The founding of the Irish Citizen Army, the first workers’ army in the world1, was commemorated in Dublin at the site of Wolfe Tone monument in Stephens Greeen, in song and speech on 23rd November 2022.
Organised by the Connolly Youth Movement, the other participating organisations represented were the Irish Communist Party, Independent Workers Union, Lasair Dhearg2 and Welsh Socialist Republican Solidarity (Ireland) – the Irish branch of the Welsh Underground Network.
In addition, a number of independent activists were also present.
THE IRISH CITIZEN ARMY
The Irish Citizen Army was founded on 23rd November 1913 on a call from Jim Larkin and James Connolly, both leading the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union in its titanic struggle against the federation of Dublin Employers’ plan to break and disperse the union.
The call for the formation of the ICA arose due to the attacks of the Dublin Metropolitan Police on the workers and their supporters; already in August 1913 the DMP had killed two workers by truncheon blows and injured many, including a youth who would die later as a result.
The ICA’s initial organiser was the writer and dramatist Seán O’Casey, later succeeded by Boer War veteran Jack White.3 In addition to requiring its recruits to be union members, the ICA enrolled women as well as men and some of the former were officers commanding both genders4.
While the ITGWU was defeated in the eight months of the Lockout, it was not smashed and came back stronger in a relatively short period. The ICA faded away then but was reorganised over following years and approximately 120 took part as a unit in the 1916 Rising, alongside other units.5
SPEECHES AND SONG
A small crowd had gathered at the advertised location, the Wolfe Tone Monument in Stephen’s Green and the chairperson of the event called people to order.
Diarmuid Breatnach, an independent activist, was asked to sing one of Connolly’s compositions, ironically titled Be Moderate, often referred to instead by its refrain, “We only Want the Earth”.
An older man with a Dublin accent, Breatnach told his audience that Connolly published the lyrics in New York in 1907, going on to sing the five verses to the air of Thomas Davis’ A Nation Once Again6, using the chorus part to repeat the refrain that “ … we only want the Earth!”7
A representative of the Independent Workers’ Union, a young man with an Ulster accent, spoke about the need for workers to have a trade union and for that union not to align itself with employers or with the State.
In order to truly represent the interests of the workers, the union needs to be independent, he maintained and also democratic in its decision-making.
In conclusion, the speaker said that the IWU is the union that is needed and called on people present to join it and to support it.
“MAKE THE VISION A REALITY”
Amy Margaret, a young woman, also with an Ulster accent, delivered a speech on behalf of the organisers of the event, the Connolly Youth Movement.
“The Citizen Army was a direct response to the brutality carried out by the RIC and Dublin Metropolitan Police during the Dublin Lockout” she said; “the police killed two workers, injured hundreds more with baton charges, and frequently ransacked the tenements where strikers lived.”
“The Citizen Army fought back with some succes” she continued “and as one pointed out, a hurley has a longer reach than a baton. It was in the Citizen Army that the working-class stood up to the RIC and employers,” she continued.
“The same RIC that torched farmer’s homes during the Land war, the same employers who often owned the slums where workers lived; it was here at Stephen’s Green (and elsewhere in the city) that the Citizen Army stood up to the British Empire, alongside comrades in the Irish Volunteers.”
She told her audience that when, during a dockers’ strike in 1915, scabs were imported and police harassed picketers, Connolly sent a squad of the ICA with fixed bayonets to the scene, resulting in the dispute’s resolution with “a considerable increase in wages to the dockers concerned”.
“The Citizen Army was not simply workers armed with guns,” the speaker said, “but also armed with culture” and referred to weekly concerts in Liberty Hall (the ITGWU’s HQ) and to the dramatic acting history of Seán Connolly and whistle-playing of Michael Malin, both 1916 martyrs
“What the ICA stood and fought for in their own words, “… is but one ideal – an Ireland ruled and owned by Irish men and women, sovereign and independent, from the centre to the sea.”
“Connolly was clear however that such a Republic would have no place for the “rack-renting, slum-owning landlord” or the “profit-grinding capitalist”, but should rather be a “beacon-light to the oppressed of every land”.
“The most fitting tribute for the ICA then is to make that Republic a reality. To do so we must learn from the past and their examples. We can learn from them to never be cowed by the odds against us, we can learn from their comradeship to each other.
We can learn from how they combined political, economic and cultural methods to advance the cause of a worker’s republic. But more importantly we must be able to learn from their shortcomings.
After the Rising and the loss of its leadership the ICA began to devolve into a social club and whilst some members played an important role during the Tan War, the ICA was not the revolutionary workers’ army it once was.
Therefore we must build a truly mass movement – not just a committed core of activists, and we must build a movement not reliant upon key personalities so that it can function no matter what.
We all know that things must change in Ireland, and so we reaffirm the principle that the Citizen Army stood by; only the Irish working class is capable of waging the revolutionary struggle necessary to change things; not capitalists and landlords.
Helena Molony of the ICA, said, “We saw a vision of Ireland, free, pure and happy. We did not realise that vision. But we saw it.”
As the socialist-republican youth of today, we commit ourselves to make that vision a reality and to build a Republic that the men and women of the Citizen Army would gladly call their own.”
MARKIEVICZ: “RESOLUTION, COURAGE AND COMMITMENT“
Breatnach was called back to the microphone and talked about the lessons to be learned from Constance Markievicz, co-founder of Na Fianna Éireann, the Irish Citizen Army and of Cumann na mBan, born in Britain “as were a number of our national and class heroes”, he said.
“Constance was born into a settler landlord family, the Gore-Booths”, he told the audience and her experience of witnessing deprivation, along with her sister Eva, during the Great Hunger, had a strong effect on both, inclining them to social reform and they became also suffragettes.
The speaker said that in that latter aspect and as a poet Eva became well-known particularly in England but Constance was better known as a revolutionary and for her allegiance to the working class and to the Irish nation.
He reminded his listeners that Markievicz was artistic and apt to strike poses; O’Casey, founder of the ICA had been hostile to her and co-founder of Cumann na mBan and wife of Tom Clarke of the IRB, Kathleen Clarke, had found her irritating.
Breatnach said that Markievicz was 3rd in 1916 garrison command at Stephen Green and had been accused not only shooting dead there a member of the DMP but of exulting in it; however according to witness accounts she had not even been present when the officer was killed.8
A British officer at her court-martial after the surrender of the 1916 Rising had claimed that she begged for her life at the court-martial but the official British records published later gave the lie to that and her own account that she demanded equal treatment with the executed leaders rings true.
“Her life as an example,” Breatnach continued, “teaches us not to judge people only by their background or indeed by their idiosyncrasies but primarily by their resolution, courage and commitment, all of which Constance Markievicz had by the bucket-load.”
The speaker also reminded those present that the very Wolfe Tone monument beside which he stood had been blown up in a number of British Loyalist bombings of the city during the 1970s, a number of which would soon be commemorated on the December anniversary of one of them.
The Irish State had prosecuted not a single one of the perpetrators, not even for the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, with the highest death toll9 of any one day during the recent 30 Years War. Instead, they had used the 1972 bombing to pass emergency legislation to attack Irish Republicans!10
Speaking briefly as a historical memory conservation activist, primarily active in the campaign to save the Moore Street market and 1916 battleground from speculators, Breatnach remarked that it was fortunate that the area behind him was a public park.
Otherwise it would all have been a prime target for property speculators. People sometimes express surprise that Irish governments do so little to protect areas of insurrectionary history. He stated however that this was natural since it was not their history but that of the struggling people.
“The history of the Irish ruling class is of a foreign-dependent one”, Breatnach stated, “rather than that of a national bourgeoisie willing to fight for independence. The last time Ireland had such a bourgeoisie was in 1798, mostly led by descendants of settlers and planters.”
“This is why Connolly pointed out that the Irish working class are the true inheritors of the Irish struggle for freedom. National independence and socialism are two different objectives but interdependent in Ireland and for the struggles to succeed they must be led by the working class.”
Wreaths were laid on behalf of a number of organisations, including Lasair Dhearg and the chairperson thanked all for their attendance, leaving people to their various ways into the mild autumn-like afternoon.
1Clearly not the first army composed of workers, since these are the members of most armies; nor the first to fight for the workers, as did some for the Paris Commune in 18th March-28th May1871. However, the ICA was founded specifically for the defence of workers, the first in the world to be so, though its constitution was largely Irish nationalist.
2Socialist and anti-fascist Irish Republican organisation mostly represented in Belfast. The name means “Red Flame”.
3A number of Irish were veterans of the Boer War, the British against Dutch colonists in South Africa, most like White were on the British side but some fought for the Boers, to the extent of forming an Irish Brigade for the purpose. Later, a number from both groups ended up fighting alongside one another in the 1916 Rising (and no doubt against others who remained in the British Army).
5The Irish Volunteers, Cumann na mBan, Na Fianna Éireann, the Hibernian Rifles and of course the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the chief architects of the Rising, its members fighting as members of other units, chiefly the Volunteers and the Fianna (the membership of both those organisations was exclusively male though its couriers were often female but Tom Clarke’s wife, Kathleen Clarke, was the IRB’s liaison from Dublin with the sister organisation in the USA.
6James Connolly (1868-1916) did not prescribe any air for the lyrics and they have been sung to several. A Nation Once Again was composed by leading member of the Young Irelanders, Thomas Davis (1814–1845) and published in 1844, for many years considered a candidate for Irish national anthem.
7“For our demands most moderate are: we only want the Earth!”
8Breatnach also said that least two and probably three members of the DMP were killed during the Rising, each one in an area under the control of the ICA, who no doubt remembered well the force’s actions during the 1913 Lockout.
91974: 33 male and female civilians and a full-term unborn baby.
10The Amendment to the Offences Against the State Act, including the introduction of the no-jury Special Courts, essentially for trying Irish Republicans with a much lower quality of evidence required to convict, including the unsupported word of a senior Garda officer.
(Reading time first section to “additional objections“: 10 minutes)
The big property speculator company Hammerson wishes, in addition to other demolitions, to demolish every building except five in the central terrace in Moore Street all the way out to O’Connell Street and the cutting through the area of two new roads. This is area is a centuries-old street market and the scene of a battle during the 1916 Rising as the HQ Garrison of the Rising occupied the central terrace of 16 buildings. The site is of huge historical and cultural importance not only for Ireland but for the world. Along with many others I submitted objections through Dublin City Council’s system which requires a payment of €20 for each application to which one is objecting. I wished to oppose the Hammerson planning applications 2861/21, 2862/21, 2863/21 on grounds historical and cultural, architectural, of city planning, of democracy, social amenity and on grounds of inner city regeneration and planning.
It is important to consider what the Moore Street area IS, what it can BECOME and what can be destroyed in the present and future by ill-considered approval of “development” plans proposed by property speculators.
The Moore Street area is one of great importance in what might be called our national history, as it contains the relocation/ evacuation route and last sites of the Headquarters of the 1916 Rising, an event that is widely accepted as being of seminal importance in our development as a nation. It was a battleground in which insurgents and civilians were injured by bullets of the Occupation and in which a number of both groups were killed. For this reason not only tourists from abroad but also from all parts of Ireland, including from the Six Counties are to be frequently seen on the street in walking history tours.
At the junction of Moore Lane and Henry Place Irish Volunteer Michael Mulvihill was killed and at the junction of Moore Street and Sampson Lane, Vol. Henry “Harry” Coyle of the Irish Citizen Army was also killed. At that latter junction a British soldier, shot and wounded by 18-year-old ICA Volunteer Tom Crimmins while in O’Rahilly’s charge, was collected by yet another Volunteer, George Plunkett, one of the brothers of Proclamation Signatory Joseph Plunkett and taken into No.10 Moore Street, where a field hospital was being managed by, among others, Volunteer Elizabeth O’Farrell. That building was the first HQ of the Rising after Moore Street and there the first council of war after the evacuation was held. Along with a number of other buildings in the central Moore Street, it holds the mark in its party wall of the tunnelling through the entire terrace that was accomplished by the Volunteers during the night of Easter Friday.
Representatives of all the groups that participated in the Rising were in the Moore Street area: Irish Republican Brotherhood, Irish Volunteers, Irish Citizen Army, Cumann na mBan, Fianna Éireann and Hibernian Rifles.
Moore Street itself held a barricade built by Volunteers the early days of Easter Week at the crossroads with Salmon Lane and Henry Place, as well as one constructed by the encircling British Army at the Parnell Street junction and there was another at the junction with Moore Lane. The charge on the British barricade led by the The O’Rahilly was along Moore Street too.
And of course, it is in Moore Street itself that the decision to surrender was taken, the site also of the last hours of freedom of six of those shot by British firing squads in Dublin, including Willy Pearse and five of the Seven Signatories: Tom Clarke, Patrick Pearse, James Connolly, Joseph Plunkett and Sean McDermott.
It is a remarkable fact that from the creation of the State no monument or plaque existed in Moore Street to commemorate the momentous events there until the small 1916 commemorative plaque was erected there, presumably by Dublin City Council, on the 50th anniversary of the Rising. That is all that remains there in visible commemoration to this day.
As an institution of civic society Dublin City Council should be doing its utmost to appropriately commemorate that history and at the very least safeguarding its location and artifacts from destruction.
On democratic grounds too, Dublin City Council should reflect the wishes of the residents of the city rather than those of property speculators – and the wishes of the residents of the city have been clearly outlined on many occasions, not only in the over 380,000 petition signatures collected by the Save Moore Street From Demolition campaign.
It is not on grounds of our national history alone that the area should be conserved and developed sensitively, for it is also of world history significance and deserves recognition as a site of World Heritage importance.
From no less than the Imperial War Museum in London came the assessment that the area is “a WW1 urban battleground in prime condition” (a reference to surviving buildings and features including crucially the 1916 streetscape).
The 1916 Rising was indeed “a WW1 battleground” but it was also the site of a Rising against world war – the first of four that took place during the years of WW1 (the other three included Russia in February and October 1917 and another in Germany in 1918).
In the history of the human struggle against colonial domination, the 1916 Rising looms large, not only in its own right but in the huge encouragement the news of it gave to colonised people around the world.
As the 1916 Rising was the first to field a specifically workers’ revolutionary army, a revolutionary women’s military organisation and to address itself, in the 1916 Proclamation, to including women at a time when hardly a woman in the world enjoyed the right to vote, declaring itself also for equality, for “civil and religious freedom for all”, it was of huge world history importance in social and political terms.
