Irish Founder of the Transport Workers Union of America — “Red” Mike Quill (1905-1966)

(Reading time: 7 mins.)

By Geoff Cobb (with addendum from Rebel Breeze)

Michael Quill forever changed labor relations in the USA. The founder of the powerful union representing New York City’s bus and subway workers, Quill’s numerous achievements helped transform the lives of millions of workers by his setting national standards for equal pay for women and minorities, health benefits and paid medical leave. However, it was his leadership of the 1966 Transit Strike that made “Red Mike Quill” a celebrity, famous for defying the Mayor and a jail sentence, when Quill shut down public transportation in the nation’s largest city.

Michael Quill photographed during mass meeting of the union. (Image source: Internet)

Born in 1905 into a humble, Gaelic-speaking family in rural Kilgarvan, Co. Kerry, which was restive under British rule, Quill inherited his desire to fight for justice from his father. “My father,” recalled Quill, “knew where every fight against an eviction had taken place in all the parishes around.”

During the War of Independence, the fifteen-year-old Quill fought in the 3rd Battalion, Kerry No. 2 Brigade of the Irish Republican Army. On a solo scouting mission, Quill stumbled on a patrol of Black and Tans asleep in a ditch. Instead of fleeing, he quietly stole all their ammunition, gleefully returning home with his stolen loot.

During the war, Quill fought bravely and met almost all the top military leaders, providing him the rare opportunity of personally knowing many of Ireland’s most famous patriots. The war also started in Quill a lifelong animosity towards the Catholic Church. While on the run, Mike and his brother were gutted when their parish priest refused their request for temporary amnesty to attend their mother’s funeral.

Opposed to the Treaty creating the Free State with a partitioned British colony, Quill fought against Michael Collins’ National Army and in the conflict Kerry Republicans suffered greatly, especially at Ballyseedy, where 23 anti-Treaty fighters were murdered with dynamite by Free State soldiers. That fight’s unbelievable brutality and injustice never left Quill.

EMIGRATION

Being on the wrong side of the Treaty, Quill, unable to find work, left for America, arriving in New York the day before St. Patrick’s Day in 1926 with just $3.42 in his pocket. Through his uncle who was a subway conductor, Quill got a job on the Interborough Rapid Transit company (which ran the original subway system in New York), first as a night gateman, then as a clerk or “ticket chopper”. The IRT quickly employed many of Quill’s comrades who were also ex- anti-Treaty fighters. Moving from station to station, Quill got to know many IRT employees. He learned they craved dignity and wanted to be treated like human beings, but Quill knew this meant fighting. He said, “You will get only what you are strong enough to take. You will have to fight for your rights—they will never be given to you. And you cannot win if you fight alone.”

James Connolly was a life-long inspiration to Michael Quill (Image source: Internet)

While working night shifts, Quill, who had only attended national school, used dead time to read labor history, especially the works of James Connolly. To fight the low pay, terrible working conditions and long hours of I.R.T workers, Quinn used Connolly, the leader of the Transport Workers Union in Dublin, executed by the British for his role in the 1916 Rising, as his inspiration, and Connolly’s ideas guided Quill throughout his life. Like Connolly, Quill believed that economic power precedes political power, and that the only effective means of satisfying the workers’ demands is the creation of an independent labor party, which creates and supports strong unions. He would honor Connolly by also calling his American union the Transportation Workers Union and years later, as president of the TWU, Quill only had two pictures on his office wall, Abraham Lincoln and James Connolly.

In his union-organizing activities, Quill got the cold shoulder from many established Irish-American organizations. “When we first started to organize the union, we asked for help from the Knight of Columbus and the Ancient Order of Hibernians”, he said. “We were booed and booted out. The Irish organizations did nothing for us, and the Church campaigned actively against us.”

Rejected by mainstream Irish Americans, Quill was embraced by the American Communist Party, which helped him obtain the money, the mimeograph machines and the manpower to launch the Transport Workers Union. Quill, though, merely used the Communists, while knowing he wanted no part of them. When they thought he should attend “Workers School” for indoctrination, Quill told them he needed no indoctrination and soon left the party.

Fearing anti-union informers, Quill organized the TWU, using the methods of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, a secret Fenian society dedicated to a violent rising against British rule. Employing cells of five so that no man knew the names of more than four other workers in the organization, messages were also sent in half-Gaelic and half-English to confuse company spies, known as “beakies.” One night, the “beakies” attacked Quill and five other activists in a tunnel as they were returning from picketing the IRT’s offices. Falsely arrested over the incident for incitement to riot, Quill gained huge notoriety amongst his fellow workers and the charges were eventually dismissed. On April 12, 1934, fighting back against 12 hour days, six days a week, at 66 cents an hour, Quill and six other men formed the T.W.U.

Quill soon became union President and succeeded in getting his union into the American Federation of Labor. He then began unionizing the other transportation companies of New York. In January 1937, the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Coorporation dismissed two boiler room engineers from their power plant in Brooklyn for their union activity. Quill immediately called a successful sit-down strike and the BMT had to reinstate the men, which further raised Quill’s standing amongst the rank and file.

ANTI-RACISM

At a time in American history when bigotry and discrimination were commonplace, Quill became famous for fighting prejudice. An ardent opponent of the pro-Fascist Fr. Coughlin, Quill said, “Anti-Semitism is not the problem of the Jewish people alone. It is an American problem, a number one American problem.” He also fought for African Americans against the prejudice of many in his own union. He explained, “The bosses hired you and the same bosses hired the blacks. You are on one payroll; you come to work and leave through the same gate; you punch the same time clock. Unless there is one union to protect all of you, the employer will train these men and use them to displace you—at half your wages.”

Quill became an early ally of Martin Luther King who referred to Quill as “a fighter for decent things all his life” who “spent his life ripping the chains of bondage off his fellow man.” Quill once asked, “Do you know what I’m most proud of? That in TWU we have eliminated racial discrimination in hiring and in promotions and within the union’s ranks. Blacks, Hispanics, Orientals, American Indians and women are holding appointive and elective office.”

STRIKE AND JAIL

Perhaps Quill’s finest hour was during the Transit Strike of 1966. Newly-elected patrician Mayor john Lindsay wanted to get tough with Quill and the TWU. Journalist Jimmy Breslin summarized the conflict succinctly: “…[Lindsay] was talking down to old Mike Quill, and when Quill looked up at John Lindsay he saw the Church of England. Within an hour, we had one hell of a transit strike.”

TWU strike picket 1st Jan 1966 Transit Strike. (Image source: Internet)

Quill attacked the Mayor just as if he were a British soldier, chiding Lindsay for his “abysmal lack of knowledge of the fundamentals of labor relations.” He castigated Lindsay as “a pipsqueak, a juvenile” and jested: “We explored his mind yesterday and found nothing there.” To add insult to injury Quill intentionally repeatedly mispronounced the mayor’s name as “Linsley,” proving that even in the heat of battle Quill never lost his sense of humor.

Then Lindsay made a fatal mistake, jailing Quill, who defiantly said, “The judge can drop dead in his black robes!” While in prison, Quill suffered another heart attack and was sent to the worst of city hospitals. The only person who called Mrs. Quill asking if he could help was Senator Robert F. Kennedy of New York. No other politician inquired about the stricken Quill. While Quill was in the hospital a deal was reached granting the TWU a 15% wage increase along with improvements in the health, welfare and pension systems. In all, it was a great victory. The strike over, he was released from police custody, but just three days later Quill died at age sixty with many claiming that the stress of the strike led to his premature passing.

Quill tearing up the court order banning the strike. (Image source: Internet)

Mike Quill left an enduring legacy. Today the Transport Workers Union is composed of an estimated 60 percent minorities and Quill is still revered within it. He had an inclusive vision of labor, which minority workers respected, strengthening the movement. Pete Seeger dedicated a ballad to Quill and producers Macdara Vallely and Paul Miller have made a biographical film about Quill entitled Which side are you on?

(Image source: Internet)

(Image source: Internet)
Aerial view Mike Quill Centre with feature in the shape of Ireland.
(Image source: Internet)

End.

POSTSCRIPT: Mike Quill and Vice-Admiral Nelson

In the Dublin City Centre, in the middle of its main street, is a curious steel erection which most people call “The Spire”. But from 1809 until 1966, something else stood there: a granite column with the English naval hero Nelson atop it, very much in the style of the one that stands in London’s Trafalgar Square today.

British soldier standing beside ruined GPO building (left) and Nelson’t pillar is visible (right), post-Rising 1916. Quill’s offer to Dublin City Council to demolish he Pillar and replace it with a monument to an Irish national hero was refused but the dissident group Saor Éire blew it up in 1966 in advance of the annual Easter Rising commemorations. (Image source: Internet)

About 50 metres away from what was colloquially called “The Pillar” stands the General Post Office building, which operated as the command HQ of the 1916 Easter Rising and is therefore a traditional gathering place for State and other commemorations of the Rising.

As the 50th Anniversary of the Rising drew near, Mike Quill contacted Dublin City Council and offered to have the statue removed for free and replaced with a more suitable monument. Quill’s first choice was a statue of Jim Larkin, who led his and Connolly’s Irish Transport and General Workers Union in resisting the 8-month Dublin Lockout – the tram crews had walked off their vehicles once they reached the Pillar and Dublin Metropolitan Police had run riot against the people in O’Connell Street shortly afterwards on Bloody Sunday 1913. But Quill offered the Council other options too. A private trust and not Dublin City Council owned Nelson’s Column, he was informed and there the matter rested. Until, on 8th March 1966, the Pillar was blown up by Saor Éire, a socialist split from the Irish Republican Movement, in advance of the 50th Anniversary commemorations.

The Jim Larkin monument in O’Connell Street today (Photo: D.Breatnach)

POWERFUL PROTEST AGAINST VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 1 minute; watching time: 3 minutes per video)

 

A choreographed protest against violence against women is sweeping the world.  It was first seen on International Day Against Violence Against Women, 27th November in the centre of Santiago, the capital city of Chile. Organised by feminist group La Tesis, it formed part of the popular resistance to the the Sebastián Piñera regime and its repression, since accusations of rape and other sexual violence against the repressive forces have, according to a number of human rights agencies, amounted to 15% of the total (at least 70 separate cases in the first month of protests).

Source: Internet

The lyrics chanted were, in translation:
Patriarchy is a judge who judges us for being born
and our punishment is the violence that you don’t see.
It’s femicide, impunity for my murderer,
it’s disappearance, it’s rape.
And it wasn’t my fault, where I was or how I was dressed.
The rapist is you.  The rapist is you.
It’s the police, the judges, the State, the President.
The oppressive State is a macho rapist.

