In London in 1847 (i.e the worst year of the Great Hunger — Editor Rebel Breeze), though images of the suffering and starvation in Ireland appeared in newspapers, few upper class British people were moved to help. One exception to this indifference was a Polish count who became a naturalized British subject, Paul (Pawel) Strzelecki. A new exhibit at the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin: A Forgotten Polish Hero in the Great Irish Famine, Paul Strzelecki’s struggle to save thousands, honours this selfless Pole who helped feed at least 200,000 starving people in the west of Ireland. Created by Nikola Skowska-Moroney at the Polish Embassy in Dublin, the exhibition will be part of a nationwide tour at various venues throughout the country.
Strzelecki was not only a great humanitarian, but also a fascinating character in his own right. Born into a minor aristocratic family, he served in the Prussian army and had his heart broken when the family of the young woman he had fallen in love with refused his offer of marriage on account of his modest means. Crushed, he decided to leave Poland and traveled the world, visiting Africa, North and South America before traveling to Polynesia and Australia. He became a self-taught scholar in geography, geology and anthropology and corresponded with Charles Darwin. In Australia, he climbed the continent’s highest peak, naming it for the great Polish revolutionary Tadeusz Kosciuszko and explored Tasmania. He became a British subject in 1845 and published his Physical Description of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land, for which he received the Founder’s medal of the Royal Geographical Society.
In 1845, he returned to London where he became friendly with Samuel John Lloyd, an associate of the powerful banker Baron Lionel de Rothschild. The two bankers, moved by the suffering of the Irish, founded the British Relief Association, which collected money for famine relief. Strzelecki volunteered to go to Ireland as an unpaid agent of the B.R.A. Traveling across the famine stricken land, Strzelecki was shocked by the suffering and death he saw around him. In Co. Mayo, Strzelecki organized soup kitchens and gave cash to relief committees. He focused much of his relief work on children. Strzelecki decided to stay in Ireland because, unlike others, he correctly predicted that famine would return to Ireland the following year. The B.R.A. named Strzelecki as agent for all of Ireland and he helped the hungry until the organization’s funds were depleted. He then returned to London where he pled for further funds and explained that humanitarianism must take precedence over every other consideration. In 1849, he again returned to Ireland where he tried to feed the hungry.
Strzelecki also helped many Irish families to emigrate to Australia and the United States. His efforts were recognized by the Crown and he was knighted in 1849. For many years Strzelecki’s heroism was forgotten, but the Polish Embassy in Ireland has sponsored the exhibition to remind Ireland of this great Polish humanitarian. Hopefully, Strzelecki’s story will resonate both with the Irish and with the many Polish people who now call Ireland home and bond the two groups closer together.
Postscript from Editor Rebel Breeze: There is a plaque in Dublin commemorating this man on the side of the Clery’s building in Sackville Place, at the corner with O’Connell Street. Do our readers know of any other such plaques or monuments to him, for example in Mayo?
A rally outside Leinster House organised by the Irish fascist National Party for Saturday 10th October survived a clash with antifascists thanks only to the protection of a large force of Gardaí. The rally was a continuation of the attempt of the Far-Right in Ireland to use popular frustration over the Government’s haphazard and stop-go restrictions to build up their fascist and racist organisations.
A broad coalition of antifascists, Irish Republicans, Socialists, Communists, LGBT activists etc, led by Antifascist Action Ireland, mobilised a counter-protest to the National Party’s presence. Immediately the counter-protesters arrived, the two forces clashed. The NP supporters were visibly taken aback as the barriers between them and their opponents flew aside or were thrown down, some actually going into the air. Two flash-bangs they threw into the antifascists seemed to have no effect and it was the Gardaí with baton blows that saved the NP. The rally’s banner was seized by antifascists and only retrieved by Gardaí.
The National Party, formed in 2016, are a fascist, racist, homophobic and fundamentalist sectarian Catholic organisation. Their leader Justin Barrett recently commented that when he got into power he would remove the citizenship of the current elected Mayor of Dublin, Ms. Hazel Chu, although she was born and raised in Ireland. The party propagates the “Replacement conspiracy”, where the EU is supposedly planning to replace all Irish people with migrants, proposes hanging for doctors who carry out a pregnancy termination and opposes LGBT equality. A prominent member of their organisation boasted about having organised the mob of up to 60 men who attacked a peaceful counter-protest on Custom House Quay on August 22nd with iron bars and lengths of timber.
With threatening batons and at times striking with them, the Gardaí first of all pushed all the counter-protestors into Molesworth St. where uniformed Gardaí and POU (Public Order Unit) faced off the antifascists, who alternated between shouting at the fascists over the heads of the Gardaí and shouting at the Gardaí themselves, e.g “Garda Blueshirts!”1
At one point POU officers blocked off access to some antifascists who were on the steps of one of the buildings in the street and proceeded to search them but apparently found nothing. They did not conduct searches among the supporters of the NP, who had earlier thrown the flash-bangs and some other missiles at their opponents. Nor were they seen confiscating any flags from the NP supporters, while they wrenched flags from a number of antifascists – including a tricolour on a long fairly fragile carbon plastic rod (shown on Breaking News, which also showed NP supporters in a different photo striking at antifascists with flags that seemed to be on metal rods).
Things could have remained at stasis at that point but the Gardaí several times pushed the antifascists savagely back, a few feet at a time. They were successful in doing so over some metres but it was not made easy for them – there was strong militant resistance and a number of clashes.
During the whole of these interactions after the initial clash with the NP, a number of antifascists were guarding the rear of their numbers and some fascists approaching, presumably latecomers for the rally, were turned away.
At one point it appeared that the Gardaí were mobilising numbers to block off the antifascists’ exit but in response to a call to fall back, the solid mass passed through the Gardaí’s incomplete lines thereby defeating any intention of “kettling” the antifascists and shutting down their mobility.
NP SPEAKERS AND SPEECHES
The fascists chanted “Pedos off our streets!” in response to the antifascists’ calls for “Nazi scum off our streets!” — to the fascists, LGBT people are “paedophiles” and they find it a handy though baseless slogan to throw at all antifascists. The antifascists, apart from regularly chanting also met any attempt at fascist speeches with a barrage of shouts, rhythmic clapping, whistles and booing. Consequently, although the speakers were visible to the antifascists albeit at a distance, the content is known only from media reports.
The speakers were Mick “Chopper” O’Keefe, Rowan Croft (“Tan” Torino)2 and Justin Barrett. According to The Beacon, Barrett claimed that the Government is altering the death figures in relation to COVID-19 in order to justify its actions and that that the virus is part of a wider agenda on the part of “international finance capital”3 to destroy the world’s economies. Barrett insisted that the “restrictions are here to stay” as part of the economy-destroying agenda.
Prior to the event, on social media the NP cautioned its supporters to be friendly towards the Gardaí: “The Gardaí know the reds are scum, remember the migration compact protest: the Gardaí were having the banter with us, they had their batons out for the reds. We need to maintain that dynamic.”
According to the Beacon, Barrett, who beats the law-and-order drum, told the Gardai “you are of us and we are of you”.
FASCISTS CHASED AND REPORTING
After mocking the fascists as they left, the antifascists marched off in apparently the opposite direction, then swung around to pursue the NP supporters. Apart from the Garda circle around the latter, they also threw up a cordon against the antifascists at the Nasseau Street junction with Kildare Street.
The main body of antifascists turned then and marched through the city centre chanting “Fascist scum off our streets” to applause from some bystanders, then rallied at the GPO. Gardaí reported two arrests and it is known that they arrested an antifascist in Moore St for having allegedly confiscated a POU cap back in Molesworth Street. There are rumours that a few unguarded fascists were also met by antifascists to the dismay of the former but these have not been confirmed.
Media reporting varied, from a wildly inaccurate account in Dublin.Live to RTÉ’s equating of both groups on the same level, with the Irish Times giving the very erroneous impression that the NP were as eager to get to grips with the antifascists as the antifascists were with them.
Commenting on the events in a statement later, Anti-Fascist Ireland said: “The NP event was a failed attempt to use current Covid-19 restrictions as a rallying point to attract unsuspecting members of the public who may hold genuine grievances with the lockdown.”
Quoting the London-based Anarchist antifascist Albert Meltzer (1920-1996) “there’s no such thing as a fascist march – only a police march”4 the statement referred to” the massive Garda operation required to ensure the larger anti-fascist mobilisation was kept away from the underwhelming fascist presence.”
Referring to the recent fascist boast of about ‘controlling’ the streets of Dublin, the AFA statement commented that “they seemed genuinely shocked and scared by the sight of hundreds of working-class anti-fascists in Dublin today” and reported that “A nervous Torino was spotted leaving the vicinity immediately after his rant and did not even stay around for Justin Barret’s rambling long speech.”
The statement pointed out that the NP oppose the use of masks to prevent the spread of Covid19 and that their supporters disregard any restrictions. “We know that huge numbers of our supporters did not take to the streets today out of concern for the most vulnerable in society”, the statement continued. Those of us out today did so out of a sense of necessity and true patriotism to protect our country from their dangerous and toxic ideologies.”
