Salaam Alikum (we hope that’s right, we had to go to a Pakistani shop and ask the staff and write it down as we heard it – that was after the Indian shop where they said they were Hindu, not Muslim; it’s all very confusing to us Catholics).
We just wanted to drop you a quick note to express our support for your tweets that the Covid19 vaccines from the USA and UK are “completely untrustworthy”. Not only that but we would like you to know ALL Covid 19 vaccines are and when you understand that hopefully you will stop Iran from producing its own.
In the first place, Covid19 is just a kind of ‘flu and the sickness and death figures are just plain made up. We don’t understand how they can get away with claiming nearly 89 million cases of infection from it in the world and two million dead! In the second place, they use the vaccine to pump nano machines in your body so they can check where you are going and control you, get you to believe anything they want, even the craziest of things. That is not what God – sorry, Allah – intended. I mean it’s not in the Bible, is it? Nor, we’d bet, in the Koran either.
Now that our World Leader is being forced to vacate the Presidency of the USA, we wondered whether you would like to be our sponsor. You’d have supporters all over the USA and in many parts of Europe.
Some Antifa, Republican and BLM terrorists may have told you lies about us joining an anti-Muslim protest last year at a celebration of Eid at Croke Park (that’s an Irish kind of football stadium in Dublin), which was accusing Muslims of making Irish butchers go halal and marrying underage girls and things. Which is just liberal-communist propaganda and anyway, anyone can make a mistake, right? And as Dee Wall (that’s the celebrity name of Dolores Webster, one of our leaders) said at the GPO, it’s not Muslims’ fault if the Government lets the GAA lend the stadium to a group of Muslims, is it? The GPO is where have our rallies without masks or “social distancing” but the Irish Guards don’t bother us – you have Islamic Guards in Iran too, don’t you?.
We hope you will consider sponsoring our world-wide movement and in particular our Irish branch. According to a number of prominent Irish people like Niall McConnell, Gemma O’Doherty, Justin Barret and Glen Miller, Ireland is full of Muslims so you’d feel kind of at home with a real Irish fáwltche (that’s Irish for “welcome”). We could even arrange for you to do a live linkup broadcast to be projected on the General Post Office building where we’ve been holding Saturday rallies. That would be just brilliant.
We hope you will give this your best consideration.
Michael Quill forever changed labor relations in the USA. The founder of the powerful union representing New York City’s bus and subway workers, Quill’s numerous achievements helped transform the lives of millions of workers by his setting national standards for equal pay for women and minorities, health benefits and paid medical leave. However, it was his leadership of the 1966 Transit Strike that made “Red Mike Quill” a celebrity, famous for defying the Mayor and a jail sentence, when Quill shut down public transportation in the nation’s largest city.
Born in 1905 into a humble, Gaelic-speaking family in rural Kilgarvan, Co. Kerry, which was restive under British rule, Quill inherited his desire to fight for justice from his father. “My father,” recalled Quill, “knew where every fight against an eviction had taken place in all the parishes around.”
During the War of Independence, the fifteen-year-old Quill fought in the 3rd Battalion, Kerry No. 2 Brigade of the Irish Republican Army. On a solo scouting mission, Quill stumbled on a patrol of Black and Tans asleep in a ditch. Instead of fleeing, he quietly stole all their ammunition, gleefully returning home with his stolen loot.
During the war, Quill fought bravely and met almost all the top military leaders, providing him the rare opportunity of personally knowing many of Ireland’s most famous patriots. The war also started in Quill a lifelong animosity towards the Catholic Church. While on the run, Mike and his brother were gutted when their parish priest refused their request for temporary amnesty to attend their mother’s funeral.
Opposed to the Treaty creating the Free State with a partitioned British colony, Quill fought against Michael Collins’ National Army and in the conflict Kerry Republicans suffered greatly, especially at Ballyseedy, where 23 anti-Treaty fighters were murdered with dynamite by Free State soldiers. That fight’s unbelievable brutality and injustice never left Quill.
Being on the wrong side of the Treaty, Quill, unable to find work, left for America, arriving in New York the day before St. Patrick’s Day in 1926 with just $3.42 in his pocket. Through his uncle who was a subway conductor, Quill got a job on the Interborough Rapid Transit company (which ran the original subway system in New York), first as a night gateman, then as a clerk or “ticket chopper”. The IRT quickly employed many of Quill’s comrades who were also ex- anti-Treaty fighters. Moving from station to station, Quill got to know many IRT employees. He learned they craved dignity and wanted to be treated like human beings, but Quill knew this meant fighting. He said, “You will get only what you are strong enough to take. You will have to fight for your rights—they will never be given to you. And you cannot win if you fight alone.”
