After the Spanish police attack on voters in a referendum on independence in Catalunya1 on October 1st, People Before Profit2 Councillor Tina McVeigh put forward a motion condemning the attack and calling for the Catalan Flag to be flown over Dublin City Hall as a mark of solidarity with the Catalan people and their right to determine their future.
This was not such a wild step for the Council to take as it may seem: the Palestinian flag had been flown from City Hall in May, to the delight of most Dubliners but to the disgust of the Israeli Ambassador and to Zionist sympathiser and former Government Minister Alan Shatter. And Dublin city has been ‘twinned’ with Barcelona since 1998.
Nevertheless, in November the Protocol Committee agreed to recommend flying it by majority only, seven votes for and five against. It still had to be voted on by the whole Council and so went forward on to the agenda for the monthly meeting in December. Councillors began receiving emails from Spanish unionists asking them to vote against, which at first substantially outnumbered those in favour. As the first Monday in December drew nearer, the correspondence equalised between those in favour and those against. But the meeting ran over time before the motion was reached on the agenda and another date was set to discuss it. When the councillors reconvened, the motion was proposed, discussed and voted on. Unlike the decision on the Palestinian flag earlier this year, the vote was very close but the motion passed by three votes.
In January this year the Catalan flag was hoisted – the regional ensaya and not either of the independence esteladas3 – on top of City Hall, where it will fly for a month. City Hall is itself a historic site, having been part of a battleground during the 1916 Rising. On January 6th, Catalans and some supporters gathered outside City Hall to celebrate the show of solidarity in the flying of the Catalan flag.
Joan Pau of Casal Catala of Ireland4 welcomed the attendance and thanked the Councillors for flying the flag and introduced the Lord Mayor, Mícheál Mac Donncha, telling those present how he had approached the Catalans to help them. Mac Donncha (SF)5 thanked the Catalans for the invitation to attend and said that he was proud of the Council for the decision they had taken. He remarked also that in the past Ireland had political prisoners just like those now in Spanish jails for supporting the Catalan referendum and deplored elected officials of Catalunya being jailed for following the mandate of the people. He spoke also about Ireland’s fight for freedom and how in the 1916 Rising, Volunteers had taken over City Hall itself.
Joan Pau then expressed his regret that Cnclr. Tina McVeigh could not be present due to a family bereavement, since she had been very active in solidarity with the Catalan people. He introduced Cnclr. John Lyons (also PBP) who also expressed his pride on the result of the vote, as well as his condemnation of the Spanish Government, as distinct from the Spanish people, for their undemocratic and violent behaviour in the October 1st attacks and subsequently in the jailing of Catalan public representatives. He also condemned the Irish Government for not supporting the right of the Catalan people to self-determination.
Although a Spanish unionist had contacted the Council to threaten a counter-demonstration, there was no sign of any such presence throughout the ceremony. A number of passing tourists took photos (some even having themselves photographed with the group) and a number of passing motorists tooted their horns in solidarity.
After the formal part of the meeting was over, Dublin walking history tour guide Diarmuid Breatnach invited Catalans to gather around DCC’s plaque to the garrison of City Hall and surrounding buildings in 1916. The guide explained the origin of the Irish Citizen Army in the Dublin Lockout of 1913 as a workers’ defence militia against brutal attacks by the Dublin Metropolitan Police Force. It has been called “the first workers’ army” Breatnach told them and drew attention also to it being the only one of the various organisations taking part in the Rising that formally gave equal status to men and women. There were women officers in the ICA and after the killing of the commandant of this garrison Seán Connolly, it was a woman who took over as commandant. The fighting here had been fierce as Dublin Castle is just next door and that had been the HQ of the British Occupation of Ireland since 1169.
After receiving answers to a few questions, many of those present retired to a local pub to warm up and to carry on conversation on a number of topics, in the best Irish – and Catalan – manner. Up above, the Catalan flag on the east side of City Hall’s roof waved in the breeze, with the Irish tricolour next to it, in the centre, waving too.
1Catalunya is considered part of wider nation called Paisos Catalans (Catalan Countries) which includes Valencia, the Balearic Islands and parts of Aragon and Murcia; most of it lies within the current territory of the Spanish state, with a small part within the French state. Catalunya (capital Barcelona) is one of the regions within the Spanish state with limited autonomy and it is there that the referendum was held, the result mandating its Parlament to create and independent republic. The Spanish Government and Constitutional Court ruled the referendum illegal, confiscated ballot boxes, assaulted hundreds of voters, declared the referendum result non-valid, jailed a number of elected members and activists, threatened others with jail, ruled Catalunya directly Spain and called for new elections, which confirmed the situation more or less as before. The struggle is ongoing.
2People Before Profit was launched as a broad front by the Trotskyist organisation the Socialist Workers’ Party Ireland, formerly the Socialist Workers’ Movement, founded in 1971 and close to the SWP of Britain.
3There are two Catalan independence flags or estelladas: the Republican one with red stripes on a yellow background, with a small blue triangle to the left, containing a white star; the Socialist (or Communist) one, also with red stripes on a yellow background but with a red star to the left and no triangle. The regional ensaya, without any star, was proposed as the one least likely to cause division.
4Casal Catala are Catalan cultural associations that have been founded in a number of countries outside Catalunya.
5SF or Sinn Féin – the party is represented on Dublin City Council and tradition has it that the Lord Mayor is elected yearly in rotation from among the elected representatives; this Council year it was SF’s turn again.
The Report contains some very welcome elements which campaigners will appreciate, as well as being proud in bringing them about. But those elements are combined with some very dangerous ones, specifically in some of the recommendations at the end of the Report — and recommendations are the strongest part of any report. That combination of welcome and dangerous elements may or may not be specifically designed to split the forces campaigning for the conservation and appropriate development of the Moore Street Historic Quarter but it will almost certainly have that effect. This, taken together with the offending recommendations means that the Report in total is a dangerous and divisive document containing a number of significant recommendations which it seems to me we are duty bound to oppose.
The positive elements in the Report are bound to engender a touch of euphoria about the Report among many close and distant supporters of the broad campaign to save the Moore Street historical quarter. Those who do not read on to the Recommendations or who do not think them through.
Consequently there is bound to be an element of criticism of those who do not support it as a whole – epithets such as “begrudgers” or “Utopians” are bound to come to minds and even be hurled.
The temptation is to “win something” after many years of campaigning. Another temptation is to see the positive and imagine it contains more than it actually does, while ignoring the looming negatives. Junctures like this test campaigners, sometimes even more than decisions about whether to risk fines and jail by breaking the law when that seems the only viable action left to halt an injustice or to remedy one. There have been many difficult junctures like this in Irish history.
Indeed a number of occasions of this sort have occurred before in this very campaign.
A HISTORY OF APPARENT CONCESSIONS TO SPLIT OR DISCREDIT CAMPAIGNERS WHILE FACILITATING SPECULATORS
1) When there were murmurs in Government circles that No.16 might be saved some people were very happy and, indeed, one campaign FB page had been named “Save 16 Moore Street”. Others objected and stated that this was insufficient historical recognition of what had gone on there.
2) Again, when the State accorded protective and preservation status to Nos.14-17 in 2007, there was a similar reaction of euphoria and congratulation from many people. This was resisted by some campaigners who pointed out that almost at the same time, the giant shopping mall plan had been agreed by the local authority (and later by the State), which would see the rest of the block and the laneways demolished and that the historic buildings were being allowed to deteriorate. The ‘nay-sayers’ were proved correct on this occasion.
3) It is worth recalling that around this time, the property speculator involved (at that time only Joe O’Reilly of Chartered Land), proposed to turn the four houses into a museum upstairs with a cafe and toilets downstairs and to incorporate the whole into the giant shopping mall. He had the shoebox museum plan promoted in a flashy video and he succeeded in splitting the campaigning 1916 relatives group, bringing four of them (including one of James Connolly grandsons) out in favour of his proposal (a fact that the State and the media have regularly used to counter the objectives of the broader campaign).
4) In the summer of 2014, the speculator O’Reilly of Chartered Land, by this time being paid by NAMA to manage his debts, proposed to Dublin City Council to swap them two of the four protected houses for their two at the north end of the terrace, which was where the Council had their cleaning depot. The head of the Planning Department (also Deputy Chief Executive of the Council) Jim Keoghan and the Chief Executive Jim Keegan, unsurprisingly in view of their record, recommended the deal.
At this time, even some supporters of the broad campaign stated that campaigners should take the deal because it put four houses of preservation status into public ownership. Thankfully they were outvoted, since with those end-of-terrace buildings in his possession, the speculator would have been free to begin to demolish houses all the way at least up to No.18 – at total of seven houses and approximately half the terrace.
But a new campaign was launched specifically to defeat this deal, bringing a sustained weekly presence on Moore Street into being, along with a petition of thousands of signatures. As opposition to the deal gathered force, the speculator offered first a third house in the deal and finally a fourth. However with the assistance of lobbying of elected Councillors, the ‘land swap’ proposal was defeated in a vote by a large majority, much to the publicly-expressed disgust of Heather Humphreys, Minister with State responsibility for Heritage.
5) Towards the end of 2015, the State purchased the four dilapidated buildings from the speculator, reportedly paying him four million euro and promoted the deal as a great historic one, announcing that they would have a 1916 museum on the site.
Again, there was euphoria, with campaigners being congratulated on their victory. However, at this time a substantial number of campaigners from different concerned groups pointed out that this did nothing to save the rest of the block, yards and laneways, that the street market was being steadily degraded and that the plan for the museum seemed to be exactly the same as that proposed by the speculator.
It was actually worse than was thought by many of those campaigners, for in January it emerged that the State planned the demolition of three buildings in the 1916 terrace under the guise of making the “museum buildings” safe. The SMSFD campaign group raised the alarm and brought two demonstrations on to the street, after one of which many people occupied the buildings until a High Court Judge ruled that there be no demolition until a case taken against the State (to which the property speculators joined themselves) be decided, a decision that was enforced by a five-week activist blockade of the site.
