THE “IRISH SHEEPLE”

Diarmuid Breatnach

When the Irish financial bubble, expanded far beyond capacity, finally burst and the private banks that had caused the crisis were bailed out with public money, the Irish people did not immediately rise up. The big trade unions made some noises, called hundreds of thousands to march, then collapsed. The smaller unions, for the most part, caved in afterwards.

It was not long before the Irish people began to be jeered and insulted – and for the most part, by some people who were themselves Irish. They seemed unaware of a thousand years of militant resistance to foreign occupation and many workers’ battles over decades. The frustration, if that was the cause of their insults (not to say contempt), was understandable. Less so, I pointed out at the time, was their dismissal of the only force that could possibly save us – the Irish people.

“The people?” they jeered. “You mean the SHEEPLE!”

They pointed to massive demonstrations and riots in Greece and in France and to none in Ireland. I commented that all their insults could possibly achieve would be to discourage the Irish people further. The limitations under which the Irish people laboured needed to be understood. There was no large revolutionary party in Ireland to provide leadership. There was not even a militant radical social-democratic party or reformist Communist Party. There were no militant trade unions to provide organisation.  These things existed in Greece and in France.

Our trade unions had twenty years of “social partnership” – i.e they had during that time negotiated agreements nearly always without industrial action in joint committees where the unions, the employers and the State each had representatives. Their fighting muscle had atrophied to the extent it no longer existed. Notwithstanding all their faults, the Greek and French unions had not similarly wasted away their muscle. Our trade union leaderships had settled for a comfortable life, highly paid, building up their memberships and safeguarding their officers and structures, or trying to, neglecting the purpose for which those unions had been created. They were captains of ships in dry dock, shining and varnished, but riddled with worm holes and sails safely furled – they would never take to sea and be tested in any storm.

As time went by, we saw no significant reforms in the French situation as austerity bit there. There was much excitement in Left social-democratic and Trotskyist quarters as the Greeks elected a social-democratic party with a radical program of resistance to austerity measures. The Greeks had been driven to a much worse economic situation than had the Irish – during the winter, many schools had to close as heating could not be supplied. But then the radical Greek party and new Government collapsed under pressure from the EU’s financial commissars.

The people in the Spanish state were marching in their hundreds of thousands under a new party that was not really a party, they said. But it turned out if one did some digging, that it was not such a new party/ non-party after all, as its leadership came from the old reformist Communist Party-Trotskyist alliance, Izquierda Unida. But still …. huge marches and then huge electoral gains (for what was now without question a political party – Podemos).

But the Spanish ruling class, although unable to receive a governing mandate for a single political party, carried on with its austerity program. Evictions continued as did a great many suicides of those evicted or about to be evicted.

IRELAND (THE 26 COUNTIES)

Meanwhile, what about the “Irish Sheeple”? What were they doing?

They too began to march, in small numbers at first, then larger until they choked the capital city’s centre. The media under-reported them, lied about numbers, stopped doing aerial photos that would show the full extent of the masses in protest.

First in line of the resistance movement was the Household Charge. The campaign slogan proposed by independent protesters and small parties and political organisations was “Don’t register, don’t pay.” Despite that tactic, the most effective to defeat the Charge, not being supported by the alternative party with the highest number of elected representatives in the Dáil (Irish Parliament), i.e Sinn Féin and despite no trade union mobilising against it, the ruling class had to concede defeat. But they changed the tax to the Household Charge and made it collectable from people’s salaries at source, changing the law in order to do so.

A section of a Water Charge protest march on the south quays of the Liffey while another section marches on the north quays in August 2015 (Photo: D.Breatnach)

The Water Charge was next. The people already paid for water supply maintenance through ordinary taxation and, it later emerged, through the diversion of Motor Tax to pay for the water! Nevertheless, a new charge was levied and again, the campaigners asked the people: “Don’t register, don’t pay!” Again, this tactic was not supported by the same alternative political party or the unions, although they all declared that they were, of course, against the Water Charge.

Despite police harassment, violence and arrests, people in local areas began to block the work-gangs installing the water meters. Some arrested activists refused to obey a court injunction intended to paralyse their activities and were sent to jail. A large protest demonstration marched to their jail and they were released. Many trials collapsed and activists, though hampered by many court attendances, walked free. Some others paid their fines and continued their resistance.

March against the Water Charge finishing for rally at Dublin’s Stephens Green in September 2016 (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Police attacks on water charge and anti-austerity protesters multiplied and pickets, particularly of women, protested outside Garda stations.

Hundreds of people began to march, then thousands. As the numbers grew, the reformists of political party and trade union climbed on board and the numbers continued to rise to hundreds of thousands. The media were exposed as they grossly underplayed the numbers.

MOORE STREET

Meanwhile, another struggle had been shaping up, between heritage conservationists campaigning to save a valuable piece of the City Centre of huge historical importance from property speculators. Firstly the State was obliged to declare four houses in Moore Street as of historical preservation status (while however the Planning Department of the local authority gave planning permission for a huge “shopping mall” of a number of acres around those houses). Subsequently campaigners prevented the Planning Department from carrying out a land-swap of Council land to facilitate the Speculator.

Then the State had to buy four houses in the historic terrace; at the same time their plans to demolish three other houses in the same terrace were prevented by their occupation by protesters for five days and a subsequent blockade of demolition workers of almost six weeks.

The blockade ended when a case taken by a concerned individual to the High Court resulted in a judgement that the whole quarter is a historical 1916 monument (against which judgement the Minister of Heritage is currently appealing, scheduled for hearing December 2017).

Moore St. historical conservation campaigners in the street itself celebrate High Court judgement shortly after receiving the news on March 18th 2016 after which they ceased the blockade.
(Photo: J.Betson)

During the 1916 State commemorations, the Minister of Heritage’s hypocritical laying of a wreath in Moore Street was met with vociferous denunciation by campaigners on the spot, without any of the protesters being arrested.

JOBSTOWN

Two years before that Moore Street event, a mass protest for had prevented two hours the Minister for Social Protection’s car from leaving a working class area where she had gone to attend a ceremony.

Some supporters of those charged for protesting in Jobstown in show of solidarity outside the Court where they were being tried in March this year.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

“Enough!” cried the ruling class and they argued about what to do, their more revanchist section winning the argument. They were going for maximum legal attack, to teach those protesters a lesson and frighten all others in future.

The offensive against the resistance was planned. Early morning raids, to increase disruption and fear. Mass arrests, including of a juvenile. This latter might have looked like a mistake, as it was obvious he’d attract sympathy — but actually it was cleverly thought out. They put his trial on first – in the Juvenile Court where the judge can get away with more, where access to media was restricted to one representative each of print and audio media and where no members of the public were permitted entry. And they found him guilty, of course they did. They avoided much of sympathy outcry by giving the youth a non-custodial sentence but – and this was the crucial thing – they had found him guilty of “false imprisonment”. They now had a precedent for the eighteen or so awaiting trial in the adult court.

The media mostly colluded, of course in their news coverage of events, trial and in comment.

The trial process began with an attempt to eliminate from the jury those who disagreed with the Water Charge (i.e most ordinary people) and people from the area where the incident had taken place. Then the Minister herself, in the witness box for four days, regularly failing to answer the questions of the Defence lawyers but using the opportunity instead to attack the defendants, without attempt by the Judge to direct her to answer the question and confine herself to doing so. After all, it’s the Prosecution lawyers’ job to draw out the unfavourable comments.

That was followed by two similar days with the Minister’s secretary, who had been in the car with her at Jobstown.

Then police officers, lying through their teeth. This is of course a regular occurrence in the courts but unfortunately for them, they were contradicted by video and audio recording. Somehow, not only one but several Gardaí heard one of the defendants say something which the recording showed he had not.

