On my way to Griffiths Park in the Glasnevin-Drumcondra area on Monday I stopped to gape at a glitter-storm above the street. They were flies, dancing in the sunlight, the slanting light reflected off them. In the Park itself through which the Tolka flows, I saw many more clouds of them, always in patches of the early evening sunlight. These were the Mayfly or Cuil Bhealtaine. I took photos but my phone was unable to capture their true beauty, coming out in the photos more like snowflakes.
At one point I was able to observe a cloud of them at closer distance. They didn’t all just fly around haphazardly – every now and again individuals would dive down like a meteor – the sun making them seem as though they had a burning trail — and then zoom up again. On and on they went and it amazed me that no birds or bats seemed to be preying on them.
A poem or a piece of music might have done the sight justice.
The mayflies rise from their larval stages underwater only to procreate, to open their wings and fly, then to mate and to lay eggs into the water. They cannot eat as they no longer have mouthparts and individuals that are not seized and eaten by other life-forms have at most a couple of days to live.
A great many life-forms, especially invertebrates, spend their youth in the water and rise to mate. Dragonflies and damsel flies do so – a return to ancient mother water for some, perhaps. Long ago the cetaceans – whales and dolphins – ‘returned’ to sea and evolved to adopt to it, limbs converted to fins and tail. Penguins did the same, wings becoming flippers. And mayflies are quite an ancient life form too.
As a child and into my early teens I would spend hours by a pond or other stretches of water, looking at what I could see of the animal life there, also sweeping a long-handled net through the water and bringing my assorted catch home to examine in jars or basins of water.
The larvae or nymph stages of water-laying flies comprised a large part of the collection: midges, gnats, mosquitos, rat-tailed maggots, stoneflies, bloodworms and also the larvae of the dysticus beetle (handle with care!). These and more shared the murky waters with daphnia and rotifers, leeches and planarian worms, water-mites, frog and newt tadpoles while water-scorpions, water-measurers, pond-skaters and water-margin spiders prowled the surface above like pirates.
In clearer water such as streams and rivers, I caught sticklebacks while caddis fly larvae inside their home-made tubes imitated drowned twigs.
But I don’t recall ever seeing mayflies and certainly never saw a hatch like this. No doubt trout anglers have seen the like often for such mass ‘hatchings’ are a bonanza for them. From boat or land they cast out their lines with articifial flies attached, hoping the trout rising to snatch at the mayfly harvest will grab the false fly instead. These hooks with bits of feather or fibre tied around them don’t look like a fly to you or me but sitting on top of the water and seen from below, they must look good enough to eat.
ON THE WAY BACK
There was more to see, like the mallard duck with her clutch of chicks or ducklings but the intervening branches made a photograph impossible. In shape and colour the new ducklings remind one of bumblebees and they zip around on the water without difficulty and fearless. Alas, they have a high attrition rate as seagulls and herons will each take them as a snack.
Looping around on my walk I passed by the closed Botanic Gardens looking great in the sunset but I had to stalk the view from the side to get a shot clear of the scaffolding inside and signpost outside in front.
On the bank of the Royal Canal on the home stretch a heron was standing close to the path but I delayed too long getting my camera ready so it became uneasy and began to move off. Further along, a swan couple kept their cygnets close, just a couple of days old at most, balls of grey fluff – Anderson’s “ugly ducklings”.
But the day’s prize for me was undoubtedly the clouds of mayflies in their glittering dance in the sun.
When I asked the guy filling shelves in the supermarket where the milk powder was I had no idea what was to come.
Picking up on his accent as he showed me, I asked him where he was from.
“Poland,” he replied, so naturally I thanked him in one of the few words or phrases I know in Polish. He responded in Polish too, then asked me where I was from.
“Here”, I replied.
“Dublin’”, he replied, “wha? ah Jayzus. How’re ya doin’, Bud? Allrih?” And there followed a stream of Dublinese: words, accent and even gestures.
This of course, is our third language here in the capital city – not the native one relinquished by so many, not the colonisers’ appropriated by so many, though a version of it, moulded, turned, somewhat UStaterised, slanged, missing endings ….
He had me laughing, of course and as I paid for my purchases I mentioned it to the cashier, who told me the guy works part-time on nightclub security, so he picks up plenty of it on the door. We both agreed he does it very well.
I went off smiling — another small but interesting experience in our capital city.
DRHE threaten to clamp down on food tables feeding the homeless
Diarmuid Mac Dubhghlais
(Reading time: mins.)
Rebel Breeze editorial introduction: Through its agency Dublin Regional Homeless Executive, Dublin City Council recently threatened to close down the charity services delivering food and bottled water to homeless and hungry people. On the back of scandal about the alleged sexual predation of the deceased founder of the Inner City Homeless organisation, the Council issued a press statement which implied the threat, supported also by indications of Garda cooperation. Diarmuid Mac Dubhghlais, founder and organiser of the Éire Nua Food Initiative, one of the many charity services engaged in the work, has responded in a detailed article, reprinted here with the author’s permission.
THE 26-County State released figures on September 24 showing that there are currently 8,212 people accessing emergency accommodation in the State, a total of 6,023 adults and 2,189 children who are homeless.
These figures of homelessness have long been disputed by many others who work within the homeless sector as the State refuses to count those who are couch-surfing, or otherwise sharing accommodation with friends/family. The vast majority of the nation’s homeless are in the capital with 4,220 people accessing accommodation. 953 families are homeless in Ireland, according to the report.
Homelessness charities have warned that more families face losing their homes in the coming months due to private rental market constricts and evictions rise. This has already been borne out with reports of new faces showing up at the many soup runs/food tables that are in the city centre. Pat Doyle, CEO of Peter McVerry Trust, said “Any increase is disappointing because it means more people impacted by homelessness. However, we are now at the busiest time of year for social housing delivery and we would hope that the number of people getting access to housing will significantly increase in the coming months.”
Dublin Simon CEO Sam McGuiness cited the toll on the physical and mental health of people trapped in long-term homelessness. He said: “This population is desperate to exit homelessness and yet they are spending longer than ever before in emergency accommodation. This group deserves far better lives than the ones they are currently living. We see first-hand the toll this is taking in the increased demands for our treatment services, counselling services and the increase in crisis counselling interventions. Outcomes for people in emergency accommodation will not improve until they have a secure home of their own. Until this happens there is scant hope of a better future for this vulnerable group.”
“MANY CHILDREN NOW SPEND THEIR FORMATIVE YEARS IN HOMELESSNESS”
Éire Nua food initiative founder Diarmuid Mac Dubhghlais pointed out at a homelessness protest that many children now spend their formative years in homelessness and have no real idea of what it is like to have a traditional “Sunday dinner” or their own bedroom/play area. This will severely impact their personalities far into the future.
A report published on September 14 by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) found that lone parents and their children account for 53% of all homeless families. The report said that lone parents and their children are much more likely to experience poor housing than other household types. The report also highlights the disadvantages experienced by young people, migrants, people with disabilities and Travellers in the Irish housing system. Researchers looked at six dimensions of housing adequacy – accessibility, affordability, security of tenure, cultural adequacy, quality, and location. They found that less than 25% of lone parents reported home-ownership, compared with 70% of the total population. Lone parents had higher rates of affordability issues (19%) when compared to the general population (5%) and were particularly vulnerable to housing quality problems such as damp and lack of central heating (32% compared to 22%).
Ethnic minority groups had a significantly higher risk of over-crowding, the research found. Over 35% of Asian/Asian Irish people, 39% of Travellers and over 40% of Black/Black Irish people live in over-crowded accommodation, compared to 6% of the total population. Almost half of all migrants in Ireland live in the private rental sector, compared to 9% of those born in Ireland. Migrants, specifically those from Eastern Europe (28%) and non-EU countries (27%), are more likely to live in over-crowded conditions.
The research found that almost one third of persons living with a disability experience housing quality issues, compared to 21% of those without a disability. Researchers said there remains a real risk that levels of homelessness will worsen after the pandemic restrictions are lifted and they raised concern about rents increasing faster than mean earnings in Dublin and elsewhere. In 2020, mean monthly rent in Ireland was estimated to be 31% of mean monthly earnings. “Adequate housing allows people to not only survive but thrive and achieve their full potential, whilst leading to a more just, inclusive and sustainable society.”
Meanwhile, the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive (DRHE) said on September 28 that it is to seek greater regulation of organisations providing services for homeless people in the capital as soon as possible in the wake of the Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) controversy. Dublin City Council’s deputy chief executive Brendan Kenny, who has responsibility for the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive (DRHE) in his role, said that due to the high number of informal homeless organisations set up in recent years there is “currently no vetting, no controls, on many people who are actually interacting directly with homeless people”. Kenny said he doesn’t want “over-regulation” to lead to certain groups disbanding but added: “At the moment there’s nothing and that’s not good enough.”
In a statement, the DRHE said it is “strongly of the view that greater regulation, vetting, and scrutiny is required for organisations/charities that set themselves up as service providers for homeless persons, including the provision of on-street food services”. “Several such organisations not funded by the DRHE have come into existence in recent years and the DRHE and our partner agencies will be endeavouring in the coming months to bring the necessary expanded scrutiny and regulation to all such organisations.”
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said there will be a review of Garda vetting procedures for the homelessness sector. Kenny said a report commissioned by Dublin City Council into the impact of unvetted charities is near completion and will provide further insight on the matter. It has been pointed out several times over the past four months that the DRHE, DCC and others have long tried to close the soup runs/food tables in the city centre and many now fear that what has been revealed through the ICHH debacle will be used to close many of these down. The DRHE are ignoring the fact that it is their rules and the oversight bodies recognised by them that has let the homeless down, not the food tables. Much of the work done by the food tables is done in the open and in full public view.
The issues highlighted through the ongoing ICHH investigation show it is what went on behind closed doors that is the problem. Those in oversight positions didn’t do their jobs; people were put in positions of authority without relevant qualifications. The DRHE, DCC and the police should look to how they can improve safety within their “regulated” organisations before seeking to regulate the volunteers who serve a need without any remuneration.
Many of the volunteers at food tables would have difficulty meeting the requirements of police vetting as some would be former addicts, and many others have no desire to become registered charities.
Again, it was pointed out by Diarmuid that many of these “regulated” charities will have high overheads such as transport insurance, maintenance and fuel costs. Some will have CEO wages and petty cash expenses to cover before any donations can be spent on the service user, whereas the Éire Nua food initiative and some others do not seek cash donations. All is done voluntarily and any costs are borne by the volunteers themselves. He cited that many registered charities are little more than businesses operating within the homelessness sector.
Diarmuid has been quoted in the past citing that “there are now many businesses making huge money out of those who are in homelessness” and “that the volunteer ethos that surround many food tables is not to be found within some charities”.
“IMPROVE THE STANDARD OF REGISTERED ACCOMMODATION, NOT SHUT DOWN THE VOLUNTARY ORGANISATIONS”
Kenny said the large number of pop-up soup runs mean some people are less likely to engage with the larger charities funded by the DRHE and in turn, less likely to engage with their support services. The DRHE views sleeping in a homeless hostel, rather than on the street, as a “much safer” option. However, he acknowledged that some homeless people don’t want to stay in a hostel, for a variety of reasons.
“We fully understand that but we’re strongly of the view that a hostel bed is absolutely safer and more hygienic than sleeping in a sleeping bag on the side or a street or in a tent. We know there are some people that just won’t go to a hostel – it may be that they have mental health issues. “We are also aware that some people would prefer to stay in a tent in order to stay involved in drugs and be taking drugs because they may not be able to do it in the hostel.” Kenny added that while hostels provide shelter and food, they “wouldn’t be the nicest place to sleep” but are still “far safer” than being on the street.
He totally ignores the many testimonies from residents, former residents and former workers within these hostels of the theft of personal property, the numerous assaults on residents by other residents, the bullying of residents by some staff members, low hygiene standards, open drug and alcohol abuse and the arbitrary nature operating within some hostels where a resident can be denied access on the whim of staff.
It is incumbent of the State, DRHE and the various councils to bring the standard of these types of accommodation up to a better standard and NOT try to shut those organisations who look after the many who fear staying within State accommodation.
Kenny also noted that sometimes tourists or those who are not homeless queue up to get food from the soup runs. He said fights also break out sometimes. “We’ve come across situations of tourists maybe going up to a food van and getting food, and maybe other people that are not in need of services. And the reality is that anybody that’s sleeping in a hostel, food is provided for them so there is not a shortage of food in the hostel services.
“[Soup runs] do attract a lot of people. I know there are times when large numbers of vulnerable people congregate and you end up with disputes and fights as well.”
On the issue of tourists queuing for food, he may well be right, but as the Éire Nua group has pointed out, “we feed the homeless AND hungry, we will not discriminate or question anyone who stands waiting for some food”.
Also pointed out by many residents of various hostels is the small proportions of meals given; while enough to sustain it is often not enough to keep that empty stomach feeling at bay. And for the five to six years that Diarmuid has volunteered alone, with the Éire Nua group or on another soup run, he or other volunteers have never had to call the police. On the few occasions where trouble has occurred, it is often rectified within seconds as the majority of people awaiting food know that: (1) the volunteers are their friends and out there to help them and (2) causing disruption to the smooth running of the tables can result in being denied food. The final word to Kenny from the Éire Nua food initiative: “Let the DRHE look to itself and those under its umbrella before looking to those outside their group; let them ensure the regulations in force within are enforced. Do not blame those who volunteer out of the goodness of their hearts for the sins of those who worked for them.”
It may be that the primary concerns of the Dublin municipal authorities and the Gardaí are to remove the visible signs of poverty and homelessness, rather than protection of the vulnerable among these. DCC Brendan Kenny’s comments in mid-August against the proliferation of homeless people living in tents may be seen as a concern that the charity food services constitute an unwelcome reflection on the performance of the Irish State and the municipal authorities of its capital city, visible not only to the city’s inhabitants — at all levels of society — but also to its visitors.
On Friday morning passing pedestrians, public and private transport drivers and passengers on Dublin’s Finglas Road witnessed a funeral cortege in which trade union banners and flags were carried by some of the mourners. The hearse leading the procession, followed by a lone piper did not bear the Starry Plough-draped coffin which instead was carried on the shoulders of a rota of family, comrades and friends on the approximately one-kilometre walk from the home of Manus O’Riordan to service at the famous Glasnevin Cemetery.
A large crowd participated in the funeral procession composed of a wide cross-section of the Irish Left, from revolutionaries to radical reformers to sedate social democrats. Manus was well known in Irish left-wing circles for a number of reasons. At various times he had been an active socialist, a member of the very small but influential and very controversial B&ICO, a senior official in the major trade union SIPTU and an active senior member of the Friends of the International Brigades Ireland. This last owed much to the fact that Manus’ father had fought in Spain and the veneration in the Irish Left and much of the Irish Republican movement for the Irish volunteers who fought to defend the Spanish Republic against the fascist-military uprising led by General Franco and aided by Nazi German and Fascist Italy. Mick O’Riordan survived the Spanish Antifascist War and was General Secretary of the Communist Party of Ireland and the last time some of the mourners had walked this route was in the elder O’Riordan’s funeral in 2006.
The trade union banners marked Manus’ trade union work while another signalled his support for the Cuban Republic against the blockade imposed upon it by the USA. Two large flags in the red, gold and purple of the Spanish Republic of 1936-1939 were carried too, bearing the legend “Connolly Column” (in Irish and in English) to represent the Irish volunteers who fought against the military-fascist coup. Along the route, copies of a combined Spanish Republic and Starry Plough, attached high upon lampposts, fluttered or strained outwards in the breeze. Among the procession a number of Starry Plough flags flew also, the green and gold version of the Irish Citizen Army, along with a Basque and a Palestinian flag, the latter recalling the stand of the Basque country against Franco and the former, Manus’ solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinian people. At one point, the Catalan Senyera (flag) was also displayed, recalling that in the Ebro Offensive, Michael O’Riordan had been chosen to carry the Catalan flag across the Ebro river. A number of people also wore scarves of the Bohemian Football Club, with supporters among Manus’ family and friends.
