FREE STATE SHELLING OF THE FOUR COURTS COMMEMORATED IN DUBLIN

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

A crowd gathered in Dublin today to commemorate the Free State opening fire on the Four Courts on 28th August 1922, an event that began what is usually called “the Civil War” which lasted until 1923 (with State assassinations until 1924). The UK supplied the cannons and shells used by the Free State’s “National Army” along with munitions, including small arms and ammunition, armoured cars, army lorries and even coastal naval vessels. The conflict has also been called a “counterrevolution” and “the UK’s proxy war” with more Republicans executed by the new Irish State1 in that conflict than had been by the British State over the whole 1916-1921 period.

Section of NGA march outside Croppies’ Acre (Photo sourced: Internet)

One hundred years ago this month, the IRA under the command of Rory O’Connor occupied and fortified the Four Courts complex, last occupied as a fighting post during the 1916 Rising. The Anglo-Irish Treaty partitioning the country and giving the Free State the status of a Dominion country had been narrowly accepted by the delegates to the First Dáil, the Irish Parliament previously banned by the UK State. However by far the majority of the military part of the Irish resistance – the IRA, Cumann na mBan and na Fianna, along with the remnants of the Irish Citizen Army – were opposed to the Treaty. The occupation of the Four Courts was seen by the Free State government as a challenge to its authority and by the British Government as a threat of anti-colonial struggle being renewed. Both parties were hostile to any radical republican, socialist or socialist-republican program.

Free State Army attacking the Republican garrison of the Four Courts with artillery, rifle and machine-gun fire. (Photo sourced: Internet)

On 28th June the Free State opened fire from British cannon on the Four Courts from Bridge Street on the south side of the river and the Civil War – or Counterrevolution – had begun. By the time the Republicans conceded defeat (and some assassinations continued even after it officially ended) perhaps around 1,300 had been killed. From January 1922 to April 1924, according to the Republican Roll of Honour, 426 anti-Treaty Volunteers had been killed, some 25 of these died fighting British and Northern Irish forces. Most anti-Treaty dead were IRA Volunteers, but some were Na Fianna members and four were women of Cumann na mBan2.

Poster commemorating one of the Republicans killed by the Free State (Photo: D.Breatnach)
One of the commemorative posters attached to lampposts (Photo: D.Breatnach)

On the Free State side just under 800 died, of whom 488 fell in enemy action, others due to accidents or illness, while seven were executed having deserted to the Republican side. “To this total should be added a small number of police, including four from the Civic Guard (later renamed Garda Síochána), four from the Criminal Investigation Department and two from the Citizens’ Defence Force, who were killed from 1922-19243.”

The NGA rally, the MC (Photo: D.Breatnach)
View of the crowd at the rally outside the Four Courts (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Dorney remarks on omissions in the Last Post record and concludes: “Even allowing for this, though, the total of anti-Treaty IRA dead in the Civil War is not likely to be much more than about 500, of whom 81 died before Free State firing squads and more than 100 were summarily executed in reprisals.”

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Many Irish Republicans also emigrated to avoid repression or because they were being denied employment.

The Irish State today is a direct descendant, legally and in other ways, of the Free State of 1922 and all periods since.

Senior Garda officer taking notes while speakers are addressing the crowd (Photo: D.Breatnach)

The commemorative event in Dublin today was organised by the National Graves Association (Cumann Uaigheanna na Laochra Gael), an organisation which since its founding in 1926 has been maintaining the graves of Irish patriots, arranging for the installation of gravestones, plaques and monuments and also organising commemorative events.

Before marching to the Four Courts, participants formed up in groups in the road outside Croppies’ Acre, a public park over a mass grave of victims of the English state’s repression of the United Irishmen and their supporters in 1798, now across the road from the Collins Barracks National Museum. They were led by a lone piper and colour party, followed by people in double ranks flying Starry Plough flags and carrying banners of history and conservation groups, along with some other flags, including that of Cumann na mBan.

Section of the lineup waiting to start, outside Croppies’ Acre (Photo: D.Breatnach)

At the rally outside the Liffeyside of the Four Courts, the organisers had an MC with number of speakers to read out the 1922 Proclamation, the lyrics of The Soldiers of Twenty-Two4 and Tim Horgan to give a keynote oration. At least one floral wreath was laid in honour of those who fought there and a number of posters attached to lampposts commemorated the three Volunteers who were fatally wounded there: Thomas Wall, Joe Considine and Sean Cusack.

Reading the lyrics of Soldiers of Twenty-Two (Photo sourced: D.Breatnach)

It is almost certainly the case that it is the NGA which has erected the majority of patriotic struggle commemorative plaques around the country, with most of the remainder being organised by local authorities, local history groups and old comrades’ associations – a very small proportion being the work of the State. As stated on its website, the objectives of the Association have always been: to restore, where necessary, and maintain fittingly the graves and memorials of our patriot dead from every generation; to commemorate those who died in the cause of Irish freedom; to compile a record of such graves and memorials.

The NGA’s general alignment is unequivocal: “Only a 32 County Irish Republic represents the true aspiration of those who gave their lives for Irish freedom.5

Reading the 1922 Proclamation (Photo: D.Breatnach)

One might assume that every participant at the event today was of a definite political bent, yet not a single party or political organisation banner was to be seen on the march or at the rally. This is because participants were asked in advance not to bring any banners or placards of political organisational allegiance. As the Chairperson of the rally informed the audience, the NGA is not affiliated to any political party or organisation and furthermore does not accept contributions from any such nor from the State – in order to continue to guarantee the NGA’s independence. In fact, members of its governing body are not even permitted to belong to a political party. A senior Garda officer however, of least at Inspector rank, took down details in his notebook as the rally was addressed by speakers.

Main speaker, Tim Horgan (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Patriots of the United Irishmen, the Young Irelanders, the Fenians, the Land League, na Fianna Éireann, Irish Volunteers, Cumann na mBan, IRA, Official and Provisional IRA, the Irish National Liberation Army etc have all been commemorated by the NGA. According to Wikipedia, since its founding, the NGA has erected, or accepted into its care, over 500 monuments and memorials throughout Ireland.

One of the participants takes a rest
Banner of one of the groups attending (Photo: D.Breatnach)
Some of those in attendance (Photo: D.Breatnach)

A number of other Civil War/ Counterrevolution commemorative and discussion events will be taking place at least during this year, two of which will take place next week (see photos of leaflet).

The Gardaí remained at the scene as people dispersed. Passing by again shortly afterwards, we found the floral wreath had been removed.

End.

Lowering of the flags in honour of the martyrs (Photo: D.Breatnach)
Civil War/ Counterrevolution commemoration (image: photograph of flyer)

Forthcoming talk (image: photograph of flyer)

FOOTNOTES

1Official executions are usually listed as 81 or 83, these having been subjected to some kind of military judicial process (but without any jury). However, apart from IRA fighters killed in battle, a number of captured combatants were murdered (such as those of the Ballyseedy Massacre on March 7th 1923) while known activists were assassinated by Garda-Army squads operating from Oriel House. Often, the murdered had been tortured first.

2 The Republican Roll of Honour, The Last Post.

3 https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/what-was-the-real-death-toll-of-the-irish-civil-war-1.4858308

4https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKOSCuLtlAY for a rendition of this song. It author seems unknown.

5From Wikipedia entry

USEFUL LINKS

https://www.facebook.com/NationalGravesAssociation

http://www.nga.ie/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Graves_Association

Ballyseedy Massacre: https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/stories-of-the-revolution-ballyseedy-and-the-civil-war-s-worst-atrocity-1.2462070

Varadkar admitted those killed without trial had been murdered: https://www.thejournal.ie/free-state-executions-4387452-Dec2018/

Death toll: https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/what-was-the-real-death-toll-of-the-irish-civil-war-1.4858308

PROTEST ABOUT POLICE EVICTIONS AT STORE STREET GARDA STATION

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 1 min.)

Passers-by on foot and on the Luas tram lines watched curiously as housing activists and others held a picket outside Store Street Garda station in Dublin on the evening of 13th June 2022. The picket was called for by the Revolutionary Workers Union, protesting the taking by over 80 Gardaí of a house on Eden Quay and arresting of two occupants, followed by the arrest of another two activists near another address.

Poster advertising the event on social media. (Image sourced: Internet)

The picket was called at fairly short notice and supported by people from a variety of political backgrounds, all with what were clearly home-made placards. Picketing a police station is somewhat counter-intuitive, given that’s to where the police take their prisoners and most people want to stay away from those places, with good reason. However, the station is the location of the police symbolically and in reality and Store Street is one of the main ones in Dublin so, when one wants to protest about the police …… Once having protested at a police station, the apprehension is never quite the same again.

Some passers-by stopped to ask what the protest was about, some of whom expressed anger at the actions of the Gardaí and a reporter from an independent media interviewed some of the participants.

Picketers outside Store Street Garda Station, Dublin City centre on Monday. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Some time later the picketers were addressed by Seán Doyle of the RWU who spoke about the morality of the landlords and speculators and the Gardaí who work for them. Doyle contrasted that morality with the one that saw provision for need instead of profit. During the course of his address, Doyle pointed out that the RWU knows people who work in emergency interventions such as with people attempting suicide, who are then brought to agencies to help them but who are soon out again and homeless. “This is not ‘ethnic cleansing’,” the activist said, “it’s class cleansing.”

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The RWU spokesperson at the picket remarked on the use of the law and the Gardaí against housing activists while speculators and landlords make big profits out of the misery of homelessness. A law that upholds and defends that kind of practice must be defied, he stated as he drew to a close.

Some of the picketers on Monday (Sean Doyle is second to the right). (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Seán Doyle was one of two activists that were removed recently by over 80 Gardaí from a one-and-a-half years empty homeless hostel which the RWU had “acquisitioned” and renamed “James Connolly House”. Another premises subsequently acquisitioned, also empty for a long period, the RWU renamed “Liam Mellowes House” and the Gardaí arrested two activists near there also, despite any occupation of the building being a civil law matter and outside the remit of the Gardaí.

The RWU on a number of occasions have called on people to “take back empty buildings” and have declared that they will not be intimidated by arrests but will continue to fight for the right of people to a secure home.

Another view of part of the picket on Monday (Photo: Rebel Breeze)
One of the home-made placards at the event. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

End.

A placard denounces the recent 80+ Garda eviction of “James Connolly House” and arrest of two occupants (Photo: Rebel Breeze)
(Photo: Rebel Breeze)
(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

FURTHER INFORMATION

https://www.facebook.com/JamesConnollyHouse

https://www.facebook.com/revolutionaryworkersfront/

THE LID LIFTS ANEW ON THE SEETHING VIRULENCE OF LOYALISM

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 5 mins.)

Many public figures have been condemning the content of a video live-streamed from an Orange Order Hall in which people were singing lyrics mocking the murder of an Irishwoman on her honeymoon in Mauritius.

There is nothing new I can add to the condemnations of this disgusting exhibition. But what a great many of the condemnations lack is context; i.e they treat this exhibition as though it were some aberration from the norm of Loyalism – it was not, it was exactly in line with and an expression of the backwardness, sectarianism, right-wing racism, homophobia and general phobia that is the very essence of Loyalism.

BACKGROUND OF LOYALISM AND THE ORANGE ORDER IN IRELAND

The planters and settlers that English1 colonialism installed on Irish soil were intended to control the indigenous population along with those “gone native” descendants of the Norman conquerors. A number of attempts were made to correct those Normans who had been ‘corrupted’ by the Irish and had become “more Irish than the Irish themselves” and one of the most infamous attempts through law, the Statutes of Killkenny in 13662 laid out a long list of behaviours expected of the “degenerate English”, mostly in terms of things they were to cease doing: in sum they were to cease integrating with the indigenous people in custom, language and law.

Outside of the Pale3, the cities, such attempts failed in the main and the next big effort was the Plantations. Using the failure of the Norman Irish and Gaelic lords to adapt to the Reformation, now an English state religion, their lands were confiscated and parcelled out to big landlords who then rented them out to smaller landlords and small-holders – and none of those were to be Irish. In fact, they were required to be English-speaking, Protestant in religion and to build their towns and important buildings as strongholds4. And not to even employ native Irish, in case these should corrupt the settlements from within.

The intentions of the Plantations were made quite clear and the settlers were, from the outset to be a means for a tiny minority of feudal and financier elites to control and exploit the vast majority indigenous population through the use of a middle stratum which was to be separate from and considered superior to natives in religion, culture, custom, landholding, legal rights – and allegiance.

