Dublin Castle, located in the south city centre, has been the centre of the British occupation of Ireland since 1171 until 1921 (and even after that, some would say).The site offers one-hour guided tours to the public for much of the day, at approximately an hour apart, seven days a week and last year claimed a visitor total of nearly half a million. As a Dubliner interested in history and a walking tour guide, I was well overdue to take an official guided tour of the place, which I did recently.
Overall the State Rooms Tour was interesting and I did learn some things but I was also aware of many gaps. Was this unavoidable in a tour of one hour covering more than eleven hundred years (given that Viking Dublin was also covered) of history? Of course – but in the choices of what to leave out, was there an ideology at play, one that sought to diminish the repressive history of the institution and the struggle against it?
The first presentation to us by the tour guide was of Viking Dublin, the settlement of which took place in the 7th Century. The Vikings had a confrontational occupation of England but this had not been the case here, we were told – the Vikings settled amongst us, intermarried, introduced personal and family names, place-names, etc.
Well, somehow the tour spiel had ignored the many battles between the Vikings and the natives in Ireland even after the settlement in Dublin (and other areas), leading up the famous Battle of Clontarf in 1014, fought on what is now the north side of Dublin city. The 12-hour battle was important enough to be recorded elsewhere in Europe and in a Viking saga. Yes, it had also been an inter-Irish battle, in particular between the King of Leinster and the High King of Ireland but Viking Dublin played an important part, as did Viking allies and mercenaries from Manx and the Orkneys – and its result had ended forever any possibility of a Viking takeover of Ireland.
A noticeable gap in Irish-Viking history of Dublin to omit it, one might say.
Nevertheless, the tour guide gave us interesting information about the Viking settlement and a map showed an artist’s impression of how it would have looked.
Down in the base of what had been the Powder Tower, it was interesting to see the stone work, to hear the guide talk about the foundation of the Viking wall below us and how the cement used to bind the stones was a mixture of sand, oxblood, horsehair and eggshells. To me it was also interesting to see the stone course lines of one pointed arch above a curved one but unsure what I was looking at — and we were a big group, the tour guide some distance away to ask.
Down below the walkway, where water lay on the ground a couple of inches deep, some green plant was growing in the lights illuminating the work. This was above the route of the Poddle, I supposed, which once fed the Linn Dubh (black pool) and which now runs underneath Castle and city before emptying into the Liffey.
“BEYOND THE PALE”
The Normans reached Dublin in 1171 after landing in Wexford in 1169, our guide informed us but we were not told that in the process they defeated Irish resistance and the Dublin Vikings and, most curiously, there was no mention of the Pale. That would have been an interesting explanation to visitors of the origin of the expression “beyond the Pale” and what it implied1.
The guide did tell us later in the St. Patrick’s Hall (the State banquet room) that the paintings on the ceiling were to demonstrate to the Irish that all the civilising influences had come from the English to the Irish savages, that if the Irish were now civilised, their ranking was definitely below the English.
That might have been an appropriate time to mention of the Statutes of Killkenny 1366, nearly two centuries after the Norman invasion and how the Irish Normans had, outside Dublin, adopted ‘uncivilised’ Gaelic tongue, custom and even law, so that their cousins in England were now calling them “the degenerate English” who had become “more Irish than the Irish themselves”.
If the English Reformation got a mention I must have missed it but certainly there was nothing said about the imposition of the new religion on Ireland, colonists and natives alike and the many wars that resulted. Anglicanism had become the religion of the English State, with its monarch at the head of the Church but none of the Irish natives and most of the colonists did not wish to adopt that religion. So it led to many uprisings, first notably from the Irish Normans (Gall-Ghael), then by the Irish and a number of major wars, including the Cromwellian and Williamite ones, also to the Penal Laws. That State religion was the reason that Elizabeth I had founded Trinity College, so that the sons of the colonists would be educated in the “true faith”. Religion had been used by the coloniser to try to undermine unity among the inhabitants of Ireland and had been employed to physically divide the island in 1922, which had also led to a much more recent war of nearly three decades.
The Reformation and its effects seemed a quite significant portion to leave out of Irish history in general and of Dublin history in particular.
As the Castle had briefly been acknowledged as being, among other things, a prison, it seemed strange to omit the escape after four years of captivity of Red Hugh O’Donnel and two O’Neill brothers in 1592 — particularly so since the whole experience had left O’Donnell with a seething hatred of the English occupation which only ended years later in a poisoned death in Spain at the hands of an English agent. Aodh Ruadh Ó Domhnaill, as he was known then to most of Ireland (and Scotland), fought the English occupation from 1591 to 1602. Apart from being an important part of the Castle’s history one would have thought it would make an exciting and interesting story for tourists.
However, the story was omitted – but then so were the tortures carried out in the Castle, the severed heads erected on spikes on Castle walls and, although it was said that it took the English 400 years to conquer the rest of Ireland, this was apparently because “there were no roads and there were lots of bogs”!
Commenting on later medieval Dublin city, the guide told us about the many diseases that were endemic, due to lack of sanitation in the city, along with blood-letting being the major medical treatment. It was strange that she did not mention the effects of the Black Death or Bubonic Plaque, which travelled through Ireland in 1634. The plague, carried by fleas on the black rat, affecting almost alone the city populations, almost wiped out the English colony in Ireland.
IRISH WOOD, FAKE STONE COLUMNS
In the Chapel, the guide pointed out the names and coats of arms on each side as being those of Lord Lieutenants of Ireland, i.e the representatives of the English monarch in governing Ireland. There were of course no native Irish names among them and few even of the Gall-Ghael.
One that took my attention, near the doorway, was that of Cornwallis, dated 1798. Lord Cornwallis (“Cornwall’” in the traditional ballad The Croppy Boy) was in charge of the suppression of the United Irishmen uprising in 1798, at which he was successful but less so in the Thirteen Colonies of North America, which he lost to rebellious colonists, some of whom were relatives and friends of the beaten republicans in Ireland.
