JUSTICE FOR THE IGNORED?

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 6 mins. main text, total 9 mins)

At noon on Thursday 1st December around a hundred people gathered in a side street off Dublin city’s main street to commemorate the killing of three public transport workers1 by British Loyalist bombs in 1972 and 1973.

The event was organised by the Justice for the Forgotten group that grew out of relatives seeking accountability for the Dublin and Monaghan bombings in 1974. However, the campaign group might well consider replacing the word “Forgotten” with “Ignored”.

In the early 1970s, as people – mostly but not all of of nationalist background – were marching for equal civil rights in the British colony of the Six Counties, British Loyalists began exploding bombs, not all but mostly in Dublin.

Some were aimed at symbolic Irish monuments such as the O’Connell Tower in Glasnevin cemetery (17 January 1971)and the Wolfe Tone monument in Stephens Greeen (8th February)2but the bombings of 1972, ‘73, ‘74 and ‘75 were clearly intended to kill civilians.

British Intelligence Services have been implicated in collusion with Loyalists and, along with agents within the Irish State3 have been implicated at least with regard to the 1974 bombing of Dublin and Monaghan, resulting in the largest loss of life in any one day during the 30 Years War.4

Posters of the names of three public transport workers killed in two bombings by British Loyalists (Photo: Rebel Breeze)
Wreaths and the plaque commemorating the atrocity (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

THE COMMEMORATION PROCEEDINGS

A temporary canopy had been erected with a lectern and amplification in Sackville Lane, between busy O’Connell and Marlborough Streets, next to a plaque set in the pavement commemorating the bombing and its victims there. More than a hundred had gathered around to witness the event.

Tom Duffy, son of Tommy Duffy, one of the victims of the 1972 bombs chaired the event. He is also the designer of the commemorative sculpture ‘A Fallen Bouquet’, inlaid into the pavement which was unveiled in 20045.

Chairing the event, Tom Duffy, son of the murdered Tommy Duffy (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Tom never met his father; Tom had four months to go before birth in his mother’s womb when his father was killed; his sister does not remember her father either.

Margaret Urwin, of Justice for the Forgotten campaigning group, read out biographies of Bradshaw, Tommy Duffy and Tom Douglas (see Appendix), detailing their origins and recollections of their bereaved loved ones.

Margaret Urwin of Justice for the Forgotten campaign, organisers of the commemoration event (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The origins of the victims and partners showed that as well as being a tragedy for Dublin the bombings were also that for other parts of the country and the diaspora, in particular Achill (Mayo), Belfast, Castlebar (Mayo), Fethard (Tipperary), Kilkenny and Stirling in Scotland.

Urwin said they also wished to remember John Hayes, whose 47th anniversary had occurred two days previously and she read a short biography of him too. John was employed at Dublin Airport and was killed by a bomb placed in a toilet on the Arrivals floor on 29 November 1975.

Current Lord Mayor of Dublin (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The Lord Mayor of Dublin6 gave a short speech in which she underlined the need for remembrance while also decrying that the guilty had escaped so far and that proposed legislation, currently going through the Westminster Parliament, sought to prevent such perpetrators being brought to book.

Finance Manager of Dublin Bus (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The Finance Manager of Dublin Bus spoke also, saying among other things that the company would never forget and that it was like one big family. However the absence of employees of the company present in uniform and the lack of awareness of many gave the lie to her words (workers tell us that the event had not been advertised internally by the company).

The Education Minister Norma Foley, TD spoke at length about the atrocity and need for all actions to take place within “the rule of law”, in the context of which she went on to castigate the British Government for its proposed 30 Years War legacy legislation to limit inquests and litigation.

Foley went on to state the opposition of the Irish Government’s to the proposed legislation, along with that of the opposition parties, with united faith leaders, all parties in the British colony and the US Government.

Somehow she and other speakers however managed to avoid mentioning the British Loyalist origin of the bombers or that these were chronologically leading up to the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings, with a death-toll of 33 in one day.

Minister of Education (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Or of the fact that the 1973 bombings had been used to push repressive legislation through Leinster House, including the founding of a no-jury Special Criminal Court, targeted not at British Loyalists but instead specifically at Irish Republicans!7

The omission of this important and relevant information, referred to in Ronan McGreevy’s report for the Irish Times (see link in Sources), though not unexpected on past Government performance, was indeed ironic coming from the Minister with responsibility for education.

Wreaths were laid, including some by relatives of the murdered. A priest also recited a prayer.

MUSIC AND POETRY

Poet Rachael Hegarty, who has also composed and performed a longer poem about the Dublin & Monaghan bombing, performed her composition for this event about the loss of husbands and fathers in the killing of public transport workers.

In between some of the speeches, musicians from the Shillelagh Northside Ukelele Group8 performed Simon & Garfunkle’s The Sound of Silence and Bobby Darin’s Things (including the lines “memories are all I have to cling to”).

During another speeches interval, Cormac Breatnach on high whistle & Eoin Dillon on uileann pipes performed Táimse I Mo Chodhladh and later to conclude the event, The Lark in the Morning. The first piece, no doubt chosen for its lament nature, would do well also as political commentary9.

Large group of Northside ukulele players in foreground (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

IGNORING AND FORGETTING

The age profile of the vast majority of those present meant that the atrocities had occurred within their lifetimes, which is natural; however the near absence of representation of the following two or three generations is not.

It might be observed that this absence is a natural part of passing time but one could also comment that the ignoring of this atrocity is causing an unnatural fracture in the historical memory of a people and a workforce, a result of a conscious decision to prevent the transmission of that memory.

The titles of three of the musical pieces may be seen as comment on that.

Cormac Breatnach playing low whistle (Photo: Rebel Breeze)
Eoin Dillon playing the uilleann pipes (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Yes, the JFTF organisation continues to hold events to mark the bombings and the Lord Mayor and a Government Minister attend. But not only will nothing serious be done to bring the perpetrators to light – never mind justice – but the memory will be allowed to die out among the living.

The Clery’s building site near the commemoration was at work throughout the event with noise of drilling, banging and shouting, the workers no doubt in ignorance of the event or of its significance. Workers in Dublin Bus uniform passed by regularly from their nearby canteen building.

Two of the latter who stopped in curiosity on the outskirts of the crowd and were engaged in conversation, stated that they had no knowledge of the commemoration or of the atrocity. They opined that their union should have informed and mobilised them to attend.

TARGETING WORKING-CLASS PEOPLE

The bus workers’ canteen is in Sackville Street and it is noticeable that other fatal bombings were targeted at areas more associated with working-class shopping and away from the more affluent ones such as the Grafton or Henry streets. That could be have been due to class prejudice but also to hurt those with less political power.

This made it all the more important for the organisations and parties that have been built by the working class to respond to them. The Labour party, founded by James Connolly, is complicit with the Irish Government in this forgetting and ignoring.

The trade unions, even those of the specifically targeted public transport workers are also colluding with this silencing and forgetting.

From a ‘national’ perspective, the Irish State has permitted a foreign (and occupying) power and its proxies to bomb its capital city on a number of occasions, including the massacre of its civilians. Nothing could more clearly point to the neo-colonial foreign-dependent nature of the Irish elite.

Back in the 1960s and ‘70s, when the Irish trade unions were less compromised than they have allowed themselves to become, perhaps it would have been possible to shut down the building site near to the commemoration for the duration of the ceremony.

Perhaps city bus drivers could at least have stopped everywhere at a given time for an announced minute of silence. Ranks of bus workers could have attended the commemoration event in uniform, supported perhaps by the city’s municipal workers.

Are such gestures still possible? Can we make them so? The working class, far from tolerating this occlusion and deletion of historical memory, needs to mark the atrocity and to mark it strongly, in solidarity and for its own dignity as a class.

End.

Section of the crowd in attendance (Marlborough Street in the distance) (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

APPENDIX – THE BRIEF BIOGRAPHIES OF FOUR VICTIMS

GEORGE BRADSHAW

George, a native of Fethard, Co. Tipperary, was a young man of 30 when he was so brutally murdered in this street 50 years ago. He had married Kathleen, a nurse from Belfast and they had two small children, Lynn and Rory. He had met Kathleen when she was visiting relatives in Fethard and she was the light of his life.

George was employed as a bus driver with CIE and the family had moved from Tipperary to Dublin less than two years before tragedy struck on 1 st December 1972. He had worked previously in South Tipperary Farmers’ Co-op for 10 years.

George had big plans for the future – he was an ambitious man and was attending night-classes in business studies at the time of his death. His favourite hobby was dancing and he also loved to play darts. He was cheerful, fun-loving and an extrovert and is greatly missed by all his family.

