SINN FÉIN: BECOMING WHAT THEY IMITATE

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 5 mins.)

Quite a few animals have developed a skill to imitate something else in order to extend their life and procreation options. However, they remain in essence what they are, just disguised or camouflaged.

Human beings and their political parties, on the other hand, are quite capable of becoming what they imitate and thus transforming themselves, as we can see with Sinn Féin, for example.

In fact, when humans imitate something different to what they are, they often can’t help the process of becoming what they mimicked, even should they want to. This is often not understood by the party’s followers, who think the act’s only a temporary tactic.

One of the many species of Hover Fly in Ireland, mimicking a wasp but harmless to humans. (Image sourced: Internet)

Hovering over shrubbery or flowers at this time of year, we might see a small fly, its black-banded yellow body evoking the bee or wasp. The hover-fly however has no sting at all, having developed the “keep away, I’m dangerous” colours for its protection.

The stick insect imitates stems of foliage not only in colour but in shape, in order to hide itself from predators. The praying mantis also imitates foliage but mainly in order to remain concealed in ambush before grabbing its prey.

Stick insect (Image sourced: Internet)

There’s a spider that imitates an ant, holding two of its eight legs over its head to resemble the antennae of the six-legged insect and has been known even to imitate the ant’s halting scurrying gait. A stonefish imitates a stone on the sea bed while it lies in wait for its prey.

But for all their amazing expertise, they have not – nor can they – become the actual thing they imitate. The stick insect remains an insect, a mantis a mantid, the spider an arachnid, the stonefish a fish.

On the other hand, Sinn Féin, which some years ago began to imitate a political party of the neo-liberal, neo-colonial Irish ruling class, the Gombeens, is becoming what it imitated, transcending what it was into what it wants to be.

People who say that the SF party doesn’t stand for or believe in anything, do it an injustice. The party leaders do indeed stand for something – they stand for getting into government. And they believe in that very strongly indeed, dropping more and more of their old form to do so.

But what do they want to get into government for? Well, just to be the governmentthat’s it. And if not the current government at any point in time, to be in the wings to replace it soon afterwards.

This, of course, entails adopting the dominant colouration and shape of the Irish ruling class environment: neo-liberal capitalist and neo-colonial, i.e foreign-dependent.

FROM NATIONAL LIBERATION TO GOMBEEN PARTY

If we were able to look back through the evolutionary history of animal mimics, we might be able to see stages, a time for example when the mantis and stick insects were beginning to be green and brown but didn’t quite look the part yet.

Dead Leaf Mantis (Image sourced: Internet)

Perhaps the stonefish, though it had not quite got there yet, was beginning to look kind of lumpy. The hover-fly might have been developing dark bands but was not yet showing bright yellow in between them.

With Sinn Féin we can however look back over its evolution from a national liberation organisation to an aspiring gombeen party. I would disagree with those who pinpoint the start of the change with the party deciding in 1986 to stand candidates in Irish state parliamentary elections.

Whether to stand in bourgeois parliamentary elections or not isn’t, in my opinion, a question of principle but rather of tactics. The important issues are the reasons for doing so, the hoped-for objectives and how one goes about the election campaign and after election, if successful.

Certainly however taking part in a government, i.e the executive or management board of the ruling class, is a different question completely.

And when that government is a colonial one, the party cannot even claim to be of a nationalist bourgeois type – it is managing the colony for the colonialist, the highest political level of collusion.

That then for me was the defining shift in Sinn Féin. To be sure, there were many signs along the journey to that point, but that was a step about which there could be no equivocation. And from which there could be no turning back.

One of number of species of Stone Fish (Image sourced: Internet)

A JOURNEY OF MANY SIGNIFICANT STEPS

That step was followed by many others: first calling on people not to oppose and then actually welcoming to both administrations of Ireland the British Queen, the commander-in-chief of the occupying forces; then also supporting recruitment to the colonial gendarmerie.

Abandoning the annual Bloody Sunday commemoration in Derry was an earlier stage, when Martin McGuinness claimed that the results of the Saville Inquiry, establishing that the victims were unarmed (a fact already known to all of Ireland and probably most of the world) were sufficient.1

Refusing to preclude going in to coalition government with gombeen parties was another step on that journey, as was abandoning its annual opposition to the no-jury Special Criminal Courts2 in the Irish state – whether because it wants to show its loyalty to the Gombeens or plans to use it against its dissidents in future is not clear.

Another step was the honouring in Belfast of those who were killed in the British armed forces in WWI, a straightforward imperialist war during which the Provos’ political ancestors, far from supporting the British State, rose up in arms against it in 1916.

The stand taken by the SF leadership towards the British Monarch and Royal Family is another significant change of the party’s position and was marked publicly by statements of sympathy for the death of the Royal Consort, Prince Phillip last year.

At the same time, the leadership apologised for the assassination in 1979 of leading member of the Royal Family and life-long colonialist and imperialist, Lord Mountbatten.

Just recently, another step was taken when condolences were sent to England on the death of the Monarch, Elizabeth Windsor, and Irish people were instructed to be “respectful” to the institution while the media was awash with monarchist propaganda and servile nonsense.

One might wonder why an erstwhile Irish Republican party would seek to accommodate itself with another state’s Royal Family, never mind one which also includes the head of the State which is in armed occupation of a sixth of Irish territory. But SF’s purpose is entirely logical.

In this, the SF party leadership is adapting itself to the nature of the class it seeks to join and represent. The Irish bourgeoisie has been foreign-dependent since its independent nationalist aspirations were smashed in 1798 and 1803.

The Irish capitalist class confirmed its client nature in the process of the creation of the Irish State through 1921 to 1922, in its civil war 1922-1923, armed by the colonial power against the forces for independence ….. and forever since.

The foreign master was first British capitalism and colonialism, later US imperialism and more recently EU capitalism and imperialism. That is the loyal club that SF is preparing to join by imitating its existing members.

End.

Sinn Féin party leadership photographed at funeral in Belfast of ex-IRA political prisoner Bobby Storey in 2020 (Photo sourced: Internet)

FOOTNOTES

1The Bloody Sunday Massacre, one of a series of British Army massacres in the Six Counties (Ballymurphy, Springhill and Derry), was always claimed as the result of a battle with armed insurgents. The timing of the Saville Inquiry (established in 1998) suggests that it was a part of the Good Friday Agreement (also 1988) deal with the Provos: in exchange for their giving up armed struggle, their members in the jails would be released and, for the wider nationalist population of the Six Counties, the British would end up admitting the Derry victims were unarmed. Provisional SF abandoned the annual march on the strength of that verdict but no-one was ever prosecuted for the murders, even when Lord Saville stated that some of the soldiers had lied in their evidence.

2The special political trial courts in both administrations have no juries; in the Six Counties the Diplock Court and in the Irish State, the Special Criminal Courts.

