THE LID LIFTS ANEW ON THE SEETHING VIRULENCE OF LOYALISM

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 5 mins.)

Many public figures have been condemning the content of a video live-streamed from an Orange Order Hall in which people were singing lyrics mocking the murder of an Irishwoman on her honeymoon in Mauritius.

There is nothing new I can add to the condemnations of this disgusting exhibition. But what a great many of the condemnations lack is context; i.e they treat this exhibition as though it were some aberration from the norm of Loyalism – it was not, it was exactly in line with and an expression of the backwardness, sectarianism, right-wing racism, homophobia and general phobia that is the very essence of Loyalism.

BACKGROUND OF LOYALISM AND THE ORANGE ORDER IN IRELAND

The planters and settlers that English1 colonialism installed on Irish soil were intended to control the indigenous population along with those “gone native” descendants of the Norman conquerors. A number of attempts were made to correct those Normans who had been ‘corrupted’ by the Irish and had become “more Irish than the Irish themselves” and one of the most infamous attempts through law, the Statutes of Killkenny in 13662 laid out a long list of behaviours expected of the “degenerate English”, mostly in terms of things they were to cease doing: in sum they were to cease integrating with the indigenous people in custom, language and law.

Outside of the Pale3, the cities, such attempts failed in the main and the next big effort was the Plantations. Using the failure of the Norman Irish and Gaelic lords to adapt to the Reformation, now an English state religion, their lands were confiscated and parcelled out to big landlords who then rented them out to smaller landlords and small-holders – and none of those were to be Irish. In fact, they were required to be English-speaking, Protestant in religion and to build their towns and important buildings as strongholds4. And not to even employ native Irish, in case these should corrupt the settlements from within.

The intentions of the Plantations were made quite clear and the settlers were, from the outset to be a means for a tiny minority of feudal and financier elites to control and exploit the vast majority indigenous population through the use of a middle stratum which was to be separate from and considered superior to natives in religion, culture, custom, landholding, legal rights – and allegiance.

These plantations met with mixed success – one of the problems being the scarcity of labour against a prohibition to employ the natives – but the problem of a conquered but not reconciled native majority remained, even after its cultural, legal, political and military leadership had been eliminated. And then a section of the settlers themselves, many descendants of Cromwellian conquerors and their supporters, began to have aspirations to control their own markets. They attempted to expand the Irish Parliament – then open only to adherents of the State religion, the Anglican communion — to include representation from the larger group of dissenting Protestant sects5 and of the huge majority of Irish Catholics.

The attempt, under the leadership of the moderate and ultimately Crown-loyal Henry Grattan failed, through a mixture of sectarianism, fear of being eventually dispossessed of their stolen lands – and outright Crown bribery. The most determined of the Protestant patriots then turned to revolution and led the United Irishmen in the uprisings of 1798 and 1803, with a credo of unity for an independent and republican Ireland, regardless of religion6.

CREATION OF THE ORANGE ORDER

But the British ruling elite saw which way the wind was blowing, foreboding its overthrow in Ireland if its garrison population joined with the majority and, as well as making military and spying preparations, the British took important ideological and social action.

Created in 1795 as what might be seen today as a kind of independent Ku Klux Klan organisation to keep down the ‘uppitty native niggers’7, the Orange Order quickly became (as the Klan did in some areas too) a police force on its own dissidents. And, as the Klan enjoyed the tacit support of the patrician Southern US elite, the Orange Order has been supported by the settler elite in Ireland from its inception. This was formalised with the Order’s central control over all previously independent lodges in 1798, the year of the first United Irish uprising.

After the defeat of the United Irish uprisings, the Order became an active persecutor of any sign of resistance not only among the native Irish majority, the Catholics but also – and in some areas chiefly – a hunting down of any signs of Protestant allegiance to the United Irish or other ‘suspect’ behavour such as tolerance of Catholics. Those Protestant followers of “Unitedism” that did not emigrate to the USA and Canada had to keep their heads down or face the consequences, as did Roddy McCorley, hanged on Toombridge in Co. Antrim on 28th February 1800.

March 1995: Two future First Ministers of the colonial statelet on the sectarian Orange march along the Garvaghy Road: David Trimble (left), First Minister from 1998 to 2002, and the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) from 1995 to 2005; Ian Paisley (right), leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) from 1971 to 2008 and First Minister from 2007 to 2008. (Sourced: Irish News)

REACTIONARY IN INSPIRATION AND TRADITION

The Orange Order drew its colour and other visual paraphernalia in association with William of Orange (1650 – 1702), who was crowned King William III by the British Parliament, the forces of which, along with his own Dutch ones, he led in the British civil war against those of King James II of England and the latter’s Irish and French allies. Orange was the colour of the Dutch royal family of Orange-Nasseau and therefore of the royalist party in Holland, in opposition to the republican party there8.

Following his defeat of the Jacobite forces in Ireland William III brought in the Penal Laws, the body of Anglican supremacy and anti-Catholic legislation which were to survive in greater or lesser form from 1695 to 1829.

Loyalists celebrate annually with sectarian triumphalist parades in the Six Counties the victory of the Williamite forces at the Battle of the Boyne on July 12th 16909. Loyalists imagine the Boyne victory was of the Protestant religion over Catholic “Papism”, unaware that the victory was celebrated by special mass in the Vatican and in some other Catholic cities. The Jacobite war in Ireland was part of the Nine Years’ War in Europe and forces of Protestant principalities and kingdoms could be found on either side, as could those of Catholic persuasion.

Loyalists attacking their own colonial police for eventually, in 2002, impeding their “right” to march in triumphalist sectarianism around Drumcree and to harass and terrify children attending a nearby Catholic school. (Sourced: Belfast Telegraph)

Their unequivocal message to their non-unionist neighbours is “This is our place, not yours. If you want to live here, accept what we give you and keep your heads down.” This fostered sectarianism has penetrated even trade unions, ensuring that wages and social conditions in the Six Counties have been the worst in the whole of the UK.

Mickey Hart and daughter Michaela celebrating the Gaelic football 2008 All-Ireland victory of Tyrone over Kerry (Sourced: Internet).

WHY THE LOYALIST MOCKERY OF THIS MURDER?

The video which directed such recent public attention on the behaviour of some Loyalists was of a song sung communally in which the lyrics mocked the murder of Michaela McAreavey who apparently surprised a thief in her Mauritius hotel room on 11th May. Probably not a single person celebrating that murder knew the woman or had any reason to hate her for anything she had done. What they knew was that she was the daughter of Micky Harte and that he was the manager of the Tyrone County Gaelic Football team10. Gaelic football11 is an Irish traditional sport and, since Loyalists eschew anything knowingly Gaelic, Harte is also probably of Catholic background; therefore almost certainly would have been his daughter Michaela too. Incredible though it may seem to many, that was enough to inspire that outpouring of hatred – a hatred that is always and has always been there in Loyalism.

The scene in the Orange Hall with Loyalists singing in mockery of the murder of Michaela McAreavey (Sourced: Internet)

It seems clear that the song, the lyrics with which much of the audience in the video seem familiar, was sung in the Orange Hall in Dundonald12, Co. Down which, like Tyrone, is one of the Six Counties currently forming the British colony in Ireland.

According to media reports, a spokesman for the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland criticised the video and also confirmed that an investigation would now take place. The video currently circulating on social media relating to the murder of Michaela McAreavey is utterly abhorrent and the Orange Institution condemns the content without reservation,” a statement read. The behaviour of those involved and their actions have no place in our society and certainly do not reflect the ethos of our organisation.”

On the contrary, as people who live in or near areas where the Orange Order holds sway will know, the behaviour exactly “reflects the ethos of the organisation” and of the general ideology of Loyalism.

Dundonald Orange Hall photo on its FB page (Sourced: Internet)

The central ideology of the Orange Order has always been not only a phobic hatred of Catholics but also of anything that might smell of egalitarianism, equality or progressive social ideas. It and its adherents for generations have held triumphalist sectarian marches deliberately routed to march through predominantly Catholic residential areas and past Catholic churches, these marches escorted by the sectarian colonial gendarmerie13, often forced through against local opposition.

For decades, the Orange Order and Loyalism in general opposed equal treatment and civil rights for Catholics in terms of employment, housing, franchise, education and law. That breeding ground gave rise to the Loyalist terror murder squads, operating for decades in conjunction with colonial police and British Army14.

True to its reactionary origins, the Orange Order and Loyalism in general have a strong emotional attachment to British Royalty and to an ethos of British Empire and colonialism. But Loyalism has also opposed all progressive social innovations and legislation, even those emanating from its supposedly ideological homeland, the rest of the UK and, in many cases delayed its implementation in the colony for years15.

Loyalism has been a sectarian influence in the game of soccer not only in Ireland but in Britain, with a triple alliance of sectarianism and racism between fans of football clubs Linfield, Rangers and Chelsea.16 The racism and reactionary ideology of “Hillbillies17” in the USA are also attributed to origins in Irish Loyalism.

Loyalism has also been characterised by racist attitudes and attacks on ethnic minorities in parts of the Six Counties independently of religion. Loyalism lines up to oppose anything they feel that is supported by the hated “taigues” or “Fenians” (their codewords for Catholics), for e.g Palestinians, Basque nationalists, inquiries into killings by the British Army ….

Despite the scrambling of Unionism – the Orange Order, politicians, Linfield FC management — to disassociate itself from the disgusting exhibition of anti-Irish and anti-Catholic hatred expressed in their ‘humorous’ mocking of the murder of a young woman, the song and video were a completely cogent expression of Loyalism, the social prop of Unionism. They were a true reflection of the history and underlying ethos of the Orange Order and of the sectarian statelet created by the British ruling class as a garrison and permanent foothold in Ireland.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1Later one can talk of British colonialism and imperialism but in the beginning it was the English feudal and financier classes that set out to conquer their neighbours in Britain and across the sea in Ireland. The Crown was always primarily the English Crown, even when it became also formally that of Scotland and, later, of Ireland.

2i.e not even two centuries after the Norman invasion in 1169.

3The area of administration of the occupation, originally a fortified area with Dublin Castle at its centre.

4One can still see the pattern of settler towns with the buildings constructed around a square or “diamond” becoming easily converted into the walls of a fort, the main roads leading in and out fairly easily barricaded even with carts and waggons. Native Irish towns had no such construction, often running along a street or gathered around a crossroads, river bank, port etc.

5In particular the Presbyterians but also Methodists, Unitarians, “Quakers” (Society of Friends) and others.

6The unity of “Protestant (i.e Anglican), Catholic and Dissenter”.

7“Uppitty niggers” was a racist white term in the USA to describe Americans of African descent who were unwilling to be treated as second-class citizens or even worse. For such people to become thought of as “uppitty” frequently meant a range of punishments that included beating, jail and lynching. The Ku Klux Klan is a white Protestant supremacist and extremely right-wing organisation in the USA, formed after the defeat of the Confederacy and understood as having three distinct phases, the last one being also current. Despite a history of using extreme violence, it is not banned in the USA.

8Such as the Patriots of 1785 (https://ern.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patriottentijd).

9July 1st according to the old-style calendar.

10 Mickey Harte (born 1952) is a Gaelic football manager from County Tyrone, Ireland who currently manages the Louth county team, having managed the Tyrone county team from 2002 and, at his resignation in 2020, was the longest-serving manager then active with the same team in inter-county competition.

11Gaelic football is one of four traditional sports regulated by the Gaelic Athletic Association/ Cumann Lúthchleas na hÉireann, with 2,200 clubs spread over all of Ireland and, with high community involvement is the largest amateur sporting association in the world

12Their FB page is currently down.

13Armed police force, formerly the Royal Irish Constabulary, later the Royal Ulster Constabulary, currently “Police Force of Northern Ireland.”

14See for example Lethal Allies – British collusion in Ireland (2013) by Anne Cadwaller. Loyalists killed the most people in one day during the 30 years’ war with the Dublin & Monaghan Bombings, 17 May 1974. Despite their self-promotion as fighters against the IRA, nearly all of their victims have been unarmed civilians, often randomly-chosen in Catholic residential areas.

15For example, the 1967 Sexual Offences Act only applied to England and Wales – it was resisted in Scotland and the Six Counties colony. Decriminalisation reached Scotland in 1980 and, after a complaint to the European Court of Justice and a judgement against the statelet in 1981, homosexuality in private was finally decriminalised in the Six Counties the following year – 15 years after its original decriminalisation in England. Similarly with lesbian and gay rights to civil marriage, introduced in England and Wales in 2013; in Scotland in 2014 but couples in the Six Counties had to wait until 2020, seven years after its introduction in England.

16Linfield FC is based in south Belfast in the British colony, Rangers FC in Glasgow and Chelsea FC in SW London. But there are also sectarian divisions among fans such as those of Rangers/ Celtic to be found also in Edinburgh between and Hibernian and Hearts (Midlothian) clubs and even between Everton and Liverpool as well as Manchester City and Manchester United.

17As in “Billies”, i.e followers of King Billy (William of Orange) who are living in the hills.

SOURCES & FURTHER READING

Mass media report: https://www.thejournal.ie/michaela-mcareavey-video-song-criticised-northern-ireland-5782011-Jun2022/

The Ku Klux Klan: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ku_Klux_Klan

Social equality in the Six Counties:

https://www.bl.uk/lgbtq-histories/lgbtq-timeline

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/northern-ireland-in-dark-ages-on-equality-laws-commissioner-tells-mps-40967176.html

BRITISH STATE TERROR-BOMBING OF DUBLIN COMMEMORATED

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 4 mins.)

The 1974 British Intelligence and Loyalist bombing of Dublin and Monaghan towns, with the highest number of people killed in one day during the 30 Years’ War, was commemorated in Dublin today at the Memorial in Talbot Street, near the corner with Amiens Street. The commemoration, organised by the perennial Justice for the Forgotten campaign, was addressed by the Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) and elected representatives of Dublin and Monaghan municipalities. A poet and two musicians performed, wreaths were laid and one former politician gave a strong oration highly critical of the Irish, British colonial and British authorities.

On 17th May 1974, around the work-leaving and shopping-ending busy time of 5.30pm, three car bombs exploded within minutes of each other in the centre of Dublin. The car bombs had been parked in the mainly working and lower-middle class sParnell Street, Talbot Street, and South Leinster Street (as distinct from such streets as Henry, Grafton or Dawson streets, for example). Twenty-six people were killed in Dublin. To cover their way back across the British border, another car-bomb was set off in Monaghan Town, killing another seven. Even excluding a full-term unborn child, the total death toll was 33, the highest number killed in any one day of the three decades of conflict. Around 300 were injured.

Suspicion should naturally fall in the first place on the British Loyalists, since they had been planting bombs in Dublin since 1969 and in 1972 and 1973 their bombs had killed Dublin public transport workers. But the authorities had pretended to believe that the IRA was responsible for the 1972 bombing and used the panic around it to steamroll repressive political legislation through the Dáil, thereby setting up the no-jury Special Criminal Courts to sent Irish Republicans to jail.

