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…
I can’t tell you how relieved I was to hear of the prompt action of the Irish Government in closing down an alleged Chinese police station operating in Dublin’s Capel Street.
It’s very important to keep Ireland neutral.
If those Chinese had been allowed to get away with that, next you’d have some country thinking they could run their warplanes and prisoners through Shannon airport. Or some other country allowed to fly over Irish airspace in their military helicopters. Or thinking they could set up a militarised colony on Irish soil.
That’s what she wrote — in response to a political statement I had written. And it was funny — but at the same time an expression of the gulf that separates people like her not only from people like me – but from reality too.
Her comment on a FB post was that the PSNI are not the same as the RUC, to which another woman had replied that the uniforms and the name are different but that’s all, the essence being still the same.
In turn, herself above had replied that anyone who thought that, didn’t understand the current realities and what the whole peace process is about.
To which I replied that I too agreed that all that happened was that the colonial gendarmerie had changed its name and uniform and what the pacification process (because let’s call it what it was and is) is about is holding on to the colony while dismantling the opposition.
And then she made that response, the “Oh. My. God!” — and quoth no more. I laughed but also recognised that her response, from her point of view (apart from the appeal to a nebulous deity, which I take as just an idiom to express shock), was entirely logical.
No, not her political position, which is entirely illogical – but her reaction, from where she stands, away on the other side of the chasm between us.
AN UNBRIDGEABLE GULF BETWEEN WORLDS
She recognises the gulf that separates her world from mine and knows straight away that there is no bridge to cross it. There is no point in debate, not only because I may not be easily overcome in argument but because we don’t even agree on the reality of the world.
By which I mean the economic, political and philosophical reality of the world of humanity, rather than the physical world of gravity and weather.
In her world, I’m guessing, admittedly there were some horrible injustices in the history of “Northern Ireland” and then there was a horrible war which made things worse and now everything is changed (even “utterly”, perhaps!) and going in the right direction.
To call the “Northern Ireland” entity a colony is shocking to her, though she knows some people probably think that.
Seeing reality is useful for getting around but it can be very uncomfortable too. The Six Counties is of course a colony, taken by force and maintained by force since 1921.
The whole of Ireland was a colony even when it had its tiny minority parliament1 and it continued to be one when that Parliament, under massive bribery, voted to abolish itself in 1800 without the vast majority of the population in Ireland, native AND planter, having any say in the matter.
When the level of anti-colonial struggle in Ireland rose to a certain level and the rulers of the UK were beset by difficulties on most sides, a deal was done with an Irish client bourgeoisie and the country partitioned.
Whatever the status of the Irish State thereafter, the status of the Six Counties was clearly that of a colony. That is and was so, regardless of whether it is sectarian or not, whether there are civil rights or not. It is part of our nation held for the Crown by force of arms.
Those arms were again very much in evidence during the fairly recent 30 Years’ War – in the hands of the formal British Army, formal colonial police and informal proxy murder gangs.
And yes, the PSNI today is an armed colonial police force – and it would be that even if it had no history, if it were created today. But as it happens, it does have a history. It is a variant of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. And the RUC was a variant of the Royal Irish Constabulary2. And the RIC was a gendarmerie.
A COLONIAL POLICE FORCE WITH A LONG HISTORY
Perhaps my opponent has heard the term before. Maybe she associates it with Turkey … or even with the Spanish state. But such things belong to foreign and authoritarian states, right? Couldn’t possibly be to do with here!
States that have conquered nations within them, resisting from time to time, or regions that are otherwise difficult to manage, need to control them by army or police. The first becomes problematical over time and the second needs to be coordinated from the centre, not mainly local.
The solution some states have found is to have a central quasi-militarised police force: the Guardia Civil of the Spanish State, the Turkish Gendarmerie, the Caribieneri of the Italian State, the French Gendarmerie.
These forces typically live in barracks and are directly answerable to the central State. The Royal Irish Constabulary was such a gendarmerie also. And nothing like it existed in Britain.
It was a colonial armed quasi-militarised police force to spy on and suppress the Irish by force.
What was left of the RIC in Ireland became the RUC after Partition and the RUC became the PSNI after some reforms. They don’t live in barracks but they do sally forth from them and they are armed – still keeping ‘the natives’ down since 1836.3
PACIFICATION FOR NORMALISATION
Then there was my shocking description of the role of the ‘Process’ that she described as for peace and I for pacification. She is shocked even by the title I give it, a title suggesting it is not about justice but rather about maintaining control, by trickery or violence.
And I actually stated that is its purpose! Oh. My. God indeed!
Any process which starts from the basis of normalising the colony is doing just that: normalising the foreign occupation of a part of the nation taken by force and which has never been accepted by the conquered population. It is “about is holding on to the colony”, as I described it.
But what is fundamentally abnormal can never be normalised.
That attempt requires pacification, by repression and coercion or by deception – or by a combination of both. The Occupier has used all but, since the late 1990s, mainly deception. The masking and twisting of reality, the blowing of smoke in eyes.
