Sinn Féin and their Queen’s Funeral

One of number of pieces on the recent media fest in relation to English monarchy delighted to be able to repost here with thanks.

Irish Dissent

The intensively mediated death of Elizabeth Windsor, accompanied by the relentlessly maudlin and invasive coverage of official mourning and her funeral, had an intensity that can only be described as imperial. Forced as it was into every corner of public discourse, this coercive atmosphere of state sorrow had a distinctly colonising thrust and meaning. Unleashed during a moment of total class warfare within her very disunited kingdom, it also marked an endpoint in the trajectory of her most obedient servants: the formerly Irish but now thoroughly British political party, Sinn Féin.  During Windsor’s reign colonial chickens came home to roost as the woman who presided over British forces while they rampaged across the six counties of British-occupied Ireland then became over the past decade and a half the queen of foodbanks in her own country. (1)  Her reign spanned a long period during which overt political violence in Ireland was…

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DUBLIN ANTI-FASCIST CLEARED OF “VIOLENT DISORDER”

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 8 mins.)

Donal O Ceallaigh walked free on Wednesday to congratulations of his supporters after four years under the threat of a ten-year jail sentence and/ or unlimited fine. He had been charged with “violent disorder” arising out events in February 2016.

The charging of antifascists with “violent disorder” was a first use by the State against political activists of this vicious piece of legislation with such a heavy penalty and for which the burden of proof seems very slight.

All that seems required is for the State to prove that a situation of violence occurred or was threatened in which the accused were present (minimum of three) and “that would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at that place to fear for his or another person’s safety.”1

The background to the charges was the boast of fascist islamophobic organisation Pegida in 2016 that it would organise a public rally – and founding meeting – in every capital city in Europe and the rally they planned to take place outside the GPO on 6th February 2016.

In response, antifascists mobilised in Dublin with the intention of preventing Pegida’s launch.

IRELAND’S ANTIFASCIST RESPONSE

The mobilisation took a number of forms:

1) a large diverse group gathered outside the GPO, occupying the space well before the advertised time. A large proportion of these included religious and liberal organisations and individuals.

2) Another large group, of Republicans and Socialists of different organisations — and none — gathered in O’Connell Street, on the central pedestrian reservation and on the east side of the street.

3) Irish fascists arriving by Luas (tram system) were met on the tram itself by young antifascists.2

It appears that there were no confrontations between the GPO group and fascists which was fortunate, since some of the participants had publicly advocated non-violence and even encouraged bringing children to the event,3 no doubt in order to emphasise their pacifist nature.

The handful of known fascists of Irish background, whose intended movements were known in advance, apparently noticed or guessed the sympathies of some of the antifascist youth travelling in the Luas, addressed some unkind words to them and violence quickly resulted4.

The fascists concerned apparently abandoned their plan to attend the rally and some reportedly felt the necessity to attend A&E department in hospital instead.

There is no doubt that the longest-running conflict with the most people involved on both sides occurred around the east side of O’Connell Street and streets running off it, in particular North Earl Street and Cathedral Street.

The fascists who were involved there appeared to be all of East European origin. It seemed that they had not been spotted until some of them began to insult some women and when filmed, to make a negative comment along the lines of “your f..king communist filming”.

Once having identified themselves, a crowd of antifascists gathered around them and the situation developed quickly. The fascists were soon running, in the course of which one ran into a Euro-shop in North Earl Street with a number of anti-fascists behind.5

Some Gardaí lashed out with batons at people leaving the shop (which could clearly be seen on the police compilation of video footage shown in court), including an RTÉ cameraman.6

At least three of those fascists ran eastward down Talbot Street, which is a continuation of the short North Earl Street; two large white police vans appeared at the intersection with Marlsborough Street and the “robocops”, the Public Order Unit emerged.

The POU deployed with dogs in North Earl Street, clearing it and menacing both antifascists and shoppers.7

Shortly afterwards, word spread among the antifascists that some of the fascists were in a pub in the parallel Cathedral Street and had exchanged words with some antifascists who also happened to be in there;8 a crowd of antifascists flocked to the area concerned.

This area saw one of the sharpest confrontation between the Garda Public Order Unit and antifascists, with the former lashing out with drawn batons on largely unprotected hands and heads.

The Gardaí rescued the fascists from the pub and loaded them into one of their vans before driving off. A decoy Garda van was blocked in O’Connel Street by protestors and interested youth for a period but the fascists were spirited away to safety in another van.

Pegida had been prevented from holding their rally so the antifascists emerged victorious. The State actors sat down to decide how they would respond in the aftermath.

THE IRISH STATE SHARPENS ITS KNIVES

The first to be targeted by arrests were the antifascists in the confrontation on the LUAS tram. Visible in recordings of the CCTV camera which had remained uncovered throughout, they were identified, charged, convicted and heavily fined — as a deterrent, the judge made clear.

Next the Gardaí set about identifying antifascists active in the North Earl Street conflict and selected two Republicans from different organisations which, along with an independent antifascist from the pub in Cathedral Street, they charged with the serious offence of “violent disorder”.

This led to alarm in antifascist circles since, as outlined earlier the potential penalties with this charge are very high and it had never been used by the State before with regards to a situation of a political nature – in fact, it had hardly been used at all.

Two years after the events, one week to the day after he had been found “not guilty” on another political charge, Donal Ó Ceallaigh was charged with “violent disorder” in connection with the anti-Pegida protest too.

Through the intervening months and years, two of those charged with “violent disorder” separately agreed a deal to plead “guilty” to a lesser charge and avoid the danger of a ten-year sentence and this week at the commencement of the remaining two’s trial, another one did so.

Ó Ceallaigh then remained the only one of the original four on trial for “violent disorder”. His trial began on Monday 24th in Criminal Court No.7,9 six years after the events and four years after he was charged, with some supporters and his wife present in the public area.

TRIAL OF O’CEALLAIGH

Shortly after Ó Ceallaigh’s trial commenced, his defence counsel, Brian Gageby BL engaged by Sheehan & Partners, asked for a discussion in court in the absence of the jury and took the State’s witnesses through their process of protecting the chain of video evidence and identification of Ó Ceallaigh himself.

A compilation of six video clips was shown from: (1) the Euro Shop CCTV, (2) Garda cameras, the (1) TV cameraman’s footage (obtained by warrant) and (1) video taken by the shop’s security guard on his phone.

It emerged that 500 Gardaí have viewed the footage on an internal Garda system without identifying anyone on it.

The Garda officer responsible for ensuring identification then gave a convoluted account of how he had ended up going through associates of another activist to contacting another officer who had arrested Ó Ceallaigh in relation to water protests, who obligingly identified the activist.

That Garda said that he knew the defendant from a previous arrest and that it was he in a number of the videos, wearing a green hooded jacket and red scarf around his neck and that he has a tattoo there,10although only a very small portion of the man’s face is visible.

Another Garda who oversaw the identification claimed to have made his own statement a long time afterwards from memory alone but somehow included the exact times, in minutes and seconds on the video where the other’s statement had identified Ó Ceallaigh!

Defence counsel put it to him he could only have that precision from having written his statement to coincide with the other Garda’s, which he denied having done — of course that would have looked very much like conspiring to, as they say, “fit up” the defendant with regards to identification!

As Tuesday’s jury-less court session drew to a close, Defence counsel made two submissions to the Judge objecting to the challenged video identification evidence going to the jury, which Prosecution counsel defended and the judge retired to consider the arguments.

At resumption of the trial on Wednesday morning, the Judge announced her decision not to permit the challenged video evidence to go before the jury and the Prosecution counsel admitted that without that, effectively they had no evidence to place the activist at the scene.

The jury was then called in and the Judge directed them to return a verdict of “Not guilty”. Ó Ceallaigh was free to go and receive the embrace of his wife and congratulations of his supporters (and from some interested members of the public).

Though appearing glad he seemed to take it all quite calmly but admitted to the author that it had been “a bit of a strain”.

SUMMARY

As a result of the mobilisation and struggles on the day, Pegida was prevented from launching in Ireland, perhaps the only European country in which they failed to do so. This would have been important in any case but became especially so with the struggles around Covid to come.

The State had failed to protect the fascists’ “right” to hold their founding rally in Ireland and no doubt the Gardaí felt humiliated. They determined to recover ground and the State made a political decision of charging demonstrators with a very serious charge: “violent disorder”.

In that, the State hoped to establish a legal precedent with a view to its use against demonstrators in other situations in future. It did in fact establish the precedent in using the charge (and without an outcry from liberals and social democrats).

The State may have felt enough was gained for the moment in offering to accept a “guilty” plea to a lesser charge but when Ó Ceallaigh declined to accept the deal, they tried for a conviction, which would have given them the precedent they originally sought – but they failed.

However, many antifascist activists were punished and according to information received, 15,000 Euro in punitive fines was collected, not to speak of the worry and years spent in the shadow of the hanging sword.

Antifascists have hopefully learned the importance of going masked in similar situations and awareness of the role of CCTV cameras which are ubiquitous in the Dublin city area. The charge of “violent disorder” remains as a threat and punishment for demonstrators in future11.

The wording of the charge ensures that no actual violence need be used and the “fear” surrounding a situation remains open to subjective interpretation and even manipulation of witnesses by police.

The RTÉ’s camera footage – ironically in view of the fact of his assault by a Garda – was obtained by warrant which raises issues of concern with regard to press freedom and safety. If verified media’s film is to be used by the State, how then is the media to claim independence?

And if demonstrators know or believe that media footage of them is likely to be used by the State, are they likely to tolerate the presence of such camera operators? Will we not all be the poorer if the media cannot produce film and photos of events of a similar nature?

This is surely an issue on which the press, along with the respective trade unions should take a stand, if they truly believe in their independence and freedom and think it worth defending.

While there is no current evidence of a resurgent attempt to found Pegida in Ireland,12 a number of small fascist organisations have been founded in recent years, including Identity Ireland, the National Party, Irish Freedom Party and Síol na hÉireann.

History has shown that when the ruling capitalist class is in crisis, it suits it to use fascists as part of the repression of the people’s resistance struggles. Certainly there is something of a crisis in the capitalist system world-wide at the moment and repression is very much on the agenda.

Pegida does exist in Europe and as late as the 22nd, the Saturday before the trial in Dublin, planned to publicly burn the Koran in Rotterdam, Holland,13 to which the State there responded by arresting their leader and accusing Pegida of disseminating “hate speech”.14

End.

FOOTNOTES

1 The 1994 Public Order Act (see Sources) and this section at least uses even the same wording as the 1986 Public Order Act of the UK (see Sources).

2 That group was of Identity Ireland, led by Peter O’Loughlin, a long-time Irish fascist who apparently planned to be chairman of the Irish branch of Pegida. According to recollections of antifascists to the author, there were also much smaller groups of anti-fascists roaming the south city centre attempting to coordinate and collate information while searching for groups of fascists.

3 Pacifism in the face of potential fascist violence seems dangerously stupid to me but that pales into insignificance when compared to the criminal irresponsibility of putting children in danger of such attack.

4 This was one of the areas which the Gardaí used to bring charges against anti-fascists and footage from the LUAS CCTV was used against individuals. The antifascists involved seem to have been from Dublin soccer club supporters’ associations and those identified were fined within a relatively short period of time.

5 This site was one of those used by the Gardaí to charge a number of antifascists and footage from the security CCTV were used in evidence against the latter.

6 The management of the TV channel complained as did the cameraman. Quite some time later the Garda in question was found guilty of assault and, despite the viciousness of the assault on a clearly unthreatening person and his lack of remorse, was given a suspended sentence but remained in the police force without facing a disciplinary hearing.

