Now, engine failure is one thing if it’s in your lawnmower but another thing entirely if you’re flying a single engined aircraft. You might’ve heard about that incident last week with the Irish Air Corps plane at Baldonnell?
Well, the engine conked out about 30km from the air base but, rather than bailing out, the two pilots managed to manoeuvre the aircraft and glide it all the way back for a safe landing at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnell in south-west Dublin.
The two-person PC-9 aircraft was conducting a training mission when the problem arose but, according to a military source, the pilots were unharmed aside from being “slightly shaken”.
The Irish Air Corps plane, safely landed at Baldonnell – photo RTE
A paper cutting from The Irish Independent, March 1949
Now, how about this: I had an uncle who was a pilot. I…
On a sunny but windy day in Greystones, lá grianmhar ach gaofar, nature put on an abstract art show. The sunshine brought out intensely the yellow of the lichen on the limestone rocks, while the black lichen encrustation on some rocks contrasted sharply with a neighbouring section of bare grey. Some trick of the camera and light brought out a gorgeous blue in the rock-shadowed sea which had not been visible to the eye.
Lichens are an amazing life form, being an integrated symbiosis of an alga and a fungus. A cross between a frog and a goose would not be more bizarre in concept – fungi are not even plants, while algae are. The fungus provides a relatively strong skeleton while through photosynthesis the alga produces sugars to feed the fungus.
Although not all are easy to distinguish, there are over 1,165 species of lichen in Ireland, varying from the common to the rare. The yellow-orange one, Xanthoria parietina, is one of the common ones in Ireland. The white and often off-white or grey Ochrolechia parella can be mistaken for bird excreta at a distance, or even as the ground-in chewing gum that costs Dublin City Council so much to remove from street surfaces every week. The black one, Verrucaria maura if I am identifying it correctly, covers rocks that are wave-lapped or hit by sea-spray on a daily basis.
These are all hardy adventurers, extremophiles, living in zones exposed to great variations of temperature, all even in one day, as the sun beats down between rain showers or windy spray. And they are very tolerant of salinity, without at the same time being dependent upon it. Perhaps not these species but their ancestors, or other forms like them, were the early colonisers of the land on our planet. Terraformers too, as they slowly abrade the rock upon which they cling, helping to create soil, while black lichen attracts heat to warm up surfaces and the alga in the symbiotes releases oxygen into the atmosphere.
Lichens can live attached to rock, wood and metal, some species even inside stone and on snow.
No plaque or monument celebrates these hardy adventurers but down on the harbour wall was a plaque to another hardy life-form, celebrating the 1910 confrontation there of Chief Secretary Birrell, one of the Crown’s main representatives in Ireland, by Hannah Sheehy-Skeffington and Hilda Webb. They were kick-starting the militant Votes for Women campaign which was later brought into conflict with the Irish Parliamentary Party too but influenced the 1916 Proclamation’s advanced and stirring address: “Irishmen and Irishwomen ….”. That Rising six years after the Greystones confrontation would shock Birrell and sadly, would see Hannah’s pacifist husband Francis murdered by a British Army officer during that momentous week.
Earlier, in a Dublin train station, I photographed a wall of varied limestone, where algae and moss, also terraformers, had made an abstract art collage.
I received an on-line invitation to support a protest about the exclusion of Palestinian Studies from the California State high school curriculum on Middle Eastern studies. Aside from the obvious importance and relevance of Palestinian studies in any Middle Eastern syllabus, there is the glaring need for such options in a country that is the biggest supporter of the state of Israel, with which the Palestinians are in conflict. But then it is precisely its relevance that ensures its opposition, nor is it only with regard to Palestine that such exclusion occurs.
“After months of controversy, California has released the final version of a model statewide ethnic studies curriculum for use in high schools. The original draft curriculum rightfully included the histories and narratives of Arab Americans, including Palestinians, written by scholars in the field.
“Due to pressure from anti-Palestinian organizations, the Arab American lesson no longer includes content developed by Arab American ethnic studies educators, and has NO information about Palestine. Palestinian history and narratives should be central to any ethnic studies curriculum, and this attempted erasure is appalling. …..
“We’re not the only ones raising the alarm. All original curriculum drafters have asked for their names to be removed as authors because the revised curriculum no longer represents their work and vision. It no longer highlights contributions and struggles against structural racism and social, political, and economic marginalization. It has become an “All Lives Matter” curriculum.“
AND SO TO IRISH STUDIES ….
Some decades ago in London I was involved with a number of others in organising a course called Irish Aspects at Goldsmiths College1. The course was composed of a series of weekly 2-hour evening meetings at the site, which was in the New Cross area of SE London. The sessions would cover, as its title indicated, different aspects related to Ireland, such as literature, politics, history ….
The course did fairly well but when it came to the following year, the College administration indicated they were considering closing it down. The course attendance, despite minimal advertising, was fair and the expense to the College, apart from the heating and lighting in the room we were using, was a mere two hours per week at tutor rate, with which we paid the speakers we brought in.
In discussion with the Director, he admitted that “The case for Irish studies is unanswerable”, by which I clarified that he meant “cannot be opposed”. Nevertheless, they did close down the course and would not even offer us a room in which to meet weekly without any paid tutor hours.
A few years later I applied to the Irish Studies course at University of North London2 and got in a year later. In fact, only half the BA course was in Irish studies and one had to choose another section of the Humanities prospectus to make up the whole. Over the years of studying and engaging with the subject of Irish Studies, I learned that in the whole of Britain there was not one whole degree course available in that subject and the only thing close was Celtic Studies, at the University of Aberyswyth, in west Wales3. So a BA course based on the history, culture, literature, art and language of a neighbouring country, with which the British State had been politically and militarily engaged for 800 years, from which huge migration to Britain had taken place for centuries, was not thought appropriate to make available in any one of over 130 universities in Britain4.
It was of course the same as with the refusal of the Palestinian course in the state of California, USA – its very relevance and importance was the reason why it could not be provided.
It is well documented by many writers and historians that the colonialists and imperialists do not wish the indigenous of the colonised lands to have a good appreciation of their own culture and history and certainly Ireland under British rule provides an abundance of examples of that negation.
But the lack of such courses in Britain did not only deprive Irish migrants and their children of the opportunity of such study, it also deprived the host community, along with other migrant communities. And that too has its rationale.
In a long struggle with a colonised people it would be disastrous for the ruling class if the host of the ruling class to suppress “the natives”. And the potential with regard to Ireland was serious, since the Irish migrant and diaspora community in Britain was huge and some of it well integrated into sections of British society – particularly the working class and its trade union and political expressions.
In addition, the Irish had much to teach the host population about the real nature of the British ruling class, since they had seen and felt it with fangs and claws bared, a sight of which the workers in Britain in more recent times caught only an occasional glimpse5.
The people who manage the imperialist and colonialist systems occasionally do stupid things but they are not stupid. They control education as an important ideological process and product. Battles can be fought over course funding and available subjects and these are justified. Some will be won for the ruling class needs its moderates, liberals and revisionists to moderate the content and try to control the discourse and therefore the conclusions. Ultimately however workers and communities from oppressed nations and groups need to set up their own courses and rely on their own resources.
3 I note that Liverpool University now offers a BA (Hons) course in Irish Studies. However, even there, students in Year One are required to take other 30 credits of subjects outside that curriculum.
4 Ireland was invaded by colonisers from Britain in 1169 and the English occupation is counted from that date; currently Britain holds six counties in the north-east of Ireland as a direct colony. The Irish compose by far the largest ethnic group historically migrating to Britain and for most of its history, past and recent, have been the largest ethnic minority community present.
