CATALAN FLAG FLIES OVER DUBLIN CITY HALL

Clive Sulish

 

After the Spanish police attack on voters in a referendum on independence in Catalunya1 on October 1st, People Before Profit2 Councillor Tina McVeigh put forward a motion condemning the attack and calling for the Catalan Flag to be flown over Dublin City Hall as a mark of solidarity with the Catalan people and their right to determine their future.

Front view of Dublin City Hall showing the Ensaya flying next to the Irish Tricolour (Photo: Casal Catala Irlanda)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was not such a wild step for the Council to take as it may seem: the Palestinian flag had been flown from City Hall in May, to the delight of most Dubliners but to the disgust of the Israeli Ambassador and to Zionist sympathiser and former Government Minister Alan Shatter. And Dublin city has been ‘twinned’ with Barcelona since 1998.

Nevertheless, in November the Protocol Committee agreed to recommend flying it by majority only, seven votes for and five against. It still had to be voted on by the whole Council and so went forward on to the agenda for the monthly meeting in December. Councillors began receiving emails from Spanish unionists asking them to vote against, which at first substantially outnumbered those in favour. As the first Monday in December drew nearer, the correspondence equalised between those in favour and those against. But the meeting ran over time before the motion was reached on the agenda and another date was set to discuss it. When the councillors reconvened, the motion was proposed, discussed and voted on. Unlike the decision on the Palestinian flag earlier this year, the vote was very close but the motion passed by three votes.

Section of the attendance at the event
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

In January this year the Catalan flag was hoisted – the regional ensaya and not either of the independence esteladas3 – on top of City Hall, where it will fly for a month. City Hall is itself a historic site, having been part of a battleground during the 1916 Rising.  On January 6th, Catalans and some supporters gathered outside City Hall to celebrate the show of solidarity in the flying of the Catalan flag.

Joan Pau of Casal Catala of Ireland4 welcomed the attendance and thanked the Councillors for flying the flag and introduced the Lord Mayor, Mícheál Mac Donncha, telling those present how he had approached the Catalans to help them. Mac Donncha (SF)5 thanked the Catalans for the invitation to attend and said that he was proud of the Council for the decision they had taken. He remarked also that in the past Ireland had political prisoners just like those now in Spanish jails for supporting the Catalan referendum and deplored elected officials of Catalunya being jailed for following the mandate of the people. He spoke also about Ireland’s fight for freedom and how in the 1916 Rising, Volunteers had taken over City Hall itself.

Another view of a section of the attendance Front view of Dublin City Hall showing the Ensaya flying next to the Irish Tricolour (Photo: Casal Catala Irlanda)

 

 

 

Joan Pau then expressed his regret that Cnclr. Tina McVeigh could not be present due to a family bereavement, since she had been very active in solidarity with the Catalan people. He introduced Cnclr. John Lyons (also PBP) who also expressed his pride on the result of the vote, as well as his condemnation of the Spanish Government, as distinct from the Spanish people, for their undemocratic and violent behaviour in the October 1st attacks and subsequently in the jailing of Catalan public representatives. He also condemned the Irish Government for not supporting the right of the Catalan people to self-determination.

Front view of Dublin City Hall showing the Ensaya flying next to the Irish Tricolour
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Although a Spanish unionist had contacted the Council to threaten a counter-demonstration, there was no sign of any such presence throughout the ceremony. A number of passing tourists took photos (some even having themselves photographed with the group) and a number of passing motorists tooted their horns in solidarity.

Section of the attendance with flags (including the “Sí” ones used campaigning for the referendum) & placards calling for the release of the political prisoners.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

After the formal part of the meeting was over, Dublin walking history tour guide Diarmuid Breatnach invited Catalans to gather around DCC’s plaque to the garrison of City Hall and surrounding buildings in 1916. The guide explained the origin of the Irish Citizen Army in the Dublin Lockout of 1913 as a workers’ defence militia against brutal attacks by the Dublin Metropolitan Police Force. It has been called “the first workers’ army” Breatnach told them and drew attention also to it being the only one of the various organisations taking part in the Rising that formally gave equal status to men and women. There were women officers in the ICA and after the killing of the commandant of this garrison Seán Connolly, it was a woman who took over as commandant. The fighting here had been fierce as Dublin Castle is just next door and that had been the HQ of the British Occupation of Ireland since 1169.

Plaque (located to the right side of the front of City Hall) listing the names of men and women of the Irish Citizen Army who fought at that location in 1916. Four ICA Volunteers died there.

After receiving answers to a few questions, many of those present retired to a local pub to warm up and to carry on conversation on a number of topics, in the best Irish – and Catalan – manner. Up above, the Catalan flag on the east side of City Hall’s roof waved in the breeze, with the Irish tricolour next to it, in the centre, waving too.

End.

FOOTNOTES:

1Catalunya is considered part of wider nation called Paisos Catalans (Catalan Countries) which includes Valencia, the Balearic Islands and parts of Aragon and Murcia; most of it lies within the current territory of the Spanish state, with a small part within the French state. Catalunya (capital Barcelona) is one of the regions within the Spanish state with limited autonomy and it is there that the referendum was held, the result mandating its Parlament to create and independent republic. The Spanish Government and Constitutional Court ruled the referendum illegal, confiscated ballot boxes, assaulted hundreds of voters, declared the referendum result non-valid, jailed a number of elected members and activists, threatened others with jail, ruled Catalunya directly Spain and called for new elections, which confirmed the situation more or less as before. The struggle is ongoing.

2People Before Profit was launched as a broad front by the Trotskyist organisation the Socialist Workers’ Party Ireland, formerly the Socialist Workers’ Movement, founded in 1971 and close to the SWP of Britain.

3There are two Catalan independence flags or estelladas: the Republican one with red stripes on a yellow background, with a small blue triangle to the left, containing a white star; the Socialist (or Communist) one, also with red stripes on a yellow background but with a red star to the left and no triangle. The regional ensaya, without any star, was proposed as the one least likely to cause division.

4Casal Catala are Catalan cultural associations that have been founded in a number of countries outside Catalunya.

5SF or Sinn Féin – the party is represented on Dublin City Council and tradition has it that the Lord Mayor is elected yearly in rotation from among the elected representatives; this Council year it was SF’s turn again.


Advertisements

A SECTARIAN WAR OF SYMBOLS

Diarmuid Breatnach

ln the Six Counties, the British colony in Ireland, the sectarian lines are drawn. The Good Friday Agreement did nothing to eliminate them, contrary to the praises of many and perhaps even the wishes of some who supported it. The majority section of the population has a badge of professed faith to identify it, Protestantism, while the other has its own badge, Catholicism. But each section also has other symbols of its own.

          Politically, each section has a number of divisions within it but each has its majority representation: the Democratic Unionist Party for the Protestants and Sinn Féin for the Catholics. Both of these parties have overcome others to rise to prominence over their respective sections – the DUP deposed the Ulster Unionist Party and Sinn Féin overtook the Social Democratic and Labour Party. Both Sinn Féin and the DUP display the symbols of their respective sections and employ them to sectarian electoral advantage.

Apart from professed religion as a signifier, each section also has its own visible symbols: the Tricolour and Harp for the Catholics, the Union Jack and Crown for the Protestants. And to this has now been added language: Irish for the Catholics and Ulster Scots/ English for the Protestants.

The Irish Tricolour, a flag of the Irish Republican movement and official flag of the Irish State.
(Image sourced on Internet)

Flag of the United Kingdom, colloquially known as the “Union Jack” (it has other less neutral names too).
(Image sourced on Internet)

There are other symbols too but they are of minor importance, for example for the Catholics flying the Palestinian flag in solidarity with Palestinians and, just because they must oppose anything the Fenians do, the Israeli flag for the Protestants. Soon we may see the Catholics adopt the Catalan Estelada flags and the Protestants, the flag of the Spanish State. But would Unionist Protestants fly the flag of a Catholic country? Yes, it’s quite possible – they already fly one of a Jewish state.