SOURCES

Mimicry: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/earth-and-planetary-sciences/mimicry#:~:text=Mimicry%20occurs%20when%20one%20species,otherwise%20capture%20and%20eat%20it.
https://a-z-animals.com/blog/10-animals-that-use-mimicry-to-survive/

Stonefish: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synanceia

Spider mimicking ant: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ant_mimicry
https://www.antwiki.org/wiki/Ant-Mimicking_Spiders

SF welcoming British Queen to Ireland: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-59489930
https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/sinn-fein-and-a-tale-of-two-state-visits-1.1599356

SF supporting recruitment to colonial police force: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/sinn-fein-presence-at-psni-recruitment-event-seismic-and-historic-1.4161267

SF condolences on death of Royal Constort, Prince Phillip: https://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/politics/top-sinn-fein-figures-lead-effusive-tributes-to-prince-philip-praising-his-public-service-and-support-for-the-queen-3198149
https://www.independent.ie/news/sinn-fein-leader-mary-lou-mcdonald-has-written-to-queen-elizabeth-to-formally-express-condolences-over-death-ofprince-philip-40336994.html

SF no longer opposing the the no-jury Special Criminal Court: https://www.thejournal.ie/special-criminal-court-review-2-5803404-Jun2022/
https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/sinn-fein-drops-opposition-to-special-criminal-court-1.4715275

SF on British Army dead of WWI: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-62008152

SF on death of British Queen: https://www.sinnfein.ie/contents/64262

A RELEVANT BLAST FROM THE PAST – WAR PROPAGANDA IN IRELAND 1918

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 6 mins.)

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.

Clipping from Irish Press, not a fascist sympathising editorial line, November 1936 (Image sourced: Irish Newspaper Archives, Irish Press)

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 propaganda affected us in 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.

A Howth fishing vessel in past years
(Photo sourced: Internet)

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.

Looks like a drawing of the sinking RMS Leinster produced for a newspaper of the time (image sourced: https://www.postalmuseum.org/blog/the-centenary-of-the-sinking-of-rms-leinster/)

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 ….!

German UC-1 class submarine surfaced with crew (Photo sourced: Internet)

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.

End.

FOOTNOTES

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.

2https://casebook.icrc.org/law/naval-warfare

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).

5The 1994 San Remo Manual states:

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]

7https://www.newsweek.com/watch-madeleine-albright-saying-iraqi-kids-deaths-worth-it-resurfaces-1691193

8The Road to Independence (2016) [Howth Free Press], p.52.

SOURCES

The Road to Independence (2016) [Howth Free Press]

British naval blockade of Germany: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blockade_of_Germany#:~:text=The%20British%2C%20with%20their%20overwhelming,to%20be%20a%20war%20zone%2C

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

Merchant shipping in wartime: https://casebook.icrc.org/glossary/merchant-shipping

https://casebook.icrc.org/law/naval-warfare

Sinking of the Leinster: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMS_Leinster
https://www.rmsleinster.com/sinking/sinking.htm

APPENDIX

   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.

Anglo-US company supporting Israeli occupation picketed in Dublin

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 1 minute)

Hatch street in Dublin is an unusual venue to hear the sounds of a political protest but that was where a protest took place Friday, outside the headquarters of Jones Lang LaSalle, an Anglo-US real estate and investment multinational.

Section of the protesters. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

The lunchtime protest was organised by the Anti-Imperialist Action organisation in protest at JLL’s complicity in what they called “the occupation and genocide in Palestine.”

In a leaflet handed out to construction workers, office workers and passers-by, AIA stated that JLL “work with Elbit Systems, the largest private arms supplier for the occupation” and that last year “their CEO boasted about ‘a significant increase in (its) activity in Israel’ “.

The Garda van as part of the State’s protection for the JLL building (Photo: D.Breatnach)

The leaflet also pointed out that “Palestine Action, a group in England and Scotland, have successfully shut down two of Elbit’s sites through … direct action” against the companies.

Also pointed out in the leaflet was the result of property management companies in stoking the housing crisis and also commented on the colonial history of Ireland and its solidarity with the Palestinian people.

The protest photographer, JLL building and some Garda protection in the background.

The picketers displayed placards along with flags: the Starry Plough, Palestinian national flag and another of the PFLP, one of the Palestinian liberation organisations. They regularly shouted slogans against the Israeli occupation, in solidarity with Palestine and against the JLL organisation.

Gardaí (Irish police) arrived to protect the JLL building but there were no incidents. The reaction of those who accepted a leaflet varied from non-committal, through curious to supportive.

end.

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

FURTHER INFORMATION:

isrmedia@protonmail.com

WILDFLOWERS ALONG THE TOLKA

WALKING ALONG THE TOLKA AS IT RUNS THROUGH GRIFFITH PARK RECENTLY, I WAS PLEASED TO SEE A GREAT VARIETY OF WILDFLOWERS GROWING ON THE BANKS.

All were within a stretch of a few hundred yards.

Mint perhaps? (Photo: D.Breatnach)
Water mint maybe (Mentha aquatica Mismín mionsach) growing midstream so not able to pluck a leaf and smell it. Also brown seed-heads of Broad-leaved Dock (Rumex obtusifolius Copóg shráide) for contrast (Photo: D.Breatnach).
Not sure what this one is but breaks out into tiny white flowers. Almost centre is a stalk of stinging nettle (Neantóg/ Cál faiche). (Photo: D.Breatnach
Member of the thistle family (Feochadán) — but which one? — in flower and down (Photo: D.Breatnach)
Little Grey Heron (Corr Éisc) waiting by the reeds for lunch to swim by (Photo: D.Breatnach)
Hollyhock in foreground and looks like another behind it — NOT a native plant. There were some growing each end of the bridge, as though planted or sown there. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Groundsel/ Ragwort like constellations of stars before they go to down and seed. But which one? Common Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea / Jacobaea vulgaris Buachalán buí) I think. (Photo: D.Breatnach)
This one I do know — Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria Airgead luachra) and dock seed heads again. (Photo: D.Breatnach)
Casadh sa tsruth — a bend in the flow — and view up from the weir. Willow trees on the right and a shrub I know to see but have not identified (a Skimmias?) on the right. (Photo: D.Breatnach)
Lesser Knotweed (Persicaria campanulata Glúineach an chlúimh), I’m pretty sure — an introduced plant. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

There were other flowering plants too but either had already flowered or were yet to do so.

(Photo: D.Breatnach)
Red Campion (Silene Vulgaris Coireán na gcuach) at centre-right here? (Photo: D.Breatnach)

End.

The Irish Prime Minister and the Fall of Singapore

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 5 mins.)

The media informs us of the visit on the 22nd July of Mícheál Martin, Prime Minister of the Irish state, to the concentration camp where his uncle was a prisoner of the Japanese after the fall of Singapore in World War II.

Many Irish fought in the UK and British Commonwealth armies against Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan.

But there is another strong and ironic Irish connection to the fall of Singapore. The Lieut.-General Arthur Percival who surrendered the Singapore fortress to the Japanese Army in 942 had been Intelligence Officer (and torturer) for the Essex Rifles against the IRA in West Cork 1920-’21.

Major (then) Arthur Percival, C/O 1st Company Essex Regiment (later Intelligence Officer) in Ireland with senior officer of the colonial gendarmerie, the Royal Irish Constabulary, c.1920/21. (Image sourced: British Imperial War Museum)

PERCIVAL IN IRELAND

Percival served first as a company commander then as Intelligence Officer of the Essex Rifles in Kinsale, Co. Cork, where he “stood out for his violent, sadistic behaviour towards IRA prisoners, suspects and innocent civilians……

“He also participated in reprisals, burning farms and businesses in response to IRA attacks,” according to a USA historian. General Tom Barry, IRA commander in West Cork, said that Percival was “easily the most vicious anti-Irish of all serving British officers”1.

