Ireland has broken off its love affair with the USA but the breakup’s been coming for a long time. Of course it was always a kind of mythical USA that was the love object, of film stars, rock n’ roll, friendly presidents, Irish-U.Stater politicians, of U.Stater tourists – never the real USA, good or bad. One could feel the tensions in the relationship during the Viet Nam War, though that was mostly to be seen in the youth and some lefties. But then came the lying scandals in the US Presidency of Nixon and Clinton and the naked warmongering throughout all, including the Bushes, Snr. and Jnr.
Ireland, below the level of its Gombeen politicians, has split up with the USA (at the level of ITS politicians and millionaires [often the same thing]) but it has been a relatively civilised breakup and thankfully with no children (well, apart from the Irish illegal immigrants – sorry, undocumented visitors).
While some businesses in an Dún Beag might have turned a profit out the Fear Mór’s visit, having the Chief of the World Superpower drop in on us has cost us – around 10 million euro, according to the Irish Independent. Loads of extra Gardaí on the ground in Co. Clare and Limerick, in the air and on sea, does not come cheap (though I’m sure the overtime was welcome). All would have been bad enough if we had invited him but we hadn’t. Will the Irish Government present the US Presidency with an itemised bill? Probably not.
At the invitation of The Irish Examiner, a number of organisations and individuals had written letters to Trump for publication (see link below); most were critical and these included Amnesty International, Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, National Union of Journalists, National Women’s Council of Ireland, National Union of Students; Brendan Ogle, Tara Flynn and Clare Daly. For entertainment value I’d pick out the IPSC’s and Tara Flynn’s (well, she is a comedian). The ICCL also had a newspaper advertisement criticising Trump, which was sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union and figured logos of a number of other civil rights organisations.
There were protests in various parts of the country, including one to greet his arrival at Shannon airport (hopefully US munitions and troop carriers were pulled to one side so as not to hinder his landing). The Irish Times said there were about 200 protesters there so, on past reporting, there could have been anything between 300 and 1,000. It is not easy to get to Shannon airport unless one has a car, even from Galway the gaps between bus arrival times are substantial. And no train station.
Dublin had a showy and packed anti-Trump rally, with a Baby Trump blimp floating above the crowd outside the Garden of Remembrance. An activist brought big letter placards which, with the help of volunteers from the crowd, spelled out anti-trump messages in English and in Irish. Indeed an interesting feature was a number of placards partly or completely in Irish.
The theme of “welcome” or “fáilte” was of course played upon in reverse, in speech and placard, with more than a hinted reference to the old Bord Fáilte slogan inviting tourists to the land of “céad míle fáilte”.
The event was managed by Unite Against Racism which is, for the most part, People Before Profit, which in turn is really the Socialist Workers’ Party. A number of other left-wing party flags could be seen too. A group of Shinners were at the rally with their trademark flags (never go anywhere without the party’s flag) but no “dissidents” were present as a group, though I certainly noted some as individuals.
The speakers at the rally covered a number of themes, including of course misogyny, migrants, Palestine, war-making and imperialism. Liam Herrick of the ICCL was an unusual sight to see on an outdoors protest platform, speaking at the second part of the rally. Curiously, the rally organisers had sent a major part of the attendance off to march around the city centre for awhile and of course, when they got back, they had shed a great part of their numbers. A torrential downpour no doubt encouraged the desertions.
Coming towards the end of the rally, a performer accompanied himself on guitar while he rendered some songs for the diminished attendance. Woody Guthrie’s “Plane Crash at Los Gatos” (also known as “Deportees”) would have been an apposite choice, a song about Mexican labourers being employed in the south-eastern US fruit harvests and then driven back across the Border. Guthrie was moved to sing about them when in 1948 a plane carrying mostly deported Mexicans crashed, killing all on board and though the names of the crew were given in the news reports, the Mexicans were referred to only as “deportees”.
At the rally, eventually Trump was deflated (the blimp, I mean), tethering weight bags emptied of water, placards were packed, flags furled …. and I went to get some shopping.
(Lots of images but text reading time less than 5 minutes)
As Palestinians and their supporters around the world mark anniversaries of the Return to Palestine demonstrations and Land Day, Israeli snipers kill Palestinian children. Dublin marks the day with a solidarity rally and exhibitions and talks by internationally-recognised Palestinian cartoonist Mohammad Saba’aneh.
The Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign organised a rally to mark the anniversary of the start of the Return to Palestine demonstrations last year and also Land Day. Sadly, marking a Palestinian anniversary usually involves marking the deaths of martyrs and this was no exception, as Israeli Occupation Force snipers killed four demonstrators, three of them 17 years of age.
After the rally, of which I just caught the tail end because of the weekly Save Moore Street From Demolition campaign duty, I managed to catch the exhibition of noted Palestinian political cartoonist Mohammad Saba’aneh and to buy his book PALESTINE in black and white. Sadly, a prior appointment meant I had to miss his talk, which I would have loved to attend, especially as I dabble a little in cartoon-drawing myself.
Fortunately, Mohammad Saba’aneh was still there and was kind enough to autograph his book for me. When I took a photo of him with Fatin Al Tamimi, photographer and Chairperson of the IPSC, she insisted on taking a photo of me with him too – shukran.
On Thursday, Saba’aneh had also given a talk at the National College of Art & Design, along with Tuqa Al Saraj, also a Palestinian artist but today based in Dublin.
Mohammad Saba’aneh was born in 1978 in Ramallah in occupied Palestine, where he still lives. He is a Palestinian painter and caricaturist who has been imprisoned by Israel because of his art. He has a daily cartoon in the Palestinian newspaper al-Hayat al-Jadida and his work features in publications across the Arab world.