6) Once again, there had been concerned people who argued that campaigners should accept the deal, “work with the museum”, that now the houses were in public ownership but many of those were silenced when the State plans were revealed. However, the occupiers were targeted by a number of media, a couple of prominent historians and columnists attacked them, Heather Humphreys labelled them hooligans and wreckers. The activists were accused of preventing the State from opening the museum in time for the Easter Rising commemorations that year (despite the many months of work needed for a commemoration only months away). They were accused of denying 1916 relatives an appropriate monument.
But it was clear on whose side the majority of the public was and it wasn’t with the State or the speculator. This was underlined not only by tens of thousands of petition signatures but by the reaction of many to activists loudly denouncing Minister Humphreys when, as part of the State’s 1916 commemorations, she came to lay a wreath outside a boarded-up No.16 Moore Street. The public’s reaction for the most part varied from “what did she expect?” to “serves her right!” and, perhaps sensing this, even the media’s response was muted and restricted to factual reporting.
On March 18th High Court Judge Barrett delivered his judgement that not only the whole terrace was a “national 1916 historical monument” but the whole block, and the street and three laneways surrounding it. Again there were wild celebrations, shared in by all campaigners but some urged caution as the Minister could appeal the judgement. They were right – she did, the case to open at the end of the year (unless she takes it to the Supreme Court, which she declared she was considering.
7) When the Minister set up the Minister’s Consultative Group on Moore Street, despite the fact that she put into it the 1916 relatives supporting the speculators’ plan, despite the fact that she excluded the most active groups of campaigners in recent years, despite the fact that the main political parties were to be represented, concerned people and excluded campaigners were told to have faith in it and even told that it was “the only game in town”.
Having reviewed the history of proposed deals of the past, it is now time to examine the one being offered now.
Conclusion 1, commenting on the struggle to save the Moore Street quarter, states that “the background …. has been one of dispute, mistrust and litigation. It has been characterised by deeply held and divergent views, frustration and ultimately stalemate. This has seen Moore St and environs further decline and a failure to progress the National Monument or the wider development of the area.”
While this has elements of truth it also has large elements of obfuscation, of muddying the waters, appearing to apportion blame equally or to imply that no-one is to blame or even perhaps blaming the campaigners for the decline of the buildings. This is quite important because in what follows some of the major villains in this drama are not only being ‘cleaned up’ but it is proposed to give them continuing roles of control in decision-making on the conservation and appropriate development of the Moore Street quarter.
Let us recall once again that the Planning Department of Dublin City Council, backed up by the State, supported the planning applications of property speculators which would have entailed the destruction of the historic quarter and the running down of the street market. The Dept of Heritage took no action until 2007 when it gave protected status to four buildings and took no steps to ensure the speculator maintained the buildings.
Towards the end of 2015 the Department of Heritage planned the demolition of a number of buildings in the historical quarter, a disaster averted by citizens occupying buildings there for five days in January 2016. Subsequently a nearly six-weeks’ blockade was imposed by citizens to prevent damage and demolition, because the Minister prevented and forbade the entry of any independent conservation experts or public representatives, including the Lord Mayor and a number of TDs.
The actions of the campaigners were to preserve historic heritage and to seek transparency. The actions of DCC’s Planning Department and of the State were to facilitate the property speculators, to defeat the aims of the campaigners and to conceal what they intended doing — and were in fact doing — in a number of buildings.
These differences between the opposing forces are important to recognise not only in setting the record straight but in deciding which bodies should and should not be given responsibilities with regard to the Moore Street Quarter.
Conclusion 2 goes on to claim for the Consultative Group set up by the Minister, the centre stage for a resolution of the conflict, as though it were some impartial mediating body. Excluded from Consultative Group were the National Graves Association, the first campaign group to raise the issue of the historical conservation in Moore Street, along with the most active campaigning groups of recent years (the Save Moore Street From Demolition and the Save Moore Street 2016 groups), also excluding a number of individual campaigners and concerned historians and conservation experts. It is true that a number of those groups and individuals were permitted to make submissions to the Consultative Group but they were not permitted any say in its final recommendations.
Conclusion 4 states that “the place of Moore St in the narrative of 1916 … is now better understood across a much wider range of interests than previously. The appreciation of the historic importance of the area and of the value attached to the dramatic events fought out there in the closing events of the week of 1916 is now more widely shared. The potential of the area to be developed as a place of cultural and historic importance therefore, alongside appropriate commercial development, offers, the Group believes, positive and substantive opportunity to move forward.”
But the Report has nothing to say about how this came about, which was by hard slogging and sacrifice by campaigners supported by ordinary people. And this happened in the teeth of opposition by the Department of Heritage and Dublin City Council officials and calumny and defamation by the Minister of Heritage of campaigners. Not only should this record be set straight but their history in this affair means that they should not be relied upon in controlling the development of the Quarter.
Conclusion 5 goes on to say that “In the event of consensus being secured on an agreed way forward for the development through dialogue by the Advisory/Oversight Group (see 17 below) with the developer, and agreed to by the Applicant and the State, the Group is strongly of the view that payment of legal costs, incurred by the Applicant’s legal team, by the State is warranted and appropriate. The Group has reached this conclusion after considerable reflection and having regard to the widely acknowledged public interest which informed the taking of the case and the savings which would accrue to the State by settlement through such a process.”
This is, in nuanced language, apart from seeking negotiation with a property speculator, a request to the person who took the case to not to defend it, with the inducement that the lawyers will get their fees and the litigant will not be out of pocket.
The State should of course bear the costs, both because of “the widely acknowledged public interest which informed the taking of the case” and because of the intransigence and obstructionism of the Minister of Heritage which led to the case being taken in the first place. And this should not be done as payment in some kind of sordid deal.
On the other hand, there is no mention whatsoever of the Minister dropping her appeal against the Moore Street Battlefield Quarter judgement that the whole quarter is a National 1916 Historical Monument. In fact the “settlement” envisaged is to give the Minister a clear run without the litigant who won that historic judgement defending it.
Recommendation 9 “supports the retention of Moore Street and adjacent lanes so as to broadly capture the sense of how it would have appeared in 1916 – this covers the street and lanes, key buildings, street paving and lighting. It recognises that this needs to be approached on a practical and authentic basis given that a number of structures in place actually postdate Independence. The preservation of the existing lines of the street and the lanes and the restoration of streetscapes are essential. “
All this seems good until we note words like “key buildings” and “structures in place …. postdate Independence”. Thus far the Minister has only conceded the historical importance of four buildings, Nos.14-17. And, although a number of buildings in the Quarter have been rebuilt since 1916, every single one contains the historical footprint of the 1916 occupation and resistance and every single one contains at least some structural feature of the original buildings.
And No.10, of which the Minister denies importance, was the first HQ of the Rising in Moore Street and field hospital of the evacuated GPO Garrison – and substantial parts of that building also remain intact.
Recommendation 10 actually concedes some of what I say above, albeit in timid language when it states that “… opportunities arise for the State to provide the centre point of historical focus and cultural celebration within 10 – 25 Moore St.”
Indeed, not only “opportunities exist” but the whole terrace should be maintained and developed as a “point of historical focus and cultural celebration”.But where is the recommendation that this actually be done?
Recommendation 15 states that “Critical to the renewal of the area is the regeneration of the Moore St market to its full potential. Particular recommendations in this regard are set out at Chapter 6.”
We should I think support nearly all of the recommendations in that section, i.e. all those that bring greater comfort, freedom from Market Inspector harassment and flexibility in regulations to the street traders. All the campaigners have stated that the market traders should have better conditions and that the market should be upgraded and one campaign group in particular, the Save Moore Street From Demolition campaign, perhaps because it is on that street at least every Saturday, has been very specific about including this in its demands since it was first formed.
Regrettably, the Report has nothing to say about the other independent businesses in the street. Moore Street has always contained shops and other business as well as stalls and it is regrettable that despite SMSFD’s submission commenting on this aspect, the Consultative Group had no representation from the independent shops and business and the Report has nothing at all to say about them, although small independent businesses are the key to regenerating an area by day and by night.
Indeed, other than the street traders, the only business interests mentioned in the report are those of the property speculators, who propose a giant shopping mall to be occupied by chain outlets.
The Report’s view of “essential” “well-grounded institutional arrangements for taking the process forward” recommends:
“Policy ownership in relation to the National Monument at No’s 14/17 remaining with the Minister for Arts & Heritage;
“Overall planning framework and designation of other buildings in the quarter should remain with Dublin City Council;
“The development and eventual management of State’s property in Moore St, transferring to the Office of Public Works;
“The next phase of development of the National Monument at No’s 14/17 taking place under OPW control and, where private contractors are involved, such contracting follows a transparent public tendering process that fully accords with good international practice as laid down by EU procurement requirements. In addition, engagement and briefing with the Advisory/Oversight Group (see below) as appropriate should be undertaken in respect of this process.
We emphatically should not agree with the first two sub-recommendations.
If the Department of Heritage and Dublin City Council Planning Department is to have a role it should be in supporting a People’s Consortium, composed of representatives of all the campaigning groups (not cherry-picked by the Minister) and other representatives.
While sub-recommendation 3 and most of 4 seem fair, one cannot agree with the role of the Advisory/Oversight Group as recommended by the Report (more on that later).
The Report states that “A critical part of the next phase of the process will involve securing consensus by the relevant players to a way forward” and that “this will require engagement with public bodies, developer interests, traders and voluntary groups.”
Why should the protection of our heritage be subject to protection of “developer interests”, i.e the interests of property speculators who are still at this moment in time trying to destroy that heritage and replace it with a shopping centre? The inclusion of those “interests” in deciding the future of our heritage and our national monuments should be rejected.
The Report recommends “that an Advisory/Oversight Group should be established” to steer the project and “will require engagement …. with the public bodies and the developer to seek to find agreement on the way forward.”