7 “I was coming back from reconnoitring around the Connolly Monument in Beresford Place, in case fascists had gathered there. Cycling westward along Talbot St. I saw three young men running west; they appeared East European to me and had hair cropped very short. I assumed they were fascists but there appeared to be no-one in pursuit and three was too many for me so I passed them and at North Earl St. junction found a large crowd with Public Order Unit with barking dogs and batons drawn preventing people from entering the area. The crowd was of mixed shoppers, passers-by and anti-fascist demonstrations.” (Recollection of antifascist to author.)

8 This site too became one to attract police charges against at least one antifascist.

9 On Tuesday it was moved to No.12 instead, right next door, coincidentally, to the Special Criminal Courtroom where a trial is currently underway. The SCC was from its inception a no-jury political court for decades but recently began to try some high-profile criminal trials.

10 He does in fact but you’d need x-ray vision to see it through a scarf! There had been a mass campaign against the proposed additional water charges and the belief that the public water supply system in the Irish state was about to be privatised. Protesting in the context that water charges were already being paid through two different public taxes, hundreds of thousands marched and smaller groups mobilised to disrupt the installation of water meters outside people’s houses (the locations of those unused meters may still be seen around Dublin city in particular). Most arrests took place in this latter part of the struggle, though a number of defendants fought a successful battle to prevent the State convicting them of “kidnapping” a Government Minister while protesting against her ministerial visit to a school in Jobstown. The additional taxation and privatisation plan was abandoned in 2015 – at least for the moment.

11 Note that there have been many situations of actual violence by fascists wielding clubs in Ireland in recent years in which the State chose not to charge any of the perpetrators with “violent disorder” and in fact only with great reluctance charged one individual, Michael Quinn of the National Party with assault after widely-circulated video evidence refuted Garda public statements that no violence had occurred.

12 According to Anti-Fascist Action Ireland from people viewing the fascist communication traffic, the Eastern European fascists who participated on the day denounced the Irish fascists of Identity Ireland as cowards and declared they would never work with them again.

13 Religious book of greatest importance to Muslims, equivalent to the Bible for Christian and the Talmud for Jews.

14 (See Sources).

SOURCES AND FURTHER INFORMATION

Violent Disorder charge in Ireland: Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, 1994, Section 15 (irishstatutebook.ie)

In the UK: Public Order Act 1986 (legislation.gov.uk)

Pegida intent to burn the Koran in Rotterdam: Dutch police disperse planned Quran burning rally of Islamophobic group Pegida (yenisafak.com)

https://nltimes.nl/2022/10/23/anti-islam-group-pegida-attempts-burn-koran-rotterdam-leader-arrested

RTÉ cameraman struck by Garda at anti-Pegida protest: SUSPENDED SENTENCE FOR GARDA WHO ASSAULTED RTÉ CAMERAMAN – rebelbreeze

DUBLIN ANTI-MONARCHY DEMONSTRATION DURING LONDON ROYAL FUNERAL

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 4 mins.)

On Monday, as the remains of Queen Elizabeth II were being conducted in State funeral in London, Socialist Republicans rallied against monarchy in front of the James Connolly1 monument in Dublin.

They displayed flags and placards, heard speeches and burned the flag of the UK.

They then marched to O’Connell Bridge carrying a “coffin” bearing the words “British Empire RIP”, dumped it into the Liffey and marched on to the General Post Office building, where a large force of Irish state police prevented their entry.

Bob Marley’s lyrics applied to the situation on a home-made placard at the event (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The actions occurred as the royal funeral was taking place in London. In a move that drew public criticism from presenter of independent program Newstalk, national broadcaster RTÉ sent a crew to cover the funeral in London to film it in realtime for Irish national television.

Taoiseach (equivalent of Prime Minister) Mícheál Martin and President Michael D. Higgins in persons represented the Irish State at the British royal funeral.

Many Irish politicians (including leaders of the Sinn Féin political party) and public figures had sent fulsome messages of condolence and praise of the late British Queen.

“DOWN WITH THE MONARCHY!”

The chairperson of the event and speakers lambasted the “sycophancy” of Irish Government figures and other politicians and public figures. They drew attention of the past record of British Royalty and to the ongoing British occupation of Ireland.

The “RIP British Empire” ‘coffin’ parked temporarily next to James Connolly Monument (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The event had been publicised on social media under the slogan of “Down with the Monarchy!” and that was very much the tone of the event as occupants in a police van watched from across the street.

The chairperson opened proceedings by reminding the attendance of Connolly’s slogan at the outbreak of WWI that “We serve neither King nor Kaiser but Ireland.” Passing vehicles occasionally tooted their horns in approval.

Police van surveilling events across street at James Connolly Monument (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

A young socialist Republican read out Connolly’s article in The Workers’ Republic of March 1902 on the occasion of the coronation of Edward VIII.

Connolly stated that to Socialists the replacement of one exploiter by another hardly mattered and would excite little comment.

But although we would rather treat the matter thus philosophically, we find that the machinations of those in power do not leave us that possibility; with them, and because of them, the festivities attending the Coronation have taken on the aspect not merely of a huge parade of pomp and magnificence – cloaking the festering sores of that slave society on which it is built – but have also become an elaborately contrived and astutely worked piece of Royalist and Capitalist propaganda, designed to captivate the imagination of the unthinking multitude, and thus lead them to look askance upon every movement which would set up as an ideal to work for something less gorgeously spectacular, even if more solidly real.

The evil effects of private ownership of industries is thus illustrated once more in a manner that ought to appeal to those patriots in our midst who still dread the innovating effects of Socialism on the National spirit of the Irish people2.”

A home-made banner carried by participants at the event (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

DIVINE RIGHT AND WORKERS’ RIGHT

Diarmuid Breatnach quoted John Ball, a leader of the English Peasant’s Revolt of 1381 who, addressing the crowd in reference to the Christian Bible story of Adam and Eve, enquired: “When Adam delved (dug) and Eve span, who then was the gentleman?”

For that challenge to divine right to rule or right by birth, Breatnach related, King Richard II had John Ball hanged, drawn and quartered, his head stuck on a pike on London Bridge and a quarter of his body displayed at each of four different towns in England.

Breatnach contrasted this to the right of workers, who he said produce all things, to the ownership of all things and called on working people to take their place in history as conscious beings.

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Another speaker, on behalf of Spirit of Irish Freedom Republican Society and the Michael Fagan Fenian Society based in Westmeath also spoke and included the Sinn Féin leadership in his denunciation of Irish politicians who had accepted and praised British Royalty.

Seán Doyle spoke about the attitude of servility which works its way into many different aspects of life, for example into accepting the laws of the capitalist system and the housing crisis.

Doyle likened the acceptance of this right of capitalism to acceptance of the divine right to rule and stated that workers had to break from this acceptance, which is what the Revolutionary Housing League was advocating and practicing in action.

UNION JACK IN FLAMES AND COFFIN INTO THE RIVER

After the speeches a copy of the “Union Jack” flag was set on fire to symbolise the future of the forced union of nations — including a part of Ireland — under England rule.

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)
(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Participants formed up into two columns flying flags, headed by four persons carrying a large pseudo-coffin. Taking to the road, they crossed Butt Bridge, turned right along the quay until they reached O’Connell Bridge.

There Gardaí and three Public Order Vehicles awaited them. Undeterred, the marchers cheered a short speech and chanted some slogans. Then at the count of “a h-aon, a dó, a trí” the “coffin” was heaved over the parapet into the Liffey river.

Marchers led by four carrying the “British Empire” ‘coffin’ crossing Butt Bridge (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

This action emulated a similar one carried out by James Connolly and revolutionary socialists in 1897 during Queen Victoria’s visit to Dublin.

It is worth recording too that Queen Victoria visited again in 1900 to affirm Ireland as part of the UK and to help recruit more Irish to go and fight the Boers in South Africa.

In response to that occasion, Iníní na hÉireann (Daughters of Ireland) led over 50 women in organising a Children’s Patriotic Party on the Sunday after the Wolf Tone Commemoration in July of that year.

Over 30,000 children had paraded from Beresford Place to Clonturk Park in north Dublin where they were served picnic lunches and listened to anti-recruitment speeches.

The marchers on O’Connell Bridge just before the “British Empire” ‘coffin’ is thrown into the Liffey (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

After disposing of the “coffin” of the “British Empire” on Monday, the marchers proceeded to the General Post Office where the building had been closed and a strong force of Gardaí also prevented access.

The GPO was the HQ of the insurrectionary forces during the 1916 Rising and many considered it insulting to their memory that the Irish tricolour above the building was lowered to half-mast in respect for the British monarchy.

March concluding at the GPO in Dublin’s main street — the police are blocking the doorway to the left of photo (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The event concluded with cheers from passers-by and without any arrests.

End.

“British Empire RIP” ‘coffin’ immediately after being thrown over the bridge into the Liffey. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)
The ‘coffin’ emerging on the east side of the Bridge on its journey seaward. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

FOOTNOTES

1The James Connolly monument in Dublin is located in Beresford Place, across the street from what was the old Liberty Hall, the HQ of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ union (now replaced by SIPTU).

2See Sources & Further Information for a link to the full text.

SOURCES & FURTHER INFORMATION

Connolly on occasion coronation Edward VII: https://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1902/xx/coronkng.htm

Irish newscaster slams Irish broadcasting team sent to cover royal funeral: teahttps://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/uk/elizabeth-is-not-our-queen-irish-presenter-slams-tv-coverage-of-monarchs-funeral/articleshow/94281107.cms

ITV report and photo: https://www.itv.com/news/utv/2022-09-19/coffin-thrown-into-river-at-march-against-monarchy?fbclid=IwAR3HeY6N5jI5Kol0dgOhm3P1DCOzielCC_KVMyMPvi_3c5n5Z15-B1YCNs4

Anti-Imperialism Action Ireland: https://www.facebook.com/AIAI-For-National-Liberation-and-Socialist-Revolution-101829345633677

SINN FÉIN: BECOMING WHAT THEY IMITATE

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 5 mins.)

Quite a few animals have developed a skill to imitate something else in order to extend their life and procreation options. However, they remain in essence what they are, just disguised or camouflaged.

Human beings and their political parties, on the other hand, are quite capable of becoming what they imitate and thus transforming themselves, as we can see with Sinn Féin, for example.

In fact, when humans imitate something different to what they are, they often can’t help the process of becoming what they mimicked, even should they want to. This is often not understood by the party’s followers, who think the act’s only a temporary tactic.

One of the many species of Hover Fly in Ireland, mimicking a wasp but harmless to humans. (Image sourced: Internet)

Hovering over shrubbery or flowers at this time of year, we might see a small fly, its black-banded yellow body evoking the bee or wasp. The hover-fly however has no sting at all, having developed the “keep away, I’m dangerous” colours for its protection.

The stick insect imitates stems of foliage not only in colour but in shape, in order to hide itself from predators. The praying mantis also imitates foliage but mainly in order to remain concealed in ambush before grabbing its prey.

Stick insect (Image sourced: Internet)

There’s a spider that imitates an ant, holding two of its eight legs over its head to resemble the antennae of the six-legged insect and has been known even to imitate the ant’s halting scurrying gait. A stonefish imitates a stone on the sea bed while it lies in wait for its prey.

But for all their amazing expertise, they have not – nor can they – become the actual thing they imitate. The stick insect remains an insect, a mantis a mantid, the spider an arachnid, the stonefish a fish.

On the other hand, Sinn Féin, which some years ago began to imitate a political party of the neo-liberal, neo-colonial Irish ruling class, the Gombeens, is becoming what it imitated, transcending what it was into what it wants to be.

People who say that the SF party doesn’t stand for or believe in anything, do it an injustice. The party leaders do indeed stand for something – they stand for getting into government. And they believe in that very strongly indeed, dropping more and more of their old form to do so.

But what do they want to get into government for? Well, just to be the governmentthat’s it. And if not the current government at any point in time, to be in the wings to replace it soon afterwards.