However, it is believed that Irish Army Intelligence and Garda Intelligence were quickly aware that the Dublin and Monaghan bombers had in fact been Loyalists of the Ulster Volunteer Force and even knew the names of a number of them.

The Irish parliament‘s Joint Committee on Justicecalled the attacks an act of international terrorism involving British state forces.The month before the bombings, the British government had lifted the UVF’s status as a proscribed organisation.

No one has ever been charged with the bombings. A campaign by the victims’ families led to an Irish government inquiry under Justice Henry Barron. His 2003 report criticised the Garda Síochána‘s investigation and said the investigators stopped their work prematurely. It also criticised the Fine Gael/Labour government of the time for its inaction and lack of interest in the bombings. The report said it was likely that British security force personnel or MI5 intelligence was involved but had insufficient evidence of higher-level involvement.” (Wikipedia)

Incredibly, despite long-standing allegations of collusion between the colonial police, the RUC (now the PSNI) and Loyalists, the Gardaí sent the car-bomb remnants to the RUC for analysis. Shortly after that, Ned Garvey rose from the Deputy position to Gárda Commissioner and met with a British secret agent in his office – without informing his superiors. When the agent began to blow the whistle on his past activities he exposed Garvey as a British “asset” – Garvey of course denied it but had to admit he had indeed met clandestinely with the agent in his office. When the Fianna Fáil goverment came in, they sacked Garvey as “not having confidence” in him but did it so baldly and outside established procedures that Garvey was able to take the Government to court, have his pension secured and have damages awarded to him!

BRITISH POLICY OF COLLUSION WITH LOYALIST MURDER GANGS

Most experts have been clear that construction of the type of bomb used was beyond the capability of the Loyalists at that time and, in any case, it is clear that British Intelligence and military were working with Loyalist gangs, as were the RUC (some of whom were members of the gangs) and RUC Special Branch. In addition there were reports of British accents in connection with suspects.

Collusion of that type had been openly advocated by a British military expert on counter-insurgency, Major (later Brigadier) Frank Kitson, for example in his “Gangs and Counter-gangs” (1960), based on his experiences in fighting the Kenyan insurgency for national liberation.

Frank Kitson (now Brigadier) in 1971 (Photo source: Internet)

Brigadier Frank Kitson was operational commander of the occupation forces in the British colony from 1970-’72 and left a substantial legacy of military assassinations and collusion with Loyalist murder gangs, along with other “dirty war” operations before he went on to lecture at British military training college.

….. the de Silva Report (2013) on collusion with loyalist paramilitaries led to two further ‘unconditional’ British apologies for the behaviour of its security forces in Northern Ireland. In November 2013, a BBC ‘Panorama’ investigation into British counterinsurgency in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s revealed that members of a special covert operations unit known as the Military Reaction Force (MRF) admitted to the murder of suspects and unarmed Catholic civilians. These admissions by the state or its agents confirm previous claims by critics dating back many decades. Such abuses were not merely low-level tactical excesses by undisciplined and racist troops but were institutional, systematic, and approved or covered up at the highest levels ….”1

The British State has admitted it has secret papers relating to this atrocity but has refused to hand over copies to successive Irish goverments.

THE LARGEST MASS MURDER IN THE HISTORY OF THE STATE”

Maureen O’Sullivan, ex-TD (Member of Irish Parliament) for the local area gave the main oration for the Justice for the Forgotten Campaign and called the bombing “the largest mass murder in the history of the State”. She went on to castigate successive governments and most of the political class for their lack of interest in pursuing the planners and perpetrators of the massacre over the years. In her repeated reference to their “ignorance”, O’Sullivan inferred that the legislators’ lack of interest was such that they could not even be bothered to inform themselves of the known facts.

Maureen O’Sullivan castigating the authorities (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

In addition to the Taoiseach, the Ard-Mhaora of Dublin and Cathaoirleach of Monaghan Council spoke and a Catholic priest delivered a short blessing. The event was chaired throughout by a representative of the Justice for the Forgotten campaign group.

Rachael O’Hegarty introduced and recited one of her collection of poems about the victims, this one about Maureen Shields who was 44 years of age when she was killed in Talbot Street.

Rachael O’Hegarty speaking and reciting her poem (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Cormac Breatnach and Eoin Dillon on whistles played Sí Beag, Sí Mór and later Dillon playing the lament known as Táimse I Mo Chodhladh (I Am Asleep), accompanied by Breatnach on whistle, concluded the event.

Cormac Breatnach and Eoin Dillon on whistles (Photo: Rebel Breeze)
Eoin Dillon on uileann pipes and Cormac Breatnach on whistle (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

THE BOMBINGS EXPOSED THE NEO-COLONIAL NATURE OF THE IRISH CAPITALIST CLASS

In summary, a foreign power — which is also occupying by force one-sixth of Ireland — carried out a number of terrorist attacks in the capital city of the Irish State culminating in a massacre intended to cause maximum loss of life and limb – “the largest mass murder in the history of the Irish State”, as Maureen O’Sullivan correctly characterised it.

The Irish ruling elite failed to stop the escalating attacks and turned the investigation of the massacre into a farce. The Irish ruling elite failed to prevent the foreign power subverting the highest rank of its police force (and no doubt other levels in other areas).

Section of the crowd at the commemoration, the Taoiseach, Mícheál Martin speaking (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The Irish ruling elite failed to take a full range of diplomatic and legal action to condemn the UK, the foreign power over its actions and failure to respond to requests for release of relevant secret papers. The ruling elite continues in that failure today as can be read into the weak speeches of Government Ministers at this ceremony – this time by the Taoiseach and last time the Minister for Justice.

No self-respecting elite or ruling class of any independent state would permit such violations of the security of its capital city and citizens without taking resolute and persistent action. The Irish ruling class is a neo-colonial capitalist class, undeserving even within capitalist terms to be in charge of any Irish state.

The north side of the Memorial (Photo: Rebel Breeze)
The south side of the Memorial (Photo: Rebel Breeze)
The clock on the tower of Connolly (formerly Amiens Street) Station — British soldiers fired a machine gun from that tower at Irish insurgents in 1916. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

FOOTNOTES

SOURCES & USEFUL LINKS

Justice for the Forgotten campaign: http://www.dublinmonaghanbombings.org/home/

Media reports of commemoration:

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/dublin-and-monaghan-bombing-failed-in-its-objective-says-taoiseach-1.4880954

https://www.lmfm.ie/news/lmfm-news/event-takes-place-to-commemorate-dublin-and-monaghan-bombings/

Taoiseach Mícheál Martin speech: https://www.gov.ie/en/speech/3b971-speech-by-the-taoiseach-micheal-martin-td-at-the-48th-anniversary-commemoration-service-for-the-victims-and-families-of-the-dublinmonaghan-bombings/

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/politics/taoiseach-criticises-british-government-inaction-on-48th-anniversary-of-dublin-and-monaghan-bombings-41658511.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dublin_and_Monaghan_bombings#Allegations_of_British_Government_involvement

British military collusion with Loyalist paramilitaries: https://www.historyireland.com/frank-kitson-northern-ireland-british-way-counterinsurgency/

Kitson tactics: https://www.kalasnyikov.hu/dokumentumok/frank-kitson-gangs-countergangs.pdf

1https://www.historyireland.com/frank-kitson-northern-ireland-british-way-counterinsurgency/

DEATH OF A RETIRED WARRIOR

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 12 mins.)

In mid-April (2022) Gardaí, the police force of the Irish State, broke down the door of Mick Plunkett’s home. They would not have been able to claim he resisted their entry or arrest (the usual explanation for injuries on the detained individual) – he was already dead. To be fair to them, this time they were forcing entry in response to concerns from people that Plunkett had not been seen and wasn’t answering calls. Still, Mick Plunkett’s door had been forced by police a number of times before – by the Special Branch, at least once by the Garda ‘Heavy Gang’ and another time by the special ‘anti-terrorist’ Paris police.

Mick was born into a working class family of ten siblings in Dún Laoghaire, in Kelly’s Avenue in the small area of council houses built for rent to the seaward side of the town’s main road (without however overlooking the sea itself, a view reserved for the big houses and hotels, later somewhat ruined by the DART wires and towers). Dún Laoghaire1, long-imagined as a area in which only the affluent or at least comfortably-off lived, nevertheless contained such council (formerly ‘Corporation”) houses in the nearby bottom of York Road, also Cross Avenue, Glasthule, Carriglee Gardens, Monkstown Farm and Sallynoggin areas.

As many of that era, especially among manual workers, Mick’s father died relatively young which left his widow Lilly to care for ten children with all siblings able to work and find employment contributing to the care of the rest.

Mick followed his father Oliver into a skilled manual worker trade, trained and qualified as a gas fitter-plumber and, by reputation, a good one; later he would often carry out repair jobs for neighbours free of charge or in exchange for fish caught nearby or by trawlers that docked in the harbour. “We saw and ate fish that many other people never saw,” said one of his sisters at his funeral reception in the evening.

Amidst the student and youth upsurge of the 1960s around the world, of which Ireland was also a part, many Irish youth of the time became rapidly politicised. The Vietnam War, Black struggles in the USA and South Africa, Civil Rights in the British colony, lack of sufficient housing in the Irish state (just as today!) were issues that engaged lively interest and which to people like Plunkett, called for solidarity and, in Ireland, direct action. At his funeral, Niall Leonach2, formerly of the IRSP, related how Plunkett, at the age of 17, had resisted the neglect of the young apprentices by his union and won improvements by organising a sit-in at the union’s office.

April 1991 article Evening Mail on conditions in the Glasthule Housing Estate (Source image: CATU)

HOUSING AND HISTORY

The Dublin and Bray Housing Action Committees were campaigning for an end to slums and affordable rental housing around the city and Dún Laoghaire soon had its own Housing Action Committee too. Nial Leonach, former comrade of Plunkett’s told the mourners at Mount Jerome that a large public housing building program was initiated as a result of this campaigning, a program that not only replaced derelict inner city tenements but created large new housing areas such as that in Ballybrack in south county Dublin.

The Housing Action campaigns not only squatted homeless families, they also fought evictions, held marches and public meetings. And in at least one case, became involved in a struggle for historical building conservation.

A Dún Laoghaire IRSP public agitation and information post pictured in the IRSP’S Newspaper (Source image: CATU).

The Dún Laoghaire group joined with conservationists wishing to save Frescati House, a large derelict building on acreage of the property planned by Roches Stores to demolish and convert into a shopping centre. The original building dated from 1739 but had been purchased by the largest landowning family in Ireland at the time, the Fitzgeralds and had wings added and the grounds planted with exotic shrubs. The house had been the childhood residence and favoured retreat of Edward Fitzgerald3, a much-loved leader of the first Irish Republican revolutionary movement, the United Irishmen, as late as 1797, the year before their Rising.

The figures heading the campaign were not only conservationists but fairly conservative too (Desmond Fitzgerald, son of a father of the same name who was Minister in a number of Fine Gael governments, was its chairperson). But it was of course the activist supporters of the DHAC who occupied the building in protest at plans for demolition and were subjected to a baton-wielding police attack to evict them.4

Niall Leonach told the crowd in the Mount Jerome chapel that the criminal charges against the arrested were serious but that as a result of Plunkett’s stratagem of issuing a subpoena for Liam Cosgrave5 to appear as witness for their defence, for the politician had been part of the conservation campaign, the more serious charges were dropped and, on the lesser ones, the penalties were lower-scale fines.

Much of DHAC soon became the Markievicz Cumann of Sinn Féin6, then a very socialist Irish Republican party, particularly in Dublin. The Civil Rights campaign in the British colony of the Six Counties became a focus for activity and Leonach told his audience that Plunkett had been particularly affected by the colonial police killing of a child by indiscriminate fire from machine-guns at a nationalist housing estate, the Divis Flats.

In 1969 the IRA, the military wing of Sinn Féin, was caught unprepared and largely unarmed to face the pogroms in the British colony, which was one of the reasons for the 1970 split in the party, out of which emerged the Provisional IRA and Provisional Sinn Féin.

Plunkett and others in the Markievicz Cumann, the three Breatnach brothers for example7, viewing the Provos as socially conservative, remained in what was now known as “Official Sinn Féin” but tried to change their party’s direction. Failing in that, they split, along with others such as the charismatic Séamus Costello8 and formed the Irish Republican Socialist Party in 1974.

It seems clear that the ruling elite of the Irish State viewed the IRSP and the associated INLA as a threat and decided to go beyond the standard and regular harassment, intimidation and petty and medium arrests9 with which they had been treating all Irish Republicans and some socialist activists.

FRAMED IN DUBLIN AND IN PARIS

On 31st March 1976 the Cork-Dublin mail train was stopped near Sallins, Co. Kildare and around £200,00010 was netted by armed men. The State decided to believe, at least officially that the operation had been carried out by the INLA and armed police raided the homes of 40 members of the IRSP and their families. The Gardaí beat up their victims and obtained “confessions” from a number of them – however, some who gave self-incriminating statements could not have been present and their prosecutions were dropped.11 Eventually, a trial in the political Special Criminal Court proceeded against Plunkett and another three IRSP members: Osgur Breatnach, Nicky Kelly and Brian McNally.

Poster supporting the four framed and on trial for the Sallins Mail Train Robbery, depicting Mick Plunkett on far right of images. (Source image: Internet)

After many abuses of the legal system and the longest judicial procedure in the State, three of the four were convicted on the basis of their tortured “confessions” which they had denied. Forensic “evidence” was provided against the only one who had refused to sign a “confession” – an alleged lock of Plunkett’s hair12 was claimed to have been found at the scene of the robbery; that was insufficient and Plunkett was finally discharged. The others were released after years of campaigning13 and were paid a financial compensation but an official enquiry into the arrests, trials and convictions was never held and currently a campaign for such is underway.14.

Mick Plunkett remained politically active but after his arrest in the vicinity of an armed training camp was charged with “membership” and scheduled to appear before the Special Criminal Court. Plunkett, knowing the chances of acquittal in “the Special” were next to nil, decamped to France.

In Paris he and Mary Reid, a poet-activist and also formerly of the IRSP, shared accommodation. In the summer of 1982, their door was kicked down by armed police of the new special “anti-terrorist” French unit. Both were arrested, along with another Irishman Stephen King and charged with possession of automatic weapons and explosives. This followed the bombing of a delicatessen in the Jewish quarter of the city which was later revealed to have had police complicity.

Plunkett, Reid and King were accused of being part of an Irish-Palestinian cell, a figment of the special unit’s imagination. All three denied the charges and the accusation and the existence of such a cell, insisting that if any weapons and explosives had been found in their accommodation, it had been planted there by the police. Niall Leonach commented to the mourners in Mount Jerome that Plunkett had gone from being involved in the greatest miscarriage of justice in the Irish state to being accused in the greatest miscarriage of justice in the French State’s modern history.