5 It can hardly be pure coincidence that the Irish in Britain supplied the working class there, as well as with many of its activists and prominent figures, two leaders of its first mass movement (the Chartists), its first classic novel (The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists) and its battle hymn (The Red Flag).
We celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th but are we aware that on that day in 1917, women started the Russian revolution? It was one of the many contributions of women the world over to the struggles of humanity.
There were many causes of discontent with the ruling regime in Russia in 1917: it was monarchic, autocratic, repressive, incompetent. It had put the country into a war with Germany and Austria, which was in its third year. People were very hungry with food shortages for a number of reasons including the trains being used to transport war materials and soldiers rather than to bring food into the city. Nationalities within Russia and Greater Russia were denied self-determination.
Peasants were serfs to the aristocracy, who could beat, imprison and even hang them. Officers, always from the aristocracy or — to a lesser degree — from the professional classes regularly struck ordinary soldiers or had them whipped. The officers were also for the most part grossly incompetent.
The Christian Church (Russian Orthodox) was allied to the regime and corrupt. Free speech was suppressed and the secret police could be anywhere; the regular police were brutal and could not be challenged by ordinary people. Wages were often barely enough to live on.
START OF THE REVOLUTION
Petrograd was the Imperial capital city of Russia (the name had been changed in 1914 from St. Petersburg, which sounded too German) and in February and March 1917 a number of factories there were on strike for better wages. In particular, on March 7th (February 22 according to the calendar in use in Russia then), workers in the large Putilov works went on strike. The factory owners sacked the workers but not had not yet replaced them; there were some clashes with police.
The following day, March 8th (by our calendar), International Women’s Day, women in Petrograd organised a number of meetings and rallies. Led by no political party but in an atmosphere of deep discontent throughout the city, the women’s activities became increasingly energetic and militant. Demonstrations began to march, demanding bread and the women went to factories not yet on strike, calling on the workers to down tools and join the demonstrations. As as many as 50,000 did.
Two days later, a general strike had seized Petrograd’s manufacturing industries, much of the city’s services and even some commercial business, bringing clerks, teachers and students to swell the numbers in protests. Everywhere there were street meetings, marches; red flags and banners began to appear among the crowds. Slogans hardly considered before were shouted and became current, including calling for the monarch, the Tsar, to abdicate or to be deposed.
The Petrograd police were powerless to control the demonstrators who would have turned on them had they intervened. On the 11th, three days after the women’s mobilisation, the Tsar called on the Russian Army to intervene and to shoot demonstrators.
Russia had the largest single army in the world and despite the war, thousands were still in Petrograd. They had been used in the past against the workers and in 1905 had massacred people on a demonstration to petition the Tsar. But now, after three years of war and shortages, they were not keen to do so and particularly reluctant to open fire on women. Soldiers began to mutiny and, when threatened by officers, often shot them instead.
On that day, the Chairman of the Duma, the parliament which the Tsar Nicholas had kept powerless, sent an emergency telegram to the Tsar, who was at the Headquarters of the Russian Army, asking him for urgent action. The Tsar’s reply was dismissive – his wife, the Empress Consort Alexandra, had written to him that the problems in Petrograd were being exaggerated.
But the garrison of Petrograd, including elite units, had mutinied by the 12th, four days after the women’s marches and demonstrations. In addition the Cossack troops, usually reliable in shooting and sabring demonstrators and rioters, were disobeying the orders of their officers to attack the people (although they had not joined the mutiny). Officers began to go into hiding as more of them were being shot by soldiers from their own units. Symbols of Tsarist rule were being torn down in public places.
Two days later, on the 14th, the socialist parties and organisations established the Petrograd Soviet, last seen there twelve years previously, in 1905, before it was crushed by the Russian army. The Petrograd bourgeoisie were frightened but were unused to ruling except as permitted to by the Tsar, who himself now seemed unable to control events. Their powerless Duma (parliament), although ordered closed down by the Tsar that morning, set up a temporary committee to restore law and order and later, their Military Commission as part of the Provisional Government they created.
Thus began a period of dual authority in the city – the revolutionary workers, soldiers (and later, sailors) through the Soviet on the one hand and the bourgeoisie through their Military Committee on the other.
The Petrograd Soviet set the tone for what was to come by approving a number of points in Order No.1, effectively the first law drawn up by the Soviet, point 4 of which stated:
“The orders of the Military Commission of the State Duma shall be executed only in such cases as do not conflict with the orders and resolution of the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.”
The Soviet was making sure it could not be overruled by the new unelected body which the bourgeoisie had set up, the Provisional Government, or by its Military Commission.
Senior Army and political appointees advised the Tsar to do what just over a week previously would have been unthinkable – to abdicate. On the 15th, the Tsar abdicated on his own behalf and of his son, nominating instead his brother, the Grand Duke Alexandrovich, to be Tsar. But he in turn knew he had no support as things stood and refused the “crown”.
The Russian monarchy of centuries had been overthrown — only seven days after the women’s mobilisation in Petrograd.
Maneouvers by the different sides continued during May and June, including an attempted military coup by senior officers commanding army units away from Petrograd. The fortunes of the revolution swayed back and forth across the country until demonstrations in July supported by the Anarchists and the Bolsheviks were suppressed by army units loyal to the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries political parties in power.
Workers were being disarmed, soldiers re-submitted to the old discipline and revolutionary leaders were being hunted; the War was also ongoing.
In October, the Bolsheviks seized power, ended Russia’s involvement in the War and began to construct a socialist state.
Two years later the people had to fight to defend it against a right-wing military uprising supported by eight states, including the Allies but were successful in the end.
But it was the women who had started the ball rolling seven months earlier on March 8th, with their rallies and demonstrations and calling the workers out from the factories. Henceforth too, they played their part in government, in building the country and in the armed forces, particularly during the war against fascism and in defence of the USSR from June 1941 to the fall of Berlin and Nazi Germany in 1945.
Nearly 200,000 women were decorated and 89 eventually received the Soviet Union’s highest award, the Hero of the Soviet Union. Some served as pilots,snipers (some of the ace snipers at the famous battle (or siege) of Stalingrad were women), machine gunners, tank crew members and partisans, as well as in auxiliary roles of nursing, construction, administration, factory work and of course food production.
Do b’é an chóilíneacht a rinneadh teanga na nGaeil a “pholatiú”, mar shompla le Reachtanna Chill Coinnigh, le coinníolacha na Plandála, leis na Péin-Dlíthe agus córas na scollaíochta náisiúnta faoi chóilínteacht Shasana. Is beag dul as bhí ag na hÉireannaigh náisiúnacha ach a dteanga dúchais a pholatiú mar chosaint, mar cheist tarrthála.
Níor aontaigh an Ídeach agus an Phiarsach ar an gceist céanna agus ceaptar gur éirigh Dubhghlas de hÍde as uachtarántacht an eagrais a bhunaigh sé, Connradh na Gaeilge, dá bharr i 1915. Chuir na Sasanaigh Pádraig Mac Piarais chun báis i 1916 agus cé gur cuireadh an Ghaeilge ins an chéad áit go hoifigiúil ins an Saor Stát, agus de hÍde mar Uachtarán 1 1938, is in éag agus ag cúlú atá an Ghaeilge ag dul ó shin i leith (in ainneoin fás mhór scolaíochta lán-Ghaeilge ar leibhéal na bunscoilíochta agus cúpla bua eile thar na blianta, mar shompla bunú TG4 agus Raidió na Gaeltachta).
Tá an cheist ós ár gcomhair arís agus chun an fhírinne a rá, níor imigh sí ariamh: polaitiú nó gan polaitiú, nó bás don teanga in ionad polaitiú. Deir scríbhneoirí an ailt thíos gur ceist práinneach sin don Bhascais. Is mar an gcéanna againne é maidir leis an Ghaeilge.
