Eamon McGrath (31 October 1955 – 11 January 1923) singer and song lyrics-writer, activist in areas of housing, water and national sovereignty, historical memory and anti-fascism.
He was getting buried on Saturday and I wasn’t able to be at the service nor at the celebration of his life with comrades afterwards.
I hope this eulogy, if that’s the right word for this, will make up for my absence to his family, comrades and friends and, of course, to me.
Eamon came into my life through the Moore Street occupation in January of 2016. The property speculator Joe O’Reilly (Chartered Land) and the State were about to collude in the demolition of three buildings in the 1916 Terrace.
The State had declared only four buildings in the 16-building terrace, after a long struggle, to be a historical monument and even later, purchased – but around 300 men and women hadn’t occupied just four buildings in 1916.
The Save Moore Street From Demolition campaign group had called emergency demonstrations on to the street following which the buildings had been occupied by protesting conservationists.
The weather was bitterly cold but the occupiers held firm for a week until a stay of demolition had been imposed by the High Court. Despite his health status and challenged mobility, Eamon was there throughout, with humour and song.
Subsequently, to prevent internal damage by contractors, a six-weeks’ blockade was imposed on the building by conservationists from 6.30am to 4.30pm each weekday. Eamon was very much a part of that too, driving himself and his close comrade Sean Doyle up from Wicklow every day.
Eamon was intensely loyal to close friends and comrades. On occasion I found him prickly or grumpy (especially at 6.30 am) but throughout any disagreements he never lost sight of who were his comrades and other people he respected.
Though a proud man, when he recognised himself in error, he didn’t hesitate to apologise.
A new broader group came out of the occupation and blockade, called Save Moore Street 2016 and Eamon attended and contributed to internal organising meetings and events we called on to the street – re-enactments, fake funerals of history, pickets, demonstrations and rallies.
As others drifted or were called away from the group by other commitments, Eamon remained with the active core.
Of course, Eamon had been active before 2016: certainly very much so in the general awareness-raising and mass campaign against planned privatisation of our water and the installation of water meters.
He was to continue that activism, which resulted in assaults by a water contractor on him and Seán Doyle, court appearances for both and in May 2016 both of them went to jail for a period but remained unbowed.
Eamon was one of the original occupiers of Apollo House in December 2016 in protest against homelessness and as a co-founder of the Anti Eviction Flying Column, Eamon was to the fore in resisting evictions across the country and also a co-founder of the Bring It to Their Doors campaign.
The State authorities were making things awkward for Eamon by then, both in terms of working as a taxi driver and claiming benefit when he was not. His ability to reach events in Dublin declined but he still got there often enough on public transport, while remaining active nearer to home.
As his physical mobility declined further, comrades in Carlow started an on-line collection to buy him an electric wheelchair. Even as I made enquiries to contribute, the fund had already reached its target, so quickly did people support it.
Later still, his family installed a new chairlift for his home so he could access the room where he recorded his songs with lyrics commenting on the ongoing political struggles, adapted to popular airs.
Though our voices didn’t go well together, we sang together a couple of times – outside the GPO and outside Dublin City Hall.
He remained active on social media but in particular in keeping an eye on the activities of right-wing people, covid-deniers, racists, fascists …. Eamon was a handy source for a quick update on the status of many of them.
Eamon arranged an interview for us both with the Dublin Near FM radio station, the interviewer being then a former drug addict who sadly returned later to his addiction and died on the street. It was on the way back from the interview that Eamon told me a little about his earlier years.
He had a difficult time in his childhood, including institutional confinement and his formal education suffered as a result. However, he educated himself about many things by reading, listening, discussing and viewing on line.
I think the last time I saw Eamon was at a commemoration at the Peter Daly monument in Wexford inSeptember 2022, in his electric wheelchair and attached oxygen cylinder for his lung condition and all in good cheer, asking me for Moore Street campaign updates in detail.
His comrades in Anti-Imperialist Action Ireland, which he had joined at its foundation in 2017 correctly called him “one ot the most dedicated political activists of the last decade” and no-one who knew him could argue with that.
I knew little of Eamon’s family life but he often emphasised how important family was, not just to him but in general. Though I do not know them tá mé i gcomhbhrón leo, offering them my condolences along with the many they have received and are no doubt still arriving.
A partner, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, extended family member and friend to many.
Eamon McGrath of Kenmare Heights, Greystones & formerly Wolfe Tone Square, Bray, Co. Wicklow, was buried in Radford Cemetery, Greystones Saturday after a service in the Holy Rosary Church, Bray, attended by family, comrades and friends.
Despite complaining of stomach pain, political prisoner and rapper Pablo Hasel waited over a year for a medical examination, according to excerpts of a letter of his being shared on social media, in which he complains of medical neglect.
Hasel, a Catalan marxist, was jailed for the content of videos in which he denounced the Spanish State, its history and its former King. He was also convicted of a physical attack with others on Spanish fascists.
In the past the rapper has also created a video rap in which he celebrated Irish resistance to English colonialism and promoted the IRA. Hasel’s description of the former King as a criminal has been largely vindicated by what is known publicly.
Hasel views his ongoing medical neglect, despite frequent complaints of stomach pains, as additional punishment by the system. Although according to public penal policy the deprivation of liberty is the full content of sentence, to that is being added humiliation and neglect, he says.
The rapper had to refuse a scheduled colonoscopy because the Mossos d’Escuadra, Catalan regional police, insisted they would have to be present in the room with him while he was naked with a tube inserted into his rectum and during which although sedated he would be handcuffed.
Indeed, though serious enough, deprivation of liberty is rarely the only content of penal punishment. For political prisoners in particular, humiliation, as in strip searches is a frequent attendant, as also can be violence by guards or by social prisoners.
Other frustrations are known too as solitary confinement, harassment, refusing access to educational or creative opportunities or materials, blocking visits by family and friends, harassing the visitors themselves, even deliberate dispersal to prisons located far from their social environment.
Medical neglect can have consequences beyond worry for the prisoner and their friends and family but can also be the cause of pain, discomfort and even early death. Hasel says that he is “being treated worse than rapists or paedophiles.”
Political prisoners often endure these privations silently in the knowledge of the intentions of their tormentors and of the reality of their powerlessness as prisoners of the State. However, resistance against the conditions in prison is also a well-documented part of revolutionary struggle.
In solidarity with political prisoners, those on the outside disseminate information about the prisoners’ conditions, organise pickets and demonstrations, write to or visit prisoners. Complaining to the responsible authorities is also another avenue, informing them that they are under scrutiny.
When prisoners concerned are within the administration of another state, it can sometimes be effective to register a complaint with the embassy of the relevant state. Embassies are obliged to inform their state of concerns about their government raised in the state where they are located.
Good news from the Free Pablo Hasel Facebook page in Catalan but translation here:
👋 Good news! 🗣 Pablo Hasél, will have a visit from a specialist on January 23, respecting his right to privacy. We achieved it with the pressure in the streets. We will have to be alert so that Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya does not violate any rights again ❗ 🔥 Thanks to all the supporters, like Plataforma Antirepressiva de Barcelona, for making it possible ❗ 💥 Today as yesterday, solidarity is our best weapon ❗
NB: ERC, the Esquerra Republicana (Republican Left) de Catalunya party is currently in power in the Government of the Catalunya autonomous region of the Spanish State.
Spanish Embassy in Ireland, 17A Merlyn Park, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4 Ireland
(+353) 1 269 1640 / 2597 (+353) 1 283 9900
(+353) 1 269 1854
Writing to Pablo Hasel: Pablo Hasel, Centre Penitenciari Ponent, Módul 7, Victoria Kent, s/n 25071, Lleida, Catalunya, Spanish State.
The founding of the Irish Citizen Army, the first workers’ army in the world1, was commemorated in Dublin at the site of Wolfe Tone monument in Stephens Greeen, in song and speech on 23rd November 2022.
Organised by the Connolly Youth Movement, the other participating organisations represented were the Irish Communist Party, Independent Workers Union, Lasair Dhearg2 and Welsh Socialist Republican Solidarity (Ireland) – the Irish branch of the Welsh Underground Network.
In addition, a number of independent activists were also present.
THE IRISH CITIZEN ARMY
The Irish Citizen Army was founded on 23rd November 1913 on a call from Jim Larkin and James Connolly, both leading the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union in its titanic struggle against the federation of Dublin Employers’ plan to break and disperse the union.
The call for the formation of the ICA arose due to the attacks of the Dublin Metropolitan Police on the workers and their supporters; already in August 1913 the DMP had killed two workers by truncheon blows and injured many, including a youth who would die later as a result.