HELPING THE DEAF AND THE TRAUMATISED WITH CARTOONS
Saba’aneh used caricature with deaf students to help them adopt another language to express their feelings and with children who witnessed an Israeli assault to help them psychologically. He took part in many workshops designed for children to develop critical thinking. Saba’aneh was responsible for organizing an international fair at Mahmoud Darwish museum in 2014 in which more than 100 international artists participated. Freedom House chose one of his works in 2016 as one of the year’s most important photos. His first book was published in the US in April 2017.
INTERNATIONAL WORK AND RECOGNITION
Saba’aneh is the Middle East representative for Cartoonist Rights Network International and the Palestinian ambassador for United Sketches, an international association for freedom of expression and cartoonists in exile and participated in many international publications such as The truth has more than one face in Europe and Sketch of Freedom in the US. He. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2017 Marseille International Cartoon Festival Prix d’Or. Pulitzer–winning cartoonist Matt Wuerker described him as “an inspiration for cartoonists around the world.” Noted graphic journalist Joe Sacco has said of this work that it is a “gut punch that gets straight to the essence of the stark reality of Palestinian life under Israeli occupation.”
Thursday 28th March – NCAD (Dublin), 7pm, Harry Clarke Lecture Theatre
Friday 29th March – TCD (Dublin), 3pm, Room LTEE1, Hamilton Building
Saturday 30th March – Dublin, 2.30pm, The Pearse Centre, 27 Pearse St
All of the above now over.
Monday 1st April – Waterford, 7.30pm, The Tower Hotel
Tuesday 2nd April – Limerick, 8pm, Perys Hotel
Wednesday 3rd April – Galway, 7pm, Black Gate Cultural Centre
Thursday 4th April – Maynooth University, 4pm, Venue TBC (Afternoon)
Thursday 4th April – Celbridge, 8pm, Celbridge Manor Hotel
Background information: Wikipedia and IPSC FB page
The regular blowing of horns by passing motorists, including taxis and buses, would have indicated that something of interest was happening in the city centre yesterday, Monday 5th June. As people came within sight of the centre of O’Connell Street, they could also see the Palestinian flags flying, the banners and the placards.
The Great Return March
The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign had convened a rally of hundreds in the central pedestrian reservation of O’Connell Street, main street of Ireland’s capital city, near to the Spire and opposite the historic and iconic building, the General Post Office. Billed as a rally in solidarity with the Great Return March of Palestinians, demonstrators carried placards denouncing the shooting dead by Israeli soldiers of demonstrators as well as of journalists and paramedics. The Palestinian death toll since March 30th has reached 120, with over 5,500 injured. Palestinians have also accused Israeli snipers, when they wish not to kill, of shooting young men through parts of their legs calculated to ensure permanent disability. The shooting dead of unarmed protesters, the killing of paramedics and journalists (who wear clearly identifiable clothing), are all crimes according to international law but, as Palestinians and their supporters repeatedly ask, who will hold Israel to account?
The demonstrators being targeted by Israeli military are protesting the expulsion by Israel of 700,000 of what was then the majority Arab population of Palestine in 1948, followed by their exclusion and that of their descendants from Israeli-controlled Palestine. There are an estimated four million Palestinians 1 barred from entry to Palestine, their lands or those of their grandparents, while anybody in the world who can prove his or her Jewishness, even though their families had not lived there for thousands of years2, can gain entry and claim Israeli citizenship.
Placards held by supporters in the rally yesterday upheld the right of the Palestinians to return to their homeland. It is ironic that the Zionists since 1924 at least have been upholding that demand for people who had never set foot in the land, nor whose ancestors had not for thousands of years but are denying that right to Palestinians driven out within living memory and their descendants.
Speaking through a microphone, Martin Quigley thanked those attending the rally and after some remarks, introduced the Chairperson of the IPSC, Fatin Al Tamimi. Speaking about the right of return of Palestinians, Tamimi also said that she had relatives in both Hebron (West Bank) and in the Gaza strip and spoke about the privations of the people there blockaded by Israel, including contaminated water and lack of electricity. However not only is Israel guilty but also Egypt, as Tamimi alluded to when she said that Egypt had only temporarily opened the Rafah Crossing Gate, which Egypt maintains, for the feast of Ramadan, as a result of which she was expecting to be able to see her sister for the first time in seven years (the crowd cheered and applauded this news).
“Expel the Israeli Ambassador and close down the Embassy!”
Two other Palestinian speakers addressed the rally, including one who had come out through that very Rafah crossing, Asad abu Shark who was introduced as from the Great March of Return and Ahmad El Habbash, introduced as representing the Palestinian Community in All Ireland3. All speakers drew attention to the Nakba (from Yawm an-Nakba, meaning “Day of the Catastrophe”, referring to the expulsion of thousands of Palestinians in 1948 –), to the right of return, the terrible conditions within the Gaza strip (which place, they said, would become uninhabitable by 2020 — see link), the impunity of the Israeli authorities and the inactivity of “the international community”.
Al Tamimi was cheered loudly when she called for the expulsion of the Israeli Ambassador to Ireland and the closure of the Israeli Embassy, a call repeated by other speakers.
Ronit Lenten, who introduced herself as “an Israeli Jew” and representing Academics For Palestine (Ireland), also spoke briefly.
Last to speak was John Lyons, a Dublin City Councillor for the People Before Profit party, who made similar points. Referring to visit of his own to Palestine he referred to the courage and persistence of the Palestinians in merely trying to live their daily lives under the conditions of Israeli military occupation, apartheid and harassment and called on the Irish people to match that determination in taking action in solidarity with the Palestinians.
Throughout the speeches, the solidarity beeping of horns of passing car and bus drivers could be heard and occasionally shouts of encouragement from open bus or car windows.
