NOBEL LITERATURE PRIZE WINNER FAILS TO NOTICE IRONY

Diarmuid Breatnach

Mario Vargas Llhosa was in Barcelona on Sunday as part of a number of people speaking at a pro-Spanish union rally which received coaches from various parts of the Spanish state.  HE DENOUNCED NATIONALISM (Democratic, Catalan) WHILE SURROUNDED BY SPANISH NATIONALISTS AND FASCISTS AND THEIR SYMBOLS (the Spanish unionists were demanding that Spain remain united, insulted Catalan officials, waved Spanish unionist flags and called for a Catalan-elected President to be jailed; Spanish fascists openly displayed fascist Franco-era flags and symbols and gave the fascist salute).

Mario Vargas LLosa Spanish Unity Barcelona 8 Oct2017

Nobel Literature Prize-winner Mario Vargas Llhosa addressing Spanish unionists and fascists bussed into Barcelona for rally against Catalan independence and self-determination (Photo source: Internet)

TALKING ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF DEMOCRACY WHILE DEFENDING AN UNDEMOCRATIC AUTHORITARIAN SYSTEM REPRESSING AND DISRUPTING A PLEBISCITE (State police violence leading to nearly 900 civilians injured; ballot boxes and ballot forms seized; elected officials arrested and/ or threatened with jail).

TALKING ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF THE RULE OF LAW WHILE IGNORING ILLEGAL ASSAULTS BY STATE POLICE RESULTING IN NEARLY 900 INJURIES (without a single State police officer being even charged or senior officers even reprimanded).

A NOBEL PRIZE WINNER IN LITERATURE IS UNABLE TO DETECT AN IMPORTANT ELEMENT IN WORLD LITERATURE — IRONY (Llhosa was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2010 for his work examining the corruption of political power and struggle against it — in Latin America).

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CATALUNYA AND THE SPANISH STATE — BASIC QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Diarmuid Breatnach

IS CATALUNYA A SEPARATE NATION TO SPAIN?

Yes, it has its own language (Catalan), its own national anthem and its own national cultural customs. Furthermore it has been independent a number of times in its history, as a Republic. And its official autonomous status in the Spanish state even includes the word “national”. Catalan is an official language in Catalunya (along with Castillian — Spanish) and most people there speak Catalan daily.

The Esteladas flying in a Catalan demonstration for Independence.
(Photo source: Internet)

DO NATIONS HAVE THE RIGHT TO SELF-DETERMINATION?

Yes, according to most legal authorities and most people’s sense of right and wrong. It is recognised in the UN Charter of Human Rights.

 

IS THERE A LIMIT ON THE RIGHT OF A NATION TO SELF-DETERMINATION – i.e CASES IN WHICH THE RIGHT DOES NOT EXIST OR CAN JUSTIFIABLY BE OVERRULED?

Perhaps. For example, if a nation were somehow to determine to wipe out an ethnic minority, the right to decide to do so and to carry it out can be overidden by the more basic right of the targeted ethnic minority to exist. If one considered South Africa as a nation, it had minority racial government ruling over a majority disenfranchised black population and one could not endorse their right to continue in that way since they were negating the rights of the majority of their state’s population to self-determination.

 

CAN CATALUNYA’S CASE BE ONE OF THE JUSTIFIABLE EXCEPTIONS THAT WOULD NOT ENTITLE IT TO SELF-DETERMINATION?

Not at all. The only claim against her right to self-determination (other than the Spanish state’s claim that it violates the Spanish state’s constitution) is that it is one of the richest regions of the Spanish state and a large one. If that were considered a viable argument against Catalunya’s right, it would mean that no nation which has good natural resources or a successful economy has the right to self-determination and must stay within a union to benefit its invader and coloniser state.

 

HAS CATALUNYA’S RIGHT TO SELF-DETERMINATION BEEN VIOLATED BY THE SPANISH STATE?

Cartoon comment on October 1st referendum by DB

Unquestionably Yes. She has been prevented a number of times by Spanish court legal judgements and by threats of the use of force from carrying out a referendum on the question of independence as a republic. Her attempt to carry out the referendum in spite of all threats was met this month with actual violence (nearly 900 injured people), police invasion of Catalan Government offices and polling booths, seizure of ballot boxes and ballot papers and in a number of areas, aggression against and disrespect for Catalans and their culture.

Furthermore many measures sought by the Catalan Parlament on grounds of increasing rights of migrants, protecting the environment and animal rights, restriction of the legal rights of the banks, have been declared illegal by the Spanish national courts, thereby violating the rights of Catalans to determine for themselves how they shall manage these matters.

 

WAS THE OCTOBER 2017 CATALAN INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM ILLEGAL?

Here we have to ask – by whose law? The Catalan Parlament approved the holding of the referendum by majority. The Government approved and organised it.

According to the constitution of the Spanish State, no part of the State’s territory is permitted to enact independence without the permission of the Spanish Parliament. The Catalans will always be outnumbered in the Spanish Parliament (a similar situation to members elected in Ireland to the Westminster Parliament in Britain from 1801 to 1921; or Scottish MPs from 1707 to the present; Wales was annexed by England 1535 – 1542). They can never expect to gain a majority vote in their favour at Westminster.

By the Constitution a declaration of independence (though not perhaps a referendum on a wish) is illegal.  But when has an occupying state given the right of secession to nations and peoples it occupies?

 

WAS THE SPANISH CONSTITUTION OF 1977 (WHICH THE SPANISH STATE CLAIMS MAKES CATALUNYA REFERENDUM ILLEGAL) APPROVED BY MAJORITY?

In most of the Spanish state, it was.

  • But does that mean that it overrules the right to self-determination of a nation currently within the Spanish state? No, clearly that cannot be.
  • Also, that Constitution was rejected in the Basque region of Euskadi but the Spanish state nevertheless refused it too the right to referendum on the question of Basque independence.
  • In addition, the Constitution was proposed three years after the death of a dictator who had crushed Catalan (and Basque) resistance in 1939, repressed the Catalan (and Basque) language and civil rights for 36 years, with fascists still in power managing the transition to the new form of the State and with the collusion of the leaderships of some crucial former resistance organisations of the people, i.e the Communist Party and the social-democratic Socialist Workers Party, along with their respective trade unions.
  • Self-determination must mean the right to enter into a union or to remain outside it but it must also mean the right to leave a union, nullifying any previous agreements.
  • The Constitution is constructed so that it places many hurdles in the way of any nation seeking to leave the union even in the unlikely event of getting a majority to vote with it in the Spanish Parliament. “Title X of the Constitution establishes that the approval of a new constitution or the approval of any constitutional amendment affecting the Preliminary Title, or Section I of Chapter II of Title I (on Fundamental Rights and Public Liberties) or Title II (on the Crown), the so-called “protected provisions”, are subject to a special process that requires (1) that two-thirds of each House approve the amendment, (2) that elections are called immediately thereafter, (3) that two-thirds of each new House approves the amendment, and (4) that the amendment is approved by the people (i.e the people of the whole Spanish state – DB) in a referendum.” (Wikipedia)

WAS THE RECENT CATALAN REFERENDUM A FAULTLESS TEST OF THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE OF CATALUNYA?

Clearly not – not because participation was limited to 48% of the Catalan population but because the Spanish Government had declared in advance that it would not respect the decision and would prevent the referendum taking place. Also because voters were prevented by Spanish police from entering a number of polling stations and because Spanish police seized many ballots and ballot boxes.

But should the Spanish state be permitted therefore to claim therefore that the votes which were registered and counted are of no avail? Are we to endorse a view that an occupying or colonising state can nullify any nation’s vote for self-determination simply by banning the election or referendum and by disrupting the process? Clearly not.

The Irish uprising in 1798 and in 1803 was not the result of a referendum, nor was that of 1916 nor the War of Independence 1919-1921. Clearly, if we are to uphold the right to self-determination of nations we must support the right of the occupied or colonised nations and to decide their own means of breaking away.

 

ARE THERE CATALANS WHO WANT TO REMAIN WITHIN THE SPANISH STATE?