Fortunately for the Irish accused, the special police unit was in serious conflict with the main police force and that helped bring to public view the fact that the armaments had, indeed, been planted on the accused by the “anti-terrorist” police unit. All three were released after nine months in jail and Mary Reid’s nine-year-old son Cathal had been taken into care. The whole case was by then such as to convince the Irish state authorities to refrain from severely embarrassing their French counterparts by requesting Plunkett’s extradition to face his charges in the Special Criminal Court.

FRANCE – OCTOBER 05: Michael Plunkett, Mary Reid, Stephen King in Vincennes, France on October 05th , 1983. (Photo by Eric BOUVET/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images). Note poster of the Sallins Trial behind them.

Working in London at the time, I read the news about the arrests of Irish political activists in Paris and was shocked to see names I recognised. I remembered the last time I had seen Mick; I had been back in Dún Laoghaire on holiday and with four of my brothers we set off in Mick’s brother Jimmy’s rowing boat from a pier, Mick himself in it too. We had fishing rods and lines and began to fish as we cleared the harbour. Hours later as the sun dropped to the west, we turned back with our varied catch. Once inside the harbour it was quite dark and a large ship entering the harbour appeared to be bearing down on us and we couldn’t find our flashlight. The incident provided more excitement than we had wished for but seemed to give extra taste to the pints in the local pub afterwards.

Mick found happiness for a time with Tracy out of which union came their daughter Natacha. After the Good Friday Agreement Mick felt safe to returned to Ireland but Tracy remained in Paris with their daughter, Natascha visiting him and his extended family by arrangement on occasion. Plunkett seemed to have retired from political activity and had also withdrawn from social contact with many of his former contacts. His health deteriorated significantly but nevertheless his death came as something of a shock to many.

Mick Plunkett’s coffin at the funeral parlour, officiated by his daughter Natacha. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Many came to pay their respects at the funeral parlour where his coffin lay and to watch the wonderful collection of photos collected by his ex-partner, Tracy. His daughter Natacha was there to receive condolences and to offer shots of Irish whisky over the coffin (where tobacco roll-ups were also placed irreverently on the crucifix attached to the woodwork – Mick was reportedly an atheist). Natacha was also at the cremation service in Mount Jerome cemetery with her mother Tracy, where Plunkett’s coffin was covered in the blue version of the Starry Plough flag15 before being removed from the hearse, carried by relations and with the Seamus Costello Memorial Committee, in uniform and white gloves, providing a small ceremonial guard of honour.

Mick’s nephew Karl chaired the event and in turn called Jennifer Holland to give a short talk on Mick and his times followed by Niall Leonach, former General Secretary of the IRSP and close comrade of Plunkett’s, for a longer oration on Mick’s background and activism.

Karl provided many personal anecdotes from his association with his uncle and from within family stories, many of them amusing and some hilarious. He did not however avoid the political and recounted that many of them were kept unaware of the reasons for Mick’s absence and his apparent inability to travel back to Ireland even to visit. It was by going through some papers in his mother’s room that he came across the IRSP pamphlet on the Sallins case and was shocked; confronting his mother, the story began to be told.16

Recollecting the family’s trip to Paris to present two children for baptism in Notre Dame Cathedral which Mick attended, Karl spoke about their warm reception there and being touur-guided around by Plunkett, who had acquainted himself with much of the city’s history. One wonders whether that included the “Wall of the Communards” where in 1871, revolutionaries of the Paris Commune were summarily executed by French firing squads under the command of Marshall Patrice McMahon, descendant of Irish “Wild Geese” refugees from Williamite-controlled Ireland. Plunkett would hardly have been unaware of that history and its irony for the Irish.

The hearse carrying Mick Plunkett’s coffin arrives at Mt. Jerome cemetery, escorted by guard of honour supplied by the Seamus Costello Memorial Committee (the photo is from their FB page).

SOCIAL, SONG AND FLAG

Later that evening in a large reserved section of the Rochestown Lodge Hotel (formerly the Victor Hotel) just above the large Sallynoggin housing estate, mourners and celebrants gathered to eat, drink and talk. Some had not seen one another for decades. Among the many reminiscences of the social and music scene in Dún Laoghaire in the later decades of the last century, including the remark that “our harbour is a marina now”, one of Mick’s sisters spoke of raids by the Special Branch on their family home, where children would be ordered or pulled out of bed and the mattresses and beds tipped over, allegedly searching for weapons.

Strangely perhaps, there was no performance of musicians or singers or even sing-alongs at the event, though the traditional song The Parting Glass was sung to Plunkett’s daughter Natacha and a small unexpecting audience on the covered patio outside. Later inside, by which time some had left and following a query about a ceramic badge of the Starry Plough worn by one those remaining, a whole length of the original green-and-gold version of the flag was unfurled, causing much interest and queues forming asking to be photographed behind it. And a little later, a man sang Patrick Galvin’s Where Is Our James Connolly? to much applause.

Securing the Starry Plough flag to the coffin on the shoulders of relatives of Mick Plunkett, about to be carried into Mt. Jerome’s chapel for a non-religious remembrance event. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

This was fitting for as the mourners had been reminded in Mount Jerome, Connolly17 had been a great inspiration to Mick Plunkett’s political activism and to the IRSP too. But not only that, for a building in Dublin city centre, formerly a hostel but empty for many years and very recently occupied by socialist Republicans in Dublin had been named Connolly House and had that very day witnessed a rally held outside it to resist a threatened Garda operation to evict the occupants.

It seemed to me that something other than the remembrance of a retired fighter alone had happened at the Plunkett memorial events, something more than the appropriate marker of a past and finished period in Irish history, as had been suggested by Holland in her oration. It seemed to me that the history of struggle in Ireland for national self-determination and social justice had to an extent been re-invoked, that it appeared to some extent as the ghost of struggles past but also as the gaining substance of struggles present and, in particular, yet to come. I think Mick would have been pleased and, in any case, in defiance of the declarations of Fukuyama and such idealogues, history is nowhere near finished or dead. As some have commented, it is not even past.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1A harbour town seven miles south of Dublin city centre, in Dublin County but administered by DL-Rathdown Council for some years now.

2Which I heard pronounced as “Lennox”.

3He is more usually referred to as “Lord Edward Fitzgerald” which, apart from being somewhat historically inaccurate, does him a service. He was a republican, renounced his title and his sister Lucy said of him some years after his death in prison that “He was a paddy and no more; he desired no other title than this.”

4The Wikipedia entry on Frescati House and the campaign makes no mention at all of this sit-in, Garda attack or the subsequent court cases, of which there is ample documentary evidence. Hopefully someone will undertake its appropriate updating.

5Liam Cosgrave was a Fine Gael politician, son of the Leader of the Irish parliamentary Opposition from 1965 to 19873 and Taoiseach (Prime Minister) from 1973 to 1977, W.T Cosgrave.

6The Sinn Féin party has gone through many metamorpheses, from being a reformist dual-monarchy party, to revolutionary republican to constitutionalist. Constance Markievicz was a socialist Republican who took part in the 1916 Rising as an officer in the Irish Citizen Army – the name of a socialist revolutionary woman chosen for the cumann (‘association’, a branch of the SF party at the time) indicated an inclination towards revolution, feminism and socialism.

7Osgur, Caoilte and Oisín.

8Séamus Costello (b. 1939) was murdered by the Official IRA in Dublin on 5th October 1977.

9An example of the medium-seriousness was the charge of “membership of an illegal organisation” under the Amendment to the Offences Against the State Act, introduced in 1972 which required only the unsupported word of a Garda officer at rank of superintendent or above for conviction and a virtually automatic jail sentence of one to two years.

10€237,389.81 –without taking into account inflation — for today’s value

11Notably John Fitzpatrick, who years later publicly challenged the State to charge him with the offence to which he had “confessed” – there was no response.

12If it had been Plunkett’s hair, it had to have been planted by the Heavy Gang, since Mick had been nowhere near that scene and, in fact, the robbery had been carried out by the Provisional IRA. In addition, without the later development of DNA testing, all a sample of hair could tell, apart from its natural colour, was the blood-type of its owner.

13Some of those involved at the time, whether as victims or as campaigners, were present at some of the funeral events too, including Osgur Breatnach, Nicky Kelly, Caoilte and Peetera Schilders-Bhreatnach.

14https://sallinsinquirynow.ie/

15The flag with a design in the shape of the constellation known as Ursa Mayor was of the Irish Citizen Army, formed to defend the workers during the strike and 8-month lockout of 1913 and later fought in the 1916 Rising. Originally the design was of the constellation in white or silver overlaid by the depiction of a plough in gold, with sword as the plough-share and all on a green background. A later version was the plain blue one with Ursa Mayor outlined in white stars. That version was the one in use by the short-lived Republican Congress of the 1930s and was for many years later, probably up to the end of the century, the main one displayed and therefore familiar to Republicans and socialists (even for years flown by the Irish Labour Party) but has now been largely supplanted by the original green version.

16This is not at all an unusual experience in Ireland and, whether by desire to protect the young, pain of reminiscence or even disapproval, much of our history has been concealed from generations for a time or even completely lost.

17James Connolly, revolutionary socialist, trade union organiser, historian, journalist, song-writer and one of the Seven Signatories of the 1916 Proclamation of Independence, was tried by British military court for his leading role in the Rising and executed by firing squad.

SOURCES & FURTHER READING

https://rip.ie/death-notice/michael-mick-plunkett-glasthule-dublin/494040

Edward Fitzgerald a republican: https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/praise-the-lord-and-pass-the-egalitarianism-1.1534895

Frescati House (with the curious omission at the time of access of the DHAC sit-in, police attack and subsequent trials): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frescati_House

Call for enquiry into the Sallins case: https://sallinsinquirynow.ie/

Civil and human rights criticism of the Special Criminal Court: https://www.iccl.ie/2022/international-call-for-end-to-special-criminal-court/

Mary Read & Paris frame-up: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Reid_(activist)
https://www.irishtimes.com/news/socialist-republican-and-poet-with-a-big-heart-1.349096
https://www.rte.ie/brainstorm/2020/0325/1126344-1982-irish-republicans-france-mitterrand-vincennes/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sallins_Train_robbery
Sallins frame-up: https://www.rsvplive.ie/news/irish-news/1976-sallins-robbery-saw-nicky-25971809
https://www.thewhistleblower.ie/booking
https://extra.ie/2022/01/17/news/irish-news/hunger-striker-nicky-kelly

UP LIKE A BIRD – a review

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 2 mins.)

He planned the spectacular helicopter escape from Dublin’s Mountjoy Jail and, a year later, planned another escape from there, blasting their way out with smuggled-in explosives. Before he began planning escapes, he operated early in his IRA career as commander of an armed robbery unit, ‘fund-raising’ for the Movement. But when he began robbing banks for himself and his family, the Movement sent assassins to kill him. Up Like a Bird is the story of that man, Brendan Hughes, nowhere near as celebrated as his other IRA namesake but certainly deserving of much more fame than he has received to date.

Brendan Hughes with his book outside Mountjoy Jail (Image sourced: Phoenix Magazine)

Douglas Dalby’s handling of Hughes’ reminiscences, told in Hughes’ voice, is masterly. The book reads like a thriller, hard to put down; we are driven to turn the next page to see what will happen – even when, through history, we know the eventual outcome. We know, for example, that the helicopter escape was carried out and yet, as readers, we tense as Hughes does his investigations, tense tighter as he identifies the components of the plan, moan with frustration at a delay or last-minute hitch, hold our breaths as the action takes place.

The helicopter escape was carried out on 31st October 1973 and from the prison exercise yard three high-level IRA officers were flown to freedom: Chief of Staff Séamus Twomey and senior Volunteers JB O’Hagan and Kevin Mallon. The following year, on 18th August 1974, 19 prisoners escaped, blasting their way through a gate with a small amount of smuggled gelignite. Not only had Hughes planned that operation – he himself was leading the escapers.

INSIGHTS

Apart from the excitement in reading, the book gives us an insight into the world of IRA volunteers active in Dublin and surrounding areas in the 1970s – the ‘safe-houses’ and network of active supporters, the ‘fund-raising’, stolen getaway cars, false identification documents, high-level awareness of the hunted, carrying concealed weapons, the even better-armed police ….

The Mountjoy helicopter escape revealed something even more important and enduring – the cultural bedrock within the Irish state, the sharp division between the elite and the mass. Although the majority of politicians had voted in 1972 for repressive legislation against Republicans and special no-jury courts to sentence them, a song celebrating the escape reached No.1 in the Irish singles disc charts, selling 12,000 copies in the first week despite being banned by the national broadcaster, RTÉ! Composed by Sean McGinley from Castlefin, Co. Donegal and performed by the folk and ‘rebel song’ band The Wolfe Tones1, Up and Away (the Helicopter Song) became the most-played and most-purchased disc for four weeks until nudged out by Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody. It is tempting to think that if the escape had taken place a longer period before the approach of the festive season, that the recording might have remained at the top of the charts for months on end. The counterposing of the anger and embarrassment in elite circles, reflected in ranting of politicians, Garda sweeps and raids and media outrage on the one hand, with the delight and empathy at the lower levels revealed much of the tensions in Irish society and the opposing sympathies of different social classes.

The single that sold 12,000 copies in its first week, containing a jocular song celebrating the helicopter escape. (Image sourced: Internet)

Hughes was a maverick, revelling in the description and though for much of his career that was of value to the Provos, there came a time when it ceased to be so. A guerrilla army must have discipline, of course but it also needs volunteers who can quickly assess a situation and seize the initiative, without referring back to the command structure. The balance between both requirements must be very hard to strike — for individuals as well as for the organisation.

When he and other such activists fell out with their leaderships or “went solo”, they were shunned or worse. In Hughes’ final spell in Mountjoy jail, he was on the “non-aligned” wing of the jail, a Republican prisoner but not under Republican leadership control.

ISOLATION

Hughes says that assassins were sent to kill him – he stayed low and carried a loaded .44 Magnum. The leadership of the Republican movement does not always shoot or beat up its dissidents – more usually, it seeks to isolate them. Friends, neighbours, former comrades and even relatives will be advised to shun those no longer welcome, they and their families.

The family feeling, the communal solidarity in the movement becomes its opposite when the leadership brands its pariahs.

Cover of the book (Image credit: Siopa Gaeilge)

Hughes feels he was betrayed to the political police, the Special Branch of the Irish State. But what he says he felt the worst was the treatment of his family while he was in jail. No space on a Republican prison visitor communal transport was made available to his wife and children and cars containing former friends and acquaintances would pass them at the side of the road, even in the rain.

It seems Hughes finds that unforgivable — and no wonder.

As a postscript, Hughes surprisingly declares his support for the Good Friday Agreement, the pacification process. He had been a man of action and, as he said himself, not one for thinking through ideology or politics. But it doesn’t take any great grasp of ideology or politics to see that today it’s more or less business as before in a partitioned Ireland occupied by a foreign power.

