Diarmuid Breatnach


According to Sean O’Casey, generations of boys after 1690 were named “Patrick” or “Pádraig” in memory not of the Christian saint, patron saint of Ireland (whose position was often less than St. Bridget’s) but instead in memory of Patrick Sarsfield, First Earl of Lucan.


Patrick Sarsfield Earl Lucan
Portrait of Patrick Sarsfield

Sarsfield, as a younger son of an aristocratic Anglo-Irish (“Old English”) family became a soldier. He fought in the English Royalist Army in England and took part in the suppression of the Monmouth Rebellion. During the Civil War he fought again briefly for the Royalist cause and went to France after the victory of Parliament. He had come into his inheritance by then due to the death of his older brother. Sarsfield came to Ireland from France with James II to raise an Irish army to support James against the British Parliament and their Dutch King William of Orange.

Ballyneety Raid Painting
“Sarsfield’s the word and Sarsfield’s the man!” Depiction of the raid led by Sarsfield on William’s waggon train of equipment and supplies for the First Siege of Limerick. Ironically, the English password that evening for the sentries was “Sarsfield”.

Up to this point he had an unremarkable military career (though an eventful personal one). The raid he led on William’s siege train at Ballyneety led to the defeat of the first Siege of Limerick. The password of the sentries of William’s siege train was “Sarsfield” which, as well as being a great irony, also indicates that his name was of some import in the ranks of the enemy. He was also mentioned in enemy accounts of the Battle of the Boyne where they praised his management of a fighting retreat after that great disaster for the Irish cause.


Sarsfield negotiated the very generous surrender terms at Limerick which ended the Second Siege and the war — terms which however were broken by the English side “‘ere the ink …. was dry”. The Irish soldiers went off the France to serve in the French royal army and from there also to other armies on the Continent. The ships that were supposed to bring the women after them were never supplied, giving us Irish Jacobite songs of great romantic loss.



Sarsfield Statue Limerick
Statue of Sarsfield, Limerick City


The Penal Laws followed, institutionalising religious discrimination against Catholics but also all non-Anglican sections of the Protestant faith which, a century later, led to the forming of the United Irishmen and the uprisings of 1798 and 1803. And so on … and on.

Fighting in the French royal army in the Nine Years’ War, Patrick Sarsfield was wounded at the Battle of Landen 1693, fighting once again against the armies of William (and of his allies). His rank was Lieutenant-General at the time. Sarsfield died days later at Huy, Belgium, where he is buried in St. Martin’s Church grounds; he was around 33 years of age.

There are a number of songs remembering Patrick Sarsfield and one of the finest, in my opinion, is “The Jackets Green” by Michael Scanlan. I don’t sing it to the air as recorded by the Wolfe Tones but instead to the air of Seosamh Ó hÉanaigh’s way of singing McAlpine’s Fusiliers (which is also much nicer than the usual McAlpine’s Fusiliers, in my opinion).



Michael Scanlan

When I was a maiden fair and young,
On the pleasant banks of Lee,
No bird that in the greenwood sung,
Was half so blithe and free.
My heart ne’er beat with flying feet,
No love sang me his queen,
Till down the glen rode Sarsfield’s men,
And they wore the jackets green.

Young Dónal sat on his gallant grey
Like a king on a royal seat,
And my heart leaped out on his regal way
To worship at his feet.
O Love, had you come in those colours dressed,
And wooed with a soldier’s mein,
I’d have laid my head on your throbbing breast
For the sake of your jacket green.

No hoarded wealth did my love own,
Save the good sword that he bore;
But I loved him for himself alone
And the colour bright he wore.
For had he come in England’s red
To make me England’s Queen,
I’d have roved the high green hills instead
For the sake of the Irish green.

When William stormed with shot and shell
At the walls of Garryowen,
In the breach of death my Dónal fell,
And he sleeps near the Treaty Stone.
That breach the foeman never crossed
While he swung his broadsword keen;
But I do not weep my darling lost,
For he fell in his jacket green.

When Sarsfield sailed away I wept
As I heard the wild ochone.
I felt then dead as the men who slept
‘Neath the fields of Garryowen.
While Ireland held my Dónal blessed,
No wild sea rolled between,
Till I would fold him to my breast
All robed in his Irish green.

