NOT “LA QUINTA” — THE INTERNATIONAL BRIGADE WAS THE FIFTEENTH

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 2 mins.)

We see and often hear “viva la Quinta Brigada” but this is usually a mistake – the reference is not to the Fifth but to the 15th International Brigade. The word for fifteen in Spanish is “quince”1 whereas “quinta” means “fifth”. The brigade being referred to, the Fifteenth International Brigade, was one formed at the instigation of the Communist International (Comintern) in 1936 from volunteers from more than 55 countries2.

The estimates of numbers of participants in the International Brigades range from 40,000 to 59,000 with a death toll of around 10,0003 and of course many more injured.

Not all the Irish-born and Irish diaspora antifascists who fought4 in what is called the Spanish Antifascist (or Civil) War fought in the 15th Brigade5 but most of them did, whether in the British, Commonwealth or US Battalions (“Abraham Lincoln” and “Washington”, later combined), chiefly because these were the English-speaking battalions of the 15th International Brigade, which also included specific battalions for French, German, Italian, Spanish (from Mexico, Caribbean and Latin America) Czechoslovak, Hungarian and Polish languages6.

International Brigaders crossing the Ebro for the battle. The one in the bows of the boat appears to be Irish communist Michael O’Riordan, carrying the Senyera, the recognised Catalan flag of its time (red and yellow stripes without a star). O’Riordan survived the Civil War and returned to Ireland to lead the Communist Party of Ireland. (Image sourced: Internet)

The familiar songs in English were always about the 15th International Brigade, no other. So why and how has this mistake arisen of referring to the 5th?

The chief transmission of this error in recent time has been through that song with the wonderful lyrics and air created by the Irish balladeer and most famous folk performer, Christy Moore.

And he called his song “Viva La Quinta Brigada”. Recorded and performed under that title, with numerous videos repeating the error, even though he has himself corrected the reference in later performances.7 And in fact there are a number of Quinta Brigada versions of the Ay Carmela song on Youtube. So we can hardly blame all those people who are now singing the incorrect version, can we?

But before we arraign Comrade Christy Moore before a People’s Tribunal, it’s worth looking at the longer process of the error’s transmission. In fact, the incorrect wording was around long before Christy composed his song and it almost certainly informed his lyrics.

TRACING THE ERROR: THE AY CARMELA SONG AND SPIN-OFF

I remember thinking one time, when I became aware of the error in the title and refrain, that Christy should have consulted some Spanish-speaking people in Ireland. But I and my siblings are all Spanish-speaking and I recall even some of us singing a different song with a repeated line: Viva la Quinta Brigada, rumba la rumba la rumba la.

We were Spanish-speaking, yes and very sympathetic to the Republican side in that war — but at that time clearly not clued enough historically to detect the error,

That Rumba la rumba etc was a song in Spanish from the Republican side in the Civil/ Antifascist War, itself a spin-off or readaptation of a Spanish folk song about the crossing of the Ebro against Napoleonic troops in the 1800s. In this case the adaptation was fashioned to record the Republican forces’ crossing of the same river in attack on the advancing military-fascist forces in 1938.

The Battle of the Ebro was the largest ever fought on Spanish soil and lasted from 25th July to 16th November. The International Brigade song to the same air is generally known as Ay Manuela! and clearly refers to the International Brigade, not only by the lyrics in the final verse but by its alternative title, Viva La Quince Brigada!

Somewhere along the line someone made the error of replacing the Quince with Quinta. And so when Christy came to write his wonderful tribute to the Irish who went to the Spanish territory to fight against the fascist-military coup, the mistaken name had already been current for decades.

Re-enactment with partipants playing the parts of soldiers of the Spanish Republic advancing in the Battle of the Ebro. (Image sourced: Internet)

CORRECTING IT NOW

So no-one to blame for repeating the error and whoever caused it originally is long in the past. But we are here now and we know – so we have a responsibility not to perpetuate the error. We can do this quite simply in three ways:

  • Call the song “Viva la Quince8 Brigada” on all occasions
  • If we sing it, replace Quinta with Quince in the lyrics
  • Inform others about the correct version

End.

FOOTNOTES

1Fifteenth is “decimoquinta” in Castillian (Spanish) but, that being five syllables and therefore three too long for the song, “quince” (fifteen) must be sung instead.

2One of the many sources gives the figure of “55 Countries” but that probably means “55 states” and a number of states such as the UK, France, Belgium and Russia in Europe contain other nations, as do China, states in the Middle East, etc. In addition, many Jews also fought, one estimate putting them at one-quarter of the total of the “Brigadistas”.

3The very high casualty rate had a number of contributory factors but chief among them was the superiority of war-machines on the fascist-military side, in particular of aircraft, most of which were supplied, with pilots, by fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, while Britain and France blockaded Spain.

4Some served as paramedics also.

5Some fought as part of the POUM, largely Trotskyist antifascist organisation or may have fought in anarchist militia and one that we know of fought alongside the Basques (and gave his life there).

6There were other language groups but their numbers did not usually rate a whole battalion and they were integrated into battalions primarily of some other language.

7And even later still, amended the historically incorrect “the bishops blessed the Blueshirts in Dun Laoghaire

8Pronunciation guide for Quince: keen-the or keen-se.

9I’ve translated Ay! as Oh! but it’s more like Alas!, only hard to see that in the song’s context perhaps.

10I’ve translated Ay as Oh but it’s more like Alas, only hard to see that in the song’s context perhaps.

11The “Moors” were native North African troops raised by Spain’s Foreign Legion. Franco had been sent there by the Republican Government probably to get him out of the way after his ferocious suppression of the Asturias miners’ revolt. From there Franco’s troops were airlifted to the Canary Islands and from there to Andalucia in southern Spain, carving their way in the blood of mostly unarmed civilians.

SOURCES

The original Ay Carmela/ Viva la Quince Brigada song: ¡Ay Carmela! (song) – Wikipedia

Lyrics of the original Viva La Quince Brigada as sung by Pete Seeger: Pete Seeger – Viva la Quince Brigada Lyrics | Lyrics.com

The 15th International Brigades: International Brigades – Wikipedia

Battle of the Ebro – Wikipedia

APPENDIX – THE SONGS

Ay Carmela – Spanish Republican version

Ay Carmela

El Ejército del Ebro,
Rumba la rumba la rumba la.
El Ejército del Ebro,
Rumba la rumba la rumba la
Una noche el río pasó,
¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela!
Una noche el río pasó,
¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela!

The Army of the Ebro, rumba la rumba la, rumba la etc
One night crossed the river, Oh9 Carmela, Oh Carmela!

Y a las tropas invasoras,
Rumba la rumba la rumba la.
Y a las tropas invasoras,
Rumba la rumba la rumba la
Buena paliza les dio,
¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela!
Buena paliza les dio,
¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela!

And to the invading troops rumba la rumba la, rumba la etc
Gave a good beating, Oh Carmela, Oh Carmela!

El furor de los traidores,
Rumba la rumba la rumba la.
El furor de los traidores,
Rumba la rumba la rumba la
Lo descarga su aviaciónes,
¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela!
Lo descarga su aviaciónes,
¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela!

The fury of the traitors, rumba la rumba la, rumba la etc
Is dropped from their ‘planes, Oh Carmela, Oh Carmela!

Pero nada pueden bombas,
Rumba la rumba la rumba la.
Pero nada pueden bombas,
Rumba la rumba la rumba la
Donde sobra corazón,
¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela!
Donde sobra corazón,
¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela!

But bombs have no power, rumba la rumba la, rumba la etc
Where exists excess of heart, Oh Carmela, Oh Carmela!

Contraataques muy rabiosos,
Rumba la rumba la rumba la.
Contraataques muy rabiosos,
Rumba la rumba la rumba la
Deberemos resistir,
¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela!
Deberemos resistir,
¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela!

Ferocious counterattacks, rumba la rumba la, rumba la etc
We must resist, Oh Carmela, Oh Carmela!

Pero igual que combatimos,
Rumba la rumba la rumba la.
Pero igual que combatimos,
Rumba la rumba la rumba la
Prometemos resistir,
¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela!
Prometemos resistir,
¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela!

But as we fight, rumba la rumba la, rumba la etc
We promise to resist, Oh10 Carmela, Oh Carmela!

Ay Manuela!/ Viva La Quince BrigadaInternational Brigades version in Spanish

Viva la quince brigada,
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la-,
Viva la quince brigada,
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la-,
Que sea cubierta de gloria
Ay Manuela, ay Manuela!
Que sea cubierta de gloria
Ay Manuela, ay Manuela!

Long live the fifteen(th) Brigade
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la etc
May it be covered in glory,
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la etc.

Luchamos contra los moros
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la-,
Luchamos contra los moros
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la-,
Mercenarios y fascistas
Ay Manuela, ay Manuela
Mercenarios y fascistas
Ay Manuela, ay Manuela

We fight against the Moors11
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la etc
Mercenaries and fascists.
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la etc,

En el frente de Jarama
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la-,
En el frente de Jarama
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la-,
No tenemos ni aviones
Ni tanques ni camiones
Ay Manuela!
No tenemos ni aviones
Ni tanques ni camiones
Ay Manuela!

On the Jarama front
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la etc
We have neither planes, tanks or lorries,
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la etc

Ya salimos de España
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la-,
Ya salimos de España
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la-,
Pa luchar en otros frentes
Ay Manuela ay manuela
Pa luchar en otros frentes
Ay Manuela ay manuela.

Now we are leaving Spain
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la etc
To fight on other fronts
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la etc

Viva la quince brigada,
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la-,
Viva la quince brigada,
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la-,
Que sea cubierta de gloria
Ay Manuela, ay Manuela
Que sea cubierta de gloria
Ay Manuela, ay Manuela.

Long live the fifteen(th) Brigade
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la etc
May it be covered in glory,
Oh Manuela, Oh Manuela! etc

Viva La Quince Brigada!
Lyrics and musical arrangement by Christy Moore.

Ten years before I saw the light of morning
A comradeship of heroes was laid:
From every corner of the world came sailing
The Fifteenth International Brigade.