Bill to ban imports from Occupied Territories
All speaker highlighted the importance of the BDS campaign (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) and the need for Irish people to contact their elected public representatives to ask them for concrete action in support of Israel, including for a Bill to be introduced in the Seanad by Senator Francis Black, (well-known singer, also campaigner for human rights and for support for recovery from alcohol addiction). The Bill in question is the Occupied Territories Bill, the intention of which is to place a national ban on any products shown to be exported from territories under illegal occupation. The Bill, a draft of which has already been approved in committee (see link), is expected to go before the Seanad in July, though that may change and, if passed twice there, will go on to the Oireachtas for debate and, if passed there, into Irish law.
Calling on all present to stay in touch with the IPSC or with other Palestine solidarity organisation, Martin Quigley brought the event to an end by leading the rally in leading a number of chants: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” “Free, free Palestine!” “One, two, three, four – occupation no more!” “Five, six, seven, eight – Israel is a fascist state!”
Argentina cancels scheduled football match with Israel. Dozens of Palestine flags defy GAA ban.
In a separate but related development, the national soccer team of Argentina yielded to calls to abandon its scheduled ‘friendly’ match with the Israeli national soccer team (see relevant link). Strong advocacy for the cancellation had been brought about by the movement for BDS both within and outside Argentina but statements of team officials to the media made it appear that members of the team had been threatened (but without producing any evidence of such).
And on Sunday, dozens of Palestinian flags were flown during a match at Omagh between Senior Gaelic Football teams Tyrone and Monaghan. The actions seemed not only to represent solidarity with the Palestinians at this time but also defiance of GAA officials who had removed flags and a banner at a previous match (see relevant link).
1“Today the number who qualify for UNRWA’s (United Nations Refugee and Welfare Agency) services has grown to over 4 million. One third of whom live in the West Bank and Gaza; slightly less than one third in Jordan; 17% in Syria and Lebanon (Bowker, 2003, p. 72) and around 15% in other Arab and Western countries. Approximately 1 million refugees have no form of identification other than an UNRWA identification card.”
2Or the many Jewish converts who never had any contact whatsoever with Palestine.
3 Actually no individual or separate organisation can claim legitimately to “represent the Palestine community in Ireland or anywhere” but there does exist a Palestinian organisation in Ireland which has appropriated that title as its organisational name. A number of different organisations (and none) find support among the general expatriate Palestinian community, including Hamas, Al Fatah and perhaps the PFLP.
Narrated by Roger Waters of the Pink Floyd band, a useful documented discussion on how the population of the USA, the main political and financial supporter of the Israeli Zionist State, is conned into supporting Israel.
NB: “The US mind” is the subject, not “the American mind” — there is no reference to Latin American or Canadian thinking on the issue.
The film exposes the use of the US media combined with Israeli propaganda, pressure on politicians and media figures and demonisation of opponents.
Interestingly, at least one prominent commentator argues that the USA agrees with Israeli policy largely because it agrees with its own — but doesn’t tell us what that US policy is, much less explain it. Perhaps that’s beyond the film’s scope or the film is aimed at liberal opinion and exposing naked imperialism would be going too far — but in places, the narrative does hint at it.
Interestingly too that line of argument undermines the narrative that the Israel lobby (incorrectly termed “the Jewish lobby”) is the dominant factor is US policy towards Israel. A USA Jew also points out that most of his co-religionists in the US do not agree with the hard, right-wing, neo-liberal politics of the Israeli leaders.
Worryingly, in reference to a strand of fundamentalist Christianity in the US which supports Israeli policy, a commentator tells us that one in three US citizens believes that the Bible is factual.
But very encouragingly, the film argues that Israel is at last — finally — losing its propaganda grip on US youth in the colleges and in black communities.
Worth watching to understand the history of US public support for Israel but also to learn how untruthful propaganda works with regard to words.
A dense crowd gathered outside Leinster House, home of the Dáil (Irish Parliament), at lunchtime today. Palestinian flags were in evidence as was a banner denouncing the jailing of Palestinian children by the Israeli authorities. Some passing drivers tooted their horns in solidarity.
A hollow space existed inside the crowd where young people knelt, blindfolded and with hands bound, to represent children taken prisoner by the Israeli state. According to the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which organised the solidarity protest, between 500 and 700 children are detained every year by the Israeli military, i.e up to an average of two a day.
The protest was attended by many TDs (members of the Irish Parliament) and Senators comprising a broad representation of political parties and independents. Ibrahim Halawa, the Irish citizen who was arrested by Egyptian police while still a minor of 17 years of age, subsequently to spend four years in jail without trial, also attended.
IPSC Chairperson Fatin Al Tamimi addressed the gathering and referred to “Israel’s apartheid prison system where torture and ill treatment during arrest and detention are routine, including horrendous abuses against children.” Tamimi went on to say, to loud applause: “Apartheid Israel must be held to account for its outrageous treatment of Palestinian children which violates the right of the child.”
After the protest a letter was handed in to the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs calling on the “the Irish Government to do all it possibly can to end these abuses of Palestinian children by Apartheid Israel. More than just condemnation, action is needed to bring pressure to bear of Israel to end these attacks on children, children who have known nothing but occupation and systemic violence their whole lives. Palestinians, not least Palestinian children, deserve freedom, justice and equality.”
The Irish Government action required was not specified but over the years demands have been made to call the Israeli Ambassador in for censure or even to expel him but no such action has taken place. As a participant on the demonstration said: “When the Irish Government did not even take serious action at the use of forged Irish passports by Mossad assassination squads, you know that they are not going to do anything about Palestinian children being jailed and ill-treated.” (The Irish Government expelled one minor diplomat only over that revelation in 2010 and even then the Ambassador stated that he could not guarantee that such faked passports would not be used again).
WIDESCALE VIOLATION OF THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD
According to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, apart from rights to survival (violated by Israel in its 2014 bombardment of Gaza, for example, when it killed 504 children and made thousands homeless), and adequate living standards (also violated by Israel in Gaza with damaged sewage treatment plants and water, power and fuel restrictions), children also have
Development rights: include the right to education, play, leisure, cultural activities, access to information, and freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
Protection rights: ensure children are safeguarded against all forms of abuse, neglect and exploitation, including special care for refugee children; safeguards for children in the criminal justice system; protection for children in employment; protection and rehabilitation for children who have suffered exploitation or abuse of any kind.
