Revolutionary socialist & anti-imperialist; Rebel Breeze publishes material within this spectrum and may or may not agree with all or part of any particular contribution. Writing English, Irish and Spanish, about politics, culture, nature.
Here’s a photo I took recently. We were travelling over the Healy Pass, crossing from West Cork into Kerry when this little house caught my eye.
What would it be like to live there in the mountains? What would you do all day? Would you grow potatoes? Would you be a sheep farmer? Would you have a clever sheep dog to gather in the sheep and run all over the mountains for you, to herd in the awkward ones? Would you be like the ‘Mountainy men’ from “The Wayfarer” poem by Patrick Pearse?
And what about electricity? Or Broadband?
Perhaps you’d have a blog, or a vlog, even. You could make funny videos about the sheep, maybe. I don’t know. We live such disparate lives, nowadays. It’s probably quite difficult up there in winter. Snow and ice. Certainly the Healy Pass would be treacherous in the snow. But beautiful. …
(Reading time main text: 5 mins; total includingbackround: 7 mins.)
Last Thursday (7th October) the former home of the Pearse family saw the launch of a plan for Moore Street as an alternative to the current Hammerson plan. The latter, a large property development company based in England, currently has a planning application in to Dublin City Council awaiting a decision. Moore Street is a centuries-old iconic street market in the heart of Dublin city but was also a battleground during the 1916 Rising, as the insurgents’ headquarters garrison in the General Post Office building evacuated the building, set aflame by British shelling and strove to relocate to continue the insurrection to the north-west of the city.
The former home of Patrick Pearse, Commander-in-Chief of the 1916 insurrection and of his brother William, both executed by British firing squads, now a building held in trust with facilities for meetings and a small theatre, was the location chosen by the Moore Street Preservation Trust to launch their alternative plan.
A packed room of people sweltered in their Covid19 face-masks as they listened to a number of speakers on behalf of the Moore Street Preservation Trust, formed earlier this year along with a guest spot for Mary Lou Mac Donald, President of the Sinn Féin political party, prior to the unveiling of the scale model.
Mícheál Mac Donncha, a Dublin City councillor for the Sinn Féin party and Secretary of the Trust, chaired the event and, after an introduction to the subject of the meeting, announced Patrick Cooney who spoke for the Trust on their history, aspects of the long campaign and the alternative plan. Cooney outlined what the Trust considers the importance historically of the “Moore Street battleground” and remarked that their plan was the only alternative to the Hammerson plan, which he said is supported by no-one else.
In traversing aspects of the conservation struggle, Cooney referred to the High Court case taken against the Minister of Heritage and the property developer (which was then Joe O’Reilly’s Chartered Land) and the momentous judgement that the whole Moore Street area was a national historical monument. The capacity of the Judge to make that decision was overturned in a later appeal by the Minister of Heritage’s legal team.
Patrick Cooney also paid tribute to the week-long occupation of the buildings by others in January of 2016, which had prevented the demolition of three buildings in the sixteen-building terrace in Moore Street. He said that his group could not be identified with the occupation since they were part of the High Court case ongoing at the time but named two Irish Republicans (of a group opposed to the Good Friday Agreement) who had acted as their link with the occupation body, leaving a possible impression that his group had been involved in some way from behind the scenes in the occupation of the buildings.
Cooney also mentioned the Bill moved by Sinn Féin TD (parliamentary representative) Aengus Ó Snodaigh, currently awaiting debate in the Dáil (Irish parliament) and how it mirrored to a large degree that put forward formerly by a TD of the Irish political party Fianna Fáil, currently in coalition Government, which had not been proceeded with. Cooney paid tribute to the political party Sinn Féin as “the only political party to support” the Moore Street conservation struggle (which may have come as a surprise to Peadar Ó Tóibín, TD of the Aontú political party, who was present in the audience).
Mac Donncha thanked Cooney for his contribution and introduced Jim Connolly Heron, a great-grandson of James Connolly, one of the executed leaders of the 1916 Rising who talked about the historical importance of the site and the importance of its preservation. Connolly Heron talked about historical buildings in Dublin that had been demolished. He said their plan represented an opportunity for the State to atone for the “lamentable failure to save Wood Quay” and commented that “On that occasion the voice of the people was silenced; the loss to the city was immeasurable and we can ill afford another Wood Quay.”
Then Connolly Heron, with Proinnsias Ó Rathaille, grandson of The O’Rahilly, removed the Starry Plough flag of the Irish Citizen Army to unveil the architect’ scale model to loud applause and the clicking of phones and cameras.
A portion of the attendance then removed to the small theatre where Seán Antóin Ó Muirí, for the architects, took the audience through a slide show of drawings and maps while discussing their relevance to the Preservation Trust’s plan.
Outside the building, a large group of teenage Danish students, on a walking history tour conducted by Lorcán Collins of 1916 Rising Tours, had gathered, where they were addressed by Lorcán and also by Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD and, very briefly by Diarmuid Breatnach of the SMSFD group who, at Lorcán’s request, sang them the “Grace” ballad (in which Joseph Plunkett addresses Grace Gifford, his bride of only hours before he is to be executed by British firing squad).
THE ALTERNATIVE PLAN
The Alternative Plan as outlined by the architect involves a number of ideas that have been put forward over the years: refacing some of the buildings to match the pre-1916 facing surviving on some of the buildings, using appropriate matching construction materials, uncovering the cobblestones, etc. The two-story elevation has been promoted previously as have awning-covered ground-level shopfronts but the north end of the terrace at four storeys is a departure perhaps from previous plans other than the Hammerson and O’Reilly plans, as is perhaps the opening up of some spaces around the “back” of the terrace (accessed through Moore Lane). The plan foresees a unitary unbroken terrace which all campaigning groups have proposed.
Unlike some plans and visions previously mooted, the Alternative Plan as explained does not propose excluding chain stores, nor propose pubs and bakery among the businesses; street stalls were mentioned only in passing with no discussion of the range of hot and cold food or other merchandise that might be on sale. The housing units proposed do not specify local authority rental. Unlike a number of previous plans there was no mention of the benefits of linking the development of a Moore Street cultural quarter to a number of other nearby amenities and cultural quarters nor to that of rejuvenating the north city centre by day and by night.
The history component does not seem to vary much from the Hammerson/ O’Reilly one, being concentrated on the four buildings which the State has named “the historical monument”, a title also used by Trust. In the unbroken terrace proposed (and frequently demanded by campaigners) of course the Alternative Plan departs significantly from the Hammerson one but strangely this contrast was not alluded to in either the verbal or visual presentations.
In the overall presentation of a slideshow and scale model perhaps the most significant contribution of this plan is to present some of the possibilities in a manner more easily grasped and form easier for many no doubt to visualise. It is this that has been missing in past plans and proposals.
HAMMERSON AND DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL
On the west side of Moore Street is the ILAC shopping centre, built with DCC planning permission in 1977 on what was a patchwork of streets and laneways, many of them containing shops and stalls selling various new and second-hand merchandise. A university study group concluded that, apart from the construction companies, the ILAC had benefitted the big stores of Debenhams and Dunnes and that the compensation paid out to most stall-holders and small shops had been inadequate to relocate within the City Centre and workers had been made redundant. The ILAC is half-owned by Irish Life and the other half passed from O’Reilly to Hammerson.
