Tá Rebel Breeze fíor-bhuíoch do Kerron Ó Luain as cead foillsithe a óráid ag comóradh scaoileadh marfach an tSaor Stát le Chathal Brugha a thabhairt dúinn. Rebel Breeze is most grateful to Kerron Ó Luain for permission to publish his oration on the occasion of the fatal shooting by the Free State of Cathal Brugha.
(Reading time: 11 mins.)
Óráid a tugadh ag Comóradh Chathail Uí Bhrugha, 7ú Iúil 2022, Baile Átha Cliath
Oration given at a Commemoration for Cathal Brugha, 7 July 2022, Dublin
Buíochas leis an gcoiste as an gcuireadh a thabhairt dom labhairt ag an ócáid stairiúil seo. Tá tábhacht ar leith go líonfar an bhearna maidir le stair an Chogaidh Chathartha, óir tá an stát tar éis na maidí a ligeadh le sruth.
Ba mhaith liom an chaint ghairid seo a thabhairt in ómós do Mhícheál Ó Doibhilin, an staraí a bhásaigh an tseachtain seo.
Rinne Mícheál neart oibre ar leithéidí Anne Devlin agus d’fhoilsigh sé neart saothair tríd Kilmainham Tales, a thug léargas ar ghnéithe den stair poblachtach a ligeadh i ndearmad.
Le linn 2016, agus comóradh céad bhliain ar Éirí Amach 1916 faoi lán seoil tháinig sé chuig mo bhaile dúchais, Ráth Cúil, áit ar thug sé caint ar Josie McGowan, a bhí mar bhall de Chumann na mBan, agus a mharaigh na póilíní in 1918.
Thanks to the committee for the invitation to give this short talk. It’s important to mark events such as these to do with the Civil War since the State has not seen fit to do so.
I’d like to dedicate this talk to Mícheál Ó Doibhlin, the historian who died just this week.
Mícheál carried out a great deal of work on the likes of Anne Devlin and he published numerous works through Kilmainham Tales which provided an insight into lesser known aspects of republican history.
During 2016, with the hundredth anniversary of the 1916 Rising in full swing, he came to my hometown of Rathcoole, where he have a talk on Josie McGowan, who was the first member of Cumann na mBan to be martyred when she was killed by police in 1918.
I’d like to speak about Cathal Brugha first and then the impact of the Civil War/Counter-Revolution.
CATHAL BRUGHA – EARLY YEARS
In terms of the historical sources, it is not easy to find a wealth of material on Cathal Brugha online. Unlike Michael Collins, for example, there is not an abundance of accessible sources online pertaining to Brugha.
He is referred to in the Bureau of Military History sources such as the Witness Statements, and these have been digitised, but his private papers, held in UCD, await digitisation.
The recently published biography of Brugha by Daithí Ó Corráin and Gerard Hanley, entitled Cathal Brugha: “An Indomitable Spirit”, will hopefully go some way to popularising a fuller and more nuanced account of his life and politics.
Cathal Brugha was born as Charles Burgess in Dublin in 1874. He was born into a middle-class family, his father a cabinet maker. Brugha was born into a large family, which was not unusual at the time. Perhaps less common, was that he came from a mixed Protestant and Catholic marriage.
There is a good chance his father was a Protestant Fenian during the 1860s and 70s.
The crucial politicising force of this mid-twenties was Conradh na Gaeilge. He joined Craobh an Chéitinnigh in Dublin in 1899. And it was through the Conradh he met his wife Kathleen Kingston whom he married in 1909.
It was in this Gaelic revivalist and republican milieu that he met the likes of Seán Mac Diarmada, Tom Clarke and Piaras Béaslaí, and this influenced his move towards militant republicanism.
It is worth noting, at this point, that six of the seven signatories of the 1916 Proclamation were members of Conradh na Gaeilge, as were fourteen of the sixteen men executed in the wake of the Rising.
PREPARATION FOR RISING, PREPARATION FOR WAR — AND FURTHER
In 1908, Brugha joined the IRB. He was employed as a travelling salesman with a candlestick company during those years and so, like many within Fenianism before him, was able to disguise his organising and recruitment under the cloak of his business activities.
Brugha was later instrumental in the setting up of the Irish Volunteers and then the Howth Gun Running. He was second in command to Éamon Ceannt at the South Dublin Union (now James’s Street Hospital) during the 1916 Rising.
He held a detachment of the British Army at bay singlehandedly with his ‘Peter the Painter’ revolver and nearly died from the wounds, including a lacerated nerve, he sustained in the feat. For the remainder of his life he walked with a limp and had to have a special boot made so that he could walk.
In the wake of the 1916 Rising Brugha was central to the re-organisation of the Irish Volunteers, which during these years, along with the Irish Citizen Army, began to coalesce into the Irish Republican Army.
In terms of his rejection of the Treaty in 1921 and death during 1922, we get a snapshot of the trajectory of his politics in 1917.
He was central to the debates over the formation of the Sinn Féin constitution in 1917, and he clashed with the dual-monarchist Arthur Griffith over the insertion of the word “Republic” into the document, which Brugha ardently supported.
Later, at the outbreak of the Black and Tan War in 1918 another indication of his politics can be seen. Brugha, as President of the Dáil, and later as Minister of Defence, was anxious that the IRA would do nothing that might effect Ireland’s case at the Peace Conference underway in Paris.
These were not the actions of a militarist fanatic, as state and revisionist historians have often portrayed him, but the strategic calculations of a principled political republican.
His dedication to the cultural and linguistic revolution is a feature of his activities during 1919 — particularly during the reading of the 1919 Democratic Programme.
Rinneadh gach rud trí Ghaeilge an lá sin agus ba é Brugha a bhí chun cinn.
During that day all the business was conducted through Irish and Brugha was very forthright about that. He understood not only the political importance of announcing the advent of the Dáil at an international level, but in doing so through Irish.
Another indication of his desire to advance the Irish language was that his plan for Conradh na Gaeilge be given sanction by the newly emergent state. “It was essential”, he said “that the authority of Dáil Éireann should be placed behind the Gaelic League”.
LESSONS OF HISTORY
It is our duty as historians and as republicans who want to learn from the mistakes of the past to analyse things as they were and not gloss over them.
Brugha was less advanced when it came to other social questions, such as that of the land.
When a loan scheme was set up by the Dáil in 1919-1920 Brugha viewed it as “a scheme that would be a perfectly sound business proposition, and offer a good field to Irishmen who desire to invest their money”.
This speaks to the class composition of much of that era’s Irish Republicanism – with over-representation from the lower-middle and middle classes and under-representation from the urban and rural working-class.
There was a consequent lack of a radical social programme that might have attracted the masses, particularly during 1922.
Liam Mellows, according to a recent publication by Conor McNamara, only really came towards socialism late in the day whilst imprisoned in Mountjoy Jail.
In a similar vein, the great socialist-republican Peadar O’Donnell, remarked that during the occupation of the Four Courts in July 1922 there existed a gulf between the republicans inside and the workers outside.
We can also point to a lack of militancy within the leadership of the labour movement, as we can to a lack of socialism within the republican movement.
However, and despite a climate of soviets springing up, land agitation and general strikes over the course of several years, socialism and republicanism failed to fully synthesise into an organised and militant socialist and anti-imperialist movement.
Nevertheless, this is not to take away from Brugha, Mellows or any of his comrades. The picture that emerges of Brugha is one of a dedicated and political Irish Republican. A man of principle, honour and integrity.
It isn’t the picture of a mindless militarist, or “a fanatic”, as a recent review of the above-mentioned book Indomitable Spirit in the Irish Independent characterised Brugha. Likewise, some historians have derided Brugha essentially as a man of “no politics”.
However, as JJ O’Kelly, better known as Sceilg, said of Brugha, he was “showered with intellectual gifts of a high order, coupled with an exquisite literary taste; was a good linguist, a powerful writer, a fluent and convincing speaker, a pleasing singer and exquisitely fond of good music”.
Previously, during a potential split in Craobh an Chéitinnigh in 1908 Brugha was seen as a force for reconciliation, rather than as an apolitical “splitter”.
At its core, the realisation that the Treaty represented a half-way house between Empire and Republic that was doomed to failure informed Brugha’s actions during 1921 and 1922.
The mainstream historical narrative is that the “militarists” couldn’t see sense and get behind the so-called “empty formulas” of the oath. But, harking back to his dispute with Griffith in 1917, I think Brugha knew the importance of the term “Republic”.
Brugha understood that the wording and principles laid down in such documents would influence the character of any Irish state which might emerge. Thuig sé, creidim, go gcuireadh na prionsabail a leagfaí síos ag an bpointe criticiúil cruth ar an stát a bhí le tíocht.
Brugha had also pushed for an Oath to the Republic to be adopted by the IRA in 1919. The context for him doing so was the long tradition of oaths stretching back through Fenianism and other oathbound secret societies.
Oathbound secret societies were common throughout Europe in opposition to feudal and absolutist monarchies from the Enlightenment era onwards.
But in Ireland such secret societies, whether agrarian, nationalist or republican, or an admixture of each, represented an opposition to colonialism and their oaths were a necessary offering of allegiance to the community and the Irish body politic rather than to the invader.
Brugha’s dedication to the Republic and rejection of imperialism was shown again during the Treaty debates of 1921 when he spoke thusly:
“if …. instead of being so strong, our last cartridge had been fired our last thinking had been spent and our last man was lying on the ground and his enemies howling around him and their bayonets raised, ready to plunge them into his body, that man should say – true to the traditions handed down – if they said ‘will you come into the Empire?’ he should say and he would say : ‘No, I will not!’
That is the spirit which has lasted the centuries and you people in favour of the Treaty know that the British Government and the British Empire will have gone down before that spirit dies in Ireland”.
CIVIL WAR/ COUNTERREVOLUTION
Civil War eventually began in 1922 with the shelling of the Four Courts with British guns by Free State forces. Again, busting the myth that he was only out for war, Brugha had actually been reluctant to enter the Republican garrison with Mellows, Rory O’Connor, and Joe McKelvey.
Likewise, Oscar Traynor; he and Brugha occupied Hamman Hotel and Buildings on Upper O’Connell street as a secondary garrison. As the Battle of Dublin raged the buildings occupied by Brugha went ablaze.
Free State soldiers shouted at him to surrender, to which he replied “níl aon chuimhneamh agam ar a leithéid a dhéanamh” (I have no notion of doing so). After asking his own garrison to surrender Brugha approached the Free State soldiers and was shot dead.
The Civil War has often been over-simplified into a cartoonish clash of “brother against brother” and “the Big Fellow” (Collins) versus “the Long Fellow” (De Valera). This negates the aspects of it which were clearly counter-revolutionary in nature, and it can just as easily be labelled the Counter-Revolution of 1922-23.
The results of the Counter-Revolution in which Brugha died and which deepened in the years after, especially during the 1920s, speak for themselves.
Sided with Empire over Republic. The acceptance of the Treaty meant the acceptance of White Dominion status along with Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
In doing so the counter-revolutionaries severed the nascent anti-colonial links with the Third World which had existed throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
This move, according to Bill Rollston and Robbie McVeigh in their recent publication Anois ar Theacht an tSamhraidh: Ireland, Colonialism and the Unfinished Revolution, informs the nature and perseverance of Irish racism today.
It sided with Rich over Poor. The infamous quote from the good Catholic and Christian W.T. Cosgrave about “people being reared in work houses taking it in their minds to emigrate”, resonates here.
This is the mentality which laid the blueprint for how the State facilitated and turned a blind eye to the horrors of the industrial schools and laundries – horrors which were inflicted against women and children mainly from the urban and rural working class.
It sided with Partition over Unity. The nationalists of the North were abandoned to the mercy of the Orange state, despite knowledge among the emergent conservative republican elite like Cosgrave and Kevin O’Higgins of the pogroms which had been going on in Belfast between 1920-22.
The lame duck Border Commission of 1925 was never going to challenge the economic or political viability of the Six Counties
It sided with Anglophone Ireland over what was left of Irish speaking Ireland. There was over half a million, or 543,511 to be precise, native Irish speakers in the state in 1926. Today there are less than 10% of that, roughly 20,000.
