SWORD, PIKE, GUN – STRUGGLE FOR IRISH INDEPENDENCE

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 8 mins.)

A debate is currently taking place about whether armed struggle is appropriate in the context of achieving national liberation in Ireland. The debate is hardly new — traditionally some sections of the polity have opposed it and some have advocated, even embraced it. However tiresome it may be for some, revolutionaries need to address questions as they emerge and re-emerge but there is another reason to enter this debate, which is that in my opinion both sections in the main are basing themselves on a false premise.

The composition of the sections opposed to or in favour of armed struggle has varied but in general and hardly surprisingly, the social democratic and liberal sections have opposed its use, while the revolutionary Republicans have defended it. But sections of the Republican movement at various times have also moved out of the armed struggle camp and into the ‘constitutionalist’ quarter. As to the revolutionary Left (or that claiming to be revolutionary), the main parties1 have opposed it not only in terms of Irish national liberation (with which they hardly concern themselves as a rule2) but also in the class struggle, while smaller parties and groups have at different times endorsed it as a legitimate or even necessary mode of struggle.

Before going deeper into this question it would be as well to look at the current situation in general and also to review the usual relevant scientific rules, which is to say those tested in the laboratory of Irish and world history.

OVERVIEW OF IRISH ANTI-COLONIAL HISTORY

Ireland is a small country in size and population but historically has had an effect on the history of large parts of the world out of all proportion to its size. Currently this is not the case which is perhaps not surprising since it is partitioned with one-sixth of its land mass under British colonial rule and the rest ruled by a neo-colonial capitalist class that came from under direct colonial domination a little over a century ago. The process of that colonial domination began eight and a half centuries ago3 and the decades and centuries since that time have seen Ireland colonised, most of its land appropriated, cultural, economic and political domination, famines and mass emigration, all of which the Irish have resisted and against which they and sections of the settler population have risen time and time again. The resistance has taken many forms but in general has always included armed struggle: sword, pike or gun.

Monument in Dublin to the 1798 Rising but equally so to the repression suffered before, after and during it — the site is Croppies’ Acre, the location of a mass grave of insurgents. The grey stone buildings in the background are part one of the former British Army barracks in Dublin, subsequently barracks of the army of the Irish State, now a military history and clothing state museum. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

The phase of the national liberation struggle in the early decades of the last century resulted in the granting of nominal independence to five-sixths of the country and the retention of the remaining portion as a direct British colony, formally part of the United Kingdom but with a number of administrative and legislative elements peculiar to itself4. This was followed almost immediately by a civil war in which the Republican movement was defeated and all governments of the Irish state since then, regardless of their political party composition, have been of the “Gombeen” neo-colonialist class.

Elements of the Irish Republican movement have never reconciled themselves to this situation and surges of armed struggle took place in the 1930s and 1940s, after that usually restricted to the Six County colony in the mid 1950s to early 1960s and again from the beginning of the 1970s to the end of the 1990s, since when there have been what could best be described as sporadic armed incidents.

During the course of those years sections of the Irish Republican movement have abandoned armed struggle for national liberation, denouncing their erstwhile comrades and even participating in repression against them, whilst those who continue to support armed struggle accuse those who have left the fold of treason.

HISTORICAL EXPERIENCE

The history of Irish resistance to colonial domination and expropriation has been replete with armed instances which should surprise no-one, since that colonial domination was achieved in the first place by force of arms, a force employed again and again in repression also. Whenever other means of repressing Irish resistance were employed, e.g by legislation or cultural imposition, the arms of the conqueror were never far from view. “Dieu et mon droit” is the historical motto of the English monarch5, meaning “God and my right”; however “my right” in English at least has the other meaning of “my right hand”, which can also be understood as the hand used to strike a blow, whether as a fist or holding a weapon. And neither monarchs, feudal or capitalist classes of England have been historically reticent in employing force, including armed violence, in pursuit of their “right” to rule – their own country or others’.

Some of the damage to Dublin city centre from British artillery and subsequent fires in order to suppress the 1916 Rising. The shell to the right of photo is that of the GPO which was the HQ of the insurgents. To the left is the corner of Moore Street, an old market street still in existence today, to which most of the GPO garrison relocated. Centre background is “Nelson’s Pillar” which survived the Rising almost intact but was later demolished by dissident Republican explosion. (Photo source: Internet)

Indeed, it took an armed rising in 1916 followed by three years of guerrilla war (1919-1921) to convince the rulers of Britain that they should grant even limited autonomy to Ireland, albeit with partition as part of the deal. The intervening peaceful gain of 73 out a total of 105 Irish seats in the 1918 British General Election, every seat won on a public commitment to Irish independence and a rejection of the British Parliament, did not at all sway the British ruling class.

Furthermore, around the world the history of nations that have liberated themselves from colonial occupation or incorporation has been, almost without exception, that of armed repression overcome eventually by armed resistance.

AGAINST ARMED STRUGGLE IN IRELAND

Those who oppose the right and indeed necessity to resist armed occupation with armed resistance are opposing a law of history. Granted that in theory, Ireland may be an exception or that the historical rule may no longer apply in this historical period and if that is the claim, then it is incumbent on those who oppose armed struggle to explain why they believe one of those to be the case.

In general, they do not even try to do so but rely instead on emotional appeal and moral argument. These are irrelevant in this context: yes, people get killed and otherwise suffer in armed struggle but the deaths and suffering imposed by imperialism and colonialism world-wide are hundreds of times greater. If we want to apply emotional and moral rules to the question then logically we should support the most widescale and energetic struggle everywhere to overthrow imperialism in the shortest possible time.

Those who argue that the current historical situation provides an exception to the general rule of history usually rely on two issues:

1) The gaining of the most seats in the parliament of the Irish state by the Sinn Féin political party in the 2020 General Election6 and 2) the discussion current in society about the holding of a “Border poll” at some point in the near future.

Neither of these is valid for positing that Ireland is currently — or about to enter – a historical phase that will nullify the general historical rule.

1) The Sinn Féin political party has done much more than abandon armed struggle – it has accepted the partition of the country and joined the administration of the British colony, accepting its legal system and repressive apparatus, in particular its police force. Its party within the Irish state is striving to become the dominant party of the Gombeen capitalist class, as first step towards which it seeks to join a coalition government of one or more of the parties of that class, manoeuvering to appeal to the Gombeen class while at the same time keeping its popular base. Nor is this the first time this has happened in Ireland, for what became the foremost party of the Gombeen class, Fianna Fáil, followed that trajectory after splitting from Sinn Féin in 1926.

2) The question of a “Border poll” does not change the historical rule because it is not the expression of the desire of the colonised that governs the decisions of the coloniser, as evidenced from 1918 to 1921 in Ireland for example. Indeed, even during the most recent war in Ireland, opinion polls repeatedly showed a majority of the British population wishing to have their governments pull out of the colony, those wishes never acted upon or even tested in referendum. On a purely legalistic level, even if (and it is by no means certain) a majority of the population of the colony should favour formal unification with the rest of Ireland, the question of how large that majority should be remains uncertain, as does whether – despite the words of some politicians of the British State – the wishes of such a majority would find a majority in the British Parliament and, in the final analysis, the endorsement of the British monarch.

Nor is there any guarantee that such a poll would even be held. And in the final analysis the right to self-determination of a nation in its entirety is not to be decided by a minority made into an artificial majority by colonialism and backed up by its repressive apparatus.

THOSE IN FAVOUR OF ARMED STRUGGLE

The section of our polity supporting the right to armed struggle therefore has a well-established international historical rule and the nation’s historical experience to vindicate its position. But neither factor necessarily dictates the form or the timing for such struggle. And our history has had many occasions when armed struggle was not the most appropriate form of resistance, either because the subjective or objective conditions did not favour it or because we had suffered a recent crushing defeat in arms.

Taking up the option of armed struggle usually occurs in a revolutionary situation but can also be in others, for example against a fascist takeover or other repression, or in defence of some gains (both were present in the case of the Popular Front Government of Spain in 1936 and the second in the case of the Civil War in Ireland). It does not seem to me that any of the periods of armed struggle in Ireland since 1922 fit into any of those categories except perhaps in the recent war in the Six Counties which in part might be categorised as defensive armed struggle against repression.

To wage war against a superior armed and experienced enemy is a serious undertaking. To do so with the struggle largely confined to one-sixth of one’s country and in a part in which almost two-thirds of the population is ideologically opposed to one’s forces has to be considered madness. Extremely courageous but madness nevertheless. How could those leading that armed struggle ever expect to win? Only by basing themselves on a flawed analysis or a reformist one – never on a revolutionary one.

The flawed analysis was that the British ruling class had no great interest in holding on to the colony and could therefore be encouraged to leave if only they could be made to suffer enough. The theory that the British ruling class places no great importance in maintaining its grip on the Six Counties has been amply debunked by its actions since 1921 and even more so since 1968. Of course, that does not prevent liberals, social democrats, unionists and other defenders of British imperialism from peddling that theory but revolutionaries at the very least should be able to see through it.

The reformist analysis was that if only the struggle became serious enough then sections of the Irish capitalist class would oppose British colonial rule in Ireland and move towards the reunification of the country. This analysis is deeply mistaken in that it fails to take account of the nature of the native Irish capitalist class, which is weak and foreign-dependent and has never been anything else. The last time the Irish capitalist class or a substantial section of it was revolutionary was in the time of the United Irishmen and they were led and in some areas largely constituted by descendants of planters and settlers. The development of the native Irish capitalist class under British colonialism was hampered by Penal anti-Catholic laws, destruction of native industry and the influence of a large section of its intelligencia, viz. the conservative Catholic Church hierarchy and much of the priesthood. In 1921, this native capitalist class, raised in huckstering, clientism and corruption, preferred to murder and jail its own national fighters than to carry the struggle for independence through to the end. Since then it has largely allowed foreign capitalists to exploit its labour force and other natural resources on land and sea, along with large parts of its infrastructure. It was never going to take a serious stand for independence and national reunification.

Irish Free State Army firing cannon loaned by the British at Republican resistance centre in the Four Courts, SW Dublin city centre. This action was the beginning of the Civil War (1922-1923). (Photo source: Internet)

If both those analyses are mistaken, what other rational basis can there be for waging an armed struggle confined to the Six Counties? And if there be no such rational basis, how can the sacrificing of idealistic and courageous young people to years of prison and negligible employment prospects be justified, to say nothing of loss of life and serious injury?

IN CONCLUSION: THE URGENT TASKS OF REVOLUTIONARY STRUGGLE

If an armed struggle confined to the Six Counties is unwinnable, it does not follow that the time is therefore right for armed struggle across the whole of Ireland.

The task for revolutionaries in Ireland, i.e people who are determined to work for a revolution, is to analyse objective and subjective conditions and work in accordance with them in order to advance the struggle to the point of insurrection, at which point there will be no choice but to take up arms, since foreign imperialism and native capitalism will both send their armed forces against us. While it is true that an effective resistance to armed attack requires certain preparations in advance of that crisis, concentration on armed struggle at this stage will not bring us to that point. The mass of the population, including our potential mass base, does not require armed struggle at this point and therefore would not support it. In these conditions and at this time, different forms of struggle are called for.

Nevertheless there are many struggles which working people undertake now and will do in future and revolutionaries need to participate in them and also to use them to help the working people to see their potential. If people must go to jail — and historical experience tells us that they must — would it not be better for them and even more so for the overall struggle, if they did so for taking part in a social or economic struggle of wide sympathy, for example around housing, rather than for “membership of an illegal organisation” or possession of firearms? This would be so even if the immediate objective were the reformist one of forcing the Irish Government to release funds to the local authorities for a construction program of public housing for rent.7

While at times we fight for reforms, we should not advocate any faith in a reform of the system, nor in organisations or leaders who advocate such faith but we rather use the struggles to educate the working people in struggle, showing their strengths and of what they are capable but also the need to go further, to take power into their own hands. It also means that we have to organise against oppression and repression in all their forms – political, economic, religious/cultural, sexual, intellectual ….. And that we have to find ways to participate in all those struggles, putting forward a revolutionary analysis.

This approach calls for both temporary and long-term alliances, both of which have to be managed with care and never by surrendering our revolutionary direction.

We need to build fighting organisations and revolutionary media. We lack broad fighting organisations of any size on any one of the fronts on which we have to fight, including (crucially) fighting trade unions or grassroots trade union organisations. We do not even have a mass revolutionary weekly newspaper.8 Nor a wide political education program. Without those things, it does not seem a realistic proposition to overthrow the ruling classes in Ireland. Towards the building of those elements is where the energies of revolutionaries in Ireland should be directed, whether they be Irish Republicans, Socialists, Communists, Anarchists (or any combination of the above).

In the face of such tasks, does it really matter much why at this time this or that individual speaks out for or against armed actions by relatively small organisations?