Clearly there are. As many as there are who wish to break with it? The evidence suggests not. Very recently the media claimed a hundred thousand rallied in Catalunya against independence. But around a million gathered there last month to support the right to hold the referendum, with most of them clearly for independence. Clearly, even if everyone attending a rally against Catalan independence were actual Catalans and had not been bussed in, they are outvoted by those Catalan residents who demonstrated despite threats and who voted despite police violent repression. And if the Spanish state thought the vote would go in favour of remaining in the union, why did they forbid the referendum and disrupt the process?

 

REFERENCES:

Right to Self-Determination: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-determination

http://opil.ouplaw.com/view/10.1093/law:epil/9780199231690/law-9780199231690-e873

Spanish Constitution: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_Constitution_of_1978

 

 

 

CATALONIA V. SPAIN – THE BREAKUP OF AN EU STATE?

Diarmuid Breatnach

Another spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of an EU state’s fragmentation and the possible disintegration of the EU itself. It may begin with the breakup of a European state but could ultimately affect most of southern, south-eastern and south-western Europe.

Huge Barcelona Independence Demonstration Diada 11 Sep2017

Huge pro-Catalan Independence demonstration fills the streets of Barcelona on Catalunya’s national day. (Photo source: Guardian, on line).

A street demonstration in Barcelona on Catalunya’s national day filled the streets with an incredible number (over one million according even to the police) and awash with the “Estelades”, the Catalan revolutionary flag of the Senyera estelada from the 1930s with the blue triangle enclosing a white star, in homage to Cuba and Puerto Rico (see video link below). From above, apart from the flags, the demonstration appeared lime-green as participants wore T-shirts of that colour with the (“yes”) for independence printed on them.

The demonstrators formed a huge “X” in the city to signify a “yes” vote for independence and somewhere near the middle, three human towers put their topmost members displaying a clenched fist in the universal sign of resistance to oppression.

The political crisis surrounding the current bid for a referendum on independence for Catalunya (their nation in Catalan) serious consequences for the Spanish state but as the crisis matures may also deeply affect two other European states: France and Italy.

As the Parlement of Catalunya has now declared by majority that it will defy the Spanish State and hold a referendum on independence from the Spanish state on October 1st, the Spanish ruling class grows increasingly desperate and

  • Had its Constitutional Court declare the referendum unconstitutional and illegal,
  • Has the paramilitary police force, the Guardia Civil, searching for ballot boxes with the intention of confiscating them,
  • Summoned 700 town Mayors to answer to charges of facilitating an illegal referendum by allowing their council buildings to be used as polling stations
  • Threatened to charge Parlament pro-independendists with disobedience and abuse of power
  • Closed down the official Catalan referendum website

It also demanded weekly accounts on expenditure from the Parlament to try and ensure it was not funding the referendum.

Alto Catalan Ballot Box

ALTO! HALT! (Cartoon by DB)

In response, the leader of the Parlement says the Spanish can arrest him if they want but he is going ahead with the referendum. Many among the 700 town Mayors of Catalunya have said they will not attend court while others have said they will as they believe they have done nothing wrong. Many organisations and institutions have offered their premises as polling stations if necessary. Hundreds of Catalans have volunteered to help organise the referendum and to staff the polling stations.

To many observers, it will seem that the actions of the Spanish state are hysterical and excessive. On the other hand, to those who understand the history and nature of the Spanish state, it is hard to see how the Spanish ruling class can concede Catalan independence. That is on ideological and political grounds alone; and if those grounds were not enough, there are also the financial, economic and territorial ones.

 

“SPAIN: UNITARY, GREAT AND FREE”

The fascist Spanish slogan: “Espaňa – Una, Grande y Libre”, the claim that their state is unitary as well as “Great and Free”, explains in part the problem for the Spanish ruling class in a Catalonian secession. The creation of the Spanish kingdom was based on alliances for war against the Moorish Iberian kingdom of El Andalus, that religiously-tolerant kingdom of great learning and culture and it brought all other Iberian kingdoms under its rule. Subsequently, the Spanish Kingdom forced Christianity on the Jews or expelled them (creating the Sephardic Jewish refugees) as they did also not only to the defeated Moors of El Andalus but also to those other Arabs who had fought as allies of the Christian Royals. In later years the Spanish Empire lost conquered territory abroad but never gave any up on the Iberian Peninsula since the breakaway of the Kingdom of Portugal in 1143.

Unlike most of Europe, there was no successful revolution against the feudal system in the Spanish state, which retarded its economic and political development. However, the revenue from the kingdom’s exploitation of its vast territories in America kept the State powerful (while also acting as a negative counterbalance against the development of its industry).

 

SPANISH CIVIL WAR AND INVASION

Modernising and liberalising movements did struggle for change within the State but the First Spanish Republic only lasted under two years (11 February to 29 December 1874). The Second Republic (1931-1939) went through a right-wing repressive phase but then turned to a liberal-socialist phase, at which point the Army mutinied under the leadership of the Four Generals, of which Franco became the best-known.

The Second Republic conceded autonomy to Catalunya and Galicia and later, perhaps reluctantly, to the southern Basque Country (excluding Nafarroa/ Navarra, where the reactionary Christian-monarchist Carlists seized control and sided with the military insurgency). Aided by German Nazi and Italian fascist air transport, war material and troops, as well as by the complicity of Britain and France, the military defeated the Second Spanish Republic after a fierce struggle and a Christian-fascist dictatorship under General Franco took over the country.1

Esteladas in Demonstration

The Esteladas flying in a Catalan demonstration for Independence. (Photo source: Internet)

All claims to separate nationhoods were suppressed, all the nations being considered merely “regions” of the Spanish state, with picturesque traditional costumes and feasts. Castillian (Spanish) was to be the only language permitted in use, with particular repression inflicted on those of the strongest and most widely-used tongues, Catalan and Euskera (Basque).

adolf-hitler-franco-reviewing-troops-in-hendaye-northern-basque-country.jpg

Adolf Hitler and General Franco reviewing German occupation troops in Hendaye, Northern Basque Country, 1942 (Photo source: Internet)

Armed resistance of a guerrilla-type continued for awhile after the end of the Civil War/ Anti-Fascist War, and in the 1960s the Basque left-nationalist group ETA commenced armed struggle after nearly a decade of persecution by the Spanish State. For a while too there was an armed group in Catalunya.

After the death of Franco in 1975, the Spanish ruling class, under internal pressure from the Christian technocrat movement Opus Dei and external pressure from the USA, attempted a modernising and liberalising change of regime which is now widely referred to as the “transition to democracy” (sic) or just plainly as La Transición.

As part of this process, the Monarchy was re-imposed on the people when Juan Carlos de Borbón, who had been groomed by Franco, was declared King of Spain in 1975 and also named as Franco’s successor. No vote was held on the reimposition of a King on the Spanish state which had been without a reigning monarch for 34 years. A Constitution was drawn up which included the Spanish state being a constitutional monarchy and with much talk of democracy and changes, including regional autonomy, the Constitution gained 88% votes in favour. Among the 22% negative votes were the majority of the southern Basque Country.

Hitler & Juan Carlos

General Franco in his declining years with his protege, Juan Carlos, later crowned King of Spain. (Photo source: Internet)

After Juan Carlos’ abdication in June 2014, Juan Carlos’ son Felipe VI was declared King, a majority of the representatives in the Cortes (Spanish Parliament) voting to approve — which included not only the hard right-wing Partido Popular (PP) but also the helpful abstention of the social-democratic Partido Socialista Obrero (PSOE).

 

THAT WAS THEN – BUT NOW?

After Franco’s death, Catalunya was created an “autonomous region” and was ruled by a right-wing majority in the Parlament2; nevertheless struggles with the Spanish State have broken out from time to time, in particular about the use of the Catalan language and the primacy which Catalans, both right and left-wing, wish it have in Catalunya.

Another bone of contention has been the disparity between the tax revenue the Spanish state gains from Catalunya, on the one hand, and the funding the Spanish state gives to the autonomous region.

