OFFICIAL DIPLOMATIC REPRESENTATION FOR THE POLISARIO IN IRELAND?

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 6 mins)

A Dublin public meeting on Western Sahara attracted a high-powered attendance including ambassadors and other diplomats of four foreign states, along with the Prime Minister and Minister for Women and Social Affairs of Western Sahara.

Western Sahara – a Spanish colonial possession but then occupied by the Kingdom of Morocco, has been called “the last colony in Africa”, by which is meant the last African region remaining under formal occupation by its coloniser.1

The Western Sahara liberation politicians included the Prime Minister of the Polisario Front, the national political representation of the Saharawi nation, Mr. Boucharay Beyoun and Souilima Biruk, Minister for Women and Social Affairs.

Other diplomatic representation for the Saharawi people was provided by Mr. Oubi Bouchraya for the EU and Europe, Mr. Sidi Breika, for the UK and Mr. Nafi Sediki, for the Irish state.

For other countries, there were the Ambassadors to Ireland of Cuba Mr. Bernardi Guanche, of Algeria Mr. Mohammed Belaoura and of South Africa Ms. Yolisa Maya. For Colombia, Andres Echeverri, Deputy Chief of Mission and Consul attended.

Also in attendance at the meeting in the Teachers’s Club, in Dublin’s City centre were the diplomats’ support and security staff, a few solidarity activists and SIPTU officials. Earlier, the Saharawi delegation had met with TDs, members of the Irish parliament.

COLONIAL RULE AND RESISTANCE BACKGROUND

Western Sahara is a territory located between the internationally-recognised borders of Algeria to the south, Mauritania to the east and Morocco to the north. Along with much of North Africa it was colonised by the Spanish State in the latter’s various forms2 from 1884 to 1976.

In 1967 the Harakat Tahrir organisation was formed and challenged Spanish rule peacefully but publicly. In 1970 the Spanish police destroyed the organisation and ‘disappeared’ its founder, Muhammad Basiri, widely believed murdered.

As the Spanish state left without making any arrangements for decolonisation, holding a referendum or handing over power to Saharawi representatives, armies of the Moroccan and Mauritanian states invaded. In response, the Frente Polisario was created, raising armed and political resistance.

Mauritania withdrew in 1979 and revoked its territorial claim but Morocco, supported by France, rather intensified its occupation and attendant repression. Large numbers of Saharawi people fled over the border into Algeria where they currently inhabit refugee camps.

The population is of part-Berber, part-Arabic descent, mostly Muslim in religion and in many aspects of culture. The people are universally at least bilingual, common languages in the occupied area being Arabic and Castilian (Spanish) along with, in the refugee camps in Algeria, Arabic and French3.

The Polisario Front has been resisting the Moroccan occupation from the moment it began in guerrilla war but in 1991 the United Nations brokered a ceasefire which was supposed to be followed by arrangements for the Saharawi people to determine the territory’s future.

All attempts in this direction have failed due to the irreconcilable differences between the objectives of the mass of Sahrawi people on the one hand, i.e self-determination and independence and those of the Moroccan State on the other, colonisation and extraction of natural resources.4

The Moroccan state has built a 2,700 km (1,700 mi) long wall or berm of rocks and sand fortified by bunkers, topped by surveillance and communication equipment. Artillery posts dot the wall with airfields on the Moroccan occupiers’ side.

Running along this is the minefield, the longest in the world. The wall even penetrates the Mauritanean side for several kilometres.

Popular demonstrations of the Saharawi people broke out at different points since, including a “protest camp” of 12,000 people broken up by Moroccan militarised police with disputed claims about numbers of injuries and fatalities and in 2020 more military action against Saharawi protests.

After the latter, the Polisario Front considered that the Moroccan forces had broken the truce and, declaring their own abandonment of it, resumed the guerrilla war last fought in 19915.

DUBLIN MEETING: PRESENTATIONS, SPEECHES AND EXCHANGES
Mark McLoughlin opened the meeting welcoming people and giving a brief overview of the situation of the Saharawi, before introducing the first speaker.

Mark McLoughlin opening the meeting (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Suelma Beirouk,Minister for Social Affairs and the Promotion of Women, spoke briefly in Spanish, with her words interpreted into English. The delegation had been received and listened to by representatives of most of the political parties, she said.

Ms Suelma Beirouk (centre), Minister for Social Affairs and Promotion of Women, speaking with her interpreter (left) and Oubi Bouchraya (right).

They had also met with some civil society organisations and were made welcome. Saharawi women, Ms Beirouk went on to say, were at the forefront of the struggle for the nation’s self-determination and had suffered much – including even rape — but continued to resist.

Mr. Oubi Bouchraya, Polisario representative for the EU and Europe was the next to speak and the main speaker. In fluent English he set out the current international situation regarding Western Sahara and the context of the Delegation’s visit to Ireland.

The speaker pointed to the diplomatic importance of Ireland with its presence in the United Nations Security Council in which the Saharawi would hope for its support when the question of a referendum is due to be discussed there at the end of the month.

The UN has had a mission called MINURSO based in W. Sahara since 1991, the only one in the world without a human rights observation role. If it is not going to oversee that referendum, what is the point of it being there? On the other hand, observing human rights would be useful.

Mr. Oubi Bouchraya speaking (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

As a member of the European Union, Ireland also has an important role to play. The EU’s Ministers negotiated economic agreements with Morocco which included access to resources in Western Sahara. As WS is a non-self-governing colony, by international law, those agreements were illegal.

The European Court of Justice has judged accordingly and, though it allows them to stand temporarily, the agreements must fall, stated Mr. Bouchraya.

Questions, Contributions and Responses

From the floor there was a question as to whether the Polisario could have a national delegation recognised by the Irish government, as had happened in the cases of South Africa before the end of apartheid and currently with Palestine.

This question is being explored by the Saharawi mission. An aide to the South African Ambassador pointed out that that recognition for South Africa and Palestine had been gained as a result of pressure “from the bottom up” and went on to speak of the ANC’s unequivocal support.

South African speaking from the floor, next to his state’s Ambassador. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

A Dublin member of the audience, responding to the need for “bottom-upwards pressure”, related the history of the Western Sahara Action Ireland solidarity group some years ago which had been very active publicly to the extent of being harassed and even threatened by some Moroccans.

The WSAI group had however had suffered a number of departures of activists and with a number also active in other areas of struggle, was unable to maintain itself as an active group. He stated that he believed the group’s necessary reactivation needed an injection of some personnel.

A number of questions addressed the issue of the support for Western Sahara in Africa and generally. Over 80 states formally support the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination and most of those are in Africa, including the formal support of the African Union6.

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)
(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

FOOTNOTES

1Actually this is not accurate since Ceuta and Melilla are both colonial enclaves on the northern and north-eastern coasts of North Africa, surrounded on land by territory of the Kingdom of Morocco. It would be more accurate to say that Western Sahara is the only remaining un-decolonised large territory.

2The Spanish State was a monarchy until it became a French client 1807-1814, followed by monarchy again but interrupted briefly by the First Republic (1873-1874), a monarchy again until the Second Republic in 1931, in which it was briefly a military dictatorship, followed by a Popular Front democracy (1936-1939). A military-fascist rebellion against the Republic led to its defeat and rule by a military dictatorship 1939-1978, then to its current form, a monarchy once more.

3Algeria was colonised by the French in 1830, winning formal independence in 1962 after a fierce national liberation struggle.

4The major natural resources being exploited are the extremely rich fishing off the coast and phosphates being mined on land. Solar energy ‘farms’ are also being run without benefit to the indigenous people and though not discovered yet (“thank God!” commented a Saharawi in a meeting), sources of oil and gas are a possibility.

5And for which there had been sporadic periods of pressure in particular from Saharawi youth.

6Formed in 1963, the African all 55 states currently in Africa.

LINKS

Western Sahara Action Ireland: https://www.facebook.com/groups/256377861125569

Western Sahara Resource Watch: https://www.facebook.com/wsrw.org

https://www.irishtimes.com/politics/2022/10/12/western-saharan-delegation-lobbies-irish-parties-for-diplomatic-recognition/?

THE COLONIES STRIKE BACK – IN FILM

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 5 mins.)

The colonies have been striking back at the Empire in film for some time and why not? Sure the Empire’s been colonising them all over again for decades, also through film.

But for a long time the liberal anti-colonial script-writers couldn’t bring themselves to make the main heroes of the film the indigenous colonised in Africa, America, Asia or Oceania – or else the finance backers doubted they’d recover their investment.

So the situation of the colonised had to be seen through the eyes of a liberal hero of European background or ancestry1 — someone with which, as they thought the the white European audience could identify2.

Stories figuring the Europeans colonised by England, i.e the Irish and the Scots, many who were in turn used by the Empire to colonise the lands of others — gets the film-makers over that difficulty.

Script-writers and casting directors in that ex-colony-now-superpower have been getting back at the English for years, of course, in historical drama3 but also portraying their villains with English accents4. Posh accents at first and then regional and London-Cockney5.