Plans to sensitively develop and conserve the visible signs of history in the street should take account of the evacuation route of most of the GPO Garrison through Henry Place, across the dangerous junction with Moore Lane and into No.10 Moore street, then tunneling from house to house, progressing through buildings of the entire terrace to emerge in what is now O’Rahilly Parade. The planned construction of a lane from Henry Street into the evacuation route distracts from the historic route and a new road from O’Connell Street through the central terrace, as in the Hammerson application, no matter how high or low the planned arch, breaks that historical line of the progress of the Volunteers – forever.
The plans to construct a hotel in O’Rahilly Parade (and other future plans that have been mooted but not included yet in a Hammerson application), along with the back of the unfortunately-permitted Jury’s Hotel on the other side of the laneway, would create an undesirable narrow canyon effect and also completely overshadow the O’Rahilly monument there. In Dublin folklore the western end of that lane was known for generations as “Dead Man’s Corner” because it was where the O’Rahilly died after writing a farewell letter to his wife, having received five British bullets while leading a charge up Moore Street in 1916. The O’Rahilly was one of the founders of the Irish Volunteers.
It was in that laneway that the Volunteers were gathered to make a heroic assault on the British Army barricade at the Parnell/ Moore Street junction, to be cancelled when the decision to surrender was taken. Among those awaiting keyed up the order to charge, was a future Government Minister.
Despite the incorrect name given to the street in Irish (check the national nameplace database logainm.ie which gives it as Sráid an Mhúraigh), it is noticeable that many of the participants in the 1916 Rising were Irish speakers, including in fact writers, poets and educationalists through the Irish language – these were also represented among the GPO Garrison in Moore Street. In particular Patrick Pearse was one of the founders of the modern school of Irish writing in journalism, polemics, poetry and fiction. Pearse also had very advanced theories about education which he sought to put into practice in St. Enda’s, the school he founded with his brother Willy. Willy himself, as well as learning to speak Irish was an accomplished sculptor.
Joseph Plunkett had written poetry in Arabic as well as English, learned Esperanto and was one of the founders of the Esperanto League. Plunkett joined the Gaelic League and studied Irish.
Sean McDermott was also active in the Gaelic League and a manager of the Irish Freedom radical newspaper.
The revolutionary fighters in Moore Street also contained many people prominent in other cultural fields, such as drama, literary arts and publishing.
These historical facts in the field of culture in relation to the Moore Street area provide an opportunity which should not be missed for the development of the area as a CULTURAL QUARTER – but it will be missed should the Hammerson application be agreed.
In fact, a more rational development of the Moore Street area as a cultural-historical quarter mixed with a vibrant street market provides the opportunity to connect the area to the nearby cultural and historical areas of the Rotunda (location of the first public meeting of the Irish Volunteers in 1913 and where in 1916, Volunteers from Moore Street were kept temporarily as prisoners); 37/38 O’Connell Street, the location of the office of the Irish Ladies’ Land League (now of the Allied Irish Banks) and, across the street, the location of Tom Clarke’s newsagent’s at 75 Parnell Street; between them both, the monument to Charles Stewart Parnell of the Land League. All this also connecting numerous buildings of historical and cultural importance scattered through Parnell Square, including the Gate Theatre, Scoil Mhuire Irish-language primary school, the Hugh Lane Gallery, the former head office of the Gaelic League at No.25 (where the decision to carry out insurrection in 1916 was taken) and the INTO Teacher’s Club at No.36.
Moore Street offers great potential if sensitively developed for integration into cultural-historical festivals in Dublin such as History Week, Culture Night, Open House, Bloomsday, Bram Stoker and Food Festival. It also offers potential for other street festivals and in addition a regular Sunday farmer’s market.
All of that would disappear at the stroke of a pen were the Planning Department to approve the Hammerson applications.
The Moore Street area was laid out by Henry Moore, 3rd Earl of Drogheda (as was also Drogheda Street [now Upper O’Connell Street], Henry Street and North Earl Street) in the 17th Century. The houses in Moore Street were designed in the style known as “Dutch Billy”, a style reminiscent of Dutch cities, with the gable end facing into the street, a style said to have been brought into the city by Huguenot asylum seekers in the late 17th Century and therefore of world and Irish socio-historical importance as well as architectural.
Currently the most obvious examples of “Dutch Billy” construction are on the south-west side of Moore Street and in an obvious state of disrepair. In the central Moore Street terrace only the four buildings which the State names “the National Monument” preserve a distinctive Dutch Billy frontage. In the event of demolition of most of that terrace there will be no incentive to even preserve other buildings in the street and an opportunity to reconstruct the frontages in the central terrace in line with buildings on the southwest side of the street will have been lost.
In addition, the construction of a new road from O’Connell Street through the central terrace, as in the Hammerson application, will also destroy that opportunity forever. The applicant has stated that this new road is intended “to open up Moore Street” but this is patently false. Not only is Moore Street easily accessible to shoppers from the Parnell and Henry Street ends but the proposed new road leads straight to one of the main entrances of the ILAC shopping centre, of which Hammerson are half-owners.
Indeed in recent years Hammerson and their predecessor Chartered Land have squeezed the market on the west-central side by extending the ILAC into the street, evicting numerous independent businesses and thus destroyed the market character on that side of Moore Street. Sadly the property speculators have achieved this through approval of planning applications by DCC’s Planning Department in the face of numerous objections.
The Moore Street market is the oldest surviving in Dublin (perhaps in Ireland) and is composed of the stalls and the independent businesses on the street (the street is actually older than O’Connell Street and predates the Great Hunger). As well as having been an important part of the city’s social and cultural history and on the list of recommended Dublin places to visit for decades, it has been an important amenity for people shopping for fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh fish and meat. In addition it is a location of other services.
Neither the stalls nor the shops throughout the central terrace of Moore Street would of course survive since Hammerson seek permission to demolish eleven of the sixteen buildings. Even the southern end of the street would be severely adversely affected by its close proximity to a big building site and by the demolition/ construction plans for the building at the Moore Street/ Henry Street eastern junction.
When large developments are carried out in such areas the property speculators seek to have chain-stores renting in the area. Those types of businesses have no particular stake or loyalty to their area but rather to their head office, which is not in Moore Street and may not even be in Ireland. Indeed we have seen recently the desertion of one such chain, Debenham’s, which was itself involved in the 1970s construction of the ILAC centre on other streets and laneways of the area.
After years of enduring construction chaos on top of many previous years of neglect, that whole aspect of street market and small independent shop will be wiped out forever in Moore Street and the area will become a Henry Street spillover, full of characterless chain stores of foreign high street type – and a wasteland at night. What a legacy for the current City Managers to bequeath to Dublin!
As a street market, Moore Street of course has been also a social amenity, a place to meet and chat. This aspect has been eroded through the closing of pubs in the street along with the Paris Bakery and Anne’s Bakery and cafe. This is an amenity most needed in any city and, in particular in the north city centre. This aspect too will be destroyed by a conversion of the area into a shopping district of chain stores as envisaged and implicit in the Hammerson plan.
The development of Moore Street as a social amenity area with a vibrant street market opens up the potential of linking it to the Asian food quarter in Parnell Street east and also with cinemas in the Parnell Street and on O’Connell Street.
NORTH CITY CENTRE
An intelligent and longer-term city planning approach to development of the Moore Street and O’Connell Street area would provide the ingredients of a revitalisation of the north inner city, something that is badly needed. It would need envisaging something like the inner city on the south side which is lively by day and — apart from the Grafton Street shopping district — by night also. This could be achieved by combining a vibrant street market with cultural-historical-architectural promotion and with low-rent housing for city dwellers.
ALL VISIONS AND PLANS
A number of independent campaigning and other dgroups have developed visions and plans for the Moore Street area over the years. These have included a plan from the Lord Mayor’s Forum on Moore Street as well as that of the Market Expert Group, a sub-group of that Forum created at the instigation of the Minister for Heritage. More recently the Moore Street Preservation Trust has developed a plan for the area. Perhaps none have tied all possible aspects of historic, cultural, market and north inner city regeneration together as much as the submissions in 2016 to the Minister of Heritage of the Save Moore Street From Demolition and the Save Moore Street 2016 campaigning groups but it is noticeable that all of those can co-exist to a large extent but are absolute anathema to the Hammerson plans.
In addition, the Hammerson plan envisages decades of demolition and construction in this area, making it a wasteland and negatively impacting on the surrounding area and businesses. It also contains the possibility of “planning blight” remaining over the area for decades, as Hammerson run out of funds or sit on planning permission waiting to sell it on to yet further property speculators, as Chartered Land sold it on to them, with meanwhile further deterioration in the fabric of buildings.
Are the City Managers to endorse the poor vision of a property speculation company, preferring it to those of hundreds of thousands of petition signatures, along with a number of groups including those of the Council’s own organisations, in addition to the wishes expressed by elected representatives in Dublin City Council on a number of occasions over a number of years?
WHAT COULD BE
In considering a Planning Application, city planners should not only consider the plan itself on its merits but what an alternative might be – particularly when many alternatives have been mooted over the years. The question to consider is not only “is this a good plan for the area?” but also “what potential does this plan develop or, conversely, negate”?
As outlined above and will be listed below, the Hammerson plan is not only not suitable for the area but destroys the potential for rejuvenating the north inner city area in social, shopping, cultural, historical and city living terms. The Hammerson application should be refused on all those grounds and on the democratic basis also that it is in stark opposition to the wishes of the vast majority of people and to virtually all concerned organisations.
End first section
FURTHER GROUNDS OF OBJECTION TO THE HAMMERSON APPLICATIONS
*The Proposal contravenes The Dublin Development plan’s policy SC16 which states that Dublin is intrinsically a low-rise city (and confirmed in a recent response on another matter from the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar in a response to TD Paul Murphy in the Dáil).
*The Moore Street as a battlefield site is not a location identified for taller buildings.
*The Hammerson proposal contravenes development plan maximum height standard, and would greatly exceed the height of the Moore Street Terrace buildings.
*The Hammerson development plan goes against those of elected public representatives, i.e City Councillors and TDs which voted respectively to have for Moore Street listed as an architectural conservation area and read without opposition two cultural conservation bills for Moore Street (the most recent being the O’Snodaigh bill).
*The Hammerson proposal would be contrary to the purpose of Z5 designation by reducing the cultural space within the city centre, impacting on its night-time culture and facilitating an over -concentration of hotel/retail developments in the area despite the many existing hotels / shopping centres in close proximity.
*There are already over 40 hotels within 2km of the site, and more than 20 hotels and B&Bs within a 10-minute walk and no more hotels are needed in the environs of Moore Street (indeed throughout the city there is already opposition to the growing number of buildings of temporary accommodation being constructed in the shape of hotels and student accommodation).
*The city centre no further office space or chain retail outlets. The applicants themselves are struggling to find tenants for numerous retail units in the ILAC Centre (Debenhams and the old Jack & Jones stores are still vacant) and the applicants have recently commenced the process of “pop up shops” on Henry Street. It would be negligent to lose the historical & cultural elements which make this site unique by over-development. As outlined above, the site if sensitively restored has huge potential as a cultural destination for its citizens, visitors, and future generations. Let us not forget that surveys of tourists visiting Dublin have highlighted the interests of tourists in Culture and History rather than shopping.
*The current reduced demand for office and retail space due to Covid 19 this may become permanent as many companies have found it more cost-efficient for employees to work from home and the surge in online shopping has become the newest trend as a direct result of the pandemic.
*As outlined earlier in detail, the site is already a cultural destination for both locals and visitors, which will be reduced in scale and significance if planning permission is granted. The whole site should be sensitively restored.
* Despite the homeless crisis which is already being viewed as a scandal by many observers, there iso provisions for affordable housing within the site.
*Moore street needs more mixed usage in its current retail and street Market – Dublin City council should act accordingly by enforcing planning laws in the area and immediately implement the Market Expert group report revitalising its components.
*This Hammerson proposal is contrary to Dublin City Council’s own plan to revitalise the market, unless the powers that be at Dublin City council are deluded enough to believe a revitalised predominantly food market can be successful from a 5.5acre building site environment.
*Further retail and hotels put pressure on existent businesses in the vicinity that are already struggling in the city centre.
*The proposed design is not sympathetic to the local physical or cultural heritage and encroaches on the curtilage of the State-nominated National Monument and proposed protected structures in the area.
*The Hammerson design is nowhere near of sufficiently high quality to justify the adverse impacts on the entire north inner city for a 15yr period (possibly longer as other planning applications and extensions have been added to early granted applications in the past) and is completely out of context with the area.
*The Hamerson proposal does not strengthen, reinforce or integrate with the existing street traders or independent or independent businesses of the Moore Street Market. In fact the market and businesses will more than likely be lost FOREVER throughout the lengthy construction phase.
*The Hammerson plan entails the loss of fine urban grain in this historical part of Ireland, which supports a diversity of economic, historical and cultural life.
*The Hammerson proposal fails to address the wider urban context, the character of Moore Street Market and businesses or the many envisaged protected structures along the street and laneways , notably the iconic Moore Street terrace and the O’Connell Street Architectural conservation area.
*The proposed office block at site 5 will visually impact on the State-nominated National Monument and the iconic 1916 dTerrace. It will also overshadow residential and commercial units at Moore street north and Greeg Court apartment block including sun balconies of the owner/occupiers.
*The Hammerson proposal in short would result in overdevelopment which ignores the context of this unique site.
*The Hammerson proposal does not complement the built environment or contribute positively to the neighbourhood and streetscape.
*The impact on markets or independent businesses has not addressed or been resolved.
*The Hammerson proposed development would overwhelm Moore street and change its whole character for which it is known as far away as China.
*In order to maintain the skylines and character of the area the height should be limited to four storeys and, in places, to three. The visual impact on O’Connell street’s skyline will be horrendous post development.
*The Dublin development plan identifies that the city is a low-rise city and requires development to protect conservation areas and the architectural character of existing buildings, streets and spaces of artistic, civic or historic importance, and to ensure that any development is sensitive to the historic square and protects and enhances the skyline of the inner city.
*The Hammerson proposed development is too close to the site boundary, which is contrary to BRE advice and will severely impact food businesses and market traders in close vicinity.
*The risks and impacts of construction and demolition works for proposed archway on boundary wall of national monument are dramatically understated.
*The impact of construction noise and air pollution on local residents and businesses are understated and will turn the area into a “no-go area” for shoppers.
*The most environmentally sustainable buildings are the ones that already exist. The need is to reuse existing buildings for purposes to avoid carbon emission associated with demolition and construction works of a new large-scale development.
*The heritage impact assessment statement fails to adequately assess or record the surviving historic fabric in the entire Moore street terrace or take into account the curtilage of the State-designated National Monument. It also contradicts the previous developer’s Chartered Land heritage impact statement which said no.18 contained pre-1916 elements.
