Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 13 mins.)

Arising out of a recent discussion, I was thinking about what makes a workers’ union – when is an organisation a union and when is it not. And what does it have to do to prove that it is a union, as well as can what once was a union become defunct as a union while still not being defunct as an organisation. In the present time of low union activity as well as in higher activity periods, there are some fundamentals worth considering.

Picketers in the 2019 Stop & Shop strike (USA) in the rain in Natucket after their management forced them off company property. The workers won a victory in 11 days. (Photo credit NickleenF)


Searching for definitions on line as to what constitutes a trade union, I came across the following:

Oxford on-line English Dictionary: an organized association of workers in a trade, group of trades, or profession, formed to protect and further their rights and interests.

Citizens Information: A trade union is an organisation that protects the rights and interests of its members. Members are employees in a particular sector or job, for example, teaching or nursing.

A trade union can:

  • Be an important source of information for employees
  • Provide employees with protection on employment issues
  • Negotiate with the employer for better pay and conditions

A trade union must have a negotiating licence in order to negotiate on employee wages and other conditions of employment.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) is the single umbrella organisation for trade unions, representing a range of interests of ICTU members, both in Ireland and in Northern Ireland. ICTU also run the website unionconnect.ie to facilitate people to join a union.

Companies Registration Office (registration as a Friendly Society1): Trade unions are registered under the Trade Union Acts 1871-1990. Trade unions are established to represent workers in their relations with employers or to act as representative bodies for particular interest groupings.

In order to register a trade union, the grouping involved, which must consist of at least seven people, must draw up a set of rules governing the operation of the union. The rules must as a minimum contain the matters required to be provided for by the First Schedule of the Trade Union Act 1871. The rules, together with the prescribed application form and fee are submitted to the Registrar for examination and, once the rules are found to be in accordance with statute, the union is registered.

Registration as a trade union does not guarantee that a union will receive a negotiation licence; this is a matter for the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment in which the Registrar of Friendly Societies has no function. Application form is available by emailing rfs@enterprise.gov.ie.

Wikipedia: A trade union (or a labor union in American English), often simply referred to as a union, is an organization of workers who have come together to achieve common goals, such as protecting the integrity of their trade, improving safety standards, and attaining better wages, benefits (such as vacation, health care, and retirement), and working conditions through the increased bargaining power wielded by solidarity among workers. Trade unions typically fund the formal organization, head office, and legal team functions of the trade union through regular fees or union dues. The delegate staff of the trade union representation in the workforce are made up of workplace volunteers who are appointed by members in democratic elections.

The trade union, through an elected leadership and bargaining committee, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members (rank and file members) and negotiates labour contracts (collective bargaining) with employers. The most common purpose of these associations or unions is “maintaining or improving the conditions of their  employment“.[1] This may include the negotiation of wages, work rules, occupational health and safety standards, complaint procedures, rules governing status of employees including promotions, just cause conditions for termination, and employment benefits.

Unions may organize a particular section of skilled workers (craft unionism),[2] a cross-section of workers from various trades (general unionism), or attempt to organize all workers within a particular industry (industrial unionism). The agreements negotiated by a union are binding on the rank and file members and the employer and in some cases on other non-member workers. Trade unions traditionally have a constitution which details the governance of their bargaining unit and also have governance at various levels of government depending on the industry that binds them legally to their negotiations and functioning. ……………………………

A modern definition by the Australian Bureau of Statistics states that a trade union is “an organization consisting predominantly of employees, the principal activities of which include the negotiation of rates of pay and conditions of employment for its members.”[6]

Yet historian R.A. Lesson, in United we Stand (1971), said:

Two conflicting views of the trade-union movement strove for ascendancy in the nineteenth century: one the defensive-restrictive guild-craft tradition passed down through journeymen’s clubs and friendly societies, … the other the aggressive-expansionist drive to unite all ‘labouring men and women’ for a ‘different order of things’.

Karl Marx described trade unions thus: “The value of labour-power constitutes the conscious and explicit foundation of the trade unions, whose importance for the … working class can scarcely be overestimated. The trade unions aim at nothing less than to prevent the reduction of wages below the level that is traditionally maintained in the various branches of industry. That is to say, they wish to prevent the price of labour-power from falling below its value” (Capital V1, 1867, p.1069).

We can note, across these definition from different sources, some constants: Trade unions (henceforth referred to by me as “unions” or “workers’ unions”) are

  • representative associations
  • of workers
  • that represent them in negotiations with employers

So, they have to be representative of workers (employers have their own formal associations) and they must, in general represent their worker-members. Well, few would debate the first condition and for the moment we can accept the second (though we will return to discuss this further).

I would argue however that there is another essential qualification which has not been mentioned even though for some it may be taken for granted: A union must be able to call a significant number of workers in a significant workplace, company or industry into industrial action and does so when necessary (whether that be strike, sit-down, go-slow, ban on certain kinds of work, etc.). In stating that I can quote for the moment no authority or source and yet I am adamant that if the association is not able to do so, it is not a union. I base my definition on experience and logic.


We note that the “negotiation” with employers is mentioned in most if not all definitions. Present in every successful negotiation of workers with employers is a threat, that of action by the workers which will reduce or postpone the profits of the employers. This in turn is mediated by the threat of the employer to dismiss or otherwise penalise workers, to starve them into submission or to unleash private or State violence upon them2. The main reason for non-State employers to be in business of whatever kind is to make a profit and a substantial one at that and, in the case of an employer failing to avail of opportunities to do so, other employers, i.e other capitalists, will move in, outcompete and even take over the company3.

State companies have a responsibility to the ruling class to keep systems going, e.g public transport to deliver employees to work for private businesses, power supply to run the private enterprises, water and refuse collection to manage sanitation of working areas and reduce infections of the workforce, etc. So in successful negotiation with a State employer, the threat of workers’ action must be present also.

The threat may be implicit only but cannot remain effective if unrealised forever and every once in a while, employers will test it by a refusal (or procrastination) to accede to the demands of a union. In such a situation, the “negotiation” is ended or at least halted while both sides test the ability to resist of the other. If the employers are resolute and have enough resources but the workers are either not resolute or their resources are insufficient, the employers will win.

If the workers are resolute enough and are well-resourced and their action costs the employers enough so that the latter consider it better in the long run to accede to the demands, the workers will win. However, even when the workers are defeated in one battle, the action may have hurt the employers and next time there is a confrontation, they may be prepared to concede more. Even in failure in some cases, the threat of action has been shown to be a real one.

Picketers in the successful 2019 strike at the Stop & Shop chain by the United Food & Commercial Workers (USA & Canada). The Teamsters’ union instructed their members to respect the picket lines. After protracted negotiations failed, the strike began on 11 April 2019 and ended on April 21, 2019, after the company and the striking workers reached a tentative agreement, which preserved health and pension benefits and raised employee pay. The 11-day strike cost the company $224 million in lost sales and $90–100 million in lost profits. The tentative agreement was viewed by the union as a “powerful victory”.
In August 2019, Ahold Delhaize reported the 11-day strike resulted in a $345 million loss in sales, with an estimated 1 in 10 customers not coming back to the store as a regular customer after the strike. (Photo sourced: Internet) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2019_Stop_%26_Shop_strike

If however over a number of years the unions do not exercise their muscle while at the same time enduring reductions in the working conditions and living standards of their members, the workers, they become more and more unions in form but not in content and the employers will pay less and less attention to their demands. Indeed, the only threat perceived by the employers in such situations is that the ineffective unions may be replaced by another or others more effective or lose control of their members to “unofficial” or “wildcat” action. Better the devil that they not only know but can manage, than the one they don’t.

I repeat: A union must be able to call a significant number of workers in a significant workplace, company or industry into industrial action and does so when necessary (whether that be strike, sit-down, go-slow, ban on certain kinds of work, etc.). In that respect, the crucial condition is not whether the organisation is more or less democratic, or socialist, or egalitarian, more or less environmentalist etc, though of course all those attributes are desirable. It must be effective, able to threaten and make good its threat.

Therefore calling an organisation a “union” does not of itself make it one and indeed an organisation may conversely be a workers’4 union without calling itself one, providing it is able to call a significant number of workers in a significant workplace, company or industry into industrial action and does so when necessary.

So I have extended the definition of a union: an organisation consisting predominantly of employees to defend the interests of its members and improve their remuneration and conditions of work and that is able to call a significant number of workers in a workplace, company or industry into industrial action and which does so when necessary.

Workers of the United Auto Workers on strike picket the John Deere Harvester Works facility on Oct. 14, 2021, in East Moline, Illinois.
 Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

But what is a “significant number of workers in a significant workplace, company or industry”? Though this is more open to interpretation, it is nevertheless determined by two things, one of which is its ability to call an effective number of workers in the designated workplace into industrial action and the other is the relative size of the workplace, company or industry concerned. Of course, the workplace may be a shop or small garage or small farm, employing say around 50 people, in which all the workers are able to strike and do so, forcing the employer to accede to their demands or at least a significant (yes, that word again) number of them. The workers’ organisation in that case I would submit qualifies as a union on all grounds except one: the workplace is not a significant one in terms of industry or agriculture. It may go on from that initial success to extend to other workplaces but until it does so, it is a union only in the specific sense of that particular workplace.

However, if the organisation were to represent the majority of workers in one necessary part of a company’s production, willing to exercise its power and able to adversely affect the company’s output and profits, then that organisation would qualify as a union, according to my definition, even though it might represent only a small fraction of the total workforce.

Or if the one workplace in which the workers’ organisation is active is an extended one, for example a chain of stores or a major utility company. Or, as is sometimes the case, the workers’ organisation were to represent workers across an entire industry (“industrial unionism”), or groups of them in a number of different industries ( “general unionism”) or seeking to recruit all workers (“syndicalism”).


It is important (and I would contend, crucial) also to define what a union is not. It is not

  • an organisation set up by a State and controlled by it
  • an organisation set up by employers
  • or the worker organisation’s offices, officers and other employees

Unions” set up by the State

States have set up “unions”, for example in the case of corporate states, i.e fascism and when they have done so, have banned real workers’ unions.

In Nazi Germany, workers’ unions were abolished. On 2nd May 1933, (after the large annual May Day marches), their leaders were arrested, their funds confiscated and strikes declared illegal. Workers lost the right to negotiate wage increases and improvements in working conditions and all workers had to join the German Labour Front (DAF) run by Dr. Robert Ley. Within two years, under various pressures, 20 million workers had joined DAF but they had no independent rights.5

Italian fascists waged war on the unions between 1920 and 1922 when Mussolini took power, burning trade union offices, and beating and torturing trade unionists. In Turin, the key industrial centre, fascist squads celebrated Mussolini coming to power by attacking trade union offices and killing 22 trade unionists”6.

“The Pact of Vidoni Palace in 1925 brought the fascist trade unions and major industries together, creating an agreement for the industrialists to only recognise certain unions and so marginalise the non-fascist and socialist trade unions. The Syndical Laws of 1926 (sometimes called the Rocco Laws after Alfredo Rocco) took this agreement a step further as in each industrial sector there could be only one trade union and employers organisation. Labour had previously been united under Edmondo Rossoni and his General Confederation of Fascist Syndical Corporations, giving him a substantial amount of power even after the syndical laws, causing both the industrialists and Mussolini himself to resent him. Thereby, he was dismissed in 1928 and Mussolini took over his position as well.