In the early years of this century a consortium of property developers were applying for planning permission to carry out plans in the area from the northwest side of O’Connell Street to Moore Street but Dublin City Council Planning Manager froze the plans and in a very strange deal later handed it all over to Joe O’Reilly. The whole murky story (including city councillors being legally threatened to keep silent by the then Planning Manager Jim Keogan) was covered in a two-part program, Iniúchadh na Cásca, by the Irish language television channel TG4 before O’Reilly got his giant “shopping mall” planning permission (the program was re-broadcast in 2016).
Jim Keogan took early retirement from DCC and is now employed by McCutcheon Halley, a Cork-based planning consultancy company while the most recent Ireland Director for Hammerson is Mark Owen, straight from his previous employment as the Head of Asset Management & Recovery for NAMA.
INTERNAL CAMPAIGN CONTROVERSIES
Patrick Cooney in his presentation of their Alternative Plan referred to a split in the original conservation committee and in fact over the years there have been a number of controversies and conflicts among campaign groups. The remaining part of the committee containing Mr. Cooney and Mr. Connolly Heron also experienced a number of acrimonious departures. Due to internal difficulties the 1916 Relatives Association, to which both also belonged did not have a meeting for over a year and when it did so eventually, there were loud internal arguments and clashes between Mr. Connolly Heron and others, leading to a number of departures, including Marcus Howard of Easter Rising Stories, producer of many historical documentaries and filmed interviews, including a number on Moore Street.
In that atmosphere, Brian O’Neill was seen by many as a stable and quiet choice for Chair of the 1916 Relatives Association and was duly elected. Shortly afterwards Barry Lyons, a long-time campaigner was expelled from the Association as was also long-time campaigner Donna Cooney, grand-niece of Elizabeth O’Farrell and a DCC Councillor. Neither seems to have been given a formal hearing or allowed an appeal. Although formerly the 1916 Relatives’ Association opposed the developers’ plans, Brian O’Neill now represents the Association on the Minister’s Advisory Group on Moore Street and is on record supporting the Hammerson plan.
Clashes between different campaign groups and individuals have taken place on occasion inside the Lord Mayor’s Forum on Moore Street, including one between members of the Connolly Heron-Cooney group and Colm Moore, another campaigner for many years and the individual who took the High Court case against the Minister of Heritage.
The Ministers’ Consultative Group on Moore Street and its later iteration as the Minister’s Advisory Group, although it has a seat for Jim Connolly Heron, rejected the membership applications of the most active groups in the broad campaign, those who were involved in the 2016 Occupation and the six-week Blockade: the Save Moore Street From Demolition and the Save Moore Street 2016 groups. The SMSFD group has a stall on the street every Saturday, stated to have been since the founding of the group in September 2014, at 368 weeks to date and claims 380,000 signatures to its petition to save the area.
The Connolly Heron and Cooney group do not acknowledge the SMSFD group in public and on one occasion during the Blockade Mr. Cooney posted that the only campaign group they recognised outside of their own was the Save Moore Street 2016 one. However, among all the invitations that were sent out to attend the unveiling last Thursday, neither they nor the SMSFD groups received one – and nor did Colm Moore, the man who took the famous High Court case.
After the formal representation last week but while still inside the Pearse home building, Patrick Cooney was heard to clash with a prominent campaigner and City Councillor in the presence of a radio reporter. Immediately outside, Proinnsias Ó Rathaille verbally abused a member of the SMSFD group (who had learned of the event through the media) in the hearing of many people, including Danish teenagers on a walking history tour.
At time of writing it is important to realise that the only plan with Planning Permission is the original O’Reilly one which Hammerson acquired. The latter have submitted their changed plan for a shopping district and new roads which is currently under review by the Planning Department who have asked for some minor changes and gave them six months to produce them. Many objections were registered (and paid for), even by the Housing Department and the feeling is that the vast sweep of popular opinion is against the Hammerson plan – however that is far from being a guarantee against its acceptance by DCC’s Planning Department. And, as NAMA failed to seize them from Joe O’Reilly, their largest debtor at the time and allowed him to transfer them, all the buildings but two (owned by Dublin City Council) are owned by Hammerson.
Should Hammerson receive approval from DCC’s Planning Department, on previous history a not unlikely event, campaigners are sure to appeal the decision to An Bord Pleanála but that avenue too holds little hope for conservationists, given the record of that body’s decisions in Dublin. In the event of an unwelcome decision there, the High Court remains the only recourse in law (for which leave has to be sought to take the case). Protests on the street are of course likely.
Given Hammerson’s financial difficulties in recent years, even if granted planning permission they may not be able to proceed with their plan immediately and despite Hammerson’s denials the suspicion of many is that they will sell the area on – but for that, they need the new Planning Permission attached first and the current one runs out next year.
BACKGROUND TO A LONG CAMPAIGN
In 1916 Moore Street and surrounding streets and laneways became a battleground, as the Irish insurgent force evacuating its erstwhile HQ in the GPO ran into encircling forces of the British Army. A detachment of the GPO garrison proceeding up Moore Street ran into British rifle and machine gun fire, killing three including its leader, The O’Rahilly and wounding others. The main part of the evacuation forces also suffered casualties but occupied No.10 Moore Street and tunnelled through the 16-building terrace to the laneway at the end, where an assault group was being mobilised to attack the British Army barricade at the Moore Street/ Parnell Street junction. The decision to surrender, taken by the leadership, cancelled the assault. Along with William Pearse, five of the Seven Signatories of the 1916 Proclamation spent their last hours of freedom in Moore Street, not long after to be shot by British firing squads: Thomas Clarke, Patrick Pearse, James Connolly, Sean McDermott and Joseph Plunkett.
Prior to 1966 there was nothing in Moore Street to inform people of what happened there although in that year, amidst the 50th anniversary commemorations of the 1916 Rising, a small plaque was placed at first floor level on No.16 Moore Street, believed to have housed the last HQ of the 1916 Rising. That plaque was noted missing in 2002 – it turned up in a property speculator’s office – and fears of demolition plan for the buildings gave rise to a campaign to save it. A meeting was organised by the National Graves Association and a committee formed, hardly a single one of which is currently active in the campaign today for a number of reasons (Patrick Cooney alluded to one of them, a split when some sided with the property developer of the time but there have been many others).
The campaign extended its demand for the conservation of the whole terrace, backyards etc and in 2006 the State finally conceded a historical importance worth conserving in Moore Street by declaring Nos.14-17 a National Monument, though these still belonged to O’Reilly. In 2008, O’Reilly applied for planning permission for a huge “shopping mall” from O’Connell Street to Moore Street, with a “ski slope” on top and carpark underneath, entailing the demolition of all but Nos.14-17 and the renovation of these as a small museum. DCC’s Planning Department approved the plan but it was appealed to An Bord Pleanála which, against the advice of its own Inspector, rejected the appeal. With the removal of the “ski slope” top and the underground carpark, the giant “shopping mall” was approved but O’Reilly’s demolition plans faced a problem in that two buildings at the end of the terrace belonged to Dublin City Council and four in the middle are protected structures.
In 2009 and 2012 dramatist Frank Allen organised human chain “Arms Around Moore Street” events which gained some media attention.