Aistriú go Gaeilge den alt i Naziogintza ag Cathal Ó Murchú:
CAITHFIMID TÚSÁITE A THABHAIRT DON BHASCAIS
Is ábhar díospóireachta é polaitiú na Bascaise dúinne inár n-eagraíocht NAZIOGINTZA ó a bunaíodh í. Tá sé pléite againn agus neart scríofa ag tagairt air, agus anois – tríd an alt seo – chinníomar dul i ngleic leis an gceist seo go díreach.
Ar dtús, ní mór dúinn bheith soiléir faoi bhrí an téarma “polaitiú.” Teastaíonn uainn bheith soiléir go n-úsáidimid an focal polaitiú ar bhonn náisiúnta, agus nach dteastaíonn uainn ar chor ar bith dul i mbun aighneas polaitíochta ar chlé nó ar dheis, nó bheith claonta le grúpa polaitiúil amháin nó eile. Tá ár n-aighneas sa réimse seo le stáit na Fraince agus na Spáinne, ar mhian leo a dteangacha a bhrú orainn. Mar gheall ar athchultúrú éigeantach na Spáinnise agus na Fraincise, agus ar theacht le chéile na bhfórsaí polaitiúla le déanaí, tá Tír na mBascach i mbun dhianphróiseas dínáisiúnaithe, a bhfuil cáineadh déanta go minic. Tá creimeadh ar fheasacht náisiúnach na mBascach soiléir agus díscaoileadh gasta ar siúl ar ár náisiún in aigéan ollmhór na féiniúlachta Franca-Spáinní.
I bpróiseas an asamhlaithe seo, tá stáit na Spáinne agus na Fraince tar éis gach uile uirlis is cleas ar fáil dóibh a úsáid. Os rud é go dtuigeann siad gurb í an teanga crann taca an náisiúin, bhíodh siad de shíor ag iarraidh bunús na teangan Bascaise a bhaint, ach anois ar bhealach níos slítheanta: in ionad coscú iomlán ar theanga na Bascaise, mar atá déanta acu ar feadh na gcianta, anois tá siad ag rá go mba cheart “dípholaitiú” a dhéanamh ar an teanga Bascaise, ag iarraidh aon luach polaitiúil nó siombalach a bhaint ón mBascais, ag iarraidh teanga aimrid a dhéanamh aisti. Ní hamháin meáin na Spáinnise, ach neart polaiteoirí, tráchtairí, gníomhuithe sóisialta chomh maith inár náisiún féin atá ag athrá na mana céanna: “níor cheart go ndéanfar polaitiú ar theanga na mBascaise.”
Nach ait gurb iad siúd is mó a bhíonn ag polaitiú (agus ag brú orainn) a dteangacha féin (Airteagal a 3 de Bunreacht na Spáinne: ní mór do áitritheoirí stát na Spáinne bheith eolach ar an teanga Spáinnise; mar an gcéanna le hAirteagal a 2 de Bunreacht na Fraince) atá amhlaidh orthu siúd ag maíomh dúinn nár cheart polaitiú a dhéanamh ar ár dteanga. Nuair atáimid faoi fhulaingt ó aon leatrom teangan, mar shampla, deirtear linn gan cáineadh poiblí a dhéanamh ar seo, mar gheall go mbeimid ag polaitiú ár dteanga. Is léir go bhfuil aitheasc “dípholaitaithe” na Bascaise sa tóir ar ghéilleadh ár dteangan.
Ach ní hamháin sin atá i gceist. Iad siúd gur mhian leo luach ídé-eolaíoch na Bascaise a bhaint, tuigeann siad go maith go bhfuil cruinne siombalach bailithe, roinnt ar luachanna cultúrtha, i bhfocal amháin, Pobal i gceist. Mar gheall go dtugann an teanga Bascaise ár láthair sa saol, agus muide i láthair mar Bhascaigh. Le bheith cruinn faoi, is cuid an-bhunúsach an “muid” inár bhféiniúlacht náisiúnta, bunchuid a mhaireann thar na cianta, mar a aistrítear í ó ghlúin go glúin. Iad siúd gur mhian leo an íde-eolaíocht a bhaint ónár dteanga, tuigeann siad go dtugann an Euskera féiniúlacht ar leith agus i gcoitinne dúinn: ar leith sa chaoi gur Euskaldunes (cainteoirí Bascaise) sinne, agus i gcoitinne sa chaoi go ndéanann an teanga Bascaise náisiún dúinn. Is de dheasca na hEuskera a thugtar ainm agus croí do Thír na mBascach.
Iad siúd gur mhian leo an luach ídé-eolaíocht a bhaint ón mBascais, abraimís go soiléir é, is mian leo ár ndínáisiúnú: is mian leo an ghné is éifeachtaí a bhaint ónár dteanga, is mian leo an déthéarmach “Euskara-Euskal Herria” a scrios agus teanga ár dtíre a aistriú go rud éigin gan dochar nó neodrach ar nós gur Béarla nó Esperanto bheith ann, rud éigin gan anam. Dar leo siúd, bheith gonta faoi, níor cheart go mbeadh teanga Thír na mBascach ceangailte an iomarca le Tír na mBascach féin.
Ag tabhairt aghaidh ar seo, dearbhaímid go soiléir go mba cheart meá pholaitiúl, fhéiniúlach agus shiombalach a thabhairt don Euskara. Go mba cheart dúinn polaitiú a dhéanamh ar an mBascais, mar sin, os rud é gur cuid bhunúsach mar náisiún é.
Bímis soiléir faoi rud amháin: ní bhaineann an Bhascais le haon pháirtí polaitiúil amháin nó le haon ídé-eolaíocht ar leith. Ní hea ar chor ar bith. Ach ní hionann sin agus ceart ar dhípholaitiúar an mBascais. Is é sin díreach an aidhm atá ag náisiúnuithe na Fraince agus na Spáinne gur mhian leo náisiúnachas na mBascach a lagú, agus mar aidhm ag Bascaigh áirithe gur mhian leo nach bagairt a bheith ann i gcoincheap na teangan.
Tuigeann aontachtuithe na Spáinne agus na Fraince go maith nuair a labhraímid Bascais go bhfuilimid ag cur ár bhféiniúlacht náisiúnta in iúl. Tá uisce faoi thalamh i gceist leis an iarratas gan polaitiú a dhéanamh ar an mBascais: ná cur an teanga agus an fhéiniúlacht Bhascach in iúl — tá sé contúirteach. Mar gheall ar an gcúis seo, ina n-iarrachtaí luach ídé-eolaíoch na hEuskera (nó an Chatalóinis nó an Ghailísis) a bhaint, is minic a deireann Spáinnigh arís is arís eile “go bhfuil teangacha mar bhunuirlisí cumarsáide.” Ní hionann teangacha neamh-Spáinnise na Leithinse Íbéirí, ar ndóigh. Mar nuair a labhraíonn siad faoina dteanga féin, deireann Spáinnigh go mbaineann an Spáinnis le hoidhreacht luachmhar na gcainteoirí Spáinnise uile, ceann a chruthaíonn naisc láidre chultúrtha is mhothúchánacha idir an Spáinn agus Méiriceá Theas (tá an lá Féile na Spáinnise ar siúl ag an 12ú Deireadh Fómhair, Lá an “Hispanidad”, is féidir an rud céanna a rá faoin “Francophonie”). Ach ní hea, tuigimid go maith nach bhfuil teangacha mar uirlisí simplí cumarsáide. Tá teangacha mar bhunchodanna i gcruthú na bhféiniúlachtaí bailithe, tá siad mar chodanna a chruthaíonn naisc chultúrtha agus mhothúchánacha idir a gcainteoirí. Mura bhfuil sna teangacha ach uirlisí cumarsáide, bheimís go léir ag labhairt Béarla.