The ICA’s initial organiser was the writer and dramatist Seán O’Casey, later succeeded by Boer War veteran Jack White.3 In addition to requiring its recruits to be union members, the ICA enrolled women as well as men and some of the former were officers commanding both genders4.
While the ITGWU was defeated in the eight months of the Lockout, it was not smashed and came back stronger in a relatively short period. The ICA faded away then but was reorganised over following years and approximately 120 took part as a unit in the 1916 Rising, alongside other units.5
SPEECHES AND SONG
A small crowd had gathered at the advertised location, the Wolfe Tone Monument in Stephen’s Green and the chairperson of the event called people to order.
Diarmuid Breatnach, an independent activist, was asked to sing one of Connolly’s compositions, ironically titled Be Moderate, often referred to instead by its refrain, “We only Want the Earth”.
An older man with a Dublin accent, Breatnach told his audience that Connolly published the lyrics in New York in 1907, going on to sing the five verses to the air of Thomas Davis’ A Nation Once Again6, using the chorus part to repeat the refrain that “ … we only want the Earth!”7
A representative of the Independent Workers’ Union, a young man with an Ulster accent, spoke about the need for workers to have a trade union and for that union not to align itself with employers or with the State.
In order to truly represent the interests of the workers, the union needs to be independent, he maintained and also democratic in its decision-making.
In conclusion, the speaker said that the IWU is the union that is needed and called on people present to join it and to support it.
“MAKE THE VISION A REALITY”
Amy Margaret, a young woman, also with an Ulster accent, delivered a speech on behalf of the organisers of the event, the Connolly Youth Movement.
“The Citizen Army was a direct response to the brutality carried out by the RIC and Dublin Metropolitan Police during the Dublin Lockout” she said; “the police killed two workers, injured hundreds more with baton charges, and frequently ransacked the tenements where strikers lived.”
“The Citizen Army fought back with some succes” she continued “and as one pointed out, a hurley has a longer reach than a baton. It was in the Citizen Army that the working-class stood up to the RIC and employers,” she continued.
“The same RIC that torched farmer’s homes during the Land war, the same employers who often owned the slums where workers lived; it was here at Stephen’s Green (and elsewhere in the city) that the Citizen Army stood up to the British Empire, alongside comrades in the Irish Volunteers.”
She told her audience that when, during a dockers’ strike in 1915, scabs were imported and police harassed picketers, Connolly sent a squad of the ICA with fixed bayonets to the scene, resulting in the dispute’s resolution with “a considerable increase in wages to the dockers concerned”.
“The Citizen Army was not simply workers armed with guns,” the speaker said, “but also armed with culture” and referred to weekly concerts in Liberty Hall (the ITGWU’s HQ) and to the dramatic acting history of Seán Connolly and whistle-playing of Michael Malin, both 1916 martyrs
“What the ICA stood and fought for in their own words, “… is but one ideal – an Ireland ruled and owned by Irish men and women, sovereign and independent, from the centre to the sea.”
“Connolly was clear however that such a Republic would have no place for the “rack-renting, slum-owning landlord” or the “profit-grinding capitalist”, but should rather be a “beacon-light to the oppressed of every land”.
“The most fitting tribute for the ICA then is to make that Republic a reality. To do so we must learn from the past and their examples. We can learn from them to never be cowed by the odds against us, we can learn from their comradeship to each other.
We can learn from how they combined political, economic and cultural methods to advance the cause of a worker’s republic. But more importantly we must be able to learn from their shortcomings.
After the Rising and the loss of its leadership the ICA began to devolve into a social club and whilst some members played an important role during the Tan War, the ICA was not the revolutionary workers’ army it once was.
Therefore we must build a truly mass movement – not just a committed core of activists, and we must build a movement not reliant upon key personalities so that it can function no matter what.
We all know that things must change in Ireland, and so we reaffirm the principle that the Citizen Army stood by; only the Irish working class is capable of waging the revolutionary struggle necessary to change things; not capitalists and landlords.
Helena Molony of the ICA, said, “We saw a vision of Ireland, free, pure and happy. We did not realise that vision. But we saw it.”
As the socialist-republican youth of today, we commit ourselves to make that vision a reality and to build a Republic that the men and women of the Citizen Army would gladly call their own.”
MARKIEVICZ: “RESOLUTION, COURAGE AND COMMITMENT“
Breatnach was called back to the microphone and talked about the lessons to be learned from Constance Markievicz, co-founder of Na Fianna Éireann, the Irish Citizen Army and of Cumann na mBan, born in Britain “as were a number of our national and class heroes”, he said.
“Constance was born into a settler landlord family, the Gore-Booths”, he told the audience and her experience of witnessing deprivation, along with her sister Eva, during the Great Hunger, had a strong effect on both, inclining them to social reform and they became also suffragettes.
The speaker said that in that latter aspect and as a poet Eva became well-known particularly in England but Constance was better known as a revolutionary and for her allegiance to the working class and to the Irish nation.
He reminded his listeners that Markievicz was artistic and apt to strike poses; O’Casey, founder of the ICA had been hostile to her and co-founder of Cumann na mBan and wife of Tom Clarke of the IRB, Kathleen Clarke, had found her irritating.
Breatnach said that Markievicz was 3rd in 1916 garrison command at Stephen Green and had been accused not only shooting dead there a member of the DMP but of exulting in it; however according to witness accounts she had not even been present when the officer was killed.8
A British officer at her court-martial after the surrender of the 1916 Rising had claimed that she begged for her life at the court-martial but the official British records published later gave the lie to that and her own account that she demanded equal treatment with the executed leaders rings true.
“Her life as an example,” Breatnach continued, “teaches us not to judge people only by their background or indeed by their idiosyncrasies but primarily by their resolution, courage and commitment, all of which Constance Markievicz had by the bucket-load.”
The speaker also reminded those present that the very Wolfe Tone monument beside which he stood had been blown up in a number of British Loyalist bombings of the city during the 1970s, a number of which would soon be commemorated on the December anniversary of one of them.
The Irish State had prosecuted not a single one of the perpetrators, not even for the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, with the highest death toll9 of any one day during the recent 30 Years War. Instead, they had used the 1972 bombing to pass emergency legislation to attack Irish Republicans!10
Speaking briefly as a historical memory conservation activist, primarily active in the campaign to save the Moore Street market and 1916 battleground from speculators, Breatnach remarked that it was fortunate that the area behind him was a public park.
Otherwise it would all have been a prime target for property speculators. People sometimes express surprise that Irish governments do so little to protect areas of insurrectionary history. He stated however that this was natural since it was not their history but that of the struggling people.
“The history of the Irish ruling class is of a foreign-dependent one”, Breatnach stated, “rather than that of a national bourgeoisie willing to fight for independence. The last time Ireland had such a bourgeoisie was in 1798, mostly led by descendants of settlers and planters.”
“This is why Connolly pointed out that the Irish working class are the true inheritors of the Irish struggle for freedom. National independence and socialism are two different objectives but interdependent in Ireland and for the struggles to succeed they must be led by the working class.”
Wreaths were laid on behalf of a number of organisations, including Lasair Dhearg and the chairperson thanked all for their attendance, leaving people to their various ways into the mild autumn-like afternoon.
1Clearly not the first army composed of workers, since these are the members of most armies; nor the first to fight for the workers, as did some for the Paris Commune in 18th March-28th May1871. However, the ICA was founded specifically for the defence of workers, the first in the world to be so, though its constitution was largely Irish nationalist.
2Socialist and anti-fascist Irish Republican organisation mostly represented in Belfast. The name means “Red Flame”.
3A number of Irish were veterans of the Boer War, the British against Dutch colonists in South Africa, most like White were on the British side but some fought for the Boers, to the extent of forming an Irish Brigade for the purpose. Later, a number from both groups ended up fighting alongside one another in the 1916 Rising (and no doubt against others who remained in the British Army).
5The Irish Volunteers, Cumann na mBan, Na Fianna Éireann, the Hibernian Rifles and of course the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the chief architects of the Rising, its members fighting as members of other units, chiefly the Volunteers and the Fianna (the membership of both those organisations was exclusively male though its couriers were often female but Tom Clarke’s wife, Kathleen Clarke, was the IRB’s liaison from Dublin with the sister organisation in the USA.
6James Connolly (1868-1916) did not prescribe any air for the lyrics and they have been sung to several. A Nation Once Again was composed by leading member of the Young Irelanders, Thomas Davis (1814–1845) and published in 1844, for many years considered a candidate for Irish national anthem.
7“For our demands most moderate are: we only want the Earth!”