Who is fooled? Mostly, those who want to be, some who see a workable future in the colony, under occupation.
The other deluded ones are those who are being deceived by their leaders, the latter who have given up not only the arms but any kind of struggle other than climbing into the elite.
Ultimately, the reality is so obvious that the deception is only possible when the deceived help it along themselves. Why do that? Because it’s comfortable, or seen as an alternative to hopelessness, or less frightening than the alternative – revolutionary struggle.
Oh. My. God! Yes indeed.
And yet we say, we who look at the reality, in the face of those who deny it, as Galileo is said to have muttered to his persecutors, who denied the world moved around the sun (rather than the reverse): “Eppur si muove”(“And yet it moves)”.4
We might also say, whether some find it shocking or just uncomfortable, something more mundane: Est quodcumque est. (It is what it is.)
1At various times Catholics were excluded from voting for representation in the Parliament and at all times from the Reformation onwards barred from being elected to the body or from holding high office. The vast majority of the Irish population were Catholics. Protestants other than Anglicans suffered discrimination too but not to the same degree.
3And they got the “Royal” in their name in 1867 for their role in suppression of the Fenian rising that year.
4Galileo di Vincenzo Bonaiuti de’ Galilei (15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642) was an Italian astronomer, physicist and engineer. He publicly ascribed to the theory of Copernicus before him that the sun’s position is static with the Earth revolving around it (heliocentrism) which had been attacked by the Protestant religions as contradicting the Christian Bible (Old Testament). But it was the Catholic Inquisition of which Galileo fell foul, firstly in 1616 when he was instructed not to hold that opinion. In 1633 he was forced to recant it after a long trial and lived under house arrest for the rest of his life.
A Dublin public meeting on Western Sahara attracted a high-powered attendance including ambassadors and other diplomats of four foreign states, along with the Prime Minister and Minister for Women and Social Affairs of Western Sahara.
Western Sahara – a Spanish colonial possession but then occupied by the Kingdom of Morocco, has been called “the last colony in Africa”, by which is meant the last African region remaining under formal occupation by its coloniser.1
The Western Sahara liberation politicians included the Prime Minister of the Polisario Front, the national political representation of the Saharawi nation, Mr. Boucharay Beyoun and Souilima Biruk, Minister for Women and Social Affairs.
Other diplomatic representation for the Saharawi people was provided by Mr. Oubi Bouchraya for the EU and Europe, Mr. Sidi Breika, for the UK and Mr. Nafi Sediki, for the Irish state.
For other countries, there were the Ambassadors to Ireland of Cuba Mr. Bernardi Guanche, of Algeria Mr. Mohammed Belaoura and of South Africa Ms. Yolisa Maya. For Colombia, Andres Echeverri, Deputy Chief of Mission and Consul attended.
Also in attendance at the meeting in the Teachers’s Club, in Dublin’s City centre were the diplomats’ support and security staff, a few solidarity activists and SIPTU officials. Earlier, the Saharawi delegation had met with TDs, members of the Irish parliament.
COLONIAL RULE AND RESISTANCE BACKGROUND
Western Sahara is a territory located between the internationally-recognised borders of Algeria to the south, Mauritania to the east and Morocco to the north. Along with much of North Africa it was colonised by the Spanish State in the latter’s various forms2 from 1884 to 1976.
In 1967 theHarakat Tahrir organisationwas formed and challenged Spanish rule peacefully but publicly. In 1970 the Spanish police destroyed the organisation and ‘disappeared’ its founder, Muhammad Basiri, widely believed murdered.
As the Spanish state left without making any arrangements for decolonisation, holding a referendum or handing over power to Saharawi representatives, armies of the Moroccan and Mauritanian states invaded. In response, the Frente Polisario was created, raising armed and political resistance.
Mauritania withdrew in 1979 and revoked its territorial claim but Morocco, supported by France, rather intensified its occupation and attendant repression. Large numbers of Saharawi people fled over the border into Algeria where they currently inhabit refugee camps.
The population is of part-Berber, part-Arabic descent, mostly Muslim in religion and in many aspects of culture. The people are universally at least bilingual, common languages in the occupied area being Arabic and Castilian (Spanish) along with, in the refugee camps in Algeria, Arabic and French3.
The Polisario Front has been resisting the Moroccan occupation from the moment it began in guerrilla war but in 1991 the United Nations brokered a ceasefire which was supposed to be followed by arrangements for the Saharawi people to determine the territory’s future.
All attempts in this direction have failed due to the irreconcilable differences between the objectives of the mass of Sahrawi people on the one hand, i.e self-determination and independence and those of the Moroccan State on the other, colonisation and extraction of natural resources.4
The Moroccan state has built a 2,700 km (1,700 mi) long wall or berm of rocks and sand fortified by bunkers, topped by surveillance and communication equipment. Artillery posts dot the wall with airfields on the Moroccan occupiers’ side.
Running along this is the minefield, the longest in the world. The wall even penetrates the Mauritanean side for several kilometres.
