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.

 

LESSONS OF POWER, RESISTANCE, SOLIDARITY AND HYSTERIA

Diarmuid Breatnach

The Wikileaks/ Assange persecution saga should teach us important lessons. In the first place, chronologically, it should teach us the lengths to which allegedly democratic countries such as the United States will go to dominate weaker countries and attack movements of resistance, where the US feels its imperial interests are threatened, which is to say, where anyone may attempt to loosen its grip on markets, natural resources and strategic emplacements, or to prevent its grip from clawing further than it has already.

Julian Assange, photographed recently at the Uruguayan Embassy where he has been granted political asylum.
(Photo source: Internet)

Wikileaks also exposed some of the extent to which the US will interfere in the internal or foreign policy matters of even its allies, including the European powers.

Possibly most instructive of all was the determination of the USA to hunt down the chief executive of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, flying in the face of US Constitutional principles and law, as well as international law, with statements confirming that determination even from Presidents and senior politicians and Government appointees, such as former US Secretary of State and the Democratic Party’s candidate for the US Presidency last year.1

In the course of hunting him down, the USA turned to Sweden, subverting the country’s laws and criminal investigative procedures, then to the UK government (which, as a junior partner in many of the US crimes exposed by Wikileaks, was probably only too keen to assist). Australia was brought to assist under threat and France turned away from Assange’s plight and his plea for asylum there. “No hiding place from the World Policeman,” seemed to be the message. Eventually, however, he did find refuge (if not a hiding place) from Uruguay, a tiny power on the world political, economic and political stage.

Swedish Prosecutor Marianne Ny, who commenced an investigation after another Prosecutor had already investigated and decided there was no case for Assange to answer (Photo source: Internet)

In the midst of this, how did the mass media perform, that which we are often assured is the guardian of democracy, even more than the vaunted parliament? Badly, in a word. Investigative journalism, intelligent evaluation, if they had been evident before, all went into the rubbish bin as print, radio and TV media joined in the lynch mob to a greater of lesser degree. The British newspaper The Guardian, which had been given exclusive first use on the Wikileaks stories, “the greatest scoop in 30 years”, according to its Editor, not only refused to assist him but allowed its pages to be occupied by witch hunters and made money out of publishing a book about the affair.2

“Anti-journalism”, is what Australian film-maker and renowned journalist (Britain’s Journalist of the Year Award-winner in 1967 and 1978), John Pilger called it.3

Assange learned some personal lessons too which should not be lost on us. Sometime lovers manipulated by police, Prosecutor and media; a close working colleague denouncing him and flinging unsubstantiated allegations against him (unsubstantiated but that did not prevent the media from publishing them).

Julian Assange on the balcony of his asylum quarters, the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, after receiving news of the dropping of the Swedish ‘investigation’ of allegations of ‘rape’ against Assange and the voiding of the International Arrest Warrant.
(Photo source: Internet)

 

LESSONS FOR US SPECIFICALLY

Suppose for a moment that one did not take to Assange’s character. Suppose one even objected to his work. Still, he was entitled to fair due process. That he did not receive it from so many is obvious.  Did he receive it from us?  That community of people who would lay claim to having an alternative view, to be opposed to the status quo and, most of all, to be for Justice?

Injustice meted out by those in power often needs collusion and the more independent of the power the colluders are, the more justified the witch-hunt is made to seem. The media whipped up a passionate hue and cry against Assange, who had not even been charged and had cooperated to all extents reasonable with the investigation of allegations against him.

That hysteria sought to drown Assange but also to catch in its flood any, no matter how puny or how mildly, called for justice and due process. The cry of the mob must be “Hang him!” and no dissenting voices must be heard.

The hysteria generated in some sectors, even among people who would normally insist on justice and who opposed the status quo, reached a very high pitch. For the crime of suggesting at the time on Facebook that the case against him seemed “dodgy” and that besides he was in any case entitled to due process, a person called me a “rape apologist” in public while people I had considered comrades (and had thought one even a friend) remained silent. Shortly after that, a clutch of FB friends (which I made FB ex-friends quickly) backed up the allegation.

That taught me a valuable lesson about comrades and solidarity but it pales beside the severity of the lesson Assange has been taught, the mark of which he may carry for the rest of his life.  But the function of such a process goes far beyond the personal; it is intended to make dissent very uncomfortable and even painful.  We may face the attacks of our declared enemies with courage or at least resolve and commitment but it is a different matter when we are attacked, politically and personally, by those we take to be broadly on our side against the oppressive powers.

