When I read or hear someone say something like: “We should stop supporting Israel” or even “We need to stop ignoring Israel’s crimes”, my hackles rise somewhat and I ask myself “Who are this ‘we'”?
Are you turning a blind eye? No, you are not. Amy I? Are those who post the crimes of the Zionist state and all the others who have “liked” those posts, or the thousands who have demonstrated in Ireland in solidarity with Palestine? Or those who go on solidarity visits every year, braving Zionist surveillance and traveling under cover? Or the unknown thousands who don’t buy goods produced in Israel, so much so that when supermarkets display avocados from Israel they leave off the country of origin and one no longer sees herbs for Israel on sale in their shops (not in Dublin anyway). No matter the limited effect these actions have, clearly “they” are not supporting Israel and are in solidarity with the Palestinians.
This is more than personal protest at being lumped in with the imperialists and their collaborators or even the apathetic in the “we”. More importantly, I am making what I consider to be an essential political point.
I and “we” are not part of the oppressors (nor of the apathetic sections, those who have not yet awoken). To speak in that way is liberalism. It implies that you and I and so many others are part of a society that we order and run and that its rulers represent us. We are not and they do not.
Our society’s managers are representatives of capitalists and worse, monopoly capitalists, whose governing ethos is profit, maximisation of profit and continuation of profit, amen. In pursuit of that they compete with other monopoly capitalists and other monopoly capitalist-run states but also cooperate and collude with them when their interests coincide. Clearly for some substantial time now the interests of the rulers of the EU and other Western capitalist states coincide with those of the USA. And clearly, Israel serves US interests in the Middle East, the only state in that region which is safe from a) socialist revolution and b) take over by anti-imperialist Islamicism.
So if WE are in solidarity with Palestine and WE want to see it free, WE must be against Israel. And if WE are against Israel, WE have to be against the USA. And if WE are for that people and against those powers, then WE are on the other side of a line from the Zionists and their local supporters. The greatest help WE can give the Palestinians in addition to expressions of solidarity is to overthrow the imperial powers and their monopoly capitalist allies wherever WE are.
If we think of those rulers as being part of us, as part of “We”, we are ideologically disarmed and unfit to go into battle against them. In that case, the assistance WE can give the Palestinians will be even more limited than that for which we have the potential at the moment.
Governing Social-democratic PSOE voting with the Right and Far-Right
Coalition partners Unidas-Podemos voting with Basque and Catalan nationalists to hunt down the King
The royal house of Spain is of the Bourbons, a fact settled as a result of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714), which drew in all the major European powers (and in which the Basque and Catalan nationalists supported the losing side). Its current representation and recent history is immersed in controversy, largely but not only around the figure of ex-King Juan Carlos, his former support for a fascist dictatorship, wide allegations of financial corruption and his wildlife shooting hobby.
Rumours of Juan Carlos’ intention to abdicate in the midst of reports of investigations into allegations of financial corruption were denied earlier in 2014. However the King declared his wish to abdicate on19 June 2014, news which was met with celebrations by leftist groups, republicans and groups seeking independence for the nations within the Spanish State.1 Many of these began to press for a referendum to choose between monarchy or republic.
Juan Carlos’ abdication was approved by majority vote by the Spanish Parliament in June 2014 and his son Felipe VI declared King. Backed by the right-wing Partido Popular in government and the formerly republican PSOE in opposition, 299 voted in favour with only 19 MPs of small leftist parties and of Basque, Catalan and Canarianpro-independence parties speaking against and with 23 abstentions.2
The Spanish Constitution (1978) gave the monarch legal immunity for actions taken in accordance with his duties but provided no protection for a former monarch. However, the Government changed the law, leaving him accountable only to the Spanish Supreme Court, a status shared with many high-ranking civil servants and politicians in the Spanish State3.
As reports in the media indicated that a Swiss prosecution alleging financial corruption might be imminent, in 2020 Juan Carlos left the Spanish State for an extended period to a secret destination, rumoured to a country from which he could not be extradited. The former king’s exile was officially confirmed on 3rd August 2020, his current location reported by the Royal Household as being in the United Arab Emirates. There is no extradition agreement between the UAE and the Spanish State.
The leadership of the governing PSOE wants to protect the ex-King and votes in accordance with that position, finding itself voting alongside MPs of the Right, the Far-Right and fascists. PSOE’s governing coalition partner Unidas Podemos (itself a wide Left coalition), backed up by the votes of Basque and Catalan independence MPs, wants to have the King officially exposed and brought to court on corruption charges.
FASCIST DICTATORSHIP BACKGROUND OF JUAN CARLOS
When the electorate in the Spanish kingdom voted in a republic in 1931, the monarchy was abolished and King Alfonso XIII fled. In 1936 a left-democratic government was voted and the fascists and a number of armed forces senior officers staged an uprising against the Republic. In an extremely brutal war, with massive assistance from Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, they overthrew the elected government and instituted a dictatorship under General Franco.
In 1947 Franco reinstated the monarchy and skipping the line in succession for the Spanish Crown and, disregarding the exiled Juan, son of Alfonso XIII, who appeared to Franco to be too liberal, the Dictator in 1969 named Juan’s son, Juan Carlos, his successor as head of State. Juan Carlos had been studying in Italy but had returned to the Spanish state in 1969 and had the status of Prince of Spain under the Dictatorship; he was taken under Franco’s wing and in turn Juan Carlos promised to uphold the fascist regime.
Two days after Franco’s death, Juan Carlos became King of Spain on 22 November 1975 and Head of the Spanish State.
After Franco’s death the Spanish State embarked clumsily on the long-envisaged Transition to a parliamentary democracy. The ban on the social-democratic PSOE and Communist Party and their affiliated trade unions was lifted and, in 1978 a referendum was held on a unitary constitution (no right to self-determination for the Basque Country, Catalonia or Galicia nations) and a return to monarchy. Amidst a wave of repression and threat of return to dictatorship, with the PSOE and CPE leaderships advocating a vote in favour, the Constitution gained a majority overall throughout the Spanish state (not however in the Basque Country) and Spain was once again a constitutional monarchy.
The Monarch has substantial reserve powers in his role as the defender of the Constitution and insulting him is a crime in Spanish law, for which political activists, cartoonists, singers and rap artists have been tried and convicted.4
Much is made by liberals and supporters of the State of the fact that Juan Carlos broadcast a statement seeking support for the elected Government in 1981 when Antonio Tejero5, a Lieutenant-Colonel of the Guardia Civil led his short-lived coup attempt. The King’s name had been used by the conspirators to gather support and Juan Carlos’ statement at midnight on the first day of the coup attempt undermined the coup leaders. Subsequently Juan Carlos was presented as a staunch defender of democracy, hailed by liberals, social democrats and the leader of the Communist Party. Juan Carlos’ previous role as a staunch supporter of Franco’s fascist Dictatorship was revised or excused and his role in promoting parliamentary democracy in the Transition exaggerated (still to be found in Wikipedia etc).
Supporters give the impression that the King’s intervention was crucial in ending the coup. In fact, at the outset the plotters had little military backing and had failed to even secure Madrid; Valencia had been taken and surrounded with tanks by the coupists but the commander of the nearby military airport not only refused to support the coup but threatened to send fighters to rocket-bomb the tanks. Elsewhere, in cities and ports, despite a background of calls for insurgency by fascists and discomfort with parliamentarianism in the armed forces, these stayed quiet.
Rarely acknowledged too is that even after Franco’s death Juan, Carlos spoke of his ideological and emotional debt to the Dictator and not once did he retract his oath to uphold the fascist order.
Juan Carlos and his family receive receive the support of substantial funds allocated through the State and are also in possession of properties that were confiscated by the fascist victors of the Spanish Anti-Fascist War. In addition, they have wealth accumulated through business connections.
Whispers about corruption in the financial deals of Juan Carlos began to circulate around the turn of this century the King’s overall popularity remained high. However a stunned population learned in April 2012, in the middle of an economic crisis in the Spanish state, that a Spanish Air Force jet had to be dispatched to collect the King from his secret trip to Botswana, Africa, where he had broken his foot. Since he had been photographed in 2006 standing by the body of his trophy elephant shot in Botswana it was widely assumed that had been the purpose of his secret trip.
Although a cartoon mocking the King and Queen had been published in a newspaper in 2007, with copies seized by the Government (but defiantly republished by the right-wing El Mundo), it was not until the Botswana episode that condemnation of him began to be widespread throughout social media, spilling over into the mass media. In April 2012, Spain’s unemployment was at 23% and nearly 50% for young workers. A controversy also arose over his Presidency of the Spanish section of the World Wildlife Fund and an online petition on the actuable.es website said more than 46,000 people had backed a petition calling for the king’s resignation from WWF and in April the presidential position was abolished.6
At the time, the King’s son-in-law Inaki Urdangarin, was also being charged with financial and political corruption7, along with the youngest princess, Cristina.
CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS AND INVESTIGATIONS INTO JUAN CARLOS
Kickbacks from commercial contracts in the Gulf States, particularly construction of the €6.7 billion Haramain high-speed railway in Saudi Arabia, lodged in a Switzerland bank account and the purchase of properties in Monaco in the name of his former mistress Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, who is registered domiciled in Monaco. These details emerged in a 2018 leaked telephone conversation between herself and a former police chief. She also alleged being warned into silence by the head of the Spanish State Intelligence Service.
Very recently zu Wittgenstein-Sayn alleged publicly that Juan Carlos had asked for the return of the money, which she had refused and that she has received threats and fears for her safety.
On 14 March 2020, The Telegraph newspaper reported that his son FelipeVII appeared as second beneficiary (after Juan Carlos) of the Lucum Foundation, recipient of a €65 million donation by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. On 15 March 2020, a spokesperson for the Royal Household declared that Felipe VI would renounce any inheritance from his father and that the former king would lose his public stipend from the State’s General Budget.