This was an extremely powerful and effective protest and caught the imagination of others, with videos spread by social media and also appeals across borders by feminist networks.

No doubt the continuation of the protest will take place in other contexts but it remain a powerful and innovative call.

As with other protests in Chile, those congregating in the area were attacked by forces of the State soon afterwards — the same forces against which the protest had been organised.

end.

SOURCES:

Various but chiefly https://theconversation.com/the-rapist-is-you-why-a-viral-latin-american-feminist-anthem-spread-around-the-world-128488?

DUBLIN COUNTER-RALLY OUTNUMBERS RACISTS AND FASCISTS

Diarmuid Breatnach

On what was an extremely cold day, faith groups joined with migrants and community groups, Irish Republicans, socialists, communists and anarchists to oppose a mobilisation by racists and fascists outside Leinster House, which houses the Oireachtas, the Irish Parliament. There were a couple of moments of surges towards the right-wingers but these were contained without arrests.

          The anti-racist demonstrators responded to a call for the counter-rally and occupied the space from 12.00 noon on 14th December 2019, which left the racists and fascists having to face them from the other side of Kildare Street, at the junction with Molesworth Street but, in any case, they were outnumbered at about ten to one by the anti-racists and anti-fascists. The call came from SARF (Solidarity Alliance against Racism and Fascism), Islamic Foundation of Ireland, United Against Racism and Irish Network Against Racism (INAR).

The two opposing groups facing one another seen from the northern end of Kildare Street. The anti-fascists are to the left of photo.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

“FREE SPEECH”

          The right-wing group had called for a rally to protest about the legislation proposed by the party in Government, Fine Gael, against “hate speech”. Ironically, Fine Gael are themselves a right-wing party which was formed in part out of the 1930s Irish fascist organisation, known colloquially as “the Blueshirts” (a name by which Fine Gael are known to this day by many). Earlier this year, Gemma O’ Doherty’s Youtube account was suspended and then terminated by Google because of its anti-migrant content, which gave the racists another issue: censorship of “free speech”.

Historically fascists, when their movement is weak, have often mobilised under the banner of “freedom of speech”. This has meant not only freedom to speak out against the government in power (which many anti-fascists would also wish for) but also the freedom to demonise targeted social, ethnic and religious groups and to call for their restriction, expulsion, jailing — or even death. Immediately upon gaining power, fascists restrict the freedom of speech of all others: not only of the social, ethnic and religious groups they targeted but also of their critics, the political opposition and trade unions. In this of course they are not so different from some socialist, communist or Irish Republican groups that rail against suppression and censorship only subsequently to silence criticism within their own ranks by threats, expulsions and censorship in the media they control. The point however is not to be fooled by the “free speech” demands of fascists and racists.

Section of the anti-racist mobilisation seen from a facing northward position. Beyond the irish Tricolour in the foreground, the Catalan estelada may be seen in the background, also Anarchist and Communist flags.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

All the same, this does not mean that we should support the proposed Fine Gael legislation either. “Anti-Hate Speech” legislation elsewhere was passed in capitalist states under the guise of protection of vulnerable minorities but then at times used for the protection of capitalists, royalty, government ministers and the police. If racist or homophobic incitement is the supposed target, why not specify that? Is hate itself necessarily a bad thing, if the hated object is racism, state suppression, exploitation?

Section of antifascist rally (left of photo) and most of racist rally (right) seen from facing southward position. Those wearing pink hi-viz vests are stewards.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

A BROAD RIGHT-WING, RACIST COALITION SHELTERING FASCISTS

          The origin of this right-wing coalition seems to have coalesced around former anti-corruption journalist Gemma Doherty who, some time subsequent to being fired by her newspaper after she exposed some aspects of the financial dealings of the paper’s owner, apparently underwent a transformation into a rabid anti-immigration racist. People opposed to legislation legalising gay marriage and permitting greater access to abortion gathered around her, as did others against the State’s problematic child and family agency TUSLA and some others. Accordingly it is a broad but small, generally right-wing movement of many who feel a sense of their values being ignored or undermined. How disparate at times can be judged by their demonstration at the Department of Justice building a little over a month ago, when among their signage was a banner attacking TUSLA and abuses by the Catholic Church, while a woman among their number shook a set of rosary beads at the counter-demonstration!

Viewed from near the southern end of the crowds, the right-wingers across the street to the left of photo, anti-racists closer in foreground.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

The confusion was illustrated yesterday too when a woman among the right-wingers could be seen flying an estelada, a flag of Catalan independentists. From a number of people from among the counter-demonstrators who spoke to her, including Catalans and other people from the Spanish state, it appears that she equated the demonstration with demanding free speech, which she rightly stated was being denied by the Spanish state to many, including Catalan independentists.

Such groups are often believers in bizarre conspiracies (nor are they alone in that) and current among some of them is a belief that the EU plans to replace Irish people with migrants. For that reason the EU, which many Irish Republicans and socialists also oppose for very different reasons, is one of the targets of this right-wing coalition.

Organised fascists, who are currently a tiny group in the territory of the Irish state (but much larger, in the shape of Loyalists, in the British colony in Ireland, the Six Counties) find themselves generally isolated in society within the Irish state and no doubt threatened too. Therefore they try to infiltrate broader anti-government groups, as they did with a brief emergence of an Irish “Yellow Vest” movement, mostly in Dublin (see https://rebelbreeze.wordpress.com/2019/02/16/irish-yellow-vests-and-questions/) – in which they do not reveal their fascist project but present themselves as being against the Government, against corruption, for remedy of homelessness and as Irish patriots. And of course for free speech.

Nor are organised fascists the only opportunists, as a small number of politicians seeking election (or reelection) have been known to whip up fear of migrants and racist sentiment against Irish Travellers (originally a nomadic group). These offenders very recently have included an Independent TD (parliamentary delegate) from Galway and a Fine Gael candidate seeking election.

At some point of course, if they intend to come to power in society, fascists need to reveal some of their agenda but before they can do that they need to train some of their stormtroopers, public speakers and organisers and they need to command the street, at least in some areas. That was the reason for the 1930s rallies and attempted march on Dublin of the Blueshirts in Ireland, Mussolini’s Blackshirts March on Rome, the rallies and street-fighting of the Brownshirts in Germany and Moseley’s Blackshirts’ failed attempt to penetrate London’s East End. In the Spanish and Portuguese states, the fascists needed a military coup to aid them and, in the former case, the logistical and personnel assistance of the already-fascist states of Germany and Italy (a military coup was feared by the young Fianna Fáil government in 1930s Ireland too). In 2016, the need for a street presence was the reason for the attempted Dublin city centre launch of the European islamophobic organisation Pegida, which was defeated by mass mobilisation and physical opposition (for which some Irish Republicans are still being processed through the Irish courts).

Although Gemma O’Doherty and her supporters had been confronted before in Ireland, yesterday’s was the first large mobilisation against their racist anti-immigration message and it vastly outnumbered that of the racists.

Another view of both sides, mostly the anti-racists, from facing southward position.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

POLICE AND STEWARDS SAVE RACISTS AND FASCISTS FROM A TROUNCING

          Generally the two opposing forces seemed content with shouting and chanting across the street at one another, apart from the occasional anti-fascist wandering over to verbally confront the opposition. The anti-racists who in the opinion of the police got too close to the racists were sent back by the police but one of the antifascists had to approach the Gardaí (Irish state police) to remove one of the racists who had embedded himself among the anti-fascists. This seemed dangerously like asking the police to deal with the fascists whereas police bias at least is generally against the antifascists. Surely the crowd could have easily expelled him (at least) unaided?

As has been the custom with them and their intention to appear patriotic, the racists and fascists were displaying a host of Irish tricolours but this time there were a number of these also among the antifascists, along with a number of green-and-gold Starry Plough flags, as well as some communist and anarchist flags.

However, when a small group among the right-wingers pulled out the blue-and-white version of the Starry Plough, flag of the Republican Congress of the 1930s, along with the Sunburst flag of the Fianna Éireann (Republican youth group of past generations) and began waving them, a section of Irish Republicans surged forward in outrage and for a few moments the stewards and the Gardaí struggled to contain them.

Those who had brandished those particular flags were clearly delighted with the reaction they had provoked. Since at previous demonstrations of the racists and fascists they had never displayed those particular flags and, since they only made an appearance later in their rally yesterday, it seems clear that they had displayed them solely for the purpose of provocation.

A little later there was another surge from a different point which was again contained.

It was understandable, given the broad composition of the anti-racist rally, that the organisers would wish to prevent physical fighting breaking out from among their ranks on this occasion. However, there is a danger of this kind of stewarding becoming collusion with the State – or at the very least being seen to be so by sections of anti-fascists.

MIGRANTS AND IRELAND

          The bubble expansion of the Irish economy for an unexpectedly long period from the late 1980s to the beginning of this century, provided employment opportunities which could not be filled by the low level of the Irish population (a result of two centuries of heavy migration from Ireland to other countries). These employment opportunities, mostly in construction and services, tended to be availed of by migrants, mostly from European states with declining or stagnant economies but also by some from states in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and China.

Although Ireland had seen foreign colonisation from Britain for centuries, it had only experienced small emigration from elsewhere, which also tended to restricted to certain periods, for example Huguenots at the end of the 17th Century and Italians in two waves, following each World War. The change in population composition in some areas at the end of the 20th Century was startling and difficult for some to which to accustom themselves (though welcomed by others). When combined with the subsequent bursting of the Irish economic bubble and cuts in public services, severe housing crisis and a health service failing spectacularly, migrants became a handy scapegoat for some people and a useful target for fascists.

Some of the migrant communities in Ireland were represented among the anti-fascists but apart from a sprinkling of black faces, were not so easy to identify. A Catalan estelada (yes, another one) revealed a small group of Catalans representing CDR Dublin and a representative of Asamblea Nacional de Catalunya Ireland also spoke from the PA system earlier in the day. Some Spanish were in evidence and a Basque Antifascist flag could also be seen but undoubtedly the largest migrant antifascist contingent was Italian. Many of these were supporters of the Sardine movement against Italian right-wing populist politician Salvini and which welcomes migrants. Perhaps a hundred strong, they sang antifascist songs, including of course the Bella Ciao and made speeches in Italian and in English.

Section of the Italian ‘Sardine’ movement supporters.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

THE FUTURE?

