Irish Founder of the Transport Workers Union of America — “Red” Mike Quill (1905-1966)

(Reading time: 7 mins.)

By Geoff Cobb (with addendum from Rebel Breeze)

Michael Quill forever changed labor relations in the USA. The founder of the powerful union representing New York City’s bus and subway workers, Quill’s numerous achievements helped transform the lives of millions of workers by his setting national standards for equal pay for women and minorities, health benefits and paid medical leave. However, it was his leadership of the 1966 Transit Strike that made “Red Mike Quill” a celebrity, famous for defying the Mayor and a jail sentence, when Quill shut down public transportation in the nation’s largest city.

Michael Quill photographed during mass meeting of the union. (Image source: Internet)

Born in 1905 into a humble, Gaelic-speaking family in rural Kilgarvan, Co. Kerry, which was restive under British rule, Quill inherited his desire to fight for justice from his father. “My father,” recalled Quill, “knew where every fight against an eviction had taken place in all the parishes around.”

During the War of Independence, the fifteen-year-old Quill fought in the 3rd Battalion, Kerry No. 2 Brigade of the Irish Republican Army. On a solo scouting mission, Quill stumbled on a patrol of Black and Tans asleep in a ditch. Instead of fleeing, he quietly stole all their ammunition, gleefully returning home with his stolen loot.

During the war, Quill fought bravely and met almost all the top military leaders, providing him the rare opportunity of personally knowing many of Ireland’s most famous patriots. The war also started in Quill a lifelong animosity towards the Catholic Church. While on the run, Mike and his brother were gutted when their parish priest refused their request for temporary amnesty to attend their mother’s funeral.

Opposed to the Treaty creating the Free State with a partitioned British colony, Quill fought against Michael Collins’ National Army and in the conflict Kerry Republicans suffered greatly, especially at Ballyseedy, where 23 anti-Treaty fighters were murdered with dynamite by Free State soldiers. That fight’s unbelievable brutality and injustice never left Quill.

EMIGRATION

Being on the wrong side of the Treaty, Quill, unable to find work, left for America, arriving in New York the day before St. Patrick’s Day in 1926 with just $3.42 in his pocket. Through his uncle who was a subway conductor, Quill got a job on the Interborough Rapid Transit company (which ran the original subway system in New York), first as a night gateman, then as a clerk or “ticket chopper”. The IRT quickly employed many of Quill’s comrades who were also ex- anti-Treaty fighters. Moving from station to station, Quill got to know many IRT employees. He learned they craved dignity and wanted to be treated like human beings, but Quill knew this meant fighting. He said, “You will get only what you are strong enough to take. You will have to fight for your rights—they will never be given to you. And you cannot win if you fight alone.”

James Connolly was a life-long inspiration to Michael Quill (Image source: Internet)

While working night shifts, Quill, who had only attended national school, used dead time to read labor history, especially the works of James Connolly. To fight the low pay, terrible working conditions and long hours of I.R.T workers, Quinn used Connolly, the leader of the Transport Workers Union in Dublin, executed by the British for his role in the 1916 Rising, as his inspiration, and Connolly’s ideas guided Quill throughout his life. Like Connolly, Quill believed that economic power precedes political power, and that the only effective means of satisfying the workers’ demands is the creation of an independent labor party, which creates and supports strong unions. He would honor Connolly by also calling his American union the Transportation Workers Union and years later, as president of the TWU, Quill only had two pictures on his office wall, Abraham Lincoln and James Connolly.

In his union-organizing activities, Quill got the cold shoulder from many established Irish-American organizations. “When we first started to organize the union, we asked for help from the Knight of Columbus and the Ancient Order of Hibernians”, he said. “We were booed and booted out. The Irish organizations did nothing for us, and the Church campaigned actively against us.”

Rejected by mainstream Irish Americans, Quill was embraced by the American Communist Party, which helped him obtain the money, the mimeograph machines and the manpower to launch the Transport Workers Union. Quill, though, merely used the Communists, while knowing he wanted no part of them. When they thought he should attend “Workers School” for indoctrination, Quill told them he needed no indoctrination and soon left the party.

Fearing anti-union informers, Quill organized the TWU, using the methods of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, a secret Fenian society dedicated to a violent rising against British rule. Employing cells of five so that no man knew the names of more than four other workers in the organization, messages were also sent in half-Gaelic and half-English to confuse company spies, known as “beakies.” One night, the “beakies” attacked Quill and five other activists in a tunnel as they were returning from picketing the IRT’s offices. Falsely arrested over the incident for incitement to riot, Quill gained huge notoriety amongst his fellow workers and the charges were eventually dismissed. On April 12, 1934, fighting back against 12 hour days, six days a week, at 66 cents an hour, Quill and six other men formed the T.W.U.

Quill soon became union President and succeeded in getting his union into the American Federation of Labor. He then began unionizing the other transportation companies of New York. In January 1937, the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Coorporation dismissed two boiler room engineers from their power plant in Brooklyn for their union activity. Quill immediately called a successful sit-down strike and the BMT had to reinstate the men, which further raised Quill’s standing amongst the rank and file.

ANTI-RACISM

At a time in American history when bigotry and discrimination were commonplace, Quill became famous for fighting prejudice. An ardent opponent of the pro-Fascist Fr. Coughlin, Quill said, “Anti-Semitism is not the problem of the Jewish people alone. It is an American problem, a number one American problem.” He also fought for African Americans against the prejudice of many in his own union. He explained, “The bosses hired you and the same bosses hired the blacks. You are on one payroll; you come to work and leave through the same gate; you punch the same time clock. Unless there is one union to protect all of you, the employer will train these men and use them to displace you—at half your wages.”

Quill became an early ally of Martin Luther King who referred to Quill as “a fighter for decent things all his life” who “spent his life ripping the chains of bondage off his fellow man.” Quill once asked, “Do you know what I’m most proud of? That in TWU we have eliminated racial discrimination in hiring and in promotions and within the union’s ranks. Blacks, Hispanics, Orientals, American Indians and women are holding appointive and elective office.”

STRIKE AND JAIL

Perhaps Quill’s finest hour was during the Transit Strike of 1966. Newly-elected patrician Mayor john Lindsay wanted to get tough with Quill and the TWU. Journalist Jimmy Breslin summarized the conflict succinctly: “…[Lindsay] was talking down to old Mike Quill, and when Quill looked up at John Lindsay he saw the Church of England. Within an hour, we had one hell of a transit strike.”

TWU strike picket 1st Jan 1966 Transit Strike. (Image source: Internet)

Quill attacked the Mayor just as if he were a British soldier, chiding Lindsay for his “abysmal lack of knowledge of the fundamentals of labor relations.” He castigated Lindsay as “a pipsqueak, a juvenile” and jested: “We explored his mind yesterday and found nothing there.” To add insult to injury Quill intentionally repeatedly mispronounced the mayor’s name as “Linsley,” proving that even in the heat of battle Quill never lost his sense of humor.

Then Lindsay made a fatal mistake, jailing Quill, who defiantly said, “The judge can drop dead in his black robes!” While in prison, Quill suffered another heart attack and was sent to the worst of city hospitals. The only person who called Mrs. Quill asking if he could help was Senator Robert F. Kennedy of New York. No other politician inquired about the stricken Quill. While Quill was in the hospital a deal was reached granting the TWU a 15% wage increase along with improvements in the health, welfare and pension systems. In all, it was a great victory. The strike over, he was released from police custody, but just three days later Quill died at age sixty with many claiming that the stress of the strike led to his premature passing.

Quill tearing up the court order banning the strike. (Image source: Internet)

Mike Quill left an enduring legacy. Today the Transport Workers Union is composed of an estimated 60 percent minorities and Quill is still revered within it. He had an inclusive vision of labor, which minority workers respected, strengthening the movement. Pete Seeger dedicated a ballad to Quill and producers Macdara Vallely and Paul Miller have made a biographical film about Quill entitled Which side are you on?

(Image source: Internet)

(Image source: Internet)
Aerial view Mike Quill Centre with feature in the shape of Ireland.
(Image source: Internet)

End.

POSTSCRIPT: Mike Quill and Vice-Admiral Nelson

In the Dublin City Centre, in the middle of its main street, is a curious steel erection which most people call “The Spire”. But from 1809 until 1966, something else stood there: a granite column with the English naval hero Nelson atop it, very much in the style of the one that stands in London’s Trafalgar Square today.