“Only these syndicates could negotiate agreements, with the government acting as an “umpire”. The laws made both strikes and lock-outs illegal and took the final step of outlawing non-fascist trade unions. Despite strict regimentation, the labour syndicates had the power to negotiate collective contracts (uniform wages and benefits for all firms within an entire economic sector).”7

In Spain the communists, anarchists and social democrats had organised trade unions which supported the Popular Front Government and mobilised against the military-fascist coup in 1936. Following the victory of the military and fascists the State, under General Franco, jailed or executed many of the trade union leaders and members and declared their unions illegal.

The Franco regime set up the “vertical union” (i.e controlled from above) officially known as the Organización Sindical Obrera (OSE); industrial resistance was illegal and in any case extremely difficult to organise, due to the defeat of the republican and socialist forces and the massive repression of all democratic and socialist trends.8

Union resistance under fascism

However, when workers of various kinds of socialist thinking joined these state unions either through being forced to do so or in conscious infiltration, many maintained their old allegiances and worked to subvert fascist rule and control of the workers.

“On 5 March 1943, workers at the giant FIAT Mirafiori car plant in Turin walked out on strike. As it became clear the dictatorship could not repress the strike it spread within Northern Italy, involving one hundred thousand workers. Mussolini was forced to grant pay rises and better rations, but in conceding he struck the death knell for the regime.”9

In 1947, eight years after the victory of the military-fascists, metal workers in the Basque province of Bizkaia went on strike in spite of repression by the authorities and a clandestine trade union movement began to organise. “Another historic year in the incipient union movement was 1951, when there were strikes and demonstrations in Barcelona, Madrid and the Basque Country in the early part of the year. These were mainly spontaneous, although the clandestine unions which had grown up since 1947 did support and take part in them. An important role was also played by the Spanish Communist Party PCE, and Roman Catholic workers’ groups.” “In a context of socio-economic change in Spain in the late 1950s, as industrialisation accelerated …. there was a significant growth in the Spanish working class. In 1962 miners and industrial workers began to hold strikes all over the country.”10

The two main trade unions in the Spanish state today, the CCOO (Comisiones Obreras) and the UGT (Unión General de Trabajadores), the first originally under Communist Party direction and the smaller second under the social democratic PSOE (Partido Socialista Obrero de España) grew out of that resistance (although the UGT had been in existence prior to the military-fascist uprising). Activists had infiltrated the vertical union and workers began to elect militants to represent them in demands to the employers – this in particular was the origin of the Comisiones Obreras.

Employer-led ‘unions’:

Employers have also set up “unions” in order to undermine an existing union or in order to prevent a real union from organising workers in their enterprises.

These have been called “company unions”11 or “yellow unions”, the latter possibly after the French Fédération nationale des Jaunes de France (“National Federation of the Yellows of France”) which was created by Pierre Biétry in 1902.12

Up to the mid 1930s, ‘company’ or ‘yellow’ unions were quite common in the USA and after the Ludlow Massacre13, John D. Rockefeller had one created to improve his company’s image and to resist the struggles of mineworkers and of the United Mineworkers’ Union in Colorado; he called it the Employee Representation Plan.14

“In 1935, the National Labor Relations Act (also known as the Wagner Act) was passed, dramatically changing labour law in the United States. Section 8(a)(2) of the NLRA makes it illegal for an employer “to dominate or interfere with the formation or administration of any labor organization or contribute financial or other support to it.” Company unions were considered illegal under this code, despite the efforts of some businesses to carry on under the guise of an ‘Employee Representation Organization.’”15

Japan has company unions that are not in the RENGO federation of independent unions and the company ones appeal to an ideology of loyalty towards one’s paternalistic employer.16

In the 1930s, unions in Mexico organized the Confederation of Mexican Workers (Confederación de Trabajadores de México, CTM). The state of Nuevo Leon, however, coordinated its workers into sindicatos blancos (“white unions”), company unions controlled by corporations in the industrialised region.

Naturally a “union” of this type is unwilling and indeed unable to call a significant number of workers in a workplace, company or industry into industrial action to defend the interests of its members and improve their remuneration conditions of work (my definition of a workers’ union). Therefore I contend that they are not workers’ unions.


But there are unions that have built themselves up in membership (and incidentally by union dues revenue) by proving themselves willing and able to call their members out in action to enforce their demands of the employers – but who have not been doing so for some time. We are increasingly seeing these in Western Europe at least and often the reason quoted is that state legislation is making it harder for the unions to organise, or to take action effectively. And rather than jail for union activists as in the past, the threat of the State is sequestration of union funds. The union leaders, officers and clerical support staff view such threats as extremely serious, evoking the possibility of the demise of the trade union or at the very least its inability to maintain its functions and payment for its superstructure of staffing, buildings and equipment.

Those are of course real threats with some states proving their ability to carry them out in the past and consequently union leaders draw back from struggles that might result in such an eventuality – or even attempt to smother them. The union leadership become, in effect, the firefighters of the employers. When they reach that position, they are not really the union any more. The union is not the organisation’s offices, officers and other employees. Its leaders are forgetting that back in the history of this or of many other unions, its organisers and members maintained only a rudimentary bureaucracy while they fought for the gains to be wrenched from the employers — organisers and even ordinary members faced sacking, police baton charges, strike-breaker violence, deportation, transportation, jail, torture and even death. When safeguarding the superstructure of the union outweighs defending and advancing the members’ interests, it is time for the union leadership to retrace its steps – or vacate the spot.

A union may fail to be recognised as such by the employers and/ or the State but (based on my definition) that does not affect its status as a union, so long as it is an organisation consisting predominantly of employees to defend the interests of its members and improve their remuneration and conditions of work and able to call a significant number of workers in a workplace, company or industry into industrial action and does so when necessary.

To be sure, an employer refusing to recognise the right of the union to represent its employees and to negotiate on their behalves does represent an additional challenge. But we should not forget that all workers’ unions once faced that initial obduracy but nevertheless in time became accepted by the employers. And it required a long process for some of those unions, with unsuccessful industrial action and many sacrifices as part of it.

The opposition of the State, acting in the first place for the capitalist class it represents and secondly in its own interests as an employer, is another serious obstacle for unions. Currently in most of Europe and certainly in Ireland, the State does not outlaw unions but it does place many restrictions around them and, in some cases, removes their protections.

The protection received by a union that is recognised by the State exists mostly in exemption from some legal procedures such as being sued for causing loss of profits for a company and exemption from arrest for picketing (“loitering”, “obstruction”, etc). However, the laws of none of the European states exempt workers from arrest for persistently obstructing the entry of strike-breakers or goods to a workplace where the workers are on strike. In most European countries, picketing, boycott and blockade in solidarity by “non-involved” unions – i.e “secondary picketing” etc — is against the law to a greater or lesser degree. Well, such laws are made by the capitalist class to protect themselves and then processed through a parliament where most of the elected public representatives are supporters of that same class. To receive legal protection from capitalist laws the union must be recognised by the capitalist State which entails meeting the necessary requirements in order to be registered as “a friendly association” and receiving “a negotiation licence”.

However, while these provisions affect very deeply the ease or otherwise of the organisation, they do not in my opinion have anything to do with whether it is or is not a workers’ union.

Another hurdle to get over for “recognition” is that of acceptance by the Irish Trade Union Congress. A union not recognised by the ITUC will receive no support from that body in application to the State for a “negotiation licence” and members of other “recognised” unions will be encouraged to cross any picket line of an “unrecognised” union. That is obviously a serious situation for a young union that is “unrecognised” but again, it does not define whether or not it is a union.

Say what the State, employers or the ITUC leadership may say, the reality remains that a union is an organisation consisting predominantly of employees to defend the interests of its members and improve their remuneration and conditions of work and that is able to call a significant number of workers in a workplace, company or industry into industrial action and which does so when necessary. Not whether it is — or is not — recognised or facilitated by those other bodies.

Funeral of James Byrne, shop steward of the Irish Transport & General Workers’ Union, who died as a result of his hunger strike in protest at imprisonment during the 1913 Lockout (Photo sourced: Internet). The workers were defeated in an 8-month struggle but the union recovered and bounced back. The ITGWU has gone through a number of changes resulting in the largest union in Ireland today, SIPTU. But is it carrying out its responsibilities as a union today, to say nothing of living up to its inheritance?

As the unions in many states have become more and more passive (in the Irish state particularly through the years of “social partnership”17) they have lost much of their accreditation in reality. As they fail further to justify their existence they will be replaced and for example the British-based union Unite is moving into the Irish arena. But the new union, despite its local leaders speaking militantly at rallies of some campaigns and investing some of its effort into building support in the community, is demonstrating the same reluctance to take determined action against the employers, whether private or State. Should that state of affairs continue then that too will fall and be replaced.

But by what and when?



1A friendly society has nothing necessarily to do with being friendly but is is a mutual association for the purposes of insurance, pensions, savings or cooperative banking. It is a mutual organisation or benefit society composed of a body of people who join together for a common financial or social purpose.

2While some readers may be surprised or even dismissive of reference to “private or State violence”, there can hardly be a state which does not at least on occasion – some more often than others — employ police or judicial violence against striking workers. In the past in many countries and perhaps in particular in the USA, companies employed private security staff or company police to act against worker disobedience, in addition to agencies such as the Pinkerton not only to gather intelligence on union organisers but to attack them physically or to prepare cases for their conviction of law-breaking in court. In some parts of the world companies – often with their HQs in the “West” — continue to employ their own security staff against union organising, sometimes with fatal results for the union organisers.

3This applies even if the company should still be making a profit but is not maximising it. The company’s shareholders and investors, including institutions such as banks, trust funds, pension funds etc will begin to desert the company to a competitor offering a higher return on investments and said company may even engage in a “hostile takeover” bid, by bringing sufficient numbers of shareholders to vote in favour of its takeover. This is one of the laws of the operation of capitalism and one reason why it there is little point in appealing to the individual consciences of capitalists.

4Sometimes workers’ unions have called themselves by other names, including “society” and “association” in order to circumvent anti-trade union legislation for example.







11To be confused with a genuine employee’s union built up within a particular company, for example in a power-generating monopoly or state service company, whether privatised or not.

12https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Company_unions (“Yellow” in opposition to the “Red” of socialism; however “yellow” also exists as a pejorative description of cowardice)

13Massacre by company guards and the National Guard of strikers and their children on 20 April 1914 during the Great Colorado Coal Strike, after which the workers took up arms. It was the subject of a song composed and sung by Woody Guthrie and others, e.g Jason Boland and Andy Irvine.


15 Ibid,

16Despite this and generally not recruiting part-time workers, membership of workers’ unions in Japan stood at 18.5% in 2010 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labor_unions_in_Japan

171983-???? In 2010: “Following 23 years of social partnership the Irish trades unions (ICTU) entered the new decade seriously weakened and with union employee density down to 31% compared to a density highpoint of 62% in the early 1980s preceding the series of seven corporatist social pacts.[2] Union penetration is highly imbalanced with a density approaching 80% in the public sector and around 20% in the larger private sector.”