TOMMY DUFFY

Tommy, a native of Castlebar, Co. Mayo was almost 24 years old when he was killed on 1 st December 1972. He was married to Monica, who was pregnant with their second child, Tom. They already had a small daughter, Caroline. They had met on the 29A bus when Monica was 17 and Tommy 19. Monica quickly fell in love with this witty young man so full of life and mischief.

Tommy worked as a bus conductor and had several hobbies. He loved to play traditional Irish music on the mouth-organ and spent lots of his free time tinkering with cars. He would buy old wrecks, repair them and re-sell them to make some extra money. He had a Yamaha motor-bike which he loved and also had a flair for carpentry. During the summer months, he liked nothing better than to return home to Mayo to help on the farm, especially with saving the hay.

On the day he died, he was due to work an early shift but had changed to facilitate a co-worker. Monica remembers him as a generous, kind and hard-working young man. She is pleased that their son, Tom, was the designer of the commemorative sculpture ‘A Fallen Bouquet’, which was unveiled in 2004.

TOMMY DOUGLAS

Tommy, a native of Stirling in Scotland was only 21 when his life was so cruelly taken from him in this street on 20 th January 1973. He, along with his brothers and sister, was raised in a Scottish mining community. He was an intelligent, fun-loving, outgoing person with a positive outlook on life. He liked swimming and was a fervent supporter of Celtic soccer team. He had a love of nature and enjoyed hill-walking. He also loved music and attending live concerts.

The family had strong leanings towards Ireland and had spent their childhood summers in Achill Island, the native place of their mother. Tommy loved all things Irish and most of the songs he knew were Irish songs.

When he left school, he served his apprenticeship as an electrician and, after he qualified, decided to move to Dublin. He had been living in Dublin only a few short months and had taken a job as a bus conductor while he hoped eventually to find work as an electrician. His fiancée had joined him a very short time before his death.

After his death, his family learned of his many acts of kindness to those less fortunate than himself. He was a devout Catholic but had many Protestant friends, indeed his fiancée was of the Presbyterian faith. His siblings are proud of him as a brother and thank God they had the pleasure of having him with them for 21 years. They only wish he was with them still.

JOHN HAYES

John Hayes’ 47th anniversary occurred two days ago. John was employed at Dublin Airport and was killed by a bomb placed in a toilet on the Arrivals floor on 29 November 1975. John was a hard-working family man with a wife and three children – twins Brian and Karen (aged 11) and Brendan (aged 3). In his free time he enjoyed a pint of Smithwick’s and was an avid Kilkenny fan. He was an ordinary man, devoted to his family.

The gathering breaking up at end of event, with portrait of famed uilleann pipes player Séamus Ennis in the background above the Pipers Corner pub at the end of Sackville Place and glimpse of LUAS tram to the left. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

FOOTNOTES

1The State public transport system was called CIE (Córas Iompair Éireann) prior to breaking up into sections for easy privatisation in the ruling neo-liberalism of the 1980s onwards. The Dublin Bus company is one of the carved-up parts, competing with other privately-owned bus companies around Dublin.

2While the targeting of a monument to Daniel O’Connell “The Liberator” (his monument in O’Connell Street was also bombed), a campaigner for the repeal of the anti-Catholic Penal Laws might seem as an act of pure religious sectarianism by Protestant bigots, the blowing up of the Wolfe Tone monument was essentially political. Theobald Wolfe Tone was a leader of the revolutionary United Irishmen, a Protestant as were most of his leadership colleagues and is often described as “The Father of Irish Republicanism”. Only the head survived the explosion but it was attached to the recasting of the statue.

3See the Wikipedia entries on the 1972, ‘73 and ‘74 Dublin bombings.

433 people and a full-term unborn child were killed in that day’s bombings.

5See Sources.

6 Caroline Conroy of the Green Party holds the position in annual rotation this year.

7The proposed Amendment to the Offences Against the State Act in 1973 was heading for trouble in Leinster House until the bombings apparently stampeded some of its opposition into supporting it. As a result the no-jury Special Criminal Court was established which until very recently, with one exception, tried exclusively Irish Republicans, able to jail them mostly on the word of a senior Garda officer. This undemocratic piece of legislation has been thoroughly condemned by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties; Sinn Féin regularly opposed its renewal until a few years ago when it began abstaining and this year at its congress voted that such legislation is required “in some circumstances”.

8The name of the group was collected from participants but searching on FB and Google has failed to find a link for them.

9“I am asleep and do not wake me”, an Aisling poem/ music in Irish, origin contested between Ireland and Scotland, played in the 18th Century but date of composition unknown.

REFERENCES

‘It’s like yesterday’: Dublin city centre bombings remembered 50 years on – The Irish Times

‘A Fallen Bouquet’ — Thomas Duffy Art

Justice for the Forgotten campaign group: Justice for the Forgotten | The Pat Finucane Centre

The fatal Dublin bombings:

1972 and ‘73: 1972 and 1973 Dublin bombings – Wikipedia

1974 Dublin and Monaghan: Dublin and Monaghan bombings – Wikipedia

Other Dublin bombings: Incidents in Dublin during the Troubles (1969-1994) | Come Here To Me!

British legacy plan for Northern Ireland is wrong, Taoiseach says – The Irish Times

The British Royal Family and its contribution to humanity

Delighted to repost with thanks another contribution to recent discussion of the British monarchy — delayed by technological difficulties.

Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

11 September 2022

The British monarch Elizabeth Windsor, formerly Saxe Coburg Gotha, has died at the grand old age of 96, thanks in no small part to the subsidised lifestyle and medical care she enjoyed throughout her long life.  Her death has produced the usual outpouring of manufactured grief from the media and also “genuine” grief from a sector of that population groomed by that same media.

But what is to be said of her passing?  There has been some reaction to her death that concentrated on her being a mother and grandmother.  But we were not invited to mourn the passing of mothers or grandmothers, but the death of a monarch and all that monarchy represented.  So, before we look at the legacy of Elizabeth Windsor we should ask ourselves what is monarchy.  The Irish revolutionary James Connolly, executed by the British state under the reign of George V, stated in relation to that same king’s visit to Ireland.

What is monarchy? From whence does it derive its sanction? What has been its gift to humanity? Monarchy is a survival of the tyranny imposed by the hand of greed and treachery upon the human race in the darkest and most ignorant days of our history. It derives its only sanction from the sword of the marauder, and the helplessness of the producer, and its gifts to humanity are unknown, save as they can be measured in the pernicious examples of triumphant and shameless iniquities.(1)

In this, Connolly only described monarchies in general as the most ignorant and backward manifestations of humanity.  It is a point that bourgeois revolutionaries such as Rousseau and Voltaire would not have disagreed with.  In fact, it was a standard capitalist argument for much of history.  However, various capitalist nations hung on to their royal households, either as symbolic figures or as propaganda figures for their campaigns and conquests.

Much is now made of the contribution of Mrs Windsor to society, the arts, and even peace through her now celebrated handshake with Martin McGuinness, though who gave more in that handshake is not questioned.  Connolly was very clear about the contribution of monarchies to the progress of society.

Every class in society save royalty, and especially British royalty, has through some of its members contributed something to the elevation of the species. But neither in science, nor in art, nor in literature, nor in exploration, nor in mechanical invention, nor in humanizing of laws, nor in any sphere of human activity has a representative of British royalty helped forward the moral, intellectual or material improvement of mankind. But that royal family has opposed every forward move, fought every reform, persecuted every patriot, and intrigued against every good cause. Slandering every friend of the people, it has befriended every oppressor. Eulogized today by misguided clerics, it has been notorious in history for the revolting nature of its crimes.(2)

Connolly had no truck with royalty.  No time for tales of cute old grannies who shook the hands of erstwhile enemies.  Any evaluation of the queen of the British state has to go beyond her supposed personal qualities. Criticisms of royals are not well received.  When the then British diplomat and future Irish revolutionary, Roger Casement, exposed the atrocities of the Belgium king Leopold II in Congo and his mass murder of over ten million Congolese, the report was not well received initially and the descendants of the man who murdered more than Hitler are the actual monarchs in Belgium and are apparently a lovely couple and third cousins of Mrs. Windsor.  Discussions about royalty are not about the individual qualities of the monarchs but the system as such.  Though even on this point Mrs. Windsor comes a cropper.