British soldier standing beside ruined GPO building (left) and Nelson’t pillar is visible (right), post-Rising 1916. Quill’s offer to Dublin City Council to demolish he Pillar and replace it with a monument to an Irish national hero was refused but the dissident group Saor Éire blew it up in 1966 in advance of the annual Easter Rising commemorations. (Image source: Internet)

About 50 metres away from what was colloquially called “The Pillar” stands the General Post Office building, which operated as the command HQ of the 1916 Easter Rising and is therefore a traditional gathering place for State and other commemorations of the Rising.

As the 50th Anniversary of the Rising drew near, Mike Quill contacted Dublin City Council and offered to have the statue removed for free and replaced with a more suitable monument. Quill’s first choice was a statue of Jim Larkin, who led his and Connolly’s Irish Transport and General Workers Union in resisting the 8-month Dublin Lockout – the tram crews had walked off their vehicles once they reached the Pillar and Dublin Metropolitan Police had run riot against the people in O’Connell Street shortly afterwards on Bloody Sunday 1913. But Quill offered the Council other options too. A private trust and not Dublin City Council owned Nelson’s Column, he was informed and there the matter rested. Until, on 8th March 1966, the Pillar was blown up by Saor Éire, a socialist split from the Irish Republican Movement, in advance of the 50th Anniversary commemorations.

The Jim Larkin monument in O’Connell Street today (Photo: D.Breatnach)

CORRECT ANALYSIS, SHAMEFUL CONCLUSION

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 5 mins)

A leaflet from the Socialist Party of Ireland distributed at the antifascist rally in Dublin on Saturday 12th made a correct analysis of the source of the problems in Irish society of which the Far-Right are taking advantage in order to mislead people but also grow. But the leaflet text failed shamefully when it came to outlining the next steps to take.

          Titled “OPPOSE RACIST DIVISION — Organise to stop the far right”, the leaflet correctly identified the haphazard Government restrictions as the cause of insecurity and confusion about the Covid19 virus, which fed the negationist movement. It also stated that the Far-Right was manipulating these people and working to infect them with racism and homophobia.

It was correct also to point to the need for socialists to expose the real issues and organise to resolve them.

However, the leaflet text went on to state: “Recent experiences have shown that small counter demonstrations with confrontational tactics have jeopardised the safety of anti-fascist protestors and can drive some some people further into the arms of the far right.”

Perhaps the Socialist Party can tell us what kind of counter demonstration would not be seen as having “confrontational tactics”. In fact since to their credit for the first time some of their comrades actually took part in one such counter-protest, on Custom House Quay on the 22nd August, they could inform their party that the counter-protesters were attacked almost as soon as they stepped on to the Quay, before anything at all was said by them. Also, the Far-Right have been staging regular street protests since last year, many of them centred around the racist and conspiracy theorist Gemma O’Doherty, who recently unfurled a banner calling to “Make Ireland Catholic Again”. Should the Far-Right have been permitted to continue without public opposition?

Some of the armed fascists that attacked a counter-protest on Custom House Quay on 22 August 2020.
(Source Image: Internet, then cropped)

The counter-protests were small because the majority of the antifascist movement did not participate in them. It was independent anarchists, socialists and Irish Republicans who first took up that task and at that time the Far-Right protests were quite small. When the Far-Right called a larger one for Leinster House, in a coalition of fascist parties and organisations, a fairly large force of Irish Republicans and independent antifascists confronted them and a number of the Republicans were arrested. Following that event, on 14th December 2019 a larger combined force of antifascists including Irish Republicans, Antifascist Action and socialist parties occupied the protest ground planned by the Far-Right outside Leinster House and outnumbered the latter by about ten to one.

The small ad-hoc antifascist coalition of various political and social threads has been left to confront all the other fascist gatherings on their own. A Far-Right group called QAnon occupied the GPO forecourt for Saturday rallies as soon as the Covid19 restrictions were introduced and were left largely unmolested by antifascists to establish themselves as a weekly event, supported by fascist activists who travelled from different parts of the country to attend it. They were left unmolested by the Gardaí too, who nevertheless used Covid19 powers to harass Debenhams picketers around the corner in Henry Street and also by the Special Branch, Ireland’s political police, who harassed pickets held in solidarity with Irish Republican and Basque political prisoners, demanding the names and addresses of the picketers.

All subsequent rallies, pickets and meetings of the Far-Right were left entirely to the small aforementioned coalitions to oppose but when the Debenhams workers staged their march and rally on 8th August, the QAnon group abandoned their Saturday spot and took to Phoenix Park instead, showing the antifascist potential of a large gathering of the Left.

HISTORY OF ANTIFASCIST STRUGGLE IN IRELAND

          The rise of the fascist movement in Ireland in the 1930s was defeated by Irish Republicans, who confronted them physically on the streets to the extent that the ruling class feared revolution and mostly acquiesced with De Valera’s government banning a Blueshirt march, after which the Blueshirts became integrated into the Fine Gael party and ceased to have a separate existence.

Eoin O’Duffy exchanges fascist salute with Blueshirt rally in 1930s Ireland.
(Photo source: Internet)

Every attempt to establish a fascist party since then has been promptly squashed by antifascists. In 2016 the European islamophobic fascist organisation Pegida tried to launch itself in Dublin and was driven off the street by massive mobilisation of both those advocating peaceful opposition as well as those favouring physical confrontation (by the way four Republicans still face serious charges arising out of those events). The tiny group of native Irish fascists was attacked on its way into the city centre and the East European contingent had to run or be brought to safety in Garda vans.

Attempted Pegida launch February 2016.  After some short battles between antifascists and fascists with Gardaí moving in to protect the latter, they spirit them away in police vans while staging a diversion in O’Connell St.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

IN BRITAIN

           The fascist movement of Sir Oswald Moseley’s Blackshirts was physically opposed in numerous battles on the streets of British cities throughout the 1930s and after WW2, Moseley himself being knocked to the ground in Manchester and hit by a flying brick in Liverpool. Numerous battles took place in London too of course, the most famous being at Cable Street, where a coalition of Irish and Jewish antifascists, along with local Communist Party activists, fought a battle of several hours on 4th October 1936, principally with 7,000 London Metropolitan Police and all the mounted police of the city. The police got through the first barricade but failed to penetrate the second and the Blackshirts had to turn away, many being ambushed at other points such as at Hyde Park Corner.

Scene from the antifascist Battle of Cable Street 1936, fought mainly against the police who were trying to clear the way through the Jewish migrant area for the fascists.
(Source photo: Internet)

Section of mural near the scene presenting an artist’s impression of the Battle of Cable Street, East London 1936.  (Photo source: Internet).

After WW2 all attempts of Moseley and other fascists to organise were suppressed by robust action on the streets, the most serious being in 1958 in London’s Notting Hill area. Many of the post-war migration of Afro-Caribbean people to London lived in that area. Moseley’s Union of Fascists and the White Defence League organised and whipped up gangs of white youths to attack first migrant Caribbean males, then the white wife of a Caribbean man and finally Caribbean families. The Caribbean migrants and Irish and British antifascists organised defence and battles went on for two weeks. According to Wikipedia: The riots caused tension between the Metropolitan Police and the British African-Caribbean community, which claimed that the police had not taken their reports of racial attacks seriously. In 2002, files were released that revealed that senior police officers at the time had assured the Home Secretary, Rab Butler, that there was little or no racial motivation behind the disturbance, despite testimony from individual police officers to the contrary.” (That pattern of police denial of racism and neglect of targeted communities became a repeated pattern and has also been seen in many other countries).

When fascists began to organise again in Britain at the end of the 1960s, the parties of the Left first advocated ignoring them and when they did eventually mobilise counter-demonstrations, marched them away from confrontation with the fascists. Meanwhile fascists were attacking sellers of socialist papers, socialist meetings, migrants and ethnic minorities. Some elements of the Left after a while adopted the slogan of “no platform for fascists” which became popularised among students and some staff in institutions of third-level education, eventually becoming policy of the National Union of Students.

