In late November last year the UK’s Home Secretary1 referred to refugees and migrants entering Britain as “an invasion”, for which a Hollocaust survivor, 83-year-old Joan Salter, challenged her, likening her speech to that of the Nazis.
An NGO working with refugees, Freedom From Torture, posted some of the exchange on Twitter. In turn, the NGO came under pressure from the Home Office to retract the video.
This month, not only did the charity refuse but did so publicly, fully endorsing the content of the video.
Anyone would well understand the difference between invading a country and entering it as a refugee, asylum seeker or even economic migrant. Those come unarmed, fleeing to safety or trying to make a living for themselves and their family.
A minister of a British Government should be extremely well-placed to understand the distinction. After all, there is no continent and very few countries, including its near neighbours, which the British ruling class has not caused to be invaded at some time or other.2
From the time the descendants of the Anglo-Saxon invaders of Celtic England merged with the descendants of the later Norman invaders, England has gone from being a major invading and colonising military and naval power to being a major imperialist one.
Imperialist action did not always end in invasion; pressure could be applied in other ways, through bribery — or open threat. The term “gunboat diplomacy” was coined to describe imperialist actions short of actual invasion and Britain was renowned for actions of that type.
The ruling class of Britain has waged war against people to take over trade routes, to colonise land and extract resources, in competition with other colonial powers, to quash resistance and even for the right to sell opium in China.
In the course of those colonial and imperialist activities, Britain has carried out many invasions. In fact, Suella’s parents themselves come from former colonies.
Braverman is a child of migrants
Suella Braverman is the daughter of parents of Indian origin who emigrated to Britain in the 1960s: Uma (née Mootien-Pillay) from Mauritius and Christie Fernandes, from Kenya. Both those countries have indeed been invaded by Britain.
Kenya in particular from 1952-1960 had one of the worst experiences of colonial treatment by the British military, including wide-scale murder, torture and rape. India and Pakistan had their infrastructure and manufacture undermined by Britain leading to regular country-wide famines.
Suella should know about invasions, refugees and migrants but is on record as saying that the British Empire was on the whole a beneficial experience for its conquered. This is a prime example of the “slave mind” that apes the invader and wants to collaborate with it.3
Such “slave-minded” people can be even more vicious and callous in their attitudes than the conquerors themselves and Braverman certainly fills that bill. And it’s not just in occasional choice of words that Braverman nears Nazi appearance.
During Braverman’s unsuccessful campaign for selection as leader of the Conservative Party last July, she said her priorities would have included to “solve the problem of boats crossing the Channel” and “to withdraw the UK from the European Convention of Human Rights.”
In October 2022, Braverman said that she would love to see a front page of The Daily Telegraph sending asylum seekers to Rwanda4 and described it as her “dream” and “obsession.” No doubt she includes human rights and legality concerns as “all of this woke rubbish.5”
A courageous NGO
Holocaust survivor Joan Salter, the woman who accused Braverman of Nazi-like speech, is the daughter of refugees from Nazi persecution who survived but endured imprisonment and hazardous journeys. She has an MBE for her work on Holocaust education.
In response to a Home Office accusation that the clip is only partial and therefore misleading, the NGO’s CEO Sonya Sceats pointed out the full exchange is available in video on its website and said the charity will not remove the Twitter clip.
“As an organisation providing therapy to torture survivors who feel targeted by her language and who know first-hand where such dehumanising language can lead, we will not do so. She has used language she should be ashamed of, and we won’t be pressured into helping her hide it.”
Non-Governmental Organisations nearly always rely on government funding, whether directly or indirectly and as a result tend not to rock the boat too much, in case they find their boat getting smaller or their team even being tossed overboard.
As a result, in public the CEOs of those organisations tend to vary from generally totally compliant6 to cautiously critical on certain occasions. In that context, the actions of Salter in the initial video and of the Freedom From Torture NGO in militantly backing her can only be admired.
1This is the UK’s equivalent to Minister for Home Affairs, these days normally restricted to Britain (i.e excluding the colony in Ireland) and in particular England and Wales (i.e often excluding even Scotland).
3The concept of the ‘slave mind’ or ‘colonised mind’ has been addressed by a number of writers on national liberation, notably Patrick Pearse (1879-1916) from Ireland and Franz Fanon (1925-1961) from Martinique.
4That plan has been condemned by many human and civil rights organisations and also denounced as illegal.
5A quote dating from her attempt at Leader of the Conservative Party.
Eamon McGrath (31 October 1955 – 11 January 1923) singer and song lyrics-writer, activist in areas of housing, water and national sovereignty, historical memory and anti-fascism.
He was getting buried on Saturday and I wasn’t able to be at the service nor at the celebration of his life with comrades afterwards.
I hope this eulogy, if that’s the right word for this, will make up for my absence to his family, comrades and friends and, of course, to me.
Eamon came into my life through the Moore Street occupation in January of 2016. The property speculator Joe O’Reilly (Chartered Land) and the State were about to collude in the demolition of three buildings in the 1916 Terrace.
The State had declared only four buildings in the 16-building terrace, after a long struggle, to be a historical monument and even later, purchased – but around 300 men and women hadn’t occupied just four buildings in 1916.
The Save Moore Street From Demolition campaign group had called emergency demonstrations on to the street following which the buildings had been occupied by protesting conservationists.
The weather was bitterly cold but the occupiers held firm for a week until a stay of demolition had been imposed by the High Court. Despite his health status and challenged mobility, Eamon was there throughout, with humour and song.
Subsequently, to prevent internal damage by contractors, a six-weeks’ blockade was imposed on the building by conservationists from 6.30am to 4.30pm each weekday. Eamon was very much a part of that too, driving himself and his close comrade Sean Doyle up from Wicklow every day.
Eamon was intensely loyal to close friends and comrades. On occasion I found him prickly or grumpy (especially at 6.30 am) but throughout any disagreements he never lost sight of who were his comrades and other people he respected.
Though a proud man, when he recognised himself in error, he didn’t hesitate to apologise.
A new broader group came out of the occupation and blockade, called Save Moore Street 2016 and Eamon attended and contributed to internal organising meetings and events we called on to the street – re-enactments, fake funerals of history, pickets, demonstrations and rallies.
As others drifted or were called away from the group by other commitments, Eamon remained with the active core.
Of course, Eamon had been active before 2016: certainly very much so in the general awareness-raising and mass campaign against planned privatisation of our water and the installation of water meters.
He was to continue that activism, which resulted in assaults by a water contractor on him and Seán Doyle, court appearances for both and in May 2016 both of them went to jail for a period but remained unbowed.
Eamon was one of the original occupiers of Apollo House in December 2016 in protest against homelessness and as a co-founder of the Anti Eviction Flying Column, Eamon was to the fore in resisting evictions across the country and also a co-founder of the Bring It to Their Doors campaign.
The State authorities were making things awkward for Eamon by then, both in terms of working as a taxi driver and claiming benefit when he was not. His ability to reach events in Dublin declined but he still got there often enough on public transport, while remaining active nearer to home.
As his physical mobility declined further, comrades in Carlow started an on-line collection to buy him an electric wheelchair. Even as I made enquiries to contribute, the fund had already reached its target, so quickly did people support it.
Later still, his family installed a new chairlift for his home so he could access the room where he recorded his songs with lyrics commenting on the ongoing political struggles, adapted to popular airs.
Though our voices didn’t go well together, we sang together a couple of times – outside the GPO and outside Dublin City Hall.
He remained active on social media but in particular in keeping an eye on the activities of right-wing people, covid-deniers, racists, fascists …. Eamon was a handy source for a quick update on the status of many of them.
Eamon arranged an interview for us both with the Dublin Near FM radio station, the interviewer being then a former drug addict who sadly returned later to his addiction and died on the street. It was on the way back from the interview that Eamon told me a little about his earlier years.
He had a difficult time in his childhood, including institutional confinement and his formal education suffered as a result. However, he educated himself about many things by reading, listening, discussing and viewing on line.
I think the last time I saw Eamon was at a commemoration at the Peter Daly monument in Wexford inSeptember 2022, in his electric wheelchair and attached oxygen cylinder for his lung condition and all in good cheer, asking me for Moore Street campaign updates in detail.
His comrades in Anti-Imperialist Action Ireland, which he had joined at its foundation in 2017 correctly called him “one ot the most dedicated political activists of the last decade” and no-one who knew him could argue with that.
I knew little of Eamon’s family life but he often emphasised how important family was, not just to him but in general. Though I do not know them tá mé i gcomhbhrón leo, offering them my condolences along with the many they have received and are no doubt still arriving.
A partner, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, extended family member and friend to many.
Eamon McGrath of Kenmare Heights, Greystones & formerly Wolfe Tone Square, Bray, Co. Wicklow, was buried in Radford Cemetery, Greystones Saturday after a service in the Holy Rosary Church, Bray, attended by family, comrades and friends.
TINKO is an independent organization created to work for COMPLETE AMNESTY. As an amnesty organization, it intends to create the necessary means to fight against repression with its scope of work being the Basque Country.
