The British Royal Family and its contribution to humanity

Delighted to repost with thanks another contribution to recent discussion of the British monarchy — delayed by technological difficulties.

Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

11 September 2022

The British monarch Elizabeth Windsor, formerly Saxe Coburg Gotha, has died at the grand old age of 96, thanks in no small part to the subsidised lifestyle and medical care she enjoyed throughout her long life.  Her death has produced the usual outpouring of manufactured grief from the media and also “genuine” grief from a sector of that population groomed by that same media.

But what is to be said of her passing?  There has been some reaction to her death that concentrated on her being a mother and grandmother.  But we were not invited to mourn the passing of mothers or grandmothers, but the death of a monarch and all that monarchy represented.  So, before we look at the legacy of Elizabeth Windsor we should ask ourselves what is monarchy.  The Irish revolutionary James Connolly, executed by the British state under the reign of George V, stated in relation to that same king’s visit to Ireland.

What is monarchy? From whence does it derive its sanction? What has been its gift to humanity? Monarchy is a survival of the tyranny imposed by the hand of greed and treachery upon the human race in the darkest and most ignorant days of our history. It derives its only sanction from the sword of the marauder, and the helplessness of the producer, and its gifts to humanity are unknown, save as they can be measured in the pernicious examples of triumphant and shameless iniquities.(1)

In this, Connolly only described monarchies in general as the most ignorant and backward manifestations of humanity.  It is a point that bourgeois revolutionaries such as Rousseau and Voltaire would not have disagreed with.  In fact, it was a standard capitalist argument for much of history.  However, various capitalist nations hung on to their royal households, either as symbolic figures or as propaganda figures for their campaigns and conquests.

Much is now made of the contribution of Mrs Windsor to society, the arts, and even peace through her now celebrated handshake with Martin McGuinness, though who gave more in that handshake is not questioned.  Connolly was very clear about the contribution of monarchies to the progress of society.

Every class in society save royalty, and especially British royalty, has through some of its members contributed something to the elevation of the species. But neither in science, nor in art, nor in literature, nor in exploration, nor in mechanical invention, nor in humanizing of laws, nor in any sphere of human activity has a representative of British royalty helped forward the moral, intellectual or material improvement of mankind. But that royal family has opposed every forward move, fought every reform, persecuted every patriot, and intrigued against every good cause. Slandering every friend of the people, it has befriended every oppressor. Eulogized today by misguided clerics, it has been notorious in history for the revolting nature of its crimes.(2)

Connolly had no truck with royalty.  No time for tales of cute old grannies who shook the hands of erstwhile enemies.  Any evaluation of the queen of the British state has to go beyond her supposed personal qualities. Criticisms of royals are not well received.  When the then British diplomat and future Irish revolutionary, Roger Casement, exposed the atrocities of the Belgium king Leopold II in Congo and his mass murder of over ten million Congolese, the report was not well received initially and the descendants of the man who murdered more than Hitler are the actual monarchs in Belgium and are apparently a lovely couple and third cousins of Mrs. Windsor.  Discussions about royalty are not about the individual qualities of the monarchs but the system as such.  Though even on this point Mrs. Windsor comes a cropper.

In 1972 the British army murdered 14 civilians in Derry on what was to be the last Civil Rights march in the country.  The British quickly engaged in a cover up which basically blamed those murdered as having been armed members of the IRA.  Everyone now accepts that this was not true.  Even the Saville Inquiry which stopped short of blaming the British state directly for the murders accepted they were all unarmed civilians.  But Elizabeth Windsor nonetheless decorated Lt Colonel Derek Wilford, the man in charge on the day and has never apologised for that.  Her role in this is often forgotten.

So, any question of looking at the death of Elizabeth Windsor cannot be ahistorical.  Though Sinn Féin have issued statements that are breath taking in their servility.  The Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald tweeted.

To the Royal Family and all who mourn the death of Queen Elizabeth, especially Irish Unionists, I extend sincere sympathy. She lived a long, full life. In her lifetime relationships between our countries were changed and changing. I salute her contribution to this transformation.(3)

She is of course, referring to the Peace Process and her handshake with Martin McGuinness. This says more about Sinn Féin than it does about Elizabeth Windsor.  As a monarch she never had a problem dealing with people she saw as her inferiors, or those bowed in deference to her.  Michele O’ Neill was equally effusive about the queen acknowledging the apparently profound sorrow of Unionists.  And added that.

Having met Queen Elizabeth on a number of occasions alongside my colleague, the late Martin McGuinness, I appreciated both her warmth and courtesy.(4)

Her courtesy is a diplomatic ploy, as for her warmth that is not the image given in any of her public engagements, not even when greeting her son Charles after a long trip.  The poor kid did not get a hug, he was made genuflect.  But we can take O’Neill’s word for it.  It is not important.  Neither her courtesy or alleged warmth are political evaluations.  Whether we should mourn a monarch does not depend on such personal qualities.  Henry Kissinger the Butcher of Cambodia and Chile comes across as an affable, even charming old man, and he may well be in real life, but that is not how we judge him.  Likewise, George Bush the Lesser (as Arundhati Roy dubbed him) also comes across as likeable, though it would be hard to convince the dead of Iraq that this mattered one jot: it doesn’t.

The press coverage of her death and much of the commentaries indicate that there is clear obfuscation on the part of the press and ignorance on the part of the population about the nature of the English royal family and the role of Elizabeth Windsor as queen.  One of the myths is that she is just a mere figurehead, with little or no power.  It is true that most power rests with Parliament and the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.  But she has powers that she has exercised from time to time.  She has instructed governors of overseas territories not to sign laws. In 1975, through John Kerr, her governor general in Australia, she dismissed the then prime minister Gough Whitlam.(5)  It was a rarely used power, but it exists as do other powers she never had to invoke, like her control over the military.  She has invoked the Queen’s Consent more frequently to prevent parliament discussing Bills she was not happy with.  She also was the last port of call for those sentenced to death, when capital punishment was still on the statute book.

In the 1950s three Greek Cypriots were sentenced to death, Michalaki Karaolis, Andreas Dimitriou and Evagora Pallikaridis.  The last of these was a particularly notable case.  Pallikardis confessed under torture to carrying weapons.  His lawyers pleaded to Elizabeth Windsor for clemency.  She refused.  The warmth that Sinn Féin leader O’ Neill felt was not on display for the 18-year-old, nor was she the loveable old grandmother that others have referred to.  Likewise, the other two were also hanged.  On the rare occasions that she has had to exercise power she has shown herself to be of the same pedigree as her blood thirsty forebears who raped and pillaged their way across the planet.

She never spoke out about the situation in Kenya and the Mau Mau rebellion, which kicked off early in her reign.  The Pipeline, as it was known, that the British set up in Kenya was a camp system in which prisoners were moved up and down it according to the degree of torture that was required to break them.  That matter was raised in Parliament at the time by some Labour MPs.  The prisoners even managed to smuggle out letters to MPs and other officials, amongst them Elizabeth Windsor.(6)  She knew what was happening.  She was fully aware.  She exercised no powers to bring an end to it.  She just didn’t talk about it publicly, ever.  It was not the only situation that she kept quiet about.  Her relationship with the issue of race has never been a good one.  She negotiated exemptions to racial and sexual discrimination laws and employs very few non-whites.

In 1990 the journalist Andrew Morton reported in the Sunday Times that “a black face has never graced the executive echelons of royal service – the household and officials” and “even among clerical and domestic staff, there is only a handful of recruits from ethnic minorities”.

The following year, the royal researcher Philip Hall published a book, Royal Fortune, in which he cited a source close to the Queen confirming that there were no non-white courtiers in the palace’s most senior ranks.(7)

In her Christmas speeches she tended to talk of banal matters and family.  However, she did wade into politics some times and these speeches, unlike the speeches when she opens Parliament, are hers.

In her Christmas speech of 1972, she referred to various situations around the world and also the North of Ireland.  Her take on it was simple.

We know only too well that a selfish insistence upon our rights and our own point of view leads to disaster. We all ought to know by now that a civilised and peaceful existence is only possible when people make the effort to understand each other.(8)

Exactly who was selfishly insisting on their rights was not explicitly spelt out, but it was obvious that she didn’t mean the British state, but uppity Paddies and others around the world.  This was made clear when in 1973 she awarded an OBE to Lt Col Wilford, the officer in charge of the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry in 1972.  The families of those murdered and injured on that day called upon her to apologise.(9)  She did not do so.  The nearest she came to it was a banal statement on history during a visit to Ireland in 2011 when she stated “It is a sad and regrettable reality that through history our islands have experienced more than their fair share of heartache, turbulence and loss… with the benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things which we wish had been done differently, or not at all.”(10)  She did not accept Britain’s actual role in that and there was no specific reference to the Bloody Sunday massacre.

There is no shortage of sycophants and royalists who claim she had no powers, when in fact, she did as her son Charles now has.  Others have preferred to go the route of she didn’t do it, it was others.  Not quite true.  She did preside over the dying days of Empire and gave succour to the troops busy murdering and torturing people in places she liked to visit on the Royal Yacht. But the many atrocities committed before she acceded to the throne are also hers.  The Irish revolutionary James Connolly said of the visit to Ireland of one of her predecessors in the role.

We will not blame him for the crimes of his ancestors if he relinquishes the royal rights of his ancestors; but as long as he claims their rights, by virtue of descent, then, by virtue of descent, he must shoulder the responsibility for their crimes.(11)

And she did claim them.  One of her other forays into matters of Empire was her Christmas speech of 1982.