The statement concluded: “AFA Ireland is a militant anti-fascist organisation formed in 1991. We believe in physically and ideologically confronting fascism whenever and wherever it rears its ugly head. As always, we encourage all anti-fascist minded people across the island to reach out to us and work together in a militant, disciplined movement against fascism. Profound thanks again to all our members and supporters in the republican, socialist, grassroots, LGBTQ+ and trade union movements.
Beir Bua. La Lucha Continúa. No pasarán.”
FAILURE OF THE LEFT FACILITATED GROWTH OF THE FAR-RIGHT
The National Party is one of a number of similar organisations and parties that make up the Far-Right in the 26 Counties (in addition there are the Loyalists in the Six Counties). There are also the Irish Freedom Party led by Herman Kelly, Síol na hÉireann led by Niall McConnell, QAnon led by Dee Wall (real name Dolores Webster) – who was at the NP rally, Anti-Corruption Ireland led by Gemma O’Doherty and Irish Yellow Vests, led by Glen Miller and Ben Gilroy (who also has his own promotion through the Tiger Reborn FB page). Despite their wide representation on social media, most of these are tiny groups which is why until recently they have been banding together at a number of events and in particular participating in events organised by the more popular Irish Yellow Vests. The IYV have been making a comeback since they fizzled out a couple of years ago after the Islamophobia of Miller, opportunism of Gilroy and racism of some of their supporters was exposed.
The failure of the Irish Left to mount a comprehensive resistance to the attacks of the Irish ruling class on working people over the years and, in particular, its failure to construct an adequate response to the Covid19 pandemic and to the Government’s handling of it has proved a boon to the ‘Vests and they have provided platform and marching space for all the other parts of the Far-Right, including the obvious fascists, but also attracting a number of innocent but confused people.
Recently the ‘Vests have been trying to clean up their image a bit by dumping the likes of O’Doherty, despite having using her notoriety up to now, along with the parties led by Barrett, McConnell and Kelly. And a report in the Examiner recently suggested that the State wished to assist the Vests in gaining popularity, as the report quoted unnamed senior Garda sources alluding to their alleged investigation of the “penetration” of the anti-mask movement “by fascist organisations”. If this is so however, the Gardaí on Saturday seemed to have not yet received the message – unless it was just their old prejudice against Republicans and the Left coming into play.
The media reported that Gardaí were going to “investigate the organisers” of the NP event (pretty obvious really!) and of the antifascist counter-protest. This is a ritual verbal response from a police force which has left the weekly QAnon protest outside the GPO unmolested from the very start of the Covid19 restrictions, while they harassed Debenhams workers’ pickets around the corner in Henry Street and their Special Branch did the same to political prisoner solidarity pickets further down O’Connell St.
1A reference to the fascist movement in 1930s Ireland, the leader of which was the former first Commissioner of the Free State Gardaí.
2Rowan Croft nicknamed himself the “Gran Torino” but has been nicknamed “Tan Torino” by opponents due to his past service in the British Army and possibly also due to his participating in a panel, along with Herman Kelly, with notorious fascist and British Loyalist Jim Dowson.
3This term in the past has been and today too is often a coded expression of anti-semitism and Barrett has let slip some remarks indicating in that direction.
4Based on the experience of antifascists when fascist marches are accompanied or even led by police, as for example in London at Cable Street in 1936 and Lewisham in 1977.
El 18 de agosto, se llevaron a cabo redadas contra partidarios del partido republicano irlandés Saoradh tanto en los Seis Condados ocupados como en el estado irlandés. Las redadas en los Seis Condados fueron coordinadas por el MI5 (Servicio de Inteligencia británica) y las de los 26 Condados (el Estado Irlandés) a instancias de los británicos o planificadas por ellos (el jefe de la Gardaí, Drew Harris, es un exdiputado jefe de de la policía colonial británica, el PSNI y sería un activo del MI5, por lo tanto).
Las redadas en los 26 condados, aunque derribaron violentamente las puertas de las casas y atemorizaron a las parejas y los niños, hasta la fecha no han dado lugar a cargos, pero las de los Seis Condados, facilitadas por un agente del MI5, resultaron en cargos graves y encarcelamiento de ocho. sin fianza en espera de juicio sin jurado en el Tribunal Diplock.
Todos los detenidos en los Seis Condados fueron encarcelados en la cárcel de Maghaberry, teniendo primero que pasar dos semanas en cuarentena en Foyle House. La instalación donde los presos fueron obligados a soportar este período ha sido descrita por los presos como “sucia y ruinosa” y con “cartones de leche pegados a la pared con heces” pero, habiéndolo soportado, fueron trasladados a la población general de presos políticos en Maghaberry.
Uno de los detenidos es el doctor Issam Hijjawi, que tiene problemas de salud por lo cual hace tiempo que buscaba hacerse una resonancia magnética. Finalmente se le concedió y fue trasladado bajo custodia al hospital donde se realizó el procedimiento. Sin embargo, a su regreso, fue nuevamente enviado a Foyle House para pasar otras dos semanas en esas condiciones insalubres, aunque fácilmente podría haber sido acomodado en la cárcel cerca de los otros presos para concluir otras dos semanas de cuarentena allí. Además, la naturaleza punitiva es clara cuando uno se entera de que los funcionarios de prisiones que acompañaron al doctor Issam Hijjawi no estaban obligados a ponerse en cuarentena y cuando la “focalización concertada de molestías que ha sufrido desde que entró en Maghaberry”, según los presos, se lleva a la cuenta.
HUELGAS DE HAMBRE
El doctor Issam Hijjawi se declaró en huelga de hambre en protesta y el 17 de septiembre 20 presos políticos en Roe House Maghaberry y 25 en E3 y E4 en las cárceles de Portloise se embarcaron en una huelga de hambre en solidaridad (tres presas políticas de Hydebank prisión también se incorporó la semana pasada). Se trata de prisioneros que están bajo el cuidado de la IRPWA (Asociación de Bienestar de Presxs Republicanxs de Irlanda), que tiene una estrecha relación con el partido Saoradh.
Saoradh y la IRPWA organizaron piquetes de protesta en varias partes de Irlanda, incluidas Dublín, Belfast, Derry, Tralee, Kilmainham Jail, que contaron con el apoyo de militantes del amplio movimiento republicano y antiimperialista.
Para el 26 de septiembre, el día 11 de la huelga de hambre, también organizaron una protesta frente a la cárcel de Maghaberry, con discursos, cánticos y fuegos artificiales. Más tarde ese mismo día, el PSNI (la policía colonial británica, antes RUC) detuvo a dos de los partidarios de Saoradh, incluido su presidente de la sucursal de Derry, por “comportamiento desenfrenado”, “comportamiento desordenado” y “posesión de fuegos artificiales ilegales”.
Los participantes que iban al estacionamiento para apoyar a los detenidos fueron recibidos por policías coloniales con equipo antidisturbios que, según testigos republicanos, empujaron, golpearon, estrangularon y tiraron del cabello a los manifestantes.
Mientras que los dos republicanos de Derry fueron llevados por la policía colonial a la Unidad de Interrogatorios de Musgrave, más policías coloniales con equipo antidisturbios se trasladaron al campo de solidaridad frente a la cárcel de Maghaberry y detuvieron a dos partidarios del grupo juvenil republicano Éistigí, que también fueron llevados a la Unidad de Musgrave.
Dos días después, el lunes por la mañana, los cuatro comparecieron en el Tribunal de Lisburn a través de un enlace de video de la Unidad Musgrave, donde se les concedió la libertad bajo fianza en condiciones que violaban sus derechos civiles: no se les permite estar en compañía del otro ni en contacto; no deben estar a menos de 100 metros de una protesta o procesión notificada o no notificada; los cuatro hombres tienen que presentarse en un cuartel británico tres veces por semana.
La policía colonial quería aún más, que fueran etiquetados electrónicamente, en el toque de queda de 16.00 a 8.00 y no se les permitiera viajar en ningún “vehículo privado” — pero al final no se impusieron.
Luego, aunque les habían concedido la libertad bajo fianza, los cuatro fueron esposados y llevados a la cárcel, dos a Foyle House (anexo a la cárcel de Maghaberry) donde observaron lo sucias que estaban las celdas y posteriormente ambos fueron despojados a la fuerza y cacheados íntimamente por los guardias de la prisión. Los otros dos detenidos, ambos menores de 21 años, fueron trasladados a Hydebank.
Cuando finalmente fueron liberados, los cuatro detenidos tuvieron que viajar a casa en automóviles separados debido a las condiciones de fianza que se les impusieron, a pesar de que tres de ellos vivían en la misma ciudad. Un automóvil fue seguido por policía, detenido y expulsado a sus ocupantes y el automóvil registrado en Glenshane Pass. Otro fue detenido y registrado en la ciudad de Derry.
