Solidarity protest picket lines up outside the The Ivy restaurant in Dublin city centre’s Dawson Street and, as management draw the blinds to hide the event from their customers, passers-by take photos and passing traffic sound horns in solidarity.
On Saturday afternoon (8th June) round a score of men and women participated in a picket outside the The Ivy restaurant in protest against management deducting a percentage of the waiting staff’s tips. The management are able to take this action when customers pay by bank card for their meals as well as the service charge. The protesters were also in solidarity with two sacked workers who protested the practice.
The business pays minimum wage every day except Sunday and staff expect to make a decent wage up from tips ….. but, much of the tips money is being taken by the management.
The protesters held up large placards bearing the slogans: “Ivy: stop robbing your staff!”, “Vote Ivy No.1 for unfair dismissal”; “Ivy, stop tip theft!”; “Solidarity with sacked workers” and also displayed a banner which, as well as reading “Stop tip theft” also called for “fair pay and union rights”. The picketers later also held up large letters to display the message STOP TIPS THEFT.
Dawson Street, in which the Ivy Restaurant is located, is an upper-class southside city centre street of mostly old architecture, filled with eateries, art galleries and bookshops and also containing the Mansion House, a historic building and the Lord Mayor’s business residence. It is one of two public bus routes from the south-east into the city centre and also contains a LUAS (tramline) stop.
Drivers of a number of passing private and public transport vehicles sounded their horns in solidarity while passing the picket while tourists and others took photos and promised to post them on social media. A number of tourists from the Spanish state asked about the protest and I when I explained, were fully supportive.
Since I participated in this protest myself, I was able to identify participants from a range of political allegiances and independents and they included a number of recently-elected Dublin City Councillors (a previous picket I wrote about included a TD – member of the Irish Parliament).
This controversy has been going on for some time and has been reported in the Irish Times (see Links and References). Since the protests began, management of the once-highly-patronised restaurant had blinds installed so that they could shield their customers from the sight of the picketers but even so, they could not avoid hearing the bullhorns and the chanting outside.
Chants included “Shame, shame, shame on you; pay the workers what they’re due!”
Reports indicate that business at the restaurant in fashionable Dawson Street is down by as much as 40% on many days which bodes ill not only for the restaurant at present but also if the owners try to sell it, since the reputation associated with the business will be of a negative kind.
Catering workers through much of the world are typically unorganised into trade unions, have insecure employment, are often immigrants to the country and are particularly vulnerable to extra exploitation. Ireland is no exception to this rule and there are many examples of it in Dublin. Campaigners for better conditions of employment and pay for catering workers are aware that the Ivy is one among many but hope that breaking the tip-deducting practice at this high-visibility eatery will spread a beneficial effect around the rest of the industry.
Meanwhile the two workers sacked by The Ivy are awaiting their day in the Labour Court.
Ireland has broken off its love affair with the USA but the breakup’s been coming for a long time. Of course it was always a kind of mythical USA that was the love object, of film stars, rock n’ roll, friendly presidents, Irish-U.Stater politicians, of U.Stater tourists – never the real USA, good or bad. One could feel the tensions in the relationship during the Viet Nam War, though that was mostly to be seen in the youth and some lefties. But then came the lying scandals in the US Presidency of Nixon and Clinton and the naked warmongering throughout all, including the Bushes, Snr. and Jnr.
Ireland, below the level of its Gombeen politicians, has split up with the USA (at the level of ITS politicians and millionaires [often the same thing]) but it has been a relatively civilised breakup and thankfully with no children (well, apart from the Irish illegal immigrants – sorry, undocumented visitors).
While some businesses in an Dún Beag might have turned a profit out the Fear Mór’s visit, having the Chief of the World Superpower drop in on us has cost us – around 10 million euro, according to the Irish Independent. Loads of extra Gardaí on the ground in Co. Clare and Limerick, in the air and on sea, does not come cheap (though I’m sure the overtime was welcome). All would have been bad enough if we had invited him but we hadn’t. Will the Irish Government present the US Presidency with an itemised bill? Probably not.
At the invitation of The Irish Examiner, a number of organisations and individuals had written letters to Trump for publication (see link below); most were critical and these included Amnesty International, Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, National Union of Journalists, National Women’s Council of Ireland, National Union of Students; Brendan Ogle, Tara Flynn and Clare Daly. For entertainment value I’d pick out the IPSC’s and Tara Flynn’s (well, she is a comedian). The ICCL also had a newspaper advertisement criticising Trump, which was sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union and figured logos of a number of other civil rights organisations.
There were protests in various parts of the country, including one to greet his arrival at Shannon airport (hopefully US munitions and troop carriers were pulled to one side so as not to hinder his landing). The Irish Times said there were about 200 protesters there so, on past reporting, there could have been anything between 300 and 1,000. It is not easy to get to Shannon airport unless one has a car, even from Galway the gaps between bus arrival times are substantial. And no train station.