The campaign gained prominence again when in September 2014 O’Reilly offered Dublin City Council the dilapidated Nos. 14-17 in exchange for Nos. 24-25, where the Council had a waste management depot, a “land-swap” favoured by the City Managers and the Minister of Heritage. A branch of the campaign set up a stall on the street and began to collect signatures to a conservation petition and to disseminate campaign leaflets. In November the majority of DCC councillors voted to reject the deal.
The campaign group with a weekly Saturday stall on the street, now called Save Moore Street From Demolition and separate from the other which had mainly concentrated on lobbying, organised the first public meeting about the campaign in November 2014, inviting as speakers Jim Connolly Heron and Donna Cooney (there had been some conflicts between the two). But in January 2016 the group noted hoardings going up around Nos.12-18 with plans for the demolition of three buildings. They called two emergency meetings during the week on the street and supporters, a mix of people including water protesters and Irish Republicans, occupied the buildings, an act which became headline news.
While the Minister of Heritage made ready to obtain an injunction against the occupiers, instead Colm Moore, who had registered a case with the High Court against the State plans, obtained an injunction against any demolition until the case should be decided and the occupiers left the buildings after one week. However, subsequently alarmed by sounds of heavy machinery inside the buildings, campaigners asked to inspect the works but were refused, as was also a delegation of politicians led by the Lord Mayor.
A new defence coalition called Save Moore Street 2016 had been formed of those who had occupied the buildings and including representatives of the weekly stall group, SMSFD and these now installed a blockade on the buildings from 6.30am to 4pm Monday to Friday. No building workers were admitted to the buildings until the decision of the High Court, on 18th March 2016, that the whole terrace and its surrounding area is a national historical monument.
In the meantime the SMSFD group separately and, in particular the SMS2016 coalition, had organised marches, history walking tours, street concerts and street theatre events in period costume, including mock “heritage funerals” and a reenactment of the 1916 surrender.
Towards the end of 2016, also the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising, the Minister of Heritage set up her Advisory Group on Moore Street and the 1916 Relatives’ Association, formed earlier that year, were invited to participate, as was the separate Jim Connolly Heron/ Paddy Cooney etc group, along with representatives of the political parties in the Dáil. Not invited were the National Graves Association, the Save Moore Street From Demolition or the Save Moore Street 2016 activist groups — the applications of the latter two were rejected, though they were permitted to make a submission.
By this time, O’Reilly had been permitted by the responsible officer at NAMA to transfer his Moore Street and Dundrum portfolio to Hammerson.
The Lord Mayor’s Forum on Moore Street, where all concerned have had representation, has met regularly some years but not on others. The 1916 Relatives Association has seen internal changes and ended with its Chairperson supporting the Hammerson plan. The Jim Connolly Heron/ Paddy Cooney group has gone through a number of name changes, shedding some individuals and gaining others, before the current group presenting the Alternative Plan.
Replying to a query on Quora on the above question, I spent some time thinking and typing the reply and then thought I might as well make that effort available to a wider audience. I have participated in many Irish instrumental music and singing sessions over decades, mostly in London and Dublin and I have two brothers who are musicians and another who is a singer. I am myself a singer, not an instrument player, nor an academic but will attempt an answer. I would recommend consulting the Irish Traditional Music Archive and reading books on the subject such as Ó Súilleabháin’s and Ó Lochlainn.
Traditional Irish music has had many external influences and among the main forms of its dance expression, jigs, hornpipes and reels, only the latter is considered originally Irish. Polkas are particularly popular in Kerry and, I suppose, built around reels. There are also slip-jigs.
The best way to experience these is probably is probably at or viewing a set-dancing session. These are based in form on the “quadrilles” of the Napoleonic period (which can be found as far away as Latin America and Cuba) and are similar to English and US Old Timey square dancing. Probably all the variants of the Irish instrumental dance music will be heard performed among the various set-dances — virtually all sequentially in the deceptively-named “Plain Set”.
The form of dance called “sean-nós” (see description of the singing form by the same name further down) is individual expression, fast footwork with what one might also call “ornamentations”, similar to tap-dancing. The arms are held loosely down to the side or elbows to the side, slightly extended but also loosely. The overall posture may be erect or slightly stooped.
In terms of instruments used today, not one is believed to be originally Irish except the harp (which incidentally is the symbol of the Irish state, the only state in the world to feature a musical instrument in that capacity though we are far from being the only nation with a harp tradition).
The harp (there two main kinds, the smaller knee-standing and the larger resting on the floor between the knees) was described by Norman travellers (spies) prior to their invasion of Ireland but were known also in Wales (observers remarked not only on the aesthetic quality of the performances but also on their speed). A kind of drum was referred to by the travellers and some kind of flute but without any detail on either. The proliferation of instruments in a traditional Irish session are therefore far from being originally Irish: fiddle (violin), uilleann pipe, flute, whistle, accordion (piano or more likely button), concertina, melodeon, bazouki, mandolin, banjo and …. guitar. This last is mostly performed as an underlying rhythm instrument, a function also of the bodhrán (a kind of one-sided drum) and one may also hear a pair of spoons or sections of rib bones played for percussion. The guitar-player is often also the singer and given space to do so accompanied by his guitar, presumably in recompense for his restriction to rhythm performance the rest of the time. In many sessions there has grown sadly a tendency to restrict the performance of song to this individual or some other in the circle of musicians whereas in the past a member of the audience would perform the song; this restriction has led to the growth of song and even voice-only sessions (such as the Góilín in Dublin).
We owe the typical instruments in traditional Irish music to northern and central Europe, the Middle and Far East and to Africa. Many other instruments have been brought into use in performing Irish traditional music (including, famously, the Australian didgeridoo) but, apart from the proliferation of variations on the whistle, they have as yet failed to win popularity among musicians.
Traditional march airs also exist and, to my ear, have a tendency to be fast for the purpose. I have speculated that these represented trotting horses of the elites or warrior-caste with lower-ranking fighters running alongside — but that is pure speculation.
There are many slow airs and waltzes, definitely an import, have been composed and are also played.
With regard to the ethnicity of the performers this is not of great relevance and Irish traditional music on instruments and in voice is being played well in many different parts of the world or in Ireland by musicians with a non-Irish ethnic background. Naturally too the Irish diaspora has spawned many excellent traditional Irish musicians (and, we can remark in passing, in many other genres too: rock, pop, blues, jazz, classical).
The term “traditional” itself can open up a debate but with regard to song, I was offered this interesting definition some years ago: “author unknown, performed over three generations.” Authorship is therefore an issue as is permanency (or at least persistency). One feature of traditional music throughout the world, according to Ó Súilleabháin is never to end in a crescendo (although occasionally one may hear a traditional song or ballad treated in this way, it is rare).
However, as with “tunes” or “airs” in instrumental music, songs are being composed all along within the traditional or folk form, sometimes re-using known airs, sometimes adapting them and on occasion composing new ones.
It is important to note that ballads are not considered a “traditional” form, having entered Ireland in the 18th and 19th centuries but they are accepted in traditional singing circles.
THE SINGER AND THE SONG
Traditional-style singers not only eschew crescendos but also, in general, bodily gestures or dramatic pauses or changes of volume. There are emphases rendered on occasion but these tend to be subtle.