This, of course, entails adopting the dominant colouration and shape of the Irish ruling class environment: neo-liberal capitalist and neo-colonial, i.e foreign-dependent.

FROM NATIONAL LIBERATION TO GOMBEEN PARTY

If we were able to look back through the evolutionary history of animal mimics, we might be able to see stages, a time for example when the mantis and stick insects were beginning to be green and brown but didn’t quite look the part yet.

Dead Leaf Mantis (Image sourced: Internet)

Perhaps the stonefish, though it had not quite got there yet, was beginning to look kind of lumpy. The hover-fly might have been developing dark bands but was not yet showing bright yellow in between them.

With Sinn Féin we can however look back over its evolution from a national liberation organisation to an aspiring gombeen party. I would disagree with those who pinpoint the start of the change with the party deciding in 1986 to stand candidates in Irish state parliamentary elections.

Whether to stand in bourgeois parliamentary elections or not isn’t, in my opinion, a question of principle but rather of tactics. The important issues are the reasons for doing so, the hoped-for objectives and how one goes about the election campaign and after election, if successful.

Certainly however taking part in a government, i.e the executive or management board of the ruling class, is a different question completely.

And when that government is a colonial one, the party cannot even claim to be of a nationalist bourgeois type – it is managing the colony for the colonialist, the highest political level of collusion.

That then for me was the defining shift in Sinn Féin. To be sure, there were many signs along the journey to that point, but that was a step about which there could be no equivocation. And from which there could be no turning back.

One of number of species of Stone Fish (Image sourced: Internet)

A JOURNEY OF MANY SIGNIFICANT STEPS

That step was followed by many others: first calling on people not to oppose and then actually welcoming to both administrations of Ireland the British Queen, the commander-in-chief of the occupying forces; then also supporting recruitment to the colonial gendarmerie.

Abandoning the annual Bloody Sunday commemoration in Derry was an earlier stage, when Martin McGuinness claimed that the results of the Saville Inquiry, establishing that the victims were unarmed (a fact already known to all of Ireland and probably most of the world) were sufficient.1

Refusing to preclude going in to coalition government with gombeen parties was another step on that journey, as was abandoning its annual opposition to the no-jury Special Criminal Courts2 in the Irish state – whether because it wants to show its loyalty to the Gombeens or plans to use it against its dissidents in future is not clear.

Another step was the honouring in Belfast of those who were killed in the British armed forces in WWI, a straightforward imperialist war during which the Provos’ political ancestors, far from supporting the British State, rose up in arms against it in 1916.

The stand taken by the SF leadership towards the British Monarch and Royal Family is another significant change of the party’s position and was marked publicly by statements of sympathy for the death of the Royal Consort, Prince Phillip last year.

At the same time, the leadership apologised for the assassination in 1979 of leading member of the Royal Family and life-long colonialist and imperialist, Lord Mountbatten.

Just recently, another step was taken when condolences were sent to England on the death of the Monarch, Elizabeth Windsor, and Irish people were instructed to be “respectful” to the institution while the media was awash with monarchist propaganda and servile nonsense.

One might wonder why an erstwhile Irish Republican party would seek to accommodate itself with another state’s Royal Family, never mind one which also includes the head of the State which is in armed occupation of a sixth of Irish territory. But SF’s purpose is entirely logical.

In this, the SF party leadership is adapting itself to the nature of the class it seeks to join and represent. The Irish bourgeoisie has been foreign-dependent since its independent nationalist aspirations were smashed in 1798 and 1803.

The Irish capitalist class confirmed its client nature in the process of the creation of the Irish State through 1921 to 1922, in its civil war 1922-1923, armed by the colonial power against the forces for independence ….. and forever since.

The foreign master was first British capitalism and colonialism, later US imperialism and more recently EU capitalism and imperialism. That is the loyal club that SF is preparing to join by imitating its existing members.

End.

Sinn Féin party leadership photographed at funeral in Belfast of ex-IRA political prisoner Bobby Storey in 2020 (Photo sourced: Internet)

FOOTNOTES

1The Bloody Sunday Massacre, one of a series of British Army massacres in the Six Counties (Ballymurphy, Springhill and Derry), was always claimed as the result of a battle with armed insurgents. The timing of the Saville Inquiry (established in 1998) suggests that it was a part of the Good Friday Agreement (also 1988) deal with the Provos: in exchange for their giving up armed struggle, their members in the jails would be released and, for the wider nationalist population of the Six Counties, the British would end up admitting the Derry victims were unarmed. Provisional SF abandoned the annual march on the strength of that verdict but no-one was ever prosecuted for the murders, even when Lord Saville stated that some of the soldiers had lied in their evidence.

2The special political trial courts in both administrations have no juries; in the Six Counties the Diplock Court and in the Irish State, the Special Criminal Courts.

SOURCES

Mimicry: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/earth-and-planetary-sciences/mimicry#:~:text=Mimicry%20occurs%20when%20one%20species,otherwise%20capture%20and%20eat%20it.
https://a-z-animals.com/blog/10-animals-that-use-mimicry-to-survive/

Stonefish: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synanceia

Spider mimicking ant: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ant_mimicry
https://www.antwiki.org/wiki/Ant-Mimicking_Spiders

SF welcoming British Queen to Ireland: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-59489930
https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/sinn-fein-and-a-tale-of-two-state-visits-1.1599356

SF supporting recruitment to colonial police force: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/sinn-fein-presence-at-psni-recruitment-event-seismic-and-historic-1.4161267

SF condolences on death of Royal Constort, Prince Phillip: https://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/politics/top-sinn-fein-figures-lead-effusive-tributes-to-prince-philip-praising-his-public-service-and-support-for-the-queen-3198149
https://www.independent.ie/news/sinn-fein-leader-mary-lou-mcdonald-has-written-to-queen-elizabeth-to-formally-express-condolences-over-death-ofprince-philip-40336994.html

SF no longer opposing the the no-jury Special Criminal Court: https://www.thejournal.ie/special-criminal-court-review-2-5803404-Jun2022/
https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/sinn-fein-drops-opposition-to-special-criminal-court-1.4715275

SF on British Army dead of WWI: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-62008152

SF on death of British Queen: https://www.sinnfein.ie/contents/64262

A RELEVANT BLAST FROM THE PAST – WAR PROPAGANDA IN IRELAND 1918

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 6 mins.)

Propaganda is employed in wars and finds its most widescale application through the mass media. The belligerents want their own populations to support their war effort and to have other states support them.

IRISH REPORTING ON THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR

The hierarchy of the Catholic Church infamously mirrored the propaganda of their corresponding religious officials in the Spanish State in backing the fascist-military uprising against the elected Popular Front Government in 1936.

Irish newspapers and radio reporting on the whole followed the line of the Church hierarchy. The resulting conflict gave the Spanish state the greatest number of known mass graves in Europe and anywhere in the world, in fact, outside of Cambodia.

Clipping from Irish Press, not a fascist sympathising editorial line, November 1936 (Image sourced: Irish Newspaper Archives, Irish Press)

The Catholic hierarchy declared the fascist-military to be fighting a religious crusade against “Godless communism”, repeated propaganda of the fascist side, denounced real and imagined crimes of the Republican side.

They denied or ignored news of crimes of the fascists, which occurred from the first days and for years after Franco’s victory, in the course of which they denounced even priests who spoke out about the fascist crimes.

Whether the Spanish Republican Government had its own propaganda (I’m sure it did) or whether all its supporters were squeaky clean or not is besides the point. The overwhelmingly pro-fascist forces propaganda affected us in Ireland and most of it was fallacious.

Even the Irish Press, paper of De Valera who had banned the Blueshirts earlier: …. “These idealistic young men also saw their participation in the Spanish Civil War as helping to solve political divisions in Ireland and ultimately Irish unity. Interviewed in Dublin prior to his departure for Spain, Capt. P. Quinn from county Kilkenny, made the following statement: I believe that if an Irish Brigade succeed in reaching Spain, and there fights against Communism and all its terrors ….”

This had a practical effect in Ireland at the time and later, assisting religious and other fascists to attack socialists, communists and other progressives.

It helped create the atmosphere in which alternative writers were censored and hounded and the Irish State could actually expel an Irish citizen – Jimmy Grailton – for the crime of being a socialist community activist.

In turn, this anti-socialist, anti-communist atmosphere created a poisonous environment for social progress, whether championed by revolutionaries or social democrats.

It also helped create a wall shielding the ongoing endemic mental and physical – including sexual — abuse of women and children which seemed impermeable to control or even criticism for decades.

BRITISH WWI PROPAGANDA

The British imperial cant of “defence of small nations” or of “defending civilisation” in its war against Germany during WW1 while simultaneously suppressing the 1916 Rising and repressing many peoples around the world is well known.

The media related invented German atrocities, gave one-sided reporting, censored or demonised alternative views (I know, beginning to sound familiar).

That is the general, well-established picture. However, I’d like to focus on a specific incident and how it was treated: the sinking by German submarine (U-Boat) of the Howth fishing trawlers St. Michan and Geraldine on 31st of March 1918, with the loss of five Irish lives.

A Howth fishing vessel in past years
(Photo sourced: Internet)

No question of who’s in the wrong there, you’d think. The Irish unionist media (admittedly under war powers control) jumped to accuse the German Uboat crew of a “Howth atrocity”, an “Act of Murder” and that they “Shelled without warning”1.

I am grateful to Phillip O’Connor for his exploration of the incident) in his Road to Independence (2016) [Howth Free Press] on the involvement of Howth, Sutton and Baldoyle communities in the struggle for independence and social progress (and his source on the incident, Seán T. Rickard’s MA).

WAR CONTEXT OF INCIDENT

WWI was fought on land, air (even then) and sea. The British Navy was the most powerful in the world and imposed a naval blockade on Germany, bottling up the latter’s navy but also preventing supplies of any kind entering by sea. Unusually, the blockade included foods.

Germany took the position that Britain was trying to starve the German population and responded with its submarines attacking UK shipping which at the time included Ireland’s.

The British responded by concealing guns on merchant ships so that a German submarine surfacing and demanding surrender could in turn by sunk by the merchant ship in question. Indeed the British used fishing boats as mine-sweepers and even armed some too.

This had the effect of encouraging German Uboat captains on occasion to sink merchant ships without warning rather than run the risk of being sunk themselves.

However the U90, the submarine in question concerning the Irish trawlers in March 1918, appeared not to have been doing that and O’Connor quotes the case of the Greek ship SS Salaminia, of which the entire crew had been given time to get into lifeboats before being sunk.

Indeed, the eight captain and crew of the Michan all got into their “punt” and were picked up alive by a British Navy patrol. Tragically, the Geraldine had no additional boat, having set some of its crew ashore on Lambay Island to gather whelk for long-line hook-baiting.

Whether Captain Jess of the U90 believed the Geraldine was being defiant, playing for time or anything else is not known but his Uboat sank the vessel and there were no survivors.

The dominant newspapers in Ireland at the time condemned the German Uboat along the lines outlined above but also went further to make political capital out of it against the Republican movement.

They – and politicians they quoted – used the incident to attack Irish Republicanism, one going so far as to refer sarcastically to the Republicans’ “gallant allies”, lifting the quotation from the 1916 Proclamation of Independence.

There were rules of war agreed at the Hague Convention of 1907. Attacks on civilians are ruled as a war crime by the Geneva Convention but that was not composed and agreed until 1949.

However, its applicability to all the situations of conflict at sea were not codified until much later and, even then, are not binding on the signatories2.

It needs also to be noted that violations of humanitarian regulations and laws by most states have been documented during their wars with other states and in suppressing uprisings. The British did arm merchant ships during WW1 and also used them in a mine-sweeping capacity.

