1922 Unemployed Workers’ Occupation of the Dublin Rotunda Commemorated

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 4 mins.)

On Saturday 22nd January 2022 an event was held to commemorate the centenary year of the occupation of the Rotunda building in Dublin by 150 unemployed workers led by Liam Ó Flaithearta, a Republican and Communist and writer from Inis Mór (off the Galway Coast). The occupation took place two days after the formation of the Free State and was attacked by an anti-communist crowd while after a number of days the occupiers were forced out by the police force of the new state of the dismembered nation1. The event last week was organised by the Liam and Tom O’Flaherty Society.

The event began with a gathering at 1.30pm in North Great George’s Street, where the Manifesto had been printed in 1922.2 People then proceeded to the nearby Rotunda, site of the occupation in 1922.3

Copy of the manifesto available at the event (Photo: D.Breatnach)
Seosamh Ó Cuaig (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Seosamh Ó Cuaig from Cill Chiaráin, Carna, Conamara, opened the proceedings as Chairperson, ag cur fáilte roimh dhaoine i nGaeilge agus i mBéarla, briefly introducing the historical occasion and recounting how some companies, including Boland’s, had supplied bread, sugar and tea to the occupiers, before he introduced published historian and blogger Donal Fallon.

Fallon not only recounted the events of that occupation 100 years ago but also placed it in context of a number of other factors: the unemployment then in the State (30,000 in Dublin) and to follow through into the 1930s, the upsurge in workers’ occupations and local soviets, the reactionary nature of the government of the new state and of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church at the time, which was very supportive of the new regime and extremely hostile to any kind of socialism, along with the cultivation of a reactionary social and political attitude among sections of the population.

Donal Fallon speaking at the event (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Fallon also commented on the censorship and otherwise neglect of Liam Ó Flaithearta as an accomplished modern Irish writer and hoped for his writing to become more popularised now.

Alan O’Brien reading O’Flaherty’s Manifesto (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Alan O’Brien, Dublin poet and dramatist, was welcomed on to the stage to read the Manifesto which had been issued at the time, copies of which were available at a nearby stall. One of the aspects of that document was a call for Dublin City Council to set up public works to provide paid employment for those out of work in exchange for services to the community.

Diarmuid Breatnach, singer and blogger was invited to the stage to sing “The Red Flag” because it had been sung there during the occupation. No doubt those in the Government, Church hierarchy and generally among reactionary people at that time would have been horrified by the lyrics and would have asserted that they were foreign to Irish culture and thinking. However, as Breatnach explained, the lyrics had been composed by an Irishman (see Appendix 1), Jim Connell from Meath. Connell wrote the lyrics to the air of The White Cockade and was appalled to hear it sung to the air of Oh Tannebaum, a Christmas carol. Breatnach had never heard it sung to the White Cockade air but had been practicing it for days and hoped he would be faithful to the original air.

Diarmuid Breatnach singing The Red Flag to the air of The White Cockade

Called by the Chairperson to sing a follow-up song, Breatnach sang most of the verses of “Be Moderate”, satirical lyrics published by James Connolly in 1907 in New York. There had been no air published for the song and it has been sung to a number of airs but he would sing it to the air of A Nation Once Again, which provides a chorus:

We only want the Earth,
we only want the Earth,
And our demands most moderate are –
We only want the Earth!

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=637274744281164

The event was later reported by RTÉ briefly in English on the Six O’Clock News and also by video on TG4’s Nuacht in Irish including interviews with Fallon an a number of participants.

End main report.

Early arrivals at the event with the plinth of Parnell monument in background centre left (Photo: D.Breatnach)
Section of the crowd and media filmers at event (anti-vaccine etc march in background) (Photo: D.Breatnach)

APPENDIX 1:

THE RED FLAG: AUTHOR, LYRICS AND AIR

After the Rotunda occupation was terminated, Liam Ó Flaithearta emigrated to London, which is where the Red Flag lyrics had been composed twenty-three years earlier. The lyrics were composed by Meath man Jim Connell in London in 1889 to the air of the Scottish Jacobite march The White Cockade — he was reported livid when he learned that it was being sung to the air of Oh Tannebaum, protesting: “Ye ruined me poem!”

Jim Connell was a Socialist Republican (he had taken the Fenian oath), activist and journalist who emigrated to England in 1875 after being blacklisted in Dublin for his efforts in unionising the docks in which he worked. Apparently he began to write the song lyrics on his way home from a demonstration in London city centre, on the train from Charing Cross to Honor Oak in SE London, where he lived and completed it in the house of a fellow Irishman and neighbour, Nicholas Donovan.

Photo of Jim Connell, author of The Red Flag (Photo: D.Breatnach)

The lyrics have been sung by revolutionary and social-democratic (the latter less so now) activists all over the English-speaking world but also in some other languages in the years since.

Not mentioned in the Wikipedia entry on Jim Connell is the fact that he also wrote a book, apparently a best-seller in his time, called something like “The Poacher’s Handbook“. I’ve been looking for that book for years without success (DCC Library could find no reference to it).

UNVEILING PLAQUE ON JIM CONNELL’S HOME

Today there is a plaque on the two-storey house where Connell lived until his death in 1929, having been awarded the Red Star Medal by Lenin in 1922.

Plaque on house in which Jim Connell lived in SE London when he wrote the lyrics (Photo: D.Breatnach, sorry about the shadow)

In the late 1980s a history archivist with the London Borough of Lewisham contacted the Lewisham branch of the Irish in Britain Representation Group, of which I was Secretary, to consult us about the erection of a history plaque on the house and the wording to use4. We attempted to have the words “Irish Republican” added to “Socialist” after his name on the plaque and were successful with “Irish” but not with “Republican”.

There was a handful at the unveiling at midday on a weekday, including a representative of the local Council, a couple from the Greater London Council including its Irish section, a trumpeter (who played the Oh Tannebaum air) and Gordon Brown (then just an MP). I believe this was 1989, the centenary of the song being written.

Brown’s speech did not mention Ireland once but as he finished, I jumped up on a nearby garden wall and while thanking those in attendance said that it was sad to see the country of Jim Connell’s birth omitted along with his views on Irish independence, particularly at a time when British troops were fighting to suppress a struggle for that independence.

This was during the age before mobile phones and I have no photos, sadly. So no big deal but the next edition of the Irish Post, a weekly paper for the Irish community in Britain, carried a report on the ceremony and my intervention. It was written by the columnist Dolan, who was the alter ego of the Editor, Brendan Mac Alua (long dead now) and a supporter of much of the IBRG’s activities.

I lived in Catford then, five minutes by bicycle from the site of the house and have photographed the plaque.

FENIAN CONNECTION BETWEEN LYRICS ACROSS TWO DECADES

The words and sentiment “Let cowards flinch or traitors sneer” in the Red Flag mirror some in a song celebrating Irish political prisoners, The Felons of Our Land: “While traitors shame and foes defame” and “Let cowards mock and tyrants frown”. Arthur Forrester wrote that song 20 years before Connell’s and it would be surprising indeed had Connell not consciously or unconsciously borrowed the construction and sentiment.

Arthur Forrester was himself of great interest as were his poet sisters, both raised by their Irish nationalist mother, also very interesting person and poet in her own right, in Manchester, known to Michael Davitt. Arthur was a Fenian and did time in prison for it5. He was also for a period proof-reader for the Irish Times! Frank McNally wrote an article about the song but I don’t have access to anything except the first few lines.

T-shirt worn by one of those in attendance (Photo: D.Breatnach)

APPENDIX 2:

Lyrics of The Red Flag:

The People's Flag is deepest red,
It shrouded oft our martyred dead, 
And ere their limbs grew stiff and cold, 
Their hearts' blood dyed its every fold. 
Chorus: 
Then raise the scarlet standard high. 
Beneath its shade we'll live and die, 
Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer, 
We'll keep the red flag flying here. 
 
Look round, the Frenchman loves its blaze, 
The sturdy German chants its praise, 
In Moscow's vaults its hymns were sung,
Chicago swells the surging throng. 
(chorus)
It waved above our infant might, 
When all ahead seemed dark as night; 
It witnessed many a deed and vow, 
We must not change its colour now. 
(chorus)
 It well recalls the triumphs past, 
It gives the hope of peace at last; 
The banner bright,  the symbol plain, 
Of human right and human gain. 
(chorus) 
It suits today the weak and base, 
Whose minds are fixed on pelf and place 
To cringe before the rich man's frown, 
And haul the sacred emblem down. 
(chorus) 
With head uncovered swear we all 
To bear it onward till we fall; 
Come dungeons dark or gallows grim, 
This song shall be our parting hymn.

FOOTNOTES

1Not long afterwards, the new Free State’s National Army, under the orders of Michael Collins, attacked a protest occupation by Irish Republicans of the Four Courts which began the Civil War of the State against the IRA, lasting until 1923 with over 80 executions of Republicans by the State along with many kidnappings and assassinations (such as Harry Boland’s and of course others killed in battle (excluding the shooting of surrendered prisoners, which the National Army also did on occasion). Some were even murdered AFTER the war had ended, for example Noel Lemass, his body left in the Dublin mountains.

2Possibly this was the same location which had housed the James Connolly College (raided by the Auxiliaries in 1921).

3Also the location of the first public meeting to launch the Irish Volunteers in 1913 and where much of the GPO garrison and others were briefly kept prisoner after the surrender in nearby Moore Street in 1916. And just beside it the Parnell Monument, across the street the location of the founding of the Irish Ladies Land League (where members were arrested) and diagonally in SE direction, Tom Clarke’s tobacconist and newsagent shop (occupied by the British Army during the Rising).

4The Lewisham branch of the IBRG had been founded in 1986 and founded the Lewisham Irish Centre in 1992, I think. It was a very active branch in campaigning, community and political work, ceasing to exist around 2002. The IBRG itself was founded in 1981 and was active on many issues, including anti-Irish racism, representation for the diaspora, release of the framed Irish prisoners, British withdrawal from Ireland, against anti-Traveller racism, plastic bullets and strip-searches. It was also for equality in general, being against all racism, gender discrimination and homophobia and one year shared a march with the Broadwater Farm campaign.

5 Despite the Irish diaspora having given the working class in Britain its anthem (The Red Flag), its classic novel (The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists) and, among many social and trade union activists and leaders, two leaders of the first genuine mass workers’ movement in Britain (the Chartists — O’Brien and O’Connor), and having fought against the Blackshirts at the Battle of Cable Street, there is no BA in Irish Studies alone available in British Universities. The Irish diaspora is also the first migrant community in Britain and for centuries the largest, has made significant contribution to the arts and a huge one to rock, punk and pop music. It would seem that the British ruling class does not want its population to know in any depth about the Irish.