Royal Family credit cards from undisclosed Swiss bank account. Juan Carlos and the Royal Family had credit cards drawing on what appeared to be an undeclared Swiss bank account, with card drawings exceeded €120,000 in one year, comprising undisclosed income and was therefore a tax offence in Spain. Mexican millionaire and investment banker Allen Sanginés-Krause has been named as the owner of the cards, a friend of Juan Carlos to whom he donated sums of money using Air Force Colonel Nicolás Murga Mendoza as an intermediary.
In December 2020, Juan Carlos reportedly paid €678,393.72 to Spain’s tax agency with regard to the “opaque credit cards” used between 2016 and 2018 by himself, his wife and some grandchildren, to avoid further scrutiny from the Supreme Court’s prosecutor, the payment being an admission of fraud.
Jersey and Swiss bank accounts. A third investigation is being undertaken by the Spanish authorities over an attempt to withdraw nearly €10 million from Jersey, possibly from a trust set up by or for Juan Carlos in the 1990s. Juan Carlos claims he is “not responsible for any Jersey trust and never has been, either directly or indirectly.”
A further investigation is taking place regarding the fact that until August 2018, Juan Carlos maintained a bank account in Switzerland containing almost €8 million.
2002 trip to Kazakhstan
It is reported that Juan Carlos made a private trip to Kazakhstan in October 2002 to hunt goats with Presiden Nursultan Nazarbayev and that on departure from the country he was given 4 to 5 briefcases purportedly containing $5 million in cash.
Founded in Liechtenstein in 2003 and owned by Álvaro de Orleans-Borbón, a distant cousin of Juan Carlos who lives in Monaco, the Foundation received a large sum of money from Switzerland in which Juan Carlos is named as the third beneficiary. In 2009 Álvaro de Orleans-Borbón paid a cheque from Mexico for €4.3 million into the account which the Swiss adjudicated was from Juan Carlos. Juan Carlos appears to have drawn down funds from the Zagatka foundation to spend €8 million between 2009 and 2018 on private flights, receiving around €6.1 million.
Zagatka used commissions due to Juan Carlos and paid to Zagatka to invest millions, mainly in Ibex35 companies between 2003 and 2018.
A Swiss prosecutor is investigating.
A Panamanian Lucum foundation had Juan Carlos as the first beneficiary and his son, now King Felipe VI named as second beneficiary (although Felipe VI later relinquished any inheritance from his father Juan Carlos). Lucum received $100 million from the Saudi royal house in 2008. Swiss prosecutors are concerned about who at the Swiss bank, Miraboud & Cie knows who the account was for and what was discovered about the source of the funds from the Ministry of Finance of Saudi Arabia. They are also concerned about a transfer of €3.5m from Lucum to an account held by Dante Canónica in the Bahamas. In 2012 the Mirabaud bank, which had concealed from its employees the beneficiary owner of the account, asked for the account to be closed, due to possible adverse publicity; this was when the bulk of the funds were transferred to Juan Carlos’ ex-mistress Corinna zu Wittgenstein-Sayn.
With the election of the right-wing Partido Popular under Aznar to Spanish Government in 1996, privatisation of public companies in telecommunications, gas and water were carried out. Under the guise that the Monarch had to be involved in the sale of state companies, Juan Carlos’ investment company Los Albertos received financial packages. And later, in 2003, his Royal status and links with the Windsor household were used as intermediary to sell the Zarogazano bank, whose two Chairmen had retired after fraud convictions earlier bank to huge British bank Barclays. Juan Carlos’ intermediary work gained him a €52 million payment.
Recently too the online newspaper Publico revealed that after Juan Carlos abdicated he still carried out ceremonial visits and was on an annual stipend of €190,000 but had made five trips to Saudi Arabia which he had not declared on his schedule. The Spanish State sold armaments to Saudi Arabia in particular during the Saudi war in Yemen, during which Juan Carlos was reported by the Saudi royal information organisation as expressing his support for the Saudi side.
PUBLIC ATTITUDES IN THE SPANISH STATE TODAY
Attitudes of the public vary across the Spanish state territory, with opposition to the Spanish monarchy probably highest in the southern Basque Country and Catalonia but Madrid also has a high Leftist population, along with a high membership of the Right.
The attitude of genuine republicans in the Spanish state is that they don’t want a monarchy, that they had got rid of it democratically and that it was later foisted back on them. Such people include various kinds of socialists and communists even though, as noted earlier, the formerly republican PSOE and Communist Party leaderships encouraged their members and supporters to vote for the monarchist Constitution in 1978. Supporters of Basque, Catalan and Galician independence are also generally republicans.
Currently the PSOE leadership in the Spanish Parliament is resisting the campaign against the ex-King, voting with the Right against the PSOE’s coalition partners who are further on the Left spectrum.
For the Spanish Right generally, the Monarch is a touchstone of their concept of a unitary Spanish state. Even though fascism originally, including its Spanish variant, favoured a fascist republic as opposed to a monarchy, since the Dictatorship, Spanish fascism upholds the symbol of the monarchy along with the memories of Franco and Rivera. The 1971 coupists (unsuccessfully) invoked the name of the King (Juan Carlos then) and fascist party Vox has been doing so again recently with regard to Felipe VI “in defence of his person against insults”.
The anti-monarchical corruption campaign is aimed at having Juan Carlos charged with financial corruption but for many the target is the institution of the monarchy itself. Many remember how Felipe VI in October 2017, rather than condemn the Spanish Police violence against voters in the Catalonia referendum, instead praised them in a special broadcast and lectured the Catalan people. Also, unfavourable comment is passed regularly in some public quarters from time to time on the attitudes and expenses of the Royal Family.8 All this is occurring at a time when the unity of the Spanish State is also coming under strong pressure. Ultimately the whole institution of the Spanish Monarchy – and much associated with it — is once again vulnerable to a degree that has not been seen since the Republic of the 1930s.
1These include the Basque, Catalan and Gallician nations but some also include Asturias, Andorra, Canaries, as well as the extended Catalan “family” of Valencia and the Balearic Islands.
3See Sources and References re immunity and paternity claims.
4Including Basque independence activist Arnaldo Otegi, cartoonist, a puppeteer, 18 singers and rap artists including Strawberry, Pablo Hasel and Valtonyc. https://www.dw.com/en/spain-imprisonment-for-royal-insult/av-56659019. Some of those, like Strawberry for his lyrics and two jailed Catalans who burned a photo of the King in public, were eventually cleared on appeal to a higher court whereas Otegi’s appeal to the European Court of Human Rights was successful and awarded damages against the Spanish State.
5An examination of the trajectory is instructive with regard to the democratic status of the Spanish State and the role of its military. Tejero was courtmartialed with another senior officer of plotting a coup in 1978, along with a third officer whose name has never been publicly revealed (!). Both were sentenced to the minimum, six months’ imprisonment, remained in the armed forces and retained their rank, Tejero’s accomplice even being promoted later. After the 1981 coup attempt, Tejero and some co-conspirators were sentenced to 30 years in jail but when and unrepentant Tejero left jail the last of the conspirators to walk free, he had only completed half of his sentence. He is considered a hero by fascists and right-wing military veterans.
6In 2005 Juan Carlos had also shot nine bears, one of which was pregnant. He was finally removed in as President of the Spanish section of WWF in July 2012 by 226 votes against 13 to delete the post. (See References and Resources).
7Urdangarin was later convicted of embezzling about €6 million in public funds for sporting events since 2004 through his nonprofit foundation, the so-called Nóos case, and of political corruption by using his former courtesy title of Duke of Palma de Mallorcas as the husband of Infanta Cristina (youngest daughter of Juan Carlos). In June 2018 Urdangarin was sentenced to 5 years and 10 months in prison; he is currently imprisoned in Ávilla en relaxed conditions in Ávila (Wikipedia) which are the subject of criticism as being too lax and privileged.
8It was not until 2011 that these became public knowledge, being declared as an annual budget of €8.3 million, excluding expenses such as the electricity bill, paid by the State.
The wolf was hunted to extinction in Ireland during English occupation1 – in fact, a similar bounty was paid by the colonial administration on delivery of Catholic priests and resistance fighters as was paid on a wolfskin2. They were extirpated in most of western Europe and in large parts of the USA and plans to reintroduce them run into lots of opposition. But really, what is the problem with wolves?
The canine with closest ancestry to our domestic dog is the wolf, the Eurasian and American subspecies – close enough to our dog to mate and produce viable offspring – and the divergence from a common ancestor is estimated to have occurred 11,00 to 16,00 years ago.3 The wolf is an apex predator usually in a pack ruled by an alpha male and alpha female, the only ones permitted to mate and their offspring are cared for by the whole pack.
Highly social, adaptable to different terrain and weather, the wolf is a highly-intelligent animal able to travel long distances and fierce in defence or attack. Many people might fear wolves through imagining they or their children being attacked by them – and certainly there are enough childhood stories to feed that fear — but the main opposition to their conservation or reintroduction does not come from that source. Nor is the source those pet owners, particularly of weak or diminutive descendants of the ancient canine stock, like those for example in Los Angeles who complain that a coyote ate their toy poodle.
Wolves playing among themselves in juxtaposition to humans in Gorbeia, the largest natural park in the south-western Basque Country. The presence of wolves there is mentioned in only some of the tourist promotional literature and no explanation was provided with the youtube posting of this remarkable video.
The main opposition, and by far the most powerful, are the livestock farmers4. And their fears are far from irrational. Wolves are top-range predators easily capable of killing a sheep, pig or goat and, as a pack, of killing cows and even horses too5. Most livestock farmers are not going to be convinced by arguments in favour of biodiversity when they largely favour one or two breeds of meat or dairy animal, selectively-bred for high production relative to maintenance cost.
And the bigger the livestock farmer, the more realistic his problem with wolf conservation — or worse, wolf reintroduction. The bigger the herd, the more widely it is dispersed for grazing, the more difficult to protect. Paid guards with high-powered rifles are only effective by day. Corralling by night requires electrified fencing and even they are not infallible.6
So how did people manage before? In some parts of Western Europe, there have been wolves in living memory and people raising livestock in those areas made a reasonable living. How did they do it?