A form of singing known as “sean-nós” (literally ‘old style’) exists with regional variations. From experience and perception (but without formal study) I would say that the main distinguishing feature of this form is in the ornamentation of notes, viz. drawing some out to briefly twist around them (interestingly, one verb in Irish for “play” as in instrument or “sing” is “cas”, literally “twist/ turn/ weave”) and the ending of a line may have an additional note added. The Qawwali religious music of Pakistan and Indian shares many features as does parts of the Flamenco singing, albeit the latter is loudly expressive.
In terms of the great themes of Irish song (and at times of instrumental pieces) these are overwhelmingly love, patriotic struggle and emigration, with sub-categories, including some that merge two or even three of the main themes (hear for example “Skibereen” or the waltz-air “Slieve na mBan”.
PLEASE DON’T CLAP ….
A very important element of Irish traditional and folk singing is not only the performance but also the audience. The tradition is not for choral or duet etc singing with harmonies, though these exist but rather for the single voice. In this we differ from other Celtic nations such as the Welsh and Bretons but parallel the Scottish tradition as well as some other folk traditions, including some English and USA Old Timey expressions.
The tradition has been that a singer will be heard through to the end with perhaps some sounds of encouragement at various junctures (on occasion I have observed a noisy Irish pub become suddenly silent as the customers become aware that a song is being sung, remaining totally silent until the end of the song). Should there be a chorus, listeners may join in and a well-known and appreciated line may get listeners joining in too (think for example of the last line in the non-traditional form — but often sung in sean-nós style — ballad about the Great Hunger: “… revenge for Skibereen!”).
I should mention here that accompanying the beat in traditional music by clapping is certainly not “cool”, although traditional musicians performing on stage have been seen to encourage it (presumably in order to reduce the isolation feeling of the performers and to increase the enjoyment of non-perceptive listeners). In fact clapping overcomes the nuances of the performance as well as the concentration of the listener, therefore limiting the depth of the experience. “Tap feet by all means and clap at the end if you please” is the general rule.
I must note also in conclusion that Irish/ Scottish traditional music with some English folk contribution are the main influences in not only Old Timey USA music but also bluegrass and country & western, with spillover into some other forms. As such, this fount of music is responsible for the creation of the “white” or “European-origin” popular music of the USA, ie around half of the entire body. The other half is of African origin, in blues and jazz (in so far as these are not the same thing), giving rise to rock n’roll, swing etc. But both these “halves” have naturally had an influence on the other and in Ireland, traditional music is also influenced by — and contributes to — “crossover” variations of music.
I would comment also that socially and politically Irish musicians have tended to identify to one degree or another with the people and their resistance and were often persecuted for doing so. This was natural, given that they mostly came from the Irish population and that was where they found their audience. In that regard it is sad to note that some, including the Chieftains musician group and singer Imelda May, performed at a state banquet in Dublin a few years ago for the English Queen, who is head of the UK state and of the British Armed Forces, currently occupying one-sixth of our small national territory and also invading other parts of the world.
Most tourists in Wroclaw, Poland sadly, never make it to Nadodrze, a gritty area of often run-down, gray and battered tenements far from the city’s glorious market square and the sleek, new glass buildings that have sprung up around it. Although investment poured into other areas of the city, transforming them into trendy magnets for real estate speculators, Nadodrze has been largely overlooked and had retained much of its grim East Block appearance.
Walking into Nadodrze today, most outsiders would never guess that the walls of the area’s battered nineteenth century tenements hide an amazing collection of brightly colored paintings that transform the inner courtyards behind the walls into places of rich imagination, bold design and skilled creation, evidence of the great talent of local working-class people and the Roma community who helped create them.
These colorful inner-courtyards are the conception of Wroclaw artist Mariusz Mikołajek, who in 2014, along with other local artists, formed the Center for Cultural Backyard Animation (OKAP)with the goal of transforming the drab inner-courtyards into a bright space all the residents could take pride in. Creating the art was a real community endeavor and the participants included everyone in the area, seniors, children and untrained adults, who all took part in the project. They set up classes first for children and then for adults. Everyone was allowed to discover his or her own painting or sculptural abilities. The locals embraced the project, pouring large amounts of time and effort into its completion. The design of colourful courtyards in Nadodrze eventually covered many other other courtyards in the once-gloomy area.
The art decorating the inner courtyards is referred to as un-murals because the art there is often three dimensional. Ceramic figures, household items and other materials often protrude out from the walls. There is also an astonishing variety of scenes and images on the walls, adding to the wonder of seeing these fantastic creations.
The link below is for a virtual tour of one of the courtyards.
The colorful courtyards have helped the area to revitalize and the once forgotten area has now become a magnet for artists, Bohemians and students. Local residents speak with great pride about the artwork they have created. Nadodrze serves as a model for the transformative power of art to build a community.
On Friday morning passing pedestrians, public and private transport drivers and passengers on Dublin’s Finglas Road witnessed a funeral cortege in which trade union banners and flags were carried by some of the mourners. The hearse leading the procession, followed by a lone piper did not bear the Starry Plough-draped coffin which instead was carried on the shoulders of a rota of family, comrades and friends on the approximately one-kilometre walk from the home of Manus O’Riordan to service at the famous Glasnevin Cemetery.
A large crowd participated in the funeral procession composed of a wide cross-section of the Irish Left, from revolutionaries to radical reformers to sedate social democrats. Manus was well known in Irish left-wing circles for a number of reasons. At various times he had been an active socialist, a member of the very small but influential and very controversial B&ICO, a senior official in the major trade union SIPTU and an active senior member of the Friends of the International Brigades Ireland. This last owed much to the fact that Manus’ father had fought in Spain and the veneration in the Irish Left and much of the Irish Republican movement for the Irish volunteers who fought to defend the Spanish Republic against the fascist-military uprising led by General Franco and aided by Nazi German and Fascist Italy. Mick O’Riordan survived the Spanish Antifascist War and was General Secretary of the Communist Party of Ireland and the last time some of the mourners had walked this route was in the elder O’Riordan’s funeral in 2006.
The trade union banners marked Manus’ trade union work while another signalled his support for the Cuban Republic against the blockade imposed upon it by the USA. Two large flags in the red, gold and purple of the Spanish Republic of 1936-1939 were carried too, bearing the legend “Connolly Column” (in Irish and in English) to represent the Irish volunteers who fought against the military-fascist coup. Along the route, copies of a combined Spanish Republic and Starry Plough, attached high upon lampposts, fluttered or strained outwards in the breeze. Among the procession a number of Starry Plough flags flew also, the green and gold version of the Irish Citizen Army, along with a Basque and a Palestinian flag, the latter recalling the stand of the Basque country against Franco and the former, Manus’ solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinian people. At one point, the Catalan Senyera (flag) was also displayed, recalling that in the Ebro Offensive, Michael O’Riordan had been chosen to carry the Catalan flag across the Ebro river. A number of people also wore scarves of the Bohemian Football Club, with supporters among Manus’ family and friends.
Though cold, the day remained sunny and most thankfully of all, rain-free. Upon reaching the cemetery, the coffin was taken into the chapel near the entrance at which non-religious or religious services may be chosen. Due to Covid19 restrictions, the service was reserved for family and close relatives only.