Participation rights: encompass children’s freedom to express opinions, to have a say in matters affecting their own lives, to join associations and to assemble peacefully. As their capacities develop, children should have increasing opportunity to participate in the activities of society, in preparation for adulthood.
By jailing children, Israel is violating the rights of the child in each of these three broad categories above. Yet, according to UNICEF, only two states have currently failed to ratify the Convention after signing: the USA and Somalia. In other words, Israel has signed it but clearly is violating it as a matter of course.
Trials of Palestinian children have a 99.74% conviction rate, and “do not meet international standards for fair trial” according to Amnesty International. According to the IPSC, many more children are temporarily detained, sometimes taken by soldiers raiding homes in the dead of night, and later released after severe interrogation periods without prosecution. Defence for Children International Palestine states that some two-thirds of all children detained will face some sort of physical or mental abuses, including torture and sexual threats, during this process. UNICEF says that “Ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalised”.
According to the IPSC, “over 12,000 Palestinian children have gone through the Israeli prison system since 2000, while nearly 2,500 have been killed and countless thousands wounded. In Gaza alone, where children have borne the brunt of three vicious Israeli assaults over the past decade, UNRWA estimates that “more than 300,000 children are in need of psycho-social support”.”
A wet Saturday afternoon saw a large crowd attend a protest picket organised by the Anti-Imperialist Action organisation; it was in specific solidarity with Palestinian Teenager Ehed Tamimi, jailed in December last year by the Israeli Zionist occupation — but also with all Palestinian political prisoners.
Ehed Tamimi lives in Nabi Saleh, a West Bank village approximately 20 kilometres northwest from Ramallah. ADecember protest against further expansion of illegal Zionist settlement near Ehed’s home village attracted the Israeli Army who seriously injured a Palestinian, Ehed’s cousin Fadl al-Tamimi, by firing a rubber-coated steel bullet at close range into his face. Three female members of the Tamimi family, including Ehed, though unarmed, attacked the soldiers. After video of the incident circulated widely, the Israeli occupation force raided the Tamimi household and arrested Ehed. She was held without charge for thirteen days and then charged, along with her mother, with assault, incitement to violence and throwing stones. She remains in custody awaiting trial.
The detention of Ehed, a minor in law, by the Israeli state violates a number of articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, including the right to remain with her family.
In past protests at her village, half the number of residents had been injured over a number of years and two killed by Israeli soldiers, including a member of the extended Tamimi family.
Born into an activist family, Ehed Tamimi is 17 years of age and has been in struggle against the Israeli Occupation Force more or less since she was she was able to walk. According to the British newspaper The Guardian, Ahed’s siblings—Waed, Mohammed, and Salem—and parents “have known only a life of checkpoints, identity papers, detentions, house demolitions, intimidation, humiliation and violence; she is part of the second generation of Palestinians to live under the occupation.”
Ahed gained international fame through being photographed or filmed confronting Israeli soldiers, her courage remarkable and pale features and long blond hair making her stand out among protesters. The first of these occasions to reach an international audience was when she was 11 years of age, in August of 2012 as she tried to prevent the arrest of her mother and later that year, waving her fist at an Israeli soldier twice her size as he arrested her older brother.
WIDE SUPPORT FOR PICKET
The Dublin picket on Saturday attracted the support of a wide section of the Republican and Socialist Left: the Independent Workers’ Union banner was in evidence as were a number of painted banners previously seen on pickets by the Dublin Anti-Internment Committee, along with independent Irish Republican activists. Fatin al-Tamimi, Chairperson of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Committee and a number of that organisation’s activists were also present, some distributing IPSC leaflets, as were a number of activists associated with campaigns against the Water Charge, against the demolition of Moore Street and in support of ending homelessness. Fatin al-Tamimi, who although bearing the same family name is not related to Ehed’s family, will not in future be permitted by the Israeli state to visit her relatives (see item on Israel’s public blacklist below).
Among the passing shoppers and tourists a number indicated their support for the picket, many taking photos and some asking to be photographed among the protesters. Drivers of a number of passing vehicles also tooted their horns in support.
RELATED: ISRAEL PUBLISHES BLACKLIST OF PALESTINIAN SOLIDARITY ACTIVISTS ABROAD
The Israeli Government consolidated its secret blacklist of people to be barred from entry to territory controlled by the State into list of organisations which it made public on 6th January 2018. The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Committee was named as one of the 20 organisations, the leaders and activists of which will not be permitted entry to Israeli-controlled territory. The move was widely interpreted as a reaction to the increasing effectiveness of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against the State and its anti-Palestinian policies. The publication was also seen by many as marking its further alienation from much of the rest of the world even as the USA, in President Trump’s order to relocate the US Embassy to the city, publicly endorsed the previous Israeli completion of its seizure of Jerusalem in June 1967 and its ongoing Israelisation and de-Palestination of the city.
Most of the organisations on the blacklist are European but a number are US-based. “The American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization honored with the 1947 Nobel Peace Prize for assisting and rescuing victims of the Nazis, is among the list of groups whose activists Israel has announced it will bar from entering the Jewish State. On Saturday it was revealed that the left-wing organization Jewish Voice for Peace was on the list.” Also on the list is the BDS South Africa organisation.
May 1st, International Workers’ Day was celebrated in warm sunshine in Dublin with a parade and rally organised by the Dublin Council of Trade Unions and a later event organised by the Independent Workers’ Union.
The DCTU-organised event met at the Garden of Remembrance at 2pm and set off at nearly 3pm, with numbers although still small by European standards nevertheless larger than has been seen for some time in Dublin, according to the organisers filling O’Connell Street, the city’s main street throughout its whole length (500 metres or 547 yards).