As stated earlier, there should be no role in seeking agreement with enemies of our heritage and facilitators of property speculators on the way forward for safeguarding our heritage and our national monument.
But further, the Advisory/ Oversight Group envisaged by the Report (“representatives from among the current membership of the Consultative Group, including appropriate Oireachtas and DCC representation”) is an unrepresentative group, continuing the exclusion of the most active campaigning groups of recent years and of the National Graves Association, the first campaign group to raise the issue of the historical conservation in Moore Street, along with the exclusion of a number of individual campaigners and concerned historians and conservation experts.
Recommendation 22 — The Role of the State
When the Report declares that the State is “the ultimate custodian of our history, culture and heritage”, it is perhaps stating an aspiration but it is demonstrably not stating a fact. The State, as represented by a number of governments during its existence, has done nothing to commemorate nor protect the significance of this historic quarter, save the purchase of four buildings after years of campaigning, and that around the same time it planned the demolition of a number of buildings in the Quarter; the State’s representatives publicly denied the historical importance of 12 buildings and even denied the area had been a battleground.
When Chartered Land’s (Joe O’Reilly) properties were taken over by NAMA, the State should have prevented the speculator from selling or otherwise passing on his stake to British-based property speculators Hammerson. They did not and so became complicit.
Looking beyond Moore Street around the country, it is the voluntary National Graves Association that has been responsible for most of the plaques commemorating the struggle for national independence (and a fair number of monuments) and the upkeep of graves of participants of that struggle, with a number of local authorities coming second and the State possibly a poor third.
Turning to our culture, the body that has done most to promote Gaelic Sports is the GAA, not the State. Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, smaller associations of musicians and individuals, not the State, have been the promoters and developers of traditional music. With regard to the Irish language, the State has overseen a drastic decline in the Gaeltacht areas, continuously fails to ensure the supply of even State services through Irish for Irish speakers and recently, has appointed a Minister for Heritage and two Ministers of State that were not competent in the use of the Irish language. Irish traditional dancing, whether exhibition and competition step-dancing, céilí, set-dancing and sean-nós have all been conserved and promoted by different organisations, none of them a State one (in fact, for a period, the State banned set-dancing in people’s homes).
The State has failed to protect and preserve a great many other areas of our heritage, including our natural resources.
So who then are “the ultimate custodians of our history, culture and heritage”? It is the PEOPLE!
However, one has to recognise the reality of the governance framework under which we live and the State should, for a change, represent the interests of the people in this case and ensure the Moore Street Historic Quarter is developed appropriately in consultation with campaigners, local independent traders and shopkeepers, workers and residents. And in doing so, the State can make some amends for its compliance and complicity of the past.
WHO SHOULD GUIDE POLICY AND PRACTICE ON THE FUTURE DEVELOPMENT OF THE QUARTER?
The body that discusses and guides policy on the future development of this historic quarter should be composed solely of a wide representation of those who have demonstrated a commitment to the defence of the historic status of the quarter, along with those who work there, in addition to any expert technical advisors they may think right to coopt.
IN CONCLUSION AND SUMMARY, although the Report contains much that is good and I believe campaigners should support those elements, due to a number of unhealthy recommendations which undermine what has been fought for so hard for so long and would leave important decision-making in the hands of the very proven enemies of the preservation, conservation and appropriate development of the Moore Street Quarter, those dangerous Conclusions and Recommendations of the Report should be rejected and I call on all genuine campaigners and supporters to reject them also.
In doing so, I would encourage all campaigners to remain firm in their determination, looking back on the long road traveled to reach this point and not to falter at this juncture, the fate of so many popular movements of the past.
We have been called ‘dreamers’ many times in the past but who could have foretold back in 2001, the gains steadily won over the years? ‘Dreamers’ is usually employed as a term of abuse, of ridicule and no doubt those critics consider themselves wise. To those we may reply in the words of one who spent his last two days of freedom in Moore Street in Easter Week 1916:
“Oh wise men, riddle me this – what if the dream come true?”
In this at least let us make that dream come true.
“He’s up there if you want him …. on the footpath.”
On 14th April 1920, a man in plainclothes was shot by another, also in plain clothes, in Camden Street, Portobello, on the south side of the city and not far from the centre. A passing motorist rushed the gunshot victim to the nearby Meath Hospital but he died there.
The victim was Det. Constable Harry Kells of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, a man of 41 years of age who lived in No. 7 Pleasant Street, i.e very close to where he was shot. He was married without children.
Many reports say that Kells was a member of the DMP “G” Division, which were known as “the political police” (apparently both within the DMP and outside). However, “McRIC” in the irishconstabulary forum states that this is inaccurate and that the man, although recently promoted to plain clothes work, was rather in “B” Division and investigating a number of burglaries in the city.
From a number of investigations carried out it seems that this question may never be resolved but it is highly likely that Kells was at least in the process of being transferred to “G” Division. However, the reason for his killing is almost certainly much more specific. It seems that Kells had been reviewing identity parades in Mountjoy Jail in attempts to find the killers of British intelligence agent Alan Bell, who had been assassinated on the 27th March. While engaged in this work, he had been identified by Peadar Clancy1, Vice-Commandant of the Dublin Brigade of the IRA, who sent a note about him to Michael Collins, who put the execution order on Kells.
It is worth noting that Republican prisoners in Mountjopy had also been taking part in a hunger-strike at that time in protest at removal of political status while detained without trial. Ironically, 90 prisoners were released on the very day Kells was killed.
THE LARGEST RAID EVER CARRIED OUT BY BRITISH TROOPS IN DUBLIN
“Aul Decency”, posting on Dublin Forum.ie on 31st March 2012, drawing on April reports in the Irish Times and New York Times, says that the incident “was the cause of the largest raid ever carried out by British Troops in Dublin.”
According to “Aul Decency”: “Two of those sought in connection with Kells’ killing were Sinn Féin members Michael and William Kavanagh who lived at 5 Pleasant St., who had previously been “fingered” by Kells, and it was thought they would seek refuge among friends in the neighbourhood. The troops swarmed over Camden St from Cuffe street and into Portobello and the homes of the local Jews2. Over 100 people were arrested that day but Kells’ killer was not among them.”
This “fingering” had in fact been carried out after the 1916 Rising when Kells reported that the brothers had been seeing changing into Volunteer uniforms in the house, information which had resulted in at least one of the brothers ending up in Frongoch concentration camp that year and losing his job.
It is enough perhaps to know that Kells was killed by Republicans and the probable reason but we can go a bit further, drawing on The Squadby T. Ryle Dwyer (quoted in irishconstabulary.com) where Paddy Daly of the Squad is quoted about the operation to kill the police officer:
“On our way we picked up Hugo MacNeill, a nephew of Eoin MacNeill3 the initial President of the Irish Volunteers. He was not a member of the Squad but he asked to come along.
We divided up into patrols of two4, MacNeill was with Joe Leonard. O‘Daly said he heard a couple of shots, and saw MacNeill sauntering down Pleasant St. as if nothing had happened.
‘What was the shooting about?‘ O’Daly asked.
‘Kells is up there if you want him‘, MacNeill replied.
‘Where?‘ O’Daly asked.
‘On the footpath‘, replied MacNeill.
Det. Constable was the third police officer to be killed in Dublin so far in 1920 in a war between the British occupation forces and the IRA, in which not only police officers but intelligence agents and British soldiers on one side were killed and, on the other, Volunteers, active Republicans, sympathisers and uninvolved civilians. Of course the war was going on in many other parts of Ireland but it is often forgotten that among those areas subject to martial-type law were Dublin County and City, where had been the HQ of the British occupation since 1171: Dublin Castle.
1Peadar Clancy was one of two Volunteers and one civilian who were tortured by RIC Auxiliaries in Dublin Castle and killed on November 21, 1920 (Bloody Sunday).
2Portobello had a Jewish quarter at that time. Some of the residents are reputed to have been active in the resistance movement and a number had been on strike or locked out in 1913.
3He who had on Easter Saturday 1916 issued the cancellation order for the Rising.
4According to testimonies by Squad members, working in two groups of two was standard procedure. Typically each pair would take one side of the road. Once the assassination was carried out, the two who had not done the killing would cover the escape of the two who had.
On Sunday in Dublin on my travels I conversed (about more than directions) on three different occasions with visitors from the United States and found a wide range of attitudes.
BOSTON, LARKIN AND THE COPS
The first of these was with an elderly couple outside Kilmainham Gaol Museum. The man had “Boston” displayed on his T-shirt and I started talking about Dennis Lehane’s novel “The Given Day”, which is set in Boston and which I had just finished reading. They had read it, really liked it and told me it was the first of a trilogy to which I responded that I would certainly be looking for the follow-ups.
I talked about Lehane’s slant towards the cops as opposed to the revolutionaries and how of course my slant would be the other way but that in any case Lehane had not done his research on Larkin, who figures in the novel with other revolutionaries and radicals. Lehane refers to Larkin’s “gin-breath” but Big Jim was well known as a teetotaler, which I explained to them.
Then I talked a bit about the Irish Citizen Army that Larkin had founded with James Connolly and others, how they grew up out of the 1913 Lockout/ Strike and that Larkin had served time in Sing Sing prison later as a punishment for his revolutionary oratory in the USA.
I didn’t get the feeling that I and the two Bostonians were in agreement with my revolutionary sympathies but certainly did when it came to the workers fighting the Lockout in 1913. We parted amicably as they went off to enjoy some more of their holiday.
Encounter No.2 took place in Cornucopia, into which I had dropped for a cup of coffee.
I took my ‘Americano’ to a vacant table. The one next to me became vacant for awhile and was then occupied by an elderly lady who left her handbag open next to me. I advised her that was an unwise thing to do in Dublin and she remarked. in US accent upon the Leonard Peltier badge that I had been unconsciously wearing all day, so we talked about his case for awhile. She didn’t seem sympathetic to the FBI and expressed horror at the treatment of Peltier, now approaching his 40th year in prison for an act of which he was unjustly convicted.