Some years ago the Parlement declared their intention of holding a referendum on independence but the Government and the Spanish National Court declared that this would be illegal, going against the Constitution (the same thing happened in the Basque Country). In addition, an Army General declared that the Constitution could be enforced with tanks, if necessary. The Spanish Government, although distancing itself from the General’s comments, did not have him disciplined.

Every year since then has seen large national demonstrations for Catalan independence, including a huge human chain in 2003.

The historic ideological and political grounds, as noted earlier in passing, are not the only ones which make the surrender of Catalonia unthinkable for the Spanish ruling class. In terms of population (2016 figures), Catalunya’s 7,522,596 is 2nd in size for a region within the State and 16% of the State’s total. Catalunya’s land area of 32,108 km (12,397sq.mi) is 6.5% of the Spanish State’s Iberian land mass. But even worse, from the Spanish ruling class’ perspective, is that 23% of the state’s industry is in Catalunya, and in 2013 the region’s product was 203.62 billion euros (¢228 billion), according to the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia — about 20 percent of the Spanish state’s 2013 GDP of 1.04 trillion euros (¢1.17 trillion) and 25% of its exports.

And should the regions of the wider Paisos Catalans (“Catalan Countries), i.e Valencia, Balearic Islands, Rosello and Andorra, join Catalunya in independence, the Spanish state stands to lose 13% of its land mass and a huge part of its coastline and islands, along with 28% of its population.

 

THE SIGNS BLOWING IN THE WIND

It is not today or yesterday that this crisis began maturing – it’s been coming for a long time. The Spanish ruling class, for the most part, knows only one way to respond to pressure – and that’s to push back. If they can. And since they run the State ….

The much vaunted Transición after Franco was merely a change of clothes for the State and the ruling class. They hated the change but felt forced into it. First they had to legalise the hated social-democratic party, the PSOE and its trade unions, the Comisiones Obreras. Then they had to legalise the Partido Communista and their union, the UGT (over some objections, including that of the PSOE). But if those elements continued to oppose them, they couldn’t carry through their conjuring trick of becoming a “democracy”. So they ruling class legalised them and they were not let down by their new partners: collusion and collaboration was the order of the day, by both parties and their associated trade unions, right up to the present.

Then they had to gain the complicity of the local capitalist and middle classes of the imprisoned nations and in particular of the Basques and the Catalans. Regional autonomy was the obvious answer (and they took the precaution of splitting the southern Basque Country into two autonomous regions, under different political control) and, with the former opposition leaders of the PSOE and PCE batting for them, they passed the new Constitution with a majority (everywhere but in the Basque Country).

But enough! What is the matter with those Basques and Catalans? Will they never be happy to just be part of the “united, Christian and free” State? Apparently not. So no more concessions. Time to squeeze now, as their fathers mothers and grandfathers had done before them!

Last year they Spanish state tried to push the primacy of the Spanish language on to the Catalan education curriculum. Much of the Catalan political class and the teaching professions resisted – they already included Spanish as an official language along with Catalan (and Occitan and Catalan sign-language); what is it with those espaňolistas?

In 2015 the Catalans put together a right-left nationalist coalition for the elections, asking the electorate to vote on the issue of independence and, despite the opposition of the new Spanish populist party Podemos and the Izquierda Unida3, took 48% of the vote. In the Spanish State as a whole, the election results gave no party an overall majority and in fact resulted in the most fragmented results since 1977 during the Transición.

The 2016 elections made the PP the winners but without an overall majority (and later subject to corruption charges), saw a fall in the vote of the Podemos-Izquierda Unida vote and a crisis within the PSOE, which took the lowest vote of its existence. And the IMF demanded further austerity measures in the economy.

But Catalonia was simmering. After the 2015 elections, the financial services company JP Morgan predicted, in a research note following the vote, that the “conflict between Catalonia and the central government will not lose intensity. … In our view, a material offer to reframe the role of Catalonia within the national state … is needed to soften the rising radicalism in the pro-secession camp and restore the premises for a more constructive approach.”(see link below).

The ruling class in the Spanish state does not do “reframing” or “softening” very well. Unreformed and slightly-altered fascists who have corrupted their possible moderate partners4, they feel more at ease with the iron fist than the velvet glove.

Its threats and other measures cannot be carried out in time to prevent the referendum going ahead on October first. The town Mayors cannot be put on trial in time, much less convicted. The referendum site the State closed down has now shifted to a server outside the control of the Government. The Guardia Civil can disrupt the voting and seize ballot boxes but that will escalate the crisis even further, not to mention present a terrible picture of Spanish “democracy” to the world. The ballot box, after all, is the Holy Grail of the bourgeois democratic system.

 

BREAKUP OF THE SPANISH STATE?

The Spanish state has long been the one in Europe most vulnerable to fragmentation. It includes regions which are actually distinct nations, of which Catalunya is only one, with their separate cultures and languages.

Spanish State Regions Map

Regions/ nations of the Spanish state (image source: Internet). Note the northern band of possible independist nations from Galicia in the west to Catalonia in the east. Note also the Paisos Catalans regions taking up most of the western coast of the Peninsula from North to South. (Image source: Internet)

Euskal Herria, the Basque Country, has four provinces within the State’s borders and the native language is not even close to Castillian (Spanish) – in fact, unlike most others in Europe, it does not even belong to the Indo-European group of languages. A long struggle for independence has been taking place there too, with hundreds of political prisoners as a result serving time in jails across the the State. We can be sure that the Basques are watching developments in Catalunya with bated breath. The combined population of the two Basque autonomous regions exceed 2.83 million.

The nearly 1.5 million people of the Asturies region (Asturias in Castillian) consider themselves Celts and although their native vernacular is a Latin-based language, it is different from Castillian Spanish. More significant perhaps than the linguistic and musical difference with the “Spanish” is the history of resistance: their mining communities rose up against employers and the Spanish State during the early days of the Second Spanish Republic, the then Government of which sent General Franco to repress them (including shaving the hair of women supporters of the strike). In the Spanish Civil War the Asturians fought against the military-fascist uprising, rose up again in resistance against the victorious Franco regime and in very recent times fought against the closure of mines and miners’ unemployment.

Galicia is also a region of Celtic ancestry within the State with a well-developed traditional culture of music and dance and also has its own language, Gallego (56% speaking it as their first language) as well of course as Castillian. There is a movement for independence in Galicia which, although not major, is significant nevertheless and has its own trade union. The population is over 2,718,000.

Other regions with distinct languages and movements for independence from the Spanish state to one degree or another include Cantabria, Leon, Cadiz, Murcia, Andalucía and even Aragon and Castille, the two medieval kingdoms that led the defeat of the Moorish kingdom of El Andalus and went on to form the heart of the Kingdom of Spain. In addition, many of these regions or nations are contiguous to one another.

 

POSSIBLE EFFECTS ON EUROPE OUTSIDE THE SPANISH STATE

A rash of state break-ups followed the fall of the Soviet Union and it is not impossible that Catalonian independence could have a similar effect.

France:

A part of the Catalan nation is inside French territory, although it holds only 1% of the population of the French state. More seriously for the French state are the other nationalities which might also take into their heads to secede.

The three Basque provinces, for example, are connected by culture, ethnicity and to an extent ideology with the other four Basque provinces on the southern side of the Spanish border. Biarritz and Bayonne are the main towns and the total area of the three provinces is 2,869 km², with a low-density population of 295,970.

Brittany, with 4.23% of the total territory of the French state (excluding its colonies), is a Celtic nation within the state, with a national language of Breton (related to Welsh). The population of the nation is 4,550,400. Brest, Saint-Nazaire, Nant

The Langue D’Oc area has a population of 3,650,000 people (as of 1999 census), 52% of these in the Languedoc-Roussillon région, 35% in the Mid-Pyrénées région, 8% in the Rhone-Alpes région, and 5% in theAuvergne région. Although this area is no longer administered as a province, it has a historical and cultural (including linguistic) identity, with Toulouse widely recognised as its capital.

Then there is Corsica, speaking Corse and never entirely reconciled to being a part of France. The Mediterranean island is not strong economically nor large in population (330,000) but it does occupy a position of strategic importance between France and Italy and near both the larger islands of the Italian state.