End

Gaelic society pattern sword with ring pommel of a type wielded against the Norman invaders of the 17th Century and later (Photo source: Internet)
Typical pike head with hook, popular in the 1798 United Irish uprising in Wexford (Photo source: Internet)
Armalite semi-automatic rifle popular with the IRA in the war in the Six Counties 1970s to 1990s. (Photo source: Internet)

FOOTNOTES

1These are two, both of Trotskyist ideology: the Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party (both now part of the Anti-Austerity Alliance — People Before Profit parliamentary coalition).

2While usually supporting it in areas of the underdeveloped world.

3The British occupation of Ireland is normally dated from 1169.

4These included permanent emergency repressive powers and a number of blatantly sectarian discriminatory provisions.

5It is also displayed on the coat of arms above and behind judges in British courts, which should alert people to the nature of the justice dispensed there.

6However they fell short of the absolute majority required to form a government and would have needed others to form a coalition government which instead, was formed by parties (of previous governments) that had won less support: Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party.

7The housing crisis within the territory of the Irish State is acute but no local authority is building housing for rent — they do not have the funds to do so. Successive governments are starving local authorities of that funding in order to benefit the property speculators and private landlords, which in turn the State funds through a number of measures including social welfare payment for the homeless converted to rent. Funding construction of public housing could also be used to expand public employment and training in construction, thereby pulling away from neo-liberal domination of the capitalist economy and strengthening workers’ rights. Meanwhile some fascists are using the housing need to push their “house the Irish first” propaganda against migrants and asylum-seekers.

8Ireland has two ruling classes: the native Irish neo-colonial one and the colonial unionist class ruling in the colony.

APRIL 2nd – ANNIVERSARY FOUNDING OF CUMANN NA MBAN

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 4 mins.)

Cumann na mBan (“Women’s Association”), a female military auxiliary and counterpart to the Irish Volunteers, was founded on this day in 1914, one hundred and seven years ago. Its members took part in the 1916 Rising and perhaps even more importantly in keeping up the momentum of the militant movement for independence during martial law after the defeat of the Rising and for years afterwards. They were part of the War of Independence and the Civil War in military and political activities. Many were jailed. The Easter Lily emblem, which many will wear to commemorate the Rising, is their invention. The role of Cumann na mBan, along with that of other women in Irish history, is to this day still not sufficiently highlighted or valued.

Wynne’s Hotel, Lwr. Abbey Street, viewed almost from the junction with O’Connell Street, looking eastward. (Photo sourced: Internet)

Cumann na mBan was formed as a female counterpart and auxiliary to the Irish Volunteers, which had been formed the previous year (as had, separately, the Irish Citizen Army). The inaugural public meeting was held in Wynn’s Hotel, Thursday, 2 April 1914. It was presided over by Agnes O’Farrelly, who was elected President. The provisional executive unveiled at the meeting included Jennie Wyse Power, Nancy O’Rahilly, Agnes MacNeill, Margaret Dobbs, Mary Colum, Nurse McCoy, Louise Gavan Duffy and Elizabeth Bloxham. A constitution was adopted which stated that Cumann na mBan aimed: 1. To advance the cause of Irish liberty 2. To organise Irishwomen in the furtherance of this object 3. To assist in arming and equipping a body of Irishmen for the defence of Ireland 4. To form a fund for these purposes to be called the ‘Defence of Ireland Fund’.

Plaque constructed to be located in Wynne’s Hotel on the centenary of the founding of Cumann na mBan (Photo sourced: Internet)

It was not the first organisation of women to stand for Irish independence that century – Inghinidhe na hÉireann had been formed in 1900 as a cultural organisation and had developed a militant Irish independentist political outlook along with a suffragettist one. Inghinidhe formally dissolved itself and joined Cumann na mBan in 1914 but in effect formed one of its branches and continued to represent a trend for greater activism and female independence within Cumann.

Unlike the Volunteers, membership of the socialist Irish Citizen Army, founded in 1913, was open to both genders and the women who joined that tended to disdain the membership of Cumann na mBan because not only did they not have a social program but were, at that time, under the overall authority of the all-male Irish Volunteers.

Prior to 1916, Cumann na mBan took part in agitation and publicity actions, a number of which they organised themselves. Their marching in the procession to the grave of O’Donavan Rosa’s grave in 1915 was apparently what most impressed other women, in particular young women; they had never witnessed a self-organised women’s organisation on the streets before and the Cumann’s membership swelled thereafter. When Redmond promised Irish men to the rulers of Britain to fight in WW1 the minority part of the movement but the most active split in order to fight for independence from the UK. Cumann na mBan split also but in their case, the majority went for fighting against Britain.

The flag of Cumann na mBan, flying in Dublin (Photo sourced: Internet)

In preparation for the 1916 Rising all members of the main female organisation learned First Aid and prepared field dressings for wounds, which perhaps brought them to face the physical dangers of insurrection more than did the training schedules of the Volunteers. They also engaged in anti-British Army recruitment activities which, after Britain declared War in 1914, increasingly meant being assaulted and arrested by the Dublin Metropolitan Police and the Royal Irish Constabulary. Many also transported secret messages and weapons, often storing the latter. In an informal way, they also provided intelligence they were able to gather. Through their cultural and social activities they provided diversion for male activists as well as a cover for clandestine meetings and other activities. During the Rising, Cumann na mBan members helped deliver arms, ammunition and equipment, construct barricades, set up field hospitals, provided food and water/ tea to combatants, acted as messengers. ICA women did most of that but a number of them were snipers also and one of those, Vol. Margaret Skinnider was gunshot-wounded three times while sniping and in other military activity in the Stephen’s Green/ College of Surgeons garrison area. Most of the Dublin garrisons had Cumann na mBan in them and those in the GPO garrison were asked to leave with some wounded when the building was in danger of collapse. Three women refused to leave with them and were there at the final surrender in Moore Street: Vols. Elizabeth O’Farrell, Winifred Carney and Julia Grenan.

Around 300 women are known to have taken part in the Rising and from the relative numbers of women in CnmB and the ICA, most of those had to be Cumann members; only 157 womens’ names appear on the Roll of Honour for the Rising.

Cumann na mBan was the first organisation of its kind in the world, a point that is often lost sight of: an insurrectionary female military organisation with its own uniform and officers.

Highly decorative and artistic logo of Cumann na mBan — note the rifle fitted into the acronym in the centre. (Photo sourced: Internet)

The greater role of the women in general and in particular of members of Cumann na mBan however was after the Rising when, even under martial law, they organised fund-raising for relief for families who had lost a breadwinner to death or prison; organised also public commemorations, defying arrest to keep the flame and memories alive, helping to create the sea-change in attitude to the Rising and giving a fertile ground for them to plant the seeds of resistance, along with the male and female prisoners released under amnesty.

In 1918 members of the Cumann worked to help the landslide victory for Sinn Féin in the British General Election in Ireland and then helped in the War of Independence, this time greatly organised into intelligence work but also as before as couriers, carrying and hiding weapons, caring for the wounded, running safe houses and other actions, as well as in public demonstrations and pickets, for example outside prisons. They were assaulted on occasion and jailed, sometimes replying with a hunger strike. They could not easily go “on the run” and were subjected by British Army and colonial Police to invasions of their homes and ill-treatment which included shearing their hair.

In 1921, Cumann na mBan again split over the Treaty but once more with the majority against it and in 1922 took the Republican side in the Civil War, for which they suffered repression, home invasions and imprisonment anew, this time by the forces of the Free State.

In 1926 Cumann na mBan invented the Easter Lily emblem in order to raise funds for the dependents of prisoners and killed in action fighters, in addition to those officially and unofficially executed, abducted an murdered. It is purely as a result of their efforts at this time that the emblem is so widely worn and appreciated in the wide Irish Republican movement, especially around this time of year.

Easter lily emblems printed on paper, attached with a pin. (Photo credit: Bryan O’Brien, Irish Times)
Two Cumann na mBan members as part of a Republican commemoration in 1944 (Photo sourced: Internet)

Cumann na mBan ceased to exist soon after the split between the “Officials” and “Provisionals” in 1969 but women continued to be active in the political organisations and also to be recruited into the various military ones.

End.

REFERENCES & FURTHER INFORMATION

https://www.rte.ie/news/2014/0328/605079-cumann-na-mban-centenary/

https://www.rte.ie/history/the-ban/2020/0109/1105376-cumann-na-mban/

(note the omission of the Moore Street battlefield at the end, with a Winifred Carney, Elizabeth O’Farrell and Julia Grenan noted as staying on in the GPO but omitting to mention where they went soon afterwards, or Farrell’s important roles thereafter): https://www.richmondbarracks.ie/women-1916/cumann-na-mban/

https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/women-of-1916-1.2535291

157 women who took part in the Rising: https://microsites.museum.ie/rollofhonour1916/roleofwomen.aspx

The creation and popularisation of the Easter Lily by Cumann na mBan: https://rebelbreeze.com/2018/04/20/a-resistance-symbol-sown-and-grown-by-irish-republican-women/

ATHLETE, REPORTER, FEMINIST, ANTIFASCIST — Anna María Martínez Sagi

MARCEL BELTRAN@@BELTRAN_MARCEL

(Translated by Diarmuid Breatnach from Castillian [Spanish] in Publico)

(Reading time: 4 mins.)

At the end of the 1970s, an elderly woman came to to live alone in the town of Moià, 50 kilometers from Barcelona. Nobody knows anything about her. No neighbour knew her or knew anything of her past. The only thing that is becoming apparent, little by little, is her unfriendly character. The old woman doesn’t communicate much but when she does she is dry and sharp. Like a knife just sharpened. She has a reputation for being elusive and sullen. Some people joke that not even dogs dare to bark at her. She will live twenty years in the village, the last of her life. And it will only be after her departure that the mystery that surrounds her will begin to fade. Under so much loneliness and silence a secret could only throb. When they find out, those who crossed paths with her in that last bitter stage of her life will be shocked.

The first time he came across the name Anna Maria Martínez Sagi (1907-2000), Juan Manuel de Prada was reading a González-Ruano interview book. The author, in the same volume in which he conversed with Unamuno or Blasco Ibáñez, referred to that woman as “a poet, trade unionist and virgin of the stadium.” It was these last three words that triggered De Prada’s curiosity, that he began to follow the trail of that person of which he had strangely never heard. He asked colleagues, academics, and historians, but they could not help him much. He searched archives and newspaper back-issues without luck. And, when he was about to give up, a friend who worked in the Treasury found the address of his missing woman, which confirmed that she was still alive. The novelist sent her a letter so they could meet and chat about her story.

“Why do you want to resurrect a dead woman?” was the answer that came from Moià. Martínez Sagi, at age 90, had resigned herself to anonymity — or more, to oblivion. Because someone who has been famous at some point is no longer anonymous, no matter how much they disappear from the conversations or stop being mentioned in the newspaper. Rather she fades from memory. And that is what she found when she returned home from the long exile to which the conclusion of the Civil War condemned her; she had been wiped off the map. Her vibrant reports had been of no use (she had become one of the most influential journalists of the Second Republic), her penetrating verses (the poet Cansinos Assens saw in her “the heiress of Rosalía de Castro”) or her milestones as a pioneer of feminism in Spain (she founded the first women workers’ literacy club in Barcelona) during the 1930s. Her interesting and unusual life had been reduced to zero.

That enormous and valuable legacy had been buried under the mantle of the dictatorship, first, and later by the passage of time. And now it seemed that Martínez Sagi did not exist. Or, worse, that she hadn’t existed. Something that De Prada remedied when, respecting the pact they had reached, he published her unpublished work two decades after the death of the author. That volume that was released in 2019, La Voz Sola (The Lone Voice), served to begin to repair the injustice of this inexplicable ignorance.

Anna Maria Martínez Sagi became the first woman member of the board of a soccer club

But where did that “virgin of the stadium” reference come from that had piqued De Prada’s interest? Anna Maria was born into a family of the Catalan gentry. Her father was in the textile industry and her mother was a conservative woman who wanted her daughters to study in Spanish and French and not in Catalan, which she considered “a peasant language.” That child would not have mastered the language with which she would later write so many journalistic texts if it weren’t for the help of her nanny Soledad, who would also open the doors to the world of the popular masses who got on the trams, populated the bars and walked through the streets of the city centre.

In any case, Martínez Sagi’s life would not change completely until, having hormonal problems, the doctors recommended that she play sports. She felt the benefits of physical exercise. And not only that, but she was especially good at it. Skiing, tennis, swimming. There was no discipline in which that girl with agile and resolute movement did not stand out among the young men. Neither in soccer, which she practiced assiduously with her cousins ​​and her brother. Or the javelin throw, in which she would later become the national champion. Precisely as a result of her other vocation, that of a reporter, she began to collaborate with the sports weekly La Rambla, where she met its founder, Josep Sunyol, a member of Esquerra Republicana1 party and president of FC Barcelona,2 ​​who was later shot by the Francoists. In 1934, when the writer had just turned 27, Sunyol would even give her a position in the Barça organization to create a women’s section. In this way, Anna Maria Martínez Sagi became the first woman to be a member of a football club board.