          As increasingly around the world governments become more right-wing and fascist organisations mobilise, anti-fascists need to organise too. The thesis that fascism is capitalism in crisis seems well-proven which means that antifascists should not nor cannot rely on the forces of the capitalist State to prevent the growth of fascism or to protect the social and ethnic groups targeted by fascists and racists.

Although the Catholic Church in Ireland no longer has the power it had in the Irish state since its creation in the 1920s and the fascists cannot rely on its heavy backing as in the 1930s, there is no room for complacency in Ireland or anywhere else.

Mobilisation against the fascists and racists to deny them public spaces from which to recruit and to organise is essential. And a broad anti-fascist and ant-racist unity in action needs to be built, similar to what was seen yesterday although within that broad movement there also needs to be struggle against liberal ideology. But one cannot combat sickness purely by countering infection – care needs to be given to cultivation of a healthy body too. The Ireland body is sick: sick from cultural and physical colonialism, sick from territorial partition, from racist Loyalism and native gombeenism, from underdeveloped economy and plundered resources, from housing and health crises. While these remain unresolved we can expect at least sporadic outbreaks of fascist and racist infection and quite possibly an epidemic. It is not only in the struggle against fascism that unity is needed.

end

POSTSCRIPT

          From information either not available to me or unconfirmed at the time, the blue-and-white Starry Plough which had been used to provoke anti-fascists was actually seized by the latter in the scrimmage.  There was apparently another, which was allegedly seized by Republicans after the right-wingers had left for which two men were arrested and handcuffed.

According to reports, one of the right-wing women attempted to kick one of the arrested men while he was handcuffed and she was also arrested.

JARKI – NEW BASQUE ORGANISATION FOR INDEPENDENCE AND SOCIALISM

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time text: 15 minutes)

When Basque independentists celebrated Gudari Eguna this year, the Day of the Basque Soldier, some of the celebrants were affiliates of the Abertzale (Basque pro-Independence) Left while others were supporters of the Basque Nationalist Party, nominally at least and often in reality, political enemies. However, it is not the same day for each.

Flagpole with the ikurrina, Basque national flag, at Sollube, scene of a battle between the Francoist forces and the Basque Gudari during the Antifascist War. This was erected probably by the PNV for their commemoration but commemorations are also held at the site by ‘dissidents’ of the Abertzale Left.
(Photo source: D.Breatnach)

A beech seedling (native tree, sacred in folklore, of reputed medicinal qualities, e.g in helping the body to resist infection) had been planted by ‘dissidents’ at the Sollube memorial and, although the surrounding protective netting had collapsed, was still alive. Subsequently Amnistia supporters returned and tidied up the area and left stone markers too.
(Photo source: D.Breatnach)

Mount of sollube: the Francoist forces had invaded from that far background direction, coming in from Nafarroa, which had been taken over to Franco by the Basque Carlists.
(Photo source: D.Breatnach)

          The PNV (Basque Nationalist Party) commemorates the execution of 42 Basque fighters in one jail by the Franco forces on 28th October in 1937, whilst the Abertzale Left carries out their commemoration a month earlier, on the 27th of September, anniversary of the last executions under Franco (and, officially, in the Spanish state since): ETA martyrs Juan Paredes Manot (Txiki) and Ángel Otaegi Etxeberria, along with three members of FRAP (Revolutionary Antifascist Patriotic Front) Jose Luis Sanchez Bravo, Ramón Garcia Sanz and Humberto Baena, all shot by firing squads in 1975 (despite world-wide protests and riots outside Spanish embassies).

For much of the Abertzale Left, Gudari Eguna commemorates not only the martyrs of the 27th September 1975 but also all those who fought for Basque independence during the Spanish Anti-Fascist War and all who fought for it since, in particular those martyred in the struggle.

But even in agreement on that date and that purpose, there are differences too. For some years now some commemorations have been by supporters of Amnistia Ta Askatasuna (Amnesty and Freedom), who denounce the “Officials” for dropping the demand for an amnesty for political prisoners but also criticise them on many other political and cultural grounds: ceasing to push for the everyday use of Euskera (the Basque language), making political pacts with social democrats, etc.

Increasingly, ATA and the “Officials” find themselves incapable of sharing a commemoration or a platform as the latter move further down the path of accommodation to the Spanish regime, social democracy and the PNV, commemorating police killed, apologising for the ‘crimes’ of the now-defunct Basque armed organisation ETA.

A poster of the “Officials” highlights two ETA martyrs, one killed by the Policía Nacional and the other by the Guardia Civil. (Photo source: D.Breatnach)

A poster for Gudari Eguna of the ‘Official’ leadership, the party EH Bildu, next to a poster of the ‘dissident’ ATA listing six prisoners whose situation is being highlighted.
(Photo source: D.Breatnach)

JARKI – A COMPARATIVELY NEW ORGANISATION REJECTING THE ABERTZALE LEFT “OFFICIAL” LEADERSHIP

          In Ireland, though they themselves might reject that appellation, the equivalent to ATA would be called “dissident Republicans” and Basques are not as touchy about being counted part of the dissidencia. But one new group has emerged which does reject that term as descriptive of themselves, while at the same time very clearly against the positions of the “Officials” and resolutely for independence and socialism.

This group is called Jarki, (of various meaning: “Resist/ Stand fast/ Push back/ Commit”; the first letter is pronounced like the Spanish “j” or the Irish “ch”).

Among other posters of factions of the Abertzale Left proclaiming Gudari Eguna in the Basque Country this September, I had seen one, very large, side by side with a declaration of position against the subjugation of the Basque nation, for socialism and class struggle. Curiously, there had been no venue advertised for a commemoration ceremony to take place. Was this group, this Jarki, not intending to have one? I made discreet enquiries, someone spoke to someone ….. who perhaps spoke to someone else ….

Jarki poster for Gudari Eguna — note no venue details
(Photo source: D.Breatnach)

On Gudari Eguna this year,

Text poster of Jarki’s alongside their image poster (Photo source: D.Breatnach)

27th September, I was met fairly early in the morning by my appointed guide. The mist gathered high upon the marshes and river and in the valleys as we drove higher, eventually coming out on a scenic site, the day cold but the climbing sun burning off the last of the mists. We rendezvoused with other carloads, then drove to another spot and parked. Asked to leave my mobile in the car, I accompanied my hosts on a long walk in unseasonal sun and heat to a field, where a temporary stage had been set up. It was to be a Gudari Eguna event organised by the Jarki organisation.

The security precautions were not excessive. This was taking place in the Spanish state, where fascism had never been defeated but had instead had a paint-over job in order to allow the Western states, after the death of Franco, to pretend it was a democracy. Until a few years ago, detentions of Basques had been like an epidemic, torture by police and army routine and just as routinely ignored by judges who sentenced the prisoners on the basis of their “confessions” or those of others to long years in jail. In contravention of EU and UN protocols for the treatment of prisoners, the political victims of the State had been dispersed to its furthest reaches, far from spouses, children, relatives and friends. And though the armed group ETA had ceased operation in 2012 and was now disbanded, persecution went on: that very month, 45 people of various organisations arrested in 2013, 2014 and 2015 for supporting the prisoners, including psychologists and lawyers, “supporting terrorism” according to the State, had been brought to trial1.

On the way to the rally, I saw many young men and women, in their middle-to-late teens or early twenties and also many others in ages ranging from late 50’s to 80s, also with a sprinkling of young adolescents. In other words, there were hardly any there of raising a family age. The sun was very hot now and I took off my jacket and tied it around my waist and, even so, was soon sweating.

I and one other were provided with a translator to Castillian (Spanish) for the speeches in Euskera – nobody else seemed to need one, a state of affairs that would not be matched in Irish Republican or Socialist circles with regard to our native language.

The heat beat down and I worried about getting sunburned, while at the same time very interested in what was going on. A large dragonfly wheeled above us, hovered a second then shot off. One of the folkloric Basque names for it translates as “Witch’s Needle” but it is important to recognise that in Basque society, sorgina or “witch” does not have the same negative connotations as can be found in much of western society, even today.

“THE STRUGGLE MUST CONTINUE — IN ONE FORM OR ANOTHER”

          A man perhaps in his 60s took to the stage and recalled his years in guerrilla resistance (i.e in ETA), his capture and the killing of his comrades (one was executed on the spot by the Guardia Civil2). He went on to talk about his years being dispersed around Spanish jails throughout the territory of the State. Speaking about the historical memory of resistance, the man commented that it was necessary to keep that alive – both of the Antifascist War and of the resistance afterwards.

Euskal Herria3 was still divided and still not free, he continued and therefore the struggle had to continue in one form or another, despite the abandonment of the path of resistance by the current leadership of the Abertzale Left. Similarly the demand had to be maintained not only for an end to dispersal but for an amnesty for political prisoners.

After his speech, a young male bertxolari stepped forward to sing his composition. This is a cultural form of social and/ or political commentary, composed by those skilled in the art to fixed rules of rhyme, length of line and a selection of airs.4

He was followed by an elderly left-wing journalist who, apologising for her inability to speak in Euskara, did so in Castillian (Spanish). She referred to her family’s history of anti-fascist struggle, both in the War and in the resistance that followed the victory of the military-fascist forces. She too spoke about the need to continue resistance to unjust regimes and for the right to self-determination.

The journalist speaker was followed by the performance of another bertxolari, this time a young female.

Last to speak was a young woman, speaking on behalf of the Jarki organisation. She recalled the anti-fascist resistance in the Basque Country in ……….. (a nearby battle during the Anti-Fascist War) and elsewhere, also by ETA in the years following the victory of the military-fascist forces. While others might try to pacify the people and to wind down the resistance, the need for active participation in resistance is as great as ever, she said. The woman ended with the call “Gora Euskal Herria askatatua eta independentzia!” (“Long live a free and independent Basque Country!”), to which all the audience (myself included) responded with a roar of “Gora!”.

The young woman then led the audience with the song Eusko Gudariak (“Basque Soldiers”, similar in content to the Irish national anthem, the Soldiers’ Song), most of us who knew the words or not with raised fists, then a couple of women let out the irrintzi5 yell, raising goose pimples on my skin.

Obviously, given my presence, not all the attendance had been Jarki activists but on the other hand, not all its supporters had been able to come either, I was told on the long walk back to the car on tired leg muscles in the blistering unseasonal heat. I joked that if I’d had my mobile with me I’d have phoned an ambulance. Some cured sausage sandwiches and a few mouthfuls of ardoa (wine) from a traditional wineskin, kindly offered where the vehicles were parked revived me somewhat for the journey back to my pickup point that morning but thankfully, we also stopped on the way for lunch and a cold beer at a Basque bar (for which my attempts to pay were kindly but firmly refused by my other travelling companions).

