PUIGDEMONT IN DUBLIN DEBATE: INDEPENDENCE, NATIONALISM AND DEMOCRACY

Diarmuid Breatnach

Section of audience queuing to enter the auditorium

A debate on the above theme was organised in Trinity College for the 29th January and advertised at less than a week’s notice, which however gave rise to such interest that the venue had to be changed from the 160-seat Robert Emmett Theatre to the Edmund Burke and people were turned away after the 406 seats had been filled.

          Trinity College is a prestige university in Dublin and in the world generally, though its history in Dublin was for centuries of a religious sectarian and colonialist nature, founded as it was by Elizabeth I to ensure the education of the male children of English colonists in what she considered the ‘true faith’ of Anglicanism (which was and is still the State religion of England and of which the English monarch is Head). Its location too is very central to the city, being just across the Liffey on the south side and in 1916 served as a Headquarters for the British suppression of the Rising.

Section of audience waiting to back left of the auditorium in Trinity College, Dublin (Photo: D.Breatnach)

View of audience to the left and front of the auditorium. 
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

View of audience to the rear of the auditorium. 
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

View of section of audience to the right of the auditorium. 
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

 

Huge human rights solidarity banner unfurled in the auditorium for photo but not while the debate was in session. 
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Puigdemont had been invited to take part in a debate on Independence, Nationalism and Democracy by TRISS, the Trinity Research in Social Sciences department, whose MC for the evening was clearly taken aback by the numbers who had pre-booked tickets and most of whom queued for half an hour outside the lecture theatre – and some for even longer waiting to get in.

A quick photo opportunity for some supporters of Catalan (and Basque) independence outside the Trinity College’s main gate before entering to hear the debate on “Nationalism, Independence and Democracy”.
(Photo: Marina Dolcet)

Members and supporters of the campaign group With Catalonia/ Leis an Chatalóin, Comite de Defensa de la República and the cultural organisation Casal Catalá de Irlanda were there of course but so were a great many others; mostly Catalans with some Irish and people from other countries sprinkled among them and including some from elsewhere in the Spanish state. The overall feeling was clear when, as soon as Puigdemont was spotted entering the auditorium from a side entrance, along with other participants, he was applauded in what turned out to be a mostly standing ovation.

The MC or chairperson, Gail McElroy, Professor in Political Science and Head of the School of Social Sciences and Philosophy, made a special plea for good behaviour from the audience and also revealed that she had experienced some trepidation in preparation for the event. These expressions led to speculation among sections of the audience that the organisers of the debate had been subjected to a bombardment of hostile electronic communication. People in the Spanish state and sometimes abroad are familiar with this behaviour from right-wing Spanish nationalists, including outright fascists and even state-orchestrated trolls but for someone encountering it for the first time, no doubt it can be intimidating.

Puigdemont at lectern.

PUIGDEMONT: IT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE IN EUROPE

          Puigdemont began by saying that some of those present might want to know why Catalans do not want to be part of Spain. He could answer that question by recalling the history of Catalonia as a nation, its struggles, its language and its culture. That would be the discourse of 19th-20th Century nationalism, he said. However he preferred to outline it as modern process in the 21st Century, rooted in Europe and in democracy.

The President-in-exile surprised some of his listeners, no doubt, by pointing out that as recently as four years ago, the majority of the Catalan independentist parties had been asking only for greater autonomy from the Spanish State. The history of recent growth towards a majority demand for independence has been as a result of the refusal of the Spanish State to concede any greater autonomy and of the Spanish Court revoking laws passed by the Catalan Government.

But the Spanish response to Catalan demands has always been “no”, to everything”, said Puigdemont. “No” to dialogue. “No” to negotiation. “No” to reaching a democratic solution. Given the refusal, and obeying the mandate given to us by the majority of Catalan citizens, the Government of Catalonia, which it was my honour to preside, called a referendum on selfdetermination on 1 October 2017, with the legal backing of the Parliament of Catalonia. We did so while observing the basic principles of universal rights.”

And the world had seen the violence of the Spanish police inflicted upon people wishing peacefully to vote.

The aim was not just to confiscate ballot boxes and ballot slips”, Puigdemont maintained but instead “to make people give up their right to vote. But this ignominious act backfired on the politicians responsible for it. Over 2.4 million citizens overcame their fear and went out to vote. We do not know how many tried to do so unsuccessfully, but we do know the polling stations that were violently closed represented a further 770,000 voters.

Puigdemont continued: Today, democracy in Spain is at risk because basic rights have been de facto” suspended, and this represents a major threat to all Catalan and Spanish citizens, as well as to the European Union. Today, an EU member state cannot guarantee the judicial rights of its citizens, given that in recent months Spain has contravened international treaties ratified by the Spanish state itself, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

Referring to the Spanish State taking direct control of the Catalan government administration and preparing criminal charges against grass-roots organisation leaders and elected representatives, taking some as prisoners while others went into exile, Puigdemont said that this was not an internal Spanish problem but instead a Europan one. Seven hundred others, mostly town mayors, are under investigation too. Those independence activists, who have done nothing wrong and even according to Spanish law are innocent until proven guilty, have been kept in prison for over a year.

Concluding, Puigdemont said: “We will not falter. I have often said that what threatens democracy is not disagreement; indeed, democracy needs disagreements. What really threatens it is a lack of tools to solve disagreements democratically. We Catalans hope and trust that the political conflict over our selfdetermination can be resolved peacefully, without war, without violence, without winners and losers, without victims and thugs. We reject all the violence used in the last century in any part of the planet to resolve political conflict.

As Pau Casals, a well-known Catalan, reminded us in a memorable speech to the United Nations Assembly in 1971, Catalans in the eleventh century met ‘to talk about peace, because at that time, the Catalans were already against war’. Ten centuries later, we maintain these same values of peace and harmony.”

THE OTHER SPEAKERS IN THE DEBATE

          Located as the debate was in the capital city of Ireland and in the centenary of the founding of the first democratically-elected Irish Parliament, an Chéad Dáil, it was most noticeable that neither Puigdemont nor the other speakers referred to the experience of Ireland’s struggle for independence.

Dr Marvin Suesse – Assistant Professor in Economics, Trinity College Dublin spoke on The Economic Costs of Sovereignty”, from his research on the political economy of separatism and nationalism. He said that while the benefits of independence in terms of feelings of pride, promotion of culture etc. were difficult to measure, the economic benefits were not. Suesse went on to give examples which indicated that the costs of independence were greater than the benefits.

Dr Michelle D’Arcy – Assistant Professor in Political Science, Trinity College Dublin. spoke on “Secession and the Fiscal Contract: Reflections from the Post-Colonial World.”

D’Arcy teaches African politics and the political economy of development to undergraduate and postgraduate students and her research broadly focuses on understanding how politics and institutions enable and constrain human development and more specifically on democratization in Africa and state-building in Europe historically. Though she made some interesting points and believes that independence movements engage in a “fiscal contract”, it was difficult to see where she stood on the question under discussion.

