dirty war in Ireland, said that TOM was the most infiltrated organisation in Britain. Whether or not this is still the case is anyone's guess, but the group has had some notable successes in influencing, for example, trade union policy, and Labour party policy during the latter's long days in opposition.
It has also been the case that opinion polls taken in Britain have consistently shown a majority of the public, whatever their political stripe, in favour of British military withdrawal from the north of Ireland, and for that TOM must take some of the credit.
This is despite the difficulties the group faced - indeed which any group which tried to present the conflict as something other than tribal infighting faced — in getting the message across.
"The mainstream media rarely takes us seriously" observes Mary ruefully. "In the past we have been labelled as 'terrorist supporters'. We seem to get the best publicity if one of our members is arrested or we are host to a prominent republican".
During the broadcasting ban on Sinn Féin, some of the "faint hearted" British media took some convincing that the ban did actually only apply to Sinn Fein itself and TOM had an even more difficult task than usual in persuading the media to hear their arguments.
Like other activists involved in opposition to the British Government, TOM's members have been regularly stopped when travelling to and from Ireland. In some cases, members were subjected to house raids by the police, usually after IRA activity in England, when police would comb through books, photographs and personal paperwork in an attempt to gather intelligence.
In 1983, Mary's house was raided and searched for, as the police put it, "explosive substances likely to cause criminal damage", although as Mary points out, had she actually been in possession of any such substances, the police would not have found them as they spent the entire time looking through her books, photos and letters.
She, like other members of TOM, is humbled to the point of embarrassment at the reception she has received over the years in the Six Counties and at the appreciation there of the work which the organisation has done.
"It is humbling when people in Ireland say 'but you're working in the belly of the beast' because we know the level of struggle in the nationalist community in the North and what they have suffered. Our work and difficulties are minuscule by comparison".
Although the group's fortunes have been in decline in recent years, particularly since the cessation, Mary is still certain about TOM's function.
"Our role is still to try and convince people living in England Scotland and Wales that Britain has no right to be in Ireland, should never have been in Ireland, and should get out immediately.
"The Peace Process and the Good Friday Agreement have had a dual effect on our work. Because there is more open discussion of Ireland now, it is much easier to raise the issues with people. We rarely get spat on or attacked in the street anymore, even though we still get threats from fascist organisations.
"However, we have found it more difficult to get people to become active on the issue as they think it all already happening. But I can promise the people in the North that we will continue to campaign for Britain to get out of Ireland and we will continue to expose the corruption and injustices whilst they still exist."
Specially commissioned as part
of the 30th anniversary Troops Out Movement celebrations,
Marching in England
By Mary Pearson, Secretary, Troops Out Movement for Danny Morrison’s book on the Legacy of the 1981 Hunger Strike
Many of us active in calling for British withdrawal from Ireland, who are based in England, Scotland and Wales, see the hunger strike of 1981 as the major turning point in people’s awareness of the political situation in Ireland. People in Britain did not automatically support the hunger strikers but many began to question the government’s attitude towards Ireland and its people. The election of Bobby Sands was certainly a challenge to the Thatcherite view that “these people are just common criminals”. This view was further challenged when 100,000 people attended the funeral of the said ‘common criminal’. It was still in people’s minds that 10,000 more people voted for Bobby than for Margaret Thatcher!
Activists on Ireland, particularly after the Birmingham pub bombings, had been caricatured in the media as supporters of terrorism. The same putdown is used today for people opposing the war in Iraq.
The hunger strike meant there was a far greater readiness to talk about the issues and less readiness to accept the government’s line. Trade unions and Labour Party organisations who had previously steered clear of discussing Ireland were passing resolutions in support of the prisoners and for British withdrawal from Ireland. Individual councillors and trade union officers were putting their names to the petition for the five demands as did 27 Labour MPs and one Plaid Cymru MP. Unfortunately, this support was not reflected in the leadership of the trade unions or the Labour Party. On the contrary, the mainstream Labour politicians were desperate to be first in line to support the Tory government in ‘standing firm’ against ‘terrorists’.