The Free State in the 1920s implemented a symbolic cultural programme – state departments used the cúpla focail, schools were superficially Gaelicized, post boxes were painted green.
This was also a means of shoring up support for the State against republicans and other “subversives” in the 1920s and 30s by capturing and channelling one ideological aspect of the revolutionary years. But no radical social programme was devised.
Rather than re-distribute wealth and local power to the West, a symbolic and centralised pseudo-revival was implemented, while Conradh na Gaeilge, which Brugha had been so loyal to, went into rapid decline naively thinking that the conservative state would somehow act as a genuine custodian of the language revival.
Tá go leor leor samplaí den leanúnachas seo leis an impiriúlachas le fáil.
Other examples of a continuity and no real break with imperialism abound. In law, the Free State remained wedded to British common law over a potential new system.
Brehon Law had been mooted as having communal benefits different from the individualist and property focussed British law by cultural nationalists and by Marxists such as James Connolly. But this mode of thought was not considered.
In administration, according to historian J.J. Lee, 98% of civil servants from the old British colonial administration were kept on during the years of the early Free State.
In finance, Ernest Blyth’s conservative fiscal policies were carbon copies of Westminster’s and the punt was shackled to the sterling.
Even down to seemingly innocuous cultural traits such as dress – W.T. Cosgrave and his ilk adopted the top hat and coat-tails of the British once in office – there were continuities.
While this last point may seem minor, it was a signifier of the whole ideology and culture of the state – Conservative, Catholic, Anglophone, with only a veneer of Gaelic symbology.
Little wonder then that the State lurched from dependence on one empire from the 1920s into dependence on others in the 1960s and 70s in the form of the US empire and the emergent EU empire — via the policies of Foreign Direct Investment and the Common Agricultural Policy.
The legacy then of the counter-revolution still weighs heavily on our people.
It is our duty to analyse the different forces – be they political, class or cultural – which defeated the Republic in 1922-23 and to work towards defeating them and breaking fully with Empire, as Cathal Brugha sought to do.
An Phoblacht Abú!
Kerron Ó Luain, staraí, Ráth Cúil, Co. Átha Cliath.
(Reading time first section to “additional objections“: 10 minutes)
The big property speculator company Hammerson wishes, in addition to other demolitions, to demolish every building except five in the central terrace in Moore Street all the way out to O’Connell Street and the cutting through the area of two new roads. This is area is a centuries-old street market and the scene of a battle during the 1916 Rising as the HQ Garrison of the Rising occupied the central terrace of 16 buildings. The site is of huge historical and cultural importance not only for Ireland but for the world. Along with many others I submitted objections through Dublin City Council’s system which requires a payment of €20 for each application to which one is objecting. I wished to oppose the Hammerson planning applications 2861/21, 2862/21, 2863/21 on grounds historical and cultural, architectural, of city planning, of democracy, social amenity and on grounds of inner city regeneration and planning.
It is important to consider what the Moore Street area IS, what it can BECOME and what can be destroyed in the present and future by ill-considered approval of “development” plans proposed by property speculators.
The Moore Street area is one of great importance in what might be called our national history, as it contains the relocation/ evacuation route and last sites of the Headquarters of the 1916 Rising, an event that is widely accepted as being of seminal importance in our development as a nation. It was a battleground in which insurgents and civilians were injured by bullets of the Occupation and in which a number of both groups were killed. For this reason not only tourists from abroad but also from all parts of Ireland, including from the Six Counties are to be frequently seen on the street in walking history tours.
At the junction of Moore Lane and Henry Place Irish Volunteer Michael Mulvihill was killed and at the junction of Moore Street and Sampson Lane, Vol. Henry “Harry” Coyle of the Irish Citizen Army was also killed. At that latter junction a British soldier, shot and wounded by 18-year-old ICA Volunteer Tom Crimmins while in O’Rahilly’s charge, was collected by yet another Volunteer, George Plunkett, one of the brothers of Proclamation Signatory Joseph Plunkett and taken into No.10 Moore Street, where a field hospital was being managed by, among others, Volunteer Elizabeth O’Farrell. That building was the first HQ of the Rising after Moore Street and there the first council of war after the evacuation was held. Along with a number of other buildings in the central Moore Street, it holds the mark in its party wall of the tunnelling through the entire terrace that was accomplished by the Volunteers during the night of Easter Friday.
Representatives of all the groups that participated in the Rising were in the Moore Street area: Irish Republican Brotherhood, Irish Volunteers, Irish Citizen Army, Cumann na mBan, Fianna Éireann and Hibernian Rifles.
Moore Street itself held a barricade built by Volunteers the early days of Easter Week at the crossroads with Salmon Lane and Henry Place, as well as one constructed by the encircling British Army at the Parnell Street junction and there was another at the junction with Moore Lane. The charge on the British barricade led by the The O’Rahilly was along Moore Street too.
And of course, it is in Moore Street itself that the decision to surrender was taken, the site also of the last hours of freedom of six of those shot by British firing squads in Dublin, including Willy Pearse and five of the Seven Signatories: Tom Clarke, Patrick Pearse, James Connolly, Joseph Plunkett and Sean McDermott.
It is a remarkable fact that from the creation of the State no monument or plaque existed in Moore Street to commemorate the momentous events there until the small 1916 commemorative plaque was erected there, presumably by Dublin City Council, on the 50th anniversary of the Rising. That is all that remains there in visible commemoration to this day.
As an institution of civic society Dublin City Council should be doing its utmost to appropriately commemorate that history and at the very least safeguarding its location and artifacts from destruction.
On democratic grounds too, Dublin City Council should reflect the wishes of the residents of the city rather than those of property speculators – and the wishes of the residents of the city have been clearly outlined on many occasions, not only in the over 380,000 petition signatures collected by the Save Moore Street From Demolition campaign.
It is not on grounds of our national history alone that the area should be conserved and developed sensitively, for it is also of world history significance and deserves recognition as a site of World Heritage importance.
From no less than the Imperial War Museum in London came the assessment that the area is “a WW1 urban battleground in prime condition” (a reference to surviving buildings and features including crucially the 1916 streetscape).
The 1916 Rising was indeed “a WW1 battleground” but it was also the site of a Rising against world war – the first of four that took place during the years of WW1 (the other three included Russia in February and October 1917 and another in Germany in 1918).
In the history of the human struggle against colonial domination, the 1916 Rising looms large, not only in its own right but in the huge encouragement the news of it gave to colonised people around the world.
As the 1916 Rising was the first to field a specifically workers’ revolutionary army, a revolutionary women’s military organisation and to address itself, in the 1916 Proclamation, to including women at a time when hardly a woman in the world enjoyed the right to vote, declaring itself also for equality, for “civil and religious freedom for all”, it was of huge world history importance in social and political terms.
Plans to sensitively develop and conserve the visible signs of history in the street should take account of the evacuation route of most of the GPO Garrison through Henry Place, across the dangerous junction with Moore Lane and into No.10 Moore street, then tunneling from house to house, progressing through buildings of the entire terrace to emerge in what is now O’Rahilly Parade. The planned construction of a lane from Henry Street into the evacuation route distracts from the historic route and a new road from O’Connell Street through the central terrace, as in the Hammerson application, no matter how high or low the planned arch, breaks that historical line of the progress of the Volunteers – forever.
The plans to construct a hotel in O’Rahilly Parade (and other future plans that have been mooted but not included yet in a Hammerson application), along with the back of the unfortunately-permitted Jury’s Hotel on the other side of the laneway, would create an undesirable narrow canyon effect and also completely overshadow the O’Rahilly monument there. In Dublin folklore the western end of that lane was known for generations as “Dead Man’s Corner” because it was where the O’Rahilly died after writing a farewell letter to his wife, having received five British bullets while leading a charge up Moore Street in 1916. The O’Rahilly was one of the founders of the Irish Volunteers.
It was in that laneway that the Volunteers were gathered to make a heroic assault on the British Army barricade at the Parnell/ Moore Street junction, to be cancelled when the decision to surrender was taken. Among those awaiting keyed up the order to charge, was a future Government Minister.
Despite the incorrect name given to the street in Irish (check the national nameplace database logainm.ie which gives it as Sráid an Mhúraigh), it is noticeable that many of the participants in the 1916 Rising were Irish speakers, including in fact writers, poets and educationalists through the Irish language – these were also represented among the GPO Garrison in Moore Street. In particular Patrick Pearse was one of the founders of the modern school of Irish writing in journalism, polemics, poetry and fiction. Pearse also had very advanced theories about education which he sought to put into practice in St. Enda’s, the school he founded with his brother Willy. Willy himself, as well as learning to speak Irish was an accomplished sculptor.
Joseph Plunkett had written poetry in Arabic as well as English, learned Esperanto and was one of the founders of the Esperanto League. Plunkett joined the Gaelic League and studied Irish.
Sean McDermott was also active in the Gaelic League and a manager of the Irish Freedom radical newspaper.
The revolutionary fighters in Moore Street also contained many people prominent in other cultural fields, such as drama, literary arts and publishing.
These historical facts in the field of culture in relation to the Moore Street area provide an opportunity which should not be missed for the development of the area as a CULTURAL QUARTER – but it will be missed should the Hammerson application be agreed.
In fact, a more rational development of the Moore Street area as a cultural-historical quarter mixed with a vibrant street market provides the opportunity to connect the area to the nearby cultural and historical areas of the Rotunda (location of the first public meeting of the Irish Volunteers in 1913 and where in 1916, Volunteers from Moore Street were kept temporarily as prisoners); 37/38 O’Connell Street, the location of the office of the Irish Ladies’ Land League (now of the Allied Irish Banks) and, across the street, the location of Tom Clarke’s newsagent’s at 75 Parnell Street; between them both, the monument to Charles Stewart Parnell of the Land League. All this also connecting numerous buildings of historical and cultural importance scattered through Parnell Square, including the Gate Theatre, Scoil Mhuire Irish-language primary school, the Hugh Lane Gallery, the former head office of the Gaelic League at No.25 (where the decision to carry out insurrection in 1916 was taken) and the INTO Teacher’s Club at No.36.
Moore Street offers great potential if sensitively developed for integration into cultural-historical festivals in Dublin such as History Week, Culture Night, Open House, Bloomsday, Bram Stoker and Food Festival. It also offers potential for other street festivals and in addition a regular Sunday farmer’s market.
All of that would disappear at the stroke of a pen were the Planning Department to approve the Hammerson applications.
The Moore Street area was laid out by Henry Moore, 3rd Earl of Drogheda (as was also Drogheda Street [now Upper O’Connell Street], Henry Street and North Earl Street) in the 17th Century. The houses in Moore Street were designed in the style known as “Dutch Billy”, a style reminiscent of Dutch cities, with the gable end facing into the street, a style said to have been brought into the city by Huguenot asylum seekers in the late 17th Century and therefore of world and Irish socio-historical importance as well as architectural.
Currently the most obvious examples of “Dutch Billy” construction are on the south-west side of Moore Street and in an obvious state of disrepair. In the central Moore Street terrace only the four buildings which the State names “the National Monument” preserve a distinctive Dutch Billy frontage. In the event of demolition of most of that terrace there will be no incentive to even preserve other buildings in the street and an opportunity to reconstruct the frontages in the central terrace in line with buildings on the southwest side of the street will have been lost.
In addition, the construction of a new road from O’Connell Street through the central terrace, as in the Hammerson application, will also destroy that opportunity forever. The applicant has stated that this new road is intended “to open up Moore Street” but this is patently false. Not only is Moore Street easily accessible to shoppers from the Parnell and Henry Street ends but the proposed new road leads straight to one of the main entrances of the ILAC shopping centre, of which Hammerson are half-owners.
Indeed in recent years Hammerson and their predecessor Chartered Land have squeezed the market on the west-central side by extending the ILAC into the street, evicting numerous independent businesses and thus destroyed the market character on that side of Moore Street. Sadly the property speculators have achieved this through approval of planning applications by DCC’s Planning Department in the face of numerous objections.
