A crowd gathered in Dublin today to commemorate the Free State opening fire on the Four Courts on 28th August 1922, an event that began what is usually called “the Civil War” which lasted until 1923 (with State assassinations until 1924). The UK supplied the cannons and shells used by the Free State’s “National Army” along with munitions, including small arms and ammunition, armoured cars, army lorries and even coastal naval vessels. The conflict has also been called a “counterrevolution” and “the UK’s proxy war” with more Republicans executed by the new Irish State1 in that conflict than had been by the British State over the whole 1916-1921 period.
One hundred years ago this month, the IRA under the command of Rory O’Connor occupied and fortified the Four Courts complex, last occupied as a fighting post during the 1916 Rising. The Anglo-Irish Treaty partitioning the country and giving the Free State the status of a Dominion country had been narrowly accepted by the delegates to the First Dáil, the Irish Parliament previously banned by the UK State. However by far the majority of the military part of the Irish resistance – the IRA, Cumann na mBan and na Fianna, along with the remnants of the Irish Citizen Army – were opposed to the Treaty. The occupation of the Four Courts was seen by the Free State government as a challenge to its authority and by the British Government as a threat of anti-colonial struggle being renewed. Both parties were hostile to any radical republican, socialist or socialist-republican program.
On 28th June the Free State opened fire from British cannon on the Four Courts from Bridge Street on the south side of the river and the Civil War – or Counterrevolution – had begun. By the time the Republicans conceded defeat (and some assassinations continued even after it officially ended) perhaps around 1,300 had been killed. From January 1922 to April 1924, according to the Republican Roll of Honour, 426 anti-Treaty Volunteers had been killed, some 25 of these died fighting British and Northern Irish forces. Most anti-Treaty dead were IRA Volunteers, but some were Na Fianna members and four were women of Cumann na mBan2.
On the Free State side just under 800 died, of whom 488 fell in enemy action, others due to accidents or illness, while seven were executed having deserted to the Republican side. “To this total should be added a small number of police, including four from the Civic Guard (later renamed Garda Síochána), four from the Criminal Investigation Department and two from the Citizens’ Defence Force, who were killed from 1922-19243.”
Dorney remarks on omissions in the Last Post record and concludes: “Even allowing for this, though, the total of anti-Treaty IRA dead in the Civil War is not likely to be much more than about 500, of whom 81 died before Free State firing squads and more than 100 were summarily executed in reprisals.”
Many Irish Republicans also emigrated to avoid repression or because they were being denied employment.
The Irish State today is a direct descendant, legally and in other ways, of the Free State of 1922 and all periods since.
The commemorative event in Dublin today was organised by the National Graves Association (Cumann Uaigheanna na Laochra Gael), an organisation which since its founding in 1926 has been maintaining the graves of Irish patriots, arranging for the installation of gravestones, plaques and monuments and also organising commemorative events.
Before marching to the Four Courts, participants formed up in groups in the road outside Croppies’ Acre, a public park over a mass grave of victims of the English state’s repression of the United Irishmen and their supporters in 1798, now across the road from the Collins Barracks National Museum. They were led by a lone piper and colour party, followed by people in double ranks flying Starry Plough flags and carrying banners of history and conservation groups, along with some other flags, including that of Cumann na mBan.
At the rally outside the Liffeyside of the Four Courts, the organisers had an MC with number of speakers to read out the 1922 Proclamation, the lyrics of The Soldiers of Twenty-Two4 and Tim Horgan to give a keynote oration. At least one floral wreath was laid in honour of those who fought there and a number of posters attached to lampposts commemorated the three Volunteers who were fatally wounded there: Thomas Wall, Joe Considine and Sean Cusack.
It is almost certainly the case that it is the NGA which has erected the majority of patriotic struggle commemorative plaques around the country, with most of the remainder being organised by local authorities, local history groups and old comrades’ associations – a very small proportion being the work of the State. As stated on its website, the objectives of the Association have always been: to restore, where necessary, and maintain fittingly the graves and memorials of our patriot dead from every generation; to commemorate those who died in the cause of Irish freedom; to compile a record of such graves and memorials.
The NGA’s general alignment is unequivocal: “Only a 32 County Irish Republic represents the true aspiration of those who gave their lives for Irish freedom.5“
One might assume that every participant at the event today was of a definite political bent, yet not a single party or political organisation banner was to be seen on the march or at the rally. This is because participants were asked in advance not to bring any banners or placards of political organisational allegiance. As the Chairperson of the rally informed the audience, the NGA is not affiliated to any political party or organisation and furthermore does not accept contributions from any such nor from the State – in order to continue to guarantee the NGA’s independence. In fact, members of its governing body are not even permitted to belong to a political party. A senior Garda officer however, of least at Inspector rank, took down details in his notebook as the rally was addressed by speakers.
Patriots of the United Irishmen, the Young Irelanders, the Fenians, the Land League, na Fianna Éireann, Irish Volunteers, Cumann na mBan, IRA, Official and Provisional IRA, the Irish National Liberation Army etc have all been commemorated by the NGA. According to Wikipedia, since its founding, the NGA has erected, or accepted into its care, over 500 monuments and memorials throughout Ireland.
A number of other Civil War/ Counterrevolution commemorative and discussion events will be taking place at least during this year, two of which will take place next week (see photos of leaflet).
The Gardaí remained at the scene as people dispersed. Passing by again shortly afterwards, we found the floral wreath had been removed.
1Official executions are usually listed as 81 or 83, these having been subjected to some kind of military judicial process (but without any jury). However, apart from IRA fighters killed in battle, a number of captured combatants were murdered (such as those of the Ballyseedy Massacre on March 7th 1923) while known activists were assassinated by Garda-Army squads operating from Oriel House. Often, the murdered had been tortured first.
This year’s celebration of the Patum 2022 festival in Berga has sung and chanted for independence. With the square full of about 6,000 people on Thursday, the massive Catalan independence flag, the Estelada (with the white star in a blue triangle)1 was launched across the crowd as they sang the Catalan national anthem, Els Segadors2 (the Reapers).
With the song finished, some began to shout “independencia” (independence) and this was quickly taken up by the mass, revisiting the tradition of protest that existed before the pandemic. The Catalan independence movement has been somewhat becalmed of late, with serious divisions between the two main nationalist political parties and a lack of grass-roots activity.
The Patum festival is a traditional Catalan festival of great importance and is recognised by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. “The fiesta coincides with Corpus Christi and includes a whole series of theatrical representations, characters and figures that fill the town of Berga every spring. It is a religious commemoration that dates back to the Middle Ages, which has managed to preserve both its religious and profane roots.
“La Patum de Berga has been held annually for centuries during Corpus Christi, and includes street entertainment and shows with different figures typical of these fiestas (giants, “big-heads”, eagles, guitas (dragons), plens (devils)). Fire and dance play a central role. The fiesta really gets underway on the Thursday of Corpus Christi, with the Ceremonial Patum. The salto de plens is the apotheosis of the fiesta. It represents an infernal orgy where fire devils jump to the rhythm of music. The following day is the Children’s Patum.”3
Berga is in the Barcelona region but over 107km from the city (and about half-way to Andorra). The Patum Festival of this year 2022, which began Wednesday, June 15 and will last until Sunday, June 19, was expected to be even more crowded than usual after two years in a row without being able to celebrate it due to the pandemic.
1The other Catalan nationalist flag commonly seen is the Vermelha, with a red star and no blue. The white X on a black background is also flown but more rarely, it draws on history also and signifies ‘death before surrender’.
2An anarchist, Emili Guanyavents won the competition to compose the national anthem lyrics in 1899 and based it upon a traditional historical cultural expression arising out of an uprising of Catalan rural workers in 1640 against the chief minister of Philip IV of Spain. The lyrics are, as might be expected, very militant and, since even the Catalan lanugage was banned, the song was of course banned during the four decades of the Spanish Franco dictatorship
Many public figures have been condemning the content of a video live-streamed from an Orange Order Hall in which people were singing lyrics mocking the murder of an Irishwoman on her honeymoon in Mauritius.