8Breatnach also said that least two and probably three members of the DMP were killed during the Rising, each one in an area under the control of the ICA, who no doubt remembered well the force’s actions during the 1913 Lockout.
91974: 33 male and female civilians and a full-term unborn baby.
10The Amendment to the Offences Against the State Act, including the introduction of the no-jury Special Courts, essentially for trying Irish Republicans with a much lower quality of evidence required to convict, including the unsupported word of a senior Garda officer.
In atrocious weather conditions, Irish Republicans of a number of organisations and of none gathered at the Liam Mellows monument in Finglas today (Sunday 4 December 2022) to honour four Republicans executed by the Irish State in 1922.
Liam Mellows, Rory O’Conor, Joe McKelvey and Richard Barrett were all prominent IRA Volunteers during the War of Independence and rejected the Anglo-Irish Agreement to create a subservient state in a partitioned country.
The Irish State chose the four prisoners in retaliation for the assassination of Seán Hales TD, himself shot in retaliation for Free State executions of Republican prisoners. By coincidence or intent, each one of the four had been born in a different one of Ireland’s four provinces.
THE COMMEMORATION EVENT
A part of the commemoration marched with colour parties, led by lone piper, from Finglas village to the Mellows Monument.
Ado Perry chaired the event, one of a series of Irish Civil War commemorations in Dublin organised by Independent Republicans, which group also erected commemorative panels in various locations around the city, often marking the location where Free State troops killed an IRA Volunteer.
Three colour parties attended the event and a list of all the known Republican victims of the Free State was read out.
Sean Óg, accompanying himself on guitar, sang Brian Ó hUigínn’s Soldiers of ‘22 and James Ryan’s Take It Down From the Mast, two of the best-known of a very limited number of songs about the Irish Civil War. A number present joined in on the chorus of the second song:
Take it down from the mast, Irish Traitors,
It’s the flag we Republicans claim;
It can never belong to Free Staters,
For you’ve brought on it nothing but shame.
Mags Glennon gave a speech on behalf of the organisers but it was difficult to make out its content (kindly supplied since and given in full in Appendix.
The main speaker advertised for the event was John Crawley, who has found recent fame in Republican circles with the publication of his biographical book The Yank, about his enlisting with the US Marine Corps and attempting to pass on his military skills to the Provisional IRA.
It was a shame that the volume of the PA was only turned up at around the last quarter or so of his speech. Despite the limited audibility of most of it, the attendance endured the rain and stood there in good order1.
Ado Perry thanked speakers and musicians for participation and all for attendance, making special mention of the colour parties. He announced that the event commemorative event would be at Kilmainham Jail early in January.
A lone piper played a lament and swung into the national anthem, Amhrán na bhFiann. Representatives of the National Graves Association addressed the crowd briefly before the event finally concluded and the wet and the weary headed home or to a warm pub or restaurant.
A local resident assured us that the sun does sometimes shine in Finglas. I assured him I believed him as I had seen some photographs to verify it.
The weather really was atrocious, raining almost non-stop and on one occasion during the event, lashing down heavily upon the gathering. One had to feel sympathy for the men and women of the three colour parties, who had to endure the downpour without the shelter of even an umbrella.
Indeed this reporter felt the need to break his bicycle journey away from the event for a bowl of hot soup in a nice eatery across the motorway bridge in Finglas village, before pushing on to my destination in the Glasnevin area.
BACKGROUND: THE FREE STATE
The State that came into existence in 1922 was a creation of those forces that accepted Dominion status within the British Commonwealth instead of an Irish Republic, accepting also the partition of Ireland for the first time with six counties becoming a British colony.
While the pro-Treaty position had a majority of votes in the Irish parliament, a large part of the civilian population and the vast majority of the fighters (Irish Volunteers, Cumann na mBan, Na Fianna) rejected the Treaty and their representation left the Government in protest.
Although Anti-Treaty forces had occupied the Four Courts in Dublin, the Civil War was started by the Free State military, shelling the Republican occupants with artillery on loan from the British military and going on to use British transport and weapons to defeat the Republicans.
Rory O’Connor, Joe McKelvey, Richard Barrett and Liam Mellows were already in jail when Seán Hales was killed and could not be considered guilty by any stretch of causality; nevertheless they were executed on 9th December 1922.
From Century Ireland:
In a statement issued by the National Army’s General Headquarters, the latest round of executions are explained as a ‘reprisal for the assassination…. of Brigadier Sean Hales, TD, and as a solemn warning to those associated with them who are engaged in a conspiracy of assassination against the representatives of the Irish people.’
The executions took place at 9.20 am. The prisoners were marched blindfolded to the rear of the Mountjoy Prison buildings with three clergymen in attendance. They were shot by firing squad and their bodies were subsequently interred within the grounds of the prison.
Commenting on these developments, the Irish Times has editorialised that the ‘Free State Government has committed itself to an act of ‘reprisal’ which eclipses in sudden and tragic severity the sternest measures of the British Crown during the conflict with Sinn Féin.’
The first executions carried out by the Free State took place on 17 November 1922, and then continued a week later with that of Erskine Childers.
On the last day of November, the number of those executed increased to eight when three Dubliners – Joseph Spooner (21), Patrick Farrelly (21), John Murphy (19) – were killed at Beggars Bush Barracks.
The three men were captured on 30 October after an attempt was made to blow up Oriel House, the headquarters of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID)2.
Following the deaths of Spooner, Farrelly and Murphy, the leader of the Labour Party, Thomas Johnston, called for an end to executions as a method of punishment. Mr Johnston, speaking in the Dáil on 30 November, stated:
‘We have been told pretty frequently during the last few weeks that it is the intention of the ministry to re-establish the reign of law, and we were told yesterday, as we have been told frequently, that unless this kind of thing is done anarchy will prevail. I want to make the charge that this kind of trial, this kind of sentence, is, in fact, anarchy. It is not law. It is anarchy- lynch law once removed.’
By the time the Civil War ended, the Free State had formally executed around 80 Irish Republicans (many more than had the British occupation 1916-1921) and at least another 20 killed as surrendered fighters or kidnapped, sometimes tortured, then taken somewhere and shot.
Post-Civil War, the class nature of the State became even clearer: led by a foreign-dependent capitalist class, handing over healthcare and education to the Catholic Church, upon the institutions of which it leaned heavily for social control of the masses.
The foreign dependency was at first on the British who helped create the State but subsequently first the USA and then the EU have been added to the list of economic masters. This is the inheritance of the Anglo-Irish Agreement and of the victory of the Free State in the Civil War.
APPENDIX (reading time approx 11 minutes):
SPEECH BY MAGS GLENNON FOR INDEPENDENT REPUBLICANS GROUP
Today we gather to remember and honour Liam Mellows, Rory O’Connor, Joe McKelvey and Dick Barrett, four dedicated volunteers who were executed without even the pretence of a trial by a Free State regime bent on revenge and determined to use any methods to defeat the principles and spirit of Irish Republicanism.
In this case the brutal elimination not just of key IRA military leaders but also the articulate political voices who could expose the betrayal of the revolutionary republican ideals by the Free State.
As the Civil War grew increasingly bitter in the autumn of 1922 the Free State implemented the Public Order Act, allowing for summary execution from anyone caught in possession of weapons. Kevin O Higgins stated that “what was needed to put down the Irregulars were more local executions, and we should just kill them anyway”.
It is important to recognize the context in which these four brave men met their deaths. They were murdered to ensure the supremacy of the Free State elite who felt it was their right to betray the principles of the 1916 Rising and the Democratic Programme of the 1st Dail.
The prosperous catholic and moderate nationalist class had seen their Home Rule party practically eliminated in the 1919 election. Mass campaigns against conscription, transport strikes against British militarism as well as sporadic strikes and workers Soviet revolts worried what Mellows called ‘the state in the country people’.
The political interests of the prosperous middle class catholic merchants, professionals and big farmers were well served by acceptance of the British Treaty, which would ensure they held social, economic and political power in the new Free State. They cared not for partition or royal oaths as they had achieved their Home Rule.
The Free State elite saw the role of working people, many of whom had been at the forefront of the war, was to retreat once more to the slums and to obey their masters.
The democratic and egalitarian basis of a Republicanism expressed in the founding documents of the struggle promised a radical and democratic future, appealing in particular to working people in Dublin who had been fighting since the Lockout of 1913.
WT Cosgrave famously described the urban and rural poor as the ‘sweepings of the workhouses’ and desired that they emigrate as quickly as possible. The original Sinn Fein of Arthur Griffith had supported the employers in 1913 but piggy backed to prominence on the back of the 1916 Rising.