Definitions of workers’ union:



Unions under fascism:





Yellow unions:



Social Partnership: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Partnership

“Where mountainy men have sown…”

Striking photo and interesting speculation from visual artist Eoin Mac Lochlainn

Photo credit: Eoin Mac Lochlainn

Scéalta Ealaíne

photo by eoin mac lochlainn of cottage in the mountain near the healy pass, Co.Kerry

Here’s a photo I took recently. We were travelling over the Healy Pass, crossing from West Cork into Kerry when this little house caught my eye.

What would it be like to live there in the mountains?  What would you do all day?  Would you grow potatoes?  Would you be a sheep farmer?  Would you have a clever sheep dog to gather in the sheep and run all over the mountains for you, to herd in the awkward ones?  Would you be like the ‘Mountainy men’ from “The Wayfarer”  poem by Patrick Pearse?

And what about electricity? Or Broadband?

Perhaps you’d have a blog, or a vlog, even. You could make funny videos about the sheep, maybe. I don’t know. We live such disparate lives, nowadays.  It’s probably quite difficult up there in winter. Snow and ice. Certainly the Healy Pass would be treacherous in the snow.  But beautiful. …

View original post 67 more words


Language is a Treasure Chest IV

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 5 mins.)

There is a tendency to think of Irish as some kind of an isolated language in Europe, an anomaly, out on the margins of continental language development. Despite how much the language has been reduced through centuries of English occupation and a century of the Irish State, this is a very mistaken assessment, as examination of some features of the language will show.

In Irish, all but two of the words1 necessarily used to ask question begin with a “k” sound:

  • Cathain — when?
  • Conas/ Cad é mar/ Cén chaoi – how?
  • Cén – which/ what?
  • Cé – who?
  • Cad/ Céard – what?

Of course, English-speakers will note immediately the difference between this and English, where the words denoting questions begin with a “w” or a “h”. And they might remark that they share this with some other European languages, in the Germanic group, where the question words also tend to begin with a “v” or a “w”. The exception is the use of the verbs “to do” and “to be” in asking a question, viz. are they there? will you go? have you been? did they do it?

But it is the Irish language more than the Germanic ones which are most at the heart of European language development.

Irish is a branch of the Celtic languages that philologists describe as Goidelic (also “Q-Celtic”): Irish and its derivative languages of Scots Gaelic and Manx2. The “K” or “Q”-sound in most questions is a feature of all three, which is not surprising. However, it is also a feature of the Romance group of languages, as the following table shows:

EnglishCastillian (Spanish)CatalanGalicianPortugueseFrenchItalianRomanianIrish
WhatQueQueO QueO QueQuest-ce queCosaCeCad/ Céard
WhoQuienQuiQuenQuemQuiChiCareCé hé/hí
Cathain/ cén uair
WhereDonde*On*OndeOndeOu*Dove*Unde*Cén áit
HowComoComComoComoCommentComeCumConas/ cén chaoi
WhyPor QuePer QuePor QuePor QuePourquoiPer CheDe ceCén fáth
WhichCualQuinCalQualQuelQualeCareCé acu
How muchCuantoQuantCantoQuantos?CombienQuantoCât
Cé mhéid
How manyCuantosQuantsCantosQuantos?Combien deQuantosCâteCé mhéid

So Irish shares the same consonant sound for question words with a large number of major European languages. But not only that. It does so with major South Asian languages as well, as in Hindi (widely spoken in India) and Urdu (Pakistan) also! (Not only that but, along with the “tch”-sound, in Iranian and Kurdish also!)


क्या (kya)What
कब (kab)When
कहा (kaha)Where
क्यों (kyu)Why
कौन (kaun)Who
कौन (kaun)Which
जिसे (jise)*Whom
जिसका (jiska)*Whose
कैसे (kaise)How
kitnaHow much
कितने (kitne)How many
English QuestionsUrdu Questions
how?keysa ? – کیسا ؟
how many?kitni (ee)?
how much?kitni hai?
what?keya ? – کیا ؟
who?keon ? – کون ؟
why?keyon ? – کیوں ؟
where?kehan sai ? – کہاں سے ؟
(* exceptions to the K-sound)

When one sees all that one is not surprised to learn that most European languages are grouped together by philologists into the “Indo-European group”3 of languages, with a believed ancestor language in India. And Irish clearly shows that inheritance.


Asking questions is an essential function of language and of learning; all but one of the question words in Irish show a close relationship to all the Romance languages of Europe, demonstrating that Irish is a European language with central features in common with a great number of other European languages, including the official languages of three major states of Europe: France, Italy and Spain.

But Irish clearly shows also its links with the languages of India and Pakistan, major languages of the South Asian subcontinent. Irish is therefore part of an important wider group of world languages.



1The exception is the use of “an” preceding verbs (“ar’’ also preceding all verbs in the past tense), viz. an í (is she?); an bhfuil (is there?); an bhfuair (did receive?); ar rith (did run?) etc. See also in the following paragraph the use of verbs in English to ask questions which, combined with an interrogative note, is also a feature of Romance and other languages, viz. vas a comer? (are you going to dine?). Or in German (and English), reversing the order of verb and pronoun, as in du wirst trinken (you will drink) to ask wirst du trinken? (will you drink?).

2The Brittonic (also “P-Celtic”) is the other branch: Welsh, Breton and Cornish, where most of the question words begin with a “p” or a “b”-sound.

3The major exceptions are Euskara (Basque), believed to be an original European language going back to the neolithic era and Hungarian, Finnish and Sami, which are believed to be historically later arrivals in Europe.


Celtic languages: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celtic_languages

For question words in languages other than Irish, Castillian (Spanish) and English, I have used a mixture of online phrase pages for tourists and/or learners in addition to Google Translate (regretfully I was unable to complete a list for Sardu – Sardinian).


Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 2 mins.)

A world-wide movement is currently working to change all places wrongly named after Columbus, the Italian explorer employed by the medieval Spanish kingdom, back to their rightful name. People with a faulty grasp of history and of human rights, as well as of spelling (some of the colonists were illiterate in several languages) have been incorrectly calling these places “Columbus” and other derivations, instead of the correct spelling of “Columbo”, who was a famous detective with the New York Police Department.

Portrait believed to be of Christopher Columbus, Italian explorer for the Spanish Kingdom to plunder the Americas.(Image sourced: Internet)

The Latin American state of Colombia will lead the way in returning to the original “Columbo”. “It’s about time,” said long-time Irish resident Gearóid Ó Loingsigh. “Columbo was a great character and Falk is a good actor. Besides, most of the politicians here are life-long actors.” Also supporting the change are many indigenous people. “Apart from leading the plundering of our people, Columbus amputated the hands of our people who displeased him,” said Chief Nosanrobado of the Quechua.

The cities named “Columbus’ in the American states of Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin are all queuing up to have their name change registered, whilst a poll in the North Carolina state found a majority also for the name change from “Columbus” to Columbo County.


As a spin-off of this campaign, sculptors are being commissioned everywhere to design and sculpt monuments in bronze or stone to the NYPD detective character.

One of the many bronze depictions of the famous NYPD Detective now springing up in many cities formerly called “Columbus” (Image sourced: Internet)

An unexpected by-product has been a reduction in anti-police hostility. “It’s helping us hit back at the ‘Defund the Police’ campaign”, said the Governor of a South-Western state who wished to remain nameless. ” ‘Don’t Defund Columbo’ is doing well here as a counter-campaign.”

Pablo Echeverria, a Latino community worker, agreed unhappily. “People don’t see Detective Columbo kneeling on their necks or shooting unarmed blacks or Latinos. They can’t imagine him kicking down their doors. But most cops are not like Columbo. When the cops here want to ask you ‘Just one more question’, it’s likely to be at four a.m in a police cell, along with ‘just one more’ punch or kick.”


In some of the cities, awareness of Columbus’ Italian background and rumours of Mafia connection, though unproven and strenuously denied, helped swing the “don’t knows” into the Columbo campaign.

Residents of Colombo city in Brazil and in Sri Lanka have mixed feelings about the campaign. Henrique Soares, a native of Brazil summed up some of the concerns: “It is important to have places named correctly, of course. But it was nice being different and now lots of places will sound just like ours ….”


On the other hand, most towns and districts called Columbia are resisting the renaming trend, maintaining that they were neither named after Columbus nor Detective Columbo, claiming instead a derivation from the traveling Irish saint Columbanus (also known as Columba).

The city of Colón however, the second-largest in Panama was happy with the change. “We’re sick of Anglos thinking our city is part of the digestive tract,” said the leader of the local branch of the Rename It Columbo Campaign (RICC).

Traveling Christian Saint Columbanus/ Columba as depicted in stained glass window in crypt of Abbey at Bobbio (Image sourced: Wikipedia)


However, in all the excitement and controversy, what about the name of the actor forever thought of as personifying Detective Columbo, Peter Falk? Sadly, all that are named after him are some islands off the coast of Argentina and even that name is disputed, the current English occupiers calling them “the Falkland Islands” but known in Argentina, which claims dominion over them, as “Las Malvinas”.

And in Argentina they have also renamed the actor in the detective series as “Pedro Malvinas”.





Clive Sulish

(Reading time text only: 2 mins.)

The anti-imperialists and socialist Republicans gathered in the Bodenstown area, Co. Kildare on Saturday 26th to commemorate “the Father of Irish Republicanism” at Wolf Tone’s graveside were fortunate in having a day overcast but remaining dry. A number of flags were flown in addition to the traditional Irish Republican ones and more than half the attendance was of young people. A few speeches were given, interspersed with songs and the organisers commented that attendance this year was a quintupling of that of the year before. The event was organised by the Seamus Costello Memorial Committee and such pilgrimages are part of a long tradition in Ireland.

Flags of the four provinces of Ireland (one is out of shot) and the national Tricolour fly permanently at half mast here (Photo: Rebel Breeze)
Remaining gable end of church (Photo: Rebel Breeze)


Wolf Tone’s grave is set apart from others in the ruins of an Anglican Church1 in the small still-used cemetery, now about 15 minutes’ walk from the village of Bodenstown in Co. Killdare (incidentally, the county itself named after a medieval Christian church) and is approached from one side by a quiet country road which, in the other direction, passes by some isolated houses.

An annual pilgrimage to Wolfe Tone’s grave has long been an Irish Republican tradition. Thomas Davis, of the Young Irelanders and The Nation journal, penned his dedication to Wolfe Tone around 1843 after he visited Tone’s grave but found it unmarked and, according to the lyrics and his introduction2, guarded by a local blacksmith3 who would allow nobody to set foot on it. Over the years efforts have been made by the independent National Graves Association to make the grave a monument, with a tomb and kind of podium erected against a wall of the church ruins, with inlaid stone and metal markers and flagpoles, their flags permanently lowered.

