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1970: Socialist Republican Spectacular in the British House of Commons

On November 5 1605, Guy Fawkes was arrested as part of the gun powder plot to blow up the English Parliament. In the years since then and particularly in the 20th century, Irish republicans have made the House of Commons in London a regular target in the ongoing struggle for National Liberation.

In 1918, Cathal Brugha led a team of IRA Volunteers positioned in the House of Commons that intended to wipe out the English cabinet if they attempted to enforce conscription in Ireland. In 1921, Brugha as Minister for Defence in the Revolutionary Dáil Éireann, deployed another team of Volunteers back to the English Parliament arguing, “if you wiped out every Black and Tan in Ireland tomorrow, you’d have shiploads of them pouring in again, the day after. And if you wiped every soul of them out, double as many shiploads would come in, the day after that… To save Ireland, you have got to wipe out the guilty ones who sent the Black and Tans here. We have got to wipe out every member of the British Cabinet”. Neither of these actions came off.

In June 1974 the IRA bombed the British Houses of Parliament in a daring action that caused extensive damage and on March 30 1979 the Irish National Liberation Army staged a spectacular operation, assassinating the British War Criminal Aiery Neave, with an undercar bomb that exploded with devastating effect on the ramp of the House of Commons car park.

But today we remember another spectacular Socialist Republican operation in the House of Commons that was carried out by activists close to the Saor Éire Action Group, that saw CS canisters fired onto the floor if the House of Commons on July 23 1970.

The British Forces of Occupation used CS Gas in Ireland for the first time on August 23 1969 in the Bogside in Derry. The use of the gas caused an immediate effect on the local community with burring, irritation and choking being suffered by residents of the Bogside, a staunchly Republican Community, as a result of Britian’s chemical warfare attack on the area. The use of the gas quickly became common by the Brits.

Saor Éire activist Máirín Keegan suggested the group should run a publicity campaign to highlight the use and effects of CS Gas in Occupied Ireland. Keegan procured two CS canisters for this purpose. The canisters were given to Frank Butch Roche a Saor Éire supporter from County Wexford, who decided the use of CS Gas required propaganda spectacular to expose Britain’s terrorist campaign in Ireland.

On July 23 1970, Roche entered the House of Commons in London and took up a seat in the public gallery. At the opportune moment, Roche hurled the canisters into the floor of the House of Commons and as the gas filled the lungs of British MPs he shouted, “Here’s a present from the Falls, you Bastards! If it’s all right for Derry and Belfast, it is all right for here. How do you like it”? In doing so, Roche took the consequences of Britain’s illegal occupation of Ireland directly into the belly of the beast, exposing British Imperialism dirty tactics in Ireland before the world and taking a defiant stand in support of people of Occupied Ireland.

Roche was arrested and was charged with unlawful possession of prohibited weapons, and conspiring with others to disrupt the proceedings of the House of Commons. At the trial at London’s Old Bailey Roche remained defiant. While he outlined that he took considerable steps to prevent anyone being injured he stated the action was carried out against the use of CS gas in Ireland. Roche Outlined how he had went to the aid of the people of the Bogside in 1969 and aimed ultimately to unite the catholic and protestant working class to fight for the All Ireland Workers Republic.

Found guilty, Roche received an 18 month prison sentence held in the Imperialist Gaols in Britain.

Not for the last time, Socialist Republican Activists associated with Saor Éire had staged a spectacular operation against British Imperialism in Ireland.

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