TODAY THE FRENCH LANDED TO HELP THE IRISH THROW OFF THE ENGLISH YOKE.

Diarmuid Breatnach

On the 22nd of August 1798, almost 1,100 troops under the command of General Humbert landed at Cill Chuimín Strand, Bádh Cill Ala (Killala Bay), Co. Mayo.

Painting said to be depicting French landing at Kilalla

 The events are covered in six songs that I know of: Na Franncaigh Bhána; An Spailpín Fánach (Mayo version); Mise ‘gus Tusa agus Hielan Aindí; The West’s Awake by Thomas Davis; Men of the West and its Irish translation, Fir an Iarthair.

 Some of the songs, especially the traditional ones from this area, are in Irish, which was the commonly-spoken language of the area (unlike parts of Dublin, Wexford and Antrim, where most of the songs from the period were in English).

The French troops on this occasion — unlike the numbers sent by Napoleon in 1796 but which failed to land at Bantry Bay due to stormy conditions — were insufficient to change the overall insurrectionary situation and though they and the Irish fought bravely, the Rising in the West failed.  Most of the French who surrendered were treated as prisoners of war but the Irish who rose were butchered or taken prisoner and hanged.  Matthew Tone and Bartholomew Teeling, both Irish but holding commissions as officers in the French Army, were taken to Dublin, tried and hung.  Their bodies are reputed to lie in Croppies’ Acre.

Portrait of General Jean Joseph Amable Humbert

Nevertheless the Rising is remembered with pride and General Humbert’s memory held in affection.  Sixteen years later he fought the English again at the Battle of New Orleans, taking place between December 14, 1814 and January 18, 1815, this time as a private soldier in the American Army — and successfully.  He had settled in New Orleans already and remained there after the war, working as a schoolteacher until his final days.

There is a French military former officer character in Mel Gibson’s film The Patriot (2000), Major Jean Villeneuve (played by Tcheky Karyo).  A film commentary on line says his character was suggested by the Marquis de Lafayette, of the French military and Baron Von Steubon, a Prussian mercenary (http://www.patriotresource.com/thepatriot/characters/villeneuve.html.).

But might the character not have been suggested by Humbert?  Anyone who knew his story would be eager to put him in the film, one would think.  In the film, he fights in his French officer’s uniform at the final battle (unnamed but probably based that on at Cowpens); Humbert, though he fought at the rank of private, also fought in his Napoleonic Officer’s Army uniform at the Battle of New Orleans.

Still photo from the film, with Tchéky Karyo to the right in the role of the French Major Villeneuve. His character could have been based in part on that of Jean Joseph Amable Humbert.

Robert Roda of New Hampshire is listed as the writer of the screenplay.  New Hampshire is not known as an Irish-American stronghold and Roda does not sound like an Irish name.  But then, it is not only Irish and French people who are interested in Irish and French history.

 

End

 

 

Gerry’s Postbox — August 2017

Four letters in August from Gerry’s Postbox

 

1)

Dear Gerry,

Thank you for your recent letter.

I agree with you that a General Election is close, likely this Autumn or next Spring. Like you, I believe the Irish electorate is unlikely to give any one political party an overall majority, in which case a coalition government is inevitable.

I agree with you too that our party, Fianna Fáil is the natural coalition partner for yours, sharing not a little of common history (after all, our party’s founders were members of your party before they left it. Our principal founder had been President of your party!).

However, there are a number of factors operating against such a partnership, not least is which we have to remain top dogs in any coalition and some of our people are not sure that you wouldn’t be nibbling at our heels, trying to get into the top position for yourselves. I am only telling you what some people think, you understand.

Then there’s the spoils of power. Again, we have powerful supporters who are not happy to share the loot, if I can put in those terms, just as a joke, ha, ha, ha. And they say that some of your people are hungry.

So, for the moment, Gerry a chara, the answer has to be no, go raibh maith agat. But in future, who knows? A week is a long time in politics, they say – but months?

You will understand I’m sure why this letter is in printed text and why I cannot sign it.

All the best for now.

 

2)

Dear Gerry,

Thank you for your recent letter.

I agree with you that a General Election is close. Like you, I also believe the bloody Irish electorate is once again (!) unlikely to give any one political party an overall majority — so a coalition government is inevitable.

Despite our historical difference I agree with you too that Fine Gael is the natural coalition partner for yours, sharing not a little of history (leaving aside that little misunderstanding 1922-1923).

However, I can foresee a number of difficulties in contemplating such a partnership. Some of your people hate our party and the feeling is reciprocated from within our party too, by some at least. But in the end we understand real politics. Haven’t we teamed up with Labour a couple of times? Hasn’t yours with the Unionists?

To be honest, Gerry, and I’m only telling you what some have been saying, joining up with your party would be easier if you were not the President of it. Painful as it is to tell you, they’d be a lot happier with Mary Lou, who has not a whiff of gunpowder around her, if you know what I mean.

So, for the moment, Gerry a chara, the answer has to be at most “maybe”, thanks. But as time goes on, who knows?

I regret but am sure you will understand why this letter is printed text and why I cannot sign it.

All the best for now.

 

3)

Dear Gerry,

I trust this letter finds you well.

It seems that a General Election is close, likely this Autumn or next Spring. The likely outcome will be that no one political party gets an overall majority, in which case a coalition government is inevitable.