These plantations met with mixed success – one of the problems being the scarcity of labour against a prohibition to employ the natives – but the problem of a conquered but not reconciled native majority remained, even after its cultural, legal, political and military leadership had been eliminated. And then a section of the settlers themselves, many descendants of Cromwellian conquerors and their supporters, began to have aspirations to control their own markets. They attempted to expand the Irish Parliament – then open only to adherents of the State religion, the Anglican communion — to include representation from the larger group of dissenting Protestant sects5 and of the huge majority of Irish Catholics.

The attempt, under the leadership of the moderate and ultimately Crown-loyal Henry Grattan failed, through a mixture of sectarianism, fear of being eventually dispossessed of their stolen lands – and outright Crown bribery. The most determined of the Protestant patriots then turned to revolution and led the United Irishmen in the uprisings of 1798 and 1803, with a credo of unity for an independent and republican Ireland, regardless of religion6.

CREATION OF THE ORANGE ORDER

But the British ruling elite saw which way the wind was blowing, foreboding its overthrow in Ireland if its garrison population joined with the majority and, as well as making military and spying preparations, the British took important ideological and social action.

Created in 1795 as what might be seen today as a kind of independent Ku Klux Klan organisation to keep down the ‘uppitty native niggers’7, the Orange Order quickly became (as the Klan did in some areas too) a police force on its own dissidents. And, as the Klan enjoyed the tacit support of the patrician Southern US elite, the Orange Order has been supported by the settler elite in Ireland from its inception. This was formalised with the Order’s central control over all previously independent lodges in 1798, the year of the first United Irish uprising.

After the defeat of the United Irish uprisings, the Order became an active persecutor of any sign of resistance not only among the native Irish majority, the Catholics but also – and in some areas chiefly – a hunting down of any signs of Protestant allegiance to the United Irish or other ‘suspect’ behavour such as tolerance of Catholics. Those Protestant followers of “Unitedism” that did not emigrate to the USA and Canada had to keep their heads down or face the consequences, as did Roddy McCorley, hanged on Toombridge in Co. Antrim on 28th February 1800.

March 1995: Two future First Ministers of the colonial statelet on the sectarian Orange march along the Garvaghy Road: David Trimble (left), First Minister from 1998 to 2002, and the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) from 1995 to 2005; Ian Paisley (right), leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) from 1971 to 2008 and First Minister from 2007 to 2008. (Sourced: Irish News)

REACTIONARY IN INSPIRATION AND TRADITION

The Orange Order drew its colour and other visual paraphernalia in association with William of Orange (1650 – 1702), who was crowned King William III by the British Parliament, the forces of which, along with his own Dutch ones, he led in the British civil war against those of King James II of England and the latter’s Irish and French allies. Orange was the colour of the Dutch royal family of Orange-Nasseau and therefore of the royalist party in Holland, in opposition to the republican party there8.

Following his defeat of the Jacobite forces in Ireland William III brought in the Penal Laws, the body of Anglican supremacy and anti-Catholic legislation which were to survive in greater or lesser form from 1695 to 1829.

Loyalists celebrate annually with sectarian triumphalist parades in the Six Counties the victory of the Williamite forces at the Battle of the Boyne on July 12th 16909. Loyalists imagine the Boyne victory was of the Protestant religion over Catholic “Papism”, unaware that the victory was celebrated by special mass in the Vatican and in some other Catholic cities. The Jacobite war in Ireland was part of the Nine Years’ War in Europe and forces of Protestant principalities and kingdoms could be found on either side, as could those of Catholic persuasion.

Loyalists attacking their own colonial police for eventually, in 2002, impeding their “right” to march in triumphalist sectarianism around Drumcree and to harass and terrify children attending a nearby Catholic school. (Sourced: Belfast Telegraph)

Their unequivocal message to their non-unionist neighbours is “This is our place, not yours. If you want to live here, accept what we give you and keep your heads down.” This fostered sectarianism has penetrated even trade unions, ensuring that wages and social conditions in the Six Counties have been the worst in the whole of the UK.

Mickey Hart and daughter Michaela celebrating the Gaelic football 2008 All-Ireland victory of Tyrone over Kerry (Sourced: Internet).

WHY THE LOYALIST MOCKERY OF THIS MURDER?

The video which directed such recent public attention on the behaviour of some Loyalists was of a song sung communally in which the lyrics mocked the murder of Michaela McAreavey who apparently surprised a thief in her Mauritius hotel room on 11th May. Probably not a single person celebrating that murder knew the woman or had any reason to hate her for anything she had done. What they knew was that she was the daughter of Micky Harte and that he was the manager of the Tyrone County Gaelic Football team10. Gaelic football11 is an Irish traditional sport and, since Loyalists eschew anything knowingly Gaelic, Harte is also probably of Catholic background; therefore almost certainly would have been his daughter Michaela too. Incredible though it may seem to many, that was enough to inspire that outpouring of hatred – a hatred that is always and has always been there in Loyalism.

The scene in the Orange Hall with Loyalists singing in mockery of the murder of Michaela McAreavey (Sourced: Internet)

It seems clear that the song, the lyrics with which much of the audience in the video seem familiar, was sung in the Orange Hall in Dundonald12, Co. Down which, like Tyrone, is one of the Six Counties currently forming the British colony in Ireland.

According to media reports, a spokesman for the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland criticised the video and also confirmed that an investigation would now take place. The video currently circulating on social media relating to the murder of Michaela McAreavey is utterly abhorrent and the Orange Institution condemns the content without reservation,” a statement read. The behaviour of those involved and their actions have no place in our society and certainly do not reflect the ethos of our organisation.”

On the contrary, as people who live in or near areas where the Orange Order holds sway will know, the behaviour exactly “reflects the ethos of the organisation” and of the general ideology of Loyalism.

Dundonald Orange Hall photo on its FB page (Sourced: Internet)

The central ideology of the Orange Order has always been not only a phobic hatred of Catholics but also of anything that might smell of egalitarianism, equality or progressive social ideas. It and its adherents for generations have held triumphalist sectarian marches deliberately routed to march through predominantly Catholic residential areas and past Catholic churches, these marches escorted by the sectarian colonial gendarmerie13, often forced through against local opposition.

For decades, the Orange Order and Loyalism in general opposed equal treatment and civil rights for Catholics in terms of employment, housing, franchise, education and law. That breeding ground gave rise to the Loyalist terror murder squads, operating for decades in conjunction with colonial police and British Army14.

True to its reactionary origins, the Orange Order and Loyalism in general have a strong emotional attachment to British Royalty and to an ethos of British Empire and colonialism. But Loyalism has also opposed all progressive social innovations and legislation, even those emanating from its supposedly ideological homeland, the rest of the UK and, in many cases delayed its implementation in the colony for years15.

Loyalism has been a sectarian influence in the game of soccer not only in Ireland but in Britain, with a triple alliance of sectarianism and racism between fans of football clubs Linfield, Rangers and Chelsea.16 The racism and reactionary ideology of “Hillbillies17” in the USA are also attributed to origins in Irish Loyalism.

Loyalism has also been characterised by racist attitudes and attacks on ethnic minorities in parts of the Six Counties independently of religion. Loyalism lines up to oppose anything they feel that is supported by the hated “taigues” or “Fenians” (their codewords for Catholics), for e.g Palestinians, Basque nationalists, inquiries into killings by the British Army ….

Despite the scrambling of Unionism – the Orange Order, politicians, Linfield FC management — to disassociate itself from the disgusting exhibition of anti-Irish and anti-Catholic hatred expressed in their ‘humorous’ mocking of the murder of a young woman, the song and video were a completely cogent expression of Loyalism, the social prop of Unionism. They were a true reflection of the history and underlying ethos of the Orange Order and of the sectarian statelet created by the British ruling class as a garrison and permanent foothold in Ireland.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1Later one can talk of British colonialism and imperialism but in the beginning it was the English feudal and financier classes that set out to conquer their neighbours in Britain and across the sea in Ireland. The Crown was always primarily the English Crown, even when it became also formally that of Scotland and, later, of Ireland.

2i.e not even two centuries after the Norman invasion in 1169.

3The area of administration of the occupation, originally a fortified area with Dublin Castle at its centre.

4One can still see the pattern of settler towns with the buildings constructed around a square or “diamond” becoming easily converted into the walls of a fort, the main roads leading in and out fairly easily barricaded even with carts and waggons. Native Irish towns had no such construction, often running along a street or gathered around a crossroads, river bank, port etc.

5In particular the Presbyterians but also Methodists, Unitarians, “Quakers” (Society of Friends) and others.

6The unity of “Protestant (i.e Anglican), Catholic and Dissenter”.

7“Uppitty niggers” was a racist white term in the USA to describe Americans of African descent who were unwilling to be treated as second-class citizens or even worse. For such people to become thought of as “uppitty” frequently meant a range of punishments that included beating, jail and lynching. The Ku Klux Klan is a white Protestant supremacist and extremely right-wing organisation in the USA, formed after the defeat of the Confederacy and understood as having three distinct phases, the last one being also current. Despite a history of using extreme violence, it is not banned in the USA.

8Such as the Patriots of 1785 (https://ern.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patriottentijd).

9July 1st according to the old-style calendar.

10 Mickey Harte (born 1952) is a Gaelic football manager from County Tyrone, Ireland who currently manages the Louth county team, having managed the Tyrone county team from 2002 and, at his resignation in 2020, was the longest-serving manager then active with the same team in inter-county competition.

11Gaelic football is one of four traditional sports regulated by the Gaelic Athletic Association/ Cumann Lúthchleas na hÉireann, with 2,200 clubs spread over all of Ireland and, with high community involvement is the largest amateur sporting association in the world

12Their FB page is currently down.

13Armed police force, formerly the Royal Irish Constabulary, later the Royal Ulster Constabulary, currently “Police Force of Northern Ireland.”

14See for example Lethal Allies – British collusion in Ireland (2013) by Anne Cadwaller. Loyalists killed the most people in one day during the 30 years’ war with the Dublin & Monaghan Bombings, 17 May 1974. Despite their self-promotion as fighters against the IRA, nearly all of their victims have been unarmed civilians, often randomly-chosen in Catholic residential areas.

15For example, the 1967 Sexual Offences Act only applied to England and Wales – it was resisted in Scotland and the Six Counties colony. Decriminalisation reached Scotland in 1980 and, after a complaint to the European Court of Justice and a judgement against the statelet in 1981, homosexuality in private was finally decriminalised in the Six Counties the following year – 15 years after its original decriminalisation in England. Similarly with lesbian and gay rights to civil marriage, introduced in England and Wales in 2013; in Scotland in 2014 but couples in the Six Counties had to wait until 2020, seven years after its introduction in England.

16Linfield FC is based in south Belfast in the British colony, Rangers FC in Glasgow and Chelsea FC in SW London. But there are also sectarian divisions among fans such as those of Rangers/ Celtic to be found also in Edinburgh between and Hibernian and Hearts (Midlothian) clubs and even between Everton and Liverpool as well as Manchester City and Manchester United.

17As in “Billies”, i.e followers of King Billy (William of Orange) who are living in the hills.

SOURCES & FURTHER READING

Mass media report: https://www.thejournal.ie/michaela-mcareavey-video-song-criticised-northern-ireland-5782011-Jun2022/

The Ku Klux Klan: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ku_Klux_Klan

Social equality in the Six Counties:

https://www.bl.uk/lgbtq-histories/lgbtq-timeline

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/northern-ireland-in-dark-ages-on-equality-laws-commissioner-tells-mps-40967176.html

DEMONSTRATORS CALL FOR A SECULAR MATERNITY HOSPITAL — AND SOCIETY

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

View of section of the crowd from Molesworth Street (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Around two thousand demonstrators, including a high proportion of women, held a rally on Saturday afternoon outside Leinster House, the building housing the Irish Parliament. They were protesting the lack of clarity around whether the new maternity hospital will carry out pregnancy terminations on demand — with the suspicion that it will not.

View of section of the crowd in Molesworth Street (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

But speaker after speaker went further still and demanded the secularisation of the Irish health service and of society in general.

The issue arises in the first place due to the necessity to relocate the Dublin maternity services currently based at Holles Street due to the inability of the latter to meet the demand. However, the Government decided to relocate the facility to land near St. Vincent’s Hospital, owned by a Catholic Church organisation, which in turn formed a company to buy the land and lease it to the State at a nominal annual rate. It is the perceived Church veto on some procedures that has raised so much concern.

View of section of the crowd in Kildare Street looking northwards (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

A SECULAR SOCIETY – A REPUBLICAN DEMAND

A secular society is a fundamentally republican demand, up there with opposition to monarchy. English Republicanism failed to achieve1 it even after the execution by Parliament of Charles I in 1649 but the French revolution did not, which was one of the reasons why the Irish Catholic Church hierarchy was against La Republique and against the United Irishmen too.