Finally, all were found not guilty. The next group were to be tried similarly on charges of false imprisonment but also with use of violence. But how could the State find them guilty of kidnapping on the same evidence that a jury had rejected in the case of the first group? Would even the violence charges stick? The ruling class took a decision to cut their losses, avoid a possible second defeat and decided to drop the charges against them too and against another group scheduled for later still.

POLICE CORRUPTION AND COVER-UPS

Meanwhile, independently of all but perhaps distantly affected by the people’s resistance and the anger at the behaviour of the police, two whistle-blowers emerged from among the Gardaí to accuse them of allowing powerful people to escape drunk-driving charges. Then it emerged that people charged with driving offences had been automatically convicted without the option to defend themselves in court. That was followed by revelations that the Gardaí had claimed to have stopped hundreds of drivers for drink-driving tests which they had not in fact done – and the false numbers grew to thousands. And then Gardaí senior officers tried to discredit one of the whistle-blowers by implying he was a paedophile and even enlisting the involvement of a child-protection agency.

Before the conclusion of the Jobstown trials, general elections had been held. The ruling class in the Irish State has not managed to have an overall majority for a single one of its political parties since 1981 — and this election was no exception. However, one of the parties of the ruling class (its favourite actually, since shortly after the creation of the State) now felt the pressure of the people and made non-implementation of the Water Charge a condition of not bringing the minority Government down, to which the parties in governing coalition were obliged to agree.

THREE FORCED TO RESIGN: Alan Shatter, then Minister for Justice, congratulating Nóirín O’Sullivan on her appointment as Deputy Garda Commissioner while Commissioner Martin Callinan looks on. As a result of exposure of alleged attempts to silence Garda whistleblowers and alleged covering up Garda corruption and misdeeds, Shatter and Callinan had to resign in 2014 and O’Sullivan recently. (PIC: MAXWELLS NO REPRO FEE)

As a result of all this (and a number of other less-highly publicised corruption and wrongdoing by Gardaí cases), eventually Allan Shatter, Minister for Justice and Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, the highest-ranking officer in the Gardaí had to resign. Less than three years later, the new Commissioner, similarly implicated but now also in a scandal regarding officers’ financial corruption, had to resign as well.

 

SHEEPLE?

In this period, during which Irish people had been compared to sheep, cursed and denounced by some from the “Left” and compared unfavourably with protesters in Greece, France and Spain (despite the people of those three states having failed to succeed to any significant degree), the Irish people have

  • Totally defeated the Household Tax and obliged the ruling class to change the law and substitute another Tax collectable from income

  • Paralysed the Water Tax (Charge)

  • Exposed the mass media

  • Halted the Government and Dublin City Council’s Planning Department plans to give a historical memory area in the City Centre, prime “development” land, to speculators

  • Prevented the Government demolition of historic buildings in that area by campaigning, occupation of buildings and a blockade, without a single protester being arrested

  • Helped obtain a historic judgement from the High Court that the whole quarter is a historical 1916 Monument

  • Vociferously denounced the Minister of Heritage while she was laying a 1916 wreath at Easter in Moore Street, without a single protester being arrested or prevented from the denunciation

  • Held up the Minister of Social Protection’s car in mass protest for two hours

  • Exposed the police in violence and in corruption

  • Defeated plans to deal a major blow to the right to protest by conviction on kidnapping charges

  • Caused the resignation of a Minister of Justice and two Garda Commissioners inside a period of three years

And all this was achieved by the Irish people without the organisation or leadership of a mass revolutionary or radical political party or a mass militant trade union.

THREE CHEERS FOR THE IRISH SHEEPLE!

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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

 

JORDAN’S MICHAEL COLLINS FILM CRITICISED

Rebel Breeze introduction to critical videos:

This is an interesting criticism of the Michael Collins historical biopic 1996. Written and directed by Neil Jordan, the film begins with the end of the Irish 1916 Rising, has the longest part focused on the War of Independence (1919-1921) and ends not long after the start of the Civil War (1922-1923). The film starred Liam Neeson as Michael Collins and included others such as Aidan Quinn playing Harry Boland, Alan Rickman as Eamon De Valera, Stephen Rea as Ned Broy, Julia Roberts as Kitty Kiernan, Gerald Mc Sorley as Cathal Brugha and Brendan Gleeson as Liam Tobin.

The video from Foras Teamhrach presents its criticism using clips from the film while commenting and also comparative clips from other films, which is a useful way of presenting a challenging view. Unfortunately neither the name of the author of the commentary nor of the commentator (possibly the one and same) appeared on the Youtube link, only the company name and the comments function was disabled (perhaps understandably).

Most of the points are well made but there are some omissions which might usefully be added to the criticism.

The GPO surrender scene

The video criticism points out that showing only the GPO makes the Rising look much smaller than it actually was; despite the countermanding order which reduced the forces in Dublin by perhaps as much as two-thirds, the Rising was fought by four major garrisons on the southern and three on the northern side of the Liffey, with other smaller outposts and individual actions. However, the narrator says nothing regarding the historical inaccuracy of portraying the surrender as occurring at the GPO.

In fact, the GPO had been abandoned on the Friday and the Surrender took place on the Saturday, following a decision made in the 1916 Terrace in Moore Street and around 350 insurgents there were the first to surrender following the order. This matters not just from a point of historical accuracy but because there is a struggle (now approaching two decades) to save this area from property speculators and State and Dublin Council Planning Department collusion.

Portrayal of De Valera

One does not have to be a supporter of De Valera’s philosophy and actions to rapidly come to the conclusion that his portrayal in Jordan’s film is so inaccurate as to seem to be someone else. Every person who took up arms in 1916 to fight the British Empire showed courage and those who continued to actively oppose the British occupation during the intense years of the War of Independence showed even more courage in doing so.

Collins, of a much more ebulient character than De Valera, according to witnesses, was more inclined to exhibitions of temper and shouting than was De Valera, whose manner was generally in accordance with his studious appearance – contrary to his behaviour in the Treaty discussion scene of the film. As to another aspect, when we review the record of his actions in preparation for the Rising through to the War of Independence and on through the Civil War and the early years under the Free State, De Valera cannot reasonably be accused of lacking courage. The shivering wreck as which he is portrayed during the Civil War in Jordan’s film runs counter to the historical record.

There is testimony from one or two participants that at a period during his command of Boland’s Mill, De Valera had something of a breakdown. This, if it occurred, could have been as a result of fear or instead of lack of sleep, or of being overwhelmed by responsibility or a number of causes and if this alleged episode is what inspired Jordan’s depiction it was certainly unfair to use it to characterise De Valera at other times. There are many criticisms that can fairly be thrown at De Valera but lack of courage is not one of them.

Portrayal of Cathal Brugha

And likewise with the portrayal of Cathal Brugha. Some of Brugha’s military and political history may help in evaluating the portrayal of this man in Jordan’s film.

One of fourteen children empoverished by the death of their Protestant father, Brugha joined the Gaelic League in 1899 and quickly became fluent, soon changing his name from Charles Burgess to Cathal Brugha. He and Kathleen Kingston, also an Irish language enthusiast, married in 1912 and had six children. Brugha joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and in 1913, the year they were formed, he became a lieutenant in the Irish Volunteers and led a group of Volunteers to land the arms smuggled into Howth by the Asgard in 1914.

In the Easter Rising of 1916 Brugha was second-in-command at the South Dublin Union under Commandant Éamonn Ceannt, scene of some of the fiercest fighting during the Rising. Overlooked in the evacuation on Thursday of Easter Week and, being badly wounded, he was unable to leave. Bleeding from 25 wounds (some of which had penetrated arteries) he continued to fire upon the enemy and when Eamonn Ceannt led a group to investigate who was still firing he discovered Brugha singing “God Save Ireland” surrounded by his own blood and with his pistol still in his hands.

Brugha was not expected to survive which may have saved him from the execution parties and he was discharged from hospital in August 1916 as “incurable”. However he recovered in 1917 though left suffering pain and with a permanent limp and preferred to cycle than walk.