The lady asked me for advice about literary events in Dublin and as she was, sadly, leaving the day before Culture Night, all I could suggest was a visit to Books Upstairs, where someone might be able to advise her. After I jotted down the address and a rough map for her, I left.
THE DEVIL AND THE TRUMPETTES
It was my intention to attend later that evening the Song Central session, on their first night back after their summer break. Song Central is a monthly gathering of singers and listeners upstairs in Chaplin’s pub, across from the Screen cinema. But I needed to eat first and so headed for a burrito in Pablo Picante, a small place serving Mexican food in Temple Bar (well, at the western end of Fleet Street).
Sitting eating my burrito and facing out into the street, I noticed passers-by pointing at the window and laughing. I could have become paranoid except it was clear that they were pointing to an image painted on the window further to my left. Then a late 30s or early 40s couple who in their style looked kind of to the Left maybe laughed at the image and took photos. The female whipped out a lipstick and wrote something over the painting, then had the man take a photo of her next to what she had written.
Curiosity had me now and after they wandered off, I went outside and saw that the painting on the window was a caricature of US Presidential candidate Donald Trump and underneath it the artist had written in big letters “DIABLO”. Of course, that would be because Trump wants to build a wall along the border with Mexico due to the negative impact he accuses Mexican migrants of having on the US, which Trump wants to “make great again”. And he has also impugned a US Judge’s ability to rule impartially on his case, due to the judge’s Mexican heritage.
The woman had scrawled something along the lines of “He’s not, we love him” with a heart sign on a part of the painting – clearly far from being Lefties!
I went back inside, got a serviette, came outside and rubbed off her comment, then back inside to continue my assault on the burrito.
Not long after, I was not a little surprised to see the woman and the man standing outside again. She noticed the removal of her comment and commenced to write again. I went to the counter to tell the staff what was going on and returned to find the woman inside, leaning on my jacket on the window shelf and working on rubbing out the painting from the inside!
My challenge on what did she think she was doing elicited the response that Donald Trump was going to be (or might be?) their next President and that the painting was disrespectful. I stood between her and the painting, telling her that we have free speech in this country (which is not strictly true but as the nearest weapon I could reach ….) and just kept repeating it. Then the guy came in and told me I had “no idea”. He kept repeating that and I kept repeating the “free speech” stuff, alert in case he took his case into the physical arena (and he looked fit, too). I also wondered what I would do if instead, it was the woman who attacked me. But they left soon afterwards.
Soon after, a member of staff (Mexican, presumably) went outside and rubbed off her comment, returning with a wry smile.
SINGING THE USA
At the Song Central session later that evening, post-burrito and post Trumpettes, the theme happened to be about the USA, songs from there or about travelling there etc, it being the anniversary of the “9/11” attack on the Twin Towers. If I’d remembered about the theme, I’d have learned the Allende song recorded by Moving Hearts, or brushed up on the lyrics of “Hey Ronnie Reagan” by Christie Moore. Because “9/11” ( in 1973) is also the anniversary of the CIA-instigated military coup in Chile, which over time claimed the lives of 32,000 people.
Interestingly, most of the song contributions during the night that referred to the USA (and most of them did, though people are not obliged to follow the theme), were critical of the US state, whether because of its endemic racism towards blacks and Latinos or its genocide towards the First People, or because of its wars. One song I felt pretty sure would be sung – and it was — was about the firemen on 9/11 running up the stairs of the doomed building while occupants ran down – a powerful song about the heroism of a section of public service emergency workers.
Luckily I could remember some US song material and sang “The Ludlow Massacre” and “How Can I Keep From Singing”, both composed in the US: one written by a revolutionary and the other adapted in the US by a progressive singer.
I had set out that day without remembering the significance of the date for the USA and yet throughout the day had a significant level of engagement with people from the US and, at the end of the day, with the terrible event itself.
On Tuesday, while taking a photo of the Trump caricature in the window to accompany this piece, another US couple began to talk to me. The man opened with: “The man IS a devil” (referring to Trump).
I remarked that Trump was not going to get elected but his role would be to make Clinton look good, then she could carry on bombing and invading countries if she got elected, no problem.
The woman told me they didn’t like Clinton either. They were from Boston and the man and his father before him had been union organisers. He was complained about the weakness of the unions nowadays.
We talked about cops breaking strikes in the USA in the 1930s and how the cops themselves went on strike in Boston during that period. He talked about what the cops are like nowadays against pickets and demonstrations, militarised ….
The march called to save “the Revolutionary Quarter” of Moore Street followed the footsteps of the GPO garrison on Easter Monday but, upon reaching the GPO, continued on along the that week’s Saturday surrender route up to the Rotunda. Wheeling left then, the march proceeded on to the junction with Moore Street, where the British Army had their barricade and machine gun on Friday Easter Week — the cause, along with the sniper in the Rotunda tower, of many deaths and injuries in Moore Street. The march wheeled left again into Moore Street and proceeded to the rally outside the GPO, where speakers were to address them and artists to perform.
The Save Moore Street 2016 campaigners and supporters gathered well over an hour before the advertised time outside Liberty Hall where their wardrobe department was busy outfitting people while a steward organised people for photo shoots, leafleting and kept the crowd informed.
By the time the march set off from Liberty Hall it had gathered many, quite a few in period costume and some others joined it along the way. Many had come already dressed in period costume or were decked out by the wardrobe department of the Save Moore Street 2016 campaign and a solid group of them marched behind the new campaign banner.
Others marched behind the original Save Moore Street (from demolition) 2016 banner while others carried banners of some organisations supporting the march: the Cabra 1916 Society, O’Hanrahan Car1ow 1916 Society, Dublin Says No, Munster Anti-Internment Committee, Republican Sinn Féin, Dublin IRSP …..
Led by two people with megaphones and, at times, spontaneously, they shouted: “Save Moore Street from demolition!”
With reference to the Chartered Land and now Hammerson’s huge shopping centre plan for the area, the marchers shouted:
“Do we need another shopping centre? No! Do we need our heritage? Yes! Do we need our street market? Yes!” Also, “What do we want? Hammerson out! When do we want it? Now!”
Up Lower Abbey Street the marchers went, in the footsteps of the GPO Garrison on that Easter Monday morning, past Wynne’s Hotel where Cumann na mBan had been formed in 1913, past the former Hibernia Bank on the corner of Abbey and O’Connell Street, where Volunteers fought and where Irish Volunteer Captain Thomas Weafer, from Enniscorthy was killed and his body consumed by the flames caused along the street by British shelling.
Turning into O’Connell Street, the marchers passed the location of Bloody Sunday 1913 when, after Jim Larkin defied a court ban to speak, the Dublin Metropolitan Police ran riot beating Lockout strikers and onlookers down to the ground with their truncheons.
COUNCILLORS, TDs, PROMINENT CAMPAIGNERS, ARTISTS AND HISTORIANS MARCHING
A number of elected representatives supported the march: seen in the crowd were Dublin City Councillors Cieran Perry, Pat Dunne, Anthony Conaghy and former Mayor Críona Ní Dhálaigh, also TDs Joan Collins and Maureen O’Sullivan.
Among the artistic and dramatic sector whose participation was noted were artist and activist Robert Ballagh, drama director Frank Allen (who also organised the first Arms Around Moore Street event in 2009 — and has the T-shirt to prove it!), Brendan O’Neill — also an actor and long-time campaigner — and actor Ger O’Leary.
Relatives of prominent fighters in 1916 also participated and Jim Connolly Heron, great-grandson of James Connolly and among the earliest campaigners for Moore Street and Donna Cooney, great-grandniece of Elizabeth O’Farrell, who went out into the killing zone to organise the surrender, were both noted marching. Patrick Cooney, also of the specific 1916 relatives’ group that brought the legal challenge to the High Court marched along too and spoke from the platform at the rally. Gabriel Brady, grand-nephew of the printer of the 1916 Proclamation, Christopher Brady, was there too, as was Eoin Mac Lochlainn, a relative of the Pearse brothers and a relative of Seán Mac Diarmada was also present and in fact helped carry one of the SMS2016 banners.
A number of historians walked among the marchers, including Ruan O’Donnell, Dónal Fallon, Ray Bateson, Hugo McGuinness, along with local history activists such as Joe Mooney (of East Wall History Group) and Terry Fagan (of North Dublin Inner City Folklore Project). Ciarán Murphy, joint blogger and joint author with Dónal Fallon of the Come Here To Me publication marched along too. From the non-history world of academia, Paul Horan, lecturer of Trinity College (and who wrote the letter published in the Irish Independent on July 2nd denouncing the Minister of Heritage appealing the Barrett High Court judgement that the whole Moore Street quarter is a national monument) marched in period costume too.
THE SURRENDER ROUTE
Passing the General Post Office, the marchers continued along the route of the GPO/ Moore Street Garrison as they surrendered on the Saturday of Easter Week, up to the Gresham, where they laid down their weapons and on to the Rotunda, in the garden of which many had been kept for two days without food or water, while detectives of G Division from Dublin Castle came down to identify prisoners for execution. On the way the marchers passed the Parnell Monument, where British officers had displayed the battle-damaged “Irish Republic” flag upside down as a trophy for a photographer.
On this Saturday in 2016, volunteers (some in costume) accompanied the marchers along the route, handing out leaflets, which were eagerly taken by onlookers, while others – all in costume — collected donations along the way, distributing stickers in exchange. Well in excess of five hundred leaflets were distributed in the period of the short march.
SILENCE IN MOORE STREET
Turning into and a little along Moore Street, the marchers were called to stop for a minute’s silence out of respect for the Irish Volunteers, Citizen Army and civilians who had been shot down in that street by British Army guns, for the six who had been shot by firing squad after they surrendered and for those who had risked their lives in an uprising against the biggest empire the world has ever seen.