The Moore Street market is the oldest surviving in Dublin (perhaps in Ireland) and is composed of the stalls and the independent businesses on the street (the street is actually older than O’Connell Street and predates the Great Hunger). As well as having been an important part of the city’s social and cultural history and on the list of recommended Dublin places to visit for decades, it has been an important amenity for people shopping for fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh fish and meat. In addition it is a location of other services.
Neither the stalls nor the shops throughout the central terrace of Moore Street would of course survive since Hammerson seek permission to demolish eleven of the sixteen buildings. Even the southern end of the street would be severely adversely affected by its close proximity to a big building site and by the demolition/ construction plans for the building at the Moore Street/ Henry Street eastern junction.
When large developments are carried out in such areas the property speculators seek to have chain-stores renting in the area. Those types of businesses have no particular stake or loyalty to their area but rather to their head office, which is not in Moore Street and may not even be in Ireland. Indeed we have seen recently the desertion of one such chain, Debenham’s, which was itself involved in the 1970s construction of the ILAC centre on other streets and laneways of the area.
After years of enduring construction chaos on top of many previous years of neglect, that whole aspect of street market and small independent shop will be wiped out forever in Moore Street and the area will become a Henry Street spillover, full of characterless chain stores of foreign high street type – and a wasteland at night. What a legacy for the current City Managers to bequeath to Dublin!
As a street market, Moore Street of course has been also a social amenity, a place to meet and chat. This aspect has been eroded through the closing of pubs in the street along with the Paris Bakery and Anne’s Bakery and cafe. This is an amenity most needed in any city and, in particular in the north city centre. This aspect too will be destroyed by a conversion of the area into a shopping district of chain stores as envisaged and implicit in the Hammerson plan.
The development of Moore Street as a social amenity area with a vibrant street market opens up the potential of linking it to the Asian food quarter in Parnell Street east and also with cinemas in the Parnell Street and on O’Connell Street.
NORTH CITY CENTRE
An intelligent and longer-term city planning approach to development of the Moore Street and O’Connell Street area would provide the ingredients of a revitalisation of the north inner city, something that is badly needed. It would need envisaging something like the inner city on the south side which is lively by day and — apart from the Grafton Street shopping district — by night also. This could be achieved by combining a vibrant street market with cultural-historical-architectural promotion and with low-rent housing for city dwellers.
ALL VISIONS AND PLANS
A number of independent campaigning and other dgroups have developed visions and plans for the Moore Street area over the years. These have included a plan from the Lord Mayor’s Forum on Moore Street as well as that of the Market Expert Group, a sub-group of that Forum created at the instigation of the Minister for Heritage. More recently the Moore Street Preservation Trust has developed a plan for the area. Perhaps none have tied all possible aspects of historic, cultural, market and north inner city regeneration together as much as the submissions in 2016 to the Minister of Heritage of the Save Moore Street From Demolition and the Save Moore Street 2016 campaigning groups but it is noticeable that all of those can co-exist to a large extent but are absolute anathema to the Hammerson plans.
In addition, the Hammerson plan envisages decades of demolition and construction in this area, making it a wasteland and negatively impacting on the surrounding area and businesses. It also contains the possibility of “planning blight” remaining over the area for decades, as Hammerson run out of funds or sit on planning permission waiting to sell it on to yet further property speculators, as Chartered Land sold it on to them, with meanwhile further deterioration in the fabric of buildings.
Are the City Managers to endorse the poor vision of a property speculation company, preferring it to those of hundreds of thousands of petition signatures, along with a number of groups including those of the Council’s own organisations, in addition to the wishes expressed by elected representatives in Dublin City Council on a number of occasions over a number of years?
WHAT COULD BE
In considering a Planning Application, city planners should not only consider the plan itself on its merits but what an alternative might be – particularly when many alternatives have been mooted over the years. The question to consider is not only “is this a good plan for the area?” but also “what potential does this plan develop or, conversely, negate”?
As outlined above and will be listed below, the Hammerson plan is not only not suitable for the area but destroys the potential for rejuvenating the north inner city area in social, shopping, cultural, historical and city living terms. The Hammerson application should be refused on all those grounds and on the democratic basis also that it is in stark opposition to the wishes of the vast majority of people and to virtually all concerned organisations.
End first section
FURTHER GROUNDS OF OBJECTION TO THE HAMMERSON APPLICATIONS
*The Proposal contravenes The Dublin Development plan’s policy SC16 which states that Dublin is intrinsically a low-rise city (and confirmed in a recent response on another matter from the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar in a response to TD Paul Murphy in the Dáil).
*The Moore Street as a battlefield site is not a location identified for taller buildings.
*The Hammerson proposal contravenes development plan maximum height standard, and would greatly exceed the height of the Moore Street Terrace buildings.
*The Hammerson development plan goes against those of elected public representatives, i.e City Councillors and TDs which voted respectively to have for Moore Street listed as an architectural conservation area and read without opposition two cultural conservation bills for Moore Street (the most recent being the O’Snodaigh bill).
*The Hammerson proposal would be contrary to the purpose of Z5 designation by reducing the cultural space within the city centre, impacting on its night-time culture and facilitating an over -concentration of hotel/retail developments in the area despite the many existing hotels / shopping centres in close proximity.
*There are already over 40 hotels within 2km of the site, and more than 20 hotels and B&Bs within a 10-minute walk and no more hotels are needed in the environs of Moore Street (indeed throughout the city there is already opposition to the growing number of buildings of temporary accommodation being constructed in the shape of hotels and student accommodation).
*The city centre no further office space or chain retail outlets. The applicants themselves are struggling to find tenants for numerous retail units in the ILAC Centre (Debenhams and the old Jack & Jones stores are still vacant) and the applicants have recently commenced the process of “pop up shops” on Henry Street. It would be negligent to lose the historical & cultural elements which make this site unique by over-development. As outlined above, the site if sensitively restored has huge potential as a cultural destination for its citizens, visitors, and future generations. Let us not forget that surveys of tourists visiting Dublin have highlighted the interests of tourists in Culture and History rather than shopping.
*The current reduced demand for office and retail space due to Covid 19 this may become permanent as many companies have found it more cost-efficient for employees to work from home and the surge in online shopping has become the newest trend as a direct result of the pandemic.
*As outlined earlier in detail, the site is already a cultural destination for both locals and visitors, which will be reduced in scale and significance if planning permission is granted. The whole site should be sensitively restored.
* Despite the homeless crisis which is already being viewed as a scandal by many observers, there iso provisions for affordable housing within the site.
*Moore street needs more mixed usage in its current retail and street Market – Dublin City council should act accordingly by enforcing planning laws in the area and immediately implement the Market Expert group report revitalising its components.
*This Hammerson proposal is contrary to Dublin City Council’s own plan to revitalise the market, unless the powers that be at Dublin City council are deluded enough to believe a revitalised predominantly food market can be successful from a 5.5acre building site environment.
*Further retail and hotels put pressure on existent businesses in the vicinity that are already struggling in the city centre.
*The proposed design is not sympathetic to the local physical or cultural heritage and encroaches on the curtilage of the State-nominated National Monument and proposed protected structures in the area.
*The Hammerson design is nowhere near of sufficiently high quality to justify the adverse impacts on the entire north inner city for a 15yr period (possibly longer as other planning applications and extensions have been added to early granted applications in the past) and is completely out of context with the area.
*The Hamerson proposal does not strengthen, reinforce or integrate with the existing street traders or independent or independent businesses of the Moore Street Market. In fact the market and businesses will more than likely be lost FOREVER throughout the lengthy construction phase.
*The Hammerson plan entails the loss of fine urban grain in this historical part of Ireland, which supports a diversity of economic, historical and cultural life.
*The Hammerson proposal fails to address the wider urban context, the character of Moore Street Market and businesses or the many envisaged protected structures along the street and laneways , notably the iconic Moore Street terrace and the O’Connell Street Architectural conservation area.
*The proposed office block at site 5 will visually impact on the State-nominated National Monument and the iconic 1916 dTerrace. It will also overshadow residential and commercial units at Moore street north and Greeg Court apartment block including sun balconies of the owner/occupiers.
*The Hammerson proposal in short would result in overdevelopment which ignores the context of this unique site.
*The Hammerson proposal does not complement the built environment or contribute positively to the neighbourhood and streetscape.
*The impact on markets or independent businesses has not addressed or been resolved.
*The Hammerson proposed development would overwhelm Moore street and change its whole character for which it is known as far away as China.
*In order to maintain the skylines and character of the area the height should be limited to four storeys and, in places, to three. The visual impact on O’Connell street’s skyline will be horrendous post development.
*The Dublin development plan identifies that the city is a low-rise city and requires development to protect conservation areas and the architectural character of existing buildings, streets and spaces of artistic, civic or historic importance, and to ensure that any development is sensitive to the historic square and protects and enhances the skyline of the inner city.
*The Hammerson proposed development is too close to the site boundary, which is contrary to BRE advice and will severely impact food businesses and market traders in close vicinity.
*The risks and impacts of construction and demolition works for proposed archway on boundary wall of national monument are dramatically understated.
*The impact of construction noise and air pollution on local residents and businesses are understated and will turn the area into a “no-go area” for shoppers.
*The most environmentally sustainable buildings are the ones that already exist. The need is to reuse existing buildings for purposes to avoid carbon emission associated with demolition and construction works of a new large-scale development.
*The heritage impact assessment statement fails to adequately assess or record the surviving historic fabric in the entire Moore street terrace or take into account the curtilage of the State-designated National Monument. It also contradicts the previous developer’s Chartered Land heritage impact statement which said no.18 contained pre-1916 elements.
*The façade demolition planned to No.18 to make way for the hideous archway would erase the character of the terrace and visually impact on the historic nature of the area. The demolition will impact on built heritage around the story of 1916 regardless whether the buildings are pre 1916 or not.
*The Hammerson proposal would detract from the special character and distinctiveness of the Conservation Area, and will constitute a visually obtrusive and dominant form around Moore street and O’Connell street.
*Inadequate drawings and images of interfaces with protected structures, mean that the impact on immediate context and skyline is not fully explored, insufficient LVIA in respect of neighbouring heritage buildings.
*The Hammerson plan means dramatic and irreversible impact on surrounding protected structures, their setting and curtilage.
*Protected structures are protected not just for their physical significance, but also for other reasons including historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural or social interest.
*This largescale development proposal of Hammerson would be contrary to development plan policy of minimum intervention to protected structures.
*There is a need to implement Government policy of heritage-led regeneration of historic urban centres:
* The need to integrate cultural, social and built heritage objectives, this proposal destroys the same.
*A National monument and protected structures should be protected in context, but the buildings in this proposal will dwarf the designated National Monument and the many existing protected structures surrounding the site and therefore it would be more appropriate to restore the historic buildings.
*This Hammerson proposal is contrary to provisions of Section 18.104.22.168 of the Dublin Development plan in failing to complement the special character of the protected structures on and adjoining the site and/ or retaining the traditional proportionate relationship with returns, gardens, mews structures etc.
*The Hammerson proposal would result in negative and irreversible impact of the on the integrity and character of the protected structures on the site and their special significance as a surviving group of early structures facing the 300yr old Moore Street market.
*Approving the Hammerson plan would set a poor precedent for allowing protected structures to become dilapidated and derelict and then redeveloped for the foreseeable future.
*For years the applicants, DCC and the Department of Heritage have failed in their duty of care towards protected structures, the market, and independent store businesses and a 15-year construction project is not the way forward.
*The design, scale and massing of the Hammerson plan would seriously detract from the setting and character of both the O’Connell street conservation area and the protected structures on the site, and would have a significant adverse impact on the Conservation area, contrary to Section 22.214.171.124 of the development plan and policies C1, C2, C4 and C6.
*The Hammerson proposal without justification would contravene policy SC17 in relation to protection of the skyline.
*The Hammerson Proposal would contravene development plan policies CHC29, CHC37 and CHC43 in relation to protection of the cultural and artistic use of buildings in established cultural quarters, without any justification.
*The role of Moore Street as a major area of action during the 1916 Rising, areas including laneways and terrace buildings (as detailed to an extent earlier) is completely ignored in this proposal.
*The threat posed to the protected structures from the construction process as the proposed new development is a large, invasive project requiring aggressive excavations and structural work, which will be cantilevered over the existing buildings.