As its name indicates2, it intends to reflect the attitude of determination and commitment of some political prisoners3 in these difficult times. Along with the dignity and toughness that is being maintained, there must be constant struggle in the streets.
It is our responsibility to keep the flame of the struggle burning; for this reason, we see it more necessary than ever to organise ourselves.
TINKO’s understanding of repression goes beyond reporting each case in isolation, since each of these cases responds to a general repressive situation.
The states are the ones that speak of the individualised treatment of prisoners, denying their political nature and hindering solidarity. Therefore, our duty in this regard is to promote unity and solidarity.
It is the slogan of COMPLETE AMNESTY that offers this overview of the aforementioned repression, as well as the political solution that opposes this repression.
Full amnesty includes freedom from all political repression without exclusion, as well as overcoming the underlying causes of repression, such as national and social oppression.
Therefore, TINKO is an organization made up of ideologically-conscious activists, who want to make their contribution in the field of anti-repression towards a Basque Socialist State.
If the intensity of the struggle is met with repression, it will be our task to counter that repression, to try to facilitate the conditions for the struggle.
It is necessary to take a broader reading of repression, paying attention to reality with the intention of joining our forces.
We aim to create a broad movement against the repression that upholds the interests of the political victims of the struggle cycles of yesterday, today and tomorrow, that will always be in accord with the declaration of complete amnesty and not establish differences according to the struggles carried out.
It is necessary to underline the enormous generosity of the militants who suffered the repression of the previous phase. They have been our compass even in the bleakest times and they continue to be so today.
Total amnesty is our strategic objective and we do not define it in a purely legal way but instead in a political way.
Amnesty includes the unconditional release and freedom of prisoners, fugitives, refugees and political deportees and also the resolution of the reasons that motivated these people to fight for their fundamental rights, in the case of the Basque Country, against national and social oppression by the Spanish and French states.
Only ending the denial of our rights can ensure that prisons do not fill up anew after they have been emptied. These are the other measures that a full amnesty should include, along with the aforementioned freedom from political repression:
The right to self-determination
Abolition of repressive laws against the working class. Repeal the labour reform laws, the muzzle law, the party law and the anti-terrorism law4.
Dismantle and expel the repressive and occupying forces from the Basque Country.
As we said at the beginning, TINKO intends to create the necessary means to combat repression.
We consider it necessary to create useful tools to organise in cases of repression, which allow the creation of effective solidarity networks for the protection of those who suffer repression for being active in different fields.
In addition to organising instruments for protection in the courts, insisting on repression as being general and calling for total amnesty. While the net would be politically wide, victims of repression would receive protection according to the following minimum essentials:
Joining the call for total amnesty.
Feeding the network itself, that is, strengthening the network against other cases of repression.
Putting the collective before the individual.
Not denying access to basic political rights in a possible trial: the right to political organization, the right to demonstrate, the right to assembly and the right to freedom of expression.5
1Tinko was founded some months after an internal dispute inside the Amnistia organisation in the autumn of 2020 about whether to support a demonstration in Madrid or not. Amnistia itself, as with Tinko, grew out of the perceived necessity to resist repression in order to move forward in struggle, while the official leadership of the left-nationalist movement was adapting itself to the requirements of the Spanish State.
2“Tinko” means ‘firmness’ in the sense of ‘resolved/ standing firm’.
3Note the qualification “some”: the leadership of the Basque prisoners’ organisation and of the relatives’ support group, Etxerat, followed the abandonment of the revolutionary path by the leadership of the Basque Izquierda Abertzale mass movement. Most of the prisoners followed the leaders’ line, which entailed prisoners not calling themselves “political” prisoners, not joining any protests and seeking parole as individuals, including apologising for their previous actions. The leadership dropped the call for Amnesty and confined their demands to an end to the dispersal of prisoners away from their home areas.
4In brief, laws restricting the right to strike and to record and disseminate police violence, along with laws permitting repression of political activists.
5There is a practical reason for the inclusion of this requirement: The Spanish State demands the political activists it arrests apologise for their resistance and undertake not to repeat it. Shamefully and to the shock of many, in September 2019, 47 activists in three organisations engaged in prisoner solidarity work, including officials of the Basque Left Movement, in exchange for non-custodial sentences on all but two (who received relatively light sentences) pleaded “guilty” to ‘anti-terrorism’ charges. Doing so endorsed the criminalisation by the Spanish State of prisoner solidarity work and was a great shock to many Basques, including the 50,000 who had demonstrated in Bilbao in solidarity with the accused only days before the trial and had been kept in ignorance of the deal. (SeeEuskal Herria. Iñaki Gil de San Vicente: “Es inadmisible engañar a 50.000 personas, pactando a sus espaldas” – Resumen Latinoamericano)
On February 28, Pablo González was detained by the Polish secret services on the border with Ukraine while he was covering the migratory crisis caused by the war. 1
Since then, 10 months have passed without the authorities of that country having publicly presented evidence, detailing accusations against him or bringing him to trial.
This length of time in pretrial detention is generating significant expenses for the people around the journalist who pay for the defence and send money to him in prison.
For this reason, friends and colleagues of the reporter with Spanish and Russian nationality have founded the #FreePabloGonzález Association to raise funds to pay for legal coverage, launch initiatives to support the journalist and channel the fight for his rights.
One of the main problems in the case is that, a few hours after his arrest and just before being sent to prison, he was interrogated without legal assistance.
This, together with the fact that Poland accuses him of spying for Moscow — a very serious crime punished by the Polish penal code with up to 10 years in prison — explains why it has been necessary to strengthen the defence of Pablo González throughout the process.
At times, the journalist has had three legal teams, due to the complexity of the case and the impediments that the Polish courts have placed in his defence process. From the day of his arrest, Pablo González has been assisted by Gonzalo Boye, the lawyer who announced his arrest.
In April, thanks to collaboration in the journalist’s location, Polish lawyer Bartosz Rogala was hired, after the two lawyers assigned ex officio by the authorities of that country resigned from the case.
Since October, González also has, according to the family, a group of Polish criminal lawyers experienced in complex processes.
The financial burden of the process on the family
“Until now we have drawn on savings and the help of relatives and close people, but the situation has reached such a point that we are forced to request help from society.”
These are the words of Oihana Goiriena, mother of Pablo González’s three children,2 who stresses that part of the income will also go towards improving the conditions of the journalist in prison.
Faced with this situation, the friends who make up the #FreePabloGonzález collective have promoted the creation of the association, which is registered in the General Register of Associations of the Basque Country.
The association is chaired by Oihana Goiriena. She is accompanied on the management team by Maribel Martínez and Gabino Martínez Terán, friends from Bilbao and Elantxobe, respectively.
For his part, Juan Teixeira, a photojournalist and friend of Pablo’s with whom he has been working for more than a decade, is the spokesperson. The others of the platform are friends from different backgrounds of the Basque journalist.
Legal expenses beyond attorneys’ fees
As explained by the journalist’s circle, most of the contributions received will be used to cover the cost of González’s legal defence. In addition to paying the different legal teams, it is necessary to cover the daily and travel expenses of their representatives and necessary bureaucratic procedures.
Radom prison is located 100 km from Warsaw and the representatives travel there regularly.
Funds collected will be used also to pay for Pablo González’ maintenance in prison.
As he has detailed in letters to his family and friends and in complaint he filed before the Strasbourg Court, the food he is provided in prison is quite deficient and he needs food and vitamin supplements. “They cost around 300-400 euros per month,” says Goiriena.
The #FreePabloGonzález platform members request that contributors send an email to the address firstname.lastname@example.org, with the basic contact information so that in the coming weeks all those people who helped the journalist can be personally thanked.
González had been covering the war in Ukraine apparently without difficulty for some time prior to his address but was named in a hostile published list, along with over a hundred other public commentators in the Spanish State, as “pro-Russian”.3
It seems suspicion was aroused when a broadcast of one of his La Sexta (TV) reporting pieces experienced a transmission breakdown and he was left facing a blank camera with Ukrainian troops in the background for half an hour while attempts were made to reconnect.
His detention by Ukrainian state security followed soon afterwards and among the issues for his interrogators, he reported after release, were his holding of two passports, one Russian with a Russian surname, the other Spanish with a Spanish surname.
González’s Russian passport names him as Pavel Rubtsov, using his father’s surname; his Spanish document identifies him as Pablo González Yagüe, using his mother’s two surnames4. Pablo is the Hispanicised version of the Russian name Pavel (Paul in English).
The reporter is the grandson of a Spanish Civil/ Antifascist War refugee who sought asylum in Russia, where his daughter married Gonzaléz’ father. Subsequently Pablo’s parents divorced and his mother went to live in the Basque Country in the Spanish state, taking Pablo with her.
According to his reports, among other sources of suspicion for Ukranian state security against him were that his employers include the Spanish left-wing on-line publication Publico.es and the Basque newspaper GARA– and that he had a bank card from Caja Laboral, a Basque workers’ cooperative bank.
While the passports issue might raise an eyebrow, dual nationality is legal in many state administrations and even the use of two versions of a name are known — no doubt a Russian passport and Russian surname smooths Gonzaléz’ periodic visits to his father.
