DISCURSO DEL COMÍTE ANTI INTERNAMIENTO DE DUBLÍN PARA LA CONMEMORACIÓN DE PASCUA ABRIL 2019
A Chomrádaith agus a chairde, go raibh maith agaibh (“Companer@s y amig@s, gracias”) al Acción Anti-Imperialista de Irlanda por invitar al Comité de Anti-Internamiento de Dublín a hablar en este evento.
Tradicionalmente este es un tiempo cada año de conmemoraciones.
Conmemoramos en primer lugar a las mujeres, hombres y chicos que salieron a luchar contra un Imperio, el más grande jamás conocido y, en ese momento, el militar más poderoso del mundo. Algun@s lucharon solo por la independencia de Irlanda, much@s lucharon también por la justicia social y otr@s lucharon contra la guerra imperialista. El nuestro fue el primer alzamiento contra la carnicería de la Guerra imperialista y el mundo tuvo que esperar un año antes de que hubiera otro, en Rusia, y dos años antes del alzamiento espartaquista en Alemania.
Pero también conmemoramos a aquell@s much@s otr@s que lucharon y much@s que dieron su vida contra el invasor a través de los siglos, contra el colonizador, los ladrones de tierras, contra la monarquía inglesa por una República, contra los traidores de la causa de la independencia, contra los Gombeen (capitalistas nativos). Los gobernantes de nuestro propio Estado y los gobernantes coloniales de la colonia inglesa restante en suelo irlandés.
Es correcto y apropiado conmemorar los hechos heroicos y el sacrificio del pasado.
Pero no se trata solo del pasado; también se trata del presente y del futuro. A chomrádaithe (“companer@s), la lucha aún no está terminada y sus objetivos aún no se han alcanzado. Vivimos en un país dividido por una frontera británica y también dividido entre ricos y pobres, donde una pequeña minoría de explotadores vive de los trabajadores y de la clase media baja, convirtiendo la miseria de much@s en los euros y libras de unos pocos.
A medida que el fascismo asoma su fea cabeza y destapa sus sangrientos colmillos nuevamente por todo el mundo, nuestros gobernantes aquí en Irlanda también se vuelven cada vez más a la represión. Recordamos a los que están en juicio ahora por oponerse exitosamente al lanzamiento del fascista Pegida en Dublín en 2012. Y los partidarios del Sinn Féin Republicano atacados en Newry mientras conmemoraban el mismo Alzamiento de 1916 el año pasado, también en juicio ahora, una repetición de los ataques del RUC bajo la Ley de Poderes Especiales. Y las redadas en los hogares de much@s republican@s de otras organizaciones a lo largo del año. Y aquellos que languidecen en la cárcel después de la condena por cortes especiales sin jurado en ambos lados de la Frontera.
Parte del arsenal de la represión ha sido tradicionalmente el internamiento sin juicio. Y camaradas, tras el Alzamiento de 1916, hubo una gran ola de detenciones en Irlanda. Más de 3.500 hombres y mujeres fueron arrestados y se dictaron noventa sentencias de muerte, aunque más tarde todas menos 16 fueron conmutados. 1,852 mujeres y hombres fueron internados en campos de concentración y prisiones en Inglaterra y Gales.
Los británicos recurrieron nuevamente al internamiento durante la Guerra de la Independencia, al igual que los gobiernos irlandeses durante la Guerra Civil y en los años 30 y 40, y los británicos en los Seis Condados en los años 70. Eso fue internamiento masivo, pero el internamiento continúa hoy de forma más selectiva, a través de la revocación de la licencia para ex presos y la negativa de la libertad a fianza para otros. Tod@s l@s republican@s deben oponerse a esta práctica represiva y no solo l@s republican@s, sino también l@s socialistas y, de hecho, todas las personas democráticas. La historia muestra una y otra vez que lo que el Estado se sale con la suya contra un grupo, lo usa más tarde contra otro.
El Comité contra el internamiento de Dublín se esfuerza por celebrar un piquete mensual de información en diferentes partes de Dublín y un evento anual en Newry. No somos sectarios y somos independientes de cualquier partido u organización política, lo que significa que TODAS las organizaciones republicanas deben apoyar nuestros eventos, ya que el internmiento nos afecta a todos. O nos oponemos juntos a la represión estatal, camaradas … o vamos a la cárcel por separado.