I want to take you back to your suggestion in the past that your party should team up with Labour and some independents to form a Government. At the time I thought the idea interesting but I knew my colleagues would not go for it. They have a history of hating your party for all kinds of reasons, mostly to do with the IRA.

But now that you’ve disbanded that bunch they hate you even more for trying to move into our patch – social democracy. I know, there’s no pleasing some people, is there? As you know yourself. And anyway, as I tell them, your party has no real feet in the trade unions, does it? So social democracy as a political project remains safely with us (except to an extent in Dublin, where FF have a foothold in that section of the people, God knows why).

Anyway now that our party faces an almost total Dáil wipeout in the next election, even those hard-liners in our party might be willing to consider an alliance for government. Twenty-three Dáil seats is a respectable number to bring to the table and you might even gain a couple more in the election.

You might be saying to yourselves that your party has nothing to gain from an alliance with ours, with our parliamentary representation so reduced and other factors (electorate resentment about things we did and didn’t do while in government, etc.). But we bring respectability to your party and we wouldn’t be pressurising you to step aside for Mary Lou.

Most crucially perhaps, we have trade union support to offer. Let’s face it, there are some hard times ahead and having union leaders on your side (or at least under control) could be a very important factor for success.

And whereas our party can rise and fail and rise and fail again, it might be that yours has only one crack at power before the electorate decide to go back to established parties. In Northern Ireland, for decades now you only really had the Unionists as opposition, and most of your support base would never vote for them. But here, in the Republic (if you don’t mind my using the term, ha, ha), you’d be up against parties that your kind of people have voted in for generations, or at least from time to time.

I know an astute manoeuverer such as yourself will understand what I am saying.

At least think about it.

I mean no disrespect but this letter in printed text has to remain unsigned — I’m sure you understand why.

All the best for now.

 

4)

A Chara,

As we expected, your floating the notion that we might be willing to go into coalition government as the minority partner (despite our previous statements that we would not) raised some condemnations from inside and outside the Party, along with some stirrings of unease among a number of our supporters.

On the debit side, it seems we are going to lose a handful of long-term members but these have been critical for some time and we’re better off without them. As to the critics outside, many of them former members, they condemn virtually anything we do and we only need worry about what they say to the extent that it might concern our members. But look how many things our members have accepted already, despite the critics! No, I think we’re safe on this one.

On the plus side, the media mostly absorbed the interview with interest and, on the whole, neutral comment. And it must have set Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael thinking (and even Labour, though you’d wonder why they think we’d want to join with a bunch of losers like them).

As to the bulk of our members, it seems some were still reeling from our expressed interest in a coalition government with the Blueshirts (must get out of the habit of calling them that, lol) and perhaps a little shell-shocked so that this latest suggested change has aroused little emotion.

As we discussed, playing it as a thought of yours only that would still have to be discussed in the Party and ultimately decided democratically at the Ard-Fheis was the right way to go about it and when it comes to the AF we should have little difficulty in getting it through. Yes, the ‘suggestion’ might expose you to criticism from what’s left of the left-wingers in the Party but, on the other hand, it makes you more acceptable to the media and less vulnerable to being asked to move aside in favour of you-know-who (and that rhymes with her name, ha, ha). We still need to keep an eye on that one; it would be dangerous to underestimate her, as poor Pearse found out when she shot down his rising star. Still, that did us a favour too didn’t it? He was aiming a bit too high for his own good (and for ours).

With regard to the main points of our election platform you listed in the interview, the Water Charge referendum and improving the Health Service are of course very popular points and we could hardly have gone ahead without them. Of course the reality is that the Health Service is beyond fixing without the kind of change brought about by a revolution and we’re not in that game at all. But we’ll do something with it if we get in – we’ll be looking for a second term in coalition, after all.

The Water Charge referendum will be a difficult one but we might well get the EEC to declare it illegal. We don’t want our hands tied in future on a useful money-raising resource. Anyway, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

As to Brexit, it seems most of the electorate here in the 26 Counties doesn’t care about it. Still, we’ll plough ahead with it and at least it’s not attracting any criticism.

We could have put forward a radical housing program, which would have been really popular but no coalition partner would go for it and worse, the property developers would hate us. And we need them as friends.

As agreed, no names so no signature either, a chara.

Our Party’s day will come.

Beir bua

COMMUNITY AND ANTI-FASCIST GROUPS CHASE FASCISTS OUT OF THE RAMBLAS, BARCELONA

Translation by D. Breatnach of report by Nicolas Tomás in the on-line issue of El Nacional Cat. 

Additional photos and videos on

http://www.elnacional.cat/es/sociedad/enfrentamientos-ultras-antifascistas-rambla-barcelona-atentado_183771_102.html

(see also Gallery of photos by Sergi Alcazar) 

http://www.elnacional.cat/es/sociedad/galeria-enfrentamiento-antifascistas-fascistas-la-rambla_183795_102.html

(Translator’s note: These events were preceded by a number of apparently Muslim extremists driving a car into crowds in the Ramblas on Thursday, which left thirteen dead and 100 wounded, and also in Cambrils on Friday, killing one person and wounding six. A number of suspects were also killed by police).

The first act in the events was that fascist organizations like the Falange, National Democracy or Plataforma per Catalunya (Platform for Catalonia) had called people to demonstrate in the Rambla against what they described as the “Islamisation of Europe”.