SOURCES

https://www.facebook.com/OFlahertySociety

Report before the event by TG4: https://www.facebook.com/NuachtTG4/videos/247647487386768

Report after the event by TG4 and clips of the singing of The Red Flag: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=637274744281164

The chorus of The Red Flag sung to the original air, i.e of The White Cockade: https://www.facebook.com/OFlahertySociety/videos/459751325864989

Jim Connell and The Red Flag

The Felons of Our Land song: https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/the-felons-of-our-land-frank-mcnally-on-the-various-lives-of-a-republican-ballad-1.4185803

Ellen Forrester, nationalist and mother of Arthur Forrester: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellen_Forrester

KISS OF THE PARASITE SPREADING THROUGH GLASNEVIN

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

At this time of year, using a parasitic plant as an excuse — and in spite of Covid19 transmission danger — many kisses will be given. The plant in question is of course the mistletoe and people buy sprigs or clumps of it to hang in strategic places to trap the unwary, ambushing them into receiving the sign of affection (or lust). Although the plant is native across Europe it is not so to Ireland1, though it can be found growing in widely-separated places here, believed to be the result of “garden escapes” but could also have been imported with saplings (for example of apple varieties).

IN FOLKLORE AND MYTHOLOGY

According to Wikipedia, the whole kissing-under-mistletoes custom was popularised by courting couples among servants of middle and upper classes during the reign of the English Queen Victoria. How that arose is not explained but there has been an association of the berries with fertility since antiquity, possibly through sympathetic magic, since the berries were thought to resemble sperm. Indeed, one of its medicinal uses historically has been in treatment of infertility, along with arthritis, high blood pressure and epilepsy. To the Celts, mistletoe represented the semen of Taranis, their god of thunder2, while the Ancient Greeks referred to mistletoe as “oak sperm”.

Closeup of Viscum album, the north European mistletoe, leaves and white berries.
(Photo sourced: Internet)

Modern medicine does not ascribe scientific value to treatments with misteltoe and instead points to the toxicity of the plants, with Tyramine, the active agent, causing blurred vision, diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting and, more rarely, seizures, hypertension and even cardiac arrest. The toxic agent is maximally concentrated in the fruits and leaves. Fatalities among adult humans are rare but children and pets are more vulnerable.

Mistletoe on tree in January 2017, Dublin area (possibly Botanic Gardens). (Photo: D.Breatnach)

In Ancient Rome it was customary to attach a sprig of the plant above the door to bring love and peace to the household while elsewhere it has also been seen as protection against evil spirits. What of the common belief that it was ingested by the druids, as in a “ceremony of the oak and mistletoe” with sacrifice of white bulls? We have only Pliny as an ancient source of that alleged ceremony and historians seem to dislike relying on him, seeing him as a historian who liked to please the patricians in Rome with his descriptions. Wiki comments: “Evidence taken from bog bodies makes the Celtic use of mistletoe seem medicinal rather than ritual. It is possible that mistletoe was originally associated with human sacrifice and only became associated with the white bull after the Romans banned individual human sacrifices.”3

Is mistletoe harmful to trees? Although it is not in the long-term interests of a parasite to kill its host, some species do appear to be taking over their host bush or tree but we don’t seem to have come to that pass in Ireland and indeed may never do so. Wikipedia notes a number of studies that have ascribed ecological importance to some species, as a food source, nesting material and even encouraging the spread of juniper through birds attending parasitised juniper trees and eating the mistletoe and juniper berries together, to pass through the gut unharmed and be deposited elsewhere.4

THE PLANT SPREADING IN IRELAND?

“The word ‘mistletoe’ derives from the older form ‘mistle’ adding the Old English word tān (twig). ‘Mistle’ is common Germanic (Old High German mistil, Middle High German mistel, Old English mistel, Old Norse mistil). Further etymology is uncertain, but may be related to the Germanic base for ‘mash’.”5 Its family Solanthacea (agreed in 2003) includes about 1,000 species in 43 genera. Many have reported traditional and cultural uses, including as medicine.6

Clumps of Drualus (mistletoe) on unidentified tree, Botanic Gardens, Dublin, October 2020. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

In Ireland, apart from its scientific name Viscum alba, the perennial plant has a number of names: Sú Dara, Uile Íce, Drua-Lus and it typically roots itself in the bark of trees such as Hawthorn, Lime, Apple, Poplar and Willow but according to its Wikipedia entry, “successfully parasitizes more than 200 tree and shrub species” (though probably much less in Ireland). Once established its roots tap its host’s sap for water and nutrients but it also carries out photosynthesis, processing sunshine through its fleshy leaves — which has it classified as a hemiparasite, ie. it does part of its own work. The tree also gives it elevation where it can catch the sun’s rays without too much obstruction.

A distribution map with the Wildflowers of Ireland entry shows it widespread throughout England and Wales and localised in Scotland and Ireland, possibly through the deforestation in those nations. Although imported deliberately or accidentally to Ireland and then escaping beyond its source, once established it can be be spread, largely probably by birds.

Smólach Mór (Mistle Thrush), Griffiths Park, Glasnevin-Drumcondra, June 2021. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

The Mistle Thrush (Smólach Mór/ Turdus viscivorus) is particularly associated with the plant by name and the bird is said to include the berries in its winter diet when invertebrate animals, its preferred food the rest of the year, are rarely about7. The bird is described as squeezing the berries in its beak, ejecting the seeds sideways and, to clean its beak, wiping it against a tree trunk. The seeds, being covered with sticky liquid adhere to the tree bark and the liquid hardens, maintaining a strong grip.

Clumps of Irish mistletoe on a north American Poplar, Botanic Gardens, Dublin, 19th December 2021. (Photo: D.Breatnach)
Nameplate on the bark of the poplar tree parasitised by the mistletoe picture above. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

The parasitic plant has long been in evidence in the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin and to a lesser extent in the adjacent Glasnevin Cemetery and I wondered at times why it (along with the grey squirrels) did not make its way into Griffiths Park, only minutes away on foot and connected by the Tolka River. However, walking through that park the other day, I did indeed spy the tell-tale clump high up in a tree.

One of two clumps of mistletoe on a poplar tree in Griffiths Park in January 2022 (Photo: D.Breatnach)

So it is spreading.

End.

Footnotes

1According to the Wildflowers of Ireland website.

2From Proto-Celtic Toranos (note “torann”, Irish for “noise” and the word “tone” in English).

3While having humans killed in the arena in large-scale displays for mass entertainment!

4One of the many methods of seed dispersal and why plants produce seeds inside edible packages such as fruit.

5Wikipedia

6Ibid

7While the Wikipedia entry on the bird states that it eats mistletoe berries along with those of ivy and yew (all poisonous to humans), the Birdwatch Ireland web page states only that it eats berries in winter, without specifying which ones.

References

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

http://www.wildflowersofireland.net/plant_detail.php?id_flower=641&wildflower=Mistletoe

Mistle Thrush

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

1According to the Wildflowers of Ireland website.

2From Proto-Celtic Toranos (note “torann”, Irish for “noise” and the word “tone” in English).

3While having humans killed in the arena in large-scale displays for mass entertainment!

4One of the many methods of seed dispersal and why plants produce seeds inside edible packages such as fruit.

5Wikipedia

6Ibid

7While the Wikipedia entry on the bird states that it eats mistletoe berries along with those of ivy and yew (all poisonous to humans), the Birdwatch Ireland web page states only that it eats berries in winter, without specifying which ones.

OBJECTIONS TO SPECULATOR PLANS FOR MOORE STREET

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time first section to “additional objections“: 10 minutes)

The big property speculator company Hammerson wishes, in addition to other demolitions, to demolish every building except five in the central terrace in Moore Street all the way out to O’Connell Street and the cutting through the area of two new roads. This is area is a centuries-old street market and the scene of a battle during the 1916 Rising as the HQ Garrison of the Rising occupied the central terrace of 16 buildings. The site is of huge historical and cultural importance not only for Ireland but for the world. Along with many others I submitted objections through Dublin City Council’s system which requires a payment of €20 for each application to which one is objecting. I wished to oppose the Hammerson planning applications 2861/21, 2862/21, 2863/21 on grounds historical and cultural, architectural, of city planning, of democracy, social amenity and on grounds of inner city regeneration and planning.

It is important to consider what the Moore Street area IS, what it can BECOME and what can be destroyed in the present and future by ill-considered approval of “development” plans proposed by property speculators.

NATIONAL HISTORY

The Moore Street area is one of great importance in what might be called our national history, as it contains the relocation/ evacuation route and last sites of the Headquarters of the 1916 Rising, an event that is widely accepted as being of seminal importance in our development as a nation. It was a battleground in which insurgents and civilians were injured by bullets of the Occupation and in which a number of both groups were killed. For this reason not only tourists from abroad but also from all parts of Ireland, including from the Six Counties are to be frequently seen on the street in walking history tours.

At the junction of Moore Lane and Henry Place Irish Volunteer Michael Mulvihill was killed and at the junction of Moore Street and Sampson Lane, Vol. Henry “Harry” Coyle of the Irish Citizen Army was also killed. At that latter junction a British soldier, shot and wounded by 18-year-old ICA Volunteer Tom Crimmins while in O’Rahilly’s charge, was collected by yet another Volunteer, George Plunkett, one of the brothers of Proclamation Signatory Joseph Plunkett and taken into No.10 Moore Street, where a field hospital was being managed by, among others, Volunteer Elizabeth O’Farrell. That building was the first HQ of the Rising after Moore Street and there the first council of war after the evacuation was held. Along with a number of other buildings in the central Moore Street, it holds the mark in its party wall of the tunnelling through the entire terrace that was accomplished by the Volunteers during the night of Easter Friday.

Representatives of all the groups that participated in the Rising were in the Moore Street area: Irish Republican Brotherhood, Irish Volunteers, Irish Citizen Army, Cumann na mBan, Fianna Éireann and Hibernian Rifles.

Moore Street itself held a barricade built by Volunteers the early days of Easter Week at the crossroads with Salmon Lane and Henry Place, as well as one constructed by the encircling British Army at the Parnell Street junction and there was another at the junction with Moore Lane. The charge on the British barricade led by the The O’Rahilly was along Moore Street too.

And of course, it is in Moore Street itself that the decision to surrender was taken, the site also of the last hours of freedom of six of those shot by British firing squads in Dublin, including Willy Pearse and five of the Seven Signatories: Tom Clarke, Patrick Pearse, James Connolly, Joseph Plunkett and Sean McDermott.

The plaque erected in 1966 on the 50th anniversary of the Rising, the first official mark in the street since the creation of the State to commemorate what happened there and still the only such on the street.

It is a remarkable fact that from the creation of the State no monument or plaque existed in Moore Street to commemorate the momentous events there until the small 1916 commemorative plaque was erected there, presumably by Dublin City Council, on the 50th anniversary of the Rising. That is all that remains there in visible commemoration to this day.

As an institution of civic society Dublin City Council should be doing its utmost to appropriately commemorate that history and at the very least safeguarding its location and artifacts from destruction.

On democratic grounds too, Dublin City Council should reflect the wishes of the residents of the city rather than those of property speculators – and the wishes of the residents of the city have been clearly outlined on many occasions, not only in the over 380,000 petition signatures collected by the Save Moore Street From Demolition campaign.

Some of the Save Moore Street From Demolition petition signature sheets sellotaped together and stretched out along Moore Street in January 2016 on the last day of a week-long occupation of buildings. Each sheet held 20 signatures at that time (later versions, double-sided, held 40 and the current version holds 25).

