Christmas shoppers on Saturday 17th in Dublin’s O’Connell Street, the city’s main boulevard, were interested to see a long picket line displaying banners, flags and placards.
The event was a jointly-organised public reminder of the continuing existence of political prisoners in Ireland and as a gesture of solidarity to the prisoners too.
The joint organisers were the Ireland Anti-Internment Campaign, the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association and the Anti-Imperialism Action organisation. The attendance were mostly Irish Republicans but there were also some from the socialist/ anarchist traditions present.
There are currently 40 Irish Republican prisoners in jails in Ireland, on both sides of the British Border. As a speaker noted at the end, all had been sentenced or refused bail by no-jury special courts of the Irish and British states.
The Irish Tricolour and the Starry Plough were displayed of course but also a Palestinian flag and two Basque ones; the latter attracted the attention of a number of young people from the Spanish state who were pleased and approached the picketers for discussion.
Two banners called for and end to the extradition of Irish Republicans and one figured cartoonist Carlos Latuff’s illustration of solidarity between Irish and Palestinian political prisoners.
Leaflets of the IRPWA and of the IAIC were distributed to passers-by.
As the event came to an end a representative of each organising group read out a short statement; both the IAIC and the AIA emphasised the need for unity in resisting repression and each along with the IRPWA called for support for Irish Republican prisoners.
On Monday, as the remains of Queen Elizabeth II were being conducted in State funeral in London, Socialist Republicans rallied against monarchy in front of the James Connolly1 monument in Dublin.
They displayed flags and placards, heard speeches and burned the flag of the UK.
They then marched to O’Connell Bridge carrying a “coffin” bearing the words “British Empire RIP”, dumped it into the Liffey and marched on to the General Post Office building, where a large force of Irish state police prevented their entry.
The actions occurred as the royal funeral was taking place in London. In a move that drew public criticism from presenter of independent program Newstalk, national broadcaster RTÉ sent a crew to cover the funeral in London to film it in realtime for Irish national television.
Taoiseach (equivalent of Prime Minister) Mícheál Martin and President Michael D. Higgins in persons represented the Irish State at the British royal funeral.
Many Irish politicians (including leaders of the Sinn Féin political party) and public figures had sent fulsome messages of condolence and praise of the late British Queen.
“DOWN WITH THE MONARCHY!”
The chairperson of the event and speakers lambasted the “sycophancy” of Irish Government figures and other politicians and public figures. They drew attention of the past record of British Royalty and to the ongoing British occupation of Ireland.
The event had been publicised on social media under the slogan of “Down with the Monarchy!” and that was very much the tone of the event as occupants in a police van watched from across the street.
The chairperson opened proceedings by reminding the attendance of Connolly’s slogan at the outbreak of WWI that “We serve neither King nor Kaiser but Ireland.” Passing vehicles occasionally tooted their horns in approval.
A young socialist Republican read out Connolly’s article in The Workers’ Republic of March 1902 on the occasion of the coronation of Edward VIII.
Connolly stated that to Socialists the replacement of one exploiter by another hardly mattered and would excite little comment.
“But although we would rather treat the matter thus philosophically, we find that the machinations of those in power do not leave us that possibility; with them, and because of them, the festivities attending the Coronation have taken on the aspect not merely of a huge parade of pomp and magnificence – cloaking the festering sores of that slave society on which it is built – but have also become an elaborately contrived and astutely worked piece of Royalist and Capitalist propaganda, designed to captivate the imagination of the unthinking multitude, and thus lead them to look askance upon every movement which would set up as an ideal to work for something less gorgeously spectacular, even if more solidly real.
The evil effects of private ownership of industries is thus illustrated once more in a manner that ought to appeal to those patriots in our midst who still dread the innovating effects of Socialism on the National spirit of the Irish people2.”
DIVINE RIGHT AND WORKERS’ RIGHT
Diarmuid Breatnach quoted John Ball, a leader of the English Peasant’s Revolt of 1381 who, addressing the crowd in reference to the Christian Bible story of Adam and Eve, enquired: “When Adam delved (dug) and Eve span, who then was the gentleman?”
For that challenge to divine right to rule or right by birth, Breatnach related, King Richard II had John Ball hanged, drawn and quartered, his head stuck on a pike on London Bridge and a quarter of his body displayed at each of four different towns in England.
Breatnach contrasted this to the right of workers, who he said produce all things, to the ownership of all things and called on working people to take their place in history as conscious beings.