Cibé áit a bhfuil teanga, tá féidearthacht ann do náisiún freisin. Chomh maith le teangacha, is í feasacht i gcoitinne a n-áitritheoirí a chinnteoidh bunú an náisiúin sin. Mar sin, tá comhpháirt pholaitiúil na teangan soiléir — agus iad siúd gur mhian leo uallach pholaitiúil a bhaint ón mBascais, tuigeann siad go maith é seo.
Is oth an port céanna a gcaitear orainn a chloisteáil ó chuid den saol náisiúnach Bhascach: “ní cheart dúinn polaitiú a dhéanamh ar an teanga Bascaise.” Iad siúd a deir seo, ní labhraíonn siad Bascais go rialta. Baineann siad feidhm as an mBascais chun chur i gcéill, agus labhraíonn siad Spáinnis agus Fraincis ar a sáimhín só gan aon spéis ar leith. Ach ba cheart do gach Bascach a bhfuil grá ina c(h)roí do Thír na mBascach tábhacht na teangan i múnlú an náisiúin a thuiscint, agus an difríocht idir Euskal Herria on Spáinn nó ón bhFrainc a aithint, a bpríomhghné, a dteanga, teanga na Bascaise. An bhfuil orainn an fhianaise chuspóireach a cheilt?
Mar sin, ní féidir luach lárnach simplí a thabhairt don Bhascais, mar atá déanta i roinnt dár scoileanna. Mar atá tugtha don Bhéarla, mar shampla. Tá sé ríthábhachtach do mhic léinn i dTír na mBascach a thuiscint go bhfuil an Bhascais mar chrann taca dár bhféiniúlacht i gcoitinne, leis an mbrí iomlán a bhaineann leis. Sa réimse seo, ní mór dúinn polaitiú a dhéanamh ar theanga na Bascaise, mar atá luaite againn cheana. Ach labhróimid faoi sin go mion in alt eile maidir lenár samhail oideachasúil.
Gan amhras ar bith, ní mór an Bhascais a pholaitiú. Ar an lámh amháin, le polasuithe uaillmhianacha teangan a chur i bhfeidhm a gceadaíonn dúinn seasamh débhéascna ár dteangan a shárú. Agus ar an lámh eile, a shoiléiriú nach uirlis shimplií chumarsáide an Euskera amháin, ach an comhartha is follasaí a léiríonn an éagsúlacht ag Euskal Herria ó náisiúin eile na Cruinne.
(Eagras Bascach neamhspleach ar dhreamanna polaitiúla is ea Naziogintza a bhfuil mar chuspóir aici an Bhascais a chur chun cinn mar chuid lárnach de náisiún Euskal Herria. Déantar staidéar ar chásanna teangachaí náisiún atá faoi láthair gan stát dá gcuid féin)
In an opinion piece in Saturday’s Irish Times, Sean Moncrieff describes a journey on public transport in which he and others were subjected to an anti-masking and Far-Right conspiracy harangue by two other passengers who were not wearing masks. This behaviour typifies the arrogant, overbearing attitude of these Far-Right conspiracy theorists and how opposed they are to the prevalent ethos, especially among working people, of social solidarity.
The incident described is far from being a random isolated one. Up and down the country, anti-maskers have insulted people wearing masks, calling them “muzzled”. Irish Yellow Vester Ben Gilroy was videoed following an elderly man around a supermarket, harassing him for wearing a mask. Some of them, like anti-migrant, anti-masker Alan Sweeney, whose home is in Co. Galway, and a couple from Wexford, have travelled far outside their 5 km. restriction zones to enter shops while refusing to wear masks and then filming the resulting altercation as being alleged struggles for their civil rights. Following an anti-masker rally last year, a group of them entered carriages on the LUAS (the Dublin tram system) and mocked and abused people wearing masks (Sweeney was among those that time too). On a supposed celebration of St. Brigid by anti-maskers in Kildare this February, one was allegedly pulling masks off elderly (naturally!) passers-by. A doctor who returned to Ireland to help fight the virus and gave a thumb-down sign to an anti-mask march in Dublin, was menaced by some participants while many shouted at him “Take off your mask”. Dublin QAnon leader Dolores Webster (‘stage’ name Dee Wall) at a rally in Galway last year was videoed unmasked and deliberately coughing at a counter-protester while laughing about it.
They have even picketed hospitals, as reported in Wexford and in London, while health workers in Wales on social media reported being attacked by anti-maskers. More of that behaviour would have forced the State to close them down, which is probably why we have not seen more of it.
One of the many ironies associated with the Far-Right is that they claim wearing masks creates fear and breaks down solidarity among people, making them more easily manipulated. Meanwhile they go about actually undermining genuine social solidarity wherever they find it.
Social solidarity evolved first among ancient human societies as a way to live to survive in difficult situations. First in the family, then in the tribe, people helped one another in order for the group as a whole to survive. As society developed, even in societies dominated by exploiting classes that had little or no notion of solidarity, aspects of this social solidarity continued: agricultural communities worked in cooperation to get harvests in, to dig and operate irrigation ditches, to maintain various infrastructures. Workers, pitted to compete against one another as individuals or even groups, learned to build common solidarity and developed slogans like “An injury to one is an injury to all!” and “United we stand, divided we fall!” The moral folk tale of the mother (or father) and the sons (or daughters) being likened to sticks, individually vulnerable but unbreakable in a bunch, is known around the world.
During this pandemic, social solidarity has been expressed by cooperation to stop the spread of the virus, for example by maintaining social distancing, wearing masks in shops or among crowds. It has also seen expression in demonstrations of solidarity with front-line service workers, in actions like creating solidarity noise, posts on social media, display of placards and banners inside windows and on balconies. People have helped neighbours with their shopping and delivery needs and in some areas, communities have organised a broader service. The anti-maskers and the fascists among them, naturally, have done none of this, despite claims to be raising money “to feed the homeless” or “for mental health services” at events they used to promote their right-wing anti-masker rhetoric (and quite possibly line their own pockets). In fact the genuine feed-the-homeless voluntary services already in operation prior to the pandemic — due to the crisis of homelessness and lack of adequate services in this state – have continued their voluntary work, risking their health and safety. And though they appeal for donations of food, clothing and sleeping bags, they NEVER ASK FOR MONEY.
FASCISTS AT WORK
In recent developments the unity of the Far-Right in Ireland has fragmented. But in earlier days, the organised fascists in the very small parties and groups encouraged the anti-maskers in order to increase their numbers on protests, to recruit members into their own groups and to prepare some of them for street-fighting against the Left. The largest rallies were convened by the Irish Yellow Vests, led by Islamophobe Glen Miller and the self-promoting “anti-eviction activist” (sic) Ben Gilroy. But they were attended and promoted by a wide range of Far-Right conspiracy theorists, anti-maskers, anti-immigrants and Catholic fundamentalists including QAnon, Gemma O’Doherty, the fascist National Party, Síol na hÉireann and Irish Freedom Party.
After a rally of theirs at Custom House Quay on 22nd August 2020, a spokesperson for the National Party boasted about having organised the rally’s “security operation”; what he was referring to was an attack by at least 50 men, most of them armed with metal bars and clubs disguised as flags, upon an unarmed smaller group of counter-protesters in which one of the latter was knocked unconscious.
WHY ARE THEY ALLOWED TO BEHAVE LIKE THIS?