The answer is dogs7. Not the poodle or spaniel or terrier type but big strong dogs capable of fighting wolves and, in the case of some breeds, more than a match in a one-on-one contest. The studded or spiked collar was invented to shield the dog’s vulnerable neck and throat.
PROTECTION FROM WOLVES BY DOG
In a video from the Basque Country I viewed some years ago, some villagers talked about wolves and the mastiff dogs they had and these are discussed also in a video in Spanish included here with shepherds from the Zamora region, in Castille and León, in central Spain. This type of dog is not a sheep or cattle herder8 but rather a livestock guard; living around the livestock, it knows them and does not permit predators of any size to approach them. In some parts of the world and in the case of some breeds, nor will they permit the approach of any humans, other than their masters and their known associates. Livestock guardian dogs are not all mastiffs but all are typically big and strong breeds, hardy to the prevalent weather conditions typical to their area, socialised to the herd animals and therefore at ease with them (and vice versa), protective of the livestock and inhibited from injuring or killing them, even when hungry. They are comfortable enough with their owners (although reputedly some do not enjoy petting) and his or her close associates, with some breeds also very protective of their owners.
There are around fifty currently known breeds around the world to fill this role9 including: Akbash and Aksaray Malaklisi of Turkey, Bakharawal of India, Beauceron of France, Cane di Manara of Sicily, Estrella Mountain dog of Portugal, Georgian Mountain Dog, Great Pyrenees and Pyrenean Mastiff, Greek Shepherd, Himalayan Sheepdog, Karakachan of Bulgaria, Mazandrani of Iran, Mucuchies of Venezuela, Slovak Cuvac, Vikhan Sheepdog of Pakistan. The Irish Wolfhound was probably not one, it seems to have been primarily a hunting chase dog, though its name suggests it might have been used to hunt wolves too.10
2019 interviews in Castillian Spanish with shepherds who use Mastiffs livestock guard dogs in Zamora region, central Spain.
It should be born in mind that in many parts of the world, wolves are not the only mammalian apex predators; big cats and bears compete with them; in those regions guard dogs have to be and are willing and able to confront those species too. Despite the size and armament differential, a good guard dog will confront such predators displaying extreme threat in appearance and sound (and possibly also summoning assistance). Livestock guard dogs have been known to fight to the death but bear or even lions will usually back off to seek easier prey. Besides, a flock needs a minimum of two livestock guard dogs and and there might be more.11
These breeds are mostly comparatively rare now in many parts of the world, where apex predators have been extirpated, since their function has largely been dispensed with, or they are maintained as pets or competition show dogs.
None of the Basque villagers interviewed had mastiffs any longer, although one Basque livestock farmer informed the interviewer that his father had two. However, in some other parts of Iberia, the mastiff breed is still active as a working dog and a shepherd in Zamora (Castille and León autonomous community, central Spain) with a flock of 450 sheep has five mastiffs; all five might not be necessary but as he explains, one must have a working reserve in case of injury, sickness etc among the guard dogs. He spends €5,000 p.a on the dogs. The shepherds there have no interest in the show specimens of the breed saying that they are not being judged by their working ability. “If a wolf sees a show dog, it laughs,” says another shepherd. “If our dogs see one, they’d laugh too.” “It is impossible for the necessary qualities of a working dog to be judged in show environment”, says another shepherd, pointing out too that a mastiff that is too heavy cannot run, thereby rendering it it useless for guarding the flock.12 The dogs also need to learn from experience how to respond not just to an individual wolf but to a pack, where individual members of the pack will seek to lure the dog away towards others in ambush, or to detach it from the prey which others will then attack.
A wikipedia entry on Livestock Guard Dogs links their use with wolf coexistence: “With the reintroduction of predators into natural habitats in Europe and North America, environmentalists have come to appreciate Livestock Guard Dogs because they allow sheep and cattle farming to coexist with predators in the same or nearby habitats. Unlike trapping and poisoning, LGDs seldom kill predators; instead, their aggressive behaviors tend to condition predators to seek unguarded (thus, non-farm animal) prey. For instance, in Italy’s Gran Sasso National Park, where LGDs and wolves have coexisted for centuries, older, more experienced wolves seem to “know” the LGDs and leave their flocks alone.”13
Some Basque and Spanish shepherds seem to agree and are prepared to coexist with the wolf, using more traditional methods of livestock farming, corralling their stock by night with dogs to protect on duty as they are also by day.14 With a different apex predator in Australia, the widely-hated by farmers dingo, a few farmers are seeking to coexist with the predator against the opposition of the majority of their colleagues, in areas where dead dingoes may be seen suspended from trees or even roadside structures.
Dingoes are pack animals in which only the alpha pair breed (like wolves) and one of the cattle farmers states that dingo extermination attempts break up the pack, resulting in more individuals breeding. He also relates that kangaroos eat down the vegetation which competes with his cattle but also contributes to drying out of the land. When he stopped trying to eliminate the dingo, he says, they preyed on the kangaroo which in turn resulted in more surviving vegetation and land in better condition.15
A shepherd in the Zamora range states too that the wolf keeps down the numbers of wild boar and deer and generally across Europe these ungulates are reported to be on the increase (the white-tailed deer also in the USA). Boar are well-known in some regions for raiding cultivated fields, trampling growing plants to reach what they find edible, well able to knock down types of fencing, squeeze through gaps and so on. Increasingly on the Internet one can find videos of wild boar, often accompanied by their litter, foraging in villages and towns (in one video, even successfully overturning a trash dumper to feed on the contents). These types of ungulates contribute their own kind of environmental damage in addition in some cases to nuisance to humans16.
The Zamoran shepherd comments also that deer, a natural prey of wolves, often carry brucelosis and infect cattle, which in turn is is transmissible to humans and treated as a serious disease. In cattle it results in loss of weight, abortion of fetuses and lower milk production and as the shepherd says, state control procedures require the destruction of the whole herd upon finding of some infected animals. Apart from anything else, clearly this measure can have serious economic consequences for the farmer and for the whole state in question.17
If wolf conservation and reintroduction is be successful in the long-term, it will require livestock farmers to have smaller herds and a partnership with herd guard dogs, as well as other defensive means. This entails the irony that the expansion in herd protector dogs results in protection for wolves, in preventing their cousins from causing depredation in the herds, which would entail reprisals from humans.
It may be that farmers will occasionally lose a lamb or a calf or a pig from their ranges to a predator – but they lose occasional animals anyway, to pests, disease and mishap. Their stock animals will probably be healthier and tend towards the sturdier types.
Yes, but smaller herds? Well, is it not widely accepted (except by big farmers and banks) that we breed too many meat animals, with huge emission of greenhouse gasses and lots of waste? Smaller herds would surely be environmentally welcome.
CONSERVATION AND REINTRODUCTION PROGRAMS
Reintroduction methods for wolves vary from releasing adult animals from captivity, whether alone or as a pair, to placing captive-bred pups within a wild litter, when according to reports they are fostered without difficulty by the wolf bitch.
The problems involved in projects of conservation and reintroduction are not small. The wild mammalian apex predators can compete with and threaten the other mammalian apex predator – the human. Direct predation on humans by the other land-based predators is statistically low; fatal encounters for humans are much, much rarer than those for the other mammal involved and, when occurring, usually arise from self-defence by the animal or defence of kind (especially of the young), along with rabid animals. So, in general, leave them alone and they’ll leave us alone.
Still of a Mexican Wolf Reintroduction from video (Videocredit: Arizona Game & Fish Dept. 2018)
But leaving our livestock alone is a different proposition entirely and even more so if our livestock and livestock management systems have reduced the wolves’ natural prey, both in number and variety. And we tend to do that. Our systems tend to reduce forest to favour grassland for our domesticated grazers, which reduces or wipes out forest prey. Then we set out to reduce or even eliminate the wild grazers competing with our domesticated ones. Even when we develop forests we tend to favour monoculture or restrict to a few species of commercial timber with high turnover in comparatively shorter time.
Hunting and fishing reserve managers kill predators ranging from hawks, eagles, and owls to stoats, badgers, wolverines, foxes, otters, bears, felines and wolves; legal and illegal means of killing predators include shooting, trapping and poisoning. But those practices also favour only those particular wild species valued for hunting, often edging out a diversity of other species which are now faced with “unfair competition” from the “sport” species, resulting in damage to diversity and to the particular eco-system.
Large-scale elimination of prey animals in order, for example, to protect crops, also reduces the natural prey available to predators. Growing only particular kinds of trees will result in quicker turnover and or greater profits but also in monoculture forests giving little shelter to diverse wild life.
For good reasons as explained by their supporters, the presence of apex predators affects not only their prey and other predators but also vegetation, which in turn affects other animals, birds and fish (through their effect on water courses) – in fact, a top-down effect on the whole local environment which has been shown to beneficial.
The objectors argue that large mammalian predators can cause significant problems to humans and most significant among those humans are the livestock farmers. They, ranging from rancher livestock operations of thousands of animals, down through the medium enterprises of some hundred head, to small farmers with up to a sore or so, are the main source of opposition to wolf conservation or – what are we thinking of? — reintroduction.
The opposition based on fear of attack on person, largely without contemporary logic but relying on ignorance and some folklore, can be educated and managed by conservationists but the livestock farmers are a different proposition. Those who rely on livestock to make a decent living and those companies for which it is big business, along with their shareholders and banks, are not going to be easily persuaded. The smaller or even medium-sized concerns are potentially more amenable to convincing, especially if aided by state grants to offset losses to predation18. The evidence is that for them a change to investing in livestock guard dogs would be manageable and very possibly more emotionally rewarding19.
Big business is another matter. Grants would have to be substantial to convince them and, in any case, ecological grants to big business have not turned out to be of benefit to the environment overall. Quite crudely, big business will need to be forced to reduce the size of its operations or be put out of business one way or another; how that may be achieved is another day’s discussion. Meanwhile, progressing with smaller and medium-sized livestock farmers will make some difference and play an important educational role in what is good for the environment and for us.