A response quickly followed with the call for a counter-demonstration of community groups of Ciutat Vella (the old city) and anti-fascist organizations, under the slogan “no pasarán” (Translator: “They shall not pass!” — originally a famous slogan from the defence of Madrid during the anti-fascist resistance war of 1936-1939).

A very violent clash could have occurred, were it not for the relative proportions of those participating.

Section of large anti-fascist demonstration called at very short notice
(Photo: Sergi Alcazar)

On the seaward side of the Boqueria plaza there were between two and three hundred antifascists, of all ages, national and ethnic backgrounds, who condemned the terrorism of Islamic State and the fascism of the extreme right. On the mountain side, no more than a score of people nostalgic for past fascist regimes and a boy of no more than twenty years arguing that under Franco one did not live so poorly.

With these proportions, very soon the fascists found themselves cornered by the antifascists, who limited themselves to shouting a number of slogans such as “Nazis no!”, “The streets will always be ours!”, “Let there be not even one!” or “Fascists get out of our neighborhoods!”

Among the Islamophobes and those nostalgic for previous fascist regimes, the most conciliatory of them said that the problem is that “The outsiders come, they place a bomb and do the savagery they did yesterday, because we fight among ourselves.” Others simply shouted “A Christian Spain and never Muslim!”, “No more mosques, please!” and “Spain forever!”.

Among the demonstrators were Manuel Canduela, leader of National Democracy and known face of the Spanish extreme right. Among the anti-fascist demonstrators, CUP elected members Mireia Boya and Mireia Vehí.

Small group of fascists at the Ramblas, also called at short notice
(Photo: Sergi Alcazar)

There were moments of tension and violence. For example, when a fascist attempted to assault a group of anti-fascists, the latter responded by throwing plastic bottles, lighters and even some eggs. The Mossos d’Esquadra (Translator note: Catalonia government police infamous for violence against Left and Catalan independist demonstrators) and the Urban Guard intervened to protect the right-wingers. The cops protecting fascists outnumbered the fascists they were protecting – by at least two to one.

Young Woman confronts Nazi Ramblas 18 August 2017

Young woman directly confronts Nazi at the Ramblas during a more general confrontation (Photo: Sergi Alcazar)

Little by little, the handful of fascists left the place, escorted by the police, contemplating the failure of their call. In the end there was only one man left, around the age of forty, wearing a Spanish Army T-shirt, leather waistcoat, many tattoos and an aromatic small cigar (Trans: ? ”un aromatico purito”). “I am neither a Nazi nor racist: I am Spanish,” he argued.

A Muslim girl, in a bandana, opposed his arguments against “the Islamization of Europe”.

“I am against those who kill us,” he told her.

“As are we,” she replied.

A fascist is led to safety from the Ramblas by Mossos d’Escuadra, notorious police of the Catalonian autonomous government. Moments earlier he had been restrained by them as he tried to take advantage of their arrival to strike an anti-fascist
(Photo Sergi Alcazar)

 

Dear Joan — Shocked!

Diarmuid Breatnach

Dear Joan,

I am so shocked at that verdict. What a travesty! That’s the trouble with the jury system, I often thought – it doesn’t always do what’s right. A pity you couldn’t have brought them to the Special Criminal Court, where there’s no jury at all. I bet you regret you and the Party voting against the Special Criminal Court in 2009. The judge did her best but what can you do with the likes of them – who knows where they dragged that jury up from! ‘Not Guilty’ indeed!

I attended court while you were giving evidence and I thought you were magnificent. Four days in the witness box and you managed to answer hardly any question put to you by the Defence lawyers. And in the course of it, still managing to get digs in at the Defendants — those Communist and Republican agitators! It was a most impressive performance!

Of course, in another court, on another day, you might not have got away with it so much but all due credit for playing the field and taking full advantage of the referee you had!

I have to say, your assistant Karen O’Connell was quite good too, even if she only played half the time you did – two days, wasn’t it? I had to get back to our business by then – have to keep an eye on the staff — but I read about it.

Joan Burton, Irish Labour Party
(Image source: Internet)

A pity about her slip at Jobstown, however, calling them “dregs” …. But they ARE the dregs aren’t they? Unemployed and probably all on drugs, probably unmarried, letting their kids run around and who knows what, not that I’m prejudiced but just calling it like it is. But Karen should have remembered it’s the votes of the dregs you and your party need too. Not that I’m political, really – I just want the country managed so that we can run our businesses without having disruption, or having to look over our shoulder ….

It was clever how you all tried to get over that slip, by her saying that what she meant by “dregs” was “the remainder, like what’s left in a cup of tea” … but I don’t think most people believed it. Your request to be allowed to view the video footage on your own first because you were becoming emotional was brilliant, though! Those who know you in the Dáil wouldn’t fall for you being that soft for one minute but it was a really good one to play on the jury.

How outrageous that the Defence were able to use your own Ipad conversations against you! That really shouldn’t be allowed. Doesn’t it come under an “invasion of privacy” or something? How disgusting to know their slimy hands were on recordings of your voices and of the Gardaí – makes me shudder just to think about it!