Anna Maria Martínez Sagi about the throw the javelin 1931

She would last a year in office, from which she escaped as soon as she realized that those men in suits with cigar stink in their mouths didn’t really want to change anything. “The environment at that time was one of very densemasculinity,” says De Prada. “And they saw her as a threat, because she was not only a woman with her own ideas, but she also fought them to the end.” She understood sport as a necessary vehicle to lead women to modernity. She dressed in the latest fashion, she attended the demonstrations of the progressives and did not allow herself to be stepped on by anyone. In the newspapers, she interviewed from beggars and prostitutes to politicians, and she also made a name for herself writing reports in defense of women’s suffrage, which at that time was not even supported by some sectors of the Left. She also aligned herself with the proclamations of Buenaventua Durruti, who dazzled her in a speech the anarchist gave at the Palau de Pedralbes. In 1936, when the war broke out, she asked permission to accompany the antifascists to Aragon and report from the front.

Those who saw her write in the conflict say that when she heard the whistle of bullets she did not crouch low. Perhaps that reckless bravery is nothing more than a legend, but it helps to focus Martínez Sagi in the time, a person who defied roles and stereotypes. With the arrival of Franco’s troops in Barcelona, ​​she was left with no choice but to flee to France. That circumstance would initiate the process of her loss. And would forever mark the exile, whose life continued to follow the dips of a roller coaster.

She first settled in Paris and then she went to Châtres, where she slept on the park benches and ended up working as a clerk in a fishmonger’s shop. She later joined the Resistance. “All my life I have fought against injustice, dictatorship, oppression, so I decided to join and saved many Jews and many French fleeing the Nazi advance,” she said. “It was always voluntary. I always did it because I wanted to.” In 1942 she herself was on the verge of being caught by the Gestapo, who appeared by surprise at her apartment. She escaped through a window and by miracle was saved. On French soil she also became a street painter, selling patterned scarves to passersby, and thus she met the Aga Khan’s wife in Cannes, who hired her to decorate their house for them. When she had some more money, she retired to a town in Provence to dedicate herself to the cultivation of aromatic flowers, and later she moved to the United States, where she taught language classes at the prestigious University of Illinois.

While her story jumped and changed landscapes, Martínez Sagi did not abandon poetry either, which was perhaps of all her passions that to which she gave herself most vehemently. Her poems were a mark of her existence, the sentimental record of what was happening to her. And for a long time they rested in the shadow of another woman, Elisabeth Mulder. Martínez Sagi met Mulder when the latter reviewed one of her first collections of poems and praised her, defining her as “a woman who sings among so many screaming women.” Martinez fell madly in love with her, despite the fact that Mulder was a widow and had a seven-year-old son. They came to spend a vacation together in Mallorca during Easter 1932, but the idyll was unexpectedly broken. The pressures of the young poet’s family and distancing by her lover, who never wanted the relationship to develop, ended the relationship and opened a wound that Martínez Sagi took many years to heal. “I found myself in front of you. You looked at me. / I was still able to stammer a banal phrase. / It was your livid smile … Later you walked away. / Then nothing … Life … Everything has remained the same”.

Anna Maria Martínez Sagi

This frustrated love, conditioned by the rejection that the writer received for wanting to live freely in homosexuality, may be one of the causes that explain why the flame of her memory was allowed to go out so abruptly. Also the distancing by exile, the story of politics, inclement weather, the cruelty of memory. Faults that portray a country with very poor retention that always forgets those who matter most. Among many other reasons, that is why it was necessary for someone to renovate the name of Anna Maria Martínez Sagi and make an effort to rescue her from oblivion.To do justice.

End.

SOURCES & FURTHER INFORMATION:

https://www.publico.es/sociedad/periodista-frente-guerra-poeta-atleta.html

https://www.ccma.cat/tv3/alacarta/sense-ficcio/la-sagi-una-pionera-del-barca/video/5829196/

1Republican social democratic pro-Catalan independence party that had many members killed in battle, executed or tortured and jailed during the Spanish Antifascist War and the following Franco dictatorship. Currently the party has a couple of leaders in Spanish jail, including elected members of the Catalan autonomous Government and Members of the European Parliament. The party is currently negotiating coalition government with other Catalan pro-independence parties; ERC has one seat less than Junts per Catalonia, another independentist party (D.B)

2Famous Catalan and international soccer club (D.B).

OVER TWO MONTHS OF WORKERS’ CONTROL – THE PARIS COMMUNE 1871

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 5 mins.)

One hundred and fifty years ago this month, the working class seized control of a major city and held it for over two months – the first time any such thing had happened. They did not just arm themselves and erect barricades – they elected representation, issued directives and implemented them, day by day. And the women were very much a part of it, including some of the lower level leadership, like Louise Michel, the Breton Anarchist woman who declared to the authorities who drowned the revolution in blood: “If you let me live, I will never stop crying out for vengeance.”

We should not allow the 18th of March to pass without stopping a least a moment to ponder on that momentous occasion and the extraordinary acts taken by mostly ordinary people. If we consider that the industrial commodity production of the industrial revolution had created the working class, the proletariat, it had been struggling for centuries against the exploitation of its labour power by the capitalists, the expropriation of all production for sale in exchange for the minimum in wages required to keep the workers alive and to produce the next generation of workers to be exploited. They had participated in many failed uprisings and even successful revolutions but in the latter case, always to the benefit of other social classes.

In 1871 they were successful beyond strikes, protests, riots and insurrections and, for the first time, in their own interests – they seized a major European city, the capital of a powerful State and ran it for their own benefit.

A number of conditions obtained which helped prepare the ground for the uprising: defeat of French state in war against Germany, ceding of Alsace-Lorraine, war shortages of food, firewood, coal and medicine in plummeting temperatures and a simmering discontent from the failure of a rising the previous October and others before that. But the action that precipitated the rising that led to the founding of the Commune was the attempt of the Government to seize the old cannons in the working class Montmartre district. As the casting of these had been paid for by popular subscription, the people saw them as their property and also as their own protection (having still living memories of the suppression of the 1848 revolution among many).

Contemporary sketch depicting even women and children removing cannon to Montmartre for people’s defence

The attempt by the Government’s soldiers resulted in the death of a resisting member of the National Guard, a popular armed force and this in turn led to the surrounding of the military and, when ordered to fire on the crowd, mutinies, desertions and the capture of officers. Soon afterwards the crowds began to take control and prominent high officers were grabbed and shot. By midday the Government was leaving and had ordered the regular army, which had already been retreated to the Seine, to leave and to reassemble at Versailles. Unfortunately one of the escaped was Marshall Patrice McMahon1 of the French Army.

MEASURES OF REVOLUTIONARY MANAGEMENT

Proclamation of the Commune and government by its Council

The Commune organised not only the defence of the city but its running and organisation along socialist lines.

On April 1st – that no employee or member of the Commune’s salary could exceed 6,000 francs. On April 2nd, the separation of Church and State, the abolition of all State payments for religious purposes and the transformation of all Church property into national property.

On 6th April the guillotine was brought out by the 137th Battalion of the National Guard and burned to great rejoicing. On 8th April the removal of all religious symbols, pictures, dogmas, prayers from schools was decreed and began to be implemented.

On 12th April, that the Column of Victory in the Place Vendome should be demolished, as the symbol of and incitement to national chauvinism and hatreds (this was carried out on the 16th). On the 16th the Commune ordered the systematic registration of all closed factories and the working out of plans for their management into production by the workers formerly employed in them, in cooperative societies. These cooperatives were to be organised in one great union.

On 30th April, the closing of all pawnshops. On 5th May the demolition of the symbol of expiation for the execution of Louis XVI, the Chapel of Atonement.

The Commune also abolished child labour and night work for bakers, made citizens of migrants (a number of which were also prominent in the Commune), granted pensions to unmarried partners of soldiers killed and their children, postponed commercial debts and outlawed interest on them and ensured the right of recall by voters of their delegates. The Commune’s local committees organised local defences, ran schools, provided clothing for children, food for the destitute, established canteens and first-aid stations …

A number of newspapers were published during the life of the Commune, varying from communist to anarchist to republican.

DEFEAT AND MASSACRES

The French Versailles Government was unable to take back control of the city even with their own regular army without systematic artillery bombardment to clear the way through to Paris and within it also. They appealed to those who had beaten them in the war, the German generals, to help them overcome the revolutionary resistance or at least allow them to pass. On the 11th May, the French Versailles troops under Marshal McMahon had blasted their way to the City Walls, then passed by the forts the Prussians had earlier taken on the north and east of the city. As the Versailles troops drove deeper into the city, resistance stiffened and intensified as they reached the working class quarters in the eastern half of Paris. It took eight days for the regular French Army to overcome the resistance on the heights of Belleville and Menilmontant.

“And then the massacre of defenceless men, women and children, which had been raging all week, reached its zenith.”2

Despite women not having the right to vote, they were active in the struggle, including in leadership roles, though not formally. Women were not only in the rearguard but helped build the barricades and fought on them, chaired committees and took part in debates. Many were killed in battle and many survivors were tried and sentenced to prison. Louise Michel, who was one of the leading activists, in her memoirs estimated their numbers in first-hand activity at 10,000; she fought with a unit of 30 women at Place Blanche in Montmartre until they were overrun.2

At the Hotel de Ville, which had been the headquarters of the Commune, the Versailles troops executed around 300 prisoners and burned the building (since rebuilt). One group of Communards retreated to the Pere Lachaise cemetery to make their stand and there, with no weapons or ammunition remaining, 147 survivors were placed against the wall and shot, their bodies thrown into a long ditch dug along the wall.

All armed resistance ended on 28th May but not the retributions of the French ruling class (with the support of the Republican bourgeoisie).

The Communard Wall plaque in Pere Lachaise cemetery, place of annual pilgrimage for the Left, especially the revolutionary Left.
Bodies of executed Communards
Some of the dead Communards prepared for burial by family or sympathisers

The full number of massacred will probably be never known and estimates vary from 10,000 to 20,000. On the wall of the Pere Lachaise cemetery some years later a plaque was erected and it has been a place of annual pilgrimage since for the Left (except during the Nazi occupation).

Louise Michel, Communard, in the uniform of the National Guard, the main armed force of the Paris Commune. Wearing that uniform was one of the charges of which she was convicted after the fall of the Commune.

Louise Michel, who defied the judges at her trial in December and challenged them to have her shot, was sentenced to penal exile, along with 10,000 Communard survivors, hers being to New Caledonia, a French colonial possession in the Pacific3. She arrived there after 20 months’ jail, where she met many other revolutionaries and apparently there became an Anarchist, returning to France under the general amnesty for the Communards in 1880 (and continued revolutionary activities almost to the day of her death in 1905, a few months short of her 75th birthday).

FOR THE FUTURE AND THE PAST

With the Paris Commune of 1871, the proletariat had for the first time seized and managed a major city. It would be 46 years later before they succeeded in seizing a country – Russia. In the case of the Commune, the workers had learned how to take a city but were unable to hold it against sustained external attack; with the Soviet Union, they took a country and fought off external attack but were unable hold it against subversion from within. One hundred and fifty years after the Commune’s and a century after the Soviet Union’s achievements, we are overdue for another revolution. Hopefully this time we will have learned to hold on to its gains.

The Communards sounded the trumpet proclaiming the approaching end of capitalism and gave an answer then and since to those who say a revolution is not possible or if it is, that the workers are incapable of governing themselves and supplying the means to satisfy the needs of society.

Let us take a moment to reflect and to honour.

End.

FOOTNOTES:

1Descendant of Irish gentry who had fled Cromwellian confiscations and repression and settled in France.

2Engels, opus cited in Sources.

3A long way from the west of the Australian continent.

Print of women on trial in Versailles court for their actions during the Paris Commune
Depiction of arrest of Louise Michel among survivors of massacre of prisoners
Battle in defence of the Paris Commune

SOURCES:

Engels, selected writings, (ed. W.O. Henderson, Penguin 1967), Introduction to the Civil War in France

https://www.rfi.fr/en/visiting-france/20110106-truth-buried-paris-cemetery-sculpture-mistook-famous-wall

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/mar/07/vive-la-commune-the-working-class-insurrection-that-shook-the-world

ALBUM REVIEW: TIR NAN OG – ‘Sing, Ye Bastards!’ (2021)

Love, life, death and lots of alcohol! Yeah the sort of themes you expect to hear on a Celtic-Punk album but in the hands of German band Tir Nan Og on their new album Sing, Ye Bastards! these traditional themes are anything but traditional!