In 1972 the British army murdered 14 civilians in Derry on what was to be the last Civil Rights march in the country.  The British quickly engaged in a cover up which basically blamed those murdered as having been armed members of the IRA.  Everyone now accepts that this was not true.  Even the Saville Inquiry which stopped short of blaming the British state directly for the murders accepted they were all unarmed civilians.  But Elizabeth Windsor nonetheless decorated Lt Colonel Derek Wilford, the man in charge on the day and has never apologised for that.  Her role in this is often forgotten.

So, any question of looking at the death of Elizabeth Windsor cannot be ahistorical.  Though Sinn Féin have issued statements that are breath taking in their servility.  The Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald tweeted.

To the Royal Family and all who mourn the death of Queen Elizabeth, especially Irish Unionists, I extend sincere sympathy. She lived a long, full life. In her lifetime relationships between our countries were changed and changing. I salute her contribution to this transformation.(3)

She is of course, referring to the Peace Process and her handshake with Martin McGuinness. This says more about Sinn Féin than it does about Elizabeth Windsor.  As a monarch she never had a problem dealing with people she saw as her inferiors, or those bowed in deference to her.  Michele O’ Neill was equally effusive about the queen acknowledging the apparently profound sorrow of Unionists.  And added that.

Having met Queen Elizabeth on a number of occasions alongside my colleague, the late Martin McGuinness, I appreciated both her warmth and courtesy.(4)

Her courtesy is a diplomatic ploy, as for her warmth that is not the image given in any of her public engagements, not even when greeting her son Charles after a long trip.  The poor kid did not get a hug, he was made genuflect.  But we can take O’Neill’s word for it.  It is not important.  Neither her courtesy or alleged warmth are political evaluations.  Whether we should mourn a monarch does not depend on such personal qualities.  Henry Kissinger the Butcher of Cambodia and Chile comes across as an affable, even charming old man, and he may well be in real life, but that is not how we judge him.  Likewise, George Bush the Lesser (as Arundhati Roy dubbed him) also comes across as likeable, though it would be hard to convince the dead of Iraq that this mattered one jot: it doesn’t.

The press coverage of her death and much of the commentaries indicate that there is clear obfuscation on the part of the press and ignorance on the part of the population about the nature of the English royal family and the role of Elizabeth Windsor as queen.  One of the myths is that she is just a mere figurehead, with little or no power.  It is true that most power rests with Parliament and the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.  But she has powers that she has exercised from time to time.  She has instructed governors of overseas territories not to sign laws. In 1975, through John Kerr, her governor general in Australia, she dismissed the then prime minister Gough Whitlam.(5)  It was a rarely used power, but it exists as do other powers she never had to invoke, like her control over the military.  She has invoked the Queen’s Consent more frequently to prevent parliament discussing Bills she was not happy with.  She also was the last port of call for those sentenced to death, when capital punishment was still on the statute book.

In the 1950s three Greek Cypriots were sentenced to death, Michalaki Karaolis, Andreas Dimitriou and Evagora Pallikaridis.  The last of these was a particularly notable case.  Pallikardis confessed under torture to carrying weapons.  His lawyers pleaded to Elizabeth Windsor for clemency.  She refused.  The warmth that Sinn Féin leader O’ Neill felt was not on display for the 18-year-old, nor was she the loveable old grandmother that others have referred to.  Likewise, the other two were also hanged.  On the rare occasions that she has had to exercise power she has shown herself to be of the same pedigree as her blood thirsty forebears who raped and pillaged their way across the planet.

She never spoke out about the situation in Kenya and the Mau Mau rebellion, which kicked off early in her reign.  The Pipeline, as it was known, that the British set up in Kenya was a camp system in which prisoners were moved up and down it according to the degree of torture that was required to break them.  That matter was raised in Parliament at the time by some Labour MPs.  The prisoners even managed to smuggle out letters to MPs and other officials, amongst them Elizabeth Windsor.(6)  She knew what was happening.  She was fully aware.  She exercised no powers to bring an end to it.  She just didn’t talk about it publicly, ever.  It was not the only situation that she kept quiet about.  Her relationship with the issue of race has never been a good one.  She negotiated exemptions to racial and sexual discrimination laws and employs very few non-whites.

In 1990 the journalist Andrew Morton reported in the Sunday Times that “a black face has never graced the executive echelons of royal service – the household and officials” and “even among clerical and domestic staff, there is only a handful of recruits from ethnic minorities”.

The following year, the royal researcher Philip Hall published a book, Royal Fortune, in which he cited a source close to the Queen confirming that there were no non-white courtiers in the palace’s most senior ranks.(7)

In her Christmas speeches she tended to talk of banal matters and family.  However, she did wade into politics some times and these speeches, unlike the speeches when she opens Parliament, are hers.

In her Christmas speech of 1972, she referred to various situations around the world and also the North of Ireland.  Her take on it was simple.

We know only too well that a selfish insistence upon our rights and our own point of view leads to disaster. We all ought to know by now that a civilised and peaceful existence is only possible when people make the effort to understand each other.(8)

Exactly who was selfishly insisting on their rights was not explicitly spelt out, but it was obvious that she didn’t mean the British state, but uppity Paddies and others around the world.  This was made clear when in 1973 she awarded an OBE to Lt Col Wilford, the officer in charge of the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry in 1972.  The families of those murdered and injured on that day called upon her to apologise.(9)  She did not do so.  The nearest she came to it was a banal statement on history during a visit to Ireland in 2011 when she stated “It is a sad and regrettable reality that through history our islands have experienced more than their fair share of heartache, turbulence and loss… with the benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things which we wish had been done differently, or not at all.”(10)  She did not accept Britain’s actual role in that and there was no specific reference to the Bloody Sunday massacre.

There is no shortage of sycophants and royalists who claim she had no powers, when in fact, she did as her son Charles now has.  Others have preferred to go the route of she didn’t do it, it was others.  Not quite true.  She did preside over the dying days of Empire and gave succour to the troops busy murdering and torturing people in places she liked to visit on the Royal Yacht. But the many atrocities committed before she acceded to the throne are also hers.  The Irish revolutionary James Connolly said of the visit to Ireland of one of her predecessors in the role.

We will not blame him for the crimes of his ancestors if he relinquishes the royal rights of his ancestors; but as long as he claims their rights, by virtue of descent, then, by virtue of descent, he must shoulder the responsibility for their crimes.(11)

And she did claim them.  One of her other forays into matters of Empire was her Christmas speech of 1982.

Earlier this year in the South Atlantic the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy enabled our sailors, soldiers and airmen to go to the rescue of the Falkland Islanders 8,000 miles across the ocean; and to reveal the professional skills and courage that could be called on in defence of basic freedoms.(12)

It should be remembered that Britain gained control of the Malvinas in a colonial war, in 1833, against the newly independent Argentina.  In 1982, what was at stake was mineral wealth in the sea.  She, like Thatcher, rejoiced at the sinking of the General Belgrano ship, lest we forget that those who now joke about her death are not that far removed from her own sense of mourning people she sees as enemies of her dwindling Empire.  She had no sense of shame. In 1990, following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iraq she stated without any sense of irony that

The invasion of Kuwait was an example on an international scale of an evil which has beset us at different levels in recent years – attempts by ruthless people to impose their will on the peaceable majority.(13)

This was the queen of a country that had imposed itself on more of humanity than any other previous empire had ever done.  Of course, Hussein had been a friend of Britain.  In 1953, the CIA and the British overthrew the democratically elected government of Iran, which had nationalised the oil industry dealing a blow to the Anglo Persian Oil Company, now known as B.P.  This set in motion a chain of events that would see Britain install another royal, the Shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi whose despotic rule would lead to the Islamic Revolution of 1979.  Enter Saddam.  He launched a brutal and bloody war against Iran, invading it in 1980.  The war lasted 8 years and cost 500,000 lives.  It was bankrolled by the west through the Saudis.  There was no one claiming that he had imposed his will, nor were British troops sent to attack this important ally.

Part of her role is that of cheerleader for empire and war.  British troops serve under her, not Parliament.  They are called upon to serve Queen/King and country and a major part of her role is to encourage young men (and lately women) to throw their lives away in places like Iraq as part of imperial exercises in power and the theft of natural resources.

It is also laughable that the English monarch talks of the peaceable majority when Britain is one of the major arms manufacturers and exporters in the world, supplying despots around the world with the necessary wherewithal to keep local populations in line.  Her own son Andrew was appointed Special Representative for International Trade and Investment for the UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) in 2001 and in that role he promoted arms sales.  When he was forced by circumstances surrounding his role in the abuse of young girls alongside Jeffrey Epstein to step back from a public role, Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade commented that:

The news that Prince Andrew will step back from Royal duties is unlikely to provoke feelings of sorrow or regret for most British citizens – but for despots, dictatorships and arms dealers around the world it will be a sad day. They have lost one of their most high profile and influential supporters.(14)

During Mrs. Windsor’s reign Britain exported almost 135 billion (in current prices for each year) of arms and is the fourth largest exporter of arms in the world.(15)  Some British companies with operations outside of Britain also export arms.  These figures do not include what Britain manufactures for its own armed forces or what it buys from other countries.