*The façade demolition planned to No.18 to make way for the hideous archway would erase the character of the terrace and visually impact on the historic nature of the area. The demolition will impact on built heritage around the story of 1916 regardless whether the buildings are pre 1916 or not.
*The Hammerson proposal would detract from the special character and distinctiveness of the Conservation Area, and will constitute a visually obtrusive and dominant form around Moore street and O’Connell street.
*Inadequate drawings and images of interfaces with protected structures, mean that the impact on immediate context and skyline is not fully explored, insufficient LVIA in respect of neighbouring heritage buildings.
*The Hammerson plan means dramatic and irreversible impact on surrounding protected structures, their setting and curtilage.
*Protected structures are protected not just for their physical significance, but also for other reasons including historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural or social interest.
*This largescale development proposal of Hammerson would be contrary to development plan policy of minimum intervention to protected structures.
*There is a need to implement Government policy of heritage-led regeneration of historic urban centres:
* The need to integrate cultural, social and built heritage objectives, this proposal destroys the same.
*A National monument and protected structures should be protected in context, but the buildings in this proposal will dwarf the designated National Monument and the many existing protected structures surrounding the site and therefore it would be more appropriate to restore the historic buildings.
*This Hammerson proposal is contrary to provisions of Section 18.104.22.168 of the Dublin Development plan in failing to complement the special character of the protected structures on and adjoining the site and/ or retaining the traditional proportionate relationship with returns, gardens, mews structures etc.
*The Hammerson proposal would result in negative and irreversible impact of the on the integrity and character of the protected structures on the site and their special significance as a surviving group of early structures facing the 300yr old Moore Street market.
*Approving the Hammerson plan would set a poor precedent for allowing protected structures to become dilapidated and derelict and then redeveloped for the foreseeable future.
*For years the applicants, DCC and the Department of Heritage have failed in their duty of care towards protected structures, the market, and independent store businesses and a 15-year construction project is not the way forward.
*The design, scale and massing of the Hammerson plan would seriously detract from the setting and character of both the O’Connell street conservation area and the protected structures on the site, and would have a significant adverse impact on the Conservation area, contrary to Section 22.214.171.124 of the development plan and policies C1, C2, C4 and C6.
*The Hammerson proposal without justification would contravene policy SC17 in relation to protection of the skyline.
*The Hammerson Proposal would contravene development plan policies CHC29, CHC37 and CHC43 in relation to protection of the cultural and artistic use of buildings in established cultural quarters, without any justification.
*The role of Moore Street as a major area of action during the 1916 Rising, areas including laneways and terrace buildings (as detailed to an extent earlier) is completely ignored in this proposal.
*The threat posed to the protected structures from the construction process as the proposed new development is a large, invasive project requiring aggressive excavations and structural work, which will be cantilevered over the existing buildings.
*Moore street has not developed as a cultural quarter in the way that was desired but the Moore street Terrace, laneways, and Market are the heart and soul of the area and integral to its role and potential development as a cultural quarter in the future.
*The Market traders and generational independent businesses have established themselves as an integral part of the cultural infrastructure of Dublin City.
*The importance of the site as a cultural hub is understated. There is no other site in Dublin and possibly in the country with more potential than this one.
*The role of culture in creating communities, which are the bedrock of cities, is unacknowledged in this proposal.
*Proposal would not protect or promote Moore Street’s distinct identity, in a way which acknowledges our past and secures our future, in accordance with the Council’s mission as set out in the Dublin City Development plan.
*Visitors come to Dublin to experience authentic culture and not new corporate developments or engineered cultural experiences.
*The Hammerson Proposal is an architectural and cultural travesty which is part of the commodification of the city by international capital and developments such as these are starving the city of its culture and heritage.
*The Hammerson Proposal would threaten a historic landmark site, while providing no benefit to residents of the city who already are surrounded by existing retail and office blocks.
*The Hammerson Proposal would set a precedent for loss of major historical sites and culture in the city. The Proposal is considered by many to be engaged in city planning, history, culture and community development to be nothing short of cultural vandalism.
*The Moore Street Market contributes to the cultural vibrancy of the city and is part of the city’s cultural infrastructure – any loss of the market would be contrary to development plan policies CHC24 and CHC33 and would severely impact remaining Independent businesses on Moore Street.
*The Hammerson Proposal would cause both temporary and permanent disruption and damage to the cultural and economic health of the city.
*External steel structures and hoardings, construction traffic, noise pollution, road closures, drainage works etc. would make it difficult for the Independent businesses to keep trading during the lengthy construction phase and will impact on the unique and welcoming atmosphere for which Moore Street has been famous worldwide.
*The Hammerson Heritage report does not consider the impact on the historical and social qualities of the site or the market.
*The Hammerson proposal states that loss of parking spaces for proposed development is compensated for by the Metro construction proposal. However many estimate that the Metro won’t be running for at least 20 years.
*Policy CEE12 should not apply if the means used to achieve it is counterproductive.
*The Hammerson Proposal is contrary to the aims of the Night-Time Economy Task Force as set out in the Dublin Development plan.
*The Hammerson Proposal is purely for the purpose of commercial gain and undermines the historical and cultural aspects surrounding the entire site.
The Hammerson Application has supplied no report in relation to traffic management considering the large construction traffic volumes accessing and regressing the proposed site compound that is literally surrounded by 3/4 commercial servicing bays, residential car parking at Greeg Court, delivery inwards and outwards for retailers, waste collections, Market Traders accessing their storage units etc. Clarity is required in relation to the nature of the proposed access and regress into Moore Street / Lane and the safety issues that will arise for shoppers at Moore Street north at the junction of Moore street and O’Rahilly Parade.
There has been no provision in the Hammerson proposal for dirt or debris falling from lorries accessing or regressing the site compound. This will severely impact traditional family butcher Troy’s fresh food store at the junction of Moore Street and O’Rahilly Parade where lorries will be stacking awaiting access to the site.
The noise pollution mitigation measures proposed won’t have any real impact on neighbouring retailers or the residents in Greeg court apartments considering the close proximity of the site compound entrance and site boundary.
The wide scale of demolition and piling will disrupt the habitat of rodents, not ideal on a predominantly food marketplace.
The 15-year construction phase will inevitably wipe out the Market and Independent businesses on Moore street. There are still 3 more planning applications for this site to be lodged, effectively putting the city centre on a building site for the next 20-25 years. NOT a very credible solution for an area that needs to be URGENTLY revived!!
The adverse impacts of this proposal on independent businesses and Market traders should be addressed by the Planning Department in conditions of Planning.
It’s very clear that on completion of this project Moore Street will effectively become a laneway which completely undermines the historical significance of the Street and the heritage of the Market.
The extent of demolition proposed completely contradicts the Hammerson applicant’s rationale of “sensitive development” and a less intrusive plan of restoration is the only viable way forward for Moore Street, for the immediate area and indeed for the north inner city.
The applicants negligently suggest this is a vacant site but this site is fully occupied by the history of 1916 and is a place of special importance in Ireland’s history that has suffered a decade of neglect by the applicants, Dublin City Council and the Government. The empty shop-fronts are being deliberately kept empty by Hammerson and shops running businesses deliberately kept on short leases. Hammerson should not be awarded for this area blighting process by agreeing that the site is “vacant”!
California has long been home to the eccentric and free spirits, so naturally the highly eccentric Irish mystic, poet and Celtic mythologist Ella Young found a home there. The first woman to hold an endowed lectureship in the English Department at the University of California at Berkley, Young left several enduring legacies on the Golden State’s literature, counterculture, and environmental movement.
Nearing old age in Ireland, Young helped spark a new age consciousness in the Bay Area. Young lived the first fifty-eight years of her life in her native land, but even before leaving for America, she traveled far from her conservative Ulster roots. Born in December 1867, in Fenagh, a townland near Ballymena, Co. Antrim, Ella was eldest of five daughters of a Presbyterian minister. The family moved to Dublin at an early age and Young graduated with a BA in History, Political Economy and Law from the Royal University of Ireland. Abandoning Christianity, Ella’s interest in the spirit world led her to join the Hermetic Society, the Dublin branch of the Theosophical Society, which sought to awaken the power and presence of Ireland’s ancient spirits. Young was greatly influenced by fellow Ulster mystical poet AE Russell, and she soon became one of his select group of protégés known as the “singing birds.”
She found her muse and published her first volume of verse in 1906, and her first work of Irish folklore, The Coming of Lugh, appeared in 1909. Young mixed with luminaries of the Celtic revival including J.M. Synge, W.B. Yeats and Maud Gonne, with whom she might have had a romantic relationship. Like other writers of her day, Ella found great spiritual riches in the West of Ireland, where Irish was still the spoken language of the locals and where she was also able to hear what she called the Music of the Faerie, the ceol sídhe.
Ella completed a master’s degree at Trinity, but she would be drawn into the revolutionary fervor then sweeping Ireland. Young’s immersion in Celtic mythology and theosophy led her to promote a spiritually inflected Irish nationalism. A friend of Patrick Pearse, Ella became a member of Sinn Féin in 1912 and a founding member of Cumann na mBan in 1914. Ella witnessed the 1916 Rising in Dublin and is alleged to have hidden ammunition under the floorboards of her home and helped two fugitive Republican prisoners to escape Dublin. An anti-Treaty Republican, she strongly opposed the Anglo–Irish Treaty and, after supporting different sides, she and her mentor Æ Russell never spoke again. Because of her anti-Treaty stance, Young was interned by the Free State in Mountjoy jail and in the North Dublin Union.
An ardent cultural Nationalist, Young fervently believed the revitalization of Irish culture could be realized through a reconnection with its Celtic mythological roots. She taught in Dublin, but she came of age as an anti-Treaty woman at a time and in a state where her gender, politics and Protestant background severely limited her career opportunities. Young left Ireland for the US In the mid-1920s, where she would spend the rest of her life. Her emigration, she claimed, had been foretold in 1914 by a Romani fortune teller.
Fortunately for Ella, Celtic studies scholar William Whittingham Lyman Jr. left his Berkley lectureship in 1922 and Young was hired to fill the vacancy in 1924. Ella, however, was almost forbidden entry into the United States. During an interview in Ellis Island, Young was detained as a probable mental case when the authorities learned that she believed in the existence of fairies, elves, and pixies. However, outrage by her American readers at the ban helped her finally gain entry.
Young fell in love with Berkley, California and Berkley loved her back. Young adored the college town, especially its exotic flora, breathtaking views, and its student culture. She quickly inspired a cult-like following in California. A striking woman, Young cut a dramatic figure with a noble forehead and face that seemed to shine with an inner light. She lectured in what she considered the traditional purple robes of a Druid bard, which she called her “reciting robes,” to visually portray an authentic Irish identity. She let her shoulder-length silver hair hang free and instead of shaking hands when introduced, she raised her hands high in the ancient druid greeting. Poet Padraic Colum compared her to the ancient “women who knew the sacred places and their traditions, who knew the incantations and the cycles of stories about the Divine Powers, and who could relate them with authority and interpret them wisely. . . She speaks of Celtic times as if she were recalling them.” A gifted speaker, Ella held her listeners spellbound with the heroic myths and sagas told in her lilting Irish voice – the voice of the bard, a keeper of the ancient teachings of her ancestors.
Young was above all a gifted storyteller and children’s author. She published The Wonder-Smith and his Son (1925), The Tangle-Coated Horse (1929), and The Unicorn with Silver Shoes (1932), stories for children, inspired by themes from Celtic myth, with beautiful illustrations and written in her delicate, carefully cadenced prose. The Unicorn with Silver Shoes was nominated for the American Newbery Prize for children’s literature in 1932; all her children’s stories were repeatedly reprinted until the 1990s.
Young was a frequent guest at the home of the celebrated California poet Robinson Jeffers, who was also deeply influenced by the Celtic revival. Jeffers and Young both identified the physical and spiritual similarities between California’s Big Sur and the West of Ireland. Ella considered dramatic Point Lobos in Marin County, where she communed with the dryads of the pine trees, the sea spirits, and the great guardian Deva who hovered over the sea with shining wings, to be the center of psychic power for the entire Pacific Coast. Young also became a close friend of Virginia and Ansel Adams, the renowned photographer of California’s wilderness, who made Yosemite Valley a symbol of the state. Adams took several dramatic portraits of Young in her “reciting robes.”
Ella Young lectured that an awareness of the supernatural world in Celtic folklore and literature could bring her listeners into a closer relationship with the natural world around them. Her love for the beauty of California made her an environmentalist long before it became fashionable, and also she saw the Earth as a great living being. She forged a close friendship with Dorothy Erskine, an early California environmentalist and advocate for limiting growth. Young also founded The Fellowship of Shasta, which became involved in environmental activism, working successfully to prevent developers from building on Point Lobos and also with the Save the Redwoods League, which preserved the remaining old-growth forests of California.
An enemy of materialism and egotism, Young espoused “the natural world and our relationship to it” as an alternative to consumerism. Ella moved to a Theosophic commune in Oceano, near San Luis Obispo in the early 1930s, and became part of a community of artists and writers living on the sand dunes, known as the Dunites. Thanks to her friendship with Ansel Adams, Ella stayed with the community of artists in Taos, New Mexico, where she met Georgia O’Keeffe and Frieda Lawrence and studied Native American and Mexican myths.
Back in California, Young assembled around herself a fascinating circle of artists, writers and freethinkers. She became close friends with the Irish-born landscape painter John O’Shea and other West Coast painters. Ella also became intimate with composer Harry Partch, who set several of her poems to music. Perhaps a lesbian herself, Young befriended California pioneers of sexual liberation, such as Elsa Gidlow, the British-born lesbian poet, and Gavin Arthur, a bisexual astrologer and sexologist whom Young first met in 1920s Dublin.
Young developed cancer. In the last year of her life, she claimed that she had been in communication with the occupants of a thimble-sized spaceship which came and hovered in her garden. Ella died in her cottage on July 23rd, 1956, aged eighty-eight. She was cremated, and her ashes were scattered in a redwood grove. She left the royalties from her books to a society that protected those redwoods.
(Reading time main text: 5 mins; total includingbackround: 7 mins.)
Last Thursday (7th October) the former home of the Pearse family saw the launch of a plan for Moore Street as an alternative to the current Hammerson plan. The latter, a large property development company based in England, currently has a planning application in to Dublin City Council awaiting a decision. Moore Street is a centuries-old iconic street market in the heart of Dublin city but was also a battleground during the 1916 Rising, as the insurgents’ headquarters garrison in the General Post Office building evacuated the building, set aflame by British shelling and strove to relocate to continue the insurrection to the north-west of the city.