View of centre section of the crowd in Kildare Street (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Irish Republicans after the United Irishmen have had at best an ambivalent attitude to the Catholic Church – although the Young Irelanders and even more so the Fenians were decidedly anti-clerical, the Republicans in the first two decades of the last century were not so in general and many actually courted the support of the Church. The fact that the Irish Republican movement during the rest of the century failed to lead social struggles is adequate testimony to its leadership at the very least not wishing to earn the hostility of the Catholic hierarchy. That in turn was one of the factors ensuring that the Republican movement failed to broaden its struggle to encompass the majority of the nation … a factor sufficient on its own to ensure its defeat.

On the whole it has been left to writers, revolutionary socialists, social democrats and liberals to fight the secularisation battles – but above all, left to women. Control of fertility, access to contraceptives, personal sexual freedom, gender equality in law, equal pay, and termination of pregnancy were all hard battles won over decades by women. And often at huge personal cost. Most of those battles confronted the authority of the Church Hierarchy and even when some did not so directly, they did so by implication, undermining its basic judgement that the role of a woman is as wife to husband and mother to children.

Section of the southern end of the protest crowd in Kildare Street (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The position of the Church hierarchy in Irish society was one of moral judge, jury and practical punisher and when punishment failed to correct, the State took over. In fact, we can view the Irish State in social and political terms as a partnership of native capitalist class – the Gombeens – and the Church hierarchy. In return for its role in social control, the State permitted the education, health and social care systems to be run by the Church either wholly or in part. Which in turn increased the power and authority of the Church hierarchy further. And it was that unquestioned (and unquestionable) authority that fostered the decades of physical, mental and sexual abuse carried out by so many clergy, in particular on women and children.

Women are still to the forefront of the struggle for the secularisation of the State and they are too in this struggle over an important branch of the health service. The people need a well-resourced national health service, with free access – but it needs to be secular also. Irish Republicans who do not actively support this struggle are failing not only the society they hope one day to lead but, in secularisation, failing also a fundamental principle of republicanism. That one of the issues with regard to Church influence on the maternity hospital is a suspicion that it will not carry out elective pregnancy termination should not prevent even those Irish Republicans opposed to elective termination from supporting its secularisation.

Quite simply, one is either a Republican and therefore in favour of a secular health service — or one is not a Republican.

End.

FOOTNOTES

  1. Since 1524, not only is the UK a monarchy but the monarch, the Head of State, is also the head of the (Anglican) Church of England.

DEATH OF A RETIRED WARRIOR

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 12 mins.)

In mid-April (2022) Gardaí, the police force of the Irish State, broke down the door of Mick Plunkett’s home. They would not have been able to claim he resisted their entry or arrest (the usual explanation for injuries on the detained individual) – he was already dead. To be fair to them, this time they were forcing entry in response to concerns from people that Plunkett had not been seen and wasn’t answering calls. Still, Mick Plunkett’s door had been forced by police a number of times before – by the Special Branch, at least once by the Garda ‘Heavy Gang’ and another time by the special ‘anti-terrorist’ Paris police.

Mick was born into a working class family of ten siblings in Dún Laoghaire, in Kelly’s Avenue in the small area of council houses built for rent to the seaward side of the town’s main road (without however overlooking the sea itself, a view reserved for the big houses and hotels, later somewhat ruined by the DART wires and towers). Dún Laoghaire1, long-imagined as a area in which only the affluent or at least comfortably-off lived, nevertheless contained such council (formerly ‘Corporation”) houses in the nearby bottom of York Road, also Cross Avenue, Glasthule, Carriglee Gardens, Monkstown Farm and Sallynoggin areas.

As many of that era, especially among manual workers, Mick’s father died relatively young which left his widow Lilly to care for ten children with all siblings able to work and find employment contributing to the care of the rest.

Mick followed his father Oliver into a skilled manual worker trade, trained and qualified as a gas fitter-plumber and, by reputation, a good one; later he would often carry out repair jobs for neighbours free of charge or in exchange for fish caught nearby or by trawlers that docked in the harbour. “We saw and ate fish that many other people never saw,” said one of his sisters at his funeral reception in the evening.

Amidst the student and youth upsurge of the 1960s around the world, of which Ireland was also a part, many Irish youth of the time became rapidly politicised. The Vietnam War, Black struggles in the USA and South Africa, Civil Rights in the British colony, lack of sufficient housing in the Irish state (just as today!) were issues that engaged lively interest and which to people like Plunkett, called for solidarity and, in Ireland, direct action. At his funeral, Niall Leonach2, formerly of the IRSP, related how Plunkett, at the age of 17, had resisted the neglect of the young apprentices by his union and won improvements by organising a sit-in at the union’s office.

April 1991 article Evening Mail on conditions in the Glasthule Housing Estate (Source image: CATU)

HOUSING AND HISTORY

The Dublin and Bray Housing Action Committees were campaigning for an end to slums and affordable rental housing around the city and Dún Laoghaire soon had its own Housing Action Committee too. Nial Leonach, former comrade of Plunkett’s told the mourners at Mount Jerome that a large public housing building program was initiated as a result of this campaigning, a program that not only replaced derelict inner city tenements but created large new housing areas such as that in Ballybrack in south county Dublin.

The Housing Action campaigns not only squatted homeless families, they also fought evictions, held marches and public meetings. And in at least one case, became involved in a struggle for historical building conservation.

A Dún Laoghaire IRSP public agitation and information post pictured in the IRSP’S Newspaper (Source image: CATU).

The Dún Laoghaire group joined with conservationists wishing to save Frescati House, a large derelict building on acreage of the property planned by Roches Stores to demolish and convert into a shopping centre. The original building dated from 1739 but had been purchased by the largest landowning family in Ireland at the time, the Fitzgeralds and had wings added and the grounds planted with exotic shrubs. The house had been the childhood residence and favoured retreat of Edward Fitzgerald3, a much-loved leader of the first Irish Republican revolutionary movement, the United Irishmen, as late as 1797, the year before their Rising.

The figures heading the campaign were not only conservationists but fairly conservative too (Desmond Fitzgerald, son of a father of the same name who was Minister in a number of Fine Gael governments, was its chairperson). But it was of course the activist supporters of the DHAC who occupied the building in protest at plans for demolition and were subjected to a baton-wielding police attack to evict them.4

Niall Leonach told the crowd in the Mount Jerome chapel that the criminal charges against the arrested were serious but that as a result of Plunkett’s stratagem of issuing a subpoena for Liam Cosgrave5 to appear as witness for their defence, for the politician had been part of the conservation campaign, the more serious charges were dropped and, on the lesser ones, the penalties were lower-scale fines.

Much of DHAC soon became the Markievicz Cumann of Sinn Féin6, then a very socialist Irish Republican party, particularly in Dublin. The Civil Rights campaign in the British colony of the Six Counties became a focus for activity and Leonach told his audience that Plunkett had been particularly affected by the colonial police killing of a child by indiscriminate fire from machine-guns at a nationalist housing estate, the Divis Flats.

In 1969 the IRA, the military wing of Sinn Féin, was caught unprepared and largely unarmed to face the pogroms in the British colony, which was one of the reasons for the 1970 split in the party, out of which emerged the Provisional IRA and Provisional Sinn Féin.

Plunkett and others in the Markievicz Cumann, the three Breatnach brothers for example7, viewing the Provos as socially conservative, remained in what was now known as “Official Sinn Féin” but tried to change their party’s direction. Failing in that, they split, along with others such as the charismatic Séamus Costello8 and formed the Irish Republican Socialist Party in 1974.

It seems clear that the ruling elite of the Irish State viewed the IRSP and the associated INLA as a threat and decided to go beyond the standard and regular harassment, intimidation and petty and medium arrests9 with which they had been treating all Irish Republicans and some socialist activists.

FRAMED IN DUBLIN AND IN PARIS

On 31st March 1976 the Cork-Dublin mail train was stopped near Sallins, Co. Kildare and around £200,00010 was netted by armed men. The State decided to believe, at least officially that the operation had been carried out by the INLA and armed police raided the homes of 40 members of the IRSP and their families. The Gardaí beat up their victims and obtained “confessions” from a number of them – however, some who gave self-incriminating statements could not have been present and their prosecutions were dropped.11 Eventually, a trial in the political Special Criminal Court proceeded against Plunkett and another three IRSP members: Osgur Breatnach, Nicky Kelly and Brian McNally.

Poster supporting the four framed and on trial for the Sallins Mail Train Robbery, depicting Mick Plunkett on far right of images. (Source image: Internet)

After many abuses of the legal system and the longest judicial procedure in the State, three of the four were convicted on the basis of their tortured “confessions” which they had denied. Forensic “evidence” was provided against the only one who had refused to sign a “confession” – an alleged lock of Plunkett’s hair12 was claimed to have been found at the scene of the robbery; that was insufficient and Plunkett was finally discharged. The others were released after years of campaigning13 and were paid a financial compensation but an official enquiry into the arrests, trials and convictions was never held and currently a campaign for such is underway.14.

Mick Plunkett remained politically active but after his arrest in the vicinity of an armed training camp was charged with “membership” and scheduled to appear before the Special Criminal Court. Plunkett, knowing the chances of acquittal in “the Special” were next to nil, decamped to France.

In Paris he and Mary Reid, a poet-activist and also formerly of the IRSP, shared accommodation. In the summer of 1982, their door was kicked down by armed police of the new special “anti-terrorist” French unit. Both were arrested, along with another Irishman Stephen King and charged with possession of automatic weapons and explosives. This followed the bombing of a delicatessen in the Jewish quarter of the city which was later revealed to have had police complicity.

Plunkett, Reid and King were accused of being part of an Irish-Palestinian cell, a figment of the special unit’s imagination. All three denied the charges and the accusation and the existence of such a cell, insisting that if any weapons and explosives had been found in their accommodation, it had been planted there by the police. Niall Leonach commented to the mourners in Mount Jerome that Plunkett had gone from being involved in the greatest miscarriage of justice in the Irish state to being accused in the greatest miscarriage of justice in the French State’s modern history.

Fortunately for the Irish accused, the special police unit was in serious conflict with the main police force and that helped bring to public view the fact that the armaments had, indeed, been planted on the accused by the “anti-terrorist” police unit. All three were released after nine months in jail and Mary Reid’s nine-year-old son Cathal had been taken into care. The whole case was by then such as to convince the Irish state authorities to refrain from severely embarrassing their French counterparts by requesting Plunkett’s extradition to face his charges in the Special Criminal Court.

FRANCE – OCTOBER 05: Michael Plunkett, Mary Reid, Stephen King in Vincennes, France on October 05th , 1983. (Photo by Eric BOUVET/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images). Note poster of the Sallins Trial behind them.

Working in London at the time, I read the news about the arrests of Irish political activists in Paris and was shocked to see names I recognised. I remembered the last time I had seen Mick; I had been back in Dún Laoghaire on holiday and with four of my brothers we set off in Mick’s brother Jimmy’s rowing boat from a pier, Mick himself in it too. We had fishing rods and lines and began to fish as we cleared the harbour. Hours later as the sun dropped to the west, we turned back with our varied catch. Once inside the harbour it was quite dark and a large ship entering the harbour appeared to be bearing down on us and we couldn’t find our flashlight. The incident provided more excitement than we had wished for but seemed to give extra taste to the pints in the local pub afterwards.

Mick found happiness for a time with Tracy out of which union came their daughter Natacha. After the Good Friday Agreement Mick felt safe to returned to Ireland but Tracy remained in Paris with their daughter, Natascha visiting him and his extended family by arrangement on occasion. Plunkett seemed to have retired from political activity and had also withdrawn from social contact with many of his former contacts. His health deteriorated significantly but nevertheless his death came as something of a shock to many.

Mick Plunkett’s coffin at the funeral parlour, officiated by his daughter Natacha. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Many came to pay their respects at the funeral parlour where his coffin lay and to watch the wonderful collection of photos collected by his ex-partner, Tracy. His daughter Natacha was there to receive condolences and to offer shots of Irish whisky over the coffin (where tobacco roll-ups were also placed irreverently on the crucifix attached to the woodwork – Mick was reportedly an atheist). Natacha was also at the cremation service in Mount Jerome cemetery with her mother Tracy, where Plunkett’s coffin was covered in the blue version of the Starry Plough flag15 before being removed from the hearse, carried by relations and with the Seamus Costello Memorial Committee, in uniform and white gloves, providing a small ceremonial guard of honour.

Mick’s nephew Karl chaired the event and in turn called Jennifer Holland to give a short talk on Mick and his times followed by Niall Leonach, former General Secretary of the IRSP and close comrade of Plunkett’s, for a longer oration on Mick’s background and activism.