For many decades during part of the 19th Century and throughout the 20th, the site has been the destination of Irish Republicans, often accompanied by members of smaller left-wing groups. When serious splits occurred in the Republican movement, groups would time their visits not to coincide with the other’s but in 1934 socialists of the Irish Republican Congress, including a contingent from the Shankill loyalist area, attended the commemoration organised by the Sinn Féin and IRA of the period4. After the Fianna Fáil split from Sinn Féin the former held their commemoration separately (though some of their members would attend the SF one also). A film clip of the early 1970s shows a huge attendance including County associations, children’s marching bands and GAA sport clubs in addition to political groups and associations attending a Bodenstown commemoration organised by the SF organisation of the time but subsequent splits saw the Officials, Provisionals and IRSP hold commemorations on different days.

includes footage from 1969 and 1970 (watch in particular from 0.55 secs)


Supporters formed up at a nearby road junction and in files, with flags and banners and led by a lone piper playing marching tunes, paraded to the cemetery. The parade entered and then formed up in front of the memorial where they were welcomed and the order of events, speeches, song and wreath-laying, was outlined by the chairperson of the event.

The parade approaching the cemetery (Photo: IAI Ireland)
End parade entering the commemoration event area (Photo: IAI Ireland)


The speaker on behalf of Macradh — Irish Socialist Republican Youth said that a number of people thought they understood what Wolfe Tone stood for but felt that perhaps less than claimed to do so. The speaker took a number of quotations from Wolf Tone as the framework of what that Republican regarded as guiding objectives, tracing the necessity of a complete break from England (now the UK) and the reliance on the working “people of no property” to achieve independence.

Floral Wreaths and Bouquets were laid on behalf of the Michael Fagan Fenian Society; Coiste Chill Dara/ IAI An Mhí; Spirit of Freedom Society Westmeath; Ard-Choiste Anti-Imperialist Action.

Macradh ISR Youth lineup for photo with selection of different flags, church and tomb in background (Photo: IAI Ireland)


In Bodenstown Churchyard by Thomas Davis was sung by a young musician accompanying himself on his guitar. Another singer sang some verses unaccompanied from Who Fears to Speak of ‘98 by John Kells Ingram but preceded them with the last verse of Sliabh na mBan, in which Mícheál Óg Ó Longáin, himself an Irish-speaking participant in the rising, expresses fervent hope for the long-heralded French invasion. The singer also spoke for a few minutes on the traditions of Irish Republican song and themes of pride in struggle despite martyrdom, jail or exile and how even some phrases emerge again in later songs.

A singer performs, seen from behind the colour party. (Photo: AIA Ireland)
One of the singers (Photo: IAI Ireland)


The main oration of the event was given by a speaker on behalf of Irish Socialist Republicans who also took a number of quotations from Wolfe Tone, James Connolly, Liam Mellowes and Seamus Costello as laying out a trajectory of Irish socialist Republican thought and principles. Addressing the need for action according to words, the speaker stated the need for a disciplined group of people dedicated to socialist revolution in Ireland and breaking the dependent connection with imperialism, stating also that those activists need to be willing to act within a broad front.

Pointing to the urgent needs of the people being neglected in many areas such as in housing, the speaker called on the attendance to put their energies into revolutionary work, saying that there are many around the whole of the country who are interested in combining their efforts towards achieving an independent and socialist Ireland. The speaker commented that the attendance at this commemoration was five times the number who had attended the previous one and that he would not think it unreasonable to double the attendance for this time next year.

Colour Party posing for requested photo (Photo: Rebel Breeze)


All speakers and singers were vigorously applauded with a special commendation for those who substituted at very short notice for the pre-arranged colour party (that had developed transport difficulties and had therefore been unable to reach the venue).

The organisers thanked all for their attendance and Eamon McGrath then sang the first verse of the Soldiers’ Song in English with the chorus in Irish.



1Theobald Wolfe Tone was at least nominally a member of the Church of Ireland congregation, which was the colonial established church in Ireland at the time. A number of the leaders and supporters of the United Irishmen were members of this small congregation in Ireland, while more belonged to other mostly larger sects, in particular the Presbyterian one. The vast majority of the population however and therefore a large force in the Rising also were Catholics.

2Published in The Nation.

3Blacksmiths have an important connection to the 1798 Rising since they made the pike-heads in their forges. For that and because they were easily identifiable in their local areas, blacksmiths suffered particularly in the post-rising repression by British soldiers, loyalist militia (the “Yeos”, from “yeomanry”) and Orange bands.

4This contingent was shamefully attacked by a group of IRA and SF and had to defend themselves vigorously so as to continue their participation.

Photo credit: AIA Ireland


Wolfe Tone biographical notes, grave, lyrics of In Bodenstown Churchard: http://www.nga.ie/1798-Wolfe_Tone.php


A hostile anti-Republican piece which nevertheless notes the 1969 bombing attack on the memorial by the Ulster Volunteer Force (British Loyalist and religious-sectarian terrorist organisation): https://www.historyireland.com/volume-26/time-to-decommission-wolfe-tone-at-bodenstown/

Brian Hanley on the Republican Congress (with a mention of the Bodenstown incident): https://www.lookleft.ie/2014/12/a-disputed-legacy/

Macradh AIA Youth FB: https://www.facebook.com/ISRYouth

AIA Ireland FB: https://www.facebook.com/AIA-Ireland-100591735568561/


Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 7 mins)

Across Europe, Deliveroo riders have been organising and protesting about their lack of employment rights and low pay. In April the riders struck and protested in Britain while in May, they won a number of victories against the company in the courts of the Spanish state. In February, a group of 25 drivers for Uber taxis won a UK Supreme Court decision that they are employees and not self-employed. Also, last month agency contract workers cleaning rooms for the second-largest hotel in Paris won a struggle too, with pay rise, reduced workloads, overtime pay and two sacked workers reinstated. These are important victories for the workers involved themselves but are also important in precedent and example for all workers in these kinds of precarious employment conditions and ultimately for all workers everywhere.

Victory celebration by Ibis housekeeping worker picketers on the street last month. (Source photo: Internet)


In Britain, as the fast-food delivery company Deliveroo floated itself for public shares, its riders staged public protests and strikes demanding decent working conditions and pay. Speaking ahead of the planned campaign, organiser Alex Marshall of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain stated: “They said it couldn’t be done but by getting organised and speaking out, riders have triggered a domino effect which already slashed £3bn from Deliveroo’s valuation and that should give pause to any corporation that thinks precarious workers can be endlessly exploited without consequence.” Subsequently strikes and demonstrations were held in cities across Britain.

Deliveroo workers in protest Barcelona 2017 before setting up the riders’ cooperative in 2018 (Photo sourced: Internet)

Deliveroo riders have been organising over recent years in a number of countries, holding public protests, strikes and calling one-day boycotts. In Barcelona, Deliveroo, Uber and Glovo Eats’ dissatisfied riders or sacked for organising set up their own cooperative in 2018. Last month the Spanish state’s state’s Supreme Court, having denied Deliveroo’s contention that their riders are self-employed, once again reiterated their position on 25th May, which means that their riders are entitled to employment contracts with paid holidays, sick pay and pensions (see Publico.es article below).

Deliveroo Riders Protest at Place de la Republique, Paris August 2019 (Photo credit: Jacques Demarthon AFP)

Spanish Supreme Court reiterates that Deliveroo riders are company employees, not self-employed.

Alejandra De la Fuente in Publico.es (translation by D. Breatnach from Castillian)

MADRID 05/26/2021 16: 39EFE

The Supreme Court rejected the appeal filed by the fast food delivery company, Deliveroo against a January 2020 ruling – which classified more than 500 of its delivery riders in Madrid as “false self-employed” – and has confirmed its conclusions.

The ruling, to which Efe had access this Wednesday, recalls that the Supreme Court already unified its judgement in September 2020, when it ruled in a similar case — although then the defendant was Glovo — that the relationship between these platforms and their riders is actually of a labour nature.

Company sources recalled that the events judged took place between 2015 and 2017 — when it began to operate in Spain — and maintained that its relationship with the delivery riders has changed since then.

The Supreme Court’s decision not to admit Deliveroo’s appealto unify judgements endorses the position of the Superior Court of Justice (TSJ) of Madrid, which already in January of last year rejected an appeal from the company on this same case.

The Court rejected the company’s arguments, including a ruling in its favour obtained in the Cantabrian courts, and stressed that the current position is marked by the ruling of the Supreme Court in September against Glovo by “responding to the new reality that supposes the provision of services through digital platforms “. In their ruling, the judges recall that the Chamber then ruled “in favour of the labour nature of the relationship between the delivery person and the digital platform” after analysing the existing jurisprudence and the “indications of employment” found by the Labour Inspection.

The judgment of the Supreme Court in Madrid specified that one of the key points was that the freedom of the delivery worker not to work “is not as wide as some would like to make out, since if they decline orders (…) they receive a penalty”, which results in fewer services being granted from there and, therefore, their income drops.

It also cited as an argument that the delivery person could not carry out the activity if he only had his own bicycle or mobile phone, since the Deliveroo structure and its platform, which connects customers, restaurants and riders, is essential for the operation.

The delivery company, for its part, issued a statement in which it claims to “respect but not share” the Supreme Court’s decision to “not analyse” the case and insists that the events date back to the period 2015-2017, when it used “a different model of collaboration” with its riders. “This model does not reflect the way in which couriers collaborate with Deliveroo today. This ruling only affects contracts that stopped being used more than three years ago,” these same sources stated.

Home delivery platforms such as Deliveroo, Glovo or Ubereats will be forced to stop using self-employed workers as delivery riders if the so-called Rider Law goes ahead, agreed by the Ministry of Labour with employers and unions. The regulations oblige these companies to use salaried distributors – either with staff contracts, or subcontracting to third parties – and is scheduled to come into force in August.

end news report

Deliveroo riders’ protest Italy, possibly Florence (Photo credit: Getty)
Deliveroo motorcyle riders in East London protest (Photo sourced: Internet)


As much as delivery coordinating companies — the “gig economy” — lower workers’ rights, pay and conditions through false “self-employment”, labour-supplying agencies do so also and supply workers from industrial to healthcare to hospitality sectors, being used not only by private companies but by State departments and municipal authorities too. Workers employed by agencies rarely or even never meet many others employed by their agency, which makes it extremely difficult for them to organise to improve their employment conditions or pay. In addition a number of agencies may supply staff to the same site so that they don’t even have the same employer.

Hotels employ workers for different tasks: service management, finance, reception/ bookings, food/ drink preparation and service, portering, maintenance and housekeeping (room and common area cleaning). Every person who uses hotel accommodation enters a room prepared by staff who will then clean the room after they leave, changing bedding, remaking beds, checking for lost property, emptying bins, replacing towels and bathroom materials, wiping down surfaces, vacuuming etc.

A cold rainy day in Paris during the 2-years struggle of the Ibis housekeeping workers (Photo sourced: Libcom)

While some hotels employ the housekeeping staff directly many, including the large hotels and hotel chains, use staffing agencies to supply them. This arrangement relieves the hotel of responsibility for the employment conditions or pay of these staff while at the same time allowing them to dictate the working arrangements of those workers.