And you were right, years ago, to complain about these protesters having Ipads, just for videoing at protests. There they were, contradicting Garda evidence with their video footage! Someone should have a word with the Gardaí, though. I understand that if you want to convict someone, you need to have a number of witnesses saying he did or said something wrong. But all agreeing on one sentence which the video proves he didn’t say? That’s just embarrassing our police force! They need some kind of training – a friend called it “stitchup workshops” but funny though that was, of course you’d have to call it something else.

You warned the country about protesters having Ipads but did they listen? No, of course not – in fact some of them mocked you. They should introduce a licencing sytem for Ipads, like for guns …. and none of those yobbos would get a license.

I have to commend the fighting spirit of your daughter, Aoife. I heard she took up an extra seating spot beside her with her bag in the public gallery so none of that scum could sit beside her and, when one of them tried to, said that the area was reserved for “victims”! Brilliant! With an attitude like that, I can see her in government some day! You must be really proud of her.

What a shame the court usher wouldn’t support her, making her pick up her bag and allow one of the crowd to sit next to her. Where did they all come from? The courtroom was packed every day and hardly a one from your own Party!

The Jobstown Seven
(Image source: Internet)

That other chap, the younger yobbo, the one who got convicted of kidnapping, Jay something …. Jay Walker? No … that’s one of the characters in Star Wars, isn’t it? Anyway, HE wasn’t allowed to bring his protesting entourage into the Juvenile Court in Smithfield. That’s a much better way to manage things.

I told you two years ago, when I heard about what they did to you at Jobstown, how outraged I was and how much I felt for you (why is it called Jobstown anyway? There’s hardly a single job out there!). I don’t know why you can’t have an armed escort when you visit wild places – imagine Hillary Clinton going to visit Iraq or Afghanistan without travelling in an armoured vehicle with an Army escort!

Or maybe you could go in and out of an area like that in a helicopter, like the Army did in South Armagh. They’d have to build helipads on top of buildings ….. wait a minute, think of the extra employment! Fianna Fáil would be glad to get in on the contracts for that, I’m sure.

What I’m worried about now is …. what most people are worried about ….. well, most people who count ….. is: will the courts be able to get convictions now against those who are coming up in the next couple of Jobstown trials?

Yours always,

 

Gombina Plunderall.

 

THE FLIGHT OF THE UNDERGROUND QUEEN

Diarmuid Breatnach

                                                          They had been preparing for this for some time. The infants were selected, received special care and food and were raised carefully in the Palace chambers inside the Citadel. They were now adolescents, maturing sexually. As the time approached for their great expedition, the tunnels leading to the departure terminal were widened and cleared of all obstructions. Experts tested the weather conditions daily and, when the majority of these were in agreement, the Queen gave the order to launch.

The adolescents took off then, a great host of them, amidst great excitement. Their pheromones, male and female, filled the air around them and those who could, which was most of them, quickly found a partner and coupled. It was a maiden flight from which the adolescent females would land no longer maidens.  

Those who would land, that is.  For suddenly the air was filled with giant flying monsters with huge eyes and giant whirring wings.  Much more accustomed to flight, these monsters flew among them, gobbling them up.  Some even held rows of their hapless victims in their huge beaks as they flew off to feed them to their young.  Hundreds, perhaps thousands of the little flyers perished in minutes. 

Those who managed to land safely and didn’t end up drowning in a lake or a river, or snapped by denizens of the deep who sprang up at them as they passed overhead, or caught in sticky webs, or who were not stamped carelessly to death by huge walking giants or flattened by roaring, stinking monsters, still had to contend with smaller predators on the ground. The casualty rate was huge but some made it alive – some always did.

The males who made it down to ground safely would all die within a couple of days. Their wings were only intended for their nuptial flight; on the ground, they were nothing more than a nuisance, impeding their progress over and underground.

The females, sexually sated and no longer interested, had left their male partners behind. They bit off their own wings, ate them and, quickly finding some reasonably soft ground, began to dig. Each one dug down as though her life depended on it, which of course it did; and not only her own life – each one was pregnant. Then she blocked the entrance to her tunnel, went back down it, excavated a chamber and began to lay eggs. It was completely dark down there but she had been reared in darkness – she had one day of daylight only, the day she flew.

The young grubs who hatched were all females. She supplied them with some sparse nutrition from herself and cared for them as they grew, shed skin, grew … until they spun a cocoon from which they emerged as very small worker ants. They were infertile workers and tended to their large mother, their Queen; even when they were fully-grown she was still one-and-a-half times their size, although about half the size she had been when she left her old nest. Her most recent meal had been her own wings the day she had flown and mated. If she got past this crucial stage, she would recover her size and weight and lay more and more eggs.  

The workers soon went up the tunnel, unblocked it and spilled out into daylight for the first time in their lives, beginning to forage for food. They found small seeds and, if they were lucky, sweet material such as soft-skinned ripe or rotting fruit. They soon had their surroundings covered with their hive-scent, carried by each and every worker. Sometimes they found insects they could kill but these had to be very small indeed – these workers had been fed on insufficient nutrition and were, compared to the majority of their kind, puny. If they found a food-source worth another visit, they left a specially-scented trail on their way back to their home, to guide theirs sisters back to the prize later. A rich source of food typically would show two streams of traffic between their nest and the food – one emptyjawed heading for the food and the other, with pieces in their jaws, heading away from it and towards the nest.  The food gathered by the workers fed them and their Queen, while she continued laying eggs.  As time went by, more and more workers were born, who would care for the hundreds of eggs their matriarch laid and raise more and more workers.  Extensive tunnel networks were dug.