Coat Arms UK (black & white), itself a symbol of UK authority and power, displaying a number of other symbols within it, including the Irish Harp within the shield. Note the symbolic Crown above all. (Image sourced on Internet)

United Irishmen Harp Motif
(Image sourced on Internet)

The opposing sections are in this discussion described as “Catholic” and “Protestant”, as though religion were really the issue – however it is not. Some commentators like to speak in term of “nationalists and unionists”, with the more extreme wing of the latter described as “Loyalists”. That particular sub-group of Unionism is more likely to refer to Catholics as “Taigues” or “Fenians”.

There are religious differences in doctrine and in temporal supremacy between both religions: Catholics believe in the immaculate conception of Mary, the mother of the Christ figure and Protestants do not, though she is seen as a saint in their churches also. Perhaps more relevantly, for Catholics the Pope is, notionally at least, the supreme temporal religious authority while for Anglican Protestants, it is the ruling British Monarch (other British-based Protestant sects acknowledge only their own vicars, their reading of the Christian Bible or their own consciences). Currently, that monarch is Queen Elizabeth II Windsor and lest she be considered just some kind of figurehead, albeit with untold (literally!) riches quite apart from public funds allocation and properties, it is well to remember that she is also Commander-in-Chief of the British Armed Forces.

Back in the day, the Pontiff (the Pope) also controlled a fair share of armed force and also brokered deals between the monarchs of different kingdoms. And in that respect, we’ll shortly come to some great ironies with regards to the Six Counties but first there are other matters to deal with.

RELIGION AS A QUESTION OF STATE POWER

Henry VIII of England disestablished the power of the Pontiff in English-ruled domains and made himself head of the Church, which of course required a split in the Christian Church, and the whole process has since become known as the English Reformation. That happened in the 16th Century; Henry’s daughter Elizabeth I continued this policy in the 17th Century and also extended the power of England and the territories under its domain. Of course, none of this was done by those monarchs alone; powerful feudal and commercial interests were involved also. Being Head of the Church of England allowed Henry to dissolve monasteries and confiscate their lands, filling the coffers of the Crown and of the faithful – faithful to the Crown.

Unfortunately for Ireland, a large part of the country was in the possession of England at this time, though not without resistance. And the original “English” colonists, the Gall-Ghael (“foreign Gael” in Irish), the Normans who had invaded from a colonised Wales with their mercenaries, wanted to stick to their earlier religion, continuing to acknowledge the Pontiff as their spiritual leader. They held their lands through conquest of arms under English monarchs (though the first had been a French Norman) but their loyalty to the British Crown was somewhat shaky. In 1366, nearly two centuries after their conquest of the Irish lands they held, the English Normans called them “the degenerate English” and accused them of having become “more Irish than the Irish themselves”.1

And what of “the Irish themselves”? They too were of the old faith, although their earlier Celtic Christian Church had been more than a little lax in its application of Roman doctrine, especially in laws and mores around marriage, justice and the status of women. The Roman Church was feudal and Irish society still ran along clan lines.

An uneasy alliance was formed between the Gael and the Gall-Ghael which emerged first for the English king Charles I against Cromwell, in the middle of the 17th Century and later again near the end of that century for King James II against King William III (of Orange). On each occasion the Irish alliance lost.

BATTLE, SECTARIAN LINES AND IRONIES

          And here we come to ironies. William of Orange was a Protestant and the victory of his forces at the Battle of the Boyne is considered by Unionists a victory of Protestant forces over Catholic. Actually, there were some Catholics among William’s force and some Protestants among the opposing James II forces but that is not the irony. Nor is the fact that William of Orange was a homosexual and that Rev. Ian Paisley, who founded the Democratic Unionist Party and led it until his death in 2014, led a campaign against decriminalisation of homosexuality under the slogan “Save Ulster from Sodomy!”

No, the irony is even greater than those two facts and it is this: William’s armed forces were part-financed by the Vatican, in other words through the Pontiff himself. Although in Ireland the conflict took on the shape of Catholics fighting for freedom to practice their religion (and even Gael and Gall-Ghael holding on to their respective powers), against Protestants forcing their religion and colonial power on others, it was part of a European-wide conflict known to historians as The Nine-Years War. A coalition of forces composed of Austria, the Holy Roman Empire, the Dutch Republic, Spain, England and Savoy, styling itself the League of Augsburg, drew up to oppose Louis XIV of France. And James found himself on the side of France and against his own Parliament.

The Pontiff, as leader of the Holy Roman Empire, was very much a member of the League of Habsburg as was the Kingdom of Spain and Savoy – all under Catholic rule. When news of William’s defeat of James’ forces at the Battle of the Boyne on 1st July 1690 reached the Vatican, a Te Deum mass of praise was celebrated there and similar demonstrations of praise were practiced in the Spanish Kingdom also. That war in Ireland had fundamentally little to do with religion in reality but everything to do with English state and colonial power and European power struggles.

And of course this is not only an irony for the Protestants, who annually celebrate the Boyne victory on the 12th of July in their most sectarian and anti-Catholic manner, but for the Catholics too, who see James as defending their Catholic faith, of which the Pope was the spiritual leader. Nor is that the only irony in connection with Ireland and the Vatican: it was a Pope, Adrian IV, who issued a Papal Bull (something like a warrant) in 1155 legitimising invasion and conquest of Ireland by Henry II of England. Pope Adrian IV, aka Nicholas Breakspear, was the only English Pontiff ever, true but he was a Pope and he must have had substantial support in Rome to issue such a document.

RELIGION

          One of the characteristics of republicanism in the late 18th Century, apart from the abolition of the monarchy, was the separation of Church and State. Freedom of conscience and worship were important principles in the French and American revolutions. The United Irishmen also adhered to those principles with an even greater motivation, which was that the majority of the Irish population was excluded from participation in government, military and civil profession by a religious bar.

The Unitedmen were defeated, crushed. Their Protestant (Anglican) and Dissenter (Presbyterian) leaders and supporters were executed or exiled2 and the remnants for the most part became dominated by sectarian anti-Catholicism. And Irish nationalism, including republicanism, came to contain a strong Catholic bias (notwithstanding the continuing presence of Protestants and true Republicans in the movement).

Despite the fact that the Irish (and English) Catholic Church hierarchy has been publicly and energetically hostile to Irish Republicanism from the 1780s onwards, the majority of the Irish Republican movement of the early 20th Century observed the practices of the Catholic faith and never broke from its religious allegiance nor sought to overcome the dominance of the Church in society. As a result the Republican movement was unable, had it wanted to, to tackle many of the social injustices in the Irish State’s education, health, intellectual, literary, art, gender and sexuality policies and legislation, where the Church held sway.

Liberty of conscience and worship remains an important civil right, a democratic demand. People are entitled to practice their concept of religion or to abstain from it and their choices in this regard should not influence people’s participation in society as a whole. The Catholic Church is losing its power in the Twenty-Six Counties and that is reflected too in the Six. The Presbyterian churches are likewise losing influence. However, faith congregation membership continues to be a communal marker and to be used by the DUP and SF to hold their respective voting blocs together.

If separation of Church and State is an important principle of Republicanism then Republicans should actively campaign for that end. No school that bases its intake of pupils on the practice or belief of any religion should receive State support. But in the unlikely event that Sinn Féin should embark on a campaign to apply that principle, they would find themselves losing their voting block, for that is how their block is identified in the Six Counties: as Catholics, baptised in Catholic church, attending Catholic services to some degree or other and being educated in Catholic Schools.

The Unionists are of course just as careful to look after their own sectarian voting block and at least as sectarian. But they don’t claim to be Republicans.

THE ESSENCE OF THE SYMBOLS

          Symbols of course do not merely stand for what they are themselves but, in being a symbol, for something else also. A sculpture or drawing of a lion may represent the animal but when used as a symbol, frequently stands for monarchy and power: for examples, the lion on the coat of arms of the United Kingdom and the lions at base of Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, London. And symbols can also change their symbolic meaning and come to mean something else than was originally intended. The cross symbolised martyrdom for early Christians, later came to symbolise Christianity itself, later still the Holy Roman Empire and the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition …. For the Ku Klux Klan in the southern states of the USA, the burning cross symbolises the power of their organisation and white anglo-saxon ethnic supremacy.