Earlier this year in the South Atlantic the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy enabled our sailors, soldiers and airmen to go to the rescue of the Falkland Islanders 8,000 miles across the ocean; and to reveal the professional skills and courage that could be called on in defence of basic freedoms.(12)

It should be remembered that Britain gained control of the Malvinas in a colonial war, in 1833, against the newly independent Argentina.  In 1982, what was at stake was mineral wealth in the sea.  She, like Thatcher, rejoiced at the sinking of the General Belgrano ship, lest we forget that those who now joke about her death are not that far removed from her own sense of mourning people she sees as enemies of her dwindling Empire.  She had no sense of shame. In 1990, following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iraq she stated without any sense of irony that

The invasion of Kuwait was an example on an international scale of an evil which has beset us at different levels in recent years – attempts by ruthless people to impose their will on the peaceable majority.(13)

This was the queen of a country that had imposed itself on more of humanity than any other previous empire had ever done.  Of course, Hussein had been a friend of Britain.  In 1953, the CIA and the British overthrew the democratically elected government of Iran, which had nationalised the oil industry dealing a blow to the Anglo Persian Oil Company, now known as B.P.  This set in motion a chain of events that would see Britain install another royal, the Shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi whose despotic rule would lead to the Islamic Revolution of 1979.  Enter Saddam.  He launched a brutal and bloody war against Iran, invading it in 1980.  The war lasted 8 years and cost 500,000 lives.  It was bankrolled by the west through the Saudis.  There was no one claiming that he had imposed his will, nor were British troops sent to attack this important ally.

Part of her role is that of cheerleader for empire and war.  British troops serve under her, not Parliament.  They are called upon to serve Queen/King and country and a major part of her role is to encourage young men (and lately women) to throw their lives away in places like Iraq as part of imperial exercises in power and the theft of natural resources.

It is also laughable that the English monarch talks of the peaceable majority when Britain is one of the major arms manufacturers and exporters in the world, supplying despots around the world with the necessary wherewithal to keep local populations in line.  Her own son Andrew was appointed Special Representative for International Trade and Investment for the UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) in 2001 and in that role he promoted arms sales.  When he was forced by circumstances surrounding his role in the abuse of young girls alongside Jeffrey Epstein to step back from a public role, Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade commented that:

The news that Prince Andrew will step back from Royal duties is unlikely to provoke feelings of sorrow or regret for most British citizens – but for despots, dictatorships and arms dealers around the world it will be a sad day. They have lost one of their most high profile and influential supporters.(14)

During Mrs. Windsor’s reign Britain exported almost 135 billion (in current prices for each year) of arms and is the fourth largest exporter of arms in the world.(15)  Some British companies with operations outside of Britain also export arms.  These figures do not include what Britain manufactures for its own armed forces or what it buys from other countries.

Remarkably even feminists in Britain and Ireland have publicly lamented the death of Mrs. Windsor ignoring her role in her son’s abuse of young girls.  What little action she took against him was due to public outcry and pressure helped along by a disastrous interview in which his sense of entitlement oozed out of the pores he claims not to sweat from.  She also forked out part of the money that was paid as part of the settlement with Virginia Guiffre, one of his and Epstein’s victims, though her part could not be used directly to pay the victim but only for the part that went to charities.(16)  Not a minor point for feminists, you would have thought.  Nonetheless, they lament the death of the loving mother and grandmother. One who showed none of the warmth Sinn Féin claim she shows.

Monarchies are inherently reactionary, even without the atrocities committed by them or in their name.  They are hereditary positions occupied by parasites living off the public purse.  A lavish funeral and later coronation of Charles will be held, costing millions of pounds.  Other old grandmothers will go hungry this winter or die of hypothermia as energy prices soar, a fate Elizabeth did not face and neither will Charles.  The old grandmothers around England, who will die of hypothermia this year, through their taxes ensure that Charles will see the winter through, unless a horse-riding accident upsets his plans.  Monarchy is all that is rotten in society, the sycophantic outpouring of fake grief is of a people who do not seek a better society, who are enthralled to their masters and their betters, those who bow down to the great and the good.  But it was again James Connolly who had said “the great appear great because we are on our knees, let us rise!”

The idea of rising off our knees has been abandoned by most.  Sinn Féin is lavish in its praise for her, one of the political and cultural shifts that results from the Good Friday Agreement.  The rot has even spread to their friends in Colombia.  Timochenko the former FARC guerrilla leader tweeted his condolences to the people of Great Britain and also mentioned that handshake with McGuinness.(17)  Britain’s trade unions through the TUC have also bowed down to the royals.  The ideological role of the Windsors in class conflict is ignored.  Even the otherwise militant RMT has called off strikes planned for September 15th and 17th.  There was a time calling for the abolishment of the monarchy was a no brainer for progressives.  In the 1980s Arthur Scargill made just that call and when questioned as to what the royals would do then, he replied, “they can work in Sainsburys”.  Though some of them have pilots licences, maybe they can do the Gatwick – Dublin route with Ryanair.

Those who mourn Elizabeth Windsor are complicit in what she represents: privilege, war, torture, racism.  There are no ifs or buts to that.  It is as Robespierre said, “The King must die so the country can live”.  It is time to abolish the monarchy and throw onto the putrid rubbish pile of history all that it represents and Charles and William can, as Scargill suggested, get a job and sycophants can go back to worrying about Madonna or Beyoncé.

Notes

(1) Connolly, J. (1910) Visit of King George V https://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1911/xx/visitkng.htm

(2) Ibíd.,

(3) See https://twitter.com/MaryLouMcDonald/status/1567945861354909696

(4) See https://twitter.com/moneillsf/status/1567931690873503744?s=20&t=nKj7EgPfa0WHJ6PEPdwQgQ

(5) The Guardian (14/07/2020) Gough Whitlam dismissal: what we know so far about the palace letters and Australian PM’s sacking
https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/jul/14/what-we-know-so-far-about-the-palace-letters-and-the-dismissal-of-australian-prime-miister-ough-whitlams-dism

(6) See Elkins, C. (2005) Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya. New York. Henry Holt and Company. paras 20.48 & 26.48

(7) The Guardian (02/06/2021) Buckingham Palace banned ethnic minorities from office roles, papers reveal https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/jun/02/buckingham-palace-banned-ethnic-minorities-from-office-roles-papers-reveal

(8) Queen’s Christmas speech 1990 https://www.royal.uk/christmas-broadcast-1972

(9) The Irish Independent (31/01/1998) Royal apology would help right Derry ‘insult’ https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/royal-apology-would-help-right-derry-insult-26200165.html

(10) The Irish Examiner (19/05/2022) The Queen’s Speech https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-20155083.html

(11) Connolly, J. (1910) op. cit.

(12) Queen’s Christmas speech 1982 https://www.royal.uk/christmas-broadcast-1982

(13) Queen’s Christmas speech 1990 https://www.royal.uk/christmas-broadcast-1990

(14) Smith, A. (21/11/2019) With Prince Andrew in retirement, it’s a bad week for despots and dictators https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/prince-andrew-step-back-interview-arms-trade-jeffrey-epstein-gaddafi-a9212841.html

(15) Figures taken from https://www.sipri.org

(16) Time Magazine (17/02/2022) Who’s Paying Prince Andrew’s $16 Million Settlement to Virginia Giuffre? What to Know About Royal Finances https://time.com/6149123/prince-andrew-settlement-virginia-giuffre-royal-finances/

(17) See https://twitter.com/TimoComunes/status/1568243032679497728

Sinn Féin and their Queen’s Funeral

One of number of pieces on the recent media fest in relation to English monarchy delighted to be able to repost here with thanks.

Irish Dissent

The intensively mediated death of Elizabeth Windsor, accompanied by the relentlessly maudlin and invasive coverage of official mourning and her funeral, had an intensity that can only be described as imperial. Forced as it was into every corner of public discourse, this coercive atmosphere of state sorrow had a distinctly colonising thrust and meaning. Unleashed during a moment of total class warfare within her very disunited kingdom, it also marked an endpoint in the trajectory of her most obedient servants: the formerly Irish but now thoroughly British political party, Sinn Féin.  During Windsor’s reign colonial chickens came home to roost as the woman who presided over British forces while they rampaged across the six counties of British-occupied Ireland then became over the past decade and a half the queen of foodbanks in her own country. (1)  Her reign spanned a long period during which overt political violence in Ireland was…

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THE BLOOD-RED POPPY – NOT AT ALL ABOUT REMEMBRANCE

PART I

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Edited from a longer in-depth piece published in 2014 and divided into parts).

(Reading time main text: 8 mins.)

The dominant class in the UK and in some of the British Commonwealth will shortly be calling people to join in a cultural festival which they call “Remembrance” – but that’s not at all what it’s really about.

The organisation fronting this festival in the ‘UK’ is the Royal British Legion and their symbol for it (and registered trademark) is the Red Poppy, paper or fabric representations of which people are encouraged to buy and wear.

And in some places, such as the BBC for personnel in front of the camera, or civil servants in public, or sports people representing the UK, forced or bullied into wearing.1

In many schools and churches throughout the ‘UK’, Poppies are sold and wreaths are laid at monuments to the dead soldiers in many different places. The pressure to wear and display one of the symbols is intense and public figures declining to do so are metaphorically pilloried2.