The rest of the crowd gathered outside and perhaps before 11 am a burst of applause heralded the approach of the President of the Irish State, Michael D. Higgins, accompanied by a senior member of the Irish armed forces in ceremonial uniform. The applause was no doubt in appreciation for Higgins’ appearance and due to his office but also certainly in approval of his decision not to attend a forthcoming British colonial state function to celebrate the centenary of the partition of Ireland in 1921. And also no doubt in sympathy to the controversy regarding his decision whipped up by sections of the British and Irish media and a handful of politicians, not only British and Unionist.
There was an ex-president of a different kind present too, Jack O’Connor, who was elected General President of the SIPTU (trade union) in 2003 for three terms and in 2009, President of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. O’Connor took a stint sharing the weight of the coffin and though no doubt he had his supporters in the crowd he had a substantial number of enemies in the trade union movement too, though this is not the place to speak of the reasons.
Among others who attended to pay their sympathies to the O’Riordan family and Manus’ partner Nancy Wallach were Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe, Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald and Sinn Féin TDs Louise O’Reilly and Sean Crowe.
Former Labour Party leader Ruairí Quinn, former Press Ombudsman and Labour TD John Horgan, Communist Party of Ireland Gen. Sec. Eugene McCartan and retired trade union leader Mick O’Reilly of Unite were also there.
After the service, some of the attendance repaired to the not very distant Maples Hotel in Iona Road, where food had been prepared and refreshments could be purchased. Even with the crowd by then much diminished, they were spread over two reception rooms and had to be fed in shifts.
Manus’ sister Brenda playing a piece on the harp by medieval Irish musician Turlough O’Carolan while his daughter, Jess read a poem by Charlie Donnelly, who died fighting fascism in Spain, “The Tolerance of Crows” and his son, Luke sang the “Roll Away The Stone” song celebrating workers’ leader Jim Larkin (a song often sung by Manus himself in the past.
Manus was a regular participant in the singing session of the Góilín where he sang songs, in some of which the lyrics were his translations into Spanish, Irish or English and some were of his own composition. He composed poetry too. Accordingly, a significant section of the attendance at his funeral was composed of singers and participants of the Góilín and it was strange to hear no song sung during the procession or among the crowd outside; however folk singer Radie Peat of Lankum sang Liam Weldon’s song Via Extasia and Gerry O’Reilly sang The Parting Glass before Francis Devin sang the socialist anthem The Internationale before Manus O’Riordan’s coffin draped in The Starry Plough was removed for cremation.. At least one occasion to pay respect to Manus’ memory is promised in the future and no doubt song will play an important part of the proceeding then.
Manus O’Riordan wrote and lectured copiously over the years on a number of topics and over time revised some of his opinions, never shrinking from doing so publicly and renouncing a previous position strongly held. All his assertions were backed by arguments in favour and never merely by assertion.
Despite the numerous verbal battles in which Manus took part in speech and print, a number of them quite heated, he managed to remain on speaking terms with most people including his political enemies and had a wide range of friends and of people with whom he was on good terms. He lived an active and useful life but one cut short too soon at the age of 72.
There will be a number of groups and occasions where his absence will be keenly felt and of course by his family and his partner Nancy Wallach.
(Report by Jardun Koordinadora translated by Dublin Basque Solidarity Committee)
The atmosphere was tense on September 25, 2021 in Leitza due to the presence from the early hours of the morning of the Civil Guard and the secret police. To this must be added the checkpoint and identification by the GAR (Guardia Civil “anti-terrorist” Rapid Response Organisation – Translator) of many of those attending the political event organized by the revolutionary organization JARKI. In the same way, the Civil Guard had no problem in stopping and subjecting to identification those who traveled by bus organized from Bilbao and Gernika. This was not the only episode of police repression since several JARDUN activists from Leitza complain of having been followed by the secret police over recent days.
The event organized by the revolutionary organization JARKI gathered hundreds of people in Leitza square. Once the flame was lit, to the sound of the adarras and the txalapartaris (traditional ox horns blown and wooden percussion instrument played – Trans.), the act began, under a gigantic ikurriña (flag of the Basque Country – Trans.). Next, the dantzaris exhibited the “agintariena” (see Notes) while a gust of wind snapped the rope securing the ikurriña and two young people had to climb the pediment to hold it for the rest of the act. Later, two bertsolaris took the stage asserting with their verses independence, socialism and amnesty, as the legitimacy of the fight of the gudaris (volunteer liberation fighters).
To conclude the ceremony, a member of JARKI read a statement in reference to the commemoration of Gudari Eguna. The statement among many other things vindicated the struggle for memory of Euskal Herria, and of those who have given all in for it, thus legitimizing their struggle and the celebration of this day. He also mentioned the presence of ‘dogs’ in different uniforms that act with total impunity, making it clear that there is no type of coexistence between the oppressed and the oppressors. To the revolutionary organization JARKI this underlines a clear principle: confronting who is oppressing you and who is keeping you under their control is not an option, but a necessity.
The act ended with the singing of the Internationale and the Eusko Gudariak.
The Gudari Eguna (Day of the Soldier) originally celebrated the Basques who fell fighting the fascist-military coup in the ‘Spanish’ Anti-Fascist War or who were executed when captured or died as a result of their prison conditions. The martyrs in the struggle against the Franco dictatorship and after required that they also be included in the Gudari Eguna celebrated in October but since the Basque Nationalist Party dominates that commemoration and excludes the later martyrs, the patriotic left movement has changed the date to the last weekend in September and celebrates all the Basque martyrs. The last weekend in September was chosen because of the Franco regime’s execution of two ETA and three FRAP volunteers on 27th September 1975.
Jarki is a revolutionary socialist organisation for Basque independence. Statement on who Jardun are: “It is an image that includes a group of organizations fighting for the achievement of the Basque socialist state, operating under common agreed ideological bases and minimums. JARDUN is a meeting place for different organizational frameworks, a movement that promotes their collaboration. To this end, it provides a common framework for the adoption, coordination and decision-making of the various organizations that make it up. Therefore, at different levels, it is a tool for solidarity between militancy, organizations and groups within it. Using these coordination frameworks, the ACTION will be made up of sectoral organizations with specific functions and well-defined roles to carry out in a sector-specific way. The aim of this sectoral framework is to promote the efficiency of the organizations, which, in turn, incorporate the Basque Country Workers’ Alternative in the field in which they work. In this way, all the organizations that make up JARDUN work within the framework of the same objective and strategic line, each of which deals autonomously with its own line of work.As long as we understand that the workers are the subject of the struggle for an independent, socialist and united Basque state. So, when we talk about the Basque Country Workers’ Alternative, we are talking about a comprehensive political alternative that meets the needs of the Basque Country Workers. Its aim is to reach all areas of Basque society as a tool for activating and organizing the critical pro-independence and socialist masses in the Basque Country. In other words, the Basque Workers’ Alternative must be a tool for confrontation that will lead us to a break with the states. Ultimately, JARDUN must be the organizational framework for the Basque Revolutionary Workers. In order to achieve the strategic goals of the Basque Revolutionary Workers, which must carry out the Basque socialist revolution, it must be a comprehensive alternative that must provide the means to carry out the necessary struggles.”
Leitza is a town in northern Nafarroa (Navarra), one of four provinces of the Basque nation within the Spanish state.
The Guardia Civil are a Spanish state-wide gendarmerie or militarised police force, armed and living in barracks. They were the physical backbone of Franco’s dictatorship and continued in a repressive political role following the “Transition to democracy”.