Popular demonstrations of the Saharawi people broke out at different points since, including a “protest camp” of 12,000 people broken up by Moroccan militarised police with disputed claims about numbers of injuries and fatalities and in 2020 more military action against Saharawi protests.
After the latter, the Polisario Front considered that the Moroccan forces had broken the truce and, declaring their own abandonment of it, resumed the guerrilla war last fought in 19915.
DUBLIN MEETING: PRESENTATIONS, SPEECHES AND EXCHANGES Mark McLoughlin opened the meeting welcoming people and giving a brief overview of the situation of the Saharawi, before introducing the first speaker.
Suelma Beirouk,Minister for Social Affairs and the Promotion of Women, spoke briefly in Spanish, with her words interpreted into English. The delegation had been received and listened to by representatives of most of the political parties, she said.
They had also met with some civil society organisations and were made welcome. Saharawi women, Ms Beirouk went on to say, were at the forefront of the struggle for the nation’s self-determination and had suffered much – including even rape — but continued to resist.
Mr. Oubi Bouchraya, Polisario representative for the EU and Europe was the next to speak and the main speaker. In fluent English he set out the current international situation regarding Western Sahara and the context of the Delegation’s visit to Ireland.
The speaker pointed to the diplomatic importance of Ireland with its presence in the United Nations Security Council in which the Saharawi would hope for its support when the question of a referendum is due to be discussed there at the end of the month.
The UN has had a mission called MINURSO based in W. Sahara since 1991, the only one in the world without a human rights observation role. If it is not going to oversee that referendum, what is the point of it being there? On the other hand, observing human rights would be useful.
As a member of the European Union, Ireland also has an important role to play. The EU’s Ministers negotiated economic agreements with Morocco which included access to resources in Western Sahara. As WS is a non-self-governing colony, by international law, those agreements were illegal.
The European Court of Justice has judged accordingly and, though it allows them to stand temporarily, the agreements must fall, stated Mr. Bouchraya.
Questions, Contributions and Responses
From the floor there was a question as to whether the Polisario could have a national delegation recognised by the Irish government, as had happened in the cases of South Africa before the end of apartheid and currently with Palestine.
This question is being explored by the Saharawi mission. An aide to the South African Ambassador pointed out that that recognition for South Africa and Palestine had been gained as a result of pressure “from the bottom up” and went on to speak of the ANC’s unequivocal support.
A Dublin member of the audience, responding to the need for “bottom-upwards pressure”, related the history of the Western Sahara Action Ireland solidarity group some years ago which had been very active publicly to the extent of being harassed and even threatened by some Moroccans.
The WSAI group had however had suffered a number of departures of activists and with a number also active in other areas of struggle, was unable to maintain itself as an active group. He stated that he believed the group’s necessary reactivation needed an injection of some personnel.
A number of questions addressed the issue of the support for Western Sahara in Africa and generally. Over 80 states formally support the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination and most of those are in Africa, including the formal support of the African Union6.
1Actually this is not accurate since Ceuta and Melilla are both colonial enclaves on the northern and north-eastern coasts of North Africa, surrounded on land by territory of the Kingdom of Morocco. It would be more accurate to say that Western Sahara is the only remaining un-decolonised large territory.
2The Spanish State was a monarchy until it became a French client 1807-1814, followed by monarchy again but interrupted briefly by the First Republic (1873-1874), a monarchy again until the Second Republic in 1931, in which it was briefly a military dictatorship, followed by a Popular Front democracy (1936-1939). A military-fascist rebellion against the Republic led to its defeat and rule by a military dictatorship 1939-1978, then to its current form, a monarchy once more.
3Algeria was colonised by the French in 1830, winning formal independence in 1962 after a fierce national liberation struggle.
4The major natural resources being exploited are the extremely rich fishing off the coast and phosphates being mined on land. Solar energy ‘farms’ are also being run without benefit to the indigenous people and though not discovered yet (“thank God!” commented a Saharawi in a meeting), sources of oil and gas are a possibility.
5And for which there had been sporadic periods of pressure in particular from Saharawi youth.
6Formed in 1963, the African all 55 states currently in Africa.
“Palestinian gunman wounds two Israelis in Jerusalem shooting” proclaims the headline. We don’t have to worry trying to figure out whose side we’re expected to be on, who’s in the wrong and who in the right. It’s right there in the headline.
“Gunman” is a heavy clue and the fact that the two he wounded are just “Israelis” – we are led to believe just ordinary civilians – does the rest of the job. That is, if indeed we are not somehow already prejudiced against Palestinians and in favour of Israelis.
However, should we bother to read further, we find that two of the wounded were far from being harmless civilians but in fact an Israeli soldier and a security guard, certainly armed for their job (even Israeli Jewish civilians are routinely permitted to carry firearms).1
The2 report tells us that the soldier was a woman. Why is this relevant? Like male soldiers, she was a serving member of the Israeli Zionist occupation armed forces, misleadingly named “Defence Forces”. Zionist female soldiers are present at all levels and all theatres of war.3
It is difficult to avoid the suspicion that this is being inserted in order to mitigate the impact of revelation that it was a soldier who was shot, which might possibly lessen sympathy for the victims on that score.