Karl provided many personal anecdotes from his association with his uncle and from within family stories, many of them amusing and some hilarious. He did not however avoid the political and recounted that many of them were kept unaware of the reasons for Mick’s absence and his apparent inability to travel back to Ireland even to visit. It was by going through some papers in his mother’s room that he came across the IRSP pamphlet on the Sallins case and was shocked; confronting his mother, the story began to be told.16

Recollecting the family’s trip to Paris to present two children for baptism in Notre Dame Cathedral which Mick attended, Karl spoke about their warm reception there and being touur-guided around by Plunkett, who had acquainted himself with much of the city’s history. One wonders whether that included the “Wall of the Communards” where in 1871, revolutionaries of the Paris Commune were summarily executed by French firing squads under the command of Marshall Patrice McMahon, descendant of Irish “Wild Geese” refugees from Williamite-controlled Ireland. Plunkett would hardly have been unaware of that history and its irony for the Irish.

The hearse carrying Mick Plunkett’s coffin arrives at Mt. Jerome cemetery, escorted by guard of honour supplied by the Seamus Costello Memorial Committee (the photo is from their FB page).

SOCIAL, SONG AND FLAG

Later that evening in a large reserved section of the Rochestown Lodge Hotel (formerly the Victor Hotel) just above the large Sallynoggin housing estate, mourners and celebrants gathered to eat, drink and talk. Some had not seen one another for decades. Among the many reminiscences of the social and music scene in Dún Laoghaire in the later decades of the last century, including the remark that “our harbour is a marina now”, one of Mick’s sisters spoke of raids by the Special Branch on their family home, where children would be ordered or pulled out of bed and the mattresses and beds tipped over, allegedly searching for weapons.

Strangely perhaps, there was no performance of musicians or singers or even sing-alongs at the event, though the traditional song The Parting Glass was sung to Plunkett’s daughter Natacha and a small unexpecting audience on the covered patio outside. Later inside, by which time some had left and following a query about a ceramic badge of the Starry Plough worn by one those remaining, a whole length of the original green-and-gold version of the flag was unfurled, causing much interest and queues forming asking to be photographed behind it. And a little later, a man sang Patrick Galvin’s Where Is Our James Connolly? to much applause.

Securing the Starry Plough flag to the coffin on the shoulders of relatives of Mick Plunkett, about to be carried into Mt. Jerome’s chapel for a non-religious remembrance event. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

This was fitting for as the mourners had been reminded in Mount Jerome, Connolly17 had been a great inspiration to Mick Plunkett’s political activism and to the IRSP too. But not only that, for a building in Dublin city centre, formerly a hostel but empty for many years and very recently occupied by socialist Republicans in Dublin had been named Connolly House and had that very day witnessed a rally held outside it to resist a threatened Garda operation to evict the occupants.

It seemed to me that something other than the remembrance of a retired fighter alone had happened at the Plunkett memorial events, something more than the appropriate marker of a past and finished period in Irish history, as had been suggested by Holland in her oration. It seemed to me that the history of struggle in Ireland for national self-determination and social justice had to an extent been re-invoked, that it appeared to some extent as the ghost of struggles past but also as the gaining substance of struggles present and, in particular, yet to come. I think Mick would have been pleased and, in any case, in defiance of the declarations of Fukuyama and such idealogues, history is nowhere near finished or dead. As some have commented, it is not even past.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1A harbour town seven miles south of Dublin city centre, in Dublin County but administered by DL-Rathdown Council for some years now.

2Which I heard pronounced as “Lennox”.

3He is more usually referred to as “Lord Edward Fitzgerald” which, apart from being somewhat historically inaccurate, does him a service. He was a republican, renounced his title and his sister Lucy said of him some years after his death in prison that “He was a paddy and no more; he desired no other title than this.”

4The Wikipedia entry on Frescati House and the campaign makes no mention at all of this sit-in, Garda attack or the subsequent court cases, of which there is ample documentary evidence. Hopefully someone will undertake its appropriate updating.

5Liam Cosgrave was a Fine Gael politician, son of the Leader of the Irish parliamentary Opposition from 1965 to 19873 and Taoiseach (Prime Minister) from 1973 to 1977, W.T Cosgrave.

6The Sinn Féin party has gone through many metamorpheses, from being a reformist dual-monarchy party, to revolutionary republican to constitutionalist. Constance Markievicz was a socialist Republican who took part in the 1916 Rising as an officer in the Irish Citizen Army – the name of a socialist revolutionary woman chosen for the cumann (‘association’, a branch of the SF party at the time) indicated an inclination towards revolution, feminism and socialism.

7Osgur, Caoilte and Oisín.

8Séamus Costello (b. 1939) was murdered by the Official IRA in Dublin on 5th October 1977.

9An example of the medium-seriousness was the charge of “membership of an illegal organisation” under the Amendment to the Offences Against the State Act, introduced in 1972 which required only the unsupported word of a Garda officer at rank of superintendent or above for conviction and a virtually automatic jail sentence of one to two years.

10€237,389.81 –without taking into account inflation — for today’s value

11Notably John Fitzpatrick, who years later publicly challenged the State to charge him with the offence to which he had “confessed” – there was no response.

12If it had been Plunkett’s hair, it had to have been planted by the Heavy Gang, since Mick had been nowhere near that scene and, in fact, the robbery had been carried out by the Provisional IRA. In addition, without the later development of DNA testing, all a sample of hair could tell, apart from its natural colour, was the blood-type of its owner.

13Some of those involved at the time, whether as victims or as campaigners, were present at some of the funeral events too, including Osgur Breatnach, Nicky Kelly, Caoilte and Peetera Schilders-Bhreatnach.

14https://sallinsinquirynow.ie/

15The flag with a design in the shape of the constellation known as Ursa Mayor was of the Irish Citizen Army, formed to defend the workers during the strike and 8-month lockout of 1913 and later fought in the 1916 Rising. Originally the design was of the constellation in white or silver overlaid by the depiction of a plough in gold, with sword as the plough-share and all on a green background. A later version was the plain blue one with Ursa Mayor outlined in white stars. That version was the one in use by the short-lived Republican Congress of the 1930s and was for many years later, probably up to the end of the century, the main one displayed and therefore familiar to Republicans and socialists (even for years flown by the Irish Labour Party) but has now been largely supplanted by the original green version.

16This is not at all an unusual experience in Ireland and, whether by desire to protect the young, pain of reminiscence or even disapproval, much of our history has been concealed from generations for a time or even completely lost.

17James Connolly, revolutionary socialist, trade union organiser, historian, journalist, song-writer and one of the Seven Signatories of the 1916 Proclamation of Independence, was tried by British military court for his leading role in the Rising and executed by firing squad.

SOURCES & FURTHER READING

https://rip.ie/death-notice/michael-mick-plunkett-glasthule-dublin/494040

Edward Fitzgerald a republican: https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/praise-the-lord-and-pass-the-egalitarianism-1.1534895

Frescati House (with the curious omission at the time of access of the DHAC sit-in, police attack and subsequent trials): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frescati_House

Call for enquiry into the Sallins case: https://sallinsinquirynow.ie/

Civil and human rights criticism of the Special Criminal Court: https://www.iccl.ie/2022/international-call-for-end-to-special-criminal-court/

Mary Read & Paris frame-up: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Reid_(activist)
https://www.irishtimes.com/news/socialist-republican-and-poet-with-a-big-heart-1.349096
https://www.rte.ie/brainstorm/2020/0325/1126344-1982-irish-republicans-france-mitterrand-vincennes/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sallins_Train_robbery
Sallins frame-up: https://www.rsvplive.ie/news/irish-news/1976-sallins-robbery-saw-nicky-25971809
https://www.thewhistleblower.ie/booking
https://extra.ie/2022/01/17/news/irish-news/hunger-striker-nicky-kelly

UP LIKE A BIRD – a review

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 2 mins.)

He planned the spectacular helicopter escape from Dublin’s Mountjoy Jail and, a year later, planned another escape from there, blasting their way out with smuggled-in explosives. Before he began planning escapes, he operated early in his IRA career as commander of an armed robbery unit, ‘fund-raising’ for the Movement. But when he began robbing banks for himself and his family, the Movement sent assassins to kill him. Up Like a Bird is the story of that man, Brendan Hughes, nowhere near as celebrated as his other IRA namesake but certainly deserving of much more fame than he has received to date.

Brendan Hughes with his book outside Mountjoy Jail (Image sourced: Phoenix Magazine)

Douglas Dalby’s handling of Hughes’ reminiscences, told in Hughes’ voice, is masterly. The book reads like a thriller, hard to put down; we are driven to turn the next page to see what will happen – even when, through history, we know the eventual outcome. We know, for example, that the helicopter escape was carried out and yet, as readers, we tense as Hughes does his investigations, tense tighter as he identifies the components of the plan, moan with frustration at a delay or last-minute hitch, hold our breaths as the action takes place.

The helicopter escape was carried out on 31st October 1973 and from the prison exercise yard three high-level IRA officers were flown to freedom: Chief of Staff Séamus Twomey and senior Volunteers JB O’Hagan and Kevin Mallon. The following year, on 18th August 1974, 19 prisoners escaped, blasting their way through a gate with a small amount of smuggled gelignite. Not only had Hughes planned that operation – he himself was leading the escapers.

INSIGHTS

Apart from the excitement in reading, the book gives us an insight into the world of IRA volunteers active in Dublin and surrounding areas in the 1970s – the ‘safe-houses’ and network of active supporters, the ‘fund-raising’, stolen getaway cars, false identification documents, high-level awareness of the hunted, carrying concealed weapons, the even better-armed police ….

The Mountjoy helicopter escape revealed something even more important and enduring – the cultural bedrock within the Irish state, the sharp division between the elite and the mass. Although the majority of politicians had voted in 1972 for repressive legislation against Republicans and special no-jury courts to sentence them, a song celebrating the escape reached No.1 in the Irish singles disc charts, selling 12,000 copies in the first week despite being banned by the national broadcaster, RTÉ! Composed by Sean McGinley from Castlefin, Co. Donegal and performed by the folk and ‘rebel song’ band The Wolfe Tones1, Up and Away (the Helicopter Song) became the most-played and most-purchased disc for four weeks until nudged out by Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody. It is tempting to think that if the escape had taken place a longer period before the approach of the festive season, that the recording might have remained at the top of the charts for months on end. The counterposing of the anger and embarrassment in elite circles, reflected in ranting of politicians, Garda sweeps and raids and media outrage on the one hand, with the delight and empathy at the lower levels revealed much of the tensions in Irish society and the opposing sympathies of different social classes.

The single that sold 12,000 copies in its first week, containing a jocular song celebrating the helicopter escape. (Image sourced: Internet)

Hughes was a maverick, revelling in the description and though for much of his career that was of value to the Provos, there came a time when it ceased to be so. A guerrilla army must have discipline, of course but it also needs volunteers who can quickly assess a situation and seize the initiative, without referring back to the command structure. The balance between both requirements must be very hard to strike — for individuals as well as for the organisation.

When he and other such activists fell out with their leaderships or “went solo”, they were shunned or worse. In Hughes’ final spell in Mountjoy jail, he was on the “non-aligned” wing of the jail, a Republican prisoner but not under Republican leadership control.

ISOLATION

Hughes says that assassins were sent to kill him – he stayed low and carried a loaded .44 Magnum. The leadership of the Republican movement does not always shoot or beat up its dissidents – more usually, it seeks to isolate them. Friends, neighbours, former comrades and even relatives will be advised to shun those no longer welcome, they and their families.

The family feeling, the communal solidarity in the movement becomes its opposite when the leadership brands its pariahs.

Cover of the book (Image credit: Siopa Gaeilge)

Hughes feels he was betrayed to the political police, the Special Branch of the Irish State. But what he says he felt the worst was the treatment of his family while he was in jail. No space on a Republican prison visitor communal transport was made available to his wife and children and cars containing former friends and acquaintances would pass them at the side of the road, even in the rain.

It seems Hughes finds that unforgivable — and no wonder.

As a postscript, Hughes surprisingly declares his support for the Good Friday Agreement, the pacification process. He had been a man of action and, as he said himself, not one for thinking through ideology or politics. But it doesn’t take any great grasp of ideology or politics to see that today it’s more or less business as before in a partitioned Ireland occupied by a foreign power.

End.

UP LIKE A BIRD, Hughes, Brendan; Dalby, Douglas (2022)

FOOTNOTES

1Named after Theobald Wolfe Tone, a leader of Irish republican revolutionary organisation the United Irishmen, died in prison in 1798.

SOURCES

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Helicopter_Song

JARDUN CALL FOR REVOLUTION ON BASQUE NATIONAL DAY IN GERNIKA

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 10 mins.)