Read the rest of the review on https://londoncelticpunks.wordpress.com/2021/03/07/album-review-tir-nan-og-sing-ye-bastards-2021/

Calvary Cemetery — Historic Resting Place of the New York Irish

Geoffrey Cobb

(Reading time text: 5 mins)

Driving out of frenzied Manhattan heading out over the 59th Street Bridge and through the highway traffic east into Queens, the dense urban landscape is suddenly broken up by a jarring sight- an immense sea of green. Coming closer, the driver, who sees a vast number of gravestones and monuments, realizes that this great green space is a huge city of the dead.

The Manhattan skyline is seen behind the Calvary Cemetery. Photo credit: REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

This great green city of the dead is Calvary Cemetery, a place rich in New York Irish history. Founded by the Archdiocese of New York, the graveyard contains the remains of a staggering three million people, more than all the current population of the borough of Queens. Calvary holds more burials than anywhere else in the United States, covering an unbelievable 365 acres of prime real estate. The cemetery reaches into two neighborhoods and is comprised of four large sections. Many of the most important characters in New York Irish history rest beneath its fields and walking around Calvary is a lesson in New York Irish history. It even holds the remains of Annie Moore, (1874-1924) the Irish immigrant who was the first person of the millions of hopeful immigrants who passed through Ellis Island.

Annie Moore, teenager from Ireland, first immigrant processed through Ellis Island (Photo sourced: Internet)

By the 1840’s, Lower Manhattan’s Old Saint Patrick’s Cathedral graveyard was filling up and it was no longer possible to bury its large population on the island. In 1847, faced with many corpses from a raging cholera epidemic the New York State Legislature passed the Rural Cemetery Act, authorizing non-profit corporations to operate commercial cemeteries. The trustees of St. Patrick’s bought the 151-acre Alsop farm in Queen, which became the original section of Calvary Cemetery, today known as Old Calvary. When Mrs. Ann Alsop sold the farm to the Trustees, she insisted that her Protestant Alsop family burial ground remain separate from the Catholics and the trustees have maintained this division to this day. The tiny family plot still remains walled off, dwarfed by the hundreds of thousands of Catholic tombstones around it.

Calvary was consecrated by the legendary Tyrone-born Archbishop “Dagger John”  Hughes (1797-1864) in August 1848 and by 1852 there were 50 burials a day, half of them poor  Irish kids under seven years of age, victims of the noxious conditions in the disease-ridden, teeming Manhattan slums. It cost seven dollars for an adult to be buried there, children under age seven cost three dollars and children aged seven to fourteen cost five dollars. In the early 20th Century, influenza and tuberculosis epidemics caused such a shortage of gravediggers that people were forced to dig graves themselves for their own loved ones.

In the days before highways and city parks, people reached Calvary by ferryboat and excursions to the graveyard were regular Sunday family outings. People often picnicked while visiting their loved ones and enjoyed the bucolic charm of the giant green expanse. With amazing statuary, marble mausoleums and towering trees, the graveyard remains a place of great beauty, though today there are few family visitors. Calvary, though retains a wonderful tranquility, making it a welcome refuge from the noisy city around it. Today, some harried New Yorkers visit Calvary to collect their thoughts or just to enjoy its wonderful calming silence. I have just written a book The Irish in New York and I realized that many of the characters in my book and hundreds of other famous Irish figures lie in Calvary’s ground. The Irish clawed their way to power and acceptance by creating an infamous political machine called Tammany Hall and dozens of its most notorious members lie in Calvary’s earth. The most famous Tammany Hall politico lies there, Al Smith, (1873-1944) the first Catholic Governor of New York, a reformer and the first Catholic nominee for President of the United States. A poor boy himself, Smith enacted many factory safety and labor reforms to help the working class. Another Tammany Hall figure who lies there is the infamous “Big Bill” Devery” (1854-1919). Serving as a notorious police chief of New York City, Big Bill stole enough money to become part-owner of a baseball team that would be known as the New York Yankees. A generous thief, Devery died almost broke.

William “Bill” Devery, Irish corrupt Superintendent NY Police Department
Gravestone Al Smith, Tammany Hall politician, reformer and Irish Governor New York (Photo sourced: Internet).
Fr. Edward McGlynn, Irish social reformer in the US unfrocked by the Catholic Church hierarchy as a “communist” but reinstated at a later date (Photo sourced: Internet)

A contrast to the corrupt Devery, Fr. Edward McGlynn (1837-1900) also lies in the graveyard. McGlynn was so passionately attached to the ideas of socialism and helping the poor that the Catholic Church branded him as a Communist and had him defrocked, though he was later reinstated. He was so loved that three decades after McGlynn’s death a parishioner wrote these words in Gaelic and English on paper attached to his tombstone:

Fr. McGlynn, We thank the Lord who gave us you, Soggarth aroon, (beloved priest in Gaelic)

Learned and wise, kindly and true, Soggarth Aroon,

You know your cause was sanctified,

Stood till measures were rectified,

And rest with God’s beatified, Soggarth Aroon.

There are also many infamous characters in Calvary including “ The Queen of The Night Club” Tex Guinan (1884-1933), who became a legendary, and often arrested, hostess of speakeasies during the Great Depression. She became famous for her sharp tongue and for insulting her rich male clients who still spent vast sums in her clubs. Tex lies amongst many famous murdered Italian mafiosi who also sleep in Calvary.

lrishwoman “Speakeasy Queen” ‘Tex’ Guinan (Photo sourced: Internet)

The Irish have been valiant New York fire fighters and some who lie in Calvary died fighting fires. One of the memorable graves contains a life-sized statue of Charles Keegan (1858-1882), a Brooklyn firefighter killed in the line of duty while fighting a blaze at Locust Point (the long-lost locale is at Meeker Avenue where it meets Newtown Creek), caused by a lightning strike at the Sone and Fleming Kings County Oil Refinery in 1882. Explosions associated with the blaze claimed the first Penny Bridge; Keegan and fellow firefighter Stuart Deane suffered grisly deaths, being burned alive. Some of the teenage girls who were burned in the tragic 1911 Triangle Fire also sleep in Calvary.

(Photo sourced: Internet)
Union Civil War officer, one of a series of sculptures in Calvary Cemetery by Daniel Draddy from Cork (Photo sourced: Internet)

Perhaps the most striking feature in the cemetery is the city park located completely inside Calvary, dedicated to the Civil War soldiers who defended the Union. Irish sculptor Daniel Draddy from Cork created the park’s most stunning feature — amazing life-sized statues of Civil War soldiers. There is also a Fenian Monument in Calvary, erected in 1907 to honor members of the Fenian Brotherhood buried there, one of whom is the great Tipperary Fenian leader and Civil War veteran Michael Doheny (1805-1862) .

There is also — and a monument also honors — the legendary Civil War NY Irish regiment, the Fighting 69th, whose leader Thomas Meagher is also profiled in my book. My friend Peter McHale, author of Greenpoint Doughboy, wrote his excellent work about his great-uncle who fell in France fighting with the 69th in World War I. The book ends with the fallen hero’s return to be interred in Calvary.

Monument to the famous “Fighting 69th” Regiment US Army first formed from Irish migrants for the American Civil War (Photo sourced: Internet)

One of the most famous figures interred there is Mayo legend and Olympic Gold Medalist Martin Sheridan (1881-1919). Sheridan, a World Record-setting discus hurler, was cut down just short of his thirtieth birthday by the last great pandemic a century ago. He lies in sight of the former Celtic Park where a number of Irish immigrants formed a legendary sports club that brought home several Olympic medals.

Artists and musicians also lie there. Galway-born Patrick Gilmore (1829-1892), song writer and band leader, known as “The Father of the American Band,” who wrote When Johnny Comes Marching Home and Meath’s John Mulvany (1839-1906) the great western painter of Custer’s Last Stand also rest there. Also among the dead is James Blake (1862-1935) who wrote the text to the iconic New York song “ The Sidewalks of New York.”

Millions of New Yorkers lie here, each with his or her own biography. Sadly, the Archdiocese shut down walking tours of the cemetery and unlike Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery, Calvary fails to commemorate its amazing history. Let’s hope that this changes soon.

End.

NB: Geoff Cobb’s book is available on Amazon

A FOOTBALLER AND RACISM WITHOUT COLOUR

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 10 mins.)

Current media news reports quote James McClean, a player for the English Football League club Stoke City and for the soccer team of the Irish State1, protesting against being subjected to anti-Irish racism and his wife Erin also, not so much on her own behalf but in consideration of her three children. McClean points out that while other kinds of discrimination are rightly opposed, anti-Irish racism goes largely ignored by British society and by the football profession. Despite its existence for 800 years and its persistence today, anti-Irish racism has long been neglected in the study of racism and the struggle against it.

James MacClean, who comes from Derry, has been made a controversial figure by his refusal to comply with the expectation that he wear a Remembrance Poppy, which he correctly sees as a promotional emblem for the British Army. As a result he has been subjected to sectarian Loyalist abuse and anti-Irish abuse targeting him and his family.

Erin and husband and footballer James MacClean, enjoying a social occasion. They have been harassed by anti-Irish racism and threats to them and to their children. (Photo source: Internet)

The origins of anti-Irish racism can be traced back to the writings of Anglo-Norman Gerald of Wales (Giraldus Cambrensis) in the latter half of the 12th Century. Coming from a background of Norman feudal culture and a comparatively recent history of conquest of large parts of Celtic and Saxon Britain2, Gerald found little to admire in Gaelic culture3 or society and much to deride. The feudal Norman visitors were encountering a culture of clan ownership of land, of election of clan leaders and greater kings who might not be first-born, of a Christian clergy that was not celibate and in which women could own their own property before, during and after marriage with the right to divorce. A culture shock indeed.

The writings of Gerald helped justify the 1169 opportunistic invasion of Ireland at the invitation of a resentful overthrown Irish king. With that beachhead well-established and the Irish Vikings of Dublin evicted by Richard de Clare, “Strongbow” in 1170, anti-Irish racism served to justify the official invasion of Henry in 1171 backed up by the authorisation of Pope Adrian IV with the Papal Bull Laudabiliter, a 1155 letter of ecclesiastic authorisation, to bring the semi-independent Irish church to the Gregorian Reforms.4

Despite the early scorn and distaste of the Norman invaders for Irish culture, within less than two centuries they were becoming integrated with it to such an extent as to cause alarm among the English Normans. The latter drafted a number of laws forbidding elements of that integration, the most infamous being the Statutes of Kilkenny in 1366, forbidding the Irish Normans from adopting native Irish customs, forms of dress and use of the Irish language; they had become “more Irish than the Irish themselves”, their critics in England complained. Inside the “Pale”, the central enclosures of the occupiers’ power, the Statutes could be enforced but not outside and so Ireland remained essentially Gaelic in culture, with some cultural transference from the Normans.

Control of Irish territory breakdown 1450 (Image sourced: Internet)

For the conquest to be secure, Ireland needed to be conquered entirely and plantations of people seemed the way to achieve this: send in settlers, give them expropriated land which they they would have to defend. This was the approach of the Tudor monarchs of England and to a requirement that the settlers would be English-speaking they added the new religion, that of the Protestant Reformation. Settlements had to be capable of defence5 and no “mere Irish” should be employed.

Dispossession, plantation and oppression continued through the 17th Century under Cromwell and King William and through the Penal Laws thereafter up to the 19th.

Land distribution in ireland after the Cromwellian Resettlement Act 1652 (Image sourced: Internet)

The native Irish (Gael) and now also the Norman Irish (Gall-Ghael) were the enemy surrounding these settlements outside the Pale, they had been dispossessed and would no doubt recover their lands and their sovereignty if given the chance. And they were by far the majority. Justification for conquest and dispossession required an appropriate ideology and this was found in the assumed superiority of the occupiers’ religions, language, culture and polities. And the natural corollary to that was an ascribed inferiority to everything among the natives: language, religion, cultural habits and mores, dress … Naturally practical physical measures were required also: oppression, discrimination and repression of resistance.

The Irish were characterised as savage, child-like, emotional, untrustworthy (they agreed to treaties when beaten but broke them later6), superstitious, violent (they kept resisting the lawful authority or even uprising), drunkards, dirty ….

Following the scientific breakthrough of Darwinism came “Social Darwinism” and some Victorian pseudo-anthropologists placed the Irish as a Celtic Iberian race below the Teutonic (with which of course they identified the English) but above the “African Hottentot”. The Irish and Latin “races” were described as of “feminine” nature: emotional, weak, charming at times, unintelligent, needing to be controlled; while the “masculine” Anglo-Teutonic “races” were strong, measured, logical and obviously the right ones to be in control.

Éire struggling with Famine, which was in reality an imposed holocaust — while the irish starved, due to a blight on their staple food of potato, their other products were collected for rent and left Ireland in ships for Britain. (Image sourced: Internet)

Irish uprisings increased the sense of insecurity of the conquerors and occupiers and intensified their efforts to justify their oppression and repression of the Irish so that Victorian Britain during Fenian campaigns churned out jokes against the Irish, along with nasty tales and horrible caricatures in popular newspapers. But not just popular newspapers: as the Irish starved in the Great Hunger of the mid-19th Century while their produce fed the British industrial revolution, the London Times, newspaper of record for the British ruling class, exulted in an editorial that the the Irish (survivors) were leaving and that soon an Irishman would be as rare in Ireland as the American Indians on the North-East Coast of the USA.