Dublin had a showy and packed anti-Trump rally, with a Baby Trump blimp floating above the crowd outside the Garden of Remembrance. An activist brought big letter placards which, with the help of volunteers from the crowd, spelled out anti-trump messages in English and in Irish. Indeed an interesting feature was a number of placards partly or completely in Irish.
The theme of “welcome” or “fáilte” was of course played upon in reverse, in speech and placard, with more than a hinted reference to the old Bord Fáilte slogan inviting tourists to the land of “céad míle fáilte”.
The event was managed by Unite Against Racism which is, for the most part, People Before Profit, which in turn is really the Socialist Workers’ Party. A number of other left-wing party flags could be seen too. A group of Shinners were at the rally with their trademark flags (never go anywhere without the party’s flag) but no “dissidents” were present as a group, though I certainly noted some as individuals.
The speakers at the rally covered a number of themes, including of course misogyny, migrants, Palestine, war-making and imperialism. Liam Herrick of the ICCL was an unusual sight to see on an outdoors protest platform, speaking at the second part of the rally. Curiously, the rally organisers had sent a major part of the attendance off to march around the city centre for awhile and of course, when they got back, they had shed a great part of their numbers. A torrential downpour no doubt encouraged the desertions.
Coming towards the end of the rally, a performer accompanied himself on guitar while he rendered some songs for the diminished attendance. Woody Guthrie’s “Plane Crash at Los Gatos” (also known as “Deportees”) would have been an apposite choice, a song about Mexican labourers being employed in the south-eastern US fruit harvests and then driven back across the Border. Guthrie was moved to sing about them when in 1948 a plane carrying mostly deported Mexicans crashed, killing all on board and though the names of the crew were given in the news reports, the Mexicans were referred to only as “deportees”.
At the rally, eventually Trump was deflated (the blimp, I mean), tethering weight bags emptied of water, placards were packed, flags furled …. and I went to get some shopping.
The European Parliament this afternoon prevented former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and former Minister Toni Comín from collecting their credentials as MEPs after Sunday’s election.
On Twitter, Puigdemont wrote: “The European Parliament’s Secretary General has given instructions that neither Toni Comín, Oriol Junqueras nor myself can go through any formalities as MEPs. No legal reason. Pure discrimination. All the other MEPs-elect have been able to do the processes they’ve blocked us from. Disgraceful!”.
“El secretari general del Parlament Europeu ha donat instruccions que ni @toni_comin, ni @junqueras ni jo puguem fer cap tràmit com a eurodiputats. Cap raó legal. Discriminació pura. Tots els altres electes han pogut fer els tràmits que a nosaltres ens han impedit. Vergonya!” pic.twitter.com/xqwNWe2K0O — Carles Puigdemont (@KRLS) 29 de maig de 2019
Spain has not yet officially provided the Parliament with the names of the MEPs elected on Sunday. The successful candidates have, however, been called to appear in Spain’s Congress on 17th June to swear loyalty to the Spanish Constitution.
Speaking to media outside the Parliament, Puigdemont said they were told the reason they couldn’t complete the formalities was that Spain hadn’t yet furnished this list. Spain’s other MEPs-elect, however, did manage to do what they needed to today, for example Diana Riba, second behind Junqueras on ERC’s list, partner of prisoner Raül Romeva.
Also able to collect their credentials were Ciudadanos’ new MEPs, for example former president of the Balearic Islands José Ramón Bauzà: “Very happy after my first day in the European Parliament as an MEP,” he wrote on Twitter.
“Contentísimo después de mi primer día en el Parlamento Europeo como Eurodiputado. @ALDEParty ya está en pleno funcionamiento y @CiudadanosCs será la clave para construir la mejor Europa que hayamos conocido nunca!” ?ﾟﾇﾸ?ﾟﾇﾺpic.twitter.com/mThaEjlegG
— José Ramón Bauzá ?ﾟﾇﾸ?ﾟﾇﾺ(@JRBauza) 29 de maig de 2019
The MEPs who were prevented by the Secretary General, Klaus Welle, from collecting their credentials at the EU Parliament, have three things in common (apart from being elected by hundreds of thousands of citizens of an EU member state):
§ They are Catalan
§ They are national independentists
§ They are or have been sought by the Spanish State in politically-inspired criminal proceedings
But other Catalan MEPs have been able to proceed without problems. That they are independentists, then? Well, no, because for example Diana Riba (partner of political detainee Raül Romeva), who came second behind Junqueras on ERC’s list, collected her credentials without difficulty. It seems to me that the last one of the three characteristics is the relevant one. Klaus Welle wants to prevent having MEPs in the EU Parliament who are being sought by their state for politically-inspired criminal proceedings.
It is extremely doubtful that Welle has taken this step without the ruling interests of the EU being in agreement – or at least, without him believing he was acting in accordance with their wishes. If he does not have their agreement or has misjudged it, he will soon be given cause to regret it. But if we assume for the moment that he is ‘on the same page’ as the EU leadership, we must ask ourselves: what does this barring of elected MEPs to the EU Parliament mean?