While working night shifts, Quill, who had only attended national school, used dead time to read labor history, especially the works of James Connolly. To fight the low pay, terrible working conditions and long hours of I.R.T workers, Quinn used Connolly, the leader of the Transport Workers Union in Dublin, executed by the British for his role in the 1916 Rising, as his inspiration, and Connolly’s ideas guided Quill throughout his life. Like Connolly, Quill believed that economic power precedes political power, and that the only effective means of satisfying the workers’ demands is the creation of an independent labor party, which creates and supports strong unions. He would honor Connolly by also calling his American union the Transportation Workers Union and years later, as president of the TWU, Quill only had two pictures on his office wall, Abraham Lincoln and James Connolly.
In his union-organizing activities, Quill got the cold shoulder from many established Irish-American organizations. “When we first started to organize the union, we asked for help from the Knight of Columbus and the Ancient Order of Hibernians”, he said. “We were booed and booted out. The Irish organizations did nothing for us, and the Church campaigned actively against us.”
Rejected by mainstream Irish Americans, Quill was embraced by the American Communist Party, which helped him obtain the money, the mimeograph machines and the manpower to launch the Transport Workers Union. Quill, though, merely used the Communists, while knowing he wanted no part of them. When they thought he should attend “Workers School” for indoctrination, Quill told them he needed no indoctrination and soon left the party.
Fearing anti-union informers, Quill organized the TWU, using the methods of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, a secret Fenian society dedicated to a violent rising against British rule. Employing cells of five so that no man knew the names of more than four other workers in the organization, messages were also sent in half-Gaelic and half-English to confuse company spies, known as “beakies.” One night, the “beakies” attacked Quill and five other activists in a tunnel as they were returning from picketing the IRT’s offices. Falsely arrested over the incident for incitement to riot, Quill gained huge notoriety amongst his fellow workers and the charges were eventually dismissed. On April 12, 1934, fighting back against 12 hour days, six days a week, at 66 cents an hour, Quill and six other men formed the T.W.U.
Quill soon became union President and succeeded in getting his union into the American Federation of Labor. He then began unionizing the other transportation companies of New York. In January 1937, the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Coorporation dismissed two boiler room engineers from their power plant in Brooklyn for their union activity. Quill immediately called a successful sit-down strike and the BMT had to reinstate the men, which further raised Quill’s standing amongst the rank and file.
At a time in American history when bigotry and discrimination were commonplace, Quill became famous for fighting prejudice. An ardent opponent of the pro-Fascist Fr. Coughlin, Quill said, “Anti-Semitism is not the problem of the Jewish people alone. It is an American problem, a number one American problem.” He also fought for African Americans against the prejudice of many in his own union. He explained, “The bosses hired you and the same bosses hired the blacks. You are on one payroll; you come to work and leave through the same gate; you punch the same time clock. Unless there is one union to protect all of you, the employer will train these men and use them to displace you—at half your wages.”
Quill became an early ally of Martin Luther King who referred to Quill as “a fighter for decent things all his life” who “spent his life ripping the chains of bondage off his fellow man.” Quill once asked, “Do you know what I’m most proud of? That in TWU we have eliminated racial discrimination in hiring and in promotions and within the union’s ranks. Blacks, Hispanics, Orientals, American Indians and women are holding appointive and elective office.”
STRIKE AND JAIL
Perhaps Quill’s finest hour was during the Transit Strike of 1966. Newly-elected patrician Mayor john Lindsay wanted to get tough with Quill and the TWU. Journalist Jimmy Breslin summarized the conflict succinctly: “…[Lindsay] was talking down to old Mike Quill, and when Quill looked up at John Lindsay he saw the Church of England. Within an hour, we had one hell of a transit strike.”
Quill attacked the Mayor just as if he were a British soldier, chiding Lindsay for his “abysmal lack of knowledge of the fundamentals of labor relations.” He castigated Lindsay as “a pipsqueak, a juvenile” and jested: “We explored his mind yesterday and found nothing there.” To add insult to injury Quill intentionally repeatedly mispronounced the mayor’s name as “Linsley,” proving that even in the heat of battle Quill never lost his sense of humor.