NATURAL REINTRODUCTION AND VIABILITY
Not all reintroduction is human-initiated. In the Pyrenean region of the Iberian peninsula, in areas devoid for years of the native wolf, they speak of the appearance of the Italian wolf (sub-species) slightly divergent from its Iberian cousin), though none of those migrants having yet bred and thereby established a pack. This situation is leading to increased discussion around the pros and cons of wolf conservation and herd protection there.
The wolf is protected in Iberia and though classified as game species in the northern part of the Spanish state20 a ban on hunting wolf was introduced even there in February of this year (2021). This had been agreed some years earlier by the Euskadi regional Government but not implemented, until conservationists (with the support of some traditional shepherds took a successful court case to force the implementation.21 Compensation is paid for livestock killed by wolf or bear but in uneven amounts and by different systems across the state.
In the case of achieving general agreement and support for reintroduction, there remains the problem of viability of the reintroduced animals. Although the White-Tailed Eagle reintroduction to Ireland has been successful, reintroduced Golden Eagles struggle to survive and expand on the amount of suitable prey available to them. Wolves might not fare much better, once they had reduced the red and roe deer populations in the country.
However, a puzzle for us is that the earlier well-referenced wolf existence in Ireland predates that of the deer, raising questions on what were its main prey animals at that time. Perhaps it was the wild boar and certainly the presence of the torc is attested to in many Irish place-names.
In a number of other European countries, wolves could probably build sustainable populations preying on deer and boar, in addition to rodents and lagomorphs, along with some waterfowl (in particular ground-nesting ones such as the mallard). Swans in Ireland for example would presumably have to change their nesting habits to more isolated reed-beds and islands (though wolves are good swimmers).
In countries with large wild areas the problems of wolf and human interaction are reduced but Ireland is not such a country. The success of such a project in Ireland would require substantial areas apart from bogland being given over to wildness, with substantial forest coverage (the benefits of the latter are discussed below). Sheep flocks and cattle herds would need to be smaller and require guarding by day and night; the benefits of smaller livestock herds and a mechanism for their protection has been discussed earlier here.
Also required would be a rigorous enforcement of predator protection legislation which does not have a good record in Ireland (see http://trinitynews.ie/2016/10/farmers-wildlife-freak-outs-and-facts/) and and a compensation scheme for farmers in case of livestock loss (or indeed cultivated land loss to wilding habitat, multi-species deciduous forest planting, etc).
SUPPORT — WHY BOTHER?
The financial and educational benefits of eco-tourism are often quoted in defence of reintroduction of wolves and other terrestrial apex predators and, for some, those are sufficient justification. Eco-tourists are particularly interested in seeing apex predators and even hearing them, especially in the case of wolves. Certainly providing for such tourism is a niche which can permit a living to be made from management of low livestock numbers or even land without any livestock at all. As such it can be a convincing argument for small herding communities or for individual farms in livestock country.
Another reason quoted is the psychological and scientific benefits of living more in tune with the natural world and, though hard to quantify, in a world heading for ecological disaster such potential benefit should not be ignored. Which is what it is likely to be, however, in communities and enterprises focused on surviving in the present (not to mention those for whom extracting maximum profits is the only viable reason for any undertaking).
Another and more tangible benefit of encouraging mammalian apex predator conservation or reintroduction is the early and visible environmental improvement resulting in places where it has been tried. Wild grazers compete with livestock grazers, often more efficiently than livestock can manage. Not only that but they will graze areas being left for regrowth by the farmer. Such overgrazing results in arid ground, retaining little moisture, soil erosion and can even end in desertification. What long-term benefit to the environment if reducing domestic herds results in more and more land being overgrazed?
In addition, there are the problems of infection of livestock and in turn humans by diseases carried by wild ungulates (e.g. deer, bison, antelope, boar, wild goats, mountain sheep22).
The large predator can be the solution. Wolves and other apex predators keep down the numbers of wild ungulates, keeping them also on the move (in fear of predators), allowing vegetation to recover from grazing, in turn assisting moisture retention in the soil. These changes in turn benefit many other animals and plants, from invertebrates up to birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians.
Previously to wolf reintroduction to Yellowstone, the moose had only the occasional bear to worry about and they chewed their way through branch and leaf; rangers had to cull large numbers every year and even so there was substantial deforestation and large numbers of moose would die during severe winters, only to be quickly replenished the following year. Only one family of beavers was seen at work (their food of shrubs and low trees by the water margins was being eaten by the moose).
Twenty-five years after the reintroduction of wolves, willow and aspen had recovered in some areas of Yellowstone, beaver colonies had increased 14-fold, song-birds had recovered and some new species were being seen. The soil is retaining greater moisture. There are arguments about how much these changes are due to the action of the wolves but most experts grant the wolves at least some credit while some others give them a lot.23
So that’s good news for the environment and the wolf, not so good for the moose, right? Actually, it seems to be good news for the moose too, with lower die-off for moose in winter,24 signalling a general improvement in health of the stock surviving predation.
When the numbers of grazers is controlled, tree seedlings of willow and alder get a chance to grow on the edges and banks of bodies of freshwater, which tends to control soil erosion on banks and reduce flooding. When grazers are prevented or restricted from eating seedlings, new trees survive to extend the woods and forests or to replace fallen trees and harvested timber.
Many ecologists and forestry experts blame the white-tailed deer for changes across large parts of the USA, involving reductions in canopy-cover, reductions in diversity of tree species and general forestry maintenance (to say nothing of failure to extend)25.
For the ecology of the world, the thinning out of wild grazers is perhaps the most valuable service rendered by large mammalian predators although other factors need to be taken into account, including pattern and variety of planting and management, domestic herd sizes, along with of course responses to insect and fungal pests.26
It has long been known too that many species of trees prevent or restrict soil erosion and restrict flooding by holding water margins and, in some cases such as mangroves, sap the effects of hurricanes coming from the seaward side, along with tidal waves.
More crucially, trees produce oxygen and consume or hoard carbon. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen”.
We all know that we need oxygen to breathe and also to combine with other elements, such as carbon dioxide, to produce water.27 But the problem of excess loose carbon dioxide is recognised as one of the most serious confronting the eco-system at this moment, with carbon dioxide emissions creating part of the “greenhouse” cover over the earth, contributing hugely to global warming. This process in return is causing sea-levels to rise and also to warm, causing mass deaths in seas, along with big changes in weather systems with devastating effects for human and animal populations.
The wolf can also play a role in mediating the effect of other predators and has done so in part of the USA with regard to the coyote, similar to what the dingo has done to the European-introduced red fox, which has become a problem in Australia.
In Ireland another introduced species, more likely through escape from fur farms, the american mink, is also a problem and is spreading.28 It may be that the wolf can play a helpful role there too, along with having some effect in controlling that other american, the grey squirrel which, in turn, might assist the red squirrel’s return to areas from which it has long been absent.
1Though indications exist of some hunting of wolves by humans in Ireland, in England, wolf persecution was enforced by legislation and the last wolf was killed in the early 16th century during the reign of Henry VII (see Wikipedia on the Eurasian Wolf). Ireland was invaded by British-based forces in 1169 and over time native forces were defeated and the whole country came under English rule until partly independent in 1921.
2For priests: “An 1709 Penal Act demanded that Catholic priests take the Oath of Abjuration and recognise the Protestant Queen Anne as Supreme Head of the Church of England and, by implication, in Ireland. Priests who refused to conform were arrested and executed. ……….The reward rates for capture varied from £50–100 for a bishop, to £10–20 for the capture of an unregistered priest; substantial amounts of money at the time. The work was dangerous, and some priests fought in self-defence. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priest_hunter
For Wolves: “In AD 1652 the Commissioners of the Revenue of Cromwell’s Irish Government set substantial bounties on wolves, £6 for a female, £5 for a male, £2 for a subadult and 10 shillings for a cub”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolves_in_Ireland
4In some parts of the USA and Western Europe, where hunting big game is a widespread activity, fear of competition with the wolf in hunting season is also an important factor and one where “the common man” may come into conflict with those wishing to protect or reintroduce the wolf.
5It is worth noting that wild grazing mammals are capable of defence against hunting canines by outrunning them and, usually as a last resort, by fighting them with horn, antler, tusk, teeth or hoof. In turn, wolves have to plan, ambush, select targets and coordinate attacks. Old and very young grazers are vulnerable but calves and foals are pushed by their mothers to stand minutes after birth; in an hour or two, they can run. A wolf injured in attack cannot travel with the pack and will miss out on most food and, if failing to heal rapidly enough, will die. There is a constantly flexing relationship between the survival mechanisms of both prey and predator.
6In the first place they need to be high enough to prevent wolves leaping or scrambling over them, also proof against digging under. And since anecdotal evidence relates livestock guard dogs being willing to stand the pain of electric shock if sufficient stimulus is provided to get out of an electrified enclosure, one must assume that wolves will develop that same resolution at some point. Finally, there is the issue of possible weather damage and failure of the power supply to the barrier.
8There are a few types that can combine the characteristics of herding and guard, such as the Beauceron but in general livestock dog breeds specialise in either guarding or herding. In Australia, where the apex land predator is not the wolf but the smaller and lighter Dingo, some herding breeds also act as livestock guard dogs.
9Two are known to be extinct: The Alpine Mastiff and the Molossus.
10It seems that this breed was so valued abroad that Irish chieftains and English occupiers exported them, so that no originals of the breed remain. The current breed that goes by that name, a gentle attractive dog of high stature, is derived by cross-breeding. Wikipedia: “Based on the writings of others, Graham had formed the opinion that a dog resembling the original wolfhound could be recreated through using the biggest and best examples of the Scottish Deerhound and the Great Dane, two breeds which he believed had been derived earlier from the wolfhound. Into the mix went a Borzoi (“Korotai”), who had proved his wolf hunting abilities earlier in his native Russia. For an outbreed a “huge shaggy dog” was added, which may have possibly been a Tibetan Mastiff.