INTERNATIONAL HISTORY

It is not on grounds of our national history alone that the area should be conserved and developed sensitively, for it is also of world history significance and deserves recognition as a site of World Heritage importance.

From no less than the Imperial War Museum in London came the assessment that the area is “a WW1 urban battleground in prime condition” (a reference to surviving buildings and features including crucially the 1916 streetscape).

The 1916 Rising was indeed “a WW1 battleground” but it was also the site of a Rising against world war – the first of four that took place during the years of WW1 (the other three included Russia in February and October 1917 and another in Germany in 1918).

In the history of the human struggle against colonial domination, the 1916 Rising looms large, not only in its own right but in the huge encouragement the news of it gave to colonised people around the world.

As the 1916 Rising was the first to field a specifically workers’ revolutionary army, a revolutionary women’s military organisation and to address itself, in the 1916 Proclamation, to including women at a time when hardly a woman in the world enjoyed the right to vote, declaring itself also for equality, for “civil and religious freedom for all”, it was of huge world history importance in social and political terms.

Plans to sensitively develop and conserve the visible signs of history in the street should take account of the evacuation route of most of the GPO Garrison through Henry Place, across the dangerous junction with Moore Lane and into No.10 Moore street, then tunneling from house to house, progressing through buildings of the entire terrace to emerge in what is now O’Rahilly Parade. The planned construction of a lane from Henry Street into the evacuation route distracts from the historic route and a new road from O’Connell Street through the central terrace, as in the Hammerson application, no matter how high or low the planned arch, breaks that historical line of the progress of the Volunteers – forever.

An excellent monument to The O’Rahilly in O’Rahilly Parade, reproducing the very script of the farewell letter he wrote to his wife. However hundreds of thousands of people pass nearby annually without realising it is there because it is in a lane and not signposted (despite Dublin City Council undertakings on numerous occasions to the Save Moore Street From Demolition that they would signpost it).

The plans to construct a hotel in O’Rahilly Parade (and other future plans that have been mooted but not included yet in a Hammerson application), along with the back of the unfortunately-permitted Jury’s Hotel on the other side of the laneway, would create an undesirable narrow canyon effect and also completely overshadow the O’Rahilly monument there. In Dublin folklore the western end of that lane was known for generations as “Dead Man’s Corner” because it was where the O’Rahilly died after writing a farewell letter to his wife, having received five British bullets while leading a charge up Moore Street in 1916. The O’Rahilly was one of the founders of the Irish Volunteers.

It was in that laneway that the Volunteers were gathered to make a heroic assault on the British Army barricade at the Parnell/ Moore Street junction, to be cancelled when the decision to surrender was taken. Among those awaiting keyed up the order to charge, was a future Government Minister.

CULTURAL

Despite the incorrect name given to the street in Irish (check the national nameplace database logainm.ie which gives it as Sráid an Mhúraigh), it is noticeable that many of the participants in the 1916 Rising were Irish speakers, including in fact writers, poets and educationalists through the Irish language – these were also represented among the GPO Garrison in Moore Street. In particular Patrick Pearse was one of the founders of the modern school of Irish writing in journalism, polemics, poetry and fiction. Pearse also had very advanced theories about education which he sought to put into practice in St. Enda’s, the school he founded with his brother Willy. Willy himself, as well as learning to speak Irish was an accomplished sculptor.

Joseph Plunkett had written poetry in Arabic as well as English, learned Esperanto and was one of the founders of the Esperanto League. Plunkett joined the Gaelic League and studied Irish.

Sean McDermott was also active in the Gaelic League and a manager of the Irish Freedom radical newspaper.

The revolutionary fighters in Moore Street also contained many people prominent in other cultural fields, such as drama, literary arts and publishing.

These historical facts in the field of culture in relation to the Moore Street area provide an opportunity which should not be missed for the development of the area as a CULTURAL QUARTER – but it will be missed should the Hammerson application be agreed.

In fact, a more rational development of the Moore Street area as a cultural-historical quarter mixed with a vibrant street market provides the opportunity to connect the area to the nearby cultural and historical areas of the Rotunda (location of the first public meeting of the Irish Volunteers in 1913 and where in 1916, Volunteers from Moore Street were kept temporarily as prisoners); 37/38 O’Connell Street, the location of the office of the Irish Ladies’ Land League (now of the Allied Irish Banks) and, across the street, the location of Tom Clarke’s newsagent’s at 75 Parnell Street; between them both, the monument to Charles Stewart Parnell of the Land League. All this also connecting numerous buildings of historical and cultural importance scattered through Parnell Square, including the Gate Theatre, Scoil Mhuire Irish-language primary school, the Hugh Lane Gallery, the former head office of the Gaelic League at No.25 (where the decision to carry out insurrection in 1916 was taken) and the INTO Teacher’s Club at No.36.

Moore Street offers great potential if sensitively developed for integration into cultural-historical festivals in Dublin such as History Week, Culture Night, Open House, Bloomsday, Bram Stoker and Food Festival. It also offers potential for other street festivals and in addition a regular Sunday farmer’s market.

All of that would disappear at the stroke of a pen were the Planning Department to approve the Hammerson applications.

The seven Signatories of the 1916 Proclamation — only Ceannt and MacDonagh were in other garrisons and therefore not present in Moore Street. Pearse, Plunkett and MacDermott were all active in the Gaelic League.


ARCHITECTURAL

The Moore Street area was laid out by Henry Moore, 3rd Earl of Drogheda (as was also Drogheda Street [now Upper O’Connell Street], Henry Street and North Earl Street) in the 17th Century. The houses in Moore Street were designed in the style known as “Dutch Billy”, a style reminiscent of Dutch cities, with the gable end facing into the street, a style said to have been brought into the city by Huguenot asylum seekers in the late 17th Century and therefore of world and Irish socio-historical importance as well as architectural.

Photograph of the Moore Street market in better days, including original cobblestones. Note also the street-facing pointed gable of a building to the left, a typical “Dutch Billy” design (this building and another like it nearby are in a disgraceful state of disrepair). (Photo sourced: Internet)

Currently the most obvious examples of “Dutch Billy” construction are on the south-west side of Moore Street and in an obvious state of disrepair. In the central Moore Street terrace only the four buildings which the State names “the National Monument” preserve a distinctive Dutch Billy frontage. In the event of demolition of most of that terrace there will be no incentive to even preserve other buildings in the street and an opportunity to reconstruct the frontages in the central terrace in line with buildings on the southwest side of the street will have been lost.

In addition, the construction of a new road from O’Connell Street through the central terrace, as in the Hammerson application, will also destroy that opportunity forever. The applicant has stated that this new road is intended “to open up Moore Street” but this is patently false. Not only is Moore Street easily accessible to shoppers from the Parnell and Henry Street ends but the proposed new road leads straight to one of the main entrances of the ILAC shopping centre, of which Hammerson are half-owners.

The entrance to the ILAC shopping centre from Moore Street. Hammerson want to build a road from O’Connell Street straight through the 1916 Terrace and out to the ILAC entrance. Hammerson say this is to “open up Moore Street” but actually it is to deliver more traffic to the ILAC of which they own half. (Photo sourced: Internet)

Indeed in recent years Hammerson and their predecessor Chartered Land have squeezed the market on the west-central side by extending the ILAC into the street, evicting numerous independent businesses and thus destroyed the market character on that side of Moore Street. Sadly the property speculators have achieved this through approval of planning applications by DCC’s Planning Department in the face of numerous objections.

STREET MARKET

The Moore Street market is the oldest surviving in Dublin (perhaps in Ireland) and is composed of the stalls and the independent businesses on the street (the street is actually older than O’Connell Street and predates the Great Hunger). As well as having been an important part of the city’s social and cultural history and on the list of recommended Dublin places to visit for decades, it has been an important amenity for people shopping for fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh fish and meat. In addition it is a location of other services.

Neither the stalls nor the shops throughout the central terrace of Moore Street would of course survive since Hammerson seek permission to demolish eleven of the sixteen buildings. Even the southern end of the street would be severely adversely affected by its close proximity to a big building site and by the demolition/ construction plans for the building at the Moore Street/ Henry Street eastern junction.

When large developments are carried out in such areas the property speculators seek to have chain-stores renting in the area. Those types of businesses have no particular stake or loyalty to their area but rather to their head office, which is not in Moore Street and may not even be in Ireland. Indeed we have seen recently the desertion of one such chain, Debenham’s, which was itself involved in the 1970s construction of the ILAC centre on other streets and laneways of the area.

After years of enduring construction chaos on top of many previous years of neglect, that whole aspect of street market and small independent shop will be wiped out forever in Moore Street and the area will become a Henry Street spillover, full of characterless chain stores of foreign high street type – and a wasteland at night. What a legacy for the current City Managers to bequeath to Dublin!

SOCIAL AMENITY

As a street market, Moore Street of course has been also a social amenity, a place to meet and chat. This aspect has been eroded through the closing of pubs in the street along with the Paris Bakery and Anne’s Bakery and cafe. This is an amenity most needed in any city and, in particular in the north city centre. This aspect too will be destroyed by a conversion of the area into a shopping district of chain stores as envisaged and implicit in the Hammerson plan.

The development of Moore Street as a social amenity area with a vibrant street market opens up the potential of linking it to the Asian food quarter in Parnell Street east and also with cinemas in the Parnell Street and on O’Connell Street.

NORTH CITY CENTRE

An intelligent and longer-term city planning approach to development of the Moore Street and O’Connell Street area would provide the ingredients of a revitalisation of the north inner city, something that is badly needed. It would need envisaging something like the inner city on the south side which is lively by day and — apart from the Grafton Street shopping district — by night also. This could be achieved by combining a vibrant street market with cultural-historical-architectural promotion and with low-rent housing for city dwellers.

ALL VISIONS AND PLANS

A number of independent campaigning and other dgroups have developed visions and plans for the Moore Street area over the years. These have included a plan from the Lord Mayor’s Forum on Moore Street as well as that of the Market Expert Group, a sub-group of that Forum created at the instigation of the Minister for Heritage. More recently the Moore Street Preservation Trust has developed a plan for the area. Perhaps none have tied all possible aspects of historic, cultural, market and north inner city regeneration together as much as the submissions in 2016 to the Minister of Heritage of the Save Moore Street From Demolition and the Save Moore Street 2016 campaigning groups but it is noticeable that all of those can co-exist to a large extent but are absolute anathema to the Hammerson plans.

In addition, the Hammerson plan envisages decades of demolition and construction in this area, making it a wasteland and negatively impacting on the surrounding area and businesses. It also contains the possibility of “planning blight” remaining over the area for decades, as Hammerson run out of funds or sit on planning permission waiting to sell it on to yet further property speculators, as Chartered Land sold it on to them, with meanwhile further deterioration in the fabric of buildings.

Are the City Managers to endorse the poor vision of a property speculation company, preferring it to those of hundreds of thousands of petition signatures, along with a number of groups including those of the Council’s own organisations, in addition to the wishes expressed by elected representatives in Dublin City Council on a number of occasions over a number of years?

WHAT COULD BE

In considering a Planning Application, city planners should not only consider the plan itself on its merits but what an alternative might be – particularly when many alternatives have been mooted over the years. The question to consider is not only “is this a good plan for the area?” but also “what potential does this plan develop or, conversely, negate”?