Some may see it as the President of the EU respecting the wishes of the government of a member state (in this case, of the Spanish state). But with regard to MEPs elected by hundreds of thousands of votes of citizens of an EU member state? Besides, since when have the EU rulers been so considerate of the wishes of a member state? Have they not time and time againpbut the interests of the collective, which is to say in effect of the EU ruling states, above those of an individual state?
It seems to me that the significance of this action is that the rulers of the EU do not want political prisoners or political “fugitives” elected as MEPs. Since they cannot at the moment prevent their election, they are blocking their access to the body to which they were elected.
They are looking ahead, to days when they may have to take similar action in other cases: MEPs elected by independentists from Sardinia, Corsica, Brittany, the Basque Country (either side of the Pyrenees), Galicia, Andalucia, Flemish Belgium, Scotland, Ireland – in cases where they are jailed or sought by their state’s government. After all, as EU President Jean-Claude Junker inferred, if Catalonia is allowed to secede against the wishes of the Spanish state, those in other European states might do the same. And as he actually said, he did not want “an EU of a hundred states”.
So much for independentist MEPs but the implication here goes much further with special dangers for socialists and all democrats. I take just one Irish example. Clare Daly is a left-wing member or Deputy (in Ireland called TD, “Teachta Dála”) of the Irish Parliament (the “Dáil”) and was successful in the EU elections in May, so that she is now an MEP.
In 2014, Daly and her partner Mick Wallace (also by the way a TD and close to be elected MEP in a recount), carried out a protest trespass on to Shannon Airport land to call for the Irish State to take action in accordance with Irish constitutional neutrality and prevent use of the airport by the US military for refueling to transport soldiers, munitions, equipment and political prisoners.
Both Tds were tried and, in 2015, convicted and fined. They refused to pay the fines and after also declining to surrender to the court, were detained by police to be brought to jail (in the end, they were merely shunted around the country in police custody for a day).
Let us suppose that Daly, instead of allowing herself to be detained by the Gardaí (police of the Irish state) decided to take refuge in some European state and that the Irish State failed in extraditing her. And supposing further, that Daly were elected as MEP while this situation continued. Then the EU Secretary General could take exactly the same action with Daly as he has with the Catalan MEPs in question.
All genuinely socialist and/or democratic people should vigorously protest this barring of the Catalan MEPs.
Forty-five years after the highest violent loss of life of any day in the Thirty-Years War in Ireland, survivors and relatives of victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombing seem no nearer achieving justice. The identities of some of the Loyalist terrorists were known quite quickly after the bombing by Irish Army Intelligence and Garda Special Branch; British Intelligence penetration of some Irish State agencies had already been claimed by Irish Army intelligence and not long afterwards, Commissioner Ned Garvey was exposed as a British agent by a disgruntled British intelligence operative. Yet no arrests by the Royal Ulster Constabulary, no arrest warrants issued by the Irish Government and – incredibly – remains of bomb material were sent by Garvey’s superior to the British colony authorities for analysis. And consecutive British Governments refuse to hand over the relevant files or to disclose their contents.
45th ANNIVERSARY COMMEMORATION IN DUBLIN
A crowd had gathered at the Dublin and Monaghan Bombings Monument in Talbot Street for some time before the event was due to start on the 17th May. Aidan Shields, whose mother Maureen was killed in in Talbot Street, acted as the master of ceremonies and, after saying a few words about the bombings and the campaign, outlined the course the proceedings would follow, apologising also to those who had to stand in the rain.
Irish Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan spoke about the bombings and about the efforts he had made, on behalf of the Government, to have the British Government lift their embargo on the relevant files. He also used the opportunity to criticise by implication the armed Republican resistance in the British colony and to promote the Good Friday Agreement, seeking collaboration between different political parties in running the Six Counties, i.e the British colony. Although he said he shared the relatives’ frustration at the British Government still not disclosing the information about the bombing in their files, not once did he condemn them, nor criticise successive British governments, British Intelligence nor the administration of the colony and its police force.
The Mayor of Dublin Niall Ring and Cathaoirleach of Monaghan Council, David Maxwell, also spoke at the event.
It was left to Noel Hegarty, a survivor of the bombing, in a poem (see References) and Pat Savage in his Song for Derek (which I’ve been unable to find on line) to place the blame for the attack and the lack of progress where it belonged.
Julieann Campbell, author and Derry Bloody Sunday relative – her uncle John Duddy was the first fatal victim of the Paratroopers on that day in 1972 — gave the oration for the ceremony. She talked about the loss through sudden death, the effect on relatives and how it is exacerbated when official lies are told about the deaths with secrecy used to make it harder for the relatives and survivors to get at the truth. She referred to one British file on Bloody Sunday that is embargoed for decades yet and turned to Minister Flanagan, asking him publicly to press the British for the release of that file also, a request which was applauded by the crowd.