They came to stand beside the Spanish people
To try and stem the rising fascist tide;
Franco’s allies were the powerful and wealthy –
Frank Ryan’s men came from the other side.

Even the olives were bleeding
As the battle for Madrid it thundered on,
Truth and love against the force of evil
Brotherhood against the fascist clan.

(Chorus)
Viva la Quince Brigada!
No Pasarán“, the pledge that made them fight
Adelante!” is the cry around the hillside
Let us all remember them tonight.

Bob Hilliard was a Church of Ireland pastor,
From Killarney across the Pyrenees he came;
From Derry came a brave young Christian Brother,
Side by side they fought and died in Spain.
Tommy Woods, age seventeen died in Cordoba,
With Na Fianna he learned to hold his gun,
From Dublin to the Villa del Rio,
Where he fought and died beneath the blazing sun.

(Chorus)
Viva la Quince Brigada!
No Pasarán“, the pledge that made them fight
Adelante!” is the cry around the hillside
Let us all remember them tonight.

Many Irishmen heard the call of Franco,
Joined Hitler and Mussolini too;
Propaganda from the pulpit and newspapers
Helped O’Duffy to enlist his crew.
The word came from Maynooth, “support the Nazis” –
The men of cloth failed again,
When the Bishops blessed the Blueshirts down in Galway
As they sailed beneath the swastika to Spain.

(Chorus)
Viva la Quince Brigada!
No Pasarán“, the pledge that made them fight
Adelante!” is the cry around the hillside
Let us all remember them tonight.

This song is a tribute to Frank Ryan
Kit Conway and Dinny Coady too
Peter Daly, Charlie Regan and Hugh Bonar,
Though many died I can but name a few:
Danny Boyle, Blaser-Brown and Charlie Donnelly,
Liam Tumilson and Jim Straney from the Falls,
Jack Nalty, Tommy Patton and Frank Conroy,
Jim Foley, Tony Fox and Dick O’Neill.

(Chorus)
Viva la Quince Brigada!
No Pasarán“, the pledge that made them fight
Adelante!” is the cry around the hillside
Let us all remember them tonight.

GUNS LANDED AT HOWTH!

Clive Sulish

(Reading time main text: 7 mins.)

The above would have been the headline 100 years ago1. Well, not the main one, perhaps, which would have been MASSACRE AT BACHELOR’S WALK – TROOPS OPEN FIRE ON CIVILIANS – 4 DEAD, MANY WOUNDED2.

Then, probably, GUNS LANDED AT HOWTH! POLICE AND SCOTTISH OWN BORDERERS FACED DOWN — REPORTS OF 1,500 GERMAN RIFLES LANDED FROM AMERICAN YACHT.

JOINT OPERATION OF IRISH VOLUNTEERS, IRISH CITIZEN ARMY, CUMANN NA MBAN AND FIANNA ÉIREANN — DUBLIN CASTLE FURIOUS.

MAYOR SHOCKED AT CIVILIAN DEAD AND WOUNDED — DEMANDS INQUIRY.

Speakers at a commemoration on the West Pier, Howth on Saturday 23rd July commented on all those features of the landing of 1,500 German rifles, single-shot Mauser Model 71 (M1871), their collection by the organisations of the broad revolutionary movement — and the army massacre that followed.

The event was organised by Irish Socialist Republicans and Anti-Imperialist Action organisations. A colour party of two men and two women led the march up to the pierhead where the event was held.

The Save Moore Street From Demolition campaign banner was displayed along the way.

Event about to begin, Margaret McKearney in distance, colour party in foreground, mostly bystanders to the right, attendance out of shot behind and to right of camera person. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The event was chaired by Margaret McKearney, a veteran Republican from Tyrone once described by Scotland Yard as “the most dangerous woman in Britain” and who lost three brothers in the struggle (one in SAS ambush at Loughgall and another murdered by UVF).

McKearney recalled the need of Irish nationalists for weapons when the Loyalists were arming to prevent Home Rule3 being granted to Ireland and the Loyalists with British elite complicity had received a huge shipment at Larne.

Speakers, songs and a laying of a floral wreath were the main content of the event.

THREE SPEECHES – DETAILED, DIRECT AND DEFIANT

McKearney called Phillip O’Connor to speak, a historian and local resident with a particular interest in the revolutionary period in Howth4.

O’Connor began with a quotation from C.J. O’Connell in his Lordship of the World (1924) that “Every Nation, if it is to survive as a nation, must study its own history and have a foreign policy”.

Phillip O’Connor speaking at the event — the plaque at the pier head behind him. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The speaker went on to relate how our rulers demote and distort our nation’s history and how for various reasons even families and communities neglect to pass on that history to following generations.

O’Connor went on to relate the extensive instances of local people’s participation in our nation’s revolutionary history. He brought out names of local people who had been active in Cumann na mBan and the Irish Volunteers and the Sinn Féin party of the time.

The speaker also drew attention to the Irish Citizen Army unit in the locality – the only one outside Dublin – that went on to participate in the 1916 Rising in Dublin and in Fingal. Of course many of that spread of revolutionary organisations had participated in the Howth guns landing.

O’Connor concluded by repeating the quotation: “Every Nation, if it is to survive as a nation, must study its own history and have a foreign policy”.5

McKearney then called on Seán Doyle, a veteran socialist Republican who spoke on behalf of the Revolutionary Housing League, focusing on the housing crisis in Ireland and quoted Roger Casement1 at his trial in London in 1916:

Where all your rights become only an accumulated wrong; where men must beg with bated breath for leave to subsist in their own land, to think their own thoughts, to sing their own songs, to garner the fruits of their own labours…

then surely it is a braver, a saner and a truer thing, to be a rebel in act and deed against such circumstances as these than tamely to accept it as the natural lot of men. Doyle went on to recall James Connolly’s admiration for the struggle of the Land League and for Michael Davitt2.

However, Connolly, the speaker reminded his audience, had excoriated those who were outraged by the eviction of a tenant farmer but with “the working person locked out from his workplace or evicted from his home”, remained “at best silent if not critical.”

“We need to engender the same passion ourselves because the system does not care or share the plight of working people,” Doyle asserted and lashed “anyone who says he loves Ireland and can witness people dying on the street homeless while 180,000 houses are boarded up vacant”.

The speaker declared that the RHL would no longer remain silent, confined or recognise the ruling class’ self-serving laws or allow them to prosper, would no longer accept homelessness, nor “see our children rent an mortgage slaves for the rest of their lives”.

“We in the RHL believe that a roof over your head is not a commodity but an essential of life like water or oxygen. Houses make homes, make communities and a society we aspire to”. Doyle went on to call for a realisation “that pleading and appealing to a non-caring ruling class is futile.”

Seán Doyle speaking on behalf of the Revolutionary Housing League (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Concluding, Doyle called on people to join the Socialist Republicans in action and quoted James Connolly6:We believe in constitutional action in normal times; we believe in revolutionary action in exceptional times. These are exceptional times, and called on people to “Build the Revolution!”

Cáit Trainor, an independent Republican activist from Armagh was called and stepped forward to give a rousing speech.

Reviewing as others had done the impelling of the arming of the Irish Volunteers by the arming of the Unionists against the prospective Irish “Home Rule”, Trainor went on to recall some of the other participants in the revolutionary movement of the time.

“Cumann na mBan with upwards of 1500 members was formed to assist the Volunteers, though some of the most radical women republicans, such as Helena Moloney and Constance Markievicz, elected to join the socialist Citizen Army instead, where they were given equal standing with the men.

“The Volunteers also had a ready-made youth wing, the Fianna Éireann, founded by Constance Markievicz7 in 1903 as an alternative to the ‘imperialist’ Boy Scouts. The Fianna were in fact to provide many of the most militant Volunteer activists.

“All of these groups would work together in the lead up to and including the 1916 rising, working together while maintaining their own autonomy with a unity of purpose.” “The Irish Volunteers had the men, the women and the youth, the next move was to secure the arms.”

Trainor referred to the arduous journey of guns-carrying yacht which included a stop in Holyhead to repair damaged sales after the Boat was hit with one of the worst storms to hit the area for decades.

The speaker attributed the success of the Howth landing to “the working together of various sections of Irish society.” “They came from varying religious backgrounds, not all were even Irish born and — even more surprising for the time — women took a leading role.”

Cáit Trainor speaking at the event on the Howth pier (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Taking the 1916 Proclamation as an example, with its address to “Irishmen and Irish Women”, Trainor maintained that “Irish Republicanism has always been and remains to be a modern forward-thinking ideology in comparison with the outdated imperialist mindset of unionism.”

Cáit Trainor compared that address with the opening line of the unionist Ulster proclamation of 1913 that opens with “Whereas Ulstermen” and continued without any reference to women anywhere in the document.

Trainor stated that today Irish Republicanism needed to “get every section of society more involved in the struggle” and that “anyone who makes their home in Ireland must be encouraged to make their contribution and to be as passionate about Ireland and its success as an independent nation as anyone else.”

The speaker recalled Thomas Davis’ words: “It is not blood that makes you Irish but a willingness to be part of the Irish Nation.8

“Irish Republicanism”, stated Trainor “stands in stark contrast to the archaic outlook of British imperialists and Irish reactionaries by boasting of a diverse membership” bringing “fresh and original insights, talent and ingenuity” unlike the paradigm of “Christian, male and white”.

Trainor remarked that “Revolutions are a dirty business and revolutionaries must be armed to meet the might of their opponent” and that “the revolutionaries of today … come from the same tradition”, that “the cause and goal has not changed for any true Irish Republican.”

“Republicans in the early part of the last century did not set out to simply smash an orange state, or replace one flag for another; they were out for the Republic, an independent state for all the people, Republicans and the political prisoners who currently reside in prisons both north and South are out for the same thing9.

“It is an absolute travesty that the Republican prisoners are widely ignored by greater society, indeed most people would not even know they exist, believing falsely that with the signing of the GFA all prisoners were released and that political prisoners in Ireland were consigned to history.

