WORKING CLASS IN LONDON RESIST RELIGIOUS RESTRICTIONS

On 24th June 1885 the UK Parliament passed a number of laws, allegedly for purposes of religious compliance but which impacted almost uniquely on the working and lower middle classes.  On 24th June the workers mobilised to protest these laws, congregating in Hyde Park, where the aristocracy and their admirers in the capitalist class paraded.  Karl Marx was there — click on this link for his report: Workers’ demonstration 24 June 1855 in Hyde Park

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CASTLE TOUR – CASTLE IDEOLOGY

Diarmuid Breatnach

          Dublin Castle, located in the south city centre, has been the centre of the British occupation of Ireland since 1171 until 1921 (and even after that, some would say).The site offers one-hour guided tours to the public for much of the day, at approximately an hour apart, seven days a week and last year claimed a visitor total of nearly half a million. As a Dubliner interested in history and a walking tour guide, I was well overdue to take an official guided tour of the place, which I did recently.

          Overall the State Rooms Tour was interesting and I did learn some things but I was also aware of many gaps. Was this unavoidable in a tour of one hour covering more than eleven hundred years (given that Viking Dublin was also covered) of history? Of course – but in the choices of what to leave out, was there an ideology at play, one that sought to diminish the repressive history of the institution and the struggle against it?

An artist’s impression of Viking Dublin in 9th Century

The first presentation to us by the tour guide was of Viking Dublin, the settlement of which took place in the 7th Century. The Vikings had a confrontational occupation of England but this had not been the case here, we were told – the Vikings settled amongst us, intermarried, introduced personal and family names, place-names, etc.

Well, somehow the tour spiel had ignored the many battles between the Vikings and the natives in Ireland even after the settlement in Dublin (and other areas), leading up the famous Battle of Clontarf in 1014, fought on what is now the north side of Dublin city. The 12-hour battle was important enough to be recorded elsewhere in Europe and in a Viking saga. Yes, it had also been an inter-Irish battle, in particular between the King of Leinster and the High King of Ireland but Viking Dublin played an important part, as did Viking allies and mercenaries from Manx and the Orkneys – and its result had ended forever any possibility of a Viking takeover of Ireland.

A noticeable gap in Irish-Viking history of Dublin to omit it, one might say.

Nevertheless, the tour guide gave us interesting information about the Viking settlement and a map showed an artist’s impression of how it would have looked.

Down in the base of what had been the Powder Tower, it was interesting to see the stone work, to hear the guide talk about the foundation of the Viking wall below us and how the cement used to bind the stones was a mixture of sand, oxblood, horsehair and eggshells. To me it was also interesting to see the stone course lines of one pointed arch above a curved one but unsure what I was looking at — and we were a big group, the tour guide some distance away to ask.

Powder Tower base incorporating some of the original Viking wall.

Two separate arch stone courses, one above the other in the base of the Powder Tower.

Down below the walkway, where water lay on the ground a couple of inches deep, some green plant was growing in the lights illuminating the work. This was above the route of the Poddle, I supposed, which once fed the Linn Dubh (black pool) and which now runs underneath Castle and city before emptying into the Liffey.

“BEYOND THE PALE”

     The Normans reached Dublin in 1171 after landing in Wexford in 1169, our guide informed us but we were not told that in the process they defeated Irish resistance and the Dublin Vikings and, most curiously, there was no mention of the Pale. That would have been an interesting explanation to visitors of the origin of the expression “beyond the Pale” and what it implied1.

The guide did tell us later in the St. Patrick’s Hall (the State banquet room) that the paintings on the ceiling were to demonstrate to the Irish that all the civilising influences had come from the English to the Irish savages, that if the Irish were now civilised, their ranking was definitely below the English.

One of the ceiling paintings in St. Patrick’s Hall, where the Uachtarán is inaugurated and which is also the State’s banqueting hall

That might have been an appropriate time to mention of the Statutes of Killkenny 1366, nearly two centuries after the Norman invasion and how the Irish Normans had, outside Dublin, adopted ‘uncivilised’ Gaelic tongue, custom and even law, so that their cousins in England were now calling them “the degenerate English” who had become “more Irish than the Irish themselves”.

If the English Reformation got a mention I must have missed it but certainly there was nothing said about the imposition of the new religion on Ireland, colonists and natives alike and the many wars that resulted. Anglicanism had become the religion of the English State, with its monarch at the head of the Church but none of the Irish natives and most of the colonists did not wish to adopt that religion. So it led to many uprisings, first notably from the Irish Normans (Gall-Ghael), then by the Irish and a number of major wars, including the Cromwellian and Williamite ones, also to the Penal Laws. That State religion was the reason that Elizabeth I had founded Trinity College, so that the sons of the colonists would be educated in the “true faith”. Religion had been used by the coloniser to try to undermine unity among the inhabitants of Ireland and had been employed to physically divide the island in 1922, which had also led to a much more recent war of nearly three decades.

The Reformation and its effects seemed a quite significant portion to leave out of Irish history in general and of Dublin history in particular.

Apparently a Lord Lieutenant of Tudor times riding out of (or returning to) the Castle with his knights and soldiers to deal (or having dealt) with the troublesome Irish natives (a representation on display in the Castle).