Los cuatro manifestantes ahora están recibiendo asesoramiento legal sobre su detención ilegal, cacheo desnudo y encarcelamiento por las fuerzas de la Corona británica.
El Dr. Hijjawi ha sido devuelto ahora a Roe House en Maghaberry y las protestas sobre ese tema han concluido. El carácter político vengativo del aislamiento en Foyle House se ha confirmado con la información de que once presos no republicanos, dos de ellos Lealistas, han estado de viaje fuera de la prisión sin que fueran puestos en cuarentena a su regreso en Foyle House.
PRISIONEROS POLÍTICOS EN IRLANDA HOY
En otro tema, las autoridades penitenciarias de los Veintiséis Condados (Estado de Irlanda), como consecuencia de la pandemia de Covid19, han reducido a la mitad el número de visitantes permitidos y han restringido los horarios de visita de los presos. El preso republicano Kevin Hannaway ha solicitado una revisión judicial de esta restricción alegando que viola sus derechos humanos. En su acción ante el Tribunal Superior, Hannaway afirma que según las reglas de la prisión, un preso tiene derecho a al menos una visita semanal de un familiar o amigo de no menos de 30 minutos de duración. Hannaway fue torturado en 1971 durante la introducción del internamiento sin juicio en los Seis Condados y es uno del grupo conocido como “los hombres encapuchados” porque les mantuvieron encapuchados durante sus días de tortura. Su caso fue dictaminado como tortura en el Tribunal Europeo de Derechos Humanos, pero luego fue modificado, en una apelación del Estado británico, a ser “trato inhumano y degradante”.
El Acuerdo del Viernes Santo de 1998 no vació las cárceles de los presos republicanos irlandeses, aunque los pertenecientes a los Provisionales fueron liberados con licencia y algunos otros aceptaron los términos y fueron liberados de manera similar. Sin embargo, se estaban realizando nuevos arrestos y encarcelamientos de republicanos que no apoyaban el Acuerdo (“disidentes”) y a algunos otros se les revocó la licencia y fueron devueltos a la cárcel sin cargos ni juicio.
Actualmente hay alrededor de 70 prisioneros republicanos irlandeses en cárceles de la autoridad colonial británica y del Estado irlandés. Aunque algunos están en espera de juicio (a veces hasta dos años), la mayoría está cumpliendo condenas, habiendo sido condenados en los Tribunales Especiales sin jurado utilizados para juicios políticos en ambas administraciones. Los problemas de los que se han quejado los presos republicanos incluyen el registro sin ropa, el acoso por parte de los funcionarios de prisiones, la ausencia o las restricciones en las instalaciones educativas y los largos períodos de aislamiento para algunas personas. Algunos presos también se enfrentan a la extradición del estado irlandés a los Seis Condados o al extranjero.
A leaflet from the Socialist Party of Ireland distributed at the antifascist rally in Dublin on Saturday 12th made a correct analysis of the source of the problems in Irish society of which the Far-Right are taking advantage in order to mislead people but also grow. But the leaflet text failed shamefully when it came to outlining the next steps to take.
Titled “OPPOSE RACIST DIVISION — Organise to stop the far right”, the leaflet correctly identified the haphazard Government restrictions as the cause of insecurity and confusion about the Covid19 virus, which fed the negationist movement. It also stated that the Far-Right was manipulating these people and working to infect them with racism and homophobia.
It was correct also to point to the need for socialists to expose the real issues and organise to resolve them.
However, the leaflet text went on to state: “Recent experiences have shown that small counter demonstrations with confrontational tactics have jeopardised the safety of anti-fascist protestors and can drive some some people further into the arms of the far right.”
Perhaps the Socialist Party can tell us what kind of counter demonstration would not be seen as having “confrontational tactics”. In fact since to their credit for the first time some of their comrades actually took part in one such counter-protest, on Custom House Quay on the 22nd August, they couldinform their party that the counter-protesters were attacked almost as soon as they stepped on to the Quay, before anything at all was said by them. Also, the Far-Right have been staging regular street protests since last year, many of them centred around the racist and conspiracy theorist Gemma O’Doherty, who recently unfurled a banner calling to “Make Ireland Catholic Again”. Should the Far-Right have been permitted to continue without public opposition?
The counter-protests were small because the majority of the antifascist movement did not participate in them. It was independent anarchists, socialists and Irish Republicans who first took up that task and at that time the Far-Right protests were quite small. When the Far-Right called a larger one for Leinster House, in a coalition of fascist parties and organisations, a fairly large force of Irish Republicans and independent antifascists confronted them and a number of the Republicans were arrested. Following that event, on 14th December 2019 a larger combined force of antifascists including Irish Republicans, Antifascist Action and socialist parties occupied the protest ground planned by the Far-Right outside Leinster House and outnumberedthe latter by about ten to one.
The small ad-hoc antifascist coalition of various political and social threads has been left to confront all the other fascist gatherings on their own. A Far-Right group called QAnon occupied the GPO forecourt for Saturday rallies as soon as the Covid19 restrictions were introduced and were left largely unmolested by antifascists to establish themselves as a weekly event, supported by fascist activists who travelled from different parts of the country to attend it. They were left unmolested by the Gardaí too, who nevertheless used Covid19 powers to harass Debenhams picketers around the corner in Henry Street and also by the Special Branch, Ireland’s political police, who harassed pickets held in solidarity with Irish Republican and Basque political prisoners, demanding the names and addresses of the picketers.
All subsequent rallies, pickets and meetings of the Far-Right were left entirely to the small aforementioned coalitions to oppose but when the Debenhams workers staged their march and rally on 8th August, the QAnon group abandoned their Saturday spot and took to Phoenix Park instead, showing the antifascist potential of a large gathering of the Left.
HISTORY OF ANTIFASCIST STRUGGLE IN IRELAND
The rise of the fascist movement in Ireland in the 1930s was defeated by Irish Republicans, who confronted them physically on the streets to the extent that the ruling class feared revolution and mostly acquiesced with De Valera’s government banning a Blueshirt march, after which the Blueshirts became integrated into the Fine Gael party and ceased to have a separate existence.
Every attempt to establish a fascist party since then has been promptly squashed by antifascists. In 2016 the European islamophobic fascist organisation Pegida tried to launch itself in Dublin and was driven off the street by massive mobilisation of both those advocating peaceful opposition as well as those favouring physical confrontation (by the way four Republicans still face serious charges arising out of those events). The tiny group of native Irish fascists was attacked on its way into the city centre and the East European contingent had to run or be brought to safety in Garda vans.
The fascist movement of Sir Oswald Moseley’s Blackshirts was physically opposed in numerous battles on the streets of British cities throughout the 1930s and after WW2, Moseley himself being knocked to the ground in Manchester and hit by a flying brick in Liverpool. Numerous battles took place in London too of course, the most famous being at Cable Street, where a coalition of Irish and Jewish antifascists, along with local Communist Party activists, fought a battle of several hours on 4th October 1936, principally with 7,000 London Metropolitan Police and all the mounted police of the city. The police got through the first barricade but failed to penetrate the second and the Blackshirts had to turn away, many being ambushed at other points such as at Hyde Park Corner.
After WW2 all attempts of Moseley and other fascists to organise were suppressed by robust action on the streets, the most serious being in 1958 in London’s Notting Hill area. Many of the post-war migration of Afro-Caribbean people to London lived in that area. Moseley’s Union of Fascists and the White Defence League organised and whipped up gangs of white youths to attack first migrant Caribbean males, then the white wife of a Caribbean man and finally Caribbean families. The Caribbean migrants and Irish and British antifascists organised defence and battles went on for two weeks. According to Wikipedia: “The riots caused tension between theMetropolitan Police and the British African-Caribbean community, which claimed that the police had not taken their reports of racial attacks seriously. In 2002, files were released that revealed that senior police officers at the time had assured the Home Secretary, Rab Butler, that there was little or no racial motivation behind the disturbance, despite testimony from individual police officers to the contrary.” (That pattern of police denial of racism and neglect of targeted communities became a repeated pattern and has also been seen in many other countries).
When fascists began to organise again in Britain at the end of the 1960s, the parties of the Left first advocated ignoring them and when they did eventually mobilise counter-demonstrations, marched them away from confrontation with the fascists. Meanwhile fascists were attacking sellers of socialist papers, socialist meetings, migrants and ethnic minorities. Some elements of the Left after a while adopted the slogan of “no platform for fascists” which became popularised among students and some staff in institutions of third-level education, eventually becoming policy of the National Union of Students.
A coalition of antifascists of various political backgrounds, including some acting unofficially outside their party discipline, mainly in AFA (Anti-Fascist Action) and small groups of revolutionary communists, anarchists, Irish Republicans and antifascists expelled from their parties (e.g. Red Action) took on the National Front, the League of St. George and the British National Party in numerous battles and smashed the ability of the fascists to take possession of any significant physical space in order to organise. On September 13th we passed by the anniversary of one of those battles in Lewisham, SE London in 1977 and we are nearly at the the anniversary of another,on the 18th in 1992 at Waterloo (the London Underground and train station, not the site of the 1815 battle in Belgium).