Then Lindsay made a fatal mistake, jailing Quill, who defiantly said, “The judge can drop dead in his black robes!” While in prison, Quill suffered another heart attack and was sent to the worst of city hospitals. The only person who called Mrs. Quill asking if he could help was Senator Robert F. Kennedy of New York. No other politician inquired about the stricken Quill. While Quill was in the hospital a deal was reached granting the TWU a 15% wage increase along with improvements in the health, welfare and pension systems. In all, it was a great victory. The strike over, he was released from police custody, but just three days later Quill died at age sixty with many claiming that the stress of the strike led to his premature passing.
Mike Quill left an enduring legacy. Today the Transport Workers Union is composed of an estimated 60 percent minorities and Quill is still revered within it. He had an inclusive vision of labor, which minority workers respected, strengthening the movement. Pete Seeger dedicated a ballad to Quill and producers Macdara Vallely and Paul Miller have made a biographical film about Quill entitled Which side are you on?
POSTSCRIPT: Mike Quill and Vice-Admiral Nelson
In the Dublin City Centre, in the middle of its main street, is a curious steel erection which most people call “The Spire”. But from 1809 until 1966, something else stood there: a granite column with the English naval hero Nelson atop it, very much in the style of the one that stands in London’s Trafalgar Square today.
About 50 metres away from what was colloquially called “The Pillar” stands the General Post Office building, which operated as the command HQ of the 1916 Easter Rising and is therefore a traditional gathering place for State and other commemorations of the Rising.
As the 50th Anniversary of the Rising drew near, Mike Quill contacted Dublin City Council and offered to have the statue removed for free and replaced with a more suitable monument. Quill’s first choice was a statue of Jim Larkin, who led his and Connolly’s Irish Transport and General Workers Union in resisting the 8-month Dublin Lockout – the tram crews had walked off their vehicles once they reached the Pillar and Dublin Metropolitan Police had run riot against the people in O’Connell Street shortly afterwards on Bloody Sunday 1913. But Quill offered the Council other options too. A private trust and not Dublin City Council owned Nelson’s Column, he was informed and there the matter rested. Until, on 8th March 1966, the Pillar was blown up by Saor Éire, a socialist split from the Irish Republican Movement, in advance of the 50th Anniversary commemorations.
Racists and Fascists, posing as Irish “patriots”, malign migrants to Ireland and target them in racist propaganda. This is a fundamentally unpatriotic activity, flying against not only our own huge history of migration to other lands but also against the great history of migrants’ contribution to the struggle for Irish independence and socialism.
Of the Seven Signatories of the 1916 Proclamation of Independence, two were migrants and a third was the son of a migrant. Of the sixteen of the Rising executed by the English, two were migrants (Connolly and Clarke), another two were sons of migrants (Pearse brothers) and at least six bore family names of foreign ancestry (Casement, Ceannt, Clarke, Colbert, Kent, Plunkett). Numerous migrants took part in the 1916 Rising, mostly from England and Scotland but also some from the USA, one from Argentina, another from Finland and yet another from Sweden).
Constance Markievicz (nee Gore-Booth), feminist, Irish Republican, Socialist, officer in the Irish Citizen Army, first woman elected to the British Parliament, first female Minister of the Dáil and first Labour Minister in the world, was born in England; she was sentenced to death in 1916 by the English but had her sentence commuted. Volunteer Eamon De Valera, a 1916 Rising garrison Commander, was born in the USA to an Irish mother and a Cuban father. The captain of the Asgard yacht that delivered the Mauser rifles for the 1916 Rising was an Englishman, Erskine Childers and among the crew were his wife Molly from the USA and Mary Spring Rice (born London). Childers fought in the War of Independence and the Civil War and was executed by the Irish Free State in 1922.
Jim Larkin, trade union organiser and Lockout resistance leader, who was in the USA during the Rising, was co-founder of the Irish Transport & General Workers’ Union and of the Irish Citizen Army, also of the Irish Labour Party. Larkin was born and raised in Liverpool and did not see Ireland until sent to Belfast by his England-based trade union.
A LONG HISTORY OF MIGRANT CONTRIBUTION TO IRISH STRUGGLES
The aforesaid should not surprise us as migrants have often participated in struggles for freedom and social progress in their adopted countries and they and their descendants have a long history of taking up those struggles in Ireland – often sacrificing their liberty and even their lives in doing so.