“The media and constitutional nationalists along with pseudo socialist groupings like to skirt over the truth of the matter, they are more concerned with political prisoners in far-flung places around the world than political prisoners on their own doorstep.

“…. we understand that while Ireland remains occupied there will always be men and women willing to resist it, that this inevitably will ensure that political prisoners remain a reality in Ireland, and these prisoners will always have the decided and unfaltering support of Irish Republicans.

“Surrendering for seats in the enemies parliament isn’t a victory of any kind,” said Trainor, “it’s an utter defeat, the idea is to pacify with false power and notions of equality with your overlords, imperialists have used this strategy for centuries to quell rebellion and unbelievably it still works.”

Trainor dismissed the “alternatives to the Irish Republic” and condemned “reformism or British and Free State parliaments.”

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Pointing out that it was not an easy road for revolutionaries in the past no more than in the present, Trainor declared that “Revolutions are not won in the halls of parliaments but on the streets with the ordinary people”.

Coming back to the Howth landing of guns 100 years earlier, she said that “there is again an increase in militarism internationally and also nationally with unionist paramilitaries evidently armed and threatening violence.”

While constitutional nationalists sit on their laurels begging for British concessions unionist paramilitaries supported by unionist parties are organising again to secure their dominance and Irelands submission.

Cáit Trainor concluded with another quotation from Pádraig Pearse10: “The Orangeman11 with a gun is not as laughable as the nationalist12 without one”.

Living flowers in a pot are laid in remembrance of those who have given their lives in the struggle. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

SONGS

Diarmuid Breatnach sang the ballad Me Old Howth Gun, written by James Doherty under the name of ‘Séamas McGallowgly’ and collected in 1921, with words that seemed extremely prescient for its time, with the civil war to come the following year:

…… There was glorious hope that we
Would set old Ireland free
But now you’re parted far from me, oh me old Howth gun.

Oh, the day will surely come,
Oh me old Howth gun,
When I’ll join the fighting men,
Oh me old Howth gun;
In some brave determined band
I will surely take my stand
For the freedom of my land,
Oh me old Howth gun.

Diarmuid Breatnach singing at the Howth event (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Afterwards many people commented that they had not heard the song before and Breatnach replied that Pádraig Drummond had sent him the lyrics to learn for the event (which he had half-managed to do, he commented ruefully).

The event ended with the lowering of the colour party’s flags in honour of those who died for Irish freedom and, introducing it as “a fighting song, sung during the Rising”, Breatnach sang the first verse and chorus of Amhrán na bhFiann (The Soldiers’ Song).

End.

View of colour party with the harbour behind them (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

FOOTNOTES

1The guns were landed in Howth Harbour on 26th July 2014 by Erskine Childers and crew in his yacht The Asgard (which has its own room with the original yacht in the National Museum at Collins Barracks, Dublin).

2On their return from Howth, the revolutionary forces were confronted by a force of Dublin Metropolitan police but they were unsuccessful in having the rifles surrendered, as were also a unit of the British Army, the King’s Own Scottish Borderers. The latter were jeered by a Dublin crowd on their empty-handed return and at Bachelor’s Walk on the quays they opened fire on the crowd and bayoneted at least one victim. A woman and three men were killed and many wounded.

3A kind of partial autonomy that was on offer but within the British Commonwealth.

4See ROAD TO INDEPENDENCE – Howth, Sutton and Baldoyle play their part (2016) by Phillip O’Connor.

5The point about studying our history is often made at Irish Republican events but the one about having a foreign policy, though so important, is rarely if ever mentioned. Having a sound revolutionary foreign policy would have militated against the Provisional organisation’s seeking an accommodation with the leaders of US Imperialism 1970-1999 or expecting better of the World imperialist leaders at the “Paris Peace Conference” in 1919. Today the broad Republican movement has no coherent foreign policy except currently for Irish State neutrality.

6Roger Casement (1864-1916), of Anglo-Irish background, British diplomat (CMG) then Irish nationalist, member of the Gaelic League, poet, important role in organising the purchase of rifles that were transported to Howth and Wicklow. He was hanged in Pentonville Jail 3rd August, the last of the 1916 executions by the British.

7Thomas Davis (1814-1845), foremost among the Young Irelanders, publisher and contributor to The Nation, composer of A Nation Once Again, The West’s Awake and other notable songs and poems; his father was Welsh.

8James Connolly (1868-1916), revolutionary socialist, trade union organiser, journalist, historian, songwriter), Commandant of the insurrectionary forces in the 1916 Rising, executed by British firing squad.

9Constance Markievicz (nee Gore-Booth), (1868-1927), socialist Republican revolutionary, suffragist, founder member of the Irish Citizen Army and Cumann na mBan, fought as officer of the Irish Citizen Army in the 1916 Rising, sentenced to death (commuted), joined Sinn Féin, took the Republican side in the Civil War, founder member of Fianna Fáil. She was the first woman elected to Westminster Parliament (on abstentionist ticket), first Cabinet Minister in Europe (in the First Dáil) and first Minister of Labour in the world.

10There are currently around 60 Irish Republican prisoners in prisons on both sides of the British border.

11Pádraig Mac Piarais/ Patrick Pearse (1879-1916), writer, poet and journalist in English and Irish, educationalist, revolutionary Republican, Commander-in-chief of the 1916 insurrectionary forces, executed by British firing squad.

12British loyalists, followers of the anti-Catholic sectarian ideology of the Orange Order (founded 1796).

13At the time most Irish Republicans, despite the long existence of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, were seen as part of the broad nationalist spectrum but at its most militant end and were described as ‘advanced nationalists’.

Different view of colour party, against the lighthouse at the East Pierhead (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

USEFUL LINKS:

Revolutionary Housing League: https://www.facebook.com/JamesConnollyHouse

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

“Civil War to Avert a Workers’ Republic” – Peadar O’Donnell Forum talk in Dublin

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 2 mins.)

Historians and political activists gave talks in Dublin presenting a review of the conduct of what is more usually called the Irish Civil and its effect since on life in Ireland. All the speakers described that conflict as “a counterrevolution”, to overturn many of the gains made in the period of struggle immediately before it and to head off any possibility of yet further gains in Irish political, economical and social life, having a braking effect on such progress up to this very moment.

Liz Gillis speaking (Photo: D.Breatnach)
L-R: Fearghal Mac Bloscaidh, Mags Glennon, Ciaran Perry (Photo: D.Breatnach)

BACKGROUND

The event on 26th June, held in the function room of The Cobblestone, was organised by the Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum, itself established in early 2013, the result of a number of meetings and seminars organised over the course of 2012. It combined communists and socialist Republicans to organise discussions on a number of issues, such as Irish state neutrality, Irish national independence, working-class programs in struggle etc.

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

SPEAKERS

Ciaran Perry, a socialist Republican and Independent Dublin City Councillor, also a local history activist, introduced the event. He talked about the importance of history and in particular local history, the traditions of struggle and how some of those had been weakened in the trade unions and communities over the years.

Reading the account of the Ballysheedy Massacre (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Perry introduced the MC for the meeting, Mags Glennon who is also a socialist Republican activist and history enthusiast.

Glennon introduced historian Fearghal MacBhloscaidh from Tyrone who began in Irish and then continued in English, his presentation laying out clearly his position that the Civil War was a planned counterrevolution, quoting Cabinet papers and correspondence and supplying figures on the arms and equipment supplied to the Free State ruling elite by the British. MacBhloscaidh also maintained that the De Valera Government, though supported by the wider Republican movement at the time, was also a counterrevolutionary measure when subjected to a class analysis.

Sorry, slightly out of focus Jimmy Doran (Photo: D.Breatnach)

A woman (whose name I did not catch) was called to stage. In a clear voice she read an account of of the horrific Ballyseedy Massacre. Free State soldiers, after torturing their Republican prisoners, brought nine of them out to a road barricade, in which they had placed a landmine which they exploded. One survived by some miracle but spent the rest of his life needing frequent medical intervention.

At intervals between speakers, Pól MacAdaim performed his music, singing accompanied by guitar. Among the songs he sang were Tipperary So Far Away and Take It Down From the Mast (in the chorus of which some members of the audience could be heard joining).

Pól Mac Adaim performing at the event (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Mags Glennon then introduced historian Liz Gillis from Dublin who talked about the reaction of women to the Treaty and to the Civil War. The vast majority of Cumann na mBan members rejected the Treaty and many actively supported the Republicans in the following conflict. Gillis also spoke about how the women, who had been active in the struggle in 1916 and briefly to the fore in public life with the elections of 1918 and the War of Independence, were driven back to almost invisibility by the Free State Government and also the De Valera government and the 1937 Constitution. Gillis lauded Kathleen Clarke whom she said continued to fight the struggle for the rights of women in representational politics and criticised the De Valera Constitution of 1937.

Mags next introduced Jimmy Doran, a communist and long-time trade union activist, who talked about the contribution of the organised Irish workers to the struggle against British colonialism and for the advance of the working class. Doran went on to comment on the trade unions’ history and current situation in the Irish state. I had to go to the toilet and when I returned stayed near the entrance so as not to distract the audience by retaking my seat near the front and unfortunately, due to the lack of a PA system and the acoustics of that location, I was unable to hear the rest of his presentation.

Poster for the event.
Supporters and organisers (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Although the meeting was thrown open to questions or contributions, little was forthcoming although there was a short debate on whether the Irish bourgeoisie prepare well into the future and whether they prepare better than their opponents in the Republican movement.

The proceedings ended with announcements of forthcoming events, thanks from Mags to the speakers, audience and to Pol Mac Adaim who ended the day on a musical note.

End.

Upcoming events:

USEFUL LINKS

https://www.facebook.com/people/Peadar-ODonnell-Socialist-Republican-Forum/100057585515589/

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100057585515589

Ciaran Perry: https://cieranperry.ie/

Fearghal Mac Bhloscaidh blog: https://blosc.wordpress.com/

Pol Mac Adaim: https://www.antiwarsongs.org/artista.php?id=9761&lang=en&rif=1#:~:text=Pol%20MacAdaim%20is%2038%20years,%2C%20Rock%2C%20Soul%20and%20Contemporary.