Though cold, the day remained sunny and most thankfully of all, rain-free. Upon reaching the cemetery, the coffin was taken into the chapel near the entrance at which non-religious or religious services may be chosen. Due to Covid19 restrictions, the service was reserved for family and close relatives only.
The rest of the crowd gathered outside and perhaps before 11 am a burst of applause heralded the approach of the President of the Irish State, Michael D. Higgins, accompanied by a senior member of the Irish armed forces in ceremonial uniform. The applause was no doubt in appreciation for Higgins’ appearance and due to his office but also certainly in approval of his decision not to attend a forthcoming British colonial state function to celebrate the centenary of the partition of Ireland in 1921. And also no doubt in sympathy to the controversy regarding his decision whipped up by sections of the British and Irish media and a handful of politicians, not only British and Unionist.
There was an ex-president of a different kind present too, Jack O’Connor, who was elected General President of the SIPTU (trade union) in 2003 for three terms and in 2009, President of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. O’Connor took a stint sharing the weight of the coffin and though no doubt he had his supporters in the crowd he had a substantial number of enemies in the trade union movement too, though this is not the place to speak of the reasons.
Among others who attended to pay their sympathies to the O’Riordan family and Manus’ partner Nancy Wallach were Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe, Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald and Sinn Féin TDs Louise O’Reilly and Sean Crowe.
Former Labour Party leader Ruairí Quinn, former Press Ombudsman and Labour TD John Horgan, Communist Party of Ireland Gen. Sec. Eugene McCartan and retired trade union leader Mick O’Reilly of Unite were also there.
After the service, some of the attendance repaired to the not very distant Maples Hotel in Iona Road, where food had been prepared and refreshments could be purchased. Even with the crowd by then much diminished, they were spread over two reception rooms and had to be fed in shifts.
Manus’ sister Brenda playing a piece on the harp by medieval Irish musician Turlough O’Carolan while his daughter, Jess read a poem by Charlie Donnelly, who died fighting fascism in Spain, “The Tolerance of Crows” and his son, Luke sang the “Roll Away The Stone” song celebrating workers’ leader Jim Larkin (a song often sung by Manus himself in the past.
Manus was a regular participant in the singing session of the Góilín where he sang songs, in some of which the lyrics were his translations into Spanish, Irish or English and some were of his own composition. He composed poetry too. Accordingly, a significant section of the attendance at his funeral was composed of singers and participants of the Góilín and it was strange to hear no song sung during the procession or among the crowd outside; however folk singer Radie Peat of Lankum sang Liam Weldon’s song Via Extasia and Gerry O’Reilly sang The Parting Glass before Francis Devin sang the socialist anthem The Internationale before Manus O’Riordan’s coffin draped in The Starry Plough was removed for cremation.. At least one occasion to pay respect to Manus’ memory is promised in the future and no doubt song will play an important part of the proceeding then.
Manus O’Riordan wrote and lectured copiously over the years on a number of topics and over time revised some of his opinions, never shrinking from doing so publicly and renouncing a previous position strongly held. All his assertions were backed by arguments in favour and never merely by assertion.
Despite the numerous verbal battles in which Manus took part in speech and print, a number of them quite heated, he managed to remain on speaking terms with most people including his political enemies and had a wide range of friends and of people with whom he was on good terms. He lived an active and useful life but one cut short too soon at the age of 72.
There will be a number of groups and occasions where his absence will be keenly felt and of course by his family and his partner Nancy Wallach.
Go to Dublin city centre any evening and you will see people queuing up for food and water, being dispensed by teams of volunteers. There are at least 16 different organisations carrying out this work in the city centre, mostly outside the General Post Office, an imposing building and historical icon, the location of the HQ of the 1916 Rising from Easter Monday to Friday1. These are mostly community initiatives or if not, religious organisations (Christian, Muslim, Sikh), their staff volunteers, their efforts supported by donations. I arranged to speak to one of those volunteers.
DB: Orla, thank you for talking to me. You help with one of the soup-run-type initiatives? In Dublin City Centre?
Orla: That’s ok. Yes. Ours is one of the ones that sets up in front of the GPO, under the arch. We take over after another group has already been there.
And there are still people to feed? Even though a group has been feeding people before you?
Oh, yes. Sometimes the queue is already stretching to the corner of the GPO when I get there.
How long have you been doing it?
Since September last year with this group and a few stints with another group before that.
What made you take it up?
Over the years, like I suppose lots of other people, I’ve been seeing the rich get richer, the poor poorer. It’s made me more sympathetic to people in difficult situations. I don’t think people get where they are just by entitlement. It’s given me different perspectives. One Christmas Night … it was 2016 …. I got to go with a homeless outreach team, supporting people sleeping on the street …. It really opened my eyes. So I got to know a few of the volunteers, started off donating to their teams. Then one day I joined the volunteers.
What is it like to do that?
It can be challenging. We need to wear masks and gloves. Some of the people have mental health issues. You might get someone trying to take more than their share – well, if you see they have kids, that’s OK, or you really know they are taking one for someone else …. but you have to explain that the food is being shared, it’s for all and has to last. The queue has to form up at one end and has to keep moving …. Most are grateful and cooperate.
So, what do you and the other organisations provide?
Mostly food and bottled water.
You spoke earlier about donations. I have heard some volunteers say they don’t want money, also claims that some organisations asking for money have been scams. Would you like to talk a little about all that?
It is an issue. Most of the organisations are not registered charities that have audited accounts ….
Some registered charities have been found to be crooked too …
Yes, some certainly have. There was concern about a particular organisation that was collecting in front of the GPO. A reliable person who knew the score challenged them and warned others about them and we haven’t seen them since.
But getting back to donations to the teams feeding people …. are they in money or in food and water?
Mostly they are in water food and – bread, cakes, chocolates. There’s some shops, including convenience stores, that donate us bottled water and also food. Some of the food is prepared elsewhere and then brought down to the teams, already packed into single containers – because of the danger of infection. And we provide plastic forks and spoons. And there’s hot water containers for hot drinks. There’s one group of people who make sandwiches to bring down – they’re very popular. Some people help in preparing stuff but don’t work on the table handing it out.
Occasionally, but we usually ask people to buy food with the money and donate it. Occasionally a money donation might be accepted and a receipt would be given. But what can you do when someone just walks up to us when we’re busy, hands over a ten-euro note and walks away? Oh by the way, we don’t do a clothes service but if we know someone in particular needs clothes or shoes, we might bring them in. Or pass them on to the Lighthouse or Inner City Homeless.2 Sometimes outreach teams from registered services will come along to us too, so they can get someone into a hostel.
I have heard of some groups of far-Right or fascist orientation saying we should only be looking after the Irish. What would you say about that?
Well, I don’t agree. We feed people of whatever nationality, so long as they’re not scamming. Sometimes we get some Irish people in the queue making remarks like that and we have to be careful not to rise to it, to get in big arguments with them — but we don’t agree. They shouldn’t be judging. We don’t get people from Direct Provision but I’ve heard those are certainly not holiday camps. Racists say foreigners get things for free but any accommodation they get, they pay rent for. People might be here from abroad, working, paying rent, then they lose their job, things go wrong for them …. could happen to anyone.
Then, you might be from one county and be refused help in another. I remember a program on TV early in the year about a young person left on the street because he was from another county …. shocked a lot of people.
Has there been any trouble from racist organisations?
I remember that just before Christmas there were some threats made on social media from some far-Right people to some of the volunteers.
I heard about those threats too. Did anything happen?
No …. supporters turned up to defend them and stayed near for the whole shift.
So, is it tiring, after a day’s work, helping on the soup run line for two hours,?
Yes, after work I get something to eat, then head over there.
Well, thank you Orla for taking the time for the interview and for your work.
List of groups organising and serving the soup-runs (may not be complete)
Éire Nua Food Initiative
Grubs Up Homeless Services
Caring Is Sharing
Muslim Sisters of Éire
Gurdwara Nanak Darbar
Church of God
Hope In The Darkness
Streetlink Homeless Services
Liberty Soup Run
Ballymun Soup Run
Kilkenny group on Grafton Street
Go raibh maith agaibh go léir and to those who supply them with donations of food and bottled water.
Thankfully these organisations are providing services but it is a sad comment on any society that they are needed, let alone in a State that claims it won independence a century ago. The GPO is a central location in the city centre and is obviously convenient for the operation of the services. Nevertheless the fact the building housed the headquarters of the 1916 Rising for nearly five days is a poignant counterpoint to the aspirations of those who fought for independence and a better life for the people.
That some far-Right and outright fascist organisations such as the National Party are using the issue of poverty and homelessmess to point the finger not at the system but at migrants, is disgusting. Preying on the vulnerable, poisoning their minds and using them as a front to pretend that they are actually doing charitable work, filming their occasional propaganda forays into the city.
Meanwhile, there are real people of many different ethnic backgrounds actually out there week after week, doing the real work, whether by religious or communal solidarity. Some of the latter are also, at other times, political activists and to learn that they have been threatened by fascists makes one’s blood boil.
Fair play to those who are doing the real work. But it shouldn’t be necessary. The system is sick. It needsa fundamental change or at least a sharp shock.
…. charging ….. step back ….. JOLT!
…. charging ….. step back ….. JOLT!
1On that afternoon some of the garrison left to take wounded to Jervis Street Hospital and the major part, to head for the north-east of the city to continue the resistance but having to stop in Moore Street.
2Registered NGO services working with the homeless in Dublin.
The Trauma of Child Homelessnessby Brian McLoughlin
(Reading time: 2 mins.)
In March 2017, then housing minister Simon Coveney officially opened the first family hub in Dublin for families experiencing homelessness. He said this was a response to the negative experiences of homeless families being accommodated in commercial hotels. Coveney then confidently stated that the use of commercial hotels to accommodate homeless families would end in July 2017.
In Inner City Helping Homeless, we knew this was yet another empty promise that couldn’t possibly be delivered, but Coveney persisted with the publicity tour. When asked by The Journal if he really thought the goal of no longer using hotels for homeless families was achievable, he stuck to his guns that it was possible and that people were working hard to make it happen.
Fast forward four years, and the use of commercial hotels and B&Bs for homeless families continues as more and more hotels pop up around the city. A recent DRHE report stated that in April 2021 there were 113 families still being accommodated in commercial hotels. Families cramped in to one room with their children, their children’s toys, school books – all at a huge cost to the state. While we were all told to stay at home during Covid-19, these families had to spend day after day sharing one room, putting huge mental health pressure on both the children and their parents. It is well documented that living in emergency accommodation impacts a child’s development, creating physical and mental health issues for children in primary school. Homelessness is creating a trauma for a generation of children, and we will be seeing the fallout of this for years to come.
“There’s nothing nice about how I feel” – Charlie, aged 6
In 2019, the Ombudsman for Children brought out a report called No Place Like Home. For the report, they spoke to children living in emergency accommodation, from small children right up to teenagers. They asked them to explain what life for them was like in their own words, and some of the answers would break a heart made of stone. Children feeling like they were prisoners and were being punished when all they are guilty of is becoming homeless in a country that would rather pay huge money to hotels, B&Bs and family hubs than develop a proper public housing building plan to give these children homes. When asked what they liked about where they live, the answers spoke for themselves:
“I like nothing about living here, I have none of my friends here, I can’t do a sleep over … [it] makes me feel sad. There’s nothing nice about how I feel”. (Charlie, aged 6)
“It’s like a prison …. It’s just horrible” – Rebecca, aged 10
“The rules are very strict. The worst is that you are not allowed to have friends in your room. They just expect you to sit on your own. And not being allowed to be anywhere without your mam, you’re not even allowed to sit in the room for ten minutes by yourself. I know it has safety issues but nothing is going to happen … If we break the rules we will get kicked out. It’s like a prison … it’s just horrible”. (Rebecca, aged 10)
“Some days I didn’t even want to wake up” – Rachel, aged 10
“Some days I didn’t even want to wake up because I didn’t want to face this day … I am tired in school. Some days I would just sit there and not even smile”. (Rachel, aged 10)
When there are ten-year-old children having suicidal thoughts we as a society are failing these children. Many speak of not being allowed to have visitors or sleep-overs – even prisoners are allowed to have visitors. Why are we allowing this?
“Children … were struggling to learn to walk in a cramped room”
In 2018, Temple Street Children’s Hospital experienced a big spike in children being released to ‘No Fixed Abode’ and wrote a report on the impact of homelessness on children. The report stated that homeless children are most likely to get sick from their cramped accommodation. The main reasons children presented to Temple Street were burns (kettles in hotel rooms), scabies from dodgy mattresses, injuries from falls, and respiratory issues. Even more shocking is the fact that homeless children were not developing quickly enough: they were struggling to learn to walk in a cramped room and even the development of their swallow was effected due to the food they were having to eat as their parents had no available cooking facilities. Research shows that homelessness influences every facet of a child’s life, from conception to young adulthood, and that the experience of homelessness inhibits the physical, emotional, cognitive, social and behavioural development of children.
“As of April 2021 there were 167 families, 247 adults and 475 children, who are in emergency accommodation for over two years”
These children are this country’s future generations, and they are being let down over and over again by an incompetent government who lack empathy, compassion and vision. A government which continues to outsource state responsibilities to private developers, vulture funds, commercial hotels, B&Bs and privately-operated hostels. Not only do we have a government who lack empathy and compassion, but they are also economically incompetent. Report after report has highlighted what we are doing to children’s development by keeping them in emergency accommodation. As of April 2021 there were 167 families, 247 adults and 475 children, who are in emergency accommodation for over two years.
And what does family emergency accommodation cost? What is the price the taxpayer pays to put children into these environments that cause so much pain?
Fact: it costs more to accommodate a family in emergency accommodation than in a luxury apartment
The figure for accommodating a family of four in emergency accommodation for a year is a staggering €69,000-€80,000. To put a family in one room, to put a huge strain on the mental and physical health of both the children and their parents. For context, American real estate fund Kennedy Wilson are renting out units in Dublin’s Capitol Dock Development, originally marketed as Dublin’s Most Desirable Address. On-site amenities include a concierge service, gym, fitness studio, business lounge, residents’ lounge, chef’s kitchen and a cinema room. Nearly half of these apartments are vacant today, potential homes sitting empty as families struggle through life in emergency accommodation. And the cost of renting one of these apartments is considerably less than what the taxpayer is paying per family for emergency accommodation. The biggest unit in the Capitol Dock building is a three-bed and the monthly cost is €4,017-€4,410. This is between €20,000 and €30,000 cheaper annually than putting a homeless family into a hotel or B&B for the year. Is this acceptable to people?
We owe it to these children to fight for them, to tell the government that we will no longer accept their hyperbole and broken promises. These children deserve a safe and secure home, something stated in the original constitution, and we have gotten further and further away from that in the last ten years. We all need to work together to get a referendum on the Right to Housing, and as Covid restrictions lift we need to see feet on the street for water-charges-level protests to shame the government into immediate action.
As the Manic Street Preachers song says, If You Tolerate This Then Your Children Will Be Next.
Brian McLoughlin is Head of Communications for Inner City Helping Homeless and one of the four contributors to Unite’s Take Four group blog, along with Conor McCabe, Ber Grogan and Laura Broxson.
The undemocratic non-jury Special Criminal Court was renewed for another year in the Dáil yesterday evening with the lowest abstentions or vote against it ever. All Sinn Féin’s TDs (members of the Irish parliament) absented themselves and FG, FF, Greens and Labour all voted for another year’s renewal, with the Social Democrats abstaining. Seven votes were cast against it, the lowest ever since it was brought in as part of the Offences Against the State Act in 1972.
Voting against renewal were the five PBP/Solidarity TDs (Bríd Smith, Richard Boyd Barrett, Gino Kenny, Mick Barry, Paul Murphy) and the two left-wing Independent TDs: Joan Collins and Thomas Pringle. Sinn Féin, who abstained in 1920 for the first time after decades of opposition, just didn’t attend at all this time. In 1920 they said that they were awaiting a review of the Act promised by the Justice Minister – but without any explanation of what in the review could possibly convince them to keep the Act in place. The Social Democrats, whose amendment to bring the Special Court to an end by a deadline of June 29th next year was rejected, abstained in the vote.
SINNFÉIN ABANDONS DECADES OF OPPOSITION TO THE SPECIAL CRIMINALCOURT
Since the Acts’ inception, Sinn Féin has voted against the annual renewal – until last year, when they abstained and this year, absented themselves from the Dáil before the vote. For some years now, the party has been reshaping itself to take part in a coalition government with one of the government parties. Supporters of the party who believe this a necessary disguise to enter the corridors of power and that the party will then return to its Republican past will find that for whatever principle the party gives up voluntarily, a further one will be extracted by pressure. Those who crawl into government will never be able to stand up in it later.
James Geoghegan, FG’s candidate for the forthcoming by-election in Dublin Bay East, taking a swipe at SF’s candidate Lynn Boylan, said “When it comes before both the Dáil and Seanad, what will Sinn Féin and Senator Lynn Boylan do? Will they abstain yet again, which undermines the laws in place to keep our citizens and democratic institutions safe?
“If Senator Boylan wishes to be a senior legislator and member of Dáil Eireann, she must show her support for the institutions of the State and do all in her power to protect the public from criminality and the threat of terrorism.”
Note that Geoghegan has no difficulty in equating support for “democratic institutions” with supporting their very negation, such as jury-less trials.
Sinn Féin party leaders may think that in not opposing the SCC’s renewal, they are abandoning only some Republican principles, as Republicans have been the main victims of the Special Criminal Court to date but in fact they are also colluding in a major attack on civil and human rights, as pointed to by the opposition of civil and human rights organisations to the SCC.
OPPOSITION OUTSIDE THE DÁIL
Outside the Dáil, which has been held in the Convention Building on the Dublin quays since the Covid 19 measures, a protest picket took place before the vote. The demonstration was organised by the Abolish the Special Courts campaign and supported by a mixed attendance of Republicans, Socialists and Anarchists.
A number of passing motorists, particularly in company vans and lorries, blew their car horns in solidarity in passing, some also extending a clenched fist or “thumbs up” sign out of their window.
Left Independent TDs Thomas Pringle and Joan Collins joined the picketers for a while and Richard Boyd Barrett chatted with them in passing too; all three posed for a photo while holding a placard against the SCC before returning to the Dáil to speak and vote against the juryless court.
The Abolish the Special Courts campaign was launched in 2017 and a public meeting the campaign group organised in Dublin in 2018 heard about a number of then recent cases of unjust convictions in the non-jury courts. Since then the campaign group has organised protests against the SCC.
IRISH STATE TERRORIST LEGISLATION ASSISTED BY BRITISH TERRORISM
The Special Criminal Court, as stated earlier, is part of the Offences Against the State Act (OAS) 1939, which is sometimes described as the Irish State’s anti-terror legislation. However, the setting up of the Special Criminal Court and the infamous Amendment to the OAS which allows convictions of “membership of an illegal organisation” solely on the unsupported word of a Garda at superintendent rank or higher, was in fact passed on a wave of hysteria after a terrorist bombing in 1972 by British Intelligence terrorists.
On the evening of December 1st, 1972, a car bomb exploded near Liberty Hall in Dublin and although there were no fatalities in that explosion, many were injured. A second bomb a short time later at Sackville Place, off O’Connell Street, killed Mr George Bradshaw (29), a bus driver, and Mr Duffy (24), a bus conductor.
The indications had been that Fine Gael and Labour were both going to vote against the Fianna Fáil proposals but in the panic after the the explosions, which were blamed against all logic on the IRA, the opposition to the Acts collapsed and they passed.
THE PRETENCE OF “TEMPORARY PROVISIONS”
The Acts must be voted upon annually because, as with much emergency legislation across the world, the myth is propagated that the provisions are temporary; however these “temporary measures” have now been in place for 82 years! To give another example, the specifically anti-Irish emergency legislation introduced to Britain in 1974, the annually-renewable Prevention of Terrorism Act, was only abolished 15 years later to be replaced by the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1989 (again “Temporary Provisions”) which in turn was replaced by the Terrorism Act 2000.
The powers this Act provide the police have been controversial, leading to noted cases of alleged abuse, and to legal challenges in British and European courts. The stop-and-search powers under section 44 of the Act have been ruled illegal by the European Court of Human Rights.
That Act was strengthened by the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, which was then replaced by Section 1 of the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures 2011. All repressive legislation in Britain has now ceased even the pretence of being temporary.
A similar trajectory has been followed by “emergency” legislation in the Six Counties statelet, from the very creation of the administration in 1921 (with the Emergency Powers Act of 1920), a new Act in 1926, amended in 1964 and replaced by the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, providing unlimited powers of harassment for the colonial police along with refusal of bail, undemocratic bail conditions and easy convictions for the non-jury Diplock Courts.
Historically, on occasion juries have been misled and have also been complicit in unjust verdicts, convicting innocent people (there are infamous cases such as the Irish-related ones in Britain in the 1970s, the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four, Maguire Seven, Giuseppe Conlon and Judith Ward). But much less so than non-jury courts. The right to be tried by a jury empaneled by random selection is considered across the world a fundamental democratic right and, furthermore, is one that has been fought for across the centuries, first to win the actual right, then to apply it across classes and finally to apply it to women and ethnic minorities.
The Six County colony has the Diplock non-jury courts and the Irish State has the SCC, both emergency and undemocratic measures in two states that are supposed to be democracies. Both courts regularly remand accused in custody without bail or impose undemocratic restrictions on the few occasions when bail is granted, such as having to be indoors by a specific time daily, prohibition from attending political meetings, etc. At trial, the required burden of proof on the Prosecution is very light indeed, ensuring an unnaturally high rate of convictions.
The Irish Council of Civil Liberties, which was founded in 1976 by people concerned about the increase in repressive powers of the Irish State, has stated that the court “continues to represent the single biggest denial of fair trial rights in our legal system”. The SCC has also been condemned by Amnesty International and the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations.
Whereas apologists for these undemocratic and repressive measures argue that non-jury courts are necessary because jurors might be intimidated, they fail to produce evidence of this having happened. However, there is hard evidence of unjust convictions by the Special Criminal Court.
In 2017 Michael Connolly, who had already spent 14 months in prison had his SCC conviction for alleged membership of the IRA overturned and a retrial ordered, during which he was found “not guilty”. Assistant Commissioner of the Gardaí Michael O’Sullivan was judged to have been “careless” in producing a single piece of “evidence” twice as the basis of his belief of the man’s guilt, which made it appear that there were two pieces of evidence, which the SCC considered sufficient to convict.
In 1986 the Special Criminal Court found Osgur Breatnach, Brian McNally and Nicky Kelly guilty of robbing a mail train near Sallins, Co. Kildare. They were innocent but had “confessed” after beatings in Garda custody, which the Prosecution claimed they had inflicted upon themselves and which the SCC accepted despite vigorous denials and the fact that Breatnach had been in a cell on his own. The three were sentenced to between nine and 12 years but their convictions were later overturned and they were paid compensation by the State in acknowledgement of their innocence. “Whistleblower”, a multi-media work on the unjust convictions organised by musician Cormac Breatnach, a brother of one of the victims of the SCC, has won Irish and international awards –but the SCC continues in operation and to be supported by TDs year after year.
This year and last were the worst years in the existence of the undemocratic court, with lowest votes ever recorded against it. As the Abolish Special Courts campaign succinctly summarised the vote in the Dáil: “Shame on those who used to support the abolition of non-jury special courts who now vote in favour of it, abstain or don’t show up to vote at all.”
Thousands rallied in the centre of Dublin today, Saturday 22nd May, to express their solidarity with the Palestinian people and their outraged opposition to the murderous attacks on them by the Israeli State. From O’Connell Street they marched across O’Connell Bridge, into Dawson Street and from there straight along Mount Street, across the Grand Canal and on to the Israeli Embassy. Speakers emphasised that the ceasefire, even if it holds, is in essence temporary, since the Israeli occupation has led to war after war and must inevitably lead to another, stating the need therefore to work for an end to the apartheid and similar policies of the Israeli state.
The event was organised by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which had an acapella singing group perform a few songs at the Spire and a number of speakers before they set off on the 3 km march and more speakers outside the Embassy too. Conservative estimates put the number on the march at over 5,000. The slogans shouted for the most part were: “Free, free Palestine!” “One, two, three four – Occupation no more!”; “Five, six, seven, eight – Israel is a terrorist state!” and “Boycott Israel!” “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” was another slogan.
The ceasefire is now in place since early yesterday (Friday). The current war began with two offensives by the Israeli Zionists on Palestinians in Jerusalem: the first by Israeli settlers harassing and threatening Palestinian residents in the Sheik Jarrah district that they are going to have them evicted because “all of Jerusalem should be Jewish only”; the other nearby in the vicinity of Al Aqsa mosque, where Israeli police harassed Muslims coming to celebrate the religious festival of Eid (this year on May 12th– 13th), culminating in an armed invasion of the temple by Israeli police firing rubber-tipped bullets and stun grenades at the devotees. However the dates fell close also to the anniversary of the Nakba, the Castastrophe of 15 May 1948, the founding of the Zionist state, massacres of Palestinians and expulsion of more than 700,000 refugees whose descendants are in many parts of the world today, forbidden by the Israeli authorities to return.
In the 11 days of war just past at least 232 Palestinians, including 65 children, have been killed by the Israeli forces, whilst on the Israeli side, despite hundreds of home-made Palestinian rockets fired at Israel, 12 people, including two children, have been killed. Many buildings in the Palestinian enclave of Gaza have been destroyed or part-destroyed, including hospitals and medical centres and there is major disruption to electrical service and water supply in a city which often experienced power and water flow cuts even in what passed for “normal” times in Gaza. Those killed were mostly in Gaza but Israeli forces killed 11 unarmed civilians in the West Bank also and wounded many, as they came on to the streets in solidarity with those in Gaza and in Jerusalem.
Street events in solidarity with Palestine were also held in cities and towns across Ireland, including Cork, Limerick, Galway, Belfast, Derry and in fact in most counties.
The police on this occasion did not carry out harassment of demonstrators1 but in at least one instance, in Northumberland Road, stopped a section of the march to wave through traffic across it, putting uninvolved pedestrians crossing on a green light in danger. This occurred despite two marchers attempting to block the traffic, the Garda calling one a pejorative name and ordering him to stand aside.
This was a job for official stewards and in fact, there were far too few of these. I saw perhaps around 20 getting instructions from the Chief Steward before the march at the Spire, some of whom seemed inexperienced but around 50 stewards were needed for a march this size, with a core of around 30 experienced. Stewards could be seen at times enforcing the rule to wear masks, as some young people removed them to shout slogans but once the middle of the march neared the Canal it was rare to see a steward.
A Far-Right group calling themselves “Rise Up Eireann” (sic — who apparently don’t even know the official name of their country) had called for events in various parts of Ireland and had advertised the GPO as being one of the venues.
With apparent lack of awareness they scheduled theirs in Dublin for the same time as the Palestine solidarity rally, 2pm. No far-Right group was seen but one individual, a prominent QAnon activist posted a video of the Palestine solidarity marchers while voicing her disgust that the cops were not batoning or even harassing the demonstrator as they allegedly do to demonstrators demonstrating “for our civil rights.”2.
Speaker after speaker at the event pointed out that Israeli massacres and other onslaughts are often followed by ceasefires and back to “normal” oppression and theft of land, until the next war. As long as Israel is an apartheid occupying state, war is inevitable and so is oppression. Some speakers urged those present to encourage people in their social, educational, community and trade union groups to sign up to boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. A much more specific direction was given by Richard Boyd Barrett TD, who urged people to write emails to their TDs (parliamentary representatives) in advance of Tuesday’s debate in the Dáil, asking them to vote in favour of the “Occupied Territories” Bill.3
A young Palestinian speaker from a Jerusalem district spoke with passion and made an interesting point, that a demonstration such as this one would be labelled “terrorist” by the Israelis and people would be liable to be shot with live rounds as well as with less lethal projectiles and gas.
It is a terrible statistical fact that in Israeli attacks on Gaza, one quarter have been children. Outside the Israeli Embassy the crowd grew quiet as a child read out the names of the children killed in Gaza, which was followed by a call for a minute’s silence in respect. The crowd was so big that out on one of the fringes, they did not hear the call and were chanting slogans.
Other speakers included a Palestinian young woman Ola at the Spire and Mags O’Brien of SIPTU outside the Embassy, where Martin Quigley, former Chairperson of the IPSC launched into a denunciation of Israel and of the Biden and the USA’s role in Palestine.
YOUTH & STARRY PLOUGH
As with other Palestine solidarity marches recently, a significant part of the whole consisted of Palestinians and other Arabs, among which the youth were particularly noticeable with young women very much to the fore and vociferous. One group of young Arab women shouted slogans non-stop from O’Connell Street to Northumberland Road, where I parted company with them to take up another position and could hear them chanting still as they marched on.
One would hope these youth have opportunities to become organised and gain experience to be leaders of the future.
I brought two flags, a “Starry Plough”4 and one in Palestinian national colours, a friend carrying the ‘Plough most of the time. There was I heard only one other on the march. It is natural and proper that we carry and fly the Palestinian national colours but it seems to me that we should carry indications of Irishness too, to represent Ireland in solidarity with Palestine. This was represented in some placards but flags are more visible and it would be good to see more of them on Palestine solidarity demonstrations.
The Starry Plough flag also aroused interest with many asking what it represented and it was good to be able to tell them that it was the flag of the army of the Irish Citizen Army, the first working class army in the world, one which recruited women and that some of them were officers.
PLACARDS & BANNERS
1Prior to last Saturday (15th) the Irish police threatened the IPSC with intervening to stop the march and huge fines for responsible individuals under Covid19 legislation; luckily the Trinity BDS Campaign took on the risk of repercussions and called the demonstration instead. On Tuesday, for a smaller march, the Gardaí kept the Pembroke Road open despite the danger of rush-hour traffic to the crowd, then continually urged demonstrators in towards the Embassy, forcing them into close contact with others and, when this was pointed out to them, just shrugged.
2In actual fact, Far-Right groups seemed to enjoy complete impunity for months as they held rallies, pickets and marches, without wearing masks or socially distancing, including at the GPO, while nearby, people picketing is solidarity with political prisoners and Debenhams picketers were harassed by Gardaí. Also, at a Yellow Vests rally in August 2020 a mob organised by the fascist National Party attacked unarmed counter-protesters with iron bars and wooden clubs while the Gardaí, instead of arresting them, attacked the victims and drove them off the quay with raised batons and violent shoves (see “There Will Be Another Day” article on the Rebel Breeze blog). A few weeks later, the cops allowed members of the NP to attack a handful of women opponents in Kildare Street and to club one of them, then again drove the victims back. On both occasions the Gardaí told press afterwards that there had been no violence but in the second case had to amend their statement hours later and weeks later charge a fascist individual with the assault.
3Under international law, it is illegal for Israel or Israeli settlers to sell products from the Occupied territories in Palestine, since they are even by UN law illegally occupied. However, the products are exported and sold in many parts of the world including all over Europe. The “Occupied Territories” Bill, if passed into Irish law, would make it an offence to import or re-sell products from those territories and would have an economic as well as a political impact. Although the Bill was framed in 2018 and supported by all political parties except Fine Gael, the Government has dragged its heels about bringing it before the Dáil to be discussed and Tuesday’s will be its Third Reading after which, with enough votes in favour, it will become law.
4“The Starry Plough” is modeled on the shape of the Ursa Mayor constellation. The original version has a green field with a plough in gold following the shape of the constellation, with the seven stars in white or silver. The plough has a sword in the position of the ploughshare. The later version, from the Republican Congress, is on a blue field with the the seven stars only in white (or silver) following the shape of Ursa Mayor and no other feature.
A rally today outside the Israeli Embassy in Dublin heard Palestinian speakers and an Irish socialist TD (Member of the Irish Parliament) denounce Israel’s attacks on Palestinians, its slaughter of civilians including children and women, call for sanctions against Israel and for its Ambassador to be expelled. The rally was jointly organised by Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Trinity BDS Campaign in solidarity with the Palestinians and with the general strike organised in Palestine.
Fatin Al Tamimi, Chair of the IPSC, opened the meeting, welcoming people and, to loud cheers, declared that she is “a Palestinian and proud to be a Palestinian”. Fatin went on to list the numbers of Palestinians dead and injured, the numbers of those who were women and children and called the Israeli regime “racist, apartheid” and murderous and called for the boycott of Israeli goods, alluding to the famous 1970s Dunne’s Stores workers’ strike in support of boycott of South African goods during the white minority apartheid regime. Fatin’s pauses were punctuated by demonstrators chanting “Free, free Palestine!” and “Boycott Israel!” At one point she said that she had children born here but they would also always be Palestinian and she hoped one day to go back and to welcome all the Irish supporter to a free Palestine, which brought a tremendous cheer from the crowd.
She introduced Wesam Ahmed, from Al Haq, the main Palestine human rights organisation, who spoke through an audio link from Palestine.
Dr. Ibrahim Natil, a DCU academic also spoke, as did Zayd, representing Trinity BDS Campaign.
All the speakers called for stepping up of solidarity action, boycott, divestment and sanctions but also for action by the Irish government, both in their current temporary membership of the United Nations Security Council and in the EU.
Richard Boyd Barrett TD told the crowd that he and Gino Kelly and Paul Murphy had all tackled Mícheál Martin in the Dáil (Irish Parliament) earlier during Taoiseach’s Questions and Martin had claimed he had criticised Israel while also criticising the rockets fired by Hamas. Boyd Barrett said that we had to get rid of this discourse of equivalence because there is no equivalence between the positions of the Israeli Zionists and the Palestinians, neither in terms of justice nor in power, military or otherwise.
Fatin Tamimi also called for solidarity with all the Palestinian political prisoners
GARDA HARASSMENT CONTINUES
The Irish police, the Gardaí continued to display on Tuesday the hostility they had exhibited in advance of last Saturday’s demonstration, when they threatened the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign that if they went ahead with their advertised rally the Gardaí would intervene and threatened the organisers with €5,000 fines and possible jail sentences. Fortunately the Trinity BDS Campaign group had stepped in and held the rally, which turned into a march supported by several thousand.
The Gardaí began on Tuesday by telling supporters as they arrived that they were required to spread out to social distancing but were soon ushering people in towards one another. A woman next to me complained to a Garda that he was moving her into close proximity with other people and violation of social distancing — the Garda shrugged. As they continued to urge people to push in towards the already crowded space, the Gardaí continually urged traffic to come through and kept repeating to rally supporters that “The road is open”. Indeed it was and the question is why was it open? Clearly forcing traffic through put people in danger of vehicle impact or Covid19 infection; the safest measure and easily enough done would have been to divert the traffic before it reached the rally. But no — the Palestinian solidarity supporters were to be shown that the Gardaí are not to be gainsaid.
I find it interesting to collect some photos of the placards displayed at these events and in particular, some of the homemade ones. These are interesting in a number of ways, some humorous, some very pointed, some quite artistic but they are all also individual expressions and a kind of commitment, to make something in advance to bring to the demonstration or rally.
There was one in Irish but sadly the only one I could find. Will there be more at the next demonstration? If the Irish language is not audible and visible in the progressive sector of society, how are we to expect it to survive, never mind thrive?
A SPACE FOR THE YOUTH
As the rally came to an end, one could observe Palestinian and some other youth, many in their teens coming together to chat but also to chant slogans. I have seen this before and it appears that this point in events is their space — but it is a dangerous one with the event formally ended and the organisers dispersing, making it easier for repressive moves to be made against them or also to be led into acts which may end in their arrest. Of course it is the organisers dispersing, adults socialising etc that also allows them to make it their space.
The youth need a space of their own but one which is also safe and in which they can be helped to consider consequences and effective action. Generally political organisations do not give the youth that space and, when they do, tend to confine them to following the line of the leaders, who are generally much older.
If organisations do not provide those spaces and assist the youth in self-organising, the likelihood is that others will and, in the case of Palestinians or Arabs in general, those others may be Islamic fundamentalists.
RALLY AGAIN NEXT SATURDAY, 2pm at the Spire, Dublin.
There is a slight sense of futility in what speakers ask us to do because justified as the calls are, there seems little hope of convincing most of our politicians of breaking radically with the western imperialist alliance, even though Ireland is not, generally speaking, itself an imperialist country. And yes, we can continue boycotting but how much of the stock in the supermarkets continues to be from Israel? And when it is, if one supermarket comes under heavy pressure, the management will often just temporarily remove the products from the targeted shop while they continue to be sold in the others. And once the pressure is off, the produce might be back on the shelves. And even if they’re not …. What can we actually DO that will make a real difference?
In one way, nothing, since the USA is the main backer of the Zionist state and the USA is the world’s major superpower. But in another way, we are making a difference, though it is not easy to see sometimes. Despite our rulers, Ireland has become the most pro-Palestinian country in Europe. Out of that may come great things in the future.
But it seems to me that there is more that we could do. Many Irish trade unions formally support the Palestinians — could they not put a motion in their annual conferences calling on the Government to expel the Ambassador? Could they not at least put a pro-Palestinian poster on each workplace union noticeboard and also advertise each solidarity march? I know that the unions are not anything like the fighting organisations they once were but that above is surely not asking too much.
The oppression of the Palestinians led to an outbreak of active resistance recently in Jerusalem, to which the Israeli Army reacted with increased repression, timed to harass Palestinian Muslims during the period of Ramadan and the height of devotees attending the Al-Aqsa mosque, escalating into attacks on worshippers within the temple itself. At the same time, Israeli Zionist settlers threatened dozens of Palestinian families with eviction from their homes in East Jerusalem. Reacting to these events, one of the Palestinian organisations fired home-made rockets into officially Israeli territory, to which the Israeli armed forces responded in turn with drone missiles and missiles from its air force jets on Gaza. As Palestinians in the West Bank came out on to the streets to protest, they were fired on with live ammunition by Israeli soldiers. The death toll has climbed to 200 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, including 59 children and 35 women, with 1,305 people wounded; while ten Israelis have been killed, two of them children.
The casualty figures once again show the gross disproportion between what the Palestinians and their Zionist masters experience: in civil and human rights, citizenship, in land ownership, electricity and clean water supply, heating, fishing, education facilities, building materials, freedom to travel inside and outside the state, in depth and breadth of surveillance, in arms and defence capability, in states that support them. And in city structural damage: despite the many home-made rockets launched against the zionists, there has yet been no significant damage in Israeli towns, while their armed forces have effected large-scale structural damage in Gaza and bodies are still being pulled from the rubble.
In only one area perhaps do the Palestinians have the advantage over the Israeli Zionists: in support among the people around the world.
PALESTINIAN SOLIDARITY MARCH DEFIES POLICE THREATS
Responding to these attacks on Palestinians the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the main organisation for Palestinian solidarity in Ireland, called for solidarity demonstrations and in particular advertised a solidarity rally to take place in Dublin’s city centre for 2pm on Saturday 15th May, asking those in attendance to comply with measures against Covid19 infection, to wear masks, maintain social distancing and comply with stewards’ instructions.
The IPSC was contacted by the Irish police force, the Gardaí, who told them not to go ahead with the event, that if they did they would intervene to stop it and also made threats of €5,000 fines and prison against the organisers. In a later public statement the Gardaí declared that they “have no role in permitting or authorising marches or gatherings. There is no permit/ authorisation required for such events”! But there is apparently an ability and power to intimidate and threaten progressive organisations to deter them from organising solidarity events.
Or to kettle socialist and socialist republican Mayday marchers and demand all their names, addresses and dates of birth before threatening them with arrest if they did not disperse. Or to threaten Debenham workers and their supporters, assaulting some of them while escorting KPMG forces in to evaluate stocks during pandemic restrictions.
The predicament of the IPSC exposed the vulnerability to this kind of intimidation of a broad organisation that seeks to win friends in ruling circles. The leaders and organisers are placed in a position of not only personal but also of organisational vulnerability. Even should they be prepared to defy the State to fine and/or imprison them, would they also be prepared to damage their organisation, to lose some friends they are cultivating in the circles of political influence? What was one of the strengths of a broad organisation can thus be converted into a weakness, whereas a more radical or even revolutionary organisation, with less influence in influential circles can decide on defiance, risk fines and jail with however perhaps less possibility of influencing official opinion and ultimately, action.
Fortunately in this case one such organisation did step forward and took up the baton: the Trinity College BDS group expressed its solidarity with the IPSC on its treatment by the Gardaí and called their own rally for the exact same place and time as the original one called by the IPSC.
Video of rally at end of demonstration, near Israeli Embassy
Despite concern over Covid19 transmission and Garda threats – and the extremely short notice and much smaller circle of contacts of the TC BDS group — the response was magnificent, both in expression of internationalist solidarity and in maintenance of the right of the people in Ireland to organise such progressive events.
Before the appointed hour, people began to gather in large numbers at the Spire in O’Connell Street, Dublin’s main street and north city centre and, after being addressed by a number of speakers, set off in a march towards the Israeli Zionist Embassy near Ballsbridge, beyond the south city centre. As they marched their numbers grew until, approaching the Embassy, they numbered several thousand. Along the way, bystanders applauded the marchers and passing vehicles blew their horns in solidarity.
Marchers shouted slogans of solidarity with the Palestinians, calling for the freedom of Palestine and the expulsion of the Israeli Ambassador as a mark of the Irish people’s objection to what is being done to the Palestinians.
Near the Embassy, a number of speakers addressed the crowd and after dispersing, a number of demonstrators boarding public transport to return home were congratulated by the drivers.
LESSONS FOR US
The situation regarding calling and holding the demonstration in Dublin outlined some of the weaknesses of a broad organisation when it faces repression from the State and the greater resilience of a smaller organisation in being able to defy the State. It may be necessary in future to maintain support for both types of organisation, each being appropriate for particular situations.
Also demonstrated was the necessity to openly defy unjust laws and prohibitions at times and particularly around the right to organise, to protest and to show solidarity, which the demonstrators did so well on Saturday. Such situations also reveal the difficulty for the Gardaí in carrying out repressive actions and they are reduced to threatening individuals.
THE FAR-RIGHT MARCHES TOO – FOR WHAT?
Meanwhile, a couple of hundred of the far-Right also marched in Dublin, allegedly in defence of civil liberty. Not in solidarity with the Palestinians’ civil liberties and not in defence of our civil liberty to organise to show solidarity with people in other struggles. No, they marched in defence of the right to defy health protection regulations, in proclaiming the Covid19 pandemic to be a) a hoax or b) greatly exaggerated, in claiming that wearing masks damages one’s health and even intelligence(!), in insisting that vaccinations are a) dangerous to one’s health or b) means of injecting nano-machines into people’s bloodstream in order to control them.
A clip posted by Ireland Against Fascism showed one of the QAnon Saturday screechers for months outside the GPO, Dolores Webster, aka Dee Wall, lately self-declared “digital journalist” (don’t laugh), in total ignorance of the actual reality (but when has that mattered?), broadcast a claim by video from her studio (her car), accompanied by the strains of Abba from the headphones of her head-bobbing passenger, that the “scum in the Dawl” had allowed the Palestinian solidarity march to go ahead to distract from the alleged general removal of freedom and in particular from the far-Right group Irish Yellow Vests to hold their rally on May 1st.
When all the Covid19 precautionary restrictions are removed, what will these elements have to march about? The will need to return to the topics that engaged many of them in the recent past: racism, anti-immigrants, islamophobia, homophobia and anti-socialism, along with their false patriotism. None of that is welcome of course but at least it will be without this false concern for “civil rights and freedom” and closer to the reality of what the far-Right in general stand for – and fascists in particular.
SUPERPOWER BACKING AND IMPUNITY
The current atrocities of the Zionist State, which it carries out with impunity, along with its history, starkly reveals the effect of its main backing power, the USA, and the imperialist alliance dominated by that Power. The USA backs Israel with military aid to the tune of $10 Million daily, which is aside from other direct and indirect aid. Israel is the only state in the Middle East which is not only very friendly to the USA but totally dependent on the support of that superpower. For the ruling class of the USA, Israel is the only state in the Middle East which is totally safe forever from fundamentalist Muslim revolution or from left-wing anti-imperialist revolution and is therefore an extremely important factor in the USA’s plans to totally dominate the Middle East.
This imperialist alliance finds reflection not only in the action/ inaction of governments in Europe, for example but also in the reporting of the mass media. One of the latter’s tropes is the constant emphasis on the numbers of Palestinian missiles fired, without revealing their general ineffectiveness in delivering destruction, in total contrast to the Israeli missiles. Another is their constant repetition of a lie, that “Hamas seized power in Gaza”. The truth is that Hamas swept the board in the Palestinian Authority elections in 2006. The “seizing” that was done was by Al Fatah, which usurped the results in the West Bank and installed themselves there; they tried to do the same in Gaza and, in a short fierce struggle, were beaten.
But the Western powers decided that Hamas was illegitimately in power, seized funds due to it and supported its blockading – by both Israel and Egypt. No explanation is offered in the general mass media as to how a generally politically-secular Palestinian public would turn from its decades of allegiance to Fatah to vote for the fundamentalist Muslim Hamas, which was Fatah’s surrender of the goals of Palestinian independence and freedom and the return of the refugees, in exchange for running a colonial administration with opportunities for living off bribery and corruption and Fatah’s settling down to that status quo.
CASTING A GIANT DARK SHADOW
It was not only in Dublin and in towns across Ireland that Palestine solidarity demonstrations were held on May 15th but by people across much of the world, generally in opposition to the wishes of their governments and ruling elites. It is worth thinking about how this has come about, in particular in contradiction to a mass media hostile to the Palestinians.
The Zionist state of Israel was declared in 1948, its anniversary actually only three days ago – May 14th, the first states to recognise it being the USA and the USSR. In Ireland at the time, there was general support for the new state which continued to the “June War” of 1967 and somewhat beyond. The general Irish population were horrified by the history of the Nazi-organised Holocaust and sympathised with the Jewish survivors. Irish nationalists and even Republicans empathised with the Zionist civil and armed struggle against the British (who, ironically, had begun the process of Zionisisation of Palestine). The 1966 film Cast a Giant Shadow purporting to show that struggle, starring Kirk Douglas and a cameo appearance by Frank Sinatra, was widely enjoyed and cheered in cinemas across Ireland. Though some of the film’s characters were based on real-life counterparts, the general narrative was a grotesque distortion, hiding the massacres of Palestinians and the expulsion of thousands as the Zionist state was created.
Many Irish language supporters admired how the new state had brought the Hebrew language, for centuries only spoken in religious contexts, back into everyday usage.
Yet, a few years ago, general pro-Palestinian sympathy across Ireland had become so strong that Israel’s Ambassador to Ireland declared the country “the most anti-semitic in Europe”. That of course is what the Zionists call anyone who supports the Palestinians or criticises the Israeli state harshly and only a few days ago, the current Ambassador accused some politicians of spewing hate towards Israel. He was responding not only to Left and Sinn Féin TDs who criticised the actions of Israel towards the Palestinians, but also to the Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister equivalent) Leo Varadkar who commented that Israel’s actions are “indefensible” and Government Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, who said at an EU conference that the EU had “fallen short” and failed to project its influence in agreeing a common position in opposition to illegal activity by the Israelis against Palestinians.
The fact that establishment right-wing politicians feel obliged to take a public stand, however ineffectively, against actions of the Israeli Zionists and implicitly against the Zionists’ biggest international backer and world superpower, the USA, is a strong indication of how much Irish public opinion has changed over decades. Since the Cast a Giant Shadow film, the state’s shadow of which we are aware now is indeed frighteningly giant and very dark. In response, the natural cultural and historical feelings of the Irish people have stirred in sympathy with the oppressed Palestinians – and in defiance of threatened police repression at home.