FIGHTER FOR CLASS AND NATION LAID TO REST

Diarmuid Breatnach

Eamon McGrath (31 October 1955 – 11 January 1923) singer and song lyrics-writer, activist in areas of housing, water and national sovereignty, historical memory and anti-fascism.

He was getting buried on Saturday and I wasn’t able to be at the service nor at the celebration of his life with comrades afterwards.

I hope this eulogy, if that’s the right word for this, will make up for my absence to his family, comrades and friends and, of course, to me.

Eamon came into my life through the Moore Street occupation in January of 2016. The property speculator Joe O’Reilly (Chartered Land) and the State were about to collude in the demolition of three buildings in the 1916 Terrace.

The State had declared only four buildings in the 16-building terrace, after a long struggle, to be a historical monument and even later, purchased – but around 300 men and women hadn’t occupied just four buildings in 1916.

The Save Moore Street From Demolition campaign group had called emergency demonstrations on to the street following which the buildings had been occupied by protesting conservationists.

The weather was bitterly cold but the occupiers held firm for a week until a stay of demolition had been imposed by the High Court. Despite his health status and challenged mobility, Eamon was there throughout, with humour and song.

Eamon McGrath to far right of photo while Dave Swift (centre) in Irish Volunteer uniform reads a historical document April 2017 in Moore Street, during historical commemoration event (the hoarding behind is covering the extension of the ILAC further into Moore Street, killing the market appearance for that side of the street for the block).

Subsequently, to prevent internal damage by contractors, a six-weeks’ blockade was imposed on the building by conservationists from 6.30am to 4.30pm each weekday. Eamon was very much a part of that too, driving himself and his close comrade Sean Doyle up from Wicklow every day.

Eamon was intensely loyal to close friends and comrades. On occasion I found him prickly or grumpy (especially at 6.30 am) but throughout any disagreements he never lost sight of who were his comrades and other people he respected.

Though a proud man, when he recognised himself in error, he didn’t hesitate to apologise.

A new broader group came out of the occupation and blockade, called Save Moore Street 2016 and Eamon attended and contributed to internal organising meetings and events we called on to the street – re-enactments, fake funerals of history, pickets, demonstrations and rallies.

As others drifted or were called away from the group by other commitments, Eamon remained with the active core.

(L-R) Paddy Reilly and Eamon McGrath in period costumes having a conversation during a history education event and anniversary commemoration of the founding of the Save Moore Street From Demolition campaign group. (Photo from Save Moore Street From Demolition FB page)

Of course, Eamon had been active before 2016: certainly very much so in the general awareness-raising and mass campaign against planned privatisation of our water and the installation of water meters.

He was to continue that activism, which resulted in assaults by a water contractor on him and Seán Doyle, court appearances for both and in May 2016 both of them went to jail for a period but remained unbowed.

Eamon was one of the original occupiers of Apollo House in December 2016 in protest against homelessness and as a co-founder of the Anti Eviction Flying Column, Eamon was to the fore in resisting evictions across the country and also a co-founder of the Bring It to Their Doors campaign.

The State authorities were making things awkward for Eamon by then, both in terms of working as a taxi driver and claiming benefit when he was not. His ability to reach events in Dublin declined but he still got there often enough on public transport, while remaining active nearer to home.

As his physical mobility declined further, comrades in Carlow started an on-line collection to buy him an electric wheelchair. Even as I made enquiries to contribute, the fund had already reached its target, so quickly did people support it.

Later still, his family installed a new chairlift for his home so he could access the room where he recorded his songs with lyrics commenting on the ongoing political struggles, adapted to popular airs.

Though our voices didn’t go well together, we sang together a couple of times – outside the GPO and outside Dublin City Hall.

Eamon McGrath, centre right after April 2016 event in Moore Street after which we brought it to in front of the General Post Office in Moore Street for awhile. Myself near centre, Glenda further to the left of photo, Sean Doyle nearly out of shot.

He remained active on social media but in particular in keeping an eye on the activities of right-wing people, covid-deniers, racists, fascists …. Eamon was a handy source for a quick update on the status of many of them.

Eamon arranged an interview for us both with the Dublin Near FM radio station, the interviewer being then a former drug addict who sadly returned later to his addiction and died on the street. It was on the way back from the interview that Eamon told me a little about his earlier years.

He had a difficult time in his childhood, including institutional confinement and his formal education suffered as a result. However, he educated himself about many things by reading, listening, discussing and viewing on line.

I think the last time I saw Eamon was at a commemoration at the Peter Daly monument in Wexford inSeptember 2022, in his electric wheelchair and attached oxygen cylinder for his lung condition and all in good cheer, asking me for Moore Street campaign updates in detail.

Eamon McGrath, centre in wheelchair, at Peter Daly commemoration in Wexford, September 2022 (Photo from Peter Daly FB page)

His comrades in Anti-Imperialist Action Ireland, which he had joined at its foundation in 2017 correctly called him “one ot the most dedicated political activists of the last decade” and no-one who knew him could argue with that.

I knew little of Eamon’s family life but he often emphasised how important family was, not just to him but in general. Though I do not know them tá mé i gcomhbhrón leo, offering them my condolences along with the many they have received and are no doubt still arriving.

A partner, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, extended family member and friend to many.

Eamon McGrath of Kenmare Heights, Greystones & formerly Wolfe Tone Square, Bray, Co. Wicklow, was buried in Radford Cemetery, Greystones Saturday after a service in the Holy Rosary Church, Bray, attended by family, comrades and friends.

End.

IS BEING CALLED “A RAT” DEFAMATORY?

News and Views 3

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 2 mins)

Artem Lobov failed in his Irish High Court attempt to have former friend and associate Conor McGregor desist from calling him “a rat” on social media.

Justice Simon, presiding, took the view that the epithet might be insulting but was not defamatory, i.e did not tend to injure Lobov’s social or business standing.

In order to come to that decision in law, Judge Simons would have to 1) decide that Lobov had no reputation to lose and/ or 2) that the term was accurate or 3) that the term, though insulting, did not undermine his reputation.

The judge took the third view and in doing so, displayed his ignorance of the cultural milieu in which the antagonists operate. Justice Simons thought about his own social circles and others with which he had some familiarity and could see the term only as insulting.

Conor McGregor congratulating Artem Lobov on the latter’s win in 2016 (Image sourced: Internet)

Justice Simons did not look at it from a working class or Irish Republican or even criminal fraternity social viewpoint, each of them different but all with a disdain (and horror even) for the informer, an brathadóir, the turncoat, tout, carey,1 snake, grass, canary, fink — and ‘rat’.

The judge might have approached the weight of such an accusation in other cultures than his own, had he reflected on what “sneak” or “squealer” might have meant in his schooldays, in whatever high-class and expensive school he attended. Or even among fellow-students in university.

Back on the other levels of society, there is a deep understanding of the gap between those in power and those over whom they exercise that power, along with a dislike for those who pass information about any of ‘us’ to ‘them’. Calling someone in that culture a ‘rat’ is indeed to defame them.

Indeed, in some circles, having it believed that someone is an informer to the authorities can be the cause of their receiving physical violence or even their death. Scapaticci, himself an informer in the Provisional IRA for the British secret services, killed many accused of being what he was.2

Donaldson, who admitted to also being an informer with a high-ranking position in the Provisional IRA, was assassinated, either in retaliation by Irish Republicans or to keep him quiet by some branch of the British secret services.3

The Four Courts complex, Dublin, seen from the south side of the river. (Image sourced: Internet)

The test of whether “a reasonable person” might consider the term ‘rat’ to be “defamatory” failed but only because Judge Simons imagined such “a reasonable person” to come from his own social background and not from the circles generally inhabited by McGregor and Lobov.

The judge was wrong in law but Artem did himself no favour by taking the case to law and, apart from losing, appealing to that which is a branch of the authorities.

End.

FOOTNOTES

SOURCES AND REFERENCES

Court dismisses ex-MMA fighter’s action against Conor McGregor (thejournal.ie)

What is another word for informer? | Informer Synonyms – WordHippo Thesaurus

Stakeknife scandal: Freddie Scappaticci avoids perjury charge | Northern Ireland | The Guardian

https://www.itv.com/news/utv/2022-03-11/the-25-words-which-defined-a-double-agent

Libel Definition & Meaning – Merriam-Webster

https://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/defamation

1However many Irish people disapproved or otherwise of the assassination of Lord Cavendish and Assistant Secretary Burke in Dublin’s Phoenix Park by the Invincibles in 1882, Carey, who had been one of the assassination party but turned against his former comrades and exultantly gave evidence against them, earned a wide disgust across Irish society. For the conviction and execution of the Irish Republicans the informer was rewarded by the Crown with money, false identity and opportunity to settle in a further British colony. When O’Donnell killed him in 1883 while Carey was on his way to South Africa, the feeling that informer deserved it was widespread across Irish society. “Carey” became a slang word for “informer” in some areas of Dubli. Informers are regularly denounced in Irish political ballads across the centuries.

2See Sources and References.

3Ditto.