“MOST OF THE RESISTANCE NEEDS TO BE AT STREET LEVEL”

          Later, at an appointment with a Jarki activist, I asked what the relationship with other Basque organisations was, given that his group will not accept the appellation of “dissident” and others will. He told me that they enjoy friendly relationships with a number of other Basque political and cultural organisations that have also broken away from the “Official” leadership. Jarki is a revolutionary socialist organisation for an independent Basque country and in support of the Basque language, he told me. “Although we do not at the moment put forward electoral candidates, we are not necessarily against doing so as a tactic”, he added, speaking quietly. “But the ‘officialistas’ are only interested in the electoral path and we think most of the resistance needs to be at street level”.

The organisation expects a disciplined commitment from its members, for which it also recognises the need for political education, especially of the youth. There had been wide criticism of the lack of this kind of education within the Abertzale Left since the 1990s and earlier, right up to the present.6

The national independence and socialism of the Basque Country is of benefit to the world and the independence and socialism of other countries is of benefit to our nation,” he said in reply to my question about the issue of internationalist solidarity. He admitted that the representative of Jarki at their Gudari Eguna commemoration had not mentioned that aspect.

Jarki call for rupture with the Spanish Constitution and demonstration on 6th December.
(Photo source: Internet)

CALL FOR RUPTURE WITH THE SPANISH CONSTITUTION

          A few days ago, while I was writing this long-overdue piece from contemporary notes, Jarki issued a national call to Basque society (translated by me from a Castillian version): “The Basque working-class people responds with rupture to the Spanish Constitution.”

The Spanish Constitution, despite not being accepted in the Basque Country7, is being imposed upon us. It is a document edited by the Francoists in a pact with the Spanish political parties. This document denies the self-determination of the peoples and besides accords to the military the role of guarantor of the union of Spain.

This Constitution designed the administrative separation of the provinces of the southern Basque Country.8

Faced with this imposition it is more important than ever that the working-class population of the Basque Country creates a revolutionary alternative which should be a political vision to lead the struggle for national construction and liberation and for socialism, the struggle for a united Basque Country, without classes.

For all those reasons we call for the organisation and mobilisation against the imposition, in which the Basque working-class population should follow its own path. Because of all that, we call for participation in the demonstration to take place on 6th December (Spanish Constitution Day) in Durango.

Although they wished to silence us, they will hear us. We have enough reasons. It is time to take to the streets. This people needs a revolutionary alternative.

End.

Poster by Jarki calling for demonstration against the Spanish Constitution (Photo source: Internet)

FOOTNOTES

1The day after 50,000 demonstrated for the right to support the prisoners and in solidarity with those on trial, Basque society was shocked when those charged admitted their “guilt” in exchange for walking free or a maximum sentence of five years’ jail for the “leaders” (instead of the up to 20 years normal from the Spanish court). The reverberations of that – the act of pleading ‘guilt’ itself but also permitting 50,000 to demonstrate in ignorance of the intention — are still travelling through the Abertzale Left and are likely to cost the “Official” leadership, who must have approved or perhaps even brokered the deal, very dearly. In contrast to the 45, another four, leaders of Askapena, Basque organisation for internationalist solidarity, charged with similar ‘crimes’, had fought the case earlier, for which they had won much respect and had beat the charges. Askapena, however, had quietly split from the Abertzale Left some years previously.

2The Guardia Civil is a militarised police force of the Spanish State with a very political role, the most active in the past against the Basque national movement and now similarly against the Catalonian. In addition the Spanish State has the Policía Nacional, also armed and active against movements for self-determination. Each region also has a separate police force, for example the Policía Foral in Nafarroa, the Ertzaintza in Euskadi, Mossos d’Esquadra in Catalonia, etc. And there are urban police forces too in every town or village.

3Meaning “the country where they speak Basque”, the term is now used to describe the whole Basque nation of seven provinces, three currently within the French state and four within the Spanish territory. “Euskadi”, the former term, now only describes the “Basque Authority” area of three provinces: Bizkaia, Alava and Gipuzkoa.

4This cultural form, at one time perhaps in danger of dying out, has become very popular and national competitions are broadcast on the Basque TV network. I have witnessed two bertxolari given pieces of paper laying out their respective roles (for example an Irish landlord and a Polish tenant) and, minutes later, engage in a battle of bertxos (verses) which had a Basque audience in roars of laughter and appreciation for the wit and skill of each. Close attention is paid by Basque listeners to bertxolari which, for a nation not culturally given to admiration for the song of the single voice (unless they can join to sing along), is truly remarkable. The Irish “comhrá beirte” is a similar performance art form but much less developed, certainly now, in Irish tradition.

5It is a long ullulating or yodelling cry, by males or females, said to be a call to war or to encourage Basques while fighting (it was also the name of a short-lived Basque resistance organisation functioning in the “French” Basque provinces). Such calls are common for communication of different kinds among mountain people, the sound carrying from one mountain to another and echoing but curiously enough it is also a feature of Arab culture in the desert and of some Native Americans. Example with a commentary in Castillian: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcSaW6JUnUc

6That this has been neglected for decades in the Abertzale Left is a fact admitted even by many who remain within the “official” line.

7The Spanish Constitution was presented on a “take it or leave it” basis during the Transition period after the death of Franco, with much violence from police and fascist organisations and the fear of a return to the full-blown fascist dictatorship. The Spanish Communist Party with its huge and then militant trade union, Comisiones Obreras and the social-democratic PSOE, with its smaller Unión General de Trabajadores, were both legalised on condition they supported the monarchist and unitary state Constitution. In such circumstances it was hardly surprising that the referendum on 6th December 1978 brought in a huge majority for the Constitution – but not in the Basque Country, where it was rejected.

8Three of the four southern provinces, i.e those currently within the Spanish State, are under one regional government administration while the fourth, Nafarroa, has its own.

CATALONIAN FIREFIGHTER AND TRADE UNIONIST SPEAKS IN DUBLIN

by Clive Sulish

A Catalonian firefighter and trade unionist addressed a Dublin audience to talk about the independence for Catalonia movement and the role of the trade unions in it, the repression from the Spanish State and the how the firefighters found themselves between the rampaging Spanish police and referendum voters on the 1st of October 2017.

Panel and screen at the Dublin meeting. Oriol is seated in the middle.

With some words in Irish and then speaking in English, the Chair of the meeting, Marc Loan of CDR Dublin welcomed the mostly-Irish audience to the meeting in Club na Múinteoirí (Teachers’ Club) on 13th November and outlined how the presentation would go, before opening up to questions and contributions from the audience. The meeting was part of a short tour of Irish cities by a Catalonian firefighter and trade unionist, organised jointly by three Ireland-based organisations in solidarity with Catalonia: With Catalonia/ Leis an Chatalóin, ANC Ireland and CDR Dublin.

The room lights were dimmed and an electronic presentation operated by Carles Pujol of the Irish branch of the ANC (National Assembly of Catalonia) took the audience through dates in the history of Catalonia as a nation and its relationship with the Spanish Kingdom. Then the presentation switched to some dates in international recognition of the right to self-determination of peoples, before focusing on the fairly recent attempts of the Catalan Government to legislate for its needs, legislation reduced or eliminated by subsequent judgements of the Spanish court. And thence to the Referendum on Independence of 1st October 2017, at which point the Chair presented the guest speaker.

Section of audience in the meeting and presentation screen.

The Chair introduced the firefighter from Catalonia, a slim tanned man in his forties, with shaved and balding head and lively brown eyes. Oriol Duch had the previous day addressed an audience in Derry, hosted by Derry Trades Council and the day before that in Queen’s University Belfast, organised by Belfast ANC. Mr. Duch had worked at one job or another since the age of sixteen, had been a firefighter for 15 years and a member of his union, Intersindical CSC, for seven of those. From its website, Intersindical declares itself to be a class trade union, which is to say that it specifically excludes members of state repressive forces, senior officials of state departments or management officials of companies. Mr. Duch is employed as a firefighter at the Girona Airport, Catalonia but also volunteers for the firefighting service of the Catalan Government administration, the Generalitat.

Oriol Duchs posing for a photograph outside the family and business home of the Pearse family, home of brothers Patrick and William, executed by British firing squads in 1916.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

“WE ARE NOT HEROES”

          As Oriol Duch spoke about the involvement of the firefighters as a defensive screen for voters in the October 1st Referendum in Catalonia, the projection screen showed massive crowds marching and demonstrating for independence. Catalonian firefighters had taken part in uniform in a number of those demonstrations for the democratic right to self-determination and had organised a demonstration of their own (seen on the poster for the speaking tour). The firefighters had discussed what to do since the Spanish Government had threatened the Referendum organisers and social media was full of threats too from right-wingers, including Spanish police officers and Army members. They knew that among the masses coming out to vote, there would be vulnerable people including the elderly and children and decided that those who wished to would turn out voluntarily in their uniforms and stand between the Spanish police and the crowds wanting to vote.

Manus O’Riordan, whose father fought in the International Brigades at Gandesa, mentioned a song for Catalonia he had liked and sang his translation of it into English there and then. As the applause died down, an Irish voice called for the national song of Catalonia, a song of workers’ resistance, the Els Segadors (the Reapers), which all Catalans present sang, the whole audience standing in respect.

Bringing the meeting to a close, the Chair thanked the guest speaker, the panel and the audience for their attendance and contributions (a thanks separately expressed by Oriol Duchs too) and encouraged them to keep in touch with the three solidarity organisations. He also expressed the organisers’ gratitude to the Dublin Fire Brigade and to the Teachers’ Club.

Poster for the Catalan firefighter tour shows one of the events organised by Catalan firefighters in support of self-determination for Catalonia.
(Poster design: CDR Dublin)

On the day, the firefighters distributed themselves around in a number of places, Oriol Duch told his audience, by ad hoc arrangements, the organisers arranging by texts to send firefighters to areas where they were felt to be needed. On the Sunday in question, as voters queued outside the polling stations, mostly schools closed for the day, convoys of police arrived with Spanish police in riot gear who charged into the buildings, breaking down doors and windows, to beat people and seize ballot boxes. They also attacked people waiting to vote with batons, boots and fists, Oriol Duch said, as the firefighters attempted to stand between the unarmed civilians and the police. Over 800 people that day had required medical treatment, he said (including a number of firefighters).