What makes the scenario of a wide range of independence-seeking of nations within the French state more painful to contemplate for that State is that many of those nations are contiguous to one another, forming a wide swathe from east to west across the southern bart of the present state and taking in much of its seaboard on the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. It also potentially wipes out its border with the Spanish state, forcing all land traffic to pass through a number of other states before reaching either Spain or France.

Italy:

What we know today as Italy was a mass of provinces and city states that were united finally only in 1871 (some date it to 1918), after a period of many uprisings and wars. Already in Italy today there is a huge difference between the industrial north and the agricultural south with its unemployment and poverty, a difference so great that some have described the regions as two different countries.

And there is Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean, whose people have long thought of themselves as different to the rest of Italy and in particular the north. The population of Sicily is 5,048,553 (8.3% of the total of the Italian state), the majority of them speaking Siciliano, a separate language to Italian. Sicily also has a huge diaspora.

The second-largest Mediterranean island is Sardinia, where languages different to Italian are spoken and whose people have always considered themselves distinct from Italy. The population there is 1,650,003. a relatively low figure out of a total for the State of 60.5 million; nevertheless this island too is of strategic importance.

The United Kingdom cannot be left out of consideration either. Scotland already has its own Parliament and a somewhat different legal system to that of England & Wales but that has not totally satisfied Scottish nationalist aspirations. Other Celtic nations within the UK include Wales and Cornwall and of course the 6-County colony in Ireland, the scene of a 30-year war against British rule less than two decades ago.

Of course, the effects will not be felt only on European multi-nation states. An ongoing conflict with Catalunya, with the addition of perhaps other national struggles within the state, allied to internal struggles against evictions and austerity, in an atmosphere of financial scandals, could bring the state down. The Spanish State is an important NATO ally in terms of bases and strategic location. Even if it did not collapse, the instability arising out of a state of siege in two significant areas of the statewould be great and ripples – or perhaps giant waves — would reach throughout Europe.

 

WILL IT COME TO THAT?

No-one can answer that question for sure. The Spanish state is determined to prevent Catalonian independence and the majority Catalan political class have already gone beyond where many expected them to in resistance. They have stated that if the necessary majority votes “Sí” to independence, that they will move immediately to give effect to that decision. In addition, the political class for independence is acting with huge popular support and there are signs of independent popular mobilisation – the last time that happened on a major scale in Catalunya was during the 2nd Spanish Republic when there was popular socialist and anarchist workers’ uprising.

Cartoon by DB

If the people push the issue against Spanish intransigence, it is hard to see how it can end in any way but in armed conflict – street resistance against Spanish repression with tanks, soldiers and the paramilitary Guardia Civil. The Mossos d’Escuadra, the 16,800-plus repressive police under the Catalan autonomous region’s council, the Generalitat, might split. Urban and rural municipal Catalunyan police are likely to retire from the conflict or to side with the Catalan resistance.

The population of the rest of the Spanish state might then stand back and watch …. or uprisings could break out in other areas, including left-wing working class areas of Madrid suffering austerity and where the Spanish ruling parties are seen as corrupt and in league with the bankers against the people.

Could the rulers of the EU afford to stand back in such a scenario? Would their own populations allow them a free hand to intervene, or not?

We live in interesting times that might, contrary to the Chinese curse, have very beneficial outcomes.

 

end

 

 

SOURCES:

JP Morgan advice: https://www.cnbc.com/2015/10/05/catalonia-is-critical-contributor-to-spains-economy.html

Catalan economy and Spanish state debt: https://www.cnbc.com/2015/10/05/catalonia-is-critical-contributor-to-spains-economy.html

Video of giant Catalan demonstration in Barcelona by Le Figaro newspaper http://video.lefigaro.fr/figaro/video/mobilisation-massive-des-separatistes-catalans-a-barcelone/5572122761001/

Catalan referendum websiteref1oct.eu and ref1oct.cat

Private communication with Catalans

Also Wikipedia pages on the Basque Country and various regions/ nations of the Spanish, French and Italian states.

 

FOOTNOTES

1  Many Basques and Catalans will say that what they suffered was not a “civil war” but a Spanish fascist invasion.

2  Name of their regional parliament in Catalan.

3  A Communist Party-Trotskyist alliance, often fragmenting and shifting; it is generally despised by the rest of the Left within the State and by the pro-independence parties, the latter because the IU is always against national independence, calling instead for “the unity of the Spanish working class.”

4  It was the social-democratic PSOE government that ran the GAL assassination squads against the Basque pro-independence movement, carrying out operations of both sides of the French border. Carrillo, leader of the Communist Party who took it through the Transición, was expelled from his party after his collusion with Spanish fascists and coup plotters was exposed.

THREE STATE MURDERS IN DUBLIN CITY

Reprinted with permission from the Facebook site of Dublin Political History Tours 

ON THE 25th OF AUGUST 1922, THREE IRISH REPUBLICANS WERE ABDUCTED IN DUBLIN CITY BY IRISH FREE STATE FORCES AND MURDERED. AT LEAST ONE OF THEM WAS A TEENAGER.

EN EL 25 DE AGOSTO 1922, TRES REPUBLICANOS FUERON SECUESTRADOS EN LA CIUDAD DE DUBLIN POR FUERZAS DEL NUEVO “FREE STATE” Y ASESINADOS.  (miren de bajo para traducción del artículo al castellano) 

The signing of the Treaty offered by the British in 1921 after three years of Irish guerrilla war and civil disobedience against British repression and its terror campaign, not only partitioned the country but split the alliance of forces that had constituted the Republican movement until that point (quite a few were, in truth, more nationalist than Republican).

A majority of the elected parliamentary representatives voted to accept the Treaty terms. However a majority of the male fighters rejected it, as did almost unanimously the Republican women’s auxiliary organisation Cumann na mBan and the Republican youth organisation, na Fianna Éireann. The remnants of the Irish Citizen Army, male and female, were likewise mostly opposed to it.

In 1922 civil war broke out after the IRA firstly occupied and fortified the Four Courts buildings and secondly after Michael Collins ordered the artillery bombardment of those and other buildings in the Dublin city centre occupied by the Republicans.

Oriel House

Oriel House (photo taken in the past), HQ of the Free State police and of the CID; torture was carried out here and murder gangs went from here to executed Republicans.

Both sides of course shot soldiers on the other side but the Free State Forces soon became known for atrocities, including the shooting of unarmed prisoners and instituting a reign of terror in some areas under their control. The State also carried out martial law executions of captured Volunteers (83 over less than 12 months). Free State forces, in particular the Criminal Investigations Department of the police force and some Army units also became known for abductions of people and their subsequent torture and murder. The activities of the CID based in Oriel House in Westland Row soon made the building a feared one.

Sean Cole & Alfred Colley murdered 1923

Bodies of the murdered Fianna Éireann officers, laid out for honouring prior to funeral. (Source: Internet)

THE THREE MURDERS

On the 25th August Alfie (Leo) Colley (19 or 21 according to different reports), Parnell Street, and Sean Cole (17 or 18 according to different reports), Buckingham Street, two streets in the north Dublin city centre, were picked up at Newcomen Bridge (one report has Annesley Bridge), North Strand on their way home from a meeting of officers at Marino. Colley was a tinsmith and Cole was an electrician and they were also two of the most senior officers in the Dublin Brigade of Na Fianna Éireann.

According to a statement by an eyewitness, their abductors were wearing trench coats over Free State Army officers’ uniforms (this was reproduced in a cartoon drawn by Constance Markievicz and widely distributed). Other witnesses saw them being shot dead at ‘The Thatch’, Puck’s Lane, (now Yellow Road), Whitehall, Dublin. The Irish Independent reported the murders but mentioned only the trench coats, without reference to Free State Army uniforms under them, which could leave readers to form the impression that the killers were IRA.

Apparently it was an opinion of many at the time was that their killing were a reprisal for the killing of Michael Collins earlier that week in Cork (despite General Mulcahy’s call for no acts of revenge to be taken).