The Irish Tricolour flag was presented to Thomas Francis Meagher of the Young Irelanders by women revolutionaries in Paris in 1848, the Year of Revolutions in Europe (but not really in Ireland, where the fight had been knocked out of the remaining survivors of the Great Hunger 1845-1849). Reputedly the flag’s colours signified peace (White) between the traditions of the Gael (Green) and the descendants of those who had fought for William (Orange). The Unionists see it, however, firstly as a symbol of rebellion against the Crown (not without reason, given its historical use) and secondly as a flag of a Catholic Ireland.

The Harp is an Irish symbol of some antiquity and was reputedly flown on standards in ancient medieval times in Ireland. The Norman and English invaders appropriated it firstly as symbol of a conquered Ireland and incorporated it into their colonial standards and flags. Revolutionary republican grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Cromwellian settlers then appropriated the harp as the symbol of the republican United Irishmen, with the motto “It is newly strung and shall be heard”. After the defeat of the Unitedmen (whose leaders were nearly all Protestant), the Harp became a rather suspect symbol for Unionists, mostly Protestants and besides, it is the official symbol of the Irish State (the only state in the world with a musical instrument as its national symbol). However, it remains within the arms of the United Kingdom, representing the Six Counties colony still in British/ English possession.

“Easter Lilly” design, traditionally produced as a paper ‘flag’ and worn pinned to clothing with a straight pin. More recently also produced in enameled metal. (Image sourced on Internet)

The “Easter Lilly” emblem is a symbolic representation of a white lilly with an orange centre, with a green leaf as a background. It was developed by Irish women Republicans in the second decade of the 20th Century to commemorate those who died fighting for Irish national freedom, in particular during the 1916 Easter Rising. For decades it was produced as a simple paper representation for the Irish Republican movement and sold on streets or pubs in the lead-up to Easter Monday, when the Rising would be commemorated. In more recent times it has been worn for up to a week each side of Easter Monday and it has also been produced as a metal badge or pin, which some Republicans wear all year around.

The flag of the United Kingdom, commonly known as the “Union Jack”, embodying a design composed of the symbols of the Crosses of Saints George, Andrew and Patrick, represents the union of the nations through their respective patron saints3: Scotland and Ireland under the rule of England and its Royal Family. It was a forced, not a voluntary union and is therefore a reactionary symbol but Unionists in the Six Counties view it as a symbol of the union with England which they wish to maintain.

Paper “Remembrance Poppy” produced for the British Royal Legion (Image sourced on Internet)

The Crown represents the English Royal Family and UK State power. Since it is the same State that imposes its rule on the other nations of Ireland and the British Isles, it is fundamentally a reactionary symbol, also representing the reactionary institution of monarchy.

The Poppy, a cloth representation of the red flower, is worn by many British people in the lead up to Armistice Day, November 11th and sometimes for days afterwards. Many British people apparently believe that the purpose of this symbol is to commemorate the dead in wars or to support veterans and their families. In fact as research has shown, the primary purpose of commemorating ‘Remembrance Day’ and the Poppy is to gather public support behind the Armed Forces of the UK. Unionists seemingly see wearing it as proof of their political allegiance to Britain, England or the Crown – or all three.4

In the most recent history of the Six Counties, the symbols listed above have been those of the respective communities, with the added fact that Crown and Union Jack have also been symbols of the colonial statelet itself.

Recently two other symbols have been promoted, also with sectarian allegiances: Irish and Ulster Scots. Neither of these two languages is spoken by the majority of either community, for whom English (with some words specific to Ulster) is the majority language.

THE IRISH, ENGLISH AND ULSTER SCOTS LANGUAGES

          Irish or an Ghaeilge, one of the languages of the Goidelic branch of the Celtic languages group, was the language of the people living in Ireland before it was invaded by England and remained the majority language in Ireland until the end of the19th Century. It continues as a community language5 in all provinces of Ireland including Ulster but there in parts of Co. Donegal, the northernmost county of Ireland (and not part of the Six Counties despite the statelet being called “Northern Ireland”).

Irish died out as a community language in the Six Counties from its last refuge, the Sperrin Mountains, sometime in the early decades of the 20th Century (the 1911 Census recorded a majority of Irish speakers in that region but also, interestingly, in the Protestant Sandy Row area of Belfast City). However, some Irish speakers survived and others learned the language so that it continued to exist in the colony after the partition of Ireland in 1921. During the recent 30 years’ war, Irish enjoyed a resurgence and to some extent became a badge of resistance to colonial rule.

English is, more than most, a language composed of a number of different languages. Given that it sounds like and is classified as a Germanic language, it is surprising that its major component is of French language origin with the minor component based on Saxon German. English developed in what became England over a period including the defeat of the Romanised Celtic tribes of the area by the Saxons and Angles and the subsequent conquering of the Saxons themselves by the French-speaking Normans.

A century after their victorious invasion of England, the Normans invaded Ireland. In most of the area they conquered in Ireland, the Normans soon came to adopt many local customs, including the speaking of Irish so that less than two centuries later, their England-based colleagues referred to them as “the degenerate English” who had become “more Irish than the Irish themselves.”6

Although the invaders failed to enforce the Statutes of Kilkenny, over the following centuries they managed through eviction of natives and plantation of colonists, as well as the exclusively official use of English and legal repression of the Irish language, to make Irish a minority language and to reduce it, as a community language, to a number of reservations in certain parts of the country.

Ulster Scots is a dialect of Scots, in turn a dialect of German spoken by Saxon colonisers of the Scottish Lowlands (the reason the dialect became known as “Lallands”). The Scottish colonists of Irish lands given to them by James I, Oliver Cromwell and English bankers brought the language into Ulster where it developed into “Ulster Scots”. That too gave way to English over time except in some pockets, without any serious effort to revive its fortunes. Until, that is, agitation began in recent times for rights for Irish speakers and for the teaching of Irish, when some Unionists, seeking an “Ulster”7 “Protestant” equivalent with which to oppose any benefits for Irish, began agitation for the preservation and teaching of Ulster Scots.

However, the real competitor with Irish for dominance in the Six Counties (as also in the Twenty-Six, the Irish State) is of course English.

PARITY OF ESTEEM”

          “Parity of esteem” is a concept that was put forward by Sinn Féin within the atmosphere of the Good Friday Agreement.

To many people at the time, including myself, it seemed like something between “soft” Republicanism and a token demand, something to represent to the party’s following that it was doing something for them in the Six Counties. Sinn Féin would have claimed it was much more than that – and it was.

When some critics of SF or of the Peace (sic) Process claimed that sectarianism was being institutionalised, was being “copper-fastened”, I wondered how that was. Obviously, people in Catholic areas would vote Sinn Féin but how was that any different other than how they would have voted previously, viz. Nationalist or SDLP?

But in the past, except for the brief “power-sharing” agreement8 which the Loyalists had so effectively sunk, no political representative on a Catholic voting base had even come close to carving up the Six Counties on a community proportional basis. Now Sinn Féin have done so – not just in local authorities but in the government of the statelet itself (present difficulties excepted). That is what SF has achieved, after some years of civil rights agitation, Catholic communal resistance to repression and nearly three decades of armed struggle – a sharing out of the spoils of office. Power-sharing. Parity of esteem. A sectarian carving out of areas of influence.

And every power-base must have its symbols. Recently the Irish Language has become one such. Obviously the Irish language is entitled to support and its speakers have civil language rights. Clearly the sectarian opposition of Unionist politicians to concessions in this direction is fundamentally wrong. Of course a Language Act is needed so that Irish speakers can use it to push for their rights where the institutions oppose and block them. But that is not why SF has come so late into this struggle. It’s another symbol of their ethnic power-base and another stick with which to beat the Unionists.

A view of a section of the “Dearg le Fearg” protest demonstration in Belfast in 2014, demanding State recognition of and facilities for the conservation and dissemination of the Irish language. (Image sourced on Internet)

And of course there are Irish language speakers and campaigners who are Sinn Féin members. They made clear you knew that during the huge demonstration in favour of Irish language rights, the Dearg le Fearg9 demonstration of 2014 in Belfast, when they were the only political party displaying a banner in violation of an understanding that no political party would do so.

