I hope this finds you well — although how you could be, with the mob besetting you on all sides, is anyone’s guess. As if you wouldn’t have enough problems already with the economy! Who’d be a politician these days and especially in the year that’s in it? Well, yes, I do know that you get paid for your trouble. But what does the mob expect for their paltry €157,540 per annum? Sure one could never run a decent-sized house with servants and cars and kids going to university on that kind of money (not to mention the holidays you’d need, just to take a break from the mob).
The truth is, Heather, that the mob have had it in for you from the beginning – they never gave you a chance. First it was that you are not an Irish-speaker. Well! Who needs to be able to speak that dead language anyway (well, nearly dead, and the sooner the better)! Well, yes, ok, the Irish-speaking areas are part of your special responsibility, it’s called “the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht”, it is true, but everyone knows that the “Gaeltacht” just got added on to your Department’s responsibilities because it had to be put somewhere.
However, I do think it was unwise of you, if you don’t me saying this to you as a friend, to put that McHugh in the Gaeltacht job as Minister of State. I know he’s doing his best but darling it’s simply excruciating to listen to him stumbling over his koopla fukal (no, I’m not being rude) in public speeches. Surely there must a Blueshirt somewhere who can speak decent Irish?
Thankfully, with the Arts budget cut so thoroughly by this Government and the previous one, you didn’t have too much to worry about there. But Heritage? Oh dear! You’d think for that, one would just have to stick some cement on crumbling castles and pay some staff to look after some cromlechs or something, wouldn’t you? Or pay for the upkeep of some of those lovely Georgian or Victorian big houses (like the one you sorted out for Enda in his Mayo constituency – no, no, I don’t blame you one bit. Always look out for the boss, I say, if you want him to look after you.)
But a row of dilapidated houses in the city centre next to an untidy and smelly street market! Heritage! God give me strength – and you too, Heather, poor darling. That mob, Heather – fifteen years, going on for sixteen, they’ve been banging away about that. What a pity that Joe O’Reilly (bit of a boor really, but still ….) fell on hard times and couldn’t proceed with the demolition of that whole sorry terrace years ago and save you all this heartache!
Nothing is enough for that mob, nothing! Give them an inch and they’ll be screaming for a mile. First it was a clamour for Joe O’Reilly to put back the State’s 1916 50th anniversary plaque that had fallen off the front of No.16 Moore Street and ended up in his Chartered Land office. Honestly, the hullabaloo! Then it was one house the mob wanted made a monument, then it was four. Then the whole terrace — they’ll want the whole country next!
And just when you were going to have some of the houses demolished, that mob, the worst of them, occupied the buildings and stopped the demolition. What are we coming to? If it were me, Heather, I’ll tell you now, I’d have sent our own SWAT team in right away. You have to be tough with that kind of element, Heather, like your party was back in 1922 and ’23 — and sometimes you’re too soft. Yes, you know you are. Oh, sure, some liberals and Republicans would have kicked up a fuss but those vandals in occupation would have been dead or in jail and the terrace a demolished pile within hours. Let them try and get up a campaign over a pile of rubble!
I wonder whether it was wise to call yourself “a proud Irish republican”, when you were appointed, Heather. You had the job, after all, so why say things like that? It’s not as though your FG colleagues would be expecting it of you and it was, as they say, giving a hostage to fortune. Was it perhaps because you felt a bit insecure, as the only Presbyterian in the Government? Oh, Heather – you should know by now that there’s only one religion in Government, and it’s above even Christianity, never mind its various sects.
I despise the mob as much as you do, Heather but I think you could have thrown them a couple of bones a bit earlier. Buying the four houses from O’Reilly (a million each? Not bad, not bad at all for inner-city run down properties!) at the end of 2015 was obviously going to be too little, too late, with Easter 2016 just around the corner. That might have worked a few years ago but not now. You’d have been better off hanging tough, as our masters across the pond say, and giving them nothing except the back of your hand. Now they’ve got the bit between their teeth, collecting thousands of signatures, marching, picketing, blockading …. and even talking about what kind of a Republic they should have.
Heaven forbid they should ever get the Republic they want for if they do, I’ll be transferring whatever assets I can liquidate and getting out of the country as fast as I can.
But I digress …. What about the elections? Nobody expects the Government to survive, so no point worrying about that. Who will take their place? Well, remember when your party and Labour ousted Fianna Fáil? Election promises aside, it was business as usual afterwards, wasn’t it? It’ll probably be the same this time. Well, let’s hope so, anyway.
And your own Dáil seat? Is it safe? I do worry about that. We must have lunch soon and have a good gossip. The Radisson perhaps? Or better still a trip to Blarney, my treat? Anyway, one wouldn’t want to be around Dublin, of all places, at Easter …. with the year that’s in it.
The struggle for the preservation of Moore Street that is currently in the news (but has been going on for fifteen years) is one not only for nationalists and Republicans, but for socialists too. And for socialists of revolutionary ideology as well as for radical social democrats. But currently these sectors, apart from individuals independent of political party (and one or two belonging to parties), are keeping away from the issue. In this they are seriously mistaken and are doing the working class in Ireland and indeed internationally a disservice.
