TURKEY’S PAYOFF FROM NATO LOOKS BAD FOR ROJAVA

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 8 mins.)

Against the bigger war going on in the Ukraine, a smaller one hotting up has been getting little attention. Turkey started shelling a region in Syria which the inhabitants call Rojava and killed some of those inhabitants, including military leaders, who have had mass funeral protests.

Salwa Yusuk, a deputy commander of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, was killed in a Turkish drone attack in Syria on Friday. Also killed in the same vehicle were Joana Hisso, 30, also known as Roj Khabur, and Ruha Bashar, 19, also known as Barin Botan. (Image sourced: Internet)

The Kurds’ representatives were blaming the USA and Russia but most of all the former, saying it’s part of a deal for Turkey to lift its objections to Sweden and Finland for membership of Nato.

The official quid pro quo was for those countries to repress their Kurdish diaspora and to remain silent on repression in Turkey. But it seems an unofficial part of the deal was to let Turkey set its military loose on Rojava, the inhabitants of which are now living in fear of a full Turkish invasion.

Far indeed do the consequences of the war in the Ukraine reach around the world – Rojava is over 2,000 km from the Donbas region (and they will reach much further than this before it’s over)!

The Kurdish-led Rojava sector fought ISIS from 2014 to March 2019, at first without any external help and later assisted by NATO bombing runs.

The USA’s earlier policy had been to boost Islamic jihadism as a counter to left-wing nationalism and Russian influence (for example in Afghanistan) – until jihadism threatened western interests also. Then it waged war to eradicate it and, in the course of that, supported the Kurds in Rojava.

But US/NATO wants a solid block facing (not to say encircling) Russia – so now previous bets are off and the Rojava region can be thrown to the wolves – or to Turkey; first by Trump to screams of outrage from US Democrats but now by Biden, to probable silence.

BACKGROUND

But why does the Turkish military want to shell Syria? Why specifically shelling the Rojava region? If you know, you know but if you don’t, a little background might help.

The Kurds are the largest ethnic minority in Turkey, comprising around 18% of Turkey’s population; the largest concentration (2 million) of which lives in Istanbul. The majority of Kurds are Sunni Muslim, with Alevi Shi’a Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and Yezidi communities.

Together with Kurdish populations in Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia (all “Kurdistan”) the Kurds number between 25 and 35 million in the Middle East (with a very large diaspora in Europe, the USA and other areas).

The area occupied by Kurds in the Middle East is of huge strategic and resources importance and none of the major states in the area have agreed to their having a state.

After World War One and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, the victorious Western allies made provision for a Kurdish state in the 1920 Treaty of Sevres.

However the new leader of Turkey, Kemal Attaturk, the “father of modern Turkey” rejected a reduction in the size of the state and the subsequent imperialist Treaty of Lausanne set the boundaries of modern Turkey without any reference to the Kurds (“mountain Turks”, according to Attaturk).

Also in 1920, the Royal Air Force of the UK bombed the Kurds with chemical weapons and machine-gunned them during the Iraqi (then Mesopotamia) uprising,

In 1946 the USSR supported a Kurdish state in a part of what is Iran today but in the face of the western powers’ opposition and support for the state of Persia’s (then a client state of the West) claim to the territory, the USSR withdrew its support and the Kurdish state was suppressed.

Every attempt to set up a Kurdish state since then has been violently suppressed and, in Turkey, even an autonomous Kurdish region was beyond contemplation by the authorities, who suppress even Kurdish language and music.

THE KURDS IN SYRIA

In 2013 an uprising began against the Assad regime which, though it had some popular elements quickly became dominated by Jihadists and NATO proxies. The Syrian part of the Kurdish liberation movement saw an advantage for itself here and set up its own liberated areas.

Also in 2013 the fundamentalist islamist group ISIS burst on to the scene and, taking advantage of the Assad regime’s beleaguered situation, attacked large areas of Syria, to overthrow the regime but also to subjugate all peoples in the region, including the Kurds and Arabs of any kind.

The Kurds of Rojava fought to protect their areas from ISIS but also carried out a heroic rescue action to save Yazidis, opening and defending a corridor for Yazidi refugees to reach safety in the Kurdish liberated area where they built a cross-community alliance with Yazidis, Turkmen and Arabs, in which they state that all its citizens have equal rights.

Whether this is as true as they (and as their supporters in parts of the European Left) say or not, certainly women have a formally equal status and women are elected – and also appointed — to positions of high administrative and military responsibility.

Demonstrators in Stockholm against the NATO deal with Turkey and in solidarity with the Kurds (whose flags are also visible (Image sourced: Internet)

The Turkish regime has been at war with the Kurds within the state’s territory led by the PKK since 1974 and viewed the setting up of an independent republic under Kurdish leadership across the border in Syria with great alarm.

In 2014 Turkey began attacking support and supply lines from Kurds in Turkey to Rojava, which caused outrage among the extended Kurdish diaspora and other opponents of ISIS in the West.

London rally November 2014 in solidarity with Kurds in Syria and condemning Turkish attacks. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

And in fact, although Turkey is an important member of NATO, Turkish military attacked the enclave a number of times, both directly and through the use of muslim fundamentalist jihadists.

Nevertheless, NATO’s concentration on wiping out the ISIS threat in the area had to have a restraining effect on Turkey. And then there was Russia too, also supplying air cover — but to the Syrian regime.

MY ENEMY’S ENEMY IS ….” — an understandable but dangerous philosophy

At first in 2013 it seemed that the Kurds around Rojava were merely taking advantage of the Syrian regime’s trouble to go for establishing their own republic, in addition to fighting the dire threat of ISIS.

In the latter struggle, they would of course gladly accept NATO bombing of ISIS and liaise with NATO commanders on where ISIS forces were gathering – for the Kurd’s own safety and for destruction of a dangerous enemy.

However some years ago an interview with the Kurdish commander of the Rojava military forces was published in which he said that the intentions of the Rojava military went further and involved overthrowing the Assad regime, an objective that they shared with NATO.

At a meeting organised by socialist Irish Republicans about five years ago, while expressing admiration for the Kurd’s struggle for self-determination in general and specifically against ISIS, I questioned from the audience a Kurdish speaker from London.

When I commented on what seemed a clear alliance with western imperialism and in particular the USA, the biggest imperialist power in the world, the speaker replied that they were merely accepting necessary aid for their defence against ISIS.

But when I pointed him towards the Kurdish military commander’s interview on the regime change objectives of his forces and of NATO, all he had to say was that I should visit Rojava.

Mass funerals (despite fear of further Turkish drone strikes) of three fighters of the Women’s Protection Unit (YPJ) killed recently (Image sourced: ANHA)

CONCLUSION

This situation and its history once again highlights the dangers of revolutionaries doing any deal with imperialism, most of all one where the long-term survival of one’s people depends on the continued support of an imperialist power.

It also raises the question of whether it is justifiable or at least wise in the longer term to use a major world power’s assistance in order to remove a smaller power.

The main Kurdish liberation movement of the PKK fought a heroic struggle for decades, in particular against the ferocious Turkish regime, with many martyrs and political prisoners.

One of its weaknesses was the almost deification of their leader Oçalan and the way his attempted embracing of the proposed “peace process” undermined the movement, as similar processes have done wherever they have been introduced.

Of course, as with the Spanish state, another fascist but supposedly democratic regime, the Turkish regime is not interested in any “peace process”, a slow sapping of the resistance movement. For its ruling elite, crudely crushing the resistance with brute force is the only way .

The Kurdish movement in Syria was seen as a spinoff from the PKK which supported it in its struggle against the Syrian regime but in particular in its heroic struggle against the Islamic State/ ISIS/ Deish.

However the Turkish state would view any independent Kurdish area, let alone one in nearby Syria as encouragement to Kurds within its territory. The ISIS movement threatened some Western interests and so NATO went to war with it, the Syrian Kurds linked themselves with NATO not only to defeat ISIS but also to overthrow the Assad regime.

US-led NATO wanted to overthrow the Assad regime but as part of its Middle Eastern encirclement of Russia (which is why Russia came to the aid of Assad against ISIS). Iraq and Libya had fallen already and, after Syria, Iran would be next on the list.

Thousands of people joined a demonstration in Tel Rifaat town of the Shehba Canton on Sunday 10th Nov 2019 in protest at the Turkish state’s invasion and genocidal practices in northern Syria. 40% of the population of Efrin (Afrin) having to survive in a semi no-man’s land, defended by the multi-ethnic SDF of AANES, after expulsion by the Turkish invasion, plantation and Turkification of their homes and properties.

But as the ISIS threat and the likelihood of deposing Assad faded, NATO support for the Rojava fighters declined. In October 2019 the SDF had to conclude an agreement with the Syrian regime to have it move into their area to end five days of attacks by Turkey.

When their protection from Turkey could be dropped in exchange for a US/NATO advantage in Eastern Europe, nothing stood against a Turkish all-out attack on Rojava. Nothing, that is, except the Russian airforce.

If Turkey is to attack Rojava with ground troops it will need to use air cover both in manned and unmanned vehicles, which would require Russia not policing the no-fly zone in Syria near the Turkish border.

In February 2021, a Russia-brokered agreement between the SDF and the Syrian regime to lift the SDF’s siege of regime-held towns showed strains. But last month, at a summit in Tehran between leaders of Iran, Russia and Turkey, the other two warned the latter not to attack the Kurds in Syria.

However, despite Turkey’s NATO membership, Russia does get along with the state’s rulers from time to time and the recent discussions between the ruling elites of Russia and Ukraine on unblocking the flow of grain and fertiliser out of the war zone were held in Turkey.

The Syrian regime does not want an autonomous area within the territory of its state and Russia’s leaders will be anxious to keep on good terms with its ally – but it will also wish to wean Turkey away from NATO.

The Rojava enclave, though never as wonderful as it was proclaimed to be from a socialist point of view, is nevertheless an interesting experiment in federalism and multi-ethnic administration.

It will be sad if Rojava falls to Turkish aggression and a mean repayment for their heroic struggle to rescue the Yazidis and to hold off the advance of ISIS which cost them 10,000 dead fighters. It may also be yet another disastrous byproduct of the proxy war NATO is waging in the Ukraine.

End.

SOURCES & FURTHER READING:

Turkish military attacks on Rojava: https://thefreeonline.com/2022/07/12/mass-funerals-as-terrorist-turkey-shells-towns-and-refugees-before-new-rojava-invasion/
https://thefreeonline.com/2022/07/23/sdf-says-two-of-its-female-commanders-one-fighter-were-murdered-in-turkish-drone-strike-video/

NATO dumps the Kurds: https://www.lemonde.fr/en/international/article/2022/06/28/nato-says-turkey-has-agreed-to-support-finland-and-sweden-joining-alliance_5988282_4.html

Trump dumps the Syrian Kurds: https://progressive.org/latest/foreign-correspondent-trump-kurds-empire-crumbles-erlich-101918/

Russia blocks Turkey’s plans to attack Rojava: https://www.irishtimes.com/world/middle-east/2022/07/20/iran-and-russia-warn-turkey-against-military-offensive-against-syrian-kurdish-forces-in-syria/
https://thefreeonline.com/2022/07/26/turkish-invasion-cancelled-did-putin-just-save-rojava/

Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurdish-led Rojava alliance: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syrian_Democratic_Forces

Long history Turkish State conflict with Kurds: https://www.cfr.org/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/conflict-between-turkey-and-armed-kurdish-groups

A modern history of the Kurds: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29702440

HARRY BOLAND COMMEMORATED OVER THE ANNIVERSARY WEEKEND OF HIS KILLING

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 7 mins.)

Harry Boland, shot in the stomach by a Free State soldier, died of blood-loss and shock on 1st August 1922, one of the early victims of the Irish Civil War. Many more would die later.

He came from a Fenian family, his father was a trade union activist and Harry was a member of the IRB, also a founder member of the Irish Volunteers, prominent in the Gaelic League, a keen hurler and later active in administration of the GAA1.

Harry Boland portrait (Photo accessed: Internet)

Harry Boland was also an elected national politician, USA liaison/ organiser of De Valera’s fund-raising tour there, anti-Treaty, attempted conciliator, anti-capitulation and soon made a martyr.