Two victims in particular were IRA Brigade Commander Tom Hales and Quatermaster Patrick Harte. Both reported being beaten and tortured with pliers to private parts and extraction of nails. Percival got an OBE for their capture; Harte died in a mental hospital in 1925.

Tom Barry recorded that after a number of ignored warnings, the IRA in Cork placed the Essex Rifles on the same status as the Black ‘n Tans and the Auxilliaries – they could depend on no mercy if captured.

Percival was also the man who unconditionally surrendered Singapore to a much smaller invading force of Japanese in 1942, thereby condemning thousands of soldiers and civilians to a terrible fate.

British Army prisoners of the Japanese after the surrender of Singapore (Image sourced: Internet)

LARGEST BRITISH SURRENDER IN HISTORY — AND TO LESSER NUMBERS

Singapore had been a British colonial possession since 18262. At the time of WWII the British considered it a strong fortress, a thick jungle and hills on the landward side and with huge 15” cannon facing out to sea against a possible naval invasion.

The British High Command considered no navy in the world could survive an assault on the island and no army capable of penetrating the thick jungle. Apparently no-one told the Imperial Japanese that for come through the jungle they did, marching or riding on bicycles.

The UK and Commonwealth troops on the landward side fought but were outgunned and badly commanded. After seven days of fighting, Percival decided to surrender unconditionally, with most of the 85,000 troops on the island not yet having engaged the 36,000 of the enemy.

Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival (right), led by Ichiji Sugita, walks under a flag of truce to negotiate the capitulation of Commonwealth forces in Singapore, on 15 February 1942. It was the largest surrender of British forces in history (Wikipedia).

The surrender of Singapore delivered 80,000 UK and Commonwealth troops, along with a million civilians, into captivity in the hands of the Imperial Japanese Army. Three days after the British surrender, the Japanese began the “Sook Ching” purge, killing thousands of civilians3.

The day before the surrender, Japanese soldiers also invaded the Victoria Hospital and murdered over 250 soldiers, doctors, male staff and patients.

Most of the soldiers taken captive had not been given a chance by Percival to even fire a shot at the advancing Japanese Army, to the contempt of their captors, led by officers with a strong military tradition and pride (not to say arrogance).

Whether that fact contributed to the cruel and inhumane treatment of the prisoners by their captors and guards is not certain but it seems to have done. In any case, many who died day by day and month by month building the Burma Railway would no doubt have preferred to die fighting.

Most of the civilians massacred would probably also have preferred to die fighting.

Around 30,000 Allied Prisoners of War of the Japanese died in captivity of cruel treatment including inadequate food, disease and overwork; working from statistics R.J. Rummel estimates a death rate of around 29% for POWs4. Huge numbers of civilians died similarly also.

Australian Russell Braddon, who wrote about his experiences in the Japanese concentration camp at Changi and on the slave-labour construction of the Burma railroad5, was extremely bitter about the surrender and the general Allied High Command management of the war in Malaya.

IN CONCLUSION

I do not, as many Irish Republicans do, criticise the Irish who joined the UK and Commonwealth Armies during WWII (9,100 combat dead perhaps https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/health-family/number-of-irish-in-both-wars-unknown-1.1825013).

Many no doubt did so out of a desire to fight fascism — surely an admirable motivation6.

But once the War ended, any Irish remaining in the British armed forces anywhere could not claim to be doing anything else than helping the domination of many nations and millions of people by what was at the time the world’s biggest imperialist power (though soon to be eclipsed by the USA).

Mícheál Martin at Changi concentration camp where his uncle was a POW, now a museum (Photo: RTÉ)

If anti-fascism motivated his uncle and that is what Mícheál Martin appreciates about him, one would wonder why the police of the state which he leads protected fascists in Ireland and attacked antifascists on a number of occasions in recent years.

Of course there may be a more sinister aspect to Martin’s publicised visit. It may be a public expression of the desire among the Irish elite to be part of a western military alliance, either the US-NATO or an EU such, which would in the end amount to much the same thing.

And such an alliance in these times would not be fighting — even in part – against fascism but rather alongside it.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1Guerrilla Days in Ireland (1949 and many reprints since) by Tom Barry.

2Singapore became an independent republic on 9 August 1965.

3People from all ethnic groups were massacred but the Chinese most of all. Though the Japanese government years later paid some compensation to relatives of victims, it has never accepted responsibility for the events. Nor has the UK. “Since 1998, Singapore has observed Total Defence Day on 15 February each year, marking the anniversary of the surrender of Singapore. The concept of Total Defence as a national defence strategy was first introduced in 1984, which serves as a significant reminder that only Singaporeans with a stake in the country can effectively defend Singapore from future threats.” (Wikipedia)

4https://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.CHAP3.HTM

5The Naked Island (1952) sold over a million copies. Russel Braddon (1921-1925) had a breakdown soon after the war and felt suicidal but, once recovered, became a successful writer of novels, articles and TV scripts. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russell_Braddon

6I met one of those, curiously enough a Corkman in a lodging house in London. Denis was a decent man, very big, who rarely talked about the war except sometimes when he had drink taken. Strangely, he never had a bad word to say against the Japanese – even the concentration camp guards.

SOURCES

Mícheál Martin’s visit to Changi Jail Museum: https://www.thejournal.ie/martin-singapore-visit-prison-5824033-Jul2022/

Surrender of Singapore: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fall_of_Singapore

https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/prisoners-of-war-of-the-japanese-1939-1945

https://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.CHAP3.HTM

Arthur Percival: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Percival

ÓRÁID — CATHAL BRUGHA — ORATION

Tá Rebel Breeze fíor-bhuíoch do Kerron Ó Luain as cead foillsithe a óráid ag comóradh scaoileadh marfach an tSaor Stát le Chathal Brugha a thabhairt dúinn. Rebel Breeze is most grateful to Kerron Ó Luain for permission to publish his oration on the occasion of the fatal shooting by the Free State of Cathal Brugha.

(Reading time: 11 mins.)

Óráid a tugadh ag Comóradh Chathail Uí Bhrugha, 7ú Iúil 2022, Baile Átha Cliath

Oration given at a Commemoration for Cathal Brugha, 7 July 2022, Dublin

Buíochas leis an gcoiste as an gcuireadh a thabhairt dom labhairt ag an ócáid stairiúil seo. Tá tábhacht ar leith go líonfar an bhearna maidir le stair an Chogaidh Chathartha, óir tá an stát tar éis na maidí a ligeadh le sruth.

Ba mhaith liom an chaint ghairid seo a thabhairt in ómós do Mhícheál Ó Doibhilin, an staraí a bhásaigh an tseachtain seo.

Rinne Mícheál neart oibre ar leithéidí Anne Devlin agus d’fhoilsigh sé neart saothair tríd Kilmainham Tales, a thug léargas ar ghnéithe den stair poblachtach a ligeadh i ndearmad.

Le linn 2016, agus comóradh céad bhliain ar Éirí Amach 1916 faoi lán seoil tháinig sé chuig mo bhaile dúchais, Ráth Cúil, áit ar thug sé caint ar Josie McGowan, a bhí mar bhall de Chumann na mBan, agus a mharaigh na póilíní in 1918.

Micheál Ó Doibhlin giving a talk on Irish women in the struggle, 1918 (Photo: D. Breatnach)

Thanks to the committee for the invitation to give this short talk. It’s important to mark events such as these to do with the Civil War since the State has not seen fit to do so.