As outlined above and will be listed below, the Hammerson plan is not only not suitable for the area but destroys the potential for rejuvenating the north inner city area in social, shopping, cultural, historical and city living terms. The Hammerson application should be refused on all those grounds and on the democratic basis also that it is in stark opposition to the wishes of the vast majority of people and to virtually all concerned organisations.

End first section

FURTHER GROUNDS OF OBJECTION TO THE HAMMERSON APPLICATIONS

*The Proposal contravenes The Dublin Development plan’s policy SC16 which states that Dublin is intrinsically a low-rise city (and confirmed in a recent response on another matter from the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar in a response to TD Paul Murphy in the Dáil).

*The Moore Street as a battlefield site is not a location identified for taller buildings.

*The Hammerson proposal contravenes development plan maximum height standard, and would greatly exceed the height of the Moore Street Terrace buildings.

*The Hammerson development plan goes against those of elected public representatives, i.e City Councillors and TDs which voted respectively to have for Moore Street listed as an architectural conservation area and read without opposition two cultural conservation bills for Moore Street (the most recent being the O’Snodaigh bill).

*The Hammerson proposal would be contrary to the purpose of Z5 designation by reducing the cultural space within the city centre, impacting on its night-time culture and facilitating an over -concentration of hotel/retail developments in the area despite the many existing hotels / shopping centres in close proximity.

*There are already over 40 hotels within 2km of the site, and more than 20 hotels and B&Bs within a 10-minute walk and no more hotels are needed in the environs of Moore Street (indeed throughout the city there is already opposition to the growing number of buildings of temporary accommodation being constructed in the shape of hotels and student accommodation).

*The city centre no further office space or chain retail outlets. The applicants themselves are struggling to find tenants for numerous retail units in the ILAC Centre (Debenhams and the old Jack & Jones stores are still vacant) and the applicants have recently commenced the process of “pop up shops” on Henry Street. It would be negligent to lose the historical & cultural elements which make this site unique by over-development. As outlined above, the site if sensitively restored has huge potential as a cultural destination for its citizens, visitors, and future generations. Let us not forget that surveys of tourists visiting Dublin have highlighted the interests of tourists in Culture and History rather than shopping.

*The current reduced demand for office and retail space due to Covid 19 this may become permanent as many companies have found it more cost-efficient for employees to work from home and the surge in online shopping has become the newest trend as a direct result of the pandemic.

*As outlined earlier in detail, the site is already a cultural destination for both locals and visitors, which will be reduced in scale and significance if planning permission is granted. The whole site should be sensitively restored.

* Despite the homeless crisis which is already being viewed as a scandal by many observers, there iso provisions for affordable housing within the site.

*Moore street needs more mixed usage in its current retail and street Market – Dublin City council should act accordingly by enforcing planning laws in the area and immediately implement the Market Expert group report revitalising its components.

*This Hammerson proposal is contrary to Dublin City Council’s own plan to revitalise the market, unless the powers that be at Dublin City council are deluded enough to believe a revitalised predominantly food market can be successful from a 5.5acre building site environment.

*Further retail and hotels put pressure on existent businesses in the vicinity that are already struggling in the city centre.

*The proposed design is not sympathetic to the local physical or cultural heritage and encroaches on the curtilage of the State-nominated National Monument and proposed protected structures in the area.

*The Hammerson design is nowhere near of sufficiently high quality to justify the adverse impacts on the entire north inner city for a 15yr period (possibly longer as other planning applications and extensions have been added to early granted applications in the past) and is completely out of context with the area.

*The Hamerson proposal does not strengthen, reinforce or integrate with the existing street traders or independent or independent businesses of the Moore Street Market. In fact the market and businesses will more than likely be lost FOREVER throughout the lengthy construction phase.

*The Hammerson plan entails the loss of fine urban grain in this historical part of Ireland, which supports a diversity of economic, historical and cultural life.

*The Hammerson proposal fails to address the wider urban context, the character of Moore Street Market and businesses or the many envisaged protected structures along the street and laneways , notably the iconic Moore Street terrace and the O’Connell Street Architectural conservation area.

*The proposed office block at site 5 will visually impact on the State-nominated National Monument and the iconic 1916 dTerrace. It will also overshadow residential and commercial units at Moore street north and Greeg Court apartment block including sun balconies of the owner/occupiers.

*The Hammerson proposal in short would result in overdevelopment which ignores the context of this unique site.

*The Hammerson proposal does not complement the built environment or contribute positively to the neighbourhood and streetscape.

*The impact on markets or independent businesses has not addressed or been resolved.

*The Hammerson proposed development would overwhelm Moore street and change its whole character for which it is known as far away as China.

*In order to maintain the skylines and character of the area the height should be limited to four storeys and, in places, to three. The visual impact on O’Connell street’s skyline will be horrendous post development.

*The Dublin development plan identifies that the city is a low-rise city and requires development to protect conservation areas and the architectural character of existing buildings, streets and spaces of artistic, civic or historic importance, and to ensure that any development is sensitive to the historic square and protects and enhances the skyline of the inner city.

*The Hammerson proposed development is too close to the site boundary, which is contrary to BRE advice and will severely impact food businesses and market traders in close vicinity.

*The risks and impacts of construction and demolition works for proposed archway on boundary wall of national monument are dramatically understated.

*The impact of construction noise and air pollution on local residents and businesses are understated and will turn the area into a “no-go area” for shoppers.

*The most environmentally sustainable buildings are the ones that already exist. The need is to reuse existing buildings for purposes to avoid carbon emission associated with demolition and construction works of a new large-scale development.

*The heritage impact assessment statement fails to adequately assess or record the surviving historic fabric in the entire Moore street terrace or take into account the curtilage of the State-designated National Monument. It also contradicts the previous developer’s Chartered Land heritage impact statement which said no.18 contained pre-1916 elements.

*The façade demolition planned to No.18 to make way for the hideous archway would erase the character of the terrace and visually impact on the historic nature of the area. The demolition will impact on built heritage around the story of 1916 regardless whether the buildings are pre 1916 or not.

*The Hammerson proposal would detract from the special character and distinctiveness of the Conservation Area, and will constitute a visually obtrusive and dominant form around Moore street and O’Connell street.

*Inadequate drawings and images of interfaces with protected structures, mean that the impact on immediate context and skyline is not fully explored, insufficient LVIA in respect of neighbouring heritage buildings.

*The Hammerson plan means dramatic and irreversible impact on surrounding protected structures, their setting and curtilage.

*Protected structures are protected not just for their physical significance, but also for other reasons including historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural or social interest.

*This largescale development proposal of Hammerson would be contrary to development plan policy of minimum intervention to protected structures.

*There is a need to implement Government policy of heritage-led regeneration of historic urban centres:

* The need to integrate cultural, social and built heritage objectives, this proposal destroys the same.

*A National monument and protected structures should be protected in context, but the buildings in this proposal will dwarf the designated National Monument and the many existing protected structures surrounding the site and therefore it would be more appropriate to restore the historic buildings.

*This Hammerson proposal is contrary to provisions of Section 11.1.5.3 of the Dublin Development plan in failing to complement the special character of the protected structures on and adjoining the site and/ or retaining the traditional proportionate relationship with returns, gardens, mews structures etc.

*The Hammerson proposal would result in negative and irreversible impact of the on the integrity and character of the protected structures on the site and their special significance as a surviving group of early structures facing the 300yr old Moore Street market.

*Approving the Hammerson plan would set a poor precedent for allowing protected structures to become dilapidated and derelict and then redeveloped for the foreseeable future.

*For years the applicants, DCC and the Department of Heritage have failed in their duty of care towards protected structures, the market, and independent store businesses and a 15-year construction project is not the way forward.

*The design, scale and massing of the Hammerson plan would seriously detract from the setting and character of both the O’Connell street conservation area and the protected structures on the site, and would have a significant adverse impact on the Conservation area, contrary to Section 11.1.5.3 of the development plan and policies C1, C2, C4 and C6.

*The Hammerson proposal without justification would contravene policy SC17 in relation to protection of the skyline.

*The Hammerson Proposal would contravene development plan policies CHC29, CHC37 and CHC43 in relation to protection of the cultural and artistic use of buildings in established cultural quarters, without any justification.

*The role of Moore Street as a major area of action during the 1916 Rising, areas including laneways and terrace buildings (as detailed to an extent earlier) is completely ignored in this proposal.

*The threat posed to the protected structures from the construction process as the proposed new development is a large, invasive project requiring aggressive excavations and structural work, which will be cantilevered over the existing buildings.

*Moore street has not developed as a cultural quarter in the way that was desired but the Moore street Terrace, laneways, and Market are the heart and soul of the area and integral to its role and potential development as a cultural quarter in the future.

*The Market traders and generational independent businesses have established themselves as an integral part of the cultural infrastructure of Dublin City.

*The importance of the site as a cultural hub is understated. There is no other site in Dublin and possibly in the country with more potential than this one.

*The role of culture in creating communities, which are the bedrock of cities, is unacknowledged in this proposal.

*Proposal would not protect or promote Moore Street’s distinct identity, in a way which acknowledges our past and secures our future, in accordance with the Council’s mission as set out in the Dublin City Development plan.

*Visitors come to Dublin to experience authentic culture and not new corporate developments or engineered cultural experiences.

*The Hammerson Proposal is an architectural and cultural travesty which is part of the commodification of the city by international capital and developments such as these are starving the city of its culture and heritage.

*The Hammerson Proposal would threaten a historic landmark site, while providing no benefit to residents of the city who already are surrounded by existing retail and office blocks.

*The Hammerson Proposal would set a precedent for loss of major historical sites and culture in the city. The Proposal is considered by many to be engaged in city planning, history, culture and community development to be nothing short of cultural vandalism.

*The Moore Street Market contributes to the cultural vibrancy of the city and is part of the city’s cultural infrastructure – any loss of the market would be contrary to development plan policies CHC24 and CHC33 and would severely impact remaining Independent businesses on Moore Street.

*The Hammerson Proposal would cause both temporary and permanent disruption and damage to the cultural and economic health of the city.

*External steel structures and hoardings, construction traffic, noise pollution, road closures, drainage works etc. would make it difficult for the Independent businesses to keep trading during the lengthy construction phase and will impact on the unique and welcoming atmosphere for which Moore Street has been famous worldwide.

*The Hammerson Heritage report does not consider the impact on the historical and social qualities of the site or the market.

*The Hammerson proposal states that loss of parking spaces for proposed development is compensated for by the Metro construction proposal. However many estimate that the Metro won’t be running for at least 20 years.

*Policy CEE12 should not apply if the means used to achieve it is counterproductive.

*The Hammerson Proposal is contrary to the aims of the Night-Time Economy Task Force as set out in the Dublin Development plan.

*The Hammerson Proposal is purely for the purpose of commercial gain and undermines the historical and cultural aspects surrounding the entire site.