In response to an enquiry as to whether there were any questions, I asked who were represented by the sculpted heads along the chapel wall on the outside. Some represented Christian saints and some kings, such as Brian Boru2, she replied. Is there a list available of who they all are? No, I was told, only of some of them and I could consult that later.
Amazingly, only the floor and walls in the chapel were stone. The columns, she told us, were Irish oak plastered over to look like stone.
MONARCHS AND PRESIDENTS
In her introduction to the tour, our guide had informed us that Lords, Kings, Queens and Presidents had visited the Castle. The creation of the role of President in the 1937 Constitution, she told us later, had been to replace that of the English Monarch. I had not been aware of that. She told us that he commanded the Army, which was news to me too (or I had forgotten) and it turns out to be true, though more so in form than in substance for, as she informed us, real power is vested in the Taoiseach (Prime Minister).
In the Throne Room we were told that Queen Victoria had visited Ireland 1n 1849 and had to be lifted up to the Throne, as she was so small (bit of a deflater for the lines in the “Monto” song!3).
In her visit to Ireland the guide told us, the Monarch had been shocked by the scenes of hunger during the “Famine” (the Great Hunger) and that aid to the starving improved after her visit. Well, perhaps but the effects of the Great Hunger were covered in newspapers and appeals long before 1849 and the worst of the holocaust was over before then, the statistics of which the guide gave us; in our folk history Victoria is referred to as “the Famine Queen”.
The guide made much of the fact that Queen Elizabeth II (who might be known in a republic as: “Ms. Elizabeth Windsor”), had visited the Castle, had spoken in Irish at the reception banquet and how this was the first time an English monarch had spoken English at a State occasion, though Elizabeth I she told us knew a few Irish phrases.4 The guide attached no little importance to Elizabeth I’s gesture and to the whole visit as an act of reconciliation and we know that no less than the Irish President at the time, Mary Mac Aleese, had looked around mouthing “Wow!” when the monarch spoke five words in Irish: “A Uachtaráin agus a chairde … (“President and friends” …).
Such is the sycophancy of the Castle Irish mentality, that five words in the native language of a country being visited by a head of a foreign state should evoke such wonder and gratitude in their hearts. Forgetting that the very colonial regime of that state had for centuries worked to stamp out that language, barring it from all public arenas and educational institutions. One must wonder that a monarch whose armed forces are in occupation of one-sixth of the nation’s territory should be so honoured by the head of this state and other dignitaries from the areas of politics and visual, written and performing arts!5
I could have commented that during the Monarch’s visit, huge areas of the city centre had been barred to traffic by the police force of this “republic” in a huge negation of civil liberties; that police had been taking down posters against the visit and ripping even Irish tricololour flags from the hands of protester to stuff them in rubbish bins and truck; that Dublin City Council workmen had been removing anti-Royal graffiti while workers’ housing estates had been waiting for years for a cleanup service.
Guiding a small Latin American tour through the Castle grounds a few days before the scheduled banquet-reception, we were accosted by secret police who required us to state and prove our identities, state our reasons for being there (!) and the tour group to hand over their cameras for the agents to scroll through their histories. And the agents seemed surprised when I failed to agree with them that their actions had been reasonable.
I could have said that during Elizabeth Windsor’s reception banquet I had been with others in Thomas Street protesting her Castle reception and that at the corner with Patrick Street, we had been prevented by lines of riot Gardai from proceeding any further – not out of concern for her security but so that Her Majesty should not even hear any sound or see anything to disturb the serenity of her visit.
I did not say any of that – I still had a tour to finish and, besides, no doubt this is the Castle Tour Discourse, not to be blamed on one guide.
We were shown too the two banquet halls, the original and the one for state visits nowadays as the original was “too small”.6 And the sights of hunger outside the Castle walls in 1849 had not seemed to intrude on the guests enjoying the five-course meal served at Victoria’s welcoming banquet.
Seeming somewhat out of place, there was also an exhibition of Irish painting of the modernist school.
Portraits of the Presidents of the Irish State lined the corridor through which we passed to St. Patrick’s Hall (also the Irish State banquet room) and I could not help but contemplate that of the nine Presidents to date, one had been a founder of an organisation banned by the British occupation, another two had been soldiers against the British occupation but had since taken part in the suppression of their erstwhile comrades.
Another was the son of an Englishman who became an Irish Republican and was executed by the Irish state and another had resigned after being insulted in the Dáil by a Minister of the Government.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, nothing was said about any of that, either.
NO CASTLE CATHOLICS OR COPS?
Coming into more modern times, the I916 Rising got a reference, unsurprisingly as a detachment of the Irish Citizen Army had besieged the Castle for a couple of days, mostly from the nearby City Hall; the ICA’s leader, ironically, had been brought a wounded prisoner from Moore Street and treated in the Castle too. That was James Connolly and he was mentioned — though the ICA was not, nor were we informed that he was a revolutionary socialist. We were told we could visit the room named after him in which he had been held and treated on a bed there. After the end of the guided tour I went there and although it was an experience to enter the room of course the actual display was disappointingly sparse.
As headquarters of the British occupation of Ireland and necessarily of repression of resistance, the Castle always had soldiers stationed or passing through there. But it also held a police force, the secret service of the Dublin Metropolitan Police. Usually unarmed with more than a truncheon up until 1916, the uniformed DMP maintained order and bourgeois public morality in Dublin but also repressed public resistance to the British occupation. Not only sex workers and drunks were arrested but so were singers of patriotic ballads, protesters and public speakers. During times of Fenian activity, the DMP also worked to counter the influence of Irish patriots in the city and the plain-clothes G Division was created in 1874 to recruit informers and hunt down active Fenians.
A section of the Fenians were however prepared to counter this with assassinations of informers, some DMP and attempts on the lives of senior DMP officials in the city7 during the mid 19th Century. In the early years of the 20th Century it was G Division which also spied on activists in the trade union and labour movement, nationalists, republicans, the Irish language movement and suffragettes and it was they who identified Irish insurgent prisoners captured by the British Army in 1916, ensuring the death sentence for many (though 14 were eventually executed in Dublin).