There is nothing new I can add to the condemnations of this disgusting exhibition. But what a great many of the condemnations lack is context; i.e they treat this exhibition as though it were some aberration from the norm of Loyalism – it was not, it was exactly in line with and an expression of the backwardness, sectarianism, right-wing racism, homophobia and general phobia that is the very essence of Loyalism.
BACKGROUND OF LOYALISM AND THE ORANGE ORDER IN IRELAND
The planters and settlers that English1 colonialism installed on Irish soil were intended to control the indigenous population along with those “gone native” descendants of the Norman conquerors. A number of attempts were made to correct those Normans who had been ‘corrupted’ by the Irish and had become “more Irish than the Irish themselves” and one of the most infamous attempts through law, the Statutes of Killkenny in 13662 laid out a long list of behaviours expected of the “degenerate English”, mostly in terms of things they were to cease doing: in sum they were to cease integrating with the indigenous people in custom, language and law.
Outside of the Pale3, the cities, such attempts failed in the main and the next big effort was the Plantations. Using the failure of the Norman Irish and Gaelic lords to adapt to the Reformation, now an English state religion, their lands were confiscated and parcelled out to big landlords who then rented them out to smaller landlords and small-holders – and none of those were to be Irish. In fact, they were required to be English-speaking, Protestant in religion and to build their towns and important buildings as strongholds4. And not to even employ native Irish, in case these should corrupt the settlements from within.
The intentions of the Plantations were made quite clear and the settlers were, from the outset to be a means for a tiny minority of feudal and financier elites to control and exploit the vast majority indigenous population through the use of a middle stratum which was to be separate from and considered superior to natives in religion, culture, custom, landholding, legal rights – and allegiance.
These plantations met with mixed success – one of the problems being the scarcity of labour against a prohibition to employ the natives – but the problem of a conquered but not reconciled native majority remained, even after its cultural, legal, political and military leadership had been eliminated. And then a section of the settlers themselves, many descendants of Cromwellian conquerors and their supporters, began to have aspirations to control their own markets. They attempted to expand the Irish Parliament – then open only to adherents of the State religion, the Anglican communion — to include representation from the larger group of dissenting Protestant sects5 and of the huge majority of Irish Catholics.
The attempt, under the leadership of the moderate and ultimately Crown-loyal Henry Grattan failed, through a mixture of sectarianism, fear of being eventually dispossessed of their stolen lands – and outright Crown bribery. The most determined of the Protestant patriots then turned to revolution and led the United Irishmen in the uprisings of 1798 and 1803, with a credo of unity for an independent and republican Ireland, regardless of religion6.
CREATION OF THE ORANGE ORDER
But the British ruling elite saw which way the wind was blowing, foreboding its overthrow in Ireland if its garrison population joined with the majority and, as well as making military and spying preparations, the British took important ideological and social action.
Created in 1795 as what might be seen today as a kind of independent Ku Klux Klan organisation to keep down the ‘uppitty native niggers’7, the Orange Order quickly became (as the Klan did in some areas too) a police force on its own dissidents. And, as the Klan enjoyed the tacit support of the patrician Southern US elite, the Orange Order has been supported by the settler elite in Ireland from its inception. This was formalised with the Order’s central control over all previously independent lodges in 1798, the year of the first United Irish uprising.
After the defeat of the United Irish uprisings, the Order became an active persecutor of any sign of resistance not only among the native Irish majority, the Catholics but also – and in some areas chiefly – a hunting down of any signs of Protestant allegiance to the United Irish or other ‘suspect’ behavour such as tolerance of Catholics. Those Protestant followers of “Unitedism” that did not emigrate to the USA and Canada had to keep their heads down or face the consequences, as did Roddy McCorley, hanged on Toombridge in Co. Antrim on 28th February 1800.
REACTIONARY IN INSPIRATION AND TRADITION
The Orange Order drew its colour and other visual paraphernalia in association with William of Orange (1650 – 1702), who was crowned King William III by the British Parliament, the forces of which, along with his own Dutch ones, he led in the British civil war against those of King James II of England and the latter’s Irish and French allies. Orange was the colour of the Dutch royal family of Orange-Nasseau and therefore of the royalist party in Holland, in opposition to the republican party there8.
Following his defeat of the Jacobite forces in Ireland William III brought in the Penal Laws, the body of Anglican supremacy and anti-Catholic legislation which were to survive in greater or lesser form from 1695 to 1829.
Loyalists celebrate annually with sectarian triumphalist parades in the Six Counties the victory of the Williamite forces at the Battle of the Boyne on July 12th 16909. Loyalists imagine the Boyne victory was of the Protestant religion over Catholic “Papism”, unaware that the victory was celebrated by special mass in the Vatican and in some other Catholic cities. The Jacobite war in Ireland was part of the Nine Years’ War in Europe and forces of Protestant principalities and kingdoms could be found on either side, as could those of Catholic persuasion.
Their unequivocal message to their non-unionist neighbours is “This is our place, not yours. If you want to live here, accept what we give you and keep your heads down.” This fostered sectarianism has penetrated even trade unions, ensuring that wages and social conditions in the Six Counties have been the worst in the whole of the UK.
WHY THE LOYALIST MOCKERY OF THIS MURDER?
The video which directed such recent public attention on the behaviour of some Loyalists was of a song sung communally in which the lyrics mocked the murder of Michaela McAreavey who apparently surprised a thief in her Mauritius hotel room on 11th May. Probably not a single person celebrating that murder knew the woman or had any reason to hate her for anything she had done. What they knew was that she was the daughter of Micky Harte and that he was the manager of the Tyrone County Gaelic Football team10. Gaelic football11 is an Irish traditional sport and, since Loyalists eschew anything knowingly Gaelic, Harte is also probably of Catholic background; therefore almost certainly would have been his daughter Michaela too. Incredible though it may seem to many, that was enough to inspire that outpouring of hatred – a hatred that is always and has always been there in Loyalism.
It seems clear that the song, the lyrics with which much of the audience in the video seem familiar, was sung in the Orange Hall in Dundonald12, Co. Down which, like Tyrone, is one of the Six Counties currently forming the British colony in Ireland.
According to media reports, “a spokesman for the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland criticised the video and also confirmed that an investigation would now take place.“The video currently circulating on social media relating to the murder of Michaela McAreavey is utterly abhorrent and the Orange Institution condemns the content without reservation,” a statement read.“The behaviour of those involved and their actions have no place in our society and certainly do not reflect the ethos of our organisation.”
On the contrary, as people who live in or near areas where the Orange Order holds sway will know, the behaviour exactly “reflects the ethos of the organisation” and of the general ideology of Loyalism.
The central ideology of the Orange Order has always been not only a phobic hatred of Catholics but also of anything that might smell of egalitarianism, equality or progressive social ideas. It and its adherents for generations have held triumphalist sectarian marches deliberately routed to march through predominantly Catholic residential areas and past Catholic churches, these marches escorted by the sectarian colonial gendarmerie13, often forced through against local opposition.
For decades, the Orange Order and Loyalism in general opposed equal treatment and civil rights for Catholics in terms of employment, housing, franchise, education and law. That breeding ground gave rise to the Loyalist terror murder squads, operating for decades in conjunction with colonial police and British Army14.
True to its reactionary origins, the Orange Order and Loyalism in general have a strong emotional attachment to British Royalty and to an ethos of British Empire and colonialism. But Loyalism has also opposed all progressive social innovations and legislation, even those emanating from its supposedly ideological homeland, the rest of the UK and, in many cases delayed its implementation in the colony for years15.
Loyalism has been a sectarian influence in the game of soccer not only in Ireland but in Britain, with a triple alliance of sectarianism and racism between fans of football clubs Linfield, Rangers and Chelsea.16 The racism and reactionary ideology of “Hillbillies17” in the USA are also attributed to origins in Irish Loyalism.