Perhaps the fact that the Palestinian in question appears to have initiated the incident justifies the appellation of “gunman”? OK, when Israeli armed forces initiate an action, do we ever see “Israeli gunmen open fire on Palestinians”?
Certainly not in mainstream western media. And not just because of bias towards state armed forces, because even when the shooters are Israeli Zionist civilians, they are never called “gunmen”. And such incidents occurred on a monthly basis recently.4
MOTIVE, BACKGROUND, CONTEXT
Moving away from the actual incident, what about the background and context? “Israel already has been carrying out daily arrest raids in the occupied West Bank since a series of Palestinian attacks last spring killed 19 Israelis” the report informs us.
So the Palestinian “gunman” could have had an understandable motive in responding to Israeli Zionist oppression and repression but in case we should sympathise with him, we are reminded that “Palestinian attacks last spring killed 19 Israelis.”
After conditioning with that paragraph, the report gives us more recent possible motivation for the attack (even then, note the attempted justification for actions of “Israeli forces” fighting “gunmen” and “militants”).
“Earlier on Saturday, the Israeli military shot and killed two Palestinian teenagers during an arrest raid in the Jenin refugee camp, the site of repeated clashes between Israeli forces and local gunmen and residents. The camp is known as a stronghold of Palestinian militants.”
“Palestinian officials said soldiers entered the camp early on Saturday and surrounded a house. In videos circulated on social media, exchanges of fire could be heard. The Palestinian Health Ministry reported two dead and 11 wounded, three of them critically.”
And let’s put that “killing of 19 Israelis” last spring in context too: Last year, “as a result of the violence, at least 256 Palestinians, including 66 children, were killed … In Israel, at least 13 people were killed, including two children”5. A search of any year will find a similar or worse story.
SOME OF THE TRUTH
Occasionally, we are supplied with truth, as when the report informs us that “Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed the area in a move that is not recognised internationally.”
“It considers the entire city, including east Jerusalem, home to the city’s most important holy sites, to be its capital. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.” Nor is East Jerusalem the only area occupied by Israel judged illegally by “international law”.6
But even this is partial truth because, whether “recognised internationally” or not, the whole territory of the state of Israel is an occupation by force of Palestinian land by European settlers in 1948, backed by some world superpowers and a constant source of conflict there ever since.
MAKING SENSE OF CONFLICTS
Context is crucial to understanding events but justification is a moral and practical judgement7 according to the standpoint of those doing the judging and evaluation. Clearly the standpoint of an occupier and a person displaced — an occupier and the oppressor – can never be the same.
It follows that those who support the occupier and more certainly invest in its support, are going to be biased against the displaced, the oppressed and repressed. The world’s biggest superpower, the USA, supports Israel hugely militarily, financially and politically.
The states of the world and their controlling elites are well aware of the balance of power and, for the moment, most support the superpower. This is even more so in the case of the geo-political area designated “the West”, location of most mainstream media agencies’ headquarters.
The bias is clear if we take the trouble to analyse and we’ll find it not only in the reporting on the Israeli Zionist state and the Palestinians but on all other conflicts, to greater or lesser degree. What stand we take depends on whether we align ourselves with the oppressor or the oppressed.
1See “Gun-carrying for Israeli citizens” in Sources.
2She has since died and headlines are now including her gender.
4See “Absence of “gunman” when an Israeli Zionist civilian is the shooter” in Sources. Note that all these reports were taken from media sources one might suppose not sympathetic to Israeli Zionism; a quick search of Reuters only brought up a 2012 reference to such an incident and of Associated Press, not even one on the first search page.
On Monday, as the remains of Queen Elizabeth II were being conducted in State funeral in London, Socialist Republicans rallied against monarchy in front of the James Connolly1 monument in Dublin.
They displayed flags and placards, heard speeches and burned the flag of the UK.
They then marched to O’Connell Bridge carrying a “coffin” bearing the words “British Empire RIP”, dumped it into the Liffey and marched on to the General Post Office building, where a large force of Irish state police prevented their entry.
The actions occurred as the royal funeral was taking place in London. In a move that drew public criticism from presenter of independent program Newstalk, national broadcaster RTÉ sent a crew to cover the funeral in London to film it in realtime for Irish national television.
Taoiseach (equivalent of Prime Minister) Mícheál Martin and President Michael D. Higgins in persons represented the Irish State at the British royal funeral.
Many Irish politicians (including leaders of the Sinn Féin political party) and public figures had sent fulsome messages of condolence and praise of the late British Queen.
“DOWN WITH THE MONARCHY!”
The chairperson of the event and speakers lambasted the “sycophancy” of Irish Government figures and other politicians and public figures. They drew attention of the past record of British Royalty and to the ongoing British occupation of Ireland.
The event had been publicised on social media under the slogan of “Down with the Monarchy!” and that was very much the tone of the event as occupants in a police van watched from across the street.