The elimination of men like Mellows – Brugha and Childers were already dead – was to ensure the political head was cut off the Republican movement.
The execution of military commanders like O Connor, Barrett and McKelvey was to send a message to all provinces that the IRA rank and file would suffer similar deaths to their commanding officers.
The terror Dublin had suffered in 1922 was intensified across the south in 1923 with dozens of young volunteers (many just boys) disappeared, tortured, shot at roadsides and dumped behind ditches. Yet Fine Gael still today parrots rubbish about republican ‘violence’, to cover up the savage war crimes on which they built their Free State.
We must all openly question the narrative being put forward by the Free State establishment today, completely ignoring the centenary of the Civil War. Remembering the deaths and honouring the lives of the republican volunteers has been carried out by their families and small local Commemoration groups.
Any further publicity would reveal the betrayal of the democratic and revolutionary principles of Republicanism which the Free State attempted to wipe out in the Civil War. We must rededicate ourselves to the revolutionary, internationalist and anti-imperialist traditions of Irish Republicanism.
As we work to advance these ideas in our communities, we must reject the conservative and xenophobic brands of nationalism, whether orange or green, that seek to deflect the blame for our social and economic problems away from the establishment figures benefiting from and promoting such conflict.
We remember today the sacrifice made 100 years ago by Liam Mellows, Rory O Connor, Joe McKelvey and Dick Barrett. May they rest in peace and their ideas and example form the basis of a strong, principled and united Irish Republicanism into the future. Beir Bua!
SPEECH BY JOHN CRAWLEY, MAIN SPEAKER AT EVENT
At 3:30 am on Friday, the 8th of December 1922, IRA volunteers Liam Mellows, Rory O’Connor, Dick Barrett, and Joe McKelvey were informed they were to be summarily executed by the Free State government in retaliation for the killing of Sean Hales, the previous day.
Hales had voted for the ‘Murder Bill’ permitting the execution of those bearing arms in defence of the Irish Republic.
The Free State made great play of the fact Hales was a T.D. even though the first T.D. slain in the Civil War had been shot by Free Staters when they killed Cathal Brugha, who presided over the first meeting of Dáil hÉireann in January 1919 and had served as Minister for Defence. Free Staters had murdered Harry Boland T.D. in August, and of course, Liam Mellows was a T.D.
Captured as part of the Four Courts garrison the previous June, these four IRA volunteers had been in prison since then. They held no responsibility for IRA operations on the outside.
Those Free Staters who hadn’t the resolve to stand by the Republic demonstrated vicious zeal in proving to the British they had the cruelty to murder those who did.
They attempted to justify these killings by claiming they were implementing the will of the Irish people who approved the Anglo-Irish Treaty under Britain’s threat of immediate and terrible war if it were not ratified.
But it was not the will of the Irish people that led to the bombardment of the Four Courts the previous June with artillery provided by the British army. It was the will of British Prime Minister Lloyd George and Winston Churchill.
The firing squad that shot Rory, Liam, Dick, and Joe that cold December morning was manned by Irishmen who had all served in the British army. They carried rifles and wore uniforms supplied by the British government.
The Free State government called its armed wing the National Army, but it was no national army.
It was an exclusively 26-County force set up under Article 8 of the Anglo-Irish Treaty to fight the only war they ever engaged in – the war to overthrow the Irish Republic. Had it been a national army, the British government would never have permitted it to exist.
Bernard Law Montgomery, who became a Field Marshall during the Second World War and had commanded British forces in Cork during the Irish civil war, wrote in 1923:
‘We [the British Army] could probably have squashed the [IRA 1919-21] rebellion as a temporary measure, but it would have broken out again like an ulcer the moment we removed the troops…
The only way, therefore, was to give them [the Irish] some form of self-government and let them squash the rebellion themselves; they are the only people who could really stamp it out, and they are still trying to do so and as far as one can tell they seem to be having a fair amount of success.’
By May 1923, the Free State Army would have 58,000 men who were armed, equipped, and uniformed by the British government.
Of this number, more than 30,000 were Irishmen who were former British soldiers, approximately 3,000 were IRA deserters who had defected from the Republic, and the remaining 25,000 had no prior experience on either side.
James Connolly had written in 1915, ‘When a foreign invader plants himself in a country which he holds by military force his only hope of retaining his grasp is either that he wins the loyalty of the natives, or if he fails to do so that he corrupts enough of them to enable him to disorganise and dishearten the remainder…The chief method of corruption is by an appeal to self-interest.
The self-interest of the Free Staters lay in the opportunity to achieve managerial control of a state with the pay, pensions, patronage, and prestige that went with it. A state whose parameters had been determined by a Tory-dominated cabinet committee that consulted nobody in Ireland except unionists.
Contrary to what partitionist propagandists would have us believe, the Treaty was not the result of a decision that had to be taken for pragmatic reasons in the face of overwhelming odds that any rational person in Ireland could recognise and accept.
Nor was the Dáil split down the middle. The Treaty passed by only seven votes in January 1922. Had the vote been taken before the Christmas recess, as many had expected, the Treaty would almost certainly have been rejected.
Unfortunately, the Christmas break gave powerful pro-Treaty interests like the Catholic Church, big farmers, big business, and an assortment of gombeen men the opportunity to wear down the resolve of a number of T.D.s.
Liam Mellows presided over an IRA convention held in the Mansion House in Dublin in March 1922. The IRA voted more than 80% against the Treaty and passed a resolution declaring, ‘That the Army reaffirms its allegiance to the Irish Republic…’
Cumann na mBan voted overwhelmingly against the Treaty by 419 votes to 63, and the vast majority of the active IRA units in the field also rejected it.
In a letter to his mother written shortly before his execution, Liam Mellows declared, ‘I die for the truth.
That truth was spoken by James Connolly at his court martial in 1916 when he said, ‘The British Government has no right in Ireland, never had any right in Ireland, and never can have any right in Ireland . . .’
That truth was also spoken by Pádraig Pearse while inspecting Irish Volunteers at Vinegar Hill in Wexford in the early autumn of 1915 when he said, ‘We, the Volunteers, are formed here not for half of Ireland, not to give the British Garrison control of part of Ireland. No! We are here for the whole of Ireland.’
As has been shown so many times in Irish history and is being demonstrated today in a different context, in a revolutionary struggle, the choice one often confronts is whether to do what counts or to make what you can do count.
To do what mattered proved too daunting for many Free Staters, so they made the Treaty count, saved their skins, opened career paths, and shifted the goalposts from the 32-County Irish Republic to a 26-County Dominion of the British Empire moulded by British strategic interests.
In 1948 Fine Gael Taoiseach John A. Costello declared that the Irish Free State would become the Republic of Ireland – a republic that would tell the world Ireland is Ireland without the Six Counties.
In the future, when any Dublin politician would proudly assert, ‘I stand by the Republic,’ they were referring exclusively to the twenty-six-county Republic of Ireland announced by this former Blueshirt in 1948, not the thirty-two-county Irish Republic proclaimed in 1916 and ratified by the First Dáil in 1919.
Again today, Britain is attempting to shape the political environment to suit its strategic interests. Just as in Liam Mellows day, former comrades who swore they would lead us to the Republic are leading us in the opposite direction.
All talk of the Republic is now gone because the Republic was never on the negotiating table in 1998. We no longer hear Ireland referred to as our country but as this island. Our country is one nation. This island has two.
Great play is made about the potential of a united Ireland as outlined in the Good Friday Agreement. We had a united Ireland during the Famine. We had a united Ireland when the Republic was proclaimed in 1916. We had a united Ireland when the United Irishmen was formed in 1791.
So what did the 28 Protestants who founded the Irish republican movement mean by a United Ireland? Not territorial unity, which already existed, but the only unity that matters and the unity the British would never countenance – a unity of Irish citizens across the sectarian divide.
The united Ireland defined by the Good Friday Agreement is not a republic. It envisions a polity where the sectarian dynamic remains intact and the cleavage in national loyalties between Ireland and Britain is constitutionally enshrined.
Consequently, many supporters of this strategy propose a continuing and symbolic role for the British royal family as an institutional point of reference for the loyalties of those who would prefer to see themselves as a civic outpost of Britain rather than as equal citizens of a national democracy within an all-Ireland republic.
Debates and discussions are taking place on changing the Irish national flag, discarding the Irish national anthem, and re-joining the British Commonwealth. Instead of breaking the connection with England, we are being relentlessly conditioned into becoming more closely incorporated into a British sphere of influence on a national level.