The above is a question many ask themselves. Although recently there have been a few arrests for contravention of pandemic restrictions and public disorder, in general the anti-maskers have enjoyed a freedom to flout the law to a degree difficult to believe. The QAnon group that rallied for months every Saturday outside the GPO in Dublin had a police presence only to protect them, while around the corner the pickets of sacked Debenham workers were harassed by the Gardaí. On a couple of those Saturdays, people in O’Connell Street picketing in solidarity with a Basque hunger-striker, though masked and maintaing social distancing, were harassed by the State’s political police.
Gemma O’Doherty videoed herself up and down the country denouncing all and sundry while violating pandemic restrictions. Sweeney, as mentioned earlier, has done the same, abusing shop workers providing a service while carrying out their duties under pandemic restrictions. Dolores Webster aka Dee Wall has had herself videoed addressing anti-masking rallies in places as far from Dublin as Galway and Belfast. The Irish Yellow Vests were allowed to flout the restrictions on a number of their rallies and marches until they tried to block Grafton Street and were aggressive to the Gardaí who tried to move them on, whereupon the Far-Rightists were shocked to be on the receiving end of police batons, normally only experienced by genuine protesters about social and economic conditions.
The Far-Right have been allowed to breach pandemic restrictions because their protests do not threaten the status quo. Furthermore, they aim at disrupting social solidarity which is no friend of the ruling class and its governments of various political parties. But there is more to it than that. The QAnon and Far-Right demonstrations in the USA were observed to have police support and police officers were observed opening gates for their recent invasion of the Capitol building in Washington DC (although a police officer was also killed in the invasion). In Ireland, the counter-protesters attacked by armed (and masked – at an anti-mask rally!) fascists at the Irish Yellow Vest rally at Custom House Quay on 22nd August 2020 were not only not arrested but the Gardaí attacked the counter-protesters. A few weeks later, an LGBT campaigner of many years was clubbed to the ground in Kildare Street by a supporter of the National Party after which the Gardaí ordered the woman, blood streaming down her head, to leave the area. On each occasion the Gardaí reported no serious incidents had occurred but following widely-disseminated video on social and mass media of the latter incident they were forced to amend their report and eventually to arrest an individual for the assault.
This is not merely a case of general police and fascist mentality running in parallel — the Gardaí have faced and attacked protesters on the Republican and socialist Left for decades. That is the section of society that is viewed as a potential threat by the ruling class and its State. And when the working people are to be squeezed in future austerity to make them pay for the capitalist crisis, it is those among the Republican and socialist Left that will be mobilising protests in resistance. A fascist and racist movement undermining social solidarity and attacking the genuine opposition must surely be a most welcome phenomenon to the Irish ruling class.
A conspiracy theory? Perhaps – but certainly a more logical one and with a basis in history.
An 1893 article on James Mooney by the Chicago Inter-Ocean newspaper correctly claimed that he knew more about the North American Indian than anyone else in the world. The son of poor Irish immigrants, Mooney never had the chance of higher education, yet amazingly he became not only a champion of Native peoples, but also one of the most influential anthropological fieldworkers of all time. His books written more than a century ago are still considered classics in the field.
Mooney possessed a talent for detailed and disciplined research that one of his colleagues later described as genius and he left several volumes of research. At a time when most Americans considered Native American culture barbaric and primitive, Mooney’s fascination with Irish myth and deep identification with its culture informed his view of Native Americans. Mooney saw Ireland as a spiritually rich, though materially deprived culture, which shaped his sympathetic views of Native Americans.
The Mooney family came to America as famine refugees. His father James Mooney was an itinerant scholar who taught Gaelic and Irish history at a time when it was a crime to do so. Born in Meath about 1832, Mooney’s father left for Liverpool in 1849, but life was hard and prospects limited, so he decided to move to the United States. Arriving in New York City in 1852 aged 30 he Married Ellen Devlin, 12 years his junior. He had known her family in Meath and asked for Ellen’s hand in marriage, but at first she refused the impoverished teacher. In New York they experienced the grim life of the tenements.
Ellen had family in the Midwest and in 1852 they moved to Richmond, Indiana. James Mooney died soon after his son’s birth, leaving the family to contend with poverty. His mother, who made her living as a housekeeper, supplemented her son’s public school education with tales of her native country, stories about the former grandeur of Irish culture, and memories of oppressive British rule. After graduating from high school in 1878, Mooney taught public school for one year and then joined the staff of the Richmond newspaper, but Mooney was a romantic who chafed at the limitations of small town life.
Since childhood, Mooney had a fascination with Native Americans and he longed to study them. Lacking any credentials whatsoever, Mooney applied for a position with the Bureau of American Ethnology, which was run by the famed explorer John Wesley Powell, the first white man to see the Grand Canyon. Amazingly, Mooney talked his way into a non-paying position and eventually became a paid member of the Bureau and one of the first “professional” scholars studying Native Americans.
His first field work was studying the few remaining members of the Cherokee Tribe in North Carolina. The Cherokee were victims of the brutal expulsion policy of President Andrew Jackson who sent them west to Oklahoma on the infamous “Trail of Tears.” Mooney lived with the Cherokees, learned their language and soon gained their trust. Mooney believed that the only way to learn their ideas and study their character was to live and work with them. At a time when the general attitude towards Native Americans was dismissive, Mooney saw the Cherokees not as inferiors, but as humans who shared a common humanity with people from more materially advanced civilizations. The more time he spent with Native Americans, the more his writing stressed their humanity. From his Irish roots, Mooney understood that some cultures put great store in charms and prayers and Mooney became a great chronicler of Native incantations and prayers, using them as a focal point to derive a deeper understanding of Native cultures.
At a time when the Commissioner of Indian Affairs had told government employees to do everything in their power to curb native ceremonies, Mooney’s detailed research into Native beliefs, rituals, folklore and traditions violated government policy and was nothing short of revolutionary. Mooney published his groundbreaking study of the Cherokee, The Myths of the Cherokee, which added a new dimension to the writing of Indian history by using sources from the Indians themselves. The comprehensive work compiled 126 Cherokee sacred stories, animal myths, legends, wonder stories and historical traditions. His account is tinged with a sadness informed by his awareness that Gaelic and Cherokee culture were both under threat, writing, “the older people still cling to their ancient rites and sacred traditions, but the dance and the ball play wither and the Indian day is nearly spent.”
Mooney’s career spanned thirty-six years and several Native American peoples. At a time when many whites wanted to force Native Americans to abandon their culture and assimilate, Mooney became an outspoken critic of assimilation and the boarding schools where forced assimilation occurred, making him an object of scorn for supporters of the practice.
He was also viciously attacked for his defense of two Native traditions: the Ghost Dance and the use of peyote in religious ceremonies. The Ghost Dance was a Native ritual that spread from tribe to tribe. Started by a Native American mystic and visionary, the Ghost Dance promised a physical regeneration of the world and the removal of all whites from Native lands. Fear of the dance led to the tragic massacre of Native Americans at Wounded Knee in 1890. Published in 1896, Mooney’s Ghost Dance Religion and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890 established Mooney’s reputation among anthropologists and historians. It has been called “The classic study of the American Indian revitalization movement.” Its power derived in large part from Mooney’s Irish heritage, which gave him an acute awareness of a people struggling to preserve their culture against economic, political and cultural oppression. Native American scholar Robert Utley said of Mooney, “No scholar since has tried to tell the story of the Ghost Dance in so comprehensive a fashion and that will never be done.”
Though his life was dedicated to Native Americans, he never forgot his Irish roots. He learned some Gaelic and sang Gaelic songs to his five children. In 1907, he hosted Douglas Hyde, founder and president of the Gaelic League, at a meeting that laid the groundwork for the Gaelic League of Washington. Mooney became President of the Gaelic Society of Washington and thanks in part to Mooney’s efforts, Hyde won support for the establishment of the first Irish Studies programs at American universities.