Rachel Hegarty read one of her sonnets from her collection, May Day 1974, which she composed based on witness testimonies about the deceased and Ciarán Warfield performed a song about the bombing and the lack of justice obtained. Fr. Tom Clowe led those who wished to respond in a Christian prayer (the Rev. Trevor Sargent had injured himself the day before and was unable to attend). Cormac Breatnach played low whistle while floral wreaths were laid and again at the conclusion of the event.
THE BOMBING 45 YEARS AGO – THREE BOMBS IN DUBLIN AND ONE IN MONAGHAN
What might be considered the official Dublin City centre is the area surrounding O’Connel Street, just north of the river Liffey. The street runs north-south and is bisected at its middle by a thoroughfare running east-west. The eastern part is mostly Talbot Street, with a short continuation named North Earl Street. Crossing over O’Connell Street one now passes by the Spire, where once stood Nelson’s Column (until blown up by dissident Republicans in 1966) and continuing westward, one enters Henry Street. This street contains big stores such as Debenhams and Arnotts and is a higher-class shopping street than are the streets chosen to place two bombs, Talbot Street; could it have been decided that predominantly working and lower-middle class victims were less likely to create pressure on the Irish Government to find those responsible? The other bomb’s target street, Parnell, is also not one of high-end shopping.
There had been previous Loyalist bombings in Dublin, for example of the Wolfe Tone Monument in Stephens Green and the O’Connell Monument in Glasnevin Cemetery. None of those had caused deaths but a bombing in 1972 had killed a public transport worker and another, in 1973, had killed two and injured 185. No arrests were made in connection with either and in fact the Fianna Fáil government blamed Irish Republicans for the ’72 bombing, using the emotions engendered to push through more repressive legislation. That was an Amendment to the Offences Against the State Act, one which allowed the State to jail people on a charge of belonging to an illegal organisation, without any evidence other than the word of a Garda of Superintendent rank or higher and is regularly used to convict people today.
On the 17th May 1974four bombs exploded in Dublin and Monaghan – killing 33 people including a woman who was nine months pregnant.
Three car bombs exploded without warning in the capital shortly before 5.30pm on Friday 17 May 1974.
Two of the bombs went off on Talbot and Parnell Streets before a third blast exploded on South Leinster Street near Trinity College, 27 people died.
Shortly afterwards another bomb exploded outside a pub in Monaghan, killing seven people. Hundreds more were injured.
After the bombings, the most concrete result in Irish Government policy was that Irish Republicans being sought by the British began to be tried in the Irish State. The Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Act 1976 allowed trial in the Republic for alleged crimes committed in the Six Counties, and vice versa, which facilitated Irish State cooperation with the British State against Republicans, overcoming the many failures in extradition cases up to that date.
This parallels somewhat the 1980s GAL terrorist campaign waged by the Spanish Government against Basque independentists in the northern Basque Country, part of the French State’s territory. After Spanish State-sponsored terrorist shootings and bombings of independentist Basques for some time on what it considers French soil, the French Government began to extradite refugees to the Spanish State. However it was 1984 before the Irish State actually extradited a Republican to the Six Counties, with the extradition of Dominic McGlinchey (who subsequently had his conviction overturned there). It is curious that this possible rationale for the Dublin/ Monaghan bombings does not seem to have been considered – after all, the 1972 bombings by British agents had resulted in a change in Irish law to the disadvantage of Republicans within the Irish State.
The Justice for the Forgotten campaign organises an annual commemoration on the date of the bombings but internationally and perhaps even in Ireland, this massacre is the least-known of all that took place during the recent 30 Years War. Arguably this is because a) the bombs were not placed by the IRA and the massacre was not therefore of much use in propaganda against them; b) the victims were mostly Irish and/or c) the perpetrators were Loyalists and British Intelligence operatives working together.
SECRETS AND AVOIDANCE
It is interesting how coyly the media treat the whole question of British collusion with Loyalist death squads, including the Glenanne Gang’s involvement in the Dublin-Monaghan bombings, along with Irish State‘s lack of energy in pursuing the matter, including possible collusion and certain secrecy. There are sometimes ‘suspicions’, ‘concerns’, ‘inferences’, ‘allegations’ ….
And yet most of these matters are beyond speculation, established as facts through a number of different sources. Contrast that with how happy the media are to label the tragic but accidental shooting dead of Lyra McKee as a “murder”, even though legally and in fact, murder can only be when someone intends to kill the victim – which not even the press in its greatest hysteria has tried to suggest was the case.
The Justice for the Forgotten campaign has taken a civil case against the British State which appears to be playing its usual delaying game in situations like this. On 17th April they were due to respond to questions of the campaign’s lawyers but did not do so until eight days later, which resulted in the campaign’s lawyers not being able to proceed at the Belfast High Court on May 1st ….. The relatives will now have to wait until September.
The lack of energy and firmness in pursuing the issues and the disclosure of British files is not the only evidence of the Irish State’s lack of interest. It is also the case that much of the funding for the Justice for the Forgotten campaign was removed by the Irish Government some years ago; the campaign was obliged to leave its Gardiner Street office and remove much of their equipment and files to a portakabin in a supporter’s back garden.