*Moore street has not developed as a cultural quarter in the way that was desired but the Moore street Terrace, laneways, and Market are the heart and soul of the area and integral to its role and potential development as a cultural quarter in the future.
*The Market traders and generational independent businesses have established themselves as an integral part of the cultural infrastructure of Dublin City.
*The importance of the site as a cultural hub is understated. There is no other site in Dublin and possibly in the country with more potential than this one.
*The role of culture in creating communities, which are the bedrock of cities, is unacknowledged in this proposal.
*Proposal would not protect or promote Moore Street’s distinct identity, in a way which acknowledges our past and secures our future, in accordance with the Council’s mission as set out in the Dublin City Development plan.
*Visitors come to Dublin to experience authentic culture and not new corporate developments or engineered cultural experiences.
*The Hammerson Proposal is an architectural and cultural travesty which is part of the commodification of the city by international capital and developments such as these are starving the city of its culture and heritage.
*The Hammerson Proposal would threaten a historic landmark site, while providing no benefit to residents of the city who already are surrounded by existing retail and office blocks.
*The Hammerson Proposal would set a precedent for loss of major historical sites and culture in the city. The Proposal is considered by many to be engaged in city planning, history, culture and community development to be nothing short of cultural vandalism.
*The Moore Street Market contributes to the cultural vibrancy of the city and is part of the city’s cultural infrastructure – any loss of the market would be contrary to development plan policies CHC24 and CHC33 and would severely impact remaining Independent businesses on Moore Street.
*The Hammerson Proposal would cause both temporary and permanent disruption and damage to the cultural and economic health of the city.
*External steel structures and hoardings, construction traffic, noise pollution, road closures, drainage works etc. would make it difficult for the Independent businesses to keep trading during the lengthy construction phase and will impact on the unique and welcoming atmosphere for which Moore Street has been famous worldwide.
*The Hammerson Heritage report does not consider the impact on the historical and social qualities of the site or the market.
*The Hammerson proposal states that loss of parking spaces for proposed development is compensated for by the Metro construction proposal. However many estimate that the Metro won’t be running for at least 20 years.
*Policy CEE12 should not apply if the means used to achieve it is counterproductive.
*The Hammerson Proposal is contrary to the aims of the Night-Time Economy Task Force as set out in the Dublin Development plan.
*The Hammerson Proposal is purely for the purpose of commercial gain and undermines the historical and cultural aspects surrounding the entire site.
The Hammerson Application has supplied no report in relation to traffic management considering the large construction traffic volumes accessing and regressing the proposed site compound that is literally surrounded by 3/4 commercial servicing bays, residential car parking at Greeg Court, delivery inwards and outwards for retailers, waste collections, Market Traders accessing their storage units etc. Clarity is required in relation to the nature of the proposed access and regress into Moore Street / Lane and the safety issues that will arise for shoppers at Moore Street north at the junction of Moore street and O’Rahilly Parade.
There has been no provision in the Hammerson proposal for dirt or debris falling from lorries accessing or regressing the site compound. This will severely impact traditional family butcher Troy’s fresh food store at the junction of Moore Street and O’Rahilly Parade where lorries will be stacking awaiting access to the site.
The noise pollution mitigation measures proposed won’t have any real impact on neighbouring retailers or the residents in Greeg court apartments considering the close proximity of the site compound entrance and site boundary.
The wide scale of demolition and piling will disrupt the habitat of rodents, not ideal on a predominantly food marketplace.
The 15-year construction phase will inevitably wipe out the Market and Independent businesses on Moore street. There are still 3 more planning applications for this site to be lodged, effectively putting the city centre on a building site for the next 20-25 years. NOT a very credible solution for an area that needs to be URGENTLY revived!!
The adverse impacts of this proposal on independent businesses and Market traders should be addressed by the Planning Department in conditions of Planning.
It’s very clear that on completion of this project Moore Street will effectively become a laneway which completely undermines the historical significance of the Street and the heritage of the Market.
The extent of demolition proposed completely contradicts the Hammerson applicant’s rationale of “sensitive development” and a less intrusive plan of restoration is the only viable way forward for Moore Street, for the immediate area and indeed for the north inner city.
The applicants negligently suggest this is a vacant site but this site is fully occupied by the history of 1916 and is a place of special importance in Ireland’s history that has suffered a decade of neglect by the applicants, Dublin City Council and the Government. The empty shop-fronts are being deliberately kept empty by Hammerson and shops running businesses deliberately kept on short leases. Hammerson should not be awarded for this area blighting process by agreeing that the site is “vacant”!
Language is many things and only part-things too and languageS are only part of languaGE. All humans have it to some extent and some animals also. It communicates but it is not in itself communication. That might sound weird until you realise that when you say Ouch! or Oh! you have usually communicated pain or surprise to anyone within hearing but without any intention of doing so. So language must be intentional communication and that means it can be used to communicate information we believe to be true — but also that which we do not. I think it was Umberto Eco who commented to the effect that if you can’t lie in it, it is not language.
Of course, we do other things with it apart from just communicating our sense or reality or being deliberately false – we can add overtones of emotion, playfulness, disdain, love, respect, hate and many other things besides. If we could not, poetry, acting and novels would not exist in our cultures.
It is strange to think that language is only the minor partner in a human communication system. We are told non-verbal communication is 73-91% of our communication1 and that that words are only part of even the verbal – which contains – apart from non-verbal sounds — also articulation, volume, tone, pitch, speed, rhythm and the pauses in between words or phrases. If we understood only words themselves we would stumble through interactions with other humans as through a mist. There are people who suffer something approaching that condition, in fact.
Despite its comparatively minor role in communication, we relate language to the spoken and intentional communication by the very name we give it: language, from langue, French for “tongue” and indeed in slightly archaic English, we use the word “tongue” also, as in “speaking in tongues” or “in a foreign tongue” for example. Not just in English – for example in Castillian (“Spanish”), lengua and Irish, teanga.
But there are other words too, even in those languages, for example idioma in Castillian and béarla in Irish. Wait a minute, doesn’t béarla mean the “English language”? With a capital letter it does, as we use it now but originally it was Sacs-bhéarla, i.e Saxon language2. I would hazard a guess (but avoiding doing the research) that the word “béarla” is related to béal, i.e “mouth”3. So, still something spoken and the German has that too, with its word for language: sprache (from “speaking”).
Not all languages are spoken and there are systems of codes and also sign languages, of which there are an estimated 300 in use around the world4, divided into deaf sign languages, auxiliary sign languages and signed modes of spoken languages.5 We all use auxiliary sign language, for example in traffic signaling to turn left or right, in pointing “over there”, in indicating “come” and “go” and to insult (various in different cultures) along with “maybe” or “sort of” (hand outstretched palm down, level, then wobbled a little one side to the other). We use a surprising number of those if we stop to count them and those are only hand-signals, without taking into account soundless movements of head, lips, eyes, eyelids, eyebrows, shoulders ….
Some work-trades or specific operations have their own signal-systems too and, for example, in sub-aqua in Europe at least, the “thumbs up” doesn’t mean what it does on land but rather the need to swim to the surface.
My brother Oisín expressed the interesting speculation that the Irish pre-Roman letters system of Ogham could have been used as a sign language also, using the position of fingers across the face. As the European invasion into parts of America pushed tribes out of their traditional areas, many met on the Great Plains and, lacking a common spoken language, developed a common sign language. Early European traders, hunters and explorers learned parts of that sign language too.
Many animalsuse sign communication and some of it, in animals of higher intelligence, is intentional,6 which means it is language. However we run into problems with that qualification in some cases: bees are not animals of higher intelligence and yet a worker bee acts out a “dance” to indicate to the hive where much nectar and pollen may be found, direction and distance included and clearly the communication of information is intended. However, one supposes that while the bee could not lie, those animals of higher intelligence have the ability to do so, for example pretending nothing is wrong (when it is) or that they have not just transgressed some prohibition (when they have) or that they do not intend to do so (when they do).7
There are, as we are all aware, many different spoken languages in the world but we may still be surprised by just how many: 6,500 according to one on-line source and 6,700 to another8. One state or country alone may be host to many; ask for a phrase translated to Nigerian language and you may be asked to specify which of over 500 languages you mean.9
And then there are dialects, distinct forms of the same language. People learning Irish sometimes complain that Irish has four (or five, by some calculations) main dialects: different words for the same things, distinct pronunciations of the same words ….. They rarely reflect on the different dialects in the language to which they are accustomed: for example, English may have the most dialects in the world, across English-speaking countries and even in Britain (anyone who doubts this should listen to typical examples of Newcastle, Glaswegian and South London speech). The English imposed a southern dialect as their standard but although a standard has been created in Irish too (an chaighdeán) it has official versions in the main dialects, in addition to non-standard Irish forms being recognised as valid in writing. This may make learning Irish seem more difficult to a learner but, apart from the respect this shows to different regional cultures, one might ask how well learning standard English equips one to exchange communication effectively at certain societal levels in many of the English-speaking cultures of the world.
ONE WORLD LANGUAGE?
The Christian Old Testament (also containing a number of Hebraic texts) gives us the fable of how those who in their arrogance tried to build a tower to reach God were inflicted with so many languages that they could no longer understand one another, thereby causing the failure of the project. The fable is usually called the Tower of Babel (the words “babble” and “babbling” are supposedly not derived from it but I wonder). The fable seems a harsh judgement on the value of different languages in the world but even some atheists have expressed a wish to have only one language so that we could all instantly understand one another – and some socialists are not free of this notion and consequently disdain national cultures and languages.
As different cultures met one another across the world some types of languages in common have evolved, generally categorised as either pidgins or creoles. Both kinds are composites of two or more languages but a pidgin remains a second language while a creole becomes a mother tongue10. “Pidgins have been particularly associated with areas settled by European traders; examples have been Chinook Jargon, a lingua franca based on an American Indian language and English that was formerly used in Washington and Oregon, and Beach-la-mar, an English-based pidgin of parts of the South Seas. Some pidgins have come to be extensively used, such as Tok Pisin in Papua, New Guinea and the pidgins of the West African coast11.”
We know also of the past existence of a north-sea maritime pidgin that included words in Euskera (Basque) and Nordic and no doubt others have existed, probably at different times Phoenician or Greek or Chinese-based. Certainly there was a Norse-English-Irish one in existence which became a creole. Perhaps for a short while there was an Irish-Norman one too, before most of the settled Norman conquerors became Irish-speaking12. The Jewish community languages of Yiddish and Ladino probably started off as pidgins but became creoles, based in the first case on German and the second on archaic Spanish.13
Kouri-vini is a French-based creole spoken by less than 10,000 people mostly in the USA state of Louisiana.14Patois, Patwah or Patwa is a Jamaican Creole spoken in Jamaica and among parts of its diaspora15. “Notable among creoles is Haitan Creole, which grew primarily from the interactions between French colonists and enslaved Africans on Haiti’s plantations.”16 The Irish Traveller language, Shelta,Cant or De Gammon is also a creole, containing words from Irish, Latin and Romany as well as English.
ONE WORLD LANGUAGE?
To have a world language in addition to others would be no bad thing of course and there have been some attempts at that but never one that succeeded in encompassing the whole world; English has probably come closest, so far. That language had the earlier backing of the largest colonial empire the world has ever seen, the British but now primarily has the backing of the world’s strongest super-power, the United States of America17. In the past, English competed for world cultural dominance with French and both were agreed as official languages for shipping and air transport based sorely on the colonial power of both states rather than the number of speakers, in which case Chinese and Spanish would have been chosen. In earlier times, German was spoken over most of central Europe from Poland to Germany and in the Tyrol. Still further back in the past, Latin, because of the power of Rome and Greek, partly through its earlier colonisation but also through its science and culture, were widely spoken across large parts of the world. Still, even in the Roman Empire, many spoke only a few words of Latin, even in Rome itself at the height of its dominance, where Greek and Hebrew might be more common.
Before its conquest by Roman legions and the destruction of its culture, a Celtic language or group of languages known as “Gaulish” was spoken from what is today the Italian side of the Alps to what is now northern France and possibly variants of it also in Iberia. Today, Gaulish is gone and of the Celtic languages, only Irish, Scots Gaelic, Manx (the Q-Celtic group) and Welsh, Breton and Cornish (the P-Celtic group) remain. Latin is no longer a spoken language.