Mooney also suffered opprobrium for his defense of the Native American rituals using the Peyote cactus, which has hallucinogenic properties. In 1891, he became the first white man to ever witness a peyote ceremony. Mooney understood that peyote became for Native Americans a bridge to another spiritual dimension. Misunderstood like the Ghost Dance, the peyote religion counseled peace and brotherhood among the Indians and unlike the Ghost dance it did not pledge destruction of the whites. In February 1915, he testified in Congress in defense of the Peyote right, even though it jeopardized his government job.
Mooney died in 1921 believing that despite a lifetime of work, little had changed. He ended his career as he began it: convinced of the inability of one race to understand another. Mooney had committed his life to preserving Indian culture against a White world committed to its eradication. His mission flatly contradicted the Federal policy of assimilation, which assumed that, within a generation, there would be no more Indians, only “Americans.” Today, he is still recognized by whites and Indians alike as one of the foremost Native American ethnologists ever and a man who played a massive role in preserving Native American culture.
Threats? What threats? That is the question on a lot of minds as scepticism continues to grow about recent claims of intimidation against local officials in the port of Larne and the city of Belfast who were working, however tangentially, on administrating the so-called Irish Sea border between Ireland and the post-Brexit United Kingdom. As the well-informed political correspondent Sam McBride notes for the regional News Letter, a decidedly hardline pro-union publication, most of the allegations of imminent violence directed at UK and European Union employees seems to have come from the Democratic Unionist Party. The chief opponent of the regulatory frontier agreed between Brussels and London under the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol.
[On Monday] news emerged that Mid and East Antrim Borough Council – on which the DUP is the largest party – had suddenly withdrawn its staff from the border post in Larne because of graffiti describing…
Health Service, Broad Socialist Front, Anti-Fascism
(Reading time main text: 15 mins.)
A new periodical has emerged from the Irish Left. At the time of writing two issues of Rupture have been produced and Parts I and II of this article consist of a political overview (but of course from my individual viewpoint) of a number of issues discussed in the magazine. While the assessment of some is highly critical, overall my opinion is that Rupture is a welcome introduction to socialist analysis of conditions in Ireland.
Rupture is a quarterly magazine format produced by RISE, a group of socialists whose most publicly-prominent individual is Paul Murphy (see Appendix) who is also a TD, i.e a member of the Parliament of the 26 Counties. The formation of the party RISE was announced in September 2019 when Murphy announced his departure from the Socialist Party and his joining this new organisation, of which he is a founding member.
Rupture espouses “eco-socialism”, a drive to organise the production of food and fuel under socialist control while dramatically reducing its harmful impact on the environment. Most of its contributors address issues from a Marxist perspective but interviews with activists from some other perspectives are included.
The magazine’s two issues to date included features on public health, the environment and food production. In addition there have been a number of articles on developing a broad socialist front, combating racism and fascism, multi-national companies and neo-liberal capitalism, Big Pharm and trade union struggle. For the first time, the latest issue (November 2020) addressed the issue of the national question (and struggle) in Ireland. PART I of this article dealt mostly with the discussion of the magazine’s discussion of a) the Environment and b) the National Question, while PART II focuses on its coverage of the Health Service and the Broad Socialist Front, including Anti-Fascism. As a consequence each Part contains both positive and negative evaluation.
From another aspect, the layout is generally attractive and mostly easy to read with photography and artwork which is interesting (if its relevance is not always clear). Some articles are perhaps on the longer side for some tastes but then these are big issues being discussed, in many cases literally of life-and/or-death dimensions.
An annual subscription costs €40 all Ireland or €60 international and I would recommend taking out one for 2021).
The articles on the health service in the Irish state, one might say health services, are particularly strong and, like those on the environment, use published statistics and analyses from other sources to illustrate their points.
It is a fact, as the contributors point out, that the Irish state has never had a national health service (and one of the benefits for people in the 6-County colony is that they have the UK’s National Health Service, for all its current troubles). What we have is a three-tier system: state, private not-for-profit and capitalist — the articles argue for a totally public health system, such as would be in place in a socialist society.
There are those, especially Government Health Ministers (though not necessarily when in Opposition) who argue that the three-tier is the optimum mix, all tendencies working together to deliver the best service to the population. If the fallacy in this argument were not obvious before, with long waitings lists for procedures including even testing, packed A&E departments with patients waiting hours for treatment and some patients even days on trolleys, along with the false negative cervical cancer results, it was brutally exposed by the Covid19 pandemic. Overburdened ICU wards, more pressure on hospital beds, deferment of procedures and longer waiting lists, shortages of protective equipment and overworked and stressed front-line health workers, including shocking death rates in care homes have been stark pointers to the urgent need for change. And now delays in contact tracing and vaccine roll-out.
Besides, the alleged mix of the three types of health service provider is a fallacy, as the articles point out; in fact, public money is funding them all. Whether run by religious institutions or by unashamedly profit-making enterprises, they are all dependent on funding through the Irish State and through tax exemptions.
It would seem rational and logical that if a health service provider insists on working within a religious ethos, that its services be funded entirely by its own institutions and congregation. It would seem rational and logical that a provider who wishes to work on a profit-making basis should fund itself entirely by investors, bank loans and its own profits, just like any other business. It would seem rational and logical that the entire wealth available to the State for health should be spend funding and improving its own services. In the Irish state, none of that is what happens.
Not Fun Facts
The Catholic Church owns and controls 90% of primary and around 50% of secondary schools in the state which however are funded publicly. “Out of the 1,735 total deaths in the first wave (of the pandemic), over half (967 ) were in nursing homes.” “In 2019 the HSE spent 31% of its current budget ( 5.4 billion euros) on outsourcing to outside agencies.” “Top 5 religious orders funded by the HSE (2019): Sisters of Mercy (including the Mater and Mercy University Hospitals) – 432 million; Sisters of Charity (St. Vincent’s University Hospital) — 373m; Brothers of Charity 218m; St. John of Gods – 166m; Daughters of Charity – 122m.” (Total: 1,311,000,000 euro). “By 2019, up to 80% of nursing home beds were private, up from 66% 1n 2009 and 25% in the 1980s.” While working people struggle with ill-health or pay privately, also seeking care for elderly relatives, the huge rise in private health insurance cost and sector growth is the main beneficiary.
The story, shockingly, is the same when it comes to vaccines. Though people are right to question the operations of Big Pharma, the companies that produce medicines to make a profit, the general case for the defence of vaccines against diseases is unanswerable. Many distressing medical conditions and epidemics have been eliminated in parts of the world through vaccines though in some other parts people continue to suffer because vaccinations are generally unavailable.
However the article in the current issue of Rupture points out that a number of companies are in a race to be first to produce an effective Covid19 vaccine so that their company alone can patent it and profit from it (and of course, set their own price). Although their end product is patented and belongs to them to profit by, 66% of their research is public-funded. And they spend a large proportion of their funds on advertising – “64 of the top pharmaceutical companies spend twice as much on advertising as they did on new research, while 27 companies spent 10 times as much.”
In a socialist system, all the scientists would be collaborating and sharing research and work so that not only would likely success be enormously hastened but the vaccine would be universally available and cheap. In fact, the permanently crippling disease of polio was eliminated in Ireland by a publicly-available and cheap vaccine – its inventor Johan Salk, despite its estimated worth of $7 billion, refused to patent it , saying that it was “owned by the people” (https://polio.ie/polio-vaccine-26th-march-1953/).