The British are not the only ones sitting on secret files. Mrs. O’Neill had called on Leo Varadkar to release the files deposited by the McEntee Commission, which was charged with investigating the Garda inquiry of the time, an inquiry which has been heavily criticised over the years. “I personally ask the Taoiseach to consider this reasonable and fair request,” she had said. Martha O’Neill’s husband, Eddie, was killed in the bombing and her sons Billy, then aged seven and Eddie jnr. aged five, were badly injured but survived.
Last year, Fred Holroyd, a British Army Intelligence officer who was the liaison with the RUC for a number of years during part of the three decades of war in the Six Counties, offered to give evidence on British involvement in the bombings – but in a secret court. Holroyd is suing the British Ministry of Defence over sacking him and has spoken out about collusion between the British administration and Loyalist paramilitaries including those widely believed to be the Loyalist bombers responsible for the carnage on the 17th May 1974.
Another measure of the Irish Government’s lack of enthusiasm for going after the perpetrators of the bombings and their handlers can be seen in the fact that the first documentary to be made about the atrocity in the Irish capital cityand Monaghan town, was made not bythe State broadcaster, RTÉ but by the English company First Tuesday, Yorkshire TV. “Hidden Hand – The Forgotten Massacre” was broadcast on 6 July 1993. Not everyone who had TV in the state then had ITV – I believe it required a special aerial at the time – and if memory serves me correctly, Yorkshire TV offered simultaneous screening to RTÉ, which it declined. The program made a case that the British Army, the RUC and Loyalist paramilitaries could have been involved in a number of killings, including the Dublin-Monaghan bombings.
The failure of the Irish Government at the time to pursue the case energetically and in a correct manner was responsible for much more than leaving the injured and the the relatives of 33 murdered people without justice. It also left the Glenanne Gang, a Loyalist paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force death squad that included serving members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary police force and the British Army’s Ulster Defence Force, free to carry out around another 120 sectarian murders in the Six Counties.
Year after year, the Dublin/ Monaghan commemoration is held and year after year, relatives call for truth and justice; the Irish politicians express regrets and say that they will ask the British Government for the files again, to be refused again. And there it is left, until the following anniversary.
AN GORTA MÓR COMMEMORATED IN SLIGO, DUBLIN AND CELTIC PARK
(Reading time of article text: 5 minutes)
A small crowd gathered at the Garden of Remembrance, Dublin on Sunday afternoon to commemorate the Great Hunger, an Gorta Mór on National Famine Day. Led by a lone piper, they marched through O’Connell St., the city’s main street, some of them in period costume, to the Great Hunger Memorial on the Custom House Quay, North Dock and later on to the iconic sailing ship, the Jeannie Johnson.
With some adults and children dressed in period clothes, some of them tattered to represent the destitution of the starving poor, they marched down O’Connell Street led by the lone piper and turned left at the Bridge, proceeding along to Custom Quay’s North Dock and the Great Hunger memorial. There they were addressed by Michael Blanch of the organising committee and by Niall Ring, Lord Mayor (coming to the end of his year in that role), who had accompanied them from the Garden of Remembrance.
Some sentences in Irish were spoken by the MC of the event and by the Lord Mayor, while Michael Blanch referenced the deadly impact the Great Hunger had on the Irish language (i.e with the depopulation of the main Irish-speaking areas of the western seaboard). The Irish Tricolour came in for a mention in the Dublin commemoration also; it had been presented to William Smith O’Brien by women in Paris during the revolution there of 1848 and the Young Irelanders had staged their own uprising that year also, small and certainly too late, easily crushed by the British colonial forces. The huge Irish diaspora was also mostly a result of the Great Hunger and had contributed significantly to the formation and membership of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, also known as the Fenians, founded simultaneously in 1858 on St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin and in New York. The IRB, in turn, had been the main driving force behind the 1916 Rising.
Tourists and other passers-by stopped to watch as wreaths were laid on on the statues of the monument and an Irish-language version of Amazing Grace was sung by a young girl in period costume. A currach (small traditional Irish sea-craft), containing a woman and two young girls in period costume and rowed by a man, pulled into place on the Liffey across from the group; one of the girls placed a wreath in a cardboard box into the river, to commemorate the Irish diaspora and those who had perished during their journeys. Participants then threw single red roses bouquets into the river also and floral wreaths were deposited around the statues of the 1977 memorial by sculptor Rowan Gillespie. And the piper played a lament, Hector the Hero.
The gathering moved on then to the sailing ship the Jeannie Johnson, to hear Evelyn Campbell sing her Famine Song and Diarmuid Breatnach sing Skibereen and Fields of Athenry. After that, some repaired to the Teachers’ Club, where tea, sandwiches, gur cake and biscuits were on offer. By coincidence, a Musical Society were relaxing there too and it was not long before songs from different parts of the world were being exchanged from different parts of the room.