Prominent individuals, politicians and the media take part in a campaign to encourage the wearing of the Poppy and observance of the day of remembrance generally and for a decade now, to extend the Festival for a yet longer period.

This alleged “Festival of Remembrance” includes concerts at the Royal Albert Hall and the military and veterans’ parades to the Cenotaph memorial in Whitehall, London, on “Remembrance Sunday”.

The Royal Albert Hall concert is replete with military uniforms, British Royals’ presence and “Poppy” symbols everywhere. The big Saturday evening concert starts and ends with the UK state’s anthem, God Save the Queen/ King played by military bands.

Tickets for the big event are restricted to members of the Legion and their families, and senior members of the British Royal Family (the reigning monarch, royal consort, Prince of Wales, the Duke of York and the Earl of Wessex). The event is televised.3

BUT WHAT IS IT ALL FOR?

We are told it’s for charitable purposes – the money raised from the sale of the “Poppies” and associated merchandise is to be used to support former military service people in need and the families of those killed in conflict.

We surely can’t object to that, can we? And isn’t putting up with the military and royal pomp a small price to pay for such charitable and worthwhile purposes?

Yet the main purpose of this festival and the symbol is neither remembrance nor charity but rather the exact opposite: to gloss over the realities of organised deadly violence on a massive scale, to make us forget the experience of the world’s people of war.

Worse, its purpose is to prepare the ground for recruitment of more people for the next war or armed imperialist venture – and of course more premature deaths and injuries, including those of soldiers taking part.

Video and song by Vincent Burke, “On Remembrance Day” from Veterans for Peace lists British conflicts (including Ireland) and condemns the Church of England for supporting the wars, calling also on people to wear the White Poppy.
The Veterans for Peace at the Cenotaph in London’s Whitehall in 2014. Jim Radford, singer and D-Day veteran had been there for the first of the VfP Remembrance Day events and every year since until Covid-19 got him. He was a friend and comrade of mine and I marched with the civilian supporters of VfP contingent in

PARTIAL REMEMBRANCE – obscuring the perpetrators and the realities of war

The Royal British Legion is the overall organiser of the Festival of Remembrance and has the sole legal ‘UK’ rights to use the Poppy trademark and to distribute the fabric or paper poppies in the ‘UK’.

According to the organisation’s website, “As Custodian of Remembrance” one of the Legion’s two main purposes is to “ensure the memories of those who have fought and sacrificed in the British Armed Forces live on through the generations.”4

By their own admission, the purpose of the Legion’s festival is to perpetuate the memories only of those who fought and sacrificed in the British Armed Forces – it is therefore only a very partial (in both senses of the word) remembrance.

It is left to others to commemorate the dead in the armies of the British Empire and colonies which the British ruling class called to its support: in WWI, over 230,500 non-‘UK’ dead soldiers from the Empire and, of course, the ‘UK’ figure of 888,246 includes the upper figure of 49,400 Irish dead.5

Cossack soldier volunteers WWI. Imperial Russia was an ally of Britain and France; the war was on of the causes of the Russian Socialist Revolution 1917. The following year, the war ended. (Photo sourced: Internet)

The Festival of Remembrance excludes not only the dead soldiers of the British Empire and of its colonies but also those of Britain’s allies: France, Belgium, Imperial Russia, Japan, USA – and their colonies.

Not to mention thousands of Chinese, African, Arab and Indian labourers, mule drivers, porters and food preparation workers employed by the army.

No question seems to arise of the Festival of Remembrance commemorating the fallen of the “enemy” but if the festival were really about full “remembrance”, it would commemorate the dead on each side of conflicts.

German soldiers playing cards during WWI. Photos of Germans in WWI more readily available show them wearing masks and looking like monsters. (Photo sourced: Internet)

That would particularly be appropriate in WWI, an imperialist war in every aspect. But of course they don’t commemorate both sides; if we feel equally sorry for the people of other nations, it will be difficult to get us to kill them in some future conflict.

CIVILIAN CASUALTIES IN WAR

A real festival of remembrance would commemorate too those civilians killed in war (seven million in WWI), the percentage of which in overall war casualty statistics has been steadily rising through the century with increasingly long-range means of warfare.

Civilian war refugees in Salonika, NW Greece, WWI

Civilians in the First World War died prematurely in epidemics and munitions factory explosions as well as in artillery and air bombardments, also in sunk shipping and killed in auxiliary logistical labour complements in battle areas.

They died through hunger too, as feeding the military became the priority in food production and distribution and as farmhands became soldiers.

In WWII 50-55,000,000 civilians died in extermination camps or forced labour units, targeting of ethnic and social groups, air bombardments, as well as in hunger and disease arising from the destruction of harvests and infrastructure.6

Air bombardments, landmines, ethnic targeting and destruction of infrastructures continue to exact a high casualty rate among civilians in war areas: a Reuters study gave over one million killed by the war in Iraq and another study gave between 184,382 and 207,156 civilians killed in Iraq during the war and aftermath.7

That figure for Iraq does not include dead from pre-US invasion western trade sanctions (yes, economic sanctions frequently kill) or the 46,319 dead civilians in Afghanistan8.

The number of civilians injured, many of them permanently disabled, is of course higher than the numbers killed. Most of those will bring an additional cost to health and social services where these are provided by the state and of course to families, whether state provision exists or not.

Real and impartial “remembrance” would include civilians but not even British civilians killed and injured are included in the Festival of Remembrance, revealing that the real purpose of the Festival is to support the armed forces and their activities.

The 2014 slogan “shoulder to shoulder with our armed forces” underlines that purpose9 while contributing at the same time to a certain militarisation of society and of the dominant national culture.

The propaganda is more sophisticated this year: “Our red poppy is a symbol of both Remembrance and hope for a peaceful future” but “Poppies are worn as a show of support for the Armed Forces Community.”10

WEAPONS AND INJURIES

If the Festival were really about “remembrance”, they would commemorate the numbers of injuries and detail the various types of weapons that caused them.

But that might reflect unfavourably on the armaments manufacturers, who run a multi-trillion industry11 in whatever currency one cares to name, so of course they don’t. And if really concerned about death and injury in war, they would campaign to end imperialist war.

Gassed Australian soldiers awaiting hospitalisation 1916

But then how else would the various imperial states sort out among themselves which one could extract which resources from which countries in the world and upon the markets of which country each imperial state could dump its produce?

So of course the Royal British Legion doesn’t campaign against war.

SANITISED HISTORY, MILITARY PROPAGANDA AND PUBLIC RELATIONS

Partial remembrance was indeed embodied in the song chosen by the British Legion to promote its Festival in the WWI centenary festival in 2014.

No Man’s Land, sung by Joss Stone, is actually a truncated version of the song of the same title (better known in Ireland as the Furey’s The Green Fields of France), composed by Scottish-raised and Australian-based singer-songwriter Eric Bogle.

The Joss Stone version contains the lyrics of the chorus as well as of one verse and one-half of another, omitting two and-a-half verses of Bogle’s song.

Some of the British media created a kind of controversy, at the behest of who knows whom, to have the British Legion’s song included top of BBC’s Radio One playlist. The song is reproduced in entirety below, with the lines sung by Joss Stone in italics and those she omitted in normal type.

I.
Well, how do you do, young Willie McBride?

Do you mind if I sit here down by your graveside?

And rest for a while in the warm summer sun,

I’ve been walking all day, and I’m nearly done.

I see by your gravestone you were only 19

When you joined the great fallen in 1916,

I hope you died well and I hope you died clean

Or, Willie McBride, was it slow and obscene?

(Chorus)
Did they beat the drum slowly, did they play the fife lowly?

Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down?

Did the band play The Last Post in chorus?

And did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

II.
Did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind

In some faithful heart is your memory enshrined?

Although, you died back in 1916,

In that faithful heart are you forever 19?

Or are you a stranger without even a name,

Enclosed forever behind the glass frame,

In an old photograph, torn, battered and stained,

And faded to yellow in a brown leather frame?

(Chorus)

III.
The sun now it shines on the green fields of France;

There’s a warm summer breeze that makes the red poppies dance.

And look how the sun shines from under the clouds

There’s no gas, no barbed wire, there’s no guns firing now.

But here in this graveyard it’s still No Man’s Land

The countless white crosses stand mute in the sand

To man’s blind indifference to his fellow man.

To a whole generation that were butchered and damned.

(Chorus)

IV.
Ah young Willie McBride, I can’t help wonder why,

Do those that lie here know why did they die?

And did they believe when they answered the cause,

Did they really believe that this war would end wars?

Well the sorrow, the suffering, the glory, the pain,

The killing and dying, were all done in vain.

For Willie McBride, it all happened again,

And again, and again, and again, and again.

(Chorus)

It’s easy to see why the Royal British Legion might shy away from the omitted lyrics, which would hardly encourage recruitment or support for war.

Interviewed on video, Joss Stone herself said how important it was to be “true to the lyrics” and that “the last thing one would want to do would be to disrespect the lyric”.

Incredibly, she and John Cohen, the record producer, both separately claimed that they had captured the essence of the song lyrics in the British Legion’s version.12

Although Bogle stated that he did not think the Joss Stone version glorifies war, he did say that it did not condemn it and was ultimately a sentimentalised version that went against the intention and central drive of the lyrics.

Believe it or not I wrote the song intending for the four verses of the original song to gradually build up to what I hoped would be a climactic and strong anti-war statement,” Bogle said.