Relatives organised commemorative events for him throughout the bank holiday weekend: Saturday in Skerries, Sunday at the Faughs2 GAA Club (team Harry played for) and Monday at the Republican Plot in Glasnevin Cemetery, where Boland is buried.

Colour party provided colourful homage to the memory of Harry Boland (Diarmuid Ó Loing is standing, first man beyond the far left flag (Photo: D. Breatnach)
Peggy Galligan reading Soldiers of ’22 (Photo: D. Breatnach)

EVENT AT GLASNEVIN CEMETERY

Tadhg Crowley chaired the crowded event in Glasnevin at Harry Boland’s graveside and Gearóid Ó Beoláin read the Irish language version of the Proclamation of Independence.

Both are cousins of Bróna Uí Loing, for ten years a weekly campaigner to Save Moore Street From Demolition whose two sons had prominent roles in the weekend, Diarmuid Ó Loing with the Faughs GAA Club on Sunday and Donncha DeLong3 on Monday.

Gearóid Ó Beoláin reading the 1916 Proclamation (Forógra na Cásca) in Irish at the graveside (Photo: D. Breatnach)

Orla O’Donovan (another cousin) spoke and asked Cathal Brugha (relation of another famous Civil War martyr of the same name) to lay a wreath at the graveside (as Boland lay dying, he had asked to be buried next to Brugha, who in early July had also been fatally shot by Free State soldiers).

The speakers included Éamonn Ó Cuív, TD (grandson of former President De Valera) and Cathal Brugha also spoke.

Orla O’Donovan speaking at the event (her cousin Bróna Uí Loing is seated on the lower right of the photo). (Photo: D. Breatnach)

The main oration was given by historian Gary Shannon who zipped through his interesting speech at good speed but intelligibly. Peggy Galligan of the NGA4 read Ó h-Uigín’s song “Soldiers of ‘22” as a poem. A piper played laments with homage displays by the colour party.

Gary Shannon giving the main oration (Photo: D. Breatnach)

A wreath was laid and the Soldier’s Song5 was played by the piper, many in the crowd singing along the Irish6 language lyrics version.

The Glasnevin event had begun at 12 noon, concluding about 2.00pm with the podcast panel discussion scheduled for 3pm, which gave time to get some refreshments (though the queues in the café tend to be slow-moving), chat or wander around looking at some graves.

Piper playing at the Harry Boland commemoration, while foreground shows a stone marker recording the tragic death of Muriel Gifford McDonagh, who survived the British execution of her husband Thomas McDonagh by little over a year. (Photo: D. Breatnach)

The grave I wanted to find was Anne Devlin’s, whom the late and lamented Mícheál Ó Doibhlin did so much to drag out of relative obscurity and into the light of history. I was saddened to see the inscription referring to her as “a faithful servant” of Emmet’s, rather than as his comrade.

Anne Devlin’s grave marker in Glasnevin Cemetery; she was a comrade of Robert Emmet and of other United Irish but is described as a “faithful servant” to Emmet (serving girl was her cover in Emmet’s house). (Photo: D. Breatnach)

THE PANEL DISCUSSION

The podcast discussion hosted by the Hedge School was held in a function room in the Museum building and soon there was standing room only, which of course was too much for some who had already been standing for two hours around the grave-side.

The panel consisted of Éamonn Ó Cuív TD, historian Liz Gillis, Boland family historian Donncha De Long and Tim Crowley, from the Michael Collins Centre in Clonakilty, Co. Cork with History Ireland Editor, Tommy Graham as chairperson and interviewer.

Four of the Hedge School discussion panel, L-R: Éamonn Ó Cuív, Liz Gillis, Tommy Graham and Donncha DeLong. (Photo: D. Breatnach)
The fifth member of the discussion panel, Tim Crowley.

Many aspects of Harry Boland and his times were discussed with many interesting points brought out and, at times, debated. It was never boring, not for one minute. A contribution from the floor presented convincing evidence that it was the old IRB that had founded the GAA.

Donncha DeLong pointed out that in writing Irish women out of history, Hannah Sheehy Skeffington’s contacts with US anarchists, including Emma Goldman, had been overlooked. It was as a result of those that Soviet delegates loaned Irish Republicans the Tsar’s crown jewels.

Liz Gillis speaking during the Hedge School discussion, Tommy Graham mostly in the shot also. (Photo: D. Breatnach)

Was Boland sent to the US to get him out of the way during the Treaty negotiations, was one question. In reply it was pointed out that he was an obvious choice to go as Boland was the head of the IRB in Ireland and had strong connections with the IRB in the USA.

On the other hand, replied another, Harry Boland’s USA trip obligated him to step down from that position, which opened it to Collins. Subsequently the IRB in Ireland was mostly pro-Treaty.

Why had Harry Boland conciliated and worked to set up a framework to avoid Civil War but had not conceded on the Treaty? It would have gone against his honesty, was one reply and another that conciliation was one thing and capitulation quite another.

Could the conflict have been avoided? No, “the unseen hand” of Churchill was there all the time, ensuring that the two sides would not come together.

Boland’s brother had not been permitted from jail to attend Harry’s funeral funeral, which seemed nothing short of vindictiveness.

Donncha DeLong (right) answers a question put to him by Tommy Grahan (right). (Photo: D. Breatnach)

COMMENT

The whole three-day weekend of events and their variety of aspects and locations was a wonderful tribute to Harry Boland and great organisational achievement by his family.

As a historical discussion event, there was no reason that Ó Cuív should not be present on the podcast panel; his grandfather De Valera was a close comrade of Boland’s and they spent a long time together on the former’s speaking tour in the USA.

Ó Cuív was able, from his family’s lore and his visit to Lincoln Jail to add much to the discussion and in particular to the detail of the famous escape of De Valera, Milroy and Seán McGarry and of the series of taxis used and false trails laid.

As Michael Collins had been a former close comrade of Boland’s and also of De Valera and had issued the arrest warrant for Boland, it was also entirely understandable to have a Director of the Michael Collins Centre participating in the discussion.

Many interesting points were made and debated; I was very interested to learn that Harry’s father had been an active trade unionist; that background might have helped Harry get Labour to abstain from contesting the 1918 elections, giving Sinn Féin a clear run against Redmond’s party7.

On the events in Skerries where Boland received his stomach wound, the point was made that he might have survived were it not for the eight hours’ delay in getting him to a hospital, in a journey first to an army barracks (which actually passed a hospital) before final delivery to St. Vincent’s.

As, to my surprise, no-one had done so, I felt I had to ask the opinion of the panel regarding Boland’s alleged words that Collins would not let him live as Boland knew too much. The opinion of two panelists was that if Collins wanted him dead, he’d have had him shot in the head.

And also not brought to hospital but dumped on the roadside, as had been done to many others later. It was also said that Collins would not have left a former friend to die slowly in pain. I didn’t argue but felt these answers largely unconvincing.

The Free State pattern of “shoot in the head and dump by the roadside” was largely a feature after Collin’s death (three weeks exactly after Boland’s). The soldier who fired the shot may have been trying to shoot Boland but he made a grab for the gun, which had him shot in the stomach.

Another shot afterwards would have made everyone think of an execution rather than a scuffle during arrest. That would account for the long delay in getting him to hospital. Of course, it could also have been unauthorised action by his captors, of the ilk of Paddy Daly8 later.

Section of the Hedge School discussion audience to the left of the room. (Photo: D. Breatnach)

The commemorative event at the graveside was in my opinion a different matter and there should have been no confusion about what it was that Boland stood for and which not only Collins but later De Valera had worked against – the Republic proclaimed by document and deed in 1916.

I felt the presence of prominent Fianna Fáil speakers and even a speculation as to what the future might have held were Collins not killed in IRA ambush, muddied that which Boland had stood for and which had cost him his life.

Families are not monoliths and even in strongly nationalist or republican families, there can be many strong differences of opinion, as I know from my experience of my own background. It may be that the speaker list was everyone’s choice or it may have been a compromise.

Cathal Brugha, of the same name as his famous grandfather, said some things with which I disagree but in conclusion, some things I strongly endorse, viz that commemorations are about the present and the future and that we should strive to bring about that Republic for which Boland strove.

(Photo: D. Breatnach)

ANOTHER TYPE OF COMMEMORATION

During the panel discussion, loud motorbike engines could be heard from the road outside. Leaving the cemetery, I found another type of commemoration in full flow further south. Young motorcyclists were roaring up and down the road, doing ‘wheelies’ while crowds of youths watched.

Youth gathered on the Finglas Road outside Glasnevin Cemetery on the first anniversary of the death in a traffic accident of Calvin Gilchrist of East Wall. (Photo: D. Breatnach)

(Photo: D. Breatnach)

It was a commemorative event in honour of a young East Wall motorcyclist, Calvin Gilchrist, killed last year in a crash between two motorbikes and a car. I am not aware if the circumstances have been entirely clarified. Many floral wreaths were laid out near the scene of his death.

In Ireland, fatal traffic accidents, along with substance overdose and suicide, are the major cause of young people’s deaths and serious injury.

End.

View of section of the attendance at the Harry Boland commemoration, taken from the side and rear. (Photo: D. Breatnach)

FOOTNOTES

1Gaelic Athletic Association/ Cumann Lúthchleas Gael, primary national association of Gaelic sports in Ireland, including football and hurling. It is non-professional and the largest dommunity sporting association in Ireland and probably in Europe. The final competitions are played annually in its stadium in Dublin, one of the five largest-capacity stadia in Europe.

2From “Faugh a Ballagh” (/ˌfɔːx ə ˈbæləx/ FAWKH ə BAL-əkh; also written Faugh an Beallach), a battle-cry of Irish origin, meaning “clear the way”. The spelling is an 18th-century anglicization of the Irish language phrase “Fág an Bealach” [ˈfˠaːɡ ə ˈbʲalˠəx], also written “Fág a’ Bealach”.

3Ó or Ui/ Ní (according to gender) Loing and DeLong are both variations of the Long family name, while Ó/ Uí/Ní Beolláin is the Irish version of the Boland family name.

4National Graves Association, primary organisation caring for Irish patriot graves and erection of memorial plaques, totally independent of any political party and of the State.

5Composed by Peadar Kearney and Patrick Heeney, also called Amhrán na bhFiann, the bars of the chorus of which constituted the Irish National Anthem.

6The Irish language lyrics were composed by Liam Ó Rinn and is the version most commonly sung today.

7A clear but unnecessary run because an election pact would have returned many Labour and Sinn Féin candidates, the defeat of the Parliamentary Party would have been just as absolute and the resulting Dáil might have been less likely by majority to accept the Treaty.

8Paddy Daly was a member of the IRA and of the assassination “Squad” put together by Collins. Like most of the Squad but unlike most of the IRA, Cumann na mBan, Fianna and ICA, Daly took the Treaty side and was made a Major-General in the “National” (sic) Army, where he and men under his command displayed a vicious attitude towards even surrendered IRA and their active supporters.

USEFUL LINKS

https://www.independent.ie/regionals/dublin/fingal/leading-revolutionary-figure-harry-boland-will-be-remembered-100-years-after-his-fatal-shooting-in-skerries-41856898.html

Faughs GAA Club: https://www.sportsjoe.ie/gaa/the-people-of-faughs-gaa-club-205038

History Ireland Hedge Schools podcasts: https://www.historyireland.com/hedge-schools/

National Graves Association: http://www.nga.ie/
https://www.facebook.com/NationalGravesAssociation/

Michael Collins Centre: https://michaelcollinscentre.com/

The motorcyclist’s death:
https://www.dublinlive.ie/news/dublin-crash-glasnevin-motorbike-car-21196963

https://www.thejournal.ie/glasnevin-motorcycle-crash-5512072-Aug2021/

WILDFLOWERS ALONG THE TOLKA

WALKING ALONG THE TOLKA AS IT RUNS THROUGH GRIFFITH PARK RECENTLY, I WAS PLEASED TO SEE A GREAT VARIETY OF WILDFLOWERS GROWING ON THE BANKS.

All were within a stretch of a few hundred yards.