As the firefighter from Catalonia spoke, the presentation began to show scenes of Spanish police beating people with their truncheons, throwing others to the ground, kicking and punching them, pulling people by their hair and putting them in choke holds

“People have called the firefighters heroes but we do not see ourselves that way,” he said. “We were doing what we could to protect people and save lives, which is what we do in our job.”

DFB officer showing Oriol some of the equipment in a DFB truck.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Carles Pujol, Oriol & Diarmuid Breatnach inside the Dublin Fire Brigade museum.

A MASS MOVEMENT FOR SELF-DETERMINATION

          The Catalonian movement for independence is a mass movement that has been built especially by grassroots organisations, which have pushed the Catalan independentist political parties forward. Chief among these grassroots organisations is the National Assembly of Catalonia (whose former President, Jordi Sanchez, is one of the independentist activists jailed recently by the Spanish court). Firefighters for the Republic, of which Oriol is an active member, is a sub-group of the ANC.

Since the police attacks, others have come forward to direct mass resistance, in particular after the jail sentences of 9-13 years on seven elected public representatives and two leaders of grassroots organisations (ANC and Omnium Cultural) were announced in October. The “Catalan Tsunami” organisation contacted supporters through social media and masses followed their direction. For example, when the call to flood the Barcelona Airport with people had gone out, thousands had walked kilometres to get there and despite police violence, had effectively shut the airport down for hours. More recently, people had for a weekend closed by blockade one of two main motorways from the French State into the Spanish one, which passes through Catalonia (the other, passing through the Basque Country, was more recently shut down by Basques also — CS).

Oriol Duchs told the Dublin audience that the repression of peaceful people by the Spanish State included heavy jail sentences for “sedition” and police attacks on people in the street, “including firing rubber bullets, the use of which are banned in Catalonia but that is ignored by the Spanish police”. News media has reported that victims of rubber bullets fired at close range directly at people, contrary to instructions on their use, have caused a number of people recently to lose an eye. However, the police cannot control the masses of people, Oriol said.

After the applause for the Catalan firefighter had died down, the Chair opened the meeting to questions and comments from the audience.

Among the comments was that of an Irish woman who had been in Catalonia during the Referendum and talked about the frightening advance of the Spanish police in their riot gear and with their weapons. She disagreed with what Oriol Duchs had said in only one particular: “You ARE heroes”, she said, to applause and cheering from the audience.

An Irishman who had been there too as an international observer spoke about the police attack, which he said was fascist in nature. Another Irishwoman who had been there in a similar capacity said that she had witnessed much police violence but that the scenes depicted on the screen had reminded her just how violent those had been. She asked what people in Ireland could do to help.

From the panel the advice was to support Catalonia solidarity activities, to stay in touch through of the Catalonian solidarity organisations in Dublin, whilst from the floor an Irishman said that people should tell the elected public representatives what was going on and call for statements of support and interventions to the Spanish Government.

This brought about discussion of the posture of the Irish Government, as in recent Dáil questions to the Depart of Foreign Affairs, the responsible Minister of State had reiterated the Government line, that it was an internal matter for the Spanish State, that the rule of law had to be maintained and that the Spanish State is a democratic one with separation of judiciary and government executive. An intervention from the floor pointed out that one of the TDs (parliamentary delegates) had pointed out that in 1919 the First Dáil (Irish Parliament) had declared its independence of Britain and issued a call to the democratic nations of the world asking for recognition, although it was in violation of British constitution and law. The First Dáil had been declared illegal a few months later and its delegates hunted, arrested and jailed. “Catalonia today is Ireland 100 years ago,” he had said. Without the stance taken by that First Dáil, predecessors of all other parliaments of Ireland since, the present Government would not even exist nor would that Minister’s Department, the man commented..

“The struggle in Catalonia and the repression by the Spanish State is not ‘an internal matter for the Spanish State’”, Oriol Duch said. “It is a problem for Europe.”

Manus O’Riordan, whose father fought in the International Brigades at Gandesa, mentioned a song for Catalonia he had liked and sang his translation of it into English there and then. As the applause died down, an Irish voice called for the national song of Catalonia, a song of workers’ resistance, the Els Segadors (the Reapers), which all Catalans present sang, the whole audience standing in respect.

Bringing the meeting to a close, the Chair thanked the guest speaker, the panel and the audience for their attendance and contributions (a thanks separately expressed by Oriol Duchs too) and encouraged them to keep in touch with the three solidarity organisations. He also expressed the organisers’ gratitude to the Dublin Fire Brigade and to the Teachers’ Club.

Some of the attendance stayed around in the bar area to discuss for another hour or so.

Oriol Duchs with Derry Trades Council and other Catalan solidarity supporters on 11th November.
(Photo: C.Pujol)

POSTSCRIPT

          According to information contained in a press statement issued more recently by the speaking tour organisers, Oriol Duchs the following day paid a fraternal visit to a fire station of the Dublin Fire Brigade, as well as to the DFB’s Training Centre and Museum and was given a conducted tour of all three facilities. Also in Dublin, the firefighter had visited Leinster House hosted by Independents For Change TD Thomas Pringle, where he had met TDs Maureen O’Sullivan (Ind4C), Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Sinn Féin) and Éamon Ó Cuív (Fianna Fáil) along with Senators Paul Gavan and Máire Devine (both Sinn Féin). In a related but separate building he had also met with TDs Gino Kenny and Richard Boyd Barrett (both members of Solidarity/ People Before Profit). Oriol Duchs also took part, shared with a Kurdish representative, in a seminar on international law organised by the Law faculty of Griffiths College, Dublin.

In Belfast on Monday he had spoken in Queen’s University Belfast without contact with any political representatives but in Derry had met Eamon McCann and Shaun Harkin, both members of Solidarity/ People Before Profit and public representatives on Strabane and Derry District Council, as well as Elisha McCallion, Sinn Féin MP for Foyle at Westminster,

He met too with Derry Trades Council which, indeed, had hosted his public meeting in that city. How was it then that, considering his publicity promotion as a trade unionist, member of a trade union that organised three general strikes in Catalonia since 2017, the press statement issued by the speaking tour organisers included no mention of engagement with Irish trade unionists in Dublin, in a city where so many Irish trade unions had their head offices?

“That was not for want of trying,” responded Diarmuid Breatnach, a member of With Catalonia/ Leis an Chatalóin, to the question. “We contacted a number of trade union organisations in Dublin in order to host a public meeting or to meet with Oriol privately. One trade union quoted us commercial hire prices and failed to respond afterwards, another promised a meeting but failed to make arrangements, a number simply did not reply. It was sad, really, not only for solidarity with Catalonia, for I think Irish trade unionists would have benefited much from the interaction with Oriol and his trade union.”

Hopefully they will display a different attitude to any future such visits.

End.

Oriol in Leinster House with Carles Pujol, Cnclr. Micheál Mac Donncha (left) and Senator Paul Gavan (right).

CATALAN SOLIDARITY

Oriol in meeting with TDs Richard Boyd Barrett and Gino Kenny, also present are Diarmuid Breatnach and Tina McVeigh from With Catalonia/ Leis an Chatalóin.
(Photo: C.Pujol)

ORGANISATIONS IN DUBLIN (joint organisers of the speaking tour)

With Catalonia/ Leis an Chatalóin FB: https://www.facebook.com/WithCataloniaIreland/
ANC Ireland FB: https://www.facebook.com/IrlandaPerLaIndependenciaDeCatalunya/

CDR Dublin FB: https://www.facebook.com/CDRDublin/

THE GREAT HUNGER COMMEMORATED IN SLIGO, DUBLIN AND CELTIC PARK

AN GORTA MÓR COMMEMORATED IN SLIGO, DUBLIN AND CELTIC PARK

(Reading time of article text: 5 minutes)

Clive Sulish

Michael and Olivia Blanch and piper halt the procession for a moment’s reflection outside the GPO building, HQ of the Easter Rising in 1916.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A small crowd gathered at the Garden of Remembrance, Dublin on Sunday afternoon to commemorate the Great Hunger, an Gorta Mór on National Famine Day.  Led by a lone piper, they marched through O’Connell St., the city’s main street, some of them in period costume, to the Great Hunger Memorial on the Custom House Quay, North Dock and later on to the iconic sailing ship, the Jeannie Johnson.

Participants proceed after a moment’s reflection at the GPO building, HQ of the Easter Rising 1916 and pass by Jim Larkin’s monument, “who also agitated for the poor of Dublin”.

With some adults and children dressed in period clothes, some of them tattered to represent the destitution of the starving poor, they marched down O’Connell Street led by the lone piper and turned left at the Bridge, proceeding along to Custom Quay’s North Dock and the Great Hunger memorial. There they were addressed by Michael Blanch of the organising committee and by Niall Ring, Lord Mayor (coming to the end of his year in that role), who had accompanied them from the Garden of Remembrance.

Lord Mayor Niall Ring speaking at the Famine Memorial.

Some sentences in Irish were spoken by the MC of the event and by the Lord Mayor, while Michael Blanch referenced the deadly impact the Great Hunger had on the Irish language (i.e with the depopulation of the main Irish-speaking areas of the western seaboard). The Irish Tricolour came in for a mention in the Dublin commemoration also; it had been presented to William Smith O’Brien by women in Paris during the revolution there of 1848 and the Young Irelanders had staged their own uprising that year also, small and certainly too late, easily crushed by the British colonial forces. The huge Irish diaspora was also mostly a result of the Great Hunger and had contributed significantly to the formation and membership of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, also known as the Fenians, founded simultaneously in 1858 on St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin and in New York. The IRB, in turn, had been the main driving force behind the 1916 Rising.

Section of crowd at Famine Memorial (and unintentional illustration of clashing architectural styles and building heights on the south quays opposite).

Piper playing lament and Michael Blanch at the Famine Memorial.

Michael Balanch and MC of proceedings at the Famine Memorial and banner of the Committee.

Tourists and other passers-by stopped to watch as wreaths were laid on on the statues of the monument and an Irish-language version of Amazing Grace was sung by a young girl in period costume. A currach (small traditional Irish sea-craft), containing a woman and two young girls in period costume and rowed by a man, pulled into place on the Liffey across from the group; one of the girls placed a wreath in a cardboard box into the river, to commemorate the Irish diaspora and those who had perished during their journeys. Participants then threw single red roses bouquets into the river also and floral wreaths were deposited around the statues of the 1977 memorial by sculptor Rowan Gillespie. And the piper played a lament, Hector the Hero.