When former comrades meet and greet British royalty in Ireland, they are sending out an unambiguous message that Ireland is not one nation but two. That Britain has legitimacy in Ireland and a role to play in influencing the political trajectory of our country.
Our goal as IRA volunteers was to break the connection with England. Not to convince the rest of Ireland to re-join the British Commonwealth.
There are many happy clappy euphemisms being employed to describe the Ireland of the future. A shared island, an agreed Ireland, and a new Ireland. Who in their right mind could be against the concept of sharing and new and agreed arrangements?
When we drill down into it, however, we see the trap being laid for us by the British government. A shared island means we share in Britain’s analysis of the nature of the conflict, we share in the colonial legacy of sectarian apartheid, and we share in the imperial project of divide and rule.
We do this by recognising Ulster unionists as the British presence in Ireland with the right to have their Britishness enshrined in law. Republicans know that unionists are pro-British, but we do not accept they are the British presence.
The British presence is the presence of Britain’s jurisdictional claim to Ireland and the civil and military apparatus that gives that effect. England invaded Ireland hundreds of years before the plantation of Ulster. They claimed sovereignty here long before a single unionist set foot on Irish soil. What was their excuse, then?
An agreed Ireland has come to mean the two traditions agreeing to disagree in peace and harmony about the constitutional source of Irish sovereignty and the legitimacy and extent of British influence in constraining Irish democracy.
A muddled and subversive belief that the conquest and colonisation of Ireland share reciprocal legitimacy with its struggle for independence.
The new Ireland we are being asked to work towards is not new. It is predicated on all the old divisions. Divisions that Britain nurtured to retain the sectarian dynamic and resultant cleavage in national loyalties as this policy of divide and rule is the key to their control in Ireland.
It is designed to prevent us from developing the national cohesion required to achieve a 32-County republic. To make us permanently susceptible to British influence and manipulation.
During the Dáil debates on the Anglo-Irish Treaty, a persistent theme was that a pro-treaty vote was a vote for peace, with the resulting implication that those who stood firmly for the Republic were out for war. Liam Mellows replied:
‘If peace was the only object, why, I say, was this fight ever started? Why did we ever negotiate for what we are now told is impossible?
Why should men have ever been led on the road they travelled if peace was the only object? We could have had peace and could have been peaceful in Ireland a long time ago if we were prepared to give up the ideal for which we fought…’
Today those who stand resolutely for the Republic are accused of being against the peace process. Few republicans are against peace, but many are rightly critical of a process that cannot lead to the republican goals for which countless patriots sacrificed their lives.
A united Ireland rooted in British/Irish identity politics cannot be a republic. That is why the British government is all over this. It is their best opportunity to retain maximum influence in Ireland with a minimum footprint when the demographics eventually prove incontestable.
No one has been preparing more diligently to shape the strategic architecture of a future united Ireland than the British government.
One hundred years ago this week, Liam Mellows, Rory O’Connor, Dick Barrett, and Joe McKelvey were dragged from their cells and murdered in cold blood because they stood for what weaker and more personally ambitious Irishmen could not summon the courage to defend any longer.
We honour them today. We remember with pride all Ireland’s patriots from their day to this who never forgot who they were or what they represented.
Long Live the Irish Republic!
1Thanks to Independent Republicans for posting a copy of his speech and that by Mags Glennon on their behalves.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 Brigada – International 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.
(Edited from a longer in-depth piece published in 2014 and divided into parts).
(Reading time main text: 8 mins.)
The dominant class in the UK and in some of the British Commonwealth will shortly be calling people to join in a cultural festival which they call “Remembrance” – but that’s not at all what it’s really about.
The organisation fronting this festival in the ‘UK’ is the Royal British Legion and their symbol for it (and registered trademark) is the Red Poppy, paper or fabric representations of which people are encouraged to buy and wear.
And in some places, such as the BBC for personnel in front of the camera, or civil servants in public, or sports people representing the UK, forced or bullied into wearing.1
In many schools and churches throughout the ‘UK’, Poppies are sold and wreaths are laid at monuments to the dead soldiers in many different places. The pressure to wear and display one of the symbols is intense and public figures declining to do so are metaphorically pilloried2.
Prominent individuals, politicians and the media take part in a campaign to encourage the wearing of the Poppy and observance of the day of remembrance generally and for a decade now, to extend the Festival for a yet longer period.
This alleged “Festival of Remembrance” includes concerts at the Royal Albert Hall and the military and veterans’ parades to the Cenotaph memorial in Whitehall, London, on “Remembrance Sunday”.
The Royal Albert Hall concert is replete with military uniforms, British Royals’ presence and “Poppy” symbols everywhere. The big Saturday evening concert starts and ends with the UK state’s anthem, God Save the Queen/ King played by military bands.
Tickets for the big event are restricted to members of the Legion and their families, and senior members of the British Royal Family (the reigning monarch, royal consort, Prince of Wales, the Duke of York and the Earl of Wessex). The event is televised.3
BUT WHAT IS IT ALL FOR?
We are told it’s for charitable purposes – the money raised from the sale of the “Poppies” and associated merchandise is to be used to support former military service people in need and the families of those killed in conflict.
We surely can’t object to that, can we? And isn’t putting up with the military and royal pomp a small price to pay for such charitable and worthwhile purposes?
Yet the main purpose of this festival and the symbol is neither remembrance nor charity but rather the exact opposite: to gloss over the realities of organised deadly violence on a massive scale, to make us forget the experience of the world’s people of war.
Worse, its purpose is to prepare the ground for recruitment of more people for the next war or armed imperialist venture – and of course more premature deaths and injuries, including those of soldiers taking part.
PARTIAL REMEMBRANCE – obscuring the perpetrators and the realities of war
The Royal British Legion is the overall organiser of the Festival of Remembrance and has the sole legal ‘UK’ rights to use the Poppy trademark and to distribute the fabric or paper poppies in the ‘UK’.
According to the organisation’s website, “As Custodian of Remembrance” one of the Legion’s two main purposes is to “ensure the memories of those who have fought and sacrificed in the British Armed Forces live on through the generations.”4
By their own admission, the purpose of the Legion’s festival is to perpetuate the memories only of those who fought and sacrificed in the British Armed Forces – it is therefore only a very partial (in both senses of the word) remembrance.
It is left to others to commemorate the dead in the armies of the British Empire and colonies which the British ruling class called to its support: in WWI, over 230,500 non-‘UK’ dead soldiers from the Empire and, of course, the ‘UK’ figure of 888,246 includes the upper figure of 49,400 Irish dead.5
The Festival of Remembrance excludes not only the dead soldiers of the British Empire and of its colonies but also those of Britain’s allies: France, Belgium, Imperial Russia, Japan, USA – and their colonies.
Not to mention thousands of Chinese, African, Arab and Indian labourers, mule drivers, porters and food preparation workers employed by the army.
No question seems to arise of the Festival of Remembrance commemorating the fallen of the “enemy” but if the festival were really about full “remembrance”, it would commemorate the dead on each side of conflicts.
German soldiers playing cards during WWI. Photos of Germans in WWI more readily available show them wearing masks and looking like monsters. (Photo sourced: Internet)
That would particularly be appropriate in WWI, an imperialist war in every aspect. But of course they don’t commemorate both sides; if we feel equally sorry for the people of other nations, it will be difficult to get us to kill them in some future conflict.
CIVILIAN CASUALTIES IN WAR
A real festival of remembrance would commemorate too those civilians killed in war (seven million in WWI), the percentage of which in overall war casualty statistics has been steadily rising through the century with increasingly long-range means of warfare.
Civilians in the First World War died prematurely in epidemics and munitions factory explosions as well as in artillery and air bombardments, also in sunk shipping and killed in auxiliary logistical labour complements in battle areas.
They died through hunger too, as feeding the military became the priority in food production and distribution and as farmhands became soldiers.
In WWII 50-55,000,000 civilians died in extermination camps or forced labour units, targeting of ethnic and social groups, air bombardments, as well as in hunger and disease arising from the destruction of harvests and infrastructure.6
Air bombardments, landmines, ethnic targeting and destruction of infrastructures continue to exact a high casualty rate among civilians in war areas: a Reuters study gave over one million killed by the war in Iraq and another study gave between 184,382 and 207,156 civilians killed in Iraq during the war and aftermath.7
That figure for Iraq does not include dead from pre-US invasion western trade sanctions (yes, economic sanctions frequently kill) or the 46,319 dead civilians in Afghanistan8.
The number of civilians injured, many of them permanently disabled, is of course higher than the numbers killed. Most of those will bring an additional cost to health and social services where these are provided by the state and of course to families, whether state provision exists or not.