The other issues raised by his early Ukrainian interrogators however are indicative of right-wing paranoia. Publico.es and GARA are moderately left-wing but have hardly departed far from the wsm’s (western mainstream media) line on the war in the Ukraine.
It is of course possible that this reporter has not sufficiently toed that wms line in his reporting or that right-wing state security paranoia was sufficient; in any case he reported that his interrogators made it clear he was not welcome to continue in Ukraine.
González left but seemed determined to continue his reporting and went to Poland from where he was about to enter Ukraine again with a group of reporters when he was arrested by the Polish state security service, accusing him of spying for Russia but to date having produced no evidence.
Shortly after his Ukrainian detention, the reporter’s friends and family in the Basque Country were visited by Spanish State security also.
This latter provided grounds for WSWS5 to accuse the Spanish Government coalition of PSOE-Podemos of collusion but its report neglected to mention that Podemos’ co-founder Pablo Iglesias6 wrote publicly in defence of González and ridiculing the accusation against him.
The Polish state is entitled to charge González with any crime for which they have evidence but no administration is entitled to lock up someone because they don’t like him or what he writes — or because of some vague suspicion.
A number of journalist defence organisations have raised concerns but strangely, in its annual report for 2022, the Reporters Without Frontiers organisation has not listed him among last year’s victims of attacks or threats to journalists — because he has not yet been tried.7
This seems extraordinary, that a 10-month detention without trial does not count as an attack on a journalist. However the International Press Institute and other press freedom organisations have called for his release and application of due legal process.
The Guardian reported in May that a spokesperson for Polish state security claimed to have amassed “vast evidence”8 and yet seven months later, there are still no specific charges or evidence produced with which to confront González or his lawyers.
1Although González has been a reporter for Spanish printed and TV media, his is a case of detention and harassment of journalists that has received little attention in the mainstream western media. His detention by the Polish state security services follows interrogation by state intelligence services in Ukraine, where he had been based for some time reporting on the war there.
2In the Basque Country, to where his mother emigrated from Russia and where Gonzaléz and his family are domiciled.
3As we have learned during this conflict, such a designation can mean anything from what it says to “not wholly convinced by the Ukrainian authorities or NATO” and the reporting and censorship aspect of the war has been as prominent as the military aspect.
First published in “Socialist Democracy” December 2022, republished here with kind permission of author.
The death of Vicky Phelan on November 14th was announced by the media. They were full of praise for a woman who was a victim in the cervical smear scandal.
She was one of over 200 women whose cervical smear tests were outsourced to a private US company, which gave back erroneous results.
Women who could have received treatment went on to develop cancer and in the case of Vicky Phelan die. But she didn’t just die. She was murdered.
Engels in his famous tract The Condition of the Working Class in England stated that
When one individual inflicts bodily injury upon another such that death results, we call the deed manslaughter; when the assailant knew in advance that the injury would be fatal, we call his deed murder.
But when society places hundreds of proletarians in such a position that they inevitably meet a too early and an unnatural death, one which is quite as much a death by violence as that by the sword or bullet; when it deprives thousands of the necessaries of life, places them under conditions in which they cannot live – forces them, through the strong arm of the law, to remain in such conditions until that death ensues which is the inevitable consequence – knows that these thousands of victims must perish, and yet permits these conditions to remain, its deed is murder just as surely as the deed of the single individual; disguised, malicious murder, murder against which none can defend himself, which does not seem what it is, because no man sees the murderer, because the death of the victim seems a natural one, since the offence is more one of omission than of commission.(1)
The Irish state has for a long time deprived its population of the necessaries, as Engels put it, of life in relation to health care. One of the first politicians to wreak havoc in the health system in pursuit of her ideology and profit was Mary Harney.
She and her party the Progressive Democrats were ideological in their commitment to the privatisation of health care. Under her rule and that of successive governments, the health service was privatised.
First, they ran it down, closing hospital wards and reducing the number of beds in the health service, paying Consultant Doctors extravagant salaries, allowing them to moonlight as private consultants, whilst there are now around one million people on public waiting lists.
The system is a shambles and compares poorly in terms of speed and quality of care to even Third World countries.
At the same time a private health care sector has arisen and expanded, all the time promoted by the state through tax breaks and discounts for the companies with affiliates being able to write off part of their private health insurance against tax.
In other words, a public subsidy to the health companies paid for through the taxes of many people who cannot afford to use these services. The Irish health service does not exist to provide health care but rather to generate profit. It is important to understand what this means in practice.
If profit is the motive, then the law of supply and demand takes over and prices and the quantity of services are calculated on the same or similar basis to the sale of a car. It also means that in order for some to be treated and live, others must die.
It is an intrinsic part of the system and they know it. For health care to be profitable some must not have full access to it, some must die in order for others to make profits. If everyone can access cancer treatment without problems then there is no need for private medicine.
This is not the situation in Ireland. Public services are run down in order to encourage private medicine and profit.
It is in this context that the Health Service Executive outsourced the testing of cervical smear tests not only to a private company, but to one in another jurisdiction. Money was to be made, and to hell with the consequences.
Dr David Gibbons, a former member of the screening programme, said he expressed concerns about the outsourcing of smear tests to the US in 2008 but they were dismissed.
Gibbons, chair of the cytology/histology group within the programme’s quality assurance committee, brought up his worries with Tony O’Brien, then chief executive of the National Cancer Screening Service and director general of the HSE until 2018, but they were not listened to.
Dr Gibbons resigned as a result. O’Brien defended the decision to outsource the testing saying that tests would have otherwise been left idle for a year or been examined by doctors “on their kitchen table”.(2)
Why would they lie idle for a year? Because they had decided not to spend money on it. Why would doctors end up examining them on their kitchen table? Because the facilities weren’t there.
When it all went wrong, they dragged their heels on informing the women, and this is where Vicky Phelan comes in.
She was diagnosed with cancer in 2014, but only informed of the false negative from the unapproved labs used by the HSE in 2011 and sued the US company and the HSE, but her case against the HSE was struck out.
The cat was out of the bag, however, but they continued to drag their heels on informing women that they may in fact have cancer and they stuck by their accountancy guns and continued to outsource the tests.
As Engels stated they know these victims will perish and yet permit the conditions to continue.
When she died, the great and good in Irish society expressed their praise for her. The murderers came back to the crime scene in a perverse act to say “It wasn’t me, I didn’t do it”. The Taoiseach, Micheál Martin stated on Twitter
Very saddened at the passing of Vicky Phelan, a woman of great courage, integrity, honesty & generosity of spirit. She will be long remembered as someone who stood up for the women of Ireland, & globally.(3)
The Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, for his part, was brazen in his Janus-like abilities.
Today Ireland has lost a woman of limitless courage, compassion and strength. I want to extend my deepest sympathies to Vicky’s family, particularly to her children on the loss of their incredible mother.
Vicky was a shining example of the power of the human spirit. Her fight to uncover the truth and the courage with which she faced her illness made her an inspiration to us all. We mourn her as a nation, as a society, and as individuals.(4)
Both of these men bear responsibility for what happened. To listen to them you would swear they were talking about some social justice warrior in a far-off land who stood up to a government that the Irish state is not on good terms with.
Varadkar was a government minister in 2011 when Vicky Phelan was tested. He was Minister for Health when she was diagnosed with cancer and he was Minister for Social Protection when she was eventually informed about the mess up with her results.
Martin has been a T.D. in the Irish parliament (Dáil) since 1989 and has served as a minister on and off since 1997 and is the current Taoiseach.
They oversaw the dismantling of the health system, they made up the rules and implemented them. What happened to Vicky Phelan was on their watch. In other jurisdictions functionaries can be held liable for decisions they take, but not in Ireland.
They took decisions on the health service which affect the lives of millions, not just Vicky Phelan. Every year countless patients die in Ireland due to a lack of access to proper healthcare; Varadkar and Martin know this and yet they proceed with their actions.
In a criminal court case where a person carries out an act knowing it could result in the death of a person and decides to proceed nonetheless, they would be liable for that person’s death through recklessness.
Yet, politicians take decisions that kill people knowing that this is the likely outcome. They are guilty of what Engels termed social murder.
Vicky Phelan didn’t just die, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil along with the Greens murdered her. No amount of praise from Vlad the Impaler a.k.a Leo Varadkar can hide the fact that he bears responsibility for death.
At noon on Thursday 1st December around a hundred people gathered in a side street off Dublin city’s main street to commemorate the killing of three public transport workers1 by British Loyalist bombs in 1972 and 1973.
The event was organised by the Justice for the Forgotten group that grew out of relatives seeking accountability for the Dublin and Monaghan bombings in 1974. However, the campaign group might well consider replacing the word “Forgotten” with “Ignored”.
In the early 1970s, as people – mostly but not all of of nationalist background – were marching for equal civil rights in the British colony of the Six Counties, British Loyalists began exploding bombs, not all but mostly in Dublin.
Some were aimed at symbolic Irish monuments such as the O’Connell Tower in Glasnevin cemetery (17 January 1971)and the Wolfe Tone monument in Stephens Greeen (8th February)2but the bombings of 1972, ‘73, ‘74 and ‘75 were clearly intended to kill civilians.