My soul has sobbed like waves of woe,
That sad o’er tombstones break,
For I buried my heart in his grave below,
For his and for Ireland’s sake.
And I cry. “Make way for the soldier’s bride
In your halls of death, sad queen
For I long to rest by my true love’s side
And wrapped in the folds of green.”

I saw the Shannon’s purple tide
Roll by the Irish town,
As I stood in the breach by Dónal’s side
When England’s flag went down.
And now it lowers when I seek the skies,
Like a blood red curse between.
I weep, but ’tis not women’s sighs
Will raise our Irish green.

Oh, Ireland, said is thy lonely soul,
And loud beats the winter sea,
But sadder and higher the wild waves roll
O’er the hearts that break for thee.
Yet grief shall come to our heartless foes,
And their thrones in the dust be seen,
So, Irish Maids, love none but those
Who wear the jackets green.





(note: around 5 mins. reading time)

Diarmuid Breatnach

We celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th but are we aware that on that day in 1917, women started the Russian revolution?  It was one of the many contributions of women the world over to the struggles of humanity.



          There were many causes of discontent with the ruling regime in Russia in 1917: it was monarchic, autocratic, repressive, incompetent. It had put the country into a war with Germany and Austria, which was in its third year. People were very hungry with food shortages for a number of reasons including the trains being used to transport war materials and soldiers rather than to bring food into the city. Nationalities within Russia and Greater Russia were denied self-determination.

Peasants were serfs to the aristocracy, who could beat, imprison and even hang them. Officers, always from the aristocracy or — to a lesser degree — from the professional classes regularly struck ordinary soldiers or had them whipped. The officers were also for the most part grossly incompetent.

The Christian Church (Russian Orthodox) was allied to the regime and corrupt. Free speech was suppressed and the secret police could be anywhere; the regular police were brutal and could not be challenged by ordinary people. Wages were often barely enough to live on.


          Petrograd was the Imperial capital city of Russia (the name had been changed in 1914 from St. Petersburg, which sounded too German) and in February and March 1917 a number of factories there were on strike for better wages.   In particular, on March 7th (February 22 according to the calendar in use in Russia then), workers in the large Putilov works went on strike. The factory owners sacked the workers but not had not yet replaced them; there were some clashes with police.

The following day, March 8th (by our calendar), International Women’s Day, women in Petrograd organised a number of meetings and rallies. Led by no political party but in an atmosphere of deep discontent throughout the city, the women’s activities became increasingly energetic and militant. Demonstrations began to march, demanding bread and the women went to factories not yet on strike, calling on the workers to down tools and join the demonstrations. As as many as 50,000 did.

Two days later, a general strike had seized Petrograd’s manufacturing industries, much of the city’s services and even some commercial business, bringing clerks, teachers and students to swell the numbers in protests. Everywhere there were street meetings, marches; red flags and banners began to appear among the crowds. Slogans hardly considered before were shouted and became current, including calling for the monarch, the Tsar, to abdicate or to be deposed.

Demonstration during the "February Revolution" 1917. Note the prominence of women in the demonstration.
Demonstration during the “February Revolution” 1917

The Petrograd police were powerless to control the demonstrators who would have turned on them had they intervened. On the 11th, three days after the women’s mobilisation, the Tsar called on the Russian Army to intervene and to shoot demonstrators.

Russia had the largest single army in the world and despite the war, thousands were still in Petrograd. They had been used in the past against the workers and in 1905 had massacred people on a demonstration to petition the Tsar. But now, after three years of war and shortages, they were not keen to do so and particularly reluctant to open fire on women. Soldiers began to mutiny and, when threatened by officers, often shot them instead.

On that day, the Chairman of the Duma, the parliament which the Tsar Nicholas had kept powerless, sent an emergency telegram to the Tsar, who was at the Headquarters of the Russian Army, asking him for urgent action. The Tsar’s reply was dismissive – his wife, the Empress Consort Alexandra, had written to him that the problems in Petrograd were being exaggerated.