All sound in the street died: marchers, street traders, bystanders, shoppers — all stood silent in a street which would otherwise be filled with the noise of a street market and busy shopping thoroughfare on a Saturday afternoon.
At the conclusion of the minute’s silence, the march recommenced, calling its demands with renewed vigour, out into Henry Street, right to O’Connell Street to form up for the rally by the stage in front of the GPO.
SPEAKERS AND PERFORMERS
The rapper Temper-Mental MissElayneous (Elaine Harrington) from Finglas was the first on the stage and performed her “Fakes and Manners” and “Buachaillí Dána” raps but continuous problems with the sound amplification at this stage of the rally meant much of what she was saying could not reach the audience (fortunately this was amended later).
Niamh McDonald, chairing the rally, welcomed the crowd and said that the campaign to save the Moore Street quarter was at a crossroads; developments had brought Irish property developers and the State into opposition to the appropriate conservation of the quarter but also now foreign vulture capitalists. “Save Moore Street 2016 will do what it takes to defend this historic quarter” she said, reiterating three basic demands of the campaign:
That a full independent expert assessment be carried out of the battlefield area
that all construction or remedial work be accessible to expert independent monitoring and
that the whole process by transparent to the public.
It was time for the campaign now to take the fight to the speculators and the next in a series of monthly events would be a demonstration against Hammerson themselves, McDonald told the rally.
The first speaker was then announced, historian and author Ruan O’Donnell, who reminded the rally that the Government of the time had been prepared to demolish Kilmainham Jail. The site had languished until volunteers took up the work of restoring it as a museum and now it is so successful that one has to queue to gain access to it.
O’Donnell castigated the attitude and thinking of successive Irish governments and pointed out that the GPO and Moore Street are sites of crucial importance in the struggle of the Irish people for nationhood.
O’Donnell’s speech, as did McDonald’s, received cheering and applause a number of times during their course as well as at the end.
Dónal Fallon, also author and historian, then stepped up to address the rally and also denounced the Gombeen state that had followed the struggle for independence, in which property speculators grew fat while the people suffer in a housing crisis.
He reminded the rally of the struggle to save the Viking archaelogical site at Wood Quay and how, with Dublin City Council building over it, the writer and author of Strumpet City, James Plunkett, had said that Dublin had “shamed itself before the world.” Fallon said that Dublin needs to redeem itself and will do so in the struggle to save the Moore Street quarter.
Patrick Cooney (of the relatives’ group that took the High Court challenge against the Minister of Heritage) was then introduced and spoke of the recent Appeal Court appearance where the Minister’s team had been castigated by a Judge who insisted they had to specify against which part of Judge Barrett’s judgement they were appealing – her Department could not take a blanket position and say that they were against it all (SMS2016 comment: indeed, part of the judgement was that the banner erected on Nos.14-17 had been erected illegally, and the Minister has already stated that work would commence to remove it and to fill in the holes the builders put into the face of those buildings in order to fix the banner there). Cooney welcomed the announcement that the appeal would not be heard until December 2017, saying that this would give time for more pressure and perhaps a change of government.
Cooney also spoke of the long struggle to have the importance of the site acknowledged and to save it from property speculators and in passing also paid tribute to those who had occupied the building in January of this year.
Last to speak was Seán Doyle, speaking on behalf of the Save Moore Street 2016 campaign. Seán questioned whether we were worthy of the inheritance which had been bestowed upon us.
Referring to speculators and their facilitators, Doyle concluded by saying that “men in suits can be more dangerous than men in armour”.
All those speeches were enthusiastically applauded.
By this time the technical problems of the sound amplification had been overcome with the assistance of a member of the audience and Paul O’Toole stepped up to the microphone. He recalled that the best stage he had ever performed upon had been a couple of pallets drawn up in front of No.16 Moore Street in order to play at a rallying event there.
He then sang and played “The Foggy Dew” and “The Cry of the Morning”, followed by his own composition “We Will Not Lie Down”. The event could not end without Temper-Mental MissElayneous being given an opportunity to perform with the sound amplification in full working order and she launched into her “Fakes and Manners” rap.
The crowd having applauded the performers, everyone was thanked for contributing to the event, banners were rolled up and costumes packed back into cases. Some people stood around chatting while the lorry that had provided the stage pulled out into the traffic, one of the organisers gave a radio interview to Newstalk and MissElayneous, on a roll now, performed for a small audience and video camera with the GPO as a background.
Across the road, outside the GPO, to which it relocated after some of its activists went to participate in the march, having earlier completed its 94th Saturday on Moore Street through which it has collected more than 50,000 signatures in support of Moore Street, the Save Moore Street From Demolition campaign table was also wrapping up.
And, despite threatening sky and pessimistic forecasts – it hadn’t rained once.
Go raibh maith agat a Chathaoirligh agus a Choiste Eagraithe as an gcuireadh chun cainte ar son feachtas Shábhála Ó Leagaint Shráid an Mhúraigh. Go raibh maith agaibh freisin, a lucht tacaíochta, as a bheith i láthair agus as bhur néachtanna go dtí seo.
Thank you Chair and Organising Committee for the invitation to speak on behalf of the Save Moore Street From Demolition Group and to supporters of the campaign here today and for their deeds in the past.
The Save Moore Street From Demolition group began in September 2014, founded by a handful of people who had supported other Moore Street campaigners over the years and at times helped with organising events. Our call to do something different was the emergency looming when Chartered Land offered to hand over the houses of the national monument, No.14-17, to Dublin City Council in exchange for the ones owned by them, No.s 24-25. We knew that once O’Reilly got those two, he would have demolished them …. along with the rest of the 1916 Terrace all the way up and including No.18.
The Council’s Chief Executive, Owen Keegan, was completely in favour but he had a problem: since this involved disposal of Council assets, the deal could not be agreed by officials but would have to be voted for by a majority of Councillors. So it was put to them and he recommended acceptance. And the SMSFD group was born to fight that.
We put up a table with a petition every Saturday in Moore Street. We lobbied Councillors on line and at Council meetings. We gave out leaflets in Moore St. We set up FB pages and kept them lively every week, slowly building up our support. Down in Moore Street, we interacted with the street traders, small shops and of course with passers-by.
I’d be lying if I said there were not times when we were tempted to stop. Maybe times when only three of us were there and when one of that three was off sick or away, or even two. But others did come by to help us from time to time.
And when we gave the emergency call about the planned demolition of the buildings, when we called the emergency demonstrations for two consecutive days in the street, the response was immediate. And it was active. The people who occupied those buildings saved them from being demolished.
And the campaign that we have now built together will hopefully ensure that the 1916 Terrace will be saved for the benefit of generations to come, both in Ireland and around the world.
TERRACE AND SITE
The experts employed by the State and the speculators tell us that one building or another in the terrace is not a 1916 building. But the fact is that there has never been an independent survey of the site. Can we trust experts employed by speculators who care nothing for history or heritage, whose only concern is making lots of money? Can we trust experts employed by a State that has cared little throughout its history for heritage, culture or history but has been focused instead throughout on serving the Gombeens in our country and vultures from abroad?
I think we cannot. But regardless of what any expert may say, whether independent or not, no-one can deny that terrace is the site of the GPO garrison. The whole terrace. Sixteen houses. Not four.
Sixteen – something of an important and recurring number in connection with the Rising. The year was 1916. The number of executions was sixteen. And there are sixteen houses.
That whole site is a historic site and by any rational, historically-minded appraisal, not only deserves preservation, but cries out for it. Cries out for preservation, Brothers and Sisters, in the midst of this historic quarter, this small area in the heart of Dublin, with its last remaining street of a whole market area, centuries old, now buried under the ILAC. A small historic quarter with artifacts, points of importance, buildings and sites of importance going back to the Land War, the 1913 Lockout, the 1916 Rising, the War of Independence, the Civil War ….
BRICKS AND MORTAR
“It is just bricks and mortar,” some of our critics have said. “History is about people, not buildings.” Of course, history is about people. And not just leaders, but the mass of people who, in the midst of their daily struggles to live, to work, to raise families, dare to dream. And where do dreams happen? In the imagination.
And has psychology not taught us the importance of symbols? This building behind me has a symbolism of great potency. The faces of the our martyrs, our flags, the pictures of the starving people of the Great Hunger, the words of speeches and proclamations which we read in little symbols of written words, plaques and monuments …. the very letters on paper, also symbols to convey meaning …. even our spoken words ….
All these symbols give shape and expression to our dreams. Not only the dreams which we experience in our sleep but the great dreams of humanity, the waking and sleeping dream, of freedom, peace, in which to pursue our interests, in which to seek happiness.
These our dreams, our human dreams of progress for mankind, are not shared by all. They are not shared by Joe O’Brien of Chartered Land.
They are not shared by the board of directors of Irish Life, who buried the rest of the centuries-old market under their architecturally-hideous ILAC shopping centre. And who seek to build further out into Moore Street and upwards and have been granted permission by Dublin City Council Planning Department to do so.
And so we must conclude, must we not, that our dreams are not shared by such senior officials in Dublin City Council as Owen Keegan and others running the Planning Department.
No. They do not share our dreams for the future, nor our respect for what was valuable in our past.
An Bord Pleanála has approved the massive shopping centre plan to construct an architectural horror from O’Connell Street across to Moore Street, and from O’Rahilly Parade down to Henry Street, in the course of which they will destroy the 1916 Terrace and enclose a shoebox museum … next to a MacDonalds, perhaps, or a Starbucks …. Constructing a cathedral to Mammon, to the gods of chain stores and eatery franchises ….. So we must conclude that An Bord Pleanála does not share our dreams either.
But does an Bord Pleanála act independently? No it does not, as we well know and as been shown in many planning controversies in the past. It follows the dictates, nods and winks of its political masters, the political class and its nominees in the Dáil. And these do not belong to one political party only, but to several.
And Minister Heather Humphreys, their representative with special responsibility in this case, patently does not share our dreams nor our respect for heritage.
The board of directors of the giant property company Hammerson do not share our dreams either. They dream of big ugly buildings and giant car parks where chain stores and restaurants and franchise eateries can market their goods, depriving shops and goods of any individual regional or national character, making one city’s commercial centre look like any other, from Dublin to Dupont, from Cork to Caracas.
But behind all this array of servile public departments and officials and political representatives, aiding and abetting the clutch of home-grown speculators and foreign vultures, there are the final villains, the whole Irish class of neo-colonial, money-grabbing, huckstering, fumbling-in-a-greasy-til, greedy, incompetent, philistine shower that climbed up upon our backs in 1921 – the Irish gombeen class.
When we have viewed with dismay how little our native ruling class cares for our land, our history, our natural resources, or very PEOPLE ….. some among us have said: “But how can they treat with such disrespect the history and artifacts of the men and women who gave them independence? Their own ancestors?” But such commentators are mistaken, brothers and sisters.
The heroes of 1916 are not the political ancestors of the gombeen class – they are ours! A few who fought in 1916 and later became part of the gombeen class from the 1920s onwards, true …. but when they did so, they disowned their forebears.
WE have not disowned the heroes of 1913, nor of 1916, nor of struggles afterwards.
There has not been an independently-minded capitalist class in Ireland since the late 17th Century – and they were nearly all Protestants, of one sect or another. They sought national unity and independence and when they were denied it, rose in rebellion for political, economic and cultural independence in 1798 …. and again in 1803 … But they were defeated and their survivors changed their ideas or left the country.
This class of native capitalists that we have now in the 26 Co.s, mostly of Catholic religious background, grew up under foreign domination. They learned early on to doff the cap to the foreign master, ape him in clothes and manners, speak his language and carry out little deals behind his back.
They learned to be ‘cute hoors’ but they never learned to fight and risk life and limb for a principle. They scramble to get to the top of the dung-heap and crow from there. Or they push and jostle one another to get their snouts in the trough.
They never stood up on their two legs, with back straight and head up, and flew the flag of freedom. They could never stand straight on a gallows and cry “God Save Ireland!” before they were hung, or stand defiantly in front of a prison wall to receive the bullets of their executioners. They never faced the batons of the Dublin Metropolitan Police or the rifles and bayonets of the Royal Irish Constabulary.
And this is why James Connolly, who spent his last days in the building behind me and later in Moore Street, before he was taken away and they made sure to shoot him dead even when they realised that they were going too politically far with the executions …. And by the way the newspaper of Irish Catholic nationalist gombeen man William Martin Murphy, the Irish Independent, called for his execution …..
this is why James Connolly said: “Only the working class remain as the incorruptible inheritors of the fight for Irish freedom.”
Connolly saw the foreign-dependent and internally corrupt nature of the native capitalist class even before they seized power over his body and the bodies of others who had fought for independence and a just society. And by the way, nor did they stop there – they added hundreds more bodies to ensure they kept the power they had grabbed. And out of our every generation, sent thousands of our youth into exile, rather than build a country that would keep them at home, give them work, housing.
THE CENTENARY & IDEALS
As I come to the end of what I have to say here, early in the centenary year of the 1916 Rising, and I thank you for your patience, I reflect that it appears to be a law of life that for everything we gain, there is a price to be paid. We have learned that many, oh so many times throughout our history, have we not?
What we are asking for — no demanding — from our rulers, in the case of the campaign for the Moore Street historical quarter, is not much in the grand scheme of their plunder and exploitation.
It is in their power to give it and to pay the political price do so, without bringing down their house of cards.
But if they will not grant it, what then? Well, then we must fight for it. And we too must be ready to pay the price. And I think it is clear that there are many here, and not only here, prepared to pay that price.
And I can do no better than to quote the words of another one who spent his last few days in this building behind me and in the Moore Street 1916 Terrace, who also had some valuable words to say to us. Pádraig Mac Piarais, in his poem The Rebel:
“And I say to my people’s masters:
Beware of the thing that is coming,
beware of the risen people,
Who shall take what ye would not give.
Did ye think to conquer the people,
Or that Law is stronger than Lfe and than men’s desire to be free?
On Sunday 8th May a working-class hero was commemorated in the East Wall area in which he lived. Walter Carpenter was a native of Kent, in SE England and came to Ireland to help found the Socialist Party of Ireland 1 with James Connolly in 1909 in Dublin. Among other activities a campaigner around housing issues for the Dublin working class, he reared his sons in socialist belief so that it was no surprise that both Wally (Walter jnr) and Peter joined the Irish Citizen Army and fought in the 1916 Rising. As a result of the repression of the Rising, one son ended up in Frongoch concentration camp in Wales, while the other was in hiding. Later, both brothers also fought against the Free State in the Irish Civil War; Wally was interned and went on hunger strike.
Jailed for opposing British Royal visit to Dublin
Rising to be Secretary of the Dublin Branch of the SPI in 1911, Walter Carpenter was jailed for a month for the production while speaking on a public platform of Connolly’s leaflet attacking the Royal visit that same year. Soon afterwards he was an organiser for the newly-formed Irish & Transport Workers’ Union. During the Lockout, he was sent by Connolly to Britain to rally the support of trade unionists for the struggle of the Dublin workers and was apparently an effective speaker there. That same year Walter Carpenter was elected General Secretary of the Tailors, Machinists and Pressers’ trade union, generally known as “the Jewish Union” due to the preponderance of its members being from that background.
Walter also became active in municipal politics, striving to make Dublin City Council meet its housing regulation responsibilities in the terrible housing conditions of the city of that time. There were many other sides to this campaigner too, which a read of Ellen Galvin’s pamphlet will reveal.
The East Wall History Group had earlier had a plaque erected on the wall of the house where he had lived, No.8 Caledon Road and organised an event around its unveiling on Sunday. The event began with a gathering at the Sean O’Casey Community Centre in East Wall, where an introduction to the event and to Walter Carpenter’s importance in the revolutionary and radical social history of Ireland was given by Joe Mooney, one of the organisers of the event. As well as local historians, socialists and Republicans, the event was attended by his surviving grandson, great-grandchildren and partners and their children. Also present was Ellen Galvin, who wrote a booklet on his life which was launched after the unveiling, back in the Sean O’Casey Centre.
Misfortune struck the event before it had even begun, with the news that Christy O’Brien, the piper who was to lead a march to the unveiling, had his pipes stolen from his car that very morning. Christy gives his service as a piper to many commemorative events, funerals etc. and, with the announcement of the misfortune, Joe Mooney also called for the spreading of the news in order to aid the recovery of the instrument. A set of bagpipes will cost thousands to buy or have made but it would be a rare musician or pawnshop that would negotiate for a stolen set (one which furthermore might be recognised at a musical event in the future).
(see also https://www.facebook.com/eastwallhistory/photos/a.593335330735681.1073741828.580261572043057/1042532349149308/?type=3&theater)
March to plaque past previous addresses of Irish resistance fighters
The march set off from the Sean O’Casey Centre without the piper, led by supporters carrying the banner of the East Wall History Group, a Tricolour and a Starry Plough (original green and gold version). Walking alongside were two Gárdaí and one wit commented that not only were descendants of the Irish Citizen Army present but also of the Dublin Metropolitan Police! 2
Joe Mooney had told the crowd before the march began that they would pass a number of locations where fighters for Irish and working-class freedom had lived. These were: St Marys Road, Tim O’Neill at No.8 and father and daughter Patrick Kavanagh and May Kavanagh at No.24. Christy Byrne lived at No.45 and his brother Joseph Byrne was from Boland’s Cottages off Church Road, where also Christopher Carberry lived on Myrtle Terrace on Church Rd. All these were Irish Volunteers, while May was in Cumann na mBan. In Northcourt Avenue (now demolished, roughly where the Catholic Church stands), Patrick & William Chaney were in the Irish Citizen Army and in Hawthorn Terrace lived James Fox (Irish Volunteer) and Willie Halpin (ICA).
Joe added that at the junction of St. Mary’s Road and Church Street, the local Irish Volunteers had mustered to participate in the Rising, 100 years ago and also reminded the gathering that that very day, the 8th of May, was the centenary of the executions by British firing squad of Michael Mallin of the Irish Citizen Army and of Irish Volunteers Eamonn Ceannt, Sean Heuston and Con Colbert.
Upon reaching No. 8 Caledon Road, the former home of Walter Carpenter, Caitríona Ní Chasaide of the East Wall History Group introduced Eamon Carpenter, 94 years of age and a grandson of Walter Carpenter, who addressed the crowd in thanks and also about the life of his grandfather.
“The struggles of the past are not merely for commemoration”
Next Caitríona introduced the Deputy Mayor of Dublin, Cieran Perry, who pointed out the parallels between the dire housing situation in the early part of the last century, which Walter Carpenter had campaigned against, and the housing crisis in Dublin today. He castigated the officials of Dublin City Council who, despite the votes of elected Left Councillors, refused to use all the land available to them on a number of sites to build social housing and were instead preparing it for private development with a only fraction for social housing. For as little as 5% of the €4 billion of Minister Kelly’s oft-repeated proposed finance for social housing. i.e. €200 million, Dublin City Council could build over 1,300 homes. The struggles of the past are not merely for commemoration, Cieran went on to say, but are for celebration and for continuation, as he concluded to applause.
Caitríona then called on James Carpenter to unveil the plaque, which he did, to loud applause.
After relatives and others had taken photos and been photographed in turn by the plaque and/or beside James Carpenter, Joe Mooney called on Diarmuid Breatnach to sing The Felons Of Our Land. Joe explained that Walter Carpenter had been fond of singing that son, that in the course of their participation in the struggle he and his son had also been felons, as had Larkin and many others. Joe also informed the gathering that Sean O’Casey related that during his childhood, there had been a tram conductor who had been fond of singing patriotic songs, including the Felons Of Our Land, of which Casey’s mother had disapproved. It had been an revelation for O’Casey that one could be a Protestant and an Irish patriot too.