But what does Sinn Féin do in order to forward the language among its own members and activists? Are its public speakers obliged to be competent Irish speakers? Are its Ard-Choiste (Executive Committee) meetings conducted through Irish? Its cumann (branch) meetings? Its Ard Fheis (annual congress)?10 No, none of those. Is the party even running an Irish language instruction program to overcome this deficit at some point in the future? No.

Apart from some enthusiasts among its activists and a vague nationalist emotional attachment, Sinn Féin as a party is not really interested in the language. In the Six Counties, it is interested in a sectarian carve-up which will keep it at the power table and the Irish language has now become useful for that. Just as, in the Twenty-Six Counties state, it is interested in coming to power in a different kind of power-sharing.

THE EASTER LILLY AND THE “REMEMBRANCE” POPPY

          And the latest symbol to be sullied by joining this war of symbols is the Easter Lilly. In times past the Easter Lilly, commemorating in particular the dead who fell fighting for freedom in the 1916 Rising, was worn by many in the Twenty-Six Counties state who were not Republicans. In the latter decades of the last century, few wore it apart from Republicans and, in the Six Counties, it was asking for trouble from the colonial police or Loyalists (often the same thing) to display it. The Flags and Emblems (Display) Act (1954-1987) there empowered any police officer to decide it was likely to lead to “a breach of the peace” and to remove it by force; conviction of a breach of the Act was punishable by a fine of up to £500 (sum equal to about £15,300 in 2017) or up to five years in prison.11

The Act, the repeal of which was one of the demands of the Civil Rights movement of the late 1960s, was finally repealed in 1987 but of course, any signifier identifying a person as a Republican or even a Catholic in the Six Counties is at the very least an invitation to less favourable treatment by the authorities and at worse to harassment and assault by Loyalists or colonial armed forces personnel.

It is of course right that people should have the right to wear the Easter Lilly but to pose it as an equal right to wearing the Remembrance (sic) Poppy is to devalue the Lilly, to putting an anti-imperialist and Irish Republican history emblem on the same level as an imperialist military-glorifying one. But that is exactly what Sinn Féin is now doing12. And Leo Varadkar, Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of the Irish state, recently publicly agreed with that notion.13

And is that not the same project as those of the “Museum of Free Derry”14 and of the Glasnevin Cemetery Trust15, one on each side of the Border, commemorating dead British colonial force members side-by-side with their victims and those who fought against them? As though they are of the same worth to commemorate? As though the objectives of each were (are) of equal value?

What more effective way to undermine the power of an anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist symbol than to equate it with its opposite?

THE IMPORTANCE OF SYMBOLS

          I once heard an organiser of a British-based left-wing party, himself of Irish parents, declaim against Irish political commemorations in London as “only of symbolic importance”. How little he understood of human beings to say that! Outside of urgent situations, natural surroundings and chemical reactions, symbols are the only things that convey meaning to human beings.

This page is covered in printed symbols, which we have learned to decipher into words which, in turn are symbols to convey meaning by association. If I write the letters h,o,u,s,e joined together, or say “house”, a symbol in sound, the listeners construct the shape of a house inside their heads, based on the culture and structures to which they have been exposed in their lives, to understand what I mean. If I write or say instead “tent”, they will visualise something else. If I write or say “party” the listener may struggle between visualising a festive occasion or a political party but should I have preceded that word with another, “house”, confusion disappears and the only question is whether the listener’s experience or understanding of a “house party” is the same as mine.

A nod of the head is a symbolic gesture which in most cultures signifies some level of agreement, a shake of the head its opposite. We understand symbolic hand gestures, shrugs, grimaces, smiles, winks, the lift of an eyebrow, bodily posture. Shapes of body or posture can convey sexual availability and induce arousal, or convey threat and give rise to fear. Symbols haunt our dreams, according to Jung and Freud, communications from our subconscious. Symbols are crucial to conveying and understanding meaning.

WHAT IS RIGHT AND WHAT IS NOT

          It is right and proper that people should uphold the symbols of anti-imperialist and anti-colonial historical resistance, including the Irish Tricolour (although more appropriate to my thinking is the Starry Plough of the Irish Citizen Army16). Another symbol of that resistance, the Easter Lilly, is equally valid. It is right and proper that people should

“The Starry Plough”, design of the flag of the Irish Citizen Army, first produced 1914. (Image sourced on Internet)

value the cultural and political history embodied in the symbol of the Irish Harp. It is a matter of great cultural world importance that the Irish language survive and flourish. These are important symbols and, in the case of the language, an important thing in itself. These are not things to be equated with symbols of oppression, colonialism and imperialism.

The Union Jack, the Crown and the Poppy deserve to be shunned by all progressive people, because of the values they symbolise and the continuing effect of those things today. The English language, on the other hand, is worthy of a place in a bilingual Irish society.

Let Republicans and others promote the wearing of the Easter Lilly and the display of flags of historic Republican resistance. Let them never place them in the same context or on equal status with the symbols of imperialism and colonialism. Let many promote the use of the Irish language and rights for its speakers but let it not be used as a crude political weapon, much less to further the prospects of a party which actively colludes with and shares in colonial rule by an invader and has done nothing in reality to promote the language even among its own ranks.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1  The Statutes of Kilkenny sought to halt this “degeneracy” with 35 Acts forbidding the “intermarriage between the native Irish and the native English, the English fostering of Irish children, the English adoption of Irish children and use of Irish names and dress.[7] Those English colonists who did not know how to speak English were required to learn the language (on pain of losing their land and belongings), along with many other English customs. The Irish pastimes of “hockie” and “coiting” were to be dropped and pursuits such as archery and lancing to be taken up, so that the English colonists would be more able to defend against Irish aggression, using English military tactics.[8]

“Other statutes required that the English in Ireland be governed by English common law, instead of the Irish March law or Brehon law[9] and ensured the separation of the Irish and English churches by requiring that “no Irishman of the nations of the Irish be admitted into any cathedral or collegiate church … amongst the English of the land”.[10]

“………. Statute XV, which forbade Irish minstrels or storytellers to come to English areas, guarding against “the Irish agents who come amongst the English, spy out the secrets, plans, and policies of the English, whereby great evils have often resulted”.[11] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statutes_of_Kilkenny

2  e.g William Orr, Edward Crosbie, Wolfe Tone, Edward Fitzgerald, Edward Hayes, Henry Joy McCracken, Henry Munroe, William Aylmer, Thomas Addis Emmet, Bagenal Harvey, Joseph Holt, Napper Tandy, Robert Emmet ….

3  Ireland has in fact three patron Christian saints: Patrick, Bridget and Columcille.

5  By use of the term “community language” here I mean a language used by a community settled on an area, as distinct from say a community of people separated by distance but united by use of a language, or a language used by a few families separated from one another by a majority not speaking that language.

6 The Statutes of Kilkenny

7 A misnomer constantly repeated not only by Unionists but also by British public commentators: the province of Ulster has nine counties, of which three are in the Irish state and six in the British statelet.

8  The Sunningdale Agreement of 1973, which proposed power-sharing between Protestant and Catholic communities in the shape of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive, was overthrown by the Loyalist action of the Ulster Workers’ Council (and Ulster Army Council) strike of 1974, including armed intimidation of Catholic areas, with British Army troops and RUC police standing by (or in the latter case openly colluding) .

9  Literally “Red with Anger”, a campaign of demonstrations organised both sides of the Border, against administrations of both states, by Irish language campaigners and speakers. Connradh na Gaeilge (the Gaelic League, an organisation part-funded by the Irish state) took part in organising this but it was only one of many much more grass-roots organisations across the country involved. It had been agreed that political party representatives would not be speakers (this was violated in some instances) and that political party banners would not be displayed (violated by Sinn Féin on the Belfast demonstration).

10  This is very different from comparable movements for national independence in Catalunya and the Basque Country, where their own national languages dominate their political discourse, despite repression (until the 1980s) and lack of state support.

CATALUNYA AND THE SPANISH STATE — BASIC QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Diarmuid Breatnach

IS CATALUNYA A SEPARATE NATION TO SPAIN?

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

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

DO NATIONS HAVE THE RIGHT TO SELF-DETERMINATION?