Missing out two and a half verses from the original four verses very much negates that intention.” (apparently in a reply from Bogle to a blogger’s email and quoted in a number of newspaper reports).13

The truncation of the song and the removal in particular of the anti-war lyrics epitomises partial “remembrance” and stands as a metaphor for it, the production of a lie by omission and obscuration.

Sanitised history, military recruitment propaganda and public relations is what this “Remembrance” is about.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1Five reasons people don’t wear poppies – BBC News

2Ibid.

3Description on Royal British Legion website in 2014 and matched by Wikipedia account of 2015 event

4Their website in 2014 and confirmed by Wikipedia for 2015.

5Irish in the British Armed Forces – Wikipedia

6World War II casualties – Wikipedia

7https://www.wired.com/2011/06/afghanistan-iraq-wars-killed-132000-civilians-report-says/#:~:text=At%20least%20132%2C000%20civilians%20have%20died%20from%2010,how%20many%20civilians%20have%20di%20in %20these%20wars. And Iraqi Civilians | Costs of War (brown.edu)

8Civilian casualties in the war in Afghanistan (2001–2021) – Wikipedia

9The slogan of RB Legion in 2014.

10All about the poppy | Royal British Legion

11“In 2021, the military spending worldwide amounted to 2.11 trillion U.S. dollars. The United States accounted for 38 percent of total military worldwide spending” Defense spendng and arms trade – Statistics & Facts | Statista

12Videos containing quotations from Joss Stone and John Cohen about how they have stayed “true to the song” or “lyric” of No Man’s Land by Eric Bogle https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ez1WBJaZZ7U#t=10 and

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rotXZFXJWo were active in 2014 but now appear to have been taken down.

13Eric Bogle: I don’t like Joss Stone’s cover of No Man’s Land, but I won’t sue | Joss Stone | The Guardian

SOURCES & USEFUL LINKS

Against wearing the Poppy: Five reasons people don’t wear poppies – BBC News

A Unionist from the Six Counties’ view on the Poppy as a measure of support for the United Kingdom: Fewer people are wearing poppies in Belfast, as unionist symbols in the public space are successfully demonised by republicans | Belfast News Letter

Red Poppy Symbol:

http://www.greatwar.co.uk/article/remembrance-poppy.htm

http://www.britishlegion.org.uk/get-involved/poppy-appeal

(see also Red Poppy and British Legion links)

British Legion:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Royal_British_Legion

and Albert Hall Remembrance Concert: http://www.britishlegion.org.uk/File:The Royal Albert Hall, London during the Festival of Remembrance MOD 45159095.jpg – Wikipedia

Videos containing quotations from Joss Stone and John Cohen about how they have stayed “true to the song” or “lyric” of No Man’s Land by Eric Bogle were accessed at the following in 2014 but now appear to have been taken down: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ez1WBJaZZ7U#t=10 and

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rotXZFXJWoWhite Poppy symbol:

http://www.ppu.org.uk/whitepoppy/index.html

WWI war dead:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_I_casualties

Joss Stone’s truncated and rather awful version:

‘No Man’s Land’ – Joss Stone Ft. Jeff Beck – YouTube

Eric Bogle, composer of No Man’s Land on Joss Stone version: Eric Bogle: I don’t like Joss Stone’s cover of No Man’s Land, but I won’t sue | Joss Stone | The Guardian
Joss Stone butchers No Mans Land | urban75 forums

“Controversy” over Legion’s 2014 Festival promotional song by Joss Stone (truncation of Eric Bogle’s No Man’s Land):

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2828041/BBC-branded-disgraceful-Royal-British-Legion-refusing-airtime-Poppy-appeal-song.html?ITO=1490&ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/bbc-snubs-official-poppy-appeal-4600035

http://johnhilley.blogspot.ie/2014/11/poppy-appeal-and-royal-british-legions.html

Civilian war deaths due to war in Afghanistan:
Civilian casualties in the war in Afghanistan (2001–2021) – Wikipedia

Civilian war deaths due to war in Iraq: Iraq conflict has killed a million Iraqis: survey | Reuters Iraqi Civilians | Costs of War (brown.edu)

Images WWI: Various sources accessed on the Internet

Arms trade: Defense spendng and arms trade – Statistics & Facts | Statista

Veterans for Peace (June 2011-August 2022): http://veteransforpeace.org.uk

Video Veterans for Peace at the Cenotaph:
Remembrance Sunday 2014
(performing song and poem): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t34dnIabsGw
2016: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rsr15SZfVUw

Video and song On Remembrance Day from Veterans for Peace web page: (lists British modern armed conflicts): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPLtSkILwvs#t=62

NB: Sadly Veterans for Peace has ceased to exist as an organisation

CLOSING DOWN CHINESE POLICE STATION ON IRISH SOIL

Dear Editor,

I can’t tell you how relieved I was to hear of the prompt action of the Irish Government in closing down an alleged Chinese police station operating in Dublin’s Capel Street.

It’s very important to keep Ireland neutral.

If those Chinese had been allowed to get away with that, next you’d have some country thinking they could run their warplanes and prisoners through Shannon airport. Or some other country allowed to fly over Irish airspace in their military helicopters. Or thinking they could set up a militarised colony on Irish soil.

Sincerely,

Ian Denieyan

“Oh. My. God!”

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 5 mins.)

That’s what she wrote — in response to a political statement I had written. And it was funny — but at the same time an expression of the gulf that separates people like her not only from people like me – but from reality too.

Her comment on a FB post was that the PSNI are not the same as the RUC, to which another woman had replied that the uniforms and the name are different but that’s all, the essence being still the same.

In turn, herself above had replied that anyone who thought that, didn’t understand the current realities and what the whole peace process is about.

To which I replied that I too agreed that all that happened was that the colonial gendarmerie had changed its name and uniform and what the pacification process (because let’s call it what it was and is) is about is holding on to the colony while dismantling the opposition.

And then she made that response, the “Oh. My. God!” — and quoth no more. I laughed but also recognised that her response, from her point of view (apart from the appeal to a nebulous deity, which I take as just an idiom to express shock), was entirely logical.

No, not her political position, which is entirely illogical – but her reaction, from where she stands, away on the other side of the chasm between us.

(Photo sourced: Internet)

AN UNBRIDGEABLE GULF BETWEEN WORLDS

She recognises the gulf that separates her world from mine and knows straight away that there is no bridge to cross it. There is no point in debate, not only because I may not be easily overcome in argument but because we don’t even agree on the reality of the world.

By which I mean the economic, political and philosophical reality of the world of humanity, rather than the physical world of gravity and weather.

In her world, I’m guessing, admittedly there were some horrible injustices in the history of “Northern Ireland” and then there was a horrible war which made things worse and now everything is changed (even “utterly”, perhaps!) and going in the right direction.

To call the “Northern Ireland” entity a colony is shocking to her, though she knows some people probably think that.

Seeing reality is useful for getting around but it can be very uncomfortable too. The Six Counties is of course a colony, taken by force and maintained by force since 1921.

PSNI raid and arrest of a pregnant woman in the Bone (‘nationalist’) area of Belfast March 2021 — this led to riot (Photo sourced: Internet)
Residents objecting to PSNI in riot gear invasion of Roseapenna Street (‘nationalist’), West Belfast, August 2015 (Photo sourced: Internet)

The whole of Ireland was a colony even when it had its tiny minority parliament1 and it continued to be one when that Parliament, under massive bribery, voted to abolish itself in 1800 without the vast majority of the population in Ireland, native AND planter, having any say in the matter.

When the level of anti-colonial struggle in Ireland rose to a certain level and the rulers of the UK were beset by difficulties on most sides, a deal was done with an Irish client bourgeoisie and the country partitioned.

Whatever the status of the Irish State thereafter, the status of the Six Counties was clearly that of a colony. That is and was so, regardless of whether it is sectarian or not, whether there are civil rights or not. It is part of our nation held for the Crown by force of arms.

Those arms were again very much in evidence during the fairly recent 30 Years’ War – in the hands of the formal British Army, formal colonial police and informal proxy murder gangs.

And yes, the PSNI today is an armed colonial police force – and it would be that even if it had no history, if it were created today. But as it happens, it does have a history. It is a variant of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. And the RUC was a variant of the Royal Irish Constabulary2. And the RIC was a gendarmerie.

RIC and British soldiers supporting an eviction in Galway during the Land War (Photo sourced: Internet)

A COLONIAL POLICE FORCE WITH A LONG HISTORY

Perhaps my opponent has heard the term before. Maybe she associates it with Turkey … or even with the Spanish state. But such things belong to foreign and authoritarian states, right? Couldn’t possibly be to do with here!

States that have conquered nations within them, resisting from time to time, or regions that are otherwise difficult to manage, need to control them by army or police. The first becomes problematical over time and the second needs to be coordinated from the centre, not mainly local.

The solution some states have found is to have a central quasi-militarised police force: the Guardia Civil of the Spanish State, the Turkish Gendarmerie, the Caribieneri of the Italian State, the French Gendarmerie.

Gendarmerie of the Spanish State: Guardia Civil in modern uniform (Photo sourced: Internet)

These forces typically live in barracks and are directly answerable to the central State. The Royal Irish Constabulary was such a gendarmerie also. And nothing like it existed in Britain.

It was a colonial armed quasi-militarised police force to spy on and suppress the Irish by force.