“The Irish Frankenstein” (sic) 1882, popular Punch magazine (Image sourced: Wikipedia)
Anti-Eviction Rally in they Land War, 1850 (Image sourced: Internet)

EXPORTING ANTI-IRISH RACISM

Not surprisingly, a central ideology such as anti-Irish racism accompanied the British wherever they went, despite the number of Irish in their armies and administrative layers. Boston, Massachusetts was particularly known for ant-Irish prejudice and discrimination and that may explain why the Irish community there was reportedly so clannish and defending its hard-won turf against all comers, including unfortunately competition from those considered even lower than the Irish, African Americans7. The anti-Irish ideology made itself felt in the white-ruled colonies, later Dominions of Australia, New Zealand and Canada too.

A common enough sign in Britain and white settler British dominions during certain periods (Image sourced: Internet)

A strange case of the dissemination of this virus was its export to Scotland, a nation although of Celtic origin, heavily settled by Normans and Saxons, and incorporated into the United Kingdom in 1707. This was in particular of Ulster origin and took the form of anti-Catholicism. The English occupation had consciously stirred up religious sectarianism in the 1790s in order to break up the growing unity of Protestant Irish of various backgrounds with the Catholic vast majority which was framed in a republican project for greater independence. An important part of that subversion was the creation of the Orange Order in Loughgall in 1795, which became active in helping to suppress the United Irishmen uprising of 1798 and especially in repression afterwards, both against Republican Protestants and Catholics in general. As the Republican element among the Protestants decreased dramatically due to repression and emigration, the Order concentrated almost exclusively on oppression of Catholics and repression of resistance, a role it plays to this day.

But with the decline of the Ulster weaving industry in particular due to Ireland entering the UK in 1801 and British preferential treatment of their own production, many Ulster emigrants came to Scotland and were in competition for work, with the Orange Order being used to infect the already widely Protestant Scottish society against the Catholics which meant essentially, against the Irish. That has continued to this day (see References) and finds its expression in an often violent rivalry for example between soccer football teams of “Catholic” and “Protestant” background8, in Orange marches celebrating the victories of King William in Ireland and in discrimination in other areas such as policing too.

ANTI-IRISH RACISM IN THE 20th AND 21st CENTURIES

Anti-Irish racism was whipped up again during the 1916 Easter Rising and Irish war of Independence (1919-1921), and not just against the Irish in Ireland but against the Irish in Britain, in the USA9 and in Australia10. It raised its ugly head (and bared its teeth) again during WW2 (inflamed by the IRA campaign in Britain and Irish state neutrality) and again during the recent 30 years’ war.

An allegedly common lodging house sign in Britain, the existence of which is now disputed. What is beyond doubt is that those three exclusions (and of children) were advertised though not all necessarily all together. (Image sourced: Internet)

In the 1970s anti-Irish articles, jokes and cartoons abounded in the British press and to this ideological offensive was added the 1971 weekly program of The Comedians (“stand up comedians”), of which a huge proportion of their material was anti-Irish racism, depicting the Irish in particular as stupid. I was London myself during that period and remember that a “comedian” only had to say “There was this Paddy on a building site” and the audience would be already laughing. Bernard Manning was the most infamous of those but there were many, many others.

Bernard Manning, perhaps chief among a long line of British racist comedians. (Image sourced: Internet)
Perhaps a better aspect of Bernard Manning (Image sourced: Find a Grave)

Those jokes and others were repeated not only by comperes and club comedians but of course also at work, in school, at college and in universities. They represented a deeply degrading ideological offensive on a cultural level against the whole Irish community.

Apart from the Comedians TV program, a number of media personalities made racist jokes about or references to the Irish without any apology from the media or repercussions from their employers. Angus Deaton, for a long time presenter of Have I Got News For You, the popular British TV comedy news and current affairs commentary show, made a joke about the Irish (although participant Paul Merton, who said his mother was Irish, riposted brilliantly). Caroline Aherne, a comedienne who brilliantly played the biting chat-show character “Mrs. Merton”, was one of the few to speak out publicly against the racist “humour” but both her parents were Irish. Billy Connolly, Scottish comedian of Catholic Irish background, while discussing comedy, admitted to having told an anti-irish joke once when feeling lonely on stage, which he regretted. To the urbane Irish presenter Terry Wogan’s great credit while judging a popular British TV talent show, he declared anti-Irish jokes were not funny.

1974 saw the introduction of the Prevention of Terrorism (sic) Act and the framing and incarceration of two score innocent Irish people. Apart from raids on homes, spurious arrests without warrants, detention without charge and oppressive interrogations, thousands were questioned at ports and airports, often made to miss their flights at the latter. Though the charges falsely alleged involvement in “terrorist acts” the basis was Irishness, in a way very reminiscent to “Muslim” being considered sufficient justification today.

James MacClean playing for his club, Stoke City. (Photo credit: Northern Echo)

“INVISIBLE” RACISM

If a good working definition of racism is “discrimination against and disparaging of another ethnic group from a position of power”, then the Irish should have had no problems in gaining recognition as being racially oppressed and discriminated against. However, so many insisted that the Irish could not qualify because they were “white”. But in fact there already existed a “white” ethnic group which was widely acknowledge as having been discriminated against for centuries – the Jews. That however was explained by some as being a “religious discrimination” at root and not “racism”. The basic fact of the matter was and is that it did not suit the British ruling class or their intelligentsia to admit to anti-Irish racism – and not just because of guilt but for very practical reasons: they are still in conquest-occupation of nearly one-fifth of Irish territory. And the Irish diaspora is the oldest ethnic minority in Britain as well as, until recently perhaps, the largest11.

Cover of memoir by John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, lead singer of the punk band Sex Pistols. Lydon was of irish descent growing up in North London. (Image sourced: Internet)

The British Left, the leading parts of which have either gained access to management of the British State or aspire to do so, for the most part have denied or minimalised anti-Irish racism. It took Liz Curtis to put together a popular illustrated booklet on anti-Irish racism and the Irish in Britain Representation Group, founded in 1981 to campaign against it. The IBRG made official complaints to and about the media and picketed WH Smiths12 until they stopped selling “Irish mugs” with the handle inside. While supporting general equality, the IBRG made complaints to local authorities about racist measures that impacted upon the Irish and sought to have an Irish ethnicity identification choice in the British Census, which was eventually successful.13 An approach of theirs to the GLC convinced the Council, under the leadership of Ken Livingstone, to withdraw all their advertising from the London Evening Standard until the latter apologised for publishing an anti-Irish racist cartoon. The Editor refused to apologise and never again received any advertising from the GLC14, at a revenue loss to the newspaper estimated at £2 million.

Mostly the Irish community fought the racism on their own, without the support of most of the British Left or the liberal-social-democratic elements. Even after the 1965 Race Relations Act the widespread feeling was that whether one was for or against the Act, it did not apply to the Irish. The Act specifically excluded shops and boarding houses (i.e places where notices declaring “No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish”) were widespread but they were included in the 1968 Act15. The 1976 Act was more comprehensive but the assumption of inapplicability to the Irish continued. It appears that it was not until the Killian case against the British pharmaceutical retail chain Boots in 1989 that an Irish person was successful in taking a case for discrimination16 under the 1976 Act.

James McClean for Ireland in International friendly match against Bulgaria at Aviva Stadium, Dublin, September 2019. (Photo credit: Seb Daly/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The anti-Irish racist offensive mostly petered out at the end of the 1990s but flared up again in the British media during the whole Brexit saga. In 2015 Jeremy Clarkson flew into a rage with an Irish co-producer of the Top Gear show, abused him racially and punched him in the mouth. It is a virus or bacteria living deep in the British mainstream psyche; it recedes at times only to be reactivated whenever the British ruling class — or sections of the chattering class — perceive that the Irish are not acting in the best interests of Britain, whatever they perceive those to be.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1In the world of soccer football, there are two “national” teams competing for the championships: “Republic of Ireland” and “Northern Ireland”, a clear example of intrusion of politics into sport, for Ireland is one country and was recognised as such even by the English invaders (the inventors of soccer) from 1169 until they partitioned the country in 1921. Thus what is mostly recognised as the Irish national team has to compete against another team from a part of its own country in order to progress in championships!

2England suffered a Norman invasion in 1066 which gradually extended over the whole of Britain, the south-east of which had been already conquered by the Saxons.

3He admired Gaelic decorative art as expressed in illuminated manuscripts and harp-playing, describing them as “the work of angels”, almost expressing incredulity that they could have come from Gaelic culture. It is unlikely that he learned the Irish language, perhaps conversing with natives through the medium of Latin or an interpreter.

4The Gaels, who earlier had a pantheistic religion moderated by the druidic order, had been largely Christian by the 5th Century; furthermore the transition to Christianity in Ireland was not imposed by conquest and appears to have been largely voluntary; in addition the Christian monks recorded a great many of the pre-Christian myths and legends. During the Early Middle Ages the Irish Church sent out missionaries to many parts of Europe, establishing monasteries similar to universities as far away as Asia Minor.

5Hence the layout of triangle, square or diamond town centres of settler origin in Ireland, rather than native layout of lines of housing following road or river crossing and backing up behind, or congregating around harbour, fort or monastery. See also the design of even the small Protestant churches which look built to be used as forts, with strong doors and narrow windows, some even like arrow-slits.

6Compare this with the long history of conquerors, certainly including the English, repeatedly violating treaties they had made when victorious!

7Of course Boston was far from being the only US City where anti-black racism was the norm in Irish communities but it was perhaps the worst. Of course Irish anti-slavery, labour and civil rights workers also existed, some of them very prominent in their field.

8e.g supporters of Glasgow Celtic v. Rangers, of Hibernians v. Heart of Midlothian in Edinburgh.

9The British intelligence services were well aware that the Irish insurgency was receiving substantial concrete and moral assistance from the Irish diaspora in the USA.

10It had existed there before from in particular English settlers but reached hysterical proportions when two attempts to impose conscription in WW1 through referendum – because they feared to impose it otherwise – failed, a fact which was attributed by many to the Irish element in the (white) Australian electorate.

11Certainly the largest national diaspora

12 British equivalent of Easons in Ireland

132001; the opposition did not come from the British establishment alone but also from middle-class black activists keen to keep anti-racism as their preserve solely.

14The GLC was abolished by the Thatcher Government in 1985.

15Which was not applicable in the Six Counties, despite being a part of the UK

16 As in the early successful cases where the complainant was Irish, it was about discrimination in employment; later there were many about abuse at point of service as well of as employee.

REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING

General history of Anti-Irish Racism
Nothing But the Same Old Story: Roots of Anti-Irish Racism, Liz Curtis, (1984) GLC; 1996 Sásta reprint)

Apes and Angels: The Irishman in Victorian Caricature, L. Perry Curtis (1971, republished 1996 by Smithsonian DC

Ireland: The Propaganda War ; the British Media and the Battle for Hearts and Minds, Liz Curtis, (1984) Pluto Press; 1998 Sásta update and reprint)

The Irish Community – diversity, disadvantage and discrimination, Bronwen Walter, 1999 https://www.runnymedetrust.org/bgIrishCommunity.html

Anti-Irish Sentiment in Modern Britain: https://theyorkhistorian.com/2018/03/18/anti-irish-sentiment-in-modern-britain/

Snippets across the centuries: https://sheelanagigcomedienne.wordpress.com/anti-irish-racism/

Swift, Roger and Sheridan Gilley, The Irish in Britain, 1815-1939. London: Pinter, 1989.

Swift, Roger and Sheridan Gilley, The Irish in the Victorian City. London: Dover, 1985.

The use of the ‘cartoonist’s armoury’ in manipulating public opinion: anti-Irish imagery in 19th century British and American periodicals: https://www.jstor.org/stable/41932626?seq=1

A very rare occasion when a letter of mine was published by the Irish Times:
https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/letters/anti-irish-racism-in-britain-1.4188132

MORE RECENT OCCURRENCES FROM PROMINENT BRITISH COMMENTATORS

2005 — comment on decades of anti-Irishness in the Daily Mail: https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/anti-irish-newspaper-plans-to-launch-edition-here-26213160.html

Jeremy Clarkson and anti-Irish racism: http://littleatoms.com/society/jeremy-clarkson-and-being-lazy-irish-britain

Daily Mail, 2017: https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/art-and-design/apes-psychos-alcos-how-british-cartoonists-depict-the-irish-1.3149409

Julie Burchill, 2018: https://london.eater.com/2018/1/26/16933806/julie-burchill-anti-irish-sentiment-nuala-es-mag-restaurant-review

John Cleese: https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/john-cleese-has-a-faulty-sense-of-humour-about-the-irish-1.4294487?mode=sample&auth-failed=1&pw-origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.irishtimes.com%2Fculture%2Fjohn-cleese-has-a-faulty-sense-of-humour-about-the-irish-1.4294487

Tony Abbot, leader of Australian Liberal Party at the time (2011): https://theconversation.com/the-problem-with-jokes-about-irishmen-2370

CAMPAIGNING AGAINST ANTI-IRISH RACISM

James McClean and wife Erin speak out against threats and anti-Irish comments received by them and against their children: https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikemeehallwood/2021/02/15/anti-irish-racism-condemned-as-james-mccleans-wife-shares-social-media-threats-against-their-children/

A year-by-year record of many activities of the IBRG, regular campaigner against anti-Irish racism: https://lipsticksocialist.wordpress.com

Battle to have an Irish category in the British census: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-20095-8_7, Chap 7.2, paragraph 2.