Transportation:

The Hammerson Application has supplied no report in relation to traffic management considering the large construction traffic volumes accessing and regressing the proposed site compound that is literally surrounded by 3/4 commercial servicing bays, residential car parking at Greeg Court, delivery inwards and outwards for retailers, waste collections, Market Traders accessing their storage units etc. Clarity is required in relation to the nature of the proposed access and regress into Moore Street / Lane and the safety issues that will arise for shoppers at Moore Street north at the junction of Moore street and O’Rahilly Parade.

Environmental Health:

There has been no provision in the Hammerson proposal for dirt or debris falling from lorries accessing or regressing the site compound. This will severely impact traditional family butcher Troy’s fresh food store at the junction of Moore Street and O’Rahilly Parade where lorries will be stacking awaiting access to the site.

The noise pollution mitigation measures proposed won’t have any real impact on neighbouring retailers or the residents in Greeg court apartments considering the close proximity of the site compound entrance and site boundary.

The wide scale of demolition and piling will disrupt the habitat of rodents, not ideal on a predominantly food marketplace.

The 15-year construction phase will inevitably wipe out the Market and Independent businesses on Moore street. There are still 3 more planning applications for this site to be lodged, effectively putting the city centre on a building site for the next 20-25 years. NOT a very credible solution for an area that needs to be URGENTLY revived!!

The adverse impacts of this proposal on independent businesses and Market traders should be addressed by the Planning Department in conditions of Planning.

It’s very clear that on completion of this project Moore Street will effectively become a laneway which completely undermines the historical significance of the Street and the heritage of the Market.

The extent of demolition proposed completely contradicts the Hammerson applicant’s rationale of “sensitive development” and a less intrusive plan of restoration is the only viable way forward for Moore Street, for the immediate area and indeed for the north inner city.

The applicants negligently suggest this is a vacant site but this site is fully occupied by the history of 1916 and is a place of special importance in Ireland’s history that has suffered a decade of neglect by the applicants, Dublin City Council and the Government. The empty shop-fronts are being deliberately kept empty by Hammerson and shops running businesses deliberately kept on short leases. Hammerson should not be awarded for this area blighting process by agreeing that the site is “vacant”!

end.

An Ghailseach – “The Foreign Woman”

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

A young Dublin man, out to see something of the world, arrived in Franco’s Spain just a few years after WWII. At a reception at the German Embassy in Madrid (foreign press invited and anywhere for a free meal) he met a tall attractive half-Basque, half-German woman. Lucila Hellmann de Menchaca was multi-lingual – bilingual in German and Spanish through her upbringing, she had also learned English and French. She knew only a few words in Euskera – her mother’s side of the family was not very patriotic and in any case, since the victory of Franco’s military-fascist coup in ‘39, the language was forbidden. They conversed mostly through English.

Deasún, tall with grey-blue eyes and dark curly hair and thin moustache, had been raised only with English language but was learning Irish and Spanish, the latter out of necessity and the former by choice.

They were attracted to one another and began dating; within around six months they were married and soon afterwards on their way to Tangiers, where Deasún had a job waiting for him writing copy for a USA radio broadcasting company. The Moroccan city was an “international zone” city according to the Tangier Protocol, which meant that it was effectively ruled by the British, Spanish and French and, inevitably, full of liberation political activists, smugglers, spies and double-agents.

In that multi-lingual society with the Muezzin calling the faithful to prayer five times a day in Arabic and Berber heard in the street along with European languages, Luci was soon pregnant and, as her time neared, went back to Madrid to be near her family. Luci and Deasún first’s child was born in the German hospital in that city; then back to Tangiers soon afterwards, of course.

Their big guard dog, named Bran after one of Fionn Mac Cumhaill’s famous wolfhounds, occasionally takes off to return days later with scratches and bite-marks. He was watchful of the child and one day complains, whimpering to Deasún who, when he goes to investigate, finds the crawling child stuffing the dog’s dinner into his mouth.

Deasún watches his son speaking his first words in Spanish from Luci and some in Irish from himself. Increasingly he feels the need to have his son develop his speech in Ireland; soon the couple are back in the Spanish state and, after a short interlude, visiting the Basque Country of Luci’s youth, crossing the border into the French state by train to the coast and boat to England. A short stay with a cousin there and they and their child are on the way to Deasún’s native Dublin by train and boat.

Some years later in Dublin, his family of sons and a daughter growing up speaking Spanish and Irish in the home and English in the street, Deasún composes the piece of music which he calls “An Ghailseach” (the Foreign Woman”). Luci and Deasún’s youngest son, Cormac, an accomplished flute and whistle player, learns the piece. Some years later again, in the Club an Chonnradh with his father, Cormac plays the air and Deasún is amazed to learn that the piece he likes so much was actually composed by himself.

An Ghaillseach, composed by Deasún Breatnach, played on low whistle by Cormac Breatnach; Garry Ó Briain accompanying on guitar and keyboard, mastered by Seán McErlaine, uploaded by Féilim Breatnach.

Cormac records the piece and it is played on an Irish-language radio programme to mark a century since the birth of Deasún. On the morning of the broadcast Cormac cannot listen to it for he is on his way to Stockholm, where the Amerghin Ensemble of which he is a part have an engagement to perform their music. The older son listens to the program just before he is due in the Dublin city centre on a historical conservation commitment. The tears spring to his eyes from the sheer painful beauty of the piece.

Luci and Deasún are years gone (they died within days of one another in 2007) but An Ghailseach has joined the extremely rich and varied body of traditional Irish music, where it will outlast yet other generations to come.

End.

DUBLIN HOSTS TURKISH REVOLUTIONARY MUSIC GROUP

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

Last Saturday in the Teachers’ Club in Dublin (26/11/21), the revolutionary music Grup Yorum from Turkey, with some Irish musician input, played to an audience of up to two hundred. In between performing different numbers from their repertoire, band members spoke to the audience of the history of the struggles of their people and of the band.

The Irish tour of the band was organised by the Anti-Imperialist Action Ireland organisation; earlier that week Yorum played in a small music venue in Belfast to around 40 people. The attendance in Dublin was so large that the location had to be changed from a large room on the first floor to the much larger hall down below.

Grup Yorum performing in Dublin (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

BELFAST

In Belfast in the Sunflower Lounge, Bobby Fields from Armagh and Séan Óg from Dublin entertained those in attendance with songs of Irish resistance followed by Grup Yorum coming on afterwards. The Grup’s performance was enthusiastically received and was followed by a questions-and-answers session to learn more about the situation in Turkey.

The Grup members toured some of the area and visited the famous international solidarity wall along with the grave of Bobby Sands, where paying their respects included singing a song at the graveside.

DUBLIN

In the large hall in the Teachers’ Club, Dublin, Séan Óg took to the stage first, playing guitar to accompany himself on guitar to sing The Killmichael Ambush, Viva la Quinze Brigada, Back Home in Derry1 and The Internationale. Veteran activist and traditional singer Diarmuid Breatnach followed, singing unaccompanied the Anne Devlin Ballad, I’ll Wear No Convict’s Uniform2 and James Connolly’s satirical song Be Moderate3. Some of the audience sang along with some of the lyrics sung by each singer.

Be Moderate, satirical song by James Connolly, sung by Diarmuid Breatnach at the event (the link can be played on Facebook).

The four members of Grup Yorum present then took to the stage to huge applause and addressed the audience in Turkish, their words being translated into English by a member of their entourage. In the performance that followed, two guitars, flute and cajón were the instruments with a male and female leading voices. Each song was preceded by an explanation placing the piece in historical and political context.

Some of the songs in particular were clearly known to Turkish and Kurdish people in the audience and at some points they sang along, often waving an arm in the air. Towards the end of their performance the crowd got more and more excited and then Seán Óg joined them for a couple of numbers.

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)
oznor

The Grup’s interpreter made a special appeal for help from those in attendance to pressurise the Turkish authorities to release political prisoner Ali Osman Köse who has been in solitary confinement for 20 years and has multiple health issues. There are fears for the man’s life as he has had a cancerous kidney removed in May of this year without any follow-up treatment and despite everything has been pronounced “fit” to continue in jail.

This was followed by members of the Resistance Choir taking to the stage to join Grup Yorum in a rendition of the Italian antifascist Bella Ciao! Song before Diarmuid Breatnach returned to the stage to bring the evening to a close with the first verse and chorus of Amhrán na bhFiann4 with members of the audience joining in (including some from Anatolia)

The Resistance Choir from Dublin on stage with Grup Yorum to perform the Bella Ciao song (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

THE GRUP YORUM BAND

A revolutionary music band from Turkey, Grup Yorum members compose their own material and the band has has released twenty-three albums and one film since 1985. The band has suffered repression with some concerts and albums banned and members have been arrested, jailed and tortured, two members also dying on hunger strike. The band is popular in Turkey and as well as their albums selling well in Turkey and internationally, it has also given concerts in Germany, Austria, Australia, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, United Kingdom, Greece and Syria.

Grup Yorum publishes an art, culture, literature, and music magazine entitled Tavir, and several group members manage a cultural centre called İdil Kültür Merkez in the Okmeydani neighbourhood of Istanbul.

Section of the crowd in Dublin saluting the Grup Yorum performers (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

FOOTNOTES:

1The lyrics and air of Viva la Quinze Brigada are by famous Irish folk musician Christy Moore, who also arranged Bobby Sands’ poem to the air of the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (by Gordon Lightfoot) as Back Home in Derry.

2Diarmuid sings this song to an air he composed himself.

3Diarmuid sings this to the air of A Nation Once Again (by Thomas Davis).

4Written by Peadar Kearney originally under the title The Soldiers’ Song and sung by insurgents during the 1916 Rising, its chorus is the official national anthem of the Irish State. However, it is also sung by many who are opposed to the State, particularly by Irish Republicans. Normally only the chorus is heard, sung in Irish (translation).

USEFUL LINKS:

https://www.facebook.com/grupyorum1985

https://www.facebook.com/Anti-Imperialist-Action-Dublin-North-City-110852710835826

https://www.facebook.com/socialistrepublicanballyfermot

https://freealiosmankose.wordpress.com/

“DEADLY CUTS” FILM IS … DEADLY

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 4 mins.)

“DEADLY CUTS” FILM IS … DEADLY1

Michelle (Angeline Ball) runs a hairdressing salon in Piglinstown, a fictional Dublin city suburb that looks like Finglas3 and the area is suffering the attention of a local gang of thugs led by Deano (Ian Lloyd Anderson). The Gardaí4, represented by one individual played by Dermot Ward, are ineffectual in dealing with local crime and seem also well-disposed to a local politician, a Dublin City councillor, whose solution to the area is demolition of a parade of shops, including the hairdressing salon, followed by redevelopment. Michelle’s staff are Stacey (Ericka Roe), Chantelle (Shauna Higgins) and Gemma (Lauren Larkin).

Playing smaller roles are the local butcher Jonner (Aaron Edo), along with owners of the fish and chip shop, the local pub, pub entertainment organiser and three elderly ladies in particular.

Darren Flynn (Aidan McArdle) is the local politician, a Dublin City Councillor, who lets slip later in the film that he has a lot of property speculators waiting to get their hands on the area. Of course, in real life, nothing like that would happen in Dublin City Council, among the Councillors or the City Managers, would it? Quite apart from that, one must feel some sympathy for a certain Dublin City councillor who must surely wince every time he hears “Councillor Flynn” mentioned in the film’s dialogue.