Markievicz Cartoon Murder Gang Cole & Colley

Cartoon by Constance Markievicz depicting the State murder gang of Volunteers Cole and Colley. (Source: Come Here To Me blog)

On the same day, Volunteer Bernard Daly, a lieutenant in the IRA and commanding officer of Z Company, Dublin Brigade, was taken by armed men in plain clothes from Hogan’s pub (now O’Neill’s), where he was employed at Suffolk Street in the south city centre. His body was found later that day in a ditch on the Malahide Road, Belcamp with three bullet wounds to the chest and two the head. The Independent reported that the men coming for him told another barman that they had a warrant for Daly’s arrest, pointed a gun at him and threatened to shoot him if he obstructed them in any way. They took Daly to the cellar, searched him and then forced him to their car across the road.

The Independent also reported that Daly was a native of Old Hill, Drogheda; although he had relatives there and was engaged to be married to local girl there too, it seems he actually came from Carrikaldrene, Mullaghbawn, Co. Armagh. He had been active in the War of Independence, had been captured, tortured and jailed for over a year by the British – but it was the Irish Free State that murdered him.

 

Links for sources and more information/ enlaces para mas información:

https://comeheretome.com/2016/11/21/colley-cole-and-murder-at-yellow-road/

http://www.independent.ie/regionals/droghedaindependent/lifestyle/drogheda-man-is-one-of-three-shot-27162379.html

http://www.anphoblacht.com/contents/15707

TRADUCCIÓN AL CASTELLANO

La firma del Tratado ofrecido por los británicos en el 1921 después de tres años de guerra guerrillera irlandesa y desobediencia civil contra la represión británica y su campaña de terror, no sólo dividió el país, sino que dividió la alianza de fuerzas que había constituido el movimiento republicano hasta ese momento. (Bastantes fueron, en verdad, más nacionalistas que republicanos).

La mayoría de los representantes parlamentarios electos votaron a favor de aceptar los términos del Tratado. Sin embargo, la mayoría de los combatientes hombres la rechazaron, al igual que casi unánimemente la organización de mujeres auxiliares republicanas Cumann na mBan y la organización republicana de la juventud, na Fianna Éireann. Los restos del Ejército Ciudadano Irlandes, entre hombres y mujeres, también se oponían en su mayor parte.

En 1922 la guerra civil estalló después de que el IRA primero ocupó y fortificó los edificios de los Cuatro Tribunales en Dublín y en segundo lugar cuando Michael Collins ordenó el bombardeo por artillería de ésos y de otros edificios ocupados por los republicanos en el centro de la ciudad.

Ambos bandos, por supuesto, dispararon contra soldados en el otro lado, pero las Fuerzas del Estado Libre pronto se hicieron conocidas por atrocidades, incluyendo el tiroteo de prisioneros desarmados e instituyendo un reinado de terror en algunas áreas bajo su control. También llevaron a cabo ejecuciones de la ley marcial de Voluntarios capturados (83 en menos de 12 meses). Las fuerzas del Estado Libre, en particular el Departamento de Investigaciones Criminales de la policía y algunas unidades del Ejército también se conocieron por secuestros de personas y su posterior tortura y asesinato. Las actividades de la CID con sede en Oriel House en Westland Row pronto hizo el edificio uno para dar temor.

 

LOS TRES ASESINATOS

El 25 de agosto fueron recogidos Alfie (Leo) Colley (19 o 21 anos de acuerdo a informes diferentes), de Parnell Street, y Sean Cole (17 o 18 según informes diferentes), de Buckingham Street, dos calles en el centro norte de la ciudad de Dublín, en Newcomen Bridge (un informe tiene Annesley Bridge), North Strand en su camino a casa de una reunión de oficiales en Marino. Colley era un hojalatero y Cole era electricista y también eran dos de los oficiales más altos de la Brigada de Dublín de Na Fianna Éireann.

Según una declaración de un testigo ocular, sus secuestradores llevaban abrigos sobre los uniformes de oficiales del Ejército del Estado Libre (esto fue reproducido en un dibujo hecho por Constance Markievicz y ampliamente distribuido). Otros testigos vieron que fueron muertos a tiros cerca de la taberna “The Thatch“, Puck’s Lane, (ahora Yellow Road), Whitehall, Dublín. El periódico Irish Independent informó de los asesinatos y sobre los abrigos de trinchera lo que podría dejar a los lectores a dar la impresión de que los asesinos eran del IRA, pero no mencionó los uniformes del Ejército del Estado Libre de bajo de los abrigos.

Aparentemente, la opinión de muchos era que sus asesinatos eran una represalia por la muerte de Michael Collins a principios de esa semana en Cork (a pesar del pedido del General Mulcahy de que no se tomaran actos de venganza).  Pero los secuestros y asesinatos continuaron, incluso para unos meses después del fin de la Guerra.

El mismo día del secuestro de los voluntarios Cole y Colley, el voluntario Bernard Daly, un teniente en el IRA y comandante de la Compañía Z, Brigada de Dublín, fue llevado por hombres armados vestidos de paisano de Hogan’s pub (ahora O’Neill’s), donde trabajaba en Suffolk Street en el centro sur de la ciudad. Su cuerpo fue encontrado más tarde ese día en una zanja en el Malahide Road, Belcamp con tres heridas de bala en el pecho y dos en la cabeza. El periódico The Irish Independent informó que los hombres que iban a por él le dijeron a otro asistente del bar que tenían una orden de arresto de Daly, le apuntaron con una pistola y amenazaron con dispararle si lo obstruía de alguna manera. Llevaron a Daly al sótano, lo registraron y lo obligaron a ir a su auto al otro lado de la carretera.

El Independent también informó que Daly era un nativo de Old Hill, Drogheda, pero aunque tenía parientes allí y estaba comprometido para casarse con una chica local allí también, parece que realmente vino de Carrikaldrene, Mullaghbawn, Co. Armagh. Había sido activo en la Guerra de la Independencia, había sido capturado, torturado y encarcelado por más de un año por los británicos, pero fue el Estado Libre Irlandés quien lo asesinó.

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

Diarmuid Breatnach

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

Painting said to be depicting French landing at Kilalla

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

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

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

Portrait of General Jean Joseph Amable Humbert

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

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

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

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

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

 

End

 

 

ARE THE LEFT IN IRELAND DIVORCED FROM REPUBLICANISM?

Clive Sulish

A DEBATE to discuss the above question at the Teachers’ Club, Dublin, was organised by the United Ireland Association with Tommy McKearney and Clare Daly being the debaters on June 16th.

Tommy McKearney
(Photo: Wikipedia)

Tommy McKearney is a long-time Republican, formerly of the Provisional IRA, 1980

Clare Daly
(Photo source: Internet)

Hunger-Striker and ex-Republican prisoner.  He was, along with Anthony McIntyre, a founder of the Republican Writers’ Group which, while not advocating armed struggle, was critical of the Good Friday Agreement, of Provisional IRA and in particular of Sinn Féin. He is currently an Organiser for the Independent Workers’ Union.

Clare Daly is a long-time Socialist, a former trade union shop stewart and has been a Teachta Dála (member of the Irish parliament) since 2011, formerly as a member of the Socialist Party and now a Left Alliance TD.  She has visited Republican prisoners and raised issues about their treatment in court and in jail. Daly was also arrested for trespass at Shannon Airport, along with fellow-TD and partner Mick Wallace, protesting against the use of the airport by US military flights and for transporting of political prisoners of the US military to jails in various parts of the world.

TOMMY MC KEARNEY

Tommy McKearney spoke first and stated that there was an issue of defining Republicanism and that sometimes what was meant was the anti-monarchic Republicanism of France or the United Stated but he was going to discuss it in terms of a specific Irish-based ideology, i.e Irish Republicanism.

Mentioning a number of Left-Irish Republicans such as Fintan Lawlor and Wolfe Tone’s famous quotation about relying on the “men of no property”, Tommy developed a line of reasoning that sought to say that there was not a huge difference between Irish Republicanism and socialism and drew attention to the fact that James Connolly had founded a party by the title of the Irish Socialist Republican Party.

Going on to talk about the objective of Irish Republicans, Tommy stated that not only is a republic desirable for Ireland – it is necessary. Only a Republic that is based upon socialist principles can resolve the economic and political problems facing Ireland today on both sides of the colonial Border.