But rarely against the Irish, being often heroes in US films, providing they are Irish-Americans, which is to say Irish UStaters.

Two productions I’ve watched recently had as heroes people exported by the Empire from their own conquered homelands to other conquered colonies, in each case forming alliances with indigenous people.

Billy (Baykali Ganambarr) and Clare (Aisling Franciosi) in a scene from the Nightingale film (Image sourced: Internet)

Both productions have also given coverage to native languages of the indigenous people and, in one of them, also to a fair bit of the Irish language, spoken and sung.

THE NIGHTINGALE IN TASMANIA

The Nightingale (2018) is set in the British colony of Tasmania in 1825. In that period, which is not the main story, the Black War took place, in which an estimated 600-900 indigenous Tasmanians were killed, nearly wiping out their entire population. The killers were British colonial armed forces and settlers.

Political or social prisoners in the UK6 of the period were often transported to serve their time in penal colonies where, if they survived, they could be freed upon completion of their sentences or even earlier by agreement but to return was impossible unless they could purchase passage home.

Clare — “The Nightingale”, so nicknamed for her singing voice — is one such social prisoner, an Irish woman convicted of stealing and transported to Van Diemen’s land to serve her time.

She is part of the household staff of a British officer stationed there but is permitted to marry a free Irishman, Aidan; they live together in a hut and have a child together. The officer desires Clare and acts violently upon that desire, giving rise to a chain of tragic events.

Clare sets out to track the officer down and wreak revenge upon him but, needing a tracker-guide, employs an indigenous Tasmanian for that purpose. The story then is not only about her journey but about the uneasy relationship between these two victims of colonialism and occasional glimpses of other aspects of colonial rule, particularly in Tasmania.

IRISH, SCOTS AND INDIGENOUS

Frontier (2016) was originally a series for Television and, like The Nightingale, found a home later on Netflix. It features Irish and Scots heroes against the British Authorities and military.

It is set in British Canada in a historical struggle for control of the fur trade between the Hudson Bay Trading Company, a monopoly jealously protected by the UK, and a consortium of trappers striving for independence in trade.

Tavern owner Kate Emberly (Zoe Boyle) being meneaced by Captain Chesterfield (Evan Jonikeit) in the Frontier series (Image sourced: Internet)

The indigenous people are represented too, with a female warrior and communities, speaking Cree and a number of other Indigenous languages, including Inuit, with subtitles providing a translation.

The main hero is Declan Harp (now there’s names with an Irish connection!) who is half-Cree and half-Irish; after his parents were killed, he is adopted by Benton, the British administrator of the area but Harp later grows to hate Benton, who had his wife and child murdered.

A lesser male hero and ally is Michael, totally Irish but with a shaky moral compass. The main female heroes are a Cree warrior/ hunter and a Scottish woman, owner-manager of a tavern.

A female sort of anti-hero is a wealthy English woman of aristocratic type and there’s an Irish woman of humble background, being schooled to be “a lady”. There are a number of male Scottish anti-heroes too and there’s a Metis (of mixed Indigenous and French [or Breton or Basque?] parentage) helper, trapper and guide.

The Frontier has a couple of villains of US-origin but that’s allowed, this is Canada after all, its domination taken over by the USA from England. Otherwise nearly all the bad characters, the “black hats”, are English and so too with The Nightingale.

The British soldiers in both stories have regional English accents but so do some of their lower-ranking officers. Most of them are brutal and drunkards, some also murderers and rapists. Anti-English propaganda? No doubt but from what we know of history and even of more contemporary colonialism, very likely true enough.

Reviews have praised Jason Momoa’s portrayal of Declan Harp in The Frontier and certainly his physical size and appearance (long tangled locks, one eye clouded, looking out under lowered eyebrows) does focus one’s attention.

Jason Momoa as Declan Harp and Jessica Matten as Sokanon in a scene from the Frontier series (Image sourced: Internet)

Personally I found the number of times he survives torture, serious beatings and wounds straining credulity and, in a way, tending towards boring, as though the Director or screenplay writer thought: Let’s get Declan to have another massive bloody fight here, we haven’t had one of those in a couple of episodes now.

However, even with at times difficult-to-believe plot turns, there are some excellent performances, chiefly perhaps and not surprisingly Alun Armstrong as Lord Benton and Shawn Doyle as the ruthless smoothly urbane but underneath volcanic Samuel Grant

Greg Bryk as Grant’s smooth and sinister manservant-lover Cobbs Pond puts in effective performances too. Evan Jonigkeit as Captain Chesterfield, is also good, particularly in his anguished frustrated desire for the tavern owner Grace Emberly (Zoe Boyle), and his burning desire to rise above his social station.

Jessica Matten is believable as the Cree warrior-hunter Sokanon, despite her gender being unlikely in that role, but her frowning expression grows repetitious after a while.

Katie McGrath played the plotting and provocative English aristocrat Mrs. Carruthers well in her unfortunately short run as a character (but Wardrobe and Sequence, would she wear the same lace-sleeved undergarment so many day in a row?).

Katie McGrath as Lady Carruthers in Frontier. (Image sourced: Internet)

The female who develops something of a penchant for killing violent dominating males and disposing of their bodies is an interesting character creation though her appearances in that role are few.

When Declan Harp commandeers a ship to take him and McTaggart (Jamie Sives) to Scotland to rescue Grace and avenge himself on Lord Benton, we are introduced to a Portuguese ship captain and a Polynesian mariner, the latter also singing and praying in his native language.

In Scotland, Harp recruits local toughs to attack the English Castle Benton where Lord Benton has taken residence and they kill many redcoats.

STEREO OR TRUE-TYPES

The main characters in The Nightingale are of course the vengeful woman Clare (Aisling Franciosi), her aboriginal guide and companion ‘Billy’ (Baykali Ganambarr), along with the British Lieutenant Hawkins (Sam Claffin) and Sergeant Ruse (Damon Herriman) she pursues.

All are believable characters with strong performances by the actors. England is an evil bastard in this story, represented by the officer Hawkins and sergeant Ruse but some decent English individuals make their appearance on occasion too.

The dialogue is mostly English but the Tasmanian language spoken and sung in the film is Palawa Kani. Some Irish is spoken between Aidan and Clare, the latter singing mainly English folk songs but to her child sings the Irish language lyrics of Cailín Álainn to the Scottish air of the Mingalay Boat Song7.

Speaking their own language makes the subjects their own people; speaking English, usually badly or with heavy un-English accents, though making them more intelligible to English fluents also presents them to the English-speaker as lesser-English, lesser-UStater, lesser-Canadian — in total: lesser human.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1 For example the plight of the Cheyenne in 1864 was represented in Soldier Blue through the eyes of the European woman Cresta Lee (Candice Bergin); it’s the liberal newspaper editor Donald Woods (Kevin Kline) who we accompany as we follow the story of the hero Biko in Cry Freedom, murdered by the South African white minority regime. Even in the British colony in Ireland, where the natives are white, the heroes may be English (Brian Cox playing an honest English cop in Hidden Agenda, Emma Thompson as the lawyer in Name of the Father).

2 When the promoters and financiers finally realised that a large part of their paying audiences were not in fact white European is when one started to see heroes of other backgrounds and ‘blacksploitation’ films.

3 Mel Gibson’s The Patriot and Bravehart, for example but going much further back, Disney’s The Fighting Prince of Donegal (1966).

4 For examples Grand Moff Tarkin in original Starwars trilogy (1977-1983), Steven Berkoff in Beverly Hills Cop (1994), Scar in The Lion King (1994), arguably Anthony Hopkins [though Welsh and playing a Lithuanian] in Silence of the Lambs (1991), Sher Khan in The Jungle Book (1996) and sequel.

5 Tim Roth in Pulp Fiction (1994).

6 Not just the British – the French had their penal colonies abroad, for example in Guyana and the Spanish state sent prisoners to Ceuta, in North Africa even in modern times.

7 An anachronism, since the composer of the Irish lyrics of An Cailín Álainn is Tomás ‘Jimmy’ Mac Eoin from An Bóthar Buí in An Cheathrú Rua, Conamara, Galway, Ireland – and he was only born in 1937. The lyrics of the Mingalay Boat Song are also apparently sung to a much older air and one supposes the original lyrics would have been in Gaedhlig.

SOURCES

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Nightingale_(2018_film)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frontier_(2016_TV_series)

MIXED FOOTBALL TEAMS COMING?

Translation from piece in Catalan on VilaWeb

(Reading time: one min.)

Women’s football will become universal in Catalonia starting from the 2022-2023 season. Both field and indoor soccer players may participate in any male category within the territory, whether amateur or grassroots. This has been determined by vote of the Ordinary General Assembly of the Catalan Football Federation (FCF), held at the Ciudad Deportiva de Blanes, where the Catalan clubs have voted in favour of this new step for full equality between men’s and women’s football.

Barca women’s soccer team were in the teams of five different nations in the international championship in France in 2019.

