THE COLONIES STRIKE BACK – IN FILM

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 5 mins.)

The colonies have been striking back at the Empire in film for some time and why not? Sure the Empire’s been colonising them all over again for decades, also through film.

But for a long time the liberal anti-colonial script-writers couldn’t bring themselves to make the main heroes of the film the indigenous colonised in Africa, America, Asia or Oceania – or else the finance backers doubted they’d recover their investment.

So the situation of the colonised had to be seen through the eyes of a liberal hero of European background or ancestry1 — someone with which, as they thought the the white European audience could identify2.

Stories figuring the Europeans colonised by England, i.e the Irish and the Scots, many who were in turn used by the Empire to colonise the lands of others — gets the film-makers over that difficulty.

Script-writers and casting directors in that ex-colony-now-superpower have been getting back at the English for years, of course, in historical drama3 but also portraying their villains with English accents4. Posh accents at first and then regional and London-Cockney5.

But rarely against the Irish, being often heroes in US films, providing they are Irish-Americans, which is to say Irish UStaters.

Two productions I’ve watched recently had as heroes people exported by the Empire from their own conquered homelands to other conquered colonies, in each case forming alliances with indigenous people.

Billy (Baykali Ganambarr) and Clare (Aisling Franciosi) in a scene from the Nightingale film (Image sourced: Internet)

Both productions have also given coverage to native languages of the indigenous people and, in one of them, also to a fair bit of the Irish language, spoken and sung.

THE NIGHTINGALE IN TASMANIA

The Nightingale (2018) is set in the British colony of Tasmania in 1825. In that period, which is not the main story, the Black War took place, in which an estimated 600-900 indigenous Tasmanians were killed, nearly wiping out their entire population. The killers were British colonial armed forces and settlers.

Political or social prisoners in the UK6 of the period were often transported to serve their time in penal colonies where, if they survived, they could be freed upon completion of their sentences or even earlier by agreement but to return was impossible unless they could purchase passage home.

Clare — “The Nightingale”, so nicknamed for her singing voice — is one such social prisoner, an Irish woman convicted of stealing and transported to Van Diemen’s land to serve her time.

She is part of the household staff of a British officer stationed there but is permitted to marry a free Irishman, Aidan; they live together in a hut and have a child together. The officer desires Clare and acts violently upon that desire, giving rise to a chain of tragic events.

Clare sets out to track the officer down and wreak revenge upon him but, needing a tracker-guide, employs an indigenous Tasmanian for that purpose. The story then is not only about her journey but about the uneasy relationship between these two victims of colonialism and occasional glimpses of other aspects of colonial rule, particularly in Tasmania.

IRISH, SCOTS AND INDIGENOUS

Frontier (2016) was originally a series for Television and, like The Nightingale, found a home later on Netflix. It features Irish and Scots heroes against the British Authorities and military.

It is set in British Canada in a historical struggle for control of the fur trade between the Hudson Bay Trading Company, a monopoly jealously protected by the UK, and a consortium of trappers striving for independence in trade.

Tavern owner Kate Emberly (Zoe Boyle) being meneaced by Captain Chesterfield (Evan Jonikeit) in the Frontier series (Image sourced: Internet)

The indigenous people are represented too, with a female warrior and communities, speaking Cree and a number of other Indigenous languages, including Inuit, with subtitles providing a translation.

The main hero is Declan Harp (now there’s names with an Irish connection!) who is half-Cree and half-Irish; after his parents were killed, he is adopted by Benton, the British administrator of the area but Harp later grows to hate Benton, who had his wife and child murdered.

A lesser male hero and ally is Michael, totally Irish but with a shaky moral compass. The main female heroes are a Cree warrior/ hunter and a Scottish woman, owner-manager of a tavern.

A female sort of anti-hero is a wealthy English woman of aristocratic type and there’s an Irish woman of humble background, being schooled to be “a lady”. There are a number of male Scottish anti-heroes too and there’s a Metis (of mixed Indigenous and French [or Breton or Basque?] parentage) helper, trapper and guide.

The Frontier has a couple of villains of US-origin but that’s allowed, this is Canada after all, its domination taken over by the USA from England. Otherwise nearly all the bad characters, the “black hats”, are English and so too with The Nightingale.

The British soldiers in both stories have regional English accents but so do some of their lower-ranking officers. Most of them are brutal and drunkards, some also murderers and rapists. Anti-English propaganda? No doubt but from what we know of history and even of more contemporary colonialism, very likely true enough.

Reviews have praised Jason Momoa’s portrayal of Declan Harp in The Frontier and certainly his physical size and appearance (long tangled locks, one eye clouded, looking out under lowered eyebrows) does focus one’s attention.