Looks like a drawing of the sinking RMS Leinster produced for a newspaper of the time (image sourced: https://www.postalmuseum.org/blog/the-centenary-of-the-sinking-of-rms-leinster/)

Also the Leinster, for example, sunk by German Uboat torpedoes on 10th October the same year as the Howth fishing boats, was carrying military personnel and armament and therefore in war terms a legitimate target.3

However, it is difficult to see how the fishing boats could be suspected of being armed merchantmen or even as ships supplying Britain and therefore equal to any ships attacked for breaching the Royal Navy blockade of Germany.

I am grateful to O’Connor for supplying me with the reference4 to the UK’s war-time restrictions obliging fishermen to ply their trade at 15 miles or further from its main ports, which included Dún Laoghaire and Dublin and therefore affected the Howth fishing fleet.

The U90’s captain may have suspected the British were using them as “spotters” for submarines in the area but even so, it is difficult to justify sinking without verifying radio equipment on board and especially without a dinghy to take the crew to safety ….!

German UC-1 class submarine surfaced with crew (Photo sourced: Internet)

In that respect it seems the U90 might have been in violation of agreed measures for the protection of civilians at sea in time of war by destroying civilian fishing vessels.

On the question of warning, although there were no survivors of the Geraldine, the available evidence is that the Captain of the U90 did warn before sinking shipping and had done so in a number of cases including another fishing boat on the same day.

But all was grist to the British war propaganda media and even, especially in the case of Ireland, to its colonial purposes in attacking its main anti-colonial opponents of the time, Irish Republicans.

Of course too, left unmentioned was the fact that the UK was attacking German civilians through blockading food imports5 and threatening and impounding any blockade-breaking ships (except those of the USA6).

Blockades and sanctions have cost many lives over the years – the UK blockaded the Spanish Republic during the Anti-Fascist War which did not impede Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy hugely supplying arms, aircraft and men to the military-fascist troops.

The USA imposed sanctions on Cuba for decades and Iraq for some years; in the latter case, by 1996 an estimated half million children had died as a result, a figure justified by Madeleine Albright, then USA Ambassador to the UN7.

Israel is permanently blockading Gaza in Palestine by land, air and sea – Egypt is participating too with its control over one gate. NATO sanctioned Russia which is now retaliating with some measures also.

Interestingly, O’Connor records that British war propaganda had little effect in 1918 on majority Irish opinion and even the Howth fishermen’s representative condemned the UK Admiralty for the mortal danger in obliging fishermen to ply their trade beyond 15 miles from shore8.

The UK General Election results in Ireland six weeks later would be a convincing illustration of how the vast majority of the population was thinking.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1It would be interesting to know whether it entered the heads of any editors that the British military had bombarded the city centre of Dublin with a number of land and sea-born artillery pieces just two years earlier, without any attempt of warning to the civilian population whatsoever.

2https://casebook.icrc.org/law/naval-warfare

3The Wikipedia entry on the sinking of the the Leinster, while acknowledging the nearly 500 military personnel on board, does not common on this negation of the ship’s civilian status. It does not mention the gun mounted on it either, which is noted in this record https://www.rmsleinster.com/sinking/sinking.htm

4See Appendix for details on this (thanks to Phillip O’Connor).

5The 1994 San Remo Manual states:

102. The declaration or establishment of a blockade is prohibited if:
a) it has the sole purpose of starving the civilian population or denying it other objects essential for its survival.

103. If the civilian population of the blockaded territory is inadequately provided with food and other objects essential for its survival, the blockading party must provide for free passage of such foodstuffs and other essential supplies.

6Vide O’Connor The Road to Independence (2016) [Howth Free Press]

7https://www.newsweek.com/watch-madeleine-albright-saying-iraqi-kids-deaths-worth-it-resurfaces-1691193

8The Road to Independence (2016) [Howth Free Press], p.52.

SOURCES

The Road to Independence (2016) [Howth Free Press]

British naval blockade of Germany: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blockade_of_Germany#:~:text=The%20British%2C%20with%20their%20overwhelming,to%20be%20a%20war%20zone%2C

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

Merchant shipping in wartime: https://casebook.icrc.org/glossary/merchant-shipping

https://casebook.icrc.org/law/naval-warfare

Sinking of the Leinster: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMS_Leinster
https://www.rmsleinster.com/sinking/sinking.htm

APPENDIX

   To regulate the security risk of fishing around Ireland during the war the Admiralty thought it necessary to divide the coasts into security zones. These zones had various levels of regulation and protection. Areas were either licensed by special permit, which allowed fishermen to fish these areas under restriction or were simply designated as areas where fishing was prohibited. Orders directly issued by the Admiralty were passed on to the fishermen through the D.A.T.I. via Notices to Mariners (NA G/12 (1917) & G/20/5 (1918). 

Fishing was generally prohibited several miles from headlands, as it was a favourite spot for lurking U-boats. It was also prohibited around minefields, which were used to protect the coast and divert traffic into safer zones for escorts. It was also prohibited around naval bases and near convoy meeting points. And traditionally it was always prohibited in sea-lanes where there was heavy sea traffic. It was prohibited in many areas between sunset and sunrise, (a term still used in modern Rules Of the Road) and also known as “dark hours”. If any security measure presented itself, fishing could also be prohibited at short notice for whatever reason by word of mouth on the local naval authority shoreside or naval authority at sea. The Admiralty also had the right to commandeer vessels and/or cargo space also at short notice. The Admiralty later ordered that if the fishermen sighted enemy submarines they were to stop their fishing activity and go immediately to inform the closest naval authority whether at sea or ashore. This made fishing more difficult, costly and dangerous and particularly annoying to Irish fishermen with national sentiments.

The Admiralty even warned that a failure to comply might lead them to be fired on by naval vessels. Immediately affecting Howth fishermen was the prohibition of fishing within fifteen miles of Kingstown. This area roughly to the NW of Kingstown and roughly a few miles off Howth Head was a favourite bait procurement ground for Howth fishermen but also fell within range of most of their local fishing grounds.

     In March 1917 the following rules affected fishermen fishing the East coast of Ireland but in particular Howth fishermen were as follows:

All decked and motorboats fishing anywhere between Ballywalter, Co. Down, and Howth, or anywhere between Wicklow Head and Loop Head, must carry official permits to fish. Between Ballywalter, the Isle of Man, and Howth, such boats may fish by day and by night at any distance from land within the limits of their permits.

They are forbidden to be stopped in or to pass during dark hours through waters where no fishing is allowed.

Moored nets may be left out at night, provided that the head ropes are kept five feet or more below the surface.

(Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction for Ireland. Notice to Fishermen. Effective 1 March 1917. Wt.-865. 250. 2/17)

     Later rules came into effect in 1918 for the locality, one of which was fishing could only be conducted within daylight hours in this area.

Anglo-US company supporting Israeli occupation picketed in Dublin

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 1 minute)

Hatch street in Dublin is an unusual venue to hear the sounds of a political protest but that was where a protest took place Friday, outside the headquarters of Jones Lang LaSalle, an Anglo-US real estate and investment multinational.

Section of the protesters. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

The lunchtime protest was organised by the Anti-Imperialist Action organisation in protest at JLL’s complicity in what they called “the occupation and genocide in Palestine.”

In a leaflet handed out to construction workers, office workers and passers-by, AIA stated that JLL “work with Elbit Systems, the largest private arms supplier for the occupation” and that last year “their CEO boasted about ‘a significant increase in (its) activity in Israel’ “.

The Garda van as part of the State’s protection for the JLL building (Photo: D.Breatnach)

The leaflet also pointed out that “Palestine Action, a group in England and Scotland, have successfully shut down two of Elbit’s sites through … direct action” against the companies.

Also pointed out in the leaflet was the result of property management companies in stoking the housing crisis and also commented on the colonial history of Ireland and its solidarity with the Palestinian people.

The protest photographer, JLL building and some Garda protection in the background.

The picketers displayed placards along with flags: the Starry Plough, Palestinian national flag and another of the PFLP, one of the Palestinian liberation organisations. They regularly shouted slogans against the Israeli occupation, in solidarity with Palestine and against the JLL organisation.

Gardaí (Irish police) arrived to protect the JLL building but there were no incidents. The reaction of those who accepted a leaflet varied from non-committal, through curious to supportive.

end.

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

FURTHER INFORMATION:

isrmedia@protonmail.com

REPUBLICAN FIGHTER, EX-PRISONER, PROMOTER OF HISTORICAL MEMORY

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 5 mins.)

The celebration of the memory of Eddie O’Neill, organised by Friends of the International Brigades Ireland was held in the Dublin Club building of the Irish National Teachers’ Union on 5th August, attended by many of his friends, relatives and comrades.

Eddie died 27th July 2021 but the commemoration had to be postponed until Covid precautions permitted a gathering of many of those who wished to attend, although messages were also received from those who inevitably could not attend this event.

Maureen Shiels opening the event (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Opening the event, speaking in Irish and in English, Maureen Shiels said that although Eddie was sorely missed, the proceedings were intended to celebrate the life of FIBI’s honorary President, with talks, reminiscences and music.

Eddie O’Neill had been a member of the Provisional IRA active in England, had been captured and jailed, had then become a part of the resistance within the prison system, not only with other IRA prisoners but also others within the jails.

After his release Eddie had worked to bring former Republican prisoners together for mutual support, going on to work on having the story of those in English prisons told and also working to strengthen the historical memory of the Irish who fought against Franco.

FILM

Joe Mooney showed a short fictional film but celebrating Tyrone socialist Republican and poet, Charley Donnelly, who was killed on 23rd September 1937 at the Battle of Jarama. Mooney is a history activist in his East Wall community and has organised walking history tours, talks and other events.

These have involved the social and political history of his area around the Fenians, 1913 Lockout, 1916 Rising, War of Independence and Civil War. But also connections to other actions in other areas, such as the Spanish Anti-Fascist War, in which local anti-fascist Jack Nalty1 was killed.

Shiels called on Ruan O’Donnell to give the main oration, historian and author, including of Vols. 1 & 2 of Special Category – the IRA inEnglish prisons, in which Eddie had organised the interviews, she had written them out in longhand and Maureen Maguire2 had then typed them up.

MAIN ORATION – RUAN O’DONNELL

Giving the main oration of the event, historian O’Donnell took the audience on a tour through the record of Eddie’s activism in England, actions of sabotage carefully calculated to cause disruption, publicise the on-going war yet without causing any civilian casualties.

O’Neill had been the impulse and some of the driving force behind O’Donnell’s two works (so far) on Irish political prisoners in jails in England during the the last decades of the former century and had been not only one of the prisoners but an organiser of escapes and other acts of resistance.

Eddie watched the paratroopers and colonial police attack the demonstrators’ protest march at Magilligan internee concentration camp from the roof on to which he had climbed; during the English prison protest at Gartree was again a rooftop protester and drew up the list of demands.

Ruan O’Donnell went on to speak of Eddie’s personal qualities of not only courage but also determination and his privacy, how he kept his family life separate from his military activities and also talked little about the illness that was going to end his life.

Seán Óg performing at the event (Photo: D.Breatnach)

MUSIC

A recording of The Mountains of Pomeroy3 was played, along with a video clip of Andy Irvine performing at a FIBI gala concert in the Workman’s Club in November 2018, played by Joe Mooney. Irvine worked Woody Guthrie’s You Fascists Bound to Lose into his own instrumentals.

At various times Sean Óg was called to sing and, accompanying himself on guitar, performed The Prisoners’ Anthem4 (celebrating the resistance of Irish Republican prisoners), Christy Moore’s Viva La Quince Brigada and The Peat Bog Soldiers5 (song of revolutionary prisoners of the Nazis).

At a request from Sheils that “we should remember our own Civil War”, he sang Soldiers of ‘226. I sang the Hans Beimler song to celebrate the German trade unionist and communist who had escaped Dachau, gone to fight in Spain and was killed in the Battle for Madrid in November 19367.