BACKGROUND TO MOORE STREET STRUGGLE
For those who may not be aware of the historical background, roughly 300 men and women of the GPO garrison in 1916, having to evacuate the burning building, made their way to Moore Street and occupied the terrace from the junction with Henry Place to what is now O’Rahilly Parade, entering at No.10 and tunneling through up to No.25 at the end of the terrace. On the following day, the decision was taken to surrender. Despite its historical status, nothing was done by the State to protect the ‘1916 Terrace’ for decades, although a small commemorative plaque was put on No.16 in 1966, when a number of such plaques were erected at sites throughout the city.
Fifteen years ago a campaign was started, by the National Graves Association and mostly by descendants of people who participated in the 1916 Rising, to have an appropriate historical monument on the site. In 2007 the State named buildings No.14-17 as a ‘National Monument’ but would take no steps regarding the other twelve buildings in the Terrace. By that time the four buildings belonged to a property speculator who allowed them to deteriorate but compliance with maintenance and upkeep obligations to a national monument were not enforced by the State. Also, shortly afterwards, the speculator put in a planning application for a huge shopping centre entailing the demolition of 12 houses of the Terrace and the State approved it.
Other threats emerged later, such as planning applications to extend the ILAC centre further into Moore Street and to build a tall budget hotel at the Moore Lane/ O’Rahilly Parade intersection; these were approved by Dublin City Council’s Planning Department although the majority of the Councillors have voted to preserve the 1916 Terrace and indeed the Historical Quarter.
At the end of 2015 the State bought the four houses of the ‘national monument’ from the speculator, paying him €1 million each for them and proposed to knock down houses either side of it. As soon as the intention to proceed with imminent demolitions became clear, emergency demonstrations were called in the street by a newer group, Save Moore Street From Demolition (founded in September 2014). A five-day occupation of the buildings ensued, ending only on foot of an order of the Court that no demolition take place while a High Court challenge to the Dept. of Heritage was awaited.
A number of protest actions have taken place since then including a street concert and a march from Liberty Hall to Moore Street ending in a rally at the GPO. The struggle continues at the time of writing with further events planned and the SMSFD group have joined with others, including people who occupied the buildings, to form the ‘Save Moore Street 2016’ group. It is a broad group containing activists from a number of Republican organisations and independents of community action, socialist and Republican background.
In a separate development, a High Court challenge against the process undertaken by the State to buy the properties and demolish others on either side opened on February 9th and has been adjourned a number of times since, apparently due to the State not having got its papers together.
Socialists may argue that the cause lying behind the struggle is one of preservation of Republican or even nationalist history. I would argue that is only partly true – but what if it were so? Who actually makes history? It is the masses of people that make history, even if individuals among all classes at certain times are thrust – or throw themselves – upon the stage. In that sense, ALL history of progressive social history belongs to the working class.
Furthermore, the underlying historical reason for which many are seeking to preserve the 1916 Terrace and, indeed, the Moore Street historical quarter, is because it related to a struggle against colonialism, against an immense colonial empire. Are socialists to say that they take no interest in anti-colonial struggles and their history? Or is it that they do, so long as they be in some other part of the world? And if the latter be their position, what possible political justification could they offer for it?
STREET MARKET – SOCIAL HISTORY
In the development of this city, Dublin, street traders have played a part – as indeed they have in the development of probably every city in the world. Working people and small-time entrepreneurs, working hard from dawn to dusk in all weathers to feed themselves and their families, a link between town and country or between coast and inner city. They brought fresh food to the city dwellers of all classes and brought colour to what was often a drab environment, colour to the eye and to the ear also.
Moore Street is the last remaining street of a traditional street market centuries old, the rest of which now lies buried under the ILAC centre and which even now threatens to extend further into Moore Street, squeezing the market street still further. This street market and its history as well as being physically threatened by the proposed extension of the ILAC, squeezed commercially by Dunne’s and Lidl, is threatened also by a planned budget hotel building of many floors and of course the giant shopping centre plan of Chartered Land/ Hammerson. Have the socialist groups nothing to say about this or, if they are against this monopoly capitalist assault, why do they distain to take their place in the ranks of the resistance?
AGAINST WORLD WAR
Some of the Volunteers undoubtedly planned the Rising to take place during the first imperialist World War purely on the basis of the maxim that ‘England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity’. But others, including the revolutionary socialist leader James Connolly, also clearly wanted a rising against the slaughter of workers in a war between imperialists. Connolly wrote a number of articles denouncing this slaughter which socialists of his time had pledged themselves to fight but which few had actually done, when it came to the crunch. However, that position remains the correct one for the working class: in a situation where your masters wish to send you out to fight your class brothers abroad, turn your guns on your masters instead. The 1916 Rising stands as an example of this, the first of the 20th Century and world history would have to wait until the following year for another example in Europe.
All the Irish socialist groups, as far as I’m aware, right across the spectrum from Anarchist to Communist, hold the memory of James Connolly and of the Irish Citizen Army in high esteem. And so do the radical social democrats.
James Connolly led the Irish Citizen Army into alliance with the Irish Volunteers, Cumann na mBan and na Fianna. The ICA, a trade union-based militia, had been formed to defend demonstrating and picketing workers against the attacks of the Dublin Metropolitan Police in 1913. When the ICA went out in the 1916 Rising, Ireland was the first country in the world that century for a workers’ armed unit to fight in its own uniforms and under its own leaders.