The revolutionary Basque socialist coordination organisation Jardun Koordinadora organised a celebration of Aberri Eguna, the Basque national day, combining political, social and cultural forms. Aberri Eguna takes place annually on Easter Sunday, a date chosen by its founder Elias Gallestegi based on a traditional commemoration day of the Easter Rising in Ireland. Aberri Eguna was first celebrated in Bilbo in 1932 attended by 65,000 people, including members of Emakume Abertzale Batza1, the Basque nationalist women’s organisation founded by Gallestegi also in emulation of the Irish organisation Cumann na mBan. Around 1,000 people, with a high representation of youth but also of veterans of the struggle, attended the events in Gernika2.

Jardun-organised Aberri Eguna procession passing through Gernika (Photo courtesy Jardun)

The Irish connection was reiterated on Sunday by the reading at the political rally of messages of solidarity from three Irish-based sources: Anti-Imperialist Action, Anti-Internment Committee of Ireland and Dublin Basque Solidarity Committee.

Jardun Koordinatora is a relatively new initiative which is a sharp departure from the trajectory in recent decades of the official leadership of the Abertzale Left, a trajectory which has served to dismember and dishearten the movement.

La Haine Report

(Translation by Dublin Basque with explanatory notes in italics)

The different organisations comprising this Coordination (Jardun) demonstrated in Gernika under the slogans “Aberri gorria, biharko Euskal Herria, “Independentzia eta Sozialismoa”, “Euskal Herrilangilea Aurrera”, “Presoak Kalera Amnistia osoa” and “Amnistiarik gabe bakerik ez” (“Bright future in tomorrow’s Basque Country” “Independence and Socialism”, “Forward Basque workers”, “Prisoners Free with Full Amnesty” and “No Peace Without Amnesty”).

This Sunday, April 17, the JARDUN Coordination convened the Aberri Eguna (Basque National Day) gathering some 1,000 people to claim the national objective of the Basque Working People.

Along with a Zanpantzar group (performers with bells in traditional costumes representing animals), the event began with a march starting from Plaza Mercurio and during the journey different acts were carried out to demand prisoner amnesty and rights for working women. The event ended with the speeches read in Pasealeku Plaza: the first two were messages of solidarity sent by Anti-Imperialist Action and Anti-Internment Committee (both of Ireland) and ended with the political statement of the JARDUN Coordination.

Tradition Zapantzarak lead the procession (Photo courtesy Jardun)

The demonstration went smoothly. However, the bus that departed from Irunea/ Pamplona had problems getting there because the National Police stopped it in Urdiain, taking details of the occupants.

To conclude, JARDUN Coordination stated that the only alternative for the Basque Working People will come from the hand of independence and socialism. To conclude, the Internationale and the Eusko Gudariak (Basque Soldier) were sung.

Spanish armed police stopped the contingent from Irunea/ Pamplona heading for Gernika and recorded their details. (Courtesy of Jardun)


Jardun Statement for Aberri Eguna 2022
(Translated by D.Breatnach from text supplied in Castillian Spanish)

Under capitalism, we workers are condemned to survive. We build our lives around work and the exploitation we suffer in it, while the bourgeoisie lives at the expense of this work. Such is the dynamic of capital. This is the logic of the economic system currently in force in the world. That is why it is important to clearly identify and point out the adversary facing us; because the capitalist system, the bourgeoisie, normalises and legitimises the fears and the repression that it produces daily to absorb the blood of the workers.

(Photo courtesy Jardun)

But with 19 years in prison for the freedom of his people, the murder of Iván Colona, a direct consequence of the criminal French prison policy, is not normal. The situation of the working people of Ireland, suffering from crushing British occupation for more than 800 years, is not normal. After eight long years of war, the situation of the working people of Donbass, who experience bombings, murders and massacres on a daily basis, is not normal. And much more heinous, outside of the norm, are the attempts to whitewash and legitimise criminal institutions such as NATO murderers.

We must situate ourselves in that context, understand within that reality, the situation that Euskal Herria (the Basque Country) is experiencing. Today our country are controlled by both the French and Spanish states. Not only do both these states not recognise Euskal Herria but they carry out an oppression based on that denial against the working class of Euskal Herria. In effect, we must understand well that, beyond the national question providing the a joint market for the states, the working class can only use the political project of the bourgeoisie as an element of unity to support and protect it, promoting interclassist attitudes.

“We, the organized women workers, will overcome all oppression!” (Photo courtesy Jardun)

The aforementioned denial, as well as the attacks carried out by the Spanish and French States against the Basque Working People, must be understood as an ideological motivation of the national State. We must, therefore, situate the oppression of Euskal Herria in the very creation of the Spanish and French capitalist states; because the objective of the denial is clear, the assimilation of Euskal Herria. To do this, the states take advantage of the institutions aimed at creating divisions and gaps in the Basque consciousness. And to protect these institutions and guarantee the supremacy of the bourgeoisie, they take advantage of dogs of various colours to attack the working people. To promote alienation and renounce our identity, in addition to normalising the attacks against the language, they have turned the Basque language and culture into souvenirs of a territory that today wants to dedicate itself to tourism, since for the bourgeoisie everything is business, to the point of commodifying our places of residence.

This being the case, given that denial is a decision of a political nature, we must cover with a political character the oppression experienced by Euskal Herria to view it with a class vision. We have to be clear about the concept of the political nature with regard to Euskal Herria nationality. Therefore, we have to fight against normalised oppression. Along this path, it is up to the workers of Euskal Herria to build our own political project and in response to this we have to equip ourselves with our own institutions that have to arise out of the counter-power that we need to form. And for this it is necessary for a Workers’ Euskal Herria to break politically with the Spanish and French states.

Photo shows a substantial following by veterans of the struggle (Photo courtesy Jardun)

These States offer the working people the use and threat of both persecution and violence, within the capitalist system that condemns the working class to servitude for the benefit of the bourgeoisie. For this reason, to carry out the aforementioned political rupture, political confrontation must be a valued concept in order to carry out the political project of the workers of Euskal Herria. Political confrontation must also be the engine of the revolutionary process aimed at achieving an independent and socialist Basque state in Euskal Herria.

For this, it is necessary to take the revolutionary process to the extreme and form a political body that must feed the revolutionary alternative. Specifically, a political body to be formed by organised workers in favour of national and social liberation and the sale of their labour power in the Basque Country. A political body that is committed to achieving an independent and socialist Basque State. Because the Basque Working People cannot be limited to the forms of work authorised by the capitalist system. These not only destroy the revolutionary potential of the working class, but are aimed at sustaining and reproducing the ideology of the bourgeoisie; because the enemy will not give, in any way, more than he is willing to give. The bourgeoisie will not voluntarily give up its privileges.

(Photo courtesy Jardun)

It is essential to set in motion the revolutionary process that must take place on the path of a classless society, towards the acquisition of political power by the working class; the aforementioned subject will only be achieved through the confrontation carried out with the capitalist state. Through the counter-power built in the confrontation, the Basque Working People must articulate revolutionary structures that wear down the centres of power of the oppressor and guarantee his liberation against the exploiters, to guarantee the achievements obtained during the revolutionary process. Because the political power of the Basque Working People must be based on counter power. In other words, the revolutionary alternative of the working people will be built and take root as the control and power of the capitalist states over the workers of the Basque Country is annulled. The revolutionary alternative must be a comprehensive political alternative that satisfies the needs of the Basque Working People.

It must be understood that this will be capable of leading struggles based on the activation and commitment of the workers. Therefore, in order to weave and build a revolutionary alternative at this time, the priority is the activation of workers aimed at promoting the ideological struggle and mobilization, understanding the JARDUN coordinator as an instrument to achieve this. In short, JARDUN is a framework created with the aim of promoting the organisation of bodies and militants to win the freedom of Euskal Herria. Its objective is that, under a common political project and strategic approach, each organisation carries out its contribution in specific political areas, but that all act within the framework of a common strategy and direction.

We have to be aware that this will be achieved through gradual activation and participation through the awareness of the Basque Working People. In this process, the revolutionary process itself will be carried out gradually, and the Alternative of the Basque Working People must carry out struggles based on the different forces, conditions and problems of the moment. As its political work deepens and Basque workers’ participation in the Coordination increases, JARDUN will create new framework organisations and acquire comprehensiveness and integrity, with the revolutionary movement’s priority being to create the conditions to achieve it.

(Photo courtesy Jardun)

When talking about the liberation of Euskal Herria, self-determination is a frequently mentioned term: self-determination, a term that appears many times when a nation is subjected to the sovereignty of another against its will. But when we speak of self-determination, considering the revolutionary process developed under a counter-power based on political rupture, we are not referring, in any way, to the vote marked, accepted and facilitated by the States that persecute Euskal Herria, but to the process of separation of one nation from the state structures of another nation. Self-determination as synonymous with the revolutionary process that must be carried out to achieve an independent and socialist Basque State, in the case of Euskal Herria.

Autonomism, because it is a struggle based on the management of the remains provided by the states, is not an option. It is not a legitimate choice on the table for the revolutionary movement, since this implies reformism and the strengthening of the position of power and subjugation of the States, together with the renunciation of the strategic objectives aimed at the liberation of the Basque Working People. However, it would be a serious mistake to believe that, through national liberation, the liberation of the workers will take place mechanically. This must be understood within the class struggle, in which we must place self-determination itself within the class conflict.

On the other hand, there exists the denial, underestimation or rejection of the national question, the strengthening of the repression that the capitalist states carry out and accepting the framework of the oppressive nation imposed, in the name of socialism, with the argument of unity of the workers. Regarding the national issue, the lack of correct position also allows the French and Spanish States to continue applying unjust laws and coercion, helping to hide the dimension of oppression suffered by the working class of Euskal Herria. Keeping silent before a crushing stomp, since taking a neutral position means protection from crushing; taking neutral positions allows oppressive power relations to continue unchanged over time and space, perpetuating them.

The political rally of Jardun’s celebration of Aberri Eguna in Gernika (Photo courtesy Jardun)

Consequently, the mere demand for independence only benefits the interest and political project of the bourgeoisie of the Basque Country. And the socialism that in Euskal Herria does not address the national question goes hand-in-hand with denial, denying in class parameters the revolutionary potential of the national question. The achieving of the independent and socialist State must be the result of the revolutionary process of Euskal Herria due to the national oppression suffered by the Basque workers. Revolutionary alternatives beyond the essential defence of independence and socialism must be the basis of the political position of the Basque Working People. They are only alternative for the Basque Working People, because it inevitably comes hand-in-hand with independence and socialism.

Long live a free Basque Country!

Long live a socialist Basque Country!

End.

FOOTNOTES

1A strong organisation in the antifascist resistance to the fascist-military uprising against the Spanish Republic but no longer in existence.

2Guernica, in Spanish.

SOURCES

Jardun Koordinadora: https://www.facebook.com/Jardun_koordinadora-100598125431163

https://eh.lahaine.org/eusk-cast-jardun-koordinadorak-2022ko

SUBJECTED TO A MEDIA DISINFORMATION ONSLAUGHT

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 12 mins.)

Yes, indeed, we have been. Let us look back over the campaign of misinformation about conflict in Ireland for it has much to teach us about the mass media, about human credulity. We don’t need to go back over 800 years – just to the recent the 30-Year War.

In 1968 a civil rights campaign1 took off in the British Six-County colony in Ireland to include a number of marches and sit-ins, which was regularly met with violence from Loyalist2 mobs and the State. As part of the campaign, in 1969 a march from Belfast to Dublin was organised under the slogan “Civil Rights – North and South”. One of that march’s stops was in Lurgan, Co. Armagh, where the marchers sat at a crossroads and were instantly attacked by the armed British colonial police (then the RUC3, now the PSNI).

Some of the marchers had come from Britain to support the campaign and after being attacked in Lurgan, they bought an English newspaper to see whether the incident had been reported. An occurrence in the town had been reported alright but not what had occurred – the report told their readers that a fight between Catholics and Protestants had been broken up by the RUC, keeping the two sides apart. “There wasn’t a Protestant in sight,” commented a marcher angrily, “except those in RUC uniform …. or unless he was one of us4.”

Later that year, in August, the RUC killed four civilians, including a child, in the Divis Flats area of Belfast by firing at the area with a machine-gun mounted on an armoured car. Their claim they were returning fire from the area was widely refuted by local people but repeated in the media. The incident was not investigated until decades later when the claims of family and local witnesses were vindicated in an Ombudsman’s report.

The representation of the RUC as a force for peace between two groups in a sectarian conflict was to be a repeated media disinformation line through the ongoing conflict, as the struggle became an armed one — although to a large degree the honest broker ‘peacemaker’ cloak shifted from the colonial police on to the British Army.