Right: Diarmuid Breatnach singing Hans Beimler. Left, Brenda O’Riordan (Photo: FIBI)

Brenda O’Riordan sang a rendition of Si Me Quieres Escribir (“If You Want to Write to Me” [I’ll be on the Gandesa frontline]) and related some reminiscences of her brother Manus, a foremost activist in FIBI (1949-September 26, 2021) and of their father, International Brigader Michael O’Riordan.

PERSONAL REMINISCENCES

A number of people gave personal reminiscences of Eddie O’Neill from their own experience, including one member of his family who talked about Eddie’s sense of humour and also his observance of security with regard to his Volunteer activities.

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Harry Owens, Spanish Civil War historian and author, said that Eddie had contributed so much to remembering the war in Spain. At a commemoration there once, they had been asked why they drag up the past; Harry had replied “So we don’t let it happen again.”

FOCAL SCOIR

There is something else about Eddie O’Neill’s political standpoint of that I do not hear said about him, which is that he was not a supporter of the pacification strategy called “the Irish Peace Process”, nor indeed of the South African or Palestinian parallel processes.

It is understandable why in a “broad church” such as the Friends of the International Brigades Ireland, there would be a reluctance to mention this. Understandable but mistaken, in my opinion. It was an important facet of Eddie that he could reflect on the struggle and his and others’ sacrifices.

Section of attendance early, centre left of room. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

But he could assess mistakes also and where the leadership had taken the movement. Specifically with regard to the South African situation, we agreed that Ramaphosa and Zuma had betrayed the struggle and that Mandela had, with his personal status and silence, facilitated that8.

Nevertheless, Eddie surprised me by calling ANC fighter Robert McBride “one of the worst gangsters”, as I was recalling how I had once campaigned to save him from execution9. It seems a weakness in us if we can’t assess our errors even when one of our fighters points them out.

Eddie was all the good things that people said about him and the event was a fitting tribute to his memory and his contribution to the struggle but also a reminder to us that we are not supposed to just honour a fallen flag but to pick it up and carry it forward as far as we can. As Eddie did.

End.

Eddie O’Neill and Andy Irvine (Photo: FIBI)

FOOTNOTES

1Jack Nalty (1902-23 September 1938), Irish Republican Volunteer, socialist, trade unionist and athlete, was the last Irish Brigader to be killed in action in that war, on the Ebro the day before the Republican forces surrendered to the military coupist and fascists under General Franco. “He died heroically, after returning into danger to rescue a machine gun crew that had been left behind. As they withdrew they were hit by a burst of fascist machine gun fire and, though Jack died instantly, thankfully both British volunteers survived”(East Wall History Group). Jack Nalty is mentioned in Christy Moore’s “Viva La Quince Brigada” and on a number of plaques in public places.

2I have personal reason to know that Maureeen Maguire also did some of the interviews.

3The mountains are in Eddie O’Neill’s County of Tyrone. The song is of resistance, lyrics penned by George Sigerson (1836-1925).

4Composed by Gerry O’Glacain of The Irish Brigade group.

5As the communists and socialists were forbidden to sing their own songs, they created this one but in some cases were threatened with death to stop singing this one too, although it is has been recorded that the guards in some cases enjoyed the singing as they marched the prisoners out to work. The lyrics have been translated into many languages.

6Lyrics by Brian “na Banban” Ó hUigínn/ O’Higgins (1882 – 10 March 1963), to the air of The Foggy Dew, a popular song about the 1916 Rising.

7Lyrics in German by Ernst Busch (22 January 1900 – 8 June 1980) to air by Friedrich Silcher (1789-1860).

8Those were leaders of the African National Congress and the National Union of Miners respectively, though Ramaphosa is currently head of the ANC and President of South Africa and Zuma is in a long process of being tried for corruption. Ramaphosa is widely believed to have organised the Marikana massacre of striking mineworkers in 2012, which Zuma colluded with and which Mandela, then at liberty, kept silent about.

9 it has been suggested that McBride was an unrecognised grandson of John McBride, Mayor in the Irish Transvaal Brigade fighting the English in the Boer War and 1916 insurgent shot by British firings squad. Robert McBride was held up by IRA/Sinn Féin leader Martin McGuinness as an example of a former combatant who moved up into a l eadership role following the political changes in South Africa. The Wikipedia entry on his career after Apartheid will shock some people.

FURTHER READING etc

FIBI Ireland: https://www.facebook.com/fibi.ireland

Dedication by Nancy Wallach, descendant of a Lincoln Brigader: https://albavolunteer.org/2021/08/eddie-oneill-1951-2021/

FIBI dedication reprinted by ex-prisoner Anthony McIntyre, editor of The Pensive Quill blog: https://www.thepensivequill.com/2021/07/eddie-o-neill-1950-2021-irish.html

APPENDIX

Dedication of Friends of the International Brigades Ireland:

Eddie O’Neill 1951 – 2021

Irish Republican, Anti-Fascist, Internationalist

Éamon ‘Eddie’ Ó Néill, a true legend of the left republican and anti-fascist movement passed away peacefully in the company of his family in Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown, Dublin, on July 27. Eddie was a proud loughshore native of Doire Treasc i gContae Thír Eoghain.

We send our condolences to his family in Dublin and Tyrone and to his many comrades and friends across Ireland, Spain, the Basque Country, Catalunya, the US, Britain, Canada, Cúba and elsewhere.

Eddie O’Neill represented the very essence of Irish republican resistance and its symbiotic relationship with international anti-fascist solidarity and activism. A warm, engaging, charismatic and intriguing individual, he represented all that is best in humanity, with his understated selflessness often masking a fearless determination.

Interned as a young man while serving his engineering apprenticeship at Shorts, he was incarcerated in Crumlin Road Jail, Belfast, and Magilligan prison Camp, Co Derry, where he witnessed the infamous precursor to Bloody Sunday, when soldiers fired plastic bullets and CS gas at anti-internment protesters on Magilligan Strand.

After his release, Eddie became a full-time republican activist, operating in Ireland, the US and England. He was arrested in London in 1974 on conspiracy charges and while on remand he was broken-hearted by the death of his close friend and Co Tyrone comrade, Hugh Coney, who was shot dead by British soldiers after an escape from Long Kesh prison camp that October.

Convicted as a member of the so-called ‘Uxbridge 8’ the following year, he received a 20 years’ sentence in maximum-security English prisons. Over the next 14 years until his eventual release in 1988, he would spend much of his time in solitary confinement in various jails, enduring unimaginable brutality.

Eddie held little regard for material things, but he did treasure a copy of Peadar O’Donnell’s The Gates Flew Open – although he never read it. It belonged to his comrade Frank Stagg who left it open on his locker before he died on hunger strike in 1976. Eddie had shared the adjoining cell in Wakefield Prison. In all the years he had it, he never turned that page.

He was classed as a Category E prisoner – one considered likely to escape. He made good on this classification in 1977 with an escape attempt from Wormwood Scrubs and the following year he took part in a rooftop protest in Gartree in pursuit of demands for repatriation and political status.

As a result of the relentless attempts to break his spirit, in May 1979 he was rushed to the prison hospital at Parkhurst on the Isle of Wight suffering from blinding headaches, insomnia, partial blindness and partial paralysis.

For the previous two years he had suffered an inhumane regime of sleep torture, consisting of his cell light being left on 24 hours a day and frequent night searches, even though he was forced to strip before going to bed and to leave his clothes outside his cell.

He had no sooner finished his treatment than he was transferred to Winson Green prison and put back into solitary. He subsequently received a severe beating from prison officers. When he complained about his injuries, he lost his remission. Ever the fighter, he appealed this capricious decision, and the lost remission was restored.

He took everything that the empire could throw at him.

Following his eventual release, he continued his republican activism but widened it to encompass internationalism and anti-fascism. This path inspired him, along with International Brigades veteran Bob Doyle, Harry Owens and a small number of others, to establish the Friends of Charlie Donnelly, in memory of a fellow republican socialist, Co Tyrone native and International Brigader who had fallen at the Battle of Jarama in defence of the Spanish Republic in February 1937.

The group’s motivation has never been purely historical in nature: Eddie and the other members believe that the best way to honour the International Brigades is to draw inspiration from them to encourage future generations to take up the fight against fascism and imperialism.

Thanks in no small part to Eddie’s single-minded dedication to getting things done and his ability to attract people to work with him, in 2010 the group evolved into Friends of the International Brigades Ireland (FIBI).

Eddie proved that neither borders nor languages were insurmountable barriers to activism. He forged strong and enduring links across Ireland, Britain, Spain, The Basque Country, Catalunya, and the US in particular. These relationships will be the backbone of FIBI’s work into the future.

In Ireland, Eddie and other FIBI members had been erecting and repairing monuments to International Brigaders for several years. His work extended to every corner of Ireland and in 2010, he fulfilled a long-term ambition to complete a cairn overlooking where Charlie Donnelly fell at Jarama.

Of course, he had already planned this many years before it happened, laying the groundwork for this initiative of such symbolic importance through close co-operation with the Ayuntamiento de Rivas Vaciamadrid local authority and activists in the Asociación de Amigos de las Brigadas Internacionales (AABI).

The cairn, comprising stones from the 32 counties of Ireland, has been maintained and restored by the local authority after frequent attacks by Franco’s heirs and successors – a backhanded compliment to its significance. This monument has become a rallying point for internationalists, socialists, republicans, communists, anarchists, and democrats who gather every year to pay homage to those who defended democracy and freedom in the 1930s.

Eddie was committed to erecting memorials to every single Irish Brigader who served the anti-fascist cause in Spain. He researched primary and secondary sources in several countries and unearthed information on previously ‘lost’ volunteers, spending countless hours researching the labyrinthine Moscow Archives.

This research forged a path for commemorations in areas where local communities had no idea of the heroism of their forebears. Many of these ‘Volunteers of Liberty’ remain buried in unknown graves on Spanish soil, but Eddie was determined that their memories would endure.

Eddie’s determination to confront fascism became emblematic of his activism and internationalist outlook. In him, it was easy to recognise the living spirit of the International Brigaders.

His name was rightfully synonymous with the anti-fascist cause in Ireland and beyond. He planned and organised commemorative events across Spain, the Basque Country and Catalunya, where he was a regular and popular visitor in his famous green Hiace van (which served simultaneously as transport, accommodation and centre of logistics). Eddie’s name is lauded in many villages, towns, and cities across the Iberian Peninsula where he rested, laughed, talked politics, cajoled, and took part in acts of international solidarity.

Eddie stayed particularly close to his many friends and comrades in the Republican Movement and he had a deep and enduring bond with his fellow ex-prisoners, many of whom joined him as he led solidarity trips to Spain and the Basque Country from 2007 onwards.

Although a committed internationalist, he remained very proud of his Co Tyrone roots. He was the force behind the recent revival of the Charlie Donnelly Winter School in Dungannon and the annual commemorations at Killybrackey and Moybridge. He was also passionate about his beloved Fir an Chnoic (Derrytresk Gaelic Football Club) in his native parish and was extremely proud to see the team reach the All-Ireland Final in Croke Park in 2012.

Eddie leaves a powerful, inspiring legacy that will endure for those of us who follow. His energy seemed boundless and, even as his final illness took a heavy toll, he continued to carry his pain with stoicism, dignity, and humour.

His loss is devastating, not only to his family and friends, but to FIBI, of which he was the founder and Honorary President. His final message to the group urged us to carry on his work in commemorating the International Brigades and continuing the anti-fascist cause, which he considered more relevant now than ever, in the face of the increasing threat from resurgent monopoly capitalism, neoliberalism and the growing confidence of the fascist foot soldiers of hate and intolerance.

In his final days, he implored us to keep following in his footsteps. We are comforted in the belief that he knew we would continue his struggle. And what an inspiration we now have! What a legacy he has left us.

La lucha continúa!