The 700-bed Ibis Batignolles Hotel, the second-largest in Paris uses the Accor and STN agencies to supply its housekeeping staff and in July 2019 twenty of those workers at the hotel began their agitation, complaining of a cleaning workload rate of 3.5 rooms per hour, or one room in 17 minutes, which was forcing them to work at great speed and even on unpaid overtime to complete their allocation. Ten workers who had occupational illnesses and were unable to keep to that workload were threatened with transfer to lower-paid jobs and this precipitated the resistance.

Last month these workers signed an agreement giving them a pay rise, reduced workloads, overtime pay and two sacked workers reinstated.

The Prestige and Budget hotels section of the General Confederation of Labour (CGT-HPE) supported the workers – mostly migrants from sub-Saharan Africa – throughout the struggle and also raised a solidarity fund to support the workers during the course of the strike, raising €240,000 on line. Claude Lévy, leader of the union, who claims more than thirty years of activism commented: “It is the longest strike that I have seen in my career”.

One of the workers, Rachel Keke, speaking to French media said: “We’re proud of what we’ve achieved because we fought through to the end, we never gave up. I kept saying to my colleagues we have to hang on, we’ll win in the end. And now we have this wonderful victory.”

The success of the striking workers directly benefits not just themselves but the working conditions of some sixty subcontractors employed by STN which will be raised now to the level of the workers directly employed by the hotel. The striking workers have also been paid compensation in undisclosed sums.

One unusual feature has been the installation of a card-clock to record the hours worked by each worker, demanded by the workers themselves. A union organiser commented that it was strange to see such clocks that were hated by workers in the past being sought by workers today.

The victory of these Paris Ibis housekeeping workers is indeed notable and will serve as example and encouragement to others in the sector, as one of the workers also said. However, they did not win direct employment and the whole contract labour issue remains to be addressed.

A statement issued by the CGT-HPE praised the struggle of the women but also criticised “collaborators in the union bureaucracy who work against sincere militants to destroy and silence them.”


One cannot pass through any city centre in Ireland without seeing cyclists and sometimes motorcyclists of for example Deliveroo or Just Eat on the road. In addition, there are a large number of courier services at work delivering other items although not always so noticeable.

Delivery companies allocate delivery jobs to the workers on their register. Those workers have to supply their own bikes and mobile phones, get no sickness pay – whether from injury incurred in the course of their work or not – and no holiday pay or pension. Nor are they paid while waiting to be allocated a delivery job.

In Ireland these workers are often migrants who either find it difficult to get other work or for whom such work seems convenient as they don’t intend to stay long (quite often a fallacy, as Irish migrants to other countries can testify, myself included). An important pressure on especially migrant workers is the high cost of rented accommodation in Ireland and particularly in Dublin.

The Spanish Court left Deliveroo and other companies the option not to employ their drivers but instead to contract with a staffing agency to supply the required labour. Staffing agencies supply workers from industrial to healthcare to hospitality sectors, being used not only by private companies but also by State departments and municipal authorities. I’ve been supplied as a worker by agencies for cleaning and social/ health care and had to employ them myself as a manager for staffing cover in hostels for homeless people and drug and alcohol misusers.

Deliveroo riders in Britain in protest March 2021 (Photo sourced: Internet)

As a directly-employed municipal worker and (unpaid) union organiser in London, when my union branch got ready to strike in defence of holiday and sick pay which the municipal authority was planning to cut for the mostly manual services (sanitation, road maintenance and park/ tree etc maintenance), we found this sector was nearly 50% staffed by agency workers. Even had the leaders of their unions been willing to strike, such a weakness in their numbers would have given them pause. Their unions did not join our strike and their workers lost, of course.

Workers in the hospitality industry (bars, hotels, restaurants/ cafés) are historically some of the worst paid with worst conditions and are often female and migrant. As a contract cleaner and kitchen porter on a number of occasions in my working life I can personally testify to this and any examination of available data will verify the facts.

Such workers tend to be in small workforces in individual work-places, even when each such site is part of a chain and for that reason and others are difficult to organise which in turn makes them easier to exploit.

(Photo credit: Euractiv.com)


Workers in the past fought for and in many cases gained “closed shop” agreements, meaning that every worker employed had to be a member of the union. This was often attacked by liberals as undemocratic but in fact proved necessary to prevent the employer using non-unionised workers to undermine union struggles. Of course, when unionised workers did win struggles, those gains went to the benefit of all workers in the company including the non-unionised and indeed often across wider society. Governments now tend to make “closed shops” illegal (along with another useful weapon, the “sympathy” or solidarity strike).

Just as in the past it has been necessary for workers to defy the laws that forbade organising of trade unions or of strikes, unions today will need to do so in order to remove these restrictions on their ability to effectively improve workers’ conditions and pay. The notion that to preserve the union structure and funds is more important than defending the purpose for which it was founded needs to be challenged.

Many union leaders and officials became complacent and allowed the creeping “agencisation” of workplaces and in doing so abrogated their responsibilities not only to workers employed by agencies but also, in the longer run, to their own directly-employed members. Wide-scale unionisation will need to address and reverse this trend as this sector continues do be a threat to workers’ rights and conditions and in fact even to trade union recruitment.

The Deliveroo decision In the Spanish Supreme Court presumably brings an end to a long legal battle about the status of the workers there which has seen a number of regional court decisions in favour of the the workers, e.g. in Madrid and in Catalonia but a reversal in another region, Cantabria. The Supreme Court has now ruled in the case of Deliveroo and also Glovo: the workers are not self-employed and therefore are entitled to contracts of employment, holiday and sick pay, etc.

The legal process in the UK however went against the workers and in favour of the Deliveroo company until the recent decision of the UK Supreme Court in favour of 25 of Uber’s drivers indicates that it is likely to end up the same with regards to Deliveroo, Just Eats etc (whereupon the Irish courts will probably follow suit).

In the case of the agency workers in Paris, they suffered an initial defeat in the French courts on the issue of in reality working for Ibis rather than the agency but won much of their demands through action at a time when the company wants to be able to take full advantage of the lifting of Covid19 restrictions and the busy tourist season months. The union official Lévy called off an appeal against the French court decision but indicated that the legal process is still one avenue open to them and that the issue needs to be resolved for many other workers.

Although legal cases have long been one avenue of workers’ progress one needs to remember that in a capitalist economic system the legal system favours the rich and also that most legal reforms benefiting workers have been won on the back of direct action, concessions often ultimately motivated by fear of revolution. The Deliveroo struggle was not won in the Spanish courts alone but was supported by a long campaign of demonstrations and even strikes; the Ibis Batignolles struggle was won by a two-year strike and publicity actions.

Victorious Ibis housekeeping workers pose for photo outside the Paris Ibis hotel on the day of their victory (Photo via CGT/ HPE)

A niche for smaller, left-wing unions?

Statistics suggest in Ireland, with a union membership of below 24% (in a country which once had around 40% membership even with much less employment opportunities), that a general union membership recruitment drive is needed now.

While some smaller sections of large unions have done effective work in fighting for the rights of workers in smaller workplaces, or in agencies or “self-employed” areas as in the two main examples cited above, these sectors are often neglected by union organisers who find large workplaces easier or more rewarding in terms of results.

This failure does provide a niche for smaller and possibly specifically left-wing unions which would allow them to grow as well as to make a significant contribution to the unionisation of workers and to improvements in workers’ rights, conditions and pay.Organising these workers will not be easy and may even require bike-riding organisers but the examples above show that success is possible and the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain may be showing the way.


Deliveroo workers protest in London recently (Photo credit: Sky News)


Deliveroo riders

Deliveroo workers’ strike in Britain: https://news.sky.com/story/deliveroo-riders-poised-to-strike-as-unconditional-trading-for-shares-begins-12267717

Bureau of Investigative Journalists analysis of Deliveroo’s riders’ pay: https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/stories/2021-03-25/deliveroo-riders-earning-as-little-as-2-pounds

Spanish Supreme Court decision: https://www.publico.es/sociedad/tribunal-supremo-rechaza-recurso-deliveroo-confirma-riders-falsos-autonomos.html?

France 2019: https://www.rfi.fr/en/france/20190808-french-deliveroo-riders-urge-public-join-them-boycott-paris

Australia: https://www.news.com.au/finance/work/at-work/deliveroo-drivers-go-on-international-strike-ahead-of-companys-ipo/news-story/ebf78a47961a48944bae4c184a0ae764

Uber drivers UK Supreme Court decision: https://www.lawsociety.ie/gazette/top-stories/uk-supreme-court-uber-ruling-will-fundamentally-re-order-gig-economy/

Paris Ibis Hotel housekeeping workers’ victory:




and legal status of agency-contracted workers: https://then24.com/2021/05/25/victory-for-the-chambermaids-of-the-ibis-batignolles/

Unionisation in Ireland (26 Counties only):





Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

I recently refused to sign a letter/petition to Irish Americans asking them got get President Biden to look at the “Irish peace process” as an encouragement to for whatever he was to do in Palestine. I was shocked at some of the signatories I saw on this, never imagining that they would support such sentiments.

But as for this article, I agree entirely. I know neither of the authors but for what they have written here I commend them with all my heart. “No justice, no peace” is not just a slogan or a wish but absolute 100% reality.


Israeli Police cordoned off an incident area in the Sheik Jarrah section of Jerusalem, city occupied by Israel since their war of 1967 against Jordan, Egypt and Syria. The Zionists want an all-Jewish Jerusalem (city holy to Christians, Muslims and Jews) and to make it their capital city, which is why they are forcing Palestinians out (one of the two attacks on Palestinians that led directly to the recent “war”). (Photo credit: Ahmad Gharabli/ AFN, via Getty)

Irish Times article: https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/israel-s-state-violence-is-being-shielded-by-plastic-peace-building-1.4579301?fbclid=IwAR2ufxgYNr9IK-Qrbw7ndxJ0xqAGG_fdXB-Pbh9mGR36vaWpc35cmGT3R1E

This is indeed a good article but hardly brilliant — it is pretty much what many have been saying for years about Ireland but marginalised by the authorities and those that bought into the “process”. It IS ‘brilliant’ — and very surprising — that the Irish Times published it.

I concur completely with the authors’ view on Ireland and Palestine and would add every other place on this globe where the imperialists spread that disease they call “peace processes” and, by the way, the Palestinians have already had one dose of it in Madrid and Oslo which hurt them badly and from which they are still working on their recovery. So it is not only misleading but incredibly patronising to say that “it is time the same happened in Palestine” as that letter/ petition did.

The Palestinian movement under the leadership of Al Fatah got conned into this pacification process shortly before the did Irish under the Provisionals. Al Fatah did not get independence or their land or the return of the refugees from the deal but they did get their own colonial ‘home rule’ (the Palestinian Authority) which they ran with nepotism and corruption. The Intifada (Palestinian uprising of civil disobedience, street protests and riots) followed when it became clear nothing fundamental was going to change.