End.

UP LIKE A BIRD, Hughes, Brendan; Dalby, Douglas (2022)

FOOTNOTES

1Named after Theobald Wolfe Tone, a leader of Irish republican revolutionary organisation the United Irishmen, died in prison in 1798.

SOURCES

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

Dublin Easter Rising commemoration calls for neutrality and revolution

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

Speakers on Sunday 17th April 2022 at a 1916 Rising commemoration in Dublin called for defence of Irish neutrality between contending imperialist and capitalist states but also for revolution to end British colonial occupation and partition, in addition to general imperialist domination of Ireland. They called for a working class socialist republic and a revolution necessary to achieve it. The Proclamation of the Irish Republic (1916) was read to those assembled, as was the message of Patrick Pearse during the Rising and a dedication by James Connolly to the Irish Citizen Army (1915)1 and floral tributes of lilies were laid. The event also included the singing viva voce of songs relevant to the occasion.

Part of horizontal plaque at the location

MARCH, FLAGS, BANNERS

The event was organised by the Anti-Imperialist Action organisation and commenced with a march up a section of the Finglas Road which runs between both parts of the famous Glasnevin cemetery, before turning into the “St. Paul’s” section.2 The march was led by a colour party of two, dressed in black with white gloves bearing the Irish Tricolour and the green and gold Starry Plough.

Following behind in two columns were others with a variety of flags flying among them: Starry Plough3, Basque Ikurrina, Red Flag with golden hammer and sickle, flag of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. As they marched the short section of road, passing traffic beeped them in appreciation. The police of the Irish State, the Gardaí, were in attendance but did not interfere with the participants.

The procession in the road on the way to the Glasnevin St. Paul’s cemetery (part of the main Glasnevin Cemetery’s wall can be seen on the right with the top of O’Connell Tower visible behind it).

Two banners were also carried by participants, a No to NATO one of the AIA and another of the Dublin Committee of the Anti-Internment Committee of Ireland.

SPEECHES

Beginning in Irish and then changing to English, the Chairperson welcomed those in attendance and spoke of the reason for holding such commemorations but also putting this one, the sixth Easter Rising Commemoration organised by the young organisation, in the context of current events in Ireland and in the world.

Colour party and speaker

James Connolly in Ireland and Lenin in Russia had been quite clear about the correct attitude to imperialist war, the Chairperson said, which was to oppose it and if it went ahead to turn it into revolution; on Liberty Hall4 the banner had been hung declaring that “We serve neither King nor Kaiser”.

In the current war situation, some politicians in Ireland are trying to abandon the State’s official traditional stance of neutrality, which is why the AIA thought it important to promote the “No to NATO” message depicted on one of the banners present at the event. It is important for people to realise that, with the UK occupying a part of Ireland, a part of Ireland is already in NATO. Opinion polls have shown a majority in the state against joining NATO, he pointed out.

During this speech a helicopter passed by overhead.

The main speaker had been delayed in arriving and, putting aside his notes, spoke about the need for sacrifice, pointing out that those who took part in the Rising and in subsequent struggles had jobs or small businesses as well as families but they put themselves forward and made sacrifices. Although today we may not face death here, nevertheless sacrifices are called for, he said and though there is not a rising here today, it will come.

INTERNATIONALISM

The Chairperson of the event also pointed to the importance of relations of internationalist solidarity and alluded to the struggle of the Palestinian people with particular reference to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, also to the Basque people’s struggle. The AIA had sent a solidarity message to be read out at the Jardun organisation’s celebration of the Basque country’s national day, Aberri Eguna, noting that Easter Sunday had been chosen in emulation of the Easter Rising by Elias Gallestegi. The event had been first celebrated on Easter Sunday 27 March 1932 in Bilbo, supported by a demonstration of some 65,000 which included the Basque Nationalist Women’s organisation, inspired by the Republican Irish women’s organisation Cumann na mBan, which had fought in the 1916 Rising.

Also mentioned by the Chairperson were the struggles of organisations in Peru and the Philippines and by the Communist Party of Brazil.

MUSIC AND READINGS

As part of the program of the event, Seán Óg accompanied himself on guitar to sing Charles O’Neill’s The Foggy Dew and the Larry Kirwan’s James Connolly/ Citizen Army Song. Diarmuid Breatnach sang acapella his version of Patrick Galvin’s Where Is Our James Connolly? with some small alterations, though none Breatnach said to alter the fundamental meaning of the lyrics.

Seán Óg performing at the event
Diarmuid Breatnach singing Where is Our James Connolly? at the event

A young woman read out Pearse’s message and a young man, Connolly’s 1915 praise of the Irish Citizen Army.

To conclude the event Seán Óg sang the chorus of Amhrán na bhFiann5, the Irish National Anthem and the participants exited the cemetery to pass the uniformed police and Special Branch surveillance without incident.

End.

Section of the attendance marching to the monument.

FOOTNOTES

1Patrick Pearse, journalist, poet, educator and Irish Volunteer, was overall commander of the insurrectionary forces in 1916; James Connolly, trade union and socialist organiser, historian, journalist, writer and Irish Citizen Army, was Commandant of the Dublin fighters. Both men were signatories of the Proclamation and, along with the other five Signatories and another seven volunteers in Dublin, were executed by British Army firing squads.

2Although a newer and less famous section of the cemetery it too includes the graves of a number of important political leaders as well as the largest monument to Irish insurrections, containing the dates 1798, 1803, 1848, 1867, 1881 and 1916.

3Flag of the Irish Citizen Army, believed to be the first workers’ army in the world (and the first to recruit women, some of whom were officers), formed in 1913 to defend striking and locked-out workers from the attacks of the Dublin Metropolitan Police and that also participated in the 1916 Rising.

4Liberty Hall was the HQ of the Irish Transport & General Workers’ Union and of the Irish Citizen Army; in addition to the Citizen Army members, many of the Irish Volunteers and of Cumann na mBan mustered there on the first morning of the Rising. It was destroyed by British shelling and the tall building now on that site, also called Liberty Hall, is the HQ of SIPTU (largest trade union in Ireland).

5Originally composed in English as The Soldier’s Song by Peadar Kearney and Patrick Heeney and sung during the Rising, it was later translated into Irish by Liam Ó Rinn and in 1926 adopted by the partitioned Irish State as its official anthem (usually the air of the chorus alone). When sung at events it is usually the Irish language version of the chorus that is sung only.

FURTHER INFORMATION

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

SUBJECTED TO A MEDIA DISINFORMATION ONSLAUGHT

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 12 mins.)

Yes, indeed, we have been. Let us look back over the campaign of misinformation about conflict in Ireland for it has much to teach us about the mass media, about human credulity. We don’t need to go back over 800 years – just to the recent the 30-Year War.

In 1968 a civil rights campaign1 took off in the British Six-County colony in Ireland to include a number of marches and sit-ins, which was regularly met with violence from Loyalist2 mobs and the State. As part of the campaign, in 1969 a march from Belfast to Dublin was organised under the slogan “Civil Rights – North and South”. One of that march’s stops was in Lurgan, Co. Armagh, where the marchers sat at a crossroads and were instantly attacked by the armed British colonial police (then the RUC3, now the PSNI).

Some of the marchers had come from Britain to support the campaign and after being attacked in Lurgan, they bought an English newspaper to see whether the incident had been reported. An occurrence in the town had been reported alright but not what had occurred – the report told their readers that a fight between Catholics and Protestants had been broken up by the RUC, keeping the two sides apart. “There wasn’t a Protestant in sight,” commented a marcher angrily, “except those in RUC uniform …. or unless he was one of us4.”

Later that year, in August, the RUC killed four civilians, including a child, in the Divis Flats area of Belfast by firing at the area with a machine-gun mounted on an armoured car. Their claim they were returning fire from the area was widely refuted by local people but repeated in the media. The incident was not investigated until decades later when the claims of family and local witnesses were vindicated in an Ombudsman’s report.

The representation of the RUC as a force for peace between two groups in a sectarian conflict was to be a repeated media disinformation line through the ongoing conflict, as the struggle became an armed one — although to a large degree the honest broker ‘peacemaker’ cloak shifted from the colonial police on to the British Army.

British troops were sent in to the colony (by a Labour Government, in case we had illusions) in August 1969 and were initially greeted by many people in the ‘nationalist’5 community as saviours, sent to keep the sectarian RUC and Loyalist mobs (often enough amounting to the same thing) away from them. Most politicians and the media represented them as peace-keepers. For most nationalists the illusions did not last long as the Army turned their guns on them.

Although no British soldier had been killed in the Six Counties by the IRA as yet6, on 3rd July 1970 the British Army invaded the staunchly nationalist area of the Lower Falls and forced their way into homes, saying they were searching for arms. Local youths mobilised and attacked the soldiers with stones and petrol bombs7. The soldiers responded by pumping CS gas into the area and soon gun-battles between the IRA and the British Army broke out.

After four hours of continuous clashes, the British commander sealed off the area, which comprised 3,000 homes, and imposed a curfew which would last for 36 hours. Thousands of British troops moved into the curfew zone and carried out house-to-house searches for weapons, while coming under intermittent attack from the IRA and rioters. The searches caused much destruction, and a large amount of CS gas was fired into the area. Many residents complained of suffering abuse at the hands of the soldiers. On 5 July, the curfew was brought to an end when thousands of women and children from Anderstonstown8 marched into the curfew zone with food and other supplies for the locals.

During the operation, four civilians were killed by the British Army, at least 78 people were wounded and 337 were arrested. Eighteen soldiers were also wounded. Large quantities of weapons and ammunition were (allegedly – DB) captured. The British Army admitted afterwards that some of its soldiers had been involved in looting.’9

Mural on the Falls Road depicting Andersonstown women breaking the British cordon, Falls Curfew, 1970 (Source photo: Wikipedia)
Cutting of unknown newspaper report displaying misrepresentation of the struggle, despite being friendly towards the women who broke the British Army siege of the Falls Road, July 1970.
(Source photo: Step Back Ireland)

At the time, most of the media reported the clashes as unruly elements irrationally attacking the Army who were there to protect them and were only doing their job. However, the opinion of the nationalist community, though ignored by the media had undergone a huge shift and the first serving British soldier (of many to follow) was killed by the IRA the following year.10

Later in 1970, during riots in Derry, the Army shot two men from the nationalist area, Seamus Cusack and Desmond Beattie, claiming afterwards that they were armed, a claim local people denied. There was no investigation by the authorities, obliging the constitutionalist SDLP11 to withdraw from the colony’s parliament in protest.

On 4th December 1971, an explosion in the Catholic-owned McGurk’s Bar in Belfast killed 15 people and injured 16. Due to the bar’s ownership and location, the most logical attribution would be to Loyalists or British forces. It would be hard to pin it on the IRA – unless it could be said to have been an accidental explosion of an IRA bomb during storage or transportation. That was what the “security forces” came up with, which of course was repeated by the media. An alternative media theory was that in some manner it was a result of a feud between the Official and Provisional IRA. In order to construct that theory, the denials of the IRA had to be discounted12, despite the organisations’ track record of taking public responsibility for its actions.

The explosion had occurred in the pub’s doorway, which would have thrown doubt on the “IRA bomb in transit” story but somehow, the RUC’s forensic examination did not determine that. But even worse, the evidence of an eyewitness had to be dismissed.

On 6 December, however, the RUC took a witness statement from an 8-year-old boy. He said that a car had stopped outside the pub with four men inside and “a wee Union Jack stuck in the back window”. He said one left a package in the Great George’s Street doorway and ran back to the car, which sped off just moments before the package exploded. A man and a woman backed up his story, although they did not witness as much as the boy.13

In March 1976 the RUC received intelligence that linked UVF member Robert Campbell and four others to the McGurk’s bombing. Campbell was arrested on 27 July 1977 and held at Castlereagh RUC base. He was interviewed seven times during 27 and 28 July. He admitted his part in the bombing but refused to name the others. Campbell’s story matches that given by the young boy witness.’14

On 29 July 1977, Campbell was charged with the 15 murders and 17 attempted murders and in September 1978 pleaded guilty to all charges (he also had a separate conviction for the murder of a Protestant delivery driver in 1976). He eventually served fifteen years in prison, being released on 9th September 1993.15

Local people searching in the rubble of McGurk’s Bar after the bombing by Loyalists killing 15 but which was blamed on the Republican armed organisations. (Photo credit: AP)

Despite the 1978 convictions and even Campbell’s confessions, the “own goal bomb” theory of responsibility lingered and relatives sought for years to have the case properly investigated, some also alleging that the RUC had colluded in helping the killers get away out of the area and in the false atrributions later, possibly even with the intention of setting the two IRA organisations at one another’s throats.

In what has become a depressingly familiar story, the relatives campaigned on in the face of police inaction and media disinterest for years, during which many of the directly-affected died through natural causes, to receive partial vindication at last in an Ombudsman’s report which laid the blame squarely on a Loyalist gang and castigated the RUC for a biased and inadequate investigation. The report was published in February 2011– it had taken the campaigners only 40 years16.

The introduction of internment without trial in August 1971 was, according to the media, a necessary measure to deal with political violence from all sides. Not one Loyalist was arrested that year, or the next and it was not until 1973 that a single Loyalist had been interned, the total by December 1975, when the measure was ended, having been 107 against 1,874 from the Nationalist community.17

The Paratroop Regiment, British Army shocktroops, were sent into the colony that year too18. Between 9th and 11th August in the Belfast area of Ballymurphy, the Paratroopers caused the deaths of 10 men and a woman and wounded many19. The Paratroopers claimed they had been shot at and were returning fire and that all their targets had been “terrorists”20. The media repeated these lies and, if reporters interviewed wounded and other witnesses, their accounts were not published. There was no investigation and, as with the deaths of many victims of RUC and British Army, there was no inquest concluded until decades later (2021 for these victims21).

The nationalist community called a demonstration in Derry for 30th January the following year to protest the massacres and against the introduction of internment. The Paratroopers were there again and they and other British Army soldiers shot down unarmed demonstrators, causing the deaths of 14 and injuring at least another 15. The Army claimed they had been returning fire from Irish Republicans and had shot only gunmen and bombers and on the whole, the media parroted their claims.

The British put their top judge, Lord Chief Justice Widgery, to hold an inquiry and in April that year his verdict upheld the Army’s version and also blamed the organisers of the march. The media of course promoted that verdict too. It was not until the extraordinarilyy long and hugely expensive Bloody Sunday Inquiry set up 1998 22 produced the Saville Report in 2010 that the British officially (and then of course also the media) accepted what all of Derry and much of Ireland already knew, that the Paras had opened fire in a non-threatening situation and selectively targeted and killed unarmed civilians23.