The DMP, mostly the uniformed officers, could in fact be credited with being the inspiration to form the Irish Citizen Army: the vicious and sometimes murderous attacks of the DMP on workers’ assemblies during the 1913 Dublin Lockout had decided James Connolly and Jim Larkin to call for the creation of the workers’ militia. During the Rising, it seems that three DMP were shot dead, all by members of the ICA, one of them being at the Dublin Castle entrance.
On Bloody Sunday 1920, during the War of Independence, two IRA officers and an Irish language enthusiast prisoners were tortured and killed in Dublin Castle by police, including the specially-recruited terrorists of the Auxiliary Division. In order to cover up their actions, the police staged photos which they claimed depicted the prisoners not properly guarded and then jumping their guards to seize their weapons, which is how they came by their deaths, according to the cover story.
Soon after that, G Division detectives were being killed in various parts of the city by Collins’ Squad and the Dublin IRA. In fact, a number of the officers and of British Army spies took up residence in the Castle itself, for protection.
After the creation of the Irish Free State in 1921, the independence movement split and in the following Civil War (1922-1923) the repression of the continuing resistance was mostly the work of the Irish National Army. However, when the Irish police force was established, the Gardaí Síochána, their Special Branch detectives were again based in Dublin Castle,8 though they are based elsewhere now.
Since there was no mention of any this on our tour, a significant part of Castle history was being omitted.
CASTLE CATHOLIC IDEOLOGY?
There existed during the British occupation a social group — or perhaps more than one — that in the commentary of most Irish, perhaps, were referred to as “Castle Catholics”. This was not a reference to Catholics who owned a castle but to those of the native and Norman-Irish stock, i.e nearly all Catholics who, while maintaining their religion, bowed to the English occupation in everything else. And particularly the more elevated echelons among that group, for whom attendance at functions in the Castle were the high point of their social calendars and indeed their lives. Ag sodar i ndiaidh na n-uaisle9, as the Irish have it in their native tongue.
With some exceptions, I thought the tour and commentary, although interesting and of course catering to the expectations of foreign tourists, had more than a little of “Castle Catholic” or, better said, “Castle Irish” to it.
And it therefore lost a lot in the telling.
1Effectively an English anti-Irish racist term: “The Pale” referred at first to the areas enclosed by the Normans by an earthworks surmounted by a wooden palisade, i.e the area of colonist control. “Beyond the Pale” were the areas still under control of the Irish clans, uncivilised in the viewpoint of the colonists and the expression survives in English today to describe something as being a horror.
2A missed opportunity to mention the Battle of Clontarf and the defeat of the Dublin Viking and Irish Leinster forces!
4Apparently Elizabeth I had a fair bit of linguistic ability, being fluent in English, Latin and French. It is believed by some that she knew more than a few phrases of Irish, having been taught by a tutor she recruited.
5Among them were the musicians The Chieftains and the poet laureate Heaney who had, some decades earlier written that “no glass was ever raised in our house to an English King or Queen”!
6There were 172 dinner guests at the banquet to welcome Elizabeth I of the UK.
7For a good atmospheric account of the struggle between the two forces, see The Shadow of the Brotherhood – the Temple Bar shootings by Barry Kennerc, Mercer (2010)
8An Irish Republican ballad of the early 1970s based on an earlier song had it thus:
“Oh the Special Branch in Dublin,
They’re something for to see:
They crawl out from the Castle
To inform on you and me.
But the day is coming soon me boys
And the rifles they will bark –
In 1998, An Post, the Irish postal service (through the Department of Post and Telegraphs? Through the Office of Public Works, which manages national monuments?), commissioned a series of ten paintings of 1916 Rising scenes from painter Norman Teeling. For a number of years, these were on display in the General Post Office, site of the Headquarters of the 1916 Rising. Subsequently they were removed and enquirers were informed that they had been taken into storage. Complaints were made by organisations and individuals but no information was forthcoming as to when, if ever, they would be replaced in the GPO or put on display elsewhere. Now, it seems they are up for sale. How can this be?
THE MISSING PAINTINGS
A recent discussion about the paintings in question led to my being sent a link, where the opening information said that they had been put on display in the Green Gallery, St. Stephen’s Green:
Through perseverance and dedication to the cause, Dermot O’Grady of The Green Gallery has arranged for all 10 paintings to take pride of place in a stunning new 1916exhibition on the Top Floor. St. Stephens Green Ctr Dublin 2. Opened by none other than Pat Liddy himself, the paintings have found an important rebirth and are now able to be enjoyed by everyone once again.
However, a little further down the page, a notice declared that the exhibition had closed.
But elsewhere on the page, it had been announced that, as well as prints of the paintings, the original oil-paintings on canvas were for sale:
This suite of 10 paintings has now become available to the art market. As the original oil on canvas paintings and also, with permission of the artist, in Giclée print format.
How could this be? Had they not been purchased by the State?
A wikipedia search threw up two references to the series of paintings: one for the General Post Office and another for the 1916 Rising, with what seemed to be an excerpt from each. The GPO reference had the following:
An Post History and Heritage – The GPO Museum The 1916 Rising by NormanTeelinga ten-paintingsuite of events of the Easter Rising acquired for permanent ….
And the 1916 reference had this:
The Age, 27 April 1916 Press comments 1916–1996 The 1916 Rising by NormanTeeling a 10-painting suite acquired by An Post for permanent display at the …
So from both of these I should find the information I required, i.e what had happened to the paintings. Right?
But no, neither Wikipedia page had any reference in the text to the painting series nor to the painter! Had the pages once contained the quoted references and more but these had since been removed? However, in the External Links of the both Wikipedia pages I found the sentence “The 1916 Rising by Norman Teeling a ten-painting suite of events of the Easter Rising acquired for permanent display at the GPO.” But they are not, are they?
A good investigative reporter would make enquiries of the painter, of the Green Gallery, of An Post, of the OPW …. but I am not such a reporter nor do I have the time to make those enquiries and perhaps, as has often been the case in the past, suffer long delays or even be given the run around.