British troops were sent in to the colony (by a Labour Government, in case we had illusions) in August 1969 and were initially greeted by many people in the ‘nationalist’5 community as saviours, sent to keep the sectarian RUC and Loyalist mobs (often enough amounting to the same thing) away from them. Most politicians and the media represented them as peace-keepers. For most nationalists the illusions did not last long as the Army turned their guns on them.

Although no British soldier had been killed in the Six Counties by the IRA as yet6, on 3rd July 1970 the British Army invaded the staunchly nationalist area of the Lower Falls and forced their way into homes, saying they were searching for arms. Local youths mobilised and attacked the soldiers with stones and petrol bombs7. The soldiers responded by pumping CS gas into the area and soon gun-battles between the IRA and the British Army broke out.

After four hours of continuous clashes, the British commander sealed off the area, which comprised 3,000 homes, and imposed a curfew which would last for 36 hours. Thousands of British troops moved into the curfew zone and carried out house-to-house searches for weapons, while coming under intermittent attack from the IRA and rioters. The searches caused much destruction, and a large amount of CS gas was fired into the area. Many residents complained of suffering abuse at the hands of the soldiers. On 5 July, the curfew was brought to an end when thousands of women and children from Anderstonstown8 marched into the curfew zone with food and other supplies for the locals.

During the operation, four civilians were killed by the British Army, at least 78 people were wounded and 337 were arrested. Eighteen soldiers were also wounded. Large quantities of weapons and ammunition were (allegedly – DB) captured. The British Army admitted afterwards that some of its soldiers had been involved in looting.’9

Mural on the Falls Road depicting Andersonstown women breaking the British cordon, Falls Curfew, 1970 (Source photo: Wikipedia)
Cutting of unknown newspaper report displaying misrepresentation of the struggle, despite being friendly towards the women who broke the British Army siege of the Falls Road, July 1970.
(Source photo: Step Back Ireland)

At the time, most of the media reported the clashes as unruly elements irrationally attacking the Army who were there to protect them and were only doing their job. However, the opinion of the nationalist community, though ignored by the media had undergone a huge shift and the first serving British soldier (of many to follow) was killed by the IRA the following year.10

Later in 1970, during riots in Derry, the Army shot two men from the nationalist area, Seamus Cusack and Desmond Beattie, claiming afterwards that they were armed, a claim local people denied. There was no investigation by the authorities, obliging the constitutionalist SDLP11 to withdraw from the colony’s parliament in protest.

On 4th December 1971, an explosion in the Catholic-owned McGurk’s Bar in Belfast killed 15 people and injured 16. Due to the bar’s ownership and location, the most logical attribution would be to Loyalists or British forces. It would be hard to pin it on the IRA – unless it could be said to have been an accidental explosion of an IRA bomb during storage or transportation. That was what the “security forces” came up with, which of course was repeated by the media. An alternative media theory was that in some manner it was a result of a feud between the Official and Provisional IRA. In order to construct that theory, the denials of the IRA had to be discounted12, despite the organisations’ track record of taking public responsibility for its actions.

The explosion had occurred in the pub’s doorway, which would have thrown doubt on the “IRA bomb in transit” story but somehow, the RUC’s forensic examination did not determine that. But even worse, the evidence of an eyewitness had to be dismissed.

On 6 December, however, the RUC took a witness statement from an 8-year-old boy. He said that a car had stopped outside the pub with four men inside and “a wee Union Jack stuck in the back window”. He said one left a package in the Great George’s Street doorway and ran back to the car, which sped off just moments before the package exploded. A man and a woman backed up his story, although they did not witness as much as the boy.13

In March 1976 the RUC received intelligence that linked UVF member Robert Campbell and four others to the McGurk’s bombing. Campbell was arrested on 27 July 1977 and held at Castlereagh RUC base. He was interviewed seven times during 27 and 28 July. He admitted his part in the bombing but refused to name the others. Campbell’s story matches that given by the young boy witness.’14

On 29 July 1977, Campbell was charged with the 15 murders and 17 attempted murders and in September 1978 pleaded guilty to all charges (he also had a separate conviction for the murder of a Protestant delivery driver in 1976). He eventually served fifteen years in prison, being released on 9th September 1993.15

Local people searching in the rubble of McGurk’s Bar after the bombing by Loyalists killing 15 but which was blamed on the Republican armed organisations. (Photo credit: AP)

Despite the 1978 convictions and even Campbell’s confessions, the “own goal bomb” theory of responsibility lingered and relatives sought for years to have the case properly investigated, some also alleging that the RUC had colluded in helping the killers get away out of the area and in the false atrributions later, possibly even with the intention of setting the two IRA organisations at one another’s throats.

In what has become a depressingly familiar story, the relatives campaigned on in the face of police inaction and media disinterest for years, during which many of the directly-affected died through natural causes, to receive partial vindication at last in an Ombudsman’s report which laid the blame squarely on a Loyalist gang and castigated the RUC for a biased and inadequate investigation. The report was published in February 2011– it had taken the campaigners only 40 years16.

The introduction of internment without trial in August 1971 was, according to the media, a necessary measure to deal with political violence from all sides. Not one Loyalist was arrested that year, or the next and it was not until 1973 that a single Loyalist had been interned, the total by December 1975, when the measure was ended, having been 107 against 1,874 from the Nationalist community.17

The Paratroop Regiment, British Army shocktroops, were sent into the colony that year too18. Between 9th and 11th August in the Belfast area of Ballymurphy, the Paratroopers caused the deaths of 10 men and a woman and wounded many19. The Paratroopers claimed they had been shot at and were returning fire and that all their targets had been “terrorists”20. The media repeated these lies and, if reporters interviewed wounded and other witnesses, their accounts were not published. There was no investigation and, as with the deaths of many victims of RUC and British Army, there was no inquest concluded until decades later (2021 for these victims21).

The nationalist community called a demonstration in Derry for 30th January the following year to protest the massacres and against the introduction of internment. The Paratroopers were there again and they and other British Army soldiers shot down unarmed demonstrators, causing the deaths of 14 and injuring at least another 15. The Army claimed they had been returning fire from Irish Republicans and had shot only gunmen and bombers and on the whole, the media parroted their claims.

The British put their top judge, Lord Chief Justice Widgery, to hold an inquiry and in April that year his verdict upheld the Army’s version and also blamed the organisers of the march. The media of course promoted that verdict too. It was not until the extraordinarilyy long and hugely expensive Bloody Sunday Inquiry set up 1998 22 produced the Saville Report in 2010 that the British officially (and then of course also the media) accepted what all of Derry and much of Ireland already knew, that the Paras had opened fire in a non-threatening situation and selectively targeted and killed unarmed civilians23.

British soldiers shot another five unarmed people dead in the Springhill area of Belfast on July 9th, yet again as in Ballymurphy the previous year, including a priest administering the last rites but this time their tally was also an thirteen-year-old girl24. The original ‘official’ account of the shootings— that those shot were ‘gunmen’ — was almost immediately discredited, and was changed shortly after; the claim then became that those murdered were simply caught in the crossfire. Again the media covered the Army story without investigation or challenge.

In 1988 on Sunday 6th March British SAS soldiers shot dead three unarmed IRA volunteers in Gibraltar. When it was revealed that the three had been unarmed, firstly the media claimed that they had been about to trigger an explosion but some time later the British found the explosives in a car in a Spanish carpark across the border without any electronic link to the dead volunteers. When the British claimed that the Volunteers had made threatening moves, eyewitnessed testified that not only had they been unarmed when shot but had been extra-judicially executed as they lay on the ground with their hands up in surrender position. One of the eye-witnesses was Gibraltar resident Carmen Proetta, who then became a target for British media slurs, even going to the extent of suggesting that she was a sex-worker.

On Monday 7 March all eleven British national daily newspapers reported the story that a bomb had been found. Many gave detailed information about the size (mostly 500 pounds), purpose and type of the bomb as well as how it was defused. The Daily Mail suggested that the bomb might have a ‘video timing device’, while Today and the Independent mentioned ‘remote control’. The Daily Mirror told us that ‘a controlIed explosion failed to set off the bomb’ whilst the Daily Mail added ‘RAF disposal men defused it later’.25

On 28 April 1988, almost two months after the Gibraltar shootings, the ITV television channel defied British Government pressure and threats of legal action to broadcast “Death on the Rock” an episode of its current affairs series This Week, produced by Thames Television, based on investigations of three journalists and many interviews. This led to a ferocious media attack on the documentary, its programers and the IBA, the governing watchdog authority.

Documentary program maker Roger Bolton’s account of his hounding by government and media about an accurate documentary of the 1988 SAS murders of three unarmed IRA Volunteers in Gibraltar. (Image sourced: Internet).

Over the following weeks, newspapers repeatedly printed stories about the documentary’s witnesses, in particular Carmen Proetta, who gave an account of seeing McCann and Farrell shot without warning by soldiers who arrived in a Gibraltar Police car. Proetta subsequently sued several newspapers for libel and won substantial damages. The Sunday Times conducted its own investigation and reported that “Death on the Rock” had misrepresented the views of its witnesses; those involved later complained to other newspapers that The Sunday Times had distorted their comments.’26

A great number of situations arose during the 30 Years War in the British colony that were either unreported or misrepresented by the mass media, including “confessions” obtained through torture, RUC and British Army collusion with Loyalist murder gangs, inhumane treatment of political prisoners, Army shooting of unarmed civilians, extra-judicial executions of Republican Volunteers and blackmailing individuals for information or to carry out agent-provocateur actions.

WITHIN THE IRISH STATE

In 1969 the grave of Wolfe Tone in Bodenstown was blown up by Loyalists27 and between 1971 and 1974 there was a series of bombings in Dublin by Loyalists and British Intelligence. The bombing campaign began by aiming at symbolic structures and went on to target civilians which cost the lives of 36 civilians (and a full-term unborn child) and injured around 490, presumably to pressurise the Irish Government into increased repression of Republican paramilitaries.

In January 1971 the O’Connell Tower in Glasnevin Cemetery was damaged (not repaired finally until 2019, 47 years later)28, presumably as an attack on a prominent Irish Catholic29 icon. But in February 1971 the Wolfe Tone30 monument in Stephen’s Green was also blown up, like the blowing up of the grave, an attack on Irish Republicanism and its rebellious Protestant origins31. Bombings now aimed at civilians in Dublin followed and between 26 November 1972 and 20 January 1973, there were four paramilitary bombings in the centre of Dublin, claiming the lives of three public transport workers and injuring 185.

The first suspicion of responsibility for those bombings should naturally have fallen on the Loyalists and perhaps, by extension, on a British intelligence agency. It didn’t though; in the media and political circles, it was projected on to the IRA.

That could not have made logical sense, since such explosions could only have harmed the IRA among the Irish population. However there was another specific reason why it made even less sense, (if possible): in 1972 Leinster House32 was about to debate repressive legislation that would set up special no-jury courts to convict Republicans with the word of a police officer (at the rank of Superintendent or above) sufficient to convict of “membership of an illegal organisation”, with an automatic two-year jail sentence. The proposed legislation was being put forward by Fianna Fáil but Fine Gael and the Labour Party were mustering to vote against it and if they did, the new legislation would fall.

Scene of 1973 bombing in Sackville Place, Dublin city centre. The bombing the previous year was irrationally blamed on the IRA and the panic was used to collapse the opposition to proposed undemocratic repressive legislation, which was passed and is with us to this day. (Photo sourced: Stair na hÉireann Facebook page)

In the midst of the horror about the bombing, the opposition crumbled and the bill went through, against protests of many human and civil rights agencies33; it became law, has sent many people to jail on dubious ‘evidence’ and is in force to this day.

The illogical focus on the IRA as the source of the 1972 and ‘73 bombings and the consequent failure to investigate them and follow up on the likely perpetrators had a horrific result in 1974: three bombs in Dublin city centre and one in Monaghan town centre killed 34 and injured around 30034, the highest number of people killed in any one day during the 30 Years War (often conveniently forgotten by the media, as for example in this report https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/army-knew-mcgurks-bar-bomb-was-placed-in-doorway-solicitor-says-35516460.html.)

Not only that, but the failure to energetically investigate the 1974 bombing meant that some of the Loyalist perpetrators were free to murder many civilians in the following years – some of the bombers were members of the infamous Glennane Gang, a Loyalist-RUC-British Intelligence group of killers responsible for up to 120 murders of civilians35.

WITHIN BRITAIN

The events in Ireland were of course being felt by the Irish diaspora in England too. Marches, pickets and public meetings protesting the RUC’s repression of marches for civil rights were held in many British cities, as they were against sending the British Army into the Six Counties, introduction of internment without trial and shooting protesters dead. Some groups on the British Left were also attending these events and occasionally organising their own. Irish solidarity was becoming a major issue for anti-imperialist solidarity in Britain and abroad, in addition to being in a sense a major domestic issue in Britain too.