The chairperson opened proceedings by reminding the attendance of Connolly’s slogan at the outbreak of WWI that “We serve neither King nor Kaiser but Ireland.” Passing vehicles occasionally tooted their horns in approval.
A young socialist Republican read out Connolly’s article in The Workers’ Republic of March 1902 on the occasion of the coronation of Edward VIII.
Connolly stated that to Socialists the replacement of one exploiter by another hardly mattered and would excite little comment.
“But although we would rather treat the matter thus philosophically, we find that the machinations of those in power do not leave us that possibility; with them, and because of them, the festivities attending the Coronation have taken on the aspect not merely of a huge parade of pomp and magnificence – cloaking the festering sores of that slave society on which it is built – but have also become an elaborately contrived and astutely worked piece of Royalist and Capitalist propaganda, designed to captivate the imagination of the unthinking multitude, and thus lead them to look askance upon every movement which would set up as an ideal to work for something less gorgeously spectacular, even if more solidly real.
The evil effects of private ownership of industries is thus illustrated once more in a manner that ought to appeal to those patriots in our midst who still dread the innovating effects of Socialism on the National spirit of the Irish people2.”
DIVINE RIGHT AND WORKERS’ RIGHT
Diarmuid Breatnach quoted John Ball, a leader of the English Peasant’s Revolt of 1381 who, addressing the crowd in reference to the Christian Bible story of Adam and Eve, enquired: “When Adam delved (dug) and Eve span, who then was the gentleman?”
For that challenge to divine right to rule or right by birth, Breatnach related, King Richard II had John Ball hanged, drawn and quartered, his head stuck on a pike on London Bridge and a quarter of his body displayed at each of four different towns in England.
Breatnach contrasted this to the right of workers, who he said produce all things, to the ownership of all things and called on working people to take their place in history as conscious beings.
Another speaker, on behalf of Spirit of Irish Freedom Republican Society and the Michael Fagan Fenian Society based in Westmeath also spoke and included the Sinn Féin leadership in his denunciation of Irish politicians who had accepted and praised British Royalty.
Seán Doyle spoke about the attitude of servility which works its way into many different aspects of life, for example into accepting the laws of the capitalist system and the housing crisis.
Doyle likened the acceptance of this right of capitalism to acceptance of the divine right to rule and stated that workers had to break from this acceptance, which is what the Revolutionary Housing League was advocating and practicing in action.
UNION JACK IN FLAMES AND COFFIN INTO THE RIVER
After the speeches a copy of the “Union Jack” flag was set on fire to symbolise the future of the forced union of nations — including a part of Ireland — under England rule.
Participants formed up into two columns flying flags, headed by four persons carrying a large pseudo-coffin. Taking to the road, they crossed Butt Bridge, turned right along the quay until they reached O’Connell Bridge.
There Gardaí and three Public Order Vehicles awaited them. Undeterred, the marchers cheered a short speech and chanted some slogans. Then at the count of “a h-aon, a dó, a trí” the “coffin” was heaved over the parapet into the Liffey river.
This action emulated a similar one carried out by James Connolly and revolutionary socialists in 1897 during Queen Victoria’s visit to Dublin.
It is worth recording too that Queen Victoria visited again in 1900 to affirm Ireland as part of the UK and to help recruit more Irish to go and fight the Boers in South Africa.
In response to that occasion, Iníní na hÉireann (Daughters of Ireland) led over 50 women in organising a Children’s Patriotic Party on the Sunday after the Wolf Tone Commemoration in July of that year.
Over 30,000 children had paraded from Beresford Place to Clonturk Park in north Dublin where they were served picnic lunches and listened to anti-recruitment speeches.
After disposing of the “coffin” of the “British Empire” on Monday, the marchers proceeded to the General Post Office where the building had been closed and a strong force of Gardaí also prevented access.
The GPO was the HQ of the insurrectionary forces during the 1916 Rising and many considered it insulting to their memory that the Irish tricolour above the building was lowered to half-mast in respect for the British monarchy.
The event concluded with cheers from passers-by and without any arrests.
1The James Connolly monument in Dublin is located in Beresford Place, across the street from what was the old Liberty Hall, the HQ of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ union (now replaced by SIPTU).
2See Sources & Further Information for a link to the full text.
Irish newscaster slams Irish broadcasting team sent to cover royal funeral: teahttps://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/uk/elizabeth-is-not-our-queen-irish-presenter-slams-tv-coverage-of-monarchs-funeral/articleshow/94281107.cms
Nearly completely reprint from Rebel Breeze eight years ago
(Reading time: 2 mins.)
Your Most Exalted Majesty, Queen of the United Kingdom of Britain and Northern Ireland, Commander-in-Chief of the UK Armed Forces, Head of the Church of England, Queen of the Commonwealth.
We trust this letter finds your Highness well, as we do also with regard to Your Highness’ large family and of course your trusted corgis.
I am tasked with writing to yourselves in order to make some embarrassing admissions and to ask your Royal forgiveness.
No doubt your family carries the memory of an uprising in Dublin in 1916? Yes, of course one’s family does, as your Highness says.