Loyalism has also been characterised by racist attitudes and attacks on ethnic minorities in parts of the Six Counties independently of religion. Loyalism lines up to oppose anything they feel that is supported by the hated “taigues” or “Fenians” (their codewords for Catholics), for e.g Palestinians, Basque nationalists, inquiries into killings by the British Army ….
Despite the scrambling of Unionism – the Orange Order, politicians, Linfield FC management — to disassociate itself from the disgusting exhibition of anti-Irish and anti-Catholic hatred expressed in their ‘humorous’ mocking of the murder of a young woman, the song and video were a completely cogent expression of Loyalism, the social prop of Unionism. They were a true reflection of the history and underlying ethos of the Orange Order and of the sectarian statelet created by the British ruling class as a garrison and permanent foothold in Ireland.
1Later one can talk of British colonialism and imperialism but in the beginning it was the English feudal and financier classes that set out to conquer their neighbours in Britain and across the sea in Ireland. The Crown was always primarily the English Crown, even when it became also formally that of Scotland and, later, of Ireland.
2i.e not even two centuries after the Norman invasion in 1169.
3The area of administration of the occupation, originally a fortified area with Dublin Castle at its centre.
4One can still see the pattern of settler towns with the buildings constructed around a square or “diamond” becoming easily converted into the walls of a fort, the main roads leading in and out fairly easily barricaded even with carts and waggons. Native Irish towns had no such construction, often running along a street or gathered around a crossroads, river bank, port etc.
5In particular the Presbyterians but also Methodists, Unitarians, “Quakers” (Society of Friends) and others.
6The unity of “Protestant (i.e Anglican), Catholic and Dissenter”.
7“Uppitty niggers” was a racist white term in the USA to describe Americans of African descent who were unwilling to be treated as second-class citizens or even worse. For such people to become thought of as “uppitty” frequently meant a range of punishments that included beating, jail and lynching. The Ku Klux Klan is a white Protestant supremacist and extremely right-wing organisation in the USA, formed after the defeat of the Confederacy and understood as having three distinct phases, the last one being also current. Despite a history of using extreme violence, it is not banned in the USA.
10 Mickey Harte (born 1952) is a Gaelic football manager from County Tyrone, Ireland who currently manages the Louth county team, having managed the Tyrone county team from 2002 and, at his resignation in 2020, was the longest-serving manager then active with the same team in inter-county competition.
11Gaelic football is one of four traditional sports regulated by the Gaelic Athletic Association/ Cumann Lúthchleas na hÉireann, with 2,200 clubs spread over all of Ireland and, with high community involvement is the largest amateur sporting association in the world
13Armed police force, formerly the Royal Irish Constabulary, later the Royal Ulster Constabulary, currently “Police Force of Northern Ireland.”
14See for example Lethal Allies – British collusion in Ireland (2013) by Anne Cadwaller. Loyalists killed the most people in one day during the 30 years’ war with the Dublin & Monaghan Bombings, 17 May 1974. Despite their self-promotion as fighters against the IRA, nearly all of their victims have been unarmed civilians, often randomly-chosen in Catholic residential areas.
15For example, the 1967 Sexual Offences Act only applied to England and Wales – it was resisted in Scotland and the Six Counties colony. Decriminalisation reached Scotland in 1980 and, after a complaint to the European Court of Justice and a judgement against the statelet in 1981, homosexuality in private was finally decriminalised in the Six Counties the following year – 15 years after its original decriminalisation in England. Similarly with lesbian and gay rights to civil marriage, introduced in England and Wales in 2013; in Scotland in 2014 but couples in the Six Counties had to wait until 2020, seven years after its introduction in England.
16Linfield FC is based in south Belfast in the British colony, Rangers FC in Glasgow and Chelsea FC in SW London. But there are also sectarian divisions among fans such as those of Rangers/ Celtic to be found also in Edinburgh between and Hibernian and Hearts (Midlothian) clubs and even between Everton and Liverpool as well as Manchester City and Manchester United.
17As in “Billies”, i.e followers of King Billy (William of Orange) who are living in the hills.
In an article by Virginia Harrison on May 16th, in a context of praising the resistance of Ukrainian forces in Mariupol and in which she stated that the Azov Regiment had in the past (italics mine) had “nationalist far-right affiliations” (as distinct from fascist), she went on to state the following: “The regiment …………….. was a militia formed to fight the Russians after the invasion of Ukraine in 2014 but has become a unit of the Ukrainian national guard.”
Apart from failing to inform readers when and how the Azov allegedly dropped their “far-right affiliations”, the Guardian journalist is claiming the unit was formed to resist a Russian “invasion of Ukraine in 2014”!
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED
Russia invaded Ukraine early this year, 2022. The armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine began in 2014, i.e eight years before the Russian invasion. Prior to the time of the Russian invasion in early 2022, over 14,000 people had already been killed in the conflict.
It was not Russia that began that conflict but the Ukrainian far-Right and fascist forces supported by a section of the Ukrainian oligarchy after it had overthrown another section in the “Maidan Revolution” (sic) in February 2014. Those forces began to impose a fascist and racist agenda, attacking LGBT people, left trade unionists, Roma, Greek Russian minorities and Russian-speakers in general. The new Ukrainian Government also removed any official status or support for Russian – even as a regional language — although the language is spoken by 29.5% of the population, or approximately one for every two speakers of Ukrainian1.
In response to the official and unofficial attacks of the Ukrainian Right, the residents of the Crimea held a referendum on 16th February 2014 in which 90% voted for secession and for incorporation into Russia, which in turn formally annexed the Crimea two days later on the 18th.
At the same time, Russian-speakers began to organise themselves for defence in the Donetsk and Luhansk areas, heavily industrialised regions also known collectively as the Donbas. For eight years before the Russian invasion, Ukrainian government forces including in particular the fascist Azov Battalion, now incorporated into the Ukranian National Guard attacked the Russian-speakers who, in the course of this declared their intention to secede from the Ukraine and asked for support from Russia. A number of fierce battles in 2014-2015 ended with one third of the regions’ territory, its most urbanised part, occupied by two statelets calling themselves the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics.
During this period Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany signed several versions of the Minsk agreements, which eventually stopped troop advances and reduced fighting significantly. But the Ukraine government never implemented the agreements and the governments of France and Germany failed to push for implementation from the new NATO-supported Ukrainian government.
The fighting became a trench war, with roughly 75,000 troops facing each other off along a 420-km-long front line cutting through densely populated areas. The territory became one of the world’s most landmine-contaminated areas, its heavy industry and economy ruined, destroyed many houses and public buildings and infrastructure and caused the relocation of millions. All of which occurred before any Russian invasion.
WHAT THE GUARDIAN PRETENDS
The newspaper, while asking us to “Support the Guardian”, stated:
“The truth, they say, is the first casualty of war. With correspondents on the ground in Ukraine covering the war, as well as throughout the world, the Guardian is well placed to provide the honest, factual reporting that readers will need to understand this perilous moment for Europe, the former Soviet Union and the entire world. Free from commercial or political influence, we can report fearlessly on global events and challenge those in power.
“We believe everyone deserves equal access to accurate news. Support from our readers enables us to keep our journalism open and free for everyone, including in Russia and Ukraine.
“Support the Guardian from as little as €1 – it only takes a minute. Thank you.”