The most awful and cruel spectacle came on May 1st 1981 (International Workers Day!) when Labour spokesman on Northern Ireland, Don Concannon, MP for Mansfield, went in to see Bobby Sands, told him that he was in total agreement with Thatcher’s attitude and that he should call off his hunger strike immediately. This was in spite of a Marplan opinion poll in the Guardian in April showing 67% of Labour voters wanted Britain out of Ireland.
Concannon’s action, clearly supported by Labour leader Michael Foot, shocked and angered many, including people and organisations previously less vocal. Martin Flannery MP said it was, “totally insensitive and like sending a British tank to a Northern Ireland funeral”. The Irish Post said, “with the exception of a handful of individual labour MPs… I can’t see any self respecting Irish vote in the next general election or for many elections to come”.
Many Irish people continued to vote Labour and still do, but there was some evidence of a protest vote at the time of the hunger strike. Steve Bundred, who was elected to the Greater London Council (GLC), wrote to Michael Foot calling for the withdrawal of British troops from Ireland and pointing out the number of ballot papers spoilt which were marked with the name of Bobby Sands or ‘H-Block’.
In response to the Concannon malice, the fledgling Labour Committee on Ireland, a pressure group within the Labour Party, called a demonstration against Concannon in his own constituency of Mansfield on July 4th. It was widely supported by Troops Out Movement activists and radicals within the Labour Party. The demonstration was well attended and got good publicity as it was against a shadow spokesman on Northern Ireland.
We spent the morning picketing Concannon’s surgery being held in the Town Hall. You’d have thought we were an invading army. The police were out in force and all the buildings in the square had police on top of them with cameras filming and photographing everyone for a least 2 hours. People were joking that we should really be members of Equity (the Actors Union), as we were being filmed so much!
The march itself was delayed as the police initially refused to allow us to march because we were allegedly “causing offence” and likely to be attacked. There were a handful of men waving Union Jack/Red Hand of Ulster (with crown!) flags, shouting obscenities and being particularly insulting to women. They were screaming, “Look it’s spawned!” at me as I had my toddler daughter in her pushchair. The worrying thing about these people was the number wearing Labour Party ties.
Throughout the time of the hunger strike there were a great number of significant marches in London, Glasgow, Birmingham, Bradford, Leeds (held on the royal wedding day of Charles and Diana), Manchester, Staines and Cardiff amongst many others. In addition to marches there were other events, often getting just as much local publicity. There were pickets of Downing Street and government and council buildings, military establishments, Labour and trade union buildings and events; and public meetings with speakers over from Ireland; film shows; and token fasts in solidarity.
Birmingham, my own city, probably didn’t have the most or the biggest protests of the hunger strike but was significant because of its history. The Birmingham pub bombings of 1974 had left a vicious aftermath for Irish activists. Although the Troops Out Movement and others had made some progress within sections of the left and some Labour movement organisations, street protest was still rather hazardous. Prior to the hunger strike I was physically attacked on three occasions: punched in the face whilst giving out leaflets headed, ‘To Stop The Bombing - Get The Troops Out’; was pushed into the road into the path of an oncoming bus whilst giving out similar leaflets (my bag and hat ended up under the bus but, thankfully, not me); and was dragged from a ‘soap-box’ by the hair across the Bull Ring, glimpsing a comrade being battered by an elderly lady with a red umbrella!
There was one incident following a picket of a British army display when tragically a child was killed by faulty wiring on the Irish Guards’ stand. A number of our members were visited and questioned by the police. The army had suggested that we had tampered with their stand which led to the child being electrocuted. An article appeared in the local paper saying exactly that. In fact, we had not even gone into the showground when the child was killed. We witnessed the ambulance going into and leaving the ground well before we went in to leaflet the army stands. This sort of harassment meant that supporters were often too timid to become overtly involved in protest. A week later a tiny item in the paper stated that the Army stand had faulty wiring.
Things began to change during the 1980 hunger strike. On the first day, Monday October 27th, we held a torchlight procession. The police tried to make us assemble in a subway but we refused as we had been threatened by the National Front (NF). We assembled in a nearby street and strangely the police virtually disappeared. Within minutes a crowd of NF youth had gathered and started lobbing bricks and bottles at us. At first they were falling short and hitting members of the press who were between our protest and the NF. When the missiles began to hit their target our people began to retaliate and chase the fascists. Miraculously the police appeared just at that moment! In spite of this we were still allowed to march, probably because it had all been witnessed by the press.