What was left of the RIC in Ireland became the RUC after Partition and the RUC became the PSNI after some reforms. They don’t live in barracks but they do sally forth from them and they are armed – still keeping ‘the natives’ down since 1836.3

All-Ireland gendarmerie Royal Irish Constabulary in front of their barracks, King Street, Dublin, viewed by local people after a Republican forces attack during the War of independence 1919-1921 (Photo sourced: Internet)

PACIFICATION FOR NORMALISATION

Then there was my shocking description of the role of the ‘Process’ that she described as for peace and I for pacification. She is shocked even by the title I give it, a title suggesting it is not about justice but rather about maintaining control, by trickery or violence.

And I actually stated that is its purpose! Oh. My. God indeed!

Any process which starts from the basis of normalising the colony is doing just that: normalising the foreign occupation of a part of the nation taken by force and which has never been accepted by the conquered population. It is “about is holding on to the colony”, as I described it.

But what is fundamentally abnormal can never be normalised.

That attempt requires pacification, by repression and coercion or by deception – or by a combination of both. The Occupier has used all but, since the late 1990s, mainly deception. The masking and twisting of reality, the blowing of smoke in eyes.

“Join the British Gendarmerie!” Recruitment drive for the PSNI supported by Unionists and Sinn Féin, February 2020 (Photo sourced: Internet)

Who is fooled? Mostly, those who want to be, some who see a workable future in the colony, under occupation.

The other deluded ones are those who are being deceived by their leaders, the latter who have given up not only the arms but any kind of struggle other than climbing into the elite.

Ultimately, the reality is so obvious that the deception is only possible when the deceived help it along themselves. Why do that? Because it’s comfortable, or seen as an alternative to hopelessness, or less frightening than the alternative – revolutionary struggle.

Oh. My. God! Yes indeed.

And yet we say, we who look at the reality, in the face of those who deny it, as Galileo is said to have muttered to his persecutors, who denied the world moved around the sun (rather than the reverse): “Eppur si muove”(“And yet it moves)”.4

We might also say, whether some find it shocking or just uncomfortable, something more mundane: Est quodcumque est. (It is what it is.)

end.

FOOTNOTES

1At various times Catholics were excluded from voting for representation in the Parliament and at all times from the Reformation onwards barred from being elected to the body or from holding high office. The vast majority of the Irish population were Catholics. Protestants other than Anglicans suffered discrimination too but not to the same degree.

2The PSNI themselves recognise that history – see https://www.psni.police.uk/about-us/our-history/history-policing-ireland

3And they got the “Royal” in their name in 1867 for their role in suppression of the Fenian rising that year.

4Galileo di Vincenzo Bonaiuti de’ Galilei (15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642) was an Italian astronomer, physicist and engineer. He publicly ascribed to the theory of Copernicus before him that the sun’s position is static with the Earth revolving around it (heliocentrism) which had been attacked by the Protestant religions as contradicting the Christian Bible (Old Testament). But it was the Catholic Inquisition of which Galileo fell foul, firstly in 1616 when he was instructed not to hold that opinion. In 1633 he was forced to recant it after a long trial and lived under house arrest for the rest of his life.

SOURCES

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

RIC: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Irish_Constabulary

IMPERIALIST NARRATIVE IN ‘OBJECTIVE REPORTING’

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 4 mins.)

“Palestinian gunman wounds two Israelis in Jerusalem shooting” proclaims the headline. We don’t have to worry trying to figure out whose side we’re expected to be on, who’s in the wrong and who in the right. It’s right there in the headline.

“Gunman” is a heavy clue and the fact that the two he wounded are just “Israelis” – we are led to believe just ordinary civilians – does the rest of the job. That is, if indeed we are not somehow already prejudiced against Palestinians and in favour of Israelis.

However, should we bother to read further, we find that two of the wounded were far from being harmless civilians but in fact an Israeli soldier and a security guard, certainly armed for their job (even Israeli Jewish civilians are routinely permitted to carry firearms).1

The2 report tells us that the soldier was a woman. Why is this relevant? Like male soldiers, she was a serving member of the Israeli Zionist occupation armed forces, misleadingly named “Defence Forces”. Zionist female soldiers are present at all levels and all theatres of war.3

It is difficult to avoid the suspicion that this is being inserted in order to mitigate the impact of revelation that it was a soldier who was shot, which might possibly lessen sympathy for the victims on that score.

Perhaps the fact that the Palestinian in question appears to have initiated the incident justifies the appellation of “gunman”? OK, when Israeli armed forces initiate an action, do we ever see “Israeli gunmen open fire on Palestinians”?

Scene of shooting of two Israeli Zionist armed forces on Saturday in Jerusalem, one fatally (Photo credit: PA Images)

Certainly not in mainstream western media. And not just because of bias towards state armed forces, because even when the shooters are Israeli Zionist civilians, they are never called “gunmen”. And such incidents occurred on a monthly basis recently.4

MOTIVE, BACKGROUND, CONTEXT

Moving away from the actual incident, what about the background and context? “Israel already has been carrying out daily arrest raids in the occupied West Bank since a series of Palestinian attacks last spring killed 19 Israelis” the report informs us.

So the Palestinian “gunman” could have had an understandable motive in responding to Israeli Zionist oppression and repression but in case we should sympathise with him, we are reminded that “Palestinian attacks last spring killed 19 Israelis.”

After conditioning with that paragraph, the report gives us more recent possible motivation for the attack (even then, note the attempted justification for actions of “Israeli forces” fighting “gunmen” and “militants”).

“Earlier on Saturday, the Israeli military shot and killed two Palestinian teenagers during an arrest raid in the Jenin refugee camp, the site of repeated clashes between Israeli forces and local gunmen and residents. The camp is known as a stronghold of Palestinian militants.”

Body of 16-year-old Palestinian Ahmad Daraghmeh killed by Zionist Israeli soldiers carried in protest mourning. Also killed with him were Mahmoud as-Sous, 18. (Photo credit: Agence France Press)

“Palestinian officials said soldiers entered the camp early on Saturday and surrounded a house. In videos circulated on social media, exchanges of fire could be heard. The Palestinian Health Ministry reported two dead and 11 wounded, three of them critically.”

And let’s put that “killing of 19 Israelis” last spring in context too: Last year, “as a result of the violence, at least 256 Palestinians, including 66 children, were killed … In Israel, at least 13 people were killed, including two children”5. A search of any year will find a similar or worse story.

SOME OF THE TRUTH

Occasionally, we are supplied with truth, as when the report informs us that “Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed the area in a move that is not recognised internationally.”

“It considers the entire city, including east Jerusalem, home to the city’s most important holy sites, to be its capital. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.” Nor is East Jerusalem the only area occupied by Israel judged illegally by “international law”.6

But even this is partial truth because, whether “recognised internationally” or not, the whole territory of the state of Israel is an occupation by force of Palestinian land by European settlers in 1948, backed by some world superpowers and a constant source of conflict there ever since.

MAKING SENSE OF CONFLICTS

Context is crucial to understanding events but justification is a moral and practical judgement7 according to the standpoint of those doing the judging and evaluation. Clearly the standpoint of an occupier and a person displaced — an occupier and the oppressor – can never be the same.

It follows that those who support the occupier and more certainly invest in its support, are going to be biased against the displaced, the oppressed and repressed. The world’s biggest superpower, the USA, supports Israel hugely militarily, financially and politically.

The states of the world and their controlling elites are well aware of the balance of power and, for the moment, most support the superpower. This is even more so in the case of the geo-political area designated “the West”, location of most mainstream media agencies’ headquarters.

The bias is clear if we take the trouble to analyse and we’ll find it not only in the reporting on the Israeli Zionist state and the Palestinians but on all other conflicts, to greater or lesser degree. What stand we take depends on whether we align ourselves with the oppressor or the oppressed.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1See “Gun-carrying for Israeli citizens” in Sources.

2She has since died and headlines are now including her gender.

3“ … today women make up only about 40% of conscript soldiers and 25% of the office (sic officer?) corps.” This despite Orthodox Jewish men objecting to serve in the company of female soldiers https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/israel-defense-forces

4See “Absence of “gunman” when an Israeli Zionist civilian is the shooter” in Sources. Note that all these reports were taken from media sources one might suppose not sympathetic to Israeli Zionism; a quick search of Reuters only brought up a 2012 reference to such an incident and of Associated Press, not even one on the first search page.

5https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2021_Israel%E2%80%93Palestine_crisis#:~:text=As%20a%20result%20of%20the,were%20killed%2C%20including%20two%20children.

6Syria’s Golan Heights are one such as are the settlements on lands grabbed after the founding of the Israeli state: https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2022/03/israels-55-year-occupation-palestinian-territory-apartheid-un-human-rights

7Moral, as in do we think it wrong or right according to moral principles; practical as in whether we can show it works.

SOURCES

The report being analysed: https://www.breakingnews.ie/world/palestinian-gunman-wounds-two-israelis-in-jerusalem-shooting-1374673.html

Gun-carrying for Israeli citizens: https://www.ojp.gov/ncjrs/virtual-library/abstracts/israel-has-successful-gun-control-policy-gun-control-p-248-251-1992

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/9/12/israels-eased-gun-laws-palestinian-fear-over-new-gun-permits

Absence of “gunman” when an Israeli Zionist civilian is the shooter: https://www.dci-palestine.org/israeli_settler_soldier_shoot_and_kill_palestinian_boy

https://english.wafa.ps/Pages/Details/130104

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/palestinian-boy-shot-dead-israeli-settler-east-ramallah

https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-palestinians-israel-violence-idUKBRE84P0BE20120526

Female Israeli Zionist soldiers: https://www.lawfareblog.com/female-service-idf-challenge-integrated-army

Recent background to current incident report: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-62445951

DUBLIN ANTI-MONARCHY DEMONSTRATION DURING LONDON ROYAL FUNERAL

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 4 mins.)