In its mission statement, The Guardian continues:
“Of course, in a serious age, the appetite for thoughtful, clever features beyond the news is possibly greater than ever. Our readers want to be nourished – by meaningful journalism about technology, economics, science, the arts – not fattened up with junk. They want useful, enjoyable reporting on how we live now, spotting trends, catching the mood, understanding what people are talking about – life-affirming, inspiring, challenging. We can be fun, and we must be funny, but it must always have a point, laughing with our audience, never at them. Their attention is not a commodity to be exploited and sold. ……………………
“We will give people the facts, because they want and need information they can trust, and we will stick to the facts. We will find things out, reveal new information and challenge the powerful. This is the foundation of what we do. As trust in the media declines in a combustible political moment, people around the world come to the Guardian in greater numbers than ever before, because they know us to be rigorous and fair. If we once emphasised the revolutionary idea that “comment is free”, today our priority is to ensure that “facts are sacred”. Our ownership structure means we are entirely independent and free from political and commercial influence. Only our values will determine the stories we choose to cover – relentlessly and courageously.”2
Great words, Katherine Viner, Editor-in-Chief – a pity that despite some good journalists on the staff and as correspondents, the Guardian regularly falls short of its own proclaimed ideals. Falsifying history, biased war reporting and obscuring fascist affiliations hardly matches your high moral tone.
12001 Census, quoted in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_Ukraine Also from the same source: “An August 2011 poll by Razumkov Centre showed that 53.3% of the respondents use the Ukrainian language in everyday life, while 44.5% use Russian. In a May 2012 poll by RATING, 50% of respondents considered Ukrainian their native language, 29% Russian, 20% consider both Ukrainian and Russian their mother tongue and 1% considered a different language their native language.”
2Katherine Viner, November 2017: “In a turbulent era, the media must define its values and principles” etc.
Written by Paul Antonopoulos, independent geopolitical analyst
(Reading time: 3 mins.)
Rebel Breeze preface: An interesting article (reprinted from South Front with thanks) about an ethnic minority rarely mentioned in the propaganda war from each of the antagonists and their supporters. Although some alternative media sources alluded to their being persecuted following the abrupt change of Ukrainian government in 2014 and the 8 years that followed in the Donbas region preceding the Russian invasion, the ethnic Greeks dropped out of site despite their large concentration particularly around Mariupol. This article reminds us of them and also of their history as a community in the Ukraine.
The surrender of the Azovstal Plant in Mariupol on May 20 was a major victory for Russian forces as they not only gained control of a major port city, but symbolically drove away the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion from their base. Although consumers of Western mainstream media were bombarded with allegations of war crimes perpetrated by Russian soldiers, such as the Mariupol Drama Theatre (in which local residents warned of a Ukrainian false flag operation days earlier), they had completely ignored the crimes and persecutions faced by non-Ukrainian speakers, including ethnic Greeks.
Mariupol and its surrounding villages are home to 100,000-120,000 ethnic Greeks, who are native Russian-speakers. Only a small number are currently proficient in either Crimean-Mariupolitan Greek or Modern Standard Greek. Mariupol is a city founded in 1778 by Crimean Greeks on the invitation of Catherine the Great to resettle lands that had been conquered from the Ottoman Turks and to escape persecution in the then Muslim-dominated Crimea. A second wave of Greek migrants arrived in the Azov region from Pontos to escape the Ottoman Turkish perpetrated genocide in 1913-1923.
Yet, despite Greeks having first colonized Crimea in the 7th century BC, more than a millennium and a half before the Slavs arrived in the mid-10th century after the peninsula was conquered by Prince Sviatoslav I of Kiev, Ukrainian authorities refuses to recognize the Greeks as an indigenous group to Ukraine. Although the reality is that Crimea is now a part of Russia, Kiev continues to recognize it as occupied territory, and in turn the designation of Greeks as non-indigenous means that they could not access the same resources as other ethnic groups which have been labelled indigenous. This makes preserving language, culture and identity all the more difficult.
The fact that Mariupol Greeks are native Russian speakers and their villages voted in their majority to join the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic in 2014, saw them persecuted by the Ukrainian state and their Azov Battalion enforcers. It is recalled that on February 14, only 10 days before the Ukraine War began, one Greek was killed and another wounded in a shooting by the Azov Battalion because they were speaking Russian amongst themselves in the village of Granitne. Before the Russian operation began, this was the line of contact between Ukrainian and Russian forces, and like many of the other Greek villages, had voted to join the DPR.
One woman from the Greek-majority town of Sartana, 17 kilometers northeast of Mariupol, told American journalist Patrick Lancaster that they were forced to endure Ukrainization and could not speak Russian in public unless they wanted to risk a fine.
Between the non-recognition as an indigenous minority, forced Ukrainization and even murder, the Greeks of Mariupol have suffered immensely under the Azov Battalion, yet Western media has remained near silent, or at the maximum they are non-critical of the racist policies of Kiev. Although Western audiences were bombarded with scenes from the battle of Mariupol, including the Greek government’s unverified claims that the Russian air force bombed Greek villages, there has been near silence now about the current situation in the port city and its surrounds.
As the overwhelming majority of Greeks are now in territory controlled by Russian forces, life has resumed as normal as possible for those living close to a warzone. Schools in Sartana are operating again and people are trying to resume business as normal. What is for certain though is that racist killings just for speaking Russian or any other language other than Ukrainian has come to an end.
With the Greeks of Mariupol now a part of the DPR, the Greek government finds itself in a conundrum as they promised to never abandon the autocephalous community but at the same time has agreed to nearly every anti-Russia sanction and demand made by Washington and Brussels. This makes the reopening of the Greek Consulate in Mariupol dependent on the goodwill of the DPR administration.
Only on May 31 it was announced that Greece’s East Germany-made ΒΜΡ-1 infantry fighting vehicles would be sent to Ukraine so Berlin can replace Greece’s fleet with German-made Marder armoured vehicles. As Athens continues its hostile policy, it lessens the chance of any Russian goodwill so that the Greek community can remain connected to the Greek State via the consulate.
The plan to transfer BMP-1’s to Ukraine once again created outrage in Greece as the announcement was not made by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis during his joint statement with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, but rather by the German leader himself. Greeks lambasted the cowardliness of Mitsotakis of not having made the announcement himself – keeping in mind that over 70% of Greeks in a poll want Athens to have a neutral policy towards the war.
Despite the persecution of Greeks since 2014 whilst living under Kiev’s authority and the Azov Battalion, the Greek government has been near silent on this, only releasing periodical statements that hint towards Ukraine needing to improve minority rights and nowhere near to the same degree of their criticism of Russia.
Greece in the months leading up to the war was making strong attempts to have soft power influence in Mariupol, something that could have continued if there was an acceptance that the entirety of Donetsk was going to be under full Russian control. The harsh reality for Athens is that although the Greeks of Mariupol will be disconnected from Greece, they will live in a far safer environment and with respect to their identity and language, just as the Greeks in Russia’s Crimea, Stavropol Krai and Krasnodar Krai experience.
The fascists and racists are going about in fear (or whipping up fear) of the replacement of whites by people of colour and this is particularly so in some of the places colonised by people of European background. David Rovics looks at the fascist conspiracy theory and the very real replacement of indigenous people by colonialists in a number of those places.
He planned the spectacular helicopter escape from Dublin’s Mountjoy Jail and, a year later, planned another escape from there, blasting their way out with smuggled-in explosives. Before he began planning escapes, he operated early in his IRA career as commander of an armed robbery unit, ‘fund-raising’ for the Movement. But when he began robbing banks for himself and his family, the Movement sent assassins to kill him. Up Like a Bird is the story of that man, Brendan Hughes, nowhere near as celebrated as his other IRA namesake but certainly deserving of much more fame than he has received to date.
Douglas Dalby’s handling of Hughes’ reminiscences, told in Hughes’ voice, is masterly. The book reads like a thriller, hard to put down; we are driven to turn the next page to see what will happen – even when, through history, we know the eventual outcome. We know, for example, that the helicopter escape was carried out and yet, as readers, we tense as Hughes does his investigations, tense tighter as he identifies the components of the plan, moan with frustration at a delay or last-minute hitch, hold our breaths as the action takes place.