Ballyseedy massacre: https://stairnaheireann.net/2016/03/10/what-really-happened-at-ballyseedy/

Liz Gillis: https://www.champlain.edu/academics/champlain-abroad/champlain-abroad-dublin/faculty-and-staff-dublin/gillis-liz

Jimmy Doran: https://www.peoplesworld.org/authors/jimmy-doran/

HUGE DEMONSTRATION IN MADRID AGAINST NATO AND IMPERIALISM

Rebel Breeze translation

(Reading time: one minute)

On 26th June 2022 tens of thousands took to the streets of Madrid in a rejection of NATO and imperialism. In addition to the people mobilised by the organisations and groups of the anti-NATO movement in Madrid, numerous buses were chartered from all over the state. The NATO Summit that was about to be held in Madrid (28 and 30th) has made it possible, after an important effort, to begin to revitalise and rebuild a movement opposing the armed wing of imperialism.

The groups attending with their slogans were many, from the anti-imperialist movement to some pacifist groups, through numerous organisations of the labour and popular movement, such as combative trade unionism or pensioners’ groups. Also noteworthy were representatives from abroad, such as a group of South Koreans against NATO, people from other European countries or groups from the Arab world, highlighting those who defend occupied Palestine and Western Sahara.

The repression has intensified during the previous two weeks and days: the city of Madrid has been militarised, organisers have even been arrested, they have been detained and threatened in their homes or they have been singled out in the press. Another demonstration called for the day of the summit, Wednesday the 29th, has been banned by the Government.

A section of the huge march on Sunday in Madrid (Photo: Insurgente.es)

COMMENT:

In addition to slogans against NATO (OTAN in Spanish), imperialism and war, one can also hear slogans specifically calling for the dismantling of NATO bases.

Not only will this huge demonstration and other acts in opposition to the summit lead to an intensification of general anti-imperialist struggle and against Spanish state repression but it will also likely encourage the forces for independence among the nations within the Spanish state, the Basque and Catalan nations and the Celtic nations of Galiza and Asturies.

SOURCES

NATO bases in the Spanish state: https://east-usa.com/us-military-bases-in-spain.html

TRADITIONAL & UNESCO FESTIVAL CHANTS FOR CATALAN INDEPENDENCE

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 2 mins.)

This year’s celebration of the Patum 2022 festival in Berga has sung and chanted for independence. With the square full of about 6,000 people on Thursday, the massive Catalan independence flag, the Estelada (with the white star in a blue triangle)1 was launched across the crowd as they sang the Catalan national anthem, Els Segadors2 (the Reapers).

With the song finished, some began to shout “independencia” (independence) and this was quickly taken up by the mass, revisiting the tradition of protest that existed before the pandemic. The Catalan independence movement has been somewhat becalmed of late, with serious divisions between the two main nationalist political parties and a lack of grass-roots activity.

Scene with traditional giant figures from the festival (Photo sourced: Internet)

The Patum festival is a traditional Catalan festival of great importance and is recognised by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. “The fiesta coincides with Corpus Christi and includes a whole series of theatrical representations, characters and figures that fill the town of Berga every spring. It is a religious commemoration that dates back to the Middle Ages, which has managed to preserve both its religious and profane roots.

“La Patum de Berga has been held annually for centuries during Corpus Christi, and includes street entertainment and shows with different figures typical of these fiestas (giants, “big-heads”, eagles, guitas (dragons), plens (devils)). Fire and dance play a central role. The fiesta really gets underway on the Thursday of Corpus Christi, with the Ceremonial Patum. The salto de plens is the apotheosis of the fiesta. It represents an infernal orgy where fire devils jump to the rhythm of music. The following day is the Children’s Patum.”3

Scene with the giant Catalan independence flag during the singing and chanting at the festival on Thursday (Photo sourced: Internet)

Berga is in the Barcelona region but over 107km from the city (and about half-way to Andorra). The Patum Festival of this year 2022, which began Wednesday, June 15 and will last until Sunday, June 19, was expected to be even more crowded than usual after two years in a row without being able to celebrate it due to the pandemic.

end.

Video of the singing, chanting and the huge flag (you have to view this on Facebook; strangely I couldn’t find one on Youtube): https://www.facebook.com/salva.mateu/videos/966147484078737

FOOTNOTES

1The other Catalan nationalist flag commonly seen is the Vermelha, with a red star and no blue. The white X on a black background is also flown but more rarely, it draws on history also and signifies ‘death before surrender’.

2An anarchist, Emili Guanyavents won the competition to compose the national anthem lyrics in 1899 and based it upon a traditional historical cultural expression arising out of an uprising of Catalan rural workers in 1640 against the chief minister of Philip IV of Spain. The lyrics are, as might be expected, very militant and, since even the Catalan lanugage was banned, the song was of course banned during the four decades of the Spanish Franco dictatorship

3https://www.spain.info/en/calendar/fiesta-patum-berga/

SOURCES

https://www.spain.info/en/calendar/fiesta-patum-berga/

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

BILBAO ACTIVISTS FORM BROAD COALITION AGAINST NATO & WAR

On 2nd June a number of Left anti-imperialist organisations and individuals held a public rally in Bilbo/ Bilbao. The municipal authority refused them use of a building and they held it in the open air in the Etxebarrieta Square. The organisers issued a statement in Euskera (Basque language) and Castillian (Spanish) calling for unity against the war plans of NATO and the EU and denounced the equivocating posture of the ‘official’ left Basque movement, denounced also the militarism of the Spanish coalition Government and advertised a joint demonstration for 18th June in Moyua, on the south side of the river in Bilbao1.

STATEMENT ISSUED BY COORDINATING GROUP (translated by D.Breatnach from Castilian Spanish version published in Ecuador Etxea)

For several weeks, various people and groups from Bilbao, Meatzaldea, Uribe-Kosta, Ezkerraldea and Busturialdea2 have been coming together in this broad initiative to respond to the escalation of war that we are seeing around us. An escalation of war promoted by NATO, with the aim of shielding the world hegemony of the United States against the rise of emerging powers such as China, India, Iran or Russia. A strategy that is doomed to failure, but that will cause, if we do not prevent it first, destruction, misery and death throughout the planet.

In Bilbo/ Bilbao 2nd June, reading the declaration and call to unite and for rally on 18 June in Basque and Castillian (Spanish). (Photo source: Ecuador Etxea)

In relation to the conflict in Ukraine, we believe that in no case can one speak of an inter-imperialist struggle between the NATO countries and Russia. Rather, it is an offensive planned for years to overthrow the legitimate government led by Vladimir Putin and gain control of Russian energy resources and markets. A policy of looting and plundering that the current Russian President put a stop to, no matter how hard it is for some to admit it. Ukraine is nothing more than the operations base and the cannon fodder of Atlanticist imperialism against its historical enemy, Russia.

Many on the Left say that the Russia of today is not the Soviet Union of yesterday. And they are completely correct. The problem is that even the slightest economic planning for social purposes by any State has become an obstacle to the viability of the parasitic capitalism that we live under. There we have the cases of Slovdan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi, sadly imprisoned and/or executed in the face of complicit silence or the enthusiastic support of what they call the “international community.”

Those of us who are here today have already learned our lesson: first they demonize the currently out of favour ruler through the media, and then they justify military offensives and imperialist massacres. That is why at this time we cannot make the mistake of placing ourselves at equidistance. Both Russia and the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics have every right in the world to defend themselves against the aggressions of NATO and the EU, which conspire and supply weapons to fascist governments like Zelensky’s to harass Russia and destabilize the region. Not to mention the openly Nazi battalions captured in Azovstal, whose release France and Germany now demand in order to advance in the negotiations. What do European governments owe the Nazis in Azov? What do they have to hide and why do they intend to buy their silence?

The truth is that we still do not know the exact reason why the States of the European Union have completely bowed to the interests of the United States. It is evident that the sanctions against Russia and the new oil and gas supply routes imposed by the US only benefit the Yankee tycoons, the Arab sheikhs and the absolutist monarchies of Saudi Arabia, Qatar or the United Arab Emirates. NATO vassals like Borrell have definitively cast the old European project into History’s dump. They prioritize profit and military spending to the detriment of the health and living conditions of the broad masses and announce a future of misery and sacrifice for a war in favor of a capitalism that is against us. The European Union is definitely a rotting political corpse, in case anyone ever thought that it could have been a progressive alternative or for oppressed nations like ours.

Arnaldo Otegi, leader of “the institutional Abertzale Left” (Basque left-nationalist movement). (Photo source: Internet)

Precisely here in the Basque Country, the official position of the institutional Abertzale Left3 regarding what is happening in the Ukraine is especially embarrassing. It seems unbelievable that those who proclaim themselves heirs to the historic struggles of the Basque Working People, a people of which the majority in 1986 opposed remaining in this criminal organization4, now wave the flag of “no to war” and of ambiguity. It seems immoral to us, both the pacifism that denies the just right to defense of those who are attacked by imperialism, as well as the lukewarm posture of those who do not take a stand, thus facilitating the advance of imperialism. Anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism must be cultivated day by day, if we do not want the ideological and cultural offensive of NATO and the EU to continue having effect, in particular among the sons and daughters of the working class. Thirty-six years later we unambiguously reaffirm ourselves in NO to NATO, no to FASCISM, no to GENOCIDAL IMPERIALISM.

As we said, we are witnessing an implacable propaganda to make us part of this imperialist strategy, so that we do not rebel against what is happening. While they continue to spread one-sided thinking through the big media, television channels that question the official story — such as Russia Today — are closed without the slightest shame, content on the Internet is censored by appealing to supposed “verified information”, journalists like Pablo González5 are imprisonedor political information is systematically eliminated from our streets. They not only want to indoctrinate us, they directly deny us the right to be informed. Where are the defenders of freedom of expression? Are we already living in a hidden state of emergency?