The IRA began to extend Britain’s war to their homeland in a bombing campaign in 1971, at first targeting property. However, in 1974 bombs in two pubs in Birmingham killed 21 people which was difficult to understand but according to an alleged perpetrator, the warning intended by the bombers was frustrated through out-of-order public telephone boxes. The Guildford and Woolwich bombs, aimed at pubs frequented by British soldiers, killed five soldiers and two civilians overall and injured 101 people.

The horror and outrage resulting from that carnage gave the British State the environment in which they could launch a wholesale clampdown on the Irish diaspora. The Prevention of Terrorism Act was rushed through the Westminster Parliament in 1974, specifically targeting the Irish community. The Act empowered the police to raid homes, to hold suspects without access to a solicitor for up to five days and longer on special application and to summarily deport Irish people from Britain – even to their own colony. It also empowered the police to stop and question Irish people without warrant or having to show cause and thousands were stopped and questioned at ports and airports as they travelled from Ireland to Britain or vice versa, sometimes missing their flights or boat as a result. People were questioned on the street too and on Irish solidarity demonstrations.

In that atmosphere, of which the media was the main facilitator in British society, it was fairly easy for the State to frame nearly a score of innocent people on bombing charges and to sentence them to many years in jail on the flimsiest of “evidence”, later to refuse their right to appeal, later still, granting that right but denying the justice of their cases.

Judith Ward was arrested in February 1974, sentenced to life imprisonment plus 30 years in October 1974 and her conviction overturned in May 1992.

The Birmingham Six were arrested in November 1974, sentenced to jail for life in August 1975, their convictions finally overturned in March 1991.

The Guildford Four were arrested in December 1974, sentenced to imprisonment for life in October 1975, their convictions finally overturned in October 1989.

Giuseppe Conlon and the Maguire Six were arrested in December 1974, sentenced to 4, 51, 12 and 14 years in 1976, their convictions overturned in 1991. By that time Vincent and Patrick had already served their sentences and Giuseppe Conlon, father of Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four, had died in jail.

1Patrick Maguire was only 14 at the time and Vincent only 17.

The innocent Birmingham Six at their appearance in court after being beaten up by prison warders as they arrived at the jail falsely charged with the bombings in Birmingham. The mass media played a major role in their being found guilty and in frustrating campaigns to free them which only succeeded 17 years later. (Image sourced: Internet)

The UK media in particular played a huge part in setting the atmosphere in which these unjust convictions could take place and in making the struggle of the innocent for justice difficult. Even after their acquittal, some of the media insinuated that they had been guilty and had got free through some kind of legal loopholes.

Could the media have known differently? Yes, certainly, not one of the cases would stand up to reasonable inspection. The Guildford Four were hippies living in a squat, the Birmingham Six were escorting the body of a deceased IRA man to Ireland when the bombs exploded, the Maguires were a Tory-voting woman with teenage children, Giuseppe was only in London to help his son after the latter’s arrest and Judith Ward was mentally ill, homeless and penniless37. Their ‘confessions’, obtained through torture and intimidation38, were admitted as evidence against them, although they all retracted them and declared how they had been obtained. The forensic evidence was faulty and besides recording a false positive and even though the defence team had a forensic expert to refute it during their trial, the Prosecution’s expert was the one accepted.

The February 1977 confession by an IRA unit to the Woolwich and Guildford bombing after their capture in the Balcome Street siege was not accepted, although they were able to give details of the bombing. So tortured and retracted ‘confessions’ were acceptable whereas one voluntarily given was not.

Apart from the logical doubts that should have arisen in even a light examination of the cases, the media also had access to detailed refutation of the case against the Birmingham Six. Although much has been made recently of the investigation of the case by Chris Mullin, the publication of his book Error of Judgment: The Truth About the Birmingham Pub Bombings (1985), the research for which went into the earlier 1984 ITV World in Action documentary, a detailed challenge to the convictions had been published much earlier. Only two years after the arrest of the Birmingham Six, Fathers Murray and Faul had published The Birmingham Framework39, which they had sent to British politicians and media agents. In 1982 the Irish in Britain Representation Group40 also publicly called for the freeing of the framed prisoners and continued to do so for every year thereafter. Other organisations such as the Troops Out Movement41 called for their release also and trade union branches began to support such calls.

Exposure of the case against the Birmingham Six published by Frs. Murray and Faul as early as one year after the convictions of the innocent men. (Source image: Internet)

It suited the State that the British public think the prisoners guilty and the British media played their part in that purpose. In a way, it also suited the State if the Irish community knew the prisoners were innocent since, if even the innocent could be jailed so easily, how could any Irish person be safe except by keeping his or her head down low? Irish solidarity activities declined in occurrence and in numbers attending. With few exceptions, the Irish community in Britain was cowed from 1974 until the Hunger Strikes of 1981 brought them out on the streets again, the terror broken by the spirit of solidarity and outrage.

WHY?

The above examples are only a selection of situations in Ireland during the period under discussion about which we and the world were misinformed or censored. Throughout the 30 Years’ War so many accusations against the British armed forces, including their armed colonial police, have been ignored or recorded disbelievingly by the media – in particular the British section but within the Irish state also – and repeated by media services abroad, to be picked up by other media …. and so on, and on. And likewise with accusations against British intelligence services and their domestic police force.

Why then are the current claims of the Ukrainian government published through the mass media being accepted without question on every count? Why is everything the Russian government says discounted or ignored without checking? Why are we not concerned at banning of alternative media and censorship of commentators who are not repeating the party line? Why are we not outraged at the agreed delivery of Julian Assange by the UK to the USA on charges of “spying” because he exposed their lies and murderous activities in Iraq and Afghanistan? Given our own experience over 30 years of the UK media’s dismal record of reporting on the conflict in Ireland – and its equally dismal repetition in the western media – why are we now believing without critical examination the western media reporting on the war in the Ukraine?

End.

FOOTNOTES

1The civil rights campaign in the Six Counties was in pursuance of equal rights for the Catholic minority with the Protestant majority there, in the electoral franchise, in housing and employment, along with the repeal of the repressive Special Powers Act.

2‘Loyalists’ is a term describing militants – always of Protestant community background – in various organisations — who insist on remaining within the UK. The first armed actions in the 30 Years War were by Loyalists.

3Although the Royal Ulster Constabulary was created in 1922, when Ireland was partitioned, it was in effect a continuation of the Royal Irish Constabulary, the British occupation’s gendarmerie (nation-wide semi-military police force, such as exists in Spain, Turkey, Italy, France, etc) in existence throughout all of Ireland since 1822. Although the personnel of the RIC had been mostly Catholic in background (usually with Protestant senior officers), the RUC was determinedly Protestant from the start, both in its full-time and part-time membership. However, a minority of the civil rights campaigners were also from Protestant backgrounds.

4As part of the control structures in the Six Counties, the authorities had recruited only non-Catholics into the colonial police force, which helped unionist politicians and media represent an attack on the police as a sectarian attack. Though a few Catholics have been recruited since the 1990s and Sinn Féin has been supporting recruitment drives in nationalist areas, the PSNI personnel remain overwhelmingly of Protestant background.

5A convenient term used to describe the large minority community, mostly of Catholic background, mostly of the original population but with some earlier intermarriage into the majority community, which is of mostly colonist/ settler origin.

6Ironically, the first serving British soldier killed in the Six Counties was killed by indescriminate firing by the RUC into the nationalist area of Divis Flats in Belfast. Trooper Hugh McCabe of the Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars was home on leave, staying with his family when the RUC opened fire with machine-gun on the nationalist area (this was one of the incidents that led to the barricading of “no go” areas excluding the RUC and later also the British Army). Three others were also killed by RUC bullets, including a nine-year-old boy. It took over 50 years for the families to get an acknowledgement and apology after an Ombudsman’s report. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/may/06/ruc-erred-at-troubles-dawn-by-firing-on-flats-from-armoured-cars#:~:text=Patrick%20Rooney%2C%20nine%2C%20Hugh%20McCabe,the%20Divis%20and%20Ardoyne%20areas.

7People had learned to make those in defence against RUC and Loyalist attacks during the earlier Civil Rights period.

8A large Belfast nationalist area separated from the Falls area by unionist areas and the city centre.

9https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falls_Curfew

10https://www.irishnews.com/news/northernirelandnews/2021/02/16/news/new-details-about-death-of-first-british-soldier-killed-by-pira-revealed-by-former-commanding-officer-2222034/

11The Social and Democratic Labour Party, advocating reform through legal and constitutional methods.

12Two days after the explosion, on December 6th, both the Official and Provisional IRAs issued statements condemning the bombing and denying any involvement. Local people also denied any association between the pub and either of the armed organisations.

13Quoted from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McGurk%27s_Bar_bombing, accessed on 11 April 2022.

14Ibid.

15Campbell was the only person ever to have been charged for the atrocity.

16https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-irish-ira-report-idUKTRE71K2U520110221

17https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Demetrius#:~:text=It%20involved%20the%20mass%20arrest,Ireland%20against%20the%20British%20state.

18Despite some time searching online I have not come across the exact date they were there by May 1971 and it may be that they had been sent there as part of plan that included the introduction of internment without trial later that year.

19http://www.ballymurphymassacre.com/cms/massacre/

20The fact that one fatal victim was a mother of eight children and another, a local priest, should have alerted media to the fact that the Paras were likely lying and local people likely telling the truth.

21https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/ten-shot-dead-in-ballymurphy-massacre-entirely-innocent-coroner-finds-1.4561691

22Likely initiated as as a payoff to the Provisionals for buying into the Peace/ Pacification Process, the other being the early release on licence of their members in jail, the inquiry lasted twelve years and cost £195 million.

23No senior Army officer or senior politician of the time has even been charged for those murders. One lower-ranking soldier was eventually charged but in July 2021, the Public Prosecution Service decided it would no longer prosecute him either.

24https://belfastmedia.com/springhill-westrock-massacre

25https://www.academia.edu/3176252/The_Media_on_the_Rock_The_Media_and_the_Gibraltar_Killings

26https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Flavius#Aftermath

27https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0332489319881245n

28https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/o-connell-tower-in-glasnevin-reopens-47-years-after-bomb-blast-1.3460774

29Daniel O’Connell, a constitutional Irish nationalist politician and Catholic, campaigned for the repeal of the anti-Catholic Penal Laws in which he was largely successful in 1869 and unsuccessfully for repeal of the Act of Union, which had transferred the internal legislation of Ireland through its Parliament to Westminster instead in 1801.

30Theobald ‘Wolfe’ Tone was an Anglican campaigner for reform of anti-Catholic legislation (only Anglicans could be elected to the Irish Parliament) who became a revolutionary Irish Republican when those attempts failed. He was a founder of the revolutionary republican United Irishmen organisation. He was captured by the British after surrender of the French naval ship on which he was travelling on 12th October 1978. Although an officer in the Army of France he was tried for treason and sentenced to be executed; on 19th September 1798 he died in prison of wounds, apparently self-inflicted to deny the State his public execution.

31https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/wolfe-tone-statue and https://www.irishphotoarchive.ie/image/I000063xdWJKXewQ

32The parliament of the Irish State.

33For the most recent statements by the Irish Council of Civil Liberties on the no-jury Special Criminal Courts, see https://www.iccl.ie/2021/iccl-special-criminal-court-a-fundamental-denial-of-constitutional-rights-to-a-fair-trial/ and https://www.iccl.ie/2022/international-call-for-end-to-special-criminal-court/

34https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dublin_and_Monaghan_bombings

35https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/lethal-allies-british-collusion-in-ireland-a-shameful-part-of-our-troubled-history-1.1578119

36Patrick Maguire was only 14 at the time and Vincent only 17.

37https://www.thejusticegap.com/buried-alive-case-judy-ward-25-years/

38In the case of at least one of the Guildford Four, while she was in a psycho-tropic drug episode.

39The Birmingham Framework — Six Innocent Men Framed for the Birmingham Bombings, by Fr. Denis Faul and Fr. Raymond Murray (1976), https://cain.ulster.ac.uk/events/other/1974/faul76.htm

40The IBRG was formed late in 1981 as an independent community organisation, among the issues it took up were those of anti-Irish racism, access to resources for the community, an end to strip-searching of prisoners, freedom for the framed prisoners and British withdrawal from Ireland.

41The Troops Out Movement was founded in 1973 as a broad organisation to mobilise the British public for withdrawal of British troops from Ireland; with branches in many parts of Britain, it organised marches, pickets, public meetings and published pamphlets. The relevant Wikipedia incorrectly claims it was “an Irish Republican organisation” — though it naturally did contain Irish Republicans, it also contained British revolutionary left and social-democratic elements. Though maintaining its independence for decades, it did towards the end of the 1990s become closely linked to Provisional Sinn Féin.