Real and impartial “remembrance” would include civilians but not even British civilians killed and injured are included in the Festival of Remembrance, revealing that the real purpose of the Festival is to support the armed forces and their activities.
The 2014 slogan “shoulder to shoulder with our armed forces” underlines that purpose9 while contributing at the same time to a certain militarisation of society and of the dominant national culture.
The propaganda is more sophisticated this year: “Our red poppy is a symbol of both Remembrance and hope for a peaceful future” but “Poppies are worn as a show of support for the Armed Forces Community.”10
WEAPONS AND INJURIES
If the Festival were really about “remembrance”, they would commemorate the numbers of injuries and detail the various types of weapons that caused them.
But that might reflect unfavourably on the armaments manufacturers, who run a multi-trillion industry11 in whatever currency one cares to name, so of course they don’t. And if really concerned about death and injury in war, they would campaign to end imperialist war.
But then how else would the various imperial states sort out among themselves which one could extract which resources from which countries in the world and upon the markets of which country each imperial state could dump its produce?
So of course the Royal British Legion doesn’t campaign against war.
SANITISED HISTORY, MILITARY PROPAGANDA AND PUBLIC RELATIONS
Partial remembrance was indeed embodied in the song chosen by the British Legion to promote its Festival in the WWI centenary festival in 2014.
No Man’s Land, sung by Joss Stone, is actually a truncated version of the song of the same title (better known in Ireland as the Furey’s The Green Fields of France), composed by Scottish-raised and Australian-based singer-songwriter Eric Bogle.
The Joss Stone version contains the lyrics of the chorus as well as of one verse and one-half of another, omitting two and-a-half verses of Bogle’s song.
Some of the British media created a kind of controversy, at the behest of who knows whom, to have the British Legion’s song included top of BBC’s Radio One playlist. The song is reproduced in entirety below, with the lines sung by Joss Stone in italics and those she omitted in normal type.
I. Well, how do you do, young Willie McBride?
Do you mind if I sit here down by your graveside?
And rest for a while in the warm summer sun,
I’ve been walking all day, and I’m nearly done.
I see by your gravestone you were only 19
When you joined the great fallen in 1916,
I hope you died well and I hope you died clean
Or, Willie McBride, was it slow and obscene?
(Chorus) Did they beat the drum slowly, did they play the fife lowly?
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play The Last Post in chorus?
And did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?
II. Did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind
In some faithful heart is your memory enshrined?
Although, you died back in 1916,
In that faithful heart are you forever 19?
Or are you a stranger without even a name,
Enclosed forever behind the glass frame,
In an old photograph, torn, battered and stained,
And faded to yellow in a brown leather frame?
III. The sun now it shines on the green fields of France;
There’s a warm summer breeze that makes the red poppies dance.
And look how the sun shines from under the clouds
There’s no gas, no barbed wire, there’s no guns firing now.
But here in this graveyard it’s still No Man’s Land
The countless white crosses stand mute in the sand
To man’s blind indifference to his fellow man.
To a whole generation that were butchered and damned.
IV. Ah young Willie McBride, I can’t help wonder why,
Do those that lie here know why did they die?
And did they believe when they answered the cause,
Did they really believe that this war would end wars?
Well the sorrow, the suffering, the glory, the pain,
The killing and dying, were all done in vain.
For Willie McBride, it all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again.
It’s easy to see why the Royal British Legion might shy away from the omitted lyrics, which would hardly encourage recruitment or support for war.
Interviewed on video, Joss Stone herself said how important it was to be “true to the lyrics” and that “the last thing one would want to do would be to disrespect the lyric”.
Incredibly, she and John Cohen, the record producer, both separately claimed that they had captured the essence of the song lyrics in the British Legion’s version.12
Although Bogle stated that he did not think the Joss Stone version glorifies war, he did say that it did not condemn it and was ultimately a sentimentalised version that went against the intention and central drive of the lyrics.
“Believe it or not I wrote the song intending for the four verses of the original song to gradually build up to what I hoped would be a climactic and strong anti-war statement,” Bogle said.
“Missing out two and a half verses from the original four verses very much negates that intention.” (apparently in a reply from Bogle to a blogger’s email and quoted in a number of newspaper reports).13
The truncation of the song and the removal in particular of the anti-war lyrics epitomises partial “remembrance” and stands as a metaphor for it, the production of a lie by omission and obscuration.
Sanitised history, military recruitment propaganda and public relations is what this “Remembrance” is about.
Videos containing quotations from Joss Stone and John Cohen about how they have stayed “true to the song” or “lyric” of No Man’s Land by Eric Bogle were accessed at the following in 2014 but now appear to have been taken down: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ez1WBJaZZ7U#t=10and
Many thousands marched through Dublin’s city centre yesterday in protest against the soaring cost of living, pushed in particular by rising energy costs. Most mass media avoided estimating numbers except the ridiculous ‘estimate’ of 3,000 by the Irish Times daily1.
As the Cost of Living Coalition convened a mass protest demonstration in Dublin, the Anti-Imperialist Action organisation called for a Revolutionary Bloc to meet at the James Connolly monument2 in Beresford Place.
In mid-July, statistics published showed the average cost of living had risen above 9%. The average figure conceals the higher percentage rise in daily consumables such as food and drink that will rise higher still with price hikes by energy supply companies.
Companies are raising their prices steeply across at least the western world in a trend that began, despite much media discourse, prior to the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. But Ireland emerges as the most expensive country in the EU with Dublin the most expensive city there by far3.
SPEECHES FOR REVOLUTION & AGAINST REPRESSION
At the Connolly monument, people gathered with banners about the housing struggle and against NATO, along with placards and flags, of which latter the most common was the green-and-gold version of the “Starry Plough”, flag of the Irish Citizen Army4.
The cathaoirleach (chairperson) welcomed people, introduced the purpose of the meeting as being to protest the soaring cost of living and introduced the first speaker, from the Revolutionary Housing League. The RHL speaker outlined their program of direct action.
“What can be more direct than to occupy empty buildings?” he asked those assembled. He recounted some of the recent actions of the RHL and said that they are attracting attention and support, ending by calling on others to get involved5.
The second speaker, introduced as a revolutionary socialist anti-imperialist, went through a list of ills brought by the capitalist system, including lack of housing, selling off our resources and infrastructure, disregard for our language, environmental destruction and danger of nuclear war.
For all said the speaker, the Irish national bourgeoisie are guilty, “the Gombeens, a class unable even to free their own country”. “We need broad fronts to fight all these attacks of class war”, he said “but they must be directed openly against capitalism and imperialism.”
The final speaker, a socialist Republican, represented the newly-formed End State Repression campaign group. Those wanting to oppose rising prices, he emphasised, could not share their struggle with those intending to enter a coalition with Fiann Fáil or Fine Gael.
He also recalled how when protests against the bank bailouts and student fee hikes were getting going in 2010, they were met with state violence through the Gardaí. As the resistance builds, it will get attacked, he said but “we can’t allow them to drive us off the streets again.”
Many drivers passing the rally in vehicles, private and of work – including public transport — sounded their horns in solidarity, giving rise to cheers from the protesters.
MARCH TO BLACKWATER
The assembled then set off in two lines along Custom House Quay, across Talbot Memorial Bridge and then eastward along the quays. On the way they shouted slogans including “One, two, three, four – Housing crisis no more!” and “Only solution: Revolution!”
Other slogans include “Whose streets? Our streets!” “Whose Republic? Our Republic!” and “High rent, high taxes – fight back!”
The marchers stopped upon reaching the offices Blackwater Asset Management Company which boasts its background in “coming from the following sectors, Police Force, Legal Profession, Defence Forces, Financial Services & Private Security sectors”.
The crowd expressed its disapproval of the actions of this company. A speaker assured all that any attack on housing activists will be met with resistance. Two songs were sung there too, including Connolly’s Be Moderate/ We Only Want the Earth.6
THE BLOC MEETS THE MAIN MARCH
The Bloc marchers passed through the high-rise apartment blocs in the area before going on to Pearse Street and marching to the junction with D’Olier Street, where they met the main march of many thousands7 rounding Trinity College and still coming down from O’Connell Street.
Here the revolutionary bloc displayed their banners and placards and chanted some slogans. Many in the crowd marching past gave signs of appreciation and people in an anarchist bloc shouted “Solidarity”, raising clenched fists, giving rise to equal response from the Bloc8.
The large Sinn Féin9 section aroused shouts of “No Collusion! One Solution! Revolution!” from the Bloc. The earlier slogan of “1,2,3,4 – Housing crisis no more!” segued for awhile into “5,6,7,8 – Smash the Free State!”