Seen on the parade were trade union banners, those of some political parties, also of campaigns and community groups.
As it has been doing for years, the parade ended in a rally in Beresford Place, in front of Liberty Hall, the very tall building owned by the SIPTU trade union, where the audience were addressed by speakers from trade unions and campaigns and NGOs.
Curiously, soon after arrival the comparatively strong showing of Sinn Féin flags, the green one with their logo and the blue and white version of the Starry Plough, were nowhere to be seen.
The issues of lack of affordable housing, of public land being sold for private housing and speculation, of precarious employment, of financial speculation and cuts in services were addressed by speakers, with a mention also of solidarity for the Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike. A number of speakers also addressed the treatment of migrants and in particular the conditions suffered by refugees in the Direct Provision hostels of the state’s welfare service.
Somewhat later, the Independent Workers’ Union held their own event, marching with a colour party from their offices to James Connolly monument, also in Beresford Place and across the road from Liberty Hall.
Damien Keogh chaired the event and introduced veteran campaigner Sean Doyle who gave a short and to the point speech about the situation in which working people find themselves today and ending with a quotation from James Connolly, in which the revolutionary socialist castigated those who claimed to love Ireland but could tolerate seeing poverty and deprivation among its people. Doyle also sent solidarity greetings to the Palestinian political prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails.
Paul Bowman was then introduced and in a longer speech covered Connolly’s time in the USA, his membership of and activities of the IWW (“the Wobblies”); the Haymarket Incident in Chicago which led to the choosing of May 1st as International Workers’ Day and the state murder of the Haymarket Martyrs; the principles and attitude of the IWU today.
Damien then introduced Diarmuid Breatnach to sing “We Only Want the Earth” (an alternative title to the original of “Be Moderate”). Breatnach explained that the lyrics had been composed by James Connolly and published in a songbook of his in New York in 1907 without an air. As a consequence the lyrics have been sung to a variety of airs but Breatnach said he sings it to the air of “A Nation Once Again” (composed originally by Thomas Davis some time between 1841 and 1845). This arrangement provides a chorus and Breatnach invited the audience to join in the chorus with him, which they did.
“We only want the Earth,
we only want the Earth,
And our demands most moderate are:
We only want the Earth!”
A wreath was laid at the monument on behalf of the IWU by Leanne Farrell.
The chairperson then thanked those in attendance, speakers and singer and invited all back to the offices of the IWU in the North Strand for refreshments.
This is a timely and interesting article by Liam Ó Ruairc about the significance of the Easter Rising beyond our little parish.
Apart from that, it would seem to suffer a little from a terminology problem with regard to “imperialism”. In the world today this is not an insignificant issue. At the time of the 1916 Rising it was common for commentators to conflate the words “colonialism” and “imperialism” — and why not, since we had the British Empire, the French Empire etc. However, that same year, VI Lenin completed his work “Imperialism — the final stage of capitalism” which he published the following year but exchanging, for the censor, the word “highest” for “final”. Lenin described imperialism as the merging of finance with industrial capital and its export to the underdeveloped world and also explained how its colonialism was undermining British industrial capacity and competitiveness by starving it of capital which was instead being invested in the colonies for quick return of superprofits.
He showed that imperialism could be practiced where the developed state did NOT have colonies but instead had influence.
Decolonisation was indeed one of the big processes of the early to mid-21st Century, as quoted in the article, but it was accompanied by an increase in imperialist expansion, with the USA becoming the world leader and displacing the former colonial powers of Britain and France. By and large this was achieved without occupying countries and setting up colonies of UStaters within them.
Lenin also showed that imperialism leads to war; colonialism did too but not on the scale that imperialism has. Colonial wars were largely limited by the amount of people available to occupy colonies whereas imperialism fights most of its wars through proxies (with some notable exceptions such as Vietnam, Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan, involving large committal of its troops but even there, proxies have been/are also used).
Those regimes that imperialism cultivates were later classified by national liberationists as “comprador (buyer) capitalists” or “neo-colonials”. Such an analysis of Ireland today would have to conclude that the Six Counties are a remaining British colony and the Twenty-Six a neo-colony.
In the “comment” section of the article there is a reference to another article on the same theme of international importance which is also of interest.
In less than six months, the one hundredth anniversary of the 24-29 April 1916 Easter Rising will be commemorated throughout Ireland. What is striking about the so-called ‘Decade of Commemorations’ is how insular its outlook is: the 1912 Ulster Covenant, the 1916 Rising or the setting up of Northern Ireland are seen as a purely Irish phenomenon, divorced from global trends. As Edward W. Said once noted, while the Irish struggle was a ‘model of twentieth-century wars of liberation’, “it is an amazing thing that the problem of Irish liberation not only has continued longer than other comparable struggles, but is so often not regarded as being an imperial or nationalist issue; instead it is comprehended as aberration within the British dominions. Yet the facts conclusively reveal otherwise.” This article will argue that the significance of the 1916 Easter Rising lies less in its
Breandán Mac Cionnaith, Erdelan Baran, Clare Daly and Brian Leeson took turns to address a meeting in Wynne’s hotel on Saturday. The speakers addressed a large audience in the open part of the conference following the internal Ard-Fheis (annual congress) of the Éirigí Irish Republican party and covered the Garvaghy Road campaign, the history of the Orange Order, the Kurdish struggle (in general and in Rojava/ Kobane in particular), Garda corruption, military use of Shannon airport by US imperialism, theft of Ireland’s natural resources, international imperialism and capitalism versus socialism. The meeting was chaired by Angie McFall.
Breandán Mac Cionnaith is General Secretary of the éirigí party and prominent as a residents’ activist and leader in resisting Loyalist parades through nationalist areas, in particular the Garvaghy and Ormeau Roads and with regard to the Drumcree siege. Until 2007 he was prominent in Sinn Féin but left the party that year after SF had agreed to support the colonial police force, the PSNI (formerly the RUC).