On the 5th August 1914 the Supreme Council of the IRB, one months after the British had declared war on Germany, decided in principle to instigate a rising for Irish independence.
On 5th August 1914, one month after the British had declared war, the Supreme Council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood decided in principle to lead a Rising. They envisaged, as many observers did too, that the War would not last long and arming and preparing for an insurrection would be difficult within that timeframe. The war continuing well beyond the at most expected period of a year, provided the IRB with the space to organise, plan, prepare – and also with an ally to arm them: Germany.
The split in the Irish Volunteers caused by Redmond’s speech at Woodenbridge, offering the Volunteers to British Imperialism for the war against German Imperialism and Turkey, left the secret Irish Republican Brotherhood in a position to take control of the remainder, those who declined to fight for Britain and determined instead to fight for Ireland’s independence.
Over a number of months Patrick Pearse became Director of Military Organisation, Bulmer Hobson Quartermaster General, Joseph Plunkett became Director of Military Operations, Éamonn Ceannt, Director of Communications, while Thomas MacDonagh became Director of Training.
The titular head of the Volunteers, the Gaelic scholar Eoin Mac Neil, and such founding figures as The O’Rahilly, while in prominent positions and refusing to follow Redmond, did not embody the same coherence and determination for insurrection as was embodied in the IRB.
That list above contains four of the later signatories of the 1916 Proclamation. Seán Mac Diarmada and Thomas Clarke are missing but, though central figures in the reorganisation of the IRB over preceding years, that is not surprising: the older Fenian, veteran of 15 years in British jail in conditions which, it is said, sent one third of his comrades insane and another third to early graves, preferred to work in the shadows. No doubt he had instructed his student and energetic organiser, Mac Diarmada, to do likewise in so far as possible. However, they too joined the expanded Military Council in late 1915.
The fifth of the Proclamation Signatories missing is James Connolly, who in August 1914 was recovering and rebuilding the Irish Transport & General Workers union,months after the end of their exhausting 8-month struggle against the Dublin employers. But he was horrified by the imperialist war and the pitting of workers against one another, divided by the ruling classes of their respective locations, uniforms of different colours concealing their common interests. Connolly wanted a rising – not just for independence but also against the coming butchery of War. The reorganisation of the Irish Citizen Army, the worker’s defence militia, began to engage Connolly’s energies but he was only sworn into the IRB in January 1916, three months before the Rising.
So many different threads in Irish life – cultural, political, class and nation – had been coming together, to weave a tapestry that would be read in different ways over decades but would still have powerful images, colours and words to move women and men over a century later.
The 1916 Rising, to which Moore Street is so closely linked, represented some very important events for the people of the world and it impacted on people in all populated continents of the globe.
FOR DEMOCRACY, EQUALITY
The 1916 Proclamation, printed in Liberty Hall and signed in No.21 Henry Street, just around the corner from Moore Street, is a document not only of clear patriotic and anti-colonial expression but also a democratic and inclusive one. At a time when hardly a state anywhere in the world permitted women to vote in elections, the document specifically addressed “Irishmen and Irish women”. It also clearly expressed the wish of the insurgents to overcome the religious sectarianism which had played such an important part in securing continued colonial rule: “ … religious and civil liberty … oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien Government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.”
The Rising had expressed the gender equality intentions of the insurgents in more than the words of its address: women fought in the Rising and, in two garrison areas, commanded for awhile. The British colonial authorities recognised the role of some of those women by sentencing one to death, albeit a sentence later commuted, and keeping a number of them in prison even after many men had been released.
FOR GENDER EQUALITY
Irish women organised for and acted in the Rising in two separate organisations: Cumann na mBan and the Irish Citizen Army.
The women founded as an auxiliary force to the Irish Volunteers, Cumann na mBan, later to assert considerable organisational independence, wore their own uniforms and had their own female officers. Women had participated in many insurrections and resistance movements across the world but no insurrectionary force in history ever before had such a consciously women-organised force.
The women in the Irish Citizen Army had formally equal status with men and a number carried arms in the Rising and fired them at the enemy. Men acted on orders from women officers in at least two garrison areas and, in medical matters, also in at least a third.
Such a situation was of great significance in the struggle for women’s rights and gender equality, not only in Ireland but in the world.