The regulatory change will enable any female soccer player to process a federative license in a male team, starting this Friday, July 1, coinciding with the official start of the new soccer year. Consequently the cap for mixed football, now set in the cadet category, is eliminated, also incorporating players of youth and amateur age, who will be able to compete up to the Men’s Youth Preferred, in the first case, and up to the First Catalan, 2022-2023 season, and the Super League, 2023-2024 season, in the second.

Barcelona women’s team beat Espanyol (despite name, another Catalan team) to become Catalan champions in 2018. (Image processed by CodeCarvings Piczard ### FREE Community Edition)

Likewise the FCF will give a new impulse to women’s football through the development of the Women’s Football and Indoors Committee, which will be in charge of setting out the main lines for action in this area throughout the entire mandate.

end.

SOURCE & FURTHER INFORMATION:

https://www.vilaweb.cat/noticies/futbolistes-podran-participar-qualsevol-categoria-masculina-catalunya/?fbclid=IwAR1RFjQn1RUD6jBDAltTA7bnJCwAlVXyaapIJtcAPReSS6MWDgsMSrWxsjA

https://www.lemonde.fr/en/sports/article/2022/05/21/fc-barcelona-the-new-stronghold-of-women-s-soccer-in-europe_5984201_9.html

DEMONSTRATORS CALL FOR A SECULAR MATERNITY HOSPITAL — AND SOCIETY

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

View of section of the crowd from Molesworth Street (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Around two thousand demonstrators, including a high proportion of women, held a rally on Saturday afternoon outside Leinster House, the building housing the Irish Parliament. They were protesting the lack of clarity around whether the new maternity hospital will carry out pregnancy terminations on demand — with the suspicion that it will not.

View of section of the crowd in Molesworth Street (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

But speaker after speaker went further still and demanded the secularisation of the Irish health service and of society in general.

The issue arises in the first place due to the necessity to relocate the Dublin maternity services currently based at Holles Street due to the inability of the latter to meet the demand. However, the Government decided to relocate the facility to land near St. Vincent’s Hospital, owned by a Catholic Church organisation, which in turn formed a company to buy the land and lease it to the State at a nominal annual rate. It is the perceived Church veto on some procedures that has raised so much concern.

View of section of the crowd in Kildare Street looking northwards (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

A SECULAR SOCIETY – A REPUBLICAN DEMAND

A secular society is a fundamentally republican demand, up there with opposition to monarchy. English Republicanism failed to achieve1 it even after the execution by Parliament of Charles I in 1649 but the French revolution did not, which was one of the reasons why the Irish Catholic Church hierarchy was against La Republique and against the United Irishmen too.

View of centre section of the crowd in Kildare Street (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Irish Republicans after the United Irishmen have had at best an ambivalent attitude to the Catholic Church – although the Young Irelanders and even more so the Fenians were decidedly anti-clerical, the Republicans in the first two decades of the last century were not so in general and many actually courted the support of the Church. The fact that the Irish Republican movement during the rest of the century failed to lead social struggles is adequate testimony to its leadership at the very least not wishing to earn the hostility of the Catholic hierarchy. That in turn was one of the factors ensuring that the Republican movement failed to broaden its struggle to encompass the majority of the nation … a factor sufficient on its own to ensure its defeat.

On the whole it has been left to writers, revolutionary socialists, social democrats and liberals to fight the secularisation battles – but above all, left to women. Control of fertility, access to contraceptives, personal sexual freedom, gender equality in law, equal pay, and termination of pregnancy were all hard battles won over decades by women. And often at huge personal cost. Most of those battles confronted the authority of the Church Hierarchy and even when some did not so directly, they did so by implication, undermining its basic judgement that the role of a woman is as wife to husband and mother to children.

Section of the southern end of the protest crowd in Kildare Street (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The position of the Church hierarchy in Irish society was one of moral judge, jury and practical punisher and when punishment failed to correct, the State took over. In fact, we can view the Irish State in social and political terms as a partnership of native capitalist class – the Gombeens – and the Church hierarchy. In return for its role in social control, the State permitted the education, health and social care systems to be run by the Church either wholly or in part. Which in turn increased the power and authority of the Church hierarchy further. And it was that unquestioned (and unquestionable) authority that fostered the decades of physical, mental and sexual abuse carried out by so many clergy, in particular on women and children.

Women are still to the forefront of the struggle for the secularisation of the State and they are too in this struggle over an important branch of the health service. The people need a well-resourced national health service, with free access – but it needs to be secular also. Irish Republicans who do not actively support this struggle are failing not only the society they hope one day to lead but, in secularisation, failing also a fundamental principle of republicanism. That one of the issues with regard to Church influence on the maternity hospital is a suspicion that it will not carry out elective pregnancy termination should not prevent even those Irish Republicans opposed to elective termination from supporting its secularisation.

Quite simply, one is either a Republican and therefore in favour of a secular health service — or one is not a Republican.

End.

FOOTNOTES

  1. Since 1524, not only is the UK a monarchy but the monarch, the Head of State, is also the head of the (Anglican) Church of England.

Ella Young, California’s Beloved Irish Druid

By Geoff Cobb

California has long been home to the eccentric and free spirits, so naturally the highly eccentric Irish mystic, poet and Celtic mythologist Ella Young found a home there. The first woman to hold an endowed lectureship in the English Department at the University of California at Berkley, Young left several enduring legacies on the Golden State’s literature, counterculture, and environmental movement.

Nearing old age in Ireland, Young helped spark a new age consciousness in the Bay Area. Young lived the first fifty-eight years of her life in her native land, but even before leaving for America, she traveled far from her conservative Ulster roots. Born in December 1867, in Fenagh, a townland near Ballymena, Co. Antrim, Ella was eldest of five daughters of a Presbyterian minister. The family moved to Dublin at an early age and Young graduated with a BA in History, Political Economy and Law from the Royal University of Ireland. Abandoning Christianity, Ella’s interest in the spirit world led her to join the Hermetic Society, the Dublin branch of the Theosophical Society, which sought to awaken the power and presence of Ireland’s ancient spirits. Young was greatly influenced by fellow Ulster mystical poet AE Russell, and she soon became one of his select group of protégés known as the “singing birds.”

Ella Young in Oceano, California, image in Princeton University of Art Museum.

She found her muse and published her first volume of verse in 1906, and her first work of Irish folklore, The Coming of Lugh, appeared in 1909. Young mixed with luminaries of the Celtic revival including J.M. Synge, W.B. Yeats and Maud Gonne, with whom she might have had a romantic relationship. Like other writers of her day, Ella found great spiritual riches in the West of Ireland, where Irish was still the spoken language of the locals and where she was also able to hear what she called the Music of the Faerie, the ceol sídhe.

Ella completed a master’s degree at Trinity, but she would be drawn into the revolutionary fervor then sweeping Ireland. Young’s immersion in Celtic mythology and theosophy led her to promote a spiritually inflected Irish nationalism. A friend of Patrick Pearse, Ella became a member of Sinn Féin in 1912 and a founding member of Cumann na mBan in 1914. Ella witnessed the 1916 Rising in Dublin and is alleged to have hidden ammunition under the floorboards of her home and helped two fugitive Republican prisoners to escape Dublin. An anti-Treaty Republican, she strongly opposed the Anglo–Irish Treaty and, after supporting different sides, she and her mentor Æ Russell never spoke again. Because of her anti-Treaty stance, Young was interned by the Free State in Mountjoy jail and in the North Dublin Union.

An ardent cultural Nationalist, Young fervently believed the revitalization of Irish culture could be realized through a reconnection with its Celtic mythological roots. She taught in Dublin, but she came of age as an anti-Treaty woman at a time and in a state where her gender, politics and Protestant background severely limited her career opportunities. Young left Ireland for the US In the mid-1920s, where she would spend the rest of her life. Her emigration, she claimed, had been foretold in 1914 by a Romani fortune teller.

Ella Young 1930, Edward Weston Centre for Photography

Fortunately for Ella, Celtic studies scholar William Whittingham Lyman Jr. left his Berkley lectureship in 1922 and Young was hired to fill the vacancy in 1924. Ella, however, was almost forbidden entry into the United States. During an interview in Ellis Island, Young was detained as a probable mental case when the authorities learned that she believed in the existence of fairies, elves, and pixies. However, outrage by her American readers at the ban helped her finally gain entry.

Young fell in love with Berkley, California and Berkley loved her back. Young adored the college town, especially its exotic flora, breathtaking views, and its student culture. She quickly inspired a cult-like following in California. A striking woman, Young cut a dramatic figure with a noble forehead and face that seemed to shine with an inner light. She lectured in what she considered the traditional purple robes of a Druid bard, which she called her “reciting robes,” to visually portray an authentic Irish identity. She let her shoulder-length silver hair hang free and instead of shaking hands when introduced, she raised her hands high in the ancient druid greeting. Poet Padraic Colum compared her to the ancient “women who knew the sacred places and their traditions, who knew the incantations and the cycles of stories about the Divine Powers, and who could relate them with authority and interpret them wisely. . . She speaks of Celtic times as if she were recalling them.” A gifted speaker, Ella held her listeners spellbound with the heroic myths and sagas told in her lilting Irish voice – the voice of the bard, a keeper of the ancient teachings of her ancestors.