British Intelligence Services have been implicated in collusion with Loyalists and, along with agents within the Irish State3 have been implicated at least with regard to the 1974 bombing of Dublin and Monaghan, resulting in the largest loss of life in any one day during the 30 Years War.4
THE COMMEMORATION PROCEEDINGS
A temporary canopy had been erected with a lectern and amplification in Sackville Lane, between busy O’Connell and Marlborough Streets, next to a plaque set in the pavement commemorating the bombing and its victims there. More than a hundred had gathered around to witness the event.
Tom Duffy, son of Tommy Duffy, one of the victims of the 1972 bombs chaired the event. He is also the designer of the commemorative sculpture ‘A Fallen Bouquet’, inlaid into the pavement which was unveiled in 20045.
Tom never met his father; Tom had four months to go before birth in his mother’s womb when his father was killed; his sister does not remember her father either.
Margaret Urwin, of Justice for the Forgotten campaigning group, read out biographies of Bradshaw, Tommy Duffy and Tom Douglas (seeAppendix), detailing their origins and recollections of their bereaved loved ones.
The origins of the victims and partners showed that as well as being a tragedy for Dublin the bombings were also that for other parts of the country and the diaspora, in particular Achill (Mayo), Belfast, Castlebar (Mayo), Fethard (Tipperary), Kilkenny and Stirling in Scotland.
Urwin said they also wished to remember John Hayes, whose 47th anniversary had occurred two days previously and she read a short biography of him too. John was employed at Dublin Airport and was killed by a bomb placed in a toilet on the Arrivals floor on 29 November 1975.
The Lord Mayor of Dublin6 gave a short speech in which she underlined the need for remembrance while also decrying that the guilty had escaped so far and that proposed legislation, currently going through the Westminster Parliament, sought to prevent such perpetrators being brought to book.
The Finance Manager of Dublin Bus spoke also, saying among other things that the company would never forget and that it was like one big family. However the absence of employees of the company present in uniform and the lack of awareness of many gave the lie to her words (workers tell us that the event had not been advertised internally by the company).
The Education Minister Norma Foley,TD spoke at length about the atrocity and need for all actions to take place within “the rule of law”, in the context of which she went on to castigate the British Government for its proposed 30 Years War legacy legislation to limit inquests and litigation.
Foley went on to state the opposition of the Irish Government’s to the proposed legislation, along with that of the opposition parties, with united faith leaders, all parties in the British colony and the US Government.
Somehow she and other speakers however managed to avoid mentioning the British Loyalist origin of the bombers or that these were chronologically leading up to the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings, with a death-toll of 33 in one day.
Or of the fact that the 1973 bombings had been used to push repressive legislation through Leinster House, including the founding of a no-jury Special Criminal Court, targeted not at British Loyalists but instead specifically at Irish Republicans!7
The omission of this important and relevant information, referred to in Ronan McGreevy’s report for the Irish Times (see link in Sources), though not unexpected on past Government performance, was indeed ironic coming from the Minister with responsibility for education.
Wreaths were laid, including some by relatives of the murdered. A priest also recited a prayer.
MUSIC AND POETRY
Poet Rachael Hegarty, who has also composed and performed a longer poem about the Dublin & Monaghan bombing, performed her composition for this event about the loss of husbands and fathers in the killing of public transport workers.
In between some of the speeches, musicians from the Shillelagh Northside Ukelele Group8 performed Simon & Garfunkle’s The Sound of Silence and Bobby Darin’s Things (including the lines “memories are all I have to cling to”).
During another speeches interval, Cormac Breatnach on high whistle & Eoin Dillon on uileann pipes performed Táimse I Mo Chodhladh and later to conclude the event, The Lark in the Morning. The first piece, no doubt chosen for its lament nature, would do well also as political commentary9.
IGNORING AND FORGETTING
The age profile of the vast majority of those present meant that the atrocities had occurred within their lifetimes, which is natural; however the near absence of representation of the following two or three generations is not.
It might be observed that this absence is a natural part of passing time but one could also comment that the ignoring of this atrocity is causing an unnatural fracture in the historical memory of a people and a workforce, a result of a conscious decision to prevent the transmission of that memory.
The titles of three of the musical pieces may be seen as comment on that.
Yes, the JFTF organisation continues to hold events to mark the bombings and the Lord Mayor and a Government Minister attend. But not only will nothing serious be done to bring the perpetrators to light – never mind justice – but the memory will be allowed to die out among the living.
The Clery’s building site near the commemoration was at work throughout the event with noise of drilling, banging and shouting, the workers no doubt in ignorance of the event or of its significance. Workers in Dublin Bus uniform passed by regularly from their nearby canteen building.
Two of the latter who stopped in curiosity on the outskirts of the crowd and were engaged in conversation, stated that they had no knowledge of the commemoration or of the atrocity. They opined that their union should have informed and mobilised them to attend.
TARGETING WORKING-CLASS PEOPLE
The bus workers’ canteen is in Sackville Street and it is noticeable that other fatal bombings were targeted at areas more associated with working-class shopping and away from the more affluent ones such as the Grafton or Henry streets. That could be have been due to class prejudice but also to hurt those with less political power.
This made it all the more important for the organisations and parties that have been built by the working class to respond to them. The Labour party, founded by James Connolly, is complicit with the Irish Government in this forgetting and ignoring.
The trade unions, even those of the specifically targeted public transport workers are also colluding with this silencing and forgetting.
From a ‘national’ perspective, the Irish State has permitted a foreign (and occupying) power and its proxies to bomb its capital city on a number of occasions, including the massacre of its civilians. Nothing could more clearly point to the neo-colonial foreign-dependent nature of the Irish elite.
Back in the 1960s and ‘70s, when the Irish trade unions were less compromised than they have allowed themselves to become, perhaps it would have been possible to shut down the building site near to the commemoration for the duration of the ceremony.
Perhaps city bus drivers could at least have stopped everywhere at a given time for an announced minute of silence. Ranks of bus workers could have attended the commemoration event in uniform, supported perhaps by the city’s municipal workers.
Are such gestures still possible? Can we make them so? The working class, far from tolerating this occlusion and deletion of historical memory, needs to mark the atrocity and to mark it strongly, in solidarity and for its own dignity as a class.
APPENDIX – THE BRIEF BIOGRAPHIES OF FOUR VICTIMS
George, a native of Fethard, Co. Tipperary, was a young man of 30 when he was so brutally murdered in this street 50 years ago. He had married Kathleen, a nurse from Belfast and they had two small children, Lynn and Rory. He had met Kathleen when she was visiting relatives in Fethard and she was the light of his life.
George was employed as a bus driver with CIE and the family had moved from Tipperary to Dublin less than two years before tragedy struck on 1 st December 1972. He had worked previously in South Tipperary Farmers’ Co-op for 10 years.
George had big plans for the future – he was an ambitious man and was attending night-classes in business studies at the time of his death. His favourite hobby was dancing and he also loved to play darts. He was cheerful, fun-loving and an extrovert and is greatly missed by all his family.
Tommy, a native of Castlebar, Co. Mayo was almost 24 years old when he was killed on 1 st December 1972. He was married to Monica, who was pregnant with their second child, Tom. They already had a small daughter, Caroline. They had met on the 29A bus when Monica was 17 and Tommy 19. Monica quickly fell in love with this witty young man so full of life and mischief.
Tommy worked as a bus conductor and had several hobbies. He loved to play traditional Irish music on the mouth-organ and spent lots of his free time tinkering with cars. He would buy old wrecks, repair them and re-sell them to make some extra money. He had a Yamaha motor-bike which he loved and also had a flair for carpentry. During the summer months, he liked nothing better than to return home to Mayo to help on the farm, especially with saving the hay.
On the day he died, he was due to work an early shift but had changed to facilitate a co-worker. Monica remembers him as a generous, kind and hard-working young man. She is pleased that their son, Tom, was the designer of the commemorative sculpture ‘A Fallen Bouquet’, which was unveiled in 2004.
Tommy, a native of Stirling in Scotland was only 21 when his life was so cruelly taken from him in this street on 20 th January 1973. He, along with his brothers and sister, was raised in a Scottish mining community. He was an intelligent, fun-loving, outgoing person with a positive outlook on life. He liked swimming and was a fervent supporter of Celtic soccer team. He had a love of nature and enjoyed hill-walking. He also loved music and attending live concerts.
The family had strong leanings towards Ireland and had spent their childhood summers in Achill Island, the native place of their mother. Tommy loved all things Irish and most of the songs he knew were Irish songs.
When he left school, he served his apprenticeship as an electrician and, after he qualified, decided to move to Dublin. He had been living in Dublin only a few short months and had taken a job as a bus conductor while he hoped eventually to find work as an electrician. His fiancée had joined him a very short time before his death.
After his death, his family learned of his many acts of kindness to those less fortunate than himself. He was a devout Catholic but had many Protestant friends, indeed his fiancée was of the Presbyterian faith. His siblings are proud of him as a brother and thank God they had the pleasure of having him with them for 21 years. They only wish he was with them still.