Most people would say they are for justice. It is usually easy to say so. But unless we can stand up for it whether we like the victim or not, whether we approve of his work or not and, even in the midst of the hysteria calling for a hanging, we are prepared to cry instead for justice, our declarations are worth nothing.

There are many lessons in the saga for us to learn — but will we?

end

 

Footnotes

1 “Can’t we just drone this guy?” Hillary Clinton, quoted in the Pilger summary article.

2 Stated in the Pilger summary article.

Also in the same Pilger article.

Links

Excellent article by John Pilger summarising the persecution

 

DARA QUIGLEY PROTEST AT DÁIL

Diarmuid Breatnach

A substantial crowd gathered at a few days’ notice at 5.30pm to protest outside the Dáil at the Garda treatment of Dara Quigley, social activist and blogger.

Section of crowd outside the Dáil (Photo: D Breatnach)

During an apparent mental ill-health episode recently, Dara was apprehended by Gardaí under the Mental Health Act while she was walking in the street naked.  One of the Gardaí shared the arrest video on the Whatsapp social media, where it was seen by a great many people before the provider removed it.  Dara took her own life five days later, on April 12th.

Dara’s family organised the event and a number of people spoke at it but due to what seemed inadequate public address system and noise of passing traffic, many could not hear what was being said.  According to a press report, Dara Quigley was remembered as “a strong and intelligent woman” at a vigil outside Leinster House on Friday evening.  Ms Quigley’s brother Seán told a congregation of about 100 people on Kildare Street that his sister had opened the world to him.

Dara Quigley, who took her life on April 12th
(Photo source: Internet)

“Without her, I don’t know where I would have been. She didn’t just do that with me, she led by example in a lot of ways. She wasn’t afraid and she wasn’t a victim.”

Painting of Dara Quigley, on display at railings of the Dáil during the protest (Phot0: D Breatnach)

The Justice Department has stated that the officer is suspended on full pay pending disciplinary investigation.  Outside the Dáil today many in the crowd were saying that the Garda responsible could post such a video without an expectation of punishment only in a force that has become accustomed to acting with impunity, from the highest to the lowest rank — with the exception of whistleblowers, of course.

Protest crowd viewed from across the road from the Dáil (Photo: D Breatnach)

LINKS

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/dara-quigley-she-wasn-t-afraid-and-she-wasn-t-a-victim-1.3081474

(Photo: D Breatnach)

PUBLIC DISORDER AND ASSAULTS AS PEOPLE PROTEST ROYAL VISIT AND COMMEMORATE PATRIOT DEAD

 

Clive Sulish

 

Scuffles broke out and people were pushed to the ground by Gardaí as an unidentified man, later assumed to be an undercover Special Branch officer, grabbed a megaphone from the hands of a person chairing the protest.  Yes, the public disorder and assaults were all the work of the Gardaí.

Garda blockade on Glasnevin Road, Dublin

An ad-hoc group called Socialist Republicans Against Royal Visits had organised the protest, also with the intention of marking 12th May, anniversary of the execution in 1916 by British firing squad of James Connolly, revolutionary socialist, as well as the death after 59 days on hunger strike of Francis Hughes in 1981.

Today Prince Charles of the British Royal Family, also Admiral of the Fleet, Field Marshal, Marshal of the Royal Air Force, Colonel-in-Chief of the Parachute Regiment (perpetrators of the Ballymurphy and Derry massacres), was due to visit Glasnevin Cemetery.

Participants in the event met this morning at Phibsboro Shopping Centre and marched along Phibsborough Road towards Glasnevin cemetery, carrying banners, flags and two floral sprays. Led by a banner carrying the legend which Connolly had erected over Liberty Hall during WW1, “We Serve Neither King nor Kaiser”, they passed over Cross Guns Bridge on the Royal Canal and on towards Glasnevin Cemetery, heading for the Hunger Strike Memorial there. However they found their way barred by a metal screen and blackout material, fronted by Riot police and other Gardaí with mounted police also being brought up.

Some participants and Police at Garda barrier

The marchers were not allowed to proceed and uninvolved members of the public were also prevented by police from proceeding along the pavement. After awhile, Dáithí Ó Riain, chairing the proceedings began to hand a megaphone to Diarmuid Breatnach who was about to speak when a man in plainclothes rushed forward and grabbed the megaphone. At no point did he identify himself nor give a reason for wishing to take the appliance except to say “Because I say so.”