As the Castle had briefly been acknowledged as being, among other things, a prison, it seemed strange to omit the escape after four years of captivity of Red Hugh O’Donnel and two O’Neill brothers in 1592 — particularly so since the whole experience had left O’Donnell with a seething hatred of the English occupation which only ended years later in a poisoned death in Spain at the hands of an English agent. Aodh Ruadh Ó Domhnaill, as he was known then to most of Ireland (and Scotland), fought the English occupation from 1591 to 1602. Apart from being an important part of the Castle’s history one would have thought it would make an exciting and interesting story for tourists.

Aodh Rua Ó Domhnaill monument
(Photo source: Internet)

However, the story was omitted – but then so were the tortures carried out in the Castle, the severed heads erected on spikes on Castle walls and, although it was said that it took the English 400 years to conquer the rest of Ireland, this was apparently because “there were no roads and there were lots of bogs”!

Commenting on later medieval Dublin city, the guide told us about the many diseases that were endemic, due to lack of sanitation in the city, along with blood-letting being the major medical treatment. It was strange that she did not mention the effects of the Black Death or Bubonic Plaque, which travelled through Ireland in 1634. The plague, carried by fleas on the black rat, affecting almost alone the city populations, almost wiped out the English colony in Ireland.

Artist’s impression of medieval Dublin City (perhaps 17th Century?). The guide told us it would have been pretty smelly.

IRISH WOOD, FAKE STONE COLUMNS

Chapel main stained glass window, looking east

     In the Chapel, the guide pointed out the names and coats of arms on each side as being those of Lord Lieutenants of Ireland, i.e the representatives of the English monarch in governing Ireland. There were of course no native Irish names among them and few even of the Gall-Ghael.

One that took my attention, near the doorway, was that of Cornwallis, dated 1798. Lord Cornwallis (“Cornwall’” in the traditional ballad The Croppy Boy) was in charge of the suppression of the United Irishmen uprising in 1798, at which he was successful but less so in the Thirteen Colonies of North America, which he lost to rebellious colonists, some of whom were relatives and friends of the beaten republicans in Ireland.

Among the other Lord Lieutenants of Ireland, Lord Cornwallis’ coat of arms; he was suppressor of the 1798 Rising in Ireland but lost the war against the 13 Colonies of North America.

The ‘fake stone’ columns and one line of coats of arms of former Lord Lieutenants of Ireland.

In response to an enquiry as to whether there were any questions, I asked who were represented by the sculpted heads along the chapel wall on the outside. Some represented Christian saints and some kings, such as Brian Boru2, she replied. Is there a list available of who they all are? No, I was told, only of some of them and I could consult that later.

Amazingly, only the floor and walls in the chapel were stone. The columns, she told us, were Irish oak plastered over to look like stone.

Section of ceiling and columns in the Chapel.

MONARCHS AND PRESIDENTS

     In her introduction to the tour, our guide had informed us that Lords, Kings, Queens and Presidents had visited the Castle. The creation of the role of President in the 1937 Constitution, she told us later, had been to replace that of the English Monarch. I had not been aware of that. She told us that he commanded the Army, which was news to me too (or I had forgotten) and it turns out to be true, though more so in form than in substance for, as she informed us, real power is vested in the Taoiseach (Prime Minister).

An extremely heavy chandelier in the Throne Room, mostly solid brass, with the emblems of the English Rose, the Scottish Thistle and the Irish Shamrock worked into it.

The ceremonial throne upon which Queen Victoria had to be lifted.

In the Throne Room we were told that Queen Victoria had visited Ireland 1n 1849 and had to be lifted up to the Throne, as she was so small (bit of a deflater for the lines in the “Monto” song!3).

In her visit to Ireland the guide told us, the Monarch had been shocked by the scenes of hunger during the “Famine” (the Great Hunger) and that aid to the starving improved after her visit. Well, perhaps but the effects of the Great Hunger were covered in newspapers and appeals long before 1849 and the worst of the holocaust was over before then, the statistics of which the guide gave us; in our folk history Victoria is referred to as “the Famine Queen”.

The guide made much of the fact that Queen Elizabeth II (who might be known in a republic as: “Ms. Elizabeth Windsor”), had visited the Castle, had spoken in Irish at the reception banquet and how this was the first time an English monarch had spoken English at a State occasion, though Elizabeth I she told us knew a few Irish phrases.4 The guide attached no little importance to Elizabeth I’s gesture and to the whole visit as an act of reconciliation and we know that no less than the Irish President at the time, Mary Mac Aleese, had looked around mouthing “Wow!” when the monarch spoke five words in Irish: “A Uachtaráin agus a chairde … (“President and friends” …).

Such is the sycophancy of the Castle Irish mentality, that five words in the native language of a country being visited by a head of a foreign state should evoke such wonder and gratitude in their hearts. Forgetting that the very colonial regime of that state had for centuries worked to stamp out that language, barring it from all public arenas and educational institutions. One must wonder that a monarch whose armed forces are in occupation of one-sixth of the nation’s territory should be so honoured by the head of this state and other dignitaries from the areas of politics and visual, written and performing arts!5

I could have commented that during the Monarch’s visit, huge areas of the city centre had been barred to traffic by the police force of this “republic” in a huge negation of civil liberties; that police had been taking down posters against the visit and ripping even Irish tricololour flags from the hands of protester to stuff them in rubbish bins and truck; that Dublin City Council workmen had been removing anti-Royal graffiti while workers’ housing estates had been waiting for years for a cleanup service.