British soldiers shot another five unarmed people dead in the Springhill area of Belfast on July 9th, yet again as in Ballymurphy the previous year, including a priest administering the last rites but this time their tally was also an thirteen-year-old girl24. The original ‘official’ account of the shootings— that those shot were ‘gunmen’ — was almost immediately discredited, and was changed shortly after; the claim then became that those murdered were simply caught in the crossfire. Again the media covered the Army story without investigation or challenge.

In 1988 on Sunday 6th March British SAS soldiers shot dead three unarmed IRA volunteers in Gibraltar. When it was revealed that the three had been unarmed, firstly the media claimed that they had been about to trigger an explosion but some time later the British found the explosives in a car in a Spanish carpark across the border without any electronic link to the dead volunteers. When the British claimed that the Volunteers had made threatening moves, eyewitnessed testified that not only had they been unarmed when shot but had been extra-judicially executed as they lay on the ground with their hands up in surrender position. One of the eye-witnesses was Gibraltar resident Carmen Proetta, who then became a target for British media slurs, even going to the extent of suggesting that she was a sex-worker.

On Monday 7 March all eleven British national daily newspapers reported the story that a bomb had been found. Many gave detailed information about the size (mostly 500 pounds), purpose and type of the bomb as well as how it was defused. The Daily Mail suggested that the bomb might have a ‘video timing device’, while Today and the Independent mentioned ‘remote control’. The Daily Mirror told us that ‘a controlIed explosion failed to set off the bomb’ whilst the Daily Mail added ‘RAF disposal men defused it later’.25

On 28 April 1988, almost two months after the Gibraltar shootings, the ITV television channel defied British Government pressure and threats of legal action to broadcast “Death on the Rock” an episode of its current affairs series This Week, produced by Thames Television, based on investigations of three journalists and many interviews. This led to a ferocious media attack on the documentary, its programers and the IBA, the governing watchdog authority.

Documentary program maker Roger Bolton’s account of his hounding by government and media about an accurate documentary of the 1988 SAS murders of three unarmed IRA Volunteers in Gibraltar. (Image sourced: Internet).

Over the following weeks, newspapers repeatedly printed stories about the documentary’s witnesses, in particular Carmen Proetta, who gave an account of seeing McCann and Farrell shot without warning by soldiers who arrived in a Gibraltar Police car. Proetta subsequently sued several newspapers for libel and won substantial damages. The Sunday Times conducted its own investigation and reported that “Death on the Rock” had misrepresented the views of its witnesses; those involved later complained to other newspapers that The Sunday Times had distorted their comments.’26

A great number of situations arose during the 30 Years War in the British colony that were either unreported or misrepresented by the mass media, including “confessions” obtained through torture, RUC and British Army collusion with Loyalist murder gangs, inhumane treatment of political prisoners, Army shooting of unarmed civilians, extra-judicial executions of Republican Volunteers and blackmailing individuals for information or to carry out agent-provocateur actions.

WITHIN THE IRISH STATE

In 1969 the grave of Wolfe Tone in Bodenstown was blown up by Loyalists27 and between 1971 and 1974 there was a series of bombings in Dublin by Loyalists and British Intelligence. The bombing campaign began by aiming at symbolic structures and went on to target civilians which cost the lives of 36 civilians (and a full-term unborn child) and injured around 490, presumably to pressurise the Irish Government into increased repression of Republican paramilitaries.

In January 1971 the O’Connell Tower in Glasnevin Cemetery was damaged (not repaired finally until 2019, 47 years later)28, presumably as an attack on a prominent Irish Catholic29 icon. But in February 1971 the Wolfe Tone30 monument in Stephen’s Green was also blown up, like the blowing up of the grave, an attack on Irish Republicanism and its rebellious Protestant origins31. Bombings now aimed at civilians in Dublin followed and between 26 November 1972 and 20 January 1973, there were four paramilitary bombings in the centre of Dublin, claiming the lives of three public transport workers and injuring 185.

The first suspicion of responsibility for those bombings should naturally have fallen on the Loyalists and perhaps, by extension, on a British intelligence agency. It didn’t though; in the media and political circles, it was projected on to the IRA.

That could not have made logical sense, since such explosions could only have harmed the IRA among the Irish population. However there was another specific reason why it made even less sense, (if possible): in 1972 Leinster House32 was about to debate repressive legislation that would set up special no-jury courts to convict Republicans with the word of a police officer (at the rank of Superintendent or above) sufficient to convict of “membership of an illegal organisation”, with an automatic two-year jail sentence. The proposed legislation was being put forward by Fianna Fáil but Fine Gael and the Labour Party were mustering to vote against it and if they did, the new legislation would fall.

Scene of 1973 bombing in Sackville Place, Dublin city centre. The bombing the previous year was irrationally blamed on the IRA and the panic was used to collapse the opposition to proposed undemocratic repressive legislation, which was passed and is with us to this day. (Photo sourced: Stair na hÉireann Facebook page)

In the midst of the horror about the bombing, the opposition crumbled and the bill went through, against protests of many human and civil rights agencies33; it became law, has sent many people to jail on dubious ‘evidence’ and is in force to this day.

The illogical focus on the IRA as the source of the 1972 and ‘73 bombings and the consequent failure to investigate them and follow up on the likely perpetrators had a horrific result in 1974: three bombs in Dublin city centre and one in Monaghan town centre killed 34 and injured around 30034, the highest number of people killed in any one day during the 30 Years War (often conveniently forgotten by the media, as for example in this report https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/army-knew-mcgurks-bar-bomb-was-placed-in-doorway-solicitor-says-35516460.html.)

Not only that, but the failure to energetically investigate the 1974 bombing meant that some of the Loyalist perpetrators were free to murder many civilians in the following years – some of the bombers were members of the infamous Glennane Gang, a Loyalist-RUC-British Intelligence group of killers responsible for up to 120 murders of civilians35.

WITHIN BRITAIN

The events in Ireland were of course being felt by the Irish diaspora in England too. Marches, pickets and public meetings protesting the RUC’s repression of marches for civil rights were held in many British cities, as they were against sending the British Army into the Six Counties, introduction of internment without trial and shooting protesters dead. Some groups on the British Left were also attending these events and occasionally organising their own. Irish solidarity was becoming a major issue for anti-imperialist solidarity in Britain and abroad, in addition to being in a sense a major domestic issue in Britain too.

The IRA began to extend Britain’s war to their homeland in a bombing campaign in 1971, at first targeting property. However, in 1974 bombs in two pubs in Birmingham killed 21 people which was difficult to understand but according to an alleged perpetrator, the warning intended by the bombers was frustrated through out-of-order public telephone boxes. The Guildford and Woolwich bombs, aimed at pubs frequented by British soldiers, killed five soldiers and two civilians overall and injured 101 people.

The horror and outrage resulting from that carnage gave the British State the environment in which they could launch a wholesale clampdown on the Irish diaspora. The Prevention of Terrorism Act was rushed through the Westminster Parliament in 1974, specifically targeting the Irish community. The Act empowered the police to raid homes, to hold suspects without access to a solicitor for up to five days and longer on special application and to summarily deport Irish people from Britain – even to their own colony. It also empowered the police to stop and question Irish people without warrant or having to show cause and thousands were stopped and questioned at ports and airports as they travelled from Ireland to Britain or vice versa, sometimes missing their flights or boat as a result. People were questioned on the street too and on Irish solidarity demonstrations.

In that atmosphere, of which the media was the main facilitator in British society, it was fairly easy for the State to frame nearly a score of innocent people on bombing charges and to sentence them to many years in jail on the flimsiest of “evidence”, later to refuse their right to appeal, later still, granting that right but denying the justice of their cases.

Judith Ward was arrested in February 1974, sentenced to life imprisonment plus 30 years in October 1974 and her conviction overturned in May 1992.

The Birmingham Six were arrested in November 1974, sentenced to jail for life in August 1975, their convictions finally overturned in March 1991.

The Guildford Four were arrested in December 1974, sentenced to imprisonment for life in October 1975, their convictions finally overturned in October 1989.

Giuseppe Conlon and the Maguire Six were arrested in December 1974, sentenced to 4, 51, 12 and 14 years in 1976, their convictions overturned in 1991. By that time Vincent and Patrick had already served their sentences and Giuseppe Conlon, father of Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four, had died in jail.

1Patrick Maguire was only 14 at the time and Vincent only 17.

The innocent Birmingham Six at their appearance in court after being beaten up by prison warders as they arrived at the jail falsely charged with the bombings in Birmingham. The mass media played a major role in their being found guilty and in frustrating campaigns to free them which only succeeded 17 years later. (Image sourced: Internet)

The UK media in particular played a huge part in setting the atmosphere in which these unjust convictions could take place and in making the struggle of the innocent for justice difficult. Even after their acquittal, some of the media insinuated that they had been guilty and had got free through some kind of legal loopholes.

Could the media have known differently? Yes, certainly, not one of the cases would stand up to reasonable inspection. The Guildford Four were hippies living in a squat, the Birmingham Six were escorting the body of a deceased IRA man to Ireland when the bombs exploded, the Maguires were a Tory-voting woman with teenage children, Giuseppe was only in London to help his son after the latter’s arrest and Judith Ward was mentally ill, homeless and penniless37. Their ‘confessions’, obtained through torture and intimidation38, were admitted as evidence against them, although they all retracted them and declared how they had been obtained. The forensic evidence was faulty and besides recording a false positive and even though the defence team had a forensic expert to refute it during their trial, the Prosecution’s expert was the one accepted.

The February 1977 confession by an IRA unit to the Woolwich and Guildford bombing after their capture in the Balcome Street siege was not accepted, although they were able to give details of the bombing. So tortured and retracted ‘confessions’ were acceptable whereas one voluntarily given was not.

Apart from the logical doubts that should have arisen in even a light examination of the cases, the media also had access to detailed refutation of the case against the Birmingham Six. Although much has been made recently of the investigation of the case by Chris Mullin, the publication of his book Error of Judgment: The Truth About the Birmingham Pub Bombings (1985), the research for which went into the earlier 1984 ITV World in Action documentary, a detailed challenge to the convictions had been published much earlier. Only two years after the arrest of the Birmingham Six, Fathers Murray and Faul had published The Birmingham Framework39, which they had sent to British politicians and media agents. In 1982 the Irish in Britain Representation Group40 also publicly called for the freeing of the framed prisoners and continued to do so for every year thereafter. Other organisations such as the Troops Out Movement41 called for their release also and trade union branches began to support such calls.

Exposure of the case against the Birmingham Six published by Frs. Murray and Faul as early as one year after the convictions of the innocent men. (Source image: Internet)

It suited the State that the British public think the prisoners guilty and the British media played their part in that purpose. In a way, it also suited the State if the Irish community knew the prisoners were innocent since, if even the innocent could be jailed so easily, how could any Irish person be safe except by keeping his or her head down low? Irish solidarity activities declined in occurrence and in numbers attending. With few exceptions, the Irish community in Britain was cowed from 1974 until the Hunger Strikes of 1981 brought them out on the streets again, the terror broken by the spirit of solidarity and outrage.

WHY?

The above examples are only a selection of situations in Ireland during the period under discussion about which we and the world were misinformed or censored. Throughout the 30 Years’ War so many accusations against the British armed forces, including their armed colonial police, have been ignored or recorded disbelievingly by the media – in particular the British section but within the Irish state also – and repeated by media services abroad, to be picked up by other media …. and so on, and on. And likewise with accusations against British intelligence services and their domestic police force.

Why then are the current claims of the Ukrainian government published through the mass media being accepted without question on every count? Why is everything the Russian government says discounted or ignored without checking? Why are we not concerned at banning of alternative media and censorship of commentators who are not repeating the party line? Why are we not outraged at the agreed delivery of Julian Assange by the UK to the USA on charges of “spying” because he exposed their lies and murderous activities in Iraq and Afghanistan? Given our own experience over 30 years of the UK media’s dismal record of reporting on the conflict in Ireland – and its equally dismal repetition in the western media – why are we now believing without critical examination the western media reporting on the war in the Ukraine?

End.

FOOTNOTES

1The civil rights campaign in the Six Counties was in pursuance of equal rights for the Catholic minority with the Protestant majority there, in the electoral franchise, in housing and employment, along with the repeal of the repressive Special Powers Act.

2‘Loyalists’ is a term describing militants – always of Protestant community background – in various organisations — who insist on remaining within the UK. The first armed actions in the 30 Years War were by Loyalists.

3Although the Royal Ulster Constabulary was created in 1922, when Ireland was partitioned, it was in effect a continuation of the Royal Irish Constabulary, the British occupation’s gendarmerie (nation-wide semi-military police force, such as exists in Spain, Turkey, Italy, France, etc) in existence throughout all of Ireland since 1822. Although the personnel of the RIC had been mostly Catholic in background (usually with Protestant senior officers), the RUC was determinedly Protestant from the start, both in its full-time and part-time membership. However, a minority of the civil rights campaigners were also from Protestant backgrounds.

4As part of the control structures in the Six Counties, the authorities had recruited only non-Catholics into the colonial police force, which helped unionist politicians and media represent an attack on the police as a sectarian attack. Though a few Catholics have been recruited since the 1990s and Sinn Féin has been supporting recruitment drives in nationalist areas, the PSNI personnel remain overwhelmingly of Protestant background.

5A convenient term used to describe the large minority community, mostly of Catholic background, mostly of the original population but with some earlier intermarriage into the majority community, which is of mostly colonist/ settler origin.

6Ironically, the first serving British soldier killed in the Six Counties was killed by indescriminate firing by the RUC into the nationalist area of Divis Flats in Belfast. Trooper Hugh McCabe of the Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars was home on leave, staying with his family when the RUC opened fire with machine-gun on the nationalist area (this was one of the incidents that led to the barricading of “no go” areas excluding the RUC and later also the British Army). Three others were also killed by RUC bullets, including a nine-year-old boy. It took over 50 years for the families to get an acknowledgement and apology after an Ombudsman’s report. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/may/06/ruc-erred-at-troubles-dawn-by-firing-on-flats-from-armoured-cars#:~:text=Patrick%20Rooney%2C%20nine%2C%20Hugh%20McCabe,the%20Divis%20and%20Ardoyne%20areas.

7People had learned to make those in defence against RUC and Loyalist attacks during the earlier Civil Rights period.

8A large Belfast nationalist area separated from the Falls area by unionist areas and the city centre.

9https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falls_Curfew

10https://www.irishnews.com/news/northernirelandnews/2021/02/16/news/new-details-about-death-of-first-british-soldier-killed-by-pira-revealed-by-former-commanding-officer-2222034/

11The Social and Democratic Labour Party, advocating reform through legal and constitutional methods.

12Two days after the explosion, on December 6th, both the Official and Provisional IRAs issued statements condemning the bombing and denying any involvement. Local people also denied any association between the pub and either of the armed organisations.

13Quoted from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McGurk%27s_Bar_bombing, accessed on 11 April 2022.

14Ibid.

15Campbell was the only person ever to have been charged for the atrocity.