Throughout that period the main parties of the left (with the exception for a period of the SWP and the IMG) refused to confront the fascists physically and instead concentrated on organising events to attract youth away from fascism, principally through the Anti-Nazi League. It was however clearly the physical confrontations by antifascists on the streets, as had been the case in the 1930s that again defeated the rising fascist threat in Britain – for a time. Clearing the fascists from the street not only prevented the intimidation of Left activists and ethnic minorities and prevented the creation of fascist areas but also made it much more difficult for fascists to recruit and marshall forces.
LEARNING THE LESSONS?
Rather than draw on the lessons of those struggles in Ireland and in Britain, the leaflet text advocates repeating the mistakes. In effect, the leaflet advocates leaving the antifascist mobilisations for the moment and concentrating on the class struggle against the system. That strategy entails allowing the fascists to become established and grow unhindered, making it much harder to root them out later. But not only that – the Left in Ireland has a pretty poor record of taking on the capitalist system and is particularly weak at the moment, with the trade union movement largely supine. The leaflet points to the just struggle of the Debenhams workers, with which the SP is particularly closely connected, at least in Dublin; however it is well to note that those workers have been sacked, their workplaces closed and the struggle is a last-ditch defensive one for redundancy pay. In other words, we are nowhere near a situation where the overall struggle against the capitalist system is such as to cut the ground from under the Far-Right.
Because those loose antifascist networks currently active are not under the control of the SP and are hardly likely to heed their call, the effect of the leaflet text is to advocate a continuation of the current situation, where counter-protests will be outnumbered by mobilisations of the Far-Right, despite the fact that the fascist parties actually have tiny support, bussing in people to swell the numbers. Fascist attacks will continue and may well even escalate. Fascists will continue to arm with Garda impunity for their attacks but it is certain that when the antifascists arm likewise, they will be arrested for “possession of offensive weapons” and even jailed.
Finally, the leaflet failed to give any specific indication of a short or medium-term way forward except to “join the socialists”, i.e the Socialist Party. The leaflet could have advocated building a broad antifascist front and called on people to help in that work, to bring in people not currently active, to ensure large turnouts to counter mobilisations of the Far-Right. But it didn’t.
An antifascist and anti-racist march in Dublin on Saturday 12th September ended without any major incident. However a handful of counter-protesters who attended a negationist protest outside Leinster House were assaulted by a mob of fascists, a woman being struck on the head with a blunt object causing an injury requiring hospital treatment. Photographs and some video footage shocked many as the Gardaí were seen to take no action against the assailants and instead, to usher the counter-protesters further away from the fascists, with a woman bleeding copiously from her head.
The Irish Yellow Vests, led by notorious islamophobe Glen Miller and the fascist Catholic fundamentalist and racist organisation Síol na hÉireann, led by Niall McConnell, cooperated in staging a rally and march from Custom House Quay to Government Buildings in Merrion Street. Custom House Quay was the scene of another IYV-organised event on 22nd August when a counter-protest of men and women was attacked by mob of masked and often gloved men (supporting an anti-mask rally!), many armed with clubs and metal bars. On that occasion too the Gardaí had arrested none of the attackers but pushed and shoved the counter-protesters away, threatening them with uplifted batons. On that occasion too a counter-protester had required hospital treatment, having been knocked unconscious.
The anti-fascist demonstration on O’Connell Street was called by the United Against Racism organisation and the People Before Profit/ Anti-Austerity Alliance and, since it had received threats of attack from fascists, it was supported too by independent antifascist activists from Anarchist, Republican and Socialist backgrounds.
A number of speakers addressed the rally though the sound did not carry very well towards the rear of the rally but also many were distracted by keeping an eye out for fascists. One IYV activist approached the rally to photograph participants and soon got into an altercation with them, whereupon Gardaí arrived and removed him to the side of the road. Another brandished a placard, which was promptly seized by antifascists and torn. Some fascists were seen passing by, presumably on their way to Custom House Quay or Leinster House – one was observed carrying a thick length of wood with the Irish Tricolour attached to it — but did not engage with the antifascists.
Across on the other side of the road, at the corner with Princes Street, two or three older people had set up a couple of banners protesting about ill-treatment of the elderly in nursing homes — an entirely justified cause for protest however it is known to have been adopted by the Far-Right in Ireland. A very high proportion of Covid19 deaths in Ireland were in nursing homes and linked to Covid19 infection through lack of effective controls, which is a strange issue for the Far-Right to embrace since they variously claim that Covid19 is a hoax or that it is not at all a serious virus.
LED BY FAKE PATRIOTS BUT REAL FASCISTS
The rally on Merchants Quay, organised by the Irish Yellow Vest seemed somewhat larger than the one in O’Connell Street but a number were brought in from other parts of the country. Their promotional video showed the crowd being addressed in an energetic style by a man with a North American accent. His message was to refuse to wear masks, using exceptions permitted in the legislation, not to be afraid and to remain united. At one point he seemed to be arguing for anti-racism, which was somewhat bizarre while standing next to him was the mc of the event, Glen Miller, notorious racist and islamophobe.
After a little, the crowd formed up behind the colour party of Síol na hÉireann, a tiny fascist, racist and fundamentalist Catholic party from Donegal led by Niall McConnell. Apparently without any sense of irony, the party flew the Irish Tricolour, the “Irish Republic” flag and the golden Harp on a green field flag, with “Erin go bragh” (sic) of the Fenians.
The Tricolour signifies cooperation between Irish of different religions which, as we will see, is something McConnell will have no truck with; in addition the original pattern was sewn by French revolutionary women and presented to Thomas Meagher in 1848. Meagher was a member of the “Young Irelanders”, composed of Irish nationalists of both Protestant and Catholic religious backgrounds and he himself led a Union Army brigade in the American Civil War.
The Harp on a green field was modelled on the flag of the United Irishmen who rose against the British in 1798 and 1803 – nearly every one of their leaders was Protestant. The Fenians were a mixture of religious backgrounds (and perhaps none) and were excommunicated by the Irish Catholic hierarchy. The Fenians in England were accepted into the First Socialist International, led by Marx and Engels.
The “Irish Republic” flag was prepared in the home of Constance Markievicz for display in the 1916 Rising; she was a Socialist Republican and fought in the Rising as an officer in the Irish Citizen Army, the first working class army in the world.
COLOUR PARTY LEADER REVEALS HIS TRUE COLOURS
Approaching the four Gardaí standing by a couple of unsecured crowd barriers at the end of the Quay, a little farce was played out in which the Gardaí seemed unwilling to move and then were “forced” to do so by the crowd. Those who have participated in protests over the years and seen the Gardaí in action and their barriers, when they truly wished to stop a march, would laugh to see the video recorded by the Far-Right of the event.
At a junction the procession stopped for people to catch up (some participants even complaining at Miller’s exhortation to give consideration to the elderly and children) and were addressed by a number of speakers. The man with the North American accent was in action again in revivalist style and Ben Gilroy, Miller’s lieutenant, also spoke. In a video during the week, Gilroy had minimised the Covid19 deaths by stating that all but 100 of them had been of people with underlying health issues. Given that according to the HSE over 30% of Irish people suffer from underlying conditions of ill-health, it was a shockingly uncaring statement to make in support of the negationist cause.
Here Niall McConnell spoke too, announcing himself as the leader of “Síol na hÉireann, a hard-line Catholic Irish nationalist party”, having the effrontery to quote, completely out of context James Connolly, revolutionary socialist and Republican. McConnell insisted that Ireland is for the Irish and, attacking the EU, hinted at the “Replacement” conspiracy theory, in which the EU is allegedly trying to replace Irish people with migrants. He also accused it of spreading “LGBT ideology”. “Ireland is a Catholic country”, he insisted and, in total contradiction to at least 220 years of recent history, ascribed the Catholic faith to the motivation of our ancestors in fighting for freedom. Then he got down on his knees and recited The Lord’s Prayer in Irish!
It was noticeable that only a small number followed him on to their knees and also that a number of his statements drew uncertain responses. Following his speech, Lorraine Eglinton of the Irish Yellow Vests spoke, stressing the need for unity, which might be taken as an implied criticism of McConnell for introducing religion and race into the equation or perhaps just for stating his beliefs so baldly at a shared event.
FASCIST ATTACK ON WOMAN COUNTER-PROTESTER
While the major part of the Irish Yellow Vests march went to rally outside Government Buildings in Merrion Street, a smaller group of maybe 40 or 50 people went to protest a block away outside Leinster House, seat of the Irish state’s Parliament. This was apparently a split in the Far Right.
If this split was trying to attract less fascist and racist people what followed was truly bizarre. A couple of people who attended in a counter-protest but at some remove were approached by Far-Right supporters who appeared to argue with them, which is recorded on video. This soon attracted a mob, some masked (!) and one of which can be seen grasping a length of wood attached to an Irish Tricolour. They begin to push the couple of counter-protesters roughly and then one of them strikes the woman on the head, opening a wound with much blood running down her face and knocking her to the ground. She regains her feet and continues to stand as Gardaí move in and gently usher the fascists back, making no attempt to arrest any of them and soon pushing the counter-protesters down the road.