Mounted Police visible at edge of barricade

Participants came forward to defend the speaker being assaulted and the police charged in, knocking people to the ground and twisting people’s hands and bending fingers back until they succeeded in forcibly removing the megaphone.

As participants demanded to have the megaphone returned and the police continued to refuse, Breatnach addressed onlookers to explain what had just happened and to say that “this is the kind of democracy that exists in this country …… when people want to peacefully protest and it doesn’t suit the State that they do so. When you hear of disturbances at a demonstration this is most likely how they started, with a police attack on people.”

Overhead, a helicopter kept circling the area for a period of hours.

Section of participants showing the man in plainclothes who later grabbed the megaphone (dark clothes 3pm position on right of photo)

A number of speakers addressed the participants and bystanders and congratulated them on not allowing themselves to be provoked by the police assault and a chant of “Shame!” was taken up against the police, in addition to the crowd singing two verses of “Take It Down From the Mast Irish Traitors” directed at the Gardaí.

Dáithí Ó Riain, chairperson of the event speaking after the police attack.

The floral sprays were laid at the corner of the wall of the cemetery since further progress was prevented by the Gardaí.

After some time, the protesters marched back to Phibsboro Shopping Centre where they held a short street meeting, to be addressed briefly by a number of speakers and to hear a reading of James Connolly’s last statement before his execution, after which they dispersed.

During the event, Sean Doyle and Ger Devereaux engaged with a radio program explaining the reasons for the protest and the commemoration, in addition to dealing with the statements of callers denouncing the participants.  The police attack occurred during the radio interview so listeners got to hear more of what went on than was expected.

 

A speaker on behalf of the organisers

Another view of the police and their barrier

Breatnach, who had the megaphone wrenched from his hand at Glasnevin after a struggle, addressing a short meeting afterwards in Phipsborough

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LINKS:

Sean Doyle and Ger Devereaux interviewed live on radio from demonstration:

 

MARCH AGAINST CHURCH CONTROL OF MATERNITY HOSPITAL

Clive Sulish

 

Tens of hundreds, mostly women but also containing some men and couples with children, gathered in bright sunshine today at the Garden of Rembrance and then marched through O’Connell Street in Dublin’s city centre. They continued along the northside quays and across Talbot Memorial Bridge, up past Pearse Station (where Constance Markievicz was welcomed by a huge crowd upon her release from British jail in 1917), then past Hollis St. Hospital to end at the south side of Merrion Square.

Marching along O’Connell Street.
(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Rally to start at Garden of Remembrance
(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The event was organised by a coalition of Parents for Choice, Uplift, the National Women’s Council of Ireland and Justice for Magdalenes “to send a loud clear message to Health Minister Simon Harris”. The march was part of the ongoing protests against the ownership of the new National Maternity Hospital being given to the religious order the Sisters of Charity but also, as at least one speaker made clear, about the long history in the 26-County state of health services being provided by a combination of Catholic Church and State. Some others on the demonstration made the point that hospitals should be publicly owned and controlled.

Heading east under railway bridge at Butt Bridge.
(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

A petition containing 103,700 signatures – on 50 meters of paper was carried by protesters- demanding that the €300m taxpayer-funded hospital be taken into public ownership. The viral petition had been hosted by campaign organisation Uplift and was printed on 50 feet sheets of card, which was laid out like a path on the approach to the rally’s stage.

An all-women group called the Repeal Choir sang a number of songs before the speeches at the rally; one of their number announced that they had been formed only a few weeks earlier and they sang with gusto.

End.

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

 

 

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Crossing Talbot Memorial Bridge (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

End of march approaching Talbot Memorial Bridge
(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Lombard St. and quay junction.
(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

 

 

Hollis St and its Hospital.
(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Not on the march — sunning themselves in Merrion Square park (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Not on the march — sunning themselves in Merrion Square park (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Not on the march — sunning themselves in Merrion Square park (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Hollis St. Hospital front facing Merrion Square.
(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The only placard in Irish on the march
(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The Repeal Choir
(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

 

IRISH LANGUAGE CAMPAIGNERS CALL FOR URGENT ACTION — “10 years remaining for Irish as a living language in the Gaeltacht”

(English-language version below)

De réir ráiteas a d’eisigh craobh BÁC den dream Misneach inné (15/12/2016) d’éirigh go maith le hagóid Misneach  ar son Cearta Teanga lasmuigh de Theach Laighean. Bhailigh daoine i rith am lóin chun seasamh i gcoinne cur i gcéill na hairí Humphreys agus Kyne. Bhí neart tacaíochta don agóid ó dhaoine a d’imigh thar bráid, cuid mhaith acu a d’iarr leithscéil nach raibh mórán Gaeilge acu féin agus cúpla daoine ó thíortha i gcéin ina measc.