FOR WORKERS AND SOCIALISM
The Irish Citizen Army was founded in 1913 as a workers’ defence force by trade unionists and socialists and later as a workers’ army and, despite its strongly anti-colonial stance, until the 1916 Rising, maintained a strict separation from the nationalist republican organisations of the Irish Volunteers and Cumann na mBan. As detailed earlier, it formally recognised women within the organisation as of equal status with men.
Workers’ organisations had existed before, including armed ones but nowhere had such an armed organisation existed outside of armed conflict for so long (1913-1916), led by socialists and with equal status for men and women. In the history of socialist organisation and particularly of a revolutionary and insurgent kind, this was a development of enormous importance.
The 1916 Rising took place in the middle of the first of two huge international conflicts that were later called World Wars. WW1 was a struggle for markets, resources and strategic positions and bases between a number of states ruled by capitalists and those states recruited heavily from among the nations they had colonised; in Britain’s case, that included Ireland.
To many nationalist Republicans, the War represented an opportunity, expressed in the maxim that “England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity”. But to many socialists around the world, the War represented a disastrous pitting of the working people under one Power against the working people of another, as well as an excuse for the suppression of demands to fulfill the needs of their workers while the capitalists gathered huge profits. James Connolly was one of those socialists.
Connolly, Edinburgh-born Irish revolutionary socialist, formerly Acting General Secretary of the Irish Transport & General Worker’s Union, had joined the International Workers of the Word, the hugely influential in the USA syndicalist organisation. As well as being an energetic organiser, Connolly was a historian and revolutionary theoretician. Connolly took to heart the resolution formally adopted by representatives of the vast majority of European socialists to oppose war and, should it come, to turn it into class war against their rulers. In the event, Connolly was one of the few European socialist leaders to live up to that resolution: as Commandant of the Irish Citizen Army, GPO Garrison commander in a rising against Ireland’s British colonial masters, James Connolly was also striking a blow against imperial and colonial war.
That aspect of the Rising, of being consciously or unconsciously against War, predated the February Russian Revolution of 1917, also in part an anti-war uprising, by ten months. And of course, predated the October Socialist Revolution in Russia by seventeen months and the nearest uprising geographically to Ireland, also in part an anti-war one, the German socialist uprising in November 1918, by two-and-a-half years. For all these reasons, the 1916 Rising, the Headquarters of which were in the GPO and later removed to Moore Street, was and remains of enormous significance in the world-wide history of people’s movements against war.
AGAINST COLONIALISM IN THE WORLD
The 1916 Rising reverberated around the world. It took place in what had a century earlier been widely regarded as the second city of the British Empire and, when it erupted, did so against the largest empire, in terms of directly-controlled areas and population numbers ruled, that the world has ever known. How can such an event be of other than huge interest, not only to other peoples under British colonial rule but also to those under the colonial rule of France, Belgium, Germany, Holland, Portugal, Spain, Russia and the United States? How could it not have been of considerable interest to socialist revolutionaries everywhere?
Socialists around the world discussed the Rising, at first often criticising it, while Lenin, of huge importance in the socialist movement at that time and some others commented favourably upon it. Consequently, the Rising and the War of Independence was to play an important part in the development of a revolutionary theory around the world that advocated the linking of the struggles of worker, peasant and small farmer, of anti-imperialism and anti-colonialism with struggle for a socialist republic.
The Rising was a topic of great discussion in the United States and in Australia, and in the USA of financial and other support, as is well known. Connolly had been active there and had published his songbook in New York in 1910; Larkin was actually there in 1916. For a number of reasons, including the sentencing to death of Eamon Bulfin for his role in the GPO and in Moore Street, a sentence later commuted and Bulfin deported to Buenos Aires, the Rising was discussed in Argentina and in other Latin American countries (where, at that time, the British were the main imperialist power).
It was certainly discussed in the huge country of India (which at that time included what is now the states of Pakistan and Bangladesh), whose revolutionary nationalists had contact with Fenian revolutionaries from decades earlier. The Connaught Ranger mutiny in the British Army was a direct result of the Rising and the War of Independence and, before the mutiny was crushed, the soldiers and oppressed Indians had begun to make movement towards reciprocal solidarity. And we know, from history and the writings of Indian nationalists and socialists, that the Rising and the War of Independence which organically followed the Rising influenced the struggles against colonialism and imperialism in India right up to the Second World War. We are also aware of correspondence between the Nehru and Ghandi families and the McSwineys.