Already in 1917 from his hospital bed, Brugha began to seek out Volunteers and Irish Citizen Army people who were willing to join the new armed resistance group and it seems that he, more than any other, should receive the main credit for the initial formation of that which became the IRA.

Brugha was so respected in the movement that he was elected speaker of Dáil Éireann at its first meeting on 21 January 1919 and it was he who read out the Declaration of Independence in Irish, which ratified ‘the establishment of the Irish Republic’. He was also appointed temporary President, a position in which he remained until de Valera tok his place.

Far from being a bloodthirsty zealot as he is portrayed in the film, Brugha reduced Collins’ ‘Bloody Sunday’ assassination list considerably since in his opinion, there was insufficient evidence against a number of people named on the list. Then again, at the outbreak of the Civil War, a reluctant Brugha only joined the fighting on the Republican (Anti-Treaty) side in order to relieve the pressure on the Four Courts garrison. Cathal Brugha led a detachment in occupying a number of buildings in O’Connell Street and later, having got his men safely away or surrendered, was shot and mortally wounded in debated circumstances by Free State troops (which were under the overall command of Collins).

Brugha had, according to some opinions, alienated a section of waverers at the Dáil debates on the Treaty, by a personal attack on Collins and the way his persona had been elevated (a common problem, the deification of leaders). This was no doubt a tactical mistake but there had been ongoing conflict between both men for some time. Although both had been members, Brugha had left the IRB after 1916 in the belief that their conflict with the Volunteer leadership had damaged the Rising. Collins’ rank in the organisation was supreme in Ireland and it seems that Collins used this at times to circumvent or undermine decisions of the Dáil, where Brugha outranked Collins and which the former believed to be the repository of democratic decision-making.

Collins as a guerrilla war leader

All Collins’ many talents and contributions to the War of Independence aside, his representation in the film as not only directing the whole armed struggle but also as teaching rural people how to wage a guerrilla war is a complete distortion of history that could only be undertaken by a propagandist for Collins.

It was Brugha who began to pull the scattered elements of the armed struggle together and laid the foundations for what became the IRA. It was Robinson, Breen, Tracey and Hogan who began the armed resistance of the War of Independence in Tipperary on 21 January 1919 in which two paramilitary policemen were killed. And they did so without permission from GHQ in Dublin.

As to rural guerrilla tactics, these were such as had been used for centuries or developed in the struggle and were certainly not taught by Dublin. What was taught by instructors sent by Dublin was weapon use and maintenance and personnel disposition for ambushes, moving in extended order through countryside and securing a line of retreat. One of the chief instructors in this kind of instruction was Ernie O’Malley and, in West Cork, the young Tom Barry used his British Army experience and other learning to do the same. The order to create Flying Columns might have come from Dublin but had been advocated already by fighters in Cork, Kerry and Tipperary and it was they and others who developed them in the field.

Collins’ special contribution was in organising intelligence, counter-intelligence and the assassination squad (which turned out to be a double-edged sword) and also, to an extent, supply of weapons. His contribution was notable but it did not lie in initial organising of guerrilla war, much less in rural guerrilla instruction.

The role of women in the struggle

Women are underrepresented in this narrative, as is usual in Irish history and Republican and nationalist narrative. Where women are shown, apart from the brief appearance of Markievicz at the non-existent GPO surrender (when instead she was at the College of Surgeons!), they are objects of romance (Kittie Kiernan) or auxilliaries working for Collins’ intelligence department.

There was a great opportunity lost there to show the women in action during the Rising in the many roles they undertook, including firing weapons, or in keeping the flame lit after the Rising and in particular in commemorating the Rising a year later, organising demonstrations, pickets, and funerals.

The Croke Park Bloody Sunday massacre scene

The film shows the ‘Tans or Auxies shooting down people with machine-gun on the GAA ground. As far as we have been able to establish it was the RIC who did it, although of course the other two were auxilliary forces of the RIC. Thankfully they did not fire with a machine-gun (the Army had one outside the grounds and an armoured car, it seems but did not open fire) or the carnage would have been a lot worse. When one examines the casualty list of those shot, just like more modern British massacres in Derry and Belfast, it is clear that the shooting was mostly disciplined, i.e hitting males of military age. Showing that kind of scenario would in the last analysis not only be more historically accurate but also more telling of the intent and cold-bloodedness.

And what of the three tortured and murdered in the Castle that day, Peadar Clancy, Dick McKee and Conor Clune? Yes, we know, one can’t show everything.

Go raibh maith agat to the individual who sent the video links to this blog.

LINKS:

The critique video, Parts 1 & 2:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zor3VvE9vD8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KbGWEZehuFI

Another view, not quite so critical: http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/film/michael-collins-review-nowhere-near-as-historically-inaccurate-as-we-once-supposed-1.2576150

“LET BRITISH STATE CRIMES BE BYGONES”

Diarmuid Breatnach

We Irish are said to have long memories and to be unforgiving. The English, it has been said, can’t remember their history while we Irish can’t forget it.

Look around the former and current Empire and I think you’ll find it’s not just the Irish who remember and won’t let the English forget: the Scots, the Welsh, Australian Aborigines, Sub-Saharan Africans, West Africans like Kenya and Nigeria, the Tasmanians (ok, all wiped out but others remember for them), Jews and Palestinians, Arabs, French-Canadians, Indians, Bengalis and Pakistanis, Afghans, Iraqis, Kurds, Egyptians, Greeks, Cypriots, First People and American Indians (before the ‘settler regime’ took over), South African indigenous people, Afrikaners (who — whatever their own sins — saw at least a third of their women and children die in British concentration camps), ‘English’ Caribbean (slave) Islands like Barbados, Trinidad and Jamaica, Malaya, Singapore, Hong Kong, other parts of China in the Opium War …..

Royal Marine Commando holds up heads removed from the bodies of alleged communist resistance in Malaya

Artist’s impression of 1841 Massacre of Australian Aborigines at Myall Creek (Image source: Internet)

Photo presumably before British troops opened fire at the Jallian Wala Bagh (Amritsar) Massacre, India 1919.
(Image source: Internet)

‘Very well, yes’ the British ruling class and their ‘educators’ and pundits admit when pushed hard enough – ‘there’s a lot of forgetting to be done, so best get on with it. After all, that’s all in the distant past.’

There’s a problem though with forgetting ill deeds of the distant past – it eases the doing of new ill-deeds and makes their denying easier: “We British are a civilised people and our soldiers wouldn’t do things like that, nor would our leaders let them.” History teaches us that they would, again and again and not only would their leaders let them, they’d order them to and then lie and cover up, occasionally offering up one or two minor actors as a sacrifice if public opinion persists clamorously (and even then not too many in case the lower ranks should rebel and spill the bloody beans).

There’s another problem with forgetting about ill-deeds of the past: it’s not all so distant and some of it is still going on. Part of Ireland is still occupied by the British, i.e it is a colonial possession. And the iniquities of its rule there led a substantial part of the population to rebel at the end of the 1960s, which the British and their colonial administration moved to repress, which in turn led to a war of nearly thirty years. One could (although it is rarely done) call it a colonial war. And that war caused the deaths of many: Irish guerrillas, British soldiers, armed colonial police, colonial paramilitaries, republican political activists, defence lawyers and uninvolved civilians. The toll included over sixty children.

And repression of Republican activists continues today on the streets in the Six Counties (‘Northern Ireland’ for the geographically ignorant) and with over 30 Republican political prisoners in jails of the colony.

Mr. James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for ‘Northern Ireland’ (a post that would perhaps in the past have been “British Governor for …..”), who took the post last July, wants some more public forgetting. And, as is common with colonial advocates of forgetting, he is not only “economical with the truth” (a phrase famed after use by a British politician trying to prevent some other truths entering the public arena)1 but goes for outright lies.