Remarkably even feminists in Britain and Ireland have publicly lamented the death of Mrs. Windsor ignoring her role in her son’s abuse of young girls.  What little action she took against him was due to public outcry and pressure helped along by a disastrous interview in which his sense of entitlement oozed out of the pores he claims not to sweat from.  She also forked out part of the money that was paid as part of the settlement with Virginia Guiffre, one of his and Epstein’s victims, though her part could not be used directly to pay the victim but only for the part that went to charities.(16)  Not a minor point for feminists, you would have thought.  Nonetheless, they lament the death of the loving mother and grandmother. One who showed none of the warmth Sinn Féin claim she shows.

Monarchies are inherently reactionary, even without the atrocities committed by them or in their name.  They are hereditary positions occupied by parasites living off the public purse.  A lavish funeral and later coronation of Charles will be held, costing millions of pounds.  Other old grandmothers will go hungry this winter or die of hypothermia as energy prices soar, a fate Elizabeth did not face and neither will Charles.  The old grandmothers around England, who will die of hypothermia this year, through their taxes ensure that Charles will see the winter through, unless a horse-riding accident upsets his plans.  Monarchy is all that is rotten in society, the sycophantic outpouring of fake grief is of a people who do not seek a better society, who are enthralled to their masters and their betters, those who bow down to the great and the good.  But it was again James Connolly who had said “the great appear great because we are on our knees, let us rise!”

The idea of rising off our knees has been abandoned by most.  Sinn Féin is lavish in its praise for her, one of the political and cultural shifts that results from the Good Friday Agreement.  The rot has even spread to their friends in Colombia.  Timochenko the former FARC guerrilla leader tweeted his condolences to the people of Great Britain and also mentioned that handshake with McGuinness.(17)  Britain’s trade unions through the TUC have also bowed down to the royals.  The ideological role of the Windsors in class conflict is ignored.  Even the otherwise militant RMT has called off strikes planned for September 15th and 17th.  There was a time calling for the abolishment of the monarchy was a no brainer for progressives.  In the 1980s Arthur Scargill made just that call and when questioned as to what the royals would do then, he replied, “they can work in Sainsburys”.  Though some of them have pilots licences, maybe they can do the Gatwick – Dublin route with Ryanair.

Those who mourn Elizabeth Windsor are complicit in what she represents: privilege, war, torture, racism.  There are no ifs or buts to that.  It is as Robespierre said, “The King must die so the country can live”.  It is time to abolish the monarchy and throw onto the putrid rubbish pile of history all that it represents and Charles and William can, as Scargill suggested, get a job and sycophants can go back to worrying about Madonna or Beyoncé.

Notes

(1) Connolly, J. (1910) Visit of King George V https://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1911/xx/visitkng.htm

(2) Ibíd.,

(3) See https://twitter.com/MaryLouMcDonald/status/1567945861354909696

(4) See https://twitter.com/moneillsf/status/1567931690873503744?s=20&t=nKj7EgPfa0WHJ6PEPdwQgQ

(5) The Guardian (14/07/2020) Gough Whitlam dismissal: what we know so far about the palace letters and Australian PM’s sacking
https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/jul/14/what-we-know-so-far-about-the-palace-letters-and-the-dismissal-of-australian-prime-miister-ough-whitlams-dism

(6) See Elkins, C. (2005) Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya. New York. Henry Holt and Company. paras 20.48 & 26.48

(7) The Guardian (02/06/2021) Buckingham Palace banned ethnic minorities from office roles, papers reveal https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/jun/02/buckingham-palace-banned-ethnic-minorities-from-office-roles-papers-reveal

(8) Queen’s Christmas speech 1990 https://www.royal.uk/christmas-broadcast-1972

(9) The Irish Independent (31/01/1998) Royal apology would help right Derry ‘insult’ https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/royal-apology-would-help-right-derry-insult-26200165.html

(10) The Irish Examiner (19/05/2022) The Queen’s Speech https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-20155083.html

(11) Connolly, J. (1910) op. cit.

(12) Queen’s Christmas speech 1982 https://www.royal.uk/christmas-broadcast-1982

(13) Queen’s Christmas speech 1990 https://www.royal.uk/christmas-broadcast-1990

(14) Smith, A. (21/11/2019) With Prince Andrew in retirement, it’s a bad week for despots and dictators https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/prince-andrew-step-back-interview-arms-trade-jeffrey-epstein-gaddafi-a9212841.html

(15) Figures taken from https://www.sipri.org

(16) Time Magazine (17/02/2022) Who’s Paying Prince Andrew’s $16 Million Settlement to Virginia Giuffre? What to Know About Royal Finances https://time.com/6149123/prince-andrew-settlement-virginia-giuffre-royal-finances/

(17) See https://twitter.com/TimoComunes/status/1568243032679497728

Sinn Féin and their Queen’s Funeral

One of number of pieces on the recent media fest in relation to English monarchy delighted to be able to repost here with thanks.

Irish Dissent

The intensively mediated death of Elizabeth Windsor, accompanied by the relentlessly maudlin and invasive coverage of official mourning and her funeral, had an intensity that can only be described as imperial. Forced as it was into every corner of public discourse, this coercive atmosphere of state sorrow had a distinctly colonising thrust and meaning. Unleashed during a moment of total class warfare within her very disunited kingdom, it also marked an endpoint in the trajectory of her most obedient servants: the formerly Irish but now thoroughly British political party, Sinn Féin.  During Windsor’s reign colonial chickens came home to roost as the woman who presided over British forces while they rampaged across the six counties of British-occupied Ireland then became over the past decade and a half the queen of foodbanks in her own country. (1)  Her reign spanned a long period during which overt political violence in Ireland was…

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THE BLOOD-RED POPPY – NOT AT ALL ABOUT REMEMBRANCE

PART I

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Edited from a longer in-depth piece published in 2014 and divided into parts).

(Reading time main text: 8 mins.)

The dominant class in the UK and in some of the British Commonwealth will shortly be calling people to join in a cultural festival which they call “Remembrance” – but that’s not at all what it’s really about.

The organisation fronting this festival in the ‘UK’ is the Royal British Legion and their symbol for it (and registered trademark) is the Red Poppy, paper or fabric representations of which people are encouraged to buy and wear.

And in some places, such as the BBC for personnel in front of the camera, or civil servants in public, or sports people representing the UK, forced or bullied into wearing.1

In many schools and churches throughout the ‘UK’, Poppies are sold and wreaths are laid at monuments to the dead soldiers in many different places. The pressure to wear and display one of the symbols is intense and public figures declining to do so are metaphorically pilloried2.

Prominent individuals, politicians and the media take part in a campaign to encourage the wearing of the Poppy and observance of the day of remembrance generally and for a decade now, to extend the Festival for a yet longer period.

This alleged “Festival of Remembrance” includes concerts at the Royal Albert Hall and the military and veterans’ parades to the Cenotaph memorial in Whitehall, London, on “Remembrance Sunday”.

The Royal Albert Hall concert is replete with military uniforms, British Royals’ presence and “Poppy” symbols everywhere. The big Saturday evening concert starts and ends with the UK state’s anthem, God Save the Queen/ King played by military bands.

Tickets for the big event are restricted to members of the Legion and their families, and senior members of the British Royal Family (the reigning monarch, royal consort, Prince of Wales, the Duke of York and the Earl of Wessex). The event is televised.3

BUT WHAT IS IT ALL FOR?

We are told it’s for charitable purposes – the money raised from the sale of the “Poppies” and associated merchandise is to be used to support former military service people in need and the families of those killed in conflict.

We surely can’t object to that, can we? And isn’t putting up with the military and royal pomp a small price to pay for such charitable and worthwhile purposes?

Yet the main purpose of this festival and the symbol is neither remembrance nor charity but rather the exact opposite: to gloss over the realities of organised deadly violence on a massive scale, to make us forget the experience of the world’s people of war.

Worse, its purpose is to prepare the ground for recruitment of more people for the next war or armed imperialist venture – and of course more premature deaths and injuries, including those of soldiers taking part.