Jason Momoa as Declan Harp and Jessica Matten as Sokanon in a scene from the Frontier series (Image sourced: Internet)

Personally I found the number of times he survives torture, serious beatings and wounds straining credulity and, in a way, tending towards boring, as though the Director or screenplay writer thought: Let’s get Declan to have another massive bloody fight here, we haven’t had one of those in a couple of episodes now.

However, even with at times difficult-to-believe plot turns, there are some excellent performances, chiefly perhaps and not surprisingly Alun Armstrong as Lord Benton and Shawn Doyle as the ruthless smoothly urbane but underneath volcanic Samuel Grant

Greg Bryk as Grant’s smooth and sinister manservant-lover Cobbs Pond puts in effective performances too. Evan Jonigkeit as Captain Chesterfield, is also good, particularly in his anguished frustrated desire for the tavern owner Grace Emberly (Zoe Boyle), and his burning desire to rise above his social station.

Jessica Matten is believable as the Cree warrior-hunter Sokanon, despite her gender being unlikely in that role, but her frowning expression grows repetitious after a while.

Katie McGrath played the plotting and provocative English aristocrat Mrs. Carruthers well in her unfortunately short run as a character (but Wardrobe and Sequence, would she wear the same lace-sleeved undergarment so many day in a row?).

Katie McGrath as Lady Carruthers in Frontier. (Image sourced: Internet)

The female who develops something of a penchant for killing violent dominating males and disposing of their bodies is an interesting character creation though her appearances in that role are few.

When Declan Harp commandeers a ship to take him and McTaggart (Jamie Sives) to Scotland to rescue Grace and avenge himself on Lord Benton, we are introduced to a Portuguese ship captain and a Polynesian mariner, the latter also singing and praying in his native language.

In Scotland, Harp recruits local toughs to attack the English Castle Benton where Lord Benton has taken residence and they kill many redcoats.

STEREO OR TRUE-TYPES

The main characters in The Nightingale are of course the vengeful woman Clare (Aisling Franciosi), her aboriginal guide and companion ‘Billy’ (Baykali Ganambarr), along with the British Lieutenant Hawkins (Sam Claffin) and Sergeant Ruse (Damon Herriman) she pursues.

All are believable characters with strong performances by the actors. England is an evil bastard in this story, represented by the officer Hawkins and sergeant Ruse but some decent English individuals make their appearance on occasion too.

The dialogue is mostly English but the Tasmanian language spoken and sung in the film is Palawa Kani. Some Irish is spoken between Aidan and Clare, the latter singing mainly English folk songs but to her child sings the Irish language lyrics of Cailín Álainn to the Scottish air of the Mingalay Boat Song7.

Speaking their own language makes the subjects their own people; speaking English, usually badly or with heavy un-English accents, though making them more intelligible to English fluents also presents them to the English-speaker as lesser-English, lesser-UStater, lesser-Canadian — in total: lesser human.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1 For example the plight of the Cheyenne in 1864 was represented in Soldier Blue through the eyes of the European woman Cresta Lee (Candice Bergin); it’s the liberal newspaper editor Donald Woods (Kevin Kline) who we accompany as we follow the story of the hero Biko in Cry Freedom, murdered by the South African white minority regime. Even in the British colony in Ireland, where the natives are white, the heroes may be English (Brian Cox playing an honest English cop in Hidden Agenda, Emma Thompson as the lawyer in Name of the Father).

2 When the promoters and financiers finally realised that a large part of their paying audiences were not in fact white European is when one started to see heroes of other backgrounds and ‘blacksploitation’ films.

3 Mel Gibson’s The Patriot and Bravehart, for example but going much further back, Disney’s The Fighting Prince of Donegal (1966).

4 For examples Grand Moff Tarkin in original Starwars trilogy (1977-1983), Steven Berkoff in Beverly Hills Cop (1994), Scar in The Lion King (1994), arguably Anthony Hopkins [though Welsh and playing a Lithuanian] in Silence of the Lambs (1991), Sher Khan in The Jungle Book (1996) and sequel.

5 Tim Roth in Pulp Fiction (1994).

6 Not just the British – the French had their penal colonies abroad, for example in Guyana and the Spanish state sent prisoners to Ceuta, in North Africa even in modern times.

7 An anachronism, since the composer of the Irish lyrics of An Cailín Álainn is Tomás ‘Jimmy’ Mac Eoin from An Bóthar Buí in An Cheathrú Rua, Conamara, Galway, Ireland – and he was only born in 1937. The lyrics of the Mingalay Boat Song are also apparently sung to a much older air and one supposes the original lyrics would have been in Gaedhlig.