We know also that the War of Independence influenced African uprisings and Ho Chi Minh, later leader of successful wars against Japanese invasion and French colonialism. In South Africa, the Rising must have been a subject of discussion too, at least among the whites. John McBride, sentenced to death ostensibly for his role in Rising was probably in reality being shot for having organised and led an Irish Brigade to fight the British in the Second Boer War, which had ended but fourteen years earlier.
In Britain itself, the Rising influenced the huge Irish diaspora in England, Scotland and Wales and a significant proportion of the insurgent forces in Dublin had actually come from there. The Rising and especially the War of Independence caused a crises of a kind in British socialist thinking, threatening an irrevocable rupture between revolutionary socialists and even sections of radical social democrats on the one hand and pro-imperial social democracy on the other.
This is not the place to discuss this further but that situation, allied to anti-colonial struggles around the world, huge dissatisfaction and mutinies in the British armed forces and a growing strike movement in Britain, provided great opportunities for an Irish revolutionary movement to influence the history of the world in a direction other than that which it has taken.
For all the reasons outlined above, the Moore Street quarter should be of recognised World Heritage Status.
UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE AND OTHER CONSERVATION STATUS
The Irish State ratified the World Heritage Convention in 1991, which qualifies Ireland to apply for that status for the Moore Street quarter. Up to US$1 million is available from the World Heritage fund for the saving and development of a World Heritage site and funds are also available for urgent works to save it. World Heritage status attracts considerable tourist interest and substantial revenue is of course also available to the State and businesses surrounding the area from such tourist interest.
Currently Ireland has only two sites which have been accorded full World Heritage status (one of archaelogical and the other or natural, mainly geological, importance). However, another seven sites are under “Tentative” categorisation since 2010 and Dublin City is one of those. The Moore Street battleground could be afforded that full World Heritage status in its own right, which I believe its history deserves but it can also be used to strengthen the case for full such status for Dublin City.
The ten grounds on which UNESCO currently relies in order to examine the “the unique importance” of a site is admittedly rather restricted in the category of historical importance, particularly in the development of social movements. However, even under the existing list, I would submit that the Moore Street battleground meets four of the criteria: 2, 4, 6 and 8. The USA has the Statue of Liberty and Independence Hall building as World Heritage sites.
Registering under EU programs may also be possible, in particular Horizon 2020.
The following is a part of the personal submission on the future of Moore Street which I made to the Minister’s Consultative Group on Moore Street; another section, 0n the Moore Street Market, has already been published.
The 1916 Rising historical aspect of Moore Street has been most commented upon, understandably and rightly so; however because of that I do not feel it is necessary for me to do aught than to outline the bare bones of the historical case.
The Easter Rising began on Easter Monday April 24th — it was a momentous occasion in Irish and in world history (see 1916 RISING – OF GREAT SIGNIFICANCE IN IRISH AND INTERNATIONAL HISTORY to be published separately) and of unparalleled significance in making possible the present national and international status of Ireland (whether it or subsequent events resulted in true independence or lived up to the dreams and vision of the Rising’s participants is another matter).
April 24th was not only the day the “Republic was asserted in arms” but also the day it was declared by written and spoken word, to Ireland and to the world. That was done through the Proclamation, signed earlier in the week at No.21 Henry Street and then read out by Patrick Pearse outside the GPO on behalf of the Irish Republic, copies being also distributed through the city.
Why read out at the GPO? Because the HQ of the Rising was there, the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic. And on Friday 28th, when that building was no longer habitable due to shell-fire and flames, the Government and those remaining of the GPO garrison evacuated the building.
Leaving by a side door that no longer exists, the evacuees crossed a smoke-covered and bullet-live Henry Street and entered Henry Place. There they made their way to the corner of Moore Lane and two men died on that journey. They entered houses seeking British soldiers, ready for hand-to-hand fighting and found none – the British soldiers were at distant remove and armed with machine-guns and rifles on the roof of the Rotunda and at a barricade on Parnell Street.
Building a temporary barricade for cover, the evacuees made their way across this gap – indeed a bearna baoil — and continued on towards Moore Street. Here again the main body came to a halt, as another British barricade was firing down this street too.