Video and song by Vincent Burke, “On Remembrance Day” from Veterans for Peace lists British conflicts (including Ireland) and condemns the Church of England for supporting the wars, calling also on people to wear the White Poppy.
The Veterans for Peace at the Cenotaph in London’s Whitehall in 2014. Jim Radford, singer and D-Day veteran had been there for the first of the VfP Remembrance Day events and every year since until Covid-19 got him. He was a friend and comrade of mine and I marched with the civilian supporters of VfP contingent in

PARTIAL REMEMBRANCE – obscuring the perpetrators and the realities of war

The Royal British Legion is the overall organiser of the Festival of Remembrance and has the sole legal ‘UK’ rights to use the Poppy trademark and to distribute the fabric or paper poppies in the ‘UK’.

According to the organisation’s website, “As Custodian of Remembrance” one of the Legion’s two main purposes is to “ensure the memories of those who have fought and sacrificed in the British Armed Forces live on through the generations.”4

By their own admission, the purpose of the Legion’s festival is to perpetuate the memories only of those who fought and sacrificed in the British Armed Forces – it is therefore only a very partial (in both senses of the word) remembrance.

It is left to others to commemorate the dead in the armies of the British Empire and colonies which the British ruling class called to its support: in WWI, over 230,500 non-‘UK’ dead soldiers from the Empire and, of course, the ‘UK’ figure of 888,246 includes the upper figure of 49,400 Irish dead.5

Cossack soldier volunteers WWI. Imperial Russia was an ally of Britain and France; the war was on of the causes of the Russian Socialist Revolution 1917. The following year, the war ended. (Photo sourced: Internet)

The Festival of Remembrance excludes not only the dead soldiers of the British Empire and of its colonies but also those of Britain’s allies: France, Belgium, Imperial Russia, Japan, USA – and their colonies.

Not to mention thousands of Chinese, African, Arab and Indian labourers, mule drivers, porters and food preparation workers employed by the army.

No question seems to arise of the Festival of Remembrance commemorating the fallen of the “enemy” but if the festival were really about full “remembrance”, it would commemorate the dead on each side of conflicts.

German soldiers playing cards during WWI. Photos of Germans in WWI more readily available show them wearing masks and looking like monsters. (Photo sourced: Internet)

That would particularly be appropriate in WWI, an imperialist war in every aspect. But of course they don’t commemorate both sides; if we feel equally sorry for the people of other nations, it will be difficult to get us to kill them in some future conflict.

CIVILIAN CASUALTIES IN WAR

A real festival of remembrance would commemorate too those civilians killed in war (seven million in WWI), the percentage of which in overall war casualty statistics has been steadily rising through the century with increasingly long-range means of warfare.

Civilian war refugees in Salonika, NW Greece, WWI

Civilians in the First World War died prematurely in epidemics and munitions factory explosions as well as in artillery and air bombardments, also in sunk shipping and killed in auxiliary logistical labour complements in battle areas.

They died through hunger too, as feeding the military became the priority in food production and distribution and as farmhands became soldiers.

In WWII 50-55,000,000 civilians died in extermination camps or forced labour units, targeting of ethnic and social groups, air bombardments, as well as in hunger and disease arising from the destruction of harvests and infrastructure.6

Air bombardments, landmines, ethnic targeting and destruction of infrastructures continue to exact a high casualty rate among civilians in war areas: a Reuters study gave over one million killed by the war in Iraq and another study gave between 184,382 and 207,156 civilians killed in Iraq during the war and aftermath.7

That figure for Iraq does not include dead from pre-US invasion western trade sanctions (yes, economic sanctions frequently kill) or the 46,319 dead civilians in Afghanistan8.

The number of civilians injured, many of them permanently disabled, is of course higher than the numbers killed. Most of those will bring an additional cost to health and social services where these are provided by the state and of course to families, whether state provision exists or not.

Real and impartial “remembrance” would include civilians but not even British civilians killed and injured are included in the Festival of Remembrance, revealing that the real purpose of the Festival is to support the armed forces and their activities.

The 2014 slogan “shoulder to shoulder with our armed forces” underlines that purpose9 while contributing at the same time to a certain militarisation of society and of the dominant national culture.

The propaganda is more sophisticated this year: “Our red poppy is a symbol of both Remembrance and hope for a peaceful future” but “Poppies are worn as a show of support for the Armed Forces Community.”10

WEAPONS AND INJURIES

If the Festival were really about “remembrance”, they would commemorate the numbers of injuries and detail the various types of weapons that caused them.

But that might reflect unfavourably on the armaments manufacturers, who run a multi-trillion industry11 in whatever currency one cares to name, so of course they don’t. And if really concerned about death and injury in war, they would campaign to end imperialist war.

Gassed Australian soldiers awaiting hospitalisation 1916

But then how else would the various imperial states sort out among themselves which one could extract which resources from which countries in the world and upon the markets of which country each imperial state could dump its produce?

So of course the Royal British Legion doesn’t campaign against war.

SANITISED HISTORY, MILITARY PROPAGANDA AND PUBLIC RELATIONS

Partial remembrance was indeed embodied in the song chosen by the British Legion to promote its Festival in the WWI centenary festival in 2014.

No Man’s Land, sung by Joss Stone, is actually a truncated version of the song of the same title (better known in Ireland as the Furey’s The Green Fields of France), composed by Scottish-raised and Australian-based singer-songwriter Eric Bogle.

The Joss Stone version contains the lyrics of the chorus as well as of one verse and one-half of another, omitting two and-a-half verses of Bogle’s song.

Some of the British media created a kind of controversy, at the behest of who knows whom, to have the British Legion’s song included top of BBC’s Radio One playlist. The song is reproduced in entirety below, with the lines sung by Joss Stone in italics and those she omitted in normal type.

I.
Well, how do you do, young Willie McBride?

Do you mind if I sit here down by your graveside?

And rest for a while in the warm summer sun,

I’ve been walking all day, and I’m nearly done.

I see by your gravestone you were only 19

When you joined the great fallen in 1916,

I hope you died well and I hope you died clean

Or, Willie McBride, was it slow and obscene?

(Chorus)
Did they beat the drum slowly, did they play the fife lowly?

Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down?

Did the band play The Last Post in chorus?

And did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

II.
Did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind

In some faithful heart is your memory enshrined?

Although, you died back in 1916,

In that faithful heart are you forever 19?

Or are you a stranger without even a name,

Enclosed forever behind the glass frame,

In an old photograph, torn, battered and stained,

And faded to yellow in a brown leather frame?

(Chorus)

III.
The sun now it shines on the green fields of France;

There’s a warm summer breeze that makes the red poppies dance.

And look how the sun shines from under the clouds

There’s no gas, no barbed wire, there’s no guns firing now.

But here in this graveyard it’s still No Man’s Land

The countless white crosses stand mute in the sand

To man’s blind indifference to his fellow man.

To a whole generation that were butchered and damned.

(Chorus)

IV.
Ah young Willie McBride, I can’t help wonder why,

Do those that lie here know why did they die?

And did they believe when they answered the cause,

Did they really believe that this war would end wars?

Well the sorrow, the suffering, the glory, the pain,

The killing and dying, were all done in vain.

For Willie McBride, it all happened again,

And again, and again, and again, and again.

(Chorus)

It’s easy to see why the Royal British Legion might shy away from the omitted lyrics, which would hardly encourage recruitment or support for war.

Interviewed on video, Joss Stone herself said how important it was to be “true to the lyrics” and that “the last thing one would want to do would be to disrespect the lyric”.

Incredibly, she and John Cohen, the record producer, both separately claimed that they had captured the essence of the song lyrics in the British Legion’s version.12

Although Bogle stated that he did not think the Joss Stone version glorifies war, he did say that it did not condemn it and was ultimately a sentimentalised version that went against the intention and central drive of the lyrics.

Believe it or not I wrote the song intending for the four verses of the original song to gradually build up to what I hoped would be a climactic and strong anti-war statement,” Bogle said.

Missing out two and a half verses from the original four verses very much negates that intention.” (apparently in a reply from Bogle to a blogger’s email and quoted in a number of newspaper reports).13

The truncation of the song and the removal in particular of the anti-war lyrics epitomises partial “remembrance” and stands as a metaphor for it, the production of a lie by omission and obscuration.

Sanitised history, military recruitment propaganda and public relations is what this “Remembrance” is about.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1Five reasons people don’t wear poppies – BBC News

2Ibid.

3Description on Royal British Legion website in 2014 and matched by Wikipedia account of 2015 event

4Their website in 2014 and confirmed by Wikipedia for 2015.