On Monday, as the remains of Queen Elizabeth II were being conducted in State funeral in London, Socialist Republicans rallied against monarchy in front of the James Connolly1 monument in Dublin.

They displayed flags and placards, heard speeches and burned the flag of the UK.

They then marched to O’Connell Bridge carrying a “coffin” bearing the words “British Empire RIP”, dumped it into the Liffey and marched on to the General Post Office building, where a large force of Irish state police prevented their entry.

Bob Marley’s lyrics applied to the situation on a home-made placard at the event (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The actions occurred as the royal funeral was taking place in London. In a move that drew public criticism from presenter of independent program Newstalk, national broadcaster RTÉ sent a crew to cover the funeral in London to film it in realtime for Irish national television.

Taoiseach (equivalent of Prime Minister) Mícheál Martin and President Michael D. Higgins in persons represented the Irish State at the British royal funeral.

Many Irish politicians (including leaders of the Sinn Féin political party) and public figures had sent fulsome messages of condolence and praise of the late British Queen.

“DOWN WITH THE MONARCHY!”

The chairperson of the event and speakers lambasted the “sycophancy” of Irish Government figures and other politicians and public figures. They drew attention of the past record of British Royalty and to the ongoing British occupation of Ireland.

The “RIP British Empire” ‘coffin’ parked temporarily next to James Connolly Monument (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The event had been publicised on social media under the slogan of “Down with the Monarchy!” and that was very much the tone of the event as occupants in a police van watched from across the street.

The chairperson opened proceedings by reminding the attendance of Connolly’s slogan at the outbreak of WWI that “We serve neither King nor Kaiser but Ireland.” Passing vehicles occasionally tooted their horns in approval.

Police van surveilling events across street at James Connolly Monument (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

A young socialist Republican read out Connolly’s article in The Workers’ Republic of March 1902 on the occasion of the coronation of Edward VIII.

Connolly stated that to Socialists the replacement of one exploiter by another hardly mattered and would excite little comment.

But although we would rather treat the matter thus philosophically, we find that the machinations of those in power do not leave us that possibility; with them, and because of them, the festivities attending the Coronation have taken on the aspect not merely of a huge parade of pomp and magnificence – cloaking the festering sores of that slave society on which it is built – but have also become an elaborately contrived and astutely worked piece of Royalist and Capitalist propaganda, designed to captivate the imagination of the unthinking multitude, and thus lead them to look askance upon every movement which would set up as an ideal to work for something less gorgeously spectacular, even if more solidly real.

The evil effects of private ownership of industries is thus illustrated once more in a manner that ought to appeal to those patriots in our midst who still dread the innovating effects of Socialism on the National spirit of the Irish people2.”

A home-made banner carried by participants at the event (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

DIVINE RIGHT AND WORKERS’ RIGHT

Diarmuid Breatnach quoted John Ball, a leader of the English Peasant’s Revolt of 1381 who, addressing the crowd in reference to the Christian Bible story of Adam and Eve, enquired: “When Adam delved (dug) and Eve span, who then was the gentleman?”

For that challenge to divine right to rule or right by birth, Breatnach related, King Richard II had John Ball hanged, drawn and quartered, his head stuck on a pike on London Bridge and a quarter of his body displayed at each of four different towns in England.

Breatnach contrasted this to the right of workers, who he said produce all things, to the ownership of all things and called on working people to take their place in history as conscious beings.

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Another speaker, on behalf of Spirit of Irish Freedom Republican Society and the Michael Fagan Fenian Society based in Westmeath also spoke and included the Sinn Féin leadership in his denunciation of Irish politicians who had accepted and praised British Royalty.

Seán Doyle spoke about the attitude of servility which works its way into many different aspects of life, for example into accepting the laws of the capitalist system and the housing crisis.

Doyle likened the acceptance of this right of capitalism to acceptance of the divine right to rule and stated that workers had to break from this acceptance, which is what the Revolutionary Housing League was advocating and practicing in action.

UNION JACK IN FLAMES AND COFFIN INTO THE RIVER

After the speeches a copy of the “Union Jack” flag was set on fire to symbolise the future of the forced union of nations — including a part of Ireland — under England rule.

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

Participants formed up into two columns flying flags, headed by four persons carrying a large pseudo-coffin. Taking to the road, they crossed Butt Bridge, turned right along the quay until they reached O’Connell Bridge.

There Gardaí and three Public Order Vehicles awaited them. Undeterred, the marchers cheered a short speech and chanted some slogans. Then at the count of “a h-aon, a dó, a trí” the “coffin” was heaved over the parapet into the Liffey river.

Marchers led by four carrying the “British Empire” ‘coffin’ crossing Butt Bridge (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

This action emulated a similar one carried out by James Connolly and revolutionary socialists in 1897 during Queen Victoria’s visit to Dublin.

It is worth recording too that Queen Victoria visited again in 1900 to affirm Ireland as part of the UK and to help recruit more Irish to go and fight the Boers in South Africa.

In response to that occasion, Iníní na hÉireann (Daughters of Ireland) led over 50 women in organising a Children’s Patriotic Party on the Sunday after the Wolf Tone Commemoration in July of that year.

Over 30,000 children had paraded from Beresford Place to Clonturk Park in north Dublin where they were served picnic lunches and listened to anti-recruitment speeches.

The marchers on O’Connell Bridge just before the “British Empire” ‘coffin’ is thrown into the Liffey (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

After disposing of the “coffin” of the “British Empire” on Monday, the marchers proceeded to the General Post Office where the building had been closed and a strong force of Gardaí also prevented access.

The GPO was the HQ of the insurrectionary forces during the 1916 Rising and many considered it insulting to their memory that the Irish tricolour above the building was lowered to half-mast in respect for the British monarchy.

March concluding at the GPO in Dublin’s main street — the police are blocking the doorway to the left of photo (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The event concluded with cheers from passers-by and without any arrests.

End.

“British Empire RIP” ‘coffin’ immediately after being thrown over the bridge into the Liffey. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)
The ‘coffin’ emerging on the east side of the Bridge on its journey seaward. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

FOOTNOTES

1The James Connolly monument in Dublin is located in Beresford Place, across the street from what was the old Liberty Hall, the HQ of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ union (now replaced by SIPTU).

2See Sources & Further Information for a link to the full text.

SOURCES & FURTHER INFORMATION

Connolly on occasion coronation Edward VII: https://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1902/xx/coronkng.htm

Irish newscaster slams Irish broadcasting team sent to cover royal funeral: teahttps://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/uk/elizabeth-is-not-our-queen-irish-presenter-slams-tv-coverage-of-monarchs-funeral/articleshow/94281107.cms

ITV report and photo: https://www.itv.com/news/utv/2022-09-19/coffin-thrown-into-river-at-march-against-monarchy?fbclid=IwAR3HeY6N5jI5Kol0dgOhm3P1DCOzielCC_KVMyMPvi_3c5n5Z15-B1YCNs4

Anti-Imperialism Action Ireland: https://www.facebook.com/AIAI-For-National-Liberation-and-Socialist-Revolution-101829345633677

SO SORRY, YOUR MAJESTY

Nearly completely reprint from Rebel Breeze eight years ago

(Reading time: 2 mins.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your most humble servant,

P. O’Neill Jnr.

SINN FÉIN: BECOMING WHAT THEY IMITATE

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 5 mins.)

Quite a few animals have developed a skill to imitate something else in order to extend their life and procreation options. However, they remain in essence what they are, just disguised or camouflaged.

Human beings and their political parties, on the other hand, are quite capable of becoming what they imitate and thus transforming themselves, as we can see with Sinn Féin, for example.

In fact, when humans imitate something different to what they are, they often can’t help the process of becoming what they mimicked, even should they want to. This is often not understood by the party’s followers, who think the act’s only a temporary tactic.

One of the many species of Hover Fly in Ireland, mimicking a wasp but harmless to humans. (Image sourced: Internet)

Hovering over shrubbery or flowers at this time of year, we might see a small fly, its black-banded yellow body evoking the bee or wasp. The hover-fly however has no sting at all, having developed the “keep away, I’m dangerous” colours for its protection.

The stick insect imitates stems of foliage not only in colour but in shape, in order to hide itself from predators. The praying mantis also imitates foliage but mainly in order to remain concealed in ambush before grabbing its prey.

Stick insect (Image sourced: Internet)

There’s a spider that imitates an ant, holding two of its eight legs over its head to resemble the antennae of the six-legged insect and has been known even to imitate the ant’s halting scurrying gait. A stonefish imitates a stone on the sea bed while it lies in wait for its prey.

But for all their amazing expertise, they have not – nor can they – become the actual thing they imitate. The stick insect remains an insect, a mantis a mantid, the spider an arachnid, the stonefish a fish.

On the other hand, Sinn Féin, which some years ago began to imitate a political party of the neo-liberal, neo-colonial Irish ruling class, the Gombeens, is becoming what it imitated, transcending what it was into what it wants to be.