The former home of Patrick Pearse, Commander-in-Chief of the 1916 insurrection and of his brother William, both executed by British firing squads, now a building held in trust with facilities for meetings and a small theatre, was the location chosen by the Moore Street Preservation Trust to launch their alternative plan.
A packed room of people sweltered in their Covid19 face-masks as they listened to a number of speakers on behalf of the Moore Street Preservation Trust, formed earlier this year along with a guest spot for Mary Lou Mac Donald, President of the Sinn Féin political party, prior to the unveiling of the scale model.
Mícheál Mac Donncha, a Dublin City councillor for the Sinn Féin party and Secretary of the Trust, chaired the event and, after an introduction to the subject of the meeting, announced Patrick Cooney who spoke for the Trust on their history, aspects of the long campaign and the alternative plan. Cooney outlined what the Trust considers the importance historically of the “Moore Street battleground” and remarked that their plan was the only alternative to the Hammerson plan, which he said is supported by no-one else.
In traversing aspects of the conservation struggle, Cooney referred to the High Court case taken against the Minister of Heritage and the property developer (which was then Joe O’Reilly’s Chartered Land) and the momentous judgement that the whole Moore Street area was a national historical monument. The capacity of the Judge to make that decision was overturned in a later appeal by the Minister of Heritage’s legal team.
Patrick Cooney also paid tribute to the week-long occupation of the buildings by others in January of 2016, which had prevented the demolition of three buildings in the sixteen-building terrace in Moore Street. He said that his group could not be identified with the occupation since they were part of the High Court case ongoing at the time but named two Irish Republicans (of a group opposed to the Good Friday Agreement) who had acted as their link with the occupation body, leaving a possible impression that his group had been involved in some way from behind the scenes in the occupation of the buildings.
Cooney also mentioned the Bill moved by Sinn Féin TD (parliamentary representative) Aengus Ó Snodaigh, currently awaiting debate in the Dáil (Irish parliament) and how it mirrored to a large degree that put forward formerly by a TD of the Irish political party Fianna Fáil, currently in coalition Government, which had not been proceeded with. Cooney paid tribute to the political party Sinn Féin as “the only political party to support” the Moore Street conservation struggle (which may have come as a surprise to Peadar Ó Tóibín, TD of the Aontú political party, who was present in the audience).
Mac Donncha thanked Cooney for his contribution and introduced Jim Connolly Heron, a great-grandson of James Connolly, one of the executed leaders of the 1916 Rising who talked about the historical importance of the site and the importance of its preservation. Connolly Heron talked about historical buildings in Dublin that had been demolished. He said their plan represented an opportunity for the State to atone for the “lamentable failure to save Wood Quay” and commented that “On that occasion the voice of the people was silenced; the loss to the city was immeasurable and we can ill afford another Wood Quay.”
Then Connolly Heron, with Proinnsias Ó Rathaille, grandson of The O’Rahilly, removed the Starry Plough flag of the Irish Citizen Army to unveil the architect’ scale model to loud applause and the clicking of phones and cameras.
A portion of the attendance then removed to the small theatre where Seán Antóin Ó Muirí, for the architects, took the audience through a slide show of drawings and maps while discussing their relevance to the Preservation Trust’s plan.
Outside the building, a large group of teenage Danish students, on a walking history tour conducted by Lorcán Collins of 1916 Rising Tours, had gathered, where they were addressed by Lorcán and also by Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD and, very briefly by Diarmuid Breatnach of the SMSFD group who, at Lorcán’s request, sang them the “Grace” ballad (in which Joseph Plunkett addresses Grace Gifford, his bride of only hours before he is to be executed by British firing squad).
THE ALTERNATIVE PLAN
The Alternative Plan as outlined by the architect involves a number of ideas that have been put forward over the years: refacing some of the buildings to match the pre-1916 facing surviving on some of the buildings, using appropriate matching construction materials, uncovering the cobblestones, etc. The two-story elevation has been promoted previously as have awning-covered ground-level shopfronts but the north end of the terrace at four storeys is a departure perhaps from previous plans other than the Hammerson and O’Reilly plans, as is perhaps the opening up of some spaces around the “back” of the terrace (accessed through Moore Lane). The plan foresees a unitary unbroken terrace which all campaigning groups have proposed.
Unlike some plans and visions previously mooted, the Alternative Plan as explained does not propose excluding chain stores, nor propose pubs and bakery among the businesses; street stalls were mentioned only in passing with no discussion of the range of hot and cold food or other merchandise that might be on sale. The housing units proposed do not specify local authority rental. Unlike a number of previous plans there was no mention of the benefits of linking the development of a Moore Street cultural quarter to a number of other nearby amenities and cultural quarters nor to that of rejuvenating the north city centre by day and by night.
The history component does not seem to vary much from the Hammerson/ O’Reilly one, being concentrated on the four buildings which the State has named “the historical monument”, a title also used by Trust. In the unbroken terrace proposed (and frequently demanded by campaigners) of course the Alternative Plan departs significantly from the Hammerson one but strangely this contrast was not alluded to in either the verbal or visual presentations.
In the overall presentation of a slideshow and scale model perhaps the most significant contribution of this plan is to present some of the possibilities in a manner more easily grasped and form easier for many no doubt to visualise. It is this that has been missing in past plans and proposals.
HAMMERSON AND DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL
On the west side of Moore Street is the ILAC shopping centre, built with DCC planning permission in 1977 on what was a patchwork of streets and laneways, many of them containing shops and stalls selling various new and second-hand merchandise. A university study group concluded that, apart from the construction companies, the ILAC had benefitted the big stores of Debenhams and Dunnes and that the compensation paid out to most stall-holders and small shops had been inadequate to relocate within the City Centre and workers had been made redundant. The ILAC is half-owned by Irish Life and the other half passed from O’Reilly to Hammerson.
In the early years of this century a consortium of property developers were applying for planning permission to carry out plans in the area from the northwest side of O’Connell Street to Moore Street but Dublin City Council Planning Manager froze the plans and in a very strange deal later handed it all over to Joe O’Reilly. The whole murky story (including city councillors being legally threatened to keep silent by the then Planning Manager Jim Keogan) was covered in a two-part program, Iniúchadh na Cásca, by the Irish language television channel TG4 before O’Reilly got his giant “shopping mall” planning permission (the program was re-broadcast in 2016).
Jim Keogan took early retirement from DCC and is now employed by McCutcheon Halley, a Cork-based planning consultancy company while the most recent Ireland Director for Hammerson is Mark Owen, straight from his previous employment as the Head of Asset Management & Recovery for NAMA.
INTERNAL CAMPAIGN CONTROVERSIES
Patrick Cooney in his presentation of their Alternative Plan referred to a split in the original conservation committee and in fact over the years there have been a number of controversies and conflicts among campaign groups. The remaining part of the committee containing Mr. Cooney and Mr. Connolly Heron also experienced a number of acrimonious departures. Due to internal difficulties the 1916 Relatives Association, to which both also belonged did not have a meeting for over a year and when it did so eventually, there were loud internal arguments and clashes between Mr. Connolly Heron and others, leading to a number of departures, including Marcus Howard of Easter Rising Stories, producer of many historical documentaries and filmed interviews, including a number on Moore Street.
In that atmosphere, Brian O’Neill was seen by many as a stable and quiet choice for Chair of the 1916 Relatives Association and was duly elected. Shortly afterwards Barry Lyons, a long-time campaigner was expelled from the Association as was also long-time campaigner Donna Cooney, grand-niece of Elizabeth O’Farrell and a DCC Councillor. Neither seems to have been given a formal hearing or allowed an appeal. Although formerly the 1916 Relatives’ Association opposed the developers’ plans, Brian O’Neill now represents the Association on the Minister’s Advisory Group on Moore Street and is on record supporting the Hammerson plan.
Clashes between different campaign groups and individuals have taken place on occasion inside the Lord Mayor’s Forum on Moore Street, including one between members of the Connolly Heron-Cooney group and Colm Moore, another campaigner for many years and the individual who took the High Court case against the Minister of Heritage.
The Ministers’ Consultative Group on Moore Street and its later iteration as the Minister’s Advisory Group, although it has a seat for Jim Connolly Heron, rejected the membership applications of the most active groups in the broad campaign, those who were involved in the 2016 Occupation and the six-week Blockade: the Save Moore Street From Demolition and the Save Moore Street 2016 groups. The SMSFD group has a stall on the street every Saturday, stated to have been since the founding of the group in September 2014, at 368 weeks to date and claims 380,000 signatures to its petition to save the area.
The Connolly Heron and Cooney group do not acknowledge the SMSFD group in public and on one occasion during the Blockade Mr. Cooney posted that the only campaign group they recognised outside of their own was the Save Moore Street 2016 one. However, among all the invitations that were sent out to attend the unveiling last Thursday, neither they nor the SMSFD groups received one – and nor did Colm Moore, the man who took the famous High Court case.
After the formal representation last week but while still inside the Pearse home building, Patrick Cooney was heard to clash with a prominent campaigner and City Councillor in the presence of a radio reporter. Immediately outside, Proinnsias Ó Rathaille verbally abused a member of the SMSFD group (who had learned of the event through the media) in the hearing of many people, including Danish teenagers on a walking history tour.
At time of writing it is important to realise that the only plan with Planning Permission is the original O’Reilly one which Hammerson acquired. The latter have submitted their changed plan for a shopping district and new roads which is currently under review by the Planning Department who have asked for some minor changes and gave them six months to produce them. Many objections were registered (and paid for), even by the Housing Department and the feeling is that the vast sweep of popular opinion is against the Hammerson plan – however that is far from being a guarantee against its acceptance by DCC’s Planning Department. And, as NAMA failed to seize them from Joe O’Reilly, their largest debtor at the time and allowed him to transfer them, all the buildings but two (owned by Dublin City Council) are owned by Hammerson.
Should Hammerson receive approval from DCC’s Planning Department, on previous history a not unlikely event, campaigners are sure to appeal the decision to An Bord Pleanála but that avenue too holds little hope for conservationists, given the record of that body’s decisions in Dublin. In the event of an unwelcome decision there, the High Court remains the only recourse in law (for which leave has to be sought to take the case). Protests on the street are of course likely.
Given Hammerson’s financial difficulties in recent years, even if granted planning permission they may not be able to proceed with their plan immediately and despite Hammerson’s denials the suspicion of many is that they will sell the area on – but for that, they need the new Planning Permission attached first and the current one runs out next year.
BACKGROUND TO A LONG CAMPAIGN
In 1916 Moore Street and surrounding streets and laneways became a battleground, as the Irish insurgent force evacuating its erstwhile HQ in the GPO ran into encircling forces of the British Army. A detachment of the GPO garrison proceeding up Moore Street ran into British rifle and machine gun fire, killing three including its leader, The O’Rahilly and wounding others. The main part of the evacuation forces also suffered casualties but occupied No.10 Moore Street and tunnelled through the 16-building terrace to the laneway at the end, where an assault group was being mobilised to attack the British Army barricade at the Moore Street/ Parnell Street junction. The decision to surrender, taken by the leadership, cancelled the assault. Along with William Pearse, five of the Seven Signatories of the 1916 Proclamation spent their last hours of freedom in Moore Street, not long after to be shot by British firing squads: Thomas Clarke, Patrick Pearse, James Connolly, Sean McDermott and Joseph Plunkett.
Prior to 1966 there was nothing in Moore Street to inform people of what happened there although in that year, amidst the 50th anniversary commemorations of the 1916 Rising, a small plaque was placed at first floor level on No.16 Moore Street, believed to have housed the last HQ of the 1916 Rising. That plaque was noted missing in 2002 – it turned up in a property speculator’s office – and fears of demolition plan for the buildings gave rise to a campaign to save it. A meeting was organised by the National Graves Association and a committee formed, hardly a single one of which is currently active in the campaign today for a number of reasons (Patrick Cooney alluded to one of them, a split when some sided with the property developer of the time but there have been many others).
The campaign extended its demand for the conservation of the whole terrace, backyards etc and in 2006 the State finally conceded a historical importance worth conserving in Moore Street by declaring Nos.14-17 a National Monument, though these still belonged to O’Reilly. In 2008, O’Reilly applied for planning permission for a huge “shopping mall” from O’Connell Street to Moore Street, with a “ski slope” on top and carpark underneath, entailing the demolition of all but Nos.14-17 and the renovation of these as a small museum. DCC’s Planning Department approved the plan but it was appealed to An Bord Pleanála which, against the advice of its own Inspector, rejected the appeal. With the removal of the “ski slope” top and the underground carpark, the giant “shopping mall” was approved but O’Reilly’s demolition plans faced a problem in that two buildings at the end of the terrace belonged to Dublin City Council and four in the middle are protected structures.
In 2009 and 2012 dramatist Frank Allen organised human chain “Arms Around Moore Street” events which gained some media attention.
The campaign gained prominence again when in September 2014 O’Reilly offered Dublin City Council the dilapidated Nos. 14-17 in exchange for Nos. 24-25, where the Council had a waste management depot, a “land-swap” favoured by the City Managers and the Minister of Heritage. A branch of the campaign set up a stall on the street and began to collect signatures to a conservation petition and to disseminate campaign leaflets. In November the majority of DCC councillors voted to reject the deal.
The campaign group with a weekly Saturday stall on the street, now called Save Moore Street From Demolition and separate from the other which had mainly concentrated on lobbying, organised the first public meeting about the campaign in November 2014, inviting as speakers Jim Connolly Heron and Donna Cooney (there had been some conflicts between the two). But in January 2016 the group noted hoardings going up around Nos.12-18 with plans for the demolition of three buildings. They called two emergency meetings during the week on the street and supporters, a mix of people including water protesters and Irish Republicans, occupied the buildings, an act which became headline news.
While the Minister of Heritage made ready to obtain an injunction against the occupiers, instead Colm Moore, who had registered a case with the High Court against the State plans, obtained an injunction against any demolition until the case should be decided and the occupiers left the buildings after one week. However, subsequently alarmed by sounds of heavy machinery inside the buildings, campaigners asked to inspect the works but were refused, as was also a delegation of politicians led by the Lord Mayor.
A new defence coalition called Save Moore Street 2016 had been formed of those who had occupied the buildings and including representatives of the weekly stall group, SMSFD and these now installed a blockade on the buildings from 6.30am to 4pm Monday to Friday. No building workers were admitted to the buildings until the decision of the High Court, on 18th March 2016, that the whole terrace and its surrounding area is a national historical monument.