Esperanto was conceived of as a world language, though largely euro-centric in origin and for a time was popular as a project with many socialists18. It is still in use but estimates give us a figure of only 100,000 speakers at present19. However that number may grow, through the Internet for example and as a project to internationalise ease of communication while at the same time resisting the current linguistic dominance of the US empire.
Even within one state, the need for a common language may struggle with the claims of different languages or even varieties of the same language. For example many different languages and varieties of language were spoken across what is now Italy and the unification of all that variety into a one-State Italy was assisted by the imposition of standard Italian20.
Huge states with many languages on the African and South Asian continents have adopted the languages of their colonisers as languages of state, which is why so many people from those parts of the world can speak English in addition to their native tongues (or French, especially in parts of Africa).
The adoption of a common language for use across different cultures and languages has its advantages but also its dangers, in particular for those languages that find themselves at a power disadvantage. Those languages may suffer a lowering of respect among speakers of the dominant language and, in time, even among their own native speakers. They can struggle with reduced resources in education, publishing or physical resources in their heartlands. They can even be forbidden and their speakers punished.
REPRESSION OF LANGUAGES
In fairly recent times child-speakers of Welsh and Irish were punished in school for speaking their maternal tongues, one example being the count of physical blows to be inflicted by a teacher for the number of words spoken in the forbidden language. That was an expression of the cultural domination of British colonialism through the English language21 in the respective conquered nations and it has a history dating back at least to the 14th Century in Ireland when a number of attempts were made to prevent its settlers from speaking Irish.22
Euskera (Basque), Asturian, Gallician and Catalan were all banned or restricted at different times in the Spanish kingdom and most definitely banned under three decades of the Franco dictatorship. Breton, Catalan, Corsican and Euskera are not forbidden in France but they do suffer from under-resourcing in education and infrastructure.
Irish suffers similarly in the British colony of the Six Counties and also in the Irish state despite being officially the latter’s first language.
Kurdish was forbidden in any official domain in Turkey and its speakers still suffer discrimination. Esperanto was banned by the Nazis and the Franco regime and though never officially banned in the Soviet Union, Esperantists did suffer severe persecution there for a period under Stalin23. Native Peoples’ languages were banned in the state (and many Christian) schools in the USA and in Canada.
As a result of past repression, cultural domination, starving of resources and other factors, 40% of languages in the world are in danger of extinction24, according to UNESCO, a great number of those being of colonised peoples.
LANGUAGE IS MUCH MORE THAN COMMUNICATION
Earlier on, we noted that as well as variations of tongue and speaking, there is another word forlanguage which we find in Castillian (Spanish) as idioma. There is a reflection of that word in English too, in idiom25, which a dictionary explains as
a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words (e.g. “over the moon”, “see the light”).
a characteristic mode of expression in music or art. (e.g. “they were both working in a neo-impressionist idiom”)
Digging deeper into the origins of the word, through etymology, we find: late 16th century: from French idiome, or via late Latin from Greek idiōma ‘private property, peculiar phraseology’, from idiousthai ‘make one’s own’, from idios ‘own, private’.
Clearly it cannot be private, by very definition of language, but language is ‘owned’, it does ‘belong’. It belongs to the culture from which it comes. It can be shared, of course but some at least of it always remains an expression of the culture that gave birth to it, that moulded it over centuries. And even of its adoption of other words, expressions or concepts in the course of its development.
The language of a culture expresses its way of seeing, its understanding of aspects of the world around it and how it sees itself. That also finds its expression in song, poetry, instrumental music, yes and even visual art.
When a language is lost, so is all that. And so too is the future of that language and its mother culture. It may be replaced of course. And the dead language may carry much of its furniture, baggage and knick-knacks into its replacement home26. But not all – much is lost and lost forever. Especially that language’s future – where it might have gone, could have become.
Bilingualism is good and multilingualism better but the better bilingual or multilinguist is aware, as is a good translator, of the many different ways of speaking and seeing and also the less than satisfactory experience of translating some expressions from one language into another. In the latter case, we search for approximations.
According to UNESCO, 40% of languages in the world are in danger of extinction27. According to the same organisation, Irish is one of 12 languages in the EU area that are in danger28. The loss of such a language would be a pity anywhere but perhaps particularly damaging for a small nation struggling to develop to serve the people it encompasses. Irish predates English by centuries and has a wide body of literature and artistic expression form and was the earliest expression in Europe of literature in the vernacular, i.e in the language of the common people. The harp is our oldest recorded musical instrument and also our national state symbol …. but its playing was often accompanied by spoken, chanted or sung words. In Irish. Most our place-names even in their English forms retain their Irish origin, including 29 of our 32 Counties.
A world containing one, two or three languages only may seem useful but it would kill so much history, so much variety in the world around us. Ultimately perhaps, even with globalisation and internet, speciation of language might take place, as areas developed dialects that might possibly develop into new languages. We don’t know that would happen, however and it makes sense to hang on the variety in the world at the moment. To spend some time, effort and yes, even physical resources to protect languages that are in danger. To speak more than one language ourselves and to protect our own if it is threatened. The strategies to carry out that protection are subjects for another day’s discussion. But first we have to understand the value of doing so or at the very least, some idea of what its loss will cost us.
We might begin by learning some Irish and speaking what we know of it – in Ireland, most everywhere. Beatha teanga í a labhairt29.
2In all the surviving Celtic languages, the English are still referred to as “Saxons” (e.g in Irish Sacsannach/ aigh, which became Sasanach/ aigh), which testifies to an enduring memory (and not a good one) of the people who overran the Celts in much of Britain many centuries ago.
3and that word can be found in many place-names around Ireland, usually denoting a river-mouth and corrupted in English to “bel”, as in Belmullet in Mayo and Belfast.
6Most of it, however (like our own), is unintentional: the startled cry and flight, the erection of ears to hear better or to focus, the turning of the head to look in the direction of movement, sound or scent, etc. All of those actions communicate information to neighbouring animals (even of different species) but they are not intentional.
7Most will have seen this behaviour perhaps in dogs, cats or pigs.
21The irony here is that English is historically a fairly new language, a fusion of in the main of Anglo-Saxon with French, in which the latter is the origin of around 60% of its words.
22The Statutes of Kilkenny in 1366 castigated the Anglo-Normans who had conquered parts of Ireland and settled in them as “the degenerate English” who had “become more Irish than the Irish themselves” through their adoption of Irish customs and culture. The Statutes forbade the now Irish-Normans from adopting those cultures and from speaking Irish (without success except in the heart of the colonial administration in Dublin).
25In fact, reading a discussion on this word alone can teach us so much about language, expressions we use without thinking and how language works.
26Generations that have not spoken Irish still retain not only some words from the language but even forms of construction and of pronunciation. Take for example the reply to “Will you go?” as “I will” or “I won’t”, because in Irish there are no words for “yes” or “no”. Or to say “I have a thirst on me” instead of “I am thirsty” (very close in fact to the “I have thirst” in Romance languages – e.g tengo sed or j’ai soif). Hear also the pronunciation of a hidden vowel between L and M (or R and N) in pronouncing the Irish name Colm and words like “film” (fil-um).
“Mo Ghile Mear”, lyrics composed later in the the 18th Century lamenting the failing of an earlier Rising, a traditional Irish air at least generations old, combined in the 1970s, sung today in great style.
I have not researched the origins of this myself but the theme is well-known, so from relying on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: “Mo Ghile Mear” (translated “My Gallant Darling”, “My Spirited Lad” and variants) is an Irish song. The modern form of the song was composed in the early 1970s by Dónal Ó Liatháin (1934–2008), using a traditional air collected in Cúil Aodha, County Cork, and lyrics selected from Irish-language poems by Seán “Clárach” Mac Domhnaill (1691–1754).
The lyrics are partially based on Bímse Buan ar Buairt Gach Ló (“My Heart is Sore with Sorrow Deep” (but “Gach Ló” means “every day” and there is no mention of “My Heart” in the title – D. Breatnach), c. 1746), a lament of the failure of the Jacobite rising of 1745. The original poem is in the voice of the personification of Ireland, Éire, lamenting the exile of Bonnie Prince Charlie.Mo ghile mear is a term applied to the Pretender in numerous Jacobite songs of the period. O’Daly (1866) reports that many of the Irish Jacobite songs were set to the tune The White Cockade. This is in origin a love song of the 17th century, the “White Cockade” (cnotadh bán) being an ornament of ribbons worn by young women, but the term was re-interpreted to mean a military cockade in the Jacobite context.
Another part of the lyrics is based in an earlier Jacobite poem by Mac Domhnaill. This was published in Edward Walsh‘s Irish Popular Songs (Dublin, 1847) under the title of “Air Bharr na gCnoc ‘san Ime gCéin — Over the Hills and Far Away”. Walsh notes that this poem was “said to be the first Jacobite effort” by Mac Domhnaill, written during the Jacobite rising of 1715, so that here the exiled hero is the “Old Pretender”, James Francis Edward Stuart.
The composition of the modern song is associated with composer Seán Ó Riada, who established an Irish-language choir inCúil Aodha, County Cork, in the 1960s. The tune to which it is now set was collected by Ó Riada from an elderly resident of Cúil Aodha called Domhnall Ó Buachalla. Ó Riada died prematurely in 1971, and the song was composed about a year after his death, in c. 1972, with Ó Riada himself now becoming the departed hero lamented in the text. The point of departure for the song was the tape recording of Domhnall Ó Buachalla singing the tune. Ó Riada’s son Peadar suggested to Dónal Ó Liatháin that he should make a song from this melody.
Ó Liatháin decided to select verses from Mac Domhnaill’s poem and set them to the tune. He chose those that were the most “universal”, so that the modern song is no longer an explicit reference to the Jacobite rising but in its origin a lament for the death of Seán Ó Riada.
THIS RENDITION is to my mind and ear an excellent one in traditional-type arrangement and voices (not to mention looks of certain of the singers) and all involved are to be commended. I have not always liked the group’s rendition but this is just wonderful.
In history, we fought in Ireland for two foreign royals at two different times and on each occasion they left us in the lurch.
Language is a treasure chest, full of jewels: history, philosophy, humour, politics, sex, literature, natural history ….. It is a chest full of wonders but it has some horrors in it too. I want now just to run my fingers through a few of those jewels, letsome of those wonders trickle through my fingers and before your eyes.
Language is composed of symbols – spoken words, then squiggles to represent those words on stone, wood, paper and electronic screens. In visual interaction, those symbols are accompanied by other symbols such as facial expression, hand gestures, bodily posture, tone, pitch, volume, emphasis …. yes, and chemical emissions. Different languages — sophisticated whole systems of symbols – have been developed for communication of information and recording but not only for those: for expression of emotion too. And each carries the history, philosophy etc of the particular culture that gave rise to that language and often many other cultures too. In turn, language comes to leave its imprint on the speakers of the language, to mold their very minds to some extent, shaping their culture. So when a language dies, much more dies than just a system of recording and communication.
We can see residues of Irish and the Gaelic culture in the way Irish people speak English, even those who have not been Irish-speaking in generations. We go to see a filum, sweep with a floor brush instead of “a broom”, reply to a question with a positive or negative of the same verb (will you go? I will/ I will not). Or we might have a thirst on us and go to a pub if the humour was on us. That pronunciation of an imaginary vowel between the ‘L’ and the ‘M’ is a residue of the Irish language and having physical and emotional feelings being on us, instead of having them, as in standard English, are the ghosts of expression in Irish. When other cultures are happy to thank us a thousand we say thanks a million, not because we are a thousand times more thankful than every other culture but probably because a million sounds like the Irish word for thousand, míle, from Go raibh míle maith agat.
* * *
Recently I was reading a novel, mostly based in Exeter, a city in Devon, SW England and I learned that the city’s name is derived primarily from the river Exe, with the ‘ter‘ being part of the noun ‘ceaster’ which meant first a Roman military camp (caster) and later, a town. Many place-names in England contain that ‘ceaster’, ‘caster’ or its variant ‘chester, for example “Lancaster” and “Manchester”.