John Hayes’ 47th anniversary occurred two days ago. John was employed at Dublin Airport and was killed by a bomb placed in a toilet on the Arrivals floor on 29 November 1975. John was a hard-working family man with a wife and three children – twins Brian and Karen (aged 11) and Brendan (aged 3). In his free time he enjoyed a pint of Smithwick’s and was an avid Kilkenny fan. He was an ordinary man, devoted to his family.
1The State public transport system was called CIE (Córas Iompair Éireann) prior to breaking up into sections for easy privatisation in the ruling neo-liberalism of the 1980s onwards. The Dublin Bus company is one of the carved-up parts, competing with other privately-owned bus companies around Dublin.
2While the targeting of a monument to Daniel O’Connell “The Liberator” (his monument in O’Connell Street was also bombed), a campaigner for the repeal of the anti-Catholic Penal Laws might seem as an act of pure religious sectarianism by Protestant bigots, the blowing up of the Wolfe Tone monument was essentially political. Theobald Wolfe Tone was a leader of the revolutionary United Irishmen, a Protestant as were most of his leadership colleagues and is often described as “The Father of Irish Republicanism”. Only the head survived the explosion but it was attached to the recasting of the statue.
3See the Wikipedia entries on the 1972, ‘73 and ‘74 Dublin bombings.
433 people and a full-term unborn child were killed in that day’s bombings.
6 Caroline Conroy of the Green Party holds the position in annual rotation this year.
7The proposed Amendment to the Offences Against the State Act in 1973 was heading for trouble in Leinster House until the bombings apparently stampeded some of its opposition into supporting it. As a result the no-jury Special Criminal Court was established which until very recently, with one exception, tried exclusively Irish Republicans, able to jail them mostly on the word of a senior Garda officer. This undemocratic piece of legislation has been thoroughly condemned by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties; Sinn Féin regularly opposed its renewal until a few years ago when it began abstaining and this year at its congress voted that such legislation is required “in some circumstances”.
8The name of the group was collected from participants but searching on FB and Google has failed to find a link for them.
9“I am asleep and do not wake me”, an Aisling poem/ music in Irish, origin contested between Ireland and Scotland, played in the 18th Century but date of composition unknown.
Delighted to repost with thanks another contribution to recent discussion of the British monarchy — delayed by technological difficulties.
Gearóid Ó Loingsigh
11 September 2022
The British monarch Elizabeth Windsor, formerly Saxe Coburg Gotha, has died at the grand old age of 96, thanks in no small part to the subsidised lifestyle and medical care she enjoyed throughout her long life. Her death has produced the usual outpouring of manufactured grief from the media and also “genuine” grief from a sector of that population groomed by that same media.
But what is to be said of her passing? There has been some reaction to her death that concentrated on her being a mother and grandmother. But we were not invited to mourn the passing of mothers or grandmothers, but the death of a monarch and all that monarchy represented. So, before we look at the legacy of Elizabeth Windsor we should ask ourselves what is monarchy. The Irish revolutionary James Connolly, executed by the British state under the reign of George V, stated in relation to that same king’s visit to Ireland.
What is monarchy? From whence does it derive its sanction? What has been its gift to humanity? Monarchy is a survival of the tyranny imposed by the hand of greed and treachery upon the human race in the darkest and most ignorant days of our history. It derives its only sanction from the sword of the marauder, and the helplessness of the producer, and its gifts to humanity are unknown, save as they can be measured in the pernicious examples of triumphant and shameless iniquities.(1)
In this, Connolly only described monarchies in general as the most ignorant and backward manifestations of humanity. It is a point that bourgeois revolutionaries such as Rousseau and Voltaire would not have disagreed with. In fact, it was a standard capitalist argument for much of history. However, various capitalist nations hung on to their royal households, either as symbolic figures or as propaganda figures for their campaigns and conquests.
Much is now made of the contribution of Mrs Windsor to society, the arts, and even peace through her now celebrated handshake with Martin McGuinness, though who gave more in that handshake is not questioned. Connolly was very clear about the contribution of monarchies to the progress of society.
Every class in society save royalty, and especially British royalty, has through some of its members contributed something to the elevation of the species. But neither in science, nor in art, nor in literature, nor in exploration, nor in mechanical invention, nor in humanizing of laws, nor in any sphere of human activity has a representative of British royalty helped forward the moral, intellectual or material improvement of mankind. But that royal family has opposed every forward move, fought every reform, persecuted every patriot, and intrigued against every good cause. Slandering every friend of the people, it has befriended every oppressor. Eulogized today by misguided clerics, it has been notorious in history for the revolting nature of its crimes.(2)
Connolly had no truck with royalty. No time for tales of cute old grannies who shook the hands of erstwhile enemies. Any evaluation of the queen of the British state has to go beyond her supposed personal qualities. Criticisms of royals are not well received. When the then British diplomat and future Irish revolutionary, Roger Casement, exposed the atrocities of the Belgium king Leopold II in Congo and his mass murder of over ten million Congolese, the report was not well received initially and the descendants of the man who murdered more than Hitler are the actual monarchs in Belgium and are apparently a lovely couple and third cousins of Mrs. Windsor. Discussions about royalty are not about the individual qualities of the monarchs but the system as such. Though even on this point Mrs. Windsor comes a cropper.
In 1972 the British army murdered 14 civilians in Derry on what was to be the last Civil Rights march in the country. The British quickly engaged in a cover up which basically blamed those murdered as having been armed members of the IRA. Everyone now accepts that this was not true. Even the Saville Inquiry which stopped short of blaming the British state directly for the murders accepted they were all unarmed civilians. But Elizabeth Windsor nonetheless decorated Lt Colonel Derek Wilford, the man in charge on the day and has never apologised for that. Her role in this is often forgotten.
So, any question of looking at the death of Elizabeth Windsor cannot be ahistorical. Though Sinn Féin have issued statements that are breath taking in their servility. The Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald tweeted.
To the Royal Family and all who mourn the death of Queen Elizabeth, especially Irish Unionists, I extend sincere sympathy. She lived a long, full life. In her lifetime relationships between our countries were changed and changing. I salute her contribution to this transformation.(3)
She is of course, referring to the Peace Process and her handshake with Martin McGuinness. This says more about Sinn Féin than it does about Elizabeth Windsor. As a monarch she never had a problem dealing with people she saw as her inferiors, or those bowed in deference to her. Michele O’ Neill was equally effusive about the queen acknowledging the apparently profound sorrow of Unionists. And added that.
Having met Queen Elizabeth on a number of occasions alongside my colleague, the late Martin McGuinness, I appreciated both her warmth and courtesy.(4)
Her courtesy is a diplomatic ploy, as for her warmth that is not the image given in any of her public engagements, not even when greeting her son Charles after a long trip. The poor kid did not get a hug, he was made genuflect. But we can take O’Neill’s word for it. It is not important. Neither her courtesy or alleged warmth are political evaluations. Whether we should mourn a monarch does not depend on such personal qualities. Henry Kissinger the Butcher of Cambodia and Chile comes across as an affable, even charming old man, and he may well be in real life, but that is not how we judge him. Likewise, George Bush the Lesser (as Arundhati Roy dubbed him) also comes across as likeable, though it would be hard to convince the dead of Iraq that this mattered one jot: it doesn’t.
The press coverage of her death and much of the commentaries indicate that there is clear obfuscation on the part of the press and ignorance on the part of the population about the nature of the English royal family and the role of Elizabeth Windsor as queen. One of the myths is that she is just a mere figurehead, with little or no power. It is true that most power rests with Parliament and the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. But she has powers that she has exercised from time to time. She has instructed governors of overseas territories not to sign laws. In 1975, through John Kerr, her governor general in Australia, she dismissed the then prime minister Gough Whitlam.(5) It was a rarely used power, but it exists as do other powers she never had to invoke, like her control over the military. She has invoked the Queen’s Consent more frequently to prevent parliament discussing Bills she was not happy with. She also was the last port of call for those sentenced to death, when capital punishment was still on the statute book.
In the 1950s three Greek Cypriots were sentenced to death, Michalaki Karaolis, Andreas Dimitriou and Evagora Pallikaridis. The last of these was a particularly notable case. Pallikardis confessed under torture to carrying weapons. His lawyers pleaded to Elizabeth Windsor for clemency. She refused. The warmth that Sinn Féin leader O’ Neill felt was not on display for the 18-year-old, nor was she the loveable old grandmother that others have referred to. Likewise, the other two were also hanged. On the rare occasions that she has had to exercise power she has shown herself to be of the same pedigree as her blood thirsty forebears who raped and pillaged their way across the planet.
She never spoke out about the situation in Kenya and the Mau Mau rebellion, which kicked off early in her reign. The Pipeline, as it was known, that the British set up in Kenya was a camp system in which prisoners were moved up and down it according to the degree of torture that was required to break them. That matter was raised in Parliament at the time by some Labour MPs. The prisoners even managed to smuggle out letters to MPs and other officials, amongst them Elizabeth Windsor.(6) She knew what was happening. She was fully aware. She exercised no powers to bring an end to it. She just didn’t talk about it publicly, ever. It was not the only situation that she kept quiet about. Her relationship with the issue of race has never been a good one. She negotiated exemptions to racial and sexual discrimination laws and employs very few non-whites.