The ICA were allocated the Stephens Green and Dublin Castle areas but also had members in the GPO garrison. So when the GPO garrison retreated from the burning building, ICA members were part of that retreat. At least one died on that journey, struck down in Henry Place by British Army bullets at the intersection with what is now Moore Lane.
When the GPO garrison took possession of the 16 houses of the Terrace in Moore Street, tunneling from house to house, the ICA were part of that. And when the decision to surrender was taken, the ICA laid down their arms with the rest.
The 1916 Rising and the occupation of the Moore Street terrace and backyards is part of the ICA’s history and is therefore part of the history of the Irish working class and, indeed, of the international working class. If the socialist groups don’t wish to celebrate that episode in the history of the class, why? If, on the other hand, they do celebrate it, why then do they not join the struggle to have the place of their last stand preserved from demolition and to have the ICA’s place in history marked by a fitting monument?
The lack of engagement of most of the revolutionary and radical left with the Moore Street struggle has also meant no noticeable pressure within the trade unions, where the left have some influence, to even declare verbally for the preservation of the 1916 Terrace. To date, only one section of one trade union, the Construction Section of SIPTU, has declared in favour of saving the Terrace.
The struggle for gender equality is an important part of the struggle for the emancipation of the working class, i.e. for socialism: women represent slightly over one-half of the human race and this is true also for the working class. In addition, the oppression of one part of the class serves as a wedge into the solidarity of the class as a whole.
In 1916 women served as auxiliaries in Cumann na mBan and as equals in the Irish Citizen Army. That year was the first in the World in which women participated in an insurrection in a unit of their own, wearing a uniform of their own and under their own female officers, as was the case with Cumann na mBan. It was also the first time in the 20th Century in which women had formal equality with men in an armed workers’ organisation, as they did in the Irish Citizen Army.
The Proclamation was the first insurrectionary call to arms to address itself specifically to women alongside men (“Irish men and Irish women …”, it begins) and had been signed in secret a little earlier by the seven male signatories (or by most of them) in the alternative cafe and agricultural product cooperative run by Jenny Wyse Power at No.21 Henry Street.
CAPITALISM & THE STATE
The campaign for the saving and appropriate renovation of the 1916 Terrace first of all confronted the capitalist property speculator Joe Reilly and his Chartered Land company, while it lobbied the State to take over the Terrace.
When in 2007 the State declared four houses in the Terrace to be a ‘national monument’, the campaign continued confronting the speculator but now calling, without success, on the State to oblige Mr. O’Reilly to comply with his maintenance obligations to a national monument. When the State granted, with some changes, planning permission for the speculator’s giant shopping centre, the campaign moved into confrontation with the State, a confrontation which intensified after the State purchased the four buildings and prepared to demolish the buildings on either side.
The whole saga was an object demonstration of the function of the State in facilitating capitalist property speculation and furthermore, of the neo-colonial nature of a capitalist class unable to consider saving such a national historical treasure even with the support of the vast majority of the population.
In such a struggle, with people with democratic objectives on one side and, on the other, rapacious property speculators and a capitalist State facilitating those speculators, where does the duty of socialists lie? It is clear on which side they should stand if they should stand on the issue at all. And they should take a stand on it – how can the development of that struggle do anything but strengthen the democratic movement in general, including the movement for socialism, and harm its opponents, the State and capitalism in Ireland? And surely in the course of that struggle, with socialists side by side with Republicans, alliances would be formed which could be built upon for more ambitious projects later?
For all the reasons given above, its social history, its anti-colonial history, the history of the common people as well as that of intellectuals, the history of the working class to assert its independence and dominance of the movement for liberation, the history of women’s struggles, and the current struggle of people against property speculator capital and State, the place of socialists, revolutionary and radical, is right there with the Moore Street 1916 Terrace campaigners. But where are they?
With the exception of a few honourable exceptions, they are notable by their absence. Yet, they will wonder at times why the mass of people do not follow them; why, for the most part, they regard them and their organisations as an irrelevance.
In the last days of the 1916 Easter Rising, with the GPO in flames, the garrison had to evacuate and did so through Henry Place. When they came to Moore Street, it was being raked by machine-gun fire from a British Army barricade at the junction with Parnell Street. Consequently, the garrison entered the first house in the terrace to the their right, No.10 and tunneled from house to house until they reached the end of the terrace, No.25.
A struggle is taking place currently to have the whole terrace saved and declared a national monument, a battlefield site in the context of the Historic Quarter. In 2007, the State made only four houses a national monument, No.s 14 to 17 and at the very end of 2015, bought the four run-down houses from their speculator owner at a million Euro each. The Government plans to make them into a commemorative centre, in the course of which they wish to demolish buildings 13, 18 and 19. Speculators have planning permission for a giant shopping mall from O’Connell Street to Moore Street and from Parnell Street to Henry street, which envisages the demolition of the entire terrace except for No.s 14-17.
In reply to campaigners, Minister for Arts, Heritage & Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys, has stated that some of the buildings are of post-1916 construction and therefore are of no historic value. In opinion pieces in the Irish Times, one week after the other, Frank McDonald and Diarmaid Ferriter wrote articles supporting the Government.
JUST FOUR HOUSES — a sketch for three actors
AT HENRY LANE/ MOORE STREET INTERSECTION
(Sounds of shells crashing, flames roaring, combustibles exploding, rifle fire, the chatter of machine-guns)
Irish Volunteer A: “Bloody hell, it was hot in the GPO!”