Mint perhaps? (Photo: D.Breatnach)
Water mint maybe (Mentha aquatica Mismín mionsach) growing midstream so not able to pluck a leaf and smell it. Also brown seed-heads of Broad-leaved Dock (Rumex obtusifolius Copóg shráide) for contrast (Photo: D.Breatnach).
Not sure what this one is but breaks out into tiny white flowers. Almost centre is a stalk of stinging nettle (Neantóg/ Cál faiche). (Photo: D.Breatnach
Member of the thistle family (Feochadán) — but which one? — in flower and down (Photo: D.Breatnach)
Little Grey Heron (Corr Éisc) waiting by the reeds for lunch to swim by (Photo: D.Breatnach)
Hollyhock in foreground and looks like another behind it — NOT a native plant. There were some growing each end of the bridge, as though planted or sown there. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Groundsel/ Ragwort like constellations of stars before they go to down and seed. But which one? Common Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea / Jacobaea vulgaris Buachalán buí) I think. (Photo: D.Breatnach)
This one I do know — Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria Airgead luachra) and dock seed heads again. (Photo: D.Breatnach)
Casadh sa tsruth — a bend in the flow — and view up from the weir. Willow trees on the right and a shrub I know to see but have not identified (a Skimmias?) on the right. (Photo: D.Breatnach)
Lesser Knotweed (Persicaria campanulata Glúineach an chlúimh), I’m pretty sure — an introduced plant. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

There were other flowering plants too but either had already flowered or were yet to do so.

(Photo: D.Breatnach)
Red Campion (Silene Vulgaris Coireán na gcuach) at centre-right here? (Photo: D.Breatnach)

End.

The Irish Prime Minister and the Fall of Singapore

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 5 mins.)

The media informs us of the visit on the 22nd July of Mícheál Martin, Prime Minister of the Irish state, to the concentration camp where his uncle was a prisoner of the Japanese after the fall of Singapore in World War II.

Many Irish fought in the UK and British Commonwealth armies against Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan.

But there is another strong and ironic Irish connection to the fall of Singapore. The Lieut.-General Arthur Percival who surrendered the Singapore fortress to the Japanese Army in 942 had been Intelligence Officer (and torturer) for the Essex Rifles against the IRA in West Cork 1920-’21.

Major (then) Arthur Percival, C/O 1st Company Essex Regiment (later Intelligence Officer) in Ireland with senior officer of the colonial gendarmerie, the Royal Irish Constabulary, c.1920/21. (Image sourced: British Imperial War Museum)

PERCIVAL IN IRELAND

Percival served first as a company commander then as Intelligence Officer of the Essex Rifles in Kinsale, Co. Cork, where he “stood out for his violent, sadistic behaviour towards IRA prisoners, suspects and innocent civilians……

“He also participated in reprisals, burning farms and businesses in response to IRA attacks,” according to a USA historian. General Tom Barry, IRA commander in West Cork, said that Percival was “easily the most vicious anti-Irish of all serving British officers”1.

Two victims in particular were IRA Brigade Commander Tom Hales and Quatermaster Patrick Harte. Both reported being beaten and tortured with pliers to private parts and extraction of nails. Percival got an OBE for their capture; Harte died in a mental hospital in 1925.

Tom Barry recorded that after a number of ignored warnings, the IRA in Cork placed the Essex Rifles on the same status as the Black ‘n Tans and the Auxilliaries – they could depend on no mercy if captured.

Percival was also the man who unconditionally surrendered Singapore to a much smaller invading force of Japanese in 1942, thereby condemning thousands of soldiers and civilians to a terrible fate.

British Army prisoners of the Japanese after the surrender of Singapore (Image sourced: Internet)

LARGEST BRITISH SURRENDER IN HISTORY — AND TO LESSER NUMBERS

Singapore had been a British colonial possession since 18262. At the time of WWII the British considered it a strong fortress, a thick jungle and hills on the landward side and with huge 15” cannon facing out to sea against a possible naval invasion.

The British High Command considered no navy in the world could survive an assault on the island and no army capable of penetrating the thick jungle. Apparently no-one told the Imperial Japanese that for come through the jungle they did, marching or riding on bicycles.

The UK and Commonwealth troops on the landward side fought but were outgunned and badly commanded. After seven days of fighting, Percival decided to surrender unconditionally, with most of the 85,000 troops on the island not yet having engaged the 36,000 of the enemy.

Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival (right), led by Ichiji Sugita, walks under a flag of truce to negotiate the capitulation of Commonwealth forces in Singapore, on 15 February 1942. It was the largest surrender of British forces in history (Wikipedia).

The surrender of Singapore delivered 80,000 UK and Commonwealth troops, along with a million civilians, into captivity in the hands of the Imperial Japanese Army. Three days after the British surrender, the Japanese began the “Sook Ching” purge, killing thousands of civilians3.

The day before the surrender, Japanese soldiers also invaded the Victoria Hospital and murdered over 250 soldiers, doctors, male staff and patients.

Most of the soldiers taken captive had not been given a chance by Percival to even fire a shot at the advancing Japanese Army, to the contempt of their captors, led by officers with a strong military tradition and pride (not to say arrogance).

Whether that fact contributed to the cruel and inhumane treatment of the prisoners by their captors and guards is not certain but it seems to have done. In any case, many who died day by day and month by month building the Burma Railway would no doubt have preferred to die fighting.

Most of the civilians massacred would probably also have preferred to die fighting.

Around 30,000 Allied Prisoners of War of the Japanese died in captivity of cruel treatment including inadequate food, disease and overwork; working from statistics R.J. Rummel estimates a death rate of around 29% for POWs4. Huge numbers of civilians died similarly also.

Australian Russell Braddon, who wrote about his experiences in the Japanese concentration camp at Changi and on the slave-labour construction of the Burma railroad5, was extremely bitter about the surrender and the general Allied High Command management of the war in Malaya.

IN CONCLUSION

I do not, as many Irish Republicans do, criticise the Irish who joined the UK and Commonwealth Armies during WWII (9,100 combat dead perhaps https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/health-family/number-of-irish-in-both-wars-unknown-1.1825013).

Many no doubt did so out of a desire to fight fascism — surely an admirable motivation6.

But once the War ended, any Irish remaining in the British armed forces anywhere could not claim to be doing anything else than helping the domination of many nations and millions of people by what was at the time the world’s biggest imperialist power (though soon to be eclipsed by the USA).

Mícheál Martin at Changi concentration camp where his uncle was a POW, now a museum (Photo: RTÉ)

If anti-fascism motivated his uncle and that is what Mícheál Martin appreciates about him, one would wonder why the police of the state which he leads protected fascists in Ireland and attacked antifascists on a number of occasions in recent years.

Of course there may be a more sinister aspect to Martin’s publicised visit. It may be a public expression of the desire among the Irish elite to be part of a western military alliance, either the US-NATO or an EU such, which would in the end amount to much the same thing.

And such an alliance in these times would not be fighting — even in part – against fascism but rather alongside it.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1Guerrilla Days in Ireland (1949 and many reprints since) by Tom Barry.

2Singapore became an independent republic on 9 August 1965.

3People from all ethnic groups were massacred but the Chinese most of all. Though the Japanese government years later paid some compensation to relatives of victims, it has never accepted responsibility for the events. Nor has the UK. “Since 1998, Singapore has observed Total Defence Day on 15 February each year, marking the anniversary of the surrender of Singapore. The concept of Total Defence as a national defence strategy was first introduced in 1984, which serves as a significant reminder that only Singaporeans with a stake in the country can effectively defend Singapore from future threats.” (Wikipedia)

4https://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.CHAP3.HTM

5The Naked Island (1952) sold over a million copies. Russel Braddon (1921-1925) had a breakdown soon after the war and felt suicidal but, once recovered, became a successful writer of novels, articles and TV scripts. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russell_Braddon

6I met one of those, curiously enough a Corkman in a lodging house in London. Denis was a decent man, very big, who rarely talked about the war except sometimes when he had drink taken. Strangely, he never had a bad word to say against the Japanese – even the concentration camp guards.

SOURCES

Mícheál Martin’s visit to Changi Jail Museum: https://www.thejournal.ie/martin-singapore-visit-prison-5824033-Jul2022/

Surrender of Singapore: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fall_of_Singapore

https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/prisoners-of-war-of-the-japanese-1939-1945

https://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.CHAP3.HTM

Arthur Percival: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Percival

GUNS LANDED AT HOWTH!

Clive Sulish

(Reading time main text: 7 mins.)

The above would have been the headline 100 years ago1. Well, not the main one, perhaps, which would have been MASSACRE AT BACHELOR’S WALK – TROOPS OPEN FIRE ON CIVILIANS – 4 DEAD, MANY WOUNDED2.

Then, probably, GUNS LANDED AT HOWTH! POLICE AND SCOTTISH OWN BORDERERS FACED DOWN — REPORTS OF 1,500 GERMAN RIFLES LANDED FROM AMERICAN YACHT.

JOINT OPERATION OF IRISH VOLUNTEERS, IRISH CITIZEN ARMY, CUMANN NA MBAN AND FIANNA ÉIREANN — DUBLIN CASTLE FURIOUS.

MAYOR SHOCKED AT CIVILIAN DEAD AND WOUNDED — DEMANDS INQUIRY.

Speakers at a commemoration on the West Pier, Howth on Saturday 23rd July commented on all those features of the landing of 1,500 German rifles, single-shot Mauser Model 71 (M1871), their collection by the organisations of the broad revolutionary movement — and the army massacre that followed.

The event was organised by Irish Socialist Republicans and Anti-Imperialist Action organisations. A colour party of two men and two women led the march up to the pierhead where the event was held.

The Save Moore Street From Demolition campaign banner was displayed along the way.

Event about to begin, Margaret McKearney in distance, colour party in foreground, mostly bystanders to the right, attendance out of shot behind and to right of camera person. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The event was chaired by Margaret McKearney, a veteran Republican from Tyrone once described by Scotland Yard as “the most dangerous woman in Britain” and who lost three brothers in the struggle (one in SAS ambush at Loughgall and another murdered by UVF).

McKearney recalled the need of Irish nationalists for weapons when the Loyalists were arming to prevent Home Rule3 being granted to Ireland and the Loyalists with British elite complicity had received a huge shipment at Larne.

Speakers, songs and a laying of a floral wreath were the main content of the event.

THREE SPEECHES – DETAILED, DIRECT AND DEFIANT

McKearney called Phillip O’Connor to speak, a historian and local resident with a particular interest in the revolutionary period in Howth4.

O’Connor began with a quotation from C.J. O’Connell in his Lordship of the World (1924) that “Every Nation, if it is to survive as a nation, must study its own history and have a foreign policy”.

Phillip O’Connor speaking at the event — the plaque at the pier head behind him. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The speaker went on to relate how our rulers demote and distort our nation’s history and how for various reasons even families and communities neglect to pass on that history to following generations.

O’Connor went on to relate the extensive instances of local people’s participation in our nation’s revolutionary history. He brought out names of local people who had been active in Cumann na mBan and the Irish Volunteers and the Sinn Féin party of the time.

The speaker also drew attention to the Irish Citizen Army unit in the locality – the only one outside Dublin – that went on to participate in the 1916 Rising in Dublin and in Fingal. Of course many of that spread of revolutionary organisations had participated in the Howth guns landing.

O’Connor concluded by repeating the quotation: “Every Nation, if it is to survive as a nation, must study its own history and have a foreign policy”.5

McKearney then called on Seán Doyle, a veteran socialist Republican who spoke on behalf of the Revolutionary Housing League, focusing on the housing crisis in Ireland and quoted Roger Casement1 at his trial in London in 1916:

Where all your rights become only an accumulated wrong; where men must beg with bated breath for leave to subsist in their own land, to think their own thoughts, to sing their own songs, to garner the fruits of their own labours…

then surely it is a braver, a saner and a truer thing, to be a rebel in act and deed against such circumstances as these than tamely to accept it as the natural lot of men. Doyle went on to recall James Connolly’s admiration for the struggle of the Land League and for Michael Davitt2.

However, Connolly, the speaker reminded his audience, had excoriated those who were outraged by the eviction of a tenant farmer but with “the working person locked out from his workplace or evicted from his home”, remained “at best silent if not critical.”

“We need to engender the same passion ourselves because the system does not care or share the plight of working people,” Doyle asserted and lashed “anyone who says he loves Ireland and can witness people dying on the street homeless while 180,000 houses are boarded up vacant”.