The helicopter escape was carried out on 31st October 1973 and from the prison exercise yard three high-level IRA officers were flown to freedom: Chief of Staff Séamus Twomey and senior Volunteers JB O’Hagan and Kevin Mallon. The following year, on 18th August 1974, 19 prisoners escaped, blasting their way through a gate with a small amount of smuggled gelignite. Not only had Hughes planned that operation – he himself was leading the escapers.
Apart from the excitement in reading, the book gives us an insight into the world of IRA volunteers active in Dublin and surrounding areas in the 1970s – the ‘safe-houses’ and network of active supporters, the ‘fund-raising’, stolen getaway cars, false identification documents, high-level awareness of the hunted, carrying concealed weapons, the even better-armed police ….
The Mountjoy helicopter escape revealed something even more important and enduring – the cultural bedrock within the Irish state, the sharp division between the elite and the mass. Although the majority of politicians had voted in 1972 for repressive legislation against Republicans and special no-jury courts to sentence them, a song celebrating the escape reached No.1 in the Irish singles disc charts, selling 12,000 copies in the first week despite being banned by the national broadcaster, RTÉ! Composed by Sean McGinley from Castlefin, Co. Donegal and performed by the folk and ‘rebel song’ band The Wolfe Tones1, Up and Away (the Helicopter Song) became the most-played and most-purchased disc for four weeks until nudged out by Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody. It is tempting to think that if the escape had taken place a longer period before the approach of the festive season, that the recording might have remained at the top of the charts for months on end. The counterposing of the anger and embarrassment in elite circles, reflected in ranting of politicians, Garda sweeps and raids and media outrage on the one hand, with the delight and empathy at the lower levels revealed much of the tensions in Irish society and the opposing sympathies of different social classes.
Hughes was a maverick, revelling in the description and though for much of his career that was of value to the Provos, there came a time when it ceased to be so. A guerrilla army must have discipline, of course but it also needs volunteers who can quickly assess a situation and seize the initiative, without referring back to the command structure. The balance between both requirements must be very hard to strike — for individuals as well as for the organisation.
When he and other such activists fell out with their leaderships or “went solo”, they were shunned or worse. In Hughes’ final spell in Mountjoy jail, he was on the “non-aligned” wing of the jail, a Republican prisoner but not under Republican leadership control.
Hughes says that assassins were sent to kill him – he stayed low and carried a loaded .44 Magnum. The leadership of the Republican movement does not always shoot or beat up its dissidents – more usually, it seeks to isolate them. Friends, neighbours, former comrades and even relatives will be advised to shun those no longer welcome, they and their families.
The family feeling, the communal solidarity in the movement becomes its opposite when the leadership brands its pariahs.
Hughes feels he was betrayed to the political police, the Special Branch of the Irish State. But what he says he felt the worst was the treatment of his family while he was in jail. No space on a Republican prison visitor communal transport was made available to his wife and children and cars containing former friends and acquaintances would pass them at the side of the road, even in the rain.
It seems Hughes finds that unforgivable — and no wonder.
As a postscript, Hughes surprisingly declares his support for the Good Friday Agreement, the pacification process. He had been a man of action and, as he said himself, not one for thinking through ideology or politics. But it doesn’t take any great grasp of ideology or politics to see that today it’s more or less business as before in a partitioned Ireland occupied by a foreign power.
UP LIKE A BIRD, Hughes, Brendan; Dalby, Douglas (2022)
1Named after Theobald Wolfe Tone, a leader of Irish republican revolutionary organisation the United Irishmen, died in prison in 1798.
Yes, indeed, we have been. Let us look back over the campaign of misinformation about conflict in Ireland for it has much to teach us about the mass media, about human credulity. We don’t need to go back over 800 years – just to the recent the 30-Year War.
In 1968 a civil rights campaign1 took off in the British Six-County colony in Ireland to include a number of marches and sit-ins, which was regularly met with violence from Loyalist2 mobs and the State. As part of the campaign, in 1969 a march from Belfast to Dublin was organised under the slogan “Civil Rights – North and South”. One of that march’s stops was in Lurgan, Co. Armagh, where the marchers sat at a crossroads and were instantly attacked by the armed British colonial police (then the RUC3, now the PSNI).
Some of the marchers had come from Britain to support the campaign and after being attacked in Lurgan, they bought an English newspaper to see whether the incident had been reported. An occurrence in the town had been reported alright but not what had occurred – the report told their readers that a fight between Catholics and Protestants had been broken up by the RUC, keeping the two sides apart. “There wasn’t a Protestant in sight,” commented a marcher angrily, “except those in RUC uniform …. or unless he was one of us4.”
Later that year, in August, the RUC killed four civilians, including a child, in the Divis Flats area of Belfast by firing at the area with a machine-gun mounted on an armoured car. Their claim they were returning fire from the area was widely refuted by local people but repeated in the media. The incident was not investigated until decades later when the claims of family and local witnesses were vindicated in an Ombudsman’s report.
The representation of the RUC as a force for peace between two groups in a sectarian conflict was to be a repeated media disinformation line through the ongoing conflict, as the struggle became an armed one — although to a large degree the honest broker ‘peacemaker’ cloak shifted from the colonial police on to the British Army.
British troops were sent in to the colony (by a Labour Government, in case we had illusions) in August 1969 and were initially greeted by many people in the ‘nationalist’5 community as saviours, sent to keep the sectarian RUC and Loyalist mobs (often enough amounting to the same thing) away from them. Most politicians and the media represented them as peace-keepers. For most nationalists the illusions did not last long as the Army turned their guns on them.
Although no British soldier had been killed in the Six Counties by the IRA as yet6, on 3rd July 1970 the British Army invaded the staunchly nationalist area of the Lower Falls and forced their way into homes, saying they were searching for arms. Local youths mobilised and attacked the soldiers with stones and petrol bombs7. The soldiers responded by pumping CS gas into the area and soon gun-battles between the IRA and the British Army broke out.
‘After four hours of continuous clashes, the British commander sealed off the area, which comprised 3,000 homes, and imposed a curfew which would last for 36 hours. Thousands of British troops moved into the curfew zone and carried out house-to-house searches for weapons, while coming under intermittent attack from the IRA and rioters. The searches caused much destruction, and a large amount of CS gas was fired into the area. Many residents complained of suffering abuse at the hands of the soldiers. On 5 July, the curfew was brought to an end when thousands of women and children from Anderstonstown8 marched into the curfew zone with food and other supplies for the locals.
‘During the operation, four civilians were killed by the British Army, at least 78 people were wounded and 337 were arrested. Eighteen soldiers were also wounded. Large quantities of weapons and ammunition were (allegedly – DB) captured. The British Army admitted afterwards that some of its soldiers had been involved in looting.’9
At the time, most of the media reported the clashes as unruly elements irrationally attacking the Army who were there to protect them and were only doing their job. However, the opinion of the nationalist community, though ignored by the media had undergone a huge shift and the first serving British soldier (of many to follow) was killed by the IRA the following year.10
Later in 1970, during riots in Derry, the Army shot two men from the nationalist area, Seamus Cusack and Desmond Beattie, claiming afterwards that they were armed, a claim local people denied. There was no investigation by the authorities, obliging the constitutionalist SDLP11 to withdraw from the colony’s parliament in protest.
On 4th December 1971, an explosion in the Catholic-owned McGurk’s Bar in Belfast killed 15 people and injured 16. Due to the bar’s ownership and location, the most logical attribution would be to Loyalists or British forces. It would be hard to pin it on the IRA – unless it could be said to have been an accidental explosion of an IRA bomb during storage or transportation. That was what the “security forces” came up with, which of course was repeated by the media. An alternative media theory was that in some manner it was a result of a feud between the Official and Provisional IRA. In order to construct that theory, the denials of the IRA had to be discounted12, despite the organisations’ track record of taking public responsibility for its actions.
The explosion had occurred in the pub’s doorway, which would have thrown doubt on the “IRA bomb in transit” story but somehow, the RUC’s forensic examination did not determine that. But even worse, the evidence of an eyewitness had to be dismissed.