THE CAMPAIGN FOR A NATIONAL IRISH FAMINE DAY
The Great Hunger is the preferred term in English by many for the terrible disaster that struck Ireland in the mid-19th Century, for people starved alongside what was for a while at least, an abundance of food.
For three successive years, a fungus-like oomycete infested the potato crop, staple diet of most of the population. AlthoughPhytophthora infestanshad attacked the potato crops on the European mainland and in Britain also, nowhere was the disaster of the dimensions it grew to in Ireland: nowhere else were the the majority of the population obliged to sustain themselves on the potato while yielding up every other edible product (except perhaps milk) to pay the landlord’s rent on land conquered from the ancestors of the starving, thousands of soldiers and police being on hand to ensure the hungry paid up. “The Almighty indeed sent the potato blight”, wrote Young Irelander journalist John Mitchell, “but the English created the Famine.”
Well over one million Irish starved or died of attendant diseases in less than five years during the reign of Queen Victoria, while ships left Irish ports laden with food and grain was fermented to make lucrative whiskey and beer. Another million emigrated and it is estimated that about one third of those also died – of drowning, of disease aboard ship or of the various dangers migrants faced. Five years after the potato crop failed, estimates put the population of Ireland at around six million, from the over 8 million of before. Over the next decade, another million would leave, paid to go, lied to go, forced to go, or gone out of desperation and loss of faith in any future in the country of their birth under foreign domination.
In 2008 it was agreed by the Irish Government that there would be a national Famine Day in the Irish calendar of national events and it would take place on the third Sunday in May. The State commemoration this year was held in Sligo, attended by Leo Varadkar (who was met by a protest of the Sligo Women’s Cervical Smear Action Group). The ceremony was covered in the RTÉ news which was shown on TV in the Teacher’s Club. Michael Blanch told those present that the campaign he and his wife had started in 2004 through the Committee for the Commemoration of Irish Famine Victims, had resulted in this national event and that it was also being commemorated by the Glasgow Celtic team in the special jerseys they wore that day (in their Scottish Premiership win 2-1 against Hearts). The symbol is black and white which are the colours of the Commemoration and he had also wanted GAA teams playing on this day to wear it on their jerseys (the Munster Hurling Championship match between Limerick and Cork was also being shown that afternoon on the TV screen in the Teachers’ Club).
The above was the title of an event as part of the James Connolly Festival 2019 and was held in the Bohemians FC Members’ Bar in Dalymount Park, Phibsborough, Dublin on 7th May. The event was chaired by Spark Podcast and had three speakers, one from a Direct Provision asylum seeker’s hostel, another from a Brazilian immigrant community and a third from Kerala state in India but resident in Ireland.
The first speaker was Bulelani Mfaco who introduced himself as a South African, gay and an asylum seeker. Speaking about racism, he said that it was necessary to stand up to it and quoted the example several times of Mary Manning, who was one of eleven strikers (“Ten Young Women and One Young Man”, song by Ewan McColl) in Dunne’s Stores in Dublin in pursuance of their union’s policy (IDATU) not to handle South African goods while the white racist regime was in power.
Bulelani said that fascists mean what the say in their threats about their targets, blacks, gays, asylum seekers, women who won’t act as the fascist think they should …. and so they should be prevented from coming to power. He said that as a black man he is aware of racism often on the street.
Speaking about the conditions of asylum seekers and the conditions imposed on them, including being asked to prove that he was gay (!!!), he said they do not come as freeloaders but are prevented from working while their cases are examined, which can take years, therefore the Government’s system forces them to be recipients of aid. Once a judgement is given, which in 9 out of 10 cases is a rejection of the application to stay, they can appeal and racists say they are just doing that to delay the process of their expulsion. In reality, many cases are successful on appeal as the reasons stated for rejection at the first stage were so irrational.
He also pointed out that seeking asylum has no necessary link to war but is about a person “having a reasonable fear of persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a social group or political opinion and is expelled or chooses to leave their country because of one of those factors”. A “social group” under threat could mean and often does, being one lesbian, bisexual, gay or transgender.
Eloquent and with wide knowledge about people seeking asylum in different countries, Bulelani was at times in danger of leaving the other speakers without enough time for their own contributions.
Rafaela Ferracuti (Brazilian Left Front) spoke about the fascist and racist policies of the current regime in Brazil and the harmful reforms of workers rights’ and open justification of attacks on indigenous people. Ferracuti spoke also about the situation of Brazilian migrants working in Ireland and referred to a fairly recent attack on some of them by Travellers. Asking for people to support Brazilian workers here, Rafaela also spoke about links with the Workers’ Party (which I assumed incorrectly at the time to be a generic term or a Brazilian party I had not heard of).
Manoj Mannath (of Kranthi organisation) talked about the slow climbing to power in an Indian state of a fascist party and talked about the process they had followed to do so, using Hindu religion in a supremacist way and also targeting those of the “untouchable” (sic) class.
Both Ferracuti and Mannath were speaking with difficulty in a language other than their own and I found it quite hard to follow them at times.