Girl singing “Amazing Grace” in Irish.

The gathering moved on then to the sailing ship the Jeannie Johnson, to hear Evelyn Campbell sing her Famine Song and Diarmuid Breatnach sing Skibereen and Fields of Athenry. After that, some repaired to the Teachers’ Club, where tea, sandwiches, gur cake and biscuits were on offer. By coincidence, a Musical Society were relaxing there too and it was not long before songs from different parts of the world were being exchanged from different parts of the room.

Somewhat incongruous, the top floors of the International Finance Services Centre, which looms over the Famine Memorial, commissioned by Nora Smurfit of the Irish capitalist family.

Evelyn Campbell on board the Jeannie Johnson, accompanying herself on guitar while she sings her Famine Song.

THE CAMPAIGN FOR A NATIONAL IRISH FAMINE DAY

The currach on the Liffey near the Famine Memorial on the quay.

The commemorative wreath is lowered into the Liffey from the currach.

Participants prepare to throw stem roses into the Liffey to commemorate those who died during emigration and the diaspora that survived.

Some of the stem roses floating in the Liffey.

 

 

The Great Hunger is the preferred term in English by many for the terrible disaster that struck Ireland in the mid-19th Century, for people starved alongside what was for a while at least, an abundance of food.

Mast and some of the rope work of the Jeannie Johnson sailing ship.

For three successive years, a fungus-like oomycete infested the potato crop, staple diet of most of the population. Although Phytophthora infestans had attacked the potato crops on the European mainland and in Britain also, nowhere was the disaster of the dimensions it grew to in Ireland: nowhere else were the the majority of the population obliged to sustain themselves on the potato while yielding up every other edible product (except perhaps milk) to pay the landlord’s rent on land conquered from the ancestors of the starving, thousands of soldiers and police being on hand to ensure the hungry paid up. “The Almighty indeed sent the potato blight”, wrote Young Irelander journalist John Mitchell, “but the English created the Famine.”

Well over one million Irish starved or died of attendant diseases in less than five years during the reign of Queen Victoria, while ships left Irish ports laden with food and grain was fermented to make lucrative whiskey and beer. Another million emigrated and it is estimated that about one third of those also died – of drowning, of disease aboard ship or of the various dangers migrants faced. Five years after the potato crop failed, estimates put the population of Ireland at around six million, from the over 8 million of before. Over the next decade, another million would leave, paid to go, lied to go, forced to go, or gone out of desperation and loss of faith in any future in the country of their birth under foreign domination.

The floral wreath deposited from the currach earlier floats past the Jeannie Johnson.

In 2008 it was agreed by the Irish Government that there would be a national Famine Day in the Irish calendar of national events and it would take place on the third Sunday in May. The State commemoration this year was held in Sligo, attended by Leo Varadkar (who was met by a protest of the Sligo Women’s Cervical Smear Action Group). The ceremony was covered in the RTÉ news which was shown on TV in the Teacher’s Club. Michael Blanch told those present that the campaign he and his wife had started in 2004 through the Committee for the Commemoration of Irish Famine Victims, had resulted in this national event and that it was also being commemorated by the Glasgow Celtic team in the special jerseys they wore that day (in their Scottish Premiership win 2-1 against Hearts). The symbol is black and white which are the colours of the Commemoration and he had also wanted GAA teams playing on this day to wear it on their jerseys (the Munster Hurling Championship match between Limerick and Cork was also being shown that afternoon on the TV screen in the Teachers’ Club).

End.

People commemorating stand among the ghosts of the victims who, as a result of the Great Hunger, died in Ireland or in emigration.

 

REFERENCES AND LINKS FOR FURTHER INFORMATION

Celtic game on Sunday: https://www.bbc.com/sport/football/48242024

Celtic FC wearing Famine Commemoration logo on their jerseys on 19th May 2019: http://www.celticfc.net/news/16184

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

Presentation by Michael Blanch at the Oireachtas in support of a National Annual Famine Commemoration Day: https://data.oireachtas.ie/ie/oireachtas/committee/dail/32/joint_committee_on_culture_heritage_and_the_gaeltacht/submissions/2018/2018-11-28_opening-statement-michael-blanch-chairman-committee-for-commemoration-of-irish-famine-victims_en.pdf

Sligo National Irish Famine Day commemoration event: https://www.rte.ie/news/ireland/2019/0518/1050300-national-famine-commemoration/

LARGE EASTER RISING COMMEMORATION BY ‘DISSIDENTS’ ON DUBLIN’S MAIN STREET

(Reading time 15 mins. approximately)

Clive Sulish

          The Irish Republican organisation Saoradh staged a large demonstration of its support on Dublin’s O’Connell Street on Saturday afternoon (20th April). Republican marching bands and hundreds of supporters followed the traditional ‘colour party’ flags and lines of men and some women dressed in green-brown military-style clothing, black berets and dark sunglasses.

view section of parade proceeding south along east side of O’Connell St.

   Beginning at the Garden of Remembrance, the procession, carrying large portraits of the executed martyrs of the 1916 Rising, wound its way down the main street past thousands of viewers, many of those taking photos and filming, down to the wall of Trinity College and the Bank of Ireland building, then back up Westmoreland street and up the west side of O’Connell Street to the GPO building, the site of the HQ of the Rising in 1916, for speeches as the ceremony of the commemoration.

Parade forming up at Garden of Remembrance

The Wolfe Tone RFB from Craigneuk, Glasgow, at the Parnell St/ O’Connell St. junction

Long view of section of the parade proceeding south along the east side of Parnell Square.

 

     The parade assembled at Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance and remained there for some time without the reason being clear, until the arrival of the participants dressed in green-brown military-style clothing, black berets and dark sunglasses, which many in the waiting crowd applauded. Presumably these were meant to represent the IRA but from the physical appearance of many it was clear that their active duty days, if they had them, were behind them. Presumably too, any organisation that did have an armed section would be reluctant to offer them up to the State for arrest on a parade and their all appearing at the last minute like that was also perhaps to reduce the opportunity for Garda harassment.

Another colur party but in War of Independence (1919-1921) period costume at the Garden of Remembrance, waiting to begin.

   However, the uniformed Garda presence was in low numbers and although the Special Branch had officers there, they did not appear to be harassing Republicans for their names and addresses, as is their usual wont.

The route of the parade had been prepared placards bearing the words “The Unfinished Revolution” and “Saoradh” with tricolour flags attached at intervals to traffic sign and street light posts, including also at least one Palestinian flag. As the colour party and people in uniform lined up with banners and a band behind them and set off down towards the city centre, people joined in behind the band, with another band bringing up the rear.

TRAGEDY AND CONDEMNATION

          The crowd appeared to contain many different elements, mostly men but quite a few women, some parents with small children and some teenagers, young men and older. Included among the attendance were a number of independent Republicans and socialists and a number expressed their decision to attend as having been influenced by the tragedy of the previous Thursday and the media campaign against ‘dissident’ Republicans, along with the apprehension that the Gardaí might take advantage of that to block or harass the paraders.

   A scheduled Easter commemoration by a committee including apparently members of Saoradh to be held in Derry on Easter Monday had been cancelled as a result of a tragic incident. The armed British colonial police force in the Six Counties, the PSNI, had been carrying out house searches in the Galiagh and Creggan areas of Derry, allegedly for arms, to which youth had responded with stones and petrol bombs. During that incident, a gun was fired from the direction of the youth towards the colonial police but struck Lyra McKee, a young female reporter standing near them instead. Tragically the wound was fatal.

Section of banners coming back across O’Connell Bridge towards the GPO

   Saoradh had issued a statement after the event expressing regret for the death and extending condolences to Lyra McKee’s family and friends but also putting the incident in the context of regular harassing raids by the PSNI on houses in ‘nationalist’ areas and the always likely result of resistance (see Links for full statement).

   Possibly in reference to that tragedy, a very tall long-haired man stepped in front of a section of marchers with his hands in the air. Stewards quickly blocked him peacefully and diverted participants around him.

   Past the objector and into O’Connell Street, both the east side pavement and the pedestrian middle reservation were thronged with people watching, photographing and filming. The parade passed on to O’Connell Bridge, into D’Olier Street, turned right towards the Bank of Ireland building and back up Westmoreland Street to the General Post Office, location of the HQ of the Rising in 1916, outside of which the 1916 Proclamation had been read on 24th April by Patrick Pearse with James Connolly by his side.

At the GPO, Saoradh party chairman Brian Kenna welcomed the participants.

Portraits of the executed 1916 martyrs being carried back across O’Connell Bridge

 

 

Section of the Coatbridge Unitedmen RFB, Glasgow, marching southward in O’Connell Street.

THE SPEECHES AND CEREMONY

          At the GPO, Saoradh party chairman Brian Kenna welcomed the participants. Republican Easter Rising commemorations tend to follow an established pattern, no matter which organisation is involved: the reading of the Proclamation; messages of solidarity from Republican prisoners; a speech by a representative of the organisation; the lowering of the flags to a drum roll and their raising again, in honour of the fallen; the singing of Amhrán na bhFiann, the Irish National Anthem. In the past, a statement from the IRA was also read but in recent years this have not been customary, for a number of reasons.

   The usual components of the ceremony were present on Saturday outside the GPO with a few variations: a poem by a supporter read out, “James Connolly, the Irish Rebel” sung by another and “Róisín Dubh” played on the uileann pipes. The James Connolly song, with some powerful imagery and an attractive slow air, gives no indication whatsoever of the man’s revolutionary socialism and seems to incorporate him into the IRA, instead of the Irish Citizen Army which he co-founded or even of the Irish Volunteers, with which he joined forces only weeks before the Rising.

In the distance at the GPO, Chairperson of Saoradh Brian Kenna, MC of the event

   The RFB (Republican Flute Band) marching bands were from Scotland: The Wolfe Tone RFB Craigneuk and the Coatbridge Unitedmen RFB. One of the bands played “Take It Down From the Mast, Irish Traitors”, the lyrics of which deny the Tricolour to the Free Staters who waged the Civil War against the Republicans, the legitimate bearers of the flag. A participant remarked that the song was sung first against Free Staters, later against Fianna Fáil, later still against the “Stickies” and more recently against Sinn Féin.