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Cartoon comment on October 1st referendum by DB

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

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

 

WAS THE OCTOBER 2017 CATALAN INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM ILLEGAL?

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

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

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

 

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

In most of the Spanish state, it was.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

REFERENCES:

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

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

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

 

 

 

THE MOORE STREET HISTORIC QUARTER – REALITY AND WISHFUL THINKING.

Diarmuid Breatnach

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

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

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

THE MINISTER’S CONSULTATIVE GROUP AND ITS REPORT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE MINISTER’S ACTUAL WORDS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(end quotation)

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

National Monuments

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

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

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

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

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

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


THE REALITY

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

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

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

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

DANGEROUS RECOMMENDATIONS AMID WELCOME ONES

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

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

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

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

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

THE MINISTER, THE LITIGANT AND COURT CASES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ROCKING THE BOAT

(Source image: Internet)

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

 

End item

APPENDIX

VERY BRIEF BACKGROUND IN BULLET POINTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links:

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

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

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

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

UNITY UNDER WRONG PRINCIPLES?

Diarmuid Breatnach

 

We’re on the one road


Sharing the one load


We’re on the road to God knows where
…..”

(song by Francis O’Donovan)

It is time for plain speaking. Preserving a united front is not always a good thing. This I know will seem like a kind of heresy, maybe the talk of an individualist, a wrecker of some kind. Whether unity is a good thing or not depends on the cost – what is gained by it and what is lost. So allow me to give some examples from Irish history to illustrate my point.

At the end of the 19th Century the Irish Parliamentary Party, also known as the Irish Party or the Home Rule Party, had by far the widest support of Irish people seeking some degree of independence from British rule. The Irish Parliament, a minority parliament to which only Anglicans were admitted, had been abolished by fraud and bribery in 1880 and in 1881 Ireland formally became part of the United Kingdom, with its elected representatives taking seats in Westminster, where the Irish population was under-represented proportionally by MPs who were outnumbered and sure to be outvoted.

CRITICAL VOICES

There were other voices, of course, which did not support that party. Connolly castigated it often, partly because it contained capitalists and slum landlords and partly because they postured around commemorations of Irish nationalists and even Republicans of the past, without fighting for Irish independence in the present. The tiny Irish Socialist Republican Party which Connolly jointly founded was hostile to the Irish Party, as was the somewhat larger Irish Labour Party, which he also led in founding.

The small Sinn Féin, a nationalist dual-monarchy party, did not support the Irish Party, nor did the remains of the IRB, nor Ininí (modern spelling) na hÉireann. But the Irish Party was unquestionably dominant on the Irish political scene, not only in the elections for seats in Westminster but in many local authorities too. In fact, their only united opposition of any weight in Ireland was from the Unionists. The Irish Party called on all who supported any measure of Irish independence to support their party but others argued that the Irish Party would never lead them to independence, that it did not support the vote for women, that it was full of corruption and cronyism, and so on. History proved the critics right.

DISASTROUS AGREEMENTS

John Redmond addressing a mass meeting c.early 1916.
(Image source: Internet)

When the Irish Volunteers was formed in 1913, at first the Irish Party (then under the leadership of John Redmond) took little interest and only a few of its supporters joined the organisation’s executive committee but many of its electoral support flocked to join the ranks. Redmond, taken aback by the numbers joining, demanded the doubling in numbers of the executive, with all the additional seats going to his nominees; the threat was that otherwise he would denounce the organisation. Since he already had some of his party on the committee, such a change would give him overall control of the organisation.

It would seem to us now that this was an undemocratic demand in addition made under a threat and should have been resisted. The IRB, who had members on the executive committee, agreed to resist Redmond’s move. This was a correct call for unity among the IRB and their allies in this instance but it was broken by leadin IRB member Bulmer Hobson and, with a number of others voting in favour. Redmond’s proposal gained a majority.

The consequences of this were proved disastrous when, during a Volunteer exercise in the first year of WWI, Redmond, without any consultation much less debate within the Executive, called publicly on the Irish Volunteers to join the British Army to fight in the War. A split followed in which the majority of the Volunteers took his lead and a smaller part kept the name of Irish Volunteers, while the others became the Irish National Volunteers and faded into the British Army.

Cartoon in the Irish Worker depicting Redmond as one of a shanghailing part delivering the Irish Volunteers to the British Army.
(Image source: Internet)

In this case, Redmond called for unity with his leadership and with the British in the War, stating that the latter would reward Ireland afterwards by enacting the Home Rule Bill which was on the statute book. The IRB, the Irish Citizen Army, the Irish Volunteers, Na Fianna Éireann, Cumann na mBan and the Labour Party did not agree. There were elements of Sinn Féin, the Gaelic League, GAA and even the Ancient Order of Hibernians (normally a stronghold of support for Redmond) which did not agree either.

Redmond WW1 British Army Recruitment poster.
(Image source: Internet)

The Irish Volunteers prepared for insurrection under the initiative of the IRB but with the reluctant leadership of Mac Neill who, after the British prevented the landing of German guns, cancelled the Rising and countermanded the mobilisation order. The Rising went ahead a day later with a much reduced force.

The political effect of the Rising and the reaction against its brutal suppression by the British led to the electoral wiping out of the Irish Party two years later in the British General Election of 1918 and the domination instead of Sinn Féin, a party reformed into a Republican Party and containing many disparate elements and basing itself on the 1916 insurrectionists. The call for unity with the Irish Party had been proven wrong.

The War of Independence began the following year, which brought the British to negotiations, after three years of State repression and terror and rural and guerrilla resistance war. The terms agreed by the Irish delegates in London were opposed by the majority of the Irish fighters but agreed by a majority of the TDs in the Dáil (elected representatives in the Irish Parliament). The Pro-Treaty forces called for unity with them, arguing that a partitioned Ireland as a Dominion of the British Commonwealth was a step towards an independent and united nation.

The Anti-Treaty side (also often referred to as “the Republican side”) disagreed and went to war over it, which in less than two years, they lost, again after a campaign of State terror and repression but this time, by an Irish State.

Free State soldiers bombarding Republican stronghold in the Four Courts with British cannon, 1922. The Republicans refused unity with the Free State government of a divided country under British dominion.
(Image source: Internet)

Whether the Anti-Treaty decision to go to war at that point was correct or not, history has proven the Republicans correct in their prediction. The Free State was ruled by a conservative alliance of the Catholic Church and Irish capitalists, content to remain under British domination but with an Irish Parliament. The more nationalist Government of De Valera and his 1937 Bunreacht (Constitution) did not change matters much. Nearly one hundred years later, Ireland is still partitioned and still dominated by foreign capital, although British foreign capital has been joined by others.

History has proven that the call for unity with the Free State on the Treaty had been wrong.

MORE RECENT TIMES, AROUND MOORE STREET

Fast forward to 2007: The State declared four out of the sixteen houses in the main terrace to require preservation and some wanted campaigners to accept that and to work with the speculator on providing a shoebox museum in the planned shopping mall.

Some 1916 relatives accepted that and a split took place among the campaigners who were insisting that their goal was no less than the whole 16 houses, back yards, surrounding streets and laneways.

In 2015, after nine years of neglect by the property speculator who owned the buildings, the State bought the four houses and some encouraged us to accept that victory and to go no further. Until, that is, it emerged that the State intended to demolish three houses bracketing the four they had bought. The Save Moore Street From Demolition campaign called emergency rallies in Moore Street in January of 2016, during which the houses were occupied by protesters, preventing any demolition.

After five days of occupation, Colm Moore, an individual taking a case about Moore Street against the Minister of Heritage, went to the High Court and obtained an interim order forbidding any demolition until Moore’s case against the Minister had been heard and on that assurance the occupiers left. Subsequent evidence of use of heavy machinery and a refusal to allow campaigners or public representatives to inspect work resulted in protesters imposing a blockade of nearly six weeks on the site, preventing any building workers from entering the premises.

Some of the activist campaigners in Moore Street upon receiving the news from the High Court on March 18th.
(Photo: Alan Betson, Irish Times)

And on March 18th the High Court judgement was delivered – that the whole quarter, backyards and surrounding streets and laneways is a battlefield, a National Historical 1916 Monument . But then the Minister of Heritage appealed the judgement, seeking to overturn it.