MARTYR FROM EACH PROVINCE COMMEMORATED IN DRIVING RAIN

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main section: 5 mins.)

In atrocious weather conditions, Irish Republicans of a number of organisations and of none gathered at the Liam Mellows monument in Finglas today (Sunday 4 December 2022) to honour four Republicans executed by the Irish State in 1922.

Liam Mellows, Rory O’Conor, Joe McKelvey and Richard Barrett were all prominent IRA Volunteers during the War of Independence and rejected the Anglo-Irish Agreement to create a subservient state in a partitioned country.

The Irish State chose the four prisoners in retaliation for the assassination of Seán Hales TD, himself shot in retaliation for Free State executions of Republican prisoners. By coincidence or intent, each one of the four had been born in a different one of Ireland’s four provinces.

Section of the crowd seen from behind, the monument ahead in background and the flags of the colour parties visible to the left. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

THE COMMEMORATION EVENT

A part of the commemoration marched with colour parties, led by lone piper, from Finglas village to the Mellows Monument.

Ado Perry chaired the event, one of a series of Irish Civil War commemorations in Dublin organised by Independent Republicans, which group also erected commemorative panels in various locations around the city, often marking the location where Free State troops killed an IRA Volunteer.

Three colour parties attended the event and a list of all the known Republican victims of the Free State was read out.

Seán Óg performing with Ado Perry in the foreground. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Sean Óg, accompanying himself on guitar, sang Brian Ó hUigínn’s Soldiers of ‘22 and James Ryan’s Take It Down From the Mast, two of the best-known of a very limited number of songs about the Irish Civil War. A number present joined in on the chorus of the second song:

Take it down from the mast, Irish Traitors,

It’s the flag we Republicans claim;

It can never belong to Free Staters,

For you’ve brought on it nothing but shame.

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Mags Glennon gave a speech on behalf of the organisers but it was difficult to make out its content (kindly supplied since and given in full in Appendix.

The main speaker advertised for the event was John Crawley, who has found recent fame in Republican circles with the publication of his biographical book The Yank, about his enlisting with the US Marine Corps and attempting to pass on his military skills to the Provisional IRA.

John Crawley speaking (Photo: D.Breatnach)

It was a shame that the volume of the PA was only turned up at around the last quarter or so of his speech. Despite the limited audibility of most of it, the attendance endured the rain and stood there in good order1.

Ado Perry thanked speakers and musicians for participation and all for attendance, making special mention of the colour parties. He announced that the event commemorative event would be at Kilmainham Jail early in January.

A lone piper played a lament and swung into the national anthem, Amhrán na bhFiann. Representatives of the National Graves Association addressed the crowd briefly before the event finally concluded and the wet and the weary headed home or to a warm pub or restaurant.

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

A local resident assured us that the sun does sometimes shine in Finglas. I assured him I believed him as I had seen some photographs to verify it.

The weather really was atrocious, raining almost non-stop and on one occasion during the event, lashing down heavily upon the gathering. One had to feel sympathy for the men and women of the three colour parties, who had to endure the downpour without the shelter of even an umbrella.

Indeed this reporter felt the need to break his bicycle journey away from the event for a bowl of hot soup in a nice eatery across the motorway bridge in Finglas village, before pushing on to my destination in the Glasnevin area.

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

BACKGROUND: THE FREE STATE

The State that came into existence in 1922 was a creation of those forces that accepted Dominion status within the British Commonwealth instead of an Irish Republic, accepting also the partition of Ireland for the first time with six counties becoming a British colony.

While the pro-Treaty position had a majority of votes in the Irish parliament, a large part of the civilian population and the vast majority of the fighters (Irish Volunteers, Cumann na mBan, Na Fianna) rejected the Treaty and their representation left the Government in protest.

Although Anti-Treaty forces had occupied the Four Courts in Dublin, the Civil War was started by the Free State military, shelling the Republican occupants with artillery on loan from the British military and going on to use British transport and weapons to defeat the Republicans.

Rory O’Connor, Joe McKelvey, Richard Barrett and Liam Mellows were already in jail when Seán Hales was killed and could not be considered guilty by any stretch of causality; nevertheless they were executed on 9th December 1922.

oznor

From Century Ireland:

In a statement issued by the National Army’s General Headquarters, the latest round of executions are explained as a ‘reprisal for the assassination…. of Brigadier Sean Hales, TD, and as a solemn warning to those associated with them who are engaged in a conspiracy of assassination against the representatives of the Irish people.’

The executions took place at 9.20 am. The prisoners were marched blindfolded to the rear of the Mountjoy Prison buildings with three clergymen in attendance. They were shot by firing squad and their bodies were subsequently interred within the grounds of the prison.

Commenting on these developments, the Irish Times has editorialised that the ‘Free State Government has committed itself to an act of ‘reprisal’ which eclipses in sudden and tragic severity the sternest measures of the British Crown during the conflict with Sinn Féin.’

The first executions carried out by the Free State took place on 17 November 1922, and then continued a week later with that of Erskine Childers.

On the last day of November, the number of those executed increased to eight when three Dubliners – Joseph Spooner (21), Patrick Farrelly (21), John Murphy (19) – were killed at Beggars Bush Barracks.

The three men were captured on 30 October after an attempt was made to blow up Oriel House, the headquarters of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID)2.

Following the deaths of Spooner, Farrelly and Murphy, the leader of the Labour Party, Thomas Johnston, called for an end to executions as a method of punishment. Mr Johnston, speaking in the Dáil on 30 November, stated:

‘We have been told pretty frequently during the last few weeks that it is the intention of the ministry to re-establish the reign of law, and we were told yesterday, as we have been told frequently, that unless this kind of thing is done anarchy will prevail. I want to make the charge that this kind of trial, this kind of sentence, is, in fact, anarchy. It is not law. It is anarchy- lynch law once removed.’

Colour Parties at the event (Photo: D.Breatnach)

By the time the Civil War ended, the Free State had formally executed around 80 Irish Republicans (many more than had the British occupation 1916-1921) and at least another 20 killed as surrendered fighters or kidnapped, sometimes tortured, then taken somewhere and shot.

Post-Civil War, the class nature of the State became even clearer: led by a foreign-dependent capitalist class, handing over healthcare and education to the Catholic Church, upon the institutions of which it leaned heavily for social control of the masses.

The foreign dependency was at first on the British who helped create the State but subsequently first the USA and then the EU have been added to the list of economic masters. This is the inheritance of the Anglo-Irish Agreement and of the victory of the Free State in the Civil War.

end.

(Photo: D.Breatnach)
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

APPENDIX (reading time approx 11 minutes):

SPEECH BY MAGS GLENNON FOR INDEPENDENT REPUBLICANS GROUP

Today we gather to remember and honour Liam Mellows, Rory O’Connor, Joe McKelvey and Dick Barrett, four dedicated volunteers who were executed without even the pretence of a trial by a Free State regime bent on revenge and determined to use any methods to defeat the principles and spirit of Irish Republicanism.

In this case the brutal elimination not just of key IRA military leaders but also the articulate political voices who could expose the betrayal of the revolutionary republican ideals by the Free State. 

As the Civil War grew increasingly bitter in the autumn of 1922 the Free State implemented the Public Order Act, allowing for summary execution from anyone caught in possession of weapons. Kevin O Higgins stated that “what was needed to put down the Irregulars were more local executions, and we should just kill them anyway”. 

It is important to recognize the context in which these four brave men met their deaths. They were murdered to ensure the supremacy of the Free State elite who felt it was their right to betray the principles of the 1916 Rising and the Democratic Programme of the 1st Dail.

The prosperous catholic and moderate nationalist class had seen their Home Rule party practically eliminated in the 1919 election. Mass campaigns against conscription, transport strikes against British militarism as well as sporadic strikes and workers Soviet revolts worried what Mellows called ‘the state in the country people’. 

The political interests of the prosperous middle class catholic merchants, professionals and big farmers were well served by acceptance of the British Treaty, which would ensure they held social, economic and political power in the new Free State. They cared not for partition or royal oaths as they had achieved their Home Rule.

The Free State elite saw the role of working people, many of whom had been at the forefront of the war, was to retreat once more to the slums and to obey their masters.

The democratic and egalitarian basis of a Republicanism expressed in the founding documents of the struggle promised a radical and democratic future, appealing in particular to working people in Dublin who had been fighting since the Lockout of 1913.

WT Cosgrave famously described the urban and rural poor as the ‘sweepings of the workhouses’ and desired that they emigrate as quickly as possible. The original Sinn Fein of Arthur Griffith had supported the employers in 1913 but piggy backed to prominence on the back of the 1916 Rising. 

The elimination of men like Mellows – Brugha and Childers were already dead – was to ensure the political head was cut off the Republican movement.

The execution of military commanders like O Connor, Barrett and McKelvey was to send a message to all provinces that the IRA rank and file would suffer similar deaths to their commanding officers.

The terror Dublin had suffered in 1922 was intensified across the south in 1923 with dozens of young volunteers (many just boys) disappeared, tortured, shot at roadsides and dumped behind ditches. Yet Fine Gael still today parrots rubbish about republican ‘violence’, to cover up the savage war crimes on which they built their Free State.