‘On 6 December, however, the RUC took a witness statement from an 8-year-old boy. He said that a car had stopped outside the pub with four men inside and “a wee Union Jack stuck in the back window”. He said one left a package in the Great George’s Street doorway and ran back to the car, which sped off just moments before the package exploded. A man and a woman backed up his story, although they did not witness as much as the boy.’13
‘In March 1976 the RUC received intelligence that linked UVF member Robert Campbell and four others to the McGurk’s bombing. Campbell was arrested on 27 July 1977 and held at Castlereagh RUC base. He was interviewed seven times during 27 and 28 July. He admitted his part in the bombing but refused to name the others.Campbell’s story matches that given by the young boy witness.’14
On 29 July 1977, Campbell was charged with the 15 murders and 17 attempted murders and in September 1978 pleaded guilty to all charges (he also had a separate conviction for the murder of a Protestant delivery driver in 1976). He eventually served fifteen years in prison, being released on 9th September 1993.15
Despite the 1978 convictions and even Campbell’s confessions, the “own goal bomb” theory of responsibility lingered and relatives sought for years to have the case properly investigated, some also alleging that the RUC had colluded in helping the killers get away out of the area and in the false atrributions later, possibly even with the intention of setting the two IRA organisations at one another’s throats.
In what has become a depressingly familiar story, the relatives campaigned on in the face of police inaction and media disinterest for years, during which many of the directly-affected died through natural causes, to receive partial vindication at last in an Ombudsman’s report which laid the blame squarely on a Loyalist gang and castigated the RUC for a biased and inadequate investigation. The report was published in February 2011– it had taken the campaigners only 40 years16.
The introduction of internment without trial in August 1971 was, according to the media, a necessary measure to deal with political violence from all sides. Not one Loyalist was arrested that year, or the next and it was not until 1973 that a single Loyalist had been interned, the total by December 1975, when the measure was ended, having been 107 against 1,874 from the Nationalist community.17
The Paratroop Regiment, British Army shocktroops, were sent into the colony that year too18. Between 9th and 11th August in the Belfast area of Ballymurphy, the Paratroopers caused the deaths of 10 men and a woman and wounded many19. The Paratroopers claimed they had been shot at and were returning fire and that all their targets had been “terrorists”20. The media repeated these lies and, if reporters interviewed wounded and other witnesses, their accounts were not published. There was no investigation and, as with the deaths of many victims of RUC and British Army, there was no inquest concluded until decades later (2021 for these victims21).
The nationalist community called a demonstration in Derry for 30th January the following year to protest the massacres and against the introduction of internment. The Paratroopers were there again and they and other British Army soldiers shot down unarmed demonstrators, causing the deaths of 14 and injuring at least another 15. The Army claimed they had been returning fire from Irish Republicans and had shot only gunmen and bombers and on the whole, the media parroted their claims.
The British put their top judge, Lord Chief Justice Widgery, to hold an inquiry and in April that year his verdict upheld the Army’s version and also blamed the organisers of the march. The media of course promoted that verdict too. It was not until the extraordinarilyy long and hugely expensive Bloody Sunday Inquiry set up 1998 22 produced the Saville Report in 2010 that the British officially (and then of course also the media) accepted what all of Derry and much of Ireland already knew, that the Paras had opened fire in a non-threatening situation and selectively targeted and killed unarmed civilians23.
British soldiers shot another five unarmed people dead in the Springhill area of Belfast on July 9th, yet again as in Ballymurphy the previous year, including a priest administering the last rites but this time their tally was also an thirteen-year-old girl24. The original ‘official’ account of the shootings— that those shot were ‘gunmen’ — was almost immediately discredited, and was changed shortly after; the claim then became that those murdered were simply caught in the crossfire. Again the media covered the Army story without investigation or challenge.
In 1988 on Sunday 6th March British SAS soldiers shot dead three unarmed IRA volunteers in Gibraltar. When it was revealed that the three had been unarmed, firstly the media claimed that they had been about to trigger an explosion but some time later the British found the explosives in a car in a Spanish carpark across the border without any electronic link to the dead volunteers. When the British claimed that the Volunteers had made threatening moves, eyewitnessed testified that not only had they been unarmed when shot but had been extra-judicially executed as they lay on the ground with their hands up in surrender position. One of the eye-witnesses was Gibraltar resident Carmen Proetta, who then became a target for British media slurs, even going to the extent of suggesting that she was a sex-worker.
On Monday 7 March all eleven British national daily newspapers reported the story that a bomb had been found. Many gave detailed information about the size (mostly 500 pounds), purpose and type of the bomb as well as how it was defused. The Daily Mail suggested that the bomb might have a ‘video timing device’, while Today and the Independent mentioned ‘remote control’. The Daily Mirror told us that ‘a controlIed explosion failed to set off the bomb’ whilst the Daily Mail added ‘RAF disposal men defused it later’.25
On 28 April 1988, almost two months after the Gibraltar shootings, the ITV television channel defied British Government pressure and threats of legal action to broadcast “Death on the Rock” an episode of its current affairs series This Week, produced by Thames Television, based on investigations of three journalists and many interviews. This led to a ferocious media attack on the documentary, its programers and the IBA, the governing watchdog authority.
‘Over the following weeks, newspapers repeatedly printed stories about the documentary’s witnesses, in particular Carmen Proetta, who gave an account of seeing McCann and Farrell shot without warning by soldiers who arrived in a Gibraltar Police car. Proetta subsequently sued several newspapers for libel and won substantial damages. The Sunday Times conducted its own investigation and reported that “Death on the Rock” had misrepresented the views of its witnesses; those involved later complained to other newspapers that The Sunday Times had distorted their comments.’26
A great number of situations arose during the 30 Years War in the British colony that were either unreported or misrepresented by the mass media, including “confessions” obtained through torture, RUC and British Army collusion with Loyalist murder gangs, inhumane treatment of political prisoners, Army shooting of unarmed civilians, extra-judicial executions of Republican Volunteers and blackmailing individuals for information or to carry out agent-provocateur actions.
WITHIN THE IRISH STATE
In 1969 the grave of Wolfe Tone in Bodenstown was blown up by Loyalists27 and between 1971 and 1974 there was a series of bombings in Dublin by Loyalists and British Intelligence. The bombing campaign began by aiming at symbolic structures and went on to target civilians which cost the lives of 36 civilians (and a full-term unborn child) and injured around 490, presumably to pressurise the Irish Government into increased repression of Republican paramilitaries.
In January 1971 the O’Connell Tower in Glasnevin Cemetery was damaged (not repaired finally until 2019, 47 years later)28, presumably as an attack on a prominent Irish Catholic29 icon. But in February 1971 the Wolfe Tone30 monument in Stephen’s Green was also blown up, like the blowing up of the grave, an attack on Irish Republicanism and its rebellious Protestant origins31. Bombings now aimed at civilians in Dublin followed and between 26 November 1972 and 20 January 1973, there were four paramilitary bombings in the centre of Dublin, claiming the lives of three public transport workers and injuring 185.
The first suspicion of responsibility for those bombings should naturally have fallen on the Loyalists and perhaps, by extension, on a British intelligence agency. It didn’t though; in the media and political circles, it was projected on to the IRA.
That could not have made logical sense, since such explosions could only have harmed the IRA among the Irish population. However there was another specific reason why it made even less sense, (if possible): in 1972 Leinster House32 was about to debate repressive legislation that would set up special no-jury courts to convict Republicans with the word of a police officer (at the rank of Superintendent or above) sufficient to convict of “membership of an illegal organisation”, with an automatic two-year jail sentence. The proposed legislation was being put forward by Fianna Fáil but Fine Gael and the Labour Party were mustering to vote against it and if they did, the new legislation would fall.
In the midst of the horror about the bombing, the opposition crumbled and the bill went through, against protests of many human and civil rights agencies33; it became law, has sent many people to jail on dubious ‘evidence’ and is in force to this day.