SOURCES

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Nightingale_(2018_film)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frontier_(2016_TV_series)

REPUBLICAN FIGHTER, EX-PRISONER, PROMOTER OF HISTORICAL MEMORY

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 5 mins.)

The celebration of the memory of Eddie O’Neill, organised by Friends of the International Brigades Ireland was held in the Dublin Club building of the Irish National Teachers’ Union on 5th August, attended by many of his friends, relatives and comrades.

Eddie died 27th July 2021 but the commemoration had to be postponed until Covid precautions permitted a gathering of many of those who wished to attend, although messages were also received from those who inevitably could not attend this event.

Maureen Shiels opening the event (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Opening the event, speaking in Irish and in English, Maureen Shiels said that although Eddie was sorely missed, the proceedings were intended to celebrate the life of FIBI’s honorary President, with talks, reminiscences and music.

Eddie O’Neill had been a member of the Provisional IRA active in England, had been captured and jailed, had then become a part of the resistance within the prison system, not only with other IRA prisoners but also others within the jails.

After his release Eddie had worked to bring former Republican prisoners together for mutual support, going on to work on having the story of those in English prisons told and also working to strengthen the historical memory of the Irish who fought against Franco.

FILM

Joe Mooney showed a short fictional film but celebrating Tyrone socialist Republican and poet, Charley Donnelly, who was killed on 23rd September 1937 at the Battle of Jarama. Mooney is a history activist in his East Wall community and has organised walking history tours, talks and other events.

These have involved the social and political history of his area around the Fenians, 1913 Lockout, 1916 Rising, War of Independence and Civil War. But also connections to other actions in other areas, such as the Spanish Anti-Fascist War, in which local anti-fascist Jack Nalty1 was killed.

Shiels called on Ruan O’Donnell to give the main oration, historian and author, including of Vols. 1 & 2 of Special Category – the IRA inEnglish prisons, in which Eddie had organised the interviews, she had written them out in longhand and Maureen Maguire2 had then typed them up.

MAIN ORATION – RUAN O’DONNELL

Giving the main oration of the event, historian O’Donnell took the audience on a tour through the record of Eddie’s activism in England, actions of sabotage carefully calculated to cause disruption, publicise the on-going war yet without causing any civilian casualties.

O’Neill had been the impulse and some of the driving force behind O’Donnell’s two works (so far) on Irish political prisoners in jails in England during the the last decades of the former century and had been not only one of the prisoners but an organiser of escapes and other acts of resistance.

Eddie watched the paratroopers and colonial police attack the demonstrators’ protest march at Magilligan internee concentration camp from the roof on to which he had climbed; during the English prison protest at Gartree was again a rooftop protester and drew up the list of demands.

Ruan O’Donnell went on to speak of Eddie’s personal qualities of not only courage but also determination and his privacy, how he kept his family life separate from his military activities and also talked little about the illness that was going to end his life.

Seán Óg performing at the event (Photo: D.Breatnach)

MUSIC

A recording of The Mountains of Pomeroy3 was played, along with a video clip of Andy Irvine performing at a FIBI gala concert in the Workman’s Club in November 2018, played by Joe Mooney. Irvine worked Woody Guthrie’s You Fascists Bound to Lose into his own instrumentals.

At various times Sean Óg was called to sing and, accompanying himself on guitar, performed The Prisoners’ Anthem4 (celebrating the resistance of Irish Republican prisoners), Christy Moore’s Viva La Quince Brigada and The Peat Bog Soldiers5 (song of revolutionary prisoners of the Nazis).

At a request from Sheils that “we should remember our own Civil War”, he sang Soldiers of ‘226. I sang the Hans Beimler song to celebrate the German trade unionist and communist who had escaped Dachau, gone to fight in Spain and was killed in the Battle for Madrid in November 19367.

Right: Diarmuid Breatnach singing Hans Beimler. Left, Brenda O’Riordan (Photo: FIBI)

Brenda O’Riordan sang a rendition of Si Me Quieres Escribir (“If You Want to Write to Me” [I’ll be on the Gandesa frontline]) and related some reminiscences of her brother Manus, a foremost activist in FIBI (1949-September 26, 2021) and of their father, International Brigader Michael O’Riordan.

PERSONAL REMINISCENCES

A number of people gave personal reminiscences of Eddie O’Neill from their own experience, including one member of his family who talked about Eddie’s sense of humour and also his observance of security with regard to his Volunteer activities.