We must all openly question the narrative being put forward by the Free State establishment today, completely ignoring the centenary of the Civil War. Remembering the deaths and honouring the lives of the republican volunteers has been carried out by their families and small local Commemoration groups.

Any further publicity would reveal the betrayal of the democratic and revolutionary principles of Republicanism which the Free State attempted to wipe out in the Civil War. We must rededicate ourselves to the revolutionary, internationalist and anti-imperialist traditions of Irish Republicanism.

As we work to advance these ideas in our communities, we must reject the conservative and xenophobic brands of nationalism, whether orange or green, that seek to deflect the blame for our social and economic problems away from the establishment figures benefiting from and promoting such conflict. 

We remember today the sacrifice made 100 years ago by Liam Mellows, Rory O Connor, Joe McKelvey and Dick Barrett. May they rest in peace and their ideas and example form the basis of a strong, principled and united Irish Republicanism into the future. Beir Bua!

SPEECH BY JOHN CRAWLEY, MAIN SPEAKER AT EVENT

At 3:30 am on Friday, the 8th of December 1922, IRA volunteers Liam Mellows, Rory O’Connor, Dick Barrett, and Joe McKelvey were informed they were to be summarily executed by the Free State government in retaliation for the killing of Sean Hales, the previous day.

Hales had voted for the ‘Murder Bill’ permitting the execution of those bearing arms in defence of the Irish Republic.

The Free State made great play of the fact Hales was a T.D. even though the first T.D. slain in the Civil War had been shot by Free Staters when they killed Cathal Brugha, who presided over the first meeting of Dáil hÉireann in January 1919 and had served as Minister for Defence. Free Staters had murdered Harry Boland T.D. in August, and of course, Liam Mellows was a T.D.

Captured as part of the Four Courts garrison the previous June, these four IRA volunteers had been in prison since then. They held no responsibility for IRA operations on the outside.

Those Free Staters who hadn’t the resolve to stand by the Republic demonstrated vicious zeal in proving to the British they had the cruelty to murder those who did.

They attempted to justify these killings by claiming they were implementing the will of the Irish people who approved the Anglo-Irish Treaty under Britain’s threat of immediate and terrible war if it were not ratified.

But it was not the will of the Irish people that led to the bombardment of the Four Courts the previous June with artillery provided by the British army. It was the will of British Prime Minister Lloyd George and Winston Churchill.

The firing squad that shot Rory, Liam, Dick, and Joe that cold December morning was manned by Irishmen who had all served in the British army. They carried rifles and wore uniforms supplied by the British government.

The Free State government called its armed wing the National Army, but it was no national army.

It was an exclusively 26-County force set up under Article 8 of the Anglo-Irish Treaty to fight the only war they ever engaged in – the war to overthrow the Irish Republic. Had it been a national army, the British government would never have permitted it to exist.

Bernard Law Montgomery, who became a Field Marshall during the Second World War and had commanded British forces in Cork during the Irish civil war, wrote in 1923:

‘We [the British Army] could probably have squashed the [IRA 1919-21] rebellion as a temporary measure, but it would have broken out again like an ulcer the moment we removed the troops…

The only way, therefore, was to give them [the Irish] some form of self-government and let them squash the rebellion themselves; they are the only people who could really stamp it out, and they are still trying to do so and as far as one can tell they seem to be having a fair amount of success.’

By May 1923, the Free State Army would have 58,000 men who were armed, equipped, and uniformed by the British government.

Of this number, more than 30,000 were Irishmen who were former British soldiers, approximately 3,000 were IRA deserters who had defected from the Republic, and the remaining 25,000 had no prior experience on either side.

James Connolly had written in 1915, ‘When a foreign invader plants himself in a country which he holds by military force his only hope of retaining his grasp is either that he wins the loyalty of the natives, or if he fails to do so that he corrupts enough of them to enable him to disorganise and dishearten the remainder…The chief method of corruption is by an appeal to self-interest.

The self-interest of the Free Staters lay in the opportunity to achieve managerial control of a state with the pay, pensions, patronage, and prestige that went with it. A state whose parameters had been determined by a Tory-dominated cabinet committee that consulted nobody in Ireland except unionists.

Contrary to what partitionist propagandists would have us believe, the Treaty was not the result of a decision that had to be taken for pragmatic reasons in the face of overwhelming odds that any rational person in Ireland could recognise and accept.

Nor was the Dáil split down the middle. The Treaty passed by only seven votes in January 1922. Had the vote been taken before the Christmas recess, as many had expected, the Treaty would almost certainly have been rejected.

Unfortunately, the Christmas break gave powerful pro-Treaty interests like the Catholic Church, big farmers, big business, and an assortment of gombeen men the opportunity to wear down the resolve of a number of T.D.s.

Liam Mellows presided over an IRA convention held in the Mansion House in Dublin in March 1922. The IRA voted more than 80% against the Treaty and passed a resolution declaring, ‘That the Army reaffirms its allegiance to the Irish Republic…’

Cumann na mBan voted overwhelmingly against the Treaty by 419 votes to 63, and the vast majority of the active IRA units in the field also rejected it.

In a letter to his mother written shortly before his execution, Liam Mellows declared, ‘I die for the truth.

That truth was spoken by James Connolly at his court martial in 1916 when he said, ‘The British Government has no right in Ireland, never had any right in Ireland, and never can have any right in Ireland . . .’

That truth was also spoken by Pádraig Pearse while inspecting Irish Volunteers at Vinegar Hill in Wexford in the early autumn of 1915 when he said, ‘We, the Volunteers, are formed here not for half of Ireland, not to give the British Garrison control of part of Ireland. No! We are here for the whole of Ireland.’

As has been shown so many times in Irish history and is being demonstrated today in a different context, in a revolutionary struggle, the choice one often confronts is whether to do what counts or to make what you can do count.

To do what mattered proved too daunting for many Free Staters, so they made the Treaty count, saved their skins, opened career paths, and shifted the goalposts from the 32-County Irish Republic to a 26-County Dominion of the British Empire moulded by British strategic interests.

In 1948 Fine Gael Taoiseach John A. Costello declared that the Irish Free State would become the Republic of Ireland – a republic that would tell the world Ireland is Ireland without the Six Counties.

In the future, when any Dublin politician would proudly assert, ‘I stand by the Republic,’ they were referring exclusively to the twenty-six-county Republic of Ireland announced by this former Blueshirt in 1948, not the thirty-two-county Irish Republic proclaimed in 1916 and ratified by the First Dáil in 1919.

Again today, Britain is attempting to shape the political environment to suit its strategic interests. Just as in Liam Mellows day, former comrades who swore they would lead us to the Republic are leading us in the opposite direction.

All talk of the Republic is now gone because the Republic was never on the negotiating table in 1998. We no longer hear Ireland referred to as our country but as this island. Our country is one nation. This island has two.

Great play is made about the potential of a united Ireland as outlined in the Good Friday Agreement. We had a united Ireland during the Famine. We had a united Ireland when the Republic was proclaimed in 1916. We had a united Ireland when the United Irishmen was formed in 1791.

So what did the 28 Protestants who founded the Irish republican movement mean by a United Ireland? Not territorial unity, which already existed, but the only unity that matters and the unity the British would never countenance – a unity of Irish citizens across the sectarian divide.

The united Ireland defined by the Good Friday Agreement is not a republic. It envisions a polity where the sectarian dynamic remains intact and the cleavage in national loyalties between Ireland and Britain is constitutionally enshrined.

Consequently, many supporters of this strategy propose a continuing and symbolic role for the British royal family as an institutional point of reference for the loyalties of those who would prefer to see themselves as a civic outpost of Britain rather than as equal citizens of a national democracy within an all-Ireland republic.

Debates and discussions are taking place on changing the Irish national flag, discarding the Irish national anthem, and re-joining the British Commonwealth. Instead of breaking the connection with England, we are being relentlessly conditioned into becoming more closely incorporated into a British sphere of influence on a national level.

When former comrades meet and greet British royalty in Ireland, they are sending out an unambiguous message that Ireland is not one nation but two. That Britain has legitimacy in Ireland and a role to play in influencing the political trajectory of our country.

Our goal as IRA volunteers was to break the connection with England. Not to convince the rest of Ireland to re-join the British Commonwealth.

There are many happy clappy euphemisms being employed to describe the Ireland of the future. A shared island, an agreed Ireland, and a new Ireland. Who in their right mind could be against the concept of sharing and new and agreed arrangements?

When we drill down into it, however, we see the trap being laid for us by the British government. A shared island means we share in Britain’s analysis of the nature of the conflict, we share in the colonial legacy of sectarian apartheid, and we share in the imperial project of divide and rule.

We do this by recognising Ulster unionists as the British presence in Ireland with the right to have their Britishness enshrined in law. Republicans know that unionists are pro-British, but we do not accept they are the British presence.