14See videos in Spanish from Zamora and the Basque Government region (latter in References & Resources)
15See Sources and References at article end for items in relation to dingo conservation,
16Apart from upending trash containers and raiding farms, boar may also attack humans, especially in the case of a sow accompanied by her litter and is capable of inflicting mortal wounds. Should boar become widespread in very close contact with humans, children might be attacked too.
18A Zamoran shepherd says he receives no grant and though not asking for one, says he should be supplied free of charge the ID chip he is required by law to embed in his dogs. On the other hand the Euskadi regional Government agreed to pay a grant and other regions have done so too, in areas where the wolf and bear are known to be in residence, without having to prove or even claim a kill of any of their stock.
19Partnership with working dogs is likely to be therapeutic in itself and surely wholly preferable to setting out traps, poison bait (which kills other predators and scavengers too) and shooting, including even killing cubs. Besides, break up the pack and more wolves will mate and bear litters.
20Ironically that status can serve to protect predators from extermination and since it was given that status in Poland, the wolf population increased substantially (see Wikipedia the Eurasian Wolf).
Tá reilig i mBaile Átha Cliath a bhfuil breis agus míle bliain aici, agus crois ann a tartháladh ó loiteadh Chromail. Ach tá cuid de mhuinntir na h-áite mí-shásta leis an saghas cúram a bhfuil Comhairle Cathrach Bhaile Átha Cliath ag tabhairt di agus táid ag iarraidh iad féin a bheith freagrach as cúram na reilige.
Tá Reilig Naomh Channaithe suite díreach siar ón débhealach a ghearrann trí Fhionnghlas agus shéipéil.
“Tá uaimheanna ann do na h-uaisle áitiúla — teaghlach Maffett — atá daingnithe anois”, adeir Joe Lynch ag caint i mBéarla, “chun cosaint a dhéanamh ar robálaithe uaighe. Tá tuamaí cófra ann do na sagairt a fuair bás agus easpaig, agus cinn cloiche simplí do na comóntóirí.”
Bhí athair Joe Lynch mar airíoch ar an reilig agus bhí teaichín aige cois reilige dá bharr; b’ann a tógadh an clann páiste, Joe san áireamh. “Thugtaí isteach mé chuig an reilig i mbarra rotha,” adeir Joe, ‘agus mé ceithre bliain d’aois. Agus bheinn ag iarraidh cabhrú nuair a ligfí amach mé.”
B’ab, sagart agus misinéir Éireannach é Cainnech (515 / 16-600) as Achadh Bhó ins an Condae ainmnithe ar a shon, Cill Chainnigh chomh maith le bunaitheoir mainistreach i rith na luath-mheánaoise. Tugtar “Saint Canice” air i mBéarla in Éirinn, “St. Kenneth” in Albain nó “St. Kenny” agus i Laidin “Sanctus Canicus”. Tá an Cainneach ar cheann de Dháréag Aspal na hÉireann agus rinneadh sé seanmóireacht ar an gCríostaíocht ar fud na tíre agus ar na Cruithnigh in Albain. Scríobh sé tráchtaireacht ar na Soiscéil, ar a tugadh Glas-Chainnigh nó “Lock Kenneth” nó “Slabhra Chainnigh” ar feadh na gcéadta bliain.
Tá an chuid is mó dá bhfuil scríofa faoi shaol Cainnech bunaithe ar thraidisiún, ach measadh go raibh sé ina fhear le dea-cháil, le solabharthacht mór agus le léann. I 544 rinne sé staidéar faoi Mobhí Cláraineach i scoil Ghlas Naíon, le Ciarán as Cluain Mhic Nóise agus Comgall de Bheannchar. Nuair a scaip plá an pobal sin, chuaigh sé go mainistir Cadoc i Llancarfan i Glamorganshire sa Bhreatain Bheag, áit ar ordaíodh ina shagart é i 545.
Tá tagairt dá ainm luaite i sé logainm déag ag Wikipedia: in Éirinn, sa Bhreatain Bhig, in Albain, ins na SAM, san Astráil agus sa Nua-Shéalainn. Déantar comóradh ar a lá féasta an 11ú Deireadh Fómhair san Eaglais Chaitliceach Rómhánach agus in Eaglais Cheartchreidmheach an Oirthir de réir a gcuid féilirí faoi seach (Gregorian nó Church Julian) le laethanta féasta breise an 1d nó 14ú Lúnasa in Eaglais Cheartchreidmheach an Oirthir.
Bhí meitheal oibre ann sa Reilig trathnóna Déardaoin seo chaite agus iad ag baint fiadhaile agus féir, ag gearradh driseacha, eidhneáin is a leithéid. Bhí na préamhacha go doimhin in áiteanna agus ba léir nach ndearna cóiriú ceart le tamall fada. “Tá an eidhneán ag clúdú ballaí an fhothrach agus de réir a chéile ag déanamh dochar dó. Is ón 10ú nó 12ú Céad an cill agus ba cheart na ballaí a chaomhnú,” adúirt ball den chumann staire áitiúil.
“D’úsáid teaghlaigh Protastúnacha agus Caitliceacha an reilig,” adeir Joe, “lucht creidimh amháin ag teacht isteadh geata amháin agus an geata eile ag an gcreidimh eile. Ach ní gá dúinn an dá gheata anois agus táim ag tathant ar an gComhairle an geata eile a tháthú le fada.”
Deir lucht an chaomhnaithe go ndearnadh an crois ársa a roinnt i gcodanna sa 17ú Céad ionnas go bhféadfaí a chur i bhfolach nuair a chuala go raibh fórsaí Chromail le teacht thríd an dúiche, de fhaitíos go ndéanfadh siad an siomból a scrios mar a bhí á dhéanamh acu ar fud na tíre (ag iarraidh “íoldadhradh” a ruaigeadh). Thóg na fórsaí céanna bóthar eile ach d’fhan píosa na croise i bhfolach go ceann breis agus 160 bliain, go dtí go ndeachadh an t-urramach Walshe á lorg thrí bhéaloideas na h-áite agus tháinig air, ach níor fuarthas bun na croise go dtí seo.
Tá an crois céanna sa Reilig anois agus glacadh ag cumainn áitiúla mar siomból na dúiche. De réir Joe Lynch tá an Comhairle Cathrach ag iarraidh an crois a bhailliú as an reilig ach tá sé féin agus daoine eile ag iarraidh go bhfágfaidh ann é agus cúram na Reilige a fhágáil ag muinntir na h-áite.
Tá meithil eagraithe chun oibre ag an reilig trathnónta Sathairn agus oícheannta Déardaoine agus tuilleadh eolais ar leathanach Facebook na reilige.
ST CANICE’S CEMETERY IN FINGLAS – “LET US HAVE THE RESPONSIBILITY”
(Reading time: 2 mins)
There is a cemetery in Dublin that is over a thousand years old, containing a cross that was salvaged from Cromwell’s destruction. But some locals are unhappy with the kind of care that Dublin City Council is giving it and want to take responsibility for the care of the cemetery.
St. Canice’s Cemetery is located just west of the dual carriageway which cuts through Finglas and churches.
“There is a crypt for the local esquires, the Maffett family – now cemented,” says Joe Lynch, “to protect it from grave robbers. There are chest tombs for the dead priests and bishops, and simple headstones for the commoners. ”
Joe Lynch’s father was caretaker of the cemetery and had a cottage next to it; it was where Joe was raised as a child. “I was taken to a cemetery in wheelbarrow,” says Joe, “when I was four years old. And I would want to help when I was let out.”
Cainnech (515 / 16-600) was an Irish abbot, priest and missionary from the county named after him, Kilkenny, and the founder of an early medieval monastery. He is called “Saint Canice” in English in Ireland, “St. Kenneth” in Scotland or “St. Kenny” and in Latin “Sanctus Canicus”. Canice is one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland and preached Christianity throughout the country and to the Picts in Scotland. He wrote a commentary on the Gospels, known as “Lock Kenneth” or “Chain of Canice” for centuries.
Most of what is written about Kenny’s life is based on tradition, but he was considered a man of good repute, great eloquence and learning. In 544 he studied at St. Mobhi’s in Glasnevin, with Ciarán of Clonmacnoise and Comgall of Bangor. When the plague spread, he went to Cadoc Abbey in Llancarfan in Glamorganshire, Wales, where he was ordained a priest in 545.
Wikipedia connects his name to sixteen placenames: in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, the USA, Australia and New Zealand. His feast day on October 11th is commemorated in the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church according to their respective calendars (Gregorian or Church Julian) with additional feast days on the 1st or 14th of August in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
A “meitheal”, a cooperative work party was at work last Thursday afternoon pulling weeds, cutting grass, brambles and ivy. The roots were deep in places and it was clear that site had not been properly tended for a long time. “The ivy is covering the walls of the ruin and gradually damaging them. The church dates from the 10th or 12th Century and the walls should be preserved,” said a member of the local historical society.
“The cemetery was used by Protestant and Catholic families,” says Joe, “one group entering one gate and the other faith at the other. But we don’t need both gates now and I’ve been at the Council to weld the other gate for a long time. ”
Conservationists say the ancient cross was divided into parts in the 17th Century so that it could be hidden when they heard that Cromwell’s forces were coming through the area, for fear of their destroying the symbol as was being done all over the country (to banish “idolatrous worship”). The same forces traveled another route instead but the pieces of the cross remained hidden for over 160 years, until the reverend Walshe investigated local folklore and found it, but the base of the cross has not been found to date.
The same cross is now in the Cemetery and has been accepted by local societies as a symbol of the district. According to Joe Lynch the City Council is trying to remove the cross from the cemetery but he and others want it to remain there and the care of the Cemetery to be left to the local people.
The cemetery has a working group organized on Saturday evenings and Thursday evenings, more information on the cemetery ‘s Facebook page.