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Harry Owens, Spanish Civil War historian and author, said that Eddie had contributed so much to remembering the war in Spain. At a commemoration there once, they had been asked why they drag up the past; Harry had replied “So we don’t let it happen again.”

FOCAL SCOIR

There is something else about Eddie O’Neill’s political standpoint of that I do not hear said about him, which is that he was not a supporter of the pacification strategy called “the Irish Peace Process”, nor indeed of the South African or Palestinian parallel processes.

It is understandable why in a “broad church” such as the Friends of the International Brigades Ireland, there would be a reluctance to mention this. Understandable but mistaken, in my opinion. It was an important facet of Eddie that he could reflect on the struggle and his and others’ sacrifices.

Section of attendance early, centre left of room. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

But he could assess mistakes also and where the leadership had taken the movement. Specifically with regard to the South African situation, we agreed that Ramaphosa and Zuma had betrayed the struggle and that Mandela had, with his personal status and silence, facilitated that8.

Nevertheless, Eddie surprised me by calling ANC fighter Robert McBride “one of the worst gangsters”, as I was recalling how I had once campaigned to save him from execution9. It seems a weakness in us if we can’t assess our errors even when one of our fighters points them out.

Eddie was all the good things that people said about him and the event was a fitting tribute to his memory and his contribution to the struggle but also a reminder to us that we are not supposed to just honour a fallen flag but to pick it up and carry it forward as far as we can. As Eddie did.

End.

Eddie O’Neill and Andy Irvine (Photo: FIBI)

FOOTNOTES

1Jack Nalty (1902-23 September 1938), Irish Republican Volunteer, socialist, trade unionist and athlete, was the last Irish Brigader to be killed in action in that war, on the Ebro the day before the Republican forces surrendered to the military coupist and fascists under General Franco. “He died heroically, after returning into danger to rescue a machine gun crew that had been left behind. As they withdrew they were hit by a burst of fascist machine gun fire and, though Jack died instantly, thankfully both British volunteers survived”(East Wall History Group). Jack Nalty is mentioned in Christy Moore’s “Viva La Quince Brigada” and on a number of plaques in public places.

2I have personal reason to know that Maureeen Maguire also did some of the interviews.

3The mountains are in Eddie O’Neill’s County of Tyrone. The song is of resistance, lyrics penned by George Sigerson (1836-1925).

4Composed by Gerry O’Glacain of The Irish Brigade group.

5As the communists and socialists were forbidden to sing their own songs, they created this one but in some cases were threatened with death to stop singing this one too, although it is has been recorded that the guards in some cases enjoyed the singing as they marched the prisoners out to work. The lyrics have been translated into many languages.

6Lyrics by Brian “na Banban” Ó hUigínn/ O’Higgins (1882 – 10 March 1963), to the air of The Foggy Dew, a popular song about the 1916 Rising.

7Lyrics in German by Ernst Busch (22 January 1900 – 8 June 1980) to air by Friedrich Silcher (1789-1860).

8Those were leaders of the African National Congress and the National Union of Miners respectively, though Ramaphosa is currently head of the ANC and President of South Africa and Zuma is in a long process of being tried for corruption. Ramaphosa is widely believed to have organised the Marikana massacre of striking mineworkers in 2012, which Zuma colluded with and which Mandela, then at liberty, kept silent about.

9 it has been suggested that McBride was an unrecognised grandson of John McBride, Mayor in the Irish Transvaal Brigade fighting the English in the Boer War and 1916 insurgent shot by British firings squad. Robert McBride was held up by IRA/Sinn Féin leader Martin McGuinness as an example of a former combatant who moved up into a l eadership role following the political changes in South Africa. The Wikipedia entry on his career after Apartheid will shock some people.

FURTHER READING etc

FIBI Ireland: https://www.facebook.com/fibi.ireland

Dedication by Nancy Wallach, descendant of a Lincoln Brigader: https://albavolunteer.org/2021/08/eddie-oneill-1951-2021/

FIBI dedication reprinted by ex-prisoner Anthony McIntyre, editor of The Pensive Quill blog: https://www.thepensivequill.com/2021/07/eddie-o-neill-1950-2021-irish.html

APPENDIX

Dedication of Friends of the International Brigades Ireland:

Eddie O’Neill 1951 – 2021

Irish Republican, Anti-Fascist, Internationalist

Éamon ‘Eddie’ Ó Néill, a true legend of the left republican and anti-fascist movement passed away peacefully in the company of his family in Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown, Dublin, on July 27. Eddie was a proud loughshore native of Doire Treasc i gContae Thír Eoghain.