The British presence is the presence of Britain’s jurisdictional claim to Ireland and the civil and military apparatus that gives that effect. England invaded Ireland hundreds of years before the plantation of Ulster. They claimed sovereignty here long before a single unionist set foot on Irish soil. What was their excuse, then?

An agreed Ireland has come to mean the two traditions agreeing to disagree in peace and harmony about the constitutional source of Irish sovereignty and the legitimacy and extent of British influence in constraining Irish democracy.

A muddled and subversive belief that the conquest and colonisation of Ireland share reciprocal legitimacy with its struggle for independence.

The new Ireland we are being asked to work towards is not new. It is predicated on all the old divisions. Divisions that Britain nurtured to retain the sectarian dynamic and resultant cleavage in national loyalties as this policy of divide and rule is the key to their control in Ireland.

It is designed to prevent us from developing the national cohesion required to achieve a 32-County republic. To make us permanently susceptible to British influence and manipulation.

During the Dáil debates on the Anglo-Irish Treaty, a persistent theme was that a pro-treaty vote was a vote for peace, with the resulting implication that those who stood firmly for the Republic were out for war. Liam Mellows replied:

‘If peace was the only object, why, I say, was this fight ever started? Why did we ever negotiate for what we are now told is impossible?

Why should men have ever been led on the road they travelled if peace was the only object? We could have had peace and could have been peaceful in Ireland a long time ago if we were prepared to give up the ideal for which we fought…’

Today those who stand resolutely for the Republic are accused of being against the peace process. Few republicans are against peace, but many are rightly critical of a process that cannot lead to the republican goals for which countless patriots sacrificed their lives.

A united Ireland rooted in British/Irish identity politics cannot be a republic. That is why the British government is all over this. It is their best opportunity to retain maximum influence in Ireland with a minimum footprint when the demographics eventually prove incontestable.

No one has been preparing more diligently to shape the strategic architecture of a future united Ireland than the British government.

One hundred years ago this week, Liam Mellows, Rory O’Connor, Dick Barrett, and Joe McKelvey were dragged from their cells and murdered in cold blood because they stood for what weaker and more personally ambitious Irishmen could not summon the courage to defend any longer.

We honour them today. We remember with pride all Ireland’s patriots from their day to this who never forgot who they were or what they represented.

Long Live the Irish Republic!

FOOTNOTES

1Thanks to Independent Republicans for posting a copy of his speech and that by Mags Glennon on their behalves.

2And Free State torture headquarters.

REFERENCES

Four more prisoners executed in Mountjoy Jail as act of ‘reprisal’ for Hales killing | Century Ireland (rte.ie)

“Intervals of Peace”

A very interesting look by a descendant, himself an artist, at a freedom fighter, prisoner and artist, along with a mention of Civil War torture.

Scéalta Ealaíne

photo of Ailfrid Mac Lochlainn (Alfred McGloughlin) my grandfather Ailfrid Mac Lochlainn

Who’d have thought that my grandfather was into Futurism?  That’s correct – into Post-Impressionism, Cubism and Futurism.  And how do I know that?  Well, I was in the Kilmainham Gaol Museum last week and I saw his yellowing copybook (see below), and there it was, a lecture on modern art from the 5th of August, 1923.

Yes, my grandfather Ailfrid Mac Lochlainn was imprisoned in various prisons during the Irish Civil War (he was never charged with a specific offence) but to pass the time, he was often called upon to deliver lectures to his fellow prisoners.  He also made several pencil sketches of his comrades on small scraps of paper, some of which you see in this post.  The originals can be seen in “Intervals of Peace”, a special exhibition curated by Brian Crowley at the museum.

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of a copybook from 1923 in Kilmainham Gaol the beginning of his lecture: “On…

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The Belfast Tunnels 1920-22

Great piece, grma!

Many tunnels in Dublin too, including the remnants in the top floor of houses in the Nos.10-25 Moore Street terrace (the one chiefly threatened by property speculation).

I’d have been interested to know which ‘armed men’ used the tunnels to enter houses and kill the occupants, though I have my suspicions and it’s not the IRA.

The Treason Felony Blog

Tunnelled yards in Vere Street, Belfast

In the summer of 1922, police and soldiers carrying out raids in the Grove Street area (off North Queen) reported that “…the search revealed that the yards on the Grove Street side were tunnelled the whole length of the street, and access to Grove Street could be made from Vere Street through another tunnel.” (Belfast Newsletter, 21/8/1922). The photograph above and below shows some of those yard walls in Grove Street and Vere Street (the next street over – note the same man in the cap in both photos), and appeared in the contemporary press coverage. In each case the brickwork was removed from the walls that separated the back yards of houses from each other. By doing so, people could move from back yard to back yard while hidden from view by the exterior walls.

By the summer of…

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THE PROPAGANDA & CENSORSHIP CURTAIN SLIPS

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: under 4 mins.)

This year we in “the West” have been been subjected to a mass media bombardment of war propaganda, accompanied by the military-like operations of censorship. Sadly, some of that has been supported, even cheered, by some on the Left.

But occasionally the haze of the bombardment clears and we get a glimpse of what might be happening in reality. Two of those examples occurred this weekend.

UKRAINIAN MILITARY BOMBING CIVILIAN TARGETS

It has long been claimed by alternative media sources to the wsm (western mass media) that Ukrainian military have been a) bombing civilian targets in their opposing areas and b) using civilian areas and structures from which to fire on their opponents.

Generally the wsm has ignored these claims or claimed they were unable to verify them, an approach very different to that which they take in the case of Ukrainian state and NATO military and political claims (and denials).

However this weekend an Associated Press report of the Ukrainian rocket attack on the municipal building (i.e the town council building) of Donetsk (a clearly civilian target) in the Donbas was widely reported in the western mainstream media.

Photos circulating on social media showed plumes of smoke swirling around the building, rows of blown-out windows and a partially collapsed ceiling. RIA Novosti and local media also reported that three cars parked nearby had burnt out as a result of the strike.1

The Ukrainian state’s silence on the matter was reported also.

Donetsk Municipal Building Damaged by Ukrainian Bombardment October 16, 2022. (Photo credit: REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko)

Of course, Zelensky might yet come up with some “justification” for the attack, which would no doubt be faithfully reported by the wsm. An outright denial seems highly unlikely, given that photographs of the damaged building have been widely circulated.

Wsm reporting does try some squirming to exonerate itself of course, claiming that “Kremlin-backed separatist authorities have previously accused Ukraine of numerous strikes on infrastructure and residential targets in the occupied territories … without providing corroborating information.2

Aside from the fact that the absence of corroborating information in reporting Ukrainian or NATO claims has rarely been seen as a problem by the wsm, there has been plenty of corroborating material of this fact – it’s just that the wsm was not interested in reporting it3.

In fact, though undoubtedly also used for military transport (as are a most major bridges in the world), the bombing of the 12-mile (19 km) Kerch Strait Bridge, the longest in Europe, was also an attack on an important civilian transport facility.

MILITARY DIFFICULTIES OF UKRAINIAN MILITARY

There is no doubt that the Ukrainian counterattack caused serious reverses in Russian military operations in the Donbas, a cause of much celebration to the Ukrainian state and to its NATO allies which found its reflection in the wsm (western mass media).

Russian military responses have been underplayed, except with regard to missile attack and artillery shelling of Kiyv and other areas after the Ukrainian bombing of the Kerch Strait Bridge4, generally portrayed by the wsm in terms of rage and desperation at such success by the Ukrainian state.

While reporting on two gunmen opening fire on volunteer military trainees on a Russian firing range and killing 11 (which if occurring to a NATO member or ally would be described as “a terrorist attack”), the Associated Press described current difficulties for Ukrainian forces.

A very severe situation persists in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions” Zelenskyy said, referring to two regions Russia says its has annexed. The most difficult is near Bakhmut, like in previous days. We are still holding our positions,” he said5.

Quoting Zelensky on the matter was no surprise since his utterances are guaranteed entry to the wsm but giving voice to what seems to be a disgruntled Ukrainian soldier is something else and is highly unusual for the wsm6:

One soldier, just back from the front line, told AFP they had been fighting for four days non-stop.

Out of the 13 guys in my group, we lost two soldiers, and five got evacuated,” said the 50-year-old soldier, “Poliak”, from the 93rd brigade. “For days I didn’t sleep, didn’t eat, didn’t drink except coffee,” he added.

That is an over 50% attrition rate in that soldier’s unit and if that rate is even approached in others is not sustainable for the Ukrainian forces, while Russia on the other hand can count on the 300,000 reservists it is bringing into the conflict7 and even more if required.

US/NATO and its allies are well aware that even with the massive supply of military hardware supplied to the Ukrainian state’s forces (and even if they all were to reach their scheduled objectives), the Russian military (and Donbas volunteers) cannot be defeated in conventional war.

The purpose of US/NATO therefore in what amounts to using up Ukrainian manpower, seems to be primarily to weaken the Russian Federation and to strengthen US domination over and cohesion of its own allies in its contention with its main opponent as world superpower – China.