No pasarán!

The Flowering Bars

(Charlie Donnelly 1914-37)

After sharp words from the fine mind,

protest in court,

the intimate high head constrained,

strait lines of prison, empty walls,

a subtle beauty in a simple place.

There to strain thought through the tightened brain,

there weave

the slender cords of thought, in calm,

until routine in prospect bound

joy into security,

and among strictness sweetness grew,

mystery of flowering bars.

1Jack Nalty (1902-23 September 1938), Irish Republican Volunteer, socialist, trade unionist and athlete, was the last Irish Brigader to be killed in action in that war, the day before the Republican forces surrendered to the military coupist and fascists under General Franco. “He died heroically, after returning into danger to rescue a machine gun crew that had been left behind. As they withdrew they were hit by a burst of fascist machine gun fire and, though Jack died instantly, thankfully both British volunteers survived”(East Wall History Group). Jack Nalty is mentioned in Christy Moore’s “Viva La Quince Brigada” and on a number of plaques in public places.

2I have personal reason to know that Maureeen Maguire also did some of the interviews.

3The mountains are in Eddie O’Neill’s County of Tyrone. The song is of resistance, lyrics penned by George Sigerson (1836-1925).

4Composed by Gerry O’Glacain of The Irish Brigade group.

5As the communists and socialists were forbidden to sing their own songs, they created this one but in some cases were threatened with death to stop singing this one too, although it is has been recorded that the guards in some cases enjoyed the singing as they marched the prisoners out to work. The lyrics have been translated into many languages.

6Lyrics by Brian “na Banban” Ó hUigínn/ O’Higgins (1882 – 10 March 1963), to the air of The Foggy Dew, a popular song about the 1916 Rising.

7Lyrics in German by Ernst Busch (22 January 1900 – 8 June 1980) to air by Friedrich Silcher (1789-1860).

8Those were leaders of the African National Congress and the National Union of Miners respectively, though Ramaphosa is currently head of the ANC and President of South Africa and Zuma is in a long process of being tried for corruption. Ramaphosa is widely believed to have organised the Marikana massacre of striking mineworkers in 2012, which Zuma colluded with and which Mandela, then at liberty, kept silent about.

9 it has been suggested that McBride was an unrecognised grandson of John McBride, Mayor in the Irish Transvaal Brigade fighting the English in the Boer War and 1916 insurgent shot by British firings squad. Robert McBride was held up by IRA/Sinn Féin leader Martin McGuinness as an example of a former combatant who moved up into a l eadership role following the political changes in South Africa. The Wikipedia entry on his career after Apartheid will shock some people.

HARRY BOLAND COMMEMORATED OVER THE ANNIVERSARY WEEKEND OF HIS KILLING

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 7 mins.)

Harry Boland, shot in the stomach by a Free State soldier, died of blood-loss and shock on 1st August 1922, one of the early victims of the Irish Civil War. Many more would die later.

He came from a Fenian family, his father was a trade union activist and Harry was a member of the IRB, also a founder member of the Irish Volunteers, prominent in the Gaelic League, a keen hurler and later active in administration of the GAA1.

Harry Boland portrait (Photo accessed: Internet)

Harry Boland was also an elected national politician, USA liaison/ organiser of De Valera’s fund-raising tour there, anti-Treaty, attempted conciliator, anti-capitulation and soon made a martyr.

Relatives organised commemorative events for him throughout the bank holiday weekend: Saturday in Skerries, Sunday at the Faughs2 GAA Club (team Harry played for) and Monday at the Republican Plot in Glasnevin Cemetery, where Boland is buried.

Colour party provided colourful homage to the memory of Harry Boland (Diarmuid Ó Loing is standing, first man beyond the far left flag (Photo: D. Breatnach)
Peggy Galligan reading Soldiers of ’22 (Photo: D. Breatnach)

EVENT AT GLASNEVIN CEMETERY

Tadhg Crowley chaired the crowded event in Glasnevin at Harry Boland’s graveside and Gearóid Ó Beoláin read the Irish language version of the Proclamation of Independence.

Both are cousins of Bróna Uí Loing, for ten years a weekly campaigner to Save Moore Street From Demolition whose two sons had prominent roles in the weekend, Diarmuid Ó Loing with the Faughs GAA Club on Sunday and Donncha DeLong3 on Monday.

Gearóid Ó Beoláin reading the 1916 Proclamation (Forógra na Cásca) in Irish at the graveside (Photo: D. Breatnach)

Orla O’Donovan (another cousin) spoke and asked Cathal Brugha (relation of another famous Civil War martyr of the same name) to lay a wreath at the graveside (as Boland lay dying, he had asked to be buried next to Brugha, who in early July had also been fatally shot by Free State soldiers).

The speakers included Éamonn Ó Cuív, TD (grandson of former President De Valera) and Cathal Brugha also spoke.

Orla O’Donovan speaking at the event (her cousin Bróna Uí Loing is seated on the lower right of the photo). (Photo: D. Breatnach)

The main oration was given by historian Gary Shannon who zipped through his interesting speech at good speed but intelligibly. Peggy Galligan of the NGA4 read Ó h-Uigín’s song “Soldiers of ‘22” as a poem. A piper played laments with homage displays by the colour party.

Gary Shannon giving the main oration (Photo: D. Breatnach)

A wreath was laid and the Soldier’s Song5 was played by the piper, many in the crowd singing along the Irish6 language lyrics version.

The Glasnevin event had begun at 12 noon, concluding about 2.00pm with the podcast panel discussion scheduled for 3pm, which gave time to get some refreshments (though the queues in the café tend to be slow-moving), chat or wander around looking at some graves.

Piper playing at the Harry Boland commemoration, while foreground shows a stone marker recording the tragic death of Muriel Gifford McDonagh, who survived the British execution of her husband Thomas McDonagh by little over a year. (Photo: D. Breatnach)

The grave I wanted to find was Anne Devlin’s, whom the late and lamented Mícheál Ó Doibhlin did so much to drag out of relative obscurity and into the light of history. I was saddened to see the inscription referring to her as “a faithful servant” of Emmet’s, rather than as his comrade.

Anne Devlin’s grave marker in Glasnevin Cemetery; she was a comrade of Robert Emmet and of other United Irish but is described as a “faithful servant” to Emmet (serving girl was her cover in Emmet’s house). (Photo: D. Breatnach)

THE PANEL DISCUSSION

The podcast discussion hosted by the Hedge School was held in a function room in the Museum building and soon there was standing room only, which of course was too much for some who had already been standing for two hours around the grave-side.

The panel consisted of Éamonn Ó Cuív TD, historian Liz Gillis, Boland family historian Donncha De Long and Tim Crowley, from the Michael Collins Centre in Clonakilty, Co. Cork with History Ireland Editor, Tommy Graham as chairperson and interviewer.

Four of the Hedge School discussion panel, L-R: Éamonn Ó Cuív, Liz Gillis, Tommy Graham and Donncha DeLong. (Photo: D. Breatnach)
The fifth member of the discussion panel, Tim Crowley.

Many aspects of Harry Boland and his times were discussed with many interesting points brought out and, at times, debated. It was never boring, not for one minute. A contribution from the floor presented convincing evidence that it was the old IRB that had founded the GAA.

Donncha DeLong pointed out that in writing Irish women out of history, Hannah Sheehy Skeffington’s contacts with US anarchists, including Emma Goldman, had been overlooked. It was as a result of those that Soviet delegates loaned Irish Republicans the Tsar’s crown jewels.

Liz Gillis speaking during the Hedge School discussion, Tommy Graham mostly in the shot also. (Photo: D. Breatnach)

Was Boland sent to the US to get him out of the way during the Treaty negotiations, was one question. In reply it was pointed out that he was an obvious choice to go as Boland was the head of the IRB in Ireland and had strong connections with the IRB in the USA.

On the other hand, replied another, Harry Boland’s USA trip obligated him to step down from that position, which opened it to Collins. Subsequently the IRB in Ireland was mostly pro-Treaty.

Why had Harry Boland conciliated and worked to set up a framework to avoid Civil War but had not conceded on the Treaty? It would have gone against his honesty, was one reply and another that conciliation was one thing and capitulation quite another.

Could the conflict have been avoided? No, “the unseen hand” of Churchill was there all the time, ensuring that the two sides would not come together.

Boland’s brother had not been permitted from jail to attend Harry’s funeral funeral, which seemed nothing short of vindictiveness.

Donncha DeLong (right) answers a question put to him by Tommy Grahan (right). (Photo: D. Breatnach)

COMMENT

The whole three-day weekend of events and their variety of aspects and locations was a wonderful tribute to Harry Boland and great organisational achievement by his family.

As a historical discussion event, there was no reason that Ó Cuív should not be present on the podcast panel; his grandfather De Valera was a close comrade of Boland’s and they spent a long time together on the former’s speaking tour in the USA.

Ó Cuív was able, from his family’s lore and his visit to Lincoln Jail to add much to the discussion and in particular to the detail of the famous escape of De Valera, Milroy and Seán McGarry and of the series of taxis used and false trails laid.

As Michael Collins had been a former close comrade of Boland’s and also of De Valera and had issued the arrest warrant for Boland, it was also entirely understandable to have a Director of the Michael Collins Centre participating in the discussion.

Many interesting points were made and debated; I was very interested to learn that Harry’s father had been an active trade unionist; that background might have helped Harry get Labour to abstain from contesting the 1918 elections, giving Sinn Féin a clear run against Redmond’s party7.

On the events in Skerries where Boland received his stomach wound, the point was made that he might have survived were it not for the eight hours’ delay in getting him to a hospital, in a journey first to an army barracks (which actually passed a hospital) before final delivery to St. Vincent’s.

As, to my surprise, no-one had done so, I felt I had to ask the opinion of the panel regarding Boland’s alleged words that Collins would not let him live as Boland knew too much. The opinion of two panelists was that if Collins wanted him dead, he’d have had him shot in the head.

And also not brought to hospital but dumped on the roadside, as had been done to many others later. It was also said that Collins would not have left a former friend to die slowly in pain. I didn’t argue but felt these answers largely unconvincing.

The Free State pattern of “shoot in the head and dump by the roadside” was largely a feature after Collin’s death (three weeks exactly after Boland’s). The soldier who fired the shot may have been trying to shoot Boland but he made a grab for the gun, which had him shot in the stomach.

Another shot afterwards would have made everyone think of an execution rather than a scuffle during arrest. That would account for the long delay in getting him to hospital. Of course, it could also have been unauthorised action by his captors, of the ilk of Paddy Daly8 later.

Section of the Hedge School discussion audience to the left of the room. (Photo: D. Breatnach)

The commemorative event at the graveside was in my opinion a different matter and there should have been no confusion about what it was that Boland stood for and which not only Collins but later De Valera had worked against – the Republic proclaimed by document and deed in 1916.

I felt the presence of prominent Fianna Fáil speakers and even a speculation as to what the future might have held were Collins not killed in IRA ambush, muddied that which Boland had stood for and which had cost him his life.

Families are not monoliths and even in strongly nationalist or republican families, there can be many strong differences of opinion, as I know from my experience of my own background. It may be that the speaker list was everyone’s choice or it may have been a compromise.

Cathal Brugha, of the same name as his famous grandfather, said some things with which I disagree but in conclusion, some things I strongly endorse, viz that commemorations are about the present and the future and that we should strive to bring about that Republic for which Boland strove.

(Photo: D. Breatnach)

ANOTHER TYPE OF COMMEMORATION

During the panel discussion, loud motorbike engines could be heard from the road outside. Leaving the cemetery, I found another type of commemoration in full flow further south. Young motorcyclists were roaring up and down the road, doing ‘wheelies’ while crowds of youths watched.