Dr, Coman’s screen display

Dr. Coman at lectern.

Dr Emanuel Coman – Assistant Professor in Political Science, Trinity College Dublin spoke on “When does the Right to Self-Determination Actually Apply?”

Emanuel Coman is Assistant Professor in Political Science at Trinity College Dublin, teaching courses in comparative institutions and American Politics. His research is primarily in the fields of party politics and elections, with empirics driven primarily from Eastern Europe.

Coman, from Rumania as he told his audience, analysed the European nations that were successful in gaining independence after WWI. Most had been under the rule of the defeated belligerents. His thesis seemed to be that a nation’s bid for independence required the support of the big powers exerting influence in the area.

ONE MUST ALSO WEIGH THE COST OF NOT DECLARING INDEPENDENCE!”

          Commenting on the presentations of the other speakers and responding to questions after his presentation, Puigdemont was more lively than when reading his speech and at times showed some fire, particularly when he responded that as well as weighing the costs of independence, one must consider the costs of not becoming independent, which brought some applause from sections of the audience. Aside from anything else, he said, it is a question of dignity: the Catalans had the right to make their own decisions, whether they be correct ones or mistaken.

A much greater applause and cheers broke out when Puigdemont denied that the Spanish State could be described as “a democracy” and stated that this was not opinion but fact, given that the Monarch and Head of State (father of the current monarch) had been personally appointed as his successor by the fascist coupist General Franco, whose mausoleum is a national monument of the State.

Responding to a suggestion that the Catalan pro-independence movement might benefit from employing the tactics of the “Yellow Vests” of Paris, Puigdemont was most emphatic that his movement was peaceful and would never under any circumstances resort to violence.

One member of the audience criticised the panel (other than Puigdemont) for not addressing the actual issues in Catalan independence and the Spanish State’s opposition.

Asked by a member of the audience to describe his feelings of exile, Puigdemont replied that he could not indulge those feelings since he would be unable to continue the struggle if he did so. He revealed that his own grandfather, in a concentration camp in France after the fall of Barcelona to Franco’s military-fascist forces, had written to his family so that they were aware of the feelings of exile even though they never saw him again. His voice seemed to gain a heightened emotion when he remarked that when he compared his situation to that of refugees, like those from Syria, launching themselves on the hazardous journey to European shores, survivors arriving often to be badly treated, he felt he had little of which to complain.

Puigdemont surrounded by well-wishers and the curious after the debate while others are in excited conversation.

AUDIENCE REACTION

          The audience gave Puigdemont and, one supposes, the other speakers and TRISS for having organised the debate, sustained applause and cheers, during which one could hear some pro-independence slogans in Catalan. Afterwards, many remained in the auditorium to speak to Puigdemont or to chat amongst themselves in a general buzz of excitement.

Views expressed by a number of listeners afterwards on the content of the debate were in general positive though these varied through a continuum from “excellent” to “all right but somewhat disappointing”. All feedback received agreed that on two points Puigdemont had been excellent: on the question of calculating the cost of NOT seceding from the Spanish state and also on the characterisation of the Spanish State as not being a democracy, as one that had failed to break properly with its Franco-fascist past.  Few gave positive feedback on the other debaters.

Crowds delayed leaving for around half an hour, gathering talking among themselves or queuing up to shake Puigdemont’s hand, talk to him etc. and Casals Catala presented him with some books on Irish history.

COMMENT:

          Puigdemont comes across as quite genuine in his convictions and as an able debater, even in a language which cannot be his first or second. His vision of Europe does not perhaps coincide with the views of some others and one may doubt the practicality of his commitment to non-violence. One may also question whether anyone has the right to commit the movement to peaceful resistance alone, even if it were to be attacked violently.

I did not hear him speak any words in Irish but the written text of Puigdemont’s speech did contain some. Although it was good to see some Irish there, for the few words he was going to speak in the language, Puigdemont (or his advisors) might have taken the trouble to formulate them correctly. Addressing “mná agus uasal” although addressing women first, suggests that the audience was an almost all-female one and who were not “uasal” (noble, important), but was surely unintended. And “dea-trathnóna leat (‘to you’, singular) go léir” (to all of you) is a conflation of singular and plural in the same address; likewise with the “go raibh maith agat” which thanks one person rather than the audience which was the intention and “go mór” which if not incorrect is clumsy and straight from Google Translate for “thanks a lot”.

Standing outside the auditorium with a placard announcing the Catalan solidarity demonstration on Saturday 9th April, at one point I noticed Puigdemont standing some metres away with some others. As he caught my eye, he stepped towards me, hand outstretched.

I gripped his hand and smiling, said: “Fáilte go Baile Átha Cliath!”

“Thank you,” he replied, smiling also and stepped back.

Whatever else he may be, I suspect he is what we in Dublin would call (with a meaning remote from any kind of subservience) “A gentleman.”

End.

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES ON PUIGDEMONT:

          Born in Amer, a village in the province of Girona and fifty-seven years of age last December, Carles Puigedemont is a journalist by trade and ex-Mayor of Girona, a major Catalonian city of over 100,000, just under 100 kilometres (62 miles) north-east of Barcelona. In 2006, after a track record of activism in Catalan culture and nationalist activism, he was adopted as a political candidate by the CIU (Convergence and Union) political party and later to represent the reformation of that party in the Junts per Si (Together for Yes) coalition, composed of mostly nationalist capitalist elements. He has been successful in every election and currently heads the uneasy Junts per Cat (Together for Catalonia) coalition. The current Govern is made up of a coalition between JuntsXCat and ERC (Republican Left of Catalonia), with the other pro-independence party, CUP (Popular Unity Candidacy) in opposition, though not voting with the Spanish-unionist opposition.

In what seems an action contradictory to his political position, in January 2019 Puigdemont filed a constitutional application for amparo (remedy, to put right) directed against the President of the Catalan Parliament, Roger Torrent and the Board of the Chamber, to the Spanish Constitutional Court. The application argues Puigdemont had been denied the use of his political rights as Torrent did not allow him to delegate his vote from Belgium after Puigdemont’s criminal indictment and suspension of his parliamentary position by Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena.

Despite constant Spanish-unionist claims from both Right and Left, the Catalan pro-independence movement has shown itself more tolerant of migrants and diversity than can be said in general of much of the rest of the Spanish State; one of the laws of the Govern sought to give migrants equal access to Catalan national health care but was twice squashed by the Spanish Supreme Court. Puigdemont is himself married to Romanian journalist (Marcela Topor in 2000) and they have two daughters, Magali and Maria, the family home in Girona. His children are multi-lingual and Puigdemont himself speaks Catalan and Castillian (Spanish), as do most Catalans but also English, French and Romanian.