In 1990 the journalist Andrew Morton reported in the Sunday Times that “a black face has never graced the executive echelons of royal service – the household and officials” and “even among clerical and domestic staff, there is only a handful of recruits from ethnic minorities”.
The following year, the royal researcher Philip Hall published a book, Royal Fortune, in which he cited a source close to the Queen confirming that there were no non-white courtiers in the palace’s most senior ranks.(7)
In her Christmas speeches she tended to talk of banal matters and family. However, she did wade into politics some times and these speeches, unlike the speeches when she opens Parliament, are hers.
In her Christmas speech of 1972, she referred to various situations around the world and also the North of Ireland. Her take on it was simple.
We know only too well that a selfish insistence upon our rights and our own point of view leads to disaster. We all ought to know by now that a civilised and peaceful existence is only possible when people make the effort to understand each other.(8)
Exactly who was selfishly insisting on their rights was not explicitly spelt out, but it was obvious that she didn’t mean the British state, but uppity Paddies and others around the world. This was made clear when in 1973 she awarded an OBE to Lt Col Wilford, the officer in charge of the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry in 1972. The families of those murdered and injured on that day called upon her to apologise.(9) She did not do so. The nearest she came to it was a banal statement on history during a visit to Ireland in 2011 when she stated “It is a sad and regrettable reality that through history our islands have experienced more than their fair share of heartache, turbulence and loss… with the benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things which we wish had been done differently, or not at all.”(10) She did not accept Britain’s actual role in that and there was no specific reference to the Bloody Sunday massacre.
There is no shortage of sycophants and royalists who claim she had no powers, when in fact, she did as her son Charles now has. Others have preferred to go the route of she didn’t do it, it was others. Not quite true. She did preside over the dying days of Empire and gave succour to the troops busy murdering and torturing people in places she liked to visit on the Royal Yacht. But the many atrocities committed before she acceded to the throne are also hers. The Irish revolutionary James Connolly said of the visit to Ireland of one of her predecessors in the role.
We will not blame him for the crimes of his ancestors if he relinquishes the royal rights of his ancestors; but as long as he claims their rights, by virtue of descent, then, by virtue of descent, he must shoulder the responsibility for their crimes.(11)
And she did claim them. One of her other forays into matters of Empire was her Christmas speech of 1982.
Earlier this year in the South Atlantic the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy enabled our sailors, soldiers and airmen to go to the rescue of the Falkland Islanders 8,000 miles across the ocean; and to reveal the professional skills and courage that could be called on in defence of basic freedoms.(12)
It should be remembered that Britain gained control of the Malvinas in a colonial war, in 1833, against the newly independent Argentina. In 1982, what was at stake was mineral wealth in the sea. She, like Thatcher, rejoiced at the sinking of the General Belgrano ship, lest we forget that those who now joke about her death are not that far removed from her own sense of mourning people she sees as enemies of her dwindling Empire. She had no sense of shame. In 1990, following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iraq she stated without any sense of irony that
The invasion of Kuwait was an example on an international scale of an evil which has beset us at different levels in recent years – attempts by ruthless people to impose their will on the peaceable majority.(13)
This was the queen of a country that had imposed itself on more of humanity than any other previous empire had ever done. Of course, Hussein had been a friend of Britain. In 1953, the CIA and the British overthrew the democratically elected government of Iran, which had nationalised the oil industry dealing a blow to the Anglo Persian Oil Company, now known as B.P. This set in motion a chain of events that would see Britain install another royal, the Shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi whose despotic rule would lead to the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Enter Saddam. He launched a brutal and bloody war against Iran, invading it in 1980. The war lasted 8 years and cost 500,000 lives. It was bankrolled by the west through the Saudis. There was no one claiming that he had imposed his will, nor were British troops sent to attack this important ally.
Part of her role is that of cheerleader for empire and war. British troops serve under her, not Parliament. They are called upon to serve Queen/King and country and a major part of her role is to encourage young men (and lately women) to throw their lives away in places like Iraq as part of imperial exercises in power and the theft of natural resources.
It is also laughable that the English monarch talks of the peaceable majority when Britain is one of the major arms manufacturers and exporters in the world, supplying despots around the world with the necessary wherewithal to keep local populations in line. Her own son Andrew was appointed Special Representative for International Trade and Investment for the UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) in 2001 and in that role he promoted arms sales. When he was forced by circumstances surrounding his role in the abuse of young girls alongside Jeffrey Epstein to step back from a public role, Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade commented that:
The news that Prince Andrew will step back from Royal duties is unlikely to provoke feelings of sorrow or regret for most British citizens – but for despots, dictatorships and arms dealers around the world it will be a sad day. They have lost one of their most high profile and influential supporters.(14)
During Mrs. Windsor’s reign Britain exported almost 135 billion (in current prices for each year) of arms and is the fourth largest exporter of arms in the world.(15) Some British companies with operations outside of Britain also export arms. These figures do not include what Britain manufactures for its own armed forces or what it buys from other countries.
Remarkably even feminists in Britain and Ireland have publicly lamented the death of Mrs. Windsor ignoring her role in her son’s abuse of young girls. What little action she took against him was due to public outcry and pressure helped along by a disastrous interview in which his sense of entitlement oozed out of the pores he claims not to sweat from. She also forked out part of the money that was paid as part of the settlement with Virginia Guiffre, one of his and Epstein’s victims, though her part could not be used directly to pay the victim but only for the part that went to charities.(16) Not a minor point for feminists, you would have thought. Nonetheless, they lament the death of the loving mother and grandmother. One who showed none of the warmth Sinn Féin claim she shows.
Monarchies are inherently reactionary, even without the atrocities committed by them or in their name. They are hereditary positions occupied by parasites living off the public purse. A lavish funeral and later coronation of Charles will be held, costing millions of pounds. Other old grandmothers will go hungry this winter or die of hypothermia as energy prices soar, a fate Elizabeth did not face and neither will Charles. The old grandmothers around England, who will die of hypothermia this year, through their taxes ensure that Charles will see the winter through, unless a horse-riding accident upsets his plans. Monarchy is all that is rotten in society, the sycophantic outpouring of fake grief is of a people who do not seek a better society, who are enthralled to their masters and their betters, those who bow down to the great and the good. But it was again James Connolly who had said “the great appear great because we are on our knees, let us rise!”
The idea of rising off our knees has been abandoned by most. Sinn Féin is lavish in its praise for her, one of the political and cultural shifts that results from the Good Friday Agreement. The rot has even spread to their friends in Colombia. Timochenko the former FARC guerrilla leader tweeted his condolences to the people of Great Britain and also mentioned that handshake with McGuinness.(17) Britain’s trade unions through the TUC have also bowed down to the royals. The ideological role of the Windsors in class conflict is ignored. Even the otherwise militant RMT has called off strikes planned for September 15th and 17th. There was a time calling for the abolishment of the monarchy was a no brainer for progressives. In the 1980s Arthur Scargill made just that call and when questioned as to what the royals would do then, he replied, “they can work in Sainsburys”. Though some of them have pilots licences, maybe they can do the Gatwick – Dublin route with Ryanair.
Those who mourn Elizabeth Windsor are complicit in what she represents: privilege, war, torture, racism. There are no ifs or buts to that. It is as Robespierre said, “The King must die so the country can live”. It is time to abolish the monarchy and throw onto the putrid rubbish pile of history all that it represents and Charles and William can, as Scargill suggested, get a job and sycophants can go back to worrying about Madonna or Beyoncé.
The intensively mediated death of Elizabeth Windsor, accompanied by the relentlessly maudlin and invasive coverage of official mourning and her funeral, had an intensity that can only be described as imperial. Forced as it was into every corner of public discourse, this coercive atmosphere of state sorrow had a distinctly colonising thrust and meaning. Unleashed during a moment of total class warfare within her very disunited kingdom, it also marked an endpoint in the trajectory of her most obedient servants: the formerly Irish but now thoroughly British political party, Sinn Féin. During Windsor’s reign colonial chickens came home to roost as the woman who presided over British forces while they rampaged across the six counties of British-occupied Ireland then became over the past decade and a half the queen of foodbanks in her own country. (1) Her reign spanned a long period during which overt political violence in Ireland was…
For a group that first came into public view on May 1st with an occupation of a building empty for two years, the Revolutionary Housing League has certainly been busy. At least two further acquisitions1 have followed since.
In addition, a hundred police with vehicles and helicopter have been videoed in one eviction of two activists; four activists have appeared defiantly in court in different cases and the High Court has granted injunction to companies against activists.
As I write this another eviction is being planned, resistance is being organised and further repression through courts and jail seem certain. The RHL are fighting the system, fighting a fundamental social wrong acknowledged by almost everyone.
SHORT HISTORY OF THE REVOLUTIONARY HOUSING LEAGUE
In 1st May 2022 activists acquired Lefroy House on Dublin’s Eden Quay, formerly used by the religious-based NGO, the Salvation Army to provide night-beds for young homeless people but empty for two years. The activists renamed the building Connolly2 House.