James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (sic).
(Image source: Internet)

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Brokenshire was complaining about cases being pursued against British soldiers and colonial police who were stationed in the Six Counties. He said: “It is also clear the current focus is disproportionately on those who worked for the state – former members of the Armed Forces and the RUC.”

In addition, Mr. Brokenshire praised the “vast majority” of police and the armed forces who served “with great courage, professionalism and distinction”. He added: “We are in danger of seeing the past rewritten.”

No, Mr. Brokenshire, it is you and yours who are trying to see to the rewriting of the past but there is little danger that it will happen in the heads and hearts of your system’s victims, nor in those of many other victims and their descendants further afield — despite your historians, pundits, politicians, media and your domestic tools and allies.

Families of Ballymurphy Massacre victims reacted angrily and refuted some of Brokenshire’s lies: “25,000 people have been through the courts and there are only three soldiers among them. Of these three soldiers, they were given lenient sentences, released early and brought back into the army to finish off their service. …. the statistics show that pro-State forces and their agents are responsible for 41% of deaths not the 10% they keep putting out there ….”

Group of Ballymurphy Massacre campaigners.
(Image source: Internet)

As proof of the disproportionately heavy burden of the investigations of 3,500 violent deaths falling upon British military services and colonial police, BBC News on line informed readers that London law firm Devonshire said it was representing between 10 and 15 former soldiers facing prosecution for a number of killings, including those on Bloody Sunday.

Presumably we are supposed to gasp in shock: “As many as fifteen!!” However, just to really shock us, the firm said there could be as many as 1,000 cases. It seems they may know more than Mr. Brokenshire, who claims the killings were mostly done by Republicans.

Barra McGrory QC, the director of public prosecutions for NI, recently told the BBC a number of cases had been coming to court due to inquests and referrals from the Attorney General for Northern Ireland.

He said: “We have taken decisions in three army cases recently, one was not to prosecute and in the other two prosecutions have been initiated.”

TARGETING AND KILLING UNARMED CIVILIANS

The Bloody Sunday killings by the British Army occurred in 1972 – cold-blooded executions of fourteen unarmed civilians on a protest demonstration. Around twenty were also injured, some by gunshot wound. In the colonial tradition of lies following murder, the first official British enquiry found that the dead were armed guerrillas and the soldiers only returning fire.

Lord Justice John Widgery — despite abundant eyewitness accounts to the contrary, his Tribunal in April 1972 found the unarmed victims had been IRA and that the soldiers had only fired in self-defence. “Nothing washes whiter than Widgery white” was a common piece of Irish graffiti at the time.
(Image source: Internet)

The City Coroner, Hubert O’Neill, a retired British officer however found it to have been “sheer, unadulterated murder” in 1973. The British establishment nevertheless continued with their lies and found a way to deal with unwelcome coroners’ courts – they changed the law to prevent them apportioning blame and suspended many of the cases indefinitely.2

The Saville enquiry (1998-2004)3 found that all but one of the victims was unarmed and the remaining dead man was recently cleared too. Saville’s findings included that two identified British soldiers had lied under oath (as many as that!) and, without explicitly blaming him, threw a cloud of doubt over the local leader of the Paras, Lieutenant Colonel Derek Wilford, accusing him of “deliberately disobeying” his superior officer, a Brigadier.4 No explanation was given as to how, if that were the case, he came to receive the Order of the British Empire decoration later that year “in recognition of distinguished service in Northern Ireland during the period 1st February 1972 to 30th April 1972” (i.e excluding the Bloody Sunday date by two days, true but for an officer who that same year had allegedly deliberately disobeyed a senior officer and caused the deaths of 14 civilians …..!).

Col. Derek Wilford OBE, photographed in Belgium where he now lives upon the publication of the Saville Report in 2010.
(Photo: Daily Mail)

APOLOGIES, LIMITED BLAME AND NO CHARGES

Wilford’s senior officers all escaped blame, despite their decision to deploy the Parachute Regiment in Derry that day and their part in the coverup, including the wholesale hiding and destruction of evidence.5

When the Saville Enquiry Report was finally published in 2010 (six years after the conclusion of the Inquiry), then Prime Minister of Britain David Cameron apologised to the families of the victims but to date none of the soldiers who shot unarmed civilians has been charged with murder. Even worse, no British Army officer has been even charged with ordering murder and covering it up. Worst of all, no British Government Minister or official has been held responsible for the murders nor was the Widgery Tribunal, which first exonerated the Army and blamed the victims, condemned for a lying cover-up in the face of a mountain of evidence from civilian witnesses and a number of journalists. No media outlet has been charged with nor voluntarily admitted collusion in the cover up.

Mayor General Robert Ford (left of photo). He ordered the Paras into Derry despite their having killed eleven civilians 5 months earlier — but the Saville Inquiry exonerated him.
(Image source: Internet)

Major General Robert Ford, in charge of land forces of the British Army at the time and in overall charge of their allocations in Derry that day, escaped any blame from the Saville Enquiry. Yet the allocation of the 1st Parachute Regiment to a Derry march against Internment had been his decision – only five months after they had shot and killed another eleven civilians over three days in another part of the Six Counties – the Ballymurphy suburb of Belfast.

The killings then too were of unarmed civilians protesting against internment (“Operation Demetrius”). As they would five months later, the soldiers, their commanding officers and politicians claimed they were “returning fire” from the IRA. A number of their victims had multiple wounds (one was shot fourteen times) and one received a second shot after being brought inside the Paras’ barracks, according to the victim before he died. As at Derry five months later, a number were shot while going to the aid of victims (including a priest, which makes the action of Fr. Daly — later Bishop — on Bloody Sunday in Derry even more heroic). One victim died of a heart attack after a soldier put a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger – the gun had no round in the chamber but the victim didn’t know that. The inquests of the victims have still to be held, nearly half a century later.

Yes, one sees why Mr. Brokenshire wishes to have all this information buried with the victims, not to speak of other information that might yet emerge. And yet the 14 dead of Bloody Sunday in Derry and the 11 of the Ballymurphy Massacre are only some of the unarmed victims of the British Army and the RUC, not to mention the Loyalist death squads run by British occupation forces’ Intelligence units. There are the children and adults killed or maimed for life by plastic bullets fired at short range, sometimes without even being in the area of a disturbance; the children and adults killed by British or colonial forces’ gunfire; the captured Republican fighters executed on the ground or given no chance to surrender when ambushed; the joy-riding youths shot to death. Yes, Mr. Brokenshire has good reason to see all this swept under the carpet and one can understand why a number of British service personnel (supported by those in some foreign forces) would demonstrate in protest at their “persecution” as they did on April 14th in Belfast.

The investigations to which Mr. Brokenshire objects, by the way, are being conducted, not by any impartial organisation but by the Legacy branch of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. For the unaware, the PSNI is also a colonial police force, the progeny of the disbanded Royal Ulster Constabulary, containing many of that force and like its predecessor, sectarian and repressive of Republican activists. The RUC also contained the B-Specials, a kind of part-time official armed Loyalist militia, implicated in many killings and largely absorbed into the Ulster Regiment of the British Army. Officers of the full-time RUC are also implicated in many killings.6

A TIME TO FORGET

A criminal who has paid restitution and repented is entitled to get on with his or her life without being confronted with their crimes of the past. This is not what we have here – this is a criminal gang wanting us to forget while it carries on robbing, threatening, killing and destroying human lives.

Come the day when British Imperialism is dead, no longer even twitching, no pulse and no brainwaves, well then it might be time to forget. But maybe not – there might still be other imperialist and colonial powers around and as they learn from one another, so should their victims and resisters share their memories and experiences.

On that glorious day when such systems no longer trouble humanity, then, at last we can forget? I don’t think so, not even then. For what history teaches us about imperialism and colonialism and capitalism, it is teaching us about humanity, its economics and philosophies. As long as we exist, it will never be time to forget those lessons.