Possibly one Volunteer died trying to cross here; certainly the majority instead decided to enter No.10 Moore Street (junction with Henry Place) and some houses in the southern terrace (that whole terrace and a part of No.10 were later destroyed by shelling and flames). Some volunteers also occupied the furthest house south but were forced by flames and heat to evacuate it later.
Nos.10, 14, the End of the Terrace and O’Rahilly Parade
In No.10, Volunteer Nurse O’Farrell set up the field hospital, treating up to 20 wounded men, including a wounded British soldier picked up under British fire by George Plunkett from near a Volunteer barricade at the Moore St./ Salmons Lane junction and brought inside to be cared for.
Such details would make No.10 of great historical importance but it is trumped by another – this was also where the Provisional Government met on the evening of Friday 28th, the last night of the Rising. And it was here that the decision was taken to tunnel through the rest of the houses.
Through the rest of that night tunneling continued to the last house in the terrace, which is to say at the lane now named O’Rahilly Parade. And the Government relocated to nearer the centre of the terrace, almost certainly No.16. Those facts alone make the whole terrace of important historical significance.
Yet there is more. Just prior to the evacuation, The O’Rahilly led a detachment of volunteers (in both senses) in a charge along Moore Street at the barricade. Of those who remained in the street only one somehow appears not to have been wounded but his luck was about to run out: as he ran across the road to the laneway which now bears his name, The O’Rahilly was hit by five bullets and lay, dying, in the lane. Here he composed and wrote that prosaic and yet heart-rending simple letter of farewell to his wife and children, the script and content of which is reproduced in the monument currently on the wall in this laneway, near the junction known for generations locally as “Dead Man’s Corner”.
ANOTHER SUICIDE ASSAULT PLAN AND SURRENDER
In this laneway the next day, Saturday 29th, there gathered another barricade suicide attack party mobilised by Seán McLoughlin, to provide at least a diversion for the rest of the Garrison to escape and proceed westward to continue the resistance. Included in this group was Oscar Traynor, subsequently serving at different times as Minister for Post & Telegraphs, Defence and Justice (also President of the Football Association of Ireland) (but also later instrumental in denying McLoughlin a pension at commanding officer level).
Impressed by McLoughlin’s conduct earlier and during the evacuation, Connolly had appointed him to replace himself as head of the GPO Garrison now in Moore Street: yet another great historical importance of Moore Street – McLoughlin went on to become an IRA organiser in Limerick and also Commandant of a Flying Brigade in Limerick during the Civil War (by which time he had become a communist).
McLoughlin’s group were pulled back from their attack almost at the last moment as Pearse was now contemplating surrender. A number of civilians, including women, had been shot dead by the British in Moore Street (the Volunteers had shot one civilian, a teenage girl, with an accidental discharge upon entering No.10 – incredibly almost, the father pleaded the Volunteer be not punished and the mother cooked for the soldiers).
In pursuance of the decision to surrender, Elizabeth O’Farrell left the terrace (perhaps from No.14) under an improvised white flag of truce (despite a civilian man lying dead in the street under another such improvised flag), climbed over the British barricade and met with General Lowe, then returned to Moore Street and eventually emerged again with Pearse, whereupon the Surrender was formally agreed and Pearse’s order and Connolly’s co-signing was also decided.
All those events make the whole Moore Street quarter of huge national historical significance but there is yet one more – McLoughlin marched the garrison out under arms, in defiance of the orders of the British and they retraced their evacuation route, saluting the GPO as they passed it on their way up to the Gresham and captivity.
Apart from the civilians and Volunteers wounded and killed in that quarter, five of the Signatories of the Proclamation, including the Commander-in-Chief of the Rising and with his brother Willie, six of the fourteen executed in Dublin spent their last days of freedom in Moore Street.
During the Easter Rising Volunteers and their supporters or anxious relatives came and went to and from the GPO and other buildings in the area, some of them taking side streets to do so, many passing through the Moore Street quarter (including parts of it now buried under the ILAC). From the GPO to the Moore Street quarter is clearly the site of a historical urban (and WWI) battlefield, most of it intact.
Judge Barrett rightly pointed out that the issue is not how many of the houses are of pre-1916 construction (despite the State’s defence team making much of this issue) but rather of the historical footprint. In other words, Max Barrett took an archaelogical historical view rather than a historical architectural one.