I’d like to dedicate this talk to Mícheál Ó Doibhlin, the historian who died just this week.

Mícheál carried out a great deal of work on the likes of Anne Devlin and he published numerous works through Kilmainham Tales which provided an insight into lesser known aspects of republican history.

During 2016, with the hundredth anniversary of the 1916 Rising in full swing, he came to my hometown of Rathcoole, where he have a talk on Josie McGowan, who was the first member of Cumann na mBan to be martyred when she was killed by police in 1918.

I’d like to speak about Cathal Brugha first and then the impact of the Civil War/Counter-Revolution.

CATHAL BRUGHA – EARLY YEARS

In terms of the historical sources, it is not easy to find a wealth of material on Cathal Brugha online. Unlike Michael Collins, for example, there is not an abundance of accessible sources online pertaining to Brugha.

He is referred to in the Bureau of Military History sources such as the Witness Statements, and these have been digitised, but his private papers, held in UCD, await digitisation.

The recently published biography of Brugha by Daithí Ó Corráin and Gerard Hanley, entitled Cathal Brugha: “An Indomitable Spirit”, will hopefully go some way to popularising a fuller and more nuanced account of his life and politics.

Kerron Ó Luain ag caint ag an comóradh i Sr. an Ard-Eaglais, 7ú Iúil 2022 (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Cathal Brugha was born as Charles Burgess in Dublin in 1874. He was born into a middle-class family, his father a cabinet maker. Brugha was born into a large family, which was not unusual at the time. Perhaps less common, was that he came from a mixed Protestant and Catholic marriage.

There is a good chance his father was a Protestant Fenian during the 1860s and 70s.

The crucial politicising force of this mid-twenties was Conradh na Gaeilge. He joined Craobh an Chéitinnigh in Dublin in 1899. And it was through the Conradh he met his wife Kathleen Kingston whom he married in 1909.

It was in this Gaelic revivalist and republican milieu that he met the likes of Seán Mac Diarmada, Tom Clarke and Piaras Béaslaí, and this influenced his move towards militant republicanism.

It is worth noting, at this point, that six of the seven signatories of the 1916 Proclamation were members of Conradh na Gaeilge, as were fourteen of the sixteen men executed in the wake of the Rising.

Photo-portrait of Cathal Brugha in IRA uniform. (Photo sourced: Internet)

PREPARATION FOR RISING, PREPARATION FOR WAR — AND FURTHER

In 1908, Brugha joined the IRB. He was employed as a travelling salesman with a candlestick company during those years and so, like many within Fenianism before him, was able to disguise his organising and recruitment under the cloak of his business activities.

Brugha was later instrumental in the setting up of the Irish Volunteers and then the Howth Gun Running. He was second in command to Éamon Ceannt at the South Dublin Union (now James’s Street Hospital) during the 1916 Rising.

He held a detachment of the British Army at bay singlehandedly with his ‘Peter the Painter’ revolver and nearly died from the wounds, including a lacerated nerve, he sustained in the feat. For the remainder of his life he walked with a limp and had to have a special boot made so that he could walk.

In the wake of the 1916 Rising Brugha was central to the re-organisation of the Irish Volunteers, which during these years, along with the Irish Citizen Army, began to coalesce into the Irish Republican Army.

In terms of his rejection of the Treaty in 1921 and death during 1922, we get a snapshot of the trajectory of his politics in 1917.

He was central to the debates over the formation of the Sinn Féin constitution in 1917, and he clashed with the dual-monarchist Arthur Griffith over the insertion of the word “Republic” into the document, which Brugha ardently supported.

Later, at the outbreak of the Black and Tan War in 1918 another indication of his politics can be seen. Brugha, as President of the Dáil, and later as Minister of Defence, was anxious that the IRA would do nothing that might effect Ireland’s case at the Peace Conference underway in Paris.

These were not the actions of a militarist fanatic, as state and revisionist historians have often portrayed him, but the strategic calculations of a principled political republican.

His dedication to the cultural and linguistic revolution is a feature of his activities during 1919 — particularly during the reading of the 1919 Democratic Programme.

Rinneadh gach rud trí Ghaeilge an lá sin agus ba é Brugha a bhí chun cinn.

During that day all the business was conducted through Irish and Brugha was very forthright about that. He understood not only the political importance of announcing the advent of the Dáil at an international level, but in doing so through Irish.

Another indication of his desire to advance the Irish language was that his plan for Conradh na Gaeilge be given sanction by the newly emergent state. “It was essential”, he said “that the authority of Dáil Éireann should be placed behind the Gaelic League”.

Plaque over the spot where Cathal Brugha was fatally shot at the junction of Cathedral and O’Connell Streets. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

LESSONS OF HISTORY

It is our duty as historians and as republicans who want to learn from the mistakes of the past to analyse things as they were and not gloss over them.

Brugha was less advanced when it came to other social questions, such as that of the land.

When a loan scheme was set up by the Dáil in 1919-1920 Brugha viewed it as “a scheme that would be a perfectly sound business proposition, and offer a good field to Irishmen who desire to invest their money”.

This speaks to the class composition of much of that era’s Irish Republicanism – with over-representation from the lower-middle and middle classes and under-representation from the urban and rural working-class.

There was a consequent lack of a radical social programme that might have attracted the masses, particularly during 1922.

Liam Mellows, according to a recent publication by Conor McNamara, only really came towards socialism late in the day whilst imprisoned in Mountjoy Jail.

In a similar vein, the great socialist-republican Peadar O’Donnell, remarked that during the occupation of the Four Courts in July 1922 there existed a gulf between the republicans inside and the workers outside.

Hammam Hotel after Free State attack. (Photo sourced: Internet)

We can also point to a lack of militancy within the leadership of the labour movement, as we can to a lack of socialism within the republican movement.

However, and despite a climate of soviets springing up, land agitation and general strikes over the course of several years, socialism and republicanism failed to fully synthesise into an organised and militant socialist and anti-imperialist movement.

Nevertheless, this is not to take away from Brugha, Mellows or any of his comrades. The picture that emerges of Brugha is one of a dedicated and political Irish Republican. A man of principle, honour and integrity.

It isn’t the picture of a mindless militarist, or “a fanatic”, as a recent review of the above-mentioned book Indomitable Spirit in the Irish Independent characterised Brugha. Likewise, some historians have derided Brugha essentially as a man of “no politics”.

However, as JJ O’Kelly, better known as Sceilg, said of Brugha, he was “showered with intellectual gifts of a high order, coupled with an exquisite literary taste; was a good linguist, a powerful writer, a fluent and convincing speaker, a pleasing singer and exquisitely fond of good music”.

Previously, during a potential split in Craobh an Chéitinnigh in 1908 Brugha was seen as a force for reconciliation, rather than as an apolitical “splitter”.

At its core, the realisation that the Treaty represented a half-way house between Empire and Republic that was doomed to failure informed Brugha’s actions during 1921 and 1922.

The mainstream historical narrative is that the “militarists” couldn’t see sense and get behind the so-called “empty formulas” of the oath. But, harking back to his dispute with Griffith in 1917, I think Brugha knew the importance of the term “Republic”.

Brugha understood that the wording and principles laid down in such documents would influence the character of any Irish state which might emerge. Thuig sé, creidim, go gcuireadh na prionsabail a leagfaí síos ag an bpointe criticiúil cruth ar an stát a bhí le tíocht.