 

Map on Misneach banner illustrates the decline of areas where Irish is a living community language under the Irish state's administration. (Photo D.Breatnach)

Map on Misneach banner illustrates the decline of areas where Irish is a living community language under the Irish state’s administration. (Photo D.Breatnach)

D’ardaigh urlabhraí Misneach, Kerron Ó Luain, ceist an buiséad a pléadh i measc an chomhchoiste inniu:

Gheall Sean Kyne go dtabharfaí 1,000,000 euro breise don Ghaeilge ar Adhmhaidin ar RnaG níos luaithe. Is ardú 1% atá i gceist le sin. Ach, is méid suarach é 1% nuair a smaoinítear go gearradh 75% de bhuiséad Údarás na Gaeltachta agus 35% ó bhuiséad Foras na Gaeilge ó 2008.

D’fhógair an tAire McHugh i rith 2015 go mbeadh 1,000,000 euro breise do bhuiséad caipitil na Gaeilge chomh maith. Tá sé soiléir gur cleas atá sna fógraí seo. Gearrtar na deicheannaí de mhilliún ó bhuiséad ach, ar an láimh eile, fógraítear “airgead breise” de mhéid an-bheag amhail is gur dul chun cinn é. Is cleas é leis an bpobal Gaeilge a cheannach agus faraor tá an cuma ar an scéal go n-oibríonn an chleasaíocht seo.’

Chríochnaigh Ó Luain:

Arís tá Misneach ag glaoch ar na ceanneagraíochtaí Gaeilge gníomhú agus Lá Mór eile a eagrú. Tá sé feicthe ón ngluaiseacht a d’fhás i gcoinne príobháidiú a dhéanamh ar ár n-uisce, gurb é an t-aon chineáil cumhacht a dtugann na polaiteoirí aird ar bith air ná cumhacht na sluaite amuigh ar na sráideannaí.

Section of protest demonstration outside the Dáil (Photo D.Breatnach)

Section of protest demonstration outside the Dáil (Photo D.Breatnach)

Má leantar ar aghaidh mar atá agus an pobal Gaeilge ina dtost caithfear milliúin euro chugainn anseo is ansiúd i mbealach soiniciúil ach ní dhéanfar aon dul chun cinn i ndáiríre. Agus gan ach 10 mbliain fágthaí ag an nGaeilge mar theanga pobal laethúil sa Ghaeltacht tá gníomh raidiciúil de dhíth láithreach.’

———————————————————————-

According to a statement of the Dublin branch of the Misneach organisation yesterday (15/12/2106),  a successful demonstration for Language Rights was held outside Leinster House. People gathered during lunchtime to highlight the hypocrisy of the government ministers charged with overseeing the language, Heather Humphreys and Sean Kyne. There was plenty of support from passers-by, including people who apologised for their own lack of Irish and a few people from abroad.

Spokesperson for Misneach, Kerron Ó Luain, alluded to the budget being discussed by the committee today:

Tongue-in cheek use of road traffic sign (Photo D.Breatnach)

Tongue-in cheek use of road traffic sign
(Photo D.Breatnach)

Sean Kyne apparently promised an additional million euro for the Irish language on RnaG’s Adhmhaidin programme this morning. That amounts to a 1% rise. Realistically, 1% is a pitiful amount when it is considered that 75% has been cut from the budget of Údarás na Gaeltachta agus 35% from that of Foras na Gaeilge since 2008.

Then Minister for the Gaeltacht, Joe McHugh, made a similar announcement in 2015 when he said that one million additional euros would go to the capital budget for the Irish language. It is patently obvious to all that this is a cynical ploy. Tens of millions are cut from the budget only for grand announcements of “additional funding” of pitiful amounts to be made afterwards as if this were progress. It is a ploy being adopted to buy off the Irish language community, and unfortunately it appears to be working.’