Young was above all a gifted storyteller and children’s author. She published The Wonder-Smith and his Son (1925), The Tangle-Coated Horse (1929), and The Unicorn with Silver Shoes (1932), stories for children, inspired by themes from Celtic myth, with beautiful illustrations and written in her delicate, carefully cadenced prose. The Unicorn with Silver Shoes was nominated for the American Newbery Prize for children’s literature in 1932; all her children’s stories were repeatedly reprinted until the 1990s.

(Image sourced: Internet)

Young was a frequent guest at the home of the celebrated California poet Robinson Jeffers, who was also deeply influenced by the Celtic revival. Jeffers and Young both identified the physical and spiritual similarities between California’s Big Sur and the West of Ireland. Ella considered dramatic Point Lobos in Marin County, where she communed with the dryads of the pine trees, the sea spirits, and the great guardian Deva who hovered over the sea with shining wings, to be the center of psychic power for the entire Pacific Coast. Young also became a close friend of Virginia and Ansel Adams, the renowned photographer of California’s wilderness, who made Yosemite Valley a symbol of the state. Adams took several dramatic portraits of Young in her “reciting robes.”

Ella Young lectured that an awareness of the supernatural world in Celtic folklore and literature could bring her listeners into a closer relationship with the natural world around them. Her love for the beauty of California made her an environmentalist long before it became fashionable, and also she saw the Earth as a great living being. She forged a close friendship with Dorothy Erskine, an early California environmentalist and advocate for limiting growth. Young also founded The Fellowship of Shasta, which became involved in environmental activism, working successfully to prevent developers from building on Point Lobos and also with the Save the Redwoods League, which preserved the remaining old-growth forests of California.

An enemy of materialism and egotism, Young espoused “the natural world and our relationship to it” as an alternative to consumerism. Ella moved to a Theosophic commune in Oceano, near San Luis Obispo in the early 1930s, and became part of a community of artists and writers living on the sand dunes, known as the Dunites. Thanks to her friendship with Ansel Adams, Ella stayed with the community of artists in Taos, New Mexico, where she met Georgia O’Keeffe and Frieda Lawrence and studied Native American and Mexican myths.

Back in California, Young assembled around herself a fascinating circle of artists, writers and freethinkers. She became close friends with the Irish-born landscape painter John O’Shea and other West Coast painters. Ella also became intimate with composer Harry Partch, who set several of her poems to music. Perhaps a lesbian herself, Young befriended California pioneers of sexual liberation, such as Elsa Gidlow, the British-born lesbian poet, and Gavin Arthur, a bisexual astrologer and sexologist whom Young first met in 1920s Dublin.

Young developed cancer. In the last year of her life, she claimed that she had been in communication with the occupants of a thimble-sized spaceship which came and hovered in her garden. Ella died in her cottage on July 23rd, 1956, aged eighty-eight. She was cremated, and her ashes were scattered in a redwood grove. She left the royalties from her books to a society that protected those redwoods.

End.

(Image sourced: Internet)

GOVERNMENT SLAUGHTER IN COLOMBIA

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 5 mins.)

For months the Duque government in Colombia has been unleashing violent repression on its people, in particular those who organise or participate in protests. The statistics are frightening, which is what they are intended to be: 40 dead, hundreds injured (some with loss of an eye), nearly 170 “disappeared”. Yet the people continue to protest.

What all this has exposed is that Colombia, despite its support by western states, has no democracy and that its vaunted “peace process”, like all others elsewhere before it or since, has had nothing to do with peace but everything to do with pacification. Unlike many in other parts of the world however, its acceptance by the FARC was the prelude to intensified State repression, with assassinations of leaders and activists of popular democratic movements. Also exposed is the lie that Colombia and the USA are truly involved in a “War on Drugs”, a commodity the sale of in which most of the political class of Colombia are involved and the profits in which the financial institutions in Colombia and much of the world are active in laundering.

Meanwhile, the people are subjected to economic squeeze, they protest, they are shot, beaten, tortured, raped, disappear ….

This police victim survived but many did not (Photo source: Gearóid Ó Loingsigh)

In two weeks of protests, statistics from the Defensoria del Pueblo (a kind of Ombudsman), listed 42 dead and 168 reported “disappeared”; of the dead, 41 were civilians and one was a member of the State security forces. A 17-year-old female demonstrator was reportedly sexually abused by four police officers and took her own life afterwards. Protesters burned the station where it happened but the officers themselves remain at large.

Protestors burning the station where police officers sexually violated a 17-year-old demonstrator who took her own life afterwards.

WHO KILLED VILLA?

Lucas Villa Vasquez, an iconic figure in the peaceful demonstrations, dancing and carrying out acrobatic acts, was shot during the General Strike, was declared brain dead in hospital and had his life-support system turned off, his heart stopping finally on 11th of May. Andrés Felipe Castaño, a 17-year-old youth shot on the same day underwent two operations before he could come off the critical list.

Who killed Villa? Not Duque, the President wanted people to believe as he sent a message of condolence to Villa’s family, the first personal condolence he has offered since the demonstrations – and the killing – began, except for the one police officer killed so far. Not the Police, their Director General, Major General Jorge Luis Vargas Valencia insisted, insisting his force is working hard to find the culprits and that a reward for information has risen to 100 million pesos1 for information. But people who know how these things work are only in doubt about one question: was it the police themselves who killed Villa and nearly killed Andrés Felipe, or was it one of the State-sponsored fascist gangs (which have strong links with the police and army)?

Dilan Cruz, murdered by police two years ago, is remembered on demonstrations where people are still being killed. (Photo source: Gearóid Ó Loingsigh)

Villa has joined over 40 martyrs known to have been killed by the forces of the State; since their names are known only to their families or smaller political and social circles, Villa’s name stands for them all. As did Dilan Cruz before him, shot at close range to the head by a “non-lethal” beanbag in October 2019. And what of the nearly 170 disappeared? Are some of them already dumped into pits or rivers? Others in prison cells, awaiting their next session with the torturers? Or in the case of female prisoners, awaiting their next incident of violation?

Man in blue top and white trousers dancing in some clips was Lucas Villa Vasquez

Two Latin American league soccer matches in Colombia were affected on Wednesday: Visitors from Argentina’s River Plate team had their warm-up in Barranquilla abandoned for awhile due to the volume of police tear gas drifting in from outside and loud bangs could be heard also. That was a Copa Libertadores game and another, between Atletico Nacional and Nacional of Uruguay in Pereira was delayed by an hour due to protests there.

The South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) moved matches from Colombia to Paraguay and Ecuador last week to ensure the protests did not affect games but the Copa America is due to be held in Colombia and Argentina next month with Colombia hosting 15 games including the final of the world’s oldest international tournament. The title match is due to be held in Barranquilla on July 10.

SUSTAINABLE SOLIDARITY” WITH WHOM?

Part of the reason for the protests in the first place was the proposed tax reform by another name: Sustainable Solidarity Law. The Duque Government plans by this system to collect 23 billions in Colombian pesos (US$ 6,300 millions) by extending its tax base, to avoid any further increase in the country’s international risk qualification, to institutionalise the basic income level and build a fund to comply with its environmental protection targets.

Well, ok, but who is going to pay this tax-by-another name? According to the Minister of Finance himself, Alberto Carrasquilla, 73% is to be contributed by ordinary citizens and the rest by the companies.

Art in active resistance

In addition, the law proposes to apply the collection of Value Added Tax, which in Colombia is up to 19%, to basic consumer products such as public services (water, electricity and gas), funeral services, electronic items such as computers and other services that have been exempt until now.

Add to that ongoing State repression in the countryside, the number of unemployed nationally rising to 4.1 million as a result of the pandemic and the country was ready to take to the streets. But not ready for the repression of the demonstrators that followed.

Riot Policeman aims weapon at point-blank range at unarmed demonstrators in Colombia. Whether tear-gas canister or stun grenade launcher, at this range it would almost certainly kill but if not, partial or full blindness would be likely along with permanent brain damage. (Photo source: Internet)

President Duque asked the Colombian Parliament to withdraw the new tax reform which they did but the people are on their feet now, as they say there; now they have martyrs too on top of the issues they already had.

WHAT CAN BE DONE?

It is up to the people of Colombia, the workers, civil servants, small business people, indigenous – to free themselves. None else can do it. But we owe them solidarity, just as we in turn have claimed solidarity (and will claim again) from others. It is difficult at the moment to see how our solidarity can express itself in much more than symbolic form, such as pickets, demonstrations, articles and memes on social media. But even those have more than a moral effect, for the Colombian Embassy staff here have as part of their duties to collect information on how the regime in Colombia is viewed in Ireland and to report that to their bosses at home. And since the Colombian ruling class needs to do business around the world ….

Recent small Colombian solidarity picket protest outside the Colombian Embassy in Dublin.

The Colombian masses also need to know that they do not stand alone, that others are watching, applauding them, cursing their enemies, mourning their martyrs.

We can also assist by continuing our efforts against another faraway enemy of democracy, the main instigator and protector of reaction, repression and oppression around the world, and main external supporter of the Colombian regime, trainer of its repressive forces – the ruling class of the United States of America.