The Agintariena is a ‘dance’ which resembles a short military parade with ‘arms’ to music; two lines of dancers march while a flag-bearer proceeds between them. At a particular point the dancers all go down on one knee with heads bent while the flag-bearer waves the flag over them all, seemingly in blessing over the fallen in battle. A mass example in a festival can be seen in the video clip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfoTmQZC_gs with the irrintzi (traditional ullulating call) thrown in for good measure.
Bertxolaris are performers of a traditional format of expression in song and rhyme on any theme. Competitions among these are held in the Basque Country in which the performers must extemporise rhyming verses on a given theme; these receive great public interest.
“dogs in uniform” — “txakkurak” (dogs), a pejorative slang name given for generations to the police in the Basque Country.
The Internationale is a song of revolutionary socialist struggle with lyrics written by an Anarchist activist in the Paris Commune of 1871 and put to music later by Marxist; it has been translated into a great many languages with examples in every populated continent. Eusko Gudariak (Basque Soldiers) is a Basque national anthem (in theme somewhat like the Irish national anthem “The Soldiers’ Song”). It was reputedly sung by ETA martyr Juan Paredes Manot (Txiki) while being executed by Guardia Civil firing squad in 1975, even continuing while mortally wounded by the first volley.
Artist Eoin Mac Lochlainn goes looking of oak galls (“oak apples”) to make the brown ink used by the Irish monastic scribes.
Sometimes it’s right there under you nose but you don’t see it. I’ve been looking all over for oak galls this last while, oak galls for making ink but no, any oak tree that I checked, I couldn’t find a single one. Until yesterday – and believe it or not, I found them here on the street where I live.
The dark brown ink used in the Book of Kells was made from oak galls. The monks used this ink in the 9th Century and it is still as clear and dark today as it ever was – so I thought to myself: I could use some of that!
These galls form on the branches of oak trees when a Cynipid wasp lays its eggs there. The tree responds by forming a woody shell around the egg but inside, the larva continues to develop. If you see a little hole in the gall (like in the one above), you know that by now, the occupant has grown up and flown away – leaving the little gall behind for scribes (and artists like me) to collect and use to make pigment.
One recipe I found says that, along with the oak galls, you need rainwater, gum Arabic, some vitriol and 3 table-spoons of red wine. I’m not sure about the vitriol, I try to avoid the internet trolls but everything else seems manageable. I’ll let you know how I get on.
PS: someone suggested since that ‘vitriol’ might be the medieval term for iron sulphate
Thank you so much for taking the time to explain to me how I am being manipulated and why I should not wear a mask. It is true as you said that fearful people are controlled more easily and what is more fearful than an invisible danger, an alleged virus?
But the thing is always of course: controlled by whom and what for?
When you explained that I was going to be controlled by Jews that was worrying but the lizards who were going to control me (as well or instead of?) were really scary. Then the Chinese Communists, with one of the permanent seats on the UN Security Council taking over those of the other four powers – that was terrifying. And then controlling the whole EU!
It’s amazing that the secret manipulators have managed to frighten or fool nearly every doctor, nurse and medical expert in the world – must be millions of them — into supporting the hoax and masking and vaccines. Thank God we have a handful of medical people spilling the beans. Still, it’s all quite terrifying.
And the plan to replace all white people through contraception, abortion, LGBT rights is frightening too – well, I’m white of course and I don’t want to be replaced. I’ve already been replaced by a machine at the checkout desk where I worked, which was easily done since most people during the pandemic – sorry, the hoax – preferred to use the machines and pay by bank card. Of course the bosses took advantage of the situation to replace some of us but nobody warned us about that.
Like you advised, I have refused to have the vaccine because I don’t want nanobots injected into me so They can control me and see where I go and what I do – even when I’m in the toilet or the shower. I can’t understand how all those controlled people are still managing to hold protests – like about housing, or people killed by police, or for the Palestinians. It’s very confusing so you’ll have to explain that to me again.
I told Brigid (remember, next door but one) about all the antifascists being pedophiles and she said does that mean all the people who fought against Hitler and Mussolini were pedophiles too? Then she said some disrespectful things like if you’re really concerned about pedophilia how come yous are always defending the Catholic Church? When I told her about Hillary Clinton running a pedophile ring from above a pizza restaurant, Brigid just burst out laughing so hard she said she’d have to go to the toilet. When she came back, she asked if John Kennedy and Bill Clinton couldn’t even keep their affairs secret from the public, how would Hillary Clinton manage to run a whole pedophile ring and keep it quiet? I didn’t know what to say and felt quite stupid. I wish you’d been there to answer her.
Brigid’s nephew has been wearing a mask in public since the authorities advised it. He got 99% in one of his exams and mostly around 90s, so I was wondering about that Dolores Cahill saying our children would end up stupid through inhaling carbon dioxide. Then I was wondering whether Brigid was lying or being manipulated. Or her brother, the boy’s father, was. Or the school, faking the results. Or the Government forcing the school to fake the results and fool the father and the son.
So anyway I’m confused and frightened. Tell me what to do, please.
(Changed headline andtranslated from article in Publico.es by D.Breatnach)
(Reading time main text: 7 mins.)
Franco’s repression in Fregenal de la Sierra executed more than 80. Now, a second excavation seeks to recover the bodies of those who did not come to light in 2012, when the skeletons of 43 victims were recovered. The remains found indicate cruelty towards women, disrespecting them even after they were shot.
When they gave her the jacket of her son, who had just been shot, she lost her speech. She was like this for two and a half years, in silence, until she died. The father, a lifelong labourer, said on his deathbed that he bequeathed his little house to his five children. “You only have four,” one of the witnesses told him. “Until they give me the body of my son, I still have five,” replied the man. They were the mother and father of Juan Serrano García, shot in September 1936 in Fregenal de la Sierra (Badajoz1), when the rebels tricked him into returning: “They said that all those who had not committed crimes of blood, would be free of reprisals,” adds Andrés Serrano, representative of the Association of relatives of the executed from the town and Juan’s nephew.
His body was found in 2012 in a mass grave in the town’s cemetery along with 42 other bodies, although many more are still waiting in the ground. At that time, there were seven graves opened. Now, five more are uncovered to try to account for the more than 80 murdered by Franco’s troops of which there is a record. Among the bodies there is an unusually high percentage of women for the situation, points out Laura Muñoz-Encinar, archaeologist and forensic anthropologist at the Institute of Heritage Sciences (Incipit), attached to the Higher Centre for Scientific Research (CSIC), and who is participating in the exhumation.
The forced and almost physical silence of Juan’s mother testifies to the decades and decades of internal repression of the thousands of victims of the Franco regime. So much so, that Serrano learned about the story of his uncle obliquely from his mother, the political one of the family. She did not tell him directly: “An anthropologist friend wanted to interview her for a job, so I took the opportunity and told him to ask her about what happened in the Civil War. I hid in a room next to the terrace, where they were and thus I was able to hear first-hand and for the first time in my life about the execution of my uncle, the hardships my grandparents went through and the stigmatization my family suffered for being, for everyone else, ‘reds’ “, related the historical memorialist at 68 years of age.