It is our obligation, therefore, to denounce, not only the rise of international fascism, but also the fertile ground that the fascists have in the Spanish State of the bannings, the GAL6, the closure of newspapers and the systematic torture of political dissidents7. Atlantic capitalism will never be able to find a better ally than the PSOE8, veritable experts in the art of manipulating and deceiving the working and broad masses. Sadly, there are times when collective memory seems too fragile. Of course, for this new phase they have found a faithful shield-bearer, the party of Yolanda Díaz9. Seconds were never good, we are already seeing where these wolves in sheep’s clothing are leading us…

We said at the beginning that different people have come together to counteract this hegemonic discourse that manipulates consciences and protects the sequestration of rights and freedoms. From Muskiz to Gernika we rebel today here against this ominous imperialist offensive. All this suffering is not necessary, there is no reason to accept the misery and the war to which NATO and the EU want to condemn us. It is also not the time to stay at home watching, or to follow the war as if it were a video game.

We therefore issue a call to all the towns and neighborhoods of Euskal Herria and other nations to continue organizing the fight against imperialism, capitalism and fascism. And we also invite all the people who are against the imperialist offensive of NATO and the EU to participate in the demonstration that we will carry out in Bilbao, on June 18 at 6:30 p.m. from the Plaza Elíptica.

NO TO NATO! NO TO THE EUROPEAN UNION! NO TO IMPERIALISM!

End statement.

TRANSLATOR FOOTNOTES

1Which is also the location of the representation of the Spanish State in Bizkaia and guarded by armed police.

2A number of towns and districts across the SW Basque province of Bizkaia.

3The ‘official’ leadership of the left-Basque independence movement, e.g the EH Bildu party under the leadership of Arnaldo Otegi and others.

4In the 1986 referendum on whether to remain in NATO, the Basque Country gave the highest majority for No, with the Canaries and Catalonia coming behind. For the whole Spanish state, nearly 57% voted Yes against 43.15%.

5Basque freelance journalist reporting for Publico (Spanish left online media) and La Sexta, threatened and advised to leave Ukraine by state intelligence services, which he did but arrested by Polish intelligence on 28 February as he was about to re-enter Ukraine with a group of journalists. Poland has charged him with spying for Russia but to date produced no evidence and even denied him access to his lawyer. The Spanish State sent intelligence service agents to question his wife, mother and friends.

6GAL: A Spanish state terror and assassination organisation of the 1980s operating against the Basque resistance which was exposed as led by the Prime Minister (though never even questioned) Felipe Gonzales and directed operationally by the Minister of the Interior and senior Army and Police officers, a number of which received prison sentences.

7The Spanish state has long been accused by human rights organisations of torturing political dissidents and convicted in the European Court of Human Rights a number of times of failure to investigate complaints of torture. The State has closed newspaper and social media sites, jailed rappers, banned political parties, banned demonstrations, closed political cultural centres, disqualified political activists from representation in elections and jailed political activists.

8The main Spanish social-democratic party, currently in coalition government with Podemos.

9Yolanda Díaz resigned from Izquierda Unida (United Left – a broad coalition) but remained a member of the Communist Party of Spain; she is currently Deputy Prime Minister in the Spanish coalition government.

SOURCE

SPANISH STATE ARMS MADRID AGAINST PROTESTS AT NATO SUMMIT: €37 million (including the purchase of 6,000 Taser pistol chargers)

From La Izquierda Diario (the Daily Left) by Carlos Rubio (Translated by D.Breatnach)

Foreign Affairs and Interior Departments spare no expense when it comes to strengthening the Atlantic Alliance summit, scheduled for June 29 and 30th. The budget increase of 1.95 million euros for the State Security Forces includes the purchase of 6,000 Taser chargers for the convened protests.

On October 8, 2021, the next NATO summit meeting in Madrid was officially announced, where Prime Minister Sánchez announced that “they would have all the capabilities” to “guarantee security”, at a key “historic moment” for the organisation.

(Image from Social Revolution)

Two months before the official date, Ministers of the Interior Marlaska and Exterior Albares are already anticipating some of the measures to be taken to prepare for the Summit. €37 million will be the budget limit, which will include the cost of assembly and adaptation of Ifema (Madrid festival organising consortium — DB), the catering and the security of the meeting.

More specifically, the State Security Forces will have almost 2 million euros to reinforce their equipment, which includes the purchase of 6,000 chargers for Taser pistols, to guarantee “a safe environment in the face of a possible threat”, according to the Marlaska himself.

Together with this acquisition, the purchase of metal detector arches, parcel inspection scanners, digital personal video cameras and computer graphics equipment for the preparation of three-dimensional plans of complete buildings is expected.

(Image from Social Revolution): “70 years of war, NATO no, bases out”

The National Police will be the body deployed for this summit, which will be involved in “establishing a comprehensive security arrangement for it that will cover, in addition to the place where the meetings are held, travel and all those places of accommodation where the delegations of different countries that are planning their assistance will be staying”.

According to the Government, all these measures are a priority since “several organisations and social groups are already announcing protests.”

The leading issue at this summit, given the context, is the war in Ukraine and the position that NATO is to take against Putin’s reactionary invasion. This time, there will be 50 delegations, some of them invited from outside NATO but close to it, as in the cases of Ukraine, Sweden or Finland.

At this summit, it is foreseeable that the main trend that has already been taking place in recent months and has been justified by the war between Kyiv and Moscow will be strengthened: imperialist rearmament.

In recent months, from the various partners of the alliance and from the EU, weapons have been sent successively to Ukraine, defending the interests of the alliance, arming the Ukrainian Security Forces and militias, among which are groups such as the well-known Azov Battalion and the Pravy Sektor, to name a few examples. While Russian troops remain… on their battlefronts, these armed far-right groups are strengthening their hegemony and repression in the parts of the country they control.

(Image from Social Revolution)

In this regard, as Sánchez stated: “Madrid and Spain are going to play a determining role”. Last Thursday, the President of the Government announced that Spain was going to double military aid to Ukraine, at the same time that the Army ship “Ysabel” is sailing to Poland with 200 tons of ammunition and war material of various kinds.

Since March 2nd, when the first shipment of weapons by the Spanish State was approved in Congress, the efforts of the “progressive government” (i.e social-democrat and Podemos coalition – DB) to actively participate in the escalation of war have continued uninterruptedly.

(Image from Social Revolution)

Sánchez seems to reinforce his intention to turn the Spanish state into one of the main partners of NATO and the US in Europe. In accordance with the positive historical diplomatic relations between the US and Morocco, Spain legitimised less than a month ago the illegitimate occupation of Western Sahara by the Alaouite monarchy, selling the Saharawi people in exchange for a diplomatic relationship that maintains a strong border policy between Africa and the EU; and to ensure the economic interests of Spain over her former colony.

(Image from Social Revolution)

Spain is the seventh ranking country in contribution of money to the organisation and which, in line with the other members of the Treaty Organisation, raised its defence budget by 1.5 billion euros between 2020 and 2021, which is still far from the 2% requested by “the White House” from its partners.

With the 2018 budgets the “progressive government” approved from the beginning an increase of almost 11% in defence and 6.5% in the National Police and Civil Guard, so it is expected that this trend will continue to rise.

End.

“Prime Minister Sanchez and his master” (Image from Social Revolution)

ISRAEL AND PALESTINE SUPPORTERS CLASH IN THE BASQUE COUNTRY

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 5 mins.)

Far from the battleground which drew their separate loyalties, on Sunday (8th) an area of the Basque city of Bilbao became for a short while another battleground as pro-Palistinians and supporters of the Israeli basketball team Hapoel U-NET Holon clashed. The confrontation gave no indication of having being organised as such but many accounts from the Basque side spoke of days of anti-Palestinian actions and provocations — including an assault on a Palestinian woman — without any police intervention.

The Israeli basketball team was taking part for the first time in a four-team basketball championship, the “Big Four Finals”, the other three being MHP Ludwigsburg (Germany), Lenovo Tenerife (Canaries, Spanish State) and Baxi Manresa (Catalonia, Spanish State).1

Although the Hapoel supporters (around 80 according to one report and 200 according to others) had received some jeers when walking through the city during the weekend, their numbers had faced no organised resistance to tearing down pro-Palestinian posters and signs. The main physical clash arose on Sunday after some Zionists on their way to the basketball arena tore a Palestinian flag from the front of a small bar in the old section of the city and set fire to it. The customers in the bar responded vigorously and the battle played out in that general area until the arrival of the Ertzaintza, the Basque southwest regional police force.

Zionist basketball fans moving in on the Basque bar to far left of photo (Source photo: Internet)
Zionists basketball fans burn Palestinian flag seized from bar (Source photo: Internet)

Short report from Bilbao Hiria (my translation from Castillian original):

As usual in these cases, the social networks were the ones that began reporting the violent behaviour of the Hapoel Holon ultras. For two days the media remained complicit in silence until the altercations went viral and they had to start up the story manipulation machinery.

Most of the media dealing with the subject have equated the aggressors and the attacked, presenting it as fights between fans, but perhaps the worst case is that of El Correo, which turned the situation around by calling the Bilbao population “pro-Palestinian terrorists” whom it accuses of having harassed and attacked the peaceful Israeli “fans” since they arrived in the city and of setting them up in “an ambush” that was the cause of the altercations on Sunday.

It is interesting to see the treatment of the media depending on who causes the disturbances. When they happen in a demonstration or a strike, they make sure to make known how much the destruction costs each citizen, because there is nothing more evil than wanting to fight for your rights. But, on the other hand, breaking street furniture because any team loses or wins a game is the height of democracy.

THE PEOPLE UNITED… Once again it was the people’s organization that faced the attacks, that protected the establishments and denounced the impunity of the Zionist ultras. The response was quick and for Sunday afternoon they organized a rally to show rejection of what happened. Interestingly, it was the only time that the Ertzaintza made an appearance and identified some attendees, arresting two (who have since been released).

End item.

As mentioned above, earlier on the Sunday, a Basque antifascist platform, Sare Antifaxista, had convened a demonstration in what may be considered the central area of Bilbao north of the river, the Unamuno square. The demonstration was organised under pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist slogans and, as stated above, here the Ertzaintza did intervene, detaining two pro-Palestinians and recording them on their database before setting them free later. Among the slogans shouted as they began to march was “Israel is a terrorist state” (in Basque).