Patrick Sarsfield, a hero of the resistance to William of Orange in the army of James II was of Anglo-Norman descent (he was a prominent member of the Wild Geese and was killed in military service abroad in 1683).
Nearly all the leaders of the Society of United Irishmen, the first Republican revolutionary organisation of Ireland, were Protestants of various sects and descendants of migrants. Henry and Mary Joy McCracken were active in saving Irish traditional melodies; their ancestors were Huguenots (French Protestant refugees). Henry Joy was executed publicly in Belfast by the English in 1798, his sister walking hand-in-hand with him to the gallows. General Henry Munro, another Antrim Unitedmen leader, also executed in 1798, was of Scottish descent. Theobald Wolfe Tone, Anglican co-founder of the Unitedmen and often described as the “father of Irish Republicanism”, was also of Huguenot ancestry; he died in jail in Dublin, while his brother Matthew was hanged. Edward Fitzgerald, another leader of the Unitedmen who died of his injuries in a Dublin jail, was a Protestant and descendant of Norman invaders.
Robert Emmet, another famous United Irishman but martyred in 1803, bore a surname of English origin as did one of his prominent comrades, Thomas Russell (“The Man from God Knows Where”), also executed by the English that year.
The Young Irelanders were the next Irish Republican organisation in history, their leaders a mixture of Protestant and Catholic background. One of the most famous was Thomas Davis, the son of a Welshman in the British Army and an Irish woman descended from Irish chieftain Ó Súilleabháin Béara. Davis founded The Nation newspaper and composed a number of poems and songs, some of the latter being still sung today (e.g A Nation Once Again and The West’s Awake).
James Stephens and a handful of others founded the Irish Republican Brotherhood on 17th March 1858 in Dublin, the third Irish Republican organisation in Irish history and the life of which extended into the 1920s. Stephens is a family name of Anglo-Norman origin.
John Devoy of the Irish Republican Brotherhood in the USA, who was very active in supporting the 1916 Rising and the War of Independence, carried a family name of Welsh origin. Wales was also the likely origin of the of Michael Davitt’s family name, he who was chief organiser of the Land League’s base membership.
Volunteers Terence McSwiney and Kevin Barry, who both died in the same week in 1920, the first on hunger strike and the second hanged by the English, had family names of foreign origin.
WHO IS NOT A DESCENDANT OF MIGRANTS?
Of course, we are ALL descendants of migrants. The earliest date for human occupation of parts of Ireland has been calculated as being 7,000 BCE. Since the earliest date given for the existence of homo sapiens is 300,000 years ago in the Horn of Africa (although throwing spears in Germany have been assessed as being between 380,000 and 400,000 years old), it follows that human settlement in Ireland was comparatively late and that all Irish are descended from migrants.
Stone age people arrived first, then the metal workers of bronze, followed by people of Celtic culture working iron. Subsequently Ireland saw influxes of other groups, from Norse and Danes when they began to settle in parts of Ireland, followed by their cousins based in Normandy (and mercenaries they brought with them), then English and so on. Religious groups seeking security such as Jews or fleeing persecution, for example the Huguenots, also entered at various times. Just a study of family names common in the Ireland of today reveals some of those ancestries.
The Norse, Danes, Normans and early English came as invaders, some more came subsequently as planters and many others came just to make a living in Ireland, like most migrants of today. But descendants of all those groups, including of invaders and planters, contributed to and even led the struggle for Irish independence and social progress. Not only that but a significant number of those who arrived as migrants themselves took a stand for Irish independence, some of them paying the ultimate price.
Far from being “patriotic”, maligning migrants simply for being migrants is counter to the history of the general struggle for Irish independence and of Irish Republicanism in particular. It actually undermines the unfinished struggle for Irish independence and unification as well, of course, as the struggle of the working people for socialism.
TRADUCCIÓN AL CASTELLANO:
LOS INMIGRANTES EN LA HISTORIA IRLANDESA
Los racistas y fascistas, haciéndose pasar por “patriotas” irlandeses, atacan a los inmigrantes en Irlanda en su propaganda racista. Esta actividad es fundamentalmente antipatriótica, que vuela no solo contra nuestra enorme historia de migración a otras tierras sino también contra la gran historia de la contribución de los inmigrantes a la lucha por la independencia y el socialismo irlandés.