Without being unmoved by architecture, I would concur with this viewpoint and emphasise it in stressing the historical importance of the street, laneways and buildings (including the eastern side of the southern terrace of Moore Street, included in the threat from the giant shopping mall plan). Nevertheless, it is a fact that some of the buildings are of pre-1916 vintage and that virtually all contain some of the original building, or cellars or courtelage. On the northwest side, bullet marks may be found on houses including parts of the wings of the ‘grotesque’ (on the roof of a fine “Dutch”-style house) which were shot off by British Army soldiers during the Rising.
CONCRETE CONSERVATION, RESTORATION AND DEVELOPMENT RECOMMENDATIONS
In consultation with campaigners, street traders, the public, small shopkeepers, local residents, historians, architects and elected representatives: Save, Restore, Rebuild, Improve.
The whole area should be pedestrianised with the usual access exemptions for deliveries within certain hours, emergency services etc.
Buildings of the 1916 period in the Quarter should be preserved
All other buildings in the quarter should be preserved, renovated or reconstructed as necessary to appearance appropriate to the period and area (and appropriate to their current use – I am not advocating the building of outside toilets for public use or slaughterhouses)
The upper floor of the 1916 Terrace should be developed into a 1916 history experience, integrated with the GPO and the Evacuation Route, with disabled access
and the history being ‘social’ (i.e. showing how the people lived) as well as a ‘political’, i.e. aspects of the Rising (see A MOORE STREET HISTORY TOUR — A VISITOR’S EXPERIENCE IN THE FUTURE, article soon to be published)
The Evacuation Route should be conserved and appropriately renovated where necessary, with important events marked by plaques, panels and murals along its route
The Evacuation Route should be brought back to the period cobbles and kept clear of rubbish or graffiti with disabled access
Moore Lane and O’Rahilly Parade should be brought back to original cobbles with disabled access
The development should take place in the context of upgrading the area as a history, culture and leisure area, most of it accessible by day and night
The part of Moore Street not currently part of the Barrett judgement should be included in the overall plan
The State should investigate the potential of applying for World Heritage Status, consulting widely and publishing its recommendations
Also for conservation within a European framework (some aspects of Horizon 2020 may be useful in this respect)
In order to do all this, a first priority is to formally urge the Minister to drop the appeal and I submit that the Consultative Group should do exactly that.
Develop a democratic, open and transparent partnership process to oversee the development, with representation for all stakeholders, including street traders and local small businesses, nearby residents, historians, campaigners (including activists currently excluded from the Consultative Group), historians ….
“From the Lockout to Revolution”, performance of the East Wall PEG Drama & Variety Group at City Hall on April 9th 2016. This was part of a program of events organised in conjunction with the Cabra 1916 Rising Committee and Dublin City Council.
At the outset of the Easter Rising, City Hall was occupied by a detachment of the Irish Citizen Army and was the location of fierce fighting until the insurgents were forced to surrender. Their commanding officer and another three fighters were killed there.
( Video produced and edited by Eoin McDonnell )
East Wall PEG Drama & Variety Group performers: Rebecca Dillon, Mary Colmey, Monica Horan, Paul Horan, Colm Meehan, Séamus Murphy, Tréasa Woods, with Diarmuid Breatnach.
The struggle for the preservation of Moore Street that is currently in the news (but has been going on for fifteen years) is one not only for nationalists and Republicans, but for socialists too. And for socialists of revolutionary ideology as well as for radical social democrats. But currently these sectors, apart from individuals independent of political party (and one or two belonging to parties), are keeping away from the issue. In this they are seriously mistaken and are doing the working class in Ireland and indeed internationally a disservice.
BACKGROUND TO MOORE STREET STRUGGLE
For those who may not be aware of the historical background, roughly 300 men and women of the GPO garrison in 1916, having to evacuate the burning building, made their way to Moore Street and occupied the terrace from the junction with Henry Place to what is now O’Rahilly Parade, entering at No.10 and tunneling through up to No.25 at the end of the terrace. On the following day, the decision was taken to surrender. Despite its historical status, nothing was done by the State to protect the ‘1916 Terrace’ for decades, although a small commemorative plaque was put on No.16 in 1966, when a number of such plaques were erected at sites throughout the city.