In the first elections afterwards for that colonial home rule in 2006, the normally secular-voting Palestinian public overwhelmingly rejected those they had supported for decades, Al Fatah and voted instead for Muslim fundamentalist Hamas. For the simple reason that it looked to be the only organisation of any size that was going to fight for the Palestinians and not be bought out. Let’s nail that media lie right now: Hamas did not “seize power in Gaza” — they won overwhelmingly in the whole Palestinian territories. It was Al Fatah that tried to seize the power they had lost in the elections — they were allowed to do so on the West Bank but not in Gaza where, after a short and brutal battle, Hamas took the seats which the population had voted them. Whether we dislike them or not, they were the people’s democratic choice. And very likely would be again — it’s just that elections since then have been put off, put off and put off again by Mahmoud Abbas and his supporters, probably in fear of a repeat.

When one resistance movement or organisation fell to the infection of the pacification processes, it was used to try to infect others. So the ANC and Al Fatah representatives attended Provisional Sinn Féin Ard-Fheiseanna (annual congresses), PSF got in with the Otegi leadership of the Abertzale Left in the Basque Country (along with Tony Blair, Bertie Ahern, Kofi Annan and South African players), the PSF and others sold it to the FARC in Colombia, to the Kurds and tried to sell it to the Philippines, Sri Lankans and the Indian movement. None of those last three bought it and are still fighting on, except for the Sri Lankans who were massacred, raped and tortured. The Turks weren’t interested in a deal with the Kurds and the Spanish state didn’t even relocate the Basque prisoners to prisons near their homes, not to speak of releasing them. South African blacks got the vote but in continuing poverty in a very rich state run by the same imperialists and settlers but with corrupt African politician-businessmen sharing in the booty. Colombia got ongoing oppression, repression and shooting of human rights and social campaigners by state-sponsored murder squads.

NOBODY, but NOBODY ANYWHERE got what the people had been fighting for — nor anything near it. But they did get subornation, corruption and collusion among their leadership and fragmentation in their own movement.

The authors of the Irish Times article are absolutely right and “No justice, no peace” is not just a slogan or a wish but absolute 100% reality.



Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 10 mins.)

Marching in a Palestine solidarity demonstration or standing in some prominent spot in Ireland amidst Palestinian flags, solidarity banners and placards and listening to the beeping of horns in approval from passing traffic is a great feeling. Some visitors from other lands are often surprised at the extent of support here for the Palestinians. “It must be because of the Irish history of fighting colonialism and occupation”, they speculate. And some Irish people will nod eagerly in agreement. But it wasn’t always like this. There was a time when most Irish people sympathised or even empathised with the Israelis. And we need to be aware of that and of the journey the Irish people have made from there to here and how that happened.

Irish solidarity with Palestine rally outside the Israeli Embassy in Dublin, Tuesday 18 May 2021 (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Last night (26 May) the Dáil, the Irish Parliament, declared in unopposed vote that the “illegal”1 Israeli settlements amount to an annexation. The Breaking News.ie report on the vote called Ireland “the first EU member state to do so”, hinting that others may follow. And some of the northern European states might, indeed, unhappy with their support for Israeli atrocities through toeing the USA line – but someone always has to be first. The motion, put forward by the Sinn Féin party, passed unopposed, while an amendment by the People Before Profit party calling for the Israeli Ambassador and staff to be expelled2 failed by a comfortable majority of almost two to one. However, 46 Dáil votes in favour of the expulsion of the Israeli Ambassador would have been unthinkable just a few decades ago. The vote and previous cross-party support, with the exception of Fine Gael, predicts a very smooth run for the “Occupied Territories” Bill soon to reach its third and final reading in the Dáil3.

An Israeli Ambassador to Ireland some years ago accused the Irish people of being “the most anti-semitic” in Europe. I think that was around the time of the Israeli Zionist State’s previous war with Gaza in 2014, when the extent of Irish society’s solidarity with the Palestinians was evident and, of course, for a number of decades now the Zionists have been working hard to appropriate Jewry and to daub anyone criticising Israel as being “against Jews”, i.e “anti-semitic”4. However, Maurice Cohen, Chairperson of the Jewish Representative Council was quoted in an Irish Times article that same year saying that there was no major anti-semitism in Ireland and that Irish people were able to distinguish between people who are Jewish and the Israeli State.5

That attitude, of the Irish sympathy with the oppressed Jews not equating support for the Israeli state, required some change, since for decades the majority view been supportive of Israel.

Anti-Semitism in modern Ireland

Christianity has often played a part in whipping up anti-Jewish feeling, using the New Testament story of Jews denouncing the Christ figure and their responsibility for his alleged crucifixion by the Romans. The Catholic and Protestant religions in Ireland played some part in that demonisation. But no notable medieval Irish writer gave us a Jew who would exact a pound of flesh from a human in revengeful debt repayment. Gaelic society had no Jewish ghettoes, no laws against Jews6.

Anti-semitism has existed in Ireland as in all other European countries but not to the extent that it has in some of those countries, for example in England. The 1904 Limerick Boycott or Pogrom is sometimes pointed out to counter such an assessment but the the full story needs to be known. Fr. John Creagh of the Redemptorist Order was an anti-semitic bigot and liar and did succeed in whipping up anti-semitism against the few Jewish families settled in Limerick. But the Bishop of Limerick, Dr. O’Dwyer denounced the bigotry, as did the Church of Ireland Bishop, Thomas Bunbury and a man who assaulted a rabbi was jailed. Nevertheless, the boycott and hostility continued for two years with the support of sections of the media (Limerick Leader, Irish Independent, Munster News)7 and a number of families left Limerick to emigrate from Cork port. However, passing through the city on their way, they were welcomed by people in Cork and given accommodation; such was the welcome that some decided to stay and David Marcus, a novelist and literary editor of the Irish Press and Louis Marcus, filmmaker, were descendants of those refugees, as was Gerald Goldberg, 1977 Mayor of Cork8.

The period of modern active anti-semitism in Ireland was the 1930s which reflected the rise of fascism and attendant anti-semitism around the world. The Catholic Church often saw fascism as a bulwark against atheism and communism and sections of the Irish ruling class regarded it as a defence against advances by the working class and socialism, additionally against Irish republicanism.

The Church and ruling class alliance had crushed the Republican resistance in the Civil War but the Republican movement, despite executions, jailing, internment, exile and repression, remained viable and began to reorganise itself. It did so militarily but also politically and despite the split in Sinn Féin and the formation of Fianna Fáil in 1926, the latter began to pick up electoral support and, by 1932 was in Government, albeit in a minority.9

The previous Government had produced hysterical propaganda against it, even suggesting the party was communist.

The Army Comrades Association, formed to counter Republicans after Fianna Fáil was elected to Government in 1932, went through a number of name changes but has been known as “the Blueshirts” collectively, although they did not adopt the blue shirt as part of their uniform until 1933. Despite their uniform style and “Roman salute” adopted from the Italian fascists, academics and some political activists have denied that the Blueshirts were a fascist organisation. However some of their leaders, including the former Garda Commissioner O’Duffy and a number of Government Ministers and supporters definitely were fascists and anti-semitic.

Blueshirts at Bluebell Cemetery, Dublin County 1934 (Photo sourced: Internet)

Irish Republicans and socialists fought the Blueshirts on the streets. In 1933 the De Valera Government banned a march on Dublin planned by the Blueshirts and later banned the organisation itself, which led to the formation of a right-wing coalition including the Blueshirts to form the Fine Gael political party10.

Irish Republicans and socialists went to fight against Franco in the Spanish Antifascist War (1936-39) and though outnumbered in the order of ten to one by those recruited by the Blueshirts11 to fight for Franco, it was only the Irish fighting on the Republican side who acquitted themselves well, fighting in many major battles and losing about a quarter of their number in action, while the Blueshirts gained a reputation for drunkenness, lack of discipline or of general military merit and saw little military action.

Shankill Road Belfast contingent of the antifascist socialist Republican Congress, at the annual Republican Wolfe Tone commemoration at Bodenstown, Co. Kildare, 1934. (Photo sourced: Internet)

During WWII the German Nazis ran a radio station, Irland-Redaktion, aimed at the Irish population and even containing some broadcasts in Irish but I gain the impression (without having reviewed its material) that it concentrated on anti-Allies propaganda, in particular probably anti-British and also on maintaining Irish state neutrality. It did contain broadcasts in the Irish language12.



The 1937 Constitution established under De Valera specifically mentioned Judaism in Article 44.1 and protected it from persecution while De Valera himself had good relations with the first Chief Rabbi of Ireland, Chaim Herzog (mentioned later here in relation to the founding of Israel). The State under De Valera remained officially neutral through WWII but, despite the IRA, actively friendly towards the Allies.

Some anti-semitism survived and has been picked up and incorporated in attempts to form fascist groups within Ireland which, since the 1930s defeat of the Blueshirts have been tiny and also prevented from having any great influence in society.13

But most of Irish society, especially after the horrors of the Nazi death-camps became common knowledge after WWII, empathised with the Jews. This continued to be the case as waves of Jewish refugees went to Palestine, often battling British soldiers and police who were trying to stop them landing.14

The State of Israel was created by Jewish settlers on Palestinian land in 1948 and was quickly recognised by two world powers – the USA and the USSR but the Irish state, like many others, was reluctant to follow suit, conscious that Palestine had been an Arab colonial possession or “mandate” of the UK, many of whose possessions around the world were being de-colonised.

In Irish eyes the Israeli Air Force attack on Egypt in 195315, two years before the Irish state was admitted to the United Nations, didn’t help Israel’s case. Israel struck without declaring war in support of the French and British attempt to maintain control of the Suez Canal against an Egyptian government’s intention to nationalise it. And the USA, keen to show that the balance of world powers had changed since WWII, publicly condemned the attack, especially chastising the old colonial powers and previous world masters, the British and French16.

President Nasser of Egypt making a speech (Image sourced: Internet). Nasser led the Egyptian nationalisation of the Suez Canal. (Photo sourced: Internet)

The Irish state of course had friendly relations with the USA but the Zionist State had some important Irish connections too. The Chief Rabbi of Palestine was a Zionist, Yitzhak Herzog – late of Belfast and Dublin, where he had also been Chief Rabbi of Ireland. One of his sons, Chaim Herzog, also a Zionist and though born in Belfast and raised in Dublin, became the 6th President of Israel.

De Valera, former IRA leader, founder of Fianna Fáil, later President of Ireland and friendly with Zionist Chaim Herzog (Photo sourced: Britannica)
Chaim Herzog, Zionist, Chief Rabbi of Ireland and later of Israel, friendly with De Valera. One of his sons was sixth President of Israel (Photo sourced: Internet)

Robert Briscoe (1894-1967), an Irish Republican and Zionist, a former prominent IRA Volunteer and TD (1927-1961 member of the Irish Parliament), twice Lord Mayor of Dublin (1956/’57, 1961/’62)17, not only supported the creation of the Israeli State but was a special adviser to Menachim Begin18 after the Second World War. He advised Begin in the transformation of the terrorist Irgun organisation into a parliamentary political movement in the form of Herut in the new Israeli state; the party later became Likud. Briscoe had also fund-raised for the Irgun in the USA.