A chríoch.

FOOTNOTES

1Said by Sir Richard Armstrong in 1986 in the trial, the failed British attempt to prevent the publication in Australia of the “Spycatcher” memoirs of MI5 former Assistant Director Peter Wright and co-author Paul Greengrass. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spycatcher. However, the phrase was originally documented from the 18th Century liberal-conservative philosopher and orator Edmund Burke.

2Which is why some recent inquests on people killed by British and colonial forces are giving rise to criminal investigations so long after the actual deaths.

3Which many believe to be part of the Good Friday Agreement deal or at least given as a ‘sweetener’

4No investigation was apparently carried out into whether Wilford had been ever charged by the Army with “deliberately disobeying” a senior officer in an event which led to unarmed civilian deaths. In fact, Wilford had been awarded military decoration shortly afterwards. It seems that Wilford out of loyalty to the Paratroop Regiment and perhaps some other considerations, agreed to “carry the can” during the Enquiry. Wilford was always outspoken in defence of the soldiers under his command but later claimed that the Army had distanced itself from him, so that when he retired he was only one rank higher than that which he held at the time. He retired on full pension of that rank, however.

5“Over 1,000 army photographs and original army helicopter video footage were never made available (to the Enquiry — DB). Additionally, guns used on the day by the soldiers that could have been evidence in the inquiry were lost by the MoD. The MoD claimed that all the guns had been destroyed, but some were subsequently recovered in various locations (such as Sierra Leone and Beirut) despite the obstruction.” (Wikipedia)

6Although here the statistics are skewed by the few tried being made to resign just prior to being charged (presumably in exchange for gentler treatment by the courts or threat of worse) so that they did not appear as serving RUC officers when convicted.

RIGHT TO OVERTHROW THE SYSTEM

Diarmuid Breatnach

The whisper is that a new movement is to be created, called Right to Change and that it will publish an on-line mass left-wing newspaper, which will be the first mass left-wing paper in this country since 1913 and even then, that newspaper’s distribution was mostly confined to Dublin.

In fact, a movement based on the right to change already exists, taking in not only the right to water but to housing, to social provisions, to health, to education, to natural resources – the many things that have been removed or cut or are under threat in order to pay the bankers and speculators. One supposes that this new organisation is intended to build on that movement, coordinate it etc. And no doubt put up a slate of candidates at local government and at general elections.

It is Right to Water that has given rise to this idea and no doubt a number who were prominent in it will be likewise in the new organisation.

Right to Water was not a movement, rather a kind of coordinating organisation for national demonstrations, chiefly in Dublin, against the water charges and the expected privatisation of water. In that work it has been highly successful.

The demonstrations built on the actions and mobilisation of hundreds of community groups across the country, protesting locally, encouraging people not to register or pay the charges, blocking Sierra and others from installing water meters and so on.

Many people will think that building Right to Change is the logical next move and will be enthused by it. And why not? Sure wouldn’t it be great to have a large number of TDs standing up to the System, denouncing its plans and their actions? The kind of thing done today by a few Independent TDs and others representing parties with small representation in the Dáil. Well, it would be useful but would it really make a difference?

Recently a Dáil committee set up to review the water charges and so on published its recommendations. Only 13 of the committee’s 20 members agreed with all of the recommendations but all of the recommendations stand nevertheless. Of course some of the objectors were right-wingers but many were of the Left – the System will always have a majority in the sub-systems it sets up. And if a time should come when it cannot achieve that …. well, that’s when you’ll hear the tanks clanking down the street.

Ok, granted perhaps, but it can’t hurt, can it? To have more Left TDs harassing the Government? No, of course not. Not unless we expect too much of this new organisation. Not unless we come to depend on it. And scale down our own independent activities. Hand over power to them.

That wouldn’t happen, would it? Unfortunately it has been a historical trend for popular movements to do exactly that. And social democracy always betrays the mass upon which it has erected itself. The Liberals in the further past and our ‘own’ Fianna Fáil in more recent history often promised the workers many things to win their votes. And even helped the workers push some things through from time to time. But they never promised to abolish the System, never promised socialism.

Social democracy does promise to deliver a fair and just society. It is a promise that it has been making for well over a century but on which it never delivers. It’s not just about jobbery and corruption, of which there is plenty in the corridors of power and to which many social democrats gravitate; it’s more that the Councillors and TDs elected never had any intention of abolishing the System. And in fact, will come out to defend the System whenever it is in danger. When it comes down to it, the System is THEIR system.

From time to time one hears social democrats bewailing “the unacceptable face of capitalism”, as though there exists an “acceptable” face of that system. They may talk at times about the “evils” of capitalism but will bear in mind the “good things” of capitalism too, the benefits they draw or hope to draw from the System. So criticism must be “balanced”, one mustn’t “throw the baby out with bathwater” and so on.

“The law must be obeyed”, they agree, as though “the law” is something divorced from class and politics, some immutable thing that just somehow exists. And yet just about every major social and political advance — including the right to organise a trade union at work, the right to strike and the right to universal suffrage — was won by people breaking “the law”. “The law” and its enforcers are part of the System.

If (heaven forbid) the action of the System’s police should be criticised, then we will hear phrases like “the police have a hard job to do”, the action of the ‘bad’ police is “bringing the force into disrepute”, “there are a few bad apples”, “better training is needed”, a “change in management is necessary”, etc etc. Anything but admit that the police force in a capitalist country exists in order to serve that System.

SOCIAL DEMOCRACY BETRAYS

At the beginning of May 1926, with a coal miners’ strike as a catalyst, Britain was heading towards a real possibility of revolution. The social democratic Trades Union Congress called a General Strike. In many areas of the country and in cities, no transport moved unless it had authorisation from the local Trades Council (a committee of local trade union representatives) or it had armed police and soldier escort. In less than two weeks, the TUC, at the behest of the British Labour Party, called off the strike, leaving the miners to fight on alone to their defeat in less than eight months. “By the end of November, most miners were back at work. However, many remained unemployed for many years. Those still employed were forced to accept longer hours, lower wages and district wage agreements” (Wikipedia).

Banner of a Labour Party branch of Crewe (West England) with a Marxist revolutionary slogan at a General Strike rally. Yet the leadership of the Labour Party convinced the TUC to call off the General Strike. (Image source: Internet)

There had been more workers coming out at that time but also some of the union leaders were beginning to crack, as the struggle was shaping up to be a real showdown between the System and the workers. The TUC didn’t even set up a system to guarantee no retaliations by bosses against activist workers in non-mining unions and many lost their jobs.

The Chilean Salvador Allende is often seen as a hero, a radical social democrat who stood up against internal military fascism and external CIA-led destabilisation. Workers and peasants and some sections of the middle class got Allende elected President in 1970 but right wingers and officers in the military, working with the CIA, were conspiring against him. Everybody knew this and sections of the workers asked for Allende to arm them against the coup they knew was coming. Allende tried instead to compromise and find senior officers he could work with to use against the plotters. When the military carried out the coup, there was some armed resistance but most workers were unarmed. The coup left “3,000 dead or missing, tortured ten thousands of prisoners and drove an estimated 200,000 Chileans into exile” (Wikipedia). In addition, the children of many murdered left-wingers and union activists were given to childless right-wingers and military and police couples to raise as their own.

Social democracy always betrays or ends up hung by its own illusions. Unfortunately the workers end up hanging with it also.

Moments of terror during the 1973 military coup in Chile — some of those pictured may well have been tortured and/ or murdered soon afterwards. (Image source: Internet)

In 2010, in response to Government budget cuts of between 5% and 10% on public servants, along with a levy on pensions, along with a breakdown in the “partnership” system of business and state employers negotiating with trade unions, the social-democratic Irish Trades Union Congress called a major demonstration in Dublin.  Perhaps 70,000 marched down O’Connell Street and the ITUC was threatening a general strike.  Despite escalating strike action in a number of sectors and the growing unpopularity of the Government, the ITUC abandoned the idea of a strike and instead went in to do a deal with the Government, in which they actually agreed to pay cuts and the pension levy, in exchange for some guarantees around public sector jobs. The social democratic trade union leaders didn’t have the stomach (or backbone) to take on the Government, to test the level of support for resistance.