   In his speech on behalf of Saoradh, Dee Fennel from Belfast began by sending solidarity messages to Republican prisoners in Irish jails and to the relatives of all those who had fallen in the struggle against British imperialim. He said that the objectives set out in the 1916 Proclamation had not been achieved and referred to those participants in the struggle who had left it along the way, some to collude in upholding the two failed states of the divided nation.

(at right of photo) Dee Fennel of Saoradh delivering the main oration at the GPO

   Referring to his own activism, Fennel recollected how four years previously he had spoken at an Easter commemoration as an independent Republican, i.e not a member of any political party. He had spoken of the need for Republican activists to engage more with one another and also in the struggles of communities, women and trade unions. Fennel said that as a result of a discussion among Republicans, some had formed Saoradh, building on “maturity and commitment” while others “retreated to their flags” and went on to list the wide areas of struggle in which he said Saoradh activists could be found.

   Fennel also referred to the activity of the IRA and said that while British imperialism remains in possession of a part of Ireland and prevents the exercise of sovereignty of the nation, there will be some form of armed resistance and that this is borne out by history.

   Referring to the harassment and persecution to which Fennel said Saoradh activists were being subjected, including “tens of thousands of stop-and-searches, hundreds of house raids”, he linked that to the PSNI raids in the Creggan area of Derry earlier that week and the tragic accidental killing of Lyra McKee when “a Volunteer fired shots at PSNI forces”. Going on to say that the IRA do make mistakes from time to time, and referring to two women killed by the Provisional IRA in error years before, Fennel said that the IRA should admit and apologise for their mistakes (NB: The New IRA did later issue an apology and express condolences), though he also said that no words could compensate for the feeling of loss.

   In reference to Brexit, Fennel said that the discussion is being focused on what kind of Border is to be imposed, while Republicans object to any kind of Border whatsoever. He stated that as socialists they also object to “the increasingly neo-liberal EU” and concluded with a call for solidarity with Irish Republican prisoners “in Maghaberry, Portlaoise and Mountjoy” who “are in captivity for no other reason thantheir commitment to Republicanism and a 32-county, secular socialist Republic.”

Salute to the fallen as drums roll and flags are lowered slowly and then raised slowly.

TRADITION OF THE PAST AND CLAIM ON TOMORROW

          Republican organisations tend to commemorate the Easter Rising not only as a historic event but also to highlight that for which the Rising was fought has yet to be achieved. But they also do so to show that they are here, present, working for those objectives and often, to promote their organisation, to attract support.

   The display involved in this Easter commemoration was impressive (despite a media claim that the numbers were only “around two hundred”), particularly in view of the inevitable bad press following the death in Derry and the system politicians’ statements on what a social media poster dubbed “The Opportunist Condemnatory Bandwagon”. It also seemed to show an organisation not much harmed overall in Ireland by a recent split over an alleged lack of internal democracy.

end.

Floral wreath carriers re-crossing O’Connell Bridge in the parade on their way to the GPO

Floral wreath from the Information Group of Sweden

Floral wreaths deposited outside the GPO (at the window where the Cúchulainn sculpture symbolises the 1916 Rising.

LINKS

Saoradh statement on the killing of Lyra McKee: http://saoradh.ie/the-death-of-lyra-mckee-in-derry-saoradh-statement/?fbclid=IwAR2nH20ILtiGjgCyih2eo0HEpkK27_F89MRptEb_OIMfA0SbRz4YB8Fneiw

Media and politician reaction to “dissident” Easter Rising commemorations in Dublin (many other similar examples): https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/politics/video-an-insult-to-irish-people-republican-groups-march-48-hours-after-lyra-mckee-murder-dishonored-the-irish-flag-varadkar-38035393.html

Irish Times inaccurate reporting:

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/revolutionary-party-saoradh-in-paramilitary-parade-through-dublin-1.3867379?fbclid=IwAR24E5sZ9iMfINxDcor0T9uRmF5-0yV9_bfWylcCfzC0rctjMaCfmFDfv6w

WHAT ARE WORDS? “MILITANT” AND “DISSIDENT”

Diarmuid Breatnach

Recently someone objected to my use of the word “militant” to describe a movement with which I am in solidarity, saying that the word implied “violent”. My initial reaction was that I disagreed.

          I understand “militant” to mean “determined, assertive, courageous, not awed by confrontation” and that one could even be a “militant pacifist”.

But I decided to look up some dictionary definitions online. The first two or three did indeed include violence as a possibility but not necessarily integral. Another two came closer to my way of thinking:
“aggressively active (as in a cause) : COMBATIVE “(Miriam-Webster).

You use militant to describe people who believe in something very strongly and are active in trying to bring about political or social change, often in extreme ways that other people find unacceptable.
Militant mineworkers in the Ukraine have voted for a one-day stoppage next month.
…one of the most active militant groups.
Collins Dictionary.

The meaning of words shifts from language to language, culture to culture and across time. One of the most obvious and startling examples of this is the word “gay”, up to the 1970s probably understood in English by most people as meaning “happy, light-hearted” etc but now, the first interpretation in the English-speaking world would be “homosexual” (in a non-pejorative way).

Tramp” was a verb in the 19th Century to the extent that a famous marching song of the Union Army in the American Civil War was known as “Tramp, tramp, tramp”1. By the 20th Century its use as a verb was in decline but it was becoming better known as a noun, the meaning of which was understood variously as “vagrant” or even “beggar”.

And one could fill volumes with similar examples, I am sure.

“MILITANT”

          But returning to “militant”, was I the only one who understood its meaning in the way that I had? Well, apparently not, as Wikipedia showed, for example in descriptions of “militant trade unionists” and even a political organisation within the British Labour Party before its expulsion, calling its group “Militant Labour” and its newspaper “Militant”, probably drawing a parallel with those very same trade unionists2.

It would not take much pondering to guess that “militant” had some relation to “military” and apparently the word does indeed have such an origin, from Latin “miles”, ‘a soldier.3 But over the years, as with many other words, its meaning has changed.

But apparently, violence is again becoming associated with the word, more so than in the second half of the 20th Century. How did this happen? I am not sure but it appears to have been a spin-off from the more recent imperialist wars of, in particular, the United States. It seems that organisations resisting USA control or dominance in the Middle East, most of which were Muslim in religion, began to be termed “militant” in US and western reporting. Why this became so seems hard to fathom – it was not a word that these organisations applied to themselves — but it has had that spinoff effect on the word “militant”, so that “militant trade unionists” and “militant feminists”, for example, are now likely to be associated with violence, i.e the use of physical force.

How loaded and partisan usage of the word can become is well illustrated in the definition supplied by the Oxford living Dictionary: Favouring confrontational or violent methods in support of a political or social cause.
the army are in conflict with militant groups’.

The example given is very interesting. Conflict requires, one supposes, at least two parties and both sides are listed in that quoted phrase. But the impression given is one where “the army” is an authoritative, legitimate force which is being opposed by groups that are none of those things. One almost feels that the source of “the conflict” is the “militant groups” (especially with the current loading of ‘violence’ into definition of the word “militant”).

The ‘army’ is an armed organisation at the very least latently violent (training with deadly weapons) and in this context, almost certainly practicing violence by invasion. Yet it is portrayed as somehow neutral and the opposition as violent. This is further accentuated when the army and armed police are termed “security forces”. How could one be against security? Don’t we all want to be secure? Obviously quite a lot of people don’t want whatever security is being offered by these military and militarised forces and the question of “security for whom?” is hardly ever explored in such discourse, leaving us with the impression that the good guys are the army and police, deserving of our support, while whoever opposes them must be bad and we should line up against them.

As the meaning of words shifts, we have to decide whether to stick with the meaning we had and insist on its primacy, or to adapt and move with it. Up until the 1960s it was generally considered ill-mannered among white and black people to refer to people of noticeable African descent as “black” or as “negro” and Martin Luther King’s campaigning organisation was called the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People. Back earlier, in the 18th and early 20th centuries, “negro” would have been acceptable to most. Nowadays, “coloured” or “negro” would generally be considered either offensive or ignorant and “black” is the word, unless one is to use the Africa-derived word, e.g Afro-American, Afro-Caribbean, etc.

And in a strange reversal, whether in self-mockery or appropriation, many Afro-Americans began in the 1970s and 80s describing themselves with the word “nigger”, a word long associated with racism4.

DISSIDENTS”

          Leaving those examples and dealing with Ireland, a number of organisations advocating Irish independence and unity and denying the legitimacy of the administrations of either side of the partition Border, would happily term themselves and one another “Irish Republicans”. That term came first to exclude the supporters of the Irish Free State, who waged a Civil War against those who would not accept the British terms, including Partition, of the 1921 Treaty. Not much over a decade later, it excluded also the Fianna Fáil party, which had split from Sinn Féin, got elected into government and at different times interned Republicans without trial, executed some and passed emergency-type legislation against them.

Subsequent splits in later years were still all described, along with various versions of the Sinn Féin party, as “Irish Republicans”. After the Good Friday Agreement was endorsed by what had been Provisional Sinn Féin and they subsequently became part of the administration of the British colony of the Six Counties, all those Irish Republicans who did not agree with them on that came to be called “dissidents” in the media and in much political discourse.

Those who are called “dissidents” however did not, for the most part, agree with the term. As far as they are concerned, they are sticking to the “official line” or at least the original one and it is the Provisional Sinn Féin (which now terms itself just Sinn Féin) which has diverged from the line and furthermore, departed from the ranks of Irish Republicans.

Let’s do a trawl for definitions similar to what I did with “militant” but this time for “dissident”.

Wiktionary:A person who formally opposes the current political structure, the political group in power, the policies of the political group in power, or current laws.

(Christianity) One who disagrees or dissents; one who separates from the established religion.”

Mirriam-Webster:disagreeing especially with an established religious or political system, organization, or belief

dissident elements in the armed forces”.

Collins:people who disagree with and criticize their government, especially because it is undemocratic.

Dissident people disagree with or criticize their government or a powerful organization they belong to”

Oxford:A person who opposes official policy, especially that of an authoritarian state.

a dissident who had been jailed by a military regime’”.

And one I hadn’t used before, but which caught my eye, Vocabulary.com: If you are a dissident, you are a person who is rebelling against a government. Dissidents can do their work peacefully or with violence.

Dissident is closely related to the word, dissent, which means objecting. People who are dissidents show their dissent5. Catholic priests who advocate allowing women into the priesthood could be called dissidents, as could the Puritans who left England to live in colonial America. As an adjective, a dissident member of a group is one who disagrees with the majority of members.”