GLC banning adverts over anti-Irish cartoon in the London Evening Standard: https://books.google.ie/books?id=fVcGDAAAQBAJ&pg=PT94&lpg=PT94&dq=GLC+ban+on+advertising+evening+standard&source

Asian man who won first successful case against racial discrimination in Britain mentions anti-Irish racism: https://eachother.org.uk/racism-1960s-britain/

British media racist cartoonist JAK: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raymond_Jackson

1977 comment: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/irish-suffering-in-britain-is-more-than-just-racist-jokes-1.85448

Exclusion of the irish from the anti-racism mainstream paradigm: https://discoversociety.org/2019/03/06/is-anti-irish-racism-still-a-problem-you-can-bank-on-it/

Commenting on anti-Irish Racism in Scotland

James MacMillan: https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/12398473.composer-celtic-fans-should-feel-free-to-sing-republican-songs-james-macmillan-claims-sectarianism-rules-out-pride-in-irish-roots/

Neil Lennon: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2018/nov/02/neil-lennon-sectarianism-racism-hibernian-scotland

TFN: https://tfn.scot/news/anti-irish-racism-is-rife-in-scotland

Event against anti-Irish racism in Scotland cancelled after threats: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/anti-irish-racism-event-cancelled-as-venue-receives-threats-of-violence-k2wdjxl3z

USA DEMOCRATS AND COLOMBIA: BUSINESS AS USUAL

By GEARÓID Ó LOINGSIGH

(Reading time: 8 mins.)

— BOGOTA — The recent election of Joe Biden as president of the U.S. has been met with a round of applause from left reformist currents in Colombia, some even eager to claim Biden as one of their own. Underlying such praise is the notion that the Democrats are more progressive and will treat Colombia fairly, or at least better than the Republicans. There is no evidence on which to base such a claim.

Historically, some of the greatest blows to Colombia have come from Democratic administrations, starting with the smiling, handsome, charismatic JFK, whose policies left few smiling in the country. It was under JFK that two U.S military delegations visited the country and made recommendations that the Colombian state set up armed civilian groups, which are now commonly referred to as paramilitaries. By 1965, Colombia introduced legislation to give effect to those proposals and thus began a long sordid history of the state setting up death squads and providing them with legal status.

Of course, JFK was a long time ago, some would argue, though obviously no Democrat would countenance publicly criticizing him on such matters. Many of those who rushed to endorse Biden are unaware of this aspect of their history, but not so, the leading politicians such as Senator Gustavo Petro, a former mayor of Bogotá and the most successful left-wing candidate for the presidency ever. They are only too aware of the history of paramilitary violence in the country, yet prefer to ignore it on the altar of realpolitik.

The most recent embodiments of charming, handsome U.S. presidents also get a free pass now, just as they did when they were in power. Bill Clinton is perhaps the most notorious of recent U.S. presidents whose policies can be measured in bodies, forced displacement, and the mass destruction of the environment through the aerial fumigation of coca crops. Clinton was the architect of Plan Colombia, a massive supposed anti-drugs policy, which strengthened the Colombian military and under the guise of a concern for public health helped the Colombian military gain the technical and logistical capacity to wage war, including the expansion of paramilitary units throughout the country.

“Handsome US Presidents”, in particular Democratic ones, have helped Columbian ruling circles carry out a murderous reign of terror against social activists. (Photo source: Internet)

Plan Colombia was of course, implemented by George W. Bush as Clinton finished his second term shortly after concluding the agreement, a sign that policy on Colombia has always been bipartisan. When Clinton announced the initiative he lied. He stated that the motives were public health ones and that cocaine was killing 50,000 people per year in the U.S., when at the time the CDC put the figure for all deaths from all drug abuse, excluding alcohol and tobacco, but including legal pharmaceuticals at just over 15,000. Alcohol alone doubled that figure.  The ruse worked and Congress passed Plan Colombia, thanks in part to Biden, who fought for the plan in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Clinton finished his term with controversial presidential pardons, including Marc Rich, but in Colombia, he is remembered for his clemency deal with Harvey Weinig, a U.S. lawyer convicted of laundering $19 million for the Cali Cartel.[1]  Whilst attacking impoverished farmers, he indulged the wealthy individuals higher up the chain.

Thanks to the Plan, paramilitaries swept through the country taking over, not only rural areas, but some major urban centers. The Colombian military was in a position to aid them in that and also hold on to those areas, once the dirty work had been done. Their first targets were areas of military and economic strategic importance, with gold and oil deposits and also areas that were earmarked for major transformations in the rural economy. As part of this drugs initiative, peasants were “encouraged” to switch crops. Plan Colombia financed major agribusiness projects, particularly African Palm, and in preparation for the Free Trade Agreement that would be signed under Bush but come into effect under Obama, the country geared its agricultural production toward export markets and opted for importing basic food staples such as rice, beans, and cereals. For example, corn imports from the U.S. began to decline notably from 2008 onwards, but once the FTA came into force in 2012 under the Obama administration, the year of the lowest amount of corn imports in a long time, they quickly increased and by 2016 almost doubled the figure for 2008. By 2018, 80% of all corn consumed in Colombia was imported and barely 20% was produced nationally.

Thanks to Bill Clinton and Obama, Colombia is now one of the major recipients of military aid. Between 2001 and 2019, it received $9 billion in aid, just over 66% of it under the guise of anti-narcotics aid.[1] All anti-narcotics operations in Colombia involve the deployment of ground troops following the strafing of farms by helicopters, displacement of peasant farmers, threats and not infrequently the murder of leaders in the areas. Furthermore, many of these soldiers involved in operations were trained by the U.S. In the same period, 107,486 Colombian military personnel received training from the U.S., making it the largest recipient of such training followed by Afghanistan.[2]Both the aid and training reached their peak under Bush, as part of Clinton’s Plan Colombia, but continued steadily under Obama, though government to government and private arms sales peaked under Obama.

Barak Obama when he was US President with Vice-President, now President Joe Biden. Obama’s presidency was a disaster for the Colombian people and his running mate then, now President too, looks set to follow in his footsteps. (Photo source: Internet)

Nothing could stop Biden and Obama from backing their murderous ally to the south, not even the False Positive scandal. The so called False Positives entailed the luring of young men to rural areas with the promise of work, who were then dressed up in military uniform and executed and presented to the media as guerrillas killed in combat. Amongst the victims were impoverished working-class men, children with cognitive impairments, and even included the kidnapping and murder of professional soldiers recovering from wounds received in combat. The scandal broke in 2008, following the murder of 22 young men from the city of Soacha.

In his preliminary report the UN Special Rapporteur Phillip Alston stated: “But there are two problems with the narrative focused on falsos positivos and Soacha. The first is that the term provides a sort of technical aura to describe a practice which is better characterized as cold-blooded, premeditated murder of innocent civilians for profit. The second is that the focus on Soacha encourages the perception that the phenomenon was limited both geographically and temporally. But while the Soacha killings were undeniably blatant and obscene, my investigations show that they were but the tip of the iceberg.”[3]

He did say they were widespread but not official state policy. However, every soldier who killed one of these young men was paid a bonus by the then Minister of Defense, Juan Manuel Santos, who would become president in 2010. Santos enjoyed the support of Biden and Obama during his tenure and although he began peace talks with the FARC guerrillas in 2012, his regime never stopped murdering social leaders. From 2012 to 2018, 606 social leaders were murdered; there were a further 3371 other acts committed against these leaders, including threats, displacements, and prosecutions. None of this caused Biden or Obama to express their concern. It was business as usual for them. The total number of False Positives is now calculated to be in the region of 10,000 youths, and despite Alston’s diplomatic statement that it was not official policy, no one buys that. We are not even sure whether Alston himself could stand by that statement, outside of his role as a UN diplomat.

It is true that the current regime in Colombia, under Duque, is but a mere remold of the Uribe governments (2002-2010), and the situation has deteriorated in the country. Duque openly backed Trump, and Colombian government officials illegally intervened in the U.S. elections, calling for votes for Trump in Florida. So brazen was their involvement, the U.S. ambassador to Colombia, Phillip S. Goldberg, publicly warned them against campaigning.[5] There may well be a reckoning of some sort with Duque on this point, but it is unlikely that there will be any major change in policy towards the country.

President Iv√°n Duque (L) of Colombia speaks during a meeting with US President Donald Trump at the United Nations in New York September 25, 2018. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP) (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

Duque may well be publicly chastised by Biden and given a few well-placed mediatic slaps across the face. It will be mere window dressing. Prior to the implementation of Plan Colombia, Clinton sought and obtained the disbandment of the Colombia’s notorious XX Brigade; charged with intelligence and counterintelligence, it was an exercise in public relations. It did not affect intelligence agencies’ role in the murders, torture, forced displacement, and disappearances, nor the spying on left-wing politicians and human rights organizations, which continues unabated to the present day. On Colombia, the Democrats are very media friendly and good at dressing things up.

The war on drugs is likely to continue in one form or another, and though some left reformists hope that Biden will pressure Duque to restart the stalled peace process with the ELN guerrillas, it is unlikely. During the talks with the FARC, Biden and Obama wouldn’t release from a U.S. jail the FARC commander Simon Trinidad, in jail for his supposed role in the capture and imprisonment of three U.S. Dyncorp mercenaries. The ELN do not represent the same military threat that the FARC did. They are less militarist and much more political, and any threat they may represent is in the political arena. But they have long attacked U.S. companies and oil pipelines, and such attacks may be used as an excuse for further increases in military aid and greater involvement in the conflict. U.S. troops are already involved in the protection of the Caño Limón-Coveñas pipeline as it passes through the ELN stronghold of the department of Arauca. It will be very much business as usual under Biden.

Top photo: Protesters march against President Iván Duque’s policies, including police brutality and disappearances of political activists, in October 2020 in Bogotá. (Louisa Gonzalez / Reuters)

Sources:


[1] The New York Times (04/14/2001) SPECIAL PLEADING; A Felon’s Well-Connected Path to Clemencyhttps://www.nytimes.com/2001/04/14/nyregion/special-pleading-a-felon-s-well-connected-path-to-clemency.html

[2] Statistics taken from https://securityassistance.org/

[3] Ibíd.,

[4] Alston, P. (2009) Statement by Professor Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions – Mission to Colombia 8-18 June 2009.https://newsarchive.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=9219&LangID=E

[5] The Guardian (27/10/2020) US embassy warns Colombian politicians not to get involvd in US electionshttps://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/27/embassy-warns-colombian-politicians-us-elections

SHOT A FEW HOURS BEFORE THE POET GARCIA LORCA – GALLICIAN PATRIOT ALEXANDRE BÓVEDA

(Translated from the article in Castillian by Alejandro Torrús [Publico 01/24/2021] by Diarmuid Breatnach)

(Reading time text: 7 mins.)

The descendants of Alexandre Bóveda join the ‘Argentine complaint’ together with the grandchildren of Amancio Caamaño, president of the Pontevedra County Council; and Ramiro Paz, editor. The three were murdered in 1936 in Galicia by Franco’s forces. Around 5,000 Galicians were shot by the Franco regime.

– Provided by the family

Alexandre Bóveda in a conferenece in Vigo (Photo supplied by the family)

They say that after the body of Alexandre Bóveda fell to the ground, shot by firing squad, one of his friends approached and placed a small Galician flag in his jacket pocket, near a heart that no longer beat. Thus was the last will fulfilled of the man that Castelao himself had described as the engine of Galicianism. It was August 17, 1936 and Bóveda was murdered after a farce of a trial that sentenced him to die for treason. Just a few hours later, at dawn on August 18, 1936, at the other end of the peninsula, the poet García Lorca was also murdered by the Francoists. In just a few hours, in two of the most remote territories of the country, two elevated minds of the country were murdered. Point blank. One after a sham called a trial. Another, after being arrested as a criminal. Two elevated brains, two unique sensibilities, and two ways of fighting, fighting for a freer, more democratic and more plural country fell by force of arms. The country was entering the long Francoist night.