The speaker declared that the RHL would no longer remain silent, confined or recognise the ruling class’ self-serving laws or allow them to prosper, would no longer accept homelessness, nor “see our children rent an mortgage slaves for the rest of their lives”.

“We in the RHL believe that a roof over your head is not a commodity but an essential of life like water or oxygen. Houses make homes, make communities and a society we aspire to”. Doyle went on to call for a realisation “that pleading and appealing to a non-caring ruling class is futile.”

Seán Doyle speaking on behalf of the Revolutionary Housing League (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Concluding, Doyle called on people to join the Socialist Republicans in action and quoted James Connolly6:We believe in constitutional action in normal times; we believe in revolutionary action in exceptional times. These are exceptional times, and called on people to “Build the Revolution!”

Cáit Trainor, an independent Republican activist from Armagh was called and stepped forward to give a rousing speech.

Reviewing as others had done the impelling of the arming of the Irish Volunteers by the arming of the Unionists against the prospective Irish “Home Rule”, Trainor went on to recall some of the other participants in the revolutionary movement of the time.

“Cumann na mBan with upwards of 1500 members was formed to assist the Volunteers, though some of the most radical women republicans, such as Helena Moloney and Constance Markievicz, elected to join the socialist Citizen Army instead, where they were given equal standing with the men.

“The Volunteers also had a ready-made youth wing, the Fianna Éireann, founded by Constance Markievicz7 in 1903 as an alternative to the ‘imperialist’ Boy Scouts. The Fianna were in fact to provide many of the most militant Volunteer activists.

“All of these groups would work together in the lead up to and including the 1916 rising, working together while maintaining their own autonomy with a unity of purpose.” “The Irish Volunteers had the men, the women and the youth, the next move was to secure the arms.”

Trainor referred to the arduous journey of guns-carrying yacht which included a stop in Holyhead to repair damaged sales after the Boat was hit with one of the worst storms to hit the area for decades.

The speaker attributed the success of the Howth landing to “the working together of various sections of Irish society.” “They came from varying religious backgrounds, not all were even Irish born and — even more surprising for the time — women took a leading role.”

Cáit Trainor speaking at the event on the Howth pier (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Taking the 1916 Proclamation as an example, with its address to “Irishmen and Irish Women”, Trainor maintained that “Irish Republicanism has always been and remains to be a modern forward-thinking ideology in comparison with the outdated imperialist mindset of unionism.”

Cáit Trainor compared that address with the opening line of the unionist Ulster proclamation of 1913 that opens with “Whereas Ulstermen” and continued without any reference to women anywhere in the document.

Trainor stated that today Irish Republicanism needed to “get every section of society more involved in the struggle” and that “anyone who makes their home in Ireland must be encouraged to make their contribution and to be as passionate about Ireland and its success as an independent nation as anyone else.”

The speaker recalled Thomas Davis’ words: “It is not blood that makes you Irish but a willingness to be part of the Irish Nation.8

“Irish Republicanism”, stated Trainor “stands in stark contrast to the archaic outlook of British imperialists and Irish reactionaries by boasting of a diverse membership” bringing “fresh and original insights, talent and ingenuity” unlike the paradigm of “Christian, male and white”.

Trainor remarked that “Revolutions are a dirty business and revolutionaries must be armed to meet the might of their opponent” and that “the revolutionaries of today … come from the same tradition”, that “the cause and goal has not changed for any true Irish Republican.”

“Republicans in the early part of the last century did not set out to simply smash an orange state, or replace one flag for another; they were out for the Republic, an independent state for all the people, Republicans and the political prisoners who currently reside in prisons both north and South are out for the same thing9.

“It is an absolute travesty that the Republican prisoners are widely ignored by greater society, indeed most people would not even know they exist, believing falsely that with the signing of the GFA all prisoners were released and that political prisoners in Ireland were consigned to history.

“The media and constitutional nationalists along with pseudo socialist groupings like to skirt over the truth of the matter, they are more concerned with political prisoners in far-flung places around the world than political prisoners on their own doorstep.

“…. we understand that while Ireland remains occupied there will always be men and women willing to resist it, that this inevitably will ensure that political prisoners remain a reality in Ireland, and these prisoners will always have the decided and unfaltering support of Irish Republicans.

“Surrendering for seats in the enemies parliament isn’t a victory of any kind,” said Trainor, “it’s an utter defeat, the idea is to pacify with false power and notions of equality with your overlords, imperialists have used this strategy for centuries to quell rebellion and unbelievably it still works.”

Trainor dismissed the “alternatives to the Irish Republic” and condemned “reformism or British and Free State parliaments.”

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Pointing out that it was not an easy road for revolutionaries in the past no more than in the present, Trainor declared that “Revolutions are not won in the halls of parliaments but on the streets with the ordinary people”.

Coming back to the Howth landing of guns 100 years earlier, she said that “there is again an increase in militarism internationally and also nationally with unionist paramilitaries evidently armed and threatening violence.”

While constitutional nationalists sit on their laurels begging for British concessions unionist paramilitaries supported by unionist parties are organising again to secure their dominance and Irelands submission.

Cáit Trainor concluded with another quotation from Pádraig Pearse10: “The Orangeman11 with a gun is not as laughable as the nationalist12 without one”.

Living flowers in a pot are laid in remembrance of those who have given their lives in the struggle. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

SONGS

Diarmuid Breatnach sang the ballad Me Old Howth Gun, written by James Doherty under the name of ‘Séamas McGallowgly’ and collected in 1921, with words that seemed extremely prescient for its time, with the civil war to come the following year:

…… There was glorious hope that we
Would set old Ireland free
But now you’re parted far from me, oh me old Howth gun.

Oh, the day will surely come,
Oh me old Howth gun,
When I’ll join the fighting men,
Oh me old Howth gun;
In some brave determined band
I will surely take my stand
For the freedom of my land,
Oh me old Howth gun.

Diarmuid Breatnach singing at the Howth event (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Afterwards many people commented that they had not heard the song before and Breatnach replied that Pádraig Drummond had sent him the lyrics to learn for the event (which he had half-managed to do, he commented ruefully).

The event ended with the lowering of the colour party’s flags in honour of those who died for Irish freedom and, introducing it as “a fighting song, sung during the Rising”, Breatnach sang the first verse and chorus of Amhrán na bhFiann (The Soldiers’ Song).

End.

View of colour party with the harbour behind them (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

FOOTNOTES

1The guns were landed in Howth Harbour on 26th July 2014 by Erskine Childers and crew in his yacht The Asgard (which has its own room with the original yacht in the National Museum at Collins Barracks, Dublin).

2On their return from Howth, the revolutionary forces were confronted by a force of Dublin Metropolitan police but they were unsuccessful in having the rifles surrendered, as were also a unit of the British Army, the King’s Own Scottish Borderers. The latter were jeered by a Dublin crowd on their empty-handed return and at Bachelor’s Walk on the quays they opened fire on the crowd and bayoneted at least one victim. A woman and three men were killed and many wounded.

3A kind of partial autonomy that was on offer but within the British Commonwealth.

4See ROAD TO INDEPENDENCE – Howth, Sutton and Baldoyle play their part (2016) by Phillip O’Connor.

5The point about studying our history is often made at Irish Republican events but the one about having a foreign policy, though so important, is rarely if ever mentioned. Having a sound revolutionary foreign policy would have militated against the Provisional organisation’s seeking an accommodation with the leaders of US Imperialism 1970-1999 or expecting better of the World imperialist leaders at the “Paris Peace Conference” in 1919. Today the broad Republican movement has no coherent foreign policy except currently for Irish State neutrality.

6Roger Casement (1864-1916), of Anglo-Irish background, British diplomat (CMG) then Irish nationalist, member of the Gaelic League, poet, important role in organising the purchase of rifles that were transported to Howth and Wicklow. He was hanged in Pentonville Jail 3rd August, the last of the 1916 executions by the British.

7Thomas Davis (1814-1845), foremost among the Young Irelanders, publisher and contributor to The Nation, composer of A Nation Once Again, The West’s Awake and other notable songs and poems; his father was Welsh.

8James Connolly (1868-1916), revolutionary socialist, trade union organiser, journalist, historian, songwriter), Commandant of the insurrectionary forces in the 1916 Rising, executed by British firing squad.

9Constance Markievicz (nee Gore-Booth), (1868-1927), socialist Republican revolutionary, suffragist, founder member of the Irish Citizen Army and Cumann na mBan, fought as officer of the Irish Citizen Army in the 1916 Rising, sentenced to death (commuted), joined Sinn Féin, took the Republican side in the Civil War, founder member of Fianna Fáil. She was the first woman elected to Westminster Parliament (on abstentionist ticket), first Cabinet Minister in Europe (in the First Dáil) and first Minister of Labour in the world.

10There are currently around 60 Irish Republican prisoners in prisons on both sides of the British border.

11Pádraig Mac Piarais/ Patrick Pearse (1879-1916), writer, poet and journalist in English and Irish, educationalist, revolutionary Republican, Commander-in-chief of the 1916 insurrectionary forces, executed by British firing squad.

12British loyalists, followers of the anti-Catholic sectarian ideology of the Orange Order (founded 1796).

13At the time most Irish Republicans, despite the long existence of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, were seen as part of the broad nationalist spectrum but at its most militant end and were described as ‘advanced nationalists’.

Different view of colour party, against the lighthouse at the East Pierhead (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

USEFUL LINKS:

Revolutionary Housing League: https://www.facebook.com/JamesConnollyHouse

Anti-Imperialist Action: https://www.facebook.com/AIAI-For-National-Liberation-and-Socialist-Revolution-101829345633677

The Colombian Truth Commission and its Truths

Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

(01/07/2022)

(Reading time: 11 mins.)

The Truth Commission (CEV) in Colombia has just published its report on the Colombian conflict. As was to be expected it is a very detailed report and deals with many aspects of the conflict and therefore it is impossible to carry out a detailed criticism in just one article.

This article aims to deal with the document entitled Call for Peace and in later articles I will deal with some points in greater detail such as the regions, the business class and drug trafficking.

Of course, there are very positive aspects, such as the statistics compiled, some proposals that they make and also the stories of the victims that they included.

However, there are also some very problematic aspects on the ideological plane and how they present the conflict, the actors, motives and there is an underlying idea in the document that we should advance towards a new society — with changes — but a society that continues to be the same with regard the economy.

They discount any class struggle as not only as anachronistic but also as something which is undesirable, regardless of the methods used.

The document is full of adjectives, some of them emotive, something which is not a criticism as such, emotions have a place in this setting, but it is imbued with Christian references and the Catholic faith as such.

That is not that surprising given that the boss is a Jesuit priest, Francisco de Roux, s.j. But due to this, its starting point is based on suppositions not shared by everyone and that are very questionable.

President-elect of Colombia Gustavo Petro shakes hands with Francisco de Roux at the launch of the Report.

OH BROTHER!

They start off with the statement and question “We started off from the issue that has dogged humanity from the beginning: where is your brother?”

I don’t know whether this first part is true or not, but the question about the brother presumes we know and share this concept of brother. In the Catholic faith we are all theoretically brothers, though not in practice.

But the idea informs a concept taken from family therapy that the Colombian conflict is between siblings that love each other or at least can love each other, just as a woman can love the man who abuses her in their relationship or the man who can stop abusing her and love her as she deserves.

It is a deservedly highly questioned concept, but it is applied in many countries that have gone through peace processes and truth commissions. But it is not the case, this conflict is not between siblings, but rather between interests.

The conflict has names and surnames and moreover surnames of the great and good and its victims are everyone else. There are power relationships. There are also economic interests.

It is an insult to say that the powerful, such as Luís Carlos Sarmiento and the Santos family are the brothers of their employees, or that associations such as the cattle ranchers of FEDEGAN represent people that are the brothers of the displaced peasants.

Though the report does acknowledge the role of some business people in the conflict.

…what has been grievous for the pain and injustice for the victims is the finding that leading business initiatives paid paramilitary groups in order to displace and steal the land and territories from the communities and implant mining or agribusinesses, or within their enterprises they stigmatised the workers and are complicit in the murder of hundreds of trade unionists.1

Such people, responsible for the murder of hundreds of trade unionists are nobody’s brothers, other than their shareholders’. They killed them as part of a strategy to accumulate wealth, the most base reason for doing so.