5Irish in the British Armed Forces – Wikipedia

6World War II casualties – Wikipedia

7https://www.wired.com/2011/06/afghanistan-iraq-wars-killed-132000-civilians-report-says/#:~:text=At%20least%20132%2C000%20civilians%20have%20died%20from%2010,how%20many%20civilians%20have%20di%20in %20these%20wars. And Iraqi Civilians | Costs of War (brown.edu)

8Civilian casualties in the war in Afghanistan (2001–2021) – Wikipedia

9The slogan of RB Legion in 2014.

10All about the poppy | Royal British Legion

11“In 2021, the military spending worldwide amounted to 2.11 trillion U.S. dollars. The United States accounted for 38 percent of total military worldwide spending” Defense spendng and arms trade – Statistics & Facts | Statista

12Videos containing quotations from Joss Stone and John Cohen about how they have stayed “true to the song” or “lyric” of No Man’s Land by Eric Bogle https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ez1WBJaZZ7U#t=10 and

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rotXZFXJWo were active in 2014 but now appear to have been taken down.

13Eric Bogle: I don’t like Joss Stone’s cover of No Man’s Land, but I won’t sue | Joss Stone | The Guardian

SOURCES & USEFUL LINKS

Against wearing the Poppy: Five reasons people don’t wear poppies – BBC News

A Unionist from the Six Counties’ view on the Poppy as a measure of support for the United Kingdom: Fewer people are wearing poppies in Belfast, as unionist symbols in the public space are successfully demonised by republicans | Belfast News Letter

Red Poppy Symbol:

http://www.greatwar.co.uk/article/remembrance-poppy.htm

http://www.britishlegion.org.uk/get-involved/poppy-appeal

(see also Red Poppy and British Legion links)

British Legion:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Royal_British_Legion

and Albert Hall Remembrance Concert: http://www.britishlegion.org.uk/File:The Royal Albert Hall, London during the Festival of Remembrance MOD 45159095.jpg – Wikipedia

Videos containing quotations from Joss Stone and John Cohen about how they have stayed “true to the song” or “lyric” of No Man’s Land by Eric Bogle were accessed at the following in 2014 but now appear to have been taken down: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ez1WBJaZZ7U#t=10 and

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rotXZFXJWoWhite Poppy symbol:

http://www.ppu.org.uk/whitepoppy/index.html

WWI war dead:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_I_casualties

Joss Stone’s truncated and rather awful version:

‘No Man’s Land’ – Joss Stone Ft. Jeff Beck – YouTube

Eric Bogle, composer of No Man’s Land on Joss Stone version: Eric Bogle: I don’t like Joss Stone’s cover of No Man’s Land, but I won’t sue | Joss Stone | The Guardian
Joss Stone butchers No Mans Land | urban75 forums

“Controversy” over Legion’s 2014 Festival promotional song by Joss Stone (truncation of Eric Bogle’s No Man’s Land):

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2828041/BBC-branded-disgraceful-Royal-British-Legion-refusing-airtime-Poppy-appeal-song.html?ITO=1490&ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/bbc-snubs-official-poppy-appeal-4600035

http://johnhilley.blogspot.ie/2014/11/poppy-appeal-and-royal-british-legions.html

Civilian war deaths due to war in Afghanistan:
Civilian casualties in the war in Afghanistan (2001–2021) – Wikipedia

Civilian war deaths due to war in Iraq: Iraq conflict has killed a million Iraqis: survey | Reuters Iraqi Civilians | Costs of War (brown.edu)

Images WWI: Various sources accessed on the Internet

Arms trade: Defense spendng and arms trade – Statistics & Facts | Statista

Veterans for Peace (June 2011-August 2022): http://veteransforpeace.org.uk

Video Veterans for Peace at the Cenotaph:
Remembrance Sunday 2014
(performing song and poem): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t34dnIabsGw
2016: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rsr15SZfVUw

Video and song On Remembrance Day from Veterans for Peace web page: (lists British modern armed conflicts): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPLtSkILwvs#t=62

NB: Sadly Veterans for Peace has ceased to exist as an organisation

DUBLIN ANTI-MONARCHY DEMONSTRATION DURING LONDON ROYAL FUNERAL

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 4 mins.)

On Monday, as the remains of Queen Elizabeth II were being conducted in State funeral in London, Socialist Republicans rallied against monarchy in front of the James Connolly1 monument in Dublin.

They displayed flags and placards, heard speeches and burned the flag of the UK.

They then marched to O’Connell Bridge carrying a “coffin” bearing the words “British Empire RIP”, dumped it into the Liffey and marched on to the General Post Office building, where a large force of Irish state police prevented their entry.

Bob Marley’s lyrics applied to the situation on a home-made placard at the event (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The actions occurred as the royal funeral was taking place in London. In a move that drew public criticism from presenter of independent program Newstalk, national broadcaster RTÉ sent a crew to cover the funeral in London to film it in realtime for Irish national television.

Taoiseach (equivalent of Prime Minister) Mícheál Martin and President Michael D. Higgins in persons represented the Irish State at the British royal funeral.

Many Irish politicians (including leaders of the Sinn Féin political party) and public figures had sent fulsome messages of condolence and praise of the late British Queen.

“DOWN WITH THE MONARCHY!”

The chairperson of the event and speakers lambasted the “sycophancy” of Irish Government figures and other politicians and public figures. They drew attention of the past record of British Royalty and to the ongoing British occupation of Ireland.

The “RIP British Empire” ‘coffin’ parked temporarily next to James Connolly Monument (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The event had been publicised on social media under the slogan of “Down with the Monarchy!” and that was very much the tone of the event as occupants in a police van watched from across the street.

The chairperson opened proceedings by reminding the attendance of Connolly’s slogan at the outbreak of WWI that “We serve neither King nor Kaiser but Ireland.” Passing vehicles occasionally tooted their horns in approval.

Police van surveilling events across street at James Connolly Monument (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

A young socialist Republican read out Connolly’s article in The Workers’ Republic of March 1902 on the occasion of the coronation of Edward VIII.

Connolly stated that to Socialists the replacement of one exploiter by another hardly mattered and would excite little comment.

But although we would rather treat the matter thus philosophically, we find that the machinations of those in power do not leave us that possibility; with them, and because of them, the festivities attending the Coronation have taken on the aspect not merely of a huge parade of pomp and magnificence – cloaking the festering sores of that slave society on which it is built – but have also become an elaborately contrived and astutely worked piece of Royalist and Capitalist propaganda, designed to captivate the imagination of the unthinking multitude, and thus lead them to look askance upon every movement which would set up as an ideal to work for something less gorgeously spectacular, even if more solidly real.

The evil effects of private ownership of industries is thus illustrated once more in a manner that ought to appeal to those patriots in our midst who still dread the innovating effects of Socialism on the National spirit of the Irish people2.”

A home-made banner carried by participants at the event (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

DIVINE RIGHT AND WORKERS’ RIGHT

Diarmuid Breatnach quoted John Ball, a leader of the English Peasant’s Revolt of 1381 who, addressing the crowd in reference to the Christian Bible story of Adam and Eve, enquired: “When Adam delved (dug) and Eve span, who then was the gentleman?”

For that challenge to divine right to rule or right by birth, Breatnach related, King Richard II had John Ball hanged, drawn and quartered, his head stuck on a pike on London Bridge and a quarter of his body displayed at each of four different towns in England.

Breatnach contrasted this to the right of workers, who he said produce all things, to the ownership of all things and called on working people to take their place in history as conscious beings.

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Another speaker, on behalf of Spirit of Irish Freedom Republican Society and the Michael Fagan Fenian Society based in Westmeath also spoke and included the Sinn Féin leadership in his denunciation of Irish politicians who had accepted and praised British Royalty.

Seán Doyle spoke about the attitude of servility which works its way into many different aspects of life, for example into accepting the laws of the capitalist system and the housing crisis.

Doyle likened the acceptance of this right of capitalism to acceptance of the divine right to rule and stated that workers had to break from this acceptance, which is what the Revolutionary Housing League was advocating and practicing in action.

UNION JACK IN FLAMES AND COFFIN INTO THE RIVER

After the speeches a copy of the “Union Jack” flag was set on fire to symbolise the future of the forced union of nations — including a part of Ireland — under England rule.

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)
(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Participants formed up into two columns flying flags, headed by four persons carrying a large pseudo-coffin. Taking to the road, they crossed Butt Bridge, turned right along the quay until they reached O’Connell Bridge.

There Gardaí and three Public Order Vehicles awaited them. Undeterred, the marchers cheered a short speech and chanted some slogans. Then at the count of “a h-aon, a dó, a trí” the “coffin” was heaved over the parapet into the Liffey river.