They were in a hurry to kill them
The case of Juan, a militant in the UGT2 and of socialist sympathies, assassinated at the age of 21, is just one more. In Fregenal, more than eight dozen people who were related to politics and social struggle during the Republican period were executed. Located in Badajoz, many townspeople joined “The Column of 8,000”, coming from the north of Huelva, to flee from the fascist barbarism between the air raids. The troops took Fregenal on September 18 and three days later Juan returned to the town together with another comrade. They thought that nothing would happen to them, because they had not committed any blood-crime.
“They arrived at 10:30 in the morning and at 11:15 they were both arrested. They were taken to jail, and no matter how hard my grandparents tried to intervene with some powerful people from the town to save him from being shot, on September 22 he was murdered”, relates Serrano. The same thing happened a few meters away, in those days, in the town square: “They shot about four people in the center of town; it was an exemplary shooting. They wanted to increase the fear that there was already,” he says.
That same September 22nd, Juan’s parents had already guessed the worst. They knew that their son had been detained and that the Francoists had no mercy. Their suspicions were confirmed when, a few hours later and for greater confirmation, they were given the jacket that their son had been wearing. According to Serrano, the rebel soldiers also told them that they should stop searching, that they already knew where he was, and not to bother people, referring to the people to which they had gone to ask for compassion for their young son.
The first exhumation: 43 bodies
More than 70 years later, the team to which Laura Muñoz-Encinar, the archaeologist belongs, arrived. It was 2010 and they couldn’t start the excavation for two years. After the surveys and a research project approved by the Ministry of the Presidency, they excavated seven mass graves. “There were men and women. They were from young to very advanced ages. Among the seven women we found, one of them had a full-term fetus of between 7 and 9 months,” explains the Incipit scientist.
The change of central government in 20113 meant the cancellation of the funding allocation related to the investigation of what happened during the Civil War and the Dictatorship, so they had to wait nine long years until they were able to return to the town. Muñoz-Encinar explains that “During this time almost all the children of the victims, of which there were many, have died. There is only one daughter living, María Lobo Villa. The Francoists executed her mother, three uncles and a grandfather. Now, mainly, grandchildren and great-nephews and great-nieces remain. “
In that excavation they found the body of a woman buried between two men, something recurring according to the expert. Once again, and as always, they got the worst of it. This is demonstrated by what happened to Antonia Regalado Carballar, known as “La chata carrera” (“the flat racer”?-DB). A 22-year-old political activist, this woman transgressed the traditional roles of the patriarchal culture of the time. “They detained her and took her to the cemetery. There they physically and psychologically abused her, and several of them raped her. After killing her, said the undertaker, they put her in the ditch between the bodies of two men,” Muñoz-Encinar explains further. Serrano adds what the rebels who were there said, as the gravedigger recalled, “As men tempt you, there you have men for your whole life.” They haven’t found her body yet.
This type of symbolism, highly contemptuous for all victims and sexualized in the case of women, is not an isolated event. “In the current excavation we have already found a body face down. In a Judeo-Christian culture like ours, the placement of the bodies responds to a ritual of elevating the soul to heaven, that is why the bodies are placed face up and with the limbs stretched , and not doing it like that is a post-mortem humiliation”, the archaeologist explained.
Killed without trial years after the War
She herself points out that all the remains already found and those they are still looking for were civilian victims of extrajudicial repression, executed on the basis of the war party in force from 1936 to 1948. That is that, almost ten years after the end of the war, it was still possible to execute civilians without the need to bring them through a judicial procedure. That is what happened in Fregenal de la Sierra in 1946 to a party of guerrillas4. This is how Muñoz-Encinar relates it: “We know that they were fighting in the mountains, that they were pursued, until one night they entered a brothel. There they were betrayed and, after a scuffle, they were arrested. They were murdered, their bodies were exhibited in the street entrance to the cemetery and then put in a grave.” Also victims of extrajudicial repression years after the Civil War ended, the team of experts does not know if their bodies will be in the five graves they are currently studying and in which they have already found three bodies.
By Diarmuid Breatnach
The Spanish state territory holds more mass graves than any country in the world with the exception of Cambodia. Most of their occupants were killed during the Spanish Antifascist struggle with or without a military court hearing outside of conflict zones, that is to say, either in the rear areas of the fascist-military forces, i.e areas already safely conquered. In some of the areas, there had been little or no military resistance whatsoever but that did not halt the arrests and executions. And after the conclusive defeat of the Republic, the executions continued. Many victims, perhaps even the majority, had never even fired a gun in defence of the Republic but were considered enemies of the fascist State through their support for the Republic, their political ideology, social attitude or sexual orientation.
The punishment was not always a death sentence but people died also in prison due to massive overcrowding, disease, inadequate food or clean drinking water, water for washing or inadequate medical care.
Despite the frequent assertion that the 1936 military-fascist uprising against the elected Republican Government was to “restore Christian values” and was supported by most of the Spanish Catholic Church hierarchy, rape of women and girls was frequent, whether they were afterwards shot or not. This was widely attested in evidence by victims, witnesses and even some war reporters.
Those who survived or did not go to jail faced constant harassment, confiscation and theft of land, animals and produce; fines and public humiliation, in particular the women who were force-fed laxatives and then paraded in nightclothes or underclothes through the neighbourhood, sometimes to the doors of the Catholic church, unable to control their bowels as they walked.
Babies were also taken from murdered supporters of the Republic and later from working class women (who were told their baby had been stillborn) and given to childless fascist couples. Children of the “Reds5” were taunted at school and insulted by teachers.
After its sharpest form abated the repression nevertheless continued throughout the nearly four decades of the Dictatorship and it was extremely dangerous to even speak of disinterring the mass graves and reburying the victims in dignity, not to speak of honouring them as antifascist martyrs. Even after the death of Franco and the Transition to an alleged democracy, many kept silent to protect their families. Schools suppressed the history6. Murderers and torturers were not prosecuted. Thieves kept what they had taken. The ruling class consisted for the most part of supporters of the fascist-military uprising and their descendants and they thronged the civil service, military, police, judiciary, church hierarchy, media (State and private), the education system – along with many businesses and a number of political parties.
More recently, the work of generations of those keeping the historical memory alive, investigating, speaking, marking areas, even disinterring on their own initiatives, is bearing fruit. The Law of Historical Memory, passed through the Spanish Parliament under a social-democratic Government in 2007 helped for a little while but then fell into disuse under the PP Government, though it was not abolished.
Its renovation in 2020 by the PSOE-Unidas Podemos coalition has spurred more excavation bu the Law and its renovation had been preceded by the work over decades by volunteers of historical memory associations in many different parts of the State, such as the Basque Country, Catalonia, Asturias, Galicia, Andalucia and Madrid. The associations have been assisted by forensic experts working voluntarily. This work has helped create the political-social-cultural atmosphere in which in October 2019 the long-promised removal of the remains of the Dictator General Franco and the leader of the fascist Falange, Primo Rivera, took place from their fascist mausoleum in the Valle de Los Caidos7 (“Valley of the Fallen”, a fascist monument constructed with prisoner labour and a shrine for Spanish fascists).
Nevertheless the renovated Historical Memory Law, or its program posted by the Government, has been criticised by relatives and other historical memory activists, because it rules out any reparations. They are bitter that most of the known torturers, murderers and rapists died natural deaths without having faced even a trial and their accusers8 and that not only do their families hang on to their ill-gotten gains but that the State does not acknowledge its duty to the victims. The State itself, or one of its departments, is also engaged in a judicial-political struggle to recover from organisations and families some properties, including national monuments and one of them of UNESCO World Heritage status. Some local authorities face prosecution and reductions in allocation of central funds because they are holding on to commemorative signs exalting Franco or someone of his supporters.