Youth gathered on the Finglas Road outside Glasnevin Cemetery on the first anniversary of the death in a traffic accident of Calvin Gilchrist of East Wall. (Photo: D. Breatnach)

(Photo: D. Breatnach)

It was a commemorative event in honour of a young East Wall motorcyclist, Calvin Gilchrist, killed last year in a crash between two motorbikes and a car. I am not aware if the circumstances have been entirely clarified. Many floral wreaths were laid out near the scene of his death.

In Ireland, fatal traffic accidents, along with substance overdose and suicide, are the major cause of young people’s deaths and serious injury.

End.

View of section of the attendance at the Harry Boland commemoration, taken from the side and rear. (Photo: D. Breatnach)

FOOTNOTES

1Gaelic Athletic Association/ Cumann Lúthchleas Gael, primary national association of Gaelic sports in Ireland, including football and hurling. It is non-professional and the largest dommunity sporting association in Ireland and probably in Europe. The final competitions are played annually in its stadium in Dublin, one of the five largest-capacity stadia in Europe.

2From “Faugh a Ballagh” (/ˌfɔːx ə ˈbæləx/ FAWKH ə BAL-əkh; also written Faugh an Beallach), a battle-cry of Irish origin, meaning “clear the way”. The spelling is an 18th-century anglicization of the Irish language phrase “Fág an Bealach” [ˈfˠaːɡ ə ˈbʲalˠəx], also written “Fág a’ Bealach”.

3Ó or Ui/ Ní (according to gender) Loing and DeLong are both variations of the Long family name, while Ó/ Uí/Ní Beolláin is the Irish version of the Boland family name.

4National Graves Association, primary organisation caring for Irish patriot graves and erection of memorial plaques, totally independent of any political party and of the State.

5Composed by Peadar Kearney and Patrick Heeney, also called Amhrán na bhFiann, the bars of the chorus of which constituted the Irish National Anthem.

6The Irish language lyrics were composed by Liam Ó Rinn and is the version most commonly sung today.

7A clear but unnecessary run because an election pact would have returned many Labour and Sinn Féin candidates, the defeat of the Parliamentary Party would have been just as absolute and the resulting Dáil might have been less likely by majority to accept the Treaty.

8Paddy Daly was a member of the IRA and of the assassination “Squad” put together by Collins. Like most of the Squad but unlike most of the IRA, Cumann na mBan, Fianna and ICA, Daly took the Treaty side and was made a Major-General in the “National” (sic) Army, where he and men under his command displayed a vicious attitude towards even surrendered IRA and their active supporters.

USEFUL LINKS

https://www.independent.ie/regionals/dublin/fingal/leading-revolutionary-figure-harry-boland-will-be-remembered-100-years-after-his-fatal-shooting-in-skerries-41856898.html

Faughs GAA Club: https://www.sportsjoe.ie/gaa/the-people-of-faughs-gaa-club-205038

History Ireland Hedge Schools podcasts: https://www.historyireland.com/hedge-schools/

National Graves Association: http://www.nga.ie/
https://www.facebook.com/NationalGravesAssociation/

Michael Collins Centre: https://michaelcollinscentre.com/

The motorcyclist’s death:
https://www.dublinlive.ie/news/dublin-crash-glasnevin-motorbike-car-21196963

https://www.thejournal.ie/glasnevin-motorcycle-crash-5512072-Aug2021/

The Irish Prime Minister and the Fall of Singapore

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 5 mins.)

The media informs us of the visit on the 22nd July of Mícheál Martin, Prime Minister of the Irish state, to the concentration camp where his uncle was a prisoner of the Japanese after the fall of Singapore in World War II.

Many Irish fought in the UK and British Commonwealth armies against Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan.

But there is another strong and ironic Irish connection to the fall of Singapore. The Lieut.-General Arthur Percival who surrendered the Singapore fortress to the Japanese Army in 942 had been Intelligence Officer (and torturer) for the Essex Rifles against the IRA in West Cork 1920-’21.

Major (then) Arthur Percival, C/O 1st Company Essex Regiment (later Intelligence Officer) in Ireland with senior officer of the colonial gendarmerie, the Royal Irish Constabulary, c.1920/21. (Image sourced: British Imperial War Museum)

PERCIVAL IN IRELAND

Percival served first as a company commander then as Intelligence Officer of the Essex Rifles in Kinsale, Co. Cork, where he “stood out for his violent, sadistic behaviour towards IRA prisoners, suspects and innocent civilians……

“He also participated in reprisals, burning farms and businesses in response to IRA attacks,” according to a USA historian. General Tom Barry, IRA commander in West Cork, said that Percival was “easily the most vicious anti-Irish of all serving British officers”1.

Two victims in particular were IRA Brigade Commander Tom Hales and Quatermaster Patrick Harte. Both reported being beaten and tortured with pliers to private parts and extraction of nails. Percival got an OBE for their capture; Harte died in a mental hospital in 1925.

Tom Barry recorded that after a number of ignored warnings, the IRA in Cork placed the Essex Rifles on the same status as the Black ‘n Tans and the Auxilliaries – they could depend on no mercy if captured.

Percival was also the man who unconditionally surrendered Singapore to a much smaller invading force of Japanese in 1942, thereby condemning thousands of soldiers and civilians to a terrible fate.

British Army prisoners of the Japanese after the surrender of Singapore (Image sourced: Internet)

LARGEST BRITISH SURRENDER IN HISTORY — AND TO LESSER NUMBERS

Singapore had been a British colonial possession since 18262. At the time of WWII the British considered it a strong fortress, a thick jungle and hills on the landward side and with huge 15” cannon facing out to sea against a possible naval invasion.

The British High Command considered no navy in the world could survive an assault on the island and no army capable of penetrating the thick jungle. Apparently no-one told the Imperial Japanese that for come through the jungle they did, marching or riding on bicycles.

The UK and Commonwealth troops on the landward side fought but were outgunned and badly commanded. After seven days of fighting, Percival decided to surrender unconditionally, with most of the 85,000 troops on the island not yet having engaged the 36,000 of the enemy.

Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival (right), led by Ichiji Sugita, walks under a flag of truce to negotiate the capitulation of Commonwealth forces in Singapore, on 15 February 1942. It was the largest surrender of British forces in history (Wikipedia).

The surrender of Singapore delivered 80,000 UK and Commonwealth troops, along with a million civilians, into captivity in the hands of the Imperial Japanese Army. Three days after the British surrender, the Japanese began the “Sook Ching” purge, killing thousands of civilians3.

The day before the surrender, Japanese soldiers also invaded the Victoria Hospital and murdered over 250 soldiers, doctors, male staff and patients.

Most of the soldiers taken captive had not been given a chance by Percival to even fire a shot at the advancing Japanese Army, to the contempt of their captors, led by officers with a strong military tradition and pride (not to say arrogance).

Whether that fact contributed to the cruel and inhumane treatment of the prisoners by their captors and guards is not certain but it seems to have done. In any case, many who died day by day and month by month building the Burma Railway would no doubt have preferred to die fighting.

Most of the civilians massacred would probably also have preferred to die fighting.

Around 30,000 Allied Prisoners of War of the Japanese died in captivity of cruel treatment including inadequate food, disease and overwork; working from statistics R.J. Rummel estimates a death rate of around 29% for POWs4. Huge numbers of civilians died similarly also.

Australian Russell Braddon, who wrote about his experiences in the Japanese concentration camp at Changi and on the slave-labour construction of the Burma railroad5, was extremely bitter about the surrender and the general Allied High Command management of the war in Malaya.

IN CONCLUSION

I do not, as many Irish Republicans do, criticise the Irish who joined the UK and Commonwealth Armies during WWII (9,100 combat dead perhaps https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/health-family/number-of-irish-in-both-wars-unknown-1.1825013).

Many no doubt did so out of a desire to fight fascism — surely an admirable motivation6.

But once the War ended, any Irish remaining in the British armed forces anywhere could not claim to be doing anything else than helping the domination of many nations and millions of people by what was at the time the world’s biggest imperialist power (though soon to be eclipsed by the USA).

Mícheál Martin at Changi concentration camp where his uncle was a POW, now a museum (Photo: RTÉ)

If anti-fascism motivated his uncle and that is what Mícheál Martin appreciates about him, one would wonder why the police of the state which he leads protected fascists in Ireland and attacked antifascists on a number of occasions in recent years.

Of course there may be a more sinister aspect to Martin’s publicised visit. It may be a public expression of the desire among the Irish elite to be part of a western military alliance, either the US-NATO or an EU such, which would in the end amount to much the same thing.

And such an alliance in these times would not be fighting — even in part – against fascism but rather alongside it.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1Guerrilla Days in Ireland (1949 and many reprints since) by Tom Barry.

2Singapore became an independent republic on 9 August 1965.

3People from all ethnic groups were massacred but the Chinese most of all. Though the Japanese government years later paid some compensation to relatives of victims, it has never accepted responsibility for the events. Nor has the UK. “Since 1998, Singapore has observed Total Defence Day on 15 February each year, marking the anniversary of the surrender of Singapore. The concept of Total Defence as a national defence strategy was first introduced in 1984, which serves as a significant reminder that only Singaporeans with a stake in the country can effectively defend Singapore from future threats.” (Wikipedia)

4https://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.CHAP3.HTM

5The Naked Island (1952) sold over a million copies. Russel Braddon (1921-1925) had a breakdown soon after the war and felt suicidal but, once recovered, became a successful writer of novels, articles and TV scripts. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russell_Braddon

6I met one of those, curiously enough a Corkman in a lodging house in London. Denis was a decent man, very big, who rarely talked about the war except sometimes when he had drink taken. Strangely, he never had a bad word to say against the Japanese – even the concentration camp guards.

SOURCES

Mícheál Martin’s visit to Changi Jail Museum: https://www.thejournal.ie/martin-singapore-visit-prison-5824033-Jul2022/

Surrender of Singapore: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fall_of_Singapore

https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/prisoners-of-war-of-the-japanese-1939-1945

https://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.CHAP3.HTM

Arthur Percival: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Percival

GUNS LANDED AT HOWTH!

Clive Sulish

(Reading time main text: 7 mins.)

The above would have been the headline 100 years ago1. Well, not the main one, perhaps, which would have been MASSACRE AT BACHELOR’S WALK – TROOPS OPEN FIRE ON CIVILIANS – 4 DEAD, MANY WOUNDED2.

Then, probably, GUNS LANDED AT HOWTH! POLICE AND SCOTTISH OWN BORDERERS FACED DOWN — REPORTS OF 1,500 GERMAN RIFLES LANDED FROM AMERICAN YACHT.

JOINT OPERATION OF IRISH VOLUNTEERS, IRISH CITIZEN ARMY, CUMANN NA MBAN AND FIANNA ÉIREANN — DUBLIN CASTLE FURIOUS.

MAYOR SHOCKED AT CIVILIAN DEAD AND WOUNDED — DEMANDS INQUIRY.

Speakers at a commemoration on the West Pier, Howth on Saturday 23rd July commented on all those features of the landing of 1,500 German rifles, single-shot Mauser Model 71 (M1871), their collection by the organisations of the broad revolutionary movement — and the army massacre that followed.

The event was organised by Irish Socialist Republicans and Anti-Imperialist Action organisations. A colour party of two men and two women led the march up to the pierhead where the event was held.

The Save Moore Street From Demolition campaign banner was displayed along the way.

Event about to begin, Margaret McKearney in distance, colour party in foreground, mostly bystanders to the right, attendance out of shot behind and to right of camera person. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The event was chaired by Margaret McKearney, a veteran Republican from Tyrone once described by Scotland Yard as “the most dangerous woman in Britain” and who lost three brothers in the struggle (one in SAS ambush at Loughgall and another murdered by UVF).

McKearney recalled the need of Irish nationalists for weapons when the Loyalists were arming to prevent Home Rule3 being granted to Ireland and the Loyalists with British elite complicity had received a huge shipment at Larne.