LINKS AND FURTHER INFORMATION

Text of Puigdemont’s address in the debate in full attached at the end of the brief report in El Nacional: https://www.elnacional.cat/en/news/puigdemont-dublin-bertie-ahern-trinity-college-ireland_349173_102.html

Pre-event publicity from Trinity College: https://www.tcd.ie/ssp/events/lectures/2019-01-independence/

With Catalonia/ Leis an Chatalóin: https://www.facebook.com/WithCataloniaIreland/

CDR Dublin: https://www.facebook.com/CDRDublin/

Casal Catalá de Irlanda: https://www.facebook.com/casalcatalairlanda/

Advertisements

ABUSE OF POWER AND VIOLATION OF CIVIL RIGHTS IN IRELAND ARE NOT THINGS OF THE PAST

Diarmuid Breatnach

The violation of the civil rights of Osgur Breatnach (then a leading member of the IRSP) exposed in the program in the Finné series on TG4 (Irish language TV channel) shown recently and repeated a week later was set in the 1970s but the injustice did not end there.

Osgur Breatnach, photographed recently and still wanting his beating and framing investigated
(Source image: Dara Mac Dónaill, Irish Times).

          Even after a High Court admission that he and McNally had been subjected to “oppression” and his conviction thereby overturned 17 months after his jailing, the court still maintained he had beaten himself up – a fiction it maintains to this day.

Of course to say otherwise would have been to admit the Gardaí special unit that came to be known as “The Heavy Gang” were vicious thugs who fabricated “confessions”. And that the judiciary of the Special Criminal Court had, despite the medical evidence and signs of beating on all, including the three who had “confessed” and the repudiation of those statements in court, colluded with the beatings, accepted the statements as true confessions and convicted three of the men for up to 12 years’ jail. And to admit that the Court of Appeal and High Court had been complicit in accepting as a “finding of fact” which could not be overturned that they had beaten one another up (and done it to himself, in the case of Breatnach).

All of which meant that the Heavy Gang got more encouragement for their ‘work’ so that some of them were able to turn up on the scene of other scandals, including that of the false confessions of Joanna Hayes and her family (about which Gardaí nothing has been done either).

Even today, not one of those Gardaí has been even charged and the complicit judiciary and State Prosecution carried on in their jobs and in some cases rose higher.

The injustice did not stop there, for when Nicky Kelly, who had been on the run, gave himself up, even though exactly the same evidence had been used to convict him, he was told he had run over the timeframe in which he could appeal and it took four years of campaigning to get him out too. And then only for “humanitarian reasons,” so the “guilty of armed robbery” verdict still stood for his reputation, potential relationships, job prospects etc.

Another eight years later he received a Presidential “Pardon” from Uachtarán Mary Robinson.

Then the State fought the financial compensation case, taking it to the extreme of bringing Gay Byrne to court over an interview he had given Osgur Breatnach. At this point some wiser heads decided to limit the damage, pay up but with the condition that the three did not go after the police or proceed with any case about the beatings.

A facet of British and Irish civil law of which many are probably unaware is this: If the respondent (i.e the one against which you are taking the case) offers you a sum and you refuse it, and you later win the case but are awarded less than what you were offered earlier, you have to pay all the costs of the defence! You can actually end up owing money!

But back to ongoing injustice. Since not a single one of the Heavy Gang was ever even charged or disciplined over this and other similar behaviour and some were even promoted; since not a single member of the legal profession or judiciary was even reprimanded for their part in it; no warning about where the boundaries are has been given to the Gardaí much less to the judiciary. Which means that it can all easily happen again.

The defendants in the Jobstown case were not beaten up to force them to ‘confess’ but when we hear Garda after Garda, including a senior one, affirm under oath in court that one of the defendants said something which all the video evidence proves he did not, at what conclusion can we arrive other than that they were all lying? But not one of them has been charged or even disciplined either.

Conversely, the State has no problem with dragging anti-fascists to court recently and this to answer charges such as “violent disorder” arising out alleged actions preventing the European fascist organisation Pegida from launching a branch in Dublin.

12-hour protest at Department of Justice in January 2004 –Cormac Breatnach, musician and brother of heavy gang victim Osgur with other musicians including of the Ó Snodaigh family and TD Aongus, their brother.
(Photo source: Indymedia — see Links)

ARE THINGS TODAY IMPROVED?

          The Heavy Gang is not operating as such today (or at least not yet) but in some respects things are actually worse than they were back in the 1970s ad ’80s. There was one Special Criminal Court then – now there are two! The Public Order Act was brought into force in 1994 to give Gardaí great powers to repress public protests and the scheduled offence of Violent Disorder was included in that Act: three unconnected individuals at the scene of a “disorder” can be convicted under the latter provision and sentenced up to ten years in jail or fined an unlimited amount (or both)!

The non-jury Special Criminal Court on its last day in Green Street before it moved to its new location in Parkgate Street (Photo source: Internet)

Courts are imposing bail conditions preventing activists from continuing to be politically active, i.e from attending public meetings, rallies, demonstrations, pickets etc – for up to the two years it can take the case to come to trial.

And just as in the ‘bad old days’, the unsupported opinion of a Garda of Superintendent rank or over is sufficient to convict Republicans of “belonging to an illegal organisation” and visitors to the public gallery of the SCC have to give their names and addresses to the Gardaí before being admitted.

Special Branch officers still routinely and openly watch Republicans carrying out their peaceful political work and demand their names and addresses on pickets. But now not only is surveillance carried out on people’s electronic communication equipment, communication is also being blocked at times by special equipment of the Gardaí.

Sadly, as the struggle over social and political issues becomes more acute in this state, we will see more repression, as the State tries to force the whole of civil society into compliance, especially by concentrating that repression on society’s more politicised and active sectors. Already in Dublin we have seen masked bailiffs and masked police carrying out an eviction of a small token occupation group in an empty house and, a week later, armed police turning up to a dispute between a couple and their landlord.

Only by admission of wrongdoing followed by actions overturning the current impunity of the Gardaí and the judiciary can a worsening of the situation perhaps be averted. But there is no sign of that happening.

End.

 

LINKS FOR REFERENCE/ FURTHER INFORMATION

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/wronged-man-still-seeking-answers-40-years-after-sallins-train-robbery-1.3673264

https://www.indymedia.ie/article/63140?userlanguage=ga&save_prefs=true

https://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/from-heavy-gang-to-bailey-case-how-gardai-havent-learnt-lessons-30201431.html

 

 

RECENT HISTORY: DEEP SOUTH & DEEP NORTH

Report by Diarmuid Breatnach

Two very interesting talks were given last night as part of a series of history talks at the Sean O’Casey Community Centre in East Wall, Dublin. The theme was black civil rights in the USA and Catholic civil rights in the Six Counties of Ireland (‘Northern Ireland’ according to some).

Joe Mooney of the East Wall History Society introduced the speakers and chaired the question-and-answer session afterwards.