Guiding a small Latin American tour through the Castle grounds a few days before the scheduled banquet-reception, we were accosted by secret police who required us to state and prove our identities, state our reasons for being there (!) and the tour group to hand over their cameras for the agents to scroll through their histories.  And the agents seemed surprised when I failed to agree with them that their actions had been reasonable.

I could have said that during Elizabeth Windsor’s reception banquet I had been with others in Thomas Street protesting her Castle reception and that at the corner with Patrick Street, we had been prevented by lines of riot Gardai from proceeding any further – not out of concern for her security but so that Her Majesty should not even hear any sound or see anything to disturb the serenity of her visit.

I did not say any of that – I still had a tour to finish and, besides, no doubt this is the Castle Tour Discourse, not to be blamed on one guide.

We were shown too the two banquet halls, the original and the one for state visits nowadays as the original was “too small”.6 And the sights of hunger outside the Castle walls in 1849 had not seemed to intrude on the guests enjoying the five-course meal served at Victoria’s welcoming banquet.

St. Patrick’s Hall, where the Uachtarán is inaugurated and which is also the State banquet room.

Seeming somewhat out of place, there was also an exhibition of Irish painting of the modernist school.

Portraits of the Presidents of the Irish State lined the corridor through which we passed to St. Patrick’s Hall (also the Irish State banquet room) and I could not help but contemplate that of the nine Presidents to date, one had been a founder of an organisation banned by the British occupation, another two had been soldiers against the British occupation but had since taken part in the suppression of their erstwhile comrades.

Portrait of Erskine Childers, one of the past Presidents of Ireland. His mother was a UStater, his father, also Erskine, was English and ran guns into Howth for the Irish Volunteers and later joined to fight for Ireland in the War of Independence. In the Irish Civil War he fought against the State, which captured and executed him.

Another was the son of an Englishman who became an Irish Republican and was executed by the Irish state and another had resigned after being insulted in the Dáil by a Minister of the Government.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, nothing was said about any of that, either.

NO CASTLE CATHOLICS OR COPS?

     Coming into more modern times, the I916 Rising got a reference, unsurprisingly as a detachment of the Irish Citizen Army had besieged the Castle for a couple of days, mostly from the nearby City Hall; the ICA’s leader, ironically, had been brought a wounded prisoner from Moore Street and treated in the Castle too. That was James Connolly and he was mentioned — though the ICA was not, nor were we informed that he was a revolutionary socialist. We were told we could visit the room named after him in which he had been held and treated on a bed there. After the end of the guided tour I went there and although it was an experience to enter the room of course the actual display was disappointingly sparse.

View of the Connolly Room with the supposed hospital bed on which he was treated for gangrene and also courtmartialed prior to being taken to Kilmainham Gaol and shot.
(Photo source: Internet)

As headquarters of the British occupation of Ireland and necessarily of repression of resistance, the Castle always had soldiers stationed or passing through there. But it also held a police force, the secret service of the Dublin Metropolitan Police. Usually unarmed with more than a truncheon up until 1916, the uniformed DMP maintained order and bourgeois public morality in Dublin but also repressed public resistance to the British occupation. Not only sex workers and drunks were arrested but so were singers of patriotic ballads, protesters and public speakers. During times of Fenian activity, the DMP also worked to counter the influence of Irish patriots in the city and the plain-clothes G Division was created in 1874 to recruit informers and hunt down active Fenians.

A section of the Fenians were however prepared to counter this with assassinations of informers, some DMP and attempts on the lives of senior DMP officials in the city7 during the mid 19th Century. In the early years of the 20th Century it was G Division which also spied on activists in the trade union and labour movement, nationalists, republicans, the Irish language movement and suffragettes and it was they who identified Irish insurgent prisoners captured by the British Army in 1916, ensuring the death sentence for many (though 14 were eventually executed in Dublin).

The DMP, mostly the uniformed officers, could in fact be credited with being the inspiration to form the Irish Citizen Army: the vicious and sometimes murderous attacks of the DMP on workers’ assemblies during the 1913 Dublin Lockout had decided James Connolly and Jim Larkin to call for the creation of the workers’ militia. During the Rising, it seems that three DMP were shot dead, all by members of the ICA, one of them being at the Dublin Castle entrance.

On Bloody Sunday 1920, during the War of Independence, two IRA officers and an Irish language enthusiast prisoners were tortured and killed in Dublin Castle by police, including the specially-recruited terrorists of the Auxiliary Division. In order to cover up their actions, the police staged photos which they claimed depicted the prisoners not properly guarded and then jumping their guards to seize their weapons, which is how they came by their deaths, according to the cover story.

Plaque commemorating the police murder of three prisoners on Bloody Sunday (erected by the independent National Graves Association).

Soon after that, G Division detectives were being killed in various parts of the city by Collins’ Squad and the Dublin IRA. In fact, a number of the officers and of British Army spies took up residence in the Castle itself, for protection.

After the creation of the Irish Free State in 1921, the independence movement split and in the following Civil War (1922-1923) the repression of the continuing resistance was mostly the work of the Irish National Army. However, when the Irish police force was established, the Gardaí Síochána, their Special Branch detectives were again based in Dublin Castle,8 though they are based elsewhere now.

First in the series of staged photos allegedly showing the three prisoners and their guards on Bloody Sunday

The second of the staged photos to cover up the police murders, even more ridiculous than the first.

Since there was no mention of any this on our tour, a significant part of Castle history was being omitted.

CASTLE CATHOLIC IDEOLOGY?