Well …. the embarrassing thing is this ……. it’s so difficult to say but no amount of dressing up is going to make it better so I’d best just come out with it: that was us. Well, our forebears. Yes, it’s true.
Not just us, of course. There were a load of Reds in green uniforms too, Connolly and Markievicz’s lot. And of course our female auxiliaries, and the youth group.
But most of that rebellious band was us, the Irish Volunteers (that became the IRA). I can’t adequately express to your Highness how ashamed we are of it all now.
Your government of the time was quite right to authorise the courts-martial of hundreds of us and to sentence so many to death. Your magnanimity is truly astounding in that only fifteen were shot by firing squads and that Casement fellow hanged.
But were we grateful? Not a bit of it! Does your Highness know that some people still go on about that Red and trade union agitator, James Connolly, being shot in a chair? What would they have your Army do? Shoot him standing up? Sure he had a shattered ankle and gangrene in his leg!
One can’t please some people – damned if one does something and damned if one doesn’t. If the Army hadn’t kindly lent him a chair, those same people would be saying that the British wouldn’t even give him a chair to sit on while they shot him.
And how did we repay your Highness’ kindness and magnanimity in only executing sixteen? And in releasing about a thousand after only a year on dieting rations?
By campaigning for independence almost immediately afterwards and starting a guerrilla war just three years after that Rising! A guerrilla war that went on for no less than three years. Your Majesty, we burn with shame just thinking of it now!
Our boys chased your loyal police force out of the countryside, shot down your intelligence officers in the streets of Dublin, ambushed your soldiers from behind stone walls and bushes ….. but still your Highness did not give up on us.
Some people still go on and on about the two groups of RIC specials and auxiliaries and the things they did, referring to them by the disrespectful nicknames of “Black and Tans” (after a pack of hunting dogs) and “Auxies”. They exaggerate the number of murders, tortures, arson and theft carried out by them.
Of course, your Highness, we realise now, though it’s taken a century for us to come to that realisation, that sending us that group of police auxiliaries was a most moderate response by yourself. But we were too blind to see that then and shot at them as well!
That fellow Barry and his Flying Column of West Cork hooligans wiped out a whole column of them. Your Highness will no doubt find it hard to believe this, but some troublemaker even went so far as to compose a song in praise of that cowardly ambush! Oh yes, indeed!
And some people still sing it today – in fact they sing songs about a lot of regrettable things we did, even going back as far as when we fought against your Royal ancestors Henry and Elizabeth 1st! Truly I don’t know how your Highness keeps her patience.
Then we went on and declared a kind of independence for most of the country but …. some of us weren’t even satisfied with that! It was good of your Grandfather George V to have your Army lend Collins a few cannon and armoured cars to deal with those troublemakers.
And then some time later, even after those generous loans, some of us declared a Republic and pulled the country (four fifths of it, at any rate), out of the Commonwealth. Left the great family of nations that your Highness leads! Words fail me ….well almost, but I must carry on, painful though it is to do so.
A full confession must be made – nothing less will do. And then, perhaps …. forgiveness.
Of course your government held on to six counties …. You were still caring for us, even after all our ingratitude! It was like hanging on to something left behind by someone who stormed off in an argument – giving them an excuse to come back for it, so there can be a reconciliation.
How incredibly generous and far-sighted of your Majesty to leave that door open all that time!
Fifty years after that shameful Rising, it was celebrated here with great pomp and cheering, even going so far as to rename railway stations that had perfectly good British names, giving them the names of rebel leaders instead.
Then just a few years later, some of our people up North started making a fuss about civil rights and rose up against your loyal police force, forcing your government to send in your own Army. And was that enough for the trouble-makers?
Of course not – didn’t they start a war with your soldiers and police that lasted three decades!
No doubt your Majesty will have noted that some of those troublemakers have changed their ways completely and are in your Northern Ireland government now.
They’ve been helping to pass on the necessary austerity measures in your government’s budgets, campaigning for the acceptance of the police force and for no protests against yourself.
Indeed, their Martin McGuinness has shaken your hand and rest assured were it not considered highly inappropriate and lacking in decorum, he would have been glad to kiss your cheek, as he did with Hillary Clinton when she visited. Or both cheeks, in your Majesty’s case!
Your Majesty can see, I hope, that we can be reformed.
Our crimes are so many, your Highness; and we have been so, so ungrateful. But we were hoping, after you’d heard our confession, our humble apologies, after your Highness had seen how desperately sorry we are, that you’d forgive us.
And if it’s not too much to hope for, that you’d take us back into the United Kingdom. Reunite us with those six counties, and so into the Commonwealth. Is there even a tiniest chance? Please tell us what we have to do and we’ll do it, no matter how demeaning. Please?
Hatch street in Dublin is an unusual venue to hear the sounds of a political protest but that was where a protest took place Friday, outside the headquarters of Jones Lang LaSalle, an Anglo-US real estate and investment multinational.
The lunchtime protest was organised by the Anti-Imperialist Action organisation in protest at JLL’s complicity in what they called “the occupation and genocide in Palestine.”