Section of the ICTU protest march in November 2010 — the ICTU threatened a General Strike within days but instead crawled into Croke Park Agreement.
(Image source: Internet)

Why all this talk about social democracy? Well, because Right to Water is essentially a social democratic alliance. It contains Sinn Féin, the biggest minority party in the Dáil, with 23 elected representatives, third in number of TDs. Right to Water is also supported by Unite, “Britain’s biggest union with 1.42 million members across every type of workplace” according to their website it is pretty big in Ireland too, which is a “region” for the union, with 100,000 members across the land. These are forces that, while opposing the water charge, did not support civil disobedience on water meter installation nor refusing to pay the charge (although a number of their members fought along with the rest). Refusing to register and pay were the most effective ways of resisting the water charges and it is the high level of civil disobedience behind the giant demonstrations that has made the ruling class think again and promoted divisions between FG and Labour on the one hand and Fianna Fáil on the other.

But these elements did not support that policy. They want to be not only law-abiding but be seen to be law-abiding. Seen by who? Well, by the ruling class of course. SF in particular is champing at the bit to get into a coalition government but needs to show the ruling class that it is a safe pair of hands, i.e that the System will remain intact if managed by them. As indeed they have done in joint managing the regime in the Six Counties.

Of course there are many occasions when social democrats and revolutionaries can cooperate – but never by ceding leadership to the social democrats nor by depending on them, always instead by relying on their own forces and striving to educate the masses that the system cannot be reformed but needs to be overthrown …. and that the ordinary people are perfectly capable of achieving that.

AN ON-LINE MASS LEFT-WING NEWSPAPER

What about the left-wing newspaper though? Now that might be something, true enough. A source of rebuttal to the lies we are constantly getting from the media and a source of information and news which media censorship ensures most of us don’t get to read, see or hear.

If it seeks to be a truly mass paper it will need to cover not only foreign and domestic news but also sport, with sections on history, culture, nature, gardening ….. Rudolfo Walsh, who founded and with others ran the important ANCLA news agency during the dictatorship and the earlier extremely popular CGTA weekly in Argentina, until he was assassinated by the police, has been credited with two important sources of the weekly’s success: his informants within the police and army and an excellent horse racing tipster!

Rudolfo Walsh, Argentinian writer and journalist of Irish descent, his image superimposed on another of the military dictatorship that murdered him.
(Image source: Internet)

It is a big undertaking and a very interesting one.

But will the new paper practice censorship? Will it confine its discourse to the social democratic or instead allow revolutionary voices in it? Will it allow criticism of trade union leaderships, including Unite’s? Will it cover the repression of Republicans on both sides of the Border but particularly in the Six Counties? One would certainly hope so. Well, the proof of the pudding is in the eating – and of the newspaper, in the reading.

MARXISM 2016 AND STATE REPRESSION OF IRISH REPUBLICANS


Diarmuid Breatnach

The Sunday November 6th meeting of Marxism 20161 on the theme “When Governments Lie” hosted as speakers four women campaigners and Eamon McCann, a male campaigner, addressing the packed downstairs hall of the Club na Múinteoirí. A number of cancellations of speakers had taken place, including Gareth Pierce who sent a message which was read out to the meeting.

hillsborough-speaker-when-gvts-lie-marxism-2016

Brid Smith of the SWP (centre photo) chairing the meeting When Governments Lie public meeting at Marxism 2016 weekend (Photo: I.O’Kelly)

On the podium, taking turns to speak, were Sheila Coleman of the Hilsborough Justice Campaign, Kate Nash of the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign, Joanne Donnelly of the Justice for the Craigavon Two Campaign, and Antoinette Keegan of the Justice for Stardust/ 48 Never Came Home Campaign (summary of these campaigns below).

After being introduced by Bríd Smith, chairing the event, Joe Black with guitar, accompanied wonderfully by a musician on bazouki (if I can get his name will insert it here), launched the evening with Black’s powerful song about Giuseppe Conlon, father of Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four. The Guildford Four were wrongly convicted in 1975 of IRA bombings and served fourteen years before they were cleared. Giuseppe Conlon, who went to England to clear his son, was also jailed, as were his relatives the Maguire family. The Maguire1 Seven were cleared in 1991 but by that time Giuseppe had died in prison, an event that, along with his own imprisonment, devastated his son and affected him for his remaining years until he died in 2004 at the age of only sixty years.

All of the speakers emphasised that the State’s officials lied with regard to their respective cases and concealed evidence and most speakers also accused the media of complicity. In the cases of Bloody Sunday, the Craigavon Two and Hillsborough, the British state was placed in the dock by the speakers while the Stardust fire cover-up was laid at the feet of the Irish state.

Most of the speakers also warned people in similar circumstances to beware of establishment party politicians who try to flatter campaigners and decide which are the “reasonable” ones to deal with, always at the price of reducing the objectives being sought. The speakers for the Bloody Sunday and Hillsborough campaigns in particular warned against this element, Kate Nash singling out Sinn Féin as the party that acted that way with regard to Bloody Sunday (Kate Nash’s brother was killed that day and her father shot and injured) and how they tried to bring the campaign to an end with an apology from the then British Prime Minister, while no senior officer or government official was held to account and while one of the unarmed dead remained accused of carrying a nail bomb.

Brid Smith of the SWP (also SWP/AAA) addressing When Governments Lie public meeting at Marxism 2016 weekend (Photo D.Breatnach)

Sheila Coleman of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign addressing When Governments Lie public meeting at Marxism 2016 weekend (Photo D.Breatnach)

Eamon McCann, who was on the march in Derry on Bloody Sunday 1972, finished the evening with one of the rants for which he is famous, going beyond his allocated time by a fair bit and despite the Chairperson’s frequent reminders. McCann located the similarities of the cases within the class system – most of those injustices represented were about repression of working class communities, or ignoring the damage done to them and the lies were told to protect the system and its supporters – big businessmen, politicians, the police, the Army.

The meeting ended to sustained applause but without any opportunity to ask questions or to make contributions, to the regret certainly of a number of Republicans and campaigners against what they consider to be ongoing internment without trial. All however seemed agreed that the talks had been interesting and educating in at least some aspect of the issues and events covered.

WHY SO LONG?

It is good that this meeting about State injustice and lies was held by an Irish socialist organisation. It is the duty of socialist organisations to point out the injustice of the State even when the victims are not socialists – or not socialists in the way that socialist organisations think they should be. Prominent socialists Karl Marx and Frederick Engels were not Fenians but they campaigned for the release of Fenian prisoners being held in English jails (where, by the way, it said that one third of them died and one third went insane).

It is said that we learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes and certainly, if we are to bring about a revolution and the society we want, we must learn from our failures. And in that spirit, I must ask: why has it taken so long for Irish socialist organisations, particularly in Dublin, to wake up to the repression being exercised against Irish Republicans?

Five years ago Marian Price, a former Republican prisoner released under licence as part of the Good Friday Agreement, had her licence revoked and was taken to Maghaberry jail, kept for months without charge or bail, eventually charged and kept in jail without bail, sick, until her mental and physical health was broken. In Dublin the socialist organisations sent a couple of representatives to one demonstration for her freedom and never attended a picket about her case afterwards.

After the Marian Price campaign ended with her release in 2013 on “compassionate (sic) grounds”, some of those involved in Dublin launched a campaign against “internment by other names”, a process by which ex-prisoners released on licence are returned to jail without even a trial in the no-jury courts of the Six Counties2 and other Republican political activists are harassed and arrested and refused bail on spurious charges which eventually collapse after the accused have been held for months or years in jail3.