Fifteen years ago a campaign was started, by the National Graves Association and mostly by descendants of people who participated in the 1916 Rising, to have an appropriate historical monument on the site. In 2007 the State named buildings No.14-17 as a ‘National Monument’ but would take no steps regarding the other twelve buildings in the Terrace. By that time the four buildings belonged to a property speculator who allowed them to deteriorate but compliance with maintenance and upkeep obligations to a national monument were not enforced by the State. Also, shortly afterwards, the speculator put in a planning application for a huge shopping centre entailing the demolition of 12 houses of the Terrace and the State approved it.
Other threats emerged later, such as planning applications to extend the ILAC centre further into Moore Street and to build a tall budget hotel at the Moore Lane/ O’Rahilly Parade intersection; these were approved by Dublin City Council’s Planning Department although the majority of the Councillors have voted to preserve the 1916 Terrace and indeed the Historical Quarter.
At the end of 2015 the State bought the four houses of the ‘national monument’ from the speculator, paying him €1 million each for them and proposed to knock down houses either side of it. As soon as the intention to proceed with imminent demolitions became clear, emergency demonstrations were called in the street by a newer group, Save Moore Street From Demolition (founded in September 2014). A five-day occupation of the buildings ensued, ending only on foot of an order of the Court that no demolition take place while a High Court challenge to the Dept. of Heritage was awaited.
A number of protest actions have taken place since then including a street concert and a march from Liberty Hall to Moore Street ending in a rally at the GPO. The struggle continues at the time of writing with further events planned and the SMSFD group have joined with others, including people who occupied the buildings, to form the ‘Save Moore Street 2016’ group. It is a broad group containing activists from a number of Republican organisations and independents of community action, socialist and Republican background.
In a separate development, a High Court challenge against the process undertaken by the State to buy the properties and demolish others on either side opened on February 9th and has been adjourned a number of times since, apparently due to the State not having got its papers together.
Socialists may argue that the cause lying behind the struggle is one of preservation of Republican or even nationalist history. I would argue that is only partly true – but what if it were so? Who actually makes history? It is the masses of people that make history, even if individuals among all classes at certain times are thrust – or throw themselves – upon the stage. In that sense, ALL history of progressive social history belongs to the working class.
Furthermore, the underlying historical reason for which many are seeking to preserve the 1916 Terrace and, indeed, the Moore Street historical quarter, is because it related to a struggle against colonialism, against an immense colonial empire. Are socialists to say that they take no interest in anti-colonial struggles and their history? Or is it that they do, so long as they be in some other part of the world? And if the latter be their position, what possible political justification could they offer for it?
STREET MARKET – SOCIAL HISTORY
In the development of this city, Dublin, street traders have played a part – as indeed they have in the development of probably every city in the world. Working people and small-time entrepreneurs, working hard from dawn to dusk in all weathers to feed themselves and their families, a link between town and country or between coast and inner city. They brought fresh food to the city dwellers of all classes and brought colour to what was often a drab environment, colour to the eye and to the ear also.
Moore Street is the last remaining street of a traditional street market centuries old, the rest of which now lies buried under the ILAC centre and which even now threatens to extend further into Moore Street, squeezing the market street still further. This street market and its history as well as being physically threatened by the proposed extension of the ILAC, squeezed commercially by Dunne’s and Lidl, is threatened also by a planned budget hotel building of many floors and of course the giant shopping centre plan of Chartered Land/ Hammerson. Have the socialist groups nothing to say about this or, if they are against this monopoly capitalist assault, why do they distain to take their place in the ranks of the resistance?
AGAINST WORLD WAR
Some of the Volunteers undoubtedly planned the Rising to take place during the first imperialist World War purely on the basis of the maxim that ‘England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity’. But others, including the revolutionary socialist leader James Connolly, also clearly wanted a rising against the slaughter of workers in a war between imperialists. Connolly wrote a number of articles denouncing this slaughter which socialists of his time had pledged themselves to fight but which few had actually done, when it came to the crunch. However, that position remains the correct one for the working class: in a situation where your masters wish to send you out to fight your class brothers abroad, turn your guns on your masters instead. The 1916 Rising stands as an example of this, the first of the 20th Century and world history would have to wait until the following year for another example in Europe.
All the Irish socialist groups, as far as I’m aware, right across the spectrum from Anarchist to Communist, hold the memory of James Connolly and of the Irish Citizen Army in high esteem. And so do the radical social democrats.