Ó Luain finished:

Misneach is once more calling on the chief Irish language organisations to mobilise towards another Lá Mór. It is evident from the movement which opposed the privatisation of our water that the only type of power politicians pay any heed to is the power of the people marching on the streets.

If the situation persists and the Irish language community remains silent, and accepting of token gestures of one million euro here and there, then no real progress will be made. With only 10 years left for Irish as a living community language in the Gaeltacht now is the time for radical action.’

(Photo D.Breatnach)

(Photo D.Breatnach)

Section of protest after some people had left (Photo D.Breatnach)

Section of protest after some people had left (Photo D.Breatnach)

Joe Kelly — and a generation passing

A generation is passing. Actually they have been passing for some time, the generation of the fighting years of the late 1960s, the 1970s, the 1980s and even the 1990s.

They campaigned variously for social housing; civil rights north and south; for human rights; against Church domination; against Unionist sectarianism; for free access to contraception; for right to divorce; for an end to censorship; for national self-determination; for Gaeltacht civil rights; for Irish language rights and Irish on TV; in support of political prisoners; the rights of women; for Irish Traveller rights; protection of heritage and environment; solidarity with many struggles around the world, including Cuba, Vietnam, Rhodesia, South Africa, Chile, the Black Panthers; against drug dealers; for freedom to choose lifestyle; decriminalisation of gay and lesbian life; for community projects in deprived areas including youthwork and, let’s not forget, organised, fought in and supported strikes.

 

That generation fought many battles, some of which they won and some which built bases for later battles and their story is told only in bits and pieces here and there. They organised, marched, sat in, occupied, wrote, made placards, painted slogans, put up posters and some fired guns; they were watched, raided, beaten, fined, jailed, calumnied, sacked, expelled, kept unemployed, derided from pulpit, press and judge’s bench, some were shot, and not just they but their families made to suffer too.

I am not referring to people of any specific age but of all those who were any age from young to old and active during those years. The causes of death have been many, from simple old age and life lived out to the death penalty.

But the death penalty was not in force in Ireland in the 1960s, you may think? Actually it was, it wasn’t abolished until 1990 in this state. But you’d be kind of correct as in practice no formal execution has been carried out by this state since 1954.

So, then what am I talking about? Maybe referring to the ‘United Kingdom’, since six counties of Ireland are included in that state? Yes, and no. The death sentence still exists in the UK only for “Arson in Her Majesty’s shipyards” but it was abolished in Britain for the crime of murder in 1965 and, in fact, no-one had been formally executed there from the year before. If the judicial death penalty had still been in force, the people in charge of that state might’ve been been spared the embarrassment of seeing nearly a score of Irish people they had wrongly convicted in 1974 walk free decades later as judges eventually had to find them ‘Not Guilty’.

A bit late for Giuseppe Conlon, against whom there had not even been a shred of doubtful evidence, but never mind. But had they all died in prison or been executed, people might not have worked so hard to see their convictions in court overturned – people among whom Joe Kelly, who died this week and who was cremated on Saturday, stands tall.

But the death penalty was not removed from the judges’ arsenal in that bastion of reaction, Six Counties state, until 1973, when the 30 Years’ War had entered its early years (somebody from the British state clearly had to sit down with the Unionist bigots and explain, although of course they sympathised with their loyal brethren, how bad it would be for Britain and the Queen if they started sentencing and executing IRA and INLA fighters).

There are more ways to skin a cat …. yes, and to kill too. The orange and SAS and MRF death squads killed more against whom there was not even a court conviction. And some of the Republicans killed one another too. And twelve died on hunger strike, one each in 1974 and in ’76 and ten in 1981. Actually, considering the brutality of force-feeding, it’s surprising there weren’t more deaths – Marian and Dolours Price were force-fed 167 times over 203 days in 1973 and it was the publicity around their case and the deaths of Gaughan and Stagg that ended the practice of force-feeding, ensuring that the Hunger Strikers of 1980 and ’81 at least did not have to endure that experience.

But there are more ways to kill …. Many of that generation of fighters died from ‘natural’ causes but died early – cancers, heart attacks, liver damage, despair ….. ah, yes, that brings to mind suicide, of which some also died. But despair also can drive you to drink, even more easily if it has been part of your experience of socialising and alcohol is one of the top killers in the world. And some died of drugs …. or drugs and alcohol …. or infections from unsafe drug injection …. But most who died early did so in summary from the wear and tear of struggle, of prison, of separation, of relationship breakdowns, of betrayal, despair.