A Russian Army barricade during the "February Revolution" -- the soldiers refused the orders of their officers to shoot demonstrators.
A Russian Army barricade during the “February Revolution” — the soldiers refused the orders of their officers to shoot demonstrators.

But the garrison of Petrograd, including elite units, had mutinied by the 12th, four days after the women’s marches and demonstrations. In addition the Cossack troops, usually reliable in shooting and sabring demonstrators and rioters, were disobeying the orders of their officers to attack the people (although they had not joined the mutiny). Officers began to go into hiding as more of them were being shot by soldiers from their own units. Symbols of Tsarist rule were being torn down in public places.

Two days later, on the 14th, the socialist parties and organisations established the Petrograd Soviet, last seen there twelve years previously, in 1905, before it was crushed by the Russian army. The Petrograd bourgeoisie were frightened but were unused to ruling except as permitted to by the Tsar, who himself now seemed unable to control events. Their powerless Duma (parliament), although ordered closed down by the Tsar that morning, set up a temporary committee to restore law and order and later, their Military Commission as part of the Provisional Government they created.

Thus began a period of dual authority in the city – the revolutionary workers, soldiers (and later, sailors) through the Soviet on the one hand and the bourgeoisie through their Military Committee on the other.

The Petrograd Soviet set the tone for what was to come by approving a number of points in Order No.1, effectively the first law drawn up by the Soviet, point 4 of which stated:

The orders of the Military Commission of the State Duma shall be executed only in such cases as do not conflict with the orders and resolution of the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.”

The Soviet was making sure it could not be overruled by the new unelected body which the bourgeoisie had set up, the Provisional Government, or by its Military Commission.  

Senior Army and political appointees advised the Tsar to do what just over a week previously would have been unthinkable – to abdicate. On the 15th, the Tsar abdicated on his own behalf and of his son, nominating instead his brother, the Grand Duke Alexandrovich, to be Tsar. But he in turn knew he had no support as things stood and refused the “crown”.

July Days Russia 1917
Demonstrating workers shot down by Army units in the Russian “July Days”, 1917










The Russian monarchy of centuries had been overthrown — only seven days after the women’s mobilisation in Petrograd.

Maneuvers by the different sides continued during May and June, including an attempted military coup by senior officers commanding army units away from Petrograd. The fortunes of the revolution swayed back and forth across the country until demonstrations in July supported by the Anarchists and the Bolsheviks were suppressed by army units loyal to the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries political parties in power.

Workers were being disarmed, soldiers re-submitted to the old discipline and revolutionary leaders were being hunted; the War was also ongoing.

In October, the Bolsheviks seized power, ended Russia’s involvement in the War and began to construct a socialist state.

Two years later the people had to fight to defend it against a right-wing military uprising supported by eight states, including the Allies but were successful in the end.

But it was the women who had started the ball rolling seven months earlier on March 8th, with their rallies and demonstrations and calling the workers out from the factories. Henceforth too, they played their part in government, in building the country and in the armed forces, particularly during the war against fascism and in defence of the USSR from June 1941 to the fall of Berlin and Nazi Germany in 1945.

Nearly 200,000 women were decorated and 89 eventually received the Soviet Union’s highest award, the Hero of the Soviet Union. Some served as pilots, snipers (some of the ace snipers at the famous battle (or siege) of Stalingrad were women), machine gunners, tank crew members and partisans, as well as in auxiliary roles of nursing, construction, administration, factory work and of course food production.


Soviet female combat pilots in WW2. The USSR was the only state to have female combat pilots.
Soviet female combat pilots in WW2. The USSR was the only belligerent state to have female combat pilots during WW2.

“BELIEVE” — short poem by Donal O’Meadhra

From their homes stolen lives.
Injustice never new.
Not one crime done nor crime seen.
A sentence served undue.

Witness blind and judge astray.
Trial a kangaroo.
You want a reason to believe?
My friend, I’ll give you two.

Two sons of Craigavon Ireland,
Our voices now are due.
The cry should shout until it cracks
For justice to the two.

It happens time and time again,
Shadows of me and you.
Where once stood four and then the six,
The mirror shows the two.