Solidaridad con el pueblo Colombiano! Dlúthpháirtíocht le poball na Colóime!

Banner slogan: “The Tax Reform means Hunger and Misery for the people.” (Photo source: Gearóid Ó Loingsigh)

End.

USEFUL SOURCES

Officially-accepted statistics some days ago: https://www.facebook.com/waykaperu/photos/a.586123314805406/4058327907584912/

TV news report on the general strike, general protests against killing by government forces; mothers and grandmothers of murdered protesters demonstrate against “Public Order” forces; Duque tries to present concern and gives a concession to students at a certain level: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xz8ed0hS6OQ

Amnesty International complaint (English version, despite title): https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2021/05/colombia-preocupan-las-denuncias-de-desapariciones-y-violencia-sexual-contra-manifestantes/

Tear gas drifting on to inter-Latin American soccer game: https://edition.cnn.com/2021/05/13/football/copa-libertadores-players-affected-tear-gas-colombia-spt-intl/index.html

Reasons for the wave of protests: https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-56932013

War on Drugs (Plan Colombia) – spraying of glyphosphate: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/06/pandemic-upends-colombia-s-controversial-drug-war-plan-resume-aerial-spraying

Plan Colombia is not working (2016): https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-35491504

1 €22,185.95

APRIL 2nd – ANNIVERSARY FOUNDING OF CUMANN NA MBAN

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 4 mins.)

Cumann na mBan (“Women’s Association”), a female military auxiliary and counterpart to the Irish Volunteers, was founded on this day in 1914, one hundred and seven years ago. Its members took part in the 1916 Rising and perhaps even more importantly in keeping up the momentum of the militant movement for independence during martial law after the defeat of the Rising and for years afterwards. They were part of the War of Independence and the Civil War in military and political activities. Many were jailed. The Easter Lily emblem, which many will wear to commemorate the Rising, is their invention. The role of Cumann na mBan, along with that of other women in Irish history, is to this day still not sufficiently highlighted or valued.

Wynne’s Hotel, Lwr. Abbey Street, viewed almost from the junction with O’Connell Street, looking eastward. (Photo sourced: Internet)

Cumann na mBan was formed as a female counterpart and auxiliary to the Irish Volunteers, which had been formed the previous year (as had, separately, the Irish Citizen Army). The inaugural public meeting was held in Wynn’s Hotel, Thursday, 2 April 1914. It was presided over by Agnes O’Farrelly, who was elected President. The provisional executive unveiled at the meeting included Jennie Wyse Power, Nancy O’Rahilly, Agnes MacNeill, Margaret Dobbs, Mary Colum, Nurse McCoy, Louise Gavan Duffy and Elizabeth Bloxham. A constitution was adopted which stated that Cumann na mBan aimed: 1. To advance the cause of Irish liberty 2. To organise Irishwomen in the furtherance of this object 3. To assist in arming and equipping a body of Irishmen for the defence of Ireland 4. To form a fund for these purposes to be called the ‘Defence of Ireland Fund’.

Plaque constructed to be located in Wynne’s Hotel on the centenary of the founding of Cumann na mBan (Photo sourced: Internet)

It was not the first organisation of women to stand for Irish independence that century – Inghinidhe na hÉireann had been formed in 1900 as a cultural organisation and had developed a militant Irish independentist political outlook along with a suffragettist one. Inghinidhe formally dissolved itself and joined Cumann na mBan in 1914 but in effect formed one of its branches and continued to represent a trend for greater activism and female independence within Cumann.

Unlike the Volunteers, membership of the socialist Irish Citizen Army, founded in 1913, was open to both genders and the women who joined that tended to disdain the membership of Cumann na mBan because not only did they not have a social program but were, at that time, under the overall authority of the all-male Irish Volunteers.

Prior to 1916, Cumann na mBan took part in agitation and publicity actions, a number of which they organised themselves. Their marching in the procession to the grave of O’Donavan Rosa’s grave in 1915 was apparently what most impressed other women, in particular young women; they had never witnessed a self-organised women’s organisation on the streets before and the Cumann’s membership swelled thereafter. When Redmond promised Irish men to the rulers of Britain to fight in WW1 the minority part of the movement but the most active split in order to fight for independence from the UK. Cumann na mBan split also but in their case, the majority went for fighting against Britain.

The flag of Cumann na mBan, flying in Dublin (Photo sourced: Internet)

In preparation for the 1916 Rising all members of the main female organisation learned First Aid and prepared field dressings for wounds, which perhaps brought them to face the physical dangers of insurrection more than did the training schedules of the Volunteers. They also engaged in anti-British Army recruitment activities which, after Britain declared War in 1914, increasingly meant being assaulted and arrested by the Dublin Metropolitan Police and the Royal Irish Constabulary. Many also transported secret messages and weapons, often storing the latter. In an informal way, they also provided intelligence they were able to gather. Through their cultural and social activities they provided diversion for male activists as well as a cover for clandestine meetings and other activities. During the Rising, Cumann na mBan members helped deliver arms, ammunition and equipment, construct barricades, set up field hospitals, provided food and water/ tea to combatants, acted as messengers. ICA women did most of that but a number of them were snipers also and one of those, Vol. Margaret Skinnider was gunshot-wounded three times while sniping and in other military activity in the Stephen’s Green/ College of Surgeons garrison area. Most of the Dublin garrisons had Cumann na mBan in them and those in the GPO garrison were asked to leave with some wounded when the building was in danger of collapse. Three women refused to leave with them and were there at the final surrender in Moore Street: Vols. Elizabeth O’Farrell, Winifred Carney and Julia Grenan.

Around 300 women are known to have taken part in the Rising and from the relative numbers of women in CnmB and the ICA, most of those had to be Cumann members; only 157 womens’ names appear on the Roll of Honour for the Rising.

Cumann na mBan was the first organisation of its kind in the world, a point that is often lost sight of: an insurrectionary female military organisation with its own uniform and officers.

Highly decorative and artistic logo of Cumann na mBan — note the rifle fitted into the acronym in the centre. (Photo sourced: Internet)

The greater role of the women in general and in particular of members of Cumann na mBan however was after the Rising when, even under martial law, they organised fund-raising for relief for families who had lost a breadwinner to death or prison; organised also public commemorations, defying arrest to keep the flame and memories alive, helping to create the sea-change in attitude to the Rising and giving a fertile ground for them to plant the seeds of resistance, along with the male and female prisoners released under amnesty.

In 1918 members of the Cumann worked to help the landslide victory for Sinn Féin in the British General Election in Ireland and then helped in the War of Independence, this time greatly organised into intelligence work but also as before as couriers, carrying and hiding weapons, caring for the wounded, running safe houses and other actions, as well as in public demonstrations and pickets, for example outside prisons. They were assaulted on occasion and jailed, sometimes replying with a hunger strike. They could not easily go “on the run” and were subjected by British Army and colonial Police to invasions of their homes and ill-treatment which included shearing their hair.

In 1921, Cumann na mBan again split over the Treaty but once more with the majority against it and in 1922 took the Republican side in the Civil War, for which they suffered repression, home invasions and imprisonment anew, this time by the forces of the Free State.

In 1926 Cumann na mBan invented the Easter Lily emblem in order to raise funds for the dependents of prisoners and killed in action fighters, in addition to those officially and unofficially executed, abducted an murdered. It is purely as a result of their efforts at this time that the emblem is so widely worn and appreciated in the wide Irish Republican movement, especially around this time of year.

Easter lily emblems printed on paper, attached with a pin. (Photo credit: Bryan O’Brien, Irish Times)
Two Cumann na mBan members as part of a Republican commemoration in 1944 (Photo sourced: Internet)

Cumann na mBan ceased to exist soon after the split between the “Officials” and “Provisionals” in 1969 but women continued to be active in the political organisations and also to be recruited into the various military ones.

End.

REFERENCES & FURTHER INFORMATION

https://www.rte.ie/news/2014/0328/605079-cumann-na-mban-centenary/

https://www.rte.ie/history/the-ban/2020/0109/1105376-cumann-na-mban/

(note the omission of the Moore Street battlefield at the end, with a Winifred Carney, Elizabeth O’Farrell and Julia Grenan noted as staying on in the GPO but omitting to mention where they went soon afterwards, or Farrell’s important roles thereafter): https://www.richmondbarracks.ie/women-1916/cumann-na-mban/

https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/women-of-1916-1.2535291

157 women who took part in the Rising: https://microsites.museum.ie/rollofhonour1916/roleofwomen.aspx

The creation and popularisation of the Easter Lily by Cumann na mBan: https://rebelbreeze.com/2018/04/20/a-resistance-symbol-sown-and-grown-by-irish-republican-women/

A BLIND EYE TO OPPRESSION IN IRELAND

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time text: 8 mins.)

There is a blind eye being turned to oppression in Ireland – and I use the expression in its usual meaning of “deliberately not seeing”. And it is not the Irish ruling circles I am accusing of that deliberate act, for one could hardly expect anything else of them. No, it is the Irish socialist and liberal sectors I am accusing, along with a section of the Republican movement.