Brugha had also pushed for an Oath to the Republic to be adopted by the IRA in 1919. The context for him doing so was the long tradition of oaths stretching back through Fenianism and other oathbound secret societies.

Oathbound secret societies were common throughout Europe in opposition to feudal and absolutist monarchies from the Enlightenment era onwards.

But in Ireland such secret societies, whether agrarian, nationalist or republican, or an admixture of each, represented an opposition to colonialism and their oaths were a necessary offering of allegiance to the community and the Irish body politic rather than to the invader.

Brugha’s dedication to the Republic and rejection of imperialism was shown again during the Treaty debates of 1921 when he spoke thusly:

“if …. instead of being so strong, our last cartridge had been fired our last thinking had been spent and our last man was lying on the ground and his enemies howling around him and their bayonets raised, ready to plunge them into his body, that man should say – true to the traditions handed down – if they said ‘will you come into the Empire?’ he should say and he would say : ‘No, I will not!’

That is the spirit which has lasted the centuries and you people in favour of the Treaty know that the British Government and the British Empire will have gone down before that spirit dies in Ireland”.

CIVIL WAR/ COUNTERREVOLUTION

Civil War eventually began in 1922 with the shelling of the Four Courts with British guns by Free State forces. Again, busting the myth that he was only out for war, Brugha had actually been reluctant to enter the Republican garrison with Mellows, Rory O’Connor, and Joe McKelvey.

Likewise, Oscar Traynor; he and Brugha occupied Hamman Hotel and Buildings on Upper O’Connell street as a secondary garrison. As the Battle of Dublin raged the buildings occupied by Brugha went ablaze.

Free State soldiers shouted at him to surrender, to which he replied “níl aon chuimhneamh agam ar a leithéid a dhéanamh” (I have no notion of doing so). After asking his own garrison to surrender Brugha approached the Free State soldiers and was shot dead.

The Civil War has often been over-simplified into a cartoonish clash of “brother against brother” and “the Big Fellow” (Collins) versus “the Long Fellow” (De Valera). This negates the aspects of it which were clearly counter-revolutionary in nature, and it can just as easily be labelled the Counter-Revolution of 1922-23.

The results of the Counter-Revolution in which Brugha died and which deepened in the years after, especially during the 1920s, speak for themselves.

Free State troops preparing artillery emplacement for British field-gun at Nelson’s Pillar (now location of the Spire) in the Battle of Dublin, Civil War/ Counterrevolution July 1922. (Photo sourced: Internet)

Republican men carry the coffin of Cathal Brugha with an honour guard of Cumann na mBan. (Photo sourced: Internet)

The Counter-Revolution:

Sided with Empire over Republic. The acceptance of the Treaty meant the acceptance of White Dominion status along with Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

In doing so the counter-revolutionaries severed the nascent anti-colonial links with the Third World which had existed throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

This move, according to Bill Rollston and Robbie McVeigh in their recent publication Anois ar Theacht an tSamhraidh: Ireland, Colonialism and the Unfinished Revolution, informs the nature and perseverance of Irish racism today.

It sided with Rich over Poor. The infamous quote from the good Catholic and Christian W.T. Cosgrave about “people being reared in work houses taking it in their minds to emigrate”, resonates here.

This is the mentality which laid the blueprint for how the State facilitated and turned a blind eye to the horrors of the industrial schools and laundries – horrors which were inflicted against women and children mainly from the urban and rural working class.

It sided with Partition over Unity. The nationalists of the North were abandoned to the mercy of the Orange state, despite knowledge among the emergent conservative republican elite like Cosgrave and Kevin O’Higgins of the pogroms which had been going on in Belfast between 1920-22.

The lame duck Border Commission of 1925 was never going to challenge the economic or political viability of the Six Counties

It sided with Anglophone Ireland over what was left of Irish speaking Ireland. There was over half a million, or 543,511 to be precise, native Irish speakers in the state in 1926. Today there are less than 10% of that, roughly 20,000.

The Free State in the 1920s implemented a symbolic cultural programme – state departments used the cúpla focail, schools were superficially Gaelicized, post boxes were painted green.

This was also a means of shoring up support for the State against republicans and other “subversives” in the 1920s and 30s by capturing and channelling one ideological aspect of the revolutionary years. But no radical social programme was devised.

Rather than re-distribute wealth and local power to the West, a symbolic and centralised pseudo-revival was implemented, while Conradh na Gaeilge, which Brugha had been so loyal to, went into rapid decline naively thinking that the conservative state would somehow act as a genuine custodian of the language revival.

Tá go leor leor samplaí den leanúnachas seo leis an impiriúlachas le fáil.

Other examples of a continuity and no real break with imperialism abound. In law, the Free State remained wedded to British common law over a potential new system.

Brehon Law had been mooted as having communal benefits different from the individualist and property focussed British law by cultural nationalists and by Marxists such as James Connolly. But this mode of thought was not considered.

In administration, according to historian J.J. Lee, 98% of civil servants from the old British colonial administration were kept on during the years of the early Free State.

In finance, Ernest Blyth’s conservative fiscal policies were carbon copies of Westminster’s and the punt was shackled to the sterling.

Even down to seemingly innocuous cultural traits such as dress – W.T. Cosgrave and his ilk adopted the top hat and coat-tails of the British once in office – there were continuities.

While this last point may seem minor, it was a signifier of the whole ideology and culture of the state – Conservative, Catholic, Anglophone, with only a veneer of Gaelic symbology.

Little wonder then that the State lurched from dependence on one empire from the 1920s into dependence on others in the 1960s and 70s in the form of the US empire and the emergent EU empire — via the policies of Foreign Direct Investment and the Common Agricultural Policy.

The legacy then of the counter-revolution still weighs heavily on our people.

It is our duty to analyse the different forces – be they political, class or cultural – which defeated the Republic in 1922-23 and to work towards defeating them and breaking fully with Empire, as Cathal Brugha sought to do.

An Phoblacht Abú!

Kerron Ó Luain, staraí, Ráth Cúil, Co. Átha Cliath.

Section of the crowd at Cathal Brugha’s funeral in Glasnevin Cemetery. (Photo sourced: Internet)

FRAME-UP OF THE CRAIGAVON TWO HIGHLIGHTED ACROSS IRELAND

14 YEARS IN JAIL FOR SOMETHING THEY DIDN’T DO

Clive Sulish

(Reading time main text: 2 mins.)

On 16th July 2022 the frame-up of the Craigavon Two was highlighted in public events in locations across all four provinces of Ireland. John Paul Wooton and Brendan McConville were framed and convicted in 2012 of the killing of colonial police officer Stephen Carroll in 2009.

The agency that framed them is the colonial police force of the Six Counties statelet but then they were railroaded through the non-jury Diblock Courts. As a result the two men have spent 14 years in jail for something they did not do.

A young woman participating in the protest on the 16th in Mulingar, Co. Westmeath displaying two placards, one home-made, to passers-by. (Photo sourced: AIA)

EVENTS

In Dublin city centre banners in Irish and in English calling for the freeing of the Craigavon Two were hung from the iconic curved pedestrian Ha’penny Bridge. Green and gold Starry Plough flags streamed in the breeze from the sea as leaflets were distributed to passers-by.

Hand-held Placards called for the men’s release and regular calls could be heard of “Justice for the Craigavon Two!” followed by “14 years in jail for something they didn’t do”. In addition there were calls to “Smash the Specials”1 and comments about “British justice”.