Speakers, songs and a laying of a floral wreath were the main content of the event.

THREE SPEECHES – DETAILED, DIRECT AND DEFIANT

McKearney called Phillip O’Connor to speak, a historian and local resident with a particular interest in the revolutionary period in Howth4.

O’Connor began with a quotation from C.J. O’Connell in his Lordship of the World (1924) that “Every Nation, if it is to survive as a nation, must study its own history and have a foreign policy”.

Phillip O’Connor speaking at the event — the plaque at the pier head behind him. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The speaker went on to relate how our rulers demote and distort our nation’s history and how for various reasons even families and communities neglect to pass on that history to following generations.

O’Connor went on to relate the extensive instances of local people’s participation in our nation’s revolutionary history. He brought out names of local people who had been active in Cumann na mBan and the Irish Volunteers and the Sinn Féin party of the time.

The speaker also drew attention to the Irish Citizen Army unit in the locality – the only one outside Dublin – that went on to participate in the 1916 Rising in Dublin and in Fingal. Of course many of that spread of revolutionary organisations had participated in the Howth guns landing.

O’Connor concluded by repeating the quotation: “Every Nation, if it is to survive as a nation, must study its own history and have a foreign policy”.5

McKearney then called on Seán Doyle, a veteran socialist Republican who spoke on behalf of the Revolutionary Housing League, focusing on the housing crisis in Ireland and quoted Roger Casement1 at his trial in London in 1916:

Where all your rights become only an accumulated wrong; where men must beg with bated breath for leave to subsist in their own land, to think their own thoughts, to sing their own songs, to garner the fruits of their own labours…

then surely it is a braver, a saner and a truer thing, to be a rebel in act and deed against such circumstances as these than tamely to accept it as the natural lot of men. Doyle went on to recall James Connolly’s admiration for the struggle of the Land League and for Michael Davitt2.

However, Connolly, the speaker reminded his audience, had excoriated those who were outraged by the eviction of a tenant farmer but with “the working person locked out from his workplace or evicted from his home”, remained “at best silent if not critical.”

“We need to engender the same passion ourselves because the system does not care or share the plight of working people,” Doyle asserted and lashed “anyone who says he loves Ireland and can witness people dying on the street homeless while 180,000 houses are boarded up vacant”.

The speaker declared that the RHL would no longer remain silent, confined or recognise the ruling class’ self-serving laws or allow them to prosper, would no longer accept homelessness, nor “see our children rent an mortgage slaves for the rest of their lives”.

“We in the RHL believe that a roof over your head is not a commodity but an essential of life like water or oxygen. Houses make homes, make communities and a society we aspire to”. Doyle went on to call for a realisation “that pleading and appealing to a non-caring ruling class is futile.”

Seán Doyle speaking on behalf of the Revolutionary Housing League (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Concluding, Doyle called on people to join the Socialist Republicans in action and quoted James Connolly6:We believe in constitutional action in normal times; we believe in revolutionary action in exceptional times. These are exceptional times, and called on people to “Build the Revolution!”

Cáit Trainor, an independent Republican activist from Armagh was called and stepped forward to give a rousing speech.

Reviewing as others had done the impelling of the arming of the Irish Volunteers by the arming of the Unionists against the prospective Irish “Home Rule”, Trainor went on to recall some of the other participants in the revolutionary movement of the time.

“Cumann na mBan with upwards of 1500 members was formed to assist the Volunteers, though some of the most radical women republicans, such as Helena Moloney and Constance Markievicz, elected to join the socialist Citizen Army instead, where they were given equal standing with the men.

“The Volunteers also had a ready-made youth wing, the Fianna Éireann, founded by Constance Markievicz7 in 1903 as an alternative to the ‘imperialist’ Boy Scouts. The Fianna were in fact to provide many of the most militant Volunteer activists.

“All of these groups would work together in the lead up to and including the 1916 rising, working together while maintaining their own autonomy with a unity of purpose.” “The Irish Volunteers had the men, the women and the youth, the next move was to secure the arms.”

Trainor referred to the arduous journey of guns-carrying yacht which included a stop in Holyhead to repair damaged sales after the Boat was hit with one of the worst storms to hit the area for decades.

The speaker attributed the success of the Howth landing to “the working together of various sections of Irish society.” “They came from varying religious backgrounds, not all were even Irish born and — even more surprising for the time — women took a leading role.”

Cáit Trainor speaking at the event on the Howth pier (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Taking the 1916 Proclamation as an example, with its address to “Irishmen and Irish Women”, Trainor maintained that “Irish Republicanism has always been and remains to be a modern forward-thinking ideology in comparison with the outdated imperialist mindset of unionism.”

Cáit Trainor compared that address with the opening line of the unionist Ulster proclamation of 1913 that opens with “Whereas Ulstermen” and continued without any reference to women anywhere in the document.

Trainor stated that today Irish Republicanism needed to “get every section of society more involved in the struggle” and that “anyone who makes their home in Ireland must be encouraged to make their contribution and to be as passionate about Ireland and its success as an independent nation as anyone else.”

The speaker recalled Thomas Davis’ words: “It is not blood that makes you Irish but a willingness to be part of the Irish Nation.8

“Irish Republicanism”, stated Trainor “stands in stark contrast to the archaic outlook of British imperialists and Irish reactionaries by boasting of a diverse membership” bringing “fresh and original insights, talent and ingenuity” unlike the paradigm of “Christian, male and white”.

Trainor remarked that “Revolutions are a dirty business and revolutionaries must be armed to meet the might of their opponent” and that “the revolutionaries of today … come from the same tradition”, that “the cause and goal has not changed for any true Irish Republican.”

“Republicans in the early part of the last century did not set out to simply smash an orange state, or replace one flag for another; they were out for the Republic, an independent state for all the people, Republicans and the political prisoners who currently reside in prisons both north and South are out for the same thing9.

“It is an absolute travesty that the Republican prisoners are widely ignored by greater society, indeed most people would not even know they exist, believing falsely that with the signing of the GFA all prisoners were released and that political prisoners in Ireland were consigned to history.

“The media and constitutional nationalists along with pseudo socialist groupings like to skirt over the truth of the matter, they are more concerned with political prisoners in far-flung places around the world than political prisoners on their own doorstep.

“…. we understand that while Ireland remains occupied there will always be men and women willing to resist it, that this inevitably will ensure that political prisoners remain a reality in Ireland, and these prisoners will always have the decided and unfaltering support of Irish Republicans.

“Surrendering for seats in the enemies parliament isn’t a victory of any kind,” said Trainor, “it’s an utter defeat, the idea is to pacify with false power and notions of equality with your overlords, imperialists have used this strategy for centuries to quell rebellion and unbelievably it still works.”

Trainor dismissed the “alternatives to the Irish Republic” and condemned “reformism or British and Free State parliaments.”

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Pointing out that it was not an easy road for revolutionaries in the past no more than in the present, Trainor declared that “Revolutions are not won in the halls of parliaments but on the streets with the ordinary people”.

Coming back to the Howth landing of guns 100 years earlier, she said that “there is again an increase in militarism internationally and also nationally with unionist paramilitaries evidently armed and threatening violence.”

While constitutional nationalists sit on their laurels begging for British concessions unionist paramilitaries supported by unionist parties are organising again to secure their dominance and Irelands submission.

Cáit Trainor concluded with another quotation from Pádraig Pearse10: “The Orangeman11 with a gun is not as laughable as the nationalist12 without one”.

Living flowers in a pot are laid in remembrance of those who have given their lives in the struggle. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

SONGS

Diarmuid Breatnach sang the ballad Me Old Howth Gun, written by James Doherty under the name of ‘Séamas McGallowgly’ and collected in 1921, with words that seemed extremely prescient for its time, with the civil war to come the following year:

…… There was glorious hope that we
Would set old Ireland free
But now you’re parted far from me, oh me old Howth gun.

Oh, the day will surely come,
Oh me old Howth gun,
When I’ll join the fighting men,
Oh me old Howth gun;
In some brave determined band
I will surely take my stand
For the freedom of my land,
Oh me old Howth gun.

Diarmuid Breatnach singing at the Howth event (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Afterwards many people commented that they had not heard the song before and Breatnach replied that Pádraig Drummond had sent him the lyrics to learn for the event (which he had half-managed to do, he commented ruefully).

The event ended with the lowering of the colour party’s flags in honour of those who died for Irish freedom and, introducing it as “a fighting song, sung during the Rising”, Breatnach sang the first verse and chorus of Amhrán na bhFiann (The Soldiers’ Song).

End.

View of colour party with the harbour behind them (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

FOOTNOTES

1The guns were landed in Howth Harbour on 26th July 2014 by Erskine Childers and crew in his yacht The Asgard (which has its own room with the original yacht in the National Museum at Collins Barracks, Dublin).

2On their return from Howth, the revolutionary forces were confronted by a force of Dublin Metropolitan police but they were unsuccessful in having the rifles surrendered, as were also a unit of the British Army, the King’s Own Scottish Borderers. The latter were jeered by a Dublin crowd on their empty-handed return and at Bachelor’s Walk on the quays they opened fire on the crowd and bayoneted at least one victim. A woman and three men were killed and many wounded.

3A kind of partial autonomy that was on offer but within the British Commonwealth.

4See ROAD TO INDEPENDENCE – Howth, Sutton and Baldoyle play their part (2016) by Phillip O’Connor.

5The point about studying our history is often made at Irish Republican events but the one about having a foreign policy, though so important, is rarely if ever mentioned. Having a sound revolutionary foreign policy would have militated against the Provisional organisation’s seeking an accommodation with the leaders of US Imperialism 1970-1999 or expecting better of the World imperialist leaders at the “Paris Peace Conference” in 1919. Today the broad Republican movement has no coherent foreign policy except currently for Irish State neutrality.

6Roger Casement (1864-1916), of Anglo-Irish background, British diplomat (CMG) then Irish nationalist, member of the Gaelic League, poet, important role in organising the purchase of rifles that were transported to Howth and Wicklow. He was hanged in Pentonville Jail 3rd August, the last of the 1916 executions by the British.

7Thomas Davis (1814-1845), foremost among the Young Irelanders, publisher and contributor to The Nation, composer of A Nation Once Again, The West’s Awake and other notable songs and poems; his father was Welsh.

8James Connolly (1868-1916), revolutionary socialist, trade union organiser, journalist, historian, songwriter), Commandant of the insurrectionary forces in the 1916 Rising, executed by British firing squad.

9Constance Markievicz (nee Gore-Booth), (1868-1927), socialist Republican revolutionary, suffragist, founder member of the Irish Citizen Army and Cumann na mBan, fought as officer of the Irish Citizen Army in the 1916 Rising, sentenced to death (commuted), joined Sinn Féin, took the Republican side in the Civil War, founder member of Fianna Fáil. She was the first woman elected to Westminster Parliament (on abstentionist ticket), first Cabinet Minister in Europe (in the First Dáil) and first Minister of Labour in the world.

10There are currently around 60 Irish Republican prisoners in prisons on both sides of the British border.

11Pádraig Mac Piarais/ Patrick Pearse (1879-1916), writer, poet and journalist in English and Irish, educationalist, revolutionary Republican, Commander-in-chief of the 1916 insurrectionary forces, executed by British firing squad.

12British loyalists, followers of the anti-Catholic sectarian ideology of the Orange Order (founded 1796).

13At the time most Irish Republicans, despite the long existence of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, were seen as part of the broad nationalist spectrum but at its most militant end and were described as ‘advanced nationalists’.

Different view of colour party, against the lighthouse at the East Pierhead (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

USEFUL LINKS:

Revolutionary Housing League: https://www.facebook.com/JamesConnollyHouse

Anti-Imperialist Action: https://www.facebook.com/AIAI-For-National-Liberation-and-Socialist-Revolution-101829345633677