Robert Briscoe, former IRA Volunteer and TD, as Lord Mayor of Dublin meeting USA President John F. Kennedy on the latter’s visit to Ireland in 1963 (shortly before Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, Texas). (Photo sourced: Internet)

His son, Ben Briscoe (b.1934), also a TD (1965-2002) and Lord Mayor (1988-1989), was a Zionist too. Both Briscoes were members of the Fianna Fáil party, the party most often in government of the Irish state.

Alan Shatter (b.1951), was a Zionist from a Jewish family and TD (1981-2002; 2007-2016) and former member19 of Fine Gael, the party most times in government after Fianna Fáil (and now in coalition with it). Shatter was Minister for Equality and Minister for Defence from 2011 to 2014. Though controversial even within his own party (and at times, Government) Shatter was influential in Irish politics and a public defender of Israel, during the 2009 Gaza War calling an opposing TD “anti-semitic” and on another occasion clashing with Ilan Pappé, expatriate Israeli, anti-Zionist and Professor of History at University of Exeter, England and refuting his scholarship.

Alan Shatter as Minister for Justice with Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan behind him before both were obliged to resign in 2014 over the Garda McCabe whistleblower case. Shatter is a Zionist and defender of the Israeli State who this week alone had a letter defending the state in the Irish Times newspaper. (Photo credit: Brenda Fitzsimmons, Irish Times)


Pathé newsreel film with narration in English was shown regularly in Irish cinemas before WWII and up to the 1970s, sometimes before the main feature film but more often, when two films were shown, between them. Irish audiences on occasion between the end of the War and the founding of the Israeli state, saw British troops and police struggling with Jewish refugees at ports, or ships crammed with refugees being forbidden to land after the War. Even without their own long and recent history with the British, Irish sympathies would naturally go to the refugees, many of them survivors of Nazi death-camps.

The Zionist epic film Exodus starring Paul Newman (1960), purporting to depict the events in the creation of the Israeli State has been credited with being enormously influential in swinging USA popular opinion in support of Israel; it had a significant impact on Irish opinion also. It glorified the Zionist terrorist Haganah organisation (which later became the core of the Israeli Army) and was very anti-British and anti-Arab.

One of the realities of the formation of the Israeli State in 1948, the Nakba (Catastrophe), mass expulsion of Palestinians. (Image sourced: Internet)

Despite whatever concerns might have existed in its upper echelons, the Irish State recognised Israel de jure in 1963.

In 1966 the film Cast a Giant Shadow was produced in the USA and was soon showing in Britain and in Ireland. The film took as its human interest base story that of David Daniel “Mickey” Marcus, a true-life USA Zionist and WWII veteran but in its depiction of the formation of the State of Israel was wildly inaccurate, of course showing none of the massacres or evictions of Palestinians20 carried out by the Zionists, in particular their armed gangs. “Mickey” was a member of one of those terrorist gangs, the Haganah and was played by Kirk Douglas with Senta Berger as the love interest, while even Frank Sinatra, Yul Brynner, John Wayne and Angie Dickinson had cameo roles in the film. Despite its number of Hollywood stars and the support of the Israeli State and their armed forces, it reputedly flopped in terms of financial return on investment.

English language poster for the 1960 Exodus film, featuring Paul Newman at a high point in his career. (Image sourced: Internet)
Cover for the 1966 Cast A Giant Shadow film as a DVD (allegedly deleted and rare, according to EBay advertisement). (Image sourced: Internet)

Both films were popular in Ireland (showing Jewish paramilitaries fighting uniformed British troops and police didn’t hurt) and strengthened feeling of sympathy with Israel.

Also in the 1960s a number of socialist-type communities called “kibbutzim” were established on land in Palestine under Israeli rule and many young people, Jewish and Gentile, went to work in them for some months, out of idealism, to experience change, new cultures, comradeship (and possibly get laid, as the Yanks say).

Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land21 went by permission of the Israeli State and had a very narrow and sanitised experience (if at all) of what life was like there for the Palestinians.

In the 1967 June War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War in Palestine, the media reporting represented the inaccurate image of the plucky little Jewish State fighting against and overcoming aggression by combined Arab states. This was more easily done in the case of the 1973 war when Egypt and Syria attacked first, but the fact was that Israel had been the aggressor in the ‘67 war, striking at Egypt, Jordan and Syria and the Zionists were now in occupation of land conquered in that war.22

All those ingredients together helped create a culture of Irish society friendliness towards the Israeli State and no Israeli Ambassador was complaining at that time of the words of Irish Government Ministers, much less of the general attitude of the Irish population.

The friendly attitude was reflected also in much of the Irish nationalist movement. Irish language supporters and campaigners, who wished to make Irish a language spoken throughout Ireland and not only in the Gaeltacht areas, admired the Israeli State for its achievement in restoring Hebrew as a daily spoken language, a language that for centuries had been used only in religion.23


However, people were beginning to see beyond the pro-Israel narrative. In 1974 the United Nations General Assembly recognised the Palestinian right to self-determination, along with the Palestine Liberation Organisation as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, as did the Arab League. The following year the UN General Assembly recognised Zionism as a racist ideology24 (which was not overturned until 1991).

In the Left and Republican movement

By the late 1960s most left-wing organisations around Europe were clear that the Israeli State was a Zionist one, not legitimate and that the Palestinians were oppressed and fighting a liberation struggle. Official Sinn Féin sent a delegate to conferences in Jordan and Kuwait in 1970/‘71; in 1970 too an article in the party’s weekly United Irishman saw Ireland, like Palestine in a national liberation struggle25. The Official IRA prisoners in Mountjoy Jail supported the Palestinians in their journal An Eochair in 1973 and Palestinians were among the guerrilla groups represented in the second Anti-Imperialist Festival organised by the Officials in July 1976.26

Nevertheless the election manifesto of the Workers’ Party in 1983, successor to Official SF, argued for the recognition of the State of Israel, although that was contrary to party policy and to the involvement of WP members in the Irish Friends of Palestine organisation, which was committed to supporting the PLO. However, party policy was soon publicly and internally reinstated in solidarity with Palestine.

Around this time, the British & Irish Communist Organisation, a small but influential organisation, had a pro-Israel position which however it reversed in the late 1980s, shortly before its demise.

In the 1970s the Provisional Sinn Féin weekly newspaper An Phoblacht often featured articles sympathetic to the Irish struggle from a USA-based correspondent signing himself as Fred Burns O’Brien. An Irish anti-imperialist working in London noted, in one of those articles, a favourable reference to the Israeli state and penned a protest letter to the Republican newspaper, pointing out that the Palestinians and not the Israeli Zionists were the natural allies of the Irish people and of anti-imperialists in general.27 The letter was not published and for some time O’Brien’s articles continued to appear in An Phoblacht.

However, once the Provisionals declared themselves to be in favour of socialism, they became pro-Palestinian and in the 1990s the PLO would have representatives attending Provisional Sinn Féin’s Ard Fheiseanna (Annual Congresses).28

Ireland today – the bloody path to being overwhelmingly pro-Palestinian

Large numbers of Irish people were becoming pro-Palestinian and against the Israeli state from the 1970s onwards, a process that accelerated through the decades.

After an air force, naval and ground artillery bombardment in 1972, Israel’s infantry and armoured forces invaded south Lebanon with the support of its right-wing Christian militia ally. That action resulted in between 1,100-2,000 Palestinian and Lebanese Muslims dead and 100,000-250,000 internally displaced.29

In 1982 the Israeli armed forces were back in Lebanon again, allied to right-wing Lebanese Christian militia. Estimates of Palestinian and Lebanese killed during that conflict vary from 1,100 to other sources quoting about 2,000 killed, most of them Palestinian and Lebanese. From 100,000 to 250,000 people were displaced internally due to the invasion and fighting and that and other events contributed hugely to the ongoing Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990). However on this occasion the Israeli armed forces suffered considerable casualties, often in ground struggle with Hizbollah fighting from tunnels.

Massacres of civilians in refugee camps became part of the war in Lebanon, with both Syrian and Israeli culpability.

A scene from the aftermath of the Sabra and Shatila Massacre 1982 facilitated by Israel (Image sourced: Internet)

On 12 August 1976, supported by Syria, Christian Maronite forces managed to overwhelm the Palestinian and leftist militias defending the Tel Al Zaatar refugee camp in east Beirut, which had been under siege since January. The Christian militia massacred 1,000–1,500 civilians, which unleashed heavy criticism against Syria from the Arab World.

Six years later, on 18th September 1982, the right-wing Christian Phalange (also known as Kataeb Party), in the presence and under the protection of the Israeli armed forces, its ally, massacred occupants of the Sabra and Shatila refugee camp in Beirut. Estimates of the number of massacre victims vary with the highest number at 3,500, mostly Palestinians and Lebanese Shiites.

1987 saw the beginning of the First Intifada of strikes, civil disobedience and riots (which did not end until 1991). That year alone 289 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza were killed by Israeli state forces with another 15 by Israeli zionist civilians, while only ten were killed on the Israeli side, six civilians and four of the armed state forces. In addition, Mossad agents shot the Palestinian cartoonist Naji al-Ali in the head in a London street. Overall during the First Intifada the Israeli army killed more than 1,000 Palestinians whilst 164 Israelis were killed.

The Second Intifada began nine years later and ran from 2000 to 2005 with a death-toll of 3,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis, as well as 64 foreigners.

Unarmed Palestinian women confront armed Israeli soldiers in December 1987, during the first Intifada. (Photo credit: Robert Croma, Mary Scully Reports).

After Hamas won their landslide victory in the 2007 elections to the Palestinian Authority, Al Fatah denied them taking administrative power in the West Bank but a similar attempt failed to do so in Gaza. The Israeli armed forces withdrew from Gaza but kept control of one of its gates, its air space and sea. Minor armed conflicts continued until 2009, when Israel launched an intensive attack on the enclave, dubbing it Operation Cast Lead. Over the 22 days of the assault, in which Israel used white phosphorous shells against civilian areas (against international law), 1,400 Palestinians had been killed, of which 431 were children.

In 2010 the Israeli Navy intercepted ships, one of which sailed from Ireland, bringing aid to Gaza on the high seas, boarded them under arms, killing ten Palestinian solidarity activists on a Turkish ship and sailed the ships into Israeli port. In the process they jammed the radar and radio of the ships, confiscated the cargoes (though some were eventually released to Gaza), confiscated the mobile phones and laptops of crew and passengers (the memories of which they inspected, wiping many photos and film), seized the ships, detained the passengers and crew in jail and deported them.

Carlos Latuf cartoon draws on the film Jaws to depict the Israeli Navy’s stalking and attack on the Irish aid-to-Gaza ship, the Rachel Corrie. (Image sourced: Internet)

In November 2013, Palestine was accorded “non-member observer status” in the United Nations and would henceforth be referred to officially as “the State of Palestine”.

When the Israeli Ambassador called Ireland “the most anti-semitic country in Europe was I think, as I said, 2014, during or soon after his state’s assault on Gaza that year.

On the Palestinian side 2,251 were killed during that war, of which 551 were children and 299 women; in addition 11,231 Palestinians were injured, including 3,436 children and 3,540 women. More than 1,500 Palestinian children were orphaned. 18,000 housing units were destroyed in whole or in part and 73 medical facilities and many ambulances were damaged.30 There was widescale damage to electricity generation and supply and to sewage treatment plants, which resulted in heavy sea pollution; factories also were destroyed.