A coalition of antifascists of various political backgrounds, including some acting unofficially outside their party discipline, mainly in AFA (Anti-Fascist Action) and small groups of revolutionary communists, anarchists, Irish Republicans and antifascists expelled from their parties (e.g. Red Action) took on the National Front, the League of St. George and the British National Party in numerous battles and smashed the ability of the fascists to take possession of any significant physical space in order to organise.  On September 13th we passed by the anniversary of one of those battles in Lewisham, SE London in 1977 and we are nearly at the the anniversary of another, on the 18th in 1992 at Waterloo (the London Underground and train station, not the site of the 1815 battle in Belgium).

Scene from the antifascist Battle of Lewisham 1977. Left groups and Afro-Caribbean youth successfully battled mainly against police to prevent the fascist National Front marching through the borough’s centre.
(Photo source: Internet)

Throughout that period the main parties of the left (with the exception for a period of the SWP and the IMG) refused to confront the fascists physically and instead concentrated on organising events to attract youth away from fascism, principally through the Anti-Nazi League. It was however clearly the physical confrontations by antifascists on the streets, as had been the case in the 1930s that again defeated the rising fascist threat in Britain – for a time. Clearing the fascists from the street not only prevented the intimidation of Left activists and ethnic minorities and prevented the creation of fascist areas but also made it much more difficult for fascists to recruit and marshall forces.

LEARNING THE LESSONS?

          Rather than draw on the lessons of those struggles in Ireland and in Britain, the leaflet text advocates repeating the mistakes. In effect, the leaflet advocates leaving the antifascist mobilisations for the moment and concentrating on the class struggle against the system. That strategy entails allowing the fascists to become established and grow unhindered, making it much harder to root them out later. But not only that – the Left in Ireland has a pretty poor record of taking on the capitalist system and is particularly weak at the moment, with the trade union movement largely supine. The leaflet points to the just struggle of the Debenhams workers, with which the SP is particularly closely connected, at least in Dublin; however it is well to note that those workers have been sacked, their workplaces closed and the struggle is a last-ditch defensive one for redundancy pay. In other words, we are nowhere near a situation where the overall struggle against the capitalist system is such as to cut the ground from under the Far-Right.

Because those loose antifascist networks currently active are not under the control of the SP and are hardly likely to heed their call, the effect of the leaflet text is to advocate a continuation of the current situation, where counter-protests will be outnumbered by mobilisations of the Far-Right, despite the fact that the fascist parties actually have tiny support, bussing in people to swell the numbers. Fascist attacks will continue and may well even escalate. Fascists will continue to arm with Garda impunity for their attacks but it is certain that when the antifascists arm likewise, they will be arrested for “possession of offensive weapons” and even jailed.

Finally, the leaflet failed to give any specific indication of a short or medium-term way forward except to “join the socialists”, i.e the Socialist Party. The leaflet could have advocated building a broad antifascist front and called on people to help in that work, to bring in people not currently active, to ensure large turnouts to counter mobilisations of the Far-Right. But it didn’t.

End.

JOHN, I HARDLY KNEW YE!

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: )

With their cries and lies and lies and cries, haroo, haroo!

With their cries and lies and lies and cries, haroo, haroo!

With their cries and lies and lies and cries,

The enemy surely fooled ya …..

Ya looked so queer, I shed a tear —

John Connors I hardly knew ya!

          Sad it was to see John Connors speaking at a Far-Right rally outside Leinster House yesterday; sad not only because he gained some fame as a dramatist and the fascists will use that to their advantage but sad because John also stood up for one of the most discriminated-against group in Ireland, the Travellers, of which he is himself a member.

Now I’d be far from saying that the Irish Republican or Socialist movement has a great record in combating anti-Traveller racism but surely their record is far better than that of the Far-Right? But the Far-Right calls all us Republicans and Socialists “pedophiles”, and claims we are paid by a foreign millionaire. These are the new friends of John Connors – at least as long as they can use him, because they are certainly no friends of Traveller rights.

Supporters of the Far-Right rally give a practical demonstration of their belief in “free speech” as they attack the tiny number of counter-protesters. (Photo source: Internet)

I do not claim to have been hugely active against anti-Traveller racism but I have opposed pubs and shops with “No Travellers” notices and wrote against that discrimination during my brief sojourn at the University of Limerick. I don’t remember any right-wing people agreeing with me then – quite the contrary. When the IBRG took up a stance against anti-Traveller racism in Britain and supported the campaign for halting-sites, it was right-wing British (of the type of UKIP today and others – but more about later) and right-wing Irish who opposed us.

Among those at the Epsom Derby years ago to support Roma people being threatened with removal by police, I didn’t see any of the Right and most appeared to be more of the “Far-Left” (sic) – Anarchists, in fact.

I have never heard before yesterday of the Right, whether Far or more “moderate”, giving Travellers a platform to proclaim their cause. At one of the Connolly Festivals, I think it was two years ago, I and Paul O’Brien were glad to be a support act for John Connors at the New Theatre, as singers and musician (Paul) performing songs about (and by, in some cases) Travellers and against racism, before Connors gave his talk. Needless to say, no Far-Right there either.

Mention of singing reminds me that I have attended two festivals of Traveller culture where I also sang. I didn’t see any of the Far-Right there – all the non-Traveller people there were Republicans or Socialists, as far as I could see. John Connors sang a song there too. No great singer, as he has said himself, but far sweeter to listen to singing than to hear him speak at a rally organised by some of the most backward forces in Ireland.

I heard a recording of a little of John’s speech and at the beginning, he spoke against the refusal to two young women, who wanted to speak against sexual abuse, of speaking space by the organisers. Well they might! For these campaigners for “free speech” (another of the false flags of the Far-Right) try to stifle every voice with which they do not agree and, when they cannot stifle it, to smear it. And fair play to John for saying they should have been listened to. But who spoke from the platform after John Connors’ shameful appearance? Herman Kelly, former Assistant Editor of the Catholic Herald that for awhile defended the Catholic Church against accusations of sexual abuse, claimed they were “fake news” and helped to cover them up!

“Patriot” and ex-British Army Rowan Croft, rabid Loyalist and British fascist Jim Dowson and “Irish Patriot” Herman Kelly at a conference.
(Photo source: Internet)

In institutions run by that organisation, the Catholic Church, there occurred the highest and most concentrated incidence of not only physical and emotional abuse but also specifically sexual abuse. And most of that sexual abuse was of minors, boys and girls – in other words, pedophilia.

When denunciations of that abuse began to surface, from where did the support of the survivors and demands for inquiry and restitution come? Not from the Right, who fought tooth and nail to defend the Church! No, it was from the Left and basic democratic people that call came and also support for the survivors. Oh but now that the defenders of pedophiles wish to attack us, they label us pedophiles! Like Herman Kelly, they can change their false flags when they wish.

One of those false flags is that of “patriotism”, strutting around under the Tricolour and the “Irish Republic” flag, ignorant and uncaring of the history of those specific flags and of those who fought under them. Herman Kelly is an “Irish Patriot”, he tells anyone who will listen, especially if they don’t remember that he managed publicity work for UKIP, the British Far-Right and full-of-fascists organisation run by Nigel Farrage. Kelly also shared a speaking platform with Jim Dowson, a rabid Ulster Loyalist and British fascist.

“Irish Patriot” Herman Kelly (left) with Nigel Farage, leader of British far-right party UKIP, for which Kelly worked as press officer.
(Photo source: Internet)

As for the other “patriot” notables of the Far-Right, Gemma O’Doherty, John Waters, Ben Gilroy, Glen Miller, Justin Barrett, Rowan Croft and Niall McConnell, when have they campaigned to defend the Irish language? Or against the British Petroleum pipeline in Erris? No, that was Socialists and Republicans. Well then, for the unification of Ireland and expulsion of British imperialism? No, in fact some have openly colluded with Loyalists and another is a former British Army soldier, late of Afghanistan invasion. For the defence of our natural resources, against the privatisation of public services, often to foreign companies? Have we seen them defending Irish heritage sites against property speculators?

None of the above, these ‘patriots’. Ah, what a fine company John Connors has chosen to join!

Opportunist friendst: Ben Gilroy (left) and Herman Kelly (right) (but both on the Far-Right).
(Photo source: Internet).