The figure of Alexandre Bóveda is so spectacular that it is difficult to summarize in just a few paragraphs. He was one of the drafters of the Statute of Galicia of the Second Republic (which would never come into force due to the Civil War); he was the soul and “motor” of the Galician Party; and, furthermore, he had participated in the founding of the first savings bank in Galicia. The list, in a telephone conversation with his grandson, Valentín García Bóveda, is practically endless. To the political successes must be added a good number of professional successes, which led him to participate in the founding of Campsa, the Hacienda de Pontevedra or to expand the funds of the Pontevedra Council using only the existing law. He was only 33 years old.

The focus of his political struggle, however, was Galicia. He was convinced that the economic and social backwardness of the country was due to the centralism of a State that squeezed every last drop of sweat from the workers of the periphery. His love for the land, in fact, was taken to its ultimate consequences and in front of the same court that sentenced him to death he declared: “My natural homeland is Galicia. I love it fervently, I would never betray it. If the court believes that for this love the heavy death penalty must be applied to mey, I will receive it as one more sacrifice for her. “

So it was. Bóveda stood in the February 1936 elections to Parliament in the Ourense constituency, competing against Calvo Sotelo, who would be finally elected. Months later, Calvo Sotelo would be murdered in Madrid, while, just a few weeks later, Bóveda would be murdered in Galicia. He face it tied to a pine tree, in the mount of A Caeira, in Pontevedra, some bark of which is still kept by the family.

Pieces of bark from the pine tree against which Bóveda was executed (Photo supplied by the family)

His grandson says that he could have escaped, that he was warned on several occasions of the danger he was running, but that Bóveda answered all those warnings with the words he recited in front of the court. “I wanted to do good, I worked for Pontevedra, for Galicia and for the Republic and the confused judgment of men (which I forgive and all of you must forgive) condemns me,” he wrote in a letter to his brother hours before being shot.

“My grandfather was a marvel of the economy and aa elevated brain. Everything he achieved within only 33 years is impressive, which was at the age at which he was killed. I have always wondered what would have happened to this country if people so important such as Bóveda, like Lorca and like so many others who were shot or had to go into exile by Francoism could have lived another 30 years … Surely now we would live in a different country”, explains Valentín García Bóveda, grandson of the political victim and Vice-President of the foundation that bears his name.

Now, almost 85 years after this murder, Valentín takes over the family struggle to reestablish the memory of Alexandre Bóveda and has filed a complaint with the Argentine Judicial system. In doing so, he joins the nearly 1,000 legal actions that the victims of the Franco regime have presented in the last ten years before Judge María Servini de Cubria in Federal Court No.1 of Argentina.

“I go to the Department of Justice of Argentina with several objectives. On the one hand, to reestablish the memory of my grandfather. I do it for him, but also for my grandmother, who had to die seeing how, legally, her husband was listed as being shot for treason to the homeland. I want that sentence to be judicially annulled. On the other hand, I also go to Argentina to fight against this amnesiac democracy that was based on the foundations of oblivion and injustice,” explains García Bóveda, who hopes that Argentina can declare the crimes of the Franco regime to be crimes against humanity.

The case of Alexandre Bóveda is not the only one to reach the Servini court recently. The descendants of the Republican doctor and politician, president of the Pontevedra County Council in May 1931, Amancio Caamaño, and of the printer and political leader Ramiro Paz, have also filed a complaint. Begoña Caamaño, Amancio’s granddaughter, explained to Público that her grandfather was arrested a week after the Francoist coup and shot on November 12, 1936.

“I could never agree with the Amnesty Law or with the Historical Memory Law. In this country the wounds were never closed even though others accuse us of wanting to open them. The Francoist hierarchy passed to democracy without being held accountable. The Police that were torturing was the new democratic police. And for this reason neither my family nor I have been able to sue in Spain about the execution of my grandfather and we have decided to go to Argentina. All I am looking for is justice and for the sentence against my grandfather to be annulled “, Begoña Caamaño explains.

That fateful November 12, 1936, the Francoist forces executed Caamano and Paz in A Caeria, but also doctors Telmo Bernárdez Santomé and Luis Poza Pastrana; the teachers Paulo Novás Souto, Germán Adrio Mañá and Benigno Rey Pavón; the lawyer José Adrio Barreiro; journalist Víctor Casas Rey; and Captain Juan Rico González. Their murders, however, were only a few more drops of pain in the midst of the slaughter that Franco’s forces were carrying out. The repression ended in just a few years with the lives of 4,699 Galician citizens. Seven out of ten (3,233) were executed in the so-called Francoist “strolls”1. The rest, 1,466, were killed by the carrying out of a death sentence, according to data from the Nomes e Voces (Names and Voices) project. A veritable extermination in an area where the war lasted no more than a few days. In the first months of the Civil War alone, the four civil Governors, the Mayors of five of the seven Galician cities and of the 26 most important towns and the highest Galician military authorities who opposed the coup were all murdered in Galicia.

However, selective or indiscriminate murder was not the only means of repression. With the aim of destroying a civil, plural and organized society, 1,597 citizens were sentenced to life imprisonment and 1,981 were sentenced to various shorter prison terms. In total, 28,234 Galician victims suffered some type of judicial persecution by the new military authorities.

The lawsuits of Bóveda, Caamaño and Paz are not the only ones that have reached Argentina for Francoist crimes perpetrated in Galicia. The “Argentine complaint” was born, in fact, after the complaint filed by a Galician citizen, Darío Rivas, for the murder of his father, Severino, Republican mayor of Castro de Rei and the first of the executed exhumed in Galicia.

Doctor and Politician Santiago Caamaño

Likewise, in 2014, Público reported on a good number of complaints filed about crimes committed in Galicia. Among them was the case of the murders of Manuel Díaz González, a doctor from O Incio (Lugo) and the first Mayor of the Republic in that town, and his brother José Díaz, elected in the last elections as the new Mayor of the municipality. His granddaughter Esther García then explained how her grandfather had been dragged for several kilometers tied by the tail of a horse to the municipality to be murdered where he had been Mayor.

The repression in Galicia also led to a long exile to Latin American countries. In 1942 Galician exiles in Argentina established August 17, the day of the assassination of Alexandre Bóveda, as ‘Día da Galiza Mártir’ (Galician Martyr Day) to commemorate a unique generation that was wiped out by the weapons of Francoism.

Descendants of victims at the Argentine Consulate in Vigo (Photo supplied by the Pontevedra Council)

COMMENT:

The dictator and leader of the coup General Franco was himself a Gallego, a Galician. So was Manuel Fraga Ibibarne (despite the Basque second surname), Minister of propaganda during the Franco Dictatorship and director of repression during the Transition years after Franco’s death (“The streets are mine” — yet claimed by some as steering the ‘democratic transition”) and founder of the Alianza Popular/ Partido Popular party. The claim of fascists to uphold and defend nationalism was exposed as a lie in so many examples in history but very starkly indeed in the Celtic nation of Galicia. The foremost national intelligentsia of Galicia, political, cultural and law-making – those that did not flee — was wiped out by the Franco military and the fascist Falange.

Also a Gallician — an elderly Franco on a Spanish State occasion (Photo sourced: Internet)
Also a Gallician, fascist Manuel Fraga, propaganda Minister and director of repression. (Photo sourced: Wikipedia)

The supporters of the military-fascist coup against the democratically-elected Popular Front Government of the Spanish State called themselves “Nationalists” and the media in much of the rest of the world did them the favour of referring to them likewise.

But it was the Spanish imperialist “nationalism” that was upheld by the coupists, one which denied the social aspirations of the population of the central “Spain” and denied the cultural, social and political aspirations of the Basque, Catalan, Galician and Asturian nations within the State and those of its colonies outside, for example the people of Western Sahara.

Today that false nationalism remains in power in the Spanish State, whether the social-democratic PSOE or the right-wing conservative PP are in government. It is supported in effect by sections of the Left as represented by the (old) CPE/ Izquierda Unida/ Podemos and by the extreme right-wing of Ciudadanos and Vox. The struggle between progressive national independentism and that centralist-imperialist bloc continues.

Diarmuid Breatnach

End.

Alexandre Bóveda addressing a mass meeting in Vigo (Photo supplied by the family)

ORIGINAL IN CASTILLIAN

https://www.publico.es/politica/batalla-alexandre-boveda-martir-galleguismo-fusilado-horas-poeta-garcia-lorca.html

FOOTNOTES

1Translator: Many of those murdered by the Francoist repression were not as a result of firing squad ordered by military tribunal but, in particular by the fascist Falange, by unofficial execution which the perpetrators called “paseos” (strolls). They would collect the victims from places of detention or their homes, telling them that “We are going for a walk”.

A CONTROVERSY OVER A 1916 RISING COMMEMORATION IN SOUTH LONDON

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time text: 12 mins.)



As we in the SE London, Lewisham branch of the Irish in Britain Representation Group began to plan our Easter Rising commemoration locally in 2000, we could not have imagined the drama it would bring. It resulted in calls for the event’s cancellation, for the Lewisham Irish Community Centre to revoke our hire of the hall and even for the withdrawal of the Centre’s meagre funding from the local authority. And shortly afterwards an attempt was made to burn down the Centre.

Even in the general atmosphere of anti-Irish racism in Britain and context of the 30 Years’ War in Ireland, we could not have expected these developments. The Lewisham Branch of the IBRG, founded towards the end of 19861, had been hosting this annual event locally long before the Irish Centre had opened in 1992 and in fact the branch was instrumental in getting the disused building, which had belonged to the Cooperative Society, handed over to the Irish community and refurbished by the local authority. Furthermore, the 1916 Rising had been commemorated at the Lewisham Irish Centre by the local IBRG branch for a number of years running without any fuss.

As usual, whenever the event was to take place we naturally hoped others would promote it. In the days before Facebook and Twitter etc, email would would reach some contacts, a poster in the centre would be seen by users, some illegal street postering might be done and the Irish Post or Irish World might publicise the event. The rest would be by word of mouth.

“Beginning of the siege”, one of the GPO 1916 Rising series of ten paintings by Norman Teeling. (Image sourced: Internet)

It happened that in the week preceding the 1998 event, an activist of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement in London was in touch with the branch and he posted the event on the 32CSM site, intending it as a supportive advertisement. However, someone who hated that organisation took it to be an event of the 32 CSM themselves.

Victor Barker’s son James had been killed in the Omagh car bombing of 15th August 1998, carried out by the “Real IRA”, a group opposed to the Provisional IRA’s signup to the Good Friday Agreement and to the British colonial occupation of Ireland. Although the organisation responsible has always stated that it intended to kill no civilians2, with 29 fatalities the bombing took the highest death toll of a single incident (but not of a single day, which was the British intelligence bombing of Dublin and Monaghan in May 1974) during the 30 Years War.

Understandably Victor Barker had pursued a vendetta against the Real IRA since and, less understandably perhaps, against anything connected with it, including the 32CSM and even, in this case, the right of an unrelated Irish community organisation to commemorate its national history.

Barker contacted the Lewisham Irish Centre and expressed his outrage, demanding the event be cancelled. A nonplussed Brendan O’Rourke, Manager of the Centre, explained that the event was an annual one and booked by a local comunity organisation and affiliate of the Centre. Not in the least mollified, Barker then got to the local authority, an official of which rang Brendan, he repeated the explanation and the official seemed satisfied.

Logo of the Lár-Ionad na nGael/ Lewisham Irish Community Centre. (Design by D.Breatnach)
Program leaflet for the Lewisham Irish Festival (1998), founded by the Lewisham irish Centre with support from Lewisham IBRG. It ran for a few years before funding became unavailable. (Photo source: Internet)

But Brendan was getting a bit worried and phoned me at work – I had been Chair of the Management Committee since the Centre opened and was at the same time Secretary of the local IBRG branch. We discussed the matter and agreed to cary on but his next phone call was to alert me that the matter was now national or at least London-wide news, with a report in an early edition of the Evening Standard headlining that we were running a “London fundraiser for the Omagh bombers3. Furthermore, the cowardly local authority official was now saying – and quoted — that while they had no power to cancel the booking, they would be looking at the Irish Centre’s funding.

I hurried home to Lewisham as fast as I could – the SE London borough is about 90 minutes’ journey by underground line and overground train from King’s Cross, where I worked. With no time for a meal, I got some things ready and got down to the Centre, about 15 minutes’ walk from my flat.

By virtue of being Chairperson of the Irish Centre’s management committee, I had a key, opened the door, turned off the burglar alarm and locked the door again, then began to get things ready. The part-time Caretaker would lay out tables and chairs for events but I generally liked to change it to a less formal arrangement for our events and so I set to that. There was also “decoration” to be done: some posters and portraits of 1916 martyrs to put up in places, flags to hang etc.