De los Siete Signatarios de la Proclamación de Independencia de 1916, dos eran inmigrantes y un tercero era hijo de un inmigrante. De los dieciséis del Azamiento ejecutados por los ingleses, dos eran inmigrantes (Connolly y Clarke), otros dos eran hijos de inmigrantes (hermanos Pearse) y al menos seis tenían apellidos de ascendencia extranjera (Casement, Ceannt, Clarke, Colbert, Kent, Plunkett). Numerosos inmigrantes participaron en el Alzantamiento de 1916, principalmente de Inglaterra y Escocia, pero también algunos de los EEUU, uno de Argentina, otro de Finlandia y otro de Suecia).
Constance Markievicz (soltera Gore-Booth), feminista, republicana irlandesa, socialista, oficial del ejército ciudadano irlandés y primera mujer elegida para el Parlamento británico, la primera mujer ministra del Parlamento irlandés y primera ministra femenina de trabajo del mundo, nació en Inglaterra; fue condenada a muerte en 1916 por los ingleses, pero la conmutaron la pena. El voluntario Eamon De Valera, un comandante de la guarnición del Azamiento de 1916, nació en los Estados Unidos de una madre irlandesa y un padre cubano. El capitán del yate Asgard que entregó los fusiles Mauser para el Alzamiento de 1916 era un inglés, Erskine Childers y entre la tripulación estaban su esposa Molly (de los Estados Unidos) y Mary Spring Rice (nacida en Londres). Childers luchó en la Guerra de la Independencia y la Guerra Civil y fue ejecutado por el Estado Libre de Irlanda en 1922.
Jim Larkin, organizador sindical y líder de la resistencia al Cierre Patronal, que estuvo en los EEUU durante el Alzamiento, fue cofundador del Sindicato de Trabajadores Generales y de Transporte de Irlanda y del Ejército de Ciudadanos de Irlanda, también del Partido Laborista. Larkin nació y creció en Liverpool y no vio Irlanda hasta estar enviado a Belfast por su sindicato con sede en Inglaterra.
UNA LARGA HISTORIA DE CONTRIBUCIÓN MIGRANTE A LAS LUCHA IRLANDESA
Lo anterior no debería sorprendernos, ya que los migrantes a menudo han participado en luchas por la libertad y el progreso social en sus países adoptados y ellos y sus descendientes tienen una larga historia de asumir esas luchas en Irlanda, a menudo sacrificando su libertad e incluso sus vidas al hacerlo. .
Patrick Sarsfield, un héroe de la resistencia a Guillermo Naranja en el ejército de Jaime II de Gran Bretaña, era de ascendencia anglo-normanda (era un miembro destacado de los “Gansos Silvestes” y fue asesinado en el servicio militar en el extranjero en 1683).
Casi todos los líderes de la Sociedad de Irlandeses Unidos, la primera organización revolucionaria republicana de Irlanda, eran protestantes de varias sectas y descendientes de inmigrantes. Henry y Mary Joy McCracken fueron activos en salvar las melodías tradicionales irlandesas; sus antepasados eran hugonotes (refugiados protestantes franceses). Henry Joy fue ejecutado públicamente en Belfast por los ingleses en 1798, su hermana caminó de la mano con él hacia la horca. El general Henry Munro, otro líder de Los Irelandeses Unidos de Antrim, también ejecutado en 1798, era de ascendencia escocesa. Theobald Wolfe Tone, cofundador anglicano de los Irelandeses Unidos y a menudo descrito como el “padre del republicanismo irlandés”, también era de ascendencia hugonote; murió en la cárcel de Dublín, mientras que su hermano Matthew fue ahorcado. Edward Fitzgerald, otro líder de los Irelandeses Unidos que murió por sus heridas en una cárcel de Dublín, era protestante y descendiente de invasores normandos.
Robert Emmet, otro famoso de los Irelandeses Unidos pero martirizado en 1803, tenía un apellido de origen inglés, al igual que uno de sus camaradas prominentes, Thomas Russell (“The Man from God Knows Where”), también ejecutado por los ingleses ese año.