At some point the workers found aphids and began harvesting their sugary secretions; tending them on the stems of the plants the aphids infested and carrying them down to their citadel but bringing them back up later. The workers would fight to protect the aphids from those who preyed on their ‘herds’.

Successive generations of ant workers grew bigger, until they reached the optimum size of five milimetres (still four millimetres short of the Queen in her prime). A well-established citadel could in time house as many as 40,000 individuals (although between four and seven thousand would be more common) – they, and previous generations, all daughters of the same mother and the product of one mating only. Their Queen, barring unusual disasters, might live to 15 years of age.

Once the citadel is built, it is vulnerable in the ordinary course of things only to parasites, flood, fire and severe surface disturbance. In Ireland, without bears, wild boar and largely without foraging pigs, severe surface disturbance is unlikely away from human construction or ploughing and digging. Fire might not reach underground but the heat generated or the lack of oxygen might kill anyway; flood, of course, would be the biggest threat. If a citadel should be uncovered or invaded by flood waters, some workers will rush to deal with the problem while others rush to save the young, trying to carry eggs, pupae or cocoons away in their jaws to a safe place. Some others will rush to do whatever they can for their Queen. A black ant defends itself by running away if possible and if not, by biting. But intruders to the citadel are swarmed by biting ants. However most human skin is impervious to the bite and this species does not sting.

Black Ant nest under a stone, disturbed. Ant larvae and pupae visible as the workers rush to take them to safety.

Black Ant nest under a stone, disturbed. Ant larvae and pupae visible as the workers rush to take them to safety.

One day, perhaps three years from the Queen’s maiden flight, she will decide it is time to send her own children into the wider world.  She will lay eggs and have these emerging grubs fed special food, which will produce males for the first time in her citadel, as well as other fertile females besides herself.  Then, one day in July or in August, she will send them out too, to start new colonies.  

Lasius niger, the Black or Garden Ant, is the most common of the 21 species of ant in Ireland. It is the most common also across Europe and a sub-species, L. neoniger, is known in the USA where however, it is not one of the most numerous ant species. Lasius niger is a very active, hardy and adaptable species, living mostly outdoors under rocks and but rarely inside houses (although it may well enter houses repeatedly if it learns of food within, especially sweet food). In cities, its nests are to be found in parks and gardens but also under street paving stones, the workers emerging to forage from tunnels leading to the joints between the stone. When those joints are surrounded by thin lines or small heaps of bright sand in summer, one knows that the workers are clearing the tunnels for the adolescents’ flights. Another indication is an unusual amount of

Black ants, emerging from under their nest. The larger winged ones are fertile and, if they survive, future queens. The winged males are much smaller and all are doomed.

Black ants, emerging from under their nest. The larger winged ones are fertile and, if they survive, future queens. The winged males are much smaller and all are doomed.

seemingly erratic ant activity around a nest, though one would need to be aware of what normal activity looked like, for comparison. The ants may delay, awaiting what they judge to be optimum conditions but someday soon, mid to late afternoon, they will take to the air, to fly, to mate, to die or to live, to start a new population.

End

Derry’s New Secret Police Force

Republished with kind permission from the Irish Dissent blog https://irishdissent.wordpress.com/

 

In the second such attack to have occurred in Derry within the past two months, a teenage boy was beaten up last week in the city by a gang of masked men armed with iron bars and a gun (in the previous one, a teenager suffered two broken legs and a broken arm).

One of the instruments of the “secret police” — an iron bar

Nobody knows who did this, or why these two attacks took place, of course. That’s because this is how secret policing works – it occurs very discreetly, almost invisibly, insidiously reminding us that, below the surface of society and always after night falls, a secret police force is active. Violent secret policing can be so clandestine that, when it does take place, it can feel at first almost as if it hasn’t happened, unless, of course, you are one of the people on the receiving end of it. Although it feels unreal to many among the wider community, its repeated occurrence burrows into the public mind where its corruption, though often overlooked, is impossible to conceal.

This secret police force is so obscure that nobody knows who or what is behind it, other than someone’s profound desire to control people. In the absence of identifiable organisational responsibility (those involved are so secretive that nobody knows who they are) we could also describe this very Secret Police Force as Sinn Féin Mark 2. Indeed, they resemble Sinn Féin’s party militia so much that the people of Derry could be forgiven for thinking that those who are behind these attacks might have been, at some stage, apostates who were driven from that organisation. In any case, the new Secret Police have assumed all the characteristics of their old role models.

 

Old Tactics in New Clothing
Derry’s secret policing structures aren’t new or unique. They have been seen before, and resemble very closely what might be termed “the McGuinness pattern”. Organised and directed by people who want to establish themselves as unofficial figures of authority in the city, they operate according to a very familiar design. This has always served those who believe that they should be revered but ultimately feared by their own as far, at least, as limb-smashing can be interpreted as the good work of defending the community from its wayward youth. So, once again, we are being confronted with the work of false radicals and mock liberators. They know that beating people up with iron bars appeals to a very special kind of imagination, and this is where the secrecy of Derry’s Secret Police might be of benefit to everyone. Who would want to know whether a friend, neighbour or even a relative was involved in this kind of policing? This type of best-kept secret is best kept, well… very secret, indeed.