The woman received hospital treatment later, being released the following morning. In a press release following the event the Gardaí reported that no arrests or serious incidents had occurred! When they were contacted by journalists and shown video taken at the scene they changed their story to say that “some demonstrators had to be separated” and ultimately changing it again to say that “they are investigating the incident” and “had not received a complaint”. Are the Gardaí saying that although they witness an assault, or at least the immediate aftermath of one, they can take no action unless they receive a complaint?
Ms Izzy Kamikaze, an LGBT campaigner and writer, who had received the head injury, said that she intended to make a complaint, not just about the assault but also about the behaviour of the Gardaí. Some photos have appeared on social media allegedly identifying two of the attackers by name and as members of the fascist National Party. According to media journalists, the Gardaí have video camera footage tracing one of the assailants also which would be no surprise as the area around Leinster House is one of the most highly covered by CCTV video cameras in Dublin.
A PATTERN OF GARDA COLLUSION
This is not the first occasion in recent times that the Gardaí have been accused of collusion with fascist violence. On July 11th a small counter-protest to the large homophobic rally outside Leinster House was physically attacked and their banners ripped without Garda interference for a period and, when they did intervene, arrested none of the assailants. On two different occasions fascists within the QAnon negationists outside the GPO attacked a peaceful counter-protester without being arrested by the Gardaí. However when, following these attacks, antifascists surged into the Qanon crowd, the Gardaí quickly intervened and arrested at least one of the antifascists. On August 22nd at Custom House Quay a mob of over 50 men, many of them masked and gloved (supporting an anti-masking rally!) and carrying wooden clubs and metal bars, attacked a peaceful smaller counter-protest and knocked one antifascist unconscious. A few Gardaí then gently shooed the fascists back while more, including the Public Order Unit, began to scream at the antifascists to get back, threatening them with raised batons and pushing them violently, knocking some over and preventing them from even assisting their unconscious comrade. Those scenes too were recorded on video and shared on social media, both by fascists glorying in their actions and by antifascists exposing the fascist violence and Garda collusion.
A Parliamentary Question about Garda behaviour to the Minister for Justice from Independents for Change TD Catherine Connolly was refused, she being told that this is an area within the competence of the Garda Commissioner.
A group of antifascists, broad in composition but not large in numbers, went to counter-protest a rally in Dublin last Saturday and were attacked by a much larger mob, some of them armed, leaving one of the counter-protesters unconscious. The Gardaí then intervened, including members of the Public Order Unit, treating the assailants gently but pushing and shoving the anti-fascists and threatening them with drawn batons. What was all this about?
The event had been called by a rarely–heard-of organisation called Health Freedom Irelandand was advertised as being a “Protest Against Oppressive Government Restrictions and Mandates”, in opposition to Government restrictions around the spread of Covid19, against social distancing and the wearing of masks requirements and against any notion of the implementation of a vaccination program. According to the media, HFI is led by anti-vaccination campaigners Maeve Murran and Kelly Johnston, claiming that vaccination can cause autism.
So one might object to the stated purpose of the rally on health grounds, or intellectually reject the implied conspiracy theories, but why would antifascists specifically want to counter-protest this event? The answer becomes clearer when we examine the organisers of the event, some of the speakers and some of the supporting groups.
The event was to be officially co-hosted by the Irish Yellow Vests, a very small group led by the notorious Islamophobe Glen Miller. He and Ben Gilroy, one of the featured speakers, had tried to bind together such disparate groups as campaigners around the right to housing, water, against the bailouts of the bankers and subsequent austerity measures, evictions, against corruption, State repression — but also those with strange conspiracy theories. As a result the Yellow Vests had briefly enjoyed some support from a cross-section of forces opposed to the Government until Miller’s Islamophobia and the racist agenda of some of his supporters became clear, after which the group faded from the scene (though Miller could occasionally be seen supporting events of the Far-Right, such as in February outside Leinster House, against mooted “anti-hate speech laws”).
One of the speakers to be featured was Dolores Cahill, 2nd in the leadership of the Irish Freedom Party, another small anti-immigration and for a “Catholic Ireland” right-wing party and in attendance was its Chair Jim Corr and PRO Herman Kelly, the latter having in the past been PRO for Farrage’s UKIP and also taken part in a panel with Ulster Loyalist and British fascist Jim Dowson.
Numerous figures of the Far-Right were vociferous in their support for the rally, including activists of the QAnon group who have been taking advantage of the Government restrictions around Covid19 to regularly protest against them outside the GPO, apparently free from any Garda action (while sacked Debenhams workers and their supporters demonstrating around the corner in Henry Street, though masked and observing social distancing, were nevertheless victims of police intimidation and harassment). The QAnon group, including their chief spokesperson Dee Wall and others prominent in the group, also demonstrated recently against the letting of Croke Park to a group of Muslims to celebrate the Eid festival, supporting another Far-Right racist activist, Gemma O’Doherty, who declared her wish to “make Ireland Catholic again” (sic).
Of course, not all the hundreds who attended the rally on Custom House Quay were racists. Just days before, a member of the Irish Government, other politicians and business people, around 80 in total, had attended a parliamentary golf society dinner in Clifden, Galway, in apparent oblivion to all Government restrictions. People who are subjected to those restrictions, unemployed as a result or losing their business, were understandably angry, some even questioning whether the restrictions were really necessary. After all, if prominent people , including a member of the very Government, don’t seem to think them important ….
There are those who are not racists but who believe, contrary to overwhelming scientific evidence, that vaccinations do more harm than good. And there are believers in all kinds of conspiracy theories, other than the rational ones about capitalism and imperialism, who imagine a global conspiracy by dark forces encouraging homosexuality, immigration, etc, etc, allegedly pushed by the Communist Party of China through the UN and the EU! Some of those conspiracy theorists are racist and some are not but all find a welcoming home in the ranks of the Far-Right, whose own official parties and organisations are tiny. Some hard-line fundamentalist Catholics like John Waters, along with strident racist Gemma O’Doherty, seem able to set aside the alleged message of love for humanity in the Christian New Testament and are also embraced by the Far-Right.
Events of the Far-Right are often counter-protested by groups and individuals called together informally, without anyone exercising leadership. This has been the case with counter-protests to Gemma O’Doherty in Dublin, for example and to Niall McConnell, of the tiny fascist party Síol na hÉireann, who was expelled along with his propaganda stall from outside the GPO in an unannounced action some months ago.
Indeed, it has been a remarkable feature of most gatherings of the Far-Right in Dublin at least that no organisation or network has called publicly to oppose them (the one notable exception since 2016 has been the December 2019counter-rally outside Leinster House). None of the main parties of the Irish Left or Republican movement, although all opposed to racism and fascism, have made a public call for those mobilisations.
But in advance of the Custom House Quay event, this time there were two public calls for a counter-protest, one from the Belfast IWWU (International Workers of the World) trade union and the other from the Dublin Republicans Against Fascism network.
A small group of antifascist activists, gathered from such varied sectors as republicans, socialists, anarchists, anti-racism and animal rights met on Eden Quay with the intention of proceeding to mount a counter-protest to the rally.
A PREPLANNED ARMED ATTACK
At the advertised time of 1.30pm the relatively small group of counter-protesters came on to Custom House Quay, on the far side from where the invited speakers were standing. Further along the river wall, a mass of men was gathered, many wearing masks and gloves. Given that the rally was called specifically against Covid19 restrictions and wearing of masks, one must assume a different reason for their wearing them – such as avoiding identification and gloves for concealing fingerprints (which in turn makes it likely that many have fingerprints on Garda records).
According to statements of some of the counter-protesters, they had hardly stepped out on the Custom House Quay from under the railway bridge when they were attacked by the mob. One of the antifascists in the lead was heard to shout “Stand fast!” and then the wave of fascists struck, howling, punching, many wielding metal bars and wooden clubs. As soon as any antifascist went down many assailants joined in on kicking and stamping on him. The antifascists fought back but had no weapons.
Shortly afterwards, the Gardaí – including members of the Public Order Unit — moved in and opened up a space between both groups. According to participant and video evidence, they concentrated their numbers and ferocity on the smaller, unarmed group, the victims of the attack, shouting at them to leave, threatening them with drawn batons and shoving them hard. One of the counter-protesters lay on the ground, apparently unconscious but the police prevented any of his group going to his aid. The Gardaí ceased their pushing and threats only when they had got the counter-protesters about half way along Butt Bridge, by which time they had knocked a number to the ground, whereas their attackers were permitted to remain more or less where they had been, now taunting their victims.