In a leaflet handed out to construction workers, office workers and passers-by, AIA stated that JLL “work with Elbit Systems, the largest private arms supplier for the occupation” and that last year “their CEO boasted about ‘a significant increase in (its) activity in Israel’ “.
The leaflet also pointed out that “Palestine Action, a group in England and Scotland, have successfully shut down two of Elbit’s sites through … direct action” against the companies.
Also pointed out in the leaflet was the result of property management companies in stoking the housing crisis and also commented on the colonial history of Ireland and its solidarity with the Palestinian people.
The picketers displayed placards along with flags: the Starry Plough, Palestinian national flag and another of the PFLP, one of the Palestinian liberation organisations. They regularly shouted slogans against the Israeli occupation, in solidarity with Palestine and against the JLL organisation.
Gardaí (Irish police) arrived to protect the JLL building but there were no incidents. The reaction of those who accepted a leaflet varied from non-committal, through curious to supportive.
Against the bigger war going on in the Ukraine, a smaller one hotting up has been getting little attention. Turkey started shelling a region in Syria which the inhabitants call Rojava and killed some of those inhabitants, including military leaders, who have had mass funeral protests.
The Kurds’ representatives were blaming the USA and Russia but most of all the former, saying it’s part of a deal for Turkey to lift its objections to Sweden and Finland for membership of Nato.
The official quid pro quo was for those countries to repress their Kurdish diaspora and to remain silent on repression in Turkey. But it seems an unofficial part of the deal was to let Turkey set its military loose on Rojava, the inhabitants of which are now living in fear of a full Turkish invasion.
Far indeed do the consequences of the war in the Ukraine reach around the world – Rojava is over 2,000 km from the Donbas region (and they will reach much further than this before it’s over)!
The Kurdish-led Rojava sector fought ISIS from 2014 to March 2019, at first without any external help and later assisted by NATO bombing runs.
The USA’s earlier policy had been to boost Islamic jihadism as a counter to left-wing nationalism and Russian influence (for example in Afghanistan) – until jihadism threatened western interests also. Then it waged war to eradicate it and, in the course of that, supported the Kurds in Rojava.
But US/NATO wants a solid block facing (not to say encircling) Russia – so now previous bets are off and the Rojava region can be thrown to the wolves – or to Turkey; first by Trump to screams of outrage from US Democrats but now by Biden, to probable silence.
But why does the Turkish military want to shell Syria? Why specifically shelling the Rojava region? If you know, you know but if you don’t, a little background might help.
The Kurds are the largest ethnic minority in Turkey, comprising around 18% of Turkey’s population; the largest concentration (2 million) of which lives in Istanbul. The majority of Kurds are Sunni Muslim, with Alevi Shi’a Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and Yezidi communities.
Together with Kurdish populations in Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia (all “Kurdistan”) the Kurds number between 25 and 35 million in the Middle East (with a very large diaspora in Europe, the USA and other areas).
The area occupied by Kurds in the Middle East is of huge strategic and resources importance and none of the major states in the area have agreed to their having a state.
After World War One and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, the victorious Western allies made provision for a Kurdish state in the 1920 Treaty of Sevres.
However the new leader of Turkey, Kemal Attaturk, the “father of modern Turkey” rejected a reduction in the size of the state and the subsequent imperialist Treaty of Lausanne set the boundaries of modern Turkey without any reference to the Kurds (“mountain Turks”, according to Attaturk).
Also in 1920, the Royal Air Force of the UK bombed the Kurds with chemical weapons and machine-gunned them during the Iraqi (then Mesopotamia) uprising,
In 1946 the USSR supported a Kurdish state in a part of what is Iran today but in the face of the western powers’ opposition and support for the state of Persia’s (then a client state of the West) claim to the territory, the USSR withdrew its support and the Kurdish state was suppressed.
Every attempt to set up a Kurdish state since then has been violently suppressed and, in Turkey, even an autonomous Kurdish region was beyond contemplation by the authorities, who suppress even Kurdish language and music.
THE KURDS IN SYRIA
In 2013 an uprising began against the Assad regime which, though it had some popular elements quickly became dominated by Jihadists and NATO proxies. The Syrian part of the Kurdish liberation movement saw an advantage for itself here and set up its own liberated areas.
Also in 2013 the fundamentalist islamist group ISIS burst on to the scene and, taking advantage of the Assad regime’s beleaguered situation, attacked large areas of Syria, to overthrow the regime but also to subjugate all peoples in the region, including the Kurds and Arabs of any kind.
The Kurds of Rojava fought to protect their areas from ISIS but also carried out a heroic rescue action to save Yazidis, opening and defending a corridor for Yazidi refugees to reach safety in the Kurdish liberated area where they built a cross-community alliance with Yazidis, Turkmen and Arabs, in which they state that all its citizens have equal rights.
Whether this is as true as they (and as their supporters in parts of the European Left) say or not, certainly women have a formally equal status and women are elected – and also appointed — to positions of high administrative and military responsibility.