Referring to the British election results in the Six Counties, Tommy commented on the 238,915 votes and seven seats for Sinn Féin – an increase of 14,670 votes – and the rise of almost 67,000 votes for the DUP with their ten seats. Sinn Féin had been pushing a peace process which was not about peace but about normalisation; their claim to intend to bridge the sectarian divide was empty and the voting lines were drawn up along sectarian lines at least as deeply as before.

Tommy also speculated that the amount of votes cast for Sinn Féin, on a platform of refusing to take their seats in Westminster showed, among other things, the amount of people in the Six Counties who did not care to be represented in a British Parliament and presumably would want representation in a united Irish Republic. He called for an alliance of Left Republicans and Irish socialists and recalled that James Connolly had founded, as well as the Labour Party, the Irish Socialist Republican Party.

CLARE DALY

Clare was next and she in turn highlighted the difficult issue of defining the Left – did it mean the parties that defined themselves as Left, did it include the Labour Party – some would say yes, others no. For Clare it is not issue of the names we give parties or activists but of what we stand for. Clare said she stands for a socialist country and in that sense for a Republic.

Addressing the question for debate, Clare owned that maybe socialists had neglected the national question — maybe they had been put off by images of balaclavas and guns — but it could equally be said that Republicans had for decades neglected social questions such as women’s reproductive rights, women’s rights in general, gay rights …. However, in more recent times, Republicans were seen actively supporting those rights.

Over recent years, Clare said, we had seen the gains our parents fought for in terms of trade union rights and local authority and state services lost or undermined.

Clare said she saw herself as a citizen of the world but as she lived in Ireland that she stood for a Republic that was organised along socialist lines and gave equal rights to all. The real question, Clare stated, is how we are to achieve that and pointed to the swing to the Left in Britain with Jeremy Corbyn’s party receiving a big increase in votes, despite media hostility and predictions of failure. The Conservative Party could only rule now with the support of the DUP’s 10 Mps. Clare said that opportunities of a Left Front existed in Ireland too as was seen by the Right to Water mass marches with broad political party and some major trade union support.

 

CONTRIBUTIONS FROM THE AUDIENCE, RESPONSES FROM THE PANEL

Included in contributions from the audience were the following:

  • Sinn Féin had seven MPs to the DUP’s 10 and should consider abandoning their abstentionism and go to Westminster to assist Corbyn in voting legislation

  • While the Labour Party in Britain had moved to the Left, Sinn Féin in Ireland had moved to the right

  • Good debate from two good speakers but also two who had put themselves out there for what they believed – Tommy McKearney in armed struggle in the past and hard prison struggle and Clare Daly in protesting US military use of Shannon Airport and also visiting Republican prisoners in jail, along with a few other Tds.

  • We need more debates like these and also to focus on Republicans with regard to where they stood with regard to socialism.

  • The Irish Left as a whole has divorced itself from Irish Republicanism, probably in fear of being associated with nationalism and/ or armed struggle. In doing so, it has walked away from continual violation of human rights, e.g of Republican prisoners in the jails and of civil rights, the right to political dissent of Republican activists on both sides of the Border.

  • The Irish Left has neglected to confront British Imperialism and left the Republicans to confront the various visits of the British Queen and the recent one of Prince Philip, when major roads were shut and even civilians impeded in going about their business or even going to their local shops or to visit their relatives’ graves in Glasnevin and a megaphone wrested by an undercover policeman backed up by a riot squad from the hands of a person about to speak to a protest demonstration.

  • Republicans are socialists and to pose the two as different categories was ridiculous.

  • There should be a broad Left front in Ireland including the trade unions and Sinn Féin.

Among the responses from the panel were that people were hung up on condemning Sinn Féin and should welcome them into a broad Left mass movement on the model of the Right to Water and Right to change campaigns (this from Tommy McKearney)

The socialists might not have done very well opposing British imperialism but had opposed US imperialism, which is one of the imperialist powers in operation in Ireland (this from Clare Daly) and a major one in the world.

 

COMMENT

The contributor who said that “Republicans are socialists” seemed unaware that historically at least this certainly was not so. Seán Mac Diarmada, the Irish Republican executed on the same day as the socialist James Connolly, had been on record as saying that no-one should support socialism. During the War of Independence, some IRA units took actions to support landless labourers and poor farmers but others took action to repress these in favour of big farmers.

The IRA had a ban on Communists through the 1930s probably up to the 1960s. Sean South, prominent Limerick IRA Volunteer killed in the Bessborough RUC Barracks attack in 1957, was a conservative Catholic, anti-Communist member of the Knights of Columbanus and of An Réalt (Irish-speaking section of the Legion of Mary).

The broad Left front being advocated by a number of people seems to be a reformist social-democratic one and, while there is nothing necessarily counter-revolutionary about fighting for reforms, clarity is needed about whether what they are advocating is a social-democratic program or fighting for some reforms while at the same time openly organising with a revolution in mind.

Clare Daly has certainly fought hard against US Imperialism but others on the Left much less so. The mobilisation against Hillary Clinton’s visit to Dublin was not great and gave up in the face of police opposition before they even reached City Hall and there was no mobilisation at all against Obama’s visit to Dublin in May 2011 and it remains to be seen how much there will be if he comes this year, as he has reportedly promised to do. But the question of oppposing British imperialism is a crucial one since a) it is the main imperialist-colonial power at work in Ireland and b) because it is the main prop of US Imperialism in Europe and in the UN.

There would seem to be fertile ground for debate on the historical and current differences between Irish Socialists and Irish Republicans, as well as for discussing possible joint action and one hopes for many more debates and discussions of this nature with a broad attendance.

End.

THE MOORE STREET HISTORIC QUARTER – REALITY AND WISHFUL THINKING.

Diarmuid Breatnach

It has been said by some people prominent in the broad Moore Street campaign that the Minister for Heritage has declared her support for the Report of her Consultative Group on Moore Street and its recommendations. A number of other campaigners have said this is not so and I am one of those (NB: there are a number of campaign groups in this struggle). 

For saying that, I have been criticised as “rocking the boat” and “spreading inaccuracies” or even “generating conspiracy theories” and also personally verbally attacked in public and on social media by name and by inference. The reputation for integrity of a political and social activist is very important to her or to him and so these allegations are of course hurtful. But there is much more at stake than my feelings or even my reputation or that of a few other activists – there is indeed the struggle for the Moore Street historical quarter itself. For a successful conclusion of this long struggle, the direction taken is crucially important.

(For those who may be unfamiliar with the background or have lost track of some of the major developments, a very brief background is given in an Appendix below).

THE MINISTER’S CONSULTATIVE GROUP AND ITS REPORT

In June 2016, the Minister set up her Consultative Group on Moore Street to which she invited a range of political party representatives (and one Independent) elected to the Dáil, a number of Dublin City councillors and representatives of two campaigning groups. The list excluded the first campaign group to raise the Moore Street conservation issue along with the most active campaign groups of recent years and also included no historians.

Though it did not publicly call for them, the Consultative Group accepted submissions in writing and a number of campaigns and individuals made presentations in person (the 35 submissions are available on the Department’s website under Minister’s Consultative Group on Moore Street – see link at end).

Two members of SMSFD campaign presenting petition sheets with around 70,000 signatures to some members of the Minister’s Consultative Group at City Hall in March 2017.

On the 29th of March, the report of the Consultative Group was launched.

Should the Minister accept the Recommendations of the Report in full, then there are a number of recommendations which we should celebrate (and indeed some of us proposed many of them in submissions to the Consultative Group itself) and for which we should seek implementation. But there are also some very harmful ones which we should repudiate.

However, if the Minister has not accepted the Recommendations, then nothing has been won by the Consultative Group, even on paper, despite the many submissions and delegations it has received and the meetings and discussions of its members. This would obviously be a distressing revelation to some of those who were part of that Group. And we can expect even less from the next one the Minister has set up, the Advisory Group.

But, let us return to the question: Did the Minister or did she not accept the Recommendations of the Report? Let us examine the available evidence.