The session opened at 8pm and Cecilia Hartsell had a lot of ground to cover. She spoke on the history of the Civil Rights movement of blacks in the USA, going through the history of seminal events, illustrated with Powerpoint slides and recordings of two White House phone calls between President JF Kennedy and Ross Barnett, Governor of Mississippi and key figure trying to prevent the historic enrollment of James Meredith, a black man, into the University of Mississippi.

Cecilia Hartsell delivering her talk on the black civil rights movement in the USA

Recalling that in the first two years of his term, JF Kennedy had little to say about black civil rights but was focusing on other issues,Cecilia Hartsell somewhat undermined the (incorrect) image we tend to have in Ireland of Kennedy as an ardent civil rights fighter. In fact he was enforcing Federal legislation on equality and trying to go slowly, while the black campaigners were pushing the agenda along and white racist reaction was holding the USA up to international ridicule and opprobrium during the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

When Brian Hanley took the floor for his talk he fairly zipped along, which he does very well. Hanley undermined some myths or wrong impressions too. Early organisers of the civil rights marches and other events such as the Dungannon house occupation were Irish Republicans; Loyalists had killed four people before the first Civil Rights march. The rhetoric of SDLP and Labour Party notables was much more militant in the early years and Fine Gael was agitating more about issues of discrimination in the Six Counties than was Fianna Fáil, the party in government. And FF had been pushing a referendum to do away with the proportional representation electoral system at the same time that the PR system was among the demands of civil rights campaigners in the Six Counties.

Brian Hanley delivering his talk on the civil rights movement in the Six Counties.

In the session for questions, answers and contributions later, Hanley pointed out that the Southern Democratic Party was the pro-slavery party historically and, after the Civil War, anti-integration and civil rights, whereas the Republican Party was anti-slavery (debunking another false image we tend to have in Ireland).

Both historians made the point that a hundred years is not as long as some might think (this is especially true in ‘historical memory’).  The 1940s, when some historians would say, as Hartsell told us, is the date from which to date the renewed fight for black equality in the USA, as surviving black soldiers returned from WWII, was only 80 years from when Federal troops were withdrawn from the former Confederate states.  The partitioning of Ireland had been carried out less than 50 years before the Civil Rights protests broke out in the Six Counties, Hanley reminded his audience and many Catholics still lived who remembered vividly the fierce repression that had accompanied it.

It also emerged that albeit there were many similarities, there were also profound differences between the two movements. The black campaigners in the USA were saying that they were citizens of the USA State and demanding the same rights as other citizens, they often marched with the Stars and Stripes flag and even called for the intervention of US troops to defend their rights. The Catholics marching for civil rights in the Six Counties mostly saw themselves as Irish citizens and would never march with the Union Jack. Some did call for the intervention of British troops but many did not; it was mostly Irish troops they hoped would intervene.

The importance of the presence of news photographers at events and their covering in newspaper reports and on television broadcasts was an important factor in both struggles.

USA soldiers facing unarmed marchers for black civil rights.  (Source: Internet).

Cecilia Hartsell did not feel that the Black Power movement could have survived Southern racist repression in the 1940s, ’50s and early ’60s and most of the big gains on desegregation of education, public transport, eateries and voter registration and effective right to vote in the Southern States were won during those years with peaceful marches and pickets and legislation (which however were met by much racist violence, including a number of murders). By the time the Black Power movement was coming on to the political stage, so was the Vietnam War and huge changes were taking place in the US, including many mass violent struggles on race and other issues.

Section of march for civil rights in the Six Counties (Source: Internet).

TERMINOLOGY AND DEEPER MEANING

Wikipedia: “Though often used in history books to refer to the seven states that originally formed the Confederacy, the term “Deep South” did not come into general usage until long after the Civil War ended. Up until that time, “Lower South” was the primary designation for those states. When “Deep South” first began to gain mainstream currency in print in the middle of the 20th century, it applied to the states and areas of Georgia, southern Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, north Louisiana, and East Texas, all historic areas of cotton plantations and slavery. This was the part of the South many considered the “most Southern”.”

Later, the general definition expanded to include all of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, and often taking in bordering areas of East Texas and North Florida. In its broadest application today, the Deep South is considered to be “an area roughly coextensive with the old cotton belt from eastern North Carolina through South Carolina west into East Texas, with extensions north and south along the Mississippi”.

Lower South” probably originally referred to its location on the typical north-orientated map of the USA. But I speculate that “Deep” has another meaning – a deeper psychological one, in fact. It suggests that this is a place difficult to understand for people not from there, which means most people. Different rules apply there, we might believe.

I speculate further that after the initial first years of the Civil Rights movement in the Six Counties, that area and the people living in it came to be seen as “different” too. Of course, it was different in that it was a colony (as had the whole country been only 50 years earlier) and that it was run along blatantly sectarian lines, the Catholics a minority there, unlike in the rest of Ireland. And of course, people in a different environment respond differently. But they were still people and the substantial Catholic minority were so clearly oppressed in a statelet into which the Irish ruling class had delivered them. For many people in the 26 Counties it became easier to think of them as somehow foreign in a foreign kind of land, hence my description as “Deep North”.

Cecilia Hartsell and Brian Hanley during the question-and-answer session.

THE SPEAKERS (as posted by EWHG)

Cecelia Hartsell is a researcher of American history. She has been a contributor to the RTE History Show and Radio Kerry on topics in U.S. history and frequently gives U.S. history talks for the Dublin Festival of History and in the Dublin Public Libraries. Cecelia has a Masters degree in U.S. history from Fordham University and a Masters degree in History from UCD.

Brian Hanley is an historian and author. He is currently a Research Fellow at the School of Classics, History and Archaeology, University of Edinburgh . He has lectured at a number of major Irish universities and was Historian in Residence at Dublin City Library and Archives . His books include “A Documentary History of the IRA, 1916-2005” (Dublin, Gill and MacMillan, 2010) with his most recent being “The impact of the Troubles on the Republic of Ireland, 1968-79: boiling volcano?” (Manchester University Press, 2018).

NEXT HISTORY TALK

There will be another talk in the series next week when Dr. Mary Muldowney will present a talk on “The 1918 Election – the Woman Who Stood for a Worker’s Republic.”

THE RIGHT TO PROTEST: DUBLIN MEETING HEARS FROM REPUBLICAN AND CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVISTS

Clive Sulish

Liam Herrick, Executive Director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and Mallachy Steenson, Irish Republican and practicing lawyer, on Friday 7th June addressed a Dublin meeting on The Right to Protest, convened by the Dublin Anti-Internment Committee.

 

Section of audience and panel at Right to Protest meeting (Photo source: Dublin Anti-Internment Committee)

 

 

 

CHAIR’S INTRODUCTION:

The origins of the Anti-Internment Committee and the Right to Protest

Opening the meeting and speaking for the organisers, the Dublin Anti-Internment Committee, Diarmuid Breatnach welcomed the attendance, introduced the Committee and related how it had grown out of a previous committee, to have Marion Prices released from prison, which had been partially successful (she was released pending trial but her health was destroyed). She and a number of other former Republican prisoners who had been released under license under the Good Friday Agreement, such as Martin Corey and more recently Tony Taylor, had their licenses revoked and were brought to jail without a trial or the right to challenge whatever evidence the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland claimed to have against them. Some considered this a form of internment by some and the Anti-Internment Committee had been set up in June 2013.