There existed during the British occupation a social group — or perhaps more than one — that in the commentary of most Irish, perhaps, were referred to as “Castle Catholics”. This was not a reference to Catholics who owned a castle but to those of the native and Norman-Irish stock, i.e nearly all Catholics who, while maintaining their religion, bowed to the English occupation in everything else. And particularly the more elevated echelons among that group, for whom attendance at functions in the Castle were the high point of their social calendars and indeed their lives. Ag sodar i ndiaidh na n-uaisle9, as the Irish have it in their native tongue.

With some exceptions, I thought the tour and commentary, although interesting and of course catering to the expectations of foreign tourists, had more than a little of “Castle Catholic” or, better said, “Castle Irish” to it.

And it therefore lost a lot in the telling.

End.

FOOTNOTES:

1Effectively an English anti-Irish racist term: “The Pale” referred at first to the areas enclosed by the Normans by an earthworks surmounted by a wooden palisade, i.e the area of colonist control. “Beyond the Pale” were the areas still under control of the Irish clans, uncivilised in the viewpoint of the colonists and the expression survives in English today to describe something as being a horror.

2A missed opportunity to mention the Battle of Clontarf and the defeat of the Dublin Viking and Irish Leinster forces!

3“The Queen she came to call on us,

She wanted to see all of us;

I’m glad she didn’t fall on us,

She’s eighteen stone! ….”

4Apparently Elizabeth I had a fair bit of linguistic ability, being fluent in English, Latin and French. It is believed by some that she knew more than a few phrases of Irish, having been taught by a tutor she recruited.

5Among them were the musicians The Chieftains and the poet laureate Heaney who had, some decades earlier written that “no glass was ever raised in our house to an English King or Queen”!

6There were 172 dinner guests at the banquet to welcome Elizabeth I of the UK.

7For a good atmospheric account of the struggle between the two forces, see The Shadow of the Brotherhood – the Temple Bar shootings by Barry Kennerc, Mercer (2010)

8An Irish Republican ballad of the early 1970s based on an earlier song had it thus:

“Oh the Special Branch in Dublin,
They’re something for to see:
They crawl out from the Castle
To inform on you and me.
But the day is coming soon me boys
And the rifles they will bark –

And the only snakes in Dublin

Will be up in Phoenix Park!”

(i.e in Dublin Zoo(

9“Trotting after the nobles.”

REFERENCES AND LINKS:

Dublin Castle OPW: http://www.dublincastle.ie/

Tour times and prices: http://www.dublincastle.ie/tickets-and-times/

Black Death in Ireland: https://www.historyireland.com/medieval-history-pre-1500/unheard-of-mortality-the-black-death-in-ireland/

What the British Queen said: https://www.thejournal.ie/%E2%80%9Ca-uachtarain-agus-a-chairde%E2%80%9D-%E2%80%93-queen-offers-%E2%80%9Csincere-sympathy%E2%80%9D-to-victims-of-anglo-irish-conflict-139244-May2011/

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

THE SHAMROCK IS BLOOMING

Diarmuid Breatnach

 

This month the shamrock is blooming all around. The cluster flower is not very prominent individually but together can produce a yellow-green carpet effect, yellow for the flowers and green for the leaves.

The flowering shamrock in short grass in Dublin north city centre
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

 

Who is to say that the shamrock has a yellow flower? Why not the white clover? Well, amateur botanist and zoologist Nathaniel Colgan (1851-1919) once asked people from around Ireland to send him specimens of what they believed to be an Irish shamrock and identified the five most common plant species, of which the two most common were the yellow (flowering) clover followed by the white. A hundred years later, Dr Charles Nelson repeated the experiment in 1988 and found that yellow clover was still the most commonly chosen. According to Wikipedia, yellow clover is also the species cultivated for sale in Ireland on Saint Patrick’s Day and is the one nominated by the Department of Agriculture as the “official” shamrock of Ireland.

But sometimes, the yellow-flowered species Trifolium dubium (Irish: Seamair bhuí) can be found growing next to the white-flowered Trifolium repens (White Clover; Irish: Seamair bhán), although they never really intermingle.

White Clover and flowering Shamrock growing near one another in Glasnevin, Dublin.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

The clover family belong to a group of plants that have the ability to fix nitrogen in nodes around their roots and, as a result, provide nutrition for plants that need nitrogen. The plant, like the rest of its family, produces pods but in the shamrock’s case, the pods are tiny and contain only a single seed. Pods protect the development of seeds until they are ready to shed (or in some cases, like the gorse or furze, to explode!).

In cropped or mown lawns, or in poor soil, the shamrock hugs the ground. However, given conditions for growth but having to compete with other plants for sunlight, it will grow long stems reaching upwards.

Once flowering is over, probably in August, one can dig up a small section and transplant to flower box or pot in order to harvest sprigs of it for St. Patrick’s day on March 17th (a tradition that is nothing as old as people might think).

Closeup view of the flowering shamrock, Glasnevin, Dublin.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

But nobody planted the shamrock in the lawn – it got there by its own natural methods, possibly by wind or in animal excreta. Unlike the lawn on which it has set up its colonies, which was seeded on raked earth or, more likely, laid in grass turf rolls, it is in fact a part of wildlife in the city.

end

 

MYSTERY OF THE 1916 RISING PAINTINGS

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time 3 minutes)

In 1998, An Post, the Irish postal service (through the Department of Post and Telegraphs? Through the Office of Public Works, which manages national monuments?), commissioned a series of ten paintings of 1916 Rising scenes from painter Norman Teeling. For a number of years, these were on display in the General Post Office, site of the Headquarters of the 1916 Rising. Subsequently they were removed and enquirers were informed that they had been taken into storage. Complaints were made by organisations and individuals but no information was forthcoming as to when, if ever, they would be replaced in the GPO or put on display elsewhere. Now, it seems they are up for sale. How can this be?