A group of mixed political background held a picket this afternoon in Henry Street, one of the main shopping streets in Dublin’s city centre. The picket was protesting the continuing internment in Ireland of political activists and also expressing solidarity with political prisoners in different parts of the world – a Palestinian flag and a couple of Basque ones flew alongside the Irish ones. There are over 60 political prisoners in Irish jails both sides of the British Border.
Many people were out shopping or just enjoying the sun on what must have been the hottest day of the year so far. Up to 200 leaflets were distributed and passers-by occasionally stopped to discuss with the picket supporters.
MESSAGE OF SOLIDARITY TO CAMPAIGNERS FOR MUMIA ABU JAMAL
Near the end of the picket, a representative of the Anti-Internment Committee of Ireland was recorded voicing a message of solidarity for Mumia Abu Jamal, to send to an upcoming conference on Mumia and other political prisoners.
Mumia is a political prisoner, a black United States activist and author who was awaiting execution but is now in his 40th year in jail. He was a popular broadcaster in 1981 when he went to the assistance of his brother, who was being harassed by a white police officer. As the incident came to an end the cop was dead of gunshot wounds and Mumia was shot in the stomach.
There are so many questions about the scenario the Prosecution laid out and which got Mumia convicted of murder and sentenced to death, which was later commuted to imprisonment for life. His gun had five bullets missing but Mumia was never tested to see whether he had fired the gun nor were the tests on the bullets in the police officer conclusively proven to come from there. The crime scene was not preserved and the police were in and out of it, with Mumia’s gun while Mumia was in hospital, undergoing an emergency operation. Photos taken of the scene by an independent press photographer did not show the presence of the taxi of a witness against Mumia, who claimed he was parked there. Not to mention the later confession of a man who claimed to have killed the police officer on behalf of other police as a contract kill (the decision not to use him as a witness divided Mumia’s legal team and two lawyers resigned as a result).
As the spokesperson of the Anti-Internment Committee said, even if people believe that he fired the shots that killed the police officer, after 40 years Mumia should be freed on humanitarian grounds. The USA is allegedly the country leading the world in democracy, as the spokesperson commented, but holds a great many political prisoners, some of them for many, many years in jail.
MORE EVENTS TO COME
Pandemic permitting, the AIGI intends to hold pickets on approximately a monthly basis to protest continuing internment and in solidarity with political prisoners, such events being advertised on our social media. The organisation is independent of any political party or organisation and all who oppose the jailing of activists without trial or wish to support political prisoners are welcome.
A fire in a Bangladesh factory last Thursday killed at least 52, some of them children as young as 11 years of age, according to relatives and neighbours. “Emergency services told Al Jazeera they had recovered 49 of the bodies at the Hashem Food and Beverage factory in Rupganj, an industrial town 25km (15 miles) east of the capital, Dhaka. Three people also died after jumping out of the building.” The police chief of Narayanganj district in which the factory was located, Jayedul Alam, was quoted saying that multiple fire and safety regulations had been breached and that, at the time of the fire, the entrance/ exit had been padlocked, the latter also confirmed by firefighters.
Those who died were workers, part of the world-wide slaughter of workers to satisfy the greed of a few. Every second, every minute of every day, all over the world, workers are killed or mutilated by the capitalist system in accidents at work. They are “accidents” only in the sense that the employers in most cases did not deliberately set out to kill the workers – they merely required them to work in conditions and without precautions that risked – no, ensured — accidents would happen. In fact, as a safety blog writer recommended (see Sources), we should stop calling them accidents – let’s call them mishaps instead, incidents that could have been avoided. And a proportion of those mishaps that were bound to occur would be fatal.
Those left behind to mourn a sibling, parent, partner, friend or – heavens above – a child, are of the workers also. Gone too, an income, a precarious investment in survival. The ripples of the “accident” spread outward through family and worker neighbourhood, ripples that very rarely, if ever, reach the rich neighbourhoods, the place where live those who profit from those workplaces.
From time to time here in the “western world” or the “North” as this sector, more in economic terms than political is variously described, we hear of such disasters in the “other” world, such as that at Rana Plaza in 2013. These are the places around the world where smaller-to-medium local capitalism is at work alongside foreign mega-capitalism. Many of the brand-name products we consume, wear or use are manufactured or processed in those countries. For the capitalists to make the profits their system requires and to compete with one another, consumption needs to be high and therefore the prices to be relatively low. And the wages – much, much lower. And safety conditions? Negligible.
In November 2012 a blaze at Tazreen Fashions in Dhaka, which makes clothes for foreign clients including C&A, Walmart, Sears, Disney and others, killed 112 workers. Commenting on the background to the disaster, in a Guardian article in 2012, journalist Scott Nova, (see Sources) stated:
“In the last two years, fires in Bangladesh and Pakistan have taken the lives of nearly 500 apparel workers, at plants producing for Gap, H&M, JC Penney, Target, Abercrombie & Fitch, the German retailer KiK and many others”. Nova went on to comment (in 2012): Bangladesh is now the world’s second-largest apparel producer. It did not attain that status by achieving high levels of productivity, or a strong transportation infrastructure; it got there by being the rock-bottom cheapest place to make clothing.
“This derives from three factors: the industry’s lowest wages (a minimum apparel wage of 18 cents an hour), ruthless suppression of unions and a breathtaking disregard for worker safety. The industry in Bangladesh has been handsomely rewarded for its cost-cutting achievements, with an ever-rising flood of business from western brands …… And local factory owners understand that if they do not continue to offer the lowest possible prices, those brands will be quick to leave.”
Added to that is the apparel industry’s indulgence in “fast fashion”, in order to boost consumption still further. No longer is the year divided into four seasons but “52 micro-seasons”. “Fast fashion giants H&M and Forever 21 receive new garment shipments every day. Topshop features 400 new styles every week, while Zara releases 20,000 designs annually” (see Green America link in Sources). To keep up with that demand requires a frenetic level of production, albeit at lower quality, layoffs when each ‘micro-seasonal” demand is filled and of course, even less concern with safety conditions. The factory fire last Thursday is only the latest in a long list and there will be many more.
But lest we think industrial mishaps are a problem only somewhere else, it would be useful to remind ourselves that even in our relatively under-industrialised economy in Ireland, workplace accidents continue to maim and kill. According to the Irish state’s Health & Safety Authority: “Regrettably, 47 fatal work-related accidents were reported to the Authority in 2019, representing a substantial increase from 2018, which was the lowest year on record with 39 fatal accidents. … The number of work-related non-fatal injuries also increased in 2019, with 9,335 reported to the Authority.” And: “the 39 fatalities recorded in 2018 was one of the lowest numbers of workplace fatalities on records. However, despite the current pandemic circumstances, it would appear that 2020 is heading for number in the mid to late 40s.”
As we may imagine, construction comes high on the mishap list but so also do factories, agricultural work, transport and fishing and mishaps occur also in hospitals and care homes, shops, restaurants and even offices. The Covid19 pandemic revealed that many areas of occupation are necessary for our daily lives but are also vulnerable. And revealed also how slowly and inefficiently protective measures for those workers were taken by their management levels or sadly, enforced or even monitored by trade unions.
IMPUNITY OR CRIMINAL PENALTY?
It is reported that the owner of the burned Bangladeshi factory and a number of his sons have been arrested. This is to be welcomed and hopefully the prosecution of those responsible will be followed through. Prosecution of employers responsible for mishaps is one measure that can be taken to extend the protection of workers but the process is rarely in the hands of the workers and in addition deals with structures that are more aligned with the interests of employers than they are with those of their workers.
Such procedures that have been tried have usually been under civil1 law and involved claims for financial compensation alleging negligence; however increasingly criminal law is being invoked, as is presumably the case with the Bangladeshi factory.
Years ago I was associated with a militant organisation by the name of The Construction Safety Campaign.2 If I recall correctly, at the time, one worker was being killed every week on a construction site in Britain, with injuries on a daily basis.
The CSC maintained that every time a fatality occurred on a construction site, work should cease for the whole day. It is indicative of the attitude of the big construction companies and indeed of many subcontractors that such a demand actually required voicing.
Among their other demands was that whenever there was such a fatality, that the main contractor be charged with manslaughter, i.e the crime of being responsible for an unintended fatality through action or inaction. Such a demand was very reasonable but was seen as almost revolutionary at the time. But a few years later a construction company boss did indeed stand trial for manslaughter and, although he was acquitted, a precedent had been set. However it remained a difficult process to even have the employer charged, to say nothing of convicted.
It was not until 2008 that legislation was specifically enacted to facilitate the charging of companies when individual company directors proved difficult to charge with manslaughter in the event of fatalities in their workplaces. The first case under the new legislation took place in 2009 and the sole company director in this case was also charged separately under common law with manslaughter. Seeing alleged culpability of the employer in this case, that he had required a geologist to work in an unshored trench deeper than his own height which, when collapsed, suffocated the geologist, reminded me of the claim of the defendants in the Shrewsbury 24 trials arising out of the 1972 construction strike.3
CONTINUING SLAUGHTER? 6,000 DEATHS A DAY.
“The ILO (International Labour Organisation) estimates that some 2.3 million women and men around the world succumb to work-related accidents or diseases every year; this corresponds to over 6000 deaths every single day. Worldwide, there are around 340 million occupational accidents and 160 million victims of work-related illnesses annually.” (see Sources)
Capitalism kills. It kills and maims millions of workers by workplace mishaps, overwork, diseases, psychological stresses, environmental disasters – and let’s not forget wars.
Revolution, we are often cautioned, is chaotic and entails death and injury to many – most of which will be workers, whether in the revolutionary forces, or enlisted by the system, or in one way or another swept into the casualty figures. This is all true. But Revolution killing as many as capitalism? Hardly. And after successful Revolution, production can be organised to eliminate mishaps and unhealthy working conditions. At least, with the mechanisms in the hands of the workers, they have the possibility of removing workplaces from danger or, where danger might be inevitable, to reduce it greatly. Industrial mishaps, let’s not forget, are avoidable.