Los Jóvenes Irlandeses fueron la próxima organización republicana irlandesa, sus líderes una mezcla de antecedentes protestantes y católicos. Uno de los más famosos fue Thomas Davis, hijo de un galés en el ejército británico y una mujer irlandesa descendiente del jefe irlandés Ó Súilleabháin Béara. Davis fundó el periódico The Nation y compuso una serie de poemas y canciones, algunas de las cuales todavía se cantan hoy (por ejemplo, A Nation Once Again y The West’s Awake).
James Stephens y un puñado de otros fundaron la Hermandad Republicana Irlandesa el 17 de marzo de 1858 en Dublín, la tercera organización republicana irlandesa en la historia de Irlanda y cuya vida se extendió hasta la década de 1920. Stephens es un apellido de origen anglo-normando.
John Devoy, de la Hermandad Republicana Irlandesa en los EEUU, que fue muy activo en el apoyo al Alzamiento de 1916 y la Guerra de la Independencia, llevaba un apellido de origen galés, lo qual también fue el origen probable del apellido de Michael Davitt, el principal organizador de la membresía base de la Liga de la Tierra.
Los Voluntarios del IRA Terence McSwiney y Kevin Barry, quienes murieron en la misma semana en 1920, el primero en huelga de hambre y el segundo ahorcado por los ingleses, tenían apellidos de origen invasor.
¿QUIÉN NO ES UN DESCENDENTE DE MIGRANTES?
Por supuesto, TODOS somos descendientes de migrantes. La fecha más temprana para la ocupación humana de partes de Irlanda se calculó ser en 7,000 aC. Dado que la fecha más temprana dada para la existencia del homo sapiens es hace 300,000 años en lo que hoy es Marruecos, se deduce que el asentamiento humano en Irlanda fue relativamente tarde y que todos los irlandeses son descendientes de migrantes.
Primero llegaron personas de la edad de piedra, luego los trabajadores metalúrgicos de bronce, seguidos por gente de la cultura celta que trabajaban el hierro. Posteriormente, Irlanda vio la afluencia de otros grupos, de nórdicos y daneses cuando comenzaron a establecerse en partes de Irlanda, seguidos por sus primos con sede en Normandía (y mercenarios que trajeron con ellos), luego ingleses, etc. Los grupos religiosos que buscaban seguridad como los judíos o huían de la persecución, por ejemplo los hugonotes, también ingresaron en varios momentos. Un estudio de apellidos comunes en la Irlanda de hoy basta para revelar algunos de esos antepasados.
Los nórdicos, daneses, normandos y los primeros ingleses llegaron como invasores, algunos más llegaron posteriormente como plantadores y muchos otros vinieron para ganarse la vida en Irlanda, como la mayoría de los inmigrantes de hoy. Pero los descendientes de todos esos grupos, incluidos los invasores y plantadores, contribuyeron e incluso lideraron la lucha por la independencia de Irlanda y el progreso social. No solo eso, sino que un número significativo de los que llegaron como migrantes tomaron posición por la independencia de Irlanda, algunos de ellos pagando el precio final.
Lejos de ser “patriótico”, difamar a los migrantes simplemente por ser migrantes es contrario a la historia de la lucha general por la independencia de Irlanda y del republicanismo irlandés en particular. De hecho, mina la lucha todavía inconclusa por la independencia y la unificación irlandesa, así como, por supuesto, la lucha de los trabajadores por el socialismo.
That’s how the brief conversation started, with the elderly woman in front of me in the queue for a service desk asking me that question.
“Yes,” I replied, thinking she might be from abroad and looking for information of some sort.
She wasn’t from abroad and she wasn’t looking for information but was seeking my solidarity with her viewpoint.
“These fucking foreigners,” she began and I didn’t hear the rest because I interrupted her.
“I don’t want to hear anything more about ‘these fucking foreigners’. Thousands, no millions of Irish people have been ‘fucking foreigners’ in other countries around the world and I don’t have any problem with migrants coming here.”
“You don’t?” (looking at me aggressively).
“I know what I’m talking about,” she says.
“So do I. I’ve been a ‘fucking foreigner’ myself for decades.”
“You must have your head up your arse.”
“If you continue insulting me, madam, I will call security and have you removed. So if I were you, I’d button it.” (miming zipping mouth shut).
Eyeball to eyeball confrontation continues in silence for a few minutes before she turns to her companion and begins muttering to him. He might be her son and he appears emotionally challenged, his head bowed. He doesn’t seem to have a choice about whether to listen to her or not.