Not only that, but the failure to energetically investigate the 1974 bombing meant that some of the Loyalist perpetrators were free to murder many civilians in the following years – some of the bombers were members of the infamous Glennane Gang, a Loyalist-RUC-British Intelligence group of killers responsible for up to 120 murders of civilians35.
The events in Ireland were of course being felt by the Irish diaspora in England too. Marches, pickets and public meetings protesting the RUC’s repression of marches for civil rights were held in many British cities, as they were against sending the British Army into the Six Counties, introduction of internment without trial and shooting protesters dead. Some groups on the British Left were also attending these events and occasionally organising their own. Irish solidarity was becoming a major issue for anti-imperialist solidarity in Britain and abroad, in addition to being in a sense a major domestic issue in Britain too.
The IRA began to extend Britain’s war to their homeland in a bombing campaign in 1971, at first targeting property. However, in 1974 bombs in two pubs in Birmingham killed 21 people which was difficult to understand but according to an alleged perpetrator, the warning intended by the bombers was frustrated through out-of-order public telephone boxes. The Guildford and Woolwich bombs, aimed at pubs frequented by British soldiers, killed five soldiers and two civilians overall and injured 101 people.
The horror and outrage resulting from that carnage gave the British State the environment in which they could launch a wholesale clampdown on the Irish diaspora. The Prevention of Terrorism Act was rushed through the Westminster Parliament in 1974, specifically targeting the Irish community. The Act empowered the police to raid homes, to hold suspects without access to a solicitor for up to five days and longer on special application and to summarily deport Irish people from Britain – even to their own colony. It also empowered the police to stop and question Irish people without warrant or having to show cause and thousands were stopped and questioned at ports and airports as they travelled from Ireland to Britain or vice versa, sometimes missing their flights or boat as a result. People were questioned on the street too and on Irish solidarity demonstrations.
In that atmosphere, of which the media was the main facilitator in British society, it was fairly easy for the State to frame nearly a score of innocent people on bombing charges and to sentence them to many years in jail on the flimsiest of “evidence”, later to refuse their right to appeal, later still, granting that right but denying the justice of their cases.
Judith Ward was arrested in February 1974, sentenced to life imprisonment plus 30 years in October 1974 and her conviction overturned in May 1992.
The Birmingham Six were arrested in November 1974, sentenced to jail for life in August 1975, their convictions finally overturned in March 1991.
The Guildford Four were arrested in December 1974, sentenced to imprisonment for life in October 1975, their convictions finally overturned in October 1989.
Giuseppe Conlon and the Maguire Six were arrested in December 1974, sentenced to 4, 51, 12 and 14 years in 1976, their convictions overturned in 1991. By that time Vincent and Patrick had already served their sentences and Giuseppe Conlon, father of Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four, had died in jail.
1Patrick Maguire was only 14 at the time and Vincent only 17.
The UK media in particular played a huge part in setting the atmosphere in which these unjust convictions could take place and in making the struggle of the innocent for justice difficult. Even after their acquittal, some of the media insinuated that they had been guilty and had got free through some kind of legal loopholes.
Could the media have known differently? Yes, certainly, not one of the cases would stand up to reasonable inspection. The Guildford Four were hippies living in a squat, the Birmingham Six were escorting the body of a deceased IRA man to Ireland when the bombs exploded, the Maguires were a Tory-voting woman with teenage children, Giuseppe was only in London to help his son after the latter’s arrest and Judith Ward was mentally ill, homeless and penniless37. Their ‘confessions’, obtained through torture and intimidation38, were admitted as evidence against them, although they all retracted them and declared how they had been obtained. The forensic evidence was faulty and besides recording a false positive and even though the defence team had a forensic expert to refute it during their trial, the Prosecution’s expert was the one accepted.
The February 1977 confession by an IRA unit to the Woolwich and Guildford bombing after their capture in the Balcome Street siege was not accepted, although they were able to give details of the bombing. So tortured and retracted ‘confessions’ were acceptable whereas one voluntarily given was not.
Apart from the logical doubts that should have arisen in even a light examination of the cases, the media also had access to detailed refutation of the case against the Birmingham Six. Although much has been made recently of the investigation of the case by Chris Mullin, the publication of his book Error of Judgment: The Truth About the Birmingham Pub Bombings (1985), the research for which went into the earlier 1984 ITV World in Action documentary, a detailed challenge to the convictions had been published much earlier. Only two years after the arrest of the Birmingham Six, Fathers Murray and Faul had published The Birmingham Framework39, which they had sent to British politicians and media agents. In 1982 the Irish in Britain Representation Group40 also publicly called for the freeing of the framed prisoners and continued to do so for every year thereafter. Other organisations such as the Troops Out Movement41 called for their release also and trade union branches began to support such calls.
It suited the State that the British public think the prisoners guilty and the British media played their part in that purpose. In a way, it also suited the State if the Irish community knew the prisoners were innocent since, if even the innocent could be jailed so easily, how could any Irish person be safe except by keeping his or her head down low? Irish solidarity activities declined in occurrence and in numbers attending. With few exceptions, the Irish community in Britain was cowed from 1974 until the Hunger Strikes of 1981 brought them out on the streets again, the terror broken by the spirit of solidarity and outrage.
The above examples are only a selection of situations in Ireland during the period under discussion about which we and the world were misinformed or censored. Throughout the 30 Years’ War so many accusations against the British armed forces, including their armed colonial police, have been ignored or recorded disbelievingly by the media – in particular the British section but within the Irish state also – and repeated by media services abroad, to be picked up by other media …. and so on, and on. And likewise with accusations against British intelligence services and their domestic police force.
Why then are the current claims of the Ukrainian government published through the mass media being accepted without question on every count? Why is everything the Russian government says discounted or ignored without checking? Why are we not concerned at banning of alternative media and censorship of commentators who are not repeating the party line? Why are we not outraged at the agreed delivery of Julian Assange by the UK to the USA on charges of “spying” because he exposed their lies and murderous activities in Iraq and Afghanistan? Given our own experience over 30 years of the UK media’s dismal record of reporting on the conflict in Ireland – and its equally dismal repetition in the western media – why are we now believing without critical examination the western media reporting on the war in the Ukraine?
1The civil rights campaign in the Six Counties was in pursuance of equal rights for the Catholic minority with the Protestant majority there, in the electoral franchise, in housing and employment, along with the repeal of the repressive Special Powers Act.
2‘Loyalists’ is a term describing militants – always of Protestant community background – in various organisations — who insist on remaining within the UK. The first armed actions in the 30 Years War were by Loyalists.
3Although the Royal Ulster Constabulary was created in 1922, when Ireland was partitioned, it was in effect a continuation of the Royal Irish Constabulary, the British occupation’s gendarmerie (nation-wide semi-military police force, such as exists in Spain, Turkey, Italy, France, etc) in existence throughout all of Ireland since 1822. Although the personnel of the RIC had been mostly Catholic in background (usually with Protestant senior officers), the RUC was determinedly Protestant from the start, both in its full-time and part-time membership. However, a minority of the civil rights campaigners were also from Protestant backgrounds.
4As part of the control structures in the Six Counties, the authorities had recruited only non-Catholics into the colonial police force, which helped unionist politicians and media represent an attack on the police as a sectarian attack. Though a few Catholics have been recruited since the 1990s and Sinn Féin has been supporting recruitment drives in nationalist areas, the PSNI personnel remain overwhelmingly of Protestant background.
5A convenient term used to describe the large minority community, mostly of Catholic background, mostly of the original population but with some earlier intermarriage into the majority community, which is of mostly colonist/ settler origin.
11The Social and Democratic Labour Party, advocating reform through legal and constitutional methods.
12Two days after the explosion, on December 6th, both the Official and Provisional IRAs issued statements condemning the bombing and denying any involvement. Local people also denied any association between the pub and either of the armed organisations.
18Despite some time searching online I have not come across the exact date they were there by May 1971 and it may be that they had been sent there as part of plan that included the introduction of internment without trial later that year.
