Fascism needs to be confronted, says Bernadette McAliskey

Veteran republican gave address at event to mark 80th anniversary of Gernika bombing

Bernadette McAliskey: “Our simplistic historic understanding of fascism needs to be challenged.”

Bernadette McAliskey: “Our simplistic historic understanding of fascism needs to be challenged.”


Fascism can assume many guises and people need to know how to recognise it and confront it so that the world can avoid the horrors of the 20th century, veteran socialist republican, Bernadette McAliskey told a Spanish Civil War commemoration in Dublin on Friday.

Speaking at the commemorations to mark the 80th anniversary of the bombing of the Basque town of Gernika in April 1937 by the German Condor Legion in support of Spanish fascists, Ms McAliskey said she often wondered how the pilots involved could have caused such death and destruction.

“What allowed the people in the planes to keep coming and keeping killing women and children knowing what was happening – what allowed them to do it because whatever it was, it is exactly the same aberration of human empathy and human dignity, that allows people to do it today.

“It doesn’t matter which side of the argument you hold on who is responsible for what is happening in Syria, just think Gernika and multiply and multiply and multiply and ask – have we learned nothing in the time since – did we learn nothing from the Second World War and the hundreds of wars since ?

“There is only one thing allows it to happen and that is that the perpetrators do not allow their victims the status of human beings – you couldn’t do it otherwise and it’s amazing how little persuasion it takes to identity any group as less than human so you can exterminate them.”

Ms McAliskey, who was elected as MP for Mid-Ulster in 1968, recalled how she and many others in Peoples Democracy in the 1960s called “everyone over the age of 30 a fascist” until veteran communist, Betty Sinclair advised them to think again so they could recognise the real fascism.

“Our simplistic historic understanding of fascism needs to be challenged - fascism is not German, it’s not the Nazism of the Second World War ... it starts in the heads of individuals with the idea that what keeps you disadvantaged is that some lesser breed has taken what belongs to you.”

She added that “the enemy today is seen as the Muslim in the same way almost everything in the 30s could be blamed on the Jews and we need to confront that or what will define our time for future generations will be the bodies in the Mediterranean, the refugees dying in camps when we had room for them”.