Wreaths laid at the GPO by ordinary people in one of the many commemorations of Irish martyrs for self-determination.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

THE MISSING PAINTINGS

     A recent discussion about the paintings in question led to my being sent a link, where the opening information said that they had been put on display in the Green Gallery, St. Stephen’s Green:

Through perseverance and dedication to the cause, Dermot O’Grady of The Green Gallery has arranged for all 10 paintings to take pride of place in a stunning new 1916exhibition on the Top Floor. St. Stephens Green Ctr Dublin 2. Opened by none other than Pat Liddy himself, the paintings have found an important rebirth and are now able to be enjoyed by everyone once again. 

However, a little further down the page, a notice declared that the exhibition had closed.

But elsewhere on the page, it had been announced that, as well as prints of the paintings, the original oil-paintings on canvas were for sale:

This suite of 10 paintings has now become available to the art market. As the original oil on canvas paintings and also, with permission of the artist, in Giclée print format.

How could this be? Had they not been purchased by the State?

A wikipedia search threw up two references to the series of paintings: one for the General Post Office and another for the 1916 Rising, with what seemed to be an excerpt from each. The GPO reference had the following:

An Post History and Heritage – The GPO Museum The 1916 Rising by Norman Teeling a ten-painting suite of events of the Easter Rising acquired for permanent ….

And the 1916 reference had this:

The Age, 27 April 1916 Press comments 1916–1996 The 1916 Rising by Norman Teeling a 10-painting suite acquired by An Post for permanent display at the

So from both of these I should find the information I required, i.e what had happened to the paintings. Right?

But no, neither Wikipedia page had any reference in the text to the painting series nor to the painter! Had the pages once contained the quoted references and more but these had since been removed? However, in the External Links of the both Wikipedia pages I found the sentence “The 1916 Rising by Norman Teeling a ten-painting suite of events of the Easter Rising acquired for permanent display at the GPO.” But they are not, are they?

“Beginning of the siege”, one of the GPO 1916 series of ten paintings by Norman Teeling.

 

THE EXPLANATION?

     A good investigative reporter would make enquiries of the painter, of the Green Gallery, of An Post, of the OPW …. but I am not such a reporter nor do I have the time to make those enquiries and perhaps, as has often been the case in the past, suffer long delays or even be given the run around.

A good investigative reporter would hold off writing until he had got to the bottom of the story or at least exhausted reasonable lines of investigation but, as has already been established, I am not one of those people. So I am putting it out there now, for some of you to make the necessary enquiries or, if you already know, to come back to me.

Had the State never in fact bought the paintings? Or if they had, were they now sold back to the painter or someone else? Had Teeling become frustrated with his paintings not being on display and bought them back from the State? If so, entirely understandable on his part.

But shame, shame and shame again upon the State!

The Surrender by Norman Teeling

End.

 

REFERENCES AND LINKS:

The GPO Paintings

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Post_Office,_Dublin

http://www.normanteeling.com/rising.php

A WALK THROUGH DESTRUCTION AND HOPE – Aleppo, Syria

Diarmuid Breatnach

On Saturday 8th June, The Starry Plough Historical Society put on a remarkable event: an exhibition of photos from Aleppo with a real-time audio explanation of each by the photographer, community worker Antoine Makdis, speaking from Aleppo itself.  Please note all but one of the images are photos taken by me of those being shown on the screen, hence the poor quality of the image but it is Antoine’s story of each that is of  most importance.

Audience and presenter in Ireland in contact with Antoine Makdis in Aleppo. (Photo: D.Breatnach

          Aleppo is a many-centuries-old city in the north of Syria which for five years was fought over in the war between Jihadists and the Syrian national army. Antoine Makdis is a Syrian community worker who also takes documentary photographs. The city was once the principal one in the region, being on the midway spot on Silk Road for caravans, between Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean but the development of the Suez Canal reduced its trade importance hugely. There was also political rivalry between Aleppo-based interests and those in Damascus, as to whether to gravitate towards allegiance with Iraq or with Egypt.

However, the city has nevertheless been famed for its antiquity and its ancient buildings, as well as for its edible produce and cuisine. Sadly, the city was riven by war between 2012 and 20161, suffering huge destruction to its ancient buildings and communal spaces and with high loss of life too.  

This man was looking for where the remains of his shop were in the souq.

Aleppo won  the “Islamic City of Culture” title in 2006.  Its western suburbs contain “the Dead Cities” with remains of many cultures which have Unesco World Heritage status since 2011 under the title “Ancient Villages of Syria”.  The city has the largest covered market-souq in the world and ancient buildings of worship, not only for Moslems but also for Christians and Jews.

This man and his mother took the long way home from their shopping. When Antoine asked them why, they replied that they “are walking their memories” through the souq.

Shopkeepers selling their products at a higher price early in the day and dropping as time goes on, then sometimes giving away free at the end of day.

For the first time, fish being sold again. This fishmonger is famous in Aleppo now.

His shop was destroyed but instead of giving up, he runs a stall in front of the ruins.