BROAD SOCIALIST FRONT
Contributors ofarticles in Rupture on the question of creating a mass resistance front to capitalism have criticised the traditional socialist party-building method, which they point out leaves them essentially small, with limited influence in the working class and, through loyalty to their leaderships and reluctance to learn from their mistakes, perpetuates both. Whatever different people may think of the reasons nobody can argue with the result.
The articles advocate participation in broader fronts and attempting to influence them with a Marxist approach while also being willing to learn, instead of using these broader formations primarily to sell their newspapers, recruit some members and project themselves as the main leaders (that last might be more my own point than that of the article authors). It is suggested that on some questions socialist organisations can join in a common struggle with other groups and activists with whom they don’t agree on other issues.
Sounds good? Yes, of course and some of us independent activists have been saying that for decades. Interestingly however (and curiously, one might say if one were unaware of the general trajectory of the Irish Left), there is no mention of uniting with other revolutionary groups such as Irish Republicans and Anarchists. This should be curious because active Irish Republicans usually number many more than the Socialists in Ireland and they – and the Anarchists – have been fighting in struggles for years (including some which the rest of the Left is only now beginning to take up). Furthermore, which should be of more than passing interest to socialists, in general Irish Republicans are significantly of more working class background than are the members of the socialist parties.
If the Socialists in Ireland don’t unite with those groups it is of course possible that they will unite around enough others to overthrow the State and usher in a socialist order. Possible – but hardly likely. What is much more likely is that, in their pathological desire to steer clear of those elements, they will instead drift or gallop into alliance with social democracy. And that element of the Left is one which raises the aspirations of working people only to constantly dash them and, at crucial junctures of struggle always has and will betray its working class and lower-middle class supporters. Clara Zetkin, in the article referred to in the next section, pointed to the betrayal of the struggles of the working class paving the way for the fascists, giving the examples of the factory occupations and agrarian struggles of 1920 and the 1st August 1922 general strike debacle.
At those junctures the socialist organisations that have been in alliance with the social democrats will splinter again, amidst recriminations and opportunism as some leaders jostle for position among the social democrats. In some situations of course, socialists have instead ended up in prison, concentration camps or against a blood-stained wall.
The road to social democracy has been the historical trajectory in the West of most of the parties of the Left claiming to be revolutionary, both of the Trotskyist and Communist Party variety. At this early stage of Rise and Rupture that tendency is already to be seen in contributions to the magazine discussion – one from the USA advocating working within the Democratic Party and others suggesting the possibility of building a mass Irish social-democratic party inside of which the revolutionaries can work.
The rejection by Rupture contributors as allies of those active revolutionary elements, Irish Republicans and Anarchists, can once again be seen in its discussion of anti-fascism in Ireland. In the article on the subject in the November issue we are treated to eight pages of an address by Clara Zetkin to the Communist International in 1923, a time when fascism was still a very new force. The introduction from Rupture, dealing with Ireland and the world today, is barely one page long and doesn’t even mention the history of the struggle against fascism in Ireland.
Of course, discussion of Ireland being kept mostly free from fascism can only be even considered by ignoring the presence of the Loyalists and the colonial statelet, with its sectarian legislation, housing and education allocation and especially policing. As for the Loyalists, pogroms, individual murders and burning people out of their homes – that is not fascism? And it’s not as if there have not been plenty of connections established between Loyalist and fascist groups in and outside Ireland – and not only in Britain.
If the Irish state has been kept generally fascist-free so far, might it not be of some value perhaps to investigate why? In fact there have been fascist organisations operating within the Irish state but they were smashed by energetic action of Irish Republicans, both left and more generally nationalist throughout the 1930s, as well as by eventual banning by the De Valera government of Fianna Fáil, which was elected largely by Irish Republican and Socialist support.
Subsequently, every time until the very recent past the fascists have attempted to gain a foothold they have been smashed again, both by Irish Republicans and Anarchist and Socialists – but notably, never by the main socialist parties, who have sometimes demonstrated and more often written against fascism but always remained aloof and even critical of direct confrontation.
Irish antifascists in the 1930s, mostly of an Irish Republican background, contributed to the international struggle directly by participation in the International Brigades in the Spanish Anti-Fascist War (1936-1939), in Britain (notably in the Battle of Cable Street 1936), also the little-known burning of the Clonfert mansion of Sir Oswald Mosely, leader of the British Union of Fascists, the “Blackshirts” in 1954. And contributing since, down through generations of the diaspora to Red Action and Anti-Fascist Action in Britain.
When the European fascist network based on Islamophobia tried to include Dublin in its program of organisational launches in European cities, it was defeated in Dublin, making the Irish state probably the only one in Europe that was not host to a Pegida launch. The mobilisation against Pegida was huge but what really demoralised the organisers and ended the alliance of Irish and East European fascists in acrimony, was as a result of the physical confrontation which hospitalised some Irish fascists en route and required Garda vans to drive the East European variety away to safety.
The more active antifascist opposition was overwhelmingly Irish Republican, with some anarchists and independent socialists. And the people still facing charges of “violent disorder” and a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison (or an unlimited fine or both!) are all Republicans from different organisations. Those who confronted the fascist National Party on October 10th in Dublin last year and sent the nazis scurrying off under Garda protection included (unelectoral) Socialists but the largest element were undoubtedly Irish Republicans of various groups and none.
Today, even the new fascist groupings of Síol na hÉireann, the Irish Freedom Party and the National Party, along with the right-wing anti-vaxxer, anti-mask conspiracy theorists such a QAnon, all try to piggy-back on the history of the Irish Republican movement (at least until 1922), lacing their rhetoric with references to “700 (sic) years of struggle” and “the martyrs of Irish freedom”.
The formation of the Le Chéile antifascist alliance in early December last was an alliance of liberals, social-democrats and the electoral Left, with TDs of Rise and PBP in the lineup. Regarding the earlier discussions or founding meeting, a well-connected Irish Republican told me “I don’t know one Republican group that was invited” and when the alliance declared that they would not be organising any confrontations with the Far-Right, one suspects why. While it might be said that socialists should join such alliances in order to influence people towards the correct strategy and tactics, the least they could have done would be to publicly disagree with that stand. The reason the electoral Left did not do so seems to be because they agreed with it, as evidenced by their practice throughout the last two years.
By all means discuss and develop a theoretical understanding of the historical origins, development and nature of fascism but socialists need to remember that in the final analysis it was a huge expenditure of physical effort, with millions of martyrs, that brought fascism to its knees in most of Europe at the end of the 1940s.
RISE would do well to heed at least one of the remarks of Zetkin in the quoted speech: “Fascism confronts the proletariat as an exceptionally dangerous and frightful enemy”.As such, socialists require serious analysis of its history and current appearance in Ireland, along with an examination of the tactics and strategy necessary to defeat it.
A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO PAUL MURPHY (RISE)
Formerly an activist and TD of the Irish Socialist Party, an Irish child of the British Trotskyist organisation the Socialist Party (and formerly, Militant, the largest among a number of entrist groups into the British Labour Party), Murphy left them gently in September 2019 to form the RISE group. It may be remembered that Clare Daly, also a TD, left the SP in August 2012 in a somewhat more acrimonious dispute and became part of Independent Left with some other socialist TDs and municipal councillors, since when she and her partner Mick Wallace were elected Members of the European Parliament and virtually disappeared from the Irish political scene (to be missed by many without allegiance to either group). Paul Murphy has also been an MEP in the past, from 2011-2014. Although now a member of a different political party, he has remained in the Solidarity-People Before Profit coalition of SP and PBP which retains another five TDs (four essentially of the Socialist Workers’ Party but no longer any of the SP).