March from Unamuno makes its way through the Casco Viejo (Old Quarter) (Source photo: Internet)
Palestine solidarity and anti-Zionist march (note banner in English, presumably so Zionists could read it) crossing the San Anton bridge but the Zionists have been past and attacked already (Source photo: Internet)

The Haupol fans had either passed by or avoided that demonstration before, less than 10 minutes walking distance away from Unamuno, they crossed the Nervión river on the San Anton bridge on their way to the arena. In doing so, they had to pass a small Basque bar just on the very south side where a Palestinian flag was hung over the entrance.

Soon a group of Zionists rushed the bar, tore the flag down and set fire to it with a flare. There were only 15 customers inside or on the terrace but they responded quickly and bottles and even furniture began to fly at the Zionists (possibly the Hapoel fan reported hit on the head with a chair received his injuries here). The Zionists picked up tables, chairs and parasols too to launch at the bar, smashing window glass there and on the next-door entrance to an apartment building.

There are many migrants living in that area known in Basque and Spanish as “Bilbao the Old” and they began to arrive to assist the customers of the Basque pub, at which point the Ertzaintza also arrived and shepherded the Israeli fans towards the arena and afterwards, in two groups to their accommodation in the city2. The police reported no arrests or recording of identities arising from that battle and one Hapoel supporter required medical attention after being hit over the head with a chair.

Basque police, the Ertzaintza, arrive to seal off the Bilbi/ Bilbao la Vieja area to ensure no retribution against the Zionists — the sympathies of the poorer area can be seen in the Palestinian flag in the background (Source photo: Internet)

That very day, the Israeli Occupation Forces shot dead a Palestinian for the crime of trying to pass through from the Jordan side.

THE MEDIA, THAT BAR AND THE BASQUE POPULATION

Although Bilbao social media had been buzzing with reports of Zionist provocation for two days, the mainstream media did not pick up on it until the battle at the bridge end. True to form the mainstream media either tried to represent both sides as equally at fault or, as with the case of a reporter for the right-wing El Correo3 – and ‘right-wing’ in the Spanish state usually means descended from fascist Franco supporters during the Civil War – to cast the Zionists as the unfortunate victims. It was she who alleged specifically anti-semitic insults had been thrown at the fans which though not impossible, would certainly be unusual in Bilbao. It is the fascist groups in the Spanish state (including in the Basque Country) who have a history of anti-semitism as did the fascist Falange, who fought alongside Franco’s forces in the coup against the Popular Front Government in 1936.

The Abertzale4 Left has always been socialistically-inclined, anti-fascist and anti-racist and the first planned victim of the armed Basque group ETA was Melitón Manzanas, chief of the political police division of the Guardia Civil in Donosti/ San Sebastian in 1968, a man with a record of torturing detainees but also of hunting down Jews escaping through France and handing them over to the Gestapo.

The Naiz.eus5 website had no report on the incident but its Facebook page carried a photo of the burning of the Palestinian flag by Zionists and a report which, however, did not mention the Palestinian solidarity demonstration (perhaps because its own movement had not organised it). It appears to have been the only publication to also draw attention to the shooting dead of a Palestinian by the Israelis that very day.

El Debate went even furthering misrepresentation than El Correo through the former’s manipulated video of interviews with two people. The first, a youth and alleged eye-witness, gave an account blaming “around ten youth shouting in Basque” for being the cause of the event with only an unclear reference to a flag-burning. His testimony in foreign-accented Castilian is so at variance with so many other accounts that one is inclined to take him as a plant, either by Zionists or anti-Basque popular movement interests. The other testimony, from an elderly lady, a resident next door, is sweeping in its condemnation – but of whom? She refers to a peaceful bar and people on the patio – including with children – before the clash; after the youth’s testimony one is led to believe that she is condemning those “Basque youth”. Hardly, from information received here she is in fact the owner of the bar’s mother and also much video footage shared on social media had been shot from above in her very building.6

That particular bar at the centre of the battle is right by the southern end of the bridge, very small, not much more than a passageway from door to toilet with a bar on the way but also containing a patio outside with tables and chairs of the light aluminium or plastic type. The clientele is varied in age profile from 20s right through to 50s and 60s, generally Left and pro-Basque independence — and I have never seen it empty (unlike the much bigger and well-lit nearby Taberna of the Abertzale Left which also has a patio).

If the Palestinian flag was not permanently attached7, the management or patrons may well have intended to make a point on that day. They could hardly have expected the reaction however but despite their gross disparity in numbers responded vigorously.

Basque police shepherding the Zionist fans to the basketball arena a little uphill from their attack on the bar while at least one yells defiance (Source photo: Internet)
So brave when so many and then protected by police before the numbers even up (Source photo: Internet)

FINAL RESULTS

The final results of the Anton Bridge match ended in a draw with only one injury to a Zionist, thanks to the intervention of the very biased ‘referees’, the Ertzaintza (who also took down two players’ names from only one side). There was no extra time played. However the match will be long remembered with effect no doubt the next time any Israeli Zionist team brings its fans to Bilbao.

For those interested in the result of the other match, Lenovo knocked Hapoel out of the competition at a final score of 78-71.

end.

image

Customers and local residents help staff tidy up after Zionist attack (Source photo: Internet)
(Source photo: Internet)

Video clip anti-Zionist gathering outside the bar https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=473979664479509&extid=CL-UNK-UNK-UNK-AN_GK0T-GK1C&ref=sharing

FOOTNOTES

1Apparently these are unwilling to support the boycott of Israel but like many others will no doubt flock to support the boycott of Russian teams declared by the International Basketball Federation, among a boycott of Russian competitors from participation in at least 27 international competitions ranging from canoeing and chess to paralympics and pentathlon.

2According to one report, that required an Ertzaintza commander speaking to them in English (a rare event in that police force, surely).

3The Courier, right-wing Basque Catholic newspaper closed down in 1936 by the Popular Front government, resuscitated under the Franco dictatorship and true to its pedigree since.

4Izquierda Abertzale, literally “Patriotic Left”, a broad movement (but centrally-led) of political party, daily newspaper, trade union, social centres and pubs (and formerly also armed organisation ETA). For generations it dominated the general Basque patriotic movement but for decades now has been losing support as its embracing of a non-existent “peace process” failed to end even the dispersal of its hundreds of political prisoners throughout the French and Spanish states, to say nothing of gaining their release under amnesty. There are also anarchists and other groups outside the formal Izquierda Abertzale, including some formed by its former members.

5Online representations of the Abertzale Left’s daily newspaper GARA.

6When the filming was being made, the bar was shut and the area deserted. One suspects the youth was there by arrangement with the reporters, whereas the elderly lady was videoed leaving the premises next door. Her recorded interview may well have been edited to remove clarification of the target of her denunciations; even if she had not made it clear herself it seems unlikely that she would not have been asked to clarify whom she was blaming. According to Wikipedia, the Spanish newspaper El Debate was a right-wing Catholic-conservative newspaper that, like El Correo, ceased publication in 1936 (year of the election of the Popular Front Government followed by the military-fascist uprising). However, an online search turns up the current newspaper’s own website, claiming its foundation in 1910 – the same year as that of its right-wing namesake and a quick review of even its headlines reveals its very right-wing and unionist editorial attitude. With the media with which it is provided it is hard to blame the average Spanish citizen for ignorance or bigotry.

7It was not so in years past but having not been there in two years can’t say whether prior to that day it had been.

PUBLICATION SOURCES:
Flicker album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/txeng/albums/72177720298743052

Bilbao Hiria (the most complete source yet I was unable to post the link to the article or to the publication on here)

Naiz.eus piece: https://www.naiz.eus/es/info/noticia/20220508/aficionados-ultras-del-equipo-israeli-hapoel-holon-generan-altercados-en-bilbo?fbclid=IwAR1kJEdeulfgSrL38nfesdFbUY0i-mW5mRcIpWPIYRqxveRFQS064R5UCJA

That Correo piece: https://www.elcorreo.com/bizkaia/incidentes-bilbao-aficionados-equipo-israel-grupos-propalestinos-20220508193047-nt.html?edtn=bizkaia#vca=fixed-btn&vso=rrss&vmc=wh&vli=Bizkaia

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

El Debate piece and that video: https://www.eldebate.com/espana/pais-vasco/20220509/enfrentamiento-bilbao.html

https://www.eldebate.com/

CATALAN PROMOTES NEW INDEPENDENCE STRATEGY IN DUBLIN MEETING

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

In Dublin on Friday, prominent Catalan journalist Vicent Partal departed from the advertised subject of his Irish tour to talk specifically about the struggle for Catalan1 independence and to propound a new tactical departure for the nation in conflict with the Spanish state. In three-night speaking tour organised by ANC Ireland, Partal spoke also in Belfast and Cork, in which venues he stuck reportedly more closely to the advertised subject.

ANC Ireland is an Irish-based iteration of Asamblea Nacional de Catalonia, a mass grassroots pro-independence Catalan organisation which has been primarily responsible for the massive demonstrations on the Diada, the Catalan national Day and for the organisation and promotion of the Referendum on 1st October 2017, when scenes of Spanish police attacking voters shocked many around the world. The President of the ANC at the time, Jordi Sanchez, was later jailed by a Spanish court along with Jordi Cuixart, the President of another Catalan grassroots organisation, Omnium Cultural2.

Carles Pujol of ANC Ireland (right) introducing Vicent Partal (left)

Vicent Partal, who began his tour in Queen’s University in Belfast on the 9th continuing on to Cork University on the 10th, spoke in Dublin on the 11th in the Teachers’ Club in the City centre. Partal has been a journalist since the early 1980s, in which career he has covered the Balkan War, the Demolition of the Berlin Wall, the Beijing Students’ Protests and other events of international prominence. His publishing ventures in Catalonia progressed to the founding in 1995 of the electronic newspaper Infopista catalana that later became VilaWeb, publishing mainly in Catalan but from time to time in English also. In 2007 VilaWeb TV opened as a web TV initiative and nowadays is available as a YouTube channel and on iTunes. Partal is also Chairperson of the European Journalism Centre.