In the meantime the SMSFD group separately and, in particular the SMS2016 coalition, had organised marches, history walking tours, street concerts and street theatre events in period costume, including mock “heritage funerals” and a reenactment of the 1916 surrender.
Towards the end of 2016, also the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising, the Minister of Heritage set up her Advisory Group on Moore Street and the 1916 Relatives’ Association, formed earlier that year, were invited to participate, as was the separate Jim Connolly Heron/ Paddy Cooney etc group, along with representatives of the political parties in the Dáil. Not invited were the National Graves Association, the Save Moore Street From Demolition or the Save Moore Street 2016 activist groups — the applications of the latter two were rejected, though they were permitted to make a submission.
By this time, O’Reilly had been permitted by the responsible officer at NAMA to transfer his Moore Street and Dundrum portfolio to Hammerson.
The Lord Mayor’s Forum on Moore Street, where all concerned have had representation, has met regularly some years but not on others. The 1916 Relatives Association has seen internal changes and ended with its Chairperson supporting the Hammerson plan. The Jim Connolly Heron/ Paddy Cooney group has gone through a number of name changes, shedding some individuals and gaining others, before the current group presenting the Alternative Plan.
The Dublin police played a fundamental role in the creation of the first workers’ army in the world, the Irish Citizen Army.
The Dublin employer syndicate’s offensive against the working-class “syndicalism” of the Irish Transport & General Worker’s Union1 began with the 1913 Lockout, in turn triggering strikes on August 26th, when workers were presented with a document they were to sign declaring that they would leave the ITG&WU or, if not a member, would refuse to support it in any action2. Most workers of any union and none refused to sign and 20,000 workers were confronted by 400 employers.
However, the employers’ numbers were added to by the Dublin Metropolitan Police and the Royal Irish Constabulary, backed up by the judiciary. Morally and ideologically the Irish Times and Irish Independent (the latter owned by W.M. Murphy, leader of the employers) backed the employers as, to a large extent, did the Irish Catholic Church hierarchy3.
The national (non-workers’) movement was divided in its opinion: many of Redmond’s Irish Parliamentary Party representatives were employers or landlords and their sympathies were naturally not with the workers. But for example Seán Mac Diarmada, a republican and national revolutionary, organiser for the secret Irish Republican Brotherhood4, opposed the strike on the basis that foreign business interests would profit by the paralysing of Irish business concerns5. On the other hand, Mac Diarmada’s mentor and head of the IRB in Ireland, Tom Clarke, was sympathetic to the strikers.
Unlike the gendarmerie6 British police force throughout Ireland of the Royal Irish Constabulary, at this time the constables of the DMP were unarmed except with truncheons but even with those they managed to kill people. On 30th August 1913 the DMP baton-charged a crowd in a street meeting on Eden Quay, outside Liberty Hall, HQ of the union7. Among the many injured were James Nolan and John Byrne who died 31st August and 4th September respectively, both in Jervis St. Hospital. (see also other riots and police attacks in Sources & Further Reading below).
On the 31st Jim Larkin went in disguise to address an advertised public meeting, banned by a magistrate, in Sackville (now O’Connell) St., Dublin. In view of the behaviour of the police, most of the IT&GWU activists went instead to their rented facilities at Fairview but a large enough crowd of the committed and the curious were assembled in O’Connell Street, along with large force of the DMP. Larkin, disguised as an elderly Protestant minister arrived by horse-drawn carriage and, as befitted a man made infirm by age, was assisted by Nellie Gifford8 into the Clery’s building which housed the Imperial Hotel restaurant, which belonged to W.M. Murphy (as did the Dublin Tram Co.). In order that Larkin’s strong Liverpool accent should not give him away, Nellie Gifford did all the talking to the staff inside. Shortly afterwards Larkin appeared at a restaurant window on the first floor and, top hat removed, spoke briefly to the crowd below but, as DMP rushed into the building, tried to make his getaway.
The DMP arrested Larkin and when the crowd cheered him (led by Constance Markievicz), the DMP baton-charged the crowd, striking out indiscriminately, including knocking unconscious a Fianna (Republican youth organisation) boy Patsy O’Connor who was giving First Aid to a man the police had already knocked to the ground. Between 400 and 600 were injured and Patsy suffered from headaches thereafter; though active in the Republican movement (he was prominent in the 1914 Howth guns collection9) he died in 1915, the year before the Rising. Among those beaten were journalists and casual passers-by. Those caught in Princes Street10 between DMP already in that street and the police charging across the main street were beaten particularly savagely.
The police attack became known as “Bloody Sunday 1913” (though two workers had been fatally injured on Eden Quay the day before and are often wrongly listed as having been killed on that day).
Also on that day the DMP attacked the poor working-class dwellings of Corporation Buildings (in “the Monto”, off Talbot St11), beat the residents and smashed their paltry furniture. The raid was a revenge attack for the reception of bottles and stones they had received on the 30th, when they were chasing fleeing workers from Liberty Hall (others crossed Butt Bridge to the south side and a running battle took place along Townsend Street and almost to Ringsend.
THE IRISH CITIZEN ARMY 1913 AND 1916
Very soon after those attacks, Larkin and Connolly each called publicly for the formation of a workers’ defence force, which became the Irish Citizen Army. Around 120 ICA, including female members fought with distinction in the 1916 Rising and raised their flag, the Starry Plough on the roof of WM Murphy’s Imperial Hotel on the upper floors of Clery’s building, opposite the GPO13. A number of its Volunteers were killed or wounded in action and two of the ICA’s leaders, Connolly and Mallin, were executed afterwards; another, Constance Markievicz, had her sentence of death commuted.
A much-diminished ICA took part in the War of Independence.
The end of August 1913 on Eden Quay and in O’Connell Street may be seen as the period and birthplaces of the ICA, the “first workers’ army in the world” and the first also to recruit women, some of whom were officers.
The Jim Larkin monument stands opposite the Clery’s building, which is now under renovation but without a mention on the monument or on the building of Bloody Sunday 1913 or its background and result. Sic transit gloria proletariis
1The ITGWU was formed in 1909 by James Larkin, former organiser for the National Union of Dock Labourers after his bitter departure from that union. Most of the members Larkin had recruited for the NUDL, with the exception of the Belfast Protestant membership, left the NUDL and joined the IT&GWU.
2The provision in the declaration for members of unions other than the iT&GWU was necessary for the employers because of the general credo in Irish trade unionism that one did not cross a picket line, whether of one’s own union or of another, a credo that persisted in Ireland until the 1980s when the Irish Trade Union Council joined the “Social Partnership” of the State and the employers’ Federation. In addition, Larkin had added the principle that goods from a workplace on strike, even if strike-breakers could be got to bring them out, were “tainted goods” and would not be handled by members of the IT&GWU, nor should they be by any other union either.
3 Apart from any statements by bishops and priests, the religious charity organisation, the St. Vincent de Paul, refused assistance to families of strikers.
4 The IRB was founded simultaneously in Dublin and New York on 17th March 1858 and became known as “the Fenians”. In 1913 the movement had declined but was being rebuilt under the leadership of Tom Clarke, who went on to become one of the Seven Signatories of the 1916 Proclamation of Independence, all of which were executed b y firing squad after surrendering, along with another nine. Both were signatories of the Proclamation of Independence.
5It is one of the many ironies that on May 12th 1916, the last of the of the 14 surrendered leadership executed in Dublin (another two were executed elsewhere, one in Cork and the last in London) were Mac Diarmada and James Connolly, shot by British firing squads in Kilmainham Jail; the one an opponent of the workers’ action and the other one of its leadership.
6The gendarmerie is a particular militarised type of police force, armed and often operating out of barracks, like the Carabinieri of Italy, Gendarmerie of Turkey and Guardia Civil of the Spanish State. It is an armed force of state repression designed to control wide areas of potentially rebellious populations and it is notable that the parallel of the RIC did not exist in Britain, where the police force was mostly unarmed except by truncheon.
7Liberty Hall is still there today but a very different building (the original was shelled by the British in 1916) and SIPTU is a very different union too.
8Nellie was one of 12 children of a mixed religion marriage and was, like all her sisters (unlike the six unionist boys), a nationalist and supporter of women’s suffrage. Her sister Grace married Volunteer Joseph Plunkett hours before his execution and is, with Plunkett, the subject of the plaintive ballad “Grace” and Muriel married Thomas McDonagh, one of the Seven Signatories of the Proclamation, all of whom were among the 16 executed after surrendering in 1916. Nellie Gifford was the only one who participated in the Rising; she was a member of the Irish Citizen Army and was active in the Stephen’s Green/ College of Surgeons garrison, jailed and continued to be active after her release.
926th July 1914, when the yacht Asgard, captained by the Englishman Erskine Childrers, delivered a consignment of Mauser rifles and ammunition to the Irish Volunteers.
10Those may have been heading for Williams Lane which even today leads out from Princes Street to Middle Abbey Street (the junction of which is where James Connolly received the impact to his ankle in 1916).
11Corporation Buildings as one might expect housed working class people and the “Monto” (Montgomery Street) was a notorious red light district.
12The police station is still there, staffed by the Garda Síochána but in 1913 it housed also a British Army garrison.
13This flag, one of at least four different flags flown during the Rising, is now in the Irish National Museum at Collins Barrack. Shortly after the Rising it was noted by a British Army officer still in place upon the gutted Clery’s building and taken by him as a trophy to England. In 1966, the 50th anniversary of the Rising, the officer’s family returned the flag to the Irish people.
Garraithe na Lus/ Botanic Gardens is one of the jewels in Dublin, either in the city centre or just beyond, depending on how one calculates it.1 It is free to enter and open all days of the week, though there have been closures and reduced hours during the current Covid19 pandemic. It contains over 5,000 living species and cultivars2 and also accidental fauna, most but not all of which is indigenous and the Tolka, one of the few uncovered rivers of Dublin, flows along its border and through part of it. Walking through the garden is relaxing but one is walking not only through nature but history too.
Text on the official website proclaims truthfully that “the National Botanic Gardens are an oasis of calm and beauty” and goes to state that the whole is “A premier scientific institution … and that “the gardens also contain the National Herbarium and several historic wrought iron glasshouses.” All of the glasshouses are closed currently as an infection protection measure but one that had fallen into disrepair will hopefully be restored to working order and will be available when the rest can be safely reopened.
In defence of its status as a “scientific institution” the website states that“we do not allow dogs, picnics, bicycles, fishing, ball games, jogging or running, nor the playing of musical instruments or recorded music”, however this prohibition adds considerably to its calmness and the ability for visitors to take in the natural atmosphere, sound, views and smells without being jarred by those other features so common in many public spaces.
The gardens, at 19.5 hectares are not very large and certainly nowhere near the size of those at Kew, London, which are over 132 hectares in size but the smaller acreage of the Dublin site is arguably part of its charm. It is bordered on the west and south by Glasnevin Cemetery (well worth visiting too) and connected by a gate, while the Tolka (an Tulcadh) borders it to the north and cuts off the rose garden, which can be accessed by a short bridge. A road called Glasnevin Hill borders the eastern side of the Gardens and the Tolka runs under a bridge there on its way to the sea.
The Gardens were a project of the Dublin Society (later the Royal Dublin Society), founded in 1731, the Gardens themselves being opened in their current location in 17953 and are now owned and managed by the Office of Public Works, a State body.
WALK LATE APRIL
IRISH YEW AND NORTH AMERICAN SQUIRRELS
At this time of year, some of the trees are in full leaf, some in early stages and some still bare or just in bud. It is a good time to note the shapes of branches, some seemingly fantastic and also the effect of the emerging leaves against them. The clumps of the parasitic mistletoe (Sú darach) can be seen high in the branches of many species in the Gardens and having spread also to some trees in the Cemetery.
We would not expect the Gardens to be restricted to native species and although there are examples of those present, there are species of plants present from at least six continents, varying from tall trees to low cacti or succulents. But among the native flora there is a surprise for many: the Irish (compact) yew.
Many places in Ireland are named in connection with trees and the yew (Iúir) figures in a number of those, the most prominent perhaps being Iúr Chinn Trá or its more modern name An tIúir (Newry). The heartwood of yew was used to make the English longbow, from which the “cloth yard” (about 37 inches, or 94 cm) arrows played such a decisive role in the defeat of the flower of the French knighthood and cavalry at Agincourt in 1415. Because the yew is slow-growing it was policy in England to plant them in order to ensure a supply and yeomanry were required to practice at weekends. No doubt the English took their toll on the yew in Ireland as they did on other trees such as the oak.
The European Yew typically had a spreading growth but in County Fermanagh in 1767 George Willis, a local farmer, discovered two freak seedling specimens that grew in a tight, compact shape. Of those original two, one is still living4 in the grounds of Florence Court Estate demesne and it estimated that over five million offspring have been propagated from that one tree, typically seen in churchyards, graveyards and parks, not only in Ireland but in many parts of the world.
From export to the world let’s turn to an import ubiquitous in the Gardens – the grey squirrel (Iora liath). This is an invasive species to Ireland originally from North America and is blamed for helping to greatly reduce our own native species, the red squirrel (Iora rua) which, to my mind, is a much more attractive animal.
Research on Irish wildlife a few years ago showed the red squirrel making a comeback in some areas and that is associated with the slow increase in the presence of the pine marten (I prefer its traditional if inaccurate name “Cat chrainn” to “Marten péine”) which had been recently nearing extinction in Ireland. It is a predator on squirrels but apparently finds the grey species easier to catch since the latter spends longer on the ground.
Strangely, I have not noted grey squirrels in the nearby Griffiths Park so they do not seem to be expanding in that direction – at least, not yet.
BATTLE OF CLONTARF
The Battle of Clontarf, which was fought in this area on 23rd April 1014, was between Brian Boróimhe’s (Boru) forces of mainly Munster and Connacht forces, along with some Viking allies, against the forces of the Viking King of Dublin and the King of Leinster, aided by a substantial force of Viking mercenaries from the Orkneys and Manx. It was of great consequence since the High King of Ireland and many petty kings were killed in it but it also put a definitive stop to any further expansion of Viking power in Ireland (though their Dublin kingdom was tolerated but required to pay tribute).
The available history tells us that Brian’s headquarters camp for the Battle of Clontarf (Cluain Tairbh) was in Glasnevin (Glas Naíonn). Brian’s camp may have been where the Cemetery is now, since the highest point there is higher than the Gardens’, or even a little further north around where St. Mobhi’s Church is today, higher still. Wherever it was is where he was slain too, in a sneak attack by one of the Viking mercenaries from the Isle of Man, according to one of the accounts.