Murphy has a long record of activism and has been violently handled by the Gardaí (Irish state police force) and also arrested as part of the celebrated Jobstown case defendants in 2015 (all acquitted two years later). His international activism includes participation in the Gaza blockade flotilla in 2011 and high seas capture by the Israeli Zionist state, detention and deportation. His production of regular video broadcasts to date during the Covid19 crisis, both from home and of his interventions in the Dáil have included lashing the Government on placing accommodation of capitalism above the lives or ordinary people, denouncing its “yo-yo policy” of precautionary restrictions followed by much-too-early relaxation and also demanding the nationalisation of private health facilities.
In few countries in the world has emigration played a more important role than in Ireland. Even before the Famine, Irish men and women emigrated at far higher rates than in other countries and after the famine struck, emigration skyrocketed, with emigration becoming a matter of life and death. Over time, a culture of emigration took root there, and the more commonplace emigration became, the more firmly the expectation of emigrating became entrenched in Ireland’s economic and social system.
Ireland’s nineteenth century emigration was distinct from other countries in its gender ratio. In comparison to other European countries, the percentage of Irish women emigres was by far the highest and the unprecedented rate of single women emigrating distinguished the Irish from other Europeans to the United States during the nineteenth century. Already by 1845, women constituted nearly half of the total Irish immigration to America and that figure would continue to grow. The number of women who emigrated from Ireland in the nineteenth century has been put at three million and the major destination for these emigres was America. With few employable skills, many Irish immigrants worked in families as domestics. In 1900, 54% of Irish-born employed women were domestics and by 1913, some 87% of Irish emigrant women worked in some kind of domestic service. The massive number of Irish women working as American domestic workers would have profound, multiple effects both in America and at home in Ireland for generations.
Americans referred to the stereotypical Irish domestic worker as “Irish Bridget”, in part because Bridget is Ireland’s most popular female saint and many Irish named daughters in her honor. In America, Irish Bridget denoted the hundreds of thousands of Irish women laboring as domestic workers in American homes from 1840 for at least ninety years. Irish Bridget became a cliché for young Irish domestics who wreaked havoc, but also became indispensable, in American middle class homes for generations.
In the nineteenth century, having a live-in domestic servant who worked as a cook, cleaner, waitress and nanny was common amongst urban middle-class families. Up to a third of American households had live-in domestic workers in 1850 and Irish-born women constituted the largest group of domestic workers in the urban east. Living- in had both positive and negative sides for Irish domestic workers. These domestic workers freed married American women from many of the household and childcare duties that were expected of them. Freed from the obligation to pay rent, Irish domestics could save money to send to family in Ireland or for their own futures in America, but it also meant a lack of privacy, round-the-clock availability and the possibility of abuse from male members of the employer’s family.
American employer and Irish employee faced each other across a gulf of class, cultural, ethnic and religious differences. It was principally in the American home, not the political arena, or the factory floor where Irish immigrants and Native-born Americans first got to know one another. Americans’ views of the Irish and Irish views of Americans were forged by these intimate personal contacts.
Forging this relationship was hard in large part because of the poverty from which many Irish domestics came. The median age of these Irish girls was just twenty-one and the vast majority of these young women came from rural homes that were very different than the middle -class American homes where they worked. Many Irish women grew up in homes with dirt floors, with no knowledge of using brushes and buckets to scrub wooden floors. Another concern, many Irish homes also had no running water and no indoor toilets. Irish girls who became cooks often did not learn their culinary skills in Ireland. The food that they were raised on was vastly different than the cuisine eaten in the middle class American homes where they worked. It is not surprising that Irish servants in America were not known for their good cooking.
Americans often complained about Bridget’s lack of knowledge and her limitations. Americans spread negative stereotypes of Irish servants’ ignorance, rawness and stupidity. Many Irish had gone barefoot in Ireland and had to adapt to wearing shoes in America. Irish servants were sometimes even ignorant of the names and uses of kitchen utensils. One source noted, “these Irish servants are the plague of our lives.”
Even though Americans complained about their Irish domestics, they also needed them desperately. Because their work was in high demand, Irish domestics were able to negotiate their wages and conditions and they often left one family for another that offered better pay and improved conditions. There was a high turnover rate, which greatly displeased American employers.
Distained but Assertive
American employers quickly noticed the feistiness of the Irish Bridget, who quickly became infamous for her self-assertiveness. Americans complained that Brigid was insolent, defiant and had a temper. Employers also complained about Brigid’s uppishness or pretentiousness. Sharp-tongued anecdotes of Brigid’s repartees have become part of Irish American folklore and family histories. Self-confident Irish domestic servants did not believe that their work carried a stigma, though many Irish-Americans did. The opportunity to move their own families into the middle class mitigated Irish women’s concerns about any stigma tied to domestic work.
Irish Domestics demanded to be paid fairly and with good reason. American money greatly improved the material life of family members at home in Ireland. In the 1870s, amazingly about a third of all the money in circulation in Ireland came from remittances from Irish domestics. American money paid rural rents and built farmhouses. It provided dowries so that sisters at home could marry. It also allowed other family members to come to America. Prepaid passage tickets accounted for seventy-five percent of all the tickets used by the Irish to come to America.
Irish domestics spent freely on clothing and were criticized for dressing above their social station. They often spent most of their week’s wages on clothing and Irish Bridget could afford fine clothes that made her indistinguishable from middle class American women. Irish Bridget was often lampooned in cartoons which portrayed their over-the-top dressing in boas, boots and bangles.
The Catholic Church played a huge role in the lives of these women and figured not just in the social life of the Irish immigrants, but in their emotional life as well. Coming from a devout Catholic country, many lonely and homesick Irish women found consolation in the rosary and in prayer. Mass and devotions, though, were social as well as spiritual. Irish immigrants tended to identify themselves by their local parish and parishes organized important recreational outings such as boat trips, picnics and dances where Irish domestics could socialize with other Irish women and meet single men who were prospective marriage partners.
Religion, though was often a flashpoint. Many employers were Protestant, while Irish Bridget was almost overwhelmingly Catholic. Some domestics had to defy their employers who sought to convert them to Protestantism. Irish women even refused to join in Protestant family prayers and upset their employers when demanding fish on Fridays. Some potential employers refused to hire Catholics and stipulated in employment offers that only Protestant women need apply.
Through their personal interaction with Irish Bridget, native-born Americans came to see Irish immigrants less as ‘others’ and more as fellow human beings. Irish Bridget blazed a trail for the Irish to become accepted by native-born Americans and helped the Irish, as a group, move into the American middle class.
Thanks to Geoff for this interesting contribution. The first migrant ashore at Ellis Island, the immigrant-processing station opened by the USA in 1892 was Irish, though her name was not Brigid – Annie Moore was from Cork and she was not yet 18 years of age.1
Though native-born East Coast white UStaters2, especially middle-class and upwards, would have come to know the Irish migrants through domestic servant “Bridget”, she in turn came to know them in that exchange also. And to adopt their attitudes, at least in some regards and no doubt anti-black racism was one of those attitudes. While down at the bottom of white society Irish labourers had to compete with black, which helped promote racist attitudes in Irish males (becoming “white”), Irish Bridget was much more likely to pick up those attitudes from white upper-class white households.
Not all Irish migrants embraced racism of course and some actively campaigned against it3, yet viewing the screaming hordes, mostly women and many of Irish descent, protesting the forced de-segration of schooling in Boston in the mid-1970s for example is a repelling experience.
1 Ellis Island is no longer used to process migrants and is better known today as an island close to that which became the base for the Statue of Liberty
2 A term I use to describe people from the USA, as distinct from other parts of America such as Canada to the north and Latin America to the south.
3 And were instrumental in building the main US anti-slavery party, the Republican
The Irish Girl and the American Letter: Irish immigrants in 19th Century America: