Palestinian flags waved as people gathered on the pedestrian reservation in Dublin’s main thoroughfare, O’Connell Street, to mark Palestinian Land Day March 30th, anniversary of the 1976 confiscation of Palestinian land by the Israeli Zionist State.
Naturally, the event also addresses the continual threat to additional Palestinian land by Zionist settler occupation, Israeli judicial and army demolition of Palestinian housing and intimidation, harassment and terrorism against Palestinians in Jerusalem.
The Dublin event was organised by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, a broad organisation that receives broad support not only across the Irish Left and Republican spectrum but also from a great many non-aligned Irish people and even many among voters for mainstream political parties.
This support was emphasised by frequent drivers in passing traffic, both public, taxis and entirely private, blowing their horns in approval of the rally. The population of the Irish state has gone from being in general support of the Israeli State to being generally hostile to its behaviour.1
Zionists tend to depict anti-Israeli Zionism as being anti-Jewish and therefore, according to them, “anti-semitic”2. Quite apart from the wide inapplicability of the term and some isolated historical examples dredged up3, it fails to account for the change in public attitudes over recent decades.
It has been years of viewing even media-sanitised coverage of massacres of Palestinians by the Israeli armed forces with international impunity that has radically altered the opinion of the public in Ireland, in all probability drawing on their own historical experience of foreign occupation.
An elderly Irishman voicing anti-Jewish views did in fact approach the rally but was confronted by other Irish people who emphasised that they were against the Zionist state and not against Jews, soon causing the first man to depart unhappily.
The continual occupation of Palestinian land by Zionist settlers has invalidated even the “two-state solution” (sic) beloved of liberals, making it a practical impossibility, undermining the main ‘concession’ of the supposed solution of the USA-mediated “Palestinian peace process” of 1991.
The refusal of the Israeli authorities to permit the return of Palestinian exiles while welcoming Jewish settlers, most of whom had no even ancestral connection to Palestine, means that the future for Palestinians in the Israeli state can be at best as an oppressed minority.4
Other Palestine news
Even as preparations for the Dublin rally took place, Israeli police shot dead a Palestinian they claimed had tried to wrest a gun from them at the Al Haq Mosque but whom Palestinian eye-witnesses said had merely been protesting the police harassment of a woman.
Since the rally, another two Palestinians have been killed in an by Israeli armed forces raid on Nablus. This brings the total number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces this year alone to over 90, with a high proportion of them children.
Mass protests and even mini-riots by Israeli Jews are currently expressing opposition to the current government’s plans to ‘reform’ the judiciary, to bring it under the greater control of the Executive.
While Israeli Jews are deeply divided on this question the vast majority are agreed on the need to suppress Palestinians, to enforce apartheid and to keep the State as ‘Jewish’ one.
Meanwhile an April 1st Fool’s Day hoax depicting an executive of the sports shoe manufacturer company Puma declaring a boycott of the Zionist state was widely shared on the Twitter social media to overwhelmingly welcoming comment.
Exposure of the hoax received mixed responses, with wide condemnation from pro-Israeli and even some pro-Palestinian sources but others claiming it helped to widely publicise the manufacturer Puma’s close links to the Zionist State and that would enhance its boycott by many.
1Dublin City has had Jewish municipal Councillors and the sixth President of Israel, Chaim Herzog (Hebrew: חיים הרצוג; 17 September 1918 – 17 April 1997) was an Irish-born Israeli politician, general, lawyer and author who served as the 6th President of Israel between 1983 and 1993. He was born in Belfast and raised primarily in Dublin; his father was Ireland’s Chief rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog, who immigrated to the British protectorate of Palestine in 1935 and served in the Haganah Zionist paramilitary group, later the Israeli Army where he reached the rank of Major-General. As recently as 1967 the prevailing Irish public opinion seemed sympathetic to the Israeli State and the fictional propaganda and wildly inaccurate historical Hollywood films Exodus (1960) and Cast a Giant Shadow (1966) were widely viewed sympathetically in Ireland.
2The term originally included hatred or fear of all Semitic people, including Arabs and Jews but has come to be understood as exclusively meaning a racist attitudes towards Jews. By no means all Jews are Zionist though Zionists have worked long and hard to make both descriptions interchangeable with a great deal of success among the world Jewish population with possible unfortunate consequences for Jewish populations outside Israel. However many Jews have criticised the behaviour of the Zionist State towards Palestinians, earning the hatred of the Zionists, who cannot label them as anti-semitic and therefore call them “self-hating Jews”.
Monday was a new bank holiday in Ireland and two demonstrations of about equal size took place at the same time in Dublin that afternoon, one anti-racist and welcoming refugees, the other anti-refugee and with substantial racist and even fascist elements.
The pro-refugee event gathered on the central pedestrian strip on Dublin City centre’s main street, O’Connell Street, across the road from the iconic General Post Office, the building which served as the HQ of the 1916 Rising. Numerous placards and banners could be seen there.
The tightly-packed crowd stretched from the Spire southward almost to the Jim Larkin monument and were addressed by speakers. I knew the event had been organised by Le Chéile, a broad anti-fascist coalition of essentially pacifist nature with regard to fascism.
I passed them by in a hurry on my way to attend to a family commitment. While waiting to catch a bus in D’Olier Street, a number of Garda vans and motorcycles drawing up attracted my attention and soon afterwards the anti-refugee demonstration came from Pearse Street.
They passed along by Trinity College’s wall and soon after they had gone from my view, my bus arrived. I surmised the anti-refugee march had gone to demonstrate in front of Leinster House, the building that holds the parliament of the Irish State.
As I was in a hurry and one group was tightly-packed and the other in extended line walking, it was difficult to compare the numbers but I made them both to be somewhat the same — between 500 and 700 each.
For a group that first came into public view on May 1st with an occupation of a building empty for two years, the Revolutionary Housing League has certainly been busy. At least two further acquisitions1 have followed since.
In addition, a hundred police with vehicles and helicopter have been videoed in one eviction of two activists; four activists have appeared defiantly in court in different cases and the High Court has granted injunction to companies against activists.
As I write this another eviction is being planned, resistance is being organised and further repression through courts and jail seem certain. The RHL are fighting the system, fighting a fundamental social wrong acknowledged by almost everyone.
SHORT HISTORY OF THE REVOLUTIONARY HOUSING LEAGUE
In 1st May 2022 activists acquired Lefroy House on Dublin’s Eden Quay, formerly used by the religious-based NGO, the Salvation Army to provide night-beds for young homeless people but empty for two years. The activists renamed the building Connolly2 House.
At that time the occupiers were calling themselves the Revolutionary Workers’ Union though their council subsequently formed the Revolutionary Housing League.
The Salvation Army took the occupants to court, claiming the SA had been renovating the house in order to accommodate Ukrainian refugees. Despite the absence of evidence of any renovation work and the presence of a leaky roof (fixed by the activists!), the court granted the injunction.
The occupiers called for a rally against eviction on 2nd June and a large crowd of people of various political backgrounds, organisations and independents, arrived to support but of course, the eviction forces could wait and choose their time.
On June 9th at 5.45 a.m early passers-by were amazed to see 100 Gardaí3 with a number of vehicles, supported by a helicopter, including armed police4, assault the building to take posession of it for the SA and to arrest two activist occupants. A video of the event taken by a passer-by went viral.
The RHL had acquired another site5, this one having been a building for homeless people of the municipality, Dublin City Council, but also empty for a long period. On June 10th Gardaí arrested two activists near the building and they too are being processed by the courts.
After that, the RHL occupied a large warehouse-type building on the very north bank of the Liffey by Sean Heuston Bridge which they named, naturally enough, Ionad6 Seán Heuston. They opened it as emergency accommodation and held talks and discussions within it.
Employees of Pinnacle Security company with bolt-cutters entered the site on 3rd September but failed to evict residents and on the 5th September RHL activists picketed the company which, as a consequence, withdrew from acting as security for Chartered Land, owners of the site.
The building owner’s interests are managed by Davy Platform ICAV, acting on behalf of its sub-fund the Phoenix Sub-fund but ultimately, the owner is Chartered Land which intends to build high-rental apartments on the site.
Joe O’Reilly is the property speculator tycoon behind Chartered Land, once the biggest debtor to NAMA whose responsible officer Conor Owens permitted O’Reilly to transfer his Moore Street, ILAC and Dundrum Shopping Centre holdings to Hammerson, a British-based property company.
That transfer gave Hammerson control of properties O’Reilly’s planning permission from Dublin City Council for a giant “shopping mall” there which they have now changed but again approved by DCC’s Planning Officer and which is under appeal to An Bord Pleanála.
Conor Owens is now Ireland Director for Hammerson.
Lawyers for O’Reilly named a number of individuals as being in occupation of the property, at least two of them apparently on the basis of photographs of the interior shared by the them on social media. Last Thursday a number appeared in court on applications for injunctions against them.
One who had not been named, a homeless individual, made an emotional appeal for he and his partner to be allowed to stay and the occupants to provide services to more homeless people. Another denied he had been an occupant but had merely shared photos on social media.
That latter individual had the injunction against him removed but was asked to sign an undertaking he would not enter the building, which he declined to do, remarking that he should not even have had to attend the High Court in the first place.
Sean Doyle of the RHL declared that the action they were taking was necessary and quoted James Connolly: We believe in constitutional action in normal times; we believe in revolutionary action in exceptional times. “These are certainly exceptional times”, Doyle remarked.
The judge went ahead and granted the injunction and required all occupants to evacuate building by Wednesday 21st (i.e as this piece was being concluded).
The RHL organised a picket and temporary protest occupation of Davy stockbrokers, who were handling procedures for Joe O’Reilly, the property tycoon owner of the site of Ionad Seán Heuston.
Last weekend the RHL organised a solidarity concert at Ionad Seán Heuston with somewhere between 150 to 200 in attendance and with at least two bands posting on social media their delight at having performed there.
O’Reilly’s legal team claimed “a flagrant breach of the court order”.
The RHL have called a solidarity rally against the eviction at the site for tomorrow at 10am.
Whatever the outcome of the eviction intended for this particular building or the eventual result of court cases, it seems clear that the RHL are on a collision course with the State and its protection of landlords and property speculators.
While some may look askance at such a contest, one may ask legitimately what other course of action is effective and viable?
Marches and short-term symbolic occupations of individual buildings, including the high-profile Apollo House one supported by prominent individuals in December 2016, though possibly raising awareness, have not made a single dent in the homeless crisis.
Indeed, the situation seems to have got steadily worse – at least for those seeking accommodation; while on the other hand clearly landlords, letting agencies, property speculators, vulture funds and the very banks are raking in their profits.
OVER 10,000 HOMELESS INCLUDING 2,503 CHILDREN
Earlier this year the State admitted that homeless figures had passed ten thousand, for the first time since the covid pandemic7, a statistic that includes the shocking figure of 2,503 children.8
And a recent report states that the levels of homelessness are under-estimated because of the accounting system used by the State, which focuses on rough sleepers and those accessing emergency accommodation9.
Sofa-surfing, rotating between friends and family, precarious rental arrangements all figure in homelessness but are not measured or accounted for by the State. Indeed these features of homelessness have been known for decades.
Clearly too, the obvious solution, the release of substantial funds by the State to local authorities to build public housing for affordable rent, is not favoured by any of the Government political parties.10
Apart from the general inclination of the ‘political class’ to serve big business many have direct interests in the housing situation, as an audit of TDs (member of the Irish Parliament) found over 80, i.e more than half, are landlords or own property – or both.11
Faced with such a situation it is clear that only a very substantial shock to the political system has any hope of having a serious impact on the housing crisis. Though the solution need not be revolutionary, all the evidence is that the methods do indeed have to be so12.
An interesting side-aspect of the RHL’s occupation has been the use of innovative and highly-effective art in banners and murals. Also the holding of a concert and some trad music sessions in acquired buildings, along with educational talks, discussions and Irish language classes.
The RHL is a small organisation fighting the State Goliath which is representing the Philistines of property speculators, vulture funds and banks. They deserve our support in whatever measure we are able to give, in attending events and spreading the word.
Indeed, they have called for wider action – the RHL has on a number of occasions called on people to do what they are doing, to occupy the thousands of empty buildings which, if people did, would transform this struggle into a mass movement.
With no other viable solution in sight, surely we should support the RHL? Do we not owe it to those on the street or struggling to pay mortgages or high rents? Do we not owe to the children now, the future generation that will be blighted unless we act?
1The RHL call their taking of empty properties “acquisitions” in the name of the people.
2After notable socialist revolutionary, trade union organiser, journalist, historian and writer James Connolly, executed by British firing squad in 1916.
3The police force of the Irish State is called An Garda Síochána and the plural of its members, “Gardaí”, singular “Garda”.
4The Garda Síochána is essentially an unarmed police force with an armed response section, the latter which however seems to be growing and more in evidence in different situations.
5They named that one Liam Mellows House in honour of socialist Irish Republican and former member of the Irish parliament, the Dáil, executed during the Civil War by the Irish State in retaliation on 8th December 1922.
6Ionad in Irish means “place/ location/situation”.
10Sinn Féin’s latest housing policy indicates a crash building program for “affordable homes” but unclear whether to rent or own. Election promises tend to be taken with a pinch of salt by commentators; SF Councillors on Dublin City Council voted public land sold to developers. In addition, a future government including SF would almost certainly include a former government party in the coalition.
12The State has the power to put empty properties to use to eliminate all homelessness immediately and the Government can divert funds towards starting a big housing construction program which would give everyone good quality affordable homes in a couple of years. It does not do so because that would upset the profits of the property speculators, property management companies and the banks, their lenders.
They had been preparing for this for some time. The infants were selected, received special care and food and were raised carefully in the Palace chambers inside the Citadel. They were now adolescents, maturing sexually.
As the time approached for their great expedition, the tunnels leading to the departure terminal were widened and cleared of all obstructions. Experts tested the weather conditions daily and, when the majority of these were in agreement, the Queen gave the order to launch.
The adolescents took off then, a great host of them, amidst great excitement. Their pheromones, male and female, filled the air around them and those who could, which was most of them, quickly found a partner and coupled.
It was a maiden flight from which the adolescent females would land no longer maidens. Those who would land, that is. For suddenly the air was filled with giant flying monsters with huge eyes and giant whirring wings.
Much more accustomed to flight, these monsters flew among them, gobbling them up. Some even held rows of their hapless victims in their huge beaks as they flew off to feed them to their young. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of the little flyers perished in minutes.
Those who managed to land safely and didn’t end up drowning in a lake or a river, or snapped by denizens of the deep who sprang up at them as they passed overhead, or caught in sticky webs, or who were not stamped carelessly to death by huge walking giants or flattened by roaring, stinking monsters, still had to contend with smaller predators on the ground. The casualty rate was huge but some made it alive – some always did.
The males who made it down to ground safely would all die within a couple of days. Their wings were only intended for their nuptial flight; on the ground, they were nothing more than a nuisance, impeding their progress over and underground.
The females, sexually sated and no longer interested, had left their male partners behind. They bit off their own wings, ate them and, quickly finding some reasonably soft ground, began to dig.
Each one dug down as though her life depended on it, which of course it did; and not only her own life – each one was pregnant. Then she blocked the entrance to her tunnel, went back down it, excavated a chamber and began to lay eggs.
It was completely dark down there but she had been reared in darkness – she had one day of daylight only, the day she flew.
The young grubs who hatched were all females. She supplied them with some sparse nutrition from herself and cared for them as they grew, shed skin, grew … until they spun a cocoon from which they emerged as very small worker ants.
They were infertile workers and tended to their large mother, their Queen; even when they were fully-grown she was still one-and-a-half times their size, although about half the size she had been when she left her old nest.
Her most recent meal had been her own wings the day she had flown and mated. If she got past this crucial stage, she would recover her size and weight and lay more and more eggs.
The workers soon went up the tunnel, unblocked it and spilled out into daylight for the first time in their lives, beginning to forage for food. They found small seeds and, if they were lucky, sweet material such as soft-skinned ripe or rotting fruit.
They soon had their surroundings covered with their hive-scent, carried by each and every worker. Sometimes they found insects they could kill but these had to be very small indeed – these workers had been fed on insufficient nutrition and were, compared to the majority of their kind, puny.
If they found a food-source worth another visit, they left a specially-scented trail on their way back to their home, to guide theirs sisters back to the prize later.
A rich source of food typically would show two streams of traffic between their nest and the food – one empty-jawed heading for the food and the other, with pieces in their jaws, heading away from it and towards the nest.
The food gathered by the workers fed them and their Queen, while she continued laying eggs. As time went by, more and more workers were born, who would care for the hundreds of eggs their matriarch laid and raise more and more workers. Extensive tunnel networks were dug.
At some point the workers found aphids and began harvesting their sugary secretions; tending them on the stems of the plants the aphids infested and carrying them down to their citadel but bringing them back up later. The workers would fight to protect the aphids from those who preyed on their ‘herds’.
Successive generations of ant workers grew bigger, until they reached the optimum size of five millimetres (still four millimetres short of the Queen in her prime). A well-established citadel could in time house as many as 40,000 individuals (although between four and seven thousand would be more common).
They, and previous generations, are all daughters of the same mother and the product of one mating only. Their Queen, barring unusual disasters, might live to 15 years of age.
Once the citadel is built, it is vulnerable in the ordinary course of things only to parasites, flood, fire and severe surface disturbance. In Ireland, without bears, wild boar and largely without foraging pigs, severe surface disturbance is unlikely away from human construction or ploughing and digging.
Fire might not reach underground but the heat generated or the lack of oxygen might kill anyway; flood, of course, would be the biggest threat.
If a citadel should be uncovered or invaded by flood waters, some workers will rush to deal with the problem while others rush to save the young, trying to carry eggs, pupae or cocoons away in their jaws to a safe place. Some others will rush to do whatever they can for their Queen.
A black ant defends itself by running away if possible and if not, by biting. But intruders to the citadel are swarmed by biting ants. However most human skin is impervious to the bite and this species does not sting.
One day, perhaps three years from the Queen’s maiden flight, she will decide it is time to send her own children into the wider world. She will lay eggs and have these emerging grubs fed special food, which will produce males for the first time in her citadel, as well as other fertile females besides herself.
Then, one day in July or in August, she will send them out too, to start new colonies.
Lasius niger, the Black or Garden Ant, is the most common of the 21 species of ant in Ireland. It is the most common also across Europe and a sub-species, L. neoniger, is known in the USA where however, it is not one of the most numerous ant species.
Lasius niger is a very active, hardy and adaptable species, living mostly outdoors under rocks and but rarely inside houses (although it may well enter houses repeatedly if it learns of food within, especially sweet food).
In cities, its nests are to be found in parks and gardens but also under street paving stones, the workers emerging to forage from tunnels leading to the joints between the stone. When those joints are surrounded by thin lines or small heaps of bright sand in summer, one knows that the workers are clearing the tunnels for the adolescents’ flights.
Another indication is an unusual amount of seemingly erratic ant activity around a nest, though one would need to be aware of what normal activity looked like, for comparison.
The ants may delay, awaiting what they judge to be optimum conditions but someday soon, mid to late afternoon, they will take to the air, to fly, to mate, to die or to live, to start a new population.
To an arachnophobe, the very idea of flying spiders must be a terrifying thought but they would reassure themselves that such a thing is only possible in horror movies. I am sorry to disabuse them but in fact many spiders do fly … and in fact, they’re flying in Ireland right now.
“Flying” might be a slight misnomer – “ballooning” might be more accurate, though they don’t use balloons. What they do is let out a line of silk – standard spider equipment – into rising warm air, or perhaps a breeze and …. up and away they go.
If it’s any consolation to the arachnophobes, the spider aeronauts are tiny – and probably need to be so for the airlift to work. On Wednesday in Dublin, at least three landed on me – one on my hand, one on my neck where I could feel the tickling (sorry, ararachnophobes!) and one on my bike, where it began to spin a web before I flicked it away to spin it somewhere else.
Traditionally, these have been called “money spiders” – apparently the folk belief or fancy was that if they landed on you, they meant good luck: as they symbolised a new suit being woven for you they were a prediction of an increase of wealth coming your way. They were landing on people all around Dublin on Thursday1 but wealth is coming sadly only to the same people as before: i.e native and foreign capitalists, property and finance speculators and landlords.
Looking up “money spiders” on the Internet, I find reference to Linyphidae which reminds me of Linyphia, that I recall2 spins those “hammock” webs in the hedges or bushes that you only really notice when they’re covered in dew.
But I had no ideal that “Linyphidae is a family of very small spiders comprising 4,706 described species in 620 genera3 worldwide.This makes Linyphiidae the second largest family of spiders after the Salticidae. The family is poorly understood due to their small body size and wide distribution, they are actually the most 3rd venomous spider worldwide4 after the black widow and Brazilian wandering spider; new genera and species are still being discovered throughout the world. The newest such genus is one from from Nepal …… Since it is so difficult to identify such tiny spiders, there are regular changes in taxonomy5 as species are combined or divided.”6
But wait a minute! No mention of our common wolf spider, which is small but not tiny except for its young, which I remember also take to the air. Was mine a false memory? Or was Crompton mistaken in Life of the Spider? So, I do a quick on-line check on the Wolf Spider into Wikipedia and yes, it mentions how the mother carries the tiny young on her back but …. no mention of them flying! However, a little more digging into the Internet (because it’s hard to believe I have been so mistaken about this for so long) and …. I find the reference! Yes, the young of Pardosa amentata, a species in the big family of wolf spiders, do also take to the air.
This is a small dark brown spider which you are most likely to see running over dry parched earth, especially when it cracks a bit, or over a stone or concrete path. It does not construct webs but runs its prey down, hence the “wolf” part of its name but unlike the wolf, Pardosa amentata hunts alone.
When she has been fertilised (whether her mate got away alive or not), she will weave a silk sheet into which she will lay her eggs and which she will then bind up into a round pill-shape, before strapping it on to her body underneath her abdomen. Since the egg-case is usually off-white, to a quick look it will appear that this is a brown spider with a white abdomen and most people who spend any time in a garden will have seen these7.
She carries this at all times, even when hunting or escaping from prey. She is very protective of that egg-case and if it is removed, Compton wrote, will try hard to retrieve it, even daring an ant-lion8 funnel to save it.
When she senses her young are are ready, she bites the egg-case open and tiny spiderlets come tumbling out, crawl up her legs and sit on her back, all linked legs, sometimes three layers deep.
Now when you see her, it looks like she is furry on the back or maybe has some kind of infestation. If the young are brushed off, she will try to wait for them to find her and climb back on. With egg-case or young, she can stil hunt and does but I don’t think anything is known of how the young receive alimentation – if indeed they do at all. Anyway, one day soon it’s goodbye Mam, goodbye back-travel mates and up they climb along stems and branches, let out the silk line …. wait …. wait …. wait …. YES! Up and up, soaring into the sky, to come down in …. somewhere. If they live that long.
Then they have to find prey that they can handle at their tiny size, avoid other predators, grow, moult, grow, moult until one day they will be a hopeful mature female or a hopeful and very cautious male. If the former, the cycle will begin again, all taking place in the space of only a couple of years.
But right now, all over Ireland, the little spider-nauts are flying …. and landing, somewhere near you.
2I read John Crompton’s Life of the Spider (Mentor, UK, 1954) as a child and remember a lot of what I read there.
3Genera is the plural of genus and means the overall group after the family which is then divided into species. For example the wolves, coyotes, hyenas, foxes and the domestic dog are all members of the overall family Canidae, but that itself is divided into 12 genera, of which Canis is the one to which the wolves Canis lupus and their descendants the domestic dog Canis (lupus) familiaris belong, while the foxes belong to the genus Vulpes. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_canids
4Even should this be true, their tiny jaws are unable to pierce human skin; the spiderlet itself is no bigger than the head of an ordinary sewing pin.
5The branch of science concerned with classification, in particular of life-forms.
7I’ve also seen a yellowish spider in water margins carrying a similar egg-case.
8The ant-lion is something like the “sand-worms” in the fictional Dune series, except that they remain in their funnel in a tip in the sand, waiting for the unwary traveler when their head emerges with fearsome jaws and …. well, you can imagine the rest.
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
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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.