Irish Citizen Army Volunteer: “Hot as Hell. We were lucky to get out alive, with ammunition about to blow.”
Volunteer A: “We can’t stay here in this laneway in the open, though.”
ICA Volunteer: “No, let’s get under cover quick! Into that terrace there … Moore Street this is, right? Sixteen houses ….
Volunteer B: “No, we have to occupy just four houses in this street.”
Vol. A: “Only four? But there’s nearly 300 of us here!”
Vol. B: “I know. But orders …”
Vol. A: “Damnation! OK, best bash that door down, No. 10.”
Vol. B: “No, not that one.”
Vol. A: “Why not?”
Vol. B: “Only Numbers 14 to 17.”
ICA Vol: “But they’re in the middle of the terrace. We’d get shot to pieces by the British machine gun up at Parnell Street – and we have to carry Connolly’s stretcher so he’d get shot too!”
Vol. B: “Yeah, they’ve already shot up The O’Rahilly’s lads.”
Vol A: “Whose orders are these? Who says we should all pile in just four houses in the middle of the terrace?”
Vol. B: “Somebody called Humphreys …. and a Mac Donald …. and a man called Ferriter. Something about only those four houses being of historic significance.”
ICA man: “What? Bloody rubbish – look, go and ask Connolly what he thinks. He’s the Commandant of this garrison, not that lot, whoever they are.”
(A few minutes later)
Irish Volunteer B: “Well, what did Connolly say?”
Vol A: “His exact words? ‘Don’t be stupid lad – break down the door of No. 10 there and tunnel along the terrace, from house to house, aye, all the way to the end – No. 25, isn’t it?’ ”
ICA man: “That’s more like it – I knew we’d get some sense out of Jim – I mean, the Commandant.”
Vol A: “Thanks be to Jayzus for someone with sense in charge. Who the hell are that other lot and where did they come from, that Humphreys, MacDonald and Ferriter?”
Vol B: “I dunno. Give’s a hand with this door before we get shot out here, gabbing …”
Saturday was the day selected by Pegida for their Irish launch, which they had planned to do at the Dublin GPO at 3pm on Saturday (6th February). Anti-Racist Network Ireland called a demonstration for the same location from 1.30pm but from around noon bands of antifascists were on the street hunting fascists and met them at various locations with painful results for the fascists.
Founded in Dresden, in eastern Germany in October 2014, Pegida (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West) is a broad European network of loosely linked groups opposed to what they claim is the “Islamisation of Europe”. Although Dresden remains its stronghold, the organisation has spread to a number of European countries.
In January last year, marches in German cities reportedly attracted up to 25,000 people at their peak, before numbers began to drop severely, rising again however in October as politicians and media stoked fears of a massive influx of migrants and refugees arriving in Europe from war-torn countries (countries, incidentally, where some European powers have played a major role in instigating or directly carrying out those wars).
Pegida claims to be not fascist and ‘solely’ against Muslims as has been the case with so many fascist organisations in the past – they have been ‘only‘ against communism, or against Jews, or against blacks etc. The organisation has been frequently associated with general anti-immigration diatribes and in January last year derogatory descriptions of immigrants by its German leader, Lutz Bachman, in a closed Facebook discussion, were made public. He stepped down from the leadership after those revelations and the circulation of images appearing to show him posing as Adolf Hitler. The following month however he was reinstated with claims that the images were faked.
In Ireland the Blueshirts, popular name for the Army Comrades Association, mobilised and recruited in the 1930s. They were in part a response to the election of the new Fianna Fáil party, a split from Sinn Féin, in a popular national reaction to the hounding of socialists and republicans by the victors of the Civil War, 1922-1923. The Blueshirts presented themselves as Irish nationalists (even Republicans) with their targets being Communists, Jews and the IRA. Meanwhile elsewhere in Europe, fascist groups were organising, variously declaring their targets to be Jews, Communists, Socialists, Anarchists, trade unionists, Roma and Sinti, immigrants, gays and homosexuals and various religious groups.
The Blueshirts were fought on the streets by Republicans, Communists and some social democrats and, when they threatened a coup, their activities were banned by the De Valera government. It seemed that the majority of the Irish capitalist class had decided that Fianna Fáil were a safe pair of hands and would manage the country better and, besides Britain might go to war with some countries where fascists were in power. The Blueshirts lost active members after that and with other right-wing organisations, formed the Fine Gael political party which became the principal mainstream opposition party from then on, occasionally going into Government in coalition with other parties.
PRELUDE TO DEMONSTRATIONS AND ANTI-FASCIST ACTION
Saturday was chosen as “a day of action” for the groups that fall under the Pegida banner, with a number of anti-immigration and anti-Islam demonstrations planned to take place across Europe. The Irish far right anti-immigration organisation Identity Ireland supported Pegida on their Facebook discussions and claimed that Saturday would see the launch of the Irish branch of their organisation. According to a report by the Russian news agency RT, Identity Ireland’s leader addressed a Pegida rally in Dresden last month.
The ARN called for a large peaceful demonstration and even encouraged people to bring their children, advertising it as “a family affair”. Some debate between them and antifascists took place on the Internet and in person on what are the effective methods of resistance to fascism to employ. One of the anti-racist event organisers, Bulgarian Mariya Ivancheva, sociologist and anthropologist based at UCD, was reported in The Journal as calling for a “nice rally to celebrate diversity”. “When Pegida are there we are ready to face them but not to confront them,” she went on to say.