It would have been thought, coming from an ethnic group so badly treated, that John Connors would refuse to consort with racists, yet racism has been one of the main planks of the Far-Right. They spread the “Replacement Conspiracy” lie, that of “EU plans to replace Irish people with migrants”, which Herman Kelly is on video endorsing. They have campaigned against the admittance of migrants and asylum seekers. Gemma O’Doherty and Justin Barrett even objected to the election of the current Lord Mayor of Dublin on the basis that her parents come from China. Barrett said he would remove her citizenship if he got into power – to threaten that to a woman born in the Mater Hospital, raised and educated in Ireland goes even beyond racism and into straightforward nazism.

Of late, some of the Far-Right people, such as the regular speaker at the Stand Together rallies at the GPO during the height of the Covid19 pandemic (insisting the virus is all a hoax) have claimed to be anti-racists. Yet a number of their “peaceful” militants there strut up to their opponents demanding “Are you Irish?” and have been seen supporting Gemma O’Doherty rallies. One of these “peaceful” supporters recently attacked a Republican who was sitting down at the time before the aggressor was escorted by Gardaí (without arrest) back to his own lines.  Some also tweeted that their rally on Sunday was attacked by opponents, while actually the truth is that the tiny band of counter-protesters were attacked by supporters of the rally, as can be seen from photos and videos of the event.

THE REAL TARGET

          Now, to the nub of the matter, the real reason for that Far-Right rally (apart from recruiting fascists in secret): homophobia. Nothing less than fear and hatred of homosexuals under the guise of hatred of pedophiles. Pedophiles exist and I suppose can be of any sexuality, gay, heterosexual, bisexual and maybe transexual but somehow it is gay men that are mostly accused of it. I have no interest in supporting either Peter Thatchell or Roderic O’Gorman as politicians or political activists but that is not the reason they are being attacked. This is the background being used by the Far-Right: Over two decades ago, Thatchell wrote a letter to the Guardian in which he defended instances of sex between adults and minors in some societies, though he also said he did not advocate it. Thatchell is, among other issues, a prominent campaigner for rights of gay and lesbian women, chiefly active in Britain. Some years later he apologised for those remarks and repeated that pedophilia could not be condoned.

O’Gorman, who is a gay man, welcomed Thatchell to a Gay Pride march once and posed for a photograph with an arm around Thatchell.

That apparently makes O’Gorman a pedophile? No, in the eyes of the Far-Right, it makes him a useful target, for O’Gorman is a Minister in the new Coalition Government, and part of his portfolio is children. So now the Far-Right, who have not only consistently opposed equal rights for any of the LGBT community but even their decriminalisation, have the false flag of “defending our kids” to wave and to whip up a hysteria that has nothing to do with the real problem of pedophilia or the other real problems of our society.

They didn’t do much “defending our kids” from the Catholic Church, of course. Nor did the Loyalist friends of Kelly and others when the British were using Kincora House to entrap prominent Protestants, including politicians, for blackmail about the pedophilia there.

John Connors, dramatist and Traveller, speaking at the Far-Right rally outside Leinster House yesterday.  (Source photo: Internet)

As a society, we have overcome a lot of misconception an prejudice about LBGT people but there is no reason for complacency. Dark forces continue to exist and to manipulate the opinions of the credulous whenever they can. Already they have raised the old slur of pedophilia against the LGBT community and also, a newer one, against all antifascists.

And LGBT people among Irish Travellers, who have suffered not only oppression in society at large but also within their own ethnic group, will find their lives now that much harder.

Ah, John, sure I hardly knew ye!

End.

RACIST CAMPAIGN AGAINST NEW MAYOR OF DUBLIN

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 5 mins.)

Dublin has a Lord Mayor of Chinese descent. According to some, this is some kind of disaster. Apparently to them, she is a migrant (though born, bred and educated in Ireland) and even an advance scout for a takeover by Chinese Communists (because, of course, all Chinese are communists, even those from Hong Kong – but wait, didn’t Gemma O’Doherty also tweet approvingly that some Chinese Hong Kong businessman wants to have the Communist Party of China declared a terrorist organisation?).

Hazel Chu. wearing chain of mayoral office, poses for photo with her daughter and husband.
(Photo source: Internet)

          Speaking after her election (on 43 votes against the nine for the other candidate, according to RTÉ), Ms Chu said she wanted the Dublin Agreement parties who had backed her election) to tackle the housing and homeless crisis which has seemed like “filling a hole in a sinking ship”.

Her other priorities are making Dublin a liveable city, fighting discrimination and protecting the vulnerable. In her speech, she said she wondered if her mother – who had worked washing dishes in a restaurant off O’Connell Street – dreamed that her daughter would one day become Lord Mayor.

Since being elected a public representative on to Dublin City Council in 2019, on the highest first-preference count of any Irish local authority councillor (perhaps Pembroke constituency is a Chinese Communist base?), also receiving the highest percentage vote of any first-time candidate, Hazel Chu has reportedly been subject to racist harassment, vilification and even threats, both on social media and by telephone calls to her home. Not because of her views or her political party – purely because her parents are Chinese who met and settled in Dublin in the 1970s.

When Hazel Chu was nominated for the position and before her election, racist and right-wing conspiracy theorist Gemma O’Doherty recorded herself on video attacking her and claiming that Chu is a supporter of pedophilia (because she allegedly supported the closure by Google of O’Doherty’s Youtube channels) and in Gemma-World apparently a Chairperson of the Green Party can also be “a hard-core Communist”.

After Chu’s election, O’Doherty tweeted, above a highly dubious “news” item claiming that a property developer plans to build a new city in Ireland for Hong Kong refugees (!): It’s fitting Dublin now has a Chinese Mayor when millions more are to be planted in our home in the coming years. You wanted Communism. You’ve got it. Don’t say we didn’t warn you! But the Reds know it will only make the patriot movement grow and grow.

O’Doherty has become notorious not only for her anti-immigrant rhetoric but also for claiming that the the whole Covid19 pandemic was fake and part of a plan to put in place a New World Order (apparently the existing Order is not bad enough) and that the EU has a plan to replace Irish people with migrants. One of her heroes is Donald Trump and her opponents she claims are all “Reds” who are “funded by Soros”, as is the Black Lives Matter movement, “Antifa” etc. Along with the Right in the USA she defends the statues of racists and conquistadors (even though the latter were armed immigrants and definitely dangerous to the locals!).

Hazel Chu studied and qualified as a barrister in Ireland.
(Photo source: Internet)

Justin Barrett, founder of the National Party (sic) and former member of far-Right organisation Youth Defence has said that if he were to get into power he would strip Hazel Chu of her citizenship. It is hardly surprising to see a proposal straight out of Nazi Germany coming from this former campaigner against divorce and abortion and for a “Catholic Ireland” that would ban muslims from entering the country because apparently muslims are a serious threat to our lives and Irish liberty (Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Oliver Cromwell, William of Orange, Lord Castlereagh, King George III and Lloyd George must’ve all been muslims!). Barrett is on record as being an admirer of the anti-semitic Fr. Denis Fahey and writer Hilaire Beloc (a French immigrant to Britain!).

Dublin City Hall, seen looking eastward.
(Photo source: Wikipedia)

BEYOND THE CRAZY PARANOIA – FASCISM

          Beyond the craziness, the paranoia and ludicrous theories of conspiracy (as distinct from the real conspiracies in the world), what we have here is virulent racism and lurking in among those sad and mad people and raving racists …. are the handful of organised fascists. Those who dare not at the moment come out and declare their wish to have a corporate state in Ireland, one to outlaw oppositional organisations and demonstrations and suppress the resistance of the working class. A REAL conspiracy. A kind of State that becomes increasingly attractive to the capitalist ruling class as it finds itself in difficulty to keep up its profit levels and feels it needs to squeeze the working people harder. A REAL possibility.

Which is why we need to take these matters seriously. Such organisations as Anti-Corruption Ireland (sic), Yellow Vests Ireland and the National Party are the means by which the fascists mobilise a stream in which they can swim – and collect others to swim with them.

They must not be given an inch.

That the ruling Gombeen class would turn to them if they looked like a viable option is entirely possible if viewed historically. The State was set up by that ruling class in a vicious Civil War in which it not only repressed its opposition and the population but executed 80 Republicans with barely a court martial, shot prisoners and exploded them on landmines, kidnapped and murdered activists.

A large part of the opposition to that State at the time became coopted by the ruling class and that process has come into full development with the current Fianna Fáil/ Fine Gael coalition Government. And we can already see the straws in the wind in the behavior of the Gardaí, who appear in and out of uniform to harass peaceful Republican pickets and Debenham’s worker picketers while on the other hand, weekly demonstrations of the far-Right, violating in every way pandemic precautions, remain untouched by those same Gardaí.