Preceded by the screening of a video of resistance to Loyalist marches in the Garvaghy Road, Mac Cionnaith gave an account of the formation of the Orange Order and its role from the inception of the Order and through its development. He also gave a detailed account of the long history of Orange marches through the Garvaghy Road and other areas, the siege of Drumcree and the people’s resistance, answered by sectarian murders of Catholics in the area.
The talk revealed that the Orange Order had been created at a time of revolutionary unity between sections of Protestants and of Catholics and that its purpose was to fracture that unity, which it carried out. It was from the beginning a sectarian, reactionary organisation serving the interests of the colonial ruling class in Ireland.
Along with its allied organisations such as the Apprentice Boys, the Order has a long history of provocation of Catholic areas through triumphalist marching, a practice defended by the colonial police force and in modern times until recently by the British Army. In one confrontation, Mac Cionnaith used available statistics to demonstrate that two British soldiers had been deployed for every resident of the area.
After the break, the Cathaoirleach welcomed and introduced Erdelan Baran, a representative of the Kurdish National Congress. Erdelan’s command of English is excellent and he presented his talk well, using a few slides on an electronic display to emphasise his points, including a map showing the Kurdish population and its spread over the borders of the states of Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran.
The audience heard that the religion of most Kurds had been Zoroastrianism but that this had been reduced by Islamicisation. The Kurds had not been recognised as a separate nation or even really as a separate ethnic group by regimes ruling them and had suffered much repression in each of those states.
Erdelan Baran focused in particular on the development of the PKK, a party founded in 1978 by Kurdish students led by Abdullah Ocalan in a village not very far from the Kurdish city of Diyarbakir in the south-east of the Turkish state. The party named itself The Workers’ Party of Kurdistan and combined communist ideology with struggle for an independent state. It was subject to repression which increased dramatically after the 1980 right-wing military coup d’état, with imprisonment and executions of its activists and others fleeing to Syria.
The PKK developed its armed struggle which included women’s units (Erdelan showed a slide of PKK women in uniform bearing arms).
Oҫalan was captured in 1999 and imprisoned on an island in the Turkish state. He since called for a change in objectives, i.e for the movement to seek confederalism instead of a state, a system of self-determination for each area and not based on any ethnic group or national territory. Erdelan pointed towards the administrations which had been set up in Rocajava as an example of this and also of equality towards women – 80% of representation was required to be in equal gender balance.
Since the emergence and attacks of ISIL in Syria, the YPG, a development of the PKK, has been fighting fierce battles against ISIL and established liberated areas in which other groups such as the Yazidis and Turkmen have taken part in defence and administration.
Erdelan mentioned very briefly the peace process espoused by the PKK and the refusal of the Turkish government to engage in it.
Erdelan finished his presentation to strong applause and the Cathaoirleach indicated that there was limited time for questions. Four people addressed comments and questions from the floor one of which criticised aspects of the PKKs policy and three of which were complimentary (see final part including Comment for further details), to all of which Erdelan responded,
A break was called again by the Cathaoirleach and when the conference reconvened, she announced that Clare Daly and Brian Leeson would speak one after the other, without time for questions from the floor.
THE BARREL OF ROTTEN APPLES
A short video about popular opposition to the water charges was played showing éirigí in action before the Cathaoirleach introduced Clare Daly as the next speaker, referring to her as an Independent socialist TD. Daly took the lectern, joking that she was obviously “a warm-up act for Brian Leeson”.
Clare Daly spoke with passion about a long history of cases of Garda corruption, saying that an earlier perception of there being perhaps “a few rotten apples in the Garda barrel” had changed over the years and that now perhaps instead people believed that there might be a few good apples in a rotten barrel. Daly pointed towards the forced resignations of Alan Shatter (as Minister for Justice) and of senior Garda officers and to the whistle-blowers within the force who had used the issue of exemptions on penalty points to highlight corruption within the Gardaí. She predicted that there would be further scandals.
Daly commented on how when in the Dáil she and Mick Wallace began to expose Garda corruption they were treated as some kind of shockingly disgusting people and that even those TDs concerned with civil liberties counseled them not to take on the Gardaí. But the perception of the Gardaí publicly has now changed and this has had its impact on the Dáil. It was the struggles of the people – in particular perhaps around the water charge – and the behaviour of the Gardaí against local communities resisting – which had led to the general change of public opinion. This had facilitated and been strengthened by the exposure of a number of scandals.
Turning to the use of Shannon Airport by the US Military on its way to invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, in violation of Irish neutrality, Daly gave examples of some of the evidence available, not only from observers outside the airport but also from staff inside. One of these declared that he had stolen a gun from a plane in US military use at Shannon and of course, he could not be arrested for that since “How could he have stolen a gun from a plane the Irish Government claims is not carrying any weapons?” The planes in use are not only military planes but also chartered civilian ones and Daly gave statistics on the huge amount of US military traffic of weapons and soldiers through the airport, quoting also from a US document (part of the Wikileaks) confirming the importance of Shannon airport to their Middle Eastern military operations.
Daly accused the Irish Government of complicity with US imperialism and its war crimes. A lot of the evidence outlined and more was presented in the trial of Daly and Wallace following their arrest on 22nd July 2014 as they went on to restricted areas of the airport without permission from the authorities. They were there to carry out an inspection of US planes but were arrested and despite the evidence, in April were fined €1,000 each or 30 days in prison. Both declared then and Daly reaffirmed in her talk that they had no intention of paying the fine and await their arrest at any moment.
“There’s not much a small group of left-wing TDs can do in the Dáil to change what’s happening in the country”, said Daly, although she declared herself satisfied with the opportunity to use that forum to publicly expose a lot of what has been going on. Daly declared however that it was with the people that real impetus lay and hailed their resistance, including that of people in the room, in recent years.