THE NEW TACTIC

In Dublin, Carles Pujol, of ANC Ireland, introduced Vicent Partal to the 50 or so of mostly Catalans in attendance at the talk on Friday in the Teachers’ Club.

Vicent Partal addressing the audience in Dublin

Partal came out from behind the speakers’ table covered in Esteladas, independentist flags, and leaning informally against it behind him, faced his audience. Instead of covering the advertised subject of “minoritised languages” and their promotion through the Internet, he addressed recent features of the struggle for independence of the Catalan nation and proposed tactics which he believed would lead to success. His audience was no doubt surprised but seemed engaged and no-one objected. Partal remarked that he had a somewhat blunt habit of stating what he believed but wished to encourage debate. He stated that the “monster” that is “the real Spain” needed to be exposed to the Catalan people and, now that has been done, needs to be exposed to the EU. Catalonia had the credit of having exposed the Spanish State as none else had done, he maintained and had stood up to the regime as none else after the fake Transition from the fascist dictatorship of General Franco.

In essence, Partal stated, a further exposure would come when the exiled Catalan Members of the European Parliament returned to Catalonia and were arrested by the Spanish State. This violation of their immunity as MEPs under the laws of the EU would be condemned by the European Court of Justice which would order their release. The exposure of the true fascist nature of the Spanish State, in addition to mobilisations on the streets would bring about irresistible pressures for the independence of Catalonia.

After the applause for his presentation had died down, Carles Pujol called for questions or statements and approximately ten members of the audience obliged, with Partal replying to each. The first question related to censorship and pressures against publication which Partal may have faced, to which he replied that pressures only work if one gives in to them. With regard to State threats he had disobeyed an instruction to the media from the Spanish State and time would tell what would be the outcome in that regard.

Another question was whether it would not be better to keep building up the numbers of votes for pro-independence parties, currently represented by 52%, in order to win independence? Partal replied that once the Spanish State had attacked a Referendum, the question of numbers for validation ceased to exist – “after that, even 5,000 people on the street for independence would be enough!” Besides, the Catalans need to return to the position they had when Puigdemont declared a Republic on 10th October (but suspended it) and to follow it through.

A scenario of increasing repression and no advance towards independence was what another person saw and Vicent replied that freedom was not without cost and that the repression needed to be faced and defeated. The Catalan journalist also denied there was anything to be gained by participation in talks with the Spanish state when independence was ruled out in advance.

Another member of the audience disagreed with the statement that Catalonia was the first to stand up in rupture from the Spanish State since the Transition, pointing out that the only region to reject the monarchist and unitary state Constitution forced on to the people in Spanish State after the death of Franco had been the Basques3, to which Partal conceded. The man also asked whether with the two main trade unions in Catalonia4 being being in favour of union with the Spanish State, effective general strikes could be organised in Catalonia. Vicent replied that he did not see the traditional approach favouring trade union organisation and action in popular protests as useful any longer. The youth in the Battle of Urquinaona5 had proved that they were able to drive the Spanish Police out and they had done so without trade union organisation, perhaps even without ever having employment to become union members.

An Irishman asked how Partal would define or describe democracy. The Catalan journalist said that there are a number of ways of looking at that question but his most basic one would be that no-one lived in fear.

To the question of what the Catalan journalist saw as an effective organisational political approach to take the struggle for independence forward, he said that all three pro-independence parties6 are now in a position of not struggling for independence and a new formation is necessary. At a recent conference, the pro-independence party with most elected members of the Catalan Government was talking about progressing to independence in 40 years! It was unclear whether the new approach should be just a platform for independence or a new fourth party but he did not at present support the latter option. It was clear that the independence movement needs to be in opposition to the Catalan Government, Partal said.

One section of the crowd in the bar area before the talk

The meeting ended with thanks to the campaigning Catalan journalist and to the meeting’s participants, along with some notifications and a request for people to get involved in Catalan solidarity work. However discussions continued informally for hours afterwards in the bar area.

End.

A small section of the crowd in the bar area before the meeting

FOOTNOTES

1Catalonia is usually understood to comprise the territory of the autonomous region of that name (Catalunya in their own language) within the Spanish state. However the region of Pau within the French state territory is often included and the term Paisos Catalans (Catalan Countries) includes not only Paul but also the autonomous region of Valencia and the Balearic Islands.

2Tried after two years in jail without bail, they were convicted of the crime of sedition and in October 2019 sentenced to nine years in jail, arising out of their efforts to manage peacefully a large spontaneous protest at Spanish police invasion of Catalan Government offices. They were pardoned in June 2021 and released.

3He might also have mentioned the decades of struggle of the southern Basque Country on military and political levels, with a huge number of Basques as political prisoners.

4Comisiones Obreras formed by the Communist Party during the Franco dictatorship but no longer under the party’s control and UGT, very much allied to the social-democratic Partido Socialista Obrero, by far the main trade unions in the Spanish state. Far behind in membership in Catalonia but growing is Intersindical CSC, a class trade union.

5https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/oct/18/catalonia-general-strike-protests-independence

6Esquerra Republicana (Republican Left), Junts per Cat (Together for Cat(alonia) and CUP (Popular Unity Candidacy); the first two made up the pro-independence majority in the Catalan parliament, with CUP in opposition but supporting them with their delegates votes in clashes with the Spanish unionist parties.

FURTHER INFORMATION & REFERENCES

Wiki on Partal (but “Spanish journalist”!): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vicent_Partal

ANC in Ireland: https://www.facebook.com/IrlandaPerLaIndependenciaDeCatalunya/

Other Irish-Catalan people solidarity groups: https://www.facebook.com/WithCataloniaIreland

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100066691386630

The “Two Jordis”: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/meet-the-two-jailed-activists-behind-catalonias-independence-movement/2017/10/20/a0a10e4a-b4e0-11e7-9b93-b97043e57a22_story.html

Vila Web: https://www.vilaweb.cat/

and in English: https://english.vilaweb.cat/

BRITISH SUPREME COURT VINDICATES TORTURED “HOODED MEN” – CRITICISES POLICE CHIEF

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time up to ‘Background’: 4 mins.)

A group of Irish people were jubilant in London’s Little George Street on 15th December. The location was that of the UK’s Supreme Court and it was unusual for Irish people to be happy at a judgement of a British court. But the judges inside had quashed an appeal by the Police Service of Northern Ireland1 against a judgement of the High Court in Belfast, that the colonial police force had been wrong not to investigate the claims of fourteen men of being tortured in the British colony in 19712.

Bernadette Devlin (now McAlliskey) addressing an anti-internment rally in Derry in August 1971 (Photo cred: Popperfoto, Getty Images)

The claims related to what happened during the introduction of internment without trial in the occupied Six Counties in August 1971. What many internees experienced ranged from brutal treatment to torture: “Many of those arrested reported that they and their families were assaulted, verbally abused and threatened by the soldiers. There were claims of soldiers smashing their way into houses without warning and firing rubber baton rounds through doors and windows. Many of those arrested also reported being ill-treated during their three-day detention at the holding centres. They complained of being beaten, verbally abused, threatened, harassed by dogs, denied sleep, and starved. Some reported being forced to run a gauntlet of baton-wielding soldiers, being forced to run an ‘obstacle course’, having their heads forcefully shaved, being kept naked, being burnt with cigarettes, having a sack placed over their heads for long periods, having a rope kept around their necks, having the barrel of a gun pressed against their heads, being dragged by the hair, being trailed behind armoured vehicles while barefoot, and being tied to armoured trucks as a human shield” (for the soldiers against attack by the IRA). (Wikipedia)

(Photo sourced: Internet)

Some were hooded, beaten and, having been told they were hundreds of feet in the air, were then thrown from a helicopter — but were actually only a few feet from the ground. In addition, they were subjected to disorientating “white noise”, forced to remain in stress positions for long periods and deprived of food, water and sleep. Fourteen men who endured this for seven days became known as the “Hooded Men” and have been campaigning for over 50 years to have the British State admit that in its Irish colony, it had tortured them. Interestingly, some of those techniques have also been complained of more recently – by prisoners of the British military in Iraq3 — and this despite a statement by the UK’s Attorney General in 1977 that the techniques would not be used by them again.4

(Photo sourced: Internet)

Unusually, the Irish State5 took the case of the Fourteen to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and in 1976 obtained a judgement that “the five interrogation techniques” were torture.

The British State appealed the ECHR judgement and in 1978 won a judgement that although the treatment of the Hooded Men amounted to “inhuman and degrading treatment” and breached Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights it nevertheless fell short of torture6.

When documentation came to light proving that British Government Ministers had approved the treatment, the Irish State appealed the revised judgement of the ECHR but in 2018 was unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, the legal team of the Hooded Men pursued their case through the legal system of the UK’s Irish colony. In October 2014 the PSNI formally decided not to investigate the allegations, following which in 2015 judicial review proceedings against the PSNI, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Department of Justice were initiated by Francis McGuigan, one of the ‘Hooded Men’. A co-appellant was Mary McKenna, the daughter of Sean McKenna, another of the Hooded Men, who died in 1975, never having fully recovered from his mistreatment. The proceedings followed the discovery of additional documentary materials relevant to the mistreatment of the men, which were featured in a 2014 RTÉ Documentary, The Torture Files.7

Following this Documentary, the Chief Constable stated that the PSNI would assess “any allegation or emerging evidence of criminal behaviour, from whatever quarter” concerning the ill-treatment of the Hooded Men “with a view to substantiating such an allegation and identifying sufficient evidence to justify a prosecution and bring people to court’”. However in October 2014 the PSNI took the decision not to investigate. In late 2017, the High Court ruled that the failure by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to investigate the allegations of torture was unlawful.

Some of the Hooded Men in London for the Supreme Court judgement. (Photo sourced: Internet)

Instead of accepting the judgement however the PSNI sought to appeal the High Court decision but in September 2019 the Court of Appeal ruled that the decision should stand. One would have to contrast the determination of the colonial police in the courts to their appalling record in investigating collusion between their own force and Loyalist murder gangs, for the PSNI then appealed to the UK Supreme Court. In November 2019 the UK Supreme Court upheld the decision of the colony’s Court of Appeal and the PSNI appealed that judgement too. The decision last week in London marks the end of the legal options of the colonial gendarmerie.