Together we can make this right.
As one we’ll see it through.
You want a reason to believe?
My friend, I’ll give you two.

Believe poster J4C2


The poem is about the incarceration of the “Craigavon Two”, Brendan McConville and John Paul Wooton.  On the 30th of March 2012 both men were convicted and given life sentences.  They were accused of the fatal shooting of Constable Steven Carroll in Craigavon on the 9th of March 2010.  The evidence was a hotch-potch of questionable material including an “eyewitness” who only came forward a year later after both Republicans had been in jail for a considerable time, a man whose evidence was contested by that of his wife and of his own father.

The case against them was so riddled with inconsistencies and suspect material, alongside new evidence of police interference with witnesses for the Defence, that there were high hopes of both men being cleared and freed when the appeal concluded in October last year.  However, to the shock of many, including a number of Independent TDs (members of the Dáíl, the Irish parliament) and the late Gerry Conlon, their appeal was denied.

The campaign is on-going and supported by a number of organisations and individuals.  It was in support of the Two that Gerry Conlon, formerly of the Guildford Four (and a subject of the film In the Name of the Father), made his last public statement days before he died.

Their campaign website

“Where once stood four and then the six” in the second-to-last stanza is a reference to the Guildford Four and to the Birmingham Six, ten people (all Irish save one) who in 1974 were wrongly convicted of bombings in Britain and were finally cleared only fifteen and sixteen years later.  Also wrongly convicted were the Maguire Seven (which included Giuseppe Conlon, Gerry’s father, and teenagers) and Judith Ward (a woman who was mentally ill at the time).


C0mpiled with introduction by

Diarmuid Breatnach

An 18-year old woman of the Kurdish diaspora in London, Silhan Ozcelik, has been sent for trial at London’s Central Criminal Court (the “Old Bailey”) accused of trying to join the Kurdish-led resistance against ISIS (“Islamic State”).  A British journalist called the trial “disgusting” and said it left him “almost without words” to describe the travesty of justice.  (article below)

Face Paint Kurdish W Fighters
A different kind of face paint: female fighter of the Kurdish guerrilla YPG checks another female comrade as they prepare to go into action with their male comrades on the front line against ISIS in Syria.

This post contains:

  • An article about the trial by J0nathan Owen in yesterday’s British newsaper The Independent (see above)

  • A short article from pro-Kurdish PUK Media containing a discussion on the role of Kurdish women fighters in Syria, with quotes from a wide variety of sources (right at end of this post)

  • A video of an Australian documentary, “60 Minutes”, from the war zone, with war footage, interviews with women fighters and commanders, victims of ISIS (see further down)

  • Background comment or introduction from me (immediately below)

Background Comment:

The Kurds in the region, numbering around 28 million, have the right to self-determination.  They are divided by borders of states set up in the past by the colonial imperialists of Britain, France and the Ottoman Empire and also by ambitions of the states subsequently created: Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Azerbaijan (there is also a huge Kurdish diaspora in parts of Europe, the USA, Canada).  The Kurds in the region also face differences in political leadership, dialect and religious influence as well as containing among them other ethnic groups (many of these also oppressed): Arabs, Armenians, Azeris, Turkmen, Yazidis …. The whole Kurdish region extends across an area of great strategic importance (the gateway to Europe and to the East) and also of considerable natural resources, including water.  It is envisaged that an oil pipeline will cross this area and a number of dams have already been built there.

The Kurds in Turkey (the largest population of Kurds) has been mostly led by the PKK (and various political organisations friendly to it), a communist-type national liberation organisation, largely secular (though some of their areas can be religiously conservative) and with a very large guerrilla force which has included many women fighters.  They have fought the Turkish armed forces for decades and remain undefeated.  Turkey’s nationalism under Kemal Attaturk declared that Kurds did not exist — they were just “mountain Turks”.  Kurdish has been forbidden, the flying of Kurdish national colours a crime, and state repression has included bannings of parties and newspapers, jailings of political and human rights activists, kidnapping, torture, assassination squads, creation of strategic villages, aerial bombardment, etc.  The imprisoned leader of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan, last week from prison called on his followers to lay down their arms and to engage in a “peace process” in which however the Turkish Government shows no interest.  Ocalan enjoys an adulation among the PKK and its supporters somewhat as Chairman Mao did among Chinese communists and his portrait can be seen on demonstrations, in pickets and in their secure areas.