Breatnach emphasised that the Dublin Committee had always been and remained — attempts at takeover and accusation notwithstanding — independent of any other organisation and committed to reaching decisions in a democratic manner and conducting themselves in a principled manner towards other organisations. The Committee organises the annual Anti-Internment rally in Newry and holds more-or-less monthly pickets in different parts of Dublin, which anyone is welcome to support, he told the audience.

Chair of meeting Diarmuid Breatnach speaking at Right to Protest meeting (Photo source: Dublin Anti-Internment Committee)

Although the Dublin Anti-Internment Committee updates a list of Republican prisoners in jail and also raises issues about the human rights of Republican prisoners such as right to education and art work, appropriate medical treatment, release from solitary confinement and on occasion about miscarriages of justice such as the Craigavon Two, nine years in jail now – nevertheless the true focus of the Committee is on issues of internment.

Introducing other areas of repression by the states on both sides of the Border which the Committee considers to be types of internment, Breatnach outlined the practice of refusing bail to the accused or of making bail conditional on the individuals removing themselves from all political activity. When the accused justifiably refused to accept these conditions, they were jailed, only perhaps to be found not guilty two or three years later, as had been the case with Stephen Murney. But still having effectively served a jail sentence.

“The right to protest is everywhere under attack” stated Breatnach and declared that maintaining that right was necessary for the winning and maintaining of a wide group of basic social and political rights, from practicing one’s sexuality or religion, or indeed criticising the Church, to forming a trade union, going on strike and marching against unjust laws or measures. Breatnach bemoaned the apparent inability of a number of Republican groups to unite in defence of this right and of Socialists in uniting with them even on this most basic of levels. “We can either stand together or fall separately” he said.

Internment is used by states against political opponents, said Breatnach, recalling that the British had used it in Ireland after the 1916 Rising, the new Irish state had used it during the Civil War and again during WWII under De Valera; the British in the Six Counties between 1971 and 1975.

Internment is a means of “removing unwanted members of the public”, Breatnach said, quoting the words of anti-insurgency specialist Brigadier Frank Kitson, who had been present during the repression of the Malayan resistance and also an operational Commander in Ireland from 1970-1972, years which Breatnach reminded his listeners were those covering the introduction of internment and the massacres of civilians in Ballymurphy and Derry.

Referring to the infamous “Heavy Gang” of the Gárda Síochána whose brutal methods had extracted false confessions on the Sallins Mail Train robbery from socialist republicans in the 1970s and from the family in the Kerry Babies case, Breatnach recalled the formation of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties at that time and that it had been a campaiging organisation unafraid to challenge the State on its repressive actions. Sadly over the years the organisation had fallen away from that path, he said and he was particularly glad to welcome Liam Herrick of the ICCL to speak at the meeting and in the hope that the organisation was returning to its roots.

LIAM HERRICK, ICCL: The Right to Protest and the work of the ICCL.

Liam Herrick, Executive Officer of the ICCL, speaking

After the applause, Liam Herrick thanked the Committee for having invited him to speak. He wished to list some of the efforts in which the Irish Council of Liberties was engaged and also to hear from the audience some of the problems they were encountering.

Briefly covering the early years of his organisation, Herrick related that it had been formed as a response to police repression, mostly of Republicans but also of some Socialists, and in particular due to the activities of the Gárda unit known as the “Heavy Gang”, by academics, activists and lawyers. It had taken up early cases of the ill-treatment of detainees, the use of the Offences Against the State Act, repression of protesters of the Ronald Reagan visit including the case of Petra Breatnach in 1984 and Water protests in the mid-1990s, also in the street-traders’ protests in which Tony Gregory was prominent.

The issue of the right to protest and State repression had come up again a number of times including in 2002 against the Anti-War Movement with the use of the OAS Act and in particular with the Reclaim the Streets protest in 2002, in which video recording of police actions had revealed the extent of police brutality without any arrests. Similar problems had been encountered by protesters at the 2004 EU Council meeting in Dublin, and water canons had even been imported by the State from the UK and widescale repression and had come up again at the Corrib Shell protests.

The ICCL had in 2014 published “Know Your Rights” booklet. And had called for a root and branch review of procedures for dealing with protests, noting that there existed a major gap in rights and policing process and has published a publication by the title of “Take Back the Streets” and has made submissions to the EU and the UN on how states should not just tolerate but manage and create conditions to facilitate the right to protest. The ICCL is part of a network which includes the ACLU in the US.

“If Notifications to the authorities are required should be minimal and reasonable”, Herrick said and gave the contrary example of African Jews who wished to protest against Israeli measures but were charged a 25,000 dollars as a cost of the application for permission.

Police should have a chain of command to deal with protests and be trained not only in weapons and control movements as they are at present but also in de-escalation, in engagement with protesters. Their internal Garda policies should be available to public access but are not.

Herrick said journalists should be facilitated in having access and only just employees of big media organisations but alternative media and individual bloggers whose coverage is often essential to understanding the incidents at an event (in the Reclaim the Streets event such sources were the only source on the Garda violence). There should be restrictions on the use of force as is law and police in Northern Ireland, whatever people might think about practice on the ground, Liam Herrick said. The PSNI every 6 months have to submit a report to the Policing Board which details incidents o the use of force. In the Irish state Gárdaí don’t have to make any report on the use of force which is remarkable in the European context – the use of pepper-spray would seem to be increasing here but no records are available..

Surveillance is an issue and of course can intimidate and have “a chilling effect on protest”, Herrick said. In England face recognition technology is being used which apart from questions about its accuracy, is intrusive. Also trapping of mobile phone activity in the vicinity of a protest. Data collection is an issue and there should be no database on protesters maintained; covert agents have been used and in some cases become personally involved with those they were surveilling – a recording procedure is needed. There needs to be an independent complaint process as the existing process in Ireland has been shown to be inadequate.

At the moment the ICCL is involved in discussions on Gárda reform and the following Friday would be producing a document on Human Rights Policing which people are welcome to read. The international perception is that the law and policy of the PSNI is good, without making any comment on their practice on the ground. The Gardaí should publish a report on their handling of protests every year including statistics (despite the problems on drink-driving statistics) on arrests and the use of non-lethal weapons.

The Gardaí in Ireland have a national security function and there needs to be a discussion on this – in many other countries a separate body is responsible for this. But no legal body is overseeing the operation of the Gardaí on national security or the powers they exercise.

Liam Herrick concluded to applause and Breatnach told the audience that questions could be asked of him and of the next speaker after the conclusion of the latter, then introducing Mallachy Steenson to welcoming applause.