Photo taken earlier this year showing the front of the irish Centre in Davenport Road, London SE6, more or less unchanged. The gathering in front is part of a Lockdown bicycle meals delivery service introduced by the Centre and facilitated by Inclusive Cycling volunteers. (Photo source: Lewisham Irish Centre website)

In the lobby I placed a chair by a table there and also some hidden short stout lengths of wood. This was a provision inherited from earlier days when Irish or British left-wing meetings might be attacked by fascists of the National Front or the British Movement but we hadn’t felt the need at the Irish Centre for some years now. However, with the current hysteria being whipped up by Barker and the Evening Standard and assisted by the wriggling of the Council officer, fascists might well decide the conditions favoured an attack.

Another possibility was a police raid. The “Prevention of Terrorism Act” in force since 1974 in Britain specifically targeted the Irish community and gave the police the power to detain someone for up to five days without access even to a lawyer.4

Early arrivals started to knock at the door and I was in a quandary – until I had some reliable able-bodied people to staff the door, I didn’t want to start letting people in. On the other hand if we were going to be attacked, I couldn’t leave them outside either. So it was open, let them in, lock the door again, open, let some more in …. until the arrival of some I could ask to mind the door (after I’d told them about the “extras” in case they were needed).

Then there were sound amplification checks and gradually the hall was filling up. I was to be MC and so on duty inside the hall but kept checking the lobby to see everything was ok. And of course people wanted to chat about the news so would stop me and ask me about it …

For the evening’s program, the MC was to welcome people, introduce the Irish ballad band and have them play for an hour. Then intermission, MC on again with a few words on behalf of the local organisation, introduce the featured speaker, get the band on again for an hour or so to finish. So, some time to kill, to worry before the hour for which the band was booked.

The time came but the band didn’t. At half an hour late I started to worry and the supporter who had booked the band on behalf of the branch couldn’t get any reply from them by phone. As MC I apologised to the attendance and asked for their patience. Over an hour late, the band’s manager finally phoned to say they would not be coming. Because of worry arising out of the media reporting.

A few of us in the organising group held a quick conference. Nothing for it but to face the music – or rather its absence – and so I got on the stage and told the audience that the band had pulled out and everyone was entitled to a refund of their ticket price without any hard feelings whatsoever or …

Before I could lay out the alternative, a guy sitting near the stage jumped up and shouted “We will NOT accept our money back!” to the applause of some others. A little taken aback, I thanked him for his spirit but said people should have the choice and laid out the alternative, which would be to hear the speaker and just socialise for the rest of the evening. Nobody made a move to get up and approach the door so ….. I introduced the speaker, who that year might have been from the IRSP (a previous speaker had been Michelle Gildernew, then representing Sinn Féin in Britain). He did his bit, I did mine, much of that not surprisingly being devoted to censorship, intimidation and repression of the Irish community as well as the commemoration of our history.

Then a guy approached and said he’d play guitar and sing, so he went up on stage, I followed with a few songs acapella, someone else sang a few …. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the evening, there was no trouble at the door …. and because there was no band to pay, we made more money than we had ever done for function organised by the local IBRG branch!

But there were to be two dramatic sequels to this controversy. And tensions between myself and the Centre Manager would follow.

THE “MAC CHICKEN BROTHERS”

The professional name of the Irish ballad band was The Mac Namara Brothers but Brian, a resilient Dublin comrade from a deprived background, that night baptised them the Mac Chicken Brothers (a play on the Mac Donald chain’s naming of items and a reference to the band members’ cowardice.

Our event had been on a Friday night and they were due to play Sunday afternoon at an Irish bar a five minutes’ drive from the Lewisham Irish Centre. We didn’t see how we could let them do that without confronting them. In discussion I suggested we present them with some white feathers and denounce them and Brian was all up for that; he was taking the kids to the seaside and would pick up some white feathers around the beach. But, unbelievably, he could find none. Nor could I in a local park. In the end, I opened a pillow and took out handfuls but they were all small.

The next day, we declined to invite anyone who might get hurt without being accustomed to defending themselves or who might not be sufficiently disciplined in behaviour and of the remainder, only myself and Brian were available. The pub, The Graduate, was under new management, one of three sisters from the Six Counties (perhaps Armagh), who lived in South-East London. I knew her from when she had been barmaid and perhaps manager at the Woodman, another Irish pub in the general area, where I attended Irish traditional music sessions (and sometimes a lock-in for an extra hour or so).

On Sunday we were a bit late in getting going but Brian drove us there and we entered the crowded area that would have been the public bar before the lounge and that area were combined. I bought us a round and we tried to act as relaxed and natural as possible, nodded to people we knew … It was certain that many of those present already knew what had happened but no-one came to ask us about it.

The “Mac Chicken Brothers” were playing and I was unsure whether we had perhaps missed their break. I got another round in but that was going to be my limit. To our relief, the band took a break but now my tension racked higher as I positioned myself nonchalantly near the stage and waited for the band to get ready for the second half of their act.

Finally, I saw them coming and with a small plastic bag in my hand I jumped up on to the low stage, Brian ready to handle any trouble from the floor.

“Ladies and gentlemen!” I called out loudly and got instant attention. “A few nights ago the British press ran a scare story about a 1916 Rising commemoration in Lewisham,” I continued. “This band here was booked to attend but didn’t turn up, leaving a couple of hundred people waiting. This is what we think of you,” I said, turning to the band members and threw a handful of the feathers from the bag in their direction.

“Hear, hear!” shouted someone in the crowd and I got down from the stage, glanced at Brian and made for the door, with him following closely behind. Incredibly I heard one of the band members say to me: “You might have told us you were going to do that!”

As we walked away outside, my heart thumping, the manager came rushing out.

“You had no right to do that,” she said, her eyes flashing fire. “Not in my pub!”

“Sorry, Bridget,” (not her real name), I replied, “It had to be done!”

“Not in my pub!”

“But that’s where the band was! It just had to be done.”

Now a customer came haring out looking for us and, from the look on his face, it wasn’t to offer congratulations. I felt Brian beside me change his stance to take him on but the manager took the guy by the arm and talked him back inside and we got in Brian’s van and car and drove off. “Bridge” wouldn’t talk to me for some years afterwards, though one of her sisters would.

The following day, I wrote a letter about the matter to the Irish Post5, attacking the Labour Council for its cowardice, the band for failing to comply with their booking and the Evening Standard for its felon-setting. Since I was Chairperson of the Management Committee of the Centre, which was already under some pressure, I wrote it under a pseudonym. The letter was published.

I felt that not only our branch of the IBRG but the Irish community had been attacked and we had responded appropriately and publicly, both locally and in the wider context. We would now face the next move, if one was to come, from the Council, as an Irish community with pride.

Part of IBRG Ard-Choiste delegation after lobbying Mo Mowlam in Westminster, London, 15 February 1995: (r-l) Laura Sullivan, Diarmuid Breatnach, Virginia Moyles, Pat Reynolds. (Photo source: Irish Post).

But at the next monthly meeting Management Committee, I was surprised to find that Brendan, the Centre Manager, believed that either Lewisham IBRG had organised the event jointly with 32CSM or that I had placed the advertisement. But worse, I was genuinely shocked to see that he believed my use of a pseudonym for the Irish Post letter was an attempt to distance the IBRG and myself from the controversy and leave him to face it alone. Brendan and I disagreed politically (he was a Sinn Féin supporter and I was by this time hostile to the party’s new trajectory with respect to the conflict in Ireland) but I supported him as Manager of the Centre while as Irishmen we stood together against oppression. But no matter what I said now, I seemed unable to convince him that the use of a pseudonym, far from being a device to have a say and protect myself at the same time, was to protect the Centre and himself as its Manager.

We got through the meeting and the Council officials seemed happy to let the matter rest, since the Standard lost interest and moved on to the next sensation.

But a more direct attack than that of Barker and the media was being planned somewhere.

Ard-Choiste meeting of the IBRG at the Working Class Library & Museum, Salford, 1992. (Photo source: Bernadette Hyland)

ARSON ATTACK ON THE CENTRE

In the early hours of one morning a couple of weeks later, I received a phone call from the Fire Brigade, attending at the Lewisham Irish Centre. I was one of the emergency nominees. When I got down there, Pat Baczor6, another member of the Management Committee and also an emergency nominee, was there already. So were the Fire Brigade and the police.

There had been an arson attempt and a hole was burned in the wood of the front door. We opened up and let the Fire Brigade in, who came out a few minutes later, pronouncing the building safe. A container with some inflammable liquid had been set by the door and had burned a hole about the size of my fist but the floor inside was tile and had not caught.

In response to the police, I said while we had received no threats, there had been some controversy in the media about a history commemoration and though I would suspect local fascists, I had no specific individuals in mind.

If we hadn’t wire screens on all the external windows, it would have been easy to smash a glass pane and to throw in the container with a lit fuse. The flooring of the whole hall was wooden and the result would have been quite different. I was very glad that during discussion on the refurbishment of the Coop Hall for use as an Irish Centre more than many years earlier, as Chair of the Steering Group, I had made a point of insisting on the wire screens. An Irish Centre in Britain could expect to be the target of an attack some day.

Christmas lunch in the hall of the Lewisham Irish Community Centre, 2014. The photo is taken with back to the stage, facing the door to the lobby on the way to the front door of the Centre. (Photo source: Lewisham Irish Centre website)

AFTER ALL THAT


We weathered that storm and the following year’s 1916 Rising commemoration took place without incident.

The next crisis for the Irish Centre came some two years later when the Council’s Labour Party Leadership, which had been “Blairite before Blair” as one local Leftie commented, listed the Centre for cuts to our total staffing: one (underpaid) Manager and one part-time caretaker-handyman. There were heavy cuts planned to the whole Council-funded service sector across the Borough of Lewisham so, although in our case the cuts would have meant wiping out our entire staffing, it was difficult to say whether the controversy some years earlier had played a role or not.

But that was another day’s battle.

End.

Publication of the IBRG (Intended to be quarterly, it ran to perhaps four editions more widely spaced apart before it ceased publication. (Photo source: Internet)

FOOTNOTES

1The wider IBRG had been founded in 1981 and consolidated in 1982. The Lewisham branch was founded from an initiative by a core of people who had taken over organising the 1985-1986 Irish Aspects course at Goldsmiths (then) Community College from its original organiser, Derry-born Peter Moloney, who was stepping down and invited them to run it in his place or that the course would come to an end. Peter was one of founding members of the branch and active within it for a few years.

2The intentions of this bombing are still the subject of dispute. The killing of civilians would have been against the interests of the organisation and in the event were strongly so; it strengthened the hands of the authorities in enacting further repressive legislation and also ideologically for the authorities and the Provisionals in gathering support for the Good Friday Agreement and in neutralising its opponents within the Irish Republican movement. Over the years the Wikipedia page on the bombing has changed substantially as cases against accused collapsed, including one in which the Gardaí were found to have concocted notes of an interview and revelation has followed revelation of intelligence services awareness of elements of the plans and failure to alert the RUC (colonial police) on the ground. Four defendants were found responsible in a controversial civil case and it seems clear that that Mickey Kevitt’s criminal conviction on questionable evidence in another case in 2003 was related to his believed involvement as was the refusal to apply all possible reductions which would have seen him released in 2016. McKevitt died of cancer on 2nd January 2021, still serving his sentence of 20 years. The full truth may never be known.

3Pat Reynolds, PRO of the IBRG throughout most of its existence, in his year-by-year review of the IBRG commented: “The London Evening Standard with a long history of anti-Irish racism came out with the headline London fundraiser for the Omagh Bombers alleging that the event was organised by supporters of the real IRA. The IBRG were seeking legal advice on the article as the event was organised by Lewisham IBRG.” Busy with more practical organising and without perhaps the right contacts, Lewisham IBRG never did take up the misreporting legally or with the Press Council.

4As Irish community activists warned the British public, it would lead to wider repressive legislation if permitted to stand, which it did. The 2006 Act allows for detention up to 28 days without charge.

5The Irish Post was founded in 1971 as a newspaper aimed at the Irish community in Britain and played a generally progressive role until its editor-owner, Brendan Mac Lua and Thomas Beattie sold the title and company to Thomas Crosbie Holdings (TCH) in 2003. In 1981 the founding of the Irish in Britain Representation Group was in part inspired by comment in the paper’s “Dolan” column (a pen-name of Mac Lua’s). In later years the newspaper suffered competition from other titles aiming at the same community, The Irish World and The London Irish News(?). More about the Post’s later history (but next to nothing about it earlier work including promoting the cases of the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four, Maguire Seven etc and also covering protests against anti-Irish racism and promoting new Irish writing) here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Irish_Post

6Patricia Ellen Baczor owed her surname to having married a Polish man. There were many such marriages between Polish refugees and servicemen who met young Irish women at Catholic parish social events in Britain during WW2. Pat was a strong widow and supporter of the rights of the Irish community, progressive in her thinking, anti-racist but not one to push herself forward. She was generally very supportive of me as Chair of the Management Committee and appreciative of the other hat I wore in the local and ‘national’ IBRG and the tensions thereby I sometimes had to negotiate.