The main Dublin march was organised by the Cost of Living Coalition of 30 organisations, including People Before Profit but also Sinn Féin, which is on a clear trajectory to enter Government in the near future but in coalition with traditional neo-liberal capitalist political parties.
The CLC also includes trade unions which many accused of not mobilising for the protest.
Derry city saw a small protest against the rising cost of living also.
A far-Right march in Cork which was addressed by a representative of the fascist National Party attracted little more than 150. Ostensibly against the housing crisis, speakers of course attacked immigration despite it having no connection to the State failure to build affordable public housing.
A marcher in Dublin carrying a placard calling for an end to immigration until the housing crisis were solved gave rise to a chorus of “Home for All!” from the Revolutionary Bloc, calls echoed by some among the passing marchers.
Gardaí on foot and in patrol cars tailing the main march were greeted, as they passed the Revolutionary Bloc, with shouts linking Drew Harris10, Commissioner of the police force of the Irish State, to the British Intelligence Service MI5.
A notable feature of both marches was the patience with the interruption to their journeys of private and public transport drivers and, indeed, the signs of support from many, including beeping of horns and hand signals such as the ‘thumbs-up’ and even the occasional clenched fist.
1The Irish Times has a track record of drastically reducing the estimated numbers in reports of anti-government demonstrations, demonstrated most strikingly during the giant water protest marches. It gave the figure 3,000 in leading paragraph to its original twitter report but more recently amended that on line to “several thousand”. The Sunday Mirror reported 20,000 and supporters estimated between 15,000 and 20,000.
2The monument includes a representation in bronze of the Scottish-Irish revolutionary James Connolly, across the road from where he had his office in Liberty Hall (the two-storey building was destroyed by British shelling in 1916 and has since been replaced by a tall man-storey building, HQ of the SIPTU union. Connolly was one of 16 executed by the British in 1916 after the Rising that year.
4The ICA was formed to defend striking workers from police attacks during the 1913 Lockout in Dublin. It was based on trade union membership and took a prominent role in the 1916 Rising, with a much-reduced one in the War of Independence (1919-1921) and the ensuing Civil War (1922-1923). The ICA recruited women as well as men and some of the women held officer positions, possibly the first revolutionary organisation, certainly the first socialist-based one to do so.
6The lyrics were composed by James Connolly and published in hist Songs of Freedom in New York in 1907. The title was the ironic “Be Moderate” but has come to be known from the refrain as “We Only Want the Earth”. Furthermore, arranged to the air of “A Nation Once Again”, it provides a chorus of “We Only Want the Earth!”
7Most media would only state “thousands” or “many thousands”, but the Irish Times had the audacity to claim the ridiculously low number of 3,000! Estimates by participants varied from 10,000 to 20,000 (latter also figure of the Sunday Mirror).
8It seemed likely that had the Revolutionary Bloc been widely publicised earlier that it would have been supported by many individuals and at some other organisations.
9The former revolutionary republican party rarely mobilises its large membership for street protests as these days it is more concerned with votes in elections. However, SF is part of the Cost of Living Coalitionand SF’s President, Mary Lou MacDonald, was one of the scheduled speakers at the main march rally.
10Immediately prior to his current appointment, Drew Harris was Deputy Chief Constable of the sectarian British colonial gendarmerie, the Police Force of Northern Ireland which, until 2001, was the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
Main article by CHEMA MOLINA@CHEMAMOLINAA in Publico.es, translation and comment by Diarmuid Breatnach
(Reading time entire: 4 mins.)
The origin of the Bella Ciao song is uncertain and there are different theories about how this mythical popular song came about.
Over the years it has acquired a meaning closely related to the anti-fascist protest movements and in defence of democracy.
However, the Italian artist Laura Pausini refused to sing it during the El Hormiguero1 (show), reasoning that it is “very political”.
The piece has a clear political nature that goes beyond the success which the Money Heist series has given it and that has made it one of the most listened-to Italian songs in the world.
Italian partisans had already employed verses of this hymn against Mussolini’s fascism and the Nazi occupation during World War II.
Specifically, it was the partisans of the Maiella Brigade, in the Abruzzo region (east of Rome), and the Garibaldi Brigade, in the Marche area, a territory located between the Apennine mountains and the Adriatic Sea, who began to sing it, mixing traditional melodies with militant lyrics.
But there are other theories that suggest that the beginning of this song dates back to the 19th century.
The Mondinas, women who worked in the rice fields of northern Italy, recited the lyrics of this song as a sign of protest against the harsh working conditions they experienced every day.
In fact, the historian Cesare Bermani explains that the origin of Bella Ciao comes from a song called Fior di tomba (Flower of the grave) and that the poet Costantino Nigra had previously mentioned it in the second half of the 19th century.
One of the versions of this song reached the Mondinas of the provinces of Vercelli and Novara, both in the Piedmont region.
Another theory points out that the anthem could have Ukrainian roots. The musician Mishka Ziganoff, born in Odessa in 1889, moved to New York and composed a piece that could have been the origin of the start of the Bella Ciao air2.
Later, Italian migrants spread the air of this song when they returned to their country3.
Apart from its origin, the song began to become popular and to take on a political meaning due to the festivals organized by communist youth in different European countries. In the summer of 1947, the World Festival of Youth and Students took place.
There, the partisan version of the anthem was promoted, which later reached the Festival of the Two Worlds (also called the Spoleto Festival) in 1964.
The Bella Ciao show was performed at that event, organised by the Italian group Il Nuovo Canzoniere Italiano. The singer-songwriter Giovanna Marini, an artist who also helped to popularise the song, participated in the performance.
Bella Ciao has crossed borders and has been translated into many languages. In Spanish, one of the best known versions is that by the author Diego Moreno, who published his interpretation in 2014 on the album Bella Ciao! Adios Comandante!
THERE IS NO NEUTRAL POSITION ON FASCISMby Diarmuid Breatnach
The current controversy over a prominent Italian singer’s refusal to sing Bella Ciao at a kind of game show was predated by controversy over the origin of the song.
Most authorities now seem to refute the popular belief that it had been sung by Italian partisans, instead dating its emergencer as an antifascist song soon after WWII.
All are agreed however that it was predated by “Alla mattina appena alzata” a song with different lyrics of women rice-planting labourers, the Mondines, bewailing their extremely hard working conditions, their exploitation and expressing their hope in liberation.
Its origins therefore in women workers’ resistance is noble but so also is the antifascist sense in which it is usually sung today.
Laura Pausini, when declining to sing the song, excused herself by saying that “it is very political”. Yes, it is and Pausini needs to realise that neither in the world of today nor in the past is there, nor has there ever been, a neutral position on exploitation of labour or on fascism.
The responses to Pausini recorded by Publico on Twitter were mostly negative towards her decision and rationale but also revealed a fair amount of confusion.
The most common critical response was along the lines that anti-fascism is fundamental to democracy and therefore above politics, one commentator going so far as to state that Pausini is confusing position or stance on the one hand with ideology, on the other.
Fascism is a political ideology and so therefore is anti-fascism. Of course, anti-fascism is normally associated with the Left of the political spectrum but some conservative individuals and groups have been known in history to be actively anti-fascist too.
However that does not change the fact that anti-fascism is a political position whether ascribed to by revolutionary communists and anarchists, social-democrats or conservatives.
As the world capitalist system in crisis turns to making the workers pay more through rising costs of essentials and wage controls, along with cuts in state social services, the masses will resist. In many states, it is then that the ruling class turns to fascism to repress the resistance.
Neither Pausini nor anyone else can rise above that struggle. One may certainly attempt to be neutral but circumstances will not permit it, will certainly frustrate the attempt. Objectively one’s actions and words will either favour fascism or work against it.
2Without listening to the air, I am unable to venture an opinion on this. However, thinking about it, Bella Ciaodoes evoke Eastern European Jewish music to me. According to Wikipedia, Ziganoff was a Christian Roma from Odessa, Ukraine but well familiar with Yiddish and Klezmer music. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mishka_Ziganoff
3This is a well-known process of the dissemination of song airs and even lyrics by migrant workers or sailors (or even soldiers). For example the air of the ballad Once I Had a True Love may be found on an Alan Lomax collection of traditional songs from Extremadura, central-western part of Spain.
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.
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”.
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.”
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.”
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 Irishbut 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.”
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”.
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.
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).
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’.
On the evening of 7th July, people passing on O’Connell Street, Dublin’s main street in the north city centre either stopped a while or passed with a glance at the crowd gather at the intersection with Cathedral Street, a narrow lane leading eastward.