Meanwhile, for us on the other side of the disinformation curtain, the examples quoted may represent nothing more than an inadvertent twitch of the material. It would be nice to think that instead it represented a drift towards more objective or even-handed reporting of a serious conflict.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1https://www.thejournal.ie/donetsk-mayor-rocket-explosion-5894617-Oct2022/

2Ibid.

3Filming and interviews by Patrick Lancaster on Youtube has been one such corroborative source.

4Arguably of a type of what would be described normally in the media as a terrorist attack and one in which the driver may have been unaware of his deadly cargo.

5https://www.thejournal.ie/russia-shooting-death-ukraine-training-base-5894484-Oct2022/

6Quotations from Ukrainian military personnel complaining of NATO-supplied arms and equipment reaching the black market instead of them, for example, have usually only surfaced in alternative media sources.

7We might wish to note that the call up of some reservists at this late stage alone does bear out Putin’s statement, often mocked in the wsm, that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February was and is a “special military operation” and, unlike wsm claims, that it was never a failed operation to capture Kiyv, much less occupy the whole of Ukraine.

SOURCES

Ukrainian rocket attack on municipal building: https://www.thejournal.ie/donetsk-mayor-rocket-explosion-5894617-Oct2022/

https://www.breakingnews.ie/world/rockets-strike-mayors-office-in-separatist-donetsk-1378090.html

Military difficulty for Ukrainian forces: https://www.thejournal.ie/russia-shooting-death-ukraine-training-base-5894484-Oct2022/

Rare wsm (Reuters) report on Ukrainian June bombing of civilian target in Donetsk: https://www.reuters.com/business/aerospace-defense/three-killed-artillery-attack-donetsk-market-separatist-news-agency-2022-06-13/

2015 Ukrainian bombing of Donetsk: https://www.balcanicaucaso.org/eng/Areas/Ukraine/Under-the-bombs-in-Donetsk-158549

30th Anniversary of Irish Centre Celebrated in London Irish Embassy

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Main text reading time: 16 mins.)

In September this year, a commemoration was organised to take place in the Irish Embassy in London. As founder-member and Chairperson of the Lewisham Irish Centre for nearly a decade, I was invited to be one of the speakers.

The LIC was founded in the 1980s, difficult years for the Irish in Britain. The seemingly unlikely vision of its founders was rewarded but there were some challenging and even dangerous years experienced by its supporters.

The event opened with an introduction to the proceedings followed by the Ambassador, Martin Fraser, giving a brief welcome to the packed audience and in a modest speech handing out praise for the Centre’s achievements and longevity, who then introduced me to speak next.

Speakers and performers: L-R Kathleen Sheridan, Diarmuid Breatnach, Jean Kelly, Denis Costello, Eileen Doyle, Ambassador Martin Fraser and Deirdre Fraser, Colm Mackey and Larry Bruce. (Photo sourced: lewishamirish.org with thanks).

SPEECH OF FORMER AND LONGEST-SERVING CHAIRPERSON

Ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil as an gcuireadh ón Ambasadóir chun a bheith i láthair ar an gcomóradh seo, agus d’fhoireann na hAmbasáide as an t-ullmhúchán don ócáid.

I’d like to thank the Ambassador for the invitation to attend and the Embassy’s team for its preparations for the event. Agus don chomhluadar as a bheith i láthair – and to the general attendance here now in which I include my daughter Sorcha, her husband Irwin and my son Kevin.

Diarmuid, Kevin, Sorcha, Irwin.

The founding of the Lewisham Irish Centre, Lár-Ionad na nGael as it came to be called, was an initiative of the Lewisham branch of the Irish in Britain Representation Group, a vibrant group formed in 19811.

The IBRG was founded as the Irish community began to shake off the repressive fear of the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 1974 – a year in which a score of innocent people from our community were jailed in four different cases2 and were to spend decades incarcerated.

I myself didn’t join the IBRG until 1986 which was the same year that its Lewisham branch was founded and I was elected Secretary of the branch. At the same meeting, a number of objectives were set out, which included the obtaining of a centre for our community.

AN IRISH CENTRE IN 1980s BRITAIN

Setting out to win an Irish Centre in 1980s Britain could be viewed as a daunting task. Blatant anti-Irish racism seemed to be everywhere and was considered acceptable in the media and in many quarters of British society3. And of course the war was still going on – very much so.

True, in London we had the Greater London Council4 which had helped the Irish community open centres and projects in a number of places in North and West London — and there was an Irish project in Greenwich – but there was no Irish centre in the whole of South London.

Furthermore, although Lewisham had an Irish ethnic minority population in significant numbers, it was not anecdotally known for such, despite containing for many years the Harp dance hall and many Irish pubs, some with weekly Irish trad music sessions.

The Irish were not then recognised as an ethnic minority by Lewisham Council or by the local Race Equality Forum or, indeed, as a diaspora, by the British Race Relations Board. Nor practically by the first Race Relations Act of 1965, which made it illegal to spread racial hatred — but not racial contempt and ridicule.

The next Race Relations Act, of 1968, made discrimination in employment and housing illegal, arguably the principal areas in which Irish and black people faced discrimination — but it was to be some time before an Irish person succeeded in a case taken under the Act.

The Race Relations Act of 1976 extended the prohibition of discrimination to provision of training and provision of facilities and services.

Throughout, the dissemination of lies, ridicule and contempt continued to be legal and also one could not take a case on behalf of the injured community, only on behalf of an individual.

The first time an ethnicity question was included in the UK Census – as distinct from “place of birth” – was in 1991 and the Irish were excluded, despite being the longest-established and largest ethnic minority within Britain.

The exclusion was also despite lobbying by the IBRG and by a number of Irish community projects.

It wasn’t until 2001 that “Irish” and “Irish Traveller” became available as ethnic categories on the UK census forms, by which time the IBRG had most local authorities in Britain signed up to agreement on ethnic monitoring with an Irish category.

Section of the crowd at the event (Photo sourced: lewishamirish.org with thanks)

MY PERSONAL INVOLVEMENT

Back in 1986 I had returned to live in the Lewisham borough after an absence of a few years and, after Thatcher’s abolition of the Inner London Education Authority, I was transferred as a part-time youthworker to Lewisham Council’s Education Department5.

I was also active in the local branch of the trade union NALGO, later to become after a number of mergers, UNISON. As I said earlier, that was also the year I joined Lewisham IBRG.

The Lewisham branch of the Irish in Britain Representation Group, to further its aim of obtaining an Irish Community Centre, set up an Irish Centre Steering Group in which a number of Irish pensioners and younger members took part and I was elected its Chairperson.

Given its origins, the original Steering Group was 100% composed of IBRG members.

Meanwhile, the IBRG branch got on with other work, including getting Lewisham’s Adult Education department to provide classes in Irish culture, including language, dance and history, lobbying the Council on services and other issues.

These included opposing anti-Irish racism (and indeed any other kind of racism) and campaigning for the abolition of the Prevention of Terrorism Act6.

LÁR-IONAD NA NGAEL

Another section of the crowd at the event (Photo sourced: lewishamirish.org with thanks)

Nearly six years later, largely I think through lobbying led by Teresa Burke, an active Labour Party member, a member of the IBRG and of the Lewisham Irish Pensioners’ Association, which the IBRG had founded, the long-disused building of Davenport Hall in Catford was made available by Lewisham Council to the Irish community.

For weeks and months the Steering Group debated a constitution, discussed the facilities, looked at design plans, watched the original budget get cut – twice – and stipulated wire screens on all the windows7, discussed staffing and placed job advertisements.

The Group also processed applications, interviewed applicants, drew up funding applications and agreed a logo — for which I’m proud to say my design was accepted.

Logo of the Lár-Ionad na nGael/ Lewisham Irish Centre, designed by D.Breatnach

Six years after the initial meeting of the Lewisham branch of the IBRG, the Centre had its grand opening to a capacity (some might say over-capacity!) invitation-only crowd in 1992 and among those present were Joseph Small, the Irish Ambassador of the time.

Also there were then Labour MEPs Jim Dowd and Richard Balfe (now Conservative member of the House of Lords) and local labour MP Joan Ruddock. The then Mayor of Lambeth attended and of course a number of Lewisham Councillors, many if not all of Irish descent.

And the Chair and Vice-Chair of Meath Urban District Council in Ireland, birthplace of Jim Connell, author of the lyrics of the Red Flag, who came to present a piece of stone from Connell’s home.

Jim Connell was living in Stondon Park in Lewisham when he composed the lyrics and there’s a plaque on his house commemorating that fact — which we also had a hand in doing8.

Plaque on home of Jim Connell from Meath. The Lewisham Branch of the IBRG requested adding the words “Irish Republican” but the latter word did not make it on to the plaque. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

After the speeches, the Irish music and Irish dancing exhibition, we got down to managing the centre. The Steering Group had six months to go before an AGM of members of the newly-opened centre would elect a management committee.

That was a democratic stipulation we had set ourselves, seeking as wide a representation as possible from the community.

When the six months were up, the AGM was held and surprise surprise, more or less the same people from the Steering Group were elected on to the new Management Committee. The Committee members in turn, did me the honour of electing me again as Chairperson.