Another speaker, on behalf of Spirit of Irish Freedom Republican Society and the Michael Fagan Fenian Society based in Westmeath also spoke and included the Sinn Féin leadership in his denunciation of Irish politicians who had accepted and praised British Royalty.
Seán Doyle spoke about the attitude of servility which works its way into many different aspects of life, for example into accepting the laws of the capitalist system and the housing crisis.
Doyle likened the acceptance of this right of capitalism to acceptance of the divine right to rule and stated that workers had to break from this acceptance, which is what the Revolutionary Housing League was advocating and practicing in action.
UNION JACK IN FLAMES AND COFFIN INTO THE RIVER
After the speeches a copy of the “Union Jack” flag was set on fire to symbolise the future of the forced union of nations — including a part of Ireland — under England rule.
Participants formed up into two columns flying flags, headed by four persons carrying a large pseudo-coffin. Taking to the road, they crossed Butt Bridge, turned right along the quay until they reached O’Connell Bridge.
There Gardaí and three Public Order Vehicles awaited them. Undeterred, the marchers cheered a short speech and chanted some slogans. Then at the count of “a h-aon, a dó, a trí” the “coffin” was heaved over the parapet into the Liffey river.
This action emulated a similar one carried out by James Connolly and revolutionary socialists in 1897 during Queen Victoria’s visit to Dublin.
It is worth recording too that Queen Victoria visited again in 1900 to affirm Ireland as part of the UK and to help recruit more Irish to go and fight the Boers in South Africa.
In response to that occasion, Iníní na hÉireann (Daughters of Ireland) led over 50 women in organising a Children’s Patriotic Party on the Sunday after the Wolf Tone Commemoration in July of that year.
Over 30,000 children had paraded from Beresford Place to Clonturk Park in north Dublin where they were served picnic lunches and listened to anti-recruitment speeches.
After disposing of the “coffin” of the “British Empire” on Monday, the marchers proceeded to the General Post Office where the building had been closed and a strong force of Gardaí also prevented access.
The GPO was the HQ of the insurrectionary forces during the 1916 Rising and many considered it insulting to their memory that the Irish tricolour above the building was lowered to half-mast in respect for the British monarchy.
The event concluded with cheers from passers-by and without any arrests.
1The James Connolly monument in Dublin is located in Beresford Place, across the street from what was the old Liberty Hall, the HQ of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ union (now replaced by SIPTU).
2See Sources & Further Information for a link to the full text.
Irish newscaster slams Irish broadcasting team sent to cover royal funeral: teahttps://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/uk/elizabeth-is-not-our-queen-irish-presenter-slams-tv-coverage-of-monarchs-funeral/articleshow/94281107.cms
Hatch street in Dublin is an unusual venue to hear the sounds of a political protest but that was where a protest took place Friday, outside the headquarters of Jones Lang LaSalle, an Anglo-US real estate and investment multinational.
The lunchtime protest was organised by the Anti-Imperialist Action organisation in protest at JLL’s complicity in what they called “the occupation and genocide in Palestine.”
In a leaflet handed out to construction workers, office workers and passers-by, AIA stated that JLL “work with Elbit Systems, the largest private arms supplier for the occupation” and that last year “their CEO boasted about ‘a significant increase in (its) activity in Israel’ “.
The leaflet also pointed out that “Palestine Action, a group in England and Scotland, have successfully shut down two of Elbit’s sites through … direct action” against the companies.
Also pointed out in the leaflet was the result of property management companies in stoking the housing crisis and also commented on the colonial history of Ireland and its solidarity with the Palestinian people.
The picketers displayed placards along with flags: the Starry Plough, Palestinian national flag and another of the PFLP, one of the Palestinian liberation organisations. They regularly shouted slogans against the Israeli occupation, in solidarity with Palestine and against the JLL organisation.
Gardaí (Irish police) arrived to protect the JLL building but there were no incidents. The reaction of those who accepted a leaflet varied from non-committal, through curious to supportive.
It has been noticeably difficult in Dublin to find a place serving hot food between about 4pm and 7pm on a Sunday but that was once a week only (though awkward enough if you were entertaining visitors from abroad). But now it’s difficult to find a decent café in Dublin after 3.30pm all week — and more so if you’d like to sit outside or next to a window, watching life’s “rank and rich array” passing by.
Yesterday I was looking for a cup of coffee before I set off to visit someone in hospital. I found Anne’s Bakery in Moore Street closed at 3.30pm and, after a brief conversation with some people working nearby, headed off for its sister café in Henry Street but realised that if open, it would be closing very soon anyway (I think it closes at 4pm). So I set off for the hospital.