We send our condolences to his family in Dublin and Tyrone and to his many comrades and friends across Ireland, Spain, the Basque Country, Catalunya, the US, Britain, Canada, Cúba and elsewhere.

Eddie O’Neill represented the very essence of Irish republican resistance and its symbiotic relationship with international anti-fascist solidarity and activism. A warm, engaging, charismatic and intriguing individual, he represented all that is best in humanity, with his understated selflessness often masking a fearless determination.

Interned as a young man while serving his engineering apprenticeship at Shorts, he was incarcerated in Crumlin Road Jail, Belfast, and Magilligan prison Camp, Co Derry, where he witnessed the infamous precursor to Bloody Sunday, when soldiers fired plastic bullets and CS gas at anti-internment protesters on Magilligan Strand.

After his release, Eddie became a full-time republican activist, operating in Ireland, the US and England. He was arrested in London in 1974 on conspiracy charges and while on remand he was broken-hearted by the death of his close friend and Co Tyrone comrade, Hugh Coney, who was shot dead by British soldiers after an escape from Long Kesh prison camp that October.

Convicted as a member of the so-called ‘Uxbridge 8’ the following year, he received a 20 years’ sentence in maximum-security English prisons. Over the next 14 years until his eventual release in 1988, he would spend much of his time in solitary confinement in various jails, enduring unimaginable brutality.

Eddie held little regard for material things, but he did treasure a copy of Peadar O’Donnell’s The Gates Flew Open – although he never read it. It belonged to his comrade Frank Stagg who left it open on his locker before he died on hunger strike in 1976. Eddie had shared the adjoining cell in Wakefield Prison. In all the years he had it, he never turned that page.

He was classed as a Category E prisoner – one considered likely to escape. He made good on this classification in 1977 with an escape attempt from Wormwood Scrubs and the following year he took part in a rooftop protest in Gartree in pursuit of demands for repatriation and political status.

As a result of the relentless attempts to break his spirit, in May 1979 he was rushed to the prison hospital at Parkhurst on the Isle of Wight suffering from blinding headaches, insomnia, partial blindness and partial paralysis.

For the previous two years he had suffered an inhumane regime of sleep torture, consisting of his cell light being left on 24 hours a day and frequent night searches, even though he was forced to strip before going to bed and to leave his clothes outside his cell.

He had no sooner finished his treatment than he was transferred to Winson Green prison and put back into solitary. He subsequently received a severe beating from prison officers. When he complained about his injuries, he lost his remission. Ever the fighter, he appealed this capricious decision, and the lost remission was restored.

He took everything that the empire could throw at him.

Following his eventual release, he continued his republican activism but widened it to encompass internationalism and anti-fascism. This path inspired him, along with International Brigades veteran Bob Doyle, Harry Owens and a small number of others, to establish the Friends of Charlie Donnelly, in memory of a fellow republican socialist, Co Tyrone native and International Brigader who had fallen at the Battle of Jarama in defence of the Spanish Republic in February 1937.

The group’s motivation has never been purely historical in nature: Eddie and the other members believe that the best way to honour the International Brigades is to draw inspiration from them to encourage future generations to take up the fight against fascism and imperialism.

Thanks in no small part to Eddie’s single-minded dedication to getting things done and his ability to attract people to work with him, in 2010 the group evolved into Friends of the International Brigades Ireland (FIBI).

Eddie proved that neither borders nor languages were insurmountable barriers to activism. He forged strong and enduring links across Ireland, Britain, Spain, The Basque Country, Catalunya, and the US in particular. These relationships will be the backbone of FIBI’s work into the future.

In Ireland, Eddie and other FIBI members had been erecting and repairing monuments to International Brigaders for several years. His work extended to every corner of Ireland and in 2010, he fulfilled a long-term ambition to complete a cairn overlooking where Charlie Donnelly fell at Jarama.

Of course, he had already planned this many years before it happened, laying the groundwork for this initiative of such symbolic importance through close co-operation with the Ayuntamiento de Rivas Vaciamadrid local authority and activists in the Asociación de Amigos de las Brigadas Internacionales (AABI).

The cairn, comprising stones from the 32 counties of Ireland, has been maintained and restored by the local authority after frequent attacks by Franco’s heirs and successors – a backhanded compliment to its significance. This monument has become a rallying point for internationalists, socialists, republicans, communists, anarchists, and democrats who gather every year to pay homage to those who defended democracy and freedom in the 1930s.

Eddie was committed to erecting memorials to every single Irish Brigader who served the anti-fascist cause in Spain. He researched primary and secondary sources in several countries and unearthed information on previously ‘lost’ volunteers, spending countless hours researching the labyrinthine Moscow Archives.