Since it is not a religious movement, one who separates from the established religion” would seem non-applicable (though when one sees how many Republicans cling to certain practices like non-recognition of the court trying them, or refusal to stand in elections, it is tempting to think of those prohibitions as religious dogma rather than tactics for particular times and place).

Most Irish Republicans would consider themselves as in opposition to the “established (political) order” of the country, i.e Ireland partitioned, with one part run by an anti-Republican Irish ruling class and the other by a colonial ruling class. They would consider the relevant governments as “authoritarian” and “undemocratic”, certainly in their treatment of Irish Republicans by harassment, intimidation, detention, subjecting them to special emergency-type legislation, non-jury courts and prison.

In that sense of “dissident”6, the Sinn Party in its various encarnations has until recently always been a party of dissidents, first against a foreign monarchy subjecting Ireland without an Irish king (the party founded by Arthur Griffiths), then to a Republican party campaigning against British rule (the coalition that was the reformed post-Rising party 1918-1921), after that a party against the Irish Free State Government and the colonial administration of the Six Counties, subsequently a Republican socialist party opposing the same forces, then after a split, a Republican party with similar objectives but supporting an armed resistance to the the British occupation. To that can be added the existence of the Republican Sinn Féin party from a split and at least one other group of similar construction for a time but with more socialist emphasis.

Clearly (formerly Provisional) Sinn Féin can no longer legitimately describe itself as dissident, should it want to, as it is now party to that repressive colonial government to which it was previously vehemently opposed and also now straining to become part of a coalition in government of the Irish state.

Many people who left the SF party did so precisely because they opposed those policies and actions7 and on most terms could legitimately claim to be “dissidents” – if they wished to. Not just dissidents recently within the party but dissidents against the State and British colonialism.

Clearly then descriptions such as rebelling against a government” and disagree with and criticize their government, especially because it is undemocratic” are not going to be the problem and formally opposes the current political structure, the political group in power, the policies of the political group in power, or current laws” seems just tailor-made for Irish Republicans.

The objection to the appellation of “dissident” then must surely be based on either a misunderstanding of the meaning of the word or a concept of some kind of historical Irish Republican authority. If the latter, then the SF party can been seen as having gone against that authority and those Irish Republicans not following the SF path as being the true and loyal followers, faithful to that historical authority. This would be an entirely understandable attitude – but is it helpful? Aren’t the most important things the aims that Irish Republicans have and how they conduct themselves in working towards them, rather than whether they are called “dissidents” or not? After all, there is nothing fundamentally pejorative in the term.

There is no doubt that “dissidents” is a handy catch-all term to describe Republicans who belong to a number of political groups or who are independent activists (the latter of which Ireland and especially Dublin has a great many) but is it conferring some kind of implicit legitimacy on the collaborationist and now constitutionalist Sinn Féin party? And if so, legitimacy in the eyes of whom? Remember how one time there was an “Official Sinn Féin” (and IRA) and the “Provisional Sinn Féin (and IRA) who split from them? It was the latter that went on to gain dominance in the Republican movement while the “Official” organisation split again and shrank to a tiny remnant.

If I were to count myself among the ranks of Irish Republicans8, would I object to the term of “dissident”? I don’t think so.

End.

SOURCES AND REFERENCES

Meaning of “militant”:

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/militant

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/militant

https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/militant

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

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/militant

Tramp! Tramp! Tramp!: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tramp!_Tramp!_Tramp!

Meaning of “dissident”:

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dissident

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/dissident

https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/dissident

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/dissident

https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/dissident

FOOTNOTES

1Coincidentally, the word “gay” is employed in its older sense in the lyrics of the song. A lot of interesting information is contained in the Wikipedia page on this song (see link in Sources and References).

2This was an organisation run by the entryist British Trotskyist organisation which later became the Socialist Party (like its great rival, the Socialist Workers Party, it too has an offshoot in Ireland).

3Through Latin into French and from there into English. However, the word may have been of an older root, possibly Celtic: “ ‘Míle’, word in Irish, meaning ‘a warrior, a champion, a hero’” given p.23 in How the Irish Invented Slang, Daniel Cassidy (2007).

4The term is not accepted equally among black people: I recall a black workmate of mine telling me that he had punched another black man who had referred to him as “nigger”.

5Actually, as Wiktionary tells us, it means more correctly “not in agreement” and comes from the Latin word for “to sit apart”

6Lest it be thought that I dissent from this opinion, let me put on record that this is one of the things about which I entirely agree with Irish Republicans. I suspect however that this definition is generally only used by media and mainstream commentators to describe regimes other than the ‘western democracies’.

7Some people had left that party already by that time, some because they perceived its direction and some because they objected to procedures within the party, especially those they considered undemocratic. Others left over time due to decisions to contest elections in the Irish state or to take their seats in the parliaments if elected, or because of rapprochement with the colonial police, over alleged harassment, party promotions or personal reasons.

8“Irish Republican” is a specific political designation and does not describe me, although I am Irish and I do aspire to a Republic of social equality. I am a revolutionary and a socialist as well as being anti-imperialism; I am many other things as well but that will do as a basic platform on which to seek others of like mind. In the course of struggles I do of course join in a front of one or the other of those tendencies but always with an eye to the full objective. Or so I try, at least.

THE 43 DISAPPEARED MEXICAN YOUTH REMEMBERED OUTSIDE DUBLIN MEXICAN EMBASSY

Diarmuid Breatnach

People outside the Mexican Embassy in Dublin on Wednesday evening remember the 43 students and call for justice.

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Names of the Disappeared being laid outside the Mexican Embassy
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

A short but moving event was held in Dublin yesterday evening (Thursday 26th September) to remember the 43 Mexican students made to “disappear” in Mexico by the authorities or in collusion with them on 26th September 2014. The students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College were kidnapped while they were taking part in an annual commemoration of the Tlatelolco Massacre (of 300-400 students and other civilians by police and military on 2nd October 1968, less than a fortnight before the opening of the Olympics in the city that year). They are widely believed to have been murdered and a supposed investigation by Mexican State authorities petered out without a result.

Names of the Disappeared being laid outside the Mexican Embassy
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Some staff leaving the Mexican Embassy in Dublin
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Names of the Disappeared being laid outside the Mexican Embassy
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

The event last night was organised by the Mexico Ireland Solidarity Collective (MISC) and Latin America Solidarity Centre (LASC). Sunflowers as a symbol of hope were placed in the railing of the Mexican Embassy in Raglan Road, Dublin and ribbons in the Mexican colours of green, white and red were also tied there. The names of the 43 “disappeared” students were laid on the pavement in front of the Embassy which, like the embassies of a number of other states, is located in a quiet upper-middle class area south of the Grand Canal. Few people passed the remembrance event and staff leaving the Embassy did not stop to talk to the gathering except for the last two who greeted them politely and took a photo of the display.

A spokesperson for MISC said that the event is organised every year so that the people are not forgotten.

People took turns to read the name of each of the 43 from their cards and the traditional “Presente!” was called out after each one, signifying that alive or dead, they are present with us, remembered.

A statement was read and some verses from Woody Guthries’s Plane Crash at Los Gatos were sung and then a long silence was observed, which ended with a call for “Justicia!”

end.

Placing the sunflowers for hope outside the Mexican Embassy
(Photo: D.Breatnach)


(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Reading a statement on the Disappeared outside the Mexican Embassy
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Placing the sunflowers of hope
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Protesters in Mexico demanding the authorities reveal what happened to the 43 students.
(Photo source: Internet)

 

LINKS FOR FURTHER INFORMATION

MISC (Mexico Ireland Solidarity Collective): https://www.facebook.com/mexicoirelandsolidaritygroup/

LASC (Latin American Solidarity Centre): https://lasc.ie/

https://www.facebook.com/latinamericasolidaritycentre/

Wikipedia page about the 43 disappeared: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_Iguala_mass_kidnapping

Jacobin on line article about the 43 disappeared: https://jacobinmag.com/2018/09/ayotzinapa-massacre-missing-students-pena-nieto

Should you wish to contact the Mexican Embassy to register a protest, request the investigation to be pursued etc:
info@embamex.ie

Tel: (+353) 1 667 3105

FAX: (+353) 1 664 1013


Mr Miguel Malfavón, Ambassador

19 Raglan Road
Ballsbridge
Dublin 4
Ireland

DUBLIN PROTESTS JAILING OF ALTSASU EIGHT

People gathered early evening Thurday (21st) on O’Connell Street, Dublin city’s main street, to protest the convictions and sentencing of the Altsasu Eight. They held Basque and Catalan flags and displayed placards demanding “Free the Altsasu Eight!” and another pointing out the severity of the sentences for what was a bar brawl with Spanish police.

Section of protest and conversation with passers-by
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

From the leaflet distributed: “In November 2016, during a festival in Altsasu, Nafarroa (Navarra) Province of the southern Basque Country, a lieutenant and sergeant in the Spanish Guardia Civil police force, both off-duty with their girlfriends, entered a late-night bar well-known as a place for pro-independence Basques to socialise. An altercation occurred in which the police said they were attacked by the Basque youth and claimed a fractured ankle suffered by one; others say it was just some shoving and pushing.

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

The Navarran regional police force, the Policía Foral, first on the scene, treated it as an alleged assault case which is how the local court wished to deal with the issue. However the Spanish state Prosecutor intervened and, transferring the case to Madrid, accused eight youth of “terrorism” for which they could face a total of 375 years in prison. He failed to prove that but on charges of public disturbance, assault and threats alone, on 1st this June the eight youth were variously sentenced to between 2.5 and 13 years in jail as well as fined thousands of euro.”

Leaflets were distributed to raise awareness of this injustice and many passers-by stopped to talk and ask questions. One group of interested youth was from Zaragoza, which is in Aragon province and not far from the Basque Country.

Protesters including musicians
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Live music was provided for the participants and passers-by: two women sang Txoria Txori in harmonies and a Basque sang a new song that has been composed about the Altasasu 8, while another accompanied him on guitar (hope to post the lyrics and translation). Txoria Txori is a short simple allegorical song about a man who loves a bird and says that if he cuts its wings it would stay with him but he can’t do that because then no longer would it be a bird – and he loves the bird. This song is well-known and loved in the Basque Country.

The picket was an event of internationalist solidarity, not only because it was carried out in Ireland in support of victimised youth in the Basque Country, but also because the picket line included Irish, Basque, Catalan and Italian people.

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Further information in the English language on this case (and other events in the Basque Country) will be posted from time to time on https://www.facebook.com/dublinbasque/