At that time the occupiers were calling themselves the Revolutionary Workers’ Union though their council subsequently formed the Revolutionary Housing League.
The Salvation Army took the occupants to court, claiming the SA had been renovating the house in order to accommodate Ukrainian refugees. Despite the absence of evidence of any renovation work and the presence of a leaky roof (fixed by the activists!), the court granted the injunction.
The occupiers called for a rally against eviction on 2nd June and a large crowd of people of various political backgrounds, organisations and independents, arrived to support but of course, the eviction forces could wait and choose their time.
On June 9th at 5.45 a.m early passers-by were amazed to see 100 Gardaí3 with a number of vehicles, supported by a helicopter, including armed police4, assault the building to take posession of it for the SA and to arrest two activist occupants. A video of the event taken by a passer-by went viral.
The RHL had acquired another site5, this one having been a building for homeless people of the municipality, Dublin City Council, but also empty for a long period. On June 10th Gardaí arrested two activists near the building and they too are being processed by the courts.
After that, the RHL occupied a large warehouse-type building on the very north bank of the Liffey by Sean Heuston Bridge which they named, naturally enough, Ionad6 Seán Heuston. They opened it as emergency accommodation and held talks and discussions within it.
Employees of Pinnacle Security company with bolt-cutters entered the site on 3rd September but failed to evict residents and on the 5th September RHL activists picketed the company which, as a consequence, withdrew from acting as security for Chartered Land, owners of the site.
The building owner’s interests are managed by Davy Platform ICAV, acting on behalf of its sub-fund the Phoenix Sub-fund but ultimately, the owner is Chartered Land which intends to build high-rental apartments on the site.
Joe O’Reilly is the property speculator tycoon behind Chartered Land, once the biggest debtor to NAMA whose responsible officer Conor Owens permitted O’Reilly to transfer his Moore Street, ILAC and Dundrum Shopping Centre holdings to Hammerson, a British-based property company.
That transfer gave Hammerson control of properties O’Reilly’s planning permission from Dublin City Council for a giant “shopping mall” there which they have now changed but again approved by DCC’s Planning Officer and which is under appeal to An Bord Pleanála.
Conor Owens is now Ireland Director for Hammerson.
Lawyers for O’Reilly named a number of individuals as being in occupation of the property, at least two of them apparently on the basis of photographs of the interior shared by the them on social media. Last Thursday a number appeared in court on applications for injunctions against them.
One who had not been named, a homeless individual, made an emotional appeal for he and his partner to be allowed to stay and the occupants to provide services to more homeless people. Another denied he had been an occupant but had merely shared photos on social media.
That latter individual had the injunction against him removed but was asked to sign an undertaking he would not enter the building, which he declined to do, remarking that he should not even have had to attend the High Court in the first place.
Sean Doyle of the RHL declared that the action they were taking was necessary and quoted James Connolly: We believe in constitutional action in normal times; we believe in revolutionary action in exceptional times. “These are certainly exceptional times”, Doyle remarked.
The judge went ahead and granted the injunction and required all occupants to evacuate building by Wednesday 21st (i.e as this piece was being concluded).
The RHL organised a picket and temporary protest occupation of Davy stockbrokers, who were handling procedures for Joe O’Reilly, the property tycoon owner of the site of Ionad Seán Heuston.
Last weekend the RHL organised a solidarity concert at Ionad Seán Heuston with somewhere between 150 to 200 in attendance and with at least two bands posting on social media their delight at having performed there.
O’Reilly’s legal team claimed “a flagrant breach of the court order”.
The RHL have called a solidarity rally against the eviction at the site for tomorrow at 10am.
Whatever the outcome of the eviction intended for this particular building or the eventual result of court cases, it seems clear that the RHL are on a collision course with the State and its protection of landlords and property speculators.
While some may look askance at such a contest, one may ask legitimately what other course of action is effective and viable?
Marches and short-term symbolic occupations of individual buildings, including the high-profile Apollo House one supported by prominent individuals in December 2016, though possibly raising awareness, have not made a single dent in the homeless crisis.
Indeed, the situation seems to have got steadily worse – at least for those seeking accommodation; while on the other hand clearly landlords, letting agencies, property speculators, vulture funds and the very banks are raking in their profits.
OVER 10,000 HOMELESS INCLUDING 2,503 CHILDREN
Earlier this year the State admitted that homeless figures had passed ten thousand, for the first time since the covid pandemic7, a statistic that includes the shocking figure of 2,503 children.8
And a recent report states that the levels of homelessness are under-estimated because of the accounting system used by the State, which focuses on rough sleepers and those accessing emergency accommodation9.
Sofa-surfing, rotating between friends and family, precarious rental arrangements all figure in homelessness but are not measured or accounted for by the State. Indeed these features of homelessness have been known for decades.
Clearly too, the obvious solution, the release of substantial funds by the State to local authorities to build public housing for affordable rent, is not favoured by any of the Government political parties.10
Apart from the general inclination of the ‘political class’ to serve big business many have direct interests in the housing situation, as an audit of TDs (member of the Irish Parliament) found over 80, i.e more than half, are landlords or own property – or both.11
Faced with such a situation it is clear that only a very substantial shock to the political system has any hope of having a serious impact on the housing crisis. Though the solution need not be revolutionary, all the evidence is that the methods do indeed have to be so12.
An interesting side-aspect of the RHL’s occupation has been the use of innovative and highly-effective art in banners and murals. Also the holding of a concert and some trad music sessions in acquired buildings, along with educational talks, discussions and Irish language classes.
The RHL is a small organisation fighting the State Goliath which is representing the Philistines of property speculators, vulture funds and banks. They deserve our support in whatever measure we are able to give, in attending events and spreading the word.
Indeed, they have called for wider action – the RHL has on a number of occasions called on people to do what they are doing, to occupy the thousands of empty buildings which, if people did, would transform this struggle into a mass movement.
With no other viable solution in sight, surely we should support the RHL? Do we not owe it to those on the street or struggling to pay mortgages or high rents? Do we not owe to the children now, the future generation that will be blighted unless we act?
1The RHL call their taking of empty properties “acquisitions” in the name of the people.
2After notable socialist revolutionary, trade union organiser, journalist, historian and writer James Connolly, executed by British firing squad in 1916.
3The police force of the Irish State is called An Garda Síochána and the plural of its members, “Gardaí”, singular “Garda”.
4The Garda Síochána is essentially an unarmed police force with an armed response section, the latter which however seems to be growing and more in evidence in different situations.
5They named that one Liam Mellows House in honour of socialist Irish Republican and former member of the Irish parliament, the Dáil, executed during the Civil War by the Irish State in retaliation on 8th December 1922.
6Ionad in Irish means “place/ location/situation”.
10Sinn Féin’s latest housing policy indicates a crash building program for “affordable homes” but unclear whether to rent or own. Election promises tend to be taken with a pinch of salt by commentators; SF Councillors on Dublin City Council voted public land sold to developers. In addition, a future government including SF would almost certainly include a former government party in the coalition.
12The State has the power to put empty properties to use to eliminate all homelessness immediately and the Government can divert funds towards starting a big housing construction program which would give everyone good quality affordable homes in a couple of years. It does not do so because that would upset the profits of the property speculators, property management companies and the banks, their lenders.
Propaganda is employed in wars and finds its most widescale application through the mass media. The belligerents want their own populations to support their war effort and to have other states support them.
IRISH REPORTING ON THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR
The hierarchy of the Catholic Church infamously mirrored the propaganda of their corresponding religious officials in the Spanish State in backing the fascist-military uprising against the elected Popular Front Government in 1936.
Irish newspapers and radio reporting on the whole followed the line of the Church hierarchy. The resulting conflict gave the Spanish state the greatest number of known mass graves in Europe and anywhere in the world, in fact, outside of Cambodia.
The Catholic hierarchy declared the fascist-military to be fighting a religious crusade against “Godless communism”, repeated propaganda of the fascist side, denounced real and imagined crimes of the Republican side.
They denied or ignored news of crimes of the fascists, which occurred from the first days and for years after Franco’s victory, in the course of which they denounced even priests who spoke out about the fascist crimes.
Whether the Spanish Republican Government had its own propaganda (I’m sure it did) or whether all its supporters were squeaky clean or not is besides the point. The overwhelmingly pro-fascist forces propagandaaffectedusin Ireland and most of it was fallacious.
Even the Irish Press, paper of De Valera who had banned the Blueshirts earlier: …. “These idealistic young men also saw their participation in the Spanish Civil War as helping to solve political divisions in Ireland and ultimately Irish unity. Interviewed in Dublin prior to his departure for Spain, Capt. P. Quinn from county Kilkenny, made the following statement: I believe that if an Irish Brigade succeed in reaching Spain, and there fights against Communism and all its terrors ….”
This had a practical effect in Ireland at the time and later, assisting religious and other fascists to attack socialists, communists and other progressives.
It helped create the atmosphere in which alternative writers were censored and hounded and the Irish State could actually expel an Irish citizen – Jimmy Grailton – for the crime of being a socialist community activist.