Strangely no artist(s) name was posted on line with the video

All the leaflets brought to the event were distributed and a number of conversations with interested people took place.

Leaflets being distributed and placards displayed on the Ha’penny Bridge, Dublin on the 16th. (Photo sourced: AIA)

At one point four members of the State’s police force, the Gardaí, walked past the picketers and gathered at the far end of the bridge, watching them. However, the picketers were not intimidated and the police took no further action.

The events in respect of the Craigavon Two were organised by the Anti-Imperialist Action Ireland organisation and took place in Waterford, Oldcastle (Meath), Naas (Kildare), Mullingar (Westmeath), Kerry, Galway, Dublin, South Derry, Armagh and Arklow (Wicklow.)

Gardaí watching the awareness-raising picket on the Ha’penny Bridge on the 16th. (Photo sourced: AIA)

A CROOKED CASE

To say that the case against the men was flimsy would be to give it too much credit. The killing weapon was recovered and the fingerprints on the weapon and magazine did not match either of the men’s. No eyewitness was found except one who claimed to have seen one of the men in the area.

The alleged eyewitness who identified one of the men, “Witness M” only came forward 11 months after the killing and long after the arrest of both men. Witness M’s inability to have identified anyone at night at the distance he claimed to have done was exposed in court.

Awareness-raising event on the 16th in Oldcastle, Co. Meath (Photo sourced: AIA)

That man’s father described him as “a Walter Mitty character” who was chronically untruthful and his own partner refused to corroborate the witness’ account of his movements on the night of the killing.

The ‘evidence’ against the second man of being in the area came from an MI5 agent who testified from behind a screen about a tracking device they claimed to have planted in the accused’s car which had unexplained gaps in its recording.

The agent declined to answer a number of questions under “public immunity” certificate related to “national security”.

The colonial police went further and detained Witness M’s father to intimidate him into not giving evidence about his son’s veracity (or lack of it) — and the witness was also paid a sum of money.

One can say that the no-jury Diplock Court was crucial in convicting the men of murder but even when they were eventually granted leave to appeal in 2014, their convictions were not overturned. The normal judicial system is bad but the no-jury courts are worse.

Another victim of being framed in the British ‘justice’ system, Gerry Conlon, 15 years in jail in the famous case of the “Guildford Four”, joined the campaign for the men and was proclaiming their innocence until a mere few days before his premature death in June 2014 (aged 60).

End.

In Naas, Co. Kildare. (Photo sourced: AIA)
Mulingar, Co. Westmeath. (Photo sourced: AIA)
A woman leafletting in Co. Waterford on Saturday talking to people in the town centre. (Photo sourced: AIA)

FOOTNOTES

1A reference to the political no-jury courts of the colony and of the Irish State, the Diplock Courts and the Irish State’s Special Criminal Courts.

USEFUL LINKS

Craigavon Two campaign: https://www.facebook.com/mrsmcconville

Anti-Imperialist Action Ireland: https://www.facebook.com/AIAI-For-National-Liberation-and-Socialist-Revolution-101829345633677

“Justice Craigavon Two” song by Pól Mac Adaim: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzUdD80obMY

In Waterford on Saturday. (Photo sourced: AIA)
The event on Ha’penny Bridge, Dublin, seen from the north side facing south-west. (Photo sourced: AIA)

FLIGHT OF THE UNDERGROUND QUEEN

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 6 mins)

They had been preparing for this for some time. The infants were selected, received special care and food and were raised carefully in the Palace chambers inside the Citadel. They were now adolescents, maturing sexually.

As the time approached for their great expedition, the tunnels leading to the departure terminal were widened and cleared of all obstructions. Experts tested the weather conditions daily and, when the majority of these were in agreement, the Queen gave the order to launch.

The adolescents took off then, a great host of them, amidst great excitement. Their pheromones, male and female, filled the air around them and those who could, which was most of them, quickly found a partner and coupled.

It was a maiden flight from which the adolescent females would land no longer maidens. Those who would land, that is. For suddenly the air was filled with giant flying monsters with huge eyes and giant whirring wings.

Black Ants busy while the good-times grasshopper looks on (Source image: Aesop’s Fables, Library of Congress, USA)

Much more accustomed to flight, these monsters flew among them, gobbling them up. Some even held rows of their hapless victims in their huge beaks as they flew off to feed them to their young.  Hundreds, perhaps thousands of the little flyers perished in minutes.

Those who managed to land safely and didn’t end up drowning in a lake or a river, or snapped by denizens of the deep who sprang up at them as they passed overhead, or caught in sticky webs, or who were not stamped carelessly to death by huge walking giants or flattened by roaring, stinking monsters, still had to contend with smaller predators on the ground. The casualty rate was huge but some made it alive – some always did.

The males who made it down to ground safely would all die within a couple of days. Their wings were only intended for their nuptial flight; on the ground, they were nothing more than a nuisance, impeding their progress over and underground.

The females, sexually sated and no longer interested, had left their male partners behind. They bit off their own wings, ate them and, quickly finding some reasonably soft ground, began to dig.

Each one dug down as though her life depended on it, which of course it did; and not only her own life – each one was pregnant. Then she blocked the entrance to her tunnel, went back down it, excavated a chamber and began to lay eggs.

It was completely dark down there but she had been reared in darkness – she had one day of daylight only, the day she flew.

The young grubs who hatched were all females. She supplied them with some sparse nutrition from herself and cared for them as they grew, shed skin, grew … until they spun a cocoon from which they emerged as very small worker ants.

Magnified: Queen Black Ant Queen, grubs hatched from her eggs and metamorphosed adult worker ants. (Source Photo: Internet)

They were infertile workers and tended to their large mother, their Queen; even when they were fully-grown she was still one-and-a-half times their size, although about half the size she had been when she left her old nest.

Her most recent meal had been her own wings the day she had flown and mated. If she got past this crucial stage, she would recover her size and weight and lay more and more eggs.

The workers soon went up the tunnel, unblocked it and spilled out into daylight for the first time in their lives, beginning to forage for food. They found small seeds and, if they were lucky, sweet material such as soft-skinned ripe or rotting fruit.

They soon had their surroundings covered with their hive-scent, carried by each and every worker. Sometimes they found insects they could kill but these had to be very small indeed – these workers had been fed on insufficient nutrition and were, compared to the majority of their kind, puny.

If they found a food-source worth another visit, they left a specially-scented trail on their way back to their home, to guide theirs sisters back to the prize later.

A rich source of food typically would show two streams of traffic between their nest and the food – one empty-jawed heading for the food and the other, with pieces in their jaws, heading away from it and towards the nest.

The food gathered by the workers fed them and their Queen, while she continued laying eggs. As time went by, more and more workers were born, who would care for the hundreds of eggs their matriarch laid and raise more and more workers. Extensive tunnel networks were dug.

At some point the workers found aphids and began harvesting their sugary secretions; tending them on the stems of the plants the aphids infested and carrying them down to their citadel but bringing them back up later. The workers would fight to protect the aphids from those who preyed on their ‘herds’.

Successive generations of ant workers grew bigger, until they reached the optimum size of five millimetres (still four millimetres short of the Queen in her prime). A well-established citadel could in time house as many as 40,000 individuals (although between four and seven thousand would be more common).