The CEV’s position turns the businessman into our brother, though it does acknowledge that

we did not carry out any specific study on the armed conflict and the economy, following four years of listening to the drama of the war, the Commission takes as given that if no major changes are made to the economic model of development in the country it will be impossible to prevent the repetition of the armed conflict which will reappear and evolve in an unpredictable manner.

But despite not carrying out any specific analysis of the conflict and the economy the CEV calls on businesses to avoid a resurgence in the armed conflict.

The state, society and in particular the business people behind the large industrial and financial projects should prioritise guaranteeing the welfare and dignified life of the people and communities without any exclusions, with a shared vision of the future to overcome the structural inequality that makes this country one of the most unequal countries in the world in terms of the concentration of income, wealth and land.2

It is part of the discourse that we are all brothers. Instead of criticising the call they make for a society where the welfare of the people is a priority for the businesses, we only have to ask a question. Where does this happen? In what countries does this occur?

They usually make clumsy references to Switzerland or Sweden, ignoring that it is not quite the case and the welfare programmes in Europe (those that are left) are the result of social struggles and are largely financed by the super-exploitation of the Global South.

It is an illusion and part of liberal mythology, that is usually sold during elections every four or more years depending on the country, but is not to be found anywhere in reality and couldn’t be — legally a company looks out for the welfare of its shareholders and nobody else.

The lack of an analysis of the economic model as a factor in the conflict is a serious weakness, something I will deal with in another article.

But in a conflict for land, where the landlords and business people murder peasants and trade unionists3, failing to analyse the context of the economic model is disingenuous.

AN OLD VERY BAD JOKE

The CEV, however, engages in another great act of untruthfulness when it repeats the old refrain of the business class and the state that paramilitaries are reactive i.e. they react to the presence of guerrillas.

It seems like a bad joke that at this stage a commission that supposedly seeks the truth repeats such a lie: a lie challenged at the time by many of the organisations that now praise the CEV, in the days when they didn’t receive as many cheques from USAID and the European Union.

It has also been shown that companies paid armed groups large amounts of money as indispensable operational costs to keep their projects active.

And the reality of economic actors that in despair at the guerrillas and in the face of insecurity, contributed to the creation of the Convivir [rural security cooperatives] and on other occasions sought out the paramilitaries to bring their security of terror.

Following that there were those who took advantage of the land abandoned in midst of the terror to buy land through frontmen and set up projects. And there were those who used money to place members of the armed forces at their disposal.4

When the bloodthirsty Carlos Castaño called his paramilitary organisation United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia, he did so for a reason: the need to present his barbarous acts as a necessary evil, that of self-defence.

Javier Giraldo, s.j. also a Jesuit has spent his entire life fighting against just such a lie. He has documented how the paramilitaries existed before the foundation of the guerrillas and they were not reactive, but rather they were a state policy.5

The problem with the focus that ignores the state and its role and says that we are brothers is that it asks for reconciliation on that basis, that we are brothers. De Roux in his presentation asked more than once “how did we do” and asked for reconciliation.

But this “We” doesn’t exist. As Javier Giraldo points out.

A similar effort must be made in order to translate the value of Christian reconciliation to the judicial/political arena. There must be a public clarification and admission of guilt, an explicit condemnation of the mechanisms, structures and doctrines which facilitate crimes, the implementation of corrective measures to stop them from being repeated and reparation to victims and society. These must all be dealt with head-on and unequivocally. The very nature of a political community makes this imperative: unless there is an explicit and profound social sanction of crimes, internalized by society’s members and engraved in society’s “collective memory,” such crimes are not truly delegitimated. Without these conditions, the Christian value of forgiveness becomes a perverse expression of its real essence: from a fraternal and creative act to an act which covers up the institutionalization of crime (bold not in original) and destroys the barriers which protect human dignity.6

THE GERMAN EXAMPLE – AN OLD ILLUSION

The CEV points to the case of Germany following the Second World War as an example to follow. It is usually a sign of the poverty of the arguments when someone refers to the Nazis in order speak ill of someone, like saying some such a leader is the new Hitler.

But it is also a sign of argument povery to a degree when they refer to the topic to speak of reconciliation and so forth in post-War Germany. However, that is what the CEV did.

Our German friends who accompany us in the Commission’s process have shown us how its people recovered its dignity and pride when, even decades after the genocide of Jews and the war crimes committed, took on board the suffering of the victims, the wound as part of the national psyche and accepted its collective responsibility.7

What they claim just isn’t true. First of all, the post-Nazi Germany was not a denazified country.

Various later personalities from that period held high positions of responsibility, amongst them Kurt Waldheim, an officer in the Nazi army who became Secretary General of the United Nations and also President of Austria; war criminal Adolf Heusinger who became President of the Military Committee of NATO8 and Johannes Steinhoff who was in charge of the Luftwaffe after the War.

Kurt Georg Kiesinger was a member of the Nazi party, and worked side by side with Nazi propagandist Goebbels and later between 1966 and 1969 he was the German Chancellor.

Another Nazi, Wernher von Braun, who designed the Nazis’ bombs and rockets earned a good wage in the USA in order to put one of the rockets on the Moon. None of them confessed or accepted their responsibility.

And let’s not forget that young member of the Hitler Youth, one Joseph Ratzinger who became head of the Catholic Church. Of course, being a young man, he bore a lesser responsibility than the others.

The Nazis’ anti-gay legislation was applied up to 1969 and between 1946 and 1969 50,000 people were tried under that law. And whilst the Nazis had high-ranking posts the Communists were banned from working in the public administration and they and other dissidents, such as pacifists, were pursued.

Even under the “Communist Clause” victims of the Nazis who were Communists were not compensated.9 They chose a very bad example — or perhaps De Roux is conscious of the example he chose.

However, what it is about is blending one myth with another. It is surprising that they don’t mention South Africa, maybe because it is easier to see the reality of its Truth Commission and it is a more realistic comparison than Germany after the War.

What they aim to say is that if the Germans could accept their collective guilt, why can’t Colombia do so? But such collective guilt does not exist, or at least not in the way De Roux and company mean.

Many Germans lost their lives in the struggle against the Nazis, it has been calculated that the Nazis murdered 288,000 members of the opposition, including before Hitler came to power.

It wasn’t all Germans who did it but amongst those who did, there are familiar household names, Siemens and Krupps, just to name two companies — both used slave labour in their factories and had close relations with the Nazi Party.

Or there is Hugo Boss, the Nazi Party member who made his fortune manufacturing the uniforms of the Nazi Party, later of the Wehrmacht and of course of the SS, which is why they looked so good.

Hugo Boss menswear shop in Dublin. The company founder was a close supporter of the Nazi regime and produced uniforms for the Nazi Party, Wermacht and SS. (Image sourced: Internet)

And of course, Bayer, the company that made Zkylon-B, the gas they used, still exists and is still rich. Following the war, 13 directors from the company were convicted of war crimes but were freed without serving their full sentences and took up their posts in the company.

The murderers continued in power with the tale of “collective guilt”. The Nazis were a political project of a sector of the German bourgeoisie to stop the rise of the Communists, any similarity to cattle ranchers declaring Puerto Boyacá the anti-capitalist capital10 is a mere coincidence, I suppose.

The reference to Germany as an example of reconciliation is a cheap tale. If Colombia goes down the same road, the surnames Mancuso, Uribe, Santo Domingo, Samper and Santos and the others will be the dominant surnames in the future, with their economic and social power intact.

Protest about the army murders of civilians claimed as “positive” FARC guerrillas by relatives portraying the victims, Bogotá in 2009

THE “FALSE POSITIVES”

The CEV also deals with the issue of the “False Positives” and states something about the issue which is absolutely true that “If there had been ten, it would be very serious. If there had been one hundred, it would enough to demand a change of army. But there were thousands and it was monstrous.”11

But almost immediately it states that:

There was no law or written instructions that ordered it, but the soldiers who fired felt that they were doing what the institution wanted, due to the incentives and pressure that demanded immediate results with corpses, the publicity that they gave to those “killed in combat” and the protection given to the perpetrators.12

Yes, it is true that there was no law or written order that instructed them to do so. But we can’t expect criminals to leave us easy proof. There was no law, but there were incentives as they pointed out.

There were directives and a system for bonuses that encouraged the murder of civilians. Who authorised the payments? The then minister of Defence, Juan Manuel Santos. What does the document say about Santos?

The former president Santos – who was Minister for Defence from the end of 2006 to the end of 2008 – came to the Commission to contribute to the truth with his testimony, as ex-President and public servant, and he centred his intervention on the rigorous analysis of the False Positives to conclude asking for forgiveness from all the families and Colombia and invited the Armed Forces to ask the national and international community for forgiveness.13

It is not true, his intervention was not very rigorous and he ended by asking for forgiveness, as the CEV says, but at the same time he said he wasn’t to blame.

He took up Samper’s excuse regarding drug trafficking and said that it all happened behind his back and he lied on various occasions in his declaration to the CEV.14

Juan Manuel Santos, them President of Colombia shaking hands with Donald Trump, then President of the USA, in the White House 18 May 2017 (Image sourced: Internet).

IN CONCLUSION

Without a doubt the CEV will contribute to the knowledge of the conflict with its data, interviews and in some parts, its analysis. But the report as a whole will not be the truth about the conflict.

The CEV stated that “we don’t share the position, according to which, there are many truths that are equally valid regarding the same matter.”15

Yes, not all “truths” are equal, you have to analyse them, discuss them, contrast them with the facts and even look at who is enunciating them to see which perspective is closer to the truth, but in this case, it is not the “truth” of the CEV that is true.

Neither do I share the idea that any truth is of equal value no matter how powerful or well thought-of those who write that truth are.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1 CEV (2022) Convocatoria a la PAZ GRANDE p. 39 https://www.comisiondelaverdad.co/hay-futuro-si-hay-verdad

2 Ibíd., p.56

3 “The Human Rights Information System of the National Trade Union School (ENS) recorded 15,430 violations of trade unionists’ rights to life, freedom and integrity in Colombia between 1 January 1971 and 29 September 2021. Around a fifth of the cases reported were murders: 3,288 trade unionists have been assassinated over the last five decades in Colombia.” https://www.equaltimes.org/colombia-has-signed-a-peace?lang=en#.YtXwJuzMI6E

4 Ibíd., p.39

5 Giraldo, J. (2004) Cronología de hechos reveladores del Paramilitarismo como política de Estado. http://www.javiergiraldo.org/spip.php?article75

6 Girald, J. (1996) Colombia, The Genocidal Democracy. Common Courage Press. Maine p.44 http://www.javiergiraldo.org/IMG/libros/Colombia_The_Genocidal_Democracy.pdf

7 CEV (2022) Op. Cit. P.45

8 Ayuso, M. (10/01/2016) Adolf Heusinger: la historia del general nazi que acabó dirigiendo la OTAN https://www.elconfidencial.com/alma-corazon-vida/2016-01-10/adolf-heusinger-la-historia-del-general-nazi-que-acabo-dirigiendo-la-otan_1132337/

9 Creuzberger, S. ‘Make life for communists as difficult as possible’ State-run anticommunism and ‘psychological warfare’ in the early years of the Federal Republic of Germany. Asian j. Ger. Eur. stud. 2, 9 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40856-017-0020-7

10 The location was the birth place of the paramilitary model that arose in the 1980s and was avowedly right wing. There was a sign on the way in to it, that said “Welcome to Puerto Boyacá, Anti-Communist Capital of Colombia.”

11 CEV (2022) Op. Cit. P.26

12 Ibid

13 Ibid., p.28

14 Ó Loingisgh, G. (12/06/2021) Santos Whitewashing His Image, Washing His Hands http://www.socialistdemocracy.org/RecentArticles/RecentColombiaSantosWhitewashingHisImageWashingHisHands.html

15 CEV (2022) Op. Cit. P.42

ÓRÁID — CATHAL BRUGHA — ORATION

Tá Rebel Breeze fíor-bhuíoch do Kerron Ó Luain as cead foillsithe a óráid ag comóradh scaoileadh marfach an tSaor Stát le Chathal Brugha a thabhairt dúinn. Rebel Breeze is most grateful to Kerron Ó Luain for permission to publish his oration on the occasion of the fatal shooting by the Free State of Cathal Brugha.

(Reading time: 11 mins.)