Anti-fascists referred to history to verify their case that fascism has always ultimately had to be stopped by physical force and that being the case, application of that approach at an early juncture was most effective and meant less suffering for working people, ethnic minorities and other targeted groups. The response of ARN to these antifascists was that the latter were not welcome on their rally.
Many Republicans and Socialists were also angered by reports that the ARN had applied for police permission to hold their rally. Unlike in Britain or in the Six Counties, this is not required by law in the Irish state and the police are required to facilitate with traffic restrictions the right to march or rally on the streets or pavement. The antifascists’ disapproval was based on what was perceived as giving the police more power than they already had and which they often abuse. One veteran of demonstrations in Britain recalled that permission had once not been required in London either but liberals, social democrats and officials of the Communist Party of Great Britain had made it a practice to ask the police in order to cultivate good relations with them. In time, prior police permission became a requirement which at times was withheld or granted with conditions on times and changes of route.
However, subsequent to the publication of this report, I ascertained that ARN had not asked permission of the police, one of them pointing out that such is not required. The misunderstanding may have arisen from one person stating that he had informed the police that the event would be taking place. This of course is quite some distance from asking permission.
The antifascists, composed of Irish Republicans from virtually all organisations and independents, along with a few socialist and anarchist independent activists, organised their own mobile forces.
ON THE DAY
The anti-racist rally at the GPO was attended by a couple of thousand, from the Spire almost to the Jim Larkin monument and covering the road from the GPO to the central pedestrian reservation. O’Connell Street was closed by the authorities to all northbound traffic and stewards were having difficulty in preventing the rally spilling into the southbound lanes. It was addressed by speakers from People Before Profit, the Anti-Austerity Alliance, Sinn Féin and a number of other speakers, including migrants.
Clashes occurred at the pre-arranged Dublin meeting points of fascists on the Luas line with the handful of Irish fascists being attacked and some, including their leader Peter O’Loughlin and member Ian Noel Peeke being reportedly hospitalised. Clashes broke out again in the city centre at a number of points; one of the latter being at Earl Street North. It seems that some Pegida supporters had gathered at the junction with O’Connell Street and were watching the demonstration opposing them across the road and some were filming it. There were reports of some of them abusing women supporters of the antiracist rally who were near the junction with North Earl Street. The Rabble independent media group reported them shouting anti-communist insults at them (see their video link at end of article). In any case, although generally free of visible insignia and carrying no banners, they began to attract an antifascist crowd, scuffles quickly broke out and the fascists ran down North Earl Street and Talbot Street. A couple of the Pegida supporters ducked into a nearby ‘poundshop’ apparently for safety but they were followed and received a pounding.
Police stormed the shop and evicted the antifascists, lashing out at almost anyone close by, as can be seen in the Irish Times video (see link at end of article). RTÉ has lodged a complaint about one of their camera operators being deliberately struck by a police baton. The riot police with batons drawn then set up cordons with barking German Shepherd dogs behind them and cleared North Earl Street of all pedestrians, allowing no others to enter from either direction.
This cordon was maintained until a few more Pegida supporters were permitted to escape through Malborough and Talbot Streets. All of the fascists in this area at least were identified by a number of sources as being of East European background, both by their accents and appearance. Some posts on fascist sites later on seemed to confirm this (see AFA Ireland statement link at end). Earlier reports gathered by antifascist intelligence had indicated that Pegida supporters from fascist Polish organisations were planning to support the Pegida launch.
Subsequently, word reached antifascist patrols that 5-7 other Pegida supporters had gathered in a pub in Cathedral Street, again off O’Connell Street and scores of anti-fascists raced to arrive outside the pub almost at the same time as police. Another struggle with police took place outside the pub with riot police using their batons to jab and occasionally lash out, though with a degree more restraint than they had earlier at North Earl Street (perhaps due to an initial complaint from RTÉ having reached their senior officers by then). Police continued to violently push protesters and to jab with truncheons and one demonstrator showed a badly swollen and blue hand.
A standoff took place here for some time until the Pegida supporters appeared to be getting bussed out in police vans which sparked a rush of 50 or more antifascists southward down O’Connell Street. Riot police on foot and in vans followed them and at the intersection with Lower Abbey Street, drew up two cordons, one facing eastward down Lower Abbey Street and the other facing the Liffey, while crowds of antifascist gathered on the eastern pavements and Lower Abbey Street and mostly spectators gathered on the central pedestrian reservation. More police arrived and drew plastic shields out of their vans while a number of dogs were in evidence barking, one jumping up and straining on the leash towards antifascists.
Many spectators, natives and others, expressed bemusement and asked people near them what was occurring, evidence of the low level of advance news coverage by the mainstream media. Alternative, liberal, socialist and Republican media and independent sites on the other hand had given extensive coverage and encouraged people to attend the anti-racist demonstration or the antifascist action. Some among the crowd who were ‘in the know’ explained the events to one or two in their immediate vicinity. The overall atmosphere in the crowd seemed opposed to the fascists with mixed attitudes to the police and antifascists. These crowds offered fertile ground for being publicly addressed by word of mouth or leaflets but none seemed available to fulfill that role.