All of these are in Ireland; each of these sectors either knows of this oppression or has chosen not to know. In that respect, in so far as they cry out about injustice or inequality in other areas, they are being hypocritical. And in how much hypocritical activity can one indulge and how long, before one is really and totally a hypocrite, not to be trusted on anything they say they believe?

For years, before the Good Friday Agreement, wide areas in the Six Counties suffered oppression from the colonial statelet, its police force and the imperial armed forces. Those were the working and lower middle-class “nationalist/ Catholic” areas. Prior to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, sections of the Irish Left and liberal consensus were actively ignoring this oppression and in that respect, nothing has changed. But what has happened since is that while smaller areas, neighbourhoods, are continuing to be oppressed, sections of the Republican movement have joined in that blindness and resultant silence.

Raid by armd British colonial police Belfast and arrest of two Republicans, including pregnant woman, 4th March 2021. (Photo sourced: Republic Media)
British Colonial Police invading the Bone area, Belfast, 4th March (Photo sourced: Republic Media)


HOUSE RAIDS, HUMILIATION, HOSPITALISATION & DEATH THREATS


From Republic Media: A statement released by the Republican party Saoradh quoted Cliodhna McCool, daughter of Kieran McCool who was arrested last week in Derry following a heavy house raid, reading a statement on behalf of the McCool family. Describing the ongoing and escalated harassment she said:

“As a family who hold strong traditional Republican views we have become accustomed to many forms of harassment and intimidation, in fact we have almost come to expect it. However, in recent months the occupiers have escalated this harassment by constantly following every member of our family during almost every aspect of our lives. Something that is somewhat creepy and very distressing is the fact they seem to have prior knowledge of where we are going to or coming from and will be there to mete out their harassment. “

Detailing incidents over the last year she continued: “In the last year alone we have been attacked resulting in my mother, father and younger brother being hospitalised and we have received death threats from British soldiers dressed in Crown Force uniforms.”

Describing the events of last week she said: “Once my father was removed from the house, what can only be described as a nightmare for our family began. My family were shouted at aggressively, verbally abused and threatened with arrest by masked gunmen.”

“My younger brother Fionn, who is autistic, was again manhandled and removed from his bed, searched and evicted from his home; as was my mother and other brother.”

Giving the public details of some of the more grim details of what a search entails for Republicans she explained: “While they were forced to leave our house they were refused access to a toilet, food or water. My mother was also denied her medication. My entire family was searched in an intimate manner of which I prefer not to go into detail; I will let you use your own imagination“

Concluding the family statement she said: “No matter what you think of our family’s politics, no family should ever be treated like this. If it was wrong in the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s then it’s wrong now. Our family have feelings too and refuse to be treated as lesser human beings because politicians say it’s acceptable. It’s not!”

Cliodhna McCool’s statement was read out at a protest press conference of which the purpose was, according to Saoradh “to highlight the continued profiling and targeting of Creggan residents, community activists and those who hold traditional Republican beliefs.”

British colonial police raid and arrest Ardoyne, Belfast, 9th March 2021 (Photo sourced: Republic Media)

“THUGS IN UNIFORM CLIMBING OVER EACH OTHER TO GET TO ME”

Pete Cavanagh, who suffered injuries during the raid, spoke next, describing sectarian jibes and threats handed out to residents. “It was here they began to trade in sectarian and snide remarks, calling Creggan and the people in it ‘dirty and unwashed.’ Some of them began mentioning personal details of individuals gathered there. Some raised and showed off their weapons in an attempt to intimidate us. Many of the cops gathered there were very shaky and nervous. “

Describing his attack by armed police he explained:

“After trying to push us further down the street, these thugs in uniform drew their batons and launched what can only be described as a frenzied attack. It is here I was beat between two cars with my head busted open by a British baton. So reckless was this attack that these thugs in uniform were fighting with each other to get at me. They were climbing over each other to get at me again as I lay on the ground busted open. The cop who hit me called me a “Fenian prick.”

Pete also told how the police lied about how he received the injuries: “When I was in the back of an armoured car I seen and heard the inspector who attacked me tell his superior that I had fell and busted by head. But when asked at the hospital the doctor said there is no way I could have sustained this injury by either falling backwards or forwards given the severity and location of the strike. I received eight stitches.”

Despite Pete being on the receiving end of the physical attacks from Crown forces, he and another member of Saoradh were detained overnight and given bail with restrictive and oppressive measures.

A local resident Clare Friel also gave testimony at the conference:

“The actions and behaviour of the PSNI witnessed on Thursday 18th March were reminiscent of our past. These attacks, as described by our neighbours and community activists, were supposed to be of a bygone era, again that is not the case.

“What happened to the McCool family, residents of Ballymagowan and the wider Creggan community along with political and community activists has only served in raising further tensions between our young people, residents and the police.

“Our young people are sick and tired of being targeted by police; they are sick and tired of watching community and political activist being stopped and searched; they are sick and tired of seeing their school friends being stopped and searched while attempting to get an education; they are sick and tired of the fake community policing being rolled out in Creggan as the PSNI cycle around streets with armoured jeeps on every entry and exit of the estate. This behaviour can’t continue without our youth saying enough is enough! Is it any wonder they react!”

Saoradh National executive member Stephen Murney wrapped up proceedings by giving Saoradh’s analysis of recent events and in reference to other world events he said:

“Whilst this raid was taking place two women were forced to the ground outside and knelt on by several members of the British Forces. This bears all the hallmarks of George Floyd and the recent disturbing images in England. Are all members of the British Forces trained in how to attack women?

Criticising P Sinn Féin’s false promises, Murney pointed out that after such incidents the party regularly promises to complain to the authorities and have the attacks stopped which, however, continue and that the SF party’s support for “the oppressing force” is “unwavering”1.

Continuing, Murney asserted:

“On the other hand the Republican position is clear as day. These raids and attacks are the outworking of British occupation, they were wrong and unjust in previous years and decades and are wrong today. The Crown forces responsible are not welcome or wanted in Creggan, or indeed in any Republican community in the Six Counties.”

Murney called on people to support those being subjected to this harassment and violence and pledged his party to do so too.

HARASSMENT AND INTIMIDATION OF COMMUNITIES AFTER THE GOOD FRIDAY AGREEMENT

This harassment of activists and oppression of neighbourhoods has been ongoing since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement but has intensified in recent years. The colonial statelet wishes to normalise its situation, which means gaining acceptance of the population. But colonial status is not a natural or even desirable state of affairs and human history, in particular perhaps its Irish component, demonstrates that it will always be resisted. When that is so, the State moves in to harass, provoke, disrupt and intimidate the sectors that continue to resist.

Those who expect the resistance to die down and wish for acceptance of the Good Friday Agreement are being unrealistic and flying in the face of human and in particular Irish history. Whatever their wishes, when they turn a blind eye to the continuing oppression of sections of the Irish nation, they are helping it to continue. And when, instead, they support the oppressors or condemn those who continue to resist, they are in active collusion with the oppressor, the colonial invader and occupier. From a different but similar historical experience, history has given a name for such collaborators: Quisling.

One needs to ask what can account for this willful ‘blindness’ and resultant silence? Since those afflicted with the condition do not usually explain it, one must speculate and it seems to me that the following are the likely reasons:

For the socialists:

  • they do not wish to even seem to be endorsing armed resistance to the statelet
  • they wish to give no assistance to what is their biggest competition in the opposition to the status quo, along with the one with the largest working class base: the Republican movement,

For a section of the Republicans:

  • They do not wish to give any support to their competition inside the Republican movement

The Left and Liberals never had any difficulty in supporting the ANC despite the fact that had an armed wing, membership of which was the main charge of which Mandela was convicted. Or if they did, they kept quiet about them. They kept quiet too about the horrific practice of “Pirelli-necklacing”, when alleged informers or spies had tyres doused in petrol placed around their necks which were then set on fire.

And in a sense, that was mostly right, because the main target had to be the South African racist white minority regime and its foreign imperialist backers. Similar positions were taken with regard to the Vietnamese liberation forces and to the Palestinian resistance.

“YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A REPUBLICAN TO KNOW THAT THIS IS WRONG”

But even if one did not agree with the objectives of the ANC, the NLF in southern Vietnam and NVA, the PLO etc, that should not prevent one from speaking out against oppression of the people. Pastor Niedermeyer put it well in his famous quotation about the oppression of different groups under the Nazis. Anti-Imperialist Action Ireland put it well too when their post stated:

“Last week following a violent attack by a British Police force on women in London there was international media coverage, justified anger and protests in a number of countries including Ireland, as people rightly expressed their outrage at such disgraceful events.

“This week, as Britain’s Colonial militia in Ireland once again attacks women in Derry, some of those same Irish voices so loudly speaking out against police violence in London have said absolutely nothing. These voices remain silent because to speak out would be to raise and condemn Britain’s ongoing illegal occupation of Ireland, something they are ideologically opposed to doing. Are the women of the Creggan to be left fighting alone?