THE NEED FOR SOCIALISM
Clare Daly finished her talk to a storm of applause as Brian Leeson, introduced by the Cathaoirleach as Chairperson of the éirigí party, rose to take her place at the lectern, joking that rather than being “a warm-up act” for him, Daly had “stolen his thunder”.
Leeson began his speech by outlining the need for a socialist society and suggested those who say that “Socialism doesn’t work” should be asked whether they think capitalism is working. He pointed to continual economic and financial crises, unemployment, housing crises in various forms, cuts in social welfare and health care …. and war. Wars, Leeson declared, were an inevitable part of imperialism, which is capitalism’s struggle to control natural resources and markets.
“This hotel and these rooms have an important place in our history” said Leeson, relating that a decision to found the Irish Volunteers had been taken in Wynne’s hotel in 1913 and in 1914 Cumann na mBan had been founded there. Commenting on recent and forthcoming centenary commemorations, Leeson said that it was people like those in the room and outside in resistance who had made that history and that the state set up in on the back of those struggles did not represent either the ideals the people had fought for or the wishes of the majority of people in the country now.
Going on to attack the economic policies of the Northern Executive in the Six Counties, Leeson castigated Sinn Féin and the SDLP who he said had given up the only area of financial control that they had and passed the buck on to the British Government. They had the opportunity, he said, to stand resolutely for a budget against social welfare and health care cuts but they passed the buck to the British Government, which implemented those cuts instead. It was essential that the Northern Irish Executive should not collapse, apparently. Leeson questioned why this should be thought so – surely the only justifiable reason to be in any government or Executive was to represent the ordinary people and the disadvantaged!
Leeson also talked about the theft and giving away of our natural resources such as oil and the planned privatisation of water which he said belonged to the people and that no government had the right to give them away nor any company the right to own them.
Leeson paid tribute to Clare Daly who was prepared to advocate for Irish Republicans in prison and had given much support to Stephen Murney and Ursula Ní Shionnaigh. He also made a particular point of welcoming Erdelan Baran and of supporting the struggle of the Kurdish people.
Commenting on discussion around a forthcoming general election in the Irish state (the 26 Counties), Leeson criticised those who talked of campaigns to elect some kind of left-wing alliance. The conditions did not exist for that to be viable project, he said, and to raise people’s hopes only to dash them was cruel and would be demoralising. People should continue their resistance and éirigí would continue their part in that as they had done up until now.
The audience gave Brian Leeson strong applause as he concluded his speech.
There were no questions and answers called for afterwards and the meeting concluded, people standing around talking, purchasing from the merchandise stall, departing or retiring to the nearby bar which had just opened.
Attendance, Organisation, Speeches, Participation
The room was large and full, with accents to be heard from across the country and éirigí will probably be pleased with the level of attendance. The public meeting appeared to be well organised with door security (an invited/ registered list on which my name was not but thankfully I was recognised by several and that formality waived) just outside the meeting while inside, merchandise stall, chairperson, ushers, seating, projector and screen for videos and slides, sound amplification, and professional banners (one bilingual and one in Irish only).
I saw only one photographer whom I assumed to be éirigí’s and, thinking other photos of the attendance might not be permitted, restrained myself to photographing the banners only.
Mac Cionnaith’s talk was somewhat over-long in my opinion and he is also softly spoken, which makes parts difficult to hear – and I was in one of the front seats. He also speaks without a great deal of inflection or emphasis in his delivery which militates against giving him continuing close attention. This is a pity because the content was extremely interesting and contained a lot that was new to me. I was also impressed by the amount of information that he clearly had in his head, since he rarely had to consult his notes.
Such a long talk however is unlikely to be followed by questions and answers and this proved to be the case, with the Cathaoirleach calling a break at the conclusion of Mac Cionnaith’s talk, to be followed by the next speaker on resumption of the conference.
Mac Cionnaith told me later that he usually gives this talk in two parts and with a break between them. I urged him to write and publish it as a pamphlet and I sincerely hope he does so.
Clare Daly’s and Leeson’s talks were clearly audible and well-presented and the meeting was in general well-chaired. I would offer the criticism that the time-tabling did not permit sufficient audience participation in terms of questions and answers or contributions which only occurred, briefly, after the Kurdish speaker – i.e none after the other three speakers.
All the speeches had interesting content and were relevant to political life in Ireland today. Given the organisation’s policy on abortion I would not have expected a talk on that subject, albeit the issue is a very important ongoing one in Ireland. A stranger important omission I thought was the issue of repression of Irish Republican activists both outside and inside the prisons, including the practice of internment by false charge and remand. Stephen Murney, himself an éirigí activist in Newry, had been an important example of victims of this abuse of civil rights.
Another factor was the total absence of spoken Irish from the panel of speakers or the Cathaoirleach (even to the ritual “cúpla focal”) and I am aware that some éirigí activists did express their disappointment at that (both Leeson and McPhall are Irish speakers) after the meeting.
Ideology & Political Policy
The internal part of the meeting had taken place earlier and I was not present at that so these comments refer only to the open public part of the meeting.
It was understandable perhaps that, addressing a conference organised by a party known to have rejected that process in Ireland, the Kurdish speaker skated quickly over the question of Ocalan’s and the PKK’s espousal of a “peace” process. What is less understandable is that from éirigí, no-one rose to criticise it, that being done only by one contributor from the floor, who – after thanking Erdelan in Kurdish — pointed out that such processes do not bring peace and are instead pacification processes, traveling from people in struggle from one country to those in another, subverting their struggles as with South Africa, Palestine, Ireland and now being proposed for the Kurdish people, the Basques, the Colombians, Filipinos …1
The same contributor, while expressing his great admiration for the struggle of the Kurdish people over the years, in support of which he had travelled to Kurdistan in the early 1990s as part of a trade union delegation, raised another two issues of concern to him, which were what he perceived as the elevation of Abdullah Ocalan to iconic status within the main Kurdish movement and that the YPG had declared themselves in alliance with the western coalition in Syria. Making it clear that he was not a supporter of Assad, the contributor asked the speaker whether he thought the imperialists would hand over control of the country when their current enemy had been defeated?