Not all died, even those who are not among the fighters today. Some walked away from the struggle and though I can’t imagine being in their shoes, I do not begrudge them. So long as they didn’t betray any on their way out or make a living out of spitting on their former comrades and causes afterwards. But some, a very few, did exactly that and you can read what they have to say quite often in their articles or hear them quoted in the newspapers or on TV or radio.

Some found other ways to betray and did it in secret, feeding information to their handlers and some even diverting attention from themselves by accusing others, some innocent and some of a lesser grade of betrayal than that of the accusers. We know of some of them but may never learn about them all.

Joe Kelly

Poster displayed at memorial in Teacher's Club (photo accessed from a Facebook posting)

Poster displayed at memorial in Teacher’s Club (photo accessed from a Facebook posting)

A few have survived and are still around, fighting the struggle, whether in organisations or as independents. Joe Kelly was one in both categories, in a sense. I knew him but did not know him well and met him only in the last decade, after I had returned from decades living and working in London. I am given to understand that he had passed through a number of political organisations, including Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party. A strange CV, one might think, for a radical left-wing social and political activist. The last political group with which I had associated Joe was People Before Profit, on a local level, around Phibsboro. Joe invited me to attend a quiz they were running and I did so mainly to return a favour – he had attended, to contribute to the singing at my invitation, an evening of the Clé Club where I had been “Fear a’Tí” for that night. I was amazed to win a Blackberry at the quiz (sorry, Joe, I still haven’t gotten around to learning and using it!). Last I heard, he wasn’t with the PBP.

Somebody told me years back that he had been a central organiser of a solidarity event in Dublin for the Birmingham Six in which lights had been floated down the Liffey. Of course I was impressed – on a political/ human rights level but also for the poetic vision involved. I have found little about that event since and Joe, who I found a modest man, didn’t give me much in response to my pressing. A couple of searches on the Internet yielded me only a passing reference to the River Parade, of 1990, a year before the Birmingham Six were finally cleared in court and released. Likely I have not been asking the right people or looking in the right corners.

I met Joe by arrangement for a coffee a couple of times, while I tried to get him into something I was doing and he tried to get me into something he was working at – neither of us succeeding in our efforts to recruit the other. Since Joe was working for awhile in the community sector I also approached him to explore possibilities for me when, despite a long track record in the fields of working in homeless shelters and addiction as well as other community activism I was out of work, but he wasn’t able to help me.

And of course I bumped into him on demonstrations, as in those in solidarity with Palestine or against the Water Tax or against the Lisbon Treaty. For awhile we were active together in the Dublin branch of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Committee and I believe he left like me after witnessing some nasty in-fighting years ago, though we both often turned up to protest pickets and demonstrations and public meetings called by the organisation. We would also meet at events in solidarity with the Cuban people.

I heard him described at his funeral service, by someone who should know, as a Republican. Certainly Joe was very proud of his father and uncle who had both fought in the 1916 Rising, the first in the GPO and the second in Bolands’ Mill and proudly displayed his father’s medal at a public event in the Teachers’ Club in Dublin.

Joe Kelly displaying his father's 1916 service medal at a 1916 commemoration event (photo: D.Breatnach)

Joe Kelly displaying and talking about his father’s 1916 service medal at a 1916 commemoration event (photo: D.Breatnach)

However, he was among the number that I invited but failed to get to events over the last decade to highlight the plight of Irish Republicans being hounded by the State and imprisoned without trial. That did puzzle me, for I knew Joe to have a track record of fighting for human rights. And this was shown not only in his campaigning for the Birmingham Six.

Joe fought for the rights of divorce and choice of abortion, as well for the right to freedom from partner abuse, in particular through the movement for women’s refuges, what many people still refer to as “battered wives hostels”. He was active in the campaign for the right to gay marriage, so amazingly successful in Ireland. And Joe was also active in campaigns against racism towards migrants.