“Police violence is wrong against women in London and it is wrong in Derry. The RUC/PSNI are attempting to provoke the community in Creggan and are invading homes and attacking women and children with impunity.

“It is not acceptable for so called Socialist and progressive forces to stay silent on this. It’s not acceptable to look the other way. You don’t have to be a Republican to know that this is wrong.

“Anyone who is really an advocate for women’s liberation would be calling British Imperialism out for the violence its imperialist militia regularly perpetuates against Republican women in occupied Ireland.

“Ní Saoirse go Saoirse na mBan.”

The point about provocation is well made. It was during one such raid in Creggan on 18th April in advance of a planned Republican commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising that a Republican youth fired at the colonial police, a bullet of which tragically killed Lyra McKee, a journalist who was standing near an armoured police Land Rover2.

Those who are afflicted with the blind eye need to turn the other eye on the situation in the Six Counties and speak out. Or give up forever any credibility when speaking about injustice towards anyone.

End.

British Colonial police raiding Republicans August 2020 (Photo sourced: Saoradh)

FOOTNOTES:

1The Sinn Féin leadership has formerly accepted the colonial police force in the Six Counties, doing so publicly a number of times.

2Numerous politicians, State figures and mass and social media at the time called her killing “murder”, a clearly inaccurate statement and prejudicial to the trial outcome of anyone who might be charged as a result of her killing.

REFERENCES & FURTHER INFORMATION:

https://www.facebook.com/RepublicMediaIreland – post 24th March at 11.49

Anti-Imperialist Action post: https://fb.watch/4u6dE50hg6/

Video of part of the raid and colonial police assaults referred to: https://www.facebook.com/AIAIRELAND32/videos/773656903266947

ATHLETE, REPORTER, FEMINIST, ANTIFASCIST — Anna María Martínez Sagi

MARCEL BELTRAN@@BELTRAN_MARCEL

(Translated by Diarmuid Breatnach from Castillian [Spanish] in Publico)

(Reading time: 4 mins.)

At the end of the 1970s, an elderly woman came to to live alone in the town of Moià, 50 kilometers from Barcelona. Nobody knows anything about her. No neighbour knew her or knew anything of her past. The only thing that is becoming apparent, little by little, is her unfriendly character. The old woman doesn’t communicate much but when she does she is dry and sharp. Like a knife just sharpened. She has a reputation for being elusive and sullen. Some people joke that not even dogs dare to bark at her. She will live twenty years in the village, the last of her life. And it will only be after her departure that the mystery that surrounds her will begin to fade. Under so much loneliness and silence a secret could only throb. When they find out, those who crossed paths with her in that last bitter stage of her life will be shocked.

The first time he came across the name Anna Maria Martínez Sagi (1907-2000), Juan Manuel de Prada was reading a González-Ruano interview book. The author, in the same volume in which he conversed with Unamuno or Blasco Ibáñez, referred to that woman as “a poet, trade unionist and virgin of the stadium.” It was these last three words that triggered De Prada’s curiosity, that he began to follow the trail of that person of which he had strangely never heard. He asked colleagues, academics, and historians, but they could not help him much. He searched archives and newspaper back-issues without luck. And, when he was about to give up, a friend who worked in the Treasury found the address of his missing woman, which confirmed that she was still alive. The novelist sent her a letter so they could meet and chat about her story.

“Why do you want to resurrect a dead woman?” was the answer that came from Moià. Martínez Sagi, at age 90, had resigned herself to anonymity — or more, to oblivion. Because someone who has been famous at some point is no longer anonymous, no matter how much they disappear from the conversations or stop being mentioned in the newspaper. Rather she fades from memory. And that is what she found when she returned home from the long exile to which the conclusion of the Civil War condemned her; she had been wiped off the map. Her vibrant reports had been of no use (she had become one of the most influential journalists of the Second Republic), her penetrating verses (the poet Cansinos Assens saw in her “the heiress of Rosalía de Castro”) or her milestones as a pioneer of feminism in Spain (she founded the first women workers’ literacy club in Barcelona) during the 1930s. Her interesting and unusual life had been reduced to zero.

That enormous and valuable legacy had been buried under the mantle of the dictatorship, first, and later by the passage of time. And now it seemed that Martínez Sagi did not exist. Or, worse, that she hadn’t existed. Something that De Prada remedied when, respecting the pact they had reached, he published her unpublished work two decades after the death of the author. That volume that was released in 2019, La Voz Sola (The Lone Voice), served to begin to repair the injustice of this inexplicable ignorance.

Anna Maria Martínez Sagi became the first woman member of the board of a soccer club

But where did that “virgin of the stadium” reference come from that had piqued De Prada’s interest? Anna Maria was born into a family of the Catalan gentry. Her father was in the textile industry and her mother was a conservative woman who wanted her daughters to study in Spanish and French and not in Catalan, which she considered “a peasant language.” That child would not have mastered the language with which she would later write so many journalistic texts if it weren’t for the help of her nanny Soledad, who would also open the doors to the world of the popular masses who got on the trams, populated the bars and walked through the streets of the city centre.

In any case, Martínez Sagi’s life would not change completely until, having hormonal problems, the doctors recommended that she play sports. She felt the benefits of physical exercise. And not only that, but she was especially good at it. Skiing, tennis, swimming. There was no discipline in which that girl with agile and resolute movement did not stand out among the young men. Neither in soccer, which she practiced assiduously with her cousins ​​and her brother. Or the javelin throw, in which she would later become the national champion. Precisely as a result of her other vocation, that of a reporter, she began to collaborate with the sports weekly La Rambla, where she met its founder, Josep Sunyol, a member of Esquerra Republicana1 party and president of FC Barcelona,2 ​​who was later shot by the Francoists. In 1934, when the writer had just turned 27, Sunyol would even give her a position in the Barça organization to create a women’s section. In this way, Anna Maria Martínez Sagi became the first woman to be a member of a football club board.

Anna Maria Martínez Sagi about the throw the javelin 1931

She would last a year in office, from which she escaped as soon as she realized that those men in suits with cigar stink in their mouths didn’t really want to change anything. “The environment at that time was one of very densemasculinity,” says De Prada. “And they saw her as a threat, because she was not only a woman with her own ideas, but she also fought them to the end.” She understood sport as a necessary vehicle to lead women to modernity. She dressed in the latest fashion, she attended the demonstrations of the progressives and did not allow herself to be stepped on by anyone. In the newspapers, she interviewed from beggars and prostitutes to politicians, and she also made a name for herself writing reports in defense of women’s suffrage, which at that time was not even supported by some sectors of the Left. She also aligned herself with the proclamations of Buenaventua Durruti, who dazzled her in a speech the anarchist gave at the Palau de Pedralbes. In 1936, when the war broke out, she asked permission to accompany the antifascists to Aragon and report from the front.

Those who saw her write in the conflict say that when she heard the whistle of bullets she did not crouch low. Perhaps that reckless bravery is nothing more than a legend, but it helps to focus Martínez Sagi in the time, a person who defied roles and stereotypes. With the arrival of Franco’s troops in Barcelona, ​​she was left with no choice but to flee to France. That circumstance would initiate the process of her loss. And would forever mark the exile, whose life continued to follow the dips of a roller coaster.

She first settled in Paris and then she went to Châtres, where she slept on the park benches and ended up working as a clerk in a fishmonger’s shop. She later joined the Resistance. “All my life I have fought against injustice, dictatorship, oppression, so I decided to join and saved many Jews and many French fleeing the Nazi advance,” she said. “It was always voluntary. I always did it because I wanted to.” In 1942 she herself was on the verge of being caught by the Gestapo, who appeared by surprise at her apartment. She escaped through a window and by miracle was saved. On French soil she also became a street painter, selling patterned scarves to passersby, and thus she met the Aga Khan’s wife in Cannes, who hired her to decorate their house for them. When she had some more money, she retired to a town in Provence to dedicate herself to the cultivation of aromatic flowers, and later she moved to the United States, where she taught language classes at the prestigious University of Illinois.

While her story jumped and changed landscapes, Martínez Sagi did not abandon poetry either, which was perhaps of all her passions that to which she gave herself most vehemently. Her poems were a mark of her existence, the sentimental record of what was happening to her. And for a long time they rested in the shadow of another woman, Elisabeth Mulder. Martínez Sagi met Mulder when the latter reviewed one of her first collections of poems and praised her, defining her as “a woman who sings among so many screaming women.” Martinez fell madly in love with her, despite the fact that Mulder was a widow and had a seven-year-old son. They came to spend a vacation together in Mallorca during Easter 1932, but the idyll was unexpectedly broken. The pressures of the young poet’s family and distancing by her lover, who never wanted the relationship to develop, ended the relationship and opened a wound that Martínez Sagi took many years to heal. “I found myself in front of you. You looked at me. / I was still able to stammer a banal phrase. / It was your livid smile … Later you walked away. / Then nothing … Life … Everything has remained the same”.