During questions and contributions, the following points were made or clarified:
The attack on Portuguese migrants by Travelers was wrong but some of the response by Portuguese migrants had been to leave racist graffiti, which would not help matters.
Irish Travelers are or have been for a long time the most discriminated-against section of Irish society with hard living conditions and high infant mortality and as often happens with people pushed to the bottom, some of them have turned to drugs and feuds are breaking out between rival gangs.
One person opined that the Government does not want to stop immigration but to control it and keep migrants insecure and with little rights, the easier to exploit them. The trade unions should recruit migrants to help them and also to prevent them being used as cheap labour to undermine any conditions won by Irish workers.
The Irish have been migrants to many countries and some had joined the oppressors while others became prominent in workers’ resistance.
Another ascertained that Rafaela had been referring to the Irish organisation the Workers’ Party and she stated that it is an anti-immigration party.
Another contribution stated that as well as the work of attacking racist policies and statements, fascists had to be prevented from establishing themselves and referred to the prevention in Dublin a few years ago of the launch of Pegida, a Europe-wide fascist organisation targeting Muslims. The Irish and Polish components had been physically prevented from holding their rally and anti-fascists are currently being taken through the courts on serious charges. He felt that these people should be supported.
Yet another responded that although that action was good, when one got to that stage, it was already too late.
The use of religion to divide people in India was compared to its use by the British occupation in Ireland but also by the same British colonisers in India and in some other lands.
Another said that the real target of fascists was the indigenous mass of people and that the other targets were being put up as diversions. As the economic situation worsens, the capitalists need to suppress the struggles of the working class and sections are targeted in order to divide the opposition.
There was general agreement that the various targeted sectors and the Irish working people needed to support one another.
The James Connolly Festival is an annual week-long event of talks on political events and sometimes cultural performances organised in the month of May in Dublin by the Communist Party of Ireland and open to the public. There is a program of other events continuing every day until Sunday: http://jamesconnollyfestival.com/#about
Overall, I felt quite disappointed. I had assumed the talks and the meeting would concentrate on the practical and ideological struggle against fascism and the rise of the far-right in Ireland and perhaps in Europe, with some lessons from further afield. Or possibly even on concrete actions that might be taken to support asylum seekers. Perhaps that was an unwarranted assumption but in any case, apart from the contribution of Bulelani Mfaco, the South African asylum seeker, the examples (as far as I could understand them), though of interest, seemed to have little direct relevance to the struggle here in Ireland.
Two quite different celebrations of International Workers’ Day took place in Dublin on the afternoon of the appropriate date, 1st of May. One was small and of a decidely revolutionary flavour while the other, much larger, was of a more mixed nature and tending towards the reformist. In addition, a workers’ solidarity picket was mounted on a Dublin city centre eatery.
NOTHING TO LOSE BUT OUR CHAINS
The first of the celebrations was organised by theAnti-Imperialist Action Ireland organisation and took place at the James Connolly Monument in Dublin’s Beresford Place. There a statue of James Connolly stands upon a plinth, behind the the design of the Irish Citizen Army flag, based upon the constellation that in Ireland is called the Starry Plough but in the USA is known as the Big Dipper. James Connolly was a revolutionary socialist and trade union organiser, historian, journalist and songwriter who was Commander of the Dublin insurrectionary forces in the 1916 Rising. The Irish Citizen Army, possibly the first formaly-organised army for and of the workers, had been formed during the Dublin Lockout as a defence force against the attacks of the Dublin Metropolitan Police.
The ICA took part in the 1916 Rising in Dublin and after the surrender of the insurrectionary forces, 16 participants, including two of the ICA, were executed by British firing squad: Michael Mallin on 8th May and James Connoly on 12th May.
In the here and now, on their way to the Connolly Monument, a number of participants were stopped by a man in plain clothes identifying himself as a police officer, i.e a member of the Garda Special Branch. He wished to know their names, which they declined to give them.
At the Monument, both speakers for the Anti-Imperialist Action Ireland organisation were youths.
The first to speak gave his oration in Irish on behalf of Macra – Irish Socialist Republican Youth and said that they were there to celebrate socialism, trade unionism and workers oppressed throughout the world and, that although James Connolly had been murdered in Kilmainham Jail, his work was ongoing.
Stating that James Connolly and the Irish Citizen Army had gone out in 1916 to break with imperialism and found a socialist society, the youth went on to say that “Macra is a revolutionary organisation with socialism as one of our objectives and we also believe in the words of Pearse: ‘Ireland not only free but Gaelic, not only Gaelic but free.’ Free from the bankers, free from landlords, free from poverty.”
The speaker concluded in Irish and in English with the renowned sentence from the Communist Manifesto.: “Bíodh critheagla ar aicmí cheannais roimh réabhlóid Chumannach. Níl tada le cailiúint ag na Prólatáirigh ach a slabhraí. Tá saol mór le gnóthú acu. Oibrithe an tSaoil Mhóir, cuirigí le chéile!”