The Minister set up her hand-picked Advisory Group on Moore Street and eventually a Report was produced, apparently agreed by all within the Advisory Group (whether wholeheartedly or with reservations).

DISSENT AS A PUBLIC DUTY

When dissenting voices are kept quiet or stifled, what happens? The dominant voice – the one that is not silenced — carries the day ; it becomes the ‘official’ voice of the struggle. The media chooses which people and what voices to promote and the authorities recognise which voices to deal with. Those voices then become the ‘official’ voices and the path they point to is seen as the “correct” one. Those who raise a different voice, if they are loud enough or positioned strongly enough to be heard, are labelled the “disruptors”, “dissidents”, “wreckers”. But what if the dissenting voices are correct?

The Report of the Minister’s Advisory Group (from which she excluded the most active campaigning groups of recent years, the Save Moore Street From Demolition and Save Moore Street 2016 campaigns), in response to submissions made to it (including by the two campaign groups mentioned) contained some very positive Recommendations (although the Minister has not specifically said whether she accepts them) — but it also contained some very dangerous ones.

The Moore Street struggle has been fought against three main enemies: Property Speculators, DCC Planning Department and the Ministry of Heritage. And who does the Report say should decide the future of the Moore Street quarter? Those very three! And this is despite the public position taken by many of those before they entered the Minister’s Consultative Group that the Minister should accept the High Court judgement.

As for the newly-founded Minister’s Advisory Group being some kind of check on them, it has no statutory powers, it is a smaller group than was even the Consultative Group, the most active campaigners of recent years are again excluded and it is chaired by the former Chair of the Water Forum set up by the Government.

The Minister did not accept the High Court judgement of March 18th 2016 which declared the whole Moore Street quarter to be a battlefield and a Historic 1916 National Monument and she is fighting it in the courts. The Recommendations did not call on the Minister to drop her legal fight against that judgement but in somewhat nuanced language, they did encourage the litigant who won that judgement to give up his legal defence of it, the ‘sweetener’ being that he and his legal team would get their costs paid.

Should the Minister win her appeal, the giant shopping mall plan will be back on the table – Jim Keoghan of DCC’s Planning Department, before he retired, extended the planning permission for that horrible plan for another five years.

At recent public meeting of a political party about the future of Moore Street, (the first-ever by the party in question), a prominent Moore Street campaigner who was part of the Minister’s Advisory Group made a strong call for public unity among the campaigners, with differences to be discussed in private. The chairperson and both other speakers, all members of the political party, supported that call. The same individual repeated that call at a much larger event in Liberty Hall. It seemed a good call – but it wasn’t.

(Image source: Internet)

Effective unity has to agree on basic steps – like that which was entered into for insurrection in 1916, between the Irish Citizen Army, Irish Volunteers, Na Fianna Éireann, Cumann na mBan, Hibernian Rifles. Effective unity did not exist between those organisations and Redmond’s Irish Party, although the latter would have said that “We all want the same thing.” Tom Kettle, the Irish Party’s most brilliant activist, condemned those who took part in the Rising for allegedly damaging Ireland’s chances of achieving legislative autonomy. He put his faith in British gratitude to the Irish fighting for the Empire (and was killed on the Continent doing so). Effective unity in the Moore Street struggle cannot be on a vague promise that our aims are the same: we need to unite on the minimum basic demand that the Minister drop her appeal.

We’re on the one road


It may be the wrong road


But we’re together now who cares?

I care. We should care. We don’t want to be on the wrong road, to lose this battle.

When agreement is harmful, dissent is a duty. And when silence helps to conceal what is happening, dissent needs to be public.

End.

 

Links:

The Report of the Minister or Heritage’s Advisory Group on Moore Street: http://www.ahrrga.gov.ie/heritage/moore-street-consultative-group/report-to-minister-on-moore-street/ (written submissions received by the Advisory Group are also listed on this site).

Another article on historical issues in united fronts: https://rebelbreeze.wordpress.com/2016/11/23/unity-is-it-a-good-thing/

RECOMMENDATIONS TO DIVIDE AND CONFUSE — the Minister’s Consultative Group on Moore Street

Diarmuid Breatnach

A TESTING TIME

The Report contains some very welcome elements which campaigners will appreciate, as well as being proud in bringing them about. But those elements are combined with some very dangerous ones, specifically in some of the recommendations at the end of the Report — and recommendations are the strongest part of any report. That combination of welcome and dangerous elements may or may not be specifically designed to split the forces campaigning for the conservation and appropriate development of the Moore Street Historic Quarter but it will almost certainly have that effect. This, taken together with the offending recommendations means that the Report in total is a dangerous and divisive document containing a number of significant recommendations which it seems to me we are duty bound to oppose.

Source: Internet

The positive elements in the Report are bound to engender a touch of euphoria about the Report among many close and distant supporters of the broad campaign to save the Moore Street historical quarter.  Those who do not read on to the Recommendations or who do not think them through.

Consequently there is bound to be an element of criticism of those who do not support it as a whole – epithets such as “begrudgers” or “Utopians” are bound to come to minds and even be hurled.

The temptation is to “win something” after many years of campaigning. Another temptation is to see the positive and imagine it contains more than it actually does, while ignoring the looming negatives. Junctures like this test campaigners, sometimes even more than decisions about whether to risk fines and jail by breaking the law when that seems the only viable action left to halt an injustice or to remedy one. There have been many difficult junctures like this in Irish history.

Indeed a number of occasions of this sort have occurred before in this very campaign.

A HISTORY OF APPARENT CONCESSIONS TO SPLIT OR DISCREDIT CAMPAIGNERS WHILE FACILITATING SPECULATORS

1) When there were murmurs in Government circles that No.16 might be saved some people were very happy and, indeed, one campaign FB page had been named “Save 16 Moore Street”. Others objected and stated that this was insufficient historical recognition of what had gone on there.

2) Again, when the State accorded protective and preservation status to Nos.14-17 in 2007, there was a similar reaction of euphoria and congratulation from many people. This was resisted by some campaigners who pointed out that almost at the same time, the giant shopping mall plan had been agreed by the local authority (and later by the State), which would see the rest of the block and the laneways demolished and that the historic buildings were being allowed to deteriorate. The ‘nay-sayers’ were proved correct on this occasion.

3) It is worth recalling that around this time, the property speculator involved (at that time only Joe O’Reilly of Chartered Land), proposed to turn the four houses into a museum upstairs with a cafe and toilets downstairs and to incorporate the whole into the giant shopping mall. He had the shoebox museum plan promoted in a flashy video and he succeeded in splitting the campaigning 1916 relatives group, bringing four of them (including one of James Connolly grandsons) out in favour of his proposal (a fact that the State and the media have regularly used to counter the objectives of the broader campaign).

Speculators’ original plan for Shopping Centre from O’Connell Street to Moore St. — note the four houses to be “saved” in the centre left. (Image source: Internet)

Artist’s Impression of Shopping Centre planned by Chartered Land, much of it agreed by DCC Planning Department (Image source: Internet)

4) In the summer of 2014, the speculator O’Reilly of Chartered Land, by this time being paid by NAMA to manage his debts, proposed to Dublin City Council to swap them two of the four protected houses for their two at the north end of the terrace, which was where the Council had their cleaning depot. The head of the Planning Department (also Deputy Chief Executive of the Council) Jim Keoghan and the Chief Executive Jim Keegan, unsurprisingly in view of their record, recommended the deal.

The early days of the weekly SMSFD stall in Moore St. — 4th October 2014 (Photo: D.Breatnach)

SMSFD lobbying City Hall to prevent ‘land swap’ deal going ahead, stretching some petition sheets already signed in previous two months. Nov.2014 (Photo source: supporter)

At this time, even some supporters of the broad campaign stated that campaigners should take the deal because it put four houses of preservation status into public ownership. Thankfully they were outvoted, since with those end-of-terrace buildings in his possession, the speculator would have been free to begin to demolish houses all the way at least up to No.18 – at total of seven houses and approximately half the terrace.