A good investigative reporter would hold off writing until he had got to the bottom of the story or at least exhausted reasonable lines of investigation but, as has already been established, I am not one of those people. So I am putting it out there now, for some of you to make the necessary enquiries or, if you already know, to come back to me.
Had the State never in fact bought the paintings? Or if they had, were they now sold back to the painter or someone else? Had Teeling become frustrated with his paintings not being on display and bought them back from the State? If so, entirely understandable on his part.
DISCURSO DEL COMÍTE ANTI INTERNAMIENTO DE DUBLÍN PARA LA CONMEMORACIÓN DE PASCUA ABRIL 2019
A Chomrádaith agus a chairde, go raibh maith agaibh (“Companer@s y amig@s, gracias”) al Acción Anti-Imperialista de Irlanda por invitar al Comité de Anti-Internamiento de Dublín a hablar en este evento.
Tradicionalmente este es un tiempo cada año de conmemoraciones.
Conmemoramos en primer lugar a las mujeres, hombres y chicos que salieron a luchar contra un Imperio, el más grande jamás conocido y, en ese momento, el militar más poderoso del mundo. Algun@s lucharon solo por la independencia de Irlanda, much@s lucharon también por la justicia social y otr@s lucharon contra la guerra imperialista. El nuestro fue el primer alzamiento contra la carnicería de la Guerra imperialista y el mundo tuvo que esperar un año antes de que hubiera otro, en Rusia, y dos años antes del alzamiento espartaquista en Alemania.
Pero también conmemoramos a aquell@s much@s otr@s que lucharon y much@s que dieron su vida contra el invasor a través de los siglos, contra el colonizador, los ladrones de tierras, contra la monarquía inglesa por una República, contra los traidores de la causa de la independencia, contra los Gombeen (capitalistas nativos). Los gobernantes de nuestro propio Estado y los gobernantes coloniales de la colonia inglesa restante en suelo irlandés.
Es correcto y apropiado conmemorar los hechos heroicos y el sacrificio del pasado.
Pero no se trata solo del pasado; también se trata del presente y del futuro. A chomrádaithe (“companer@s), la lucha aún no está terminada y sus objetivos aún no se han alcanzado. Vivimos en un país dividido por una frontera británica y también dividido entre ricos y pobres, donde una pequeña minoría de explotadores vive de los trabajadores y de la clase media baja, convirtiendo la miseria de much@s en los euros y libras de unos pocos.
A medida que el fascismo asoma su fea cabeza y destapa sus sangrientos colmillos nuevamente por todo el mundo, nuestros gobernantes aquí en Irlanda también se vuelven cada vez más a la represión. Recordamos a los que están en juicio ahora por oponerse exitosamente al lanzamiento del fascista Pegida en Dublín en 2012. Y los partidarios del Sinn Féin Republicano atacados en Newry mientras conmemoraban el mismo Alzamiento de 1916 el año pasado, también en juicio ahora, una repetición de los ataques del RUC bajo la Ley de Poderes Especiales. Y las redadas en los hogares de much@s republican@s de otras organizaciones a lo largo del año. Y aquellos que languidecen en la cárcel después de la condena por cortes especiales sin jurado en ambos lados de la Frontera.
Parte del arsenal de la represión ha sido tradicionalmente el internamiento sin juicio. Y camaradas, tras el Alzamiento de 1916, hubo una gran ola de detenciones en Irlanda. Más de 3.500 hombres y mujeres fueron arrestados y se dictaron noventa sentencias de muerte, aunque más tarde todas menos 16 fueron conmutados. 1,852 mujeres y hombres fueron internados en campos de concentración y prisiones en Inglaterra y Gales.
Los británicos recurrieron nuevamente al internamiento durante la Guerra de la Independencia, al igual que los gobiernos irlandeses durante la Guerra Civil y en los años 30 y 40, y los británicos en los Seis Condados en los años 70. Eso fue internamiento masivo, pero el internamiento continúa hoy de forma más selectiva, a través de la revocación de la licencia para ex presos y la negativa de la libertad a fianza para otros. Tod@s l@s republican@s deben oponerse a esta práctica represiva y no solo l@s republican@s, sino también l@s socialistas y, de hecho, todas las personas democráticas. La historia muestra una y otra vez que lo que el Estado se sale con la suya contra un grupo, lo usa más tarde contra otro.
El Comité contra el internamiento de Dublín se esfuerza por celebrar un piquete mensual de información en diferentes partes de Dublín y un evento anual en Newry. No somos sectarios y somos independientes de cualquier partido u organización política, lo que significa que TODAS las organizaciones republicanas deben apoyar nuestros eventos, ya que el internmiento nos afecta a todos. O nos oponemos juntos a la represión estatal, camaradas … o vamos a la cárcel por separado.
Two quite different celebrations of International Workers’ Day took place in Dublin on the afternoon of the appropriate date, 1st of May. One was small and of a decidely revolutionary flavour while the other, much larger, was of a more mixed nature and tending towards the reformist. In addition, a workers’ solidarity picket was mounted on a Dublin city centre eatery.
NOTHING TO LOSE BUT OUR CHAINS
The first of the celebrations was organised by theAnti-Imperialist Action Ireland organisation and took place at the James Connolly Monument in Dublin’s Beresford Place. There a statue of James Connolly stands upon a plinth, behind the the design of the Irish Citizen Army flag, based upon the constellation that in Ireland is called the Starry Plough but in the USA is known as the Big Dipper. James Connolly was a revolutionary socialist and trade union organiser, historian, journalist and songwriter who was Commander of the Dublin insurrectionary forces in the 1916 Rising. The Irish Citizen Army, possibly the first formaly-organised army for and of the workers, had been formed during the Dublin Lockout as a defence force against the attacks of the Dublin Metropolitan Police.
The ICA took part in the 1916 Rising in Dublin and after the surrender of the insurrectionary forces, 16 participants, including two of the ICA, were executed by British firing squad: Michael Mallin on 8th May and James Connoly on 12th May.
In the here and now, on their way to the Connolly Monument, a number of participants were stopped by a man in plain clothes identifying himself as a police officer, i.e a member of the Garda Special Branch. He wished to know their names, which they declined to give them.