Diarmuid, dressed in approximation of period clothing, stepped forward and sang the four verses, of which the final lines are:
Let cowards sneer and tyrants frown O! little do we care– A felon’s cap’s the noblest crown An Irish head can wear. And every Gael in Innisfail (Who scorns the serf’s vile brand) From Lee to Boyne would gladly join The felons of our land.
The crowd then marched back to the Sean O’Casey Centre to attend the launch of the booklet on Carpenter’s life.
Launch of book on Walter Carpenter by his granddaughter and grandson of his comrade
On the stage in the Centre’s theatre, were seated the author of the booklet, Ellen Galvin, alongside Michael O’Brien of O’Brien Press.
Michael O’Brien, addressing the audience, said he had wondered what qualification he might have to launch the book but on investigation discovered that he had not a few connections. His own grandfather, who was Jewish, had been a founder member of the Tailors, Machinists and Pressers’ Union, of which Carpenter had been the General Secretary until his retirement and so they must have known one another at least fairly well.
Also, Bill O’Brien’s father, Thomas, had been a communistand was active with Walter Carpenter in the Republican Congress in the 1930s. Walter Carpenter and Thomas O’Brien had both also been active in the Bacon Shops’ Strike of the early 1930s. Thomas O’Brien had been jailed during that strike along with Jack Nalty and Dinny Coady, both of whom had East Wall connections; subsequently Thomas went to fight Franco and fascism in Spain, where Nalty and Coady were both killed.
Ellen Galvin spoke about Walter Carpenter’s life and his dedication to the advance of the working class and the struggle for justice. Walter had been a supporter of equality for all, including gender, a man who read much and widely, who apparently learned Irish and campaigned for allotments for rent on Council-owned land while it was unused for housing. He was against the consumption of alcohol but sympathised with people driven to its use by terrible housing conditions.
Joe then called on Diarmuid Breatnach to sing Be Moderate, written by James Connolly, to illustrate what it was that people like Connolly and those of the Irish Citizen Army fought for and for which some had given their lives. Diarmuid took the stage and explained that the song had been published in New York in 1910, the same year that he had returned to Ireland from the USA. There had been no indication of an air to accompany the lyrics, as a result of which it has been sung to a number of airs. Diarmuid heard it sung in London by an English communist to the air of a Nation Once Again 3 and at least one good thing about this is that it provides a chorus, with which he encouraged the audience to join in. He then sang the song, of which the final lines are:
For workers long, with sighs and tears, To their oppressors knelt. But never yet, to aught save fears, Did heart of tyrant melt. We need not kneel, our cause is high Of true hearts 4 there’s no dearth And our victorious rallying cry Shall be “We want the Earth!”
Many in the audience joined in on the chorus: We only want the Earth, We only want the Earth, And our demands most moderate are: We only want the Earth!
Eamon Carpenter delivered an impromptu tribute to Ellen Galvin, who he told the audience had lost her mother at the age of 13 years of age, from which time she had taken over the mother’s role for her younger siblings, ensuring the were fed, dressed and cared for. This tribute was warmly applauded while Ellen seemed embarrassed but also pleased.
This was another successful commemoration of the revolutionary history and, in particular, of the working class history of their area by the East Wall History Group. It is of great importance that the working class be appraised of their own history as distinct from the dominant historical narratives and that their revolutionary traditions be remembered, not as something dead and in the past but as part of a continuum of struggle for the emancipation of the class.
If there is a weakness in a number of such commemorations it is the lack of participation by local adolescent youth in these events – which may also imply a lack of engagement by this age-group. Nevertheless, should they go searching at some future date for the information and their connection to the history of place and class, they will find a treasure trove waiting for them in the work of this History Group.
1 There exists today an organisation called the Socialist Party of Ireland (which often organises under the banner of the Anti-Austerity Alliance) but it is not directly descended from the party founded in Ireland in 1909; rather it is closer to being an offshoot of the Socialist Party of England and Wales, with which it has close fraternal relations.
2 The Dublin Metropolitan Police gained particular notoriety for the violence against organised workers on behalf of Dublin employers, especially during the 1913 Lockout, during which they killed a number of workers with their truncheons. In later years, the force became a Dublin police force under the Free State, which was later subsumed into the Garda Síochána, a fact not generally known.
3 Written by Thomas Davis, first published in The Nation, Dublin, 1844.
Many people know about the Battle of Mount Street and how 15 men fought a force of Sherwood Forresters 1,600 strong and, with the support of some rifle fire from the coastal railway line (and at very long range, from Jacobs Factory), kept them from crossing the Grand Canal for five hours. But what if the British soldiers had been landed at the Dublin docks instead? In fact, why did the British prefer to land them in Dun Laoghaire, seven miles away?
THE FIGHTING IN THE NORTHSIDE DOCKLANDS
It has been historian Hugo McGuinness’ contention for some time that it was the resistance that British troops encountered around the docks and at Ballybough at the beginning of the Rising, coupled with a history of the workers’ resistance of the 1913 Lockout, that convinced the British that it would be a very bad idea to attempt to land troops in the Dublin docks. Hence the choice of Dún Laoghaire and bringing them from there into Dublin along the coast road. From there, unless they took a considerably roundabout route, they would pass by either the Volunteers in Bolands’ Mill or their comrades at the Mount Street and Northumberland Road outposts. And so, the Battle of Mount Street Bridge.
In 2014, the “1916 Rising: Battle at Annesley Bridge” walking tour organised by the East Wall History Group was a huge success. Led by Hugo McGuinness as guide, it was estimated that almost 200 people took part.
‘The events at Annesley Bridge in 1916 generally receive only a small mention in the history of the Rising. In fact, there was fierce fighting at the time, not only at the bridge but throughout the surrounding areas. There were a great number of casualties, including civilians, though an exact figure has been difficult to compile. Our walking tour, for the first time, attempted to tell the whole story – from the radicalisation of the local residents in the years previous, to the events on Easter Week 1916 and how sporadic sniper battles continued after the Rising had ‘officially’ ended.‘
That there was a military engagement at Annesley Bridge was known but it has been generally thought of as a minor skirmish. Hugo McGuinness’s original research along with compilation and examination of references has uncovered a much more important story, one containing a number of armed engagements – and with far-reaching consequences.
THE RECENT PRESENTATION
On 28th April, a full hall in the Gibson Hotel of mostly North Wall residents received a presentation from historian Hugo McGuinness on “The 1916 Rising: The Fight in the Docklands”, a talk organised by the East Wall History Group. Using an electronic slideshow of photos and maps to illustrate his talk, Hugo took the audience through an amazing story of Irish resistance courage, tragedy, comedy, bungling and initiative, with lots of little vignettes.
Of particular impressiveness was the group of Volunteers who ran down a street to engage a detachment of British soldiers from the Musketry School at Dollymount who were heading down East Wall Road towards the docks. The detachment of British soldiers had slipped out of an engagement with a blocking force facing Annesley Bridge. A small group of Volunteers ran down North Dock Road to cut them off and engaged them, stopping their progress. Then there was the Volunteer who put a British machine gun out of action with one shot when he hit the water-cooling mechanism.
Hugo’s audience were told of the Irish sniper in the docks whom the British nicknamed the ‘trade unionist’ – he took up position around 8am and always finished at 5pm. There was the floating gun platform in the Liffey, not just the Helga. There were no feeding arrangements made for the soldiers sent into Dublin so they looted homes and warehouses.
Many local people were interned in a large goods shed. Many houses were strafed by machine guns and a number of civilians shot dead – one man later put an empty picture frame on the wall in his hall to surround a pattern of bullet-holes there. A member of the Dublin Metropolitan Police was killed by British troops and his colleague pallbearers were held up for hours at a checkpoint manned by the Dublin Fusiliers – some residual hostility from the Lockout perhaps? Martial law here meant that if you were seen in the area, you were warned and, if seen again, you were shot! If you did not respond to a military challenge you would also be shot. Nevertheless, children hung around the troops and gathered intelligence for the insurgents – but one was killed too.
Just before concluding, Hugo mentioned the research of another historian (whose name I did not catch), showing a rise later in 1916 and in subsequent years of names give to children following some of the better-known participants in the Rising and also a rise in personal names in Irish.
As is often the case with those who are passionate about their subject, Hugo’s presentation was a little overlong, in my opinion and he had to rush the end. The projector threw the bottom part of the image frames, which often contained a separate photo or map, too low, so that one had to stand to see them over the heads of those in front. Those are the only two faults I felt in what was an engaging and engaged presentation of well-researched material about a fascinating but understated part of the history of the 1916 Rising, with a working class and lower middle class flavouring sprinkled throughout.
After the talk, a number of the audience joined the organisers in the bar of the Gibson Hotel where history continued to be discussed. In the foyer to the bar/restaurant, a small exhibition of panels entitled “Casualties and Prisoners” had been set up.
Inside the bar, the surroundings were plush and out of synch with the area. Although the bar was only moderately busy, the service was very slow; later we were harassed to leave as the bar was closing, although we had been served pints only ten minutes earlier. There was no arguing from the group but a number remarked that they would not be drinking there again.
The refreshments element apart, for which no responsibility lies with the group, this was another very successful event among a number organised by the East Wall History Group. Rumour has it Hugo may have a book coming out soon – I can hardly wait.
“From the Lockout to Revolution”, performance of the East Wall PEG Drama & Variety Group at City Hall on April 9th 2016. This was part of a program of events organised in conjunction with the Cabra 1916 Rising Committee and Dublin City Council.
At the outset of the Easter Rising, City Hall was occupied by a detachment of the Irish Citizen Army and was the location of fierce fighting until the insurgents were forced to surrender. Their commanding officer and another three fighters were killed there.