I was elected annually to that position until about 2001 I think when, after two attempts I finally managed to get out of it — but remained on the Management Committee until I returned to Ireland in the summer of 2003 to manage a hostel for street drinkers.

By that time Lewisham IBRG had proposed that the Irish Pensioners’ sub-group become independent, which it did and affiliated to the Lár-Ionad in its own right, as did also the IBRG branch.

Both groups were the original community groups affiliated to the Centre and were followed afterwards by an Irish step-dancing school that held classes in the Lár-Ionad.

For most of those years, those were all the affiliated groups although later and for a short while, a local Irish accordion marching band also affiliated.

OVERVIEW OF EVENTS & SERVICES

The Lár-Ionad held or facilitated a plethora of activities and events: Irish step-dance classes through Tony Tyrel; set-dancing classes9; social functions including céilíthe and the Sth. London St. Patrick’s Day Parade for a number of years, each one with a different theme.

Photo of the South London St. Patrick’s Day Parade which ran for four years. It is shown parading through Lewisham on its way back to the Irish Centre passing the public baths building. (Photo sourced LIC archives with thanks)

It also founded Lewisham Irish Week and ran activities during it; a weekly advice service; weekly pensioners’ social meetings; conferences on issues affecting the Irish community; meetings; lobbying for an Irish ethnic minority category ….

The IBRG branch organised a weekly Children’s Irish Art & History Group and produced two plays, ran an annual Children’s Irish Hallowe’en Party and also organised historical commemorations and talks.

In addition the hire of the hall was made available for other communities and organisations though quite early on we stipulated there be no religious services of any kind in the hall.

The Celtic Cross Accordion Band back at the LIG after participating in the SL St. Patrick’s Parade (Photo sourced: lewishamirish.org with thanks)

CHALLENGES

Work in any community will have its rewards and challenges and any migrant community in the 1980s and 1990s would have those as well as ones related to being an Irish community.

There were tensions with sections of the local Irish community who saw the Irish Centre perhaps as upstarts, or might have felt they should control the Centre. There were at times too of tensions within the management committee itself, which is not surprising.

However twice during the early years I felt obliged to threaten resignation as Chairperson if proposals which I felt went against our Constitution were carried10.

I was of course accused of blackmail but a Chairperson is, above all other committee members, a guardian of the constitution and I was glad the proposals were withdrawn.

Most of the time we got along very well and did an enormous amount of work, really, looking back on it now.

The Irish World Heritage pipe band back at the LIG after the South London St. Patrick’s Parade (Photo sourced: lewishamirish.org with thanks)

THREATS – ARSON AND FUNDING WITHDRAWAL

The other threats we faced were external. One year the advertised annual 1916 Rising commemoration event held in the Centre11 came to the attention of an individual who had tragically lost a son in the Omagh bombing.

He called the Centre’s Manager to have the event cancelled, which he naturally declined to do, after which the man rang the Council and not getting the response he wished, got on to the media.

I received a phone call from the centre’s Manager at my job, then managing a hostel12 in the Kings Cross area, that we were in the evening newspaper supposedly holding an “IRA commemoration” and had to leave work hurriedly to get back to Lewisham.

The Council spokesperson had by now panicked and was promising the media an investigation of the Centre’s funding13. The band hired to play at the commemoration also exhibited an absence of backbone and pulled out.

However, the event went ahead – albeit under our high security conditions – and everyone in attendance indignantly refused to have their ticket money refunded and organised their own entertainment from musicians in attendance.14

Subsequently we had an arson attack which burned a hole in the building’s front door and I was so glad I had insisted on wire mesh screens for the windows.

We faced a period of our intruder alarm being repeatedly set off, requiring attendance by key-holding members of the Management Committee, and had to lobby the council to install CCTV cameras on the exterior. Which they did and the alarm-setting ceased.

The next external threat was the later and unrelated round of savage council funding cuts throughout the Lewisham NGO sector. The removal of the funding for our Manager – our only full-time member of staff — would have crippled the Centre.

We lobbied the Councillors by letter and by attending Council meetings, also held rallies outside the Town Hall and had Irish step-dancers in attendance in full costume, which of course made interesting photos for the local newspapers.

I am glad that the threat of cuts was finally withdrawn from the Centre, though it certainly could do with — and deserves — more funding. Hopefully it will never be threatened again.

Lewisham Council does now recognise the Irish as an ethnic minority within the borough and collects statistics on its representation in the Council’s employment and service take-up.

Diarmuid Breatnach speaking at the event (Photo sourced: Sorcha Ford with thanks)

PERSONAL NOTE

In conclusion, I want to put on record my earnest go raibh míle maith agaibh to the Lár-Ionad’s Staff, for their sticking with the Centre, in particular our first and wonderful Centre Manager, Brendan O’Rourke15 and our first caretaker Michael Naughton.

Also our first advice worker Tom Devine and subsequent and current advice worker Kathleen Sheridan(who is somehow these days managing that job at the same time as managing the Centre!). And who did a great job in liaison with the Embassy for this commemoration.

I’d like to pay tribute to the early members of the Irish Lewisham Pensioners’ Association, Irish Centre Steering Group and later Management Committee.

Muriel Perry, Ellen Baczor, Kathleen Henry, Molly Kennedy, Peter Sexton, and especially Teresa Burke, those survivors of Irish emigration to Britain in the 1930s and 40s, all now passed on, who worked hard, often in jobs considered menial.

They paid their taxes in Britain and still sent money home to their families in Ireland. From the 1940s up to the 1960s, those remittances formed a significant portion of the economy of the Irish state.

I remember some of their stories: Kathleen Henry, a Presbyterian by religion, telling me that her forebears “were out” in the 1798 Uprising; Teresa Burke failing to catch a bus in wartime Lewisham and seeing a Nazi bomb blow it up further down the road.

Muriel Perry telling me that Catholics in her Belfast area during the same war were refused dole and encouraged to go to England.

Teresa Burke again, arguing with me that I should vote Labour and, at her husband’s funeral, bursting out laughing to see me in a suit for the first time in all the years she had known me.

As we say back home, I lift a stone to place on each of their cairns.

I want to acknowledge also later management committee members — and hopefully all surviving — Patrick Codd, Raymond Barnes, Brian Fitzgerald and Tony Urquhart16.

Also to raise a symbolic glass to the broad Irish community, with all its exasperations but also its persistence and in many ways, heroism, to activists of the now-defunct Irish in Britain Representation Group, both nationally and in Lewisham.

Also to my part-time Lewisham youth-work boss Malcolm Ball, recently taken well before his time, who understood my commitment to the Irish community and accommodated it.

This is only the second time I have attended an event at the Embassy …. I was indeed more often outside it, protesting actions or inaction of the Irish Government17.

I was inside the Embassy once another time getting emergency help with a temporary passport18 when the Embassy official kindly attended on a weekend to sort me out. A thousand thanks to him too, wherever he may be now.

Mar fhocal scoir, ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil arísleis an Ambasadóir, an t-Uasal Martin Fraser agus le foireann na hAmbasáide as an t-ullmhúchán don ócáid.

Finally, I’d like to thank again the Ambassador for the invitation to attend and the Embassy’s team for its preparations for the event. And to you all for listening.

Sin a bhfuil uaimse anois – that’s all from me now, you’ll no doubt be glad to hear.

OTHER CONTRIBUTIONS

CHAIR OF THE TRUSTEES

Colum Mackey gave a report on the financial situation of the Centre and its services, in terms of donations and grants received. He also reported on activities and organisations with which the Centre is now connected and also thanked staff and the membership of centre’s Board of Trustees (the management committee as trustees of its charity status).

CEO (CURRENT MANAGER AND ADVICE WORKER)

Kathleen Sheridan began her talk with an Irish-language proverb: Ní neart go cur le chéile (meaning that strength comes from united effort) and continued in a warm acknowledgement of the work of employees and volunteers, naming so many of them, and also the Meals on Wheels voluntary service in the area and the Southwark Irish groups with which they had relations.

HARPIST AND SINGERS

Jean Kelly gave a warm and interesting address relating how during the Covid lockdown she had found a Friday morning Zoom session with people in the Centre so very rewarding. She then went on to perform Jimmy a Stór and The Last Rose of Summer on the harp.

Three pensioners – Denis Costello, Eileen Doyle & Larry Bruce — succeeded one another on to the stage to render a song: The Bold Thady O’Quill, When Irish Eyes Are Smiling and Dublin In the Rare Aul’ Times.

PERSONAL REFLECTION

My family members were impressed by the whole event and I received some compliments on my speech, including from the Ambassador; the latter’s wife Deirdre was most gracious.

Some decades ago I am sure that in the unlikely event of my having received a similar invitation, the reception would have been a good deal frostier.

It was curious how many people, including those who had been members or even in management of the Centre in succeeding years, said that they had been unaware of the events to which I referred in my speech.

Old friends and colleagues meet for the first time in decades: Brendan O’Rourke, Raymond Barnes, Brian Fitzgerald, Elizabeth Nicholls, Diarmuid Breatnach. (Photo sourced: Raymond Barnes with thanks)

This was of course sufficient reason on its own for relating them but it is sad how communities can lose their history or have it obscured.