People who say that the SF party doesn’t stand for or believe in anything, do it an injustice. The party leaders do indeed stand for something – they stand for getting into government. And they believe in that very strongly indeed, dropping more and more of their old form to do so.

But what do they want to get into government for? Well, just to be the governmentthat’s it. And if not the current government at any point in time, to be in the wings to replace it soon afterwards.

This, of course, entails adopting the dominant colouration and shape of the Irish ruling class environment: neo-liberal capitalist and neo-colonial, i.e foreign-dependent.

FROM NATIONAL LIBERATION TO GOMBEEN PARTY

If we were able to look back through the evolutionary history of animal mimics, we might be able to see stages, a time for example when the mantis and stick insects were beginning to be green and brown but didn’t quite look the part yet.

Dead Leaf Mantis (Image sourced: Internet)

Perhaps the stonefish, though it had not quite got there yet, was beginning to look kind of lumpy. The hover-fly might have been developing dark bands but was not yet showing bright yellow in between them.

With Sinn Féin we can however look back over its evolution from a national liberation organisation to an aspiring gombeen party. I would disagree with those who pinpoint the start of the change with the party deciding in 1986 to stand candidates in Irish state parliamentary elections.

Whether to stand in bourgeois parliamentary elections or not isn’t, in my opinion, a question of principle but rather of tactics. The important issues are the reasons for doing so, the hoped-for objectives and how one goes about the election campaign and after election, if successful.

Certainly however taking part in a government, i.e the executive or management board of the ruling class, is a different question completely.

And when that government is a colonial one, the party cannot even claim to be of a nationalist bourgeois type – it is managing the colony for the colonialist, the highest political level of collusion.

That then for me was the defining shift in Sinn Féin. To be sure, there were many signs along the journey to that point, but that was a step about which there could be no equivocation. And from which there could be no turning back.

One of number of species of Stone Fish (Image sourced: Internet)

A JOURNEY OF MANY SIGNIFICANT STEPS

That step was followed by many others: first calling on people not to oppose and then actually welcoming to both administrations of Ireland the British Queen, the commander-in-chief of the occupying forces; then also supporting recruitment to the colonial gendarmerie.

Abandoning the annual Bloody Sunday commemoration in Derry was an earlier stage, when Martin McGuinness claimed that the results of the Saville Inquiry, establishing that the victims were unarmed (a fact already known to all of Ireland and probably most of the world) were sufficient.1

Refusing to preclude going in to coalition government with gombeen parties was another step on that journey, as was abandoning its annual opposition to the no-jury Special Criminal Courts2 in the Irish state – whether because it wants to show its loyalty to the Gombeens or plans to use it against its dissidents in future is not clear.

Another step was the honouring in Belfast of those who were killed in the British armed forces in WWI, a straightforward imperialist war during which the Provos’ political ancestors, far from supporting the British State, rose up in arms against it in 1916.

The stand taken by the SF leadership towards the British Monarch and Royal Family is another significant change of the party’s position and was marked publicly by statements of sympathy for the death of the Royal Consort, Prince Phillip last year.

At the same time, the leadership apologised for the assassination in 1979 of leading member of the Royal Family and life-long colonialist and imperialist, Lord Mountbatten.

Just recently, another step was taken when condolences were sent to England on the death of the Monarch, Elizabeth Windsor, and Irish people were instructed to be “respectful” to the institution while the media was awash with monarchist propaganda and servile nonsense.

One might wonder why an erstwhile Irish Republican party would seek to accommodate itself with another state’s Royal Family, never mind one which also includes the head of the State which is in armed occupation of a sixth of Irish territory. But SF’s purpose is entirely logical.

In this, the SF party leadership is adapting itself to the nature of the class it seeks to join and represent. The Irish bourgeoisie has been foreign-dependent since its independent nationalist aspirations were smashed in 1798 and 1803.

The Irish capitalist class confirmed its client nature in the process of the creation of the Irish State through 1921 to 1922, in its civil war 1922-1923, armed by the colonial power against the forces for independence ….. and forever since.

The foreign master was first British capitalism and colonialism, later US imperialism and more recently EU capitalism and imperialism. That is the loyal club that SF is preparing to join by imitating its existing members.

End.

Sinn Féin party leadership photographed at funeral in Belfast of ex-IRA political prisoner Bobby Storey in 2020 (Photo sourced: Internet)

FOOTNOTES

1The Bloody Sunday Massacre, one of a series of British Army massacres in the Six Counties (Ballymurphy, Springhill and Derry), was always claimed as the result of a battle with armed insurgents. The timing of the Saville Inquiry (established in 1998) suggests that it was a part of the Good Friday Agreement (also 1988) deal with the Provos: in exchange for their giving up armed struggle, their members in the jails would be released and, for the wider nationalist population of the Six Counties, the British would end up admitting the Derry victims were unarmed. Provisional SF abandoned the annual march on the strength of that verdict but no-one was ever prosecuted for the murders, even when Lord Saville stated that some of the soldiers had lied in their evidence.

2The special political trial courts in both administrations have no juries; in the Six Counties the Diplock Court and in the Irish State, the Special Criminal Courts.

SOURCES

Mimicry: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/earth-and-planetary-sciences/mimicry#:~:text=Mimicry%20occurs%20when%20one%20species,otherwise%20capture%20and%20eat%20it.
https://a-z-animals.com/blog/10-animals-that-use-mimicry-to-survive/

Stonefish: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synanceia

Spider mimicking ant: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ant_mimicry
https://www.antwiki.org/wiki/Ant-Mimicking_Spiders

SF welcoming British Queen to Ireland: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-59489930
https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/sinn-fein-and-a-tale-of-two-state-visits-1.1599356

SF supporting recruitment to colonial police force: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/sinn-fein-presence-at-psni-recruitment-event-seismic-and-historic-1.4161267

SF condolences on death of Royal Constort, Prince Phillip: https://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/politics/top-sinn-fein-figures-lead-effusive-tributes-to-prince-philip-praising-his-public-service-and-support-for-the-queen-3198149
https://www.independent.ie/news/sinn-fein-leader-mary-lou-mcdonald-has-written-to-queen-elizabeth-to-formally-express-condolences-over-death-ofprince-philip-40336994.html

SF no longer opposing the the no-jury Special Criminal Court: https://www.thejournal.ie/special-criminal-court-review-2-5803404-Jun2022/
https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/sinn-fein-drops-opposition-to-special-criminal-court-1.4715275

SF on British Army dead of WWI: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-62008152

SF on death of British Queen: https://www.sinnfein.ie/contents/64262

A RELEVANT BLAST FROM THE PAST – WAR PROPAGANDA IN IRELAND 1918

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 6 mins.)

Propaganda is employed in wars and finds its most widescale application through the mass media. The belligerents want their own populations to support their war effort and to have other states support them.

IRISH REPORTING ON THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR

The hierarchy of the Catholic Church infamously mirrored the propaganda of their corresponding religious officials in the Spanish State in backing the fascist-military uprising against the elected Popular Front Government in 1936.

Irish newspapers and radio reporting on the whole followed the line of the Church hierarchy. The resulting conflict gave the Spanish state the greatest number of known mass graves in Europe and anywhere in the world, in fact, outside of Cambodia.

Clipping from Irish Press, not a fascist sympathising editorial line, November 1936 (Image sourced: Irish Newspaper Archives, Irish Press)

The Catholic hierarchy declared the fascist-military to be fighting a religious crusade against “Godless communism”, repeated propaganda of the fascist side, denounced real and imagined crimes of the Republican side.

They denied or ignored news of crimes of the fascists, which occurred from the first days and for years after Franco’s victory, in the course of which they denounced even priests who spoke out about the fascist crimes.

Whether the Spanish Republican Government had its own propaganda (I’m sure it did) or whether all its supporters were squeaky clean or not is besides the point. The overwhelmingly pro-fascist forces propaganda affected us in Ireland and most of it was fallacious.

Even the Irish Press, paper of De Valera who had banned the Blueshirts earlier: …. “These idealistic young men also saw their participation in the Spanish Civil War as helping to solve political divisions in Ireland and ultimately Irish unity. Interviewed in Dublin prior to his departure for Spain, Capt. P. Quinn from county Kilkenny, made the following statement: I believe that if an Irish Brigade succeed in reaching Spain, and there fights against Communism and all its terrors ….”

This had a practical effect in Ireland at the time and later, assisting religious and other fascists to attack socialists, communists and other progressives.

It helped create the atmosphere in which alternative writers were censored and hounded and the Irish State could actually expel an Irish citizen – Jimmy Grailton – for the crime of being a socialist community activist.

In turn, this anti-socialist, anti-communist atmosphere created a poisonous environment for social progress, whether championed by revolutionaries or social democrats.

It also helped create a wall shielding the ongoing endemic mental and physical – including sexual — abuse of women and children which seemed impermeable to control or even criticism for decades.

BRITISH WWI PROPAGANDA

The British imperial cant of “defence of small nations” or of “defending civilisation” in its war against Germany during WW1 while simultaneously suppressing the 1916 Rising and repressing many peoples around the world is well known.

The media related invented German atrocities, gave one-sided reporting, censored or demonised alternative views (I know, beginning to sound familiar).

That is the general, well-established picture. However, I’d like to focus on a specific incident and how it was treated: the sinking by German submarine (U-Boat) of the Howth fishing trawlers St. Michan and Geraldine on 31st of March 1918, with the loss of five Irish lives.