But a new campaign was launched specifically to defeat this deal, bringing a sustained weekly presence on Moore Street into being, along with a petition of thousands of signatures. As opposition to the deal gathered force, the speculator offered first a third house in the deal and finally a fourth. However with the assistance of lobbying of elected Councillors, the ‘land swap’ proposal was defeated in a vote by a large majority, much to the publicly-expressed disgust of Heather Humphreys, Minister with State responsibility for Heritage.

5) Towards the end of 2015, the State purchased the four dilapidated buildings from the speculator, reportedly paying him four million euro and promoted the deal as a great historic one, announcing that they would have a 1916 museum on the site.

Again, there was euphoria, with campaigners being congratulated on their victory. However, at this time a substantial number of campaigners from different concerned groups pointed out that this did nothing to save the rest of the block, yards and laneways, that the street market was being steadily degraded and that the plan for the museum seemed to be exactly the same as that proposed by the speculator.

It was actually worse than was thought by many of those campaigners, for in January it emerged that the State planned the demolition of three buildings in the 1916 terrace under the guise of making the “museum buildings” safe. The SMSFD campaign group raised the alarm and brought two demonstrations on to the street, after one of which many people occupied the buildings until a High Court Judge ruled that there be no demolition until a case taken against the State (to which the property speculators joined themselves) be decided, a decision that was enforced by a five-week activist blockade of the site.

Later photo of SMSFD campaigners and table (Photo: D.Breatnach)

6) Once again, there had been concerned people who argued that campaigners should accept the deal, “work with the museum”, that now the houses were in public ownership but many of those were silenced when the State plans were revealed. However, the occupiers were targeted by a number of media, a couple of prominent historians and columnists attacked them, Heather Humphreys labelled them hooligans and wreckers. The activists were accused of preventing the State from opening the museum in time for the Easter Rising commemorations that year (despite the many months of work needed for a commemoration only months away). They were accused of denying 1916 relatives an appropriate monument.

But it was clear on whose side the majority of the public was and it wasn’t with the State or the speculator. This was underlined not only by tens of thousands of petition signatures but by the reaction of many to activists loudly denouncing Minister Humphreys when, as part of the State’s 1916 commemorations, she came to lay a wreath outside a boarded-up No.16 Moore Street. The public’s reaction for the most part varied from “what did she expect?” to “serves her right!” and, perhaps sensing this, even the media’s response was muted and restricted to factual reporting.

On March 18th High Court Judge Barrett delivered his judgement that not only the whole terrace was a “national 1916 historical monument” but the whole block, and the street and three laneways surrounding it. Again there were wild celebrations, shared in by all campaigners but some urged caution as the Minister could appeal the judgement. They were right – she did, the case to open at the end of the year (unless she takes it to the Supreme Court, which she declared she was considering.

Campaigners, including occupiers and blockaders of the buildings, celebrate the Battlefield judgement on March 18th 2016. (Photo: J.Betson, Irish Times)

7) When the Minister set up the Minister’s Consultative Group on Moore Street, despite the fact that she put into it the 1916 relatives supporting the speculators’ plan, despite the fact that she excluded the most active groups of campaigners in recent years, despite the fact that the main political parties were to be represented, concerned people and excluded campaigners were told to have faith in it and even told that it was “the only game in town”.

Having reviewed the history of proposed deals of the past, it is now time to examine the one being offered now.

THE RECOMMENDATIONS

Conclusion 1, commenting on the struggle to save the Moore Street quarter, states that “the background …. has been one of dispute, mistrust and litigation. It has been characterised by deeply held and divergent views, frustration and ultimately stalemate. This has seen Moore St and environs further decline and a failure to progress the National Monument or the wider development of the area.”

While this has elements of truth it also has large elements of obfuscation, of muddying the waters, appearing to apportion blame equally or to imply that no-one is to blame or even perhaps blaming the campaigners for the decline of the buildings. This is quite important because in what follows some of the major villains in this drama are not only being ‘cleaned up’ but it is proposed to give them continuing roles of control in decision-making on the conservation and appropriate development of the Moore Street quarter.

Let us recall once again that the Planning Department of Dublin City Council, backed up by the State, supported the planning applications of property speculators which would have entailed the destruction of the historic quarter and the running down of the street market. The Dept of Heritage took no action until 2007 when it gave protected status to four buildings and took no steps to ensure the speculator maintained the buildings.

Towards the end of 2015 the Department of Heritage planned the demolition of a number of buildings in the historical quarter, a disaster averted by citizens occupying buildings there for five days in January 2016. Subsequently a nearly six-weeks’ blockade was imposed by citizens to prevent damage and demolition, because the Minister prevented and forbade the entry of any independent conservation experts or public representatives, including the Lord Mayor and a number of TDs.

The actions of the campaigners were to preserve historic heritage and to seek transparency. The actions of DCC’s Planning Department and of the State were to facilitate the property speculators, to defeat the aims of the campaigners and to conceal what they intended doing and were in fact doing in a number of buildings.

These differences between the opposing forces are important to recognise not only in setting the record straight but in deciding which bodies should and should not be given responsibilities with regard to the Moore Street Quarter.

Conclusion 2 goes on to claim for the Consultative Group set up by the Minister, the centre stage for a resolution of the conflict, as though it were some impartial mediating body. Excluded from Consultative Group were the National Graves Association, the first campaign group to raise the issue of the historical conservation in Moore Street, along with the most active campaigning groups of recent years (the Save Moore Street From Demolition and the Save Moore Street 2016 groups), also excluding a number of individual campaigners and concerned historians and conservation experts. It is true that a number of those groups and individuals were permitted to make submissions to the Consultative Group but they were not permitted any say in its final recommendations.

The plaque placed on a house in Moore Street by the National Graves Association (no State or Council plaque had been put there ever). (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Conclusion 4 states that “the place of Moore St in the narrative of 1916 … is now better understood across a much wider range of interests than previously. The appreciation of the historic importance of the area and of the value attached to the dramatic events fought out there in the closing events of the week of 1916 is now more widely shared. The potential of the area to be developed as a place of cultural and historic importance therefore, alongside appropriate commercial development, offers, the Group believes, positive and substantive opportunity to move forward.”

But the Report has nothing to say about how this came about, which was by hard slogging and sacrifice by campaigners supported by ordinary people. And this happened in the teeth of opposition by the Department of Heritage and Dublin City Council officials and calumny and defamation by the Minister of Heritage of campaigners. Not only should this record be set straight but their history in this affair means that they should not be relied upon in controlling the development of the Quarter.

Conclusion 5 goes on to say that “In the event of consensus being secured on an agreed way forward for the development through dialogue by the Advisory/Oversight Group (see 17 below) with the developer, and agreed to by the Applicant and the State, the Group is strongly of the view that payment of legal costs, incurred by the Applicant’s legal team, by the State is warranted and appropriate. The Group has reached this conclusion after considerable reflection and having regard to the widely acknowledged public interest which informed the taking of the case and the savings which would accrue to the State by settlement through such a process.”

This is, in nuanced language, apart from seeking negotiation with a property speculator, a request to the person who took the case to not to defend it, with the inducement that the lawyers will get their fees and the litigant will not be out of pocket.

The State should of course bear the costs, both because of “the widely acknowledged public interest which informed the taking of the case” and because of the intransigence and obstructionism of the Minister of Heritage which led to the case being taken in the first place. And this should not be done as payment in some kind of sordid deal.

On the other hand, there is no mention whatsoever of the Minister dropping her appeal against the Moore Street Battlefield Quarter judgement that the whole quarter is a National 1916 Historical Monument. In fact the “settlement” envisaged is to give the Minister a clear run without the litigant who won that historic judgement defending it.

Recommendation 9supports the retention of Moore Street and adjacent lanes so as to broadly capture the sense of how it would have appeared in 1916 – this covers the street and lanes, key buildings, street paving and lighting. It recognises that this needs to be approached on a practical and authentic basis given that a number of structures in place actually postdate Independence. The preservation of the existing lines of the street and the lanes and the restoration of streetscapes are essential. “

All this seems good until we note words like “key buildings” and “structures in place …. postdate Independence”. Thus far the Minister has only conceded the historical importance of four buildings, Nos.14-17. And, although a number of buildings in the Quarter have been rebuilt since 1916, every single one contains the historical footprint of the 1916 occupation and resistance and every single one contains at least some structural feature of the original buildings.