They, and previous generations, are all daughters of the same mother and the product of one mating only. Their Queen, barring unusual disasters, might live to 15 years of age.

Black Ants (magnified many times) tending to pupae (grubs metamorphosing into adult ant forms) in the nest (Source Photo: Internet)

Once the citadel is built, it is vulnerable in the ordinary course of things only to parasites, flood, fire and severe surface disturbance. In Ireland, without bears, wild boar and largely without foraging pigs, severe surface disturbance is unlikely away from human construction or ploughing and digging.

Fire might not reach underground but the heat generated or the lack of oxygen might kill anyway; flood, of course, would be the biggest threat.

If a citadel should be uncovered or invaded by flood waters, some workers will rush to deal with the problem while others rush to save the young, trying to carry eggs, pupae or cocoons away in their jaws to a safe place. Some others will rush to do whatever they can for their Queen.

A black ant defends itself by running away if possible and if not, by biting. But intruders to the citadel are swarmed by biting ants. However most human skin is impervious to the bite and this species does not sting.

One day, perhaps three years from the Queen’s maiden flight, she will decide it is time to send her own children into the wider world. She will lay eggs and have these emerging grubs fed special food, which will produce males for the first time in her citadel, as well as other fertile females besides herself.

Flying ants seen against a sky (Source Photo: Donegal News)

Then, one day in July or in August, she will send them out too, to start new colonies.

Lasius niger, the Black or Garden Ant, is the most common of the 21 species of ant in Ireland. It is the most common also across Europe and a sub-species, L. neoniger, is known in the USA where however, it is not one of the most numerous ant species.

Lasius niger is a very active, hardy and adaptable species, living mostly outdoors under rocks and but rarely inside houses (although it may well enter houses repeatedly if it learns of food within, especially sweet food).

Flying ants emerging from their underground nest through gaps in paving stones. (Source Photo: Internet)

In cities, its nests are to be found in parks and gardens but also under street paving stones, the workers emerging to forage from tunnels leading to the joints between the stone. When those joints are surrounded by thin lines or small heaps of bright sand in summer, one knows that the workers are clearing the tunnels for the adolescents’ flights.

Another indication is an unusual amount of seemingly erratic ant activity around a nest, though one would need to be aware of what normal activity looked like, for comparison.

The ants may delay, awaiting what they judge to be optimum conditions but someday soon, mid to late afternoon, they will take to the air, to fly, to mate, to die or to live, to start a new population.

End

THE FIRST WORLD WAR DEAD SHOULD BE COMMEMORATED

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

Irish Republicans and revolutionary Socialists have traditionally been opposed to the commemoration of the dead in the “Great War”, WWI. Recently Michelle O’Neill, top Minister in the British colonial political regime in Ireland with the Lord Mayor of Belfast, both members of the Sinn Féin party, laid a wreath at the WWI memorial in Belfast, to the bewilderment of some and the disgust of others. But actually those emotions are misplaced, since the leadership of the Sinn Féin party were never Socialist and are no longer Republican.

The long-held position of Irish Republicans and Socialists that WWI should not be commemorated is however illogical and runs against history. The conflict was a hugely-important event in such areas as military, social conditions and mores, medicine, politics and economics.

The toll of WWI is around 40 million military and civilian casualties of which 20 million died. Of those, around 10 million were civilian dead. How can an event of such historical magnitude not deserve commemoration?

We should certainly commemorate the fact that a small group of monopoly capitalists, aristocracies and monarchies, in the course of an argument about how to divide up the world among themselves, sent millions of ordinary people, mostly workers, to kill one another to settle the argument. People who had no quarrel with one another and nothing to gain from killing one another; people whose real verifiable enemies were those very people who were mobilising and arming them before sending them forth to kill or be killed.

The conditions of the working classes at the time they were thrown into the killing arena should be commemorated. The lies that the war was fought for democracy and freedom of small nations should be exposed. The disciplinary court-martials and executions within the armies should be revealed, along with the treatment of conscientious objectors. The propaganda used for recruitment and to keep the home populations happy should be deconstructed and exposed. The fact that capitalism ends up as imperialism, which in turn causes war, should be made clear to all.

That wars are not alone fought for profits but that huge profits are made in the course of war is a grotesque fact that should become widely known.

A pile of used artillery shells used in WWI — all manufactured and paid for, exploded, more ordered, paid for, fired ….. Part of the huge profits made during imperialist wars. (Photo sourced: Internet)

All of this was true of WWI and is true (to one extent or another) of the wars caused by imperialism today, whether in Somalia, Western Sahara, Palestine or Ukraine. But now, in addition to the huge death toll of WWI, we have the possibility of the destruction of human cities around the world — and even of ecological disaster — in yet another war.

We should expose the fact that far from encouraging us away from war, WWI commemorations are for the most part about concealing those salient facts and encouraging us to be proud of how our forebears were conned into killing one another. By whipping up reactionary nationalism1, their commemorations make us vulnerable to being conned into fighting further wars, to agree to be sent to other countries to kill or maim people like us in other countries – or to be maimed or killed by them.

An innovative protest by the socialist Republican group Lasair Dhearg which however confines itself to pointing to the occupying British Army’s collusion with Loyalist murder gangs. (Photo sourced: Internet)

Commemorating the truth about imperialist wars past and present mean rejecting the wearing of the Poppy symbol. The Poppy is not about commemorating the dead in wars, as it is sold. This promotional emblem of the British Legion only commemorates the British soldiers who have been killed in wars – it does not commemorate all the soldiers of the colonies (for example Ireland) or the Commonwealth who died in the wars, not to mention all the civilian auxiliaries helping cook, clean, carry, dig, build etc for the British armed forces. The Poppy does not commemorate the dead soldiers of Britain’s allies, for example France, USA or Russia in the case of WWI. It does not commemorate the soldiers or auxiliaries of the hostile states who were killed, which might seem natural, until we ask ourselves why not, if the idea really is just to commemorate the dead soldiers in war. Most tellingly, the Poppy does not commemorate the millions of civilians who have been killed in wars – actually more than the total number of soldiers and a percentage of war deaths that is growing with every war.

The real role of the Poppy is to build social support for the imperialist British armed forces, including helping recruitment — so in other words, the emblem and its publicity is actually helping to build support for future armed conflicts.

The WWI soldier sculpture made from scrap metal, pictured in Stephens Green, Dublin. Republicans protested its siting in a 1916 battleground, (Photo sourced: Internet)

Not addressing the nature of imperialist war and just boycotting any idea of commemoration leads to missed opportunities. A few years ago a sculpture of a WW1 British soldier constructed out of scrap metal was installed in Stephen’s Green, a recreational park in Dublin’s city centre. Some Irish Republicans staged a protest around it in which they castigated it being located there in what had been a 1916 Rising battleground. They were correct in the historical reference but was that all that could be said about that war? Would most of the tourists passing by relate to that 1916 reference or would the whole international horror of imperialist war not have engaged them more?

A small protest emphasising the nature of WWI commemorations at one such attended by SF representatives (the commemoration) in the Irish National (sic) War Memorial Gardens 10th July 2021 (Photo: RTÉ)

We should indeed commemorate WWI but we should do it in the framework laid out, of exposing what the wars are about, who they benefit, what class contains the main victims – and not just the dead but also the injured, many of them crippled for life.