MALLACHY STEENSON: Republicans and the Right to Protest

Mallachy Steenson speaking Section of audience and panel at Right to Protest meeting (Photo source: Dublin Anti-Internment Committee)

Mallachy quoted the right to protest under Article 41 of the Constitution of the State under which document however Republicans would not support.

Moving on to suppression of protests Steenson referred to the most frequently used being the Public Order Act, justification which depends on the subjective view of a cop and is therefore virtually unchallengeable. The result is usually a fine but the use of the Offences Against the State Act is much more serious. In the 1950s there were many arrests of Republicans under the section which prohibits a demonstration within a certain distance of the Dáil and Section 30 was widely used.

Steenson pointed out that almost any gathering of Republicans consitutes some kind of protest due to the basic opposition to the State of Republicans. Funerals are usually protests too, partly in solidarity with the family, partly with movement but also of making a stand and, in the case of the ten dead 1981 Hunger Strikers, in solidarity with their Five Demands.

Steenson believes that most of the protests that occur in the state will be allowed because the they don’t threaten the state from the “trendy liberal side”. For example the housing protests including activist occupations are permitted but when a house was occupied in Charlemont Street and in preparation for moving in a family three years earlier, armed police removed the occupiers.

“The State takes a different view of Republicans” Steenson declared. Referring to the 2016 Sinn Féin Easter 1916 commemorations, Steenson wondered whether they remember their history because the 76th anniversary of the Rising commemoration (1992) was banned and people on the platform arrested. The 66th anniversary commemoration had been beaten off the street in Dublin and people arrested for “membership”, including his own father and others.

“What we have is mostly controlled dissent”, Steenson said. “People remember the Birmingham Six” but are not aware that their campaigners here had their homes raided by police, their jobs visited by the Special Branch, threatened and often lost their jobs.

“What has happened in Ireland is a privatisation of dissent,” Steenson said. “They are funded by the State and he who pays the piper calls the tune.”

The only ones who could really carry out a successful protest in Ireland were the farmers who here, as in France, had no hesitation to block roads and motorways and dump slurry at the Dáil, Steenson declared. The only other really effective protest that hurts the State is the withdrawal of labour as in a general strike – which should have happened when the banks were bailed out — but the trade union movement in Ireland works hand in glove with the State.

“Republicans are well-used to surveillance” Steenson went on to say with a reference to “the new MI5 Garda Commissioner” who declared upon coming into office that the biggest threat to the State is the armed ‘dissident’ Republicans, which Steenson commented were no real threat to anyone except themselves.

“The State is built on the defeat of the Republic,” said Steenson and therefore naturally Republicans are its enemy. Referring to the water protests and their suggested victory, Steenson opined that the success was only due to Fianna Fáil changing sides and he believed that the USC (Universal Social Charge) should be the main object of protest which takes much more out of people’s pockets.

In 1972 the British Embassy in Dublin had been burned in protest at the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry. Steenson declared that too was managed by the State, having a national Day of Mourning, allowing people to blow off their anger at the sacrifice of a building and listed other protests he believed had been managed or controlled by the State, including the medical cards for the elderly.

People should be able to go to protest without asking the State, Mallachy believed and asked what is a valid protest, referring to gathering protest against the expected visit of Trump while that of Clinton in Dublin passed quietly by without protest. “What is it about Trump?” asked Steenson. “If it’s about killing people, Clinton killed many more. If it’s about treatment of women, well we all know Clinton’s record on that.”

The real problem impacting on most working people is drugs, Steenson said, and the gangs involved in it. Families Against Drugs had been a big campaign but some of the activists were in it to get funding. “People should separate their political activism and their job,” Steenson declared. “We need to move away from having paid groups organise protests”, Mallachy said. “Most protests now are during the week,” he added, “because activists don’t want to interfere with their weekends.”

“We need to look at what is an issue and what is effective”, he said and talked about empty houses and the way housing protesters in the 1960s and ’70s not only occupied them but moved homeless families into them.

“During WWII we didn’t intern Germans or English here”, Steenson commented, “we interned Republicans.”

“Protests will be allowed as long as they don’t threaten the State”, Steenson said, coming to a conclusion and the only ones organising protests that threaten the State are Republicans. He posed the question whether democracy is any use to working people, because it had not brought them much.complained too about police being masked and said that in a normal society you would not have that, nor armed police everyday on the streets. He commented also on the degree of video surveillance used by the State which could track people from leaving the door of the building all the way home.

“Gardaí are there to protect the State, not to protect the citizen, whatever combination of political parties are in government,” he told his audience. “To them and to the State, Republicans are the enemy. That’s just the way it is.”

CONTRIBUTIONS AND QUESTIONS FROM THE AUDIENCE

After the applause following Steenson’s talk, Breatnach opened up the meeting to contribution or questions from the audience, asking them to keep them brief and telling them he was going to take questions in groups and the speakers could choose to which to reply.

Side view of section of the audience (Photo source: Dublin Anti-Internment Committee)

An audience members spoke about the level of repression from Lurgan RUC/PSNI and how eight people had been charged and their bail conditions were not to associate with one another but two of them live near one another.

A contribution declared that Drew Harris being appointed as Garda Commissioner was equivalent to a railroad to jail and related a case of an elderly woman being persecuted in Rossport.

Another directed a question specifically at Liam Herricks about treatment of people in some of the rural courts where protesters were being very badly treated.

Gardaí attacking protesters

An Ireland Palestine Solidarity Committee activist said that usually they don’t get much trouble from the Gárdaí but more often from the private sectors, from private security personnel when they protest at a business as part of the solidarity campaign. And the Bank of Ireland had closed their account, which caused the organisation considerable difficulty. He wondered whether this was the State’s influence under pressure from the Israelis or others, or instead the banking company under pressure from the same sources or from financial sources. Or whether it was part of the general “de-risking” measures people talked about. The Cuba support group had suffered a similar problem.

Relating his contribution to issues of surveillance, one person described a car journey from an event for about two hours across Dublin, after which he stopped at a fast food takeaway facility. He had felt followed earlier on and when the Garda came in behind him in the takeaway with the usual harassment, he confronted the officer and asked him how had followed him all that way. The Gárda pointed to cameras above on street poles and said: “We don’t have to follow you, they do.”

Another person related how “membership of an illegal organisation” is being frequently used to jail Republicans under the OAS on the word, without the need to display any proof, of a Gárda senior officer.

Garda detaining woman protester in Dunne’s Stores Anti-Apartheid strike
(Photo source: Internet)

He thought he had heard of one case where it had been used against a gang member and wanted to know were there any others that the speakers knew of?

Neither had heard of any and Mallachy commented that next year the OAS will be 40 years old. Liam Herrick referred to a piece of research carried out by Nuala Ní Fhaoláin at the UN.

A Polish and a Catalan separately expressed their solidarity with Irish people struggling against repression, briefly alluding to their own struggles and the Polish person mentioning the recent arrest and jailing of a comrade of his in Turkey.