What surprised us most of all was that we had quite a good reception from people as we marched around the city centre. Some looked very bemused but the only barracking came from the organised fascists. This was a marked contrast from our previous experiences.
An interesting aside in relation to this is that all press photographs of the protest were embargoed by the police. We went a few days later to get photos from the local papers, which are normally available for sale to the public. At the Birmingham Post & Mail photo shop a young woman on the desk let the cat out of the bag and said, “I’m very sorry but the photos from that event are not available as they are subject to a police embargo.” I asked to see the person in charge, who was quite clearly annoyed that we’d been told, but admitted, “It is out of our hands.” Following a number of letters of complaint and us winning the support of the National Council for Civil Liberties, we were given permission to view the photos in the presence of the editor but not to purchase them.
During the next few weeks we managed to get support for the prisoners’ demands from seven local councillors and over thirty significant local Trade Union and Labour Party officers, who put their names to a public letter. It may not sound many but it was a significant step forward. Then the same media, who had been quite open to us when they were being pelted with bricks and bottles, pilloried those who signed the letter, causing them to suffer harassment and even death threats from the National Front. So much so, that by the time the 1981 hunger strike started only two of the seven councillors were prepared to publicly support the prisoners’ demands. However, the Trade Union support increased and new supporters from student, community and black organisations as well as some local doctors and people from the arts put their names to the letter.
We collected signatures on the international petition for the prisoners’ five demands, leafleted virtually every major Trade Union and Labour party event, and, where we were allowed, spoke in those meetings. We had delegations to MPs’ surgeries, held street meetings with petitions and leaflets both in the city centre and the suburbs as well as at most of the Catholic churches. We did try and win support at churches of other denominations but it was more difficult as few had a real understanding of the situation. But signatures gained in those circumstances were greatly valued. We had tremendous support from the temples and mosques. Indian and Pakistani people understand the products of imperialism. We also had support from the more political sections of the African-Caribbean community: they too understand British oppression.
The majority of Catholic priests were very obstructive when we were collecting signatures outside Mass (with the notable exception of the late Fr Joe Taaffe RIP who supported us throughout). Most ordered us off church property and preached against us from the pulpit, some even called in the police.
During the 1981 hunger strike the H-Block/Armagh Action Group met weekly with over 50 people attending. Our actions included: fly-posting, slogan painting, dropping banners over bridges and from buildings in the city centre. From our postering the faces of the hunger strikers became a familiar sight throughout the city. We occupied buildings, protested at media offices, climbed on roofs. On one occasion we occupied the Irish Tourist Board Office draping banners across the windows. The staff seemed quite pleased actually and allowed us the use of the phone to call the Irish government. The police would arrive and confiscate our ladders and banners. We seemed to spend half of our waking hours painting and sewing banners.
Our members were arrested and charged but usually got off with a £5 fine. One activist who made a speech from the dock about “the soul of the Irish nation” alerted the magistrate to the nature of the protest and he ordered a fine of £30!
We managed to get lots of radio interviews and reports in the local papers and we thought people were listening. A lot of people were but the government certainly wasn’t. When Bobby Sands died we were all shocked. We felt numbed and ineffectual. The protests we had planned seemed insignificant in the enormity of the situation. That day we occupied the roof of Woolworths in the city centre, then pulled the ladder up after us. There was a great show of banners for everyone to see and those of us on the ground gave out leaflets. We were amazed at the supportive response. There were some bad comments, but most seemed to be as shocked as we were that the government had allowed an MP to die.
We continued to protest as the
men died. We were angry, frustrated and heartbroken. How must the
prisoners’ relatives and friends feel? Our hearts went out to
their families. It made us even more determined to campaign to expose
the truth of the British presence in Ireland. It is us, the people
in England, Scotland and Wales, who are paying for the corrupt policies
being carried out in our name. It cannot be left lie. We campaign