Of course, with regard to the ‘Exe’, I could not help but think of ‘uisce’, the Irish word for “water”. And I’ve known for some time that Devon and Somerset have a great many megalithic monuments (more than Ireland even I read somewhere) and that nearby Cornwall has a surviving Celtic tongue (though spoken by few today). Anyway, I did a little digging with the help of the Oracle of Delphi, which today goes by the name of Google (which by the way in a short space of time has become an internationally-recognised noun and verb!).
The Wikipedia entry for Exeter tells us that the river Exe in the name of the city is from Old Brittonic, a Celtic language and means “ ‘water’ or more exactly ‘full of fish’”. Well that sounds pretty much like the meaning of the word “uisce” in Irish, which is also a Celtic language. But the Wikipedia entry for the river itself, as distinct from the town, says that the word “comes from the Common Brittonic word ‘iska’” meaning ‘water’ etc. But then the entry goes on to make the extraordinary claim that the word is unrelated to the word “whisky” while at the same time stating the latter word comes from classical Irish/Gaelic “uisce beatha” (‘water of life’). But since the Brittonic word for the river means ‘water’ and the Irish ‘uisce beatha’ (which became ‘whisky’) means ‘water of life’, then the words iska/ exe and uisce are obviously not only closely related but almost exactly the same!
Perhaps the entry meant something else and merely expressed it badly.
However, I am grateful to Wikipedia for drawing my attention to the connection between the Celtic words for ‘water’, ‘river’ and ‘fish’. Because the word for ‘fish’ in Irish is of course ‘iasc‘ which is not a million miles away in sound from ‘exe’ or even ‘uisce’. And if we were to stick the letter ‘P’ before the word ‘iasc‘, which the Gaels would never do, given that they avoided that letter and sound whenever they could, we would get the word ‘piasc‘, quite like the plural word for fish in Welsh, ‘pysg‘. And of course sisters of this word can be seen through some of the Romance languages, which in many ways are close to the Celtic: pez in Castillian, peixos in Catalan, peixe in Portuguese, pesce in Italian. And of course, for the astrologers, Pisces (Pis-kays) from the Latin, the star sign of the fish.
Now, the Greek word for ‘fish’ is psari, not all that similar (although it begins with the letter P too) but here’s a weird coincidence: the Greek name for the fish symbol used by early Christians, which is supposedly based on the first letters of the Greek words for Jesus, anointed, son, God and saviour ….. is the ‘ichtus‘. And the sound of ichtus is not a million miles away from the sound of iasc!
Anyway, back to Exeter, probably a Celtic settlement in a Celtic land by a river with a Celtic name, in a Celtic language, later a Roman town (perhaps preceded by a Roman military camp) with the word for ‘town’ coming from Latin, then overlaid by Saxon language.
“Old Brittonic” is the name given by philologists to the Celtic language once spoken all over Britain and of which the remaining survivors are Welsh and Cornish and, on the European mainland, Breton in Brittany and some words in Gallego in Galicia. Philologists call that branch of the Celtic languages ‘P-Celtic‘ because of its many old words beginning with the letter “P” which in Irish and other Goidelic or Q-Celtic languages (Manx and Scots Gaedhlig) begin with the letter “C”.
Exeter is an old place name in Devon and old place-names – as distinct from new ones like “Sea-View” used by property merchants to sell housing estates – tell us a lot about the history and culture of the people who named them and, often, something about their past in nature (for example all the places named after trees in this now-deforested Ireland).
Twenty-six, more than half the names of the 50 states that form the USA, are formed from Native American words or phrases. The original Americans, dispossessed, so many of them wiped out and a very small minority remaining in their ancestral lands, must find it hard to insist on the usage of their own place-names. Yet many of those have survived – European colonisers learned the names from the natives and for convenience continued to use them in their European languages so that they have now become US English words.
Of the Anglicised names of the 32 Counties of Ireland, only three are not of Irish origin – and the “English” names of those three were given to them by the Vikings. We are surrounded by the signs of our native language and culture but, for most of us, also cut off from them. This is hard to justify since unlike the Native Americans, for the most part, we have absorbed the invaders and we remain the majority on our land.
And yes, “Britain” and “Britons” were words associated with Celtic culture, derived from Praetani or Pretani, meaning “the people of Britain” and perhaps once a dominant Celtic tribe. Yes, and “Scotland”, it turns out, referred to a land in the north of Britain colonised by the Irish, to which they brought their language which has now developed into Scots Gaedhlig. And in the Middle Ages, a “Scotus” (Scot) was more likely to be an Irishman than what we today call a “Scotsman”.
And the “Scots” language of the poetry of Robbie Burns, including its practically extinct variant “Ulster Scots”, is actually based on German from Saxony and, except for some words, not Celtic at all!
Yes, it can all be a bit confusing. But interesting too.
“We bring colour to Grafton Street, not ‘clutter’!” was the response of street traders in Grafton Street to a request from multinational property company Hines to Dublin City Council to remove the street trading stalls away from Grafton Street, to which Hines allege they bring “clutter”. The street traders also pointed out that they and their predecessors had been on that street much longer than Hines.
Although the request to Dublin City Council had been made in August, it only hit the news earlier this week and brought a swift response of outrage from the street traders, some public representatives and ordinary members of the public. Broadcaster Joe Duffy joined the chorus and also referred to the difficulties experienced by the street traders on Moore Street with an unhelpful DCC Management.
Hines PR people soon found themselves removing their feet from their mouths and eating not only their words in public but very humble pie.
Dublin architecture, history and soul is under constant attack by property speculators, both native and foreign, to whom everything is a potential ‘development site’ and a possible source of profit – and without the production of a single commodity.
GRAFTON STREET THEN AND NOW
Dublin’s Grafton Street was a premier Dublin residential street as the upper classes deserted the north for the south side of Liffey river in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. Perhaps that was the spur for the street becoming known for prostitution in the period. According to Wikipedia: “In the 1870s, 1,500 prostitutes were reputed to work in the street.”
When the O’Connell Bridge (then the Carlisle Bridge) was completed in 1795 (just in time to hang United Irishmen from it), it led not only to the doubling of the length of Drogheda Street, which then became Sackville Street but also to much traffic backwards and forwards across the river to both sides of the city centre. Grafton Street soon became a premier shopping street with many Irish-based companies selling fresh, preserved and tinned food, higher end male and female clothing, jewelry and ‘exotic’ imports such as coffee through Bewley’s Oriental Café (1927). This state of affairs persisted into the late 1960s but in the decades since then however, the profile of the street has changed to feature mostly British high street outlets and a Mac Donalds fast food place.
For two centuries there have been street traders selling a variety of products on the street, of which the flower-sellers, newspaper stand and a hat and jewelry stall are all that remains.
The street was very narrow to accommodate both pedestrian and vehicle traffic both sides of the street and pedestrianisation of Grafton Street began in 1971, however at an extremely pedestrian rate (pun intended), not being completed until 1983 and it was paved the following year, repaved in 1988 and then partially again more recently. The pedestrianisation facilitated performance by buskers (street musicians) and music and song of high quality may be heard any day in different genres from Irish traditional to world rock and classical. Perhaps they would have been the next to be accused of “clutter”?
The Dice Man (Thom McGinty 1952–1995) regularly carried out his performances there too. Dublin world-famous musician Phil Lynott (1949-1986) had a statue commemorating him placed in Harry Street, just off the north end of Grafton Street in 2005 while the statue of fictional sea-food street trader Molly Malone was moved from the north end of Grafton Street to a less crowded space in Suffolk Street in 2014.
The street features in much of Irish literature and some song but also in images: two are particularly striking: IRA men walking up a wet Grafton Street during the Civil War and Flower Sellers, Grafton Street by impressionist Irish artist (and musician) Norman Teeling (b. 1944). It was also the scene of the shooting dead by the IRA of a G-man, the political plain-clothes branch of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, in 1921.
WE BRING COLOUR TO THE STREET, NOT ‘CLUTTER’
Talking briefly to some street traders there on Wednesday about the threat to move them, one of them remarked: “We bring colour to Grafton Street, not ‘clutter’” and reiterated their declaration that they and their predecessors had been on that street long before Hines.
Another controversial recent initiative in Moore Street has been the changing of the traditional Irish-language Christmas lighting decoration and the ‘renaming’ of the street to “the Grafton Quarter”. Irish language comment on the new design? “Tá sé gránna!” Indeed. Sometimes it seems as though the poor property magnates can’t put a foot right.
Perhaps Hines had ideas of greater expansion, changing the street into a “quarter” which, as some Dublin City Councillors have pointed out, does not exist.
All that aside, doing away with Irish language Christmas lighting and wanting to get rid of flower-sellers doesn’t accord very well with Point Four of Hines’ own Guiding Principles: “Hines is committed to fostering an inclusive culture where diversity is respected and valued.”
(Reading time: Introduction, one minute; Part One: 5 mins; Part Two 2 mins: Part Three: 3 mins; Part Four: 2 mins; Total: 13 mins.)
Although I often think about the big questions – and am generally guided by my philosophy on them, my mind and energy are usually too occupied with specific struggles to focus on them for long. Recently however I had the opportunity and the need to think about the war, the one we have yet to win.
But to which war am I referring? The Irish war of national liberation that has been flaring up for centuries, being lost each time before flaring up again? Or the class war, which has had a few sharp Irish episodes but has been, for the most part in Ireland, in abeyance? The answer is BOTH, though it may seem that my emphasis in the discussion, certainly in the early part, is on the national liberation war.
In order to imagine how we might win, it is helpful to examine past struggles and analyse what went wrong with them. Pessimists love to focus on those things I know – but in order to push us towards reformism or just surrender; my approach instead is from a revolutionary perspective.
Generally, Socialists analysing the class struggle don’t even ask themselves why we have not had a revolution yet. From week to week, month to month, they tend to focus on this or that particular trade union or social struggle but without going into the big picture. It seems as though they can’t even imagine a socialist uprising in Ireland, it’s just too far away to think about, apparently. But if one can’t even imagine such a revolution, how could one consider the necessary steps to get there?
Irish Republicans on the other hand are often thinking in terms of revolution, usually including armed struggle. However it seems to me that Irish Republicans don’t like analysing past failures of the movement but when they do, their verdicts tend to be that the leaders betrayed the struggle or that taking part in public elections corrupted the movement; or that infiltration, spies and informers was the problem. And some other reasons. The thing is, although all those things played a particular part, they are not the fundamental reason.
PART ONE: THE THIRTY-YEARS’ WAR – DOOMED TO LOSE
(Reading time this section: less than 5 minutes)
The national liberation war that began in 1969 in the Six Counties and ended in 1998 (though some armed incidents continue from time to time) began as a civil rights struggle and changed into a war of communal defence and of national liberation. The military part of the struggle for the most part took place in the occupied Six Counties. The political element of the struggle was waged all over Ireland (and abroad) but in the main consisted of support for the struggle in the Six occupied Counties.
Fought in that way, the struggle was bound to lose. It could never win. How could anyone imagine that they could win a struggle fought against a world power in one-sixth of the country, where even the population there was divided against them? What could they have been thinking?
To my mind, there are only two possible sane replies to that question, which is that they believed: 1) that the British ruling class would get worn down by struggle and leave and/ or 2) that the Irish ruling class would intervene in some way to assist the struggle and make continued British occupation untenable.
1) ‘The British ruling class would get worn down and leave’: This theory must have depended on British repression being condemned abroad and being unpopular at home but had to rest fundamentally on the British having no great stake in continuing its possession of its colony there.
Anyone who thought that (and there were many who did and still many who do, not just Irish Republicans) made a fundamental error. Time and again the British ruling class has shown its determination to hang on to what might be considered its first colony, even as the ruling class’ composition changed from feudal-colonialist to capitalist-imperialist and as the world changed around it.
Even when the British ruling class, weakened by WW1 and facing an Irish guerrilla war which enjoyed the support of the vast majority of Irish people, with national liberation uprisings breaking out across its Empire and with its repression in Ireland increasingly unpopular at home, entered into negotiations with the Irish resistance, it held on to a foothold, the Six Counties.
