“Civil War to Avert a Workers’ Republic” – Peadar O’Donnell Forum talk in Dublin

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 2 mins.)

Historians and political activists gave talks in Dublin presenting a review of the conduct of what is more usually called the Irish Civil and its effect since on life in Ireland. All the speakers described that conflict as “a counterrevolution”, to overturn many of the gains made in the period of struggle immediately before it and to head off any possibility of yet further gains in Irish political, economical and social life, having a braking effect on such progress up to this very moment.

Liz Gillis speaking (Photo: D.Breatnach)
L-R: Fearghal Mac Bloscaidh, Mags Glennon, Ciaran Perry (Photo: D.Breatnach)

BACKGROUND

The event on 26th June, held in the function room of The Cobblestone, was organised by the Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum, itself established in early 2013, the result of a number of meetings and seminars organised over the course of 2012. It combined communists and socialist Republicans to organise discussions on a number of issues, such as Irish state neutrality, Irish national independence, working-class programs in struggle etc.

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

SPEAKERS

Ciaran Perry, a socialist Republican and Independent Dublin City Councillor, also a local history activist, introduced the event. He talked about the importance of history and in particular local history, the traditions of struggle and how some of those had been weakened in the trade unions and communities over the years.

Reading the account of the Ballysheedy Massacre (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Perry introduced the MC for the meeting, Mags Glennon who is also a socialist Republican activist and history enthusiast.

Glennon introduced historian Fearghal MacBhloscaidh from Tyrone who began in Irish and then continued in English, his presentation laying out clearly his position that the Civil War was a planned counterrevolution, quoting Cabinet papers and correspondence and supplying figures on the arms and equipment supplied to the Free State ruling elite by the British. MacBhloscaidh also maintained that the De Valera Government, though supported by the wider Republican movement at the time, was also a counterrevolutionary measure when subjected to a class analysis.

Sorry, slightly out of focus Jimmy Doran (Photo: D.Breatnach)

A woman (whose name I did not catch) was called to stage. In a clear voice she read an account of of the horrific Ballyseedy Massacre. Free State soldiers, after torturing their Republican prisoners, brought nine of them out to a road barricade, in which they had placed a landmine which they exploded. One survived by some miracle but spent the rest of his life needing frequent medical intervention.

At intervals between speakers, Pól MacAdaim performed his music, singing accompanied by guitar. Among the songs he sang were Tipperary So Far Away and Take It Down From the Mast (in the chorus of which some members of the audience could be heard joining).

Pól Mac Adaim performing at the event (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Mags Glennon then introduced historian Liz Gillis from Dublin who talked about the reaction of women to the Treaty and to the Civil War. The vast majority of Cumann na mBan members rejected the Treaty and many actively supported the Republicans in the following conflict. Gillis also spoke about how the women, who had been active in the struggle in 1916 and briefly to the fore in public life with the elections of 1918 and the War of Independence, were driven back to almost invisibility by the Free State Government and also the De Valera government and the 1937 Constitution. Gillis lauded Kathleen Clarke whom she said continued to fight the struggle for the rights of women in representational politics and criticised the De Valera Constitution of 1937.

Mags next introduced Jimmy Doran, a communist and long-time trade union activist, who talked about the contribution of the organised Irish workers to the struggle against British colonialism and for the advance of the working class. Doran went on to comment on the trade unions’ history and current situation in the Irish state. I had to go to the toilet and when I returned stayed near the entrance so as not to distract the audience by retaking my seat near the front and unfortunately, due to the lack of a PA system and the acoustics of that location, I was unable to hear the rest of his presentation.

Poster for the event.
Supporters and organisers (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Although the meeting was thrown open to questions or contributions, little was forthcoming although there was a short debate on whether the Irish bourgeoisie prepare well into the future and whether they prepare better than their opponents in the Republican movement.

The proceedings ended with announcements of forthcoming events, thanks from Mags to the speakers, audience and to Pol Mac Adaim who ended the day on a musical note.

End.

Upcoming events:

USEFUL LINKS

https://www.facebook.com/people/Peadar-ODonnell-Socialist-Republican-Forum/100057585515589/

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100057585515589

Ciaran Perry: https://cieranperry.ie/

Fearghal Mac Bhloscaidh blog: https://blosc.wordpress.com/

Pol Mac Adaim: https://www.antiwarsongs.org/artista.php?id=9761&lang=en&rif=1#:~:text=Pol%20MacAdaim%20is%2038%20years,%2C%20Rock%2C%20Soul%20and%20Contemporary.

Ballyseedy massacre: https://stairnaheireann.net/2016/03/10/what-really-happened-at-ballyseedy/

Liz Gillis: https://www.champlain.edu/academics/champlain-abroad/champlain-abroad-dublin/faculty-and-staff-dublin/gillis-liz

Jimmy Doran: https://www.peoplesworld.org/authors/jimmy-doran/