After some time in apparently purposeless deployment, given that nothing was moving, the Gardaí simply returned most of their forces and riot shields to their vans and most drove off. This seemed to indicate that the police maneouvre had been in the manner of a decoy while the fascists were spirited away quietly from the vacated vicinity of the pub. The Rabble video seems to confirm this.
The State, probably in anticipation of antifascist action, mobilised and deployed considerable forces. Garda vans moved through the city centre, sometimes in convoys, in addition to police on foot, mounted on horse and bicycle (though the horse police were often discreetly out of site in several locations around the demonstration area). Riot police waited in vans while other vans were stacked with plastic riot shields (which in the end were not needed, if a missile was thrown at the police it was a rare one).
In line with the general history of the relationship between capitalist states, their police forces and fascist movements, the police showed their determination to protect the fascists moving around the city centre. The eagerness of officers at times caused them some problems, including one of them striking a cameraman from the national broadcasting network, RTÉ, with a baton. On another occasion, a riot police officer can be heard calling “Hold the line!” at a time when the video shows the line is not under pressure – the only danger to the police line at that point is seen to be from over-eager officers breaking away to pursue and attack demonstrators.
A number of demonstrators and some spectators suffered bruises from police batons as well being violently shoved by police. In one video a police officer is briefly visible striking at a person lying on the ground – a visual echo of that famous photograph of Bloody Sunday during the 1913 Lockout, when the Dublin Metropolitan Police had run riot less than 100 yards away. In other footage police are seen shoving a man, apparently disorientated (perhaps by a blow to the head) to the ground at least three times although he is no threat to them and is not even resisting.
A feature of the antifascist active resistance was the unity in action across the Irish Republican spectrum, a feature that has been growing in solidarity work around Republican prisoners, in resistance to some features of repression and in the defence of the historical heritage represented by the struggle to save the 1916 Terrace in Moore Street. On this occasion however the unity in action included some SF activists. A sprinkling of independent socialists and anarchists were also among them. Some activists of the socialist, anarchist and communist organisations left the rally to join the antifascists blockading the fascists and their police protectors at Cathedral Street. There were a number of reports of football youth ‘casuals’, supporters of four Dublin soccer clubs, also cooperating in hunting for fascists. At least two of these were observed taking ‘selfies’ of themselves against a riot police background!
It is not known how many arrests were made nor what their outcome has been. Fascists were filmed being handcuffed as they were being put in police vans to take them to safety but it is unlikely they were charged. A number of fascists were reportedly hospitalised where no doubt their medical care teams will include a number of migrant background and perhaps even of Muslim religion.
The police and the Government will be considering their response but the ritual condemnations by their mouthpieces of antifascist force can be expected, as well as attempts to isolate the antifascists as some kind of hooligan or sinister element. The capitalist class will not be impressed with Pegida or Identity Ireland’s performance and, if considering building up a fascist movement in the future, will probably look elsewhere.
Both the ARN and the antifascists were pleased with the outcome of their respective efforts but liberal elements can be expected to condemn the antifascists for what the former perceive as marring the message of their demonstration. The ARN statement (see link at end of article) did so in fact albeit in muted tones, “regretting skirmishes”. In a parallel to some Jewish leaders in 1930s Europe during the rise of fascism, a Muslim religious leader was quoted criticising violent actions “by a minority” and called for defeating them by “dialogue”.
The fascists will be licking their wounds and trying to put a brave face on their defeat, also condemning the antifascists for using “undemocratic violence” or words to that effect. All fascist movements in history have been extremely violent while often, while in their growth period, presenting themselves in public as peaceful and condemning the violence of their opponents. This is a fact that liberal elements usually fail to appreciate, while other elements among the middle class are ultimately content to see their order being maintained, whether by the State or by fascists.
Whatever spin the fascists, the State, mass media or liberals may put on it, the fact remains that the fascists have been prevented from staging a publicity coup that would have raised the morale of their few recruits and encouraged more to join them. Fascist movements throughout history have required such morale-boosters and encouragement for potential recruits and, incidentally, intimidation of their opposition. What happened on Saturday in Dublin has been the reverse – the fascists and potential recruits have been intimidated and discouraged. Over 200 indicated intention to attend on the Pegida “Irish launch” Facebook event but reports on the ground in the city centre indicate a total of perhaps 30 fascists being chased around the city in small groups. The 170 or so, whether Irish or from elsewhere interested in supporting islamophobia, racism and fascism won’t be in a hurry to enlist now.
But should a new attempt be made to launch a mass fascist movement in Ireland, on whatever divisive basis, the antifascists are likely to turn out in even greater numbers.
“Supporting organisations (in alphabetical order):
Anti Austerity Alliance, Akidwa Ireland, Africa Centre Dublin Ireland, Anti Racism Network Ireland, Attac Ireland, Autistic Rights Together, Communist Party of Ireland, Conference of Religious in Ireland, Dialogue & Diversity, Dublin Calais Refugee Solidarity, Dublin City Centre Citizens Information Service, Doras Luimni, EDeNn, ENAR Ireland, Fighting for Humanity – Homelessness, Galway Anti Racism Network, Gaza Action Ireland, Gluaiseacht for Global Justice, Green Party of Ireland, Ireland Says Welcome, Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC), Irish Anti-War Movement, Irish Housing Network, Irish Refugee Council, Irish Missionary Union, Irish Traveller Movement, Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, National Traveller Womens Forum, Shannonwatch, Show Racism the Red Card – Ireland, SARI – Sport Against Racism Ireland, SIPTU, Sinn Féin , The Platform, Pavee Point, People Before Profit, United Against Racism, The Workers Party, Workers Solidarity Movement, You Are Not Alone.” (From their statement published on European Network Against Racism Ireland’s site)
(Looking into the future, a couple of generations on)
THE GPO EVACUATION AND MOORE STREET LAST STAND
Our tour group gathered in the GPO for the Evacuation & Last Stand part of the tour; one can take this tour on its own or as part of longer tours. We said goodbye to Rónán, who handed us over to our Evacuation Guide, Pela.