The far-Right in Ireland have been trying for some time to present themselves as “patriots”, flying the Irish Tricolour, playing the Soldiers’ Song, etc. They do not have a history of promoting the Irish language or fighting for the rights of Irish speakers, nor of campaigning against English colonialism in the Six Counties, nor for Reunification of the country. Nor have they a track record of even defending areas of historical importance from rapacious Gombeen and foreign property speculators. They were not active in the struggle against British Petroleum in the Erris area nor in preventing the selloff of Irish forestry. So what actually is this “patriotism” of theirs? Nothing. Nothing but racism.

It is not even enough apparently for these racists that a person be born in Ireland – they have to be “ethnically Irish”. Would that be like the Pearse brothers, shot by British firing squads, whose father was English? Like Constance Markievicz, founder of the Na Fianna and officer in the 1916 Rising, one of the Gore-Booth planter family? Like Thomas Davis, Young Irelander author of A Nation Once Again and other songs, whose father was Welsh? Like Theobald Wolfe Tone, founder of the United Irishmen, a descendant of planters? Like Erskine Childers, fourth President of Ireland and son of an Englishman who died for Ireland, executed by this very State?

And while we are about discussing things “ethnically Irish”, should these “patriots” not return that flag they keep waving, the Tricolour, to the descendants of the Parisian revolutionary women who first presented it to Thomas Meagher in 1848?

end.

Coat of Arms of Lord Mayorality of Dublin.
(Photo source: Internet)

SOURCES

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

Gemma-world tweet: https://twitter.com/gemmaod1/status/1277900127362060288

Gemma-world video: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0?ui=2&ik=8302533bd1&attid=0.1&permmsgid=msg-f:1670942037845421793&th=173060ee2e0b2ee1&view=att&disp=safe&realattid=173060c781cbf5abe9d1

RTÉ: https://www.rte.ie/news/2020/0629/1150402-chu-dublin-lord-mayor/

Indo: https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/whether-im-irish-or-not-has-nothing-to-do-with-them-councillor-hazel-chu-hits-back-at-online-trolls-after-threatening-messages-38391990.html

Anti-Irish Racism Letter to Irish Times

Anti-Irish racism in Britain

Sir, – Gerard Murphy (Letters, February 27th) and some others doubt the existence of anti-Irish racism in Britain prior to the Brexit debates, claiming never to have experienced or witnessed it themselves.

After the Race Relations Act (1976) drove the blatant discrimination of notices in lodging-house windows and “help wanted” advertisements into concealment, in 1984 the Greater London Council published Liz Curtis’s booklet Nothing But the Same Old Story, full of public examples of anti-Irish racism in print and in drawings over centuries, including cartoons in the Evening Standard during the 1970s.

In the mid-1970s nearly a score of innocent people in five different cases were taken from the Irish community and convicted of murder or in assisting murder while Irish people were being regularly stopped at airports and embarkation points, as well as having their houses raided and being taken into Paddington Green police station, for example, to spend days in underground cells without daylight or access to solicitor, to be eventually released without charge. In the 1970s Granada TV series The Comedians, stand-up performers told sexist and racist jokes, with the Irish often being the butt of the latter. In the 1980s the Irish in Britain Representation Group picketed WH Smith shops until they removed from sale their “Irish mugs”, which had the handle on the inside.

Letters in Irish community newspapers in Britain like the Irish Post and the Irish World regularly complained of anti-Irish racism in print, on TV, on radio and in public places. Anti-Irish racism has a history of centuries but it was all around Britain in the 1970s, 1980s and even the 1990s. – Yours, etc,

DIARMUID BREATNACH,

Baile Átha Cliath 9.

Anti-Irish Racism in Britain: Not a great letter or anything but the first letter of mine the Irish Times has ever published!

Scene outside the Court of Appeal’s 1984 quashing of the convictions of the Guildford Four and Maguire Seven. Gerry Conlon, one of the Four, seen here shouting his anger to the crowd at his unjustly serving 10 years in jail and his father having died in jail. The Birmingham Six were not released until 1991 and Judith Ward in 1992!
(Source photo: Internet)

 

By Liz Curtis. First published 1984 by the Greater London Council.
(Image source: Johnsbookshop.org)

A dungeon cell in Paddington Green Metropolitan Police Station. Under the provisions of the “Prevention of Terrorism Act” (sic), Irish people were kept in cells like this for up to five days (sometimes longer) without access to solicitor, family or friends, interrogated and often brutalised.
(Photo source: Protesters who occupied the empty building recently — go raibh maith agaibh!)

BALBRIGGAN COMMUNITY UNITES AGAINST FAR-RIGHT INVASION

Published first in Dublin Republicans Against Fascism, reprinted by kind permission.

(Reading time: 2 minutes)

Dublin Republicans Against Fascism commend the diverse Balbriggan community for coming together yesterday, Monday 27th, to confront and ward off a motley crew of sinister far-right agitators who arrived in the town late evening to hold a public meeting.

Dublin Republicans Against Fascism who were present relay the following description of events:

The public meeting was to be an election launch for the carpetbagger candidate Gemma O’ Doherty who traveled from her residence in leafy South County Dublin to attend, and her fellow ACI (Anti-Corruption Ireland) candidate John Waters. A special guest speaker for the evening was to be Justin Barrett, the leader of the far-right National Party, a party primarily made up of landowners, businessmen and wealthy middle class elites.

KEEP DUBLIN TIDY

As they announced their meeting publicly the community of Balbriggan were concerned at the presence of these well-established racists and bigots coming into the town and inciting hatred and division. In response the community of Balbriggan, and at very short notice, assembled at the town square and decided to go down and attend the meeting to confront these carpetbaggers in person. Up to a hundred people from the community marched down the main street of Balbriggan to attend only to find at the venue, a scruffy disused gym down a back lane, to be guarded by three of Gemma’s acolytes who prevented access. Inside the building, and already assembled, were two of the speakers, Gemma and John, and a bussed-in gang of a dozen supporters from across the country.

The Balbriggan community, having been denied access to the public meeting, decided to protest outside the gates. As the time of the start of the public meeting arrived, the Brit soldier Rowen ‘the rat’ Croft (a far Right Youtuber) and two of his Youtube army marched down, with his head held high as a compensatory measure, only to find the gate closed and locked. Rowen ‘the rat’ was left facing the anger of the Balbriggan community with no means of immediate escape. Beads of sweat percolated from his head as he tried to signal to those inside to open the gate.

Ex-British soldier Rowen Croft, one of O’Doherty’s minions, desperately trying to get through protesters into her miniscule meeting (Photo source: Dublin Republicans Against Fascism)

Shortly after this the Führer mobile of Justin Barrett of the National Party arrived. Despite the assembled protest occupying the road Justin arrogantly tried to ram through the crowd and into the gym. He was unsuccessful however as people blocked the front of his vehicle in scenes reminiscent of Joan Burton in Jobstown sitting in a fogged-up car surrounded by an angry community. Justin was seen frantically on the phone to the Gardai and the half-dozen far-right heavies assembled in the building to try and get him access, but to no avail. As it happens, the car Justin was driving was his girlfriend’s car, NP candidate Rebecca “Barrett”. The car had no valid NCT and the tax was out of date by a number of months. This was reported to Gardai but they did not act. Justin, causing tailbacks in traffic was eventually directed by Gardai to leave the area and he was not seen for the rest of the night.

Justin Barrett, Fuhrer of the National Party, prevented from entering by community protest.
(Photo source: Dublin Republicans Against Fascism)

Despite the meeting being on lock down, one of Gemma’s supporters arrived in a 191 white Mercedes. Under heavy garda escort this supporter, who was wearing designer clothes, retrieved what looked like trays of foreign-grown food from the back her Merc and made her way into the building to supply the beleaguered Gemma and co with supplements.

As it became apparent that the meeting was locked down with no access for the Balbriggan community to attend, the protest continued for an hour before leaving the carpetbaggers to their meeting which turned out to be a demoralised echo chamber.

The Balbriggan community showed real unity yesterday. They showed that ethnic and religious differences will not divide them despite the best efforts of sectarian hate preachers like ACI and the NP. Dublin Republicans Against Fascism will continue to support the people of Dublin opposing this travelling carnival of hate wherever they go.