20The fact that one fatal victim was a mother of eight children and another, a local priest, should have alerted media to the fact that the Paras were likely lying and local people likely telling the truth.
22Likely initiated as as a payoff to the Provisionals for buying into the Peace/ Pacification Process, the other being the early release on licence of their members in jail, the inquiry lasted twelve years and cost £195 million.
23No senior Army officer or senior politician of the time has even been charged for those murders. One lower-ranking soldier was eventually charged but in July 2021, the Public Prosecution Service decided it would no longer prosecute him either.
29Daniel O’Connell, a constitutional Irish nationalist politician and Catholic, campaigned for the repeal of the anti-Catholic Penal Laws in which he was largely successful in 1869 and unsuccessfully for repeal of the Act of Union, which had transferred the internal legislation of Ireland through its Parliament to Westminster instead in 1801.
30Theobald ‘Wolfe’ Tone was an Anglican campaigner for reform of anti-Catholic legislation (only Anglicans could be elected to the Irish Parliament) who became a revolutionary Irish Republican when those attempts failed. He was a founder of the revolutionary republican United Irishmen organisation. He was captured by the British after surrender of the French naval ship on which he was travelling on 12th October 1978. Although an officer in the Army of France he was tried for treason and sentenced to be executed; on 19th September 1798 he died in prison of wounds, apparently self-inflicted to deny the State his public execution.
40The IBRG was formed late in 1981 as an independent community organisation, among the issues it took up were those of anti-Irish racism, access to resources for the community, an end to strip-searching of prisoners, freedom for the framed prisoners and British withdrawal from Ireland.
41The Troops Out Movement was founded in 1973 as a broad organisation to mobilise the British public for withdrawal of British troops from Ireland; with branches in many parts of Britain, it organised marches, pickets, public meetings and published pamphlets. The relevant Wikipedia incorrectly claims it was “an Irish Republican organisation” — though it naturally did contain Irish Republicans, it also contained British revolutionary left and social-democratic elements. Though maintaining its independence for decades, it did towards the end of the 1990s become closely linked to Provisional Sinn Féin.
(from The Treason Felony Blog le buíochas: The Weaver Street Bombing and not dealing with the past)
(Reading time: 3 mins.)
In Belfast, on 13th February 1922, some children playing in Milewater Street, at the corner of Weaver Street, off the York Road, were approached by two Special Constables and told to go and “play with their own” (Special Constables invariably being Protestant, the children were Catholics in a largely Protestant district). They joined other children in the mainly Catholic-occupied Weaver Street and played on a swing attached to a lamp-post. Ten minutes later, two men came to the North Derby Street end of Weaver Street (one eye witness claimed one Special Constable had just spoken to the same two men). They were about 20 metres away from where the children were playing. One of the men then threw a bomb into the middle of the children. As the bomb exploded, gunfire directed into Weaver Street from North Derby Street, covered the two men’s retreat.
The explosion killed or injured Mary Johnson (13), Catherine Kennedy (14), W.J. Dempsey (13), Annie Pimley (16), John O’Hanlon (16), Elizabeth O’Hanlon (11), Murtie O’Hanlon (16), Barney Kennedy (10), John McCluskey (12), Rose Ann McNeill (13), Mary McClinton (18), Mary Kerr (6), Susanne Lavery (14), George O’Connor (16), Joseph Conway (12), Patrick Maguire (14), Kate O’Neill (14), Robert McBirney (16) and William Connolly (13). All lived in Weaver Street. Adults standing in their doorways were also badly injured.
The force of the blast threw the children up into the air and caused catastrophic injuries, maiming many of those who survived. Mary Johnson and Catherine Kennedy died immediately. Eliza O’Hanlon died the next day. Statements made in the press and in Westminster indicate that three of those injured had died by the next day, the third being O’Hanlon. By the time the inquest was held on 3rd March, a fourth girl had died from the blast. Two adults were to succumb to their injuries. Margaret Smith died on the 23rd March, while Mary Owens (who lived in nearby Shore Street) died from injuries sustained in the blast on the 6th April.
This was not the first bombing of its kind. On September 25th the previous year, a bomb had been thrown into a group of Catholic children on Milewater Street, injuring nine, including four under six years of age. One man, George Barry, died from injuries he received. The bomb had such force that two houses were wrecked. A bomb had also been thrown by loyalists into a group of school children in Herbert Street on 12th January, injuring six (the Belfast Telegraph erroneously reported it as an IRA attack). The same month, a bomb had been thrown into Weaver Street from a passing taxi.
The Belfast Telegraph claimed the 13th February bomb was one of the largest ever used in the city. It also implausibly offered justification for the bomb attack, saying shots had earlier been fired at an armoured car in Weaver Street. In retrospect, the Belfast Telegraph’s link to an attack of an armoured car merely ties the Special Constabulary closer to the bombing (the ‘Specials’, created at roughly the same time, performed the Black and Tans roles in repression and reprisals in the north).
James Craig also included a reference to the bomb in a report sent to the Colonial Secretary, Winston Churchill and read in Westminster the next day. It stated that there had been…
..the indiscriminate throwing of bombs over a wall into Weaver Street, a Sinn Fein area, which resulted in the death of two children and the wounding of fourteen others. These outrages are greatly deplored by my Government, especially the latter dastardly deed, involving the lives of children.
Craig was more concerned about a gun battle in Clones between republican forces and Special Constables travelling to Enniskillen the day before the Weaver Street bombing. Joe Devlin fumed that Craigs wording was deliberately vague and that some international press had been led to believe that the bomb was thrown by republicans.
As sectarian attacks continued through 1921 and 1922, and even after the 13th February bomb, the (relatively) safe places for Catholic families to live in that part of the York Road had shrank to the area around Weaver Street. The attacks continued to intensify in early summer. On 18th May Thomas McCaffrey from Shore Street was killed. On the night of 20th May, Thomas McShane from Jennymount Street was killed. That same night the remaining Catholic residents of Weaver Street, Milewater Street, North Derby Street, Shore Street and Jennymount Street, some one hundred and forty-eight families, were forced from their homes at gunpoint. By the 21st May 1922 the Catholic community that had established itself around Weaver Street had fled. The 1924 street directory only shows one household remaining from the 1918 directory (in comparison, nearby Seaview Street had two thirds of the same households). Houses in Weaver Street remained occupied until the 1960s as Unilever and the Associated Feed Mills bought up property around Shore Street, Weaver Street and Milewater Street eventually enclosing all but the York Road end of Milewater Street.
The view today of where Weaver Street met North Derby Street. This is more or less where the bomb was thrown from.
Today, Shore Street and Weaver Street are gone, no longer visible on the streetscape of Belfast. Patiently neglected over the decades after 1922, their former occupants were dispersed around other districts of the city. Similarly, the detail of its own particular sadness, sectarianism and savagery are now, largely, long forgotten. The memory of the violence of 1920-22, mostly unarticulated, was indelibly etched into the psyche of the Catholic residents of Belfast.
Some 20-25% of those killed in the 1920-22 conflict died in Belfast but, with few notable exceptions, little was written or said about it over the decades that followed (even today only a handful of books have been written about it). So despite what has happened since 1969, few have considered how the memory of 1920-22 influenced communities. Even fewer have considered the role an absence of public discourse around the violence of 1920-22 may have had in later outbreaks of sectarian violence in the 1930s and 1960s.
Today, the very obliteration of Weaver Street from the streetscape of Belfast, somehow elevates it as an appropriate metaphor for the eclipse of public discourse on the violence of 1920-22.
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
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.
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, 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.
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!
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.
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 TheWhite 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.
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.
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.
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 placeTo cringe before the rich man's frown,And haul the sacred emblem down.(chorus)With head uncovered swear we allTo bear it onward till we fall;Come dungeons dark or gallows grim,This song shall be our parting hymn.
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 (TheRagged-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.