Queens University Belfast students sit-down protest when prevented from marching, 1968.

As there were no further questions or contributions, Breatnach thanked people for their attendance, the speakers for the talks and audience members for their contribution and asked for contribution towards the rent of the room. “This is not the beginning of a broad campaign to defend human rights or if it leads to it, it will not by our Committee leading it,” said Breatnach, adding that no doubt they would be happy to contribute to such a campaign. Urging people present to keep in touch with internment issues through the End Internment Facebook page he stressed once again the need to unite across ideological divisions against State repression.

End.

POSTSCRIPT:

     A number of public meetings in Dublin about similar issues followed the one above in quick succession, no doubt coincidentally:

A meeting as part of the Anarchist Bookfair on Saturday 15th September on “State Violence and Cover-ups: Community Responses” heard from a speaker on police infiltration of campaigning groups; from Anne Cadwaller of the Pat Finucane Centre (also author of the “Lethal Allies” exposure) about colonial police and British Army collusion with Loyalist murder gangs; and from Hilary Darcy about what might be considered legitimate reforms to be pursued by revolutionaries.

A public meeting in Abolish the Special Criminal Courts campaign was held on 17th September and heard from international and Irish speakers.

The Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied group held a public meeting on 19th September, raising issues pertaining to the Ballymurphy and Derry Massacres, the Miami Showband Massacre and the Stardust Fire (report: https://rebelbreeze.wordpress.com/2018/09/24/justice-delayed/ )

Masked Police, Police with machine guns.

In addition five days after the Right to Protest meeting, masked Gardaí brandishing batons and pepper-spray cannisters assisted a masked “security team” in evicting housing campaigners carrying out a symbolic occupation of an empty building, drawing protest statements from Liam Herrick on behalf of the ICCL to be followed, most unusually, by Colm O’Gorman on behalf of Amnesty International. Five or six housing protesters were detained and at least one was injured..

A few days after that, Gardaí turned up with machine guns and a battering ram to a house where a couple were in dispute with their landlord, leaving when supporters of the couple arrived.

LINK:

Dublin Anti-Internment Committee: https://www.facebook.com/End-Internment-581232915354743/

Masked Gardaí and masked “security guards” at eviction of peaceful housing protesters soon after the Right to Protest meeting.
(Photo source: Irish Times)

1963 Alabama, 17-year-old black civil rights protester attacked by police and police dog. (Photo source: Internet)

1972, Derry, part of Bloody Sunday Massacre (Photo source: Internet)

Lone man confronting Chines Army tanks on their way to suppress protest in Tienamen Square, 1989

Massed Marikana Strikers at Lonmin Mine, South Africa, 2012– 40 were shot dead by police. (Photo source: Internet)

 

 

THE 43 DISAPPEARED MEXICAN YOUTH REMEMBERED OUTSIDE DUBLIN MEXICAN EMBASSY

Diarmuid Breatnach

People outside the Mexican Embassy in Dublin on Wednesday evening remember the 43 students and call for justice.

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Names of the Disappeared being laid outside the Mexican Embassy
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

A short but moving event was held in Dublin yesterday evening (Thursday 26th September) to remember the 43 Mexican students made to “disappear” in Mexico by the authorities or in collusion with them on 26th September 2014. The students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College were kidnapped while they were taking part in an annual commemoration of the Tlatelolco Massacre (of 300-400 students and other civilians by police and military on 2nd October 1968, less than a fortnight before the opening of the Olympics in the city that year). They are widely believed to have been murdered and a supposed investigation by Mexican State authorities petered out without a result.

Names of the Disappeared being laid outside the Mexican Embassy
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Some staff leaving the Mexican Embassy in Dublin
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Names of the Disappeared being laid outside the Mexican Embassy
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

The event last night was organised by the Mexico Ireland Solidarity Collective (MISC) and Latin America Solidarity Centre (LASC). Sunflowers as a symbol of hope were placed in the railing of the Mexican Embassy in Raglan Road, Dublin and ribbons in the Mexican colours of green, white and red were also tied there. The names of the 43 “disappeared” students were laid on the pavement in front of the Embassy which, like the embassies of a number of other states, is located in a quiet upper-middle class area south of the Grand Canal. Few people passed the remembrance event and staff leaving the Embassy did not stop to talk to the gathering except for the last two who greeted them politely and took a photo of the display.

A spokesperson for MISC said that the event is organised every year so that the people are not forgotten.

People took turns to read the name of each of the 43 from their cards and the traditional “Presente!” was called out after each one, signifying that alive or dead, they are present with us, remembered.

A statement was read and some verses from Woody Guthries’s Plane Crash at Los Gatos were sung and then a long silence was observed, which ended with a call for “Justicia!”

end.

Placing the sunflowers for hope outside the Mexican Embassy
(Photo: D.Breatnach)


(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Reading a statement on the Disappeared outside the Mexican Embassy
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Placing the sunflowers of hope
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Protesters in Mexico demanding the authorities reveal what happened to the 43 students.
(Photo source: Internet)

 

LINKS FOR FURTHER INFORMATION

MISC (Mexico Ireland Solidarity Collective): https://www.facebook.com/mexicoirelandsolidaritygroup/

LASC (Latin American Solidarity Centre): https://lasc.ie/

https://www.facebook.com/latinamericasolidaritycentre/

Wikipedia page about the 43 disappeared: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_Iguala_mass_kidnapping

Jacobin on line article about the 43 disappeared: https://jacobinmag.com/2018/09/ayotzinapa-massacre-missing-students-pena-nieto

Should you wish to contact the Mexican Embassy to register a protest, request the investigation to be pursued etc:
info@embamex.ie

Tel: (+353) 1 667 3105

FAX: (+353) 1 664 1013


Mr Miguel Malfavón, Ambassador

19 Raglan Road
Ballsbridge
Dublin 4
Ireland

Spanish Minister would rather free Catalan political prisoners on bail but is totally against independence

Diarmuid Breatnach

This is a short report of very interesting interview of Spain’s Foreign Minister, Josep Borrell, who is both a Catalan and a convinced Spanish unionist.

He says that
§ he would rather have the Catalan political prisoners released on bail;
§ Catalonia is a nation, not a region (but does not have the right to self-determination in violation of the Spanish Constitution);
§ there is no automatic international right to national self-determination and
§ Scotland does not have the legal right to hold a referendum without the permission of the UK Parliament (for which he provides a very convincing argument).

 

Comment:

Borrelll is no friend of Catalan independence (he would hardly have been chosen by the Spanish Government as its Foreign Minister if he were) and has made some very disparaging remarks about the movement (liking it to “an infection”) and some individuals. He is no democrat either. However it is interesting that he is prepared to express a difference from Spanish Government policy.