16https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-irish-ira-report-idUKTRE71K2U520110221

17https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Demetrius#:~:text=It%20involved%20the%20mass%20arrest,Ireland%20against%20the%20British%20state.

18Despite some time searching online I have not come across the exact date they were there by May 1971 and it may be that they had been sent there as part of plan that included the introduction of internment without trial later that year.

19http://www.ballymurphymassacre.com/cms/massacre/

20The fact that one fatal victim was a mother of eight children and another, a local priest, should have alerted media to the fact that the Paras were likely lying and local people likely telling the truth.

21https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/ten-shot-dead-in-ballymurphy-massacre-entirely-innocent-coroner-finds-1.4561691

22Likely initiated as as a payoff to the Provisionals for buying into the Peace/ Pacification Process, the other being the early release on licence of their members in jail, the inquiry lasted twelve years and cost £195 million.

23No senior Army officer or senior politician of the time has even been charged for those murders. One lower-ranking soldier was eventually charged but in July 2021, the Public Prosecution Service decided it would no longer prosecute him either.

24https://belfastmedia.com/springhill-westrock-massacre

25https://www.academia.edu/3176252/The_Media_on_the_Rock_The_Media_and_the_Gibraltar_Killings

26https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Flavius#Aftermath

27https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0332489319881245n

28https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/o-connell-tower-in-glasnevin-reopens-47-years-after-bomb-blast-1.3460774

29Daniel O’Connell, a constitutional Irish nationalist politician and Catholic, campaigned for the repeal of the anti-Catholic Penal Laws in which he was largely successful in 1869 and unsuccessfully for repeal of the Act of Union, which had transferred the internal legislation of Ireland through its Parliament to Westminster instead in 1801.

30Theobald ‘Wolfe’ Tone was an Anglican campaigner for reform of anti-Catholic legislation (only Anglicans could be elected to the Irish Parliament) who became a revolutionary Irish Republican when those attempts failed. He was a founder of the revolutionary republican United Irishmen organisation. He was captured by the British after surrender of the French naval ship on which he was travelling on 12th October 1978. Although an officer in the Army of France he was tried for treason and sentenced to be executed; on 19th September 1798 he died in prison of wounds, apparently self-inflicted to deny the State his public execution.

31https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/wolfe-tone-statue and https://www.irishphotoarchive.ie/image/I000063xdWJKXewQ

32The parliament of the Irish State.

33For the most recent statements by the Irish Council of Civil Liberties on the no-jury Special Criminal Courts, see https://www.iccl.ie/2021/iccl-special-criminal-court-a-fundamental-denial-of-constitutional-rights-to-a-fair-trial/ and https://www.iccl.ie/2022/international-call-for-end-to-special-criminal-court/

34https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dublin_and_Monaghan_bombings

35https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/lethal-allies-british-collusion-in-ireland-a-shameful-part-of-our-troubled-history-1.1578119

36Patrick Maguire was only 14 at the time and Vincent only 17.

37https://www.thejusticegap.com/buried-alive-case-judy-ward-25-years/

38In the case of at least one of the Guildford Four, while she was in a psycho-tropic drug episode.

39The Birmingham Framework — Six Innocent Men Framed for the Birmingham Bombings, by Fr. Denis Faul and Fr. Raymond Murray (1976), https://cain.ulster.ac.uk/events/other/1974/faul76.htm

40The IBRG was formed late in 1981 as an independent community organisation, among the issues it took up were those of anti-Irish racism, access to resources for the community, an end to strip-searching of prisoners, freedom for the framed prisoners and British withdrawal from Ireland.

41The Troops Out Movement was founded in 1973 as a broad organisation to mobilise the British public for withdrawal of British troops from Ireland; with branches in many parts of Britain, it organised marches, pickets, public meetings and published pamphlets. The relevant Wikipedia incorrectly claims it was “an Irish Republican organisation” — though it naturally did contain Irish Republicans, it also contained British revolutionary left and social-democratic elements. Though maintaining its independence for decades, it did towards the end of the 1990s become closely linked to Provisional Sinn Féin.

SOURCES

The Battle of the Falls/ Falls Curfew: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falls_Curfew

The RUC killed the first serving British soldier along with three civilians in 1969: https://belfastmedia.com/trooper-mccabe-1969-truth-still-hidden
and https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/may/06/ruc-erred-at-troubles-dawn-by-firing-on-flats-from-armoured-cars#:~:text=Patrick%20Rooney%2C%20nine%2C%20Hugh%20McCabe,the%20Divis%20and%20Ardoyne%20areas.

Internment without trial: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Demetrius#:~:text=It%20involved%20the%20mass%20arrest,Ireland%20against%20the%20British%20state.

Ballymurphy Massacre: http://www.ballymurphymassacre.com/cms/massacre/
and https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/ten-shot-dead-in-ballymurphy-massacre-entirely-innocent-coroner-finds-1.4561691

Bloody Sunday Massacre Derry: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloody_Sunday_(1972)#Murder_investigation

Springhill Massacre:

https://belfastmedia.com/springhill-westrock-massacre

The first acknowledged serving British soldier killed in the Six Counties, 1971: https://www.irishnews.com/news/northernirelandnews/2021/02/16/news/new-details-about-death-of-first-british-soldier-killed-by-pira-revealed-by-former-commanding-officer-2222034/

40 years after McGurk’s Bar bombing: https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-irish-ira-report-idUKTRE71K2U520110221
50 years after: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/fifty-years-on-and-grief-of-the-mcgurk-s-bar-massacre-still-resonates-1.4746143

Gibraltar murder of three IRA Volunteers: https://www.academia.edu/3176252/The_Media_on_the_Rock_The_Media_and_the_Gibraltar_Killings

In the Irish State
Wolfe Tone grave Bodenstown blown up by Loyalists:

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0332489319881245n

Dublin bombings 1972 & 1973: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1972_and_1973_Dublin_bombings

Dublin and Monaghan Bombing 1974: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dublin_and_Monaghan_bombings

Review of Lethal Allies (2013) by Anne Cadwaller: https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/lethal-allies-british-collusion-in-ireland-a-shameful-part-of-our-troubled-history-1.1578119

In Britain:
The Birmingham Framework by Frs. Murray and Faul: https://cain.ulster.ac.uk/events/other/1974/faul76.htm

The Guildford Four and Maguire Seven: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guildford_Four_and_Maguire_Seven

Judith Ward: https://www.thejusticegap.com/buried-alive-case-judy-ward-25-years/

BRITISH QUEEN’S LONG SERVICE TO COLONIAL & IMPERIALIST WAR

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 5 mins)

Recently the Queen of the UK and Commonwealth regions reached the 70th year of her reign, called by convention the “platinum jubilee” and has received congratulations from the heads of imperialist, colonial and neo-colonial states around the world. In Ireland, she has also received the congratulations of the head of a formerly Republican party now aspiring to neo-colonial government. When Mary Lou MacDonald, President of Sinn Féin praised Elizabeth II for her “long service” we should ask: service to whom and to what? We are also entitled to compare her words to those of James Connolly, Irish revolutionary socialist and republican, in reference to the British Monarchy.

WHAT THE PRESIDENT OF SINN FÉIN SAID

Mary Lou McDonald, President of Sinn Féin was widely reported reacting to the news that a tree is to be planted in the grounds of Parliament Buildings at Stormont to mark the anniversary.

“I think it is important that we are respectful of the identity of our citizens who are British,” she said on Thursday.

“I think that is entirely appropriate and I welcome that decision.

She was reported wishing well to those who will celebrate the jubilee, and said she believes those who won’t “are now big enough, bold enough, generous enough to acknowledge the identity of others.”

“Can I also extend to the British Queen a word of congratulations because 70 years is quite some record,” she added.

“That is what you call a lifetime of service.”

Any logical consideration of those words should quickly find some problems with them. What does “respecting the identity of our (Irish) citizens who are British” or “acknowledging the identity of others” actually mean? One would imagine that respecting the identity of others would involve primarily not subjecting them to discrimination, racism or religious sectarianism. Does respecting the national identity of any people give them the right to seize with armed force and occupy a part of the nation? Because that is what constitutes the basis for the British colony of the Six Counties in Ireland and the administration of that colony is the purpose of the Stormont Parliament and Executive. Furthermore, discrimination and sectarianism is precisely what is suffered by a huge part of the population of that colony – from the very institutions being upheld by SF and by its President.

Stripped down to its essentials, we are only “big enough, bold enough, generous enough” if we accept the partition of our small nation, the forcible retention of a colony and pay our respects to the Head of that state and the Commander-in-Chief of its armed forces.

This is a monarch who has presided over her armed forces’ participation in at least 24 wars or interventions since her inauguration, two of them in our national territory. Her armed forces invaded foreign lands, bombed and shot down those who resisted, carried out massacres, tortured prisoners and she has personally decorated the leaders of those armed forces, including those who murdered Irish people. The very least one could expect from an Irish politician with any dignity would have been silence or “no comment” on the occasion.

A poster calling for retired Army officer General Sir Mike Jackson to be jailed and advertising a march commemorating Bloody Sunday, on display in the Bogside area of Derry, Six Counties. Jackson was one of many military murderers to be decorated by the British Queen. (Photo by Niall Carson/PA Images via Getty Images).

This is far from the worst thing that the Sinn Féin leadership has done with regard to the British Monarch, for in May 2011 they called for no protests against her while she desecrated the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin and while the Gardaí attacked “dissident” Republican protesters nearby and outside her state reception in Dublin Castle, the old seat of her royal enforcers in Ireland. The following year, Martin McGuinness, prominent in the leaderships of both the IRA and Sinn Féin, welcomed her to her colony and shook her hand.

Martin McGuinness, in leadership of Sinn Féin and the IRA, welcomes the British Queen to visit her colony in 2012 (Photo sourced: Internet)

WHAT JAMES CONNOLLY SAID

James Connolly on occasions too referred to contemporary British monarchs – but in markedly different terms to those from the leadership of Sinn Féin in recent decades.

“What is monarchy? From whence does it derive its sanction? What has been its gift to humanity? Monarchy is a survival of the tyranny imposed by the hand of greed and treachery upon the human race in the darkest and most ignorant days of our history. It derives its only sanction from the sword of the marauder, and the helplessness of the producer, and its gifts to humanity are unknown, save as they can be measured in the pernicious examples of triumphant and shameless iniquities.

“Every class in society save royalty, and especially British royalty, has through some of its members contributed something to the elevation of the race. But neither in science, nor in art, nor in literature, nor in exploration, nor in mechanical invention, nor in humanising of laws, nor in any sphere of human activity has a representative of British royalty helped forward the moral, intellectual or material improvement of mankind. But that royal family has opposed every forward move, fought every reform, persecuted every patriot, and intrigued against every good cause. Slandering every friend of the people, it has befriended every oppressor. Eulogised today by misguided clerics, it has been notorious in history for the revolting nature of its crimes. Murder, treachery, adultery, incest, theft, perjury – every crime known to man has been committed by some one or other of the race of monarchs from whom King George is proud to trace his descent.

…………………….

Two completely opposite attitudes to British Monarchy: Mary Lou McDonald (L) and James Connolly (R)

“Fellow-workers, stand by the dignity of your class. All these parading royalties, all this insolent aristocracy, all these grovelling, dirt-eating capitalist traitors, all these are but signs of disease in any social state – diseases which a royal visit brings to a head and spews in all its nastiness before our horrified eyes. But as the recognition of the disease is the first stage towards its cure, so that we may rid our social state of its political and social diseases, we must recognise the elements of corruption. Hence, in bringing them all together and exposing their unity, even a royal visit may help us to understand and understanding, help us to know how to destroy the royal, aristocratic and capitalistic classes who live upon our labour. Their workshops, their lands, their mills, their factories, their ships, their railways must be voted into our hands who alone use them, public ownership must take the place of capitalist ownership, social democracy1 replace political and social inequality, the sovereignty of labour must supersede and destroy the sovereignty of birth and the monarchy of capitalism.

“Ours be the task to enlighten the ignorant among our class, to dissipate and destroy the political and social superstitions of the enslaved masses and to hasten the coming day when, in the words of Joseph Brenan, the fearless patriot of ’48, all the world will maintain

The Right Divine of Labour
To be first of earthly things;
That the Thinker and the Worker
Are Manhood’s only Kings.”2

SUPPORT FOR SINN FÉIN

Most followers of the Sinn Féin party, who are by long tradition anti-monarchist and desire a reunified and independent Ireland, tend to regard those kinds of heretical statements by the party leaders as no more than some kind of camouflage to get them into power. Once there, they imagine, their party will lead them to the hallowed objectives of Irish independence and unity. In fact, the same kind of attitude that was that of the early followers of Fianna Fáil, “the Republican party”3.

The blindness, or more accurately the ability of self-deception exhibited by these followers is amazing. The majority continued to believe the leadership when it publicly abandoned armed struggle against British colonialism and declared it would never return to that (believing that to be a fake position) and even when it had most of its arms decommissioned. Then the party not only fielded candidates in elections in the partitioned Irish state but also in the colonial one and, in arguably its greatest betrayal of its previous position, participated in the running of the colonial state which it continues to do. Since then its leaders have sought support for and even assisted in recruitment for the sectarian and colonial gendarmerie4 and, more recently, declared its acceptance of non-jury special courts, a clear reference in particular to the no-jury Special Criminal Courts of the Irish state5, condemned by a number of civil rights organisations6 and of which the party’s own supporters have been frequent victims.

The attitude of the larger mass of instinctively pro-independence people, mostly working-class or lower middle-class is that they might as well give Sinn Féin a turn in government – after all they can hardly treat them worse than the other gombeen7 parties that have been in government since the creation of the Irish State. Such attitudes account for the rapid growth in the party’s electoral base in recent years when it became the first party in terms of elected representatives so that two other neo-colonial parties, with a long history of hatred for one another, were obliged to join and form a coalition with a third8 in order to form a government excluding the new kid on the block.

General Jackson with Prince Charles, heir apparent to the throne of England and Commander-in-Chief of the Paratroop Regiment (Photo sourced: Internet)

The attitude expressed by the President of the SF party runs not only completely contrary to the traditions of Irish Republicanism but even to its own history. It is more than that, it is an expression of the lack of dignity and craven forelock-tugging attitude of the neo-colonial Gombeen class that has ruled the Irish state since its inception.

While socialists and republicans rightly condemn that mentality and its practical applications, we should place our hopes in another outlook, as outlined by Connolly over a century earlier, and in the practical expression of that outlook today and in the near future. It is surely appropriate then to end this commentary with Connolly’s own words on another British royal jubilee, Queen Victoria’s in 1897:

“….. It is time then that some organised party in Ireland — other than those in whose mouths Patriotism means Compromise, and Freedom, High Dividends — should speak out bravely and honestly the sentiments awakened in the breast of every lover of freedom by this ghastly farce now being played out before our eyes. Hence the Irish Socialist Republican Party — which, from its inception, has never hesitated to proclaim its unswerving hostility to the British Crown, and to the political and social order of which in these islands that Crown is but the symbol — takes this opportunity of hurling at the heads of all the courtly mummers who grovel at the shrine of royalty the contempt and hatred of the Irish Revolutionary Democracy. We, at least, are not loyal men; we confess to having more respect and honour for the raggedest child of the poorest labourer in Ireland to-day than for any, even the most virtuous, descendant of the long array of murderers, adulterers and madmen who have sat upon the throne of England ….