Another of the instruments of the “secret police” — a pickaxe handle

Despite what the Secret Police want you to think, they are not a manifestation of what happens “in the absence of acceptable policing” because that lazy, self-serving cliché died of exhaustion a very long time ago when it was last uttered by Sinn Féin. Anyone capable of independent thought knows that there are always alternatives to battering young people with iron bars unless, that is, they are the very rare kind of person who is addicted to doing, ordering or beholding it (a dependency for which all kinds of medical and psychiatric treatments are available). The simple fact is that broken teenage limbs are not the organic products of a supposedly measured or reasonable process that concludes with community-sanctioned violence. This brutality, along with the desire for authority and validation that it represents, is an artificial imposition that follows a logic that is as brutal for the entire community as it is for the young person who has been accused of, somehow, “offending”. The entire process is deliberately engineered to appear vague and its indeterminate quality is intended to cultivate a collective response along the lines of “Well, he must have done something”.

 

The Silent Terror
We can assume that an allegation of some kind of offence has been levelled by the Secret Police during its thoroughly concealed process of judgment – even secret tribunals, after all, have to justify their existences to themselves. The accusation circulates only within this bubble, away from public scrutiny where, undisclosed, the infraction is proven by faceless judges before a Secret Police squad is mobilised, armed, and then deployed. The “offending” young person is beaten up and in the subsequent public discussion about the mystery (“What did he get it for, anyway?”) the perceived problem evaporates, like reason under a dictatorship. Nobody says anything; everybody moves along like they’re told to and supposed to because there’s nothing to see here, nothing at all. So, the reality principle sinks while the self-perpetuating myth of the enforcer, so reliant upon the damnation and isolation of broken-limbed teenagers, endures.

With its methodically-planned politics of erasure and dedicated to the erosion of truth, this organised and highly structured violence is reinforced by the ripple-effect that it causes across the wider community.  All of this benefits those who direct it and carry it out in a number of ways. Firstly, it reinforces the perception that those in command of the Derry Secret Police have of themselves as a source of authority: “people will fear us now”, they think, “we’ll have more respect”, “all we’ll ever have to do is glare at somebody and they’ll get the message”, and so on. Secondly, the people who carry these attacks out on their behalf have, in their own turn, become blooded. Assimilated within the circuitry of this local, unofficial and unspoken power and embedded in it, they now have status, belonging, a role and a meaning greater than anything that they have ever experienced or amounted to before. In their own eyes and, they believe, in the view of the broader community, they will finally matter. Imbued with this new sense of purpose and superiority, they’ll genuinely feel important and, from this moment onward, they’ll exist under the impression that they, too, are now to be feared.

 

Political Fear and the Closure of Consciousness
No group has claimed these attacks, and none will, because silence is the currency of terror. Fear travels along the ruined and collapsed channels of reason because it depends upon the closure of imagination. Once thinking is checked, it transmits rapidly from one consciousness to the next via these now-quiet paths. In doing so, it seals mouths and closes minds, extinguishes thought and tightens its grip over the popular imagination where it is internalised, amplified and projected further inward with ever greater intensity following each attack. In this way, fear reproduces itself, by generating wider acceptance of organised thuggery and condemns entire communities to long-running cycles of quiet, uncommunicated dread. At the back of the mind of every parent will be the final, awful question: “Could this happen to my child?”

Questions now need to be asked about those who benefit from secret policing, and answers should be demanded as to which local hierarchies and dynasties are being served and facilitated by the Secret Police. The people of Derry have a right to demand what qualifies someone for a role in this clandestine force, to know who gets to make secret policing decisions and on what authority these decisions are being taken. Given that this organisation operates according to a programme of its own, people also have the right to know who writes the rules of secret policing and why. We have the right to know what gets said when secret policing matters are discussed: who, for example, discusses whom during these meetings? We have the right to know what qualifies anything or anyone for inclusion in these secret discussions, and we have the right to know what will happen if the Secret Police come up with more secret “offenses” that they believe will need to be policed with even more severity.

The deepest wounds caused by secret policing and its unofficial violence are always inflicted on the psyche of a people. The worst damage of all is caused by the silences that inhibit thought, restrict free speech and threaten to crush open criticism. If allowed to take hold, these restrictions will dominate the material, political and cultural prospects of the people of Derry, along with their psychological wellbeing.  If they are not resisted another generation will be forced to endure the authority of cabals and militias, while the prospects of young people will be permanently hindered by the shadow of this unofficial violence.

 

Una tragedia putumayense en tres actos: entrando al “post-conflicto”

José Antonio Gutiérrez D

 

Acto I -Puerto Bello, Piñuña Blanco

 

El jueves 1 de Junio, a eso de las 8pm, media docena de individuos encapuchados y vestidos de negro, llegan a la comunidad de Puerto Bello, en Piñuña Blanco, armados de escopetas y revólveres.

Pese a que a primera vista podrían parecer meros atracadores, sobre todo por las precarias armas que portan, su modus operandi parece ser el de paramilitares. Cortan las comunicaciones, agrupan a varias personas al borde del río y proceden a robar a personas específicas, sobre todo del comercio. Luego, después de dos horas de aterrorizar al caserío, roban un motor y se van con total tranquilidad río abajo con todo lo robado. Esto ocurre en las mismas narices de un batallón militar en la vereda de La Alea, adscrito a la Brigada de Selva Número 27, así como de la Fuerza Naval del Sur que opera en todo el río Putumayo.