( Video produced and edited by Eoin McDonnell )
East Wall PEG Drama & Variety Group performers: Rebecca Dillon, Mary Colmey, Monica Horan, Paul Horan, Colm Meehan, Séamus Murphy, Tréasa Woods, with Diarmuid Breatnach.
The struggle for the preservation of Moore Street that is currently in the news (but has been going on for fifteen years) is one not only for nationalists and Republicans, but for socialists too. And for socialists of revolutionary ideology as well as for radical social democrats. But currently these sectors, apart from individuals independent of political party (and one or two belonging to parties), are keeping away from the issue. In this they are seriously mistaken and are doing the working class in Ireland and indeed internationally a disservice.
BACKGROUND TO MOORE STREET STRUGGLE
For those who may not be aware of the historical background, roughly 300 men and women of the GPO garrison in 1916, having to evacuate the burning building, made their way to Moore Street and occupied the terrace from the junction with Henry Place to what is now O’Rahilly Parade, entering at No.10 and tunneling through up to No.25 at the end of the terrace. On the following day, the decision was taken to surrender. Despite its historical status, nothing was done by the State to protect the ‘1916 Terrace’ for decades, although a small commemorative plaque was put on No.16 in 1966, when a number of such plaques were erected at sites throughout the city.
Fifteen years ago a campaign was started, by the National Graves Association and mostly by descendants of people who participated in the 1916 Rising, to have an appropriate historical monument on the site. In 2007 the State named buildings No.14-17 as a ‘National Monument’ but would take no steps regarding the other twelve buildings in the Terrace. By that time the four buildings belonged to a property speculator who allowed them to deteriorate but compliance with maintenance and upkeep obligations to a national monument were not enforced by the State. Also, shortly afterwards, the speculator put in a planning application for a huge shopping centre entailing the demolition of 12 houses of the Terrace and the State approved it.
Other threats emerged later, such as planning applications to extend the ILAC centre further into Moore Street and to build a tall budget hotel at the Moore Lane/ O’Rahilly Parade intersection; these were approved by Dublin City Council’s Planning Department although the majority of the Councillors have voted to preserve the 1916 Terrace and indeed the Historical Quarter.
At the end of 2015 the State bought the four houses of the ‘national monument’ from the speculator, paying him €1 million each for them and proposed to knock down houses either side of it. As soon as the intention to proceed with imminent demolitions became clear, emergency demonstrations were called in the street by a newer group, Save Moore Street From Demolition (founded in September 2014). A five-day occupation of the buildings ensued, ending only on foot of an order of the Court that no demolition take place while a High Court challenge to the Dept. of Heritage was awaited.
A number of protest actions have taken place since then including a street concert and a march from Liberty Hall to Moore Street ending in a rally at the GPO. The struggle continues at the time of writing with further events planned and the SMSFD group have joined with others, including people who occupied the buildings, to form the ‘Save Moore Street 2016’ group. It is a broad group containing activists from a number of Republican organisations and independents of community action, socialist and Republican background.
In a separate development, a High Court challenge against the process undertaken by the State to buy the properties and demolish others on either side opened on February 9th and has been adjourned a number of times since, apparently due to the State not having got its papers together.
Socialists may argue that the cause lying behind the struggle is one of preservation of Republican or even nationalist history. I would argue that is only partly true – but what if it were so? Who actually makes history? It is the masses of people that make history, even if individuals among all classes at certain times are thrust – or throw themselves – upon the stage. In that sense, ALL history of progressive social history belongs to the working class.
Furthermore, the underlying historical reason for which many are seeking to preserve the 1916 Terrace and, indeed, the Moore Street historical quarter, is because it related to a struggle against colonialism, against an immense colonial empire. Are socialists to say that they take no interest in anti-colonial struggles and their history? Or is it that they do, so long as they be in some other part of the world? And if the latter be their position, what possible political justification could they offer for it?
STREET MARKET – SOCIAL HISTORY
In the development of this city, Dublin, street traders have played a part – as indeed they have in the development of probably every city in the world. Working people and small-time entrepreneurs, working hard from dawn to dusk in all weathers to feed themselves and their families, a link between town and country or between coast and inner city. They brought fresh food to the city dwellers of all classes and brought colour to what was often a drab environment, colour to the eye and to the ear also.
Moore Street is the last remaining street of a traditional street market centuries old, the rest of which now lies buried under the ILAC centre and which even now threatens to extend further into Moore Street, squeezing the market street still further. This street market and its history as well as being physically threatened by the proposed extension of the ILAC, squeezed commercially by Dunne’s and Lidl, is threatened also by a planned budget hotel building of many floors and of course the giant shopping centre plan of Chartered Land/ Hammerson. Have the socialist groups nothing to say about this or, if they are against this monopoly capitalist assault, why do they distain to take their place in the ranks of the resistance?
AGAINST WORLD WAR
Some of the Volunteers undoubtedly planned the Rising to take place during the first imperialist World War purely on the basis of the maxim that ‘England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity’. But others, including the revolutionary socialist leader James Connolly, also clearly wanted a rising against the slaughter of workers in a war between imperialists. Connolly wrote a number of articles denouncing this slaughter which socialists of his time had pledged themselves to fight but which few had actually done, when it came to the crunch. However, that position remains the correct one for the working class: in a situation where your masters wish to send you out to fight your class brothers abroad, turn your guns on your masters instead. The 1916 Rising stands as an example of this, the first of the 20th Century and world history would have to wait until the following year for another example in Europe.
All the Irish socialist groups, as far as I’m aware, right across the spectrum from Anarchist to Communist, hold the memory of James Connolly and of the Irish Citizen Army in high esteem. And so do the radical social democrats.
James Connolly led the Irish Citizen Army into alliance with the Irish Volunteers, Cumann na mBan and na Fianna. The ICA, a trade union-based militia, had been formed to defend demonstrating and picketing workers against the attacks of the Dublin Metropolitan Police in 1913. When the ICA went out in the 1916 Rising, Ireland was the first country in the world that century for a workers’ armed unit to fight in its own uniforms and under its own leaders.
The ICA were allocated the Stephens Green and Dublin Castle areas but also had members in the GPO garrison. So when the GPO garrison retreated from the burning building, ICA members were part of that retreat. At least one died on that journey, struck down in Henry Place by British Army bullets at the intersection with what is now Moore Lane.
When the GPO garrison took possession of the 16 houses of the Terrace in Moore Street, tunneling from house to house, the ICA were part of that. And when the decision to surrender was taken, the ICA laid down their arms with the rest.
The 1916 Rising and the occupation of the Moore Street terrace and backyards is part of the ICA’s history and is therefore part of the history of the Irish working class and, indeed, of the international working class. If the socialist groups don’t wish to celebrate that episode in the history of the class, why? If, on the other hand, they do celebrate it, why then do they not join the struggle to have the place of their last stand preserved from demolition and to have the ICA’s place in history marked by a fitting monument?
The lack of engagement of most of the revolutionary and radical left with the Moore Street struggle has also meant no noticeable pressure within the trade unions, where the left have some influence, to even declare verbally for the preservation of the 1916 Terrace. To date, only one section of one trade union, the Construction Section of SIPTU, has declared in favour of saving the Terrace.
The struggle for gender equality is an important part of the struggle for the emancipation of the working class, i.e. for socialism: women represent slightly over one-half of the human race and this is true also for the working class. In addition, the oppression of one part of the class serves as a wedge into the solidarity of the class as a whole.
In 1916 women served as auxiliaries in Cumann na mBan and as equals in the Irish Citizen Army. That year was the first in the World in which women participated in an insurrection in a unit of their own, wearing a uniform of their own and under their own female officers, as was the case with Cumann na mBan. It was also the first time in the 20th Century in which women had formal equality with men in an armed workers’ organisation, as they did in the Irish Citizen Army.
The Proclamation was the first insurrectionary call to arms to address itself specifically to women alongside men (“Irish men and Irish women …”, it begins) and had been signed in secret a little earlier by the seven male signatories (or by most of them) in the alternative cafe and agricultural product cooperative run by Jenny Wyse Power at No.21 Henry Street.
CAPITALISM & THE STATE
The campaign for the saving and appropriate renovation of the 1916 Terrace first of all confronted the capitalist property speculator Joe Reilly and his Chartered Land company, while it lobbied the State to take over the Terrace.
When in 2007 the State declared four houses in the Terrace to be a ‘national monument’, the campaign continued confronting the speculator but now calling, without success, on the State to oblige Mr. O’Reilly to comply with his maintenance obligations to a national monument. When the State granted, with some changes, planning permission for the speculator’s giant shopping centre, the campaign moved into confrontation with the State, a confrontation which intensified after the State purchased the four buildings and prepared to demolish the buildings on either side.
The whole saga was an object demonstration of the function of the State in facilitating capitalist property speculation and furthermore, of the neo-colonial nature of a capitalist class unable to consider saving such a national historical treasure even with the support of the vast majority of the population.
In such a struggle, with people with democratic objectives on one side and, on the other, rapacious property speculators and a capitalist State facilitating those speculators, where does the duty of socialists lie? It is clear on which side they should stand if they should stand on the issue at all. And they should take a stand on it – how can the development of that struggle do anything but strengthen the democratic movement in general, including the movement for socialism, and harm its opponents, the State and capitalism in Ireland? And surely in the course of that struggle, with socialists side by side with Republicans, alliances would be formed which could be built upon for more ambitious projects later?
For all the reasons given above, its social history, its anti-colonial history, the history of the common people as well as that of intellectuals, the history of the working class to assert its independence and dominance of the movement for liberation, the history of women’s struggles, and the current struggle of people against property speculator capital and State, the place of socialists, revolutionary and radical, is right there with the Moore Street 1916 Terrace campaigners. But where are they?
With the exception of a few honourable exceptions, they are notable by their absence. Yet, they will wonder at times why the mass of people do not follow them; why, for the most part, they regard them and their organisations as an irrelevance.