This research forged a path for commemorations in areas where local communities had no idea of the heroism of their forebears. Many of these ‘Volunteers of Liberty’ remain buried in unknown graves on Spanish soil, but Eddie was determined that their memories would endure.

Eddie’s determination to confront fascism became emblematic of his activism and internationalist outlook. In him, it was easy to recognise the living spirit of the International Brigaders.

His name was rightfully synonymous with the anti-fascist cause in Ireland and beyond. He planned and organised commemorative events across Spain, the Basque Country and Catalunya, where he was a regular and popular visitor in his famous green Hiace van (which served simultaneously as transport, accommodation and centre of logistics). Eddie’s name is lauded in many villages, towns, and cities across the Iberian Peninsula where he rested, laughed, talked politics, cajoled, and took part in acts of international solidarity.

Eddie stayed particularly close to his many friends and comrades in the Republican Movement and he had a deep and enduring bond with his fellow ex-prisoners, many of whom joined him as he led solidarity trips to Spain and the Basque Country from 2007 onwards.

Although a committed internationalist, he remained very proud of his Co Tyrone roots. He was the force behind the recent revival of the Charlie Donnelly Winter School in Dungannon and the annual commemorations at Killybrackey and Moybridge. He was also passionate about his beloved Fir an Chnoic (Derrytresk Gaelic Football Club) in his native parish and was extremely proud to see the team reach the All-Ireland Final in Croke Park in 2012.

Eddie leaves a powerful, inspiring legacy that will endure for those of us who follow. His energy seemed boundless and, even as his final illness took a heavy toll, he continued to carry his pain with stoicism, dignity, and humour.

His loss is devastating, not only to his family and friends, but to FIBI, of which he was the founder and Honorary President. His final message to the group urged us to carry on his work in commemorating the International Brigades and continuing the anti-fascist cause, which he considered more relevant now than ever, in the face of the increasing threat from resurgent monopoly capitalism, neoliberalism and the growing confidence of the fascist foot soldiers of hate and intolerance.

In his final days, he implored us to keep following in his footsteps. We are comforted in the belief that he knew we would continue his struggle. And what an inspiration we now have! What a legacy he has left us.

La lucha continúa!

No pasarán!

The Flowering Bars

(Charlie Donnelly 1914-37)

After sharp words from the fine mind,

protest in court,

the intimate high head constrained,

strait lines of prison, empty walls,

a subtle beauty in a simple place.

There to strain thought through the tightened brain,

there weave

the slender cords of thought, in calm,

until routine in prospect bound

joy into security,

and among strictness sweetness grew,

mystery of flowering bars.

1Jack Nalty (1902-23 September 1938), Irish Republican Volunteer, socialist, trade unionist and athlete, was the last Irish Brigader to be killed in action in that war, the day before the Republican forces surrendered to the military coupist and fascists under General Franco. “He died heroically, after returning into danger to rescue a machine gun crew that had been left behind. As they withdrew they were hit by a burst of fascist machine gun fire and, though Jack died instantly, thankfully both British volunteers survived”(East Wall History Group). Jack Nalty is mentioned in Christy Moore’s “Viva La Quince Brigada” and on a number of plaques in public places.

2I have personal reason to know that Maureeen Maguire also did some of the interviews.

3The mountains are in Eddie O’Neill’s County of Tyrone. The song is of resistance, lyrics penned by George Sigerson (1836-1925).

4Composed by Gerry O’Glacain of The Irish Brigade group.

5As the communists and socialists were forbidden to sing their own songs, they created this one but in some cases were threatened with death to stop singing this one too, although it is has been recorded that the guards in some cases enjoyed the singing as they marched the prisoners out to work. The lyrics have been translated into many languages.

6Lyrics by Brian “na Banban” Ó hUigínn/ O’Higgins (1882 – 10 March 1963), to the air of The Foggy Dew, a popular song about the 1916 Rising.

7Lyrics in German by Ernst Busch (22 January 1900 – 8 June 1980) to air by Friedrich Silcher (1789-1860).

8Those were leaders of the African National Congress and the National Union of Miners respectively, though Ramaphosa is currently head of the ANC and President of South Africa and Zuma is in a long process of being tried for corruption. Ramaphosa is widely believed to have organised the Marikana massacre of striking mineworkers in 2012, which Zuma colluded with and which Mandela, then at liberty, kept silent about.

9 it has been suggested that McBride was an unrecognised grandson of John McBride, Mayor in the Irish Transvaal Brigade fighting the English in the Boer War and 1916 insurgent shot by British firings squad. Robert McBride was held up by IRA/Sinn Féin leader Martin McGuinness as an example of a former combatant who moved up into a l eadership role following the political changes in South Africa. The Wikipedia entry on his career after Apartheid will shock some people.