Subsequently, it had that colony managed in a permanent state of emergency laws, with institutionalised sectarian discrimination at all official levels and outbreaks of pogroms in the street and workplace.
That became even more exposed during the civil rights struggle and the national liberation war that followed when the British State compromised whatever good international reputationremained to its Armed Forces, its judiciary, its legal establishment, its media and its very legal framework.
Even now, when many believe that the Good Friday Agreement means that a 50% plus-one-vote in favour in the Six Counties will be sufficient to end Partition, they do not realise that such a decision will have to also obtain a majority in the British Parliament and be endorsed by the British Monarch. They are also forgetting the broken promises that surrounded Partition in the first place.
When analysing what holding on to the Six Counties has cost the British State in terms of reputation, military and financial contributions, one can only rationally assume that continuing to hold on to that foothold is of great importance to the British State. One may speculate as to the reasons underlying that but the central fact cannot be denied.
2) ‘The Irish ruling class would intervene in some way to assist the struggle and make continued British occupation untenable’:
There was some basis for this belief in that a section of Fianna Fáil, a party that had emerged from a split in Sinn Féin in the 1930s and had become one of the mainstream parties in the Irish state, had retained some traditional commitment to seeking a united Ireland. However it was a thin enough basis on which to depend in a national liberation struggle since that section had no majority within the party itself, to say nothing of the foreign-dependent nature of the Irish native capitalist class, the Gombeens, as a whole.
The question came to a trial of strength in the Arms Crisis of 1970, in which at least two Fianna Fáil Government Ministers were involved in secretly buying arms for the defence of nationalist areas in the Six Counties (since the IRA had insufficient weapons at the time) from rampaging Loyalist mobs and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (including the part-time B-Specials). The Ministers alleged that they had acted in the full knowledge of the rest of the Government. By the time the whole affair was over, two Ministers had been sacked and another two resigned in protest.
If it had not been clear before that the Gombeens, the native Irish capitalist class was no patriotic capitalist class but rather a neo-colonial one, it should have been clear after that. But the armed struggle in the Six Counties intensified, especially after the massacres of unarmed civilians carried out by British Paratroopers the following year, 1971 in Belfast and again in Derry in 1972. And the war lasted until 1998.
If, as had been demonstrated to be the case that the British ruling class were determined to hold on to the Six Counties and the Irish ruling class was not going to seriously challenge that possession, did the Republican movement have any other option than to fight on a war that they could not possibly win?
I am clear that it did.
Clearly, in order to have a chance of success, the war had to be extended to the other five-fifths of the country, which is to say into the territory under the control of the Irish native capitalist class. This class had seized power after the War of Independence (1919-1921) and had beaten and suppressed its opposition duringand afterthe Civil War (1922-1923) and furthermore was supported by a powerful ally, the Irish Catholic Church. Since the founding of the first Irish Republican organisation, the United Irishmen of the late 1790s, the Catholic Church hierarchy had opposed Irish Republicanism; it had condemned four Irish priests who participated in the uprising of 1798, excommunicated the Fenians, had at first condemned the 1916 Rising and the War of Independence only to latch on to it at the end along with the Gombeen class.
The general Irish population likely would not have supported or sustained an armed struggle in the 1970s against the Gombeen class but that class could have been fought politically, through agitation and mobilisation, on many social, political and economic fronts. Without going into the specific details of each, these were:
against the huge wastage of Irish youth through emigration
to remedy the shortage of affordable housing (which in part contributed to the above)
to end unemployment (also contributing hugely to emigration)
to raise the level of wages and lower wage earners’ taxation
for the right to divorce
for equality for women in law
for the right to contraception devices and medication for men and women
against decriminalisation and for equal rights for gay and lesbians
to halt the decline of the Irish language, in particular of the rural Irish-speaking areas
to improve services for the rural areas
to oppose the open-door policy for foreign multinationals to exploit Irish natural and human resources
to secularise the education service
and the health service.
to remove the privileged status of the Catholic Church within the state.
The Republican movement in general, with some exceptions, declined to take on any of those struggles. They did not organise in the trade union movement, left the social struggles to others and most of all, declined to take on the Catholic Church on any issue except its opposition to the national liberation struggle. Even there, it was happy to publicly avail of the services of members of the Church clergy who supported them. Republicanism was, from its very beginning, as well as anti-monarchist, about separation of Church and State but it was difficult to see that in the Irish Republican movement, particularly after the War of Independence.
A full half of those fourteen points above (nos. 5,6, 7, 8, 12, 13 and 14) would have meant taking on the Church head-on and no doubt the hierarchy would have hindered the struggle over most of the others too, due to its strong links with the State and its ruling class.
Because of its tactical and no doubt ideological refusal to take up those struggles, the Republican movement could do little more in the 26-County state than to agitate for solidarity with the beleaguered nationalist population inside the British colony.
Though this could be effective for a time it could not become a mass movement, nor survive a long struggle, without any remedy being sought for the issues facing the population within the state.
The wonder is not that the majority leadership of the Republican Movement threw in the towel on the military struggle in 1998 but that they had waited so long to do it. Of course, they never admitted the true nature of what they were doing: abandoning the armed struggle and revolution in total and instead, using their negotiating position to advance themselves politically – not in the economic, social and political struggle envisioned above but rather in a political struggle to find themselves a place among the Gombeen political class in the Irish state and as accomplices in the governing of the colonial state.
PART 2: COLLECTING THE FORCES FOR REVOLUTION
(Reading time this section: 2 minutes)
A successful revolution in Ireland, as in most places, would require the involvement of a mass movement. That mass movement would be unlikely to be one that had national self-determination as its only aim – certainly not in the 26 Counties (the Irish state). Mass movements arise at times around different issues and exist as long as the issue does or instead until the movement gets worn down or broken up. Such movements arose around the Household Tax and, later, around the additional Water Charges.
Even though the objectives of such movements are often not revolutionary, the participation in them by revolutionaries is necessary if, in the future, there is to be a revolution. Revolutionary activists can make contacts and prove themselves by the way they participate whilst at the same time pointing out that a revolution is necessary in order to resolve all these issues completely and permanently. Such activists can also influence the movement (or sections of it) to act in more revolutionary ways, so that the movement can be guided by – and imbued with — revolutionary spirit.
Working people in struggles come up against concrete problems which need to be resolved in order to move forward. Prior to 1913 in Ireland, workers learned the need for unity in struggle which was emphasised by the employers’ attempts to break the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union in August 1913. The attacks on them by the Dublin Metropolitan Police illustrated the need for organised defence and Larkin and Connolly called for the formation of what became the Irish Citizen Army, which later also fought prominently in the 1916 Rising.
Trade unions are the only mass organisations of the working class in Ireland and it is necessary for revolutionaries to be active within them. Currently, other than social democrats, it is mainly members of both trotskyist parties and independent activists who engage politically with the trade unions. Those members are mostly in clerical work and their political work tends to concentrate on employment demands around wages and working conditions. When they introduce politics it is generally to get some motion passed by their branch. Also at times, they will campaign to get a perceived left-wing candidate elected to some position within the trade union bureaucracy.
None of the above are without value but they remain disjointed in terms of program and often confined to just one trade union. Not only that, but often the Left party involved will engage in order to recruit some new members and in order also to retain their own members by providing them with activity. When broad front trade union groups are formed, they tend to become an arena where the dominant trotskyist parties compete for dominance.
If we are to have a successful revolution – and in particular a socialist one – participation in the struggles of workers in the trade union movement is absolutely necessary. But participation should be primarily among the rank and file of the trade union and also across trade unions, focused on providing solidarity to members of whichever union is in struggle – in addition to encouraging unorganised workers to organise and become active. The objective is not to help make one trade union or one section more militant but rather to create a militant workers‘ solidarity movement within the whole trade union movement. It is essential to have members in the ‘blue-collar’ work unions or departments as well as in the clerical unions or sections. And the cross-union organisation I advocated should be independent — the preserve of no political party.
Participation in such struggles provides an opportunity for revolutionaries to make contact with people who are activists but not yet revolutionaries and to give those people an opportunity to evaluate the revolutionaries in terms of their actual practice. Revolutionaries can support the people struggling for worthwhile reforms while at the same time pointing to their partial and temporary nature. Revolutionary activists can play an educational role in the mass movements while at the same time becoming educated themselves by the daily reality faced by the masses in this system.
PART 3: THE ABSOLUTE NEED FOR UNITY – BUT WHAT KIND?
(Reading time this section: 3 minutes)
It is, most people would think, a ‘no-brainer’ (i.e an obvious truth) that unity is necessary in the struggle to overthrow the current system. It might be thought surprising, therefore, that disunity is more the rule among those who aspire to revolution.
Generally, those who claim to be revolutionary socialists will not unite with Irish Republicans. In addition, those socialists of one party will often fail to unite with those of a different party. The same dynamic is to be seen among Irish Republicans also.
There have been many attempts to overcome this problem. In the 1930s the Republican Congress sought to unite Irish Republicans with revolutionary socialists. In the face of hostility within the mainstream Republican movement and also with divisions among the communist element in Ireland at the time, faced in addition with anti-communist hysteria whipped up by the Catholic Church, the experiment failed. The leadership of the Sinn Féin and the IRA of the later 1960s tried to combine socialism and republicanism within one party and military organisation, an attempt that crashed when it was discovered that the arms necessary to defend ‘nationalist’ community areas in the Six Counties, particularly in Belfast, were unavailable, leading to an acrimonious split in the movement. A subsequent attempt to combine the socialist and republican elements in another organisation survived a little longer but also failed for a number of reasons, some internal and also due to Irish State repression.
There have been some attempts to unite the non-republican Left itself also, which usually failed due in part to ideological differences but also to political sectarianism and personality clashes. Currently both trotskyist parties have an uneasy working relationship, the small grouping of Independents for Change exists also, the Communist Party is very small too and the anarchists are scattered and unable for years now, for the most part, to mount united action.
Attempts to unite the various parts of the Irish Republican movement have, in general, focused on creating a new organisation or absorbing activists unhappy with one organisation into another.
A frequent approach has been for some people to sit down and produce what they consider solid policy and a constitution, then to propose this format to others around which to unite. Even when accepting amendments from the elements they seek to recruit, these attempts too have largely failed.
It seems a rational approach: if we want unity, surely first we have to agree on what for, how, etc, etc before we can go into action? I believe, contrary though it may seem, that actually we should unite in action first. Uniting in action tends to break down barriers of mistrust that are built on hearsay or suspicions fostered by sectarian elements. Action also tends to clarify certain questions that until then are theoretical only. Of course, at some point, action will need to be guided by worked out policy but initially the action itself can be sufficient guide, especially since approaching the question the other way around has been so generally unproductive.
The question then arises: with whom to unite? In general, I would say that the answer is: with all with whom we can, in actual practice, unite: different types of revolutionary socialists (including anarchists), Irish Republicans, Left social democrats, human and civil rights activists.
There are some exceptions I think necessary to mention: fascists, racists, religious sectarians and parties that participate in Government. Fascists seek to impose an undemocratic regime completely hostile to the interests of working people and, far from our uniting with them, need to be defeated; racists and religious sectarians seek to divide the movement along lines of ethnicity or religious affiliation. Revolutionaries need to draw a clear line of distinction between the movements of resistance and those who participate in a native capitalist or colonial government, i.e the management organisations of the enemy.
Many issues lend themselves to united action but perhaps none more so, and none are more essential, than against repression.
PART FOUR: UNITY AGAINST REPRESSION
(Reading time this section: 3 minutes)
All revolutionary movements – and many that are progressive but not revolutionary – face repression at some point in their existence. Not to recognise that fact and to have some kind of preparation for it, even if very basic, is indicative of a non-revolutionary attitude to the State. Nor have we any reason in Ireland to be complacent on this question.
The Irish State turned to military suppression in the first year of its existence as did also the colonial statelet. Detentions, torture, murders and official executions were carried out by Free State forces over a number of years, followed by censorship and arrests, all facilitated by emergency repressive legislation. In the Six Counties, in addition to similar even more repressive legislation, there were two sectarian militarised police forces and sectarian civilian organisations.