Gardaí protecting Gemma O’Doherty “public” meeting and helping prevent entrance from local community who disagree with her racist and islamophobic speeches.
(Photo source: anti-racist protester)

SOURCE:

https://www.facebook.com/Dublin-Republicans-Against-Fascism-104013457786981/?

CORK REBELS FOR PEACE COUNTER FAR-RIGHT RALLY

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 3 minutes)

“THERE ARE MORE OF US THAN THERE ARE OF THE BULLIES”

Learning of the intention of a far-Right coalition to hold a rally at Cork Town Hall on 4th December, a coalition of anti-racists and anti-fascists containing a range of Left and Irish Republican organisations, community and anti-deportation groups organised a counter-rally which dwarfed the numbers of the racists and fascists, who object to migrants, asylum seekers and LBGT people. Two TDs and a number of councillors also attended.

One of the organisers, Tracy Ryan, said that she had her two sons with her at the rally. “I’ve brought up my children to believe that everyone is equal and everyone deserves the same opportunities and chances in life,” she said.

View of counter rally half hour before due to start
(Photo: Students Against Racism)

Placard displayed at counter-rally
(Photo: Shamim Melekian)

Anti-racist football club supporters at the counter-rally.
(Photo: Shamim Melekian)

FREE SPEECH?

The specific rallying issue for the far-Right on this occasion, as it was in Dublin on 14th December last year (see https://rebelbreeze.wordpress.com/2019/12/15/dublin-counter-rally-outnumbers-racists-and-fascists/), was the legislation proposed by the Fine Gael Government against “hate speech”. The mixture of social conservatives, racists and fascists that make up the far-Right in Ireland have been complaining for some time that they are being denied freedom of speech, in particular since the most prominent member of their ranks, ex-journalist Gemma O’Doherty, had her two Youtube channels shut down by Google in 2019 after, according to Google, she broadcast racist statements and continued to do so after one of the channels was suspended for a week.

There is a wide variety of views on the proposed legislation outside of the far-Right, some socialists and Republicans remarking that “hate speech” is too wide a label and that they have seen such legislation used against themselves when they denounce prominent politicians or businessmen, the police or Loyalists. What unites all these groups demonstrating against the far-Right is not a defence of the Government’s proposed legislation but a determined opposition to allowing the far-Right to gain a foothold in Ireland, from which it may expand to introduce a fascist regime, reversing gains in social legislation, banning oppositional groups, terrorising minorities and restricting further the rights of unionised workers.

One of the groups on the counter-rally
(Photo: Shamim Melekian)

One of the many pointed placards on the counter-rally held by a supporter.
(Photo: Shamim Melekian)

Opponents of the far-Right point out that they begin by seeking freedom of speech to attack minority groups and their political opponents but once they have established a base, move to physically removing their opposition and banning freedom of speech of anyone who disagrees with them.

“There are more of us than there are of the bullies”, said one of the organising group, speaking to news media the day before the counter-rally. Poet and community worker Kathy D’Arcy added: “We are one people, one human race, one unified city whose people are known throughout the world for kindness, friendliness, good humour and inclusiveness.”

Declan Power of Waterford, organiser of a much smaller rally of the far-Right over the same weekend, rejected the accusation that they were racists or had any other agenda than freedom of speech. However at the event Diarmuid Ó Cadhla, of a group called The People’s Convention, revealed that he wanted to limit migration and was against the Government’s policies which, he alleged, are for “globalisation and open borders”. Presumably this was a reference to one of the conspiracy theories of the far-Right, viz. that the EU allegedly has a policy of opening all borders to mass immigration and replacing the Irish with foreigners. Laughable as this may seem to some and flying against all the evidence as it does, it is believed by some on the far-Right and used to whip up fears and hatred of migrants.

View of far-Right rally over section of counter-rally.
(Photo: Shamim Melekian

Closeup of some of the far-Right group in Cork (Photo: Shamim Melekian)

Woman on counter-rally holds up a placard addressing the far-Right
(Photo: Shamim Melekian)

HISTORY OF ANTI-RACIST MARCHES IN CORK

          The rally on 4th January this year was far from being the first anti-racist demonstration in Cork: an anti-racist march took place in March last year and or five years before that, there had been an anti-racist march in Cork every year.

Speaking in advance of the anti-racist march last year, Joe Moore of Cork Says No to Racism pointed out that while racism still exists in Cork, it is “a small number of people who have racist views towards minority religions, asylum seekers Travellers and the Roma community.”

Mr. Moore also pointed out some gaps in State provision, stating that the school books for children contain no mention of the Traveller community in Ireland, which itself has housing and education issues.

There is also a history of fascism in 1930s Cork when the Blueshirt fascist movement was opposed by anti-fascists and socialists inside and outside the IRA. Ironically, while opposition to the Fine Gael Government’s proposed legislation is the purported rallying point for the far-Right, the Blueshirts were one of the three groups that joined to form the Fine Gael party (which is why many opponents of the party call them “Blueshirts” to this day).

Fascist salutes at a Blueshirt rally in 1934 in Charleville, Cork.
(Photo source: History Ireland).

End.

SOURCES & REFERENCES:

Quotation from Kathy D’Arcy: https://www.echolive.ie/corknews/Rally-for-peace-to-take-place-outside-City-Hall-tomorrow-775f0af9-1083-47b3-9920-48a20ec234ac-ds

Irish Times report: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/cork-rejects-politics-of-hate-from-far-right-groups-rally-hears-1.4131626?

Cork Echo report: https://www.echolive.ie/corklives/New-anti-racism-group-takes-to-streets-of-Cork-2cf76e9c-e240-4653-b2a5-084c8d31d57d-ds?fbclid=IwAR1yfgu5qcL-71qJQMk1jzt-NhtbBmJ4VW9hYm1DMQwGKdD9nunl3Ju-O40

Previous anti-racist marches in Cork: https://www.corkindependent.com/news/topics/articles/2019/03/20/4171273-antiracism-rally-planned/

Blueshirt fascist movement with reference to Cork:

https://www.historyireland.com/20th-century-contemporary-history/eoin-oduffys-blueshirts-and-the-abyssinian-crisis/

https://www.theirishstory.com/2012/05/18/the-blueshirts-fascism-in-ireland/#.XhTtZSOLRsM

Counter-rally supporter mocks conspiracy theory that Soros Foundation is funding all the anti-racist and anti-fascist activists.
(Photo: Shamim Melekian)

(Photo: Shamim Melekian)

Another pointed placard message on the counter-rally.
(Photo: Shamim Melekian)

Woman on counter-rally displaying presumably dire conditions on halting sites for Travellers.
(Photo: Shamim Melekian)

 

Women of varied ages and backgrounds applauding speaker at counter rally.
(Photo: Shamim Melekian)

Counter rally supporter sends pointed message on placard
(Photo: Shamim Melekian)

Young supporter of counter rally sports a T-Shirt display which might become very popular.
(Photo: Shamim Melekian)

Section of counter rally on the march through Cork city centre.
(Photo: Shamim Melekian)

DUBLIN COUNTER-RALLY OUTNUMBERS RACISTS AND FASCISTS

Diarmuid Breatnach

On what was an extremely cold day, faith groups joined with migrants and community groups, Irish Republicans, socialists, communists and anarchists to oppose a mobilisation by racists and fascists outside Leinster House, which houses the Oireachtas, the Irish Parliament. There were a couple of moments of surges towards the right-wingers but these were contained without arrests.

          The anti-racist demonstrators responded to a call for the counter-rally and occupied the space from 12.00 noon on 14th December 2019, which left the racists and fascists having to face them from the other side of Kildare Street, at the junction with Molesworth Street but, in any case, they were outnumbered at about ten to one by the anti-racists and anti-fascists. The call came from SARF (Solidarity Alliance against Racism and Fascism), Islamic Foundation of Ireland, United Against Racism and Irish Network Against Racism (INAR).