REPORTING & COMMENTING GUIDELINES FOR WAR IN UKRAINE

By Sharoos Iroewin

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

Conflict reporting requires special skills, especially when doing so far from the the actual battleground (as is often the case and usually with western media reporting on the conflict in the Ukraine). Also journalists naturally want to eat, pay their mortgages and university fees for their children etc so it is important to write what is likely to get published which, in the last analysis and usually the first, will be decided by the editors of the news media paying them.

I’ve put together some dos and don’ts to help with that from my experience. Social media also plays an increasingly important role in public opinion and I’ve also provided some brief guidelines for interaction there.

MEDIA REPORTING

  1. Do not give any credence to constant reports of Ukrainian military using Ukrainian civilians as human shields. Now that Amnesty International has verified that pattern, publicise all the politicians and military criticising that report.
  2. Look for and repeat quotes of politicians accusing the Rusians of “targeting civilians”, practicing “terrorism” or even “genocide”.
  3. Any damage to civilian homes or other buildings by artillery must always be by the Russian military to the Ukrainian state side of the conflict, never to the other side by Ukrainian artillery. Your editors do not want to read or hear about damage to the other side’s homes or civilian buildings.
  4. However, damage to Russian military or Donetsk People’s Militia and Luhansk People’s Militia is great to report, because it makes the Ukrainian state forces (and NATO weapons) look good.
  5. Damage to Ukrainian armed forces claimed by the Russians may be reported but always as an unverifiable claim, unless confirmed by Ukrainian state sources.
  6. Damage to Russian armed forces claimed by Ukrainian state sources should always be reported in as fact-seeming a manner as possible (though from time to time some agencies will insert the caveat of being “unable to verify the claims of either side at this time”).
  7. Human interest and emotional stories should always be from the Ukrainian state side. Dog-saving stories did very well but might have been overdone. Refugee or otherwise victim children, old people and women tend to make sympathetic subjects. Your editors are not interested in dogs, children, old people or women from the other side; they will only confuse the picture for readers.
  8. Humanitarian supply or evacuation corridors are always to be reported as at Ukrainian or external initiative and if failing, should always be reported as with Russian culpability.
  9. ALWAYS refer to the Donetsk People’s Militia and Luhansk People’s Militia as “pro-Russian” forces and never as defensive in origin.
  10. ALWAYS reference the conflict as beginning in 2022 with the Russian invasion.
  11. If using an earlier time reference, write that it began with the “annexation of Crimea by Russia” in 2014
  12. NEVER refer to the Russian-speakers in the Donbas region being attacked in 2014 by Ukrainian fascists and military and in some areas successfully defending themselves.
  13. NEVER refer to the Russian-speakers in the Crimea holding a referendum in which a huge majority voted to ask to become part of Russia.
  14. AVOID REFERRING to political parties banned in Ukrainian state territory, reporters arrested or threatened, news media censored or closed and films and books banned. The same can however be freely reported when the Russian state is the one doing it.
  15. ALWAYS refer to the Ukrainian state as a democracy and the 2014 riots and abrupt change of government as a democratic one, never as a coup nor with reference to attacks on LGBT people, Roma, Left-wingers, Russian-speakers or any other group. Do not under any circumstances mention the burning alive of 14 people in a trade union hall by Ukrainian fascists.
  16. ALWAYS precede any reports on Russian military advances as being a response to “setbacks” or “failure” in a supposed “attempt to capture Kyiv”. Never give any credence to claims that the Russian military advance on Kyiv was in order to limit the Ukraine state’s ability to direct, supply and support Ukrainian state military elsewhere in the region. Or that Russia had nowhere enough troops there to try to take Kyiv.
  17. AVOID mentioning the Azov Regiment when possible (this was not possible when reporting on Mariupol, of course, since they were the core of the Ukrainian state forces there) but if doing so, NEVER call them “fascists” or “fascist-led”. It is of course permissible to refer to them as “nationalist” and sometimes as “having some far-Right members”.
  18. ALWAYS refer to Ukrainian state military fighting as “heroic” and any defeats due merely to Russian military equipment superiority. NEVER mention that the Russian invading force were outnumbered by Ukrainian military by four to one OR that the Russian military were not battle-hardened while the Ukrainian military had been fighting the defensive Russian-speaking areas’ militia for eight years.
  19. Occasionally refer to “demoralisation” or “war-weariness” among the Russian military (NEVER among the Ukrainian armed forces, least of all about their desertions).
  20. FREQUENTLY quote Premier Zelenski at length and Putin, if unavoidable, in brief.
  21. FREQUENTLY quote heads of state and prominent public figures etc of NATO countries, especially its leader, the USA in support of the Ukrainian state and against Russia.
  22. NEVER QUOTE public figures of those same states in criticising NATO or the Ukrainian state – doing so will only confuse people.
  23. ALWAYS present NATO as “a defensive military alliance which is no threat to anyone”.

