Anti-Internment League 50th Anniversary

This year is the 50th anniversary of the Anti-Internment League, founded in London after the introduction of internment in the North of Ireland in 1971.

The League, which brought together Irish and British left-wing campaigners, had two core demands: the immediate release of all internees, and the immediate withdrawal of British troops from Ireland.

On 9 August 1971 “Operation Demetrius”—internment without charge or trial—began, and it would continue until 5 December 1975, during which time 1,981 people were interned. Many of those interned were members of the Official and Provisional republican movements; the rest of the internees were political opponents of the Unionists, such as People’s Democracy, the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association, and, in some cases, militant trade unionists.

During this period I attended an anti-internment march from Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square in central London, organised by the Connolly Association. I became involved with the Anti-Internment League in Southampton, which, along with the Young Communists, organised the picketing of British army recruitment centres.

On 18 February 1972 more than four hundred people attended an anti-internment meeting at Southampton town hall, addressed by James Wray, whose son Jim was killed on Bloody Sunday, and Kate Hoey. The secretary of the Anti-Internment League, John Grey, was presented with a cheque for £100 from Southampton Students’ Union.

The League became a mass movement, with trade unions and trades councils passing resolutions of support for the internees. Thousands demonstrated on the streets of Britain, demanding an end to internment and the withdrawal of troops from Ireland. With the start of the IRA bombing campaign in England the mass support slowly ebbed away; the British establishment must have heaved a sigh of relief.

There still remained a solidarity campaign of the far left, but the days of 20,000 in protest against British misrule were gone. Arguably it might have been better to concentrate on building broad political support among the British working class and to make Ireland an integral part of the left agenda in Britain.

5 responses to “Anti-Internment League 50th Anniversary

  1. Pingback: UK: ANTI-INTERNMENT LEAGUE 50TH ANNIVERSARY – AWSM·

  2. Pingback: Anarchist news from 300+ collectives 🏴 AnarchistFederation.net·

  3. I was a regular attender of AIL meetings in London and was delegate from the ILP I was a shop steward in the building industry and Brought 3 building sites out on strike following the Derry Massacre.I did not like the sectarian approach of the Provos but had close contact with the Officials and sold United Irishman at work.

  4. Hi comrade,

    I’ve very recently found this blog, and am thrilled, currently making my way through and appreciate the archives, analysis and obituaries.

    I’m a history student from Sydney doing a project on the campaigns around internment, and broader campaigns about Irish issues undertaken by the Irish in Britain. My parents were trade unionists and involved in the campaigns around the hunger strikers and the Guildford Four. If you’d be willing to talk with me and share your experience, I would really appreciate it.

    I don’t want to clog up your comment sections with a big wall of text, so if you’d be willing to chat further with me, my email is thomasmelmartin@gmail.com and I’d love to hear from you. No pressure if you don’t feel like talking about things – all the best either way.

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