After a change of government, the Irish State introduced internment without trial during the Emergency (1939-1946), the Offences Against the State Act in 1939, Special Criminal (sic) Courts in 1972 and the Amendment to the OAS in that same year.
The Six County statelet had the Special Powers Act (1922) and brought in internment without trial in 1971 (the Ballymurphy Massacre that year and the Derry Massacre the following year, both by the Parachute Regiment, were of people protesting the introduction of internment). The statelet also introduced the Emergency Provisions Act and the no-jury Diplock Courts in 1973 and, though technically abolished in 2007, non-jury trials can and do take place up to today.
The British state targeted the Irish diaspora in Britain in 1974 with the Prevention of Terrorism (sic) Act and that same year and the following, framed and convicted nearly a score of innocent people of bombings in five different cases – had the death penalty not been previously abolished for murder, most of them would have been executed. It took the victims over 15 years to win their freedom, by which time one had died in jail. Brought in as a temporary measure, the PTA continued in force until 1989 but a general Terrorism Act was brought into British Law in 2000 and remains in force today.
State repression rarely targets the whole population and, particularly in a capitalist “democracy” focuses on particular groups which it fears or feels it can safely persecute. However, we should also recall Pastor Niemoller’s words about the creeping repression which even the German Nazi state instituted, going after first one group, then another, and another …. Among the list of groups targeted eventually by the Nazis were Jews, Roma, Communists, Socialists, Anarchists, Social Democrats, Jehova’s Witnesses, Free Masons, Gays and Lesbians, Mentally Ill or challenged, physically challenged ….
It is in the interests of the vast majority of the population to oppose repression of different groups, whether those groups be based on ethnicity, gender, sexuality, citizenship status or democratic politics. Not everyone recognises this of course but one might expect that political activists challenging the status quo would do so. Sadly, experience shows that they do not in practice (though they may acknowledge it intellectually).
With some periodic exceptions, socialist groups in Ireland do not support protests against repression of republicans. Furthermore, some republican groups will not support others when the latter are subjected to repression. Yet at any time, Republicans of any group can be and are regularly harassed in public or raided at home; their employers may be warned about them by the political police; they may be detained on special repressive legislation, denied bail, effectively interned; they can be easily convicted in the non-jury Special Criminal Courts or Diplock Courts; ex-prisoners released on licence in the Six Counties can be returned to jail without any charge or possibility of defence.
The Irish State’s non-jury Special Criminal Court is a tempting facility for putting away people whom the State finds annoying and it is widely thought it was considered for the trials of the Jobstown protesters. The result of the trial, where the jury clearly took a different view to the presiding judge, may well have justified the opinion of those in the State who considered sending the defendants to the SCC.
Unity against repression is a fundamental need of a healthy society and of movements that challenge the status quo. Practical unity in any kind of action also tends to break down barriers and assists general revolutionarybroad unity. Unity against repression is so basic a need that agreement with this or that individual is unnecessary, nor with this or that organisation in order to defend them against repression. Basic democratic rights were fought for by generations and have to be defended; in addition they give activists some room to act without being jailed. On this basis, all must unite in practice and political sectarianism has no place in that.
Without some basic unity in practice across the sector challenging the status quo, there can be no revolution. But more than that: we stand together against repression ….. or we go to jail separately.
Diarmuid Breatnach is a veteran independent revolutionary activist, currently particularly active in committees against repression, in some areas of internationalist solidarity and in defence of historical memory.
Ireland has broken off its love affair with the USA but the breakup’s been coming for a long time. Of course it was always a kind of mythical USA that was the love object, of film stars, rock n’ roll, friendly presidents, Irish-U.Stater politicians, of U.Stater tourists – never the real USA, good or bad. One could feel the tensions in the relationship during the Viet Nam War, though that was mostly to be seen in the youth and some lefties. But then came the lying scandals in the US Presidency of Nixon and Clinton and the naked warmongering throughout all, including the Bushes, Snr. and Jnr.
Ireland, below the level of its Gombeen politicians, has split up with the USA (at the level of ITS politicians and millionaires [often the same thing]) but it has been a relatively civilised breakup and thankfully with no children (well, apart from the Irish illegal immigrants – sorry, undocumented visitors).
While some businesses in an Dún Beag might have turned a profit out the Fear Mór’s visit, having the Chief of the World Superpower drop in on us has cost us – around 10 million euro, according to the Irish Independent. Loads of extra Gardaí on the ground in Co. Clare and Limerick, in the air and on sea, does not come cheap (though I’m sure the overtime was welcome). All would have been bad enough if we had invited him but we hadn’t. Will the Irish Government present the US Presidency with an itemised bill? Probably not.
At the invitation of The Irish Examiner, a number of organisations and individuals had written letters to Trump for publication (see link below); most were critical and these included Amnesty International, Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, National Union of Journalists, National Women’s Council of Ireland, National Union of Students; Brendan Ogle, Tara Flynn and Clare Daly. For entertainment value I’d pick out the IPSC’s and Tara Flynn’s (well, she is a comedian). The ICCL also had a newspaper advertisement criticising Trump, which was sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union and figured logos of a number of other civil rights organisations.
There were protests in various parts of the country, including one to greet his arrival at Shannon airport (hopefully US munitions and troop carriers were pulled to one side so as not to hinder his landing). The Irish Times said there were about 200 protesters there so, on past reporting, there could have been anything between 300 and 1,000. It is not easy to get to Shannon airport unless one has a car, even from Galway the gaps between bus arrival times are substantial. And no train station.
Dublin had a showy and packed anti-Trump rally, with a Baby Trump blimp floating above the crowd outside the Garden of Remembrance. An activist brought big letter placards which, with the help of volunteers from the crowd, spelled out anti-trump messages in English and in Irish. Indeed an interesting feature was a number of placards partly or completely in Irish.
The theme of “welcome” or “fáilte” was of course played upon in reverse, in speech and placard, with more than a hinted reference to the old Bord Fáilte slogan inviting tourists to the land of “céad míle fáilte”.
The event was managed by Unite Against Racism which is, for the most part, People Before Profit, which in turn is really the Socialist Workers’ Party. A number of other left-wing party flags could be seen too. A group of Shinners were at the rally with their trademark flags (never go anywhere without the party’s flag) but no “dissidents” were present as a group, though I certainly noted some as individuals.
The speakers at the rally covered a number of themes, including of course misogyny, migrants, Palestine, war-making and imperialism. Liam Herrick of the ICCL was an unusual sight to see on an outdoors protest platform, speaking at the second part of the rally. Curiously, the rally organisers had sent a major part of the attendance off to march around the city centre for awhile and of course, when they got back, they had shed a great part of their numbers. A torrential downpour no doubt encouraged the desertions.
Coming towards the end of the rally, a performer accompanied himself on guitar while he rendered some songs for the diminished attendance. Woody Guthrie’s “Plane Crash at Los Gatos” (also known as “Deportees”) would have been an apposite choice, a song about Mexican labourers being employed in the south-eastern US fruit harvests and then driven back across the Border. Guthrie was moved to sing about them when in 1948 a plane carrying mostly deported Mexicans crashed, killing all on board and though the names of the crew were given in the news reports, the Mexicans were referred to only as “deportees”.
At the rally, eventually Trump was deflated (the blimp, I mean), tethering weight bags emptied of water, placards were packed, flags furled …. and I went to get some shopping.
AN GORTA MÓR COMMEMORATED IN SLIGO, DUBLIN AND CELTIC PARK
(Reading time of article text: 5 minutes)
A small crowd gathered at the Garden of Remembrance, Dublin on Sunday afternoon to commemorate the Great Hunger, an Gorta Mór on National Famine Day. Led by a lone piper, they marched through O’Connell St., the city’s main street, some of them in period costume, to the Great Hunger Memorial on the Custom House Quay, North Dock and later on to the iconic sailing ship, the Jeannie Johnson.
With some adults and children dressed in period clothes, some of them tattered to represent the destitution of the starving poor, they marched down O’Connell Street led by the lone piper and turned left at the Bridge, proceeding along to Custom Quay’s North Dock and the Great Hunger memorial. There they were addressed by Michael Blanch of the organising committee and by Niall Ring, Lord Mayor (coming to the end of his year in that role), who had accompanied them from the Garden of Remembrance.
Some sentences in Irish were spoken by the MC of the event and by the Lord Mayor, while Michael Blanch referenced the deadly impact the Great Hunger had on the Irish language (i.e with the depopulation of the main Irish-speaking areas of the western seaboard). The Irish Tricolour came in for a mention in the Dublin commemoration also; it had been presented to William Smith O’Brien by women in Paris during the revolution there of 1848 and the Young Irelanders had staged their own uprising that year also, small and certainly too late, easily crushed by the British colonial forces. The huge Irish diaspora was also mostly a result of the Great Hunger and had contributed significantly to the formation and membership of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, also known as the Fenians, founded simultaneously in 1858 on St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin and in New York. The IRB, in turn, had been the main driving force behind the 1916 Rising.
Tourists and other passers-by stopped to watch as wreaths were laid on on the statues of the monument and an Irish-language version of Amazing Grace was sung by a young girl in period costume. A currach (small traditional Irish sea-craft), containing a woman and two young girls in period costume and rowed by a man, pulled into place on the Liffey across from the group; one of the girls placed a wreath in a cardboard box into the river, to commemorate the Irish diaspora and those who had perished during their journeys. Participants then threw single red roses bouquets into the river also and floral wreaths were deposited around the statues of the 1977 memorial by sculptor Rowan Gillespie. And the piper played a lament, Hector the Hero.
The gathering moved on then to the sailing ship the Jeannie Johnson, to hear Evelyn Campbell sing her Famine Song and Diarmuid Breatnach sing Skibereen and Fields of Athenry. After that, some repaired to the Teachers’ Club, where tea, sandwiches, gur cake and biscuits were on offer. By coincidence, a Musical Society were relaxing there too and it was not long before songs from different parts of the world were being exchanged from different parts of the room.
THE CAMPAIGN FOR A NATIONAL IRISH FAMINE DAY
The Great Hunger is the preferred term in English by many for the terrible disaster that struck Ireland in the mid-19th Century, for people starved alongside what was for a while at least, an abundance of food.
For three successive years, a fungus-like oomycete infested the potato crop, staple diet of most of the population. AlthoughPhytophthora infestanshad attacked the potato crops on the European mainland and in Britain also, nowhere was the disaster of the dimensions it grew to in Ireland: nowhere else were the the majority of the population obliged to sustain themselves on the potato while yielding up every other edible product (except perhaps milk) to pay the landlord’s rent on land conquered from the ancestors of the starving, thousands of soldiers and police being on hand to ensure the hungry paid up. “The Almighty indeed sent the potato blight”, wrote Young Irelander journalist John Mitchell, “but the English created the Famine.”
Well over one million Irish starved or died of attendant diseases in less than five years during the reign of Queen Victoria, while ships left Irish ports laden with food and grain was fermented to make lucrative whiskey and beer. Another million emigrated and it is estimated that about one third of those also died – of drowning, of disease aboard ship or of the various dangers migrants faced. Five years after the potato crop failed, estimates put the population of Ireland at around six million, from the over 8 million of before. Over the next decade, another million would leave, paid to go, lied to go, forced to go, or gone out of desperation and loss of faith in any future in the country of their birth under foreign domination.
In 2008 it was agreed by the Irish Government that there would be a national Famine Day in the Irish calendar of national events and it would take place on the third Sunday in May. The State commemoration this year was held in Sligo, attended by Leo Varadkar (who was met by a protest of the Sligo Women’s Cervical Smear Action Group). The ceremony was covered in the RTÉ news which was shown on TV in the Teacher’s Club. Michael Blanch told those present that the campaign he and his wife had started in 2004 through the Committee for the Commemoration of Irish Famine Victims, had resulted in this national event and that it was also being commemorated by the Glasgow Celtic team in the special jerseys they wore that day (in their Scottish Premiership win 2-1 against Hearts). The symbol is black and white which are the colours of the Commemoration and he had also wanted GAA teams playing on this day to wear it on their jerseys (the Munster Hurling Championship match between Limerick and Cork was also being shown that afternoon on the TV screen in the Teachers’ Club).