The Kurds in Iraq have mostly come under the political dominance of two political leaders with tribal following, Barzani and Talibani.  Iraqi Kurds are mostly Sunni Muslim with a minority Shia population (Fayli) in central and and SE Iraq.  The Kurds were oppressed by the Iraq regime and rose up against them a number of times only to be massacred, including when the US called on them to rise during the Kuwait war but left them on their own.  Their fighters, “peshmergas” are mostly male and during the Iraq Invasion by the US-led coalition, they fought the Iraqi Armed forces but entered Baghdad like bandits and set up various areas of control under different war lords, occasionally fighting even one another.  In the past on one occasion the peshmergas were also deployed against the PKK in conjunction with a Turkish attack on them.

The Syrian Kurds have their own fighters but have not been as prominent in the past as those of the Kurds in Turkey and Iraq.  The Syrian regime does not favour declarations of different ethnicity coupled to aspirations of self-determination and has suppressed expressions of Kurdish nationalism, including jailing singers and musicians whose work includes those expressions. In recent months, the Syrian Kurds and their fighting organisation, the YPG, have had the most success in halting and in places forcing back ISIS — the “Islamic State”.  The YPG rescued a large population of mostly Yazidis (including also some other ethnic groups) after ISIS swept aside the army of the NATO-client Iraqi regime, massacred tens of hundreds of civilians and kidnapped tens of hundreds more, including women which they took or sold as concubines.

The Kurds in Iran have been in recent times the most suppressed perhaps of all the Kurdish populations.  Under the Islamic clerical regime a number of Kurdish political activists have been executed for “crimes against God” (i.e. being atheists and socialists and sharing their political beliefs).  Under the Shah the repression was also heavy and Savak, the secret police, along with their informers, were almost everywhere.  Torture was endemic under the Shah and almost certainly continues under the present regime.

Although the NATO powers fear ISIS, they have also had a hand in its creation in the drive to overthrow regimes resisting NATO’s penetration of the area (and encirclement of Russia) by direct assault or by proxy: Libya and Iraq (already overthrown), Syria (under attack), Iran (constantly being threatened).  They are trying to bring the YPG into the fold but Turkey, an important member of NATO, would rather see the Kurdish fighters wiped out and seals its border to prevent fighters and supplies reaching the YPG.  The USA therefore confined itself to some bombings of ISIS positions around Rojava and diplomatic overtures to the Kurds.  They have not committed ground troops (which the YPG have not asked for) or supplied arms (which the YPG have asked for — repeatedly) and continue to support forces attempting to overthrow the Syrian state.  The YPG rarely fight alongside the state’s Syrian Army but at times both forces are simultaneously in action against ISIS, though seemingly not in coordination


The Kurds, as the largest force in their region of Syria and one of the largest ethnic group in the whole region, form a focus of resistance to assimilation and to repressive regimes of states but may be seen by other ethnic groups as themselves posing a threat of assimilating them.

Video documentary “60 Minutes” by Australian television containing Syrian war area footage of Kurdish women fighters and commanders and interviews (and also occasionally irritating comment by the interviewer)

Less Photogenic Kurd Women Fighters
Less photogenic perhaps than the images we are currently being shown of Kurdish female guerrilla fighters, this photo is probably of a female guerrilla unit of the PKK in Turkish Kurdistan taken perhaps a couple of decades ago. In order to counter accusations by the Turkish state of female guerrilla “immoral” behaviour, the PKK kept the genders in separate fighting units.
Two Kurdish Women Fighters kefiyah headscarf
Two female guerrillas of the YPG resting but ready to go into action. They are on the front line against ISIS in Syria.