One service attendant, who is white and sounds Irish, is dealing with a couple who might be migrants; the other attendant is black and he is dealing with an elderly white woman. He is answering her questions and explaining things without any sign of impatience or condescension – possibly about a deal. I’m a little ashamed to admit it but I wish he’d hurry up.
The couple with the other attendant seem satisfied, shake hands with him and leave. The racist lady in front of me moves into place and begins to talk to the white, maybe Irish attendant.
I don’t hear what she is saying – she has her back to me – but I can hear snatches of what he is replying: “No madam ….. the company employs all different nationalities ….. No ….. No, Madam, sorry about that …. No, that’s how it is, madam ….. sorry about that …. There’s another service station of our company at xxxxxx, you might wish to try there. Yes, goodbye now.”
I move up to the desk and tell the Irish attendant my experience with the racist woman (the other attendant is now dealing with someone else) and he explains that at first, she had been next to be served by the black attendant but had refused, insisting on her “right” to be served by an Irish person – and had rejoined the queue to do so!
Meanwhile, the Irish attendant was telephoning their service shop at xxxxxx to warn them the racist was on the way, explaining briefly what her problem with the service was and, when I chipped in, that she had been insulting another customer. Then he sorted out what I needed done, we shook hands and I left.
Maybe I handled it wrongly. Maybe this is what I should have said:
“Yes, madam, I am Irish and no, I don’t wish to hear your unkind from a humanitarian aspect, as well as scientifically, statistically and financially incorrect statements emanating from a prejudiced outlook you have acquired by some strange process and with which you might make many people unhappy, were you ever to get some power but which instead are much more likely to make you deeply unhappy for what remains of your sad life.”
The auditorium in Trinity College on Friday 20th June was nearly empty at the advertised starting time for the lecture on “The Legacy of Power, Conflict and Resistance”. The start was delayed and more people came in but, by the time the speaker and the theme was introduced, the hall was still not full. That was surprising, because the speaker was Bernadette Mc Alliskey (nee Devlin), who had been at 18 years of age one of the leaders of the Civil Rights movement in the Six Counties (“Northern Ireland”), at 21 years of age elected MP for Mid-Ulster in 1969 and still, 45 years later, holding the record for the youngest woman ever elected to the British Parliament.
The same year as her election, Bernadette went to the USA to gather support for the Civil Rights movement in a trip being used by others, rumouredly, to gather funds for arms. She shocked the conservative part of Irish USA, Ancient Order of Hibernians and Democratic Party political allies, by some of her statements and actions regarding blacks and chicanos and in visiting a Black Panthers project. Bernadette returned home to serve a short prison sentence after conviction for “incitement to riot” arising from her role in the defence of Derry against police (RUC and B-Specials) and Loyalist attack.
In 1972, during her five-year tenure as a Member of Parliament, enraged by his comments about the murder a few days previously of 13 unarmed protesters (a 14th died later of his wounds) by the Parachute Regiment in Derry, she stormed up to the then British Home Secretary and, in front of a full House of Commons, slapped him in the face. Bernadette had been there in Derry that terrible day – she was to have addressed the anti-internment march upon which the Paras opened fire.
The Tyrone woman was also a founder-member of the Irish Republican Socialist Party in 1974, which she left after failing to bring the armed organisation, the Irish National Liberation Army, under party control. She continued to be a Left-Republican political activist, in particular campaigning against the treatment of Republicans on arrest and subsequently as prisoners in jail, in the H-Blocks Campaign. She learned to speak Irish. In January 1981, she and her husband Michael McAlliskey were the victims of an assassination attempt by a squad of the “Ulster Freedom Fighters” (a cover name for the Ulster Defence Association, which was not banned until 1992). They both survived, though Bernadette had been shot seven times.
In 1996, while four months pregnant, Bernadette’s daughter was arrested on a German extradition warrant, charging her with being part of a Provisional IRA mortar attack on a British Army base in Osnabruck, Germany. Although taken to England, where a judge agreed to her extradition to Germany, a long and vigorous campaign fought by Roisín’s mother and her supporters eventually defeated the extradition and Roisín gave birth to a healthy daughter.