Marchers led by four carrying the “British Empire” ‘coffin’ crossing Butt Bridge (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

This action emulated a similar one carried out by James Connolly and revolutionary socialists in 1897 during Queen Victoria’s visit to Dublin.

It is worth recording too that Queen Victoria visited again in 1900 to affirm Ireland as part of the UK and to help recruit more Irish to go and fight the Boers in South Africa.

In response to that occasion, Iníní na hÉireann (Daughters of Ireland) led over 50 women in organising a Children’s Patriotic Party on the Sunday after the Wolf Tone Commemoration in July of that year.

Over 30,000 children had paraded from Beresford Place to Clonturk Park in north Dublin where they were served picnic lunches and listened to anti-recruitment speeches.

The marchers on O’Connell Bridge just before the “British Empire” ‘coffin’ is thrown into the Liffey (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

After disposing of the “coffin” of the “British Empire” on Monday, the marchers proceeded to the General Post Office where the building had been closed and a strong force of Gardaí also prevented access.

The GPO was the HQ of the insurrectionary forces during the 1916 Rising and many considered it insulting to their memory that the Irish tricolour above the building was lowered to half-mast in respect for the British monarchy.

March concluding at the GPO in Dublin’s main street — the police are blocking the doorway to the left of photo (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The event concluded with cheers from passers-by and without any arrests.

End.

“British Empire RIP” ‘coffin’ immediately after being thrown over the bridge into the Liffey. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)
The ‘coffin’ emerging on the east side of the Bridge on its journey seaward. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

FOOTNOTES

1The James Connolly monument in Dublin is located in Beresford Place, across the street from what was the old Liberty Hall, the HQ of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ union (now replaced by SIPTU).

2See Sources & Further Information for a link to the full text.

SOURCES & FURTHER INFORMATION

Connolly on occasion coronation Edward VII: https://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1902/xx/coronkng.htm

Irish newscaster slams Irish broadcasting team sent to cover royal funeral: teahttps://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/uk/elizabeth-is-not-our-queen-irish-presenter-slams-tv-coverage-of-monarchs-funeral/articleshow/94281107.cms

ITV report and photo: https://www.itv.com/news/utv/2022-09-19/coffin-thrown-into-river-at-march-against-monarchy?fbclid=IwAR3HeY6N5jI5Kol0dgOhm3P1DCOzielCC_KVMyMPvi_3c5n5Z15-B1YCNs4

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

A RELEVANT BLAST FROM THE PAST – WAR PROPAGANDA IN IRELAND 1918

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 6 mins.)

Propaganda is employed in wars and finds its most widescale application through the mass media. The belligerents want their own populations to support their war effort and to have other states support them.

IRISH REPORTING ON THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR

The hierarchy of the Catholic Church infamously mirrored the propaganda of their corresponding religious officials in the Spanish State in backing the fascist-military uprising against the elected Popular Front Government in 1936.

Irish newspapers and radio reporting on the whole followed the line of the Church hierarchy. The resulting conflict gave the Spanish state the greatest number of known mass graves in Europe and anywhere in the world, in fact, outside of Cambodia.

Clipping from Irish Press, not a fascist sympathising editorial line, November 1936 (Image sourced: Irish Newspaper Archives, Irish Press)

The Catholic hierarchy declared the fascist-military to be fighting a religious crusade against “Godless communism”, repeated propaganda of the fascist side, denounced real and imagined crimes of the Republican side.

They denied or ignored news of crimes of the fascists, which occurred from the first days and for years after Franco’s victory, in the course of which they denounced even priests who spoke out about the fascist crimes.

Whether the Spanish Republican Government had its own propaganda (I’m sure it did) or whether all its supporters were squeaky clean or not is besides the point. The overwhelmingly pro-fascist forces propaganda affected us in Ireland and most of it was fallacious.

Even the Irish Press, paper of De Valera who had banned the Blueshirts earlier: …. “These idealistic young men also saw their participation in the Spanish Civil War as helping to solve political divisions in Ireland and ultimately Irish unity. Interviewed in Dublin prior to his departure for Spain, Capt. P. Quinn from county Kilkenny, made the following statement: I believe that if an Irish Brigade succeed in reaching Spain, and there fights against Communism and all its terrors ….”

This had a practical effect in Ireland at the time and later, assisting religious and other fascists to attack socialists, communists and other progressives.

It helped create the atmosphere in which alternative writers were censored and hounded and the Irish State could actually expel an Irish citizen – Jimmy Grailton – for the crime of being a socialist community activist.

In turn, this anti-socialist, anti-communist atmosphere created a poisonous environment for social progress, whether championed by revolutionaries or social democrats.

It also helped create a wall shielding the ongoing endemic mental and physical – including sexual — abuse of women and children which seemed impermeable to control or even criticism for decades.

BRITISH WWI PROPAGANDA

The British imperial cant of “defence of small nations” or of “defending civilisation” in its war against Germany during WW1 while simultaneously suppressing the 1916 Rising and repressing many peoples around the world is well known.

The media related invented German atrocities, gave one-sided reporting, censored or demonised alternative views (I know, beginning to sound familiar).

That is the general, well-established picture. However, I’d like to focus on a specific incident and how it was treated: the sinking by German submarine (U-Boat) of the Howth fishing trawlers St. Michan and Geraldine on 31st of March 1918, with the loss of five Irish lives.

A Howth fishing vessel in past years
(Photo sourced: Internet)

No question of who’s in the wrong there, you’d think. The Irish unionist media (admittedly under war powers control) jumped to accuse the German Uboat crew of a “Howth atrocity”, an “Act of Murder” and that they “Shelled without warning”1.

I am grateful to Phillip O’Connor for his exploration of the incident) in his Road to Independence (2016) [Howth Free Press] on the involvement of Howth, Sutton and Baldoyle communities in the struggle for independence and social progress (and his source on the incident, Seán T. Rickard’s MA).

WAR CONTEXT OF INCIDENT

WWI was fought on land, air (even then) and sea. The British Navy was the most powerful in the world and imposed a naval blockade on Germany, bottling up the latter’s navy but also preventing supplies of any kind entering by sea. Unusually, the blockade included foods.

Germany took the position that Britain was trying to starve the German population and responded with its submarines attacking UK shipping which at the time included Ireland’s.

The British responded by concealing guns on merchant ships so that a German submarine surfacing and demanding surrender could in turn by sunk by the merchant ship in question. Indeed the British used fishing boats as mine-sweepers and even armed some too.

This had the effect of encouraging German Uboat captains on occasion to sink merchant ships without warning rather than run the risk of being sunk themselves.

However the U90, the submarine in question concerning the Irish trawlers in March 1918, appeared not to have been doing that and O’Connor quotes the case of the Greek ship SS Salaminia, of which the entire crew had been given time to get into lifeboats before being sunk.

Indeed, the eight captain and crew of the Michan all got into their “punt” and were picked up alive by a British Navy patrol. Tragically, the Geraldine had no additional boat, having set some of its crew ashore on Lambay Island to gather whelk for long-line hook-baiting.

Whether Captain Jess of the U90 believed the Geraldine was being defiant, playing for time or anything else is not known but his Uboat sank the vessel and there were no survivors.

The dominant newspapers in Ireland at the time condemned the German Uboat along the lines outlined above but also went further to make political capital out of it against the Republican movement.

They – and politicians they quoted – used the incident to attack Irish Republicanism, one going so far as to refer sarcastically to the Republicans’ “gallant allies”, lifting the quotation from the 1916 Proclamation of Independence.

There were rules of war agreed at the Hague Convention of 1907. Attacks on civilians are ruled as a war crime by the Geneva Convention but that was not composed and agreed until 1949.

However, its applicability to all the situations of conflict at sea were not codified until much later and, even then, are not binding on the signatories2.

It needs also to be noted that violations of humanitarian regulations and laws by most states have been documented during their wars with other states and in suppressing uprisings. The British did arm merchant ships during WW1 and also used them in a mine-sweeping capacity.

Looks like a drawing of the sinking RMS Leinster produced for a newspaper of the time (image sourced: https://www.postalmuseum.org/blog/the-centenary-of-the-sinking-of-rms-leinster/)

Also the Leinster, for example, sunk by German Uboat torpedoes on 10th October the same year as the Howth fishing boats, was carrying military personnel and armament and therefore in war terms a legitimate target.3

However, it is difficult to see how the fishing boats could be suspected of being armed merchantmen or even as ships supplying Britain and therefore equal to any ships attacked for breaching the Royal Navy blockade of Germany.