A discussion on women in Kurdistan and Kurdish women fighters (note that there are two parts of Kurdistan under discussion here – Iraqi and Syrian; however there is also Turkey, where the majority of the Kurds live and Iran):

Kurdish Women Heavy Machine gun v ISIS N_Iraq
Female fighters of the guerrilla YPG with a heavy machine gun (light cannon?) in the front line against ISIS
Kurdish women guerrilas against FSA, Syria
Kurdish female guerrilla fighters opposing the Free Syrian Army, sponsored by NATO against the Syrian state, in 2011. The FSA has since been overcome or incorporated into ISIS.


Just missed the anniversary date to reprint this I wrote last year



Sunday 6 March 1988

Three unarmed Irish Republican Army (IRA) Volunteers were shot dead by undercover members of the Special Air Service (SAS) in Gibraltar.  The three were Mairéad Farrell, Sean Savage and Daniel Mc Cann.
The episode sparked intense controversy and began a chain of events that lead to a series of deaths in the Six Counties.
The British government claimed that the SAS shot the IRA members because they thought a bomb was about to be detonated. Eyewitnesses said that those shot were given no warning.Magill Carmen ProetaBritish Intelligence and some media tried to discredit one of the witnesses, Carmen Proeta, whose flat overlooked the murder scene and who came forward to say what she had seen. A British newspaper claimed that she was a prostitute running an escort agency and later had to pay her damages in a libel case.
An undercover unit of the Spanish Guardia…

View original post 1,038 more words


Part of Gaza after Israeli bombardment July 2014
Part of Gaza after Israeli bombardment July 2014

There’s a new Wailing Wall:
It’s in Gaza, and here mothers and fathers wail
at the bloody bodies of their children;
children wail at the bloody bodies of parents;
all wail over the bodies of friends and neighbours;
the wailing rises and the tears fall.


At this Wailing Wall,
we wail the mendacity of Israel and the West,
we wail the complicity of the media in the West;
while rockets, shells and bombs rained down upon us
the lies fell faster and thicker than rain,
a torrent of lies that never stopped.
To surge in flood over the bodies of our slain.
You come now with your flag of peace
tramping along the bloodstained road
and up the mountain of our bones
and the rubble of our homes
and offer us business as before
or – bombardment once more.


Now that the bombs have stopped,
we too stop and look around us:
our schools gutted and bloodstained,
mosques and hospitals in ruins,
so many of our buildings rubble,
or with gaping shell-holes,
in the hell-hole
you have made of Gaza.

We had so little and you destroyed so much.


In the days to come, more will sicken and die,
of wounds on flesh and wounds on soul,
of lack of medicine, fuel or food
as even in pause you take your toll.


Many are numb, some try to forget,
some try to live without forgetting,
but there is a begetting,
for in many hearts too,
your phosphorus flakes are snowing,
the embers of hate are glowing,
their machine guns and bombs are mowing
you and your children for generations to come.


Against your Goliath
our slingshots were of no use;
yes, God was with you –
he’s no longer Hebrew or English –
He’s American now;
you shot us down like fish
in the shooting barrel
you made of Gaza.


You wish us to recognise you?
Of course we recognise you –
the imprint of your boots are upon our necks;
we carry them from cradle to the grave.
But we will never agree to accept
or agree that you should keep
what you have stolen and plundered
the land you have sundered
or that you can make us second-class
citizens in our own land.


While we struggle to endure
and to ensure
that you never defeat us
let it be that we do not learn to treat others
as you now treat us.
What did you learn from your oppressors?
If all you learned was how to also
do so much of what they did,
then truly have the six million died in vain
and you mock their memory by invoking them.


Diarmuid, Feabhra 2009


I began to write this just as the December 2008- January 2009 bombardment of Gaza by Israel was coming to an end and rounded it off in February.  That was the one they called “Operation Cast Lead”, which killed over 1,400 Palestinians, mostly non-combatants, including 400 children and injured over 5,300 — again, mostly non-combatants.  I little thought that so few years later Israel would unleash an even worse bombardment upon the beleaguered Palestinians in Gaza, as it did in July last year, during which it killed over 2,300, again mostly non-combatants and this time nearly 500 children.  The damage to infrastructure is colossal and the Israeli-Egyptian blockade makes significant repair impossible.

I noted recently that I had published this on Facebook only so published it here on the “Rebel Breeze” blog also.