THE MINISTER’S ACTUAL WORDS

On the 29th of March 2017, the following statement was issued by the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht affairs:

The Moore Street Report – Securing History’ is presented to Minister Humphreys by the Moore Street Consultative Group

The Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys TD, has today (Wednesday) received a copy of the report compiled by the Moore Consultative Group, which she established last year. The Minister announced the establishment of the group in June 2016, as a means to make positive progress in relation to the future of Moore Street.

I set up the Moore Street Consultative Group, which includes political representatives, relatives and other stakeholders, in a bid to bring together the range of views on Moore Street and seek a positive way forward. Since then, the Group, chaired by Gerry Kearney, has carried out a body of work which has resulted in the report they are publishing today.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of the members of the Group for their dedication and commitment in completing this work in such a short timeframe. The time and effort which went into this report is greatly appreciated.

I welcome the fact that the report is seeking a way forward based on consensus. I believe that the recommendations in the Report can help find a way to breathe new life into the Moore Street area, while at the same time retaining its sense of history and enhancing its traditional street market.

The Report signals the potential of a negotiated outcome, balancing the perspectives of the key stakeholders. I am fully supportive of this constructive approach and I want to see the work of the Group being built upon, so we can progress to the next stage.  I will therefore be recommending to Government the establishment of a new Advisory Group as recommended in the Report to advance that process.”

(end quotation)

A little over a month later, on the 2nd May 2017, Éamonn Ó Cuív (Fianna Fáil) asked a question of the Minister in the Dáil and followed with a supplementary one:

National Monuments

 43. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív   asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs   if she has considered the report of a group (details supplied) issued in March 2017; her plans to implement the recommendations in the report; the progress made to date in doing so; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20440/17]

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív:   As the Minister knows, the Moore Street report was published in March and a timeline was set out with the hope that a decision would be recommended in six weeks, as the matter has dragged on for years. Has the Minister brought this to the Cabinet and have we a decision? Will she set up the advisory group that has been recommended in the report so we can move to the next phase? I am afraid we will lose the good momentum built up in the past six months towards progressing the Moore Street project to a suitable resolution.

Deputy Heather Humphreys:   I agree with the Deputy that good momentum has been built up and I put on record my sincere appreciation to the members of the group referred to by the Deputy for the report they recently presented to me. The group, which was independently chaired by a former departmental Secretary General, included local and Oireachtas political representatives, 1916 relatives, street traders and other stakeholders. It was set up in a bid to bring together the full range of views on the matter and it held its inaugural meeting in September 2016. In the mean time, it has reviewed numerous presentations and submissions from a range of interests, looked at a variety of official and other reports, interviewed relevant public officials and other experts and examined a large body of work from within its own membership, as the Deputy knows. This extensive programme of work has culminated in the series of recommendations contained in the report that was presented to me in the last few weeks and that is now being examined in my Department.

I welcome the fact the report is seeking a way forward based on consensus. Its recommendations can help breathe new life into the area while retaining its sense of history and tradition. In addition to its particular association with the 1916 Rising, there are other relevant aspects of the street and surrounding area that also need to be taken into account, including the range of State, public and private property holdings and ownership and, of course, the presence of the street traders themselves, who do so much to give the area its unique ambience and place in the life of our capital city. The report has looked carefully at all these elements and I am delighted that it signals the potential for a mutually successful outcome to be agreed between the relevant parties, balancing the perspectives of all the key stakeholders. I am fully supportive of this collaborative approach and I want to see the work already done being continued so we can progress to the next stage and see tangible results on the ground. Critical to this will be the establishment of the new advisory group that the report itself identifies as the most effective way to move forward with its recommendations. I will be proceeding with the setting up of this group as quickly as possible to build on the positive and constructive foundations set out in this report.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív:   As happens so often, the Minister gave me much information that I already have, as I was part of all those discussions and on the forum referred to. As she pointed out, we had a very experienced chairman and in his work he was very diligent in advising us against things that could not be done. However, the report very clearly states that the establishment of the advisory oversight group should happen within six weeks. As the Minister knows, this was because a consensus was built through a huge amount of work. People believed they had put together a map to bring us forward. There are two questions that still have not been answered. When will the advisory group be set up or will it be set up? Has the Government considered this report and made any decision on the recommendations of the report? All of them must be implemented but some need very urgent attention, including, for example, those relating to street traders.

Deputy Heather Humphreys:   The appointment of a chairman for the new advisory group is the next step in the process and I hope to see that person appointed, with the group beginning its work, as soon as possible. I am very much aware the chairman of the previous consultative group worked in a particularly effective way with all the parties and his efforts were key to the achievement of the agreed outcome to the group’s deliberations as set out in the report. The next stage is equally crucial and the new chairman will have just as vital a role to play. I am looking at possible candidates and hope to make the appointment as soon as possible. The report envisaged this process taking six weeks and we are still well within that timeframe. The new advisory group will be drawn from among the existing membership of the outgoing Moore Street consultative group. I understand it had 27 members and it is envisaged that the new body, while being equally representative across the same spectrum of interests, will be somewhat smaller.


THE REALITY

People reading the text of the Minister’s statements and replies will search in vain for anywhere she says that she actually accepts the Report and its Recommendations. In fact, one can see that while in politician-speak she talks around it, she studiously avoids saying that, confining herself to praise for the Group and its Chair and to the spirit of consensus. And well she might praise the consensus, because despite the public positions of many of the Consultative Group prior to their being chosen by the Minister and which some may still hold, and despite the calls from a number of campaigners and other stakeholders in their submissions, the Group did not call on the Minister to abandon her appeal against the High Court judgement (i.e that the Moore Street historic quarter is “a National 1916 Historical Monument” — more on this below).

Also, the Minister and the Report both accept the speculators as “stakeholders” and the Report calls for the future to be decided in negotiations between those “stakeholders” and the two elements who have all along been facilitating them: Dublin City Council’s Planning Department and the Department of Heritage!

Those who have been repeating the erroneous line that “the Minister has accepted the Report” argue that a) she set up the Group and/or b) she has proceeded to the second stage, setting up the Advisory Group and therefore must accept its Report. Or b) even that an Irish Times news report carried a headline saying that she supported it and that the Minister did not deny the headline!

The best that can be said for that reasoning is that those are their interpretations but her statements quoted above do not support those interpretations. Nor do they refute them, it is true. But surely if the Minister did actually support the Recommendations, she would have unequivocally and specifically said so?

DANGEROUS RECOMMENDATIONS AMID WELCOME ONES

As noted earlier, the Recommendations contain some positive elements, including keeping the “footprint” of the main remaining Moore Street 1916 quarter intact, i.e the block enclosed by Henry Place, Moore Street, O’Rahilly Parade and Moore Lane, along with the lanes themselves and the street. They also include a number of recommendations for long-overdue improvements to the hard lot of the Moore Street street traders (but not the small business shops), both in terms of provision of facilities and in terms of their trading license restrictions.

But to leave the future of the historic quarter to negotiations between the three historic villains of the saga, the property speculators, the Planning Department and the Department of Heritage, as laid out in the Main Recommendations, 7, 8, 9 and 12 (pp. 6-7)) and in Chapter 10, Conclusions and Recommendations (pp.36-37) 10.3 and 10.4 is surely not what we should be doing.

A number of times in the Report the State is claimed to be “the ultimate custodian of our history, culture and heritage”. Whatever one might think of the desirability of such a state of affairs, such an evaluation of the role of the State is patently untrue as even a glance over the history of this state will demonstrate. It is untrue about historical and archaeological sites, the Irish language, Irish traditional music, Irish dance and Gaelic games.