Wikepedia: “Aleppo lies about 120 km (75 miles) inland from the Mediterranean Sea on a plateau 280 m (1,250 ft) above sea level, 45 km (28 miles) east of the Syrian-Turkish border checkpoint of Bab al-Hawa. The city is surrounded by farmlands to the north and west, widely cultivated with olive and pistachio trees. To the east, Aleppo approaches the dry areas of the Syrian Desert.”

Before the recent war in Syria the population of the city was 4.6 million, making it the most populous city in Syria but it is probably so no longer. According to some sources it is one of the cities in longest continuous human occupation, possibly since 6th millennium BC.

If I recall correctly, this is what remains of the popular children’s toy shop in the city.

This is what remains of a popular square which had a tree and many couples met here first.

Fans of a British soccer team. “What did you do during the war?” Antoine asked them.
“We played football.”

DOCUMENTING THE EFFECTS OF WAR AND BEGINNINGS OF RECOVERY

          After the fighting in the city ceased, Antoine walked around taking photos, documenting not only terrible damage but the efforts of people to recover and the voluntary work done by some people to help people recover the city.

The Dublin event was organised by the Starry Plough Historical Society. A screen displayed the photographs while a presenter conversed with Antoine Makdis on a link-up and the latter talked about each photo, why he took it and what it meant to him.

I think this is a photo of school being reopened. Many of us, like Antoine, were reluctant attenders at school but these kids really look forward to it after the war.

This one also of kids going to school these days, I think.

“I wanted to show the world my beloved city Aleppo, through my eyes”, the photographer wrote in an introduction published on the event page. “This city that suffered a lot from the war and at the same time is cleaning the dust of battles from it’s magical robe to rise again as the oldest and most beautiful city in the world. That year, Aleppo started to recover after the unification of the parts of the city. And I started to publish these pictures on facebook, writing sometimes stories about the photos and most of the times keeping the picture taken unaccompanied by words.”

The event promotion on FB posted that it would be “… non-political, free to attend and open to all (respectful behavior to others is mandatory however).” At the time I questioned how anything could be non-political, to say nothing of photos taken in what was a war zone fought over definite political objectives. I do think I was correct in doubting that possibility and, at times, it was clear that Antoine was grateful for the Syrian National Army for ridding his city of the jihadists and that is entirely understandable.

Sadly, as the last photo was being discussed, I had to leave to attend another event and so was unable to participate in discussion with the photographer, or to thank and congratulate him for his work and what seemed to me a deep humanity underlying it.

Workers are hired to clear the rubble but funds to pay them only stretch to half a day. This worker does a full day, half for free, to help bring the city back to life.

This man voluntarily cleans houses left filthy by the jihadists so that people can move back in, Antoine told us.  Behind him, a building has collapsed spectacularly resembling geological strata pushed up at one end by tectonic plates movement.

 

This kid called his donkey by his brother’s name. He goes around collecting and delivering items and gives a lift to anyone who wants it.

ALEPPO WAR BACKGROUND

          The uprising against Assad may have had genuine democratic or socialist component and it would not be surprising, given the history of the Syrian State, if they were suppressed with unreasonable force.

This woman, Antoine told us, lost her husband and had 12 children to care for. The street she had to go on to get food for the children was overlooked by snipers in combat each end of the street but she went each day. A hero.

In Aleppo, there had been a demonstration against Assad in August 2011, some months after they had occurred elsewhere in Syria. Syrian State forces had suppressed that demonstration with the loss of two lives. Two months later, there was a large pro-regime demonstration.

The jihadists began to attack Government forces and others with bombs the following year. In February two suicide car bombs hit security compounds, killing four civilians, 13 Army, 11 Police and injuring 235. Another bomb in March 2012 killed two police and one civilian and injured 30 residents of the area. In July the “Free Syrian Army” besieged the city and penetrated into a section so that the war was then fought house to house until it stabilised into war between the section held by the FSA and the other, held by the Syrian National Army, separated by a no-man’s land.

The FSA were by this time undoubtedly mostly jihadists, i.e followers of the call of “jihad” or religious war. Jihadists are operating in various parts of the world and have undoubtedly been funded by Western Powers, chiefly the USA, along with in many cases sections of the Saudi Arabian royal ruling class.

I am unsure whether this is the old dangerous or the new safer Aleppo road. The old one was often ambushed by the FSA and severed heads were sometimes left along it. Antoine lost two former school mates on that road.

One of the many such sights on the old road.

The strategists of the USA have felt for years that it was necessary to have the rulers of a number of Middle Eastern states overthrown and replaced with regimes friendly to them.

The USA began seriously funding jihadists in Afghanistan to counter the Russian military and political presence there from the end of 1979 to early 1989 (they even sent them Rambo2!). Al Qaeda was created then by the USA, the organisation’s leadership drawing also on support from ruling circles in Saudi Arabia.

The CIA strategists developed a theory that religious zealots could be used to counter the influence of socialists and anti-imperialist democrats. Like Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, Al Qaeda later turned against it creator, the USA, of which the most spectacular incident was the hijacked airplane attacks on the Twin Towers and on the Pentagon in September 11, 2001.

“This is not a happy picture,” Antoine said. These children imagined themselves soldiers and had formed a platoon, with different ranks among them.