While we work for revolution and a society under the control of the workers, we have a duty to ourselves and to our dependents to work to reduce the occurrence of mishaps. We can do this by improving conditions and prevention in our own workplaces, by reporting health and safety violations elsewhere to the relevant authorities and by demanding reparations and improvements from the companies whose products we consume through their use of production facilities abroad – such as firetrap sweatshops4.
Under legislation in Ireland and the UK, workers are entitled to elect health and safety representatives, with which management are obliged to consult. These may be coincidentally representatives of a trade union but they need not be even union members – the legal right to health and safety representation is separate from the question of trade union representation. Of course, raising issues of concern that would cost the management time and money to address may necessitate the H&S representatives to ensure they have trade union protection, legislation notwithstanding.
In a workplace years ago, wishing for a period of relative calm, I declined nomination as trade union shop steward and instead accepted that of staff health and safety representative. Quite quickly I found myself in more arguments with local management than the union representative needed to be and across the organisation too, as I pushed for Risk Assessments to be carried out, as we had done in my workplace, examining every operation. The organisation’s Health & Safety Committee agreed the need for the assessments but failed to push for them and unfortunately so did the trade union itself. Health and Safety representatives may find themselves struggling not only with Management but also with their own trade union structures (and at times with their own co-workers). Nevertheless, comprehensive workplace risk assessments are the only reasonable way to avoid or limit mishaps.
Practice fire procedures or drills are necessary too. In another workplace, this time as a manager myself, we made recorded fire checks on every shift and stepped up fire drills from every six months to monthly, from always announced to some unannounced. Who would remember was required after six months? Had there been changes in the building, procedures or staff since the lat exercise? On one of our early drills, the observer we had detailed to follow with checklist and notepad found problems that had never been recorded previously and which required our team to take remedial measures. On the occasion of another drill, I learned that the front entrance had been used instead of the emergency exit. Investigation revealed that in the passage way towards that emergency exit, one of the staff had placed his bicycle for safe-keeping – and he was the staff health and safety representative!
The election of workers’ representatives and the monitoring of their performance in those roles is the responsibility of the workers, not management. All I could do was to instruct the person to remove the bicycle and to make all staff aware that the placing of any obstruction in the emergency exit passage way was a serious disciplinary offence.
As most of us around the world are workers, it is necessary for us to express internationalist solidarity towards one another. Note I said “necessary”, not just desirable. When our labour power is at the mercy of employers who move factories around the world, or contract factories anywhere they find sufficiently profitable, our gains in separate countries can be undermined, we can be undercut and made unemployed. The effective response to these threats lies in internationalist solidarity, so that we assist workers in other lands in their organisation and we target their exploiters when we find them nearby.
In 2015 I joined a picket of major French clothing company Benetton’s shop in the Stephens Green Shopping Centre, Dublin. We also did a sit-in inside the shop, defying threatening behaviour of the Centre’s security staff and likewise the threat to call the police. A subsequent picket and sit-in also took place (see Sources). Benetton was one of the many foreign companies exploiting the workers of Rana Plaza and, after the disaster there, had promised to pay financial compensation to the relatives of the workers killed there. Such offers are often made in similar situations for public relation reasons, usually without admitting culpability. At the time their store in Dublin was picketed, Benetton had still not paid the compensation promised two years earlier.
In contrast to fascists and other racists who advocate protecting our own native workforce above all else, we should extend solidarity to all other workers who are being exploited. When all workers are achieving protection from the worst working conditions and lowest wages, it will be that much harder for our employers to use one section against another. In the past, our employers in every business, industry, city or country tried to treat with us as individual workers but we found that banding together was the only way to improve our conditions and remuneration for all. Internationalist solidarity is the application of that lesson on an international level — the same level as that on which our exploiters operate.
1 Civil law deals with matters like company law, family law, personal injury cases, libel and slander. A number of penalties including financial damages can be imposed and awarded by the judiciary in such cases but not prison terms (however failure to comply with penalties imposed can result in imprisonment for “contempt of court”).
2 I got a bit of a scare when attending one of the CSC’s pickets which was of the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, prior to a meeting inside booked by an MP and which we were going to attend. As we went through the security sensors, the construction worker I had been talking to set off the sensor alarms. As we were both political activists and I was Irish in Britain at a time of IRA bombings there, this made me very nervous. The construction worker began pulling nails and screws out of his pockets and piling them into a tray while I grinned nonchalantly at the security police. His pockets emptied, he went through again – and set the alarms off once more. I was sure we were going to be taken into a room and strip-searched. However, once they ascertained that it was the steel toecaps in his construction boots that were setting off the alarms, we were allowed through, me wanting to punch my comrade a number of times.
3 During their trial for alleged intimidation in flying pickets from construction site to site during the 1972 construction strike in Britain, some of the Shrewsbury 24 gave evidence that among the violation of health and safety regulations they had witnessed at sites they had picketed was workers being obliged to work in unshored trenches deeper than their own height. Twenty-four construction trade unionists were charged with serious crimes as a result of their activism during the strike and twenty-two were convicted across three trials in 1973 and 1974 with six, including the later actor Ricky Tomlinson, being sentenced to years in prison. The convictions of all 22 were overturned on appeal earlier this year but a number had died in the intervening years.
4. In view of the reality, it is shocking that a fashion clothing company should call itself, even in some attempt at irony, “Firetrap”. This company is now part of the Fraser Group, with factories in much of the world producing clothing, in particular sports wear. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firetrap
A world-wide movement is currently working to change all places wrongly named after Columbus, the Italian explorer employed by the medieval Spanish kingdom, back to their rightful name. People with a faulty grasp of history and of human rights, as well as of spelling (some of the colonists were illiterate in several languages) have been incorrectly calling these places “Columbus” and other derivations, instead of the correct spelling of “Columbo”, who was a famous detective with the New York Police Department.
The Latin American state of Colombia will lead the way in returning to the original “Columbo”. “It’s about time,” said long-time Irish resident Gearóid Ó Loingsigh. “Columbo was a great character and Falk is a good actor. Besides, most of the politicians here are life-long actors.” Also supporting the change are many indigenous people. “Apart from leading the plundering of our people, Columbus amputated the hands of our people who displeased him,” said Chief Nosanrobado of the Quechua.
The cities named “Columbus’ in the American states of Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin are all queuing up to have their name change registered, whilst a poll in the North Carolina state found a majority also for the name change from “Columbus” to Columbo County.
BY-PRODUCTS OF THE CAMPAIGN
As a spin-off of this campaign, sculptors are being commissioned everywhere to design and sculpt monuments in bronze or stone to the NYPD detective character.
An unexpected by-product has been a reduction in anti-police hostility. “It’s helping us hit back at the ‘Defund the Police’ campaign”, said the Governor of a South-Western state who wished to remain nameless. ” ‘Don’t Defund Columbo’ is doing well here as a counter-campaign.”
Pablo Echeverria, a Latino community worker, agreed unhappily. “People don’t see Detective Columbo kneeling on their necks or shooting unarmed blacks or Latinos. They can’t imagine him kicking down their doors. But most cops are not like Columbo. When the cops here want to ask you ‘Just one more question’, it’s likely to be at four a.m in a police cell, along with ‘just one more’ punch or kick.”
MAFIA CONNECTION DENIED
In some of the cities, awareness of Columbus’ Italian background and rumours of Mafia connection, though unproven and strenuously denied, helped swing the “don’t knows” into the Columbo campaign.
Residents of Colombo city in Brazil and in Sri Lanka have mixed feelings about the campaign. Henrique Soares, a native of Brazil summed up some of the concerns: “It is important to have places named correctly, of course. But it was nice being different and now lots of places will sound just like ours ….”
SAINT OR BODY ORGAN
On the other hand, most towns and districts called Columbia are resisting the renaming trend, maintaining that they were neither named after Columbus nor Detective Columbo, claiming instead a derivation from the traveling Irish saint Columbanus (also known as Columba).
The city of Colón however, the second-largest in Panama was happy with the change. “We’re sick of Anglos thinking our city is part of the digestive tract,” said the leader of the local branch of the Rename It Columbo Campaign (RICC).
WHAT ABOUT THE ACTOR?
However, in all the excitement and controversy, what about the name of the actor forever thought of as personifying Detective Columbo, Peter Falk? Sadly, all that are named after him are some islands off the coast of Argentina and even that name is disputed, the current English occupiers calling them “the Falkland Islands” but known in Argentina, which claims dominion over them, as “Las Malvinas”.
And in Argentina they have also renamed the actor in the detective series as “Pedro Malvinas”.
Viktor Babariko, leading political opposition leader until he was arrested on corruption charges just before the Presidential election last August, has been sentenced in Belarus to 14 years in jail and a fine equivalent to a little over €47,990. Viktor Babariko was the head of a bank owned by the gas company Gazprom.
The news has already drawn condemnation of the Lukashenko regime in Belarus from the USA’s Embassy and howls of protest are sure to be heard across the EU also. The hypocrisy there on this kind of treatment of political opponents is stark – the Spanish state jailed nine political leaders for their involvement in an independence referendum in 2017, sentencing them to up to 13 years in prison (the State Prosecution asked for around 50 years), while leaders of most EU states and main political parties remained silent.
To be sure, European regimes, even the Spanish one, are more liberal than the one in Belarus. After four years in jail, the Spanish regime recently released those Catalan political activists on conditional pardons, a move unlikely to be equalled in Belarus. But those Catalans are barred from standing in elections and face a return to jail for “any repetition of their crimes” – i.e organising politically for Catalan independence. And some others are in jail for activities during the protest general strikes and over 3,000 are threatened with judicial process for involvement in the 2017 Referendum. Other Catalan political leaders are in exile, including the former President of Catalonia’s autonomous region, who is a Member of the European Parliament.