And No.10, of which the Minister denies importance, was the first HQ of the Rising in Moore Street and field hospital of the evacuated GPO Garrison – and substantial parts of that building also remain intact.

Recommendation 10 actually concedes some of what I say above, albeit in timid language when it states that “… opportunities arise for the State to provide the centre point of historical focus and cultural celebration within 10 – 25 Moore St.”

Indeed, not only “opportunities exist” but the whole terrace should be maintained and developed as a “point of historical focus and cultural celebration”. But where is the recommendation that this actually be done?

Recommendation 15 states that “Critical to the renewal of the area is the regeneration of the Moore St market to its full potential. Particular recommendations in this regard are set out at Chapter 6.”

We should I think support nearly all of the recommendations in that section, i.e. all those that bring greater comfort, freedom from Market Inspector harassment and flexibility in regulations to the street traders. All the campaigners have stated that the market traders should have better conditions and that the market should be upgraded and one campaign group in particular, the Save Moore Street From Demolition campaign, perhaps because it is on that street at least every Saturday, has been very specific about including this in its demands since it was first formed.

Regrettably, the Report has nothing to say about the other independent businesses in the street. Moore Street has always contained shops and other business as well as stalls and it is regrettable that despite SMSFD’s submission commenting on this aspect, the Consultative Group had no representation from the independent shops and business and the Report has nothing at all to say about them, although small independent businesses are the key to regenerating an area by day and by night.

Indeed, other than the street traders, the only business interests mentioned in the report are those of the property speculators, who propose a giant shopping mall to be occupied by chain outlets.

Recommendation 16

The Report’s view of “essential” “well-grounded institutional arrangements for taking the process forward” recommends:

Policy ownership in relation to the National Monument at No’s 14/17 remaining with the Minister for Arts & Heritage;

Overall planning framework and designation of other buildings in the quarter should remain with Dublin City Council;

The development and eventual management of State’s property in Moore St, transferring to the Office of Public Works;

The next phase of development of the National Monument at No’s 14/17 taking place under OPW control and, where private contractors are involved, such contracting follows a transparent public tendering process that fully accords with good international practice as laid down by EU procurement requirements. In addition, engagement and briefing with the Advisory/Oversight Group (see below) as appropriate should be undertaken in respect of this process.

We emphatically should not agree with the first two sub-recommendations.

If the Department of Heritage and Dublin City Council Planning Department is to have a role it should be in supporting a People’s Consortium, composed of representatives of all the campaigning groups (not cherry-picked by the Minister) and other representatives.

While sub-recommendation 3 and most of 4 seem fair, one cannot agree with the role of the Advisory/Oversight Group as recommended by the Report (more on that later).

Recommendation 17

The Report states that “A critical part of the next phase of the process will involve securing consensus by the relevant players to a way forward” and that “this will require engagement with public bodies, developer interests, traders and voluntary groups.”

Why should the protection of our heritage be subject to protection of “developer interests”, i.e the interests of property speculators who are still at this moment in time trying to destroy that heritage and replace it with a shopping centre? The inclusion of those “interests” in deciding the future of our heritage and our national monuments should be rejected.

Recommendation 18

The Report recommends “that an Advisory/Oversight Group should be established” to steer the project and “will require engagement …. with the public bodies and the developer to seek to find agreement on the way forward.”

As stated earlier, there should be no role in seeking agreement with enemies of our heritage and facilitators of property speculators on the way forward for safeguarding our heritage and our national monument.

But further, the Advisory/ Oversight Group envisaged by the Report (“representatives from among the current membership of the Consultative Group, including appropriate Oireachtas and DCC representation”) is an unrepresentative group, continuing the exclusion of the most active campaigning groups of recent years and of the National Graves Association, the first campaign group to raise the issue of the historical conservation in Moore Street, along with the exclusion of a number of individual campaigners and concerned historians and conservation experts.

Recommendation 22 — The Role of the State

When the Report declares that the State is “the ultimate custodian of our history, culture and heritage”, it is perhaps stating an aspiration but it is demonstrably not stating a fact. The State, as represented by a number of governments during its existence, has done nothing to commemorate nor protect the significance of this historic quarter, save the purchase of four buildings after years of campaigning, and that around the same time it planned the demolition of a number of buildings in the Quarter; the State’s representatives publicly denied the historical importance of 12 buildings and even denied the area had been a battleground.

When Chartered Land’s (Joe O’Reilly) properties were taken over by NAMA, the State should have prevented the speculator from selling or otherwise passing on his stake to British-based property speculators Hammerson. They did not and so became complicit.

Looking beyond Moore Street around the country, it is the voluntary National Graves Association that has been responsible for most of the plaques commemorating the struggle for national independence (and a fair number of monuments) and the upkeep of graves of participants of that struggle, with a number of local authorities coming second and the State possibly a poor third.

Turning to our culture, the body that has done most to promote Gaelic Sports is the GAA, not the State. Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, smaller associations of musicians and individuals, not the State, have been the promoters and developers of traditional music. With regard to the Irish language, the State has overseen a drastic decline in the Gaeltacht areas, continuously fails to ensure the supply of even State services through Irish for Irish speakers and recently, has appointed a Minister for Heritage and two Ministers of State that were not competent in the use of the Irish language. Irish traditional dancing, whether exhibition and competition step-dancing, céilí, set-dancing and sean-nós have all been conserved and promoted by different organisations, none of them a State one (in fact, for a period, the State banned set-dancing in people’s homes).

The State has failed to protect and preserve a great many other areas of our heritage, including our natural resources.

So who then are “the ultimate custodians of our history, culture and heritage”? It is the PEOPLE!

However, one has to recognise the reality of the governance framework under which we live and the State should, for a change, represent the interests of the people in this case and ensure the Moore Street Historic Quarter is developed appropriately in consultation with campaigners, local independent traders and shopkeepers, workers and residents. And in doing so, the State can make some amends for its compliance and complicity of the past.

WHO SHOULD GUIDE POLICY AND PRACTICE ON THE FUTURE DEVELOPMENT OF THE QUARTER?

The body that discusses and guides policy on the future development of this historic quarter should be composed solely of a wide representation of those who have demonstrated a commitment to the defence of the historic status of the quarter, along with those who work there, in addition to any expert technical advisors they may think right to coopt.

IN CONCLUSION AND SUMMARY, although the Report contains much that is good and I believe campaigners should support those elements, due to a number of unhealthy recommendations which undermine what has been fought for so hard for so long and would leave important decision-making in the hands of the very proven enemies of the preservation, conservation and appropriate development of the Moore Street Quarter, those dangerous Conclusions and Recommendations of the Report should be rejected and I call on all genuine campaigners and supporters to reject them also.

In doing so, I would encourage all campaigners to remain firm in their determination, looking back on the long road traveled to reach this point and not to falter at this juncture, the fate of so many popular movements of the past.

We have been called ‘dreamers’ many times in the past but who could have foretold back in 2001, the gains steadily won over the years? ‘Dreamers’ is usually employed as a term of abuse, of ridicule and no doubt those critics consider themselves wise. To those we may reply in the words of one who spent his last two days of freedom in Moore Street in Easter Week 1916:

Oh wise men, riddle me this – what if the dream come true?”

In this at least let us make that dream come true.

End.

Links:

The Report:

http://www.ahrrga.gov.ie/app/uploads/2017/03/moore-st-report-final-version-1.pdf

List members of the Consultative Group:

http://www.ahrrga.gov.ie/app/uploads/2016/11/list-of-members.pdf

JORDAN’S MICHAEL COLLINS FILM CRITICISED

Rebel Breeze introduction to critical videos:

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

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

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

The GPO surrender scene

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

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

Portrayal of De Valera

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

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

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

Portrayal of Cathal Brugha

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Collins as a guerrilla war leader

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

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

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

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

The role of women in the struggle

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

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

The Croke Park Bloody Sunday massacre scene

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

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

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

LINKS:

The critique video, Parts 1 & 2:

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

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

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