Coming back into the city centre around 5.15pm and still hankering for a coffee and thought-flow, I realised my chances were even worse now because Simon’s Corner in South Great George’s Street would be closed or closing. What about Cornucopia, in Wicklow Street? I cycled there, spotted empty tables outside, locked up my bike across the road just by Dingle company Murphy’s Ice-Cream (where you get 10% discount through ordering in Irish) and entered Cornucopia by left-hand door for the coffee-station. But …. no-one serving there. No sign saying “closed” so … maybe … might just have gone to the toilet?
After waiting awhile without any staff appearing, I made enquiries in the other part, the food-serving section and was told the coffee-station was closed. I looked at the lonnnnng queue, muttered “Fuck it”, went back outside, unlocked the bike and, careful of the big cars coming down that narrow street, pulled out to ride towards Grafton Street and from there northwards and home.
And …. Glory Alleluia! Empty tables outside Mary’s Bar & Hardware Shop! And illuminated by the sunlight slanting from the westering sun. Did they serve coffee, I wondered (I know they don’t sell hardware). Most Irish bars serve tea and coffee but the coffee quality can be questionable … or even instant and …. relief! Spotted the machine at the bar’s end with the roasted beans in the cylinder on top, ordered a cup and went back out to lock the bike.
A little later, sitting outside in the sun, sipping reasonable coffee, watching passers-by …. people finishing work, shoppers, tourists, beggars, cops …. and then an interesting chat with one of “Mary’s” customers out for a smoke.
Then home, caffeinated and happy.
PS: If you ever pop in to Mary’s for a drink, do make sure you visit the toilet. You will pass through what looks like an older section of the bar with surprising partitioned parts, past some hardware (but not for sale), then through a door, up some stairs …. On the way back, like as not, you’ll take a wrong turn (as I did) and enter …. a brightly-lit US-style diner with customers seated at red formica-top tables! A dislocating experience like something out of a sci-fi novel.
As you find the correct way back, depending on how much alcohol you’ve imbibed, you might wonder if that other place really exists. In this dimension, anyway.
On 9th April, the Dublin Anti-Internment Committee held another of its regular awareness-rising events in the city, this time on on the northside, at the junction of the busy shopping Henry Street and Liffey Street.
Supporters lined up with the Anti-Internment Committee of Ireland banner and placards. In addition to the Starry Plough of the Irish working class, the Palestinian and the Basque flags were flown in symbols of solidarity and also as a demonstration that political prisoners are held in many countries around the world.
Going on for 200 of the AIGI’s leaflets were distributed, explaining that Irish Republicans continue to be held in custody without trial through the practice of refusal of bail and through revocation of licence. This practice by administrations on both sides of the British Border are anti-democratic suppression of the right to hold political opinions and to organise in their furtherance.
Recordings of relevant songs were played on a portable PA, such as The Roll of Honour, Viva la Quinze Brigada and Something Inside So Strong. Throughout the period of the event, two Special Branch (plainclothes political police) kept up an obvious surveillance which however did not deter the picketers.
The Anti-Internment Committee of Ireland is an independent broad and democratic committee, endeavouring to hold regular awareness-raising events and all democratic people are welcome to attend its public events, always advertised in advance on its Facebook page.
A young Dublin man, out to see something of the world, arrived in Franco’s Spain just a few years after WWII. At a reception at the German Embassy in Madrid (foreign press invited and anywhere for a free meal) he met a tall attractive half-Basque, half-German woman. Lucila Hellmann de Menchaca was multi-lingual – bilingual in German and Spanish through her upbringing, she had also learned English and French. She knew only a few words in Euskera – her mother’s side of the family was not very patriotic and in any case, since the victory of Franco’s military-fascist coup in ‘39, the language was forbidden. They conversed mostly through English.
Deasún, tall with grey-blue eyes and dark curly hair and thin moustache, had been raised only with English language but was learning Irish and Spanish, the latter out of necessity and the former by choice.
They were attracted to one another and began dating; within around six months they were married and soon afterwards on their way to Tangiers, where Deasún had a job waiting for him writing copy for a USA radio broadcasting company. The Moroccan city was an “international zone” city according to the Tangier Protocol, which meant that it was effectively ruled by the British, Spanish and French and, inevitably, full of liberation political activists, smugglers, spies and double-agents.