Anna Maria Martínez Sagi

This frustrated love, conditioned by the rejection that the writer received for wanting to live freely in homosexuality, may be one of the causes that explain why the flame of her memory was allowed to go out so abruptly. Also the distancing by exile, the story of politics, inclement weather, the cruelty of memory. Faults that portray a country with very poor retention that always forgets those who matter most. Among many other reasons, that is why it was necessary for someone to renovate the name of Anna Maria Martínez Sagi and make an effort to rescue her from oblivion.To do justice.

End.

SOURCES & FURTHER INFORMATION:

https://www.publico.es/sociedad/periodista-frente-guerra-poeta-atleta.html

https://www.ccma.cat/tv3/alacarta/sense-ficcio/la-sagi-una-pionera-del-barca/video/5829196/

1Republican social democratic pro-Catalan independence party that had many members killed in battle, executed or tortured and jailed during the Spanish Antifascist War and the following Franco dictatorship. Currently the party has a couple of leaders in Spanish jail, including elected members of the Catalan autonomous Government and Members of the European Parliament. The party is currently negotiating coalition government with other Catalan pro-independence parties; ERC has one seat less than Junts per Catalonia, another independentist party (D.B)

2Famous Catalan and international soccer club (D.B).

OVER TWO MONTHS OF WORKERS’ CONTROL – THE PARIS COMMUNE 1871

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 5 mins.)

One hundred and fifty years ago this month, the working class seized control of a major city and held it for over two months – the first time any such thing had happened. They did not just arm themselves and erect barricades – they elected representation, issued directives and implemented them, day by day. And the women were very much a part of it, including some of the lower level leadership, like Louise Michel, the Breton Anarchist woman who declared to the authorities who drowned the revolution in blood: “If you let me live, I will never stop crying out for vengeance.”

We should not allow the 18th of March to pass without stopping a least a moment to ponder on that momentous occasion and the extraordinary acts taken by mostly ordinary people. If we consider that the industrial commodity production of the industrial revolution had created the working class, the proletariat, it had been struggling for centuries against the exploitation of its labour power by the capitalists, the expropriation of all production for sale in exchange for the minimum in wages required to keep the workers alive and to produce the next generation of workers to be exploited. They had participated in many failed uprisings and even successful revolutions but in the latter case, always to the benefit of other social classes.

In 1871 they were successful beyond strikes, protests, riots and insurrections and, for the first time, in their own interests – they seized a major European city, the capital of a powerful State and ran it for their own benefit.

A number of conditions obtained which helped prepare the ground for the uprising: defeat of French state in war against Germany, ceding of Alsace-Lorraine, war shortages of food, firewood, coal and medicine in plummeting temperatures and a simmering discontent from the failure of a rising the previous October and others before that. But the action that precipitated the rising that led to the founding of the Commune was the attempt of the Government to seize the old cannons in the working class Montmartre district. As the casting of these had been paid for by popular subscription, the people saw them as their property and also as their own protection (having still living memories of the suppression of the 1848 revolution among many).

Contemporary sketch depicting even women and children removing cannon to Montmartre for people’s defence

The attempt by the Government’s soldiers resulted in the death of a resisting member of the National Guard, a popular armed force and this in turn led to the surrounding of the military and, when ordered to fire on the crowd, mutinies, desertions and the capture of officers. Soon afterwards the crowds began to take control and prominent high officers were grabbed and shot. By midday the Government was leaving and had ordered the regular army, which had already been retreated to the Seine, to leave and to reassemble at Versailles. Unfortunately one of the escaped was Marshall Patrice McMahon1 of the French Army.

MEASURES OF REVOLUTIONARY MANAGEMENT

Proclamation of the Commune and government by its Council

The Commune organised not only the defence of the city but its running and organisation along socialist lines.

On April 1st – that no employee or member of the Commune’s salary could exceed 6,000 francs. On April 2nd, the separation of Church and State, the abolition of all State payments for religious purposes and the transformation of all Church property into national property.

On 6th April the guillotine was brought out by the 137th Battalion of the National Guard and burned to great rejoicing. On 8th April the removal of all religious symbols, pictures, dogmas, prayers from schools was decreed and began to be implemented.

On 12th April, that the Column of Victory in the Place Vendome should be demolished, as the symbol of and incitement to national chauvinism and hatreds (this was carried out on the 16th). On the 16th the Commune ordered the systematic registration of all closed factories and the working out of plans for their management into production by the workers formerly employed in them, in cooperative societies. These cooperatives were to be organised in one great union.

On 30th April, the closing of all pawnshops. On 5th May the demolition of the symbol of expiation for the execution of Louis XVI, the Chapel of Atonement.

The Commune also abolished child labour and night work for bakers, made citizens of migrants (a number of which were also prominent in the Commune), granted pensions to unmarried partners of soldiers killed and their children, postponed commercial debts and outlawed interest on them and ensured the right of recall by voters of their delegates. The Commune’s local committees organised local defences, ran schools, provided clothing for children, food for the destitute, established canteens and first-aid stations …

A number of newspapers were published during the life of the Commune, varying from communist to anarchist to republican.

DEFEAT AND MASSACRES

The French Versailles Government was unable to take back control of the city even with their own regular army without systematic artillery bombardment to clear the way through to Paris and within it also. They appealed to those who had beaten them in the war, the German generals, to help them overcome the revolutionary resistance or at least allow them to pass. On the 11th May, the French Versailles troops under Marshal McMahon had blasted their way to the City Walls, then passed by the forts the Prussians had earlier taken on the north and east of the city. As the Versailles troops drove deeper into the city, resistance stiffened and intensified as they reached the working class quarters in the eastern half of Paris. It took eight days for the regular French Army to overcome the resistance on the heights of Belleville and Menilmontant.

“And then the massacre of defenceless men, women and children, which had been raging all week, reached its zenith.”2

Despite women not having the right to vote, they were active in the struggle, including in leadership roles, though not formally. Women were not only in the rearguard but helped build the barricades and fought on them, chaired committees and took part in debates. Many were killed in battle and many survivors were tried and sentenced to prison. Louise Michel, who was one of the leading activists, in her memoirs estimated their numbers in first-hand activity at 10,000; she fought with a unit of 30 women at Place Blanche in Montmartre until they were overrun.2

At the Hotel de Ville, which had been the headquarters of the Commune, the Versailles troops executed around 300 prisoners and burned the building (since rebuilt). One group of Communards retreated to the Pere Lachaise cemetery to make their stand and there, with no weapons or ammunition remaining, 147 survivors were placed against the wall and shot, their bodies thrown into a long ditch dug along the wall.

All armed resistance ended on 28th May but not the retributions of the French ruling class (with the support of the Republican bourgeoisie).

The Communard Wall plaque in Pere Lachaise cemetery, place of annual pilgrimage for the Left, especially the revolutionary Left.
Bodies of executed Communards
Some of the dead Communards prepared for burial by family or sympathisers

The full number of massacred will probably be never known and estimates vary from 10,000 to 20,000. On the wall of the Pere Lachaise cemetery some years later a plaque was erected and it has been a place of annual pilgrimage since for the Left (except during the Nazi occupation).

Louise Michel, Communard, in the uniform of the National Guard, the main armed force of the Paris Commune. Wearing that uniform was one of the charges of which she was convicted after the fall of the Commune.

Louise Michel, who defied the judges at her trial in December and challenged them to have her shot, was sentenced to penal exile, along with 10,000 Communard survivors, hers being to New Caledonia, a French colonial possession in the Pacific3. She arrived there after 20 months’ jail, where she met many other revolutionaries and apparently there became an Anarchist, returning to France under the general amnesty for the Communards in 1880 (and continued revolutionary activities almost to the day of her death in 1905, a few months short of her 75th birthday).

FOR THE FUTURE AND THE PAST

With the Paris Commune of 1871, the proletariat had for the first time seized and managed a major city. It would be 46 years later before they succeeded in seizing a country – Russia. In the case of the Commune, the workers had learned how to take a city but were unable to hold it against sustained external attack; with the Soviet Union, they took a country and fought off external attack but were unable hold it against subversion from within. One hundred and fifty years after the Commune’s and a century after the Soviet Union’s achievements, we are overdue for another revolution. Hopefully this time we will have learned to hold on to its gains.

The Communards sounded the trumpet proclaiming the approaching end of capitalism and gave an answer then and since to those who say a revolution is not possible or if it is, that the workers are incapable of governing themselves and supplying the means to satisfy the needs of society.

Let us take a moment to reflect and to honour.

End.

FOOTNOTES:

1Descendant of Irish gentry who had fled Cromwellian confiscations and repression and settled in France.

2Engels, opus cited in Sources.

3A long way from the west of the Australian continent.

Print of women on trial in Versailles court for their actions during the Paris Commune
Depiction of arrest of Louise Michel among survivors of massacre of prisoners
Battle in defence of the Paris Commune

SOURCES:

Engels, selected writings, (ed. W.O. Henderson, Penguin 1967), Introduction to the Civil War in France

https://www.rfi.fr/en/visiting-france/20110106-truth-buried-paris-cemetery-sculpture-mistook-famous-wall

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/mar/07/vive-la-commune-the-working-class-insurrection-that-shook-the-world