A bizarre aspect of the whole event was the media reporting, with earlier reports making no reference at all to the conflict. Later reports included vague references that in no way described the situation, with a general projection of the Gardaí as an impartial order-keeping force in minor disturbances. An early photograph on the Irish Times website of the Public Order Unit and other Gardaí confronting antifascists on Butt Bridge quickly disappeared. When the conflict was finally described, in a report on Monday by Conor Lally of the Irish Times, allegedly from Garda sources, it was as though the antifascists had preplanned an attack! A few days later, the item was quietly edited.
Some reports, for example of RTÉ and print media, briefly mentioned a “counter-protest” on Butt Bridge, without any mention of how that counter-protest ended up there.
Given that the counter-protest had been promoted on the pages of the Belfast IWW and Dublin Republicans Against Fascism, had either organisation been approached by the media for comment? No, neither had, according to representatives of each.
Ógra Sinn Féin, one of whose members had been knocked unconscious by the armed fascists, posted a very short statement condemning the attack, along with a mention of the Gardaí making four arrests, one for possession of an offensive weapon. Taken in context, that too was bizarre – as though that Garda response was in any way an appropriate one in the circumstances.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Did the antifascists expect what happened?
Perhaps not entirely on the scale of it but according to various individuals who were there, they had all been made aware of the threats on the day and of reports that the fascists were carrying weapons.
“They were informed that we expected to be attacked and that some at least of the fascists were armed,” said a DRAF participant. “They still chose to go ahead. About half of them were women and some very small in stature. Hardly any seemed to have much experience of street fighting. Neverthelss, they chose to go ahead.”
There were also indications prior to the day, as people claiming to be antifascists had engaged in threats and counter-threats with fascists on social media. “Most of those antifascists made threats they couldn’t back up and then didn’t even turn up themselves,” said a young woman who was there in obvious disgust.
“I can’t even begin to express the contempt I feel for that kind of behaviour,” said a Republican who was also there.
An attack on such a scale and preplanned is something new. If the Left had forgotten history and needed a warning about the potential for violence of fascism, they were certainly given a reminder on the 22nd August in Dublin.
How to explain the action of the Gardaí? To threaten, push and shove the unarmed victims of the fascist attack? And their mild confrontation with the armed attackers?
“They knew exactly what they were doing,” according to one of the counter-protesters. “Even before we were attacked it was clear that was the intention of the fascists. They cops allowed the fascists to attack for a few minutes, then moved in, shooing the fascists away and shoving us, shouting and threatening us with waving batons.”
Viewing the video and hearing other accounts bears out her assertions.
What about the four arrests Gardaí made reported by media, one for “offensive weapon” and “three for public order offences”?
Counter-protesters are adamant none of their number were arrested. “There was one arrest at the east end of the bridge about half an hour after the fascist attack but none of that big armed mob that attacked us at the west end of the Quay were touched,” confirmed several.
Was this something new in the behaviour of the Gardaí?
“In scale, yes,” replied a Republican, “but not in essence. “The Gardaí favoured the Far-Right every Saturday at the GPO while they harassed Debenhams pickets around the corner, using Covid19 legislation. They also harassed our pickets about political prisoners a few hundred metres away, quoting the Offences Against the State Act.”
OK, harassment, but toleration of violence?
“A few weeks ago, an antifascist was assaulted in plain view in front of the GPO, even attempting to push him out into the traffic. Four Gardaí rushed over and took him away, questioning him. His assailants? Nothing. A few weeks before that, the Gardaí permitted people from the same group to cross the road and confront antifascists standing in the middle pedestrian reservation. Then one of the fascists walked in among the antifascists and assaulted a Republican who was sitting down; he retaliated and in a minute they were both rolling around in the southbound traffic lane. The Gardaí separated them, in the course of which one of them punched the Republican several times, then escorted the fascist safely back to his group. They didn’t even take his name, never mind charge him.”
Testimony of some participants in a counter-protest to the 11th July Far-Right protest would have given a strong indication too. The Far-Right had mounted a homophobic protest under the guise of being against pedophilia, using certain statements decades ago of the British-based activist Peter Thatchell and the fact that years ago, Roderic O’Gorman (who is gay), long before he became the current Irish Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration, had appeared in a photograph with Thatchell at a Gay Pride parade. The homophobic rally had gained most publicity due to the presence as a speaker of dramatist and TV actor John Connors, who later apologised for his appearance and his words, claiming he had allowed himself to be manipulated by the Far-Right. A very small “March of Innocence” counter-protest had been organised and one of its participants said that even before they got around in view of Leinster House, the Gardaí told them they were not going to protect them. As they neared the rally, they were handled roughly with some blows and shoves by about 40 Far-Right “security”, without interference by the Gardaí, true to their word. The Gardaí only intervened when the Far-Right “security” withdrew and the general mob came forward to attack.
But what could be the reason for such Garda partiality towards the Far Right and hostility towards the antifascists? It is almost as though they see the Far-Right as the legitimate group and the counter-protesters as the problem. Could it be because the police are regularly confronted by some of the same people as are found among the antifascists on issues such as water meter protests, housing, austerity measures, republican prisoners, repression, etc? Or might it be even more sinister? Could it be that the Irish ruling class and State are keeping the fascists handy as a backup, in case they are needed to help cope with resistance to forthcoming austerity measures? Fascists have played that role in a number of countries.
BEIDH LÁ EILE AG AN bPAORACH
The fascists and Far-Right, including a number of the actual participants are crowing about the outcome of this attack on their social media networks.
Was it wise to counter-protest a rally so large with so few? Were the fascists in effect handed a victory?
“It kinda makes me angry when we get criticised for our low numbers,” said one who was there. “Other times, people have complained they didn’t know, hadn’t been informed. This time there was a public call. If we are few it’s because all the other antifascists don’t join in, it’s as simple as that,” she said.
“Are we supposed to just stand by and let them build up and up and do nothing?” asked another. “I don’t want our children and grandchildren to grow up in a fascist or racist country.”
Another expressed the hope that the incident would wake up the wider antifascist, antiracist movement.
“They might be crowing about it now,” said an Irish Republican, referring to the Far-Right, “boasting about how with weapons and twice the numbers they beat a small force of unarmed antifascists, about half of which were women. Although they can’t deny that we didn’t run and it was the cops who pushed us out of there. And they had to work at it too.”
“Beidh lá eile ag an bPaorach”, said a member of Dublin Republicans Against Fascism. It’s a saying in the Irish language – its meaning in essence being ‘There will be another day.’
“Mo Ghile Mear”, lyrics composed later in the the 18th Century lamenting the failing of an earlier Rising, a traditional Irish air at least generations old, combined in the 1970s, sung today in great style.
I have not researched the origins of this myself but the theme is well-known, so from relying on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: “Mo Ghile Mear” (translated “My Gallant Darling”, “My Spirited Lad” and variants) is an Irish song. The modern form of the song was composed in the early 1970s by Dónal Ó Liatháin (1934–2008), using a traditional air collected in Cúil Aodha, County Cork, and lyrics selected from Irish-language poems by Seán “Clárach” Mac Domhnaill (1691–1754).
The lyrics are partially based on Bímse Buan ar Buairt Gach Ló (“My Heart is Sore with Sorrow Deep” (but “Gach Ló” means “every day” and there is no mention of “My Heart” in the title – D. Breatnach), c. 1746), a lament of the failure of the Jacobite rising of 1745. The original poem is in the voice of the personification of Ireland, Éire, lamenting the exile of Bonnie Prince Charlie.Mo ghile mear is a term applied to the Pretender in numerous Jacobite songs of the period. O’Daly (1866) reports that many of the Irish Jacobite songs were set to the tune The White Cockade. This is in origin a love song of the 17th century, the “White Cockade” (cnotadh bán) being an ornament of ribbons worn by young women, but the term was re-interpreted to mean a military cockade in the Jacobite context.
Another part of the lyrics is based in an earlier Jacobite poem by Mac Domhnaill. This was published in Edward Walsh‘s Irish Popular Songs (Dublin, 1847) under the title of “Air Bharr na gCnoc ‘san Ime gCéin — Over the Hills and Far Away”. Walsh notes that this poem was “said to be the first Jacobite effort” by Mac Domhnaill, written during the Jacobite rising of 1715, so that here the exiled hero is the “Old Pretender”, James Francis Edward Stuart.
The composition of the modern song is associated with composer Seán Ó Riada, who established an Irish-language choir inCúil Aodha, County Cork, in the 1960s. The tune to which it is now set was collected by Ó Riada from an elderly resident of Cúil Aodha called Domhnall Ó Buachalla. Ó Riada died prematurely in 1971, and the song was composed about a year after his death, in c. 1972, with Ó Riada himself now becoming the departed hero lamented in the text. The point of departure for the song was the tape recording of Domhnall Ó Buachalla singing the tune. Ó Riada’s son Peadar suggested to Dónal Ó Liatháin that he should make a song from this melody.
Ó Liatháin decided to select verses from Mac Domhnaill’s poem and set them to the tune. He chose those that were the most “universal”, so that the modern song is no longer an explicit reference to the Jacobite rising but in its origin a lament for the death of Seán Ó Riada.