On the Israeli side, the casualties were 67 Israeli soldiers, five Israeli civilians (including one child) and one Thai civilian killed, while 469 IDF soldiers and 261 Israeli civilians were injured. Hardly an Israeli building was damaged despite the approximately 300 rockets fired by Palestinian guerrilla groups.

This was not war of two belligerents and the casualty statistics underlined that; the Israelis had an airforce, the Palestinians have none; the Israelis had a navy, the Palestinians have none. The Israelis had sophisticated long-range and even remotely-controlled weapons; all the Palestinians have is their home-made rockets, most of which fall short or are destroyed by Israeli defence systems. Of course, the Palestinians have no anti-air attack defence systems whatsoever. The only effective armed response that Palestinians have is their guerrilla forces which are only effective within firearm reach of the enemy, when they can certainly take their toll, as the Israeli Occupation Forces found when they invaded Gaza and were forced to retreat.

Irish society saw enough of this, on videos, in reporting on TV and in print and drew their conclusions despite the media bias nearly always in favour of the Israelis and against the Palestinians. The solidarity activist organisations helped educate the Irish people but it was mostly what the latter saw and heard and the process of their own brains that transformed their view.31

In 2017 the Palestinian flag was flown above Dublin’s City Hall by majority vote of Dublin City councillors for one month in solidarity with the Palestinians.

The latest Gaza “War” just concluded was another in a long list and the current truce can only be, as those before it, a temporary one. The Zionist State project requires oppression and repression of Palestinians which in turn can only give rise to continued resistance. The Zionist State cannot defeat the Palestinian will to resist but nor can the Palestinian resistance defeat the militarily far superior Israeli State with its huge military, economic and political support from the United States of America. The states of the world that would wish to support the Palestinians or at least end the periodic bloodbaths will need to withdraw their support from the US-led alliance that supports the Zionist State.


Altogether, the opinion of most of Irish society today on the Israel-Palestine conflict is vastly different to what it was in the 1950s, 1960s and even 1970s – a sea-change has taken place of which Irish politicians have had to take note. People today have alternative sources of information to the Irish and British mainstream written and TV media, with major news networks such as Al Jazeera and RT. In addition, some mainstream media has decided to expose Israeli’s actions. But also video and photographs from smaller organisations and individuals get shared on social media and are seen by hundreds, thousands or even hundreds of thousands.

Part of the Ha’Penny Bridge, Dublin annual New Year’s Day Palestine solidarity demonstration organised by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign 2020 (Photo: D.Breatnach)

The Palestinian solidarity activities of what has been broadly the largest oppositional movement to the State, the Republican Movement, through its publicity and the activism of its members of course helped develop awareness in Irish society of the justice of the Palestinian cause and, conversely, of the injustice of that of the Zionist State. The small socialist and communist organisations also played a part.

Although all those, including in particular in more recent times solidarity groups and individual activists, have made a huge contribution, the main element responsible for the change has been the visible behaviour of the Zionist State itself, along with its Zionist supporters, both inside and outside Israel.

And the “sea-change” has become now a tsunami.



1Declared illegal by the United Nations, since they are all on land seized in conquest by Israel in 1967. Many Zionists however regard them as the logical extension of the Israeli state, a kind of Zionist “manifest destiny”. On the other hand, many others consider the Israeli state itself to be illegal, a racist, religious state on ground seized from the Palestinians.

2A traditional diplomatic way of expressing extreme displeasure with the state represented by an embassy.

3Sponsored by Irish Senator Frances Black, a singer, social and human rights campaigner, its full title is Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018 and has been proceeding slowly since 2018. The Bill would it make it illegal to import, repackage or sell products from the ‘Occupied Territories’ within the territory of the Irish State, liable on conviction to heft fines. Its passage and implementation would represent another ‘first’ in the EU for Ireland.

4Originally it meant “against the semitic people” and since the Arabs are “semitic people” too, it would mean being hostile to them also — which would make Zionists anti-semitic, in part. But we’ll use the term here to mean “anti-Jewish”, which is how most people understand it these days (except for the Zionists, for which it means “criticising Israel”).


6Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice, written during the reign of Elizabeth I of England, figures the Jewish financier demanding the pound of flesh from the Christian merchant, a terrible portrayal and it is that which remains in the memory and even in the language, while the Jew’s recounting of the insults he has received before that are mostly forgotten. England had anti-semitic laws in terms of settlement, trade and other rights until the 1930s and semi-official tolerance/ encouragement of active anti-semitism right up to WWII.

7And Arthur Griffiths, shortly before he founded the original Sinn Féin party.

8While it is stated in many sources that some families remained in Cork and although I can recall recently reading about the welcome the city gave them, I regret that a number of searches have failed to date to reveal that source.

9Fianna Fáil remained governing in minority until 1938 when it was in majority, was in minority again in 1943, in majority in 1944 until ‘48 when it was in Opposition.

10The party is often to this day called “Blueshirts” by opponents.

11And blessed by many Irish bishops and priests as “crusaders for the Catholic Faith”.

12See link for in SOURCES at end of article for review of Hitler’s Irish Voices: The Story of German Radio’s Wartime Irish Service by David O’Donoghue (Beyond the Pale Publications) in History Ireland.

13The difficulties of capitalism recently, the breakdown of the two-party system and the Covid19 pandemic have provided opportunities for far-Right and outright fascists organising in Ireland and anti-semitism features among them in particular in the three tiny fascist parties. However, they tend not to promote their anti-semitism, preferring instead to concentrate on anti-immigration, homophobia and islamophobia.

14Even though the British had been encouraging Jewish migration to Palestine since at least the Declaration by the British Prime Minister Arthur Balfour in 1917.

15The British had previous control over Egypt, having fought the French and the Egyptians and in fact still had troops there until June 1956. But their days were numbered there from the Arab nationalist coup in the Egyptian Army in 1952, which is what led to the nationalisation of the Suez Canal.

16President Eisenhower threatened to hurt the UK financially and the British Prime Minister, Anthony Eden, was forced to resign.

17The Lord Mayorship of Dublin is a largely ceremonial position but of course not without some influence; the chosen candidate is elected by City councillors at their Annual Meeting in the summer and occupies the position until the election of the successor the following year.

18Leader of the Irgun and sixth President of the Israeli State.

19Shatter resigned his membership in 2018; he was the sitting TD with the largest property portfolio of any member of Ireland’s cabinet while a cabinet minister (2011-2014).

20And even rape before murder, as was acknowledged officially a few years ago.

21Because of its location in much of the Christian Bibles, Palestine is considered the “Holy Land”. However it holds sites revered by Jews and Muslims too.

22It was in that war that Jerusalem and much additional land was occupied by Israel and part of the Zionist project is to make Jerusalem the Jewish-only capital of the Israeli State (hence the recent Zionist civilian harassment of Palestinian families living there).

23Other Jewish languages were used such a Yiddish – mostly German in composition — by the Ashkenazi Jews and Ladino — mostly medieval Spanish-Portuguese but with many other influences — by the Sephardic Jews.

24Resolution 3379.

25The Lost Revolution, Brian Hanley & Scott Millar (2009), pp.213, 215, 221

26Ibid, p.334.

27I wrote the letter and it was not the only one they didn’t publish. My father Deasún Breatnach, who was Editor of the paper for a couple of years, told me that he had been refused permission to publish another letter I had written.

28The PLO at the time was controlled by the Al Fatah organisation and in 1989 signed up to the disastrous Oslo Agreement, which in time led to their losing their place in the leadership of the Palestinian movement and of the Palestinian Authority to Hamas. Both Palestine and South Africa were initially seen in some quarters as great examples of the alleged benefits of “peace processes” and both the PLO and ANC delegates at the Ard-Fheis were employed to help swing the Provisionals’ membership between the Irish version of the “process”.

29Most of the statistics are taken from a Wikipedia source clearly influenced by pro-Israeli contributors: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_Israeli%E2%80%93Palestinian_conflict


31A notable exception to this whole process has been the Unionist section of the British colony in Ireland, the Six Counties. In particular the Loyalists love to hate anything the Republicans support and for that reason profess to hate the Palestinians and to support the Israeli state, despite some connections of theirs with British and Irish fascist groups who are anti-semitic.

SOURCES(in order of use)

Irish Parliament votes to declare Israeli ‘illegal settlements’ and annexation: https://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/dail-to-vote-on-motion-calling-for-expulsion-of-israeli-ambassador-defeated-1133487.html

“Occupied Territories Bill”: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/bills/bill/2018/6/

Gaza War 2014 casualties: https://www.ochaopt.org/content/key-figures-2014-hostilities

Anti-Semitism in England: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antisemitism_in_the_United_Kingdom

Limerick antisemitic Boycott and riots: https://www.historyireland.com/20th-century-contemporary-history/the-limerick-pogrom-1904/

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

Irish Christian Front: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_Christian_Front

Anti-Semitism in Ireland (in particular during the WWII years): https://www.historyireland.com/20th-century-contemporary-history/jews-in-twentieth-century-ireland-refugees-anti-semitism-the-holocaust-dermot-keogh-cork-university-press-15-99-isbn-1859181503-hitlers-irish-voices-the-story-of-german-radio/

Protection of Judaism in the 1937 Irish Constitution: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitution_of_Ireland#Religion

Herzog: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaim_Herzog

Robert Briscoe, IRA Volunteer, TD and Zionist: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Briscoe_(politician)

Ben Briscoe, Jewish, Lord Mayor of Dublin: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Briscoe

Ben Briscoe Lord Mayor of Dublin and Zionist: https://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1103&context=phr

Alan Shatter: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Shatter

Zionist Hollywood films:

(1960): https://www.timeout.com/movies/exodus

(1966): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cast_a_Giant_Shadow

Massacre and rape by Israeli soldiers in one village: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safsaf_massacre

June or Six-Day War: https://www.history.com/topics/middle-east/six-day-war#

Timeline and statistics in a Zionist-influenced Wikipedia site: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_Israeli%E2%80%93Palestinian_conflict

Irish Republican Richard Behal (Part Two)

Fascinating story in Part II (Part is very interesting too) of a successful IRA attack on an advance British in 1965.

Also an interesting account of an attempt by the Irish Gombeen ruling class to reach closer cooperation with British imperialism in the run-up to the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Rising, combined with a struggle within the IRA between emphasis on military struggle or social and economic struggle.

The work in obtaining these interviews and broadcasting them is a very important contribution to recovering our history.


This is part two of the story of Irish Republican Richard Behal who as a young man joined the Irish Republican Army in Kilkenny, he subsequently participated in Operation Harvest . (Otherwise known as the 1956-62 Border Campaign)

In 1965, one years before the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Easter rising,  Richard  was  involved in an operation to attack the British naval boat HMS Brave Border with an anti-tank weapon in Waterford . The attack caused millions of pounds of damage to the boat.

In addition, he was arrested and remanded  to Limerick prison from where he made a daring  escape using a hack-saw to cut through the iron bars of the cell window.

View original post