I am grateful to O’Connor for supplying me with the reference4 to the UK’s war-time restrictions obliging fishermen to ply their trade at 15 miles or further from its main ports, which included Dún Laoghaire and Dublin and therefore affected the Howth fishing fleet.

The U90’s captain may have suspected the British were using them as “spotters” for submarines in the area but even so, it is difficult to justify sinking without verifying radio equipment on board and especially without a dinghy to take the crew to safety ….!

German UC-1 class submarine surfaced with crew (Photo sourced: Internet)

In that respect it seems the U90 might have been in violation of agreed measures for the protection of civilians at sea in time of war by destroying civilian fishing vessels.

On the question of warning, although there were no survivors of the Geraldine, the available evidence is that the Captain of the U90 did warn before sinking shipping and had done so in a number of cases including another fishing boat on the same day.

But all was grist to the British war propaganda media and even, especially in the case of Ireland, to its colonial purposes in attacking its main anti-colonial opponents of the time, Irish Republicans.

Of course too, left unmentioned was the fact that the UK was attacking German civilians through blockading food imports5 and threatening and impounding any blockade-breaking ships (except those of the USA6).

Blockades and sanctions have cost many lives over the years – the UK blockaded the Spanish Republic during the Anti-Fascist War which did not impede Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy hugely supplying arms, aircraft and men to the military-fascist troops.

The USA imposed sanctions on Cuba for decades and Iraq for some years; in the latter case, by 1996 an estimated half million children had died as a result, a figure justified by Madeleine Albright, then USA Ambassador to the UN7.

Israel is permanently blockading Gaza in Palestine by land, air and sea – Egypt is participating too with its control over one gate. NATO sanctioned Russia which is now retaliating with some measures also.

Interestingly, O’Connor records that British war propaganda had little effect in 1918 on majority Irish opinion and even the Howth fishermen’s representative condemned the UK Admiralty for the mortal danger in obliging fishermen to ply their trade beyond 15 miles from shore8.

The UK General Election results in Ireland six weeks later would be a convincing illustration of how the vast majority of the population was thinking.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1It would be interesting to know whether it entered the heads of any editors that the British military had bombarded the city centre of Dublin with a number of land and sea-born artillery pieces just two years earlier, without any attempt of warning to the civilian population whatsoever.

2https://casebook.icrc.org/law/naval-warfare

3The Wikipedia entry on the sinking of the the Leinster, while acknowledging the nearly 500 military personnel on board, does not common on this negation of the ship’s civilian status. It does not mention the gun mounted on it either, which is noted in this record https://www.rmsleinster.com/sinking/sinking.htm

4See Appendix for details on this (thanks to Phillip O’Connor).

5The 1994 San Remo Manual states:

102. The declaration or establishment of a blockade is prohibited if:
a) it has the sole purpose of starving the civilian population or denying it other objects essential for its survival.

103. If the civilian population of the blockaded territory is inadequately provided with food and other objects essential for its survival, the blockading party must provide for free passage of such foodstuffs and other essential supplies.

6Vide O’Connor The Road to Independence (2016) [Howth Free Press]

7https://www.newsweek.com/watch-madeleine-albright-saying-iraqi-kids-deaths-worth-it-resurfaces-1691193

8The Road to Independence (2016) [Howth Free Press], p.52.

SOURCES

The Road to Independence (2016) [Howth Free Press]

British naval blockade of Germany: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blockade_of_Germany#:~:text=The%20British%2C%20with%20their%20overwhelming,to%20be%20a%20war%20zone%2C

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geneva_Conventions

Merchant shipping in wartime: https://casebook.icrc.org/glossary/merchant-shipping

https://casebook.icrc.org/law/naval-warfare

Sinking of the Leinster: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMS_Leinster
https://www.rmsleinster.com/sinking/sinking.htm

APPENDIX

   To regulate the security risk of fishing around Ireland during the war the Admiralty thought it necessary to divide the coasts into security zones. These zones had various levels of regulation and protection. Areas were either licensed by special permit, which allowed fishermen to fish these areas under restriction or were simply designated as areas where fishing was prohibited. Orders directly issued by the Admiralty were passed on to the fishermen through the D.A.T.I. via Notices to Mariners (NA G/12 (1917) & G/20/5 (1918). 

Fishing was generally prohibited several miles from headlands, as it was a favourite spot for lurking U-boats. It was also prohibited around minefields, which were used to protect the coast and divert traffic into safer zones for escorts. It was also prohibited around naval bases and near convoy meeting points. And traditionally it was always prohibited in sea-lanes where there was heavy sea traffic. It was prohibited in many areas between sunset and sunrise, (a term still used in modern Rules Of the Road) and also known as “dark hours”. If any security measure presented itself, fishing could also be prohibited at short notice for whatever reason by word of mouth on the local naval authority shoreside or naval authority at sea. The Admiralty also had the right to commandeer vessels and/or cargo space also at short notice. The Admiralty later ordered that if the fishermen sighted enemy submarines they were to stop their fishing activity and go immediately to inform the closest naval authority whether at sea or ashore. This made fishing more difficult, costly and dangerous and particularly annoying to Irish fishermen with national sentiments.

The Admiralty even warned that a failure to comply might lead them to be fired on by naval vessels. Immediately affecting Howth fishermen was the prohibition of fishing within fifteen miles of Kingstown. This area roughly to the NW of Kingstown and roughly a few miles off Howth Head was a favourite bait procurement ground for Howth fishermen but also fell within range of most of their local fishing grounds.

     In March 1917 the following rules affected fishermen fishing the East coast of Ireland but in particular Howth fishermen were as follows:

All decked and motorboats fishing anywhere between Ballywalter, Co. Down, and Howth, or anywhere between Wicklow Head and Loop Head, must carry official permits to fish. Between Ballywalter, the Isle of Man, and Howth, such boats may fish by day and by night at any distance from land within the limits of their permits.

They are forbidden to be stopped in or to pass during dark hours through waters where no fishing is allowed.

Moored nets may be left out at night, provided that the head ropes are kept five feet or more below the surface.

(Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction for Ireland. Notice to Fishermen. Effective 1 March 1917. Wt.-865. 250. 2/17)

     Later rules came into effect in 1918 for the locality, one of which was fishing could only be conducted within daylight hours in this area.

REPUBLICAN FIGHTER, EX-PRISONER, PROMOTER OF HISTORICAL MEMORY

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 5 mins.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

FILM

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

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

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

MAIN ORATION – RUAN O’DONNELL

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

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

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

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

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

MUSIC

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

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

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

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

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

PERSONAL REMINISCENCES

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

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

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

FOCAL SCOIR

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

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

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

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

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

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

End.

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

FOOTNOTES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FURTHER READING etc

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

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

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

APPENDIX

Dedication of Friends of the International Brigades Ireland:

Eddie O’Neill 1951 – 2021

Irish Republican, Anti-Fascist, Internationalist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He took everything that the empire could throw at him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

La lucha continúa!

No pasarán!

The Flowering Bars

(Charlie Donnelly 1914-37)

After sharp words from the fine mind,

protest in court,

the intimate high head constrained,

strait lines of prison, empty walls,

a subtle beauty in a simple place.

There to strain thought through the tightened brain,

there weave

the slender cords of thought, in calm,

until routine in prospect bound

joy into security,

and among strictness sweetness grew,

mystery of flowering bars.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Irish Prime Minister and the Fall of Singapore

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 5 mins.)

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

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

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

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

PERCIVAL IN IRELAND

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

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

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

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

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

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

LARGEST BRITISH SURRENDER IN HISTORY — AND TO LESSER NUMBERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IN CONCLUSION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End.

FOOTNOTES

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

2Singapore became an independent republic on 9 August 1965.

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

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

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

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

SOURCES

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

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

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

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

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

GUNS LANDED AT HOWTH!

Clive Sulish

(Reading time main text: 7 mins.)

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

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

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

MAYOR SHOCKED AT CIVILIAN DEAD AND WOUNDED — DEMANDS INQUIRY.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THREE SPEECHES – DETAILED, DIRECT AND DEFIANT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

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

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

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

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

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

SONGS

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

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

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

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

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

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

End.

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

FOOTNOTES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

USEFUL LINKS:

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

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

ÓRÁID — CATHAL BRUGHA — ORATION

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

(Reading time: 11 mins.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CATHAL BRUGHA – EARLY YEARS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PREPARATION FOR RISING, PREPARATION FOR WAR — AND FURTHER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LESSONS OF HISTORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CIVIL WAR/ COUNTERREVOLUTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Counter-Revolution:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Phoblacht Abú!

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

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