(Image sourced: Internet)

If you know Dublin working and lower-middle class suburbs then some of the visual scenes will be familiar, the streets of housing, the green area, short strips of shops, including the chipper, the cheeky kids on bikes, the pub as a social centre. But for women the hairdressing salon plays a social role too as one can see from the varied ages and requirements of the customers. There was a time in some areas when the local barber shop played the same role for men, the waiting customers, the customer in the chair and the barber all taking part in the same conversation.

You’ll know too that unemployment tends to be higher in such areas and that there are social problems in particular with bored and disengaged youth, drug-taking and selling …. but not necessarily more of the taking than occurs in middle-class areas, particularly when the young people start clubbing.

Areas that could do with regeneration around the local community are not unusual in and around Irish cities but when that regeneration takes place it’s usually for another class – the gentrification project. That’s what’s in store for Piglinstown, if Mr. Flynn and his invisible property speculators have their way. This film is making its debut at a time when property speculators are visibly running wild over Dublin, building hotels, residential apartment and student accommodation blocks (of which most students can’t afford the rents), meanwhile destroying communities, cultural amenities and historical sites. And Dublin City Managers are giving the go-ahead for these planning applications while An Bord Pleanála regularly turns down appeals or moderates the application somewhat but rarely in essence.

The highpoint of the film both in tension and in flash and showbiz buzz is the Ahh Hair competition, which the Piglinstown hair dressing salon wants to win in order to boost their profile and avoid demolition by the speculators. Here Pippa (Victoria Smurfit) plays the vicious upper-class nasty with abandon, aided by her three familiars, the snooty Eimear (Sorcha Fahey) chief among them, many hands in the film’s audience surely itching to slap. Nor is the nastiness only verbal.

Snooty upper-class hair stylist Pippa, played by Victoria Smurfit, at the Ahh Hair competition. (Image sourced: Internet)

But it is also high satire, from Thommas Kane-Byrne as Kevin, the camp announcer and poseur judges with ridiculous hyperbole, including the star hairdresser D’Logan Doyle (Louis Lovett), to the cheering hooray henry and henrietta types in the audience. Even the finalist hairdressing creations would be to most people ridiculous, as are some of the creations and installations that win the annual Turner prize. Are the real hairdressing competitions anything like this?

Among the actors, it’s good to see Angeline Ball who charmed us in The Commitments (1991), 30 years ago and still looking good as the salon owner Michelle and Pauline McLynn who insisted in the eponymous series that Father Ted would have a cup of tea, “Ah, you will, you will, you will”. Comedienne Enya Martin, from Giz a Laugh sketches plays the staff’s somewhat sluttish friend.

The Deadly Cuts salon team in film promotion poster (Image sourced: Internet)

As I noted earlier, most reviewers have given the film high marks for entertainment value – not so Peter Bradshaw, who dealt it savage cuts in the Guardian and gave it only two stars out of five. “With violent gangsters, a gentrification storyline and a hairdressing competition, this movie can’t figure out what it wants to be.” Really, Peter? It seems to me that the film is all those things and manages them well within an overall comedic form, something like Dario Fo and the problem is that you just don’t get it.

The incidental music is a series of lively hip hop by clips from different artists, including the mixed English-Irish language group Kneecap. These should have your foot tapping and body swaying as you follow the plot and the dialogue, smoothly edited from scene to scene, laughing and occasionally shocked.

The resolution of the Piglinstown community’s problems in the film is as drastic as unlikely, (however much some viewers may agree with it). But the film is a very enjoyable and if you haven’t seen it already, I strongly recommend you do so.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1“Deadly” was a common Dublin slang expression which has fallen out of use but would still be recognised by many; in the way that much counter-culture slang uses the opposite from an accepted term, “deadly” meant “excellent” and is being employed here in that sense.

2Notably at the moment threats of demolition to the street market and historical site of Moore Street, part of the traditional music pub the Cobblestone and to the laneway at the Merchant’s Arch.

3In fact, Finglas’ in one of the communities acknowledged in the credits, the other being Loughlinstown.

4Police force of the Irish state.

SOURCES

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt11366736/

https://www.rte.ie/entertainment/movie-reviews/2021/1008/1251092-irish-comedy-deadly-cuts-is-a-cut-above-the-competition/

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/deadly_cuts

https://www.dublinlive.ie/news/celebs/giz-laugh-comedian-enya-martin-21694809

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2021/oct/06/deadly-cuts-review-ortonesque-dublin-comedy-thats-more-silly-than-funny

FEATURES OF IRISH TRADITIONAL INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC AND SONG

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time text: 4 mins)

Replying to a query on Quora on the above question, I spent some time thinking and typing the reply and then thought I might as well make that effort available to a wider audience. I have participated in many Irish instrumental music and singing sessions over decades, mostly in London and Dublin and I have two brothers who are musicians and another who is a singer. I am myself a singer, not an instrument player, nor an academic but will attempt an answer. I would recommend consulting the Irish Traditional Music Archive and reading books on the subject such as Ó Súilleabháin’s and Ó Lochlainn.

Traditional Irish music has had many external influences and among the main forms of its dance expression, jigs, hornpipes and reels, only the latter is considered originally Irish. Polkas are particularly popular in Kerry and, I suppose, built around reels. There are also slip-jigs.

The best way to experience these is probably is probably at or viewing a set-dancing session. These are based in form on the “quadrilles” of the Napoleonic period (which can be found as far away as Latin America and Cuba) and are similar to English and US Old Timey square dancing. Probably all the variants of the Irish instrumental dance music will be heard performed among the various set-dances — virtually all sequentially in the deceptively-named “Plain Set”.

Note a number of features in this good exhibition of a part of a set: hard shoes, not trainers (one exception there) to give good floor contact and sound); also some individual flourishes in footwork and body movement etc but still remaining within the music. (Source: The Harp Irish Set Dancers)

The form of dance called “sean-nós” (see description of the singing form by the same name further down) is individual expression, fast footwork with what one might also call “ornamentations”, similar to tap-dancing. The arms are held loosely down to the side or elbows to the side, slightly extended but also loosely. The overall posture may be erect or slightly stooped.

In terms of instruments used today, not one is believed to be originally Irish except the harp (which incidentally is the symbol of the Irish state, the only state in the world to feature a musical instrument in that capacity though we are far from being the only nation with a harp tradition).

The harp is an ancient Irish instrument but also symbol and was re-used by the revolutionary and republican United Irishmen, who rose in insurrection in 1798 and 1803. The later Fenians too used the symbol in less stylised form. (Image sourced: Internet)

The harp (there two main kinds, the smaller knee-standing and the larger resting on the floor between the knees) was described by Norman travellers (spies) prior to their invasion of Ireland but were known also in Wales (observers remarked not only on the aesthetic quality of the performances but also on their speed). A kind of drum was referred to by the travellers and some kind of flute but without any detail on either. The proliferation of instruments in a traditional Irish session are therefore far from being originally Irish: fiddle (violin), uilleann pipe, flute, whistle, accordion (piano or more likely button), concertina, melodeon, bazouki, mandolin, banjo and …. guitar. This last is mostly performed as an underlying rhythm instrument, a function also of the bodhrán (a kind of one-sided drum) and one may also hear a pair of spoons or sections of rib bones played for percussion. The guitar-player is often also the singer and given space to do so accompanied by his guitar, presumably in recompense for his restriction to rhythm performance the rest of the time. In many sessions there has grown sadly a tendency to restrict the performance of song to this individual or some other in the circle of musicians whereas in the past a member of the audience would perform the song; this restriction has led to the growth of song and even voice-only sessions (such as the Góilín in Dublin).

We owe the typical instruments in traditional Irish music to northern and central Europe, the Middle and Far East and to Africa. Many other instruments have been brought into use in performing Irish traditional music (including, famously, the Australian didgeridoo) but, apart from the proliferation of variations on the whistle, they have as yet failed to win popularity among musicians.

(Image sourced: Internet)

Traditional march airs also exist and, to my ear, have a tendency to be fast for the purpose. I have speculated that these represented trotting horses of the elites or warrior-caste with lower-ranking fighters running alongside — but that is pure speculation.

There are many slow airs and waltzes, definitely an import, have been composed and are also played.

TRADITIONAL, ETHNIC

With regard to the ethnicity of the performers this is not of great relevance and Irish traditional music on instruments and in voice is being played well in many different parts of the world or in Ireland by musicians with a non-Irish ethnic background. Naturally too the Irish diaspora has spawned many excellent traditional Irish musicians (and, we can remark in passing, in many other genres too: rock, pop, blues, jazz, classical).

The term “traditional” itself can open up a debate but with regard to song, I was offered this interesting definition some years ago: “author unknown, performed over three generations.” Authorship is therefore an issue as is permanency (or at least persistency). One feature of traditional music throughout the world, according to Ó Súilleabháin is never to end in a crescendo (although occasionally one may hear a traditional song or ballad treated in this way, it is rare).

However, as with “tunes” or “airs” in instrumental music, songs are being composed all along within the traditional or folk form, sometimes re-using known airs, sometimes adapting them and on occasion composing new ones.

It is important to note that ballads are not considered a “traditional” form, having entered Ireland in the 18th and 19th centuries but they are accepted in traditional singing circles.

Ballads and traditional songs were on many themes of course but given Ireland’s history, the national struggle was bound to feature often. (Image sourced: Internet)

THE SINGER AND THE SONG

Traditional-style singers not only eschew crescendos but also, in general, bodily gestures or dramatic pauses or changes of volume. There are emphases rendered on occasion but these tend to be subtle.

A form of singing known as “sean-nós” (literally ‘old style’) exists with regional variations. From experience and perception (but without formal study) I would say that the main distinguishing feature of this form is in the ornamentation of notes, viz. drawing some out to briefly twist around them (interestingly, one verb in Irish for “play” as in instrument or “sing” is “cas”, literally “twist/ turn/ weave”) and the ending of a line may have an additional note added. The Qawwali religious music of Pakistan and Indian shares many features as does parts of the Flamenco singing, albeit the latter is loudly expressive.

In terms of the great themes of Irish song (and at times of instrumental pieces) these are overwhelmingly love, patriotic struggle and emigration, with sub-categories, including some that merge two or even three of the main themes (hear for example “Skibereen” or the waltz-air “Slieve na mBan”.

PLEASE DON’T CLAP ….

A very important element of Irish traditional and folk singing is not only the performance but also the audience. The tradition is not for choral or duet etc singing with harmonies, though these exist but rather for the single voice. In this we differ from other Celtic nations such as the Welsh and Bretons but parallel the Scottish tradition as well as some other folk traditions, including some English and USA Old Timey expressions.

The tradition has been that a singer will be heard through to the end with perhaps some sounds of encouragement at various junctures (on occasion I have observed a noisy Irish pub become suddenly silent as the customers become aware that a song is being sung, remaining totally silent until the end of the song). Should there be a chorus, listeners may join in and a well-known and appreciated line may get listeners joining in too (think for example of the last line in the non-traditional form — but often sung in sean-nós style — ballad about the Great Hunger: “… revenge for Skibereen!”).