SOURCES

The Battle of the Falls/ Falls Curfew: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falls_Curfew

The RUC killed the first serving British soldier along with three civilians in 1969: https://belfastmedia.com/trooper-mccabe-1969-truth-still-hidden
and https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/may/06/ruc-erred-at-troubles-dawn-by-firing-on-flats-from-armoured-cars#:~:text=Patrick%20Rooney%2C%20nine%2C%20Hugh%20McCabe,the%20Divis%20and%20Ardoyne%20areas.

Internment without trial: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Demetrius#:~:text=It%20involved%20the%20mass%20arrest,Ireland%20against%20the%20British%20state.

Ballymurphy Massacre: http://www.ballymurphymassacre.com/cms/massacre/
and https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/ten-shot-dead-in-ballymurphy-massacre-entirely-innocent-coroner-finds-1.4561691

Bloody Sunday Massacre Derry: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloody_Sunday_(1972)#Murder_investigation

Springhill Massacre:

https://belfastmedia.com/springhill-westrock-massacre

The first acknowledged serving British soldier killed in the Six Counties, 1971: https://www.irishnews.com/news/northernirelandnews/2021/02/16/news/new-details-about-death-of-first-british-soldier-killed-by-pira-revealed-by-former-commanding-officer-2222034/

40 years after McGurk’s Bar bombing: https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-irish-ira-report-idUKTRE71K2U520110221
50 years after: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/fifty-years-on-and-grief-of-the-mcgurk-s-bar-massacre-still-resonates-1.4746143

Gibraltar murder of three IRA Volunteers: https://www.academia.edu/3176252/The_Media_on_the_Rock_The_Media_and_the_Gibraltar_Killings

In the Irish State
Wolfe Tone grave Bodenstown blown up by Loyalists:

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0332489319881245n

Dublin bombings 1972 & 1973: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1972_and_1973_Dublin_bombings

Dublin and Monaghan Bombing 1974: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dublin_and_Monaghan_bombings

Review of Lethal Allies (2013) by Anne Cadwaller: https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/lethal-allies-british-collusion-in-ireland-a-shameful-part-of-our-troubled-history-1.1578119

In Britain:
The Birmingham Framework by Frs. Murray and Faul: https://cain.ulster.ac.uk/events/other/1974/faul76.htm

The Guildford Four and Maguire Seven: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guildford_Four_and_Maguire_Seven

Judith Ward: https://www.thejusticegap.com/buried-alive-case-judy-ward-25-years/

POLITICAL POLICE QUESTION AND FILM PEOPLE AT ANTI-INTERNMENT PICKET IN DUBLIN

(Reading time: 5 mins.)

Clive Sulish

The Dublin Anti-Internment Committee held a well-attended picket on Saturday (5th March) against the continuing practice of interning Irish Republicans without trial and also in support of human rights for political prisoners. At one point the picket was subjected to the unwelcome attention of the Irish political police.

(Photo: C.Sulish)

The event was in furtherance of the Committee’s advertised intention to hold monthly public events to highlight the deprivation of civil rights from Irish Republicans — on both sides of the British border — through the operation of special legislation and in particular of the no-jury political courts (Special Criminal Courts in the Irish state and Diplock Court in the British colony). The Committee has admitted that it does not always succeed in holding a public event every month and in fact its most recent public appearance was during the December festive season, in solidarity with Irish Republican prisoners, when it was supported by a number of organisations and independent activists.

(Photo: C.Sulish)

WHY THESE PUBLIC EVENTS?

The Dublin Committee holds these public events because it believes that most people are unaware of the abuse of civil rights in Ireland, the civil right to belong to an organisation that criticises the State and seeks profound change. The reaction of people receiving a leaflet at their public events would seem to bear this out.

(Photo: C.Sulish)

Choosing a couple of extracts from their current leaflet: ‘At various times in Ireland’s history, people have been rounded up and jailed without bothering with a trial – people whom the government found troublesome and wished removed. Today the same process carries on although they don’t call it “internment” now – other names such as “due process”, “remanded in custody” are used ….”

‘Even when Republican activists are granted bail, it is on outrageous conditions such as not being permitted to reside in their own home, having to observe a curfew and wear an electronic tag, not being permitted to attend meetings and demonstrations …..’

The leaflet text makes the point that one doesn’t have to agree with the politics of Irish Republicans to see that these injustices are profoundly undemocratic abuses of civil rights — and “are ultimately a danger to all oppositional movements, whether Republican or not”. One aspect of their protest was against the denial of open family visits to Republican prisoners in the jails of the British colony in the north-east of Ireland — a violation of human rights.

The surprise in learning the facts is not confined to Irish people because often it is expressed by tourists or migrants, even if they have encountered such practices in their own countries of origin.

INTERNATIONALIST DIMENSION

An example of the interest from abroad on Saturday was of a Basque man and, separately, of two young Basque women, reacting warmly to seeing the Basque flag among the picketers. The Dublin Committee objects not only to the incarceration of Irish Republicans but also of people seeking freedom in many other parts of the world, for which reason the Palestinian and Basque flags are frequently flown on their pickets, next to the revolutionary Irish workers’ flag of the Starry Plough.

A person who expressed support for the right to campaign without state repression was, interestingly, from Barcelona. However he did not wish for Catalan independence, wanting instead a unitary but democratic Spanish state – a position held by some communists and the main socia-democratic parties there. Although his position did not concur with that of the picketers, who tend to support the struggles for self-determination, the conversation was conducted without hostility.

Not so with another individual, who approached some picketers to argue for their support for the Ukrainian state in the current armed conflict there, a question that has deeply divided the Irish Left and Republican movements. He went further and announced his support for the Azov Battalion, an East European fascist organisation integrated into the Ukrainian state’s military, at which point the tolerance of the picketers for his intervention ended and he was urged to depart.

Starry Plough flags next to Palestinian and Basque Ikurrina flags at the picket in Temple Bar. (Photo: C.Sulish)

POLITICAL POLICE INTIMIDATION

Another temporary presence unwelcome to the picketers was of three members of the Irish State’s political police. These are members of what used to be called the Special Branch but are now officially called the Special Detective Unit, formerly C3 and successor to the CID when the Irish State was created. This type of political police force is modelled on the Irish Special Branch of Scotland Yard, the HQ of the British police, founded to spy on the influence and activities of the “Fenians” (i.e the Irish Republican Brotherhood) in the cities of Victorian-era Britain. However, in Dublin under British occupation, their parallel force was the G Division of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, known as “G-men”; it was they who identified many Republican and other prisoners of the British military after the 1916 Rising, ensuring death sentences for many (though most commuted to life imprisonment) and jail sentence for many others. During the War of Independence (1919-1921 they were identified as the intelligence service of the British occupation and many were selectively assassinated by the IRA of the time.

The Garda “Branch” (as they are known colloquially) of the Irish State have a long history of harassment of and spying on Irish Republicans, sometimes associated with violence and often with perjury in court. Their unsupported observations through the mouth of a Garda officer at the rank of Superintendent has been enough “evidence”, in the no-jury Special Criminal Court, to send many Irish Republicans to jail on a charge of “membership of an illegal organisation.”

Two picketers confront the plainclothes political police officer harassing a young leafletter on Saturday (Photo: C.Sulish)

One of these gentlemen on Saturday approached the youngest supporter of the picket, who was distributing leaflets to passers-by, identified himself as a Gárda officer in plain-clothes and demanded the young activist’s name. His accosting of the leafletter attracted the attention of others on the picket and two went quickly to support the subject of State harassment. The Branchman demanded no further information and sone moved away. However, when he had reached about half-way along the picketters, he stopped and began filming them.

At that point one of the picketers began to call out to passers-by, many of whom were tourists, that this man was a member of the secret political police, who was filming and attempting to intimidate people on a legal political protest, that this is the kind of ‘democracy’ that exists in the Irish state, etc, etc. Shortly thereafter, the Branchman departed, along with another two of his colleagues that had been observed further down towards Temple Bar.

A picketer loudly denounces the political policeman’s filming of the picketers. (Photo: C.Sulish)

According to picket participants this intervention of the political police represented an escalation of their attentions in recent times, though not in the least unusual in the past, when every picketer might have their name (and even their address) demanded and jotted down.

A spokesperson of the Dublin Anti-Internment Committee stated that it is independent of any political party or organisation and that it welcomes the participation at its public events of democratic individuals, whether independent activists or members of organisations and had distributed many of its leaflets. It regrets that a number of political activists — who should have an interest, even if only in self-preservation – in defending the democratic rights to organise and to protest, decline to support their events.

(Photo: C.Sulish)
(Photo: C.Sulish)
Picketers and leafletters (Photo: C.Sulish)

End.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Anti-Internment Group of Ireland: https://www.facebook.com/End-Internment-581232915354743

Azov Battallion: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azov_Battalion

The Queen’s Service To ….

Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

(Reading time: one minute)


Queen Elizabeth II / Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald

Mary Lou McDonald, the current president of Sinn Féin, surprised a few, just a few, with her recent comments thanking the English queen, Elizabeth, for her service.  She stated that “Can I also extend to the British Queen a word of congratulations because 70 years is quite some record.  That is what you call a lifetime of service.”(1)

Why someone who describes herself as a republican would want to heap praise on a monarch and refer to the reign of the monarch as service is bewildering.  However, it is not that strange in the context of the Irish peace process.  It is part of the long road of Sinn Féin’s accommodation to the British state that was laid out in the Good Friday Agreement.  Sinn Féin at that time abandoned any pretence of having a critique of imperialism and capitalism.

The agreement signed basically stated that the British had no selfish interest in Ireland and the conflict was a communal one.  Putting it in blunt terms, two savage tribes agreed to settle their differences, the British state was not one of those savage agents in the conflict.(2)

Exactly what service has the English queen given and to whom?  As a monarch she has blessed every British military adventure since her coronation in 1953, including the savagery of the British repression of the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya, various other colonial wars, not to mention her awarding of an OBE to Lt. Colonel Derek Wilford the man responsible for Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972.  In 2019 she stood over her behaviour when she stated that the British government would “bring forward proposals to tackle vexatious claims that undermine our armed forces, and will continue to seek better ways of dealing with legacy issues that provide better outcomes for victims and survivors”.(3)  The massacre of Bloody Sunday was placed in the category of vexatious claims.

Part of the service that McDonald now lauds includes this and many more such incidents.  Though it is not unexpected.  It can only surprise those who pay no attention to the outcomes of peace processes around the world.  Yasser Arafat spent more time repressing Palestinians than he did fighting the Israelis after the Oslo Accords.  In South Africa, the former mining trade union leader Cyril Ramphosa became a mining magnate, whose company was involved in the massacre of 34 striking miners at Marikana in 2012.(4)  He and the ANC made their peace with white capitalists and obtained a share of the wealth, in Ramphosa’s case a very substantial amount which some estimates place around $780 million dollars.  In El Salvador, the FMLN eventually gained power, but did not implement a single thing they had ever fought for and their former commander Joaquín Villalobos is now a consultant to right wing forces on how to defeat left wing movements and contributes to the right-wing think tank The Inter-American Dialogue, which includes such illustrious figures as Violetta Chamorro from Nicaragua and former head of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, to name just two unsavoury characters.(5)  In Colombia, the ink hadn’t even dried on the agreement and the FARC commander Timochenko declared that the Colombian armed forces would be allies of the FARC in building a new country.  The murder of just over 300 members of the FARC since the signing of the peace agreement has not caused him to change his evaluation of the Colombian armed forces, in fact he has doubled down on his position.

It is in the nature of the beast.  In every peace process that has happened, the former enemies of the state reconciled themselves to the regime and the system, without exception.  McDonald’s declarations are just a confirmation of that and also a sign that it is a bottomless pit and there is no level of political depravity that Sinn Féin will not sink to.

Notes

(1)  Belfast Telegraph (10/02/2022) Sinn Féin leader congratulates Queen on ‘lifetime of service’ https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/sinn-fein-leader-congratulates-queen-on-lifetime-of-service-41334673.html

(2)  The agreement can be consulted at https://www.dfa.ie/media/dfa/alldfawebsitemedia/ourrolesandpolicies/northernireland/good-friday-agreement.pdf

(3)  The Irish Post (20/12/2019) Anger as Queen’s speech appears to dismiss fight for justice for Bloody Sunday victim’s as ‘vexatious claims’ https://www.irishpost.com/news/anger-queens-speech-appears-dismiss-fight-justice-bloody-sunday-victims-vexatious-claims-175999

(4)  The Guardian (19/05/2015) Marikana massacre: the untold story of the strike leader who died for workers’ rights https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/19/marikana-massacre-untold-story-strike-leader-died-workers-rights
 
(5) See https://www.thedialogue.org