A Howth fishing vessel in past years
(Photo sourced: Internet)

No question of who’s in the wrong there, you’d think. The Irish unionist media (admittedly under war powers control) jumped to accuse the German Uboat crew of a “Howth atrocity”, an “Act of Murder” and that they “Shelled without warning”1.

I am grateful to Phillip O’Connor for his exploration of the incident) in his Road to Independence (2016) [Howth Free Press] on the involvement of Howth, Sutton and Baldoyle communities in the struggle for independence and social progress (and his source on the incident, Seán T. Rickard’s MA).

WAR CONTEXT OF INCIDENT

WWI was fought on land, air (even then) and sea. The British Navy was the most powerful in the world and imposed a naval blockade on Germany, bottling up the latter’s navy but also preventing supplies of any kind entering by sea. Unusually, the blockade included foods.

Germany took the position that Britain was trying to starve the German population and responded with its submarines attacking UK shipping which at the time included Ireland’s.

The British responded by concealing guns on merchant ships so that a German submarine surfacing and demanding surrender could in turn by sunk by the merchant ship in question. Indeed the British used fishing boats as mine-sweepers and even armed some too.

This had the effect of encouraging German Uboat captains on occasion to sink merchant ships without warning rather than run the risk of being sunk themselves.

However the U90, the submarine in question concerning the Irish trawlers in March 1918, appeared not to have been doing that and O’Connor quotes the case of the Greek ship SS Salaminia, of which the entire crew had been given time to get into lifeboats before being sunk.

Indeed, the eight captain and crew of the Michan all got into their “punt” and were picked up alive by a British Navy patrol. Tragically, the Geraldine had no additional boat, having set some of its crew ashore on Lambay Island to gather whelk for long-line hook-baiting.

Whether Captain Jess of the U90 believed the Geraldine was being defiant, playing for time or anything else is not known but his Uboat sank the vessel and there were no survivors.

The dominant newspapers in Ireland at the time condemned the German Uboat along the lines outlined above but also went further to make political capital out of it against the Republican movement.

They – and politicians they quoted – used the incident to attack Irish Republicanism, one going so far as to refer sarcastically to the Republicans’ “gallant allies”, lifting the quotation from the 1916 Proclamation of Independence.

There were rules of war agreed at the Hague Convention of 1907. Attacks on civilians are ruled as a war crime by the Geneva Convention but that was not composed and agreed until 1949.

However, its applicability to all the situations of conflict at sea were not codified until much later and, even then, are not binding on the signatories2.

It needs also to be noted that violations of humanitarian regulations and laws by most states have been documented during their wars with other states and in suppressing uprisings. The British did arm merchant ships during WW1 and also used them in a mine-sweeping capacity.

Looks like a drawing of the sinking RMS Leinster produced for a newspaper of the time (image sourced: https://www.postalmuseum.org/blog/the-centenary-of-the-sinking-of-rms-leinster/)

Also the Leinster, for example, sunk by German Uboat torpedoes on 10th October the same year as the Howth fishing boats, was carrying military personnel and armament and therefore in war terms a legitimate target.3

However, it is difficult to see how the fishing boats could be suspected of being armed merchantmen or even as ships supplying Britain and therefore equal to any ships attacked for breaching the Royal Navy blockade of Germany.

I am grateful to O’Connor for supplying me with the reference4 to the UK’s war-time restrictions obliging fishermen to ply their trade at 15 miles or further from its main ports, which included Dún Laoghaire and Dublin and therefore affected the Howth fishing fleet.

The U90’s captain may have suspected the British were using them as “spotters” for submarines in the area but even so, it is difficult to justify sinking without verifying radio equipment on board and especially without a dinghy to take the crew to safety ….!

German UC-1 class submarine surfaced with crew (Photo sourced: Internet)

In that respect it seems the U90 might have been in violation of agreed measures for the protection of civilians at sea in time of war by destroying civilian fishing vessels.

On the question of warning, although there were no survivors of the Geraldine, the available evidence is that the Captain of the U90 did warn before sinking shipping and had done so in a number of cases including another fishing boat on the same day.

But all was grist to the British war propaganda media and even, especially in the case of Ireland, to its colonial purposes in attacking its main anti-colonial opponents of the time, Irish Republicans.

Of course too, left unmentioned was the fact that the UK was attacking German civilians through blockading food imports5 and threatening and impounding any blockade-breaking ships (except those of the USA6).

Blockades and sanctions have cost many lives over the years – the UK blockaded the Spanish Republic during the Anti-Fascist War which did not impede Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy hugely supplying arms, aircraft and men to the military-fascist troops.

The USA imposed sanctions on Cuba for decades and Iraq for some years; in the latter case, by 1996 an estimated half million children had died as a result, a figure justified by Madeleine Albright, then USA Ambassador to the UN7.

Israel is permanently blockading Gaza in Palestine by land, air and sea – Egypt is participating too with its control over one gate. NATO sanctioned Russia which is now retaliating with some measures also.

Interestingly, O’Connor records that British war propaganda had little effect in 1918 on majority Irish opinion and even the Howth fishermen’s representative condemned the UK Admiralty for the mortal danger in obliging fishermen to ply their trade beyond 15 miles from shore8.

The UK General Election results in Ireland six weeks later would be a convincing illustration of how the vast majority of the population was thinking.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1It would be interesting to know whether it entered the heads of any editors that the British military had bombarded the city centre of Dublin with a number of land and sea-born artillery pieces just two years earlier, without any attempt of warning to the civilian population whatsoever.

2https://casebook.icrc.org/law/naval-warfare

3The Wikipedia entry on the sinking of the the Leinster, while acknowledging the nearly 500 military personnel on board, does not common on this negation of the ship’s civilian status. It does not mention the gun mounted on it either, which is noted in this record https://www.rmsleinster.com/sinking/sinking.htm

4See Appendix for details on this (thanks to Phillip O’Connor).

5The 1994 San Remo Manual states:

102. The declaration or establishment of a blockade is prohibited if:
a) it has the sole purpose of starving the civilian population or denying it other objects essential for its survival.

103. If the civilian population of the blockaded territory is inadequately provided with food and other objects essential for its survival, the blockading party must provide for free passage of such foodstuffs and other essential supplies.

6Vide O’Connor The Road to Independence (2016) [Howth Free Press]

7https://www.newsweek.com/watch-madeleine-albright-saying-iraqi-kids-deaths-worth-it-resurfaces-1691193

8The Road to Independence (2016) [Howth Free Press], p.52.

SOURCES

The Road to Independence (2016) [Howth Free Press]

British naval blockade of Germany: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blockade_of_Germany#:~:text=The%20British%2C%20with%20their%20overwhelming,to%20be%20a%20war%20zone%2C

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

Merchant shipping in wartime: https://casebook.icrc.org/glossary/merchant-shipping

https://casebook.icrc.org/law/naval-warfare

Sinking of the Leinster: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMS_Leinster
https://www.rmsleinster.com/sinking/sinking.htm

APPENDIX

   To regulate the security risk of fishing around Ireland during the war the Admiralty thought it necessary to divide the coasts into security zones. These zones had various levels of regulation and protection. Areas were either licensed by special permit, which allowed fishermen to fish these areas under restriction or were simply designated as areas where fishing was prohibited. Orders directly issued by the Admiralty were passed on to the fishermen through the D.A.T.I. via Notices to Mariners (NA G/12 (1917) & G/20/5 (1918). 

Fishing was generally prohibited several miles from headlands, as it was a favourite spot for lurking U-boats. It was also prohibited around minefields, which were used to protect the coast and divert traffic into safer zones for escorts. It was also prohibited around naval bases and near convoy meeting points. And traditionally it was always prohibited in sea-lanes where there was heavy sea traffic. It was prohibited in many areas between sunset and sunrise, (a term still used in modern Rules Of the Road) and also known as “dark hours”. If any security measure presented itself, fishing could also be prohibited at short notice for whatever reason by word of mouth on the local naval authority shoreside or naval authority at sea. The Admiralty also had the right to commandeer vessels and/or cargo space also at short notice. The Admiralty later ordered that if the fishermen sighted enemy submarines they were to stop their fishing activity and go immediately to inform the closest naval authority whether at sea or ashore. This made fishing more difficult, costly and dangerous and particularly annoying to Irish fishermen with national sentiments.

The Admiralty even warned that a failure to comply might lead them to be fired on by naval vessels. Immediately affecting Howth fishermen was the prohibition of fishing within fifteen miles of Kingstown. This area roughly to the NW of Kingstown and roughly a few miles off Howth Head was a favourite bait procurement ground for Howth fishermen but also fell within range of most of their local fishing grounds.

     In March 1917 the following rules affected fishermen fishing the East coast of Ireland but in particular Howth fishermen were as follows:

All decked and motorboats fishing anywhere between Ballywalter, Co. Down, and Howth, or anywhere between Wicklow Head and Loop Head, must carry official permits to fish. Between Ballywalter, the Isle of Man, and Howth, such boats may fish by day and by night at any distance from land within the limits of their permits.

They are forbidden to be stopped in or to pass during dark hours through waters where no fishing is allowed.

Moored nets may be left out at night, provided that the head ropes are kept five feet or more below the surface.

(Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction for Ireland. Notice to Fishermen. Effective 1 March 1917. Wt.-865. 250. 2/17)

     Later rules came into effect in 1918 for the locality, one of which was fishing could only be conducted within daylight hours in this area.