At the Monument, both speakers for the Anti-Imperialist Action Ireland organisation were youths.
The first to speak gave his oration in Irish on behalf of Macra – Irish Socialist Republican Youth and said that they were there to celebrate socialism, trade unionism and workers oppressed throughout the world and, that although James Connolly had been murdered in Kilmainham Jail, his work was ongoing.
Stating that James Connolly and the Irish Citizen Army had gone out in 1916 to break with imperialism and found a socialist society, the youth went on to say that “Macra is a revolutionary organisation with socialism as one of our objectives and we also believe in the words of Pearse: ‘Ireland not only free but Gaelic, not only Gaelic but free.’ Free from the bankers, free from landlords, free from poverty.”
The speaker concluded in Irish and in English with the renowned sentence from the Communist Manifesto.: “Bíodh critheagla ar aicmí cheannais roimh réabhlóid Chumannach. Níl tada le cailiúint ag na Prólatáirigh ach a slabhraí. Tá saol mór le gnóthú acu. Oibrithe an tSaoil Mhóir, cuirigí le chéile!”
“Let the ruling classes tremble before a communist revolution. The Proletariat have nothing to lose but their chains, they have the whole world to gain. Workers of the world unite!”
The second speaker delivered his speech in English and linked the liberation of Ireland with the liberation of the working class and went on to praise Séamus Costello (1939-1977), which he said had embodied that aspiration. The youth praised the creation of the Irish Republican Socialist Party by Costello as well as the creation of the Irish National Liberation Army and Costello’s participation and membership in a number of democratic organisations — including his election to Bray District Council.
Condemning “the bankers and politicians” who bring deprivation to the workers, the speaker said that they try to point the finger instead at Muslims and migrants but it is not migrants who cause job losses, create homelessness etc but “the elite”. The speaker ended by saying he wished to remember all those who had given their lives for Irish freedom.
WE WANT THE EARTH
Diarmuid Breatnach was then introduced to sing Be Moderate, a song with an ironic title by James Connolly. “The Irish working class does not have a huge history in Ireland, apart from a short period in the early decades of the last century,” Breatnach said, giving as reasons the forced underdevelopment of Irish industry, the British-fostered sectarianism in the most industrialised north-east and the focus on the national struggle as a competing pole of attraction.
“The Irish abroad, however, have made a huge contribution to the workers’ movement,” Breatnach said. “And in 1889, Jim Connell from near Cill Scíre in Co. Meath, composed lyrics of The Red Flag to the air of the White Cockade, starting it on the train to his home in South London from a demonstration in central London and apparently completing it in the home of another Irish man.
The song was later adopted by the International Workers of the World, a syndicalist organisation mostly active in the USA, Breatnach said and reminded them that James Connolly joined the IWW when he migrated to the USA. “In 1907, James Connolly published a songbook, Songs of Freedom, in which he included the lyrics of Be Moderate,” Breatnach stated and went on to say that no air had been published to which the words should be sung. As a result Be Moderate has been sung to a number of airs but in London Breatnach heard it sung by an avant-garde musical composer and Marxist-Leninist, Cornelius Cardew, to the air of A Nation Once Again. In Breatnach’s opinion the lyrics fit well to this air and it also provides a chorus, which he encouraged the participants to sing.
James Connolly’s lyrics were sung by Breatnach then, competing with sounds of passing traffic on the ground and the occasional trains rumbling by on the bridge overhead, participants joining in on the chorus:
We only want the Earth,
We only want the Earth
And our demands most moderate are:
We only want the Earth!
and the last line of the last verse “We want the Earth!” echoing across Beresford Place.
TRADE UNION AND POLITICAL ORGANISATION BANNERS
Across the road, a stage and crowd barriers were being set up outside Liberty Hall, the multi-storeyed headquarters of SIPTU, the largest union in Ireland and which, by amalgamations, had grown from the Irish Transport & General Workers’ Union, originally formed early in the 20th Century by Jim Larkin, James Connolly and others (and the destruction of which had been the object of the 1913 Lockout). The stage was being prepared for speakers to address a rally which would follow a Mayday parade from Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance (a small park dedicated “to those who gave their lives for Irish freedom”).
Even the larger Mayday demonstrations in Dublin, although organised through the Dublin Council of Trade Unions, i.e with affiliation from most trade unions in the city, do not tend to be very big by comparison with other cities in many other parts of the world.
Banners of some unions mixed with those of political organisations and campaign groups, including the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign and another against Irish state participation in PESCO, which is seen by many as an embryonic EU Army and undermining the Irish state’s neutrality.
Led by a lone piper, the parade made its way past crowds of onlookers down Dublin city’s main thoroughfare, O’Connell Street, then left along Eden Quay to Liberty Hall where they were to be addressed by speakers on the temporary stage in Beresford Place, across from the Connolly Monument.
Meanwhile, a small group had left, to form a picket line outside the Ivy Dawson Street restaurant, in solidarity with staff and in opposition to the management appropriating a portion of the tips left for staff, with more to join them there later from the Mayday parade.
A NOTE ON THE HISTORICAL ORIGIN OF INTERNATIONAL WORKERS’ DAY
The First of May has been celebrated as the international day for workers since 1892, to call for the 8-hour maximum working day, socialism and universal peace. Its inspiration was a train of events that began with a workers’ strike and demonstrations on May 1st 1886 in many parts of the USA but in Chicago ended in the State execution of four anarchists, with police and state militia massacres of workers along the way as well as with acts of workers’ resistance. The celebration and commemoration throughout the world was formally agreed at the Second Congress of the Second International Workers’ Association in Brussels in 1892 and at its Sixth Congress (Amsterdam, 1904) declared it mandatory for the proletarian organisations of all countries to stop work on that day, wherever that could be done without injury to the workers(bearing in mind violently repressive regimes).
In many states around the world now, the 1st of May is a public and bank holiday and has been so in Ireland since 1994. Its public celebration was banned under the fascist regimes in Spain and Portugal but is legal in both those states now; however it is still banned in some other states while in some areas, though not banned, may be subject to attack by police, army, state agents or by fascist elements.