Óráid a tugadh ag Comóradh Chathail Uí Bhrugha, 7ú Iúil 2022, Baile Átha Cliath

Oration given at a Commemoration for Cathal Brugha, 7 July 2022, Dublin

Buíochas leis an gcoiste as an gcuireadh a thabhairt dom labhairt ag an ócáid stairiúil seo. Tá tábhacht ar leith go líonfar an bhearna maidir le stair an Chogaidh Chathartha, óir tá an stát tar éis na maidí a ligeadh le sruth.

Ba mhaith liom an chaint ghairid seo a thabhairt in ómós do Mhícheál Ó Doibhilin, an staraí a bhásaigh an tseachtain seo.

Rinne Mícheál neart oibre ar leithéidí Anne Devlin agus d’fhoilsigh sé neart saothair tríd Kilmainham Tales, a thug léargas ar ghnéithe den stair poblachtach a ligeadh i ndearmad.

Le linn 2016, agus comóradh céad bhliain ar Éirí Amach 1916 faoi lán seoil tháinig sé chuig mo bhaile dúchais, Ráth Cúil, áit ar thug sé caint ar Josie McGowan, a bhí mar bhall de Chumann na mBan, agus a mharaigh na póilíní in 1918.

Micheál Ó Doibhlin giving a talk on Irish women in the struggle, 1918 (Photo: D. Breatnach)

Thanks to the committee for the invitation to give this short talk. It’s important to mark events such as these to do with the Civil War since the State has not seen fit to do so.

I’d like to dedicate this talk to Mícheál Ó Doibhlin, the historian who died just this week.

Mícheál carried out a great deal of work on the likes of Anne Devlin and he published numerous works through Kilmainham Tales which provided an insight into lesser known aspects of republican history.

During 2016, with the hundredth anniversary of the 1916 Rising in full swing, he came to my hometown of Rathcoole, where he have a talk on Josie McGowan, who was the first member of Cumann na mBan to be martyred when she was killed by police in 1918.

I’d like to speak about Cathal Brugha first and then the impact of the Civil War/Counter-Revolution.

CATHAL BRUGHA – EARLY YEARS

In terms of the historical sources, it is not easy to find a wealth of material on Cathal Brugha online. Unlike Michael Collins, for example, there is not an abundance of accessible sources online pertaining to Brugha.

He is referred to in the Bureau of Military History sources such as the Witness Statements, and these have been digitised, but his private papers, held in UCD, await digitisation.

The recently published biography of Brugha by Daithí Ó Corráin and Gerard Hanley, entitled Cathal Brugha: “An Indomitable Spirit”, will hopefully go some way to popularising a fuller and more nuanced account of his life and politics.

Kerron Ó Luain ag caint ag an comóradh i Sr. an Ard-Eaglais, 7ú Iúil 2022 (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Cathal Brugha was born as Charles Burgess in Dublin in 1874. He was born into a middle-class family, his father a cabinet maker. Brugha was born into a large family, which was not unusual at the time. Perhaps less common, was that he came from a mixed Protestant and Catholic marriage.

There is a good chance his father was a Protestant Fenian during the 1860s and 70s.

The crucial politicising force of this mid-twenties was Conradh na Gaeilge. He joined Craobh an Chéitinnigh in Dublin in 1899. And it was through the Conradh he met his wife Kathleen Kingston whom he married in 1909.

It was in this Gaelic revivalist and republican milieu that he met the likes of Seán Mac Diarmada, Tom Clarke and Piaras Béaslaí, and this influenced his move towards militant republicanism.

It is worth noting, at this point, that six of the seven signatories of the 1916 Proclamation were members of Conradh na Gaeilge, as were fourteen of the sixteen men executed in the wake of the Rising.

Photo-portrait of Cathal Brugha in IRA uniform. (Photo sourced: Internet)

PREPARATION FOR RISING, PREPARATION FOR WAR — AND FURTHER

In 1908, Brugha joined the IRB. He was employed as a travelling salesman with a candlestick company during those years and so, like many within Fenianism before him, was able to disguise his organising and recruitment under the cloak of his business activities.

Brugha was later instrumental in the setting up of the Irish Volunteers and then the Howth Gun Running. He was second in command to Éamon Ceannt at the South Dublin Union (now James’s Street Hospital) during the 1916 Rising.

He held a detachment of the British Army at bay singlehandedly with his ‘Peter the Painter’ revolver and nearly died from the wounds, including a lacerated nerve, he sustained in the feat. For the remainder of his life he walked with a limp and had to have a special boot made so that he could walk.

In the wake of the 1916 Rising Brugha was central to the re-organisation of the Irish Volunteers, which during these years, along with the Irish Citizen Army, began to coalesce into the Irish Republican Army.

In terms of his rejection of the Treaty in 1921 and death during 1922, we get a snapshot of the trajectory of his politics in 1917.

He was central to the debates over the formation of the Sinn Féin constitution in 1917, and he clashed with the dual-monarchist Arthur Griffith over the insertion of the word “Republic” into the document, which Brugha ardently supported.

Later, at the outbreak of the Black and Tan War in 1918 another indication of his politics can be seen. Brugha, as President of the Dáil, and later as Minister of Defence, was anxious that the IRA would do nothing that might effect Ireland’s case at the Peace Conference underway in Paris.

These were not the actions of a militarist fanatic, as state and revisionist historians have often portrayed him, but the strategic calculations of a principled political republican.

His dedication to the cultural and linguistic revolution is a feature of his activities during 1919 — particularly during the reading of the 1919 Democratic Programme.

Rinneadh gach rud trí Ghaeilge an lá sin agus ba é Brugha a bhí chun cinn.

During that day all the business was conducted through Irish and Brugha was very forthright about that. He understood not only the political importance of announcing the advent of the Dáil at an international level, but in doing so through Irish.

Another indication of his desire to advance the Irish language was that his plan for Conradh na Gaeilge be given sanction by the newly emergent state. “It was essential”, he said “that the authority of Dáil Éireann should be placed behind the Gaelic League”.

Plaque over the spot where Cathal Brugha was fatally shot at the junction of Cathedral and O’Connell Streets. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

LESSONS OF HISTORY

It is our duty as historians and as republicans who want to learn from the mistakes of the past to analyse things as they were and not gloss over them.

Brugha was less advanced when it came to other social questions, such as that of the land.

When a loan scheme was set up by the Dáil in 1919-1920 Brugha viewed it as “a scheme that would be a perfectly sound business proposition, and offer a good field to Irishmen who desire to invest their money”.

This speaks to the class composition of much of that era’s Irish Republicanism – with over-representation from the lower-middle and middle classes and under-representation from the urban and rural working-class.

There was a consequent lack of a radical social programme that might have attracted the masses, particularly during 1922.

Liam Mellows, according to a recent publication by Conor McNamara, only really came towards socialism late in the day whilst imprisoned in Mountjoy Jail.

In a similar vein, the great socialist-republican Peadar O’Donnell, remarked that during the occupation of the Four Courts in July 1922 there existed a gulf between the republicans inside and the workers outside.

Hammam Hotel after Free State attack. (Photo sourced: Internet)

We can also point to a lack of militancy within the leadership of the labour movement, as we can to a lack of socialism within the republican movement.

However, and despite a climate of soviets springing up, land agitation and general strikes over the course of several years, socialism and republicanism failed to fully synthesise into an organised and militant socialist and anti-imperialist movement.

Nevertheless, this is not to take away from Brugha, Mellows or any of his comrades. The picture that emerges of Brugha is one of a dedicated and political Irish Republican. A man of principle, honour and integrity.

It isn’t the picture of a mindless militarist, or “a fanatic”, as a recent review of the above-mentioned book Indomitable Spirit in the Irish Independent characterised Brugha. Likewise, some historians have derided Brugha essentially as a man of “no politics”.

However, as JJ O’Kelly, better known as Sceilg, said of Brugha, he was “showered with intellectual gifts of a high order, coupled with an exquisite literary taste; was a good linguist, a powerful writer, a fluent and convincing speaker, a pleasing singer and exquisitely fond of good music”.

Previously, during a potential split in Craobh an Chéitinnigh in 1908 Brugha was seen as a force for reconciliation, rather than as an apolitical “splitter”.

At its core, the realisation that the Treaty represented a half-way house between Empire and Republic that was doomed to failure informed Brugha’s actions during 1921 and 1922.

The mainstream historical narrative is that the “militarists” couldn’t see sense and get behind the so-called “empty formulas” of the oath. But, harking back to his dispute with Griffith in 1917, I think Brugha knew the importance of the term “Republic”.

Brugha understood that the wording and principles laid down in such documents would influence the character of any Irish state which might emerge. Thuig sé, creidim, go gcuireadh na prionsabail a leagfaí síos ag an bpointe criticiúil cruth ar an stát a bhí le tíocht.

Brugha had also pushed for an Oath to the Republic to be adopted by the IRA in 1919. The context for him doing so was the long tradition of oaths stretching back through Fenianism and other oathbound secret societies.

Oathbound secret societies were common throughout Europe in opposition to feudal and absolutist monarchies from the Enlightenment era onwards.

But in Ireland such secret societies, whether agrarian, nationalist or republican, or an admixture of each, represented an opposition to colonialism and their oaths were a necessary offering of allegiance to the community and the Irish body politic rather than to the invader.

Brugha’s dedication to the Republic and rejection of imperialism was shown again during the Treaty debates of 1921 when he spoke thusly:

“if …. instead of being so strong, our last cartridge had been fired our last thinking had been spent and our last man was lying on the ground and his enemies howling around him and their bayonets raised, ready to plunge them into his body, that man should say – true to the traditions handed down – if they said ‘will you come into the Empire?’ he should say and he would say : ‘No, I will not!’

That is the spirit which has lasted the centuries and you people in favour of the Treaty know that the British Government and the British Empire will have gone down before that spirit dies in Ireland”.

CIVIL WAR/ COUNTERREVOLUTION

Civil War eventually began in 1922 with the shelling of the Four Courts with British guns by Free State forces. Again, busting the myth that he was only out for war, Brugha had actually been reluctant to enter the Republican garrison with Mellows, Rory O’Connor, and Joe McKelvey.

Likewise, Oscar Traynor; he and Brugha occupied Hamman Hotel and Buildings on Upper O’Connell street as a secondary garrison. As the Battle of Dublin raged the buildings occupied by Brugha went ablaze.

Free State soldiers shouted at him to surrender, to which he replied “níl aon chuimhneamh agam ar a leithéid a dhéanamh” (I have no notion of doing so). After asking his own garrison to surrender Brugha approached the Free State soldiers and was shot dead.

The Civil War has often been over-simplified into a cartoonish clash of “brother against brother” and “the Big Fellow” (Collins) versus “the Long Fellow” (De Valera). This negates the aspects of it which were clearly counter-revolutionary in nature, and it can just as easily be labelled the Counter-Revolution of 1922-23.

The results of the Counter-Revolution in which Brugha died and which deepened in the years after, especially during the 1920s, speak for themselves.

Free State troops preparing artillery emplacement for British field-gun at Nelson’s Pillar (now location of the Spire) in the Battle of Dublin, Civil War/ Counterrevolution July 1922. (Photo sourced: Internet)

Republican men carry the coffin of Cathal Brugha with an honour guard of Cumann na mBan. (Photo sourced: Internet)

The Counter-Revolution:

Sided with Empire over Republic. The acceptance of the Treaty meant the acceptance of White Dominion status along with Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

In doing so the counter-revolutionaries severed the nascent anti-colonial links with the Third World which had existed throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

This move, according to Bill Rollston and Robbie McVeigh in their recent publication Anois ar Theacht an tSamhraidh: Ireland, Colonialism and the Unfinished Revolution, informs the nature and perseverance of Irish racism today.

It sided with Rich over Poor. The infamous quote from the good Catholic and Christian W.T. Cosgrave about “people being reared in work houses taking it in their minds to emigrate”, resonates here.

This is the mentality which laid the blueprint for how the State facilitated and turned a blind eye to the horrors of the industrial schools and laundries – horrors which were inflicted against women and children mainly from the urban and rural working class.

It sided with Partition over Unity. The nationalists of the North were abandoned to the mercy of the Orange state, despite knowledge among the emergent conservative republican elite like Cosgrave and Kevin O’Higgins of the pogroms which had been going on in Belfast between 1920-22.