The Battle was certainly not fought at Clontarf but is where one part of it ended, as defeated Viking mercenaries ran for their ships there, many being killed at a bottleneck at a salmon weir (round about where Ballybough is now), only some surviving to reach their longships.
The name of the river is an old Irish word for “flood” and had there been heavy rains in the Dublin hills, the river level might have been high generally but would certainly be so anyway in the estuary at high tide. Since the record tells us that the battle started at high tide and was still high tide when it finished, it means the battle lasted 12 hours. Twelve hours of fighting in any kind of battle is hard enough but with hand-operated kinetic weapons, along with shields and armour, impossible without taking rest breaks. So the fighting waned at times by agreement or by mutual exhaustion but was engaged again. The actual battle site has never been found5 but was probably fought along the Tolka (Tulcadh) for some of its length.
Unlike battles today, all the commanders of high rank in it on both sides were killed, including Brian (though not in the actual battle) and the King of Leinster, Maél (‘Maol’ in modern Irish) Mórda Mac Murchada, the latter killed along with many of his troops and Dublin Vikings at the other bottle-neck, the only bridge then in existence across an Life (the Liffey), perhaps around Islandbridge (Droichead na hInse). This was probably at the delayed intervention in the battle of the forces of the King of Meath, Maél Sechneill Mac Domnaill (though one of the annals has his actual death at the hands of a relative of Brian’s who himself received mortal wounds from Maél Mórda).
The cancellation of the Rising by Mac Néill for Easter Sunday (23rd April that year) and its reinstatement by the IRB’s Military Council was resolved by going ahead on Easter Monday (24th April). When news of that reached the area around Maynooth, a group of Irish Volunteers who had gathered the day before but stood down, set off for Dublin along the banks of the Royal Canal, arriving in Dublin city late on Easter Monday. They found two Volunteers guarding the Cross Guns Bridge over the canal and were advised that proceeding into Dublin city centre might not be advisable in that evening.
The men spent the night in Glasnevin cemetery and set off again the following morning, crossing the now unguarded bridge and making their way, hungry and footsore, down to the very centre and the GPO on the Tuesday of Easter Week, where they remained in action until the evacuation of the burning building on the 28th. One of their number, Tom “Boer” O’Byrne, who had served in the Irish Brigade against the English in the Boer War, had his sore feet bathed there by Cumann na mBan Volunteer Lucy Agnes Smyth, whom he escorted with most of the other women Volunteers from the GPO and wounded prisoners to Jervis Street Hospital on Friday 28th and whom he would later marry.
1One of the ways in which people locate Dublin’s city centre is “between the canals”, i.e between the Royal Canal on the south side (of the Liffey) and the Grand Canals on the north side. However, the location of the Botanic Gardens is only a little past the Royal Canal, a matter of five minutes’ walk.
2A cultivar is an artificially developed variety of a plant through selection or the result of cross-breeding (eg the Loganberry or the Nectarine). As to the numbers, Wikipedia claims “approximately 20,000 living plants” for the site while the figure given here is from the Botanical Gardens’ own web page.
3That century was one in which Dublin rose in status as a city of the British Empire and many of its prominent residents took civic pride in the city and strove for improvements in a number of fields for the city and for Ireland in general. The Botanical Gardens were opened three years before the United Irishmen uprising but when the organisation was already in existence and pushing, along with more liberal constitutional elements, for Catholics and Presbyterians to have the vote and to be permitted to stand for election for the Irish Parliament, which was being blocked by the Crown administration and some vested interests. After the Rising, the Irish Parliament was abolished and so began the decline in importance of Dublin from what had been considered the second city of the British Empire.
4The other was recorded as having died in Willis’ garden in 1865, almost a hundred years later.
5I did hear years ago that some artifacts had been found in excavations for the site of the current meteorological station building near Mobhi Road but I have not seen any documentation of that. There was mention in one account of the battle of tired fighters slaking their thirst at a well and the location of that was thought to be in Phibsboro/ Glasnevin, at the junction of the southward part of the one-way system. And a housing development I noted there is called “Danewell”.
Cumann na mBan (“Women’s Association”), a female military auxiliary and counterpart to the Irish Volunteers, was founded on this day in 1914, one hundred and seven years ago. Its members took part in the 1916 Rising and perhaps even more importantly in keeping up the momentum of the militant movement for independence during martial law after the defeat of the Rising and for years afterwards. They were part of the War of Independence and the Civil War in military and political activities. Many were jailed. The Easter Lily emblem, which many will wear to commemorate the Rising, is their invention. The role of Cumann na mBan, along with that of other women in Irish history, is to this day still not sufficiently highlighted or valued.
Cumann na mBan was formed as a female counterpart and auxiliary to the Irish Volunteers, which had been formed the previous year (as had, separately, the Irish Citizen Army). The inaugural public meeting was held in Wynn’s Hotel, Thursday, 2 April 1914. It was presided over by Agnes O’Farrelly, who was elected President. The provisional executive unveiled at the meeting included Jennie Wyse Power, Nancy O’Rahilly, Agnes MacNeill, Margaret Dobbs, Mary Colum, Nurse McCoy, Louise Gavan Duffy and Elizabeth Bloxham. A constitution was adopted which stated that Cumann na mBan aimed: 1. To advance the cause of Irish liberty 2. To organise Irishwomen in the furtherance of this object 3. To assist in arming and equipping a body of Irishmen for the defence of Ireland 4. To form a fund for these purposes to be called the ‘Defence of Ireland Fund’.
It was not the first organisation of women to stand for Irish independence that century – Inghinidhe na hÉireann had been formed in 1900 as a cultural organisation and had developed a militant Irish independentist political outlook along with a suffragettist one. Inghinidhe formally dissolved itself and joined Cumann na mBan in 1914 but in effect formed one of its branches and continued to represent a trend for greater activism and female independence within Cumann.
Unlike the Volunteers, membership of the socialist Irish Citizen Army, founded in 1913, was open to both genders and the women who joined that tended to disdain the membership of Cumann na mBan because not only did they not have a social program but were, at that time, under the overall authority of the all-male Irish Volunteers.
Prior to 1916, Cumann na mBan took part in agitation and publicity actions, a number of which they organised themselves. Their marching in the procession to the grave of O’Donavan Rosa’s grave in 1915 was apparently what most impressed other women, in particular young women; they had never witnessed a self-organised women’s organisation on the streets before and the Cumann’s membership swelled thereafter. When Redmond promised Irish men to the rulers of Britain to fight in WW1 the minority part of the movement but the most active split in order to fight for independence from the UK. Cumann na mBan split also but in their case, the majority went for fighting against Britain.
In preparation for the 1916 Rising all members of the main female organisation learned First Aid and prepared field dressings for wounds, which perhaps brought them to face the physical dangers of insurrection more than did the training schedules of the Volunteers. They also engaged in anti-British Army recruitment activities which, after Britain declared War in 1914, increasingly meant being assaulted and arrested by the Dublin Metropolitan Police and the Royal Irish Constabulary. Many also transported secret messages and weapons, often storing the latter. In an informal way, they also provided intelligence they were able to gather. Through their cultural and social activities they provided diversion for male activists as well as a cover for clandestine meetings and other activities. During the Rising, Cumann na mBan members helped deliver arms, ammunition and equipment, construct barricades, set up field hospitals, provided food and water/ tea to combatants, acted as messengers. ICA women did most of that but a number of them were snipers also and one of those, Vol. Margaret Skinnider was gunshot-wounded three times while sniping and in other military activity in the Stephen’s Green/ College of Surgeons garrison area. Most of the Dublin garrisons had Cumann na mBan in them and those in the GPO garrison were asked to leave with some wounded when the building was in danger of collapse. Three women refused to leave with them and were there at the final surrender in Moore Street: Vols. Elizabeth O’Farrell, Winifred Carney and Julia Grenan.
Around 300 women are known to have taken part in the Rising and from the relative numbers of women in CnmB and the ICA, most of those had to be Cumann members; only 157 womens’ names appear on the Roll of Honour for the Rising.
Cumann na mBan was the first organisation of its kind in the world, a point that is often lost sight of: an insurrectionary female military organisation with its own uniform and officers.
The greater role of the women in general and in particular of members of Cumann na mBan however was after the Rising when, even under martial law, they organised fund-raising for relief for families who had lost a breadwinner to death or prison; organised also public commemorations, defying arrest to keep the flame and memories alive, helping to create the sea-change in attitude to the Rising and giving a fertile ground for them to plant the seeds of resistance, along with the male and female prisoners released under amnesty.
In 1918 members of the Cumann worked to help the landslide victory for Sinn Féin in the British General Election in Ireland and then helped in the War of Independence, this time greatly organised into intelligence work but also as before as couriers, carrying and hiding weapons, caring for the wounded, running safe houses and other actions, as well as in public demonstrations and pickets, for example outside prisons. They were assaulted on occasion and jailed, sometimes replying with a hunger strike. They could not easily go “on the run” and were subjected by British Army and colonial Police to invasions of their homes and ill-treatment which included shearing their hair.
In 1921, Cumann na mBan again split over the Treaty but once more with the majority against it and in 1922 took the Republican side in the Civil War, for which they suffered repression, home invasions and imprisonment anew, this time by the forces of the Free State.
In 1926 Cumann na mBan invented the Easter Lily emblem in order to raise funds for the dependents of prisoners and killed in action fighters, in addition to those officially and unofficially executed, abducted an murdered. It is purely as a result of their efforts at this time that the emblem is so widely worn and appreciated in the wide Irish Republican movement, especially around this time of year.
Cumann na mBan ceased to exist soon after the split between the “Officials” and “Provisionals” in 1969 but women continued to be active in the political organisations and also to be recruited into the various military ones.
(note the omission of the Moore Street battlefield at the end, with a Winifred Carney, Elizabeth O’Farrell and Julia Grenan noted as staying on in the GPO but omitting to mention where they went soon afterwards, or Farrell’s important roles thereafter): https://www.richmondbarracks.ie/women-1916/cumann-na-mban/
As we in the SE London, Lewisham branch of the Irish in Britain Representation Group began to plan our Easter Rising commemoration locally in 2000, we could not have imagined the drama it would bring. It resulted in calls for the event’s cancellation, for the Lewisham Irish Community Centre to revoke our hire of the hall and even for the withdrawal of the Centre’s meagre funding from the local authority. And shortly afterwards an attempt was made to burn down the Centre.
Even in the general atmosphere of anti-Irish racism in Britain and context of the 30 Years’ War in Ireland, we could not have expected these developments. The Lewisham Branch of the IBRG, founded towards the end of 19861, had been hosting this annual event locally long before the Irish Centre had opened in 1992 and in fact the branch was instrumental in getting the disused building, which had belonged to the Cooperative Society, handed over to the Irish community and refurbished by the local authority. Furthermore, the 1916 Rising had been commemorated at the Lewisham Irish Centre by the local IBRG branch for a number of years running without any fuss.
As usual, whenever the event was to take place we naturally hoped others would promote it. In the days before Facebook and Twitter etc, email would would reach some contacts, a poster in the centre would be seen by users, some illegal street postering might be done and the Irish Post or Irish World might publicise the event. The rest would be by word of mouth.
It happened that in the week preceding the 1998 event, an activist of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement in London was in touch with the branch and he posted the event on the 32CSM site, intending it as a supportive advertisement. However, someone who hated that organisation took it to be an event of the 32 CSM themselves.
Victor Barker’s son James had been killed in the Omagh car bombing of 15th August 1998, carried out by the “Real IRA”, a group opposed to the Provisional IRA’s signup to the Good Friday Agreement and to the British colonial occupation of Ireland. Although the organisation responsible has always stated that it intended to kill no civilians2, with 29 fatalities the bombing took the highest death toll of a single incident (but not of a single day, which was the British intelligence bombing of Dublin and Monaghan in May 1974) during the 30 Years War.
Understandably Victor Barker had pursued a vendetta against the Real IRA since and, less understandably perhaps, against anything connected with it, including the 32CSM and even, in this case, the right of an unrelated Irish community organisation to commemorate its national history.
Barker contacted the Lewisham Irish Centre and expressed his outrage, demanding the event be cancelled. A nonplussed Brendan O’Rourke, Manager of the Centre, explained that the event was an annual one and booked by a local comunity organisation and affiliate of the Centre. Not in the least mollified, Barker then got to the local authority, an official of which rang Brendan, he repeated the explanation and the official seemed satisfied.
But Brendan was getting a bit worried and phoned me at work – I had been Chair of the Management Committee since the Centre opened and was at the same time Secretary of the local IBRG branch. We discussed the matter and agreed to cary on but his next phone call was to alert me that the matter was now national or at least London-wide news, with a report in an early edition of the Evening Standard headlining that we were running a “London fundraiser for the Omagh bombers”3. Furthermore, the cowardly local authority official was now saying – and quoted — that while they had no power to cancel the booking, they would be looking at the Irish Centre’s funding.
I hurried home to Lewisham as fast as I could – the SE London borough is about 90 minutes’ journey by underground line and overground train from King’s Cross, where I worked. With no time for a meal, I got some things ready and got down to the Centre, about 15 minutes’ walk from my flat.
By virtue of being Chairperson of the Irish Centre’s management committee, I had a key, opened the door, turned off the burglar alarm and locked the door again, then began to get things ready. The part-time Caretaker would lay out tables and chairs for events but I generally liked to change it to a less formal arrangement for our events and so I set to that. There was also “decoration” to be done: some posters and portraits of 1916 martyrs to put up in places, flags to hang etc.
In the lobby I placed a chair by a table there and also some hidden short stout lengths of wood. This was a provision inherited from earlier days when Irish or British left-wing meetings might be attacked by fascists of the National Front or the British Movement but we hadn’t felt the need at the Irish Centre for some years now. However, with the current hysteria being whipped up by Barker and the Evening Standard and assisted by the wriggling of the Council officer, fascists might well decide the conditions favoured an attack.
Another possibility was a police raid. The “Prevention of Terrorism Act” in force since 1974 in Britain specifically targeted the Irish community and gave the police the power to detain someone for up to five days without access even to a lawyer.4
Early arrivals started to knock at the door and I was in a quandary – until I had some reliable able-bodied people to staff the door, I didn’t want to start letting people in. On the other hand if we were going to be attacked, I couldn’t leave them outside either. So it was open, let them in, lock the door again, open, let some more in …. until the arrival of some I could ask to mind the door (after I’d told them about the “extras” in case they were needed).