In 1998 and for some years after, Bernadette was an outspoken critic of Sinn Féin and of their direction in the “Peace Process”, which she saw as the party coming to accept British colonialism and Irish capitalism. In 2003 she was banned by the USA and deported, widely interpreted as being due to her speaking against the Good Friday Agreement, but continued her campaigning. However in 2007, another extradition warrant was issued for her daughter Roisín on the same charges as before and the young woman became emotionally ill. The whole trauma was seen by many as a warning to Bernadette to cease criticising the “new dispensation” and subsequently she was seen to fade from the ranks of public critics of the GFA, Sinn Féin and of the treatment of Republican prisoners.
Bernadette remained active through working with migrants in a not-for-profit organisation in Dungannon. In recent years she has returned, on occasion, to the issues upon which she was so outspoken previously, for example standing surety for Marian Price’s bail to attend her sister Dolores’ funeral and speaking at the ceremony herself. Bernadette also spoke at the Bloody Sunday Commemoration/ March for Justice in January this year in Derry.
With a c.v. of that sort, one would reasonably expect a packed auditorium.
Bernadette has walked the walk and thought the thought too but she can also talk the talk. With one A4 sheet in front of her, she spoke for over an hour, hardly ever glancing at her notes. Her talk was as part of Trinity College’s MPhil Alumni Conference on ‘Power, Conflict, Resistance’ organised by the Department of Sociology for its Mphil course in “Race, Ethnicity and Conflict”.
Bernadette McAlliskey began her talk with the theme of fear of conflict, developing the thesis that this fear is inculcated in us from childhood, as conflict arises out of challenging power and hierarchy. She traced this further back to religious indoctrination where dogma is to be accepted without question and finds its reflection in all aspects of life but particularly in the political.
Talking about Tom Paine, who expounded the theory that human beings, each independently, are responsible for themselves, she stated that this is fundamental to citizenship. Some aspects of this self-responsibility are delegated to institutions when we live in large groups but any decisions made for us without our consent are “an usurpation”. Tom Paine was an English Republican, author of, among other works Common Sense (1776) and The Rights of Man (1791). He had to flee England because of disseminating his ideas, which were considered revolutionary in his time.
Much of Bernadette’s talk was given over to this theme, to the lack of consideration of women even by such as Tom Paine, and also to the racism spread by colonialism, which the Christian hierarchies condoned and even encouraged.
When she finished to sustained applause and took questions, there were two from people identifying themselves as Travellers, another from a person from an NGO working with migrants, another regarding anti-Irish racism in English colonial ideology and the continuing power of the Catholic Church in the education system.
One question seemed to throw her and she admitted that she found it difficult to answer. Ronit Lentin, Jewish author, political sociologist and critic of Israeli Zionism asked Bernadette was it not true that racism in the Six Counties came mostly from within Loyalism, allied to anti-Catholic sectarianism. Bernadette struggled in replying, at one point denying it and pointing to anti-Traveller discrimination in the ‘nationalist’ areas but following this up by observing that Travellers would only camp in or near ‘nationalist areas’ (presumably because the hostility in a ‘unionist area’ would be worse).
Bernadette then went on to recall the recent anti-Muslim remarks made by a prominent Belfast evangelist preacher, James McConnell, and how the First Minister of Stormont, Peter Robinson, had defended the evangelist’s right to free speech. Asked for his own opinion of Muslims, the First Minister had replied that he also distrusted them “if they are fully devoted to Sharia law” but would trust them to go to the shop for his groceries and to bring him back the correct change. All the examples Bernadette drew on, apart from the generalised one about Travellers in ‘nationalist’ areas, were in fact from the Unionist sector.
The final question was from an SWP activist who pointed out that the State does not admit to its institutional racism and often takes no action on racist attacks or denies that the motive for the attack was racism. The activist asked Bernadette how she thought racism can be dealt with in this context. She replied that the legal structures are there and should be used and persisted with.
It seemed a strange response from one who would have described herself in the past as a revolutionary. Earlier in her talk she herself had quoted the black Caribbean lesbian, Audre Lorde, who said that the instruments of the State could not be used to dismantle it (actually I.V. Lenin had made the same point in The State and Revolution in 1917, nor was he the first to do so). A revolutionary’s answer to that question would presumably have been that while the structures should be used in order to expose them that ultimately the capitalist State’s power is the enemy of unity among the people; disunity rather than unity among the people is in the interest of the system. Mobilisation of the people against racism and directing them towards the source of their ills, the capitalist system, and building solidarity in action, is the only realistic way forward. Perhaps Bernadette felt constrained by the academic environment in which she was speaking but that is not the answer she gave.