The monster has found a life of its own and has bred many offspring (the organisation variously known as ISIS/ ISIL/ Islamic State/ DAESH being the most notorious) and continues to be an ongoing danger to the people of the world. The various groups often fight among themselves for dominance and this was the case between ISIS in Syria and the imperialist-backed FSA.

Dr. Frankenstein has not entirely given up on his creation, believing it can be used in a controlled way from time to time wherever in the Middle East the political situation threatens the foreign interests of the USA.

End.

She wants to study to become an architect, to reconstruct her ruined home, the ancient building behind her.

The lingerie shop is back in business

Contrasting styles of women

With the water supply damaged, people had to go to water tanks supplied. Here an Armenian Christian and an Arab chat while collecting water.

With electricity supply reconnected, he can have light in his shop again.

Each day these two take walks through once-familiar districts. The one on the right is developing Alzheimer’s and his friend talks to him about what they see.

Antoine heard this child singing “Old Mac Donald” with some of the words in Arabic but he was too shy to be photographed. Cycling is the best way to get through most the rubble.

A couple, perhaps newly-returned, walk through Aleppo carrying their baby between them.

 

REFERENCES AND FURTHER INFORMATION

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

Hosting organisation of Starry Plough Historical Society: https://www.facebook.com/AIAIreland2/?eid=ARCsOcnqMgynuedzFgI4HifYpeJQu8cLd7JbEn9W4z3FFaWcVisIQg2vPOEaFUNNYDWMYKHs88Y0kKTs

FOOTNOTES

1Known as The Battle for Aleppo

2In the film Rambo III, the actor Sylvester Stallone plays a USA special forces fighter aiding the humble Afghanis in overthrowing the Russian occupation.

NOT BLIND TO THE TRUTH – IVY MANAGEMENT CONTINUE TO TAKE TIP MONEY FROM STAFF

Diarmuid Breatnach

Solidarity protest picket lines up outside the The Ivy restaurant in Dublin city centre’s Dawson Street and, as management draw the blinds to hide the event from their customers, passers-by take photos and passing traffic sound horns in solidarity.

Solidarity protester with placard outside the Ivy Restaurant on Saturday.
(Photo image: protester)

          On Saturday afternoon (8th June) round a score of men and women participated in a picket outside the The Ivy restaurant in protest against management deducting a percentage of the waiting staff’s tips. The management are able to take this action when customers pay by bank card for their meals as well as the service charge. The protesters were also in solidarity with two sacked workers who protested the practice.

The business pays minimum wage every day except Sunday and staff expect to make a decent wage up from tips ….. but, much of the tips money is being taken by the management.

Picket line outside The Ivy restaurant on Saturday afternoon.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

The protesters held up large placards bearing the slogans: “Ivy: stop robbing your staff!”, “Vote Ivy No.1 for unfair dismissal”; “Ivy, stop tip theft!”; “Solidarity with sacked workers” and also displayed a banner which, as well as reading “Stop tip theft” also called for “fair pay and union rights”. The picketers later also held up large letters to display the message STOP TIPS THEFT.

Dawson Street, in which the Ivy Restaurant is located, is an upper-class southside city centre street of mostly old architecture, filled with eateries, art galleries and bookshops and also containing the Mansion House, a historic building and the Lord Mayor’s business residence. It is one of two public bus routes from the south-east into the city centre and also contains a LUAS (tramline) stop.

Section of picket seen closer and front door of The Ivy (note the blinds!) (Photo: D.Breatnach)

 

 

Drivers of a number of passing private and public transport vehicles sounded their horns in solidarity while passing the picket while tourists and others took photos and promised to post them on social media. A number of tourists from the Spanish state asked about the protest and I when I explained, were fully supportive.

Since I participated in this protest myself, I was able to identify participants from a range of political allegiances and independents and they included a number of recently-elected Dublin City Councillors (a previous picket I wrote about included a TD – member of the Irish Parliament).

ONGOING STRUGGLE

          This controversy has been going on for some time and has been reported in the Irish Times (see Links and References). Since the protests began, management of the once-highly-patronised restaurant had blinds installed so that they could shield their customers from the sight of the picketers but even so, they could not avoid hearing the bullhorns and the chanting outside.

Chants included “Shame, shame, shame on you; pay the workers what they’re due!”

Reports indicate that business at the restaurant in fashionable Dawson Street is down by as much as 40% on many days which bodes ill not only for the restaurant at present but also if the owners try to sell it, since the reputation associated with the business will be of a negative kind.

Catering workers through much of the world are typically unorganised into trade unions, have insecure employment, are often immigrants to the country and are particularly vulnerable to extra exploitation. Ireland is no exception to this rule and there are many examples of it in Dublin. Campaigners for better conditions of employment and pay for catering workers are aware that the Ivy is one among many but hope that breaking the tip-deducting practice at this high-visibility eatery will spread a beneficial effect around the rest of the industry.

Meanwhile the two workers sacked by The Ivy are awaiting their day in the Labour Court.

End.