It was great to briefly catch up with people I knew but eventually had to tear myself away and depart with my family members.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1 I didn’t relate this but it was fairly well known at the time that the Federation of Irish Societies, a bourgeois and conservative Irish association (and the one with which the Embassy of the time preferred to have dealings) had their AGM in May 1981, during which the death of Volunteer (and MP) Bobby Sands became known. An attempt to have the meeting record a vote of sympathy for Sands’ family was ruled out of order by the Chair. Subsequently, Breandán Mac Alua, then Editor of the Irish community newspaper The Irish Post, wrote in his Dolan column that perhaps there was a need in Britain for a different and more assertive type of Irish community organisation. Subsequently community activists got together and formed the Irish in Britain Representation Group which, at its height, had a number of branches in London and individual branches in Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Coventry, Leeds, Manchester and NE Lancs. The Irish Post was very supportive of the IBRG during Mac Alua’s editorship.

2 The Birmingham Six, Guildford Four, Maguire Seven and Judith Ward were the most prominent of those.

3 Many incidents of anti-Irish racism were recorded and no doubt hundreds of thousands of others went unrecorded during this period and earlier. The Comedians TV series regularly featured ‘comic’ material belittling the Irish, newspapers including dailies did so too, including brutish caricatures, while TV soaps and drama series regularly included a violent Irish character (usually the only Irish character in the episode). And of course the ongoing war was reported with heavy anti-‘Nationalist’ bias and much violence towards that community unreported. The Prevention of Terrorism (sic) Act was specifically aimed at terrorising the Irish community to disrupt its activities of solidarity with the Irish struggle.

4 Led by Ken Livingstone with John McDonnell as Deputy, it was abolished by Thatcher in 1986, who then went on to abolish the Inner London Education Authority four years later in 1990.

5 I had already been working as a part-time youthworker in Lewisham but under the ILEA and had also worked in Haringey. As a part-time adult education tutor the ILEA had also employed me in Lewisham, briefly in Haringey and Southwark, while the London Borough of Newham (outside the ILEA) also employed me in that capacity. At times some of those posts were concurrent but not all.

6 It also included asking Councillors to oppose the then strip-searching of Volunteers Ella O’Brien and Martina Anderson and, as part of the overall IBRG, campaigning for Irish solidarity and British withdrawal, against plastic bullets, transfer for Irish political prisoners to Ireland and other issues. However, I left those out of my speech.

7 This was an especially strong recommendation by myself – the windows were tall on one side of the hall of which the floorboards were in wood. We were to have reason to be grateful for those wire screens.

8 For a while the LB of Lewisham employed a decent man as local historian archivist and he proposed the placing of the plaque on the house (with the permission of the owners) and notified Lewisham IBRG of the intention and wording. We responded and asked him to include “Irish Republican and author”, all of which — excluding the words “Republican” — were duly included. On the day of its unveiling a very small group attended to hear Gordon Brown MP give a speech and hear the Tannenbaum air played by trumpet. I jumped up on a nearby low wall and addressed them too, pointing out that as well as being a communist, Jim Connell had been an Irish Republican and would have strongly opposed the war against Irish people being conducted by British governments. I sent an account to the Irish Post which wrote it up in its Dolan column.

9 For those who might not know, Irish set-dancing is a form requiring four (or multiples of) pairs, dancing to different Irish traditional airs and completing patterns, taking a short rest and commencing on the next pattern. Originating with the quadrilles of Napoleonic France, set-dances have reached as far as Cuba, though of course to different bodies of music. Although one would usually encounter perhaps only between five of them, an enthusiast once told me that there are 50 different Irish set dances!

10 At this point I can only remember one of those: Some leading members of a local Irish group had been bad-mouthing the Centre and at least one Management Committee member wanted the organisation’s application for membership of the Centre refused. I did not agree with the action proposed and was also sure our Constitution gave no right to refuse membership of an organisation due to the behaviour of some of its members.

11 Lewisham IBRG had been commemorating that event since 1987 and at Lár-Ionad na nGael, as an affiliated organisation, since 1983, without any difficulties.

12 For active drug-users.

13 The IBRG branch called on Lewisham Council to apologise and retract their remarks; they never replied nor apologised. We also wrote to the Irish Post denouncing the Council’s reaction but I had to use an assumed name so as not to implicate the Management Committee, of which I was not only a member but Chairperson and Trustee.

14 The response of the attendance was heart-warming. There was a sequel to this a few days later when I and Brian Fitzgerald confronted and shamed the band at a gig they were playing in a pub not far away. I have written about this separately.

15 It was wonderful to see Brendan in attendance.

16 The latter three were very much alive and indeed in attendance.

17 For example, extradition of Republicans from the Irish state to the Six Counties colony or to Britain (e.g Dessie Ellis and Róisín McAlliskey).

18 One does not require a passport for entry into Britain from the Irish state, only acceptable forms of ID (as with the EU). Some carriers however, such as Ryanair, insist on a passport for travellers.

LINKS

lewishamirish.org.uk

SO SORRY, YOUR MAJESTY

Nearly completely reprint from Rebel Breeze eight years ago

(Reading time: 2 mins.)

Your Most Exalted Majesty, Queen of the United Kingdom of Britain and Northern Ireland, Commander-in-Chief of the UK Armed Forces, Head of the Church of England, Queen of the Commonwealth.

We trust this letter finds your Highness well, as we do also with regard to Your Highness’ large family and of course your trusted corgis.

I am tasked with writing to yourselves in order to make some embarrassing admissions and to ask your Royal forgiveness.

No doubt your family carries the memory of an uprising in Dublin in 1916? Yes, of course one’s family does, as your Highness says.

Well …. the embarrassing thing is this ……. it’s so difficult to say but no amount of dressing up is going to make it better so I’d best just come out with it: that was us. Well, our forebears. Yes, it’s true.

Not just us, of course. There were a load of Reds in green uniforms too, Connolly and Markievicz’s lot. And of course our female auxiliaries, and the youth group.

But most of that rebellious band was us, the Irish Volunteers (that became the IRA). I can’t adequately express to your Highness how ashamed we are of it all now.

Your government of the time was quite right to authorise the courts-martial of hundreds of us and to sentence so many to death. Your magnanimity is truly astounding in that only fifteen were shot by firing squads and that Casement fellow hanged.

But were we grateful? Not a bit of it! Does your Highness know that some people still go on about that Red and trade union agitator, James Connolly, being shot in a chair? What would they have your Army do? Shoot him standing up? Sure he had a shattered ankle and gangrene in his leg!

One can’t please some people – damned if one does something and damned if one doesn’t. If the Army hadn’t kindly lent him a chair, those same people would be saying that the British wouldn’t even give him a chair to sit on while they shot him.

And how did we repay your Highness’ kindness and magnanimity in only executing sixteen? And in releasing about a thousand after only a year on dieting rations?

By campaigning for independence almost immediately afterwards and starting a guerrilla war just three years after that Rising! A guerrilla war that went on for no less than three years. Your Majesty, we burn with shame just thinking of it now!

Our boys chased your loyal police force out of the countryside, shot down your intelligence officers in the streets of Dublin, ambushed your soldiers from behind stone walls and bushes ….. but still your Highness did not give up on us.

Some people still go on and on about the two groups of RIC specials and auxiliaries and the things they did, referring to them by the disrespectful nicknames of “Black and Tans” (after a pack of hunting dogs) and “Auxies”. They exaggerate the number of murders, tortures, arson and theft carried out by them.

Of course, your Highness, we realise now, though it’s taken a century for us to come to that realisation, that sending us that group of police auxiliaries was a most moderate response by yourself. But we were too blind to see that then and shot at them as well!

That fellow Barry and his Flying Column of West Cork hooligans wiped out a whole column of them. Your Highness will no doubt find it hard to believe this, but some troublemaker even went so far as to compose a song in praise of that cowardly ambush! Oh yes, indeed!

And some people still sing it today – in fact they sing songs about a lot of regrettable things we did, even going back as far as when we fought against your Royal ancestors Henry and Elizabeth 1st! Truly I don’t know how your Highness keeps her patience.

Then we went on and declared a kind of independence for most of the country but …. some of us weren’t even satisfied with that! It was good of your Grandfather George V to have your Army lend Collins a few cannon and armoured cars to deal with those troublemakers.

King George V of the UK, who kindly lent Collins some of His Army weapons and transports.

And then some time later, even after those generous loans, some of us declared a Republic and pulled the country (four fifths of it, at any rate), out of the Commonwealth. Left the great family of nations that your Highness leads! Words fail me ….well almost, but I must carry on, painful though it is to do so.

A full confession must be made – nothing less will do. And then, perhaps …. forgiveness.

Of course your government held on to six counties …. You were still caring for us, even after all our ingratitude! It was like hanging on to something left behind by someone who stormed off in an argument – giving them an excuse to come back for it, so there can be a reconciliation.

How incredibly generous and far-sighted of your Majesty to leave that door open all that time!