In turn, this anti-socialist, anti-communist atmosphere created a poisonous environment for social progress, whether championed by revolutionaries or social democrats.
It also helped create a wall shielding the ongoing endemic mental and physical – including sexual — abuse of women and children which seemed impermeable to control or even criticism for decades.
BRITISH WWI PROPAGANDA
The British imperial cant of “defence of small nations” or of “defending civilisation” in its war against Germany during WW1 while simultaneously suppressing the 1916 Rising and repressing many peoples around the world is well known.
The media related invented German atrocities, gave one-sided reporting, censored or demonised alternative views (I know, beginning to sound familiar).
That is the general, well-established picture. However, I’d like to focus on a specific incident and how it was treated: the sinking by German submarine (U-Boat) of the Howth fishing trawlers St. Michan and Geraldine on 31st of March 1918, with the loss of five Irish lives.
No question of who’s in the wrong there, you’d think. The Irish unionist media (admittedly under war powers control) jumped to accuse the German Uboat crew of a “Howth atrocity”, an “Act of Murder” and that they “Shelled without warning”1.
I am grateful to Phillip O’Connor for his exploration of the incident) in his Road to Independence (2016) [Howth Free Press] on the involvement of Howth, Sutton and Baldoyle communities in the struggle for independence and social progress (and his source on the incident, Seán T. Rickard’s MA).
WAR CONTEXT OF INCIDENT
WWI was fought on land, air (even then) and sea. The British Navy was the most powerful in the world and imposed a naval blockade on Germany, bottling up the latter’s navy but also preventing supplies of any kind entering by sea. Unusually, the blockade included foods.
Germany took the position that Britain was trying to starve the German population and responded with its submarines attacking UK shipping which at the time included Ireland’s.
The British responded by concealing guns on merchant ships so that a German submarine surfacing and demanding surrender could in turn by sunk by the merchant ship in question. Indeed the British used fishing boats as mine-sweepers and even armed some too.
This had the effect of encouraging German Uboat captains on occasion to sink merchant ships without warning rather than run the risk of being sunk themselves.
However the U90, the submarine in question concerning the Irish trawlers in March 1918, appeared not to have been doing that and O’Connor quotes the case of the Greek ship SS Salaminia, of which the entire crew had been given time to get into lifeboats before being sunk.
Indeed, the eight captain and crew of the Michan all got into their “punt” and were picked up alive by a British Navy patrol. Tragically, the Geraldine had no additional boat, having set some of its crew ashore on Lambay Island to gather whelk for long-line hook-baiting.
Whether Captain Jess of the U90 believed the Geraldine was being defiant, playing for time or anything else is not known but his Uboat sank the vessel and there were no survivors.
The dominant newspapers in Ireland at the time condemned the German Uboat along the lines outlined above but also went further to make political capital out of it against the Republican movement.
They – and politicians they quoted – used the incident to attack Irish Republicanism, one going so far as to refer sarcastically to the Republicans’ “gallant allies”, lifting the quotation from the 1916 Proclamation of Independence.
There were rules of war agreed at the Hague Convention of 1907. Attacks on civilians are ruled as a war crime by the Geneva Convention but that was not composed and agreed until 1949.
However, its applicability to all the situations of conflict at sea were not codified until much later and, even then, are not binding on the signatories2.
It needs also to be noted that violations of humanitarian regulations and laws by most states have been documented during their wars with other states and in suppressing uprisings. The British did arm merchant ships during WW1 and also used them in a mine-sweeping capacity.
Also the Leinster, for example, sunk by German Uboat torpedoes on 10th October the same year as the Howth fishing boats, was carrying military personnel and armament and therefore in war terms a legitimate target.3
However, it is difficult to see how the fishing boats could be suspected of being armed merchantmen or even as ships supplying Britain and therefore equal to any ships attacked for breaching the Royal Navy blockade of Germany.
I am grateful to O’Connor for supplying me with the reference4 to the UK’s war-time restrictions obliging fishermen to ply their trade at 15 miles or further from its main ports, which included Dún Laoghaire and Dublin and therefore affected the Howth fishing fleet.
The U90’s captain may have suspected the British were using them as “spotters” for submarines in the area but even so, it is difficult to justify sinking without verifying radio equipment on board and especially without a dinghy to take the crew to safety ….!
In that respect it seems the U90 might have been in violation of agreed measures for the protection of civilians at sea in time of war by destroying civilian fishing vessels.
On the question of warning, although there were no survivors of the Geraldine, the available evidence is that the Captain of the U90 did warn before sinking shipping and had done so in a number of cases including another fishing boat on the same day.
But all was grist to the British war propaganda media and even, especially in the case of Ireland, to its colonial purposes in attacking its main anti-colonial opponents of the time, Irish Republicans.
Of course too, left unmentioned was the fact that the UK was attacking German civilians through blockading food imports5 and threatening and impounding any blockade-breaking ships (except those of the USA6).
Blockades and sanctions have cost many lives over the years – the UK blockaded the Spanish Republic during the Anti-Fascist War which did not impede Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy hugely supplying arms, aircraft and men to the military-fascist troops.
The USA imposed sanctions on Cuba for decades and Iraq for some years; in the latter case, by 1996 an estimated half million children had died as a result, a figure justified by Madeleine Albright, then USA Ambassador to the UN7.
Israel is permanently blockading Gaza in Palestine by land, air and sea – Egypt is participating too with its control over one gate. NATO sanctioned Russia which is now retaliating with some measures also.
Interestingly, O’Connor records that British war propaganda had little effect in 1918 on majority Irish opinion and even the Howth fishermen’s representative condemned the UK Admiralty for the mortal danger in obliging fishermen to ply their trade beyond 15 miles from shore8.
The UK General Election results in Ireland six weeks later would be a convincing illustration of how the vast majority of the population was thinking.
1It would be interesting to know whether it entered the heads of any editors that the British military had bombarded the city centre of Dublin with a number of land and sea-born artillery pieces just two years earlier, without any attempt of warning to the civilian population whatsoever.
3The Wikipedia entry on the sinking of the the Leinster, while acknowledging the nearly 500 military personnel on board, does not common on this negation of the ship’s civilian status. It does not mention the gun mounted on it either, which is noted in this record https://www.rmsleinster.com/sinking/sinking.htm
4See Appendix for details on this (thanks to Phillip O’Connor).
102. The declaration or establishment of a blockade is prohibited if: a) it has the sole purpose of starving the civilian population or denying it other objects essential for its survival.…
103. If the civilian population of the blockaded territory is inadequately provided with food and other objects essential for its survival, the blockading party must provide for free passage of such foodstuffs and other essential supplies.
6Vide O’Connor The Road to Independence (2016) [Howth Free Press]
To regulate the security risk of fishing around Ireland during the war the Admiralty thought it necessary to divide the coasts into security zones. These zones had various levels of regulation and protection. Areas were either licensed by special permit, which allowed fishermen to fish these areas under restriction or were simply designated as areas where fishing was prohibited. Orders directly issued by the Admiralty were passed on to the fishermen through the D.A.T.I. via Notices to Mariners (NA G/12 (1917) & G/20/5 (1918).
Fishing was generally prohibited several miles from headlands, as it was a favourite spot for lurking U-boats. It was also prohibited around minefields, which were used to protect the coast and divert traffic into safer zones for escorts. It was also prohibited around naval bases and near convoy meeting points. And traditionally it was always prohibited in sea-lanes where there was heavy sea traffic. It was prohibited in many areas between sunset and sunrise, (a term still used in modern Rules Of the Road) and also known as “dark hours”. If any security measure presented itself, fishing could also be prohibited at short notice for whatever reason by word of mouth on the local naval authority shoreside or naval authority at sea. The Admiralty also had the right to commandeer vessels and/or cargo space also at short notice. The Admiralty later ordered that if the fishermen sighted enemy submarines they were to stop their fishing activity and go immediately to inform the closest naval authority whether at sea or ashore. This made fishing more difficult, costly and dangerous and particularly annoying to Irish fishermen with national sentiments.
The Admiralty even warned that a failure to comply might lead them to be fired on by naval vessels. Immediately affecting Howth fishermen was the prohibition of fishing within fifteen miles of Kingstown. This area roughly to the NW of Kingstown and roughly a few miles off Howth Head was a favourite bait procurement ground for Howth fishermen but also fell within range of most of their local fishing grounds.
In March 1917 the following rules affected fishermen fishing the East coast of Ireland but in particular Howth fishermen were as follows:
All decked and motorboats fishing anywhere between Ballywalter, Co. Down, and Howth, or anywhere between Wicklow Head and Loop Head, must carry official permits to fish. Between Ballywalter, the Isle of Man, and Howth, such boats may fish by day and by night at any distance from land within the limits of their permits.
They are forbidden to be stopped in or to pass during dark hours through waters where no fishing is allowed.
Moored nets may be left out at night, provided that the head ropes are kept five feet or more below the surface.
(Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction for Ireland. Notice to Fishermen. Effective 1 March 1917. Wt.-865. 250. 2/17)
Later rules came into effect in 1918 for the locality, one of which was fishing could only be conducted within daylight hours in this area.