Then there were sound amplification checks and gradually the hall was filling up. I was to be MC and so on duty inside the hall but kept checking the lobby to see everything was ok. And of course people wanted to chat about the news so would stop me and ask me about it …
For the evening’s program, the MC was to welcome people, introduce the Irish ballad band and have them play for an hour. Then intermission, MC on again with a few words on behalf of the local organisation, introduce the featured speaker, get the band on again for an hour or so to finish. So, some time to kill, to worry before the hour for which the band was booked.
The time came but the band didn’t. At half an hour late I started to worry and the supporter who had booked the band on behalf of the branch couldn’t get any reply from them by phone. As MC I apologised to the attendance and asked for their patience. Over an hour late, the band’s manager finally phoned to say they would not be coming. Because of worry arising out of the media reporting.
A few of us in the organising group held a quick conference. Nothing for it but to face the music – or rather its absence – and so I got on the stage and told the audience that the band had pulled out and everyone was entitled to a refund of their ticket price without any hard feelings whatsoever or …
Before I could lay out the alternative, a guy sitting near the stage jumped up and shouted “We will NOT accept our money back!” to the applause of some others. A little taken aback, I thanked him for his spirit but said people should have the choice and laid out the alternative, which would be to hear the speaker and just socialise for the rest of the evening. Nobody made a move to get up and approach the door so ….. I introduced the speaker, who that year might have been from the IRSP (a previous speaker had been Michelle Gildernew, then representing Sinn Féin in Britain). He did his bit, I did mine, much of that not surprisingly being devoted to censorship, intimidation and repression of the Irish community as well as the commemoration of our history.
Then a guy approached and said he’d play guitar and sing, so he went up on stage, I followed with a few songs acapella, someone else sang a few …. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the evening, there was no trouble at the door …. and because there was no band to pay, we made more money than we had ever done for function organised by the local IBRG branch!
But there were to be two dramatic sequels to this controversy. And tensions between myself and the Centre Manager would follow.
THE “MAC CHICKEN BROTHERS”
The professional name of the Irish ballad band was The Mac Namara Brothers but Brian, a resilient Dublin comrade from a deprived background, that night baptised them the Mac Chicken Brothers (a play on the Mac Donald chain’s naming of items and a reference to the band members’ cowardice.
Our event had been on a Friday night and they were due to play Sunday afternoon at an Irish bar a five minutes’ drive from the Lewisham Irish Centre. We didn’t see how we could let them do that without confronting them. In discussion I suggested we present them with some white feathers and denounce them and Brian was all up for that; he was taking the kids to the seaside and would pick up some white feathers around the beach. But, unbelievably, he could find none. Nor could I in a local park. In the end, I opened a pillow and took out handfuls but they were all small.
The next day, we declined to invite anyone who might get hurt without being accustomed to defending themselves or who might not be sufficiently disciplined in behaviour and of the remainder, only myself and Brian were available. The pub, The Graduate, was under new management, one of three sisters from the Six Counties (perhaps Armagh), who lived in South-East London. I knew her from when she had been barmaid and perhaps manager at the Woodman, another Irish pub in the general area, where I attended Irish traditional music sessions (and sometimes a lock-in for an extra hour or so).
On Sunday we were a bit late in getting going but Brian drove us there and we entered the crowded area that would have been the public bar before the lounge and that area were combined. I bought us a round and we tried to act as relaxed and natural as possible, nodded to people we knew … It was certain that many of those present already knew what had happened but no-one came to ask us about it.
The “Mac Chicken Brothers” were playing and I was unsure whether we had perhaps missed their break. I got another round in but that was going to be my limit. To our relief, the band took a break but now my tension racked higher as I positioned myself nonchalantly near the stage and waited for the band to get ready for the second half of their act.
Finally, I saw them coming and with a small plastic bag in my hand I jumped up on to the low stage, Brian ready to handle any trouble from the floor.
“Ladies and gentlemen!” I called out loudly and got instant attention. “A few nights ago the British press ran a scare story about a 1916 Rising commemoration in Lewisham,” I continued. “This band here was booked to attend but didn’t turn up, leaving a couple of hundred people waiting. This is what we think of you,” I said, turning to the band members and threw a handful of the feathers from the bag in their direction.
“Hear, hear!” shouted someone in the crowd and I got down from the stage, glanced at Brian and made for the door, with him following closely behind. Incredibly I heard one of the band members say to me: “You might have told us you were going to do that!”
As we walked away outside, my heart thumping, the manager came rushing out.
“You had no right to do that,” she said, her eyes flashing fire. “Not in my pub!”
“Sorry, Bridget,” (not her real name), I replied, “It had to be done!”
“Not in my pub!”
“But that’s where the band was! It just had to be done.”
Now a customer came haring out looking for us and, from the look on his face, it wasn’t to offer congratulations. I felt Brian beside me change his stance to take him on but the manager took the guy by the arm and talked him back inside and we got in Brian’s van and car and drove off. “Bridge” wouldn’t talk to me for some years afterwards, though one of her sisters would.
The following day, I wrote a letter about the matter to the Irish Post5, attacking the Labour Council for its cowardice, the band for failing to comply with their booking and the Evening Standard for its felon-setting. Since I was Chairperson of the Management Committee of the Centre, which was already under some pressure, I wrote it under a pseudonym. The letter was published.
I felt that not only our branch of the IBRG but the Irish community had been attacked and we had responded appropriately and publicly, both locally and in the wider context. We would now face the next move, if one was to come, from the Council, as an Irish community with pride.
But at the next monthly meeting Management Committee, I was surprised to find that Brendan, the Centre Manager, believed that either Lewisham IBRG had organised the event jointly with 32CSM or that I had placed the advertisement. But worse, I was genuinely shocked to see that he believed my use of a pseudonym for the Irish Post letter was an attempt to distance the IBRG and myself from the controversy and leave him to face it alone. Brendan and I disagreed politically (he was a Sinn Féin supporter and I was by this time hostile to the party’s new trajectory with respect to the conflict in Ireland) but I supported him as Manager of the Centre while as Irishmen we stood together against oppression. But no matter what I said now, I seemed unable to convince him that the use of a pseudonym, far from being a device to have a say and protect myself at the same time, was to protect the Centre and himself as its Manager.
We got through the meeting and the Council officials seemed happy to let the matter rest, since the Standard lost interest and moved on to the next sensation.
But a more direct attack than that of Barker and the media was being planned somewhere.
ARSON ATTACK ON THE CENTRE
In the early hours of one morning a couple of weeks later, I received a phone call from the Fire Brigade, attending at the Lewisham Irish Centre. I was one of the emergency nominees. When I got down there, Pat Baczor6, another member of the Management Committee and also an emergency nominee, was there already. So were the Fire Brigade and the police.
There had been an arson attempt and a hole was burned in the wood of the front door. We opened up and let the Fire Brigade in, who came out a few minutes later, pronouncing the building safe. A container with some inflammable liquid had been set by the door and had burned a hole about the size of my fist but the floor inside was tile and had not caught.
In response to the police, I said while we had received no threats, there had been some controversy in the media about a history commemoration and though I would suspect local fascists, I had no specific individuals in mind.
If we hadn’t wire screens on all the external windows, it would have been easy to smash a glass pane and to throw in the container with a lit fuse. The flooring of the whole hall was wooden and the result would have been quite different. I was very glad that during discussion on the refurbishment of the Coop Hall for use as an Irish Centre more than many years earlier, as Chair of the Steering Group, I had made a point of insisting on the wire screens. An Irish Centre in Britain could expect to be the target of an attack some day.
AFTER ALL THAT
We weathered that storm and the following year’s 1916 Rising commemoration took place without incident.
The next crisis for the Irish Centre came some two years later when the Council’s Labour Party Leadership, which had been “Blairite before Blair” as one local Leftie commented, listed the Centre for cuts to our total staffing: one (underpaid) Manager and one part-time caretaker-handyman. There were heavy cuts planned to the whole Council-funded service sector across the Borough of Lewisham so, although in our case the cuts would have meant wiping out our entire staffing, it was difficult to say whether the controversy some years earlier had played a role or not.
But that was another day’s battle.
1The wider IBRG had been founded in 1981 and consolidated in 1982. The Lewisham branch was founded from an initiative by a core of people who had taken over organising the 1985-1986 Irish Aspects course at Goldsmiths (then) Community College from its original organiser, Derry-born Peter Moloney, who was stepping down and invited them to run it in his place or that the course would come to an end. Peter was one of founding members of the branch and active within it for a few years.
2The intentions of this bombing are still the subject of dispute. The killing of civilians would have been against the interests of the organisation and in the event were strongly so; it strengthened the hands of the authorities in enacting further repressive legislation and also ideologically for the authorities and the Provisionals in gathering support for the Good Friday Agreement and in neutralising its opponents within the Irish Republican movement. Over the years the Wikipedia page on the bombing has changed substantially as cases against accused collapsed, including one in which the Gardaí were found to have concocted notes of an interview and revelation has followed revelation of intelligence services awareness of elements of the plans and failure to alert the RUC (colonial police) on the ground. Four defendants were found responsible in a controversial civil case and it seems clear that that Mickey Kevitt’s criminal conviction on questionable evidence in another case in 2003 was related to his believed involvement as was the refusal to apply all possible reductions which would have seen him released in 2016. McKevitt died of cancer on 2nd January 2021, still serving his sentence of 20 years. The full truth may never be known.
3Pat Reynolds, PRO of the IBRG throughout most of its existence, in his year-by-year review of the IBRG commented: “The London Evening Standard with a long history of anti-Irish racism came out with the headline London fundraiser for the Omagh Bombers alleging that the event was organised by supporters of the real IRA. The IBRG were seeking legal advice on the article as the event was organised by Lewisham IBRG.” Busy with more practical organising and without perhaps the right contacts, Lewisham IBRG never did take up the misreporting legally or with the Press Council.
4As Irish community activists warned the British public, it would lead to wider repressive legislation if permitted to stand, which it did. The 2006 Act allows for detention up to 28 days without charge.
5The Irish Post was founded in 1971 as a newspaper aimed at the Irish community in Britain and played a generally progressive role until its editor-owner, Brendan Mac Lua and Thomas Beattie sold the title and company to Thomas Crosbie Holdings (TCH) in 2003. In 1981 the founding of the Irish in Britain Representation Group was in part inspired by comment in the paper’s “Dolan” column (a pen-name of Mac Lua’s). In later years the newspaper suffered competition from other titles aiming at the same community, The Irish World and The London Irish News(?). More about the Post’s later history (but next to nothing about it earlier work including promoting the cases of the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four, Maguire Seven etc and also covering protests against anti-Irish racism and promoting new Irish writing) here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Irish_Post
6Patricia Ellen Baczor owed her surname to having married a Polish man. There were many such marriages between Polish refugees and servicemen who met young Irish women at Catholic parish social events in Britain during WW2. Pat was a strong widow and supporter of the rights of the Irish community, progressive in her thinking, anti-racist but not one to push herself forward. She was generally very supportive of me as Chair of the Management Committee and appreciative of the other hat I wore in the local and ‘national’ IBRG and the tensions thereby I sometimes had to negotiate.
(Article originally published 2017 in New York Irish History, journal of the New York Irish History Roundtable, abbreviated slightly and reprinted here with kind permission of the author)
In her article, “Dr. Gertrude B. Kelly: A Forgotten Feminist,” Wendy McElroy summarizes the paradoxes in Dr. Kelly’s worldview that make her a complex, seemingly contradictory figure: A labor radical who was deeply skeptical of unions, a medical doctor who opposed state licensing of medicine, a staunch anti-statist who broke with the most prominent individualist anarchists of her day, an ardent feminist who denied that there were “women’s rights” as distinct from “human rights.” (McElroy, “Gertrude B. Kelly”)
Kelly’s seemingly paradoxical and contradictory juxtapositions come into focus, though, in the light of her Irish birth and anarchist beliefs. Individual anarchists, like Kelly, were a group of anti-authoritarian radicals who regarded total individual autonomy and free labor as the answer to the social and economic problems of the day. Kelly believed that overthrowing power structures and maximizing individual autonomy and responsibility would create a truly free society, which would evolve organically once society had liquidated the oppressive state. Because individualist anarchists regarded labor as the source of value and exchanges of unequal values to be exploitative, they may be regarded as a part of the broader socialist movement. Kelly’s views not only were highly uncommon and radical, but they also placed her in direct conflict with the establishment: the church, the state, and the capitalist order.
Shaping Kelly’s perspectives was that in her eyes, Ireland was victim of both capitalism and the British state.
Although she left Ireland at age eleven, the experiences and opinions of her parents profoundly shaped Kelly’s perspectives. She was born into a family of Irish nationalist educators in 1862 in Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary (Co. Waterford identifies Kelly as being born in the same year but in Ballyneale, across the border from Tipperary). Her father was a schoolmaster apparently forced out of his job for his Fenian sympathies. He left Ireland in 1868, five years before Gertrude would join him in New Jersey in 1873. He would become a high school principal, but he and the whole family remained passionately devoted to Irish affairs. Her older brother, John, played a huge role in shaping her anarchist worldview.
Kelly was one of twelve children, but little is known about any of her other siblings except for John who had a profound influence on her attitudes towards Ireland and anarchism. John graduated from Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken and went on to earn a Ph.D at age twenty-two in electrical engineering. An assistant for a time to Thomas Edison, Kelly became one of the world’s foremost experts in using dynamos to transmit telephone signals. During Kelly’s lifetime he held over seventy electrical related patents and pioneered high voltage electricity generating and transmission systems.
However, he was not just a man of science; he was also devoted to Ireland and used his considerable wealth generously to advance the cause of Irish freedom. In the 1880s, he wrote articles for individualist anarchist publications including Liberty, Alarm, and Lucifer, which must have greatly influenced his sister. John Kelly spent the last years of his life supporting Irish causes, working closely with his sister. From 1916–18, he served as the president of the Massachusetts State Council for Friends of Irish Freedom. From 1920–21, he wrote a third of the Irish World’s anonymous political commentaries, and in 1921, from July to December, he and his young sister agitated for a nationwide boycott of British goods.
Despite being in America, Kelly still remained keenly interested in events within Ireland. Although she was busy with her medical studies she followed Ireland from articles in the Irish World, published in New York, and the Boston Pilot. Both newspapers featured several stories on the failure of the Irish Land Act of 1870 to improve the lot of tenant farmers, the formation of the Irish Land League in 1879, the subsequent Land Wars, the No-Rent movement, and the indiscriminate evictions of Irish tenant farmers from their land by agents of absentee English landlords. These stories cemented Kelly’s rejection of British imperialism and private ownership of land.