THIS RENDITION is to my mind and ear an excellent one in traditional-type arrangement and voices (not to mention looks of certain of the singers) and all involved are to be commended. I have not always liked the group’s rendition but this is just wonderful.
In history, we fought in Ireland for two foreign royals at two different times and on each occasion they left us in the lurch.
“Whaaa ?” You wake up suddenly, wondering what was that noise. Your partner sits up beside you. The bedside clock says it’s 5 a.m While you’re still wondering what it was, there’s another crash. Your front door? “The children!” you think, jumping out of bed to protect them, as you hear men bursting into your house, running up the stairs ….. Too late, they’re in the doorway of your bedroom, shouting at you, at your partner, pointing guns at you … you can hear one of the children screaming ….
On Tuesday this week, 18th August, members of the Garda Armed Response Unit raided the homes of Irish Republicans in Dublin, Cork, Laois and Kerry, smashing through the front doors of their houses, frightening children ….
They took away laptops, phones, paperwork (including children’s school work and test results). In helpless rage or frightened, their victims could only watch ……. they were outnumbered and the invaders of their homes were armed.
Much more than an information-gathering exercise, this was a brutal act of State terror, to intimidate Republican activists, terrify their partners and children.
On the other side of the British Border, the counterparts of the Gardaí, the PSNI, armed British colonial police, raided Republican centres in Belfast, Derry, Dungannon and Lurgan, turning the places upside down, confiscating electronic equipment and documents. On Tuesday 18th, they also detained people, holding seven men and two women without charge and, according to a legal firm acting for some of the victims, were intending to hold them for further five days without charge.
The activists subjected to the early morning raids by the Garda Armed Response Unit are all supporters of the socialist Republican organisation Saoradh and it was their centres that were raided by the PSNI. For months members have had their cars stopped by the PSNI and searched as they went about their lives. The raiding parties claimed to be searching for evidence of involvement in “the New IRA” (a previously unheard of organisation).
SHAMEFUL REPORTING AND FELON-SETTING
The media reporting on this was a shameful exercise in parroting the line of the States involved, giving the victims no voice to tie the “New IRA” (sic) in with the killing of Lyra McKee, which has never been proven and going further to call it “murder” (i.e intentional homicide) which has not been proven either (and was most likely unintentional – an organisation calling itself the “IRA” did claim the shooting and stated the killing was accidental).
Irish newspapers quoted Sinn Féin fears of bomb attacks on them by the organisation on the basis of information they allegedly received from the PSNI, which is dubious reporting at best (hearsay second-hand from an unverifiable source) and absolutely shameful felon-setting collaboration from Provisional Sinn Féin. BBC reporting to its credit did not report the PSF-PSNI allegations, nor call the killing of Lyra McKee “murder”, though it did link “the New IRA” to her killing and also prejudged the detained (who have not even been charged), calling them the “New IRA nine”; interestingly, the report gave MI5 as the source for the intelligence upon which the raids were allegedly based.
The linking of the raids both sides of the Border on the proclaimed basis of information from the British secret service, MI5, raises questions not only about democratic rights and the powers of the states in question but even about the alleged independence of the Irish State. It intensifies the speculation that was rife when Drew Harris was appointed Garda Commissioner, having come straight from the PSNI, with allegations that he was an MI5 asset.
What should be our response to these raids, as Irish Republicans, as Socialists or as just plain Democratic people? Clearly it should be solidarity with the victims and condemnation of the attacks by the states. Of whatever the states may or may not suspect the organisation, according to the alleged democratic system, they are supposed to charge them or leave them alone. We are not supposed to tolerate the states deciding they don’t like an organisation or consider it “dangerous” and on that basis set out to harass and intimidate them and terrorise their families. States where that can happen are not democratic and we are all vulnerable to those assumptions of secret services and the actions of police forces. Gárdaí acting in this manner led to the unjust jailing of the IRSP Three, the false confession forced out of Joanna Hayes and her family, the harassment of the McBrearties, etc. In Britain it led to the jailing of a score of innocent Irish people in five different cases in the 1970s (including the Birmingham Six) under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and, in fact, the successor of that Act is now the Terrorism Act in the UK, the one under which nine Republicans are detained currently in the British colony.
It is not too difficult to proclaim one’s solidarity with struggles far from home, particularly when they gather a lot of international support. It is a different matter to stand in solidarity with the victims of the State at home. It is also more of a test when one may not agree with the ideology or some of the actions of those persecuted by the State. But if we do not stand in solidarity with victims of the State, we are telling it, in effect, that it may continue acting in the way it is doing, until the early morning we wake to our own doors being battered down, our own partner and children being terrorised and ourselves sitting in cells without daylight being deprived of sleep and interrogated without access to solicitor, family or our own doctor.
Sacked workers of Debenhams picketed offices of KPMG, the appointed liquidator of their former employer to protest threats of injunctions. The workers are demanding the statutory two weeks’ redundancy plus another two and that they be treated as the first creditors to be paid out, instead of being last, as is usually the case in receivership. Until they receive an agreed settlement, the workers are maintaining their 24-blockades on Debenhams stores, supported officially by their union Mandate, to prevent the company removing its stock.
Finding other means to keep themselves amused.
The British-based department store retailer Debenhams closed its Irish branches in Dublin, Limerick, Galway, Waterford and Cork during the Covid19 lockdown earlier this summer and has yet to pay the workers their redundancy pay. Picketers attended Harcourt Street yesterday to gather outside the offices of KPMG, the multinational financial audit services company. KPMG recently claimed it has a potential buyer for a number of the Debenhams sites and while declining to name it, threatened to apply for injunctions against the picketers in order to remove stock and allow the new buyer to move its own stock in. RTÉ reported the company also claiming the union leadership had agreed and said that pickets in Cork were unofficial, both claims which however were denied by the new General Secretary, Gerry Light. RTÉ quoted Mr. Light as saying that the continuing pickets are officially backed by the union and that if there is a new buyer, they’d be interested in talking to them.
A placard displayed on the picket in Dublin pointed out that the workers have been blockading Debenhams sites for 131 days and one of the speakers at the picket acknowledged that keeping up an action over such an extended period of time is difficult. A number of speakers outlined the necessity to remain strong while Paul Murphy, socialist TD (member of the Irish Parliament) stated that the talk of injunctions was not a sign of strength of the liquidators’ position but rather one of weakness. Another speaker called for a strengthening of the pickets now and a number stated that any injunctions would need to be defied.
MESSAGE OF SOLIDARITY FROM THE FAMOUS ANTI-APARTHEID DUNNE’S STORES STRIKERS
Meanwhile, a message of solidarity came from some of the Dunne’s Stores Anti-Apartheid strikers, the famous strike 1984-1987 in pursuance of their union’s policy (then the IADTU, now incorporated into Mandate) not to handle good from South Africa (then under racist white minority regime).
Kate Gearon was shop steward (elected shop-floor workers’ representative) during the strike.
“What has happened the Debenhams workers is atrocious,” Ms. Gearon wrote. “Some workers have given decades of service to the company and then when it suits the company just abandons them.
“But what is inspirational is the fact the workers are trying to change legislation to protect all other workers from this terrible predicament.”
Ms Gearon added: “When we started our pickets on this day in 1984, people told us we couldn’t win. They said ordinary retail workers didn’t have the power to change legislation. Well 10 of us stuck to our guns and we forced the Irish Government to ban all South African goods.
“There were only 10 of us, there are 1,000 Debenhams workers. Imagine the changes they can force if they stick together in their trade union.”
Picketers outside the KPMG offices in Dublin chanted slogans including: “What do we want? Two plus Two!” “When do we want it? Now!” “When under attack– Stand up, Fight back!”and “Treat us right, treat us fair, or your stock ain’t going anywhere!”. The MC of the event also raised cheers when he told those in attendance that pickets were taking place simultaneously at KPMG officers in Galway and Cork.
Sites of Debenhams stores are being picketed on a 24-hour basis and solidarity can be shown by attending in person.
A rally on Custom House Quay on Saturday protesting the housing crisis was followed by a march through Dublin city centre, halting traffic at a number of points before ending with another rally outside Mountjoy Garda Station, from which station Gardaí (police force of the Irish State) had protected an illegal eviction in the Phibsboro area only days before. Speakers at various points denounced the Government parties current and past, the rendering of housing a commodity by the capitalist system and the police for protecting that system.
The demonstration had been advertised already for some weeks and the date set by the Ireland’s Housing Action campaign group. The Garda protest element had been added only days before the date set for the demonstration due to a shocking incident in the Phibsborough area of the city. Residents of a house had agents of a landlord smash through their door, frightening tenants and throwing their possession into the street. Two Gardaí in attendance who said they were there “to prevent a breach of the peace” were in fact assisting in the commission of a breach of the peace by protecting the landlord’s thugs and intimidating tenants and others from resisting.
No eviction notice was produced nor did the Gardaí require one from the thugs, who proceeded to smash fixtures in the house, including the toilets. One of the eviction team shouted that a note had been sent to a tenant – on their Facebook account!