The Irish Republican organisation Saoradh staged a large demonstration of its support on Dublin’s O’Connell Street on Saturday afternoon (20th April). Republican marching bands and hundreds of supporters followed the traditional ‘colour party’ flags and lines of men and some women dressed in green-brown military-style clothing, black berets and dark sunglasses.
Beginning at the Garden of Remembrance, the procession, carrying large portraits of the executed martyrs of the 1916 Rising, wound its way down the main street past thousands of viewers, many of those taking photos and filming, down to the wall of Trinity College and the Bank of Ireland building, then back up Westmoreland street and up the west side of O’Connell Street to the GPO building, the site of the HQ of the Rising in 1916, for speeches as the ceremony of the commemoration.
The parade assembled at Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance and remained there for some time without the reason being clear, until the arrival of the participants dressed in green-brown military-style clothing, black berets and dark sunglasses, which many in the waiting crowd applauded. Presumably these were meant to represent the IRA but from the physical appearance of many it was clear that their active duty days, if they had them, were behind them. Presumably too, any organisation that did have an armed section would be reluctant to offer them up to the State for arrest on a parade and their all appearing at the last minute like that was also perhaps to reduce the opportunity for Garda harassment.
However, the uniformed Garda presence was in low numbers and although the Special Branch had officers there, they did not appear to be harassing Republicans for their names and addresses, as is their usual wont.
The route of the parade had been prepared placards bearing the words “The Unfinished Revolution” and “Saoradh” with tricolour flags attached at intervals to traffic sign and street light posts, including also at least one Palestinian flag. As the colour party and people in uniform lined up with banners and a band behind them and set off down towards the city centre, people joined in behind the band, with another band bringing up the rear.
TRAGEDY AND CONDEMNATION
The crowd appeared to contain many different elements, mostly men but quite a few women, some parents with small children and some teenagers, young men and older. Included among the attendance were a number of independent Republicans and socialists and a number expressed their decision to attend as having been influenced by the tragedy of the previous Thursday and the media campaign against ‘dissident’ Republicans, along with the apprehension that the Gardaí might take advantage of that to block or harass the paraders.
A scheduled Easter commemoration by a committee including apparently members of Saoradh to be held in Derry on Easter Monday had been cancelled as a result of a tragic incident. The armed British colonial police force in the Six Counties, the PSNI, had been carrying out house searches in the Galiagh and Creggan areas of Derry, allegedly for arms, to which youth had responded with stones and petrol bombs. During that incident, a gun was fired from the direction of the youth towards the colonial police but struck Lyra McKee, a young female reporter standing near them instead. Tragically the wound was fatal.
Saoradh had issued a statement after the event expressing regret for the death and extending condolences to Lyra McKee’s family and friends but also putting the incident in the context of regular harassing raids by the PSNI on houses in ‘nationalist’ areas and the always likely result of resistance (see Links for full statement).
Possibly in reference to that tragedy, a very tall long-haired man stepped in front of a section of marchers with his hands in the air. Stewards quickly blocked him peacefully and diverted participants around him.
Past the objector and into O’Connell Street, both the east side pavement and the pedestrian middle reservation were thronged with people watching, photographing and filming. The parade passed on to O’Connell Bridge, into D’Olier Street, turned right towards the Bank of Ireland building and back up Westmoreland Street to the General Post Office, location of the HQ of the Rising in 1916, outside of which the 1916 Proclamation had been read on 24th April by Patrick Pearse with James Connolly by his side.
At the GPO, Saoradh party chairman Brian Kenna welcomed the participants.
THE SPEECHES AND CEREMONY
At the GPO, Saoradh party chairman Brian Kenna welcomed the participants. Republican Easter Rising commemorations tend to follow an established pattern, no matter which organisation is involved: the reading of the Proclamation; messages of solidarity from Republican prisoners; a speech by a representative of the organisation; the lowering of the flags to a drum roll and their raising again, in honour of the fallen; the singing of Amhrán na bhFiann, the Irish National Anthem. In the past, a statement from the IRA was also read but in recent years this have not been customary, for a number of reasons.
The usual components of the ceremony were present on Saturday outside the GPO with a few variations: a poem by a supporter read out, “James Connolly, the Irish Rebel” sung by another and “Róisín Dubh” played on the uileann pipes. The James Connolly song, with some powerful imagery and an attractive slow air, gives no indication whatsoever of the man’s revolutionary socialism and seems to incorporate him into the IRA, instead of the Irish Citizen Army which he co-founded or even of the Irish Volunteers, with which he joined forces only weeks before the Rising.
The RFB (Republican Flute Band) marching bands were from Scotland: The Wolfe Tone RFB Craigneuk and theCoatbridge Unitedmen RFB. One of the bands played “Take It Down From the Mast, Irish Traitors”, the lyrics of which deny the Tricolour to the Free Staters who waged the Civil War against the Republicans, the legitimate bearers of the flag. A participant remarked that the song was sung first against Free Staters, later against Fianna Fáil, later still against the “Stickies” and more recently against Sinn Féin.
In his speech on behalf of Saoradh, Dee Fennel from Belfastbegan by sending solidarity messages to Republican prisoners in Irish jails and to the relatives of all those who had fallen in the struggle against British imperialim. He said that the objectives set out in the 1916 Proclamation had not been achieved and referred to those participants in the struggle who had left it along the way, some to collude in upholding the two failed states of the divided nation.
Referring to his own activism, Fennel recollected how four years previously he had spoken at an Easter commemoration as an independent Republican, i.e not a member of any political party. He had spoken of the need for Republican activists to engage more with one another and also in the struggles of communities, women and trade unions. Fennel said that as a result of a discussion among Republicans, some had formed Saoradh, building on “maturity and commitment” while others “retreated to their flags” and went on to list the wide areas of struggle in which he said Saoradh activists could be found.
Fennel also referred to the activity of the IRA and said that while British imperialism remains in possession of a part of Ireland and prevents the exercise of sovereignty of the nation, there will be some form of armed resistance and that this is borne out by history.