In 1879, John Devoy of Clan na Gael in the United States forged a broad-based coalition called the “New Departure,” with Michael Davitt of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and Charles Stewart Parnell of the Home Rule League to create a joint front that united believers in physical force, agrarian agitation, and constitutional nationalism to aid the suffering Irish tenant farmer and demand Irish Home Rule from England. Parnell and Davitt were also members of the Irish National Land League. In support of that initiative Fanny and Anna Parnell founded the Ladies Land League in America in 1880 with branches in Hoboken, Jersey City, Newark, and Patterson.
Young Gertrude Kelly became an active member of the League and a vocal supporter of a No-Rent Manifesto published by the National Land League in 1881. Kelly’s understanding of individualistic anarchist philosophy was strengthened by the columns of “Honorius” in the Irish World, an organ of the Irish No-Rent movement. Honorius was, in fact, a pseudonym for the American natural rights advocate Henry Appleton, who contributed frequently to the early issues of Liberty, both under his own name and under the pen name of “X.”(McElroy, “Gertude B. Kelly”)
PROLIFIC WRITER AND FEMINIST
Anger at how British imperialist government had subverted its proper role in Ireland shaped Kelly’s anti-authoritarian worldview. Kelly was not only a dedicated Irish-Nationalist, but she was also a prolific writer and insightful social and political commentator. In articles published in the individualist periodical Liberty and the Irish World she expressed her indignation and abhorrence at the lack of fairness empathy or sense of humanity inherent in the attitude of the ruling elite towards the poor of Ireland. She contributed a number of other well-received articles for Liberty whose founder and editor, Benjamin Tucker, said of her “Gertrude B. Kelly…by her articles in Liberty, has placed herself at a single bound among the finest writers of this or any other country.” (McElroy, “Gertrude B. Kelly”).
Kelly, however, would later break with Tucker and cease writing for Liberty, a sign of her fiery independence. Kelly was more than a mere analyst of Irish anti-imperialism. She was also an avant garde feminist who understood the struggles that women faced, especially poor women, with whom the doctor had a lifelong affinity and her articles for Liberty reflect a keen understanding of the special problems females faced. In one of her articles for Liberty she developed a highly controversial argument about prostitution. Instead of seeing prostitutes as “fallen women,” Kelly saw them as economic victims. Her first article in Liberty, “The Root of Prostitution,” claimed that women’s inability to earn enough money through respectable forms of labor was the root cause of sex work. She wrote: “We find all sorts of schemes for making men moral and women religious, but no scheme which proposes to give woman the fruits of her labor. In her writing, she railed against men forcing women to conform to paternalistic codes of behavior. Men…have always denied to women the opportunity to think; and, if some women have had courage enough to dare public opinion, and insist upon thinking for themselves, they have been so beaten by that most powerful weapon in society’s arsenal, ridicule, that it has effectively prevented the great majority from making any attempt to come out of slavery.” (McElroy,“Gertrude B. Kelly”)
Despite Kelly’s sincere feminism, she could make the following statement that must have alienated her from many of the leading feminists of her day: “There is, properly speaking, no woman question, as apart from the question of human right and human liberty.” She added: “The woman’s cause is man’s— they rise or sink/Together—dwarfed or godlike-bond or free.” She saw women’s struggles in the wider context of humanity’s struggle against all forms of coercion. Women would gain their deserved social status only when all of society had also liberated itself. Kelly also became a militant suffragette, believing that women with the power to vote could solve many of the issues they faced. (McElroy, “Gertrude B. Kelly”).
In Kelly’s eyes both women and men were in fact the victims of a coercive capitalist society. Radical individualists of nineteenth-century America, like Kelly, saw capitalism as the root cause of poverty and social injustice. Kelly subscribed to the labor theory of value espoused by the anarchist individualist theoretician Josiah Warren who posited that capitalists stole the fruits of labor by underpaying the worker for his or her efforts. She also accepted the popular radical belief that capitalism was an alliance between business and government, in which the state guaranteed the rich their privileged position. Kelly considered all forms of capitalism to be what individualist anarchists called “state capitalism.”
In Irish-America, where so many fellow immigrants had climbed the ladder by joining the civil service, her anti-government stance was especially incendiary.
KELLY’S WORK AS A DOCTOR
Kelly’s becoming a physician is an extraordinary story in itself. She became one of the very few women to study medicine and become a doctor thanks to two English sisters, Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell who set up the first school to grant women licenses to practice medicine, the Women’s Medical College of New York. Kelly graduated from Blackwell’s school in 1884 with an M.D. degree and became an accomplished surgeon.
If Kelly is recalled today in New York City, it is not for her important role in agitating for Ireland, but in helping the city’s poor through her work as a doctor. Although she campaigned for many deserving causes during her lifetime, her primary focus was on treating the downtrodden and poor working women and their families in the clinics she worked in. She set up such a clinic in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood where she became legendary for surreptitiously leaving cash under her dinner plate when she made house calls at the homes of impoverished patients. Kelly was also a renowned surgeon who, in addition to her work at the clinic, was a member of the surgical staff at the New York Infirmary for Women and Children, the institution where she had received training. During her medical career she authored and co-authored papers on abdominal surgical procedures and other medical and health care-related issues.
KELLY AND THE RISING
Kelly would play an oversized role in the events before and after the 1916 Easter Rising. In 1901, John Redmond, who assumed leadership of the reunited Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP), established the United Irish League of America to raise funds for the IPP and promote its Home Rule agenda in the United States. Dr. Kelly supported the United Irish League, even though its acceptance of continued British sovereignty over Ireland disturbed her. In accepting home rule, she reasoned that it could serve as an intermediary step before launching a nonviolent, anti-British, grassroots campaign that would lead to an independent Irish Republic.
In October of 1914, Kelly issued a call to “women of Irish blood” to join the first chapter of Cumann na mBan formed in the United States. Hundreds of women met at the Hotel McAlpin, where Kelly, Mary Colum, and Sidney Gifford, a recently arrived émigré from Dublin outlined the aims of the organization. Their chapter would follow the lead of Cumann na mBan in Ireland by raising funds and garnering support for the Irish Volunteers formed in 1913 in response to the formation of the anti-independence Ulster Volunteer Force the previous year. The declared aim of the Irish Volunteers was “to secure and maintain the rights and liberties common to the whole people of Ireland.” (“Dr. Gertrude B. Kelly” in Feniangraves.net). Chosen as president of the organization, Kelly helped set-up other branches and arranged for speakers from Ireland to address its members, conduct lecture tours and help in fundraising efforts.
When Redmond in a speech called on young Irishmen to enlist and fight in the British Army, it was too much for the anti-imperialist Kelly, who issued the following statement: “May I, as a woman, an Irishwoman and physician, spokeswoman of hundred, thousands of my sisters at home and abroad ask our leaders what it is they propose to Ireland to do—commit suicide? Admitting for the moment that this is “a most righteous war” not—”a war of iron and coal”—a war between titans for commercial supremacy— why should little Ireland have to do what the United States, Switzerland, etc., do not. Is Home Rule to be secured for the cattle and sheep when the young men of Ireland are slaughtered, the old men and old women left sonless, the young women obliged to emigrate to bring up sons for men of other climes.” (“Dr. Gertrude B. Kelly” in Feniangraves.net)
After the Easter Rising, Cumann na mBan’s fundraising efforts were redirected to the support of the thousands of families of imprisoned Volunteers. Kelly and other Irish women activists including Margaret Moore, a Land League veteran and labor leader Lenora O’Reilly led the highly successful fundraising campaign.
In 1917, America entered World War I on the side of the British. President Wilson threatened members of any organizations that protested against the British Empire with jail sentences. Nevertheless, in the same year Dr. Kelly was part of a group that formed the Irish Progressive Party, whose aim was to lobby the government in Washington to protest British imperialism and recognize the Irish Republic.
In 1920, Dr. Kelly would perform her greatest services to Irish freedom. She understood that women could take bold actions, such as in public protests, that would capture popular attention and focus the American public on the continued presence of Britain in Ireland, which violated one of the Fourteen Points identified by Wilson in 1918 as necessary for world peace—self-determination for small nations. The first official meeting of the activist group, American Women Pickets for the Enforcement of America’s War Aims, was held in New York on April 20, 1920, organized by Gertrude Kelly.
With Irish men in America mired in fighting one another, this women’s movement grabbed headlines through a succession of highly effective public acts, some of which created chain reactions across the eastern seaboard of the United States. In September, 1920, Kelly was one of the organizers of a female blockade of the British Embassy in Washington as response to their actions in Ireland. Kelly was arrested for her part in the agitation.
In December, 1920, the women pickets and the Irish Progressive League organized a strike at a Chelsea pier in Manhattan to protest the arrests of Irish-born Australian Archbishop Daniel Mannix, an outspoken foe of British rule in Ireland, and Terence MacSwiney, the Lord Mayor of Cork, who was on hunger strike and near death. Kelly, Leonora O’Reilly, Hannah SheehySkeffington, and Eileen Curran of the Celtic Players assembled a group of women who dressed in white with green capes and carried signs that read: “There Can Be No Peace While British Militarism Rules the World.”(“Dr. Gertrude B. Kelly” in Feniangraves.net)
The strike which, lasted three and a half weeks, was directed at British ships docked in New York. Striking workers included not only Irish longshoremen but also, Italian coal passers, AfricanAmerican longshoremen, and workers on a docked British passenger liner. According to a New York Sun report it was “…the first purely political strike of workingmen in the history of the United States. The strike became famous and spread to Brooklyn, New Jersey, and Boston. When reporters asked who exactly was behind these protests, Dr. Kelly responded “American women.” (“Gertrude B. Kelly” in Irish Echo).
By the end of 1920, many thought the only prospect for an independent Ireland was an acceptance of partition. Dr. Kelly was a fiery opponent of division and expressed her views on Ireland being divided: “The thing itself is absolutely unthinkable. We have always been slaves, but unwilling slaves. Now we are subscribing to our slavery. I cannot believe that the Irish people will do this. The whole thing is a fake from start to finish. Summed up I would say that after 750 years we have given England moral standing in the world when she has none: it’s a tremendous defeat.” (“Gertrude B. Kelly” in Feniangraves.net)
Nevertheless, partition did take place, much to Kelly’s dismay. Bitterly disappointed, she continued her work treating the poor of the city. In the first quarter of the twentieth century she was on the “must meet” list of every Irish political and literary figure who came to the United States.
Kelly passed away on February 16, 1934. The poor of Chelsea mourned her and remembered her acts of kindness. In 1936, Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia named the Dr. Gertrude B. Kelly Playground located in Chelsea west of Ninth Avenue between Sixteenth and Seventeeth Streets in her honor. It was one of five model playgrounds developed in New York City during the mid-1930s. (“Gertrude B. Kelly Playground” in NYCgovparks.org)
The playground is perhaps the only public tribute to a woman who made an outsized contribution to Irish independence and to the City of New York. Perhaps in the future Dr. Kelly will garner more.
The original article in full may be found here, including also a list of sources: nyih32.CobbG_pdf2%20(3)%20(1).pdf
From Workers’ Republic, 18 March 1916.
Transcribed by The James Connolly Society in 1997.
Proofread by Chris Clayton, August 2007.
The question often arises: Why do Irishmen celebrate the festival of their national saint, in view of the recently re-discovered truth that he was by no means the first missionary to preach Christianity to the people of Ireland? It is known now beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Christian religion had been preached and practised in Ireland long before St. Patrick, that Christian churches had been established, and it is probable that the legend about the shamrock was invented in some later generation than that of the saint. Certainly the shamrock bears no place of any importance in early Celtic literature, and the first time we read of it as having any reference to or bearing on religion in Ireland occurs in the work of a foreigner – an English monk.
But all that notwithstanding there is good reason why Irish men and women should celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. They should celebrate it for the same reason as they should honour the green flag of Ireland, despite the fact that there is no historical proof that the Irish, in the days of Ireland’s freedom from foreign rule, ever had a green flag as a national standard, or indeed ever had a national flag at all
The claim of the 17th of March to be Ireland’s national festival, the claim of St. Patrick to be Ireland’s national saint, the claim of the shamrock to be Ireland’s national plant, the claim of the green flag to be Ireland’s national flag rests not on the musty pages of half-forgotten history but on the affections and will of the Irish people.
Sentiment it may be. But the man or woman who scoffs at sentiment is a fool. We on this paper respect facts, and have a holy hatred of all movements and causes not built upon truth. But sentiment is often greater than facts, because it is an idealised expression of fact – a mind picture of truth as it is seen by the soul, unhampered by the grosser dirt of the world and the flesh.
The Irish people, denied comfort in the present, seek solace in the past of their country; the Irish mind, unable because of the serfdom or bondage of the Irish race to give body and material existence to its noblest thoughts, creates an emblem to typify that spiritual conception for which the Irish race laboured in vain. If that spiritual conception of religion, of freedom, of nationality exists or existed nowhere save in the Irish mind, it is nevertheless as much a great historical reality as if it were embodied in a statute book, or had a material existence vouched for by all the pages of history.
It is not the will of the majority which ultimately prevails; that which ultimately prevails is the ideal of the noblest of each generation. Happy indeed that race and generation in which the ideal of the noblest and the will of the majority unite.
In this hour of her trial Ireland cannot afford to sacrifice any one of the things the world has accepted as peculiarly Irish. She must hold to her highest thoughts, and cleave to her noblest sentiments. Her sons and daughters must hold life itself as of little value when weighed against the preservation of even the least important work of her separate individuality as a nation.
Therefore we honour St. Patrick’s Day (and its allied legend of the shamrock) because in it we see the spiritual conception of the separate identity of the Irish race – an ideal of unity in diversity, of diversity not conflicting with unity.
Magnificent must have been the intellect that conceived such a thought; great must have been the genius of the people that received such a conception and made it their own.
On this Festival then our prayer is: Honour to St. Patrick the Irish Apostle, and Freedom to his people.
I seem to recall that Connolly wrote something else about celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, perhaps when he was living and working in the USA but can’t find it now. For similar reasons to what he lays out here, I supported and indeed organised public celebration of the feast day in London.
And I might have agreed with Connolly in the case of Ireland at the time he wrote it: the whole country under British occupation, in the middle of the First World War with thousands of Irish casualties in the British armed forces and coming up to the 1916 Rising.
But now? I don’t think so, neither with what it celebrates nor how it is celebrated, which always makes me want to get out of Dublin. Republic Day, which Connolly was party to creating but could perhaps not have anticipated being a national festival day, is what we should be focusing on now, I think.