The very month the decision not to investigate the allegations of the Hooded Men was taken by the colonial police force, October 2014, Drew Harris had been appointed Deputy Chief Constable of the PSNI.

IMPLICATIONS OF JUDGEMENT

The implications of the High Court judgement for Britain and its colonial administration are that once again they have been shown to have deployed barbarous methods in their repression of resistance by the nationalist minority in the colony and that they have exceeded or ignored even their own laws.

As has been the case throughout the recent 30 Years’ War, with the system lying and trying to cover up the reality of its actions, then delaying by all available means, the judgement comes too late for a number of the victims, as only nine of the 14 are still alive.

Nevertheless, the judgement adds to a number of other judgements and admissions over the years, such as those surrounding the Bloody Sunday Massacre in Derry in 1972 and the Ballymurphy Massacre in 1971. On 13 December this year, the British Ministry of Defence and PSNI agreed to a £1.5m out-of-court settlement to compensate victims of the Miami Showband Massacre over suspected state collusion with loyalist terrorists.

Three members of the band died from explosions and bullets after they were forced to get out of their bus at a fake police checkpoint on their return to Dublin from the Six Counties. Stephen Travers, who was injured in the attack, said he was convinced he would have won his civil action to prove that there was collaboration between the State and terrorists but that the Government’s decision to “dispense with justice rather than to dispense justice” had motivated the out-of court settlement.

Had the UK’s Supreme Court rejected the Hooded Men’s case, the latter would have been free to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights – not that they had been tortured but that the police should have investigated their claims that they were. And, based on a similar case by the manager of a Basque newspaper against the Spanish State8, they would probably have won their case with damages awarded against the UK.

On the other hand, the Supreme Court decision puts the onus of investigating the accusations of the Hooded Men on to the PSNI, the very organisation deeply implicated in the treatment of the victims, the organisation which declined to investigate them previously and which justified its decision through the courts in the Six Counties and then in the Supreme Court of the UK.

But not only the British state and its colony are put into the dock by the Supreme Court judgement – Drew Harris, formerly Deputy Chief Constable of the PSNI is currently in charge of the police force of the Irish State, where he was appointed Chief Commissioner of the Gardaí in September 2018 on a yearly salary of €250,000.

Drew Harris (Left) as Garda Commissioner with his former boss, George Hamilton, Chief Constable of the colonial police, the PSNI, on the occasion they both received an honour from the British Monarch. (Photo sourced: Internet)

APPENDIX — BACKGROUND

Creation of “Northern Ireland”:

The statelet of “Northern Ireland”9 was created in 1922 after Ireland was partitioned by the British Government at the end of 1921. Ireland had been invaded from Britain in 1169 and gradually entirely occupied and colonised by the invaders, albeit with its own semi-autonomous parliament which had been abolished in 1801, after the United Irish uprisings of 179810. Subsequently Members of Parliament elected in Ireland were required to attend the Westminster Parliament.

Following the rise of Irish nationalist sentiment after the suppression of the 1916 Rising, the 1918 UK General Election returned a huge majority of MPs in Ireland sworn to establish an independent Irish Republic. These formed their own parliament in Dublin, at first ignored but then later banned by the British. The guerrilla War of Independence of 1919-1921 convinced the British rulers to offer Ireland autonomy as a “Dominion” within the British system and under the Crown. However, at the same time, the British conceded to the demand of the unionist minority in Ireland to secede from the new Irish state and to remain a colony of Britain and in the UK. The Irish Free State was set up in December 1921 on 26 counties and the Northern Ireland statelet of six counties in January 192211.

From the outset the colonial statelet had been marked by the religious sectarianism of its local rulers, Presbyterians and Anglicans by religion and of unionist ideology, against a very large nationalist minority of mostly Catholics, representing the majority in Ireland as a whole. A raft of special powers empowered the statelet in repression of the nationalist minority; the colonial gendarmerie, abolished in the Irish state, continued in existence, with a part-time wing and even unofficial Loyalist militia in support and de facto anti-nationalist discrimination existed in every sphere: law, housing allocation, education.

In 1968 a campaign for civil rights for the nationalist minority began, to be met by truncheons, water-cannon, tear gas and bullets which however, merely drove parts of the minority into open insurrection. The colonial gendarmerie (the Royal Ulster Constabulary), even with the active support of the part-time B-Specials and Loyalist paramilitaries, was unable to suppress the uprising primarily in Derry but also in West Belfast and in August 1969 the British Government sent in the British Army to take control.

Initially the soldiers were represented to the nationalist population as being present to protect them from the sectarian colonial police and from the Loyalists but it soon became clear that their primary focus was to repress the risen nationalist population and the IRA began to take action against them.

Introduction of Internment Without Trial:

The Prime Minister of the “Northern Ireland” statelet, Brian Faulkner, recommended to his colonial masters that internment without trial be introduced against the nationalist population; this was agreed and “Operation Demetrius” began on 9th August and continuing over the 10th 1971 with British Army raids into nationalist areas, forcing their way into homes and dragging their captives away to be interrogated by RUC Special Branch, after which they were jailed. In the initial sweep the occupation forces arrested 342 men, sparking four days of violence in which 20 civilians, two IRA members and two British soldiers were killed and 7,000 people fled their homes. All of those interned were from the nationalist community.

Poster by the Anti-Internment League of Ireland – the internees in the photo are handcuffed together. (Photo sourced: Internet)

The detentions without charge continued until December 1975 and by that time 1,981 people had been interned, of which 1,874 were from the nationalist community. Only 107 were Loyalists and none of those had been interned until February 1973. Resistance to internment continued after the initial sweep and from 9th to 11th August, British Paratroopers caused the death of 11 unarmed people in the Ballymurphy area of Belfast. In January the following year the Paras and other units attacked people marching against internment in Derry, killing 14 and injuring 12.

Internment was protested in the rest of Ireland and in other countries, including Britain. The Men Behind the Wire, an anti-internment song composed in 1971 by Paddy McGuigan and recorded by the Barleycorn group in Belfast, was pressed into disc in Dublin and shot to the top of the Irish charts, greatly exceeding in numbers of sales any record previously released in Ireland.

Excerpt:

Through the little streets of Belfast,
In the dark of early mo
rn,
British soldiers came marauding
Wrecking little homes with scorn.

Heedless of the crying children,
Dragging fathers from their beds;
Beating sons while helpless mothers
Watched the blood flow from their heads.

Armoured cars and tanks and guns
Came to take away our sons
But every man will stand behind
The Men Behind the Wire.

Poster by People”s Democracy, believed in 1970, prior to introduction of internment. (Photo sourced: Internet)

Brian Faulkner, unionist Prime Minister of the statelet, who had asked the British to introduce internment, was hated by a great many people. When he died in March 1977 following an accident during a stag hunt, thrown by his horse Cannonball, an English communist composed a short song he named “Cannonball”.

Excerpt:

Lord Faulkner was a hunter of men and of deer

And both have good reason to laugh and to cheer

At the death of a tyrant whose interests were clear

Those of imperialism that have cost Ireland dear.

Cannonball, Cannonball has many a friend,

From the top of old Ireland right down to its end,

Where the brave people struggle

In one resolute bid

To throw off their oppressors —

Just as Cannonball did!

End.

FOOTNOTES

  1. The colonial gendarmerie formerly known as the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

2 (see “Background” section).

3. The Court’s ruling that the five techniques did not amount to torture was later cited by the United States and Israel to justify their own interrogation methods, which included the five techniques. British agents also taught the five techniques to the forces of Brazil’s military dictatorship. During the Iraq War, the illegal use of the five techniques by British soldiers contributed to the death of at least one detainee, Baha Mousa.

4 “The Government of the United Kingdom have considered the question of the use of the ‘five techniques’ with very great care and with particular regard to Article 3 (art. 3) of the Convention. They now give this unqualified undertaking, that the ‘five techniques’ will not in any circumstances be reintroduced as an aid to interrogation.”

5 Unusually, because during the three decades of ill-treatment by a foreign power of people who were, according to the Irish Constitution its citizens, only in one other case did the Irish State bring a complaint against the UK to an international arena.

6 I admit that I fail completely to understand the distinction.

7. Rita O’Reilly, the journalist who led that program, also commented extremely well on the UK Supreme Court decision and the whole case on Prime Time on RTÉ this week (see Links).

8. Martxelo Otamendi, along with others detained, was tortured by his Guardia Civil captors when the Basque newspaper of which he was manager was closed by the Spanish State, alleging that it had been cooperating with terrorists. He was freed eventually and even later in 2010 the Spanish Supreme Court admitted that there had been no evidence against him or the newspaper – but neither admitted the torture nor ordered his allegations be investigated. Otamendi filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights in 2012 and in 2014 the ECHR found the Spanish State guilty of not having investigated Otamendi’s allegation of being tortured and awarded him €24,000 in damages and expenses from the Spanish state.

9. A misnomer since the British colony is not the northernmost part of Ireland, which is in County Donegal, inside the Irish state. “Ulster”, a name given by the Unionists to the statelet and frequently repeated in the British media, is also a misnomer since the Province of Ulster contains nine counties, six of which are in the colonial statelet but three of which are within the Irish state.

10. There were many uprisings prior to 1798, which was the first Republican one and there were many of that kind afterwards too.

11. Shortly after that the Free State, supplied with weapons and transport by the British, attacked the Republicans, who had been demonstrating their dissatisfaction with the Anglo-Irish Treaty. This precipitated a Civil War in which the Republicans were defeated.

USEFUL LINKS FOR MORE INFORMATION

Unusually excellent (for RTÉ) report by Rita O’Reilly: https://www.rte.ie/news/primetime/2021/1217/1267343-uk-supreme-court-decision-on-hooded-men/

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/hooded-men-uk-court-finds-psni-decision-not-to-investigate-case-unlawful-1.4755885

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