Referring to the harassment and persecution to which Fennel said Saoradh activists were being subjected, including “tens of thousands of stop-and-searches, hundreds of house raids”, he linked that to the PSNI raids in the Creggan area of Derry earlier that week and the tragic accidental killing of Lyra McKee when “a Volunteer fired shots at PSNI forces”. Going on to say that the IRA do make mistakes from time to time, and referring to two women killed by the Provisional IRA in error years before, Fennel said that the IRA should admit and apologise for their mistakes (NB: The New IRA did later issue an apology and express condolences), though he also said that no words could compensate for the feeling of loss.
In reference to Brexit, Fennel said that the discussion is being focused on what kind of Border is to be imposed, while Republicans object to any kind of Border whatsoever. He stated that as socialists they also object to “the increasingly neo-liberal EU” and concluded with a call for solidarity with Irish Republican prisoners “in Maghaberry, Portlaoise and Mountjoy” who “are in captivity for no other reason thantheir commitment to Republicanism and a 32-county, secular socialist Republic.”
TRADITION OF THE PAST AND CLAIM ON TOMORROW
Republican organisations tend to commemorate the Easter Rising not only as a historic event but also to highlight that for which the Rising was fought has yet to be achieved. But they also do so to show that they are here, present, working for those objectives and often, to promote their organisation, to attract support.
The display involved in this Easter commemoration was impressive (despite a media claim that the numbers were only “around two hundred”), particularly in view of the inevitable bad press following the death in Derry and the system politicians’ statements on what a social media poster dubbed “The Opportunist Condemnatory Bandwagon”. It also seemed to show an organisation not much harmed overall in Ireland by a recent split over an alleged lack of internal democracy.
April 24th is Republic Day, the date on which the 1916 Rising began and when Patrick Pearse read out the 1916 Proclamation. Back in 2014, Tom Stokes began a campaign to have this date acknowledged as the Irish national day. This year, it was celebrated in his absence.
“Easter Monday is a moving date, different each year,” Tom Stokes had said. “St. Patrick’s Day is based on a religious feast day. The nation needs a fixed day and one to celebrate the Irish Republic.” Tom Stokes would have agree with those who might say that “the Irish Republic” was yet to be achieved, or that it was more aspirational than reality. As he spoke at each annual commemoration of the date, he railed against many of the faults of the Irish state and in particular on its treatment of women. He was a champion of Republican women of the past, for example Margaret Skinnider, Dr. Kathleen Lynne, Winnie Carney, Elizabeth O’Farrell and celebrated that some of the women had been lesbians, supported the right to choose abortion (though some Irish Republicans would have disagreed on the latter).
Tom Stokes died December last year but some people were determined that the celebration of Republic Day should carry on. On the 24th April 2019, some of them gathered in Arbour Hill, by the monument to the executed in the 1916 Rising, the words of the Proclamation etched in large letters, in Irish and in English, on to the stone wall overlooking the site.
The event was chaired by Pearse Brugha (incidentally a descendant of Cathal Brugha, the 1916 Rising veteran and subsequently part-organiser of the IRA, killed by a Free State soldier in the early days of the Irish Civil Wa)r.
Brugha welcomed the attendance and in particular members of the Stokes family, then went through the background to Tom Stokes’ campaign for the commemoration of Republic Day, saying that Tom had wished it to be a national holiday. Brugha then asked on the attendance for a minute’s silence in memoriam and called on Tom’s widow Anne Stokes and their son to lay floral wreaths on behalf of the family at the 1916 Rising Monument.
Next, Brugha presented Cormac Bowel and his young son Fionn, who approached playing Fáinne Geal an Lae (“The Dawning of the Day”) on their bagpipes, Cormac in Volunteer officer uniform and Fionn in traditional piping kilt. It was only Fionn’s second public playing, the attendance were told.
A number of other parts of the ceremony followed.
Fergus Russell sang “The Foggy Dew” and Frank Allen, who had been involved with Frank Stokes in organising Republic Day commemorations, gave an oration praising Tom Stokes as a “true Republican” who believed passionately in equality and also as “a true internationalist, who would be just as likely to be found on a Palestine solidarity demonstration”. Allen also criticised heavily the Irish regime, as Stokes had done in his speeches.
Pat Waters played his own composition, “Where Is Our Republic?”, which he had composed at the request of Tom Stokes.
Cormac Bowell recited from memory the 1916 Proclamation and Fionn played a solo lament on the pipes.
Shane Stokes, speaking, also paid tribute to his father Tom Stokes and to the campaign to have a Republic Day on 24th April.
Pearse Brugha, who had been chairing the event throughout, also recited all three verses of the Soldiers’ Song and then sang the chorus, then thanked all for their attendance.
Among those in attendance were members of the 1916 Performing Arts club, activists of the Save Moore Street From Demolition campaign group and Niall Ring, Lord Mayor of Dublin. Also present were Dave Swift, historian and enacter; Las and Dónal Fallon, historians and authors; Brian O’Neill; Deirdre O’Shea; Jim Connolly Heron.
The campaign against continuing internment in Ireland had a visible presence in Dublin’s premier and busy shopping area, Henry Street on Saturday 6th April.
Republicans and socialists from a number of organisations — and none — supported the picket, called by Dublin Anti-Internment Committee as part of its ongoing campaign to raise awareness that internment without trial of political activists continues in Ireland, though on a much-smaller scale.
Hundreds of leaflets were distributed to shoppers and sightseers and only one complaint was received – that there wasn’t a petition to sign!
If any reminder were needed that internment is continuing in Ireland, it was provided recently with the case of former Republican prisoner Alan Lundy, who was recently jailed without charge and released some weeks later, being yet again detained and put straight into jail, again without trial or even charge.
IF YOU WANT TO HELP
If you live in Dublin and would like to help, why not join the DAIC at the next picket? These are roughly on a monthly basis. The DAIC is completely independent of any political party or organisation and organises itself in a democratic manner – however, it is a participative democracy, in that the people who attend public awareness-raising events are those who make the decisions at notified committee meetings.