“The working class alone have nothing to hope for save in a revolutionary reconstruction of society; they, and they alone, are capable of that revolutionary initiative which, with all the political and economic development of the time to aid it, can carry us forward into the promised land of perfect Freedom, the reward of the age-long travail of the people.”9

End.

APPENDIX:

List of armed interventions and wars by British Armed forces under Queen Elizabeth II:

Mau Mau Uprising(1952–1960)

Jebel Akhdar War
(1954–1959)

Cyprus Emergency
(1955–1959)

Suez Crisis(1956–1957)

Border Campaign
(1956–1962)

First Cod War
(1958–1961)

Upper Yafa disturbances[22](1959)

Dhofar Rebellion
(1962–1975)

Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation
(1963–1966)

Aden Emergency(1963–1967)

The Troubles(1968–1998)

Invasion of Anguila, Caribbean
(1969)

Second Cod War
(1972–1973)

Third Cod War
(1975–1976)

Falklands War
(1982)

Multinational Force in Lebanon
(1982–1984)

Gulf War
(1990–1991)

Bosnian War
(1992–1995)

Operation Desert Fox
(1998)

Kosovo War
(1998–1999)

Sierra Leone Civil War(2000–2002)

War in Afghanistan
(2001–2021)

Iraq War
(2003–2009)

First Libyan Civil War(2011)

2019–2021 Persian Gulf crisis(2019–present)

FOOTNOTES:

1In Connolly’s time, the term “social democrats” covered most revolutionaries in Europe in addition to reformists whereas today it is confined to describing only the latter.

2Commenting in 1910 on the announced visit of King George V to Ireland https://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1911/xx/visitkng.htm

3Fianna Fáil was a 1926 split from Sinn Féin led be De Valera, based on participating in elections within the Irish State, initially supported by many Irish Republicans in elections and when voted into Government in 1932 released Republican political prisoners jailed by the Government of pro-Treaty forces. Subsequently however a FF Government banned the IRA and jailed and even executed some Republicans.

4A gendarmerie is an armed state-wide military-like police force, such as for example the ones in the Spanish, Italian and Turkish states, typical of a State endeavouring to impose central rule on subject nations or regions where recurrent resistance may be expected. In Ireland the English occupation had the Royal Irish Constabulary which after 1922 in the colonial statelet became the Royal Ulster Constabulary, later changing its name to the Police Force of Northern Ireland. It has always been a sectarian (anti-Catholic) and repressive force.

5Both the Irish State and the colonial statelet have no-jury courts to jail political dissidents on low evidential requirements and under emergency legislation. The position SF’s elected representatives since 1972 has been to vote against the existence of the Special Criminal Court until two years ago, when it began to abstain and finally this year at its Ard-Fheis (annual general meeting), after an extremely poor debate, the party voted to accept such a court.

6Including the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and Amnesty International.

7A term of contempt dating from the years of the Great Hunger to describe capitalists who are happy to use the colonial system to amass personal wealth at the expense of their compatriots; its source is in the Irish language (an gaimbín/ gaimbíneachas — https://www.dictionary.com/browse/gombeen)

8Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party. The first two have been the major parties of the State almost since its inception, with the Greens being a smaller and more recent phenomenon. Fine Gael are the political representatives of the neo-colonial class that supported the partition of the country in the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1921 for which they fought a Civil War (1922-1923) against the Irish Republicans (chiefly the IRA and Sinn Féin). Fianna Fáil led a major split in the Republican movement to form an Irish Government and soon attracted support (and later domination) by a section of native capitalists, soon becoming the favoured choice of the neo-colonial Irish capitalist class, alternating in government from time to time with Fine Gael (the latter in coalition, several times with the social-democratic Labour Party). However, since 1981 no Irish political party has commanded an absolute majority in elected representatives and all governments of the State since then have been coalitions of one kind or another.

9https://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1897/xx/qundimnd.htm Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Day, 22 June 1897, was marked by Connolly and Maud Gonne with protests on the streets of Dublin. Connolly dumped a symbolic coffin into the River Liffey and shouted “to hell with the British Empire”, for which ‘crime’ he spent the night in jail.

SOURCES:

James Connolly on visit of King George in 1911: https://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1911/xx/visitkng.htm

and on Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee: https://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1897/xx/qundimnd.htm

For list of armed conflicts in which the UK has led or participated since coronation date of Elizabeth Windsor in 1953: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_involving_the_United_Kingdom

Invasion of Anguila (missing from above list): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Sheepskin#:~:text=Operation%20Sheepskin%20was%20a%20British,itself%20as%20an%20independent%20Republic.

UK Armed forces officially recorded in the Middle East: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-8794/

British military bases around the world: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overseas_military_bases_of_the_United_Kingdom

Bombing children at play

(from The Treason Felony Blog le buíochas: The Weaver Street Bombing and not dealing with the past)

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

In Belfast, on 13th February 1922, some children playing in Milewater Street, at the corner of Weaver Street, off the York Road, were approached by two Special Constables and told to go and “play with their own” (Special Constables invariably being Protestant, the children were Catholics in a largely Protestant district). They joined other children in the mainly Catholic-occupied Weaver Street and played on a swing attached to a lamp-post. Ten minutes later, two men came to the North Derby Street end of Weaver Street (one eye witness claimed one Special Constable had just spoken to the same two men). They were about 20 metres away from where the children were playing. One of the men then threw a bomb into the middle of the children. As the bomb exploded, gunfire directed into Weaver Street from North Derby Street, covered the two men’s retreat.

Weaver St map
Map showing Weaver Street running from North Derby Street to Milewater Street (which isn’t named on the map)

The explosion killed or injured Mary Johnson (13), Catherine Kennedy (14), W.J. Dempsey (13), Annie Pimley (16), John O’Hanlon (16), Elizabeth O’Hanlon (11), Murtie O’Hanlon (16), Barney Kennedy (10), John McCluskey (12), Rose Ann McNeill (13), Mary McClinton (18), Mary Kerr (6), Susanne Lavery (14), George O’Connor (16), Joseph Conway (12), Patrick Maguire (14), Kate O’Neill (14), Robert McBirney (16) and William Connolly (13). All lived in Weaver Street. Adults standing in their doorways were also badly injured.

The force of the blast threw the children up into the air and caused catastrophic injuries, maiming many of those who survived. Mary Johnson and Catherine Kennedy died immediately. Eliza O’Hanlon died the next day. Statements made in the press and in Westminster indicate that three of those injured had died by the next day, the third being O’Hanlon. By the time the inquest was held on 3rd March, a fourth girl had died from the blast. Two adults were to succumb to their injuries. Margaret Smith died on the 23rd March, while Mary Owens (who lived in nearby Shore Street) died from injuries sustained in the blast on the 6th April.

This was not the first bombing of its kind. On September 25th the previous year, a bomb had been thrown into a group of Catholic children on Milewater Street, injuring nine, including four under six years of age. One man, George Barry, died from injuries he received. The bomb had such force that two houses were wrecked. A bomb had also been thrown by loyalists into a group of school children in Herbert Street on 12th January, injuring six (the Belfast Telegraph erroneously reported it as an IRA attack). The same month, a bomb had been thrown into Weaver Street from a passing taxi.

The Belfast Telegraph claimed the 13th February bomb was one of the largest ever used in the city. It also implausibly offered justification for the bomb attack, saying shots had earlier been fired at an armoured car in Weaver Street. In retrospect, the Belfast Telegraph’s link to an attack of an armoured car merely ties the Special Constabulary closer to the bombing (the ‘Specials’, created at roughly the same time, performed the Black and Tans roles in repression and reprisals in the north).

James Craig also included a reference to the bomb in a report sent to the Colonial Secretary, Winston Churchill and read in Westminster the next day. It stated that there had been…

..the indiscriminate throwing of bombs over a wall into Weaver Street, a Sinn Fein area, which resulted in the death of two children and the wounding of fourteen others. These outrages are greatly deplored by my Government, especially the latter dastardly deed, involving the lives of children.

Craig was more concerned about a gun battle in Clones between republican forces and Special Constables travelling to Enniskillen the day before the Weaver Street bombing. Joe Devlin fumed that Craigs wording was deliberately vague and that some international press had been led to believe that the bomb was thrown by republicans.

As sectarian attacks continued through 1921 and 1922, and even after the 13th February bomb, the (relatively) safe places for Catholic families to live in that part of the York Road had shrank to the area around Weaver Street. The attacks continued to intensify in early summer. On 18th May Thomas McCaffrey from Shore Street was killed. On the night of 20th May, Thomas McShane from Jennymount Street was killed. That same night the remaining Catholic residents of Weaver Street, Milewater Street, North Derby Street, Shore Street and Jennymount Street, some one hundred and forty-eight families, were forced from their homes at gunpoint. By the 21st May 1922 the Catholic community that had established itself around Weaver Street had fled. The 1924 street directory only shows one household remaining from the 1918 directory (in comparison, nearby Seaview Street had two thirds of the same households). Houses in Weaver Street remained occupied until the 1960s as Unilever and the Associated Feed Mills bought up property around Shore Street, Weaver Street and Milewater Street eventually enclosing all but the York Road end of Milewater Street.

The view today of where Weaver Street met North Derby Street. This is more or less where the bomb was thrown from.

Today, Shore Street and Weaver Street are gone, no longer visible on the streetscape of Belfast. Patiently neglected over the decades after 1922, their former occupants were dispersed around other districts of the city. Similarly, the detail of its own particular sadness, sectarianism and savagery are now, largely, long forgotten. The memory of the violence of 1920-22, mostly unarticulated, was indelibly etched into the psyche of the Catholic residents of Belfast.

Some 20-25% of those killed in the 1920-22 conflict died in Belfast but, with few notable exceptions, little was written or said about it over the decades that followed (even today only a handful of books have been written about it). So despite what has happened since 1969, few have considered how the memory of 1920-22 influenced communities. Even fewer have considered the role an absence of public discourse around the violence of 1920-22 may have had in later outbreaks of sectarian violence in the 1930s and 1960s.

Today, the very obliteration of Weaver Street from the streetscape of Belfast, somehow elevates it as an appropriate metaphor for the eclipse of public discourse on the violence of 1920-22.

end.

FURTHER READING

https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/why-don-t-we-remember-the-weaver-street-massacre-in-belfast-1.4797959?fbclid=IwAR2rDtvRV9j1bM8p9SnIxfAEl5ejHHAutwFJG7-U3XtKGiaYPbfwRsiMa38

MOORE STREET SEES BROAD RALLY FOR CONSERVATION AND AGAINST DEMOLITION

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

Between 400 and 500 people gathered in Moore Street on Saturday 22nd January 2022 to hear a number of speakers declare their complete opposition to the plans of the Hammerson property group, most of which had been approved by the chief officer of Dublin City Council’s Planning Department, in the face of a great many formal and informal objections and against even decisions of the elected councillors. Musicians also played and sang a number of songs at the event.

Section of the crowd at the rally. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

SPEAKERS AND SPEECHES

Chaired by the Secretary of the Moore Street Preservation Trust, Mícheál Mac Donncha (Sinn Féin Councillor), the crowd listened to a range of speakers: dramatist and campaigner for decades Frank Allen, 1916 relatives Brendan Mulvihill and Donna Cooney (latter a long-time campaigner and also Green Party Councillor), Diarmuid Breatnach for the Save Moore Street From Demolition campaign group (with a campaign stall every Saturday), Carolyn Alright (fourth-generation street trader), Stephen Troy (2nd generation local butcher) and Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Sinn Féin TD [member of the Irish Parliament]).

Micheál Mac Donncha, Secretary of the Moore Street Preservation Trust (also SF Dublin Councillor) chairing the event. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Each speech was different but of course sharing such themes as the struggle for Irish independence, historical memory and conservation but also closely linked to issues very much of the day: lack of justice in economic and social policy, lack of democracy in decision-making, reference to the housing crisis, property speculators, vulture funds, the banks ….. A number also made reference to the recent deaths of two homeless people in the vicinity.

Diarmuid Breatnach, of the Save Moore Street From Demolition campaign group, speaking at the rally (Photo sourced: Internet).
Independent businessman in Moore Street Stephen Troy speaking during the rally (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

There were some additional points made, for example Frank Allen called on people to tell the Fianna Fáil party they’d never get a vote in Dublin again if they didn’t act to save the area from demolition; Donna Cooney pointed out that demolition of buildings had a much worse effect on the environment than restoration; Diarmuid Breatnach stated that the area was of international historical importance and merited world heritage status; Stephen Troy spoke about the disaster for small businesses next to a 15-year building site; Caroline Alright pleaded for the future of the street to be taken out of the hands of the developers and Ó Snodaigh expected a more supportive attitude from the next Government (widely predicted to be a coalition with Sinn Féin as the larger partner).

Pat Waters, performing at the rally. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)
Donna Cooney, long-time campaigner for Moore Street and relative of Volunteer Elizabeth O’Farrell (see her portrait next to Donna) speaking at the rally. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Live music for the event was provided by Pat Waters, performing his own compositions, including a song about the O’Rahilly who was fatally wounded in 1916 in Moore Street leading a charge against a British Army barricade; also two musicians from the Cobblestone Pub, including the son of the owner, Tom Mulligan who performed Pete St. John’s Dublin in the Rare Aul’ Times.

Musicians of the Cobblestone performing (note Frank Allen in left background, who was a passionate speaker at the event). (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

There was speculation in some quarters as to why the rally had been called at such short notice; with prominent members of the Moore Street Preservation Trust absent1 and having an incorrect Irish name of the street2 on the event poster and promotional merchandise did seem to indicate a rushed event.

For some too, the Trust is being increasingly seen as closely linked to Sinn Féin, which for some is a positive factor but for others is not. The closeness has been evident on a number of occasions: a SF public meeting some years ago at which Jim Connolly Heron, prominent member of the Trust was the only speaker representing campaigners and more recently the promotion of the Trust’s Alternative Moore Street plan by SF, including the party President, Mary Lou Mac Donald, speaking at its launch a few months ago. At the rally on Saturday, the speaker for the Save Moore Street From Demolition campaign group made a point of saying that their group is independent of any political party.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh, SF TD and sponsor of Bill on Moore Street in the Dáil, speaking at the rally (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

However, the Bill to make the area a cultural quarter, currently proceeding with glacial slowness through the Dáil (Irish Parliament) is sponsored by a Sinn Féin TD, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, who spoke at the rally. Others counter by pointing out that Darragh O’Brien, a Minister of a party now in Government, Fianna Fáil, had sponsored a very similar bill back in 2015; however, with that party now the leading member of the current coalition Government, their leaders have welcomed the speculator’s plan for Moore Street.