The contributor’s remarks and question were greeted with scattered applause from the audience.
,Erdelan made no reply at all on the issue of a peace process but replied at length to the issue of Ocalan’s leadership and the use of his image and to a lesser extent to question of alliance with the imperialist coalition.
“Ocalan does not seek to be a leader,” said Erdelan, “and has often said ‘If anyone else wants to take on this job let him have it.’” Aside from the fact that Ocalan’s leadership per se had not been criticised except in promotion of a peace process, this reply and subsequent arguments did not address the issue of the proliferation of Ocalan’s image within the movement, the issue that had been raised by the contributor from the floor. Furthermore, the Kurdish speaker must have been aware that Ocalan had publicly argued against his threatened execution by saying that a peace process was necessary with the Turkish state and that only he could lead the movement towards it. Going on to talk about Ocalan’s 15 political publications, as Erdelan did if anything served only to confirm the adulation in which his person is held by many in the movement. The policy of confederalism is also one developed by Ocalan while in captivity, after he renounced the policy of seeking a Kurdish marxist-leninist state and, subsequently, also renouncing the policy he developed of seeking Kurdish regional autonomy within the Turkish state.
In his reply on the issue of alliance with imperialists, Erdelan was likewise quite disingenuous. He emphasised the success of the fight against ISIL and the gender equality which their administration had brought to their liberated areas, which had been in part lauded already by the contributor from the floor but which did not directly address the issue in any case. Moving on, he referred to the need for survival of the Kurds and beleaguered people and their need for weapons.
After some more of this the contributor objected to the “arms for defence line”, saying that the overall military commander in the Rojava area had publicly stated that the YPG were not only joining the coalition for arms for survival but were going to join in an offensive to overthrow the Assad Government. At this point the Cathaoirleach silenced the contributor from the floor, pointing out not unreasonably that there were others waiting to speak.
The next contributor from the floor welcomed Erdelan to Ireland. He lauded the struggle of the Kurds and the leadership of Ocalan and stated that he and a few others had picketed the Turkish Embassy when the Kurdish leader was under sentence of death. He stated that in Ireland we also often display images of leaders and heroes such as James Connolly and that we do that in order to display our support for their ideals. He lauded the administration of the Rojava areas and stated that he wished to disassociate himself from the comments the previous contributor from the floor had made. He received strong applause.
This contributor seemed unaware of the difference between the way and the degree to which images of James Connolly are displayed in Ireland and the way in which images of Ocalan are displayed among Kurdish supporters of the PKK. He also missed the most important difference – Connolly is dead and Ocalan is alive. Whatever errors a dead leader made he can make no further ones whereas a living leader can make many more (as history in general and ours in particular has shown) and the iconisation of a living leader makes challenging his/her mistakes within a movement extremely difficult and viewed as something in the order of sacrilege.
Another contributor from the floor asked for some more explanation of the policy of confederalism. In the course of his reply, Erdelan said that it was a democratic system that would preclude territorial expansion and that, for example, the issue of whether someone wanted a nuclear reactor in their area would be entirely a local decision. This reply in fact outlined one of the problems of confederalism in this stage of history since if local people voted in favour, for example with promises of safety and cheap power, the decision would nevertheless potentially affect everyone within a radius of thousands of kilometres – but no-one seemed to pick up on that.
The same member of the audience, responding, enthusiastically commended the Kurdish organisation on their confederalism policy and said that we should have the same here in Ireland. He (and certainly at least some in the audience) appeared unaware that a type of confederalism had been a central part of Sinn Féin’s and Provisional IRA’s progam for many years. The “Éire Nua” was such a program, originally proposed by then SF’s President Ruairí Ó Brádaigh and Dáithí Ó Conaill and strongly supported in practice by Des Fennel. This policy had encountered some opposition within the Provisional movement, particularly from supporters in the Six Counties who feared being left under regional domination of — or in constant contention with — Unionists.
The “Éire Nua” policy was overturned at the 1982 Ard-Fheis (annual conference) of Sinn Féin in what was seen by many as a victory of the Adams group within the leadership over the Ó Bradaigh one. Subsequently the policy of Sinn Féin has been for a united 32-County state and that is also part of éirigí’s policy today. Only Republican Sinn Féin and Cumann na mBan among Republican organisations in Ireland today retain a federal policy.
Overall, it seemed that the majority of the audience either did not feel equipped to engage with the issues in a critical fashion or felt that they would be going against their party (or hosts) to do so. It was highly unlikely that the majority supported the aspiration for a peace process and there must have been at least some disquiet on the issue of joining an imperialist coalition. But they remained silent. There was also of course the cultural issue of hospitality to an invited guest which may have played a part.
However, these are serious questions affecting the revolutionary movements around the world and need to be engaged with critically.
1 Is mise a rinneadh sin. I also took part in actions for the removal of the execution threat to Ocalan while having a number of discussions with Kurdish activists on the issue of iconisation. In general I worked for a number of years in London in Kurdish solidarity with people who supported the PKK and some who did not, including submitting motions to trade union branches and going on that delegation around much of northern Kurdistan in the early 1990s when it was still a war zone there. In Ireland I took part in a few pickets with Kurdish comrades and was discussing setting up a solidarity network here but some of the principal activists left the country.
While I was conscious that some others who I know would have had similar views to the concerns I expressed kept away from me, some activists did approach me during the break to express their approval of my comments, in particular on the issue of making an icon of a living leader. They had experienced a similar process with the promotion of Gerry Adams within Sinn Féin before leaving the organisation to join éirigí or to become independent activists. Nobody likes isolation and I was grateful not only for their comments but for visibly approaching me in the meeting area in view of anyone who cared to see.