The two opposing groups facing one another seen from the northern end of Kildare Street. The anti-fascists are to the left of photo.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

“FREE SPEECH”

          The right-wing group had called for a rally to protest about the legislation proposed by the party in Government, Fine Gael, against “hate speech”. Ironically, Fine Gael are themselves a right-wing party which was formed in part out of the 1930s Irish fascist organisation, known colloquially as “the Blueshirts” (a name by which Fine Gael are known to this day by many). Earlier this year, Gemma O’ Doherty’s Youtube account was suspended and then terminated by Google because of its anti-migrant content, which gave the racists another issue: censorship of “free speech”.

Historically fascists, when their movement is weak, have often mobilised under the banner of “freedom of speech”. This has meant not only freedom to speak out against the government in power (which many anti-fascists would also wish for) but also the freedom to demonise targeted social, ethnic and religious groups and to call for their restriction, expulsion, jailing — or even death. Immediately upon gaining power, fascists restrict the freedom of speech of all others: not only of the social, ethnic and religious groups they targeted but also of their critics, the political opposition and trade unions. In this of course they are not so different from some socialist, communist or Irish Republican groups that rail against suppression and censorship only subsequently to silence criticism within their own ranks by threats, expulsions and censorship in the media they control. The point however is not to be fooled by the “free speech” demands of fascists and racists.

Section of the anti-racist mobilisation seen from a facing northward position. Beyond the irish Tricolour in the foreground, the Catalan estelada may be seen in the background, also Anarchist and Communist flags.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

All the same, this does not mean that we should support the proposed Fine Gael legislation either. “Anti-Hate Speech” legislation elsewhere was passed in capitalist states under the guise of protection of vulnerable minorities but then at times used for the protection of capitalists, royalty, government ministers and the police. If racist or homophobic incitement is the supposed target, why not specify that? Is hate itself necessarily a bad thing, if the hated object is racism, state suppression, exploitation?

Section of antifascist rally (left of photo) and most of racist rally (right) seen from facing southward position. Those wearing pink hi-viz vests are stewards.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

A BROAD RIGHT-WING, RACIST COALITION SHELTERING FASCISTS

          The origin of this right-wing coalition seems to have coalesced around former anti-corruption journalist Gemma Doherty who, some time subsequent to being fired by her newspaper after she exposed some aspects of the financial dealings of the paper’s owner, apparently underwent a transformation into a rabid anti-immigration racist. People opposed to legislation legalising gay marriage and permitting greater access to abortion gathered around her, as did others against the State’s problematic child and family agency TUSLA and some others. Accordingly it is a broad but small, generally right-wing movement of many who feel a sense of their values being ignored or undermined. How disparate at times can be judged by their demonstration at the Department of Justice building a little over a month ago, when among their signage was a banner attacking TUSLA and abuses by the Catholic Church, while a woman among their number shook a set of rosary beads at the counter-demonstration!

Viewed from near the southern end of the crowds, the right-wingers across the street to the left of photo, anti-racists closer in foreground.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

The confusion was illustrated yesterday too when a woman among the right-wingers could be seen flying an estelada, a flag of Catalan independentists. From a number of people from among the counter-demonstrators who spoke to her, including Catalans and other people from the Spanish state, it appears that she equated the demonstration with demanding free speech, which she rightly stated was being denied by the Spanish state to many, including Catalan independentists.

Such groups are often believers in bizarre conspiracies (nor are they alone in that) and current among some of them is a belief that the EU plans to replace Irish people with migrants. For that reason the EU, which many Irish Republicans and socialists also oppose for very different reasons, is one of the targets of this right-wing coalition.

Organised fascists, who are currently a tiny group in the territory of the Irish state (but much larger, in the shape of Loyalists, in the British colony in Ireland, the Six Counties) find themselves generally isolated in society within the Irish state and no doubt threatened too. Therefore they try to infiltrate broader anti-government groups, as they did with a brief emergence of an Irish “Yellow Vest” movement, mostly in Dublin (see https://rebelbreeze.wordpress.com/2019/02/16/irish-yellow-vests-and-questions/) – in which they do not reveal their fascist project but present themselves as being against the Government, against corruption, for remedy of homelessness and as Irish patriots. And of course for free speech.

Nor are organised fascists the only opportunists, as a small number of politicians seeking election (or reelection) have been known to whip up fear of migrants and racist sentiment against Irish Travellers (originally a nomadic group). These offenders very recently have included an Independent TD (parliamentary delegate) from Galway and a Fine Gael candidate seeking election.

At some point of course, if they intend to come to power in society, fascists need to reveal some of their agenda but before they can do that they need to train some of their stormtroopers, public speakers and organisers and they need to command the street, at least in some areas. That was the reason for the 1930s rallies and attempted march on Dublin of the Blueshirts in Ireland, Mussolini’s Blackshirts March on Rome, the rallies and street-fighting of the Brownshirts in Germany and Moseley’s Blackshirts’ failed attempt to penetrate London’s East End. In the Spanish and Portuguese states, the fascists needed a military coup to aid them and, in the former case, the logistical and personnel assistance of the already-fascist states of Germany and Italy (a military coup was feared by the young Fianna Fáil government in 1930s Ireland too). In 2016, the need for a street presence was the reason for the attempted Dublin city centre launch of the European islamophobic organisation Pegida, which was defeated by mass mobilisation and physical opposition (for which some Irish Republicans are still being processed through the Irish courts).

Although Gemma O’Doherty and her supporters had been confronted before in Ireland, yesterday’s was the first large mobilisation against their racist anti-immigration message and it vastly outnumbered that of the racists.

Another view of both sides, mostly the anti-racists, from facing southward position.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

POLICE AND STEWARDS SAVE RACISTS AND FASCISTS FROM A TROUNCING

          Generally the two opposing forces seemed content with shouting and chanting across the street at one another, apart from the occasional anti-fascist wandering over to verbally confront the opposition. The anti-racists who in the opinion of the police got too close to the racists were sent back by the police but one of the antifascists had to approach the Gardaí (Irish state police) to remove one of the racists who had embedded himself among the anti-fascists. This seemed dangerously like asking the police to deal with the fascists whereas police bias at least is generally against the antifascists. Surely the crowd could have easily expelled him (at least) unaided?

As has been the custom with them and their intention to appear patriotic, the racists and fascists were displaying a host of Irish tricolours but this time there were a number of these also among the antifascists, along with a number of green-and-gold Starry Plough flags, as well as some communist and anarchist flags.

However, when a small group among the right-wingers pulled out the blue-and-white version of the Starry Plough, flag of the Republican Congress of the 1930s, along with the Sunburst flag of the Fianna Éireann (Republican youth group of past generations) and began waving them, a section of Irish Republicans surged forward in outrage and for a few moments the stewards and the Gardaí struggled to contain them.

Those who had brandished those particular flags were clearly delighted with the reaction they had provoked. Since at previous demonstrations of the racists and fascists they had never displayed those particular flags and, since they only made an appearance later in their rally yesterday, it seems clear that they had displayed them solely for the purpose of provocation.

A little later there was another surge from a different point which was again contained.

It was understandable, given the broad composition of the anti-racist rally, that the organisers would wish to prevent physical fighting breaking out from among their ranks on this occasion. However, there is a danger of this kind of stewarding becoming collusion with the State – or at the very least being seen to be so by sections of anti-fascists.

MIGRANTS AND IRELAND

          The bubble expansion of the Irish economy for an unexpectedly long period from the late 1980s to the beginning of this century, provided employment opportunities which could not be filled by the low level of the Irish population (a result of two centuries of heavy migration from Ireland to other countries). These employment opportunities, mostly in construction and services, tended to be availed of by migrants, mostly from European states with declining or stagnant economies but also by some from states in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and China.

Although Ireland had seen foreign colonisation from Britain for centuries, it had only experienced small emigration from elsewhere, which also tended to restricted to certain periods, for example Huguenots at the end of the 17th Century and Italians in two waves, following each World War. The change in population composition in some areas at the end of the 20th Century was startling and difficult for some to which to accustom themselves (though welcomed by others). When combined with the subsequent bursting of the Irish economic bubble and cuts in public services, severe housing crisis and a health service failing spectacularly, migrants became a handy scapegoat for some people and a useful target for fascists.

Some of the migrant communities in Ireland were represented among the anti-fascists but apart from a sprinkling of black faces, were not so easy to identify. A Catalan estelada (yes, another one) revealed a small group of Catalans representing CDR Dublin and a representative of Asamblea Nacional de Catalunya Ireland also spoke from the PA system earlier in the day. Some Spanish were in evidence and a Basque Antifascist flag could also be seen but undoubtedly the largest migrant antifascist contingent was Italian. Many of these were supporters of the Sardine movement against Italian right-wing populist politician Salvini and which welcomes migrants. Perhaps a hundred strong, they sang antifascist songs, including of course the Bella Ciao and made speeches in Italian and in English.