I must ask again: why has it taken so long for Irish socialist organisations, particularly in Dublin where the major part of their organisation is located and most of their activities organised, to wake up to the repression being exercised against Irish Republicans?

Is it perhaps because the socialists feared to be painted with the nationalist brush? But did they not fear being daubed with complicity with imperialism instead? It is a strange kind of socialist organisation that can’t make common cause with Republicans against the tyranny of the colonial statelet and capitalist State! In that failure, it misses the opportunity to unite forces against its enemies’ state and also to disseminate its ideas among Republican activists. One might also remark that a failure of people who are prepared at times to unite with social democrats for reforms, to unite with Irish Republicans against a capitalist state is a strange indication of revolutionary socialism!

Or is it purely because they didn’t care – it wasn’t happening to them – that Irish socialist organisations haven’tt campaigned against State repression of Irish Republicans, or even protested in solidarity with them? If so, they will by the seed of their inactivity one day certainly reap a harvest of repression for themselves too. Solidarity against State attacks is not only a noble thing with a long tradition; it is a necessity for revolutionaries.

So now that this “Marxism” weekend is over, when its organisers are taking a deserved rest, or writing it up for the British and Irish version of their newspaper, or compiling their recruitment slips to see how many new members or at least mailing list contacts they have gained – will they do anything different?

Will we see the highlighting, from time to time, of the almost everyday harassment of Irish Republicans in the leaflets and newspaper of the SWP and PBP? Will their TDs in the Dáil raise these issues where they might get some bourgeois media coverage? Are we going to see PBP and SWP militants on the regular pickets organised by the Anti-Internment Group of Ireland anywhere and, in particular on those called by the Dublin Anti-Internment Committee?

We can hope, I suppose.

Diarmuid Breatnach

APPENDIX: THE CAMPAIGNS

Hillsborough Justice Campaign seeks vindication that the original disaster was due to crowd mismanagement by the South Yorkshire Police and that some of the subsequent deaths were also due to their mismanagement of some still-breathing victims and lack of coordination of the emergency services. The disaster took place at Hillsborough football stadium in Sheffield, England, UK, on 15 April 1989, during the 1988–89 FA Cup semi-final game between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. With 96 fatalities and 766 injured it is the worst disaster in British sporting history. Originally, the Liverpool football fans were blamed for the disaster but subsequently it became clear that the blame lay elsewhere.

Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign seeks a proper accounting of the deaths of 14 and injury of at least 14 after British troops opened fire on unarmed people demonstrating in Derry on 30th January 1972 against Internment. Originally, the British Army and Government claimed that they had shot “terrorists” in “returning fire” after being first fired on and a British enquiry backed them on this and claimed to have evidence that some of the dead had been handling weapons.

The campaign organises a march every year on the Sunday nearest to the date of the massacre https://www.facebook.com/BloodySundayMarch/?fref=ts.

Justice for the Craigavon Two Campaign https://www.facebook.com/JFTC2

Founded in 2012, a campaign to overturn the clearly unjust convictions in May 2012 of John Paul Wooton and Brendan McConville for the killing of a member of the British colonial police force, the PSNI, in March 2009.

The forensic evidence was contradictory and in a number of cases even pointed to the innocence of the accused, electronic surveillance equipment had been interfered with by the British Army; the State produced no witnesses to the incident and only one who placed one of the accused at the scene – this witness came forward a year after the arrests of the two, his account of his movements that evening were not supported by his wife; a close family relative called him a habitual liar and then this family member was arrested and subjected to intimidation by the colonial police after he had given a statement to the accused’s legal team..

(see also forthcoming fundraiser in Dublin https://www.facebook.com/events/705695282938993/)

Justice for Stardust/ 48 Never Came Home Campaign https://www.facebook.com/JusticefortheStardust48/?fref=ts

In the early hours of 14 February 48 young people died in a fire at a disco at the Stardust nightclub in Artane, Dublin and 214 were injured.

The campaign seeks to shift the blame from alleged “arsonists” to a fault in the premises wiring and other factors within the responsibility of the club’s management and owners, including blocked emergency exits. The allegation is that there has been a cover-up connived at by the Irish Government to exonerate businessmen friends, who to add insult to injury, received substantial financial compensation for the loss of the building. An ongoing controversy over inquiry findings and ignoring of important pieces of evidence have lent increasing credence to the version of the campaigners.

1This is organised annually in Dublin, Ireland by the Socialist Workers’ Party

2A prominent example in the past has been Martin Corey of Republican Sinn Féin; a current example is Tony Taylor

3For example Stephen Murney of the éirigí political party and the independent activist Colin Duffy and members of his family

MASS CROPPIES’ BURIAL GROUND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC ONCE AGAIN

Clive Sulish

Croppies’* Acre, a piece of parkland believed to the site of a mass grave of United Irishmen insurgents and non-combatant victims, situated between the Liffey’s Wolfe Tone Quay and the Collins Barracks complex of the Irish National Museum, was some weeks ago reopened to the public for the first time in four years. Few if any of the campaigners for its saving or its reopening were invited to the event or given credit in the short newspaper report about the occasion.

This report seeks to correct that omission, to give a brief account of efforts made over the years and to comment on the care of the park today.

(* “Croppy” was a name given to supporters of the United Irishmen, apparently because of the males wearing their hair cut short and close to the scalp, in the style of the revolutionary French of the time.  “Crapaí” and “Cnapaí” were the versions of the word in the Irish language).

The Pedestrian Gate on Wolfe Tone Quay, Liffey side, open to the public again after four years (Photo C. Sulish)

The Pedestrian Gate on Wolfe Tone Quay, Liffey side, open to the public again after four years (Photo C. Sulish)

HISTORY OF THE SITE AND OF THE CAMPAIGNS AROUND IT

In 2012, after the site had been closed for some time allegedly due to health and safety concerns for visitors due to drug-injecting paraphernalia left there by people using the site at night-time, Pádraig Drummond and Diarmuid Breatnach set up the Croppies Acre Rejuvenation project with a Facebook page to promote the importance of the site and to gather forces to pressure the authorities into reopening the site and maintaining it properly.

Prior to this, a number of visits had been made by Irish Republicans (the 1916 Societies on some occasions, independent Republicans on others) to the closed site to collect and dispose safely of drug-injecting paraphernalia and other waste and it was felt that a public campaign was needed.

Memorial stone about halfway along the the Liffeyside of the park. In the distance, the heaped earth of works in October last year which had caused concern (Photo: D. Breatnach)

Memorial stone about halfway along the the Liffeyside of the park. In the distance, the heaped earth and earth-moving machine in October last year which had caused concern (Photo: D. Breatnach)

As part of the campaign a letter to the media was composed by Drummond and Breatnach in consultation with the National Graves Association (a voluntary independent organisation that marks and maintains the graves of those who fought for Irish freedom and which also erects plaques to commemorate people and events). Although none of the main media published the letter it is reproduced here not only as a document of the history of campaigning for the site in its own right but also because it summarises well what had gone before.

Croppies Acre is remembered in Dublin folklore as the site of a mass grave in which the bodies of dead insurgents were thrown in 1798. Among those lying in Croppies’ Acre are reputedly the bones of Bartholomew Teeling and Matthew Tone (brother of Wolfe Tone — CS), both hanged at the Provost Prison on Arbour Hill after the Battle of Ballinamuck on 8 September 1798.

 

In 1898, the centenary of the United Irish uprisings, 100,000 marched to the site and placed a plaque there. As many people will be aware, the centenary commemoration of the United Irish played a significant part in the creation of a national pro-independence culture which fed into the Easter 1916 Rising, less than twenty years later, and which in turn fed into the War of Independence 1919-’21 and the creation of an Irish state.