Our tickets were checked and we were handed audio earphones, receivers and issued with our instructions – stay with the group, obey the instructions of the guide, etc.
Our group had about thirty people in it and ours had the only young children, although there were a few in their late teens. About half or more looked like tourists and some asked for the foreign-language options of receivers. There was one man in a wheelchair.
As instructed by the guide in a number of languages, we tested our receivers to find the volume settings appropriate for each individual. This took a bit longer for our two younger girls. Then our guide motioned for us to listen to our earphones … and the narration began. Gradually, we were pulled back across the decades until we were in that amazing Rising, taking place in what had once been considered the second city of the British Empire, rising up against that very same Empire, one of the largest the World had ever seen.
It was the fourth day of the Rising and many of the buildings in the city centre were ablaze. Through our earphones, against a backdrop of booming cannon and crashing shell, chattering machine guns, rifles’ crack and whining ricochet, we could hear the crackle of flames. Irish Volunteers’ voices reported that the glass in Clery’s building opposite had melted and was running across the street like water. The ledgers the Volunteers had placed in the GPO windows to protect against bullets were smouldering. Other voices added that despite fire-fighting efforts the roof was on fire and the roof lead melting. We could almost smell the smoke. Then finally, the order to evacuate given in an Edinburgh accent – James Connolly, the socialist commandant of the HQ of the Rising, the General Post Office.
In the hubbub of people getting ready to evacuate some voices stood out: Elizabeth O’Farrell, giving instructions about the moving of the injured James Connolly; calls to evacuate by the side door and caution about crossing Henry Street, with machine-gun sniper fire coming all the way down Talbot Street from the tower of the train station at Amiens Street.
A man’s voice in our earphones says “It’s lucky we have oul’ Nelson there to shield us some of the way!” and we hear a few people laugh.
Then, The O’Rahilly’s voice, calling for volunteers to charge the barricade at the top of Moore Street and a chorus of voices answering, clamouring to be chosen.
Now we are out in a group and crossing Henry Street. The man in the wheelchair, having politely declined offers to push his chair, is propelling his wheels strongly along with his leather-covered hands. It is weird to see the pedestrian shoppers and sightseers of the Twenty-First Century as half our minds are back in the second decade of the Twentieth. Across this short stretch to Henry Place we went, the crack of rifles and chatter of machine guns louder now in our earphones. And explosions of shells and of combustibles. The garrison scurried across this gap carrying the wounded Connolly on a bed frame and Winifred Carney, carrying her typewriter and Webley pistol, interposed her body between Connolly and a possible bullet from the train station tower.
With the rest of our tour group, Sadhbh and I cross into into Henry Place, holding the kids’ hands, following the route of the evacuation. Immediately we stepped on the restored cobbles of the lane-way, the sounds of battle receded somewhat.
“No bullets can reach us here!” shouts a voice in our earphones.
“No, but bejaysus them artillery shells can!” replies another.
Other shouts a little ahead warn us that gunfire is being directed down what is now Moore Lane from a British barricade on the junction with Parnell Street.
A sudden shouted warning about a building ahead of us, to our left, facing Moore Lane.
“See the white house? The bastards are in there too,” shouts a strong Cork-accented voice, almost certainly the young Michael Collins. “Let’s root them out. Who’s with me?”
Another chorus of voices, a flurry of Mauser and Parabellum fire, then only the steady chatter of the machine gun up at the British barricade and the sound of bullets striking walls.
The Cork sing-song voice again. “I can’t believe it — The place was empty, like!”.
“Aye, it was so many bullet’s hoppin’ off the walls made us think the firing was coming from inside,” a voice says, in the accents of Ulster.
Then an unmistakably Dublin working class accent: “Would yez ever give us a hand with this!” followed by the creak and rattle of wheels on the cobblestones as the cart is dragged across the intersection. Now we can hear the machine gun bullets thudding into the cart.
“Quick now, cross the gap!” comes the order and the dash across the gap begins. Nearly 300 men and women? Someone is bound to get hit and yes, they do and we hear that one of them died here.
Across the gap, nowadays mercifully free of enemy fire but still feeling vulnerable, we follow Pela, our guide, to the corner with Moore Street. In character, she peers carefully around as we hear machine-gun and rifle here too, but Mausers and Parabellum as well as Lee-Enfields.
“Gor blimey!” exclaims a London accent, reminding us that some of the Volunteers had been brought up in England. “O’Rahilly’s lads are getting a pastin’. None of ’em made it as far as the barricade!”
An Irish voice: “Into these houses then – no other way! We have to get into cover to plan our next move.” This is followed by the sound of a door being hit and then splintering as they break into No.10, the first house on the famous 1916 Terrace.
“Careful now,” Elizabeth Farrell’s voice, followed by a groan of pain as Connolly is manoeuvred through the doorway.