“Conas atú tú?” or “Dia dhuit”, Joe would invariably greet me whenever we met. I would not call him exactly fluent but he could understand and speak Irish. I suppose I assumed he had some affection for the language and was also paying me, a known native speaker, the courtesy of addressing me in Irish and speaking awhile in the language. At his funeral service, I learned it went further than that. I heard his grandchildren say that he frequently spoke to them in Irish and when they did not understand him, would translate what the words meant. Some people in the audience chuckled to hear this. I felt sad and somewhat angry too, that a question so important to our cultural identity, an aspect so threatened today, should be treated so apparently lightly by some and that the only words to be spoken at his funeral service in Irish were those in the final sentence spoken by his brother, Jim, in his eulogy: “Slán leat, Joe”. In the booklet produced for the occasion and freely available at Club na Múinteoirí, there was however one dedication in Irish (and I have since learned that one of the speeches at the Teacher’s Club was in Irish) and I note that both grandchildren who spoke bear Irish-language names.

Paying respects and memorial service

On Saturday, laid out in the lovely Room 2 in the Teacher’s Club (sin Club na Múinteoirí, Joe) in Dublin’s Parnell Square, a venue often used for social, cultural and political events, in a closed wicker basket coffin, Joe received his visitors. And they were MANY. Feminists, Palestine solidarity activists, Cuba solidarity activists, community activists, independent political activists and a sprinkling of activists in various parties all attended and many contributed their memories or words dedicated to him while he was laid out there.  (I took many photos here and some at Mount Jerome but somehow seem to have lost them all).joe-kelly-speaking-at-event

Attending first another funeral (of another singer) that morning in Howth, then travelling into Dublin to take part in the Moore Street Awareness weekly table, I had to miss some of that. I spelled a comrade while he attended to pay his respects, then attended later while he took over back at the table.

Room No. 2 was still packed but so was the whole bar lounge area. I had missed all the eulogies and reminiscences and even singing – “The Foggy Dew” I was told. Had anyone sung “The Parting Glass”, I asked. No, apparently not. So then to ask his sister if it would be alright to do it, then the MC, his long-time collaborator, comrade and friend, Brendan Young. It would be welcome, I was told. And Fergus Russell (also his second funeral that day) and I did three verses together, using a mic so it might carry through to the lounge and, though we took turns at fluffing a line, not too badly. It is a great song for such occasions and each verse was particularly appropriate to Joe.1

A little later, the Internationale was sung by all (copies of the words of a verse and the chorus distributed beforehand), the wicker coffin (I must have one of those when my time comes!) was lifted on to shoulders by family and friends and brought through the respectful lines while Joe’s daughter sang The Night They Brought Old Dixie Down.2

Then the hearse came out and led the cortege to Mount Jerome cemetery. I didn’t know the protocol regarding cycling in a funeral cortege but followed anyway, managing to get temporarily lost on the way and arriving just as the hearse arrived at the cemetery. Again, the chapel was packed.

The ceremony was non-religious and officiated by Therese Caherty, ex-partner and friend. In turn Therese herself, his brother, his bereaved current partner, relatives and his comrade and friend Brendan Young all gave their moving eulogies and often funny anecdotes. Brendan emphasised that for Joe, the process of the conduct of a struggle was as important as the end to be reached, which I knew to be true from our time together in the Dublin IPSC and I’d be in agreement with Joe on that.

There were, despite the many I did see during those events, some faces I did not see in the congregation or at the Club na Múinteoirí before the service or later, when many returned to the Club to free sandwiches and soup laid on by the management there. It was their loss.

I never saw him dance but am told he loved it and taught his grandchildren not only to sing but to dance too. I did know he’d learned to tango. He’s left this dance floor now and gone on to another and whateverone steps and two steps and the divil knows what new steps”they are dancing there, I’m sure Joe is learning them and probably teaching a few of his own.

Slán leat, Joe – árdaigh iad!

A chríoch.

FOOTNOTES

1  “Of all the money that e’er I had, I spent it in good company


And all the harm that e’er I’ve done, alas, it was to none but me


And all I’ve done for want of wit to memory now I can’t recall


So fill to me the parting glass, good night and joy be with you all

“If I had money enough to spend and leisure time to sit awhile


There is a fair maid in this town, that sorely has my heart beguiled


Her rosy cheeks and ruby lips I own, she has my heart enthralled


So fill to me the parting glass, good night and joy be with you all

“Of all the comrades that e’er I’ve had, they are sorry for my going away


And all the sweethearts that e’er I’ve had,

they would wish me one more day to stay


But since it falls unto my lot that I should rise and you should not


I’ll gently rise and I’ll softly call good night and joy be with you all”

2  This song of nostalgia for the American Confederacy has a haunting melody but its ideology is often ignored by those who sing it.

3  Line from The Charladies’ Ball