James Connolly led the Irish Citizen Army into alliance with the Irish Volunteers, Cumann na mBan and na Fianna. The ICA, a trade union-based militia, had been formed to defend demonstrating and picketing workers against the attacks of the Dublin Metropolitan Police in 1913. When the ICA went out in the 1916 Rising, Ireland was the first country in the world that century for a workers’ armed unit to fight in its own uniforms and under its own leaders.
The ICA were allocated the Stephens Green and Dublin Castle areas but also had members in the GPO garrison. So when the GPO garrison retreated from the burning building, ICA members were part of that retreat. At least one died on that journey, struck down in Henry Place by British Army bullets at the intersection with what is now Moore Lane.
When the GPO garrison took possession of the 16 houses of the Terrace in Moore Street, tunneling from house to house, the ICA were part of that. And when the decision to surrender was taken, the ICA laid down their arms with the rest.
The 1916 Rising and the occupation of the Moore Street terrace and backyards is part of the ICA’s history and is therefore part of the history of the Irish working class and, indeed, of the international working class. If the socialist groups don’t wish to celebrate that episode in the history of the class, why? If, on the other hand, they do celebrate it, why then do they not join the struggle to have the place of their last stand preserved from demolition and to have the ICA’s place in history marked by a fitting monument?
The lack of engagement of most of the revolutionary and radical left with the Moore Street struggle has also meant no noticeable pressure within the trade unions, where the left have some influence, to even declare verbally for the preservation of the 1916 Terrace. To date, only one section of one trade union, the Construction Section of SIPTU, has declared in favour of saving the Terrace.
The struggle for gender equality is an important part of the struggle for the emancipation of the working class, i.e. for socialism: women represent slightly over one-half of the human race and this is true also for the working class. In addition, the oppression of one part of the class serves as a wedge into the solidarity of the class as a whole.
In 1916 women served as auxiliaries in Cumann na mBan and as equals in the Irish Citizen Army. That year was the first in the World in which women participated in an insurrection in a unit of their own, wearing a uniform of their own and under their own female officers, as was the case with Cumann na mBan. It was also the first time in the 20th Century in which women had formal equality with men in an armed workers’ organisation, as they did in the Irish Citizen Army.
The Proclamation was the first insurrectionary call to arms to address itself specifically to women alongside men (“Irish men and Irish women …”, it begins) and had been signed in secret a little earlier by the seven male signatories (or by most of them) in the alternative cafe and agricultural product cooperative run by Jenny Wyse Power at No.21 Henry Street.
CAPITALISM & THE STATE
The campaign for the saving and appropriate renovation of the 1916 Terrace first of all confronted the capitalist property speculator Joe Reilly and his Chartered Land company, while it lobbied the State to take over the Terrace.
When in 2007 the State declared four houses in the Terrace to be a ‘national monument’, the campaign continued confronting the speculator but now calling, without success, on the State to oblige Mr. O’Reilly to comply with his maintenance obligations to a national monument. When the State granted, with some changes, planning permission for the speculator’s giant shopping centre, the campaign moved into confrontation with the State, a confrontation which intensified after the State purchased the four buildings and prepared to demolish the buildings on either side.
The whole saga was an object demonstration of the function of the State in facilitating capitalist property speculation and furthermore, of the neo-colonial nature of a capitalist class unable to consider saving such a national historical treasure even with the support of the vast majority of the population.
In such a struggle, with people with democratic objectives on one side and, on the other, rapacious property speculators and a capitalist State facilitating those speculators, where does the duty of socialists lie? It is clear on which side they should stand if they should stand on the issue at all. And they should take a stand on it – how can the development of that struggle do anything but strengthen the democratic movement in general, including the movement for socialism, and harm its opponents, the State and capitalism in Ireland? And surely in the course of that struggle, with socialists side by side with Republicans, alliances would be formed which could be built upon for more ambitious projects later?
For all the reasons given above, its social history, its anti-colonial history, the history of the common people as well as that of intellectuals, the history of the working class to assert its independence and dominance of the movement for liberation, the history of women’s struggles, and the current struggle of people against property speculator capital and State, the place of socialists, revolutionary and radical, is right there with the Moore Street 1916 Terrace campaigners. But where are they?
With the exception of a few honourable exceptions, they are notable by their absence. Yet, they will wonder at times why the mass of people do not follow them; why, for the most part, they regard them and their organisations as an irrelevance.