That is not how the ruling elites commemorate war and it is not how Michelle O’Neill and Tina Black did it. Michelle O’Neill said that she did this symbolic act in order to demonstrate that she is going to be “a First Minister for everyone” – clearly meaning Nationalist and Unionist. Liberals may laud O’Neill for that but one cannot represent national liberation simultaneously with colonialism, republicanism at the same time as loyalism, democracy at the same time as reactionary sectarianism. Making a war wreath green does not change its nature. Sinn Féin will often seem to try to present themselves as all things to different groups of people but essentially they are serving Irish Gombeenism2 in the 26 Counties and English colonialism in the Six.

Sinn Féin members Tina Black and First Minister-in-waiting Michelle O’Neill as they approach the WWI memorial in Belfast to lay a wreath. (Photo sourced: Internet)

In addition, workers and lower middle-class people from the Protestant or Unionist community were also killed and maimed in imperialist war. How does concealing the reality of war help those people?

End.

FOOTNOTES

1I use the term in the sense that not all nationalism is reactionary.

2Native Irish foreign-dependent capitalism

FLYING SPIDERS!

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 2 mins.)

To an arachnophobe, the very idea of flying spiders must be a terrifying thought but they would reassure themselves that such a thing is only possible in horror movies. I am sorry to disabuse them but in fact many spiders do fly … and in fact, they’re flying in Ireland right now.

“Flying” might be a slight misnomer – “ballooning” might be more accurate, though they don’t use balloons. What they do is let out a line of silk – standard spider equipment – into rising warm air, or perhaps a breeze and …. up and away they go.

If it’s any consolation to the arachnophobes, the spider aeronauts are tiny – and probably need to be so for the airlift to work. On Wednesday in Dublin, at least three landed on me – one on my hand, one on my neck where I could feel the tickling (sorry, ararachnophobes!) and one on my bike, where it began to spin a web before I flicked it away to spin it somewhere else.

Traditionally, these have been called “money spiders” – apparently the folk belief or fancy was that if they landed on you, they meant good luck: as they symbolised a new suit being woven for you they were a prediction of an increase of wealth coming your way. They were landing on people all around Dublin on Thursday1 but wealth is coming sadly only to the same people as before: i.e native and foreign capitalists, property and finance speculators and landlords.

Looking up “money spiders” on the Internet, I find reference to Linyphidae which reminds me of Linyphia, that I recall2 spins those “hammock” webs in the hedges or bushes that you only really notice when they’re covered in dew.

Hammock or “sheet webs” of Linyphidae visible on foliage because of dew beading (Photo cred: James McNish)

But I had no ideal that “Linyphidae is a family of very small spiders comprising 4,706 described species in 620 genera3 worldwide. This makes Linyphiidae the second largest family of spiders after the Salticidae. The family is poorly understood due to their small body size and wide distribution, they are actually the most 3rd venomous spider worldwide4 after the black widow and Brazilian wandering spider;[citation needed] new genera and species are still being discovered throughout the world. The newest such genus is one from from Nepal …… Since it is so difficult to identify such tiny spiders, there are regular changes in taxonomy5 as species are combined or divided.”6

But wait a minute! No mention of our common wolf spider, which is small but not tiny except for its young, which I remember also take to the air. Was mine a false memory? Or was Crompton mistaken in Life of the Spider? So, I do a quick on-line check on the Wolf Spider into Wikipedia and yes, it mentions how the mother carries the tiny young on her back but …. no mention of them flying! However, a little more digging into the Internet (because it’s hard to believe I have been so mistaken about this for so long) and …. I find the reference! Yes, the young of Pardosa amentata, a species in the big family of wolf spiders, do also take to the air.

This is a small dark brown spider which you are most likely to see running over dry parched earth, especially when it cracks a bit, or over a stone or concrete path. It does not construct webs but runs its prey down, hence the “wolf” part of its name but unlike the wolf, Pardosa amentata hunts alone.

When she has been fertilised (whether her mate got away alive or not), she will weave a silk sheet into which she will lay her eggs and which she will then bind up into a round pill-shape, before strapping it on to her body underneath her abdomen. Since the egg-case is usually off-white, to a quick look it will appear that this is a brown spider with a white abdomen and most people who spend any time in a garden will have seen these7.

About real size (on standard laptop screen), Lycosa female carrying her egg-sac under her abdomen (Photo cred: Wikipedia Commons)

She carries this at all times, even when hunting or escaping from prey. She is very protective of that egg-case and if it is removed, Compton wrote, will try hard to retrieve it, even daring an ant-lion8 funnel to save it.

When she senses her young are are ready, she bites the egg-case open and tiny spiderlets come tumbling out, crawl up her legs and sit on her back, all linked legs, sometimes three layers deep.

Now when you see her, it looks like she is furry on the back or maybe has some kind of infestation. If the young are brushed off, she will try to wait for them to find her and climb back on. With egg-case or young, she can stil hunt and does but I don’t think anything is known of how the young receive alimentation – if indeed they do at all. Anyway, one day soon it’s goodbye Mam, goodbye back-travel mates and up they climb along stems and branches, let out the silk line …. wait …. wait …. wait …. YES! Up and up, soaring into the sky, to come down in …. somewhere. If they live that long.

Female wolf spider (family Lycosidae, magnified many times) carrying her young spiderlings on her abdomen (Photo cred: Science Photo Library)

Then they have to find prey that they can handle at their tiny size, avoid other predators, grow, moult, grow, moult until one day they will be a hopeful mature female or a hopeful and very cautious male. If the former, the cycle will begin again, all taking place in the space of only a couple of years.

But right now, all over Ireland, the little spider-nauts are flying …. and landing, somewhere near you.

End.

Ballooning spiderlet on a human finger (enlarged around x400 — images sourced internet)

Especially for arachnophobes — cover of Crompton’s book (Image sourced: Internet)

FOOTNOTES

1Apologies again to arachnophobes.

2I read John Crompton’s Life of the Spider (Mentor, UK, 1954) as a child and remember a lot of what I read there.

3Genera is the plural of genus and means the overall group after the family which is then divided into species. For example the wolves, coyotes, hyenas, foxes and the domestic dog are all members of the overall family Canidae, but that itself is divided into 12 genera, of which Canis is the one to which the wolves Canis lupus and their descendants the domestic dog Canis (lupus) familiaris belong, while the foxes belong to the genus Vulpes. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_canids

4Even should this be true, their tiny jaws are unable to pierce human skin; the spiderlet itself is no bigger than the head of an ordinary sewing pin.

5The branch of science concerned with classification, in particular of life-forms.

6https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linyphiidae

7I’ve also seen a yellowish spider in water margins carrying a similar egg-case.

8The ant-lion is something like the “sand-worms” in the fictional Dune series, except that they remain in their funnel in a tip in the sand, waiting for the unwary traveler when their head emerges with fearsome jaws and …. well, you can imagine the rest.

SOURCES & USEFUL LINKS

“Money spiders”: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linyphiidae

Wolf Spider (no mention of ballooning young): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolf_spider
Wolf Spider young fly: https://a-z-animals.com/blog/baby-wolf-spider-facts-unbelievable-pictures/
Wolf Spider with flying young Ireland: https://irelandswildlife.com/wolf-spider-pardosa-amentata/

Different spiders, different types of web: https://moleculestomammals.com/2020/08/23/types-of-spider-web/comment-page-1/

Spiders in Ireland: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_arachnids_of_Ireland