Pela sends the man in the wheelchair up in the lift and leads us up the stairs. When the lift and the last of our group arrive we proceed across the restored upper floors from house to house, passing through holes in the walls, as the GPO Garrison did in 1916 – except that they had to break through the walls themselves, working in shifts. Through a few unshuttered windows, we can see the busy street market below us going about its business, apparently oblivious of our passage above them. But then, thousands of tour groups have gone through here over the decades. Through the double glazing one can just barely hear the street traders calling out their wares and prices.
We pass through those hallowed rooms, listening to ghosts. Here and there a hologram appears and speaks, echoes of the past. Dummies dressed in the uniforms of the Irish Citizen Army, the Irish Volunteers, Cumann na mBan, Na Fianna and Hibernian Rifles are on display here and there. Imitation Mausers and Parabellums and Martinis, each one carefully made and to the same weight as the original, are there. They are security-chained but we know people are free to pick them up and feel the weight, as Rory does, to imagine carrying and firing one. But not to be flash-photographed, which is not permitted here. Replica Cumann na mBan medical kits are on display, open so one could inspect the replica contents. The houses also have period furniture, fireplaces, beds …. chamber pots …. kitchens with utensils … bedrooms ….. There are dummies dressed too in civilian clothes of the time typical of that area — women, men, children (even the dog that the last Volunteer to leave Moore St. fed).
We see magnified historical newspaper headlines, photos, badges and medals. A map of Dublin with fighting locations flashing on them, some of them going out as they fall, the dates appearing above them to show when that happened.
Snatches of poetry, of song come to us as we cross from room to room, from house to house. And for our eyes, the holograms of the Proclamation, the portraits of the executed 16 and many others who fought and died or who survived, flags, the Tricolour, the Irish Republic, the green-and-gold Starry Plough, waving in the wind above Clery’s ….
Half-way along the terrace we come to the discussion between the leaders, creatively reconstructed on the basis of some witness statements. Pearse wishing to surrender to avoid further loss of civilian life, Clarke arguing, a sob in his voice, Connolly saying maybe they should wait for Sean McLoughlin to get back (he is out reconnoitering a breakthrough route) …. Then the arguments with some of the other Volunteers, Mac Diarmada having to use all his powers of persuasion. Oh, such emotion in such short discussions! Then the decision, and Elizabeth O’Farrell volunteering to go with the white flag to open negotiations with the enemy …. even though a couple and their child have already died beneath a white flag in that street.
Shortly afterwards, the faces of the sixteen executed come into view, suspended in the air in front and a little above us. We stand there while passages are read out from their trials, letters from their condemned cells, words to relatives …. Then the dates appear above them and we hear the fusillades as by one their faces blink out, until finally only Casement remains, the image of the gallows and then he too is gone. All is dark for a moment, then all sixteen faces appear again, over a background of the three flags of the Rising, to a swelling chorus of The Soldiers’ Song, in English and in Irish.
At the end of the Terrace, we descend again and here view the O’Rahilly monument plaque and in our earphones hear the words of his final letter to his wife read out – he wrote it as he lay dying from a number of bullet wounds. I found my eyes moistening again as they had several times during the tour and some of the others were visibly crying – including foreign tourists.
The end of our tour lay ahead, through the underground tunnel under Parnell Street to the Rotunda. Here the Volunteers had been publicly launched and recruited in 1913 and here, in 1916, the GPO/ Moore Street garrison had been kept prisoners without food and water for two days, while G-Men of the DMP came down to identify whomsoever they could from among the prisoners.
Now the recordings in our earphones ask us to listen to the guide for a moment as she collects our earphones and receivers. Having gathered the sets and put them away in her bag, Pela asks us all to give a moment’s thoughts to the men and women and children of the centenary year of the Rising, 2016, who had fought to preserve this monument for future generations. Pela tells us that her own grandmother had been one of the activists.
Incredible though it may now seem, the whole terrace except for four houses had been about to be demolished to make way for a shopping centre, which would also have swallowed up the street market. It had taken a determined campaign and occupations of buildings with people prepared to face imprisonment to protect it for our generation and others to come. The State of those years had little interest in history and much in facilitating speculators. She invited us to applaud the campaigners, which we did, enthusiastically. She then asked us to turn around and view the building we had left. There was a plaque on the wall there “Dedicated to the memory of the men, women, girls and boys of 2016 ……” In bronze bas-relief, it depicts the 16 houses with activists on the scaffolding erected by those who intended demolition, with a chain of people of all ages holding hands around the site and in one corner, a campaign table surrounded by people apparently signing a petition.
Once through the underpass and inside the Rotunda, the tour officially over, we thanked our guide and made for the Republican Café. Sadhb and I found we couldn’t say much, as our minds were half back in 1916. Rory was quiet too but Eva and ‘Brigie’ seemed unaffected, brightly debating what to choose from the menu in the Rotunda café, or what souvenir they fancied from those on display.
There’s a Moore Street and Dublin Street Traders’ Museum and there are films one can see all day in the Rotunda, often too lectures, reenactments, plays …. We’d had enough for one day, however – we were full. It was truly an unforgettable experience and I knew that for Sadhbh too and probably for Rory, it was something that would remain forever alive in our memories. The girls? Years from now, who knows ….. but they had certainly not been bored, anyway.