Esta es la segunda acción de este tipo que ocurre en la zona. Hace unos meses, también se había producido una acción similar en la vereda Puerto Silencio. También han aparecido panfletos amenazantes de grupos paramilitares –que vienen avanzando a paso firme desde el occidente de Putumayo- y hasta de un grupo que se hacen llamar “Los de Sinaloa”. Esto ocurre cuando las FARC-EP ya no se encuentran en este territorio, sino que se encuentran concentrados en la Zona Veredal “Heiler Mosquera”, en La Carmelita. Un mal precedente de lo que puede esperar el pueblo de estos territorios de la presencia de la fuerza pública. Hasta los más timoratos reconocen que “estas vainas no se veían cuando las FARC estaban por acá”. En el pueblo corren rumores que, de hecho, la misma fuerza pública no sólo toleraría estas acciones sino que algunos elementos hasta estarían detrás de ellos. Sea como sea, la desconfianza es grande, al igual que la ansiedad.

Esta acción ocurrió apenas un día después de una reunión en la comunidad en la cual se trató el tema de la explotación petrolera y la necesidad de oponerse al intento de la multinacional Amerisur Resources plc –de origen británico- de comenzar tareas de prospección y explotación en la zona, en medio de las comunidades campesinas, de un consejo comunitario afro y de un resguardo indígena. Esta obsesión por perforar la tierra, contaminar los ríos y saquear los recursos es parte de la visión del post-conflicto del gobierno: que las multinacionales vayan ocupando los territorios donde nunca se habían podido meter, porque se encontraban las FARC-EP en ellos. Literalmente, los territorios de presencia histórica de esta insurgencia, hoy están de remate. Para resistir al extractivismo, se está llamando a todas las comunidades del río a una asamblea los días 16 y 17 de Junio en Peneya, cerca de Puerto Calderón.

Soldados del Ejercito Columbiano en Putamyo. A pesar de su presencia los atracadores operan con tranquilidad.

Acto II -Piñuña Negro

El día 2 de Junio, al mediodía, durante una reunión en Piñuña Negro con dirigentes campesinos y líderes de juntas de acción comunal, para tratar el tema de la implementación de los acuerdos de paz entre el gobierno y las FARC-EP, dos helicópteros militares sobrevuelan la reunión. Están sobrevolando por mucho tiempo, hasta que después de una hora y media sobrevolando, deciden aterrizar. “Afuera está el ejército”, nos comenta una señora que estaba en la reunión y que había salido para comprar algunos refrigerios. Salimos a hablar con ellos, pues la gente comienza a ponerse nerviosa. No es para menos. Piñuña Negro ha sido particularmente golpeado por las acciones contrainsurgentes durante el Plan Colombia, ha sido muy militarizado, ha vivido innumerables combates, ha visto muchos muertos y decenas de sus dirigentes han sido arrestados. Desde el 2004, al menos 36 dirigentes sociales han sido arrestados. El Plan Colombia también generó un desplazamiento masivo: de unas 2500 familias que había en el corregimiento al inicio de este operativo, hoy no quedan más de 400. Hoy el casco urbano de Piñuña Negro parece un pueblo fantasma, con casas abandonadas cayéndose a pedazos y un comercio moribundo donde alguna vez hubo de todo. En algunas de las veredas del corregimiento, esto se nota con mucha mayor crudeza: Puerto Tolima alguna vez llegó a tener 100 familias, y hoy apenas tiene 2. No es de extrañar, entonces, que la presencia militar provoque escalofríos en muchos.

Había llegado la armada en esos dos helicópteros; unos 30 militares contra-guerrillas, armados hasta los dientes con fusiles de asalto, mira telescópica, visores, granadas y cada quien con dos revólveres cruzados en el pecho, se paseaban por fuera del lugar de reunión y por el resto del caserío. Parecía que iban a una guerra medio oriental en vez de a dialogar con un grupo de dirigentes comunitarios que estaban realizando una reunión perfectamente legal. La gente miraba desde la distancia lo que está pasando con nerviosismo. Nosotros nos acercamos a hablar con un capitán de la manera más afable posible, tratando de bajar la tensión y de garantizar que la reunión pueda finalizar.

Nos informan que hemos roto un protocolo. Al parecer, la inspectora de Piñuña Negro tiene un acuerdo con la fuerza pública, a todas luces inconstitucional, según el cual no se puede realizar ninguna reunión comunitaria sin previa autorización de los mandos militares y sin la presencia física de un uniformado. Tales disposiciones son propias de las dictaduras militares del Cono Sur, más no así de un país que se dice democrático. Nos pregunta el militar que qué estábamos conversando. Le decimos el objetivo de la reunión y los temas tocados. Parece que la respuesta lo tranquiliza. Era como si esperaba que el objetivo de la reunión fuera otro.