SOCIAL MEDIA COMMENTING GUIDELINES ON THE WAR IN UKRAINE

ANY TIME someone posts an item which shows the Ukrainian regime in a nasty light, respond by posting comments

  • attacking them personally as “Putinistas” or “Putin whores”
  • as pro-Russian imperialism or as “Russian shils”
  • or attack their sources as of “Kremlin origin”, “Russian-funded”, etc
  • or post links to articles attacking Russia’s conduct in the Ukraine conflict as a reply.

RIDICULE any consideration of Russian claims that NATO has been steadily circling Russia ever-closer (despite the maps appearing to show this is what has been happening). Respond to the person making those claims

  • attacking them personally as “Putinistas” or “Putin whores” or as “Russian shils”
  • as pro-Russian imperialism
  • or post links to articles attacking Russia’s conduct in the Ukraine conflict as a reply.

ATTACK any reference to fascist forces such as the Azov by claiming

  • that they are just “nationalist” or
  • they have been broken up and spread through the rest of the forces (not to “infect” the rest, of course not)
  • accuse the commentators of being “Putinistas” or “Putin whores”
  • and pro-Russian imperialism or as “Russian shils”
  • or counter with reference to Russian use of the Wagner group
  • or post links to articles attacking Russia’s conduct in the Ukraine conflict as a reply.

JUSTIFY BANNING AND CENSORSHIP of journalists and media platforms

  • by saying they are “Russian shils”
  • or liars
  • “not real journalists”
  • or “because there’s a war on”

TURKEY’S PAYOFF FROM NATO LOOKS BAD FOR ROJAVA

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 8 mins.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BACKGROUND

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE KURDS IN SYRIA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End.

SOURCES & FURTHER READING:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HARRY BOLAND COMMEMORATED OVER THE ANNIVERSARY WEEKEND OF HIS KILLING

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 7 mins.)

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

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

Harry Boland portrait (Photo accessed: Internet)

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

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

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

EVENT AT GLASNEVIN CEMETERY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE PANEL DISCUSSION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COMMENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Photo: D. Breatnach)

ANOTHER TYPE OF COMMEMORATION

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

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

(Photo: D. Breatnach)

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

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

End.

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

FOOTNOTES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

USEFUL LINKS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WILDFLOWERS ALONG THE TOLKA

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

All were within a stretch of a few hundred yards.

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

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

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

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

End.

The Irish Prime Minister and the Fall of Singapore

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 5 mins.)

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

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

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

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

PERCIVAL IN IRELAND

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

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

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

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

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

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

LARGEST BRITISH SURRENDER IN HISTORY — AND TO LESSER NUMBERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IN CONCLUSION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End.

FOOTNOTES

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

2Singapore became an independent republic on 9 August 1965.

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

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

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

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

SOURCES

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

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

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

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

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

GUNS LANDED AT HOWTH!

Clive Sulish

(Reading time main text: 7 mins.)

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

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

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

MAYOR SHOCKED AT CIVILIAN DEAD AND WOUNDED — DEMANDS INQUIRY.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THREE SPEECHES – DETAILED, DIRECT AND DEFIANT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

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

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

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

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

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

SONGS

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

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

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

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

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

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

End.

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

FOOTNOTES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

USEFUL LINKS:

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

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

The Colombian Truth Commission and its Truths

Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

(01/07/2022)

(Reading time: 11 mins.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OH BROTHER!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AN OLD VERY BAD JOKE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE GERMAN EXAMPLE – AN OLD ILLUSION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE “FALSE POSITIVES”

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

But almost immediately it states that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IN CONCLUSION

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

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

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

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

End.

FOOTNOTES

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

2 Ibíd., p.56

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

4 Ibíd., p.39

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 Ibid

13 Ibid., p.28

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

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

ÓRÁID — CATHAL BRUGHA — ORATION

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

(Reading time: 11 mins.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CATHAL BRUGHA – EARLY YEARS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PREPARATION FOR RISING, PREPARATION FOR WAR — AND FURTHER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LESSONS OF HISTORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CIVIL WAR/ COUNTERREVOLUTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Counter-Revolution:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Phoblacht Abú!

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

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