A view of the crowd at the very start of the rally (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

GOVERNMENT

The Government department most concerned with the Moore Street issues is the Department of Heritage, part of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage3. When Heather Humphries was the Minister responsible for Heritage she championed the bid of property speculator Joe O’Reilly to get control of Nos. 24-25 (owned by DCC) at the end of the central Moore Street terrace in exchange for the four buildings the State had declared a National Monument (Nos.14-17).

When Dublin City councillors voted not to allow that “land-swap”, against the recommendation of the City Managers, she castigated them publicly. She also instructed her legal team to appeal the High Court Judgement of March 2016 that the whole area is a National Historical Monument and in February was successful in having the judgement set aside.4 When Humphries attended Moore Street during the Easter 2016 events she was picketed and booed when she spoke. However, the current Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien actually put in a submission against the proposed demolition of a building at the south end of Moore Street; however the Planning Department of Dublin City Council approved it.

Section of the crowd in front of the rally (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

As Minister 1n 2016, Humphries set up a Consultative Group on Moore Street on which all the Dáil political parties had a seat, along with a couple of councillors. From the campaigners, only the Jim Connolly Heron group had representation on it. The Minister’s group (latterly “Advisory”) has been in operation from 2016 until late last year but seems to have achieved nothing. The Hammerson Plan was welcomed by its Chairperson and by some of its members, including Brian O’Neill, Chairperson of the 1916 Relatives Association which seems a volte-face of that organisation, which had the conservation of the Moore Street battlefield as a central point of the Association’s constitution. However, the Hammerson plan was strongly opposed by others in the Minister’s Group, including Jim Connolly Heron. Outside the Minister’s Group, the opposition is even more widescale.

Street traders and independent businessman in Moore Street chatting at the rally. Photo: Rebel Breeze)

THE FUTURE

The planning permission given to Hammerson will be appealed to An Bord Pleanála but the Bord has a bad reputation with conservation campaigners, who see it as generally favouring the property developers5. Scheduling the appeal would take at least two months and possibly much longer. Should the campaigners not succeed at that stage, a legal challenge is also a possibility. Alongside the exploring of these options, street activities such as the rally on Saturday are likely. In 2016 conservation campaigners occupied the buildings for six days, blockaded them for six weeks, organised marches, rallies, pickets, re-enactments, concerts, history tours and public meetings.

Moore Street might be in for a hot summer. Or, given how long some processes have taken to date, even a hot Autumn.

End item.

FOOTNOTES

1 Including Jim Connolly Heron

2 The name they used was Sráid Uí Mhórdha, which is also the one on DCC’s street nameplate. However, it has been widely accepted in recent years that the correct name in Irish is Sráid an Mhúraigh, which is the one recorded in the State’s database for place-names, logainm.ie and furthermore is the version used in Sinn Féin’s own Bill currently proceeding through the Dáil.

3 Over the years it has had different names.

4 The Appeal Court verdict did not discuss whether it was or was not but instead declared that a High Court Judge was not empowered to declare a National Monument.

5 In fact, the Bord approved the O’Reilly plan for a giant “shopping mall” in the area (forerunner to the current Hammerson Plan) even though the Bord’s own officer recommended rejecting it.

SOURCES

https://www.fiannafail.ie/blog/fianna-fail-publishes-bill-to-redevelop-moore-street-area

https://www.gov.ie/en/organisation/department-of-housing-local-government-and-heritage/

1922 Unemployed Workers’ Occupation of the Dublin Rotunda Commemorated

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 4 mins.)

On Saturday 22nd January 2022 an event was held to commemorate the centenary year of the occupation of the Rotunda building in Dublin by 150 unemployed workers led by Liam Ó Flaithearta, a Republican and Communist and writer from Inis Mór (off the Galway Coast). The occupation took place two days after the formation of the Free State and was attacked by an anti-communist crowd while after a number of days the occupiers were forced out by the police force of the new state of the dismembered nation1. The event last week was organised by the Liam and Tom O’Flaherty Society.

The event began with a gathering at 1.30pm in North Great George’s Street, where the Manifesto had been printed in 1922.2 People then proceeded to the nearby Rotunda, site of the occupation in 1922.3

Copy of the manifesto available at the event (Photo: D.Breatnach)
Seosamh Ó Cuaig (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Seosamh Ó Cuaig from Cill Chiaráin, Carna, Conamara, opened the proceedings as Chairperson, ag cur fáilte roimh dhaoine i nGaeilge agus i mBéarla, briefly introducing the historical occasion and recounting how some companies, including Boland’s, had supplied bread, sugar and tea to the occupiers, before he introduced published historian and blogger Donal Fallon.

Fallon not only recounted the events of that occupation 100 years ago but also placed it in context of a number of other factors: the unemployment then in the State (30,000 in Dublin) and to follow through into the 1930s, the upsurge in workers’ occupations and local soviets, the reactionary nature of the government of the new state and of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church at the time, which was very supportive of the new regime and extremely hostile to any kind of socialism, along with the cultivation of a reactionary social and political attitude among sections of the population.

Donal Fallon speaking at the event (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Fallon also commented on the censorship and otherwise neglect of Liam Ó Flaithearta as an accomplished modern Irish writer and hoped for his writing to become more popularised now.

Alan O’Brien reading O’Flaherty’s Manifesto (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Alan O’Brien, Dublin poet and dramatist, was welcomed on to the stage to read the Manifesto which had been issued at the time, copies of which were available at a nearby stall. One of the aspects of that document was a call for Dublin City Council to set up public works to provide paid employment for those out of work in exchange for services to the community.

Diarmuid Breatnach, singer and blogger was invited to the stage to sing “The Red Flag” because it had been sung there during the occupation. No doubt those in the Government, Church hierarchy and generally among reactionary people at that time would have been horrified by the lyrics and would have asserted that they were foreign to Irish culture and thinking. However, as Breatnach explained, the lyrics had been composed by an Irishman (see Appendix 1), Jim Connell from Meath. Connell wrote the lyrics to the air of The White Cockade and was appalled to hear it sung to the air of Oh Tannebaum, a Christmas carol. Breatnach had never heard it sung to the White Cockade air but had been practicing it for days and hoped he would be faithful to the original air.

Diarmuid Breatnach singing The Red Flag to the air of The White Cockade

Called by the Chairperson to sing a follow-up song, Breatnach sang most of the verses of “Be Moderate”, satirical lyrics published by James Connolly in 1907 in New York. There had been no air published for the song and it has been sung to a number of airs but he would sing it to the air of A Nation Once Again, which provides a chorus:

We only want the Earth,
we only want the Earth,
And our demands most moderate are –
We only want the Earth!

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=637274744281164

The event was later reported by RTÉ briefly in English on the Six O’Clock News and also by video on TG4’s Nuacht in Irish including interviews with Fallon an a number of participants.

End main report.

Early arrivals at the event with the plinth of Parnell monument in background centre left (Photo: D.Breatnach)
Section of the crowd and media filmers at event (anti-vaccine etc march in background) (Photo: D.Breatnach)

APPENDIX 1:

THE RED FLAG: AUTHOR, LYRICS AND AIR

After the Rotunda occupation was terminated, Liam Ó Flaithearta emigrated to London, which is where the Red Flag lyrics had been composed twenty-three years earlier. The lyrics were composed by Meath man Jim Connell in London in 1889 to the air of the Scottish Jacobite march The White Cockade — he was reported livid when he learned that it was being sung to the air of Oh Tannebaum, protesting: “Ye ruined me poem!”

Jim Connell was a Socialist Republican (he had taken the Fenian oath), activist and journalist who emigrated to England in 1875 after being blacklisted in Dublin for his efforts in unionising the docks in which he worked. Apparently he began to write the song lyrics on his way home from a demonstration in London city centre, on the train from Charing Cross to Honor Oak in SE London, where he lived and completed it in the house of a fellow Irishman and neighbour, Nicholas Donovan.

Photo of Jim Connell, author of The Red Flag (Photo: D.Breatnach)

The lyrics have been sung by revolutionary and social-democratic (the latter less so now) activists all over the English-speaking world but also in some other languages in the years since.

Not mentioned in the Wikipedia entry on Jim Connell is the fact that he also wrote a book, apparently a best-seller in his time, called something like “The Poacher’s Handbook“. I’ve been looking for that book for years without success (DCC Library could find no reference to it).

UNVEILING PLAQUE ON JIM CONNELL’S HOME

Today there is a plaque on the two-storey house where Connell lived until his death in 1929, having been awarded the Red Star Medal by Lenin in 1922.

Plaque on house in which Jim Connell lived in SE London when he wrote the lyrics (Photo: D.Breatnach, sorry about the shadow)

In the late 1980s a history archivist with the London Borough of Lewisham contacted the Lewisham branch of the Irish in Britain Representation Group, of which I was Secretary, to consult us about the erection of a history plaque on the house and the wording to use4. We attempted to have the words “Irish Republican” added to “Socialist” after his name on the plaque and were successful with “Irish” but not with “Republican”.

There was a handful at the unveiling at midday on a weekday, including a representative of the local Council, a couple from the Greater London Council including its Irish section, a trumpeter (who played the Oh Tannebaum air) and Gordon Brown (then just an MP). I believe this was 1989, the centenary of the song being written.

Brown’s speech did not mention Ireland once but as he finished, I jumped up on a nearby garden wall and while thanking those in attendance said that it was sad to see the country of Jim Connell’s birth omitted along with his views on Irish independence, particularly at a time when British troops were fighting to suppress a struggle for that independence.

This was during the age before mobile phones and I have no photos, sadly. So no big deal but the next edition of the Irish Post, a weekly paper for the Irish community in Britain, carried a report on the ceremony and my intervention. It was written by the columnist Dolan, who was the alter ego of the Editor, Brendan Mac Alua (long dead now) and a supporter of much of the IBRG’s activities.

I lived in Catford then, five minutes by bicycle from the site of the house and have photographed the plaque.

FENIAN CONNECTION BETWEEN LYRICS ACROSS TWO DECADES

The words and sentiment “Let cowards flinch or traitors sneer” in the Red Flag mirror some in a song celebrating Irish political prisoners, The Felons of Our Land: “While traitors shame and foes defame” and “Let cowards mock and tyrants frown”. Arthur Forrester wrote that song 20 years before Connell’s and it would be surprising indeed had Connell not consciously or unconsciously borrowed the construction and sentiment.

Arthur Forrester was himself of great interest as were his poet sisters, both raised by their Irish nationalist mother, also very interesting person and poet in her own right, in Manchester, known to Michael Davitt. Arthur was a Fenian and did time in prison for it5. He was also for a period proof-reader for the Irish Times! Frank McNally wrote an article about the song but I don’t have access to anything except the first few lines.

T-shirt worn by one of those in attendance (Photo: D.Breatnach)

APPENDIX 2:

Lyrics of The Red Flag:

The People's Flag is deepest red,
It shrouded oft our martyred dead, 
And ere their limbs grew stiff and cold, 
Their hearts' blood dyed its every fold. 
Chorus: 
Then raise the scarlet standard high. 
Beneath its shade we'll live and die, 
Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer, 
We'll keep the red flag flying here. 
 
Look round, the Frenchman loves its blaze, 
The sturdy German chants its praise, 
In Moscow's vaults its hymns were sung,
Chicago swells the surging throng. 
(chorus)
It waved above our infant might, 
When all ahead seemed dark as night; 
It witnessed many a deed and vow, 
We must not change its colour now. 
(chorus)
 It well recalls the triumphs past, 
It gives the hope of peace at last; 
The banner bright,  the symbol plain, 
Of human right and human gain. 
(chorus) 
It suits today the weak and base, 
Whose minds are fixed on pelf and place 
To cringe before the rich man's frown, 
And haul the sacred emblem down. 
(chorus) 
With head uncovered swear we all 
To bear it onward till we fall; 
Come dungeons dark or gallows grim, 
This song shall be our parting hymn.

FOOTNOTES

1Not long afterwards, the new Free State’s National Army, under the orders of Michael Collins, attacked a protest occupation by Irish Republicans of the Four Courts which began the Civil War of the State against the IRA, lasting until 1923 with over 80 executions of Republicans by the State along with many kidnappings and assassinations (such as Harry Boland’s and of course others killed in battle (excluding the shooting of surrendered prisoners, which the National Army also did on occasion). Some were even murdered AFTER the war had ended, for example Noel Lemass, his body left in the Dublin mountains.

2Possibly this was the same location which had housed the James Connolly College (raided by the Auxiliaries in 1921).

3Also the location of the first public meeting to launch the Irish Volunteers in 1913 and where much of the GPO garrison and others were briefly kept prisoner after the surrender in nearby Moore Street in 1916. And just beside it the Parnell Monument, across the street the location of the founding of the Irish Ladies Land League (where members were arrested) and diagonally in SE direction, Tom Clarke’s tobacconist and newsagent shop (occupied by the British Army during the Rising).

4The Lewisham branch of the IBRG had been founded in 1986 and founded the Lewisham Irish Centre in 1992, I think. It was a very active branch in campaigning, community and political work, ceasing to exist around 2002. The IBRG itself was founded in 1981 and was active on many issues, including anti-Irish racism, representation for the diaspora, release of the framed Irish prisoners, British withdrawal from Ireland, against anti-Traveller racism, plastic bullets and strip-searches. It was also for equality in general, being against all racism, gender discrimination and homophobia and one year shared a march with the Broadwater Farm campaign.

5 Despite the Irish diaspora having given the working class in Britain its anthem (The Red Flag), its classic novel (The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists) and, among many social and trade union activists and leaders, two leaders of the first genuine mass workers’ movement in Britain (the Chartists — O’Brien and O’Connor), and having fought against the Blackshirts at the Battle of Cable Street, there is no BA in Irish Studies alone available in British Universities. The Irish diaspora is also the first migrant community in Britain and for centuries the largest, has made significant contribution to the arts and a huge one to rock, punk and pop music. It would seem that the British ruling class does not want its population to know in any depth about the Irish.

SOURCES

https://www.facebook.com/OFlahertySociety

Report before the event by TG4: https://www.facebook.com/NuachtTG4/videos/247647487386768

Report after the event by TG4 and clips of the singing of The Red Flag: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=637274744281164

The chorus of The Red Flag sung to the original air, i.e of The White Cockade: https://www.facebook.com/OFlahertySociety/videos/459751325864989

Jim Connell and The Red Flag

The Felons of Our Land song: https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/the-felons-of-our-land-frank-mcnally-on-the-various-lives-of-a-republican-ballad-1.4185803

Ellen Forrester, nationalist and mother of Arthur Forrester: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellen_Forrester