Section of the Italian ‘Sardine’ movement supporters.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

THE FUTURE?

          As increasingly around the world governments become more right-wing and fascist organisations mobilise, anti-fascists need to organise too. The thesis that fascism is capitalism in crisis seems well-proven which means that antifascists should not nor cannot rely on the forces of the capitalist State to prevent the growth of fascism or to protect the social and ethnic groups targeted by fascists and racists.

Although the Catholic Church in Ireland no longer has the power it had in the Irish state since its creation in the 1920s and the fascists cannot rely on its heavy backing as in the 1930s, there is no room for complacency in Ireland or anywhere else.

Mobilisation against the fascists and racists to deny them public spaces from which to recruit and to organise is essential. And a broad anti-fascist and ant-racist unity in action needs to be built, similar to what was seen yesterday although within that broad movement there also needs to be struggle against liberal ideology. But one cannot combat sickness purely by countering infection – care needs to be given to cultivation of a healthy body too. The Ireland body is sick: sick from cultural and physical colonialism, sick from territorial partition, from racist Loyalism and native gombeenism, from underdeveloped economy and plundered resources, from housing and health crises. While these remain unresolved we can expect at least sporadic outbreaks of fascist and racist infection and quite possibly an epidemic. It is not only in the struggle against fascism that unity is needed.

end

POSTSCRIPT

          From information either not available to me or unconfirmed at the time, the blue-and-white Starry Plough which had been used to provoke anti-fascists was actually seized by the latter in the scrimmage.  There was apparently another, which was allegedly seized by Republicans after the right-wingers had left for which two men were arrested and handcuffed.

According to reports, one of the right-wing women attempted to kick one of the arrested men while he was handcuffed and she was also arrested.

“ARE YOU IRISH?”

(reading time: one minute)

Diarmuid Breatnach

Service Counter Customer

          That’s how the brief conversation started, with the elderly woman in front of me in the queue for a service desk asking me that question.

“Yes,” I replied, thinking she might be from abroad and looking for information of some sort.

She wasn’t from abroad and she wasn’t looking for information but was seeking my solidarity with her viewpoint.

“These fucking foreigners,” she began and I didn’t hear the rest because I interrupted her.

“I don’t want to hear anything more about ‘these fucking foreigners’. Thousands, no millions of Irish people have been ‘fucking foreigners’ in other countries around the world and I don’t have any problem with migrants coming here.”

“You don’t?” (looking at me aggressively).

“No.”

“I know what I’m talking about,” she says.

“So do I. I’ve been a ‘fucking foreigner’ myself for decades.”

“You must have your head up your arse.”

“If you continue insulting me, madam, I will call security and have you removed. So if I were you, I’d button it.” (miming zipping mouth shut).

Eyeball to eyeball confrontation continues in silence for a few minutes before she turns to her companion and begins muttering to him. He might be her son and he appears emotionally challenged, his head bowed. He doesn’t seem to have a choice about whether to listen to her or not.

One service attendant, who is white and sounds Irish, is dealing with a couple who might be migrants; the other attendant is black and he is dealing with an elderly white woman. He is answering her questions and explaining things without any sign of impatience or condescension – possibly about a deal. I’m a little ashamed to admit it but I wish he’d hurry up.

The couple with the other attendant seem satisfied, shake hands with him and leave. The racist lady in front of me moves into place and begins to talk to the white, maybe Irish attendant.

I don’t hear what she is saying – she has her back to me – but I can hear snatches of what he is replying: “No madam ….. the company employs all different nationalities ….. No ….. No, Madam, sorry about that …. No, that’s how it is, madam ….. sorry about that …. There’s another service station of our company at xxxxxx, you might wish to try there. Yes, goodbye now.”

I move up to the desk and tell the Irish attendant my experience with the racist woman (the other attendant is now dealing with someone else) and he explains that at first, she had been next to be served by the black attendant but had refused, insisting on her “right” to be served by an Irish person – and had rejoined the queue to do so!

Meanwhile, the Irish attendant was telephoning their service shop at xxxxxx to warn them the racist was on the way, explaining briefly what her problem with the service was and, when I chipped in, that she had been insulting another customer. Then he sorted out what I needed done, we shook hands and I left.

Maybe I handled it wrongly. Maybe this is what I should have said:

“Yes, madam, I am Irish and no, I don’t wish to hear your unkind from a humanitarian aspect, as well as scientifically, statistically and financially incorrect statements emanating from a prejudiced outlook you have acquired by some strange process and with which you might make many people unhappy, were you ever to get some power but which instead are much more likely to make you deeply unhappy for what remains of your sad life.”

End.

SOLIDARITY RALLIES – REFUGEES, ASYLUM SEEKERS AND THE SUDANESE

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Less than 5 minutes reading time)

A number of solidarity demonstrations took place in Dublin City centre last week.

On the evening of 20th June, officially World Refugee Day, a rally calling for the closure of the Direct Provision Centres and to Stop Deportations was held outside the Dáil (Irish Parliament). A number of speakers, some of them refugees and asylum seekers, addressed the crowd. However, the amplification was so weak that only those very near them could hear what they said.

Demonstrators against the Direct Provision system and against deportations outside the Irish Parliament, the Dáil.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Explanatory text from the organisers: “Despite the number of displaced people increasing year-on-year, the amount of people permitted to seek asylum in Europe has fallen by 10% since 2017. Thousands are forced to climb razor wire fences and entrust their lives to people smugglers as governments continue to close their doors. Accounts of overcrowded camps, lack of sanitation, and torture at the hands of police and militia groups from those who do manage to enter are growing more frequent.

In Ireland, asylum seekers are forced to wait for years in privatised, isolated centres as the Department of Justice & Equality comes up with reasons to reject and deport them, where they are treated as cargo to be shipped ‘back to where they came from’.

Section of the crowd supporting the rally outside the Dáil, the Irish Parliament.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)


Mobilisation against direct provision — introduced as a ‘temporary solution’ in 2000 — has increased in recent years yet significant moves by our representatives to abolish it remain to be seen. Our newly elected MEPs similarly show little interest in confronting the EU’s dehumanising regulations.

Join us as we demand action. For an end to direct provision and deportations. For freedom of movement for all and an end to Fortress Europe.”

Another section of the crowd supporting the rally against the Direct Provision centres and against deportations, under a heavy rain shower.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Though a number of supporting organisations were listed — STUDENTS AGAINST DIRECT PROVISION, MOVEMENT OF ASYLUM SEEKERS IN IRELAND, MIGRANTS AND ETHNIC MINORITIES FOR REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE, REFUGEE AND MIGRANT SOLIDARITY IRELAND, SAY NO TO DIRECT PROVISION IN IRELAND, UNION OF STUDENTS IN IRELAND it seemed as though the core organisers were from the People Before Profit organisation.

The supporters were subjected to a number of very heavy rain showers but most remained until the scheduled end of the event.

On Saturday afternoon, 22nd June, a rally in support of the Sudanese people was held on the central pedestrian reservation in O’Connell Street, Dublin city’s main street. They too were addressed by a number of speakers but it was not always possible to hear who they were or all that they had to say.

View of section of the crowd at the Sudanes solidarity rally in O’Connell Street.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

According to aid NGO, Concer, “Over 46.5% of the Republic of Sudan’s population is living below the poverty line and 5.5 million are in need of humanitarian assistance.” A war has been raging there since 2013 in which an estimated 400,000 people are estimated to have died.

According to Wikipedia: “More than 4 million people have been displaced, with about 1.8 million internally displaced and about 2.5 million having fled to neighboring countries, especially Kenya, Sudan, and Uganda. This makes it the world’s third-largest refugee population after Syria and Afghanistan. About 86% of the refugees are women and children.”

A view of another section of the Sudanese solidarity rally (Photo: D.Breatnach)

The core organisers of this event seemed to be a youth group of the Socialist Party although it also appeared that the Sudanese community had organised to support it through their own networks.

end.

 

One of the speakers at the Sudanese solidarity event (Photo: D.Breatnach)