In that multi-lingual society with the Muezzin calling the faithful to prayer five times a day in Arabic and Berber heard in the street along with European languages, Luci was soon pregnant and, as her time neared, went back to Madrid to be near her family. Luci and Deasún first’s child was born in the German hospital in that city; then back to Tangiers soon afterwards, of course.
Their big guard dog, named Bran after one of Fionn Mac Cumhaill’s famous wolfhounds, occasionally takes off to return days later with scratches and bite-marks. He was watchful of the child and one day complains, whimpering to Deasún who, when he goes to investigate, finds the crawling child stuffing the dog’s dinner into his mouth.
Deasún watches his son speaking his first words in Spanish from Luci and some in Irish from himself. Increasingly he feels the need to have his son develop his speech in Ireland; soon the couple are back in the Spanish state and, after a short interlude, visiting the Basque Country of Luci’s youth, crossing the border into the French state by train to the coast and boat to England. A short stay with a cousin there and they and their child are on the way to Deasún’s native Dublin by train and boat.
Some years later in Dublin, his family of sons and a daughter growing up speaking Spanish and Irish in the home and English in the street, Deasún composes the piece of music which he calls “An Ghailseach” (the Foreign Woman”). Luci and Deasún’s youngest son, Cormac, an accomplished flute and whistle player, learns the piece. Some years later again, in the Club an Chonnradh with his father, Cormac plays the air and Deasún is amazed to learn that the piece he likes so much was actually composed by himself.
Cormac records the piece and it is played on an Irish-language radio programme to mark a century since the birth of Deasún. On the morning of the broadcast Cormac cannot listen to it for he is on his way to Stockholm, where the Amerghin Ensemble of which he is a part have an engagement to perform their music. The older son listens to the program just before he is due in the Dublin city centre on a historical conservation commitment. The tears spring to his eyes from the sheer painful beauty of the piece.
Luci and Deasún are years gone (they died within days of one another in 2007) but An Ghailseach has joined the extremely rich and varied body of traditional Irish music, where it will outlast yet other generations to come.
A group of mixed political background held a picket this afternoon in Henry Street, one of the main shopping streets in Dublin’s city centre. The picket was protesting the continuing internment in Ireland of political activists and also expressing solidarity with political prisoners in different parts of the world – a Palestinian flag and a couple of Basque ones flew alongside the Irish ones. There are over 60 political prisoners in Irish jails both sides of the British Border.
Many people were out shopping or just enjoying the sun on what must have been the hottest day of the year so far. Up to 200 leaflets were distributed and passers-by occasionally stopped to discuss with the picket supporters.
MESSAGE OF SOLIDARITY TO CAMPAIGNERS FOR MUMIA ABU JAMAL
Near the end of the picket, a representative of the Anti-Internment Committee of Ireland was recorded voicing a message of solidarity for Mumia Abu Jamal, to send to an upcoming conference on Mumia and other political prisoners.
Mumia is a political prisoner, a black United States activist and author who was awaiting execution but is now in his 40th year in jail. He was a popular broadcaster in 1981 when he went to the assistance of his brother, who was being harassed by a white police officer. As the incident came to an end the cop was dead of gunshot wounds and Mumia was shot in the stomach.
There are so many questions about the scenario the Prosecution laid out and which got Mumia convicted of murder and sentenced to death, which was later commuted to imprisonment for life. His gun had five bullets missing but Mumia was never tested to see whether he had fired the gun nor were the tests on the bullets in the police officer conclusively proven to come from there. The crime scene was not preserved and the police were in and out of it, with Mumia’s gun while Mumia was in hospital, undergoing an emergency operation. Photos taken of the scene by an independent press photographer did not show the presence of the taxi of a witness against Mumia, who claimed he was parked there. Not to mention the later confession of a man who claimed to have killed the police officer on behalf of other police as a contract kill (the decision not to use him as a witness divided Mumia’s legal team and two lawyers resigned as a result).
As the spokesperson of the Anti-Internment Committee said, even if people believe that he fired the shots that killed the police officer, after 40 years Mumia should be freed on humanitarian grounds. The USA is allegedly the country leading the world in democracy, as the spokesperson commented, but holds a great many political prisoners, some of them for many, many years in jail.
MORE EVENTS TO COME
Pandemic permitting, the AIGI intends to hold pickets on approximately a monthly basis to protest continuing internment and in solidarity with political prisoners, such events being advertised on our social media. The organisation is independent of any political party or organisation and all who oppose the jailing of activists without trial or wish to support political prisoners are welcome.