Fifty years after that shameful Rising, it was celebrated here with great pomp and cheering, even going so far as to rename railway stations that had perfectly good British names, giving them the names of rebel leaders instead.

Then just a few years later, some of our people up North started making a fuss about civil rights and rose up against your loyal police force, forcing your government to send in your own Army. And was that enough for the trouble-makers?

Of course not – didn’t they start a war with your soldiers and police that lasted three decades!

No doubt your Majesty will have noted that some of those troublemakers have changed their ways completely and are in your Northern Ireland government now.

They’ve been helping to pass on the necessary austerity measures in your government’s budgets, campaigning for the acceptance of the police force and for no protests against yourself.

Indeed, their Martin McGuinness has shaken your hand and rest assured were it not considered highly inappropriate and lacking in decorum, he would have been glad to kiss your cheek, as he did with Hillary Clinton when she visited. Or both cheeks, in your Majesty’s case!

Your Majesty can see, I hope, that we can be reformed.

Our crimes are so many, your Highness; and we have been so, so ungrateful. But we were hoping, after you’d heard our confession, our humble apologies, after your Highness had seen how desperately sorry we are, that you’d forgive us.

And if it’s not too much to hope for, that you’d take us back into the United Kingdom. Reunite us with those six counties, and so into the Commonwealth. Is there even a tiniest chance? Please tell us what we have to do and we’ll do it, no matter how demeaning. Please?

Your most humble servant,

P. O’Neill Jnr.

THE YOUNG WIND-SAILORS SET OUT

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

This time of year, as we near the end of August, is in Ireland the season of seeds and berries. The trees and bushes are bearing berries and nuts in a plan to disperse their seeds a fair distance away.

Dispersal is a strategy, an evolutionary bet for survival of the species, spreading its chance against local disasters of flood, fire, pest and disease.

Also, it is not generally healthy for the seeds to germinate too near the parent plant, where penetrating sunlight will be poor and roots sucking the soil nutrients. Dispersal is the survival plan for many animals too, including humans.

Seeds may be dispersed by water, fire or they may hitch-hike on animals, stow away in human transport. But some parents entrust their young to the winds; some of those are blowing past us now.

Even in the city, the seeds of the lime trees crunch underfoot and the thistledown float gently past.

Small-Leaved Lime (Linden) tree showing ordinary leaf and the leaf ‘sails’ attached to the seeds, formed after flowering. Photographed in Dublin this time of year but in 2014. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Lime trees (Linden, not the Citrus bearers of the lime fruit) are common enough in Ireland, even in cities like Dublin. Earlier in the year, they produced a faint scent from small nearly unrecognisable blossoms but which functioned the same way, to attract pollen-collecting insects.

The flowers are hermaphrodite, i.e both male and female but are not self-fertilising, so that insect pollination, particularly by bees, is necessary. Honey made from lime tree flowers has a distinctive taste but is somewhat restricted to where the source is available in large enough numbers.

Once fertilised, the tiny flowers begin to produce groups of two or more seeds on stalks. This time of year, they have ripened and come away, attached to a single specialised leaf as a sail.

Two clusters of seeds from Small-Leaved Lime trees, still attached to their “sails” from this month on a Dublin street (Photo: D.Breatnach)

They float and twirl in wind, whether falling from the tree or when thrown up by gusts from the leaf litter in the woods, on the roadside, etc.

They will lie dormant during the winter and sometime in the following Spring, some will germinate and begin the long struggle to grow into a tree.

The wood of lime is soft, light, fine in texture and resists splitting. Easy to work, it is used in turnery, carving, furniture; its resistance to warping makes it useful for construction of sounding boards and piano-keys.

Meanwhile this month, the thistles that flowered earlier are converting flowers to cotton down, billowing into a globe parachute ready to carry a single seed. They float leisurely through the air or are swept along by breezes and updrafts or tumble along the ground – before detaching the seed.

Marsh or Spear (?) Thistle plants by the Tolka, Dublin at the end of July, some flowers already producing the seed-carrying down. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Thistles are not generally highly regarded but are important for many insects and therefore for many species of bird — and ultimately for us too.

I also observed years ago on an allotment I managed that young thistles could be pulled from the ground and the white stem eaten, crisp and faintly tart but not unpleasantly-tasting.

Many plants use the wind for seed and even pollen-dispersal, from grasses to flowering plants, shrubs and trees.

Ferns also send their spores on the winds, as do many fungi, including when in algae partnership to create lichens.

However only some species have developed the parachute – for example dandelions, thistles and groundsel/ ragwort – and only some trees grow wind-catching wings attached to or enveloping the seed, such as do the lime tree, sycamore and pine.

Obviously, this dispersal by wind is a hit-and-miss strategy – seeds may fall on stone, in river, lake or sea, where no growth for them is possible. To compensate for the wide number of unhelpful possibilities, each individual plant produces hundreds and thousands of potential offspring.

For higher mammals, that invest large sections of their lives in raising young1 before they are ready to disperse, the numbers of offspring per parents must be kept low, allowing for focus and concentration in care, defence and education/ training.

However, it is healthy for some of our human young to disperse too, though that should be a choice, not forced by war, disease, persecution, economic hardship or environmental destruction.

Certainly in the case of mammals, a wide gene-pool is good survival strategy – as long as we have a healthy world in which to spread.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1For humans, typically between a third to a fifth or their lives; for elephants about a third of the females’ lives, chimpanzees about a quarter. Rodents tend to opt for frequent litter of numerous offspring but their lives are short. Cats and Canines tend to have small litters unless pack or pride animals, when normally the alpha pair only breed and some of each litter become part of the pack as they grow (domestic dogs are not part of this natural scheme).

FURTHER READING

The typical lime tree in Ireland: https://futureforests.ie/products/tilia-cordata
http://www.treeandlandscape.ie/Tree-A-Z/small-leaved-lime-tilia-cordata.html

Thistle in Ireland: https://irelandswildlife.com/jinny-go/#:~:text=There%20are%20several%20species%20of,found%20it%20in%20disused%20quarries.
https://www.biodiversityireland.ie/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/Cirsium-Thistles-.pdf

Spear Thistle: http://www.wildflowersofireland.net/plant_detail.php?id_flower=282

Meadow Thistle: http://www.wildflowersofireland.net/plant_detail.php?id_flower=280&wildflower=Thistle,%20Meadow

Carline Thistle: https://www.irishwildflowers.ie/pages/442a.html

The other side — Ukrainian artillery pounding Donetsk

Video by Patrick Lancaster at the scene

Total watching time (but can view sections): 36.15mins.

INTRODUCTION by D.Breatnach: In a modern war, artillery will be fired by both sides. Often, civilian sites will be hit even if not actually targeted (which they sometimes are too). At the back of our minds, we know and realise this. But if we rely on the mass media in the West, it seems like in the Ukraine, it is only the Russians that are shelling, only the Russians that are hitting civilian factories and homes. And actually targeting them, we are told. Patrick Lancaster, a war journalist has been showing us the other side, for which he has been labelled many things, among which the mildest is “Russian shill” — as though the Western mass media is independent, objective and non-aligned.

Patrick Lancaster, a US citizen and ex-US Navy, has been covering this conflict since March 2014 when he arrived in Ukraine to document the exit polls in the middle of the Crimea independence referendums but has covered other areas in the past. Currently he covers the conflict from inside anti-Ukraine Government-controlled territory, very often near the front line. On May 20 of 2022, Lancaster shared the breaking information about the Deputy Commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet Andrei Play who was killed in the midst of the battle in Mariupol.

In this video coverage we can note a number of things:

  • The frequency of shells hitting the area.
  • That shells are hitting houses and what seems to be a civilian factory and infrastructure.
  • Some of those engaging are trying to deal with the situation with humour and, in one scene, singing and some of the women are quite cheerful.
  • Patrick Lancaster (unlike many of the Western journalists reporting) is clearly in some danger and he goes down stairways very quickly (stairways are the most vulnerable if hit by bombs since they are in a shaft within the building). His guide/ security person and camera person (possibly Russian military) is also at risk.
  • Some of the civilians seem to fear being filmed — why, if the film is anti-Ukrainian forces? This seems to indicate a fear of the Ukrainian forces, should they manage to capture the area. Let’s remember that Donetsk has been under attack for eight years before the Russian invasion this year.
  • Inside the factory basement (using it as a bomb shelter) there is a boy who doesn’t remember a time when there was no war there — again, let’s remember that Donetsk has been under attack for eight years before the Russian invasion this year.
  • Patrick ends up helping paramedics and a neighbour to evacuate a civilian wounded in the foot (lost a fair amount of blood)
Looks like I am being prevented from embedding the video but you can find it on this link: https://odysee.com/@PatrickLancasternewstoday:c/intense-shelling-hits-center-donetsk:2?fbclid=IwAR0xh5M5Pi68445eoqA3GvWHfrQ_7Jg5irTB1R2Yhc4t32j9NUKMdCBKfb0

It should be clear that we are being fed a very selective diet in the western media coverage of this conflict.

end.