And European regimes wouldn’t use financial wrongdoing charges against political opponents, would they? Or try to cripple them financially? Actually, right at this moment, the Spanish State, through its audit court, is pursuing former Catalan Government ministers and officials on charges of misusing their Government’s funds, demanding a total of €50.4 million from them (sums of over €2m each). Furthermore, they must put those amounts up as bonds — without being convicted of financial wrongdoing in any criminal court — and have only weeks to do so.
Oriol Junqueras, former Deputy Leader of Catalonia (also elected an MEP while in jail), has been ordered to “repay” €1.9m. Carles Puigdemont, former Catalan President now in exile in Belgium, has also been ordered to pay €1.9m. On Tuesday Puigdemont commented on Twitter that his lawyer had been given only three hours to read 500 pages of court documents and 10 minutes to put his case.
What if those being targeted refuse to pay or simply can’t pay? Their property, including house and car can be seized along with a portion of their income, quite possibly deducted for the rest of their lives.
Andreu Mas-Colell, 76, a former Catalan finance minister, also faces a court demand for a large repayment. A former Harvard economics professor, he has received the support of 53 economists, including 33 Nobel laureates, who last week wrote a letter urging the Spanish state not to impose a large fine on him. His son, Gabriel Mas, told the Financial Times: “In the next 15 days, Andreu will have to deposit a guarantee of €670,000-€2.8m as the result of an administrative decision in which not a single judge has participated.”
With regard to the Babariko sentence, the stink of hypocrisy rising from the Spanish State is appalling — but it covers most of the EU too.
By Geoffrey Cobb (Reprint from The Irish Echo 23 June 2021)
(Reading time: 2 mins.)
The Rev. Bernard Quinn faced opposition from the Ku Klux Klan on Long Island.
In 1983, African-American priest Fr. Paul Jervis was assigned to the parish of St. Peter Claver in Brooklyn, which had been founded in 1921 by Fr. Bernard Quinn, as Brooklyn’s first black Catholic parish. Speaking with his parishioners, Jervis was amazed to hear the stories of so many older people who still spoke of Quinn with profound reverence, even though he had died 43 years earlier.
Intrigued, Jervis began to research his predecessor and was so taken with Quinn’s life that he decided to write a biography of Quinn calling it: “Quintessential Priest, The Life of Father Bernard J. Quinn.” Jervis’s biography is an inspirational tale of a man whose love for his black congregation defined him and forged a unique community of faith.
Quinn was born in 1888 in Newark, N.J., into a large Irish Catholic family. His father, who was from County Cavan, and his County Offaly mother sent him to parochial school and young Bernard felt such a strong vocation that he entered the seminary in 1906, where he developed a lifelong deep sympathy for the poor and the downtrodden. Ordained in 1912 in Brooklyn, Quinn was assigned to diocesan parishes such as St. Patrick’s in Bay Ridge and St. Gregory the Great in Crown Heights.
SHOCKED BY RACISM IN US ARMY DURING WW1
When World War I erupted, Quinn volunteered to serve as a chaplain for front line troops. Commissioned as a First Lieutenant, Quinn served as chaplain of the 333rd infantry. Serving at the front, he became a victim of mustard gas. Though he recovered, Quinn suffered from the gassing for the rest of his life. In France, Quinn was shocked by the racism in the American army. When a white American Protestant chaplain refused to pray with a dying Black soldier, Quinn intervened and prayed with the dying soldier, but the troubling incident lingered with Quinn.
The war ended, but Fr. Quinn remained in France to minister to the wounded soldiers. After a chance reading of “The Story of a Soul, the life of St. Therese of Lisieux,” in the barracks library, Fr. Quinn discovered a spiritual hero. Learning that he was stationed in the vicinity of Alencon, not far from St. Therese childhood home, Quinn obtained permission to visit it and became the first priest to celebrate Mass there before it became a popular shrine. Intense devotion to St. Therese would define Fr. Quinn’s faith for the rest of his life.
BACK TO BROOKLYN FROM THE WAR
Quinn returned to Brooklyn in 1919. While preparing two black women for baptism, he was inspired to create an apostolate to African Americans, but his concern for Blacks was not shared by all Brooklyn’s Catholics, some of whom did not want African Americans praying in their churches. After repeated appeals, Quinn finally received permission from Bishop McDonnell to begin his mission to the Black people of Brooklyn, but finding Black Catholics proved difficult. Quinn went to the streets, asking every African American he met where he could find Catholics.
Finally, Quinn found Mr. Jules de Weever, the leader of the dissolved Colored Catholic Club, which had met from 1915-1916, seeking in vain to establish a church for Black Catholics in Brooklyn. Frustrated by the church’s indifference to their quest, the group disbanded. Quinn revived the CCC and inspired them to persevere in founding Brooklyn’s first Catholic church.
Quinn incessantly petitioned the bishops for permission to establish an African-American parish, reminding them that Black Catholics were being excluded from worship at Italian, Irish and German churches, but instead of agreeing, the bishops ignored Quinn’s pleas. Finally, thanks to his perseverance, they authorized the founding of Brooklyn’s first African American Catholic Church, St. Peter Claver Church, in 1921, naming Quinn pastor.
The Irish-American priest now needed a church building and the parish soon found a warehouse for trunks and baggage that had once been a Congregationalist church on the corner of Ormond Street, now Peter Claver Place, and Jefferson Avenue, in the expanding black community of Bedford Stuyvesant. Quinn and the congregation enthusiastically set to work on the herculean task of transforming the warehouse back into a house of worship. The church’s decoration celebrated black faith with murals of early Black saints, and of St. Peter Claver’s work with enslaved Africans in Cartagena, Colombia.
On Christmas Day, 1921, the cornerstone for St. Peter Claver, named for the patron saint of African peoples, was laid. By 1922, the church was ready and blessed by Bishop Thomas Edmund Molloy. Quinn soon proved to be a model pastor and quickly the kindhearted priest endeared himself to his rapidly growing flock. Brooklyn’s Black Catholics were attracted to a church that didn’t just tolerate them, but even welcomed them with open arms. The parish became more than a place to pray, helping the parish’s poor, while also setting up a clinic, a credit union, a parish school, and adult education classes. St. Peter Claver soon became famous for its large children’s choir and its band. Legendary entertainers Lena Horne and Pearl Bailey both started their singing in the church’s choir. Reputedly, it was the first African-American choir ever to sing at the prestigious Brooklyn Academy of Music.
THE LITTLE FLOWER NOVENA BUSTOP
Fr. Quinn began a temporary daily novena, a series of prayers, to his inspiration, St. Thérèse, called the Little Flower Novena, but he never could have imagined the massive reaction the novena received. People begged for the novena to continue and an estimated that 10,000 of all races a week poured into St. Peter Claver’s. Within five years an amazing 2.2 million people had attended the novena, stirring the envy of nearby white Catholic pastors who complained that it drew away their parishioners. The novena was such a hit that the drivers on the bus line near the church would call out “Little Flower Novena stop.” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle soon did a feature article on the amazing success of the novena.
The novena proved to be a huge money maker for the parish, allowing Fr. Quinn to fund some of the parish projects he envisioned including a $300,000 school building, a convent, a recreation center and a Long Island orphanage that would ignite the bitter flames of racism. In 1929, Msgr. Quinn founded the Brooklyn Diocese’s first orphanage for Black children in a farmhouse in Wading River, Long Island, which at the time was still part of the diocese. A cross was burned in front of the Quinn family home in Mineola, but the priest defied the threat. Outraged racist locals contacted the Ku Klux Klan, which was very active on Long Island in the 20s and 30s, and the orphanage burned in an act of arson. The orphanage was rebuilt but burned again in the same year.
THE KLAN AND RACISM IN THE CHURCH
Undeterred, Father Quinn rebuilt the orphanage yet again, this time in stone and brick. The Brooklyn Eagle announced this with a headline, “New Fireproof Orphanage Will Defy Incendiary.” The KKK gave up, and the orphanage, called the Little Flower Orphanage, in honor of St. Thérèse, was dedicated as the Little Flower House of Providence Oct. 26, 1930. Today that organization survives as the Little Flower Children and Family Services of New York, offering adoptions and other social services in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island.
Quinn became an outspoken defender of Brooklyn’s Blacks against the pervasive racism of his day. He denounced institutionalized racism and invited the Urban League, an African American advocacy group, to speak at his church. Some Brooklyn Catholic clergy spoke out against Quinn’s embrace of Black Catholics. In 1929, Msgr. John L. Bedford wrote in his Brooklyn parish newsletter that “Negroes should be excluded from this Roman Catholic Church if they become numerous.” Quinn vehemently defended his flock writing in the Brooklyn Tablet, “It seems to me that no church can exclude anyone and still keep its Christian ideals. The Constitution guarantees the freedom of religion and this, plus the fact that church property is tax exempt, ought to mean that anyone can go anyplace to worship.”
The strain of his herculean labors took a physical toll on Quinn. In the spring of 1940, Msgr. Quinn went into nearby St. Mary’s Hospital for surgery for an abdominal problem. He never came back to St. Peter Claver’s, dying on April 7. Brooklyn’s Black Catholics were in shock. They had lost a dear friend and their most vocal advocate. Eight thousand grieving mourners attended his funeral at St. Peter Claver, which was reported in all the New York papers including the New York Times.
In 1992, a movement to canonize Msgr. Quinn received the blessing of the Catholic Church and the long and difficult path to Quinn’s canonization has started. Decades before the founding of the Black Lives Matter movement, Fr. Quinn dedicated his life to serving Brooklyn’s Black Catholics and his life remains a shining example of the power of love to defeat hatred and bigotry.
Author and teacher Geoffrey Cobb will lead a walking tour on Saturday, Aug. 7, of sites associated with the Tipperary-born Paddy “Battle Axe” Gleason, who was the last mayor of Long Island City before its 1898 incorporation into New York City. The event is sponsored by the New York Irish Center, 10-40 Jackson Ave. “Rebel Breeze” will shortly publish an article about the same Gleason by Geoffrey Cobb.