“Let the ruling classes tremble before a communist revolution. The Proletariat have nothing to lose but their chains, they have the whole world to gain. Workers of the world unite!”
The second speaker delivered his speech in English and linked the liberation of Ireland with the liberation of the working class and went on to praise Séamus Costello (1939-1977), which he said had embodied that aspiration. The youth praised the creation of the Irish Republican Socialist Party by Costello as well as the creation of the Irish National Liberation Army and Costello’s participation and membership in a number of democratic organisations — including his election to Bray District Council.
Condemning “the bankers and politicians” who bring deprivation to the workers, the speaker said that they try to point the finger instead at Muslims and migrants but it is not migrants who cause job losses, create homelessness etc but “the elite”. The speaker ended by saying he wished to remember all those who had given their lives for Irish freedom.
WE WANT THE EARTH
Diarmuid Breatnach was then introduced to sing Be Moderate, a song with an ironic title by James Connolly. “The Irish working class does not have a huge history in Ireland, apart from a short period in the early decades of the last century,” Breatnach said, giving as reasons the forced underdevelopment of Irish industry, the British-fostered sectarianism in the most industrialised north-east and the focus on the national struggle as a competing pole of attraction.
“The Irish abroad, however, have made a huge contribution to the workers’ movement,” Breatnach said. “And in 1889, Jim Connell from near Cill Scíre in Co. Meath, composed lyrics of The Red Flag to the air of the White Cockade, starting it on the train to his home in South London from a demonstration in central London and apparently completing it in the home of another Irish man.
The song was later adopted by the International Workers of the World, a syndicalist organisation mostly active in the USA, Breatnach said and reminded them that James Connolly joined the IWW when he migrated to the USA. “In 1907, James Connolly published a songbook, Songs of Freedom, in which he included the lyrics of Be Moderate,” Breatnach stated and went on to say that no air had been published to which the words should be sung. As a result Be Moderate has been sung to a number of airs but in London Breatnach heard it sung by an avant-garde musical composer and Marxist-Leninist, Cornelius Cardew, to the air of A Nation Once Again. In Breatnach’s opinion the lyrics fit well to this air and it also provides a chorus, which he encouraged the participants to sing.
James Connolly’s lyrics were sung by Breatnach then, competing with sounds of passing traffic on the ground and the occasional trains rumbling by on the bridge overhead, participants joining in on the chorus:
We only want the Earth,
We only want the Earth
And our demands most moderate are:
We only want the Earth!
and the last line of the last verse “We want the Earth!” echoing across Beresford Place.
TRADE UNION AND POLITICAL ORGANISATION BANNERS
Across the road, a stage and crowd barriers were being set up outside Liberty Hall, the multi-storeyed headquarters of SIPTU, the largest union in Ireland and which, by amalgamations, had grown from the Irish Transport & General Workers’ Union, originally formed early in the 20th Century by Jim Larkin, James Connolly and others (and the destruction of which had been the object of the 1913 Lockout). The stage was being prepared for speakers to address a rally which would follow a Mayday parade from Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance (a small park dedicated “to those who gave their lives for Irish freedom”).
Even the larger Mayday demonstrations in Dublin, although organised through the Dublin Council of Trade Unions, i.e with affiliation from most trade unions in the city, do not tend to be very big by comparison with other cities in many other parts of the world.
Banners of some unions mixed with those of political organisations and campaign groups, including the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign and another against Irish state participation in PESCO, which is seen by many as an embryonic EU Army and undermining the Irish state’s neutrality.
Led by a lone piper, the parade made its way past crowds of onlookers down Dublin city’s main thoroughfare, O’Connell Street, then left along Eden Quay to Liberty Hall where they were to be addressed by speakers on the temporary stage in Beresford Place, across from the Connolly Monument.
Meanwhile, a small group had left, to form a picket line outside the Ivy Dawson Street restaurant, in solidarity with staff and in opposition to the management appropriating a portion of the tips left for staff, with more to join them there later from the Mayday parade.
A NOTE ON THE HISTORICAL ORIGIN OF INTERNATIONAL WORKERS’ DAY
The First of May has been celebrated as the international day for workers since 1892, to call for the 8-hour maximum working day, socialism and universal peace. Its inspiration was a train of events that began with a workers’ strike and demonstrations on May 1st 1886 in many parts of the USA but in Chicago ended in the State execution of four anarchists, with police and state militia massacres of workers along the way as well as with acts of workers’ resistance. The celebration and commemoration throughout the world was formally agreed at the Second Congress of the Second International Workers’ Association in Brussels in 1892 and at its Sixth Congress (Amsterdam, 1904) declared it mandatory for the proletarian organisations of all countries to stop work on that day, wherever that could be done without injury to the workers(bearing in mind violently repressive regimes).
In many states around the world now, the 1st of May is a public and bank holiday and has been so in Ireland since 1994. Its public celebration was banned under the fascist regimes in Spain and Portugal but is legal in both those states now; however it is still banned in some other states while in some areas, though not banned, may be subject to attack by police, army, state agents or by fascist elements.