I should mention here that accompanying the beat in traditional music by clapping is certainly not “cool”, although traditional musicians performing on stage have been seen to encourage it (presumably in order to reduce the isolation feeling of the performers and to increase the enjoyment of non-perceptive listeners). In fact clapping overcomes the nuances of the performance as well as the concentration of the listener, therefore limiting the depth of the experience. “Tap feet by all means and clap at the end if you please” is the general rule.

I must note also in conclusion that Irish/ Scottish traditional music with some English folk contribution are the main influences in not only Old Timey USA music but also bluegrass and country & western, with spillover into some other forms. As such, this fount of music is responsible for the creation of the “white” or “European-origin” popular music of the USA, ie around half of the entire body. The other half is of African origin, in blues and jazz (in so far as these are not the same thing), giving rise to rock n’roll, swing etc. But both these “halves” have naturally had an influence on the other and in Ireland, traditional music is also influenced by — and contributes to — “crossover” variations of music.

I would comment also that socially and politically Irish musicians have tended to identify to one degree or another with the people and their resistance and were often persecuted for doing so. This was natural, given that they mostly came from the Irish population and that was where they found their audience. In that regard it is sad to note that some, including the Chieftains musician group and singer Imelda May, performed at a state banquet in Dublin a few years ago for the English Queen, who is head of the UK state and of the British Armed Forces, currently occupying one-sixth of our small national territory and also invading other parts of the world.

End.

USEFUL LINKS

Irish Traditional Music Archive: https://www.itma.ie/

Set-dancing: http://www.harpirishsetdancers.com/

Singing: https://www.facebook.com/AnGoilin/https://en.

Colm Ó Lochlainn: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colm_%C3%93_Lochlainn

Nadodrze – How Community Art Redefined A Forgotten Polish Neighborhood

By Geoff Cobb

(Reading time text: 1 min.)

Most tourists in Wroclaw, Poland sadly, never make it to Nadodrze, a gritty area of often run-down, gray and battered tenements far from the city’s glorious market square and the sleek, new glass buildings that have sprung up around it. Although investment poured into other areas of the city, transforming them into trendy magnets for real estate speculators, Nadodrze has been largely overlooked and had retained much of its grim East Block appearance.

            Walking into Nadodrze today, most outsiders would never guess that the walls of the area’s battered nineteenth century tenements hide an amazing collection of brightly colored paintings that transform the inner courtyards behind the walls into places of rich imagination, bold design and skilled creation, evidence of the great talent of local working-class people and the Roma community who helped create them.

(Photo credit: Geoff Cobb)
(Photo credit: Geoff Cobb)

These colorful inner-courtyards are the conception of Wroclaw artist Mariusz Mikołajek, who in 2014, along with other local artists, formed the Center for Cultural Backyard Animation (OKAP)with the goal of transforming the drab inner-courtyards into a bright space all the residents could take pride in. Creating the art was a real community endeavor and the participants included everyone in the area, seniors, children and untrained adults, who all took part in the project. They set up classes first for children and then for adults. Everyone was allowed to discover his or her own painting or sculptural abilities. The locals embraced the project, pouring large amounts of time and effort into its completion. The design of colourful courtyards in Nadodrze eventually covered many other other courtyards in the once-gloomy area.

The art decorating the inner courtyards is referred to as un-murals because the art there is often three dimensional. Ceramic figures, household items and other materials often protrude out from the walls. There is also an astonishing variety of scenes and images on the walls, adding to the wonder of seeing these fantastic creations.

(Photo credit: Geoff Cobb)

The link below is for a virtual tour of one of the courtyards.

http://ateliersztuki.

The colorful courtyards have helped the area to revitalize and the once forgotten area has now become a magnet for artists, Bohemians and students. Local residents speak with great pride about the artwork they have created. Nadodrze serves as a model for the transformative power of art to build a community.

End.

(Photo credit: Geoff Cobb)

(Photo credit: Geoff Cobb)
(Photo credit: Geoff Cobb)
(Photo credit: Geoff Cobb)

LANGUAGE IS …..

Language is a Treasure Chest V

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 8 mins.)

Language is many things and only part-things too and languageS are only part of languaGE. All humans have it to some extent and some animals also. It communicates but it is not in itself communication. That might sound weird until you realise that when you say Ouch! or Oh! you have usually communicated pain or surprise to anyone within hearing but without any intention of doing so. So language must be intentional communication and that means it can be used to communicate information we believe to be true — but also that which we do not. I think it was Umberto Eco who commented to the effect that if you can’t lie in it, it is not language.

Of course, we do other things with it apart from just communicating our sense or reality or being deliberately false – we can add overtones of emotion, playfulness, disdain, love, respect, hate and many other things besides. If we could not, poetry, acting and novels would not exist in our cultures.

NON-VERBAL

It is strange to think that language is only the minor partner in a human communication system. We are told non-verbal communication is 73-91% of our communication1 and that that words are only part of even the verbal – which contains – apart from non-verbal sounds — also articulation, volume, tone, pitch, speed, rhythm and the pauses in between words or phrases. If we understood only words themselves we would stumble through interactions with other humans as through a mist. There are people who suffer something approaching that condition, in fact.

Despite its comparatively minor role in communication, we relate language to the spoken and intentional communication by the very name we give it: language, from langue, French for “tongue” and indeed in slightly archaic English, we use the word “tongue” also, as in “speaking in tongues” or “in a foreign tongue” for example. Not just in English – for example in Castillian (“Spanish”), lengua and Irish, teanga.

But there are other words too, even in those languages, for example idioma in Castillian and béarla in Irish. Wait a minute, doesn’t béarla mean the “English language”? With a capital letter it does, as we use it now but originally it was Sacs-bhéarla, i.e Saxon language2. I would hazard a guess (but avoiding doing the research) that the word “béarla” is related to béal, i.e “mouth”3. So, still something spoken and the German has that too, with its word for language: sprache (from “speaking”).

Not all languages are spoken and there are systems of codes and also sign languages, of which there are an estimated 300 in use around the world4, divided into deaf sign languages, auxiliary sign languages and signed modes of spoken languages.5 We all use auxiliary sign language, for example in traffic signaling to turn left or right, in pointing “over there”, in indicating “come” and “go” and to insult (various in different cultures) along with “maybe” or “sort of” (hand outstretched palm down, level, then wobbled a little one side to the other). We use a surprising number of those if we stop to count them and those are only hand-signals, without taking into account soundless movements of head, lips, eyes, eyelids, eyebrows, shoulders ….

One of a number of alphabet sign languages, this one two-handed. (Image accessed: Internet)

Some work-trades or specific operations have their own signal-systems too and, for example, in sub-aqua in Europe at least, the “thumbs up” doesn’t mean what it does on land but rather the need to swim to the surface.

My brother Oisín expressed the interesting speculation that the Irish pre-Roman letters system of Ogham could have been used as a sign language also, using the position of fingers across the face. As the European invasion into parts of America pushed tribes out of their traditional areas, many met on the Great Plains and, lacking a common spoken language, developed a common sign language. Early European traders, hunters and explorers learned parts of that sign language too.

Many animals use sign communication and some of it, in animals of higher intelligence, is intentional,6 which means it is language. However we run into problems with that qualification in some cases: bees are not animals of higher intelligence and yet a worker bee acts out a “dance” to indicate to the hive where much nectar and pollen may be found, direction and distance included and clearly the communication of information is intended. However, one supposes that while the bee could not lie, those animals of higher intelligence have the ability to do so, for example pretending nothing is wrong (when it is) or that they have not just transgressed some prohibition (when they have) or that they do not intend to do so (when they do).7

A cleaner wrasse enters the mouth of a cod to remove its parasites; the cod holds its mouth open until the cleaner finishes. But the cod also comes to the ‘cleaner station’ and indicates its wish to be cleaned by remaining stationery and wobbling slightly from side to side. (Photo accessed: Internet)

There are, as we are all aware, many different spoken languages in the world but we may still be surprised by just how many: 6,500 according to one on-line source and 6,700 to another8. One state or country alone may be host to many; ask for a phrase translated to Nigerian language and you may be asked to specify which of over 500 languages you mean.9

And then there are dialects, distinct forms of the same language. People learning Irish sometimes complain that Irish has four (or five, by some calculations) main dialects: different words for the same things, distinct pronunciations of the same words ….. They rarely reflect on the different dialects in the language to which they are accustomed: for example, English may have the most dialects in the world, across English-speaking countries and even in Britain (anyone who doubts this should listen to typical examples of Newcastle, Glaswegian and South London speech). The English imposed a southern dialect as their standard but although a standard has been created in Irish too (an chaighdeán) it has official versions in the main dialects, in addition to non-standard Irish forms being recognised as valid in writing. This may make learning Irish seem more difficult to a learner but, apart from the respect this shows to different regional cultures, one might ask how well learning standard English equips one to exchange communication effectively at certain societal levels in many of the English-speaking cultures of the world.

Map of language groups in Nigeria (Photo accessed: Internet)

ONE WORLD LANGUAGE?

The Christian Old Testament (also containing a number of Hebraic texts) gives us the fable of how those who in their arrogance tried to build a tower to reach God were inflicted with so many languages that they could no longer understand one another, thereby causing the failure of the project. The fable is usually called the Tower of Babel (the words “babble” and “babbling” are supposedly not derived from it but I wonder). The fable seems a harsh judgement on the value of different languages in the world but even some atheists have expressed a wish to have only one language so that we could all instantly understand one another – and some socialists are not free of this notion and consequently disdain national cultures and languages.

As different cultures met one another across the world some types of languages in common have evolved, generally categorised as either pidgins or creoles. Both kinds are composites of two or more languages but a pidgin remains a second language while a creole becomes a mother tongue10. “Pidgins have been particularly associated with areas settled by European traders; examples have been Chinook Jargon, a lingua franca based on an American Indian language and English that was formerly used in Washington and Oregon, and Beach-la-mar, an English-based pidgin of parts of the South Seas. Some pidgins have come to be extensively used, such as Tok Pisin in Papua, New Guinea and the pidgins of the West African coast11.”

Traffic sign in Tok Pisin, one of the world’s pidgin languages (Photo accessed: Internet)

We know also of the past existence of a north-sea maritime pidgin that included words in Euskera (Basque) and Nordic and no doubt others have existed, probably at different times Phoenician or Greek or Chinese-based. Certainly there was a Norse-English-Irish one in existence which became a creole. Perhaps for a short while there was an Irish-Norman one too, before most of the settled Norman conquerors became Irish-speaking12. The Jewish community languages of Yiddish and Ladino probably started off as pidgins but became creoles, based in the first case on German and the second on archaic Spanish.13

Kouri-vini is a French-based creole spoken by less than 10,000 people mostly in the USA state of Louisiana.14 Patois, Patwah or Patwa is a Jamaican Creole spoken in Jamaica and among parts of its diaspora15. “Notable among creoles is Haitan Creole, which grew primarily from the interactions between French colonists and enslaved Africans on Haiti’s plantations.”16 The Irish Traveller language, Shelta, Cant or De Gammon is also a creole, containing words from Irish, Latin and Romany as well as English.