The Turkish regime has been at war with the Kurds within the state’s territory led by the PKK since 1974 and viewed the setting up of an independent republic under Kurdish leadership across the border in Syria with great alarm.
In 2014 Turkey began attacking support and supply lines from Kurds in Turkey to Rojava, which caused outrage among the extended Kurdish diaspora and other opponents of ISIS in the West.
And in fact, although Turkey is an important member of NATO, Turkish military attacked the enclave a number of times, both directly and through the use of muslim fundamentalist jihadists.
Nevertheless, NATO’s concentration on wiping out the ISIS threat in the area had to have a restraining effect on Turkey. And then there was Russia too, also supplying air cover — but to the Syrian regime.
“MY ENEMY’S ENEMY IS ….” — an understandable but dangerous philosophy
At first in 2013 it seemed that the Kurds around Rojava were merely taking advantage of the Syrian regime’s trouble to go for establishing their own republic, in addition to fighting the dire threat of ISIS.
In the latter struggle, they would of course gladly accept NATO bombing of ISIS and liaise with NATO commanders on where ISIS forces were gathering – for the Kurd’s own safety and for destruction of a dangerous enemy.
However some years ago an interview with the Kurdish commander of the Rojava military forces was published in which he said that the intentions of the Rojava military went further and involved overthrowing the Assad regime, an objective that they shared with NATO.
At a meeting organised by socialist Irish Republicans about five years ago, while expressing admiration for the Kurd’s struggle for self-determination in general and specifically against ISIS, I questioned from the audience a Kurdish speaker from London.
When I commented on what seemed a clear alliance with western imperialism and in particular the USA, the biggest imperialist power in the world, the speaker replied that they were merely accepting necessary aid for their defence against ISIS.
But when I pointed him towards the Kurdish military commander’s interview on the regime change objectives of his forces and of NATO, all he had to say was that I should visit Rojava.
This situation and its history once again highlights the dangers of revolutionaries doing any deal with imperialism, most of all one where the long-term survival of one’s people depends on the continued support of an imperialist power.
It also raises the question of whether it is justifiable or at least wise in the longer term to use a major world power’s assistance in order to remove a smaller power.
The main Kurdish liberation movement of the PKK fought a heroic struggle for decades, in particular against the ferocious Turkish regime, with many martyrs and political prisoners.
One of its weaknesses was the almost deification of their leader Oçalan and the way his attempted embracing of the proposed “peace process” undermined the movement, as similar processes have done wherever they have been introduced.
Of course, as with the Spanish state, another fascist but supposedly democratic regime, the Turkish regime is not interested in any “peace process”, a slow sapping of the resistance movement. For its ruling elite, crudely crushing the resistance with brute force is the only way .
The Kurdish movement in Syria was seen as a spinoff from the PKK which supported it in its struggle against the Syrian regime but in particular in its heroic struggle against the Islamic State/ ISIS/ Deish.
However the Turkish state would view any independent Kurdish area, let alone one in nearby Syria as encouragement to Kurds within its territory. The ISIS movement threatened some Western interests and so NATO went to war with it, the Syrian Kurds linked themselves with NATO not only to defeat ISIS but also to overthrow the Assad regime.
US-led NATO wanted to overthrow the Assad regime but as part of its Middle Eastern encirclement of Russia (which is why Russia came to the aid of Assad against ISIS). Iraq and Libya had fallen already and, after Syria, Iran would be next on the list.
But as the ISIS threat and the likelihood of deposing Assad faded, NATO support for the Rojava fighters declined. In October 2019 the SDF had to conclude an agreement with the Syrian regime to have it move into their area to end five days of attacks by Turkey.
When their protection from Turkey could be dropped in exchange for a US/NATO advantage in Eastern Europe, nothing stood against a Turkish all-out attack on Rojava. Nothing, that is, except the Russian airforce.
If Turkey is to attack Rojava with ground troops it will need to use air cover both in manned and unmanned vehicles, which would require Russia not policing the no-fly zone in Syria near the Turkish border.
In February 2021, a Russia-brokered agreement between the SDF and the Syrian regime to lift the SDF’s siege of regime-held towns showed strains. But last month, at a summit in Tehran between leaders of Iran, Russia and Turkey, the other two warned the latter not to attack the Kurds in Syria.
However, despite Turkey’s NATO membership, Russia does get along with the state’s rulers from time to time and the recent discussions between the ruling elites of Russia and Ukraine on unblocking the flow of grain and fertiliser out of the war zone were held in Turkey.
The Syrian regime does not want an autonomous area within the territory of its state and Russia’s leaders will be anxious to keep on good terms with its ally – but it will also wish to wean Turkey away from NATO.
The Rojava enclave, though never as wonderful as it was proclaimed to be from a socialist point of view, is nevertheless an interesting experiment in federalism and multi-ethnic administration.
It will be sad if Rojava falls to Turkish aggression and a mean repayment for their heroic struggle to rescue the Yazidis and to hold off the advance of ISIS which cost them 10,000 dead fighters. It may also be yet another disastrous byproduct of the proxy war NATO is waging in the Ukraine.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.