His remark about Scotland will not be liked by many Catalan independentists who are fond of quoting Scotland and the referendum there as a model. But I think he is correct, both in his explanation and the situation at the time. It seems to me that the British conceded a referendum, expecting it to fail. It did fail but the result was closer than they expected. But, like self-determination of the occupied Six Counties of Ireland, any vote in favour would have to be ratified by the UK Parliament.

The main difference between the UK and the Spanish State on this is that the UK allowed a referendum but expected it to lose. The Spanish State will not permit a referendum because they know it would succeed.

The Catalan activists, politicians and intellectuals need to stop looking elsewhere for easy examples for comparison. They would be much better served, in my opinion, by examining the general history of imperialist-colonialist states against the struggles of subjugated nations and of course the history of the state in which they find themselves.

No imperialist or colonialist state has ever given up what it considered its property without resorting to violence.  When that desire for separation and independence comes from a part of what it considers its own base, the resistance is even stronger and violence highly predictable.  And the history of the Spanish State itself?  Violent acquisition of all of its neighbouring lands –until Portugal broke away and stopped at the French border (another major thief).  Violent suppression of peasants and workers and the overthrow of two democratically-elected Republican governments, followed by violent repression.  War conducted against the Basque independentists.  The Spanish state will use much more violence than it did on October 1st last year, repressing the Referendum on Catalan independence.  The only questions are § when and
§ will the Catalans be prepared for it.

End

http://www.thenational.scot/news/16835507.spains-foreign-minister-calls-for-government-to-bail-political-prisoners/?ref=fbshr

CATALAN NATIONAL RESISTANCE DAY IN DUBLIN

Diarmuid Breatnach

 

Section of the Diada celebration outside the GPO looking northwards (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Catalans made a good showing Sunday in Dublin to mark their national day, La Diada. The official date is actually the 11th but this was the closest weekend day to it, when people would not be at work. In Catalunya, of course, it will be celebrated on Tuesday.

The event was organised by the ANC (Catalan National Assembly) in Ireland and was supported by a number of other organisations, including representation from CDRs in Ireland (Committee for the Defence of the Republic), Casals Catala (Catalan cultural association) and the Irish Catalan solidarity organisation, With Catalonia/ Leis an Chatalóin.  It took place outside the iconic General Post Office (HQ of the Irish rebels in 1916 and which still bears the marks of British bullets and artillery shell fragments) in O’Connell Street (Dublin’s main street).

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

The two independentist flags, the Estelada and the Vermelha were both very much in evidence, along with a banner in Irish and English, streamers calling for “Libertat”, T-Shirts of various kinds displaying identification with the Catalan national movement and/or solidarity with political prisoners. In addition there was a Basque Antifa flag flown. The event was held in a friendly atmosphere with a number of supporters having brought their children and, whether by design or happenstance, there were no speakers. The Els Segadors (The Reapers), the Catalan national anthem was of course sung as were a couple of others and a number of tunes were played on the gralla (Catalan reed instrument with a loud sound).

Catalan woman with the “gralla” musical instrument
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Last year the Diada was celebrated in a number of Catalan cities and with up to a million participating through the streets of Barcelona in a demonstration for Catalan self-determination, in a lead-up to the Independence Referendum carried out on October 1st, in defiance of Spanish Government prohibition and which was savagely attacked by Spanish police. The ANC there, a grass-roots organisation, was the major organiser of the Diada, which is no doubt a major reason why its President, Jordi Sanchez i Picanyol, was arrested by the Spanish Government and, along with others, faces charges of “rebellion” and has been in jail without bail since October.

Subsequently the Catalan Government, an independentist coalition, declared the Catalan Republic and then immediately suspended it. The elections in December returned a majority once again for independence.

Catalans in Dublin have also promised to commemorate the Catalan referendum of October last year.

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

 

Photo shows another view of section of the demonstration and a supporter flies the flag of the Basque Antifascist movement.
(Photo source: donated by Catalan supporter)

 

This year the Diada demonstration in Barcelona, convened under the slogan “Fem la República Catalana” (“Let’s Build the Catalan Republic”) is expected to attract at least a million participants and there will be demonstrations in other Catalan towns too and many other cultural events in addition to marches and rallies. Although the event is organised well and people participate peacefully, the Spanish Government is reputedly sending 6,000 Spanish police – a move which will inevitably be seen – at least by Catalans — as provocative or intimidatory. And indeed evoke memories of Catalans trying to vote in the Referendum last October being batoned by Spanish riot police, as well as dragged, kicked, punched and shot at with rubber bullets (banned in Catalonia).

As the Diada was part of the build-up in the Catalan national movement last year, so it will be this year, although there is currently no plan for another referendum (Catalan political leaders have offered to hold another one but the Spanish Government has replied that would only be permitted if it did not lead to independence but instead to some greater extension of autonomy). Nor is there a prospect of elections this year. Meanwhile, the jailed cultural and political activists await trial without bail, others are in exile and hundreds more face charges. And the the aspiration for independence remains unsatisfied.

 

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

ORIGINS OF THE DIADA

Dates to celebrate the nation, except when they are those of patron saints, are usually chosen to commemorate an important event in the history of the nation – and not always a happy one. The Diada is one of the latter, commemorating the fall of Barcelona in 1714 to the forces of the French Royal House, the Borbons, after a 14-month siege, with the subsequent removal of Catalan laws and national rights. In a struggle between different pretenders to the Spanish Crown, the Catalans had chosen the losing side. The Irish, having made a similar ill-starred choice twice when the British Parliament overthrew its King, first with Charles I (Stuart) and later with James II (also Stuart), may well sympathise.

Spanish dictator Primo de Rivera banned the commemoration and subsequently, with the inauguration of the Second Spanish Republic in 1931, the Catalans opted to side with it while gaining national autonomy from the Government. However the military uprising against that Republic became what is usually known as the Spanish Civil War and Catalans fought to resist Franco. When Catalonia fell and Franco’s dictatorship was installed, the Catalan language was banned as were any demonstrations of independent Catalan national feeling, which however did not totally prevent some gestures of defiance annually on that day. The Diada has now been celebrated publicly in Catalunya every year since 1976, the first September since the death of Franco.

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LINKS:

ANC: https://www.facebook.com/IrlandaPerLaIndependenciaDeCatalunya/

CDR: https://www.facebook.com/CDRDublin/

Casals Catala Irlanda: https://www.facebook.com/casalcatalairlanda/

With Catalonia/ Leis an Chatalóin: https://www.facebook.com/WithCataloniaIreland/

Daily 10-news video of news from Catalonia: http://www.catalannews.com/

“Freedom!”
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

People holding bunting of “Si” flags, the answer the majority gave in the referendum to the question of whether they wished a Catalan Republic or not (Photo: D.Breatnach)

One of many Catalan independence caped crusaders outside the General Post Office. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

In the background: children social and climbing — but not social climbers!
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

View from the pedestrian central reservation (Photo: D.Breatnach)

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Passer-by (tourist) asking what the event is about. (Photo: D.Breatnach)