ONE WORLD LANGUAGE?

To have a world language in addition to others would be no bad thing of course and there have been some attempts at that but never one that succeeded in encompassing the whole world; English has probably come closest, so far. That language had the earlier backing of the largest colonial empire the world has ever seen, the British but now primarily has the backing of the world’s strongest super-power, the United States of America17. In the past, English competed for world cultural dominance with French and both were agreed as official languages for shipping and air transport based sorely on the colonial power of both states rather than the number of speakers, in which case Chinese and Spanish would have been chosen. In earlier times, German was spoken over most of central Europe from Poland to Germany and in the Tyrol. Still further back in the past, Latin, because of the power of Rome and Greek, partly through its earlier colonisation but also through its science and culture, were widely spoken across large parts of the world. Still, even in the Roman Empire, many spoke only a few words of Latin, even in Rome itself at the height of its dominance, where Greek and Hebrew might be more common.

States where English is the official language (Image accessed: Internet)

Before its conquest by Roman legions and the destruction of its culture, a Celtic language or group of languages known as “Gaulish” was spoken from what is today the Italian side of the Alps to what is now northern France and possibly variants of it also in Iberia. Today, Gaulish is gone and of the Celtic languages, only Irish, Scots Gaelic, Manx (the Q-Celtic group) and Welsh, Breton and Cornish (the P-Celtic group) remain. Latin is no longer a spoken language.

Esperanto was conceived of as a world language, though largely euro-centric in origin and for a time was popular as a project with many socialists18. It is still in use but estimates give us a figure of only 100,000 speakers at present19. However that number may grow, through the Internet for example and as a project to internationalise ease of communication while at the same time resisting the current linguistic dominance of the US empire.

Even within one state, the need for a common language may struggle with the claims of different languages or even varieties of the same language. For example many different languages and varieties of language were spoken across what is now Italy and the unification of all that variety into a one-State Italy was assisted by the imposition of standard Italian20.

Huge states with many languages on the African and South Asian continents have adopted the languages of their colonisers as languages of state, which is why so many people from those parts of the world can speak English in addition to their native tongues (or French, especially in parts of Africa).

The adoption of a common language for use across different cultures and languages has its advantages but also its dangers, in particular for those languages that find themselves at a power disadvantage. Those languages may suffer a lowering of respect among speakers of the dominant language and, in time, even among their own native speakers. They can struggle with reduced resources in education, publishing or physical resources in their heartlands. They can even be forbidden and their speakers punished.

REPRESSION OF LANGUAGES

In fairly recent times child-speakers of Welsh and Irish were punished in school for speaking their maternal tongues, one example being the count of physical blows to be inflicted by a teacher for the number of words spoken in the forbidden language. That was an expression of the cultural domination of British colonialism through the English language21 in the respective conquered nations and it has a history dating back at least to the 14th Century in Ireland when a number of attempts were made to prevent its settlers from speaking Irish.22

Euskera (Basque), Asturian, Gallician and Catalan were all banned or restricted at different times in the Spanish kingdom and most definitely banned under three decades of the Franco dictatorship. Breton, Catalan, Corsican and Euskera are not forbidden in France but they do suffer from under-resourcing in education and infrastructure.

Irish suffers similarly in the British colony of the Six Counties and also in the Irish state despite being officially the latter’s first language.

Kurdish was forbidden in any official domain in Turkey and its speakers still suffer discrimination. Esperanto was banned by the Nazis and the Franco regime and though never officially banned in the Soviet Union, Esperantists did suffer severe persecution there for a period under Stalin23. Native Peoples’ languages were banned in the state (and many Christian) schools in the USA and in Canada.

As a result of past repression, cultural domination, starving of resources and other factors, 40% of languages in the world are in danger of extinction24, according to UNESCO, a great number of those being of colonised peoples.

LANGUAGE IS MUCH MORE THAN COMMUNICATION

Earlier on, we noted that as well as variations of tongue and speaking, there is another word for language which we find in Castillian (Spanish) as idioma. There is a reflection of that word in English too, in idiom25, which a dictionary explains as

  1. a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words (e.g. “over the moon”, “see the light”).
  2. a characteristic mode of expression in music or art. (e.g. “they were both working in a neo-impressionist idiom”)

Digging deeper into the origins of the word, through etymology, we find: late 16th century: from French idiome, or via late Latin from Greek idiōma ‘private property, peculiar phraseology’, from idiousthai ‘make one’s own’, from idios ‘own, private’.

Clearly it cannot be private, by very definition of language, but language is ‘owned’, it does ‘belong’. It belongs to the culture from which it comes. It can be shared, of course but some at least of it always remains an expression of the culture that gave birth to it, that moulded it over centuries. And even of its adoption of other words, expressions or concepts in the course of its development.

The language of a culture expresses its way of seeing, its understanding of aspects of the world around it and how it sees itself. That also finds its expression in song, poetry, instrumental music, yes and even visual art.

When a language is lost, so is all that. And so too is the future of that language and its mother culture. It may be replaced of course. And the dead language may carry much of its furniture, baggage and knick-knacks into its replacement home26. But not all – much is lost and lost forever. Especially that language’s future – where it might have gone, could have become.

Bilingualism is good and multilingualism better but the better bilingual or multilinguist is aware, as is a good translator, of the many different ways of speaking and seeing and also the less than satisfactory experience of translating some expressions from one language into another. In the latter case, we search for approximations.

According to UNESCO, 40% of languages in the world are in danger of extinction27. According to the same organisation, Irish is one of 12 languages in the EU area that are in danger28. The loss of such a language would be a pity anywhere but perhaps particularly damaging for a small nation struggling to develop to serve the people it encompasses. Irish predates English by centuries and has a wide body of literature and artistic expression form and was the earliest expression in Europe of literature in the vernacular, i.e in the language of the common people. The harp is our oldest recorded musical instrument and also our national state symbol …. but its playing was often accompanied by spoken, chanted or sung words. In Irish. Most our place-names even in their English forms retain their Irish origin, including 29 of our 32 Counties.

Languages of Europe and their respective groups (note that Basque is an “isolate”, i.e not recognised as belonging to any other group; note also the current position of two languages of formerly great European reach: Greek is much reduced and Latin non-existent). Kurdish, of the Iranian family, does not appear appear because its area is out of view on the Turkish part of the map. (Image accessed: Internet)

A world containing one, two or three languages only may seem useful but it would kill so much history, so much variety in the world around us. Ultimately perhaps, even with globalisation and internet, speciation of language might take place, as areas developed dialects that might possibly develop into new languages. We don’t know that would happen, however and it makes sense to hang on the variety in the world at the moment. To spend some time, effort and yes, even physical resources to protect languages that are in danger. To speak more than one language ourselves and to protect our own if it is threatened. The strategies to carry out that protection are subjects for another day’s discussion. But first we have to understand the value of doing so or at the very least, some idea of what its loss will cost us.

We might begin by learning some Irish and speaking what we know of it – in Ireland, most everywhere. Beatha teanga í a labhairt29.

End.

FOOTNOTES

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/irish-languagedefinitely-endangered-as-linguists-predict-it-will-vanish-in-the-next-century-40427361.html

1https://www.lifesize.com/en/blog/speaking-without-words/

2In all the surviving Celtic languages, the English are still referred to as “Saxons” (e.g in Irish Sacsannach/ aigh, which became Sasanach/ aigh), which testifies to an enduring memory (and not a good one) of the people who overran the Celts in much of Britain many centuries ago.

3and that word can be found in many place-names around Ireland, usually denoting a river-mouth and corrupted in English to “bel”, as in Belmullet in Mayo and Belfast.

4https://www.signsolutions.uk.com/what-are-the-different-types-of-sign-language/

5https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sign_languages

6Most of it, however (like our own), is unintentional: the startled cry and flight, the erection of ears to hear better or to focus, the turning of the head to look in the direction of movement, sound or scent, etc. All of those actions communicate information to neighbouring animals (even of different species) but they are not intentional.

7Most will have seen this behaviour perhaps in dogs, cats or pigs.

8https://blog.busuu.com/most-spoken-languages-in-the-world/ and https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/Indigenouslanguages.aspx

9https://translatorswithoutborders.org/language-data-nigeria#:~:text=Nigeria

10https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195384253.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780195384253-e-26

11https://www.britannica.com/topic/language/Pidgins-and-creoles

12The Yola of Wexford was more an ancient English sprinkled with Irish words.

13Of course, Hebrew is a Jewish language and many of its words are to be found in both Ladino and Yiddish but for centuries there were many more speakers of those creoles than there were of Hebrew.

14https://www.britannica.com/topic/language/Pidgins-and-creoles

15I heard it often enough in my decades in London.

16https://www.britannica.com/topic/language/Pidgins-and-creoles (and perhaps its survival is partly due to the fact that 1) the African slaves were from different language groups and 2) that Haiti was the first slave colony to achieve liberation in a successful uprising (1791-1804))

17Yet even there Hispanic has made great penetration from some US states, from Latin America and from the Caribbean.

18I use the word here to include reformist social democrats and revolutionary communists and anarchists.

19https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esperanto

20All of current Italy was not united into one state until 1861 https://history.state.gov/countries/issues/italian-unification

21The irony here is that English is historically a fairly new language, a fusion of in the main of Anglo-Saxon with French, in which the latter is the origin of around 60% of its words.

22The Statutes of Kilkenny in 1366 castigated the Anglo-Normans who had conquered parts of Ireland and settled in them as “the degenerate English” who had “become more Irish than the Irish themselves” through their adoption of Irish customs and culture. The Statutes forbade the now Irish-Normans from adopting those cultures and from speaking Irish (without success except in the heart of the colonial administration in Dublin).

23https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esperanto

24https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/Indigenouslanguages.aspx

25In fact, reading a discussion on this word alone can teach us so much about language, expressions we use without thinking and how language works.

26Generations that have not spoken Irish still retain not only some words from the language but even forms of construction and of pronunciation. Take for example the reply to “Will you go?” as “I will” or “I won’t”, because in Irish there are no words for “yes” or “no”. Or to say “I have a thirst on me” instead of “I am thirsty” (very close in fact to the “I have thirst” in Romance languages – e.g tengo sed or j’ai soif). Hear also the pronunciation of a hidden vowel between L and M (or R and N) in pronouncing the Irish name Colm and words like “film” (fil-um).

27https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/Indigenouslanguages.aspx

28https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/irish-languagedefinitely-endangered-as-linguists-predict-it-will-vanish-in-the-next-century-40427361.html

29“The life of a language is to speak her” (“One keeps a language alive by speaking it” would be an approximate but single-layered translation).

SOURCE & FURTHER READING

Sign languages: https://www.signsolutions.uk.com/what-are-the-different-types-of-sign-language/

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

Place names in Ireland: https://www.libraryireland.com/IrishPlaceNames/Bel-Root-Word.php

https://blog.busuu.com/most-spoken-languages-in-the-world/

Pidgins and Creoles: https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195384253.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780195384253-e-26

https://www.britannica.com/topic/language/Pidgins-and-creoles

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

Endangered languages: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/Indigenouslanguages.aspx

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