LINKS AND REFERENCES

Explanation of many of the issues: https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/food-and-drink/restaurant-reviews/tips-at-the-ivy-restaurant-following-the-money-1.3714844

Link to Irish Times article (and photo): https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/food-and-drink/protest-held-outside-ivy-restaurant-in-dublin-over-waiters-tips-1.3827055

More recent Irish Time article with good explanation: https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/food-and-drink/just-because-it-is-legal-for-restaurants-to-keep-tips-does-not-make-it-right-1.3917220?fbclid=IwAR3s_e1b9B4E0WZje04qTUGpbj9SL-BHyb0FWtcitYP6shyU-9pTPb2tuak

Previous article by me on this subject: https://rebelbreeze.wordpress.com/2019/05/02/tipping-the-bosses/

CÚPLA MÍLE PROTESTORS RATHER THAN MÍLE FÁILTE FOR TRUMP’S VISIT

Diarmuid Breatnach

          Ireland has broken off its love affair with the USA but the breakup’s been coming for a long time. Of course it was always a kind of mythical USA that was the love object, of film stars, rock n’ roll, friendly presidents, Irish-U.Stater politicians, of U.Stater tourists – never the real USA, good or bad. One could feel the tensions in the relationship during the Viet Nam War, though that was mostly to be seen in the youth and some lefties. But then came the lying scandals in the US Presidency of Nixon and Clinton and the naked warmongering throughout all, including the Bushes, Snr. and Jnr.

Looking southward from around the middle of the crowd in front of the Garden of Remembrance, Parnell Square, Dublin. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

          Ireland, below the level of its Gombeen politicians, has split up with the USA (at the level of ITS politicians and millionaires [often the same thing]) but it has been a relatively civilised breakup and thankfully with no children (well, apart from the Irish illegal immigrants – sorry, undocumented visitors).

While some businesses in an Dún Beag might have turned a profit out the Fear Mór’s visit, having the Chief of the World Superpower drop in on us has cost us – around 10 million euro, according to the Irish Independent. Loads of extra Gardaí on the ground in Co. Clare and Limerick, in the air and on sea, does not come cheap (though I’m sure the overtime was welcome). All would have been bad enough if we had invited him but we hadn’t. Will the Irish Government present the US Presidency with an itemised bill? Probably not.

Blimp rising — taken from northern edge of rally.
(Photo: D. Breatnach)

At the invitation of The Irish Examiner, a number of organisations and individuals had written letters to Trump for publication (see link below); most were critical and these included Amnesty International, Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, National Union of Journalists, National Women’s Council of Ireland, National Union of Students; Brendan Ogle, Tara Flynn and Clare Daly. For entertainment value I’d pick out the IPSC’s and Tara Flynn’s (well, she is a comedian). The ICCL also had a newspaper advertisement criticising Trump, which was sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union and figured logos of a number of other civil rights organisations.

There were protests in various parts of the country, including one to greet his arrival at Shannon airport (hopefully US munitions and troop carriers were pulled to one side so as not to hinder his landing). The Irish Times said there were about 200 protesters there so, on past reporting, there could have been anything between 300 and 1,000. It is not easy to get to Shannon airport unless one has a car, even from Galway the gaps between bus arrival times are substantial. And no train station.

(Photo: G.Guilfoyle)

DUBLIN RALLY

          Dublin had a showy and packed anti-Trump rally, with a Baby Trump blimp floating above the crowd outside the Garden of Remembrance. An activist brought big letter placards which, with the help of volunteers from the crowd, spelled out anti-trump messages in English and in Irish. Indeed an interesting feature was a number of placards partly or completely in Irish.

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

(Photo: G.Guilfoyle)

The theme of “welcome” or “fáilte” was of course played upon in reverse, in speech and placard, with more than a hinted reference to the old Bord Fáilte slogan inviting tourists to the land of “céad míle fáilte”.

On this placard play is made of the old “Céad míle fáilte” sentence (“a 100,000 welcomes”) but with a different twist.

The event was managed by Unite Against Racism which is, for the most part, People Before Profit, which in turn is really the Socialist Workers’ Party. A number of other left-wing party flags could be seen too. A group of Shinners were at the rally with their trademark flags (never go anywhere without the party’s flag) but no “dissidents” were present as a group, though I certainly noted some as individuals.

The speakers at the rally covered a number of themes, including of course misogyny, migrants, Palestine, war-making and imperialism. Liam Herrick of the ICCL was an unusual sight to see on an outdoors protest platform, speaking at the second part of the rally. Curiously, the rally organisers had sent a major part of the attendance off to march around the city centre for awhile and of course, when they got back, they had shed a great part of their numbers. A torrential downpour no doubt encouraged the desertions.

Glenda, “the woman of letters”, with some of her work.

Coming towards the end of the rally, a performer accompanied himself on guitar while he rendered some songs for the diminished attendance. Woody Guthrie’s “Plane Crash at Los Gatos” (also known as “Deportees”) would have been an apposite choice, a song about Mexican labourers being employed in the south-eastern US fruit harvests and then driven back across the Border. Guthrie was moved to sing about them when in 1948 a plane carrying mostly deported Mexicans crashed, killing all on board and though the names of the crew were given in the news reports, the Mexicans were referred to only as “deportees”.

At the rally, eventually Trump was deflated (the blimp, I mean), tethering weight bags emptied of water, placards were packed, flags furled …. and I went to get some shopping.

End.

(Photo: G.Guilfoyle)

(Photo: G.Guilfoyle)

(Photo: G.Guilfoyle)

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

REFERENCES AND FURTHER INFORMATION:

https://www.independent.ie/world-news/north-america/president-trump/ring-of-steel-to-protect-trump-for-two-days-will-cost-10m-38173483.html

https://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/specialreports/letters-to-the-president-dear-mr-trump–928499.html?fbclid=IwAR0j1hb62cIjBWLxTaXhVwlUCaVaCD76SX-78s_RRJX1aN7ZJTOH2iJDwuU