Memorial stone placed during 1798 centenary commemoration which was attended by 100,000 (Photo: D. Breatnach)

Memorial stone placed during 1798 centenary commemoration which was attended by 100,000 (Photo: D. Breatnach)

Although a 1798 rising commemoration plaque was laid at the site by “soldiers of the Eastern Command” of the Irish Army in 1985, soldiers were sometimes to be seen playing football on the field until the mid-1990s, while Collins Barracks was still in use by the Irish Army. This practice ceased after a number of complaints from members of the public who felt the practice was not respectful to the dead insurgents. The Irish Army vacated Collins Barracks in 1996 or thereabouts and the National Museum moved into the buildings in 1997.

In 1997 a proposal to turn the graves of the Patriot Dead into a car and bus park was all the more stunning as the bi-centenary of the United Irishmen’s Rising of 1798 was imminent and groups everywhere were renovating monuments and graves, organising seminars and lectures and planning pike marches.

The then secretary of the National Graves Association, Tess Kearney (since deceased — SC), was in poor health, but decided that such an occasion required action regardless of her personal circumstances. Tess turned in a magnificent effort for the television cameras and organised a campaign to “Save the Croppies Acre”. Within days, various interested parties came together and, under the leadership of the NGA, the plan to build a coach park on the site was defeated and the Croppie’s Acre site was developed two years ago (i.e in 2010 — CS) as a national monument with an expenditure of some €35,000. The field layout is simple with `(some individual) flagstones throughout the site presumably symbolising the bodies lying below and a small open circular stone structure on which are reproduced parts of the text and facsimile typeface of the Droites del Homme (Rights of Man) document from the French Revolution (1789). Also featured is the text of Seamus Heaney’s poem “Croppies” and the motif of the barley seed head is reproduced on the stone in reference to the poem and Irish folk memory.

The enclosure monument, with National Museum, Collins Barracks in the background. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

The enclosure monument in Croppies’ Acre, with National Museum, Collins Barracks in the background.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

The Drummond/ Breatnach letter, signed by a number of historians, history tour guides, authors and history enthusiasts, also noted that:

The Office of Public Works has closed the site because it considers it unsafe to permit public access due to some night-time activities there. Recently some of us went to inspect the site and were shocked at the condition into which it has sunk. Used syringes, discarded needles, bottles, cans and other rubbish were found at a number of locations but especially inside the stone structure.

Rubbish bags were filled and disposed of, with the hazardous waste disposed of in bio hazard containers that were then handed into the local authorities. A return visit found almost as much rubbish as had been disposed of previously. A third visit found even more. This is not acceptable and must change.

The letter concluded by stating that
“It may be that some will say that the expense, even though relatively small, of looking after a national monument, cannot be justified in the current climate of austerity. To those we would say that possibly, had we valued sufficiently our independence and the sacrifices made for it in the past, we would not have allowed foreign finance speculators to bring us to sad straits in which we find ourselves now. The image of our past locked away while we are plundered as a nation in the present is a stark contrast.

However about that, the Office of Public Works must take the appropriate action to look after this site properly and offer safe access to the park during the hours of daylight seven days a week. At night, the site needs to be well-lit and protected. Mr. Brian Hayes, TD, Minister of State responsible for the OPW since 2011, must take urgent action.”

At the time, the OPW probably seemed a much safer bet as custodians than Dublin City Council, especially with the Council’s Planning Department having granted property speculators planning permission to construct a giant shopping centre over the Moore Street battleground and market. However, it was eventually Dublin City Council that took responsibility for the maintenance and reopening of the site to the public.

But throughout the years after the setting up of that campaign, from 2012 to 2014, nothing seemed to be happening to put matters right. Groups of Republican volunteers paid visits from time to time to clean up the site, collecting horrifying amounts of used hypodermic needles and other paraphernalia and waste but the authorities appeared unmoved.

Twice in February 2014, questions were asked in the Dáil, the Irish Parliament, of Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brian Hayes. Pádraig Drummond had written to TDs (elected representatives) Clary Daly and Maureen O’Sullivan, who received replies to their questions, the former written and the latter an oral reply. Daly’s reply from Minister of State Hayes was that The Office of Public Works and Dublin City Council have agreed in principle that the management and maintenance of the Croppies Acre Memorial Park will be undertaken by the Council. OPW and Dublin City Council are reviewing the Council’s proposals regarding improved access to the park prior to formalising a licence arrangement, following which the park is expected to re-open to the public.”

The oral reply was much longer but the nub of it was the same.

We weren’t getting people signing up to form a campaigning group and we were running out of energy”, said one of the campaigners about those years.

In September 2015, soon after DCC staff were seen to have been cleaning up the site and cutting the grass, concerned Republicans visited the site and posted photos on the campaign FB page of drug paraphernalia and mess which had quickly accumulated again on the site.

In October of that year, Dublin City Council staff began work inside the park with earth removers. In the absence of any notice of what was intended and no public consultation, protesters including Éirigí mobilised and halted work. Dublin City Council gave a written guarantee (see photo) that the work was only to create or upgrade a circular pathway. The protests ceased but an eye was kept on proceedings.

However photographs taken during a visit by other concerned people that same month showed drug paraphernalia again accumulating at the site.

View from the west pedestrian gate to the east since the Acre opened (Photo: C. Sulish)

View from the west pedestrian gate to the east since the Acre opened (Photo: C. Sulish)

The letter guarantee which led to calling off the protests in October 2014

The letter guarantee which led to calling off the protests in October 2014

THE SITE REOPENS TO THE PUBLIC

By June this year, the site had been cleaned up, planted, a path put through part of it and finally reopened to the public, four years after the campaign to reopen it had begun. The Daily Herald reported on the opening ceremony (see link for their report below) on the 15th, presided over by Lord Mayor Críona Ní Dhálaigh in one of her last acts before her year as Mayor was up.

The Herald report alluded to the years of closure and “problems with drug users” but not once did it mention the National Graves Association, the Republican groups that repeatedly visited the site and those that mobilised to protect it in October last year, or the campaign set up in 2012 and the letter to the media of that year and TDs questions in the Dáil

A sleeping bag, perhaps, against the wall within the monument park weeks after reopening. (Photo: C.Sulish)

A sleeping bag, perhaps, against the wall within the monument park weeks after reopening.
(Photo: C.Sulish)

The report did mention Councillor Mannix Flynn who, it said, had been campaigning over the years for the site’s reopening. “Councillor Mannix Flynn, for all I know, may have been campaigning hard for the site’s reopening,” said Diarmuid Breatnach. “I can’t say he has and I can’t say he hasn’t. But I can say that not once in those years of agitation, campaigning and trying to raise the profile of the issue, did we ever hear from or about him in connection with Croppies’ Acre.”

This month, I visited the site again and found it open and being used by the public, reasonably clean and with some attractive plantings of flowers and grasses. But inside the circular monument, there was a small pile of excreta in one spot and, on the way out, I noted what seemed to be a sleeping bag against the eastern wall. The site will need continual watching.

End.

White Purple Flowers Grass close

(Photo: C. Sulish)

White Purple Grass

(Photo: C. Sulish)

Grass Blue Flowers Close

View southwards across the park (Photo: C. Sulish)

The Tricolour in this case would have been better replaced by the green flag of the United Irish with the harp in gold.

The Tricolour in this case would have been better replaced by the green flag of the United Irish with the harp in gold. (Photo: C. Sulish)

APPENDIX

LINKS TO QUOTED AND RELATED MATERIAL

Letter sent to mass media in 2012, after DCC had locked up the site:
http://www.politics.ie/…/221010-croppies-acre-rejuvenation.…

Daily Herald report on the reopening of Croppies’ Acre

http://www.herald.ie/news/drughit-city-park-is-reopened-after-120k-cleanup-34801856.html

Article about Bartholomew Teeling and Matthew Tone https://rebelbreeze.wordpress.com/2014/03/23/captain-bartholomew-teeling-united-irishmen-hero-believed-to-be-buried-in-croppies-acre/