The lame duck Border Commission of 1925 was never going to challenge the economic or political viability of the Six Counties

It sided with Anglophone Ireland over what was left of Irish speaking Ireland. There was over half a million, or 543,511 to be precise, native Irish speakers in the state in 1926. Today there are less than 10% of that, roughly 20,000.

The Free State in the 1920s implemented a symbolic cultural programme – state departments used the cúpla focail, schools were superficially Gaelicized, post boxes were painted green.

This was also a means of shoring up support for the State against republicans and other “subversives” in the 1920s and 30s by capturing and channelling one ideological aspect of the revolutionary years. But no radical social programme was devised.

Rather than re-distribute wealth and local power to the West, a symbolic and centralised pseudo-revival was implemented, while Conradh na Gaeilge, which Brugha had been so loyal to, went into rapid decline naively thinking that the conservative state would somehow act as a genuine custodian of the language revival.

Tá go leor leor samplaí den leanúnachas seo leis an impiriúlachas le fáil.

Other examples of a continuity and no real break with imperialism abound. In law, the Free State remained wedded to British common law over a potential new system.

Brehon Law had been mooted as having communal benefits different from the individualist and property focussed British law by cultural nationalists and by Marxists such as James Connolly. But this mode of thought was not considered.

In administration, according to historian J.J. Lee, 98% of civil servants from the old British colonial administration were kept on during the years of the early Free State.

In finance, Ernest Blyth’s conservative fiscal policies were carbon copies of Westminster’s and the punt was shackled to the sterling.

Even down to seemingly innocuous cultural traits such as dress – W.T. Cosgrave and his ilk adopted the top hat and coat-tails of the British once in office – there were continuities.

While this last point may seem minor, it was a signifier of the whole ideology and culture of the state – Conservative, Catholic, Anglophone, with only a veneer of Gaelic symbology.

Little wonder then that the State lurched from dependence on one empire from the 1920s into dependence on others in the 1960s and 70s in the form of the US empire and the emergent EU empire — via the policies of Foreign Direct Investment and the Common Agricultural Policy.

The legacy then of the counter-revolution still weighs heavily on our people.

It is our duty to analyse the different forces – be they political, class or cultural – which defeated the Republic in 1922-23 and to work towards defeating them and breaking fully with Empire, as Cathal Brugha sought to do.

An Phoblacht Abú!

Kerron Ó Luain, staraí, Ráth Cúil, Co. Átha Cliath.

Section of the crowd at Cathal Brugha’s funeral in Glasnevin Cemetery. (Photo sourced: Internet)

FRAME-UP OF THE CRAIGAVON TWO HIGHLIGHTED ACROSS IRELAND

14 YEARS IN JAIL FOR SOMETHING THEY DIDN’T DO

Clive Sulish

(Reading time main text: 2 mins.)

On 16th July 2022 the frame-up of the Craigavon Two was highlighted in public events in locations across all four provinces of Ireland. John Paul Wooton and Brendan McConville were framed and convicted in 2012 of the killing of colonial police officer Stephen Carroll in 2009.

The agency that framed them is the colonial police force of the Six Counties statelet but then they were railroaded through the non-jury Diblock Courts. As a result the two men have spent 14 years in jail for something they did not do.

A young woman participating in the protest on the 16th in Mulingar, Co. Westmeath displaying two placards, one home-made, to passers-by. (Photo sourced: AIA)

EVENTS

In Dublin city centre banners in Irish and in English calling for the freeing of the Craigavon Two were hung from the iconic curved pedestrian Ha’penny Bridge. Green and gold Starry Plough flags streamed in the breeze from the sea as leaflets were distributed to passers-by.

Hand-held Placards called for the men’s release and regular calls could be heard of “Justice for the Craigavon Two!” followed by “14 years in jail for something they didn’t do”. In addition there were calls to “Smash the Specials”1 and comments about “British justice”.

Strangely no artist(s) name was posted on line with the video

All the leaflets brought to the event were distributed and a number of conversations with interested people took place.

Leaflets being distributed and placards displayed on the Ha’penny Bridge, Dublin on the 16th. (Photo sourced: AIA)

At one point four members of the State’s police force, the Gardaí, walked past the picketers and gathered at the far end of the bridge, watching them. However, the picketers were not intimidated and the police took no further action.

The events in respect of the Craigavon Two were organised by the Anti-Imperialist Action Ireland organisation and took place in Waterford, Oldcastle (Meath), Naas (Kildare), Mullingar (Westmeath), Kerry, Galway, Dublin, South Derry, Armagh and Arklow (Wicklow.)

Gardaí watching the awareness-raising picket on the Ha’penny Bridge on the 16th. (Photo sourced: AIA)

A CROOKED CASE

To say that the case against the men was flimsy would be to give it too much credit. The killing weapon was recovered and the fingerprints on the weapon and magazine did not match either of the men’s. No eyewitness was found except one who claimed to have seen one of the men in the area.

The alleged eyewitness who identified one of the men, “Witness M” only came forward 11 months after the killing and long after the arrest of both men. Witness M’s inability to have identified anyone at night at the distance he claimed to have done was exposed in court.

Awareness-raising event on the 16th in Oldcastle, Co. Meath (Photo sourced: AIA)

That man’s father described him as “a Walter Mitty character” who was chronically untruthful and his own partner refused to corroborate the witness’ account of his movements on the night of the killing.

The ‘evidence’ against the second man of being in the area came from an MI5 agent who testified from behind a screen about a tracking device they claimed to have planted in the accused’s car which had unexplained gaps in its recording.

The agent declined to answer a number of questions under “public immunity” certificate related to “national security”.

The colonial police went further and detained Witness M’s father to intimidate him into not giving evidence about his son’s veracity (or lack of it) — and the witness was also paid a sum of money.

One can say that the no-jury Diplock Court was crucial in convicting the men of murder but even when they were eventually granted leave to appeal in 2014, their convictions were not overturned. The normal judicial system is bad but the no-jury courts are worse.

Another victim of being framed in the British ‘justice’ system, Gerry Conlon, 15 years in jail in the famous case of the “Guildford Four”, joined the campaign for the men and was proclaiming their innocence until a mere few days before his premature death in June 2014 (aged 60).

End.

In Naas, Co. Kildare. (Photo sourced: AIA)
Mulingar, Co. Westmeath. (Photo sourced: AIA)
A woman leafletting in Co. Waterford on Saturday talking to people in the town centre. (Photo sourced: AIA)

FOOTNOTES

1A reference to the political no-jury courts of the colony and of the Irish State, the Diplock Courts and the Irish State’s Special Criminal Courts.

USEFUL LINKS

Craigavon Two campaign: https://www.facebook.com/mrsmcconville

Anti-Imperialist Action Ireland: https://www.facebook.com/AIAI-For-National-Liberation-and-Socialist-Revolution-101829345633677

“Justice Craigavon Two” song by Pól Mac Adaim: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzUdD80obMY

In Waterford on Saturday. (Photo sourced: AIA)
The event on Ha’penny Bridge, Dublin, seen from the north side facing south-west. (Photo sourced: AIA)

A DIFFERENT PICTURE SLIPS THROUGH THE PROPAGANDA

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 5 mins.)

We are being constantly reminded by the western press on a daily basis, quite rightly, of civilians being killed in the Ukraine conflict1. On the Ukrainian side. Somehow, the Ukrainian military never fire at the Russian side – or if they do, they somehow never manage to kill civilians.

Amazing, really, in a war which the media keeps telling us is ferocious.

The Russian side is rarely quoted but when it is, its statements are dismissed. They say that the Ukrainian military plant themselves among civilian housing and fire artillery from there. Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they and anyway, the Ukrainian State denies it.

The Russian military are, according to the Ukrainian State, not so much careless about the the targets of their bombardment but deliberately aiming at civilian structures.

Why they would do that when, according to the same sources, they want to extend the Russian empire there, is not explained. It’s all about terrorism, according to Zelensky, the Ukrainian premier and media figure.

The Russian State story, not so easy to come by, is that they never target civilian areas deliberately, unless the Ukrainian military are using them to fire from – which according to the Ukrainian State, quoted without question by the western media, the Ukrainian military never do.

BOMBARDMENT AND CIVILIANS

Yesterday’s issue of Breaking News Ireland carried a very unusual photo. It was unusual because it was taken during actual military action, whereas we normally only get photos of damaged buildings and occasionally Ukrainian military standing firm.

Ukrainian Soldiers run after missile strike in residential area of Kramatorsk, Donetsk Region, Eastern Ukraine (posted 13 July) (Cred: Nariman El-Mofty/AP)

But the photo was more unusual than that because it showed Ukrainian soldiers running for cover after a Russian artillery strike, naturally enough but a less-than heroic image for public consumption. The caption tells us it’s in a civilian area in the Donetsk region.

WAIT A MINUTE! In a civilian area? So the Ukrainian military were in a civilian area and got fired on by Russian artillery? Doesn’t that coincide with what the Russians have been saying? Were those Ukrainian military perhaps even firing from that area? We don’t know.

We don’t know because we get hardly any western media coverage from the actual battlefronts, just quotations from the Ukrainian State and, from time to time, commentary from US/ NATO sources. And never any detail from the Russian side.

If we want a more realistic picture, we have to go to sources banned or at least not promoted in the West.

One of those sources is Patrick Lancaster, reporting on the war. In a recent video, he interviewed wounded civilians in a hospital in Izium, Kharkiv region, an area the Ukrainian military left a couple of days earlier and which is now under Russian military occupation.

So refreshing to watch.

Some interviewees blame the Russian State, some blame the Ukrainian State, some seem impartial or keep their own counsel – as one might expect, really, if one thought about it past the propaganda line, which is that everyone there — except the “Russian separatists” — blames the Russians.

And actually, the Breaking News article reported the reluctance of many to leave Sloviansk and Kramatorsk as they are being publicly encouraged to do by the Ukrainian Donetsk Governor, presumably as those areas are going to be pounded by artillery (but by Ukrainian or by Russian?)

This too is interesting, because even anti-Ukrainian State or pro-Russia interviewees (not always the same thing) interviewed by Patrick Lancaster in the Izium town, said that the Russian artillery had hit their town “very hard”.

But then some also stated that Marchenko, the pro-Ukrainian Mayor of the city had announced publicly that the city had been evacuated. All lies, according to one, “only five buses here …. and 50 taxis (but) from Kramatorsk.”

So if the advancing Russian military believed that only Ukrainian military remained in the city …..?

This is a military conflict and of course both sides are firing and, as well as soldiers, civilians are being inevitably killed on both sides. When that happens, is it likely that either side is killing civilians deliberately?

Certainly less likely by the Russians in the Donetsk area, which is a largely Russian-speaking region that has been attacked by Ukrainian right-wing military since that state’s abrupt change of government in 20142.

By the Ukrainian military side, probably more likely on the basis of the previous eight years, or at least of being more careless.

The article I’ve quoted showed a range of attitudes to the call of Pavlo Kyrylenko, Ukrainian State’s Governor of the Donetsk region, for civilians to leave and to head into Ukrainian State-held territory — and also of different attitudes to the forthcoming Russian occupation.

Some are going, including a teacher of Russian, which is interesting, because another doesn’t want to go precisely because of the anti-Russian-speakers attitude of the State (and even more so of some of the Ukrainian military).

Some just don’t want to give up their homes and/ or be jobless (or elderly without support) in Ukrainian State territory. Some think they’ll be ok under the Russians while others think they’ll be no better off on the Ukrainian State side.

So, naturally enough a mixed picture but certainly very different to the one being projected day in, day out by the western media. How this article and photo slipped through that blockade is certainly curious.

DOES IT MATTER?

But at the end of the day, does it really matter much to us here in Ireland whether we are being subjected to inaccurate propaganda about the conflict in Ukraine?

Well, if that conflict was sparked by the expansion towards Russia’s borders of the NATO military alliance3, then it does.

If that conflict is part of the shaping up by US/NATO for a war against Russia and China (and possibly India), then it certainly does. Not just because all of those on both sides are nuclear powers and radiation can end up anywhere.

But also because the ruling elite of the British colony in Ireland is part of NATO and the ruling class of the Gombeen state is trying to push it into NATO — or at least into an EU military alliance, which would of course soon enough line up with NATO.