Pregunta a mi compañero que si las cosas estaban tranquilas en Piñuña Blanco. Con sorpresa, le explicamos lo del “atraco”, aunque ellos ya sabían pues las denuncias se habían hecho por la mañana. Además, resulta extraordinariamente extraño que el ejército no haya sabido del “atraco” –que a esa altura lo sabía Raimundo y todo el mundo-, pero que se hayan enterado tan rápido de una reunión comunitaria para irla a interrumpir –y de paso, para acosar y amedrentar a los participantes. El capitán nos dice entonces que anotemos su número telefónico y que en caso de un nuevo incidente, llamemos al ejército porque ellos no vacilarán en llegar a “proteger” a la comunidad. Nos dijo que en esa zona la comunidad los rechazaba y que hasta los “hostigaban”, pero que si la comunidad los llamaba, ellos irían.

Luego nos preguntan si iríamos a Puerto Ospina, donde también la comunidad está adelantando acciones para oponerse a la explotación petrolera en su territorio, también por parte de Amerisur Resources plc. Uno ya va entendiendo por dónde va la cosa.

Acto III -Peneya, Piñuña Blanco

En el último acto, dirigentes comunitarios de Peneya, Piñuña Blanco, nos explican que el sábado 3 de Junio, se habían aparecido los ejecutivos de la Amerisur Resources plc, llamando a una reunión a la dirigencia. Palabras más, palabras menos, le preguntaron a los dirigentes que cuando soltaban la tierrita. A lo cual los dirigentes exclamaron diciendo que eso no era una decisión que podían tomar ellos, sino que correspondía a  la comunidad. Y que la comunidad tiene su evento programado para el 16 y 17 y que entonces tomarán una  decisión informada.

También nos enteramos que, camino a Piñuña Negro, los helicópteros que sobrevolaron la reunión comunitaria, también habían sobrevolado el caserío de Puerto Bello. El mensaje era claro. El día 3 también hubo reunión de la Junta de Acción Comunal en Puerto Bello y la decisión de la comunidad, ante la zozobra generada en los últimos días fue reforzar la organización comunitaria, tender más puentes con otros procesos, visibilizar la problemática del extractivismo y la resolución de la comunidad de defender el territorio. Dentro de esto, se llamó a participar masivamente en la asamblea en Peneya, pedir acompañamiento a los otros movimientos sociales, y a pedir a las autoridades garantías para que la reunión se pueda realizar en paz.

Aun cuando estos tres actos, a primera vista, puedan parecer hechos aislados, pensamos que son parte de una misma tragedia que se viene viviendo no sólo en el Putumayo, sino en todo el territorio colombiano.

 

Ahí donde las FARC-EP abandonaron los territorios, en el marco del proceso de paz adelantado con el gobierno (en el cual, dicho sea de paso, solamente los guerrilleros están cumpliendo su parte del acuerdo), las multinacionales han puesto la mira para adelantar actividades extractivistas y agroindustriales. En esos territorios existía no solamente insurgencia armada, sino también, por decirlo así, una insurgencia social: comunidades en resistencia contra la imposición del modelo neoliberal extractivista, que han buscado activamente participar en procesos amplios por una transformación de las estructuras políticas y económicas del país, así como en la creación de alternativas en su propia realidad local. Para quebrar esta resistencia campesina, indígena y afrocolombiana, la fuerza pública está tolerando, sino patrocinando, una situación de inseguridad y zozobra. Es muy raro que asesinatos selectivos, el aumento de la inseguridad y el avance incontenible del paramilitarismo estén ocurriendo en las mismas narices del ejército más poderoso de América Latina, y que ellos se muestren impotentes para operar en contra de estos elementos criminales. Eso si, muestran gran efectividad cuando las comunidades se organizan para protestar.

¿Qué se busca con esta zozobra inducida? Que la comunidad, en su desesperación, termine por llamar al ejército para que venga a poner orden. Al mismo ejército que ha permitido que esto ocurra. Así ellos llegan por invitación (“llámenos si vuelven a ocurrir incidentes”), como salvadores. Pero detrás de la militarización del territorio, lo que llegará es la petrolera. Eso es lo que realmente buscan, y no la seguridad de la comunidad: lo que buscan es dar garantías y protección a la petrolera para adelantar el saqueo de los recursos, y la consecuente destrucción de la selva. Con el ejército enquistado en los pozos petroleros, como se ve en otras partes del Putumayo ¿quién podría protestar o resistirse? Y como se ve en todos los territorios militarizados, la criminalidad y el paramilitarismo no cesarán sino que ahí seguirán o hasta aumentarán, mientras las multinacionales podrán saquear en paz todo lo que quieran.

La comunidad en Piñuña Blanco está viendo claramente esta estrategia y no se está dejando engatusar. Sabe que la única garantía para que la paz llegue a su territorio es la unidad de los procesos comunitarios, el fortalecimiento de su autonomía, la creación de un verdadero poder popular que pueda, mediante las guardias campesinas y la acción comunitaria, enfrentar las amenazas ante las cuales la fuerza pública se muestra impotente. En estos momentos está claro que la seguridad del pueblo depende de la capacidad del mismo pueblo. Que la defensa del territorio no puede ser impulsada más que por la alianza de campesinos, indígenas y afros, con el respaldo de los sectores urbanos que se hacen solidarios de estos procesos. Por más que uno le dé vuelta al asunto, no hay de otra. Por eso es tan importante que el 16 y 17 las comunidades de Piñuña Blanco no estén solas y que se les tienda una mano solidaria en esa lucha que es la lucha de todos.

 

José Antonio Gutiérrez D.

10 de Junio, 2017