Of course, the fascists and most varieties of the Right in the Spanish polity are angry at these events and link them to the struggle for Catalan independence as fatal to the Spanish State; they demonstrate and threaten a coup or some kind of repercussion, retired Army senior officers sign declarations and some rattle their sabres in public, the spokesperson of the Franco Foundation reminds the current King Felipe that it is entirely due to Franco that his father became monarch (which is true and Juan Carlos also swore allegiance to that regime, an oath which he never recanted).
Even some liberals are uneasy, feeling that “it’s reopening old wounds”, to which the relatives of the victims and others reply: “the wounds have never closed.”
2Unión General de Trabajadores, a general workers’ union allied to the social-democratic PSOE party. The union was outlawed by Franco and many of its supporters suffered imprisonment or even execution or murder without trial. It is one of the largest unions in the Spanish state today and the PSOE is one of the traditional parties of government.
3In that year’s General Election the right-wing Partido Popular won a landslide victory against the PSOE and the political climate changed considerably. Both the PP and the PSOE support the unionist and monarchist Spanish Constitution but the PP contains a harder Right, including supporters of the Franco regime and memory and outright fascists, some of which have split off at times to form the right-wing Ciudadanos and fascist Vox parties.
4Guerrilla struggle persisted in parts of the Spanish state after the defeat of the Republic, in some cases for decades.
5To sustain the fiction that they were fighting against “Communism”, (no doubt believed by many), those leading the fascist-military uprising constantly referred to their enemies as “Reds”. Some of course were but the Republic was also supported by Basque, Catalan and Galician nationalists, democrats, social-democrats, revolutionary socialists, anarchists, libertarians and anarcho-syndicalists. The foreign press mostly referred to them as Republicans (sometimes as “Government supporters”) and the fascist-military side as Nationalists (sometimes as “rebels”). Communists, revolutionary socialists and anarchists predominated among the foreign volunteers who joined the Republican forces through the International Brigades and other routes (for example, Orwell, a member of the Independent Labour Party, fought with the mostly Trotskyist POUM) but they also included socialist Republicans from Ireland for example along with simply dedicated antifascists.
7An event covered in detail on Spanish TV in the style of a state funeral.
8Notable exceptions were Melitón Manzanas, Commander of the Political-Social Brigade of the Guardia Civil, a notorious torturer and Nazi collaborator, assassinated by the Basque armed group ETA in San Sebastian/ Donosti in 1968 and Admiral Carrero Blanco, Franco’s nominated successor, also assassinated by ETA in Madrid in 1973. Manzanas was awarded posthumously the Medal of Civic Merit by the Aznar Government in 1998 as “a victim of terrorism”.
“WELCOME TO REFUGEES” EVENT SANDYMOUNT 3 SEPTEMBER 2015
(Reading time: 3 mins.)
On 13 September 2015, six years ago a remarkable event took place on the strand in Sandymount (Dumhach Trá) in Dublin (Baile Átha Cliath), of which I have been reminded by the Facebook anniversaries function. I wrote a short report with photos for a FB album at the time but it deserves a more easily accessible record on Rebel Breeze. Text from the album follows:
WELL OVER A THOUSAND PEOPLE (that will be just “several people” for RTÉ1), gathered at Sandymount strand today to spell out the message “Refugees Welcome” on the sand.
The day looked bad earlier with rain and, at the original time set, was still raining. But due to tide conditions, the start time had been set back an hour and the rain had stopped and there was even some intermittent sunshine as the crowds assembled.
I had to strip off rainproof clothes under which I was already sweating. Starting was slow and some singers tried to keep us entertained as we waited. We were also led in shouting some slogans — all in English (would using the word “Fáilte” have hurt?). We were each assigned to a column behind the letter we were going to spell out.
Eventually we were led off by our letter-leader to a spot marked out in the shape of the letters by string tied to pegs stuck in the sand. We shuffled into shape obediently.
A drone flew over us filming (I had unpleasant associations with the word, especially in a US-Syria context) and then we all had to be reformed, as according to the drone operator, the letters didn’t look right. So yes, we all became reformists .
Then it was finally right, the “heart” had to be reformed too — it was bleeding people out at the edges. Finally, we were judged to be right, waved to the drone, film was taken.
Then the organisers thought it would be good for us to “scatter” for the film effect. We did, kind of, a half-hearted scatter …. nothing like we would have done from incoming ordinance. And then we went home.
After standing in the wet sand I discovered that dubbin did not keep the water out of my boots and, no matter how much knocking of boots together, I still had some sand on them when I got home. Remember how you always managed to bring some sand home from the beach, no matter how hard you tried not to?
The event followed on the more than two thousand (“hundred” according to RTÉ) who gathered at the Spire yesterday to extend the hand of welcome to refugees fleeing murder and even sexual slavery (by ISIS); a counter to the xenophobia and especially Islamophobia which had awoken echoes of the anti-Irish Catholic rantings of Cromwell and his kind in the 15th Century. Well done to the organisers and those who turned up to support the event.
A lot of organisations had put their name to the event but effectively it had been organised by a coalition of ENAR Ireland (now Ireland Network Against Racism), Migrant Resource Centre Ireland and Irish Refugee Council — maith iad in conception, planning and execution.
As though their traumal from the cause of leaving and its own pain were not enough, many die in the attempt. Thousands of refugees have died trying to reach Europe, most of them in the Mediterranean. Those who survive face racism and ghettoisation.
“From January to June 2021, it was estimated that 827 migrants died while crossing the Mediterranean Sea. In 2020, the number of deaths amounted to 1.4 thousand. However, the accurate number of deaths recorded in the Mediterranean Sea cannot ascertained. Between 2014 and 2018, for instance, about 12,000 people who drowned were never found”.2
Casualties and missing people
“Worldwide, it was estimated that eight thousand people died in the attempt of fleeing their country. According to estimations, over five thousand refugees lost their lives in the attempt to reach the European shores in 2016. Therefore, the Mediterranean Sea was the deadliest migration route. Indeed, over the last couple of years, the Mediterranean Sea held the largest number of casualties and missing people”.3
Western, Central, and Eastern route
“According to migration studies, the Mediterranean Sea is crossed by a Western, a Central, and an Eastern route. Out of these routes, the Central Mediterranean route was the deadliest. In 2016, roughly 4,6 thousand people lost their lives while pursuing this route. Sadly, the identification of bodies is challenging due to the sea. In 2019 for instance, the vast majority of refugees who drowned in the Mediterranean were not identified and their country of origin was untraceable.”4
Remember? Remember when we were migrants?
Remember when we fled murder and rapine
and many another terrible scene
When death and torture were at hand
and we sought succour in other lands?
Remember when our little nation
was devastated by starvation.
disease and desolation,
our hope in emigration ….
Remember when we died by
mountain, valley and sea
or we braved
the rolling waves
to go where we might be free?
Remember, oh do you remember?
Escape, the vote,
in leaky boats
in anything to float,
fear in throat,
today they launch
for our shores.
We must remember!
1Radió Teilifís Éireann, the state broadcasting service.