A local activist passing by noted what was going on and summoned assistance which in turn ensured the arrival of more Gardaí, including an Armed Response Unit vehicle (these units carry firearms and live ammunition). Helpers found temporary accommodation that evening for the evicted tenants, who the following day were assisted in returning to their home, with repairs carried out to toilets and some other fixtures.
It transpired that the eviction had been illegal even within the current system and protesters were informed outside the Garda station that the thugs had not registered as bailiffs for two years past and that the company they purported to represent appeared non-existent.
It was this incident which had ensured the march would culminate in a rally outside the very police station involved (some years ago this station was the scene of protest due to the collusion of Gardaí stationed there with companies installing water meters and threatening water protesters).
Since the eviction, the online Journal.ie published a report in which the Gardaí were quoted in what can only be seen as poor excuses and outright lies, including a claim that there had been no damage! The Irish Council for Civil Liberties has queried the role of the Gardaí and some TDs, including Green Party members of the Government have called for a ban on evictions during the Covid19 pandemic (the previous ban on evictions was very recently lifted by the Government). As is being increasingly the case, the property in question appears to have been acquired from the landlord by a vulture company (i.e finance companies that buy properties in debt from mortgage banks at low cost, to either sell them on again or to evict the tenants and sell the properties).
This is not the first occasion on which the Gardaí have been seen in support of landlords in recent times. The occupation of an empty house in the north inner city had been broken by bailiffs assisted by Gardaí in 2018, while an Armed Response Unit had turned up to an argument between a landlord and a tenant couple at another house in Dublin in the same period.
RALLY SPEAKERS DENOUNCE RACISM
Notable by their banners in supporting the rally and march yesterday were Dublin Housing Action Committee, Dublin Renters Union, Universal Public Housing campaign, United Against Racism (Home for All), the socialist Republican party Éirigí, and Countess Markievicz 1916 Society, some of which provided speakers.
The spokesperson of the organisers Patrick Nells along with nearly all the speakers emphasised the anti-racist nature of the protest, which was no doubt reassuring to many, given that Custom House Quay had been chosen a number of times as the venue for rallies by the racist and islamophobic Irish Yellow Vests leadership and also that some elements close to the housing protest organisers had colluded with the INV when they first emerged.
Speaker after speaker pointed out that dividing working people along lines of race or ethnicity would result in a weaker resistance to landlords and their Government supporters, and that the “house Irish first” slogan put forward by racists and fascists would benefit neither the migrants nor the Irish homeless. Contrary to propaganda of the Far-Right which pretends that migrants get better and quicker access to housing than do the indigenous population, some speakers also outlined how migrants were the most vulnerable to unscrupulous landlords and it was no accident that the adults subjected to a violent and illegal eviction recently had been migrants.
LONG WAIT, LONG MARCH AND DISAPPEARED FAR-RIGHT
I had rushed to the event from a conversation in Moore Street, worried I might miss the start of the march. I need not have worried, nor have hurried. It was advertised for 2pm and I got there around 10 minutes after that but it seemed nearer to 3pm before the event was officially started – and then it was with speeches, most of them very long. A musician concluded the rally with a performance of a composition of his in which the repeated line of “A hotel room is not a home” made an impact. He also introduced slogans which were shouted along the march: “Whose streets? Our streets! Whose homes? Our homes!”
Meanwhile the sun beat down and air felt heavy, even by the riverside. Some of the attendance were visibly wilting. By the time the march crossed to the south bank and turned west, a number of people had dropped out. On O’Connell Bridge, the leaders stopped the march, which now blocked it to north-south traffic and vice versa. Here there were some further speeches, also not short, a song of which it was difficult to make out the words and a spelling out of slogans on giant letter placards, which was a welcome distraction. But still the sun beat down and there was a substantial way to go yet. Some more people left the march here.
When eventually the march began to move again, taking the north-bound traffic lanes, it passed the GPO, where a group of the Far-Right have been holding their protests since the start of the Covid19 restrictions (which they neither obeyed nor were they compelled to do so by the Gardaí, who however harassed Debenham worker pickets around the corner in Henry Street during the same period).
Word had reached some on the housing protest much earlier that the Far-Right had decamped to Phoenix Park, the first time in weeks the Far-Right had abandoned their Saturday protest at the GPO. One could speculate that they feared the risk of another punitive surge into their ranks as had happened the previous Saturday when, after weeks of provocations including assaults, a mixed group including Republicans and Anarchists had finally burst in amongst them, in the course of which the Far-Right lost various items of sound amplification equipment. Or it might have been that the Far-Right organisers wished to avoid the public spectacle of being denounced by marchers against homelessness as they passed and, even worse, their supporters calling the marchers “paedos” as they regularly do to all antifascists.
The marchers carried on, shouting the slogan about “whose streets” and “whose homes” and “homes for all” along with “Vultures out, out, out!”, calling also on people to “fight back”.
When the remainder of the marchers, having lost perhaps a third of the original numbers, finally reached Mountjoy Garda station, it was around 4.30 pm and they sank gratefully to the road, a sit-down protest but also a weary relief. Here there were also some more speeches and the Gardaí came in for some well-deserved harsh words.
As we approached the station a few minutes earlier, some Gardaí stood smiling in a friendly manner at the approaching marchers, no doubt wishing to soften their image after their recent role at the eviction. “How are you?” one Garda Sergeant greeted the marchers with a broad smile. “None the better for seeing you,” replied one of the marchers, walking past the Garda.
Gardaí clustered beyond the outskirts at both ends of the crowd, with some diverting traffic. But none interfered with the march organisers, who took up their position at the bottom of the steps leading up to the station’s front door. For the most part, those inside stayed away from the windows too.
Apart from the speeches of some housing campaign and political activists, there were some also from one of the victims of the recent illegal eviction, an African woman who spoke of the terror of the invasion and the heartlessness of the authorities and how it impacted on her, with her two Irish-born children. A young African man who had also been evicted also spoke of the experience and of the situation in general. Both praised the Irish people in general (as distinct from the authorities) and those who had helped them in particular. A young homeless Dublin woman spoke also, criticising the provision for homeless people and for rough sleepers on the streets in particular. A young Irish woman read one of her poems against homelessness and the organisers thanked all for the attendance and brought the event to a close.
It was nearly 6pm and still fairly warm and heavy.
It was good to see people out in protest at the scandalous housing crisis throughout the Irish state and in particular in its capital city, especially following a period of State restrictions on large gatherings due to the Covid19 epidemic and when fears of infection have been keeping many at home.
It was not reassuring however in that respect to note those in attendance who wore no face covering whatsoever, probably as a result of the earlier statements of the Government health spokesperson dismissing the usefulness of wearing face-mask, countering the more recent requirements of public transport for passengers to wear such protection along with the current pressure in many shops to do likewise.
The numbers in attendance were lower than might have been expected, with the banners of a number of political parties and housing campaigns notably absent. I wondered too whether it might not be wiser to make less of an issue of illegal evictions, since most evictions are probably legal under the current system and eviction orders easily obtained, a point made by one of the speakers.
What the content of the activist speeches most reflected to me, apart from outrage at the situation and blaming of the State, along with the welcome rejection of racism (even though mostly from forces that are rarely, if ever seen in the mobilisations against the racist and islamophobic rallies of the Far-Right), was impotence.
The same calls for unity, the ritual invoking of the executed socialist James Connolly, the usual denunciations of the political parties of current or past governments and their facilitation of landlords and property speculators, the decades-old calls for the involvement of the trade unions ……… but no coherent strategy or tactics to take the housing movement further at this point.
And it is not difficult to see why. What makes the housing crisis possible is the lack of public housing and that in turn is made possible by successive governments not releasing funds to local authorities for public housing construction. All political parties thus far to take part in Government for decades have colluded in maintaining this situation: the two main parties of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, of course but also whenever in coalition government, the Labour Party, Greens and Progressive Democrats.
What then of a new party in government? Currently only Sinn Féin offers that prospect and the party did have the most members elected to the Dáil (Irish parliament) in the February elections this year. However, the signs of a radical break with the capitalist housing market from that party are not good, due to its general anxiety to please the more conservative elements in society, combined with what seems an unprincipled hunger to enter government. Which, furthermore, it would have to do in coalition with other political parties.
Nor is it long since the party’s councillors in Dublin agreed to hand over public land in the city to private developers.
The trade unions are if anything more compromised and less ready for tough social action and in fact seem unable even to protect their own members to any noticeable degree.
If it should not appear possible to overcome the crisis through reform, then revolution is the only viable option – or at least the imminence of revolution forcing sections of the ruling class into implementing radical reforms. That situation does not seem close at the moment, though of course future developments may accelerate its approach in a manner difficult to anticipate now.
It does seem clear that the housing movement cannot rely on changes in government party composition in the near future. It seems likely that only more radical housing action at grassroots level, quite possibly with some activists eventually going to jail, can force the pace and provide the necessary impetus for radical government reform – or for contribution to revolution.