I don’t believe either side in this conflict without proof and analysis. But I do resent the completely one-sided propaganda coming from the western media. Maybe it’s the same in Russia with their own propaganda.

Maybe, but isn’t it the boast of the West that their democracies are superior, with free speech and press?

And if the western media is following the same propaganda line in its reporting out of common interest with US/NATO and EU, is the end result any different from the media in Russia saying what they are told to say?

End.

FOOTNOTES

1Would that they would equally well inform us of those beling killed by the Saudi proxy war in the Sudan or by the numbers of migrants being killed on a regular basis as they try to access safety or just a better life in western states – the same states that are usually responsible for their plight in the first place.

2Yes, eight years prior to the Russian invasion. On the rare occasions when the western media refers to this (they did in the Breaking News Ireland article) it is always portrayed as a problem caused by “pro-Russian separatists” without recording that those areas were attacked as Russian-speaking by Ukrainian fascist and far-Right military units, including the Azov Battalion and the people organised themselves in defence, then received Russian supplies and now, eight years later, a Russian invasion. The origin of the Crimea situation is a similar story.

3For those who think this is a ridiculous claim, type “NATO states in Europe map” into a search engine. Also look up “Minsk Agreement”.

SOURCES

Breaking News Ireland report: https://www.breakingnews.ie/ukraine/why-should-i-leave-some-ukrainians-refuse-to-flee-areas-caught-up-in-war-1334032.html

Patrick Lancaster reporting from Izum, Kharkiv region, 120 Km/ 75 miles southeast of Kharkiv city (random civilian interviews + civilians wounded in hospital): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3iFv5jxInOc

From Sirotino, Luhansk, now controlled by Russian an Luhansk People’s Militia (interviews with residents): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRKNBYqb5DQ

Patrick Lancaster, December 2016 (yes, SIX YEARS AGO) in Luhansk People’s Militia trench, under Ukrainian shelling (breaking Minsk Agreement): https://youtu.be/DAo7go-4l0g

Senior Irish politicians thinking about joining a military alliance: https://www.irishtimes.com/world/europe/2022/06/08/ireland-would-not-need-referendum-to-join-nato-says-taoiseach/

CATHAL BRUGHA HONOURED AT SPOT WHERE FREE STATE SHOT HIM

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 6 mins.)

On the evening of 7th July, people passing on O’Connell Street, Dublin’s main street in the north city centre either stopped a while or passed with a glance at the crowd gather at the intersection with Cathedral Street, a narrow lane leading eastward.

The Irish Tricolour and the Starry Plough flags (both versions1) held aloft gave a strong indication of the purpose of the gathering, which was to honour an Irish patriot shot down at that spot by Free State soldiers on 5th July 1922 and dying on the 7th.

A poster from the period with drawings thought to be by Constance Markievicz (Photo: D.Breatnach)

CATHAL BRUGHA RESUMÉ

Cathal Brugha was an Irish Republican, an Irish language activist, a soldier and politician. For a period in the Irish Republican Brotherhood, he joined the Irish Volunteers at the outset2 and was a lieutenant in charge of twenty Volunteers to receive with others the arms delivered to Howth Harbour in 1914.

In the 1916 Rising Brugha was second-in-command under Eamonn Ceannt at the South Dublin Union, now covered by James’ Hospital, where he received in excess of 25 wounds from bullets and grenade shrapnell and was not expected to live.

Surviving, Brugha was elected a Teachta Dála (member of parliament) for the abstentionist Sinn Féin coalition party in the UK General Election of 1918, serving until his death, first President of Dáil Éireann (the Irish Parliament) from January to April 1919, Minister of Defence from 1919 to 1922 and Chief of Staff of the IRA from 1917 to 1919.

Cathal Brugha, along with most Republican activists, was strongly opposed to the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1921 which was supported by Michael Collins, Arthur Griffiths and others and joined the Republican opposition in the Dáil, resigning his government posts to do so.

A poster from the period with drawings thought to be by Constance Markievicz (Photo: D.Breatnach)

However, he and Oscar Traynor of the IRA both opposed the occupation of the Four Courts by IRA under Rory O’Connor but when it was bombarded by the Free State with British artillery on 28th June, Traynor ordered occupation of O’Connell Street buildings to divert some of the heat from the Four Courts.

The Free State Army bombarded the Republican positions in O’Connell Street with artillery and machine guns (as the British Army had done in 1916). Eventually the Republicans retreated apart from a small holding group which Brugha ordered to surrender but did not do so himself.

Approaching Free State soldiers with pistol in hand, he was shot by them in the leg, severing a femoral artery and died two days later in hospital. His widow Kathleen continued the Republican line as an activist and TD.

Mags Glennon, Chairing the event (Photo: D.Breatnach)

THE HONOUR CEREMONY

Mags Glennon, chairing the event, thanked people for coming, stressing the importance of remembering our history and listed briefly the important actions of and positions held by Cathal Brugha, before calling on Sean Óg to perform The Soldiers of ‘22,3 the five verses of which he sang, accompanying himself on guitar.

At intervals between speakers Sean Óg performed another two songs, Cathal Brugha and A Soldier’s Life4.

Joe Mooney brought a series of three posters for distribution, which were quickly taken up. These were copies from the period, condemning the Free State Army for the murder of Cathal Brugha, with drawings believed to be by Constance Markievicz.

A poster from the period with drawings thought to be by Constance Markievicz (Photo: D.Breatnach

MAIN ORATION

The main speaker was historian and author Kerron Ó Luain, who began speaking in Irish and returned to it on occasion, though the content of his talk was by far in English.

Ó Luain initially paid his respects to recently-deceased Mícheál Ó Doibhlin, a Dublin historian who had done much historical research to bring further into the light of today the contributions two Republican women in two different periods.

These were Anne Devlin of the United Irishmen (uprisings in 1798 and 1803) and Josephine McGowan, killed in 1918, the first Cumann na mBan martyr5. Ó Doibhlin had also assisted Ó Luain in the latter’s research into the insurrectionary history of his own area, Rath Cúil (Rathcoole)6.

Kerron Ó Luain speaking, Joe Mooney holding the microphone. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Continuing to relate some brief facts about Brugha’s early life, born into a mixed-religion household, Ó Luain emphasised Brugha’s interest in the Irish language and his membership of the Gaelic League (Conradh na Gaeilge)7 in the same decade as its founding.

The speaker contrasted that aspect with the militarist image of Brugha often projected by hostile commentators. Brugha met his future wife at meetings of the Connradh and had been a strong advocate of the proceedings of the First Dáil being conducted mostly in Irish and of the Democratic Programme being first read and agreed in Irish.

The setting up of Sinn Féin to contest the 1918 UK General Elections had involved a coalition of many different elements Ó Luain said, including dual monarchism advocates such as the original founder Griffiths and even white Dominion aspirants, alongside Republicans such as Cathal Brugha.

Section of the crowd at the event. (Photo: D.Breatnach

These had been the lines along with the alliance had fractured when the British proposed the terms of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. British influence on the Free State was seen not only in its war on the Republicans but in the legal system adopted based on common law without any thought given to any of the principles of the native Brehon Law.

The British influence was evident also in the form of dress with some Free State politicians such as Cosgrave wearing a top hat and research has shown over 90% of the civil servants of the Free State had been employed by the previous British colonial administration.

The Free State adopted a formal position of support for An Ghaeilge, the Irish language, while doing nothing to support the struggling rural Irish-speaking areas, which were being drained by emigration, leading the inhabitants to want to acquire English for their future locations.

Some of the attendance. (Photo: D.Breatnach)
Another small section shot (Photo: D.Breatnach)

The number of Irish-speakers within the territory of the State has declined drastically since it was founded.

Unusually for an oration honouring an Irish martyr but very important historically, the speaker pointed out that Brugha was not a socialist Republican and had advocated land ownership whereas other Republicans such as Liam Mellows (executed by the Free State in 1922), Peadar O’Donnell and Frank Ryan in the 1930s had proclaimed the need for a socialist Republic.

In conclusion, the speaker said that Cathal Brugha was an honest courageous Republican with a genuine love of the Irish language and a staunch upholder of the truly independent Republic proclaimed in 1916 but yet to be achieved. He had been killed as part of the counterrevolution.

It is important for future efforts, Ó Luain stated, to be aware of the different strands in the Republican opposition to the status quo and to be clear on the desired future shape of society in the Republic.

View of many in the attendance at the event. (Photo: Cabra 1916-1921 Rising Committee)

OTHER REPUBLICAN MARTYRS OF THE BATTLE FOR DUBLIN 1922

Damien Farrell spoke on behalf of Dublin South Central Remembers and representing the McMenamy family from the area. Frank McMenamy had been asked to introduce the Roll of Honour on behalf of relative Ciaran McMenamy of F Coy, 1st Batt, anti-Treaty IRA (Ambulance Corp) but was unable to attend.

Ciaran was one of four brothers — Fergus, Manus and Francis — who fought in the revolutionary period 1916-23. Ciaran was part of the crew that tended Cathal Brugha and rushed him to hospital on the 5th July. When Brugha succumbed to his wounds, Ciaran was a pall bearer at his funeral.

Damien said that this most likely identified him for arrest which happened later and he was interned in the infamous Newbridge Camp and participated in the mass hunger strike of prisoners in 1923 against conditions.

Ciaran McMenamy contracted a cold that developed into consumption which secured his release to convalesce in the County Home in Kildare but this proved ineffective and Ciaran was eventually released from internment around Christmas 1923.

On the 26th of April 1924 Ciaran McMenamy died in 55 Pearse Square, a house connected to the family. For the past two years Dublin South Central Remembers have held remembrance events at the house, with the full permission and support of the current occupants (no relations) with the intention of having a plaque erected in time for his centenary in 2024.

Finnuala Halpin reading the Roll of Honour of the The Battle of Dublin 1922, in which her grandfather fought. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Fionnuala Halpin read the roll of honour of those killed in The Battle of Dublin 1922, a battle in which her grandfather fought.

John Monks

William Clarke

Joe Considine

William Doyle

Francis Jackson

John Mahoney

Sean Cusack

Matthew Tompkins

Jack McGowan

Thomas Markey

Thomas Wall

Charles O’Malley

Cathal Brugha

Veteran Republican, hunger-striker and author Tommy McKearney placed a wreath in honour of the fallen on behalf of Independent Republicans and a minute’s silence was observed in their honour also.

COMMEMORATE THE CIVIL WAR MARTYRS OF YOUR AREA?

A number of different Republican organisations were represented at the event, along with many independent Republicans and historical memory activists, including walking history tour guides.

Poster and dedication floral wreath in honour of Cathal Brugha, Cathedral Street, Dublin city centre 7 July 2022 (Photo: Cabra 1916-1921 Rising Committee)

Mags Glennon asked people to keep in touch with the organisers and also to be aware of other commemorative events, offering to make available the commemorative posters with the local martyrs’ names incorporated into the design for display for others around the country.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1The original, with the design of plough in gold following the outline of the Ursa Mayor constellation in white stars, on a green background and the later Republican Congress version of the white stars alone on a light blue field.

2Formed in 1913.

3Composed by Brian Ó hUigínn, sung to the air of The Foggy Dew.

4A Soldier’s Life was originally composed by Young Irelander Thomas Davis (1814-1945) and recorded by The Wolfe Tones band; the composer of Cathal Brugha’s lyrics appears unknown and it was recorded by Declan Hunt.

5A rally held by women just off Dame Street in 1918 was batoned by members of the Dublin Metropolitan Police and she died of her injuries shortly afterwards. I have heard Ó Doibhlin relate her story and saw him becoming emotional as he did so. The DMP’s batons in September 1913 were also responsible for the deaths of at least three others, although one died in 1915.

6For a number of recent years Ó Doiblin has been noted, along with historian Liz Gillis and others, for research and exposition of information regarding the Burning of the Customs House on 25th May 1921, which corrected a number of common misapprehensions about that event.

7Founded by Protestant Douglas Hyde/ Dubhghlas de hÍde this month in 1893.

USEFUL LINKS

The Independent Republicans group do not appear to have a website or FB page but may be contacted through the Cabra 1916-1921 Rising Committee: https://www.facebook.com/cabra1916

The National Graves Association: https://www.facebook.com/NationalGravesAssociation