The Irish Tricolour and the Starry Plough flags (both versions1) held aloft gave a strong indication of the purpose of the gathering, which was to honour an Irish patriot shot down at that spot by Free State soldiers on 5th July 1922 and dying on the 7th.
CATHAL BRUGHA RESUMÉ
Cathal Brugha was an Irish Republican, an Irish language activist, a soldier and politician. For a period in the Irish Republican Brotherhood, he joined the Irish Volunteers at the outset2 and was a lieutenant in charge of twenty Volunteers to receive with others the arms delivered to Howth Harbour in 1914.
In the 1916 Rising Brugha was second-in-command under Eamonn Ceannt at the South Dublin Union, now covered by James’ Hospital, where he received in excess of 25 wounds from bullets and grenade shrapnell and was not expected to live.
Surviving, Brugha was elected a Teachta Dála (member of parliament) for the abstentionist Sinn Féin coalition party in the UK General Election of 1918, serving until his death, first President of Dáil Éireann (the Irish Parliament) from January to April 1919, Minister of Defence from 1919 to 1922 and Chief of Staff of the IRA from 1917 to 1919.
Cathal Brugha, along with most Republican activists, was strongly opposed to the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1921 which was supported by Michael Collins, Arthur Griffiths and others and joined the Republican opposition in the Dáil, resigning his government posts to do so.
However, he and Oscar Traynor of the IRA both opposed the occupation of the Four Courts by IRA under Rory O’Connor but when it was bombarded by the Free State with British artillery on 28th June, Traynor ordered occupation of O’Connell Street buildings to divert some of the heat from the Four Courts.
The Free State Army bombarded the Republican positions in O’Connell Street with artillery and machine guns (as the British Army had done in 1916). Eventually the Republicans retreated apart from a small holding group which Brugha ordered to surrender but did not do so himself.
Approaching Free State soldiers with pistol in hand, he was shot by them in the leg, severing a femoral artery and died two days later in hospital. His widow Kathleen continued the Republican line as an activist and TD.
THE HONOUR CEREMONY
Mags Glennon, chairing the event, thanked people for coming, stressing the importance of remembering our history and listed briefly the important actions of and positions held by Cathal Brugha, before calling on Sean Óg to perform The Soldiers of ‘22,3 the five verses of which he sang, accompanying himself on guitar.
At intervals between speakers Sean Óg performed another two songs, Cathal Brugha andA Soldier’s Life4.
Joe Mooney brought a series of three posters for distribution, which were quickly taken up. These were copies from the period, condemning the Free State Army for the murder of Cathal Brugha, with drawings believed to be by Constance Markievicz.
The main speaker was historian and author Kerron Ó Luain, who began speaking in Irish and returned to it on occasion, though the content of his talk was by far in English.
Ó Luain initially paid his respects to recently-deceased Mícheál Ó Doibhlin, a Dublin historian who had done much historical research to bring further into the light of today the contributions two Republican women in two different periods.
These were Anne Devlin of the United Irishmen (uprisings in 1798 and 1803) and Josephine McGowan, killed in 1918, the first Cumann na mBan martyr5. Ó Doibhlin had also assisted Ó Luain in the latter’s research into the insurrectionary history of his own area, Rath Cúil (Rathcoole)6.
Continuing to relate some brief facts about Brugha’s early life, born into a mixed-religion household, Ó Luain emphasised Brugha’s interest in the Irish language and his membership of the Gaelic League (Conradh na Gaeilge)7 in the same decade as its founding.
The speaker contrasted that aspect with the militarist image of Brugha often projected by hostile commentators. Brugha met his future wife at meetings of the Connradh and had been a strong advocate of the proceedings of the First Dáil being conducted mostly in Irish and of the Democratic Programme being first read and agreed in Irish.
The setting up of Sinn Féin to contest the 1918 UK General Elections had involved a coalition of many different elements Ó Luain said, including dual monarchism advocates such as the original founder Griffiths and even white Dominion aspirants, alongside Republicans such as Cathal Brugha.
These had been the lines along with the alliance had fractured when the British proposed the terms of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. British influence on the Free State was seen not only in its war on the Republicans but in the legal system adopted based on common law without any thought given to any of the principles of the native Brehon Law.
The British influence was evident also in the form of dress with some Free State politicians such as Cosgrave wearing a top hat and research has shown over 90% of the civil servants of the Free State had been employed by the previous British colonial administration.
The Free State adopted a formal position of support for An Ghaeilge, the Irish language, while doing nothing to support the struggling rural Irish-speaking areas, which were being drained by emigration, leading the inhabitants to want to acquire English for their future locations.
The number of Irish-speakers within the territory of the State has declined drastically since it was founded.
Unusually for an oration honouring an Irish martyr but very important historically, the speaker pointed out that Brugha was not a socialist Republican and had advocated land ownership whereas other Republicans such as Liam Mellows (executed by the Free State in 1922), Peadar O’Donnell and Frank Ryan in the 1930s had proclaimed the need for a socialist Republic.
In conclusion, the speaker said that Cathal Brugha was an honest courageous Republican with a genuine love of the Irish language and a staunch upholder of the truly independent Republic proclaimed in 1916 but yet to be achieved. He had been killed as part of the counterrevolution.
It is important for future efforts, Ó Luain stated, to be aware of the different strands in the Republican opposition to the status quo and to be clear on the desired future shape of society in the Republic.
OTHER REPUBLICAN MARTYRS OF THE BATTLE FOR DUBLIN 1922
Damien Farrell spoke on behalf of Dublin South Central Remembers and representing the McMenamy family from the area. Frank McMenamy had been asked to introduce the Roll of Honour on behalf of relative Ciaran McMenamy of F Coy, 1st Batt, anti-Treaty IRA (Ambulance Corp) but was unable to attend.
Ciaran was one of four brothers — Fergus, Manus and Francis — who fought in the revolutionary period 1916-23. Ciaran was part of the crew that tended Cathal Brugha and rushed him to hospital on the 5th July. When Brugha succumbed to his wounds, Ciaran was a pall bearer at his funeral.
Damien said that this most likely identified him for arrest which happened later and he was interned in the infamous Newbridge Camp and participated in the mass hunger strike of prisoners in 1923 against conditions.
Ciaran McMenamy contracted a cold that developed into consumption which secured his release to convalesce in the County Home in Kildare but this proved ineffective and Ciaran was eventually released from internment around Christmas 1923.
On the 26th of April 1924 Ciaran McMenamy died in 55 Pearse Square, a house connected to the family. For the past two years Dublin South Central Remembers have held remembrance events at the house, with the full permission and support of the current occupants (no relations) with the intention of having a plaque erected in time for his centenary in 2024.
Fionnuala Halpin read the roll of honour of those killed in The Battle of Dublin 1922, a battle in which her grandfather fought.
Veteran Republican, hunger-striker and author Tommy McKearney placed a wreath in honour of the fallen on behalf of Independent Republicans and a minute’s silence was observed in their honour also.
COMMEMORATE THE CIVIL WAR MARTYRS OF YOUR AREA?
A number of different Republican organisations were represented at the event, along with many independent Republicans and historical memory activists, including walking history tour guides.
Mags Glennon asked people to keep in touch with the organisers and also to be aware of other commemorative events, offering to make available the commemorative posters with the local martyrs’ names incorporated into the design for display for others around the country.
1The original, with the design of plough in gold following the outline of the Ursa Mayor constellation in white stars, on a green background and the later Republican Congress version of the white stars alone on a light blue field.
3Composed by Brian Ó hUigínn, sung to the air of The Foggy Dew.
4A Soldier’s Life was originally composed by Young Irelander Thomas Davis (1814-1945) and recorded by The Wolfe Tones band; the composer of Cathal Brugha’s lyrics appears unknown and it was recorded by Declan Hunt.
5A rally held by women just off Dame Street in 1918 was batoned by members of the Dublin Metropolitan Police and she died of her injuries shortly afterwards. I have heard Ó Doibhlin relate her story and saw him becoming emotional as he did so. The DMP’s batons in September 1913 were also responsible for the deaths of at least three others, although one died in 1915.
6For a number of recent years Ó Doiblin has been noted, along with historian Liz Gillis and others, for research and exposition of information regarding the Burning of the Customs House on 25th May 1921, which corrected a number of common misapprehensions about that event.
7Founded by Protestant Douglas Hyde/ Dubhghlas de hÍde this month in 1893.
The Independent Republicans group do not appear to have a website or FB page but may be contacted through the Cabra 1916-1921 Rising Committee: https://www.facebook.com/cabra1916