The State has failed to defend a great many sites of historical, archaeological and architectural importance from property speculators and other financial interests, was about to demolish houses in Moore Street and one of its Government Ministers is currently appealing a judgement that the whole Quarter is a “National Historical Monument”. The main Irish-language promotional and defence organisations were set up as voluntary bodies though some now receive some low State funding and most of the activity is by unpaid activists.  Neither the Minister of the responsible department nor her Ministerial appointments to the Gaeltacht desk have been competent Irish speakers and some years ago the Ombudsman for the Irish Language resigned in protest at inaction and obstruction from within the state apparatus. The national Irish-language TV channel (TG4) and radio station (Radió na Gaeltachta) were won by people campaigning against the State, in which activists were fined and threatened with jail (one campaigner did go to jail to defend his right to motor insurance documentation in Irish). Likewise bodies promoting Irish traditional music and song were voluntary to begin with and although Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann now receives State funding, most enthusiasts and practitioners, whether within or without Comhaltas, are doing so either in a voluntary or private professional capacity. That is also true of Irish traditional dancing, both social and performance.  Gaelic Games are also largely a voluntary activity with minimal state support overall.

The “ultimate custodians of our history, culture and heritage” are the PEOPLE! And it is to the people that we should look to defend these aspects of our identity. It is they who must be represented in the decision-making and stewardship of this national historical monument, and all other bodies subservient to them. Setting up such a representative, inclusive and transparent management committee for the project will not be easy but is surely worth the effort, rather than handing it over to the main villains, whom campaigners have been fighting – on this site alone – for a decade-and-a-half!

THE MINISTER, THE LITIGANT AND COURT CASES

Without going into too much detail, an individual by the name of Colm Moore in 2015 initiated a High Court case against the Minister of Heritage on a number of issues, all to do with her plans and actions with regard to the Moore Street quarter. In January 2016, during an occupation by protesters of the site to prevent the Minister’s contractors from demolishing three houses in the terrace, Colm Moore obtained a temporary injunction against any demolition until judgement had been reached in his case.

The property speculator involved attached himself to the case as a respondent (i.e as a “defendant”). The Minister’s legal team and her Department’s officers defended all her actions, denied that the site was a battlefield (“all Dublin was a battlefield”) and denied the importance of any buildings except Nos.14-17 Moore Street (even of No.10, which was the site of the first transferred HQ of the GPO Garrison and of the 1916 Rising and of the emergency insurgent hospital dealing with nearly a score of wounded including a rescued British soldier).

On March 18th 2016, the High Court Judge found against the Minister and speculator on all grounds and ruled that the whole quarter is a 1916 battlefield and a historic national monument. The Minister said that she was considering appealing, asked for more time, then more time again and finally confirmed that she would indeed appeal the judgement, with the support of the full Cabinet. Contrary to interpretations of her reasoning and to a reply Enda Kenny gave on her behalf to Gerry Adams TD (Sinn Féin) last year, she has entered an appeal against all parts of the judgement, 250 pages – far from the “clarification on some points of law” reason for the appeal which some people have claimed (and which a speaker was still claiming at a public meeting as recently as 22nd of May this year).

Some people have said that the Consultative Group’s Report, while nowhere suggesting the Minister should drop her appeal of the historic judgement, instead suggests the litigant, Colm Moore, should drop his defence of the case. I am one of those people. We have been called liars, troublemakers, conspiracy theorists and accused of making inaccurate statements.

Again, let us examine the actual text (extract from 10.1 New Beginnings (p.34):

In the event of consensus being secured on an agreed way forward for the development through dialogue by the Advisory/Oversight Group with the developer, and agreed to by the Applicant and the State, the Group is strongly of the view that payment of legal costs, incurred by the Applicant’s legal team, by the State is warranted and appropriate. The Group has reached this conclusion after considerable reflection and having regard to the widely acknowledged public interest which informed the taking of the case and the savings which would accrue to the State by settlement through such a process. (end quotation)

I agree that the section does not actually say Mr. Moore should drop the appeal but I do think that it is a nuanced call for him to do so and offers an inducement to him and more particularly to his legal team. To me, the subtext to this reads something like this:

Listen lads, we know you put a lot of work into this and the legal team in particular have had to turn away some lucrative work while they concentrated on this case. And we know they haven’t yet received a penny for doing so. So, you settle the case on terms the State can agree with and we guarantee the legal team get paid and your litigant can walk away. Millions in the legal team’s bank accounts now or years in court with no guaranteed win – which is to be, lads?”

It is not only an inducement to settle but a possible seeking to cause a split between the litigant and his team. The litigant is taking the case presumably because of historical and possibly political (in the broad sense) motivation but one cannot expect that motivation of the legal team.

The latest news on the legal case is that Minister asked for time to consider skipping over the Appeal Court and taking it straight to the Supreme Court. Normally such an extension is for six weeks but the Minister has exceeded that and no limit was set – although clearly she will have to declare definitely at some point to which court she is taking her appeal. In the event of it being the Supreme Court, my information is that we could well see the end of 2019 before it reaches there. And meanwhile the buildings and laneways deteriorate and no substantial work of a construction nature can be undertaken to improve facilities for the market traders.

ROCKING THE BOAT

(Source image: Internet)

When a boat is being steered in a bad direction it is perfectly justifiable for those crew who become aware of this to rock the boat, to bring their concern home to the other members of the crew. Should this fail to yield a change of direction, it becomes time to inform the passengers. If danger appears, it is not a time for discreet nudges and whispers but for speaking clearly and loudly, that all may have an opportunity to bring the boat back on a safe and productive course.

 

End item

APPENDIX

VERY BRIEF BACKGROUND IN BULLET POINTS

  • Moore Street is the last remaining street of a centuries-old street market quarter (the rest is buried under the ILAC shopping centre).

  • On Friday of Easter week 1916, with the GPO in flames, the insurgent garrison evacuated, most of it through Henry Place eventually to Moore Street, some participants being killed along the way. On reaching Moore Street, they occupied a number of houses and in particular No.10, then tunneling through the walls throughout the night, to occupy the whole 16 houses of the terrace by Saturday.

  • On the Saturday, the decision was taken to surrender and instructions to that effect were sent out to the other garrisons. Among the 14 taken prisoner and later shot by firing squad in Dublin, six were from the Moore St/ GPO garrison, including five of the seven signatories of the 1916 Proclamation.

  • In 1966, the 50th anniversary of the Rising, the National Graves Association, a voluntary non-state-funded organisation, placed a plaque on No.16, the first formal mark of recognition of the events there.

  • Around 2001 a campaign was started to have a building in Moore Street as a national monument; this later expanded to cover the whole terrace Nos.10-25, back yards, and surrounding street and laneways.

  • In 2007 the State decreed Nos.14-17 to be of historical importance and in need of preservation; the Planning Department and Government between them approved the speculator’s plan for a huge shopping centre with the four buildings being a tiny museum inside the shopping mall campaigners; the 1916 Relatives campaign on Moore Street split, one James Connolly relative favouring the speculator’s plan and another against; the State offered the speculator €5 million for renovation work on the buildings.

  • In September 2014 the speculator proposed to hand over the four buildings to Dublin City Council in exchange for two the Council owns at the end of the terrace, which would have enabled him to demolish half the buildings in the terrace. The Save Moore Street From Demolition campaign group was formed specifically to defeat the land swap proposal (which had the support of the Chief and Deputy Chief Executives of Dublin City Council) and began a petition on Moore Street every Saturday. The proposal was defeated by majority vote of councillors in November 2014.

  • In July 2015 the State purchased Nos.14-17 from the speculator at a total price of €4 million. An individual, Colm Moore, took three cases against the Minister of Heritage with regard to Moore Street.

  • In January 2016 the State was about to demolish three buildings in the terrace. The SMSFD group convened two emergency demonstrations in the street. The site was occupied by protesters for five days and subsequently blockaded for five weeks by a new group that grew out of the occupation, the Save Moore Street 2016 campaign group.

  • On March 18th the High Court Judge ruled against the Minister and the speculator and ruled that the whole quarter, including streets and laneways, is a historic 1916 National Monument.

  • In July 2016, after much delay, the Minister put in an appeal against the High Court judgement – the appeal has still to be heard.

Links:

Minister’s Consultative Group Report: http://www.ahrrga.gov.ie/app/uploads/2017/03/moore-st-report-final-version-1.pdf

Save Moore Street From Demolition FB pages: https://www.facebook.com/save.moore.st.from.demolition/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/757869557584223/

Save Moore Street 2016 FB page: https://www.facebook.com/SaveMooreStreet2016/