If you don’t live in Dublin, you could share our posts from time to time ….
The Proclamation of Independence was signed in what was then an Irish foods and coffee shop, No.21 Henry Street, about a week before the Rising.
During the actual Rising, the street saw much firing from British troops closing in on the GPO from both directions, east and west. An advance of British soldiers from the west was halted by a Volunteers’ ambush somewhere near where this picket was.
(Posted on 31st January, a very cold day in Dublin with hailstones and some rain).
ON A DAY LIKE TODAY, it would be instructive to spend some time around Moore Street. In waterproof and warm clothes, wearing two pairs of socks, the street traders were out there today, under the scantiest of shelters over their stalls but having to step outside to serve customers. Their fingers frozen but some not wearing gloves because of the difficulty of tying knots in bags and handling change with fingers in gloves.
All braved the elements until two o’clock, at which point the flower-sellers gave up but the rest were still there, including the fish-sellers. By five o’clock there were still seven stalls in operation when the hailstones started and a couple gave up then but the others kept going.
The lighting was pretty dim too.
This is how Dublin City Council managers treat the oldest outdoor fresh food market in Dublin, a tourist attraction promoted by the city’s tourist information, the last remaining street market of what was a whole souk now buried under the ILAC shopping centre — a big-chain preserve also facilitated by Dublin City Council with broken promises to street traders.
And Hammerson property speculators, who now own half the ILAC shopping centre, still hold the planning permission for the construction of a giant ‘shopping mall’ from Moore St. to O’Connell St., on the 1916 Battlefield, which should be a National and International Monument.
(I had posted this on Facebook ‘off the top of my head’, as they say but a lot of people liked it so posting it here too).
El 5 de agosto de 1914, el Consejo Supremo de la IRB1, un mes después de que los británicos declararon la guerra a Alemania, decidió en principio instigar un alzamiento por la independencia de Irlanda.
El 5 de agosto de 1914, un mes después de que los británicos declararon la guerra, el Consejo Supremo de la Hermandad Republicana Irlandesa2 decidió en principio liderar un levantamiento. Ellos imaginaron, como muchos observadores hicieron también, que la Guerra no duraría mucho y armarse y prepararse para una insurrección sería difícil dentro de ese marco de tiempo. La Guerra continuó mucho más allá del período esperado de un año, proporcionó al IRB el espacio para organizar, planificar y preparar, y también con un aliado para armarlos: Alemania.
La división en los Voluntarios Irlandeses causada por el discurso de Redmond3 en Woodenbridge, ofreciendo los Voluntarios al imperialismo británico para la guerra contra el imperialismo alemán y Turquía, dejó a la Hermandad Republicana Irlandesa secreta en una posición para tomar el control del resto, aquellos que declinaron luchar por Gran Bretaña y, en cambio, decidieron luchar por la independencia de Irlanda. Durante varios meses, Patrick Pearse se convirtió en Director de la Organización Militar, Bulmer Hobson Intendente General, Joseph Plunkett se convirtió en Director de Operaciones Militares, Éamonn Ceannt, Director de Comunicaciones, mientras que Thomas MacDonagh se convirtió en Director de Capacitación.
El jefe titular de los Voluntarios, el erudito del gaélico Eoin Mac Neil, y figuras fundadoras como El O’Rahilly, mientras ocupaban puestos prominentes y se negaban a seguir a Redmond, no incorporaban la misma coherencia y determinación para la insurrección que encarnaba el IRB.
Esa lista de puestos de oficiales de IRB dentro de los Voluntarios contiene cuatro de los posteriores siete signatarios de la Proclamación de 19164. Que no aparecen los nombres de Seán Mac Diarmada y Thomas Clarke, aunque son figuras centrales en la reorganización del IRB en años anteriores, no es sorprendente: el Fenian mayor, veterano de 15 años en la cárcel británica en condiciones que, se dice, envió un tercio de sus camaradas locos y otro tercio a tumbas tempranas, prefirió trabajar en las sombras. Sin duda había instruido a su estudiante y enérgico organizador, Mac Diarmada, a hacer lo mismo en la medida de lo posible. Sin embargo, ellos también se unieron al ampliado Consejo Militar a fines de 1915.
El quinto de los signatarios de la Proclamación que falta es James Connolly5, quien en agosto de 1914 se estaba recuperando y reconstruyendo el Sindicato de Transporte y Trabajadores Generales de Irlanda, meses después del final de la agotadora lucha de 8 meses contra el patronal de Dublín6. Pero estaba horrorizado por la guerra imperialista y el enfrentamiento de los trabajadores entre sí, dividido por las clases dominantes de sus respectivas ubicaciones, vestidos en uniformes de diferentes colores que ocultaban sus intereses comunes. Connolly quería un levantamiento, no solo por la independencia, sino también contra la próxima carnicería de la guerra. La reorganización del Ejército Ciudadano Irlandés, la milicia de la defensa obrera, comenzó a comprometer las energías de Connolly, pero el solamente tomó el juramento del IRB en enero de 1916, tres meses antes del Alzamiento.
Tantos hilos diferentes de la vida irlandesa – cultural, política, de clase y de nación – se habían unido para tejer un tapiz que se leería de diferentes maneras durante décadas pero que aún tendría poderosos imágenes, colores y palabras para mover a mujeres y hombres un siglo después.
Notas a pie de página
1Irish Republican Brotherhood, organización revolucionaria republicana secreta. Además de en Irlanda, tenía grande representación in Gran Bretaña y en los EEUU.
2La misma organización y a veces llamada La Hermandad Fenian.
3John Redmond, jefe del Partido Nacionalista de Irlanda, cual poco antes había obligado a los Voluntarios aceptar sus nominados en el Ejecutivo.
4Patrick Pearse, Joseph Plunkett, Thomas Mac Donagh y Éamonn Ceannt.
5Revolucionario comunista y republicano, criado en la diáspora irlandesa en Edimburgo.
6El Cierre Patronal de Dublín del 1913, que también había comenzado en el agosto.